Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December week two

December 11th, 2019

Featuring Lucas Harari, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Andres Guinaldo, Molly Knox Ostertag, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips, Al Ewing, Joe Bennett

Swimming In Darkness h/c (£21-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Lucas Harari…

“So you’ve read all my books?”
“Yes, for my thesis. I studied architecture in Paris.”
“You’re interested in thermal establishments?”
“Yes, but Vals, most of all.”
“And your thesis was about Vals?”
“Yes.”
“I’d very much like to read it.”
“Unfortunately, that’s impossible…”
“And why is that?”
“It’s kind of a long story… I lost all my research.”

It is indeed a long story, involving a temporary psychotic break and descent into insanity just for starters… before a temporary psychotic break and descent into…

But lest you go bonkers trying to guess what on earth is going on… here’s the publisher to prickle your curiosity further…

 

 

“Pierre is a young man at a crossroads. He drops out of architecture school and decides to travel to Vals in the Swiss Alps, home to a thermal springs complex located deep inside a mountain. The complex, designed by architect Peter Zumthor, had been the subject of Pierre’s thesis. The mountain holds many mysteries; it was said to have a mouth that periodically swallowed people up.

Pierre, sketchbook in hand, is drawn to the enigmatic powers of the mountain and its springs, and attempts to uncover the truth behind them in the secret rooms he discovers deep within the complex. But he finds his match in a man named Valeret who is similarly obsessed, and who’d like nothing more than to eliminate his competitor.”

Indeed, and before I commence attempting to assemble a few pieces of the puzzle for you with my thoughts, I suppose I better let Pierre and Valert finish their dinner conversation…

“But I’ve started working on Vals again. That’s the reason I’m here.”
“Then we have something in common.”
“You’re writing a book about Vals?”
“Mmm… you know, Pierre, last night… I couldn’t help but look through your sketchbook. Your drawings of the baths are very beautiful. But what surprised me most of all are the plans… because they’re all wrong! Still, they seem to respect the composition of the existing building perfectly.”
“Ah, so you noticed that… Let’s just say they’re interpretations…”
“Interpretations? I see… is that the object of your research? What the building could have been?”
“Yes… what it might become.”
“Forgive me but I don’t understand.”
“It’s only just a theory…”
“Then explain it to me. I’m listening.”
“Really, it’s just speculation. Nothing serious, you know.”
“But I’m telling you, I’m interested…”
“No, really, it’s not…”
“TELL ME, FOR GOD’S SAKE! I WANT TO KNOW!”

 

 

Yes, both men are seemingly becoming utterly obsessed with finding out the secrets of Vals…

 

 

Have you ever anticipated something, expecting it to be a certain way, and then when you actually experienced it, found it to be something completely different…? Pierre certainly has… and so did I. For, from the suspense laden, mildly sinister cover and peculiar publisher blurb I thought I was going to get something akin to Charles BLACK HOLE / LAST LOOK Burns, whereas in fact what I got was much more like Manuele THE INTERVIEW / BLACKBIRD DAYS Fior. Who, as a complete aside judging from the cover of BLACKBIRD DAYS really ought to be getting a design credit on Elon Musk’s new Cybertruck…

Harari lures the unsuspecting reader ever deeper and deeper into his mystery through our competing duo who become increasingly desperate, indeed frantic, to crack the conundrum before their rival, for it seems, according to legend at least, the answer isn’t something that can be shared. Valeret in particular will seemingly stop at no ends to ensure the mountain reveals its secret to him and him alone…

 

 

This is an intriguing story which is far more about the imperfectly formed personalities of the protagonists, including an eclectic supporting cast, than it is the supernatural or otherwise surroundings of the mountain and the hot springs themselves.

Art-wise the subdued palette of black, blues and hints of pinks and reds evokes a suitably spooky atmosphere of altitude and isolation. Harari also perfectly captures a sense of the hour of day or night including a plethora of pink-tinged sunrises and sunsets which only add to the alluring charms of this work.

JR

Buy Swimming In Darkness h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Blade Runner 2019 vol 1: Los Angeles s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Andres Guinaldo…

“There’s a part of me in you…”

Well, there will be when you’ve read this review anyway…

When I heard there were going to be Blade Runner comics, my initial thought was… “Is this a test designed to provoke an emotional response?”

Because media tie-ins to all-time film classics have had some difficulties… shall we say… replicating the appeal and quality of the original…

Happily, this new material isn’t contributing to an itch you can never scratch… No, it hits the scabby, grimy, deeply dystopian oozing spot right from the opening confrontation between Los Angeles’ most feared Blade Runner Aahna ‘Ash’ Ashina and Replicant Benny.

 

 

Well, not so much of a confrontation as the coup de grace as we quickly establish Ash isn’t all she seems either, as she’s planning to harvest Benny’s valuable body parts for sale to body sharks for cold hard cash to satiate a rather desperate need of her own.

 

 

It’s not drugs, but when we find out precisely what it is, which also goes a long way to explaining her own fervent hatred of Replicants, well, you can understand why she’s trying to keep it very, very quiet indeed from absolutely everyone.

 

 

I think a not inconsiderable part of Blade Runner’s enduring appeal is the ever present fear of the ‘other’ and its very uncomfortable current analogue in a certain section of our own society’s rabid fear of immigration. It’s not that much of a stretch from Blade Runner’s speculative fictional premise of a workforce created to allow the population not to have to do all those unpleasant jobs suddenly getting declared illegal trespassers and being hunted down like dogs, to where we find ourselves today, not least given the Windrush scandal, never mind Brexit.

Given we are now officially past the 20th November 2019 which is when the original Blade Runner film was set, it’s slightly sobering to find that the posited dystopian future has seemingly come to pass, in part at least.

 

 

No flying cars, sadly, though at least we have Elon Musk’s Cybertruck as inspired (in my head) by Manuele BLACKBIRD DAYS Fior…

Anyway, despite being most definitely very well grounded in the original milieu, the main reason this new material is so good is that it is first and foremost a gritty noir thriller with its own dark secret at its pulsing, synthetic heart. As Ash begins to investigate the abduction of the beloved wife and child of a close business associate of Eldon Tyrell, it quickly begins to become clear that she’s about to uncover something considerable more complicated… which the powers that be would rather prefer she didn’t… They probably shouldn’t have press-ganged one of the city’s best detectives onto the case then, should they?!

 

 

Nice crisp, clean art with a fine line from Andres Guinaldo who has done some similarly decent work on Captain America and Doctor Strange for Marvel in recent years. Marco Lesko also does an excellent job colouring too, I must say, managing to capture the perpetual gloom of climate change challenged future LA whilst still keeping it all remarkably well lit with electric neon tones.

We had to wait thirty five years for a cinematic sequel to the original film. Happily the next story arc in these comics is out imminently with a glorious main cover by no less than Paul Pope to boot!! I wonder if we’ll have the next issue of THB in less than thirty five years on from the previous one…? Now waiting for that is a test designed to provoke an emotional response…

JR

Buy Blade Runner 2019 vol 1: Los Angeles s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Midwinter Witch s/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag…

“The way the tales tell it, magic is a wild force.

“It is the province of spirits and demons, and they can use it as easily as we breathe.
“It does not come naturally to us, but a few rare human families can see magic.
“Over many generations, we have learned to shape it.
“Through runes and potions, spells and shifting, we put it to use for good.
“To help and defend those without magic.
“But magic is not ours and it never was.
“Uncontrolled, it can turn to darkness when wielded by human hands.
“There is a reason we stay in close-knit families.
“The safeguards must be passed down.
“Magic is a gift, a blessing… and a great responsibility.
“Which means, Ariel Torres, that young witches need to pay attention to their magic lessons.”

Err quite. We certainly wouldn’t want something going horrifically wrong purely just for our entertainment would we…? Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is the third (and final) spellbinding instalment from Molly Knox Ostertag following on from THE HIDDEN WITCH and THE WITCH BOY in this warm-hearted series which celebrates being tolerant of differences, encouraging acceptance of diversity and building friendships with people who aren’t simply exact copies of yourself. Plus of course, spell-based situations that always, but always, seem to spiral rapidly out of control…

 

 

Here’s the publisher to ply you with some verbal prestidigitation so that before you know what’s going on you are cash in hand ready to purchase…

“Magic has a dark side…

Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting.

This year, he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament – as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition.

Ariel has darker things on her mind than the Festival – like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her. But Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs.

The Festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel, nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?”

Given this is the concluding part of the trilogy I’m going to go with happy ending rather than apocalyptic misery all round, but you know, it’ll take some serious sorcery to get everyone there relatively unscathed! Good job Ariel was paying attention during her magic lessons instead of being a cocky know-it-all then…

Ah…

JR

Buy The Midwinter Witch and read the Page 45 review here

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jake Phillips…

“I was much further out than you thought

“And not waving but drowning.”

 – Stevie Smith, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’,1957

“Hey, I never said I had a drug problem…
“That’s everyone else’s opinion.”

–  Ellie to eighteen-year-old Skip, inside.

Inside a palatial, five-grand-a-week rehab clinic, to be precise, with colonnades and balustrades, encircling protective wings, poplars and locked gates.

To herself: “And I sure as hell am not planning on getting sober.”

That’s a lot of money to throw away without any intention of detoxifying. So what’s Ellie really up to, and why did she scope out every other patient’s private files the night that she was admitted?

 

 

Also, what sly revelation further down the line makes this completely self-contained, original graphic novel an official addition to the CRIMINAL series?

A few years ago, Sean Phillips – Ed Brubaker’s creative partner on the emphatically noir CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT and KILL OR BE KILLED – asked Ed to write him a romance comic. Sean: “And this is as close as he could get.”

Previous efforts haven’t been promising for the protagonists involved. Romance in comics rarely ends well in any event, but FATALE proved particularly problematic for the men caught blinking in Josephine’s headlights, while the whole crux of CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT was one man’s attempt to reverse his wrong romantic turning at the crossroads of life by running over his wife… metaphorically speaking.

