Page 45 Temporarily Switches To Mail Order Only. We Ship Worldwide!

March 23rd, 2020

Page 45 is still open for business but now switched temporarily to mail order only, with all our gorgeous graphic novels, comics and children’s picture books available to buy online at www.page45.com for Worldwide Shipping!

That’s quite a front page!

 

 

 

If a graphic novel or picture book doesn’t say “Out of Stock” then it’s in stock!

You can explore by category and sub-category here or pop creator names, titles or bits of titles into our search engine. You could explore Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month Club and our Always Recommended section, clicking on any cover in the grid for reviews.

 

 

You could even trawl through ten full years of the illustrated Page 45 Reviews Blog, but if you’re still genuinely stuck then we can offer personal recommendations tailored to your taste when you fill in Page 45’s Want A Recommendation form (but please only do this if you’re honestly interested in buying: it takes us quite a long time to answer each of you thoroughly – thanks!).

 

 

We will reopen our physical doors on 9 Market Street, Nottingham, NG1 6HY, UK, the very second that it’s safe for you and for ourselves.

In the meantime we’ll be take delivery of new stock and restocks and dispatch as much mail order as possible.

 

 

If you’re used to picking your regularly reserved Page 45 Standing Order comics up in person, please contact us by email page45@page45.com if you want to arrange for us to ship your comics straight to your burrow, where you can read and then make a nice nest out of them.

 

 

Perhaps you’d like to create a Page 45 Standing Order of comics you want reserved as they come out, either for collection later on or dispatched weekly, monthly or every other month? That would certainly help us gauge demand, and browsing Page 45 Previews will help you keep up to date with what’s coming out soon. It looks as if new comics have been delayed for a month or so, but they are only delayed, not cancelled!

 

 

Folks, we thank you enormously for your support both now, into the future, and over the last twenty-five and a half years.

There will almost certainly be further announcements before we’re through with this awful pandemic, and we’ll bring you up to speed each time as soon as possible. I’m certainly not quitting Twitter in a hurry (however much that might come as a blessed relief to you all!), so you can find me @PageFortyFive. We also have Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Please look after yourselves, and please look after each other.

We’re already cooking up ideas for the website, and for the shop floor where we will see you once this has passed.

Huge Hugs,

Stephen

Page 45 is a comic shop. We are:

Stephen L. Holland
Jonathan Rigby
with Jodie Paterson

 

 

 

 

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews 12th March 2020

March 12th, 2020

Featuring Steven Appleby, James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, Paul Pope, Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, Sean Phillips…

Dragman h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steven Appleby.

“Did I mention I can fly? Oh. Sorry. That’s rather important.
“When I put on women’s clothes I can fly.”

Fabulous!

Only Steven Appleby could or would lob in such a profound statement of elevating empowerment and celebration disguised as a superhero sub-plot.

He can do this, hilariously, because DRAGMAN is no more a macho superhero mag than Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE or King and Gerads’ MISTER MIRACLE. Indeed few who’ve read even those left-field comedic triumphs – let alone the more corporate claptrap – are going to be looking in Steven’s infinitely more demure direction.

I far more and fully expect fans of CASSANDRA DARKE’s Posy Simmonds and WHEN THE WIND BLOWS’ Raymond Briggs to be sallying forth instead, because that’s the strength of the book’s aesthetic and the breadth of its appeal. It is a very British book, in part about how we treat each other, ourselves and our souls, and the way the corporations ain’t half taking over. Also, the very idea of British superheroes is ever so silly, and there will be plenty within to make you grin. Like this wonderfully well placed “Welcome” mat!

 

 

Drawn in what Posy Simmonds refers to as his “nimble, nubbly line”, then washed over by Nicola Sherring’s warmest watercolours, Steven Appleby’s infectiously affectionate art leaves one feeling as safe as if in the hands of an English village’s road-straddling lollipop lady.

Freed from the confines and constrictions of panel borders, the gentle, fluid forms and wibbly-wobbly gesticulations don’t so much control your reading as liberate it from harm. Even something as far-out as flying full-pelt from the cloud-covered city of London to race trains past the patchwork, hedge-seamed farmland of bucolic Britain is rendered as regular as popping down to the corner shop.

 

 

 

The truth of this contention becomes clearer when you’re left to experience the graphic novel without the graphics: those dozen or so pages interspersed within the full three hundred others which are pure prose, bleak and bereft, unadorned – and emphatically unmitigated – by Steven’s dainty doodlings.

For when the pictures disappear, so does any trace of the fanciful, as we slip into a subplot which will shimmer queasily below the surface, in and out, on and off, until its relevance becomes all too terribly clear.

“The tide is in and the police tape droops down into the water, rising and falling as a fresh breeze sweeps in off the sea, rocking the boats on their moorings. Waves slap-slop up and down the grooves in the concrete slipway while far out in the estuary birds bob on the surface in dotted flocks.”

Arresting, no? At one point the prose and sequential art criss-cross oh so tantalisingly close – no further apart that the width of a crowded club – but the fleeting opportunity goes unnoticed for what it unexpectedly is.

“All in all, no one at Pretty Pretty can work out if they knew any of the victims or not, because all the trans-girls and most of the guys in the room, including himself, use scene names, meaning their secret lives and their real lives, or whichever way round you want to think of it, don’t connect up.”

It’s also more difficult for the police to connect the smudged trail of bloody dots, and so very much easier, therefore, to get away with murder.

“The man leans deeper into the shadows and watches until the meeting breaks up, the lights are dimmed, the music comes back on and the crowd return to their hedonistic pleasures. At which point the new arrivals disappear into the office with Filly and the man suggests to Cindy that she take him back to her place, to which she greedily agrees, so they collect their coats and slip out into the real world, where the real murders take place.
“And no one notices them go.”

Brrrrr… I told you that you’d miss the art.

It’s time for a superhero secret origin!

 

 

Many moons ago a teenage Augustus Crimp – and indeed his creator, Steven Appleby – discovered a stocking down the back of a sofa and put it on, instinctively, without thinking. Immediately they felt that they were floating on air, but in Augustus’s case the effect was far from just figurative for yes, my dears, he found he could fly!

And he promptly cracked the back of his bonce upon the plaster ceiling.

Neither looked back as they further explored the natural fit of wearing more women’s clothing, but they did look over their shoulders because, you know, society… And some mothers…

 

 

 

You’ll learn more about Steven’s trajectory in the Afterword, but for August the second pivotal point came while enjoying a quiet cup of tea, several floors up in the local art gallery, only to spy young Cherry Mingle, who lived opposite Augustus and his Mum, playing on the cafe balcony outside. Just as August is fretting as the prospect of being recognised by Cherry in a wig and women’s clothing… over the railing goes Cherry!

And in leaping immediately, selflessly after her, that’s how Augustus became the reluctant superhero called Dragman. Briefly.

“Mr Crimp?”
“Sssh. Don’t tell.”

Things… didn’t work out. It was a territorial thing. Some people are dicks.

Since then Augustus has retired, met a lady, got married and had a baby boy. (Did I mention that Augustus likes ladies? Oh. Sorry. That’s hardly important, but Augustus likes ladies.) And I’m so sorry to fast-forward so swiftly, but his missus must never, ever learn that Augustus was once Dragman because oh you’ll see, and now Cherry needs Dragman’s help yet again!

People are selling their souls.

 

 

It’s not some covert Faustian Pact for the few, it’s the very latest equity-freeing opportunity for the many, and the masses are selling their souls to huge corporations for cash. It’s all over the TV…

“You know how we all sometimes get the feeling that the world is an illusion and nothing is real? Well, if you sell your soul you’ll find that alarming feeling GOES AWAY… Pop into a Black Mist store today…”

There’s tidy.

“Souls are valuable. You can get a great deal of money for your soul…” observes Augustus. “Better to have a new car than something ancient and invisible. Only, when your soul was gone… nothing made much sense any more. Except jumping out of a plane.”

They’re doing that too: buying a plane ticket and jumping…

And Cherry’s parents have sold their souls.

Everything I’ve told you about ties together; every single element, I swear – apart from the lollipop lady.

It’s so deftly done, each episode so diverting that you won’t spot it all creeping up on you, and the central concern really couldn’t be more topical, because every day we make decisions about money, and who we’re prepared to give it to in the full knowledge of what they are likely to do with it and how that in turn will affect what happens to us within our wider society.

“It’s so much easier to run a business without scruples.
“Principals are painful.
“Without a soul the pain simply fades away.”

 

 

I leave you with the exquisite endpapers – August Crimp’s ‘Finding Myself’ Journey of the Unknown, Unimagined, Not Yet Invented or Unexplored – because I’ve just reminded myself that this is an astutely insightful comedy, as all the interior art here will attest, full of the feel-good and the funny.

And, of course, the nimblest and most nubbly of lines.

SLH

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

Something Is Killing The Children vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by James Tynion IV & Werther Dell’Edera…

“You getting off here, hon?”
“Hm?”
“Archer’s Peak. You getting off?”
“Yeah.”
“Terrible about those children.”
“Yeah.”
“I wish somebody would do something about it…”
“Yeah.”

Fortunately for the terrified residents of Archer’s Peak, who have suffered the horrifying tragedy of nine dead children in just two weeks with more going missing every day, the puzzled police trying to pass it off to people as the attacks of a rabid bear, someone is about to do something about it…

Meanwhile, here’s the publisher to perturb you even further…

“When the children of Archer’s Peak begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. The few children that return alive have terrible stories – impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.”

Indeed. Which actually makes this sound a tad one-dimensional when in fact it’s anything but with the character of young James – who’s about to insist with near-suicidal determination on becoming Erica’s sidekick – very firmly and brilliantly established in three distinct scenes in ten of the opening fourteen pages.

Our scary story opens very late at night with three pages of James and his friends Noah, Karl and Robbie on a sleepover playing truth or dare and James spinning them all a spooky yarn about a nearby ravine. Which promptly induces them to go out for a midnight meander to check out his story.

We then immediately cut to two pages of a totally distraught James at the police station recounting to the sympathetic officer just how he became separated from his mates and then heard them screaming their heads off. Well, screaming whilst they had their heads bitten off probably…

Returning to school (after a wonderfully surreal four page interlude to introduce us to Erica) James immediately finds himself vilified by the local bully and promptly ends up in the very understanding principal’s office who simply expresses to James his wish that James had punched the bully in the face. If only all headmasters were like that! Meanwhile all the locals are utterly baffled, horrified and struggling to make any sense of it all. If only someone were arriving on the next bus to Archer’s Peak to do something about it… Ah wait!

What follows is most definitely full of delightful terror but also beautifully bizarre black humour, including Erica irritably conversing about the monsters with her cuddy toy octopus, in what must surely be a nod to the possibly alien hand puppet in THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE. James seems to think it’s just one of Erica’s strange foibles, because let’s face it, if you’re a professional monster hunter you’re bound to have the odd screw loose. But when the octopus starts talking to him, well, perhaps that’s a sign that his sidekick related problems are about to start rapidly escalating…

Excellent lean, pointed artwork, in fact slightly mean-looking art at times in an entirely appropriate way from Werther Dell’Edera, who looks like he has sharpened his line and tidied up slightly since taking over on the second volume of Brian Wood’s brilliant BRIGGS LAND. He was really great there anyway but this has definitely taken it up a notch. Some highly varied textural shading work and colouring from Miquel Muerto too, combining the subtle and the striking to superb effect, which all serves to give this book a very distinct feel of its own indeed.

I’m intrigued to see what happens in volume two as I can’t see this being a book that runs and runs given how quickly events seem to be unfolding… I mean, they’re going to run out of kids shortly if they’re not careful for starters!

Which they probably are for the monsters, just a starter that is…

JR

Buy Something Is Killing The Children vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

100% s/c (£22-99 Image) by Paul Pope –

A book Page 45 loves so much we’ve reviewed it twice already and its back once again so let’s have both!

First up here’s Mark’s original review…

“Anyway, it’s just a business arrangement. It’s just money. There’ll be time for my serious work later.”
“Eloy, the last thing in the world that you should do is what they’re asking! Sure, they’ll let you into their rotten little club! All you gotta do is let ’em change you so much, you won’t be you anymore. Then who gets the acclaim — and who’ll deserve it?”

Eloy’s ready to… well maybe not ‘sell-out’ but change his vision for a little piece of the funding pie. The installation that he’s been working on for so long will get the money if he changes one aspect. But then it won’t be his, it’ll be theirs. In his head, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive.

Kim felt the same way a few days ago. A girl she knew from the Catshack turned up dead. Assaulted and left in an alley, naked apart from her gold trainers.

 

 

She & Kim have (had) the same shoe size. She’d tried those sparkling trainers on weeks back. Suddenly the city seems too real, too predatory so she acquired a gun just to be safe. Hopefully she’ll never need to use it but she feels safer with it in her pocket. The comfort of cold metal that fits in her palm. Strel went with her to buy it but she thinks that it’s a bad move. Violence isn’t her thing and she’s seen enough of the underworld working as the dance manager of the Catshack. It’s not where she wants to be though. She’s got this dream of a coffee grinding company but she needs a regular wage to look after her kid now that his father’s touring the world. She doesn’t approve of Haitous boxing, doesn’t like the violence and doesn’t want Ben growing up with that influence. 

