Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October week one

October 2nd, 2019

Featuring Chris Ware, Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola, Sarah Dyer, Benjamin Dewi, Ravi Thornton, Hannah Berry, Karrie Fransman, Leonardo M. Giron, Julian Hanshaw, Rozi Hathaway, Rian Hughes, Rhiana Jade, Ian Jones, Mark Stafford, Bryan Talbot, Neil Gaiman, P.Craig Russell, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson

Rusty Brown h/c (£25-00, Jonathan Cape) by Chris Ware.

“I miss my children.”

– Miss Joanne Cole, devoted former third-grade teacher and head of lower school

 

 

 

For a Chris Ware character that is a startling statement. When it comes to children, culpable negligence is the normal order of the day, both here and within JIMMY CORRIGAN.

Yet throughout the brand-new concluding fifth of these 256 pages, finally published as a complete work after a break of nearly ten years, we are witness to a rich and profound humanity and instinctive, selfless, nurturing kindness maintained by way of the most remarkable forbearance and fortitude in the form of Miss Joanne Cole, and it is matched by a marked shift in form from buck-toothed or clown-haired caricature to rounded, weighted portraiture to render the dignity with which she comports herself throughout and which her story deserves.

“My goodness…
“What a blessing.
“What a blessing…”

 

 

 

This is how she humbly greets other people’s good news on each and every occasion, even though she has received little good news and very few blessings throughout her life of service: to her sister and mother for so many years, to the seminary where she has taught, putting in more hours than anyone else, and to the young, impressionable children under her watchful gaze and generously given care.

It’s been largely thankless, as you shall see.

There are writers, there are artists, and then there are craftsmen: those who treat creativity like building a bureau, a clock, or a house from component parts which they fashion themselves, then slot in or affix where they’re needed.  This is made to fit here and nowhere else. That is carved, sculpted or cut to support this, adorn that or move the next cog on. The detailed ensemble is a meticulously assembled, perfectly balanced composition.

For me Chris Ware is undoubtedly the foremost craftsman in comics right now. You can see it on each page, laid out like architectural plans and often mapped out with a surprising degree of symmetry, its lines so crisp and precise (without once being stiff), filled out and upheld with colour. As to those colours, it’s no mean feat to make something so warm, firm yet elegant out of shades that are anything but flat but which nonetheless in this age of computerised jiggery-pokery are not once blended.

 

 

You really do feel the temperature of Ware’s environments, whether it’s the exterior scenes full of painstakingly rendered snowflakes, or, by comparison, the warmth of the classrooms inside. Early on, there’s a particularly fine pull-back from above an art class seen through a roof rendered invisible by the swirling snow in the foreground. I seem to remember a similar device in ‘Citizen Kane’, which is no bad source to draw from.

I recall someone once describing Ware’s work (ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY / BUILDING STORIES) as “plangent”, and that’s perfect.

 

 

Miss Joanne Cole has appeared throughout the RUSTY BROWN saga started in 2005, always leaving school the last, always arriving early, diligently preparing or gazing out of the window at the snow-swept playing fields from her classroom, otherwise empty save for the expectant desks and chairs. But she was always a bit-part in other people’s lives and so on the page, whereas now we will follow her own thoughts as they drift daily back to a youth so stifled by demanding, constricted family circumstances that she had little time to play outside. Conscientiously appreciative of others in the present, and always quick to compliment, she doesn’t dwell but still cannot help but recall past slights, professional or otherwise. Racism is rarely and then barely submerged beneath their surface.

There are two particular pages set in the school staff room just after she’s joined which will truly shock you – even more, once you’ve realised who’s speaking.

At least, we follow Miss Cole’s thoughts visually, for we are seldom shown more than a shard of a sentence from the past. Half of those speech balloons drift out of their tiny panels, truncated by their borders, so that the words are hidden in history.

 

 

Poring over these pages reaps rewards. I don’t know if you’ve ever realised this – it’s only just occurred to me now – but to read a work by Chris Ware, and comprehend its contents fully, is to engage in detailed, forensic detective work. A magnifying glass might not go amiss, especially at my age. Even as early as JIMMY CORRIGAN, there was a masterful page in which the mouse of a man, Jimmy, sits in a room all alone, cut off from the world outside by a panel’s gutter, while his parental history on further inspection is revealed by a photo, torn in two, which resides within a desk draw, thence a diagrammatical “map” going back to his conception.

So much of the storytelling here is similarly delivered in the form of small subset panels, adjacent to each other. Wormholes to the past, if you like; I’d call them clues.

This act of analysis required on the part of the reader (including a degree of suspicion) is never more true than in the last part of this work to have previously seen print, the entire life of school bully Jordan Lint flashing before his and our eyes. But before we go there, perhaps it would be wise to clarify what this brick-shaped, and brick-heavy book actually contains: ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY volumes 16, 17, 19 and 20 (slightly reworked, but not overmuch; I’ve run comparisons, and it’s more that extraneous elements have since been excised for use within BUILDING STORIES) plus the perspective of Miss Joanne Cole which would have been ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 21. That was never published, I know not why, but £25-00 isn’t too much for pay if you’re already in possession of the other four parts, given that those would fetch that much each at least, if recycled / resold.

Here’s Chris Ware:

“The day after I finished my first experimental graphic novel, JIMMY CORRIGAN, I took out a fresh sheet of paper and started another experimental graphic novel, RUSTY BROWN. Back then, Bill Clinton was President, pay phones worked, and the world hadn’t yet started to end. I’d sit down every day at the drawing table and populate the places of my Omaha, Nebraska, childhood with little imaginary people, just to see what would happen—really, no different from what everyone does falling asleep every night. The work was originally set on a single day in 1975, and the people I drew seemed to come to life on the page for me in the way only a series of drawings in boxes can, at least for cartoonists and crazy people. I began self-publishing chapters as they accumulated, and, over the years, the story expanded irresponsibly into different bodies, brains, places, and times—but the basic aim was always to find the very best within its characters. I just hope I eventually find the good in them before my own world ends and/or paper ceases to exist, whichever comes first.”

The first two instalments follow Ware’s original concept to the letter: the first half of a single day from third-grader Rusty Brown, obsessively in communion with his Supergirl doll, reluctantly shovelling snow off his parents’ driveway before being driven to school by his irascible, balding, dad, one W.K. “Woody” Brown, an English teacher much mocked as “Mr Brown, the human clown”.

“That’s what the kids call him… I guess kids are mean,” muses the relatively new art teacher. “And if I was gonna draw him, I guess that’s how I‘d do it.”

That is how you’re doing it, Chris!

The art teacher is a fictionalised Mr Chris Ware. Regular Ware readers will be unsurprised to learn that he’s in for some serious self-flagellation.

 

 

The four other main protagonists as planned from the beginning in a double-page spread are Miss Joanne Cole; sullen school bully and spoiled teenage brat, Jason Lint (whose ungrateful past and increasingly sordid future will be revealed, however unreliably, later on); Rusty’s fellow third-grader, timid Chalky White, and his older sister Alison or Alice White, both of whom are starting at the private Catholic school for rich kids today, after being torn from their home town by their mother to live with their grandmother because… well…

Initially, there’s a neat narrative device using two parallel streams which occur simultaneously and sometimes within yards of each other. The main thread follows Rusty Brown and the rest of the school along the top four-fifths of the page, the other down at the bottom tracks Chalky and Alice. They occasionally cross over as appropriate.

 

 

There’s also a Life of Chalky White condensed (reduced?) to 32 poignant panels.

It’s all about loneliness, really. Just like JIMMY CORRIGAN, these people are all terribly lonely, living in their own, hermetically sealed bubbles. It’s all internal monologue, barely any external communication going on at all. Even Mr Ware spends most of his time gazing out of the window, before engaging in some highly irregular extracurricular activity in a sports car. With the odd exception – like Alison’s hometown recollections, Mr Ware’s artistic pretensions, and the lurid superhero daydreams of nine-year-old Rusty co-starring himself (dramas so deranged that you cannot believe his teacher and classmates can’t hear some of it passing his lips) – these pages are predominantly observed from a distance, however much they imply.

 

 

Any inner reflection is focussed not on the past (as it will later on) but on immediate anxieties. Rusty’s dad grumbles to anyone who will listen that he has no idea where the last decade went and fantasises about leaving home alone for the sex he isn’t getting; Alison can’t find her classroom and, when she does, is disgusted at finding herself indulging in tattle-tale betrayals of early acts of kind concern just to ingratiate herself with fickle new friends and so fit in; constantly crying Rusty is fretting about having to leave his Supergirl doll behind in his desk when Miss Cole asks him to give up his seat for newcomer Chalky White; while poor little Chalky White, already petrified by being the new kid at a school he doesn’t know, instinctively feels such empathy and sympathy for snivelling, mean-spirited Rusty (who on first spying Chalky sneers, “He’s an even bigger dork than I am!”), that he expends an inordinate amount of effort in getting Rusty’s doll back to him, so risking ridicule if discovered and thereby increasing his own anxiety to bursting point!

And burst it all surely does…

 

 

What becomes of Rusty Brown’s “friendship” with Chalky White can be seen in snippets elsewehere within the big red ACME NOVELTY HARDCOVER. I’m afraid you will wince, and wish Chalky hadn’t bothered.

In the pre-title prologue to RUSTY BROWN, Ware suggests the scope of what he’s set out to accomplish with reference to the unique pattern of each individual snowflake which would be falling throughout:

“The exquisite, miraculous shape of a snowflake is a result of the singular path it takes through utterly unique conditions of cloudiness, temperature and humidity, a veritable picture of its whole life from its birth as a speck of dirt to its end as a fragile miniature crystal flower.”

One can only wonder, then, how the rest of the single day panned out in Ware’s original plan. One can only wonder because the relative simplicity of the narrative adhering to at least two of the three classical unities (24 hours; a single location, in this instance school) ends abruptly there in favour of what were at the time two startling divergent takes whose relevance was initially difficult to discern without a great deal of digging, so widely apart were they published.

Fortunately, all is much, much clearer when read in context now, for a) it succeeds in achieving his goal whereas I can’t quite fathom how his original plan would have, and b) if one element that looms large in Ware’s work is parental neglect, where nature and nurture combine to increasingly debilitating effect, from the other perspective it’s naifs becoming nightmares.

So it is with the third part and especially the fourth, in which time is of the essence.

 

 

We begin with a science fiction story about the attempted colonisation by two couples and their two dogs of the planet Mars. Its author will by now be familiar to you, but you’ll only discover their identity once this all too sorry story’s over.

There’s a line which resonates early on as the settlers blast off in their old-school rocket for Mars, knowing they can never go back: “Good thing they didn’t put rear view mirrors on this thing, huh?” Contrarily every single aspect of this segment, both within and without the short science fiction piece, is about looking back, including the colonisation of Mars. For, as that story opens, its narrator is not accompanied by his three fellow adventurers in a new, vibrant (albeit red and dusty) utopia, but is living a sedentary, solitary life with his tired old dog.

What happened to everyone else? It’s a tale to astonish.

 

 

For a start, the pioneers were told that this was supposed to be part of a much wider project with eleven other teams dispatched to form colonies of their own, and that support in the form of supplies would be provided while the terraforming was taking its course. Then they discover that what they thought was a live link to Earth was in fact a series of pre-recorded messages. Perhaps instead of space exploration this was a social experiment? If so, that experiment is about to go awry…

The thing is, it’s a highly accomplished piece shocked through with truly horrific shifts and surprises (oh god, the dogs!) – so accomplished that it makes you realise that it could all have been so very different for the former fiction and fictional author if only he hadn’t settled for what must have looked at first like an easy life on the rebound from what was a truly screwed-up relationship which he couldn’t comprehend, over which he had no control and which broke his vulnerable heart in two, repeatedly.

That equally sorry story follows next. Then there’s the big reveal.

 

 

Parenthetically, there’s a very good reason why the wife of the astronaut-narrator is described as having “beautiful red hair floated around her head, like a slow motion fire” but is shown with chestnut hair instead. It’s all about a post-publication tweak in the manuscript rather than that which saw print, for it’s the manuscript which is being re-read by its author in the present day.

Penultimately, we come to the sequence which originally formed ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY VOL 20: LINT, which is very much on the subject of tweaking your past. It is composed entirely of memory, the memory of Jason Lint, the self-satisfied teenage bully whom we last saw with his mate at school smoking crack in a car given to him by his dad for his birthday.

Prologue: it is winter.

In what would in any other season be a leafy suburb, a mock-Tudor, three-story home lies cold, still and empty. The light is fading as the window frame’s shadow rises over a formal family portrait which one supposes to be of a mother, father and son. Evidence suggests that either the house has lain empty for some considerable time, or has lately been ill-maintained. Cut.

Now we’re presented with a complex series of basic images: early impressions of the world as they’d appear to the mind of a child. The father’s there, but it’s the mother who’s most prominent, distinct and dominates the page with giant hands, a contentedly smiling face, eyes, nipple, mouth, mouth, mouth and a bottle. Gradually the images grow more complex and detailed as the boy’s comprehension of his environment improves. The mother panics over a poo and Jordan (soon to be Jason) fiddling with himself. But now come three key scenes, each one involving violence.

 

 

In the first the toddler has just learned to assign labels to the basic elements that make up his life: house, tree, sun, ant; Momma, Dad. “Dad hitting Momma. Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad.” Fast-forward a year and that evidently doesn’t seem so bad to Jordan since he’s hitting a play-friend of colour over the innocent possession of a bright red brick. The third’s truth will only be revealed later on, but for now let us say that it portrays Jordan outside with his mother and an ant that he picks up from an unopened flower.
“No no… Jordan… don’t kill it… Black ants are good for flowers…. We don’t want to hurt them… besides, it might be a Momma ant and then what would her children do?”

But alas, it’s too late. Squeezed by Jordan, the ant has stopped moving and Jordan has a vision of a family of ants at the Pearly Gates. As an African American maid lays the kitchen table in the background (yes, race is of relevance), Jordan becomes increasingly distressed, unconvinced that it’s merely asleep and so his mother goes out of her way, tenderly, to take it back outside and put it on a leaf.

“We’ll leave it there so when it wakes up, it can find its way home, okay?”
“Really?”
“Really.”

 

 

But on the next page his mother is dead. Jordan is inconsolable, running upstairs to smell and cling to her clothes. Then his father’s remarrying, but as the wedding vows are recited all Jordan hears is “Until death do us part… until death do us part…” He’s picking at a hang-nail. He hates his step-mum as subsequent recollections will show.

Now, without giving too much of the game away, these are all memories (not flashbacks – the semantic difference is vital), and memories are at all times subjective and, at best, selective. They are also open to error, including (but not limited to) the order in which events in anyone’s past actually occurred and sometimes who they were shared with. Chris Ware is meticulous in his detail. Nothing is misplaced but not everything is as it initially seems. This is where detective work will once more pay off. Enormous injustices are already being done.

 

 

But from there onwards – from internalised obsessing then exploding in class; from early coveting, bullying, and defiant, raging, macho self-image mixed with sexual arousal and disregard for his own personal safety – the life of Jordan / Jason (the perpetually deluded) is one long car crash of intoxication, misappropriation, greed, stupidity, vanity, disloyalty, infidelity and rancour. Groundless rancour at that, looking back in anger on events that didn’t necessarily play themselves out in the way he chooses to rewind them in his mind.

There are also memories he has chosen to erase completely and hide from himself. But blood will out, as will the truth, eventually tumbling onto the page in a series of images you would never imagine coming from the pen or palette of Chris Ware as the quiet precision explodes in one child’s feverish red terror at being trapped, and the most ferocious, malevolent, expressionistic savagery in pursuit.

 

 

Please: it’s not what you think. I know what you’re thinking, and it is not that. That would make me a very poor reviewer. It is not what happened to Jason as a child, for although he constantly resorts to blaming his dad for everything when his godawful shit inevitably hits the fan, it is always the excrement of Jason’s own making. It will, however, change what you have read up until that point completely.

Suffer the children, eh?

That’s the densest passage in RUSTY BROWN, each spread a snap-shot of a single day but, when taken as a whole, encompassing an entire life, miserably conducted from start to finish.

That’s partly why it was such a surprise as well as a relief to finally encounter some genuine goodwill in Miss Joanne Cole, the sole individual here who would have made a good parent but who has to content herself instead with nurturing the mismanaged children of others.

 

 

 

So many scenes encountered previously you will now see from her perspective. Sometimes they will be obvious, but sometimes you’ll have to inspect closely. There is, for example, a split-level floor in a luxuriously appointed house which you may or may not have only spied twice. Perhaps its specific arrangement of framed pictures hung on the wall will clue you in, for Miss Joanne Cole attended in a capacity much more likely half a century ago than that of a private school’s third-grade school teacher. To some, she’s only there on sufferance. You’ll meet her mother and you’ll meet her sister, one far more often than the other. I’d like to load that sentence a little, but no.

Study the pages, and there’s a lot of symmetry between the left-hand and right, empty chairs neatly arranged or heads looking his way then that. Time dissolves from past to present through faces with identical expressions, only older. Her fashion sense is a wonder thanks to Ware.

 

 

 

There’s still the odd trace of snow, but the pages here are overwhelmingly warmer in yellows, greens red and browns. This is the summer and autumn of Joanne Cole’s life, harking back to her spring. They’ve been years of service, as a say, and selflessly so, yet for all her tireless endeavours, it looks like there’s little for her to look to when the shorter, darker days set in. She’s even been removed from teaching to administration, hence she misses her children.

I wasn’t expecting what happens next.

SLH

Buy Rusty Brown h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Beasts Of Burden: Neighbourhood Watch h/c (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola, Sarah Dyer & Jill Thompson, Benjamin Dewey…

“Hey, dumb-ass, where do you think you’re going?
“That’s what you get, pal!”

Now… I can confirm that walking to the superhero shelves situated right at the back of the Page 45 shop are not likely to cause spontaneous human combustion, or indeed spontaneous ghoul combustion either, but don’t just walk past all the lovely real mainstream comics will you?

Right, here’s the publisher to explain precisely which well-known fright-fighter is giving life… well, undead lessons to frightful fiends with his newfound canine chums instead of battling alongside the BPRD…

“The dogs and cats protecting Burden Hill from supernatural harm find themselves facing new threats and mysteries, including a vengeful demon, an invisible killer, and an enigmatic flock of lost sheep. As a growing evil threatens to overwhelm their town, the animals find themselves some unlikely allies, most notably a seasoned paranormal investigator named… Hellboy.

