Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2019 week two

June 12th, 2019

“If the terror of DIE is the annexation of reality by fantasy in the form of five friends trapped there, the genius of its execution lies in the indissoluble bonding between fantasy and reality so that ordinarily consequence-free fantasy – played so as to give one a break from reality – has very real repercussions for both.”

  – Stephen on Die volume 1

Die vol 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker s/c (£8-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans.

 “die, noun:
    singular form of dice”

“die, verb:
    stop living, become extinct, be forgotten”

“We can survive anything but our past.”

This is blinding in its multi-layered brilliance, and our highest selling periodical comic by some substantial score.

Co-creator Kieron Gillen (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, MERCURY HEAT, UBER, PHONOGRAM etc) describes Stephanie Hans’s visual prowess as “mixing epic romance with operatic intensity”. I’ve stolen that because it is perfect. Hers is a playlist of songs rich in colour, carefully composed around those colours with varying, artfully controlled tempos, all arranged so as to hit you in the heart.

 

 

As with its cast, this will seduce you, startle you, suck you in until you’re helpless, have you sweating emotionally, vicariously, for their sanity as much as safety, and then break your hearts, repeatedly. It will also give you much food for thought, not least about reality, fantasy, actions, consequences, rules and restrictions, friendship, loyalty, the power of persuasion, collaborative creation (as well as cooperative action), what it’s like to be left behind, and the weight of adulthood and its responsibilities plus their potential toll which can resonate with all that we did during earlier years which were more complex in their interactions than we’d originally thought.

On that very subject the new contrasting chapter breaks in less complicated pencil of innocents at idle, carefree play are very clever indeed.

Britain 1991, and five teenage friends are invited over to Solomon’s to celebrate the shared 16th birthdays of Solomon and Dominic, for whom Solomon has created a brand-new role playing game.
He’ll be their Dungeon Master; but he’ll be participating too.

“Yeah, it’s an unusual game. We’re all in this together.”

 

 

Each receives a sheet to develop their imaginary characters. “Guided freedom, selecting abilities and personalising them,” recalls Dominic. “Anything was permissible, if not always advisable.”

Each then in turn describes their character to Sol who accordingly assigns them both a role and a unique die, from the 20-sided die (D20) reserved by Sol for himself down to the 4-sided die (D4) for Dominic, who chooses to play as female Ash. She is the Dictator (spokesperson, negotiator… dictator…)

 

 

And they start to play.

Two hours later, Sol’s mum discovers her son’s bedroom empty.

Two years later five of the six reappear on a roadside near Nottingham, one of them minus an arm, all of them minus Sol.

Obvious questions were asked by the police, by the press, by their friends and relatives. Where had they been? What did they do? And whatever happened to Solomon?

But they couldn’t say. They truly couldn’t say. They physically couldn’t say.

Brilliantly (and all still within what is the prologue), after but two more pages we flash-forward another 25 years to the point where the former 18-year-old survivors are now in their forties. Some have married, some have had kids, some have married and divorced, but one at least has found commercial success as a writer of fantasy which has since gone multi-media massive, netting him a small fortune. That would be Chuck, the individual amongst them who never took any of it seriously. He’s been successful, all right.

Dominic and his younger sister Angela, not so much: she’s the one missing an arm and now a husband whom she left for a woman who almost immediately ditched her, plus she’s fighting a custody battle for her kids which she’s unlikely to win even if she keeps her feet on solid ground. Please remember that after we leave the prologue. The siblings are both exhausted and Hans excels at depicting their depletion, then the varying degrees of trepidation when the remaining five are reluctantly forced to meet up.

They’re forced to meet up because – while drinking down a London pub whose pavement outside is being lashed with rain – Dominic and Angela are presented with a package which the barman found on the doorstep. In it is a box, and within that box, on top of crushed velvet, lies Solomon’s prized D20, gleaming away but covered in blood.

 

 

The subsequent page outside the bar is one of Hans’s most accomplished. The light at night emanating from the street lamps and closed retail outlets still blasting out come-look-at-me-luminosity cascades through the deluge onto the rain-soaked stone, and there is so much red carried over from the previous page’s blood-bathed, twenty-sided die. In spite of all the horrific, war-torn, fantastical spectacle that is delivered so devastatingly later on, it is the most violent page in the comic as Dominic – knowing full well its potential properties – attempts to smash it to pieces.

Both impressionistic and expressionistic, that is a scene which will linger with you forever.

 

 

Likewise, I believe, a panel which will be hitting us ever so shortly once we’re not in Kansas anymore.

That bears all the neo-classical grandeur and majesty of a scene from the PS4’s ‘God Of War’. It’s worth scanning the rich, lambent background for details, because in any other context like animation this glorious landscape would not be just a single-panel scene-setter, but the backdrop to so much more super-imposed art to follow. Again, a reminder that red features prominently.

Teasing aside, we’re nearly done with the expository hand-holding, I promise. It’s lovely to have a lot more leeway than when I wrote the first issue’s review.

Dominic decides that he has no option responsibly but to consult his fellow survivors about the D20’s reappearance. They reconvene at Chuck’s lavish estate and compare notes, not just on what to do with the die, but on where their lives have taken them in the 25 years since they were last… embroiled. It’s a lot like a school reunion. *shudders*

But the D20 was a lure, a trap, and they have gathered together right into it.

And suddenly, as I say, they’re not in Kansas anymore.

 

 

They’re back on Die, the mist-shrouded, 20-faceted world which they barely escaped 25 years ago, and they are all very much altered. They’ve resumed their former identities / roles which they dangerously played out for two whole years: Dominic is Ash the Dictator, Matt is the Grief Knight, Angela is Neo once more with two arms (albeit one cybernetic), and Isabelle’s back in her Godbinder armour. She has gods in her thrall; she may be in thrall to her gods. It all depends upon how they use each other. A god’s the same thing as a demon: discuss.

Chuck is the only one of them who seems remotely happy to be back, but then Chuck is the Fool.

 

 

So that’s where they went. But what did they do that took such a terrible toll on their lives, rendering the rest of them terrified to be back, fractious and full of mutual recriminations? And whatever happened to Solomon?

That’s it, prologue over. No more mere plot points for you!

As you’ve probably gathered, this is a Dungeons & Dragons interactive role playing game made manifest. By which I mean, instead of sitting down together with tea, biscuits or a fridge full of bevies to collaboratively create your own adventure through conversational narrative (isn’t the human mind amazing?), our six participants have – and will yet again – be living it. But this is the key: the rules still apply. It’s still a negotiation in both its physical and bartering sense, for there are prices to be paid and costs to be extracted for every move made or ability utilised.

If the terror of DIE is the annexation of reality by fantasy in the form of five friends trapped there, the genius of its execution lies in the indissoluble bonding between fantasy and reality so that ordinarily consequence-free fantasy – played so as to give one a break from reality – has very real repercussions for both.

 

 

I mean, just for starters in the real world, there’s the not inconsiderable matter of Angela’s arm. Then there’s what’s happened to their heads, to their hearts. But on Die there are, have been (while they were away) and will be more consequences to come. I’ll let Isabelle, the Godbinder, explain their dilemma, in words which will echo for you in your own private reading much later on:

“Before we decide the next move, we need to talk. We play by the old house rules, right?”

I love the use of “play” there. This is no longer a game; and the “house rules” are now more of a moral imperative.

“We have no idea how real Die is. So we have to treat it like it is real.
“If it’s fantasy and we treat it like reality, there’s no loss.
“If it’s reality and we treat it like fantasy, we become monsters.”

I’ll give you an example, spoiler-free on account of where I will leave it. Almost as soon as Isabelle has spoken, the truth of her words is exemplified in the form a formerly cheery knight called Sir Lane who hails Lady Ash with “I am here to fulfil my duty unto thee.”

Ash:

“The past walks up and says hello. I barely remember him…
“He was an Angrian knight of kisses. Joy into power.
“He was an adventurer.
“He was an adventure.
“As he rode off, he said he would not rest until he had gazed upon my perfection once more.”

Ash blows a flattered kiss his way as her knight departs on his white steed.

“He dared me to use my power to make his words binding. I laughed and did so.”

I promised you no spoilers so you’ll have to discover for yourselves how profoundly Dominic / Ash’s innocent teenage overconfidence will prove to have been so fatefully ill thought out. The premise is all there in the words I’ve typed, but where it is taken is a testament to Gillen’s lateral thinking because, remember: Rules and Repercussions. This is, in so many instances, a horror comic. Also: a war comic.

 

 

No more so on both counts than when Gillen wittily, grittily combines WWI with Tolkien in the trenches: Eternal Prussia with its industrial-strength dragons versus Little Englanders caught in a mud-bogged, smoke- and sulphur-stenched conflagration that has ordered them almost as far from home as our five, never to return to their loved ones. The dove-tail is surprisingly seamless. One panel in particular by Hans is pure Elijah Wood.

Again, then again, in the second, third, fourth and fifth chapters, Gillen opens then opens up further the horizons of that which he wants to explore: for example, the history and nature of fantasy writing, and the history and potential of creative game-playing, prising apart his own past experiences of role playing to pare off the rigid crusts of customary codes and well worn modes to reinvigorate its potential for others.

Oh yeah, he’s even recreated and so procreated DIE as an actual RPG: www.diecomic.com/rpg

[Editor’s note: while you’re here, another graphic novel hugely recommended on the subject of creative, collaborative gameplay is USER by Devin Grayson and Sean Phillips, John Bolton. Remember when games were nought but words on the screen? That.]

There’s plenty about all of this (his research, his cogitations and extrapolations) in this DIE collection’s back-matter – along with a new essay by Stephanie Hans on her approach to design and sequential-art storytelling – which I absorbed when originally printed in the periodicals before re-reading each issue. I cannot commend to you strongly enough to do the same for they proved an engrossing, enlightening revelation. By all means read the whole first (rather than individual chapters) before giving yourselves the added gift of extra insight.

Matt as the Grief Knight in the comic is a perfect example of recalibrating an old favourite. The important element is “grief”.

 

 

Chuck the Fool may be as care-free (and, to begin with, as callous) in the present as he was in the past, but Matt endured such substantial trauma as a teenager that it’s a minor miracle that he is now pretty much sanguine to it all and created for himself a loving and stable family unit, from which he has now been torn. But he was and so remains a Grief Knight, his substantial powers on Die activated only upon misery. Evidently, he must have kicked ass 25 years ago. But if he’s to be more use than ornament now, his hard-won optimism or at least equanimity must be stripped bare, destroyed, by not just reminding him of a past during which he was laid so very low, but manipulating his mind so that he feels that same sorrow and suffering.

That would be a vicious thing for any enemy to do. It would be worse if it came from one of your friends.

“We can survive anything but our past.”

DIE is a comic which will threaten to pull both you and its cast apart.

What is your tensile strength?

SLH

Buy Die vol 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cover vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack, Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Avon Oeming…

“…Hi.”
“Hi, Julia? HI?! I haven’t heard from you for ages and you come at me with Hi?”
“You’re mad at me?”
“You’re surprised? We’ve been busy. You’re doing so great.”
“Is Julia even your name?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you doing here?”
“It’s Angoulême!”
“Okay, what am I doing here?”
“Being the fanciest of fancy comic book persons.”
“This is nuts.”
“Really? You’re mad?”
“Of course I’m mad.”
“You’re mad you’re not hunched over your space paintings in that tinderbox of a house you live in?”
You arranged this.”
“Of course. You wanted it, didn’t you?”
“I wanted them to invite me. I wanted them to want me. Am I a baby for being disappointed that you manipulated all of this instead of me earning it?”
“You are here because of you. Life is who you know and you know me. I’m just here to take advantage of it. Sweetie, the rules remain the same. You are desperately needed. Your cover is needed. That’s why I am here.”
“So…? Am I here because they invited me, or because you got them to invite me?”
“It’s Angoulême. Who gives a shit?”
“I think I do.”

 

 

Haha, Max Field, comics creator and more recently secret undercover agent for an American intelligence agency still so, so very desperately craves the approbation of his industry! Well, perhaps he ought to feel a tad puffed up and important that ‘Julia’ wants to entrust him with a highly important secret mission to try and turn another secret agent working for an unknown foreign power, who just also happens to be, yes, you’ve guessed it, a comics creator. “A really famous comics book artist” in Max’s own words. How hard could that be, right? Go to a swanky dinner with a group of comics colleagues, let the drink start flowing and just have a casual chat.

It’s going to go badly…

 

 

I am now going to make a bold statement, so brace yourselves. This may well be the best thing that Bendis has ever written. It is certainly the best thing he has written since the original JESSICA JONES: ALIAS material (in my humble opinion), and he has written a lot of good material in the meanwhile as I am sure you will know.

From the preposterous, yet upon reflection perfectly plausible premise (I’m sure I saw Bryan Talbot using a dead letter box at the last LICAF outside the Kendal Clock Tower…), the insanely brilliant back-and-forth dialogue which bounces intensely like a demented dodgem car driver between joyfully crackpot to crunchingly hardboiled, through the most genius plot pivot point around which the entire story oh so exquisitely, and actually quite movingly for true old school comic fans, tips, before concluding in one of the most satisfying endings I think I have ever read… well, this simply has it ALL in writing terms.

 

 

You want more…?

It also has David Mack putting in a shift of virtuoso proportions on art duties, movingly seamlessly from style to style like Sherlock Holmes switching disguises on the hoof, all in service to the story.

 

 

Such as showing pages from Max Field’s own work, including the title that made his name, a watercolour on parchment feel epic entitled Ninja Sword Odyssey.

 

 

Our Stephen commented that this work feels like one long comics love letter between Bendis and Mack – long-term friends that are – and I can certainly concur that they seem to have brought hitherto unparalleled levels of comics perfection out of each other here. Do read each of their respective forewords for just how long they have been planning this collaboration.

Here is a quote from Bendis from a recent interview regarding some of what he asked Mack to do:

“I’m trying to give David all of the opportunities to do all of the things that he can do. It works great because with David, we can show the comic book that Max is making. The one you see in the first issue is a beautiful indie comic that you can tell was a hit comic. Later, we’ll see another comic he’s made that’s a soulless piece of shit that he thought was going to be a big hit, but it wasn’t. So, I had to tell David, ‘Now, I want you to make a purposefully bad cash-grab comic.’

There’s a point to that. There’s a point when an artist gets lost and they do something they shouldn’t. We’re having an inordinate amount of fun exorcising demons, revealing truths…”

I’m sure we can all think of a few examples of bad cash-grab comics, albeit perhaps not purposely so… Naming no names whatsoever…

Meanwhile, let’s return to the Mack. There is some exceptional work going on here, both with pen and brush. There are many pages and part-pages composed of composite panels which are assembled so cleverly as to overtly or subtly convey the story, or just astonish artistically in their own right, that I frequently had to simply stop and admire the construction.

 

 

Also if you know where to look, there’s even a cheeky Bendis and Mack cameo… of a fashion…

In terms of colours, I presume the sections with brush are done by Mack himself, but special mention must be also given to the digital colouring done by Zu Orzu. Between them they’ve done a stupendous job here. The primary palette of pale blues is punctuated with intense, firework-like bursts of rich colours. There’s an astonishing sequence involving Julia and Max driving through the countryside which is simply magnificent in its seasonal colouring, capturing perfectly the joy of such a scenic journey. If you’re not busy being debriefed by your slightly sarcastic handler, that is…

 

 

There is also a page heady with the shimmering shades of a hot Brazilian evening later in the book which is so expressive of the delights of a close of day gathering in warmer climes. Plus there’s even two black and white single-page spreads which seem to serve no other function than to perhaps allow Bendis to cleverly muse – not least, because, that cameo – upon how comics fans of the future will perhaps view his work, as well as paying homage to one of the true giants of early twentieth century comics…

 

 

“Like, if I show this to a college kid today would they appreciate this as much as we did in college. Or do they look at it like the way I look at, I don’t know, Winsor McCay?”

“Wins… What? Winsor McCay is genius!”
“It is! DUH!
“But I look at it like I look at a movie from the ‘30s.
“It’s amazing, I appreciate it, but it isn’t really in a language I relate to.
“I see that it’s good, I just don’t… it wasn’t actually made for me.
“I wonder if this is as relatable as I think it is.
“And what I mean is I wonder if my work is going to be relatable?
“I wonder if our work will age well.
“And then I remember how excited I was just to be published, and, maybe, I shouldn’t be worrying about anything but that.”

Hah, what a beautifully self-deprecating finale to that mini-monologue. I wonder if we will ever get to the point where the entire population can’t relate to comics at all anymore. I fervently hope that particular dystopian future never comes to pass…

Anyway, if that were not enough artistically, we also get two quintessential cameos, one portraying the comics work of Max’s chum from Michael UNITED STATES OF MURDER INC Avon Oeming…

 

 

… and the ‘baddie’ secret agent’s rather more… intense material… from Bill DAREDEVIL ULTIMATE COLLECTION BY BENDIS VOL 3 Sienkiewicz…

 

 

…that just act as two perfect pieces of staccato visual plot punctuation.

It’s hard to put into words the sheer amount of joy reading this comic brought to me. Firstly, because after beginning to wonder if Bendis was perhaps starting to lose his mojo a tad with his final frankly run-of-the-mill, by-the-numbers Marvel output and, I have to say, seemingly a little lacklustre initial DC supes output – on that point, for capes ‘n’ tights Bendis true believers I am happy to report that the SUPERMAN LEVIATHAN RISING SPECIAL ONE-SHOT which leads into the summer EVENT LEVIATHAN errr… event (penned by Bendis with Alex Maleev) on art is superb! – I am delighted that between this and also the mesmerising crime caper PEARL with Michael Gaydos, well, he’s right back to the very top of my reading list. That pivotal plot point! That ending!

Brian, I’ll never doubt you again! I’ve no idea whether there will be a second volume of COVER. In one sense, they don’t need to do it because this is absolutely flawless, so neither should they perhaps attempt it, but I do so want them to!

I therefore excitedly noted in David Mack’s foreword that they had asked Tom MISTER MIRACLE King, a former CIA spy bod, to write an introduction, but he wasn’t able to due to the rather prosaic non-espionagey reason of a scheduling conflict. Why is that exciting? Because David Mack then states Tom will have to write the introduction for the next volume! That’s practically a verbal contract!

JR

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

Pope Hats #6 Shapeshifter (£5-99, Adhouse Books) by Hartley Lin.

Self-contained selection of autobiographical musings, highly recommended to fans of Adrian Tomine, Kevin Huizenga, Andi Watson, Joe,Decie etc. There may be a little that’s made up here too!

‘Island’

“I want Top 40 pop song money. I want to be absurdly, confusingly rich so I can buy an island.”

The remote island floats in the middle of an idyllically calm ocean, its dense, tropical foliage barely spoiled but for the single, enormous mansion complex rising up the hill above a jetty.

“And throw a phenomenal party there, bringing together the most courageous thinkers and artists of our time.”

It’s already celebration time as the guests approach the island by boat at night.

“There will be heart-pounding music and relentless, blissed out dancing. And by sunrise, everyone will have surrendered themselves to an all new understanding of L-O-V-E.”

They sure are getting their joyous groove on beneath the bright, roving spotlights!

“I would not go to my party.”

Hartely Lin is out walking his dog, which has stopped to pee in a park.

 

 

That’s your opening single-page salvo, setting the tone perfectly for the short stories to follow, most especially the last one – the third in an interspersed trilogy – which had me chuckling heartily at its deadpan calamity.

All of which is a complete departure for Hartley Lin and his sporadic periodical POPE HATS, some of which were collected in YOUNG FRANCES, the comedic tale of two female friends heading in divergent directions: one to stardom in a ludicrous TV show about a vigilante District Attorney called ‘Bad Prosecutor’, the other climbing ever higher up the ladder in an equally absurd legal corporation whose behavioural quirks smacked satirically of early Evelyn Waugh novels like ‘Scoop’ and ‘Black Mischief’. Highly recommended, all three!

I relished this just as much, but I’m hoping it’ll bring Lin more readers by dint of its difference, except that the comedy’s still here.

We’ve already established that Hartley really isn’t a party guy, but he is now a husband and father. Both of these developments have sparked in him relevant contemplations of the present, recent past, and early childhood, for example, when he was prone to worry. About worms. It was bad enough when his mate Dane would surgically divide their segments in his driveway, declaring with glee “It’s still alive!” Hartley: “Ha. ‘Fun’.” To himself: “God, make it stop.”

The patter of rain drives worms to the surface, so on desultory days it wasn’t just cracks in the paving which the boy had to studiously avoid. (Side-note: a mass movement of stilettos on grass have the same effect. True fact.) This didn’t go unnoticed. “Vulnerability is different between children. It is basically appropriate to exploit any hint of fear.” I think you can imagine…

One English Lit class required the school kids write down a major fear, but “I’m prone to category error” so whilst his peers declared bears, tarantulas and snakes to be terrifying, serious-minded young Lin wrote down – no, not worms, but – “Becoming my parents”. That’s a neatly dodged all-too-obvious repetition of worms. Still, as a father trying to avoid instilling the same fears in his son, he imagines in two years time being gleefully given and handful of slimy, wriggling worms.

“Dada, look!!”
“Ha, that’s right, worms.”
To himself: “God, make it stop.”

There’s plenty more discussion between friends about changes made to your life when you become a parent, plus attendant worries with self-deprecating humour, an adorable memory about his wedding day, recollections of past friends’ unexpected trajectories given their early inclinations, a meditation upon meditation, and one exceptional piece of lateral thinking called ‘Settlers Imagined’ in which a husband lies sleepless at night in bed with his wife, fretting that she might not love him. He asks her point-blank in modern mode, while she replies at length, in pen-and-ink handwriting, archaic language and purely practical concerns specific to the patriarchy of those times. The husband’s unconvinced, the more emotional final line is hilarious.

 

 

The visual delivery is crystal clear, warm and quiet, leaving the thoughts to speak for themselves. But there are also some exquisite scenes in the ‘Driving Through Vermont’ trilogy which I touched on earlier, during which Lin drives either alone at night or with his family by day, along a vast highway through the countryside, and I have never before seen so perfectly represented the effect of snowflake flurries as seen from a first-person perspective when driving through them in the dark, picked out by your car’s headlights. Whoosh!