 

 

The book starts off with the death of the gold trainer girl before opening up for the story of three couples. We’ve got the beginnings of a relationship (Eloy & Kim), a couple estranged (Strel & Haitous) so we need one more, something with a little fire. Enter Daisy. Arriving at the Catshack, first day as a dancer, ready to get on stage and show her all. She starts a passionate affair with one of the dishwashers, a mild diversion for her but an obsession for him. John’s tired of his job, ready to move on or ready to share his life with someone else. A better choice could have been made.

 

 

This project started out as a series of shorts with a shared location. The city, and the Catshack, are big enough to be intimate with each of the threads we’re presented with. It’s set in the near future, just enough technological advances to make it different but enough similarities to keep it recognisable. The dancers are wired to show their insides floating above them. After stripping and gynaecological porn this is the next vicarious thrill ahead, seeing what’s inside a girl when she dances. The boxers use it too. The city, possibly the same one we’ve seen in Pope’s previous HEAVY LIQUID, is cluttered and multi-cultural, akin to the San Angeles of BLADE RUNNER but lighter and more alive.

On John & Daisy’s first date, he tells her the story of Tristram & Iseult (or Isolde), a tale of romantic love. She immediately bats it back by telling a soured story of love, addiction and abuse using the same names. We’re allowed to see her outward disgust with romance even as she’s feeling herself falling for John. John either ignores this and her use of sex to avoid difficult questions or is oblivious to it, captivated by her charm. It’s doomed. We know it, Daisy knows it. Rather than keep this as the main story, Pope balances it out with the other two relationships to avoid it becoming too dark. And it’s not just a romance book, there are themes of love, money, escape and trust running through the whole thing.

“Words. It’s full of little black words.
I can almost read ’em when I do this…
I could break the lock…
…pry it open…
Bet it wouldn’t even be hard.
I could read her diary…
…I could…
…if I really wanted to…”

MS

Now here’s Jonathan’s review when the book was reprinted the first time…

”Wake up and it just hits you. Someday, you’re gonna die… Such a terrible thing, and for what? Why life? Why this life? What’s it all mean? Deep down, you fear nothing. But you still hope something. Either way, you’re not really sure. That’s my crisis. I don’t wanna die. But if I gotta die, first I’m gonna live. I’m gonna peel life like fruit, and use it up. I’m gonna light up an’ burn. I’ll burn and burn until I’m snuffed out. Then I’ll just fade away. But until then, I’m gonna live! ‘Im ready. I’m gonna do it! Come what may, one hundred percent…”

 

 

And so we meet John the busboy humping crates of beer and washing dishes in the Gastro Bar, where he meets Daisy the new dancer who’s comfortable with up to fourteen centimetres gastro-penetration, no problem. Gastro being the latest burlesque craze for seeing right inside the human body to the internal organs of a near-naked dancer because mere flesh isn’t enough anymore.

 

 

Daisy has been hired by Strel the manager of The Catshack, who with a young child and an absent partner is getting by but who dreams of getting out of Gastro and running her own coffee-roasting company. Strel is more immediately concerned, however, with ensuring Kim, her waitress and best friend, doesn’t get ripped off whilst buying herself a gun for protection; a gun Kim thinks she needs because of the girl with the weave-in white braids and gold trainers who somehow ended up dead in the trash cans behind the club last night. And also for setting Kim up with Eloy her cousin, or Kettlehead as he’s known for his obsession with creating a truly insane avant-garde piece of art with one hundred boiling kettles all tuned to whistle at the same note over multiple octaves, an impossible orchestra creating a one-note symphony.

 

 

However, Eloy can’t get the money to complete his masterpiece without compromising his artistic beliefs… except there’s Haitous, the Frankenstein-faced second-ring fight master returned from a year on tour fighting in Eurasia who might be able to help. Haitous has got a scheme to make some money out of his last fight with the much younger and brutal up and coming Wallman.

 

 

This is the Haitous who happens to be the father of Strel’s little boy and who would very much like to be part of their lives again, except Strel won’t even acknowledge his comm-threads to her, let alone speak to him.

 

 

Thus the lives of our six central characters intertwine and twirl around a Chinatown in New York City with hot happening venues like the Klube which has “generated a fair share of crooning from uptown Sikhs to downtown freaks” and seedy bars with private four-dee booths allowing you sample your drinks sat on a solar panel of a satellite orbiting the earth, or in the midst of an ostrich stampede in the desert depending on what sort of ambience you’d like to create, or yarn you’d like to spin your companion.

For me 100% is Paul Pope’s finest hour to date, exceeding even the mysterious HEAVY LIQUID, the pathos-filled ESCAPO, the genuinely spooky BATMAN: YEAR HUNDRED and the haunting and sadly long-out-of-print BALLAD OF DOCTOR RICHARDSON, all of which are superb comics in their own right. I can’t actually bring myself to talk too much about THB, something he has described as his Dune (presumably for how long it’s taking), because it still rankles me mightily to this day that he seems unwilling to finish it. What’s your problem Pope?!!!(* & **)

100% is a truly engrossing tale of desire, romance, passion and heartbreak, set amongst a city that never pauses to take a breath never mind sleeps. Where Pope pulls his master-trick is to leave some blanks for us to fill in along the way, apparently cutting small portions of scenes where we’re left to ponder the meaning of what we’ve just seen, to surmise exactly what might be happening, and not until the very end is everything made clear. Even then we are left with possibilities, not certainties, nothing is quite 100%. The story never ends and their destinies are left in the characters’ own hands to shape as they will.

I haven’t even mentioned the art yet which is just masterful, masterful work with not a line out of place and not a square millimetre of space wasted which just further adds to the non-stop whirring insanity of Pope’s future New York City. Think Blade Runner squared and you’re not even halfway there. 100% is such a beautifully drawn book it’s very difficult to say which parts are my favourite, but some stand-out sequences are the dialogue-free negotiation for Kim’s gun conducted in the middle of the Klube filled with pounding Indian music…

 

 

… or the first date between John and Daisy in the four-dee booth where we start to realise Daisy might just have a few issues, Daisy dancing Gastro in her flaming firecoat and blonde wig in the transparent dance cube, Eloy’s passionate demonstration of his artwork to Kim in an abandoned grain silo, and John’s closing scene (again split masterfully into two short staccato sequences by Pope) which just so perfectly brings 100% to a conclusion of sorts.

JR

* [THB is due out from First Second as a complete work sometime in the unspecified future – Ed] **

** [Wrote Stephen in April 2009 hahahahahaha!]

Buy 100% and read the Page 45 reviews here

Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c (£11-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, Sean Phillips

Quick tip of the hat to June Chung on her charnel-house colouring, with its green/blue-greys and splatters of cardinal red, which unites the surprisingly well matched art of Jae Lee on the first half and Sean Phillips on the second. Monumentally gothic in every aspect, Jae’s jagged art fills each page with far more substantial forms than many; similarly, when I have ever referred to Sean’s characters other than in half-light / shadow? I don’t suppose for five seconds the 50/50 split in art chores has anything to do with the duality that lies at the heart of this nasty little number, but hey, it provides a neat link to Two-Face and his own personality split visibly down the middle.

His respectable half is Harvey Dent, besuited ex-lawyer trying desperately to control his acid-scarred, vitriolic other half who spits out green-lettered bile at anyone stupid enough to try reasoning with him. But what if Two-Face doesn’t want to be controlled? What if he’d rather be freed from inhibition and let loose all that his sick heart desires? What if he’d perfected an hallucinogenic drug to do just that? Well, he’d probably want to field-test it on someone else first: someone with own history of demons in check, who secretly wants to be unshackled himself. Some things can never be unlearned, and Bruce Wayne is about to discover more about himself than he’d ever want to.

 

 

Despite the direction you think this may be going in (“Oh no, not another mad dash to close down Gotham’s water supply!”) which is a deliberate misdirection, you can add this to the list of dozen superior Bat-books with more meat than gristle. Just like Ennis’s take on The Punisher (PUNISHER MAX and MARVEL KNIGHTS PUNISHER), Jenkins suggests that a simple accident with acid couldn’t have been enough to induce this degree of trauma. Indeed Harvey’s memories of life with his brother Murray would indicate that he’d an early fixation on relinquishing control – and responsibility – to fate in the form of a toss of a coin. Chocolate or vanilla? Life or death? It’s all the same thing, surely?

But what was the trauma?

 

 

Paul gives Two-Face some lines so monstrously direct that they’re funny, whilst Alfred’s on form with his weary, wry asides. Also, Commissioner Gordon gave me a chortle in the aftermath of one of several psychotic episodes here resulting in mass murder and cannibalism.

Crime Scene Officer: “This is what we found once we got inside. Most of the victims were battered with the blunt end of an axe. What’s left of the husband is downstairs. The perp’s over there on the sofa. She decapitated herself with a fork.”

Commissioner Gordon: “Mmm. Might make her reluctant to testify.”

For more Jae Lee, please FANTASTIC FOUR 1,2,3,4 and INHUMANS; for more Sean Phillips, please see noir masterpieces KILL OR BE KILLED, FATALE, CRIMINAL, THE FADE OUT and, if you insist upon capes with your crime, SLEEPER.

SLH

Buy Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c and read the Page 45 reviews 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’.

Becoming Horses s/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Disa Wallander

Embarrassment Of Witches s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan

Goblin Girl h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Moa Romanova

The Deep & Dark Blue s/c (£9-99, Little Brown) by Niki Smith

Thoreau And Me (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Cedric Taling

The Web Of Black Widow s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jody Houser & Stephen Mooney

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Seven (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Familiar Face h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael Deforge

Grass Kings vol 3 s/c (£15-99, Boom) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins

Hyperbole And A Half (£17-99, Gallery Books) by Allie Brosh

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nicole Matthews

The Pirate Tree h/c (£11-99, Lantana) by Brigita Orel & Jennie Poh

The Song Of The Machine h/c (£22-99, Black Dog & Leventhal) by David Blot & Mathias Cousin

The Song Of The Tree h/c (£14-99, Particular Books) by Coralie Bickford-Smith

The Wicked + The Divine vol 4 h/c (£58-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

DC Super Hero Girls vol 10:  Powerless s/c (£8-99, DC) by Amy Wolfram & Agnes Garbowska

Absolute Carnage s/c (UK Edition) (£14-99, Marvel) by Donny Cate & Ryan Stegman, Mark Bagley

Annihilation Scourge s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg,  others & various

Fantastic Four vol 4: Point Of Origin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, others & Sean Izaakse, others

History Of Marvel Universe s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Makoto Hagino

Dr. Stone vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dragonball Super vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 4 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

Pleasure And Corruption vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by You Someya

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews late February 2020

February 26th, 2020

Featuring Cyril Pedrosa, Roxanne Moreil, Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg, Eric Shanowar, Jim Pascoe, Heidi Arnhold & Nicholas Gurewitch.

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil…

“By the Devil’s horns… STAND BACK!!”
“Calm down, sister. Put the dagger down. I’m afraid you’re all alone. And kneel before your King.”
“How dare you?”
“All the vassals in the Kingdom have already pledged their allegiance to me.”
“That’s impossible. Lord Ulrik? Lord Darcelle? Is this true? You too, Ancelin? Have you so little honour?”
“It would have been easy to slit your throat. But I am magnanimous. I’ll settle for exiling you to the Island of Malefosse per the Regent’s counsel.”
“Vaudemont. Of course. Your lust for power has no limits, I see.”

Nothing like a good old-fashioned family bust-up to brighten the (coronation) day. Except… it’s not going to be Princess Tilda’s triumphant accession to the gilded armchair of absolute authority any longer, following the sad dynastic demise of her much loved father.

 

 

Nay, instead her weasely bowl-headed younger brother is about to usurp the unsuspecting Tilda with the aid of the dastardly Lord Vaudemont and ah… her mum! Now that’s a wholly wrongful birthright betrayal which must cut very deep indeed… Maybe Tilda shouldn’t put down that dagger just yet!

 

 

Here’s the publisher to deliver a rousing regal decree regarding Tilda and her (almost) subjects’ malcontent of the state of current affairs in the most definitely not Queendom…

“A medieval saga with political intrigue reminiscent of Game of Thrones, The Golden Age is an epic graphic novel duology about utopia and revolution! In the kingdom of Lantrevers, suffering is a way of life – unless you’re a member of the ruling class. Princess Tilda plans to change all that.

As the rightful heir of late King Ronan, Tilda wants to deliver her people from famine and strife. But on the eve of her coronation, her younger brother, backed by a cabal of power-hungry lords, usurps her throne and casts her into exile.

Now Tilda is on the run. With the help of her last remaining allies, Tankred and Bertil, she travels in secret through the hinterland of her kingdom. Wherever she goes, the common folk whisper of a legendary bygone era when all men lived freely. There are those who want to return to this golden age – at any cost. In the midst of revolution, how can Tilda reclaim her throne?”

I think I will just add at this point… but what is more important to Tilda, her throne or the happiness of the people…?