 

 

This volume collects the comic-book series Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice, Beasts of Burden: Neighbourhood Watch, Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers, Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In, and Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #1 and #2.”

Most of this material came out before the recent mini-series that formed the excellent BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS & ELDRITCH MEN HC, with the exception of The Presence of Others #1 and #2. Still, it now means all the Beasts Of Burden comics that have been released so far have now been collected.

The art for the cover and chapter title pages here are by Jill Thompson (and a spooky touch of Mignola). The art for the stories in this collection is primarily by Benjamin Dewey with some Jill Thompson.

 

 

Jill Thompson did all the art on the original run BEASTS OF BURDEN: ANIMAL RIGHTS SC which was reviewed at length by our Stephen. Whereas Ben Dewey did the more recent BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS & ELDRITCH MEN HC.

I can’t decide which art style I prefer, they’re both of impeccable pedigree.

JR

Buy Beasts Of Burden: Neighbourhood Watch h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hoax Psychosis Blues h/c (£19-99, Ziggy’s Wish) by Ravi Thornton & Hannah Berry, Karrie Fransman, Leonardo M. Giron, Julian Hanshaw, Rozi Hathaway, Rian Hughes, Rhiana Jade, Ian Jones, Mark Stafford, Bryan Talbot…

This is a work which will affect or appeal to people in entirely different ways. That’s apt indeed, for from a subjective standpoint, everyone is unique, including those people who are unfortunate enough to suffer with mental illness. Some people reading this graphic novel will simply admire the truly beautiful artwork from the ten diverse and extremely talented artists which Ravi has managed to assemble. Some will be mesmerised and entranced by the sensate stream of consciousness poetry that provides some measure of insight into the fractured inner world of Ravi’s brother Rob. Others, having experience of what mental illness can do to a family member or loved one – perhaps resulting, as in Rob’s case, in the sad decision to take their own life – will certainly find this work deeply, personally affecting.

 

 

However, with all that said, whilst we as human beings like to think we are so very good at putting ourselves in someone else’s place, seeing the world through their eyes, for those individuals whose waking moments can flutter between the highs of near transcendence to the depths of utter purgatory in the mere time it takes for a butterfly to spread its wings, we simply cannot truly know what it is to be like them: to feel, at times, as cruelly and painfully isolated as they do from the rest of us. Because, make no mistake, from a relative standpoint nothing and no one is separate. To have the perception, however, that this is the case, can be the cause of such mental turmoil and suffering, that I personally can understand why someone would choose to end it, even at the expense of their own existence.

 

 

Taken as a whole, this work provides a window into both Ravi and Rob’s experience of his struggles with his schizophrenia. The ‘Year’ chapters, in the traditional sequential art comics form, illustrated by Leonardo M. Giron, reveal the story from Ravi’s perspective, showing us moments of joy, despair, hope and resignation, as she tries to support her brother as best she can. These are separated with sequences containing poetry inspired by the extensive body of work Rob left behind, and they vary considerably stylistically in art terms, from what we would again consider traditional comics through to what could probably be accurately described as illustrated prose, though I would contend these sequences are also still very much comics as the artwork does significantly inform the intended narrative in conjunction with the prose in a sequential manner. What these differences in style neatly attest, though, is that the mind of a schizophrenic is an extremely rich, complex, yet fluid and volatile place to inhabit.

 

 

I think in terms of portraying Rob’s story, Ravi succeeds admirably. I was moved to tears in several places, by certain incidents or nuances that created a deep, emotional resonance within me, much like I experienced with Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU. I did quite deliberately not read this work on the tram this time though, suspecting I might need my hankie at close hand. It’s just so damn hard to see someone’s suffering brought to life so eloquently through their own words, and so poignantly and illuminatingly illustrated, knowing as you do that ultimately there is no happy ending, well, not at least in the traditional sense.

With some people who take their own lives, you can tell there may well have been a palpable element of fear and desperation involved, with others, merely the knowledge that peace would finally prevail. I certainly gained some sense of the latter with Rob.

 

 

Art-wise, this work is truly an absolute visual smörgåsbord. Firstly, the ‘Year’ chapters by Leonardo M. Giron are magnificently understated, with a deliberately subdued, almost pastel palette and a slightly chalky feel to the colouring. There is one slight exception to this involving a very special butterfly in the final chapter of which I shall say no more. The art accompanying the poetry is mostly, in contrast, extremely rich and vibrant, with a real eclectic mix of styles.

 

 

There are a couple of obvious, almost monochromatic exceptions, but they are entirely in keeping with the mood of the moment. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can honestly say, as a man who isn’t massively into poetry, they all really beautifully capture the essence of Rob’s words and thus help convey the not-so merry-go-round of his ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic emotional states.

 

 

Another impressive addition to the canon of works dealing frankly with mental illness, alongside the likes of PSYCHIATRIC TALES, DEPRESSO, MARBLES, LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW.

JR

Buy Hoax Psychosis Blues h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman: The Dream Hunters s/c (30th Anniversary Edition) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell:

“I shall seek the Buddha. But first I shall seek revenge.”

The afterwords by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell will tell you that SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is actually an adaptation of an adaptation that never actually was an adaptation. Apparently, when Neil wrote the illustrated book he concocted a convincing back-story about an ancient Japanese folk tale which never was. How appropriate then, as Neil himself points out, that the first new SANDMAN comic for then quite some years should have its roots in a fabrication; a myth, if you will. I found that little factoid quite charming!

Despite this confession however, this comic is written exactly as if it were an adaptation of a classic tale. A young monk tends his small temple while a badger and a fox strike an impish wager as to who can drive him out; the winner gaining the temple as their home. Some exuberant, over-the-top and ill-directed illusions follow but, of course, promises of riches and fame fall upon deaf ears while threats of evil and harm fare little better.

 

 

The monk, serene and devout monk with peace at his centre, is wise enough to see through the glamours and even good old fashioned seduction fails to make its mark. Well, maybe it leaves a small impression… because of course folk tales are never that simple and soon a quandary arises; the fox has fallen in love with the monk and is horrified when she overhears demons plotting his demise.

This demise is to be the work of The Onmyoji; a local Yin-Yang Master and demonologist of some status in the community. Though wealthy and respected, he does not seem to indulge or flaunt. Far from being a cackling overbearing bad-guy, the Onmyoji actually lives a life strictured by a quiet fear which stalks him through his waking hours and through his dreams. What the monk cultivates at his centre – calmness and peace – the Onmyoji lacks, and it is this peace which he pursues through his ever-growing knowledge of demonology.

The Yin-Yang theme is not hard to spot here; a restless, neurotic spirit contrasted with a disciplined mind. Added to this is a Shakespearean theme, as the Onmyoji consults with three witches who, of course, tell him what he wants to hear whilst leaving all the caveats unsaid. They inform the Onmyoji that he may banish the fear which shadows him by sacrificing the life of a young monk. These plans are never simple though, are they? The monk must not die by violence or in pain, he must simply slip out of this world… as if into a dream. And so it is that the smitten fox learns that to save the monk from his fate she must intervene not in the real world but in the realm of dreams.

The art is, of course, extremely pretty as you would expect from P. Craig Russell. It is also subtle and clever; the changes in the foliage behind the fox as she gazes at the monk; the tapestry behind the Dream King, morphing as he speaks; an owl catching a mouse in its beak just as the Sandman catches the monk in a half-truth about his feelings for the fox; the demise of the monks father, captured in a single picture, the elements of the panel seamlessly translating the narrator’s words. The influences Russell speaks about in his afterword are clear to see, as flame, waters, wind and cloud are rendered in woodcut-style swirls and the leaves and trees (which I am a sucker for anyway) are gorgeous.

There is some lovely use of iconic Sandman imagery too. When the fox enters the realm of dreams and then meets the Dream King in fox form we know it is him by the arrangement of stars contained within his eyes (not to mention those cool, white-on-black blobule speech bubbles he gets to speak in). The sequences in the Sandman’s realm flow well, capturing the peculiar, non-linear flow and distorted sense of boundaries of a dreamscape.

Even Russell’s Disney influence comes through with the fox and the badger being anthropomorphised; not in a HEPCATS or Antarctic Press way but rather through their expressive eyes and faces. It may sound like an odd combination but it works well. The colouring (by Lovern Kindzierski) is sympathetic, delicate and well conceived; bold when it needs to be, light and spacious at other times; and so overall the art holds the multiple themes and influences of the story together, bringing the tale to life in pictures.

DK

Buy Sandman: The Dream Hunters s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys Omnibus vol 4 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, John McCrea, Keith Burns, Richard P. Clark, Russ Braun.

Collects what was The Boys vol 7: The Innocents and The Boys vol 8: Highland Laddie.

The Boys vol 7: The Innocents

You’ve got to worry with a title like that and I’ve been worrying about Wee Hughie and Starlight for a while now. Against all odds and following some serious personal nightmares, these two angels in a world full of self-interested, power-hungry and sexually depraved horrors have finally found love in each other’s arms. But they haven’t been straight with each other.

Starlight hasn’t told Wee Hughie that she’s a superhero in the top-tier team called The Seven. Wee Hughie hasn’t told her that he’s one of Billy Butcher’s boys whose sole purpose it is to expose superheroes as the degenerate bastards they mostly are, or that The Seven are top of their quite literal hit list. Wee Hughie has told Starlight that his last girlfriend was slaughtered by a member of The Seven (hit-and-run-at-superspeed); she hasn’t told him that she was forced to give that very member’s member a servicing of sorts in order to join the Seven.

No one has told Billy Butcher anything, but he’s about to find out.

‘Traumatic’ is the word I’d use to describe this instalment.

Meanwhile Starlight and The Seven’s supercilious Homelander are press-ganged into appearing at Believe, a farcical faith festival designed purely to exploit gullible Americans’ religious beliefs in order to extract money from them. Lord knows where Ennis dreamt that one up from.

SLH

The Boys vol 8: Highland Laddie

Change of pace and change of scenery for wee Hughie, who retreats home to the relatively tranquil Scottish seaside town of Auchterladle, in order to sort his head out.

His adoptive parents are both sound and doting and delighted to see him. His old friends too whisk him straight down the pub. Unfortunately Hughie soon realises that he’d idealised them in their absence* for they can’t resist resurrecting old humiliations and it rubs him up the wrong way. Fortunately as Hughie wanders down the beach on his first night, he discovers a man painting the simmer dim – the evening’s permanent summer twilight there – who turns out to be a very good listener, and as the days wander on Hughie finds he’s drawn to the sympathetic stranger who lets him offload. But what was done in New York doesn’t stay in New York and very soon there’s a visitor…

There are some truly touching scenes here, particularly those involving Hughie’s adoptive Dad, but also some early traumas as Hughie reflects not just on the circumstances of his leaving New York, but his childhood too. That’s quite the tapeworm! But if you think Ennis has left the burlesque behind, think again: a mad Scottish vicar, an enormous woman which gardening sheers who’s quite prepared to use them, a smuggling sub-plot and his two friends are… unusual individuals.

I’ve never seen art like this from McCrea: full of light and space and – thanks to Tony Avina – colour. He works well with Keith Burns. I wonder when Hughie’s deception is going to catch up with him?

SLH

Buy The Boys Omnibus vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

The Book Of Forks (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis

Rain h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot

Mozart In Paris s/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frantz Duchazeau

The Seventh Voyage h/c (£17-99, Scholastic) by Stanislaw Lem & Jon J. Muth

The Wicked + The Divine vol 9: “Okay” (£15-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Giant Days vol 11 (£10-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Glenn Ganges In: The River At Night h/c (£25-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Kevin Huizenga

Houdini – The Handcuff King s/c (£10-99, Hyperion) by Jason Lutes & Nick Bertozzi

Guts (£8-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 18: Imbalance Part 3 (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Peter Wartman

Charlotte Bronte Before Jane Eyre s/c (£10-99, Hyperion) by Glynnis Fawkes

Death Vigil s/c (£22-99, Top Cow) by Stjepan Sejic

Internet Crusader (£14-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by George Wylesol

Walking Dead Compendium vol 4 (£53-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Batwoman: Haunted Tides s/c (£22-99, DC) by W. Haden Blackman & J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, others

Doomsday Clock Part vol 1 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Dragonball Super vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2019 week four

September 25th, 2019

Featuring Vera Greentea, Yana Bogatch, Matz, Jean-Marc Rochette, Michael DeForge, Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and more…

Grimoire Noir s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Vera Greentea & Yana Bogatch~

“You said I could trust you.”
“No, I said I would help you.”

Blackwell is a sleepy town that very much keeps itself to itself. So much so, that there is an enchantment surrounding the perimeter keeping women born there from ever leaving. Why? Because every woman born in Blackwell has been kissed with magick, and this is a secret. Nothing in Blackwell is all that it seems, and that is something that our young protagonist, Bucky Orson, is about to discover.

Here is what the publisher has to say about him…

“Bucky Orson is a bit gloomy, but who isn’t at fifteen? His best friend left him to hang out with way cooler friends, his cop dad is always in his business, and he lives in Blackwell, a town where all the girls are witches.

But when his little sister is kidnapped because of her extraordinary power, Bucky has to get out of his own head and go on a strange journey to investigate the small town that gives him so much grief. And in the process he uncovers the town’s painful history and a conspiracy that will change it forever.

Beautiful, spooky, and utterly enchanting, Grimoire Noir is a magical coming-of-age story of overcoming your limits to protect those dear to you”

Vera (NENETL OF THE FORGOTTEN SPIRITS) Greentea is back with her own uniquely personal flavour of gothic fantasy, this time in the form of a mystery which will keep you intrigued from cover to cover. Curiously captivating and with so many twists your head will be spinning like a dervishes’ whirl, this isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill whodunit.

There are so many intricately woven layers in this elaborate fantasy that you’ll be hooked from the very first page, but done with such dexterity that at no point do all these different threads seem overwhelming. A true storyteller, Greentea has crafted a story with real depth, but with a thoroughly entertaining lightness.

Complementing Greentea’s expertly written mystery is Yana Bogatch, who’s elegant and fluid artwork is an absolute dream. The character design is spot on, and often with a familiar nod, such as Bucky’s wide-brimmed fedora and belted overcoat as a pastiche of the noir genre, or Cham’s long black hair and wrap around scarf as if in slight tribute to Adventure Time’s Marceline the Vampire Queen as she floats just a couple feet in the air.

 

 

But where I think Bogatch truly shines is with her colour work. In sepia tones, the town is blanketed with a warm, golden autumnal hue, with the distinctive, comforting lighting of about 4pm on a sunny late October evening.

 

 

That is, except, for Bucky’s house, where his mother’s understandable distress at her missing child causes it to literally rain, so the pages are drenched with an inky deluge and a somber softness, which slowly envelopes the rest of the town; that golden hue relegated to memories.

 

 

Hauntingly melancholic yet passionately driven, GRIMOIRE NOIR is bringing mid-century noir to a new generation. A cleverly woven intrigue, it is a story to be devoured with artwork to be savoured.

JP

Buy Grimoire Noir and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer – The Prequel Part 1: Extinction h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Matz & Jean-Marc Rochette…

“We are at the dawn of accomplishing great things.”
“To save the planet from humankind.”
“To save what deserves to be saved.”
“How to you plan to save those who aren’t directly responsible for the world’s disasters?”

“We don’t. No, we must go further. Much, much further.
“For too long, humankind have behaved as though they have the right to do what they want to Earth.
“Her other occupants, animals and plantlife, are at humanity’s service, or rather at their mercy.
“All humankind are complicit.
“They are guilty.
“And, as such, they must be condemned.”

“How?”

How indeed?! I should probably explain that is a direct action ecological activists group called Wrath getting a lecture on taking their tactics to the next level from the fairly clearly named Apocalypsters.

Now… I wonder what they could possibly want…?

I nearly didn’t read this first volume of the prequel to the bleakly brilliant three part post-apocalyptic choo-choo carryon that was SNOWPIERCER VOL 1: THE ESCAPE / SNOWPIERCER VOL 2: THE EXPLORERS / SNOWPIERCER VOL 3: MUM, ARE WE THERE YET?, I mean, SNOWPIERCER VOL 3: TERMINUS. I guess I just felt that the story was completed for me, and I really do get frustrated with prequels sometimes, because inevitably, we readers know exactly where the story has to go to get to the starting point.

But I punched my ticket to ride and boy am I glad I did because this is a runaway journey to destination disaster all in its own right.

Yes, we will see the construction of the Noah’s Ark-like Snowpiercer train and its philanthropist multibillionaire creator Mr Zheng who had already foreseen the collapse of civilisation through ecological disaster.

 

 

But really, this story is all about how the timetable for departure suddenly gets brought forward thanks to the deluded doomsday-inducing dedication of a few (needing to be) committed zealots.

 

 

Series artist Jean-Marc Rochette returns with his fourth different writer, Matz. That’s a deliberate conceit by the way, not Rochette being difficult to work with. Actually, the fact it was penned by Matz (responsible for the utterly mesmerising confessions and adventures of a hitman with a conscience, of sorts, that is THE COMPLETE KILLER) is the reason I opened this up. I then kept reading because Rochette’s use of an altogether less bleak colour palette than the understandably wintery blue and black he deployed for the original trilogy gripped me immediately.

Thus, this is definitely its own story, which whilst it will appeal to fans of the previous permafrost perambulation trilogy, will also have much cachet with fans of the likes of Bryan Wood’s THE MASSIVE and other eco-disaster deterrent diatribes.

Interestingly I note there is a TV show sequel to the film (loosely based on the first book) planned for next year. No idea whether that will incorporate material from books two and three, but hopefully it will pinch some of the ideas from this work and the presumably other one or two volumes to come for back story.

All aboard!

JR

Buy Snowpiercer – The Prequel Part 1: Extinction h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stunt (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge…

“I worked as a stunt man. I kept fit.
“I’d been on the job for a movie starring Jo Rear.
“I was his stunt double.
“The fantasy was that one day I’d die in an accident. That’d be ideal. No one could blame me.
“I couldn’t set something like that up myself, of course.
“All previous attempts to take matter into my own hands had been abject failures.
“I had simply continued on with my life, remaining “open” to accidents.
“Perhaps I’d lose my footing while scaling a skyscraper for the film’s opening sequence.
“They’d acknowledge my death with a little note in the credits.”

Surprisingly coherent chequebook shaped identity insanity from the mirthful master of the abstract.

