Reviews August 2014 week four

August 27th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus:

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

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

SLH

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

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

Julius Caesar:

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

Something stabby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can almost year the Muppets’ applause.

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

“14 Days & Counting.”

Well, this will give you pause for thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy The End and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

Golly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Fish and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank god it wasn’t page 45!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t delay – send ‘em away!”

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

SLH

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

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

Friendship, loyalty and the need to be loved.

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

New word: axolotl.

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

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

For more, please see my review of JELLABY VOL 1

“Jellaby will win your heart”

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

SLH

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

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

“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or is he?

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

JR

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ITEM! Jamie Smart’s online Whubble comic!

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

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand……..

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

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week three

August 20th, 2014

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

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

 - Jonathan on Metroland #1

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

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

Spot the predator!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

Very wise, very wise.

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

My headmaster had a temper on him too.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“They’re here.”

SLH

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

JR

Buy Metroland #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

 

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

Buy Days and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

 

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

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

JR

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

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

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

- Evan Dorkin, from his introduction.

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

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

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

TR

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

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

I say, young man, do get a grip!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

Exceptional character acting by artist Steve Dillon.

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

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

SLH

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

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

Oh, this is terrific!

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

Brace yourselves!

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

Uh-oh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

JR

Buy Terraformars vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News

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

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

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

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

ITEM! Preview of Liz Prince’s TOMBOY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week two

August 13th, 2014

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

 -Stephen on Ray Fawkes’ The People Inside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Which should shift a few units.

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where it gets really juicy.

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

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

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

I think I know who sent it.

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

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

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

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

She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

“Look what you did to me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just… don’t leave this until your dotage.

SLH

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

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

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

Have you even seen my garden?!

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

Welcome to the garden, dear readers, home to world-renowned, instantly recognised household name… Gary Whatsisface.

So much happens there both behind Gary’s back and right under his nose. By day there is danger! By night there is bin-raiding derring-do! His kitchen and store-cupboards are subject to daylight robbery. Even Gary’s boxer shorts are on the line! The washing line, that is. Or they were.

From the creator of THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS, I gleefully present barrels more buffoonery in which the Cartoon King of bugged-out eyes and shriek-squealing shenanigans sets his sights on suburban denizens of the dank, its tree-top scurriers and worriers, its frond-fond failures and other long-grassed losers: spiders, caterpillars, butterflies; worms, moles and tadpoles; rats, bats and bluebottle flies… all going about their day-to-day, survival of the twittest, ultra-competitive business.

In ‘First Legs’ you will weep when witnessing the loneliness of being a late developer.

In ‘Terrence The Snail’ you will slime as fast as you can slither straight back to Mum.

And on page 45 (of all places) you will wonder whether you can love a girl with a poo hanging out of her bum. Can you?

(Clue: guppies in a fish tank: they have strings of poo hanging out of their bums. They really do!)

Once more, it is the innate understanding of what will make a kid cry with laughter and squeal uncontrollably “Ewwww!” that so successfully informs a comic like this: the one-two punchline of ‘Noisy Neighbours’ is designed specifically to send its readers screaming back to their parents and thrust it in front of their faces. Warning: may prove counter-productive to your parental 5-a-day drive!

There are recurrent jokes you may only spot in the background, I love the slightly outmoded names (Penny the pigeon, Cyril the bumblebee, Rupert the squirrel, Ronald the spider) and the colours… oh, the colours are sublime! I take you back to those tadpoles.

Perspective also plays a vital role: what to this diminutive, ugly-bug ball of buffoons is a Transdimensional Televisor is to us but a toilet roll they’re treadmilling through the open French Windows. What to Gary is a delightful bird-twitter of song is a mockery through mimicry of what our bearded baboon really seems and sounds like. Self-deprecation is a superb source of comedy and Gary Whatsisface – here like the Johnny Morris of mismanaged comics – has mastered it.

In the back as a bonus feature is a game of Gary’s Garden Top Chumps as in Trumps. I loved Top Trumps! It acts both as a character guide and as a fully playable game. You don’t have to cut out your comic but can download and print out then cut out the lot from THE PHOENIX comic website. Brilliant!

Skill sets are: Intelligence, Heroism, Grumpiness, Ickiness, Legs.

Each is scientifically calculated out of ten unless you’re a caterpillar. That means molluscs score low on legs (one), but don’t bet on them being lowest (no clues).

Outrageously, however, there is a Top Chump for Gary Northfield who scores himself 10, 10, 10, 10 and 10. Now, I will give Gary 10 out of 10 both for Grumpiness and Ickiness, but Intelligence and Heroism is pushing it.

As for the legs…

Gary!

SLH

Buy Gary’s Garden Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron.

THING THAT IS AWESOME +
THING THAT IS AWESOME =
THING THAT IS TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME

Fact!

Neill Cameron has art down to a science.

All education should be entertainment and creativity is coolest when fun.

This is bundles of fun. It’s instructive, interactive and each step is a full step, but not too steep a step so that budding comicbook creators won’t run out of puff. Nor will they know that they’re climbing a mountain until they reach its summit then feel like they’re on top of the world!

By the time you and / or your young ones have finished this essential guide to comicbook storytelling with practical notes on how to pop your own comic together you will feel empowered enough to tell any story in many ways.

Just watch out for the bananas.

“Something’s wrong with Mecha Monkey! He’s gone into overdrive! … And he seems to be completely obsessed with bananas!”

No, Neill, that’s you.

So meet Professor Panels and his Art Monkey. They’re given up their free time at a mental health institution to teach you how to make comics, and not just any old comics: how to make awesome comics! All you‘ll need is paper, a pencil or pen and your brain.

“Note: do not remove from head.”

Starting with stick figures, filling in blanks at the end of short stories Art Monkey has already drawn, you’ll soon progress onto a variety of simple body shapes broken down into basics in the useful and reassuring knowledge that cartooning is all about is about simplifying: Keep It Simple, Stupid! Faces and emotional ranges swiftly follow on precisely the same principles, focussing on three key elements: the eyes, eyebrows and mouth.

However, cartooning is also about the stories themselves, so you won’t just learn how to draw, but how to set up short sequences yourself with an introduction, confrontation and resolution, how to make that physical, mental or emotional, and how to turn the whole shebang into slapstick comedy, including how to draw a doofus. (I will sit and model for your children, yes.)

Before all that you need ideas and Professor Panels has some simple exercises to help you generate the awesomest ideas of all. Try the equation above! I did, below:

Page 45 + Winning The Lottery = THING THAT IS TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME (for both of us)!

Okay, what he really meant is something like this:

Bananas + Ballet = Bananarina! (See is believing.)

There are also lessons on lettering, and how cool it is to make your sound effects the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia, appendices on things like robot accessories (wheels, jets, missiles, claws, more missiles, chainsaw and a nice pretty bow!), dinosaur shapes, penguins, ninja penguins, and more stories to complete in your own insane manner.

Best of all, however, is that all these examples can be downloaded from the Phoenix Comic website then printed off so you can create as many versions as you fancy without drawing on the book itself!

I wholeheartedly recommend this as a starter guide to anyone of any age, so whip out some paper and sharpen your pencil right now!

Bring your own bananas.

SLH

Buy How To Make Awesome Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire.

From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE UNDERWATER WELDER and SWEET TOOTH comes a deliriously coloured piece of science fiction whose twin narratives dovetail beautifully when they meet at the middle during the first episode’s conclusion.

Now, that may sound like a gimmick – albeit a clever one – but it is integral to this transtemporal and reality-reconfiguring piece where perception and perspective are all.

1921, and William is determined to find the fabled Lost Temple Of The Incas deep in the Peruvian jungle even though Sir Terrance Morgan’s old escapades ended very badly indeed. His older brother is sceptical, but find it they do, along with the bodies tied to stakes which they assume are from the previous, doomed expedition. Perhaps they should have inspected the clothing more carefully.

In 3797 on a remote human settlement in space, Nika has found the Lost Temple Of The Incas and its blue-skinned, Atabithian inhabitants. What she desperately needs is some of the Trillium flowers within to cure a sentient and singularly virulent virus which could wipe out all mankind. Beyond her own only one other colony remains. Unfortunately Nika is running out of time and her commanding officer may have to resort to less verbal methods of negotiation. Her space suit’s artificial intelligence is scrambling desperately to translate the Atabithians’ language but manages mere snippets. But then Nika ingests one of the flowers and the result is a perfect comicbook moment!

 

After the first chapter a more regular approach to the two time frames sets in until a dramatic shift in the protagonists’ circumstances creates a wobble in reality and each two-tiered page is played like a face card (Jack, Queen, King), one reflecting the other. Oh yeah!  You wait until you get to the real confluences!

Best of all is the colouring: old school washes bleeding beautifully and – as required – eerily. The corpses as recalled by William on the battlefield, drowning in muddy water, are horrific. Lemire’s spindly art really takes off in the space-set sequences, with a gloriously detailed, flower-strewn inner temple which, in chapter seven, grows even more epic once Nika discovers its real secret and so finds herself dwarfed under The Mouth Of God.

I should probably spare you my one consternation because it’s difficult to unlearn things without the aid of copious amounts of alcohol and you might not have spotted it yourself. But in the interests of honesty the Peruvian jungle looked far from jungular, and when one of the expedition members declared, “Dear Lord, I didn’t think the underbrush could get any thicker!” I looked around and all I could see was a perfectly accessible, knee-level grassland, three or four trees per hectare and a couple of random vines.

Bonus in the back: Jeff Lemire and letter artist Chris Ross divulge the secret of the fictional Atabithian language which is nothing of the sort (it’s not Klingon) but a code substituting our own letters of the alphabet with symbols cleverly constructed around the concept of a three-fingered race. However, because it isn’t a fully formed language it does mean that you can go back and decipher the extensive exchanges which Nika couldn’t comprehend without the aid of a GCSE in Atabithian.

Someone send this lazybones a transcript, please. Thank yooooooo!

SLH

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

Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa.

From the creator of PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS, at a guess this contains the first three volumes of the previous series.

Welcome to Altruistic Avenue off Right-Thing Road, paved by Good Intentions Inc.

Hell lies straight ahead.

It’s 1986 before the Berlin Wall came down: Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a young Japanese immigrant working as a neurosurgeon in Germany, and very grateful to be doing so. He’s a prodigy sponsored by Dr. Heinemann, the Head Director of Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, and dating his daughter who’s all easy smiles and eyebrow pencil.

Oh yes, Kenzo has it made but he’s not that kind of guy. He’s eager to please – to the extent that he’ll write papers outside of his own gruelling operating hours and allow Heinemann to claim them as his own – but he knows right from wrong, and his first lesson in wrong comes in the form of a Turkish woman and child whose husband/father is brought in for surgery before a premier opera singer collapses and Dr. Tenma is directed to divert his attention from the first patient to the more prestigious one. He complies, of course, but the Turk dies without Kenzo’s personal touch, leaving his grieving widow to berate him in the corridors and a sympathetic fellow surgeon to warn him about game-plans. At least his fiancée is there to soothe him jauntily with the indisputable truth that “People’s lives aren’t created equal”.

At this point I thought the monsters of the series were actually going to be Dr. Heinemann and his superficial, over-privileged daughter, but no. For Dr. Tenma is offered a chance to redeem himself when a defector from East Germany and his young family are targeted by parties unknown and slaughtered in their residence. Their daughter goes catatonic, while their little boy requires immediate and intricate brain surgery to save him from the bullet in his skull.  Kenzo preps himself but at the last minute the local Mayor, a financial supporter of the hospital, collapses and once again our beloved doctor is reassigned to the more politically advantageous operation. With the heart-felt reprimands of the Turkish woman still in his head, does Dr. Kenzo bite the hands that feed him and stab the eyes that seduce him or does he comply once more and live to be promoted yet another day? He does not.

And you cheer, yes you cheer, but everything that follows from demotion to promotion, from police investigation to the most awful revelation, will make you wish that he had.

I’ll be back with more, as will Inspector Lunge of the German Federal Crime Unit – he of the clickerty fingers – and none of it will look good for our dear cousin Kenzo.

With a fine line that speaks as much French as it does Japanese with its exaggerated features and arch expressions, Urasawa is very much worth investigating. Same goes for Dr. Tenma, unfortunately.

What I particularly loved about this was the skills of deflection, evidently hereditary, which both the domineering doctor and his debutante of a daughter apply to so successfully scupper any chance young Kenzo seizes to vocalise his misgivings, leaving him… well, not exactly exasperated because he’s too much of a puppy… but desperate and deflated with the whole world against him. It’s another one of those horror stories that strikes home because the horror is as much about no one taking you seriously, no one believing what you alone have witnessed, because it’s so much more credible that you’re the guilty party yourself.

If only Inspector Lunge read more manga!

SLH

Buy Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

“Hey Ramona… have you ever dated anyone that wasn’t evil?”
“Once, this guy Doug. He was kind of a dick, though.”

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

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

But will his martial skills be enough to save his relationship with Ramona? Are they even destined to be together after she confesses to an aghast Scott she doesn’t even like his band Sex Bob-omb? Is she really the clean-cut heroine she seems to be? Why does her head sometimes start glowing?!! Will Scott ever realise Kim Pine his oldest and dearest friend is still in love with him!?!?! Dare they tell Ramona about Scott’s innocent sleep-over as he forgets his key for Ramona’s apartment yet again?!!! Will Steven ‘The Talent’ Stills finally finish mixing the Sex Bob-omb album? Just who is Wallace’s mysterious new boyfriend? Can Knives Chau ever get over Scott and stop being so goddamn annoying and clingy? And will Young Neil ever find someone who’ll actually just go out with him?

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

Colour Edition extras include a behind-the-scenes process piece on how O’Malley approached each book from script through thumb-nails for full pencils, lettering and inks, as well as initial designs and ideas jotted down on paper, some of which never made the final cut.  Also: loads of poster and t-shirt designs, plus a couple of watercolour paintings.

JR

Buy Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery…

“Othniel Charles Marsh was the pre-eminent palaeontologist of the day, his wealth of dinosaur discoveries and prowess were renowned…
“Edward Drinker Cope described him as a ‘prize bellend’.”

Ha. I ordered this mini-anthology purely on the strength of it containing new MEGATHERIUM CLUB material, but actually each of the four strips is a winner in their own right. The opener, The Bullpen by Luke James Halsall and Tim Bird, despite the characters names being changed to presumably avoid any possible legal issues, is prefaced with the comment that if you would like to know more about the early days of Marvel Comics to read MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY by Sean Howe, which I would heartily endorse. In this strip, we see a bespectacled huckster-type blatantly fuck over the diligent, hard-working artist by taking the entire credit for creating their new characters. Now, I wonder who that particular potshot is aimed at…?

Then, after the delightful nonsense of the Club’s latest ill advised booze-addled exploits, there follows Hitchcock & Film in which the esteemed director charts the very beginnings of cinema and also his own intertwined childhood years. It’s by Ricky Miller and Tim Bird, and I believe this is the first chapter of what will be a longer work. You can tell it’s extremely well researched, and I’m really looking forward to seeing considerably more of this material. I found it fascinating, both from the historical as well as the biographical perspective. I should add at this point I loved Tim’s previous homage to the Great British institution of the motorway GRAY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK. I really enjoy his art style, I think it’s immensely well polished for such a relaxed approach.

 

 

Finally, we have something completely different art-wise from EdieOP. I’ve seen some bits and pieces from her forthcoming MALEFICIUM and I think she’s a real talent. Much like Brecht THE WRONG PLACE / THE MAKING OF Evens, I like the fact she’s not afraid to plough a unique artistic furrow. Her tale here, The Story Of Lucius Jellybean, is a random bit of craziness about a whole new lifeform created from a dissolved slug. He’s a well meaning freak of nature, despite being prone to causing the odd pandemic by accident! Very amusing.

This collection is a primer / advert for the fledgling (set up in 2012) Avery Hill Publishing, whose publications so far, I have found to be of impeccable merit! Keep up the good work!

JR

Buy Reads vol 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez.

“THANKS FOR COMING
(Call the police.)”

In which a pink bunny is jabbed repeatedly in the head by a hypodermic needle and injected with whatever it takes to keep the comic going.

Yes, it’s mother of invention time.

When creators attend conventions they find it useful to have something to sign and to sell – a print or a comic – to help pay for their way and give their readers an incentive to visit their tables. Jhonen Vasquez, creator of JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and SQUEE, found himself in need ahead of a San Diego Comic Convention so turned the first of these four fillers around in 24 hours.

That’s what these are: fillers. Far from deceitful, Vasquez set out his stall immediately: he had to fill fifteen pages without a clue how to do so except subject poor Fillerbunny to as much pain as possible. He ran out of ideas of page six. Didn’t matter: that was the joke.

Of FILLERBUNNY #3: MY WORST BOOK YET, Mark wrote:

“This book is a bestseller at Page 45. Hordes of dark munchkins sweep through the shop on a Saturday, examine the same shelf as always, point at a few things and then leave. It’s a thing.”

He wasn’t joking.

Includes Fillerbunny in a bee costume. If you like bee costumes, try Jamie Smart’s  KOCHI WANABA

SLH

Buy The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny and read the Page 45 review here

Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely, more.

Henry & Glenn are housemates. Glenn’s on the road and sends Henry a postcard:

“Dear Henry,
“How are you? The tour is going ok. I miss you and the dog so much. Give her a kiss for me. Yesterday this lead singer slapped me. It hurt so much I wish you were there to have held me. Well I have to go there is a great documentary on about werewolves.
“Miss you,
“Glenn
“xoxox”

So much funnier when you realise that it’s Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig.

Fear not, this is completely smut-free. It is instead a light-hearted romcom featuring the unlikeliest of lovers trying to sort out their issues. The main issue is that Glenn is a self-centred, melodramatic cry-baby whose career has dead-ended, leaving our stoical Henry to deal with the domestic practicalities and bring home the bacon by appearing as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race (true fact – I’ve seen an episode, and good for him!) and indeed The Henry Rollins Show where he interviews Kevin Smith:

“So, Kevin… how big is Ben Affleck’s dick? Sorry, I meant: how big of a dick is Ben Afleck?”
“This interview is over.”

Tom Neely’s cartooning is a fun-filled joy with elements both of Peter Bagge in Glenn Danzig and square-jawed Chester Gould in Henry Rollins. Benjamin Marra, meanwhile, delivers a back-stabbing satani-cult romp in the style of Golden Age superheroes inked in Rotring. Erick Yahnker’s photo-realistic portrait in grey washes was actually quite touching. Coop’s homage to Frank Frazetta wasn’t!

Daryl Hall and John Oates, meanwhile, are the long-suffering neighbours, while Morrissey finally brings accord to their discord, albeit in opposition.

The bumper edition collects all five mini-comics of full sequential art, single cartoons, cry-fest diary entries, and the sort of notes you’d leave your housemate on the refrigerator. I’ve read the hatemail some humourless loons sent the creative crew, while Henry Rollins said:

“Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would NOT be amused.”

He wasn’t.

You’ll find Glenn Danzig’s real-life, recorded reaction to the first mini on the very last page. Hahahahaha!

Aww, there, there. I’m not going to kiss you better.

SLH

Buy Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever and read the Page 45 review here

Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun.

First four volumes of the iconoclastic World War I series that fills some browsers with so much nostalgia their eyes begin to well up.

Includes August 1st 1916 – Charley’s seventeenth birthday – when the British forces begin bombing their own side. Which is nice.

I saw a BBC programme on the Battle of the Somme, and whereas the British forces were totally screwed by their own superiors, our French allies manage to achieve their objectives. So that’s one in the eye for the boringly, belligerently anti-French. Anyway, the programme I saw didn’t paint a particularly pretty picture nor does this, deliberately, which wouldn’t be so surprising if it was Garth Ennis’ recent BATTLEFIELDS or earlier WAR STORIES at Vertigo.

But it’s not, it’s from the very early ‘80s and was aimed squarely at kids.

SLH

Buy Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Final Incal h/c – Numbered Oversized Slipcase Edition (£59-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Ladronn, Moebius

The Guns Of Shadow Valley h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Dave Wachter, James Andrew Clark & Dave Wachter

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

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

My Little Pony vol 3: The Return Of Harmony s/c (£5-99, IDW) by various

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

Flash vol 3: Gorilla Warfare s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul

Flash vol 4: Reverse h/c (£18-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul

Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 1: Cosmic Avengers (US Edition) s/c  (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven

Dragonar Academy vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran

Fairy Tail vol 41 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Soul vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 5 & 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

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

 

News!

ITEM! Hugely entertaining LeftLion interview with Matt Brooker AKA D’Israeli conducted by Robin Lewis about Matt’s early days, current comic ORDINARY (in stock now!) and the immediate future.