 

 

But this is indeed, on the surface at least, a strikingly different beast, so Sean Phillips has shifted gears accordingly, and startlingly, away from the twilight world of long shadows and motive-masking, half-lit faces to spot-blacks for some clothing, but otherwise crisp lines and clear forms. These are left open for Jake to dapple and daub with sprays of light blue, silky cream, pinks and admittedly bruised purple. I love that the walls have almost been sponged.

Is it just an affectation of innocence? Surprisingly, predominantly, no – it’s the evocation of a youthful innocence retained against all odds.

The first surface we encounter is the cover. I could be wrong but it bears a striking resemblance to Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Blue Marilyn, 1964’, only less lurid. That was rendered after her death, and innocent the image is not. Here all the knowing guile is gone, replaced by wide-open eyes, the face-on portrait bathed under watery waves of light – although it is still quite the poker-face, no?

Young Ellie’s not lost, but she is perhaps rudderless, without an anchor, parental, guardian or otherwise.

 

 

Inside the combined effect of clean line and colour, as well as Ellie’s hair, smacks to me of 1970s fashion advertising and romance comics, as evoked / referenced so often by Posy Simmonds (LITERARY LIFE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY and especially the relevant, pastiche passages of the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS). Innocence, once more.

All this in unexpected and clever contrast to the central theme of drug dependency: that’s what they’re all holed up in rehab for after her all, and Ellie’s heroes have indeed always been junkies, including Van Gogh. As they drive off into a sunset (of course they do – at least, halfway through) there’s a page dedicated to the artist’s perceptions as enhanced by absinthe and digitalis, and Jake Phillips earns every penny that I hope you’ll throw their way in the most arresting, full-colour, Vincent Van flourish.

 

 

So yes, you may perhaps have spied a few preview pages before now and believe you’ve caught Ellie and Skip, thrown together and on the run from a society which simply doesn’t understand their mutual intoxication and drug-addled ways, then taken Ed and Sean at their word that this is a traditional romance / crime combo. And there is romance in being outside the law – all the romance in the world in setting yourself contra mundum.

However, however, this is Ed Brubaker.

While Ellie may be romancing 18-year-old Skip in the clinic, she’s more than a little perturbed to find herself falling for him. Also, as I’ve suggested, she’s more interested in romanticising her own past and all the soulful singer-songwriters whom her dead junkie mum once worshipped. It’s her rebellious inheritance, if you like. Ellie’s not above singing their praises, either, in group therapy, extolling the virtues of that which everyone else is in there to quit.

“It’s like Keith Richards said… The worst thing you can say about heroin will still make somebody want to try it… I mean, talking about dope just makes you want to do it… It’s like a worm in your brain. And it seems like being sober is just constantly talking about all the times you got high. So how stupid is that?”

 

 

Group leader Mitch is getting ruffled, but Ellie is just getting started. She’s on a roll.

“And why do we automatically assume that getting clean is this great thing?
“What if drugs help you find the thing that makes you special?”

I do love the way in which young, be-quiffed Skip is enjoying these iconoclastic moments, with quiet, corner-mouthed smiles to himself. Hey, he’s a teenager, a virtual synonym for rebellion, and Ellie knows precisely what she is doing, twitching that particular, fly-adorned, hook-hidden line.

She’s going to cite Lou Reed and David Bowie in a moment, isn’t she? I remember an interview with Bowie some 35 years ago in which he refused to apologise for the promise that he would never again put take such elephantine quantities of horse simply to create another ‘Scary Monsters’ album. And I can’t say I blame him – it wouldn’t have been us who’d have to suffer the subsequent withdrawals – but a world without ‘Hunky Dory’ or ‘Scary Monsters’ doesn’t really bear dreaming about.

 

 

Anyway, in stark contrast to the feathered, sky-bright colours of blue and yellow and pinks which radiate Ellie’s seemingly unclouded optimism, her recollections are framed in funereal black and shaded in a grey which we associate with the past. There she laments the fate of the recording artists featured on a mix-tape her mum made for her dad who was languishing in prison. They were every one of them drug addicts. One of her mum’s favourite albums was recorded by Billie Holiday who was arrested in a hospital bed for possessing narcotics, and died handcuffed, under police guard, after they’d forced the doctors to stop giving her methadone. Holiday’s own dad had fared little better, having been refused treatment at a ‘Whites Only’ hospital. The link between them was the song ‘Strange Fruit’, and mum would listen to Billie Holiday while staring out of at the rain, when Ellie was four-years-old.

“That was the year I learned what a junkie was.”

 

 

And you’d be forgiven for thinking that both you and Ellie were finally going to be forced wide awake by a brutal memory to puncture Ellie’s almost determined dreamlike reverie, but instead you are treated to yet another rose-tinted spectacle of almost supernatural beauty.

So what did Sean Phillips mean, by “this was as close as he could get”?

Where is the come-down, the crash, the fatal flaw which almost always propels the protagonists in noir to fuck things up for themselves, good and proper?

It’s all there if you read carefully enough, early on, only to resurface a little later.

 

 

“It’s a dream, living like this… But I start to think, why do dreams have to end?
“I hear Judie Garland in my head, singing about a faraway land, where troubles melt like lemon drops… and bluebirds fly.
“Judy was caught in the pull between downers and amphetamines as she sang that, of course. Maybe that’s why it sounds so true.
“But anyway, my troubles aren’t the kind that melt away.
“They’re the kind that follow you.
“Even over the rainbow.”

SLH

Buy My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Overture (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.

 

 

SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.

 

 

I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave them birth. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.

 

 

I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!

 

 

Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including interviews with the artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.

 

 

As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait.

No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition.

That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”

 

 

Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*

SLH

Buy Sandman Overture (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett…

“Bruce Banner of Earth. I am the Sentience of the Cosmos… and you are its last survivor.

“You have been baptized in the energies of creation. And now, we two will become a new form of life.
“As Galan of Taa was to the Seventh and the Eight… the Devourer, the Galactus… you shall be to the Ninth.
“You and I will merge, and together… we will become what must be that new age.
“But what will that be, Bruce Banner of Earth? What will you become?
“What will you… who is that?”
“Who? Mr. Immortal? His real name was Craig. He was homo supreme, the ultimate evolution of mutant power.
“He thought that made him special. But in the end, he was just a back up. Someone to stand here, meet you, do… this… if the anointed prince, Franklin Richards, couldn’t make it.
“I killed Franklin Richards two billion years ago. The same way I killed Craig. And your Galactus. And all the rest of them…”
“… How?”
“Like this.”
“NO! No, this isn’t… this isn’t right! This isn’t how it happens! This isn’t what’s meant to be! Something is wrong with… with everything… SOMETHING IS WRONG…”

 

 

 

I do keep telling everyone… this is a horror comic… and until Jonathan Hickman’s HOUSE OF X /  POWERS OF X… chunky tinsel-covered hardcover collecting both the six issue series out today (11th December) in one huge hit for those of you looking to buy a present for your Marvel- lovin’ beloved… spontaneously popped into existence it was by some considerable distance my current favourite Marvel read. This is now the fifth volume of what is effectively one gargantuan horror story arc… (all previous volumes in their own section HERE).

However with that said… the above conversation, at the heat death of our universe, at its pivotal moment of potential transformation and rebirth Marvel-stylee into the next, is but merely a prologue to one of the strangest, most sci-fi, single issues of Marvel comics I think I’ve ever read (Immortal Hulk #25). It’s in effect a weird and wonderful sidebar What If story. Which is basically… What If the Hulk went completely bonkers and decided to devour the entire universe?

 

 

Seen entirely from the point of view of the strange, fluttery being called Observer Par%l floating round what little remains of the universe in his solar-powered Berth ship, it is a stylish, engrossing yarn which, upon a little reflection, appears to complete itself quite neatly… At least I think so… And let’s be quite frank, that’s not something Marvel comics make you do very often… think, that is.

 

 

On that point please see Jonathan Hickman’s HOUSE OF X POWERS OF X

Did I mention that was going to be a swish snow-kissed hardcover collecting both six issue series due out 11th December  for those of you looking to buy a present for your Marvel- lovin’ beloved….? Christmas is coming and all that…

PS At time of typing we still have three copies of the single IMMORTAL HULK #25 single issue for those merely wishing to dip a tentative toe into gamma-infused galactic gluttony…

JR

Buy Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Boys Omnibus vol 6 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns, Richard Clark

Firefly vol 2: Unification War Part Two h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Greg Pak & Dan McDaid

Five Years vol 1: Fire In The Sky s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Ghost Tree s/c (£14-50, IDW) by Bobby Curnow & Simon Gane

Lumberjanes vol 13: Indoor Recess (£10-99, Boom!) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh &  Dozerdraws

Pearl vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

Rumble vol 6: Last Knight s/c (£17-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

Sharkey The Bounty Hunter s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Simone Bianchi

Strangers In Paradise Omnibus Slipcase h/c Signed Bookplate Limited Edition (£159-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Strangers In Paradise Omnibus Slipcase s/c (£98-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

The Sons Of El Topo vol 2: Abel h/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jose Ladronn

House Of X / Powers Of X h/c (£49-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, other

Silver Surfer: Black – Treasury Edition s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Tradd Moore

Test vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Vault) by Christopher Sebela & Jen Hickman

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Dragonball Super vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Jujutsu Kaisen vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Gege Akutami

One-Punch Man vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by One

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December week one

December 4th, 2019

Featuring Jon J Muth, Stanislaw Lem, Kevin Huizenga, Neil Gaiman, John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo.

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

We’re all a little wont to get in our own way, aren’t we?

A deft, whimsical comedy set in the inky depths of space, adapted to comics by MOONSHADOW’s Jon J. Muth from a Polish author (1921-2006) whom I shall now be searching out. Handily, there’s a reasonably extensive background and process piece in the back, revealing along the way just how long this has been in the making.

You know the phrase “’Ave a word with yourself!”…?