 

 

SLH

Buy Pope Hats #6 Shapeshifter and read the Page 45 review here

The Dreaming vol 1: Pathways And Emanations s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara…

“You know the feeling… right? Sure you do.
“Happens every morning, right after you wake.
“The moment you forget your dreams.”

Dream has vanished. Left the Dreaming and gone… well… no one seems sure quite where. All that remains within the disintegrating imaginary edifice at the centre of the Dreaming are a collection of familiar assistants and acolytes such as Lucien the librarian, Matthew the raven, the demi-deranged double act Cain and Abel and the… well, just plain old argumentative arsehole in the case of Mervyn, the cigar-smoking pumpkinhead. It’s good to have them all back!

 

 

It’d be lovely to have Morpheus as well, or Daniel at least, as the reincarnate youthful Lord of Dreams was named. But he’s vanished with nary a trace and now seems unable or perhaps unwilling to answer the call of his sigil in the Gallery of the Endless located within his castle.

 

 

Fortunately, Lucien, if he can remember it – for this mysterious decay is beginning to affect the inhabitants too – has a plan… As a former raven himself – something Matthew, as well as myself had forgotten – he is aware of the psychic tether between the Lord Of Dreams and his atramentous avians. And so Lucien sends Matthew soaring off to roam the realms looking for their master before all of his creation crumbles away completely.

 

 

It’s a stratagem that twangs, sorry hangs, by the proverbial rubber band of a tenuous thread, to say the least, but it certainly forms an excellent conceit for allowing Matthew to pass mostly unawares by the characters who will form the cast of the four cornerstones of this new DC Vertigo Sandman Universe.

Said sound foundations being formed of…

The Dreaming vol 1: Pathways And Emanations s/c  (£14-99) by Si Spurrier & Bliquis Evely

Lucifer vol 1: The Infernal Comedy s/c (£14-99) by Dan Waters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara out June 25th

The Books Of Magic vol 1: Moveable Type s/c (£14-99) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler out 16th July

The House Of Whispers vol 1: The Powers Divided s/c (£14-99) by Nalo Hopkinson & Dominike Domo Stanton out 30th July

So, yes, we will see several old favourites return, albeit many filled with the same egotistic notions of grandeur and / or crippling neuroses as before, for example in the form of the likes of the ever <ahem> trustworthy Lucifer Morningstar, still getting worked up about his absent daddy issues, and Timothy Hunter, still grappling with school life whilst wondering which end of his wand is which, plus new characters aplenty, particularly in The House Of Whispers, which looks to open a hitherto unknown corner of the Vertigo mythos by taking us to a bayou where the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda floats, a voodoo goddess who attracts the souls of her followers looking for agony aunt-esque advice on both supernatural and worldly issues.

Matthew does eventually manage to locate Daniel, if not find him, just in case you are wondering. So we catch at least a glimpse of the albino teenage sulkpot at large in the big city and perhaps get half an answer to the question.

 

 

It seems he is there of his own volition, rather than caged against his will, which is where, if you recall, SANDMAN itself began all those years ago, in SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES.

All of which above formed most of my review of the lead-in Sandman Universe one-shot, which DC has wisely decided to include in each of the first collected volumes of the four individual titles, indeed it opens this volume as I presume it will the others. I’m not normally one for publishers recycling material unnecessarily, but here I think it is most definitely a worthwhile exercise. We certainly found people were willing to try the different titles before settling on which they wanted to read (all of them in most cases) after reading the one-shot.

I do however promise not to recycle the above review when each of the subsequent three volumes are released!

Now, whilst Neil himself was involved with the writing of the one-shot, being credited with the story idea, he is not, involved directly as such with the writing of the four ongoing titles. Instead he’s hand-picked the writers, including comics veteran Si Spurrier to helm The Dreaming, who with the likes of GODSHAPER and THE SPIRE has certainly proven he can craft an atypical tale or two.

So… what happens in the first volume of The Dreaming proper then…?

“Naturally the Judge anticipates their hesitation. He observes, after all. He assesses.
“He recognizes instantly that this youthful crop of nightmares takes forms beyond his fathom.
“It follows that to them, he must seem a relic. An anachronism, unfit to be feared.
“That can be changed.
“It has been remarked that the gaze of Judge Gallows is alone sufficient to constrict a dreamer’s throat. This is of course hyperbole.
“It is not rage nor terror that glimmers there… but calculation.
“The simple certainty that within moments the judge has ascertained, by his own cold metric, the precise value of life he observes.
“And that none is worth more to him that two pennies for the reaper.”

“Bring me the Black Chest, Mervyn.”

Yes, it doesn’t take long for Judge Gallows, Nightmare of the Major Arcana, brought to life by the previous Morpheus himself to decide he needs to take charge whilst Daniel is off… galavanting around.

 

 

Of course, His Honour starts off by telling Lucien he’s only turned up to “…advise by consent…” and just to “regard me as an observer… no more..” before he promptly decides some serious gavel bashing and restoration of order is precisely what’s required.

Well, establishing his new world order… I’ll not spoil precisely what is inside the Black Chest for you…

What a great new villain Si Spurrier has created (well recreated if you know your DC history down to the minutiae), straight into the league of the tooth-eyed Corinthian for pure malevolent menace! We get the full back story of his creation and it’s abundantly clear he’s not the type of beak to let a miscreant off with a slap on the wrist and six months community service…

 

 

We do also find out a little more about the nature of the trouble which Daniel is involved in, well, undoubtedly got himself embroiled in, very probably unnecessarily. Oh, did I not mention it was trouble that was responsible for the unexpected jaunt which has induced extreme trepidation and vexation in all of his creations?

Aside from old hang ‘em high himself, who is now having the time of his life. Well, you probably didn’t expect Daniel simply to have sloped off to Skegness for a fortnight, but suffice to say, the Lord of the Dreaming seems not to have lost his penchant for peril, regardless of his incarnation…

Delightfully delicate yet dangerously dirty art from the gloriously named Bilquis Evely, I believe she may be Brazilian and I know she has done various work for DC previously.

 

 

Her fine linework ensures the panels are packed with detail without it ever feeling overcrowded. I loved her facial expressions too, she’s particularly adept at a furrowed brow, and there’s a lot of that going on here let me tell you.

 

 

Combined with the colour palette, I was minded in places of Peter HIGHEST HOUSE Gross, who of course has a fine Vertigo pedigree himself, having combined so successfully with Mike Carey on the original Sandman spin-off LUCIFER material.

Readers new to the SANDMAN mythos will have no problems getting utterly engrossed in this intriguing opener, indeed it will, I suspect, undoubtedly engage them sufficiently as to tantalize them to investigate the original material. Fans from the first time around will, I feel, believe that Si Spurrier has done more than adequate justice to Neil’s creations, the wider Sandman canon and already begun to append some brilliant elements of his own to it. I look forward to seeing the wider story arcs unfold grittily yet gracefully with genuine excitement.

JR

Buy The Dreaming vol 1: Pathways And Emanations s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Plus there’s still time to pre-order the following at the links below…

Lucifer vol 1: The Infernal Comedy s/c (£14-99) by Dan Waters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

The Books Of Magic vol 1: Moveable Type s/c (£14-99) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler

The House Of Whispers vol 1: The Powers Divided s/c (£14-99) by Nalo Hopkinson & Dominike Domo Stanton

Dungeon Fun vol 1: The Adventures Of Fun Mudlifter (£14-99, BHP Comics) by Colin Bell & Neil Slorance…

“What did you do? At least the ghosts weren’t eating us!”
“Get out of the way! He won’t harm me… he only eats the cursed!”
“Are you kidding me? You hold the sword! You’re cursed! I explained this!”
“Riiiiiiiiight.”

It’s just another ordinary day for a most unordinary girl when Stephanie, a human raised by trolls in the muddy moat of a castle, is nearly sliced in two by a sword falling from the sky. In fact, there are a lot of things spontaneously falling into the village of Deepmoat, almost as if people (and bridge trolls) keep deliberately throwing them in there…

So when a knight promptly, and unfortunately for him fatally, drops in as well, immediately rising as a ghost cursed to follow whoever has his sword, generally doing their heads in with smart-arsed running commentary, Stephanie has had enough!

It’s time to look for some answers, seek out adventure, and generally get out of the godforsaken dump that is Deepmoat. Along the way there’ll be monsters aplenty, more than a few dungeons, but most certainly fun. Who’d have thought that risking life and limb swinging steel could be so invigorating?!

 

 

This neatly straddles the divide between ADVENTURE TIME-esque material aimed at teens and adults, and Phoenix-type material like BUNNY VS. MONKEY, FISH HEAD STEVE, STAR CAT BOOK 1 etc. aimed at younger kids. It’s heavy on the laughs and light on the peril without skimping on the danger. Fans of daft fantasy generally will approve. The art style is nice and simple, adding to the cartoony feel.

 

 

JR

Buy Dungeon Fun vol 1: The Adventures Of Fun Mudlifter and read the Page 45 review here

Spider-Man Noir Complete Collection s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Richard Isanove, Bob McLeod, Paco Diaz.

Long-awaited repacking of all previous series about which we wrote something like a decade ago…

Spider-Man Noir.

Free from the constraints of continuity, Hines and Sapolsky have brought something both fresh and festering – which is a neat trick to pull off – and I think if you enjoyed SPIDER-MAN: REIGN, you’ll very much go for this.

America 1933 is in thrall to the most massive recession and the underworld gangster who sits ruthlessly at the top with the politicians, police and industrialists all in his pocket. The gangster is known as The Goblin and his henchmen I will leave you to discover for yourself, but Hine has done something truly hideous (but clever) with The Vulture. Meanwhile, activists May and Peter Parker are causing a political stir in the shantytown of destitute squatters in spite of the threats to their lives – the same threats that saw Ben Parker savagely mutilated. And where is J. Jonah Jameson in all this?

 

 

Get beyond the first page for some strikingly fresh art from Carmine Di Giandomenico whose Vulture now looks like a ravenous Nosferatu. Hine’s done a fine job of building up the unassailable walls the Parkers and press have to climb / fight against, using Ben Urich as the guide, and I like this new Peter, unembarrassed by his socialist aspirations.

What you have to bear in mind is that in America a “socialist” is akin to being a commie, and we all know how America felt and still feels about commies. In 2008’s Presidential election the word “socialist” was used to undermine Obama whereas over here we liberal-lefties – the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and their voters – consider it a badge of honour, because putting the needs of the many ahead of one’s own is actually kinda selfless.

 

 

This is a much bigger collection than the first, so as well as the original SPIDER-MAN NOIR #1-4, it also includes SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1-4, EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #1, SPIDER-GEDDON: SPIDER-MAN NOIR VIDEO COMIC and material from SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #1.

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face…

“He’s also been looking into the disappearance of dozens of negroes from the streets of Harlem over the past few months.”
“But if that were true, we would have heard about it.”
“If they were white you’d have heard about it. Cops don’t take the disappearance of coloureds too seriously.”
“But what about all the missing people? They couldn’t just disappear. “

So it’s round two for the noir-era Peter Parker and his fight against the criminal elements of New York City circa 1933. And after taking down The Goblin last time around, now he’s pitched into conflict with the mysterious Crime Master who has stepped in to fill the inevitable power vacuum Peter created.

 

 

Again, the completely different use of various well known characters – including this time around Robbie Robertson, the Sandman and Doctor Otto Octavius – is what makes this Marvel Noir book work. There’s unpleasantness of many different types going on, not least Octavius’ disturbing experiments in his U.S. government lab on Ellis Island, which somehow seem connected to a certain political party on the rise in Germany. But how is that linked to the Crime Master and his crime empire of speak easies and cat houses, and the strange disappearance of members of the African American community? Maybe the world-wise and semi-reformed Felicia Hardy knows something that might help, if Peter can get close enough to win her confidence, but at what cost to herself?

Nice writing from Hine, who hasn’t lost sight of the fact that this is supposed to be first and foremost a crime story. He spins a good yarn, throws in some suitably unpleasant twists and turns, and once again, a lot of bad things do happen to a lot of nice people.

SLH & JR

Buy Spider-Man Noir Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Build Your Own Theme Park s/c (£16-99, Andrews McMeel) by Lizz Lunney

Moonshadow Definitive Edition h/c (£26-99, Dark Horse) by J. M. DeMatteis & Jon J. Muth with Kent Williams, George Pratt

O Josephine h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Island Book s/c (£17-99, First Second) by Evan Dahm

This Was Our Pact s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Ryan Andrews

Lunch Quest s/c (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Chris Kuzma

Kim Reaper vol 2: Vampire Island s/c (£13-99, Oni Press) by Sarah Graley

Penny Nichols s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by M. K. Reed, Greg Means & Matt Wiegle

Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights h/c (£16-99, Unbound) by Jessica Martin

Detective Comics #1000 Deluxe Ed h/c (£16-99, DC) by various

Hulkverines s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Ario Anindito, Guiu Vilanova

Inside Mari vol 4 (£11-99, Denpa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Edens Zero vol 3 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 10 (£11-99, Kodansha) by Fuse & Taiki Kawakami

Blank Canvas So Called Artists Journey vol 1 (£10-99, Seven Seas) by Akiko Higashimura

Our Dreams At Dusk Shimanami Tasogare vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yuhki Kamatani

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen vol 1 Heed My Call Pt1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yoshinobu Akita & Muraji

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2019 week one

June 5th, 2019

Featuring Sean Michael Wilson, Robert Brown, Brendan McCarthy, David Baillie, Al Ewing, T.C. Eglington, Rob Williams

The Many Not The Few: An Illustrated History Of Britain Shaped By The People (£9-99, Workable) by Sean Michael Wilson & Robert Brown.

“Are you a fan of Karl Marx, then?”
“Sure. Though I think Groucho was funnier.”
“Who?”
“Oh callow youth! Let me tell you about the Marx Brothers another time, or I might lose track again.”

I just threw in that opener so right from the get go you will understand that this is not your typical dry approach to educating people about the important inflection points in the working class history of Great Britain….

Quite the opposite, for whilst you will undoubtedly come away from this far, far better informed than you were before on the salient details, even if you consider yourself remotely politically and historically educated, you will also have been engrossed by the entertainingly resolute presentation of the facts, as recounted to granddaughter Arushi by retired union rep Joe, and perhaps tickled too by many a delightfully humorous aside…

 

 

“All right, so we’re almost up to date. When were you born? ’94, was it?”
“’95. I was a toddler on the night New Labour got elected. Mum said you and your union pals had a big party on election night!”
“Ha, ha! Yeah, we were drunkenly singing ‘Things Can Only Get Better’… and old Wilkins threw up into your granny’s Royal Worcester flower vase.”
“I bet she was mad.”
“Well, she was caught up in the excitement too, so she let it pass.”

Their endearing relationship, straddling a gap of several decades and indeed political differences too – not least on the subject of Brexit – grounds this in-depth chronology in very real human terms…

“Of course the big thing that’s happened recently is voting to leave the EU. I know you were against it, as were a lot of young folks.”
“Yeah, I still don’t get why you were for leaving.”
“Well, I’m old enough to remember when most Leftwingers were against the EU.”

I think it’s worth taking a paragraph or two just to detail what period of time is covered in the ten chapters, prefaced by a foreword from Jeremy Corbyn, no less. Starting with the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 featuring the original poll tax we move through the battles over the rights to use common land c.1549, then onto the 17th century and the English Civil War and the Levellers. Then the mythical Captain Swing (minus his electrical pirates) makes an appearance fighting against agricultural landlords in the 1830s, followed by the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Chartists, then the beginnings of trade unionism proper from 1860s onwards.

 

 

Once we enter the 20th century we have the many labour protests between the two world wars, the brief highpoint of the creation of the NHS and free education, before the chaos of the Winter Of Discontent in 1978-79 leading to the rise of Thatcher and “18 years of neoliberal fury” including the miners’ strike before depositing us into our current end times of Brexit madness.

I think Sean Michael Wilson has done a brilliant job assembling his workers’ manifesto here, with the stoic assistance of historical advisor Doug Nicholls. Robert Brown’s simple, straightforward no-nonsense black and white art style is perfect for portraying this epic march through the heroic efforts of many an individual and collective to fight for the rights of the many over the greed of the few.

 

 

I can’t recommend this highly enough for anyone interested in British political history. I fervently hope it will get picked up and used as a teaching aid in schools so the current crop of young minds are (de-)programmed with a message of how positive changes can be effected if they are prepared to resist and perhaps rage a little against the ever hungry all-consuming machine of neoliberal capitalism.

But still buy comics obviously.

JR

Buy The Many Not The Few: An Illustrated History Of Britain Shaped By The People and read the Page 45 review here

Chopper: Wandering Spirit (£9-99, Rebellion) by David Baillie, Al Ewing, T.C. Eglington, Rob Williams & Brendan McCarthy…

“Without the dreamtime as conduit this cloud has become just science… and is looking for a shape in its own chaos.”
“Look! From the formless chaos something emerges.”
“Shapes taken from its own twisted memory!”

I believe I have just felt myself Judda… (sic).

Regular Page 45 review readers may well know that my favourite all-time 2000AD comics character is one Marlon Shakespeare a.k.a. Chopper. How can one not love someone who takes such great delight in deservedly, continually sticking it to ‘the man’, even earning in the process the very, very, very begrudging respect of Judge Dredd himself? If you want to hear me wax lyrical even further about the Midnight Surfer here is my review of CHOPPER: SURF’S UP.

But back to the review at hand, and I suspect most, if not all people, will be interested in this purely because it is illustrated by the Prince of comics psychedelia himself, Mr Brendan McCarthy. You don’t need me to tell you who the King is, right?

Much like his insane SPIDER-MAN: FEVER which was about as far removed from a Spider-Man story as you could possibly be (by about five dimensions of rational thought, I would estimate), this isn’t really a story about a man on a flying plank. I mean it is, clearly, but it’s primarily a nonsensical, riotously garish Aboriginal-art-themed assault on the mind that just so happens to feature a man on a flying plank. As you do. Well, as Brendan McCarthy does.

 

 

It’s a fabulously frenetic fun and frolics story from David Baillie and I love the nod, well, more like a psychic headbutt, to the Supersurf 10 voyage to Oz epic which I make reference to above by way of the guest villain faux appearance. If you don’t have a clue what I am on about by the way, really do not worry about it. Just sit back and absorb it all in. As the colours start swirling around you may find yourself becoming quite intoxicated…

 

 

In addition to the Chopper story this volume also collects some Mega City One-based Judge Dredd bizarreness illustrated by McCarthy including a great Doctor Who spoof penned by Al Ewing featuring a rogue time travelling scientist and a zombie farce scripted by Rob Williams. Plus a final very short short part-scripted by Brendan himself.

 

 

Note: Rob Williams has a Judge Dredd story from the pages of 2000AD being collected in September called JUDGE DREDD: THE SMALL HOUSE (with art by Henry Flint) which is one of the best Dredd stories I’ve ever read and I believe will come to be regarded as an all-time classic. Should be up on the website with the next month of PREVIEWS, I would imagine.

You’ll find a full (and very large, broadsheet-sized) page drawn by Brendan McCarthy in THE SPIRIT NEWSPAPER comics anthology, distributed worldwide and on sale on our shelves exclusively at Page 45.

JR

Buy Chopper: Wandering Spirit and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Akissi: More Tales Of Mischief (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Cemetery Beach s/c (£15-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

Die vol 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker s/c (£8-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans

Dungeon Fun vol 1: The Adventures Of Fun Mudlifter (£14-99, BHP Comics) by Colin Bell & Neil Slorance

Elfin Lied Omnibus vol 1 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Lynn Okamoto

Good Omens (£8-99, Corgi) by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

Grand Abyss Hotel h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Marcos Prior & David Rubin

Hotel Dare s/c (£7-50, Kaboom) by Terry Blas & Claudia Aguirre

Minecraft vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Dark Horse) by Sfe R. Monster & Sarah Graley

Mirror vol 2: The Nest s/c (£17-99, Image) by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim

Skim (£11-99, Groundwood Books) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 4: Under The Water (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Carlos Porta

Tongues #2 (£10-99, ) by Anders Nilsen

Wandering Luminations: The Art Of Tara McPherson h/c (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Tara McPherson

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

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

Mister Miracle h/c (£29-99, DC) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads

Nightwing vol 8: Knight Terrors s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by Benjamin Percy & Travis Moore

The Dreaming vol 1: Pathways And Emanations s/c (£14-99, DC) by Si Spurrier, Neil Gaiman & Bilquis Evely

Avengers vol 1: War Of The Vampires s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & David Marquez, Andrea Sorrentino

Marvel Knights Punisher By Ennis Complete Collection s/c vol 3 (£35-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Tom Mandrake, Cam Kennedy, Steve Dillon

Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Spider-Man (£8-99, Marvel) by various

Boruto vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Ukyo Kodachi & Mikio Ikemoto

Boruto vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Ukyo Kodachi & Mikio Ikemoto

Boruto vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Ukyo Kodachi & Mikio Ikemoto

Boruto vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Ukyo Kodachi & Mikio Ikemoto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week five

May 29th, 2019

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week five

Featuring Sarah Lightman, Koren Shadmi, AJ Dungo, Manuele Fior

Highwayman s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi…

“How long have you been hitchhiking like this?”
“Roughly three hundred years.”
“Haha. Come on, for real, how long?”
“I’m not sure.
“I’ve been drifting for too long.
“Losing focus.
“I’m starting to think I’ll never find the Source.
“Too many red herrings.”
“The Source?”
“Whoever, or whatever gave me this curse.”
“What curse?”
“Curse, gift. I’m not sure what it is anymore. After all these years, there’s so little I know.”
“You’re making no sense at all now.”

 

 

And that is only in chapter two of seven, of which six move our immortal itinerant, the forever roving titular highwayman, considerably forward in time. Substantially further than three hundred years I will say.

 

 

One chapter, chapter six, is… different.

 

 

There’s also a temporally challenging epilogue too, but I’m reluctant to elaborate any further for fear of spoilers.

Am I making any sense at all now?

No?

Good.

