Reviews September 2014 week three

September 17th, 2014

I.N.J. Culbard has kindly agreed to sketch in all pre-orders for H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Due mid-November).

 - Stephen digressing from Abnett & Culbard’s Wild’s End #1

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“2011 was a year of travel! Through coincidence, work, and luck, I was offered opportunities to take trips. I took as many as possible. Recovering from heartbreak, I was determined to spend my travels having adventures and being a free agent.
“Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles. Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… or give us a glimpse of how it can be…”

I do love a good travelogue! Here Lucy Knisley stretches her wings and heads to Europe in search of adventure, and perhaps a little romance. Well actually there’s definitely going to be romance as she knows she’s meeting up with a boy called Henrik in Sweden, whom she recently made the acquaintance of at a fancy dress party in her home town of New York and was instantly smitten. Combined with a comics convention in Norway that she’s been invited to as a guest of honour, stops in glamorous cities like Berlin and Paris, plus a road trip to meet up with her mother and some of her friends who are housesitting in rural France, it sounds like the perfect cure for a broken heart.

She’s nervous about her trip, though, both in the practical and emotional sense, leaving her apartment, and cat, in the care of her recently exed boyfriend. They’re still good friends, but it seemingly leaves her unsure of whether she’s moving on or perhaps holding on. Sounds like she needs a holiday!

 

Cue much sight-seeing and smooching as she takes in some European culture, and allows herself to fall in love at least a little, as readers will with her. She’s honest and heartfelt about her emotions without being remotely angst-laden or schmaltzy. Fans of Lucy’s previous work FRENCH MILK will undoubtedly see the leaps and bounds she has made in terms of her storytelling and art, whilst refreshing our mental palettes for the obvious passion she has for her cuisine and gourmet ingredients, also amply displayed in her most recent previous work RELISH.

JR

Buy An Age Of License: A Travelogue and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple.

“In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios.”

Crikey.

This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.

Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It’s how they reproduce.

The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.

The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.

The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards.  They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.

 

Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis – a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero – struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis’ where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.

When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows – the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from – stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.

“The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
“I tried, but couldn’t close my eyes.
“We weren’t supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
“Something left a back door open.”

As I say, crikey. We haven’t even touched on adult Sherwood’s drunken self-loathing.

“Jesus, I really have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it.”

This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don’t have time and neither do you.

The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies’ HQ and Olweyez’s “Hole” of silos and ducts and The Scientist’s Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.

The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you’ll find it amplified exponentially here.

The Wrenchies’ behaviour as a gang – their levels of respect and appreciation for talent – is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:

“Ooooooh, COOL!”

Everyone loves an artist, right?

SLH

Buy The Wrenchies and read the Page 45 review here

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho…

“Ok, people. It’s new and it’s in 30 days. Thoughts?”
Hot. Nine to twelves is a great place to expand their brand. That segment is really opening up. I can get Liz at ChildLike to put together a focus. We’ll get specifics.”
“Right. And parents are a non-starter here. Obviously we’re doing placements, but how many blocks are we talking about? kTV? Street teams? I’d do games but that’s still iffy with girls. Print?”
“Print is dead. And TV is dead. I say we keep building something viral. We’ve been having some fun with Twitter later. But we need a new meme. A new story.”
“Corrina?”
“How about “Daddy says I smell special?”

“It’s perfume. For little girls. For little nine-year-girls.”

“Well, that was a bit awkward.”

Ha ha, advertising people. I’ve always had the strange feeling with the few I’ve met that they’ve sold so much bullshit to so many people, they’ve actually started to believe their own hype, in that they are a vital cog in improving people’s lives by bringing to their attention things people absolutely need to feel happy and fulfilled. Deep down, I’m sure they probably know that’s absolute nonsense, but if they admit it to themselves, well then how can they keep up the whole charade of what they do, pushing endless inanity to other people?

And so it is with Corrina Park… With a degree in English literature she always imagined that her first job at an advertising agency was merely to get some life experience and pay off her student debts before moving onto her dream career as a successful novelist. Five years later and she’s in a rut, both professionally and personally, and it’s becoming rather apparent to those around her. Her one outlet, to make herself feel at least a little alive, is shoplifting from her local convenience store. Nothing large, just the odd magazine here and there. She’s knows it wrong, but she manages to justify to herself regardless.

The shoplifting element is merely an aside to this work, as it happens, though it does contribute a pivotal moment when her pilfering is finally discovered. What this really is about is being at a crossroads in life, and having the mental strength to make the correct decisions that will keep you moving forward emotionally, rather than merely treading water and stagnating unhappily. Which is something everyone will be able to relate to, I’m sure. You’ll find yourself rooting for Corrina as she struggles with the difficult decision of whether to give up the apparent safety net of a secure if unfulfilling job, to pursue her dreams.

 

 

It’s certainly impressive writing from Michael Cho, but the art is even more so. If you’re a fan of Darwyn PARKER Cooke, the comparison will be immediately evident, even down to the use of a single colour alongside black for shading. Though whereas Darwyn usually picks blue or brown to provide an appropriately pulpy noir feel, Michael has gone for a pastel pink that is just perfect for this work, which is obviously completely different in tone to Cooke’s crime joints. From the endless bustle of the big city to the silent, lonesome box of Corrina’s apartment, the art is awash with exquisite detail. A genuinely uplifting read which I enjoyed immensely from start to finish.

JR

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

Wild’s End #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

While we speak of the prolific craftsman known as Nottingham’s I.N.J. Culbard, the man has kindly agreed not only to sign but to sketch in all pre-orders of his forthcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Actually due mid-November.) Ian’s in so much demand that he cannot find time to hit the American comicbook convention circuit but, since we ship worldwide, this would be the perfect opportunity for those on t’other side of the pond to get a free sketch.

End of blatantly self-serving Public Service Announcement.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES #1 and DARK AGES #2 (both still in stock at the time of typing, #1 reviewed with interior art) a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries were wishing for war and got what they wanted. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different.

The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms. Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monocled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical navy-blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage, but agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover.

The night before Fawkes and chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence, and only Slipaway gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Arrant, Minks and Slipaway set off to investigate, something stirs at Shortmile End and heads for Mrs. Swagger’s cottage.

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first episode, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and a map at the back which has aged at the edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

It’s also very, very English. Not British – specifically English – with a fabulous sense of both time and space.

SLH

Buy Wild’s End #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown (vol 3) #1 (£2-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

From the writer of LAZARUS. Brits: for flop, read “dive”.

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. This time around, after the frankly odd artwork of STUMPTOWN VOL 2 which felt like an increasingly surrealist experiment (STUMPTOWN VOL 1’s art by the same artist was tremendous strangely enough), he’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, currently also illustrating Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. Issue one concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but I’m sure there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional elements again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key components of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for less gritty and more colourful, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

JR

Buy Stumptown (vol 3) #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, SAGA and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, this new edition reprints the first two softcovers.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhages in an instant. Think about that – Vaughan certainly has.

“495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners. In the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labour force is still alive..”

Then there’s the religious and governmental significance of this sudden shift in power. Oh yes, and the military. Planes drop out of the sky; the fields, cities, roads and oceans are full of corpses. And although this is itself a damning indictment of the current state of gender play, if you think that the world would be a more peaceful place with women in charge, this series soon puts paid to that. Amazon cults emerge, severing their left breasts, seducing the impressionable and imposing their own bigoted militancy on others. Others wrestle for power, and it’s up to one agent and a lone scientist to escort the sole surviving males – escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey – to a laboratory where the doctor was working on an illegal process she suspects had something to do with the catastrophe when she tried to give birth to her own clone.

An earlier work than EX MACHINA, SAGA or even PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, although some of the dialogue reeks of exposition in the first half, I can assure you it improves swiftly and dramatically, plus Vaughan follows up on more repercussions than so many would have thought of.

The pace of the plot – the twists and the turns – constantly kept me on my toes, and Vaughan really knows when to slip those surprises in. He also threw characters down some unexpectedly dark dead ends, including the protagonist’s sister, and here introduced a town whose inhabitants share a secret they cannot afford to divulge.

Then there’s the matter of a space station, manned when disaster struck but unable to make a safe re-entry. Did the dudes drop dead there? Toss in international espionage, a missing girlfriend and a mother at the top of a precarious political ladder and you have a recipe for ramifications it took Brian K. Vaughan 75 issues to cook through.

SLH

Buy Y – The Last Man Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp ~

On the cover you’ll see this book has a “suspicious” leaf motif; on the back, a green and white pill. Why?

Kazahaya Kudo works at Green Drug pharmacy with a tall moody feller called Rikuo and their boss, Kakei. Kakei took them both off the streets, gave them a place (the storeroom) and now they earn their keep filling shelves and sweeping up. Or at least that’s how it seems to outside world. When the doors at Green Drug close, Kazahaya and Rikuo really start to pay the rent. By going on secret paranormal missions for their boss and filling out prescriptions for people with “special ailments”. Things that cannot be cured with conventional medicine.

Oh! The two young bucks have strange, psychic powers too, which kind of helps. Although the plot seems kinda throwaway (which they often do), CLAMP have a great knack of leaving things unsaid or unexplained. Like the guys’ powers, the origins of which will probably be explained later on. With much dramatic posturing and a flurry of multiple close-ups/speedlines. Or the fact that almost all the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.

You might want to check out TOKYO BABYLON as well on that score.

I love the design with this book, lots of nice green on black. The suspicious leaf motif from the logo pops up again throughout.

TR

Buy Legal Drug Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love it.

Short strips merrily defiling innocence on the internet with thirty additional episodes here deemed too way awful for such webular exposure* plus The Hot Date dinner disaster chews-your-own-adventure story.

Instinctively I turned to Page 45 – and you should too, for all your comicbook cravings – and what I found there was so appallingly that I sobbed with laughter:

“You’ll be a big movie star, baby! I see Oscars and Tonys in your future!”
“Where do I sign?”

… he cries gleefully. Later:

“Okay, Oscar and Tony, you’re up!”

I could not possibly even imply the punchline, but infer what you will. The look on the poor lad’s face as he contemplates the nature of niche markets…

Its closest comparison point is the PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP ALMANACK which also straddles the fine line at times between that which is inarguably either spot-on observation of some humans’ nature or the most wittily rendered, left-field expression of a very real phenomenon and that which should perhaps have been left on the cutting-room floor. See also Ivan Brunetti’s HO! If you’ve the stomach for it.

* I am not even kidding you.

SLH

Buy Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren…

So, just when think I can’t enjoy this title even more, it steps up the action and drama even further. Quick recap… the world has quite literally gone to hell in a badly woven handbasket following the events of the PLAGUE OF FROGS and subsequent spawning of huge Ctthulu-esque creatures, reducing pretty much every city in the world to slimy rubble.

Amidst the chaos, even darker forces seek to control what remains on behalf of the Ogdru Jahad, those seven entities with designs on our reality who lie beyond our space and time. For now… In New York City, the returned Black Flame, assisted by the ever-helpful Nazi remnants has complete control, reducing what remains of the city’s population to slaves. The BPRD doesn’t know what is going on within the confines of the city due to a strange electronic blackout preventing all communications and surveillance.

Thus, two teams, headed up by the bodiless Johann and resident pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, including various Russian elements from their own BPRD equivalent, are dispatched to reconnoitre and return with hard intel, without confronting the enemy. A simple in-and-out mission right…? Well, it certainly doesn’t help when people won’t follow orders. Still, that always was Liz’s strong suit, not listening to authority. Cue one spectacular conflagration when she confronts the Black Flame…

 

JR

Buy BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch…

It is a little known fact that, for a number of years, my nickname amongst the circle of my oldest friends was “evil Rigby” for, well, a variety of reasons that I need not elaborate on here. Said behaviour was nothing too untoward, I should add, hence the non-capital ‘e’. Why I felt the need to share that I have no idea.

Anyway… there is a world within the DC Multiverse where those who are good in our reality, are evil in theirs… Thus instead of a Justice League there is the Crime Syndicate containing twisted, villainous versions of all our heroes, who have managed to kill all the heroes of their world and take over the planet. They are probably Evil with a capital ‘E’, therefore.

However, something considerably more powerful than even them has destroyed their world, forcing them to seek another to conquer… ours.

So, this was DC’s big summer event, written by Geoff BLACKEST NIGHT Johns, and it was pretty decent, actually. There were a few clever tricks and switches amidst the usual over-the-top set-piece melees, not least being that Lex Luthor has decided he wants to play hero and be a member of the Justice League. Oh, and he’s worked out who Batman really is. Not that Luthor’s entirely on the straight and narrow, obviously, his ego just likes the idea that they can’t save the world without him.

If you fancy a bit of capes and tights of the DC flavour going at it with everything including the kitchen sink, this will do nicely.

JR

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark.

“Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?”
“Ha. No… Just do me justice… And make sure all the girls are cryin’.”

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight – the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and action so frantic that it’s like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it’s both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who’s going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan throughout – you really can’t miss them. A joy.

Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what’s left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers’ best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.

Now: the report of Bucky’s death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick’s disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is… who’s going to tell Steve?

Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they’ve arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: who they’re up against and the true identity of their opponents’ target.

The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end…? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.

This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha’s permanently arched eyebrow and you’re in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM’s Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Of the second slice here, I wrote:

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

Of the third and final chapter:

“I like the rain… The way it sounds on the umbrella… The way the air feels.”

With which Ed Brubaker’s triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.

Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.

I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books – particularly the second one – however…

“Here’s the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about… That you’re still in there… Some small piece‘a you is awake… watching. Like bein’ a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free… but you lose… Over and over again… you lose… And it makes whatever you’re forced to do that much worse…”

Oh dear.

SLH

Buy Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various…

You know who else reads comics? MY MOM!

It’s true, actually, though probably not REGULAR SHOW. I would imagine it might fall into the ‘too weird’ category. Fans of the show will undoubtedly recognise the long-standing joke, repeatedly exhorted by Muscle Man to the increasing irritation of all the other crazy characters: Rigby, Mordecai, Benson, Skips, Pops and High Five Ghost, who are a bizarre mixture of animals, humans and even someone with a gumball machine for a head, who all live and work in a park. Where very, very strange things happen. A lot.

Obviously, I love comics. I have to say, though, I don’t fully understand the need to produce comic versions of cartoons, the blatantly apparent fiscal and cross-platform marketing benefits aside. To me, when comics and indeed prose books are converted to films or television shows, often much is left out and the adaptations are a pale imitation. I tend to find with cartoons being converted to comics that the same is equally true. For something as zany and insane as REGULAR SHOW, ADVENTURE TIME et al, to me their natural medium is on screen. I just find I am not as entertained by the comic versions of them to anywhere near the same extent as the shows.

 

Personal, curmudgeonly observations aside, if you are a fan of the coolest racoon* ever – and I don’t mean ROCKET RACOON, though that would be a pretty interesting rodent-related cross-over, now I come to think about it – and his friends, you probably will enjoy it regardless.

* Obviously I am heavily biased given my surname.

JR

Buy Regular Show vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sana

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Blue Estate h/c (£22-50, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone, Tomm Coker, Andrew Robinson, Peter Nguyen

Astro City: Through Open Doors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Forever Evil: Arkham War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Scot Eaton, various

All New X-Men vol 5: One Down (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Deadpool Vs. Carnage  (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salvador Espin

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Deadman Wonderland vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Loveless vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Spell Of Desire vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Pandora Hearts vol 21 (£9-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

News

ITEM! Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna is in stock at Page 45 now (see top of Also Arrived). Just look at those watercolour landscapes!

ITEM! Alan Moore finishes one-million-word novel, Jerusalem!

ITEM! Spanish artist Max draws Jeff Smith’s BONE.

ITEM! Advance review / preview of Scott Snyder & Jock’s WYTCHES!

ITEM! Thrilling sense of speed then break-neck brakes in MURDER + MIDNIGHT by Jon Eastman & David Ward. Kickstarter deadline imminent. Eeep!

ITEM! Sally J. Thompson’s gorgeous Estonia sketches. Swoon!

ITEM! Sean Phillips’ limited edition giclee for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Finally, fanfare, please…

Behold the brand-new Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2014!

Oh my days, it is beautiful!

So much to see, so much to do, and yet it’s laid out with such clarity I could cry!

Almost everything at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 is FREE (click on that link for their website, click on the one directly below cover for programme) including Page 45’s signings with Scott McCloud & Glyn Dillon and Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash!

However, please note that the ticketed talks with comicbook creators like Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eddie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival do require a small contribution and should be booked as soon as possible because space is limited.

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week two

September 10th, 2014

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

 - Stephen on Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton.

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renée French.

Mickey is peering down the back of Marcel’s pants. Marcel, just above his bottom, has a tail.

“You don’t have to touch it.”
“Ok, ok.”
“You can touch it if you want.”

Well, now. A new Renée French is always an event. Also, a mystery.

Previously she’s had Neil Gaiman singing her praises after picking up her comics at Page 45. Oh yes! This time it’s the unlikely pairing of Guillermo del Toro and Warren Ellis. The latter writes:

“Like watching David Lynch and Samuel Beckett get mean-drunk: a demented comedy from one of the medium’s authentic geniuses.”

“Surreal”, you’ll be thinking and it won’t disappoint, but Samuel Beckett is particularly perfect as a benchmark. This takes place in a limbo of sorts, a bit like Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS and, as with BIG QUESTIONS, there is plenty of empty silence so that what is said attracts your eye and fires your curiosity.

It’s all in the few carefully muted colours, so cleverly deployed.

Played out on a sepia shore so shrouded in fog that the islands to begin with are blurred and unknown, three child-sized playmates wearing elasticated masks discover Baby Bjornstrand, a bird-beaked blob of no words, little movement, and only one sound – “Hoooooo!” – emitted sparingly. It just sits there, inert. Its very inertia is compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here come the colours (slightly more vivid on the printed page than here): each sprog sports a slightly different mask – variations on a theme – but they each also light up, along with the words that they speak: Cyril in yellow, Mickey in red, Marcel in turquoise. Baby Bjornstrand glows in green.

“Hoooooo!”

 

 

 

 

 

Formal word balloons with their tagging tails are therefore redundant and so discarded here, adding to the ethereal. The landscape, interaction and sparse sounds are as one, floating together just as they do in real life. Seriously: take a couple of friends out onto some misty moors, then watch and listen as they speak.

Three-quarters of the way through the landscape comes into focus: a vast, Scottish-like lake with sheer, vertical cliff tops on the other side. Are you wondering why this is so?

I was as mesmerised by this as Cyril himself is by Baby Bjornstrand. Marcel and Mickey stage a play of the proceedings. That was funny. There is also a very funny moment involving a ringed doughnut, but throughout I wasn’t sure whether I should be worried or not and that kept those pages turning.

SLH

Buy Baby Bjornstrand and read the Page 45 review here

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil…

The debonair and devilish Jaeger, knower of hidden short-cuts and errr… much other useful stuff, takes centre stage in the first colour FINDER material!

It took me a little bit of getting used to that, actually, it being in colour, though I’m not sure exactly why. I guess I’m just subconsciously familiar with how it has always been before. It’s a statement on the quality of the previous material perhaps that I actually found it a little distracting at first, but ultimately the colour is a very welcome addition.

So, what we have here is something which actually adds as much to the mystery of the man as sheds lights on his many secrets, as he forced to take a job, a proper job, and so becomes a parcel delivery man. Which, you might think, would be a waste of his prodigious talents. But no, because these parcels are in places virtually impossible to make a delivery to… For any ordinary person, that is.

And, of course, along the way, Jaeger as ever finds time to become unnecessarily embroiled in other peoples’ business, as well as just doing the odd good deed like getting an old lady home safely. Mainly just getting himself neck-deep into trouble, though.

 

 

I think this volume may prove a very good jumping-on point for new readers in that it starts off all fun and froth before descending into typically darker territory as the level of drama – and  danger – escalates apace. Carla really does manage to pack a huge wealth of the diversity of the FINDER milieu into just this one book, a really great showcase for the spectacular speculative fictional world she has created.

JR

Buy Finder: Third World and read the Page 45 review here

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips.

“Nancy… Why are you dancing with that guy? He… he doesn’t even have a head!”

It’s been a complete and utter bloodbath.

Goliath 01 is a prison ship, lost in space. Its inmates – low-level threats like thieves and bankers* – have been slaughtered along with its crew.

It wasn’t aliens; it was a single human being: its commander, Colonel Mercer, officially marble-free and lying in murderous wait somewhere below decks.

There remains a solitary man in orange overalls recalling it all while desperately trying to find some means of escape and avoiding the fate of his fellow felons. Without food or water for two days now and surrounded by entrails and body parts, he’s beginning to lose the plot, hallucinating about an ex-girlfriend, naked. Then there’s the talking banana.

You never thought you’d see Sean Phillips draw a talking banana, did you? Sean is the artist behind FATALE, CRIMINAL, SLEEPER, THE HEART OF THE BEAST, 7 PSYCHOPATHS, INCOGNITO, SCENE OF THE CRIME and indeed THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS (one presumes). He’s well known for noir, but not for science-fiction nor comedy peeled fruit.

 

He does, however, bring all the nerve-wracking twilight he’s renowned for, and there’s one feverish sequence which has been lit like the nocturnal zone of a zoo’s Tropical House in electric blues and neon purples. He’s also emphasised the relatively low technological feel of a physically flown ship with submarine gauges, gangways riddled with thick electrical cables and heavy iron levers which require real elbow grease to grapple with.

All of which would be – and indeed was – a pretty intense read. However…

Oh, yeah, you’ll be wanting to read this twice.

Hahahahaha!

* … he explains, tautologically

SLH

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

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi.

“Cogsley, we need to tell the Captain about this! If there’s something hidden in that cloud, we need to go back and investigate.”
“We won’t have to go back.”
“What do you mean? Why not?”
“Because it followed us.”

Cue yet another Hayao Miyazaki-inspired double-page flourish! You won’t have long to wait this time, the action kicks off immediately.

Second only to Luke Pearson’s HILDA, this is our biggest-selling Young Adult series of graphic novels and if it wasn’t already one of my all-time favourites (it was) it would most assuredly be now.

So much happens, and so much is revealed that makes perfect sense of the strange allegiances in this far from black and white war. But, oh, no spoilers! Why don’t you go back and read our previous reviews of AMULET – each of them extensive – instead?

Suffice to say that for once younger brother Navin takes the lead in a desperate mission to reactivate a beacon in the burned-out city of Lucien below and promptly gets trapped there along with Colossus co-pilots Aly, Trish and Rob. Is anyone still alive there? Anyone – or anything – at all?

Meanwhile his older sister Emily and fellow Stonekeepers Vigo and Trellis are captured by another, part of whose past is played out in front of them while they seek to keep their amulets unaware of what they’re all up to. What are they up to?

There’ll be plenty of new faces along with some old friends long thought lost, and a great big secret, which I’d forgotten was a secret, from the very first book is explained. There will also be fatalities, I’m afraid.

There are so many landscapes to swoon over here, even in the rain, and one of AMULET’s strengths has always been Kazu’s eye for design, like the Elf King’s metal mask whose shallow, vertical, curved trenches are coloured to highlight their topmost ridges. It’s a design reflected in their airships and elsewhere, but I don’t recall seeing that mask applied before, direct to the face, its razor-sharp, thin, conical spikes slipping into the flesh with a sinister “SHK!”

SLH

Buy Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien and read the Page 45 review here

Long Gone Don (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by the Etherington Brothers.

Quality comedy all-out adventure starring a dude who’s gone and dropped dead.

Don drowned in a bowl of oxtail soup. “Which smelt a bit like wet dog.”

It was a freak accident.

It was a really freak accident.

Okay, it was a succession of really freak accidents which fell like dominoes in the form of custard, cards, the caretaker’s leg and a poor, startled hamster. Did I mention the step-ladder? I don’t think we’ll talk about the puddle of puke. That school’s Health & Safety needs a certain degree of attention.

This is perfect for kids aged 5 through 15 to 5,015 which is, I’m afraid, where I come in.

It is full-on mirth-making mentalism replete with puns like The Demon Drink’s salutary slogan: “Cures What Ales You!” Now that’s a pub after my own heart. And probably my liver.

It all takes place in the netherworld known as Broilerdoom with its holy Krapookerville and its less divine, adjacent Corpse City. There Don encounters Castanet the crow with his mortal terror of flying, experiences the Welcome Arena and is showered with gifts only to fall foul of its Unwelcome Arena where he is swiftly relieved of them.

“Lesson number one: Broilerdoom gives with one hand and takes with the other. This is an opportunist’s underworld, Don, which means if you think you can get away with something, you probably can.”

Point in question: the stall called Stolen Stuff which happily sells its second-hand goods back to their original owners.

The demon who’s been getting away with everything up to this point is General Spode, high up in his ivory Bone Tower Monolith. Ruling aside his Regina, he has stolen the crown from rightful king Ripley who has since retired to sign books and shrubs as a celebrity gardener. Think Alan Titchmarsh as a dilettante and dandy. Spode’s right-hand man is Count Valush, a red-eyed shadow in a cape and a tall hat that he is inordinately protective of. Excellent for target practice.

In the opposite corner sit Lewd and Safina back at The Demon Drink, along with many a hidden ally like Viktor Rictus, the sentient squid with sloppy pink tentacles and a singular eye for invention.

Don will encounter and make use of a Brick Licker (armadillo/slug/hedgehog hybrid), Castanet’s tail-feather plumes and a great big bucket of black paint. Also, a lamprey-like giant worm called Thanatos with terrible tombstones for teeth.

If all this wasn’t enough, the art is insanely detailed and lush, with exotic, Eastern architecture not even hinted at on the cover. There are maps and monsters and a magnificent, walled, tiered garden. Moreover, if this was really serialised in THE PHOENIX COMIC, I cannot see the joins.

Also, I have a new favourite expletive:

“Sweet Sherbet Dipdabs!”

Lorenzo Etherington you may already have encountered in the VON DOOGAN puzzle adventure.

“The work those guys put into LONG GONE DON blows my miiiiind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are many, many creators whose work I love and admire and gasp in awe at, but Lorenzo is the only guy I know whose work I look at, and pause, and ask “are you actually HUMAN?””

- Neill Cameron of the awesome comic called HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS

(Errrrr, in a private email which I haven’t even asked if I can quote. I am so indiscrete.)

SLH

Buy Long Gone Don and read the Page 45 review here

Thirteen Chairs h/c (£10-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton.

‘“Welcome,” says the pale man. “You are welcome.”’

Put yourself in young Jack’s shoes:

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular wooden table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. There’s a big, bearded man with a bellowing voice; there’s a small girl with thick glasses who speaks in a swift monotone as if empty inside; and then there’s the pale man with well-behaved hair whose presence is commanding and whose posture is excellent.

In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

You know what they say about curiosity, and Jack is a curious boy. Come to think of it, each of these strangers in their own way is curious, as are their stories. Some sound like fables, others like confessions but they all are claimed to be true. Each involves death and most come laden with the weight of poetic justice, although one of the culprits is prose. Who knew that writing could kill you?

We stock very little prose at Page 45. For us, it is all about comics. Sure, we stock a full range of Neil Gaiman, but then he is ever so slightly renowned in our graphic world for things like THE SANDMAN and DEATH. There’s the heart-breaking A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay which you must never, oh never, read in public. But it’s packed full of the most jaw-dropping, Sienkiewicz-via-Steve-Bissette illustrations and – aside from the stories’ chapter breaks – this isn’t. What this has in common, however, is its horror yet humanity and its literary craft. I stole a little bit of it for my introduction. Here’s the pale man, the gathering’s compère:

‘He is a small man, soberly dressed in a dark suit that is neatly tailored and primly buttoned; a crisp white shirt with a wing collar; a plain dark tie. His hair is short and well-behaved. His posture is excellent.’

Try this, too:

‘”Come on in then,” she says, raising an arm and beckoning with long fingers, tickling at the air. “No skulking in the dark. Over here where we can see you.” Her voice is a soft and lovely thing, round and warm and with a sweet tang of teasing laughter.’

Dave Shelton is the author of the delightful all-ages comedy we also broke our no-prose policy to stock, A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT, which we still seem to be selling at least one copy of every single week – usually to adults for adults. My Auntie Squee adores it. This is all-ages too, but emphatically not comedy. I was worried throughout, and so was Jack, and there is an ice-cold, chilling secret lying within which will reveal itself as soon as you’re ready to see it. The finale’s pay-off is sublime.

In the meantime you’ll enjoy multiple stories from diverse voices, each as distinct from each other as this is from A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT. I was beseeched by its publisher to announce my favourite but I quite simply can’t. It could be the phantom in and of the deluge which I picture in my mind’s eye drawn by Will Eisner or coloured by Bettie Breitweiser. It could be Mr. Fowler’s childhood recollection of shirking work in his uncle’s tavern, spellbound by a ship all at sea and the cost to its crew of two brothers at war. Or maybe it’s matter-of-factual Amelia:

‘”I am not loud or funny or cheeky or popular. I am quite clever and quiet and not cool, and the other children make fun of my glasses, which are held together by sellotape at the moment because Dad fixed them with not very good glue in a hurry after Ellie sat on them, and so they broke again really easily when Sam kicked a football in my face, which was an accident again.”’

So no, actually, this isn’t without laughs.

‘”If Callum wants to try to make me cry he should call me something to do with being little, like ‘titch’ or ‘stick insect’ or something, because that would make more sense (even though it still wouldn’t make me cry because I don’t care about that sort of thing because I have a Positive Self Image because Dad told me I should).”’

She’s worried that Callum will “want to do revenge” on her because she got bored of him throwing her school bag in the air because it contained her school lunch and that contained tomatoes which could go squishy (they did) and so she punched him in the tummy and that made him sick all over his silly trainers.

‘”I try to keep an eye on them, but I drop some tomato on my biscuits (Dad gave me biscuits today because it is a Wednesday and Wednesday are biscuit days, and Mondays and Fridays are too, and Tuesdays are Healthy Choice days), and so I have to pay attention to that and get the seeds and juice off the top biscuit as fast as possible to stop it from being too tomatoey to eat (the bottom one is absolutely fine). I’m just deciding that the top biscuit is not OK to eat because it will be too tomatoey but that from now on I’ll ask Dad to wrap the biscuits in cellophane as well for extra safety, when I realise that I can’t see Mrs Fleet at all any more.”’

