Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Hewligan's Haircut (2000AD #700-708)

"You don't just think the world's playing hard to get?" - Hewligan

The late 1980's and early 1990's.  For UK comics it was the best of times and the worst of times.  The best because there was a large number of UK comics in print, such as CRISIS, Revolver, The Judge Dredd Megazine and blazing a trail before all of these was Deadline,  which blended youth culture commentary with comic strips such as proto-Riot Grrl Tank Girl by Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett.  It was also the worst of times as the US comic industry was hoovering up artistic and writerly talent as quickly as UK comics could bring people to their attention.  By around 1991-2 the best of the best was gone from the UK industry and we were left with the likes of the appalling Toxic comic which pretty much summed up the state of the industry at the time, and soon only 2000AD and the relaunched Megazine were still going (and are with us to this day).  But before that happened 2000AD, in the spirit of the times, was more willing to take risks on oddball concepts and art and so in 1990 we got Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett's Hewligan's Haircut.  A fantastical mish-mash of cubism, pop art and collage alongside Hewlett's very recognisable art style, which tells the tale of a young man's reality warping haircut and his quest to restore sanity to the world...

We start with Hewligan "languishing in the Five Seasons Mental Hospital".  Nurse Hatter gives him some plastic scissors so he can trim his nails and look smart for his meeting with "Doctor Proctor" who is going to assess him for possible release.  The comic at this point is in black and white.

Nurse Hatter: "Remember, it doesn't matter if you're sane or insane.  The important thing is to act sane. To pretend you're sane".

After she has gone, Hewligan says to himself that he doesn't pretend hard enough, he bets other people keep quiet about the "big ugly faces" they see.
Hewligan sans Haircut.
Nurse Hatter scolds him for talking to himself, then tells him to do something about his mop of long hair.  He snips it with the plastic scissors and ends up with a giant pompadour with a hole in it that looks exactly the same from whichever angle you view it from.  Deciding it's not the sanest of hairstyles he slicks it down saying it should "tranquilise the maniac" and goes to meet Doctor Proctor.

He shakes Doctor Proctor's hand and his hairdo springs back up, he thinks to himself "pretend your hair doesn't exist Hewligan.  Pretend you're sane."  Doctor Proctor confirms that Hewligan hears voices and sees big stony faces, all the while his ears are wandering across his face.  Hewligan desperately pretends their is nothing wrong and when asked if he still hears voices and sees the faces he lies and says "no, I don't".
Hewligan steps out into a mad world
"Then I've cured you!" says Doctor Proctor and pronounces Hewligan free to leave the hospital.  Nurse Hatter is sad to see him go.  Hewligan hopes once he's amongst normal people all the weirdness he feels will go away.  But as he opens the door to freedom he is met by a full colour scene of madness:

Hewligan: "Oh dear, I thought.  Perhaps I wasn't pretending to be sane hard enough.  Or maybe the world of normal people had changed a little since I had been inside the mental hospital."

He wanders through the surreal landscape thinking that this was the most confusing day of his life but "how could I pass judgement on the world when my own hair seemed to defy gravity?"  He approachs a policeman, who produces a rabbit from his helmet and asks Hewligan to pick a card.

He walks off and thinks that he's never been mad like this before, just the voice and stone heads, "quite ordinary madness".  He sees a chicken crossing the road and follows it, as the road tells him to watch where he is stepping.
The world is out to get him.
He dines at an Indian restaurant where the food literally disagrees with him, then goes to the Underground where things seem perfectly normal, but for some reason it's raining just on Hewligan.  Shop doors move when he tries to open them and the Born Again Christian tells him to "drop dead."

Later he chances upon a bank robbery, "my day was nothing if not eventful".   The robber runs past him and drops the gun by Hewligan who picks it up. Everyone starts accusing him of being the thief.  He drops it and runs, being chased by twelce policemen on one bicycle.  He runs into a blind alley and the wall speaks to him saying "psst.. in here.. quick!"

He walks through the wall and is confronted by a blonde woman riding a rocking horse who tells him to climb aboard.  The horse is called Dada and isn't much use for evading the singing policemen chasing Hewligan so they pick it up and flee.  After baffling another wall with an ontological paradox they slip through and into the woman's hideaway.

She says you need hideaways when you're a lawbreaker.  Hewligan asks what laws she breaks and she responds, "why the laws of nature of course!  They're the best laws of all to break!"  She floats and when she holds things she never quite touches them as the is slightly out of sync with the world.  Like Hewligan "I'm just plain out of tune".
Scarlet O'Gasmeter.
She introduces herself as Scarlet, Hewligan says it's a "heavenly nameWhat an island of radiant bliss in this ugly sea of madness."  He asks for her full name and she says "it's Scarlet O'Gasmeter".  She then tells him about the world and how some people aren't tuned into the right frequency for it.

Things can go out of tune as well, like socks.  Always disappearing into other dimensions. Same as umbrellas and doorkeys. 

Scarlet: "UFOs are really alien footwear that've have slipped out of tune with their world and tuned into ours. At this very moment an alien astronomer is getting all excited at a Woolworth's cotton sock oscillating above his planet."

Hewligan then sleeps for a while and when he wakes up Scarlet says his pursuers seem to want him.  And there are masses of soldiers after him, he doesn't understand why, he's a "nobody!".  He says it's mad, she says of course it's mad, the whole world is mad, where's he been?  He says in a madhouse, she responds "figures."

Hewligan: "It was a mad mad mad mad world.  And getting madder. Don't just take my word for it, ask anyone. Ask that giant polka-dot hamster that keeps following you around.  He'll tell you."

He and Scarlet escape on a flying pig who used to be a cricketter called Mike Gatting.  Not to be confused by the other cricketter called Mike Gatting.   It was a karma exchange, cricketter Mike used to be a pig in a previous life.
The world steps up its assault on Hewligan.
They float down to earth and Scarlet says she know some "imaginary alleyways" they can lose their pursuers in. But there are child soldiers waiting, so the run off to get disguises from a fancy dress shop.  They get the costumes of their "exact doubles" so they end up looking the same.

Then things turn cubist, a wavelength from one of the "art dimensions".  The army are still chasing them because "cubism is an intellectualised and conceptual realism.  Rather than an optical and instinctive realism".  As Hewligan says "I thought as much" it wears off...

...only to change to an attack from the Warhol dimension.   As we get a full page of the same repeated images and a discussion on the power of boredom, it wears off "probably looking for some suckers who take it seriously".  They are left in a white space, so Scarlet draws a door and they go through and Scarlet asks if he has ever had a girlfriend as they make it back to the mad world, "not unless I had one without knowing" says Hewligan.
A tedious dimension invades.
They arrive of the stage of a smash hit musical about a sex gladiator called Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Hewligan asks just how more untuned the world can get and a rocket comes up through the stage.   This literally brings down the house and as Hewligan and Scarlet escape she says he has to face facts that the world hates him for some reason.

But she likes him and they share a kiss. Then they go back on the run as the world starts picking up broadcasts from enigmatic sixties TV shows.  In this case "The Prisoner".  They try to escape, but a huge beach ball chases them down the beach, they leap on it and get sucked inside.
Time stops for a kiss.
As they bounce around inside, Hewligan confesses he is still bothered by the Big Faces that appeared to him in his dreams in the mental hospital. Scarlet says she's met a few untuned people who have dreamt of "big and stony faces with large foreheads". He says those were exactly what he dreams of and voices too.  Scarlet says becuase he is untuned he picks up wavelengths from other frequences.  "You're not a madperson Haircut" she tells him.

They get out of the balloon and find themselves in Stevenage.  The airforce is still chasing them. Scarlet says if they find what's making the world out of tune they can find out why it hates Hewligan.  They walks into a travel agent and Hewligan sees a advert on the wall, it shows a huge stone head.  It's for Easter Island.  "There they are!" he says excitedly.
Hewligan spots the Giant Heads.
"I think I'm having a mystical experience" he goes on to say. "Can't you just be happy instead?" retorts Scarlet.  They book a holiday to go and see the heads. When Hewligan wonders how they'll get there, Scarlet reminds him the world is somewhat messy right now and they hail a bus which is going the whole way.

It travels across the ocean, and Hewligan asks if this is an irrational persecution complex or guilt trip?  "No, I really think it's your fault. Somehow or other your to blame for all this" says Scarlet.   The navy and airforce are catching up and the skeleton driving won't speed up, so Scarlet takes over driving.

