Welcome to the month ten roundup.

The counter on the website says I only have one month to go. I make it two but there is certainly a clock ticking.

This month there were no Thumbs Down titles. Thank goodness, I don’t want to waste my final days on rubbish.

There was one No Thumbs title. It’s been a long time since we saw one of those. Such an unexpected disappointment too.
Whiteout: Melt – Greg Rucka

We had twenty two Thumbs Up titles. Less than last month.
DMZ: (2) Body of a Journalist – Brian Wood
DMZ (5): The Hidden War – Brian Wood
DMZ (6): Blood in the Game – Brian Wood
DMZ (7): War Powers – Brian Wood
DMZ (9): M.I.A – Brian Wood
DMZ (10): Collective Punishment – Brian Wood
The Highwaymen – Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman
The Mystery Play – Grant Morrison
ORCS: Forged for War – Stan Nichols
Whiteout – Greg Rucka
DMZ (11): Free States Rising – Brian Wood
DMZ (12): The Five Nations of New York – Brian Wood
Half Dead – Barb Lien-Cooper & Park Cooper
The Boys: Volume 1 – The Name of the Game – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 2 – Get Some – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 3 – Good for the Soul – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 4 – We Gotta Go Now – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 5 – Herogasm – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 6 – Self Preservation Society – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 9 – The Big Ride – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 10 – Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 11 – Over the Hills with the Swords of a Thousand Men – Garth Ennis

This month we had eight Double Thumbs Up titles. Probably the most ever.
DMZ: (1) On the Ground – Brian Wood
DMZ (3): Public Works – Brian Wood
DMZ (4): Friendly Fire – Brian Wood
DMZ (8): Hearts and Minds – Brian Wood
Sleepwalk and Other Stories – Adrian Tomine
Rust – Royden Lepp
The Boys: Volume 7 – The Innocents – Garth Ennis
The Boys: Volume 8 – Highland Laddie – Garth Ennis

Another month gone. What hell am I going to do when this is all over? Start again maybe?

My star was The Boys as it is Ennis’ finest work that really gets under your skin. Rust was also a sheer delight. I actually gave it away as an Xmas present to a friend of mine who always complains she has no time for reading as it is such a light read you can zip through it in no time. But equally you can linger on the wonderful artwork and just soak up the idyllic rural atmosphere for ages.

See you next month

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The Boys: Volume 11 – Over the Hills with the Swords of a Thousand Men – Garth Ennis

Boys 11This is it, the showdown! You know there is going to be a lot of red ink in these pages and it doesn’t disappoint. It won’t play out like you expect though. There is a twist and it is up to you if you think it is clever or too. It has been a good ride and there is enough to chew on in the home straight.

The art is not Robertson but it is good. Plenty of effort goes into each page and there is a lot of red. And a lot of military hardware.

It feels like an ending although there is another volume to go so you don’t have to start getting withdrawal just yet. Thumbs Up!

306/59

Tomorrow: FreakAngels Volume One – Warren Ellis

The Boys: Volume 10 – Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker – Garth Ennis

Boys 10Like the previous volume this is all about the past. All description of things you don’t know that happened previously. This time it is done right. This is a graceful and elegant piece of writing that uses flashbacks, narration, diary entries, dialogue, monologue and everything it can think of to break this information down and present it in clever ways.

This is Butcher’s story. Everything from his childhood to the present day. Just when you were thinking he was as bad as Homelander we strip him bare and reveal the raw human being underneath. This is a very powerful and emotional story that is mature and upsetting in places. Violence is a big part of The Boys and we take it in our stride in all its graphic glory. But the violence here is all off stage and it is shocking and disturbing.

The art is outstanding. No longer an afterthought or second-fiddle but an equal partner. There is a lot of creativity and determination in these images. A good deal of thought and bold choices go into making this an excellent work. Robertson is back in the driving seat and it shows.

It was almost the best Boy’s story but for a mistimed real world intrusion. Ennis tries to be funny but this is the wrong time for funny. The highest Thumbs Up!

305/60

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 11 – Over the Hills with the Swords of a Thousand Men – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 9 – The Big Ride – Garth Ennis

Boys 09This is a mammoth volume. A full 12 issues of The Boys. Unfortunately it is wall to wall text. Endless talking heads spouting dry exposition. Some of it answers your questions, some of it rounds out the story and some of it sets up the future. It is necessary in a way and there is an argument for getting it all behind you but it is like swallowing a massive lard brick. With Hughie off on his Highland Laddie romp, the humour, which is a big part of The Boys is absent, as is our friendly guide to this world.