That’s precisely what space mechanic Ijon Tichy will be doing for the foreseeable future: attempting to extract practical information from himself as he was yesterday, as he will be tomorrow or indeed as the person he will become on Friday from the vantage point of the chap he has since become on Wednesday after leaving both Monday and Tuesday behind.

It’s all in the hope of mentally unravelling and so fathoming the cause-and-effect complexities of time travel, before he mentally unravels himself, or even brains his more belligerent aspects with a length of lead piping.

At some point, one or two of them might even cooperate long enough to perhaps change the rudder outside, which was damaged on the very first pages by a tiny passing meteoroid, and was why he first set course for the temporal anomalies, in order to give himself a helping hand. He can’t change it on his own because it’s held on by a single gigantic nut-and-bolt screw, and he cannot reach round its fin to turn the screw whilst maintaining adequate purchase on the wrench round the rudder’s other side. He tried that. The wrench flew out from under his feet and is now slowly orbiting the space ship, tantalisingly too far away.

It’s more of a space rocket than a space ship: everything is extremely low-tech for, as I say, Tichy is more of a mechanic than a pilot. There aren’t many switches; you pull levers instead. From the outside at least, it’s no larger than your lounge, and our narrator is first discovered baking bread in an old-school electric oven.

 

 

He looks out of a portal as you might your bedroom window at night, while his library houses a small coffee table and comfy armchair. The lampshade’s very cosy. The ballooning space suit he dons in his initial attempts to fix the rudder is closer akin to a deep-sea diving affair – and that, from a century ago – but with a bell-jar helmet. There’s no way it would actually fit through the hatch, but that’s the sort of book this is. See gigantic nut-and-bolt screw.

As you’d expect from the artist on MOONSHADOW it is exquisitely painted in lovely loose washes predominately in lilac and yellow ochre over light pencil outlines, and I spent many, many minutes contemplating how Muth had managed to execute the wet-brush starscape behind the back-lit meteoroid. Gerhard on CEREBUS used to flick white ink onto black backgrounds with an old toothbrush.

As in the script, so in the art there lies comedy. I loved the star chart declaring his current course to be within decidedly dangerous territory, multiple red arrows warning “DON’T GO HERE” while other areas are marked “run away” or “yikes!” Thanks to all the vortex turbulence and gravity gone right wonky-woo, he keeps getting battered upside the head by a hardbound copy of the General Theory of Relativity.

Get ready for your own head to hurt in harmony with his. Not everyone enjoys their own company.

“Quick, let’s go outside, we might just make it!”
The Thursday me grabbed the me that was I.
“But the rocket will fall into the vortex any minute now. The shock could throw us off into space, and that would be the end of us.”
“Use your head, stupid. If the Friday me is alive, nothing can happen to us. Today is only Thursday.”
“But it’s Wednesday.”

There’s a serious flaw in Wednesday him’s plan, just as there had been in Monday’s and Tuesday’s and from now on solving that will become key. That, and keeping track of himself:

The Friday me wasn’t there; I looked in the bathroom, but it was empty too. I returned to the kitchen where the Thursday me methodically cracked an egg with a knife and poured its contents onto the sizzling pan.
“Where’s the Friday me?”
“Somewhere in the neighbourhood of Saturday, no doubt.”

SLH

Buy The Seventh Voyage h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Collecting all material from the six Ganges periodicals in one glorious hardcover! Split therefore into six chapters, here are my original reviews of issues four and five.

Chapter 4…

I’ve only had the misfortune of suffering real insomnia once, after a rather foolish third post-prandial double espresso at a particularly good Italian restaurant in Bedfordshire following a ‘business’ meeting many years ago. Sadly for me, I wasn’t at home with a full range of distractions available to me, unlike Glenn Ganges in this latest instalment of his ongoing grapple with life in general. Instead I was staying at a quiet hotel in the middle of nowhere.

This was also in the days where ‘24 hour’ television consisted solely of Pete Waterman and Michela Strachan ‘aving it large on the Hitman and Her on a Saturday night. Unfortunately for me, however, it was a Wednesday, so I had the choice of the test card or teletext. And, as the clock ticked its merry way on throughout the night, I, sans reading material of any nature save my road atlas and meeting notes, just lay there as my sense of wakefulness moved gradually from initial amusement, on to mild despair, developing into full blown existential crisis, before neatly circumnavigating briefly through hysterical laughter at about six a.m. when I finally fell asleep. For all of an hour before I had to get up….

 

 

Amusingly enough Glenn seems to pass through most of the same stages, whilst also finding time to fret about the size of his book collection, accidentally let the cat escape from the house and then have to retrieve it, and also get rather spooked by some innocuous shadows whilst half-asleep. Great fun as always from Kevin, he certainly knows how to spin a yarn out of almost nothing.

Chapter 5…

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”
“It’s like, 4.5 billion years.”
“Yeah right, ha ha… that’s what they’ll try and teach him in public school.”

What you can’t see from the above exchange between Kevin, his wife Wendy’s cousin Angela and her son having dinner together after the funeral of Wendy’s Great Aunt Shelly is the huge kick under the table Kevin receives from Wendy, when he answers the young kid’s question without thinking! I should probably add that Shelly’s family are Baptists living in Florida and smack bang in the heartlands of America’s Bible Belt. Creationism is rife down there and offense can be taken very easily.

Meanwhile, not thinking, and indeed, not doing, are two things Wendy accuses Kevin of rather a lot. Quite rightly so, by his own admission, but it’s to the extent that not only can he now usually see an admonishment of yet another transgression coming, but he’s developed a whole range of deflective techniques to avoid said lectures on the twin topics of his thoughtlessness and procrastination.

This time, though, Wendy’s needed to put the boot in sharpish before he can sink his own foot any deeper into troubled temporal waters. It’s not even the first time she’s had to do it today, either, having already dispensed another covert leg sweep during the eulogy itself as Kevin zoned out to a happier place of pondering the big question you might find yourself asking at any funeral… of what they were having for lunch…

 

 

As ever, Kevin does a marvellous turn in self-deprecating humour and once again the amusing auto-biographical material provides a neat lead-in to this issue’s topic on which he’d like to enlighten us, the evolution of our planet, and the timescales thereof. Or as he much more prosaically describes it… “Time Travelling: Deep Time.”

 

 

I love how Kevin really let’s his talents for composition run wild in these sections. He always starts us off gently with a few simple devices, gradually increasing in educative and artistic complexity, as he explains how Scottish “Gentleman Scientist” James Hutton, who we could arguably call the first geologist, decided in the 1700s (pre-Charles Darwin mind) that the Earth simply had to be considerably older than the perceived scientific wisdom of the time of a mere five to six thousand years.

 

 

Kevin then walks us through Hutton’s theories and thought experiments to show us how he hypothesised the formation of the planet, plus also illustrating the geological processes actually involved, culminating in a truly impressive double page spread. His ability to get what he’s visualising out of his head and onto the page is exceptional.

JR

Buy Glenn Ganges: In The River At Night h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£16-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson.

“Magic grants no freedoms, friend pupil. Everything it buys must be paid for.”

“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common meaning. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.”

In which Neil Gaiman explores what magic means and what it can do; the myriad legends that it has already created, to which Neil now adds another. With almost impossible dexterity Gaiman gently folds DC’s established tall tales and occult-orientated characters into the wider mix of fantasies outside that specific setting, and binds them together while embracing all aspects, all variations on a theme, so that Christian stories of Heaven and Hell with their angels and archangels and its celestial city sit comfortably and compatibly alongside Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and British mythologies as well as DC’s own demons and The Dreaming et al. It’s a pretty neat trick to pull off.

Magic is the power of man’s imagination so, as ever with Neil Gaiman, this is also about stories: about the art of storytelling by conjuring carefully chosen words, so shedding light on the darkness. It’s about communication, and there is a great deal to be communicated here with some sense of urgency, for a young boy called Timothy Hunter has been identified as the most powerful mage of modern times, potentially. Whether he will be a power for creation or destruction is unclear, which is why the Phantom Stranger, Dr Occult and Mister E have taken it upon themselves to educate Tim Hunter, and dragged a reluctant John Constantine in too.

“Just what the world’s been waiting for. The Charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade.”
“I heard that, John Constantine.”

 

 

Constantine absolutely makes the book, so well is he played by writer and artists alike. DC’s cheeky chappie and ultimate rogue, he is neither a team player nor strong on reverence. He is reckless, he is dangerous, but in some ways he’s the safest pair of hands you can imagine. Although try telling that to the ghosts of his friends. Such is his history that he’s made welcome nowhere here except by Zatanna, and there’s a single-panel, snort-inducing sight-gag by Scott Hampton, which if you blink you will miss, after John visits the restroom and returns with a stinging, livid-red slap on the cheek.

A pomposity-puncturing iconoclast who rankles at authority, Constantine is immediately drawn to Tim Hunter’s cynical, sceptical and spirited defiance: Tim’s initial instinct is that his new mentors are a bunch of mack-wearing pervs. It is John’s role to introduce Tim Hunter to the contemporary cast of the DC universe: the Spectre, Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu, Baron Winter (Boston Brand AKA Deadman introduces himself, several times over, in a riotous running joke), and all of them have something to say about magic including Dr Fate, he of the hungry helmet:

“The imposition of order on formless chaos, the release of joyous chaos into the grey monotony of order… This is the true magic. All else is shadow.”

Hmm. I’d caution against judging until you learn the destiny of Fate.

This is the DC readers’ crowd-pleasing chapter, without once alienating those who’ve never bought one of those books before. Instead Neil neatly slots these characters into the story he wants to tell within its own context. Painted comic art was relatively rare in those days, so that helps set the alternative tone too. Almost everyone he encounters has dire warnings for Tim about the price he would pay, as do they all in the past.

The past is the province of the Stranger, illustrated by John Bolton who did a bang-up job of maintaining yet blending the pair’s physicality with the limbo-like nature of what they half-glimpse around and beyond them. There are layers and layers of painting art here, executed long before they could be all shot separately then blended by computer like ALICE IN SUNDERLAND. So much of it will have been in the script but not in the dialogue, so letting your eyes wander pays dividends.