The bus ends up getting sunk, so they swim the rest of the way. They reach Easter Island but all the giant heads are fast asleep.  Then it starts raining missiles, but they turn into mushrooms as they hit the ground.  Then one of the stone heads wakes up and tells them to step in its mouth. And then:

Hewligan: "...I saw it. Glowing softly in the centre of his forehead.  Unmistakeable.  Unforgetable.  Born of a pair of plastic N.H.S scissors. My haircut. Hewligan's Haircut!"

Scarlet voices what we're all thinking... how does the shape of the most absurb haircut ever also be a symbol on an Easter Island statue?
The Haircut is the Key.
A strange while hole appears in the air and Scarlet says the world is starting to disappear.  The picture starts to fade so Hewligan drags her into the statue's mouth despite her reluctance and they snog while falling deep inside.

They find themselves in a place solely populated by giant stone heads.  They are between dimensions now  "You are in the blue limbo of the zonal frequency modulations" says the head that brought them there.  Their job is to keep worlds they are assigned to in tune and Hewligan's haircut is to blame for what happened:

Giant Stone Head: "You see your haircut is the shutdown signal to turn off the zonal freqency modulators.   If the shape of that symbol appears in a dimension all frequency modulators in that dimension go to sleep."

All that madness caused by one haircut. Hewligan is to return via the head and undo the damage, but Scarlet won't be coming with him.

She says all her life she has been out of tune, "all my life I've felt I don't belong".  She's going to use the giant heads to travel to different dimensions so one day she'll find a world she'll feel at home in.  Hewligan says he'll come with her, but the stone head says "absolutely not".  He has to come back and undo the damage his haircut did.
The Giant head explains all.
If he doesn't that world will become so undone it'll be little more than a "rumour".  Scarlet says their world doesn't deserve that and hugs a tearful Hewligan.  He cuts his hair and climbs back into the stone heads mouth.  He waves goodbye to Scarlet and thinks "I had no idea where on Earth I was going to arrive.  Right then, I didn't care."

As he falls through the world of colour and tries not to think of Scarlet, he decides to become a monk as he's "had it with women.  I'd had it with life".  He comes out of the head and the world is back to normal and in black and white again.  It's in the middle if Trafalgar Square that they land.  Hewligan tells the stone head he'll stand out there.

Giant Stone Head: "Frequency modulators are never out of place. Reality is always slightly altered to accomodate us.   Ask anyone and they'll tell you there was always a giant head in Trafalgar Square. Now you better go and stop speaking to me.  People will think you're mad."

So Hewligan mooches off, he's hungry, thirsty, wet, miserable and penniless.  Then suddenly he sees a man with "my haircut!  Hewligan's haircut!"  He runs over to tell the man how dangerous it is and gets told to get lost.

So he starts ripping the man's hair out until the police drag him off.  And he ends up in a straitjacket, in a mental hospital in a padded cell.  He tells the doctors the full story of why he ripped the man's hair out expecting to be believed and let go, but he gets booted back into the cell.
Back in the loony bin again.
Angrily he tells himself he shouldn't have come back and starts plotting to grow his hair and create the haircut again, he'll turn the world into a rumour and go looking for Scarlet.  Then suddenly the wall bulges with colour and a giant face appears with Scarlet standing in it.  She decided she wanted a travelling companion and so came back for Hewligan.

Hewligan: "Scarlet, is this really happening? I mean is this just my madness?  Is the world still out of tune?

Scarlet:  Stop worrying Hewligan.  What does it matter?"
But after all Scarlet returns for him.
And it ends with a kiss.  If I could be serious for a moment, despite the humour, this strip gets a lot right about some types of mental illness.  Speaking as someone who has struggled with some quite serious "breaks" in reality in the past (and who is basically a medicated psychotic) that feeling of being "out of tune" with the world is a perfect description of how it feels to wake up one day and find everything feels wrong about the world and only you are unaffected by it.  Perhaps my worst one was believing everyone in the world had been replaced by sentient robots and only I knew what had happened. Fortunately I was able to ride that out and back to sanity again without hurting anyone or myself but it was a terrifying experience which involved amazing amounts of paranoia as if the whole world is really out to get you.  Which is why I relate to this strip quite heavily.  The ending is also interesting, did he really get rescued by Scarlet?  Or did he finally escape into permanent fantasy via his mind like the end of the Terry Gilliam film Brazil?  Even the choice of putting the "sane" parts in black and white are meaningful.  When you are taking various types of meds for mental illness (especially antipsychotics) you can feel like the world is flat and colourless in comparison to the vividness of a hallucination or other altered state of conciousness.  It's all clever stuff, definitely one of the more sympathetic treatments of severe mental illness I have ever seen (and let's face it, the likes of me are usually being roughed up by Batman rather than riding a bus to Easter Island when it comes to comics sadly).  And the story is good fun, and actually holds together well for what initially feels like a set of random circumstances. The art is wonderful, and if you're reading this and thinking the art looks like The Gorillaz, well Jamie Hewlett is the artist behind both.  Hewligan's Haircut is one of those wonderful oddities 2000AD throws up from time to time.  It's also avaliable as a trade paperback so if you're at all interested it's well worth checking out.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Ballad Of Halo Jones: Book 2 (2000AD #405-415)

"I heard what you said. I'm not coming back to The Hoop" - Halo Jones

Time to kick off another UK comic's month with a classic, the most well regarded of  Alan Moore's British work - The Ballad of Halo Jones, drawn by the talented Ian Gibson. It's interesting that it wasn't a hit right out the gate, the first volume wasn't actually very popular with the readership of 2000AD coming dead last in a reader poll the year it ran.  But Tharg recognises when quality needs time to bed in and so we got volume two and three before Alan had his usual falling out with editorial and left the planned nine volume series a tantalising six volumes short.  Today we're checking out volume two, and the thing that is most noticable from the start is the often impenetrable future slang has been ditched and everyone now speaks normal British English.  Our hero is Halo Jones, a young woman who lived on Earth in a place called The Hoop where the unemployed and unemployable were shunted off to exist out of sight and out of mind.  It was a dangerous place where even a simple trip to the shops could result in death if not planned out in advance.  Halo yearned to escape and when a job opportunity came up waitressing on a luxury space cruiser called "The Clara Pandy" she took it.  She bid her best friend Rodice farewell and Rodice promised to follow her and meet her on the planet Charlmange in a years time.  Halo took Toby, their highly intelligent robot guard dog with her, as Toby's owner - another woman she and Rodice lived with - had been brutally murdered so he had nothing left to stay for on The Hoop either.  This story then tells the tale of one year aboard The Clara Pandy from the perspective of one of the lowly workers.  Now read on.

It begins with a prologue designed to fill readers in on the events of book one.  It is a class being taught about legends from the past and the teacher moves on to one very dear to his heart, "Halo Jones" which he has just published a program on the subject that one of his pupils cynically says he wants them to buy.

He says that over the centuries a lot of "nonsense and distortion" has grown up around her. That she was a war criminal, that she met "Lux Roth Chop, Luiz Cannibal and Sally Guaja".  Some people even think she was a man called "Hal Jones".

Halo Jones is now studied in classes.
To tell them about the real Halo Jones he tells them about The Hoop.  We also find out the Different Drummers (who one of her friends joined in book one) were wiped out in a massacre a few years after she left. One pupil says she heard Halo left Earth after a failed relationship with her boyfriend "Rodrice". 

The tutor laughs and says no, it was "Rodice" and she was Halo's female best friend.  Although after she left Earth she arranged to meet her on the planet Charlmange after getting work on the Lux Roth Chop owned luxury space liner The Clara Pandy after the death of another friend.

Tutor: "I've spent years researching this woman - and do you know what I've found out?  It's this... she wasn't anything special.  She wasn't that brave.  That clever.  Or that strong.  She was just someone who felt cramped by the confines of her life.  She was someone who just had to get out."

And she did get out, to places that don't even exist anymore and she said of herself afterwards, "Anybody could have done it."  The class breaks up and the pupil that showed an interest in Halo comes to talk to the tutor.  She says he talks about her very movingly, and he admits he has fallen in love with her despite her dying "fourteen hundred years ago."
A new life for Halo.
Then we begin proper, with Halo writing a missive to Rodice telling her all abouther new life.  She shares a cabin with a tough, seven foot tall woman called "Toy".  Halo says "she's the toughest woman I've ever met.  You'd hate her."  She also mentions a stowaway that she isn't sure what gender they are, and has trouble bringing them to mind.

