Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week three

August 15th, 2018

Featuring Liz Prince, Jerry Kramsky, Lorenzo Mattotti, Alex De Campi, Victor Santos, Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters, Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Jeff Lemire, Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, Robert Hunter, C.S. Pascat, Johanna The Mad, Paul Pope

Bad Girls h/c (£18-99, Groundwood Books) by Alex De Campi & Victor Santos…

“You decent, Miss Chandler?”
“Sure.”

She really isn’t. In any sense whatsoever! One of the three titular misbehavin’ ladies, Miss Carole Chandler is a gangster’s moll, trapped in her life of luxury as the decorative arm candy of the mob casino manager Mr. Rothman in glamorous Havana, Cuba. The other two soon-to-be dishonest dames being single mum mambo queen Ana and revolutionary jazz singer Taffy. Revolutionary in the Che Guevara sense, rather than some scat vocal malarkey, I should add. All of our trio are about to decide that a permanent vacation from the Pearl of the Antilles would be a very good idea indeed for considerably differing reasons.

But then it’s amazing what six million dollars in ‘missing’ mob money – plus the untimely death of a visiting New York capo – can do to make up your mind that a last-minute getaway is in order. It’s just that getting their very important hand luggage out of the country is going to prove even harder than negotiating an online booking with Ryan Air without shelling out more than a heap of cash in hidden extras. They’re all about keeping their cash. Well, it’s not their cash yet, but, you know, working on it.

 

 

So… it’s New Years Eve 1958, the El Eden casino joint is jumping and Havana is awash with US dollars being splashed around by well-heeled tourists and movie stars lording it over the impoverished locals. The American high-rollers were welcomed with open arms under the US-backed President Batista, but with rebels lurking around practically every corner, the times they are a-changing… Well, just about to…

Indeed, the glorious revolutionaries finally tasted ultimate victory in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1959 as Batista panicked and decided it was time to take his own ill-gotten megabucks and run. (Just for the record, Batista made it out to the Dominican Republic before eventually settling into political exile in Portugal.) And so Cubans welcomed in 1959 with a certain Fidel Castro about to take charge.

 

 

But will our ensemble of ladies make it out amidst the fireworks of New Year’s Eve and the bullets of the Brigadas, or will the mounting chaos prove an impossible barrier to their own great escape?

This is a hot and humid, sweaty and sexy slick heist thriller penned by Alex MAYDAY De Campi with glorious, glamorous period art that has more than a dash of Darwyn Cooke about it from Victor VIOLENT LOVE Santos. If you like your crime with a touch of class and more than a splash of nerve-wracking suspense, I think this will prove a hit.

 

 

The first few copies come with a signed sticker from Alex herself guaranteed to provide free passage out of any revolutionary hot zone…*

* This may be a slight fib.

JR

Buy Bad Girls h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Garlandia h/c (£34-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerry Kramsky & Lorenzo Mattotti.

“The Gars were gathered in the cool air, all dreaming the same dream.
“The dream flew in the wind.”

Soft seeds blow too, like those of a dandelion clock.

Perhaps they are that dream.

Some kiss the brows of the Gars fast asleep on the rolling meadows, naked and at peace in their Eden-like idyll.

Then they’re swept away “past the peaks of the Fishbone Mountains, over the slumbering swamp” and across the path of a perched Legendary Bird who is about to bid a final farewell. It surveys all it has ever flown over, quietly, acutely, before a tear wells up in its eye.

I’m sure it’s only the wind.

It’s certainly just the beginning.

 

 

What follows is the first of so many strange transformations that make this journey – embarked on by many in diverse directions – like a Jim Woodring fable, albeit with an altogether different visual vocabulary.

It begins thus:

“Beyond the sighs of the clouds, between the horizons of twilight, lies the land of Garlandia. Its vast plains and soft slopes seem to preserve light; its climate is mild. Since time immemorial, it has been home to the Gars, a species of peaceful creatures who delight in contemplating the magic of the place with childlike wonder.”

Sublime.

Yet instinctively, all I could ponder was: how far will they fall?

You’ll have nearly four hundred pages to find out.

 

 

They seem to lead a passive, communally serene and united existence, but to my mind their community already has flaws: it’s built on a hierarchy which defers to the shaman, the supposedly wise man who interprets omens for them, and they question not.

Easily led, and so submissive, they have been conditioned not to think for themselves. This will be part of their undoing.

Then there’s that very reliance upon signs and on portents. The cows lie down in the field: will it rain?

 

 

Early on, their territorial instincts too are established, heightened by a sense of superiority, when a “Wrinkle-Face” with a decidedly Chinese, mythological aspect tries to warn them of change and is dismissed as “insolent” and shooed away as unworthy with stones. So, they aren’t adverse to violence, either.

Now watch what happens when something new and genuinely ugly slinks into their midst, and takes advantage of precisely those flaws…

GARLANDIA is so well constructed, so immaculately set up with soft subtlety that whatever the innocents do, they will come a cropper of what they’ve previously been happy to inculcate or to perpetuate, and so have to go it alone. Vilified and ostracised, they will travel so far from their safe and familiar comfort zone into territories new, strange and potentially hostile.

And those who go it alone are protecting their newborn child.

Visually, it is a tour de force, the writer wisely trusting on the legendary Mattotti to carry its predominantly silent weight for nearly four hundred pages.

Trails of blood are mirrored by ripples in the water.

There are jungle-framed watery landscapes which screamed India at me, and I basked in every single one.

No page should be rushed over, for Mattotti hasn’t.

 

 

I don’t have this specific image for you, but page 81 is the most perfectly composed landscape, lush and rich in delicate detail, over which the artist has bravely thrust thicker, darker slices of air-borne or even magic-based movement / susurration to give you an impression of the cosily cocooned under threat from unsuspected, outside forces.

There is so much space given over to the extraordinary transmogrifications and visionary fireworks that I’m thinking of Katsuhiro Otomo’s dozens-of-pages detonation during AKIRA.

 

 

The creators have dedicated this to the worlds of Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN and Moebius, but I also saw Dr. Seuss in the creatures and their cavorting.

I have three A4 pages of dense, impassioned notes I’m drawing on (which even I can barely read), but amongst them I can decipher an emphasis on all the brilliant beasts you’ll encounter from majestic Air Whales and giant, swimming snails to the Wrinkle-Faces, Rain-Monkeys and the Bird Of Fate itself. Plus the opportunistic, parasitic, mind-poisoning crustacean is worthy of Gerald Scarfe. I’m thinking the vile, looming magistrate during Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.

I’m sure this will mean many different things to many different people, but for me it’s a warning against unthinking; against blindly giving credence to any authority which should be questioned and challenged instead. It’s also a wise warning against the intoxication of alcohol and all other anger-exacerbating drugs, when consumed communally, en masse, in a war party waiting to happen.

Oh, how far they have indeed fallen!

Two brief amusements to pick out before I pop off, otherwise I’ll be here all day:

Firstly, there’s the outside Elder who is told by a Gar of Garlandia’s existence but declares “Well, there’s nothing in my books!” which to him means that Garlandia can only be a figment of everyone’s imagination. It’s pre-Vespucci Columbus colliding with a new continent, determined that it must be already known; that hilarious, curiosity-free complacency and self-satisfied ignorance that kept humankind back before the Scientific Revolution.

Lastly, I loved how when the Lord of the Lagoon issues instruction to pregnant Cochineal to help her build and feather her nest, and says, “Let us see if you will succeed in following them,” those instructions are issued from his mouth not as words, but as stream of butterflies which she must physically rather than figuratively follow in order to find what she needs.

SLH

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

Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince…

 

 

“Hello, and welcome to this collection of my 2016 journal comics.
“This project started as a way to break out of a crippling writer’s block while also completing a lifetime goal of drawing an autobiographical comic every dang day…
“As of this publication in 2018, I am still keeping up the daily comic practice!
“Thanks for reading! Enjoy.”

She should try reviewing comics every week without fail for over twenty years as our Stephen has been doing! Including a fair few Liz Prince classics like TOMBOY. That’s a proper test of endurance!

 

 

But if you want to know what a comics creator gets up to a daily basis – aside from creating comics that is – well, now you can. Every single detail of it!

 

 

Not just the emotional highs and lows like getting engaged and friends passing away, or the immense stresses of moving cities never mind house, but all the regular day-to-day stuff like trips to the cinema to see crap films, the myriad ways cats can do your head in and cost you money (I love the fact that her cats are called Wolfman and Dracula) to discovering new places to eat with friends.

 

 

Just Liz generally hanging out and having fun with her boyf Kyle and their mates. In that sense, the title sums it up nicely, for there are many laughs to be had here, at the general absurdities that life throws at you, plus the ones we frequently manage to make for ourselves. Plus various cat-astrophes to add to the financial woes and fun. Light-hearted autobio-comics that show you can be both prolific and consistently amusing and engaging at the same time. Well, Liz can anyway.

 

 

JR

Buy Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Universe One-Shot (£4-25, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara…

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Said sound foundations being formed of…

The Dreaming #1 (£3-25) by Si Spurrier & Bliquis Evely out 5th September
The House Of Whispers #1 (£3-25) by Nalo Hopkinson & Dominike Domo Stanton out 12th September
Lucifer #1 (£3-25) by Dan Waters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara out 17th October
The Books Of Magic #1 (£3-25) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler out 24th October

So, yes, we will see several old favourites return, albeit many filled with the same egotistic notions of grandeur and / or crippling neuroses as before, for example in the form of the likes of the ever <ahem> trustworthy Lucifer Morningstar, still getting worked up about his absent daddy issues, and Timothy Hunter, still grappling with school life whilst wondering which end of his wand is which.

 

 

We’ll also see new characters aplenty, particularly in The House Of Whispers, which looks to open a hitherto unknown corner of the Vertigo mythos by taking us to a bayou where the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda floats. Erzulie, I think, seems to be a voodoo goddess who attracts the souls of her followers looking for agony aunt-esque advice on both supernatural and worldly issues.

 

 

Erzulie seems like she could be a bit of a party girl herself, on the not-so-quiet, with an interesting back story, so I’m particularly looking forward to reading more about her.

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

 

 

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

Now, whilst Neil himself is involved with the writing of this one-shot, being credited with the story idea, he is not, I believe, involved directly with the writing of the four ongoing titles. Instead he’s hand-picked the writers, including three fantasy prose writers alongside comics veteran Si Spurrier who with the likes of GODSHAPER and THE SPIRE has certainly proven he can craft an atypical tale or two. If we can’t have Neil himself scribing away, I guess that this is the next best thing. Certainly, on the basis of where they’ve all taken his initial premise here, I’m more than sufficiently intrigued to want to read all the titles.

 

 

Artistically, this has all tickled my fancy too, especially the Fiumara brothers on the Lucifer title. My interest in that particular title is greatly reawakened after this lead-in. But all the titles look like they are going to have distinctive art styles to compliment the writing, precisely like Vertigo always had back in the day, and in fact always continued to do so with its better titles.

So far, so very good. And if we keep everything crossed, you never know, we might get a Vertigo HELLBLAZER reprise…

JR

Buy Sandman Universe One-Shot and read the Page 45 review here

Roughneck s/c (£17-99, Simon & Schuster) by Jeff Lemire…

“I was never really a hockey player… I was just a thug. At least now I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.”

The doyen of downbeat is back with a frosty contemporary fiction feast of self-destruction and misery. Straight out in graphic novel form, unlike his equally excellent new ongoing mildly mysterious monthly series ROYAL CITY, this is Jeff firmly smack bang against-the-boards back in ESSEX COUNTY territory. Even to the extent of having a former professional ice skating central protagonist, hence the body check…

I’m starting to think Jeff is a frustrated plumber. By which I actually mean an ice hockey player who likes to go get the puck out of trouble, working in the dirty areas of the rink. Because that’s exactly how he writes. He drops his characters in a whole world of pain, leaving them slipping, sliding and scrapping on the metaphorical thin ice for their lives, the Zamboni bearing down on them for good measure… then writes a way out for them, even if they don’t exactly all make it out intact. But then, getting run over by a Zamboni will do that to you.*

 

 

Here, in the frostbitten, half-forgotten arse end of Canada that is the small (ice-)burg of Pimitamon, known locally as The Pit, we find Derek Ouelette, temporarily assuaging his ever present despair with an equally ever handy bottle of beer and / or shot of the hard stuff. Plagued by headaches from his days as an enforcer out on the rink in the NHL, before the red mist took his career in a spectacularly brutal, gruesome loss of temper, he’s now barely making ends meet as a short order cook back in his home town, whilst sleeping on a cot in the janitor’s office at the local ice rink.

 

 

He’s still willing to fight all-comers, though, being one stubborn Cement Head who’s clearly not learnt his lesson yet, but this time his opponents seem entirely to be those idiotic enough to taunt someone whose former profession was repeatedly battering people in the face for fun. They might think they have a chance against someone who’s slightly the worse for wear and seemingly over the hill, but given Derek used to give people a good beatdown whilst dancing around on ice skates, I hardly think a few beers is going to prove too much of an impediment to his balance or indeed fisticuffs technique. It doesn’t.

 

 

So, it seems like Derek is on an endless cycle of drink, beat, repeat which is only going to end up with him getting sent to prison, killing someone or possibly even both. So what will make him change his ways? Not even repeated ‘final’ warnings from his old school friend, and police officer, Ray, can make him hang up his metaphorical gloves. Enter stage left Beth, his long lost sister, who ran away from home as a teenager, down to the bright lights of the proverbial big city Toronto, ending up drug-addled and sleeping rough for a few years, before allegedly getting clean and her shit together. So if that’s the case, how come she’s turned up back in The Pit, penniless, with a black eye?

 

 

Well, she hasn’t got her shit together, obviously, she isn’t clean either, but she is pregnant…  and the fruitcake future father with the free-flying fists is in hot pursuit… Guess it’s at times like this that having an equally psychopathic brother to turn to could come in handy. Except… remember what I said about Derek being on the probable path to killing somebody and winding up in jail…? Still, it’s difficult to imagine him suddenly turning into the type of guy who he’d once of described in hockey parlance as having ‘eggs in their pockets’…

As much as I love Jeff’s writing, no matter who is illustrating, it is always wonderful to see Jeff wield the pencils and paints himself too. He’s gone for a typically subdued palette here, just black lines and shading with light watercolour blues, reflecting the chilly northern landscape and stunted, alcohol and oxycontin-anaesthetised emotional vibe, similar to ESSEX COUNTY and THE UNDERWATER WELDER. Where we have full colour panels here, as with his TRILLIUM and SWEET TOOTH, it is always either in flashback to scenes of the kids’ (in-)tense family life growing up with an abusive Cannuck knucklehead father and their put-upon Native mother, or Derek’s glory days out on the ice. And hallucinations…

 

 

It’s a device that well serves to further impress upon us the oppressive situation and circumstances of Derek and Beth’s lives. Then, there is an exquisite use of a single additional colour on two other pages which, well, I have perhaps said enough already, so I shall leave you to discover those masterstrokes for yourselves. In summary, another contemporary classic from Jeff.

* No Zambonis were hurt in the writing of this graphic novel; however several Hosers do get a good thwacking from the Cement Head.

JR

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

Map Of Days h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Robert Hunter…

“After a time, inside an expanding space, the depths called nine siblings into existence. As they calmly drifted, they began to create order in the dusty cosmos.
“The siblings had the ability to draw in and mould pieces of the surrounding clutter into new forms. They used their gifts to bring together the disparate fragments and create shelter for themselves.
“As each unique exterior grew, the thick could of dust that obscured the depths began to disperse. As this heavy blanket lifted, a hidden light was revealed, never to be seen by the now cocooned siblings.
“One sibling continued to be prolific with his gift and focused his artistry on a natural fibre within his shell to weave a network reaching out to the surface.”

That sibling being the creator of the Earth. His contact with the surface of the planet through his creations and thus by extension the rays of the life-giving sun would have profound implications for his own existence…

 

 

And that’s just the beginning of the prologue of this exquisitely beautiful 48-page wonder! Once the sibling meets the sun… well… it doesn’t quite go how you might expect…

 

 

Which then leads us into the main story proper where young Richard goes to spend the summer at his grandfather Frank’s coastal house with no other plan than to go swimming every day. The simple joys of summer holidays as a child! The best laid plans, though… and soon Richard finds himself with rather more to think about than he could possibly have ever imagined. Here is a sunny deposition from the publisher to tell you more about Richard’s Plan B…

 

 

“Richard can’t stop thinking about the clock. He lies in bed each night listening to its tick-tocking, to the pendulum’s heavy swing. Why does his grandfather open its old doors in secret and walk into the darkness beyond?

“One night, too inquisitive to sleep, Richard tiptoes from his bed, opens the cherry wood door of the grandfather clock, and steps inside. There, in a strange twilight, he sees the Face the Earth, locked forever in a simulated world, where green things seem to grow in the semblance of trees and plants from unreal soil…

 

 

“In this quasi-world they sit together for many nights, the face and the boy, talking quietly of creation and the beginning of all things. Moved by the face’s ancient tale of mysterious, magnetic love, Richard longs to release him. So one night he secretly winds back the hands of the grandfather clock, and changes time forever…”

 

 

It’s going to be quite some holiday! For this is a splendidly curious fable that will lead you to a place most unexpected indeed. And whilst it is a beautifully written, tender, tantalising story, it is the wondrous art that will utterly captivate. A glorious rapture of colour and design portraying both the natural world and the heavenly sphere inside the grandfather clock. It’s a visual feast par excellence , very possibly the most beautiful work I’ve read this year. I found myself unexpectedly moved by the sentiment carefully woven through this work.

JR

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

Fence vol 1 (£8-99, Boom! Box) by C.S. Pascat & Johanna The Mad…

“Why’d you even like fencing that much?”
“My father was a fencer.”
“I thought you didn’t know your father. Just some anonymous guy who ditched your Mom, right?”
“… Right.”

Nicolas Cox wants to be a fencer to emulate his father, the Olympic Champion Robert Coste. Now, Robert Coste’s legitimate son, Jesse Coste, is ranked number one in the country for individual épée, the style of fencing most closely resembling duelling. So presumably Jesse will eventually end up as Nicolas’ arch-nemesis, but in the meanwhile, he has the supremely talented and immensely obnoxious Seiji Katayama to contend with. Both as a rival and very reluctant roommate at the Kings Row Boys School, to where Nicolas has won a scholarship, on the tricky proviso that he can win a place on the fencing team. With a roster of only three in the team and several boys competing for a spot, as well as each other’s affections, it’s going to be a testing time for Nicolas.

 

 

Yes, there’s many a Yaoi gag I could make about boys waving their swords around, but it really does seem here that at least half the potential team are more concerned about the action going on off the court than going off on it. If you follow me…

 

 

It’s all hilarious hi-jinks until someone gets poked with someone else’s sword… and loses a fencing contest… Then the sulking and self-flagellation begins. Hopefully without a sword in their hand…

Yes, despite being the wrong target audience for this, it amused me greatly. Very titter-worthy, I have to say. It’s extremely well-written unpretentious good fun about a group of pretentious stuck-up idiots that wouldn’t know good fun if it came and prodded them in the face with its sword. Well… actually… they might, I suppose…

 

 

I should add, at this sword point, if you are looking for actual hot boy-on-boy action on the page, this isn’t the title for you. However, if you’re into being tantalised and teased by the mere prospect of said activities, you’re definitely in the right arena. Trades descriptions and all that. Alternatively, if you’re just into highly amusing homoerotic sports comics regardless of your personal predilections I think you’ll get a rise out of it as well…

 

 

Back to the action… the actual sword-fighting variety… The only two who seem able to completely concentrate on the swords in their hands are Nicolas and Seiji, both of whom are equally totally obsessed with being the best. It’s a shame therefore for Nicolas that he’s lagging a long way behind Seiji in technique, but he’s able to compensate for that to some degree with natural raw talent, which is the only thing he inherited from his dad. Clean, crisp and mildly saucy colourful art from the wonderful named Johanna the Mad neatly adds to the fun.

JR

Buy Fence vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Spill Zone vol 1 s/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland.

“A hunt? What a charming idea. Did you know that the first nature photographers were safari hunters?”
“Um, no.”
“Preservation can take many forms.”

As tightly constructed as it is eloquently expressed, SPILL ZONE is charged with a fierce imagination and narrative drive which Puvilland has pulled off with panache. I have some stunning interior art for you following, but for the moment let us stick with preservation.

In Grolleau and Royer’s AUDUBON – which captured the pioneering, ornithological artist’s awe of the natural world and the plumed beauties which populated it – we learned that he didn’t half love to preserve his birds, after shooting them clean out of the sky.

Addison Merritt is preserving her home town too, in photographs taken at extreme risk to her life during illegal excursions undertaken alone and at night on her dirt bike. What she captures in the most radiant colours is both terrible and beautiful to behold.

 

 

As is her home town which was caught one night in The Spill, transforming the once mundane urban environment into an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of what might be considered ideas, experimentation, self-expression, but also killing almost everyone in its boundaries.

 

 

Since then the town has been quarantined lest other lives are lost, which makes it nigh-impossible for anyone to analyse what happened to it.

But Addison’s illicit images have become an obsession with elderly art collector Tan’ea Vandersloot, who has bought every shot and hung them in her private gallery in gentrified Harlem. Like most individuals with an eye for the arts Vandersloot is insatiably curious. Unsurprisingly, then, Ms Vandersloot has been conducting her own extensive research into The Spill, and with wealth comes contacts, the ability to acquire information under the counter and, if necessary, trade for it. Her reach is extensive; it is international; and not every country is as safety-conscious as America.

 

 

We do not know what caused The Spill, nor the nature of it. It is only via Addison’s observations that we can even begin to guess.

“An alien visitation? Something spilling from another world?
“Most of the people who escaped don’t say much of what happened that night.
“My little sister, Lexa, hasn’t uttered a sound since then.”

Lexa is seen clutching ragdoll, Vespertine, who also hasn’t uttered a sound since then.

Except to Lexa.

“I’d snuck off to New Paltz that night for a little underage drinking. Lucky me.
“Instead of watching it live, I got to see it on TV.
“My parents weren’t so lucky. They were at work that night at the hospital.
“Now there’s just the two of us.”

This first instalment comes with terrific stage-setting, our entire focus on Addison’s P.O.V., hitching along on her ride, but don’t imagine she necessarily notices everything which you will.

 

 

Our first glimpse of the town is seen at a very late hour from above, black bird-shapes flocking in synchronised flight like a murmuration of starlings, while below the buildings throb in a rainbow of radioactive colours, especially effective as the outer suburb rooftops emerge from the surrounding trees.

Once inside one would be forgiven for forgetting it is night for everything is so Day-Glo bright.

Even looking through the toy-shop windows where some of the former inhabitants hang as “meat puppets”, suspended in mid-air as if on hooks, the light is unnatural. Their eyes are empty, a vile yellow mist emanating irregularly from their open mouths.

“Whatever’s watching though their eyes isn’t them anymore.
“I hope.”

 

 

Out of respect, Addison won’t photograph the dead, but her other rules are born more out of self-preservation.

“Rule Six: never, ever get off the bike. Even in here in the playground where nothing has ever messed with me.

Is the playground empty? Puvilland puts tremendous weight on the springed things, and the swings, they are swinging like crazy.

“Because in the Spill Zone, there’s a first time for everything.”

 

 

Cue 0 to 60 and a full-throttle chase at some excellent angles past Flatsville, a stretch of road where the cars look accommodatingly level with the tarmac so leaving the route unimpeded, but make the mistake of riding over one and you’ll join the silently screaming cyclist, also squashed into two dimensions.

 

 

Are you beginning to see what I mean by “charged with a fierce imagination” yet? Also the “narrative drive” for the wolf-shadow’s pursuit propels Addison where she least wants to go: to the hospital where her parents worked as nurse and paramedic. Far from modern, it is instead a vast, foreboding, neo-gothic affair and if the intense level of dust-devil, geometric activity is anything to go by – both at ground level and spiralling above in the sky – it appears to be the very centre of this unearthly disturbance.

“Almost forgot I was scared of this place even before the Spill.
“And it’s not like a generous sprinkling of Hell has improved it much.”

As to the tight construction, you’ll understand exactly what I mean when you discover that this – for all its unnerving beauty and cleverly conceived, steadily built rules which are never to be broken and some of which I have intentionally left unspoken – is all just a taste and a teaser, a foreshadowing for the first climax upon which Puvilland will provide a walloping vertical spread at exactly the right moment after which my jaw required emergency medical treatment before I could articulate anything again.

 

 

Including my jaw.

But that’s just one climax, not the cliffhanger, so I would refer you all backwards to infer what you will.

The colouring throughout is phenomenal, not least during one of the creepiest scenes which was so well observed in terms of young behaviour. In it young Lexa has been left alone overnight. Well, left alone with Vespertine, her rag-doll who, I’d remind you, also survived The Spill.

 

 

There is something of the ceremony in child’s play.

I would assemble all of my Matchbox cars onto a starting line and play out my version of The Wacky Races, an animated cartoon starring Dick Dastardly, Muttley, Penelope Pitstop et al, few of whom were afraid to get their hands dirty in order to win (in terms of our stock, please see Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre’s PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH). I’d move all the cars about incrementally, a bit like shooting for stop-animation, and make my own narrative up in my head.

Here young, silent Lexa similarly assembles all her cuddly toys and dresses herself up as the Mistress of Ceremonies for her Royal Dance. She picks her toys’ partners for them and then, in the low-lit shadows, she holds one in each hand around their backs in order to make them dance together.

Around and around they go, Vespertine with her handsome pink beau, a bear…!

Then Lexa lets her hands go.

 

 

Oh.

That’s not the cliffhanger, either.

SLH

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

More Copies Found!

Escapo h/c (£22-99, Z2 Comics) by Paul Pope…

“They conceived me up over that summer, those fresh-faced two…
“That little sperm and that little round egg, they joined and blended and rolled up, and they conceived me.
“And I was born in a sterile room full of steel tools and knives…
“… and they didn’t even ask if I wanted to be there.
“And it was in this way I made it through my very first escape hatch. Escapo, King of the World!”

You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Me, having bought this newly coloured edition in addition to the black and white 1999 original, well, I guess now I’ve got it twice! Paul Pope just has it in abundance, though. Talent, that is. Seemingly he always has, though in a fascinating afterword, which explains why ESCAPO has been reworked and re-released, it’s clear Paul feels he’s moved on considerably since 1999, not just in artistic ability but also in the understanding of the tools of his trade. Not least that you shouldn’t used markers which will fade or bleed over time if you want to retain the integrity of the original artwork! Hence, his need to revisit, restore and thus (re)produce this new edition of what is, to my mind, an early Pope masterpiece.

 

 

There are comic artists who are truly, singularly unique, seemingly inspired by no one nor indeed inspiring others. Their style stands – in Pope’s case even down to his lettering – for all intents and purposes alone. I can’t imagine what effort of will it must take to produce such a performance. Much like that required to defy death purely for the entertainment of others perhaps, though obviously without the potential for a fatal mishap at any moment. Pope, however, does not perform with the drama-sapping luxury of a safety net, either. Epic in scale and grandeur, his pages and panels here are all spectacular in their concept and construction.

ESCAPO, though, is no showy piece of three-ring hoopla, instead it is a story bristling with passion and sentiment, albeit unfulfilled and misplaced, which at its pounding heart has the cruellest kind of love known to man, the unrequited variety. Poor Vic: the public may marvel at his exploits and gasp at his brushes with disaster as that most daring of escape artistes, but he’d happily trade it all for just a single kiss from the lithesome object of his desires, the capricious Aerobella. Unfortunately for Vic, her vainglorious heart belongs to another, the beautiful Acrobat King. Will Escapo choose to end it all distraught, mid-performance, under the gaze of a rapt but terrified crowd? Or will he choose to live forever more with a broken heart? You want to know? Well then step up, step up, buy your entrance ticket, come into Paul Pope’s tent of wonder and delight, and above all prepare to be amazed…

 

 

This edition also contains a whole host of extras not in the original edition, besides the afterword, including the two-page alternate ending from the original French version and various beautiful Escapo circus posters by Paul and various friends which I absolutely adored. Some things are just worth buying twice.

JR

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

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 Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins s/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy & Carey Pietsch

Ghost Money: Death In Durban h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Smolden & Dominique Bertail

Idle Days (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau & Simon Leclerc

Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Making Friends (£11-99, Scholastic) by Kristen Gudsnuk

Sheets (£11-99, Cubhouse) by Brenna Thummler

Spill Zone vol 2 h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 2 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola with Richard Corben, P. Craig Russell, Joshua Dysart, Dave Stewart, others

Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Esad Ribic

East Of West vol 8 (£14-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Artist Tribute s/c (£22-99, Archaia) by various

Old Man Hawkeye vol 1: An Eye For Eye s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Marco Checchetto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week two

August 8th, 2018

Featuring Jacques Tardi, Alexander Utkin, Gary Northfield, Steve Lowes, John McNamee, Evan Dorkin, Jeff Smith, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby.

Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin.

Ah, best beloveds, now sit yourselves down!

I see you’ve returned to learn what became of the humble merchant who found and rescued a wounded eagle, then nursed it back to health. It transpired that this mighty raptor was none other than the King of the Birds, a blue-skinned being with three regal sisters, one of whom rewarded her brother’s saviour with her most prized possession, a heavy, gleaming gold chest.

Having soaked up the spectacle of three stunning palaces, our lowly merchant now wends his way home, for he has been gone from the wife whom he loves with all his heart for almost a year, and he is desperate to see her once more. Alas, even as he draws near – to within but a few days’ walk of his house – the foulest of weather descends: snow, icy rain and hailstones as big as his fist. And he does have two very big fists.

With nowhere to shelter, he opens the treasure chest, perhaps seeking to snuggle up inside, even though the King of the Birds commanded that it be left locked until the merchant was safely home. But that’s the thing with any such strictures: they’re begging to be broken, aren’t they?

Well, wonders of wonders, my best beloveds, for the merchant will not have to snuggle!

 

 

Instead the casket transforms itself into a vast, golden palace. Structured for maximum strength, it’s a little bit Soviet, but with windows that shimmer with banded ocean-blue, sea green and salmon pink, as if aspects of another dimension. Indeed, it proves even bigger on the inside than on the outside, and surprisingly homely, with a feast laid out and candles all welcomingly lit. Wine is poured as if by an invisible servant and, after dessert plucked from a bowl of fruit, a candlestick hovers then shows the traveller to bed. A four-poster bed! And, oh, what a glorious view!

The winter weather has blown over to reveal the most tranquil of lakes, a crescent moon’s reflection streaming over the still, midnight blue waters. The merchant does not recall a lake in this region, but no matter. He bites into the rosy-red apple he’d saved for later and pfft – there’s a worm wriggling inside – so he tosses the apple out of the window and PLOP into the water below.

“A foolish mistake,” notes our narrator.

And so it seems, for there’s something slumbering in the shadowy depths, about to be woken, and about to take umbrage at our merchant’s distinct lack of manners and complete disregard for Local Authority Planning Permission. (Article 11 Notice, if you don’t own all the site).

Still, one lucky fish gets a free worm-supper.

 

 

GAMAYUN TAKES VOL 1: THE KING OF THE BIRDS began with an apple at its core too. They’re so often the seed of a story. Ask Eve!

I urge you to get a gander at that, for it dealt with the premise and artwork in depth, whereas I am on holiday – can you tell?

We are far from done in this second instalment, for even more potential tales are opened up with promises to be told, and there are more oaths exchanged with the alarming repercussions. Top tip: never shake hands on an agreement without knowing what you’re agreeing to; never make a deal without knowing its details. If you’ve been away from home for nearly a year, there’s quite a good chance that there have been changes. Hopefully the bed linen, for one.

If you relished David B’s HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, then I recommend this wholeheartedly, with only the caveat that David B delivered an entire epic, each of whose threads, however digressive, was woven together to form a complete tapestry. Here we conclude with an even more intriguing, whiplash, OMG cliff-hanger than book one!

 

 

It’s equally luxurious, though. The treasure-chest transmogrification aside, I spent an entire hour staring at a single image of the lake when revisited at first light, marvelling at the flatness of its waters. They’re the flattest thing in the world, are lakes – liquid does find its own level – and it’s a very clever artist who can render such a sheer surface in perfect contrast to the vertical thrust of that which emerges from, in front or behind it.

I also liked the different visual treatments of what we are witnessing and what we are listening to. Golden-tressed Gamayun appears in occasional asides, either addressing us directly or commenting on what she has just watched replayed herself, glancing in the panels’ direction. Gamayun is all sleek and smooth; what we watch has a certain rugged texture to it.

“I wish I could help you somehow, poor boy,” mourns the invisible golden palace’s inhabitant.
Says Gamayun, “Oh, darling, you will”.

 

 

Finally, like HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, this mythological excursion also offers broken-promise offenders the opportunity of redemption – second chances, if you will – although there appears to be a far greater price to be paid.

“Nine years has passed joyfully, but even the longest day must have an end.”

Oh dear. The holiday’s over. I’m being sent back to boarding school, aren’t I?

Nice Nirvana reference on page 46.

SLH

Buy Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit and read the Page 45 review here

Heavy Manners Bulletin One (£4-00) by Steve Lowes…

“Hey, the Man.
“You buried our communities under concrete.
“The wholesale vandalism of our towns, villages and countryside.
“Leaving us living in a concrete hell of identikit high streets and indistinguishable housing schemes.
“Your facsimile out-of-town concrete retail Meccas have left up to one-in-three shops vacant in our decaying town centres.”

The creator of HARD CORE PAWN returns with another call to arms, an exhortation to let the proverbial scales fall from our eyes and start to take back our planet from the hegemony of greed that threatens its very existence in a myriad of ways.

I found this varied selection of material both depressing and uplifting in equal measure – Steve’s exact intentions, I am sure. He covers such varied topics in his own inimitable style as the day modern warfare changed forever, with the carpet-bombing of Gernika in the Basque country by the Luftwaffe at the request of Franco during the Spanish Civil War, the inspiration for Picasso’s famed anti-war painting, ‘Guernica’.

 

 

Then… what would Joe Strummer do if given free rein to hack into the electronic advertising hoardings in Times Square? Clue: not advertise a Clash Greatest Hits compilation…

Is television the opiate of the (m)asses? Told through subliminal ‘They Live’ style messages on television screens, obviously! Culminating in something I’m sure we’ve all thought about doing at some point.

The hypocrisy of First World cocaine users hoovering up the marching powder whilst blithely choosing to ignore the consequences elsewhere of their pulmonary pulverising power-up.

 

 

Plus probably my favourite, entitled ‘Concrete Soul’, from which the above pull quote is taken. A threne to the city centre soul desertification at the behest of developers of our once green and pleasant land. It has a lyrical quality that minds me greatly, synchronously enough, of Tim THE GREAT NORTH WOOD Bird’s paean to our once leafy locale.

So are we as a planet wholly without hope? No, as long as we resist and take the fight back to the Man however we can. Be that simply never forgetting the horrors of the past such as Gernika. Or caring about other enough to change our behaviours, be that cutting down on plastic use, never mind cocaine use, that’s contributing to current environmental catastrophes.

 

 

Or even simply not buying from certain global corporations that don’t pay their share of corporation tax thus preventing vital investment in our infrastructures. Okay, I added that last one myself, but just stop and think about it. That bargain you think you’re getting, that saving you’re making that high street shops can’t afford to give you, is basically tax not paid, which is money that’s not going into the NHS or schools, for example. It really is as simple as that.

Just in case you’re not sure who I’m on about, here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders at a rally in Michigan this week whilst stumping from the progressive gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed…

“Mr. Bezos sees his wealth increase by $275 million every single day, and yet he has thousands of workers who are earning wages so low that they have to go on government programs like Medicaid and food stamps.”

You can do something, anything. Otherwise… as Plato himself said: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

I’m not saying Jeff Bezos is evil. But he could clearly get Amazon to pay their fair share of taxes and look after his workers better, never mind simply funding his space rocket fun. Anyway…

 

 

Concrete Soul ends with a lovely heart-warming moment of defiance from our free-wheeling, narrating skateboarder making good his escape from the portly security guard…

“But listen up, the Man.
“Your concrete is our new playing fields.
“Our new recreation grounds.
“Our new canvases.
“I ride all over your concrete vision through these wheels.
“I give your concrete…
“SOUL.”

JR

Buy Heavy Manners Bulletin One and read the Page 45 review here

Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee.

Hysterical one-page comics with a lot of lateral thinking and a very high hit-rate which is so rarely seen outside Tom Gauld (BAKING WITH KAFKA etc), Sarah Andersen (HERDING CATS et al) and Evan Dorkin (DORK and more).

See the familiar rethought and re-wrought, your favourite legends desecrated – or at least looked at askew – like God, Godzilla, Goldilocks And The Three Bears, St. George And The Dragon, Jurassic Park, Snow White, Androcles And The Lion, Hamlet, Harry Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar, Pandora’s Box, Cinderella, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Excalibur. Rudolf’s revenge is very funny.

You’ll even meet the Ancient Greek God of Atheism.

I know, right?

 

 

 

Here’s Merlin who begins in already rocky territory, then goes completely off the rails:

“He who pulls the sword from the stone shall be King.
“Fish the dagger from the bowl of marbles, and you’re Prime Minister.
“The cabinet shall be decided by this piñata full of ninja-stars.”

Dirty dairy farmer scratches his head:

“I just don’t get politics.”

Each successive swipe at the Bible’s a belter, be it the 7-Day Creation Schedule (“This seems doable” – but science can be hard!) infantile Adam, alternative Eve, an apple in Eden made as tempting as possible by the Big Beard himself or Jesus and daddy-dearest playing Good God / Bad God.

 

 

 

 

Death is ubiquitous (I’m afraid). Beware approaching your idols with unconditional and unquenchable adulation, especially if they have a scythe. I loved the bubble-bursting of the beach-side, Death-match chess match in Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’. After a solemn silence, the knight asks:

“Which way’s the horsey move?”

