Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week two

December 12th, 2018

Featuring Lizz Lunney, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Charles Vess, Zidrou, Edith, Joe Latham, Garth Ennis, Darrick Robertson, Stan Lee, John Romita Sr.

Die #1 (£3-25, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans.

“… Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t say.”

“Wait… where’s her arm? What happened to you?”
“I… I can’t say.”

“It’s been twenty-seven years, Dominic. Please. After all this time, show a mother some mercy. I have no hope. I just want to bury Solomon before they bury me.”
“I can’t… say… anything.”

Construe Dominic’s exact words how you will, but those of you who’ve read Alexis Deacon’s GEIS may have a better clue than most.

Like MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES’ Ed Brubaker, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen is a master at directing a gripping tease of a trailer, here splicing Stephanie Hans’ sequential art to deliver something sharp, slick and guaranteed to make you shiver.

Rather than typing out something less skilled, therefore, I present you instead with that very visual trailer below or, if you’re reading this in the comicbook’s product page, to your right.

All I will only add – because it’s come up on the shop floor – that Kieron himself has already succinctly summarised the plot’s premise as ‘Goth Jumanji’. But you know what Kieron’s like: he’ll give you flippant, off-the -cuff distillations (so that you can make easily arrived-at associations) when he knows full well that what he has contrived is infinitely richer and broader in scope.

 

 

 

 

You’ve read the trailer, then…? Excellent!

So yes, two years after they first disappeared, five of the six role-players reappeared minus one arm and their games master, Solomon, he who had taken the single 20-sided die to play with himself. Obvious questions were asked. Where had they been? What had happened? And where was Solomon?

But… they couldn’t say.

Brilliantly, after but two pages we immediately flash-forward another 25 years to the point where the former sixteen-year-olds are now all over forty. Some have married, some have divorced and one at least has found a certain degree of commercial success. Dominic and his sister Angela, not so much: they are tired, battle-wearied, and Stephanie Hans excels at depicting their exhaustion then the varying degrees or trepidation or congratulation when the five are forced once more to meet up.

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

The subsequent page outside the pub is one of Hans’ most accomplished of so very many. The light at night emanating from the street lamps and closed retail outlets still blasting out come-look-at-me-luminosity cascades through the deluge onto the rain-soaked stone, and there is so much red carried over from the previous page’s blood-bathed die. In spite of all that occurs later on, it is the most violent page in the comic, as Dominic attempts to [redacted]

 Both impressionistic and expressionistic, it is a scene that will stay for you forever.

Likewise, I believe, a panel which I thankfully do have for you, but which I will decline from putting into any context whatsoever.

 

 

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

Once more, a reminder that red features prominently.

But wait until you see what’s become of the celestial body that is this Earth’s spherical globe! Now that is a moment of pictorial genius.

I leave those of you reading Page 45’s Weekly Reviews Blog with the first eight pages of what is undoubtedly going to be this year’s most epic new release. Sales have so far exceeded any other first issue’s here, and we’re only one week in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLH

Buy Die #1 and read the Page 45 review here

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00) by Lizz Lunney…

“Did you like the food I cooked yesterday?”
“Of course. I told you I liked it yesterday.”
“So you liked the meal, but you didn’t like the photo I put online of it??”
“WHAT?”
“78 other people liked it.”
“Does it matter?”
“A bit of public appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.”

Haha, Janet and Jason are two rabbits who go at it with a passion. ‘It’ being arguing – what did you think I was referring to? Frequently (anti-)social media or some other element of the online world will be the root cause of their endless bickering. Whether that’s having a pop at each other over who is the most photogenic (online, obviously), every aspect of holidays in general, drinking preposterously priced, pretentious Brazilian coffee, almost attending art exhibitions and, last but not least, their social (media) rivalry with ‘best friends’ Maureen and Tony, two cats who are just as obsessed with keeping up their online appearances as Janet and Jason. Who, I have to say, feel like a much gentler, considerably saner, but no less amusing version of those dairy products gone bad themselves, MILK AND CHEESE. It’s just got that same deliciously mildly mean edge to it.

 

 

Indeed, this is so, so acutely, and indeed cutely, socially and satirically well observed, it’s almost like it might be partially based on personal experience… Surely not, though. I couldn’t imagine our lovely Lizz tongue-lashing anyone! Although with that said I note on the inner back cover there is a dedication…

“For Wilm, I know you like to think this isn’t based on us, but, it is. XXX”

Haha, well in that case… I want to know who Maureen and Tony are… as probably do most of Lizz and Wilm’s mates!!