Her hostess job is "slappy" although she wasn't sure about the sexy leotard she had to wear at first.  Halo tells Toy that if a woman back on The Hoop showed even her ankles, "well, we just didn't do it."  Toy reassures her she looks fine and off they go, Halo ignoring the stowaway's question about The Hoop.

Halo tells Rodice that the passengers they serve are "loud and rich" and one of them - a woman called  "Cezanne Goleiter" - has a very familiar voice.  She also tells Rodice she has a crush on the ship's cyberneticist "Mix Minegold""He doesn't say much, but he's probably incredibly deep" she says of him.
Kit the steersdolphin
The other best thing is the "steersman", a dolphin or "Cetacean" who goes by the name of "Kititirik Tikrikitit".  Halo speaks his language so she gets to hang out and keep him company and call him "Kit".  Toby is also doing fine and doesn't seem to be unhappy over his mistress Brinna's death.

Halo says Toby needs his memory spools replacing every six months and his replacement time is coming up:

Halo: "It must be nice mustn't it, to be able to take your old memories and throw them away, and start again with a nice clean spool".

She then tells Rodice there is a secret passenger that she just leaves food outside the door of.  She finishes her message asking Rodice if she has a job yet and if she'll beat her to Charlemange.

Mix comes up behind her saying he didn't know she used the "observation blister" so late.  Halo says she was just composing a letter and wanted to finish it while looking at the stars.  She tells him she was particularly looking at one bright star that looked lonely but beautiful at the same time.  Mix smiles and says it's not a star, "that's our solid wastes disposal trailer."
The next chapter begins with a man jamming a gun to Halo's head as she goes to visit Kit.  They are soldiers in the "Tarantulan Emancipation Army" and will kill Halo and Kit if the captain doesn't broadcast their demands to the whole ship.  The leader then says to the people of Earth that "under the command of the hated torturer, Luiz Cannibal, your planet wages undeclared war on the free colony worlds of the Tarantula Nebula".

The owner of the ship, Lux Roth Chop supports this war effort.  They have demands they want meeting or Halo and Kit will end up dead.  Toby, elsewhere on the ship, pricks up his ears at this.  As they give out their demands, Toby races to where Halo is being held.  He rips through the wall and tears the hijackers to bits.
Toby is one bad mofo.
Security arrive and ask what happened. "I happened" says Toby.  Mix comes in and says it was a terrible thing.  Thinking he's talking to her, Halo says she thought she'd be killed.  But he walks past her and fusses over a damaged computer instead.

The next chapter has Halo recovering back in her cabin and she notices the androgynous person who lives there as well.  Halo asks them who they are and they say with great surprise, "you... you really want to know who I am?"  Halo and Toy say yeah.
Introducing Glyph.
The androgynous being is called Glyph.  Glyph thinks they started out as a girl, or maybe a boy. Glyph can't be sure.  Glyph ended up not happy as either and with a serious case of body dysmorphia had forty-seven "body remoulds" which finally left them as they are now, completely devoid of gender identifying characteristics and also, "my personality had been completely erased.  That's why I'm so boring".

Glyph: "People stopped listening to what I was saying and didn't seem to notice I was there. Everybody forgot about me.  I wasn't a boy, I wasn't a girl.  I was just a cypher.  Some sort of glyph".
Glyph couldn't get a job, and couldn't get served in restaurants. One day Glyph's landlady moved a new family into her apartment.  Despite Glyph's complaints, no one noticed they were there.  "I was as if I'd somehow slipped beneath the threshold of human awareness".

Glyph had no home, no friends, no money but didn't starve because they could just steal food.  They also enjoyed sitting down to a meal with others, pretending to be part of the family. They slipped aboard The Clara Pandy and has been living there on the fringes ever since.

Glyph asks if Halo and Toy could maybe say hello to her every now and then or listen to her jokes.  But Glyph is talking to empty air.  Halo and Toy have their backs to her and are discussing holo-soaps. Toy says she likes them because "she's naturally interested in people" while Glyph turns away and sits sadly in the background.
Poor Glyph.
Four months out, and Halo complains she hasn't seen any "natural wonders of space yet".  Halo goes and delivers food to the secret passenger in the Presidential Suite.  The two guards check her ID and tell her to go lay it down and not look at the food as well.  Curiosity gets the better of her and she sneaks a peek at the food and it's plain gruel.

Then she hears a squeaking noise coming from inside the cabin and ventures in to investigate.  She gets a big shock when she sees the inhabitnats are several rats linked by their tales and able to communicate via computer screen.  One of them is dying and Halo is to find a replacement.

Rat King: "We am Rat King.  Five joined as one. One of us is dying. Must replace, or knot will fall apart, one mind break into five stupid minds.  No more Rat King".

They end with a threat.  Halo is to find a healthy, strong rat to join them within the next hour.  If she fails, she will die too.
The Rat King.
Halo goes grovelling round for a rat but keeps missing them.  Glyph comes up and says Halo can tell her whats bothering because people forget Glyph so soon after, so Halo tells her about the Rat King and her need for another rat.  Glyph says "rats don't notice me either" and grabs one for Halo.  Glyph offers to do other little jobs for Halo if she wants them too, but Halo is gone and without saying thank you either.

The Rat King undoes it's tail knot enough to free the dead one.  The new rat joins the collective quite agreeably.  They ask her to dispose of the body and not tell anyone about this on pain of death.  How will they know, she asks them. "Trust we" it responds. Halo puts it in the disposal and back in her cabin, laments to Toy that she "has to trust a bunch of rats".

Toy: "You've been a woman for eighteen years and you only just realised that?"

Eight months out and there is to be a party that night.  Tentatively Halo tries to ask Mix out, but he misreads her and says she won't be staying home alone tonight, she can listen Toby's old audio memory spools of her friends back on The Hoop.

Toy enters the cabin saying she has a date, Halo says she is staying home with Toby.  But he's out on patrol.  "Stood up by a dog!" laments Halo. She intends to stay in and watch the tapes which will probably make her blub.

The truth about Toby revealed.
We cut to Toby, who is hailed by Mix.  Mix asks Toby if Halo managed to get his memory tapes to play alright.  When Toby realises what he's done he goes rushing to Halo's cabin. She, meanwhile, has reached a critical momement.  When Toby split from he and Rodice on their shopping trip he went back to his owner Brinna and brutally killed her. Brinna had left him to Halo in her will.  He appears at the distraught Halo's doorway and says "I did it all for love!".

We cut to the party which provides some interesting backstory amongst the gossip.  Earth is trying to respossess the Tarantula colonies because Earth's natural resources are exhausted and the only thing it has of value is water which the Cetaceans won't let it sell.  To avoid offending them, the Earth is trying to get the colonies back instead.  Cetecean's are the only  species who can navigate through hyperspace, "offend them and shipping collapses".  It is said that Earth is making use of "ratwar" which was outlawed centuries ago...

Back with Toby and Halo, Toby tells her Brinna was "in the way of you and me".  He says they can go to Kapek's world and he can get a humanoid body and be like a regular boyfriend.  Halo stammers it's a good idea, but Toby can read her heart rate, she's frightened of him and will betray him as soon as she can.  So he'll have to kill her.  Halo grabs one of the broken mechanical arms Toy likes to wrestle with, whacks him with it and runs.
Toy takes Toby on.
Bored of all the political talk Toy returns to her cabin to find Halo gone, she is being chased by Toby.  Halo runs into a room full of machinery, Toby says that was a smart move because it's dark and noisy.  Wait; it wasn't smart because he has infrared vision.  He bursts through a wall and knocks her down.

He tells her that if he lets her live she'll tell everyone what he did to Brinna and he'll be reprogrammed. He's about to murder her when she fires a laser into his face point blank.  She gets away, and Toy who has been looking for her arrives on the scene. Glyph follows her.

Toy grabs Toby and wrestles him into a small room.  They lock him in and turn the heat up full.  They think he's dead, but he bursts out half melting and runs towards the exhausted and terrified women. 