As to Charles Vess who depicts Tim’s journey with Dr Occult through the rule-ridden, trap-laden land of Faerie, his line is as solid as his washes are ethereal; his colours so soft, yet as sharp and bright as you like. There is a spectacular, shepherd-delighting, early evening sunset over a lake that goes on forever; his Goblin Market is as fine as anything you saw in STARDUST; and Queen Titania’s palace is an exemplary essay in architectural jade.

 

 

Gaiman is perhaps at his finest in Faerie. Its appearance in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY won him a World Fantasy Award in 1991, while he returned to the etiquette involved in INSTRUCTIONS, both also illustrated by Charles Vess. There’s something about Neil’s writing when it comes to these legends and lore which is far from portentous but Demanding You Pay Close Attention – a bit like capitalised phrases in AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh!

It is here that a naïve Tim makes his most worrying mistakes, proving beyond doubt his need for both education and guidance; and it is here that we return to the vital aspect of magic as mind-altering alchemy in the hands of wordsmiths worldwide. Here’s Queen Titania:

“You wish to see the distant realms? Very well. But know this first: the places you will visit, the places that you will see, do not exist.
“For there are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there.
“These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power, provide refuge, and pain.
“They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Do you understand?”
“No.”

No, Tim doesn’t, not yet. He may never get a chance to understand if other forces succeed. He’s yet to see the future – his possible future and those far beyond – but he’ll be led there by a blind man fixated on the darkness around him: the darkest aspects of the human heart. You’ll be alarmed by whom Tim meets in his future; but you will love it when you see who turns out the lights. Who does turn out the lights at the end of the universe? It’s not necessarily who you think, but sleep tight.

 

 

Comparisons have been made between this and the subsequent Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Some would say “consequent”, but not me. Not in those scolding terms, anyway, for both writers have been charitably generous and, besides (totally besides), this too is a book based on (and informed by) stories which have gone before. That is its whole raison d’être.

Searchers will see by just one look that the opening sequence shows the two poles apart. However unloved, Harry Potter is lured from his relatively safe suburban surroundings into the privileged life of a boarding school, whereas Timothy Hunter is first seen skateboarding alone and vulnerable round the concrete jungle of a deserted industrial-estate market, its closed shops desperately crying about “Crazy Price Clearance” sales. It is bleak, it is barren, and the jaws of its pitch-black underpass gape wide.

Into the abyss, Tim Hunter. Into the abyss.

 

 

Timothy Hunter will need to make some smart and swift choices, not least of which will be whether to accept magic at all. He will hear conflicting stories of fortune and free will. He will see things which no fourteen-year-old was ever meant to see. And he will need to make those choices informed not by The Truth (for there is no such singular thing) but by truths, and by stories.

As Uncle Alan Moore once famously pronounced, “All stories are true”.

SLH

Buy Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Edition) sc and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Or Be Killed Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

KILL OR BE KILLED is the psychological self-examination of an affable and educated young man’s descent into mass murder.

That’s the sentence I returned to, time and again, during my reviews of these four phenomenally compelling softcovers, tweaking or embellishing it a little each time. You’ll see it appear at least three times below. Before we begin, extras this time include all of Jake Phillips’s essay illustrations liberated from text, and some Sean Phillips art used elsewhere.

Kill Or Be Killed book one

“See? That’s what was going around in my head.
“An endless argument spin cycle.
“Point, counterpoint… all day long.”

In which the snow blows thicker and thicker.

To begin with it’s almost soft. It’s certainly softer than a sidewalk from six storeys up.

It tumbles across the sprawling city as far as the eye can see, which is further than you might think; especially when you’re on one of its rooftops, so precariously close to the edge and determined to jump.

From below the thick flakes recede, smaller and smaller, into the heavens which glow a rich, luminous turquoise, while below all is neon-lit for danger.

By the final four pages of the first chapter it’s a veritable blizzard in blinding, icing-sugar white, with wild flashes of thought and explosions of violence like landmines detonated in your head. Then, when it’s settled, there’s a moment of clarity – for Dylan at least.

He’s not going to kill himself. He’s going to kill other people instead.

 

 

From the Eisner-Award winning creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT, the first six pages are a bludgeoning barrage of quite cathartic violence, all the more brutal to behold because Phillips has dispensed with the frames and the gutters to go full-bleed to the edge of each page. It’s more immediate. It’s more in-your-face, just like that shotgun, which is meticulously rendered and weighted.

Crucially, however, even if it’s more difficult to draw, then it’s as easy to read as ever, for the three-tier structure remains intact, the panels inset instead against an extended background. It’s something he carries right through the subsequent flashbacks and it pays off especially outside because the wider sense of space is phenomenal.

 

 

Anyway, in case you’re reading this on the product page rather than the blog, here’s some of Dylan’s socio-political self-justification. It’s not why he’s blowing holes in these very bad people, but isn’t it kind of comforting to know that you’re making the world a better place than it currently is?

“Just look at the news for five fucking minutes and it’s obvious…
“Big business controls your government…
“Assholes go on shooting rampages almost daily…
“Terrorists blow up airports and train stations…
“Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…
“Psychopaths run for President…
“Oh, and the Middle East is one nuke away from turning us all to dust…
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

What follows does not lead directly into the opening sequence – this is a long-form work, and Brubaker has a lot to explore in terms of psychology and practicalities before Dylan develops into a proficient and equanimous mass murderer – but it does go some way to explaining how Dylan, studying later in life than most at NYU, might eventually find himself a) with a shotgun b) using it.

 

 

It begins with that attempt at suicide – not his first, either – and that began with a girl. It began with his best friend called Kira, one of the few people Dylan felt ever understood him. She got his sense of humour, his taste in music and his sense of isolation which had already set in before his flatmate Mason got between the two of them by dating.

“Their relationship ruined the one good thing I had.
“Kira still came to our place all the time, but almost never to hang out with me.
“And that made me feel even lonelier than I usually did.”

That sense of being cut off from Kira is emphasised by Phillips in a similar way to what Ware did at the window in JIMMY CORRIGAN: by distancing Dylan, isolated inside his own panel, from the rest of the couch where Kira and Mason sit closer together. Breitweiser bathes the lovers in light from the television set they’re watching, whereas Dylan remains shrouded in darkness. I can’t imagine anything much more uncomfortable.

 

 

Oh wait, I can, because that’s what happens next. And eventually it leads to the rooftop.

Where that leads is even more startling, but I’m not about to spoil that for you now. All I will say is that Dylan’s head is far from healthy. He’s fallen far enough already, but he’s got a long way to go before picking up a gun and going if not postal then at least house-hunting.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Brubaker’s many fortes is making you want to spend as much time as possible in his protagonists’ minds, no matter how disturbed. Here he does so in part through Dylan’s vulnerability and confessional, apologetic and self-searching tone. However confident in his newly acquired worldview Dylan seems on the first six pages – and I’d place money on that being a ‘good’ day – none of that is reflected in any red-bloodedly aggressive tendencies either earlier in life or even now.

 

 

This is not a revenge story and Dylan’s acts are not an expression of angry contra mundum. They are instead acts of survival which require – and result in – all sorts of practicalities which Brubaker explores in depth.

One of those practicalities is avoiding any meaningful conversation with Kira even though their relationship grows increasingly complicated and Kira’s being honest with him. The guilt that he’s not reciprocating gnaws at Dylan, but he is fully aware that if he begins to offload in one way he’s likely to do so in others. Kira’s love and genuine, deep-rooted concern for him is the one thing he has left, and it’s almost certain to evaporate instantly if she learns he’s beginning to stalk and murder very bad men, whatever the crimes they’ve committed.

As well as his prowess as a weather and landscape artist – there are so many daylight cityscape shots of extraordinary detail which Breitweisser colours with a finger-numbing freeze – Phillips gets to show off his photo-realistic skills as Dylan sifts through the erotic fantasy stories his father illustrated, recalling his dad’s craft by conjuring one of those nudes in his mind’s eye. Wouldn’t you just know that she’d look one hell of a lot like Kira? And as he remembers perving over the magazines with his young friends, aged 6 or so, he realises who has behaved so horrifically as to merit being his first target.

 

 

This begs further practicalities for a novice like Dylan, like finding a gun which won’t be traced. As to hunting down someone he only knew only tangentially many moons ago, well, that’s what Facebook’s for, right?

But then there’s the self-searching and doubt which I alluded to earlier.

“See, I kept having this sick feeling that I might have killed someone for no reason.
“Like, think about it for a second. There had to be some possibility that I hallucinated [REDACTED]. “Didn’t there? And if I did, if it wasn’t actually real, that meant my head was fucked, right?
“Which meant the way I remembered that day with Teddy could be wrong too… Right?”

Now, that’s all very specific to this particular story, but one of Brubaker’s interests lies in our universal, shared experiences and another of his skills is in making those connections and exploring their implications.

“I’ve read how memory works…
“I know we edit our memories so we look better in them.
“So what if I made up the whole thing?
“What if I was just like those assholes back in high school, pretending to have some secret link to the tragic dead kid?”

That would be Teddy.

“Except… Why would I make up a childhood story, especially one as sick as that, and never tell anyone about it?
“Who makes up a story and keeps it a secret?
“What is the point of that?”

Sorry to keep the quotations so cryptic, but you’ve got to be wondering what his memory was now… Right?

 

 

We’ve got a long way to go before we get to page one.

Kill Or Be Killed book two

The psychological self-examination of one affable if awkward young man’s descent into mass murder.

If you think it improbable that you will root for the guy, I’d remind you that such is the strength of Brubaker’s internal monologues that the self-contained CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF INNOCENT had us all desperately praying that a man could get away with uxoricide.

 

 

This is the periodical I pick up first no matter what else is on offer on any given week.