 

 

Other caveats include “Never mess with a magician” (they have mad skillz) and here’s a thought: what the Simon Pegg is so scary about zombies? There’s a great big plot-hole in almost every outbreak of urban overrunning which is this: we have massive military armies with bigger numbers and superior firepower. In WWII the Allied Forces beat the Nazi Axis of Evil backed up by 18 million troops.

“Plus, Germany had bombs & planes not just biting & slow shuffling.”

They’re not going to break into a tank by gnawing on its gun turret.

 

 

 

Conversely, here’s that humble chicken joke more closely examined:

“Why did the chicken cross the road?
“Why did the chicken receive a mysterious package?
“Why did the chicken make a fake passport?
“What the f*** is this chicken up to?”

Especially on a plane.

Plus there’s a very funny reminder that Superman’s an Alien. “Hiss!”

 

 

I leave you with a warning from Wizard School:

“All toilets are currently levitating or zombies”.

I really wouldn’t ‘go’ there.

SLH

Buy Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears and read the Page 45 review here

I, Parrot (£16-99, Black Balloon / Catapult) by Deb Olin Unferth & Elizabeth Haidle…

“The bad luck is back. I should have known.”

Poor Daphne. She does seem to be a bad luck magnet, I have to say. The worst slice being when she managed to lose custody of her young son to her formerly wayward, drunken failure of a social climbing wannabe of a husband. Well, he used to be like that, but now as Daphne puts it he’s…

“Straightened out his act.
“Arranged a space for himself in what he used to call prison and now claimed was a career.
“Found a woman who would police his wicked ways.
“And moved with her and her two kids into the finest neighbourhood supposedly known to humankind.
“All for the sole purpose of making me suffer.”

 

 

Technically Daphne has joint custody, but somehow the balance has shifted so she only gets to see her son every other weekend in her pokey little apartment. That hardly seems fair to her, but as the judge pompously pointed out to her…

“Joint does not mean equal. Joint means two things that are joined. Those things can be equal or unequal.”

Still, matters are looking up slightly as she’s found a new job and her lawyer has promised her if she can keep it for six months she might be able to have a somewhat more equal arrangement. The job, though, is being a positive-thought helpline recording assistant for someone who writes Self-Help books… It’s a cushy if unrewarding number. Well, mind-numbing actually, but a job’s a job.

 

 

All that changes, though, when her boss goes away for a lecture tour and asks her to look after her birds at double rate of pay. Daphne’s somewhat surprised to find the birds in question are 42 parrots of 20 different rare species worth a grand total of 100,000 dollars. No pressure then. Nor indeed time for an attack of her famed bad luck…

Still, she’s bought a book all about understanding the needs of parrots to bone up on the subject. The subtitle of ‘Know Your Prisoner’ ought to have given her a clue about the author’s feelings…

“If you have a parrot, you can be pretty certain this book is for you because anyone with a parrot does not understand him. Anyone who has a parrot is not up to the task.
“How do you think he likes being locked in a small dark box for his entire life?
“Do you think you can do anything other than try unsuccessfully to keep the bird from sliding into crippling, suicidal depression while you slowly squash every instinct he has?
“Failure is all you can hope for.”

Well, when you put it like that…

 

 

It is useful then that her loving if completely broke boyfriend is on hand to help. Well, try to help. But when an infestation of mites strikes and Daphne is forced to temporarily relocate the pandemonium of parrots (what a wonderful and highly appropriate collective noun!) to her apartment whilst they blitz her boss’ house, you can sense that Daphne’s fabled luck isn’t about to turn any time yet… Quite the opposite…

 

 

I loved this work! It made me chuckle throughout at Daphne’s disasters and also feel more than a little moved at the injustices perpetuated on parrots (and our other feathered friends) in the name of companionship. Perhaps Deb Olin Unferth is presenting us with a metaphor to mull over…? Or maybe she just really thinks birds should be in the wild and not trapped in cages for our own selfish emotional needs.

 

 

Elizabeth Haidle provides some sumptuous black, grey and white art to accompany this enchanting tail of chortle-inducing woe. It has a delightfully gentle yet robust feel. You can practically see the stresses etched in Daphne’s face despite the economy of line. Clever use of block shading and white space allow for a similar approach to the inking. It’s an extremely expressive style despite its seemingly relative minimalism.  I also loved her chunky lettering font. She clearly enjoys drawing parrots very much too! One of the most enjoyable comics I’ve read this year. I will certainly be looking for further works from both the writer and artist.

JR

Buy I, Parrot and read the Page 45 review here

I, René Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi…

“Did you wear clogs?”
“NEVER!”

Good to see René kept up the grand tradition of French sartorial elegance even in the face of such adversity! And also his sense of humour, which I think was probably completely necessary to avoid going stark staring mad when faced with such a situation. The clogs do make sense in context, though, trust me.

Here’s the publisher’s surprisingly comprehensive and uncensored message to you the reader from behind enemy lines to tell you more…

“In September 1939, René Tardi went to war. Less than a year later, the French army was defeated and he was a prisoner of war, like 1.6 million other French soldiers. After 4 years and 8 months in a POW camp, René returned home, bitter and ashamed.

 

 

“Stalag IIB is Jacques Tardi’s homage to his father and a testimony to the silent suffering of a generation of men. Based on René’s memories, Stalag IIB – the first of two volumes – recounts brutal years of captivity under the Nazis and the POWs’ attempts to reclaim moments of humanity. René recalls the roll calls in sub-zero temperatures, daily acts of resistance, crushing boredom – and especially the omnipresent hunger.

“With four decades of cartooning and almost two dozen graphic novels behind him, Jacques Tardi masterfully recreates historical and personal details with remarkable fidelity, guided by extensive research and his father’s notes. Featuring some of Tardi’s most intense and meticulous drawing, punctuated by sombre greys and punches of red and blue rendered beautifully by Rachel Tardi, Stalag IIB is a personal and artistic triumph.”

 

 

Yes, this is the first volume of two. This opener encompasses René’s own personal lead-up to the war, plus conveying the foolish sense of superiority and bravado of the French people generally, still riding high like the British in their colonial pomp, before their total military humiliation at the hands of the Nazis. It then continues right through René’s incarceration in Stalag IIB until to January 29th 1945 when the order to evacuate the camp was given in the face of the unceasing Allied advance. Volume two will cover not only how he made it home in the following months, but how life had irrevocably changed for him afterwards.

For despite all the privations and sufferings experienced in Stalag IIB, which René so eloquent lays out to his son in the form of a conversation here – Jacques frequently walking alongside him as René recounts the daily ordeal of the myriad roll calls, harsh work regimen and the ever-crushing lack of food – the point which stuck with me the most comes from the foreword about a fellow POW, Jean Grange, in which it is heartbreakingly described how every time he tried to talk about his experiences upon returning home he was sarcastically mocked by his father-in-law, a WW1 veteran, as ‘the great soldier’ and thus gave up and retreated within himself. Terrible.

 

 

From Jacque’s own introduction, he clearly states what a negative impact being a POW for practically all the war had on his father emotionally, making him extremely bitter and cynical. Which no doubt we will see for ourselves in volume two, yet here the tone is far more of a man determined to survive, not be beaten down, and if he could do some small measure to put grit in the great German war machine, whatever that was, he would do it.

A fascinating glimpse into an often overlooked day-to-day aspect of the war experience, brought to vivid, painful life by one of comics’ greatest non-fiction war storytellers.

JR

Buy I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space (£9-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield.

“But we’re lost! Lost! It’s like that mad TV show where they all got lost on an island with invisible monsters, secret hatches and weird magic numbers! And they were completely LOST!!”
“Sounds great, what’s it called?”
“Ooh, I can’t remember.”

To gaze on herds of gently grazing sheep, flecking a verdant pasture or hillside with their sedentary woolly white, you cannot imagine much more placid and seemingly satisfied souls. As long as they have an interrupted supply of juicy grass to chow-down on, they appear to want for nothing more.

Conflict seems only to arrive with the introduction of a Border Collie.

But conflict is a key component of comedy, and here Gary Northfield unleashes everything but a Border Collie upon Derek and Lenny and co, in the form of bees, bulls, biblical floods, a grumpy Swiss lumberjack with a very sharp axe, irate and territorial ear flees, tree pixies, a shirking Rudolf the Red Nosed  Reindeer, the whole of Australia and an ant whose wig they’ve accidentally incinerated while attempting to study it with a magnifying glass on a relentlessly sunny day.

 

 

It would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it, if a tree pixie then decided to teach Derek and Lenny a lesson for declaring their ant inspection a sheep-only game by quoting Fariik the Magician from the Banana Splits’ ‘Arabian Knights’ cartoon and reducing then to… “The Size Of An Ant”!

Yes, the greatest source of their disharmony is their own small-mindedness, over-ambition or Derek himself and his overwhelming stupidity.

 

 

You may already have howled your way through DEREK THE SHEEP VOL 1 and other Northfield romps found in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Selection, but ‘Where’s The ‘Arm’  is an absolute classic set-up from titular pun to its basic premise, thence how it’s dealt with.

Ludicrous competition: an arm-wrestling contest between armless animals, previously won by those least likely (a ladybird).
Cheat like crazy: preferably this should be over-elaborate with plenty to go wrong (a remote-controlled King of the Barn power arm)
Choose a co-conspirator: see remote control.
Whoops: cheat goes wrong before it even starts, much to co-conspirator’s delight, so generating anticipation for the maximum mirth.

 

If you can top this all off with a punch line that mirrors the ridiculous prize (a pair of glasses with googly eyes), then resounding applause!

He does.

SLH

Buy Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space and read the Page 45 review here

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

Now out in softcover.

“Gin makes a man mean!”
“Everyone booze up and riot!”

Love them with money or they’ll hate you with hammers! These dairy products gone bad are educating America – one moron at a time! This isn’t a review, it’s a misappropriation of Dorkin’s own comedy: scathing satire, mass destruction, immolation, incineration and if you’re an old-skool comic shop selling nothing more than superheroes to the painfully maladjusted, then you are in for a thorough kicking.

You should follow the man on Twitter. One of my favourites:
“Oh, comic book industry. You’ve gained so much experience, when will you level up?”

No one is safe: neither stand-up comedians nor fall-down pensioners; the police, the obese or those now deceased. Prepare for pointless conflict! There are dozens and dozens of maniacal short stories here filled with frenzy, fury and fist-fights, all effortlessly insane with comedy. We’re talking ART D’ECCO on amphetamines, SUGAR BUZZ on a sugar buzz.

 

 

We used to have the gorgeous vinyl-figure set which included implements of devastation. On the back was the first new Milk & Cheese strip in yoinks although you could probably guess what happened (see “implements of devastation”). It’s reprinted here on page 214, concluding with the commendable exhortation, “You’re either buyin’ or you’re dyin’!”

 

 

 

On top of the previously collected strips, these are the upgrades:

80 pages of comics that have never been collected before. A 24-page section featuring all the colour M&C strips, a cover gallery (not just MILK & CHEESE but also DEADLINE, COMICS JOURNAL etc.), pin-ups, trading card and merchandise art. I have the beer mat that screams (on either side), “Get that drink… THE @*#! OFF OF US!”

 

 

There’s a 24-page B&W supplemental section featuring pin-ups ups (neat Jill Thompson SCARY GODMOTHER crossover), t-shirt designs and more. The rare 1997 M&C Special Edition 16-page mini-comic featuring the expanded “Darth Vader Overdrive” strip and extras.

 

 

For more raw attitude aimed in exactly the right directions, please see Evan’s DORK and THE ELVTINGVILLE CLUB.

SLH

Buy Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin and read the Page 45 review here

Smiley’s Dream Book h/c (£15-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith.

Arm-stretching space, lots of light, there are compositions and colour (by Tom Gaadt) to die for.

“From the creator of the internationally bestselling and award-winning BONE [and RASL] comes a charming and adorable picture book, the first to feature Smiley Bone in an adventure all his own!

“On a beautiful sunny day, happy-go-lucky Smiley Bone is walking through the woods when he begins to count some friendly birds. The birds sing and climb so high that Smiley must find a fantastical way to keep up with them! With lively drawings and expressive word balloons, Jeff Smith has created a one-of-a-kind picture book that will delight the youngest readers.”

 

 

 

I honestly have nothing further to add.

SLH

Buy Smiley’s Dream Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Brink vol 2 (£12-99, Rebellion) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard…

“Your designs for Galina are exceptional. It is a joy to see them made real. Galina, even incomplete, is a spectacular sight.”
“It’s so far… so far from being finished. There is a symmetry I’m trying to attain… a symmetry.”
“I wanted to discuss the overrun on the project timetable. The board has some concerns…”
“Well… well, the delays are in part due for my need for…”
“Symmetry?”
“I thought you’d understand. There’s a perfection… a perfection, and it is elusive. All the simulations had the most supreme symmetry, but as I walk around now… as it arises around me in solid form, the symmetry is off.”

Or is it? Depends upon precisely what is being built… and by whom…

And for whom…

 

 

Yes, we’re finally back to the Brink and still hovering right on the edge of it as former cop Bridget Kurtis returns only to once again find herself right in the middle of some very strange goings-on involving mysterious sects…

Kurtis was politely asked to leave the service despite her heroic actions which thwarted a deadly cult’s plot to drive everyone slowly mad on Odette habitat. It’s like the authorities want to sweep any crazy talk, and any reminders of it, right out of the airlock…

BRINK VOL 1 also culminated in the mysterious ‘Mercury Incident’ which left us with an epic cliff-hanger!! What could have made Mercury seemingly disappear completely? Surely the cults’ talk of elder space-gods lurking, waiting for their moment to enter our space, couldn’t possibly have any grain of truth to it…?

Anyway, both the sects and Kurtis are back. The latter’s now working as a private security consultant for Junot Corp, freshly assigned to Galina Habitat, currently a construction site running well behind schedule amidst rumours of spooky apparitions…

 

 

I have to say, I was utterly gripped by this second volume!! It’s near note-perfect science fiction with its own unique mind-warping edge of creeping horror. Which was just disturbing enough to ensure the obsessed architect in the pull-quote above decided to jump off into total nothingness, in his encroaching despair at the seemingly inexplicable asymmetrical elements being introduced into his design…

Speaking of design, once again, Ian’s art is crisp and vibrantly coloured and oh so precise. Whereas in the first volume, it was all about capturing the claustrophobia of close confines living in a floating tin can, here’s it’s all about the space. The sheer vertigo-inducing expanses of emptiness of the unfinished Galina Habitat, showing off the vast potential of its unfinished lines and curves… waiting impatiently to be filled…

 

 

Kurtis, meanwhile, is still apparently convinced all the space oddity can be explained entirely rationally. As she details for her new colleague whilst searching the sites of reported hauntings deep in the bowels of the half-constructed habitat…

“In my experience, it’s generated by the shit living conditions here on the Brink. Overcrowding, isolation, too much high-dose nudge… but those things, they somehow tap into some sort of shared psychosis. Some kind of lizard brain response.”
“What do you mean, shared?”
“There’s a kind of language that recurs. Bullshit words and phrases. Like the cults have a vocabulary of their own.”
“How could they…?”
“I don’t know. But “Low Theta” is one of the phrases.”

Guess what they’ve just seen sprayed on the wall…

Once again, it appears all is not what it seems… and I mean that in myriad ways… Next thing you know, I’ll be believing in ancient alien entities living inside the sun… But that would just be completely crazy, right? Right?

JR

Buy Brink vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

Features the first appearances of the Silver Surfer, The Inhumans and Galactus!

Also the wedding of Reed and Sue!

 “Fools! It is I, Madam Medusa, who has trapped you!
“Of what use are your clumsy guns and fists against my unconquerable hair!”

I used to think exactly the same thing too.

I do apologise: it was me who single-handedly destroyed the ozone layer with my daily, almost geological strata of hair mousse, hair gel, spray gel, then hair spray, heat-drying each individually applied coat to such a concrete immobility of spikes that the post-punk array once withstood an open-topped journey on a double-decker bus to Haringey in a howling, rain-swept gale.

You can see the results in Page 45’s Photograph Gallery, four photos right at the end.

 

 

I should point out that the INHUMANS’ Medusa is no Gorgon. Nor is the INHUMANS’ Gorgon, for that matter, and Madame Medusa’s hair is merely prehensile rather than a hissing nest of snakes. Nevertheless, that’s good enough for the Frightful Four to enlist her aid in invading the Baxter Building, wisely waiting for the Avengers and X-Men to leave the engagement party. The what now?!?!

Yes, Sue Storm and Reed Richards have announced their plans to be married!

Sue to the Submariner; Reed to his work.

No, no, to each other!

For now.

 

 

They didn’t even have the common courtesy to send Doctor Victor Von Doom an invitation, but he was always going to find out eventually: it’s splattered all over the newspapers, which he rends asunder with wrath.

“Reed Richards, the only man in the world ever to defeat me, getting married today!”
“This is my greatest chance for revenge – now, when he will least expect it!
“My attack must be foolproof, irresistible, all-powerful! Only by scoring the greatest victory of all time can I wipe out the humiliation of the past!”

God, it was only a game of Tiddlywinks.

Or was it strip-Tiddlywinks? Was your winkle tiddly, Victor?

Weddings: there’s always some trouble and strife. Traditionally, that is the end result, unless you’re left at the altar. What’s the cockney for left at the altar? Rocked in Gibraltar?

No one has ever wanted to marry me.

“Sue – my darling!”
“We’re married at last! And nothing will ever part us, my beloved!”

Yeah, not so much, really.

 

 

It’s not the supervillains who really get in the way, although an awful lot of them do try their hardest on the big day itself: Mr. Hyde, the Mandarin, the Mole Man, the Skrulls; the Red Ghost, the Black Knight, the Grey Gargoyle, the Pink Panther; the Puppet Master, the Mad Thinker, the Human Top, the Alien Bottom and Kang The Conqueror. Plus there’s Attuma the tuna and those pungent Masters Of Evil. Each and every one is “summoned” by Doom only to be dispatched by the most dysfunctionally dressed guest list in marital history: the Avengers, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Spider-Man. At least Nick Fury and Charles Xavier bring their tuxedos.

 

 

No, the real culprit – as we will discover over the next five decades – is Reed “I’ve got a test tube and I’m not afraid to let it obsess me for months before I actually get around to using it” Richards.

These are actual quotations.

“Don’t get too near them, darling – !”
“Stop sounding like a wife and find me that gun, lady!”

Yes, but she is your wife, matey, and – oh! – everything else in that sentence.

“Reed! Look at you! You haven’t even shaved! And you must be starved!”
“For the love of Pete, girl! Is that what you disturbed me for?”

So much for the honeymoon period.

The wedding aside, this is one long epic which begins with magenta-maned Medusa of the Frightful Four being frightfully forward with Ben then awfully backward in addressing her roots. By which I mean not her follicle folk but her brethren, the Inhumans, revealed here for the first time and determined that they should all return whence they came, sequestered away in the Himalayan Great Refuge.

 

 

But netting the human hairdo means venturing out themselves which is when Johnny “hotshot / brain-rot” Storm first spies Crystal and promptly falls head over heels in love with the one woman he cannot have.

For now.

It’s one of the most fertile FF eras with the introduction also of the Silver Surfer, Galactus and even Wyatt Wingfoot, and it’s here you will learn how the Silver Surfer comes to be stranded in exile on Earth, how he attracts the attention of The Thing’s girlfriend Alicia, and what the true nature of the Ultimate Nullifier is, other than a device evidently used on an infant Johnny Storm’s brain.

 

 

The collection is rounded off with a far more introverted affair which readers were led to believe would focus on Ben Grimm’s plight as a man of deep feeling trapped in a body of bricks that made touching his girlfriend a somewhat abrasive affair.

‘This Man, This Monster’ kicked off with what was quite literally a splash page as The Thing is caught in a New York rainstorm at night. You’ll find it parodied by Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB (second piece of interior art down).

 

 

A couple of policemen in a patrol car offer him a lift, but instead he chooses to be alone with his soggy old thoughts until accosted by a bald-bonced Billy No Mates who lures him inside for a cuppa. God knows how much ketamine the cuppa was cut with, for Ben’s instantly out like a light, then it’s the old switcheroo with Ben reverting to human and the real monster of the story out to destroy the Fantastic Four disguised as the Thing. It is, however, a story of that monster’s redemption as a moment of crisis leads to another of heroism and Billy suddenly realises why he had no mates: he is a bitter and selfish old plonker.

It is a classic, but it’s also completely ridiculous.

 

 

Somehow Billy No Mates is familiar enough with everyone to know their nicknames and even who Aunt Petunia is, but gives the game away almost immediately by ‘forgetting’ how much he can lift. Neither Reed nor Sue raises an eyebrow even when their beloved Ben bursts in to confront the impostor. Instead they send Ben packing and immediately Reed puts his life in the imitator’s hands. No pause for thought there. No, “Err, I think I’ll let Sue handle this one while you’re on the other side of the planet just to be on the safe side. You know, given that it’s 50/50 as to which one of you is trying to get one over on me.” Instead it’s straight into sub-space for a space-time experiment clearly marked “DANGER!” with the evil doppelganger on duty as his life-line.

 

 

Do you think it’s all going to go horribly wrong, dear readers?

More issues and “issues” from the swinging sixties, then, complete with the occasional piece of whacky photography illustrating the ocean’s depths, the far reaches of space, or Mr. Fantastic’s banks of weird and wonderful scientific doo-dads built from things that are grey.

 

 

It’s immediately striking whenever Joe Sinnott’s on inks (Kirby was famously dismissive about inkers – a very rare error of aesthetic judgement), and there are some cracking covers including a sunset scene anticipating Galactus and a most unusual choice in browns on issue #50’s.

Also, although Galactus’s now traditional purple attire is adopted in #49, moments earlier in #48 he’s clad more like an early Wonderman at a Transformers fancy dress party. Colour coordination is so very important.

 

 

For even more merciless mockery and the occasional kind comment about Kirby, please see more FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTIONS.

Meanwhile, “If only Bruce Banner could be here,” muses someone at that engagement party.

Someone who is quite clearly insane.

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus 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’.

Bad Girls h/c (£18-99, Groundwood Books) by Alex De Campi & Victor Santos

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (US Edition) (£17-99, Groundwood Books) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault

Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince

Love Letters To Jane’s World s/c (£20-99, Lion Forge) by Paige Braddock

A Projection (£6-99, Avery Hill) by Seekan Hui

The Winner (£14-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Karl Stevens

Outcast vol 6: Invasion s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Rat Queens vol 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Roughneck s/c (£17-99, Simon & Schuster) by Jeff Lemire

Sex Criminals vol 5: Five-Fingered Discount (£14-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Spill Zone vol 1 s/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II h/c (£22-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Ryan Ferrier & Freddie Williams II

Champions vol 3: Champion For A Day s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Jeremy Whitley & Humberto Ramos, various

Star Wars vol 8: Mutiny At Mon Cala (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

X-Men Gold vol 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim, various & Michele Bandini, various

Vampire Knight: Memories vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hiro

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week one

August 1st, 2018

Featuring Evan Dorkin, Wilfrid Lupano, Gregory Panaccione, Brendan Leach, Aisha Franz, A. Degen, Jesse Jacobs, Mike Migola, Duncan Fegredo, Shaun Tan.

Dork h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

It’s big and it’s heavy, and so handy for settling arguments.

Was there ever a more pugilistic creator of comics? I think not!

I don’t mean that the man pulled on boxing gloves to pack a punch: he did that far more effectively by picking up a pen, perhaps a brush, then bulldozing right over the wrongful with righteous, well-aimed, lacerating wit.

His targets deserved every ounce of antagonism.

So much of it was aimed at ambition-deficient, service-stinting, male-centric, superhero-only comic shops and the wider, US/UK cul-de-sac comicbook industry at large from corporation-colluding distributors to rancid conventions and even the alternative “elite”. This once manifested itself in the form of a series of hypothetical trading cards, so using the very nadir of this industry’s vapid, self-referential collection-obsession to satirise its complete lack of integrity and soul.

You don’t even know what a trading card is, do you?  Quite right too!

 

 

But overwhelmingly Dorkin also drew from – and threw satirical ire at – more popular culture while railing that comics wasn’t, like prose, film, television and music, and I have never forgotten this early attack on supposed non-conformists emulating each other like homogenised sheep. It was called “Hey, everybody – are you Ready To Alternative Rock?”

“We are all expressing our individuality!” cries each style-clone-copy of the other in unison.

He was equally scathing about raves:

“Look out! It simply won’t stop! The wackiest non-social dance craze since the mosh pit! It works like this – strobes, lasers, drugs, and Kraftwerk albums played on 78rpm causes widespread mass teenage epilepsy.”

DORK was a breath of fresh air, breaking our windows then rending our curtains, slapping us all wide-awake with art that bore into your eyes. Each issue was such a dense, value-for-money read, taking well over a year to construct, some containing over one hundred four-panel gags.

 

 

“Vox Populi.
“Today’s question: are people less intelligent today than in the past?”
“Um.. YES! Wait… NO! Uh – what was the question again?”
“How they hell should I know? I dunno… I mean, how they hell should I know, hah?!?”

Lastly, with a shrug: “What’s the past?”

It’s just crack after crack after crack.

Fly News For Flies: “Our top story tonight — once again, millions are dead…”

Morning Sickness: girl wakes up – “Oh shit! I slept with him?” – and throws up on the oaf.
Mourning Sickness: girl wakes up – “Oh shit! I slept with him?!” – and throws up over the skeleton.

It’s funny, it’s filthy (it really is filthy), and irreverent as hell, as seen from the clouds above in ‘At Home With The Man Upstairs’, when God reads his Bible:

“That day will be a day of wrath… I will bring distress upon people… their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.”
Zephaniah 1:15-17.
“Christ. Did I really say that?
“I must have been half in the bag that day. That’s crazy talk!”

‘At Home With Houdini’ was even funnier, as the revered escapologist sought to extricate himself from nothing more tricky than his coat and hat.

 

 

Amongst so very many new ideas in each instalment, several were reprised, like ‘Myron, The Living Voodoo Doll’. It’s the same joke in different iterations, over and over again, but it never stops being funny.

Step 1: Myron strays into dangerous territory (dog-defended alleyway, an ice rink or thunder storm).
Step 2: Myron comes a-cropper (savagely attacked, sliced in two or given the world’s worst Van de Graaff Generator experience).
Step 3: Bloke whom Myron is attuned to suffers identical injuries. “God, I have to find that doll!”

The joke is that he never does, and we know that he never will. “That @£$% doll!”

 

 

Another recurrent thread was ‘Fisher-Price Theatre’ in which the real-world Fisher-Price toys (limbless, wooden, barely distinguishable and cylindrical clones with no elements of articulation whatsoever) acted out the most complex and nuanced novels, poetry and plays which humankind has ever conceived at various lengths (that length itself being often so satirical): ’Of Mice And Men’, ‘The Lottery’, ‘The Wasteland’ and even ‘Catcher In The Rye’.

From the man responsible for MILK & CHEESE and THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB comes a complete collection of pithy short strips and longer comics from the 11-issue DORK series minus appearances from the above and his much-missed work with Kyle Baker, ‘Critics At Large’. For the last, I can lend you my copy of DORK #2, published six months before Page 45 opened some 24 years ago. There’s plenty of new stuff here to take their place including most of the full-colour THE HOUSE OF FUN one-shot reviewed at the bottom so, yes, more MILK & CHEESE!

 

 

Over a dozen years ago, our Mark wrote something I’ve long held to be true, which is why I’m going to great lengths to attempt to give Dorkin his due. Much to my astonishment I’ve managed to find that paragraph in the depths of my personal archives:

“There was something in the latest Comics Journal about the great humour cartoonists around at the moment and how they are largely unappreciated in the comics field. It’s much easier to praise a book with deep, deep thoughts that holds a mirror up to humanity blah blah blah than it is to say, “This is funny!” This is partly because there are precious few yuks in the largely dominant superhero world and those outside of the superhero world tend to lay praise on the serious story. Luckily there are almost enough artists who want to make us laugh out there. We’ve got Henderson, Ryan, Herschbaum, Langridge and, right at the top, Evan Dorkin.  Even in the depths of depression (DORK #7) it’s a laff riot, although we may be questioning if we’re supposed to be laughing. And the answer should be, yes. He’s right on the button with social commentary, pop culture attacks and general laffs. Which is what we need at the moment. ‘Kay?”

I remember Mark and I being more than a little worried (horrified) for Evan’s health when DORK #7 was first published. An experiment in extemporisation, it was one of Dorkin’s bravest and most complex narratives, immaculately executed with remarkable lucidity as he emptied onto the page so many of the very real anxieties which gnawed at him daily, and which eventually culminated in a full-blown mental breakdown.

 

 

The white-on-black page was terrifying enough. On it, Evan descended an endless set of banisterless stairs in total darkness, carrying a full glass of unknown liquid in each hand, terrified of losing his balance and spilling anything.

“If I fall I might never stop falling…
“This is all I can think about with each and every complex step. What makes it worse is – I don’t know how much farther down I have to go…
“And I have no idea where the steps are taking me.”

The last line is the killer.

“This is not a dream… this is the way it is.”

After which we get to his fear of bad paper cuts, thence to razor blades and beyond.

 

 

That wasn’t in his preparatory layouts, it’s just where he went and, as I say, it was remarkably coherent considering that he was constantly interrupting himself with digressions before reining himself in with remarkable fluency and fluidity. Then the all-too pervasive Devil Puppet begins adding his own commentary, a hostile audience starts heckling, and Dorkin’s work at the drawing board becomes disparaged – as he creates it! – by a trio of imaginary critics, the first of whom here appears in a beret and sunglasses, the second in a top hat, puffing on a cigar and squinting through $ signs.

“Do you really think that line works?”
“Leave it alone, it works well enough – “
“It’s a terrible line. It’s stiff, didactic and unfunny. It should be re-written.”
“He’s already re-written it twelve times because of you! Twice on paste-downs! Don’t you realize how late this goddamned book is?!”
“Fine, then, put out a piece of garbage. Ruin what little reputation he has – let them laugh at him rather than with him!”

 

 

Even visually it’s flashing from one style to another depending on what is required. Yet, as Mark commented, the comic was still comical…

“Random Thought #1
“When Edison came up with the idea of the light bulb… did he see one above his head when the notion hit him?”

Evan draws an iconic ‘eureka moment’ light bulb, then a flaming candle as a possible alternative. Edison clutches a ‘To Do’ list.  “1) Invent 2) Fuck Tesla over patent.”

And it was still topical…

“You know when there’s some bullshit sports fan riot after some stupid championship game that their dumb local team’s won?”

Yes, we do! Jodie and I witnessed the Nottingham city centre carnage on Saturday July 7th 2018 first-hand… after England won a match.

“We’re #1!”
“Our piss-poor lives have been given meaning!”
“We’re #1 even tho’ we didn’t do anything!”
“Dallas is the best! Let’s trash it!”

There you go.

“Here’s what I think should be done, while those clueless Neanderthals revel over their tribal bullshit… Helicopters should dump dyes – like those the banks use to mark stolen money – all over the stupid fucking mob of monkey fucks. Then, days later, the police can still identify the morons because they’re still marked by the ASSHOLE PAINT © and lock their pathetic asses up for, oh, for fucking ever.”

 

 

Dorkin provides an all-new autobiographical introduction to this collection, succinctly distilling his interests, ambitions, influences and career into two taut pages. Amongst his early interests was mouthing off at the back of the classroom, and amongst those early ambitions was to perform stand-up comedy. But he kept that to himself because, well, you have to do stand-up on a stage. As DORK #7 might suggest to you, he’s a wee bit too self-conscious to do that.

“See, mouthing off from the back of a classroom isn’t the same as working a room. It’s more like heckling than performing.”

So essentially, Evan’s still mouthing off from the back of the classroom.

For which I’m eternally grateful, otherwise we’d not have one of the funniest pages I have ever read in my life, called ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, which could never be performed anywhere other than on the paper page. You’ll find that at the top.

In summary, I doff my cap to the man who, against all odds, has never given up on himself or on comics, but has instead thrown himself so ferociously again and again from within the industry, at an industry which so suicidally surfed against his tide and tirades, like no one else in the business.

 

 

Time for some more laffs, gleaned from the HOUSE OF FUN one-shot. This one’s for you, Mark!

“When life gives you lemons…”
“Punch life in the fucking face!”

More maniacal malfeasance from MILK & CHEESE, The Murder Family, Bad Rabbi, Shitty Witch And Crappy Cat, Myron The Living Voodoo Doll and – coming soon! – Hank Jenkins, Chronic Masturbator. (“Yes indeed. I spill the seed.”). No one packs in more to a page than Dorkin. His mind fizzes with lateral-thinking lunacy.

Read ‘A Day In the Life Of Milk & Cheese’! There’s a certain consistency to it. It’s the consistency of blood-curdled milk. See them being sent a “Cease & Desist”, sued by the Disney Corporation! And here they’ve distracted themselves from burning down the house with the prospect of X-Ray Spex:

“I must say, it seems a little silly to send away for an item advertised in a decades-old comic.”
“The contrivance excites and delights me. It’s a gap in logic worthy of George Lucas.”

8-10 weeks later.

“Aha! Yes! This is it! Our eyes now have mad skillz!”
“I can see through everything now! Feng Shui! Scientology! ‘Family Guy’!”
“Science is wicked! What will it think of next?”
“Genocide boots, I hope!”

Also: The Murder Family (“The family that slays together stays together!”) is threatened by some late-night, extra-marital mutilation, but before then Ma Murder tries to set standards for son Dougie’s version of courtship:

“You weren’t over at that Judy Pilkington’s house again, were you? You know I don’t approve of her.”
“Aw, no, Mom! She got a court order! I’m stalking a new girl now, Vanessa Dobkin! You’d like her. She’s vulnerable!

SLH

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

A Sea Of Love h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Wilfrid Lupano & Gregory Panaccione.

With nocturnal landscapes and diurnal seascapes lit to perfection as the sun rises, peaks, then falls slowly below the horizon, this silent story about straying off course – physically, metaphorically, environmentally – is as beautiful to behold as it is epic in its undulating, up-and-down fortunes.

It is also witty in its wealth of allegiances forged unexpectedly, comically, from the most unpropitious circumstances (seagulls, sea pirates, cruise-liner cooks and the Cuban high military command).

But more than anything else, it’s one of the most romantic books I have ever read, moving in its marital devotion, steadfast loyalty and the determination to succeed in being reunited against all oceanic odds imaginable.

 

 

It’s not a new formula in any medium or genre: swiftly establish unbreakable bonds between two loving souls (thereby investing your readers emotionally in the prosperity of their relationship) then almost immediately tear that couple apart – please see HABIBI, for a start. It’s cruel, but from that point on, we are hooked, desperate for the lost lovers to rediscover each other.

But that bait is far more difficult to judge then securely tether for the long haul than it looks, and this is a very long haul indeed, most of it spent by both all at sea, sometimes heading in different directions.

Are you ready, my lovers? Then we shall begin.

 

 

Early one morning while it is still dark, an old fisherman switches on the bedside table lamp and pops on his glasses. So thick are their lenses that they magnify his bulging myopic eyes, and he looks like Mr Magoo. This is a cue in itself: things, they are gonna go wrong!

Stretching and yawning, he is greeted downstairs by a nutritious and filling, steaming, savoury French pancake stuffed with ham, cheese and a fresh, broken egg prepared by his doting wife, up even earlier, who is decked out in a pristine black dress and laced white apron, tied at the back with a great big bow, a tiny chef’s hat balanced on her barnet.

 

 

None of this is random narrative, not the lace, the galette, its nutrition and sustenance, its expert execution or the early-morning effort. Each individual element is preparation for what will follow, exceptionally economical in its foundations, for we are only on page two of (*flips ahead*) two hundred and twenty pages plus!

Coffee is served before an old transistor radio crackles out the weather forecast: it’s going to be all over the shop! The old man’s missus, who’s actually a lot heartier than he is, dutifully packs him a day’s supply of food including a tin of sardines (as seen on the cover) which he quite evidently cannot abide. We will be seeing many more of those cans in the future. Not in this review, but I promise you this: plot points!

 

 

He showers and she glowers over clothes strewn with abandon all over the bathroom floor. Comedic pratfalls bring them back together, then she sees him off on what is evidently no more than a daily routine, but which will today prove a much bigger journey than either could possibly imagine.

 

 

We’re on page eleven now. How much more do I tell you? How profoundly do you trust me?

I thought this would be fun. Actually, I knew this would be fun, but I had absolutely no idea how much. It hurt not one jot that the figures and expressions are so exquisitely drawn with all the cartooning exuberance of Kyle Baker. It’s wordless, remember: key communicative skills, ahoy!

 

 

But way beyond that, each misstep, each misfortune, each rallying effort, each ingenuity and absolutely every unexpected public triumph of the very private, humble, unassuming, financially poor and self-sacrificial yet resolute wife is riveting, awe-inspiring and emotionally rewarding. I was a bit moved, yes.

 

 

You will witness a tiny private fishing boat which can’t even catch a crab – only a boot, rusted can and a tiddler — bludgeoned by a trawler so vast that its looks like a pleasure cruise liner. You will witness an actual pleasure cruise liner and its pampered, modern, rich residents wowed by traditional skills. You’ll encounter that very real, horrific floating island of plastic rubbish that soils our seas known as the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, oil spills, and a beer-can six-pack binder strangling a seagull. Always snip ‘em, folks, so hedgehogs don’t pop their heads through too, because otherwise it’s a noose!

 

 

Also on offer: the ludicrously detailed image of Ernesto “CheGuevara appearing within a pancake as a holy sign, just like the Virgin Mary bobs up in an apple core or latte froth. Fidel Castro makes two guest appearances too.