Here is the publisher with a script read-through to provide a plot synopsis…

“A stunt double is hired by an actor to serve as his doppelgänger in order to sabotage his career. Seeing your double is often viewed as an ill omen, a portent of bad luck, and a harbinger of death. Hiring a professional double, an actor spurs on his own demise as he and his double explore the depths of degradation and self-destruction.”

 

 

The unknown stuntman (cue Lee Majors earworm – you’re welcome!) assumes the role of the star’s life with aplomb, getting into the character of the fabulously named Jo Rear to such a degree that he rapidly become indistinguishable from the man himself, which is merely the first part of Jo’s mysterious master plan…

 

 

Soon, Colt, let’s call him Colt, is standing in during talkshow interviews, red carpet appearances and even intimate dinners with girlfriends, all with a view to wrecking Jo’s hitherto carefully curated image.

 

 

Once that goal is finally achieved, after an initial pique of further rubber-necking public interest in the car-crash course Jo suddenly appears to be taking with his life, events start to get even stranger…

Which, of course, is all perfectly normal for a Michael DeForge story! With an ever burgeoning body of bizarre material building up fast behind him: A BODY BENEATH / A WESTERN WORLD / ANT COLONY / BIG KIDS / BRAT / DRESSING / FIRST YEAR HEALTHY / LEAVING RICHARD’S VALLEY / LOSE / STICKS ANGELICA, FOLK HERO / VERY CASUAL he shows no signs of letting up on his one-man smorgasbord of surreal.

Good.

JR

Buy Stunt and read the Page 45 review here

Transmetropolitan Book 2 s/c (£24-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson

DC has recently been repackaging its slimmer Vertigo volumes into heftier editions, and this combines the third and fourth – YEAR OF THE BASTARD and NEW SCUM – for little more money than those single editions. It also includes the one-shot TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I HATE IT HERE.

Year Of The Bastard

“You want to know about voting. I’m here to tell you about voting.
“Imagine you’re locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain’t allowed out until you all vote on what you’re going to do tonight. You’d like to put your feet up and watch “Republican Party Reservation.” They like to have sex with normal people using knives, guns, and brand-new sexual organs that you did not know existed. So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as your eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades.
“That’s voting. You’re welcome.”

Very helpful, Spider. Thank you.

Spider Jerusalem has a second unwilling assistant foisted upon him by his editor. She’s called Yelena, but don’t expect him to remember that. Worse still his editor is demanding that Jerusalem sinks himself back into the quagmire of politics for the opposition party’s Presidential nominations. That will require an awful lot of drugs.

 

 

First up is Senator Gary Callahan, sitting there with his rictus grin behind both a political director and a political consultant who squabble. It’s Tony Blair, and he’s a fake.

 

 

But the alternative is far worse: a racist fear-monger whose rallies sound like Nuremberg. What’s an uncompromising campaigning journalist to do? Manipulate the least awful option into promising hard policy on physical problems because someone has to oust the incumbent President somewhere down the line. Unfortunately for Spider there are more unfortunate truths to be uncovered.

Darick does a remarkable job of keeping what is essentially political debate and swearing visually stimulating, Warren affording him whole pages to go nuts on, surrounding a maniacal Jerusalem with hellfire as he assaults his laptop and thereby the minds of his New Scum followers.

New Scum

“Everything you look at tells you it’s the future. But everything you hear is the same old same old.”

Politics for a start, and a public so self-centredly apathetic it cannot even be arsed to get out from in front of the TV once every four years to drag its sorry collective carcass down to the polling booths and vote.

(If you don’t vote then you have no right to complain about any aspect of life in the UK. Please don’t tell me they’re all the same. If you think the BNP is the same as the Liberal Party then I agree that you should at least have your hand held at the booth, but if you decide not to vote because you don’t think yours will count then you are an outrageously egocentric wanker I don’t even want to take money from.)

Aaaaanyway… As the Presidential Election looms in the wake of last volume’s murder, there is a pause to take stock. Everything’s changed. The President has gone to ground leaving the ruthless, misanthropic opposition candidate Callahan to bask in a new electoral sympathy, whilst Spider Jerusalem stands way, way up on the balcony of his luxurious new apartment, sequestered from the political intrigue that he feels sucked him in but also from the streets below. It’s there that mothers are having to pawn their child’s favourite teddy bear for the sake of an appetite suppressor, where all manner of injustices are taking place because of the people in power: those with no ambition, or worse still, those with the active ambition to screw everyone over.

 

 

Then suddenly both candidates want to be interviewed by the man they loathe most. They’re going to wake the giant up…

 

 

Meanwhile, as I say, it’s all fun and games down below with a “back to basics” Rechristianity movement stoning people on the street:

“We’re bringing moral order to our communities first, before we take it to the country. And I’m afraid that has to include the death penalty.”
“For what?”
“Well, I can’t proffer you a complete list…”
“I’m recording this for a column. Summarise. Let’s bring your truth to the people.”
“Oh, I like that. You’re a filthy man who should have God’s wrath visited upon his nether regions, but you have a good heart. Well now… homosexuality, heresy, unchastity before marriage, cursing one’s parents, fogletism, women who get abortions, people who advise them to do so…”
“And why stoning?”
“It’s traditional, clean and holy. And cheap, of course. Furthermore, it puts law in the hands of the people. Executions should be community projects.”

Darrick Robertson’s one-panel punchline to Spider Jerusalem’s wicked desecration of some young children’s snowmen is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

SLH

Buy Transmetropolitan Book 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lazarus: The Third Collection h/c (£35-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark with Eric Trautman, Aaron Duran, Neal Bailey & Steve Lieber, Mack Chater, Justin Greenwood, Alitha Martinez, Bilquis Evely, Tristan Jones

“Family Above All.”

LAZARUS is one of my favourite current comic series: gripping intrigue, balletic action and phenomenally intelligent extrapolation from recent scientific developments, as well as a thorough exploration of the socio-political ramifications of a societal reversal. Each of the first four volumes is reviewed, including the two-in-one hardcovers. This third hardcover collects volume five and the Lazarus: X Plus 66 mini-series.

Spoiler-free summary, for it’s important to what follows:

In the far from distance future the world’s economies didn’t just collapse, they imploded, taking all nation states with them.

The entire globe has reverted to a feudal society ruled by 16 Families: the Families with the most money, because money buys people, money buys science and money buys guns.

Underneath them lies a slim stratum of society with key skills vital for the Families’ prosperity and hegemony. These Serfs are richly rewarded, their needs taken care of. Everyone else is Waste.

 

 

All Families have a Lazarus, each augmented by differing means according to the individual Family’s scientific resources, to the extent that – although they cannot rise from the dead – their bodies can withstand and recover from the most brutal physical punishments. They are then rigorously trained to become the Families’ bodyguards, military commanders and ultimate assassins.

In the Carlyle Family’s case it is their youngest daughter, Forever. Ever since she can remember she has been told, “Family Above All”. And by ‘told’, I mean ‘indoctrinated’. And by ‘indoctrinated’, I mean lied to.

LAZARUS: X PLUS 66 is a book about loyalty. It’s about loyalty within families, but above all loyalty to The Family in whose domain you are permitted to reside. Those loyalties will all be sorely tested.

 

 

X Plus 66 is a year. It’s the year immediately following LAZARUS VOL 5, marking just over six and a half decades since the Families met in Macau to carve up the world and its riches between themselves. To give Michael Lark a well earned breather, the collection’s comprised of six short stories drawn by different artists, each of which picks up on ancillary – but by no means peripheral – characters and their fortunes which there would have been little room to have covered within the central series. In doing so, it provides a wealth of extra flesh on the main body’s bone, so I would urge you not to skip it.

 

 

There are some superb neologisms for new scientific research and development, like “sleeving”: the ability to slot an archived personality, complete with its memories, from one Lazarus into its successor. Not yet possible, but they’ve achieved the next best thing with Sir Thomas Huston of the Armitage Family taking advantage of all his predecessor’s  internally recorded and externally archived experiences.

“As experience is the best teacher, each new Sir Thomas benefits from the life of the last.”

I think you’ll especially want to learn the fate that befalls the Morray Family’s Lazarus, Joacquim Morray, given the horrifying swerve in his fate last volume. You’ll also discover exactly what relation he is within the Morray Family Tree. This has no small bearing on his past, present and dubious future. Mack Chater (BRIGGS LAND) draws a halting first-page panel which could not have present Joacquim as more vulnerable, his shaved pubic area making it all the more clinical.

 

 

Tristan Jones gives the grizzliest chapter the grizzliest of dirty, detailed texture set in The Dragon’s lair (The Dragon is the least pleasant Lazarus of the lot – I mean, bwwaaaaar). He’s holed away in a remote, claustrophobically dark subterranean bunker with mauled dolls dangling from chains. Unnervingly, there’s also one in a rib cage directly outside the entrance to the snow-swept cave entrance and more with cameras for eyes inside.

 

 

Surprising, then, that there’s a fine piece of painted portraiture framed on a wall. All to do with his upbringing, as you shall see…

The media’s plight under feudal control is examined, and the lives of some of those newly elevated from Waste to Serfdom is shown with an extra vantage over a shanty town of those left behind, drawn by Justin Greenwood. You may want to smack one mother.

Lastly, I do know why the elite army training episode comes first, in order to re-introduce and re-emphasise the main theme – loyalty and Family Above All – but it isn’t in all honesty quite as gripping as the rest, so do please soldier on.

SLH

Buy Lazarus: The Third Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

ABC Of Typography h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by David Rault, others

Angel vol 1: Being Human s/c (£12-99, Boom!) by Bryan Edward Hill & Gleb Melnikov

The Death Of The Master s/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Patrick Kyle

John Carpenter’s Tales Of Science Fiction – Twitch s/c (£17-99, Storm King) by Duane Swierczynski & Richard Clark

Le Faune De Mars h/c (French Language) (£30-00, Moebius Productions) by Moebius

Le Major h/c (French Language) (£30-00, Moebius Productions) by  Moebius

Monstress vol 4: The Chosen s/c (£14-99, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

Paper Girls vol 6 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Tales Of Superheroes h/c (£12-99, Penguin) by various

Batman: Nightwalker – The Graphic Novel s/c (£14-99, DC) by Stuart Moore & Chris Wildgoose

Heroes In Crisis h/c (£24-99, DC) by Tom King & Clay Mann

Incredible Hulk: Epic Collection – In The Hands Of Hydra s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Stan Lee & Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema

Marvel Rising: Heroes Of The Round Table s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Nilah Magruder & Roberto Di Salvo, Georges Duarte

Berserk vol 40 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

I Hear The Sunspot vol 4: Limit Part 2 (£11-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

You’re Strong With Me h/c (£11-99, Lantana Publishing) by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry

How The Stars Came To Be h/c (£12-99, Tate) by Poonam Mistry

Kai And The Monkey King h/c (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Joe Todd-Stanton

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September week 2

September 11th, 2019

Before we begin:

Page 45 Signing & Sketching Schedule at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2019!

Includes Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot launching their new graphic novel Rain. Also signing & sketching: Kate Charlesworth, Julie Rocheleau, Darryl Cunningham, Duncan Fegredo, EdieOP, Anja Uhren and Kate-mia White.

The Collected Toppi vol 2: North America h/c (£22-99, Magnetic Press) by Sergio Toppi…

“I can tell you, if you’re so inclined.
“If you’d rather listen to my story instead of scratching at the earth in hopes of getting rich.
“If so, then take a seat next to me.
“Don’t let my pipe smoke bother you.
“Now, I won’t deny it, I like gold too.
“I’ve spent my share of time lookin’ for it…
“… I broke my back searchin’ everywhere you could imagine…
“Mountains, valleys, on foot and on horseback… even underground!
“But gold is like a beautiful lady: if you chase her, she’ll just run away.
“I’m not the kind of guy to give up, though, so I chopped wood to earn enough money to buy the proper equipment… and then I set out again.

After buying some sequential art based reading material to pass the time out on the wide open prairies, obviously…

Here’s the publisher to tell you more about the lure of the precious material that has driven people mad with desire trying to get their sweaty hands on it…

I’m talking about comics, obviously.

“Presenting the second in a seven-volume library of works by master illustrator Sergio Toppi. This second volume collects eleven tales of North American folklore, from the Canadian Goldrush to the American West and the Deep South, previously collected as Colt Frontier, Naugatuck 1757, and Blues.”

Wow! As much as I absolutely adored THE COLLECTED TOPPI: THE ENCHANTED WORLD VOL HC, which was the first in this heptalogy, this second volume, full of highfalutin fools, wise Native American Indians and even some of that ever elusive gold is truly fabulous from start to finish. I think it might in part be the more cogent nature of the collected material this time around, actually.

All the primarily cautionary tales regarding the lunacy of rushing after and risking your life for a few ounces of precious metal, balanced with the harmonious, peaceful (soon to be shattered forever) way of life of the true locals, hang together in a collection just perfectly. Even the magic bagpipes aren’t remotely out of place. Yes, magic bagpipes…

 

 

Plus the one outlier in plot terms, featuring a mysterious wandering blues musician, an almost apologetically mildly racist redneck, a former cop turned hitman and a particularly irascible Baron Samedi, is perfectly picked to conclude this tome and does so in a most wryly dramatic fashion.

 

 

Artistically, Toppi is simply a feast for the eyes. In terms of using linework as shading and texture, indeed structure, he may well be the very best there has ever been.

 

 

There’s also a rare foray into colour in this volume with a tale called Katana in which a greedy gold searcher crosses paths and swords, well a sword gets crossed with him, with a Japanese ronin samurai.

 

 

(For more ronin samurai in North American see Jiro Taniguchi’s amazing SKY HAWK). Aside from cover illustrations I’m not sure I’ve seen any coloured Toppi before. I’m not entirely sure it’s needed. Which is probably why so little of his work is!

JR

Buy The Collected Toppi vol 2: North America h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Little Mama s/c (£17-99, Magnetic) by Halim Mahmouidi…

“Me and mommy were the same! Even though Grandma didn’t like it…
“… We behaved like children.
“Mommy’s mood changed all the time. I never got used to it.
“She’d hit me on the head, or else pinch me hard.
“Really, really hard…”

I should at this point state that this incredibly powerful, emotionally impactful work is also really, really hard to read. I think you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by what Brenda is put through. Here’s the publisher to tell you more about this tale of woe…

“Life isn’t easy for little Brenda, whose single, teenage mom is immature, selfish, and prone to violent mood swings. Brenda takes care of herself and her mother as best as she can, missing out on many childhood joys to be her own mother’s Little Mama.”

 

 

That is a very accurate diagnosis of this tremendously upsetting tale, which is so well written and full of such excruciating detail I find it difficult to believe it isn’t somehow informed by personal experience in some respect.

I must confess, though, I truly have no idea whether it is or isn’t. If it is, then it’s a tremendously brave fictionalised recounting as seen through the eyes of an adult Brenda, sat in a therapist’s study, still portrayed as a young child. If it is purely fictional then I’m just as impressed by the depth of detail brought to the characters and various scenarios that only seem to get darker and darker as Brenda’s suffering only ever increases, first at the hands of her mother and then also her mother’s boyfriend Vincent, who is the vile father of her younger brother Kevin.

 

 

Just to clarify, not that it makes it any less upsetting, but we are talking purely, albeit extensive, emotional and physical abuse, not sexual abuse. It is still very traumatic though.

Seen also occasionally through the eyes of a concerned social worker plus Brenda’s adult therapist, this work is an extremely engrossing, if bleak, look at what unfortunately goes on all too often behind closed doors. But it is also a strident testament to what the human spirit can endure and come though out the other side, if not entirely unscathed.

Art-wise I was strongly minded stylistically in places of Nate MARCH / COME AGAIN / TWO DEAD Powell. Heavy on detail, and the black ink, in conjunction with the subdued gray / very pale blue additional shading, it packs a substantial punch more than enough to match the ones meted out by Vincent’s balled fists.

JR

Buy Little Mama s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman: Dream Hunters (30th Anniversary Prose Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano.

A poignant story of doomed love, self-sacrifice and revenge into which Gaiman slides some of his former SANDMAN cast.

The love is between a fox and a monk, and when Gaiman is in fable mode, the prose is a measured and masterful meld of Important Words and Powerful Pauses.

A badger and fox place bets on which of them can make a humble monk leave the small, remote temple he’s been tending so that they can have it for their own, but the smiling monk sees through their guises each time and gently sends them on their way.

Much to the fox’s surprise, she finds herself in love with the monk, and apologises. But when she discovers a plot amongst demons to destroy the monk through three booby-trapped dreams, she sacrifices her most prized possession to seek the counsel of Lord Morpheus, and there discovers The Baku, the eaters of dreams.

Now also available as a graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell, this came about specifically because Gaiman loved the poster Amano painted for  SANDMAN’s 10th Anniversary (me too, it’s on my bedroom wall) and wrote the prose for him to illustrate.

 

 

 

 

Unlike Gaiman’s SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS his DEATH collection – and most especially his more recent return in SANDMAN: OVERTURE which leads directly into SANDMAN VOL 1 – this is, I concede, merely tangential to the SANDMAN series.

But such is its ability to move that when I recorded it one Christmas for my best friend Anita whose Multiple Sclerosis had by then robbed her of her peripheral vision (and so ability to read lengthy prose), I ended up having to take brief breaks from the microphone in order to retain some form of dignity.

It’s an absolute choker, I promise you.

SLH

Buy Sandman: Dream Hunters (30th Anniversary Prose Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Oblivion Song vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Coronation vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier, Ryan Ferrier & Daniel Bayliss, Irene Flores

Unnatural vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mirka Andolfo

Unnatural vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mirka Andolfo

Transmetropolitan Book 2 s/c (£24-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson

Black Hammer: Streets Of Spiral s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston, various

Black Hammer: World Of Black Hammer – 45 s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston

Batman vol 10: Knightmares s/c (£15-99, DC) by Tom King & various

Batman: The Killing Joke New Edition h/c (£15-99, DC) by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland & Brian Bolland

Venom vol 5: War Of The Realms s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, FrankTieri & Iban Coello, various

Black Torch vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Page 45 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2019 Saturday & Sunday October 12-13th

September 9th, 2019

Includes Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot launching, signing & sketching in their graphic novel RAIN, about the grim issues of environmental degradation through climate change, land mismanagement and pollution [and] a love story, chronicling the developing relationship between two young women.”

 

 

Remember, folks, entry is FREE!