I think we must still be in Lizz’s good books, though, because each first interior page has the following conversation between our undynamic duo hand-scribed to complete the scene of one of them bellowing at the phone-in-hand inattentive other…

“I just want a new comicbook!”
“Fine. We’ll go to Page 45.”

JR

Buy #Instabunnies (Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith…

“To be honest, Mister Hansen… I’d imagined Lapland… differently.”
“Ha! Ha! Welcome to Kautokeino!”
“In winter temperatures can fall below -40°C, whereas in summer they frequently climb close to 25°C. Take into account the ten thousand lakes scattered in the region… and you’ll understand why the mosquitoes have made this their place of choice.”
“Ten thousand? To top it all someone amused themselves counting them all?!”

I suspect the titular Emma G. Wildford, as game, nay redoubtable as she is, might be starting to suspect her expedition up to the nether regions of the Arctic Circle could be a little bit harder than she previously thought…

 

 

Here’s a telegram from the publisher to tell all, as handed to me by a very smartly dressed footman who of course I dismissed with a snobbish wave of my aristocratic hand…

Actually, I got it off the internet. Well, I got my butler to do it, but you know what I mean… He’ll read it out for you now…

“Journey back in time to the roaring twenties, and across England and Lapland, to experience the charming and thrilling adventure of Emma G. Wildford, a tale that mixes mystery, grand adventure, and love.

It’s been fourteen months since Emma G. Wildford’s fiancé, Roald Hodges, a member of the National Geographic Society boarded the good ship Kinship and set sail for Norway… and she has had no news of him since. Every day, she questions the other members of the Society about his whereabouts, and his current situation, whether good or ill, but to no avail.

Before he left, Roald gave Emma a mysterious envelope to open, but only in case something happened to him. Rejecting the very thought of Roald’s death, Emma decides to leave behind everything – her life, her comfort, her England, to go to Lapland in pursuit.

 

 

Along the way, Emma’s certainties and beliefs will be challenged in every way, changing this quest for her fiancé into a quest for her true, essential self. Beautifully illustrated and rivetingly written, Emma G. Wildford is a character that will imprint herself on your mind and memory forever!”

Thank you, Jeeves.

Yes, expect adventure aplenty as Emma treks to furthest reaches of the planet in search of her missing love! But also an endearing character who despite believing she knows everything about herself is indeed about to embark on a voyage of profound self-discovery. That course she’s so carefully charted in life… well… she’s not going to end up where she expects!

It is indeed also beautifully illustrated in a suitably tasteful manner, from the blue and gold Art Deco front and back endpapers and their flyleaves, through to the period feel of the gently quirky artwork style and slightly subdued yet rich colour palette.

 

 

Edith, who did an equally enchanting adaptation of the classic TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, perfectly captures the feel of the roaring twenties with the fashions and looks of the time. I found myself rather captivated by Ms. Wildford and her story which is both sensitively and sensationally penned by Zidrou.

 

 

I’ll not spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say, it is one which took several minutes after I had closed the cover to fully sink in with me. But when I did, it made me smile a great deal.

JR

Buy Emma G. Wildford h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Charles Vess, Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess.

Ah, such bucolic beauty!

Specifically old woodland and all those ancient forests of which we have since been denuded!

You might want to check out Tim Bird’s magical, lyrical THE GREAT NORTH WOOD for that.

The rustic idyll where man and woman can join hands in partaking of the beauty of nature, fill their hearts with love, their lungs with sweet fresh air, and feel the breeze sweep softly through their so recently washed, fragrant hair.

Or, as folklore would have it: where they’ll be robbed, raped and cursed for all eternity.

Charles Vess (SANDMAN, STARDUST and FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL etc), master of gnarled, knotted trees illustrates a variety of myths, often in verse, which overwhelmingly conjure up a landscape haunted by tricksters, shape-shifters and other assorted demons.

But enough about the British Countryside Alliance.

 

 

Powerful! Majestic! Heart-rending!

Fated – and of course fêted too!

 

 

 

Black and white, I hasten to add, with some excellent lettering, this is perfect for autumnal evening reading with a bottle of Burgundy, snuggled up by the fire.

I know it’s now December, but that works equally well.