There’s nothing sensationalist about it. Our narrator is an astute individual with a keen moral compass, and that’s as much of a trigger as anything. Much of the priming in terms of mental isolation has already been explored, but the other trigger – the core motivation, if you like – is an element of the first KILL OR BE KILLED which I deliberately kept from you for fear of spoilers.

I’m not going to elaborate here, either, except to say that there is a moment of discovery on the part of his best friend Kira which leaves her in fear for Dylan’s safety, while holed up in his closet as he makes love to an ex-girlfriend. Kira, it should be noted, is undoubtedly the love of his life, but lest he blurts out something incriminating he’s been keeping her at a distance, even as she confides in him.

It’s not this discovery that he’s worried about, but he should be.

And it explains everything which you may have puzzled over in book one.

Where Dylan has become compromised is with both the NYPD and the Russian mob now, after one public blunder (or a spot of bad luck) and a miscalculation about just how wide the Russians’ net is spread and how tenacious they can be. Fortunately institutional sexism and male police pride may give him some breathing space for now, but the Russians are more open-minded and resourceful.

 

 

There’s little more that I didn’t explore in my substantial review of KILL OR BE KILLED VOL 1 (so I’d refer you there instead) including Sean Phillips’s decision to retain his three-tier structure while throwing the art full-bleed, right to edges of each page, so that you’re no longer kept at an observational distance but thrust right into the heart of the action and Dylan’s head.

Here’s more of his self-justification:

“Lobbyists aren’t all bad, of course. Some lobby for human rights or the environment. But most of the time, they work for big business and what they do is, they pay a lot of money to politicians to pass laws or repeal regulations… so the corporations they work for can do whatever the fuck they want.
“Gideon Prince was the kind of lobbyist who helped put poison in your drinking water and then laughed about it to his buddies.
“And what I mean is, he’d done that exact thing…
“And yes, look – I know this one is sort of a stretch. He didn’t personally poison that ground water. But people who can look at dumping chemicals as a good thing because it saves them money… who can make fun of the people who are suffering because of it?
“It’s hard to argue the world wouldn’t be better off without them.”

He’s exceptionally self-aware and quite the philosophical conversationalist when it comes to his audience if not his few “friends” whom he keeps at a remove. He’s not deluding himself, except when it comes to that one key element which, when you discover it, is sadly so common.

 

 

Most of his longer reflections and reminiscences are aligned down blank vertical columns outside of the art, giving them chance to breathe, but don’t get too complacent about what’s being shown there, that’s all I’ll say.

I never intended this second review to be anything but brief, but you could write an essay on the body language alone: little details which either Brubaker or Phillips drops in, like Detective Lily Sharpe – the one on the ball whom her fellow officers studiously dismiss and ignore – who was raised in foster care between several group homes, reading on the bottom bunk of a bed, the toes of her bare feet digging self-protectively into the duvet as someone else’s dangle over the top.

There’s something squat, rough and ready about Dylan’s physique and physiognomy. It’s not simian, but it’s burly and certainly atypical of most protagonists’, both within comics and without; I keep thinking of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis.

 

 

Anyway, with police attention now drawn, so is the media’s and I suspect Sean will become quite sick of drawing news stands before Dylan’s done.

Dylan is forced to become more reactive while increasingly restricted, and even though you know that he lives to tell this tale (if not under what circumstances), you will be kept on the edge of that proverbial seat, toes possibly digging into the carpet.

Kill Or Be Killed book three

“And suddenly every word that she said was a gift.
“Every smile was a miracle,
“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

We do indeed.

And now for the bits you’ve been waiting for!

KILL OR BE KILLED book one began in blazing gunfire, a sequence we’ve been promised a return to, and by the end of this volume you will finally see Dylan in that “hotel” with the shotgun, you’ll understand exactly why he’s so focussed, specifically on social injustice, and it’s all but the beginning of a meticulously thought out act-and-distract plan to shut down the local Russian mafia for good.

If he doesn’t, they’ve given every indication that they will come for his girlfriend, Kira.

 

 

KILL OR BE KILLED has been the practical and psychological self-examination of one educated young man’s descent into mass murder.

It didn’t start with the Russian mafia, it began with a suicide attempt and several episodes which he now hopes were psychotic, but I still don’t want to give that game away because we’re looking for new readers here, and it forms such a substantial strand of the series that will keep you speculating feverishly far beyond this volume and well into the next chapters beginning with KILL OR BE KILLED #15.

As to practicalities, we’re most of us more capable than we imagine we are. Dylan is ruminative by nature – which is why it’s taken two volumes to get to this point! – thinking things through, though not all the time with a clear head; that, he would be the very first to concede. Here he contemplates courage, and the nature of fear as something self-imposed as well as instilled in us through aphorisms and cautionary tales designed to curtail our curiosity or limit our ambition (Daedalus / Icarus and “A bird in the hand…” etc). We are persuaded to believe not in ourselves, but in our weaknesses, drawing lines in the sand which we dare not cross. But if others have crossed them – if one person can kill a grizzly bear – why cannot we?

 

 

He’s forever referencing films, is our Dylan, and books. As I say, he’s educated and it’s his constant self-questioning which in part makes him so very credible and captivating, engaging his audience conversationally – for he is emphatically addressing each one of us – as to his various successes or failures in storytelling and whether we find him frustrating, which is funny. Here is he shown for umpteenth time breaking and entering into the brothel.

“Okay, so look, I promise you we’re getting very close to this moment.
“By the end of this chapter… for sure.
“I mean, this is all part of that plan I was formulating….
“As you’re going to see soon. Really soon.
“But before we get to this –
“And I know, I know, I’m the worst narrator in history for actually getting to the point…
“Well, maybe after Tristram Shandy…
“But there’s just some stuff you have to know before the action gets going again.
“I mean, it can’t all be action… right?”

 

 

Dylan’s also unusually self-aware, constantly rummaging around in his own troubled memories and the physical boxes of published art which his father left behind, whilst musing on Kira’s past as well as his father’s sad life and suicide.

“I guess it’s different for people whose fathers didn’t commit suicide, but if yours did, then he’s probably a fairly tragic figure in your memory…
“That familial memory that shapes who you are.
“That’s how it always was for me. My father was legendary and tragic and sad… all at one time.
“And if I had to pick one word that described him best, it would’ve been a tie between “lonely” and “isolated”.

Dylan has just described himself, and little wonder: “That familial memory that shapes who you are.”

He’s far from alone but lonely instead, isolated inside his own head. So often there are moments of hope that he will be able to free himself from the shackles of his pragmatic secrecy, this solitary existence, and steer freely away from the desperate trajectory which he has found himself locked on.

One of those is where we came in and he realises that “We stop noticing our miracles.” Yet it’s these very preoccupations which prevent Dylan from fully engaging and actually existing inside the moment, and those moments of hope do not last long.

All of that is conveyed in the art: in the cinema, for example, with Kira beaming while Dylan sits dead-faced, obsessing over his predicament. And that’s after his supposed satori.

 

 

Thanks to Phillips and Breitweiser, Dylan is surrounded by so much arboreal beauty which he singularly fails to notice – even as he’s strolling through Central Park with the love of his life, lit bright with laughter, which was formerly all that he craved – and it will only become more pronounced in the next volume.

 

 

 

It’s not just that he fails to notice it, either: it is that he is entirely removed from its life-affirming balm by his inner demons – the psychotic shit that’s going on his head – and by the very real danger that surrounds them both. That Kira is oblivious to the danger (because Dylan has repeatedly refused to communicate for fear of blurting out the rest) makes the gap between them loom even larger. He has built the proverbial brick wall.

Next volume: Dylan attempts to break down the brick wall down and in so doing, finds it built even higher.

Oh, wait…. The shooty bits…? Knock yourself out. Non-consecutive pages, mind, but Lord, how I love Sean Phillips gunfire.

 

 

 

Parenthetically, there’s a very funny sequence in which a Russian courier clumsily attempts to flirt with a barmaid who may well be gay by solemnly impressing upon her the virtues not of Charles Portis’s novel ‘True Grit’ (which is a tremendously compelling narrative told by a fourteen-year-old girl of exceptional fortitude), but of its cinematic adaptation which was a travesty, and in particular the manly magnificence of John Wayne’s performance which… anyway. The sincerity on that man’s face!

Kill Or Be Killed book four

“Is everything all right, Dylan?”
“No… not really. But it will be.”

Will it?

It’s the KILL OR BE KILLED finale from the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE etc, and if the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger is a narrative bombshell you couldn’t possibly see coming, then the final-page punchline is a visual whose eyes will bore into your own so hard and so deep – meeting your gaze directly, unflinchingly – that I defy you to look away. For a full five minutes I studied those dense, shining shadows, sweeping black lines and broad colour brushstrokes, so bold that anything behind became even more ethereal. Then, almost as soon as I looked away to flick back through the preceding four pages which made so much sense, I had to return almost immediately.

I think that’s the general idea with obsession.

And this all about obsession.

Up until now KILL OR BE KILLED has been the psychological self-examination of an educated young man with a gnawing sense of social justice but a fine line in convivial conversation as he descends into a surprisingly efficient mass murder spree.

 

 

That initial spree at least is all but over, though there’s always room for one more, don’t you think?

“Stairs are actually not that effective for killing people, in case you were wondering.
“Too many variables. You can never know for sure how someone’s going to land…
“Or if they’re going to break their neck.”

You may have to step in and finish the business on foot.

“I get away with this, by the way.”

The narrative is as charming as disarming as ever: even the chapter breaks (originally the ends to each monthly issue) add to the illusion of this being an off-the-cuff account.

“Shit, I completely forgot.
“Sorry.
“We’ll have to talk about that next time.”

In KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 3 I wrote about the disconnect between Dylan’s wretched preoccupations and the beauty which surrounds him which he, cruelly, has no mental access to, and it is only accentuated further on the first two pages here.

 

 

It’s something that comics can do ever so well under the right creators: when the words and the pictures ‘disagree’. Jon Klassen has made a career out of this for comedic, Young Readers purposes. This is tragic instead.