ITEM! Swoonaway komodo dragon by Marc Laming.

ITEM! Jamie Smart on creating the fabulous MOOSEKID COMICS including costs in terms of both time and money. Some of you may find that useful as well as fascinating

ITEM! Lucy Knisley on creating autobiographical comics including RELISH and (soon) SOMETHING NEW, and indeed on promoting them

Err, that’s all I got. Been on holiday, that sort of thing.

See you on Monday for the Page 45 Bryan Lee O’Malley signing of SECONDS.

Cheers,

Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week one

August 6th, 2014

I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

 - Stephen on The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century h/c

Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain.

Such a melancholy book, full of silence.

And it’s a silence which implies decades of silence preceding these pages.

Remember when you were young and granted new environments to explore?

The thrill of the unusual and unknown, where any twist in a high-hedgerow road could present a magnificent house, a strange-looking shack, an enticing gate, or an object you’ve never seen before. What was that object, who used it, and what was it for?

In urban terms, perhaps you encountered odd shops, alluring alleys which led who knows where, a park with paths which bifurcated tantalisingly over a ridge, round a corner so demanding a decision…

Maybe you moved house, visited relatives or went on holiday? Who hasn’t when young collected seashells at the seaside, stones and minerals which struck you as magical and wondered at whatever else was washed up onshore?

This is Helen, aged 11, who has moved from the city to a rural Wales rolling with hills and dipping down dales, populated by livestock and soared over by swallows. So much space, so much sky! Left to her own devices and armed with a pair of binoculars, Helen carefully jots down new observations in her Nature Notes book and sketches the bird life above.

 

Naturally inquisitive, Helen is by chance given hints of a new mystery by old Bill the eggman whose hens are upset – so failing to lay – by the death of what Bill calls “a rare bird”. A rare bird called Emrys up at Cuddig Farm.

“How do you know it upset your chickens, Bill?”
“They told me.”

So it is that Helen sets off for Cuddig farm and stumbles on a stack of discarded timber, barbed wire and empty cans of sheep dye – the sorts of things you’d find on a farm – and a make-up bag containing foundation, compact, lipstick, and a single, spent shotgun shell.

Helen lets the two sheepdogs out of their shed. They’d been there for days; there’s no one left to feed them. She talks to the tup, a ram with horns coiled like a Spirula seashell who tells Helen of the sheep dye they shared.

“He used more on himself than he put on me.”

Gradually, as Helen attends Emrys’ funeral and follows in his footsteps she uncovers echoes of a life lived alone and apart.

The book is full of faint, empty echoes. So much has evidently gone unsaid until now as Helen’s questions are answered directly and with a quiet remorse. The trip to Oswestry with its livestock markets and its auctions is haunting, cows’ fetlocks fettered with manacles. Those animals don’t speak but moo or bleat bleakly.

The cover looks like it’s been created with oil pastels, yet there’s a tremendous sense of light. And sadness. And space. That it is in the early stages of sunset is far from a coincidence.

The interior art is executed in charcoal. It’s stark yet gentle, and, built on a consistent, nine-panel grid like Bryan Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT, it has a perfectly controlled sense of equally measured time – a monotone which amplifies the silence.

“You humans are the saddest of animals.”

SLH

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

Low #1 (£2-99, by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

“Without optimism for the future how can we hope to shape a better one?”

Swoon!

The crisp yet soft and lithe-as-you-like strokes here smack of the sort of 1960s’ fashion and romance line art which Posy Simmonds was referencing in her MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS where the secretary loses herself in daydreams. Feed it through a futuristic filter then add a little John Bryne at his loose-pencil best in the figures, smiles and eyes and you have a very attractive package.

There are six pages of classy, unsensationalist and quite natural nudity, modestly portrayed with deftly deployed holograms and colours, all drawn in life-class poses then artfully arranged so they communicate with one another, and there’s one panel in which Johl Caine playfully pokes his son Marik in the ribs and young Marik positively dances in response, one arm raised, his leg leaping up and away.

 

It’s very, very beautiful, with subaquatic, man-made leviathans which might put you in mind of Sean Murphy’s THE WAKE.

So it has come to this:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if he haven’t already escaped his solar system we’ll have needed to move undergroud or in LOW underwater.

In LOW we haven’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Johl’s wife Stel remains optimistic and focussed. Johl is focussed but more on the immediate: feeding the subaquatic city of Salus by way of hunting using vast, submerged vessels and personal, watertight exoskeletons keyed to family DNA. His son Marik has followed in his mother’s footsteps so Johl is keener than ever for his two daughters, Della and Tajo, to follow his and become pilots. Tajo is dubious but Della’s all for it and keen to take her first helm, so mum Stel reluctantly – yet with good humour – agrees: today will be the first family outing!

 

The problem is, the problem is, the future is not what it was. The problem is, the problem is, if you’ve shot their cat, they’ll shoot your dog. And there is someone out there in the freezing, oceanic depths with a long-held grudge.

Unexpectedly brutal after so much familial, high-spirited devotion, what I loved was Stel’s unwavering optimism and maternal determination in the wake of so much adversity: that Remender kept her true to her nature. It was poignantly expressed, while everything which preceded it was eloquently expressed.

Don’t be alarmed by what may seem at first to be an overwhelming amount of world-building. Hell, you could accuse The West Wing of that, so fast and furious came the first episode’s exchanges; but it turned out to be one of the five finest television series of all time partially through not underestimating its audience and knowing it would swiftly catch up. As with The West Wing all of the scene-setting in LOW is done through quick-fire dialogue without resorting to overt exposition.

“Time to come to terms with it, Stel. One of your children must take the helm. They all carry the potent blood of the Caine.”
“Not so potent this morning.”
“Oh, that’s low.”

SLH

Buy Low #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Mysteries h/c new edition (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell.

Russell has breathed such life and colour into Gaiman’s story-within-a-story that it’s hard to remember how clever it was in the first place.

Ten years after the event, the English narrator recalls how as a young man he was once stranded in Los Angeles. He hooked up with a girl he’d met briefly in London but like most of us his memory is only sure about certain sequences. Quite how he came to be sitting on a bench with an older man, he’s not sure. But in exchange for a cigarette, the stranger tells him his story, set in the celestial Silver City, as God instructs his angels on the creation of the universe.

“The sky above the city was a wonderful thing. It was always light, although lit by no sun — lit, perhaps by the city itself — but the quality of the light was forever changing. Now pewter-coloured light, then brass, then a gentle gold, or a soft and quiet amethyst…”

Lucifer visits him and instructs him on his Function:

“You are Raguel. The Vengeance of The Lord. There has been a… a Wrong Thing.”

An angel, Carasel, has been killed, and Raguel must find out how and why; then he must perform his Function.

Gaiman’s vision of heaven is wittily conceived, as the angels go about working on their projects, creating ‘regret’, ‘sleep’, ‘agitation’ under the guidance of Phanuel. It soon transpires that the dead angel, Carasel, was last working on the concept of ‘Death’ with his partner Saraquael. Did he become overly involved in his own work? Did he want to experience that which he was working on? Or did it have more to do with their last project, for which Phanuel took all the credit? In any case, why would God allow this to happen, and how much does it have to do with Lucifer, walking alone in The Dark?

This is a murder mystery so, although it breaks my heart, I cannot reveal any more.

But I can implore you to take a look yourself because you know how I feel about THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE’s  P. Craig Russell, and if you enjoyed his collaboration with Gaiman on THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, CORALINE or SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS you will not be disappointed. His illumination of the Silver City – pure, translucent, with its own lambent glow – is every bit as exquisite as you’d expect.

As for the angels, if you like your men young, winged, naked – and without genitalia – then this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Murder Mysteries h/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Collects LOEG: CENTURY 1910, LOEG: CENTURY 1969 and LOEG: CENTURY 2009, all reviewed individually if you fancy a gander. It’s a good job what’s left of our League are immortal. Or at least… they don’t age.

LOEG: CENTURY 1910

Another highly inventive collage culled from works of other authors, this time with the added entertainment of songwriters Brecht and Kurt Weill.

Quartermain, Hyde and the Invisible Man are all dead now, whilst Captain Nemo is not much longer for this world. Yet Mina Murray – she of the scarf or very high collar – remains as vigorous as ever. Infuriated too, mostly by the ineptitude of her new team of sleuths: Allan Quartermain Junior (hmmmm…), burglar Raffles and the immortal if not immutable Orlando who preens himself hilariously throughout, name-dropping like a Timelord:

“Lando, that has to be the most stupid thing you’ve ever said.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There was, “Oh look! What a wonderful horse!” That was at Troy.”

 

Lastly there’s Tom Carnacki whose disturbing premonitions of impending disaster are what drive this new series. For the seer has twin visions: one of a sect preparing to create a Moonchild or Anti-Christ; the other of Captain Nemo’s daughter rejecting her father’s inheritance and abandoning him and his Nautilus for foreign climes – which to her means here. Unfortunately as the team concentrate on the former along with what appears to be the return of Jack The Ripper in the form of Mac The Knife, Mina is warned too late by Norton, a man trapped physically in London but free to roam through time, that it’s their very investigation that will, in an impetuous raid, precipitate and perhaps exacerbate exactly what they’re seeking to avert, setting the scene for 1969.

Meanwhile, they’ve taken their collective eye fatally off the crystal ball which warned of human heads piled up on the docks outside a London hotel which is exactly where Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni has sought employment and attracting a worrying amount of salacious attention from its drooling, drunken patrons. This is where Moore has so cleverly adapted Brecht and Weill’s Pirate Jenny, recasting the song’s victims as culpable rapists thoroughly deserving the wrath and carnage as each verse inevitably builds towards from its initial ominous warning:

“And the ship… the black raider… with a skull on its masthead… moves in from the sea!”

Kevin O’Neill is on magnificent form as ever, particularly during the harrowing Pirate Jenny refrains although you’ll also get the big bang for your buck by the end. My favourite this time of the many side-references Moore packs in, is the gossip about the Chatterleys!

I can’t help you with the rest of the Threepenny Opera, but if you’ve never heard Pirate Jenny we’ll be playing Marc Almond’s ivory-hammering 1987 Melancholy Rose b-side version in the shop. Just ask us to slap it on next time you’re in!

LOEG: CENTURY 1969

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric hickie, Allan Quartermain who is also a lot older than his aspect would suggest, and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

Now they’ve returned to London in 1969 and immediately set about investigating even though Oliver Haddo supposedly died in Hastings back in 1947. Well, someone did, and it’s a scene which Moore and O’Neill play to perfection. Who then is the mysterious Charles Felton courting vain and gullible pop star Terner of The Purple Orchestra whose front man, Basil Thomas, was drowned in his swimming pool by robed monks in front of his pilled-up boyf, Wolfe Lovejoy?

It’s a special Same-Sex, Drugs & Rock’n'Roll edition of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, as the once-prudish Mina strives to stay hip to the times but finds she’s not as au fait as she thinks. Indeed this second part climaxes in a stunningly bad trip by the Edward Hyde memorial statue surrounded by the art and artefacts of the day from Spacehoppers and Daleks to Tony the Tiger, after which Mina’s fate will genuinely shock you.

The title has always been a collage of borrowed fiction so although London does exist, none of its shops, clubs or inhabitants here have save in books, films, television programmes and songs. Half the fun is spotting what Moore has appropriated and where from, especially now that as the years progress the variety of media Moore can choose from expands. Michael Caine’s Jack Carter plays a pivotal role in tracking down Basil’s murderers, and although Get Carter didn’t actually appear at the cinema until 1970, cleverly here he has yet to head north on that family business in Newcastle. I’ll leave the rest of you to puzzle over yourselves, but I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

LOEG: CENTURY 2009

In which the identity of the Moonchild is finally revealed.

SLH

Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bodies #1 of 8 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Megan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade.

Longharvest Lane, London 2014, 1890, 2050 and 1940.

Four artists for four time periods in which a naked male corpse is discovered in the same position, with the same mutilations and the same mark slashed on its wrists.

2014 sees East End Muslim, D.S. Shahara Hasan, in police riot gear leading the charge against an aggressive, racist demonstration. She is philosophical about the thugs and amused by her subordinate’s sense of humour:

“Tell me again why I’m the one in the armour and you’re swanning about in Hugo Boss?”

“Because your people are on a ruthless Jihad to set up an Islamofascist annex of Mecca on the Mile End Road?”

“And don’t you forget it. Your head’ll be first to roll as soon as my schimitar arrives from Taliban Central.”

She’s about to have that smile wiped off her face.

In 1890 Inspector Edmond Hillinghead strays on a top-hatted toff receiving relief down a dark alley before tripping in flight over a hacked and slashed corpse.

“Someone really didn’t like him.”
“Or really liked doing this to him.”

Dutiful and diligent, Hillinghead will do his best for the victim in spite of his colleagues’ less than enlightened attitudes towards society’s lowly and outcast.

Armed with a bow and arrow, Maplewood discovers hers in the scantily populated capitol in 2050, along with a brightly coloured ball and a girl called Bounce. Maplewood struggles with labels and barely remembers her own name.

During an air raid in 1940’s East End, we find one Inspector Weissman with unorthodox methods of policing his turf.

“The blackouts and the raids mask a multitude of crimes. Most of them mine.”

But not all of them, apparently.

All four artists bring distinct atmospheres to their eras: forensic, grotesque, ethereal and Butch Guice brand of photorealism, respectively.

Spencer and his colleague set up the prejudices – and presumption – in one particular period cleverly and you can colour me intrigued, but I do hope I haven’t already got it.

“And so it begins, Frater Ladbroke.”
“To the Long Harvest.”

SLH

Buy Bodies #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson…

“This is your first memory of dreams in the dark…
“This is your first memory of me.”

I am sure we can all remember our earliest trips to the cinema and the impression they made upon us. Probably like a lot of kids of my generation, the first time I went to the cinema and was utterly blown away was to see Star Wars. I have some vague recollections of seeing a Disney animation, possibly The Rescuers just before that, but it certainly didn’t make the same hammer-like impression upon my brain.

I absolutely loved this story of a young boy’s initiation into the world of celluloid, as part narrated by the disembodied voice of cinema itself. In our modern society of on-demand, any-time viewing of pretty much anything you could possibly want, I doubt a first trip to the cinema today could have the same impact as it did for our generation. Back in our day, aside from the odd gem on television (if you actually caught it when it was on, that is), there wasn’t a great deal for kids to watch. Thus a trip to the cinema really did seem like an other-worldly experience, a genuinely special event.

 

And, after an initial false start being taking to see a Robin Hood film at possibly just too tender an age by his dad, our main character here also receives his ‘baptism cosmic’ at the hands of Luke and Han. What then follows is a rapidly burgeoning obsession with films and indeed film-making set against the backdrop of a coming-of-age friendship yarn. I can see why Jeff Lemire was sufficiently impressed to provide a cover pull quote, and actually, you can see comparisons with Jeff’s work both in terms or storytelling and artistically, in this black and white work. It’s not ESSEX COUNTY by any means, but exactly as with Jeff’s early work from 2005, LOST DOGS, you can see Owen’s talent. I think this is probably more polished than LOST DOGS, actually. Plus it’s certainly a very different piece from Owen’s other work we are currently stocking, the sonically themed and psychedelically powered RAYGUN ROADS, so he’s clearly a versatile creator to watch out for.

JR

Buy Reel Love Act One and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neal Adams.

“It can’t get any worse than this.”

Exceptional.

I’ll be recommending it to every school as a set text on The Holocaust or at the very least an essential part of their library. It’s not as powerful as JUDENHASS but it’s far more accessible for younger readers, being a gripping narrative which whilst fiction is still informed in minute but by no means intrusive detail by historical fact. It was the extensive annotations by Greg Pak in the back that I actually read first, and I’m glad that I did so. For although there are the occasional snatches of perfectly judged narrative anchoring the events in history, the annotations themselves – brief, precise, and well argued with references – show that Greg did everything in his power to ensure that Max Eisenhardt’s story fits within historical records in every conceivable way. Moreover I’ve argued before that most superhero stories involving real-world horrors have a tendency to trivialise those suffering by suggesting solutions unavailable to those concerned, whereas here Pak has done the exact opposite:

“In our story’s climax, we wanted our hero to take action. But we felt it was important not to depict him as the actual leader of the Sonderkommando revolt. Real human beings led this revolt — we didn’t want to detract from their almost unthinkable heroism by suggesting that the revolt was only possible because a super hero took charge.”

The revolt happened, by the way. Similarly, when discussing the tattooing process and numbering schemes, Greg writes:

“We made the decision not to show Max’s actual number in this tattooing scene. The more I read the testimonies of actual survivors, the more uncomfortable I became with the notion of giving our fictional hero a number that a real human being once bore.”

Absolutely right, Greg, and if you’d made one up that was never used, that would have broken your record of historical accuracy.

But surely, you’re thinking, historical accuracy goes up in smoke the second the future X-Men leader/villain (pick your era) starts using his powers…? Err, what powers? Aside from a school javelin throw and a certain knack for spotting metal where others might not have noticed it, that’s it, guys. Even at a key climax halfway through the book, when his family fleeing through the woods is caught by German soldiers and lined up in front of a firing squad, and you just know that Max is finally going to unleash his magnetic power against the bullets flying towards them… And you know that because Greg has encouraged you to expect it by reprising his father’s considered exhortation (“Sometimes you get a moment… when everything lines up. When anything is possible. When suddenly… you can make things happen.”)… Pak flips that deliberate misdirection around in a manner which is perfectly devastating.

Germany 1935, then, just prior to the Nazi’s announcing the Nuremberg Laws, and young Max is already suffering Anti-Semitism at school, but nothing will prepare him, his family, or the young Romany girl called Magda for what lies ahead: Kristallnacht, Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. If there’s one thing Pak’s characters focus on above all others it’s weighing the balance about when to fight when the repercussions for every act of defiance were for dozens, hundreds or thousands to pay the price. It’s very well argued indeed. Also, for every moment of hope, there is a crushing blow.

Combined with Max Hollingsworth’s moody palette which produces more than a little Tim Sale in the final effect, Giandomenico has done an exemplary job of illustrating some very difficult scenes, from the Jewish arrivals stripped of their clothes at Auschwitz to the knock-out, double-page spread of the book in the fourth chapter when Max stumbles upon the room piled almost to the roof with glass spectacles: stunning.

The covers by Marko Djurdjevic are pretty haunting too, but just when you thought you’d got as much as you could from this volume, there’s a biographical piece in the back on Dina Gottliebova, a woman interned in Auschwitz and forced by Mengele to paint portraits of those undergoing his horrific, nonsensical experiments… brilliantly illustrated by Neal Adams with Joe Kubert. And it’s the best Adams art I’ve seen in decades. Kubert, of course, produced the similarly themed YOSSEL which I praised to the heavens, but can you imagine what Adams could have contributed to this medium if superheroes hadn’t been the only form of real bread and butter back then…?

SLH

Buy X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, Wes Craig…

Spinning out of the ANNIHILATION and shortly thereafter ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST cosmic event epics that firmly re-established fan-interest in off-Earth tights and capery, this was a radically updated version of the classic space-faring team. I can remember being sceptical at the time that the all-new roster of members comprising of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Groot could get close to recapturing the magic of the original material. And whilst it certainly wasn’t as surreal or at times frankly weird as that initial run, now available again in two volumes: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 1 S/C and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 2 S/C, it was exceptionally good fun. Certainly on a par with the ‘90s reboot material featuring the original team that ran for sixty-odd issues before running eventually running out of warp power.

This run also coincided with an excellent run on NOVA by Abnett and Lanning that was almost entirely space-based too, which is currently out of print but hopefully will also be recollected. It probably will given the Richard Ryder character is about to reappear in the current GUARDIANS saga. I was somewhat surprised when both titles were cancelled after only about 25 issues each, as I actually thought they were amongst the better titles Marvel were putting out at the time. This material had strong storytelling and certainly remains worth reading.

I think, therefore, Bendis clearly took a look at everything that was right with this run such as the character line-up, just tinkered with it a little bit, then sprinkled some of his magic dialogue-dust on, and hey presto, suddenly it is a massive title again.

JR

Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema.

“Boy! This secret identity jazz can sure be a strain!”

In which Peter is a hipster and I get my old-man hat on.

Oh, how these covers are gorgeous!

I don’t mean this one – though Romita’s composition is exceptional – I mean the original covers, each and every one, coloured to striking perfection using red, blue with yellow and a verdant green.