 

 

For by the end of this opening majestic tome of who knows how many – probably not as many volumes as George Arf Arf Martin will never quite finish penning of the moneymaking musical merrygoround of stately seating – you might be left pondering the idea that personal revenge is considerably more important to Tilda than the rights of her potential subjects, given how stroppy she manages to get with one the very few remaining people still loyal and prepared to help her…

“You’re turning a blind eye and deaf ear to your people’s will for justice!”
“Don’t use that tone with me! You’ve forgotten to whom you speak!”
“Tilda. In the world you would reign over, we will never be equals. I can’t forget that… Your Highness…”

 

 

I guarantee, however, that you will want it to be quite a few volumes after reading this glorious opening salvo resplendent with pageantry and replete with privation alike. I’m guessing two or three in complete candour, but you certainly could twist my arm – preferably not with a medieval torture device – and make it four or five, which would certainly result in screams of pleasure rather than pain!

 

 

But let’s enjoy the era of Golden Age The First… errr first… for in the realm of graphic novels there are some that are destined to rule over all too! At least for a few weeks once crowned Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month anyway! With that said, this is certainly a courtly contender for my most beautiful book of the whole year already.

 

 

A quick glance at the cover, shrouded in mystery and inviting intrigue with a lonesome cloaked Tilda astride a horse, casting a strange mystical armoured reflection in a gently eddying pool of water, deep underneath the canopy of a dark royal blue forest of leaves, surrounded by brilliant pink blossom-filled bushes, is merely the most teasing hint of what wonders lies within the covers.

 

 

Fans of Cyril EQUINOXES Pedrosa, who previously lorded over it all like the aristocrat of art that he is – well, okay for a month again with former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month PORTUGAL – will already be well aware already of what a prodigious talent he is. But here I feel he has upped his game anew, with a wilfully, dashingly different and at times strikingly contrasting, expansive colour palette, complimenting an intoxicatingly elegant art style, all elevated further still by use of short, staccato linework for shading and texture that I suspect even the master of said technique himself, Signor Toppi (COLLECTED TOPPI), would have had to just pause and admire. Yes, this is a book whose artwork you can radiantly bask in most indulgently indeed.

 

 

The writing, co-scripted by Roxanne Moreil with Pedrosa, is just as imperiously brilliant. You may well find yourself rooting for the underclass even more than Tilda, though, depending on your personal republican vs. regent sensibilities, as the rabble gets ever rowdier and more rambunctious against the backdrop of the increasingly obnoxious Tilda’s unlikely mission to regain, well technically gain I suppose, her throne.

 

 

As mentioned, I genuinely don’t know how many more volumes this epic will run to. I do suspect just one or two, maybe three at a push, rather than attempting to better Louis The XIX reign as the highest ever numbered French ruler. Even though I felt he never really counted, only managing some twenty minutes as King himself, before wisely following his dad’s example who swiftly abdicated during the July Revolution of 1830 when he felt the sharpening winds of change blowing around his suddenly itchy collar… Always better to quit whilst you’re ahead… and you’ve still got yours, I find. Probably not advice that Tilda is likely to follow though…

JR

Buy The Golden Age And Read The Page 45 Review Here

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg.

Firstly, I am beyond excited to note that a whole third of this very reasonably priced indeed volume is a brand new Plain Janes story entitled JANES ATTACK BACK!

If that were not enough the previous two stories collected here, the first of which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back in May 2007, have also been treated to a spectacular new colour scheme.

Right, without further ado, let me present our reviews of the first two instalments!

First up, here’s Stephen with the original THE PLAIN JANES…

“Hopeless is lying in a hospital bed with a ringing in your ear and trying to forget the screaming.
“Loud noises made me jump. Sounds I couldn’t identify made me jump.
“Silence made me nervous.
“But there was hope in that sketchbook.”

Since the bomb blast, life has changed for Jane. Some of it – her hair, for example – she changed herself; other aspects, like being relocated from cool city to staid suburbia, has been thrust upon her by her fearful parents. “Mom doesn’t see the beauty in anything any longer.  She only sees the danger. I want her to stop worrying and love the world again, because if she can, then I can.” Her mum, in fact, is neurotic, incessantly phoning her at all manner of embarrassing moments and as we all know, “It’s hard to be a rebel on a leash.”

PLAIN JANES is packed with such eminently printable quotes, but that’s the young lead lady for you: feisty, defiant, quietly cool, predominantly optimistic yet occasionally sardonic.

“Here we go. Nothing worse than starting the school year six weeks late. Remember, it’s just four years. Om, and all that.”

Jane’s actually well received by the “in” crowd at school, but sees no merit in that, electing instead to sit at a table with three other Janes – one a thespian, one a scientist and one an aspiring soccer player – but they’re simply not interested in Jane, each other, or anything else outside their own insular little worlds until Jane summons all her wit to understand them, then guile to galvanise them. And so begins their inspired campaign of local art attacks as the covert club called P.L.A.I.N – People Living Art In The Neighbourhoods, and Catellucci’s astute observations on adult society’s overwhelming confusion if not outright hostility towards public art.

 

 

I was honestly quite surprised to declare DC’s first salvo in their bid for young-teen female readers such an attractive success. The original cover was horrid (2020’s edition is a vibrant delight!), but the art inside communicates mood and expression successfully and succinctly, whilst there are elements of Jane and her life that are instantly identifiable as nigh-universal, whether it’s the overprotective mum (all mums are perceived as overprotective, regardless of innocence or guilt!), the missed opportunities, frozen in romance’s blinding and gagging headlights, or just the immortal phrase (muttered several times a week, I’ll bet): “Boys suck.”

I like the fact that Jane’s far from perfect, giving way on occasion to unreasonable sulks, and suffering the setbacks we all do in life along with the inevitable, attendant deflation of confidence. But her creativity and her sense of fun are infectious both for the three Janes and for this reader, and I’d have thought there’s nothing more seductive to the book’s target audience than the act and art of rebellion. This is full of it.

SLH

Then here’s JR with  JANES IN LOVE…

“The question is: what are we going to do?”
“We must remind her that as George Bernard Shaw says, ‘Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.’”
“You are so weird.”

A direct follow on to THE PLAIN JANES which if you’ve not read, why not? It was great! On the Minx label so billed as a comic for girls this, like its predecessor, still has appeal for people like me (a middle aged male) that just likes a well written story. The title is also slightly misleading as again the story primarily revolves around the girls’ undercover art attack exploits as P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods). However, this time they very quickly get caught by the wonderfully volcanic crew-cropped and moustachioed Officer Sanchez. Surely exactly what J. Jonah Jameson would have been like had he decided to take up a career in law enforcement instead of publishing!?! So the Janes decide to try and go legit and apply for planning permission with the council for an urban art installation in the local park only to be thwarted by the bristling and seething Officer Sanchez. But will the girls manage to win out in the end?

 

 

And the reference to love in the title of the book? Well, in between being their neighbourhood’s answer to Banksy they all somehow find time to have a look for the man of their dreams in their own inimitable ways for the upcoming school dance, as well as managing to act as matchmakers for two of their favourite local retirees, and deal with various family and friendship problems. I particularly enjoyed the disastrous consequences of Brain Jane’s attempt to manufacture a pheromone potion for herself in chemistry class.

JR

At this juncture it would seem a wee bit churlish not to at least let you have a glorious glimpse of a page from the third story JANES ATTACK BACK! So let’s finish with this belter…

 

 

Buy The Plain Janes And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold…

“You’ve weaponized art?”
“Oh, Wampu, all art is a weapon… in the right hands.”

This is entirely true. Here, quite literally so.

A further glance inside the cover itself is rewarded by endpaper maps of the countryside surrounding the rabbits’ warren beside The Blue Heart Lake, in a valley between craggy ridges: Goldenseed Meadow and the Wavering Wood overlooked by Stillbreeze Peak.

You’d be forgiven if by now you’re expecting something akin to ‘Watership Down’ but, prologue aside, it’s actually much closer to MOUSE GUARD, the animals and their habitat more anthropomorphised, their burrows quite habitable to humans.

 

 

While we’re on the subject of MOUSE GUARD, however, if you thought the world-building was impressive there, this is on another level entirely, and you’ll find a rabbit scholar’s notes on Lavender’s known history, industry, religion and magic.

Ah yes, magic.

Magic, art and the potential to weaponize it.

The rabbits’ industry involves refining their natural source of energy, carrots, into another source of energy entirely, called cha. This heats and lights their warren, but in skilled paws like Bridgebelle’s and her former tutor Thom Crocket’s, can turn sticks and stones into beautiful and intricate glass artefacts called thokchas. To those more pragmatic and less inspired, this is regarded as a frittering waste of raw material. To others, the crystalline thockchas are merely a halfway house, for ‘detonating’ them with a twist causes a dazzling and potentially hallucinogenic display. It’s possible to become addicted. At a pivotal moment, however, Bridgebelle will discover another use for them entirely.

 

 

There’s supposed to be a truce between the rabbits and the foxes, but the bluntest and seemingly most brutal of the foxes breaks that truce almost immediately, by snapping poor Soozie’s neck. However, as Soozie and Bridgebell dash as fast as they can from the threat, Soozie reveals a key secret:

“Help me, Bridgebelle!
“I hid something. Find it before they do. Go where the flow is slow.”

I really do think that’s all you need.

 

 

The rabbits in flight are fluid as you like, and lithe when turning at breakneck speed. The detonated thockcha visions are truly blinding, and you’ll love the skeletal Scapegraces whose feathers are formed from a purple, miasmatic mist.

This is a trilogy and so far it holds together very well indeed, with one full-length, satisfyingly resolved campaign leaving us still in a spine-tinglingly ominous place.

 

 

“Everyone is afraid of something.”

SLH

Buy Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Now in full colour.

Projected to run for seven volumes, this epic, in-depth and dramatic retelling of the Trojan War has garnered Eisner Awards as well as praise from outside our industry from the likes of The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Booklist said that it “unfolds with heartbreaking determination,” and they’ve pinpointed one of its chief strengths.

If you’re not that well schooled in the classics, this will prove startling and compelling; if you are, then so much of the power lies in the inevitable, for you know just who is doomed, how and why – but it won’t stop you desperately hoping that they somehow avoid their destiny.

 

 

Speaking of destiny, this is a time where the population believed in Fate, believed in prophecy and portent and, unfortunately, sacrifice. It’s amazing what your beliefs will make you do, but that doesn’t make you any less courageous. For some, it will prove the ultimate test: betray your army, or sacrifice your daughter? It’s not so cut-and-dried as it sounds. You have responsibility not just to your kingdom but to thousands of lives under your command. And if it does sound like a no-brainer then Shanower will convince you otherwise, for this is huge enough that everyone is rounded out, given a depth and an individual perspective.

 

 

There are some superb visual devices as well, from the mists that rise to isolate Helen and Paris atop Troy’s tallest tower (“It’s as if we’re the only people left in the entire world.”), to the pages of constant wind, denoted by “SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS” between each tier of panels until Agamemnon’s daughter leaves her tent for the final time. It’s a very clear panel structure as well, like Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT or Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN, making it effortlessly readable by those unused to comics.

Also there’s a map, for the names have all changed (along with the territorial boundaries), a couple of family trees, and a great big glossary of names including how to pronounce them.

For far, far more, please see my new review of AGE OF BRONZE VOL 1: A THOUSAND SHIPS.

Also, while you’re here, Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY and THE ILIAD.

SLH

Buy Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

SLH

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Nicholas Gurewitch.

All the below from 2009 remains true, except that it’s no longer landscape, but portrait…

The 2007 sales sensation considerably expanded and restructured into a landscape hardcover with tactile lettering and a brightly coloured rainbow appealing directly to young minds which must never, ever be allowed to encounter it. (We were racking it with CYANIDE & HAPPINESS at the time, if that gives you a clue).

Jim Woodring and Scott McCloud are both fans of these short gag strips in which innocence is shafted by horror and meanness, or even vice-versa. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, but very funny indeed.

See the dangers of driving a truck that turns out to be a Transformer! Watch Aubrey Beardsley-like vampires attempting to apply make-up in a mirror! Look at the bunny-love providing a leg-up/over and out of a hole!

Still includes the suicide-bomber chessboard which was wrong, wrong, wrong. And ever so funny.

SLH

Buy The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca…

“The director is busy finishing up your paperwork. She asked me to show you around.”
“Thank you.”
“Uh, she also said that you need to pay a ten-dollar document processing fee. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“I was a bank manager.”

“Oh yeah? Well, it’s a standard charge for all new arrivals. A silly thing.
“Perfecto! If you need anything, let me know. I can get you whatever you want.
“Come on… I’ll show you around.
“There are two floors… here on the first floor are the healthy ones… those of us who can look after ourselves… more or less.
“Almost everyone here still has their wits about them. Maybe not as sharp as before. But we can think a little.”

Multiple-award-winning (including last month’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month with THE HOUSE) heartbreak from Spanish creator Paco Roca on the touching subject of descent into dementia. I knew this was going to be a very bitter-sweet read and so it proved.