Glyph sees all this and resolutely says "no", Glyph then tips over a barrel of explosive fuel and it hits Toby and he blows up, but Glyph is caught in the blast and when Halo asks Toy if they are alive, Toy says the words that are like a punch in the gut everytime I read this:

Toy: "No...nobody died today."

Twelve months out and the final party is being thrown.  Halo is swimming with Kit in his tank when Toy comes in and asks her if she's going?  Halo isn't sure, but Toy says she'll take her to get some decent clothes to attend in.
A sacrifice unnoticed.
It's a Lux Roth Chop party so it'll be extra swanky, Toy tells her to ask Mix out and they return to their cabin.  They both wonder about feeling something is missing from the place, like "some piece of furniture or something we both never noticed, and now it's gone".  But it can't of been that important, can it?

The party is in full swing and Toy tells a shy Halo to ask Mix for the final dance, she starts stumblingly asking him when Cezanne Goleiter pushes in and asks him first.  Halo finally recognises her voice, she is the woman they based The Hoop's "Swifty Frisko" news broadcasting character around.
Dolled up for the last party.
Sad that Swifty Frisko stole her man, she goes and sighs in a corner.  It is then the black teenage boy who's been depicted hovering around in the background all throughout the voyage, asks her for a dance.  She agrees and says not to worry if anyone laughs at them.  "They won't laugh" he says.  They dance and the floor empties as they whirl round the floor.  Afterwards everyone applauds, she tells him he's a nice kid and asks his name, "Lux Roth Chop, goodnight" he tells her and walks away leaving her in shock.
Dancing with Lux Roth Chop.
Finally Halo has reached Charlmange.  It's an ice planet so she has disembarked in a full, cold weather suit. Toy points out a mysterious box being pushed out of the Presidential Suite, this is where lots of folk change and it is heading for the Tarantula systems.  Toy comments how they never found out what was in the suite and Halo says "uh.. no.. we didn't."

Halo leaves Toy to go to the "Solid Air Club".  Whether she stays on the Clara Pandy depends on what happens with Rodice.  The bar is empty when she gets there and she orders a couple of drinks.  Then a video message comes through from Rodice, Halo says she won the bet and when will Rodice be getting there so she can pay for the drinks?  But Rodice hits her with the stunning news, she's still on The Hoop.

Rodice: "It was difficult finding another ship at the space yards and well.. I didn't like the idea of just going out there into, y'know, all that space.  Anyway I'm more comfortable on the Hoop."

She says she has lots to tell Halo when she gets back, but Halo looks angry and says she's not coming back.  Rodice stammers that she just thought Halo wanted a break, "where will you go?" she asks. "Out" says Halo and disconnects the call.  Sadly she puts her head on her hands and asks the pianist what his name is after he plays a mounrful little tune.  When he tells her she says, "play it again, Yortlebluzzgubly".
So important it needed saying twice.
And on that melancholy note we finish Book Two of Halo Jones.  Immensely good stuff as befits Prime Moore.  I've always been struck by the deep unsentimental nature of this story.  The plight of Glyph for instance, there is no last minute shock of recognition, no mourning over their loss, as far as Toy and Halo are concerned a freak accident saved them from Toby and Glyph goes to their grave unremembered.  Glyph might also be one of comic's first trans and genderfluid characters and while I'll admit the portrayal isn't flattering, they do give their life up to save Halo and provide the biggest upset to the reader who unlike the characters has got to know and grow fond of them. Thanks to Moore's deft writing, I've never forgotten Glyph. Toby is revealed as a brutal killer who'd murder even the woman he killed for to save his skin and Rodice is shown to be a coward who'd rather stay in the hellhole of The Hoop than take Halo's bravery as a guide and leave.  Luckily Halo has a new best friend in Toy, a strong woman in all senses who wasn't afraid to jump in and fight a raging robot to save her, but isn't a stereotypical butch either, showing a liking for flowing dresses and general elegance too.  Halo also has Kit the Cetecean to hang out with and give her much needed peace from the stressful side of human beings (and feels similar to how Moore would develop the Abby and Swamp Thing relationship as well).  After twelve months on The Clara Pandy and with no Rodice waiting, what will become of Halo Jones next?  You'll have to wait until my next UK comic month (or buy the collected edition of all three books) to find out.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Saga Book 6 (#31-36) NSFW

NSFW WARNING:  Penises! Boobies!  Vulvas! Pubes! Hot homo humpin'!

"I've found that cultures often clash for the same reasons that people do.  It's not because we're so different from each other... but because we're all so godammned alike" - Hazel

Saga is getting so epic and full of characters it's now pretty impossible to sum up in one introduction.  So you'll have to read some of the previous entries, go on, shoo.  But I'll give you the premise and bare bones so far.  This is the story of a family trying to make its way in a hostile universe.  The reason the universe is so hostile to them is because the parents are from either side of an intergalatic war.  Alana is from Landfall and sports a pair of wings, her husband Marko is from Wreath, Landfall's moon, and has horns.  When Marko was taken prisoner, Alana fell in love with him, they fled and she got pregnant and the story began with the birth of their daughter Hazel who immediately became a target of each side who didn't want the union of two of the warring sides made public.  Hazel narrates the story from some unspecified time in the future, right now she's just turned four.  Wreath and Landfall have been at war for a long time and this war has dragged many, many planets into the fighting. The most notable being Landfall's major allies the TV headed Robot people.  At the end of the previous volume, the two year old Hazel was kidnapped, and the ending showed her in a Landfall prison school for the captured Wreathian P.O.W's kids, now a couple of years older after a time skip.  And thus we continue the story as we find out what happened next as Marko and Alana keep looking for their missing daughter and what is happening to Hazel and the rest of the colourful cast in the meantime.  Brian K Vaughn writes, Fiona Staples draws.

We begin with the kids and their various drawings. Hazel has drawn a "giant foot man with very bad gas". Which amuses the rest of the class.  Noreen, their insect-like teacher says she wanted Hazel to draw something that made her feel sad, Hazel that does make her sad much to the continued merriment of the other kids.
Hazel and Noreen.
Their lesson over they leave, but Noreen asks Hazel to stay.  She tells Hazel if she ever wants to talk about "things" she can trust her.   Also she brought her a book called "Leave Me Be" this sends Hazel into the first tears she's shed in two years.  We flashback to when she and her grandmother were kidnapped by the terrorists who were in the process of selling Hazel to the Wreathians, Marko and Alana weren't onboard they were fighting the terrorists outside it.

The ship they jump into space with is crippled though as the power unit was taken away in the previous book.  But they jump right into the path of the Robot Kingdom ship that was hunting Prince Robot IV who was off tracking down his son.  There is an altercation on the terrorist ship, one of them (a Wreathian who becomes like an auntie figure to Hazel in jail) tells her to look away as Hazel's enraged grandmother, Klara, crushes the head of the other terrorist aboard.  Then they make up a story to tell the Robots that they were female slave labour.

This convinced the Robots who handed them over to Landfall detainee centre.  They are led to get checked up medically but a pig shaped alien doctor stops them, saying they can't be stripped just like that and treated badly since they have been "comfort women".  The Landfall guard leaves him to check them over and he turns into Izabel, the spirit girl bound to Hazel who can only come out at night. 
Izabel gets them out of a jam.
They haven't seen her in a while because the planet they were on before had no nighttime.  There is a joyful reunion and this way, Hazel's wings and dual nature won't be discovered. Lexis the terrorist appreciates Hazel getting them out of immediate trouble, but Hazel is a "timebomb".  How long can they keep her secret?

Then we're back in the present, and Noreen gives Hazel a cake to celebrate her fourth birthday. She tells Hazel if she doesn't end up part of a prisoner exchange she is welcome back into her programme as an "explorer".  This excites Hazel who rushes off to tell Klara.
Petrichor, a new character.
She runs into the showers and is greeted by an adult Wreathian with breasts and a penis and testicles.  She speaks the non-Wreathian language brokenly.  When Hazel points out her "outtie" she says "in here I be girl" and points to her head (which is why I'm using the female pronouns for her).  She says everyone here sees her as a "freak of nature".  Hazel says because the Landfallian's put her in with the women maybe they're not so bad afterall.