John Romita Sr. knew how to fill but not overcrowd a cover. Essentially you are given Spider-Man big and bold, swinging over campus crowds, walking away from a victory distraught or being pinned, punched and wrestled to the ground by the Kingpin, Man-Mountain Marko or The Lizard. Anything else would be superfluous. Multiple Quicksilvers smack him all at once like some Final Fantasy assault you’ve pre-programmed using concurrent attacks. The Shocker blasts away at a midnight wall spot lit by the iconic Spidey Signal.

Yeah, the Spidey Signal projected from the wall-crawler’s belt. That was a thing, once.

I don’t believe superhero comic covers have ever attained these heights since, other than a clutch of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL efforts often marred by bicycle adverts. Seriously, by bicycle adverts. How sad was that? Maybe a few of his Romita Jr.’s IRON MAN pieces and – in a completely different way – David Aja’s chic and contemporary HAWKEYE designs. The sequential storytelling inside is good but it’s on the cover than Romita ruled.

Unusually you are by chance here presented with a complete, extended story arc involving an engraved tablet akin to the Rosetta Stone which no one so far has been able to decipher. It’s displayed on Peter Parker’s campus, the residential ramifications of which spark student riots headed by the disenfranchised African-American contingent demanding an egalitarian outcome. Peter reacts badly to their peer pressure so alienating his girlfriend, Gwen, who wonders if he’s a coward. Her father, police Captain Stacy, wonders if he’s Spider-Man.

It’s stolen by the Kingpin (people forget he was created as a recurrent Spider-Man villain long before Frank Miller saw his costumeless, mobster merit and potential as a crime-lord DAREDEVIL adversary) and from then on it’s a pass-the-parcel, snatch and re-snatch officially branding Spider-Man a wanted thief until it falls into the hands of a desperate, aging Maggia chief called Silvermane. At which point, be careful what you wish for!

Even on a re-read, forty years later, this seems seamlessly constructed, especially the outcome until “Jazzy” John Romita dispels your illusions in its introduction by revealing that it was all constructed on the hoof, an issue at a time, without a clue as to where it was all heading. Neil Gaiman maintains the same thing about SANDMAN, though I have never believed him but, to my mind, that makes both all the more impressive.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery (£7-50, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch…

Sometimes, things are just so preposterously outlandish they work. The Rat Queens are an eclectic bunch of hard-drinking, drug-taking, monster-bashing ladies of pretty much every fantastical ethnicity. Starved of excitement, barely tolerated by the local constabulary on the basis that they do occasionally help keep the locale safe (when they’re not busy smashing it up during yet another booze-addled barroom brawl, that is), they are in desperate need some shenanigans in their lives. Cue an assassination attempt on them and several of their dungeoneering rivals – for some mysterious reason possibly not entirely unrelated to their continued collateral damage of their city – and finally it’s time to have some fun!

Like some insane Dadaist revision of a staid and boring Dungeon and Dragons module, liberally coated with mead and then set aflame, this is utter nonsense. It should by all rights be rubbish, but instead it’s hilarious. As parodies of fighting fantasy go it’s amongst the best I’ve read. It’s certainly as ridiculous as (the currently re-printing) DUNGEON QUEST, a personal favourite of mine which mercilessly satirises the genre thus neatly appealing to both fans and haters of the archetype. I was also strongly minded of the recent DISENCHANTED, though this is definitely played far more for laughs. Anyone who reads / watches ADVENTURE TIME is almost certain to love it too, I would think.

 

 

Kurtis Wiebe may have struck a potentially rich seam of comedy gold here. With gold, though, inevitably comes trouble…

JR

Buy Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery and read the Page 45 review here

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo.

At least, we think this is in stock. Like everything we order it arrived in a cardboard box, and this one was last seen scuttling towards the locker room…

This massive doorstop collects both the original METAL GEAR SOLIDS books and both SONS OF LIBERTY books, plus the five-page #0 written by Matt Fraction. All ten sentences of it! In fact, it contains everything.

So many licensed properties get lumbered with half-assed amateurs on visuals, but this is pure, painterly quality, full of atmosphere, in gun-metal grey and a steely green-blue.

It is, on the other hand, exactly the same story as the games.

SLH

Buy Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

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

Blood Blokes #4 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez

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

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

Dexter Down Under h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lindsay & Dakbor Talajic

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

God Is Dead vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Mike Costa & Juan Frigeri, German Erramouspe, Jacen Burrows

Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely

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

How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

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

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

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

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

Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery

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

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol 2: Return Of The Padawan h/c (£8-99, Scholastic Publishing) by Jeffrey Brown

Constantine vol 2: Blight s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Aco, Szymon Kudranski, Ben Lobel

Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire

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

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

Black Butler vol 17 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Dragonar Academy vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran

Les Miserables: Manga Classics (£14-99, Udon) by Crystal Silvermoon, Stacy King & SunNeko Lee

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 6: To War (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

News!

ITEM! Brubaker & Phillips’ FATALE is over (fifth and final collect imminent). The final two pages were perfect! But wait –! Arriving 20th August: THE FADE OUT #1 by Brubaker & Phillips! Preview!

ITEM! Preview pages of Carol Swain’s GAST (reviewed above).

ITEM! Preview pages of P. Craig Russell’s THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG (in this week so listed above, review next Wednesday).

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre posts the best comic blogs ever! They’re packed full of wit, drama, spectacle and spectacles.

ITEM! Professor Lizz Lunney begins her ONE A DAY COMICS FOR AUGUST

ITEM! Dan Berry’s THE CAKE MAN comic: a conversation in Algeria.

ITEM! Evan Dorkin’s HOW TO DRAW MARVEL COMICS THE EVAN DORKIN WAY. The pitch is priceless, the project doomed.

ITEM! Ah, Comics Bubble, there you are again. Remind me, what did you do last time…? Oh, that’s right, you burst.

If you think it won’t happen again when we are repeating exactly the same mistakes, I call you Ostrich.

Mile High’s full San Diego exclusive-variant-cover-fiasco newsletters are here and here.

Thankfully none of this is remotely relevant to Page 45 because our revenue from graphic novels (so far free from shenanigans) exceeds our sales of periodicals by a factor of four the last time I looked, and I would never even consider exhibiting at a convention like San Diego!

ITEM! Here’s where we are going instead: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October 2014 with Page 45 signings by Scott McCloud and Glyn Dillon and far, far more.

Yippee!

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week five

July 30th, 2014

ALERT! ALERT! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS is to be rush-released early in the UK, and should be with us today or tomorrow!

Reminder: Bryan Lee O’Malley signing at Page 45 18th August 2014

Tuki #1 (£2-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

“Actually, the reason I came here, was because you said you had food.”
Quiet! We must concentrate! Do you think it is easy to commune with the spirits?”
“So… no food, then.”

No food.

From the creator of BONE, another kids’ classic in-the-making which adults will adore: sweeping savannah landscapes, sunshine colouring and visual gags worthy of Kyle Baker himself.

This is the Stone-Age story of the first human to leave Africa. But his immediate – his only – priorities are to forage for food and to survive whatever else is doing the same. Communing with so-called spirits isn’t anywhere on his agenda. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t be communing with Tuki

Tom Gaadt, one of the colourists on Jeff Smith’s RASL, keeps it all open and clean. From the early morning, blue-misted mountains with dawn peering promisingly over the horizon through sunrise itself – a hint of pink giving way to a yellow which complement’s Tuki’s green-leaved, mobile hide – to the full bright blue of a midday African sky over a golden grassland stretching as far as the eye can see. A certain sabre-toothed predator prowls there for prey, cutting a tell-tale furrow. It’s time for Tuki to make with that better side of valour and beat a retreat to the canopies above.

 

 

 

It’s there that Tuki encounters another hominid, a member of Homo Habilis who, whilst upright, is squatter and so hairy you could consider it fur. It is he who warns Tuki of the Little Ones – the Ancient Ones – following him, and he foresees a frightened little boy. At all costs Tuki must not seek the Ends of the Earth beyond the three waterfalls. Clearly the man is insane.

Thrilling! Magical! Educational, with a time-line map in the back.

Jeff Smith’s command of expression, body language and interaction was part of what made BONE so special right from the very first chapter. Here Tuki twitches left, right and centre, forever alert for the first signs of danger. Even so it can sometimes startle him, particularly in the long grass and Smith manages that difficult match of comedy and catastrophe at the very same time. Moreover, you can see the intelligence behind Tuki’s eyes and almost read his mind.

As to whether the hirsute Habilis should be heeded, everything comes together on the final-page spread.

It’s going to be quite the journey!

SLH

Buy Tuki #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Me Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

From the creator of STRAY BULLETS – right up there with Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL as the finest comicbook crime of all time – comes a white-knuckle ride through mid-twentieth-century noir.

There’s a cracking opening shot from within the ceiling, staring down at the police, forensic photographer and a decidedly impassive Steven Russell as he gazes up at his wife, hung by her neck from the fan.

One of Eve’s high-healed shoes has fallen off. She’s quite dead.

Apart from Barbara (Steven’s sister-in-law with whom he is having an affair), most believe Eve was driven to suicide by Steven’s serial philandering and late-night drinking in the restaurant he has now inherited which Eve ran front-of-house and where Steven just played piano.

Eve’s wealthy, resentful and pursed-mouthed mother believes Steven actually killed her, and is determined to bring him down by hook or by crook.

Did he? The extensive, hand-written suicide note is explicitly damning of his neglect, but maybe that’s a bluff. He’s certainly far from cut up about it. Now there’s a very nasty private investigator on his tail and the press on his back, exposing his multiple affairs. It’s probably not the best time to initiate another, but that’s exactly what Steven does.

The press blitz has brought an irritating loudmouth called Tony out of the woodwork after a fifteen-year absence. With Steven unwelcome at his own bar, they hit the town to recall High-School times when they were happier, when Steven had the most almighty crush on Tara Torres. Too timid back then, what he didn’t know until now is that it was reciprocated. Unable to get Tara out of his head he begins stalking her until she appears at his car window with a shotgun.

It’s an odd way to start a love affair, I grant you, but once Tara realises who Steven is the flames are rekindled immediately. Odder still, when Tony finds out that they’re sleeping together he warns Steven off Tara: after her husband died of cancer she became addicted to the morphine sulphate he was treated with and is now heavily in debt to a bad man called Johnny The Pill. But when Steven pays off Johnny a neurotically on-edge Tara, attacked in her home, warns Steven off Tony.

What is it with Tony? What is it with Tara? What was she doing with that shotgun? What’s with the second suicide note in Steven’s typewriter?!

This is a very different beast to STRAY BULLETS. For a start there are no children; the fuck-ups here are all adults with plenty of baggage bogging them down. The four-tier storytelling is denser until the final flashback when it blooms beautifully into two-panel pages and all is finally revealed. Until then it’s also a linear timeline following these damaged goods, doomed by their nature, to their inevitable, terrible conclusions. With ten full chapters the travelling is twisted and they take plenty of time getting there.

Lapham strikes me as a fearless artist. There is nothing he cannot draw with equal dexterity, whether it’s sun-kissed pool sides, late-night car crashes, densely populated piano bars or the most vicious, protracted, hand-to-hand, hair-pulling scraps. There’s the same physicality which Jeff Smith would employ later in RASL including some similar body-forms. He’s particularly fine at all-out terror, madness and wide-eyed, tearful, screaming rage.

There’s plenty of that here.

“It’s you an’ me, baby,
“Always an’ forever…
“Till death do us part!”

Trust no one.

SLH

Buy Murder Me Dead s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Couch Tag h/c (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Jesse Reklaw…

“I liked your comic, even though you made up all those lies about me.” – The author’s father.

Great pull quote that, heh heh. I do admire people who write memoirs showing childhoods that were less than ideal so dispassionately. Whilst on the one hand, it obviously gives them a veritable wealth of material to utilise, it can’t be easy going over somewhat emotionally uneven ground once again. In the case of Jesse Reklaw, it would be fair to say his father probably was at the centre of much of the upheaval in his family’s lives.

Being a piss-head and also a pot-head are probably not the best aids to your parenting skills, but it would seem Jesse’s dad was determined to live his life exactly how he wanted to. It’s surprising his wife put up with it as long as she did, but then you get the impression there was an element of fear always bubbling under the surface in the Reklaw household, as everyone was anticipating his father’s next mood swing. Actually – and the thought just occurs – given Jesse makes no secret of the fact that he suffers from bipolar mood disorder (though there is relatively little mention of it in this memoir), I do wonder whether his father may well also have been an undiagnosed sufferer, perhaps.

Anyway, the book is effectively split into five parts, the themes of which all serve as the backdrop for an exploration of the current state of the Reklaw’s chaotic household, Jesse’s emotional development and the various goings-on at the time. The first two chapters, ‘thirteen cats of my childhood’, and ‘toys I loved’, help us to understand the somewhat volatile nature of Jesse’s upbringing. Seeing his dad asking which was his current favourite toy, then destroying it in front of a distraught Jesse simultaneously made me want to laugh and cry. I can’t honestly get my head around how someone could do that to their child, depriving them of their most precious belonging on an apparent whim.

Then follows my favourite chapter ‘the fred robinson story’ in which a poor, unfortunate, random individual becomes the unwitting, sustained focus of Jesse and his friends’ teenage creative outpourings, from Fred Robinson comics, mix-tapes of Fred Robinson-based songs, friendly letters written to Fred Robinson from Norway (always mailing a copy of everything they produced to the Fred Robinson), to even Fred Robinson-ising road signs in the vicinity of his house, all over a period of years and without ever meeting or indeed seeing the man in question. I would love to know what the real Fred Robinson made of it all, but we never find out. Perturbed to start with, then mildly flattered perhaps? I can well imagine him feeling slightly sad when the flow of material simply ceased one day without explanation.

The fourth chapter, ‘the stacked deck’, focuses on a favourite pastime of the extended Reklaw clan, that of playing cards together, and so we get a look at the other wider family members who were part of Jesse’s formative years. Some, frankly, made his dad look positively normal and well balanced…

The art style for the first four chapters is black and white with grey tones, a relaxed pencilling style, which combined with the slightly yellow paper, do have a gently nostalgic feel. It’s nicely thought out.

The final chapter, ‘lessoned’, in which Jesse sums up his childhood in an A to Z of topics, one per page, deploys an entirely different art style with an extremely vivid use of colour, deliberately slightly erratically penned. I was instantly reminded of some of Peter Kuper’s more full-on art. It’s a somewhat jarring contrast, but as an epilogue, in comparison to the almost mellifluous style which has come before it, it does work well. You can really feel the emotion present in it. It would be way too much to illustrate whole stories in it I think, but used in a burst like this, it’s very expressive.

Fans of autobiographical material will most definitely enjoy.

JR

Buy Couch Tag h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Diary Comics Number Four (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Dustin Harbin…

“My name is Dustin Harbin and I’m not a journalist. But I am American, which also means I’m not Canadian.”

Ha, what Dustin also is, is an excellent comics diarist. His preoccupation with his nationality is entirely due to attending the Doug Wright Awards, which are part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. His explanation of the cultural value and worthiness of the Wright Awards, whilst simultaneously faux-bristling at the fact that as a non-Canadian he’ll never be entitled to win one, is a wonderfully amusing opening chapter to this surprisingly dense mini-comic. It might be £7-50, but it is certainly great value for money at 80 plus pages, as Dustin name-drops his way through his wealth of comics acquaintances (Seth, Chester Brown, Marc Bell, Pascal Girard etc. etc.), whilst deprecating himself further at every possible turn.

 

 

It’s piercingly insightful stuff at times actually, and although you could certainly draw comparisons with works like Gabriel Bell’s SAN DIEGO DIARY, it’s actually more knockabout farce than melancholic musings. His art style is wonderfully detailed too, and minded me of both Guy Delisle and Kevin Huizenga, and I love the fact he has stuck religiously to a four panel per page format throughout. From a diaristic perspective, it really aids the sense of continuity in the work as Dustin moves seamlessly from event to event, often whilst simultaneously hopping back and forth across various topics narrating to us, the readers, through the fourth wall. Clever stuff, and a perfect example to anyone thinking of trying to do a self-published diary comic of just how sophisticated and polished they can be.

JR

Buy Diary Comics Number Four and read the Page 45 review here

Legends Of The Tour (£14-99, Head Of Zeus) by Jan Cleijne…

‘After an unchallenged solo ride, Buysse was the first to cross the finish line. He’d been on his bike for seventeen hours. The others even longer…

“Are you Desgrange? You owe me money!”
“What for, my good man?”
“I gave four cyclists a lift. You should go take a look. It’s a real mess back there!”

It was perhaps the toughest tour stage ever. Riders were finishing in the dark, frozen and numb. Many, washed off the road or taking refuge in wayside inns, didn’t even reach the finish line. While Buysse, who went on to win the Tour that year, was tucked up in bed after a hot bath, Desgrange was out in the night rescuing stranded cyclists, one by one.’

Sportsmen… Some may feel they are a cosseted, pampered overpaid lot these days, who don’t have to do a great deal for their vast piles of money that it would probably take the rest of us a lifetime to earn, and that may be true, in part. But if I had to pick one sport where the level of training and dedication required, plus the pure pain you have to endure every single time you compete, is frankly well into the realms of masochism, it would be road cycling. In my opinion they deserve every penny they get for the punishment they willingly put themselves through. And, right at the peak of that sport, there stands the ultimate test of body and mind that is the Tour De France, or simply Le Tour.

This work provides a brief look at those who have achieved the status of true legends (plus a few villains) for their performances in what is arguably the world’s single toughest sporting challenge. As a cycling fan, I was absolutely fascinated by the chapters on the very early days of the Tour, before it became the well oiled, ultra-organised, corporate sponsored juggernaut it is now. Whilst today’s riders are undoubtedly fitter and would have destroyed the competitors of yesteryear hands-down, I would love to see them try and ride for three weeks using the original bikes, and indeed some of the original routes. I think the fabled “broom wagon” transit van which today sweeps up those unable to keep up with the peloton would probably need to be considerably up-sized to a bus at least.

Very difficult to see this appealing to anyone other than cycling fans, but certainly an excellent gift for people who don’t normally read graphic novels, but do like cycling. My dad loved it.

JR

Buy Legends Of The Tour and read the Page 45 review here

Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (£2-25, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay.

Diana Dane, meet Darius Dax. You’ll find him in equal parts lucrative and infuriating.

“You seem to know a lot of people, who want others to know they know you, but who don’t want anyone to know about you. So I was curious enough to take the meeting.”
“That is as it should be. I imagine it was quite frustrating for you, though, important investigative reporter and all.”
“I don’t know if I’d agree with “important”.”
“I was being polite. I meant “unemployed”.”

Diana Dane is indeed unemployed. She won an award and was laid off the week after.

“That’s the universe telling you something.”

Now Darius Dax is telling her something: that it wasn’t a plane that came down on Littlehaven a few months ago. It was something altogether more unusual and included the vast arch of gold now suspended above Dax’s desk declaring wherever it came from “Supreme”.

This is of interest to Dax for Dax too is an acquirer of knowledge, which few will ever have access to. He specialises in Blue Rose cases – “Blue roses do not occur in nature” – “rare truths” he sells on to very wealthy entities, and he will pay Diana Dane $300,000 to start gathering information on whoever might have connections to the artefact and $700,000 if she succeeds in bringing him something concrete.

Elsewhere and elsewhen someone else was telling her many things – about reality and revision – which she doesn’t remember yet. But above all they told her this:

“Don’t trust Darius Dax.”

Warren Ellis is back on top linguistic form and has found an artist to match the daydream, other-dimensional aspect of the book. There is a quiet and soft vulnerability to Tula Lotay’s forms and colours over which pale blue lines swirl like a chilly wind, giving them a sense of the ethereal; as if who and what you’re looking at might not even be there. Or you might not even be there.

As if you’re looking at it all remotely, through a window, a viewscreen or a tank of liquid, especially in Darius Dax’s National Praxinoscope Company where there are additional, geometrical overlays.

The art is something new for something both borrowed and blue, but you won’t have to have read any of Alan Moore’s own revisionist treatment and indeed can’t right now.

“Have an adventure, Di. Let these idiots pay for it. Come back, take two years off, write the Great American Novel and get drunk every night.
“I’m 27. I’ve had at least eight great adventures, while you trained and wrote. And here you are.
“It’s time for yours, now.”

Bonus design section in the back.

SLH

Buy Supreme: Blue Rose #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“We’re going to do this with all our weapons. We’re going to gunk them. We’re going to have space-aged zombie bacteria weapons at our disposal.
“And we’re going to kill every fucking last fucking one of these ungrateful fucks.
“Load ‘em up and let’s hit the fucking road.”

