Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gyo: 2-in-1 Deluxe Edition (2015)

Author: Junji Ito | Illustrator: Junji Ito | Page Count: 400

What the hell is this?

Tadashi loves his girlfriend Kaori, though the reader may find it difficult to feel similarly because her inner-bitch rises to the surface often. One of Kaori's defining features is that she has an acute sense of smell. When the ‘death stench’ first hits Okinawa it’s Kaori that's most affected. What’s causing the stench makes its presence known shortly afterwards, and that’s when things go full Junji Ito. You'll be thanking the olfactory gods that the book isn't a scratch 'n' sniff.

The creatures that live in the sea have evolved in weird ways. Their peculiarities make sense when viewed in their own environment, but on land they're so alien looking that they can be terrifying. Even the ones we're familiar with, such as sharks, would take on a whole new level of terror when making a beeline for some poor sap on a street full of cars.

The full horror of Gyo reveals slowly but the story isn't slow. It gets increasingly bizarre and ridiculous, though, helped along by some black humour and hindered by some school-yard humour. The two things are an odd pairing that for me just didn't fit together comfortably, but the artwork is always spectacular.

The Gyo storyline ends on page 358. It's followed by two shorts. The first is The Sad Tale of the Principal Post, a four-page story that's well-drawn but not very good otherwise. It's followed by what's without a doubt the best thing in the whole book, the thirty-two-page The Enigma Of Amigara Fault. Coincidently. it's one of the first Ito stories I ever read; it hasn't lost any of it's creepy power.

The book collects together both volumes of the Gyo manga into one beautifully bound HB edition. It's the same format and size as Viz's Uzumaki: 3-in-1 Deluxe Edition (2013); I tip all my hats to Viz for that. Uzumaki is the better story, so if you can only afford one book it's perhaps the better choice.

4 gashunks out of 5

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Revolutionary War (2014)

Authors: Andy Lanning / Alan Cowsill / Kieron Gillen / Rob Williams / Glenn Dakin / Brent Eric Anderson / Tom Palmer / Richard Elson  ||  Illustrators: Richard Elson / Dietrich O. Smith / Will Sliney / Nick Roche / Brent Eric Anderson / Tom Palmer / Ronan Cliquet / Gary Erskine / Richard Elson  ||  Page Count: 192

"I'm so tired. I've made mistakes. I wish they mattered."

A revival for a number of original Marvel UK characters after a staggering twenty year absence from the shelves! They first appeared in a bi-weekly anthology called Overkill that dared to go up against 2000 AD. It was a valiant attempt, but they were forced to call it a day after just 52 issues. (I have the original series from way back then. Someday I'll maybe venture into the eldritch wardrobe, unearth them from their resting place of two decades and do a retrospective.)

Seeing them return for an eight-issue miniseries gave me warm fuzzies, but there's a sour downside, a surreptitious reason for their timely return. It isn't just a loving way to mark an anniversary, it was a toe-dip in the water to see if it would be possible to introduce them into the larger Marvel Universe; i.e. The American market. They brought the Overkill heroes back hoping to throw them into a pool of withered storytelling that's overflowing with spandex and fan-wank. That crushing realisation comes in the first few pages and it puts a dampener on the revisit. Damn you, Marvel, for doing what you have every right to do.

The crux of the story: the Mys-Tech Organisation that years before was a thorn in the side of every one of the characters is attempting an aggressive comeback. For Dark Angel that's a deeply upsetting prospect. The debt she inherited as a result of the Faustian deal between Mys-Tech and Mephisto was one written in perpetuity. If the Corporation return they'll upset the dubious balance that she struggles to maintain and the world could become a playground for techno-mage ambition. (That would be worse that the current government?)

The first and last chapters provide a catch-up and resolution to the overall series, respectively. The six bookended chapters wisely narrow their focus primarily to one hero/duo/team. Dark Angel was one of the strongest pillars of the original comic, so it's right that she should feature prominently, but juggling the small in the large is a difficult task for any writer, meaning some of the other interesting characters get criminally overlooked. One or two are absent completely.