It reads breathlessly, like an infant’s school essay, doesn’t it?

I might have to concede, however, that my biggest soft spot is for big, bearded Piotr who repeats a story with a very grisly end told to him by his grandmother. (”My grandmother swears by her moustache that is true. So must be so.”) This is what I mean by completely different voices:

‘“So they take him to house, give him soup and bread and they tell him legend of silver ghost and red tree. Only they argue and can’t agree how story go. There is red tree and there is silver ghost, and some children and menfolk go missing in woods, and some cattle and plants die. This much they all agree. But rest? Oh boy! One say silver ghost live in red tree. One say, no, you fool, red tree grow fruit to protect from silver ghost. Another one say, you both wrong, silver ghost guard red tree. This all go on very long time and woodcutter bored. Also, soup is no good.”’

I’ve just realised I’ve picked out the two comically delivered monologues. I can assure you the rest will make you very uneasy.

So masterfully told are all these tales that only towards the end of each does it dawn on you where it is heading and whence it came: how expertly its outcome has been presaged. Within every one lies this moment of minor satori and that’s very clever, Mr. Fowler’s particularly so. All of which can be said for the book as a whole, but I see I must say no more.

So pull up a chair – any one from this spot-varnish cover, each as individualistic is its occupant – and prepare to be deeply unsettled by cats and by clocks and by things which are Not Quite Right.

The candles are burning low now.

But you may have just enough time.

SLH

Buy Thirteen Chairs h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various.

Eddie Campbell:

“It’s a bit preposterous us thinking we can illustrate this stuff that we know nothing of – sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms trying to imagine the horrors of being knee deep in mud with your feet rotting off.”

Well, quite.

Nevertheless, Eddie does a convincing impression of knowing precisely what it felt, looked and smelled like, at night, and throws it in front of your face. Towards the end there is a close-up of what left of a clod-encrusted cadaver, its skull-thin face with opaque eye-jelly being crawled round by maggots.

“A barb had pierced his eye and stuck there, rusting in the socket from which sight was gone.”

It opens with the occasional crack of sniper bullets whipping the sandbags as soldiers stumble about like phantoms in the miasmatic fog, barbed wire lit up in ghostly electric arcs or, later, glistening with spiders’ webs and dew drops as it resists being dragged down and sucked into the mud by the weight of what’s left of a once-living human being. What’s left of Loos church and graveyard is also lit up in a ghastly, bone-strewn son et lumière. The overall effect is like staring into old-school black and white photographic negatives: indistinct, often terrifying.

Campbell chose to condense the closing chapter of a novel by Patrick MacGill, The Great Push (1916), but the rest of this black and white book is given over to the World War I Trench Poets – writers on the frontline responsible for breaking through the propaganda with their terrible truths – interpreted by an impressive array of comicbook creators:

Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Lilli Carré, Lisbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, Phil Winslade.

 

George Pratt takes on Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est and Greater Love. He notes in the back that, wishing to avoid overshadowing the words, he deliberately used thick tools like paint rollers and knives which wouldn’t allow him to overwork the images with details. It works.

My other favourite is Simon Gane’s second piece here, Osbert Sitwell’s The Next War, using war memorials from Britain and France, trailed with ivy, their age and textures perfectly rendered, each improbably well chosen to match and so evoke what was written. I urge you to hit the internet and gawp at the man’s architecture and landscape sketchwork.

Here you go, a rare external link: http://simongane.blogspot.co.uk/

 

There is an excellent introduction by Editor Chris Duffy, and commentary by the creators bringing up the rear. Kevin Huizenga’s is particularly worth noting.

SLH

Buy Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by Chris Cardenale, Ethan Heitner, Seth Tobocman, Kate Evans, Paula Hewitt Amran, Jordan Worley, Mac McGill…

Do you think the world is unfair? Specifically, do you think capitalism is an unjust system which can only inevitably end in the destruction of our planet if left unchecked? Many would agree, I think, to some degree at least, and so consider this a primer.

First of all in ‘Creation to Extinction’ and ‘the nightmare is real…’ we see it graphically explained where this path of rampant consumption is taking us. Then in ‘The Enemy of Nature’ we see how the capitalist juggernaut was created, and thus precisely why and how we find ourselves in a situation where over 99% of the world’s material wealth is in the hands of less than 1% of the population, and what that inequity inevitably causes to happen to those at the opposite end of the fiscal scale. For the creators of this work, capitalism is simply a cancer which, if left untreated, can only lead to a painful demise for us all.

Next up, leavening what is obviously a somewhat serious read is Kate Evans using the Three Stooges to explain why ‘Money is Green too’, ‘Environmentalism for Dummies’ and ‘Socialism for Suckers’. Here we see why even what most people would consider tools for good, like environmentalism, have been subverted by the capitalist structure and how what most people would consider as the obvious alternative to capitalism, socialism, has been expertly and quite deliberately demonised by those in control, particularly in American, as akin to communism.

Finally, alternative solutions to the impending apocalypse are pro-offered, along with a further reading list of some several hundred prose titles covering such diverse topics as ‘The Ecosocialist Horizon’, ‘Fighting Oppression’, ‘Anti-Capitalist Energy Transition’ and ‘The Solidarity Economy’.

 

I admire the enthusiasm and endeavour of all the creators. I agree with them to some extent, though I don’t entirely share their views by any means. But what this certainly is, though, is indeed a curriculum. The addition of the reading list, for those who do wish to learn more about class activism and the socio-economic chains that bind virtually all of us to lesser or greater degrees, is a fantastic collation of essential critical thinking and instructive works. A very worthy endeavour, which is also a fascinating and thought-provoking magazine-sized comic collection.

JR

Buy Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World and read the Page 45 review here

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic.

El Niño, of course, is the name for the massive warming of coastal waters around South America resulting in freakish storms, shifts in currents, raisins in jam and huge piles of pasta all over the floor.

Well, it does if you’re on board a boat in one of those storms. Guess where Vera is? On board a boat in one of those storms.

Returning to Paris from a gruelling Red Cross mission, Vera, a self-confessed Gadjo (non-Gypsy), visits her father’s grave in Père-Lachaise to find some of her old folk there, eating brunch. When she visits them later in a flooded suburb, they reluctantly tell her about Kolya, her supposed Siamese-twin brother, who joined the merchant navy before disappearing, never to be heard from again. The last thing they received was a letter from one Jean René Isnard in Polynesia, who claims Kolya’s safe and on his way back home.

Confused by the medical knowledge that Siamese twins can’t be of different sexes, and restless to leave Paris in any case, Vera flies out to Polynesia to discover that Jean René is dead and his son, now a captain of a vessel himself, isn’t best pleased to see her. Now obsessed, Vera tries to intercept the boat in Bora Bora, which brings us to the storm.

Prime European drama (he says, sweepingly), with exotic landscapes perfectly evoked and the mandatory gratuitous nuddie scene. I’m a third of the way through and I can’t put it down…

… I wrote back in 2005.

I did put it down eventually: once in 2009 to celebrate Page 45’s 15th Anniversary with Jonathan, Dominique, Bryan and Mary Talbot, dear Liam Sharp, Dr Mel Gibson and over a hundred of you lovely wastrels; twice in 2011 to go to the toilet; then once during our recent Bryan Lee O’Malley signing when I dropped it on my knee. It’s very heavy, and I’m still wearing a Tubigrip to bring the swelling down.

We should probably celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary in some fashion this October. Fancy coming along?

SLH

Buy El Nino h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Death Of Wolverine #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven.

The cover is a great deal shinier than this, but the comic isn’t as long as it looks.

I warn you about that right now. Process pieces are fascinating, and in the second half Steve McNiven takes you through pages as they evolve and shows you a few he simply binned because the composition wasn’t right. He pays tribute to Barry Windsor-Smith’s work and shows have he’s incorporated that double-barrelled influence.

Then there’s an extensive interview with Wolverine’s co-creator Len Wein who pays tribute to Dave Cockrum and explains that the name came from Roy Thomas and how he lined Logan up in case the X-Men were ever revived from their hiatus.

Fab. I’m just saying, brace yourselves for the credits to roll halfway through: it’s a right downer hitting To Be Continued when you thought you’d another 20 pages in store.

Anyway, yes, Steve McNiven you may know as Mark Millar’s artist on WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN, NEMESIS and Marvel’s CIVIL WAR, all of which come with the highest recommendation to superhero fans, the first one being my favourite Wolverine book to date. Obviously to become an old man he’ll need to last a lot longer than this title implies which should probably be Looting Logan For All He’s Worth Although It’ll Be Pretty Damn Lucrative When We Bring Him Back Too.

As the weekly, five-issue mini-series kicks off, Logan is sat on a battered porch clutching his Mom’s sick note so he can skip P.E.. Both he and his claws are covered in blood, which is bad news because as Reed Richards explains, without his healing factor…

“You’re a prime candidate for heavy metal-related leukemia. If you don’t get endocarditis from all the bacteria you pull into yourself every time you use your claws.”

So far neither Stark nor McCoy nor now Reed Richards have been able to revive Wolverine’s healing factor so staying out of brawls until they do is Logan’s best bet. Unfortunately the second word gets out that small, dark and hairy is vulnerable brawls are going to be unavoidable. Word gets out.

There’s not a great deal more to report on the story front. You can expect at least one supervillain per issue and I suspect that will only escalate. It’s Steve’s art that impresses, increasingly so with each project he graces, and the double-page spread here may not be the flashiest you’ve ever seen, but its composition is impeccable: those man’s shoulders are very broad indeed.

No, no, you’re quite right: this may be the dullest review I’ve ever written.

SLH

Buy Death Of Wolverine #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thunderbirds vol 1, vol 2, vol 3 (£6-99 each, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy.

“Thunderbirds are go!”

You’ve got to love that tune: a jaunty little western number given the Flight of the Valkyries treatment.

Just like the films of Ray Harryhausen, Gerry Anderson’s puppetry – or supermarionation – represented class and craft, as well as an easy-to-mimic wibbly-wobbly walk in the school playground.

The Thunderbirds themselves were some of the most thrillingly designed crafts of all time, none more so than Thunderbird 2: ribbed, thick and sturdy in army olive green, boasting two enormous red engines and a series of interchangeable, central pod / hangars to carry industrial drilling machines or, most often, subaquatic, canary-yellow Thunderbird 4. Ahead of the craft’s take-off from the Tracy family island, twin rows of palm trees would flop obligingly over to let it through. I built a gigantic beast of a version in Lego (complete with slide-down hangars, yes) and would flick my own Lego trees over manually, two at a time.

Thunderbird 1 exploded out of a hidden central silo, Thunderbird 3… well, we rarely saw that, nor does it appear here except on the third volume’s cover! But each was reached by secret metal chutes hidden behind trapdoors hung with their respective pilots’ portraits (whose eyes lit up during communication!).

And oh, those pilots were fit! Scott Tracy of Thunderbird 1 was one of my very earliest crushes. The other Tracys were way too blonde and Captain Scarlet had a propensity for six o’clock shadow which, as a five-year-old, I simply couldn’t get into.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Thunderbirds was thrilling, and something we could all act out between episodes. Equally thrilling here is the F.A.B. art because, if I haven’t already succeeded in tripping your nostalgia switch, let me just repeat the name Frank Bellamy: Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy. There is the sleekest foreshortening from behind or in front as each super-jet hurtles full-throttle towards you. And the colours, oh lord, the colours…

Of course, if you stop to think for five seconds, the whole Tracy set-up was one hell of a patriarchal boys-only club – science boffin Brains bobbing obediently alongside them, wittering “G-g-g-gee, Mister Tracy” before even evacuating his bowels – wisely eschewed by aristocratic super-sleuth Lady Penelope (who must surely be some sort of an influence for Lara Croft) who preferred to park up that pink Rolls Royce alongside her own English mansion, thank you. Or get Parker, her swarthy-faced butler, to do it for her.

At which point I’d like to close by ruining your childhood with one of my favourite jokes. You need to get into character for it, so practise Lady Penelope’s purring lilt and Parker’s sinus-troubled subservience…

Lady Penelope returns to her stately home after a night out on the town to find her butler Parker waiting dutifully at the door.

“Parker,” she murmurs in her sultry, upper-class accent, perhaps a little sloshed on champagne, ”Please come upstairs to my bedroom.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Now, Parker, I want you to take off my coat.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my boots.”
“Yuss, m’lady.
“Take off my stockings.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my blouse.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my skirt.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my bra!”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my knickers!”
“…Yuss, m’lady.”
“And never, ever let me catch you wearing them again!”

SLH

Buy Thunderbirds vol 3  and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple

Zero vol 2: At The Heart Of It All s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Vanesa R. Del Rey, Matt Taylor, Jorge Coelho, Tonci Zonjic, Michael Gaydos

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho

Uber vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White

Y – The Last Man Book vol 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra

Justice League Of America vol 2: Survivors Of Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Matt Kindt & Doug Mahnke, various

Justice League vol 4: The Grid s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, various

Justice League vol 5: Forever Heroes h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Joe Prado, various

All New X-Men vol 5 One Down h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Castle: Calm Before Storm s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Robert Atkins

Thor God Of Thunder vol 1: The God Butcher s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Thor God Of Thunder vol 2: Godbomb s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Butch Guice

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge Earth h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuña

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark

Attack On Titan Guidebook (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Bleach vol 61 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

D. Gray-Man vol 24 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Noragami Stray God vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Adachitoka

Rosario Vampire Season 2 vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

News

ITEM! Tom Gauld’s hilarious Guardian comic on grammar-correcting gits – oh god, I may be guilty, myself!

ITEM! Come along, creatives! Neill Cameron has big blog of free resources to go with his awesome comic, HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS! He even links to our review where you can buy it directly from us. Bananas!

ITEM! Awesome photos as ever: Sarah McIntyre’s blog on GARY’S GARDEN graphic novel launch night! Are your eyes boggling? Page 45’s review of Gary Northfield’s GARY’S GARDEN.

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre writes about why she loves teaching kids to create, she doesn’t want any of her own. Clear, candid and lovingly expressed.

ITEM! ‘Morrissey Gets A Job by Brian Brooks’. ( I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday — To Me.)

ITEM! Infiltration, ahoy! Susie Cumberland has taken it upon herself to promote quality British Comics – on a website which seems dedicated solely to American superheroes. Love the subversion! Love her choices, too. What a kick off!

ITEM! Following last week’s article by Leigh Alexander, Penny Red on how and why women in games and comics are winning the war against online misogynists. Brilliant!

ITEM! Oh dear lord, but I love me some neo-classicism. Paul Reid’s ‘Cernunnos Study’. Oil on canvas

ITEM! Our Jonathan will be speaking at this free Nottingham Trent University Event for Small Businesses. Please see “programme” for the, err, programme.

ITEM! Nottingham’s GameCity 2014 (25th October to 1st November) clashes not with the Lake District’s Comic Art Festival 2014 where Page 45 will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary! Both events linked to there, yes!

My own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, which you will need to book in advance is, incredibly, one of the best subscribed to, so please book now so I can call my next one The Art Of Selling Bums On Seats.

I refer, of course, to bottoms (and so often I do) not the vagabond chic I doubt you’ll be dressed in. You leave that to me.

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week one

September 3rd, 2014

Buy this from Page 45 then post Anders an idea, and he will send you an original, signed drawing of your idea for free!

 - Stephen on The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden by Anders Nilsen.

How To Be Happy h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis.

“We are all going to cry tonight!”

I hereby nominate this cover as the best so far in 2014!

Its composition is immaculately weighted and its colours are as warm as a travelling rug and equallly as embracing. It makes me happy.

The comics inside make me so happy too, but few of its protagonists.

As Eleanor Davis is swift to point out before you’ve even begun, “This is not actually a book about How To Be Happy”. Instead it’s a graphic novel full of people looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and either failing or fooling themselves into the easily led lie that they’ve succeeded.

Take ‘No Tears, No Sorrow’ in which a gullible group of individuals, desperate to feel anything, fall for the fraud of a man making money from their disengaged doubts. ‘No Tears, No Sorrow. No Sorrow, No Joy!’ is title of his facile and fatuous book, and his workshop is worse. He presents them with abstractions to which he wants them to connect, and so determined are they in a competitive way to not be the ones falling short that they rewire their own brains leaving their emotions, forced here, to get the better of them outside.

It’s artfully swathed in a cacophony of light and bright colours contrasted by the emotions evoked: mostly anger rather than empathy. Anger at themselves for failing to feel the masterly manipulated mass hysteria all around them.

Now have a listen to this. It’s from ‘Darlng, I’ve Realised I Don’t Love You’ in black and white in which a couple commune. Sort of.

“…”
“…”
“If I loved anyone, it would be you. But I love no one.”
“I’ve come to understand I don’t care about anything except myself.”
“Any kindness I’ve ever shown has been in my own self-interest.”
“The very existence of other people seems doubtful.”
“I wanted more from life than this.”
“…”
“Let’s have a baby.”

 

‘Stick And String’ doesn’t reflect well on the strengh of a relationship, either.  Told in line and rich, tree-trunk colours, a lute player enchants his countryside audience by day then is lured into the depths of forest at night by the bom-bom of drums being beaten round a crackling fire. The wild wood creatures scatter but one woman is tentatively drawn back as the man strums his lute anew…

‘In Our Eden’ sees a small group gradually disperse as their self-proclaimed leader – who’s ditched the name Darryl in favour of Adam! – rages at them in blood-vessel-bursting red to return to the bliss that was Eden. Hmmm. ‘Nita Goes Home’, meanwhile, harks to a future when the organic / genetically engineered produce debate is far from over and, with her father ailing, a sister returns from Satorispace to a city so toxic that you have to wear full-body bio-hazard suits in order to venture outside. Naturally, fashionistas have been catered for. Here (and elsewhere) I was put in mind of Dash Shaw but the variety of styles being employed within HOW TO BE HAPPY is mind-melting.

A lakeside tale of longing and love was so poignant; another black and white tale, ‘Thomas The Leader’, less so, examining as it does the hegemony of boyhood friendship, both mental and physical.

 

Finally (although there are many, many more), ‘Seven Sacks’ was for me the most beautiful and unnerving. A ferryman is hailed by a succession of nasty-looking (and if one case, nasty-smelling) creatures to take them and their wriggling sacks across the river in his small punt. Apparently the sacks contain rabbits. I have my doubts. My favourite of the critters is either the whiffy, dark woollen one with eight dangling arms and an odour that curls and swirls out behind it (I’m thinking camel pong at the very least) or the brown, beaked beastie cloaked in the skin and plumage of some poor speckled bird, its evil eye glaring through the sewn-back socket, the overall effect being of a 17th century plague doctor.

SLH

Buy How To Be Happy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince.

Liz Prince likes who she is.

She’s always liked who she is. It’s just others who’ve had a problem with her being a tomboy. And you know what school’s like, right? Here comes one heck of a reminder!

Funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking and at times very poignant, what struck me above all about this is that kids wouldn’t have complexes if they hadn’t been given them by others.

In a sequence which reminded me of Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS not simply because it’s set at summer camp, Liz suddenly becomes painfully, heart-breaking body-conscious after hearing two girls bitch about – sorry, judge – another:

“Did you hear that Dakota actually got naked in the shower?”
“Oh, gross.”
“So gross, and afterward she put on a bra even though she has no boobs. Like, dream on.”
“Haha.”

If you don’t go to boarding school then something like a girl scout camp is the first time you might shower and dress communally. Prince’s preference for boys’ clothes had caused her to be singled out for years, but not what lay beneath them.

“I knew that girls made fun of each other, but talking about someone’s body like that seemed so wrong. You can’t choose your body! I was suddenly aware that I was under-performing in ways I didn’t even know existed.”

Immediately she starts showering in her swimsuit because obviously that’s how you’re supposed to shower (thanks, girls!) but also, in an effort to avoid others judging her body’s lack of development, she begins swimming in a t-shirt thereby drawing attention to it.

“It is conspicuous,” she writes above a drawing of herself in a very baggy t-shirt sporting the slogan “I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH MY BODY”. The only thing that could have been worse would have been her boys’ tightie-whities falling out of her rolled towel or kit bag. Obviously that’s what happens next.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since the age of four at least, Liz Prince has been a tomboy: “a girl of boyish behaviour”, and of course “boyish” is or should be subjective but alas, we haven’t as a society quite got there yet. Liz didn’t just prefer boys’ clothing, she refused to wear dresses but when you stop to think about it, that’s pure aesthetics.

A dad recently told me his son’s favourite colour was pink. The dad found it charming if anything, and irrelevant at heart which it is: any colour is an aesthetic preference that says nothing about your gender, sexuality or algebraic aptitude for solving complex quadratic equations. But he confessed – with embarrassment – that it was a concern to him how others would react. No need for embarrassment: that is pure paternal love and completely understandable because, as a society, we have not quite got to the bloody obvious yet!

Anyway, as well as the clothes Liz happened to like a great many sports which for no very good reason were and still are, to a ludicrous extent, seen as the exclusive province of boys. Also, the toys. There’s one screamingly funny episode in which Liz and her mate Tyler terrorise the playground with their twin set of watches in the shape of emergency vehicles complete with very loud, requisite sirens, honing in on whoever’s to hand in a pincer movement with their arms outstretched:

*Weeoooweee*
*Weeoooweee*
“You’re under arrest!”
“And on fire!”

What isn’t so funny is what happens to their friendship when Tyler becomes the first boy ever to develop a crush on Liz. It is, in its truest sense, tragic.

Which is, I believe, where sex education comes in, and the irony that the gender boundaries come down (instead of girls thinking boys are icky and v-a-v, classroom crushes are ignited and the chases begin) then go straight back up again when it becomes clear that any such overt affections are one more flag-waving “target me!” for further teasing and worse. Still, who here hasn’t stalked a be-crushed one, artfully positioning yourself in the place most likely to meet them by complete accident?!

“Dare I drink from this anointed fountain?” ponders young Prince once so-sporty Caleb has sipped from the water font, so rendering it the equivalent of Lourdes.

The art of all this is that although Liz Prince has a specific story to tell about having the outrageous temerity to, you know, not like all things flowery and frilly, its incidents and even issues will all prove so painfully yet (hopefully by now) hilariously familiar.

The hilarious is due in no small part to the cartooning with bashfulness, embarrassment and pleased-as-punch pictured to perfection – along with one poor lad’s bugged-out eyes in a necklock.

There are diagrams like ‘Ye Olde Social Ladder’ so that you know (but also “know”) your place, plus faux diary entries and oh god please shoot me now.

The style seems on the surface to be a combination of Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino and the UK’s Andi Watson, but it isn’t any of those individually. It’s far less abstract than Porcellino, much less dense and intense than Jeffrey Brown nor as precise as early Andi Watson, but fans of all three – who are legion here – will embrace it to bits. It is crisp, clear and emotive and playful as hell.

It’s also a much, much longer, less episodic and more focussed read than anything Prince has attempted before (ALONE FOREVER, most recently) and so shifts her standing from the effortlessly engaging and entertaining to the cream of the comicbook crop.

One final note. Liz is incredibly lucky to meet a woman called Harley. Harley spies her potential and encourages Prince’s creativity just when it’s needed the most. Later she will meet Maggie who will introduce her both to zines and to a scene which will finally make her feel comfortable. Prince pays tribute to both these women and I love that. She also records one conversation with Harley which puts a second reading of this firmly into perspective.

For all that young ladies like Liz have endured because of our obsession with the woefully superficial as opposed to what it is really important – what lies underneath – it is still much easier for girls to wear boys’ clothing than it is for boys to wear girls’.

*sigh*

SLH

Buy Tomboy and read the Page 45 review here

The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden (£11-99) by Anders Nilsen.

Rare, limited edition, A-4 album of exquisite beauty from the creator of one of my all-time favourite graphic novels, BIG QUESTIONS.

This isn’t being distributed in the UK, so we bought these in direct from Anders himself.

Unlike future editions, if any, these initial copies come with the CONVERSATION GARDENING mini-comic bound inside.

As Anders explains within, if you buy this from an independent retailer like Page 45 then post him an idea, he will send you an original, signed drawing of that idea for free! You will need to send him your receipt: all items bought at our till or on our website come with such a receipt.

Why would Nilsen give you this labour-intensive love? To support independent retailers.

CONVERSATION GARDENING is a mischief in and of its own right in which a cartoon centaur of sorts, standing in for Anders himself, illustrates Amazon’s business practices and its customers’ all too willing compliance and collaboration by way of slapstick visual metaphors and dead-pan rejoinders:

“Hey, excuse me.”
“Ah, hi. Yeah?”
“Did you just throw someone into that hole?”
“Why, yes I did. Why do you ask?”
“Why would you do something like that?”
“Well, it was incredibly cheap. And super convenient. I didn’t even have to get out my credit card.”
“Oh. I see. Have a nice day.”
[To reader:] “See how that works?”

 

We’re still only touching on the mini-comic. I promise we’ll get to the main feature soon, but here’s Nilsen’s moment of satori after he has explained why the exchange of ideas through the previously free printed press is so important:

“So there I am, this super lucky author, drinking my coffee one morning and looking at the internet. And I read this blog post about how Amazon, who has a near-monopoly, is making books it doesn’t like disappear from its site.
“The main book they’re disappearing is called ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone.
“It’s about Amazon’s history and business practices. How it used books as a way to get customers’ information to create a monopoly. How it puts small booksellers out of business.
“On purpose.
“As part of its business plan.
“So, it’s critical of Amazon.
“But they’re also disappearing other books by the same publisher, Machette.
“And it’s not the first time. They have a history of doing this with other publishers and other authors.
“When the mob does it, it’s called extortion.”

The main, album-sized event whose name is so long I am not going to retype it is riddled with similarly incisive socio-political commentary, often without recourse to words. The three-Act cover alone is a masterpiece.

The front depicts an Eden complete with tree – a few thorny vines snaking round it – lounged on by a leopard while wildlife roams freely below. Now open it up, and more majesty unfolds seamless on the other side: African plains as nature intended (bar a few touristy palms) and amongst the indigenous animal population streaks a naked boy playing with a toy plane in one hand and a leopard cub in the other. You may have noticed he’s white. Still, it remains pretty utopian. Fold out the final, french-flap segment, however, and you’re in for a surprise. Remember that long-winded title now?

I’m not going to give all of this away because then why buy the book yourself? However, the first image inside is equally telling. It’s another landscape seemingly pastoral and tranquil in nature but far further from Heaven. It’s populated by domesticated ducks surrounding two unicorns who graze and gaze round them; one quite mournfully, the other quite angrily for a unicorn. The lawn is hedged-in. There is soulless, geometric topiary: the sort of thing you might find shorn on a poodle-dog’s tail. There are rubber tires.

All of which is reprised on either side of two damning, war-centred shorts, in the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil’s rootball and a waste of land in a vast, vacant lot. I’ll happily chat with you on the shop floor about all that remains after you’ve read it.

For example, you may be used to Anders’ fragile line and vulnerable forms, but the man is a trained artist with neo-Classicism at his disposal so witnessing his silhouettes of a hand holding aloft a flawlessly facetted diamond in stark black and white is something which will elicit a sharp intake of breath.

The First of the Fallen bears witness to God’s creation of the universe and even nudges the Dithering Deity along, but then he detects a flaw in His latest project called Man. He warns God against it, but when you’ve created something in Your Own Image then you’re going to take that sort of criticism personally.

Those eyes are haunting.

SLH

Buy The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden and read the Page 45 review here

The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnson & Justin Greenwood.

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?

From the writer of WASTELAND, UMBRAL and THE COLDEST CITY!

On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% case clearance rate over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. We do that that making friends with veteran Klem will prove difficult.

“Short for “Klementina”. You assumed I’d be a guy.”
“I assumed you would not be old enough to retire.”
“And I assumed you would be too old for High School.”

For a German, Dietrich can sure hold his own in a sharp-tongued bout of American verbal sabres. Let’s see how good he is at being thrown in at the deep end when a Cabler – one of The Fuse’s reclusive homeless – staggers out of the darkness and falls dead in front of him. In her pocket are a phone card which Cablers don’t use and an electronic card for a shuttleport locker which Cablers can’t afford.

Almost immediately a second Cabler falls flat on his face with a similarly fatal wound right outside Midway City Hall, dropping a gun with two empty chambers. And that’s an odd direction to head in. Inside Mayor Rocky Swanson is preparing for re-election by practising his speech craft:

“As you probably know, I lost my family in the riots of ’97.”
“”Fires of ‘97”. FLF will fall on any violent imagery. Add “like most of you”. Inclusive, even nostalgic.”
“When I needed help, Midway City took me in. Raised me, educated me, even sent me to college. This city became my family.”
“More vulnerable. Build up to the defiance.”
“Now, like any family… Sure we argue from time to time. We don’t always agree on how to get things done.”
“”Argue around the dinner table”. Like normal people.”

Oh, there will be family arguments all right. Did I mention that the phone card was used to contact the City Hall twice? And the riots…? They were race riots. There’s plenty of hard politics here along with a murder mystery which, in spite of hard-won leads, will confound Klem and Dietrich almost to the end.

Aside from the term “Cabler” which I promise you proves contextual, there’s barely a piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. (I liked the “Fuck a spaceman!” swear of exasperation or surprise.) Nor is there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior is identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.

Similarly, unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night lie a gigantic electrical fuse.

Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma make the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino. No one looks particularly healthy – they’re all slightly wan – and you wait until you see where and how the Cablers live in their vertical shanty-town shafts of precarious metal ledges.

Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics, while subsequent chapter breaks are variations on that big, bold theme, all retaining its circular motif.

There were a couple of spreads I had to read twice, their top- tier panel layouts having failed to alert me that I needed to read right across the double page before dropping down (top tip: make sure the centre panel of that top tier is spread evenly over the crease, please) but that’s the VAT-man in me determined in find at least one fault in what’s otherwise perfection.

Antony proved himself a world-builder par excellence in UMBRAL without spewing it clumsily and messily at your feet all at once. Similarly here you’re left to learn the history and politics (office and otherwise) gradually and in manageable bursts as newcomer Dietrich does. He’s going to make mistakes. They all are.