Ah Negan, he does know how to marshal his troops! So, this is it then, the culmination of the epic conflict between our good guys led as ever by former sheriff Rick Grimes, and the army of self-titled Survivors led by the man we all love to hate, Negan. Both sides think they are going to win, neither side can contemplate what it would mean to lose. Negan, with his latest sneaky biological warfare trick, thinks he’s got all the angles covered, but Rick, well, Rick certainly has a plan, but is it going to be enough? Who will triumph? Or indeed, could it even be a score draw…? One thing is for sure, a whole lot of people are going to die… then rise again as zombies obviously. Rare to see a title still going so strong after nearly ten years. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

JR

Buy Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 and read the Page 45 review here

George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.

An original zombie comic by George A. Romero himself!

As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!

I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.

 

Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:

“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”

That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…

The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.

Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.

Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.

“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”

SLH

Buy George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Origin II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert.

“This is a tory of wolves and bears. And animals…”

It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during the first chapter other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.

Instead, in a breath of fresh mountain air, the initial cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow-swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf, and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatorial disadvantage.

“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey. It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”

Fish, unlike seals, don’t need to come up for air. Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?

Image-driven, that first chapter was magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental, full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.

 

What follows marks Logan’s first contact with the world he and we will come to know well: one in which man uses and abuses man, cages him and tortures him in the name of personal pleasure, medical research and military power – even if here it’s a private army. That polar bear itself was an experiment, the sinister Dr. Essex releasing a new alpha predator into the Canadian Rockies and in doing so snagging an even bigger one – Logan – who in turn attracts yet another: a lupine wildlife hunter called Creed who jealously guards his beautiful but disfigured companion Clara.

Memory plays an important part, Kubert’s silent snap-shots flashing through Logan’s mind like blood-stained daggers; but the more he experiences, the more he will want to forget and, as we all know, ultimately he does so.

One of the most pleasurable elements of the original ORIGIN was Paul Jenkins’ slight of hand, leading you up the (secret) garden path when it came to Logan’s true identity. Wickedly, Gillen has reflected this in his own game of powerplay and presumption, leaving it right until the epilogue to pull the rug from under you, but it all makes perfect sense, I promise.

Hahahahaha!

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Origin II h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Chu‘s First Day At School h/c (£10-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex…

“There was a thing that Chu could do.”

The pollen-plagued panda returns for another outing as it’s time for him to start school!

As before, the running joke revolves entirely around the fact that when he finally sneezes, it’s going to be like a tornado has hit town, but first there is the anticipation of the build up. This time, it’s a show and tell of precisely what each of his new classmates can do. You know Chu wants to go last, and when he finally gets his turn, it’s just as well… A visual feast from artist Adam Rex; as with CHU’S DAY half the fun is spotting all the animal-based shenanigans that are going on in the background. Another much requested bedtime story winner at our house.

JR

Buy Chu’s First Day At School h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by various including Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, Lucy Knisley, Jim Rugg and many more

Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

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

Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain

Goodnight Darth Vader (£9-99, Chronicle) by Jeffrey Brown

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

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£19-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo

Murder Mysteries h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson

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

Third Testament vol 1: The Lion Awakes h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Xavier Dorison & Alex Alice

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 4 – Clay h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Alex Maleev

All New Invaders vol 1: Gods And Soldiers s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by James Robinson & Steve Pugh

Avengers vol 5: Adapt Or Die (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Salvador Larroca

Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli, John Cassaday

Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema

Mighty Avengers vol 2: Family Bonding s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Valerio Schiti, Greg Land

Runaways: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyagawa

The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man vol 2: The Crime Of The Century s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico

Vinland Saga Book 4 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News!

ITEM! MOOSE KID COMICS free online for delinquent parents and their Young Adults.

ITEM! WHUBBLE by Jamie Smart, free online. Makes me laugh! He of BUNNY VS. MONKEY VS and FISH HEAD STEVE, yes!

ITEM! The Eisner Awards Winners 2014! Some well deserved winners this year, the judges were evidently being less in thrall to the big corporations. Stick ‘em in our search engine or ask at the counter if curious.

ITEM! Update on THE SCULPTOR by UNDESRTANDING COMICS’ Scott McCloud due early 2015!

ITEM! Heather L Sheppard’s Patreon in support of SUNRISE etc. What’s a Patreon…? Old-school patronage with personal perks for YOU!

ITEM! By the time you read this HAWKEYE #19 will have finally gone on sale! Yay! HAWKEYE 19 preview by David Aja

ITEM! Totally off-topic! Every wonder where a big chunk of my wayward vocabulary comes from? Swoonaway, foxstress etc were all neologisms created by Smash Hits music magazine for the pop-oriented post-punk teenager which won the wars being witty. Behold, the Smash Hits Archive!

ITEM! Back on topic, here’s Damien Walter on writing and the way your brain may be wired. Especially relevant given that comics is a visual medium.

ITEM! Colleen Doran reveals some colour tests for a graphic novel she’s working on with Neil Gaiman.

ITEM! Liz Prince galvanises readers to pre-order TOMBOY! And, do you know what? It worked: I tweeted that and we got pre-orders. Pre-orders help us gauge demand and help guarantee you getting what you already know you want. Here’s our preview product page for TOMBOY and our review of Liz Prince’s ALONE FOREVER. Funny!

ITEM! Speaking of pre-orders, our own version of Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalogue goes up every month, online for free, at the beginning of each month, detailing all the comic and graphic novel releases for two months later. You then have until the middle of the month to add those titles to your standing order here or simply order online and you are guaranteed to receive whatever you order no matter how obscure. Look: http://www.page45.com/store/page-45-previews.html

PLEASE NOTE: When pre-ordering here you only ever pay on arrival! That’s right, not when you pre-order, but upon arrival.

Cheers,

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week four

July 23rd, 2014

“Whatever your childhood, it seems the norm whilst you’re living it. Obviously that’s not always a good thing.”

 - Stephen on P. Craig Russell’s adapation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“There has to be a reason. God knows there’s no bloody reason in life; there has to be one in art.”

True, true and true. I cannot be doing with artistic onanism.

Thankfully Dave McKean has plenty to say and multiple skill sets with which to say it.

I cannot think of anyone else in comics with such high command of so many different media from sculpture to pen line and brush, through painting and photography and a great deal of computerised jiggery-pokery, often in the very same story. You could spend hours staring at the cover alone trying to decipher its many means of composition, but the comics themselves demand you move on which is exactly as it should be.

“I had wanted to create a narrative exhibition for a while. I was essentially dissatisfied with the gallery experience – a large white room of random bits and bobs, allegedly thematically linked. I remain completely committed to story as a way of engaging an audience,” he writes in his introduction to ‘The Coast Road’.

McKean’s been equally determined to wrench the medium out of the comic-shop ghetto (which I concede that it can be in America and Britain – although we’re doing our damnedest to rectify that) and into the wider world of a gallery-going public who might not encounter comics otherwise. Hence the title, for many tales told within were originally installations for the likes of the Rye Art Gallery and there are some seriously striking photographs recording these wittily choreographed experiences incorporated into this album-sized book. For his third narrative exhibition, ‘Blue Tree’, Dave snuck out at 5am and “crept around Rye planting blue branches with little baubles containing wise words”.

Can you imagine the magic for Rye residents waking up to discover their town had been blessed with such beautiful and brilliant art terrorism? And, having seen the result complete with blue-branch tendrils snaking across a pristine white ceiling, I am kicking myself for not visiting in person.

This is a whopping tome with so much to discover within: musical whimsy, creation myths, autobiographical musings, real-life reportage on political corruption and a series of magnificent, wild Scottish landscapes captured on camera and married to the immediate impressions inspired by them. There lie mountains as big as your mind (much bigger than mine), mist-shrouded and crowned with exquisite rock formations. Lakes and rivers and waterfalls too.

So many of these pieces are journeys.

The longest one is ‘The Coast Road’ whose opening salvo is utterly arresting, all the more so for it having been immediately preceded by ‘40 Years’ in which Dave reflects during a landmark birthday, asking questions and demanding answers while on the jury for a short-film festival he won in 2003; like why there are so many “men going potty films” and this:

“I have friends who, after ten, fifteen years of shared life and children and laughs, suddenly realise that they don’t want to be with each other any more, that they are somebody else actually. I mean, what’s that?”

In ‘The Coast Road’ a woman called Susan writes a series of letters she cannot possibly send to her husband Peter after returning home to find one from him.

“I read it three times, and realised I had actually never been really confused before. Or angry.
“And there was quiet and the mass ticking of clocks.
“And there were telephone calls, to Simon, and my mother, and to Grant at the bookshop.
“And to the police.”

She’s actually writing to herself, two years on, trying to make some semblance of sense of what to her is incomprehensible. In one letter she does so by boiling down her journeys to and from the bookshop to hard statistics, like the percentage probability of seeing a cat and how likely it is she’ll see two. There are a lot of cats in Dave McKean comics.

“Today, for the third time since records began, I decided that if someone smiled at me as I walked to the bookshop then, and only then, would I not kill myself.
“Yours, with all my love,
“Susan.”

So what did Peter’s own note contain? Susan’s second letter starts thus:

“My Dear Peter,
“Did you buy the masking tape?
“I have spent a lot of time recently wondering about that question. I mean, to mention in a letter that you will not be home, and that I should please forget you, my husband of eleven years, and that, by the way, you also need some masking tape, well, it’s an unusual combination of thoughts in a letter.”

Evidently Peter has had some sort of mid-life crisis if not a full-on mental breakdown, and one cannot shake the feeling that it’s catalysed one in Susan too, for when she is given a postcard of a painting – ‘The King of Birds’ by Evan Somerset – she is convinced the model was Peter and sets off in pursuit, attempting to track him down via supposed sightings in various visual art projects! I mean, what are the chances?

The kicker comes when she receives a letter from author Iain Sinclair:

“Dear Susan,
“My name is Iain Sinclair. I am a writer.
“Ness Esterhazy told me about your journey along the coast, and about your husband’s disappearance.
“He may have walked through the novel I am working on…”

So many of McKean’s talents are deployed along this snaking journey that there’s always a surprise around the corner. There’s also a moment of absolute joy when the prologue set in the Rye Art Gallery is reprised and its meaning finally revealed.

‘Black Holes’ is a shorter exhibition story written by a Chinese journalist about the silence surrounding the siphoning off of funds supposed to treat villagers who’ve contracted AIDS, the overwhelming majority after donating blood as encouraged by their very own government. Satirically adorned or destroyed syringes are mounted uselessly underneath each square panel. It will have you seething with anger and vicarious frustration.

‘Blue Tree’ comes with the line “When the tree was invited for breakfast, it didn’t know where to start” which made me smile and will give you much food for thought.

“We understand everything by metaphor,” it posits at one point, which brings me beautifully to ‘The Weight Of Words’ in which bad news is offloaded from one friend to another and its visual interpretation spoke volumes about something I’ve always firmly believed in: the importance of sharing said weight around.

I leave you, then, with the first creation myth involving a giant turtle seen from below in a sea of beautiful blue, told to a cat we first spy staring down on the world from a pillar of sky. It ends with the sort of playfulness you’ll find typical throughout.

“The more holes you pick in a story, the more likely you are to fall into one of them.”
“That’s deep.”
“It certainly could be.”

SLH

Buy Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, Tony Harris, Stephen B. Scott, Galen Showman.

“The dead should have charity.”

The thing about childhood is this: only an adult will look back on it thinking, “That’s odd!”

“My parents stayed together yet all of my friends’ were divorced. Apparently not everyone has beetroot for breakfast. Growing up in an igloo’s unusual…?!” Whatever your childhood, it seems the norm whilst you’re living it. Obviously that’s not always a good thing.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. He really did. And it seemed perfectly normal to him.

Nobody Owens was his adoptive name but everyone called him Bod. His birth parents were murdered one night by a very bad man with a very sharp knife and a mission. Bod was no more than a toddler with a precocious and somewhat worrisome propensity for straying but that night it saved his young life. He’d heard a crash downstairs, woke up and wandered through his home’s open front door, up the hill under moonlight to the simple, padlocked, wrought iron gates of the graveyard and squeezed through.

The bad man with a knife whose business was not yet complete followed the infant’s milky scent and clambered over the thick, stone walls in pursuit. But there he was met by a tall, gaunt man with the palest of skin, jet-black hair and an equally obsidian cloak. He looked vaguely aristocratic and his manner was utterly compelling. No child could or would be found here: more likely in the town down below.

So it was that Bod was taken in by the graveyard folk – the ghosts of those long since passed – and raised as one of their own. With centuries of knowledge between them Bod’s education is eclectic if somewhat arcane, but it will stand him good stead for what his fiercely inquisitive nature will lead him to encounter both inside the graveyard and when he strays oh so dangerously out. Fortunately he has a quiet yet determined guardian in Silas, the very tall man with the very pale skin and the very dark hair. Silas is no ghost as you have probably gathered; nor is he still amongst the living.

If I didn’t know better I would swear this was autobiographical: you can imagine Neil Gaiman growing up in a graveyard, can’t you? He knows almost too much about Mist-Folk, Ghoul-Gates and Night-Gaunts: which to avoid and how to cry out for help in their languages.

This is the first half of P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Gaiman’s prose novel and he draws the second chapter himself. He’s brought along some friends for each of the others: MAGIC TRIXIE and SCARY GODMOTHER’s Jill Thompson, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, Tony Harris, Stephen B. Scott and Galen Showman whom you could not tell apart from P. Craig Russell himself, such are the crisply cut leaves, their shadows and the stones. Some have adapted their styles more than others; it’s a perfectly congruous whole.

 

Each chapter moves on a couple of years with elements reprised, Bod’s nightgown seemingly growing with him as the young man learns his lessons through making mistakes: breaking rules, testing boundaries and learning to care for others no matter what other people think. As always with Gaiman there are a couple of moments of such pure kindness that you cannot help but emit a little choke. He understands childhood as readers of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE will know, and Silas’ role as guardian is particularly poignant. I worry for him.

“But you’ll always be here, Silas, won’t you? And I won’t even have to leave, if I don’t want to?”
“Everything in its season.”

SLH

Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Simon Fraser, Chris Peterson.

Hot, sticky and delicious!

“Midsummer. The Red Planet hangs in the thick night air like a drop of blood in oil.
“Everything is bursting.
“Everything is whispering.
“Now. Now. Now.”

Beautifully played opening on ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ both by writer Alex De Campi (ASHES / SMOKE), artist Chris Peterson and indeed colour artist Nolan Woodard. The page is ripe, dripping with honey and sexual juices as cats copulate and a woman pleasures herself in what might be the back of a car. Bees buzz round red rose flowers and an empty beer can strewn on the ground.

‘Prison Shop Antares’ boasts a great deal of sex of the sort that only a woman could get away with. Male writers would have been condemned especially on the web as “salacious” at best, “misogynistic” at worst with “exploitative” nuzzled inbetween. Yet Alex De Campi dives deep and fearlessly into the long tradition of exploitation and brings it spluttering to the surface, resuscitated as empowerment instead.

For my money it works for the women win out, and there are some cripplingly funny shower-scene exchanges. Also, hurrah for inclusivity aboard a spaceship full of female prisoners. Love Simon Fraser’s Sharyce whose world-weary, wised-up eyes have no need of an arched eyebrow to proclaim their attitude:

“Ended up in solitary ‘cuz I was born with a dick. It was a mistake. I fixed it. The dick, not the solitary.”
“They gave you life for being trans? Shiiiit.”
“Nah. Got life for shankin’ a guard in the jugular after he called me “sir” one too many times.”

She raises her firsts: four fingers on each hand tattooed just below the knuckles with the letters “It’s” and “maam”.

 

Back to ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ and there is something very wrong on Cemetery Hill. There are too many bees, and some are so big that when one bursts on a windscreen the splatter drives the sheriff off the road. Those bees are producing an awful lot of honey and it is being harvested. It may be an aphrodisiac. A man is discovered on Cemetery Hill in a car, lipstick smeared on his collar and jeans. There are bits of him missing. Like his head and, umm… “bits”. A thick flood of blood leads into a thicket of roses, their thorns as big as their heads are red. Don’t go into the thicket, sheriff. Don’t go home, either. You really don’t want to go home…

Bees are beautiful, but not so much here. There is one particular stand-out Chris Petersen page whose layout is immaculately composed for maximum suffocation, partly involving a letter box. As to the punchline, it is perfect: not the solution I ever saw coming but, yes, that is one way to successfully scupper a bee, no matter how big it is. And this one is big.

SLH

Buy Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares and read the Page 45 review here

Raygun Roads (£4-99, Changeling Studios) by Owen Johnson & Indio.

Have you ever seen a Jack Kirby saxophone? I have now!

Reading this double-sided single is like standing at the front of a stage with your ears to the speakers. A punk rock rage against cultural mediocrity fronted by Raygun Roads, “Saviour of the Hopeless! Pin-Up of the Jobless!”, it screams to be heard. Her band includes Asteroid Anne-Phetamine, the commentator’s Dan Lazyleech and…

“To explain how fucked we are with dull graphs, here’s Exclamation Mark!”

Someone’s read a toxic, viral dose of THE BEST OF MILLIGAN & MCCARTHY and actually understood it. How’s the gig going?

“Twenty seconds into that acapella apocalypse saw the hospitalization of two Hell’s Angels at the hands of a topless nun, a city-wide blackout and an immaculate conception. Beneath the merchandise stand.”

It’s got a good beat: that afterthought’s important. It’s also exhausting – I will concede that – and if the individual colours aren’t legitimately day-glo then the combination is.

A round of applause if not a standing ovation for the relative lack of genitals. I’ve seen this sort of thing done so, so badly and gigantic erections are its staple stand-in for actual content. When one willy finally does appear here, it is at least flaccid.

I started on the opposite side to the cover above and recommend that you do too, for you’re eased in gently with language like this:

“It is there that wonder cruises depart not on the hour, but once fascination threshold is optimal. Tickets to Alpha Centauri cost a flourish of optimism.”

SLH

Buy Raygun Roads and read the Page 45 review here

Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto.

“This is what I am now. And you’ll never know who I was before.”

The light here is fabulous. Phil Noto is on full art duties from pencils to inks where present and colours which come with lovely tonal and fade effects. His forms are suitably lithe and action fans will see Natasha – the titular former Russian spy, now Avenger and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – perform some serious gymnastics and not just on the parallel bars. Freefalling from a helicopter into crocodile-infested waters isn’t an internationally recognised Olympic sport as yet, but Ms Romanov was never one for convention or rules.

The Black Widow has her own set of rules and here strives to follow them. Between S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments, and to atone for her past, she’s hired a lawyer to find her private contracts to fund certain trusts, but she’s very choosy about whom she’s prepared to help or hinder (euphemism). If she discovers halfway through a gig that the person she’s protecting is guilty of more than she knew she’s likely to drop them halfway through, even that means forgoing her fee.

 

Heavy on action, light on words, I have to concede there is not a lot of spying or infiltration involved at all. You certainly won’t enjoy all the covert qualities of Brubaker and Epting’s VELVET which I recommend with all my well hidden heart.

Also, waaaaay too many allusions to webs and threads. One may look clever, two like lapsed memory, but come three, four and five then the symbol becomes a cymbal bashing your bloody ear in.

Collects BLACK WIDOW (2014) #1-6 and material from ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1.

SLH

Buy Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Art of Neil Gaiman h/c (£25-00, Ilex) by Hayley Campbell

The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate 30 Years Of Usagi Yojimbo h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by a vertitable who’s who of over 250 comic book artists

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Final Incal Deluxe Edition h/c (£75-00, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius, Jose Ladronn

Murder Me Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery (£7-50, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch

The Unwritten vol 9: The Unwritten Fables (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham & Peter Gross, Mark Buckingha0.27m

Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Superman Action Comics vol 3: At The End Of Days s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch & Rags Morales, others

Avengers vol 5: Adapt Or Die h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Salvador Larroca

Deadpool vol 5: The Wedding Of Deadpool s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, Wes Craig

War Of Kings s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Bong Dazo

Wolverine vol 1: Mortal s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell & Ryan Stegman

Wolverine: Origin II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 4 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Blue Sheep Reverie vol 5 (£9-99, June) by Makoto Tateno

My Little Monster vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

My Little Monster vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

News!

ITEM! Revealing interview with Bryan Lee O’Malley about the creation of SECONDS, its delay and some startling revelations about SCOTT PILGRIM.

ITEM! Inkstuds podcast with Bryan Lee O’Malley and indeed Brandon Graham.

ITEM! Fabulous illustrated blog by Bryony Turner on using Page 45’s ‘Want A Recommendation’ service on our website. Includes mini-reviews of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE and all three Becky Cloonan self-published comics which our Jodie Paterson recommended and sent Bryony by post. Seems they went down very well indeed!

