World Comic Book Review

3rd March 2024

Clean Room Volume 1 (review) – Gail Simone Frightens Us

Clean Room #1
Vertigo Comics, December 2015
Writer: Gail Simone
Review by DG Stewart, 27 January 2015

Gail Simone is a comic book writer with a deserved reputation in characterisation. In titles such as Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Secret Six, and most recently Tomb Raider, Ms Simone takes often but not exclusively female characters and engages in a process of overhaul. This was most obvious in Secret Six where Ms Simone reshaped the previously forgettable villain Catman into a rational and even likeable personality. For very extended writing projects like Birds of Prey, this detailed addition of character was a prolonged exercise with some subtlety: certain players in the plot slowly changed direction over a long period of time, while others (notably the lead character, the paraplegic mastermind Barbara Gordon) engaged in a process of shaping peers – and, indeed, in the case of Barbara Gordon, authorial identification with the character rendered it sometimes difficult to ascertain where the fictional character ends and Ms Simone begins. These sometimes musty, sometimes unremarkable characters spring to life under Ms Simone’s care and interact with each other in a way which makes them approachable and likeable. Ms Simone has done this so often in the genre of superhero comics, and with such sympathy and thought, that one would think it was her exclusive stock-in-trade.

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The Undead Hunters of Tokyo

Tokyo Ghoul Vol 1
Shueisha Inc (Japanese original) 2011; Viz Media (English translation) June 2015
Writer: Sui Ishida

Review by DG Stewart, 8 January 2016

“Kodokushi” is the Japanese word for “lonely death”: a common enough phenomenon in Japan where haunting alienation from the community is prevalent as a consequence of, amongst other things, Japan’s extended economic stagnation. Many Japanese people, particularly unemployed and middle-aged men, die alone and unnoticed, and it is such an issue that Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward began a lonely-death awareness campaign.

Mr Ishida’s anime comic is concerned not with elderly men dying a lonely death, but with a young, awkward student named Ken Kaneki. Ken attends the imaginary Kamii University, located in Nerima ward in Tokyo. He is hopeless with girls, and hides in the shadow of his good childhood friend, the extroverted Hide. A pretty young woman named Rize slowly becomes interested in Ken, as a consequence of a mutual interest in a sinister book entitled “Egg of the Black Goat”. The two end up walking together down an alley. Rize leans in, apparently nervous, and then abruptly transforms into a ghoul and takes an enormous bite out of Ken’s shoulder and neck. The alley is otherwise empty: Ken’s version of kodokushi will be more horrific than most, but yet not an unexpected thing in Tokyo.

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Dr Strange #1 (review): The Ectopathologist

Doctor Strange #1 [review]
(Marvel Comics, December 2015)
Writer: Jason Aaron
(Review by DG Stewart, 10 December 2015)

Many years ago, The Comics Journal published a critique of Marv Wolfman’s work on Adventures of Superman. The critique noted that Wolfman’s characterisation of Superman was off-kilter: Superman was prone to bursts of anger and was an easily manipulated pawn of the evil Vandal Savage. It would be as odd, noted the reviewer, as Doctor Strange being portrayed as street-wise and jive-talking.

In this iteration of the title, Doctor Strange still has his original 1950s moustache but otherwise has been “transmogrified” (Doctor Strange’s term) from a stodgy, slightly inaccessible character into the vehicle for a fun read. One night argue that this character transition has been happening for some time (notably as a foil to Deadpool’s zaniness), but this version has gone beyond “droll” to “quirky”. The initial battle with the “monastic tribe of ultra-dimensional soul-eaters” leads to the title character:

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The Sandman: Overture (review) and the Elves That Come in the Night – Why Comic Book Release Dates Matter

Gaiman’s Sandman Overture and the Elves That Come in the Night

In an interview with CNN, writer Neil Gaiman said, “The biggest pitfall to avoid is not writing. Not writing is really, really easy to do, especially if you’re a young writer. The hope that elves will come in the night and finish it for you, is a very common one to have. That is my main recommendation. You have to write, and you have to finish what you write and beyond that, it’s all detail.”

The first issue of The Sandman: Overture was released in November 2013.

In March 2014, Vertigo announced, a day after the delayed second issue of the six-part miniseries hit shelves, the series will be published as one issue every few months, instead of the bi-monthly publishing schedule first promised.

Issue #2 was delayed from a December release to a February, and was released in March 2014. Mr Gaiman noted on Tumblr:

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