 

 

I think if there is one way out of this life that I really don’t want to have to endure it is losing my marbles, and thus with it, all semblance of dignity. Extreme physical pain wouldn’t be fun clearly, but at least one would be present. On the other hand, as Paco demonstrates with some beautifully tender daydream sequences, not entirely knowing what’s approaching seems for some a fairly peaceful meander towards expiration…

“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”
“Are you going to Instanbul also?”
“Yes.”
“The mountains are so beautiful in the springtime.”

Our main character, the distinguished Emilio, finds himself parked in an assisted living facility by his family, caring as they are, and at the tender mercies of his new roommate, the caddish Miguel, who may well have had a career as a conman, given the way he blatantly perpetuates his various cash-collecting schemes on his unsuspecting vulnerable fellow residents. With no family of his own, he professes love and loyalty to no one. Though, as our story progresses and Emilio finds himself becoming gradually more confused, it’s Miguel who steps up to protect Emilio from himself, and the dreaded, inevitable one-way trip up to the second floor…

 

 

I really enjoyed this work and I can well understand why it was made into a critically acclaimed animated film, voiced by Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine, a few years ago. It has a poignancy running throughout that will inevitably get you choked up, particularly a sequence where it’s explained to Emilio precisely why he is in the facility. It’s an absolute revelation to him and shatters the very bedrock of his existence beyond repair. From that point on, as the story focuses more and more on his inevitable decline, and Miguel’s ever more ingenious and crafty means of hiding it from the attentions of the staff, I found myself welling up.

There’s also a subplot which, as the rear cover blurb states, has echoes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit very mild ones, as some of the inmates plot a dramatic escape. The blurb also draws a comparison to the wonderful mid-eighties, Oscar-winning film Cocoon directed by Ron Howard, but I can’t make that connection myself, as we know there aren’t going to be any little green men whisking Emilio off for an implausible happy ending. But despite that, it’s a surprisingly uplifting read as we gradually see that love of every kind can thrive in even the most unusual and trying of circumstances.

 

 

Paco’s art matches his gentle storytelling, at times making me feel like he’s a softened version of I.N.J. Culbard. It’s a very soothing style, and I could feel myself being lulled into a rather relaxed frame of mind, much like the sedated and sedentary residents, most of whom simply sit around waiting for the inevitable, lost in their own imaginary worlds which Paco brings to life so convincingly for them, and us.

JR

Buy Wrinkles 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’.

Dragman h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steven Appleby

Gamayun Tales 1: An Anthology of Modern Russian Folk Tales s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

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

Lupus s/c (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Frederik Peeters

Mental Load: A Feminist Comic (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Emma

Nailbiter vol 1: There Will Be Blood s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joshua Williamson & Mike Henderson

  1. Rodin h/c (£17-99, NBM) by Eddy Simon & Joel Alessandra

Space Boy vol 6 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Weatherman vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox

Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c (£11-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, Sean Phillips

Tales From The Dark Multiverse h/c (£29-99, DC) by various

Marvel Action Avengers: The New Danger s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Matthew K. Manning & Jon Sommariva

Marvel Action Spider-Man: A New Beginning s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Bad Luck s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Spider-Chase s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Erik Burnham & Christopher Jones

Star Wars Adventures vol 8: Defend The Republic! (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Derek Charm

Hi-Score Girl vol 1 (£10-99, Square Enix) by Rensuke Oshikiri

Blood On The Tracks vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Knights Of Sidonia vol 4 (Master Edition) (£31-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Jujutsu Kaisen vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Gege Akutami

Levius est vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata

 

 

 

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews Feb 19 2020

February 19th, 2020

Featuring Andi Watson, Jason Shiga, Gengoroh Tagame, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Grant Morrison, Chaz Truog, Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Babs Kesel, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Peter David, George Perez, Dale Keown

My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99 each, self-published) by Andi Watson.

“I’m on sick leave, look, here’s my doctor’s note.”

She or he may be on sick leave, but they’re dangling the note over an office draw, for the company cannily provides employees’ accommodation on-site.

In filing cabinets.

Welcome back to The Andi Watson Collection, now complete: a dozen wit-ridden mini-comics, each containing a dozen story pages inside an exquisitely designed cardstock cover with chic, matching trade dress. The first was THE CITY NEVER SLEEPS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. That’d be a  very good place to start.

A lot of lateral thinking goes into these satirical swipes at modern-day life or whimsical musings on how it always has been, and they can be dense with double meaning and visually playful as well.

 

 

Take ‘Love Removal Men’ from  LOVE REMOVAL MEN; it can be a very heavy load they bare.

“The Love Removal Men came today.
“I saw their van from my window.
“I told them I’d had a change of heart.”

 

 

Oooof! If you don’t demand to know what happened next, then you have none of your own. I promise you Watson follows every idea assiduously. The ramifications can be wrenching.

‘Join The Team At MCW’ – the one where everyone’s working from filing cabinets – is the last of three short stories in MY DEMONS.

Imagine that your next job will be to evaluate the efficiency with which the potential for company expansion was explored and then detailed for a team of profit monitors to employ as part of their ongoing study into assessing the – AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH! Now imagine that job will be yours for life – guaranteed! – and will therefore constitute your profession, your career in its entirety.

It’s precisely the sort of absurdity that Evelyn Waugh would be lampooning were he still in the business of books: self-generating, self-sustaining, the expenditure of infinite effort to produce nothing of either physical substance or practical benefit.

 

 

I got whiffs of Winsor McCay, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin. It’s positively Kafka-esque.

I love that those open drawers which the employees are nesting in are high up in the sky almost as unapproachable, as unreachable, as a golden eagle’s aerie. The workers look pallid and wan. I don’t think they get down a lot. One drawer door says “Flush after use”.

SLH

Buy My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Love Removal Men (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition (£11-99, Abrams) by Jason Shiga.

It begins with the simplest, most instinctive and seemingly inconsequential choice in the world: would you like chocolate or vanilla…?

But please do deliberate with due care and attention, for your answer may end up destroying the world.

Family friendly and ever so clever, I’m about to bring back your youth!

Do you remember – way back before the age of interactive videogames – reading those magically immersive books during which you had to make weighty decisions every so often on the protagonist’s behalf which would dictate, in practical terms, which of two pages you turned to, and so what happened next…?

This is also a big book of dilemmas, but in comics form, and I don’t just mean that the pages are comics instead of prose. I mean that Jason Shiga – comics’ most thorough mathematician and inventive problem solver, creator of the blindingly brilliant, adults-only four-volume book of carnage and consequences called DEMON – has really gone to town and thought long and hard about how to take best advantage of sequential art’s unique properties in this specific endeavour, and so make maximum use of them.

 

 

You will, therefore, not merely be turning back and forth from one page to another, but sliding up and down tubes, following them around the ceiling, over the edge and round the bend until you drop into the comics panel to which your rash ruminations sent you. To avoid wear and tear on this back and forth, all the pages are laminated, as are the tabs which will guide you – you’ll see!

“3,856 story possibilities” declares the front cover, so I haven’t exactly “finished” it yet and won’t even know when I have.

Only one road leads to happiness, an older edition told us, which is a poor reflection on life and not something that you should probably tell small and impressionable children.

 

 

One of Shiga’s strengths is his body language, and since almost everyone involved in DEMON is doing dubious stuff indeed, that means a lot of furtive glances over hunched shoulders. So it is here, along with the biting of nails.

I’m going to leave the wider plot open for your discovery, but I will impart that it may or may not involve a trip to the toilet and a time machine; also, a memory-swapping squid. Prepare for all sorts of timey-whimey tomfoolery.

Sadly, some of my own decisions were the result of reactions born out of pure instinct: upon exiting the time machine and spying myself squealing in fright, I couldn’t help punching my other self full in the face rather than sticking around to explain.

I’d make a bloody useless Timelord.

 

 

FYI:

We have three picture and prose pick-a-plot books in the form of Sherwin Tija’s deeply mischievous and really quite wrong YOU ARE A CAT, YOU ARE A KITTEN and YOU ARE A CAT (IN A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE), plus Luke Hyde embarked on a communal iteration of this interactive endeavour on Twitter then turned the result into comics – including those interactions. It’s called POLLQUEST.

SLH

Buy Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition and read the Page 45 review here

My Brother’s Husband s/c (£26-99, Pantheon) by Gengoroh Tagame.

A very gentle graphic novel full of quiet conversations and even quieter contemplations with such a huge amount of space that I devoured the entire 700 pages in a couple of hours, and I am a very slow reader.

It’s certainly no car crash or culture clash – this isn’t a book of conflict – but certainly eyes are opened and I learned stuff too. I did know that there is a tattoo ban in public swimming pools because my mate Ryz visited and she is covered in tats (tattoos are associated with organised crime), but I didn’t know that the Japanese don’t hug. Although young Kana does becomes delightedly addicted to this novelty.

Young Kana is delighted by most things and inquisitive about everything, so when burly and bearded Mike Flanagan from Canada arrives on her Dad’s doorstep she is stunned then uncontainably excited to learn that a) Mike was her Dad’s recently deceased brother’s husband b) in some countries outside of Japan, therefore, men can marry men and c) that her Dad even had a brother. But what she has now is a hugely exotic new uncle: a great big bear of a man with chest hair and everything! And he gives hugs!

He probably shouldn’t have hugged her Dad, though.

 

 

Immediately young Kana invites Mike to stay which puts her Dad in an awkward position because… well, her Dad, Yaichi, feels pretty awkward about all of it, and he begins to realise that he has a lot of thinking to do, and not a little soul-searching ahead of him about his twin brother, why they became so distanced (after an early, closely knit childhood), and his attitude towards sexuality.

I’d like to emphasise right now that Yaichi isn’t homophobic: he’s a thoroughly decent bloke and devoted single father, but there is a lot that this sensitive man has avoided until now and initially he catches himself having double standards that he’s ashamed of. For example, he’s used to wandering around the house in nothing but his boxers after bathing, but feels the need to cover up now that there’s a gay guy in the house. Especially since his brother Ryoji and he were pretty much identical twins haha! But then, he’d probably have thought to cover himself up with any strange man new in the house… I always have.

Basically he massively over-thinks things, realises he’s massively over-thinking things, and then becomes embarrassed about that. I think it’s all thoroughly forgivable, endearing indeed, don’t you?

In the meantime Kana is a whirlwind of enthusiasm – it’s Mike this, Mike that, Mike the other – and asks the bluntest of questions as kids do, even though she’s not quite aware of what she’s asking. Funny!

 

 

It’s his daughter’s wide-eyed, unwavering adoration that bonds Yaichi to Mike in these vital early stages and gradually Yaichi begins to come around to the idea of showing Mike round all the local haunts where he and Ryoji used to hang out. Opening up about Ryoji might take a little longer, but Mike’s a very, very patient guy…

As I say, this isn’t a culture clash – Mike is well versed in Japanese culture because he was married to a Japanese guy and he doesn’t go round wearing the pink triangle you see on the front – but where things grow slightly askew is after Kana, desperate to introduce Mike to her friends, learns from a friend’s mother the term “negative influence”. And her father, having become completely comfortable with his new brother-in-law, is horrified at the prospect of his daughter being taught prejudice.

There’s so much more in these pages for you discover yourselves, including a deeply affecting silent scene which has nothing to do with Yaichi or his brother, plus on top of that there’s Kana’s Mum’s place in the family to unfold.

I like that Kana’s drawn in the perceived ‘classic’ style of sugar-buzz manga (see YOTSUBA! for equally unbridled curiosity) which suits her personality perfectly, whereas the men are slightly closer to Taniguchi, if on steroids. The parks where the boys played have that same Taniguchi serenity too.

 

 

The sentences are much shorter than mine – markedly so – and this helps keep things free from melodrama, mawkishness, and didactic proselytizing.

SLH

Buy My Brother’s Husband s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Animal Man vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Chaz Truog.

We’ll be getting to that Brian Bolland cover in the penultimate paragraph.

We’re all about the foreshadowing today.

Prior to the riotous DOOM PATROL, Grant’s first major triumph still stands out –and not just because Morrison’s likeness, flat and cat all became copyright DC.

ANIMAL MAN #1 to 26 was one big story and makes no real sense until you have the whole in front of you, at which point, “Whoa!”, for Morrison does here what Moore did for SWAMP THING, taking an entirely throwaway DC superhero (indeed, playing with that C-list status) and turning out in his place a title about family, environment, animal rights, identity, fiction, construction and control.

 

 

Over the course of the series Buddy endears himself as a thoroughly likeable though fallible husband and father of two, and it’s this focus on the family unit which lodges the books firmly in one’s heart. Series artist Chaz Truog played no small part in maintaining the title’s domestic distance from all the pugilistic testosterone at DC Central for the family are, to be honest, all a bit gawky, including Buddy himself – in or out of costume.

But yes, as I say, it’s all about the family, and partly about them coping with Buddy’s new status as a fully fledged member of the Justice League of Europe, all the unwanted attention that attracts to their simple suburban life, and the new security systems that must now be installed into an otherwise low-tech home.