For one of the dubious pleasures of following our deathless drifter, as he quests for the reason behind his peculiar ability to defy the Grim Reaper, is observing the gradual collapse of our Earthly civilisation. No, instead we witness the fall of humankind as society begins to crumble rapidly amidst global warming and the consequent natural catastrophes.

 

It is at all possible that we can adapt and survive these cataclysmic changes, or is humanity entirely doomed? Is the highwayman the only such being to be damned or blessed or are there others of his ilk also gallivanting around the globe? Will he ever find the Source?

 

 

Well…  suffice to say the answers we do get are as shocking as they are surprising. Koren Shadmi (LOVE ADDICT, RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX & THE CREATION OF D&D) turns his hand to produce a truly masterful work of intelligent dystopian science fiction that I found as satisfyingly and frustratingly mysterious as the SNOWPIERCER material.

Artistically Koren has gone for a much cleaner line than with LOVE ADDICT and also a simpler colour palette, opting to have one main different one for each chapter, in multiple shades, with some minimal contrasting colours as and when required. It’s a clever combination of vibrant yet suitably bleak.

Fans of the likes of AAMA by Frederik Peeters, EAST OF WEST by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta will really enjoy this.

JR

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

Red Ultramarine h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Manuele Fior…

“Now don’t dawdle, tell me what this is all about!”
“Well Doctor, it’s about Fausto! Unfortunately, last night…”
“Fausto? You mean Georg Faust? I’m so pleased you’re reading that! I always keep a copy at hand… clearly signed! “Incommensurable work” as Goethe himself called it.
““Part of the power that would always wish evil, and always works the good.”
“You’d like a little clarification on these words of Mefistofeles: is that it, miss?”
“Uh, actually, I… I meant Fausto the architect, remember? Just the other night, he, the archte… doctor?”
“Why do you keep interrupting me!?!
“What else could I have been talking about… besides that fanatical, impertinent dilettante!?!
“Now he even dares to send you here to keep me apprised of his failures!!!
“But I couldn’t care less! Does he think he’s special?
“I’ve seen all kinds! Astrologers and alchemists, sailors and scientists! Seekers of the Philosopher’s Stone! Poets and investigators of the occult!
“All intent on squaring the circle and circling the square…
“They have to find the key, seize the moment, unravel the skein, you know what I mean?”

Not really, and I suspect Miss Silvia is beginning to regret seeking a diagnosis for her architect beau Fausto from the doctor, who might well be more than he appears, including unhinged…

 

 

Still, all the characters in this curious tale that switches between modern day and ancient Crete are more than they seem, for good or ill…

 

 

The sections from years gone by are a retelling of the myth of Icarus and his father Daedalus, the builder of the labyrinth for King Minos to hold his son the infamous Minotaur.

 

 

How precisely that combines with the travails of Fausto in the present, seemingly trapped within the maze of his own mind, I will leave for you discover.

 

 

Suffice to say, everyone needs help sometimes. You just need to be careful who you ask for it…

 

 

Finally translated into English, this is one of Manuel THE INTERVIEW / BLACKBIRD DAYS / 5000KM PER SECOND Fior’s earliest works, not that you would know it as it is a tremendously accomplished piece of writing, once again employing an entirely different art style. How many does the man have?!

Here he deploys practically no linework as such, instead simply primarily using red and black smeared and smudged areas of colours, frequently offset with substantial zones of white used mainly in a negative sense.

It’s an unsettling, uneasy style, almost brutal upon the senses, which mirrors the fractured, tormented madness of Fausto and the devious difficulties faced by Daedalus and Icarus once Minos decides to throw his regal toys right out of the proverbial pram and imprison them inside the labyrinth. Though given Daedalus designed the labyrinth, one would presume that’s not exactly the cleverest Kingly plan in the world…

But what elevates this work to another level entirely is how Fior gradually merges the two seemingly disconnected stories in an altogether unexpected manner, which upon reflection simply makes perfect sense. A genuine triumph of storytelling. I can only hope there is more Fior yet to be translated, never mind what he’s going to create in the future, because once again this is simply magnificent comics. He is such a talent.

JR

Buy Red Ultramarine h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Sarah h/c (£19-99, Myriad) by Sarah Lightman.

“Things improve.
“Only a few times during the day did I feel I couldn’t cope.”

I don’t know about you, but that quiet confession of oh so crippling helplessness – implying so many more days, months or years of even deeper debilitating self-doubt – halted me in my tracks, and made me linger on it for a long, long time.

With its disciplined precision, restricting itself largely to a single image and but a couple of carefully composed sentences (maybe three or four at the most), each page is designed to focus your attention and reward you for listening. Almost every sentence in this arresting work of courageously communicated insight is eminently quotable, for there is nothing that is in any way extraneous. Not one word.

 

 

Its distillation is like the best poetry, free from cleverness and cryptic obfuscation. Moreover, given how complex and overwhelming the inner turmoil which artist Sarah Lightman endured for so long, the reflections in this retrospective are delivered with astonishing clarity.

But like the very best of almost everything, THE BOOK OF SARAH also comes with dry humour, such as the final line here, deftly inserted like a shrug of mock-stoicism:

“I sat on a bench waiting for him to call and tell me that he couldn’t make it. It was fine, of course. I had half expected it.
“Otherwise why would I have chosen such a comfortable bench with such a nice view?”

At one point, in an effort to help heave herself out of the paralysing quagmire, Lightman buys a book called ‘Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Overcoming Regrets, Mistakes, And Missed Opportunities’, and that’s a surprisingly accurate summation of what you’ll be witness to here. I reckon it will resonate with many, profoundly so.

 

 

So what is the situation, Stephen?

The situation is this. In spite of early alienation at school resulting in a dwindling self-confidence (“I watched in wonder as people became themselves, whilst I clung to others to find my own way. At assemblies, the great ones were awarded, appointed and celebrated. I would watch and grow smaller in my own eyes, and theirs.”), Lightman nevertheless enjoys childhood weekends shared with her friends in the Jewish heartlands of north London whose parents welcome them her readily into their homes for much love and laughter. But, as many of us do when we reach university age, those same friends flew the coop to spread their wings. All of them.

Sarah can’t do that.

“I wanted to study at a New York art school and complete my Master’s there. But I recalled the screams and fights that occurred when my sister asserted her choices in life. Like the walls of the Red Sea after Moses departed, when Esther’s rebellious spirit was absent the force of parental control overwhelmed me. I had the chance to take control, but I floundered.”
What ‘Exodus’ – the second chapter, after ‘Genesis’ – expresses so eloquently that it almost broke me is her family’s long-standing, generational tradition of stifling ambition, autonomy and independence, thereby thwarting so much potential. I’m searching for an appropriate description of the family’s chosen mechanisms. Oh, I know, they’re called emotional blackmail and outright threats such as this:
““If you let her go to America, I will divorce you,” my mother had told my father.”

So Sarah doesn’t study there. “Instead, I made another visit to New York, to a city I wasn’t ready for, and to a boyfriend who wanted to build a relationship with me, when I was not even in a relationship with myself.”

This is what I mean by the pithy precision.

Even when she does begin to break fettered bonds, the restrictive damage has already been done.

“I was a free animal, who, having spent her whole life caged, could only walk in circles in this time of freedom, missing the protective walls of her enclosure.
“I’d draw the city I was afraid to engage with.”

 

 

So it is that we come to the drawings themselves. Interspersed with brief bursts of colour which don’t half hit you in the eye, they are predominantly dense and detailed pencil portraits of – and meditations on – ordinary household objects which rarely resonate as ‘ordinary’ when they are family heirlooms (“I inherited lace from a great-great aunt I never knew. I am just a stitch in my family’s woven history.”); religious paintings; Jewish books “bought in the height of my religious fervour” which modern-day Sarah no longer knows what to do with; a great many landscapes of houses, streets, rivers and bridges that have loomed large in Lightman’s life (“Things and spaces speak for me.” The Brooklyn Bridge spoke to her – and there’s thwarted family history there too, given that they got off the boat from Vilna too soon in Liverpool after being told that it was New York City.); her family both past and present in the form of her husband Charlie and indeed future in the form of their young child Harry. These are strikingly light, soft and tender by comparison, some not fully formed just like Harry himself, free from the family baggage that Lightman lugged round with her. “I’ve already decided Harry can go anywhere, when the time comes.”

 

 

Apart from Harry, often cradled in arms or swaddled in a blanket, the images strike me as solitary, heavy with melancholy, intensely solemn but never bleak. They are solid but sad. And they are silent, so very silent.

How could or even should they be otherwise?

I’m not going to even hint at how this ends, but instead leave you with this from Myriad Editions, one of Page 45’s favourite publishers (see our reviews of Jade Sarson’s FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE!, Gareth Brookes’ A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES, Olivier Kugler’s ESCAPING WARS AND WAVES: ENCOUNTERS WITH SYRIAN REFUGEES, Darryl Cunningham’s GRAPHIC SCIENCE and SUPERCRASH: HOW TO HIJACK THE GLOBAL ECONOMY etcetera and indeed etc.):

“The Book of Sarah is missing from the bible, so artist Sarah Lightman sets out to make her own: questioning religion, family, motherhood and what it takes to be an artist in this quietly subversive visual autobiography from NW3. The Jerusalem Bible, Ellerdale Road, St Paul’s Girls School and a baby monitor: books and streets, buildings and objects in this bildungsroman set in Hampstead, North West London.

“Sarah Lightman has been drawing her life since she was a 22-year-old undergraduate at The Slade School of Art. THE BOOK OF SARAH traces her journey from modern Jewish orthodoxy to a feminist Judaism, as she searches between the complex layers of family and family history that she inherited and inhabited. While the act of drawing came easily, the letting go of past failures, attachments and expectations did not. It is these that form the focus of Sarah’s astonishingly beautiful pages, as we bear witness to her making the world her own.”

 

 

Okay, I’m also going to leave you with this, because honestly!

“I was set up on a blind date and wore unflattering red velvet trousers. After a stilted conversation at the Selfridges bar, he drove me home and, when I went into the bathroom, he promptly asked my flatmate for a date.”

SLH

Buy The Book Of Sarah h/c and read the Page 45 review here

In Waves (£16-99, Nobrow) by AJ Dungo…

Well, prepare to have your tears come crashing down your cheeks like Patrick Swayze falling off that big wave at the end of ‘Point Break’…

I nearly added dude, but that seems a bit insensitive given that this work joins the disparate canon of material that has caused me to cry on public bloody transport!! Fortunately it was a sunny day so I had my shades to hide my reddening salty eyes from my fellow i4 bus travellers…

Here’s the publisher to give you some idea of what is about to come crashing down all over your head, emotionally speaking, whilst I attempt to compose myself…

“A tale of love, heartbreak and surfing from an important new voice in comics. IN WAVES is Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS meets Barbarian Days*. In this visually arresting graphic novel, surfer and illustrator AJ Dungo remembers his late partner Kristen, her battle with cancer, and their shared love of surfing that brought them strength throughout their time together.

With his passion for surfing uniting many narratives, he intertwines his own story with those of some of the great heroes of surf in a rare work of non-fiction that is as moving as it is fascinating.”

* In case you are wondering by the way Barbarian Days is an acclaimed prose memoir by William Finnegan about his love of surfing (you can read a review on the Guardian website here).

I concur completely with that final phrase! I found myself absolutely gripped like a soon-to-be arterial spraying stump of a leg between a Great White’s jaws with AJ Dungo’s history of modern surfing featuring the life stories of such luminaries as Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian native regarded as the father of surfing (who also managed to find time to win five Olympic medals for swimming) and Tom Blake who revolutionised board design creating the template for the boards still used today. The endpapers, cast in a sepia tone akin to old photographs, are a lovely tribute to this duo of surf deities.

 

 

In fact, I learnt that the sport had its roots as a way of life for all Hawaiians, young and old alike, before the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown (becoming a republic for a few years before being finally annexed by the United States) and the influx of non-natives began to drive the vast majority of the indigenous population out the very waters which they had always regarded as part of their cultural heritage.

I found the sections regarding surfing exceptionally engrossing and it did almost make me reconsider having another attempt at learning to surf after a near death experience on my first (and only) attempt in Newquay many years ago. In fairness to the shop owner who had rented me and my friend the boards and wetsuits on a particularly blustery day when the waves were regularly hitting a good six feet, we had neglected to tell him the key piece of information that we had never surfed before.

After we returned totally exhausted, completely bedraggled and having been utterly unable to stand up for even a millisecond, he excitedly asked if we’d had a good time, assuming we’d been loving the big waves. When we belatedly confessed our inexperience he laughed his head off and explained he’d given us the sleekest, fastest boards he had and then went in the back to produce what looked like two enormous perfectly rectangular polystyrene floats that might be used to save someone from drowning. Errr… in fact, that’s exactly what they were! But we were far too knackered to have another go… Maybe one day…

 

 

Anyway… the joyful, exuberant sections on surfing are in stark contrast to the tragic story of AJ’s girlfriend Kristen. Yes, there is certainly joy, and much inspiration, to be found in the way she valiantly battled against her terminal cancer for as long as she possibly could, including going surfing with him and her brother despite having had to have to her leg amputated as a teenager, but ultimately this is also the desperately tragic story of her untimely passing and how profoundly it affected AJ and her family.

 

 

Artistically it will not surprise you to learn that AJ has gone for the many greens and blues of the ocean itself for his colour palette alongside some lovely clean linework. His style is perfectly in keeping with the serene nature of his storytelling.

 

 

I would defy anyone to read this and not be moved like a bobbing surfer sat atop his board awaiting the next big swell.

In fact once we arrive at the conclusion of this work, where the precise nature of the title becomes apparent and AJ allows Kristen have the simply the most perfect last word possible, I was practically surfing a sea of my own tears off the bus…

JR

Buy In Waves and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Okay, it’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, so you’ll find this week’s New Releases, delivered a day later but on our shelves already, linked to here once we’ve got them online when this sentence will cheerfully self-destruct in favour of the following.

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

Bezimena h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Nina Bunjevac

Chopper: Wandering Spirit (£9-99, Rebellion) by David Baillie, Al Ewing, T.C. Eglington, Rob Williams & Brendan McCarthy

Grace, Based On Jeff Buckley Story s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Tiffanie DeBartolo & Pascal Dizin, Lisa Reist

Grunt h/c Art And Unpublished Comics Of James Stokoe (£31-99, Dark Horse) by James Stokoe

House Of Black Spot s/c (£10-99, Koyama) by Ben Sears

Jinks & O’Hare, Funfair Repair s/c (£6-99, Oxford University Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Paradox Girl vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Image) by Cayti Bourquin & Yishan Li

Pope Hats #6 Shapeshifter (£5-99, Adhouse Books) by Hartley Lin

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 3 h/c (£44-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

The Worst Book Ever h/c (£13-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Elise Gravel

DC Super Hero Girls vol 8: Spaced Out s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Agnes Garbowska

Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka vol 2 s/c (£24-99, DC) by Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns & Drew Johnson, Rags Morales, Sean Phillips, James Raiz, Justiniano

Sandman vol 8: World’s End (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, DC Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss, Michael Zulli, Michael Allred, Alec Stevens, Shea Anton Pensa, Gary Amaro

Punisher vol 2 War In Bagalia s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Szymon Kudranski

Spider-Man Noir Complete Collection s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by David Hine, various & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Richard Isanove, Bob McLeod, Paco Diaz

I’m Standing On A Million Lives s/c (£9-99, Kodansha) by Naoki Yamakawa & Akinari Nao

Barefoot Gen vol 10 s/c (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nalazawa

Gantz Omnibus vol 3 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week four

May 22nd, 2019

Featuring Mariko Tamaki, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Sarah Graley, Julian Voloj, Soren Mosdal, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Francois Boucq

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me s/c (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell.

Exquisitely beautiful and wickedly funny, yet in places so poignant it’s painful!

It’s also my Book of the Year.

I’ve an infamous habit of declaring this as early as February or March. This year, therefore (it being May), I’m feeling reasonably restrained, and never more confident in my life.

That’s partly because I’m not 17-year-old Freddy Riley, writing here to an online columnist called Anna Vice:

“For almost the past year I’ve been in love with a girl named Laura Dean.
“Which is the hardest thing I’ve ever been.”

Now, why would that be?

Is it because Laura’s a young lady and so is Freddy? No, not at all, because Berkeley, California, is as effortlessly enlightened as you like, as is the high school that they’re both attending. Idyllically so! Plus Freddy has plenty of friends to look after her, like Doodle and cool couple Buddy and Eric.

 

 

 

Is it because poor love-struck Freddy can only swoon in the shadows from afar, her love unrequited, unacknowledged? No, it’s not that: the couple are fully fledged girlfriends!

Is it because Laura’s a fractious outcast, then, angry at a world which chooses to shun her? Nope, it’s most definitely not that, for Laura Dean is deliciously chic, deliriously up-tempo, and comports herself confidently with such natural charisma that wherever she wanders a crowd quickly gathers round her of equally exuberant and up-for-it acolytes. Laura has what you’d call presence!

She also has what you’d call absence.

“Because Laura Dean…
“Keeps breaking up with me.”

And it’s the way in which she does it that’s the killer, quite often during holiday celebrations by getting off with another girl, in public, and allowing herself to be seen, so signalling their split that way. Nice! Then she responds to Freddy’s texted heartbreak with such cheerful affection that it’s almost impossible to argue.

“Don’t be mad.
“xoxo”

 

 

And Freddy doesn’t argue, especially when she’s asked back – charmingly, disarmingly – much to the growing dismay of her mates. They’ve seen the damage done to their tearful friend’s mental well being and reputation after she barfs up drunkenly in Doris’ Donuts (and indeed upon Doris’s donuts!) right in front of the cafe’s seen-it-all stoical and surprisingly forgiving waitress, Vi. You’ll like Vi.

But no, Laura will suddenly reappear out of nowhere, radiant, unapologetic, proffering no explanation, reclining on steps leading up to a veranda, perfectly at ease with her phone, herself and her geographical location.

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
“Fancy meeting you here.”
“At my house.”

You’ve got to admire her chutzpah! And it works, every time.

 

 

We’re treated to nearly 300 pages of dreamy, idle-afternoon highs as well as lightning-bolt shocks that will knock your socks off, because LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME is one of those “There but for the grace of God, go I” graphic novels. I thought I’d gone through the emotional teenage wringer, but I’m not feeling half so badly done to now!

In so many ways this reminds me of Sarah Burgess’s THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR (we really need to see the second and third volumes back in print, someone) and you may already know Mariko Tamaki from the bilberry blue book of huge empathy and understanding towards young girls on holiday in THIS ONE SUMMER, and the equally reflective, meet-yourself LUISA, NOW AND THEN, plus SKIM which is back in stock now! The behavioural observation in each is as astute as it is here, but LAURA DEAN packs more of a tumultuous punch. Almost everyone here is going to experience some degree of heartache and heartbreak, whether it’s the ‘Sense And Sensibility’ conflict between being open and honest – uncompromisingly so – or a little more considerate towards others’ sensitivities, the careless neglect or relegation of a friend (file under ‘learned behaviour’) or the sheer bewilderment of being invited to what you’d supposed was an intimate evening to enhance reconciliation, only to discover it’s a full-blown, Bacchic party with the wild set , and then being given the lose / lose option of staying or leaving, entirely up to you because your girlfriend honestly (no, honestly!) doesn’t care either way.

 

 

Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a complete revelation to me. The cover’s a stunner but the insides are every bit as passionate, gentle, delicate and nuanced on page after page after page. The hands held or touching tentatively and tenderly are just-so, and the eye-shut smiles of blissful delight are as perfectly perceived and rendered whether they’re during a shared confidence or basking in the exuberant affection of friends. The fashions too are fab – Berkeley’s no inhibitor of individuality – and I especially adored Vi’s luxurious, bleached-white curls of thick hair, small eyeball earrings, bracelet, mini-skirt and snake-coiled black summer top as she sits down with Freddy for a thankfully barf-free coffee and catch-up. They bond so soon in their friendship through what have already become self-effacing, shared, running jokes. Vi goes first.

“Girlfriend? Partner?”
“Sort… of.”
“Oh right! Shit I forgot. So, uh, things are… still crappy?”
“I can’t even talk about it because everyone’s so sick of hearing about it.”
“Yeah, but you don’t know me, so it’s okay. And we’ve already established I’m overly familiar with new people.”
“Yeah, still. I don’t know. I just worked my way back from Random Puker. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to be Desperate Girlfriend.”

 

 

I love the way Freddy plays with her hair there. Throughout, the body language is exquisite. Have I used the word “exquisite” already? I won’t apologise; it’s one of those books where it’s completely unavoidable. I’d even apply it to the speech balloon placement and the lettering within, especially all the slightly taller ‘k’s.

So let’s talk foliage and shadow. Berkeley appears to be well lush. You’ll find pots of fronds by all the front doors under shady awnings, sprays of large waxy leaves in the cafe courtyards, virile climbers crawling up metal mesh fences, and blooms abounding even within wall-mounted picture frames. Outside almost every window, even at school, tall bushy trees can be seen. Speaking of windows, some of the backlit panels cast a pall over those who aren’t faring so well, whereas the arrival of some characters casts shadows over others, figuratively and otherwise. The mood control is very precise and highly evocative and so effective.

I haven’t delved deeply into the supporting (and desperate-to-be-supportive) cast because I want you to discover them for yourselves. I wish Freddy would. In a world where everyone’s checking their mobile every two seconds in lieu of living in the moment, here’s cell-phone-free Doodle (“modern technology will be the end of us all”) with an anecdote entirely irrelevant to Freddy’s cyclical predicament, honest-to-god.

“So there was this guy? In Ohio? And he thought he was locked in the house? So he axed a hole in his door. The cops came and they said the door was unlocked…”
“Mmm.”
“The whole time.”
“…”
“…”
“The door was unlocked the whole time.”

 

 

Doodle, Buddy and Eric are no mere chorus, but fully realised individuals who will, I promise you, surprise. One revelation in particular threw me so completely because I’d made wholly unwarranted presumptions about an alternative revelation which I thought I’d seen coming, so I can also assure you that this is all far from obvious.