Actually that beer-can six-pack plastic binder strangling a seagull proved to be the genesis of the best allegiance of all. It begins as an extended sequence of comedic to-and-fro as our fisherman strives to free the exhausted bird, offers it some restorative sardines afterwards, then throws the empty can overboard. The seagull will ensure he regrets that.

 

 

The seagull’s expressions are to die for, and that specific relationship is beautifully reprised on the final few pages.

SLH

Buy A Sea Of Love h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy Omnibus vol 3 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo.

“My day’s come at last…
“And woe unto man.”

She’s not kidding.

With its cloven hooves firmly planted in present-day Britain where both its Arthurian and witchcraft past is leaking through, this third, self-contained 500-page HELLBOY omnibus edition is the basis for the upcoming feature film ‘Hellboy: The Rise of the Blood Queen’. It should be nothing short of spectacular because, bursting with mythological beasts of all shapes and sizes – giant, serpentine, horned, winged, boar-headed  or battling in furnace-fuelled armour – this sure is. There’s even an old witch snogging a drooling goat, with tongue.

It is a demon lover’s paradise, plagued by possessions, resurrections, strange transformations and haunting refrains as Hellboy strives once more to evade his destiny, even as everyone seeks to crown him King.

 

 

“You are your father’s son, but you also had a mother…
“Either way you are bound to wear a crown.”

Unfortunately it could be the crown of Hellboy’s real name, Anung Un-Rama.

It’s the flaming Crown of the Apocalypse. And the Apocalypse is coming to England.

“Oh crap.”

 

 

Normally Hellboy would far rather be left alone to roam on his own – or hide from the world and drink with familiar ghosts – but there’s some very clever visual foreshadowing of Hellboy’s growing rage as he actively picks a fight with the first giants to roam Britain since 1402, when his oversized, gauntlet-like Right Hand of Doom comes firmly to the fore of the panels, even when it’s resting on a table as he markedly avoids talking about it.

Oh yes, then there are all the prophecies. Always, the prophecies.

“However this war ends, he will be lost.
“It will be for you to find him, and you will.
“And true to his nature, he will be both your salvation and your destruction.”

 

 

So what’s all this destruction malarkey about? And wait – did someone mention Hellboy’s mum?

It’s all about power, obviously, but also about power vacuums, especially the one left when Hellboy refuses to lead the witches early on by taking the place of their lost Queen. Someone else is only going to come along and seize the mantle. Hint: they do. Then he’s given the opportunity to wear another crown and become King of Britain to fix the mess which his prior refusal created. It’s offered to him by none other than Morgan Le Fey.

Do you remember Morgan Le Fey? Legend has it that this half-sister of King Arthur seduced her own brother in order to sire a son and so steal his kingdom. But King Arthur and his son Mordred slew each other in battle. Mordred left three bastard sons born to a witch, but they were all murdered by knights loyal to King Arthur, so ending the Pendragon name.

But not its bloodline.

 

 

Mordred, you see, had a daughter, and that daughter begat daughters and so on, their wedded surnames disguising the lineage until…

“You’ve carried a gun….
“But you’ve always felt more natural holding a sword.”

Oh look, there’s a sword set in stone, bobbing along in water. Will it be drawn, do you think?

What would you do? You’ve already catalysed the mother of all chaos threatening to engulf Britain by refusing to accept one crown; your destiny is dovetailing right in front of you with all that’s been forecast before, and this seems the only way to combat the unholy legion assembled to lay waste to this country. But as Jonathan once pointed out, all of this is divulged by Morgan Le Fey, and she has hardly been renowned either for honesty or altruism.

 

 

Duncan Fegredo astounds.

The Rodin of comics has clearly pored over Mignola’s own art to capture all the nuances and sensibilities of what makes Hellboy so special (there’s a sketchbook exchange in the back), then added even more weight to his already hefty hands and forearms. There’s always been something slightly simian about the scarlet giant’s gait: it’s not just the tail but, here, how far his extended upper limbs drop towards the ground, all adding up to an aspect of being ancient.

To have chosen such a British artist for this British tale was a masterstroke, and Fegredo delivers on all fronts from a vicar’s tweed jacket to a policeman’s short-sleeved summer uniform.

 

 

His masonry is monumental, whether it’s a high-vaulted country church with sturdy stone columns and space-spanning arches, its pews lined in perfect perspective, or an old county pile complete with corner quoining, some old, leaded windows surrounded by climbing ivy and a Tudor-style, back entrance porch from which so many slightly cracked steps lead down that it suggests another journey altogether. The detail is staggering.

 

 

Once actually underground (lit by a hand-held candelabra, as all good horror should be), the textures are even richer, be they on brickwork, monstrous head carvings, even craggier, more ancient stone steps, statuary that could at any moment creak into life, thrillingly ornate gothic window frames and iron-hinged doors which even the least inquisitive subterranean rambler could not resist opening.

There’s also a pub which possibly shouldn’t be there in woodland without roads, whose thatched exterior and wooden-beamed interior are rendered with relish and decked out with details ever so familiar to those of us on this side of The Pond.

You’ll enjoy ancient ruins aplenty and stray cats, too.

Meanwhile, as cataclysmic as it gets in the countryside, London’s burning too, and there’ll be nothing but rubble in the end.

“I thought… I hoped that Hellboy would be able to stop her before this. But the storm’s come.
“Now it’s laying waste to all Britain, and soon it will spread over the whole world.
“Monsters long buried will all rise again and for a while it will be their world… till it all burns.”

That’s Brexit for you.

SLH.

Buy Hellboy Omnibus vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

By This Shall You Know Him (£10-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs…

“Time and space died yesterday.”

What a fabulous opening line that is…

For some reason we let this slide off our shelves the first time we had it in, but Jesse SAFARI HONEYMOON / CRAWL SPACE Jacobs’ first work is back treading the proverbial Page 45 boards and what a visionary piece it is. Have some publisher blurb to elucidate slightly whilst I prepare myself to attempt a review of it…

“Witness the limitless ambitions of celestial beings as they fiddle and fuss with all sorts of molecular arrangements, creating infinitely detailed patterns and strange new worlds brimming with bizarre life forms. By This Shall You Know Him depicts all manner of beasts running, crawling, and slithering towards death’s cold embrace.”

The phrase limitless ambitions could, and does, equally apply to Jess Jacobs. Particularly in the sense that he is clearly creating exactly the sort of comics he wants to make. He’s not doing it to appeal to the masses, or even to appeal to a particular audience, I suspect. He just wants to make his comics.

In that sense, he’s amongst a coterie that in addition to unashamedly ploughing their own artistic furrough are also lovers of symmetry, design and motif, not to mention a dash or two of the surreal. The likes of Theo UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth, Ron WHAT PARSIFAL SAW Rege. Jr, Jim POOCHYTOWN Woodring, Marc DRAWN & QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING Bell and Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown.

Here Jesse has us observing a group of near-omnipotent beings playing with creating new lifeforms. Their master, the Adviser, is encouraging them to go silicon-based but one of their number, Ablavar, is obsessed with the “substandard building material” carbon, much to the disgust of Ablavar’s rival, the magniloquent Zantek.

Consequently Zantek can’t help himself from messing around with Ablavar’s work, which has some far-reaching implications for his creation. A version of a particular creation you might well recognise… and perhaps some of its associated characters and mythology.

As with his other works, the intricate patterns Jesse creates have a mesmerising mandala-like hypnotic effect in places. I’m pretty sure he was probably obsessed with mazes too as a kid. There’s also a two-page, sixteen-panel-per-page sequence where he is just zooming in on one of the Adviser’s mini-creations where I found myself analysing each panel, observing precisely how the geometrical transaction between each panel occurred. Fascinatingly intense work.

 

 

As with all his material, there are some comedically dark undertones warping the direction of the story, which occasionally erupts into mildly overt slapstick. But above all, it’s simply incredibly well structured psychedelic story-telling. I greatly admire his ability to tell such coherent if utterly surreal stories employing such a mind-bending art style. A true comics talent, our Jesse, in my literally dazzled eyes.

JR

Buy By This Shall You Know Him and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Bound (£18-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach…

 

 

“Dores told me to tell you something.
“He says the terms is changed.”

Just when Eddie thought he was out…

But can you ever just make your polite excuses and leave a life of crime when you’ve started down that particular felonious path…?

Probably not, at least if your ‘friends and family’ have anything to do with it…

 

 

Eddie’s friend and former right-hand man with the appalling grammar, one Bento Chagas, or Benny as he’s known, is here to make just that point very clear to Eddie. Family, well, I think you probably know the sort of family I’m talking about, headed up locally by Mr. Dores, who’s more than happy to use the leather jacketed greasers in the Iron Bound gang as foot soldiers and muscle for his various rackets and schemes.

Here’s the publisher’s rap sheet on this superb crime joint…

“Iron Bound is a gritty, authentic account of street gangs and life in the margins of Newark, New Jersey’s Ironbound district at the start of the ‘60s. With all the elements of a noir mystery and a crime drama, it’s Leach’s insight into human nature and his ability to evoke place and moment that elevates the narrative to a complex examination of the tenuous relationships of people mired in conflict and fear.”

 

 

That’s an excellent summation of this work, I have to say. The portrayal of all the main characters is spot on; Brendan gives them real depth and makes them completely believable. Eddie and Benny, their girls Genie and Gloria, the scar-faced Mr Dores and the bent cop Dunham, we come to understand how they are indeed all mired, in fact I would go so far as to say trapped, in conflict and fear. As the rear cover boldly states… “Fists can do what talking can’t.”

Brendan’s art, as I commented in my review of his THE PTERODACTYL HUNTERS IN THE GILDED CITY has more than a look of the great GIPI’s LAND OF THE SONS style. Here, the linework contributes to some seriously dangerous looking hard faces, decorated with bent noses, pointy chins and in Mister Dores’ case, a very impressive scar. He certainly didn’t get that shaving…

 

 

A fabulously brutal self-contained clout of crime fiction, all shiny with battered black leather and glistening with hair grease, but it’s the emotional undercurrents that will pull you in and indeed the characters under.

Just to add, there’s a bright red flexi-disc, recorded by the official Iron Bound band, the Newark Wanderers, thrown in for good measure.

JR

Buy Iron Bound and read the Page 45 review here

Shit Is Real (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Aisha Franz…

Which strikes me as a mildly amusing title for a work that contains some crazy surreal sequences, which I think are meant to be dream sequences. Maybe. Anyway, here’s the publisher’s statement regarding this affirmation of the scatological:

“After an unexpected breakup, a young woman named Selma experiences a series of reveries and emotional setbacks. Struggling to relate to her friends and accomplish even the simplest tasks like using a modern laundromat, she sinks deeper into depression. Aisha Franz is a master of portraying feminine loneliness and confusion while keeping her characters tough and real. Base human desires and functions alternate with dreamlike symbolism to create a tension-filled tale of the nightmare that is modern life.”

Another surprisingly on-the-money summation. Clearly the hype writer with the typewriter was on fire that week…

 

 

It’s in English, honest.

 

Selma is indeed having a bad one. Her ex-boyfriend seemed like an idiot, mind, so whilst she’s definitely no worse off without him, she is finding single life and the comparative repeated social and career successes of her friends getting thrown in her face difficult to handle. What follows is a mildly surreal set of stumbles through life as she tries to come to terms with the fact she is struggling to cope with pretty much every facet of existence, and frankly, seemingly caught in a downwards spiral.

 

 

The one chink of light is the owner of the local pet shop, who seems to have a particular penchant for fish and perhaps more than a passing interest in her. Selma, whilst squatting in the luxury flat of her absent neighbour, attempts to create a new reality for herself and start getting her life back in order.

 

 

I found this gentle farce surprisingly moving. Aisha Franz has created a character in Selma whom I instantly attuned to. I was really willing her to get her figurative shit back together and achieve her happy ending. The black and white art style feels suitably wibbly for portraying someone who is such an emotional car crash. If you like your contemporary fiction with a slight twist of odd, this could be for you.

JR

Buy Shit Is Real and read the Page 45 review here

Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater (£13-99, Koyama Press) by A. Degen…

“Cancatervate” – to heap into a pile.

One of the strangest works I’ve read in a while, this. Which in a week I also read BY THIS SHALL YOU KNOW HIM by Jesse Jacobs probably gives that statement some additional gravitas and perhaps some mild disbelief…

For whilst this is in essence simply a superhero tale, telling the story of the caped Mighty Star and his epic takedown of the dastardly Cancatervater, it’s considerably more than that. Oh yes…

It is like A. Degen has cancatervated – hey, you learn a new word as bonkers as that, you need to use it – superheroes, a dash of manga, silent 1930s Flash Gordon serials, ontology and various other incongruous ingredients, then smashed it all together with a Hadron Collider in hallucinatory, disorientating fashion. The results are not only spectacular but esoteric to say the least. This is not your typical superhero book…

 

 

It’s certainly not a straightforward read either to penetrate this somewhat off-kilter stylistic approach, but it bears dividends if you’re prepared to stick with it. I think in that sense it all minds me somewhat of the sort of material Antoine SHOWTIME Cosse makes. To start with you are continually straining to try and maintain a coherent sense of the whole, before you’re just sucked into the flow and have to roll with it, being mentally buffeted from panel to panel.

 

 

It’s mostly wordless, which I think in this instance is probably a good thing. There’s more than enough going on here without complicating matters further. Instead, the absence of verbal narrative allows your mind to ping around the evolving constellation of chaos and form your own internal construction of what is probably going on.

 

 

The style of artwork I can only describe as flamboyantly discordant yet abstractly coherent. In other words, it’s all over the place but it looks bloody great!

Why not test your sensibilities and cancatervate this into your (reading) pile?

JR

Buy Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater and read the Page 45 review here

The Arrival s/c (£10-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan.

New, easily hand-held edition, roughly the same size as a standard American comic, although we do still have the album-sized hardcover of THE ARRIVAL, should you prefer, along with Shaun Tan’s fascinating and revelatory SKETCHES FROM A NALELESS LAND – THE ARRIVAL COMPANION.

This is nothing like how I now sell this book on the shop floor, but that show-and-tell requires more precise interior art than I could find online, so here’s what I wrote a lifetime ago for the original hardcover edition.:

Truly a book of wonders…

It’s a silent tale rendered in subtle but telling tones from the cold grey of bewilderment, death and despair, through sepia to a golden, burnished bronze that will lift your heart and make it sing.

 

 

It’s a voyage of discovery both for the book’s reader and its protagonist, who must reluctantly leave his sparsely decorated house, his soft-handed wife, their quietly anxious daughter, and all that is familiar to him to travel far, far abroad to a land of immigrants which at first resembles post-war New York, but which – beyond the docks, the queues and the cold, clinical and invasive physical processing – couldn’t be more alien.

 

 

The city is daunting in its scale: a maze of strangely shaped buildings and monuments made no more navigable by maps, for the language there is composed of indecipherable symbols, and the methods of transport are unfathomable. The customs are equally curious, the food is unknown, and the animals bizarre but loyal friends more than pets, accompanying their owners wherever they go. Even the time is told differently there, and you cannot help but fear and feel for the man who has nowhere to go, knows not what to do and can only communicate with drawings. Oh, for the kindness of strangers!

 

 

Slowly, however, in tentative steps, the man discovers that he isn’t alone: that there are others who’ve moved here before him, each to escape the horrors of their homeland, who introduce him to the spectacle of their adopted country in all its fantastical glory.

 

 

Shaun Tan has created here a perfect impression of just how daunting an experience seeking asylum must be: the sense of complete isolation, loneliness, and most of all helplessness. That’s why there are no words: you’re locked in the same lack of comprehension as the husband and father is, compelled to share his plight of interpreting what lies in front of him. It’s very, very affecting, and the most eloquent rebuttal to The Daily Mail’s outirght bigotry and the ignorant, thoughtless xenophobia so prevalent right now. It is also breathtaking in its imagination and beauty: the snow-white flying fish, the sun-dial skies, the life-cycle of a tiny, miraculous flower. Quite remarkable in every way, and certainly my book of the year [back then – ed.].

SLH

Buy The Arrival 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’.

Brink vol 2 (£12-99, Rebellion) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space (£9-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield

I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

Garlandia h/c (£34-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerry Kramsky & Lorenzo Mattotti

Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Matt Smith, Benjamin Schipper, Tyler Jenkins, Celia Lowenthal

Smiley’s Dream Book h/c (£15-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith

They Didn’t Teach THIS In Worm School s/c (£6-99, Walker) by Simone Lia

DC Super Hero Girls vol 6: Out Of The Bottle s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Marcelo DiChiara, others

Injustice 2 vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Injustice 2 vol 3 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Superman vol 6: Imperius Lex s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, James Robinson & Doug Mahnke, various

Astonishing X-Men vol 2: Man Called X s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Phil Noto, Gerardo Sandoval

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

X-Men Origins: Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various

Demon Slayer vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Dragonball Super vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 7 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 3 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week four

July 25th, 2018

Featuring Geof Darrow, Aleš Kot, Danijel Žeželj, Jordie Bellaire, Edouard Cour, Tara Booth, Daryl Seitchik, Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli, Andrea Mutti, Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Brendan Leach, Anne Simon, Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti 

Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Aleš Kot & Danijel Žeželj with Jordie Bellaire.

In which Kot and Žeželj project American politics just a few years down the line from where they are now. As you might suspect, they aren’t very pretty.

“The United States of America, 2022.

“The loss that ripped them apart drove one into the arms of the police state and the other towards a guerrilla war against the white supremacy. Now they meet again. This is a story of a war.”

Wars, of course, are increasingly fought with far more than fire power: information is everything – as is disinformation and coercion, backed up by threats to your nearest and dearest.

2022, by the way, is no universal dystopia – and it’s certainly not post-apocalyptic – for most of mainstream society’s getting on with life as usual, just as it generally does whatever the threats to others’ civil liberties. It’s not they who’ve been targeted. Most of mainstream society doesn’t care what happens to minorities.

“Remember when we all hated on 2016 online? Called it a “trash fire”?
“And then on 2017? 2018, the elections?
“People don’t even hate on 2022. We’re catatonic.”

 

 

But the internment camps are back for the dregs of society and Peter Freeman, head investigator of the Special National Police Force Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism, could not be more delighted. That’s what happens when right-wing shit gets normalised.

He’s summoned a Person of Interest, by the way, one Huian Xing, and is interrogating her in a most affable manner. Will she tell him what he wants to know? The chances are, he already knows it.

 

 

He knows about her wife, Amanda, what happened to their child, and so what happened to their relationship.

Amanda is regarded as far more than a Person of Interest. She’s on Peter Freeman’s Most Wanted list. Now, it appears, he has an ally in Huian:

“She destroyed my life.
“I’m finally ready to return the favour.”

 

 

Meanwhile, some of the white supremacist here are holed up here in an open concrete retail park’s Herbie’s American Dining, on the outside as bland as can be, on the inside oppressively adorned with almost every inch of wall space decked out in red-and-white-striped, nationalistic Americana: giant, overbearing, emblematic bald eagles, wings stretched out proprietarily across flags.

It’s a social occasion, and they are far from stupid. Nor are they inhuman: never make that mistake. Dehumanisation is their preferred province. But the ladies will soon be heading out while the men discuss matters of domestic terrorism. Just not the sort that Peter Freeman’s interested in investigating: who even cares about the queers?

Fortunately someone else does.

 

 

“Multiple molotovs thrown through the windows and someone somehow accidentally left a few well-placed and easily flammable objects in close proximity to specifically those windows. Oh, and the doors got locked from the outside and the bouncers got shot.
“Clearly an accident.”

Žeželj excels at the toxic. Not necessarily the chemically toxic, but the socially unsafe, precarious, treacherous. His rough-hewn, shadow-heavy art is haunted. You can see the skulls beneath faces.

 

 

Oh, but this sprawling city shines in the dark! Its glossy skyscrapers, glowing with uncaring activity, rear between busy bypasses, overpasses, underpasses, all snaking circuitously in coils round Los Angeles.

Was that a bomb going off?

 

 

So yes, with Jordie Bellaire’s considerable colour enhancement, Zelzelj can do sleek and slick too. Those freeways are almost wet with light in the night.

Once out in the countryside the line and colour artists open up so much space! Although, you will note that the darkness remains, both at ground level and hovering above like an oppressive shroud.

 

 

It’s in the countryside that you will meet Xing’s parents, when she calls home. But Peter Freeman got there first.

Her father’s a novelist of some renown. He has attracted Peter Freeman’s attention.

“Perhaps we could… begin a correspondence? Email? Or maybe I can find you on Facebook? Twitter? Somewhere else entirely?”
“… You can add me, yes. I am on both.”
“Good. I hope you’re careful about what you write there. I believe in the First Amendment, of course, but some of my colleagues nowadays… they sometimes joke there’s only a one-letter difference between internet and interned.”

He looks away, very pleased with himself.

“Would you mind if I took your daughter for a walk?”

 

 

Aleš Kot writes with carefully weighted sentences, delivering the most chilling courtesy that I can recall in comics; Žeželj responds with measured, telling looks.

This is the first half of a future already upon us. After that we’ll be moving inexorably into LAZARUS territory. Can we please keep doing our most vocal best to ensure that this, which should never have happened, is reversed as soon as possible? Otherwise it will all begin to look increasingly familiar, normal and, yes, mundane.

SLH

Buy Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

How To Be Alive (£6-99, Retrofit) by Tara Booth…

One of the most absurdly enjoyable comics I have read in a long time! If you’re looking for something to make you snort coffee through your nose – in an outward direction I should probably add just for the sake of total clarity on my review-writing process – this is it!

Completely silent and as slapstick as Harold Lloyd in his pomp, the publisher bills this as…

“A collection of Tara Booth’s most recent gouache paintings. Straying from the narrative form of her first publications, How To Be Alive is a series of autobiographical densely patterned, colourful, one and two page vignettes about modern life, swinging emotionally between bitterly painful to insightful to amusing.”

Trust me, even the bitterly painful are excruciatingly hilarious, for us at least, never mind “amusing”. That is downplaying the comic genius of this material. I’m not entirely sure about “insightful”, either unless you count learning the fact that trimming your own fringe and getting a bit carried away and doing the sides of your head as well leaves you looking like a cross between the bearded lady and a werewolf as a valuable life lesson…

I think there are two points which make this psychedelically coloured romp tickle the ribs to cracking point time after time. Firstly, it’s that Tara has chosen to eschew panels and borders completely (which given the riot of crazily painted colour certainly minded me greatly of Brecht THE WRONG PLACE Evens) instead frequently employing the conceit of painting anywhere between three and eighteen versions of herself engaged in some ludicrous activity such as squeezing spots, working out or indeed even going to the toilet.

Often the Taras are so tightly tucked in next to each other that it gives the effect of an unceasingly twirling zoetrope threatening to fly off its axis completely. Chaos in motion! The other clincher is the facial expressions, the final one often being the punchline that underscores the absolute joyful lunacy of it all. Such as when after downing a large glass of red wine, Tara turns to camera and gives us a beaming smile, complete with temporarily tannin-stained teeth. We’ve all been there!!

JR

Buy How To Be Alive and read the Page 45 review here

The Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow.

The original SHAOLIN COWBOY finally back in print after a good decade or more in the wilderness.

“How charmingly Asian of you…
“And without the aid of wires.”

Honey, you have never seen a kung-fu flick with such slick choreography, frozen-framed here for detailed analysis as only a comic can do!

Even the noble and nimble Jackie Chan would bow to Geof Darrow’s superiority as nigh-on a hundred vengeful varmints queue behind King Crab, a somewhat self-involved crustacean whose entire family and prospective wife were once gorged on by the Shaolin Cowboy in search of a sea-food platter. I can assure you that these revengers will be disassembled in no uncertain terms, and will learn the true meaning of the term gut-punch.

First, though, they stand in line… after line… after line… in a sequence of double-page spreads so deliciously self-indulgent – so hilariously inexhaustible all the way to the fly-clouded portable loo – that you cannot help but cackle. This is the artist, remember, who rendered Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED in all its gore-strewn glory and his detail exceeds even the great George Pérez. Pore over the Alton-Towers-long queue with its cats, parakeets and monkeys, its tattoos, handcuffs and (warning) cock rings. It demands that you do so!

This is a man relishing his craft, drawing for the sheer joy of it. The landscapes are epic with gigantic geological outcrops, while the skies coloured predominantly by Peter Doherty are a lambent, pollution-free blue. Then when those geological features start moving…

There’s a scene here which I feel sure inspired another in Brandon Graham’s original MULTIPLE WARHEADS, as a city-sized dinosaur actually carries an industrial citadel on its back. Venture down its gullet and in its stomach-sewer depths you’ll find a great big, bloody shark, presumably acting as a digestive enzyme.

Like Beat Takeshi, The Shaolin Cowboy himself is a man of few words, leaving those for his sun-visored, hip-hop-hating horse who has quite the thing for Robert Mitchum. The script is packed with political and cultural satire but remains light, bright and breezy. It’s all about the acrobatics instead.

Very, very funny scene when a sentient skull is cleaved in two, its subsequent speech balloons equally bisected.

“Ibu                          profen.”

Continued in SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET then SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’LL STOP THE REIGN.

SLH

Buy The Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Herakles Book 1 h/c (£15-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour.

“He really appreciates you, my love…
“But he seems sad…
“I think he’s the simplest and most complicated man I’ve ever known.”

Behold the thrilling Twelve Labours of Hercules, here played largely for laughs, and successfully so!

Although that doesn’t prevent it from becoming incredibly touching before, during and immediately after the scene quoted about, when the big galoot – on his way to Thrace to steal the Man-Eating Mares from tyrannical King Diomedes – stops by at King Admetus’s gaff, finds his friend as open-armed as ever, but the city silent in mourning. Admetus excuses himself for he must attend the funeral, but he won’t say whose it is.

Oblivious even before becoming blind drunk, Herakles helps himself to the hospitality on offer, roaring with laughter at his own clumsiness before finally realising that no one’s joining in. The funeral, you see is for the kingdom’s queen, Admetus’s very own wife.

The subsequent panel is a picture of self-searching and searing, red-cheeked shame.

“Skor.”

 

 

It’s a swear word in Ancient Greek. All the swearing is in Ancient Greek. It’s a cumulatively funny joke set up so well in advance that it doesn’t have to be signposted here. Because here, it isn’t funny.

“S-sir…? Wh-where are you going?”

He’s going to Hell. More accurately, he’s going to Hades, and he will bring Queen Alcestis back.

Cour doesn’t signpost this, either, but at the risk of a slight spoiler, the spectral figures you’ll find silently haunting Herakles throughout are his own wife and three kids whom he killed with his own hands in a volcano of rage visited upon him by the goddess Hera.

Oh, how the gods do love to interfere with mortals in most mythologies – see Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, for a start.

 

 

To seek atonement, the half-god, half-human visited the Delphic Oracle where he was told to submit for twelve years to King Eurystheus and perform whatever tasks were commanded of him, hence, these Twelve Labours. I imagine all of that will come out in book two.

Instead Edouard Cour throws us straight into round one, in which our hulking Herakles must slay The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur. Hilariously, on very first sight, he flexes his bow and sends an arrow flying lion-wards. It “ptong”s uselessly off the beast’s back. Well, of course it does. We are reminded immediately afterwards: “…The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur”.

 

 

Charging up to the summit he spied it leaping down from, Herakles sees only a lake.

“Well… I guess I could use a bath…”

He strips and dives gamely in. On surfacing, he discovers the The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur waiting patiently for him on land, as dry as a British country meadow right now.

“Skor!”

 

 

Other Ancient Greek swears include “orkis” and “proktos”. I think you’ll understand the latter at least without any input from me.

Now, I don’t know how many other sources there are for the Twelve Labours Of Hercules, but mine was (and remains) ‘Fabulae Faciles’ which, aged 9, I had to translate from Latin. Not all of it, single-handedly: as a class we were each assigned chapters or paragraphs which we had to prepare in advance then read out in front of the headmaster who resembled no one more closely in both stature and temperament than Marvel’s Wilson Fisk, Kingpin of crime. He once shook a boy – who had already been made to stand in a corner, facing away from the rest of us in disgrace – so hard by the scruff of his neck that he fainted.

I won’t tell you what he did to the 1st XV rugby team, except in private.

But back to Latin and basically this: you didn’t want to get it wrong.

So although you have to contend here both with my wonky memory and my wiffy language skills, those skills were at least enhanced by a certain degree of… motivation. And I can tell you this: Cour has stayed absolutely true to what I read, with but one later digression added earlier on in order to, I presume, balance things out a bit (this takes you up to and includes the 8th Labour; the digressions in ‘Fabulae Faciles’ became much more extensive as the extraordinary feats progressed). However, he has elaborated considerably on what was pretty brief, bare-bones, almost perfunctory narration with his own comedic panache and cleverly extrapolated detail.

 

 

For example, Herakles did take to wearing the fleece of That Lion With The Impenetrable Golden Fur, flopping down from its skull which he wore on his head as a helm, but it’s never explained exactly how he skinned said Impenetrable Fur. It’s Impenetrable, right? Well, it is explained here, and craftily so.

Secondly, I don’t recall ancient Greeks sitting on wooden, civic park benches. They do in round two, while giving our dim one directions to the lair of The Hydra That Breathes Deadly Poison.

Thirdly, although it was made clear that poor King Eurystheus did dispatch Herakles on more than one errand simply to get rid of the goon because he feared the company of such a strong, able and determined individual with the capacity to improvise in a flash, it was never to my knowledge suggested that he set him the challenge to Clean The Stable Of King Augeas Of Elis simply to humiliate Herakles.

 

 

But it makes so much sense! Think about it: almost all of the Labours Of Hercules are feats of monumental physical prowess involving capturing or killing feared powerhouses – the besting of beasts, some of which like the Hydra could regenerate – whereas suddenly he’s set the seemingly incongruous, low-level, dirty task of clearing out the cowshed! And it seems a Sisyphean task, what with all the plop being dropped 24/7 by cattle. However, see improvisation / lateral thinking!

I wish I had! I grew up on a dairy farm, so that was once my morning mission, slopping out the shippen. True fact! Also true fact: I liked it!

Anyway, my point is this:  Cour has gone to enormous trouble not only to provide us with a most mischievous entertainment, but to think things through so carefully and cleverly that he adds logically to the mythology while staying entirely true. The one major departure is the invention of a mocking shadow subconscious – and, you know, all the dialogue.

 

 

Herakles himself is rendered with a sort of exaggerated Marc Hempel heft – a more-than-mortal bulk to rival his foes’, rather than a mere circus muscleman – which gives him both gravity and gravitas. Those foes are as exotic as you would hope for and also include a Giant Boar, a Giant Bull, Man-Eating Birds with razor-sharp feathers, and a side-serving of centaurs after the ever-thirsty Herakles helps himself to their stash of wine.

What’s probably struck you most strongly, however, are the colours, so fulsome and vibrant that they radiate heat and dominate the page. I don’t have a full range for you here, but when they disappear under a snow storm for a scene of sombre reflection, it’s therefore startling, with the shades of his wife and three children standing together, adrift but united in silent judgement…

SLH

Buy Herakles Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Exits (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Daryl Seitchik…

Have you ever wished you were invisible?

What would you get up to if you were?

And then what effect would it have on your head once the novelty wore off and you realised you were stuck like that…?

Here’s the publisher’s blurb, which originally came written in invisible ink, of course, but fret ye not I’ve applied the top secret component to make it appear for you again… Be quick, before it vanishes…

“Claire Kim hates herself and the world she lives in. Working at a mirror store, she shows customers their reflections and daydreams about erasing her own. One night, on her way home, she gets her wish. Follow Claire as she wanders invisibly through the city and her own psyche.”

 

 

It sounds like a fairly simple conceit. And it is. But it’s extremely well done and followed through to include not only all manner of amusing vignettes as Claire accosts deserving misogynists in the street and plays voyeur to canoodling lovers but also dealing with the practicalities and quite frankly numerous impracticalities of being a disembodied voice and the emotional turmoil it clearly would create. Which if you’re already on the edge, is probably likely to send you teetering over it. But maybe that’s exactly what Claire needed…

 

 

Very well written piece of speculative fiction with real heart and more than a little dry humour too.

JR

Buy Exits and read the Page 45 review here

Rome West s/c (£14-50, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli & Andrea Mutti…

“All of Republic history is under intense scrutiny, from the landing, to the appropriations, the Aztec War, and the RSB scandals. Everything.
“We’re a nation coming to terms with its past sins, painfully, violently. And the one constant… is the Valerius family. The Valerius name. My name is Calliope Valerius. And I’m on trial. I’ve been on trial my entire life.
“I know not many of you like me. The colour of my skin. Or the way I look. My Roman name.
“I get it. You look at me and see a thousand years of suppression and assimilation of native cultures.
“You think just because of my name, that I support all that? Do you all honestly think I’m guilty of century-old war crimes.
“It’s not my personal ideology. It’s just a name.”

The rise and rise and, well, if not quite fall, then painful self-refection of an empire… A Roman West empire that began with a few bedraggled shipwreck survivors being washed ashore on North American soil in 323AD, including one Lucan Valerius, and who then promptly set about building what would become the most expansive superpower the world had ever known. Both by strength of words in negotiation with the local native tribes, but of course also by the sword in conflict. Conflicts. Repeated bloody conflicts.

 

 

The Emperor of historical conflict fiction himself, Brian NORTHLANDERS / BLACK ROAD Wood returns in conjunction with fellow scribe Justin Giampaoli and previous artistic cohort Andrea REBELS Mutti to tell this epic alternative building of empire with stories featuring Lucan Valerius and his descendents in no less than eleven time periods from 323AD through to 1989.

 

 

We do, of course, get one set in 1492, when a certain Christopher Columbus descends upon the Americas convinced that fame and fortune are his for the taking, only to be given very short shrift by the locals and being very surprised about the fact they are speaking Latin! What’s great about this work is the attention to detail, and it’s the little conceits, such as an insurgent group centuries later being called the Sons Of Columbus that help make this such an engrossing read.

 

 

Each of the stories in and of themselves are entertaining enough, but the bigger picture that builds as we move forward in time is the real story. Precisely how an Empire is built, and who gets assimilated along for the ride or just plain crushed, relegated to a footnote in history, along the way. The consequences of said construction, good and bad, Brian and Justin have also thought through very carefully, as detailed by Calliope Valerius’ private thoughts whilst on the stand…

 

 

“I want to tell them the world isn’t so binary. That there’s such a thing as nuance, as context.
“The Valerius family assimilated and incorporated the tribes instead of slaughtering them as the Iberians would have done.
“The Romans introduced a unifying language, but at the cost of hundreds of native tongues.
“We implemented a unifying system of government and equal representation, but it homogenized countless thriving tribes and their unique customs.
“We welcomed… and still welcome…native and pantheon Gods alike, the Prophet, the Christ and the Disciples Of David.
“But we also funded the bloodiest war in history.
“The Romans brought their technology, water and metal works, and of course, their weapons of war.
“Oh, they never let me forget the weapons. From matchlocks to chemical weapons to intelligence, Valerius Arms is the world’s oldest, wealthiest company.”

 

 

Straight out in graphic novel form, this wasn’t released in single issues first, just in case you’re wondering why you might not have heard much about it. For me it’s just as good as NORTHLANDERS.

JR

Buy Rome West s/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) s/c (£15-99, Top Shelf / Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Satirical, century-spanning science-fiction leaving the Victorian era behind increasingly in favour of living memory, the three-part saga is set in 1910, 1969 and 2009.

1910

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

1969

 

 

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric bite, Allan Quartermain Jr (look, we do try our best to keep reviews spoiler-free), and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

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

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

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

2009

 

 

In which the identity of the Moonchild is finally revealed.

The final six-part adventure has just begun in LOEG: THE TEMPEST #1 – it’s going to make James Bond fans smile – and you can catch up on the previous LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN iterations by clicking on any of their covers at that there link. Cheers!

SLH

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

The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach…

“Eamon, there was nothing you could have done.”
“I could have sent that harpoon through its goddamn heart – if Alfie hadn’t lost his nerve.”
“But, that little boy…”
“Oh, that kid was dead when he left the ground.”
“And if he wasn’t? You’d have harpooned him as well? Through his goddamn heart”?”
“BOYS!”
“Jesus, Declan.”
“WATCH YOUR MOUTH. Losing children to these beasts is never easy. In ’84 I saw three swoop down on an ice skating pond. Seven boys – GONE! And your Uncle Peter, rest his soul, had to slide across the lake on his…”
“Da…”
“Yeah, Da, we know the story.”
“Oh.”

 

 

Here’s the flapping of the publisher’s leathery wings for you…

“Brendan Leach’s Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City, a Best American Comics selection and winner of the Xeric Award and Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic, is a story of sibling rivalry and family tradition in a rapidly changing world: a version of 1904 New York where generations of working-class hot air balloonists take to the skies each night to defend their city from pterodactyls.”

First off, if you’re a fan of Gipi’s (LAND OF THE SONS) art style, this could be a little extra bonus for you whilst we patiently wait for the great man to crack on with his next work. We said precisely the same of Will Morris’ SILVER DARLINGS, a book we loved so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

 

 

This work actually has a couple of other things in common with SILVER DARLINGS, in the sense that it is, despite the diving, devouring dinosaurs, indeed a fairly straightforward character piece about the very uneven sibling rivalry that exists between the gung-ho, all-action moustachioed Damon who flies around in a hot air balloon lobbing dynamite and firing off spear guns and his overshadowed more thoughtful  younger brother Damon, who is restricted to ground crew lookout duty… and preparing the spear guns…

Boom… prepare for some family fireworks…

JR

Buy The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Song Of Aglaia h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Anne Simon.

“Father?”
“Yes?”
“I hate all men. Including you.”
“Good-bye daughter.”

Funny!