 

 

Ominously presaged in two momentary panels in this volume, there’s a sequence coming up during the second which is as haunting to read today as it was back then, where Buddy’s daughter is playing gleefully in their back garden, only to find the man her father will become staring down at her under the shadow of a tree:

“Hello, Maxine. I had a dream the other night, Maxine. I dreamed you grew up and everything was okay. You can’t even hear me, can you? I can’t even warn you.
“Oh, Maxine. I miss you. I miss you all so much.”

 

   

 

As the series comes to its climax, Buddy gradually becomes aware that he and his brood have fallen victim to barely imaginable forces beyond their control; forces which are hinted at as early as the fifth chapter, which are controlling his life in precisely the same way that I am currently controlling this online review.

With a keyboard. 

SLH

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

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

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

He thought for a moment, then grinned and chuckled.

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

 

 

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

 

 

There will be more eyes here than you might suspect.

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

 

 

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

SLH

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

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

All three volumes collected in a single softcover edition.

Many years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

“Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

“Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”

 

 

In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was ‘Gelflin’. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the unnatural child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was once pretty… after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is ‘Peter’. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ’80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name is in fact Beelzebub.

 

 

‘Peter’ also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.

“IT WAS NEVER YOUR NOSE: IT WAS YOUR OBLIVIOUS SELF-ABSORBTION, STEPHEN!”

Other nicknames have included ‘Jimmy Dean’ (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), ‘boss’ (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s ‘Herbert Henry Arthur George’. That one is best bellowed.

All the above is true.

Irrelevant, but true.

Please see THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL for the second film which was never made.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hulk: The End s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown.

Future stories of your favourite Marvel characters have met with varying degrees of acclaim and indifference. Quite how the 2099 line lasted as long as it did 25 years or so ago is beyond me. On the other hand, Byrne and Claremont’s DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which capped their collaboration on UNCANNY X-MEN – and in which most mutants have finally fallen victim to man’s love affair with genocide and concentration camps – is single-handedly responsible for so many homages and follow-ups that it’s easy to forget what a neat little self-contained number it originally was.

Similarly, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s OLD MAN LOGAN, which wasn’t meant to spawn subsequent series at all, and remains my single favourite Wolverine story of all time. In it we discover that something so atrocious has befallen the crested Canadian that he’s sworn to the cause of pacificism, no matter the provocation. And it’s quite provoking having the inbred, redneck offspring of Bruce Banner as your landlords. Actually they’re just collecting the rent because Daddy dearest is very much alive and well and so many people have evidently made him so very angry over the years that nobody likes him at all anymore.

 

 

This brings us to Peter David’s future counterpart of the Hulk as seen in this collection of FUTURE IMPERFECT from 1992 drawn by George Perez, and THE END as envisaged by Dale Keown in 2002. There we discover that the Hulk has finally got what he said he always wanted: to be left alone. By necessity, then, that’s a somewhat bleak and ruminative affair which has its origins in a short prose story called ‘The Last Titan’.

 

 

But back in FUTURE IMPERFECT there were still plenty of people to give the giant grief because he hasn’t aged well. He’s outlived almost everyone whom he could ever have considered his friend and, in their absence, succumbed to his own worst aspects. As the bearded Maestro he’s ruler of all he surveys. There’s only one real relic from his past remaining. That man sits in a trophy room of broken helmets, shredded capes, abandoned armour, fractured shields, and a poster of the X-Men’s Phoenix which reads “Dead… Again!” He’s lived far too long – it’s over ninety years since we last saw him – but he’s determined to be reunited with the much younger Hulk he once knew, even if it means bringing him forward through time so that Banner can look himself in the eye and see what he’s become.

 

 

 

Originally written with a specific but unidentified European artist in mind, you could not have found a more apposite replacement back then than George Perez, an American master of ligne claire, so distinctly European-looking this remains, complete with futuristic citadels surrounded by desert. That trophy room is full of tiny details to spot (“Needs a giant penny. Pretty complete otherwise.”), some of which may prove useful later on.

SLH

Buy Hulk: The End 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’.

Glass Town h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil

The Man Without Talent s/c (£19-99, New York Review Of Books) by Yoshiharu Tsuge

Die vol 2: Split The Party s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Bad Island h/c (£12-99, Hamish Hamilton) by Stanley Donwood

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams s/c (£25-00, Insight Comics) by Steve Horton, Michael Allred, Laura Allred

Giant Days vol 12 (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

Cottons Book 2: The White Carrot h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

House Of Whispers vol 2: Ananse s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & various

Books Of Magic vol 2: Second Quarto s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler, Brian Churilla, Kai Carpenter

Heartstopper vol 3 (£10-99, Hodder) by Alice Osman

The October Faction vol 4 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Damien Worm

Plummet (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija

Starblazer vol 1: Operation Overkill Jaws Of Death (£12-99, DC Thompson) by various

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Rat Queens vol 7: The Once & Future King s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Ferrier & Priscilla Petraites, Marco Lasko

Space Bandits s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Matteo Scalera

Bloodborne vol 4: The Veil, Torn Asunder s/c (£13-99, Titan Comics) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Buffy The Vampire Slayer vol 2: Once Bitten s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Jordie Bellaire & David Lopez

Star Wars: Target Vader s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Marc Laming, various

Star Wars Adventures vol 1: Heroes Of The Galaxy (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Star Wars Adventures vol 2: Unexpected Detour (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Harleen h/c (£24-99, DC) by Stejpan Sejic

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Mythology s/c (£15-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

Ghost Rider: The War For Heaven Book 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Simon Spurrier, Jason Aaron & Javier Saltares, Tony Moore, Roland Boschi

Gwenpool Strikes Back s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Leah Williams, Christopher Hastings & David Baldeon

Thor: Epic Collection – When Titans Clash s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Venom vol 3: Absolute Carnage s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Juan Gedeon, Iban Coello

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 5 – The Secret Of The Petrified Tablet s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr., John Buscema

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 6 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Gantz Omnibus vol 4 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Elfen Lied Omnibus vol 3 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Lynn Okamoto

A Man & His Cat (£10-99, Square Enix) by Umi Sakurai

Can An Otaku Like Me Really Be An Idol? (£13-99, Kuma) by Wacocco Waco

Dementia 21 vol 2 (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Kago

Legend Of Zelda vol 16: Twilight Princess vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

The Way Of The Househusband vol 2 s/c (£8-99, Viz) by Kousuke Ono

You Are Alice In Wonderland’s Mum! Pick A Plot Book 4 (£15-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews January 29th 2020

January 29th, 2020

Featuring Philippa Rice, Paco Roca and Carol Isaacs…

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

 

 

Dappled! Don’t you just love dappled? I do!

This is dappled both inside and out, the shadows falling throughout, cast by thinning fig leaves in a low, late summer light or by bushier trees under a sun which sits much taller in the sky, earlier in the season and several decades ago, when the family’s patriarch first bought the plot and then built the house. The shadow of his own presence looms large too.

Quiet and contemplative, two brothers and a sister gather with their spouses and reflect – together and independently – on their deceased father and his cherished holiday cottage that they too now have to tend to. In their father’s absence, the titular house is still in possession of stunning views, but it’s grown decidedly dilapidated without his constant pottering and maintenance.

 

 

When their Dad ambles back into THE HOUSE’s narrative, each panel’s like a postcard from the past, or a sunlit holiday photograph carefully mounted using those transparent triangular corners in an old landscape album.

Each sibling’s approach to the grounds’ restoration – and their reactions to those different approaches – is telling. Something is simmering below the surface, and has been since their dear dad departed. So while sweeping the leaves and cleaning the pool, the siblings disturb some previously unspoken emotional detritus too.

 

 

The arid environment could not play better to Paco Roca’s love of texture shaded inside crisp, clean lines. There’s the desiccated, deep-ridged bark of the larger trees which I can feel, thick, between my fingers; the stony ground they spring from, hard and knobbly under bare feet, and I don’t think those leaves are deciduous.

 

 

The creator of WRINKLES is also a dab-hand at age, whether it’s the slight stoop of shoulders on top of a less flexible back, perhaps the slight squint of the eyes in less forgiving lights, or the medium weight of a paunch.

I love this sort of generational exploration and enjoyed Cyril Pedrosa’s rich, three-tiered PORTUGAL so much we made it Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month a couple of years ago. Families can usually be relied on for some fine, fraught tension followed by revelation, can’t they!

Look at the tension in this silence!

 

 

Warning: reading this book may leave you wanting to put up a pergola, then grow some leafy vines.

Do you think they’ll sell?

SLH

Buy The House h/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

The Wolf Of Baghdad (£16-99, Myriad) by Carol Isaacs…

“There was a very bloody and terrible Farhud (pogrom) in Baghdad in 1941. A large number of Jews were slain, raped and mutilated.”

Before we begin, here’s the publisher to give scale and context to that statement which only serves to make it even more disturbing and explain a little further about this work.

“In the 1940’s a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish. Within a decade nearly all 150,000 had been expelled, killed or had escaped. Transported by the power of music to her ancestral home in the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad, the author encounters its ghost-like inhabitants who are revealed as long-gone family members.

As she explores the city, journeying through their memories and her imagination, she at first sees successful integration, and cultural and social cohesion. Then the mood turns darker with the fading of this ancient community’s fortunes. The wolf, believed by Baghdadi Jews to protect from harmful demons, sees that Jewish life in Iraq is over, and returns the author safely back to London.”

Given the current state of affairs in Iraq and the Middle East region generally it seems strange, perhaps, to consider that Baghdad was once a thriving, multicultural metropolis, including such a substantial Jewish contingent. But looking back it’s clear that events such as the ones depicted entirely wordlessly here by Carol Isaacs clearly contributed towards the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel by David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948, alongside of course the horrific events of the Holocaust in Europe. According to some additional information on the inside cover, there are now less than half a dozen Jews in remaining in Baghdad… You read that right, less than six. So the entire city was effectively ethnically cleansed of a third of its population.

Whilst being a little bit of a WW2 history buff myself, and being well being aware of Rashid Ali’s turn away from the former colonial power of Britain (Iraq only gaining quasi-independence from Britain in 1932 so you can perhaps understand why there was lingering resentment from certain sections of the political establishment and general public) towards Germany and Italy, I certainly didn’t know of the fervent Iraqi adaptation of the ideals of Nazism. Plus the shockingly rapid rise of antisemitism which seemingly wasn’t particularly present, or at least visible, before then so explosively resulting in Baghdad’s own version of Kristallnacht.

 

 

The second half of this work deals with the shocking fallout and consequences of those events, and they are as distressing as you would imagine. As the survivors silently walk us through their individual stories in moving vignettes of first disbelief, then survival, and finally escape, some to London where in fact this work opens. For the first half of this book is entirely different in tone, a vibrant celebration of Jewish life in a multicultural capital city. Baghdad that is, not London.

 

 

Each chapter, often merely two or three pages at a time, is prefaced by a portrait of the individual involved and a quote such as the one I chose for the opening above.

 

 

There’s a wistful, romantically nostalgic quality to these fragments initially, simply recounting the happy stories of ordinary days and nights spent in perfect contentment in tight streets of Baghdad, living cheek by jowl with their Muslim and also Christian neighbours.

The wordless aspect very much ensures we feel we are present ourselves in the background, a silent observer, watching Carol herself pass through the myriad locations observing the lives of her family who are portrayed in slightly transparent almost spectral form.

 

 

It is as you might expect, knowing what emotional brutality is to come, an extremely haunting and moving approach.

The art itself, and I certainly don’t mean this in a pejorative way, has a slight cartoonish aspect to it. In fact, given Isaacs also operates as the “well-known cartoonist published in the New Yorker, Spectator and Sunday Times” under the fabulous nom de plume of the Surreal McCoy it makes perfect sense. Stylistically I was at times minded of Simone FLUFFY / PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND Lia and Marjane PERSEPOLIS / CHICKEN WITH PLUMS / EMBROIDERIES Satrapi.

 

 

This work succeeds in being as much a celebration of what has been sadly lost as it is an important and ever-timely reminder as to how it can all too easily and rapidly happen again if we allow hate to get the better of us.

JR

Buy The Wolf Of Baghdad And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Baby: A Soppy Story h/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£10-99, Square Peg / Vintage) by Philippa Rice…

“Well, the midwife said there was no protein or glucose in my wee, so that’s good?”
“What would it mean if there was protein and glucose in your wee?”
“That it would make a good sports drink?”

Haha! I can recall many such a nonplussed conversation between myself and Mrs. R along those lines where seemingly vital pregnancy-related information was conveyed to us by medical experts. The significance of which was then immediately entirely lost in translation… First-time parents, the very dictionary definition of clueless buffoons…

There’s so much to chuckle at here, both pre- and post-birth, but I suspect you’ll need to have endured the travails and triumphs of producing progeny yourself to fully appreciate how perfectly Philippa captures the absurdities of the whole affair. For example, I’m pretty sure every single set of neophyte parents has been through the consternation of the car seat farrago whilst preparing to leave the hospital ward with their precious charge… Here’s Luke to demonstrate for the uninitiated / refresh your minds for those full versed in the torture.

“Why didn’t we practise the car seat earlier?”
“I did! Just not with an actual baby in it.”