Look at the exquisite silver livery on these idyllic snow-swept scenes and the rapture being relished by those able to fully inhabit those landscapes by being in the moment and sharing between them its gift!

 

 

Now read the words of a perceived grinding life and the fall of the world into geopolitical disorder. “Sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. In volume three of KILL OR BE KILLED Dylan consciously castigated himself thus:

“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.”
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

Yet within that same volume he almost immediately failed to retain that self-knowledge. It wasn’t wilful, it wasn’t negligent. It was because he was trapped, in his own head and his immediate circumstances of needing to act or the love of his life would be dead. Now he is shackled once again, even further removed from this extraordinary, ordinary joy, and the windows through which he is looking are barred.

The cover may give you a clue, but only on reading this will you understand how he got himself sectioned. It has nothing to do with volume three whatsoever. This is an entirely new development, and, to begin with, Dylan is quite content to be locked up, for it means that the outside world should be safe from him.

It isn’t. Nor is he, from what he has left behind him outside.

 

 

Expect Breitweiser blizzards so dense that they will all but obliterate your vision, which will give Dylan ample opportunity to talk about climate change, industry, government, and the war between wealth and accountability. It will also give the unexpected ample opportunity to sneak unseen upon the unwary.

Sorry…? Oh, you’re halfway through this book and just remembered that sentence. You think I’m referring to that snow storm! Haha!

I’m not.

I’ve run out of time, but it’s also worth studying all the different hair treatments throughout the series. Yes, hair!

 

 

Dylan’s mother’s is completely different from the others’ not only in style but in its method of rendition, far closer to Kira’s. Phillips goes to great lengths to draw identifiable, individual strands of hair for both women and men, whereas Dylan’s mum’s is lifted by mousse to look like a meringue or Mr Whippy.

What a note for finish on. Honestly.

SLH

Buy Kill Or Be Killed Deluxe h/c and read the Page 45 Review here

Luthor s/c (£12-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

Lex Luthor stares into space and broods about humanity being subject to the whims of a potentially untrustworthy alien being, whilst those around him – from employees in the form of construction workers to a cherished servant in the form of his own artificially created, female metahuman – find out what it’s like to be subject to the bitterness of a decidedly untrustworthy human being.

Far more interesting for me than Azzarello’s team-up with Jim Lee (SUPERMAN FOR TOMORROW), there are some credibly vocalised motivations, an ingeniously manipulated climax designed to discredit Superman through his own benevolent nature, and a tense stand-off through a plate glass window as Luthor stands way above the streets in his skyscraper tower, and Superman, floating outside, stares back. Hard.

 

 

This was the second time Azzarello and Bermejo had worked together on one of DC’s top properties, the first being BATMAN/DEATHBLOW wherein Bermejo rendered a Gotham in almost permanent, smog-shrouded twilight, the third being JOKER which will have you wincing on the edge of your seat throughout

Here we join Lex Luthor as the sun sets over a futuristic Metropolis, sharpening its edifices’ corners and reflecting off the glass of the vast monuments to man’s imagination, aspiration and ingenuity. At the end of another long day Lex sits and chats with Stan the cleaner, as they gaze out across the skyline at the Metropolis Science Spire, the billionaire’s latest project whose grand opening is due shortly.

 

 

Bermejo’s expressions are quiet and subtle, Lex all delightful smiles, his brow only furrowing with concern when he learns that that Stan’s son, though bright, is cutting classes. It’s then that you see Luthor as a human being whereas Superman throughout the first chapter is depicted as volcanic, his eyes burning with the fire of a thousand foundries. Here’s the beautiful Mona:

“The Von Raunch Academy’s Benefit Ball is tonight. I’m going to present your very generous donation, and tell them that though you would have loved to be there, some matters came up and –”
“Hmm. That’s that exclusive school, isn’t it?”
“Well, if you mean by exclusive it hand-picks only twelve students for acceptance each year, then yes. It’s exclusive.”
“Right… an employee of ours has a son who I think merits inclusion in that twelve. Joey’s a bright boy. Tell the Head Master I’d consider it a personal favour.”
“I will, but next semester’s class has already been selected. One of those children would have to be -”
“A personal favour, and I would be very grateful. Have a good time, Mona. Give everyone my best.”

See, he’s not all bad.

That scene is played to perfection – just like the reader.

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bicycle Day (£20-00, Anthology Editions) by Brian Blomerth
The Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson
Bunny vs. Monkey Book Six (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart
Grass Kings vol 2 s/c (£13-50, Boom!) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins
H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness vol 2 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Gou Tanabe
Kill Or Be Killed Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
The Legend Of Korra: Ruins Of The Empire Part Two (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Michelle Wong
Life Is Strange vol 1: Waves s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Emma Vieceli & Claudia Leonardi
Little Bird Book One: The Fight For Elder’s Hope h/c (£26-99, Image) by Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram
Looshkin: The Big Number 2 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart
Lumberjanes: The Shape Of Friendship s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Lilah Sturges &  Polterink
Middlewest vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Skottie Young & Jorge Corona, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

The Midwinter Witch s/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag

Moomin by Lars Jansson: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition (£50-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson
Some Strange Disturbances s/c (£8-99, Northwest Press) by Craig Hurd-McKenny &  Gervasio, Carlos Aon
Spectrum 26 s/c (£35-99, Flesk) by various
Star Wars vol 12: Rebels And Rogues (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Phil Noto
Star Wars: Age Of Resistance – Villains s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk
Swimming In Darkness h/c (£21-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Lucas Harari
Dceased h/c (£24-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & various
The Death Of Superman: The Wake s/c (£14-99, DC) by Louise Simonson & various
Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett
Journey To Star Wars Rise: The Rise Of Skywalker – Allegiance s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Luke Ross
Silver Surfer: Epic Collection – When Calls Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 3 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki
My Hero Academia Smash!! vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Hirofumi Neda
One Piece vol 92 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda
Avatar: Tsu’Tey’s Path s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sherri Smith & Jan Duursema, Doug Wheatley
Beautiful Darkness s/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet
Heart Of Darkness h/c (£14-99, Norton) by Joseph Conrad & Peter Kuper
Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira
Rivers Of London vol 7: Action At A Distance (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Brian Williamson
Avengers vol 4: War Of The Realms s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ed McGuiness
Ms Marvel Team-up s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Eve L. Ewing, Clint McElroy & Joey Vazquez, Ig Guara
Thanos: Zero Sanctuary s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Tini Howard & Ariel Olivetti
X-Men: Epic Collection – Children Of The Atom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas & Jack Kirby, Werner Roth, Alex Toth
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 6 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 4: Tempest h/c (£24-99, Knockabout / Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’ Neill
Black Orchid s/c (£16-99, DC Black Label) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji vol 1 (£19-99, Den Pa) by Nobuyuki Fukumoto
Invader Zim vol 8 (£17-99, Oni) by various
My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
The Big Country s/c (£13-99, Humanoids Inc) by Quinton Peeples & Dennis Calero
The Seas (£5-99, Body Parts) by various
Daredevil vol 2: No Devils, Only God s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Lalit Kumar Sharma
Mythical Beast Investigator vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Keishi Ayasato & Koichiro Hoshino
A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Makoto Hagino
Attack on Titan vol 29 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

 

Page 45 Launches Young Creators’ Comics Inspired by Life & Works of D.H. Lawrence, Wednesday 27th November 2019, 6pm-7-30pm

November 16th, 2019

Come and join the students celebrating their publication internationally by SelfMadeHero on Page 45’s shop floor!

Entry is FREE!
Each boxed set of 6 comics created by the 24 students is FREE!

I’d probably pop along, and see what all the fuss is about.

 

 

From ‘Rebirth’ by Alexandra Surugiu with Honey Platts, Anna Walker

 

Sandeep Mahal, Director of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, will be introducing the students – mentored throughout by comicbook creators Rachael Ball, David Hine and Luke Healy – shortly after 6pm. After that they will happily sign their contributions to this collection and perhaps tell you a little about the ideas within their comics, and how they were made.

I’ve been particularly impressed by the way Freedom of Speech has been addressed: thoroughly.

Date: Wednesday 27th November  2019
Time: 6pm – 7-30pm
Place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY

 

 

From ‘The Rainbow’ by Tom Sampson

 

Here’s the official Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature blog:

East Wood Comics have arrived!

Pupils from Eastwood unveil their collaboration with comic artists: bringing DH Lawrence to life for a 21st Century audience.

Throughout 2019, Nottingham UNESCO City of literature have teamed up with Pop Up Projects to bring about East Wood Comics, where pupils have been mentored by acclaimed graphic novelists Rachael Ball, David Hine and Luke Healy, as well as international publisher SelfMadeHero, to produce a collection of innovative graphic novels. These are now published and will be officially launched at Page 45.

For the project, 24 talented young writers and artists from Hall Park Academy school in Eastwood have created graphic stories inspired by the life and works of world-renowned author DH Lawrence.

Throughout the project, students have been developing their research skills and knowledge of local history through working closely with the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum in Eastwood, the University of Nottingham’s D.H. Lawrence Collection (in Special Manuscripts and Collections) and D.H. Lawrence Research Centre, as well as students from the Nottingham Trent University MA in Illustration and writers from the University of Nottingham Creative Writing BA.

 

‘Epilogue’ by tutor Rachael Ball

 

The young writers’ research took in the social and cultural history of Eastwood, where Lawrence was born in 1885. Lawrence, a fascinating, complex and often controversial author, began life as the son of a barely literate miner in the former coal mining town, one of the few places where East Midlands English is widely spoken.

One of the 6 covers, by India Perkins

The Hall Park Academy students and artists mentors explored Lawrence’s life, work, and legacy with its social and literary importance, attending a tour of Nottingham and the areas Lawrence was inspired by as well as those inspired by his life.

As well as this, the students have curated an exhibition at the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum and created a public art installation in Eastwood.

The launch will take place at Page 45 on Wednesday 27th November, 6pm.