 

 

As every year at LICAF, Page 45 will fill the Georgian Room in the Kendal Clock Tower with hundreds of gorgeous new graphic novels – many of which you won’t find elsewhere – for you to browse, buy, then fondle forever.

Plus – brand-new this year, and we couldn’t be more excited! – Andy Oliver and EdieOP from Broken Frontier will be curating two tables of self-published comics in our room, including debut launches from Edie, and will host extra creator guests Anja Uhren on Saturday and Kate-mia White all weekend.

Entry is FREE all weekend long. We accept both cash and credit cards.

Where: Upstairs, Kendal Clock Tower (access by lift)
When: Saturday & Sunday October 12-13th

Guests Signing & Sketching For Free In Our Room

Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot: Saturday 12th, 2pm-4pm
Exclusive LICAF Worldwide Book Launch of Rain immediately following Mary & Bryan Talbot’s talk on the making of RAIN.
Sally Heathcote Suffragette Dotter Of The Father’s Eyes, The Red Virgin, Alice In Sunderland, Grandville, The Tale Of One Bad Rat

 

 

Kate Charlesworth: Saturday 12th, 4pm-5pm
Sally Heathcote Suffragette, Sensible Footwear

Get your Sally Heathcote signed and sketched in by Bryan & Mary then Kate immediately afterwards!

 

 

Julie Rocheleau: Sunday 13th, 11am-midday
About Betty’s Boob, The Wrath Of Fantomas

 

 

Darryl Cunningham: Sunday 13th, 12.30-1.30pm
Billionaires, Supercrash, Graphic Science, Science Tales, Psychiatric Tales

 

 

Duncan Fegredo: Sunday 13th, 1.30pm-3.30pm
Hellboy Omnibus vol 3, Hellboy Complete Short Stories vol 1, MPH, Enigma, Spirit

 

 

Please click on their books’ links for reviews or pop any creators into our search engine at www.page45.com.

 

Guests In Our Room At The Broken Frontier Tables

Anja Uhren: Saturday

 

 

Kate-mia White: Saturday & Sunday

 

 

EdieOP: Saturday & Sunday

 

 

Lakes Festival Merchandise on sale in our Georgian Room.

This includes comics, cards, prints, 2017’s SPIRIT NEWSPAPER and 2018’s TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR anthology (both reviewed at that link and available for worldwide shipping.

All proceeds over the weekend go to the LICAF Creator Development Programme etc.

As to our own graphic novels, we’ll be on hand to provide personal recommendations tailored to your tastes, or take you through any comics which attract your attention. Please do ask! Or, if you’ve a mobile phone handy, you can pop titles or creators into our search engine for our written reviews at www.page45.com

We’ll be accepting cash and credit cards all weekend long

Buy From Page 45’s Website, Collect In Kendal Postage-Free!

Any graphic novels on our website can be brought by us to the festival, postage-free if you buy online at www.page45.com then “Collect In Kendal 2019” at the checkout. Offer closes Monday 7th October 2017 when we’ll be all packed up to go!

More Lakes Festival Info

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival website
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2019 Programme
Page 45’s Dedicated LICAF Blog featuring links to photo-filled blogs of every year we’ve attended.

LICAF Twitter: @comicartfest
Page 45 Twitter: @pagefortyfive

Our Twitter’s very handy for when other creators pop into our room for impromptu sketching!

Page 45 is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2019 week one

September 4th, 2019

Featuring Lewis Trondheim, Hubert Chevillard, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic, Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Jonathan Hickman, Neil Edwards, Barry Kitson, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks

Stay h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Lewis Trondheim & Hubert Chevillard…

“Hello!”
“Hello.”
“May I sit? Not with you, at the table besides you.
“I’m not trying to flirt with you.
“I was in a car accident as a child. I have no more penis.

“But I can pee in a bottle!”

Which is the point I personally would start running and not look back, but not Fabienne as antique shop owner Paco introduces himself in somewhat madcap fashion. No, instead she decides to stay and have her second croissant. I’d be keeping a hand over the top of my drink at all times though…

I should at this point probably explain that this particular decision to stay put is not the reason for the title of this work. No, but it is very typical of the redoubtable, unflappable Fabien’s new-found approach to life. I will let the publisher elucidate matters for you further whilst Fabio in no way continues to flirt with the charmingly bemused Fabienne…

“Roland has planned the perfect vacation for Fabienne to discuss their future. But when unimaginable tragedy strikes, Fabienne is left alone to process this immediate and unexpected change in her life. While most people would abandon the trip out of grief, she decides to stay…”

It probably isn’t that much of a spoiler given it happens on the fourth page, to explain that Roland gets decapitated by a flying metal sign due to a particularly strong coastal breeze.

 

 

From that point on, whilst most would crumble faster than a dehydrated sandcastle in face of such an impromptu grotesque guillotining of their beloved, Fabienne instead decides to stick to the itinerary that Roland had meticulously planned for their seaside mini-break. Though that didn’t, of course, include meeting wildcard Paco.

 

 

So, for the second time in recent months (following on from the brilliant MAGGY GARRISSON involving a wannabe private investigator illustrated by Stephane Oiry) Lewis Trondheim produces a masterclass in gently comedic writing. Here this story of what could have been a crippling emotional hammer blow instead becomes a curiously cheering tale of unexpected, liberating freedom from what would have been a very carefully mapped out life.

Appropriately enough, it all really doesn’t go or end up quite where you would expect, despite Fabienne’s close attention to the detail of Roland’s precisely plotted schedule. Warmly illustrated by Hubert Chevillard in gloriously Mediterranean tones this is one to réchauffe les coques de ton coeur or whatever the appropriate French idiom might be…

Buy Stay h/c and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Grass (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim~

“Mama, can I go to school, too?”
“You’re whining about school when we’ve got nothing to eat?”
“But big brother gets to go.”
“Don’t give me that hogwash! You think you two are the same?”

The year is 1934 and we’re in Busan, South Korea. Lee Ok-sun is a young girl with one simple dream: to go to school like her mischievous brothers. Instead, with younger sibling tied to her back, she helps her mother at the market in hopes of scraping together enough to be able to feed the family that evening.

Lee Ok-sun learned from an early age that this wasn’t a woman’s world. But never in her worst nightmares did she imagine the horrors that her life would hold…

For an idea of the contents of this important yet harrowing biography, here’s what the publisher has to say…

“Grass is a powerful anti-war graphic novel, offering up firsthand the life story of a Korean girl named Lee Ok-sun who was forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, a disputed chapter in 20th century Asian history.

 

 

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim emphasizes Lee’s strength in overcoming the many forms of adversity she experienced. Grass is a landmark graphic novel that makes personal the desperate cost of war and the importance of peace.”

As heartbreaking and heavy a topic as this is, Gendry-Kim has delivered Granny Ok-sun’s story with the sensitivity and tenderness that this valiant, elderly lady deserves. Simplified imagery and softened characters focus on the humanity, not the brutality of the situation.

 

 

But that doesn’t mean this book is any less powerful. Much like Granny Ok-sun herself, it has a quiet strength, one that gets under your skin and then completely takes hold of you.

“We will keep fighting until the end.”

Buy Grass and read the Page 45 review here

JP

Ophiuchus s/c (£14-99, Image) by Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic

“Let me ask you something, serpent-bearer.
“You’ve come all this way, and why?
“A defunct guard, protecting nothing and her hapless servant, who breaks when they should build?”
“They’ve told you so little. What about my side of it?
“I only ever offered these machines salvation.”

“I know you’re a liar.”

Do you like the Steven Universe cartoon? If you do (you must also check out STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE ANSWER by the way if you haven’t already…) then this collection of the highly regarded and exquisitely pink, purple and pastel blue webcomic is most definitely for you.

Aside from the fact it is beautifully illustrated with characters comprised of curvaceously cornered yet pleasingly angular polygons the story is bursting with as much action as it is heart. A most fabulous fusion…

Here is the publisher to tell you a little more just in case you aren’t convinced already, before I bombard you with lots of intensely sensual interior art almost exclusively warping into your optic nerves on wibbly-wobbly wavelengths between 380 and 500 nanometers…

 

 

“Ophiuchus is the story of the lone sentry of an ancient, inactive gate. One day, a strange being breaks through and infects her with a virus. And shortly after, she is approached by two machines, who implore her to follow them to the centre of the universe to put an end to that virus – a malevolent being which rots all worlds.”

Just some fabulous science-fiction that makes a half-hearted attempt to be semi-serious but is too busy having fun!

 

 

Buy Ophiuchus and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Judge Dredd: Small House s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint…

“Don’t do small talk, do you? Drive with me.”

Haha, that alone cracked me up, Dredd telling someone else they’re not the chatty type!! Right, as we were…

“Witness said he was sure he saw Judges. Just for an instant. Two reaching for Benn. Then there was nothing. ‘Ghost Judges.’”
“Do you believe that?”
“I’ve seen the supernatural. I’ve put my fist through the supernatural.
“That’s not what this is. There are other cases, though nothing proven.
“A stealth group, operating outside the remit of the Chief Judge. Operating for someone else.”

Indeed… and there is nothing like someone thinking they are above the Law to get right up Joe Dredd’s nose…

Here’s the bullet laden bulletin from the publisher to give pretty much everything away…

“The critically-acclaimed and fan-lauded latest Judge Dredd tale which sent shockwaves through the universe and Mark Millar called ‘one of the best runs ever!’ Everything is at stake and no-one is safe, as Judge Dredd and his team of hand-picked allies finally takes on the nefarious Judge Smiley, Mega-City One’s behind-the-scenes manipulator!

 

 

But who will be left standing at the end?”

Errr… well, I know who I would guess!

I would have to heartily concur, though, with the plaudits for this series. I was absolutely riveted as it came out week by week in 2000AD. Featuring some of my favourite characters like the Wally Squad’s Dirty Frank, who featured prominently in the fabulous JUDGE DREDD: TRIFECTA and former SJS Judge Gerhart, it builds on recent stories such as Williams and Flint’s own excellent JUDGE DREDD: TITAN, but also shines a new, disturbingly revealing light on events as far back as Block Mania and the Apocalypse War as it builds and builds to a crunching crescendo.

 

 

Dredd’s going to win obviously. It’s what he does. But at what cost? How many colleagues will be acceptable collateral damage along the way this time? And just how high up does this conspiracy go? I mean, is it really conceivable that Chief Judge Hersey is completely unaware of the secret cabal armed with cloaking technology performing covert assassinations made to look like accidents, both locally and globally, that all serve to benefit Mega-City One politically…?

 

 

I sincerely hope Rob Williams is going to be involved with the writing of the forthcoming Dredd TV show which is being produced by Rebellion themselves, as he’s been responsible for much of the best Dredd material of recent years and this tale is just pure thrill power. Even Tharg needed a lie down after reading it…

 

 

Ooops, wrong alien!

So for those lovers of a bit of casual future fascism who might have been wondering whether old Stoney Face has still got it, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact that’s five years for even doubting him creep. Head directly to the cubes and do not pass the counter without collecting this book.

Buy Judge Dredd: Small House and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman The Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards, Barry Kitson, Steve Epting with Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks.

Second bumper book of brilliance from one of the best runs ever on this sporadically functional family containing volumes 3 and 4 plus the first volume of companion title FF (Future Foundation). I’ve hardly had to change a word since my original reviews at the start of the decade, just find you the appropriate pretty pictures. Strap yourselves in and slap on the cosmic sunscreen…

Fantastic Four vol 3 by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards.

“It’s not the scientific method that got us here… it’s apostasy.”
“Take this, Mr. Whitman.”
“What’s this?”
“Providence.”

God, but this is some damn fine writing and you will need your dictionary which is a very fine thing indeed. So yes, providence provided by Reed Richards to his former rival, the Wizard, now being cared for in a metahuman psychiatric facility. He’s singularly interested in the creation of life, specifically through mitosis. There’s a lot of that this volume from some unexpected sources:

“And now for knowledge. The coming days are going to be dark… Dark and full of loss. It will feel like everything is going to break apart… that it will shatter and everything will end. Only you can hold us together. Can you be strong, mother? Stronger than you’ve ever been before? There will be a moment when you’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to let go….
“When you reach that point, look into the sky. Look up… and remember the price that was paid.”

Looks like I was on the money and all of the previous volumes’ little chapters are converging – the past and the future – in an ominous way as evidenced by the super-evolved Molemen now in residence at the Baxter Building. They’ve just taught themselves to read, and swiftly moved onto the computer system:

“Did you know that a curved axis runs from the Forever City, through a place called Old Atlantis, to an Inhuman city-ship on the moon? The radius of that axis happens to mirror the frequency at which a portal to the Negative Zone opens.”

Oh dear.

Reed Richards has seen the light as well as the possible darkness ahead, and it’s expanded his ambition considerably.

 

 

He’s here to educate, to provide the planet with a limitlessly positive future, and he won’t accept apathy, resignation or second-best. Quite right too. Class is now in session – but what’s the previously primitive Dragon Man doing at the back?! He’s been rewired by Reed’s daughter Valeria and together Reed’s new students have already thought well outside the box:

“So can I assume you have a new way of attacking a problem that I’ve personally failed to solve over the years?”
“Uh-huh. It deals with rejecting a binary endgame. The on/off nature of the problem that’s tripped you up in the past… I think we can win and lose at the same time, sir.”

The problem they’ve solved is Ben Grimm.

In addition Neil Edwards has now flowered into a worthy substitute for Bryan Hitch, particularly when it comes to the children’s faces, there’s a delightful trip out to a decidedly different toy store and Franklin’s learning judo!

Hickman’s work in this is completely accessible to newcomers yet conversely it’s also steeped in Marvel history and will reward any long-term fan with a modicum of intelligence by moving that history on substantially: by embracing it, extrapolating from it, and upgrading it in such a fashion that you’d think that Hickman was actually Warren Ellis. He might be, actually, only there’s no filthy swearing just a great deal of fun.

SLH

 

Fantastic Four vol 4 by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting with Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks.

“Since the birth of everything, all life writhes in anguish… The suffering of billions of years of prolonged decay – the scars sit deep within us. You know this is true, because the pain resonates… We all share that core dread… that small, still voice coming from the older, primal place in our minds… We are all dying.”

Well, he’s a glass-half-full kinda guy!

This final book in the first phase of Jonathan Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR ends in catastrophe for the family with the loss of one of their members. Knowing that as you read this makes for quite the poignant experience.

So many threads set up not just by Hickman but by Mark Millar in his own excellent run (WORLD’S GREATEST and THE MASTER OF DOOM) come back to haunt them whilst one remains far from resolved and is only now becoming clear in the start of the second phase under the title FF (Future Foundation). Steve Epting has long been one of my favourite Marvel pencillers and his kids in particular are a just-so joy, though perhaps the finest panel is Sue Storm’s eyes rolling to the heavens under Namor’s admiration only after she shouts him down in public. He’s thrilling, subtle and his expressions carry weight. Quite why the final silent issue, the denouement, is given to someone else, I cannot comprehend.

Without giving too much away, Sue’s role as emissary between the old and new Atlantean factions takes a substantial turn for the unexpected, Galactus’ dead body which Reed Richards decided to bury is finally discovered, Ben swallows the serum Valeria and co. concocted to give him one week a year in his old human body… and that bloody Negative Zone portal never did anyone any good, did it?

 

 

Hickman, however, is master of the unexpected… like young prodigy Valeria casually teleporting into the throne room of Victor Von Doom who sits brooding about what he has lost.

“What’s up?”
“Young lady… Showing up unannounced is rash, unsuitable behaviour… even for a child. Does your father know where you are, Valeria?”
“Actually, he’s why I’m here.”
“And what has he done now?”
“Daddy went and built a very bad machine and forgot to tell anyone… Guess who just found it.”

Includes the script to silent issue #588.

SLH

 

FF vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, Barry Kitson.

“And then I began to wonder why exactly all those villains are in my house. What would scare them as much as it would scare us…? What have you been hiding from me?”
“Oh Susan…”
“What’s happened, Reed?”
“I’ve done something terrible.”

So many secrets. So much left half-said!

The curtain rises for a fresh start, but in so many ways it’s merely the second act of a carefully orchestrated piece of theatre whose first four books were bursting with dramatic irony which now plays itself out as each family member finally comes clean, but only when they’re finally found out! By that time, of course, it’s a little too late to mend as four familiar forces have been unleashed upon this world and set about acquiring the resources they need to leave it – not in one piece, either.

The Fantastic Four are no more. The family is one man down, and some of them are coping better than others. Wracked with guilt, Ben Grimm has shut himself inside his room, cradling Johnny Storm’s nephew and niece against his orange-rocked hide. But as the famous ‘4’ emblem is taken solemnly from their wall, Reed Richards takes Johnny’s holographic Last Will & Testament to heart and asks Spider-Man to join their endless quest to build a better world.

 

 

It’s Johnny’s sister Sue who beckons Peter inside and shows him around. Things have changed. For a start they’re now called The Future Foundation with an extended family of waifs and strays, some more clever than others, studying under Reed Richards and brainstorming to solve problems with their fresh new perspectives. For that Peter’s perfect, and Reed’s child-prodigy daughter Valeria has a knack of not only finding solutions but identifying the problems in the first place. And then she just causes some more. She’s discovered what her bad Dad’s been up to and promptly exacerbated his mistake and so made a deal with the devil, Victor von D himself. Doom can’t resist either her singular challenge (once more, the irony!) nor her offer of assistance for he has lost a part of his mind. Fortunately his brain is at least structurally sound, so what they need is a backup.

I can’t tell you how cleverly that’s played – Valeria and ‘Uncle’ Doom are an exquisite double-act; she fearless, he constantly surprised – because it requires Steve Epting’s superb, deadpan comedic timing. His art is a considered joy. The enormous gargoyle Dragon Man cross-legged on a comfy sofa and studying a book, spectacles perched on his purple beak looking like Sage The Owl, is an absolute hoot.