And this is important: if Laura had been constructed as a destructive, manipulative nightmare, consciously messing with Freddy’s heart and mind for the sheer satisfaction of it – to do wanton damage to see if she could get away with it and so boost her own ego (and I’ve known some) – then okay, you might be rooting for Freddy all the same, desperate for her to see what’s not just staring her in the face, but slapping it too, and for Freddy to extricate herself as soon as possible from all that cruel abuse. But this is more complex, for that’s not who Laura is. It’s not that her behaviour is calculated to hurt at all; she’s simply oblivious to any pain that her own genuinely carefree, attach-less attitude causes. And it always works out for her. She’s never been turned down.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, I do recall some of my own friends’ advice, very kindly meant, which I too completely ignored because I was smitten.

As my duly declared book of 2019, this is fervently recommended to fans of Tillie Walden (I LOVE THIS PART etc – and I’m talking in terms of the visuals as well as sexuality), all previous Mariko and Jillian Tamaki outings, BLOOM, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR, and to any Young Adult – gay or straight – as confused as I was by the complexities of romance that may well be soon be heading your way or already troubling you today.

Killer punchline too, reprising what went before.

You may find yourself punching the air.

SLH

Buy Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Glitch Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition (s/c £13-99, h/c £23-99, Scholastic) by Sarah Graley…

“Whoa, what’s going on?! What’s that?!”
“It’s our friendship gauge!
“We just levelled up. I knew we had the potential!
“As our level gets higher, we’ll become a stronger and better team.
“And now, as your better friend, I can tell that you really want to go… LOOT SOME DUNGEONS!
“We’ll start by destroying the Treehouse Dungeon!”
“Aw, no, that sounds cute!”
“It’s full of evil.”
“Oh, okay then, let’s smash it!”

Haha, are you one of those people like Izzy who dives straight into a new video game skipping straight past all those boooooring tutorials? Well if so, don’t ignore the publisher blurb or you’ll miss some vital knowledge that might just save you from likes of the pop-up exploding hand grenade on page 45…

Okay, you got me… there is no pop-up exploding hand grenade on page 45… BUT… do be careful when you open your copy that your Page 45 exclusive bookplate doesn’t pop out. Limited whilst stocks last…

 

 

On with the blurb, no skipping now!

“From comics rising star Sarah Graley (KIM REAPER / OUR SUPER ADVENTURE / OUR SUPER AMERICAN ADVENTURE / RICK & MORTY: LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR), a fresh and funny middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl who must save a virtual world and her own! Izzy can enter the world of her new video game!

She meets Rae, a robot who says Izzy is destined to save Dungeon City from the Big Boss. How is this possible? And how can she fight for this virtual world when she’s got a whole real life to keep up with: her family (though she could do without her mom’s annoying cat), and her best friend, Eric.

Things get even weirder when Izzy loses a life inside the game and worries about what might happen if she gets a Game Over for good. Meanwhile, Eric has been super upset with Izzy since she’s been keeping secrets and bailing on their plans. Can Izzy survive Dungeon City and save their friendship?”

Tsk, tsk, tsk Izzy, you did promise you would wait for Eric before starting playing Dungeon City, didn’t you…? But then… we do know how addictive video games can be, don’t we, folks? They are up there with comics for their time-thievery capabilities…

 

 

 

Sarah has created an extremely enjoyable and often comedic tale for us here. As Izzy gets drawn deeper and deeper into the virtual world and gradually begins to lose touch with the real one, much to the dismay, bafflement and irritation of Eric, her parents and her teachers, it starts to become apparent that perhaps her new friend might not be all he’s been coded up to be…

This is a great exploration of the nature of friendship; how we can take it for granted and just what extraordinary lengths truly great friends will go to in order to help save us from ourselves, running parallel with a cackle-inducing cautionary look at the crack-like levels of digital dependency that video games can induce.

Typing as someone who couldn’t touch a keyboard for several months with repetitive strain injury after spending eight hours a day (and night) playing Soldier Of Fortune 2, I can completely understand how getting sucked into a video game for real would actually be intriguing, exciting and ultimately all-consuming.

Sarah’s depiction of an excitable Izzy getting lured further and further into console calamity by her own desires to forget her real world woes and continue levelling up into a battle-hardened bad ass – with great atavistic hair of course – is entirely credible. Izzy chooses Space Witch as her character class by the way, as presumably PIZZA WITCH wasn’t available!

Equally compelling is Eric’s determination to get to the bottom of what is causing her best chum’s new-found narcolepsy which is driving her teachers mad. Her parents, meanwhile, are wondering if Izzy’s locking herself in her room all the time because she’s being bullied at school again. Any attempts at gently interrogating her of course leading to an immediate all-too-typical teenage explosion!

There’s a lot of fairly complex storytelling going on here for an all-ages work and it is to Sarah’s  great credit that she weaves the various strands together very neatly indeed. Artistically her cute style is perfectly suited to this heart-warming, fun tale and I love her character expressions, particularly the ones that go well beyond realism into the outrageously hilarious. I did also find myself chucking throughout as robot Rae reminded me a little bit of one Bender Bending Rodríguez, which once I had seen I couldn’t un-see of course!

 

 

I think this is Sarah’s best work to date by far. I’ve always appreciated the merits of her art and her characters, but her plotting here in particular is considerably more complex than previous outings and shows a really strong progression in her writing. I can see why Scholastic snapped up the opportunity to put this out.

I note she pays tribute to several people at the publishing house for their “…helping making this into an actual real book that exists in the world. Their guidance has been indispensable.” With their track record in excellent all-ages material Scholastic are clearly obviously keen to work closely with emerging talent and help them advance, which is obviously brilliant to hear about and of course see the fruits of.

Make sure you pick up your levelled-up copy whilst we still have hand numbered and signed (and a little heart too, bless you Sarah!) exclusive Page 45 bookplates featuring a floating “but not fly, let’s not get carried away” Izzy about to wield her magic staff to bash the bonce of the ultimate big bad boss! Or is he…?

 

 

Please see USER graphic novel by Devin Grayson, Sean Phillips and John Bolton for more games-based addiction.

JR

Buy Glitch s/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Glitch h/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition and read the Page 45 review here

 

Basquiat (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Julian Voloj & Soren Mosdal

“You were born in the era of pop culture.
“Your life was full of drama.
“Your mother was institutionalised when you were still a child.
“You left when you were fifteen.”

As someone who never had a great appreciation of art of any sort (other than the sequential variety of course!) in my younger days – and still struggle with pretty anything one would describe as pre-modern, being completely frank – I can personally say the work of Jean-Michael Basquiat had quite the impact once I finally discovered it.

That was through the 1996 arthouse film also entitled simply enough, ‘Basquiat’. Ironically, I only watched it because I had heard David Bowie was portraying Andy Warhol which I was intrigued to see. Bowie gives a great performance, actually, but a young Jeffrey Wright (who has since graced many a Hollywood film and big TV show) totally engaged me as the doomed young street artist.

 

 

What completely blew me away, though, was seeing Basquiat’s neo-expressionistic art, or ‘ignorant art’ as he himself refers to his early works in the film. I’d never seen anything quite like it, much like New York in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, where he swiftly became lauded as an emerging artistic genius. By August 12th 1998, however, he was dead, aged just 27, of a heroin overdose.

This work, cleverly narrated by a character from one of his most iconic paintings entitled ‘Flexible’, seen here as a kind of extension / reflection of Basquiat, tells us some of the key points from his all too brief life. The starting point being his recuperation from being knocked down by a car aged 7 when a gift of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, a frankly seemingly bizarre choice of gift for a small child from his mother (though as mentioned above she ended up being institutionalised), sent his artistic curiosity into overdrive.

 

 

This work has quite an unsettling feel to it, in part due to the surrealistic, narcissist narrational conceit and also due to the intentionally primitive yet vibrantly alive art style which is all perfectly in keeping with the mercurial nature (and art style) of the man himself.

I think Basquiat’s chaotic, unstable upbringing, which led to many questionable, indulgent, selfish, destructive and certainly immature life choices, clearly had absolutely everything to do with his artistic output. Consider the following quotation, which prefaces this work, then look at his art, and you’ll see immediately what I mean…

“I don’t think about art when I’m working.
“I try to think about life.”

 

 

If I can fault this work in any way, it would be that it doesn’t get into an evaluation of Basquiat’s art. I guess that’s not necessarily the purpose of a biography per se, but to me, the theme of “suggestive dichotomies” that ran through much, if not all of his prodigious output, explains so, so much about the man in its own right.

One is also minded to wonder what he might have gone on to create and just how huge he would have become culturally if he had lived even another ten years. But as fellow acclaimed street artist Keith Haring wrote as part of his eulogy, “He truly created a lifetime of works in ten years. Greedily, we wonder what else he might have created, what masterpieces we have been cheated out of by his death, but the fact is that he has created enough work to intrigue generations to come. Only now will people begin to understand the magnitude of his contribution.”

Very true, very true. Hopefully this work will inspire other individuals to investigate Basquiat’s art and make up their own minds and, who knows, perhaps even begin to create some art of their own.

Also available in this SelfMadeHero series and reviewed: GAUGUIN, PABLO (Picasso), VINCENT (Van Gogh), MUNCH.

JR

Buy Basquiat and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Face h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq…

“We must reach the Palace Of Pleasures before the doors close!”
“You two go in! I’ll try and stop the Carnival Of Fools before they’re all massacred.”

Cut off from the world and ruled without any dissent whatsoever by the mad dictator Oscar Lazo, absolute head of a quasi-religious order known as the Kondukators and their madcap Ovarian system (whatever that is), complete with his troublesome, aggravating comedy haemorrhoids, the island Damanuestra is about to undergo a tumultuous time under the surging surf courtesy of the mysterious ‘wave tamer’ Moon Face. The established, and ferociously guarded socio-political order is about to be well and truly dunked and disrupted by the arrival of this catalyst of change who will silently foment revolution with some serious white caps that make the Great Wave off Kanagawa look like end of the pier ripples…

 

 

This work is classic Jodorowsky, setting up a world under the influence of an all-controlling, all-perverse, all-most-definitely-unpleasant-and-odious-power and promptly setting about bringing it all crashing down. Originally released in 3 or 5 volumes in French, depending on how you look at it (trust me, it had a bit of an odd publication history…) we are fortunate to get the whole lunar body in this one translated collection.

Another major plus is the incredible artwork. Reunited with his sidekick from his BOUNCER saga, Francois Boucq, you can feel the immense power of Moon Face’s waves and their equally impactful influence on the regime, and by extension, Lazo’s bumhole raisins! Surreal, satirical, utterly preposterous and equally ridiculous, this is an extremely amusing examination of the desperate lengths people will go to hold onto power even when the proverbial tide is turning against them faster than King Canute. So surely it’s no surprise to see what looks like a young Margaret Thatcher depicted as one of the authoritarian figures! I suspect there may well be a few European politicians of that era and religious figures getting lampooned in there too.

 

 

If I had one criticism to make, it would be the same one I level at what is probably my favourite work of Jodorowsky’s (after THE INCAL which stands alone in its near perfection), which is MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART, in that the concluding part is the weakest in terms of the story-telling. Not by much, but it does feel slightly like Jodorowsky’s managed to get his characters and by extension himself so magnificently metaphysically tangled up that he’s concentrating on writing a clever way out rather than being as seemingly spontaneously entertaining as the opening two-thirds is. Which is clearly written with relish and gradually just lets the chaos build and build in a gloriously discordant manner. I guess it’s always harder to rein it all back in than just let it go. It is a most satisfying conclusion however.

JR

Buy Moon Face h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Thinking Room (£9-99, University Of Nottingham) by Carol Adlam

The Avant-Guards vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Carly Usdin & Noah Hayes

The Book Of Sarah h/c (£19-99, Myriad) by Sarah Lightman

Buffy The Vampire Slayer vol 1: High School Is Hell s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Jordie Bellaire & Dan Mora

Cover vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack

East Of West vol 9 (£14-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Friendo vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Alex Paknadel & Martin Simmonds

Highwayman s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi

The Legend Of Korra: Ruins Of The Empire Part One (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Michelle Wong

Life Is Strange vol 1: Dust s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Emma Vieceli & Claudia Leonardi

Meat And Bone (£22-99, Conundrum Press) by Kat Verhoeven

Middlewest Book vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Skottie Young & Jorge Corona

Midnight Radio s/c (£13-99, Lion Forge) by Iolanda Zanfardino

Red Ultramarine h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Manuele Fior

Redlands vol 2: Water On The Fire (£14-99, Image) by Jordie Bellaire & Vanesa Del Rey

Fantastic Four vol 2: Mr And Mrs Grimm s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Gail Simone, Fred Hembeck & Aaron Kuder, various

Silver Surfer: Epic Collection – Inner Demons s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by J.M DeMatteis, various & Ron Garney, various

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week three

May 15th, 2019

Featuring Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, Dave Stewart, Joakim Drescher, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer, Andrea Mutti, Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Posy Simmonds

Magic Order vol 1 (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel with Dave Stewart.

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

 – William Shakespeare, ‘King Lear’

Poor Cordelia, side-lined by her father for failing to flatter him!

Or, in this Cordelia’s case, for being so contrary that she cannot be trusted, so unreliable that she fails to make family funerals (and then turns up plastered) and is a catastrophic liability when it comes to being hired as a magician for children’s birthday parties. It’s come to my attention recently that parents are now expected to hang around and make small talk with each other during their sproglets’ celebrations: in our day parents considered it a few hours free babysitting and buggered off to enjoy their brief break of freedom.

Far from enjoying a brief break of freedom following her most recent engagement, chic but worse-for-wear Cordelia finds herself sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs.

 

 

“What kind of a person gets arrested at a five-year-old’s birthday party?”
“The magician, obviously.”
“How the hell does that even happen? You’re supposed to be in there making balloon animals and shit.”
“Well, I guess it all took a turn for the worse when the mother caught me fucking her husband in the kitchen. She threw a punch. I hit her back. Next thing you know, we’re wrestling on a bouncy castle and some kid’s having an asthma attack.”

She pauses, easing her back leather jacket back off her shoulders, eyes staring wearily into space.

“I think the moral of this story is never pour vodka on your breakfast cereal when you run out of milk.”

 

 

One of the cops reads Cordelia’s business card.

““Children’s Entertainer. Stage Magician. Professional Escapologist.” “Is escapology even a thing?”
“Take a look in your rearview mirror.”

Cordelia’s gone, leaving only the handcuffs.

 

 

Deliciously drawn by Olivier Coipel and coloured by Dave Stewart with relish, this is meticulously constructed for maximum hindsight-satisfaction after the three successive whiplash revelations / reversals in the final two acts. It’s by far the finest thing that Mark Millar’s written since JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 2, JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 2 (suggested reading order, otherwise the last one will leave you utterly baffled as to one man’s motivation and its emotional core), and it’s infinitely more accessible for you can file this self-contained graphic novel under 16+, horror, comedy, fantasy and yet another good old family feud. That’s what King Lear’s all about too.

For King Lear, I give you the patriarch Leonard, performing stunts live every night to a packed-out theatre and basking in his audience’s adulation. He’s father to Cordelia, Regan and Gabriel, the last of whom has left the family business after losing his daughter to said family business. The family business in question is magic; specifically saving an unsuspecting global population from the darker forces at large without them ever being aware of The Magic Order’s efforts or indeed existence. They’ve done it for generations, consulting each other from their castle base which has been hidden inside a painting since a security breach in 1986. Now it cannot be accessed except through formal invitation. Its permanent resident is dear Uncle Edgar, who’s seen better days and no longer allowed out to play. Let me be plain: he is forbidden from leaving the castle.

 

 

The feud in question stems from the slight of Leonard inheriting the family business from his Uncle Conrad instead of Conrad’s own daughter, Madame Albany, another thankless child deemed untrustworthy who has since taken it upon herself to dress in flowing, funereal black and a black rubber gimp mask. With the head-of-house mantle also came The Orichalcum, a book containing the darkest spells of Old Atlantis, bequeathed to Leonard only on the strict condition that he never open it. It is housed securely in the castle’s library.

Albany only wants that which she deems to be hers, and to prove her father wrong in failing to trust in her honourable intentions.

 

 

To that end she has acquired the assistance of The Venetian, a porcelain-masked assassin otherwise bearing a striking resemblance to Guy Davis’s Vol de Galle from THE MARQUIS, only with a wand instead of sabre and pistols.

I can assure you that the wand is catastrophically more effective: within the first four pages The Venetian has dispatched the first of the family’s inner circle by possessing his infant son, who climbs stealthily up over the contented couple’s post-coital sheets like a vampire bat, before thrusting a kitchen knife up through his father’s throat. There’s barely time for a graveside post-mortem squabble before the rest of the family start falling like flies.

This is important: they’ve no time to rally. There’ll be nothing new that they can bring to the table with which to defend themselves, only their resolve and character.

As to The Venetian’s disposition, one of his assaults involves jamming the doors of a taxi then flooding it from the inside with a wave of his wand and the customary car-command when once there were petrol pump attendants of:

“Fill ‘er up.”

 

 

Now, the thing about magic is that there must be rules.

Without rules it’s just nebulous, free-form hocus pocus with no room for tension.

Mark Millar establishes all the rules very early on and – like any great conjuror – he does so while distracting you so that you don’t even notice. When everything’s played out so satisfyingly, however, and you look back in retrospect, they’ve all been hidden in plain sight, I promise!

 

 

Equally distracting is all the art.

You may know Olivier Coipel from his distinctly Norse eyebrows in J. Michael Straczynksi’s THOR VOL 1 (or as I call it “Loki be a lady tonight”), Marvel’s HOUSE OF M and CIVIL WAR II. If so you’ll know that his forms are bold and his fashion sense exquisite. Even Gabriel’s affectation-free dismissal of all but the most comfortable clothes works, for it places him resolutely in the world of quotidian life, vowing never to return to that which killed his daughter in order to protect his mentally vulnerable wife. When his daughter appears in flashbacks, it will floor you.

Yet Dave Stewart has here switched to a far softer style, colouring over Coipel’s precise lines in order to render them not just moody but far more ethereal, which is perfect for when the physical realms start shifting subtly and very, very dangerously. Particularly striking are Madame Albany’s eyes – cold black dots on ice-white, glassy balls – and The Black Kingdom Castle (“It’s rumoured to be accessed through a crack in an asylum wall. Others say it sits in the shadow of a former church.”), rising brutally from sharply spiked, Stygian grey mists like a multiple-towered, ebony stake through easily giving flesh.

 

 

Meanwhile, back to Cordelia, who’s been an escape artist, practically speaking, since very soon after conception.

“I don’t know why I’m less reliable that the others. Maybe it’s because Mom got tired of Dad’s infidelities and left him for a regular Joe who didn’t know her past. Maybe it’s because Dad tried to abort me. But I’ve made bad choices my entire life, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
“So I drink too much, fuck the wrong guys, and try to gain my father’s approval by doing the same job he does. My friends say I’m needy and they’re probably right. Should I really give a fuck what my father thinks, when I’m standing on the cusp of turning thirty in September?”

We pull back on the next page to reveal whom she’s addressing, shell-shocked, under banners and balloons.

“Anyways, I hope you kids had a lovely party.”

Like FROM HELL, this isn’t a whodunit, it’s a whydunit.

But, unlike FROM HELL, please don’t think you know any of the answers yet.

SLH

Buy Magic Order vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Pearl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos…

“No orientals. Have I ever told you that? This was one of those streets. Not anymore.
“Pearl. Not to worry… I already figured it out.
“Steady hand with the tattoo needle. Steady hand with a gun.
“Steady.
“All these years, no one ever connected the two professions…”
“Mr Miike. I was just there.”
“Just ‘one of those things.’”
“Exactly.”
“The thing is… things like that become bigger things.
“Do not worry. I am not giving you to the other clan.
“Come with me.”

Well, I guess being an incredibly talented tattoo artist and ‘accidental assassin’ isn’t the most preposterous employment overlap.  I mean, I’m a comics retailer and a ninja on the quiet… Though I only sling shuriken when people don’t pick up their standing orders…

Anyway… Pearl’s hidden skills are revealed when she saves the life of a fellow tattooist at a food cart from an Uzi-wielding motorcyclist, by popping the biker straight in the head with a pistol given to her for protection by her dad, who is currently doing a long stretch in prison.

Certainly Mr Miike, the local Yakuza boss sees Pearl’s sharp shooting as grounds for  involuntary advancement within the ‘business’ and promptly hands her a list of people to take care of. You know, permanently.

Unfortunately top of the docket is one Rick Araki, the name of tattooist she’s just earned an undying debt of gratitude from for not letting him be ventilated good and proper. Oh and she quite fancies him too…

This is going to get complicated isn’t it?

Of course it is, for this is Bendis back on top crime-related form, paired up with his Jessica Jones co-creating crony Michael ALIAS Gaydos! So before too long you’ll be wondering just how naive Pearl really is, precisely what it is her banged-up dad is actually protecting her from, and be in absolutely no doubt whatsoever how fucking annoying her best mate Kim is.

The hidden games that seemingly everyone is playing soon start to be revealed, much like Pearl’s tattoos that only appear all over her albino white skin when she becomes flushed, merely one of many exquisite artistic flourishes from Gaydos.

Pearl also has another tattoo, a very visible spider on her wrist inked by a near-mythical master named Iriguci, which is actually responsible for kicking off all her current woes. I suspect we may eventually find out more about that spectacular arachnid specimen, the precise circumstances of how she came by it and indeed the mysterious Iriguci himself…

It’s an intriguing, action-packed opener from two talents operating at peak efficiency. I found the story from Bendis more than sufficiently complex in comparison to his recent DC capes output, which I have to say, really feels like it has to still get going for me. But if he keeps producing works like this and the mildly comedic COVER in conjunction with David Mack, about a comics artist who gets recruited as a spy, though, then I won’t really care.

Gaydos, meanwhile, is just on top absolute top form here. The backgrounds, patterned panel layouts, full page spreads, you name it, I could wax lyrical about so much, but I will let the interior art I have selected speak for itself. I’m not sure I could do it just anyway.

It isn’t often I will just flick through a book again after reading it to absorb matters on an entirely purely artistic level, but I did so for a good twenty minutes on finishing this. Absolutely masterful and entirely faultless. Gaydos would probably make an exceptional tattooist. I’d certainly trust him to ink me based on this work. I’d probably not offer to get myself into a life and death situation and hand him a pistol to save the day mind.