 

 

I promise you that on the boiled-up, seasoned, then reduced coulis of my grandmother’s plump and once-beating heart.

SLH

Buy The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Winter, I Am Blight (£5-00) by Joe Latham…

“I travel by night,
“I revel in pestilence,
“And cherish in spite,
“For I am winter, I am blight!”

Joe Latham, creator of the triple treasure trove that is THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN returns with a meditation on the meanness of most people’s least favourite season. Yes, yes, I know we all love a good crisp, sunny winter’s day, the odd slippery slope or two of sledging shenanigans and building snowmen who look like they could do to go on a diet, and yes, Christmas is usually good entertainment value. But let’s be honest, we’re all really just impatiently shivering through January and February waiting for Spring to arrive.

Here Joe gives voice to Winter itself, in all its curmudgeonly, creeping cruelty. Fortunately that’s offset by the beautiful landscapes and nature he lays out for us: the chirpy birds, tall pine forests, wide mountain ranges and running rivers. But… as Winter attempts to take charge and crush the spirit of natural life under its cold covers, we soon mercifully see it isn’t going to have it all its own way…

 

 

Part of a limited one-off print run on uncoated recycled paper, which as Joe comments, “…so it feels nice…” which it really does, I have to say, with a very slight velvety, moleskine feel to it, there will be no second chance to pick this up. It’s a seasonal purchase! So do act quick because they’re sure to be gone in a flash. Unlike Winter…

JR

Buy I Am Winter, I Am Blight and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson.

Back in print in time for the prime-time TV series…

“Unadulterated carnage”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, cheers.

From the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER MAX and WAR STORIES and the artist on Warren Ellis’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN comes a darkly satirical series of ten adults-only books from the POV of a Machiavellian British bruiser who is exceedingly angry at everything regarding the nature of above-the-law superheroes, their suffocating male hegemony, and their history of publication along with the genre’s real-life, attendant, corporate propaganda.

Writer and comedian Simon Pegg provides the introduction in which he offers the experience that, as an actor, you rarely switch on the TV to find yourself starring in a series you hadn’t performed for. Errrmmm… will he, now that this has been commissioned for that very medium? He could probably name his price.

I mention all this because Simon Pegg – or rather a character with his exact likeness – is the star of this particular sequential-art show in which his love-life( or the love of his life) is quite literally torn apart by a couple of squabbling super-freaks in the first few pages.

Great timing, that panel, but I’ll leave you to see its exceptional execution for yourselves.

 

 

 

This makes him easy pickings for Billy Butcher, a man with a mission to bring down the high-and-mighty but secretly down-and-dirty super-thugs and super-sluts who enjoy the adulation of millions along with the support of the authorities, yet whose team leaders like The Homelander emotionally and sexually abuse their fresher female and indeed male cohorts.

Together with The Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, The Female and Wee Hughie (the naive Pegg-alike), Billy Butcher embarks on his first new mission to covertly film a team of teens in the all-together, doing the unmentionable.

Billy Butcher’s not going to expose them, though. Not in the way that they expose themselves. He’s going to blackmail them into self-destructing in mass-media public. It’s about making these nasty, hypocritical, conceited celebrities with their polished media profiles squirm and turn on each other.

So it’s still rather topical, I would have thought.

 

 

 

 

Little is left to the imagination as both Garth and Ennis trawl through an A-to-Z of what Wertham worried about, and which Marvel and DC have never allowed to be shown in superhero comics. It’s little surprise, therefore, that DC – originally slated to publish THE BOYS – dropped this title. The only astonishing thing is that it took them so long.

It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the lascivious relish is infectious, and you wait to see what happens when The Boys start climbing the ladder to take on the equivalent of the Justice League of America.

Now they won’t go down so easily – except on each other. 

SLH

Buy The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr. with Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Marie Severin.

“Face it, tiger…
“You just hit the jackpot!”

Oh yes, that immortal line is first uttered here by the beaming ray of beatnik sunshine that is Mary Jane Watson.

For several issues Peter’s been swooning over Gwen Stacy whilst sweating it over Aunt May’s constantly proposed but perpetually postponed introduction her friend Anna Watson’s niece, Mary Jane, whom he’s convinced will turn out to be a wallflower, a dud.

Err, no.

She’s drop-dead gorgeous, up for some action and in marked contrast to the rest of the cast here she doesn’t worry about how she’s perceived, nor does she second-guess other people’s motives.