Next time she meets Noreen, Hazel asks what she thinks of the "Wings" (slang for folk from Landfall). Noreen says they pay on time.  Hazel says she doesn't remember much about her parents, but she knows how her dad smells and that her mum is a bad singer and gave her that book when she was younger.  She takes her top off, and undoes the bandages round her chest revealing a beautiful pair of large wings, also from her mother.  Noreen faints dead away, banging her head on the table as she falls. "Oh fart" says Hazel.
Hazel's secret.
Then we check in with Marko and Alana.  They have broken into Variegate the financial hub of the coalition's vast prison empire.

Hazel: "Despite the persistent sense of loss, united by a shared obssession my parents once again brought about the very best in each other."

They hadn't even kissed since they were reunited, they would never again perform the act that created Hazel until they had her safely back, or so they vowd.

They get further inside and make their way to the records room.  Marko uses his magic to create a key to get inside.  Alana makes him promise not to teach Hazel magic, but Marko hopes Klara has already taught her the basics.  They root through the paper records until Alana finds a sheet that tells of a wrecked ship of the type they are looking for and three females found aboard.  Including a senior citizen and her grandaughter.
Marko and Alana find out Hazel is alive.
The sheet says after processing they were taken to a detention centre on Landfall.  Marko thinks that's not right, they wouldn't allow his people on their soil.  But Alana said she had heard of the camps, hidden amongst the population to deter Wreath from all out attack. Then three security guards which seem to be made of fire appear.

They try to arrest Alana and Marko but Alana tells them they have fired a missile at the planet and look out of the window.   This panics the security guards as Alana says she is "destroying the red tape that holds this unjust world together!"  But actually it's their wooden rocket home coming down for them.  As the security guards scarper, Alana breaks the window and jumps out using her wings to hover.

She can't hold Marko for long because unlike Hazel, her wings have been clipped as is tradition for female Landfallians, but he jumps out and grabs her and the two of them land together in the rocketship.  They tumble in each other's arms, then kiss passionately.  Then have a bout of sex because really this was wonderful news. As Hazel tells us, "until they found that scroll, my parents had each been secretly convinced I was long dead."
Vows are made to be broken.
They now realise they are going to need more help, and we cut to ex-Prince Robot IV teaching his son "Squire" how to hunt.  Ghüs, a little mole like alien riding Hazel's pet Friendo, comes to tell him Alana and Marko are coming.  Robot IV wants to run the hell away from them saying "their pathetic aside in my life came to its natural conclusion long ago".  Squire appears holding a dead bird and asks what they should wish for.

We then check in with Upsher and Doff, the homosexual couple who are a newsteam.  Upsher the writer, Doff the photographer.  Upsher is elated because he's received news that The Brand (who belonged to an organisation of all-purpose enforcers) died sometime ago.  And this means they can revisit the story she warned them away from which was the existence of Hazel.

They start travelling to check out leads, the first one is that Alana worked on "the Circuit" which is a theatrical broadcasting entertainment system.  Doff says the Circuit people won't talk, but Upsher says he has a "secret weapon" in the form of Ginny. She left a classified ad that said:

Advert: "To my brave warrior from Wreath, this is your favourite dance instructor from Gardinia, hoping for good news about your beautiful daughter?  You have my number.  Please call..."

So it looks like Private First Class Alana and her lover spent some time on this planet.  Doff seems unsure about carrying on with this story.  Maybe they are just two people who like to screw and others think they are gross and immoral.
Upsher and Doff are back on the story.
Upsher realises he's talking about the homophobia on their own planet.  But he says their relationship wouldn't send shockwaves through the rest of the universe.  Upsher says their subjects made their bed, "it's our job to go through the dirty sheets."  And Doff gives in.

They arrive at Ginny's house, who now has a husband.  She talks to them privately about Marko who came to collect her grandfather's sword and shield.  She wants an alias because they were good friends but she doesn't want her husband getting the wrong idea.  She tells them she saw a Robot with a colour screen in the vicinity of the Circuit and Upsher asks if she thinks a member of the Robot royal family abducted a child?

Upsher asks when was the last time he heard from Marko.  He phoned a year ago from a planet called Outcome.  He said he was on Hazel's trail and hopefully would be able to return her grandfather's gear soon.   The two journalists leave to travel to Outcome and their new lead.
Sexy pillow talk (!)
Later they are having sex in a motel and discussing what they know. They decide to fly out to Outcome because beyond it is cold ice so Doff can use the heat signature detection on his camera to look for a trail.  Upsher says Doff is "horny for the story" now.  Doff says:

Doff: "It's not just the story Up. There's a little kid out there who might need us."

Upsher frowns and asks if his biological clock is ticking?  Doff says no, but if there are going to be words about her, he wants them from someone like Upsher who cares.

Later they are flying in the ice belt as Doff scans it with his camera.  He picks up footprints on a nearby planet and they land to go check it out.  They find the crashed skull ship, and flowers called "violents" which only grow where there is bloodshed.  They follow the tracks and are suddenly faced with bounty hunter-cum-enforcer, The Will.  He was brother of The Brand and has her companion, the dog Sweet Boy now.  He elongates his sword and spears Doff through the shoulder.
The Will and Sweet Boy.
Sweet Boy jumps on Upsher. The Will says he knows his sister gave them a second chance.  Doff says "you mercenary assholes got no right to intefere with legit reporting".  The Will says he doesn't give a damn about their muck raking, then he pauses and talks to thin air. Then he demands to know where Prince Robot IV is, which they have no idea about.  So he decides to keep them around, "you fuckers work for me now."

Back with Hazel, she is still standing, wings out over the unconcious body of Noreen when the hermaphrodite woman who is called Petrichor finds them.  She tells Hazel to quickly cover up, while Hazel explains what happened. Petrichor helps her and says her father must have been a Wing who forced himself on her Wreathian mother.  Hazel wants to correct her but had learned thus far when it's a good idea, "to shut your fucking mouth".

On the planet where Robot IV, Squire and Ghüs are, Marko and Alana have arrived. Robot IV welcomes them by aiming an arrow at them and telling them to get lost.  They ignore him and warmly greet Ghüs, Squire and Friendo.  Robot IV gives up and asks them what they want.  They tell him they want to break Hazel out of a Landfall prison.
Robt IV, Squire, Ghus and Friendo
He says he can't help because he has no standing in the coalition since being disowned by his father. Ghüs and Squire guilt trip him into considering agreeing though and when Marko and Alana subtly threaten to tell the Robot King where he is, he has no choice left but to assisst them.

On Landfall, with the help of Izabel's ability to disguise herself, Hazel has got inside the infirmary where Noreen is.  Noreen is concious and amazed that Hazel is also soul-bound to an astral shifter.  "Child how?  How the hell did you come to be?" she asks. So Hazel tells her graphically that her parents had sex and she was the result and Klara really is her grandmother.  She'd be mad if she knew Hazel had told Noreen about her wings.

Noreen asks why did she tell her? Hazel says it's because she doesn't talk to her like she's a baby.  Noreen tells her in essence she's what she's been employed here to do, educate a Wreathian child who doesn't hate Landfall.  But if the Landfallians found out she existed... but she won't tell anyone she promises Hazel.

Hazel then brings her a book by D.Ozwald Heist, the one that her parents bonded over.  Klara loves it as well.  She says it has a few too many grown-up parts for her.  Noreen thanks her for her kindness.  Hazel asks if she thinks he's the best writer ever.  Noreen says writers shouldn't be ranked like racehorses:

Noreen: "And no offence to the rest of your family... but anyone who thinks one book has all the answers, hasn't read enough books."

Hazel reminisces that of all the things her teacher taught her, "that's the one that stuck."
The Will hallucinates The Stalk.
We rejoin The Will, he is talking to an imaginary companion, his dead lover The Stalk.  The two journoes walk fearfully in front of him realising he isn't quite sane.  He's chewing a drug called "Heroine" that lets you see your first love.  A drug with a vicious comedown.

Suddenly a huge snake bursts through the ice and attacks The Will.  Upsher and Doff pray it kills him, but he grabs it's open mouth and breaks its jaw.  Upsher then decides to rebel saying he'd "rather die a member of the free press than live another minute as this fat fuck's employee".  But before The Will can kill him, Doff blurts out that he knows a way to find out where ex-Prince Robot IV lives.  So The Will keeps them alive for now.

In the Landfall jail, Klara and Auntie Lexie are reading stories to the other inmates and they are all having a laugh.  Petrichor thinks Klara is "friend up us with all the no-horns" and this could be bad news. Then Noreen appears and calls Hazel away saying she is very worried about her, Hazel says she will keep her secret won't she?  Noreen says "actually, I'm going to help you escape."