There are so many better ways this could have been presented. Even just straight prose would have been preferable. It is hard to believe this is the best Ennis could come up with. It is like he lost all heart. There is no passion or energy at all here. Even the Second World War, something which Ennis usually loves, is flat and dry. Maybe reading it as single issues would be more palatable because trying to digest this volume in one sitting is awful.

Robertson has stepped down as artist and although it retains a similar style it has a much more digital sheen to it. They do put effort in and there are some nice colours, subtle blur effects and good choice of tones. There are some transcripts that pop up (too little too late) which are integrated into the lettering very well. There are some nice covers and issue fifty cleverly ties in with issue one.

This was all set to be a big lemon until the last issue. We escape the talking heads, the story takes a shocking turn and there are some great art choices. Almost too little too late but it guarantees you stick around for the next volume. Just barely a Thumbs Up!

304/61

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 10 – Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 8 – Highland Laddie – Garth Ennis

Boys 08This volume is subtitled the Highland Laddie miniseries and rightly so as it is the polar opposite of everything that has gone before. It seems very out of place set against the sickening majesty of the previous Boys offerings. This is a quiet and subtle tale of introspection, nostalgia and masculinity. Garth Ennis is notably typecast into telling – and telling very well – a particular type of tale. It is so good to see him taking bold steps to showcase the full breadth of his literary range. This story wouldn’t look out of place being discussed some BBC2 arts program.

Wee Hughie goes back to Scotland to deal with the fallout of the previous volume. But it’s not all profound navel gazing and ethereal commentary on childhood. There are flashbacks to his last discussions with The Boys before he leaves and the arrival of a future plot thread. And there is a little mini adventure too. This is a nice diversion on the whole but a very jarring contrast. The change of pace really allows the art to shine as it isn’t smothered by speech bubbles. The character’s expressions, their body language and even the landscapes all play a much greater part in emoting the story as opposed to being decoration around the vast exposition.

As Hughie is in Scotland there is an awful lot of dialect, which is always a tricky area, but you manage to understand most of the colloquialisms. As with all of The Boys there are frequent hidden references to comics, culture and life in general. That is the same here but most of them are British in origin. As such I found them more noticeable and consequently more intrusive. Maybe the faster pace of previous volumes means you don’t get time to notice the pop culture nuggets or maybe Ennis likes shouting about the Dandy.

The art is great as always with a wonderfully captured rural village with fantastic attention to detail. Everything from the cars to the road signs feels authentic, which might be because Belfast born John McCrea takes over the pencils on this volume. There is only one shade of green however which does seem a little drab for the Highlands. There are a lot of flashbacks to childhood which use a partial black and white and partial colour palette which is both original and incredibly effective.

This is great volume; and necessary to heal the emotional wounds of the previous one. But you can’t wait to get back to New York and start kicking arse. I have to say that the Hughie and Anne love story is one of the most profound I have ever experienced. The only other one that comes close is the one in the Preacher, also by Garth Ennis. The man has a gift. Double Thumbs Up!

303/62

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 9 – The Big Ride – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 7 – The Innocents – Garth Ennis

Boys 07This is it. It’s crunch time. Three years and six volumes have been leading up to this. Ennis has been painting us a wonderful picture of a realistic world, an intricate and exciting back-story, realistic villains, and characters we have come to love. Characters that we know will never have a happy ending but that doesn’t stop us blindly hoping they will. We want a happily ever after against impossible odds. This is the volume that sees it all come crashing down.

It’s Garth Ennis for goodness sake. He’s got you by the balls and now he starts to twist. This is an exceptional volume with everyone at the top of their game. The balance between visuals and dialogue is perfect. There is flair and skill in the incredibly beautiful art. The language is spot on. The story is just right. All the elements have come together like a literary conjunction that has been polished till it glows like a supernova.

You know what is going to happen, and that isn’t because the writing is bad, it’s because the writing is good. It’s what would happen. There is no deus ex machina here, just the ripples of cause and effect that have been building since the first volume. I can just imagine Ennis’ smug face as all the pieces of his game fall into place and we get hit with an emotional avalanche. This is how it should be done. Double Thumbs Up!!

302/63

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 8 – Highland Laddie – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 6 – Self Preservation Society – Garth Ennis

Boys 06Last volume was the sex, now this is the violence. The Boys must be taken out and so the Supes get nasty. The first part is an extended fight scene that goes on longer than the infamous scrap in “They Live.” There is a cameo from a previously featured character but it feels rather gratuitous. It does make for a nice break from the dialogue heavy previous volumes but it isn’t The Boys’ greatest strength.