Also, the costumes have changed and change further still, third-generation unstable molecules creating variations on a black and white theme of three honeycomb hexagons or, in Peter’s case, a spider. He’s very much a guest. He’s not the only guest, either. Richards’ father has resurfaced from the timestream thereby altering the family dynamic further still, and then there are those invited by Reed to Doctor Doom’s unprecedented symposium in the Baxter building. Each attendee has been psychologically enhanced by Hickman, one for example with a born-again fervour and another, the Mad Thinker, finally living up to his name. Here he is doing Spider-Man’s nut in:

“An invitation. An invitation! It’s the opening move of the greatest of games – Ask yourself, who’s the opponent, what does he want? Is this his first move, or simply an orchestration to reveal who his opponents are… Oh, so very tricky. An invitation… what could it possibly mean?”
“I think it means you’re invited.”
“Mmmmmaahhhh! No. No. No. No! Foolish pawn. Foolish pawn that doesn’t even know that he’s a piece… Oh, oh… Or maybe you’re something more. Maybe so. Yes, maybe I can use this. You’re probably not even aware of how much he’s given away by sending you… So, reveal all. Tell me – and don’t try and think it over, as I need an untainted, primary response – tell me, what should I do?”
“Oh… I would prefer that you stay at home. Maybe take a bath… Maybe brush your teeth.”
“That’s it! That’s it – I accept the invitation!!”
“… Of course you do.”

Now it’s your turn.

Buy Fantastic Four by Hickman Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1956 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Mike Norton, Yishan Li, Michael Avon Oeming, Paul Grist

Infinite Dark vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti

Little Mama s/c (£17-99, Magnetic) by Halim Mahmouidi

Outcast vol 7: The Darkness Comes s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta

Sandman: Dream Hunters (30th Anniversary Prose Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano

Batman: Damned h/c (£24-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Joker: His Greatest Jokes s/c (£16-99, DC) by various

Immortal Hulk vol 4: Abomination s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

Venom Unleashed vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, Cullen Bunn & Juanan Ramirez, various

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 12 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 2 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Hazuki Minase & Itsuki Kameya

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 3

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week four

August 28th, 2019

Featuring Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve, Luke Pearson, Chino Moya, Tal Brosh, Darryl Cunningham, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Hilda And The Mountain King (vol 6) h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye / Nobrow) by Luke Pearson.

Never threaten a mother’s child; or a child’s mother, for that matter.

It’s a bond that should never be broken.

Welcome back to the wild, rock-strewn countryside of HILDA outside the tall city walls of Trolberg, defended against its indigenous inhabitants with enormous bells, the clanging of which repels those Trolls almost as forcefully as sunlight deters them. Sunlight quite literally petrifies them.

But those same Trolls have been appearing outside their dank, cavernous mountain home in larger numbers of late – in their hundreds, perhaps thousands – and roaming farther afield. Specifically they seem to be drawn, by some compelling inner instinct which they do not understand, to that very city whose human inhabitants, already nervous, are growing increasingly alarmed.

 

 

Well!!!

HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST certainly culminated in quite the unexpected climax, didn’t it?

We’ve never known HILDA end on a cliffhanger before! As a result, insatiably inquisitive explorer Hilda and her more cautious Mum have found themselves in much altered circumstances, utterly bewildered and terribly separated with very little hope – it seems – of reversing their plight.

I’m going to be as elusive as possible about the exact nature of this strange transformation in their lives, but what I can tell you is that Hilda herself is enjoying an enforced holiday in that subterranean stone forest, while Mum and furry-faced family friend Tontu have a rampaging new house guest on their hands.

 

 

Neither party knows for sure what’s become of the other, but both are going to go to the greatest lengths possible to find each other and be reunited using natural curiosity, making what they hope are new friends and learning whatever they can about the Trolls’ history and customs. The Trolls, for example, collect stuff. It’s a recycling of sorts – certainly a more positive pastime than fly-tipping.

“What are all these piles of junk?”
“We gather it from the city outskirts. Things the humans have dumped or don’t seem to need any more.”
“You know vegetables aren’t buried in the ground because people don’t need them, right?”
“Well it’s a funny place to leave them.”

With the mystery and emergency already established at the end of the last volume (and recapped in a handy-dandy, two-page “Previously…”), Pearson makes maximum use of the increased page count this affords to weave in additional dangers and suspicions – on both sides and from multiple directions – and build on what we’ve already established as the Trolls’ nature while subtly but repeatedly emphasising the acute anxiety of separation: the separation of parent and child.

 

 

Everyone I know has an embedded memory or three of being separated from their parents, be it lost briefly in a crowd or a far more protracted affair, and far too many parents I know have experienced the same terror from their own perspective. The vividness of the childhood memories after perhaps decades is a testament to the extent of the trauma. It’s going to resonate with readers, is what I’m saying, and create quite the incentive for families to fly through these pages – they’re gripping!

Hilda and her mother can, if not hear, then at least sense each other calling throughout, but the distance between them is emphasised by the marked contrast in colours. The warm glow of earthy, autumnal colours both within the sanctuary of home and on the pages following the mother’s daylight efforts on the hillside to establish Hilda’s whereabouts are matched once Hilda manages to venture outside the mountain, albeit temporarily at night, for the starlit skies glow a golden brown; but while trapped underground inside the Trolls’ mountain, the colours are cold and empty in greys, green and pale aquamarine, stark white or echoing black.

 

 

Having successfully avoided the biggest spoilers for HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST, then, I leave you with a last illustration, Hilda’s dream-like vision in threatening scarlet, catalysed by the glowing orb which forms her third and final quest to reverse her predicament…

 

 

Whatever can it mean? And will any of them figure it out before the humans scramble up the mountain to attack with their new secret weapon, or the Trolls descend en masse to Trolberg and wreak havoc on the city’s rush-hour traffic and much cherished civic floral displays?

SLH

Buy Hilda And The Mountain King (vol 6) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Reminder: Luke Pearson Signing & Sketching in Hilda at Page 45 Saturday September 7th 2019, 12-2pm

Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Break out the biscuits! Kevin the roly-poly flying pony is back!

“There was a big silver door knocker in the shape of a snake eating its tail. “Stupid snake!” said Kevin. You’d never catch a flying pony doing something as stupid as eating his own tail, he thought. Then he wondered what his tail tasted like and turned round to have a nibble.”

And he’s as peckish as ever.

““Biscuits?” said Kevin, who had just realized that it was the end of Chapter Two already and he hadn’t had any custard creams yet.”

As those who’ve previously perused Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre Section and enjoyed its literary spoils (like Kevin’s last loop-the-loop), both these collaborative creators fire on full thrusters to entertain your young ones by employing everything at their disposal: mystery, mythology, a great many biscuits and cakes, illustrations fully integrated into the text, popular culture, pugs, cumulatively funny linguistic reprises and irreverent attention to chapter breaks.

“…And this is Nobbly Nora, a friendly tortoise. (She doesn’t have anything to do with this story at all, she just wanted to be in a book.)”

 

 

Here both mythology and popular culture are brought to the fore as we encounter more legendary beings from Kevin’s natural home on the wild wet hills of the Outermost West and a spectacularly successful goth popstress called Misty Twiglet whose music videos like ‘Trapped (In A Haunted Wardrobe)’ prominently feature her being trapped. (In a haunted wardrobe.)

Kevin’s comfy straw nest currently sits far from the wild wet hills of the Outermost West atop the flat-roof floor of Max and Daisy’s top-floor flat.

(You try saying that with your fat face stuffed full of Bourbons!)

That top-floor flat has just been flooded with a scream, because Maisy is Misty’s biggest fan, and Misty – it’s just been announced on the TV – is about to move to the home town of Bumbleford! Or rather, just outside it, in the vast gated mansion called Gloomsbury Grange. Will she be seen shopping (spookily) in Bumbleford or getting her hair cut (gelled and sprayed) in Maz and Maisy’s Mum’s hair salon? (Unlikely – it’s also flooded but with water; mermaids are her chief customers.)

 

 

The family’s frenzied debate about whether pop goddesses get their minions to do their shopping or send servants to get their hair cut for them is suddenly, startlingly interrupted downstairs by the arrival in his shiny sports car of Misty Twiglet’s chief minion, Mr Baz Gumption, Superstar Talent Management, with his “shiny jacket and shiny dark glasses, and once he had got over the shock of having a roly-pony flying pony land beside him, he smiled a shiny smile…”

He only wants to buy Kevin for Gloomsbury Grange!

 

 

“How much do you want for him?”
““Nothing!” said Max. “I mean…”
““Kevin’s not for sale!” said Mum.
““He’s our friend,” said Daisy.
“Oh, sure,” said Baz Gumption. “But your friend would be way better off living in Misty Twiglet’s garden than up on your roof.””

Baz Gumption does his best to persuade them with all the amenities on offer, but the family are resolute, defiant, and Baz isn’t accustomed to defiance.

“Baz Gumption scowled while trying to keep smiling, which was an interesting look.”

I love the lightness of Reeve’s quiet critiques, but you won’t like the heaviness of Baz’s response when refused. All it’ll take is a little luring of Max’s star-struck sister then a typically roguish, nay ruthless sleight-of-hand when Maisy and Misty [totally redacted] and Kevin may find his flight quite encumbered!

 

 

La McIntyre’s art is as thrilling and inventive as ever, with lots of sneaky background jokes I’m not going to sign-post for you for fear of spoiling your fun (hint, however: you’re not the only one reading here!), and, as usual, there will be a few familiar faces of former friends, even if one is carefully hidden amongst Misty’s household ornaments.

Poor Kevin’s new straw nest isn’t going to be situated in anything like the idyllic surroundings Baz Gumption promised and McIntyre’s decidedly dismal holding pen looks more like a ramshackle early-to-mid 20th Century zoo enclosure, as inappropriate and inhospitable as the cramped concrete monstrosity I once witnessed polar bears gloomily mourning in. Notice how his water trough is actually a human domestic bath complete with tap appliances!

 

 

I did promise you more mythology too, didn’t I? Reeve and McIntyre have assembled quite the collection of fellow captives, like the Gorgon called Zola who wisely wears sunglasses (more for your protection than hers), a Centaur who I later spotted wearing Cyclops-style shades (nice!) and a cardigan-loving faun called Cardigan Faun. There Reeve excels himself:

“His eyes were the colour of sunlight in autumn woods.”

It’s an evocative enough description for anyone’s irises – but for a sylvan Satyr’s, it’s perfect!

 

 

The title of course is KEVIN’S GREAT ESCAPE, but how can this possibly be facilitated when the mansion is walled, gated and guarded by more than Baz Gumption, and Max and Daisy’s only flying ally finds himself knotted up in netting?! It won’t be easy!!

Especially since Kevin’s priorities are as spot-on as ever:

“I can’t go without my friends.”

Transportation for one will prove problematic (I haven’t mentioned them yet, but you’ll see!).

Some of my favourite art also contains story spoilers, so I’ve reluctantly withheld it, but you wait until you see our roly-poly flying pony soaring above Bumbleford’s country churchyard complete with lychgate from an aerial point of view! Spectacular!

I leave you instead with one of Sarah’s awesome blogs which always come with extra activities (https://jabberworks.livejournal.com/836398.html – there have been will be many more related to Kevin) and this book’s introductory endpapers which are absolutely typical of Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

 

 

I’m surprised any decent home ever let’s them through its front door.

Maybe they get in another way?

SLH

Buy Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c (£6-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Also still available as THE LEGEND OF KEVIN h/c!

Welcome to Stephen’s New All-Ages Taste Test in which I declare that if you can imagine a book being read aloud by Alan Bennett, with his dry yet full-mouthed, fruit-jam-flavoured, deadpan delivery, then you are onto a winner!

So it is here, with the most perfect preamble that I can recall, setting you in very good stead for all that will follow.

“Kevin lives in the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, where he has built a large, untidy nest for himself in the branches of an old oak tree.”

Kevin – if you hadn’t gathered from the so-spangly cover – is a Roly-Poly Flying Pony. As David Attenborough once noted, their nests can be famously dishevelled.

 

 

Kevin comes from the “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains; but somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. This is Important, as you shall see.

“His favourite things to eat are:
“1. Grass
“2. Apples
“3. Biscuits
“… only not in that order.”

Why, Philip, why?

 

 

“Grass is quite easy to come by, because it grows all over the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West. Apples are grown on the trees in the orchards, and Kevin often flies down to eat them. (You can imagine how delighted the farmers are when they see him coming.) Biscuits are a bit harder to get hold of, but sometimes Kevin makes friends with a hiker, and if he’s lucky they share their biscuits with him. So if you ever visit the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, be sure to take plenty of biscuits. Kevin’s favourites are:

“1. Pink wafers
“2. Bourbons
“3. Custard creams
“… only not in that order.”

Reeve is a master of playful repetition and the cumulatively funny joke, and that won’t be the last of his winking, tongue-in-cheek, parenthetical asides, either.

You are now fully prepped for the latest deliciously mischievous all-ages, illustrated and fully integrated prose from the award-winning creators of PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, CAKES IN SPACE, JINKS AND O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR and the creation inspiration that is the PUG-A-DOODLE-DOO BUMPER BOOK OF FUN. Never have I read a funnier kids’ activity book in my astonishingly long life.

It was there that I first acquired the sneaking suspicion that Philip and Sarah were building a subtly shared universe in which – at any unexpected moment! – you might meet much beloved, long-lost friends from previous adventures as guest stars in brand-new ones. Oh, my lovelies, that moment is now! Perhaps Kevin is not alone in living around the nebulous “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West” with its Outermost Coast and Outermost Sea. Who do you think you might become reacquainted with here?!

Clue: please bring shampoo! They’re all stinky and eww!

 

 

The blustery, rain-soaked action begins immediately as a preternaturally turbulent storm blows in from the Outermost Sea, scooping poor corpulent Kevin up out of his messy nest, and sweeping him far, far away to the towns and cities where ordinary people live until he bumps into the side of a very tall building. “Doof”! It’s a good job there’s a balcony.

Inside that building, in its topmost flat, live Max, his dad, his mum and his older sister Daisy who would prefer you call her Elivira, please, because she’s going through her gothic period (don’t we all).

Now, Max had always wanted a pet – a dog or a cat, or a bird-eating spider (guess who suggested that one) – but the flat was always deemed too cramped and tiny, without so much as a garden for even a small dog to do its ‘doings’ in. It’s the perfect size of a roly-poly flying pony, though, right?!

Of course, to begin with Max doesn’t know that it’s a roly-poly flying pony that’s landed like a hefty haggis outside his bedroom window. For a moment he’s fearful that it might be a fearsome polar bear.

“Don’t be silly, he told himself, how could a fearsome polar bear have got all the way up here?”

Or a pony, to be fair.

 

 

McIntyre’s startled, bright white, limp-winged, shivering and sopping-wet Kevin – eyes wide and clueless while caught in the flashlight – is a dripping masterpiece of lost and lonely forlorn fauna and I defy any of you with your melted hearts not to invite the poor creature indoors immediately, towel him down then wrap him in your duvet.

You might want to find him some biscuits.

“Quiet as a mouse, he opened the cupboard, opened the biscuit tin, and took out a custard cream. Then he took another one, because he thought a flying pony as far as Kevin might be able to manage two biscuits. Then he took a third, because he thought maybe he should have one himself to keep Kevin company. (Max was very thoughtful like that.)”

Of course Max’s torch battery is “going” – as in, dying – that’s what torch batteries do. Reeve nails this sort of everyday family life, like the biscuit tin (I’d forgotten we had one of those), Max’s “Swimming Things bag”, and that fact that parents have been saying “Yes dear” while paying no attention whatsoever to what you’ve been saying ever since Gerald Durrell’s mum. I love the animism in Reeve’s weather as well: the way the wind “leaned” against a window, or, later the sunlight coming down in “silvery fingers through the wave tops and tickled the shop signs” (italics, mine).

Ah, yes, the wave tops. I did mention, didn’t I, that this was a preternaturally turbulent storm?

 

 

Well, it was, for it blew in from the wild, wet Outermost Ocean flooding the city from its sewers to its shops, its bike lanes and its bus stops, almost to the rooftops, and sweeping in all sorts of strange sea creatures.

From very first page McIntyre effortlessly integrates her illustrations with the type-set prose so that it is not just a balanced, harmonious whole but a narrative fusion, seamlessly incorporating both into a single fluid stream. Here, however, she instinctively and strategically leaves areas of space in her illuminations, so that the words artfully framed by the sides of the skyscraper, forming what actually looks like substructure to the building!

 

 

Elsewhere she uses colour to consolidate an image so that it has no need for a line-drawn frame, but melds the individual components into a single, unified coherent whole, as if the Sea Monkeys were caught in a mousse mould then plonked out on the page, set in a gelatinous or at least aqueous blue mass.

 

 

Haha yes! The bickering Sea Monkeys are back! Those chittering, chattering, smelly little mentalists from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS have returned to pull faces, blow underwater raspberries and throw whiteboard rubbers at Mr. Mould, Max’s headmaster, now stranded on the school roof. Personally I’d leave him to it, but Max isn’t that sort of a lad, so it’s action stations, rescue elevations once the winged wonder’s got his old strength back. Because, honestly, if Mr. Mould thought that the little human monkeys he was used to teaching were loud and ill-disciplined, then this lot are totally bananas.

“The monkeys threw a few pencil sharpeners and things after him, just to make themselves feel better. Then they went back underwater and started writing rude words on the school walls, and they didn’t even spell them properly or bother to use capital letters and full stops; it was an absolute disgrace.”

 

 

Quite a lot of this takes place underwater as Max attempts to rescue some resuscitating custard creams from the supermarket biscuit aisle, encountering a granny down there in an aqualung, I kid you not. It’s underwater that I first spied our old mate Colin the Crab, who is renowned for getting around, admiring himself in a circular compact’s mirror. Page 67 – perhaps you can spot him earlier?

This is a carnival of cooped up, flood-fleeing neighbours, a romp and a riot, and a minor misadventure for Beyoncé and Neville, two guinea pigs caught in a tide of their own. It’s also a book about newly found friendship – about looking after each other and pulling together whatever the weather, for that’s what Max and Kevin do!

And it’s a little bit about belonging too.

 

 

Kevin, you see, comes from “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains.

But somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. Somewhere that’s way, way beyond.

He doesn’t belong in a city. Not really.

It’s here that Reeve and McIntyre’s early decision to set limits on Kevin’s anthropomorphic qualities pays true dividends. To begin with, it’s comical hearing Kevin do little more than repeat “Biscuits!” or “Custard Creams!” oh so covetously. Oh what a funny fella! But that’s just about the extent of his ability to communicate verbally, and I’m afraid that when you first find the poor pony pining near the flat-roof railing – staring out at the sunset, tail still, ears drooping, without the first clue as to where he actually came from, a full fifteen pages from the end – you’ll know instinctively where his silent animal instincts are taking him, and you might remember that Reeve and McIntyre did this to you once before, in PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH.

The teary, heart-break stuff, I mean.