The project was made possible from funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

From ‘Erased’ by Grace Baron with Violet Beddoe & Alexandra Surugiu, Violet Beddoe, Honey Platts, Amy Pulford, Erin Shepherd

 

About Nottingham City of Literature

Nottingham was awarded the permanent UNESCO City of Literature designation in December 2015. The city’s mission is building a better world with words. We do this by promoting literacy and the best new writing talent, growing new audiences for reading, and developing Nottingham as a creative city of international exchange and collaboration. Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature is an educational charity and is supported and funded by Arts Council England, Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham and. Our patrons include Panya Banjoko, Henry Normal and Alison Moore. 

Eastwood Comics Online Resources

https://www.eastwoodadvertiser.co.uk/news/eastwood-project-to-bring-lawrence-to-life-in-comics-1-9268711

https://nottinghamcityofliterature.com/blog/eastwood-comics

https://pop-up.org.uk/project/eastwood-comics-bringing-d-h-lawrence-to-life/

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November week one

November 13th, 2019

Cats Of The Louvre h/c (£20-00, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto…

“My father brought me down here just about every day… this place was my playground.”
“The Louvre was your playground! Sounds fantastic.”
“I had a sister a few years older than me… she looked a bit like you…
“She was wonderful, bright, beautiful…
“Even as a child I knew she stood out.
“The whole family loved her… and so did I.”
““Did?””
“She’s gone now.”
“One day she just disappeared… here, in the Louvre.”
“It happened about 50 years ago…”

 

 

But what does that have to do with cats I hear you feline lovers cry?! Well, here’s the publisher to put down their tempting treat to tempt you to taste…

“A surreal tale of the secret world of the cats of the Louvre, told by Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto. The world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris contains more than just the most famous works of art in history. At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive-a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic.”

 

 

But what does that have to do with the decades old disappearance of young Arrieta, sister of the Louvre’s long-serving night shift shuffler Marcel, I hear you mystery lovers cry?!

 

 

Well… the two are not connected per se, to begin with at least, but the curious nocturnal…

 

 

… and occasionally brazen diurnal, wanderings of one particular tiny white kitty called Snowbébé gradually begins to occasion young Louvre guide Cécile to form a most outlandish theory indeed… that perhaps Arrieta might just be somewhere inside the Louvre still…

 

 

And no, she’s not transformed into a cat I hear you feline mystery lovers cry!

 

 

The truth is… even stranger than that…

With that said, when the cats are alone, you will frequently see them semi-transform into humans. Well, human-ish heads and occasionally limbs and frame. It’s entirely an artistic conceit, though, rather than an actual genuine reverse-Manimal-style transformation, usually employed when the cats are are conversing amongst themselves, musing about their Louvre attic and roof-bound lives, punctuated with the odd full moon flit to the park for a frolic.

 

 

So where is Arrieta then? Well, I’m not going to spoil that for you, just suffice to say it is precisely the sort of idiosyncratic idea you might expect from the madcap genius that brought us the deliriously unhinged TEKKON KINKREET, though, in truth this is much closer in tone to the ever-escalating oddness of GOGO MONSTER, artfully combined with the ensemble cast capers of SUNNY. For at times, the bickering, playful faux-family of cats really reminded me of the faux and real orphans in that rather moving work.

Art-wise, Matsumoto is on absolute top form. A rolling mixture of panels with relatively sparse detail, sometime substantial solid black areas and also sensuously detailed shading create an undulating, rippling of textures for the eyes. The contrast he portrays between the daily epic bustle and then nightly deathly quiet Louvre is magnificent.

 

 

There is also, in addition to the typical colour manga lead-in pages…

 

 

… a particularly impressive colour double page spread of which I shall say so no more for fear of spoilers. Though I will say it doesn’t include a cat…

And of course, Matsumoto manages to squeeze in his trademark runny-nosed kid with a candle of snot dangling away, during a school excursion to the museum! I swear there must be some running (nose pun intended ho ho!!) joke going on there.

JR

Buy Cats Of The Louvre h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Way Of The Househusband vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Viz) by Kousuke Oono

“What’ve you been doing all this time?!
“I’ve been searching high and low for you, boss!
“There was frickin’ chaos after you bailed on us.
“A couple of our guys got poached by other groups…
“… so the Shinzaki group disbanded…
“… and anyone left went their separate ways.
“Why’d you quit the Yakuza?!”
“Let’s take a little walk, shall we?”

“All right, attention, everyone. Today we’ll be making cheese croquettes.”

Haha, the Immortal Dragon, the fiercest, most violent Yakuza of them all is an extremely good cook.

 

 

It must be all those lessons he’s been taking alongside middle aged housewives. His very bemused former sidekick Masa, who ‘Boss’ Tatsu has brought along to the class to show him precisely what he gets up these days, is convinced he must be working some sort of angle.

He really isn’t. Though that’s not to say he isn’t still more than capable of dispensing lightning fast beatdowns as Masa finds out to his cost when he foolishly tries to slap his Boss to show his disgust.

This is quite simply one of the most fun manga I’ve read in a while. A collection of silly set pieces such as dealing with a dodgy door-to-door knife salesman looking to rip off unsuspecting pensioners…

 

 

… battling a rogue robotic vacuum cleaner…

 

 

… or just the agonies of buying his wife a very specific nerdy birthday present are all an opportunity for the Immortal Dragon to demonstrate his own peculiar new-found approach to dealing with life, the universe and moderately stressful situations such as unexpectedly babysitting a neighbour’s young son…

 

 

Even when caught up in the midst of an attempted hit on his life by a former enemy, he still finds time to dispense some hard-won words of domestic wisdom, reducing his nemesis to a crying mess after whipping his gun off him and giving him a warm pair of gloves to wear instead…

 

 

I frequently found myself chuckling at the sheer absurdity of it all, but therein lies its charm, albeit its only one. It strongly reminded me, strangely enough perhaps, of YOTSUBA, in that the main character is relatively one-dimensional, whereas it’s the amused / appalled reactions of everyone else to them and their bizarre behaviour that provides the laughs.

 

 

I have no idea whether this series has any longevity, whether there will be any ongoing story development, or it will just remain a set of comedic sketches.

 

 

I mean, I’m still avidly reading YOTSUBA after some fourteen volumes, so I guess it really doesn’t matter if so. There’s some potential there, mind, particularly with the character of Masa, who begins to believe he can see the ‘wisdom’ in the way of the househusband and decides he needs to make himself Tatsu’s ‘disciple’…

JR

Buy The Way Of The Househusband vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 Review here

The Mask Of Fudo Book 1 h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Saverio Tenuta…

Saverio LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES / IZUNA BOOK 1 / IZUNA BOOK 2 Tenuta returns to his violent world with another finely chopped blend of sword swinging and scary spirit action in this rabid revenge story of a low caste child determined to find his kidnapped sister no matter what the cost.

Young Shinnosuke has a desperately hard life, regarded as little more than scum for his lowly Hinin clan status, struggling to make ends meet working any jobs available and looking out for his younger sister, Mikiko, protecting her from not only their somewhat deranged and seemingly terminally ill witch of a mother but also the unwanted predatory attention of higher caste males. He dreams of being a noble samurai, something seemingly far, far beyond his current dishonourable birth status.

Shinnosuke finds a strange mask with a demon face in a nearby abandoned village, scene of a recent ravaging conflict, which he initially dons purely to disguise his identity in rescuing his sister from the recently arrived arrogant and entitled samurai Mokai, the spoilt son of the equally loathsome new doctor sent by the shogun to take charge of the area as his own fiefdom.

After defeating Mokai surprisingly easily, indeed dealing him a rather horrific disfigurement by relieving him of his nose, Shinnosuke begins to suspect that the mask may hold some hidden power. Unfortunately for Shinnosuke and his sister Mikiko, Mokai is not the sort of person to take the loss of his nasal niceties with good grace…

Over time, as the despairing and ever more vengeful Shinnosuke searches relentlessly for any trace of his vanished sister, he begins to transform into the infamous samurai Nobu Fudo, whose mask and dark demeanour leads many to believe that his inner demons might be somewhat more than of just the psychological kind…

 

 

Though, certainly in this book at least, the more magical, fantastical elements are kept to an absolute minimum. I suspect there is much, much more of that to come mind…

Tenuta is like Paul BATTLING BOY Pope and Sergio COLLECTED TOPPI Toppi for me, in that, perhaps not surprisingly given how long it is between his publications, I always forget what a brilliant writer he is in addition to such a spectacular artist. His epic sword (and well… pretty much every type of Japanese mediaeval weaponry you could imagine) battles are as clinically cut as they are bloodily brutal. The action depicted feels perfectly plausible in both dynamics and direction. The facial expressions of his characters are always so expressive, one can practically feel the ever-present shimmering tension trapped in Shinnosuke waiting to explode out in violence. Plus he does a pretty mean landscape too.

 

 

Whilst this story is part of the wider LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES world, you can charge straight banzai screaming in here as this is very much its own story, as was the case with IZUNA BOOK 1. A must for fans of the likes of VAGABOND and BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL.

JR

Buy The Mask Of Fudo Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Also Arrived

Rather a lot of ‘em since we last published reviews!