Crazy thought that, though… The next thing, you’ll be telling me a comics artist would make a great spy too… what glorious lunatic would come up with a crazy concept like th… Ah!

JR

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

 

Circle h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

The third in what I call Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s ‘Iconic Shape Trilogy’ (my favourite by far being SQUARE), this comes with a question right at the end which I believe you’ll find very, very hard to answer. Our Jonathan was understandably a little sceptical – as you may well be yourself – until I showed it to him.

He thought for a moment, then grinned and chuckled.

And that to me is the genius of this one. Not necessarily that it brought a smile to Jonathan’s face, though that’s always a bonus, but that… well, I do believe I’ve got in covered it my very first sentence.

 

 

 

So much so that I send you instead to Page 45’s Jon Klassen Section for lengthier reviews dealing with why we think that he and Mac Barnett are so ridiculously clever, why I believe some of their all-ages picture books are also comics, and how much mileage Jon Klassen gets out of almost static images which emphasise the intelligence behind the eyes, as well as their telling movement.

There will be more eyes here than you might suspect.

 

 

Aren’t the waterfall’s colours and cool, refreshing spray delicious?

It’s probably time to head straight to the Market Square water feature and soak yourselves silly.

SLH

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

Blackbird vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel…

“When everyone told you magic wasn’t real, you gave up.”
“No, I did not!”
“When your mom died, you bounced back real easy.”
“NO! IT WAS THE WORST!”
“You only made it with the help of your family. And even then… you failed.”
“No, I didn’t have any help. Dad went crazy and Marisa moved out! I had to do it all on my own!
“I didn’t fail. I graduated high school. I held down jobs. I moved out of that house!
“No! I am done feeling bad for all the shit they put on me! I found the cabals and I found Mom!
“I didn’t fail. I didn’t fuck up. I’M STILL HERE!
“Standing in an open grave…”

That’s her cat giving Nina a hard time, by the way. Except her cat isn’t… well… I’m grappling with a huge spoiler that would make a superb gag here… But then maybe her cat is gagged… Let’s just leave it at that, shall we…

 

 

Except her cat isn’t just a cat. Obviously. I will give you that. Let me let the publisher muddy matters further…

“Magic is like water. Your heart is like a fountain.

Nina Rodriguez knows there’s a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals hiding in Los Angeles. And when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past and her demons to get her sister back and reclaim her life.”

 

 

So this is a magical quest / voyage of self-discovery yarn then with elements of humour, horror and plenty of sexy sassiness?

 

 

And a talking cat? Yes, most definitely. Penned by Marvel and DC stalwart Sam Humphries this will most definitely appeal to fans of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, not only in terms of storytelling but also artistically with Jen Bartel’s clear, colourful and dare I say it slightly cute art.

 

 

Of course it’s far too early to tell whether this can hits the heady heights of Kieron and Jamie’s masterpiece, but certainly Sam has sewn enough intrigue and created enough dramatic tension, including plenty of the familial variety, to lure me in.

 

 

I have certainly already concluded that absolutely no one is to be trusted, not least Nina with her penchant for self-destructive behaviour.

Expect bad decisions and worse consequences.

JR

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

Motel Universe h/c (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Joakim Drescher…

“PSST! HEY THERE, PSST! YEA YOU!”
“What’s that sensational smell?”
“Oh gee, it’s my lucky day.”
“RITE U LITTLE DWEEBS. LET’S ROCK AND ROLL!”

It really isn’t the little dweebs’ lucky day. Far from it. I can’t say I’d want to check into Motel Universe and here is the publisher’s promotion to tell us precisely why…

“Check in to Motel Universe, a dystopian, casino galaxy of tasteless hedonism! On a macabre jungle planet, the Skins, a slave race, are hunted for their precious hides by tycoon dictator, Barton Flump.

 

 

Join the Skins as they run for their lives, but when there’s nowhere left to run, it might just be time for a little revolution!”

 

 

Haha, Barton Flump, now I wonder which ‘tycoon dictator’ that is meant to be…? Actually, Donald Trump should wish he looked as good as Barton Flump!

Given the first impression of this work is all-out, full-on sensory assault with the spectacularly, crazily coloured delightfully, deliberately crude* artwork blitzing one’s brain right from the off it took me more than a few pages to appreciate just how good a storyteller Joakim Drescher is too.

I think a very good point of general comparison would be Theo UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth, though Joakim’s colour palette is more retina searing.

 

 

* I feel I very strenuously need to make the point that I am using the word crude in an entirely positive sense here. You might think you could draw like this, but trust me, you can’t. Unless you are actually a good artist, I guess, which I’m certainly not. But I still can’t draw like this. It reminds me of an anecdote recounted by the Arch-Drude Julian Cope in his book ‘Krautrocksampler’ concerning the legendary Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit. In fact, you know what, here is the quote in full…

“Jaki Liebezeit had been playing free-jazz in Spain for five years. But recently, he had had a moment of immense life-changing clarity at a show he’d played. Leibezeit had been touched and changed by the words of, what he called, “some kind of freak.” The “freak” had slagged Leibezeit for playing free-jazz, and said: “Why do you play that shit? You must play monotonously.” Those words stayed with him forever. Jaki Leibezeit had never heard the word ‘monotonously’ used in a positive way before, and the pealing bells of truth shot through him. Leibezeit changed his drum style immediately.”

The moral of the story being when you pick up a comic and see an art style that you don’t get or indeed perhaps even like, don’t put it down. For, if you persist, perhaps your mind will be blown and you too might even have “a moment of immense life-changing clarity”. Comics can do that too, you know! On the other hand, you might just think it’s a crock of shit. As I always say, life would be very boring if we all liked the same things. I personally like this a lot, though.

JR

Buy Motel Universe h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c (£22-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer & Andrea Mutti…

“Sarge… this can’t be our drop zone.”
“It ain’t, Travers. Maps showed no marsh north of Amfreville.”
“So why’d we jump?”
“Light goes green, we jump. Wasn’t just us. Birds were dropping troopers all over.”

Ahhh… the things the Royal Mail go through to deliver the Page 45 mail order to your doors…

Not as much as the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, though! Here are the dispatches from Vertigo HQ to inform us just how this seeming footnote of the burgeoning fight-back against the Nazis went full-on FUBAR before it even got started…

“June 1944. World War II. D-Day. One hundred eighty two members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division parachute into the French countryside-a full 18 miles southeast of their intended target.

This original graphic novel from DC Vertigo is the true story of an obscure World War II battle that took place in the small village of Graignes, France, for six days and the men who survived to tell the tale. In the worst misdrop of the D-Day campaign, a group of soldiers are rattled to the core to find themselves even deeper behind enemy lines than anyone had intended.

Miraculously, the citizens of Graignes vote to feed and shelter the soldiers, knowing that the decision will bring them terrible punishment if their efforts are discovered by the Germans.

That day of reckoning comes faster than anyone could expect. As a small German militia passes through, the world’s war comes to their remote town in the countryside, and for the next six days, the small band of American paratroopers and French citizens must fight for their lives to hold back 2,000 enemy combatants.

Six Days is a true story of survival, loyalty, the brutality of war, and a triumph of the human spirit so rarely brought to the comics form. Writers Kevin Maurer (the #1 New York Times bestseller No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden) and Robert Venditti (GREEN LANTERN)- whose uncle fought in the Battle of Graignes and is a key character in the tale – completed comprehensive archival research in preparation for this unbelievable untold story of World War II.”

That was a pretty comprehensive blurb too! Nearly took six days to read! Okay, so the key word there is probably obscure. I have to say, and I know more than a reasonable amount about WWII, that I was completely unaware of this particular encounter. The final paragraph revealing the fact that Robert Venditti’s uncle was involved therefore gives us the reason why this particular previously unchronicled incident was picked. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I can’t personally say I found this particular encounter overly remarkable in comparison to what was going off across France immediately after D-Day. Still, it is extremely important to honour all the individual sacrifices that were made during those dark times and thankfully Robert Venditti helps ensure we can do that for his Uncle and his comrades.

Venditti and Maurer do an excellent job surmising a credible timeline from the paucity of information available and creating entirely believable period dialogue, both between the Americans and also the French locals, even introducing a little proto-romantic side-plot and a very touching and satisfying extended emotional epilogue.

Andrea INFINITE DARK / ROME WEST / REBELS / PORT OF EARTH Mutti throws us right into the military mixer with his trademark grit. As the Germans start their inevitable assault, the tension is palpable. We know the Americans are going to get forced out of the town due to the overwhelming odds they were facing and history records the Germans weren’t too kind to the villagers for their assistance, but still, the action is recounted with a level of drama that ensures you feel as engaged as if the mortars were actually raining down on your reading position. If you need some assistance to simulate this, you could always get a chum to hide behind your sofa and lob biscuits at you. No full cups of tea, though, that would just be cruel, and besides napalm wasn’t deployed in this particular battle.

JR

Buy Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

More Copies Found / Back On Our System

Literary Life: Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.

Dear, dear Posy Simmonds! Such a classy lady and such a class act: literate, erudite, eloquent, posh and not above putting the word ‘penis’ on the cover.

Thanks!

From the creator of the long-form graphic novels CASANDRA DARKE, TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY plus the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS of exceptionally well observed 1980s, socially satirical one-page comic-strip wonders (all of which Paul Gravett covers in POSY SIMMONDS: THE ILLUSTRATORS SERIES) comes a new edition of the 2003 publication with 40 new cartoons and comic strips.

Clipped from the Guardian Review section, these are also one-page comics or cartoons both celebrating and satirising the world of book publishing: writers, readers, book shops and publishers all come under her all-seeing eye as she arches her eyebrow ever so playfully at authors’ egos and their dustjacket photographs, launch parties, creative challenges, publishing peccadilloes, inane and sometimes insane questions during festival panels, and the good-old, in-store author appearances to sign or read extracts.

 

 

There arise matters of expectations, promotional activities and attendances. I’ve a cracking collection of recollections called ‘Mortification’, dripping with tears wept by those invited to make such public appearances only to find themselves humiliated by the lack of turn-out, often on account of zero publicity on the part of the store managers or festival organisers. I personally know of a couple owning a comic shop twenty-five years ago who invited a comicbook creator whose regular readership there numbered precisely three. Nor were they expecting to increase that audience: the couple simply wanted to meet him.

The interior art I’ve found for you isn’t of the highest quality, I’m afraid, and lacks the soft, pale indigo tones of this edition, nor does it adequately reflect Simmonds’ fine, flowing lines. She does ‘chic’ oh so well. I’ve always marvelled at her ability to present so much on the page whilst maintaining a harmonious composition full of space.

 

 

One of my favourite pieces is called ‘Rustic Block’ in which an author sits at her laptop in a warm, cosy, countryside kitchen complete with AGA stove, hanging straw baskets and bunches of dried flowers. Through her rain-lashed window we can see sheep.

“9.05am  Chapter one: It was raining. The sheep were
“9.20am  It was raining. The sheep were in the field.
“10.15am  It was pouring. The sheep languished in the field. The gutters dripped. The clock ticked.”

Already weary when she started, our author is approaching exhausted. Her ashtray is beginning to overflow.

“10.50am  Hannah yawned, “Wish I’d never moved to the country. You feel positively catatonic. You can’t think of any
“11.45am  “Christ,” snarled Hannah. “Wish I’d never moved to effing, sodding Suffolk. Had a brain once. In Kentish Town I used to
“12.30am  Suddenly one of the Jacob ewes ran amok, stabbing, slashing and gouging a bloody path as it”

The trace of a smile appears on her lips.

‘Ask Doctor Derek’ is a fabulous conceit of great lateral thinking: a series starring a man and his stethoscope imparting words of reassuring wisdom to troubled writers who visit his surgery as they might a priest in a confessional.

 

 

Visually there are elements of ‘60s romance comics, especially the dark, feathery, female eyelashes, long blonde hair and utter innocence. Naturally matters of maternity and paternity arise:

“Doctor, is it too soon to try for another?”
“Well, let’s see… You had your first last April… and it sold all right.”

Then there are those “pre-delivery jitters”:

“See, I’m three months overdue! I got my dates wrong! … My editor’s going spare!!”

As to authorial maladies like writers’ block, Doctor Derek diagnoses them with intestinal logic:

“You see, I was so regular, doctor! Eight thousand words a day… every day! But now I sit in that little room for hours and hours… and nothing comes out!”
“You’re on the second of a two-book contract… and you’ve taken a very, very bulky advance, yes? Well, this can weigh heavily on the system…. cause it to seize up!”

Suspecting complications, Doctor Derek digs deeper, suggesting that a second opinion on her synopsis might reveal additional causes behind the blockage. Her plots prove so twisted that the script has become knotted, compacted.

“And it took just another ten minutes to work it out with a pencil!”

Look, I did warn you. Posy is a dame, but the word ‘penis’ is on the cover.

SLH

Buy Literary Life: Revisited h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

    

 

Glitch h/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition (£23-99, Scholastic) by Sarah Graley

Glitch s/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition (£13-99, Scholastic) by Sarah Graley

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 17: Imbalance Part 2 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Peter Wartman

The Boys vol 2: Get Some (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 3: Good For The Soul (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 4: We Gotta Go Now (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 5: Herogasm (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives Of Autistic Women h/c (£9-99, Jessica Kingsley Publishers) by Dr Sarah Bargiela &Sophie Standing

Colourblind: A Story Of Racism h/c (£11-99, Zuiker Press) by Johnathan Harris

Doctor Who: The 13th Doctor – A New Beginning (£13-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Rachael Stott

Eileen Gray – A House Under The Sun (£15-99, Nobrow) by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes & Zosia Dzierzawska

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 4: The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale And The Rose s/c (£6-99, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell

In Waves (£16-99, Nobrow) by AJ Dungo

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Coronation vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier, Ryan Ferrier & Daniel Bayliss

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me s/c (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Literary Life Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds

Lorna (£8-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate

The Many Not The Few: An Illustrated History Of Britain Shaped By The People (£9-99, Workable) by Sean Michael Wilson & Robert Brown

MCMLXXV s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joe Casey & Ian MacEwan

Moon Face h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq

Nico Bravo And The Hound Of Hades (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Mike Cavallaro

Outer Darkness vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Layman & Afu Chan

Rat Queens vol 6: The Infernal Path (£14-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle (£11-99, Disney) by Cavan Scott & various

Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson, Gerry Duggan & Leonard Kirk, Marc Laming, others

Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Heroes s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jody Houser, Marc Guggenheim & various

Sword Daughter vol 2: Folded Metal h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater

The Wormworld Saga vol 3: Kingspeak (£8-99, Caracal) by Daniel Lieske

Waves h/c (£13-99, Archaia) by Ingrid Chabert & Carole Maurel

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection – Assassin Nation s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by David Michelinie, various & Todd McFarlane, various

Immortal Hulk vol 3: Hulk In Hell s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

Black Torch vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Goblin Slayer vol 5 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Iraki

One Piece vol 90 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusuke Murata

Smashed h/c (£15-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Ultraman vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Versailles Of The Dead vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week two

May 8th, 2019

Featuring Posy Simmonds, Paul Gravett, Box Brown, Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw, Eva Schlunke, Robert Poole, Polyp, Malaka Gharib, Michel Fiffe, Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton

Kiss Number 8 (£13-99, First Second) by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw ~

“You can’t deny that he’s totally hot.”
“You’re going to hell, Cat. You know that, right?”
“I mean. Look at those abs! If we get more decent-looking altar boys, maybe I’ll stop drooling over our lord and savior.”
“So, you’re telling me you come to church because you have the hots for Jesus?”
“Nooo. I have the hots for THAT SCULPTURE of Jesus.  Shame you never get to see the back. Betcha Jesus’s got an ass that could crack a walnut… Hell, I bet it could shell a cashew!”

Being mischievous with friends in Church on Sunday followed by cheesy fries at the minor league game with dad, studying for exams and sneaking out on a Friday night, Amanda is your typical high school teen. But after overhearing a conversation between her dad on the phone with a mysterious woman named Dina, Amanda’s life is about to unravel as she uncovers a whole tangle of secrets and lies, and enters one very intense month of discovery, not just about her family, but also about herself.

 

 

Amanda’s best friend is the vivacious Cat. A punk full of attitude and sass, rebellious to the bone, loving nothing more than sneaking out to her fave club “Zipper” to drink cheap vodka, dance the night away to the latest dreadful band and find a hot guy to snog, she’s a bit of a one, is Cat. After all, I’m not sure how many in the congregation are crushing on Jesus’s abs each Sunday. But her and Amanda balance each other out perfectly, and are as such inseparable.

Lately, Cat has been on at Amanda because the lack of boys she’s kissed makes her fear that she’s turning into a nun. Why not have some fun with Adam, the cute boy next door? He clearly has the hots for Amanda , so why the hell not? But so far, Amanda has successfully managed to artfully dodge Adam’s advances. But she is starting to realise something. The more that Cat goes on at her, the more she comes to the realisation that the reason she isn’t interested in kissing any boys is because the person who she really wants to kiss is Cat…

 

 

Friendship, family, religion, infidelity, self discovery and sexuality, KISS NUMBER 8 is a book that packs a punch. While it does have its moments of impassioned anger, it is also peppered with subtle unspoken moments of tenderness, such as Amanda tentatively stroking a love bite on Cat’s neck with the back of her hand, while Cat revels in the attention of the chance to show off a trophy from the previous evening’s conquest.

Venable and Crenshaw have created an intimate cast of characters that deftly deliver a coming-of-age psychodrama, which ebbs and flows so naturally you will be completely swept away with it. Their variety, their humour and their personalities are all people we have known at some point or another in our lives, and so this book brings its own sense of familiarity.

 

 

If you have enjoyed the likes of Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau’s BLOOM, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s THIS ONE SUMMER, or Tilly Walden’s SPINNING, then let me introduce you to your new favourite read.

“We don’t get to choose who we love. But sometimes we get lucky and fall for someone wonderful.”

JP

Buy Kiss Number 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Cannabis: An American History (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown…

“The report said cannabis is not physically addictive.
“The gateway drug theory is false. It’s not harmful to anyone.
“It should be descheduled and declassified.

“Nixon went into a rage. He trashed the report.

“Instead, Nixon had Senator James “Segregation-Is-Not-Discrimination” Eastland hold hearings. The hearings would present a different view, using their own experts… They would completely disregard the thousands of hours put into the Schafer report in favour of hours of provably false testimony by a litany of people in on the whole point: to demonise cannabis.

““Oh, it damages your immune system, your white blood cells, other cells, too. All kinds of cell damage. There are many cases of brilliant young people going on pot benders, and even after they quit they are left dumb. This all started in Berkeley with the students. The culture is out of control. It’s spreading and soon our whole population will be half-zombie. We may find ourselves with a generation of brain-damaged youth.””

“President Nixon signed the comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Control Act in the 1970.”

 

 

Obviously Tricky Dicky ended up with more than his so-called ‘war on drugs’ to worry about, but he did manage to even more deeply entrench already conservative views in the US population regarding marijuana use. A trite approach that various other Presidents continued to espouse including Ronald Regan, who even managed to famously get wife Nancy to perform a truly cringe-worthy anti-drugs cameo on the hit TV show Diff’rent Strokes with her “Just Say No” message. The kids of Grange Hill did it far better, even if it didn’t do poor Zammo any good…

Anyway… the legislation Nixon helped drive through in the early ‘70s equating cannabis with the likes of heroin would, and still does to this day, ensure an astonishing number of entirely unnecessary marijuana-related convictions and particularly against the Black American community, something Box also highlights.

 

 

But, of course, it didn’t begin with Nixon. So how did it come about that a drug which had been used for recreational and medicinal purposes for centuries be suddenly demonised as one of the primary ills of American society? To examine the complex history of this most controversial substance, Box Brown starts by going even further back, just as he did with the origins of gaming in his award-winning look at the story of the ground-breaking video game TETRIS.

Here, Box begins with Indian mythology and recounts the creation myth of how Shiva received the cannabis plant as a divine blessing during a ceremony known as the Churning and promptly ate the leaves and flowers before planting the seeds. Presumably he didn’t have time to bake a hash brownie.

 

 

 

We then skip forward to late 19th century India where the British colonial rulers were busy debating the wisdom of allowing their Indian ‘citizens’ the right to continue using a plant they had been consuming for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And so, the use of disinformation began as an attempt to support prohibiting something regarded as a religious sacrament by the local populace…

Meanwhile across the Atlantic in the New World in 1518 and Conquistador Hernan Cortes arrives in Mexico, bringing with him Spanish hemp seeds, along with disease and destruction. Interestingly, given the current right-wing media obsession with blaming immigrants for everything, by the time that cannabis eventually made its way up to the US and began to be noticed by the authorities in the late 17th century, the press were already hard at work demonising migrant Mexican workers…

 

 

Box then settles into his modern chronology proper by showing how certain factions – indeed a very small number of exceedingly determined individuals – single-handedly made the moral decision on behalf of the entire US population that cannabis was evil and set about ‘proving it’ so that legislation could be passed to bring about their vision of a cannabis-free country, in fact cannabis-free world.

If that prospect sounds more than a little megalomaniacal let us not forget that this is the country which attempted to enact Prohibition… before eventually realising the sheer preposterous folly of that misadventure. It’s taking somewhat longer for them to get there with marijuana but at the time of typing 10 US states have legalised the recreational use of cannabis with a further 14 states having decriminalised it. Progress, it would seem. Were it not for the fact that certain minorities are still being disproportionately punished, in some cases unbelievably punitively so, for marijuana-related ‘crimes’.

 

 

As an inevitably potted history (sorry) of how we got to the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in today Box manages to highlight the key points and statistics along the timeline in an informed, incisive and extremely interesting and frequently ironic manner. It’s quite shocking to discover just how much disinformation and indeed downright lies the US authorities have told over the years to first begin and then maintain their war on a very benign and indeed now recognised to be extremely beneficial drug.

I suppose I shouldn’t be remotely surprised about politicians lying to us by now, but it is still astonishing to see the lengths these people will go to simply to further their own agenda. Fortunately we have the likes of Box to ensure their lies will be exposed in perpetuity and help exert a little bit more pressure for common sense and social justice to prevail.