Imprisoned on The Will's ship, Doff calls his source regarding Robot IV.  The man says he was paid a boatlaod not to reveal it to "nosey pricks like you". Doff says he can double the money, but Zlotev says he's Ok for cash, what he wants is dirt and he has a way of knowing if he's being told the truth because he has Lying Cat, The Will's old animal companion.

Lying Cat, yaaay!
Doff reluctantly outs a councilman who goes to underground gay clubs and Zlotev is pleased to find out that person is a "poof". It checks out, so he tells Doff that an acquaintance of his once trailed the Prince to a pocket world on the underside of the Serpentine Belt.  The imaginary Stalk tells The Will to go kill the man who offed her. As for the journos he decides to keep them breathing while they check the lead out.

Robot IV is sitting in the wooden rocketship and being filled in on the plan to get access to Landfall.   The planet is protected by a field that prevents Wreathian magic working through it.  But the field inteferes with the Robots so when they arrive it has to be briefly dropped.  Marko will then use a teleport sword and helmet to create a tear they can bring Hazel and Klara back through. 

Prince Robot IV will pose as a lesser member of the aristocracy to ask for the field to be dropped.   Robot IV is disusted by the inference that all Robots look alike to the rest of the coalition, nevertheless he goes along with it.

In the prison, Noreen is making plans to get Hazel out by carrying her out in a box.  Then Lexie, Klara and Petrichor appear and demand to know what is going on.  Hazel says Noreen knows the "true stuff" about her and she told her because she's a good person. Petrichor says it's unsafe for Hazel in the prison, especially with the unrest fomenting Klara is up to with the stories.

Klara says Petrichor might have been designated a woman, but she still "lectures like a man".  Klara asks where Noreen would take her, Noreen says somewhere she could be cared for safely.   Klara wants to know why she wants to help, she isn't Hazel's blood. "I .. I don't know exactly" says Noreen but it has to be now.
Robot IV gets them access to Landfall.
On the wooden rocket, Robot IV calls in a request to lower the field to a bored Landfallian who barely looks at him before complying with his request. Robot IV is pissed about being considered an example of the lower aristocracy.  Then the rocket ship runs into a mine field.

The mines are living organisms and Robot IV starts fighting them off as Marko gets ready to make the jump.  He cuts the tear, he and Alana kiss and then he goes through.  Robot IV grudgingly says he knows what they are going through, "and I wish your family success".

On the planet where Ghüs has been left looking after Squire, The Will suddenly appears and demands to know where Robot IV is.  "You're not a friend" says Squire. The Will picks up Squire and tells him his father is a killer and The Stalk hallucination eggs him on to kill Squire.  But then help appears:

Ghüs: "Hurt the boy... and Ghüs will chop you deep."

Marko arrives in the prison and Petrichor holds out a shiv and says, "where did you come from?"  She sniffs him and realises he's Hazel's blood.  She then wants to know how he fits in with Noreen's plan, which totally confuses him. Noreen has Hazel in a box and is cheerfully on her way out of the prison.  Unfortunately she doesn't fool the guard who pulls a gun on her. 
Go, go Ghus!
Back with Upsher and Doff, they manage to untie themselves although Upsher says they can't get out of the ship (although they do in fact get out).  Outside The Will grumbles at Ghüs to mind his own business. Sweet Boy fires traquilizer darts at Friendo who collapses.   This enrages Ghüs who charges The Will and chops the fingers off his right hand.  The Will punches him unconcious with his other hand shouting, "you little shit!"

In the prison Noreen is refusing to allow the box to be searched.  Then Lexie and Klara create a diversion by fighting which distracts the guard.  Then Noreen knocks the guard out and looks horrified at what she has done.  Then Petrichor and Marko arrive on the scene.

Marko kneels and holds out Hazel's doll he's been keeping safe all these years. He says it must be confusing for her, and that he's her "daddy" she says.  And they hug as she repeats "Daddy" over and over.
The Will is still deciding what to do with Squire and Ghüs.  The imaginary Stalk wants him to kill them.  But then he hallucinates his sister The Brand.

The Brand: "Murdering defenceless preschoolers.  You've come a long way, baby brother".

She says The Stalk was a dumb obssession when what he really loved was her. The Will denies this, but The Brand says she's his "own brain you fucking dummy!"

Sadly, The Will confesses he misses her, he misses everyone.  The Brand says offing a kid won't help matters, he needs to find the one person who will call him on his bullshit.  Doff and Upsher have managed to escape The Will's ship.  They watch him return to it, when he leaves they'll be stranded. But as Doff says "we're alive" and they kiss.

In the prison, Marko opens the return portal.  Hazel jumps through saying thankyou to Noreen for everything as she disappears.  Klara however isn't going to go with him.  She doesn't want to be a burden to him and Alana and also she has a community with the other prisoners and a sense of purpose. She tells him how proud she is of him and then tells him to "go take care of your family".

However Petrichor decides to take advantage of the escape route and jumps through herself. On board the wooden rocket, the mines have been taken care of.  Then Hazel appears.  But before an emotional reunion with mum can take place, Petrichor arrives as well and attacks Alana.  Marko comes through and defuses the situation by telling Petrichor that Robot IV is on their side.

Petrichor then drops a bombshell, she says she'd never fell a female who was expecting.  "I can smell it from here.  You're pregnant" she says to Alana.  Marko looks stunned, Alana looks overjoyed and that brings this volume to an end.
End of Book Six!
Damn these cliffhangers, between this and Lazarus my tenters are well and truly hooked.  And I am fully caught up with the trades now so all I can do is drum my fingers and wait a few more months to find out what happens next.  I'm so happy Marko and Alana have Hazel back, it made my heart hurt when they lost her even if adversity has reforged a relationship that was on the verge of breaking apart.  Nice to see the gay couple of Upsher and Doff back as well as the introduction of Petrichor who could have some interesting interactions with the rest of the cast.  Brian K Vaughn is very keen on representing all sexualities and sexual identities and it's very much appreciated even if it's aliens we're talking about and not humans. Some questions have been thrown up, like what has happened to Gwendolyn and Sophie and why Lying Cat is working for someone else now.  I'm sure we'll find out more in books to come.  Klara remains a cool old lady, volunteering to stay in the prison and take care of the others there and is a prime example of how although the scope of the story is huge, it boils down people doing what they do because they do care about others and in turn that makes the reader care as well.  Despite going to some very dark places, there is always light and hope just around the corner and it's notable that so far we haven't met any outright villains, everyone is shown to have their postive and negative traits and the book takes no sides in the Wreath/Landfall war.  Of course there is still the loose cannon that is The Will bouncing about now, crazy from drugs and hallucinating all the time and I haven't forgotten Future!Hazel's warnings about him in the previous book.  And finally Alana being pregnant again is a huge development and I am sure is going to be fodder for some serious drama further down the line.  Fiona Staple's art remains a delight, as I have said before she almost has a western "manga" style, with most of the art concentrating on the characters not the surroundings (although she does show us some bitchin' spaceships so it's not as if she can't do non-character stuff).  Which probably explains why she can pencil and ink the series and keep to a regular schedule with no fill-in artists so far.  Saga is still an immensely enjoyable tale, both epic and intimate and long may it run.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Book 1: Squirrel Power (#1-4, Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2, #8)

"Yes this is awesooooome!" - Squirrel Girl

We're on an emotional roller coaster this month.  And after a couple of downbeat books about soldiers and wartime, it's time to cheer things right up again with some superhero whimsy and the volume one of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, first published under the now sadly defunct Marvel Now line which was a line-wide attempt to bring new readers to Marvel by rebooting and restarting most of their on-goings.  It got me well back into Marvel but the initiative seems to have been binned (same as the DC You was) post Secret Wars 2015. Anyway, first created in 1992 and appearing in a team-up with Iron Man where she beats Doctor Doom, Squirrel Girl has always been a light-hearted superheroine.  She has a squirrel tail, powerful teeth and great strength and agility as well as the ability to summon a great amount of squirrels to do her bidding.  She's bounced round the Marvel U for a long time, her most notable appearences as leader of the Great Lakes Avengers and then as part of the New Avengers as nanny to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's daughter.  But this series sees her moving out of the Avenger's mansion with her faithful, be-ribboned squirrel companion "Tippy-Toe" to start college.  But that doesn't mean she's stopped fighting crime or other threats to the city and world. Read on and hopefuly be amused by writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson's charming and funny take on Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (rather wonderfully this volume contains the letters pages as well, I say this now as it's the set up for a joke in the book later).
Squirrel Girl fighting crime.
It begins with Squirrel Girl hanging out in a park, she's singing a theme song to herself set to the tune of the old Spiderman cartoon (you know the one, goes "Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a spider can"). Some baddies mug a woman and Squirrel Girl, still singing, springs into action and biffs them.  She finishes them off and finishes her song and walks away as Tippy-Toe says, "Now if we could get anyone else to sing that song we'd be set."