Truth be told, water nymph Aglaia will find good cause to hate one more man, but so far she’s only encountered two. Admittedly, they’re both absolutely rubbish: a merman who gets her up the duff in a single swimming session then fails to return, leaving her to wait forlornly on the same rock she saw him off on, every day for months; and a dad that banishes her from their kingdom on account of the other man’s crime.

All the other anthropomorphic men she encounters will prove positively lovely – supportive and self-sacrificial in one instance – making that early declaration of misandry a bit impetuous. We’re only on page five!

 

 

Mind you, if you have only met two men and they both turn out to be heartless monsters, that is going to colour your perception a wee bit, isn’t it?

It’s very interesting, on occasion, to compare what a publisher puts out as publicity to what you make of a work yourself.

“Betrayed by her fleeting first love and her father’s cold rejection, Aglaia the oceanide conceives at a very young age a fierce hatred of men. She is by turns a reluctant wife, a passionate lover, an absent mother, a heroic fighter, and a revolutionary queen — and through it all, her destiny is inexorably linked to the complexity of her character in this deeply human, contemporary, and iconoclastic comedy.”

She’s not a passionate lover to the husband who brought her offspring up as his own; she’s a passionate, covert, nocturnal and extramarital lover to a bloke she finds, then keeps imprisoned, in a hole in the ground. Not a lot of options there.

“If you ever break up with me, I’ll kill you.”

Again, funny! This is a very funny book.

 

 

Aglaia’s definitely an absent mother: immediately after laying her eggs she goes straight to bed, incubation be damned. She becomes a bit of a monster, to be honest, then raises another in the vein of brattish child-king Joffrey from ‘Game of Thrones’. So cycles history.

Anyway, back to the publisher.

“Cartoonist Anne Simon showcases a deft touch in this astute dissection of human relationships, which weaves 19th century France, biting feminism, and the pop imagination of the Beatles into one deliciously philosophical farce, full of subversive twists and comical turns.”

I think I detect an Edward Gorey influence, myself.

SLH

Buy The Song Of Aglaia h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Two-in-one vol 1: Fate Of The Four s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti…

“While I feel insulted that you think Doom can be “surprised,” I will stick with your plan, Richards.”
“Yeah… yer onna winnin’ team now, Doomsie…”

A cheeky little appetiser, this, and also question poser, I have to say, ahead of the return of the Fantastic Four with their new #1. The first question being why Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti aren’t going to be on that title? Because I’ve been highly amused by these recent exploits of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing and old hothead Mensa-reject member Johnny Storm, aided and abetted by the Infamous Iron Man himself, Victor Von Doom, or the more informal ‘Doomsie’ as Ben likes to irritate him with.

Still, Dan Slott, fresh off a thousand years on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN culminating with his insane speculator-frenzying RED GOBLIN arc and Sara SPIDER-MEN Pichelli are a very safe pair of hands.. Well, two pairs, but you get my thwip, I mean quip.

 

 

Chip’s story of Ben and Johnny searching the multiverse for the rest of their family with the aid of an artefact left behind by Reed in case of just such an eventuality has been both poignant and hilarious in turn. Victor, sharing Ben’s suspicions that Reed, Sue and the kids are in fact dead, decides complicity in hiding the truth from depressed man-child Johnny is the best option. How very grown up and sensible of them…

 

 

We, of course, know different, don’t we, chums? At least at think we do, having read (and probably partially understood) Jonathan Hickman’s SECRET WARS, which seems to suggest the other half of the FF are off recreating universes. But surely, you think they would have at least dropped a postcard back home to Earth-616 to say everything was okay…?

And… just to make organising a family reunion that bit more complicated, our Terrific Two (yeah not quite the same ring to it…) have discovered that the cosmic car crash which created them also means they are tethered together in terms of their powers. So both Johnny and Ben are now suffering from the family split, gradually depowering and getting weaker and weaker. Which is just the sort of thing you don’t need when you’re off bouncing round the multiverse, bumping into all manner of alternate FFers and other supes…

 

 

The second question I have, especially given how this material is going story-wise, is whether the Reed and Sue pictured on Esad Ribic’s excellent cover to the new issue #1 are the Earth 616 original or indeed some proverbial variants…? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The way Johnny, Ben and Uncle Victor are carrying on blundering around (Carry On Capering, if you will), I suspect variants and the search for the original first printings will continue…

JR

Buy Marvel Two-in-one s/c vol 1 Fate Of The Four 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 Arrival s/c (£10-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

By This Shall You Know Him (£10-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs

Fence vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by C.S. Pacat &  Johanna the Mad

Map Of Days h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Robert Hunter

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

A Sea Of Love h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Wilfrid Lupano & Gregory Panaccione

Shit Is Real (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterl) by Aisha Franz

Batman vol 6: Bride Or Burglar s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, others

The DC Universe Of Mike Mignola s/c (£16-99, DC) by Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, George Perez, John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, others & various

Titans: The Lazarus Contract s/c (£14-99, DC) by Dan Abnett, Benjamin Percy, Christopher Priest & various

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 6: Mayor Fisk s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Christos Gage & Stefano Landini, Ron Garney, Mike Perkins

Venomized s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Iban Coello, Kevin Libranda

X-Men Blue vol 4: Cry Havok s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Jorge Molina

Bleach vol 73 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

One-Punch Man vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Fruits Basket Another vol 1 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Ibitsu (£14-99, Yen Press) by Haruto Ryo

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week three

July 18th, 2018

Right, I’m flying solo this week, and we’ve received such a bounty of books that I’m going to attempt to evoke as many as I can in the hours allotted to me without going into attention-dissipating detail. Hang on to your hats, because there are some belters!

– Stephen

Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff.

Time to raid some tombs!

“The inscription seemed to have been composed in an early Arabic script. That is a simplified explanation, of course; an expert in such matters would be able to draw more fine-grained distinctions. But the characters looked vaguely familiar, and the linguistic construction wasn’t completely mysterious.”

Ah, dear Selim! It is our former Turkish lieutenant who will be doing the deciphering here, along with the narration; it is he who will discern the most vital buried treasure in the form of an astrolabe of sorts, determine its use on unearthing further components, and sniff out the real rat long before Delilah’s woken up to its considerable, charm-masked dangers.

But before all that, there’s a ship off Anatolia’s south Turkish coast, at stormy sea and seeking sanctuary in Adalia’s harbour. Unfortunately, that harbour is defended by a fortress owned by a local, self-regarding tyrant called Küçuk, and it’s about to get very Assassin’s Creed indeed!

 

 

 

“If the Isobel came too close, the fire from the fortress would turn her into a cloud of wooden splinters – such was the nature of Küçuk’s trade management policies and the strength of his cannons.”

Welcome to the third Young Adult DELILAH DIRK adventure, whose linguistic strengths are every bit as impressive as the art, whose nocturnal and sunlit landscapes are nothing short of spectacular and whose athletics and balletics are exhausting to behold!

 

 

It’s historical action adventure set in the early 1800s, and if you recall my previous reviews I was deeply impressed with the American author’s research, for he understood that there was no single British stately home style during the period concerned, and reflected this in his variety: he drew a cosy country pile built from locally sourced stone at night, a more grandiose, garden-centric, Restoration-era mansion during the day and, for the ball, one very aptly with a Palladian facade. Perhaps he watches a lot of BBC Jane Austen adaptations. Either way, top marks.

Here we’re on Mediterranean ground, sweeping all the way from coastal Turkey to the east, thence to Algiers in North Africa further west, before trekking inroad to do that Lara Croft thing once again, and finally resurfacing, knee-scraped and ever so dusty, slightly north.

 

 

The Pillars of Hercules, you see, do geographically exist (sort of). They’re reputed to have been the on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, that gateway or “naval lynchpin” of enormous strategic military and commercial value. It is after following the trail there that our crew of Delilah, Selim and a Dutch journalist called Laurens Van Hassel will discover the most spectacular architectural enterprise ever attempted on their third and final descent underground, but if you believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity, this may well give you much pause for thought.

 

 

I don’t want to give too much away – and this certainly isn’t necessary for enjoying the heck out of this best adventure yet – but if you’ve enjoyed DELILAH DIRK’s previous escapades…

Nah, I think I’ll leave it there. Do keep a careful eye out, though!

The past may be a foreign place, but it does hold one heck of a passport.

 

 

 

Cliff surprises on so many levels, not least in that Küçuk isn’t the only one here displaying a degree of unseemly self-regard, and I like that our Delilah proves far from perfect, so needs her travelling companion more than ever, not only to pick out the physical astrolabe, but be her moral compass too.

SLH

Buy Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules and read the Page 45 review here

The Times I Knew I Was Gay (£9-99, Good Comics) by Eleanor Crewes.

Deliriously good-humoured, bright, breezy and fun, this has far broader in appeal than its titular remit suggests.

It’s emphatically not about being gay and it’s about far, far more than discovering you’re gay: it’s about discovering your individuality, whoever you are, and it’s a testament to Eleanor’s individuality that I recognised so little of it in my own hilariously dim-witted journey. I’ve never done self-aware!

The key image to this chirpiness is dear, dear Crewes cheerily waving from an open-door, airy and comfortably spacious closet!

It’s not something she’s ever been trapped in – she didn’t even realise there was one, let alone that she’d been residing within it for so long that her rent was overdue – so there’s no darkness here, only light.

 

 

She’ll be merrily popping back and forth from that closet so many times it isn’t true, coming spontaneously out as gay to friends with a grand announcement at 01:30am on 1st January 2014 (good timing!), before diving immediately back into boys and waiting two whole years before jumping joyfully out four more times.

“It wasn’t such an epiphany as last time.
“It was more like… small moments of clarity.”

That, I definitely recognise!

 

 

I particularly enjoyed Eleanor coming out separately to her dad, her mother, her brother and her bedroom. Yes, her bedroom. She had to tell her bedroom first.

“I threw the words around my room, a place where I had slept since I was a baby. The wallpaper, decorations and bedding had changed over the years but this room was mine. It had housed me over all this time, so it felt right that it was the first to know.”

There’s some delicious verbal imagery coming up!

“I lay in bed and imagined the words squeezing out from under my door, finding themselves in the hallway and splitting off – some ran into the bathroom and laid against the cool of the tiles, others slipped downstairs, spilling over the banister and splashing up the walls of my kitchen – they sped into the living room and pulled open the books, tore out the words and replaced them with me. Me and my house were roaring into new life whilst also staying exactly the same – “I’m gay!””

The medium, as I say, is a free-form fusion, bursts of pencil illustrations pouring out onto the paper before and after bouts of more in-depth illustrated prose. The forms grow grander as Crewes’ self-confidence blossoms, putting me firmly in mind of Eleanor Davis (WHY ART? YOU & A BIKE & A ROAD and HOW TO BE HAPPY), while her young schoolgirl mouth gapes innocently away like Simone Lia’s do (see FLUFFY, PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUBAND etc).

 

 

On to secondary school and Miss Oblivious’s flirting techniques with boys – all three steps of them – are determined: research each boy meticulously (clothes, television shows), execute extensive prep (buy matching clothes, devour entire TV seasons over the weekend), then…

“As soon as I know that they fancy me back, decide it’s too stressful and what you’ve now built as friendship is too valuable to potentially lose.”

Young Eleanor mops her brow. “Phew.”

 

 

There will be plenty about Buffy and Willow…

“The Buffy craze turned into something much bigger.
“The Buffy craze turned into the Willow craze and that was a different kind of craze altogether.”

… and wait until you meet Eleanor’s fab family!

Telling her Dad: awwww!

What a family of lovelies!

SLH

Buy The Times I Knew I Was Gay and read the Page 45 review here

The Academic Hour (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Keren Katz.

“The lesson will begin in five minutes.
“We must all get rid of a horse.”

It’s an unusual school, as you shall see.

I’m not sure if getting rid of the horse was a prerequisite for the lesson to begin, or whether it’s the lesson itself. Neither would surprise me, nor does the equine presence within the confines of classroom itself, for this is as mad as a bag full of spiders.

And if you think the instruction is surreal enough, the students’ strategies to achieve their objective will prove stranger still, their ministrations as unorthodox as the task they’ve been set, and that horse, well, it don’t wanna go, no matter their attempts to corral then coax it out of the door. You’ll see it desperately clinging to the back of a classroom chair with its front quarters, its hind hooves standing on tippy toes.

Some students take a direct approach, while others perform gymnastics on nearby tables, perhaps in some sort of luring, arcane ritual. I think the horse will win that one.

 

 

As to the subsequent ‘Anatomy Lesson’, it’s all a bit like the Beatles’ animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ only with much more white space on crisp, white, open-plan pages and prettier clothes patterns: lots of fish scales or snake scales or even chain mail. I’m seeing Aubrey Beardsley as well. There are a fair few dandies here too, and the fresh, bright colours are predominantly blue and slate-grey, with flames of yellow and slices of red.

Evidently the school takes a hands-on approach to anatomy. Well, hands-off, really. And legs. It’s more of a practical than a theoretical class, with syringes, pliers and meat cleavers

“Patella continued arching her back. She knew better than to take the stairs.”

Good call.

“Class begins.
“Only three students have made it.”

I am far from surprised. The architecture makes Escher look safe.

 

 

It begins thus:

“This is the story of Prof. Pothel and Liana set in a school founded and designed by a team of renowned architectural professors accepting only students who have been involved in car accidents but who have never broken any bones. The school was designed so that during the course of their studies, and by way of the conduct within campus, they would break everything they were supposed to break before.”

Okay, then.

It’s told in a sequence of illuminated love letters from Liana to disgraced Professor Pothel, who has a past involving automobile accidents himself – if only at a distance, obsessed over from his bedroom window as a child – and a future as a crashed car himself. It really is pretty pummelled. Please see “spiders” and the bag thereof. It’s when the cemetery starts moving in pursuit of the physical bus that the metaphorical train comes off the tracks completely.

Both the words and images tumble onto the page. Everything tumbles. It’s ever so sensual.

 

 

I’m not entirely sure whether or not this is an amphigory in its truest sense, but the absurdist narrative positively delights in contradictions, contortions and non-sequiturs.

“If two or more people are able to find their way up there without using the stairs, then that means they are the same person. There are no stairs leading up there.”

Try this attempt at a tryst:

“I keep your last note in my pocket: “Please try to meet me after class. I want to see how far we can both venture outside campus before we run into each other.””

Then, when you least expect it, things do make some sense:

“Once someone tricked me into a dream guessing game; he said: “Start asking me about my latest dream.  I will answer only yes or no”. Then after asking him thirty questions, I got nowhere close to knowing what his dream was about. But he knew exactly what mine was about.”

SLH

Buy The Academic Hour and read the Page 45 review here

Die! Die! Die! #1 (£3-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple & Chris Burnham with Nathan Fairbairn.

“She was nineteen.”
“That’s funny. I said that with a different tone as a defence.”

Oh, how I wish I could quote you the three preceding sentences in that exchange, but we don’t use those words around here!

As the cover may suggest (“I’m Paul.” “I’m Nate.” “I’m drunk.”) this is all very Warren Ellis (think INJECTION), and a tremendously funny first issue from the writer of THE WALKING DEAD comic, the showrunner of ‘The Walking Dead’ TV series Seasons 4 to 8 who left to co-write this, and the artist on Grant Morrison’s NAMELESS.

It was also a massive surprise because it arrived on our shelves last Wednesday, unannounced, without us having even ordered it because it was never solicited in PREVIEWS!

 

 

The idea behind that – which I wholeheartedly applaud, along with its successfully clandestine execution – was to make visiting comic shops exciting again. As Kirkman has written, there is so much information on the internet now that a comic series can be announced up to a year before its publication and that’s a long time to sustain any interest. Instead, here you go – BOOM!

We begin in Shrewsbury at the greyhound races, with an elderly man dropping his betting ticket. A younger, pretty bloke picks it up off the floor, handing it back to grateful gentlemen. Only, it isn’t the one which the pensioner dropped. It’s just as well, because he’d have lost his bet, having backed the wrong horse.

Instead he’s won, big-time.

 

 

Believe it or not, that’s merely one nudge in a ridiculously elaborate ruse formulated by the woman at the bottom of the cover, a US Senator, to completely ruin then murder a British Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister without drawing too much attention to it. The murder, I mean. She wants him well ruined first, and in public, for he’s a paedophile. She’s snorting cocaine at midnight after what must have been a most excellent night of sex if the pert pair of bare buttocks on her sofa is anything to go by, and, as she does so, she reveals in the intricacies of her plan in minute, carefully calculated detail, including the permutations which wouldn’t quite work and so were shelved. A key element was that the old codger at the race track, no relation to the MP whatsoever, needed to become exceedingly wealthy.

The Senator, you see, is running an organisation within the United States government which is as covert as the operation required to get DIE! DIE! DIE! so secretly onto our shelves.

Unfortunately her plan begins to unravel in the Shropshire countryside on the very second page as the pretty young man speeds through the rural idyll on a motorbike, only to be pursued by a Landrover whose driver displays all the Highway Code courtesy of a BMW tail-gater. (Which is a tautology, I know.)

 

 

The breezy self-confidence and acrobatic, pugilistic prowess of our secret agent is such that you know full well how that’s going to pan out, but the writers are no more slacking throughout than the line and colour artists. They deliver a dry-stone English B-road to die for / beside, and some crotch-ripping high kicks to make you thank goodness for stretchable fabrics.

 

 

Cracking final-page cliffhanger, craftily set up well in advance as to provide an immaculate three-beat punchline.

I’m sorry…? Very much recommended, to adults only, yes.

SLH

Buy Die! Die! Die! #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Come Again h/c (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Nate Powell.

“Desire disguised as a joke, betrayal as trust.”

Begins creepily enough, becomes increasingly worrying, hits a high screech of horror and then veers into completely unexpected territory.

There’s nothing like a hidden door underground, seen through a wound of a hole in the bank of a hill, to make your stomach start churning early on.

Let’s hit the publisher up for a hint, eh?

“As the sun sets on the 1970s, the spirit of the Love Generation still lingers among the aging hippies of one ‘intentional community’ high in the Ozarks. But what’s missing? Under impossibly close scrutiny, two families wrestle with long-repressed secrets… while deep within those Arkansas hills, something monstrous stirs, ready to feast on village whispers. National Book Award-winner Nate Powell returns with a haunting tale of intimacy, guilt, and collective amnesia.”

 

 

If the name Nate Powell rings a bell it’s most likely to be as the artist on the MARCH trilogy as told by Congressman John Lewis himself, or the similarly civil-rights-orientated struggle THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS or perhaps even the Young Adult THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS which was partly about self-image. I found all those thoroughly affecting.

A woman lives with her son in said small “intentional community” uphill and well away from the town down below. You infer early on from the way her eyes wander over the other occupants in their communal dining room that she’s not exactly comfortable.

“One of the hardest concepts to teach my Jake now is to mind his own business… In a community like this we are each other’s business.”

Probably not the best environment in which to carry on an illicit affair, then, even behind a hidden door underground. The cost of burying secrets can be higher than you think. Kids do like to explore, don’t they?

 

 

The darkness is terrifying, and there’s plenty of that, I promise you.

SLH

Buy Come Again h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Entropy (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Aaron Costain.

“Let me fix that spelling mistake for you.”

 – The angel to one of the golems, casually readjusting the Hebrew inscription on its forehead.

There’s so much dry and casual comedy here.

Beloved by both Kate Beaton (STEP ASIDE POPS! and HARK, A VAGRANT!) and Jesse Jacobs (CRAWL SPACE and SAFARI HONEYMOON), this took ten years to materialise in full. Extraordinary, then, that it should be so coherent in its conclusion, after a succession of revelations towards the end which are so startling that you’ll want to begin at the beginning all over again and re-read it with the fresh eyes of hindsight.

I say, sir publisher, what do you have for us this time?

 

 

“Aaron Costain’s ENTROPY follows a golem with a surprisingly modern sensibility, and an even more modern sense of style, as he backtracks through millennia to understand his own creation. ENTROPY takes place at the intersection of the world’s cultures. Mythologies and religions cross-pollinate, bleed into one another, and form a new soul from synthesis – or they will if our epic hero can outrun man-eating giants, a vicious army of crows, a mute doppelgänger, an angel and one very manipulative, slave-driving cat.”

Now, that’s a bit misleading. It sounds as if the chap time-travels, but he doesn’t go anywhere much, not fast. Instead, clad in gear to protect him from an irate Raven forever on the look-out to pick the poor guy’s eyes out, he’s talking to himself and sounding off to an angel, agonising over his immediate origins (who spawned him) and a mixed bag of creation mythologies from millennia ago which he feels to be in conflict. Ah, all these unnecessarily fretful questions about shared fictions really are their own problems, aren’t they?

Meanwhile the angel’s priority is far more mundane – he just wants to get out of the rain.

 

 

Kate Beaton likes that it asks the Big Questions. It doesn’t; it asks utterly unnecessary ones which might even be its point given later developments, but I’d compare it to Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS in its eerie, limbo-like state, the only evidence of humanity being what it has left behind: abandoned buildings, equipment, clothing – and there’s precious little of that.

It’s very quiet, apart from all the talking animals. But he’d be much better off if they left him alone. He certainly would be wise to avoid listening, trust me.

 

 

I adore the clean lines of the well weighted figures. Even the textures are clean-lined, be they mountain ranges, wood grains of tree-trunk barks which look like a maze.

There are some superb deployments of silhouettes, and the angel is dazzling. There’s a terrific use of negative space against radiating lines, until the angel adjusts in order to not blind our wandering, quite lost protagonist, then even then the way he radiates instead from within is mesmerising.

 

 

Oh, I so want to run with the last clause of that sentence, but you’ll have to hang on for the final reveals.

SLH

Buy Entropy and read the Page 45 review here

Poochytown h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

In which there is a truly startling development in the longstanding relationship between Manhog and the ever-curious (“Don’t touch that!”) Frank. Pupshaw and Pushpaw will prove true to form, though. There’s a not-so-fine line between loyal protectiveness and rampant jealousy, isn’t there?

Prepare yourself for another book of strange transformations.

Do excuse me, I’ve an in-coming call from the publisher…

“Beginning with CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS and again in FRAN, Jim Woodring’s beloved anthropomorph Frank has been subjected to hundreds of unbelievable adventures and yet nothing could prepare him for the transdimensional depredations of Poochytown, the latest and greatest installment in the ongoing saga. Utterly devoid of topicality, irony, or deliberate cynicism, the Frank stories are instead timeless cartoon sustenance, and Poochytown is the most opulent offering yet.”

 

 

I’ve now written so many words on Jim Woodring that I have nothing to add, I can only reemphasise my admiration for works which are so powerful that I am known to dream in Jim Woodring.

CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS is sadly out of print, so I can’t send you in the direction of that review, but please see instead my extensive investigations of WEATHERCRAFT, FRAN  and THE FRANK BOOK for detail on similar journeys (these are all journeys), and the very different JIM H/C for another side to this visionary.

I tell you what, though, there has never been a more exotic colouring book, if that’s what you crave.

SLH

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

Madame Cat (£9-99, Humanoids) by Nancy Peña.

More joke-orientated than Jeffrey Brown’s purely observational, behavioural cat comics (CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG and CATS ARE WEIRD), there are still plenty of feline foibles to recognise here, albeit given an anthropomorphised twist as Madame Cat attempts to justify her manic bursts of often inexplicable activity and her vocation to destroy any and all fabrics, especially if they’re your favourites.

Some of the jokes, often spread over two pages, are surprisingly complex. Yes, cats do love lolling about on the piece of paper you’re trying to write or draw on, and they’re forever getting in the way of your computer screen to attract your attention, as well as treading on your keyboard, thereby inventing new words with far fewer vowels than seems likely, so that you appear to be typing in tongues. You know what I mean:

“sdafhh dasxxhtrp jkklhjiggybipbopbap”

 

 

However, the real sabotage has all been pre-planned. Here’s Madame Cat lapping up a Photoshop manual for kitties while creator Nancy Peña screams at her screen in horror:

Delete without confirmation: press Alt + Delete (left hind paw and right front paw)
Hide all panels: Tab
Clear all history permanently: Alt + Delete History (left hind paw, and one front claw on the History panel).”

 

 

It’s definitely the cat’s behaviour being analysed here, rather than humans’ reactions to their presence as touched on occasionally Sarah Andersen’s HERDING CATS, whereas I seem to recall that Seo Kim’s CAT PERSON covers both.

 

 

In some ways this is closer to Paul Tobin & Ben Dewey’s extended narrative I WAS THE CAT, but it in no way resembles Sherwin Tija’s double whammy YOU ARE A CAT PICK-A-PLOT BOOK and YOU ARE A KITTEN too, both of which are prose and likely to leave any young ones with long-lasting childhood traumas and their guardians with much explaining to do.

I’ve photographed my favourite two-pager here for you, twice. It’s beautifully set up, and the final expression on the cat’s face is priceless.

 

 

 

SLH

Buy Madame Cat and read the Page 45 review here

The Day The Crayons Came Home s/c (£7-99, Harper Collins) by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers.

Sequel to the same creative team’s grin-inducing THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT in which a spectrum of hard-worked wax crayons wrote a series of letters alerting young artist Duncan to their put-upon plight.

I found it very moving.

Here, they have switched to postcards, which we send from afar, because some of our wax wonders have gone walkies.

Well, they do that, don’t they?

Some fall down the back of the sofa or roll under the heavy settee. Others get forced by tiny fingers down the small holes in the sink causing a Mysterious Blockage (THAT WASN’T ME, MUM!), while more get dropped on the garden path, misplaced on holiday or carried away by the dog which perhaps mistakes yellow for a lump of tasty cheddar cheese.

 

 

These, then, are essentially a series of S.O.S. messages addressed to:

“Duncan,
“Duncan’s Bedroom,
“Upstairs
“This House”

Not even the Italian mail could fail to deliver those successfully.

The Crayons have gone a little bit upmarket since we last saw them. They’re no longer merely Blue or Purple but Maroon (perfect for colouring scabs) Neon Red, Burnt Sienna, Glow-In-The-Dark (it really does glow in the dark for maximum bedtime squeals!!!) and Pea Green.

Although Green isn’t sure that anyone likes peas, so he’s changed his name to Esteban.

 

 

Yellow and Orange have stopped squabbling since THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT. They’ve come together, united, made up. They have bonded! Quite literally, as it happens, for they’ve been melted together by the very source of their former feud, the sun.

Two do display a genuine wanderlust, though Neon Red’s geography seems a bit off, but if the first book cannot help but ignite renewed creativity, hopefully this sequel will instil an increased sense of tidiness.

The punchline comes in the form of how Duncan will now safely store his collection of chopped, chomped, regurgitated and otherwise misshapen crayons, in a sort of access-friendly, all-inclusive cardboard community centre which includes a “wee door” (not necessarily for weeing in, I hope) and a “look-out point” which couldn’t be much more misaligned.

 

 

Oh, Duncan!

SLH

Buy The Day The Crayons Came Home s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Long Red Hair (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Meags Fitzgerald.

“But mom, your character has an 18 Charisma. I want to be beautiful too.”
“It’s always better to be smart than pretty. And 13 isn’t bad. You should be happy with average.”

Ouch.

Thankfully, mom’s not talking about school grades or life in general: the family’s playing Dungeons & Dragons.

However, however, on the page immediately following:

“In my family I was sandwiched between siblings and at school, bookended by the loud and the quiet, the rich and the poor, the cool and uncool. I felt unnoticed and daydreamed, even prayed, for an Ugly Duckling type outcome. I simultaneously strived to stand out and nestled myself in averageness, a comfortable place for an introvert.
“The middle was, if nothing else, safe.”

 

 

That’s Fitzgerald’s starting point, after which she darts back and forth in time, charting her development from a childhood full of make-believe and fantasy (D&D, spooky television, dressing up) to an adult life of learning, self-discovery and – in conversation with a friend – exploring their relationships with regards to societal norms (books, books, books, being single, bisexuality etc).

Even in adulthood Fitzgerald remained fascinated by the likes of witchcraft, but on a more historical, socio-political level, citing ‘The Malleus Maleficium’ published in 1487 as the beginning of women’s woes there.

“It spread the idea that people with abnormalities like birthmarks, moles, red hair, or left-handedness, were likely witches…
“An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed for witchcraft, most of them women.
“It was enforced by the Church and governments because the pagan movement was empowering women and growing rapidly, “disturbing” the order.
“I heard the trials were an excuse to sentence homosexuals to death, who had nothing to do with witchcraft.”

Nor did 99.9% of the others!

 

 

However, Fitzgerald gets a taster for these suspicious minds even in childhood during one of many sleepovers involving innocent dress-up and acting that goes unexpectedly, religiously, catastrophically wrong.

This is the first time I’ve heard of any family wishing each other Happy Friday 13th, but this has nothing to do with the dark arts and everything to do with her parents’ first meeting as teens on that date at a church dance!

If you enjoy your Greek mythology, this is explored on another book that capture’s Fitzgerald’s interest, ‘A History Of Celibacy’. She and Elise enjoy discussing these histories before applying them to their present. See “being single”.

Between the present and the distance past lie those difficult teenage years, rebellion almost a given. Fitzgerald was no exception, so out up goes the punk hair dyed with a strong streak of red, and out comes the dinner-table attitude and outbursts. Especially the one big out-burst: the proclamation of bisexuality, followed by a hasty, sobbing retreat upstairs.

She could have just passed the gravy, as requested.

 

 

Finally and thankfully I am reading far many more happy instances of coming out, after hearing years and years of rejection horror stories, and I’m delighted to report that this is another, with several extra, thoughtfully supportive and empowering surprises from mom and dad to make you smile. I wish everyone had it so easy.

The forms inside are very soft in a Sally-Jane Thompson way, with extra pencil shading – very different from the cover – and of course red is going to feature prominently!

SLH

Buy Long Red Hair and read the Page 45 review here

Monsters (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Ken Dahl.

“Dahl’s excellent cartooning and humour make this book required reading for anyone who has had sex, is going to have sex, or wants to have sex.”

 – Jeffrey Brown (FUNNY, MISSHAPEN BODY etc.)

If you’re prepared for the nightmares, anyway: if you begin this book for god’s sake please read it right until the end, then the epilogue. If you don’t, you’ll be left with so many misconceptions or, at the very least, puzzled.

And if you don’t already adore the NHS, you will once you’ve read this. The things we take for granted…

Top-shelf trauma, this is Ken Dahl’s autobiographical account of his ordeal with a strain of herpes which doesn’t just occasionally give you the odd cold sore: it gives you a mouth full of agonising monstrous pustules, and the same downstairs, both front and back. These are depicted. Explicitly.

He passes it on to his girlfriend then, when she experiences a very painful outbreak herself, he scrambles to suggest that it was she who gave herpes to him instead. Nice.

Communication breaks down into a precarious silence. Terrific sense of alienation: there are things much more lonely than being alone.

Single, he gets drunk with work colleagues, and then is so plastered at another party that when he’s approached by a girl who’s depicted as positively radiant with health… he kisses her too.

 

 

So I guess the titular Monsters aren’t just the sores, though they too come alive in some spectacularly grotesque, morphing art.

There are plenty of similar “Noooooooo!” moments here, but some of them are funny, like the panel when Dahl’s dog licks the milk out of his cereal bowl and his formerly dozing cat’s eyes open wide. It’s so subtle you might miss it.

Then, without medical insurance, there’s his constant search for alternative treatments to at least alleviate the symptoms.

“None of them really seemed to do anything… But that doesn’t stop them from charging top dollar. Because ever snake-oil merchant knows that, when you’re in pain and without access to proper healthcare, you’ll swallow pretty much anything that promises a cure.”

Which is witty. There’s a sign below one tonic which reads:

“So Fucking Expensive It MUST Work!”

Finally scraping together some degree of self-control he tries dating by disease – i.e. other people with herpes. Turns out that defining yourself by your disease don’t give you even a clue as to character. Who’d have thunk it?

 

 

Stats on offer include that 75% of Americans are thought to have herpes and if that then starts making your eyes narrow slightly at what you’ve been reading, mine did too… so do please wait for the epilogue.

SLH

Buy Monsters and read the Page 45 review here

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£10-99, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez.

“THANKS FOR COMING
“(Call the police.)”

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

Yes, it’s mother of invention time.

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

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

 

 

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

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

He wasn’t joking.

SLH

Buy The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny 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 Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow

The Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj

Dork h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

The Beef: “Tainted Love” – A Biochemical Romance s/c (£14-99, Image) by Richard Starkings, Tyler Shainline & Shaky Kane, John Roshell

Carnet De Voyage h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Craig Thompson

Exits (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Daryl Seitchik

Hellboy Omnibus vol 3 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

Herakles Book 1 h/c (£15-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour

How To Be Alive (£6-99, Retrofit) by Tara Booth

Invisibles Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, John Stokes, Michael Lark, Chris Weston, Keith Allen, Marc Hempel, Ray Kryssing

Iron Bound (£18-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach

Jughead: The Hunger vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Archie) by Frank Tieri & Joe Eisma, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Michael Walsh

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) s/c (£15-99, Top Shelf / Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Lumberjanes vol 9: On A Roll (£13-99, Boom!) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Carolyn Nowak

Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater (£13-99, Koyama Press) by A. Degen

The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach

Rome West s/c (£14-50, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli & Andrea Mutti

Shipwreck s/c vol 1 (£15-99, Aftershock) by Warren Ellis & Phil Hester

The Song Of Aglaia h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Anne Simon

The Ballad Of Halo Jones (Colour Edition) vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson

Batman & Robin Adventures vol 3 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Ty Templeton, Hilary J. Bader, Kelley Puckett & Bo Hampton, Brandon Kruse, Joe Staton

Suicide Squad vol 6: Secret History Of Task Force X s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Rob Williams & Barnaby Bagenda, various

Invincible Iron Man: The Search For Tony Stark s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, various

Marvel Two-in-one s/c vol 1 Fate Of The Four (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti

Ms. Marvel vol 9: Teenage Wasteland s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Nico Leon

Spider-Man Deadpool vol 6: WLMD s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & various

Golosseum vol 2 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Yashushi Baba

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week two

July 11th, 2018

Featuring David B., Luke Pearson. Olivier Kugler, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard, Ron Regé Jr., Igor Hofbauer, Anna Haifisch, Richard Marazano & Luo Yin, Hannah Berry, Denise Mina, Kathryn Briggs, Sabeena Ahktar, more!

Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents (£21-99, NBM) by David B.

Luxurious hardcover with gold-foil finishes from the creator of EPILEPTIIC.

If you love your epic mythological journeys like THE KING OF THE BIRDS, this will fill your cup right to its brim, and it comes with the same, intricate story baton-passing, for this is all about unexpected encounters in which one revelation leads to another, one complication leads to several more, and there are prices to be paid for love, treachery, deceit, ingratitude, servitude and – what else would you expect? – the dismissal of warnings and the breaking of promises, taboos.

Not only that but, blissfully, I can promise you that however far the meandering narrative, full of digressions, takes us from its initial thread, its path is circular, you will return whence you came, and every single element will be resolved.

Even more satisfyingly, answers which could not and should not have been provided during the diversions are provided later on, and antagonists who appear within them will reappear most unexpectedly but quite, quite, brilliantly during the final furlong to fuck up things further, but not forever.

Why is it so circuitous? This is taken from ‘The Thousand And One Nights’ in which the narrator is essentially telling stories to postpone her execution. It’s one long delaying tactic. For a very cool riff on that, please see Isabel Greenberg’s wit-ridden, glorious graphic novel THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO.

It begins simply enough with Hâsib, who isn’t half as wise or well versed in the ways of the world as his departed dad, an ancient sage called Daniel. Hâsib’s mother is persuaded to buy him an axe and a donkey so he can join three woodcutters in a forest and learn this new craft. But when they discover a well of honey in a cave, Daniel is abandoned at the bottom on it while his greedy companions make more money from the honey than they’d ever dreamed. They tell his mother that Hâsib was eaten, but they do continue to provide for her from their ill-gained goods.

Well, seemingly trapped at the bottom of the now-empty well beneath the cave, Daniel encounters a talking scorpion – the very constellation of Scorpius in the sky, made flesh, blood and stingy bit! – and so realises that there must be another way out. He claws back rubble to find himself in a chamber with an underground lake at the centre of which is a bed on an island. Lying down, he soon finds himself in the company of the Queen of the Serpents. It’s then that the succession of stories truly begins, from Kabul to Cairo, before they return full circle, then onwards!

You are in for an orgy of opulent spectacle, for David B makes the visual most of every literary opportunity afforded him, and oh the opportunities! There’s an aviary of every bird imaginable in King Solomon’s castle, a mountain-top tree full of faces, and a constellation of stars is illuminated at its most magnificent.

Talking plants communicate in ever such clever picture-clues, a coffin-maker’s enterprise is given a right medieval and morbid rendition, while a battle between apes and djinns is Mesoamerican in nature, coiling round then into the page like a snake.

Demons await in the woods as if to corrupt the woodcutters, a river doesn’t just rage and roar but actually exclaims, anything can happen then actually does and essentially this: it’s like an acid trip without fear of flashbacks or prosecution.

As I’ve written of Jim Woodring’s work: “It’s mind-altering, yet legal!”

Here’s an important component, however, which is easy to overlook: although grave personal betrayals occur, genuine contrition can be rewarded by forgiveness if it’s backed up with restitution and remedial action, especially if unsolicited. By which I mean: you realise you’ve done wrong, you concede you’ve done wrong, you actively apologise and then set things right without being asked to in advance.

The reason this is vital in any morality tale is that it provides hope in its option for action: we all make mistakes, but believing that we are damned forever because of them doesn’t exactly encourage a change of heart.

Or, as ‘The Cock, The Mouse And The Little Red Hen’ would contend: “It’s never too late to mend”.

Although sometimes it is.

SLH

Buy Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents and read the Page 45 review here

Escaping Wars And Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees (£19-99, Myriad) by Olivier Kugler.

“Imagine you’ve got a family: a wife, three children… you come home and there is nobody there.”