Lieutenant Yuri Brachyinov:

“I hope we’ve all learned a valuable lesson today, or some other bullshit. Now get out there and solve these fucking murders.”

SLH

Buy The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by J. . Rinzler & Mike Mayhew…

It’s Star Wars, George, but not as we know it.

A long time ago…

I heard a story regarding a young George Lucas, around the time he made THX 1138 – his first film, which if you haven’t seen you really should, it is a dystopian classic – touting a rough draft of his next film around various producers and moneymen in Hollywood, with a view to getting funding.

That was, of course, Star Wars but apparently the draft film, including sequences of space battles recreated with biplane dog fight footage, left the industry luminaries less than impressed and initially he struggled to find backers. This was perhaps not that surprising given the general attitude towards science fiction pictures at the time in Hollywood, post the 1974 debacle that was Zardoz* featuring Sean Connery rocking the mankini long before Borat made it popular. Seriously, how was he ever persuaded to wear that?

Anyway, what I don’t know is how much of that Star Wars proto-film was based on the final screenplay, and how much of it was based on this earlier draft, as the two are rather different. That proto-film is actually a DVD extra I would happily pay for, but maybe it is lost to the mists of time, or Lucas has long since wiped it, which would be a shame. In any event, this comic gives us a fascinating glimpse into a work in progress. It’s just as solid a script in its own right as the final version, and apparently Lucas himself okayed this comic page by page, so it is as close to a cinematic version of his original screenplay as we are ever likely to get.

Pretty much all the characters you would expect are here, just not as you know them. Not remotely. Certain key plot points also remain, but in essence it is a completely different story.

 

Nice, clean if slightly stilted art from Mike Mayhew, plus cinematically lit with vibrant colours from Rain Beredo, carries the relatively complex story well. Some may consider THE STAR WARS yet more indulgent and unnecessary retrospective tinkering with the Star Wars canon and established mythos by Lucas, but I think this work has genuine value for its insight into the early process that produced, whether you like it or not, a genre defining and generational cinema classic. Also, it is just great sci-fi fun in its own right.

(* If you have never seen Zardoz either, you really do need to see that as well, trust me. It takes some believing, given is truly awful on so many levels, with one of the most utterly bizarre ‘plots’ ever conceived, but it is a triumphant cult classic without a doubt.)

JR

Buy The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

“Poor Mexico – so far from God and so close to the USA.”

- Diaz Ordiz, Mexican President, 1960

And so, with this reprint collecting volumes three and four, we start afresh with the titular assassin three years into retirement, lazing on the beaches of Venezuela. Lazing – that really doesn’t sound like him, does it? On the other hand he might well have stayed there had Mariano not sent fresh clients his way. Maybe they were the itch he couldn’t help scratching as they fed him a succession of contracts, one after the other.

The first seemed relatively straightforward: a Spanish oil broker living in Venezuela but thankfully staying in Mexico. Then an assistant manager of the Venezuelan National Bank: a little close to home but another easy target because riding a scooter in Caracas is tantamount to suicide anyway. But it’s the third target which begins to rattle our unflappable killer who hasn’t been as calculating as he should have been. Her name is Madre Luisa, much loved in Latin America as a nun working the shunned slums of Columbia. He’s basically been asked to off Mother Teresa. Why?

With the help of Mariano and his Padrino, the connections become as clear and as they prove crude. This is Venezuela, after all, the third-largest supplier of the USA’s oil. Its President Hugo Chavez is determined to nationalise the industry. Unfortunately that doesn’t change anything except the likely identity of his clients and their potential reach: if he doesn’t kill Madre Luisa someone else will, and then they’ll come looking for him.

As topical right now as I’m afraid it’s likely to prove for quite some time, events spiral out of control on a national level and when Cuba’s interest is revealed the cold cogitations inevitably take a turn for the political. Here’s our man in Havana:

“There were fewer people sleeping outside and dying of hunger in the streets of Havana than in New York or Bombay. Not bad for a country strangled by American embargos for more than forty years. They weren’t rolling in dough and might not eat their fill every day, but they weren’t America’s whore or flunky, or anyone else’s and they knew it.
“Why is Fidel criticised? ‘Cause Cuba isn’t a democracy? What country is? The USA and Europe are in name only. And they impose their so-called superiority on the rest of the world. Easy enough when you rape and pillage, when you grow rich off other men’s work, when you don’t respect the rules you force on them. Bolivar said in 1823: “Providence seems to have destined the United States to rain all sorts of calamities on South America in the name of liberty.” Seeing that far ahead is really something…
“Castro’s funny too. He once said Christ’s sermons would make for good radical socialism, whether or not you were a believer. At the UN, 184 out of 192 countries voted to lift the embargo on Cuba. Only Israel, the US, the Marshall Islands, and Palau voted no… and won. Democracy in action.”

There’s plenty more where that came from in a thriller whose killer has much more to say about foreign intervention and genocide throughout the ages and across the globe. You might say it’s his specialist subject and once more it’s that part of his nature he denies having that lands him in trouble: he can’t help but question everything he’s told, everything he sees around him, and in spite of his protestations he does actually care. In his line of work, nobody likes a troublemaker.

It’s the light that readers comment on most. Whether it’s the dappled shade at a corner café or looking up from the forest floor to the canopy above, the foliage growing fainter as more sunlight shines through, the colouring’s a joy. Plenty of Cuban sunsets this time, and Miami’s glorious aquamarine coastline is yet another of Jacamon’s flourishes which will have you gasping. His reflector sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.

Further “negotiations” will eventually take him to London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.

“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.
“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”

SLH

Buy The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New Wipers Times (£5-00, Nottingham City Museums) by various including Helen Cross & Carol Adams…

A wonderfully witty nod to the trench magazine published by soldiers who were actively fighting in WWI. Not many people have heard of the original Wipers Times these days, let alone know it was produced by the Sherwood Foresters regiment. In 1916, the 12th battalion of the Foresters was at Ypres when they came across an abandoned printing press. One of the soldiers, a printer in peacetime, managed to get it working, and thus the satirical paper, its name a deliberate mispronunciation of where they had found the press itself, was born.

It proved hugely popular with poems, cartoons, essays and jokes regarding the War from anonymous contributors. I can well imagine the paper wasn’t particularly well received by the top brass, who were often portrayed as clueless and self-absorbed, but at least they didn’t try to suppress it unlike the French Generals did with The Song Of Craonne, offering a million francs and an immediate honourable discharge to anyone who identified its creators. Not that anyone ever did.

This tribute, published by Nottingham City Museums, contains a selection of material written by army families, adults and children, edited by Helen Cross and then illustrated in a variety of styles by the redoubtable Carol Adams that neatly captures the subversive and silly flavour of the original. Not that the stories are all WWI based, far from it, many illustrate the current concerns of modern military spouses and kids. The pieces are liberally interspersed with spoof adverts for ridiculous contraptions of the ilk that DR. GRORDBORT would undoubtedly approve of!

I was very impressed, I must say, both by the quality of writing and also the artwork. Yes, you can obviously tell what has been penned by the different age groups, but there is some rather moving material here, as well as the more overtly humorous. The co-ordinator of the project, Kay Culbard, mentioned to me that Helen Cross, the artist, was determined to use a number of different styles, despite a rather tight deadline, and it was well worth her efforts because it really adds to the depth of this anthology as a whole. Lovely to see people remembering the sacrifices made by those who fought in WW1 in a touching, contemporary and innovative manner.

JR

Buy The New Wipers Times and read the Page 45 review here

Invincible Days h/c (£14-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan.

“Bittersweet, joyful and reflective.” Yes, okay.

Childhood memories supplied to Atangan by friends and family then popped in a blender and poured onto each rigid, four-page tray like so much chocolate cake mix.

Look at the colours! They may be bright but they’re also pallid and opaque. Look at the anthropomorphics: each narrator’s child hasn’t been transformed into an animal, they’ve been turned into a plush-toy version of that animal. It’s like lingering uncomfortably long in a four-year-old’s bedroom. Cloying, to say the least.

My main problem, however, isn’t the colours or the teddybear protagonists, it’s the stop-start nature of the broken sentences divided almost equally and so arbitrarily between each unyielding panel of each identical twelve-panel page of each four-page story.

We’re not baking buns here, we’re making comics.

And actually, I’m not too sure about the “joyful” or “bittersweet” – most of those I’ve read are desperately sad, particularly when it comes to pets for whom it doesn’t end well. But yes, they are reflective and some are genuinely affecting, like ‘Displacement’. In it a grandmother is moved into a nursing home, enduring without complaint a feeding regime which will appal you, and leaving both a vacuum and a rift in the family household.

Moreover, the book ends on an absolute belter called ‘Responsibility’ in which the narrator’s sister is given a goldfish won by her boyfriend at a fair. Initially she is thrilled: she buys a bowl, some pebbles to line its bottom and even a plastic castle. But she swiftly loses interest in the bowl and its water’s maintenance and therefore the health of the animal, leaving her brother to intervene on the goldfish’s behalf or it simply wouldn’t get done.

She’s now pregnant.

SLH

Buy Invincible Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sisters (£8-50, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier…

“I WANT A SISTER!!
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.”
“Should we tell her?”
“I don’t know, what if it’s a boy?”

Ha, well it was a girl, but Raina certainly didn’t get the soulmate of a younger sister she was expecting. Instead she got a sibling, Amara, who seemingly has no interest in socialising with her, or indeed even being social to her. Right from her birth, her sister seems to take delight in generally antagonising and annoying her. Their only shared interest seems to be drawing, but even that doesn’t seem to be something they can bond over.

Meanwhile, the time has come for a family vacation and whilst Dad is flying to and from the destination of Colorado, Mum, the girls and their younger brother are going to drive in a VW camper van. From California. It proves to be a very long trip, in both directions, broken up only by a family reunion with various aunts, uncles and cousins, with whom they are staying. There is one female cousin in particular Raina is looking forward to catching up with, as she felt much more of a sisterly connection with her the last time they met than she has ever felt with her own. Several years have passed since then however, and now their slight difference in ages, Raina being the younger, is rather apparent, leaving Raina first a tad bemused and then disappointed.

 

If you are a fan of Raina’s previous work, the dentally traumatic SMILE, then you will be familiar with her cheerful, breezy art style, and find this just as much cringeworthy fun. I loved the recycling of the SMILE cover image into this cover as well, very amusing. This is a warmly written, humorous, and I am sure entirely accurate portrait of what it must be like to have endured a shared childhood with someone you could quite cheerfully have strangled at any given moment. Fortunately, being an only child I managed to avoid all that, though obviously now having Stephen as a business partner I feel I might be gaining some insight into the matter…

Amara can’t have been that bad though, or maybe they just get on better as adults, as Raina does dedicate this work to her!

JR

Buy Sisters and read the Page 45 review here

Dream Locations Postcards (£5-99,) by Joe List, Lizz Lunney, Soju Tanaka.

Come visit Page 45’s brand-new Lizz Lunney Megastore!

http://www.page45.com/store/The-Page-45-Lizz-Lunney-Superstore.html

“Greetings from the void,” says one of Joe List’s postcards, neatly naming my brain, while Lizz Lunney invites you to “Lovely, sunny, beautiful… Squirrel Park.” Keep your windows up and don’t get out of the car!

I was once chatting to a professional pest control expert and, if you think squirrels are cute little critters who just love to nibble their nuts, you wait until you get some in your loft. And if you do find some in your loft, under no circumstances try a summary eviction yourself. Rats will run away. Squirrels do not back down! Nuts are aphoristically famous for being tough to crack, so imagine the damage a squirrel’s teeth can do to yours.

Anyway (one public service announcement later), we are now bursting with Lizz Lunney epistolary madness, and this neat little booklet of 21 postcards by Joe, Soju and Lizz comes with a bonus of  8 glossy stickers.

I’m constantly misreading “the sea of faces”, though. I wonder if that’s intentional?

SLH

Buy Dream Locations Postcards and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renee French

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil

Pariah vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Aaron Warner, Phillip Gelatt & Brett Weldele

Probably Nothing: A Diary Of Not-Your-Average Nine Months h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Matilda Tristam

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various

Thunderbirds vol 1 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 2 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 3 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by various

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 5 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

Batwoman vol 4: This Blood Is Thick s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. H. Williams, Haden Blackman & Trevor McCarthy, Francesco Francavilla

Deathstroke vol 1: Legacy s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Deathstroke vol 2: Lobo Hunt s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch

Green Lantern Corps vol 3: Willpower s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Geoff Johns & Fernando Pasarin, various

Battle Angel Alita Last Order vol 18 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 2 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

News

ITEM! Colleen Doran’s Orpheus and Morpheus from SANDMAN!

ITEM! New Neil Gaiman short story collection (prose) Trigger Warnings: Short Fictions and Disturbances revisits American Gods. Due February 2015.

ITEM! Marc Laming is knocking it out of the park on a daily basis. Starlord – immaculate composition.

ITEM! Ian McQue’s sublime Lost World in green.

ITEM! Leigh Alexander writes about the damage done by Gamers to the reputation of the wider games industry. If you can’t see similarities with the less healthy aspects of superhero comics culture (I emphasise superhero there – not the Real Mainstream comics culture we all know, love, promote and propagate here), then I cannot help you.

ITEM! Comics and Graphic Novels for September 2014 onwards is up on Page 45’s website for free! Please add new titles you know you will want to your Standing Order here (or start up a new one) as soon as possible and you will be guaranteed copies! Alternatively please pre-order directly online!

Either way, ordering the day after publication reduces your hopes dramatically and may induce tears, making your mascara run so that you look like a raccoon. It’s not a good look.

Our Image Comics page includes Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C #1 What’s this? It’s Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C previewed here!

ITEM! Page 45 proudly announces its Lizz Lunney Megastore! A one-stop shop for all Lizz’s self-published comics and notebooks and cards. If it’s in print, we’ve got it!

Yippee!

Also: don’t forget Lizz Lunney’s TAKE AWAY, the TINY PENCIL anthology artefact, the HIC & HOC HUMOUR anthology and Page 45’s exclusive Lizz Lunney greetings card!

“You always have friends when you have comics.”

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week four

August 27th, 2014

“Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly recall some unspeakable transgression of mine, and the shame and horror I feel will stop me dead in my tracks!”

 - Jim Woodring in Jim. Does that sound familiar or what?

Zaya h/c (£22-50, Magnetic) by Jean-David Morvan & Huang-Jia Wei.

“Please, sir, perhaps you should stop drinking…”

Pick a page, any page, and I promise you will lap this up.

A tonic for tired eyes, it is a sublime fusion of European science fiction settling into steampunk in places, with plenty to please more mature manga readers too in the form of the Chinese protagonists, antagonists and subaquatic, aerial and upper-atmosphere dogfights.

The architecture is exquisite, from Zaya’s countryside getaway – an ornate, gabled mansion with white wooden and stone features overshadowed by trees – to the early morning marina with its Venetian towers and baroque clocks in what is evidently a very rich quarter of a very rich city. You should see Zaya’s hotel room – and just wait until you book into the saltwater resort of Estrella del Mar whose hotels, each competing to outdo the others in opulence and originality, sit right on the immaculate beaches, their balustraded stone steps rising from the sands.

However the art is actually composed, it looks like good old-fashioned pencil and wash with exquisite figure work and a fine eye for fashion. Zaya’s black waistcoats, miniskirts and cocktail dresses could not be more chic; her hair, blouses and battlesuit too.

The palette, for the most part, is pure Arthur Rackham: sepia, creams and muted greens which makes the rich blue skies of Estrella del Mar all the fresher and the minimally deployed reds stand out a mile.

As to the steampunk aspect, there is a charming mix of the antique, antiquated and futuristic from Zaya’s mail box, country house and classic car pimped with rocket pipes to the giant floating liners, airships and spaceships and Zaya’s spaceship bathroom with its pumps, plumbing and small generator only partially hidden by chain-linked metal mesh! Also, coming back to the architecture, we’re not on Earth but a colonised planet so everything has been built afresh. When we do reach Earth you’ll discover the modern sits atop ground-level conurbations far more familiar. I love that either the writer or artist has thought of that.

This isn’t created in shorthand, either, so you won’t feel short-changed: plenty of extended scenes so you can soak in the eye-candy.

It’s opening night at Zaya Oblidine’s holosculpture exhibition. The centre piece looks like some tumour-ridden mammoth to me, but it’s being very well received. An over-entitled nitwit being pleaded with by the waiter is getting drunk and obnoxious. Zaya steps in. The drunkard “steps out”.

Meanwhile, a family car is being targeted by a top-heavy mutant of a man or machine that looks like it could have been designed by Zaya herself. With gigantic jetpacks armoured and weaponised to the max, she/he/it prefers an aerial assault and it’s devastating. The first strike takes out most of the mother’s face and only the father manages to crawl from the wreckage and scramble for cover. Pursued to a dead end, the man cuts off his own hand with a circular saw and jettisons it into a garbage chute so its signet ring can transmit into space, there to be detected by Spiral. Oh, and space has another useful property too…

It transpires that he’s not been the first former agent of Spiral to be tracked down. It also transpires that sculpture wasn’t Zaya’s first occupation. After twenty years working for the top secret agency called Spiral (she joined very young, as you’ll discover) she retired six years ago when she fell pregnant and has since raised the two daughters she dotes on as a more than capable single parent. Her younger sister Carmen visits often. This is not irrelevant.

Now Zaya’s being reactivated for what Spiral claims will be such a low-risk, safe and simple assignment that she won’t even need a gun: she’s to work for one day as a hostess on a yacht moored at Estrella del Mar. But if it’s such a low-level mission, why are there 341 other Spiral agents acting as crew members too?

So there you go: a summary of Act One. As you might infer Act Two goes postal with the most monumental all-out action you can imagine before Act Three takes a completely unexpected turn at the transdimensional traffic lights leaving Zaya confounded, distraught then devastated. Readers will be tearing their hair out under a deluge of dramatic irony. You know what’s happening: Zaya hasn’t a clue.

A final note on Estrella del Mar that made me laugh:

“Many beaches of the central island are clearly separated for naturists and other groups of religious thought, so that everyone can relax without having to face the gaze of others.”

Plus:

“”Sorry” is really the last thing you should say to a woman after sex.”

My friend Cath found “Thanks for that” pretty shoddy too.

SLH

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

Corpse Talk Season 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy.

Julius Caesar:

“I didn’t abolish the Senate, I just filled it with my guys who all did what I said.”
“Good idea, boss!”
“That made some people mad!”
“We need to do something about it…”
“Something stabby…”

Something stabby.

All education should be entertainment, and this was so entertaining that I learned more about history in these sixty pages than I did during six years of lessons at school. Moreover, I read so retained more than I did watching three seasons of Simon Schama. Studies have proved you retain more when reading; add in the visual cues a comic can connect in your brain and you have a Young Adult bursting with knowledge, having had a whale of a time in the process and so looking forward to more!

The cartooning is bright, gleeful and incredibly detailed as each interviewee takes you back in time to celebrate their crowning achievements and most moronic moments. Did you know, for example, that Florence Nightingale’s Crimean endeavours ended up killing more soldiers than they saved? Her Nightingale Rose diagram shows the number that died in battle was dwarfed by the thousands who died of infections caught and spread within the confines of the hospital.

Dick Turpin turns out to be a much less impressive loser than his enduring reputation would have you believe, while Queen Boudica (she of the multiple name spellings) almost had the Roman soldiers on the run…

“We had them trapped and outnumbered by twenty to one.”
“Eep!”
“Uh, sir, I have to go. My wife’s giving birth…”
“My mum’s giving birth!
I’m giving birth!”

… but her soldiers, so confident that some charged in nekkid, all came a cropper at the impenetrable end of the Roman Tortoise, a wall of shields as strong as its shell with swords and spears sticking out of it.

That Adam Murphy chose conversations with cadavers is essential to the merriment: a long list of facts would have been so, so dull, and besides, kids love corpses. Instead the pun-prone man with the microphone really engages, aggravates and occasionally runs away from his guests in outright terror. It’s a performance like Kermit the Frog’s.

He’s also done his research like any smart interviewer and carefully constructs each episode around the most salient scenes, thus distilling but not distorting the stories, putting them firmly into perspective (especially Joan of Arc’s) and so really making you think! Just as education should be entertaining it should also be engaging: not just force-feeding students facts, but making them think about what they’re learning.

Marie Curie discovered radiation: hurrah! It killed her: hurr-oh! Her notebooks are so radioactive they still can’t be handled safely. Leonardo Da Vinci was a true Renaissance Man (he was both an all-rounder and had a slight helping hand in the Italian Renaissance) so studied the anatomy he painted so well. He then went on to design flying machines and weapons of war – lots of them including a robot! – but bought caged birds to free them and was possibly the only vegetarian in Italy. Unusual in those days. Pirate Anne Bonny initially cross-dressed to fool her crew but then got fooled too when the man she fell in love with turned out to be playing the same game. If you think Murphy could resist “What a drag!” you are very much mistaken.

Almost every conversation is curtailed with a similar pun, begins with a tombstone decorated according to the subject’s most iconic object or association, and is introduced to viewers with a big Kermit flail.

“This week, my guest is a truly timeless classic! It’s the piano prodigy, violin virtuoso, king of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!”
“Righteous.”

You can almost year the Muppets’ applause.

Like Andi Watson in GLISTER, Adam Murphy does not shy away from deploying what may be new words to young readers like “appellation” and quite right too: if you don’t encounter new words, how can you learn them? You can even learn a little Latin (“Ave!”) and where Crossing the Rubicon came from (clue: crossing the Rubicon).

The book begins with a chronological rabbit warren of graves, tombs and catacombs each denoting a key note in history, crucial for context, dating back from 1969 (Moon landing) to circa 3000 BC when writing was invented and I was aged five.

I leave you with a King Tut titbit in which we learn why the genetically disadvantaged Tutankhamun was a bit rickety on his pins and almost always ill: his dad married his own sister! And so did he!

SLH

Buy Corpse Talk Season 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The End (Silver Edition) signed & sketched in (£6-00, Thingsbydan) by Dan Berry.

“14 Days & Counting.”

Well, this will give you pause for thought.

Bound within a luxurious, rough-grained, card-stock cover which had been screen-printed with scarlet, black and silver ink are some of the most sobering pages I’ve read from Dan Berry. Such is the beauty of the cover you might not register at first that the objects which the gold [now silver] adorns are skulls.

It’s closer to CARRY ME in tone that the comedy of CAT ISLAND, THE SUITCASE, HEY YOU! and THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, but in execution it’s yet another departure. The washes are in a wet, inky black and blue whose sheen is picked up beautifully on the crisp, white, satin paper.

A lot of this takes place at night, which doesn’t always bring out the best in us. We don’t like it when we can’t see what is happening. We don’t like it when we don’t understand what is happening. We don’t react well to that which we cannot control.

Time in particular we feel the need to control: we measure it out in years divided into months or weeks, which we decided should have seven days composed of twenty-four hours each housing sixty minutes and they, sixty seconds. A day makes solar sense, as does a year, but boy we don’t half attach a lot of importance to some of the more arbitrary measurements and a countdown sure gets the adrenalin rushing.

When the numbers first appeared overnight – all of them “14” – they did so on walls and billboards and buses: the sort of places you’d expect from a marketing campaign. So we shrugged because that’s what we assumed it was.

“Thirteen came and went the next day with a chorus of “I told you so” and eye-rolling from the people who kept up with this sort of thing. The progression from 14 to 13 was predictable and had been done to death, they said. If this was to be a truly effective ad campaign, we’d need to given a reason to car and we didn’t have that. 6 /10, must try harder.”

Love the smug, supercilious pundit there in his turtleneck sweater, brandishing a cigarette and tut-tutting with his fingers.

Dan’s put an enormous amount of lateral thought into this, a study in human behaviour under unusual circumstances extrapolated from how we do react to numbers and time. Also, I love the core conceit and where Dan ran with it right to the end.

SLH

Buy The End and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor…

“Why you lookin’ at me like that, Russell?”

Ha! I do love Ed’s portrayal of Russell Simmons, and I am pleased he gets the props here – to use the street parlance – that he so richly deserves, for his huge part in the explosion of Hip-Hop and its subsequent introduction to the club-going and record buying masses. He remains a fascinating bloke to this day, actually: a staunch vegan, transcendental meditation practitioner, and long-time supporter of gay rights, inter-faith dialogue and social activism. But, back in the day, his interests were somewhat more focused on getting paid by finding new musical talent, and having a good time.

That he kept his younger brother out of the studio for so long, despite his ever more vocal protests, is all the more amusing when you know his brother is Joseph Simmons, or as he soon became far better known, Rev. Run of iconic hip-hop grandmasters Run-D.M.C. When he finally let his brother and his mate into the studio, ostensibly to shut them up, Russell quickly realised he had struck not just gold, but multi-platinum. Their first few gigs as a lyrical duo, though, were something of a trial by fire, getting ridiculed for their check jackets and flares stage outfits. Cue one typical flash of Russell Simmons’ genius later, as he spied a casually dressed, hat wearing, sneaker pimped, ghetto blaster toting Jason “Jazzy Jase” Mizell entering the studios whilst debriefing the boys, and the fresh and fly trio of Run-D.M.C. that we know and love today were born. In an era of ever more surreal and outlandish performers’ costumes, their laidback street attire was exactly what was required to appeal to the masses.

The little nugget I have just described above takes up barely a couple of pages of this magnificent second volume, which explores 1981-1983, detailing the continuing, burgeoning public acclaim of the early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Arika Bambaataa, whilst revealing the childhoods and very early days of future legends like Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and NWA. This series of books, for I assume Ed is going to continue onwards past 1983 which is where this volume concludes, is vital reading for anyone wanting to know more about this era of music. His knowledge of his subject is truly encyclopaedic, but the piecing together of all the various insane anecdotes to produce a coherent and engaging narrative is magnificent craft, and he captures the raw charisma and sheer chutzpah that many of the performers, who had polished their skills on the mean streets the hard way, possessed in abundance. Confidence, usually, was the one area they were not lacking in. Naivety in dealing with record labels, on the other hand…

Just going back to sartorial elegance, or the lack thereof, it takes some believing these days, the outfits some of the early pioneers used to wear. There is a great little scene where someone gets extremely excited over Ice T’s first proto-single simply because he looks like he is straight out of Mad Max. And I am talking Beyond Thunderdome, not Road Warrior… In fact when you look at how Afrika Bambaataa and his acolytes dressed around this period, you can perhaps understand how it wasn’t that big a stretch to someone coming up with the Village People…

I think the connections and friendships Ed details, between various apparently very disparate elements of the wider music and arts scene, particularly in New York, are absolutely paramount to understanding the fast-moving morphology of music at a time where public exposure was also exploding exponentially through MTV, which launched in August 1981. There are some bizarre friendships, occasionally of complete convenience, which you would never expect, yet in retrospect make perfect sense, both musically and indeed fiscally. So when a certain ginger, wild-haired chancer called Malcolm McLaren starts to take an interest in how he can export Hip-Hop to the UK, he insinuates himself into the scene like the veritable social and musical chameleon we now know he was, glad-handing and appropriating everything he needed for his next sonic experiment. Whether the tracks Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the canon of truly great hip-hop records isn’t for me to decide, but we can’t dispute they certainly played their dancefloor-filling part in helping to bring hip-hop to the UK.

I really do hope Ed continues with this work, not least because his still has a few years to go before hitting my own personal era of getting into rap and hip hop, circa 1988. That all began with catching the Public Enemy video for Don’t Believe The Hype on Top Of The Pops one Thursday night and simply thinking, “What on earth is this?” I did already like a bit of Chicago House at that point, probably had heard some of the Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel stuff, but one purchase of “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” later the following Saturday and a lifelong love with that genre had well and truly begun.

JR

Buy Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Fish (£6-50, Nobrow) by Bianca Bagnarelli.

Golly.

Rarely has lilac been employed so effectively (inside – I know the cover’s black cherry), and young Milo’s skin positively glows under the Mediterranean sun.

It’s quite a short piece so I’ll say very little. It’s also the second story about drowning I’ve read in two days.

Milo’s parents drowned and now he is burdened with a sense of loss he finds difficult to express. When he tries, he fails and so he falls silent. His mouth is tiny.

When a girl is washed up on a beach, his curiosity will only make matters worse. Milo has questions which can never be answered.

There’s a stillness here which will leave you staring at each carefully composed page for quite some time. Who knew a prawn would prove so entrancing?

I liked the way Milo wiggles his toes when his legs are dangling over a bridge.

As to the titular fish… no, I’m not going there.

SLH

Buy Fish and read the Page 45 review here

Jim h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

“Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly recall some unspeakable transgression of mine, and the shame and horror I feel will stop me dead in my tracks!”

Oh, that happens to me. All. The. Fucking. Time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neurotic: I’m deliriously happy at work and with most of the work that I’ve done, but we all have our doubts.

Jim Woodring’s not neurotic, either. He’s a thinker and a visionary and a craftsman with the visual skill and verbal dexterity to express his visions and, here, thoughts and dreams. He understands dream logic: its surreal segues, odd settings and reconfigured cast combinations. I have, before now, shared an apartment with our Mark, Jo Brand, Warren Worthington III (X-Men’s Angel), an old flame and a couple of strangers we found in the bath.

Because Jim Woodring is best known for the silent FRANK fables (there are many volumes now, each extensively reviewed, so please pop “Jim Woodring” in our search engine) what you may be unaware of until now is that the man also has a way with words. Also, an obsession with frogs whose explanation is revealed in a rather dramatic anecdote in Jim’s introduction which touches on his early experiences with Oz and the history of these earliest works in the magazine-sized JIM which Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth had so much faith in that he published them for years at a loss. What Woodring doesn’t do is explain the contents. You know, apart from that giant frog with its permanently arched eyebrow. Anyway, words:

“Once I had a little trust…
“Its burnished head nattered at me in a voice as wild and sullen as my own and led me to walls that sulked and raged and trees that blared fantastic music.
“I stole something poor in those days and everyone cared, for every leaf was seen not merely as green, but all-fulfilling, peaceful, the soul that sustains the whole universe.”

The images that accompany those words show Woodring playing with a puzzle in the countryside while being inspected by his ubiquitous (censorious? certainly serious) two-toed frog, one eye wide-open in judgement.

