By Adam Murphy
Publisher: David Fickling Books
I stand by the notion that, growing up, I learned more about history, science and geography through comics than through any other medium. My eyes were opened to new possibilities, old discoveries, distant places, unusual concepts, and, not least, fascinating people that have gone before. One of my daughterís favourite strips in The Phoenix is Corpse Talk, not just because itís funny, but because it makes historical figures accessible and interesting, and hearing her talk about it so enthusiastically reminds me so much of me at her age.
Corpse Talk adopts the format of a chat show where the creator, Adam Murphy, interviews famous, infamous and occasionally obscure figures from history to shine a light on their past. The thing is, though, is that all the figures are indeed corpses, re-animated and slightly rotten, but somehow rather comfortable with their situation. You get to read about Marie Antoinette, Marie Curie, Cleopatra and Blackbeard, to name but a few. The strips started out as single pages, but as the collection progresses you can chart itís success as itís granted more pages so it can say a little more.
Like Horrible Histories, Adam Murphy understands that history is a rich and fascinating place, and so even without the humour he injects into it, thereís plenty to engage a reader with without it ever needing to be dry or boring. And whether youíre a child or an adult, you will learn something, such as the fact that Marie Curieís research notebook is so radioactive itís hazardous to touch.
Look out for a teensy Uderzo influence on the Julius Caesar and Cleopatra strips - made me chuckle. Another strong collection from the pages of the Phoenix.
And if you liked that: Check out Garys Garden, also from the pages of the Phoenix. Also if you buy any books or back issues from The Phoenix's online shop at www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk and quote the code FIRST15OFF you'll get a massive 15% off!
By Gazzotti & Vehlmann
This tale of a small group of children attempting to survive in a city devoid of people after an inexplicable event just keeps on impressing. Itís a strong mix of childhood curiosity, fear of the unknown, innocence and trying to do the right thing, but it also has a Lord Of The Flies undercurrent to it threatening to bubble-up to the surface.
For all the good decisions they make they inevitably make a bad one, such as when they decide to move into the luxury of the Majestic Hotel in the city for the space and the protection it provides. However, theyíve been back to their former homes and collected personal items and Ivan has decided to bring along his dadís handgunÖ and then he discovered the minibar. So he and Leila find themselves on a hotel balcony taking pot-shots at neighbouring buildingís windows, something that Dodzi immediately sees the dangers of and attempts to take away the weapon, only to have the others turn against him.
The gunshots appear to have drawn the attention of another survivor of the mass disappearance, but this survivor doesnít look as if heís after company. Masked, and brandishing a cloak hung with knives, he tempts Dodzi into a building and attempts to murder him. Dodzi escapes to the rooftops only to become trapped with no visible means of his pursuer getting him or he himself getting down. So the masked knifeman turns his attention to the hotel.
For much of the book it feels like weíve got a stereotypical villain introduced to keep the plot ticking along, but the creators resolve it in a quite unexpected and rather clever way, underscoring that these are just children who donít always appreciate the results of their actions.
There are a lot of good ongoing stories out there at the moment, and Alone - good as it is already - has the potential to be one of the best of them.
By David Lapham
Publisher: El Capitan/Image
If youíve read Stray Bullets then you need no introduction to David Laphamís prowess as crime noir writer and comic creator. With Murder Me Dead he takes his beloved genre and puts a modern spin on it, resulting in a powerful story thatís a genuine page turner.
Steven Russellís wife has committed suicide, or at least thatís what it looks like, and certainly his wifeís family arenít convinced he didnít have a hand in her demise. Theyíve had a loveless marriage and Steven has had a string of affairs, so when the police become convinced of his innocence the family do everything in their power to ruin him. Steven then bumps into an old friend who reminds him of a first love, so Steven seeks her out and they fall for one another in a big way. The trouble is, thereís much more going on here than first meets the eye, with double-crosses, back-stabbing, booze, bitterness and plenty of death. But who exactly is working who and just who, if anyone, is the innocent party?
Brilliantly executed, with a superb conclusion, this is a must read for fans of crime fiction, the noir genre or just anyone who likes a damn fine comic.
And if you liked that: Get Stray Bullets, and get it now
By James Turner
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Courageous, intrepid and mature are not three words youíd use to describe the crew of the Star Cat. Cowardly, ineffective and juvenile are much more like it. Thereís the odd shaped-head of Captain Spacington, the utterly useless Science Officer Plixx, the egotistically superior Robot One and the downright unintelligible pilot, all crew on the universe-traversing Star Cat, which is indeed half spaceship and half, er, cat.
If this cropped up on the telly in-between Adventure Time and Spongebob youíd not think it out of place at all. Itís daft, itís ridiculous and itís funny enough to keep you smirking throughout. I have a particular fondness for Turnip In Time, a time travel caper that messes with your head as Plixx repeatedly travels moments into the past to save the day only to contribute to a disaster that necessitates yet another trip back in time. Brilliantly done. I also rather liked Incorporeal Punishment where the crew are taken by a being of pure energy from beyond space and time to stand in judgement of their reality - just one huge great excuse for a succession of gags and a conclusion that beats Marvelís entire Beyonder arc.
The villains are, naturally, almost as inept as the crew, from the enormous presence of Mecha Dracula to the fear-sucking Space Vampyr, although nothing quite compares to the exploding evil that is Dark Rectangle. Heís good at being bad, he is.
Itís jam-packed with complete silliness, from exploding duck bombs to everything being given the prefix of Space, i.e. Space Zoo, Space Zoo, Space Ice Cream. Itís Space-tastic.
And if you liked that: There are lots more Phoenix collections out now from David Fickling Books. Also if you buy any books or back issues from The Phoenix's online shop at www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk and quote the code FIRST15OFF you'll get a massive 15% off!