ITEM! Oh dear, what on earth has happened to the Harvey Awards? So much dross in the nominations including multiple Valiant titles. I call shenanigans.

ITEM! A school has produced its own comic and I would kill for a copy of this. Look!

ITEM! Article on Woodrow Phoenix’s SHE LIVES comic artefact at the British Museum. No plans to print it for now.

ITEM! Hurrah! THE PHOENIX weekly comic for kids makes it into The Grauniad with a fabulous splash of Tamsin And The Deep written by Neill Cameron and drawn by who the hell cares, apparently. IT WAS DRAWN BY KATE BROWN, YOU UNPROFESSIONAL MORONS!

In solidarity with Kate, we reprint the following review from yonks ago, now with interior art. Hurrah!

Fish + Chocolate h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) Kate Brown.

A sublime confluence of words and pictures with the palette of Paul Duffield and Josh Middleton; if you love the art on FREAKANGELS or SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES you will adore these three stories, each of which is in its way is about parenthood.

The first two feature single mothers: the first with two boys, the second with a young girl perfectly content to play round their countryside cottage and its gently sloping Garden of new Earthly Delights. There she finds a cherry tree laden with fruit. She picks one. Her mother composes on the piano upstairs.

The boys miss their father whom they haven’t seen in months, and the oldest wants a television in his room. Their mother argues with her editor but meets up with a friend. It’s a perfectly lovely day and they have much to discuss. There’s an odd-looking man with barely any eyebrows sitting on his lawn by the path. He whistles through a split blade of grass. The boys are curious.

 

 

The tunes may not come easily especially when distracted and the man is a little unnerving, but everything on the surface seems pretty much serene. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find skeletons buried and sudden trauma in store, as the tranquillity of sleepy suburbia and that bucolic beauty are shredded by shrieks of wholly unexpected violence. I’m not even going to touch on the third tale (although sneakily I have) but the cover’s stark warning of “explicit content” is far from alarmist.

Oh, but this artist can write! Nothing here is predictable or simplistic, and it’s a joy to discover a brand new voice unlike any I’ve encountered before, yet the art will sell itself to you all on its own. There’s one particular sequence involving a violin string and a music score which is a visual triumph: a fusion then cascade so clever it is breathtaking. Moreover we have another contender for best rain ever in comics as the sky bursts open, the water cascades and the downpour drowns the cherry tree in a curtain of spray.

SLH

Buy Fish + Chocolate and read the Page 45 review here

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week three

July 16th, 2014

Bryan Lee O’Malley will be signing SECONDS at Page 45 on Monday August 18th!

Seconds h/c (£15-99, SelfMadeHero) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Out in the UK on Thursday August 14th

Katie had never liked cause and effect anyway.
“It’s a flawed system.”
Still, she had to admit that toying with the universe was a little unsettling.
“She did not. Katie admitted nothing of the sort.”

That will prove part of the problem.

Fresh from the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA comes a big, bold, full-colour graphic novel, completely self-contained and weighing in at a whopping three-hundred pages.

If you enjoyed the authorial mischief of SCOTT PILGRIM then you will love chef Katie’s recalcitrant attitude towards this new, hands-on narrator and her wayward relationship with reality.

Katie used to run Seconds, a highly acclaimed restaurant just out in the country on top of a hill. Four years on and its imaginative menu and impeccable cooking makes it as popular as ever but Katie’s mentally moved on.

She has her heart set on starting a brand new restaurant in a very old building in town. Although empty for ages and dilapidated as hell, Lucky’s old stone building oozes character and Katie can picture exactly how it will look with a grand wooden staircase, an ornate central chandelier and an open kitchen run by bright, energetic and respectful staff serving the very best cuisine to an adoring public. Reality check: its condition is causing her grief.

It’s way behind schedule and gobbling up money but at least she is fortunate in her business partner Arthur’s practical optimism and seemingly limitless support. Even when she decides she wants to call it “Katie’s”.

“She’d fought for the location:
“Wrong side of the river. Tucked away under the bridge. It was an up-and-coming spot, she swore.
“She drove back and forth sometimes four, five times a day. As if one of these times she’d cross that little bridge and find a finished restaurant.
“The waiting was hell. Seconds had become her purgatory. At least purgatory had its perks.”

It does. Still its executive chef, Katie’s name remains on the menu and she basks in the adulation of diners; the waiters are lucky if they can get a word in edgeways. In addition, to save money, she’s still allowed to rent the restaurant’s top-floor apartment. She doesn’t know how good she’s got it.

But tonight two things go wrong: Katie’s ex, Max, comes out to eat in and although he smiles kindly Katie blows him off and stomps downstairs to argue with Andrew, the new head-chef with whom she’s having an affair; they make out in the store room and in Andrew’s absence there is a accident in the kitchen leaving waitress Hazel’s arms dripping in scalding hot fat.

Having left hospital late at night, Katie despairs. Then she remembers a dream she had about a strange, glowing girl with wide, haunting eyes hunched on top of her dresser. In that dresser she discover a little box which hadn’t been there before and in that box she finds a notebook titled “My Mistakes”, a single red-capped mushroom and a card printed as follows:

A SECOND CHANCE AWAITS.
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
EVENTS MUST OCCUR ON THESE PREMISES

She follows the instructions and awakes to find reality rewritten.

Katie never canoodled with Andrew so the accident never took place and quiet young Hazel is right as rain. Everything’s been corrected, everything is better. Lucky, lucky Katie. Time to move on.

Well. What follows is a cautionary tale about pushing your luck.

It’s one thing to hoard multiple saves in a video game; to go back and restart from more favourable junctures (though you could, you know, just move on?). It’s one thing to plan conversations ahead, steering them in different directions to see how they go most in your favour (I do). But although we might wish on occasion to reset the reality button, the ability to do so increases the temptation and that temptation comes with consequences. If you can reset reality as often as you like then why concentrate on what is important the first time?

This book is masterfully constructed with impeccable control under what must have been mind-frazzling circumstances. You’ll see what I mean as everything unravels, increasingly, over and over again.

Egotism becomes egomania and, unlike so many protagonists, Katie’s self-awareness doesn’t grow gradually over each page. Instead – after what was essentially a compassionate, altruistic revision to save Hazel’s skin – Katie loses sight of priorities, her sense of perspective, her sense of responsibility and her comprehension of cause and effect: of ripples and repercussion.

The strange glowing girl returns time and again with increasingly incandescent eyes that had me howling out loud. I’m glad I can’t see my dresser from bed. Her hair is spectacular. Nathan Faibarn’s colours are so warm that I cannot imagine this in black and white.

As well as the broad strokes and fine fashion of the characters you’ve come to expect from O’Malley (the designs are exquisite, Yana’s eyes shining a pale, milky blue like semi-opaque fishbowls), there’s a lot more intricate detail on the architecture. Rickety 22 Lucknow Street, the site of Katie’s second prospective restaurant, is a star in its own right. Its brown brick and beige stone climb precariously towards a fourth-storey, castellated tower. The aerial views of the town itself – rising on either side of the river before opening up to fields and foliage and Seconds sitting under its trademark tree in the distance – are breathtaking and again coloured beautifully in greens, browns and antler grey under a late-afternoon winter sky.

The panel composition is much tighter with strict, straight-ruled borders – gone altogether are the bleeds – with some parts of the page unused altogether during moments of disorientation, waiting or “what’s happened now?”

There are some startlingly dark pages unlike anything you’ve seen from O’Malley, but SECONDS is also, as you’d expect, very, very funny in places even as things fall apart, and I like our new narrator enormously.

“I don’t like it back here anymore. The walk-in… you don’t feel that?”
“Feel what?”
“I don’t know. Never mind.”
But she did feel it. The shadow. She knew it was real.
“I don’t feel anything.”
Um, yeah, she did actually.

SLH

Pre-order Seconds h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Times (£6-99, self-published) by Robert M Ball.

“In the end it was quick at least.
“He’d not been right for weeks.
“Another ‘accident’.”

That happens as you grow older.

“Some young men took him away for tests.
“He put a brave face on it but I could tell he was scared.
“They kept him in for the night.
“And I came back to a stranger’s home.”

Sometimes you notice what’s missing more than you notice what’s there. A gap in your familiar landscape can prove haunting.

I once had a cat that would race to the door. I was worried that whenever I opened it he would rush onto the road. I used to open the door gingerly, carefully, cautiously; and for weeks after I had Felix put down I would open that door in exactly the same tentative manner, expecting a cat to dash past. He didn’t.

Composed of six shorts, four of them silent, this is one of the cleverest comics of the year. I’m not even going to tell you the title of that one for fear of giving its game away, yet here is a clue: what you have read up above is but prose. Read the same sequence as a comic and you will realise what Rob has done. Read the same sequence as a comic and it is, as they say, a very different story!

‘Dump’ is its reversal, in which some unusually accommodating bin men take care of some no-longer-desired, discarded property and boasts two terrifying panels whose power lies in the implication of what will happen off-stage. A chisel is involved.

From the creator of WINTER’S KNIGHT, then, comes an assortment of mysteries – yes, that’s what they are – for you to decipher and devour. All of them are surprising and each is composed in a markedly different style, one of which unexpectedly as a tribute to Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. But then Frank’s SIN CITY was all about the shapes, just like Robert’s main output.

In ‘Jack’ our modern, spotty teenager in a tracksuit acquires some magic beans. From a supermarket. As per tradition, Mum is unimpressed and lobs those bobbins beans out of her council estate’s high-rise window. Jack will find treasure all the same.

‘Nest’ boasts two of the most blinding pages of all here: a double-page landscape of urban buildings stacked up a very steep hill, looking just like the back end of Nottingham’s Lace Market seen from the London Road roundabout. Their sloped roofs gleam brighter the closer they climb towards the full moon. In it a husband declares that “We can’t go on like this”. Why? His wife has an over-acquisitive nature, her objects of desire even curiouser than her means of obtaining them.

DARK TIMES opens with ‘Animal’.

“He’s here again” is the uh-oh signifier, coupled with the Indian waiter peering anxiously through a narrow, horizontal window at their recurrent, difficult diner whose take on their menu is perhaps wilfully misconstrued. He has… unusual appetites.

The wit there lies upon wordplay but even without that I would relish Robert’s art. It’s all about the shapes and the colours. In terms of shapes, the waiter’s face appears between a snapped-in-two poppadom, as crisply delineated as those thick wooden segments were sawn from then slotted into our Early Learning jigsaw puzzles. In terms of colour, the waiter is all greens and browns just like the curries he serves, while the diner is composed of cold, cold blues with top teeth protruding predatorily through saggy-jowls and a wan, worn, elongated face which screams “take this social-skills loser away”.

I’m thinking Norman Tebbit. It’s enough to make you queasy.

Signed: all our copies are signed.

SLH

Buy Dark Times and read the Page 45 review here

R L #1 (£3-00, Sequential Artists Workshop) by Tom Hart.

Parental Warning: a warning to parents for parents.

And I suppose this comic is, in a way, but that’s not what I meant.

Much admired by Eddie Campbell and Scott McCloud, Tom Hart was one of Mark’s favourite cartoonists as well. Alas, all we have left of Tom’s output prior to Rosalie Lightning is NEW HAT STORIES.

I wouldn’t have recognised this as Tom’s work in a million years, so much have the events in this comic transformed him. Maybe the first image of Rosalie throwing her arms up in the air with joy and in emulation of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and its acorn growing through sapling “to a beautiful strong tree.”

Tom and Leela lost Rosalie Lightning before she grew to be two. There have been other depictions of bereavement in comics – Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and THE END, Aidan Koch’s THE WHALE, and Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU – but this is the most effective and affecting I’ve read about losing your child and so much of your future.

“You best memories are your biggest torments.”

Imagine that. The cruelty of that.

“You remember anything and your heart races – you can’t believe – “

 

Painfully, Tom recalls some of those best memories along with what may or may not have been tell-tale signs either of Rosalie being ill or her being aware that she wasn’t long for this world.

I infer from elsewhere that there is a larger work being constructed – I could be wrong – but this is succinct and it did me in which isn’t its aim, I know.

SLH

Buy R L #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Out Of Hollow Water (£8-50, 2D Cloud) by Anna Bonngiovanni.

“And that’s what scared me the most. I never want to be that still again.”

If you think the cover bodes ill, you should see its extension on the back.

Told in three chapters – each followed by silent sequences, the central one like a constellation of mutating baby-body forms – this is grim stuff, deeply disturbing to read.

“It smells like dirt and self-pity. It reeks of regret.”

It’s a book of fear, helplessness and revulsion. Of things that cannot be undone. Of things you would like to bury, metaphorically and otherwise, but which cannot be got rid of so easily.

It’s all implication and the implications are terrifying.

‘Monster’ begins with a terrible shadow with black, rat-like claws looming a woman whose eyes gaze mournfully into the past while profoundly upset by her present. It follows wherever she goes.

“You made me an alien in my own body. A stranger. An unwelcome guest.”

Then there’s a tree hollow, a well and a bundle of something which certainly isn’t joy.

The single-panel pages have been scratched on so hard and thick with graphite that they are smudged and sullied and uncomfortable to touch.

Powerful stuff.

SLH

Buy Out Of Hollow Water and read the Page 45 review here

Freddy Stories (£7-50, self-published) by Melissa Mendes.

Freddy is a very young girl occasionally mistaken for a boy.

She lives with her Mum, next door to Uncle Sully and downstairs from kindly Mrs. Medeiros who lost her husband in the war. There’s a photograph of him on the dresser.

Occasionally her Dad comes to collect Freddy, but she doesn’t want to go. It’s not her house, it doesn’t have her things. They eat on the settee. Later she sleeps there with a sodium street light streaming through the window.

In summer she stays with Aunt Maria for two weeks, but she doesn’t want to go. Freddy hates Aunt Maria (she doesn’t) and Freddy hates the countryside (she doesn’t). Her friends aren’t there, but at least her dog Frank is.

Without saying a word on the subject, Mendes evokes the unsettling prospect of staying with relative strangers: different smells, different routines, different television shows, different meals eaten in different places and different sleeping arrangements.

Also, kids at play. It’s a very quiet, understated little book and BERLIN’s Jason Lutes is a big fan.

SLH

Buy Freddy Stories and read the Page 45 review here

In The Sounds And Seas (£9-99, Monkey-Rope Press) by Marnie Galloway.

Silent and surreal and open to interpretation.

Which means I haven’t a clue what this is about..

But I love a lot of its patterns: tree leaves at night, lit like chunky dragon scales; the birds and the bunnies and the fan-tailed goldfish filling three singers’ stomachs or lungs as they sit round a campfire and release these creatures in twisting torrents which swirl round each other and up into the sky and – oh, look, someone’s dived in (I missed that first time round; it’s reprised later on) – eventually form a still ocean.

I absolutely adore the whale and the ship’s skeleton which I have always associated with each other.

I’ve failed to mention the magpie. I think it’s a magpie.

 

Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey is quoted at the front. That never impressed me: too much effort expended in rhyming and cleverness at the expense of clarity. It might have helped me understand what this is about, but I couldn’t be arsed to disentangle its convolutions.

Seriously: that whale. Amazing.

SLH

Buy In The Sounds And Seas and read the Page 45 review here

Sunday In The Park With Boys (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Jane Mai.

Right in the middle there is an excellent self-portrait with one bandaged eye and centipedes crawling out the other eye and mouth.

Other than that, awful.

Autobiographical onanism with nothing to say annoys me intensely.

Jane Mai has absolutely nothing to say yet expects everyone to listen.

She’s depressed, she’s lonely and she knows – oh how she knows – that she’s wasted so much time! Well, she didn’t have to waste mine.

“Coming home during a thunderstorm is kind of nice.
“It’s good for thinking maybe you’ll wash away and become something new.
“If you walk really slowly you are reflecting on life and it is very serious.
“If you run then you are doing something drastic and crazy!”

Thank you, Miss fucking Confucius.

Please do everyone a favour and read Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. Thank you.

SLH

Buy Sunday In The Park With Boys and read the Page 45 review here

Death Sentence h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Montynero & Mike Dowling.

Bang, bang, bang: dazzling, wit-ridden debut from Montynero IF YOU ARE OVER 15! If you’re under 16 then please move along, nothing to see here, it was rubbish.

Three young, disparate individuals have just contract the G-Plus virus: Verity, Weasel and Monty.

There is currently no cure for the G-Plus virus and within six months they will all inevitably die. If there’s a silver lining to their situation it’s that, give or take extreme mood swings, the symptoms are a lot kinder than any other virus known to man: they will begin to experience increased energy, physical fitness and a variety of metahuman abilities. On the negative side, this makes them a target for the British Intelligence and military.

Verity’s the most vulnerable because her readings are off the scale and nobody knows who she is. Oh, she’s a graphic designer – or she was (see mood swings; they’re terribly funny and her abusive boss gets the brunt of it) – but Monty is a smug-as-fuck media personality who knows how to play the game while Weasel is a talentless and so successful musician. Plus his PR people really know how to milk his wretched, risibly unproductive ass:

“How much is this sonic diarrhoea costing us?”
“Erm… £6000 a day.”
“Pull the plug.”
“OK… what do we do instead?”
“Well… we’ve done the supermodel… the blood stunts… prison… collaborations… a covers album… and reforming the old band. So the only fresh angle is the G+ virus.”
“He has developed some skills… though nothing reliable or useful yet.”
“Who cares! Just spin his ‘G+ Hell’ to the tabloids. How’s demand for the Valedictory Tour?”
“Strong. There’s an army of numpties buying into the ‘Misunderstood Genius’ crap who’d basically pay to watch him take a dump on the stage.”
“They have, actually.”

 

Mike Dowling lets rip with wild gesticulations like a young Duncan Fegredo. I love how Weasel instinctively protects his face with his arms as he plummets towards unyielding asphalt from way up above, as though that’s going to do him any good. But you would, though, wouldn’t you, instinctively? Turns out that the tarmac does yield – to someone intangible. Although sex proves problematic when he loses his concentration.

I also love all the design work that’s gone into the mid-chapter music paper interviews, newspaper posts and online medical health websites. The only thing I didn’t like were the covers, unrepresentative of the art inside or the story’s contents, but then I have an extreme aversion to that sort of glossy, 3-D modelling that Richard Corben used on DEN etc before ditching it in favour of texture. Good move.

Meanwhile, Montynero packs every page with immaculately thought-through ramifications, far from gratuitous profanity but the most blasphemous use of a crucifix I can conceive of. The scenes are short, sharp and slickly edited and the joke-per-page rate is astonishingly high. But then this is essentially a highly successful satire: on sex, sexism, sexual attraction, sexual action, politics, the comedy circuit, celebrity culture and the music industry. Weasel’s chart-topping band was called The Whatevers.

“Bono rang again. The Royal Charity gig.”
“Jeezus!! What’s the cause, his credibility?”

Most impressive initially was the trajectory of libertine wastrel Weasel and his outrageous self-indulgence: boozing, reckless sex and – it transpires – some very dodgy connections. He is, however, deliciously undaunted even in the wake of extreme adversity.

One stop, look and listen to egomaniacal Monty and there’s no mistaking which overrated and over-inflated vainglorious “Voting’s a waste of time” bell-end he’s supposed to be. (I could be projecting.)

I would just note that two-thirds of the way through the tone takes a turn for the unexpectedly dark as the book heads into MIRACLEMAN BOOK 3 territory and it becomes a superhero series. Oh there were always powers, but there were no heroes and villains, just many arched eyebrows and a great deal of sexual shenanigans. That will of course prove a plus point for many but it wasn’t what I saw coming.

Additionally I promise you one panel of pure political catharsis.

Montynero is a very naughty boy. I don’t think we’ve a hope of rehabilitating him, and that makes me very pleased indeed.

More!

SLH

Buy Death Sentence h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative Book Two – Exhibition (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Graveyard Book vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan, many more

Crossed vol 9 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Daniel Way, Simon Spurrier & Emiliano Urdinola, Gabriel Andrade

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception – The Graphic Novel (£9-99, Hyperion) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigiano

Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight: Bee Vixens From Mars / Prison Ship Antares (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Chris Peterson

White Lama h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess

Cape Horn h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Enea Riboldi

Lust s/c (£14-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith, Menton3

Deadly Class vol 1 Reagan Youth s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig, Lee Loughridge

Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool (£6-00, Other A-Z) by Verity Hall

Black Widow vol 1: Finely Woven Thread s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Teen Titans vol 4: Light And Dark s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell, Tony Bedard & Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, many more

Damian Son Of Batman h/c (£18-99, DC) by Andy Kubert

Adventure Time Candy Capers vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Ananth Panagariya, Yuko Ota & Ian Mcginty

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Team-Up (£7-50, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Brian Michael Bendis, many more & Josh Fine, Sal Buscema, many more

Soul Eater vol 21 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Fairy Tail vol 40 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Naruto vol 66 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

News!