Woodring was Page 45’s co-creator Mark Simpson’s favourite comicbook craftsman. Both his imagination and introspection spoke to Mark, as well as – oh, how shall I put it? – the wonder of a reality as conceived and conveyed by its shaman. Along with the comics here you will find many a Jimland Novelty advertised in the back which Woodring hand-crafted and sold direct to the likes of our own visionary, Mark: recipes, recordings, sets of postcards and an Escaped Convict Weathervane with prices ranging from two bucks to two hundred dollars.

“Page 35
“One of the very worst nightmares on my entire life reproduced just as recorded on p.35 of my dream journal. Not recommended. Quickly but tellingly drawn. Tiny book, 12 pp. $3.00”

Thank god it wasn’t page 45!

“Biscuits
“Impromptu bedtime stories unspooled on demand for our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Maxfield. Sprawling sagas intended to bemuse and sedate, delivered in droning, fibreless voice. Some crying. Half-hour tape… $7.00”

There is the odd silent short included like Trosper, which lingered long with me and – I’ve just consulted – Dee. Painted in full colour (most of this book’s black and white), it starred a baby elephant whose trunk was coiled up like a snail shell. He’s happily absorbed in joyful, solitary play with a ball while protected by a three-eyed fellow whose skin is the colour of peach flesh (yellow with flecks of red towards its centre) and who wields a green scimitar bobbled with berry-like beads all shiny red. A hooded, would-be assassin in ornate robes strikes and Trosper flees in terror. The trauma’s short-lived. Another ball presents itself.

You might have gathered by now that I too am declining to explain. I’m not being coy or evading the risk of being declared wrong because I am on most days the most opinionated bastard I know. But as I wrote on reviewing Jim’s WEATHERCRAFT, these things are better left for readers to interpret for themselves (yourselves, I hope). You get out what you put in – what you bring to the table. Anything I say risks polluting your personal experience just like some music videos used to set in stone so much of a song which could have meant much more to you.

I will only add that the first comic offered in JIM, Seafood Platter From Hell, indicates that Woodring had first-hand knowledge of catching a skate or a ray as have I, for oh my god those devilish mouths and their prodigiously well-hung wangers!

Also, that Big Red will show you another side of your household cat you would rather not know.

Beyond that there are whimsical advertisements for the likes of Niffers which I am 100% positive Alan Moore must have encountered before emulating / adapting them – no doubt subconsciously – in his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN comics. Niffers were otherworldly, invisible life forms you could invite into your household confident that they could be seen thanks to “a specially patented fluorescent dye-and-medication treatment” and which you could film in stop-motion to render their barely perceptible movements visible. And thereby lies a satori of sorts. “Proof Without Passion” it proudly declares.

Lastly, “Don’t Hit Your Child!” screams a headline for an institution you instinctively suppose to be both benevolent as well as ahead of its day. But its proposed alternative for spoiled brats acting up and so infuriating their parents to their wits’ ends is draconian, to say the least.

“Don’t delay – send ‘em away!”

Possibly effective if they’re ever returned, or damaged beyond repair.

SLH

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

Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City (£9-99, Capstone) by Kean Soo.

Friendship, loyalty and the need to be loved.

Also a lesson in never abandoning your pet, even if it’s an axolotl. Particularly if it’s an axolotl.

New word: axolotl.

Young Portia and Jason have taken infant dragon Jellaby to a daunting city in search of a door they believe will take him home. Even if they don’t really want to lose him. Unfortunately for all concerned they find that door and what lies behind it finds them… attractive.

More grape colouring and big-eyed cartooning for all ages.

For more, please see my review of JELLABY VOL 1

“Jellaby will win your heart”

– Jeff Smith of BONE, RASL and now TUKI fame.

SLH

Buy Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City and read the Page 45 review here

Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett.

“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

If Loki is the Norse God of Mischief, then Al Ewing is his British counterpart.

Yay for gratuitous shower scenes! Lee Garbett’s teenage Loki is hot! Also wet. And steamy.

Yay for a pair of Seven League Boots enabling Loki to dash up waterfalls, over rainbows and scale Avengers Tower! Yay for stolen Shadow Thread and Cheshire Cat grins! And yay for trouble-magnet Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye with his perpetually plastered nose, who can get himself into the unlikeliest of muddles even when playing console games.

“Clint.”
“I know – “
“You have the army after you and no health and you’re falling out of a crashing plane.”
I know, Nat – “
“It’s a bass fishing simulator, Clint.”
I know! It just – it just happens!”

Oh, this is a most worthy successor to Gillen and McKelvie’s YOUNG AVENGERS towards the end of which Loki enjoyed a sudden growth spurt and now wears black nail varnish. Teenagers! Also, like Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE, it kicks off right in the middle when it’s already gone horribly wrong with Loki stabbing Thor in the back with a very big energy sword. I thought they were getting along so much better these days?

But if Loki is the God of Lies, Mischief and Deceit, it probably stands to reason that all is not as it seems. For a start, there is the little question of this series’ sub-title, but who precisely is he working for? Also, how will he get on with Verity Willis whose preternatural skill is to see through lies and illusion? You’d be surprised.

This is fast, fresh and funny as hell with wit-ridden wordplay and plenty of action to boot. IT is, above, great entertainment and that’s what I want from a comic.

Gone is the old, predictable God of Evil with his crooked nose, his goblin eyes and nasty row of teeth. Gone, I say, gone!

Or is he?

As Loki and Lorelei dive-bomb off a passenger jet to break into the most secure cell in Asgardia while Thor provides a ridiculous distraction to avert Heimdall’s ever-watching eyes, the levels of deceit are revealed. Young Loki has played a long game getting where he wants to be, which is access to another cell entirely. But then so has someone else…

SLH

Buy Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa…

A new series from the creator of FULL METAL ALCHEMIST which so far seems to be a straight high fantasy caper starring the young prince Arslan, son of the undefeated and borderline psychopathic warrior King Andragoras of Pars. Arslan seems a rather more civilised sort than his father, so when he is dragged out onto the battlefield at the tender age of fourteen for his first taste of combat, it would be fair to say it’s an eye-opener.

When disaster inevitably strikes Pars, many wonder whether Arslan will be up to the task of reclaiming and rebuilding the kingdom, but of course pledge their loyalty and support – to his face, at least.

I quite enjoyed this, I must say. Given FULL METAL ALCHEMIST‘s melding of fantasy and sci-fi, I kept waiting for the weirdness to kick in, but it does in fact appear this will be a straight period yarn. It has therefore much in common with THE VINLAND SAGA, and from this first volume, is on a par with that excellent series in terms of story and art.

 

 

JR

Buy The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden (£11-99) by Anders Nilsen

The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnson & Justin Greenwood

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince

How To Be Happy h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis

Invincible Days h/c (£14-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan

The New Wipers Times (£5-00, Nottingham City Museums) by various

Sisters (£8-50, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by J. W. Rinzler & Mike Mayhew

Even More Bad Parenting Advice s/c (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Fables vol 20: Camelot (£14-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Russ Braun, Barry Kitson, Andrew Pepoy, Gary Erskine

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 4: Gods And Monsters s/c (£12-99, DC) by Justin Jordan, Robert Venditti & Brad Walker, Geraldo Borges, Andrei Bressan, Sean Chen

Avengers Undercover vol 1: Descent s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker, Timothy Green, Francesco Mattina

Deadpool Vs. Carnage s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salva Espin

Fantastic Four vol 1: The Fall Of The Fantastic Four s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk

NEWS

ITEM! Video of Dan Berry sketching in copies of THE END which you will find reviewed up above. All of our copies are sketched in, yes!

ITEM! Sean Phillips interviewed about THE FADE OUT! Which has SOLD out! Review more likely when a second printing arrives. There is a reason it’s sold out, so grab one wherever you can as soon as you can!

ITEM! Eleanor Davis diary comic days one (see HOW TO BE HAPPY in new arrivals).

ITEM! Marc Laming does not skimp on detail. Look at this HULK page!

ITEM! New Tom Gauld cartoon. Funny! Also: guilty!

ITEM! Farel Dalrymple interviewed about THE WRENCHIES – coming soon – which looks utterly phenomenal!

ITEM! Beautiful and tender new comic by Sally Jane Thompson called SCARS free to read online.

ITEM! Publisher First Second’s article on the importance of creator fanbases.

ITEM! Jamie Smart’s online Whubble comic!

ITEM! David O’Connell’s incisive article on the organisation of comicbook conventions: the bare minimum of what should be happening when quite clearly it’s not.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand……..

ITEM! Page 45’s signings past and future revealed in a lavishly illustrated Pulp 365 article by Lynda Clark. Thank you, Lynda, so very kind!

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week three

August 20th, 2014

“It’s raining out, Rick.”
“I walk between the raindrops.”

Aloof, insouciant, he’s exactly like you want your wannabe pop idols to be.

 - Jonathan on Metroland #1

The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Judith Dupré, Dean R. Motter & Sean Phillips.

“Don’t be so nervous, Michael. The masks are simply buffers. They protect us from our real selves.”

Spot the predator!

Four panels later Dr. Wright places a hand proprietorially on Michael’s shoulder, and Sean makes Michael look very unsure.

Welcome to opening night at Dr. Wright’s New York gallery where pretension is de rigeur – and I don’t just mean young huckster Jacob’s flimflam. It’s packed full of self-proclaimed and self-regarding cognoscenti. Investors rather than art lovers salivate over the commodified canvasses while they are liberally plied with any opening night’s main attraction: the free booze.

Tonight it’s being served by aspiring actress Sandy who takes a shine to the surgeon’s right-hand man, the well-built if taciturn Victor who seems curiously always on call. Still, he goes to see her perform; she takes him to the zoo; and Victor shows her the painting he loves most, Rembrandt’s Bathsheba.

Art seems to stir something inside him, while the polar bears elicit an altogether different reaction. As to his past friends and relatives, goodness they seem an unfortunate bunch…! A poet who drowned very young, and a nephew called William murdered by his Auntie Justine who was then hanged for her sins. Something’s just not adding up…

The draw for me is studying the increasingly confident watercolours by a relatively young Sean Phillips (CRIMINAL, FATALE, SLEEPER, THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc) for this was first published by Vertigo twenty years ago!

There’d been a spate of painted comics like Jon J. Muth’s MOONSHADOW, Kent Williams’ BLOOD, Bill Sienkiewicz’s STRAY TOASTERS followed by Duncan Fegredo’s KID ETERNITY and George Pratt’s ENEMY ACE, and this is closest in style to the first with photorealistic pencils softly enhanced by loose, lambast washes which left a lot of white to keep the pages bright and fresh. The odd bit of photography’s slipped in and jars not one jot after the initial three holiday snapshots, which is extraordinary given that these were the days when Photoshop was just a retail outlet where you got your film developed. Additionally there’s some rather clever work when a second Bathsheba’s discovered. His sneering Jacob is a hideous joy while Sandra herself is an angel.

No, she really is, for enduring Victor’s pontifications and oh-my-god issues! Victor has ALL the issues, tossed out ridiculously early into the dating game and I spent most of the graphic novel screaming at Sandra to run!

And this, I confess, is where the graphic novel falls short. The dialogue is very… stilted in places and its ties to its source material are too tight. (Clues: Victor, Shelley, poet drowning young, those scars on his arm and he’s really much older than he looks: Dr Wright had his surgical work cut out for him, certainly.) On the other hand, “Uh – make that more blue!” made me laugh after another of Jacob’s tirades.

Judith Dupré’s introduction provides a fascinating insight into the 1980s’ art scene (she was a “gallerina”!) while Sean Phillips exhumes some fascinating thumbnails, early design work plus the original Dave McKean-esque cover which was perfect for (and very much of) its day, and he happily chats about the lot.

SLH

Buy The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Ages #1 of 4 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

“Never have I asked the Lord our God for much, for I never wanted to owe him.”

Very wise, very wise.

“I feel his disapproving eyes on me, most days, and I fear his wrath.
“For it is sudden and it is awful.”

My headmaster had a temper on him too.

Still, there are worse things in the world and indeed off-world as Captain Hawkherst and his not-so-merry men are about to find out.

It is early winter, 1333, in Europe. The Captain’s cadre are tired and hungry. War profiteers, right now times are tough and food is thin on the ground. What they desperately need – and are tempted to pray for – is for hostilities to erupt. Be careful what you wish for.

Up in the sky they spy brand-new heavenly bodies: five oddly shaped stars dancing like diamonds in the night. They appear to be in formation. They are. And they are far from heavenly.

 

From the creators of NEW DEADWARDIANS which we loved so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month comes another historical mash-up, this time medieval in nature: aliens versus chain-mailed, human predators.

Crucially the aliens are indeed suitably alien in aspect, their otherness truly terrifying to Hawkherst, Galvin, Aelfric and co. The hardened veterans actually turn tail and run. They run and seek sanctuary in a mountain-top monastery, but its resident monks prove equally unnerving. Their faces hidden under cowls with but silver beards shining through, they say nothing. They talk to no one. And up in the evening’s cold, obsidian sky something even darker approaches… Something much, much bigger.

Stupendous final and full-page flourish from Ian “I.N.J.” Culbard after an already-chilling opening chapter while Dan Abnett will put the fear of God into you. On so many levels as well.

Its dialogue is suitably sparse and direct, his superstitious soldiers pragmatic all the same. As to his monks, one at least has a tongue as well as an ear to floor, for he has been waiting.

“They’re here.”

SLH

Buy Dark Ages #1 and read the Page 45 review here

How The World Was – A California Childhood (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Emmanual Guibert…

“I have wondrous memories of my country before the war.
“It was during the war everything changed.
“A tremendous number of people, soldiers, factory and shipyard workers, spent time on the Pacific Coast. A whole lot of people who knew nothing about California passed through it.
“After the war, which for us lasted four years, the population had doubled.
“That’s a lot, doubled.”

It is indeed. Fascinating biographic prequel from Emmanuel Guibert, the author of ALAN’S WAR: THE MEMORIES OF G.I. COPE, as he delves into the early years of his late friend Alan Cope’s childhood in California. Much as with his wartime memoirs, nothing particularly exciting or untoward happening to Alan during his formative years, spent in the relatively tranquil and idyllic settings of undeveloped 1920s and ‘30s California. The title says it all, really: this is a glimpse into a bygone era, one of neighbourly community and necessary thrift, which would seem like a different planet to the modern-day residents of a State which today compared to nations, ranks all by itself as the world’s eighth largest economy, with all the development for good and ill that entails.

 

 

The concept of a silicon valley, to those living amongst the vast lemon groves of yesteryear would, I am sure, seem a concept so fantastical as to be the subject of a Orson Welles-esque, science-fiction, radiophonic drama. That’s if you even had a radio or electricity. Alan’s family did have a radio, but it ran from a car battery that lasted an hour. They didn’t have a car, so it required charging up in the town nearby… Works like this one are important, as they do form part of our shared cultural history. Wars we will never forget, though even those will fade in intensity in the wider public consciousness with time, but sometimes the little things, such as how families and communities in a given locale, in a certain era, interacted and just got by are also extremely important.

JR

Buy How The World Was – A California Childhood and read the Page 45 review here

Metroland #1 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson, Jazz Greenhill…

“It’s raining out, Rick.”
“I walk between the raindrops.”

Ha, some people just do pretentious spectacularly well. Rick, or Ricky Stardust to give him his full stage name, is one of those people. Obviously his louche life is something of a car crash, as he glams and jams along with his band Electric Dreams, seemingly without a care in the world. I chuckled throughout at his near-continuous snappy comebacks and one-liners. His riposte to an elderly couple sat opposite him stretched out on train is typical of the man…

“These young people have taken this country to the dogs.”
“Your generation took it to the dogs, we’re just living in the kennel.”

Aloof, insouciant, he’s exactly like you want your wannabe pop idols to be. He does have a soft spot for his fellow band member Jess, but you get the impression she’s grown tired of his emotional front and game-playing.

 

 

Not sure how much I should read into writer Ricky Miller giving the main character the same first name as his own…! Anyway, just when you think you know precisely what this comic is – a cheeky romcom with a musical backdrop – there’s an existential shift, two in fact, which seemingly bookend the main story. Both are illustrated by different artists in completely contrasting styles, portraying the apparent first meeting, as children, between Ricky and Jess at the seaside, and then an old man, sat alone with his memories in a bed. He’s recounting stories to someone who only he can see. Who the man and his illusory companion, a young girl, are, isn’t revealed to us, but we can perhaps speculate from the context of their conversation. Lovely example of how you can do something bubble-gum fun yet also thought provoking, and indeed stylish if you put your mind to it.

JR

Buy Metroland #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Beginner’s Guide To Being Outside (£5-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Gill Hatcher…

“I never wanted to sit in the car for five hours just to stay in some freezing shed in Scotland! Why couldn’t we go to Tenerife like last year? That was amazing.”
“Megan, we’ve already been through this…”

There is a wonderfully telling moment early on in this story where Megan’s mother passes her a book, a present from her Gran that is a guide to Scottish wildlife. Obviously her Gran thought it would make perfect educational holiday reading. Utterly unimpressed, Megan notes, however, she can download a free wildlife app, to her ever-present smart phone. Her phone, ipod and handheld games console are her ritual escapes from the mundane world of her mother’s failing relationship with her boyfriend. It’s history repeating itself all over again as far as she is concerned, and she’s not afraid to let her mum know it. Her dig that her dad would probably take her to Tenerife is a bit below the belt, though. Yes, Megan fears she is going to have to endure a very boring and excruciating holiday, but in fact what unfolds is a charming story of connection, perhaps more accurately reconnection, with both her mum and nature itself.

 

It did also make me smile that said wildlife app proves of far better use and provides considerably more enjoyment to Megan than the book possibly could. It’s a neat little comment on today’s technology, that it needn’t only be used for sequestering ourselves away, but also engaging with, indeed embracing, and learning all about the wider world we live in. I enjoyed Gill’s art too, she manages to express vast landscapes incredibly beautifully with what is a relatively simple style, very different to Oliver East’s, but to the same effect as in his THE HOMESICK TRUANT’S CUMBRIAN YARN. The highlight artistically for me, being an extended daydream sequence where Megan finds herself at play with various animals on land, at sea and in the air. Heart-warming stuff that will have you wanting to grab your walking boots and head out into the countryside for a stroll. Or perhaps your phone and checking out your friends’ holidays on Facebook…

JR

Buy The Beginner’s Guide To Being Outside and read the Page 45 review here

Days (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Simon Moreton…

“…Our street was roof and rhythms, washed out colours and scents of lavender, hot tarmac, watered gardens, big skies.
“But things change.
“By the time I became a teenager this place with its alleyways and hedges, houses and houses, cars and lawns, became a tapestry of banality, an oroborous of suburbia, endlessly eating its own tail.
“’In such streets you could outdream everybody,’ wrote Alan Sillitoe, though I don’t know where he wrote it.
“We tried, with truancies and petty thefts, smoking in woods, with parties at strangers’ houses, and strangers at parties.
“We became cartographers and architects of tiny revolutions.”

Sometimes you need a weight of material for it to make its real impact upon you. Especially auto-biographical work. Take Eddie Campbell’s ALEC, for example. Its individual component books are all wonderful, but taken together, the whole really becomes something more than the sum of the parts, a true chronicle of a life. I had read one or two of Simon’s SMOO comics before, and enjoyed them, but the material compiled here provides an intriguing snapshot into Simon’s formative years, which I suspect were not that atypical to many of us in our various urban boroughs and suburbs.

The closest comparison I could make would be John Porcelino and his KING-CAT comics, though. Both have an elegance and economy of form artistically which suggests the simple yet often emotionally sophisticated messages they wish to convey. I can well imagine Simon could write some pretty good haiku if he was so minded, actually, as I have no doubt could John. Here is a little excerpt that sums up Simon’s time shortly after starting at University…

“Life was strange…
“…and I was lonely.
“But it was an okay sort of lonely.”

If you like autobiographical minis with heart like KING-CAT or perhaps Carrie McNinch’s YOU DON’T GET THERE FROM HERE, I think you will enjoy.

JR

Buy Days and read the Page 45 review here

I Was The Cat h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Paul Tobin & Ben Dewey…

A slight confession at this point… I don’t particularly like cats. There is just something devious about them to my mind that makes them inherently untrustworthy and unlikeable. I am therefore delighted to say… I knew I was right! For Burma the talking cat, currently living the last of his nine lives, is intent on world domination. Again… He always has been for as long as he can remember, which is a very long time indeed, but despite his best attempts, total global domination has always just eluded his grasp. Possibly due to the lack of opposable thumbs making grasping difficult, but still.

So why, now, has Burma hired a journalist, Allison Breaking, to write his memoirs and reveal his existence to the world?! Because he thinks he’s finally going to succeed this time, that’s why! He doesn’t tell Amy his current megalomaniacal plans of course, professing himself to be a reformed feline felon, but we the readers are privy to all the details his dastardly insane plot.

 

You can tell Paul really enjoyed putting this story together, it is a fabulously funny read, as was a personal previous favourite of mine penned by him, GINGERBREAD GIRL. He really knows how to build a complex story whilst simultaneously keeping the comedy sideshow in full flow. As Burma recounts the sordid tales of his previous eight lives, all the while attempting to influence powerful figures like Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon and various US presidents for his own illicit ends, our journalist and her sidekick chum listen ever more enraptured. There is a very good reason for that rapt attention, all to do with Burma’s latest fiendish scheme…

Exquisitely lovely, indeed felicitous, art from Benjamin Dewey, whom I must profess I am only aware of doing some bits and pieces in HUSBANDS prior to now. But based on this he needs to be doing a lot more because he is extremely talented. I hope Paul and Benjamin have a huge hit with this work, it would be enormously well deserved, and I think they may well might, for whilst I am not a cat lover, I know pretty much everyone else is. Indeed, you might well feel there are worse things than the ruler of the entire world being a talking cat. So, the only question that remains I suppose is will I be more satisfied by the ending or will you…?

JR

Buy I Was The Cat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Street Angel h/c (£14-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg ~

“STREET ANGEL might not be the kind of comic (excuse me, “graphic novel”) that the New York Times is writing up these days. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun than those books are. I like fun comics that knock me on my ass. That’s why I like STREET ANGEL. Rugg and Maruca handle comic book and action genre tropes, pop culture kitsch, superhero parody and other beaten horses with aplomb. Yes, that’s right, I said aplomb. I’ve been saving that word for twenty years now just to use it here.”

- Evan Dorkin, from his introduction.

Jesse Sanchez is Street Angel. Homeless, skateboarding defender of the ghetto. Whooping the butts of Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Rednecks, Were-Sharks and Evil Scientists everywhere, while managing to stay in school just long enough for morning registration. It’s like I’m 10 again and someone’s emptied out my toy box and started making all the assorted figures have a huge brawl. STREET ANGEL has all the traits of a boy’s favourite toy too. Consider the facts:

a) She got wheels. Everyone knows skateboards make toys 100% cooler.
b) She’s a she. Boy’s don’t tend to have lots of female action figures, the ones they have they cherish. Or maybe that was just me…

Enough of the dodgy analogy. Maruca’s art is kinetic when action is called for with compositions that the likes of Frank Miller should be doing. Titles spelt out in the glass from the window Jesse’s has just been thrown through – class! It pops out at you from the page. From the moment you see its striking pink cover to the dark Nickelodeon-esque adventures inside, this book demands your attention. I suggest you take notice.

TR

Buy Street Angel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c (£15-99, Titan) by Greg Broadmore.

I say, young man, do get a grip!

Fillies, avert your fluttering eyes for fear of faint-heartitude!

This is the roast beef of cartoonographs: old school, cocksure Colonialism gone steampunk in space. A balanced education is vastly overrated, but patriotic propaganda can never come too early into a child’s life! This edition collects all three of the previous books.

“Unnecessarily violent tales of science adventure for the simple and unfortunate,” it stars Lord Cockswain – “the man, the myth and the muttonchops” – in explosive, expletive-ridden episodes of comicbook triumphalism immolating google-eyed aliens, be they semi-sentient like Johnny Foreigner or fit for the trophy room. Join him as he blasts his way through alien civilisations until they’re no longer alien. Or civilised. Until, in fact, they are simply no longer.

Lord Cockswain will not be tricked into getting “in touch” with his feelings either by lackey or the rudest aliens ever encountered throughout the whole of Christendom. Do you think that their goading jibes are the result of nature or nurture? The answer is sure to astound!

Betwixt these incendiary outings designed to offend vegetarians, people of peace and other defects of nature there will be found film and beverage posters sure to strengthen your bow, put the kiss in your curl or just make their corporate originators a piss-load of lolly.

Additionally we present honest advertisements for ray guns of a ‘retro’ persuasion like The Deal Breaker and The Saboteur during which the copywriter “paid a pittance to write this tosh” may stray into sassing the prospective purchaser with an elaborate string of Yo Mama jokes. Unorthodox!

Take a closer look at the Ray-Blunderbuss affectionately known as ‘The Unnatural Selector’ with an Interesting Scientific Fact: “The Unnatural Selector will render a yard-wide aperture in a giraffe at 60 feet, and give a blue whale a nasty rash through 200 yards of saltwater.”

Perhaps you are a maiden in want of munitions? Try the Silver Mantiss 99se Thin Cone Death Beam: “This cultured ray-pistol is the weapon of choice for young ladies around town these days. Its sublimely polished exterior and refined aesthetics mean you can turn a common brigand into common chemical constituents, and not for a moment seem uncouth or affected. Once fired, the now-heated barrel could be used to roller your hair and the mirror finish could be used in a pinch to check your blusher and rouge. It probably does other girly things too, like flower arrangement, but that’s just a guess.”

There’s a special feature on the Venusian savages, none of whom can be relied on to accomplish decent trigonometry, one strain of which, moreover, has “quite disgusting tentacles – like he started eating an octopus then got bored and gave up”.

I was so stiffened by this stirring tome that I myself have already registered with the Earth Elite Forces, and hope to rise through their ranks at a swift yet gentlemanly pace, thence to the far reaches of space in the name of Queen and Country.

Also, I may not know my pile-plagued arse from my lawn-tennis elbow, but I can assure you of this: Baron von Broadmore can paint! What he paints is not pretty but it is lovely to look at. Does that make any sense to you? Nor does this. Utter balderdash!

SLH

Buy Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Preacher Book vol 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

Attitude on a stick, reading this series is like listening to Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads. It’s brutal and bloody and fucking hilarious. It stars a wayward preacher whose parish has been nuked by a force from Heaven and Hell which gives him the power of God’s Word. When he uses The Word his eyes glow red, and you will do what he tells you to no matter how anatomically improbable. Now he’s off in search of God to make Him apologise for abandoning His creation, and along for the ride are his ex-alcoholic ex-hitwoman ex-girlfriend and a vampire with an uncanny resemblance to Shane MacGowan. I’m not saying Shane MacGowan necessarily drinks blood, but look at the bloody state of him!

Along the way they’ll bump into Jesse’s own family, the vituperative Herr Starr who loses at least one limb per volume, impressionable Kurt Cobain fan Arseface who tried to emulate his idol and is now left with a gaping hole in his mouth and a subsequent speech impediment, plus the last remaining bloodline of Christ who is a delinquent and drooling moron.

Deliriously funny, spectacularly violent and highly blasphemous to boot, this nonetheless boasts at its heart a strong moral core: it’s about friendship, loyalty and doing the right thing.

Exceptional character acting by artist Steve Dillon.

(Have some fun: print this out, bring it in without telling me and ask me to describe this series on the shop floor. I’ve used exactly same words ever since it first came out!)

These are new, chunkier editions without individual titles, this one contains #41-54

SLH

Buy Preacher Book vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Kings Watch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Jeff Parker & Marc Laming.

Oh, this is terrific!

And I’m specific about “terrific”, an adjective that conjures up Boys’ Own action, adventure and full-out fun!

Brace yourselves!

“It’s happening all over the world, you know. The people you used to protect, they’re all having nightmares of what’s coming. You wouldn’t know that, magician. You keep your dreams sealed, don’t you –“
“Silence, demon. You have no knowledge that I want.”
“Then why did you enter this room, where you keep me imprisoned? It’s okay, Mandrake. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the end of the world.”

Uh-oh!

The action kicks off with the same Bam! Bam! Bam! as the penultimate episode of Doctor Who – Catherine Tate’s season. Each protagonist gazes up at a sky that should not be: Mandrake the magician turns away from his East Californian window and the demon who goads him; the Phantom in his East African jungle shields his eyes; Dale Arden’s sentence trails off in sheer disbelief. Something is coming…

I’ll be perfectly frank: I read this because I saw the artist of THE RINSE on the credits, and I will read anything drawn by Marc Laming. It’s not that his chisel-jawed men wink like nobody’s business – though they do – or that his women are some of the most curvaceous in comics – though they are, and with the best hair ever! It’s the sheer thrill of seeing immaculate, beautifully finished layouts whether quiet and measured as in Dale Arden’s office or filling the entire page when an African Elephant is startled and savaged by some red, reptilian, bipedal beast so massive it virtually smothers the bull. Cue tree-top choreography and yowsa! He doesn’t skimp on details, either, like a driveway’s locked gates.

I really have no idea who The Phantom or Mandrake are, though I am peripherally aware of their existence, nor do I have any lingering love for Flash Gordon let alone read of his exploits in comics. But this snaps together seamlessly, and – you know what? – we are allowed to have fun!

Great big tip of the hat to colour artist Jordan Boyd whose palette glows with red, purples and green while keeping the whole soft with careful lighting and by refraining from throwing everything at us at once.

So yes, there is a spatial anomaly slithering and crackling in the sky; visions abound of whip-wielding, spear-throwing nightmares on rough-horned steeds; the media is full-throttle in scare-mongering mode and, oh… look who’s just made the perfect landing in a spaceplane on his dad’s carefully manicure croquet lawn. It’s the permanently thirsty Professor Zarkov and his irrepressively chirpy blonde pilot. I imagine there’s a universe to become saviour of.

The plane is powered by a Quantum Crystal whose ion pulses shortcut space and gravity. Unfortunately it’s not the only one on the planet. Mandrake’s missus and The Cobra have the other and they too will be using it to shortcut space and open a channel to a world of warriors where a maniac called Ming has been waiting. Waiting for the people of Earth to become so reliant on technology that whipping it away will prove crippling.