 

 

For many more reviews, pleases see Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section, especially THE NEW NEIGHBOURS hardcover and THE NEW NEIGHBOURS softcover for which we still have a few signed editions of a completely different bookplate also drawn by Sarah.

SLH

Buy The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Flat Filters (£6-00, self-published) by Chino Moya & Tal Brosh.

One of the best evocations of limbo I’ve ever read.

Not a void, certainly not an apocalypse, but a monotony, an inertia instead.  Yes, if there’s one word which distils the world this young man wakes up to, and the lines and colour with which it’s described, it’s supremely, superbly “inert”.

Here’s how we begin:

“It was too bright already.
“Strange.
“He used to wake up naturally when it was still dark.
“Fuck!
“He’d overslept.”

So far, so familiar – too familiar, perhaps! But the young man isn’t panicking.  He doesn’t appear to have a job. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have a future – he doesn’t reference it once – just a past.

I’m a little creeped out by that already.

 

 

“There was nothing out there.”

There really isn’t. Just one flat tone for sky, and a pale yellow ochre for not-sky.

“The buildings were gone. And the streets.
“The world wasn’t there anymore. Just a vast and empty plain.
“A big flat thing.”

The two colours could not have been better picked, and the wording below is perfect:

“It was made out of artificial sand or soil or something like it.
“The sky looked different too. It was like one specific blue pantone, no shades, one colour that probably had a name made out of letters and numbers.
“Only one colour.”

 

 

His flat – as he left it, falling asleep the night before – is the only thing left. The other apartments are all empty of objects and people and, as I say, there’s no future. Sure, he can squeeze out the single orange that’s left in his fridge, but when he turns on the taps, there’s nothing forthcoming.

Finally, there’s the sound. And, after reading this, it will come as no surprise that Spanish-born Chino Moya is a film-maker.

“And the silence. His flat wasn’t noisy anymore.
“No cars. No trains running right below the window.
“There was no sound at all.
“When there was silence in a film, there was still some sound. A room tone. That was what he’d learnt in film school. Now there was no tone.”

Once more, limbo and inertia.

 

 

Slowly, the young man begins to explore what’s left of his surroundings, assess his situation and reflect on his past.

Past and present, his expression barely changes.

SLH

Buy Flat Filters and read the Page 45 review here

Science Tales s/c (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

New revised edition including an extended chapter on fracking, which for those not familiar with the term is slang for a relatively new gas and oil extraction technique, which has revitalised the fossil fuel industry in recent years. It’s clear this is a topic Darryl is especially passionate about exploring as he goes into great detail eloquently explaining the technique for the lay person, weighing up the technical pros and cons, before getting into his real concerns on the matter. The fact that, despite the genuine possibilities of us now being able to extract vast natural resources which were previously unviable in financial terms, there are some very serious safety concerns, with the potential for causing huge irreparable damage to the heath of a huge section of the population. That these concerns are being blithely swept under the carpet and ignored, indeed actively suppressed.

 

 

And precisely who is doing this, both in the UK and US, which are of course leading the way in fracking? Well, the titans of the gas and oil industry whose very deep pockets have, through campaign donations, other lobbying mechanisms and general old-school-tie chumminess, managed to ensure their chosen politicians of every stripe are steering the debate and more importantly legislation, in their desired direction.

For example, did you know that Lord Howell, an energy adviser at the Foreign Office is also president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which is sponsored by Shell and BP? He’s also George Osborne’s father-in-law, a man who in 2012 cut wind energy subsidies by 10% whilst giving a 500 million pound a year tax break to offshore drilling. Perhaps more shocking is the case of Lord John Browne, 30% owner of the UK fracking company Cuadrilla, who is an unelected member of the Cabinet Office, with powers to appoint non-executive directors to government departments, including the Treasury and the Departments of Energy and Climate Change plus the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as he sees fit. Conflict of interest, or just business as usual, you decide.

It’s an exposé which, whilst not remotely surprising to me, does sicken me even further that despite the appearance of us living in a democracy where we have control over the executive who make decisions on our behalf, supposedly for our benefit, it is a sham that ensures the same old snouts stay in the trough and damn the consequences. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there are any political alternatives available to us under the current voting system which would make a difference, because there are not. The mainstream political parties are all in bed with big business to a degree which is beyond disturbing, but until we start seriously dealing with the culture of corruption that pervades Westminster, that will never change.

So, are we all going to have to deal with the possible consequences to our health and the environment that Darryl outlines, which the fat cats keep lining their pockets? Probably, but as Darryl points out, the truth does eventually out, as the tobacco industry, another group that was extremely adept at manipulating the political landscape, eventually found out to their cost. Hopefully it’ll be somewhat quicker this time. And on a personal note, equally hopefully, Nuclear Fusion projects like the ITER test reactor, scheduled to be complete sometime around 2020, which will produce around 500 megawatts of output power for 50 megawatts of input power, i.e. ten times the amount of energy, will finally ensure the true clean energy boom begins in earnest, and fossil fuels can at last be consigned to history. Here’s hoping.

What follows below is my review of the previous edition without the fracking chapter.

This time around we find Darryl in full-on debunking mode, as he takes on the scientific lies, hoaxes and scams that annoy him the most, those being: electroconvulsive therapy, homeopathy…

 

 

… the moon landing, climate change, evolution…

 

 

… chiropractic…

 

 

… the MMR jab debacle and the general denial of irrefutable scientific evidence. I personally would have included shampoo adverts with their pseudo-science, made up chemical names and definitive surveys based on massive sample groups of errr…100 people, but that’s my own personal bugbear!

It’s well researched by Darryl as in each case he goes to great length to not only show how preposterous the various claims are, but also how just unreliable the particular people making those assertions are themselves, and in the case of climate change the infinitely more sinister aspect of just who it is that’s funding the idiots. But this is no diatribe, instead it’s a meticulous picking apart of the ridiculous web of half-baked facts and fiction that’s often woven around one or two grains of truth, usually completely taken and distorted totally out of context, to prove his case. Anyone who enjoyed Darryl’s previous work, PSYCHIATRIC TALES, which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, will definitely enjoy this. Darryl also employs the same understated clinical yet also slightly comical art style this time around, once again inserting himself as a talking head from time to time for additional narrational emphasis.

Please pop Darryl Cunningham into our search engine for subsequent works, reviewed.

JR

Buy Science Tales s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

A gloriously structured cover heralds the first-ever appearance of the BLACK PANTHER.

Other classic tales include Dr. Victor Von Doom Esq. relieving the Silver Surfer of his Power Cosmic.

“I’ll just borrow this, if you don’t mind.
“I swear to God, I’ll bring it back on Sunday after church.”

The thing is, Dr. Victor Von Doom Esq. doesn’t even go to church on Sundays. He has a lazy old lie-in, eating crumpets and jam.

For somewhat more in-depth analysis of early Marvel adventures and a sizzle of saucy satire, please see the previous three FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTIONS, AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTIONS and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTIONS. If only they’d keep them in print.

Collects FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #52-67 and ANNUAL #4-5, and material from NOT BRAND ECHH #1 and #5

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Grass (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

Heathen vol 2 (£13-99, Vault Comics) by Natasha Alterici

The Collected Toppi vol 2: North America h/c (£22-99, Magnetic Press) by Sergio Toppi

Americana (£16-99, Nobrow) by Luke Healy

Judge Dredd: Small House s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint

Bloodborne vol 3: Song Of Crows s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Alex Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Rachael Stott, various

Jim Henson’s Beneath The Dark Crystal vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Adam Smith & Alexandria Huntington

Batman: Batman Who Laughs h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV &  Jock

Captain Marvel vol 1: Re-Entry s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Carmen Nunez Carnero, Annapaola Martello

Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards, various

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hallum & Paolo Villanelli

War Of Realms: Journey Into Mystery s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Clint McElroy & Andre Araujo

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week three

August 21st, 2019

Featuring Monster, Master, Omnibus & Colour Collections from Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Tsutomu Nihei, Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross.

 

 

To coincide with the release of the all-new MARVELS EPILOGUE (£4-25) which honestly is the most delightful reprise, revisiting the events in UNCANNY X-MEN #98 (see X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION: SECOND GENESIS) surrounding a snow-blown Rockerfeller Plaza just before Christmas from a bystander’s point of view, comes this staggering new edition of the original MARVELS 4-parter plus prologue measuring a full 21 x 14 inches to showcase the gloriously lambent painted art by Alex Ross.

I suspect editorial chose this particular cover to draw the eye upwards, so emphasising its height. I took a photo of it against the regular American-comic-sized MARVELS EPILOGUE so you can see the scale for yourselves.

 

 

A thoughtful and poignant history of the innocent age of the Marvel Universe which would be any newcomer’s perfect introduction to that company’s catalogue, this tells the tale of America at large and a photojournalist in particular witnessing the arrival in their midst of gods, aliens, metahumans, Inhumans, mutants, hybrids and a brave young man in a black-ribbed, red and blue suit who was destined to see the love of his life die after being thrown from a bridge by a sociopathic multimillionaire, her neck snapped by the poor, unfortunate suitor’s very own web line.

At which point the innocence is over.

 

 

Long before Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s exceptionally touching and eloquent INHUMANS, this was one of the very first comics which Marvel released with an impressive degree of literacy, other than projects published on its Epic label, Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL.

In addition, it saw painter Alex Ross’s rise to critical acclaim, and justly so. Unlike many painters who’ve brought their brush to this medium, Alex Ross has a deft, luminous touch which allows your eye to drift across even his most intricate pages as sequential art is supposed to.

 

 

Do please check out Ross’s work in KINGDOM COME and JUSTICE (that one over Dougie Braithwaite’s pencils) – cracking stories, both – and the JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES collection of short stories about whose content I’m a bit more ambivalent.

Along with ASTRO CITY and SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY this has also been Kurt Busiek’s finest hour to date, as he observed the plight of individuals from ground-level, looking upwards into the sky, a perspective Ross was at great pains to duplicate, as the extensive interviews in the back of MARVELS EPILOGUE makes abundantly clear.

It’s a beautiful book which manages, extraordinarily, to recapture the absolute, slack-jawed awe one felt as a four-year-old on first beholding a superhero splashed across a comicbook cover, wondering what on earth these colourful creatures were, and where they came from.

 

 

Which is precisely what an equally gobsmacked and understandably tremulous public does throughout this surprisingly pensive series…

Meanwhile, yeah, this particular edition is absolutely massive.

SLH

Buy Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys Omnibus vol 1 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson.

Back in print in time for the prime-time TV series…

“Unadulterated carnage”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, cheers.

From the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER MAX and WAR STORIES and the artist on Warren Ellis’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN comes THE BOYS, a darkly satirical series of adults-only books from the POV of a Machiavellian British bruiser who is exceedingly angry at everything regarding the nature of above-the-law superheroes, their suffocating male hegemony, and their history of publication along with the genre’s real-life, attendant, corporate propaganda.

Writer and comedian Simon Pegg provides the introduction in which he offers the experience that, as an actor, you rarely switch on the TV to find yourself starring in a series you hadn’t performed for. Errrmmm… will he, now that this has been commissioned for that very medium? He could probably name his price.

I mention all this because Simon Pegg – or rather a character with his exact likeness – is the star of this particular sequential-art show in which his love-life (or the love of his life) is quite literally torn apart by a couple of squabbling super-freaks in the first few pages.

Great timing, that panel, but I’ll leave you to see its exceptional execution for yourselves.

 

 

 

This makes him easy pickings for Billy Butcher, a man with a mission to bring down the high-and-mighty but secretly down-and-dirty super-thugs and super-sluts who enjoy the adulation of millions along with the support of the authorities, yet whose team leaders like The Homelander emotionally and sexually abuse their fresher female and indeed male cohorts.

Together with The Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, The Female and Wee Hughie (the naive Pegg-alike), Billy Butcher embarks on his first new mission to covertly film a team of teens in the all-together, doing the unmentionable.

Billy Butcher’s not going to expose them, though. Not in the way that they expose themselves. He’s going to blackmail them into self-destructing in mass-media public. It’s about making these nasty, hypocritical, conceited celebrities with their polished media profiles squirm and turn on each other.

So it’s still rather topical, I would have thought.

 

 

 

Little is left to the imagination as both Garth and Ennis trawl through an A-to-Z of what Wertham worried about, and which Marvel and DC have never allowed to be shown in superhero comics. It’s little surprise, therefore, that DC – originally slated to publish THE BOYS – dropped this title. The only astonishing thing is that it took them so long.

It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the lascivious relish is infectious, and you wait to see what happens when The Boys start climbing the ladder to take on the equivalent of the Justice League of America.

Now they won’t go down so easily – except on each other.

Collects #1-#15.

SLH

Buy The Boys Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“A cluster ship has appeared in threat range.

“The Gaunas once again threaten us.

“There is no chance for dialogue.

“There is no chance they will let us by, either.

“The one means of mankind’s survival is the stern use of force.”

Fans of the frenzied, over-drive, sci-fi-meets-zombies experience, replete with big motorcycles, even bigger guns (and a talking bear) that was BIOMEGA, fall to your knees and rejoice, because here comes another sci-fi / horror mash-up from creator Tsutomu ABARA / APOSIMZ / BLAME! Nihei that’s pretty much guaranteed to please you.

Firstly, I have no idea why there is the titular and phonetically inaccurate reference to the 2006 Muse track Knights Of Cydonia, given the Muse reference was to the area on Mars where the so-called face of Mars was observed, but still, perhaps Nihei is a modern prog rock fan? And perhaps the translator was unaware of the reference?!

Sidonia is, though, the name of the lone seed ship carrying the future of humanity, floating through the space between galaxies since the destruction of our solar system by weird alien life forms called Gaunas, who bear more than a passing resemblance to the amorphous evil guys from BIOMEGA just in space.

 

 

Enter our hero Nagate, who has spent his entire childhood in the depths of the huge vessel, never seeing another living soul except for his now-deceased relative.

 

 

Forced to the upper levels whilst desperately scavenging for food, he encounters an entire civilisation he was previously completely unaware of. A civilisation fighting for its very existence against the vast alien gooey blob things.

Fortunately for everyone all Nagate had to mis-spend his youth on was a simulator of one of the Sidonia’s transformer-like fighters. Obviously having logged a fair few hours in there, it’s fair to say his giant fighty robot technique is pretty slick. Time for the real thing…

Just great fun, written at a (slightly) slower pace than BIOMEGA, which allows for some character development and intriguing side-plot building.

 

 

The art is pretty much identical to BIOMEGA and there are definitely some amusing little nods to that work, including amongst other things, a talking bear.

 

 

Collects the first two and a half smaller volumes because why not?!

JR

Buy Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 3 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Contains the final two SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c:

“Hey Ramona… have you ever dated anyone that wasn’t evil?”

“Once, this guy Doug. He was kind of a dick, though.”

Yes, he’s back! World class slacker and most oblivious hero of all time, Scott Pilgrim is in for some double trouble!

This volume kicks off with Scott’s birthday and him solemnly vowing to be the best 24-year-old ever, before going straight into evil overdrive with the entrance of Ramona’s — [redacted – ed.]

But will his martial skills be enough to save his relationship with Ramona? Are they even destined to be together after she confesses to an aghast Scott she doesn’t even like his band Sex Bob-omb?

 

 

Is she really the clean-cut heroine she seems to be? Why does her head sometimes start glowing?!! Will Scott ever realise Kim Pine, his oldest and dearest friend, is still in love with him!?!?! Dare they tell Ramona about Scott’s innocent sleep-over as he forgets his key for Ramona’s apartment yet again?!!!

 

 

Will Steven ‘The Talent’ Stills finally finish mixing the Sex Bob-omb album? Just who is Wallace’s mysterious new boyfriend? Can Knives Chau ever get over Scott and stop being so goddamn annoying and clingy? And will Young Neil ever find someone who’ll actually just go out with him?

 

 

Ahhhh, so many different plot strands tangling, weaving and inter-twining this time around as Bryan Lee O’Malley skilfully mixes things up yet again to mangle Scott’s heart-strings as well as our own and leave us wondering exactly what happy ending it is we all want to see.

JR

Scott Pilgrim vol 6 h/c:

From the creator of SECONDS, LOST AT SEA comes the blistering finale!

Flashbacks can come in the form of (highly unreliable!) Memory Cam stills and I think O’Malley invented the lobbed-in labels, the character summary or status boxes which so many other writers have emulated since:

“Julie P (the original and best)”

“Sandra (not the original)”

“Monique (not the best)”

Scott is in love with Ramona and he’s defeated six of her seven evil exes in combat – thereby turning them into a shower of shiny gold coins – with only Gideon to go.

 

 

But for the moment Ramona’s gone missing and it’s left him in a zombie fugue state, dribbling away on a handheld video game.

 

 

Now it’s time for Scott’s own exes to sort the silly boy out in time for Scott, Gideon Graves, Envy Adams and Romona Flowers to have a final showdown while gay ex-flatmate Wallace sits boozed up and rolling his eyes sardonically on the sidelines. There may be casualties: Wallace’s tongue is very sharp.

As for the audience, where would they be without their mobile phones?

“Is that chick a dude?”

“I’m googling her as we speak.”

Fight!

“Is that chick dead?”

“I’m updating her Wikipedia page as we speak.”

Will Scott win through?

He’s almost learned how to tie his own shoelaces…

Plus, he’s finally levelled up, earning the Power Of Love which comes with a flaming sword: +5 for slashiness.

That may help.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Ophiuchus s/c (£14-99, Image) by Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #1 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #2 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #3 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #4 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

Debian Perl Digital Detective Book 1: Memory Thief (£11-99, Lion Forge) by Melanie Hillario, Lauren Davis & Kathryn Longua

Flat Filters (£6-00) by Chino Moya & Tal Brosh

Grimoire Noir s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Vera Greentea & Yana Bogatch

Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c (£6-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

The Night h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet

No Ivy League s/c (£13-99, Lion Forge) by Hazel Reed Newlevant

Rust Belt s/c (£16-99, Secret Acres) by Sean Knickerbocker

Science Tales s/c (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Snow, Glass, Apples h/c (£14-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

Star Wars vol 11: Scourging Of Shu-Torun (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Andrea Broccardo, Angel Unzueta

Stay h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Lewis Trondheim & Hubert Chevillard

Vivisectionary: A Convocation Of Biological Art h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Kate Lacour

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

My Hero Academia Smash!! vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hirofumi Neda

My Hero Academia vol 20 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 91 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week two

August 14th, 2019

Featuring Jiro Taniguchi, Ana Galvan, Tommi Musturi, Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Sky Hawk s/c (£18-99, Fanfare Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi…

“When I was thirteen… I heard the call of Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.
“For three days and three nights, with no sleep or food, I prayed on Paha Sapa, the sacred Black Hills.
“Through deep meditation I communed with a holy power… and was able to have a divine vision.
“It was a message which showed me the path which was to lead my life.
“A vision of the future.
“In my dream I saw a figure which was half man, half horse.
“The creature approached and spoke to me.
“Listen well. You must not paint your face when you enter into battle.
“And, at the end of the battle, you must not take any war trophies from the defeated.
“When you follow this path… enemy arrows and bullets… will only graze you.
“When you lead Oglala warriors into battle, no storm will defeat you.
“And then, in the distant sky where the spirit departed… I saw a pair of shooting stars.
“I could never understand… what that meant for all these years.
“But now, at long last… I am able to understand them.
“Hiko. Manzo. They were you two.”