She goes to her secret hideaway in the Avenger's Mansion to collect the last of her things as she is moving into her college digs today and the fact that Doreen Green is Squirrel Girl is "privileged information" now.  Tippy-Toe doesn't see why she needs to keep her identity a secret, "who doesn't like you?"  As Squirrel Girl changes she says, "jerks I guess".

Tippy-Toe asks if she needs help from the "squirrel army" to move her boxes, but Squirrel Girl says she is to act normal now, and tucks her tail into her trousers so it looks like she has a "large and conspicously awesome butt".  As she carries a huge pile of boxes, she tells Tippy-Toe that getting educated will let her help people more.

Tippy-To asks if she is studying crime, nope Squirrel Girl is taking computer science. Tippy-Toe is outraged she isn't going to major in squirrels, but Squirrel Girl says she knows literally everything about them.

Squirrel Girl: "I'm Squirrel Girl. I'm not Achieving Consistency Across Distributed Database Systems Girl".

On her way into the dorm she bumps into a handsome young man who introduces himself as Tomas and asks if she needs help with her boxes.  He says the boxes look really quite heavy and Squirrel Girl realises she's using her super-strength so she drops them and introduces herself.
Meeting Tomas.
Tippy-Toe chitters angrily, and Tomas asks if she knows him.  Squirrel Girl says Tippy-Toe is a she and her friend.  She tells Tippy-Toe Doreen Green doesn't talk to squirrels.  Tippy-Toe says is it Ok to lie to strangers about boxes that are too heavy?  Squirrel Girl says it is if they are trying to maintain an secret identity.  Tippy-Toe says that's not a very Squirrel Girl thing to do.  She pauses, then picks up the boxes and bids Tomas farewell for now.

She arrives in the room she is to be sharing with another girl.  She is already there and is a frowning black girl called Nancy Whitehead.  She says there are three things "Doreen" can do to get on her bad side, make fun of her name, criticise her hobby (knitting) and talk smack about her pet cat Mew.

Squirrel Girl says she thought pets weren't allowed in the dorms.  Nancy says "obeying an unjust law is itself unjust" and that Mew is the most important thing in her life.  I like Nancy already!  Squirrel Girl starts to unpack then suddenly sees Kraven the Hunter, an arch enemy of Spider-man outside and has to hurriedly run off and get changed.
Roommate Nancy.
She tells Nancy she has to fight Kraven the "uh.. college administrator".  And that he messed up her course selections.  Nancy pauses, then says to herself that he better not have messed up hers.

Kraven is standing in the grounds holding a squirrel that attacked him.  Squirrel Girl politely but firmly asks him to put the squirrel down.  He refuses and is about to crush it when Squirrel Girl dives on him from above.  He kicks her away and calls her "Prairie Dog Costume Woman" and then "Furry Woodland Creature Lady".

She kicks him and he grabs her feet and holds her upside-down.  He then tosses her aside and fires a sticky net to hold her in place.  But she bites through it and makes a chittering noise.  He asks her what she is saying and she says "sic him".

A whole horde of squirrels come rushing towards them.  He threatens to kill them all so she stops to talk tactics with them.  She realises they don't actually have a reason to be fighting. She starts to reason with him instead.  She says that he's convinced himself that only Spider-man can defeat him:

Squirrel Girl: "And you can't beat Spider-man... but you can't lose to him either, not in the way you want.  You think you have to go through life as a failure, because you can't die.  You can't live the life you want and you can't earn the death you deserve".

She then goes on to ask him why Spider-man?  Kraven says it's his speed and agility and strength.  But Squirrel Girl tells him that he's been limiting himself to the same beings he hunted as a mortal.  Why not try hunting the underwater monsters like Gigantos, Kraken, Giant Squid.  "Kraven there's no greater game" she tells him.
Better game for Kraven.
He considers this saying maybe he has been too focused on men shaped enemies.  Squirrel Girl says he'd be the greatest hunter in history if he took on these creatures.  He agrees and says he will focus on Earth's more dangerous game now and thanks her before leaving.  Squirrel Girl gets changed and returns to her room

Nancy tells her the course admin did mess up her course selections.  She holds up Mew and says she's going to kill the admin to her.  Another way Doreen can piss her off is judging her for talking to Mew, but Squirrel Girl says that's not a problem and introduces her to Tippy-Toe.

Nancy: "You know I was worried I'd get a weird roommate but you're all right Doreen Green".

Then another squirrel appears at the window and chitters at Tippy-Toe.  With great alarm, Tippy-Toe clambers up Squirrel Girl to get her full attention.
Everything about this picture makes me happy.
She plucks Tippy-Toe off her face and says to her the planet can't be in danger, but Tippy-Toe insists something is approaching the Earth.  Star gazing Squirrels everywhere are seeing the stars get blocked out. Squirrel Girl asks how long they have before it gets to Earth whatever it is and Tippy-Toe says a while yet.  So Squirrel Girl says she will have time to go to orientation then, "what's the worst that could happen?"  And the final panel of this first issue shows Galactus...

As he sneaks up on Earth inside his "Star Sphere" we are told "no one on Earth has the sliver of a chance of stopping him.. except, perhaps for one girl".  And we rejoin Squirrel Girl dragging Nancy to orientation with her.  It's not just a campus tour, there are booths for clubs!

Squirrel Girl says there might be a knitting club.  Nancy says she has interests besides knitting.  Mainly Mew.  Squirrel Girl says if there is no cat club they'll start one and the first rule will be you have to like Mew.  Nancy agrees and says the second rule will be they have to talk about how much they like Mew.

They bump into Tomas again, she starts telling him about her fight with Kraven but the story goes a bit wrong:

Tomas: "You fought a college admin this morning, and now he lives underwater and hunts sea-monsters?"

Squirrel Girl: "Yes.  Uh.. metaphorically.... so clubs huh?"

There then begins a conversation where he tells her about wanting to join fencing club but his voice is crowded out by her thought bubbles as she worries about all the lies she is telling already on day one and also that she's chatting up a hunk.  "Doreen?  Did my fencing club story lose you?" the poor guy finally says.
Tomas and a somewhat distracted Squirrel Girl.
Squirrel Girl is grabbed by Nancy and hides in the ladies bathroom.  Nancy gleefully tells her she was suffering from "hot babe overdose".  Squirrel Girl says she doesn't even know his second name, so Nancy opens the door and demands to know his full name which is Tomas Lara-Perez.  "You can thanks me later" says Nancy to a highly embarassed Squirrel Girl and leaves her alone.

Then Tippy-Toe appears and tells Squirrel Girl that it's the Star Sphere approaching Earth.  Apparently it has a stealth field which means only the squirrels can see it which is why no one else is freaking out. "Aaaand our best estimates kinda put him at arriving at Earth in two hours" says Tippy-Toe.  Squirrel Girl laments she has no time to join the anime club now, it's time to kick Galactus's butt.

She says she can't stop him on Earth so she'll have to engage him on the "gosh darned moon".  She's going to knock him down and take a selfie sitting on top of him.  She has a plan to get up there too.  She puts on her crime fighting costume and bounces across New York.

Her plan is to break into Stark/Avenger's Tower and borrow an Iron Man suit to get herself and Tippy-Toe to the moon. We get a flashback to the first (terrifying) appearance when she teamed up with Iron Man and she thinks to herself, "man, I think everyone made some awkward fashion choices when they were fourteen".  She uses her nails to cut an opening in the glass and crushes some acorns to highlight the protective lasers which she uses her super agility to travel through.
Squirrel Power!
The Hall of Armor is being guarded by two empty automated suits.  She manages to get the two suits to blast each other but then eight more appear and don't believe that she was lost on the way to find the toilets and she gets booted out.  Luckily this was part of her plan, she distracted the guard armour so her squirrels could steal away a suit for her.