Under Jeff Parker Flash Gordon has becoming a polo-playing dab hand at almost everything that seems unimportant but may just prove vital, while Professor Zarkov is an iconoclast who doesn’t take himself too seriously. And I like that.

“The ionic drive is reacting oddly – it’s not done that before!”
“I trust it. You’re the most brilliant physicist alive.”
“That’s just what I tell you, you loon!”

There’s lots and lots of back-matter including the first chapter’s script and that monkey Marc’s always-impressive design work including multiple covers that never quite made it whose compositions fill without overcrowding the page, each of which would have been terrific anyway. There’s that word again: terrific.

SLH

Buy Kings Watch vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thanos: The Infinity Revelation h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin…

“But the more complex my existence becomes, the more often I stumble upon questions without answers. What drives me on is the unravelling of these riddles.”

The latest release in Marvel’s ‘OGN’ (original graphic novel) range sees the mad Titan and his long-term nemesis and sometime ally, Adam Warlock, partnered up to investigate a cosmic disturbance. Something unsettling is occurring and it would seem our grandiose, granite-chinned philosopher, quite unbeknownst to him, is firmly intended to be at the very epicentre of events by the likes of Infinity, Eternity and the Living Tribunal.

I do understand the concept behind Marvel’s OGN series, that there should be interesting and enticing material which people who perhaps are not currently surfing the continuity conveyor belt of monthly titles ought to be able to just pick up and read. To lure them onto said conveyor belt, obviously. Much like classic one-offs such as X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS used to do. These current OGN’s don’t necessarily have the same appeal to the these-days saturated masses of Marvel fandom, possibly also conversely in part because they aren’t considered sufficiently canon, but still, it is a worthwhile premise if executed well.

Which this most assuredly is. To me, characters who don’t have monthly series are ideal for this type of work. And, if they have a certain cachet with readers, then obviously so much the better. This type of story is also perfect for Starlin, the writer, to work his magic on. Esoteric, existential, encompassing the more mysterious elements (the few there are left in the Marvel Universe), it in places did remind me of his early WARLOCK material. It isn’t quite so out there, but still, it’s nice to see a Marvel comic that actually makes the reader think and reflect a bit.

Note: Art-wise, he’s clearly still got it as well. Also, he has the most surreal bio picture I think I have ever seen. It’s certainly a statement… Fans of INFINITY GAUNTLET-related malarkey should lap this up as a nice little coda. Or, perhaps in fact it’s an interlude… I am sure we will find out.

JR

Buy Thanos: The Infinity Revelation h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Leonardo Manco, Rafael Albuquerque, Esad Ribic, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Robbi Rodriguez…

Here was my review of the original volume one. Note: I actually do think it can now be considered a classic run*. For my mind, Remender is up there with Jonathan Hickman for his ability to blend and blur the lines between sci-fi and superheroes, as with his UNCANNY AVENGERS run which is in effective a quasi-sequel to this material.

“The game is on… probably has been for some time. Which means we’re already out of time. God as my witness, Logan, one way or another, no matter what the cost… I’m going to kill Apocalypse.”

Perhaps like me, at the conclusion of the excellent X-over SECOND COMING, you inwardly groaned at the prospect of yet another X-Force reboot (it’s never been the strongest X-title, let’s be honest, firstly because of the writing and secondly because of the art!) containing not only those hardy perennial fanboy favourites Wolverine, Deadpool, Archangel and Psylocke but also the – no doubt next to take the title of the most overexposed and overused X-character – Fantomex.

Happily, though, UNCANNY X-FORCE has completely confounded all my doubts and appears, at this very early stage, to have the potential to be a classic run* in the making. The writing from Rick Remender is thankfully of the more speculative fiction approach successfully adopted by Ellis on his X-runs, with some delightfully choice splashes of dark Deadpool humour injected in suitably small doses here and there.

If future plot arcs compare to this first outing where the team decide that killing the recently reincarnated Apocalypse whilst he’s still an innocent, angelic schoolboy would be a rather sensible idea (albeit whilst he’s protected by his most extreme bunch of equine enforcers yet), then we could be in for a real treat. And gone too thankfully is the whirling dirge-ish art from the previous run. As I noted in X-NECROSHA, there were portions in the X-Force sequences where you really couldn’t tell who was who, it literally was so dark. Instead both Leonardo Manco and Jerome Opeña impress, and I should actually also compliment the two colourists whose choice of palette, in combination with the fine illustration, very much helps give this the feel of a different, more worthy X-title. Less superhero, more sci-fi. So far, so good.

Collects UNCANNY X-FORCE #1-19 and #5.1, and material from WOLVERINE: ROAD TO HELL #1.

JR

Buy Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Terra Formars vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Yu Sasuga & Ken-Ichi Tachibana…

I finished the first volume of this and I couldn’t actually decide if I had enjoyed it or not. Given it is on Viz’s Signature Ikki imprint that usually denotes a strong storyline, this just felt like far too much of a battle manga, as did MARCH STORY which we barely sold any of, as opposed to the rest of the Signature Ikki titles which have been brilliant. It might develop, I guess. I liked the initial premise that a group of astronauts were being sent to Mars to reconnoitre whether the terraforming had been successful. The three-century process had involved vast quantities of cockroaches, which actually does make perfect sense scientifically when it is explained, thus part of this mission was to subsequently eradicate them. Under the harsh Martian conditions and the extreme process, however, the cockroaches have evolved at a rapidly accelerated rate, becoming humanoid in size whilst retaining the proportional strength and speed à la Spider-Man.

So far, so plausible, just about, but where it started to get a bit ridiculous for me was when it is revealed that each of the astronauts, who we find out are not willing explorers at all, have had different insects’ DNA combined with their own to give them powers which are temporarily activated by the injection of a serum. There’s also a slightly pantomime side-plot between rival national elements within the global space agency responsible for the mission. Like I say, it might develop, I do love GANTZ after all, which is as absolutely preposterous as it gets plot-wise, and still unfathomably increasingly so as it careens to a conclusion whilst retaining its addictive rush. But this didn’t have the immediate grab for me that GANTZ, or indeed say the Signature Ikki title BIOMEGA did. I will probably give the second volume a go and see, I guess.

JR

Buy Terraformars vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Fish (£6-50, Nobrow) by Bianca Bagnarelli

The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City (£9-99, Capstone) by Kean Soo

Jim h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

Bravest Warriors vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes

The Death Of Archie: A Life Celebrated (£10-99, Archie Comics) by Paul Kupperberg & Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy

Judge Dredd Casefiles 23 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Robbie Morrison, Gordon Rennis & Carlos Ezquerra, John Higgins, John Burns, others

Lucifer Book 4 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Marc Hempel, P. Craig Russell, Ronald Wimberly

Zaya h/c (£22-50, Magnetic) by Jean-David Morvan & Huang-Jia Wei

Batman Incorporated vol 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Batman: Arkham Unhinged vol 3 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & various

Batman: Arkham Unhinged vol 4 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Karen Traviss & various

Justice League Dark vol 4: The Rebirth Of Evil s/c (£12-99, DC) by J.M. DeMatteis, Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin

Daredevil vol 6 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez, Chris Samnee, Matteo Scalera

Journey Into Mystery: Kieron Gillen Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Matt Fraction, J.M. DeMatteis & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Richard Elson, Alan Davis, Stephanie Hans, Barry Kitson

Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

The Punisher vol 1: Black And White s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Mitch Gerads

Attack On Titan vol 13 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Dorohedoro vol 13 (£9-99, Viz) by Q. Hayashida

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa

News

ITEM! Things That Make Angry one-page comic by Lizz Lunney! I cannot play lute.

ITEM! Magical stop-animation: Soft Spot by Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson

ITEM! Delightful comics by Tara Abbamondi. Hoping to stock her stuff soon!

ITEM! Autobiographical online cookery comic by Becky Cloonan – as you’ve never seen her before!

ITEM! Preview of Liz Prince’s TOMBOY!

ITEM! Eloquent and perceptive, in-depth article on the very nature of comics and our inadequate vocabulary when discussing their creation and absorption by Paul Duffield. Much food for thought!

ITEM! Bill Sienkiewicz and David Mack both deliver passionate, eloquent and inspirational interviews on what being an artist means to them, and being involved in Allan Amato’s The Temple Of Art project.

ITEM! Acclaimed games writer Leigh Alexander interviews Bryan Lee O’Malley about SECONDS!

Thanks to everyone who flocked to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS signing this Monday and filled the shop with such fun. Even by my standards I was a disgrace (drunk, disorderly and utterly rapacious), but everyone left grinning their socks off.

SECONDS is out of print now until September but At The Time Of Typing we have 28 copies signed by Bryan to see us through! We do mail order worldwide or you can select “collect in store” and one will be waiting for you.

So grateful to Bryan Lee O’Malley and to Sam at SelfMadeHero for making this happen, and to Dominique and Jonathan for running the signing so smoothly.

Photos by Sam Humphrey at SelfMadeHero. Possibly one by me. I lost track. Of everything.

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week two

August 13th, 2014

Cracks quickly appear in some relationships as things start to go wrong, sometimes in quite shocking ways. And when those cracks cause a split, they do so in the panels themselves which divide into two as the lovers go their separate ways. Then some very interesting things start to happen…

 -Stephen on Ray Fawkes’ The People Inside.

The Ring Of The Nibelung h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by P. Craig Russell after a bloke called Wagner.

I had four full pages of notes on this, three more than I managed for Chemistry ‘O’ Level which kind of explains my results back then.

This big, thick hardcover contains all four operas in Wagner’s Ring sequence: The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, The Gotterdammerung.

To deliver a truly faithful adaptation – one with even a hope of stirring a reading audience as the original moves a crowd – Craig cannot and does not rely solely on plot and dialogue; a visual interpretation of mere lyrics would omit most of the power and the subtle weave of any opera delivered by the music. ‘O Mio Bambino Caro’ is, on paper, y’know, a fine set of poetry, but when sung so tenderly, so majestically in harmonious concert with music so heart-rendingly poignant (plaintive, aspirational, delicate?), it becomes something extraordinary. And that’s just a single aria.

An opera uses many devices to convey ideas and development to cue the audience subconsciously throughout its duration and Russell has thought long and hard about translating these into sequential art. He’s taken musical leitmotifs – signatures denoting individual characters, objects and even concepts such as love, regret, power and choice (sometimes combined in a single sequence, hinting at thoughts, informing the action and even able, I’d imagine, to add therefore a level of dramatic irony) – and turned them into visual cues.

One glimpse at the prelude is enough to prove just how accomplished, how ingenious an adaptation this is. The opening sequence is ‘silent’; it begins quietly with a single finger in blue line and pencil, on which a drop of water swells. It falls into its own ocean to form ripples then waves in an expanding aqueous body, from which a fresh green seedling – the first hint of colour – emerges. By the bottom panel on that first page the tree has grown older than the oak, joined to three shrouded women by twine; and from its roots flows a river, reflecting the aurora above.

That’s the creation of the universe on page one. It also sets up three of the four central elements which bind the four operas: water & light, the tree and the sword. Three further pages, reduced to a sandy tone, provide the rest of the background whilst implying consequences for the events to follow. The great god Voton, introduced by his shadow, wanders into picture, stoops to drink then spies, beyond the thread of fate, a woman who will be his wife and goddess of wedlock, Fricka (three small panels inlayed repeat the earlier sequence, as a drop of water falls from his chin). One of the three hooded women (or Norn) then plucks out Voton’s left eye, leaving behind the gift of inner vision, but suddenly her knowing confidence is shattered as Voton reaches up into the tree and breaks off a branch. He fashions it into a spear, takes Frika by the hand and departs, leaving behind him the tree fast falling into autumn then winter. The final four panels close in ominously on the wound inflicted on the tree, until all we can see is the hollow darkness.

 

 

Several of these images and refrains will be reprised within the major body as the story unfolds. It’s a classic, dynastic tale of love, lust, envy, power, greed, wealth, rejection, duty, treachery, sacrifice and progeny. The dynasty involved is that of the gods of German mythology, and what a familiar pantheon they are! Voton, one-eyed and lustful, as impetuous in love as he is in wrath and for all his supposed wisdom, the perpetual victim of his own stupendously rash promises. He bears the weight of his responsibilities on his own faltering shoulders, and since his wife is goddess of marriage, you just know he’s going to be unfaithful. One of his stormy sons wields a hammer, one of his daughters has been sworn as payment to a couple of giants (none of Voton’s children receive much in the way of paternal care), and although he doesn’t appear to be related as he is in Norse mythology, there’s Logé, the flattering trickster.

The Rhinegold is essentially a fable of power versus love, of the choice between them, catalysed by the theft of said gold from the waters of the Rhine. Alberich the troll, cruelly taunted and scorned by three prick-tease mermaids has nothing to lose in love, so rejects it to steal the metal then fashion it into a ring which gives him absolute power over his race. And love must be rejected to wield that power, that’s the bargain. But news spreads fast of this new poisoned chalice, and when it reaches the heavens, via Logé of course, the consequences may prove devastating.

 

The Valkyrie moves some of the action back down to Earth where Voton’s been a busy boy. Once more the set up is a combination of familiar themes and plot points: lost siblings, unholy love, the treachery of children, the will of the gods, and the duty of husbands and kings. In the previous opera Voton has been warned about the Twilight of The Gods, the doom that awaits them, and in the sequence which links the two (once more combining water, light, the tree and now the sword, in panels that echo the prelude), Russell shows us Voton’s solution, the creation of a sword. This he hopes will be unsheathed from the tree into which he thrust it, by someone worthy, someone over whom he has no direct influence. But he only goes and shags a mortal to sire this someone! And if that weren’t enough to raise Frika’s ire, that very son soon falls in love with his own twin sister, already married to the man whose house is built round this tree. None of which is going to go down well with protectress of wedlock. Add in another tragic offspring, Brunhildé, one of the Valkyrie, Voton’s daughter once again and the literal embodiment of his will (his actual will, not his stated position), and you’ve one family circle that’ll never be squared. I can’t tell you how cleverly it all comes together – the whole sword, fate and progeny thing – because there’s a final twist, a ramification of the incest which has yet to be played out, with Craig once more excelling himself in the final panel foreshadowing the next round.

If all of this wasn’t enough, it’s just occurred to me that there may be many as yet unfamiliar with P. Craig Russell as an artist. On the basis of his work on SANDMAN #50 alone he is justly celebrated.

Other credits include THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE, THE ART OF P. CRAIG RUSSELL and – with Neil Gaiman – THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, CORALINE, SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS and the first story in SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS.

His command of symbolism through design is beautiful to behold, and above all he’s just one of the most flat-out attractive visual craftsmen. And if you’ve never seen his pencils you’re in for an additional treat, for some of the preliminary sketchwork is reproduced in the back, bursting with a Renaissance eroticism reminiscent of Donatello, Caravaggio and the less burly examples of Michelangelo.

In some ways it’s not an easy book – it’s only fair to warn you that the language throughout retains the original formality which some may find initially stilted or foreboding – but its appeal is broader than I initially suspected. I’ll probably receive some flack for this comparison, but the combined scenario and linguistic approach is really not far from a cross between Shakespeare and SANDMAN.

Which should shift a few units.

SLH

Buy The Ring Of The Nibelung h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lazarus vol 2: Lift s/c (£10-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.

I swear this will speak to you: a series centred on family, loyalty and power.

In the very near future America’s economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.

It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.

The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base. But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

This is where it gets really juicy.

Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight’s time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.

Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there’s that message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

I think I know who sent it.

Flashback to the Southern Sierra Navada Facility where a young Forever is in training:

“I’m trying to remember… when was the last time I saw her, James?”
“On her birthday, Mister Carlyle… so just over five months ago.”
“Then this should be a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m sure it will. Forever! There’s someone here to see you.”
“DADDY!”

A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.

“I’m so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!”
“And is this the proper way to greet your father?”

She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.

“No, sir. Sorry, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again, father.”

I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn’t want Forever’s love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member – and a subservient one at that – to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.

“I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
“You’re not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol… or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter.”

In a later visit he even addresses her as “my daughter”. Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?

 

Forever’s relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.

As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka’s really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.

LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas. Quite why he’s not on the cover is beyond me (Note: the above isn’t the actual cover). He does youth – as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much – phenomenally well. There’s both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I’d employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever’s face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.

I’ve always loved Lark’s urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas’ subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.

As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.

I will shut up now before I’m accused of gushing.

SLH

Buy Lazarus vol 2: Lift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The People Inside h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Ray Fawkes.

“Look what you did to me.”

This a book about love in its myriad guises and even disguises so whatever you think that means, you’ll be thinking again when you get to it.

From the creator of ONE SOUL which stunned us so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month – and indeed MERCY which I don’t believe anyone else has for sale in the UK – this sets out to achieve something similarly inclusive but not the same, in a format that’s similarly ingenious… but not the same.

For most unsettling results, read when my age or older.

For most effective results I suggest reading it as soon as possible after your teens.

Of course we don’t necessarily know whether we’re in love or in lust, merely infatuated or completely insane. I’ve been in relationships under all four of those spells and sometimes it’s only in retrospect that you can tell one from the other. What this will make starkly clear, however, is that there is no time to lose by settling for lies or second best when aware that you are doing so.

It begins with six square panels on one page and six square panels on the other, each containing couples in a “Here we are” on-the-threshold moment: the current status, ostensibly, of their relationships. These and subsequent snapshots are either married to or contradicted by the private thoughts – brief mental impressions – of the panels’ occupants and, obviously, the couples aren’t always in synch with each other.

Cracks quickly appear in some relationships as things start to go wrong, sometimes in quite shocking ways. And when those cracks cause a split, they do so in the panels themselves which divide into two as the former lovers go their separate ways. Then some very interesting things start to happen…

Like ONE SOUL, the individuals’ stories continue until they don’t and the panels black out one by one as they die either alone or leaving their partners bereft. Or not. As you can probably tell I’m trying to avoid any form of spoiler whatsoever, but I can assure you that Fawkes has thought of almost every possible permutation, confrontation and complication in a relationship.

Some of this is unbelievably harsh, some of it very affecting.

Some pages move on by mere moments, between others there is an autumnal interlude which may last more than a single season or year. Trajectories aren’t always linear. Relationships need to be worked at, constantly and some can be repaired just as others can be sabotaged. Beware the distraction.

To say “the art does its job” would be to understate the accomplishment, for whilst Fawkes isn’t a very accomplished draughtsman he is a superb visual storyteller, as clear as clear can be, and there are new innovations here on top of the massive leap that ONE SOUL represented which kick off so cleverly after the first twenty-five pages.

Fawkes is also a fine designer and I love the matching covers between the two books which are very much companion pieces.

Just… don’t leave this until your dotage.

SLH

Buy The People Inside h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gary‘s Garden Book 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Gary Northfield.

“I fear the jungle is all too quiet, Chompy. Danger hides behind the silence, ready to pounce.”
“What are you talking about? What jungle?”

Have you even seen my garden?!

It’s like something out of Sleeping Beauty. Apparently there’s a canal at the bottom of it, but unless you have a machete then you will probably never know.

Welcome to the garden, dear readers, home to world-renowned, instantly recognised household name… Gary Whatsisface.

So much happens there both behind Gary’s back and right under his nose. By day there is danger! By night there is bin-raiding derring-do! His kitchen and store-cupboards are subject to daylight robbery. Even Gary’s boxer shorts are on the line! The washing line, that is. Or they were.

From the creator of THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS, I gleefully present barrels more buffoonery in which the Cartoon King of bugged-out eyes and shriek-squealing shenanigans sets his sights on suburban denizens of the dank, its tree-top scurriers and worriers, its frond-fond failures and other long-grassed losers: spiders, caterpillars, butterflies; worms, moles and tadpoles; rats, bats and bluebottle flies… all going about their day-to-day, survival of the twittest, ultra-competitive business.

In ‘First Legs’ you will weep when witnessing the loneliness of being a late developer.

In ‘Terrence The Snail’ you will slime as fast as you can slither straight back to Mum.

And on page 45 (of all places) you will wonder whether you can love a girl with a poo hanging out of her bum. Can you?

(Clue: guppies in a fish tank: they have strings of poo hanging out of their bums. They really do!)

Once more, it is the innate understanding of what will make a kid cry with laughter and squeal uncontrollably “Ewwww!” that so successfully informs a comic like this: the one-two punchline of ‘Noisy Neighbours’ is designed specifically to send its readers screaming back to their parents and thrust it in front of their faces. Warning: may prove counter-productive to your parental 5-a-day drive!

There are recurrent jokes you may only spot in the background, I love the slightly outmoded names (Penny the pigeon, Cyril the bumblebee, Rupert the squirrel, Ronald the spider) and the colours… oh, the colours are sublime! I take you back to those tadpoles.

Perspective also plays a vital role: what to this diminutive, ugly-bug ball of buffoons is a Transdimensional Televisor is to us but a toilet roll they’re treadmilling through the open French Windows. What to Gary is a delightful bird-twitter of song is a mockery through mimicry of what our bearded baboon really seems and sounds like. Self-deprecation is a superb source of comedy and Gary Whatsisface – here like the Johnny Morris of mismanaged comics – has mastered it.

In the back as a bonus feature is a game of Gary’s Garden Top Chumps as in Trumps. I loved Top Trumps! It acts both as a character guide and as a fully playable game. You don’t have to cut out your comic but can download and print out then cut out the lot from THE PHOENIX comic website. Brilliant!

Skill sets are: Intelligence, Heroism, Grumpiness, Ickiness, Legs.

Each is scientifically calculated out of ten unless you’re a caterpillar. That means molluscs score low on legs (one), but don’t bet on them being lowest (no clues).

Outrageously, however, there is a Top Chump for Gary Northfield who scores himself 10, 10, 10, 10 and 10. Now, I will give Gary 10 out of 10 both for Grumpiness and Ickiness, but Intelligence and Heroism is pushing it.

As for the legs…

Gary!

SLH

Buy Gary’s Garden Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron.

THING THAT IS AWESOME +
THING THAT IS AWESOME =
THING THAT IS TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME

Fact!

Neill Cameron has art down to a science.

All education should be entertainment and creativity is coolest when fun.

This is bundles of fun. It’s instructive, interactive and each step is a full step, but not too steep a step so that budding comicbook creators won’t run out of puff. Nor will they know that they’re climbing a mountain until they reach its summit then feel like they’re on top of the world!

By the time you and / or your young ones have finished this essential guide to comicbook storytelling with practical notes on how to pop your own comic together you will feel empowered enough to tell any story in many ways.

Just watch out for the bananas.

“Something’s wrong with Mecha Monkey! He’s gone into overdrive! … And he seems to be completely obsessed with bananas!”

No, Neill, that’s you.

So meet Professor Panels and his Art Monkey. They’re given up their free time at a mental health institution to teach you how to make comics, and not just any old comics: how to make awesome comics! All you‘ll need is paper, a pencil or pen and your brain.

“Note: do not remove from head.”

Starting with stick figures, filling in blanks at the end of short stories Art Monkey has already drawn, you’ll soon progress onto a variety of simple body shapes broken down into basics in the useful and reassuring knowledge that cartooning is all about is about simplifying: Keep It Simple, Stupid! Faces and emotional ranges swiftly follow on precisely the same principles, focussing on three key elements: the eyes, eyebrows and mouth.

However, cartooning is also about the stories themselves, so you won’t just learn how to draw, but how to set up short sequences yourself with an introduction, confrontation and resolution, how to make that physical, mental or emotional, and how to turn the whole shebang into slapstick comedy, including how to draw a doofus. (I will sit and model for your children, yes.)

Before all that you need ideas and Professor Panels has some simple exercises to help you generate the awesomest ideas of all. Try the equation above! I did, below:

Page 45 + Winning The Lottery = THING THAT IS TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME (for both of us)!

Okay, what he really meant is something like this:

Bananas + Ballet = Bananarina! (See is believing.)

There are also lessons on lettering, and how cool it is to make your sound effects the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia, appendices on things like robot accessories (wheels, jets, missiles, claws, more missiles, chainsaw and a nice pretty bow!), dinosaur shapes, penguins, ninja penguins, and more stories to complete in your own insane manner.

Best of all, however, is that all these examples can be downloaded from the Phoenix Comic website then printed off so you can create as many versions as you fancy without drawing on the book itself!

I wholeheartedly recommend this as a starter guide to anyone of any age, so whip out some paper and sharpen your pencil right now!

Bring your own bananas.

SLH

Buy How To Make Awesome Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire.

From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE UNDERWATER WELDER and SWEET TOOTH comes a deliriously coloured piece of science fiction whose twin narratives dovetail beautifully when they meet at the middle during the first episode’s conclusion.

Now, that may sound like a gimmick – albeit a clever one – but it is integral to this transtemporal and reality-reconfiguring piece where perception and perspective are all.

1921, and William is determined to find the fabled Lost Temple Of The Incas deep in the Peruvian jungle even though Sir Terrance Morgan’s old escapades ended very badly indeed. His older brother is sceptical, but find it they do, along with the bodies tied to stakes which they assume are from the previous, doomed expedition. Perhaps they should have inspected the clothing more carefully.

In 3797 on a remote human settlement in space, Nika has found the Lost Temple Of The Incas and its blue-skinned, Atabithian inhabitants. What she desperately needs is some of the Trillium flowers within to cure a sentient and singularly virulent virus which could wipe out all mankind. Beyond her own only one other colony remains. Unfortunately Nika is running out of time and her commanding officer may have to resort to less verbal methods of negotiation. Her space suit’s artificial intelligence is scrambling desperately to translate the Atabithians’ language but manages mere snippets. But then Nika ingests one of the flowers and the result is a perfect comicbook moment!

 

After the first chapter a more regular approach to the two time frames sets in until a dramatic shift in the protagonists’ circumstances creates a wobble in reality and each two-tiered page is played like a face card (Jack, Queen, King), one reflecting the other. Oh yeah!  You wait until you get to the real confluences!

Best of all is the colouring: old school washes bleeding beautifully and – as required – eerily. The corpses as recalled by William on the battlefield, drowning in muddy water, are horrific. Lemire’s spindly art really takes off in the space-set sequences, with a gloriously detailed, flower-strewn inner temple which, in chapter seven, grows even more epic once Nika discovers its real secret and so finds herself dwarfed under The Mouth Of God.

I should probably spare you my one consternation because it’s difficult to unlearn things without the aid of copious amounts of alcohol and you might not have spotted it yourself. But in the interests of honesty the Peruvian jungle looked far from jungular, and when one of the expedition members declared, “Dear Lord, I didn’t think the underbrush could get any thicker!” I looked around and all I could see was a perfectly accessible, knee-level grassland, three or four trees per hectare and a couple of random vines.

Bonus in the back: Jeff Lemire and letter artist Chris Ross divulge the secret of the fictional Atabithian language which is nothing of the sort (it’s not Klingon) but a code substituting our own letters of the alphabet with symbols cleverly constructed around the concept of a three-fingered race. However, because it isn’t a fully formed language it does mean that you can go back and decipher the extensive exchanges which Nika couldn’t comprehend without the aid of a GCSE in Atabithian.

Someone send this lazybones a transcript, please. Thank yooooooo!

SLH

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

Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa.

From the creator of PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS, at a guess this contains the first three volumes of the previous series.

Welcome to Altruistic Avenue off Right-Thing Road, paved by Good Intentions Inc.

Hell lies straight ahead.

It’s 1986 before the Berlin Wall came down: Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a young Japanese immigrant working as a neurosurgeon in Germany, and very grateful to be doing so. He’s a prodigy sponsored by Dr. Heinemann, the Head Director of Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, and dating his daughter who’s all easy smiles and eyebrow pencil.

Oh yes, Kenzo has it made but he’s not that kind of guy. He’s eager to please – to the extent that he’ll write papers outside of his own gruelling operating hours and allow Heinemann to claim them as his own – but he knows right from wrong, and his first lesson in wrong comes in the form of a Turkish woman and child whose husband/father is brought in for surgery before a premier opera singer collapses and Dr. Tenma is directed to divert his attention from the first patient to the more prestigious one. He complies, of course, but the Turk dies without Kenzo’s personal touch, leaving his grieving widow to berate him in the corridors and a sympathetic fellow surgeon to warn him about game-plans. At least his fiancée is there to soothe him jauntily with the indisputable truth that “People’s lives aren’t created equal”.

At this point I thought the monsters of the series were actually going to be Dr. Heinemann and his superficial, over-privileged daughter, but no. For Dr. Tenma is offered a chance to redeem himself when a defector from East Germany and his young family are targeted by parties unknown and slaughtered in their residence. Their daughter goes catatonic, while their little boy requires immediate and intricate brain surgery to save him from the bullet in his skull.  Kenzo preps himself but at the last minute the local Mayor, a financial supporter of the hospital, collapses and once again our beloved doctor is reassigned to the more politically advantageous operation. With the heart-felt reprimands of the Turkish woman still in his head, does Dr. Kenzo bite the hands that feed him and stab the eyes that seduce him or does he comply once more and live to be promoted yet another day? He does not.

And you cheer, yes you cheer, but everything that follows from demotion to promotion, from police investigation to the most awful revelation, will make you wish that he had.

I’ll be back with more, as will Inspector Lunge of the German Federal Crime Unit – he of the clickerty fingers – and none of it will look good for our dear cousin Kenzo.

With a fine line that speaks as much French as it does Japanese with its exaggerated features and arch expressions, Urasawa is very much worth investigating. Same goes for Dr. Tenma, unfortunately.

What I particularly loved about this was the skills of deflection, evidently hereditary, which both the domineering doctor and his debutante of a daughter apply to so successfully scupper any chance young Kenzo seizes to vocalise his misgivings, leaving him… well, not exactly exasperated because he’s too much of a puppy… but desperate and deflated with the whole world against him. It’s another one of those horror stories that strikes home because the horror is as much about no one taking you seriously, no one believing what you alone have witnessed, because it’s so much more credible that you’re the guilty party yourself.

If only Inspector Lunge read more manga!

SLH

Buy Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

“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.