ITEM! Oh my days, this by Ian McQue is one of the most beautiful images I have ever beheld. Eerie x 7,372

ITEM! Kickstarter for Vera Greantea’s new comic has some gorgeous art. It’s already exceeded its goal so it is going to happen!

ITEM! Extraordinary composition by David Aja. Don’t get it? Now see same image with Golden Spiral.

Umm, that’s it this week. I’ve run out of time!

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week two

July 9th, 2014

“It’s the not-quite-right taking a turn for the oh-my-god-no!”

 - Stephen on Through The Woods

Through The Woods h/c (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll.

Emily Carroll has a thing for teeth. I wish she didn’t. It’s very upsetting.

And I don’t mean just jagged teeth, but teeth where there ought not to be, doing things which they shouldn’t. Wobbling teeth are most worrisome of all: imagine what lies behind.

Also present and most incorrect: woods, caves, families and intruders – infesting your house, inhabiting your body and eating away at your soul.

It’s the not-quite-right taking a turn for the oh-my-god-no!

Eerie and chilling, this Victorian brand of horror owes less to the likes of RACHEL RISING or FATALE and much, much more both in tone and style to THE HIDDEN’s Richard Sala and especially MEATCAKE’s Dame Darcy. The protagonists are called Janna, Yvonne, Mary and Mabel, and they all have pert, pointy noses and long, slender fingers. There is the same sense that anything can happen on the page: the countryside may suddenly loom at a tilted angle, the path snaking through it becoming representational (of both space and the time taken to travel it); colouring may bleed outside its boundaries; the wail of a tortured soul may curl across the glossy paper forming the very gutter between its pitch-black panels haunted by past deeds in bright white and electric blue. As with Dame Darcy, lettering plays an integral part in the art and storytelling.

In ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’ the not-quite-right is signalled early on by the intense flush on a young girl’s face as she sits in nervous trepidation at the other end of a vast, opulently laid dining table to the man her father has told her to marry. He, we never see but for the back of his head and a mouth into which he slides slabs of rare, juice-dribbling meat he has stabbed and cut with a two-pronged fork and carving knife. The oh-my-god-no is not far behind.

Another features a brother taking credit where far from due. Jealousy often goes unnoticed.

Then there are three sisters left to fend for themselves when their father goes hunting. In the woods, of course, but for what is uncertain. He says he’ll be gone for three days but warns them to leave the house and seek their neighbour’s if he fails to return on schedule. He fails to return on schedule. Things fall apart.

A Victorian parlour prank becomes more successful than anyone ever wanted it to. Two life-long friends find themselves at odds, and one starts seeing the most terrifying spectre I have ever laid eyes on because of what I laid eyes on. This one’s not as transparent as most.

A stylish soon-to-be-sister-in-law plays host to… No, there we will not go.

Nor will we go through the woods now that we are safely back home.

“Oh, but you must travel through those woods again and again,” said a shadow at the window.
“And you must be lucky to avoid the wolf every time…
“But the wolf… the wolf only needs enough luck to find you once.

SLH

Buy Through The Woods h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Shackleton – Antarctic Odyssey s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Nick Bertozzi.

South Pole, 1912.

“Success. The South Pole. Break out the meatballs!”
“We couldn’t have done it without the dogs.”
“Yes. They were tasty.”

Did you know previous expeditions use ponies? Poor ponies!

The above is Bertozzi’s fabulous, three-panel summary of the Amundsen Expedition, the first to reach the South Pole. It’s indicative of wit that’s been deployed throughout, making this a light, bright entertainment as well as an education.

On the other hand, I’m afraid he’s not joking: dogs don’t do well in the Antarctic. Poor dogs!

It kicks off with a quick geography lesson informing us that the Antarctic’s down south (well past the Thames) and there is a line of latitude past which the sun disappears during winter for an entire twenty-four hours.

Now, I’m all for exploration and have done a fair amount myself: the Brecon Beacons in summer and the Berwyn Mountains in winter. I can light a gasless, hexamine-fuel-block army camping stove with three sheets of toilet paper and a match, and have on one successfully cooked a gourmet, three-course meal for my Junior Instructors, although I do concede that if a melted Rolo and skimmed milk drink is not your idea of pudding then “gourmet” might be stretching it.

However, it seems to me that the remoter regions of the Antarctic are an ocean too far, and no amount of homemade damson gin is going to take the nip out of the air. It is very, very cold as Bertozzi’s central subject matter – 1914’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – makes abundantly clear. That the crew manage to stay in such dignified high spirits and deport themselves with jovial optimism during the most severe deprivations and weather conditions is astonishing. They’re stranded on the aptly titled Endurance for the full first year, trapped in the ice. For a year! Not a great start.

The fate of The Endurance is pretty ill too, after which it becomes less of an expedition to the South Pole and more a struggle for survival out on the ice whilst inching themselves back towards the nearest semblance of civilisation, a Whaling Port hundreds of miles and several islands away on South Georgia. To get there will mean braving ridiculously rough seas in tiny rowing boats after they’re already starved and exhausted. It is… circuitous. Do you honestly think they all make it back alive?

The best laid 10-point plan of these mighty men involving two sailing ships and medals for all is laid out in all its reasonable detail right at the beginning of the book. It goes well astray within pages. It’s worth noting that the timing of the expedition turned out to be far from fortuitous: August 1914 was mere months from the outbreak of WWI so, with no hope of further funding from the throne (all monies, they knew, would be diverting to the war efforts), Shackleton saw no other option but to crack on when normally he would have turned back before he’d begun.

I learned so much that would never have occurred to me, particularly about the geology – the pressure of the ice packs, feeling sea waves under your feet which are standing on ice – and I had no idea these expeditions took two years. Obviously the humour factor starts failing when with their prospects of survival start waning, and there is one toe-curling moment I challenge you to resist reacting physically to, but one way or another Bertozzi keeps it riveting from start to finish.

His line is fine which, combined with a perfectly judged balance of grey tone, keeps the pages spacious and full of just the right light to convey times of day, temperature and weather conditions. It’s all about the temperature and weather conditions, an expedition like this, and what you will witness over these 120-odd pages is a tribute to human stoicism and dogged determination in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Still, poor dogs.

SLH

Buy Shackleton – Antarctic Odyssey s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gold Star (£3-99, Retrofit Comics) by John Martz.

Delightful little smile-inducing mini-comic in the vein of Lewis Trondheim. Being a rounded human being Trondheim has many veins, so consider this his anthropomorphic funny face.

Alternating between the past recounted as single cartoons and present in the form of four-panel comic strips, a bespectacled bunny has been nominated for an award.

In the present the award is announced, the nerve-ridden rabbit proves victorious, and he is called to the podium to make his acceptance speech.

In the past he arrives at his hotel on the previous day and makes precisely the wrong friend at its evening’s reception.

There is an immensely satisfying moment when the past becomes immediately reflected in the present’s acceptance-speech fluster but the punchline – when the fluster is fully accounted for – is a howler.

Immaculate timing.

SLH

Buy Gold Star and read the Page 45 review here

Love And Rockets vol 10: Luba And Her Family (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

I’m all reviewed-out on Los Bros Hernandez at the moment, sorry. I’ve not read a single duff page by either Gilbert of Jaime – and I’ve read thousands – so you are hereby entreated to buy the lot.

MARBLE SEASON by Gilbert was such an incredible evocation of childhood we made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

Jaime’s THE LOVE BUNGLERS also featured childhood prominently and contains one sequence so shocking and a single panel so utterly arresting I took days to recover from both.

JULIO’S DAY was an exquisite, generational affair about a man who wastes his entire life.

MARIA M. I called “Crime and punishment executed with rapid-fire, bullet-point precision”.

THE CHILDREN OF PALOMAR was a haunting, community-based number.

LOVE AND ROCKETS: ESPERANZA is a fab introduction.

HIGH SOFT LISP contains the lines “She wept when I asked her to marry me. I wept when she asked for a pre-nuptial agreement!”

THE TROUBLE MAKERS and LOVE FROM THE SHADOWS were brilliantly bonkers and, yes, every one of those books is reviewed by us.

Possibly the most skeletal review I’ve ever written.

SLH

Buy Love And Rockets vol 10: Luba And Her Family and read the Page 45 review here

King-Cat Comics & Stories #74 (£2-99, King Cat) by John Porcellino.

What a cute cover!

John’s girlfriend, Stephanie, finds a bat in the attic. It’s too cold to pop the poor mite outside so they put it to bed in a ventilated shoebox while Stephanie scours the internet in search of local experts. They find one. They meet. The bat finds a loving new home. I didn’t know there were bat cages. They’re domes made of wire.

Thank God for Stephanie: I’m afraid she’s pretty much the only good news this issue. Even the letter column is tinged with melancholy. Zak Sally says “I’m tired of it” though I don’t know what “it” is. I like that John still copies them out by hand.

Comics’ chief map-maker Oliver East will love the portraits and descriptions of ‘The Bridges Of South Beloit’. At first I thought “Wow, so many!” I could only think of four in Nottingham and I had to remind myself of two of them. Then I realised I was just thinking of the River Trent and forgotten the canal, railway and tram bridges. There are loads.

My favourite episode this time out is ‘B.O.’ Unless I’m hiking up a hill on a very hot day I don’t tend to sweat so have never worn deodorant. John did use deodorant sticks until dating a punk rock girl in 1994 when she told them it causes Alzheimer’s, so he stopped for nineteen years. This is the story of why he stopped stopping: a day of disasters and cumulative stress causing him to sweat profusely then stress about sweating, and the cycle continues until he stinks to high heaven at a public event he cannot walk away from. Nightmare!

I love Porcellino’s storytelling. It’s the ultimate in clarity. There’s no fuss, no clutter. Come to think of it there are no images at all in ‘Dead Porcupine Blues’ although the layout might represent a flag. I don’t think so, but then I don’t understand the references in it. It might be poetry, after a fashion. ‘Tennessee’ is, to me. Maybe there’s a ray of sunshine in that one, after all the rain.

SLH

Buy King-Cat Comics & Stories #74 and read the Page 45 review here

House Party (£9-99, Great Beast) by Rachael Smith.

“Has there ever been a better symbol of two completely different worlds colliding… than a tagged baking tray.”

Vandalism!

You can judge this book by its cover. “Do not throw house parties!” it warns. “They will end in detritus and disaster.” To which I would add:

Definitely don’t invite people you don’t know or, if you know them, don’t like.

Michelle, Neil and Siobhan live together. They used to happy; they used to be the life and soul of their own house parties. But Michelle’s not the writer she aspired to be, Siobhan’s not the artist she’d hoped, and it’s two years since Neil had a paying gig as a comedian.

In a desperate bid to reconnect with their youth and popularity Neil decides it’s time to recreate the past and throw another house party. Michelle and Siobhan have doubts. Those doubts prove all too well founded.

The production on the book’s lovely: matt paper, bold colour, spot-varnish title in white. The set-up borrows from Bryan Lee O’Malley, the style from Marc Ellerby, the relationships from John Allison. A little too much from all three, actually, but Smith is growing increasingly confident as evidenced by the big, big panels and abundance of double-page spreads. With that comes one word of warning: this isn’t as long as you might imagine.

“Neil, I thought this was going to be fun… This looks considerably not fun.”

House parties: don’t do it.

All of our copies come with big, bold and perfectly placed original sketches in them. Thank you, Rachael!

SLH

Buy House Party and read the Page 45 review here

The Man That Dances In The Meadow (£3-99, Space Face Books) by Sam Alden.

Sounds such a sweet little number, doesn’t it?

To escape her office’s daily grind and toxic personal politics a young woman ventures into a meadow for her packed lunch. It is straddled by electricity pylons which loom over her like the wire frames of gigantic robots. One hot day she falls asleep only to be woken (perhaps) by an airplane flying overhead. She discovers a man with his back to her dancing deliriously, his movements a blur of multiple exposures.

Desperate to see him again, she becomes distracted both at work and at home with her girlfriend. They’re supposed to be planning their big move from the city to a town where her girlfriend’s earned a place at college, but the woman who saw the man that dances in the meadow is growing increasingly and irrationally anxious.

Gradually she loses her grip – on everything.

Congratulations, mini-comic, you successfully raised my blood pressure. Simple line, dot tone of different densities and a great deal of sweating, plus one knock-out page in the meadow at night, the pylons all stark and spectral in white.

SLH

Buy The Man That Dances In The Meadow and read the Page 45 review here

The Whale(£7-50, Gaze Books) by Aidan Koch -

A beautiful book, the most moving and compelling articulation of grief I have ever read. Brought me to tears.

[Editor’s note: Dominique is astute and concise.

Purely to make room for the cover on our blog, then, I would only add that Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and, later, THE END did the same thing for me.

Anyway, I’ll butt out now, and hope these blatantly artificial extra paragraphs have done their job.]

DK

Buy The Whale and read the Page 45 review here

Curio Cabinet (£10-99, Secret Acres) by John Brodowski.

One hundred and thirty-eight pages of densely shaded pencil preceded by a sort of magic trick in which the word “abracadabra” is given the illusion of having magical properties. It doesn’t, but I had to think about it.

These are short, silent and surreal stories interspersed by episodes of ‘Cus Mommy Said So’ in which a man in a hockey mask makes waves and throws things. Mommy turns out to be lacking in both maternal instinct and patience.

In ‘Hunter’ fauna take flight as a cathedral organ erupts and the Grim Reaper roars down the aisle on a motorbike. Oh wait, they’re not taking flight at all – they’re congregating.

‘Kindred Spirits’ also features squirrels and a man’s overenthusiastic affinity for them. There is a picnic in which a bird doesn’t wait to be fed. And a hatchet bent on suicide buries itself.

There are miners, dinosaurs, warriors, grotesques galore and Iron Maiden’s mascot puts in an appearance. I believe the creator is partial to a little heavy metal.

It occurs to me that there are a lot of deaths and broken windows in this book.

Sammy Harkham calls it “laugh out loud”. Sammy Harkham is weird.

SLH

Buy Curio Cabinet and read the Page 45 review here

I Will Bite You! And Other Stories (£10-50, Secret Acres) by Joseph Lambert ~

Utterly beautiful, this.

Like Lucy Knisley, Joseph is a graduate from the Centre for Cartoon Studies and this, his debut book is largely a collection of his work leading up to and including his work at that esteemed academy. A rare mixed-bag with no duff flavours, Joseph’s style is loose. At times I’m reminded me of Al Columbia; others of Joann Sfar. But if those names mean zilch to you, that’s okay, what counts are the comics here, and the comics here count.

There’s a very fine common theme of duality throughout these stories, perhaps intentionally – I don’t know – but seemingly pointed as two of the stories deal with pairs of siblings. The eponymous opener is an abstract tale about a frustrated man-child biting everything and growling in thick, black scribbles; constantly overhead are the mocking presence of the Sun and the Moon, side by side, amused by the biter’s angst until he retaliates with fatal repercussions.

The tale feels old, even tribal. An urban Aboriginal tale of how the day and night find themselves as they are.

The first tale also has the moon play a part, when two hyperactive brothers distress an older sibling with their rambunctious escapades and bring the moon pressing against their house, bending it at a right angle. The second story, ‘Too Far’, turns a minor spat between too brothers into a dimensional incident wherein the older eats everything, and in his now-metaphysical body his family, and indeed the whole of creation, forge on.

But by far my favourite is his assignment from CSS to retell the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. ‘Turtle, Keep It Steady!’ has the animals as drummers competing for the beat, the turtle playing a straight, no-nonsense steady beat, while the hare plays Keith Moon/Mick Fleetwood-style with a bottle and a bunny occupying his paws, leaving his ears free to freestyle with predictable results.

This is some fine comics.

TR

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Occupy Comics: Art + Stories Inspired By Occupy Wall Street s/c (£11-99, Black Mask) by Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Ales Kot, Si Spurrier, many more & David Mack, Charlie Adlard, David Lloyd, many more –

Of the first issue Dominique wrote:

Anthologies for a charitable cause are often hit-and-miss affairs in terms of the material you get and this one is no different. But really the point is the cause more than the comics so it’s probably best to take the rough with the smooth; if you are interested in the Occupy Movement or the general furore surrounding it then you will find some interesting little nuggets here.

In terms of the strips three really stood out for me.  CITIZEN JOURNALIST by Ales Kot (ZERO, WILD CHILDREN, CHANGE) Tyler Crook (BPRD) and Jeromy Cox (many superhero titles) is a snapshot of what it takes to get footage from a scene where the regular media have been “asked” by the police not to film. As you can imagine, what it takes is a mix of ingenuity and courage plus the ability to take a punch or two. Well put together with lovely art. CLEVER by Ben Templesmith is a two page spread explaining briefly how we are all being shafted, complete with zombie/skeletal men in suits. CHANNEL 1% by Matt Pizzolo and Ayhan Hayrula gives a succinct overview of how the events leading up to and including the Occupy movement have been spun.

You also get a bunch of other stuff including a chunk of prose by Alan Moore [the cartoon’s pedigree as a fiercely iconoclastic medium (Gillray) and comics’ too (Hogarth)] and an illustration by Molly Crabapple whose arrest at the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest is well worth an internet search.  Interesting stuff.

DK

Buy Occupy Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Rocket Raccoon #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young.

“Ok, well, it looks like you’re wanted for murder.”
“What? That’s crazy!”
“Is it really? Are you murdering someone right now?”
“What? Maybe. That’s not the point!”

*GURGLE!*

Quick-fire stupidity and hyperactivity done well.

Rocket Racoon is the anthropomorphic ladies’-man member of Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, although let us not forget Groot, its walking, talking tree-trunk. Groot indeed guest-stars in a wrestling match to which Rocket Racoon has taken his this-minute’s lady-love on a date. He so romantic!

The epitome of the thoughtless, self-centred male about whom so many of my lady-friends used to complain until they wised up and found someone infinitely more sensitive and so suitable instead (ah, youth! ah, maturity!), our resident raccoon even attempts to secure future dates while on a date in front of his date. Brilliant!

He’s also in trouble. One gleaming, fang-faced smile into one too many cameras and his status as a wanted man is flagged planet-wide. Now who could possibly want him?

Everything I’ve typed up so far links up by the punchline and makes perfect sense. Also, the sub-plot about a second sentient raccoon (when Rocket supposes he’s the last of his race) is reignited. Ooooh!

The cartooning is gleeful with big, broad grins with flashing canines, showing the show-off to maximum advantage whilst keeping you all screaming “Yay!”

Yay!

SLH

Buy Rocket Raccoon and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Judge vol 4 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yoshiki Tonogai

Nightwing vol 4: Second City s/c (£10-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Brett Booth

Justice League Of America vol 1: Worlds Most Dangerous s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Matt Kindt, Jeff LeMire & David Finch, many more

Battle Royale: Angels Border (£8-99, Viz) by Koushun Takami & Mioko Ohnishi, Youhei Oguma

Blue Sheep Reverie vol 6 (£9-99, June) by Makota Tateno

Avatar Last Airbender vol 8: Rift Part 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

UQ Holder vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Raygun Roads (£4-99, Changeling Studios) by Owen Johnson & Indio

Death Sentence h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Montynero & Mike Dowling

Legends Of The Tour (£14-99, Head Of Zeus) by Jan Cleijne

 

ITEM! Staggering graph on the gargantuan spike in interest in UMBRAL the second it was declared Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. I’ve always been humbled by the trust members put in our club, but it is mind-melting to see how wide that influence evidently is. Hurrah for analysts like Antony Johnston! Bloody good writer, to boot.

ITEM! Beautiful! Preview of HOW TO BE HAPPY by Eleanor Davis. You can pre-order HOW TO BE HAPPY from Page 45 here.

ITEM! New Hope Larson comics: SOLO!

ITEM! Different to last week’s link, time-lapse photography of Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR going up in the Paris Metro.

ITEM! Interview with Ed Brubaker about VELVET in which he tells of a TV station which was interesting in optioning the series… while proving they had missed the whole point. It’s a real “D’Oh!” moment.

ITEM! Joe Decie, he’s so funny. “Where do you get your ideas from?” Comic.

ITEM! Not as off-topic as I would like. Almost every week some professional woman or another – in comics, games, animation, journalism – is targeted online by a vicious mob of menchildren desperate to suppress any woman’s voice, influence and authority. “Sexism” doesn’t come close to describing these vile, cowardly attacks which often include rape threats. Now acclaimed author and journalist Leigh Alexander has written some typically sage advice on how supporters can help women under online attack without exacerbating the situation.