JR

Stephen adds:

Agreed, agreed and agreed on every level.

I’m no martinet and I’m certainly no angel. For a year in my early twenties I wouldn’t get out of bed before a couple of spliffs; at which point I couldn’t and – when I did – I might as well not have for all the writing I got done. Still, I enjoyed it all enormously and so many other illicit pleasures well into my late 30s.

However, conscience dictates a cautionary note about cannabis psychosis which I have seen destroy the minds and subsequently lives of two friends. This strikes me as an extraordinarily high hit rate, however many total stoners I’ve known in my life. Neither Billy nor Kes were total stoners. Both were in their late teens when cannabis psychosis struck out of the blue, so they hadn’t had time to get caned too often; my uneducated guess is that their minds simply weren’t wired to handle that specific drug well, but I am no Doctor Science.

One tried to kill his mother and girlfriend, and then gave me one particularly worrying night while I was trying to get him re-housed. Eventually we got him committed and consequently re-orientated, rebalanced, but he believed the process so complete that, once discharged, he came straight off his medicinals and back onto the mighty weed. I didn’t particularly enjoy being informed once more that the spiders were invading under the command of maniacal killer dolphins.

All I’ll add is that, fifteen years later, neither of these stories has ended well, although some other stories most surely must have.

Okay, that’s it, feel free to roll up and zone out. I’m off to open the first of my two daily bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and light up yet another of those ciggies, all of which have a far greater chance of killing me than cannabis ever could.

SLH

Buy Cannabis: An American History and read the Page 45 review here

Peterloo: Witnesses To A Massacre (£11-99, New Internationalist) by Eva Schlunke, Robert Poole & Polyp…

“The commander of Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, Major Thomas Trafford, ordered his men to send their sabres for sharpening – the first time this had been done in the two years since the unit was formed.”

Almost as though the powers that be had already decided what was going to happen…

I must confess I was unaware of the Peterloo massacre until relatively recently when I heard about the recent Mike Leigh film in the media. It seems as though, perhaps, it is one of those… unfortunate… incidents in British social history that the authorities would just prefer everyone to forget about. Don’t want the hoi polloi getting ideas and all that. It certainly wasn’t on my school history curriculum. It is however, therefore, precisely the kind of event that should never be forgotten.

 

 

As we reach the 200th anniversary of the massacre, the fundamental principles that those brave enough to march were fighting for – equality, dignity and simply some small measure of respect for their very existence from those who were exploiting them – are still under threat from those who sit merrily atop the fiscal pile.

In the week I read about the Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma’s desire for a ‘996’ working week to be the norm in China, that’s 9am to 9pm six days a week – presumably because he wants to extract even more money at the expense of his basically indentured labour force – it is foolish to presume the victory for personal liberty and equality has been achieved. Zero hero contracts anyone…?

Give the rich a chance to oppress those with less than them to keep them in their place and they will always do so. With disaster capitalists like Rees-Mogg lurking in the wings to take advantage of the chaos that Brexit would cause, it is the responsibility of us all to fight against the tyrants, whatever form they may take, not just for our rights, but also for those of others less fortunate.

 

 

Peterloo is the story of when one such movement of the people became too powerful for the authorities to ignore. Purporting to the tell the true story of events from direct testimony drawn from “letters, memoirs, journalists’ accounts, spies’ reports and courtroom evidence” assembled by historian Professor Robert Poole and edited into script form by Eva Schlunke, works like this are vital in reminding us of the sacrifices people have made to earn us the relative degree of civil freedom that we do have.

 

 

Illustrated by the intriguingly named Polyp, presumably no relation to ASTERIOS POLYP, the clear art style with a colourful yet sensitively subdued in tone palette lends itself perfectly to this informative, narration-based approach. You feel like you are observing a fascinating documentary where this heinous tragedy is unfolding before your very eyes, almost as though you were there yourself, observing events directly. You’ll no doubt feel as indignant with rage as I did when the massacre commences, and just as impotent as the poor, terrified unfortunates caught up in it.

 

 

As with the excellent fictional A NEW JERUSALEM by Benjamin Dickson which captured the difficulties of soldiers returning home to civilian life after enduring the traumas of World War II, we are fortunate that there are publishers such as New Internationalist and Myriad willing to undertake these vital projects that help to shine a light on the darker elements of our British cultural history.

JR

Buy Peterloo: Witnesses To A Massacre (£11-99, New Internationalist) and read the Page 45 review here

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir (£12-99, Potter) by Malaka Gharib…

“Even amongst minorities, I was a minority.
“Everyone in high school hung out with people based on clubs, sports, ethnicity.
“Who’d be my friend?”

Making friends at school is a turbulent voyage of discovery at the best of times, but when you’re grappling with trying to understand the personal puzzle of being half-Filipino, half-Egyptian plus half-Catholic, half-Muslim all the whilst longing fervently to be all-American and indeed white, well it’s bound to make it all that little bit trickier!

Billed by the publisher as being one part Mari AM I THERE YET? THE LOOP-DE-LOOP, ZIGZAGGING JOURNEY TO ADULTHOOD, one part Marjane PERSEPOLIS Satrapi, I personally found this very similar in tone, illustrative style and humour to the hilariously excellent THE IMPOSTER’S DAUGHTER by Laurie Sandell.

 

 

 

I found the way the adult Malaka dissects her teenage insecurities very artfully and amusingly done, with real understanding of the models of thinking she was working through, well, conditioning herself with and also being conditioned by others, at the time. As a study of identity, this works on multiple levels: first simply that of the individual, of being a child of two very differing heritages, but also as the child of immigrants and then as a first-generation American.

 

 

 

Indeed, when her parents split up and her father returns to Egypt – the irony being that he was desperate to come to America all his life whereas her mother was distraught to be sent there as her family had a wonderful, privileged upper class life in the Philippines – we also see Malaka struggle to fit in to Egyptian society and step-family life during her school holiday visits.

 

 

 

 

She’s incredibly honest about her frequent faux pas when attempting to ingratiate herself with others and integrate socially, but it is always done with humour. You never get the sense that she’s looking back feeling sorry for herself. That may well be because she seems to have got herself completely sorted out now, including getting married to a delightful chap called Darren, but even there her in-depth analysis of her choice of life partner is conducted with agonising, if very amusing scrutiny. Equally, and importantly, it doesn’t feel self-deprecating either. You never feel like she is doing herself down just to get the laughs. It is just acutely well observed.

 

 

What this work proves perfectly is that you don’t have to have done the most extraordinary things or been to the most fascinating places to product an absolutely absorbing memoir. Having read this I feel like I got to know the teenage Malaka and her very diverse family members as well as if I was one of them myself.

JR

Buy I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir and read the Page 45 review here

American Gods vol 2 h/c (£20-00, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton with Mark Buckingham.

In which we are invited to think of the physical world as a theatre.

Would you like to look backstage?

“I’ve never been overly concerned with morality.
“Not as long as I get what I want.”

What Wednesday wants is to reassert the power of the old gods – so many forgotten that their powers are dwindling – over the new gods of technology which we worship instead.

To do so he has enlisted the help of widower and ex-convict Shadow, and to that end Wednesday was almost certainly responsible for making Shadow a widower, positioning him exactly where Wednesday wanted him.

Everything appears to have been arranged.

Everyone appears to have been arranged, especially Shadow.

 

 

Tellingly, this begins with a tale of two grafts, which Wednesday was wont to execute with another. His is the long game, but he’s been patient for long enough.

For an in-depth review of AMERICAN GODS please see volume one which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. This is merely here to alert you to the presence of this second of three instalments which once more sees Shadow with no real control either over his environment or indeed fate, hence the gloriously hyper-real art within which he doesn’t sit quite right at all. It’s all so supremely well judged.

 

 

There are sleights of hand aplenty, and non-sequiturs deployed as distractions.

It’s a road trip back and forth across America, throughout time and indeed its mythologies.

 

 

You’ll meet self-appointed authorities with names like Mister Town and Mister Road, Mister Wood and Mister Stone, and ultimately Mister World. Like all authorities, they’re only ideas. You can reject them if you’ve the willpower. Miz Black Crow does. I think you’ll like Miz Black Crow. She’s a cathartic antidote, and bloody hilarious in the process.

Meanwhile, both sides are manoeuvring for position, and it’s going to get messy.

“We’re writing the future in letters of fire.”

That future is fast approaching.

 

 

“Well, Shadow, do you believe yet?”
“I don’t know.”

Was all that suitably ominous for you?

SLH

Buy American Gods vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c (£18-95, Thames & Hudson) by Paul Gravett.

“It’s terrifying riding something that is still hatching and by the end, I was only two weeks ahead. That meant making decisions very quickly and very rashly.

 – Posy Simmonds MBE, on the weekly schedule of producing 110 consecutive TAMARA DREWE pages for The Guardian.

There are so very many pleasures to behold in this heavily illustrated retrospective, including rarities I’d not stumbled across, as well as some startling behind-the-scenes secrets.

I’d no idea how substantially rewritten, redrawn and recoloured TAMARA DREWE had been between its episodical outings and the Jonathan Cape collected edition, let alone that she’d dropped in extended scenes and at least a dozen completely new pages. Here you’ll be treated to a startling ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison of Tamara’s head-turning entrance among the writing retreat clique, including the removal of her green wellies which not only enhances her sensuality by showing a bit of ankle and walking barefoot on the grass, but also gives one of the cast the opportunity to be rebuffed when offering to carry the shoeless gossip columnist over the gravel. I don’t imagine the easily puffed-out Glen could have managed it anyway.

You’ll also be reminded of just how consistently and scathingly satirical Posy’s been in her fiercely feminist, left-wing, fifty-year career producing single-panel cartoons, illustrated prose and comics like CASSANDRA DARKE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY, MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS and A LITERARY LIFE (REVISITED). On the subject of how the plight of British women has progressed during this time, for example, she pithily asserts, “Things are much better, then same and worse”.

 

 

With Punch Magazine as of one her earliest influences, this satire is hardly surprising, and Paul Gravett is on hand to identify precisely which artists she most absorbed which makes so much sense once he’s said it. Paul Gravett, who appears as The Man At The Crossroads in Eddie Campbell’s autobiographical ALEC, is comics’ most knowledgeable historian bar none, as well as one of the medium’s most eloquent ambassadors, and his prose here is an evocative joy to read. For example, I can’t believe I’ve promoted the subtleties of Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL for so many years without once employing the word “grisaille”.

Paul provides us with Posy’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ from 1987 which deftly combines the chief conceit of Charles Dickens’ prose novel – that of the ghostly walk-on wake-up calls – with the rhythm and rhyme of ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night’ to deliciously damn the exchange-rate speculators of greed-centric Thatcherite Britain. I don’t have that one for you, sorry, so you’ll just have to buy the book.

 

Posy Simmonds’ studio space

 

Nor can I show you her 1972 cartoon which was well ahead of the relatively recent TV commercial lampooning the way some of us suck our stomachs in to impress before letting them out once the object of our desire has passed by!

I do have the institution of marriage being given a right old rodgering, though, especially women’s subservience within it and the promotion of their self-obsessed spouses’ dreams and aspirations over – and at the expense of – their own.

 

 

You’ll be given unprecedented access to previously unpublished pages, like the detour she decided not to take within GEMMA BOVERY, and there are a great many sketch pages and process pieces from pencils to finished, coloured art. Posy talks about her working methods and techniques, and Gravett gives you enough to go on to Google for yourselves in a Posy Simmonds Online Treasure Hunt.

Plus you’ll be reminded just how raunchy she’s been be as well. As Gravett notes:

“Don’t be fooled by her demure manner and upper-class accent; her powers of observation across the classes are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types stingingly precise. No wonder Simmonds is one of the most astute chroniclers of contemporary British society.”

 

 

For more, please see all the books listed above, reviewed. Here’s the publisher:

“In the course of a career spanning more than fifty years, Posy Simmonds has become one of Britain’s best-known satirical cartoonists. She is also as a much-loved author and artist of widely translated children’s books and graphic novels. These include Fred, animated in 1996 into the Oscar-nominated short film Famous Fred, and Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, both adapted into films, increasing her international fame.

Simmonds once described her job on a census form as `a visual engineer’. Her extraordinary precision of drawing, her powers of observation and her sharp but well tempered wit have made her one the Britain’s most sophisticated innovators, renowned especially for expanding the scope and subtlety of comics. This is the first book to explore Simmonds’s life and work from her early childhood to the present day.

In a series of interviews with Paul Gravett she offered insights into her creative process and provided unprecedented access to her ‘workroom’ and archives containing sketchbooks and rare or never-before-seen artworks. A portrait emerges of Posy Simmonds as a chronicler and critic of contemporary British society and a storyteller in words and pictures of rare perception and humanity.”

SLH

Buy Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Copra Rounds One, Two, Three, Four and Five (volumes 1 to 4 £17-99, vol 5 £19-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe…

“And I’m about to lose my shit, thanks for asking.
“The problem with being a control freak is that you’re always looking for situations you can control, obviously.
“Maybe you find yourself attracted to chaos, as having something to fix or clean up gives you purpose, gives you meaning.
“There’s no end in either situation, though. No peace. Not that I’m trying to change.
“I will admit this: my therapist said “Control Freak” had negative connotations.
“He said that I should think of it as an “Omnipotent Mother Complex” instead.
“I fired him.”

I have to say, Control Freak is a much better superhero name than Omnipotent Mother Complex, even if that does sounds quite Kirby-esque, DC era. Michel Fiffe freely admits his Jack Kirby influences, and indeed also to Frank Miller, which is particularly evident in certain aspects of his illustrative style, but make no mistake this is most definitely its own rampaging, beautifully bombastic beast.

 

 

COPRA is absolutely a superhero book, again, something that Fiffe readily states, but it is a superhero book in the same sense that Brandon Graham and chums’ PROPHET is a superhero book. In other words, it is uniquely different whilst still honouring many of its prodigious forbearers and thus far, far elevating itself above the boringly complacent standard capes and tights fare.

 

 

As loquaciously written (with some absolutely cracking and utterly hilarious dialogue) as it is loosely illustrated, I can see why this title found an ardent army of fans who are as loyal to Fiffe as, say, fans of Paul Pope like myself are. The end result just feels like a top-notch creator effortlessly dashing it off, but you can see just how much thought and effort has gone into the construction of this yarn. Yes, you’ll spot crackpot reworkings of certain classic Big Two characters, but that is most certainly entirely satirical in intent and entertainingly exemplary in execution.

 

 

I’m not even going to attempt to summarise the plot (mad), side-plots (madder) or tell you about the bizarre cast of characters (utterly crackpot). Suffice to say, people who prefer their capes and tights all neat and corporate shouldn’t even bother to look at this. People who prefer their comics as deliciously dangerous as they are delightful daft will love it.

 

JR

Buy Copra Round One and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Two and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Three and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Four and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Five and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

In time for the Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell signing at Page 45 on Thursday May 23rd 2019 from 5-30pm to 7pm:

 

 

The Time Traveler’s Wife (£8-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Adventuress h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Mobile h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry (£8-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

Ghostly (£9-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Goat Getters h/c (£44-99, IDW) by Eddie Campbell

 

 

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

Basquiat (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Julian Voloj & Soren Mosdal

Blackbird vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel

Motel Universe h/c (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Joakim Drescher

Newbury & Hobbes vol 1: Undying s/c (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann & Dan Boultwood

Pearl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c (£22-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer & Andrea Mutti

Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Villains s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jody Houser & various

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider vol 1: Spider-Geddon s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Seanan McGuire & Rosi Kampe

Justice League vol 2: Graveyard Of Gods s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Mikel Janin

Inside Mari vol 3 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academica vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academica: School Briefs (Light Novel) vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Anri Yoshi

Platinum End vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week one

May 1st, 2019

Featuring Sarah McIntyre, Yokoyama Yuichi, Kelsey Wroten, Joe Kessler, Catherine LePage, Greg Pak, Dan McDaid

Grumpycorn (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£6-99 s/c, £12-99 h/c, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre.

 

 

FREE Limited Edition Bookplate Exclusive to Page 45, designed and signed for us by Lovely Sarah McIntyre with the first 100 copies of either hardcover or softcover! Please see photo below!

 

 

“Unicorn was sitting in his special writing house.
“I am going to write the most FABULOUS story in the world,” he thought.

Brilliant! Full marks for ambition! A+++

“This made him feel very pleased with himself.
“He already liked being a writer.”

Also for self-belief: once you start writing then you are indeed a writer! It’s finding the courage to put your first words to paper that’s the trick: actually starting in on your story…

But do you know what? Do it!

 

 

Don’t wait for inspiration to come knocking on your door; it’ll only be a cold-caller, touting for business. Clear your own mental gutters and begin doodling away, jotting down ideas! Start writing sentences – any sentences will do – until some start sounding right. They never will sound right until you begin!

That’s going to be Unicorn’s problem if he’s not careful. He’ll also have to overcome a certain degree of self-obsession; for one must always remember the value of friendship as the most important source of happiness, but also a well of that oh-so elusive inspiration.

 

 

What a deliciously vibrant book, with a dazzlingly shiny gold cover!

I adore all the reflected and refracted light; the way the colours pulse in the sky then shine like shards on the choppy seas’ surfaces; the way they wave and beam and whirl in the water below. Those are some truly tasty lemons, lime-greens and tangerines, and oh my days the plum-coloured purples!

 

 

Multiple award-winning Sarah McIntyre, author / artist of THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS, VERN AND LETTUCE, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN etc (the last one co-created with Philip Reeve – do please see our dedicated Reeve & McIntyre section bursting with so many exuberant reviews), returns with another picture book of mischief, mirth and the mindfulness which parents so very much appreciate.

And this is the key to Young Readers’ picture books and comics: you need to get parents as enamoured with the stories (which they’ll be reading to young ones over and over and over again) as their wide-eyed offspring. It’s the adults’ enthusiasm on reading that’s infectious, and comedy and compassion work wonders.

So does spectacle!

Seldovia in Alaska is credited as inspiration within the dedication, and to me that manifests itself for example in the base of the snow-capped coned mountains which rise directly from the ocean, with their tiers of tree designs which you might find on very woolly jumpers. Also, the light, as dazzling as any Aurora Borealis!

 

 

Background jokes are a bonus too, the craft loosely resembling the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine which later returns as Mermaid’s mode of transport / mobile home, the joke of its redundancy delightfully left for all to observe for themselves.

On top of that, Narwhal, Mermaid and Jellyfish each project their own versions of what they imagine “the most fabulous story in the world” might entail in visual thought clouds. In Narwhal’s case it’s the gallant seahorse-assisted assault on a turreted castle in order to rescue a younger prince or princess, locked up in a tall tower, from the fiendish clutches or an orange octopus. You can tell that he’s fiendish from the twirled moustache. And an octopus’s clutches would take four times any ordinary extraction because of those eight suckered tentacles. Ambitious!

 

 

Lastly, no one needs saccharine, and I can assure you that Unicorn has a little bit of growing up to do lest he be called Grumpycorn for life. For by “a certain degree of self-obsession” I mean that he starts off as a right old diva, unnecessarily rude and thoughtlessly, hurtfully dismissive of his friends.

“”WOW!” said Narwhal. “Can I be in your story?”

His glee is self-evident.

“”Don’t be silly,” said Unicorn. “No one wants to read a story about a narwhal. Narwhals are very boring. There will be no narwhals in my story.”
“”Oh,” said Narwhal.”

His poor blue face is a devastating picture of startled, uncomprehending, internalised rejection.

“He swam sadly away.”

 

 

Don’t fret, families, friendship is what holds most sway here! A little bit of loving, a whole lot of baking, and a co-creative intervention will return that grandiose Grumpycorn round to appreciating that which matters the most.

There’ll just be a right old silly strop first!

P.S. Fab to see that Colin the Crab’s cheekily back! See OLIVER AND THE SEA WIGS, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN and PUG-A-DOODLE-DO! A BUMPER BOOK OF FUN!

SLH

Buy Grumpycorn h/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Grumpycorn s/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Cannonball h/c (£22-99, Uncivilised Books) by Kelsey Wroten ~

A recent graduate, Caroline is very reluctantly being flung into the world of adulting. She’s got herself an apartment with a glorious view of a brick wall and neighbours that party seemingly non-stop. Her friends are moving away, going to grad schools or getting ‘proper jobs’, while Caroline stubbornly puts her foot down to follow her passion as a creative writer. She will NOT let that degree go to waste!

Writing, re-writing, shredding the whole lot, starting afresh then re-writing that and so on, she is a perfectionist with the determination to break out with a hit novel. She also has a stolen student card that grants her access to the college cafe, ensuring continued procrastination regarding her transition into the ‘real world’.

As an art school grad myself, I know that pang for creative success that Caroline feels; to want to do something big, be something great. But finding yourself standing by while your peers get those gallery exhibitions, get hired by the big companies, move away, move on, and grow up, while you feel the knock-back and rejection letters from submissions you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

Parents, with all the best intentions, adding extra pressure for you to find your feet, but they simply don’t quite understand the path you have chosen in life. I know this cast of mis-sold millennials intimately, with their mountains of student dept spent on creative degrees to “follow your dreams” only to find that the pool is overcrowded and over competitive.

 

 

Maybe what you’ve just read will resonate with you; you may feel akin to Caroline, Penelope and Trevor, fumbling their way through a new and confusing period in life. But before we go any further let me just explain one thing about Caroline: she is an absolute dick…

“Betwixt reality and perception is mystery. And mystery is *unf* so sexy.”
“And you’re not a judgemental asshole, you’re a dangerous genius.”
“Exactly. Maybe you do know me after all.”
“That wasn’t a compliment!”

 

 

Playing the tortured genius just as well as FANTE BUKOWSKI and learning about as little in the process, she is bitter and destructive, silver tongued and verging on alcoholic. She hates the world and everyone in it; they’re all a bunch of grebes anyway. But boy, do I love a flawed protagonist and Wroten has done a brilliant job with Caroline. You can see her path of destruction unfold before her and you’ll wince at her actions and recoil at her vitriolic diatribe. But yet, you’ll find yourself rooting for her. You want her have at least a small taste of success because maybe then she will calm down, see the world for what it is, maybe even grow up a little… maybe.