Colour Edition extras include a behind-the-scenes process piece on how O’Malley approached each book from script through thumb-nails for full pencils, lettering and inks, as well as initial designs and ideas jotted down on paper, some of which never made the final cut.  Also: loads of poster and t-shirt designs, plus a couple of watercolour paintings.

JR

Buy Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery…

“Othniel Charles Marsh was the pre-eminent palaeontologist of the day, his wealth of dinosaur discoveries and prowess were renowned…
“Edward Drinker Cope described him as a ‘prize bellend’.”

Ha. I ordered this mini-anthology purely on the strength of it containing new MEGATHERIUM CLUB material, but actually each of the four strips is a winner in their own right. The opener, The Bullpen by Luke James Halsall and Tim Bird, despite the characters names being changed to presumably avoid any possible legal issues, is prefaced with the comment that if you would like to know more about the early days of Marvel Comics to read MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY by Sean Howe, which I would heartily endorse. In this strip, we see a bespectacled huckster-type blatantly fuck over the diligent, hard-working artist by taking the entire credit for creating their new characters. Now, I wonder who that particular potshot is aimed at…?

Then, after the delightful nonsense of the Club’s latest ill advised booze-addled exploits, there follows Hitchcock & Film in which the esteemed director charts the very beginnings of cinema and also his own intertwined childhood years. It’s by Ricky Miller and Tim Bird, and I believe this is the first chapter of what will be a longer work. You can tell it’s extremely well researched, and I’m really looking forward to seeing considerably more of this material. I found it fascinating, both from the historical as well as the biographical perspective. I should add at this point I loved Tim’s previous homage to the Great British institution of the motorway GRAY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK. I really enjoy his art style, I think it’s immensely well polished for such a relaxed approach.

 

 

Finally, we have something completely different art-wise from EdieOP. I’ve seen some bits and pieces from her forthcoming MALEFICIUM and I think she’s a real talent. Much like Brecht THE WRONG PLACE / THE MAKING OF Evens, I like the fact she’s not afraid to plough a unique artistic furrow. Her tale here, The Story Of Lucius Jellybean, is a random bit of craziness about a whole new lifeform created from a dissolved slug. He’s a well meaning freak of nature, despite being prone to causing the odd pandemic by accident! Very amusing.

This collection is a primer / advert for the fledgling (set up in 2012) Avery Hill Publishing, whose publications so far, I have found to be of impeccable merit! Keep up the good work!

JR

Buy Reads vol 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez.

“THANKS FOR COMING
(Call the police.)”

In which a pink bunny is jabbed repeatedly in the head by a hypodermic needle and injected with whatever it takes to keep the comic going.

Yes, it’s mother of invention time.

When creators attend conventions they find it useful to have something to sign and to sell – a print or a comic – to help pay for their way and give their readers an incentive to visit their tables. Jhonen Vasquez, creator of JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and SQUEE, found himself in need ahead of a San Diego Comic Convention so turned the first of these four fillers around in 24 hours.

That’s what these are: fillers. Far from deceitful, Vasquez set out his stall immediately: he had to fill fifteen pages without a clue how to do so except subject poor Fillerbunny to as much pain as possible. He ran out of ideas of page six. Didn’t matter: that was the joke.

Of FILLERBUNNY #3: MY WORST BOOK YET, Mark wrote:

“This book is a bestseller at Page 45. Hordes of dark munchkins sweep through the shop on a Saturday, examine the same shelf as always, point at a few things and then leave. It’s a thing.”

He wasn’t joking.

Includes Fillerbunny in a bee costume. If you like bee costumes, try Jamie Smart’s  KOCHI WANABA

SLH

Buy The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny and read the Page 45 review here

Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely, more.

Henry & Glenn are housemates. Glenn’s on the road and sends Henry a postcard:

“Dear Henry,
“How are you? The tour is going ok. I miss you and the dog so much. Give her a kiss for me. Yesterday this lead singer slapped me. It hurt so much I wish you were there to have held me. Well I have to go there is a great documentary on about werewolves.
“Miss you,
“Glenn
“xoxox”

So much funnier when you realise that it’s Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig.

Fear not, this is completely smut-free. It is instead a light-hearted romcom featuring the unlikeliest of lovers trying to sort out their issues. The main issue is that Glenn is a self-centred, melodramatic cry-baby whose career has dead-ended, leaving our stoical Henry to deal with the domestic practicalities and bring home the bacon by appearing as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race (true fact – I’ve seen an episode, and good for him!) and indeed The Henry Rollins Show where he interviews Kevin Smith:

“So, Kevin… how big is Ben Affleck’s dick? Sorry, I meant: how big of a dick is Ben Afleck?”
“This interview is over.”

Tom Neely’s cartooning is a fun-filled joy with elements both of Peter Bagge in Glenn Danzig and square-jawed Chester Gould in Henry Rollins. Benjamin Marra, meanwhile, delivers a back-stabbing satani-cult romp in the style of Golden Age superheroes inked in Rotring. Erick Yahnker’s photo-realistic portrait in grey washes was actually quite touching. Coop’s homage to Frank Frazetta wasn’t!

Daryl Hall and John Oates, meanwhile, are the long-suffering neighbours, while Morrissey finally brings accord to their discord, albeit in opposition.

The bumper edition collects all five mini-comics of full sequential art, single cartoons, cry-fest diary entries, and the sort of notes you’d leave your housemate on the refrigerator. I’ve read the hatemail some humourless loons sent the creative crew, while Henry Rollins said:

“Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would NOT be amused.”

He wasn’t.

You’ll find Glenn Danzig’s real-life, recorded reaction to the first mini on the very last page. Hahahahaha!

Aww, there, there. I’m not going to kiss you better.

SLH

Buy Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever and read the Page 45 review here

Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun.

First four volumes of the iconoclastic World War I series that fills some browsers with so much nostalgia their eyes begin to well up.

Includes August 1st 1916 – Charley’s seventeenth birthday – when the British forces begin bombing their own side. Which is nice.

I saw a BBC programme on the Battle of the Somme, and whereas the British forces were totally screwed by their own superiors, our French allies manage to achieve their objectives. So that’s one in the eye for the boringly, belligerently anti-French. Anyway, the programme I saw didn’t paint a particularly pretty picture nor does this, deliberately, which wouldn’t be so surprising if it was Garth Ennis’ recent BATTLEFIELDS or earlier WAR STORIES at Vertigo.

But it’s not, it’s from the very early ‘80s and was aimed squarely at kids.

SLH

Buy Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Final Incal h/c – Numbered Oversized Slipcase Edition (£59-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Ladronn, Moebius

The Guns Of Shadow Valley h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Dave Wachter, James Andrew Clark & Dave Wachter

The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Judith Dupre, Dean R. Motter & Sean Phillips

Kings Watch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Jeff Parker & Marc Laming

My Little Pony vol 3: The Return Of Harmony s/c (£5-99, IDW) by various

Preacher Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Flash vol 3: Gorilla Warfare s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul

Flash vol 4: Reverse h/c (£18-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul

Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 1: Cosmic Avengers (US Edition) s/c  (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven

Dragonar Academy vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran

Fairy Tail vol 41 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Soul vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 5 & 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Terra Formars vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Yu Sasuga & Ken-Ichi Tachibana

 

News!

ITEM! Hugely entertaining LeftLion interview with Matt Brooker AKA D’Israeli conducted by Robin Lewis about Matt’s early days, current comic ORDINARY (in stock now!) and the immediate future.

ITEM! Swoonaway komodo dragon by Marc Laming.

ITEM! Jamie Smart on creating the fabulous MOOSEKID COMICS including costs in terms of both time and money. Some of you may find that useful as well as fascinating

ITEM! Lucy Knisley on creating autobiographical comics including RELISH and (soon) SOMETHING NEW, and indeed on promoting them

Err, that’s all I got. Been on holiday, that sort of thing.

See you on Monday for the Page 45 Bryan Lee O’Malley signing of SECONDS.

Cheers,

Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week one

August 6th, 2014

I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

 - Stephen on The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century h/c

Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain.

Such a melancholy book, full of silence.

And it’s a silence which implies decades of silence preceding these pages.

Remember when you were young and granted new environments to explore?

The thrill of the unusual and unknown, where any twist in a high-hedgerow road could present a magnificent house, a strange-looking shack, an enticing gate, or an object you’ve never seen before. What was that object, who used it, and what was it for?

In urban terms, perhaps you encountered odd shops, alluring alleys which led who knows where, a park with paths which bifurcated tantalisingly over a ridge, round a corner so demanding a decision…

Maybe you moved house, visited relatives or went on holiday? Who hasn’t when young collected seashells at the seaside, stones and minerals which struck you as magical and wondered at whatever else was washed up onshore?

This is Helen, aged 11, who has moved from the city to a rural Wales rolling with hills and dipping down dales, populated by livestock and soared over by swallows. So much space, so much sky! Left to her own devices and armed with a pair of binoculars, Helen carefully jots down new observations in her Nature Notes book and sketches the bird life above.

 

Naturally inquisitive, Helen is by chance given hints of a new mystery by old Bill the eggman whose hens are upset – so failing to lay – by the death of what Bill calls “a rare bird”. A rare bird called Emrys up at Cuddig Farm.

“How do you know it upset your chickens, Bill?”
“They told me.”

So it is that Helen sets off for Cuddig farm and stumbles on a stack of discarded timber, barbed wire and empty cans of sheep dye – the sorts of things you’d find on a farm – and a make-up bag containing foundation, compact, lipstick, and a single, spent shotgun shell.

Helen lets the two sheepdogs out of their shed. They’d been there for days; there’s no one left to feed them. She talks to the tup, a ram with horns coiled like a Spirula seashell who tells Helen of the sheep dye they shared.

“He used more on himself than he put on me.”

Gradually, as Helen attends Emrys’ funeral and follows in his footsteps she uncovers echoes of a life lived alone and apart.

The book is full of faint, empty echoes. So much has evidently gone unsaid until now as Helen’s questions are answered directly and with a quiet remorse. The trip to Oswestry with its livestock markets and its auctions is haunting, cows’ fetlocks fettered with manacles. Those animals don’t speak but moo or bleat bleakly.

The cover looks like it’s been created with oil pastels, yet there’s a tremendous sense of light. And sadness. And space. That it is in the early stages of sunset is far from a coincidence.

The interior art is executed in charcoal. It’s stark yet gentle, and, built on a consistent, nine-panel grid like Bryan Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT, it has a perfectly controlled sense of equally measured time – a monotone which amplifies the silence.

“You humans are the saddest of animals.”

SLH

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

Low #1 (£2-99, by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

“Without optimism for the future how can we hope to shape a better one?”

Swoon!

The crisp yet soft and lithe-as-you-like strokes here smack of the sort of 1960s’ fashion and romance line art which Posy Simmonds was referencing in her MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS where the secretary loses herself in daydreams. Feed it through a futuristic filter then add a little John Bryne at his loose-pencil best in the figures, smiles and eyes and you have a very attractive package.

There are six pages of classy, unsensationalist and quite natural nudity, modestly portrayed with deftly deployed holograms and colours, all drawn in life-class poses then artfully arranged so they communicate with one another, and there’s one panel in which Johl Caine playfully pokes his son Marik in the ribs and young Marik positively dances in response, one arm raised, his leg leaping up and away.

 

It’s very, very beautiful, with subaquatic, man-made leviathans which might put you in mind of Sean Murphy’s THE WAKE.

So it has come to this:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if he haven’t already escaped his solar system we’ll have needed to move undergroud or in LOW underwater.

In LOW we haven’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Johl’s wife Stel remains optimistic and focussed. Johl is focussed but more on the immediate: feeding the subaquatic city of Salus by way of hunting using vast, submerged vessels and personal, watertight exoskeletons keyed to family DNA. His son Marik has followed in his mother’s footsteps so Johl is keener than ever for his two daughters, Della and Tajo, to follow his and become pilots. Tajo is dubious but Della’s all for it and keen to take her first helm, so mum Stel reluctantly – yet with good humour – agrees: today will be the first family outing!

 

The problem is, the problem is, the future is not what it was. The problem is, the problem is, if you’ve shot their cat, they’ll shoot your dog. And there is someone out there in the freezing, oceanic depths with a long-held grudge.

Unexpectedly brutal after so much familial, high-spirited devotion, what I loved was Stel’s unwavering optimism and maternal determination in the wake of so much adversity: that Remender kept her true to her nature. It was poignantly expressed, while everything which preceded it was eloquently expressed.

Don’t be alarmed by what may seem at first to be an overwhelming amount of world-building. Hell, you could accuse The West Wing of that, so fast and furious came the first episode’s exchanges; but it turned out to be one of the five finest television series of all time partially through not underestimating its audience and knowing it would swiftly catch up. As with The West Wing all of the scene-setting in LOW is done through quick-fire dialogue without resorting to overt exposition.

“Time to come to terms with it, Stel. One of your children must take the helm. They all carry the potent blood of the Caine.”
“Not so potent this morning.”
“Oh, that’s low.”

SLH

Buy Low #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Mysteries h/c new edition (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell.

Russell has breathed such life and colour into Gaiman’s story-within-a-story that it’s hard to remember how clever it was in the first place.

Ten years after the event, the English narrator recalls how as a young man he was once stranded in Los Angeles. He hooked up with a girl he’d met briefly in London but like most of us his memory is only sure about certain sequences. Quite how he came to be sitting on a bench with an older man, he’s not sure. But in exchange for a cigarette, the stranger tells him his story, set in the celestial Silver City, as God instructs his angels on the creation of the universe.

“The sky above the city was a wonderful thing. It was always light, although lit by no sun — lit, perhaps by the city itself — but the quality of the light was forever changing. Now pewter-coloured light, then brass, then a gentle gold, or a soft and quiet amethyst…”

Lucifer visits him and instructs him on his Function:

“You are Raguel. The Vengeance of The Lord. There has been a… a Wrong Thing.”

An angel, Carasel, has been killed, and Raguel must find out how and why; then he must perform his Function.

Gaiman’s vision of heaven is wittily conceived, as the angels go about working on their projects, creating ‘regret’, ‘sleep’, ‘agitation’ under the guidance of Phanuel. It soon transpires that the dead angel, Carasel, was last working on the concept of ‘Death’ with his partner Saraquael. Did he become overly involved in his own work? Did he want to experience that which he was working on? Or did it have more to do with their last project, for which Phanuel took all the credit? In any case, why would God allow this to happen, and how much does it have to do with Lucifer, walking alone in The Dark?

This is a murder mystery so, although it breaks my heart, I cannot reveal any more.

But I can implore you to take a look yourself because you know how I feel about THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE’s  P. Craig Russell, and if you enjoyed his collaboration with Gaiman on THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, CORALINE or SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS you will not be disappointed. His illumination of the Silver City – pure, translucent, with its own lambent glow – is every bit as exquisite as you’d expect.

As for the angels, if you like your men young, winged, naked – and without genitalia – then this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Murder Mysteries h/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Collects LOEG: CENTURY 1910, LOEG: CENTURY 1969 and LOEG: CENTURY 2009, all reviewed individually if you fancy a gander. It’s a good job what’s left of our League are immortal. Or at least… they don’t age.

LOEG: CENTURY 1910

Another highly inventive collage culled from works of other authors, this time with the added entertainment of songwriters Brecht and Kurt Weill.

Quartermain, Hyde and the Invisible Man are all dead now, whilst Captain Nemo is not much longer for this world. Yet Mina Murray – she of the scarf or very high collar – remains as vigorous as ever. Infuriated too, mostly by the ineptitude of her new team of sleuths: Allan Quartermain Junior (hmmmm…), burglar Raffles and the immortal if not immutable Orlando who preens himself hilariously throughout, name-dropping like a Timelord:

“Lando, that has to be the most stupid thing you’ve ever said.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There was, “Oh look! What a wonderful horse!” That was at Troy.”

 

Lastly there’s Tom Carnacki whose disturbing premonitions of impending disaster are what drive this new series. For the seer has twin visions: one of a sect preparing to create a Moonchild or Anti-Christ; the other of Captain Nemo’s daughter rejecting her father’s inheritance and abandoning him and his Nautilus for foreign climes – which to her means here. Unfortunately as the team concentrate on the former along with what appears to be the return of Jack The Ripper in the form of Mac The Knife, Mina is warned too late by Norton, a man trapped physically in London but free to roam through time, that it’s their very investigation that will, in an impetuous raid, precipitate and perhaps exacerbate exactly what they’re seeking to avert, setting the scene for 1969.

Meanwhile, they’ve taken their collective eye fatally off the crystal ball which warned of human heads piled up on the docks outside a London hotel which is exactly where Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni has sought employment and attracting a worrying amount of salacious attention from its drooling, drunken patrons. This is where Moore has so cleverly adapted Brecht and Weill’s Pirate Jenny, recasting the song’s victims as culpable rapists thoroughly deserving the wrath and carnage as each verse inevitably builds towards from its initial ominous warning:

“And the ship… the black raider… with a skull on its masthead… moves in from the sea!”

Kevin O’Neill is on magnificent form as ever, particularly during the harrowing Pirate Jenny refrains although you’ll also get the big bang for your buck by the end. My favourite this time of the many side-references Moore packs in, is the gossip about the Chatterleys!

I can’t help you with the rest of the Threepenny Opera, but if you’ve never heard Pirate Jenny we’ll be playing Marc Almond’s ivory-hammering 1987 Melancholy Rose b-side version in the shop. Just ask us to slap it on next time you’re in!

LOEG: CENTURY 1969

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric hickie, Allan Quartermain who is also a lot older than his aspect would suggest, and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

Now they’ve returned to London in 1969 and immediately set about investigating even though Oliver Haddo supposedly died in Hastings back in 1947. Well, someone did, and it’s a scene which Moore and O’Neill play to perfection. Who then is the mysterious Charles Felton courting vain and gullible pop star Terner of The Purple Orchestra whose front man, Basil Thomas, was drowned in his swimming pool by robed monks in front of his pilled-up boyf, Wolfe Lovejoy?

It’s a special Same-Sex, Drugs & Rock’n'Roll edition of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, as the once-prudish Mina strives to stay hip to the times but finds she’s not as au fait as she thinks. Indeed this second part climaxes in a stunningly bad trip by the Edward Hyde memorial statue surrounded by the art and artefacts of the day from Spacehoppers and Daleks to Tony the Tiger, after which Mina’s fate will genuinely shock you.

The title has always been a collage of borrowed fiction so although London does exist, none of its shops, clubs or inhabitants here have save in books, films, television programmes and songs. Half the fun is spotting what Moore has appropriated and where from, especially now that as the years progress the variety of media Moore can choose from expands. Michael Caine’s Jack Carter plays a pivotal role in tracking down Basil’s murderers, and although Get Carter didn’t actually appear at the cinema until 1970, cleverly here he has yet to head north on that family business in Newcastle. I’ll leave the rest of you to puzzle over yourselves, but I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

LOEG: CENTURY 2009

In which the identity of the Moonchild is finally revealed.

SLH

Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bodies #1 of 8 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Megan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade.

Longharvest Lane, London 2014, 1890, 2050 and 1940.

Four artists for four time periods in which a naked male corpse is discovered in the same position, with the same mutilations and the same mark slashed on its wrists.

2014 sees East End Muslim, D.S. Shahara Hasan, in police riot gear leading the charge against an aggressive, racist demonstration. She is philosophical about the thugs and amused by her subordinate’s sense of humour:

“Tell me again why I’m the one in the armour and you’re swanning about in Hugo Boss?”

“Because your people are on a ruthless Jihad to set up an Islamofascist annex of Mecca on the Mile End Road?”

“And don’t you forget it. Your head’ll be first to roll as soon as my schimitar arrives from Taliban Central.”

She’s about to have that smile wiped off her face.

In 1890 Inspector Edmond Hillinghead strays on a top-hatted toff receiving relief down a dark alley before tripping in flight over a hacked and slashed corpse.

“Someone really didn’t like him.”
“Or really liked doing this to him.”

Dutiful and diligent, Hillinghead will do his best for the victim in spite of his colleagues’ less than enlightened attitudes towards society’s lowly and outcast.

Armed with a bow and arrow, Maplewood discovers hers in the scantily populated capitol in 2050, along with a brightly coloured ball and a girl called Bounce. Maplewood struggles with labels and barely remembers her own name.

During an air raid in 1940’s East End, we find one Inspector Weissman with unorthodox methods of policing his turf.

“The blackouts and the raids mask a multitude of crimes. Most of them mine.”

But not all of them, apparently.

All four artists bring distinct atmospheres to their eras: forensic, grotesque, ethereal and Butch Guice brand of photorealism, respectively.

Spencer and his colleague set up the prejudices – and presumption – in one particular period cleverly and you can colour me intrigued, but I do hope I haven’t already got it.

“And so it begins, Frater Ladbroke.”
“To the Long Harvest.”

SLH

Buy Bodies #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson…

“This is your first memory of dreams in the dark…
“This is your first memory of me.”

I am sure we can all remember our earliest trips to the cinema and the impression they made upon us. Probably like a lot of kids of my generation, the first time I went to the cinema and was utterly blown away was to see Star Wars. I have some vague recollections of seeing a Disney animation, possibly The Rescuers just before that, but it certainly didn’t make the same hammer-like impression upon my brain.

I absolutely loved this story of a young boy’s initiation into the world of celluloid, as part narrated by the disembodied voice of cinema itself. In our modern society of on-demand, any-time viewing of pretty much anything you could possibly want, I doubt a first trip to the cinema today could have the same impact as it did for our generation. Back in our day, aside from the odd gem on television (if you actually caught it when it was on, that is), there wasn’t a great deal for kids to watch. Thus a trip to the cinema really did seem like an other-worldly experience, a genuinely special event.

 

And, after an initial false start being taking to see a Robin Hood film at possibly just too tender an age by his dad, our main character here also receives his ‘baptism cosmic’ at the hands of Luke and Han. What then follows is a rapidly burgeoning obsession with films and indeed film-making set against the backdrop of a coming-of-age friendship yarn. I can see why Jeff Lemire was sufficiently impressed to provide a cover pull quote, and actually, you can see comparisons with Jeff’s work both in terms or storytelling and artistically, in this black and white work. It’s not ESSEX COUNTY by any means, but exactly as with Jeff’s early work from 2005, LOST DOGS, you can see Owen’s talent. I think this is probably more polished than LOST DOGS, actually. Plus it’s certainly a very different piece from Owen’s other work we are currently stocking, the sonically themed and psychedelically powered RAYGUN ROADS, so he’s clearly a versatile creator to watch out for.

JR

Buy Reel Love Act One and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neal Adams.

“It can’t get any worse than this.”

Exceptional.

I’ll be recommending it to every school as a set text on The Holocaust or at the very least an essential part of their library. It’s not as powerful as JUDENHASS but it’s far more accessible for younger readers, being a gripping narrative which whilst fiction is still informed in minute but by no means intrusive detail by historical fact. It was the extensive annotations by Greg Pak in the back that I actually read first, and I’m glad that I did so. For although there are the occasional snatches of perfectly judged narrative anchoring the events in history, the annotations themselves – brief, precise, and well argued with references – show that Greg did everything in his power to ensure that Max Eisenhardt’s story fits within historical records in every conceivable way. Moreover I’ve argued before that most superhero stories involving real-world horrors have a tendency to trivialise those suffering by suggesting solutions unavailable to those concerned, whereas here Pak has done the exact opposite:

“In our story’s climax, we wanted our hero to take action. But we felt it was important not to depict him as the actual leader of the Sonderkommando revolt. Real human beings led this revolt — we didn’t want to detract from their almost unthinkable heroism by suggesting that the revolt was only possible because a super hero took charge.”

The revolt happened, by the way. Similarly, when discussing the tattooing process and numbering schemes, Greg writes:

“We made the decision not to show Max’s actual number in this tattooing scene. The more I read the testimonies of actual survivors, the more uncomfortable I became with the notion of giving our fictional hero a number that a real human being once bore.”

Absolutely right, Greg, and if you’d made one up that was never used, that would have broken your record of historical accuracy.

But surely, you’re thinking, historical accuracy goes up in smoke the second the future X-Men leader/villain (pick your era) starts using his powers…? Err, what powers? Aside from a school javelin throw and a certain knack for spotting metal where others might not have noticed it, that’s it, guys. Even at a key climax halfway through the book, when his family fleeing through the woods is caught by German soldiers and lined up in front of a firing squad, and you just know that Max is finally going to unleash his magnetic power against the bullets flying towards them… And you know that because Greg has encouraged you to expect it by reprising his father’s considered exhortation (“Sometimes you get a moment… when everything lines up. When anything is possible. When suddenly… you can make things happen.”)… Pak flips that deliberate misdirection around in a manner which is perfectly devastating.

Germany 1935, then, just prior to the Nazi’s announcing the Nuremberg Laws, and young Max is already suffering Anti-Semitism at school, but nothing will prepare him, his family, or the young Romany girl called Magda for what lies ahead: Kristallnacht, Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. If there’s one thing Pak’s characters focus on above all others it’s weighing the balance about when to fight when the repercussions for every act of defiance were for dozens, hundreds or thousands to pay the price. It’s very well argued indeed. Also, for every moment of hope, there is a crushing blow.

Combined with Max Hollingsworth’s moody palette which produces more than a little Tim Sale in the final effect, Giandomenico has done an exemplary job of illustrating some very difficult scenes, from the Jewish arrivals stripped of their clothes at Auschwitz to the knock-out, double-page spread of the book in the fourth chapter when Max stumbles upon the room piled almost to the roof with glass spectacles: stunning.

The covers by Marko Djurdjevic are pretty haunting too, but just when you thought you’d got as much as you could from this volume, there’s a biographical piece in the back on Dina Gottliebova, a woman interned in Auschwitz and forced by Mengele to paint portraits of those undergoing his horrific, nonsensical experiments… brilliantly illustrated by Neal Adams with Joe Kubert. And it’s the best Adams art I’ve seen in decades. Kubert, of course, produced the similarly themed YOSSEL which I praised to the heavens, but can you imagine what Adams could have contributed to this medium if superheroes hadn’t been the only form of real bread and butter back then…?

SLH

Buy X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, Wes Craig…

Spinning out of the ANNIHILATION and shortly thereafter ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST cosmic event epics that firmly re-established fan-interest in off-Earth tights and capery, this was a radically updated version of the classic space-faring team. I can remember being sceptical at the time that the all-new roster of members comprising of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Groot could get close to recapturing the magic of the original material. And whilst it certainly wasn’t as surreal or at times frankly weird as that initial run, now available again in two volumes: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 1 S/C and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 2 S/C, it was exceptionally good fun. Certainly on a par with the ‘90s reboot material featuring the original team that ran for sixty-odd issues before running eventually running out of warp power.

This run also coincided with an excellent run on NOVA by Abnett and Lanning that was almost entirely space-based too, which is currently out of print but hopefully will also be recollected. It probably will given the Richard Ryder character is about to reappear in the current GUARDIANS saga. I was somewhat surprised when both titles were cancelled after only about 25 issues each, as I actually thought they were amongst the better titles Marvel were putting out at the time. This material had strong storytelling and certainly remains worth reading.

I think, therefore, Bendis clearly took a look at everything that was right with this run such as the character line-up, just tinkered with it a little bit, then sprinkled some of his magic dialogue-dust on, and hey presto, suddenly it is a massive title again.

JR

Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema.

“Boy! This secret identity jazz can sure be a strain!”

In which Peter is a hipster and I get my old-man hat on.

Oh, how these covers are gorgeous!

I don’t mean this one – though Romita’s composition is exceptional – I mean the original covers, each and every one, coloured to striking perfection using red, blue with yellow and a verdant green.

John Romita Sr. knew how to fill but not overcrowd a cover. Essentially you are given Spider-Man big and bold, swinging over campus crowds, walking away from a victory distraught or being pinned, punched and wrestled to the ground by the Kingpin, Man-Mountain Marko or The Lizard. Anything else would be superfluous. Multiple Quicksilvers smack him all at once like some Final Fantasy assault you’ve pre-programmed using concurrent attacks. The Shocker blasts away at a midnight wall spot lit by the iconic Spidey Signal.

Yeah, the Spidey Signal projected from the wall-crawler’s belt. That was a thing, once.

I don’t believe superhero comic covers have ever attained these heights since, other than a clutch of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL efforts often marred by bicycle adverts. Seriously, by bicycle adverts. How sad was that? Maybe a few of his Romita Jr.’s IRON MAN pieces and – in a completely different way – David Aja’s chic and contemporary HAWKEYE designs. The sequential storytelling inside is good but it’s on the cover than Romita ruled.

Unusually you are by chance here presented with a complete, extended story arc involving an engraved tablet akin to the Rosetta Stone which no one so far has been able to decipher. It’s displayed on Peter Parker’s campus, the residential ramifications of which spark student riots headed by the disenfranchised African-American contingent demanding an egalitarian outcome. Peter reacts badly to their peer pressure so alienating his girlfriend, Gwen, who wonders if he’s a coward. Her father, police Captain Stacy, wonders if he’s Spider-Man.

It’s stolen by the Kingpin (people forget he was created as a recurrent Spider-Man villain long before Frank Miller saw his costumeless, mobster merit and potential as a crime-lord DAREDEVIL adversary) and from then on it’s a pass-the-parcel, snatch and re-snatch officially branding Spider-Man a wanted thief until it falls into the hands of a desperate, aging Maggia chief called Silvermane. At which point, be careful what you wish for!

Even on a re-read, forty years later, this seems seamlessly constructed, especially the outcome until “Jazzy” John Romita dispels your illusions in its introduction by revealing that it was all constructed on the hoof, an issue at a time, without a clue as to where it was all heading. Neil Gaiman maintains the same thing about SANDMAN, though I have never believed him but, to my mind, that makes both all the more impressive.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery (£7-50, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch…

Sometimes, things are just so preposterously outlandish they work. The Rat Queens are an eclectic bunch of hard-drinking, drug-taking, monster-bashing ladies of pretty much every fantastical ethnicity. Starved of excitement, barely tolerated by the local constabulary on the basis that they do occasionally help keep the locale safe (when they’re not busy smashing it up during yet another booze-addled barroom brawl, that is), they are in desperate need some shenanigans in their lives. Cue an assassination attempt on them and several of their dungeoneering rivals – for some mysterious reason possibly not entirely unrelated to their continued collateral damage of their city – and finally it’s time to have some fun!