Two bombs were dropped on their house.

“They all died in the same room. The oldest one was five years old, the next one four… and the little one was three years old.”

This is an album full of spectacularly beautiful, delicate line art: portraits of brave, stoical and astonishingly resourceful individuals who are facing nebulous futures after enduring unimaginable atrocities, so forcing them to flee for their very lives only to enjoy temporary living conditions which are challenging, to say the least.

It won the European Design Awards Jury Prize, 2018.

 

 

It’s coloured with exceptional finesse, an unusual treatment which instinctively selects certain areas of skin and clothing (while leaving others unfilled) so that one’s eyes are drawn to the humanity, warmth and individuality of those telling their stories in very brief bursts, while their current context – their surrounding environment, inside or out, and their few possessions – is largely left white or in lighter tones, with small but important details picked out for emphasis, like all the plastic flowers and vine leaves used to brighten a tent, shack or barber’s shop.

Oh yes, I told you they were resourceful: so many of those who found themselves marooned in the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, 2013, had begun to earn themselves a new if meagre living as barbers, carpenters, electrical appliance repairmen, sound system rental suppliers for weddings, births and birthdays or even, in Djwan’s case, a breakdancing teacher. That’s quite the career change from Syrian Army sniper.

It wasn’t a career choice. In Syria, military service is mandatory, and Djwan was randomly selected to be a sniper, from which vantage point he was able to see his friends blown to smithereens or burn to death in a tank. One of Djwan’s close friends and fellow soldiers who had suffered considerable family loss (outside of the army but very much within the warzone – Syria, basically) committed suicide by shooting himself with a rifle. The authorities decided Djwan had killed him, so he was tortured.

 

 

His saga of suffering is far longer than that, but like every individual whom Kugler met, he was fleeing the war. Plenty were fleeing conscription, many had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, others weren’t sticking around long enough to see that happen within personal blast range. I’m pretty sure you’d flee too. I know I certainly would. It’s worth reiterating:

“Imagine you’ve got a family: a wife, three children… you come home and there is nobody there.”

So many of these stories are the same, whether told in Domiz, Kos (a Greek island where there’s no refugee camp or governmental provision at all) or the “Jungle” in Calais where you really wouldn’t want the sort of provision the local police like to provide.

“Because of the war there is not work in the area. Food, electricity and fuel are scarce and expensive.”
“The economy broke down.”
“This is what is left of the school where I used to give painting lessons. It got hit by an American warplane.”

Some of them have climbed over corpses.

 

 

When Kugler.visited, refugee Ahin was lending her fully qualified services as a postgraduate psychologist to the Mental Health team in the Domiz camp. (You can imagine there’s quite the demand if men in particular feel able to suffer the stigma of needing mental health counselling – and then think of the kids there!) She had to give up her masters is Damascus when the Free Syrian Army began bombing the neighbourhood indiscriminately.

“During my studies I worked in a centre for autistic children. I wanted to do practical treatment and help the children. It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed it.”

The centre’s now being used as a military base.

Meanwhile, of course, dear old Islamic State is destroying all art it can find and even chopped down an orchard because obviously.

 

 

On fleeing, the parties had to negotiate numerous checkpoints in their own country before getting anywhere near another’s borders. Those checkpoints could be manned by the Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army or even Jihadist groups, which is quite the combination to please or appease. It’s especially tricky if you’re someone who could be shot for desertion or being an ex-enemy combatant.

This is all so thoroughly digestible because Kugler provides snippets of conversations, distilling them to the really important sentences, but never once separating them from the individual in question. There are no anonymous statements.

And, of course, you are surrounded by the physical beauty of the lines and colour on each page, however higgledy-piggledy, wet or freezing cold the actual environs were. Details you wouldn’t necessarily think of are picked out, like the cinder blocks one bloke is standing on to keep his feet out of the mud. The island of Kos stands in marked contrast to Domiz, being comparatively warm, lush and green.

 

 

Originally, to save time, I was simply going to refer you to Kate Evans’s equally excellent first-hand account of her time helping out in Calais which is THREADS, but I found myself so moved by what I learned here, and so impressed with its communicative skills, that I couldn’t. Joe Sacco is a huge fan of this work, of course, because he’s made a career out of giving a voice to those who have none, just like Kugler does here. They’re like megaphones for the otherwise muted.

And while I’m making reference to other works, albeit with a completely different structure and style, may I commend Thi Bui’s THE BEST WE COULD DO? Belle Yang’s FORGET SORROW? Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL, obviously, but also his SKETCHES FROM A NAMELESS LAND which too contains snippets of conversation taken from those seeking refuge, as well as reflecting on THE ARRIVAL, itself.

I’m well past being sick of the demonization of those so desperately seeking sanctuary by the likes of Farage and the Daily Fail, and the betrayal by our own government under Theresa May of the Windrush Generation who were invited here because we do desperately needed them, and they came and they gave of themselves for decades in spite of such loathsome societal racism. Over and over, we are bludgeoned with lies about scrounging when immigrants contribute their skills then boost our economy by paying tax.

 

 

But not only are so many fleeing for their very lives – from wars often of the West’s making in the case of Iraq, or exacerbating in the case of Syria – but in doing so they are sacrificing so much.

Almost always they are leaving family behind, but also their daily joys – the colour and culture in their lives – which we take for granted, obliterated by the outbreak of war: music, singing, art and books. Casual conversation in comfort! One elderly gentleman called Saadwin says “I miss village life… Hanging out with the other old men… We used to sit outside and talk all the time.”

He’s standing, shivering, in mud-strewn Iraqi Kurdistan, in spite of wearing seven jackets.

“I wouldn’t trade living in my village for all the money in the world.”

And yet, he has had to leave.

SLH

Buy Escaping Wars And Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End vol 3: Journey’s End (£17-99, Boom!) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard…

““Fire doesn’t burn that way.” Your words.
“You said in the incident report several times. And I’ve heard you say it since.”

You may yourselves recall Clive Slipaway telling us more than once about the wartime incident in which his ship was dramatically set aflame and promptly sunk with substantial loss of life, though he himself manage to survive only to be captured by the enemy. Well, it seems there may have been more to the incident than meets the eye… at least according to intelligence officer Major Upton, who you would think might be in the know about that sort of stuff.

Now… where else have we seen strange flaming weapons that instantly incinerate things recently…? Ah yes…

 

 

Our anthropomorphic chums return, well, except for poor old Fawkes, who was last seen getting roasted alive to a degree that a Gruffalo would heartily approve of after finally going against a lifetime of conniving and chicanery and generally surviving just fine and dandy thank you to play the hero! Thanks to a lovely little amusing conceit though, you’ll almost be convinced he managed to survive. It’s like Messrs. Abnett & Culbard weren’t quite ready to let go of the foxy blighter! But local journalist Peter Minks, feline Susan Peardew and Alphie the piglet are all back safe and sound. Well, they’re back.

 

 

So, is there any hope at all of turning the proverbial tide against the global alien invasion of fire-breathing, flexible-limbed, giant streetlights? Indeed is there even anyone else left with the gumption to fight aside from our ragtag bunch of survivors? And even if there were, what on Earth could they possibly do? Or does the answer perhaps… [CENSORED]. Well… again, any chance they do have might be down to information that Major Upton is in possession of… Just how is it that she seems to know so much about this mysterious alien menace and what possibly represents the Earth’s last, incredibly slim hope for survival…?

 

 

Yes, the concluding third of this amusing take on the classic retro-alien invasion theme is finally here! Straight out in graphic novel form this time, no messing about with the penny dreadful periodicals! As before, much interesting between-papers such as diary entries, government announcements, maps etc. flesh out the fun. At least until it’s seared off… For much, much more on this fabulous series see our Stephen’s reviews of WILD’S END VOL 1 and WILD’S END VOL 2.

 

 

JR

Buy Wild’s End vol 3: Journey’s End and read the Page 45 review here

The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Regé Jr.

“There was an electric shock between our hearts and the conduit was the sound of the bell.”

Ding dong! What a wonderfully witty and warm-hearted work this is. As the publisher blurb yodels…

“A funny and romantic teenage ghost story that marks a departure from the author’s more abstract and esoteric work, The Weaver Festival Phenomenon is a touching story of love & loss that retains a sense of magic that readers have come to expect from Regé.”

The primary reason for that departure is not mentioned above, oddly enough, which is that this is based on the short story ‘Moonlight Shadow’ by the celebrated Japanese prose author Banana Yoshimoto. Whose sister, is I think, a manga artist, so she’s clearly familiar with comics. But apparently, according to an interview I read, Ron had been wanting to draw this story for over a decade. He had contacted Banana to request permission but hadn’t heard anything back, at least at the time of the interview. Presumably he subsequently did at some point. Now, I am totally unfamiliar with the original source material so I can’t comment how close an adaptation it is. She isn’t formally credited, though, instead there is a note right at the end explaining this is based on said novella.

Anyway, long time Rege Jr. devotees will indeed note that this is radically different to his other works in a number of ways. Visually, whilst it still has his trademark ecstatically psychedelic wavy art style punctuated with the occasional burst of intense geometric activity, instead of the profusion of surrounding white space that normally accompanies his work, here we have stark, if glossy black.

Now, Stephen pointed out this inky backdrop may well be because this story involves a death, well two actually, okay, three thinking about it, though we never find out the identity of the third deceased individual. And the more I think about it, I think he’s absolutely right. Which all sounds rather gloomy. This is, however, precisely as the blurb states, funny and romantic, which aren’t really things I associate with Ron. Though hopefully his significant other, if he has one, would disagree!

But this, whimsical and waggish in tone, this had me chuckling in places at some of the mildly absurd behaviour of the central protagonists. Although the blurb states this is a ghost story, it really isn’t, it’s actually about two people left behind, picking  up the pieces, after a tragic accident that took the lives of their loved ones. Though with that said, there are indeed apparitions…

Right, I’ve danced around the bush like I’ve just had an electric shock quite enough, so I’m off to jangle my bell. If you’re a fan of Japanese prose or an unusual art style I implore you to give Ron a go. You will be delighted by this. Existing Rege Jr. fans will, I believe, see this as another tingling example that he is an underappreciated maestro.

I have absolutely no idea what the cover is a reference to. Anyone know? It seems like it must be a nod to something, because it doesn’t really pertain to the contents at all! Colour me intrigued. Which I’d be quite happy to let Ron do upon my torso with a set of sharpies…

JR

Buy The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye) by Luke Pearson.

Animated series debuting on Netflix on September 21st 2018!

Gorgeous composition of a cover for the fifth HILDA outing, and you may have already spotted a clue to one of this all-ages book’s many marked departures!

We’ve no time to talk of that yet, for Hilda’s hurried home to a less than impressed mother.

“Hey, I’m sorry I’m late!
“I totally lost track of time. I think my watch is broken.
“And I forgot to take it out with me, so that didn’t help, either.
“And then Twig wouldn’t stop chasing this dog…”

That’s a cracking last panel with poor Twig looking round in the background, alarmed at her barefaced lie. With the raised brows and exclamation mark, he looks like George Herriman’s KRAZY KAT after being hit by a brick thrown by Ignatz.

 

 

But if you think Hilda’s excuses are exhausting (they did go on…!), then the pages preceding them will leave you completely out of breath. For our adventure opens immediately with Hilda and Twig giving chase to a long-legged clump of semi-sentient turf which a family of tiny Hidden People from HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT has unknowingly built their house on.

Off it gallops across a double-page spread of long, landscape panels accentuating the speed and distance travelled, as Hilda hurtles through a hole in the fence, over the top of a steep, sandy bank and tumbles downhill into a steam train terminus. Instantly then they’re off again, leaping across country in pursuit of the agile and unexpectedly mobile home.

 

 

Ooof! Only when they’ve finally caught up with the critter do they realise how far from the city they’ve strayed, deep into Stone Troll territory. Now, Stone Trolls are sedentary during daylight so that’s reassuring, but overnight the local farmer’s fields have been plundered, his fields ransacked of their juicy crops and his goat stolen too. So that’s new. As are all the fires on the mountain late at night – they haven’t been seen for many years. It seems the Stone Trolls are growing increasingly active…

 

 

Now to the nub of the matter: this isn’t the first time Hilda’s been late or gone AWOL. There’s a glorious, extended montage of past adventures – some of which we haven’t been privy to yet – climaxing in some seriously sorry excuses for the states she comes back in, hilariously contradicted by the action-packed snapshots above them.

“It’s these dusty streets. It just seems to stick to me.”

You’re going to get covered in mud if you’re chased by wild onions underground.

“The puddles around here are outrageous.”

So was that porkie-pie, Miss Bedraggled and Be-drenched!

“Whatever you’re thinking it’s not that.”

Actually true: I doubt her Mum would have imagined a giant white rose splurting her daughter with bright-yellow gloop.

“Yeah, the library was fine.”

It wasn’t.

 

 

Now, Hilda’s Mum is no control freak (she gives her a lot of leeway) but she worries about her daughter’s safety because that’s what Mums do, and she just wants to spend a little quality time with her on a picnic or playing games. And they do have a lovely picnic (after a certain degree of misjudged spot-picking) but I’m afraid things come to a head when Mum denies her one night away and Hilda goes mental. Complete temper-tantrum meltdown, and she says some terrible, terrible things that made me vicariously ashamed.

 

 

But even through Hilda’s mother finally puts her foot down, Hilda’s never been good with temptation and the lure of a good old curiosity quest, and it’s a tug of war which has radical ramifications for both Hilda and her Mum, who will be far from reassured by what follows…

On that, I shall attempt to say as little as possible, but you saw that cover, didn’t you?

There’s so much to relish here, not least the perils of a countryside picnic. Our Jonathan remarked, with great amusement, on how well Luke had observed all the stroppiness and backchat of a right young madam or little man in full flow.

 

 

There are brand-new creatures with fascinating and potentially useful diets to discover, and wait until you get a load of the eerie Stone Forest itself, coloured ever so exotically! There will be “Oooh!”s And there will be “Aaaah!”s when the central cavern is revealed, as vast as the vastest cathedral you’ve never seen.

I will say one thing: the stakes will be raised when it comes to the level of danger, but it will serve to prove that Hilda and her Mum are very much cut from the same cloth in their resilience, resourcefulness and their indefatigability.

Anyone who spoils the ending for you, in any way shape or form, should be sent to bed early and grounded for a fortnight or more.

SLH

Buy Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mister Morgen (£21-99, Conundrum) by Igor Hofbauer…

“Igor Hofbauer is the Charles Burns of the Balkans.”

– Nina Bunjevac (creator of ‘Fatherland’)

A little unusual to start a review with someone else’s quote about a work, taken from the front French flap, which in addition to the creepy cover ought to be fair warning of precisely what to expect inside, but I genuinely couldn’t think of a better way to sum this work up. When I read said pull quote before commencing reading I thought to myself, “That’s a very bold statement, we’ll see…”

But do you like Charles BLACK HOLE / LAST LOOK Burns? If, in particular, you are a fan of BLACK HOLE I feel you do need this. The bold, strident artwork is solid blacks paired with stark white backgrounds and dose highlights of red – frequently blood – and has that ever so slightly uneven looseness around the edges stylistically that simultaneously softens it up to the eye, then works on similarly softening up your sanity. It all helps to engender the feel of an early twentieth century period horror film involving characters that manage to come across as both terrifying and pitiful in equal measure.

 

 

This is a collection of shorts, I must add, rather than a single, longer form story, all with disturbing elements of surreal… whether that’s a train full of zombies…

“The situation is beyond our control.”
“Quarantine the train. You know where to direct it.”

… or a man wielding a broom with his eyes, ears and mouth stitched up…

“I am well aware that my appearance scares people but still. It didn’t seem to have an effect on him.”

Or indeed the secret police ferrets who you really don’t want a visit from…

“And we are from social services.”
“Do you have any ID?”
“Of course we do.”

… their ID being straight-edge razors to slash your face open with.

 

 

Like I said, that perturbing cover ought to have given sufficient cause for concern if you are of nervous disposition. The level of phantasmagorical within, combined with the art style, certainly should also appeal heavily to fans of Tim ABANDONED CARS Lane, by the way.

 

 

What the front and also rear cover neatly portrays is a strong element of old school East European design, with the cover title for example channelling a Soviet-era propaganda poster. That specific tone, which gives this work its own distinct flavour is something that continues throughout, particularly with some imposing concrete, Brutalist, monolithic architecture topped with similar angular blocky signage.

 

 

Though as I type I am also conscious that there are strong design elements of what I can only describe ‘60s Floridian Americana with palm trees and beaches, skyscrapers and sunsets, pop art wallpaper and TVs. It’s a frankly hypnopompic blend, the austere East and the wacky West, like the ultimate bad dream in which you know are asleep and fighting frantically to wake from but just can’t manage it…

And then the hooded fizzy pop bottle deliverymen arrive…

JR

Buy Mister Morgen and read the Page 45 review here

The Artist h/c (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Anna Haifisch…

“When the stone martens in deep Bavaria gather to too their picturesque horns,
“The falcons of Arabia resist the orders of their masters,
“And the foxes of Leipzig congregate for a sexual cult dance,
“The world is about to receive a new artist.
“In the moment of an artist’s birth British scientists succeeded to detect an…
“Atypical phenomenon which came to be known as ‘the sigh of the Universe.”
“For a fraction of a second, a wave of extremely high frequency was measured.
“Which also seems to be the cause of human hiccoughs.
“This insignificant discovery is certainly leading the way for an artist’s life.
“As soon as the embryo hatches,
“The young artist is ready to absorb the sadness of the world.”

 

 

I decided to go with that pull quote rather than my first choice, though, I really did agonise about it. Oh what the hell, here’s this one as well. See what you would have chosen…

“Oh, heyyy Lucy. Hrmm… Sorry I missed you last night at Pat’s show.
“Yeah… no… I left when Carlos shoved acid up his butt and hell broke loose.
“…Alrighty, talk to you soon.”

Anna Haifisch, creator of the utterly bizarre and truly insane VON SPATZ, a fake biography about Walt Disney having a nervous breakdown and going to a very peculiar sanatorium for artistic types to recover, produced this collection of shorts back in 2016. Given you’ve all been studiously ignoring picking VON SPATZ up, despite my best attempts to sell it to you, I thought I’d double down and get this in as well. I think I prefer this, actually.

 

 

The humour on display here, at times hilariously, outrageously crude, in the depiction of the life of the titular aspiring but perennially failing artist, is so satirically on point that I found myself giggling out loud on the bus on several occasions. Always comforting for fellow passengers, that, observing one of their number on the verge of mild hysteria…

I said it about VON SPATZ, and I’ll say it again, fans of Michael STICKS ANGELICA, FOLK HERO DeForge and George GHOSTS, ETC. Wysol need Anna Haifisch’s material. As I commented in my review of that work about all their art styles…

“In fact, if you are a fan of their gloriously incongruent, clashing colour palettes and determinedly unreconstructed illustration styles, you will love this work. It’s a real talent to make such unusual artwork seem perfectly normal and flow pleasingly across the eye, before then smashing your synapses to smithereens once lodged in the grey matter.”

Look, it’s completely weird and stupidly funny. What more do you want?

JR

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

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge…

“Can I join you?”
“Sure.”
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for a flirting fish.”
“What’s that?”
“Just a type of fish. They’re a thing here.”

Ha, do you know, I think Michael DeForge might be the uncrowned king of surreal comics, I really do. Yes, Hans COCHLEA & EUSTACHIA Rickheit is right out there ploughing his own dark furrow of oddness, and Jim FRAN Woodring is always able to upset your mental equilibrium, but Michael can seemingly do every genre of fiction, from contemporary, romantic, speculative, fantasy, you name it. All the whilst maintaining the surrealistic flavour with a nonchalance and breezy ease that makes flirting fish, miniature opticians living inside your eyes, transforming into a Martian lifeform, jumping over one billion miles, and a mermaid dating site seem like mere everyday occurrences.

 

 

Much like Box Brown’s brilliant recent AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, Michael presents us with a eclectic selection of shorts pulled together from various mini-comics, zines, anthology contributions, each taking a single rum and uncanny conceit as its central premise and just running zig-zag, eyes closed, with it to see where the hell it goes and what walls he bounces off along the way. I’m pretty sure he has absolutely no idea where a story will end up when he starts each one, but boy does it work.

 

 

Often the characters are just trying their darndest to live normal lives amidst the maelstrom of mad that Michael is testing their (and our) mental mettle with, but what always amazes me about his work is how much poignancy he manages to weave in. Now, you would think with a story involving flirting fish, it’s not got much potential to tug on your heartstrings, but you would be completely wrong. It doesn’t end well, not for the piscine playa, and certainly not for the unlucky lady.

 

 

A quick mention also for Koyama Press who are based in Toronto. In the eight or so years since they started, they have done a fantastic job championing and publishing the works of both emerging and more established creators. Unfortunately we can only manage to get hold of a relatively small selection of their wider output, usually via John Porcellino’s excellent Spit And A Half distribution channel, as only the more well known creators’ works like Michael’s are distributed by Diamond.

JR

Buy Dressing and read the Page 45 review here

The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution (£11-99, Cub House) by Richard Marazano & Luo Yin.

It’s still snowing!

“Tutu is trapped in a valley of eternal winter, populated by talking animals and ruled by an oil-sputtering robot Emperor. She’s sick of toiling in the Emperor’s factory, which only hurts the valley with its pollution. If she can band together with a grouchy cat, rabbit spies, and a masked daredevil known as the Flying Bandit, her dreams could have the power to shape the world!”

Please see DREAM OF THE BUTTERLY VOL 1 for a fulsome review with loads of lush interior art which will scream Hayao Miyazaki at you, then mop your brow.

I don’t have a second review in me – and we’d only run into spoiler territory – but that first one is extensive and TBH I’m only trying to type as many words as I can now so that we’ve room in the Page 45 Reviews blog for some more interior art.

 

 

Have I written enough yet?

Please say I have!

SLH

Buy The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution and read the Page 45 review here

We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women (£9-99, 404 Ink / BHP Comics) by various including Hannah Berry, Denise Mina, Kathryn Briggs, Sabeena Ahktar, Maria Stoian, Grace Wilson, Wei Ming Kam, Shazleen Khan, and many more.

“100 years of pioneering political women. 404 Ink and BHP Comics have teamed up to bring you WE SHALL FIGHT UNTIL WE WIN, a graphic novel anthology celebrating a century since women gained the right to vote in the UK, and the many pioneering women who are part of the ongoing fight since 1918. We’ll be taking a few women from each decade in the last 100 years and telling their stories in colourful, illustrated snapshots. Some stories are well known, some less so, all worthy of note.”

Agreed!

Jayaben Desai’s entry by Hannah Berry – whose ingenious, wit-riddled and ever so scathing socio-political satire LIVESTOCK comes with our highest recommendation – is succinct without stinting on any detail at all, comes with all the social context you could crave and is astute in its truth that what could be seen as a failure – as a social injustice – at the time, has had a profound impact since.

You might think that a firm whose workforce was 10% Afro-Caribbean and 80% South Asian in the 1970s was the height of positive, progressive, non-discriminatory behaviour, especially during that hideously racist, Enoch Powell era, but “exploitable workforce”, everyone. Big bunch of bullies, backed up in the end by a bunch of Tory politicians undermining the strike led by Desai.

Five perfect pages of storytelling, there.

 

 

Also, I was delighted that the appalling, unimaginable torrent of misogynistic* and racist* abuse Diane Abbott suffered (and almost certainly still suffers) on social media is turned around into ‘The Vindication of Diane Abbott’ when on 9th June 2017 she went on to win 75% of the vote in her constituency, increasing her majority by over 11,000 to 35,000, thereby winning the war and hopefully infuriating the white, thumb-sucking men-children online.

That care package delivered to her, too: so kind!

But I wanted to learn more about Diane!

 

 

And this, I’m afraid, is where some of the stories fail: they’re so painfully short or specific that I was left unsatisfied. You can’t adequately vilify or undermine Margaret Thatcher in four pages. Nice try, though!

Let’s call this a primer, then, a catalyst to send you scurrying to learn more about those you may hear of for the first time in this 60-page booklet!

And you can learn more, for example, in Talbot, Talbot and Charlesworth’s SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE and Murphy & Murphy’s CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING WOMEN, CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING SCIENTISTS.

Wrong cover design, BTW: for comics, there’s too little art, way too much typography, and even then you have to concentrate to decipher the title.

*Statistics bear that out in full.

SLH

Buy We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women and read the Page 45 review here

Page 45 Speech Balloon Enamel Pin Badge (£4-50) by Stephen L. Holland & Jodie Paterson…

Would you like an inch of pico-sized perfection sat on your shoulder? Sorry, but our Jodie’s not for sale…

But… she has extracted the very essence of Stephen’s original and timeless classic Page 45 logo for this sublime specimen of bespoke costume jewellery which quite literally says it all by itself. Well, it actually says “Page 45”, obviously, but you get my point.

Now it’s time for you to get yours…

With any random birthday / holiday festival / just-because-you-really-should-buy-something-special-for-someone-you-love day fast approaching, don’t miss out on this summer’s MUST HAVE accessory.

Otherwise just imagine how distraught your special one will feel when they see the cognoscenti of comics-associated fashion-wear pass them by, sporting this dazzling number, forcing them to squint in distress at the sheer splendour burning through their optic nerves if they don’t one…

Like Beyoncé never sang (but she would have if she’d seen this pin):

“Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a pin on it.”

 

 

Instead you’ll be able to picture their joy as they give a cheeky wink of recognition to the passing bepinned stranger that, they too, are indeed in the club. But hopefully not that club, unless, you know, that’s what you’re after… Please be aware, though, a Page 45 pin is not a proper alternative to planned parenthood, though the gifting thereof may lead to unintended amorous affection out of a sheer over-vogue of delight, so please, take precautions. Always make sure you place that pin carefully…

But wait! What’s that?!! Then you’d feel left out watching the proverbial apple of your eye swank down the street parading their credentials…? Simple solution, my comics-loving chums. Buy two! Then drive all your graphic novel knowing friends jealous with accesso-rage before pointing them in the direction of this page…

Don’t just wear the trend, be the trend… Just like Bruce Banner single-handedly brought ripped jeans to the forefront of the public consciousness, we can do this!

Even the leaf motif paper backing card is swoonworthy! Our Mark added that, almost immediately after we opened. In fact if you have any miniature picture frames kicking around, I recommend framing yours for posterity. Alternatively, go all-out comics crazy and pin the backing to your lapel as well!

JR

Buy Page 45 Speech Balloon Enamel Pin Badge 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’.

Poochytown h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

The Academic Hour (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Keren Ketz

Agency s/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Katie Skelly

A Bubble (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Genevieve Castree

Come Again h/c (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Nate Powell

Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff

Dull Margaret h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Broadbent & Dix

Francine (£15-99, Secret Acres) by Michiel Budel

Gear (£13-99, Image) by Doug TenNapel

I, Parrot (£16-99, Black Balloon / Catapult) by Deb Olin Unferth & Elizabeth Haidle

Long Red Hair (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Meags Fitzgerald

Memoirs Of A Very Stable Genius (£17-99, Image) by Shannon Wheeler

Monsters (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Ken Dahl

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£10-99, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez

Rick & Morty vol 7: National Rickpoon’s Family Vacation (Titan) (£14-99, Titan) by Kyle Starks, Magdalene Vissagio & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby

Scales & Scoundrels vol 2: Treasurehearts s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad

A Study In Emerald h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Rafael Albuquerque

Sleepless vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sarah Vaughn & Leila del Duca

Wasteland Compendium vol 2 (£35-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten, Justin Greenwood, others

Avengers: No Surrender (UK Edition) s/c (£23-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing, Mark Waid, Jim Zub & Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto, Mike Perkins, Sean Izaakse, Paco Medina, Joe Bennett, Stefano Caselli

Nova By Abnett & Lanning Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & various

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 7: Scarlet Samurai s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Mike Deodato Jr., Ibraim Roberson

Attack On Titan vol 25 (£9-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

My Solo Exchange Diary vol 1 (£13-99, Manga) by Kabi Nagata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week one

July 4th, 2018

Featuring Tim Bird, Eva Müller, Georgia Webber, Jim Pascoe, Heidi Arnhold, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Francois Boucq, Matz, Luc Jacamon, Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Larry Marder, Hiroya Oku, Keita Iizuka, Joe List, more!

The Great North Wood (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird.

“Long ago, this was all rock and ice.
“Then the trees began to grow.
“Oak.
“And Ash.
“And Thorn.
“And the trees became a forest.
“And the forest filled with magic.”

It floats in the air like semi-sentient pollen, a collective consciousness, a hive mind of history.

If you stay still, you can hear it calling. For history echoes: it ripples through time.

“Norwood.
“Forest Hill.
“Honor Oak.
“A forest remembered in place names.
“A ghost of the Great North Wood.
“Eldritch mysteries covered by tarmac.”

And barely a tree in sight.

 

 

A stealthy fox forages through South London city suburbs for food found in the discarded boxes of finger-lickin’ chicken, at night.

“The sylvan wildwood stretched from sea to sea.
“England slumbered beneath a canopy of leaves.”

And then it woke up.

 

 

It parcelled out the commons into private ownership, did England. The forest became fields. Settlements were built. These turned into towns and then, oh!

From Tim Bird, creator of GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN, comes his most eloquent offering yet, a quiet and contemplative lament for a long-lost wood which once covered South-East London, barely blemished from Croydon to Deptford, close to the Thames. The early roads which later ran through were unsafe to travel, for brigands lurked in the cover of darkness.

 

 

Clambering over a plastic wheelie bin then wall, our nocturnal fox strays into the arboreal past then slips back into the far starker present. Back and forth, back and forth, it will be our witness to stories still being told of what once happened in the Great North Wood.

It’s an elegy whose rhythms are masterfully controlled, along with the ebb and flow of time, refrains resonating throughout; its economy focuses us on every carefully constructed sentence, every astutely chosen image, so that you’re likely to linger longer over each.

 

 

Like the last oak left standing, defiantly, at the centre of a suburban roundabout.

Or the one which isn’t, its ancient, deep-ridged bark and natural spread of shelter replaced by a sheer metal traffic light.

As to the architecture of time – those echoes I mentioned earlier – we’re not a million miles from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL, as you’ll see in who boards the night bus back home. Bird’s geographical and historical interests parallel those of Oliver East’s, while his buildings mind one of Darryl Cunningham.

 

 

Salmon pinks pick out the billowing, cloud-like canopies over cool slate grey and early morning blue, while orange makes the fox and firefly magic glow. It also proves handy for a cameo by Queen Elizabeth I, who gets a little squiffy then knights an oak.

“These days estate agents talk about Honor Oak as a leafy suburb.”

So it’s not without its comedy, either.

“Now only small patches of ancient woodland remain amidst the suburban sprawl of south-east London.
“Oaks lining pathways behind tower blocks.
“Or roundabouts marking forgotten parish boundaries.
“Standing proudly in back gardens.
“Intruding on landed marked for development.
“The subjects of town planning meetings.”

 

 

There’s an ‘X’ cut into its bark, marking the solitary tree for felling.

SLH

Buy The Great North Wood and read the Page 45 review here

In The Future, We Are Dead (£14-99, Birdcage Bottom Books) by Eva Müller.

“Clearly, Catholicism was not a good means of dealing with my fear of dying.”

At which point, like water from a whale’s blow hole, a mouth full of tea gushed through my nose.

Should you be in any doubt at all about Catholicism’s fixation upon all things infernal, Müller will make it perfectly clear – with her multiple, magnificent, open-wounded, blood-streaming, fire-and-brimstone pastiche tableaux – precisely why The Organised Religion of Ultimate Suffering is the least likely of all to allay her fears of death and indeed what is claimed to lie thereafter.

They’re no more gruesome than the originals.

 

 

However, what made me howl with laughter – and this a screamingly funny book in places – was how Buddhism and yoga managed to fit that moribund bill as well.

The Buddhist practice of Sokushinbutsu, or self-mummification, makes Christian monks’ masochistic self-flagellation look like a mild form of exfoliation. It involves three phases of a thousand days each, and an increasingly austere diet plan which begins with nuts and seeds only, then descends into Urushi tea from a tree whose juice is usually used for varnish. This induces vomiting, perspiration and excessive urination (with no extra-glossy coat to show for it) and – oh dear – it all grows so much morbidly worse. You’ll never look at the lotus position in quite the same way. Indeed, should you decide to practise Sokushinbutsu, you’ll never look at anything at all, ever again.

 

 

“Reportedly, Yoga has many benefits,” the chapter begins benignly enough, although that Buddha’s a bit boss-eyed! “It helps me to relax,” she continues, crammed into a train carriage you can almost smell. “Yoga gives me the feeling of being taller…” she reports, straddled over an autobahn like a deutsch dominatrix version of ‘The Attack Of The 50ft Woman’ “… and I don’t know how I was able to lead a life without abdominal muscles before.”

Shame they don’t come covered with a layer of skin. Apparently yoga sessions culminate in the corpse pose, which certainly leaves you with something to meditate upon.

 

 

If the graphic novel’s general gist hasn’t struck you yet, let me elucidate: nine semi-satirical, autobiographical essays in which Eva dwells on death. Unexpectedly, one is narrated by herself as a pensioner (she isn’t), another from her younger brother’s point of view. Their parents are violent, squabbling nightmares.

“Stop eating,” nags her mother (quite quietly for her). “You’re getting fatter and fatter.”

Müller declines to sign-post this, but she’s actually slicing a cucumber.

It’s easy to see why Eva grew up with an obsessive fear of death. Even though Catholicism got its insidiously grim grip on her (through her grandparents; her grandmother collected obituaries, her granddad attended every funeral on offer, regardless of whether he was acquainted with the deceased), this was the era of appalling African famine, broadcast internationally, and Eva began musing on a worldwide food shortage which might extend to Germany. Oh, and her Aunt contracted polio at Eva’s early age and do you remember that grimmest of grim things which we called the Iron Lung AKA Steel Coffin? It instilled in her the certain knowledge that children can die.

 

 

She stopped sleeping, so they took her to a doctor.

“Well, young lady, tell me, what’s going on? Why don’t you want to fall asleep at night? Are you afraid of monsters?”
“No! I’m afraid I won’t wake up again.”

Which is inarguably more rational.

 

 

Eva soon found an expanded wealth of things to fret about, then there’s this:

“As a child, I was very sure I was going to Hell.”

The pre-teen holds her hand out to the horn-ed one:

“Hello, Satan,
“Last week I took a dead mouse out of a mouse-trap and put it into grandpa’s hat…
“I smashed a cellar window with a football…
“I secretly took sweets from Mama’s hiding place without asking her. I gave the cat Papa’s beer. I rode my bike much further than I’m allowed. I bought four cigarettes with my lunch money and smoked them behind the church.”

Satan genially reaches out to shake Eva’s hand. He’s very smart in his Sunday best!

“Hello, nice to meet you. As you know, these are all sins. Please follow me.”

Little details, like his tie matching the red of his hands, hair, face and tail, made me smile.

Same goes for the Terminator eyes of the German Chancellor boring bright red out of his campaign poster preaching “Liberty, Prosperity, Security”.

 

 

I learned words like ‘Angslust’ for when fear becomes exciting. This explains Alton Towers.

But I’m not even going to talk about the teeth episode.

 

 

SLH

Buy In The Future, We Are Dead and read the Page 45 review here

Dumb – Living Without A Voice (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Georgia Webber…

“So the doctor said you have to stop talking altogether?
“Whoa, really?
“So how long will it be?
“Oh yeah! Are you still hosting New Year’s if you can’t talk?
“Ha ha, of course you are.
“You’re not going to stop doing anything, are you?
“Of course not! Why would you?”

The other half of this conversation, Georgia Webber’s responses, were scribbled down on paper…

I left those out to give you the full effect of how Georgia has to interact with the world at large. For after seemingly straining her voice through over-use, she’s been advised that six months without talking at all is the best remedy to resolve her particular painful issue.

 

 

Here’s the publisher’s own scribblings to oh so quietly tell you a little more…

“Part memoir, part medical cautionary tale, Dumb tells the story of how the author copes with the everyday challenges that come with voicelessness. Webber adroitly uses the comics medium to convey the hurdles she faced as well as the fear and dread that accompanied her journey to regain her life. She learns to lean on the support of her close friends, finds self-expression in creating comics, and comes to understand and appreciate how deeply her voice and identity are intertwined.”

 

 

That she does. Aside from the obvious day-to-day problems not being able to speak would create, which Georgia experienced, not least it necessitating her giving up her job and seeking welfare assistance to be able to survive financially, Georgia also conveys extremely well the deeply unsettling emotional effects of such a malady. From the general anxiety and depression it caused her, to even being plagued by doubts and uncertainties that her voice would ever return to its full functionality, it made her question whether she could be the same person without it.

 

 

Told in bold strokes of black and grey against a white background with additional lashings of bright red, including for all the speech and thought balloons, which was particularly striking, this is an art style which is impressively detailed yet seemingly remarkably casual in nature. You can vividly see Georgia’s tension displayed in the style itself at times, not just in her facial expressions.

A wonderfully candid and affecting first-hand account of a particularly peculiar illness that I suspect no one could possibly begin to imagine how it would feel unless they experienced it themselves.

JR

Buy Dumb – Living Without A Voice and read the Page 45 review here

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind h/c (£16-99, FirstSecond) 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 glance under this book’s dustjacket hints at how, and it is breathtakingly beautiful, like a modern stained glass window, as a fox and a rabbit do desperate, whirlwind battle.

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 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Face h/c (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq…

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

JR

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

The Complete Killer s/c (£35-99, Archaia) by  Matz & Luc Jacamon.

A book so big that you could brain someone with it.

750 pages!

Slick and intense European thriller in which we get inside the head of a hitman who seems so disengaged from humanity that it’s all facts and figures, an endless stream of self-justification for being a cool-hearted killer without a care in the world.