Then we come to the staple of all comic books – the origin story. We learn about Mothers’ Milk in a genuinely emotional and moving tale of family hardship. It also has M.M. doing an incredible impression of Butcher in a superb flourish of language. Then Frenchie who paints this absurd, surrealist vision that is absolutely hilarious. Then the Female, in a pastiche of Akira and an almost word for word scene from the film Aliens.

The art is still top notch. There are some very nice techniques and great visual flair that is finally managing to escape the epic weight of the writing. We do get a few questions answered, or at least some more pieces of what has been puzzling us. This is a pleasant change of pace that makes us even more eager to press on. As always, Thumbs Up!

301/64

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 7 – The Innocents – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 5 – Herogasm – Garth Ennis

Boys 05This volume is so blue it’s practically pink. There is so much nudity here you risk blindness and hairy palms just by reading it. But like the proverbial kid in a candy store you quickly become inured to it so it only serves to illuminate the morals and juvenility of the Supes and their political handlers. The art is great and the bold clear colours really bring out the island paradise feel as all the worlds Supes nip off for some covert spring break excess.

As this is an odd numbered volume we learn more about what is going on and what has gone on before. This volume is a cross between Where’s Wally in Pornoland and the Manchurian Candidate. It expertly fuses eye popping titillation and political skulduggery and something bad happens to Wee Hughie.

This is a skilfully told story with masterfully subtle setups and shocking or satisfying payoffs. We are now well and truly hooked and can’t wait for more. Absolutely a Thumbs Up!

300/65

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 6 – Self Preservation Society – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 4 – We Gotta Go Now – Garth Ennis

Boys 04Just as a car starts in first gear and slowly builds up speed so does The Boys – and some might say all of Ennis’ work too. We have been introduced to the world, the supes, our heroes and their antagonists. Now it is time for things to hit their grove as the pedal gets put to the metal, well almost. This volume is a mystery/ thriller that sees our heroes lifting the lid on the G-Men and seeing what dark secrets lie within. It is a dark secret but handled in a thoughtful and mature manner. There are the cheap shots and gross out humour which Ennis is famous for but they are kept tightly in check so as not to interrupt the story.

A pattern is emerging where the even volumes will be The Boy’s in action off solving a mystery, like the Scooby Gang gone bad, and the odd numbers will delve into their back story. The back story is what you want to know about and these volumes to provide the suspense that makes you crave the answers.

This is mostly dialogue as The Boys are turning out to be very wordy books. Good dialogue I grant you, although our heroes are English, Scottish, African American, French and a mute so there is a great variety of language. There is also a lot of sense being talked. Just as Jonathan Swift and George Orwell used allegory to lift the skirts of the modern world to expose the unsavoury, that is what we have here. But in day-glow humour instead.

The art is still brilliant and has such a rich, lavish feel. The colours in this volume really sing out too. You do get the feeling that the visual aspect is secondary to the writing. Not in terms of quality but in terms of priority. The words tell the story and the pictures are just running to keep up. There are certain sight gags and visual surprises that would be lost if this were a novel and it might not reach its target audience if it were a prose paperback but there is room for a better balance.

I can’t wait for the next one as this is undoubtedly an incredible Thumbs Up!

299/66

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 5 – Herogasm – Garth Ennis

The Boys: Volume 3 – Good for the Soul – Garth Ennis

Boys 03The Boy’s is very much like the X-Files in that some stories will be a “monster of the week” and others will be a mythos episode that advances the grand story arc. This is a great plot story as we learn more about Vought American and The Boys. It is well told in that we get just enough clues about the characters to start putting the pieces together ourselves.

Ennis is a man who likes to take risks. Usually with the profane but this time he gets a bit risqué by retelling the 9/11 events but with supers. The man has big balls indeed and it is actually a very compelling read. There are a lot of his thoughts on politics and religion in The Boys; sometimes it is subtle and clever, sometimes it head-butts you in the face.

A lot of this volume is exposition and even though there are some timely cutaways you do tend to think maybe this episode would have worked better as plain text like Alan Moore would do. The passages are broken up well and the art does its best to help out but it is talking heads and a waste of the medium. The art is superb. There is no evidence of cutting budgets or encroaching deadlines here. Each panel is meticulously drawn with lots of fine details and rich colouring. You really get a sense of quality and pride. There are even some nice touches in the lettering too.

Ennis is great at shock and awe but he is also tells a superb love story with genuine emotion and uncanny observation. He did it in Wormwood and excels himself here. You really feel for the characters but can’t help but fear all the twisted plans he undoubtedly has for them. This is definitely more than a Thumbs Up!

298/67

Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 4 – We Gotta Go Now – Garth Ennis