 

 

Fair point! I remember all too well that feeling of total, overwhelming all-consuming fear as I fumbled at the straps of the car seat scarcely believing the foolish doctors were about to let two complete novices actually walk out with a child to look after…

 

 

Here Philippa recounts for us some of their own mini-rollercoaster hilarious highs and ludicrous lows first anticipating the arrival and then surviving the looking after of the lovely Robin.

 

 

I’m pretty certain every single couple might well have had the following bust up too…

 “I’ll take her downstairs and see you in an hour or so. Need anything?”
“Thanks, no, I’m okay.”
“Maybe I’ll get to have a lie-in one day.”
“Excuse me?!”

Cue epic full page rant regarding birth, breastfeeding and so much more besides that our lovely ladies go through just to bear our children! You’d think the least us supportive spouses and partners could do would be not mention we might also be a teeny-weeny bit tired ourselves right?! Wrong! I remember feeling after seven months that I had fallen into what I can only describe as a Marianas Trench of tiredness… but in the game of competitive child-rearing tiredness I was only ever going to be a runner-up! (Sorry Joanna if you’re reading this!)

 

 

Not that’s it’s all about the kids man! Far from it actually, for whilst the lovely Robin does eventually make her dramatic appearance and then we see her rolling and toddling her way even further into her parents’ (and our) hearts thus begin to create a whole new love story, the majority of this work is still about Philippa and Luke’s own.

 

 

I absolutely adore how Philippa manages to (remember for a start!) capture these little moments of mirth perfectly amidst the new child-enhanced level of chaos. This was one of my personal favourites, and again, could have been directly lifted from the Rigby household…

“I think we need to throw this Pepsi away. It’s gone flat.”
“No! Don’t throw it away! I’ll drink it.”
“Okay… use your body as a bin.”

 

 

For more soppiness, don’t forget the original SOPPY love story!

For more Philippa Rice, please see also ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON, SISTER BFFS, WE’RE OUT and the SOPPY JOURNAL.

JR

Buy Baby: A Soppy Story h/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) 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’.

Fiction (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

Haunted (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

Muse (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

Twelfth Prince (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

Tamba: Child Soldier h/c (£22-99, NBM) by Marion Achard & Yan Degruel

Hicotea: A Nightlights Story h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Specials vol 1: Time Out Of Mind s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Roberta Ingranata, Giorgia Sposito, Valeria Favoccia

Resonant vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Vault) by David Andry & Alejandro Aragon

Lucifer vol 2: The Divine Tragedy s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Dan Watters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Kelley Jones, others

By Night vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Boom! Studios) by John Allison & Christine Larsen

The October Faction vol 2 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steven Niles & Damien Worm

The October Faction vol 3 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steven Niles & Damien Worm

The October Faction vol 5 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steven Niles & Damien Worm

Valkyrie: Jane Foster vol 1 – The Sacred And The Profane s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing, Jason Aaron & Cafu, others

X-Men Milestones: Onslaught s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by various

Demon Slayer vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Dr. Stone vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

Absolute Swamp Thing vol 1 h/c (£89-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore &Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, others

Aliens: Rescue s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Kieran McKeown

The Collected Toppi vol 3: South America h/c (£22-99, Magnetic Press) by Sergio Toppi

J & K h/c (£34-99, Fantagraphics) by John Pham

Lincoln Highway 750 s/c (£11-99, NBM) by Bernard Chambaz & Barroux

Nils – Tree Of Life h/c (£26-99, Magnetic Press) by Jerome Hamon & Antoine Carrion

The Perry Bible Fellowship vol h/c (10th Anniversary Edition) (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Nicholas Gurewitch & The PBF

Sea Of Stars vol 1 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Jason Aaron, Dennis Hallum & Stephen Green

Year Of The Rabbit (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tian Veasna

Avengers vol 5: Challenge Of The Ghost Riders s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Stefano Caselli

Black Widow: Widowmaker s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by various

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man vol 2: Hostile Takeovers s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by various

Wolverine: The End s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Claudio Castellini

Aposimz vol 4 (£11-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Persona5 vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hisato Murasaki

Pokemon Adventures vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yamamoto

Pokemon Adventures vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yamamoto

Pokemon Adventures vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yamamoto

Pokemon Adventures vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yamamoto

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 15th 2020

January 16th, 2020

Featuring Owen Pomery, Osamu Dazai, Junji Ito, Ted Naifeh and Suehiro Maruo.

British Ice s/c (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Owen Pomery…

“What about you, why do you stay? I mean, you seem pretty smart too.”
“Ha! Very kind of you. I came to one of the neighbouring remote communities as a nurse. After the term was up, I moved here, which is under British governance, not Canadian, and doesn’t have the same initiative, so I found people who needed help, not provided by your country. There are always people in need, and that shouldn’t be decided by where you are born. Plus I still don’t feel ready to leave. I’ve come to like it here.”
“You know, psychologists might say you’re avoiding the real world.”
“The real world? If you’d said modern world you might’ve had a point, but it doesn’t get much more real than this.”
“Fair point. Also, modern world or real, it’s all the same world anyway.”
“Netherton is still far too responsible for how this part of the world is now.”
“Despite being long gone, I still feel his shadow casting darkness over everything here.”
“But how do you kill a man who is already dead?”
“Not becoming him is a good start.”
“I’m here to defend British interests, not to preach.”
“Patriotism is just as dangerous as religion. It’s all blind faith.”

Indeed. Here’s some harpoon-rattling jingoism from the Foreign Office, I mean publisher, to explain why and how our man up North, and I don’t mean Yorkshire, is attempting to deal with the glacial pressures of the weight of history bearing squarely down on him. Not to mention the frosty attitude of the locals towards a Queen and country that doesn’t care one snowflake about them, and her Majesty’s man on the ground, well ice, who presents a rather convenient new target for their ire.

 

 

“Working for the British High Commission, Harrison Fleet is posted to a remote arctic island which is still, inexplicably, under British rule. As he struggles to understand why, and what interests he is protecting, Harrison learns just how much of the land and its community lies in the shadow cast by the outpost’s founder.

Caught between hostile locals, the British Government, and an unforgiving physical environment, he begins dragging dark secrets into the light, unaware of the tragic repercussions they will cause. And help is very, very far away. Part noir, part historical mystery, British Ice explores the consequences of colonialism and the legacy of empire.”

Poor Harrison Fleet, mild-mannered offspring of the highly regarded and decorated gunboat diplomat Sir Jonathan Fleet, whose many achievements included overseeing the forcible eviction of all the local inhabitants of an atoll in the Indian Ocean whilst Commissioner there. (Which of course reflective of actually happened to the Chagossians who were unceremoniously booted off Diego Garcia and the other islands of the Chagos Archipelago in the late 60s and early 70s, purely to provide the Americans with an uninhabited island for an air base as per an agreement signed in 1966…) How can he possibly be expected to measure up?

Harrison’s been dispatched to the markedly unglamorous British Arctic Territories to take care of Her Majesty’s interests after the disturbing disappearance of the previous Commissioner, but in fact the far flung frozen colony has a chequered past with diplomats going right back to the very first one who tried to bring the area under control. A certain cut-throat Captain Netherton, whose untimely death, along with all of his men and more than a fair few of the indigenous male population was put down to the legend of the Wendigo. At least that’s what the locals are telling Harrison. The ones that will even speak to him that is…

What a magnificent slow-melting mystery Owen BETWEEN THE BILLBOARDS & THE AUTHORING OF ARCHITECTURE Pomery has sculpted for us here! Is Harrison merely just another authoritarian flunky flailing about in the slippery social conditions he encounters or is he sufficiently his own man to attempt to escape his father’s long wintery shadow and see what truths might finally be thawed out if he can just get someone, anyone, to warm to him even a little?

There’s much excruciatingly accurate and pithy socio-political commentary to be found here, along with some very witty and also poignantly insightful dialogue, as whilst the persons, locales and events are noted to be nominally fictitious, it’s all feels far too entirely credible and painfully plausible, even down to the braying public school civil service buffoon who has dispatched Harrison on his lonely mission…

“Ah! Harrison, marvellous to see you. How was the Congo? Still an interesting little country?”
“It’s a huge country, sir, with a huge amount of problems and…”
“Quite, quite. But you’re fully recuperated and ready for your next assignment, I trust? The British Arctic Territories! I know, I know, it’s not a glamorous assignment, but everyone has to do their stint and it’s good to get it out of the way now, it’s no place for an old chap like me. I promise you Bermuda or better next time!”
“That’s not necessary. But I’m anxious about the rumours regarding the disappearance of the previous Commissioner and reports of unrest in the local community.”
“It’s nothing Harrison. Roberts was a good man, but he couldn’t take the pace, simple as that. It’s not for everyone this job. But you, you are made of sterner stuff. It’s in the blood, son of the late great Sir Jonathan Fleet. One of the greatest ambassadors this country has ever seen, how can you fail with such lineage?
“Ha! You know what they used to say whenever there was trouble in one of the colonies, don’t you?
““You don’t need to send a single ship, you need to send a Fleet.” Hahaha! Your father could certainly get things done.”
“It came at a cost.”
“It’s a free market economy, son, and in the more remote parts of the world, you set your own rates, just like your father did. I’ll see you in four years. Don’t let us down now.”

Artistically, this is perhaps a touch more delicate and detailed than his previous work BETWEEN THE BILLBOARDS & THE AUTHORING OF ARCHITECTURE but it is still very distinctly and magnificently Pomery, such as the vertical black parallel lines striated here and there for additional depth and shading to layer further texture onto the understandably muted and subdued atmospheric colour palette of pale blues and greys.

 

 

A very thoughtfully conceived and extremely well executed and also highly entertaining work, this neatly exposes certain distasteful aspects of the legacy of empire, whilst also providing a few necessary comforting crumbs of hope that there could possibly be some small caring cogs of individuals working for the greater good within and against Her Majesty’s mighty machine.

JR

Buy British Ice and read the Page 45 review here

No Longer Human h/c (£25-00, Viz) by Osamu Dazai & Junji Ito…

“I realised that I was dying… and that I was going to go to hell.
“The bottom of the abyss, the one place I wished not to go.
“My body felt heavy.
“It was no doubt because of this weight that my body was descending.
“I understood the cause of the heaviness.
“The ten misfortunes had always been packed away inside of me.
“If only I could vomit up these misfortunes, my body would become lighter… and I would be able to ascend to paradise.
“I had to hurry…
“The first was the misfortunate of society. At most society was the individual… it was not worth fearing. I believed this, but when a crowd of individuals formed, the pressure increased tenfold, a hundredfold.”

I found myself grimly fascinated by this disturbing tale of one man’s gradual descent into madness and his astonishing ability to cause so much terminal collateral damage to others along the way, particularly to those many women that almost magnetically fell in love with him.

 

 

It was actually made even more unsettling when I read a little about the original prose novel and the author himself.

Firstly, I find it somewhat astonishing, but perhaps not entirely surprising upon reflection, that the original book is Japan’s second highest ever selling novel. For when you consider the apparent social strictures and seeming emotional claustrophobia of daily Japanese life, it is really so surprising that a work about an individual, albeit one undoubtedly substantially damaged in childhood by sexual abuse, entirely unable to feel at ease or fit in with even his family never mind anyone else, should prove so popular?

 

 

It’s for good reason that one of the most common sayings in Japan is, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Similarly, I therefore mention as a curious aside, that the highest selling Japanese book is Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki, primarily dealing with themes of isolation and guilt.

Anyway, what really perturbed me was that the work is seen very much as containing several autobiographical aspects, not least an obsession with suicide. In fact, Dazai took his own life shortly after the publication of the final part of the initially serialised work. Consequently it is viewed by many scholars as an attempt at justifying his life, and indeed I suppose, choice to die by his own hands.

 

 

There have, of course, been several other adaptations over the years, both on screen and also in manga form, some more faithful to the source material than others. Here, as far as I am aware, the only real twist (perhaps that should be spiral!) of his own that Ito has added is to introduce the main character Ōba Yōzō to the author Osamu Dazai himself in an asylum, whilst in the depths of Yōzō’s eventual, inevitable psychotic break.

They converse at length during Yōzō’s recovery over how their lives are so similar and indeed how there is even a character called Ōba Yōzō in the book (this book) which Dazai has already started. This meta conceit also allows Ito to include Dazai’s subsequent suicide, further adding to the strangeness of it all. I guess that’s classic Ito actually, based on his own horror works (for that is precisely what this is: pure horror), always finding a way to take the already odd to a deeper, even more bizarre level. It works actually, all too well…

But before the asylum sequence, the tragic, terrifying story of Ōba Yōzō gradually unfolds, page by ever more devastating page, first from the confused child, through troubled adolescent, into seemingly helpless destroyer of others. If much, or indeed just some, of what is contained in this work is autobiographical, I can understand why the author was burdened with guilt and shame over his actions to the point of suicide.

 

 

I think what in part makes this such a compelling read is that Ōba Yōzō never sets out intending to hurt someone, but even when it becomes manifestly apparent that his actions, or frequently inactions, are doing so, he is utterly incapable of stopping or changing his behaviour. He doesn’t even really try, primarily attempting to wilfully ignore situations that are becoming ever more precarious to people he apparently cares deeply about, simply to avoid any sort of emotional confrontation.