If you're a fan of the Overkill comic, be prepared for your reintroduction to be as messy and hurried as many of the other recent Marvel 'events'. If you're new to the whole thing, then it's possible you'll be underwhelmed and slightly confused.

The book contains all eight parts of the Revolutionary War miniseries: RW: Alpha; RW: Dark Angel; RW: Knights of Pendragon; RW: Death's Head II; RW: Supersoldiers; RW: Motormouth; RW: Warheads; and RW: Omega. That's also the order they're designed to be read if you have them as single issue one-shots.

2½ metres below the Museum of Pagan Antiquities out of 5

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Halloween Tree (1972 / 2015)

Author: Ray Bradbury  |  Illustrator: Gris Grimly  |  Page Count: 144

'The wind played a flute in a chimney somewhere; an old song about time and dark and far places. The tall man shut up his smile like a bright pocketknife.'

A new HB edition of Bradbury’s 1972 children's book that has black and white and colour illustrations by Gris Grimly in place of the classic Joe Mugnaini art. Joe's art is much more dramatically menacing, but Grimly's 'darkly whimsical' style is also well-suited to the text, a story of eight friends who go on a journey one magical Halloween night. They're trying to solve a mystery and save a friend who may or may not be feeling quite himself. As they search for one thing they uncover answers to many things, deepening the allure of the season.

It begins in an unnamed mid-west American state with Tom Skelton, aged thirteen, going out to trick or treat with his friends, each one dressed in a different but traditional fright-night costume. But why are they traditional? What do witches have to do with an autumnal festival? Why are bandaged mummies paraded just once a year? As the boys uncover the mysteries of Halloween in an inimitable Bradbury way the reader learns their origin, too. Well, one interpretation of such.

Grimly's inky illustrations are highly stylised, sometimes half a page, sometimes full page. They're well-placed for the most part, but there's one colour plate in particular set before the appearance of the text it relates to. I dislike when that happens. It's almost like having sound and picture not properly synced in a film.

The colour pages are glossy and attractive, so why is the paper stock used for the text such cheap quality? It's not at all what you'd expect to see in a HB edition of an author so well-loved by so many. The publisher probably paid a lot of money for the privilege of republishing, and I realise they likely had to offset costs somehow, but compromising on paper quality is not the best solution. That's an adult concern for what's essentially a children's book, but I stand by it. It matters because if this particular edition is your child's introduction to the story, or even to Bradbury, then they may want to keep and treasure it for years to come.

3 candle constellations out of 5

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dead Boy Detectives: Vol 2: Ghost Snow (2015)

Author: Toby Litt  |  Illustrators: Mark Buckingham / Gary Erskine  |  Page Count: 160

'I saw my best friend, Rosa, taken by an evil ghost. I was eight.
No one believed me.'

Vol 1: Schoolboy Terrors (2014) left some pretty fantastical threads in need of gathering at its climax. Volume 2 picks them all up and weaves them into a tapestry that has the present represented on one side and the past on the other; Charles’ past, to be specific. I said last time that the boys love a mystery; that’s still true, but for Charles the feeling has gotten more complicated because it’s his family that is the mystery and he’s a piece of the puzzle. He fears what he’ll discover if he starts the digging process, and he fears what he’ll become if he doesn't. The truth can hurt even when you’re dead.

One of the most significant of the aforementioned threads was the one that connected to the Neitherlands. Events there run concurrently with events back on Earth as Charles and Edwin make some new friends. The new characters have a significant role to play, and even though they're dropped into a story that's already under way, they're well-rounded (i.e. well-written) enough to hold their own, even the two feuding philosopher kittens.

I enjoyed Ghost Snow a little more than I did Schoolboy Terrors, but it was largely due to having a solid background already in place, and I suspect that when I go back and re-read them both in one sitting then the collective score will be at least equal the one given below, or perhaps even higher.

Sadly, it concludes the short run of the revived series. Like many of the Sandman offshoots it didn't outstay its welcome, it left me wanting more. (Shut up, wallet!)

The book collects together Dead Boy Detectives issues 7-12 (The End... for now?).

4 faithful poppets out of 5