Tag Archives: Comics (Graphic works)

FreakAngels, Vol 3

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews FreakAngels, Vol. 3 [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Warren Ellis, Paul Duffield, & al., part of the FreakAngels series.

Ellis Duffield FreakAngels Vol 3

The tension continues to increase in the third volume of FreakAngels. It turns out I was wrong about all of the FreakAngels having K in their names, Connor, at least, doesn’t, even though he’s got the sound of it. I’m really enjoying these trade paperback collections, but I’m not in the least tempted to read the original webcomic. The pacing, while wonderful in a printed book of this kind, seems like it would be insufferably slow, if taken one page at a time. 

This one ends with a multiple cliffhanger, literal and figurative.

Entropy in the U.K.

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Invisibles, Vol 3: Entropy in the U.K. [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison, Phil Jimenez, Steve Yeowell, & al., part of The Invisibles.

Morrison the Invisibles Entropy in the UK

This third collection of The Invisibles is even more phildickian than the earlier ones, and concentrates on a showdown with the “Lost One” King-of-all-Tears. Jack Frost comes into his own finally, and backstory is supplied for other principal characters. The quality of the art is rather variable, but the story really seems to be coalescing.


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Invisibles 2: Apocalipstick [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison with Chris Weston, Dennis Cramer, Jill Thompson, John Ridgway, Kim Demulder, Paul Johnson, Sean Phillips, Steve Parkhouse, & al., part of The Invisibles series.

Morrison Apocalipstick

This second volume of The Invisibles does create some sympathy for its protagonists that I found lacking in the first. In particular, much of it is constructed around the origin myth of Lord Fanny, and the new character Jim Crow (an Invisibles avatar of Papa Guedhe) is quite engaging. While reading, it struck me that Grant Morrison’s comic was not quite so innovative as it has been made out to be. Steve Englehart’s Coyote actually covered a lot of this ground at the end of the Cold War, before the seeming monopolarity of the milennium threw popular esotericism into the insurgent mode (later called jihad by Hakim Bey). Still, I have to hand it to Morrison for his ability to introject dead baby jokes and the occasional shocking profundity, such as the placenta as ur-Christ (46)! As a symptom of its occult charge, The Invisibles: Apocalypstick manifested several synchronicities with my life experience in the context of reading it.

FreakAngels, Vol 2

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews FreakAngels, Vol. 2 [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, part of the FreakAngels series

Ellis Duffield Freakangels Vol 2

This second volume of FreakAngels charts a turn from mere survival of the Whitechapel clan and their local peasantry, to a more ambitious rebuilding project in the ruins of London. Some new psychic powers are demonstrated, and it turns out that the mutants use the eight-circuit psychological model of Timothy Leary in describing their paranormal interactions with other minds. 

I first noticed in this volume — though it was surely true in the previous one — that each of the FreakAngels has the letter K in his or her name.

The title continues to impress and engage me, and I’m enjoying the leisurely pace of narrative development. I already have the next volume on hand, but I’ll take a little breather before reading it.


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews FreakAngels, Vol. 1 [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, part of the FreakAngels series.

Ellis Duffield Freakangels

The first print volume collecting the FreakAngels webcomic by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield is very good indeed. The FreakAngels are a group of young mutants with psychic powers, who believe themselves to have been responsible for the collapse of modern civilization. They serve as warrior sentinels to a somewhat utopian community of a few hundred people assembled in Whitechapel in the midst of a flooded future London. The story was inspired by John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos, although the comics medium makes it hard not to read it in light of the X-men and other mutant superhero bands. 

The characters are strongly drawn, with the central corps of the dozen FreakAngels complemented by a few key ordinary people. Dialog is often telepathic, and Ellis and Duffield manage to convey that with a number of seemingly effortless narrative and pictorial devices. As is typical of Ellis, there is some violence, the more brutal for being set in the midst of stretches of calmer, more reflective storytelling. 

Paul Duffield’s art is very beautiful. There’s no garish four-color palette here: the future is gray and green and ivory, and the FreakAngels are pale and purple. The ruined and flooded cityscape is lovingly and credibly rendered. 

The physical production of the Avatar Press softbound volume is quite satisfactory. The book’s webcomic origins have two interesting effects. First, the page/panel design is quite inflexible, accommodating only quarter-, full-, and half-page rectangular panels. Second, the narrative pacing doesn’t “chunk” into roughly 20-page “issue” components, as one can routinely expect from trade volumes that collect individual print comic books. Nor does it fully resolve at the end of this book. Having been frustrated by Ellis’s apparently stalled Doktor Sleepless after reading its first trade collection, I’m relieved and gratified to see that there are already six FreakAngels volumes in print.