Jiro SUMMIT OF THE GODS / A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD / A ZOO IN WINTER / FURARI / GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE Taniguichi had wanted to draw a Western for over twenty years, but seemingly it was felt by publishers that there would be little interest from his domestic audience. Until he hit on the idea of incorporating Japanese central characters. Having discovered the first Japanese migrants to the US included some of the formerly powerful Aizu clan he excitedly began to formulate his story. Here’s the Edict from the publisher to educate us further…

“Defeated samurai Hikosaburo and Manzo are exiled from Japan during the Boshin War in 1868 as the new Meiji government took hold of power in the country. They travel to North America and settle in the mountains of Crow territory.

One day Hikosaburo encounters a young native woman who has just given birth hidden in the scrub. Called Running Deer, she tells of how she escaped from two white traders who had ‘bought’ her, and they soon come looking for their possession.

Taniguchi’s well-researched detail and meticulous artwork reveal an accurate portrayal of the ‘Indian Wars’ of the period, including the infamous Little Big Horn encounter, and present a fascinating view of the daily lives and relationships of the Oglalas, and how the code of honour compares to that of the Samurai.”

 

 

It makes such perfect sense, I’m slightly surprised no one had thought of this particular idea before. Though you could argue it is a riff on the 1988 novella Dances With Wolves which spawned the hit film about an American soldier who goes full Native.

As you might expect, Taniguichi executes this story, both in terms of plot and artistically, with the precision of a swooshing katana cleanly removing an opponent’s head from atop their shoulders. Our two rōnin find themselves adrift both culturally and spiritually in this strange new land until their deeply held Bushidō moral code changes the course of their lives forever during a chance encounter. Taken in by the Oglala tribe and finding much in common with their new hosts, Hiko and Manzo are eventually reborn as the warriors Winds Wolf and Sky Hawk.

Unfortunately for them, the American army forces led by one cocky George Armstrong Custer, ostensibly protecting the ever-advancing railroad workforce teams, are about to completely shatter their new found sense of peace.

 

 

Before too long, it begins to dawn on our displaced duo that perhaps they have ended up in another fight which they can’t possibly win…

 

 

“Many warriors are dead. But… we still can’t drive the whites out of the Black Hills.
“From time to time… I no longer understand just what it is I’m fighting against.
“Actually… I think their numbers are increasing.
“It might be that it’s us that are being driven into a corner.
“I can no longer clearly see the shape of the enemy we’re meant to constantly be striking at.
“Maybe because it’s just too massive?
“I can’t help but feel like we’re going to be swept up in a maelstrom of black clouds.
“Right now… it’s like it was back in the past.
“It feels like the battle of Aizu in the Boshin Civil War…
“When we were forced into a siege… and brought to bay.”

“Are you saying this will be a losing battle too?”

“That… I don’t know. But… no more running away.”
“Of course. I’m resolved to that. My bones will be buried here as an Oglala warrior.”

Near note perfect writing as always from Taniguichi, your heart will bleed for the repeated injustices dispensed to the indigenous population in the name of ‘progress’. Still, despite the inevitable conclusion, he demonstrates their stoic resolute heroism and that of Hiko and Manzo as their comrades-in-arms, in the face of the increasingly insurmountable odds. As a way of life at one with nature and practised for generations was summarily destroyed by the hegemonising newcomers with barely an afterthought.

Still, Custer eventually got what he deserved and the Battle of The Little Bighorn as depicted here will have you practically swinging every tomahawk and katana alongside the real good guys as it gradually begins to dawn upon Custer that his enormous ego might just have got the better of him.

 

 

Indeed, his deep-seated arrogance in underestimating the brave warriors deliciously turned out to be the very cause of his not-so-sad demise. It was of course to no avail in the long run, but I’m pretty sure it felt rather good to those involved massacring him and every last man in his command at the time of his fabled last stand. I enjoyed reading this obviously fictionalised take on it immensely too!

JR

Buy Sky Hawk and read the Page 45 review here

Press Enter To Continue h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ana Galvan…

“I think it’s an organisation devoted to planting images in human minds.
“They create distinct masters and project into individuals the image that best fits their memories and obsessions.
“Through a visually transmitted computer virus, based on brain-sensitive algorithms, they continue to insert these made-up memories into the minds of certain people.”
“Well, why are they doing this? Why me?”
“Their viruses only manage to alter the minds of people with deterioration in the left hippocampus, which is where memory and delusion meet. This deterioration is usually caused by an injury or a traumatic experience.
“With this they want to make them go crazy and commit suicide.”
“What?”
“My theory is that they want us to disappear a third of the planet’s population without us noticing. No traces or suspicions.
“For the overpopulation problem, you know…?
“And the most incredible part? The government might be behind everything…”
“But that’s madness.”

 

 

Is it though really…? I mean, if the planet was in serious danger of being overpopulated, I am pretty sure certain governments *might* have some crackpot scheme for dealing with it… On that note, here is the publisher to present their theory as to why it is perfectly plausible to believe Ana Galvan’s theory that the powers that be are out to off a third of us. Though as long that third doesn’t include any discerning comics readers we should be okay…

“Like a candy-coloured Black Mirror episode, Spanish cartoonist Ana Galvan’s English language debut utilizes florescent colours to create a series of short stories that intertwine and explore the dehumanizing effects of contemporary society.

 

 

Galvan’s characters navigate a world where government departments brutalize the people, information is mined like gold and suicide is a tool to manage overpopulation. Galvan’s future is a logical extension of the present, where the malice of large corporations manifests itself in everyday ways.”

 

 

I think the Black Mirror analogy is spot on actually as Galvan just gently stretches the bounds of believability with a kaleidoscopic finger probe to the brain of the reader. And I do mean gently. For this is subtle psychic sinkhole suck-you-in surreal which lures you down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole before you realise what’s happening.

 

 

Artistically this is like a fine blend of Roman VANISHING ACT Muradov, Oliver PARALLEL LIVES Schrauwen and George GHOSTS, ETC. Wylesol. The strict geometry, absence of character facial features and the glorious glowing colours and textures make a very strong impression upon the synapses. Almost as though Galvan is trying to brainwash us readers with her imagery… 

JR

Buy Press Enter To Continue h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Anthology Of Mind (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi…

“The blood of Christ is dripping through my ears.”
“Sit on my face and tell me that you love me.”

“Chess players’ expanded brains are working at top speed.”

Haha, the two pages of ‘Italo Sports’ two panel gag strips had me spluttering my coffee out. Before we go any further, here’s the publisher’s explanation for this bulging bag of mad from one of the most mental minds working in comics today…

“This anthology of short stories looks like the work of many cartoonists but is actually that of Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi. The Anthology of Mind is a tour de force of stylistic exploration and a window into the brain of one of the most creatively fearless cartoonists working today.

‘Style is a form of fear – fear of change, fear of loss, and fear of being different,’ according to the author.

In The Anthology of Mind, Musturi confronts this fear head-on with one of the most vital and visually stunning collections of short comics in recent memory.”

I first came across Tommi Musturi thanks to John Porcellino, who was stocking one of the component parts of what would go on to be collected as the superb THE BOOK OF HOPE. I loved his dry wit, absurdist humour, and indeed his artistic style. So much so, then when he subsequently released SIMPLY SAMUEL, I was a little nonplussed by how different it was, both in art and storytelling terms. I guess I had wanted, and expected, more of the same.

So this collection of material spectacularly highlights I genuinely didn’t have a clue just how diverse Tommi’s output is. His quote above clearly demonstrates the reasoning behind why in 38 stories over nearly 120 pages there is barely a single concrete repetition of artistic style. Yes, there are some variations on a theme artistically, but aside from Bryan Talbot, I am hard pushed to think of such a comprehensively chameleonic creator.

 

 

In terms of storytelling, Tommi clearly has a penchant for the surreal and the absurd and definitely excels in combining the two. I wouldn’t necessarily clarify a lot of this material as an easy read but if you are a fan of the experimental, with heavy emphasis on the mental, I think you will find this anthology highly amusing and wryly entertaining.

JR

Buy The Anthology Of Mind and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Scott Pilgrim lives with his gay housemate, Wallace, for whom dry, sly mockery is a default setting.

Also: taking his pants off.

“Why are your pants off?! Stop taking your pants off all the time!!”
“It’s hot! Also? I’m hot, so enjoy it while you can.”
“Mumble, mumble… scarred for life…”

British readers: ‘pants’ means something different in North America.

SCOTT PILGRIM was the coolest comic on Earth since its very first venture, and if you’ve never tried it, then you need Scott Pilgrim in your life.

There are no exceptions. This means that you’re not one of them.

They don’t exist; you do!

So that’ll be £26-99, please.

Scott is clueless, unemployed and potentially unemployable. For one, his girlfriend’s evil exes are constantly threatening to do Nintendo-style battle with him which can be pretty disruptive to most work schedules.

 

 

Although he’s dated Ramona for three books already, he’s yet to use the “L” word on her.

 

 

Here’s his trouser-less room-mate Wallace again, asking if he’s used it:

“The L-word? You mean… lesbian?”
“Uh… no. The other L-word.”
“…?”
“Okay, uh, it’s “love”. I wasn’t trying to trick you or anything.”
“What? Have I said it? To her? Sort of. Almost. No. Is it important?”
“I don’t know, guy, but your Mom says it to me all the time.”

Wallace takes a big, long slurp from his drink.

 

 

These books have a logic all of their own, for when I say Scott has to battle Ramona’s evil exes in between band practices, he does: using drinks for Level-Ups, gaining Experience Points from work and – if Scott manages to get it together in time – even a flaming sword when he learns The Power Of Love. He’s going to need it as well, as the ominous Gideon sub-plot grows thicker…

O’Malley hasn’t even begun to run out of ideas: Scott’s head poking out from the zip of a small, subspace handbag? Genius! The best book yet, with a joyous and inventive cartooning that gets slicker and slicker.

 

 

Even if Scott doesn’t.

“Where’s Julie tonight?”
“I dunno. She hates me. Where’s Ramona?”
“She’s at home tonight and she likes me very much.”
“Have you said the L-word yet?”
“Why is everyone obsessed with lesbians?!”

Contains SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers 3 & 4.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Fence vol 3 (£10-99, Boom!) by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound And Other Stories (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Gou Tanabe

Lightstep s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mirko Topalski & Milos Slavkovic

The Boys Omnibus vol 1 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys Omnibus vol 2 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, John Higgins

The Boys Omnibus vol 3 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Ryan Ferrier & Freddie Williams II

Amazing Spider-Man vol 4: Hunted s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 1: The Final Gauntlet s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Geoff Shaw

The War Of The Realms s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Attack On Titan vol 28 (£6-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Vampire Knight: Memories vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week one

August 7th, 2019

Featuring Kate Charlesworth, John Allison, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Mark Millar, Rafael Albuquerque, Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno, Butch Guice

Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide (£17-99, Myriad) by Kate Charlesworth.

“FEMINISM IS THE RADICAL IDEA THAT WOMEN ARE PEOPLE”

What a superbly structured, brilliant but biting history and vital entertainment this is!

Shoes! Shoes! Sensible shoes!

You are hereby ever so warmly invited to walk a mile or twenty-six in somebody else’s – Kate Charlesworth’s and the growing LGBT+ community’s – in a personal insight, education and entertainment spanning 70 years from the 1950s onwards!

All education should be an entertainment and this one comes vibrant in colour, comedy and variety without a po face in sight:

Yes, Cinders!” it proudly proclaims on its title page, “You shall go to the Rugmunchers’ Ball!”

It is laugh! It’s a riot! It is a genuine milestone.

 

 

It is a declaration of unequivocal and inalienable pride and ownership, as well as an acknowledgement of childhood innocence and naivety which is overwhelmingly inclusive because, hey, weren’t we all – gay or straight – utterly baffled and confused aged 5, 7, 9 or 11 either by what others have got going on down there or by increasingly wild, schoolyard hearsay when it came to matters of love and sexual congress? Of course we were!

 

 

You’ll be privy to Kate’s own mystification then awkward, uh-oh education; the disinformation then elucidation; timidity, discovery, further confusion and gradually figuring it out. It’s never a straight learning curve, is it? Now imagine all that… before the age of internet information! Before the love that dared not speak its name spoke its name! Before you might know where to go, or whom you could confide in, ever so carefully even those closest to you!

Because ostracism is a bitch, and its prospect’s pretty daunting; potentially even more so when they’re your friends.

 

 

But this is mischievous, it’s irreverent and I did promise you “variety”. I meant it in both senses for as well as a personal reflection – shared between four fast friends in the present day – of growing up gay in sequences artfully differentiated in both line-style and colour, this is a pageant of past performers who paved our way in one way or another (Divine, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Josephine Baker, Tom Robinson, Gay Sweatshop, Rhona Cameron, April Ashley, Dana International, The Pet Shop Boys, Sandi Toksvig, Nancy Spain and so many more) and if you’re a Gilbert & Sullivan fan then Charlesworth pays tribute with her own Three-Act gala performance of several “lost” compositions based on extant tunes which could not be more witty in their word-play, delivery, or in the way that they repurpose each musical play for their larger-than-life stroll down the local dykes’ bar of yore with all its behavioural idiosyncrasies and points or order, characters, customs and politics.

They could take some finding back in the bad old days – and they could be rough!

 

 

Let us be clear, however: there is so much that’s sobering to be learned or recalled about the shit which we’ve been subjected to over these specific decades plus the courageous and enterprising inroads against social adversity and legal persecution / prosecution which pioneering souls far braver than I have turned from vindictiveness, ingratitude or invisibility into official recognition in terms of equality, individuality and outright acclaim.

Take shy Alan Turing, the mathematician who historians now estimate was “personally responsible for shortening the Second World War by two years” with his breaking of the Germans’ Enigma Machine messages. How many millions of lives did he save? Arrested then trawled through the courts simply because he was gay – for being caught having a consensual affair with a 19-year-old man who then robbed him – Turing was sentenced to chemical castration “which made him fat, impotent and, worse, affected his ability to think and concentrate”.

His inability to think and concentrate…

He committed suicide.

“Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially apologised for Turing’s treatment in 2009, and in 2013 he was granted a Royal Pardon. In 2017 this posthumous pardon was extended to thousands of gay men.”

Trenchantly, one of the Charlesworth’s best friends there interjects: “’Forgiving’ us? We did nothing wrong!”

And I adore all this solidarity: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied, plus, plus, plus we are all in this together.

Alan Turing is about to appear on the next generation of £50 notes.

But if the last 50 years has taught me anything, it’s that progress towards that which is even bog-standard enlightenment can never be taken for granted – just look at today’s news – so we still need to stand up and be counted and embrace diversity in all the joy which it grants us otherwise the bullies on the high street, down the back streets, in the media and in legislature win, and we are all reduced to a powerless, unquestioning, homogenous hole.

 

 

Badges! Don’t you love badges?

I do love badges, and Kate Charlesworth reminds us of so many I’d forgotten by scattering them across the nuggets of history interspersed between the autobiographical narrative (where chronologically or thematically appropriate) in single or double-page info-burst collages, mostly line-drawn from photos so as to maintain the mood.

One of my all-time favourites is “FEMINISM IS THE RADICAL IDEA THAT WOMEN ARE PEOPLE”. It’s not a big ask, is it?

My best friend Anita wore a badge proposing that “9 out of 10 men are bisexual”, knowing full well that so many post-punk lads wouldn’t be able to resist declaring they weren’t. “Ah,” she’d smile quietly, delightedly, “Then you must be one of the ONE in 10”.

Also books, plays and films: you’ll have quite the reading list when you finish this, should you want seminal works to watch out for!

 

 

And so to the story of Kate Charlesworth herself, co-creator with Mary and Bryan Talbot of SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE and full creator of Aunty Studs, jacket-studded star of the strips which she sold to City Limits then later The Pink Paper, and from which she derives her Twitter handle.

She was born in Barnsley, Easter Sunday 1950, when the nurse was said to say:

“’The child that is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, good and gay!’”

Sometime in the 1980s, and her Mum’s leafing somewhat unhappy through the family photo album:

“Oh, well. At least you were good.”

They probably need to have that conversation. Or perhaps it’ll be best if they didn’t.

 

 

Kate’s early years are narrated in soft, grey, pencil-and-wash focus with delicate colours picking out details as she brandishes wooden swords, rakes saws across lawns, admires military parades or bangs nails into planks to fashion a carpentry reproduction of the HMS Birmingham. Mum (Joan) isn’t impressed but Dad (Harold) is much more relaxed.

“Nay, she’ll be reyt!” is his cheerful refrain.

Then there’s the secret stuff you do with in the shed, tent or some other sort of den. You didn’t?! I did! Kate makes Colin scream. “I was always hands-on.”

School years with their inevitable, attendant humiliations are rendered as a girls’ comic complete with their telling Ben-Day dots, her teen wardrobe playfully parodied as a paper-doll page. Gradually, as Charlesworth grows older, the pencils become sharper then delineated in ink, the memories perhaps more permanent, clearer and less fragmented.

 

 

Subtly, this helps differentiate between the time periods as an intriguing, wider, substantial, troubled and at times troubling family history unfurls, going all the way back to Kate’s maternal Grandma, thence forward once more to her Mum. Memories of Dianna Rigg in ‘The Avengers’ catalyse another, much later on, during a visit to see her perform in a musical:

“Love, loss, vaudeville. Pain, angst, tears.”
“Why d’you always have to say something miserable, Kathryn?”
“It’s Stephen Sondheim, Ma! It’s the law! Besides, I’ve already seen it three times.”