“Don’t talk to me about justice or morals. Even God himself I wouldn’t listen to. Not with His track record. I take orders from no one. I report to no one. I have a single motive for what I’m doing: money… I help rich people kill one another. Poor people, they can’t afford me. They handle it themselves. And they end up in jail for life.”

Normally he researches then executes his assignments calmly, methodically, all around the world. Patience is the one virtue he would own to possessing, but this time his target hasn’t even shown, and it’s starting to unsettle him…

 

 

Like CRIMINAL, this gets right under the skin of the individual in question who makes more than a few valid points about our own culpabilities, whilst the art is lush with jagged jungle leaves, classily coloured and it splinters expressionistically as the pressure builds to force this most dispassionate of men to make a critical blunder. At which point everything unravels, and he’s forced from his natural comfort zone into an environment he does not control.

 

 

Of book two, I wrote:

Welcome to the return of the ruminative assassin. Here he’s particularly preoccupied with the disadvantages of dying in your sleep. And whom it is wise to hang out with.

“The hard part is not the loneliness. The hard part is choosing the right people to have around you, when you finally decide to have people around you. Loneliness offers guarantees that vanish as soon as you try and trust someone. Stepping away from it is running a risk. Especially for me.”

You never do know whom he should trust. It’s a source of suspense which builds and builds.

Previously even the man he’d always placed the greatest trust in, long-time accountant Edward, turned out to be capable of treachery – and pretty stupid into the bargain. Edward had been the conduit in a contract on a man called Martini, and then gone one further and tried to take out The Killer himself. It didn’t really work out for Edward, no.

 

 

Now lying low in luxurious seclusion, our anti-hero is visited by a man called Mariano, god-son to a Columbian drug baron called Padrino. Seems Martini was one of three men Padrino had set up in high society Paris in order to distribute his wares. The way Padrino sees it, taking out Martini has caused him some serious inconvenience even though The Killer saw the man under police surveillance and may have done Padrino a favour in silencing him. Unconvinced, Padrino insists The Killer accepts contracts of his own in exchange for forgiveness. It remains a lucrative deal so although the worryingly talkative and inexperienced Mariano is foisted upon him, The Killer accepts.

From Buenos Aires to New York City things go (sort of) well until, while cruising down the Amazon, there’s a vicious attack back home on his lover. Instinct leads him to question whether it was Padrino, but that simply doesn’t add up and The Killer hates it when things don’t add up. He doesn’t like coincidences, either, like the assassination of a second of those three drug dealers in Paris, or being befriended by a cop who’s being investigated for police brutality. Who’s after him now, and what connection does it have to Martini and Edward?

 

 

There, I think I’ve accurately set the scene whilst leading you all astray! Your turn now to grow as paranoid on The Killer’s behalf as I was this sunny Sunday afternoon.

That you will all fear for this hitman’s safety is a telling testament to Matz’s skills as a writer. The Killer’s cogitations on his career and craft and its implication for life in general play a substantial part in this. They’re well reasoned and betray a heart he denies having, as do his new sentiments towards the woman he’s chosen to trust. I think you’ll like the cop too.

As to Luc Jacamon, his colouring has always impressed me no end, particularly when it comes to the dappled shadows under a boulevard of trees, and I love the way that there’s this constant presence throughout, even outlined in negative on the side of a building, of an Orinoco Crocodile – the very essence of patient, predatory guile. He excels at details others would never think to incorporate like scaffolding, netted in green, supporting the side of already impressive edifices. There’s a gorgeous sense of space no matter what he’s asked to draw, in whichever country, and there’s plenty of globe-trotting to be done here. I’m an enormous fan of the wit-ridden 100 BULLETS, but it can become bogged down by words whereas Matz never allows any self-indulgence to crowd out Luc Jacamon, maintaining a perfect equilibrium for a pleasurable read as smooth as the operator himself.

 

 

Of books three and four, I typed:

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

 – Diaz Ordiz, Mexican President, 1960

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

The fifth hardcover is reprinted here too.

SLH

Buy The Complete Killer s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Overture: Absolute Edition (£110-00, 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  the whole story’s original, uncoloured art by J.H. Williams III in the ABSOLUTE edition, plus interviews with the entire 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: Absolute Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Beanworld Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder.

“The search party departs. The adoration continues.”

The whole of the original series in one massive chunk.

Just occasionally something comes along in the comics medium that is so completely unique and different to anything else you’ve ever read that it makes you stop and just marvel. BEANWORLD is just such a creation.

Mark rated this right next to Jim Woodring’s work (THE FRANK BOOK, WEATHERCRAFT, FRAN, JIM etc) as one of those inspired visions so personal and peculiar that most other creative industries would neither support nor understand its genius. I’m with him on that.

Larry Marder created a unique world with a fully realised, sustainable ecosystem which operated with its own radically viable laws for construction, reproduction and sustenance. Its several species of inhabitants had their own hierarchy, its individuals their own roles, aspirations and priorities. They even had their own terminology/slang. With their passion for play, exploration, art and invention, if I were to try to capture the series in a single word, I’d try “Celebration”. If I were allowed a second word, it would be “Cooperation”.

 

 

Both those concepts lie at the heart of any healthy and fecund friendship or community, so there were lessons to be learned way back then that would have put the human race much further ahead of the game than it currently stands. I’m going to stick my neck out to say something typically stupid too: it’s like a platform game. The Beans’ learning process is like a platform game. “Oh, this is what I need to find/create and fit in there in order to make progress…!”

Many moons ago the far sager Mark wrote this:

“I’ve read this work for a decade now and I find something new each year I try it again. First it was a cute little story of two races in an imaginary world and the antagonistic/symbiotic way they lived with each other. Then I noticed that the three leads were Beanish, an artist, Professor Garbanzo, an inventor, and Mr Spook, a protector, so it lead to their place in society and their growing knowledge about their role and the work of the others. Everyone has a ritual and everything’s there for a reason. When a new element is added we get to see each reaction, either for or against.

 

 

“There are nods to native American art and mythology, Jack Kirby and Marcel Duchamp (sooner or later Beanish is going to hit on The Large Glass although he’s a long way off yet). Both art and writing are pared down to the bare minimum; symbols are one of Marder’s favourite subjects (he once worked in advertising, but forgive him that).”

 

 

More recently the far fitter Jonathan wrote:

“Larry Marder succeeds in creating a whole bizarre new reality, or in fact The Four Realities of Slots, Hoops, Twinks and Chips which you might just fall into if you leap off The Legendary Edge whilst on a chow mission amongst the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd! He then proceeds to populate it with an ever increasingly weird set of individuals who just happen to be beans such as Beanish, an artist and creator of the Fabulous Look-See Shows, Mr. Spook, hero and leader of the Chow Soljer army, and Professor Garbanzo, problem solver and generally deep thinker. And certainly not forgetting the musical Boom’r Band who try to keep everyone entertained.

 

 

“The only way I can do justice to BEANWORLD is to say reading it feels like you are a spectator to a very different version of Universe creation unfolding before your very eyes, piece by surreal piece. You never guess who or what is going to appear next and what it may mean for the Beans and their reality, and therein lies the beauty of it. All disbelief is suspended, anything is possible, but don’t imagine you’ll ever guess what’s coming next – because you honestly won’t!!

SLH, MAS, JR

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

Gantz G: vol 1 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku & Keita Iizuka…

“There’s a lot this time.”
“Yeah.”
“Must have been a school trip.”
“Whatever.”
“Shall we get things started?”
“Whatever.”
“OKAY! EVERYONE LISTEN UP!!”
“In a few moments… you will all… be transported somewhere else against your will.
“There you will find yourself in a weird hunting game.
“This black sphere is going to start giving out orders.
“We call this sphere… GANTZ.”
“You are going to hunt… that is, kill… living things called aliens.
“You will continue to be forced to do so unless you kill a bunch and earn points.
“If you are killed by an alien, this time you die for real.”
“Inside Gantz are highly tailored suits for each of you.
“You must put this suit on. If you don’t, you will die.”

 

 

Yep. The confusing and indeed confused, massively entertaining sci-fi killathon returns!! I think the explanation above to the bewildered rookies who died in a bus crash only to find themselves resurrected in a strange room with a large black sphere and a pair of know-it-all teens probably just about covers it. Though, technically, even being killed by an alien needn’t be the end, if someone is altruistic enough to use their hard-won 100 points to bring you back again (again) instead of choosing to be set free, but you know, there’s time for the newbs to find that out. Well, for the small percentage of them who will become our main characters, that is… The majority are just going to be complete and utter cannon fodder…

For those wondering why GANTZ is back, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I note with wry amusement that Hiroya Oku is only writing this time around, instead young turk Keita Iizuka has been brought in to handle the pencils. Given how long Oku took to apparently finish GANTZ, with earlier volumes actually going out of print before the final few even came out (good old Dark Horse), this is only a good thing. And if you didn’t know Oku wasn’t illustrating you’d actually have no idea as Iizuka has managed to recreate Oku’s style near perfectly.

 

 

Main point to note is this is apparently a parallel team whose story runs concurrently to the team in GANTZ, meaning that the major apocalyptic alien invasion etc. etc. is in the future, but I suspect this series won’t get into all that. Instead, though, both long-time GANTZ fan Stephen Mortiboy and myself had exactly the same response when we heard about this series.

“Maybe we’ll finally find out what the vampires were all about.”

Omnibus editions of the previous GANTZ series are on their way.

JR

Buy Gantz G: vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection vol 1 (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart, Robert Deas, Laura Ellen Anderson, Dan Boultwood, Joe List, Jess Bradley, Chris Riddell, Mike Smith.

Junior jollity and top-notch action, we’ve had the most monumental success with Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Section comprised of some 24 graphic novels culled from the kids’ weekly comic, plus Neill Cameron’s galvanising, practical entertainment HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS,

Now the publisher is trying something a little different akin to an old-school anthology annual with multiple creators offering up their diverse series for you to get a feel for the overall breadth of The Phoenix Comic Weekly or as springboard for you to try more of their collected wares.

If you already own the likes of LOOSHKIN, I do advise you that you’ll already have all of Jamie Smart’s material here, but I don’t think any of the EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN stories are in either of those collections.

Moreover, this anthology format has afforded the publisher to present some creative gems which wouldn’t have filled more than a very slim pamphlet of their own.

 

 

Topmost for me are Joe List’s absurdist, wavy-armed, bendy-legged single-page stories starring ’Doug Slugman P.I.’ which – entertaining enough in their own right – benefit substantially from being gathered together so that you can revel in the diverse permutations of Slugman’s increasingly insane then mundane (and quite contradictory) Marvel-style origin / introductions. I shall attempt to explain. Spider-Man comics open with something like:

“Accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gained the proportional powers of a spider, learned that with great power comes great responsibility, and now fights crime as the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.” I’m not looking it up.

Joe’s begin:

“A normal garden slug found his way into a mystic shoe that gave him crime-solving powers… DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.” Or:

“After an enchanted detective novel was dropped on a slug, it gave him the mystical powers of detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.” Or even:

“After accidentally finding and returning a lost kitten, a slug decided to dedicate his life to detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.”

Hilariously, within these nine stories there is not one single act of detection and no crimes are solved.

 

 

Woes are witnessed, conundrums encountered and in one instance a couple hiking round the hills asks Doug the slug simply to take a picture of them enjoying the pastoral beauty. In each instance the solutions Doug deploys are over-elaborate and, by any stretch of the imagination, bonkers. But please do remember that a) a book was once dropped on his small squidgy, shell-free head, and b) he is just a mollusc, however “enhanced” by eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks.

As to “wavy-armed” and “bendy-legged”, gastropods are not renowned for having too many of those.

My favourite experience of the surreal was one which began by being ever so cleverly anchored in logic which is absurdist humour’s antithesis. A magician finds himself floundering in water, his cards all soaking wet. How will he now perform his magic tricks?

“I can fix that!” declares Doug, unexpectedly surfacing above water. “What you need is a waterproof alternative…”

Yes, laminate those suckers!

No.

“Fish!”

Which is a fabulous absurdist echo in and of itself.

They’re all the same size, and blue. What’s he to do for his next trick? Haha! You’ll see!

Each episode ends in “Case closed!” and “Next…” Some of the cases are closed, but “Next” never happens.

Look, he’s a detective, not a psychic.

SLH

Buy The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection vol 1 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 Artist h/c (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Anna Haifisch

The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution (£11-99, Cub House) by Richard Marazano & Luo Yin

Entropy (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Aaron Costain

Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents (£21-99, NBM) by David B.

Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye) by Luke Pearson

Mister Morgen (£21-99, Conundrum) by Igor Hofbauer

Skin And Earth vol 1: Lights s/c (£22-99, Dynamite) by Lights

The Times I Knew I Was Gay (£9-99, Good Comics) by Eleanor Crewes

The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Rege

We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women (£9-99, @404ink / @BHP_Comics) by various

Hellblazer vol 19: Red Right Hand (£22-99, Vertigo) by Denise Mina, Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco, Cristiano Cucina, John Paul Leon

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming vol 2 h/c (£11-99, DC) by Marini

Spider-Gwen vol 5: Gwenom s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Latour & Robbi Rodriguez, Veronica Fish, Olivia Margraf

Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol 4 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Oscar Bazaldua

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension vol 2 (£13-99, Titan) by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, George Mann, Cavan Scott & Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Rachael Stott, Mariano Laclaustra

Black Clover vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Tabata

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

Devilman: The Classic Collection vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

So Much Love For You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Hooray! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Thank You Kindly (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Most Brilliant Birthday! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

So Very Proud Of You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Are Loved Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

I Am So Gonna Catch The Bouquet Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

All Of Me Loves All Of You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Best News Ever! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

I Am Always Here For You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Give Me Life Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Let’s Get Through This Together Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Go Get ‘Em Tiger! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Get Drunk Eat Cake Celebrate! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Over The Moon Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week four

June 27th, 2018

Includes seven Young Adult / Young Reader graphic beauties, one by Jillian Tamaki, another by the aptly named Jessica Love!

Cloud Hotel (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw…

“Happy place. Happy place. Happy place. Happy place.”
“Oh no. Not here. Please.”

Nope, not me having to calm down Stephen after another month of grinding through the PREVIEWS order form, but, poor young Remco, an unwilling repeat patron of the peculiar titular establishment which is most assuredly not a destination that is ever going to make a list of top tourist destinations, despite every room having a spectacular view.

No, after being apparently abducted by a UFO on the 1st March 1981 and promptly returned back to terra firma safely, if not entirely intact, Remco’s having a very specific issue. For he keeps finding himself zoning out and seemingly waking up back in the cloud hotel, a strange morphing building floating gently on the surface of the cumulus, with the vertical stabilisers of passing aeroplanes poking through, and inhabited by other kids who have also been taken.

 

 

At least to start with… For as time passes, one by one the residents answer a phone call from the old-style pay phone in a horrifically retro wallpapered room, receiving their summons to be called through the similarly papered double doors, never to be seen again, until only Remco and the sunglasses-wearing Emma remain. They are fabulous sunglasses actually, I must add, with a magic all of their own that immediately transported me back in time myself to 1982 and a certain Tizer advert, which, I’m quite sure more than a few others of you of a certain age will still have burnt into the back of the brains somewhere. You can keep your Fanta and your Irn Bru, Tizer was always the top of the t-shirt staining pops for me.

 

 

Right, I appear to have digressed… So, there are two burning questions, one each for Emma and Remco. Remco, who having seen people willingly perambulate through those disorientatingly decorated doors and promptly disappear, steadfastedly refuses to answer the phone when the bell tolls for him. That might be why he is the only person who dissipates back to Earth, but also possibly why he keeps re-materialising in the hotel. Walking through that exit might solve his conundrum for him, but he’s not prepared to take the risk that he might end up… somewhere else. Emma, on the other hand, is utterly baffled as to why the phone never rings for her at all… Clearly there is something different about them both, but what?! What they are finding it increasingly hard to ignore, however, is that the hotel is gradually changing and becoming ever more distorted and unstable…

 

 

Back on the ground meanwhile, the one person who is convinced that Remco hasn’t gone a bit doolalley, and believes him completely about the aliens and the cloud hotel, is his Granddad, but sadly he’s about to take a certain, somewhat final, journey of his own… Not that he’s remotely sad about it at all, no. Not least because he has his own theories about Remco’s little excursions…

 

 

Ahhh… the auteur behind one of my favourite graphic novels of all time, TIM GINGER, returns with another unfathomable and perplexing work to beguile us! Yes, Julian Hanshaw has once again produced a story that takes us in entirely unexpected and unsignposted directions which is precisely what great writers do. Inspired by an encounter of his own as a young lad with a UFO on the 26th October 1980 near the implausible named market town of Tring in leafy Hertfordshire (I always knew there was something about the Chiltern Hills…) this tale of blurred states of consciousness vibrating between imagination and reality will make you want to believe!

The fact that Remco during his initial… encounter… manages to bring back a shred of the offending wallpaper only serves to deepen the mystery about precisely where it is that he keeps going. That disconcerting of wallpaper, by the way, is lovingly recreated under the front and rear French flaps for your pleasure… I love to see that, not a single bit of space wasted in transporting the reader somewhere else entirely too!

 

 

As before, Julian’s meticulous attention to detail with his unique style of fine-lined art, combined with the muted yet almost luminous colour palette, plus some ingenious panel and page compositional devices thrown in for good measure make this a strong contender for my top book of the year.

JR

Buy Cloud Hotel and read the Page 45 review here

They Say Blue h/c (£12-99, Abrams) by Jillian Tamaki.

Truly, a book of wonders and of wonderment!

Crows on the cover, seagulls underneath, and throughout the movement, energy and enthusiasm is phenomenal.

Birds whirl in the wind, a field of golden grass billows in waves, and a young girl swirls as she casts off her coat and breathes in the unfettered freedom before wriggling out of her thick, woollen sweater, then bouncing off the page.

That spread reminded me of young Wendy’s jigging in the Tamaki cousins’ bilberry blue THIS ONE SUMMER.

There is swimming and splashing and a sea breeze blowing through her hair, and the bright blue sky swoops up above as far as the eyes can see from a sandy beach promontory, while the choppy, white-horse ocean ripples all around.

 

 

Yellows and reds ripple too, emanating from the infant like a Japanese Zen garden raked in the sand, then rugby, soccer and tennis balls are tossed between friends in the bustling primary school playground.

 

 

Even at rest there is movement in the lines that cocoon the girl just like the blanket in her sleep, or the brushing of hair in the morning.

And oh, how these colours do glow!

 

 

Thick, wet washes of yellow bleed into complementary reds to form orange; blue into red to form purple. Or there’s that early morning contrast in the contact between cool, night-time blue in the bedroom giving way to a burst of yolk-yellow sunrise as “the black crows bob and chatter in the field outside”. Spring is all avocado green and bark brown on crisp white paper during an imagined, celebratory, arborescent page!

 

 

From the creator of adults-orientated BOUNDLESS collection and the co-creator of THIS ONE SUMMER graphic novel, (both of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), a young girl wonders at the bounty of life all around and within her, embraces nature and marvels at the majesty of it all.

Seasons cycle and colour is questioned.

“They say blue is the colour of the sky.
“Which is true today!
“They say the sea is blue, too.
“It certainly looks like it from here.
“But when I hold the water in my hands, it’s as clear as glass.
“I toss it up in the air to make diamonds.”

 

 

Wow.

SLH

Buy They Say Blue h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Julian Is A Mermaid h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jessica Love.

Well, this brought a tear to Neil Gaiman’s eye.

Even my own cold, black heart has been warmed thoroughly through, and has burst into every colour of the rainbow.

It’s a very quiet book in which actions speak louder than words.

“This is a boy named Julian. And this is his Nana.
“And those are some mermaids.
“Julian LOVES mermaids.”

Are they mermaids? Look a little closer.

By this very first page I’d already fallen in love, particularly with Nana, firstly because of her body form which fills her voluminous clothes and – along with her hooded eyes and slightly sagging jowls – suggests a weight as well as wealth of experience; also on account of her silent, attentive gaze which is far from cloying but instead watchful and wise.

 

 

But you’re not at all sure what Nana is thinking.

One suspects that she is given to keeping her own counsel.

Julian drifts into an aqueous reverie in which he sinks slowly into water, jettisoning his clothes to swim up and unconstrained with a wave of schooling sea life, thrilling in their vibrant colours and exhilarating diversity! I’m no marine biologist, but I’m pretty sure that only the same species of fish school together in such a coordinated fashion. Here, however, swim are all manner of rays, jellyfish, a rich red and orange octopus then a deep blue eel whose tail suggests that Julian might be a mermaid too.

 

 

Indeed, he tells Nana precisely that, as they walk from the train to Nana’s front door.

“Nana, did you see the mermaids?”
“I saw them, honey.”
“Nana, I am also a mermaid.”

He looks up at his Nana, gingerly, unsure what to expect.

Her eyes look deep into his.

“I’m going to take a bath,” she says when inside. “You be good.”

Will Julian be good…?

 

 

I love the choice of a smooth but subtly pulp-textured cardboard brown as the book’s paper base on which the paint rests and glows, so that the story is permeated with warmth and outright heat in the noon-day streets where an old man is understandably sedentary while a trio of giggling girls plays in the spray of a water hydrant. It’s especially effective for the intricately laced edges of the diaphanous cream curtains which at first billow in the breeze then form a trail like a tail.

 

 

Because no, Julian isn’t going to be good, exactly, and I’m not sure at all what Nana is going to make of her potted fern being cropped, her mirrored dresser’s tulips being redeployed, her lipstick being borrowed and her curtain taken down then repurposed!

 

 

Actually, her initial reaction is quite the picture of quietly controlled, cheek-flushed, scowling indignation!

Without a word, she walks off to dress, leaving Julian to silently contemplate his ceremonial self in the mirror. Still, he does look radiant.

 

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s where I’ll leave you.

I’ll also leave you with the promise that the last dozen pages are going to bring big, beaming smiles to your beautiful faces because you are all inclusive wonders with love in your hearts!

As is our Nana, for she has been listening.

SLH

Buy Julian Is A Mermaid h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Day The Crayons Quit s/c (£7-99, Harper Collins) by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers.

In which each of young Duncan’s differently coloured wax crayons takes its turn to petition him for leniency, variety, precedence, fulfilment or, in one instance, a new set of clothes!

You’ll see: a little bit of lateral thinking goes a long way.

Unequivocally excellent, I see exactly how this must make for much merry bedtime discussion after each page, then probably an impatient desire to draw more immediately!

So it’s probably best read to your young ones during daylight instead, just before you want them to entertain themselves for three hours. Oh yes, parental strategy there from someone who doesn’t have a paternal bone in his body. Okay, not remotely true, but from someone who’s never had a kid of his own. I’ll be offering you unsolicited advice on your love life, next!

Let’s return to the picture book’s picket-line protest:

 

 

Some of the crayons crave more work, some would prefer far less: one has been rubbed right down to a nub.  Beige Crayon would very much like to be called by its proper name of which it is proud (not “light brown” or “dark tan”, thank you very much indeed) while another upstart urges Duncan to calm down and be much tidier between the lines or IT WILL COMPLETELY LOSE IT.

Grey Crayon has an issue with being used for all the big beasts like elephants and rhinos and hippos and humpback whales, and suggests more dainty deployment. Green Crayon, on the other hand, is very satisfied indeed:

“Dear Duncan,

“As Green Crayon, I am writing for two reasons. One is to say that I like my work – loads of crocodiles, trees, dinosaurs and frogs.”

Yes, that does sound like fun! Go, Green!

“I have no problems and wish to congratulate you on a very successful “colouring things green” career so far.”

 

 

That’s very kind. So what’s the second reason?

“The second reason I write is for my friends, Yellow Crayon and Orange Crayon, who are no longer speaking to each other. Both crayons feel THEY should be the colour of the sun. Please settle this soon because they’re driving the rest of us CRAZY!”

Guess which two will be writing in next? That argument needs settling, Solomon!

Peach’s predicament is something else entirely, and if as a child you have never insensitively violated a crayon’s personal modesty in this particular way, then I would be very surprised indeed. Clue: it starts when you’ve used that colour so often that the tip of the wax is in danger of disappearing beneath its paper-band wrapper. So you strip a little off the top at first, but before you know it you have unravelled it all (then probably taken a bite).

 

 

Lastly, however, poor Pink Crayon is feeling that Duncan has perhaps fallen prey to the learned behaviour of gender stereotyping because, unlike his sister, not once has Duncan even used him during the past calendar year. Dinosaurs can be pink, he submits, as can monsters and cowboys. He’s quite right, of course: down with the dogma of literal depiction, and up with the anarchy of self-expression!

 

 

Utterly ingenious, this is sure to spark maximum creativity.

I’d like to congratulate each of the Crayons on their very neat handwriting, with few crossings-out.

Have a gold star, each!

SLH

Buy The Day The Crayons Quit s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Space Boy vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie.

Amy and Jemmah are teenage best friends who’ve grown up together on a mining colony way out in deep space. They’ve developed special secret signals to confirm they’ll be best friends forever! But when Amy’s dad loses his job, the family are forced to board a spaceship back to Earth to begin a new life. Worse still is this killer catch: they’ll all need to spend 30 years frozen in cryogenic suspension so that when Amy steps out, Jemmah will have grown up without her.

“All I can think about is how, when I arrive on Earth, Jemmah will be thirty years older than me.”

Water wells up in her eye.

And then she is frozen.

When she wakes up, her arms feel heavy because of the increased gravity on Earth compared to the asteroid. Then she discovers something equally unexpected.

“I wipe my eye and a jewel falls out – a cold, sparkling diamond.
“No. Not a diamond. A tear.
“A tear that’s been frozen for thirty years. It melts in my hand.”

Ouch.

 

 

Throughout the book there is exactly that level of attention to detail – it’s been very well thought through. They’re all wheelchair-bound while they adjust to the gravity, exercising in swimming pools which are a novelty for Amy because water was understandably a scarce commodity back home.

Oh wait, this is home now, and the spaceport city the family are initially confined to proves to be a big disappointment. Amy had at least been promised big blue skies, but every long day is smog-ridden instead. Her parents still have each other, which makes any new challenge like moving more manageable, but Amy has now lost her best friend. She can’t bear to call Jemmah because she’s going to be forty-five now and can you imagine the alienation you’d feel yourself? Thirty years of extra experience and perspective – she’ll be an adult, perhaps with a family of her own your age – while you’re still fifteen.

 

 

There’s also this: while Amy’s been asleep, technology’s moved on. When she arrives at her new school she discovers that everyone is on this new “net” – they’re wearing glasses with access to stuff which I’ll leave to surprise you – and at first they look as they’re all living in their own world and sharing experiences Amy simply doesn’t understand. McCranie does a bang-up job of emphasising this extra isolation on the page.

However, there are blue skies ahead and indeed overhead and here too McCranie excels at communicating the almost unimaginable wonder of seeing your first ever wide, blue sky with big white birds matching the train for speed. There the bright-as-a-button art really comes into its own, panels replaced by two double-page eye-poppers which bleed right to their bright blue edges.

 

 

For yes, Amy gets to move to Baltissippi Bay by the water, where she discovers snails (snails! Everything is brand-new!), makes friends far faster than she expected and… she still won’t contact Jemmah…

Now can you imagine being Jemmah, and having waited thirty long years to hear from your best childhood friend again, those days drawing nearer and nearer and then nothing?

 

 

The deepest isolation is yet to come, however, for Amy has synesthesia: she has always associated people with flavours, sensing different flavours “emanating” from different individuals, and for the very first time she encounters someone with none. He’s a silver-haired lad who keeps himself to himself, often skipping class, and his peers are all very wary of him.

Only once does Amy sense anything other than a void, in art class, when the boy begins painting, and then there is something other than a terrible, overwhelming emptiness.

A seven-page prologue (yes, prologue, not epilogue!) hints at a very new direction for the next instalment in this series which, let’s remember, isn’t called AMY but SPACE BOY.

Oh, and there’s a criminal subplot so subtly hinted at that I was forever forgetting it existed.

SLH

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

Bad Machinery vol 5: The Case Of The Fire Inside (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison…

 

 

Yet another “small-hands” edition. Yay!

“Lottie, put that yogurt away.”
“Street yogurt’s the best Shauna, well nang.”
“You’re not even using a spoon? You’re using the lid?”
“Yum.”

Hahahaha, I read that page very shortly after a quick lunch on the hoof in Market Square, where upon discovering I hadn’t picked up a disposable spoon for my coconut milk yogurt, I was forced to fashion a makeshift one from the foil lid… It was, indeed, well nang! Not sure what it says about me that the BAD MACHINERY character I seem to have most in common with is Charlotte Grote, though!

 

 

So, the tween detectives of Griswalds Grammar School return with more musings on life, love and lessons, whilst attempting to crack another confounding case. This time around Sonny is besotted with a mysterious new girl who has just arrived at school, and possibly on land… Mildred, meanwhile, is falling for the charms of bad boy Lee Chaplin, though there’s the slight problem of a not-quite-yet-ex who is ready to fight Mildred to the death for her man! Good job Grandpa Joe is on hand to dispense some pearls of hard-won pensioner wisdom on the subject of romance and ill-advised beachcombing…

“Mildred, if the first thing a lad tells you is a lie, you’ve no reason to ever trust him.”
“But he’s so handsome and strong.”
“Lies are like a flower, the truth’s like a brick.”
“Eh?”
“What about you Sonny?”
“I saw a girl swimming in the sea one day. I couldn’t stop dreaming about her. Think she… I think she… turned up at school and sat next to me.”
“You’ve flummoxed him. “Girls who come out of the sea are like… are like a… like…””
“Sonny, listen to me carefully. Did you take anything from the beach?”
“An… unshakeable sense of melancholy?”
“That wasn’t what I was thinking of.”

 

 

This is British farce at its finest. John sets up verbal punchline after punchline, page after page. I think possibly the episodic nature of BAD MACHINERY’s initial release in webcomic form, one page at a time, has finely honed John’s ability to be able to deliver pugilistic punctuation to world heavyweight championship standards. Not sure if that makes him the Rocky Balboa of British humour comics, but I do know that there are at least three more rounds of BAD MACHINERY material already out there on t’interweb for Oni to collect. Knockout!

 

 

What really makes BAD MACHINERY (and John’s university-based GIANT DAYS) such a gleeful pleasure to read, though, over and above the bonkers Scooby Doo-style sleuthery, is it will transport you back in time, to when all you really had to worry about was the sheer terror of working out just how to talk to the object of your erupting adolescent desires, avoiding flailing fisticuffs and torment at the hands of psychotic bullies who are probably now practising corporate law, and coming up with ever more imaginative excuses as to precisely why your homework seemed to have mysteriously not accompanied you to your seat of learning once again…

 

 

John must have an eidetic memory of his formative years, though, because there’s so much I had forgotten about that comes flooding back every time I read BAD MACHINERY. Truly was life ever once so simple but simultaneously so fantastically complicated in such an emotionally jumbled up, hormone-infused manner? Indeed it was and what a pleasure it is to vicariously read all about it without actually having to go through it all again!

 

 

In terms of his art, I continue to marvel at how deceptively simple it looks. He’s refined it to an amazing degree now, it’s so smooth on the eye, yet packed with expression and detail, plus random hilarious visual background gags. (I truly want to believe there is an arcade game called King Beaver in which it is possible to enter Beavergeddon Mode!) It would be fair to say his style has attracted more than a few imitators in recent years, yet they are mere contenders compared to John. Whereas his art feels seamlessly put together, the wannabes are going to need to put in a lot more hours in the illustrative ring before they’re ready to take him on. Cue training montage. Or not.

JR

Buy Bad Machinery vol 5: The Case Of The Fire Inside s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days: Extra Credit s/c (£13-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Caanan Grall, Lissa Treiman, Jenn St-Onge…

Collects the Giant Days 2016 & 2017 Holiday Specials and the material featured only in the BOOM! Box 2015 & 2016 Mix Tapes. Result!

But given that all sounds rather prosaic considering the madcap merriment contained within, let’s throw the story titles out there for your titillation: ‘What Would Have Happened If Esther, Daisy & Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (And It Was Christmas)?’, the back-up strip ‘How The Fishman Despoiled Christmas’ and ‘Love? Ack, Shelly!’ all penned John and illustrated by various artists. Plus three shorts written and drawn by the man himself, featuring the intrepid reporter Shelly Winters: ‘Fridge Raider’, ‘Music Is Important’ and ‘Destroy History’.

In fact, Shelly Winters also co-stars in one of the main stories as Esther, Susan and Daisy head down to London for a festive visit to stay with Shelly and Ester takes it upon herself to sort out Shelly’s tangled love life… Given what a car crash De Groot is in the romance stakes herself, should she really actually be playing matchmaker or can she actually somehow manage spark up a romance, or two, for Winters?

 

 

The other main story opens proceedings, and it is a classic What If? yarn, including an all-seeing, all-knowing cosmic Daisy depicted as The Watcher seeing how John’s alternative take on the girls first days at Uni would have panned out if they hadn’t hit it off instantly and become first friends.

If you’ve been picking up GIANT DAYS in trades, make sure you don’t miss out on this bonus material. It should be on everyone’s required reading list, as should All Things John Allison!

 

 

Also, please, please note: this does not contain the additional GIANT DAYS 3-ISSUE SELF-PUBLISHED MINI-SERIES drawn by John Allison himself which has never been collected in book form. Fortunately Page 45 has complete sets for sale. It’s like we’re in love, or something.

JR

Buy Giant Days: Extra Credit s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“He’ll be lonely without me.”
“He’ll get over it. We all do. There are worse things than loneliness.”

After months spent exploring the inexplicable at her uncle’s house, young Courtney finally revisits her old neighbourhood while her worn-out parents try unsuccessfully to sell their old home. In Courtney’s absence her former best friend Malcolm has fallen under the influence of two house-breaking idiots, because there’s really nothing else for him left. Why, I will keep schtum on, but Malcolm falls out with Courtney painfully as she tries her best to steer him away from the delinquents – again, unsuccessfully.

It’s all very tenderly done, but only the prologue to a tale which will take Courtney on a reluctant journey from the grounds of her school to the Twilight Kingdom in order to find the cure for a curse so carelessly cast on one brother by the other. Now with the benefit of hindsight, I can confirm that it won’t be the last time she ventures there.

 

 

Friendship and responsibility are as ever the key themes on offer, all concealed under a gothic facade of fantasy and danger, and portrayed with the lushest of artwork now in full colour which has drawn, unsurprisingly, the admiration of Charles Vess.

 

 

It’s the third in the series and does touch upon old plot points, but can be read independently and is heartily recommended to the 500+ of you to have already purchased PORCELAIN.

 

 

A quietly touching ending, and a very cool read.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Multiple Warheads vol 2: Ghost Town s/c (£15-99, Image) by Brandon Graham…

Reprints material originally published in the excellent ISLAND anthology curated by Emma Rios and Brandon Graham himself, along with the MULTIPLE WARHEADS GHOST THRONE one-shot. I had thought Brandon had said he had no intentions of doing any more, but I guess he just couldn’t help himself, which is great news for fans of the series.

The publisher’s sweet whisperings reveal that…

“Black market smuggler of magic organs, Sexica plans to rob the larder of an ancient alligator wizard whose lair hides somewhere within the cliffs of the Waleing wall, while her boyfriend Nikoli searches for clues into the past of the wolf he’s were-bonded to.”

… which sums matters up pretty neatly. This isn’t really a jumping on point for new readers but more of a continuation. If you’re intrigued by how bonkers it all sounds from that one sentence of publisher blurb, you really should read Stephen’s extensive review of MULTIPLE WARHEADS VOLUME ONE which also features some beautiful interior art. Brandon is definitely not trying to be Moebius, but if absurdist, saucy, comedy sci-fi with a distinctive and subtly surreal art style is your thing, this could also be for you!

 

 

I do note with mild bemusement that this volume contains about half the page count of the previous volume for the same price. Page deflation, it’s a terrible thing… But also weirdly this volume is not standard Image trade size, like volume one, but slightly taller and wider. Though, thinking about it, that will be because Island was magazine-sized.

 

 

Still, seems odd to not reduce it by what is a fractional amount for consistency in the trades, but hey ho. Maybe Brandon is going for some sort of multistage rocket design, with a slightly wider, larger second section sitting underneath the first warhead and then the third volume* will be a gigantic over-sized booster which when the three are put together will launch the reader into orbit. Maybe.

*I have no idea whether there ever will be a third volume, but I hope so.

JR

Buy Multiple Warheads vol 2: Ghost Town s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi…

Finally back in print! More Tardi reprints to follow.

“I have just noticed something both extraordinary and troubling which I would prefer to disbelieve… Yesterday, walking through the museum, I paused before this 136-million-year-old pterodactyl egg, which I know as if I had laid it myself, and I realised it had hatched! Yes, hatched! Incredible as it may seem! Scientifically impossible, but the evidence is incontrovertible: it has hatched. Observe the hole in the roof.”

“Heavens! Might this have anything to do with the pterodactyl that is all over the papers? What do you think?”

I’d hazard a guess it’s quite likely, myself. Nice to see Fantagraphics going slightly off the wall with their next tranche of Tardi material. Apparently ADELE BLANC-SEC is one of Tardi’s own favourite creations and you can see just from this first volume, collecting together the first two of the nine published works featuring the character, that he’s really thrown himself into creating some wonderfully complex and bizarre stories for the eponymous and somewhat cynical protagonist Miss Blanc-Sec.

 

 

Indeed the series editor at Fantagraphics has commented that they were deliberately holding back on (re-)translating and releasing this material until after they’d put out what they perceived to be some of the more accessible Tardi material (for the American market) such as IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES and WEST COAST BLUES. I can understand why they would have taken that route, but I’m pleased that this material is getting its turn, although that is very probably due to the well received Luc Besson-helmed movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec already released across most of Europe this year, and very shortly to be released in the UK and US.