Witty and utterly cringe-worthy, I found myself simultaneously grinning and grimacing the entire way though. If, like me, you’re a fan of flawed characters and self deprecating humour then Cannon Ball will certainly scratch that itch.

 

 

In classic Lego brick colours and rounded cartooning, Wroten has encapsulated the aesthetic of a generation, while its attitude is captured is its disenfranchised bitterness.

JP

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

Outdoors (£14-99, Breakdown Press) by Yokoyama Yuichi…

“Like a Japanese Cowboy…”

Ween – Japanese Cowboy.

There can’t be many comics that immediately make one’s mind turn to alt-rockers Ween… but then Yokoyama Yuichi’s manga always makes my mind do strange things.

His unique art style, replete as ever with a truly insane amount of sound effects, is easily identifiable by its delightful future retro combination of curves and long straight lines. Those sounds effects, which I think must be present in at least 95% of the panels, really add to the at times claustrophobic intensity by the way, something Yuichi comments on in the excellent, if typically terse, two-page interview included at the back of the book. He seems a real character, I must say, which does not surprise me one iota.

 

 

His style has always struck me as being of two time periods, straddling both like an enormous yet elegant mega-robot. For there is a sense in which he has the feel of really early Yoshihiro Tatsumi, by which I mean the likes of BLACK BLIZZARD, and also Tezuka in ASTRO BOY mode. I think that is due to the seemingly simplistic panel layouts but also the panel progressions, the actual visual sequential storytelling which feels very of that period.

 

 

But then that is transformed into something truly idiosyncratic and futuristic with his trademark illustrative flourishes. Not least the repetitious symmetry of minor (and occasionally major) components, including the sound effects, frequently deployed in precise patterns and formations which has a very pleasing effect on the eye. Well, to mine at least!

The typically ultra-minimal plot, consisting entirely of a group of cowboys riding the range on their minature rocket ships, doing all the usual things that ranch hands do and nothing more exciting than that, okay occasionally waving their ray guns around, only adds to the dualistic contrary temporal feel.

 

 

Yuichi will never change, he clearly likes to make manga his own very special way, probably entirely for his own satisfaction I suspect, and I wholeheartedly applaud him for it.

JR

Buy Outdoors and read the Page 45 review here

Windowpane (£19-99, Breakdown Press) by Joe Kessler…

“I got you some things.”
“Oh really?”
“Green things and for the sun… It’s a hat and gerkins.”
“I can see that. Thank you.”

Here’s my early front runner for weirdest comic of 2019! It’s not going to win, I suspect, as there’s a fair few furlongs of freaky to go before the finish line and no doubt something even more insane will come flying up late on the rails like Oliver Schrauwen’s PARALLEL LIVES did last year to snatch the gonzo glory.

But Joe Kessler has laid a pretty fair marker down with this anthology of the abnormal, let me tell you…

 

 

From a child riding the bus network alone late at night, to being teleported to go shell collecting by an evil wizard, to worrying about a lack of vitamins, to receiving summary justice from what appears to be worrisomely all-powerful jaundiced version of Noseybonk, there is much going on that is very strange indeed here.

 

 

Like a fever dream leading in an entirely abstract direction, I didn’t guess where any of these stories were going, and that is certainly a very considerable part of their charm. Frequently they adopt a semblance of surface normality before veering off savagely into the surreal!

 

 

As an aside, I did wonder at one point if the various stories very, very tenuously all linked together, a little like PARALLEL LIVES but even more disparately, but I’m honestly not sure. I think so…

Style-wise, it looks like Joe has used felt tips. I love felt tips, who doesn’t?! Simpler times…

 

 

The actual colour palette often harkens back to even simpler times still. I would say the days of four colour, but instead of cyan, magenta, yellow and black Joe has gone for red, yellow, green, blue and black. A proper bunch of fives to the flushed, confused face and highly activated optic nerves.

As I said, weird and abnormal. I loved it!

JR

Buy Windowpane and read the Page 45 review here

Thin Slices Of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind (£9-99, Chronicle Books) by Catherine LePage…

“I always simultaneously see two sides of the same coin.”

Those two sides being, dear reader, the good side but also the bad side… For if one is prone to anxiety there is no resting on the proverbial laurels, for any scant moments of quiet contentment are surely about to be interrupted by the next display of internal disquiet?! But fret ye not! For as the publisher pronounces…

“Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human. Artist Catherine Lepage uses her wry humour to help us see that when thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.”

 

 

Yes she does. Honest, witty and very engaging indeed, this pocket packet of perturbation pacification deals with the causes and effects of Catherine’s personal crushing concerns as she prescribes sautéing up the stresses to ensure they don’t induce too much unnecessary agitation.

 

 

I found much to enjoy in this work as it has been created with genuine tenderness and understanding but also includes much hard-won hilarity.

 

 

It’s therefore an intimate, engaging look at what is for most people who suffer from it in one form or another, a very personal problem.

 

 

I particularly enjoyed how Catherine unpicked and analysed her own predilections to precipitating an onset of anxious thoughts…

“Chapter 4.
“Okay, I’ll admit…
“It’s a bit my fault as well.”

When we get the punchline that concludes this chapter as well as the book, I had a little a chuckle to myself. Forgiveness is very important. Particularly of oneself. I thought it was a delightfully insightful conclusion.

Artistically, the slices of illustration that accompany Catherine’s calamity-controlling conceptions will appeal to fans of David Shrigley, I suspect.

 

 

It’s not as bonkers all-out insane, for sure, but it has more than a little of that deliberately rough and ready absurdity slapping you about the face sensibilities at times.

JR

Buy Thin Slices Of Anxiety and read the Page 45 review here

Firefly vol 1: Unification War h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Greg Pak & Dan McDaid…

Once upon a time in a galaxy not so far away… well… ours actually… a TV show got cancelled…

People got rather upset about this, apparently. Well, some people… and so comics were made. (Oh, and somewhere along the way, a film too, almost forgot about that.)

Five volumes worth of comics, in fact, now available in two splendid ‘legacy’ editions entitled FIREFLY LEGACY EDITION 1 and, you’ve guessed it, FIREFLY LEGACY EDITION 2.

I even read one of the five arcs pertaining the back story of one of the more mysterious characters called Shepherd and despite knowing precisely nothing about him, or indeed the show, never having watched it, thought it was quite good. It almost made me want to watch the TV show.

 

 

Which brings us to now and this ongoing Firefly series. I’ve had a brief flick through and it seems quite entertaining. I can well imagine if you have any degree of affection for the characters you’ll probably love it, as Greg MAGNETO: LAST TESTAMENT / WORLD WAR HULK Pak is a darn good writer and Dan McDaid has been doing some solid work on IDW’s Judge Dredd line.

 

 

Not a lot more I can add really. Except, you know, buy the comics or they’ll get cancelled.

JR

Buy Firefly vol 1: Unification War h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

 

Cannabis: An American History (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown

Aliens: Dust To Dust s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Hardman

Black Hammer: Quantum Age s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Wilfredo Torres

Copra Round 1 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 2 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 3 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 4 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 5 (£19-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

I Was Their American Dream (£12-99, Potter) by Malaka Gharib

Oh No (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by Alex Norris

Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c (£18-95, Thames & Hudson) by Paul Gravett

Sandman vol 7: Brief Lives (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Jill Thompson, Vince Locke, Peter Straub

Secrets #4: Sexy Special (£3-00) by Lae Schafer

Secrets #5: Pained Edition (£3-00) by Lae Schafer

Share Your Smile h/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

Simak (£14-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Jean-Michel Ponzio

Stranger Things: The Other Side s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Jody Houser & Stefano Martino

Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale s/c (£14-99, DC Ink) by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart

Injustice Vs. Masters Of The Universe h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tim Seeley & Freddie E. Williams II

Superman: Action Comics vol 1: Invisible Mafia h/c (£19-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Wade Von Grawbadger

Amazing Spider-Man vol 3: Lifetime Achievement s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, Chris Bachalo

Doctor Strange vol 2: Remittance s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Pina, Andres Guinaldo, Jesus Saiz, others

Barefoot Gen vol 9 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2019 week four

April 24th, 2019

Featuring Lewis Trondheim, Stephane Oiry, Stuart Kolakovic, Francesco Artibani, Alessandro Barbucci, Mai K. Nguyen, Gene Luen Yang, Carla Speed McNeil and many more besides…

Lichen h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Stuart Kolakovic…

“You know we don’t have to climb these mountains don’t you?
“I could make you a tunnel that goes straight through it.
“I could even give you wings so you could just fly over it.
“All you have to do is wish for it.
“This silent treatment is really starting to wear thin.
“Do you think you’re so high and mighty that you can just ignore me?
“Or do you think I’m some sort of evil demon or something?
“Most people would kill to have the opportunity I’m offering you…
“Why can’t you just wish for something already?”

I think perhaps the deer herdsman just wishes you would shut up, Mister motormouth woodland spirit! Yes, yes he did do you a good turn and you did offer to grant him a single wish of absolutely anything his heart desired in return. But stalking him, hounding him, perpetually pestering him to make said wish is all just a little bit needy, don’t you think? I get it that no one has ever turned down a wish from you before, but maybe the herdsman is just a laid back sort of chap that doesn’t need or want for anything…?

 

 

Which… isn’t entirely true of course! It’s just that one probably shouldn’t use wishes or indeed any other sort of magic when it is true love you are after, I reckon… As does the herdsman.

 

 

For a chance encounter with a local lady, whilst in the undignified and instantly distressed state of being caught half-undressed washing in a stream, has set his heart-a-flutter. Her left behind scarf, carelessly snagged on a tree as she departed the scene with a hearty chuckle and a cheery wave, only serves as a continuous reminder to him of her all-too-brief sublime presence. But alas, the moment to pursue and woo elapsed, forever escaping our abluting shepherd, caught as he was in the catastrophic claws of all-consuming embarrassment…

Speaking of claws… there’s a bear out there too… One that really ought to be hibernating along with all the others, but instead is tracking the herdsman, his faithful canine chum and his voyaging venison, bells-a-ringing as they make their way from his isolated island camp all the way over the mountain tops to market. This bear seems utterly obsessed with our deer drover to the extent that it makes you wonder if there isn’t something… different… about this particular grizzly grouser.

Stuart Kolakovic’s has certainly set the bar high with his first graphic novel! For to my mind, this is no work of a callow beginner finding their artistic feet Bambi-style, if you’ll permit me a deer-based pun, but an immensely accomplished work, both visually and in terms of storytelling.

On that latter point, I found this as engrossing, enchanting and downright amusing as Isabella Greenberg’s THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH. It just has that same slightly naughty, mischievous charm, particularly once the woodland spirit joins our trooping troupe which coupled with the faux fairy tale feel makes for a delightfully amusing yarn packed with hart (sic). I really will stop with the deer jokes now I promise.

 

 

Artistically, you’ll be fawning (okay, okay, but that one seemed too good to miss) all over this if you are a fan of the likes of Jon KINGDOM McNaught. It is a different style, certainly, but it has that same attention to intricate detail liberally and seemingly effortlessly applied with beautifully muted, distinct colour palettes that just makes the panels feel like they are bursting with life and activity.

There is some superb design work going on throughout this tale which is apparently partly inspired by the creator’s Serbian ancestry. Indeed, this is as beautifully designed and illustrated as many a Nobrow published book.

You can see some slight hints of Eastern Europe flavour actually, and thus two works which only sprang to mind for very spurious comparative reasons would be MISTER MORGEN by Igor Hofbauer and William Goldsmith’s VIGNETTES OF YSTOV. But, as I say, they are a wee bit spurious.

So will the herdsman get his heart’s most fervent desire, either with or without resorting to magical means, or will the big, bad bear ensure that there’s no happy ending for anyone? Well, except the bear obviously. If you wish you could find out the antler, sorry answer, you know what to do, don’t you?

JR

Buy Lichen and read the Page 45 review here

Maggy Garrisson (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Lewis Trondheim & Stephane Oiry…

KNOCK KNOCK

“I don’t know you.”
“Well, we know you Maggy Garrisson. Tell us what we want to know and we’ll leave.”
“Sure. No problem. You’re a pair of druggy morons. You both have a history of juvenile delinquency. Right now, you’re playing tough guys. But really you’re just sent here by someone who actually finished school and now gives the orders.

“Was there anything else you wanted to know?”

Haha, I do so like Maggy Garrisson. Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to tell us all about this bad-mouthing bad ass…

“After two years of unemployment, Maggy Garrisson lands a secretarial job. Too bad her new boss is the shady, chaotic Anthony Wight: private detective and alcoholic. But a job is a job, and Maggy could use the cash.

 

 

Five days into her new role, Wight is beaten to a pulp and Maggy is tasked with returning his wallet. With this seemingly innocuous request, Maggy enters a sinister underworld of corrupt cops, crooked businessmen, and career criminals.

There’s a lot to investigate, from the disappearance of a family album to the theft of gold teeth from bodies at the crematorium. But for someone with the energy, ingenuity, and enterprising spirit of Maggy Garrisson, puzzles are there to be solved, especially if there’s money to be made in the process.”

And thus begins a hard hitting, if not entirely serious look at how to become a private detective pretty much entirely by accident! For once Maggie realises that not only can she pick up Anthony Wight’s very saggy caseload slack whilst he’s in hospital recuperating and get paid, she’s also well on the way to getting herself into no end of trouble too!

 

 

Fortunately, having cultivated policewoman Sheena as a drinking buddy, Maggie has at least some resources to try and help get her out of the particularly precarious situation her new boyfriend, the decidedly dodgy Alex (one of the two ‘druggy morons’), is dragging her ever further deeper into.

 

 

Well, okay, she’s running headlong into trouble and loving every second of it, but she’s still going to need a lot of help to avoid getting completely out of her depth if she’s not careful. Fortunately she is very careful indeed, and also very crafty to boot too…

 

 

This is for me hands down the best fictional work Lewis POPPIES OF  IRAQ Trondheim has done. I have no idea why he hasn’t decided to illustrate it himself, but in Stephanie Oiry he has found someone whose style is perfectly suited to this oh so well constructed game of cat and mouse. Maggie is convinced she can stay one step ahead of the local goons, but maybe they’re not the only people she needs to be watching out for…

This is as cleverly crafted a caper as CRIMINAL itself, with some wonderful little side-bar cases thrown in for good measure that Maggie needs to continually solve just to keep herself afloat for cash. The main case, though, whilst it might offer a considerably larger payday… of the not entirely legal variety… is the one that could also get her head kicked in good and proper if she’s not very careful… and verrrrry crafty… Did I mention…? Oh yes, I did!

Being set in the UK, with the mildly comedic convoluted case to unravel by an amateur sleuth thing going-on this also has some of the feel of Posy Simmonds’ CASSANDRA DARKE and indeed also MANN’S BEST FRIEND by Sophie & Scarlett Rickard. So therefore highly recommended!

JR

Buy Maggy Garrison and read the Page 45 review here

Monster Allergy vol 1 (£9-99, Insight Comics) by Francesco Artibani & Alessandro Barbucci…

“Listen… can I ask you something? Is it true that you see… monsters?”
“Yes, it is!
“Even now, for example, this room is full of them! Three of ‘em are singing on that shelf…
“… and one is hiding behind the couch, a couple of jelly ones are on the ceiling…
“… and there’s a really big one called Bombo who can’t stop eating…
“… and there’s a talking cat, too… but he never has anything interesting to say.
“We’re surrounded by monsters… but I’m the only one that can see them!”

Yes, Zick probably needs a trip to the opticians as there seems to be that many monsters flying around I’m genuinely surprised he can see even where he’s going! It must make reading comics tricky too I would have thought… Anyway, here’s the publisher to tell us more about Zick and his peculiar problems…

“Explore the world of monsters in this thrilling installment of the Monster Allergy adventure! Elena Potato just moved to Oldmill Village, but she’s about to find out that there’s a lot more going on in this quiet little town than meets the eye; Oldmill Village is actually an oasis for all kinds of monsters!

Zick, Elena’s new neighbour, is a strange kid who is allergic to just about everything, but he alone has the power to see the invisible ghosts and monsters that live among us.

 

 

Together, Zick and Elena set out to investigate the strange phenomena going on in Oldmill Village, including a recent uptick in missing pets, a dangerous man-eating plant, and a sinister salesman who could pose the ultimate threat to both humans and monsters alike!”

So, spooky all-age amusing detective shenanigans then? Yes, indeed, that’s exactly what this is! The unlikely pair of new chums set straight about dealing with the school bullies who are as amused by Elena’s surname as they are Zick’s allergies, as well as the myriad monsters who just so happen to be floating around causing mayhem, plus more sinister earthly-bound evil too…

 

 

I really enjoyed this. It definitely has that same sense of daft that John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY has, not remotely to be taken seriously, just enjoyed for the sheer nonsensical goings-on that clearly are going to keep mysteriously following Zick and Elena round and round from volume to volume. I note volume two has already been solicited for September later this year by the way.

Art-wise, it’s bold and vibrant with more than a touch of whacky about it, which actually put me slightly in mind of the far more adult FARMHAND material from by Rob Guillory. This has that similar touch of always impending lunacy about it but is just very much more suitable for all-ages readers!

JR

Buy Monster Allergy vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Pilu Of The Woods s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Mai K. Nguyen…

“Sometimes I feel like I could just disappear and no one would notice…”
“… Is that why you ran away? To disappear?”
“…”
“I don’t really think things can just disappear…
“Just ‘cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not important… doesn’t mean it’s gone. That’s how it is in nature.”

Very true, especially those stinging nettles that you only seem to see about one second before you stroll stridently right though them… Here’s the publisher to tell you what might happen if you pick this up and go down to the woods today…

“Willow loves the woods near her house. They’re calm and quiet, so different from her own turbulent emotions, which she keeps locked away. When her emotions get the better of her one day, she decides to run away into the woods.

There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home – which turns out to be the magnolia grove Willow’s mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, and the two quickly become friends.

 

 

But the journey is long, and Pilu isn’t sure she’s ready to return home yet – which infuriates Willow, who’s determined to make up for her own mistakes by getting Pilu back safely. As a storm rages and Willow’s emotions bubble to the surface, they suddenly take on a physical form, putting both girls in danger…and forcing Willow to confront her inner feelings once and for all.”

For this, dear readers, is very much a book about feelings, and also regrets, for Willow has fairly recently lost her mother and is still so very, very far from coming to terms with it. So when she meets Pilu, she feels duty bound, nay compelled, to help her friend get home, despite the fact that Pilu is still clearly working through her own maternally conflicted emotions herself.

 

 

I very much liked how this work explored coping with grief, when a loved one is suddenly, unexpectedly taken from you. The immense emotions it can bring out, plus working out how to get past dealing with all the things you didn’t say and also perhaps the few you did that you wish you hadn’t.

This book, perhaps because it is most definitely aimed at being a truly all-ages work, doesn’t dramatise or indeed even show Willow’s mother’s passing, instead alluding to it by showing the circumstances that lead up to it and then consequently making clear what terrible tragedy occurred. It’s handled in a very, very sensitive manner that would be fine with some parental guidance even for littlies.

 

 

Artistically, the main character of Pilu reminded me hugely of the titular character in Emily Hughes’ illustrated prose work WILD about a little feral girl who is found in the woods and resists all attempts to tame her by her ever more despairing adoptive family. The art style here with the big, plaintive eyes of both characters set amongst the friendly, flowery forest will certainly make you think of many a current all-ages work such as CUCUMBER QUEST, SPACE BOY, HILDA and NIGHTLIGHTS, though this certainly has charms all of its own too.

JR

Buy Pilu Of The Woods and read the Page 45 review here

Tamamo The Fox Maiden And Other Asian Stories s/c (£13-99, Other A-Z) by Gene Luen Yang, Carla Speed McNeil, various…

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll let the publisher begin to tell us all about…

“An incredible collection of tales from all over Asia, retold as stunning comics by some of the best independent artists the internet has to offer.

Vengeful spirits, flying ogres, trickster tigers, and much more. Featuring the work of Gene Luen Yang, Nick Dragotta, Blue Delliquanti, Carla Speed McNeil, Nina Matsumoto, and many more, this is one lively collection of Asian folktales, reimagined and retold in comics!”

The second volume in the “Cautionary Fables & Fairytales Book” series after THE GIRL WHO MARRIED A SKULL AND OTHER AFRICAN STORIES, this time around this sees us relocate geographically to Asia…

 

 

As before there may be the odd tale, or variation thereof, that seems familiar but most of these tales were certainly completely new to me.

 

 

Told in black and white, by a whole host of creators, if you fancy finding out a little more about Asian folklore then this may be for you. There’s twenty one tales to be told, all short and sweet though a fair few feature a sticky end…

 

 

Whilst it’s no FABLE COMICS by any means, it is certainly a most enjoyable way to acquire some cultural knowledge that’s probably safer than the terrifying prospect of being babysat and taught some learnin’ old school style by Shigeru Mizuki’s NONNONBA.

JR

Buy Tamamo The Fox Maiden And Other Asian Stories and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

A Quick & Easy Guide To Queer & Trans Identities (£8-99, Limerence Press) by Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg

American Gods vol 2 h/c (£20-00, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton

Brink vol 3 (£12-99, Rebellion) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Cannonball h/c (£22-99, Uncivilised Books) by Kelsey Wroten

Firefly vol 1: Unification War h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Greg Pak & Dan McDaid

The Ghost Of Ohio s/c (£17-99, Z2) by Andy Biersack, Scott Tuft & Eryk Donovan

Outdoors (£14-99, Breakdown Press) by Yokoyama Yuichi

Peterloo: Witness To A Massacre (£11-99, New Internationalist) by Eva Schlunke, Robert Poole & Polyp

Scarlet vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Sunday’s Child h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Serena Katt

Thin Slices Of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind (£9-99, Chronicle Books) by Catherine LePage

Windowpane (£19-99, Breakdown Press) by Joe Kessler

Injustice 2 vol 4 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & various

Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Mattia De Iulis, Filipe Andrade

Marvel Knights 20th s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates, various & Travel Foreman, various

Venom vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Barefoot Gen vol 8 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Goblin Slayer vol 4 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Letters For Lucardo (£13-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Noora Heikkila

Eddie Campbell & Audrey Niffenegger signing at Page 45, May 23rd 2019!