She has a pile of pieces, and picks up a helmet and asks it to construct a suit for her and Tippy-Toe.  The helmet wants a password, which could be trouble but back when she helped Tony he said she only needed to say three words, "Victor Von Doomship" and the helmet comes online for her.

The pieces then float together into a Squirrel Girl shaped suit, including space for her tail.  Tippy-Toe gets a small suit of her own made of a helmet and gauntlet.  They put them on and start flying off to the moon, but in the park lurks danger in the form of  Whiplash. And he thinks he sees "Iron Man" alone and exposed as the countdown to Galactus's arrival drops to under an hour...
Iron Squirrel is go.
Nancy meanwhile has gone into the campus bank to get cash to buy some falafel.  Squirrel Girl passes overhead then gets knocked from the sky.  She sends the armour away to keep it safe and turns to face who attacked her.  It was Whiplash.

She says she doesn't have time to fight him now, he says because Stark trusted her to lend her armour, "I hurt you, I hurt Stark".  She says she just borrowed the armour and can they just talk about things like "well-adjusted, non-sociopathic adults?"  He just attacks her with his whips.

She dodges his attacks while telling him Galactus is on his way.  She shows him her Galactus trading card but he cuts it in half which pisses her off.  She calls a pack of squirrels who run up his whips and swarm over him until he is completely covered in them.  Then she punches him out and has fifty minutes to stop Galactus.
Dealing with Whiplash.
She calls the armour back down and suits up.  But then Tippy-Toe points out someone is robbing the campus bank and they have hostages.  Galactus will have to wait a little longer, Squirrel Girl has to protect her university's facilities!  Tippy-Toe is dubious because well, priorities but Squirrel Girl says:

Squirrel Girl: "We don't stop that robbery then we're saving a planet where crime pays and hostages get shot. No, that's not how it's gonna be."

Inside the bank, Nancy is one of the hostages.  When it looks like one of the other hostages is going to be shot, she bravely starts trash talking the robbers.  Before she can get hurt, a humanoid figure made up of many squirrels barges in.

The robbers are left panicking as they had no back-up for this eventuality. The squirrel man knocks out the robbers and frees a gleeful Nancy.  The squirrel man then brings the unconcious robbers out, and because it's Squirrel Girl inside the "suit" she tells Nancy she shouldn't have endangered herself back there. Nancy says she had to do something, and Squirrel Girl says to herself, "kick butt.  My roomate is so awesome".  As she heads back in to deal with the rest of the robbers, Nancy notices Tippy-Toe is part of the suit.

Inside, Squirrel Girl steps out of the Squirrel Suit and leaves it fighting them.  She and Tippy-Toe get suited up and fly off up to the moon.  The Iron Man suit seperates leaving her and Tippy-Toe in more manuoverable space suits.  And then Galactus arrives:

Squirrel Girl: " It's just you and me - Tippy-Toe, The Regular Squirrel With No Superpowers, Like At All - against Galactus, The God of Oblivion.  The Devourer of Worlds. I know it hardly seems fair. For him I mean".

And she leaps towards him...  The next issue begins with her sitting on the prone Galactus taking a selfie and then we get the letters page because obviously that's the end of the issue.
Galactus?  pfft a pushover.
Oh all right it was a bit more complicated than that.  And we jump back to her first engaging him.  She lands at his feet and starts hitting them.   She realises Galactus can't hear what she's saying because sound doesn't travel in space.

Tippy-Toe says surely someone who has the Power Cosmic can hear sound in space and Squirrel Girl decides he can hear their vibrations and puts her hands on his foot and tells him, "we're here to kick butt and eat nuts-" but before she can finish he picks her up.

Galactus: "And let me guess.  You are all out of nuts".

Squirrel Girl says that's about the gist of it, and Galactus can hear and understand both her and Tippy-Toe. He says for someone of his powers, understanding squirrels is no big deal.

After a short discussion on pronouns, Galactus says enough, he is here to kick butts and eat Earth. Squirrel Girl asks what happened to his Herald?  Galactus says he tried that before, turns out sending someone to warn he was coming meant there were people ready for him when he arrived.
Galactus has learned from his past mistakes.
Squirrel Girl tells him she can't allow him to eat Earth.  He says he doesn't know how she is going to stop him. She tells him she defeated Thanos once and it was totally the real one.  Galactus grins and says "Hah Hah. Nice.  What a tool." Then they all ponder the Earth in silence.

Galactus says to Squirrel Girl that he likes her because she treated him as a peer. And he likes Tippy-Toe as well and says she and Squirrel Girl are lucky to have each other.  Then he says it's time to eat the Earth.

Squirrel Girl: "But I thought we were bonding".

Galactus: "We were.  But a dude's got to eat".

He starts to fly off, Squirrel Girl flies after him and manages to get inside him.  They come across a huge Commodore 64 keyboard.  Now as every species sees Galactus differently it must apply to his insides as well.  Now she has to guess his password.

As he gets close to Earth Squirrel Girl yells to him that she knows his secret, why he keeps coming to Earth but not eating it.

Squirrel Girl: "...you don't defeat Galactus by being stronger. You don't defeat Galactus by being smarter, either.  The only way you ever defeat Galactus is by giving him what he wants.  A source of energy.  A planet he can eat".

She says he comes to Earth because he knows they'll drop everything to find him a planet he can eat without intelligent life and she's found him one. And it's covered in delicious nuts as well.  Spare the Earth and she'll take him there.  So they all fly off.
To the planet of nuts!
And after snacking on the planet of nuts they returned to the moon and while Galactus lay down to recover, Squirrel Girl took her selfie on top of him. He gets up and as a thankyou gives her a gift, it's a new Galactus trading card that lists him as "Devourer of Worlds.  Wielder of the Power Cosmic... and a friend".  Awwww.

He sends her and Tippy-Toe and the Iron Squirrel suit back to Earth.   Squirrel Girl sends the suit back to Stark Tower.  She checks in on the squirrels she left fighting the bank robbers, but they have triumphed.  Then it's time to rush to her first class.

She is late and seats herself next to Nancy who says she can copy her not-very-helpful notes. Nancy tells her she knows Squirrel Girl defeated the bank robbers earlier.  But it's really rad so Squirrel Girl's secret is safe with her. Squirrel Girl says she will show her something after class.  Nancy gets to be covered with Squirrels and has a mock fight with Squirrel Girl, "nobody is ever going to believe me" she says.  And that brings this first arc to an end.
Nancy knows Squirrel Girl's secret.
That's not quite it for the book as included is Squirrel Girl's first appearance in Marvel Team Up #8.  It's mainly just one long fight as Squirrel Girl shows off her super-powers and defeats Doctor Doom using her squirrel horde.  And I know Steve Ditko is a legend but man, his art was peculiar by this point.  Also the contrast between this old comic and the newer one shows just how much more characterisation modern comics have in comparison to the somewhat sterile battle orientated Marvel comics of the time.
GAH!  What the hell Steve?!
Anyway, I really loved this book.  Erica Henderson's art is simple but strong, with clean lines and characterful faces.  And isn't it great to have a woman superhero depicted with a curvey, muscular body rather than a stick insect with massive hooters.  I also like how her victories here are "earned".  Squirrel Girl in the past had tended to be a one-note joke, you'd see her attack then jump cut to her foe lying defeated, which they have parodied here with the Galactus "battle".  Her unabashed positivity and refusal to even see the bad side of a huge planet eating monster is very refreshing and I like how she is already having a hard time keeping her activites secret with Nancy finding out right away. I'm always appreciative of female friendships it gets tiring seeing women constantly set against each other and it looks like Nancy will be a firm friend.  Ryan North's writing is sharp, warm and funny and I truly love the inclusion of the letters pages too.  It's rare modern comics have letters pages, they were always a big part of comicbook fandom for me back in the day and I do wish the collections would maybe have a section at the end which collates all the letters pages together.  But that's probably not to be.  I don't know if Squirrel Girl still has her own series post Secret Wars 2015, but there is at least one more book in this Marvel Now series which will be showing up here at some point.  So if you need reminding just how much sheer fun comics can show, this is one to go for.