Like some insane Dadaist revision of a staid and boring Dungeon and Dragons module, liberally coated with mead and then set aflame, this is utter nonsense. It should by all rights be rubbish, but instead it’s hilarious. As parodies of fighting fantasy go it’s amongst the best I’ve read. It’s certainly as ridiculous as (the currently re-printing) DUNGEON QUEST, a personal favourite of mine which mercilessly satirises the genre thus neatly appealing to both fans and haters of the archetype. I was also strongly minded of the recent DISENCHANTED, though this is definitely played far more for laughs. Anyone who reads / watches ADVENTURE TIME is almost certain to love it too, I would think.

 

 

Kurtis Wiebe may have struck a potentially rich seam of comedy gold here. With gold, though, inevitably comes trouble…

JR

Buy Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery and read the Page 45 review here

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo.

At least, we think this is in stock. Like everything we order it arrived in a cardboard box, and this one was last seen scuttling towards the locker room…

This massive doorstop collects both the original METAL GEAR SOLIDS books and both SONS OF LIBERTY books, plus the five-page #0 written by Matt Fraction. All ten sentences of it! In fact, it contains everything.

So many licensed properties get lumbered with half-assed amateurs on visuals, but this is pure, painterly quality, full of atmosphere, in gun-metal grey and a steely green-blue.

It is, on the other hand, exactly the same story as the games.

SLH

Buy Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

The Beginner’s Guide To Being Outside (£5-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Gill Hatcher

Blood Blokes #4 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez

Corpse Talk Season 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy

Days (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Simon Moreton

Dexter Down Under h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lindsay & Dakbor Talajic

Gary’s Garden Book 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Gary Northfield

God Is Dead vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Mike Costa & Juan Frigeri, German Erramouspe, Jacen Burrows

Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely

How The World Was – A California Childhood (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Emmanual Guibert

How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

I Was The Cat h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Paul Tobin & Ben Dewey

Long Gone Don (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by the Etherington Brothers

Metroland #1 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson, Jazz Greenhill

The People Inside h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Ray Fawkes

Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery

The Ring Of The Nibelung h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by P. Craig Russell

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol 2: Return Of The Padawan h/c (£8-99, Scholastic Publishing) by Jeffrey Brown

Constantine vol 2: Blight s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Aco, Szymon Kudranski, Ben Lobel

Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire

Thanos: The Infinity Revelation h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Leonardo Manco, Rafael Albuquerque, Esad Ribic, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Robbi Rodriguez

Black Butler vol 17 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Dragonar Academy vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran

Les Miserables: Manga Classics (£14-99, Udon) by Crystal Silvermoon, Stacy King & SunNeko Lee

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 6: To War (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

News!

ITEM! Brubaker & Phillips’ FATALE is over (fifth and final collect imminent). The final two pages were perfect! But wait –! Arriving 20th August: THE FADE OUT #1 by Brubaker & Phillips! Preview!

ITEM! Preview pages of Carol Swain’s GAST (reviewed above).

ITEM! Preview pages of P. Craig Russell’s THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG (in this week so listed above, review next Wednesday).

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre posts the best comic blogs ever! They’re packed full of wit, drama, spectacle and spectacles.

ITEM! Professor Lizz Lunney begins her ONE A DAY COMICS FOR AUGUST

ITEM! Dan Berry’s THE CAKE MAN comic: a conversation in Algeria.

ITEM! Evan Dorkin’s HOW TO DRAW MARVEL COMICS THE EVAN DORKIN WAY. The pitch is priceless, the project doomed.

ITEM! Ah, Comics Bubble, there you are again. Remind me, what did you do last time…? Oh, that’s right, you burst.

If you think it won’t happen again when we are repeating exactly the same mistakes, I call you Ostrich.

Mile High’s full San Diego exclusive-variant-cover-fiasco newsletters are here and here.

Thankfully none of this is remotely relevant to Page 45 because our revenue from graphic novels (so far free from shenanigans) exceeds our sales of periodicals by a factor of four the last time I looked, and I would never even consider exhibiting at a convention like San Diego!

ITEM! Here’s where we are going instead: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October 2014 with Page 45 signings by Scott McCloud and Glyn Dillon and far, far more.

Yippee!

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week five

July 30th, 2014

ALERT! ALERT! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS is to be rush-released early in the UK, and should be with us today or tomorrow!

Reminder: Bryan Lee O’Malley signing at Page 45 18th August 2014

Tuki #1 (£2-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

“Actually, the reason I came here, was because you said you had food.”
Quiet! We must concentrate! Do you think it is easy to commune with the spirits?”
“So… no food, then.”

No food.

From the creator of BONE, another kids’ classic in-the-making which adults will adore: sweeping savannah landscapes, sunshine colouring and visual gags worthy of Kyle Baker himself.

This is the Stone-Age story of the first human to leave Africa. But his immediate – his only – priorities are to forage for food and to survive whatever else is doing the same. Communing with so-called spirits isn’t anywhere on his agenda. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t be communing with Tuki

Tom Gaadt, one of the colourists on Jeff Smith’s RASL, keeps it all open and clean. From the early morning, blue-misted mountains with dawn peering promisingly over the horizon through sunrise itself – a hint of pink giving way to a yellow which complement’s Tuki’s green-leaved, mobile hide – to the full bright blue of a midday African sky over a golden grassland stretching as far as the eye can see. A certain sabre-toothed predator prowls there for prey, cutting a tell-tale furrow. It’s time for Tuki to make with that better side of valour and beat a retreat to the canopies above.

 

 

 

It’s there that Tuki encounters another hominid, a member of Homo Habilis who, whilst upright, is squatter and so hairy you could consider it fur. It is he who warns Tuki of the Little Ones – the Ancient Ones – following him, and he foresees a frightened little boy. At all costs Tuki must not seek the Ends of the Earth beyond the three waterfalls. Clearly the man is insane.

Thrilling! Magical! Educational, with a time-line map in the back.

Jeff Smith’s command of expression, body language and interaction was part of what made BONE so special right from the very first chapter. Here Tuki twitches left, right and centre, forever alert for the first signs of danger. Even so it can sometimes startle him, particularly in the long grass and Smith manages that difficult match of comedy and catastrophe at the very same time. Moreover, you can see the intelligence behind Tuki’s eyes and almost read his mind.

As to whether the hirsute Habilis should be heeded, everything comes together on the final-page spread.

It’s going to be quite the journey!

SLH

Buy Tuki #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Me Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

From the creator of STRAY BULLETS – right up there with Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL as the finest comicbook crime of all time – comes a white-knuckle ride through mid-twentieth-century noir.

There’s a cracking opening shot from within the ceiling, staring down at the police, forensic photographer and a decidedly impassive Steven Russell as he gazes up at his wife, hung by her neck from the fan.

One of Eve’s high-healed shoes has fallen off. She’s quite dead.

Apart from Barbara (Steven’s sister-in-law with whom he is having an affair), most believe Eve was driven to suicide by Steven’s serial philandering and late-night drinking in the restaurant he has now inherited which Eve ran front-of-house and where Steven just played piano.

Eve’s wealthy, resentful and pursed-mouthed mother believes Steven actually killed her, and is determined to bring him down by hook or by crook.

Did he? The extensive, hand-written suicide note is explicitly damning of his neglect, but maybe that’s a bluff. He’s certainly far from cut up about it. Now there’s a very nasty private investigator on his tail and the press on his back, exposing his multiple affairs. It’s probably not the best time to initiate another, but that’s exactly what Steven does.

The press blitz has brought an irritating loudmouth called Tony out of the woodwork after a fifteen-year absence. With Steven unwelcome at his own bar, they hit the town to recall High-School times when they were happier, when Steven had the most almighty crush on Tara Torres. Too timid back then, what he didn’t know until now is that it was reciprocated. Unable to get Tara out of his head he begins stalking her until she appears at his car window with a shotgun.

It’s an odd way to start a love affair, I grant you, but once Tara realises who Steven is the flames are rekindled immediately. Odder still, when Tony finds out that they’re sleeping together he warns Steven off Tara: after her husband died of cancer she became addicted to the morphine sulphate he was treated with and is now heavily in debt to a bad man called Johnny The Pill. But when Steven pays off Johnny a neurotically on-edge Tara, attacked in her home, warns Steven off Tony.

What is it with Tony? What is it with Tara? What was she doing with that shotgun? What’s with the second suicide note in Steven’s typewriter?!

This is a very different beast to STRAY BULLETS. For a start there are no children; the fuck-ups here are all adults with plenty of baggage bogging them down. The four-tier storytelling is denser until the final flashback when it blooms beautifully into two-panel pages and all is finally revealed. Until then it’s also a linear timeline following these damaged goods, doomed by their nature, to their inevitable, terrible conclusions. With ten full chapters the travelling is twisted and they take plenty of time getting there.

Lapham strikes me as a fearless artist. There is nothing he cannot draw with equal dexterity, whether it’s sun-kissed pool sides, late-night car crashes, densely populated piano bars or the most vicious, protracted, hand-to-hand, hair-pulling scraps. There’s the same physicality which Jeff Smith would employ later in RASL including some similar body-forms. He’s particularly fine at all-out terror, madness and wide-eyed, tearful, screaming rage.

There’s plenty of that here.

“It’s you an’ me, baby,
“Always an’ forever…
“Till death do us part!”

Trust no one.

SLH

Buy Murder Me Dead s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Couch Tag h/c (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Jesse Reklaw…

“I liked your comic, even though you made up all those lies about me.” – The author’s father.

Great pull quote that, heh heh. I do admire people who write memoirs showing childhoods that were less than ideal so dispassionately. Whilst on the one hand, it obviously gives them a veritable wealth of material to utilise, it can’t be easy going over somewhat emotionally uneven ground once again. In the case of Jesse Reklaw, it would be fair to say his father probably was at the centre of much of the upheaval in his family’s lives.

Being a piss-head and also a pot-head are probably not the best aids to your parenting skills, but it would seem Jesse’s dad was determined to live his life exactly how he wanted to. It’s surprising his wife put up with it as long as she did, but then you get the impression there was an element of fear always bubbling under the surface in the Reklaw household, as everyone was anticipating his father’s next mood swing. Actually – and the thought just occurs – given Jesse makes no secret of the fact that he suffers from bipolar mood disorder (though there is relatively little mention of it in this memoir), I do wonder whether his father may well also have been an undiagnosed sufferer, perhaps.

Anyway, the book is effectively split into five parts, the themes of which all serve as the backdrop for an exploration of the current state of the Reklaw’s chaotic household, Jesse’s emotional development and the various goings-on at the time. The first two chapters, ‘thirteen cats of my childhood’, and ‘toys I loved’, help us to understand the somewhat volatile nature of Jesse’s upbringing. Seeing his dad asking which was his current favourite toy, then destroying it in front of a distraught Jesse simultaneously made me want to laugh and cry. I can’t honestly get my head around how someone could do that to their child, depriving them of their most precious belonging on an apparent whim.

Then follows my favourite chapter ‘the fred robinson story’ in which a poor, unfortunate, random individual becomes the unwitting, sustained focus of Jesse and his friends’ teenage creative outpourings, from Fred Robinson comics, mix-tapes of Fred Robinson-based songs, friendly letters written to Fred Robinson from Norway (always mailing a copy of everything they produced to the Fred Robinson), to even Fred Robinson-ising road signs in the vicinity of his house, all over a period of years and without ever meeting or indeed seeing the man in question. I would love to know what the real Fred Robinson made of it all, but we never find out. Perturbed to start with, then mildly flattered perhaps? I can well imagine him feeling slightly sad when the flow of material simply ceased one day without explanation.

The fourth chapter, ‘the stacked deck’, focuses on a favourite pastime of the extended Reklaw clan, that of playing cards together, and so we get a look at the other wider family members who were part of Jesse’s formative years. Some, frankly, made his dad look positively normal and well balanced…

The art style for the first four chapters is black and white with grey tones, a relaxed pencilling style, which combined with the slightly yellow paper, do have a gently nostalgic feel. It’s nicely thought out.

The final chapter, ‘lessoned’, in which Jesse sums up his childhood in an A to Z of topics, one per page, deploys an entirely different art style with an extremely vivid use of colour, deliberately slightly erratically penned. I was instantly reminded of some of Peter Kuper’s more full-on art. It’s a somewhat jarring contrast, but as an epilogue, in comparison to the almost mellifluous style which has come before it, it does work well. You can really feel the emotion present in it. It would be way too much to illustrate whole stories in it I think, but used in a burst like this, it’s very expressive.

Fans of autobiographical material will most definitely enjoy.

JR

Buy Couch Tag h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Diary Comics Number Four (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Dustin Harbin…

“My name is Dustin Harbin and I’m not a journalist. But I am American, which also means I’m not Canadian.”

Ha, what Dustin also is, is an excellent comics diarist. His preoccupation with his nationality is entirely due to attending the Doug Wright Awards, which are part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. His explanation of the cultural value and worthiness of the Wright Awards, whilst simultaneously faux-bristling at the fact that as a non-Canadian he’ll never be entitled to win one, is a wonderfully amusing opening chapter to this surprisingly dense mini-comic. It might be £7-50, but it is certainly great value for money at 80 plus pages, as Dustin name-drops his way through his wealth of comics acquaintances (Seth, Chester Brown, Marc Bell, Pascal Girard etc. etc.), whilst deprecating himself further at every possible turn.

 

 

It’s piercingly insightful stuff at times actually, and although you could certainly draw comparisons with works like Gabriel Bell’s SAN DIEGO DIARY, it’s actually more knockabout farce than melancholic musings. His art style is wonderfully detailed too, and minded me of both Guy Delisle and Kevin Huizenga, and I love the fact he has stuck religiously to a four panel per page format throughout. From a diaristic perspective, it really aids the sense of continuity in the work as Dustin moves seamlessly from event to event, often whilst simultaneously hopping back and forth across various topics narrating to us, the readers, through the fourth wall. Clever stuff, and a perfect example to anyone thinking of trying to do a self-published diary comic of just how sophisticated and polished they can be.

JR

Buy Diary Comics Number Four and read the Page 45 review here

Legends Of The Tour (£14-99, Head Of Zeus) by Jan Cleijne…

‘After an unchallenged solo ride, Buysse was the first to cross the finish line. He’d been on his bike for seventeen hours. The others even longer…

“Are you Desgrange? You owe me money!”
“What for, my good man?”
“I gave four cyclists a lift. You should go take a look. It’s a real mess back there!”

It was perhaps the toughest tour stage ever. Riders were finishing in the dark, frozen and numb. Many, washed off the road or taking refuge in wayside inns, didn’t even reach the finish line. While Buysse, who went on to win the Tour that year, was tucked up in bed after a hot bath, Desgrange was out in the night rescuing stranded cyclists, one by one.’

Sportsmen… Some may feel they are a cosseted, pampered overpaid lot these days, who don’t have to do a great deal for their vast piles of money that it would probably take the rest of us a lifetime to earn, and that may be true, in part. But if I had to pick one sport where the level of training and dedication required, plus the pure pain you have to endure every single time you compete, is frankly well into the realms of masochism, it would be road cycling. In my opinion they deserve every penny they get for the punishment they willingly put themselves through. And, right at the peak of that sport, there stands the ultimate test of body and mind that is the Tour De France, or simply Le Tour.

This work provides a brief look at those who have achieved the status of true legends (plus a few villains) for their performances in what is arguably the world’s single toughest sporting challenge. As a cycling fan, I was absolutely fascinated by the chapters on the very early days of the Tour, before it became the well oiled, ultra-organised, corporate sponsored juggernaut it is now. Whilst today’s riders are undoubtedly fitter and would have destroyed the competitors of yesteryear hands-down, I would love to see them try and ride for three weeks using the original bikes, and indeed some of the original routes. I think the fabled “broom wagon” transit van which today sweeps up those unable to keep up with the peloton would probably need to be considerably up-sized to a bus at least.

Very difficult to see this appealing to anyone other than cycling fans, but certainly an excellent gift for people who don’t normally read graphic novels, but do like cycling. My dad loved it.

JR

Buy Legends Of The Tour and read the Page 45 review here

Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (£2-25, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay.

Diana Dane, meet Darius Dax. You’ll find him in equal parts lucrative and infuriating.

“You seem to know a lot of people, who want others to know they know you, but who don’t want anyone to know about you. So I was curious enough to take the meeting.”
“That is as it should be. I imagine it was quite frustrating for you, though, important investigative reporter and all.”
“I don’t know if I’d agree with “important”.”
“I was being polite. I meant “unemployed”.”

Diana Dane is indeed unemployed. She won an award and was laid off the week after.

“That’s the universe telling you something.”

Now Darius Dax is telling her something: that it wasn’t a plane that came down on Littlehaven a few months ago. It was something altogether more unusual and included the vast arch of gold now suspended above Dax’s desk declaring wherever it came from “Supreme”.

This is of interest to Dax for Dax too is an acquirer of knowledge, which few will ever have access to. He specialises in Blue Rose cases – “Blue roses do not occur in nature” – “rare truths” he sells on to very wealthy entities, and he will pay Diana Dane $300,000 to start gathering information on whoever might have connections to the artefact and $700,000 if she succeeds in bringing him something concrete.

Elsewhere and elsewhen someone else was telling her many things – about reality and revision – which she doesn’t remember yet. But above all they told her this:

“Don’t trust Darius Dax.”

Warren Ellis is back on top linguistic form and has found an artist to match the daydream, other-dimensional aspect of the book. There is a quiet and soft vulnerability to Tula Lotay’s forms and colours over which pale blue lines swirl like a chilly wind, giving them a sense of the ethereal; as if who and what you’re looking at might not even be there. Or you might not even be there.

As if you’re looking at it all remotely, through a window, a viewscreen or a tank of liquid, especially in Darius Dax’s National Praxinoscope Company where there are additional, geometrical overlays.

The art is something new for something both borrowed and blue, but you won’t have to have read any of Alan Moore’s own revisionist treatment and indeed can’t right now.

“Have an adventure, Di. Let these idiots pay for it. Come back, take two years off, write the Great American Novel and get drunk every night.
“I’m 27. I’ve had at least eight great adventures, while you trained and wrote. And here you are.
“It’s time for yours, now.”

Bonus design section in the back.

SLH

Buy Supreme: Blue Rose #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“We’re going to do this with all our weapons. We’re going to gunk them. We’re going to have space-aged zombie bacteria weapons at our disposal.
“And we’re going to kill every fucking last fucking one of these ungrateful fucks.
“Load ‘em up and let’s hit the fucking road.”

Ah Negan, he does know how to marshal his troops! So, this is it then, the culmination of the epic conflict between our good guys led as ever by former sheriff Rick Grimes, and the army of self-titled Survivors led by the man we all love to hate, Negan. Both sides think they are going to win, neither side can contemplate what it would mean to lose. Negan, with his latest sneaky biological warfare trick, thinks he’s got all the angles covered, but Rick, well, Rick certainly has a plan, but is it going to be enough? Who will triumph? Or indeed, could it even be a score draw…? One thing is for sure, a whole lot of people are going to die… then rise again as zombies obviously. Rare to see a title still going so strong after nearly ten years. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

JR

Buy Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 and read the Page 45 review here

George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.

An original zombie comic by George A. Romero himself!

As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!

I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.

 

Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:

“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”

That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…

The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.

Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.

Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.

“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”

SLH

Buy George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Origin II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert.

“This is a tory of wolves and bears. And animals…”

It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during the first chapter other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.

Instead, in a breath of fresh mountain air, the initial cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow-swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf, and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatorial disadvantage.

“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey. It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”

Fish, unlike seals, don’t need to come up for air. Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?

Image-driven, that first chapter was magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental, full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.

 

What follows marks Logan’s first contact with the world he and we will come to know well: one in which man uses and abuses man, cages him and tortures him in the name of personal pleasure, medical research and military power – even if here it’s a private army. That polar bear itself was an experiment, the sinister Dr. Essex releasing a new alpha predator into the Canadian Rockies and in doing so snagging an even bigger one – Logan – who in turn attracts yet another: a lupine wildlife hunter called Creed who jealously guards his beautiful but disfigured companion Clara.

Memory plays an important part, Kubert’s silent snap-shots flashing through Logan’s mind like blood-stained daggers; but the more he experiences, the more he will want to forget and, as we all know, ultimately he does so.

One of the most pleasurable elements of the original ORIGIN was Paul Jenkins’ slight of hand, leading you up the (secret) garden path when it came to Logan’s true identity. Wickedly, Gillen has reflected this in his own game of powerplay and presumption, leaving it right until the epilogue to pull the rug from under you, but it all makes perfect sense, I promise.

Hahahahaha!

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Origin II h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Chu‘s First Day At School h/c (£10-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex…

“There was a thing that Chu could do.”

The pollen-plagued panda returns for another outing as it’s time for him to start school!

As before, the running joke revolves entirely around the fact that when he finally sneezes, it’s going to be like a tornado has hit town, but first there is the anticipation of the build up. This time, it’s a show and tell of precisely what each of his new classmates can do. You know Chu wants to go last, and when he finally gets his turn, it’s just as well… A visual feast from artist Adam Rex; as with CHU’S DAY half the fun is spotting all the animal-based shenanigans that are going on in the background. Another much requested bedtime story winner at our house.

JR

Buy Chu’s First Day At School h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by various including Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, Lucy Knisley, Jim Rugg and many more

Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c (£15-99, Titan) by Greg Broadmore

Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain

Goodnight Darth Vader (£9-99, Chronicle) by Jeffrey Brown

Lazarus vol 2: Lift s/c (£10-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£19-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo

Murder Mysteries h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson

Street Angel h/c (£14-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg

Third Testament vol 1: The Lion Awakes h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Xavier Dorison & Alex Alice

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 4 – Clay h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Alex Maleev

All New Invaders vol 1: Gods And Soldiers s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by James Robinson & Steve Pugh

Avengers vol 5: Adapt Or Die (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Salvador Larroca

Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli, John Cassaday

Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema

Mighty Avengers vol 2: Family Bonding s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Valerio Schiti, Greg Land

Runaways: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyagawa

The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man vol 2: The Crime Of The Century s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico

Vinland Saga Book 4 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News!

ITEM! MOOSE KID COMICS free online for delinquent parents and their Young Adults.

ITEM! WHUBBLE by Jamie Smart, free online. Makes me laugh! He of BUNNY VS. MONKEY VS and FISH HEAD STEVE, yes!

ITEM! The Eisner Awards Winners 2014! Some well deserved winners this year, the judges were evidently being less in thrall to the big corporations. Stick ‘em in our search engine or ask at the counter if curious.

ITEM! Update on THE SCULPTOR by UNDESRTANDING COMICS’ Scott McCloud due early 2015!

ITEM! Heather L Sheppard’s Patreon in support of SUNRISE etc. What’s a Patreon…? Old-school patronage with personal perks for YOU!

ITEM! By the time you read this HAWKEYE #19 will have finally gone on sale! Yay! HAWKEYE 19 preview by David Aja

ITEM! Totally off-topic! Every wonder where a big chunk of my wayward vocabulary comes from? Swoonaway, foxstress etc were all neologisms created by Smash Hits music magazine for the pop-oriented post-punk teenager which won the wars being witty. Behold, the Smash Hits Archive!

ITEM! Back on topic, here’s Damien Walter on writing and the way your brain may be wired. Especially relevant given that comics is a visual medium.

ITEM! Colleen Doran reveals some colour tests for a graphic novel she’s working on with Neil Gaiman.

ITEM! Liz Prince galvanises readers to pre-order TOMBOY! And, do you know what? It worked: I tweeted that and we got pre-orders. Pre-orders help us gauge demand and help guarantee you getting what you already know you want. Here’s our preview product page for TOMBOY and our review of Liz Prince’s ALONE FOREVER. Funny!

ITEM! Speaking of pre-orders, our own version of Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalogue goes up every month, online for free, at the beginning of each month, detailing all the comic and graphic novel releases for two months later. You then have until the middle of the month to add those titles to your standing order here or simply order online and you are guaranteed to receive whatever you order no matter how obscure. Look: http://www.page45.com/store/page-45-previews.html

PLEASE NOTE: When pre-ordering here you only ever pay on arrival! That’s right, not when you pre-order, but upon arrival.

Cheers,

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week four

July 23rd, 2014

“Whatever your childhood, it seems the norm whilst you’re living it. Obviously that’s not always a good thing.”

 - Stephen on P. Craig Russell’s adapation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“There has to be a reason. God knows there’s no bloody reason in life; there has to be one in art.”

True, true and true. I cannot be doing with artistic onanism.

Thankfully Dave McKean has plenty to say and multiple skill sets with which to say it.

I cannot think of anyone else in comics with such high command of so many different media from sculpture to pen line and brush, through painting and photography and a great deal of computerised jiggery-pokery, often in the very same story. You could spend hours staring at the cover alone trying to decipher its many means of composition, but the comics themselves demand you move on which is exactly as it should be.

“I had wanted to create a narrative exhibition for a while. I was essentially dissatisfied with the gallery experience – a large white room of random bits and bobs, allegedly thematically linked. I remain completely committed to story as a way of engaging an audience,” he writes in his introduction to ‘The Coast Road’.

McKean’s been equally determined to wrench the medium out of the comic-shop ghetto (which I concede that it can be in America and Britain – although we’re doing our damnedest to rectify that) and into the wider world of a gallery-going public who might not encounter comics otherwise. Hence the title, for many tales told within were originally installations for the likes of the Rye Art Gallery and there are some seriously striking photographs recording these wittily choreographed experiences incorporated into this album-sized book. For his third narrative exhibition, ‘Blue Tree’, Dave snuck out at 5am and “crept around Rye planting blue branches with little baubles containing wise words”.

Can you imagine the magic for Rye residents waking up to discover their town had been blessed with such beautiful and brilliant art terrorism? And, having seen the result complete with blue-branch tendrils snaking across a pristine white ceiling, I am kicking myself for not visiting in person.

This is a whopping tome with so much to discover within: musical whimsy, creation myths, autobiographical musings, real-life reportage on political corruption and a series of magnificent, wild Scottish landscapes captured on camera and married to the immediate impressions inspired by them. There lie mountains as big as your mind (much bigger than mine), mist-shrouded and crowned with exquisite rock formations. Lakes and rivers and waterfalls too.

So many of these pieces are journeys.

The longest one is ‘The Coast Road’ whose opening salvo is utterly arresting, all the more so for it having been immediately preceded by ‘40 Years’ in which Dave reflects during a landmark birthday, asking questions and demanding answers while on the jury for a short-film festival he won in 2003; like why there are so many “men going potty films” and this:

“I have friends who, after ten, fifteen years of shared life and children and laughs, suddenly realise that they don’t want to be with each other any more, that they are somebody else actually. I mean, what’s that?”

In ‘The Coast Road’ a woman called Susan writes a series of letters she cannot possibly send to her husband Peter after returning home to find one from him.

“I read it three times, and realised I had actually never been really confused before. Or angry.
“And there was quiet and the mass ticking of clocks.
“And there were telephone calls, to Simon, and my mother, and to Grant at the bookshop.
“And to the police.”

She’s actually writing to herself, two years on, trying to make some semblance of sense of what to her is incomprehensible. In one letter she does so by boiling down her journeys to and from the bookshop to hard statistics, like the percentage probability of seeing a cat and how likely it is she’ll see two. There are a lot of cats in Dave McKean comics.

“Today, for the third time since records began, I decided that if someone smiled at me as I walked to the bookshop then, and only then, would I not kill myself.
“Yours, with all my love,
“Susan.”

So what did Peter’s own note contain? Susan’s second letter starts thus:

“My Dear Peter,
“Did you buy the masking tape?
“I have spent a lot of time recently wondering about that question. I mean, to mention in a letter that you will not be home, and that I should please forget you, my husband of eleven years, and that, by the way, you also need some masking tape, well, it’s an unusual combination of thoughts in a letter.”

Evidently Peter has had some sort of mid-life crisis if not a full-on mental breakdown, and one cannot shake the feeling that it’s catalysed one in Susan too, for when she is given a postcard of a painting – ‘The King of Birds’ by Evan Somerset – she is convinced the model was Peter and sets off in pursuit, attempting to track him down via supposed sightings in various visual art projects! I mean, what are the chances?

The kicker comes when she receives a letter from author Iain Sinclair:

“Dear Susan,
“My name is Iain Sinclair. I am a writer.
“Ness Esterhazy told me about your journey along the coast, and about your husband’s disappearance.
“He may have walked through the novel I am working on…”

So many of McKean’s talents are deployed along this snaking journey that there’s always a surprise around the corner. There’s also a moment of absolute joy when the prologue set in the Rye Art Gallery is reprised and its meaning finally revealed.

‘Black Holes’ is a shorter exhibition story written by a Chinese journalist about the silence surrounding the siphoning off of funds supposed to treat villagers who’ve contracted AIDS, the overwhelming majority after donating blood as encouraged by their very own government. Satirically adorned or destroyed syringes are mounted uselessly underneath each square panel. It will have you seething with anger and vicarious frustration.

‘Blue Tree’ comes with the line “When the tree was invited for breakfast, it didn’t know where to start” which made me smile and will give you much food for thought.

“We understand everything by metaphor,” it posits at one point, which brings me beautifully to ‘The Weight Of Words’ in which bad news is offloaded from one friend to another and its visual interpretation spoke volumes about something I’ve always firmly believed in: the importance of sharing said weight around.

I leave you, then, with the first creation myth involving a giant turtle seen from below in a sea of beautiful blue, told to a cat we first spy staring down on the world from a pillar of sky. It ends with the sort of playfulness you’ll find typical throughout.

“The more holes you pick in a story, the more likely you are to fall into one of them.”
“That’s deep.”
“It certainly could be.”

SLH

Buy Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, Tony Harris, Stephen B. Scott, Galen Showman.

“The dead should have charity.”

The thing about childhood is this: only an adult will look back on it thinking, “That’s odd!”

“My parents stayed together yet all of my friends’ were divorced. Apparently not everyone has beetroot for breakfast. Growing up in an igloo’s unusual…?!” Whatever your childhood, it seems the norm whilst you’re living it. Obviously that’s not always a good thing.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. He really did. And it seemed perfectly normal to him.