April 23rd, 2019

Audrey Niffenegger, author of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ and ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’, and Eddie Campbell, creator of ALEC and co-creator with Alan Moore of FROM HELL, will be signing their joint graphic novel BIZARRE ROMANCE (and much more besides!) at Page 45, Nottingham, on Thursday May 23rd 2019 from 5-30pm to 7pm.

 

 

This follows their appearance as Guests of Honour at the Nottingham UNESCO City Of Literature festival earlier in the day.

It’s a very special A&E signing!

We Have (And We Ship Worldwide!):

“The attic was infested with angels again.
“I could hear them bumping around above the ceiling.
“Plus, the harp music made it pretty obvious.”
BIZARRE ROMANCE by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell

 

 

Plus by Eddie Campbell:

 ALEC OMNIBUS
BACCHUS VOLS 1 & 2
FROM HELL
FROM HELL COMPANION
A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE
‘The Goat Getters’

 

 

Plus by Audrey Niffenegger:

‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’
‘Her Fearful Symmetry’
‘Ghostly: A Collection Of Ghost Stories’
THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE
THE ADVENTURESS

Please click on links for reviews.

 

 

The time: 5-30pm to 7-00pm
The date: Thursday 23rd May 2019
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY
Admission: Free!

No tickets, no fee, just turn up and meet two of the world’s finest raconteurs in comics and prose while they sign whichever books you fancy!.

“Aargh, I SO want stuff signed but I live at the South Pole!”

 

 

Not by choice, surely? Brrrr! Still, I do think it’s thawing.

The good news is that We Ship Worldwide!

Order anything by either creator online at www.page45.com before May 19th 2019 and add “PLEASE GET THIS SIGNED BEFORE SHIPPING” in the comments box and it shall be done! Similarly if you select “collect in-store” with “THIS IS FOR THE A&E SIGNING” then we will add that to the signing stash too.

If in doubt, for all queries please phone Page 45 on (0115) 9508045.

 

 

Keep Up To Date:

Page 45 Twitter: @PageFortyFive
Audrey Niffenegger Twitter: @AANiffenegger
Eddie Campbell Twitter: @ecampbelldammit

https://www.audreyniffenegger.com/
https://www.eddiecampbelldammit.com/
Page 45 News & Reviews: http://www.page45.com/world/
If you have any questions, please phone 0115 9508045.

Cheers,

Stephen L. Holland

Till Monkey With A Typewriter
Co-creator, co-owner, co-manager, Page 45

Special love to Sandeep Mahal, Director of Nottingham UNESCO City Of Literature, for catalysing this comics and prose creator confluence. Also: to Audrey and Eddie for getting hitched.

This has been a special A&E Signing Announcement on behalf of We Hope We Don’t Have To Go To Hospital For It.

You are so welcome.

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2019 week three

April 17th, 2019

Featuring Seth, Emily Carroll, Michael DeForge, Riff Reb’s, A. Tota, P. Van Hove, Terry Moore

Clyde Fans h/c Box Set Slipcase Edition (£42-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth.

 

 

The most eagerly anticipated completion in comics of the last decade alongside BERLIN by Jason Lutes!

From the creator of WIMBLEDON GREEN, IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, GEORGE SPROTT and THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS (those last two being Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months), this exquisite slipcased die-cut h/c collects a 488-page generational epic so long in the making that our Mark was still on hand to review the first instalment, after which Jonathan and I observed PALOOKAVILLE’s progress as it was released periodically.

Honestly? It’s mostly Jonathan.

Book One:

Two brothers inherit their father’s company, selling and manufacturing fans.

In the first half of the book it’s 1997 and Abraham Matchcard wanders through his day, looking back through the ups and downs of the business, admitting that they were unprepared for the rise of the air conditioner industry.

Once thriving, Clyde Fans was overtaken by technological progress, too self-assured to change track when advancements took place. At the abandoned headquarters he voices regrets for his life and that of his brother, Simon:

“Christ, it’s the norm for a salesman to promote himself. That’s the number one produce he’s selling.  It’s also a quality I’ve always found repulsive in myself and others.”

We go back to 1947 for the second part of the story. Arriving in the small Canadian town of Dominion, Simon is out of his depth. He’s asked to be a travelling salesman, wanting to prove himself to his brother, but without the requisite charm and bluff he finds himself knocked back a few times, backing away with sweaty palms. As he walks the street, the buildings seem to crowd him out. He can’t face phoning Abe to say how its all going. And it’s not going well.

 

 

This is not only an excellent character study but also a delicately drawn evocation of the past. Seth, as we know from IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, has sympathies for Abe and his feelings of being left behind as the world expands and thunders on. The detailing of the clothes and stores is wonderful, right down to the cheap, plastic novelties another salesman is hawking.

 

 

There are a dazzling few pages at the beginning showing the dawn approaching as we see the light falling on the buildings. As the pressure builds for Simon, his brother is shown in single panels, looking down on him like an angry God. We feel the guilt and panic.

Book Two:

Abraham Matchcard, President of the Borealis Business Machines company which produces his own Clyde Fans, sits in his office with his lawyer and reluctantly signs the papers that will declare it bankrupt.

On the wall hang photographs of more prosperous times when they could afford to develop charity funds. By contrast he’s about to make every one of his employees redundant, and as Abraham drives past the picket line he’s haunted by each individual face of those he’s just passed. They’re on strike for no more than a decent, basic living wage, but the company can’t afford even that, and by tomorrow morning they will no longer have any job at all.

After that Abraham’s thoughts revert to a father whose face he doesn’t even recall; a man he hated.

This is the story of the steady decline of Abraham Matchcard and his business empire through the inevitable changes occurring in manufacturing industries and the retail sector, but also through the inability of Abraham to adapt. He knows he’s a dinosaur, he can see extinction coming, but he’s still going through the motions.

Later, he endures the very definition of strained conversation with his brother Simon. Strangulated would probably be a better adjective to employ, actually.

 

 

It’s quite incredible how such a downbeat, depressing story can be so utterly gripping.

Design is something that so powerfully stands out in Seth’s work these days. His love of small panels, frequently working on a 4 x 4 or 4 x 5 grid on an already relatively small page, means you really do see the clever constructional conceits that are ever-present throughout his stories.

 

 

I can’t think of another creator where you can be so strongly aware of the design element without it distracting from the storytelling whatsoever. I am still completely present in the moment reading a PALOOKAVILE, but it’s just I am so vividly aware of this extra dimension and depth to the construction of the page subtly subconsciously seeping into my overall perception. His attention to detail is immaculate.

Eventually there’s the inevitable, sad, yet fulfilling moment as the epic story of Simon Matchcard draws to a conclusion by coming full circle back to the year 1957 where we left him at the end of the first half. Here we see the epiphany which sets him on the course of what will turn out to be his long, lonely life. It’s a rather poignant scene, knowing as we do everything that is to follow. For here, Simon is nothing but full of optimism of what lies ahead, certain of the path he is taking and the rewards it will bring.

Eh dear.

MAS & JR with a mere slither of SLH

Buy Clyde Fans h/c Box Set Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

When I Arrived At The Castle (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Emily Carroll  ~

“You really are a timid, shivering thing, aren’t you?
“It has a stink, you know?
“Your meekness.
“It makes me want to vomit.”

Says the Countess, lounging loosely and seductively in an armchair, elegant finger curled at painted lip, body delicately wrapped in swathes of sheer fabric… With hooded eyes she’s hardly giving her guest a second glance. She did, quite rudely, arrive early after all…

The countess has power and she knows it. She is ‘accommodating’ to her guest, but not without torment, for she knows precisely why her guest is paying her a visit, and so will take every opportunity to torment her captive caller.

 

 

Emily THROUGH THE WOODS Carroll is back with another sensual slice of gothic horror. Done with deft elegance in her signature black, white and red, she has woven a fever-dreamlike tale.

 

 

Overlapping images and layers of details and patterns create a chaotic and intoxicating environment, filling the viewer with a certain unease, while well constructed and surprising characters are brilliantly bewitching. Carroll has cleverly entwined fables, which punctuate the story like a slight blow to the head, each time coming to ta new level of disorientation.

 

 

Victoriana gothic horror at its finest, this will certainly tantalise the taste buds of her current fans, but also be a striking draw for newcomers.

JP

Buy When I Arrived At The Castle and read the Page 45 review here

Memoirs Of A Book Thief h/c (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by A. Tota & P. Van Hove…

“I whipped everything out I could remember of Gilles’ speech about art being passé and laid it on him, explaining the connection between car theft and poetry.
“He asked me countless questions. He wanted to know everything. I was forced to make up increasingly unbelievable stories.
“I painted myself as a shrewd connoisseur of modernity, a verbal revolutionary, an adventurer of enigmatic intent…
“Nicole discovered that she was hanging out with an essential player on the international art scene.”

Which was of course total bullshit! Here’s the publisher to tell us more about the deliverer of deception, the font of fabrication, the master of the mendacious that is one Daniel Brodin…

“Paris, the 1950s. Daniel Brodin – bibliophile, book thief, self-proclaimed poet – enters the heated atmosphere of the Cafe Serbier, home of the Parisian literati. Daniel impulsively puts himself forward for a poetry recitation.

Under pressure, he recites not one of his own surrealist poems but an obscure piece of Italian verse he’s certain no one will know. It’s plagiarism, but it’s a triumph. Daniel’s recital marks his entrance into the Parisian avant-garde: a band of cultured rogues and pseudo-revolutionaries for whom life is a playground for art and planning a robbery has as much value as writing a book.

 

 

In this milieu, the wine is good and the girls are beautiful. But can success last if it is founded on plagiarism and theft?”

Well, that depends entirely on if you continue to get away with it, I would imagine! And Daniel does, for a long, long time… But any house of cards will eventually topple if you keep on trying to build it higher and higher…

 

 

I’ll be completely honest now, unlike the disingenuous Daniel: I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this from my first extremely cursory flick through. However, pretty much as soon as I commenced, I was hooked. By the character of Daniel, and indeed all his crackpot cohorts in ‘the scene’ with their hair-brained schemes, both artistic and criminal, their petty jealousies and rivalries, and of course the compulsory booze-drenched lifestyle.

 

 

Consequently I found this a hilarious enjoyable, riotous piece of contemporary fiction, well, part cautionary tale too, I suppose! You’ll find yourself rooting for Daniel, even though you know you really shouldn’t, but we all love a chancer, don’t we? Though he does steal books… so on principle I ought to regard him as a complete and utter irredeemable bastard, deserving of burning in hell forever in the very special corner reserved for those partaking of the five-fingered discount of reading material.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there! Let him takes his chances and we’ll see what happens… For when Daniel eventually finds himself in far, far too deep to extract himself from yet another stupid situation of his own creating, you’ll very possibly groan out loud just as I did at the inevitable misstep he finally makes…

Art-wise, the deliberately, dare I say it, slightly dishevelled style is absolutely perfect for this work. Black and white throughout, the only splash of colour is the red wine in Daniel’s glass on the front cover (and some letters in the title and creator’s names for good measure which actually works very nicely). There’s many an intense stare, sly grin and frequently sweaty brows as Daniel continues to try and navigate increasing murky waters.

JR

Buy Memoirs Of A Book Thief h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Men At Sea s/c (£22-99, Dead Reckoning) by Riff Reb’s…

“One by one, towards the end of the second week, the crewmembers died, some of cold, others of exposure, exhaustion, and melancholy.”

It’s a hard life aboard the good ship Page 45, let me tell you!

Anyway… avast there, me hearties, prepare to have your timbers shivered and your soul sent down to Davey Jones’ Locker for a laugh-a-minute look at the high seas this is not. No. In fact, after reading this dour drove of cautionary tales regarding life, well death, on the ocean waves, I think this land lubber will be steering well clear of coastal climes for many a moon. Which is very possibly what the creator intended, dear reader, but fear ye not as I’m sure you sequential art mariners are made of far sterner stuff than I…

Here’s the publisher to tip you the black spot and mark you guilty of perusing comics for your own piratical pleasure…

“MEN AT SEA is an opus of eight spectacularly drawn dark, poetic stories freely adapted by Riff Reb’s. This collection offers: ‘A Smile of Fortune,’ from Joseph Conrad, ‘The Sea Horses’ and ‘The Shamraken Homeward Bound,’ from William Hope Hodgson, ‘The Galley Slaves’ and ‘The Far South,’ from Pierre Mac Orlan, ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom,’ from Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Three Customs Officers,’ from Marcel Schwob, and ‘The Shipwreck,’ from Robert Louis Stevenson.

These eight tales, themselves interspersed by seven double-page spreads dedicated to extracts from illustrated classics, deliver a rich, poetic, and masterfully crafted work of life and death on the sea.”

 

 

That they do. Particularly death… I think you do probably need to be a big fan of the briny foam or illustrated classics to fully appreciate these tales. The slightly exaggerated art style and limited colour palettes used throughout perfectly highlight the fearsome, ferocious, all-powerful nature of the oceans and one’s chances of survival if you find yourself in a salty scrape, be that confronting a veracious vortex or just stoically dealing with a sinking ship.

 

 

Time for this man to go overboard and swim swiftly on to the next review, but before you read that, you might want to muse on Nick Hayes’ socially satirical THE RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER, which was a decade ahead of David Attenborough when it came to pointing out what we’ve done to our oceans with plastics.

JR

Buy Men At Sea s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Leaving Richard’s Valley (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

“Have you ever thought that maybe the valley isn’t just a place… it’s more like an idea…”
“Yes.”

The master of the disparately absurd returns with his most coherently straightforward work yet.

Haha, you didn’t believe that for a second did you? Just as well! Here is a succinct, sensible summary of DeForge’s latest dene of disastrous daft from the publisher…

“Richard is a benevolent but tough leader who oversees everything that happens in the valley. When Lyle the Raccoon becomes sick, his ragtag group of friends take matters into their own hands, breaking Richard’s strict rules. Caroline Frog rats them out to Richard and they are immediately exiled from the only world they’ve ever known.

 

 

DeForge’s tale expands from a bizarre hero’s quest into something more: they make it out of the valley and into the big city, and we see them coming to terms with different kinds of community: noise-rockers, gentrification protesters, squatters, and more.”

Richard is a dick, and not just in the diminutive sense. That’s not a spoiler, by the way… you’ll certainly pick that up pretty quickly for yourselves. Quicker than Lyle and his chums, I’m sure. But when the penny finally drops they certainly throw themselves into their exiled existence with a newfound zest for life. Amazing what getting out from under the opposable thumbs of a domineering despot can do for your self-esteem…

 

 

I should probably make clear at this point that Richard is the only human in the valley. The fact that he’s decided to sequester himself away in the middle of a park smack bang in the centre of Toronto to lord it over the wildlife possibly hints at why he isn’t ideal leadership material… As Lyle and company manage to start making a go of it in the big city, Richard’s regime, and mental health, inevitably begin to crumble and then collapse apace in tragic tandem.

I’ll possibly have to retract my opening statement to mention that this is, in some senses, DeForge’s least surreal tale, talking animals musing the meaning of life and escape from the clutches of cultdom aside… The strict four-panel-per-page format and askew life lessons put me slightly in mind of PEANUTS, which frankly is a suitably totally ridiculous comparison. This is more like a comedic, satirical, warped version of Ander Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS. With extra added odd.

 

 

In DeForge terms, this is closest in feel to STICKS ANGELICA, FOLK HERO, which actually would be my opening gambit for someone new wanting to give him a try. Or possibly the equally preposterous and indeed hilarious BRAT. This chunky tome is more one for DeForge aficionados as I suspect it would definitely be over-long for someone brand new to his work.

Art-wise it was a slight surprise to see only black and white after all his recent vibrant colour works. I have seen him employ black and white for the odd much shorter strip, but I’ve always personally felt his whacky colour palette only added to his artistic charms. Well, this is monochrome technically, just about, rather than black and white, but still, for such a long work it was possibly a very prudent decision in time terms if nothing else! Surreal he may be, silly he is not.

JR

Buy Leaving Richard’s Valley and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus (s/c £26-99, h/c £35-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

Book One:

SEE SOMETHING
SAY SOMETHING

There’s a sign on the New York subway accentuated, emphasised and made urgent by piercing eyes. It says:

SEE SOMETHING
SAY SOMETHING

In a pressed white shirt, suit and tie, a smart man on his smart phone is standing. He is sombrely checking for texts or the latest, breaking News Headlines. He would do well to do that. Satisfied, he slips the phone into his overcoat, scowling at the crowd as the carriage doors open. Commuters get on, commuters get off and, once on the open platform, he checks his coat pocket as per habit, pat-pat. It is not well weighted.

“HEY! STOP!
“STOP THAT BOY!
“STOP HIM!”

 

 

 

The boy and the man are dashing up the escalator, the small boy diving between pedestrians while the smart man is impeded and – shit – there’s another kid who’s tossed the cell phone sideways in passing! It’s nimbly caught in a pre-planned relay race, the brat in the hoodie heading up the stairs at speed, swerving right towards the foyer’s crossover before throwing this exceptionally mobile phone clean over the gleaming glass balustrade!

It’s gone.

 

 

Down below a good-looking woman in her thirties, well dressed for winter in a jacket and loose woollen scarf, calmly and casually removes the SIM card from its casement. As she discards the rest, the detritus unnecessary to her purpose, she glares up at the smart man who’s not now feeling very smart at all, looks her victim straight in the eye and she gives him a grimace which he will never forget.

Oh my God! It’s — !

Welcome to Terry Moore’s STRANGERS IN PARADISE – or indeed, welcome back! – on this, its 25th Anniversary. You can read our prior reviews if you fancy, but you need know nothing in order to settle straight in to one of the series we have been most phenomenally fond of in all of our years working in comics, for this is a very fresh start.

After surviving all that the world and Katchoo’s pitch-black past could throw at them, Katchoo and Francine are now happily – nay, blissfully – married, living out in the dessert with their two delightful daughters in a luxury villa financed by Katchoo’s highly successful career in fine art… but probably her previous one too.

Katchoo was a Parker Girl. She “belonged” to Darcy Parker. Darcy Parker was a vicious woman who used other women to infiltrate the government at its highest levels. The Parker Girls were essentially the highest paid prostitutes imaginable, and they never got to leave.

Katchoo left, though I will not say how, and now sits with one of Darcy’s former enforcers, the formidable, ever-brooding, stone-faced Tambi, as they watch Francine play, splashing away during the heat of the day, in the extensive garden’s swimming pool with one of their beloved daughters.

There is so much laughter!

Katchoo is smiling maternally, lovingly, with all the adoration she has always held in her heart for her now-wife Francine, right from the very first moment we met them. Reciprocation did not come easily and it did not come quickly. STRANGERS IN PARADISE was a very long series: 2,400 pages long! But here they are, and they have arrived!

You’ll notice Tambi and Katchoo share a certain look. Darcy Parker liked blondes very much. Tambi is not smiling lovingly and her arms are criss-crossed with scars.

 

 

“You know,” begins Katchoo, a twinkle in her eye, “I used to think you only had two looks, mean and meaner. Then I saw you hold my babies.”
“You fought hard for what you have, Katchoo. Wife, kids, a new life… Nothing came easy for you.”

That’s very true.

“I don’t want to see you lose everything you worked for.”
“Why would I lose everything? Tambi?”

I loved the reversal on the first few pages where we came in. Initially I fretted for the smart man with the smart phone (his name’s Scott) for we all fear pickpockets and fewer ever say something even if they see something, and fewer still do anything about it. And Terry keeps you going breathlessly for three pages before you discover the phone’s final recipient.

 

 

Scott’s married to a woman called Laura, by the way.

She’s called Laura, but that’s not her name. Her real name is Stephanie, and she has that certain look too.

“Tambi?”

Oh no.

 

 

Book Two:

“Who controls the past controls the future.

“Who controls the present controls the past.”

 – George Orwell

Who controls the future here remains to be seen.

Previously in STRANGERS IN PARADISE (the Omnibus review is ever so slightly expansive):

Katchoo and Francine have endured the vicious repercussions of Katchoo’s tarnished past – which have come back to curtail their present and so threaten their future – successfully enough against all adversarial odds, to settle down and carve themselves a blissful, tranquil family life with their two daughters in a really rather swish villa strategically sequestered in the middle of nowhere.

It is idyllic!

Then STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV vol 1 kicks off.

 

 

To ensure her family’s safety, Katchoo finds herself racing frantically across the globe from the Isle of Skye in Scotland to the remotest jungles of Colombia. Unfortunately, she’s left Francine and the girls terrifyingly vulnerable in the supposed sanctuary of their home.

 

 

All the weathers are here, both hot and humid and freezing with snow which Moore draws so eye-blindingly well, plus the sort of cliff-leaping, all-out action that you’d expect from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

 

 

 

By now, however, long-term Terry Moore fans will have noticed his various storylines merging, incorporating characters and plot points from previous series MOTOR GIRL, RACHEL RISING and ECHO.

They’re rekindled here to kick off the next series – imminently and ominously – in FIVE YEARS #1 and FIVE YEARS #2 which will automatically be distributed to those signed up at Page 45 for SiP.

For, as I say, who controls the future remains to be seen.

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Note: SiP Omnibus not actual covers. The s/c is essentially #1, h/c #10

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Circle h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Gideon Falls vol 2: Original Sins s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart

Kiss Number 8 (£13-99, First Second) by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw

Maggy Garrison (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Lewis Trondheim & Stephane Oiry

Magic Order vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel

Monster Allergy vol 1 (£9-99, Insight Comics) by Francesco Artibani & Alessandro Barbucci

Pilu Of The Woods s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Mai K. Nguyen

Square s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Tamamo The Fox Maiden And Other Asian Stories s/c (£13-99, Other A-Z) by Gene Luen Yang, Carla Speed McNeil, various

The Witch Boy (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag

Shatterstar s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Tim Seeley & Carlos Villa

The Girl From The Other Side vol 6 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Goblin Slayer vol 4 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Go With Clouds, North By Northwest vol 1 (£11-99, Vertical) by Aki Irie

Today’s Menu For The Emiya Family (£11-99, Den Pa) by Type-Moon & Taa

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