 

 

Speaking of which, one forgets how accurately Stan Lee used to nail neuroses. I don’t mean the melodrama of “What’s wrong with me? I’ve defeated some of the most powerful supervillains of all time – without batting an eye! But why do I have such trouble – just managing my own life…?”, I mean the little things like conversations that become unusually and unexpectedly awkward, stilted, and difficult to engage in as Peter’s does with former flame Betty Brant. They haven’t seen each other in ages and the connection is gone, Peter groaning his way through a casual cup of coffee, fully aware that neither of them is comfortable.

This is the point where I first came on board through the Marvel UK black and white prints, spoiled on John Romita Sr.’s contemporarily hip art and MJ’s ludicrously hip dialogue:

“I never thought a tiger who wore his hair so short could be so dreamy! And you’ve got a bouncin’ bike too! Dad – you’re the end!”

 

 

Plus, this era boasted some of the most exquisite cover compositions in Marvel’s history. #50 in particular is that classic portrait of Peter walking towards us, face-down in dejection as above him looms the back-turned spectre of the Spider-Man identity he’s given up for good.

You might have seen this paid tribute to, expertly, by Sean Phillips on his cover of KILL OR BE KILLED #20.

 

 

 

Issues #42, #43, #45 and #46 boast perfectly arranged and thrillingly dynamic one-on-one confrontations between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson’s son, then the Rhino, the Lizard and the Shocker, respectively. And although the adult in me is no longer that interested in superhero fist-fights – I’m more about the relationships – John Romita Sr. manages to find a surprising variety of ways to choreograph them, even if throughout these early years a bizarre proportion end in the death of a brick chimney.

Famously, of course, one will later end with the death of a central character buried beneath a brick chimney… and an avalanche of deeply unnecessary explosion.

 

 

 

It’s also refreshing to see how smoothly some single stories flow through into each other over the course of several issues, one event catalysing another: J. Jonah Jameson’s son is exposed to space spores bringing about his first but not last transformation (roughly 150 or so issues later he becomes a moonstone-metamorphosed werewolf!); the Rhino kidnaps him so that the spores can be analysed by foreign military scientists; then Peter seeks help from scientist Dr. Curt Connors to dissolve the Rhino’s hide and Curt Connors once more transforms into the Lizard.

 

 

 

There’s a lot of J.J.J. Junior on offer, whilst his dad struts about furiously, impotently, puffing on his cigar and glowering around like a manically mardy Groucho Marx:

“That blasted wall-crawler sabotaged your capsule himself, in order to make everyone think he’s a hero by later saving you!”
Dad! Who told you such a ridiculous story?”
Nobody! I made it up!”

Spoken like a true tabloid journalist! And I didn’t make it up. If the Daily Bugle ever stops parping, Jonah would fit like a glove onto a poisonous appendage or the Daily Fail.

Anyway, as we kick off, Romita takes the artistic helm from Ditko just in time for the so-far substantial Green Goblin sub-plot to burst wide-open, and covers don’t come much more iconic than #39’s in which plain-clothes Peter, his Spider-Man top and tights exposed for the whole world to sea underneath his torn shirt and trousers, is dragged through the air against an azure sky, arms bound to his side, the very essence of helplessness in spite of his virile frame.

 

 

As a superhero artist you couldn’t make a more immediate first impression, and in that single issue alone Peter finally bonds for life with Harry Osborn when his father Norman pushes him away, Peter’s secret is exposed right outside the house where Aunt May is convalescing, and we finally find out after months of wondering who the Green Goblin himself is. It might have come as a shock to Ditko purists, Romita’s faces and frames being far sturdier affairs, but to my mind it’s precisely what the title needed at the time, fleshing out Ditko’s seemingly limitless imagination with the weight of Romita’s forms.

Finally, also included is Spider-Man’s famous audition for membership in the Avengers wherein Captain America sends him out to capture the Hulk, and the Wasp brings all her customary wits to bear on assessing his potential as a team-mate objectively, scientifically and with good grace:

“I vote no! I hate anything to do with spiders!”

For more nostalgic nonsense from silly old me, please see my more satirical (yet ever so fond) reviews of AVENGERS EPIC and FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC and SPIDER-MAN EPIC collections.

This one was relatively serious!