 

 

The Adele Blanc-Sec material has some common themes running throughout with occultism, mysticism, mentalism and pseudo science-fiction of the Houdini-esque type prevalent in the pre-WWI era, frequently being the driving force behind the stories, but Tardi also takes the opportunity to take a few satirical swipes and occasionally make a serious point about themes such as corruption and nationalism. He also continues the great French theme in comics of portraying the police as a bunch of bumbling idiots which, let’s be honest, is always good amusement value when done well.

What is really great about this particular Fantagraphics release is we get Tardi in colour again for the first time, with a rather eclectic palette of colours (I’m not sure pterodactyls really were burgundy) enriching some outstanding fine line penmanship. The ligne claire school of artistry, including the typically detailed backgrounds and slightly cartoonish aspect to the characters, is therefore considerably more evident here than on the more heavily penned black and white material released by Fantagraphics before now.

 

 

I’m not making a statement that one style is better than the other, far from it. What it does demonstrate though is that Tardi is obviously an extremely accomplished artist as well as writer. Still, one could spot his hand at a distance of a thousand yards, irrespective of the particular stylistic approach he has chosen to employ. The nice thing though for those of us who’ve come to appreciate his work, is that we know it to be the hallmark of quality.

JR

Buy The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi.

The no-nonsense mademoiselle Blanc-Sec returns for another round or two of occult mentalism and monster-mash madness as first we have the Frankenstein-esque resurrection of a surprisingly suave and well spoken Palaeolithic man demanding vintage cognac and fine cigars upon his wakening, rapidly followed by the escape of all the mummies in the Louvre, plus the one Adele keeps in a display case in her lounge! Don’t expect it to make any sense, you clearly won’t if you read and loved VOLUME ONE of Adele’s extraordinary adventures as I did. Indeed much like, what seems an odd comparison on the face of it I’ll grant you, UMBRELLA ACADEMY you just have to enjoy the ever mounting sense of the ridiculous jammed in page after page, which Tardi is an absolute master at. I also now know why there was no sequel to the ARCTIC MARAUDER as I pondered after reading that fantastic work, as several characters make a brief Benny Hill-style chase reprise here, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, but did make me chuckle.

 

 

JR

Buy The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola with Gary Gianni & Mike Mignola with Richard Corben.

“The four-volume Omnibus series along with the two volumes of The Complete Short Stories collect all of Mignola’s award-winning HELLBOY stories in chronological order for a definitive reading experience.

“This 416-page volume covers Hellboy’s adventures from 1998 to 2005, reprinting ‘Conqueror Worm’, ‘Strange Places’, ‘Into the Silent Sea’, and ‘The Right Hand of Doom,’ ‘Box Full of Evil,’ and ‘Being Human’.”

HELLBOY: STRANGE PLACES contained ‘The Third Wish’ and ‘The Island’ which I once reviewed thus:

Hellboy is standing at the edge of the ocean, and, he’s told, the crossroads of his life. Five seconds later and he’s many leagues under the sea and assaulted by weremaids. Should have taken a left, dude.

 

 

Try this book if you like portentous dream sequences, demands with consequences and the chill of the ominous, and we haven’t even begun to speak of the art which has, if at all possible, taken another leap. Mike keeps it dark and spooky with the boldest silhouettes in the business, yet opens it up with majestic design and subtle inlay.

 

 

Also [perhaps earlier – it’s over a decade since I read this]:

Hellboy arrives in Africa, but he’s been expected there longer than he’s lived, and although the beasts don’t want him, the ocean does. Three little wishes for three fishes. Who will be leaving alive?

SLH

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

The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship s/c (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham…

“I believe you were a member of the 1929 Einstein-Carmichael expedition.”
“Well?”
“There was a scientist in the party.”
“That’s right.”
“What was he investigating?”
“He didn’t talk much. Was only interested in the experiment. And his son. James, was it?”
“No, John. Very bright boy…”

Rip-snorting, high-seas, high-octane, time-travel, all-ages, hyphen-heavy yarn penned originally for The Phoenix Comic by His Dark Materials author (first and second volumes of the first part of that trilogy, NORTHERN LIGHTS, have been adapted for comics) and adeptly illustrated by able seaman Fred Fordham, who I must admit I wasn’t familiar with, but certainly is a talent with his neat and tidy shipshape ligne claire linework.

 

 

I note, actually, it has just been announced Fred is going to adapt Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ as a graphic novel for Harper Collins, who clearly view him as a safe pair of hands on the proverbial tiller for tackling such a heavyweight literary title. I think that is probably more than enough sailing puns now…

 

 

Cast adrift on the oceans of eternity, buffeted by the ever-changing tides of temporal instability, boy genius John Blake is determined to get his millennia-spanning motley crew back home to their respective eras safely. There are others, however, who covet his time-travelling vessel, the Mary Alice, and will stop at nothing to get their dastardly hands on it!

 

 

Ah, this is a great bit of fun, speculative fiction with Bond-style delightfully preposterous ‘espionage’ elements, courtesy of secret agent Roger <ahem> Blake, and the main bad guy, multi-squillionnaire tech giant Carlos Dahlberg and his enormous super yacht and gigantic guided missiles. I would make allusions to him making up for some inadequacy perhaps, but let’s keep this review as all-ages as the work itself!

Adults will undoubtedly love this boy’s and girl’s own adventure, as John teams up with a young lady called Serena whose daft dad managed to dump her in the drink without a life jacket in the middle of the South Pacific. Now she’s part of the ghost ship’s crew, criss-crossing time in search of safe harbour and answers to explain their peculiar odyssey.

 

 

Can John keep his crew, with the assistance of the eponymously named suave naval intelligence officer, out of Dahlberg’s megalomaniacal clutches?! Or will Carlos finally break the maxim that money can’t buy you everything and achieve his tyrannical ambitions of global, and temporal, total domination?! Why am I using a question mark as well as an exclamation mark?! The answer to the last question, dear reader, is that I am an idiot. For a resolution to the other two queries, however, you will have to read the book…

JR

Buy The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal – Dark Knights Rising h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke…

““D.C.” You wondered what it means, but think about it Bobo… brother…
““Detective Chimp.”
“We’ve watched your life. Immortality has its rewards. We got this fixed back in 2067. The 53rd world is here to help. So… ready to save the Universe, Bobo?”

So that’s what DC means… And obviously Bobo is, now he’s not losing his marbles. The concluding issue in this collection, DARK KNIGHTS RISING: THE WILD HUNT #1, is a glorious rip-snorting ruckus of MULTIVERSITY-inspired madness featuring everyone’s favourite simian Sherlock. Errr… what do you mean you’ve never heard of him? You’ll be telling me you thought DC stood for something else next.

As I was reading this, I thought it felt very much like a Morrison-penned portion of malarkey, so wasn’t remotely surprised to find him co-credited on this issue. No idea of precisely how much he was involved, or if it is purely to acknowledge the use of several of his concepts and characters, but it has the feel of being touched by Morrison at least… which is the typically rum and uncanny sensation you would expect.

 

 

The other seven issues: BATMAN: THE RED DEATH #1, BATMAN: THE DEVASTATOR #1, BATMAN: THE MERCILESS #1, BATMAN: THE MURDER MACHINE #1, BATMAN: THE DROWNED #1, BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1, THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 are essentially mad What If? – or perhaps I should say Evil Elseworld – mash-ups each featuring a Batman, and in one case a Batwoman, from an Earth in the Multiversity already lost to the dark, who has somehow merged or blended or become corrupted with someone else, those unfortunates being: Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aqua Woman, Green Lantern and just for good measure, the Joker.

 

 

So, in other words, these are the origin stories of all the bad guys deployed by the demon Barbatos in the main DARK NIGHTS: METAL series. These creation cameos are all, I must add, fabulously good fun and tortuously and frankly quite sadistically well thought out. So whilst you absolutely do not need this volume to help you understand the metallic mayhem, I can certainly recommend it.

JR

Buy Dark Nights: Metal – Dark Knights Rising h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Beanworld Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind h/c (£16-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama) by Michael DeForge

Dumb – Living Without A Voice (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Georgia Webber

The Complete Future Shocks vol 1 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore,  Various & Brian Bolland,  Various

In The Future, We Are Dead (£14-99, Birdcage Bottom Books) by Eva Muller

The Great North Wood (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird

The Hypo – The Melancholic Young Lincoln h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Izuna Book 2 h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Saverio Tenuta & Carita Lupattelli

The Complete Killer s/c (£35-99, Archaia) by  Matz & Luc Jacamon

Moon Face h/c (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection vol 1 (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart, Robert Deas, Laura Ellen Anderson, Dan Boultwood, Joe List, Jess Bradley, Chris Riddell, Mike Smith

Rivers Of London: Cry Fox (£13-99, Titan) by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch & Lee Sullivan

Sandman Overture: Absolute Edition (£110-00, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

Southern Bastards vol 4: Gut Check s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason LaTour

Wild’s End vol 3: Journey’s End (£17-99, Boom!) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Bombshells United vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage, various

Dark Nights: Metal – The Resistance s/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, various & Howard Porter, Liam Sharp, various

Thanos Wins s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Geoff Shaw

The Flowers of Evil Complete vol 3 (£19-50, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Gantz: G vol 1 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku & Keita Lizuka

My Hero Academica vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week three

June 20th, 2018

Featuring Gareth Brookes, Carole Maurel, Mariko Tamaki, Clement Baloup, Farel Dalrymple, Mathieu Bablet, Mairghread Scott, Robin Robinson, Joe Todd-Stanton, Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel.

Afterwords (£5-99, self-published) by Gareth Brookes.

In which Brookes reprises both THE BLACK PROJECT and A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES, neither of which you need read before these deeply satisfying self-contained stories, each delirious in its own different way.

On the other hand, if you have already relished either of those graphic novels then you are in for two wildly witty departures / re-treatments, building on what’s gone before, so let’s call them “sequels of sorts”.

I’m far from surprised because Brookes does love to experiment, not just with style and presentation, but with the very media he employs to produce them. Eschewing both digital art and pen on paper, Gareth has a penchant for selecting the least obvious and seemingly most difficult but fascinatingly physical means of construction, each apposite to what’s going down.

“There are things I leave out of course, because I don’t want the trouble to start again.”

Very wise, Richard, very wise. First dates can be a tentative minefield, can’t they?

 

 

THE BLACK PROJECT (which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) featured scratchboard panels within often elaborate cloth-embroidered frames. Why cloth-embroidered? Well, teenage Richard was stitching his girlfriends. Not stitched them up, but stitching them together. He was creating them from bits and bobs which he found lying around. And then he, ummm, you know… courted them? Wooed them…? Made love to them…?

It was a black comedy, yes.

Now Richard has grown up, found gainful employment, and he thinks he has a better handle on life. Actually, I think he does. He’s kind and considerate, and has certainly a lot lovelier outlook than his boss’s and his boss’s best mate’s. These are two leering, lager-lout lads of a certain hair-receding age whom he works with, along with his dearest Denise whom Richard has been in love with for four years. She’s presented on the page as a radiant if scowling and quite haggard Madonna; or, on another page, as Medusa. Still, eye of the beholder and each to their own, right? I admire everyone who sees beneath the surface.

 

 

Anyway, they all invite a very reluctant Richard out for birthday drinks. He was right to be reluctant on so many levels, but I’m going to leave that for you to discover yourselves. Let us just say that there are developments. There are multiple developments.

Compared to the original, we’re given a little more colour in the green, blue and tangerine stitching on dowdy beige hessian fabric, while the quite hideous, nightmare-co-worker cast, rendered in block black-and-white, glow with a seam of unsettling, vampiric red, slightly off-set as if you’re looking at 3-D pages without the glasses… or as if you’ve been drugged.

 

 

The self-contained “sequel of sorts” to A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES is in some ways even cleverer, for in the original, rubbed out on the page in wax crayon, elderly couple Fred and Myriam were living out their quiet, retirement in tranquil suburbia. Fred was and remains profoundly stick-in-the-mud, constantly complaining conservative whereas Myriam’s life seemed far more colourful if alarming, beset as it was with the most vivid and elaborate hallucinations brought on not by a thankfully rare but very real vision impairment called Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

Now Myriam is seeing things for what they really are – tanks in the tree-lined street, bludgeoning the neighbourhood to bits – whereas Fred’s in a world of his own, deliberately filtering reality through a virtual, rose-tinted one: a headset which you can tweak to your heart’s desire. Fred’s heart’s desire is to be reassured / placated / sedated by the increasingly reactionary, culpably oblivious BBC News embodied here by Fiona Bruce. They both see bombshells, but very different ones.

 

 

When Fred is finally persuaded to take a break from virtual reality he still “sees” what he’s been taught to by our manipulative media:

“Ah, oh dear. What a mess.
“But I’m sure the authorities have it all in hand.
“Must stop terrorism, Myriam.”

There’s nothing like a patriotic Royal Jubilee or Wedding street-party celebration for lifting the embattled spirits, is there? It’s all about the art of distraction.

 

 

Meanwhile, whoops, there goes the neighbourhood – quite literally! – along with this politically apathetic and morally bankrupt, blinkered, blinded, heads-in-the-sand, self-centred and so sad excuse for a country.

SLH

Buy Afterwords and read the Page 45 review here

Luisa: Now And Then (£22-99, Humanoids) by Carole Maurel, adapted by Mariko Tamaki.

Here’s an intriguing hypothetical for you:

“What would you do if your fifteen-year-old self showed up at your door?”

Would you, for a start, recognise them immediately and instinctively realise that, however improbable, there must have been some time / space seepage? Would you wince at their lame sense of fashion, chronic acne and well wonky hair? Would you balk at the very possibility that it could even be you, or welcome their arrival as an opportunity to educate, give them great solace or even a kick up the arse?

Let’s flip that a little:

“What would that teenager think of what you’d become?”

Unless you are a teenager reading this review, of course, in which case: can you imagine meeting your 33-year-old self? Who do you imagine you’d be by that age, and what do you think you’d be doing? I mean: for friendship, self-fulfilment and for a living?

 

 

It’s worth having a good old cogitation upon all that before reading this book or even this review, because creator Carole Maurel is going to propel this in a completely different direction from anything that I’d anticipated other than this: modern technology, socio-political progress on the sexuality front will indeed prove satisfyingly pivotal to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, both perspectives are explored here as 15-year-old Luisa Arambol from Chartres wakes one morning on a bus which she’d boarded the night before back in 1995, and is told in no uncertain terms to dismount. She has absolutely no idea where she is, but quickly discovers she’s in Paris.

 

 

 

She attempts to phone home using a credit card at a public call box, but the card is rejected. She tries to buy a phone card in the nearest tabac / café only to be ridiculed for not being in possession of a smart phone. She earnestly tries to pay for the phone card in Francs.

“Is this a joke?”

This is no joke. Poor young Luisa may now know that she is in Paris, but she still has no clue that it’s 2013, a good ten years after Francs in France were discarded for Euros. She’s at her wit’s end.

Naughtily enough, that’s where I’m going to leave you on that thread.

 

 

33-year-old Luisa Arambol, meanwhile, is living in that self-same city in that self-same time, which is 2013. She has inherited the flat which she lives in from her Aunt Aurelia. Although Luisa once had more fulfilling dreams of being an inventive, arty photographer like 23 Envelope’s Vaughan Oliver, she’s perfectly happy with her paid work, photographing foodstuffs to look fancy with dear friend Farid for glossy magazine advertisements. What she’s disgruntled about is her love life: a succession of men she dates enthusiastically at first, but who prove way too mundane once they’re shacked up with together. To be honest, it’s not just them: it really is her. They’re good for a fling, but the reality is really not pressing her buttons at all.

Now, as my early questions suggest, the two are going to come into contact and everything up to that point is perfect, especially young Luisa’s protracted confusion (no one is going come straight out like Doctor Who and ask “Wait – what year is this?”), what she makes of modern technology (“Crazy, Paris is so high tech.”), and the means by which she discovers the date. Also impressive is how credibly Good Samaritan Sasha, who temporarily adopts Luisa in order to help her track down local relatives, reacts to Luisa’s predicament and the personal possessions she finds in her duffel bag. And finally there’s that search for local relatives which of course would be Aunt Aurelia who was still alive back in 1995, and you already know who’s living in that flat now!

Perfect!

 

 

The colours don’t half glow on the page, and the portraiture throughout is delicious, reminding me of SAGA’s Fiona Staples, particularly the double-page spread when each Luisa finally realises the truth about the other’s identity. The clothes all hang just-so off the bodies, the lines are soft, the skin smooth, and the hair fulsome and silky. Everyone’s conditioning regimen is admirable.

But it quickly becomes clear that the questions should have been “What would you do if your fifteen-year-old self showed up at your door and what would that teenager think of what you’d become if you’d long denied your sexuality partly because of an incident during which your fifteen-year-old self failed to support another girl she had a pash on when that other girl was subjected to some seriously vilifying homophobic abuse and ostracism which was then compounded by your mother?”

That’s a very specific question.

 

 

What’s on the page is pretty powerful stuff – and is cleverly tied in to further family history – but it’s what’s not on the page which left me disappointed, which is everything else. None of the other ever so many questions and answers I’d seek of the other are explored, and I found that so frustrating.

There’s also one hell of a lot of incomprehensible crotchetiness throughout on adult Luisa’s part, and she chastises her younger self unforgivingly for being unsure of her leanings when we all know that a fifteen-year-old’s life is both confusing and restrictive. Okay, we can perhaps put that down to adult guilt, but does everyone in Paris treat waiters like dirt? That really rankled.

However, the good news is that a) you’ll like chic Sasha, and b) there are more surprises to come, for although neither of them realises it at first things are still alarmingly in flux, and there is a stunning scene involving a reflection on a restaurant’s floor.

 

 

By the way, that is indeed Mariko Tamaki, the co-creator with cousin Jillian Tamaki of THIS ONE SUMMER and SKIM, whom you see credited for the book’s “English Language Adaptation”.

For more non-genre time travel (i.e. gentle fiction in which the only science-fiction is that you have returned in time to your childhood, please see also Jiro Taniguchi’s flawlessly contemplative A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Lastly, since I posed those two hypotheticals, I think it’s only fair that I append answers of my own.

“What would you do if your teenage self showed up at your door?”

I’d start by reassuring the poor boy – bewildered by what on earth life might be like beyond school – that it’ll all be all right in the end. I don’t know about you, but aged 15 I could not imagine being capable enough of anything to independently earn a living.

“What would that teenager think of what you’d become?”

I believe he’d say, “That makes perfect sense”.

On all counts.

SLH

Buy Luisa: Now And Then and read the Page 45 review here

Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Clement Baloup…

“There were G.I.s everywhere. We used to collect the cartridges they were always dropping…
“…Then we’d whack them to make them explode. They’d go off like firecrackers.
“When you’re a kid, you never think about the dangers. One of us could have gotten killed!”

When us Anglophones hear the word Vietnam, we are so inculcated to think of the ill-fated US war, that often we forget that the roots of that particular conflict actually began several generations before with the French colonial occupation. Well, occupations plural technically, as having been kicked out of what was then named French Indochina by the Japanese towards the end of WW2, the French had the temerity to then try and reoccupy it. The Viet Minh led by Hồ Chí Minh eventually put paid to that after nearly ten bloody years in 1954, before the Americans decided they could do better, and well, we all know how that turned out…

 

 

Anyway, as a child born in France in 1978, Clément Baloup only heard the story of his father’s life as a youngster back in Vietnam, and his subsequent emigration to France, some twenty years later whilst being taught to cook a traditional prawn curry in his dad’s kitchen. That’s the opening ‘memory’ very touchingly portrayed here and which subsequently set Clément on the path of collecting other such stories of the Vietnamese Diaspora to France.  A process that actually began long before, you might suspect, ahead of the main waves of the pejoratively named ‘boat people’ in the seventies, with several thousand immigrants being torn from their families and forcibly shipped to France to work in munitions factories very shortly after the start of WW2. Whilst some were eventually repatriated back to Vietnam several years after the war ended, after repeated requests to the French government who seemed oblivious or perhaps simply not remotely bothered about their plight, others chose to stay behind and forge new lives for themselves.

 

 

All the stories are illustrated in extremely impressive fashion, some in black and white, and some in watercolour and cover a wide variety of experiences, both good and bad. Frequently they touch on both life in Vietnam and then France for the Vietnamese who made the arduous and often dangerous journey to Europe. For most, there was little choice to their sudden exodus, be it forced, or to avoid the impending change in political regime. But it certainly always caused unimaginable upheaval and suffering which often took years to overcome in the face of poverty and prejudice in the new homeland.

 

 

For more Vietnam history, please see Thi Bui’s profoundly moving story of her parents in THE BEST WE COULD DO.

JR

Buy Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon and read the Page 45 review here

It Will All Hurt (£16-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple.

“And Almendra feels an ill in the air.”

From the creator of THE WRENCHIES, POP GUN WAR VOL 1, both extensively reviewed, plus POP GUN WAR VOL 2 and – just in – PROXIMA CENTAURI.

The publisher writes:

“A weird, sad, silly, sketchy, and dreamy watercolour fantasy-action quest in which Alemendra Clementine and her crew of anti-social adventurers all come together on a psych-apocalyptic world to take down an evil wizard.

“This Eisner Award-nominated webcomic began as a loose stream-of-consciousness exercise and exploration of the comicbook medium and takes place in the same world as Farel Dalrymple’s THE WRENCHIES. Collects IT WILL ALL HURT #1-3, plus all six chapters of the webcomic.”

 

 

That’s a very fair assessment. There is indeed a loose, sketchbook-like quality to the narrative as likely to drift towards old stones standing round a raised burial mound, the site itself surrounded by the ruins of ancient battlements, as it is to encompass a spherical space capsule whose vulnerable glass viewing screen comes under attack from a long-taloned vampire in a top hat.

 

 

 

And yes, it is indeed the stuff of disorientating nightmares.

“I’m getting that weird feeling again.
“Like watching myself in a bad dream.
“The house is on fire and I am screaming at myself to get out before it’s too late.”

 

 

The crew of anti-social adventurers embark on the sort of fantastical quest you might imagine acting out as seven-year-olds, making it up as you go along. They’re dressed both strange and mundane, brandishing weapons like flaming sticks and heavy iron axes while looking lanky, disconsolate, maybe stoned. Some seem younger and sullen, however belted, booted, suited and caped-up for action. Others practise falconry, magic or martial arts.

 

 

There’s a talking cat (I’ve just doubled the sales), and a rat too.

SLH

Buy It Will All Hurt and read the Page 45 review here

Proxima Centauri #1 of 6 (£3-25, Image) by Farel Dalrymple.

“Get behind the blast glass!”
*
“Don’t freaking lecture me.”
*
“Everything’s so stinking annoying today.”
*
“That thing ate my ride! What a jerk.”

New series from the creator of THE WRENCHIES, POP GUN WAR VOL 1, both extensively reviewed, plus POP GUN WAR VOL 2 and – just in – IT WILL ALL HURT which I also dipped into.

If you enjoyed THE WRENCHIES, then it’s time to rejoin The Scientist and indeed fractious Sherwood, still fretting about his lost brother Orson while frowning and drowning in post-pubescent hormones.

“Don’t forget to drink water, Sherwood.”
“I know.”

 

 

Here’s the publisher:

“4.243 light-years from Earth, the teenage wizard adventurer Sherwood Breadcoat is stuck in the confounding spectral zone on the manufactured dimensional sphere, Proxima Centauri, looking for escape and a way back to his brother while dealing with his confusing emotions, alien creatures, and all sorts of unknown, fantastic dangers. In this issue The Scientist H. Duke sends Sherwood on a salvage mission and gives counsel to the troubled boy in his charge.

“PROXIMA CENTAURI will be six issues of psychedelic science fantasy action comicbook drama starring Sherwood Breadcoat, ‘The Scientist’ Duke Herzog, Dr. EXT the Time Traveler, the ghost M. Parasol, Shakey the Space Wizard, and Dhog Dahog.”

 

 

Dalrymple nails Sherwood’s teenage obstreperousness with giant, proclamatory speech balloons and defiant, sword-brandishing impatience to which The Scientist issues sage and scholarly advice without any thought to the certainty that it’ll mean nothing whatsoever to a self-obsessed teenager:

“Why so impatient to grow up? Learn to be present and your anxiety will subside.”

 

 

It’s hard to be present while under assault from sewer-swarms of monstrous, sharp-toothed insectoids while racing through gravity-shifting concrete jungles and spectacular, architectural retro-futuristic collisions.

There’s some Basil Wolverton about the bloating of the beasts’ heads, and a big love of Moebius in some of the floating landscapes.

 

 

File under “all kinds of crazy” and drink in the varied colour treatments.

SLH

Buy Proxima Centauri #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Beautiful Death h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Mathieu Bablet.

Oh, this is ever so French!

It’s not so much the poor lone man with the haunted eyes staring out over the lifeless concrete city, weeping inconsolably… for himself, I suspect!

I can’t say that I blame him. It’s been four years or so of unbroken solitary… what’s the opposite of confinement? Sometimes four small walls must seem a mercy.

It’s all there before him, stretching endlessly, emptily, dirtily and a bit broken.

What else is there to do other than rock on a chair, mind-numb, or roam the echoing avenues, passing abandoned communal play areas, unattended gardens, crashed cars and lank electricity lines?

It’s as desolate and derelict as an empty outdoor municipal swimming pool – with some of the same, lame, tiny mosaic tiles.

 

 

There are small trails of encroaching vegetation in the cracked concrete. I bet the buddleias got there first – they’re the worst.

Eventually he finds himself back at his equally unpopulated apartment with its lo-tech radio & car battery attached, calling out to anyone else who isn’t there. No reply, obviously.

It wasn’t zombies, by the way. It was the insects.

 

 

“I just can’t get rid of it. That taste of ash in my mouth.
“It reminds me… Reminds me of those Wednesday afternoons.
“My mother would take me over to Mrs. Jones for her madeleines. She was terrifying. So were the madeleines.”

Okay, so that’s pretty French.

“Burnt to ash. Just like any love for my dad still left in my mother’s heart.”

Bit of a downer!

“Sadly, for the culinary world, the gentle Mrs. Jones perished in a tragic mishap at the zoo, determined to save a poor adventurous child from the hands of a rutting orang-utan.”

No, what’s so French about this are the three bickering idiots who “supersede” him.

I don’t want to spoil the moment for you, but even his exit is French. Too funny!

There’s Jeremiah, the shouty one with spiky blonde hair like some escapee from NARUTO; stern leader Wayne who has set rules and demands discipline except from Soham who doesn’t seem to give a shit about anyone or anything anymore. Soham seems to have lost all sense of humanity or connection to it. Although he still looks both ways before crossing a road, even though there hasn’t been any traffic for years.

 

They scour the shops and loot every can that they can. Cans are all that’s left. And even they have their sell-by dates.

“Four years… according to this can that’s all we have left.”
“Say what?”
“We never talk about it, but no matter how you cut it, the days on these cans are our expiration date too.”

There appear to be no viable crops and no edible animals. Although insects are edible, aren’t they? There are an awful lot of those.

It’s very much two against one: they almost abandon Jeremiah at one point.

It’s a very quiet comic to begin with. Even the “incident” is more of a situation, simply presented to us without any preceding narrative or the most obvious dramatic action that would have got us all going.

The rescue goes unacknowledged. Instead they stand there in silence, in the needle-sharp rain under coloured umbrellas – very French.

 

 

Other roof-top, table-top umbrellas blow poetically away in the squall.

That’s some seriously lovely rain, that is.

SLH

Buy The Beautiful Death h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The City On The Other Side (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson…

“War and pain raged in the world of Fairy. On both sides.
“But the fairy world is not the only world. The human world continued… unaware of the war that was destroying them as well.”

The publisher blurb burbles…

“The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world. Isabel isn’t the kind of girl who goes on adventures.

“But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie – the good fairies.”

 

 

You see, Isabel might not be the kind of girl who goes on adventures, but she desperately wants to be. However, between her over-protective snob of a high society mother and her absent workaholic sculptor father, she’s completely ignored and stuck oh-so-safely in her room. So when adventure accidentally beckons, she seizes it with both hands and leaps through the Veil, which separates our world from the Fairy realm. With a Fairy civil war raging and the only hope of stopping it being to return an enchanted necklace to its rightful owner, Isabel will soon be getting all the action-packed antics she could ever wish for.

 

 

Definitely one for fans of the likes of AMULET, with its cast of weird and wonderful characters including a feisty talking mushroom called Button, and NAMELESS CITY, for its relentless breakneck pace and desire to make a few pertinent social comments suitable for any time too, this is a very well-written self-contained slice of all-ages fun.

JR

Buy The City On The Other Side and read the Page 45 review here

Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton.

A huge endeavour for a tiny person, this is now out in softcover!

I love a good quest, and this is a most excellent quest involving Thor, Odin and Fenrir, the enormous, sable-coated wolf sired by the trickster god, Loki. It is ever so black and bad tempered!

Rich in the warmest of colours and with a superb sense of scale, HILDA fans are going to lap this up; ZELDA fans too because young Arthur is essentially an Icelandic Link, addicted to exploration and a certain degree of pilfering, forever adding artefacts to his arsenal of treasured possessions.

This includes the Hand of Time, an actual hand (a bit creepy!) which Arthur once discovered high up in an ancient tower, sat on an ancient stone column at the top of some ancient stone steps and bathed from behind in moonlight cascading though a window in the shape of a stopped clock. I imagine Arthur must have successfully interpreted this clue before whipping it away, for the Hand of Time has the power to freeze anyone who touches it – which is a neat piece of self-defence, when you think about it.

It’s probably best to use gloves.

 

 

Arthur’s also adept at making friends in high places, like the mighty red rooster Wind Weaver, nested towards the top of even more ancient, tall, craggy cliffs. Such was Arthur’s fortitude and determination that he managed to climb that nigh-vertical escarpment and return to Wind Weaver her missing egg, against all odds unbroken.

He also once rescued a cat from a tree.

Arthur is going to need to summon all his courage and command his quickest of wits, however, in this daring quest to restore fire to his otherwise frozen town after its gigantic brazier is knocked down and extinguished by Fenrir. I told you it had a bad temper.

To be honest, the townsfolk aren’t that much better, especially the adults. They scowled at Arthur and his adventures, his trophies and trinkets and the little goblin folk who followed him in rootin’, tootin’ celebration after he mediated an end to their war with the fairies. But, battered by Fenrir’s assault, the citizens are sure going to need our young Arthur now, for the only way to restore fire to the town’s brazier is to curry the favour of Thor, and the only way to curry Thor’s favour is to help him defeat the five-hundred-foot Fenrir.

For this meticulous Arthur will need three things: to capture a cat’s footfall, to snip off the roots of a mountain, and remember old lessons learned.

The Asgardians have tried to vanquish the beast by themselves, but Fenrir nearly squished Frejja, barely missed breaking Baldr between its teeth and successfully bit poor Tyr’s arm off. Can frail Arthur triumph where the mighty gods have failed?

 

 

In every all-ages / young-readers’ great graphic novel there must be certain things present including wit, rules and exploration for eyes.

Oh, you tut at the term “rules” but I didn’t write that they couldn’t be broken! What I mean is that a child will see through any gaps in narrative logic just as easily as an adult would, and might even be far less forgiving. They are ever so astute! This is a beauty, so casually foreshadowing whatever will follow so that its pay-off is perfect and caught me completely by surprise. But it’s all there! All of it!

The wit lies both in the background details, the denouement above, and in the keep-them-guessing intrigue which is scattered throughout. How can Arthur possibly capture a cat’s footfall? It’s insane! And a mountain doesn’t have any roots: that had me stumped.

 

 

As to the eye-candy, there are maps – yes, maps! – and so many pages which reward real inspection, from old-duffer Brownstone’s armchair introduction contrasted with his hours-later adieu (look at what’s happened to those bookshelves behind him in the intervening time!) to the mapped-out meandering’s of Arthur’s double-page sea-voyage. There tiny fingers will love to trace the serpentine path of our diminutive hero’s trials and tribulations past pirate ships and old beardy Neptune, through the coils of undulating sea monsters and battling a giant squid which is ever so intent on wrestling Arthur’s oars from him.

Then there’s beardy Brownstone’s initial, proud appearance inside his family vault of exotic heirlooms bathed in a spotlight. Young eyes are immediately invited to scan every shadow-strewn corner for curiosities: there are chests and chalices, a deep-sea diving suit, skulls and statues, a one-eyed owl, things floating in jars, swords, stones, and swords in stones. Oh wait – I think the second one is stuck in a giant eyeball!

 

 

There are swords stuck everywhere in Valhalla’s hall. Can you find them all?

I mentioned Todd-Stanton’s sense of scale – vital for making a quest like this seem as daunting as possible – and it’s everywhere from the fearsome Fenrir who towers over the brazier, and the brazier itself, so vast that it looms large in comparison to the rest of the town when seen from afar. On that very same shot, so high in the sky, you’ll spy that ancient tower which housed The Hand of Time and, on the mountainside opposite, Wind Weaver perched on her nest. Furthermore, Arthur may be small when standing beside adults and smaller still in Thor’s imposing presence, but compared to the goblin folk he’s a giant.

 

 

Finally we come to the gods’ hall library and it is as vast as vast can be. Poor Arthur most read every dusty tome in his research for find the roots of a mountain. You can see him scampering up ladders, balancing books on his head, receiving a nasty surprise, but if you look really, really carefully…

I love it. I love this to bits.

SLH

Buy Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Duncan Fegredo, Mick McMahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth, James Sinclair, Clem Robins, Pat Brosseau.

A whopping 368-page volume which covers Hellboy’s adventures from 1947 to 1961 in chronological order (as do all the HELLBOY omnibus editions) kicking almost immediately off with ‘Midnight Circus’ drawn and painted with enormous panache by Duncan Fegredo.

“But he wanted to be a real boy.”

1948 at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence, it’s late at night and quiet.

Scampering secretly through the sleepy, well appointed HQ, a very young Hellboy, his horns still intact, overhears himself being talked of as a terrible threat. It’s all there in the Visions & Revelations of one Arnot De Falvy:

“I saw a city, silent as a tomb, barren as dry bones, and the angel said, “This is Desolation”. And I went down into it and the only living thing there was the creature… In most ways it had the shape and character of a man and was not terrible to look upon… But then I saw in its right hand it held the key to the bottomless pit.”

 

 

So young Hellboy does what you would do at this covert equivalent of a boarding school: he runs away. And something is there to greet him, to entreat him, to seduce and reduce the poor boy to tears.

When the Midnight Circus first appears, the impact is halting. Young Hellboy crouches overlooking through a dry-stone wall the valley the circus’ gigantic tent has been erected in. He’s inked in Fegredo’s Mingola-inspired trademark stark shadows, whereas the circus itself is swathed in misty, miasmatic watercolours as will be everything that transpires within. It’s mesmerising.

 

 

And, oh, what the young boy discovers inside. Whom the young Hellboy discovers inside!

Have you read Pinnochio?

There is so much to commend this, not least of all Duncan Fegredo’s swoonaway art. Long have I compared his gesticulations, dramatically angled wrists and hefty, heavy, laden hands to the mighty French sculptor Rodin. That’s not something I do lightly. But here it suddenly struck me how similar his women are to that of FATALE’s Sean Phillips.

You wait until you see the sunken Galleon.

 

 

If you’ve never read HELLBOY before in your life, this is the perfect introduction. It will leave you with questions, yes, but then you have a whole library to explore, all in print and in stock right here, right now.

Mignola has built up a legend which is why this works so well. There has been foreshadowing aplenty and this is another key part of the puzzle.

You’re just a young lad. All you want to do is what’s best, especially as you grow up. Okay, you shouldn’t have had that smoke, you shouldn’t have made that joke and maybe you shouldn’t have run away. But they are your decisions, surely? They can’t affect anyone else.

“Oh, my boy… what have you done?”

Brrrr….

 

 

Also included: ‘The Crooked Man’, ‘Double Feature of Evil,’ the complete ‘Hellboy in Mexico’ saga, as well as ‘The Corpse.’ ‘The Iron Shoes’ and more.

SLH

Buy Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c  and read the Page 45 review here

The Magic Order #1 (£3-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel…

“They’ve just finished copulating. He’s dreaming about a train journey from his teenage years. She’s just closed her eyes.”
“Is their home secured with any defences?”
“Yes, but I can work around them. There’s a child sleeping at the end of the corridor, and I think I’ll be able to go through him.”

Mark Millar returns with a story in which a magician with a way with words manages to sell his fêted comics company to a large entertainment giant for megabucks and lives happily ever after. Wait a minute… his autobiography isn’t out yet!

Millar is back, though, with his first ‘Netflix’ comic, featuring a story about five clans of undercover magicians who have protected our world from unseen magical threats for generations who are now about to fall out big style. So, sort of like a mash-up between Doctor Strange and East Enders then?

 

 

Fortunately not, but this is certainly no tale of happy families as one of the prestidigitators boldly begins a power grab and starts bumping off the others in a not-so covert fashion with the aid of a shadowy, sinister figure wearing a highwayman’s hat. Perhaps a cheeky nod to 2000AD’s Brigand Doom?

 

 

Plus, even within the various households, it seems that whilst there are those who embrace the thrill of waving their wands about, both publically and in private, there are some adepts who want to ditch the glamours and live a life more ordinary. Unfortunately, a declaration of being out of the game doesn’t mean there isn’t still going to be a target on your head.

 

 

After this opener, I have to say I’m totally entranced by Millar’s new top hat of tricks. Ah, that hoodoo that you do, Mark, when you’re on top form. There’s sufficient depth to the story and the characters right from the off which convinces me this six issue series will be on the level of the likes of JUPITER’S LEGACY and SUPERIOR. I trust this won’t prove to be an illusion.