ITEM! BIG QUESTIONS’ Anders Nilsen takes on Amazon. I’ve read that comic in its entirety and it is deliciously witty. We’ll be stocking the two as a complete package – already ordered!

ITEM! A sobering comic about a refugee fleeing conflict by Karrie Fransman. Its perfect punchline echoes the sentiments of Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL.

I think we’ll leave it there.

- Stephen

Reviews July 2014 week one

July 2nd, 2014

What these differences in style neatly attest, though, is that the mind of a schizophrenic is an extremely rich, complex, yet fluid and volatile place to inhabit.

 - Jonathan on Hoax: Psychosis Blues

Velvet vol 1: Before The Living End (£7-50, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“And that’s the last thing that gets me in trouble. I was so worried about Frank being framed… so angry about X-14’s murder… that it doesn’t even occur to me that Frank isn’t the only one being framed.”

Oh, Velvet Templeton, if only you knew…

There are some beautiful books on the market but few more so than this. Set in Paris, Monaco, London and Belgrade in the 1970s before pulling back even further to the Bahamas et al, it is lush with 20th Century fashion from the sleekest sports cars to the slinkiest stealth suits, and wait until Velvet hits the Carnival of Fools, a masque full of masks in Monaco.

By “masks” I mean spies, few more disguised than Velvet.

There is, you see, an espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Within that service there are field agents who are numbers not names, and at its heart lies the Director. The Director has a secretary with long, sable hair now distinguished with a thick, white streak of maturity. She is his eyes, she is his ears but for so many years she was something else: one of ARC-7s most effective field operatives. So deep was her cover that even ARC’s agents aren’t aware of her former activities. And that may prove the undoing of whichever infiltrator has just set her up for treachery, treason and murder.

The tension’s so tight it’s like a cobra that’s been coiled for years, for as Velvet Templeton backtracks on X-14’s movements – and that one missing day – she discovers that this not the first time she has been manipulated. There is one particular moment of intimate horror dating back to 1956 when she realises that the look on one agent’s face as she executes her order must have been that which he saw on her own.

Brubaker you will almost certainly know from CRIMINAL and FATALE and his gripping run on CAPTAIN AMERICA (used for the recent Winter Soldier film) on which he worked with VELVET’s Steve Epting. I cannot imagine the physical or metaphorical map he must have drawn to link all these dates and destinations so intricately, but his CRIMINAL is exactly the same. Here as there he provides a gripping internal monologue as we keep pace with Velvet’s frantic plight trying to keep one desperate step ahead of those who’ve evidently planned her undoing for ages.

“The suit’s synthetic microfibres stopped my ribs from breaking… that’ll have to be good enough. I’ll just box the rest away. But then, I’m good at compartmentalising. It’s one of the first things you have to master in this field. And not just storing away pain or secrets. It becomes a new way of thinking. A way of surviving. Your mind always running down four or five tracks at the same time. Even now, as I scramble to get away… a quieter part of me is planning an escape route.”

At which point Epting inserts a mental map of her potential escape route over the nocturnal ducking and diving which he has choreographed immaculately over the dozen panels accompanying that voice-over. It’s positively balletic throughout.

Moreover, Steve has steeped this series in its period time and place with capital-city car chases past vast, monumental, white-stone, classical facades and balustrades, quay-side contretemps and brief breaths for cruelly cut-short air on a Bahaman beach in 1956. That bathing costume with its visual cues to Velvet’s future hair exemplifies the attention to detail that both Steve and Elizabeth Breitweiser have put into every page and panel. Or it’s a happy coincidence and I will look like a loon.

Coming back to those Regency facades, there are a couple of pages I use most often to sell this on the shop floor (other than the glass shards Breitweiser electrifies on the preceding cliffhanger) in which the heavens have opened on a comparatively calm London town outside an elitist gentleman’s club, the street lights are reflected on the rain-rippled pavement and thin streams of water pour with just the right weight from an umbrella as a cigarette is lit and then *pfuff*…

 

I have no idea how much time two pages like that must take to colour, but it is all very much appreciated and acknowledged.

Lastly – and I mention this only as a love song to Steve Epting for I will not be giving the game away – the final chapter includes a reveal which is visual-only and takes the most extraordinary and subtle command of human anatomy to convey. In retrospect Brubaker slipped in one single clue earlier on, trusting Steve Epting to have laid all the groundwork then pull off the punchline to sweet, ambiguous perfection.

It worked.

SLH

Buy Velvet vol 1: Before The Living End and read the Page 45 review here

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

Limited edition with exclusive Page 45 bookplate (30 copies only) signed by Ravi Thornton & Rozi Hathaway.

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

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

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

I think in terms of portraying Rob’s story, Ravi succeeds admirably. I was moved to tears in several places, by certain incidents or nuances that created a deep, emotional resonance within me, much like I experienced with Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU. I did quite deliberately not read this work on the tram this time though, suspecting I might need my hankie at close hand. It’s just so damn hard to see someone’s suffering brought to life so eloquently through their own words, and so poignantly and illuminatingly illustrated, knowing as you do that ultimately there is no happy ending, well, not at least in the traditional sense. With some people who take their own lives, you can tell there may well have been a palpable element of fear and desperation involved, with others, merely the knowledge that peace would finally prevail. I certainly gained some sense of the latter with Rob.

Art-wise, this work is truly an absolute visual smörgåsbord. Firstly, the ‘Year’ chapters by Leonardo M. Giron are magnificently understated, with a deliberately subdued, almost pastel palette and a slightly chalky feel to the colouring. There is one slight exception to this involving a very special butterfly in the final chapter of which I shall say no more. The art accompanying the poetry is mostly, in contrast, extremely rich and vibrant, with a real eclectic mix of styles. There are a couple of obvious, almost monochromatic exceptions, but they are entirely in keeping with the mood of the moment. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can honestly say, as a man who isn’t massively into poetry, they all really beautifully capture the essence of Rob’s words and thus help convey the not-so merry-go-round of his ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic emotional states. Another impressive addition to the recent canon of works dealing frankly with mental illness, alongside the likes of PSYCHIATRIC TALES, DEPRESSO, MARBLES, LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW.

JR

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

Dead Boy Detectives vol 1: Schoolboy Terrors s/c (£7-50, Vertigo) by Toby Litt & Mark Buckingham.

“You never really know with Tragic Mick. Sure, he always treats us like royalty, it’s just sometimes it’s the red carpet and sometimes it’s the guillotine.”

Oh, I adore Gary Erskine’s inks over Mark Buckingham’s pencils here! He’s basically channelling Jack Kirby and it gives the already unusual an otherworldly feel. It’s the proportions in the panels and the way the shadows fall, whether on hair or the animals (love the locust head/helmet!) and look at the hospital bed, Crystal Palace’s cosplay outfit and her open-plan home with its futuristic furnishings: it could be a floor in the Baxter Building! The whole endeavour is a pleasure to the eye.

Additionally, before the main event, Buckingham and Santos deliver a long-limbed, wall-crawling headmaster straight out of Gerald Scarfe’s illustrations for Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

So, there are three things you need know about Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland: they are boys, they are detectives, they are dead. Almost a century apart they were both murdered at St. Hilarion’s, a private boarding school whose bullying practices and policy during the intervening years had changed not one jot: the former was endemic, the latter non-existent – and, as a public schoolboy myself, I can fucking well vouch for that.

They were created by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner in SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS (it’s a generic review for the series as a whole, but as generic reviews go I’m inordinately proud of that one) and they have been used on and off by the likes of Bryan Talbot since within series like THE DREAMING. Charles thinks he’s a hardboiled P.I.; Edwin aspires to be Sherlock Holmes – you can tell by their diaries.

There are advantages to being a dead detective as detailed in The Seven Rules And Seven Buts Of Being A Ghost. Eating gets a bit messy. In any event, they seem to be drawn to cats. In addition they are now drawn to Crystal Palace named after the world’s biggest greenhouse which sadly burned to the ground. So that doesn’t augur well. Crystal is the daughter of modern artist Maddy Surname and nonchalant rockstar Seth von Hovercraft. Are you giggling already? I am. During a publicity stunt which goes wrong in every conceivable way they save Crystal’s life, barely, from an errant grenade. Awakening in hospital she resolves to thank them by tracking them down at St. Hilarion’s, the very last place either of the boys want to return to but now have to.

It hasn’t mended its ways.

That’s all you’re getting but I hope I’ve intrigued. In place of the traditional “Next Issue” box at the end of each chapter you are given a jigsaw piece. If you cut them up you will find they fit together very neatly indeed. It’s irrelevant but inventive little touches like that which I love.

SLH

Buy Dead Boy Detectives vol 1: Schoolboy Terrors s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Big Damn Sin City h/c (£75-00, Dark Horse) by Frank Miller.

Listening suggestion: Tom Waits.

This is a leviathan: roughly half the price of the softcovers yet twice their size!

The original SIN CITY was a glorious essay of light on form. Sometimes the form is eroded, sometimes it’s enhanced, blocked out against black or white. The rain slashing across the pages towards the end, as gnarled Marv crosses the streets in his billowing trenchcoat is a sight to behold. For Marv, think Clint Eastwood on steroids. In some ways it’s a very old-fashioned series about “dames” and guys who fall for them. It’s about guns and crime and gun crime; bars and dancers and booze and cars, and it’s ages since I’ve read one.

I have, however, exhumed part of my introduction to the Sin City film delivered many moons ago during thirty minutes of pants-wetting terror at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema where I described the series thus:

By day it’s all sunshine and palm trees and glamorous women. By night it’s a dark and dangerous hellhole, populated by prostitutes, ruled with corruption and stoked by violence.

It’s always night.

“The thing people get wrong about film noir,” wrote Miller, “is that they think it just looks spooky, missing the fact that the spookiness of the look is a reflection of what’s going on behind the eyes of the people. If there is some real emotional darkness, it doesn’t matter how dark the film is, with shadows and blinds behind them; all these other things are metaphors for the torment, or the self hatred, or the despair the character’s going through.”

Miller always wanted to do crime comics.

He began his career by pencilling a fairly standard and failing superhero comic called DAREDEVIL because at that point there were very few other entry points into the industry. But as soon as he took over its writing he turned it into a crime comic. Yes, it retained some of the trappings of superheroes, like the costumes, but most of the action took place down darkened alleys in deprived Hell’s Kitchen and it wasn’t long before one of Millar’s other interests was introduced: martial arts in the form of ninjas, throwing stars and big, pointy swords.  From the get-go the fight scenes were choreographed as gracefully as ballet movements and Miller displayed an unusual inventiveness and a mastery of what the panels on the page could do with time and space… and indeed what the medium lacked, like movement, and how to compensate for that.

His solution in that instance was to litter the pages with pieces of floating paper, giving the impression of wind. And if you look at the cars in SIN CITY, if in motion they are rarely anchored to the road because if you draw a car realistically on the asphalt it’ll just look like it’s parked. So they fly above it instead.

If you compare Miller’s earlier work to his latest, you’ll notice two trends: they’re increasingly socio-political in content and increasingly expressionistic in execution.

As Miller has noted, when drawing an establishing shot, say in an office, most comicbook artists will be taught to draw everything in as much detail as possible. But comics is a medium whose panels work best if you don’t linger on them.

Unlike film, during which one frame simply replaces another in front of us, in comics time is represented by space with consecutive panels sitting next to each other. The artist is taking a thing in motion and selecting specific images from that motion, which the reader subconsciously joins up as his or her eyes flow across the pages. Too many details impede the speed of that process and slow down the story, so realism isn’t necessarily as useful as expressionism. Often a single object can tell you more about a room, its atmosphere or indeed its occupants than a fully mapped-out shot, because the impression it makes on your mind, without all the distractions, can be stronger.

With SIN CITY Miller really started putting that to the test. He became more interested in shapes than in lines, and you can see that on almost every page with silhouettes and framing features everywhere. The series is an essay in black and white, a masterclass on the emphasis of form and the erosion of form by light.

Indeed it’s changed the way Frank works. He’ll write the script, then he’ll pencil the entire book out before he even begins to touch the pen and brush. Nor does he pencil too tightly otherwise, for him, the inking would be simply mechanical rather than an involving, imaginative process. Then he reverses the usual process by going in and mapping out the big spaces – the blacks, the whites, the shapes. Only after that does he go back in with a finer line if – and only if – more detail is required.

I then went on to wibble about newspaper columns versus 300’s landscape format before talking about the film-making process which in this instance was particularly fascinating even if some sequences ended up looking like an ‘80s pop video along the lines of Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love.

Here, have a sense of scale:

SLH

Buy Big Damn Sin City h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Disenchanted vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & German Erramouspe…

“Us with our… old old ways. Our idiot rituals. Why sour milk? Why flick dew on cobwebs, eh?
“Why learn to tangle hair, Noro? We never stop to ask!
“Well I’ve asked. I’ve tested the bloody rules, and you know what?
“There’s no reason. Not when all it does is… is fill us up with smugness and hate.
“Don’t you see that?”

I started off wondering if this was going to be merely a darker version of FABLES, but it fact it has far more in common with the considerably more engaging and visceral HINTERKIND. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised given it is an Avatar title and written by Si Spurrier who pens the brilliantly wicked ongoing CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE spin-off .And I think this title might have the potential to be as good as that one, actually, if not quite so horrific as this is definitely more in the crime genre, though it does have its wince-worthy moments.

The basic premise is the Little People of folklore such the pixies, fey, leprechauns, boggarts et al have long forsaken their traditions and expansive homelands of the countryside, and decamped to the filthy, drug-ridden city, specifically an abandoned tube station which has been colonised by goblins, and thus effectively all sold themselves into indentured wage slavery to the greedy greenies.

Yes, the goblins rule the roost in Vermintown and they’re not about to let any of the other races out from under their boot. Our heroes, a family of the fey, torn across generations between the old ways and the tempting sleaze of the new, are struggling to maintain their cohesion as a family unit as well as any sense of identity or indeed semblance of filial piety.

So part-crime, plenty grime, I really enjoyed this first volume, simply because it’s nice to read something where all the characters are quite frankly utterly flawed, and to some extent or another, quite deserving of their lot, yet still they all strive under the misapprehension they deserve something better. Not if the goblins have anything to do with it! Expect foul language, sex, violence and drug abuse, because this title certainly contains it in abundance.

JR

Buy Disenchanted vol 1and read the Page 45 review here

Outcast #1 (£2-25, Image) Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta with Elizabeth Breitweiser…

“Joshua… what are you eating?! It’s almost bedtime.”
“So… hungry…”

And thus begins what Robert Kirkman promises will be a proper horror comic, bar a great bit of witty opening repartee which softens you up nicely for the initial shocker accompanying the above quotation. From the chap who pens arguably the most famous horror comic of all time, THE WALKING DEAD, that’s a chilling statement. In fact what he really means, as he explains in his afterword, is that whilst the possibility of a zombie apocalypse ever occurring is precisely zero, and let’s be honest, we all hope he’s got it right on that score, there are other terrors which are all the more horrifying because they actually exist. Yes, demonic possession is on the very cusp of fact versus fiction as he readily acknowledges, and he certainly doesn’t want to get into any sort of religious debate about it, either. Ultimately he just wants to write an entertaining horror comic, disturbingly credible, with a genuinely creepy undertone to it, and this is the subject matter he has chosen.

I was initially sceptical that this premise could be spun into something with the same long-term potential as THE WALKING DEAD, but having read this first issue, one can see already Kirkman’s got something epic in mind for us. The main character Kyle, a man who as a boy saw his mother, and then years later his wife, succumb to demonic possession, well he’s clearly a man with some story to tell. Shunned by his now-ex-wife, and pretty much everyone else he previously knew with the exception of his sister (for reasons which are all too painfully clear by the end of this first issue), he’s become a complete recluse. When the local Reverend, intimately aware of his past, tries to enlist Kyle’s help with an exorcism, he initially refuses. But… when you’ve seen the things he’s seen, suffered in the manner he has suffered, well, he knows he can’t in all good conscience refuse to help another soul in torment. And that is why his problems are going to start all over again. And it’s the why he has really got the problem with, the question that has bothered him all this time. Why him? Why is he the outcast?

Spectacularly spooky and action packed art from Paul Azaceta, who has previously done some decent stuff on SPIDER-MAN: ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES and bits of the extended SPIDER-MAN: GAUNTLET arc, some of the Brubaker DAREDEVIL run, BPRD vol 9 – 1946, CONAN with Brian Wood immediately after the Becky Cloonan run, but this, this is going to take him to another level of stardom entirely I think. And rightly so.

JR

Buy Outcast #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dog Butts And Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. (£9-99, NBM) by Jim Benton.

Jim Benton is a cheeky chappy as evidenced immediately by the title selling itself on the mass-appeal market while ripping the piss out of it at the same time.

In truth there are very few dogs or cats on offer, while the cartoons themselves are less observational than CAT PERSON or Jeffrey Brown’s CATS ARE WEIRD and more intellectual along the lines of Tom Gauld’s YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK genius but with a slightly lower hit rate for me. Having said that, this is a keenly observed belter:

“Why do I have to learn all this stupid math stuff?”
“Because you’ll need it for college.”

Ten years later:

“Okay, if I pay tuition and ½ the rent, I can buy enough rice to last 3/5 of the month… if I use my student discount and the 15% off coupon…”

Enormous sympathy to students everywhere.

 

Laziness, stupidity, evolution, over-complicating things, over-thinking things, no cranial activity whatsoever. There’s a silent strip about a sculptor getting a fatal thumbs-down that made me guffaw like Trondheim’s MISTER I. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”’s visual punchline made me grin and, oh, how familiar is this…?

“For part of your life, you worry about your future.
“Eventually, you stop doing this, and you spend your time regretting your past.
“There is a point, somewhere in-between, when you engage in neither behaviour.
“This may last up to four minutes, so try not to miss it.”

Avengers Assembled’s Samuel L. Fury makes an unexpected, eye-popping appearance and a rattlesnake complains that its food’s been poisoned.

SLH

Buy Dog Butts And Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. and read the Page 45 review here

Attack On Titan: No Regrets vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Gun Snark & Hikaru Suruga…

“Frankly, it’s a disgrace. We all had to go through the same training yet you’re asking us to accept criminals into our ranks?!”
“Your complaint is only natural.”
“Their presence could even put our lives in danger! What should I tell my subordinates?”
“Squadron Leader Flagon. You’re right. These people had no training. They did not earn wings from us. They grew their own, out of necessity. And I believe those wings will play a part in revolutionising this organisation.”
“You speak of revolution? I just pray that venturing outside the walls doesn’t become… the greatest of their crimes.”

Yes, it’s a tough life in the elite cadre of Page 45 mail order minions. So… yet another spin-off of what is apparently Japan’s answer to the WALKING DEAD. So the adverts say, though I’m not totally sure I see that comparison, it seems a little lazy to me. It’s not quite as insanely dangerous a world as CROSSED, but it’s a considerable step up in imminent peril level from the WALKING DEAD, that’s for sure. Give me run of the mill zombies over fifty-foot-high ones every day of the week. It is definitely as big a phenomenon in Japan though, and pretty popular everywhere else too, including at Page 45.

Anyway, much like ATTACK ON TITAN: BEFORE THE FALL, this is effectively prequel material, and as with that title, I would say it is required reading, as we begin to explore the origin stories of Erwin and Levi, two of the main title’s central characters. Fleshing out the world of the Capital city as much as it does our cast, revealing the presence of the Underworld, where an underclass of society barely manage to survive, it adds further depth to what is already an impressively elaborate milieu.