SLH

Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More 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’

Giant Days: Early Registration s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison

Invisibles Book 4 (£19-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & various

The Metabaron Book 3: The Meta-Guardianess & The Techno-Baron h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parallel Lives (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen

Spectrum vol 25 s/c (£24-99, Flesk) by various

The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jose Ladronn

Wilson h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes

Flash vol 8: Flash War s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Scott Kolins, Howard Porter

Amazing Spider-Man vol 9: Worldwide s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott &  various

Star Wars vol 9: Hope Burns (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Cullen Bunn & Salvador Larroca, various

X-Men: Gambit – Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, various & various

Coyote vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ranmaru Zariya

My Hero Academia vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Platinum End vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week one

December 5th, 2018

Featuring Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Noah Van Sciver, Charles Forsman, Sarah McIntyre, Brian Wood, Mack Chater, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Keiji Nakazawa, Kara Leopard, Kelly Matthews

The Highest House s/c (£22-99, IDW) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross…

“What are you?”
“One of the old powers. Though only the Lady is allowed to call herself a god these days.”
“But… you’re magic?”
“Magic is only a word. But yes, if you like.”
“And you’ll do anything I ask?”
“Anything. If you’ll swear to free me after.”
“I want my sister’s eyes not to close over.”
“That’s easy.”
“I want to know things. All the things in Magister Extat’s books.”
“Very well.”
“And I want all the slaves to be free.”
“Ah, now you meddle with matters much too big for you.”
“You said anything!
“I did. But…”
“Well that’s what I want!”
“Very well. I do not yet know how, but we will do this thing. Now kneel. Kneel and make my sign, as I taught you. You are mine, Moth. I am yours. And oh, what great mischief we will make together.”

 

 

Oh so cleverly crafted, slightly fantastical fiction, gorgeously illustrated with flourishes of Baroque brilliance, that is right up there with the likes of MONSTRESS, ISOLA, HEATHEN and BY CHANCE OR BY PROVIDENCE. Here is the scurrilous scroll from the scribes’ slave masters to tell us more…

“To be born a slave is in fact not a fatality. And facts can be changed. In the country of Ossaniul, there is a fortress that is as disproportionate as it is inaccessible: the Highest House. Its masters, the noble family of Aldercrest, reign over a veritable army of slaves. At the bottom of the ladder, young Moth performs the most thankless tasks and has little hope of living past childhood. Until the day he meets Obsidian, a mysterious prisoner of the House who whispers to him in his sleep. If Moth does what he asks, Obsidian will give him fortune and glory. And there’s every indication that Obsidian can make good on his promises. Will Moth accept the offer?

Through a subtle alternate history, The Highest House takes us to a fictional country reminiscent of the Balkan kingdoms of the 16th century. Mike Carey and Peter Gross (LUCIFER / THE UNWRITTEN) draw from this context a captivating fantasy narrative that reflects on the human soul, the corrupting power of slavery, and the inequalities of class, all from the different perspectives of the House’s many inhabitants. Both immediate and timeless, Highest House is a multifaceted fantasy sure to stay with readers long after the final page has turned.”

 

 

Except… this is merely part one!! Well, that’s what the final page says… This was always billed as a six-issue series, collected here in an album-sized extravaganza, reuniting the creative team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I must also mention cover artist Yuko Shimizu, who did all the fabulous covers for this work and also over 70 similarly amazing covers for THE UNWRITTEN.

As a complete aside I have just learnt the mildly amazing fact that Shimizu’s roommate when she began graduate studies at the prestigious New York School of Visual Arts was a certain James Jean, who of course did one bazillion FABLES covers that were all collected in their own swanky FABLES: THE COMPLETE COVERS book!

But, back to the Highest House… Young Moth, sold into servitude to the mysterious Magister Extat, and thus by extension, the House of Aldercrest, one of the richest families in the land who currently occupy the Highest House, is on a mission. Several in fact, including freedom from slavery and to achieve that he will need the help of the mysterious being locked deep in the recesses of the House. A being with a very different sort of liberation in mind…

I really don’t want to give too much more away other than to say this is a very intricately and elaborately constructed story from Mike Carey, much like the House itself as rendered by Peter Gross, which is where my Baroque comment above comes from.

 

 

There are some fabulous spreads of the sprawling house with its myriad towers, battlements, courtyards and of course the requisite secret passages and hidden rooms…

 

 

Very possibly the finest magical fantasy I have read this year (though clearly Tillie Walden’s ON A SUNBEAM trumps everything in pure fantasy terms). I seriously hope there is going to be a second volume.