He does appear to believe in love, and can at times demonstrate it himself, but he himself is never able to be happy for anything more than the most fleeting of occasional moments, thus inevitably sowing the seeds of the demise of another relationship, and individual, and another little part of his own soul which is then subsequently shredded and gone forever. Combined with an addictive personality and voracious appetite for drink and then drugs, it is a path that you would presume has only one possible destination. The only question being how many casualties will Ōba Yōzō cause en route. At least, that’s what you would presume…

I can’t comment on how good an adaptation this is, due to not being familiar with the source material, I can only state it is an absolutely brilliant work in its own right. As someone who whilst enjoying Ito’s work immensely (UZAMAKI, GYO, TOMIE, SHIVER, SMASHED, FRAGMENTS OF HORROR, DISSOLVING CLASSROOM, FRANKENSTEIN) can find my enjoyment at times tempered by his tendency to amusing absurdism in his writing (entirely a personal thing, I appreciate that is the precise draw for others) the fact his enthusiasm is that particular direction is constrained by the source material here is a good thing. For me at least anyway, others may very well disagree.

However, there is certainly plenty in the material for Ito to express himself fully visually, with Ōba Yōzō’s frequent visions of demons and apparitions of his ‘victims’, plus that truly mind-bending extended descent into hell sequence, the opening of which I began this review with, which is as close as Ōba Yōzō ever comes to truly confronting his own demons.

 

 

Yes, the master of body horror certainly doesn’t hold back with his artistic endeavours here… Although… I think perhaps it is the depiction of the real life individuals in their deranged states which are the most disturbing of all and therefore, although I realise it probably refers to Ōba Yōzō alone, it must be said that the book is perfectly titled…

 

 

Buy No Longer Human and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Courtney Crumrin vol 6 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh…

“They’re the most powerful beings on Earth, and they’re dying of boredom.”

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, then it should.

I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for COURTNEY CRUMRIN – and Courtney Crumrin herself. I had no idea this would be so severe.

Its origins stretch through the whole of the series, reprising elements and plot points I thought long left-behind, but no. Obviously the last volume’s sheer, severe cliff-hanger must inevitably be played out, but what about the set-up in COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2, eh? And I do mean set-up.

A faction within The Coven Of Mystics has grown weary with the restraints placed on them by Ravanna’s Law, forbidding their witches and warlocks to interfere or mingle with regular folk. Its Council still holds with the law but a council is rarely at rest; there is always a struggle for power.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Great Uncle Aloysius: he’s dying. Sustained only by an elixir withheld by the Council until he returns his niece for what it promises will be a fair trial, he must surely imagine that Courtney will come quietly. She won’t.

 

 

Courtney is on the run with her former teacher Calpurnia Crisp, the Council’s marshals mere metres behind. They’re racing round mountain roads, the ocean waves breaking beneath them and they cannot afford to be caught. Calpurnia knows there will be no fair trial and the fate that awaits them is much worse than death: they will be banished, all knowledge of magic and their memories of wielding it erased. They will become hollow shells, ghosts of their former selves, destined only to wonder what on earth could be missing, dimly in the back of their minds. As to Aloysius, Calpurnia knows something few others do, and that changes everything.

Oh my god, girls! Oh my god, guys! When I first realised what [redacted, redacted] was actually showing, my jaw hit the floor. Suffice to say that there is not a second’s preamble; it kicks straight into gear. Rarely have I read a series’ conclusion that wraps everything up not just neatly but nastily with a final confrontation foreshadowed by the words of the hermit Cerridean Olds and the early actions of another who wields far more magic than anyone suspected. If you are as ancient as I am, the words ‘Dark Phoenix’ will mean something. Really mean something, and Naifeh has out-burned John Byrne: if that blistering image swirling in purple above Aloysius isn’t a direct homage then I would be so, so surprised.

 

 

Ted’s design work has always been delicious. It manifests itself not just in this new full-colour incarnation with its silver inks, but in the enemies themselves: the Rawhead And Bloody-Bones of COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2 with which I am always at pains to frighten young readers along with their parents during shop-floor show-and-tells, and here the various skeletal Golems animated by Cerridean.

 

 

I love that there are electricity pylons straddling the cliff tops of the introductory breakneck car chase.

But I wondered why the colours were so studiously muted in purples and blues, pale lemon-yellow and deep olive-green. Well, let’s just say that the bright light of day would be a boon to some if deprived for so long of its beauty, yet to others it could be the worst thing in the world.

“Have you ever awoken out of a deep sleep and found yourself in a place you don’t recognise, forgetting for a moment how you got there? Sometimes, when you remember at last, it’s a relief.
“And sometimes it’s not.”

I am so, so sorry.

Still to come: COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES.

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 6 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island h/c (£22-99, Last Gasp) by Suehiro Maruo…

Quite the revelation, this is a breath-takingly beautiful book whose exotic, erotic island will have you gasping over and again as each new, sweeping panorama is unveiled to startling and spectacular effect just as it is to the wife of phenomenally rich industrialist Genzaburo Komoda.

Truly it is a pleasure paradise sequestered in the middle of a remote island and accessed only via transparent tunnels which snake over the tropical seabed before bursting into the open air and dazzling sunshine to reveal the first of so many set pieces: waterfalls the size of Niagara’s, ornamental edifices, a multi-tiered Indian-themed acropolis and botanical vistas which make the formal French gardens of Loire Châteaux like Villandry and Chambord look tame and restrained. Each of these is populated both by monumental sculptures of dragons and snakes and satyrs and a hundreds of performers paid to be naked at play. And I do mean play – frolicking through meadows – but also at play with each other, yes. Eighteens and over, please.

All of which put me much in mind of Milo Manara but inked with a detailed ligne claire more akin to Jiro Taniguchi’s. It’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And I love a good orgy.

 

 

This, then, was constructed as the dream of a lifetime, but here is the rub for Genzaburo Komoda: the dream wasn’t his. The dream was that of failing novelist Hitomi Hirosuke whose manuscript containing this elaborate fantasy was repeatedly rejected. He went to college with Genzaburo Komoda and looked so alike that they were nicknamed twins. So when Hitomi learns of Genzaburo Komoda’s death he hatches a plan fake his own death then to exhume the multi-millionaire’s corpse and take his place, not raised from the dead as a miracle but recovering from a medically well documented cataleptic episode.

Now all he has to do to fool Komoda’s entourage: his managers, his servants, his family… his wife.

SLH

Buy The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island h/c and read the Page 45 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’.

Baby: A Soppy Story h/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£10-99, Square Peg / Vintage) by Philippa Rice

Bad Machinery vol 9: The Case Of The Missing Piece (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni Press Inc.) by John Allison

Black Hammer vol 4: Age of Doom Part 2 s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston, Rich Tomasso

Book Love h/c (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by Debbie Tung

Consantly s/c (£8-99, Koyama Press) by gg

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor vol 3: Old Friends s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Rachael Stott, Rachael Stott

The Dreaming vol 2: Empty Shells s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Si Spurrier & Bilquis Evely, Abigail Larson

The Sculptor h/c (US Edition) (£26-99, FirstSecond) by Scott McCloud

Taxi! Stories From The Back Seat (£12-99, Conundrum) by Aimee De Jongh

The Witcher Omnibus s/c (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & various

All Star Superman s/c (£24-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Diana: Princess Of The Amazons s/c (£8-99, DC) by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale & Victoria Ying

Absolute Carnage s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Amazing Spider-Man vol 6: Absolute Carnage s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, others & Ryan Ottley, various

Black Widow: Welcome To The Game s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Richard K. Morgan & Bill Sienkiewicz, Goran Parlov, Sean Phillips

Loki: The God Who Fell To Earth s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Daniel Kibblesmith & Oscar Bazaldua, Andy MacDonald

Miles Morales vol 2: Bring On The Bad Guys s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Saladin Ahmed & Ron Ackins, others

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur: Full Moon s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder & Natacha Bustos, Ray-Anthony Height

New Mutants: Epic Collection – The Demon Bear Saga s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & Sal Buscema, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bob McLeod

Demon Slayer vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Happiness vol 10 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 14 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Courtney Crumrin vol 6 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Hellblazer vol 22: Regeneration (£24-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan, various & Giuseppe Camuncoli, various

Lazarus vol 6: Fracture s/c (£14-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 25 – Maximum Carnage s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Tom DeFalco, Terry Kavanagh, David Michelinie, J.M. DeMatteis & Ron Lim, Alex Saviuk, Mark Bagley, Tom Lyle, Sal Buscema, Scott McDaniel

Captain Marvel vol 2: Falling Star s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Annapaola Martello, Carmen Carnero

Doctor Strange vol 4: The Choice s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina

Demon Slayer vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 Edition vols 1-3 (£9-99, Viz) by Hiromu Arakawa

Howl’s Moving Castle Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Diana Wynne Jones & Hayao Miyazaki

Levius est vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2019 week three

December 18th, 2019

Featuring Brian Blomerth, Richard Marazano, Christophe Ferreira, Gilbert Hernandez, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Jiro Taniguchi, Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp.

Bicycle Day (£20-00, Anthology Editions) by Brian Blomerth…

“Fire up the Bunsen burner, Susi!
“We’re gonna try something unorthodox… revisit an old friend…
““Usually we strike experimental substances from the research program if they lack pharmacological interest…” Those are your words, not mine!”
“You’re right… however… this compound LSD-25 has bugged me…”

Good old Albert Hoffman, for if it weren’t for him and his curious cerebral itch of some five years, we might not have had the opportunity to turn on, tune in and drop out in quite so colourful fashion with the delights of Lysergic acid diethylamide…

Though as Dennis McKenna posits in his excellent four page foreword, “… does one create, or discover a compound like LSD? I think it is more the case that one incarnates such a molecule.”

Maybe… I do know it was certainly an interesting set of circumstances which first allowed Albert to experience the ‘delights’ of an LSD trip, initially astride his trusty velocipedal steed, hence the book’s title.

 

 

Thus for those in the know, April 19th has long been celebrated as ‘Bicycle Day’. In fact, Albert was actually accidentally exposed to a much, much smaller amount of LSD-25 three days earlier, the mild effects of which sufficiently piqued his curiosity to go against all established common sense for those working in the pharmaceutical industry and consciously ingest what, shall we say, would be an extremely sizeable dose three days later. Thus taking the first ever deliberate acid trip…

 

 

Oh boy, was he in for a wild ride! Which is portrayed in all its glorious insanity here for us to safely and a little, but only a little mind you, more sedately enjoy…

 

 

If you’ve ever imagined what early 20th century animation master Max Fleischer would have been able to do with infinite colour in his majestic pomp, under the influence of LSD or otherwise, well then this might just be the book for you!

 

 

A truly psychedelic riot of colour combined with rubber-limbed antics, and believe you me, it’s very tricky to ride a bike with rubbery legs. If you have any interest whatsoever in this most marvellous of molecules, I think this will truly hit the proverbial spot. Right in the hypothalamus…

JR

Buy Bicycle Day and read the Page 45 review here

Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira…

“This search party could be dangerous, Milo. You should probably learn to control your gift. Do you think you can do that?”
“My… my gift?”
“Yes, your gift! You have powers!”
“But… I thought my gift was just being able to travel between worlds…?”
“Well, of course you can do that, but you have another gift… a special power! We all have more than one. It’s hereditary.”
“Hereditary?”
“Yes, meaning inherited from both parents.”
“Well, maybe I only have one gift since my father is just a normal human being…”
“Sigh. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re bound to have another gift, and you must find it as soon as possible…”

Those of you who read MILO’S WORLD BOOK ONE: THE LAND UNDER THE LAKE might be just as surprised as our eponymous hero to see the villainous sorcerer return seemingly from the dead.  Though this time around the psychopathic spellcaster has had the proverbial change of heart and healing of mind and is now desperately seeking Milo’s help rather than attempting to disintegrate him on sight…

 

 

For since Milo’s last sojourn through the magical tunnel to the enchanted village on the underside of the lake… via the now terminally ailing giant goldfish… his bristly adventuring chum Valia, the sorceror’s sassy daughter, has succumbed to the dark side herself and become the titular Black Queen, intent on destroying the hamlet’s newly found peace and tranquillity and generally slaughtering all and sundry with her giant spider army. What is it with her family?!

Given the sorcerer is expecting Milo to step up and save the day with a power he doesn’t even believe he possesses, it might be useful and more than a little considerate of him to explain that [REDACTED]. But, seeing as semi-anarchic action-based blundering is Milo’s chief mode form of engaging with a tricky situation, rather than careful, thoughtful strategic problem solving…

“Oh boy… what kind of trap have I gotten myself into…?”

… it’s perhaps not that surprising he hasn’t put two and two together…

I’m sure you may well have by now dear reader, even from that parsimonious presentation. Still, perhaps the paternal penny might finally drop with Milo by the finale of volume three…

Anyway, expect more Hayao Miyazaki-esque hi-jinks as our accident prone protagonist attempts to rescue the children of the village in his trademark ham-fisted haphazard fashion and convince Valia that a career as a mass murderer isn’t going to win her any popularity contests.