 

 

Phenomenally fabulous art from Marvel stalwart Oliver HOUSE OF M Coipel only adds to the spectacle, and either Coipel or colourist Dave Stewart have given it a softer, smudged feel which renders it all suitably ethereal. Bravo gentlemen!

JR

Buy The Magic Order #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Voices Of A Distant Star (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Mizu Sahara…

“Award-winning director and author Makoto Shinkai offers a romantic sci-fi tale about young love and space adventure, based on his 2003 animated film. Sixteen-year-old Mikako Nagamine enlists as a pilot to fight in the interstellar war against a force of alien invaders, leaving behind her one true love. Mikako’s only connection to Noboru Terao, who’s living the life of an ordinary high school student, is through cell-phone text messages. As Mikoko travels farther away, it starts to take longer and longer for Noboru to receive her messages, until finally one arrives eight years and seven months after she sent it. When at last the fighting ends, she is left stranded on the spacecraft carrier.”

I’ve actually excised the final couple of sentences of the publisher’s blurb as I felt we were drifting dangerously into spoiler territory faster than Mikoko was last seen drifting into deep space. If you like your romance to smoulder at a low injection burn rather than going straight to escape velocity this could possibly be for you. I haven’t seen the film, which came first, so I can’t comment on the similarities / differences though the artist comments in his “sort of an afterword” that he imagines fans of the film will feel there are some aspects lacking or disappointing.

 

 

I have to say there is very, very little actually going on in terms of plot here. It is, in essence, two people clinging on to the single thread of the teenage romance that they never actually had. Now, separated increasingly by space and time, it seems like they never, ever will. But still they keep in touch, in classically ultra-restrained Japanese fashion, because neither is willing to let go.

 

 

The final chapter or two hint at more to come (again, maybe there is in the film by the sounds of it) and there’s a decision which perhaps really could have been made a lot sooner, if only one of the star-blocked lovers had spent a bit more time thinking about things rationally instead of mooching around aimlessly waiting for angst-ridden interstellar text messages.

JR

Buy Voices Of A Distant Star 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’.

 

 

Bad Machinery vol 5: The Case Of The Fire Inside s/c (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Giant Days: Extra Credit s/c (£13-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Caanan Grall, Lissa Treiman, Jenn St-Onge

Cerebus vol 10: Minds (Remastered Edition) (£26-99, Aardvark Vanaheim Inc.) by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Courtney Crumrin vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Cucumber Quest vol 3: The Melody Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi D.G.

Escaping Wars And Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees (£19-99, Myriad) by Olivier Kugler

Escapo h/c (£22-99, Z2 Comics) by Paul Pope

Hellboy Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni

Hit-Girl vol 1: In Colombia s/c (£13-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

Julian Is A Mermaid h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jessica Love

Legend Of Zelda Encyclopedia h/c (£35-50, Dark Horse) by various

Multiple Warheads vol 2: Ghost Town s/c (£15-99, Image) by Brandon Graham

Space Boy vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

They Say Blue h/c (£12-99, Abrams) by Jillian Tamaki

Batman: Detective Comics vol 6: Fall Of The Batmen s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Joe Bennett, various

Dark Nights: Metal – Dark Knights Rising h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke

Justice League vol 6: People Vs The Justice League s/c (Rebirth) (£12-99, DC) by Christopher Priest & Pete Woods, Philippe Briones, Marco Santucci

Trinity vol 2: Dead Space s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Cullen Bunn & various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 8: Worldwide s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, David Hein & Stuart Immonen, Cory Smith, Mike Hawthorne, Todd Nauck, Marcus To

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 8: My Best Friend’s Squirrel s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Weapon X vol 3: Modern Warfare s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Yildiray Cinar, Roland Boschi, Andrea Sorrentino

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week two

June 13th, 2018

Featuring Peter Hoey, Maria Hoey, Nick Drnaso, Erin Nations, Vero Cazot, Julie Rocheleau, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung, Sophie Campbell, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Greg Capullo, Mikel Janin, Alvaro Martinez

Coin-Op Comics Anthology h/c 1997-2017 (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Peter Hoey, Maria Hoey.

 

 

“They say that the best things in life are free, but being stuck on a videotape isn’t one of them.”

We will return to that anon, but I hope it’s introduced the requisite element of intrigue.

The finest collection of comics that I have seen since BUILDING STORIES, I rate this right up there with Chris Ware for craft, composition and complexity, but the variety of treatments is staggering, and it messes with the medium – with the very possibilities of sequential-art narrative – like nothing at all that I can recall.

 

 

And there are dozens of other contenders, I know, but the Hoeys do it in such depth, over and over again. I recall seeing their ‘Anatomy of a Pratfall’ in BEST AMERICAN COMICS, curated by Alison Bechdel in 2011 when I wrote, not very clearly so I’ve rearranged it a little:

“Six silent pages of a single street seen from the same vantage point, each page is divided into 12 separate grey and peach panels within which something significant is happening. After successive disasters strike in a domino effect you’ll want to go back and laugh yourself senseless at the window cleaner’s seemingly unfinished artistry.”

X marks the spot. And isn’t a piano always involved?

 

 

Time isn’t passing between panels in the traditional way, only between pages: the grid is used instead to focus your attention on the individual elements coming catastrophically into play.

‘Jingle In July’ and ‘The Slippery Lobster’ work in much the same way, the latter being a maritime cross-lane collision-fest which only the dolphins and storks survive, so after a few of these the opening scenarios become akin to a puzzle, a quiz or a question: an opening tableau inviting you to wonder what on earth will happen next.

 

 

Far more mischievous, however, is their most recent iteration and evolution of this game, ‘The Windy Parade’, in which there is a hell of a lot more going on. It bundles together several separate stories, many of which converge, and some of whose protagonists seem to contravene quite defiantly what we in the west consider to be the rules of reading comics (left-to-right, then down a row with a type-writer “ting!” before proceeding left-to-right once more) but it is just an illusion predicated upon the strength of long-ingrained predisposition… (pause)… apart from the very final tier in which time does indeed pass between panels, as the pigeons tell the last of their cumulatively funny jokes and, ridiculously, one of the parade’s human onlookers, oblivious to everything else, gets a good guffaw out of it.

Shall we take an inventory of that six-page story? Two different love affairs, two wallets in diverse jeopardy, two defenestrations, police pursuit, dinner and drinks, a graphic novel first pitched then being pitched out of the window, and a giant, inflatable rabbit being ravished from behind by a blown-up superhero.

 

 

If you’re a cinephile or into jazz, you’ll find this even more up your alley, for the Hoeys too are fixated on both, and are fiercely well informed. They present individual histories and portraits of jazz musicians, but when it comes to the movies they truly triumph. ‘The Trials Of Orson Welles’ features not Orson Welles himself but half a dozen fictional characters, portrayed by Orson Welles in different films, interacting.

Even more impressive, however, ‘The People vs Nicholas Ray’ is a meticulously researched snap-shot documentary of the director of ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. By cross-referencing Ray’s own proclamations with quotes from his peers and protégés like Elia Kazan, François Truggaut and Jim Jarmush, then the films’ various stars like estranged wife Gloria Grahame (why were they estranged? oh good grief!) plus Natalie Wood who went up against a vindictive Joan Crawford in ‘Johnny Guitar’, Peter and Maria form a singularly affecting insight into the director’s personal and professional direction.

“’I’m A Stranger Here Myself’ was the working title for nearly all my films.”

 

 

They also have a rich love of rhymes, and this pairing of clichés is artfully arranged on the page with their ever-present and often concentric circles, here spooling film:

“Double talk, forward leaning,
“Writers block, hidden meaning.

“Split screen, close up smile,
“The way you walk the longest mile.

“Eye line, hand in glove,
“Running time, sea of love.

“Two shot cutaway,
“Look here comes that raining day.”

When reading it, I cannot get out of my head Billy McKenzie’s dead-tone intonation during the Associates’ ‘Fever In The Shadows’ b-side, along with his female co-conspirator. No? Try Grace Jones’s dead-pan instead.

“Conspiracies” is a word I underlined three times in my notes, and although I could not begin to match Josh O’Neill’s exceptionally eloquent introduction to this album, if I were to characterise this collection further I’d choose words like circles and circuits, connections, reflections, control, contradictions and confrontations; that which lurks so substantially beneath the surface, that which lurks unseen without and beyond, collapse into chaos and that dear old chestnut, mortality.

There are two particularly poignant stories involving the extinction of obsolete automata.

 

 

‘I Built You First’, written by C.P. Freund (a journalist with decidedly recondite interests) is infused with a giddy, M.C. Escher sensibility. In it, one robot, above, repeatedly challenges its suicidal predecessor below and is each time rebutted with an insistent reminder of its precedence. Here on the first page, the challenge is issued upside down from a boat being rowed on the watery ceiling:

“You are wrecked, my dear robot (his old friend said),
“And your sensory data’s dispersed!
“What’s the shape of the world that you’ve built in your head?”
Shot the other: “I built you first”.”

As to “shot”, he’s just put a gun to his own head.

Similarly, the last line on the third page, “Snapped the other: “I suspended you first””, is issued as the android breaks its neck by hanging. It’s all pretty tight in COIN-OP.

 

 

‘Valse Mechanique’ is a less formal affair except in its dress code which is strictly black tie. A steampunk waltz as if seen on sepia film footage a century ago, it’s set in a ballroom full of robots so run down that their time has almost run out. Maria sings her final song to the assembled throng, then sacrifices her head and its constituent cogs so that the others can go on a little longer.

You’ve heard of cannibalizing a machine for spare parts…?

 

 

A couple of strips – when this landscape hardcover is folded out, it is hard to think of them in terms other than strips – the Hoeys present parallel narratives (the inner and outer life) layered in tandem along with the accompanying illustrations.

‘The Inter-Office Memo’ is where you will first come in, and it is entirely up to you how you read it: one page at a time in full, or each individual thread at a time from start to finish. The first page is surrounded by old-fashioned city skyscrapers (think Seth), while our protagonist strides through the open-office call centre, each of whose operatives being very specific about the numbers involved. Without, you will find another numbered narrative which starts off all concrete (about the workers, the interconnected office space and the building which houses it), but becomes increasingly and insidiously abstract as we move into the shadowy hidden corporate world or shell companies etc:

“25. Their unseen hands guided and shaped a seemingly disparate group of companies to the completion of their singular intention, one that still remains beyond the prying eyes of the outside world, its limits known only to its creators.”

The final numbers in the circled narrative are 27, then 3¹, 3² and 3³ – which is 27.

 

 

Meanwhile, the city begins to give way to a jungle while the endless corridors become flooded with rising water until a small boat steams by, our protagonist desperately hitches a life-saving lift, only to discover a waterfall ahead…

Please see “if I were to characterise this collection…”

 

 

Before you begin this book, you should probably be aware that the original COIN-OP comics are collected in reverse chronological order, culminating in Peter and Maria’s collaborations within the pages of the old BLAB! anthology. I mention this now, because I don’t want it to be the review’s final sentence, which I’ve already settled upon with a very self-indulgent chortle.

Finally for now, let’s return to where we came in with the recurrent, forever hapless, down-and-out dogs, Saltz & Pepz, who have found themselves trapped in a loop on a videotape. More specifically, they’ve become trapped on one of those two-person handcars you used to see so often in silent black and white films, often involving a chase in which time’s running out.

 

 

It’s called ‘Now Available On VHS’ and time is indeed running out, for although each time the tape is played they become more self-aware, they’re only becoming self-aware because the tape is degrading, and soon it will degrade so far that it snaps.

For the first three pages the top tier of narrative only alternates between two images, Saltz then Pepz pushing down to propel the handcar against a monotonously identical landscape. The endless track is identical in third tier too, obscured only when Saltz’s or Pepz’s heads pop up on the other’s push.

However, the remote appears to be losing control too, and eventually – finally after all this time of being at the mercy of outside forces they have no agency over (they’re homeless throughout the stories) – there is a tiny aperture, an opportunity for action.

 

 

SLH

Buy Coin Op Comics Anthology h/c 1997-2017 and read the Page 45 review here

About Betty’s Boob h/c (£26-99, Archaia) by Vero Cazot & Julie Rocheleau.

An exhilarating, fast-moving, heart-palpitating gala performance, I hereby fill the auditorium with thunderous applause!

Songs sung aside, it’s a largely wordless graphic novel full of exotic sights, dextrous dances and so many sounds in which Elisabeth is adopted by a creative community of burlesque cabaret artists who are as supportive and nurturing off stage as they are flamboyant, inventive and cheeky. Got to love a lyric like this:

“My love button’s poking
“Its head out for a stroking!”

That would be your gently suggested adults-only advisement, for this features a glorious amount of equal-opportunities full-frontal nudity which is absolutely essential to its celebratory message about being proud of your body.

Alas, it’ll take Elisabeth a long and emotionally tumultuous journey to get there, but get there she shall!

 

 

“If you cannot look at me anymore,
“I do not want to see you anymore!”

The beginning is blunt and quite brutal for our protagonist, who wakes up in a hospital bed, clothed in a clinical gown, her head shaved, her energy depleted, and one breast missing post-mastectomy.

 

 

Frantically searching the ward in a flurry of motion, Betty demands her old boob back.  The nipple-ringed breast is retrieved, presented to her in a gift-wrapped, ribboned box and lovingly admired by both patient and nurse. But in the box it stays, and you won’t discover its final fate until late into the graphic novel. Instead, Elisabeth is immediately determined to move on and adjust as best she can, dressing herself up smartly, applying make-up and a wig and marching her frazzled man back home. Yes, her lover has passed out in shock twice already.

 

 

Oh so positively, she dolls herself up further, while he uncorks wine, and dances twirling back into the living room, a rosy red apple popped into the cup of her bra. A tender kiss later and there’s a love-heart and laughter and everything seems to be going so much better…

 

 

But then – although there are ever so many more ups and downs yet to come – the most poignant moment for me is almost immediately afterwards, when the man, after inviting her into the bed with a reassuring pat on the sheets, kisses Elisabeth not on the lovingly presented and puckered lips, but on the forehead. Alarmed, she reaches out, but he lunges for the lamp, switches it off and rolls over, leaving her alone on the very far side of the bed.

 

 

Already the individuals’ moods have been colourfully controlled with lots of rich reds and fresh, healthy creams, but also back in the ward with queasy greens and more sickly yellows for when our male visitor becomes instead the passed-out patient, and needs to have his own blood pressure taken!

 

 

Now the graphic novel grows even more satirical, for where do you suppose she works? Elisabeth is a cashier at a parfumier which is so upmarket that its central chandelier cascades with crystals, spotlit from above. Security cameras are trained on the department floor to search out shoplifters, for sure, but so many are trained on the staff too, with close-ups on their chests, and these screens are overseen by a Cruella Deville-like lady with enormous, dangling, dollar-sign earrings. The shop assistants, meanwhile, are all decked out in t-shirts adorned by the retailer’s logo, which is a symmetrical, stylised heart as if mounted on a pedestal. This, of course, sits over their supposedly symmetrical breasts – wouldn’t you just know it? – that company’s contract stipulates that all employees must have “two boobs” (each of a certain weight!) otherwise it is “termination” time.

I wouldn’t call it too much of stretch to call this corporation somewhat superficial.

 

 

Our obsession with symmetry (I only ever had one dagger earring on the left; now one eyebrow ring instead) is part of the heart of this story. Wait until Liz’s lover returns home, the maid immediately spotting his one-sided parting and correcting it with a comb in a corridor which is improbably symmetrical in its ornaments, before presenting him to his parents! They are not amused (nor are their two dogs) for kerfuffle that causes their mirrored seating arrangements is extreme!

We’ve only just begun – Elisabeth has a lot of chaotic leaping and running round to do, initially after her wig which takes to the wing – but I’m still going to leave it there.

 

 

Golly, but there’s a lot of energy on offer, so much sweeping movement and gay abandon, from arms outstretched and tassled tits a-twisting to robes flying high and flung off, and the gesticulations during the dazzling routines are thrilling (Elisabeth’s contrastingly tentative to begin with, but once her confidence is boosted, she’ll get there). Red wine will be drunk and high heels will be kicked off, for there are far happier times ahead.

“No body is perfect, Elisabeth” is a chapter I loved dearly – if you love female forms in particular in all their diversity, you are in for a spellbinding treat – along with this sentiment towards the end:

“What are you doing now?”
“Whatever I want.”

 

 

Before we conclude, however, I highly recommend Jennifer Hayden’s autobiographical THE STORY OF MY TITS, which in spite of its most excellent title is a lot less glib than it looks. Much considered thought with some considerable scope, Hayden comes to terms with a double-mastectomy, and covers to much that led up to it and what follows.

SLH

Buy About Betty’s Boob h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sabrina (£16-99, Granta) by Nick Drnaso..

“What did you think?”
“There were some interesting ideas, but I felt empty when it was over.”
“Yeah, it was a good kind of empty feeling though, did Teddy read it?”
“Oh no, he’s not much of a reader.”

From the creator of BEVERLY which I loved and seemingly everyone else ignored – okay, it did win an L.A.  Times Book Prize, but despite that prize and my review it didn’t seem to translate into huge sales – comes a work you’re all now falling over yourselves to pick up in store and online. Amazing what a glowing review in Guardian by Chris Ware can do. Just for the record, for what it’s worth, I loved this too. Allow me to elaborate…

 

 

Firstly, that pull quote above sums up exactly how I felt when I finished. Though I don’t know anyone called Teddy, bibliophobe or otherwise. This work is an extraordinary overlapping and blending of so many fascinating ideas, issues and concepts including dealing with loss, being utterly unable to help someone deal with loss, mental illness, conspiracy theories, the seemingly uncontrollable spread of indistinguishable information and misinformation with which the internet is now saturated on mainstream news sites, on social media and in chatrooms, plus so much more besides. It’s a psychologically degrading, powerful mix that may well leave you feeling quite fatigued and perhaps a little more defenceless in face of the seemingly relentless and unpredictable insanity of the modern world. Well, that was my vibe.

 

 

But, despite feeling empty and also slightly emotionally blended myself when it was over, it was indeed a good kind of empty feeling. Though, I will categorically and emphatically restate for the record I don’t know anyone called Teddy. Actually, I do, thinking about it. He plays jazz trumpet professionally, but he doesn’t read comics. As least as far as I am aware. Which is a shame, because I think he might quite like them. Now, only I know at this point whether I am talking complete bullshit or dealing in facts*. Much like the deluge of both one receives when encountering any topic whatsoever on the internet these days. Though anything involving a degree of criminality, politics and medical advice seem particularly prone to, shall we say, wide-ranging opinions.

The empty feeling arose because I was left bemused by the ending. On the bare face of it, it is one of the most anti-climatic and perhaps unresolved endings I think I’ve ever read. The ‘perhaps’ is partly because of an ever-more sneaking suspicion I had building through the entire work was not addressed or resolved in any way. It is entirely possible, though, I had been led right up the proverbial garden path, quite deliberately so by Mr. Drnaso. Possibly paths plural. In fact, maybe even something akin to Hampton Court Maze for all I know. However, the more I reflected on it, the two-page epilogue that concludes this work was highly appropriate and probably note perfect.

 

 

The pull quote, by the way, comes from the last conversation between the titular Sabrina, domiciled in Chicago and shortly about to vanish off the face of the earth, and her younger sister Sandra. The Teddy in question is Sabrina’s boyfriend, who, rendered utterly dysfunctional, well, non-functional pretty much, in the face of her disappearance has decided to take off for Colorado to go stay with marginal childhood school friend Calvin, now in the US Air Force working at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado in some nebulous security position.

 

 

All Teddy does pretty much all day is sit around Calvin’s house whilst he’s at work, listening to talk radio, one particular conspiracy theory slinger in particular being his rabid host of choice. Calvin, meanwhile, puzzled by the placid behaviour of his almost forgotten friend, whom, frankly, he was astonished called him at all, has started surfing the internet to try and get a handle on Sabrina’s disappearance and Teddy’s sudden arrival.

When a disturbing video hits the news and the media finally learn of Teddy’s whereabouts, Calvin finds not only his apartment and online presence being targeted by the legitimate broadcast media, but also those who have already got their minds firmly made up and equally firmly closed about Sabrina’s whereabouts. And those loony tunes aren’t above a few not-so-thinly veiled threats to try and ensure the, sorry their, truth comes to light…

 

 

One of the many clever little tricks to this work, was that alongside the clearly photoshopped / edited / blatantly made-up fake news evidence that finds its way into the wider public, and our own consciousness, is that I’m sure I spotted some odd inconsistencies amongst the supposed verified facts. It set me thinking, and kept me thinking, that I knew what was really happening. Right up until that ending…

In some ways, Calvin, grappling with being apart from his estranged wife and child in Florida and whether to take some covert black ops job he’s apparently a shoe-in for if he wants it, is the main character. He is our appointed representative in this world, with direct insight into Teddy’s very small one. Which is a very strange, and at times, very strained place to be. But once Calvin starts coming under direct electronic attack from the trolls, he finds his own peace of mind rapidly frazzling too. By the time the pre-ending ending rolled around, I was actually far more engaged in hoping Calvin got a happy ending than Teddy. Well, he gets an ending… And this is yours.

JR

Buy Sabrina and read the Page 45 review here

Gumballs s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Erin Nations.

“My face has exploded in zits. I haven’t been this zitty since I was thirteen.”
“Let’s play connect the dots! At least let me drawn some constellations. I think I see Orion on your cheek.”

Helpfully, that playful observation came from the creator’s cat.

Erin Nations is a very funny guy!

He also has that knack for recalling absurd interactions which can only leave you scratching your head.  Sometimes he’s stopped in the middle of the street by complete randos who appear compelled to draw him into the sort of conversations you never asked for, debates you don’t want, and a barrage of personal questions you most certainly didn’t invite. Against all odds, Erin answers with a degree of bemused courtesy and restraint that they don’t deserve.

“The devil…”
“What?”
“The devil knows where you are going.”
“What are you implying?”
“The devil… he knows… prayer helps…”
“Good to know.”

 

 

Often they’re with customers at the grocery store where he’s worked in for 16 years.

“Can I get 24 balloons?”
“Yeah, what colours would you like?”
“Primary colours. Don’t forget orange and green.”

As Erin slightly more wryly observes, the customer always know best. 16 years of 40-hours-a-week experience does not make you an expert – or even 25+. I remember a media student kindly informing me that Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS wasn’t a comic.

“Umm, it honestly is.”
“No, it’s autobiography.”
“I think you’re confused the medium with the genre.”
“Well, I’m studying it, so I should know.”

 

 

Peppered with fictional, speculative portraits of people posting personal ads, and the equally fictional poor, gay Tobias attempting to strike up conversations with dreamboats (badly – his proposed pick-up methods / messages are hilarious!), these are mostly autobiographical musings with clean, sharp lines, invitingly cool, bright, breezy colours and remarkably square jaws. Some of the memories are about being born a triplet (invited to a birthday party, they’re expected to each give a gift; when inviting a friend themselves, they only receive one present between the three of them), others are daily cycling journeys round Portland or trips further afield.

Mostly, however, they’re about anxieties in general like the crippling paralysis before picking up a phone and social awkwardness in a crowd (so into Page 45’s ever-expanding Mental Health Section this so usefully goes; no one need think they’re alone), and about so many of the all-too-real additional difficulties involved in being trans and the process of transitioning itself.

 

 

As such, it’s an invaluable eye-opener about so much that so many of us take for granted including restrooms, obviously, but far less obviously when the best time is to come out to your colleagues when you’ve worked with the same company for so many years. Before you begin? Before they notice? After they’ve noticed? It’s equally invaluable reference for those who’ve yet to begin this process, for in additional Erin is commendably candid about what to expect physically and mentally during Hormone Replacement Therapy, taking you through the first seven weeks, then later the first seven months. Without removing his clothes (“It’s just not gonna happen”).

“How do you feel?”
“I feel like I’m going through menopause and puberty at the same time.”

Ooooh, you get to do spots twice in your life – lovely! Hey, no pain, no gain, and there is everything to gain here, especially decreasing dysphoria. Responsibly, Erin considers the potential long-term effects testosterone could have on his health, but there are enormous benefits too including an almost immediate energy boost and an increased sex drive as well as a gradual surge in self-confidence. I’ll leave all the details to Erin: he’d probably like you to buy his book.

Some people are going to be dicks about it – haters gonna hate – but there’s a glorious short story called ‘Dive Bar’ in a dinner where an old lady with hunched shoulders, serving Erin and his mate, asks for ID. Erin’s is a driving licence still categorically classifying him “sex: F”.

“You cut your hair,” the old lady observes.
“Yeah.”
“So, what can I get you gentlemen?”

 

 

 

She totally got it, but in other instances, not so much: a woman on a bus is just plain weird and spoiling for a fight, while someone wizened, on a walking stick, begins thus:

“You’re not a guy, are you?”
“Why do you ask?”
“That guy was calling you sir.”
“Yeah.”
“I guess it’s none of my business.”

Hmmm…. Maybe you should have had that last thought first.

Other tales include failing to fit in at a comicbook convention simply because you’ve never having seen Star Wars (a fellow comics creator: “You should leave.” “I made sure to not tell them that I’ve never read Harry Potter, I’m clueless about anime, and I’m not a fan of superhero comics.”), plus childhood recollections about the triplets fighting (I had entirely forgotten about carpet burns!) and a seemingly haunted board game called Mall Madness (you’d be pretty spooked too).

There is, understandably, an awful lot of terrible, pained handwringing about using gender-specific public restrooms and indeed workplace restrooms when you’ve yet to come out, and if you’ve not considered how profoundly that would impact on your life, think about how often you urinate every day! Imagine, then, all the worry you’d experience, daily, in anticipation, during and after.

 

 

I want to emphasise, however, that this is no heavy read full of targeted anger but an honest-to-god entertainment along with astute behavioural observations which are seriously worth contemplating. Plus I adore any work which opens windows onto other people’s lives for the greater empathy through understanding they afford me. Lord knows, we need more of that in this world. But also, I’m instinctively curious which is why conversation is right up there for me with the best things on earth.

I won’t lie to you, though: ‘Breakroom’ hit home. As Erin later notes, “I try to call people out when they treat women (or anyone marginalised) as inferior. It’s not easy because it’s uncomfortable, but being silent is just as bad as being compliant”. No, it’s not always easy, especially when you risk compromising yourself in a battle you’re not yet quite fit to fight, so ‘Breakroom’ – when Erin fails to stand up and be counted after a co-worker proves deeply insensitive, not knowing that Erin’s transitioning – will give you much pause for hopefully compassionate thought.

SLH

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

Snotgirl vol 2: California Screaming (£14-50, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung.

“They don’t trust me to be on my own.”

If you got a slight shiver there, and a lick of whiplash at the arresting end to book one, this pursues this increasingly dark path further; and if you thought that the manipulative Caroline, above, was the real problem, then I’m no longer so sure.

I believe, in that scene, that she’s been sedated. It’s all in Leslie Hung’s art: in normally effusive Caroline’s more languid body language. Plus those particular pages seem to swim in the sort of colour quality you’d find refracted and reflected throughout an aquarium.

Are you wondering who “they” may be?

What I’m attempting to convey is that this series isn’t necessarily all that it appears on the surface.

 

 

Its surface is shiny enough – let’s call it magazine gloss – and vastly entertaining it is too with its up-to-date take on superficial social trends and ridiculous slang which SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA’s Bryan Lee O’Malley delights in contributing to. When introducing the various strands of your extracurricular life to each other, for example, you’re practising “friendtegration”, and this is the sort of set who never phone, only text each other (even from the other side of plate glass windows), and proclaim “We have a mutual” rather than “We have a mutual acquaintance”.

They’ll be going to a self-serving convention called Thankstravaganza soon, built on the same site where a fashion blogger was recently murdered. Well, she’s not going to take that lying down.

 

 

I’ll be back on that track in a second. In the meantime, here’s how I introduced SNOTGIRL VOL 1: GREEN HAIR DON’T CARE

This is the sort of comic in which the line “Ok, back to reality” will have you snorting at its delusion. It’s fresh, full of fun, and has more jokes per page than anything other than a John Allison comic.

Meet Lottie Person, who seems so serene on the surface.

“I’m fresh. I’m fun. It’s just who I am.”

A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect.

Her fans are devoted (she knows).
Her blogs are the best (she believes).
And that goes without saying (she blasés).
New verb!

“Except my friends are all horrible people.
“And my boyfriend decided we’re on a break.
“And oh yeah -”

OH NO!

“I have allergies.”

Also: huge hang-ups, such a thick catalogue of insecurities that it would need indexing, and a public veneer to sustain which is very high maintenance during any substantial pollen count.

 

 

 

It was (and continues to be) roaringly good fun, but then Caroline crept spellbindingly into her life and Lottie became fixated. There was an accident – which might have had something to do with Lottie’s trial run of a new anti-allergenic medication – and then there was another – which most certainly didn’t. It wasn’t even an accident. Caroline pushed Lottie’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, Charlene, off the top of a roof terrace.

TBH she was being ever so annoying, LOLZ.

But someone else was there too on both occasions.

It’s Caroline’s brother or cousin, depending on whom you believe, and in volume two Virgil is positively ubiquitous.

 

 

 

There’s a very funny recurring joke about Virgil scurrying around on the floor to mop up any spilled coffee as if he’s Caroline’s butler…

“I am not!”

She spills coffee once again; Virgil flashes forward to clean.

Caroline, hand cupped around mouth conspiratorially: “His word against mine”.

… but predominantly Virgil’s ministrations are far more sinister, like dipping into a wallet left in a sports hall’s changing locker to acquire Lottie’s ex-boyfriend’s I.D.

 

 

Lottie’s ex-boyfriend is called Sunny. He’s pretty buff. Lottie’s fashion-friend Meg has a new fiancé called Ashley. He’s pretty brash, boastful, loud and lewd. Fidelity score: 1 of out 10 (if you’re being generous). He’s already brandished his zord in front of Lottie at his and Meg’s engagement party; now he’s quite keen, all sweaty post-squash-match, to show off his zord to Sunny. He snaps a cell-phone photo of the two of them together and posts it so swiftly online that a bewildered Sunny doesn’t even have time to draw breath. He does, however, spot Virgil lurking in the photograph’s background.

Sunny: “Was there a delivery guy in here?”
Ashley: “Why? You expecting a package? …Cuz I got one right here! Haha! It’s huge! C’mon, let’s hit the showers.”

 

 

They get into a rough-and-tumble altercation in the sauna during which both their towels fall off, only interrupted at the last minute by another of Lottie’s obsessive stalkers, a cop.( Let’s not get into any of that, but you could file him under “fashion police”.) Catching his breath, Ashley apologises ever so breezily:

“I’m sorry, dude! No hard feelings, man!”
Hard feelings? What’s up with your zord?!?”

Have you worked out what his zord is yet? It’s standing to attention. I couldn’t possibly publish Ashley’s excuse. Virgil might wish he’d lingered longer, however.

 

 

It’s all so deliciously and comically homoerotic, Leslie Hung proving herself to be a master of both priapic pixilation and but also tight buttocks fully on show. I’d have typed “tight, rosy buttocks” but would have looked far too fixated myself. (I was.)

 

 

The question is this, however: who wants what? Not just in the shower or sauna, but throughout:  who is manipulating whom, why, and to what end? Who is in on it? Who is out of it?

Well, almost all of them if you’re talking about their skulls, drugged up in the desert during the cover’s sapphic photo-shoot.

Again, what I am attempting to convey in this review which only dips its tentative toes into the series’ much more substantial and murky waters is that this is no mere comedy of manners. And hey, I love me a comedy of manners! In such a dexterously performed piece such as this, that would be quite enough to satisfy my soul.

But this is a much more open-air theatre with additional, decidedly closed confines which I suspect will only open up its other stalls when [You’re fired – ed.]

SLH

Buy Snotgirl vol 2: California Screaming and read the Page 45 review here

Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

The darkest hours aren’t necessarily at midnight.

GHOST WORLD for goths with pvc, piercings and hair dye – that’s how WET MOON started out: an empathic exploration of the uneasy friendships between a group of hesitant, second-guessing, slightly paranoid girls at college, and a celebration of their far-from-standard body forms with the silkiest, most tender of art. Over five previous volumes those friendships have expanded and blossomed or withered and died. Some have shared secrets, as do more here.

But all along there were intimations of heart-ache and horror lurking beneath the surface, as if something was simmering in the swamp all around them, and then someone they never noticed stewing within. In WET MOON VOL 5 she finally erupted, her seething psychosis taken out on one of those friends in act of extreme violence which made everyone I know truly wince.

This is the emotional fall-out, and it’s handled with all the depth it deserves.

 

 

So many other creators would have cut all too quickly to the chase – the pursuit of the culprit concerned – but that’s not what happens in real life. Instead they are left dazed, bewildered by a butchery they could never see coming and still, throughout, oblivious to its source. All they care about is their friend. She’s the only person who knows who did it, and I’m afraid she’s deep in a coma.

 

 

Six volumes in, I have to be ever so careful what I say, but I hope I’ve intrigued potential new readers. I love this series so much that I’ve reviewed every volume and this isn’t my best shot, I know.

Everyone handles grief differently, unpredictably, depending on where they are right then in their lives. Sophie Campbell has entirely understood that. Her humanity and sympathy leaps from every page. No one is judged, and as they struggle to console each other whilst needing consolation themselves, we wait for our woman to wake up. Will she?

 

 

“I hate this waiting, Mara. Waiting an’ waiting for somethin’ to happen. Takes so much energy.”

Lots of lingering silence and exceptional use of clothing…

 

 

Once again, this is far from predictable. Not everyone wears their true hearts on their sleeves.

SLH

Buy Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (New Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Mikel Janin, Alvaro Martinez…

“Whoa. Big door. Vic, I’m sending you over the image…”
“Got it, Barry. I’ve run it over a thousand times already. But it keeps coming up unknown…”

Said big door being on the entrance to the hidden bunker in the centre of the huge mountain that has just materialised in the middle of Gotham City… destroying most of the city centre, sky scrapers and all…

Long-time DC fans will immediately recognise it as the base of the Challengers Of The Unknown, who these days work for… ah, well that would be telling. I enjoyed how Snyder weaved in all sorts of DC history into this tale right from the off, be it references to individual bat-books such as BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE written by Grant Morrison, or lesser-used third-string characters like the C.O.T.U.

 

 

It is a bit weird having to remember in this current version of the DC Universe that the Justice League has no idea who the Challengers are yet (Batman aside, obviously, being his usual know-it-all self). I think there was also a very odd, brief-lived, New 52 incarnation involving reality TV ‘stars’ as the Challengers if the memory serves.

Anyway, DC never particularly worried about re-writing their history with the various Crises and other events over the years. There are also a couple of much more familiar characters who crop up in this issue too, who will be very well known to even casual DC readers. If not the Justice League, yet…

 

 

So… following on from events in the Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting one-shots, now collected with a host of relevant reprinted New 52 issues in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL, something not so fun and cuddy from… elsewhere… is on the way, apparently being drawn to this reality in some strange way by Bruce Wayne, who could actually do with a good cuddle, so that’s a shame.

There’s a nifty and amusing explanation involving a certain poster of the New 52 Multiverse (also thrown in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL as back matter) that probably graced more than a few comic shop walls a few years back which sheds an absence of light on the situation, and that’s probably all I should really say by way of plot explanation at the moment.

I was, and still am, perplexed by the prologue battle that will titillate fans of enormous, transforming Japanese robots… I’m still oblivious as to precisely what wider purpose that served. I commented in my review of the first issue that this event had the potential to get completely preposterous, but hopefully Snyder could keep it on track. He did, just about, but only just.

 

 

There are a few conceits in there that test the old suspense of disbelief, it must be said. It’s certainly big, convoluted, bombastic fun, though, and truly an infinite number of times better than the crisis of writing that was CONVERGENCE. I think I can safely rank this up there with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and FINAL CRISIS in pure madcap superhero event enjoyment terms.

Capullo, meanwhile, continues to dish out his impressive linework. He and Snyder, the team primarily responsible for the BATMAN DC NEW 52 run, are excellent foils for each other. If as a writer you are going to try and cram in that much action, you do need someone that can deliver clean, precise mayhem.

JR

Buy Dark Nights: Metal h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Cloud Hotel (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw

The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship s/c (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham

Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Heart And The Bottle (£6-99, HarperCollins) by Oliver Jeffers

This Moose Belongs To Me (£6-99, HarperCollins) by Oliver Jeffers

It Will All Hurt (£16-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple

Rumble vol 4: Soul Without Pity s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

The Beauty vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley & Matthew Dow Smith, Thomas Nachlik

Luisa: Now And Then (£22-99, Humanoids) by Carole Maurel, adapated by Mariko Tamaki

Madame Cat (£9-99, Humanoids) by Nancy Pena

Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Clement Baloup

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Duncan Fegredo, Mick McMahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth, James Sinclair, Clem Robins, Pat Brosseau

A Quick & Easy Guide To They / Them Pronouns (£6-99, Limerence Press) by Archie Bongiovanni, Tristan Jimerson

Flash vol 6: Cold Day In Hell s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Michael Moreci & Howard Porter, Scott Kolins, Mick Gray, Pop Mahn, Christian Duce, Scott McDaniel

DC / Young Animal: Milk Wars s/c (£16-99, DC / Young Animals) by Steve Orlando, Gerard Way, Jody Houser, Cecil Castellucci, Jon Rivera, Magdalene Visaggio &  Aco, Ty Templeton, Mirka Andolfo, Langdon Foss, Dale Eaglesham, Nick Derigton, Sonny Liew

Defenders vol 2: Kingpins Of New York s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Micheal Avon Oeming

Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart vol 2: Choices s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli, various

Dark Souls Covers Collection (£26-99, Titan) by various

The Beautiful Death h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Mathieu Bablet

Voices Of A Distant Star (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Mizu Sahara

 

 

 

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