JR

Buy The Highest House s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater…

“I made him keep his distance. I made sure he felt my anger.
“In return, I got a sword.
“The space of my life had always been small.
“From the minute my father’s eyes opened, he was looking beyond the horizon.
“So I followed.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Brian Wood has a Viking fetish, what with the exceptional NORTHLANDERS series set across the entire Viking period, then BLACK ROAD telling the sorry tale of Magnus the Black and now this work. Actually, I think he may have a wider historical fiction writing fixation where there’s a clash or two involved, what with the superb alternate history ROME WEST and also the American Civil War rout that is REBELS.

Mind you, he’s pretty good at contemporary conflict fiction too, what with DMZ and indeed current series BRIGGS LAND, which is also in conjunction with artist Mick Chater, who once more brings his trademark fine-lined, dare I say almost savagely sketchy style to bear here. He makes it look ridiculously easy, I’m a big fan. Can I also just make mention of the exceptional colouring too, applied by no less a legend than Jose Villarrubia, which really adds to the vivid brutality of this world.

I should probably add for completeness, and before you conclude Brian is a blood-thirsty lunatic that he is also responsible for some contemporary fiction masterpieces too, albeit with the odd twist, such as previous Page 45 Comicbooks Of The Month LOCAL and STARVE, plus of course, DEMO and THE NEW YORK FOUR. He’s a bit good, isn’t he, our Brian? Do I therefore really need to justify why you should buy this…? Well, here’s the publisher’s saga of selling to lure you in further before the rapacious retailer lops your purse-hand off with his axe…

“One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry.”

 

 

Expect slashing, much slashing actually, including some particular scenic slashing in the middle of what I am pretty sure is the Ring Of Brodgar stone circle in the Orkney Islands.

 

 

But also the gradual rediscovery of a father-daughter bond that has had to endure a decade of practically catatonic parental absence after the trauma inflicted by the Forty Swords.

 

 

As virtual strangers, they are going to have to learn to first trust, and perhaps eventually love, one another, if they are to leave the tragedy of the past behind them. After a suitable sizeable amount of slashing, obviously.

 

 

I suppose there are elements of / parallels with LONE WOLF & CUB here if you want to look for them, but this is a considerably more straightforward revenge slice-and-dicing, albeit with some substantial degree of heart as our duo gradually begin to establish an understanding. Well, I thought that, and then there was the twelve-year time jump right near the end (with some fairly gruesome slashing obv.) that shows there is going to be an unexpected disembowelling (sword-)twist or two to the tale yet… I should have known it wouldn’t be quite so simple!

JR

Buy Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c and read the Page 45 review here

One Dirty Tree h/c (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Noah Van Sciver…

“So, Noah, Gwen tells me you’re a… what, a cartoonist?”
“Yeah, I’m a cartoonist.”
“What does that mean? You draw animations like on TV or something.”
“No, I draw comics, but not superheroes. Usually about life and stuff like that.”
“Your life?”
“Sometimes. Not always. I write a lot of fiction…”
“You make money doing this?”
“Yeah and I’m published in MAD magazine and I do graphic novels… I work at Panera bread downtown too.”
“Oh! I love Panera bread!”
AND he works at his friend’s bookshop on Sundays.”
“That’s a lot of lot of jobs! Are you in school or something?”
“No, I’m a cartoonist.”
“He didn’t graduate. He’s a dropout.”
“Hm. So what happens when you’re a cartoonist? Do cartoonists eventually make a lot of money?”
“Um… well… no I guess not…”

 

 

No, but they do have the undying love and profound respect of people from all walks of life the world over, most of which they will never meet, but all of whom are sincerely grateful that these unsung heroes make the sacrifices they do in order to make their comics for us. Bless you, Noah Van Sciver and all your comics colleagues past, present and future!

Yes, the man with the self-professed fourth best moustache in comics is back in fine fettle, as is apparently the moustache judging from recent Facebook posts after a brief bare-lipped patch, regaling us with domestic horror stories from his youth, mixed in with more than a little modern-day maudlin regarding his romantic relationship with the <ahem> delightful Gwen and his car-crash of a career choice. Still, it’s all grist for the comics’ mill!

Here is the book of uncivilised woe as handed down by the publisher…

“In Noah Van Sciver’s new funny and heartfelt memoir, he is haunted by memories of growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family.