 

 

Don’t expect Milo to work out who his dad is though…

As before Milo’s three witchy aunts pop up regularly with delightfully reassuring absurdly blithe asides to no one but themselves and the reader to steal every single scene they’re in.

 

 

They contribute wonderfully to the gentle humour of it all which so enjoyably helps convey this frenetic crackpot tale along to its conclusion.

“Ooo, a fancy ceremony! It’s been so long!”
“And maybe a ball!”
“Maybe with some strapping firemen!”

JR

Buy Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Crime and punishment executed with rapid-fire, bullet-point precision.

You’ve not read anything like it! Here are three one-panel snapshot scenes featuring three different men wooing Maria:

“I love you, Maria.”
“I – I love you, Maria.”
“I love you, Maria.” *phone rings* “That’ll be my wife.”

Before we go any further, you may have read something like it – the first half, published some ten years ago. Alas, the second half was never published separately, an increasingly common phenomenon, I’m afraid to say, which penalizes those who invest early on and so undermines confidence in the market. The culprits are some of my favourite publishers, too: Top Shelf was the first with the final instalment of Dylan Horrocks’s HICKSVILLE, then Drawn & Quarterly with Seth’s CLYDE FANS, and now Fantagraphics. I understand the financial arguments, honestly, I do. It is, however, completely dishonourable.

Anyway, of the first half I wrote:

Maria arrives in the U.S. and gradually learns the language as she begins to understand the country, taking and getting fired from a succession of very dreadful jobs while demonstrating even worse taste in men. She’s neither afraid nor ashamed to use her two greatest assets, which are enormous. Eventually she settles down as the doll of drug-peddling mob boss Cienfuegos whose ostensive family business is in ladies’ lingerie, and he treats her well, while one of his two sons, Gorgo, secretly falls in love and silently protects her.

 

 

But Cienfuegos has plenty of enemies out to get him for good – largely, because he won’t condemn communism! – and Gorgo himself comes under continual attack. Fortunately he is as formidable as he is efficient as he is ruthless; unfortunately he’s not the only target.

 

 

With one notable exception involving a full bowl of steaming noodles, Maria is a predominantly passive participant in events which take place around her, and – given the style of storytelling – a great deal does happen during these 136 pages. And remember, this is but the first of two volumes – do remember that, because I didn’t! [Oh, the irony of it all – ed.]

The cartooning is, as ever, an immaculately clean and balanced black and white joy, the expressions are exquisite and the breasts, they are humungous. Nudity abounds.

You need know nothing of LOVE & ROCKETS but as an added bonus for those who do…. Here’s Fantagraphics.

“Long-time LOVE & ROCKETS readers will find the storyline familiar… and that’s because, in a meta twist, MARIA M is actually the B-movie film adaptation of the life story of Luba’s mother Maria, as previously seen in its ‘real’ version in the classic graphic novel Poison River (available in the BEYOND PALOMAR collection) starring Maria’s own daughter playing her own mother. Confused? Don’t be! MARIA M will work perfectly on its own terms as the kind of violent, sexy pulp tale that Gilbert Hernandez has proven so adept at these past several years, and the ‘source material’ for the story will just provide an extra layer of delight for the cognoscenti.”

SLH

Buy Maria M h/c Complete Ed and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£16-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

This is a book of impressions: of memories, shadows and echoes.

So many songs evoke a past much missed, misremembered or barely recalled at all.

There is a wreck of man out there called Carl; a drunken, washed up, one-time player full of hot-air and an acrid obsession with the ex-wife who had the audacity to leave him for another, less violent man, and then testify against him. Her name was Susan Linden and he killed her for it. Or he thought he had; he’s in for a bit of a surprise.

For then there was the other Susan. An effective, solitary agent, undercover and on the brink of exposing a criminal organisation and the mastermind behind it. They caught her, they shot her, they set her on fire and then bombed the inferno for good measure. She was the Black Orchid, named after a flower that doesn’t exist and she is quite, quite dead.

 

 

So who is this new Susan of radiant purple, grown in a greenhouse, and cast adrift in a world she’s had no time to comprehend? She has no idea. She doesn’t know who she is, what she is, or what she should do now. The only clues lie in a dead man’s past, in his contemporaries at college: Dr. Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland. Her only brief ally is a man in a mask who hides in the shadows of Gotham, and he says:

“Most of the things that “everyone knows” are wrong. The rest are merely unreliable.”

Now, several of those names may sound surprisingly familiar for a Neil Gaiman book. What one forgets is the Vertigo line originally had far stronger ties to the DC universe and its superhero community; what one may also have forgotten is that this was created long before the Vertigo line even existed. It’s a far more ethereal read than most DC Universe books – it’s far more of a child of Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING – but a DC Universe book it most certainly is. It’s just… going to do things differently.

“I’ve seen, y’know, the movies, James Bond, all that. I’ve read the comics. So you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to lock up in the basement before interrogating you. I’m not going to set up some kind of complicated laser beam death-trap, then leave you alone to escape. That stuff is so dumb. But you know what I am going to do? I’m going to kill you. Now.”

That was within the first six pages, and it was quite the arresting development.

Returning to the legacy of Alan Moore, the early segues and black humour owe much to THE KILLING JOKE. “You’re fired” was inspired. But it quickly establishes its own tone which, as I say, is far more ethereal, far more impressionistic, as our newly bloomed Orchid struggles with the genetically implanted memories she shares with her dead sister, and reacts to the world empathically. Here, for example, is Arkham.

“This is the bedlam. The jungle of despair. I watch their expressions: milky eyes peering from frozen faces, mouths unsmiling wounds in ruined flesh. I spy a skull-faced man who lies unsleeping; his nightmares pool and puddle on the floor around him. In a glass cell a blazing x-ray sits and smoulders and weeps. His tears burn as they fall… then his out on the pocked glass floor.”

Another marked departure from the superhero genre is that the only hunting being done apart from the peripheral predators – domestic and child abuse both play a part here – is by the antagonists and the only one out for revenge is the bitter ex-husband and resentful ex-employee. Some people really don’t handle rejection well. In other authors’ hands it would be the Black Orchid out to avenge her predecessors’ murders – particularly given their shared memories – but no, that is the instinct of the animal. A plant has quite different priorities.

 

 

It’s a beautiful book, rich in green and purples, by a Dave McKean in his photorealistic phase, much inspired at the time by Bill Sienkiewicz. The computer has yet to be embraced and the only element of photographic collage I registered was the psychotic grin. Instead it employs pencils – sometimes coloured – and paint, some chalk and maybe, I think, oil pastels. There’s a terrific sense of light. It’s also thoroughly accessible to new readers, McKean splitting the page in half horizontally then working with three or four columns across. The occasional break into tumbling panels and the larger compositions in the Amazon jungle are all the more spectacular for it.

 

 

This new deluxe edition also boasts those rarest of extras: handwritten early jottings from Neil Gaiman’s notebook, Karen Berger’s first, detailed reactions to Neil’s draft proposal, Neil’s own proposal and promotional marketing text,  preliminary notes and dialogue sketches for the second of the three original issues, its page-by-page, one-line breakdowns and an excerpt from its draft script.

“Winter is coming. The leaves are beginning to fall.”

SLH

Buy Black Orchid s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Do you go walking?

Every time I cross the River Trent on my way to work, something magical happens. I can’t explain it, but it makes all the difference: a sensation of space and light and beauty heightened several-fold when I cross it on foot. Eye-candy. We all need eye-candy.

And that’s the simple premise behind this book: one man, sometimes with the dog his wife found under their house, takes eighteen different walks round the Japanese suburbs and occasionally out into the countryside.

It’s clean and it’s beautiful and the word that keeps springing to mind is indeed ‘magical’. The amount of work that has gone into some of these landscapes is staggering: line after delicate line tracing the structure of trees, roofs and fencing.

 

 

A quiet book of exploration which will cure any brief bout of the blues.

All previous editions’ covers are included, along with three additional short stories.  There are also now several pages in colour where they existed in the original material.

SLH

Buy The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

Collected for the first time in one oversized edition.

Many years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”

 

 

In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was Gelflin. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the sickly child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was pretty once… after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is Peter. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ’80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name was Beelzebub. Peter also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.

“IT WAS NEVER YOUR NOSE: IT WAS YOUR OBLIVIOUS SELF-ABSORBTION, STEPHEN!”

Shut up.

 

 

Other nicknames have included Jimmy Dean (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), “boss” (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s Herbert Henry Arthur George.

You have to really bellow that one.

All the above is true.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

Original 2000AD run through with Douglas Adams – that’s how I’d characterise so much of this.

It’s highly inventive and very, very funny. Even mid-mass-arrest, there are so many stop-for-a-moment-to-laughs.

“Ye’ll never catch us now, copper!” boasts an 8-legged fiend.
“I won’t have to. My partner, Green Lantern Floozle Flem, is a super-intelligent all-purpose virus. Replicating in your bloodstream as we speak. Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you… You catch Floozle Flem.”

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s criminal manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents. So yes, one Green Lantern is a virulent, sentient flu germ; another is a walking, talking, bi-pedal volcano.

No more a superhero series than Hickman and Aja’s HAWKEYE – which was instead a slickly designed, contemporary comedy of manners, therefore infinitely more accessible to a far broader audience – this is cosmic cop-crime whose precinct and jurisdiction are both set in space.

 

 

You can tell by its structure, which begins with a disciplined demand for a sit-rep update from HQ (a great big green-lantern-shaped space station) while at ground-level (somewhere similarly suspended but less lime-coloured) all is barely contained chaos. A spider’s just bitten a Green Lantern’s ring off.

“That was my favourite finger, you savage!
“Arachno-Sapiens! So bitey all the time!”

 

 

So yes, bursting with playful mischief to be sure, but if fingers can be cropped then so can entire individuals as – this being crime an’ all – it also comes with abrupt, contrasting (and so much more arresting) casualties.

You need know nothing of this title’s past to enjoy the opener to this first season (because that is what I sense this is, very much mapped out like a television show), for I’ve read fewer than dozen GREEN LANTERN issues in my life; only enough to recognise this as hilariously faithful yet totally fresh, with Liam Sharp art that is ridiculously detailed and full of authority.

 

 

To tell you more, plot-wise, would be to spoil the surprise, while the same goes for its structure which isn’t above slipping in memories like a meandering and meditative road journey.

Liam Sharp has brought his all – which is considerable – and I do hope he’s on double time for all the detail. The following need mean nothing to you, it is merely an observational self-indulgence based on my own historical comics-history bias:

On different pages yet sometimes in the same panels, I sensed serious amounts of neo-classical Neal Adams in the figure work, forearms and faces, enough Alan Davis to keep me amused in the background Glaswegian gamblers betting on a battle’s outcome, HR Giger – appropriately enough – in the mechanics during the discovery of a crashed spaceship, Jim Starlin rendering attending Hal’s ribcage and stomach muscles, bites of early Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe in the biceps, Herb Trimpe female faces and forearms, a sizzle of Bill Sienkiewicz during an arm-spread lift-off, and Jim Steranko during what I’d call “assembly”, reciting the customary bright / night / sight / might / light riff.

 

 

I’d only add that if you like your heroes not necessarily anti- but perhaps more ambivalent, then Hal Jordan will prove as pragmatic as he is dogmatic and determined in his Green Lantern role, unintimidated when going up against an entity bearing a suspicious resemblance to the Biblical God (and all cops are inherently suspicious – it’s part of their job description and arsenal), not above some judicious deception of his own, and never comes close to dropping his guard by turning the other cheek.

“Nurse, I’d call a doctor if I were you.
“But tell them this man killed 2.5 billion people.
“Tell them there’s no need to hurry.”

Also, since I did mention 2000AD in my first paragraph, does this ambition and audacity remind you of Judge Dredd?

“Planet Earth – you are gamma-intoxicated and clearly no longer in control of your decisions or actions.
“I’m placing all of you under arrest until you come to your senses.”

Are we all allowed one phone call each?

 

 

SLH

Buy Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman 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’.

Heavenly Delusion vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Masakazu Ishiguro

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by various

Sonata vol 1: The Valley Of The Gods s/c (£17-99, Image) by David Hine & Brian Haberlin

Death’s Head: Clone Drive s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Tini Howard & Kei Zama

Loki: Agent Of Asgard – The Complete Collection s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett, others

The Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Otto-matic s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Lan Medina, Mike Hawthorne

Batman vol 11: The Fall And The Fallen s/c (£15-99, DC) by Tom King, various & Mikel Janin, various

Batman: Hush s/c (£24-00, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Green Lantern vol 2: The Day The Stars Fell h/c (£24-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Watchmen (Lenticular Cover Edition) s/c (£25-00, DC) by Alan & Dave Gibbons

Our Dreams At Dusk Shimanami Tasogare vol 2 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Shimanari Tasogare

My Hero Academia vol 22 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Saint Young Men vol 1 h/c (£21-00, Kodansha) by Hikaru Nakamura

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/

 

 

 

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