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Husk [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Frederic L’Homme and Arnaud Boudoiron.

lhomme boudoiron husk

This somewhat phildickian graphic novel is full of violence, drugs, and (mostly sublimated) sex. The central matter is the development of a “biomecha” technology consisting of humanoid “husks” piloted by nanotechnologically-enhanced operators: a convergence of mechanical and biological engineering. Most of the pilots seem to be women, while men serve as “co-pilots” telemetrically monitoring the pilot/husk metabolism, and providing them with backup direction.

There is a thick atmosphere of commercial and political conspiracy, while the husk operators develop an understandable paranoia attached to their status as guinea pigs, and the powerful sensory and emotional effects of their technological symbiosis. 

This Marvel/Soleil volume reprints the first two numbers of the translated French graphic narrative Husk. Each tells a fairly complete story while opening itself to continuation. As with other Marvel/Soleil titles, there is a sense of loss with the reduction of larger-format European BD art to the smaller American comics-style page, but the production values are high with full-process color on substantial, glossy paper.

Century 2009

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009 [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, & al.

Moore ONeill The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 2009

This bleak final (?) entry in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen saga is redeemed somewhat by Alan Moore’s wholesale assault against today’s most “successful” living English author. Also: Oliver Haddo does a full involuntary Templar Baphomet just in time for the eschaton. Kevin O’Neill continues to provide effective illustration, replete with peculiar cameos and side-jokes that I feel I must be missing 60% of. The indicia and and credits pages are hilarious parody material. 

I’m leaving the final installment of the “Minions of the Moon” prose serial appendix for a sit-down reading of the entire Century arc.

World of Mars

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews John Carter: World of Mars [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Peter David, Luke Ross, & al.

David Ross Burroughs John Carter World of Mars

This “Official Prequel” to the Disney John Carter movie collects the four issues of the Marvel comic John Carter: World of Mars. It is only indirectly rooted in the Burroughs stories; it is very faithful to the Disney screenplay and visual designs. In a frame story narrated by John Carter (who is thus only pictured in cover art and the opening pages of issue #1, along with the final panel of #4) this book provides back-stories for Tars Tarkas, Dejah Thoris, and Sab Than — the last of whom is presented as even more of a sociopath and tyrant than in the movie. Peter David’s story works pretty well, and the Luke Ross art is effective enough. Anyone who liked the movie (I did) should be able to enjoy this little graphic novel. 

The book is padded out at the end with some design sketches and the complete typescript draft of the first issue, effectively appending “roughs” from both the artist and the writer. I find design sketches an interesting addition to a volume like this, but the script just seems like an indulgent waste of paper that added nothing to the final content. 

Since the book is really fixed in the movie continuity, it actually doesn’t connect very smoothly with the other Marvel title John Carter: A Princess of Mars, which is more of an adaptation of the Burroughs book, albeit with some anticipation of the Disney treatment.

Crown of Shadows

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library] by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, & al., introduction by Brian K Vaughan book 3 of the Locke & Key series.

Hill Rodriguez Locke and Key The Crown of Shadows

As I read through the Locke & Key volumes in sequence, this is the best one yet. My only complaint is that it was so seamless and efficient that it read too fast! (In particular, the solid eleven pages of full-page panels in chapter five is likely to have reduced the time needed to read the book, but wow!) Still, it’s so well-done that I’m sure I’ll read it again. This series will obviously need an integral re-read once I’ve reached its end.

The characters who see the most fresh development in this arc are Jamal and Scot. There are a variety of imaginative magicks introduced: the Shadow Key doesn’t dominate this part the way that the Head Key did the previous one. Brian Vaughan’s foreword chides readers like me for only getting to these comics once they’ve been collected in “trade” format, but I don’t regret the approach; these IDW books are gorgeous.

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Snider.

Snider I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf

The sequential art in this book is sort of structured around a preliminary “confession,” which supplies its lines as subject titles for the sections of the volume, like “I confuse fiction with reality” and “I care about punctuation — a lot.” Most of it is expressed in pages of nine to sixteen panels, with each page detailing or iterating a distinct idea in the general space of reading, writing, and book husbandry. Less often, but more enjoyably to me, a page bears a single Scarry-esque drawing with a host of minutely annotated features, such as “The National Department of Poetry” (89). The art is stylized and dynamic, with a naïve air, but obvious skill at efficient communication.

The “humor” of the affair is chiefly created through wordplay and relatably-depicted states of bibliophilia. I don’t think I had a laugh-out-loud moment in reading the book, but I was often smiling.