Nobody Owens was his adoptive name but everyone called him Bod. His birth parents were murdered one night by a very bad man with a very sharp knife and a mission. Bod was no more than a toddler with a precocious and somewhat worrisome propensity for straying but that night it saved his young life. He’d heard a crash downstairs, woke up and wandered through his home’s open front door, up the hill under moonlight to the simple, padlocked, wrought iron gates of the graveyard and squeezed through.

The bad man with a knife whose business was not yet complete followed the infant’s milky scent and clambered over the thick, stone walls in pursuit. But there he was met by a tall, gaunt man with the palest of skin, jet-black hair and an equally obsidian cloak. He looked vaguely aristocratic and his manner was utterly compelling. No child could or would be found here: more likely in the town down below.

So it was that Bod was taken in by the graveyard folk – the ghosts of those long since passed – and raised as one of their own. With centuries of knowledge between them Bod’s education is eclectic if somewhat arcane, but it will stand him good stead for what his fiercely inquisitive nature will lead him to encounter both inside the graveyard and when he strays oh so dangerously out. Fortunately he has a quiet yet determined guardian in Silas, the very tall man with the very pale skin and the very dark hair. Silas is no ghost as you have probably gathered; nor is he still amongst the living.

If I didn’t know better I would swear this was autobiographical: you can imagine Neil Gaiman growing up in a graveyard, can’t you? He knows almost too much about Mist-Folk, Ghoul-Gates and Night-Gaunts: which to avoid and how to cry out for help in their languages.

This is the first half of P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Gaiman’s prose novel and he draws the second chapter himself. He’s brought along some friends for each of the others: MAGIC TRIXIE and SCARY GODMOTHER’s Jill Thompson, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, Tony Harris, Stephen B. Scott and Galen Showman whom you could not tell apart from P. Craig Russell himself, such are the crisply cut leaves, their shadows and the stones. Some have adapted their styles more than others; it’s a perfectly congruous whole.

 

Each chapter moves on a couple of years with elements reprised, Bod’s nightgown seemingly growing with him as the young man learns his lessons through making mistakes: breaking rules, testing boundaries and learning to care for others no matter what other people think. As always with Gaiman there are a couple of moments of such pure kindness that you cannot help but emit a little choke. He understands childhood as readers of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE will know, and Silas’ role as guardian is particularly poignant. I worry for him.

“But you’ll always be here, Silas, won’t you? And I won’t even have to leave, if I don’t want to?”
“Everything in its season.”

SLH

Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Simon Fraser, Chris Peterson.

Hot, sticky and delicious!

“Midsummer. The Red Planet hangs in the thick night air like a drop of blood in oil.
“Everything is bursting.
“Everything is whispering.
“Now. Now. Now.”

Beautifully played opening on ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ both by writer Alex De Campi (ASHES / SMOKE), artist Chris Peterson and indeed colour artist Nolan Woodard. The page is ripe, dripping with honey and sexual juices as cats copulate and a woman pleasures herself in what might be the back of a car. Bees buzz round red rose flowers and an empty beer can strewn on the ground.

‘Prison Shop Antares’ boasts a great deal of sex of the sort that only a woman could get away with. Male writers would have been condemned especially on the web as “salacious” at best, “misogynistic” at worst with “exploitative” nuzzled inbetween. Yet Alex De Campi dives deep and fearlessly into the long tradition of exploitation and brings it spluttering to the surface, resuscitated as empowerment instead.

For my money it works for the women win out, and there are some cripplingly funny shower-scene exchanges. Also, hurrah for inclusivity aboard a spaceship full of female prisoners. Love Simon Fraser’s Sharyce whose world-weary, wised-up eyes have no need of an arched eyebrow to proclaim their attitude:

“Ended up in solitary ‘cuz I was born with a dick. It was a mistake. I fixed it. The dick, not the solitary.”
“They gave you life for being trans? Shiiiit.”
“Nah. Got life for shankin’ a guard in the jugular after he called me “sir” one too many times.”

She raises her firsts: four fingers on each hand tattooed just below the knuckles with the letters “It’s” and “maam”.

 

Back to ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ and there is something very wrong on Cemetery Hill. There are too many bees, and some are so big that when one bursts on a windscreen the splatter drives the sheriff off the road. Those bees are producing an awful lot of honey and it is being harvested. It may be an aphrodisiac. A man is discovered on Cemetery Hill in a car, lipstick smeared on his collar and jeans. There are bits of him missing. Like his head and, umm… “bits”. A thick flood of blood leads into a thicket of roses, their thorns as big as their heads are red. Don’t go into the thicket, sheriff. Don’t go home, either. You really don’t want to go home…

Bees are beautiful, but not so much here. There is one particular stand-out Chris Petersen page whose layout is immaculately composed for maximum suffocation, partly involving a letter box. As to the punchline, it is perfect: not the solution I ever saw coming but, yes, that is one way to successfully scupper a bee, no matter how big it is. And this one is big.

SLH

Buy Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares and read the Page 45 review here

Raygun Roads (£4-99, Changeling Studios) by Owen Johnson & Indio.

Have you ever seen a Jack Kirby saxophone? I have now!

Reading this double-sided single is like standing at the front of a stage with your ears to the speakers. A punk rock rage against cultural mediocrity fronted by Raygun Roads, “Saviour of the Hopeless! Pin-Up of the Jobless!”, it screams to be heard. Her band includes Asteroid Anne-Phetamine, the commentator’s Dan Lazyleech and…

“To explain how fucked we are with dull graphs, here’s Exclamation Mark!”

Someone’s read a toxic, viral dose of THE BEST OF MILLIGAN & MCCARTHY and actually understood it. How’s the gig going?

“Twenty seconds into that acapella apocalypse saw the hospitalization of two Hell’s Angels at the hands of a topless nun, a city-wide blackout and an immaculate conception. Beneath the merchandise stand.”

It’s got a good beat: that afterthought’s important. It’s also exhausting – I will concede that – and if the individual colours aren’t legitimately day-glo then the combination is.

A round of applause if not a standing ovation for the relative lack of genitals. I’ve seen this sort of thing done so, so badly and gigantic erections are its staple stand-in for actual content. When one willy finally does appear here, it is at least flaccid.

I started on the opposite side to the cover above and recommend that you do too, for you’re eased in gently with language like this:

“It is there that wonder cruises depart not on the hour, but once fascination threshold is optimal. Tickets to Alpha Centauri cost a flourish of optimism.”

SLH

Buy Raygun Roads and read the Page 45 review here

Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto.

“This is what I am now. And you’ll never know who I was before.”

The light here is fabulous. Phil Noto is on full art duties from pencils to inks where present and colours which come with lovely tonal and fade effects. His forms are suitably lithe and action fans will see Natasha – the titular former Russian spy, now Avenger and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – perform some serious gymnastics and not just on the parallel bars. Freefalling from a helicopter into crocodile-infested waters isn’t an internationally recognised Olympic sport as yet, but Ms Romanov was never one for convention or rules.

The Black Widow has her own set of rules and here strives to follow them. Between S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments, and to atone for her past, she’s hired a lawyer to find her private contracts to fund certain trusts, but she’s very choosy about whom she’s prepared to help or hinder (euphemism). If she discovers halfway through a gig that the person she’s protecting is guilty of more than she knew she’s likely to drop them halfway through, even that means forgoing her fee.

 

Heavy on action, light on words, I have to concede there is not a lot of spying or infiltration involved at all. You certainly won’t enjoy all the covert qualities of Brubaker and Epting’s VELVET which I recommend with all my well hidden heart.

Also, waaaaay too many allusions to webs and threads. One may look clever, two like lapsed memory, but come three, four and five then the symbol becomes a cymbal bashing your bloody ear in.

Collects BLACK WIDOW (2014) #1-6 and material from ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1.

SLH

Buy Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

The Art of Neil Gaiman h/c (£25-00, Ilex) by Hayley Campbell

The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate 30 Years Of Usagi Yojimbo h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by a vertitable who’s who of over 250 comic book artists

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Final Incal Deluxe Edition h/c (£75-00, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius, Jose Ladronn

Murder Me Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery (£7-50, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch

The Unwritten vol 9: The Unwritten Fables (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham & Peter Gross, Mark Buckingha0.27m

Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Superman Action Comics vol 3: At The End Of Days s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch & Rags Morales, others

Avengers vol 5: Adapt Or Die h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Salvador Larroca

Deadpool vol 5: The Wedding Of Deadpool s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, Wes Craig

War Of Kings s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Bong Dazo

Wolverine vol 1: Mortal s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell & Ryan Stegman

Wolverine: Origin II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 4 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Blue Sheep Reverie vol 5 (£9-99, June) by Makoto Tateno

My Little Monster vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

My Little Monster vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

News!

ITEM! Revealing interview with Bryan Lee O’Malley about the creation of SECONDS, its delay and some startling revelations about SCOTT PILGRIM.

ITEM! Inkstuds podcast with Bryan Lee O’Malley and indeed Brandon Graham.

ITEM! Fabulous illustrated blog by Bryony Turner on using Page 45’s ‘Want A Recommendation’ service on our website. Includes mini-reviews of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE and all three Becky Cloonan self-published comics which our Jodie Paterson recommended and sent Bryony by post. Seems they went down very well indeed!

ITEM! Oh dear, what on earth has happened to the Harvey Awards? So much dross in the nominations including multiple Valiant titles. I call shenanigans.

ITEM! A school has produced its own comic and I would kill for a copy of this. Look!

ITEM! Article on Woodrow Phoenix’s SHE LIVES comic artefact at the British Museum. No plans to print it for now.

ITEM! Hurrah! THE PHOENIX weekly comic for kids makes it into The Grauniad with a fabulous splash of Tamsin And The Deep written by Neill Cameron and drawn by who the hell cares, apparently. IT WAS DRAWN BY KATE BROWN, YOU UNPROFESSIONAL MORONS!

In solidarity with Kate, we reprint the following review from yonks ago, now with interior art. Hurrah!

Fish + Chocolate h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) Kate Brown.

A sublime confluence of words and pictures with the palette of Paul Duffield and Josh Middleton; if you love the art on FREAKANGELS or SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES you will adore these three stories, each of which is in its way is about parenthood.

The first two feature single mothers: the first with two boys, the second with a young girl perfectly content to play round their countryside cottage and its gently sloping Garden of new Earthly Delights. There she finds a cherry tree laden with fruit. She picks one. Her mother composes on the piano upstairs.

The boys miss their father whom they haven’t seen in months, and the oldest wants a television in his room. Their mother argues with her editor but meets up with a friend. It’s a perfectly lovely day and they have much to discuss. There’s an odd-looking man with barely any eyebrows sitting on his lawn by the path. He whistles through a split blade of grass. The boys are curious.

 

 

The tunes may not come easily especially when distracted and the man is a little unnerving, but everything on the surface seems pretty much serene. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find skeletons buried and sudden trauma in store, as the tranquillity of sleepy suburbia and that bucolic beauty are shredded by shrieks of wholly unexpected violence. I’m not even going to touch on the third tale (although sneakily I have) but the cover’s stark warning of “explicit content” is far from alarmist.

Oh, but this artist can write! Nothing here is predictable or simplistic, and it’s a joy to discover a brand new voice unlike any I’ve encountered before, yet the art will sell itself to you all on its own. There’s one particular sequence involving a violin string and a music score which is a visual triumph: a fusion then cascade so clever it is breathtaking. Moreover we have another contender for best rain ever in comics as the sky bursts open, the water cascades and the downpour drowns the cherry tree in a curtain of spray.

SLH

Buy Fish + Chocolate and read the Page 45 review here

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week three

July 16th, 2014

Bryan Lee O’Malley will be signing SECONDS at Page 45 on Monday August 18th!

Seconds h/c (£15-99, SelfMadeHero) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Out in the UK on Thursday August 14th

Katie had never liked cause and effect anyway.
“It’s a flawed system.”
Still, she had to admit that toying with the universe was a little unsettling.
“She did not. Katie admitted nothing of the sort.”

That will prove part of the problem.

Fresh from the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA comes a big, bold, full-colour graphic novel, completely self-contained and weighing in at a whopping three-hundred pages.

If you enjoyed the authorial mischief of SCOTT PILGRIM then you will love chef Katie’s recalcitrant attitude towards this new, hands-on narrator and her wayward relationship with reality.

Katie used to run Seconds, a highly acclaimed restaurant just out in the country on top of a hill. Four years on and its imaginative menu and impeccable cooking makes it as popular as ever but Katie’s mentally moved on.

She has her heart set on starting a brand new restaurant in a very old building in town. Although empty for ages and dilapidated as hell, Lucky’s old stone building oozes character and Katie can picture exactly how it will look with a grand wooden staircase, an ornate central chandelier and an open kitchen run by bright, energetic and respectful staff serving the very best cuisine to an adoring public. Reality check: its condition is causing her grief.

It’s way behind schedule and gobbling up money but at least she is fortunate in her business partner Arthur’s practical optimism and seemingly limitless support. Even when she decides she wants to call it “Katie’s”.

“She’d fought for the location:
“Wrong side of the river. Tucked away under the bridge. It was an up-and-coming spot, she swore.
“She drove back and forth sometimes four, five times a day. As if one of these times she’d cross that little bridge and find a finished restaurant.
“The waiting was hell. Seconds had become her purgatory. At least purgatory had its perks.”

It does. Still its executive chef, Katie’s name remains on the menu and she basks in the adulation of diners; the waiters are lucky if they can get a word in edgeways. In addition, to save money, she’s still allowed to rent the restaurant’s top-floor apartment. She doesn’t know how good she’s got it.

But tonight two things go wrong: Katie’s ex, Max, comes out to eat in and although he smiles kindly Katie blows him off and stomps downstairs to argue with Andrew, the new head-chef with whom she’s having an affair; they make out in the store room and in Andrew’s absence there is a accident in the kitchen leaving waitress Hazel’s arms dripping in scalding hot fat.

Having left hospital late at night, Katie despairs. Then she remembers a dream she had about a strange, glowing girl with wide, haunting eyes hunched on top of her dresser. In that dresser she discover a little box which hadn’t been there before and in that box she finds a notebook titled “My Mistakes”, a single red-capped mushroom and a card printed as follows:

A SECOND CHANCE AWAITS.
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
EVENTS MUST OCCUR ON THESE PREMISES

She follows the instructions and awakes to find reality rewritten.

Katie never canoodled with Andrew so the accident never took place and quiet young Hazel is right as rain. Everything’s been corrected, everything is better. Lucky, lucky Katie. Time to move on.

Well. What follows is a cautionary tale about pushing your luck.

It’s one thing to hoard multiple saves in a video game; to go back and restart from more favourable junctures (though you could, you know, just move on?). It’s one thing to plan conversations ahead, steering them in different directions to see how they go most in your favour (I do). But although we might wish on occasion to reset the reality button, the ability to do so increases the temptation and that temptation comes with consequences. If you can reset reality as often as you like then why concentrate on what is important the first time?

This book is masterfully constructed with impeccable control under what must have been mind-frazzling circumstances. You’ll see what I mean as everything unravels, increasingly, over and over again.

Egotism becomes egomania and, unlike so many protagonists, Katie’s self-awareness doesn’t grow gradually over each page. Instead – after what was essentially a compassionate, altruistic revision to save Hazel’s skin – Katie loses sight of priorities, her sense of perspective, her sense of responsibility and her comprehension of cause and effect: of ripples and repercussion.

The strange glowing girl returns time and again with increasingly incandescent eyes that had me howling out loud. I’m glad I can’t see my dresser from bed. Her hair is spectacular. Nathan Faibarn’s colours are so warm that I cannot imagine this in black and white.

As well as the broad strokes and fine fashion of the characters you’ve come to expect from O’Malley (the designs are exquisite, Yana’s eyes shining a pale, milky blue like semi-opaque fishbowls), there’s a lot more intricate detail on the architecture. Rickety 22 Lucknow Street, the site of Katie’s second prospective restaurant, is a star in its own right. Its brown brick and beige stone climb precariously towards a fourth-storey, castellated tower. The aerial views of the town itself – rising on either side of the river before opening up to fields and foliage and Seconds sitting under its trademark tree in the distance – are breathtaking and again coloured beautifully in greens, browns and antler grey under a late-afternoon winter sky.

The panel composition is much tighter with strict, straight-ruled borders – gone altogether are the bleeds – with some parts of the page unused altogether during moments of disorientation, waiting or “what’s happened now?”

There are some startlingly dark pages unlike anything you’ve seen from O’Malley, but SECONDS is also, as you’d expect, very, very funny in places even as things fall apart, and I like our new narrator enormously.

“I don’t like it back here anymore. The walk-in… you don’t feel that?”
“Feel what?”
“I don’t know. Never mind.”
But she did feel it. The shadow. She knew it was real.
“I don’t feel anything.”
Um, yeah, she did actually.

SLH

Pre-order Seconds h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Times (£6-99, self-published) by Robert M Ball.

“In the end it was quick at least.
“He’d not been right for weeks.
“Another ‘accident’.”

That happens as you grow older.

“Some young men took him away for tests.
“He put a brave face on it but I could tell he was scared.
“They kept him in for the night.
“And I came back to a stranger’s home.”

Sometimes you notice what’s missing more than you notice what’s there. A gap in your familiar landscape can prove haunting.

I once had a cat that would race to the door. I was worried that whenever I opened it he would rush onto the road. I used to open the door gingerly, carefully, cautiously; and for weeks after I had Felix put down I would open that door in exactly the same tentative manner, expecting a cat to dash past. He didn’t.

Composed of six shorts, four of them silent, this is one of the cleverest comics of the year. I’m not even going to tell you the title of that one for fear of giving its game away, yet here is a clue: what you have read up above is but prose. Read the same sequence as a comic and you will realise what Rob has done. Read the same sequence as a comic and it is, as they say, a very different story!

‘Dump’ is its reversal, in which some unusually accommodating bin men take care of some no-longer-desired, discarded property and boasts two terrifying panels whose power lies in the implication of what will happen off-stage. A chisel is involved.

From the creator of WINTER’S KNIGHT, then, comes an assortment of mysteries – yes, that’s what they are – for you to decipher and devour. All of them are surprising and each is composed in a markedly different style, one of which unexpectedly as a tribute to Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. But then Frank’s SIN CITY was all about the shapes, just like Robert’s main output.

In ‘Jack’ our modern, spotty teenager in a tracksuit acquires some magic beans. From a supermarket. As per tradition, Mum is unimpressed and lobs those bobbins beans out of her council estate’s high-rise window. Jack will find treasure all the same.

‘Nest’ boasts two of the most blinding pages of all here: a double-page landscape of urban buildings stacked up a very steep hill, looking just like the back end of Nottingham’s Lace Market seen from the London Road roundabout. Their sloped roofs gleam brighter the closer they climb towards the full moon. In it a husband declares that “We can’t go on like this”. Why? His wife has an over-acquisitive nature, her objects of desire even curiouser than her means of obtaining them.

DARK TIMES opens with ‘Animal’.

“He’s here again” is the uh-oh signifier, coupled with the Indian waiter peering anxiously through a narrow, horizontal window at their recurrent, difficult diner whose take on their menu is perhaps wilfully misconstrued. He has… unusual appetites.

The wit there lies upon wordplay but even without that I would relish Robert’s art. It’s all about the shapes and the colours. In terms of shapes, the waiter’s face appears between a snapped-in-two poppadom, as crisply delineated as those thick wooden segments were sawn from then slotted into our Early Learning jigsaw puzzles. In terms of colour, the waiter is all greens and browns just like the curries he serves, while the diner is composed of cold, cold blues with top teeth protruding predatorily through saggy-jowls and a wan, worn, elongated face which screams “take this social-skills loser away”.

I’m thinking Norman Tebbit. It’s enough to make you queasy.

Signed: all our copies are signed.

SLH

Buy Dark Times and read the Page 45 review here

R L #1 (£3-00, Sequential Artists Workshop) by Tom Hart.

Parental Warning: a warning to parents for parents.

And I suppose this comic is, in a way, but that’s not what I meant.

Much admired by Eddie Campbell and Scott McCloud, Tom Hart was one of Mark’s favourite cartoonists as well. Alas, all we have left of Tom’s output prior to Rosalie Lightning is NEW HAT STORIES.

I wouldn’t have recognised this as Tom’s work in a million years, so much have the events in this comic transformed him. Maybe the first image of Rosalie throwing her arms up in the air with joy and in emulation of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and its acorn growing through sapling “to a beautiful strong tree.”

Tom and Leela lost Rosalie Lightning before she grew to be two. There have been other depictions of bereavement in comics – Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and THE END, Aidan Koch’s THE WHALE, and Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU – but this is the most effective and affecting I’ve read about losing your child and so much of your future.

“You best memories are your biggest torments.”

Imagine that. The cruelty of that.

“You remember anything and your heart races – you can’t believe – “

 

Painfully, Tom recalls some of those best memories along with what may or may not have been tell-tale signs either of Rosalie being ill or her being aware that she wasn’t long for this world.

I infer from elsewhere that there is a larger work being constructed – I could be wrong – but this is succinct and it did me in which isn’t its aim, I know.

SLH

Buy R L #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Out Of Hollow Water (£8-50, 2D Cloud) by Anna Bonngiovanni.

“And that’s what scared me the most. I never want to be that still again.”

If you think the cover bodes ill, you should see its extension on the back.

Told in three chapters – each followed by silent sequences, the central one like a constellation of mutating baby-body forms – this is grim stuff, deeply disturbing to read.

“It smells like dirt and self-pity. It reeks of regret.”

It’s a book of fear, helplessness and revulsion. Of things that cannot be undone. Of things you would like to bury, metaphorically and otherwise, but which cannot be got rid of so easily.

It’s all implication and the implications are terrifying.

‘Monster’ begins with a terrible shadow with black, rat-like claws looming a woman whose eyes gaze mournfully into the past while profoundly upset by her present. It follows wherever she goes.

“You made me an alien in my own body. A stranger. An unwelcome guest.”

Then there’s a tree hollow, a well and a bundle of something which certainly isn’t joy.

The single-panel pages have been scratched on so hard and thick with graphite that they are smudged and sullied and uncomfortable to touch.

Powerful stuff.

SLH

Buy Out Of Hollow Water and read the Page 45 review here

Freddy Stories (£7-50, self-published) by Melissa Mendes.

Freddy is a very young girl occasionally mistaken for a boy.

She lives with her Mum, next door to Uncle Sully and downstairs from kindly Mrs. Medeiros who lost her husband in the war. There’s a photograph of him on the dresser.

Occasionally her Dad comes to collect Freddy, but she doesn’t want to go. It’s not her house, it doesn’t have her things. They eat on the settee. Later she sleeps there with a sodium street light streaming through the window.

In summer she stays with Aunt Maria for two weeks, but she doesn’t want to go. Freddy hates Aunt Maria (she doesn’t) and Freddy hates the countryside (she doesn’t). Her friends aren’t there, but at least her dog Frank is.

Without saying a word on the subject, Mendes evokes the unsettling prospect of staying with relative strangers: different smells, different routines, different television shows, different meals eaten in different places and different sleeping arrangements.

Also, kids at play. It’s a very quiet, understated little book and BERLIN’s Jason Lutes is a big fan.

SLH

Buy Freddy Stories and read the Page 45 review here

In The Sounds And Seas (£9-99, Monkey-Rope Press) by Marnie Galloway.

Silent and surreal and open to interpretation.

Which means I haven’t a clue what this is about..

But I love a lot of its patterns: tree leaves at night, lit like chunky dragon scales; the birds and the bunnies and the fan-tailed goldfish filling three singers’ stomachs or lungs as they sit round a campfire and release these creatures in twisting torrents which swirl round each other and up into the sky and – oh, look, someone’s dived in (I missed that first time round; it’s reprised later on) – eventually form a still ocean.

I absolutely adore the whale and the ship’s skeleton which I have always associated with each other.

I’ve failed to mention the magpie. I think it’s a magpie.

 

Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey is quoted at the front. That never impressed me: too much effort expended in rhyming and cleverness at the expense of clarity. It might have helped me understand what this is about, but I couldn’t be arsed to disentangle its convolutions.

Seriously: that whale. Amazing.

SLH

Buy In The Sounds And Seas and read the Page 45 review here

Sunday In The Park With Boys (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Jane Mai.

Right in the middle there is an excellent self-portrait with one bandaged eye and centipedes crawling out the other eye and mouth.

Other than that, awful.

Autobiographical onanism with nothing to say annoys me intensely.

Jane Mai has absolutely nothing to say yet expects everyone to listen.

She’s depressed, she’s lonely and she knows – oh how she knows – that she’s wasted so much time! Well, she didn’t have to waste mine.

“Coming home during a thunderstorm is kind of nice.
“It’s good for thinking maybe you’ll wash away and become something new.
“If you walk really slowly you are reflecting on life and it is very serious.
“If you run then you are doing something drastic and crazy!”

Thank you, Miss fucking Confucius.

Please do everyone a favour and read Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. Thank you.

SLH

Buy Sunday In The Park With Boys and read the Page 45 review here

Death Sentence h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Montynero & Mike Dowling.

Bang, bang, bang: dazzling, wit-ridden debut from Montynero IF YOU ARE OVER 15! If you’re under 16 then please move along, nothing to see here, it was rubbish.

Three young, disparate individuals have just contract the G-Plus virus: Verity, Weasel and Monty.

There is currently no cure for the G-Plus virus and within six months they will all inevitably die. If there’s a silver lining to their situation it’s that, give or take extreme mood swings, the symptoms are a lot kinder than any other virus known to man: they will begin to experience increased energy, physical fitness and a variety of metahuman abilities. On the negative side, this makes them a target for the British Intelligence and military.

Verity’s the most vulnerable because her readings are off the scale and nobody knows who she is. Oh, she’s a graphic designer – or she was (see mood swings; they’re terribly funny and her abusive boss gets the brunt of it) – but Monty is a smug-as-fuck media personality who knows how to play the game while Weasel is a talentless and so successful musician. Plus his PR people really know how to milk his wretched, risibly unproductive ass:

“How much is this sonic diarrhoea costing us?”
“Erm… £6000 a day.”
“Pull the plug.”
“OK… what do we do instead?”
“Well… we’ve done the supermodel… the blood stunts… prison… collaborations… a covers album… and reforming the old band. So the only fresh angle is the G+ virus.”
“He has developed some skills… though nothing reliable or useful yet.”
“Who cares! Just spin his ‘G+ Hell’ to the tabloids. How’s demand for the Valedictory Tour?”
“Strong. There’s an army of numpties buying into the ‘Misunderstood Genius’ crap who’d basically pay to watch him take a dump on the stage.”
“They have, actually.”

 

Mike Dowling lets rip with wild gesticulations like a young Duncan Fegredo. I love how Weasel instinctively protects his face with his arms as he plummets towards unyielding asphalt from way up above, as though that’s going to do him any good. But you would, though, wouldn’t you, instinctively? Turns out that the tarmac does yield – to someone intangible. Although sex proves problematic when he loses his concentration.

I also love all the design work that’s gone into the mid-chapter music paper interviews, newspaper posts and online medical health websites. The only thing I didn’t like were the covers, unrepresentative of the art inside or the story’s contents, but then I have an extreme aversion to that sort of glossy, 3-D modelling that Richard Corben used on DEN etc before ditching it in favour of texture. Good move.

Meanwhile, Montynero packs every page with immaculately thought-through ramifications, far from gratuitous profanity but the most blasphemous use of a crucifix I can conceive of. The scenes are short, sharp and slickly edited and the joke-per-page rate is astonishingly high. But then this is essentially a highly successful satire: on sex, sexism, sexual attraction, sexual action, politics, the comedy circuit, celebrity culture and the music industry. Weasel’s chart-topping band was called The Whatevers.

“Bono rang again. The Royal Charity gig.”
“Jeezus!! What’s the cause, his credibility?”

Most impressive initially was the trajectory of libertine wastrel Weasel and his outrageous self-indulgence: boozing, reckless sex and – it transpires – some very dodgy connections. He is, however, deliciously undaunted even in the wake of extreme adversity.

One stop, look and listen to egomaniacal Monty and there’s no mistaking which overrated and over-inflated vainglorious “Voting’s a waste of time” bell-end he’s supposed to be. (I could be projecting.)

I would just note that two-thirds of the way through the tone takes a turn for the unexpectedly dark as the book heads into MIRACLEMAN BOOK 3 territory and it becomes a superhero series. Oh there were always powers, but there were no heroes and villains, just many arched eyebrows and a great deal of sexual shenanigans. That will of course prove a plus point for many but it wasn’t what I saw coming.

Additionally I promise you one panel of pure political catharsis.

Montynero is a very naughty boy. I don’t think we’ve a hope of rehabilitating him, and that makes me very pleased indeed.

More!

SLH

Buy Death Sentence h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Graveyard Book vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan, many more

Crossed vol 9 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Daniel Way, Simon Spurrier & Emiliano Urdinola, Gabriel Andrade

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception – The Graphic Novel (£9-99, Hyperion) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigiano

Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Chris Peterson

White Lama h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess

Cape Horn h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Enea Riboldi

Lust s/c (£14-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith, Menton3

Deadly Class vol 1 Reagan Youth s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig, Lee Loughridge

Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool (£6-00, Other A-Z) by Verity Hall

Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Teen Titans vol 4: Light And Dark s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell, Tony Bedard & Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, many more

Damian Son Of Batman h/c (£18-99, DC) by Andy Kubert

Adventure Time Candy Capers vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Ananth Panagariya, Yuko Ota & Ian Mcginty

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Team-Up (£7-50, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Brian Michael Bendis, many more & Josh Fine, Sal Buscema, many more

Soul Eater vol 21 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Fairy Tail vol 40 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Naruto vol 66 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

News!

ITEM! Oh my days, this by Ian McQue is one of the most beautiful images I have ever beheld. Eerie x 7,372

ITEM! Kickstarter for Vera Greantea’s new comic has some gorgeous art. It’s already exceeded its goal so it is going to happen!

ITEM! Extraordinary composition by David Aja. Don’t get it? Now see same image with Golden Spiral.

Umm, that’s it this week. I’ve run out of time!

- Stephen

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