JR

Buy Attack On Titan: No Regrets vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

King-Cat Comics & Stories #74 (£2-99, King Cat) by John Porcellino

Listen (£2-99, Flat Mountain Press) by Trevor Grabill

Sunday In The Park With Boys (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Jane Mai

The Boy In Question (£4-99, Space Face Books) by Michael DeForge

Diary Comics Number Four (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Dustin Harbin

You Don’t Get There From Here #26 (£1-99, ) by Carrie McNinch

S! (Baltic Comics Magazine) #11 (£7-50, Biedriba Grafiske ) by Various

S! (Baltic Comics Magazine) #12 (£7-50, Biedriba Grafiske ) by Various

Mini-Kus! #10 (£3-99, Biedriba Grafiske ) by Mari Ahokoivu

Mini-Kus! #5 (£3-99, Biedriba Grafiske ) by Leo Kivro

Mini-Kus! #6 (£3-99, Biedriba Grafiske ) by Box Brown

In The Sounds And Seas (£9-99, Monkey-Rope Press) by Marnie Galloway

Songs Of The Abyss (£12-99, Secret Acres) by Eamon Espey

Blobby Boys (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Alex Schubert

Freddy Stories (£7-50, ) by Melissa Mendes

I Will Bite You (£10-50, Secret Acres) by Joseph Lambert

Jammers (£4-50, Hic  & Hoc) by Lizz Hickey

Post York (£6-99, Uncivilized Books) by James Romberger

I Want Everything To Be OK (£7-50, Tugboat Press) by Carrie McNinch

R L #1 (£3-00, Sequential Artists Workshop) by Tom Hart

Curio Cabinet (£10-99, Secret Acres) by John Brodowski

Life Zone (£8-99, Space Face Books) by Simon Hanselmann

Gold Star (£3-99, Retrofit Comics) by John Martz

The Man That Dances In The Meadow (£3-99, Space Face Books) by Sam Alden

Out Of Hollow Water (£8-50, 2D Cloud) by Anna Bonngiovanni

The Whale (£7-50, Gaze Books) by Aidan Koch

Dark Times (£6-99, ) by Robert M Ball

A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War vol 4 s/c (£12-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Chu’s First Day At School h/c (£10-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex

Couch Tag h/c (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Jesse Reklaw

House Party (£9-99, Great Beast) by Rachael Smith

Love And Rockets vol 10: Luba And Her Family (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Occupy Comics: Art + Stories Inspired By Occupy Wall Street s/c (£11-99, Black Mask) by Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Ales Kot, Si Spurrier, many more & David Mack, Charlie Adlard, David Lloyd, many more

Shackleton – Antarctic Odyssey s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Nick Bertozzi

Through The Woods h/c (£14-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 3: Love & Death s/c (£12-99, DC) by Tony Bedard & Aaron Kuder, various

Injustice vol 2 h/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick, Bruno Redondo

Guardians Of Galaxy Movie Prelude s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by various

Indestructible Hulk vol 4: Humanity Bomb (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mamhud Asrar, Jheremy Raapack, Clay Mann, Seth Mann

Uncanny X-Men vol 2: Broken s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Frazer Irving, Chris Bachalo

Deadman Wonderland vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 13-15 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Dragon Ball Full Colour Saiyan Arc vol 3 (£14-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 5 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

One Piece vol 71 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 1 (£7-50, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Usagi Yojimbo vol 28: Red Scorpion (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

 

ITEM! Joe Sacco’s Battle Of The Somme plastered over the Paris Metro!

ITEM! Gorgeous Bill Sienkiewicz painted covers for LONEWOLF AND CUB

ITEM! Illuminating article on colour with fun eye exercises explaining that although magenta is not a spectral colour it obviously “exists” as much as any colour exists because colour exists only in our brains. It’s all just wavelengths.

ITEM! Scott McCloud’s cover to THE SCULPTOR unveiled!

ITEM! Nottingham Festival of Words 2014, October 13-19

ITEM! Jiro Taniguchi to attend Angoulême with big exhibition to boot!

ITEM! Fight censorship: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ‘Banned Books Week Handbook’ available in print or as a download.

ITEM! More beautiful (and free!) BLAKE SINCLAIR by Sarah Burgess. Sarah’s THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR in stock at Page 45 now!

ITEM! DAWN OF THE UNREAD assesses and addressed low levels of Young Adult literacy with interactive graphic novel by the likes of Michael Eaton & Eddie Campbell (Charlie Peace) and Nicola Monaghan (The Killing Jar)

ITEM! Finally, congratulations to Heidi MacDonald on The Beat’s 10th Anniversary! What a fabulously entertaining overview of the last ten years in comics that is!

- Stephen

Reviews June 2014 week four

June 25th, 2014

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods.

 - Stephen on The Wicked + The Divine #1

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains h/c (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell.

“I can forgive myself for many things. For where I left him. For what I did. But I will never forgive myself for the year that I hated my daughter, when I believed her to have run away, perhaps to the city.”

Who could possibly resist the ominous implications of opening lines like these? But once you have teased out the truths which lead to the bleak consideration above they prove word-perfect. Are there many things more satisfying in life than poetic justice? I think not.

I relish a clever structure and this one is crafty indeed. The following paragraph alone seems straightforward and innocuous enough, but words are chosen carefully throughout and retrospect is a funny old thing.

“I had searched for nearly ten years, although the trail was cold. I would say that I found him by accident, but I do not believe in accidents. If you walk the path, eventually you must arrive at the cave.”

The narrator is a Scotsman of strikingly diminutive statue. You might think that puts him at a disadvantage. You might be right; you may be wrong.

He calls at a fair-sized house gleaming white against rich, green pasture and fresh, purple heather as well as mist-shrouded mountains beyond. There he seeks a reaver called Calum MacInnes.

Calum MacInness proves to be a tall, guarded man with a wolfish face who looms over him. The narrator asks Calum MacInness to guide him to a cave in the Black Mountain on the Misty Isle. Although most believe that the cave exists not, he has heard that Calum McInness has been there and found gold inside. Those who do believe of the cave’s fleeting existence believe also that it is cursed and that there is a price to be paid for any gold gathered from within. Calum MacInness warns him of this:

“This is bad gold. It does not come free. It has its cost.”
“Everything has its cost.”

I have not lied to you once up above nor have I told you the truth.

I’m not lying now when I tell you this is one of Gaiman’s finest novellas which has gone through so many forms, including a reading enhanced by music and Eddie Campbell’s projected illustrations first performed at the Sydney Opera House, before arriving at this similarly hybrid book not just designed but constructed by ALEC’s Eddie Campbell himself.

Fascinatingly, the key conversations – snippets or largely confessions – are given subtle emphasis by being pulled up from the illustrated prose surrounding them in the form of comic panels. In any other circumstances I would have used the word “inset” instead, but to me they appear raised in an effect similar to spot-varnish. If you read these alone (and with careful inference) they expose the story’s skeletal backbone buried beneath the body of the book. Or at least, I think they do: I read the tale in its entirety and things unlearned cannot be unlearned, only forgotten, and none of us have time to forget.

In any case I don’t recommend doing so because only the emphatic effect is what’s intended and you would, of course, have lost much of the flavour in the form of Campbell’s atmospheric landscapes – his nocturnal croft, his majestic black mountains and in particular the twin thorn-bush paintings in which the seasons of life are contrasted with consummate cruelty – and Gaiman’s measured tone which is as solemn as the judgement pronounced.

There are precedents for mixed media in comics like Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY but this shifts the balance in a new, daring way and there aren’t many first attempts at anything which you could consider resounding successes. This is note-perfect, even without the contribution of the FourPlay String Quartet, although they are all on tour right now with this: http://www.neilgaiman.com/where/

SLH

Buy The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + The Divine #1 (£2-75, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

I love Amaterasu’s eyes there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match; and generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a… family of them, each performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. The idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous.

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Luci’s favour and been taken under her wing.

I love Luci in particular: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

I think we’d better leave it there.

From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS this moves startling fast for a first issue. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with this team, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the cover and its logo to the make-up and most especially the 1923 night’s round-table with what I infer to be its remaining members’ fashion sense and symbols.

The symbol circle’s contemporary counterpart on January 1st 2014 is markedly different not just in individual composition but… oh, you’ll see.

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense. I anticipate something quite epic.

I am also intrigued. Which is exactly how a first issue should leave you.

SLH

Buy The Wicked + The Divine #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“14 Days & Counting.”

Well, this will give you pause for thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy The End by emailing page45@page45.com or phoning 0115 9508045 because we have next to none in and it’s already out of print. Demand was that fast, yes.

Escapo h/c (£18-99, Z2 Comics) by Paul Pope…

“They conceived me up over that summer, those fresh-faced two…
“That little sperm and that little round egg, they joined and blended and rolled up, and they conceived me.
“And I was born in a sterile room full of steel tools and knives…
“… and they didn’t even ask if I wanted to be there.
“And it was in this way I made it through my very first escape hatch. Escapo, King of the World!”

You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Me, having bought this newly coloured edition in addition to the black and white 1999 original, well, I guess now I’ve got it twice! Paul Pope just has it in abundance, though. Talent, that is. Seemingly he always has, though in a fascinating afterword, which explains why ESCAPO has been reworked and re-released, it’s clear Paul feels he’s moved on considerably since 1999, not just in artistic ability but also in the understanding of the tools of his trade. Not least that you shouldn’t used markers which will fade or bleed over time if you want to retain the integrity of the original artwork! Hence, his need to revisit, restore and thus (re)produce this new edition of what is, to my mind, an early Pope masterpiece.

There are comic artists who are truly, singularly unique, seemingly inspired by no one nor indeed inspiring others. Their style stands – in Pope’s case even down to his lettering – for all intents and purposes alone. I can’t imagine what effort of will it must take to produce such a performance. Much like that required to defy death purely for the entertainment of others perhaps, though obviously without the potential for a fatal mishap at any moment. Pope, however, does not perform with the drama-sapping luxury of a safety net, either. Epic in scale and grandeur, his pages and panels here are all spectacular in their concept and construction.

ESCAPO, though, is no showy piece of three-ring hoopla, instead it is a story bristling with passion and sentiment, albeit unfulfilled and misplaced, which at its pounding heart has the cruellest kind of love known to man, the unrequited variety.

Poor Vic: the public may marvel at his exploits and gasp at his brushes with disaster as that most daring of escape artistes, but he’d happily trade it all for just a single kiss from the lithesome object of his desires, the capricious Aerobella. Unfortunately for Vic, her vainglorious heart belongs to another, the beautiful Acrobat King. Will Escapo choose to end it all distraught, mid-performance, under the gaze of a rapt but terrified crowd? Or will he choose to live forever more with a broken heart? You want to know? Well then step up, step up, buy your entrance ticket, come into Paul Pope’s tent of wonder and delight, and above all prepare to be amazed…

This edition also contains a whole host of extras not in the original edition, besides the afterword, including the two-page alternate ending from the original French version and various beautiful Escapo circus posters by Paul and various friends which I absolutely adored. Some things are just worth buying twice.

JR

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

The Harlem Hellfighters (£12-99, Broadway Books) by Max Brooks & Canaan White…

“’The Harlem Hellfighters,’ that’s what Fritzee’s callin’ us now, ‘The Harlem Hellfighters!’”
“Ya think it’ll be enough to get me a medal a’ honour?”
“Until then, this will have to do. The French Croix De Guerre, The Cross Of War. And you are the first American, black or white, to win it. I’m both proud and sorry to say… you won’t be the last…”

So, not only did I not know that a unit of black Americans volunteered and fought in the First World War, I also didn’t know the first American recipient of the Croix De Guerre was black. A great-great uncle of mine won the Croix De Guerre in WW2, as it happens, fighting for the French Foreign Legion, though that is a story for another time, obviously. It seems the lack of knowledge regarding the existence of the Harlem Hellfighters is quite widespread though, as Canaan White talks about in his illuminating afterword as to why he took on this project.

There are talks about a Harlem Hellfighters movie happening, based on his script, not least because White has approached LeVar Burton. (Yes, possibly best known as Geordi La Forge, but also before wider Star Trek fame he was the star of the massively popular Roots: The Saga Of An American Family depicting the story of a Gambian slave seized and transported back to America in chains in 1750, and what subsequently happened to him and his descendants right through to the Civil War. If you have never seen it, you should, by the way, for it is truly epic.) Fingers crossed because, given the current anniversary of WW1 – which is presumably why this graphic novel is coming out now – I am amazed it hasn’t already been made. What a shame – and I use that word in a couple of different ways quite deliberately there.

So, is this straight non-fiction? Nearly. Artistic licence has been taken with certain characters, but it does mainly feature characters that are based directly on real-life people including Henry Johnson, the Croix De Guerre recipient. The events depicted are, again, fictionalised to an extent, but much of what we know did happen both during their training and active service, is exactly as portrayed here. This fictionalisation doesn’t reduce the impact in any way, either of the pure warfare element itself or of the story of the heinous discrimination the Hellfighters faced at every turn, from the moment they volunteered, at the hands of local Americans whilst stationed at training camps, to even on a daily basis at the front, at the behest of their own government, who simply did not want the allies treating them as equals lest they gain the idea they ought to start demanding equality more forcibly back home.

In lesser part therefore, this is simply a fantastic war story, the type I used to love reading as a kid in BATTLE. The action is captured with brutal precision, accurately portraying what an absolute hell on earth WW1 trench warfare was, with the senseless over-the-top charges directly into machine-gun fire and the industrial-scale use of chemical munitions adding to the wholesale slaughter.

But primarily this is story about a lesser-known side to the fight for racial equality in the United States. I suppose most of us presume it began in earnest with the civil rights movement during Martin Luther King’s era, but obviously there were trailblazers long before that. What simply beggars belief is that people who wanted to fight for their country, and to uphold democracy, could be so appallingly treated, even whilst undertaking their brave defence of liberty, by the very people they were protecting. Much like with SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE it’s quite hard to grasp in our more relatively enlightened society (relatively, note) how such insanely fascistic oppression could be deemed acceptable, and widespread casual discrimination just viewed as normal everyday behaviour. Bizarre and upsetting in equal measure.

Also, I should mention, White’s art style works really well here. I’m normally used to seeing him draw something horrific in an Avatar comic, but it’s nice to see that beneath all the gore he’s a really talented artist, and can do facial expressions that don’t involve demented psychosis or extreme torture, though obviously WW1 does still provide him with the opportunity to provide more than a few stomach-turning panels. Also, I think the decision not to colour the art is the right one as I believe it would have detracted from the story. Much like CHARLEY’S WAR, it’s much more emotionally disturbing for being in black and white. It allows the true human story to be told without it sinking under the blood and muck of the battlefield. An absolute triumph in my eyes, and I really do hope the film gets made one day.

JR

Buy The Harlem Hellfighters and read the Page 45 review here

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer Complete Edition s/c (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Van Jensen & Dustin Higgins.

You can always trust Top Shelf Productions.

I made the mistake once of questioning a book Chris Staros had signed up, thinking it odd for that publisher, and he quietly told me to trust him. He was right. It was SURROGATES, since you ask.

On the surface this looks like such an obvious one-trick pony which should swiftly become a knackered old nag unable to bear the weight of its 500+ pages: Pinocchio, the ultimate vampire hunter on account of an endless, self-replenishing supply of wooden stakes he doesn’t even have to carry round with him. All he has to do is lie and *SHINK* he’s stuck his nose right into someone’s “business”.

But you know what? Trust me. The creators have come up with a startling variety of permutations and they don’t all involve impalement; some involve the love of his life, Carlotta.

Pinocchio: “Carlotta! What are you doing here? It’s dangerous outside of Nasolungo! I wish you hadn’t come.”
*SHINK*
Cricket: “Some poker face…”

Likewise the running gag of Cricket’s multiple, accidental deaths at Pinocchio’s easily distracted hands: that the cricket is already dead – a ghost as in Collodi’s original tale, much, much darker than Disney’s – makes for moments of smile-inducing, resigned exasperation rather than oh-my-god tragedy.

There are moments of loss, don’t get me wrong, and it’s to the creators’ enormous credit that they restrain themselves from even considering the obvious gag when Pinocchio quietly murmurs, “I’m fine”. As to the ending, it is a very brave ending. It is the very best ending. But I doubt it is one you will see coming. I’m glad they took their time with that.

 

 

The art in black and white with a lot of grey tone may not seem much to write home about on the surface, but comics is all about the flow and I flipped through this at an astonishing rate. Where it comes to the fore is the flashbacks: the Puppet Theatre’s performance of Hamlet (King Claudius in conclusion: “I really had this coming.”) and the introductory summary of the Collodi’s original tale which I can’t successfully quote, so intrinsic is the cartooning to the comedy.

SLH

Buy Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer Complete Edition s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Eye Of Newt #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Michael Hague…

“The eye is cold and merciless, a window to death and destruction. Only a true hero, one with a courageous heart, can stare into the dragon’s eye.”

Someone completely insane too, I would imagine. Or maybe once you start dabbling in magic, you’re bound to go a bit cuckoo, as you take your first steps along the road less travelled. Anyway, thus begins a highest of high fantasy four-part mini-series, that positively glows and crackles with eldritch energy.

Meanwhile, our youthful neophyte hero Newt is about to be engulfed in a very ancient and dangerous quest, an initiation into the deeper world of wizardry. An expedition that will help determine his place in the pecking order of the spell casting power structure for the rest of his magical career. The stronger the element he can find for the headpiece of his staff, the more powerful a wizard he will have the potential to become. If he survives the quest, that is, obviously.

His master, a particular ancient and somewhat curmudgeonly fellow known as the Dark Man, means well but his idea of a pep talk about the dangers that lurk beyond the not-so-metaphorical door to the netherworld consists primarily of curtly telling his charge that he would rather see him die than return with anything less than the most powerful headpiece. Tough love, eh? There are of course ‘Dark Forces’ and other multitudinous villainy afoot, which will undoubtedly plague and imperil our hero en route.

 

I think this really has the potential to be an excellent mini. Clearly there are parallels to be drawn with UMBRAL in high fantasy terms, and if you’re enjoying that epic series, you will definitely like this. Art-wise it’s also a bit different from the norm, though very much in keeping with the subject matter, and the closest comparisons I could make would be Charles Vess and Arthur Rackham, though perhaps with a slightly more sinister touch, in part engendered by the stylishly dappled use of colouring. I must confess I’m not familiar with creator Michael Hague, but apparently he is well known and highly regarding book illustrator, of the fantasy and children’s variety mainly, and he did do a graphic novel a few years ago called IN THE SMALL which sounds rather interesting, though sadly looks to be out of print. If you like the odd bit of beard-stroking and wand-waving, this could be for you.

JR

Buy Eye Of Newt #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli, John Cassaday…

How many Avengers books is one too many? I have to say probably this one, despite it being written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer. One of the main stories never really got me interested, rehashing old villainess Morgan Le Fey in a run-of-the-mill manner, though clearly it is actually about developing the Starbrand character, and the other featuring A.I.M. seems to be trying to tie up loose ends from elsewhere primarily. This book sits somewhere between the current NEW AVENGERS, AVENGERS and also SECRET AVENGERS storylines, without ever really getting anywhere near the highs of those books, particularly the first two, which have been consistently brilliant for a while.

It does, however, have an eight-page sequence featuring Manifold and Captain Universe which I think are highly significant for NEW AVENGERS readers as they answer a very significant question posed there. I actually think it’s slightly naughty the answer being put in a different title which probably considerably fewer people are reading, when it really should be in NEW AVENGERS. Anyway, read it or not, your choice.

Asst. Ed.’s note: this title has switched direction a bit now with the current issues, is solo written by Spencer and I am enjoying it considerably more. I think it may well have found its own groove.

JR

Buy Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Abe Sapien vol 4: The Shape Of Things To Come (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Big Damn Sin City h/c (£75-00, Dark Horse) by Frank Miller

Dead Boy Detectives vol 1: Schoolboy Terrors s/c (£7-50, Vertigo) by Toby Litt & Mark Buckingham

Disenchanted vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & German Erramouspe

Dog Butts And Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. (£9-99, NBM) by Jim Benton

Massive vol 3: Longship s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 1 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Alex De Campi, various & Carla Speed McNeil, various

Rogue Trooper: Tales Of Nu-Earth vol 4 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Gordon Rennie, Ian Edginton, Mark Millar, Andy Diggle, Gerry Finlay- Day & Mike Collins, Simon Coleby, Steve Pugh, Dave Gibbons

The Harlem Hellfighters (£12-99, Broadway Books) by Max Brooks & Caanan White

Wonton Soup Collected Edition s/c (£14-99, Oni Press) by James Stokoe

Before Watchmen – Ozymandias / Crimson Corsair s/c (£14-99, DC) by Len Wein, John Higgins & Jae Lee, various, John Higgins, Steve Rude

Batman Detective Comics vol 4: The Wrath h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson & Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok, various

Batman Detective Comics vol 3: Emperor Penguin s/c (£12-99, DC) by John Layman & Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke

New Avengers vol 3: Other Worlds h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Simone Bianchi, Rags Morales

Superior Spider-Man Team-up vol 2: Superior Six s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christopher Yost, Kevin Shinick & Marco Checchetto, Ron Frenz, Will Sliney

Attack On Titan: No Regrets vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Gun Snark & Hikaru Suruga

Whispered Words vol 1 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

ITEM! Best single stash of comics from Page 45 ever: ALL the best books!

ITEM! Oh yes, and this we announced late Monday night:

Bryan Lee O’Malley

Signing at Page 45

Monday 18th August, 5pm-8pm

The very 10th Anniversary of SCOTT PILGRIM.

So that’s a thing.

- Stephen

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