During these many mother-and-daughter outings in all kinds of environments, mother Joan can flip swiftly from disapproval to animated enjoyment, depending on what’s distracting her. Of Diana Rigg, strutting her high-heeled, split-dress stuff, she cannot help but declare,  “Well! She’s certainly managed to keep her legs!”

And it seems a puzzle because Joan’s reactions are unpredictable, all over the place, basking in company you’d suspect she’d flinch from, yet at other times growing distant, walling herself off….

Anyway, eventually it’s off to art college in Manchester during the late ‘60s and it’s time for family to take a temporary back seat while fresh friends are made, digs are dug or not dug (and so swiftly swapped), and all the metropolis has to offer is explored along with Kate’s tentatively emerging thoughts and feelings.

 

 

That we begin the graphic novel in Teneriffe, 2016, with Kate hooked up not with Ness but Dianne (and, along with friend Wren, all basking joyfully in the brightest of rainbow-coloured combos) cleverly adds a level of eager anticipation on our parts, as well as the certain knowledge that there is a whole lot yet for Kate to enjoy and endure. Most of life comes with mixed feelings. And yeah, it’s pretty eventful!

 

 

There’s a whole career to come involving design, animation, comic strips… romances and relationships to be cautiously explored in all their up-and-down diversity… movements to emerge including CND, anti-apartheid and gay liberation in all its multiple facets from Stonewall and Sappho magazine (run by the ever-inventive Jackie Forster) to the first times that the love which dare not speak its name nor certainly appear on national television without being cushioned in camp finally did so in the form of soap-opera kisses and Gaytime TV, “a queer take on daytime programming”… and inevitably, unfortunately, the most horrific adversity to be challenged.

Although I’m not at all sure that “adversity” is adequate to describe the detonation of the then-fatal ‘80s AIDS epidemic which ripped through our individual lives and the gay community, robbing so many individuals of dozens of friends. It ignited and renewed an even more vicious, physically violent homophobia whose flames were fanned by opportunist politicians and Christian clergy in collusion with the media, were institutionalised by the likes of Manchester Police Chief James Anderton, and were then legislatively endorsed and enforced by the Tory government of the day in the form of Clause 28 which became Section 28, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declaring:

“Children who need to be taught traditional moral values are being taught that they have the inalienable right to be gay!”

Which I do, thanks very much.

It’s all documented here, with real headline quotes – so many duplicitous – that will make your skin crawl.

 

 

But you know what? We did stand up and were counted, including the comics community: Alan Moore, Debbie Delano and Phyllis Moore invited all their top-tier comicbook-creator pals to contribute to their Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia anthology. More vitally, the Terrence Higgins Trust was born to educate the public, confidentially test and treat those diagnosed as HIV-positive, the Red Ribbon Project gave everyone the opportunity to show public solidarity against a prejudice so severe that many lost their jobs and – no small act, this – Chief Anderton’s daughter was so ashamed of her father that she outed herself in the News Of The World.

Its headline was not censorious but relieved, even celebratory, iconoclastically co-opting the language of organised religion’s venomous hatred to declare:

“HALLELUJAH! Anderton’s daughter is a dyke” 

That’s surprisingly supportive, isn’t it?

There’s so much more besides inside to surprise!

Most especially this, oh so much this: SENSIBLE FOOTWEAR carries one heck of a personal punchline which – unexpectedly, startlingly – resolves so much of what’s said before. Families can we well-funny things, can’t they?

Posy Simmonds MBE, creator of graphic novels TAMARA DREWE, CASSANDRA DARKE et al declares:

“A stunning achievement – as a graphic study of LGBT history, and as a memoir of growing up gay from the 1950s onwards. Kate’s fluid and tellingly detailed drawing reveals not only the frustrations of and traumas of lesbian life, but also the laughter and camaraderie… and a glorious cavalcade of gay icons.”

For further reading, please see Page 45’s LGBT+ non-fiction and Page 45’s LGBT+ fiction

SLH

Buy Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 8: The Case Of The Modern Men (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni Press) by John Allison…

 

 

“Heh! What a mess! They’re great, these Chinese bikes, until you finally decide to ride them.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Mods, coming around again! Takes me back to my days working at the Kaufman in ’61.
“I’d been a teddy boy, most teds hated mods. But I didn’t care.
“The girls! Pointy bras, hair lacquered just right, paradise for a lad.
“The lads were the purists and snobs, but at least they had manners.
“We’d have all the villains in there too.
“The Wessex Brothers. Bonnie Prince Gordon. Tony Crow and his mother!
“Never any trouble, or if there was, it took place out the back.
“They all loved jazz, see?”
“But can you fix it?

“Grandpa’s in his anecdotage. Stories only stop for toilet breaks.”

Haha! I feel that is how John Allison must work sometimes to put out the amount of material he does. Right around the clock only stopping for the call of nature… And I bet even then he’s plotting whilst plopping… Still, this particularly webbery material is from 2014 I think, and I make it there are still three more collected case volumes to come, I think, so we needn’t panic just yet. Huzzah!

Anyway, the kids are back and so is mod. Yes, all crazes come around again eventually and our gang of sleuths just carry on aging disgracefully, now firmly in the grip of adolescent hormones. Well, all the boys at least, who are now finally starting to display some fashion sense and even a sharp haircut or two in a feeble attempt to attract the attention of the ladies. Just in time for the sophisticated female French exchange students to arrive and turn everyone’s world upside down…

 

 

There’s not so much of the supernatural testing Tackleford in this case, aside from the haunted scooter responsible for decapitating multiple King Mods from the sixties onwards, that is…

 

 

No, causing most of the consternation this time around is sassy Camille Duplass, staying with little Claire of the lisp…

 

 

… who harbours a possibly spurious long time grudge against Mimi…

 

 

… residing with Charlotte Grote, who is of course, more than happy to help, errr insist… that Mimi tries to settle the score with the wannabe upstart Queen who also wants to reine (sic) over the English Mods. Which of course only succeeds in enraging Camille even further…

 

 

As ever, I find myself marvelling at the near continuous stream of wittiness that flows from John’s mind. Every page, nay panel, well in fact pretty much every single speech bubble in BAD MACHINERY is packed with the trademark gently surreal humour that makes this series just such a merrily mirthful delight to read.

 

 

We know the main cast so well by now John is able to get fully freewheelin’ with the dialogue, the in-jokes, frequently going on the most delightful round the back of the bike shed diversions before always bringing it back to a chuckle inducing climax with the pithy punchlines that punctuate practically the end of every page.

He is a comedy genius. Perhaps the very finest in comics. I would happily argue his case there. I will be so, so sad when all this material is finally collected and the series complete. The same as with GIANT DAYS… sob… which is rapidly heading to a conclusion.

But fret ye not, fans of John’s brilliant brand of surreal British farce, because there is a new series entitled STEEPLE about to begin! It is only slated to be a five issue mini-series, mind, but we will take what we can get!

JR

Buy Bad Machinery vol 8: The Case Of The Modern Men (Pocket Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Prodigy s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque…

“Would you be offended if I said this is the most ridiculous stunt you’ve pulled in all the time I’ve worked here, sir?”
“Too late, Candice. I’m afraid the words have already left your lips.”
“Should I run through today’s main requests?”
“Please do.”
“First is from the Australian government, and they want you to investigate a series of weird materialisations they’ve been having.
“Second is from La Folle Journee in Nantes, asking if could compose a new classical overture for their festival in July.
“Third is a brand-new stunt challenge where you drive a car off the roof of our Berlin office, and land on a specific floor on the building opposite. Blindfolded, if you’re feeling brave enough.”
“Is this from that same kid again?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Well, tell him it’s a yes and the others too. I haven’t slept in over a month, and I need something to exercise my brain cells a little.
“I’ve written three plays, designed a new telecommunications system and invented a polymer that keeps food fresh for a century. I also grew the company thirty percent last night, but I’ll slit my wrists if I have to look at another spreadsheet.
“These materialisations sounds interesting. Tell Australia we’re firing up the jet.”

The only thing more annoying than a cocky know-it-all, is a really, really cocky know-it-all. And yet, despite being an immense show-off of the very highest order Edison Crane is actually quite the likeable character. He might even be capable of running a comic shop…

Fortunately for Edison, his primary concern is merely an imminent extra-dimensional invasion aided and abetted by a secret cabal who have been preparing for this very moment for thousands of years. Well, there is also that extinction level asteroid which is going to plough into the Earth that he’s promised to devise a solution for, but that’s seventeen years away so he can just let his subconscious mind keep working on that minor problemette in the meanwhile…

Well, following on from the exceptional MAGIC ORDER, that most relentless of comics writers Mark Millar is back yet again, and once more he has penned a self-contained piece of action comedy gold. You will find Edison Crane as annoying as he is enchanting certainly, he’s like Stephen Hawking crossed with James Bond, as he flits around the globe from glamorous but deadly location to location in search of clues as to how to save the day.

 

 

With panache obviously! Just saving the day in a humdrum run-of-the-mill fashion wouldn’t do at all now would it?!

 

 

Along the way there’ll be idiots who think they can outwit him, of course, for the cabal is well aware that Edison Crane is the only person who could possibly stand any hope of stopping them. He might even let them think they have outwitted him in true cocky know-it-all fashion…

Much like James Bond, certainly circa Roger Moore era, the plot is delightfully preposterous, the stunts truly over-the-top ridiculous, and the one-liners wincingly hilarious. If you enjoyed THE SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN you’ll definitely get a spinning, twirling flying head kick out of this.

Rafael AMERICAN VAMPIRE Albuquerque, who has worked with Millar before on the Forrest Gump-esque superhero parody HUCK, provides equally non-stop kinetic, action-packed art.

 

 

I’ve always thought he does a great snidey bad guy face too and here is no exception as Edison Crane’s private school bête noire turns out to be the loony tune in question.

 

 

Albuquerque also does a great snidey bad guy who’s just realised his plans of world domination have been totally thwarted by a cocky know it all face too. With panache…

JR

Buy Prodigy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Scott is a clot. He really is. He’s a total dumpling, and in terms of a Chinese take-away, dim doesn’t even begin to sum the lad up.

He is kinda cute, though, and as the series kicks off, Scott is living with gay housemate Wallace for whom sly, dry mockery is a default setting. They’re so poor that they even share the same bed. But Scott sleeps soundly until this girl called Ramona comes skating through his dreams. She’s a delivery girl and as you well know the quickest way from A to B is to skate through someone else’s dreams, right…? Then Scott meets Ramona in his waking life, falls head over heels in whatever the hell that thing is (he may figure it out eventually) but is casually informed that if he wants her as a girlfriend he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes in combat!

 

 

Truly a unique series with a heart of gold, and a wit and a Nintendo logic all of its own, there is not a single comicbook reader who could fail to fall in love with Scott, Wallace, Ramona or Bryan himself. O’Malley’s visual gags, unique to the medium, keep tumbling onto the page.

Unlike the six SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers, these three 2-in-1 editions boast no behind–the-scenes extras, just ALL the comics, their comedy genius, plus an innovative, thick-book spine mechanic which we’ve never encountered before.

Of Scott Pilgrim vol 2 h/c I wrote:

Seminal series about the most sensitive, caring, sharing boy in Christendom.

“Um, listen… I think we should break up or whatever.”

WHAT?! No level-up points you, young Scott!

Nathan Fairbairn has done the impossible: taken Page 45’s all-time favourite black and white series and enhanced it with colour. Oh, the blasphemy of it all! But it looks so good and it feels so right. Witness that rain-soaked night with the puddles on the pavement: you can almost hear the downpour and smell its wet-dog fur! And then there’s the subtle reflection of Ramona’s fuscia leggings!

 

 

Anyway: Kim Pine. She was beautifully portrayed in the film – I don’t think you could have cast a better Miss Mardy glowering over the drum kit – but woefully cut in terms of screen time. Well, it wouldn’t all have gotten too complicated…

 

 

Here: IT GETS COMPLICATED!

Kim Pine, you see, was always a major player in the comicbook series and now you’ll be privy to her full story.

Previously in SCOTT PILGRIM:

To continue dating Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes in combat, leveling-up Nintendo-stylee as he does so. BUT: Ramona isn’t the only one who’s had a complicated love life, and – Knives Chau aside – they all seem to end up in bands! Plus: is Scott finally going to ditch Knives Chau? And if he does so, did he actually pay attention to her name?

 

 

In fact does Scott pay attention to anyone or anything ever?!

Scott…?!

Oh, good grief. Too busy fussing about his hair, I expect.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Elektra: Assassin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz –

Deadly but beautiful ninja action from 1987. Bill’s art begins to approach the wild invention of STRAY TOASTERS with lashings to photocopies, splayed paint, collage, stickers and time-saving short cuts.  Frank’s splintered storyline uses multiple voices to give a sense of confusion in both the narrative and their own minds.

We begin with Elektra escaping from the asylum, controlling her memories and trying to keep the ninja training at the forefront. Throughout the book, this discipline is responsible for many great plot twists – mind-swapping, lightning-quick reflexes, mind-control, everyday objects used as weapons. There is a great beast looking to bring the destruction of the world by controlling the mind of the next president of the United States and Elektra must stop him. Although this was published by Epic, it references Miller’s earlier DAREDEVIL storyline but the only Marvel bleed-through we get to see is a big-gun-obsessed Nick Fury along with several disposable S.H.I.E.L.D operatives.

MAS

Buy Elektra: Assassin s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Invaders vol 1: War Ghosts s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Carlos Magno, Butch Guice…

“But my power is even greater than that. My reach, farther.
“Don’t believe me? Well, listen closely…
“… Because the sea has secrets.
“I’ve lived a long time, Karris.
“I’ve experienced great losses… great victories…
“But I’ve learned from them.
“And now, finally, I have a plan.
“Nobody needs die in battle ever again.
“For why would there be battles if we no longer have enemies?
“Yes, the sea has secrets. And I am the sea…”

Hmm… well, there is a certain way you could take Namor’s monologue. I did, and I was wrong!

Chip Zdarsky, currently one volume in to a so far excellent and pleasingly thoughtful run on Daredevil (DAREDEVIL VOL 1: KNOW FEAR S/C) turns his pen to the heroes that battled and battered the original goosesteppers back in the day.

 

 

With a story told in two time periods, both in the midst of their World War Two comradeship-in-arms and now firmly set against each other in modern day, well, stroppy pants Namor versus everyone else, it is all about the ghosts of the past haunting the present. And Namor losing the plot, again…

 

 

However, like he says, he’s not just throwing his toys out of the pram and blaming it on a bad migraine as per usual, he does have a plan, and surprisingly dastardly it is too. Actually, I say two time periods, it is in fact three, because what does a young Professor X, cropping up before he’d even assembled any X-Men at all, have to do with Namor’s mental maladies…? Lovely bit of Marvel Universe retconning going on there.

Nice, easily distinguishable appropriate art from Butch Guice handling the period material and Carlos Magno handling the modern day matter.

 

 

The latter is decent enough, but Butch Guice as ever is superb. He did some of Ed Brubaker’s DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA run, along with Steve Epting, and it was actually Brubaker and Epting’s very enjoyable MARVELS PROJECT that Guice’s work here made me think of, for reasons of period and tone.

 

 

I’m sure it wouldn’t sell, but on the basis of this I’d love to see Zdarsky and Guice tackle an entirely period Invaders run, or at least a mini-series.

 

 

Or better yet, have a go at something a bit more inventive and imaginative like the MARVELS PROJECT. On that point, the shortly to be offered as a collection SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY telling the story of a Peter Parker who actually ages through the decades penned by Zdarsky is really rather good.

JR

Buy The Invaders vol 1: War Ghosts s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

 New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Me, Mikko And Annikki (£22-99, North Atlantic Books) by Tiitu Takalo

Press Enter To Continue h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ana Galvan

The Anthology Of Mind (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi

Thief Of Thieves vol 7: Closure (£14-99, Image) by Brett Lewis & Shawn Martinbrough

Walking Dead vol 32: Rest In Peace (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Aliens Resistance s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Robert Carey, Dan Jackson, Roberto De La Torre

The Complete Future Shocks vol 2 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Alan Grant, John Wagner, more & Dave Gibbons, John Higgins, more

Aquaman vol 1: Unspoken Water h/c (£22-99, DC) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Robson Rocha

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 2 s/c (£24-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Cliff Richards, various

Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross

Old Man Quill vol1: Nobody’s Fault But Mine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks &Robert Gill, Ibraim Roberson

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Legend Of Zelda vol 15: Twilight Princess vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

Luke Pearson signing HILDA at Page 45 on Saturday September 7th 2019, 12 to 2pm!

August 5th, 2019

September 1st 2019 sees the publication of HILDA AND THE MOUNTAIN KING, the sixth all-ages HILDA graphic novel from Nobrow Press.

We Are Excited!

To celebrate, the creator Luke Pearson has kindly and enthusiastically agreed to entertain families (and pensionable devotees like myself) by joining Page 45 for a two-hour weekend signing and sketching session for FREE!

You’ll have to pay for the books, though, obviously.

The time: 12 to 2pm
The date: Saturday September 7th
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY
Admission: Free!

No tickets, no fee, just turn up, all agog, and be charmed.

Thanks to Flying Eye / Nobrow Press we also have new HILDA postcards and bookmarks to give away on the day, along with the publisher’s poster-brochures and much more besides!

“Can We Reserve Copies, Stephen?”

Yes, you can and you probably should!

 

 

Demand may exceed supply, but you can guarantee your copies of HILDA AND THE MOUNTAIN KING on the day by clicking on that link, ordering in advance and selecting “Collect In Store” with no postage fee then find it ready and waiting for you on the day!

Equally, you can reserve copies of all five of the previous HILDA graphic novels by clicking on THAT link, selecting the relevant books (each of which we’ve reviewed!) and pre-ordering in exactly the same way so they’re there on the day! Hooray!

“I so want stuff signed but I live in the Sudan!”

Hot, hot, hot!

The good news is that We Ship Worldwide!

Order any of those books at the links above before September 3rd 2019 (so we can order more in if necessary) and add “PLEASE GET THIS SIGNED BEFORE SHIPPING” in the comments box and it shall be done! Similarly if you select “collect in store” with “THIS IS FOR THE LUKE PEARSON SIGNING” then we will add that to the signing stash too.

No sketches, I’m afraid: for sketches you need to turn up to the signing itself!

 

Luke Pearson (with Philippa Rice). Photo by Stephen circa 2011

 

For all queries please phone Page 45 on (0115) 9508045.

Cheers,

Stephen

You are so welcome!

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