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

Commute h/c (£18-99, Abrams) by Erin Williams

Cursed h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Thomas Wheeler & Frank Miller

The End Of The World h/c (£27-50, Random House) by Don Hertzfeldt

The Hard Tomorrow h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Eleanor Davis

Power Rangers Psycho Path OGN s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Paul Allor & Giuseppe Cafaro

Steven Universe: The Tale Of Seven h/c (£10-99, Abrams) by Rebecca Sugar & Elle Michalka, Angie Wang

The Tower In The Sea (£8-99, Avery Hill) by B. Mure

A Walk Through Hell vol 2: The Cathedral s/c (£17-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Goran Sudzuka

Maria M h/c Complete Ed (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Neon Future vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Impact Theory) by Jim Krueger, Tom Bilyeu, Steve Aoki, Matt Colon, Dana Brawer, Samantha Levenshus & Neil Edwards, Jheremy Raapack

Sandman Overture (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c  (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

DC Super Hero Girls vol 9:  At Metropolis High s/c (£8-99, DC) by Amy Wolfram & Yancey Labat

Superman: The Unity Saga vol 1: Phantom Earth s/c (£15-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis

The War Of The Realms s/c (UK Edition) (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 5 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Elfen Lied Omnibus vol 2 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Lynn Okamoto

Goblin Slayer vol 6 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke

 

Aliens Vs. Predator: The Essential Comics vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by various

Are You Listening? (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Tillie Walden

Billionaires (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Clockwork Watch: Sins Of My Father Part 1 (£10-99, Clockwork Watch Films) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jennie Gyllblad

Coda vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Simon Spurrier & Matias Bergara

Critical Role vol 1: Vox Machina Origins s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville & Olivia Samson

Deadlier Than… (£14-99, Doodle Doodle) by Corey Brotherson & Jennie Gyllblad, Olivia Samson, others

Estranged vol 2: The Changeling King s/c (£11-99, Harper) by Ethan M. Aldridge

Gideon Falls vol 3: Stations Of The Cross s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Life (Black Cover) h/c (£20-00, LICAF) by Charlie Adlard

Life (White Cover) h/c (£20-00, LICAF) by Charlie Adlard

Mighty Jack And Zita The Spacegirl s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke

Minecraft: Stories From The Overworld h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Hope Larson, Ryan North, Stephen McCranie, Meredith Gran, others

Reincarnation Stories h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Kim Deitch

A Sparrow’s Roar s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by C.R. Chua, Paolo Chikiamco

Stargazing s/c (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Jen Wang

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£12-50, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker

The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c (£25-00, Fanfare / Pontent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

Theatre Of Terror: Revenge Of The Queers s/c (£26-99, Northwest Press) by various

Things To Do Instead Of Killing Yourself s/c (£13-99, Floating World Comics) by Jon-Michael Frank & Tara Booth

Ms. Marvel vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Saladin Ahmed & Minkyu Jung

Spider-Man: City At War s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hallum & various

Star Wars: Tie Fighter s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jody Houser & Roge Antonio, various

Knights Of Sidonia vol 3 (Master Edition) (£31-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Inside Mari vol 5 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Breaks vol 2 (Special Edition) h/c (£19-99, ) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli

 

Ascender vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

Castle In The Stars vol 2: The Knights Of Mars h/c (£15-99, First Second) by Alex Alice

Cosmoknights vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Hannah Templer

Frogcatcher h/c (£14-99, Simon & Shuster) by Jeff Lemire

Invisible Kingdom vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by G. Willow Wilson & Christian Ward

Jim Henson Power Of Dark Crystal vol 2 s/c (£12.-99, Other A-Z) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Space Boy vol 5 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by  Stephen McCranie

The Secret Time Machine And The Gherkin Switcheroo h/c (£9.-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia

Time For Lights Out h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Raymond Briggs

Pug Davis s/c (£15-99, Albatross) by Rebecca Sugar

American Carnage s/c (£16-99, DC) by Bryan Hill & Leandro Fernandez

Amazing Spider-Man By Nick Spencer vol 5 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer with Zeb Wells, Keaton Patti & Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos, Pat Gleason, Kev Walker, Todd Nauck, Dan Hipp

Spider-Man Life Story s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Mark Bagley

Levius h/c vol 3in1 Complete Ed s/c (£25-00, VIZ MEDIA LLC) by Haruhisa Nakata

Melting Lover s/c (£13-99, Denpa Books) by Bukuro Yamada

No Guns Life vol 1 s/c (£8-99, VIZ MEDIA LLC) by Tasuku Karasuma

Knights Of Sidonia vol 2 (Master Edition) s/c (£29-99, Vertical Comics) by Tsutomu Nihei

I Am A Hero Omnibus s/c vol 11 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

The Way Of The Househusband vol 1 s/c (£8-99, VIZ MEDIA LLC) by Kousuke Oono

 

The Arab Of The Future vol 4: 1987-1992 (£26-99, Metropolitan Books) by Riad Sattouf

Best American Comics 2019 h/c (£18-99, HMH) by various, edited by Jillian Tamaki

Black Science vol 9: No Authority But Yourself s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Charlie Mackesy

Cerebus vol 4: Church & State II (Remastered Edition) (£37-99, Aardvark Vanaheim Inc) by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Dark Judges Book 2: Fall of Deadworld h/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Kew-W & Dave Kendall

Kangkangee Blues (£5-00, LICAF) by Mark Stafford

Punk Mambo s/c (£13-99, Valiant) by Cullen Bunn, Peter Milligan & Adam Gorham, Robert Gill

Watch Dogs s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Simon Kansara & Horne

The Wild Storm vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt

Symbiote Spider-Man s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Peter David & Greg Land

Thor vol 3: War’s End s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Mike Del Mundo, Scott Hepburn

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 11 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

The Drifting Classroom vol 1 Perfection Edition h/c (£28-00, Viz) by Kazuo Umezz

Dr. Stone vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dr. Stone vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Haikyu!! vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Haruichi Furudate

 

Walking Distance h/c (£10-99, Avery Hill) by Lizzy Stewart

Making Comics (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

Hard Core Pawn #2 (£4-00, Heavy Manners) by Steve Lowes

Heartstopper vol 1 (£10-99, Hodder) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper vol 2 (£10-99, Hodder) by Alice Oseman

The Starr Conspiracy h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Juan Gimenez

November vol 1: The Girl On The Roof h/c (£14-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Elsa Charretier

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #5 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Our Super American Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oni) by Sarah Graley, Stef Purenins

Our Super Canadian Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oni) by Sarah Graley, Stef Purenins

Operation Overlord (£19-99, Rebellion) by Michael Le Galli, Bruno Falba & David Fabbri, Christian Dalla Vecchia

These Savage Shores s/c (£14-99, Vault) by V. Ram & Sumit Kumar

Luthor s/c (£12-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Superman Action Comics vol 1: Invisible Mafia s/c (£15-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Wade Von Grawbadger

Superman Year One h/c (£24-99, DC) by Frank Miller & John Romita Jr.

Deadpool Complete Collection (Joe Kelly) vol 1 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Joe Kelly & Ed McGuinness

My Hero Academia vol 21 (£6-99, Viz) by Kouhei Horikoshi

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 13 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

 

The Boys Omnibus vol 5 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, John McCrea, Darick Robertson

Firefly: The Sting (Original Graphic Novel) h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Deliah S. Dawson & various

The House h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca

Our Encounters With Evil h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

Palimpsest – Documents From A Korean Adoption (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjoblom

Taarna vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Heavy Metal) by Alex De Campi & Esau Escorza, Isaac Escorza

Justice League vol 4: The Sixth Dimension s/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jorge Jimenez

Savage Avengers vol 1: City Of Sickles s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Mike Deodato Jr.

Star Wars: Age Of Resistance – Heroes s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by various

Fruits Basket Another vol 3 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October week one

October 2nd, 2019

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

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

“I miss my children.”

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Here’s Chris Ware:

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

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

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

That is how you’re doing it, Chris!

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

And burst it all surely does…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Prologue: it is winter.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

Suffer the children, eh?

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

I wasn’t expecting what happens next.

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

JR

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

DK

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

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

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

The Boys vol 7: The Innocents

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

The Boys vol 8: Highland Laddie

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2019 week four

September 25th, 2019

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

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

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

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

Here is what the publisher has to say about him…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

JP

Buy Grimoire Noir and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

“How?”

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

Now… I wonder what they could possibly want…?

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

All aboard!

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

Good.

JR

Buy Stunt and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

Year Of The Bastard

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

Very helpful, Spider. Thank you.

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

New Scum

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

“Family Above All.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September week 2

September 11th, 2019

Before we begin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m talking about comics, obviously.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

It’s an absolute choker, I promise you.

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 9th, 2019

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

 

 

Remember, folks, entry is FREE!

 

 

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

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

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

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

Guests Signing & Sketching For Free In Our Room

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Guests In Our Room At The Broken Frontier Tables

Anja Uhren: Saturday

 

 

Kate-mia White: Saturday & Sunday

 

 

EdieOP: Saturday & Sunday

 

 

Lakes Festival Merchandise on sale in our Georgian Room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Lakes Festival Info

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

LICAF Twitter: @comicartfest
Page 45 Twitter: @pagefortyfive

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2019 week one

September 4th, 2019

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

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

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

“But I can pee in a bottle!”

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

“We will keep fighting until the end.”

Buy Grass and read the Page 45 review here

JP

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

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

“I know you’re a liar.”

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Buy Ophiuchus and read the Page 45 review here

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

But who will be left standing at the end?”

Errr… well, I know who I would guess!

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Ooops, wrong alien!

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

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

JR

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

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

Fantastic Four vol 3 by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh dear.

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

 

 

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

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

The problem they’ve solved is Ben Grimm.

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

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

SLH

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Includes the script to silent issue #588.

SLH

 

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

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

So many secrets. So much left half-said!

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Now it’s your turn.

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

SLH

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 3

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week four

August 28th, 2019

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

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

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

It’s a bond that should never be broken.

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

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

 

 

Well!!!

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

And he’s as peckish as ever.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

He only wants to buy Kevin for Gloomsbury Grange!

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

“I can’t go without my friends.”

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

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

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

 

 

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

Maybe they get in another way?

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Why, Philip, why?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Or a pony, to be fair.

 

 

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

You might want to find him some biscuits.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

And it’s a little bit about belonging too.

 

 

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

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

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

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

The teary, heart-break stuff, I mean.

 

 

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

Here’s how we begin:

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

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

I’m a little creeped out by that already.

 

 

“There was nothing out there.”

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Once more, limbo and inertia.

 

 

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

Past and present, his expression barely changes.

SLH

Buy Flat Filters and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

… the moon landing, climate change, evolution…

 

 

… chiropractic…

 

 

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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