 

 

Noah Van Sciver is haunted by the house at 133 ***** Street, or as his brothers rechristened it “One Dirty Tree.” This sprawling, dilapidated New Jersey house was his first home and the site of formative experiences. Growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family-surrounded by comic-books, eight siblings, bathtubs full of dirty dishes Noah’s childhood exerts a powerful force on his present day relationship.”

And his comics! Much like in detailing his very first dating disaster for us in MY HOT DATE, Noah lays his soul bare about his chaotic upbringing and its moderately challenging consequences for him as an adult. The fact that he manages to make it so wryly humorous for us is testament to his talent as a story-teller.

 

 

Much like his hilariously mean FANTE BUKOWSKI material where the point is to provoke laughter at the poor protagonist, you may, if you’re a half-decent human being (heh heh), find yourself feeling more than a little unkind for chortling at Noah’s testing childhood circumstances and the situations he finds himself in. Well, getting himself into mostly, but you know what I mean.

The skipping back and forth between the days of high-hair (what a bush he had!), full of care-free skateboarding, plus clips round the ear from his older brothers with unfortunately also some right old beltings from his mentally melting-down dad… and the modern day somewhat wiser but riddled with self-doubts adult Noah are well-handled and combine very insightfully.

 

 

An autobiographical triumph! I personally believe Noah will come to be regarded as one of the 21st Century’s great North American ‘cartoonists’ and I for one will be able to say I was there laughing at him, I mean lauding him, right from the start!

JR

Buy One Dirty Tree h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Not Okay With This (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Charles Forsman…

In which Olive Oyl channels her inner Jean Grey before going slightly Dark Phoenix…

I realise that is a slightly strange mash-up to suggest, but nevertheless, I’m going to stand by it. I also like bubble and squeak. Here is the publisher’s blurb to obfuscate matters further…

“Sydney seems like a normal, rudderless 15-year-old freshman. She hangs out underneath the bleachers, listens to music in her friend’s car, and gets into arguments with her annoying little brother – but she also has a few secrets she’s only shared in her diary. Like how she’s in love with her best friend Dina, the bizarre death of her war veteran father, and those painful telekinetic powers that keep popping up at the most inopportune times.

After his first two critically heralded graphic novels, CELEBRATED SUMMER and THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD, Forsman once again expertly channels the teenage ethos in a style that evokes classic comic strips while telling a powerful story about the intense, and sometimes violent, tug of war between trauma and control.

 

 

I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS collects all of Forsman’s self-published mini-comic series into one volume. It comments naturally on familial strain, sexual confusion, and PTSD in his usual straight-faced-but-humorous style, and firmly stakes his place among the world’s best young cartoonists.”

Yes, Sydney has a few issues, and indeed secrets too, for sure. Like those telekinetic powers she hasn’t got control of… Or her temper, which she isn’t remotely in control of, either. Now that’s a great combination right?

 

 

Acting as our narrator whilst writing her private thoughts in a diary given to her by the student guidance counsellor, Ms. Capriotti, (to perhaps help her mitigate her self-confessed moods a little better) Sydney reveals all to us.

 

 

Her story is indeed that of a typical angst-ridden teenager grappling with fairly normal adolescent problems, albeit with some collateral damage from the… loss… of her father. Yes, that certainly is a ‘bizarre death’.

 

 

For such an in-your-face gritty story, there is a lot of surprisingly subtle and sophisticated story-telling going on here, particularly at the emotional level. In that sense, Charles certainly tells a tale as powerfully as the likes of Daniel GHOST WORLD Clowes and Adrian SHORTCOMINGS Tomine.

Artistically, I completely understand the ‘in a style that evokes classic comic strips’ quote, as to me Sydney definitely has more than a look of Popeye’s squeeze about her. There’s another point of classic reference too (at least), I think, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, annoyingly. It actually took me a while to settle into reading this due to the art, as I found with both of his previous works.

It’s possible that Charles’s choice of art style is the only real hurdle to him gaining a much wider readership as unlike Clowes and Tomine, he doesn’t necessarily deploy what could be described an immediately appealing style. But all power to him for that, though, he’s certainly clearly a highly talented creator who is obviously very happy creating his own corner of comicdom misery for his characters.

JR

Buy I Am Not Okay With This and read the Page 45 review here

Dinosaur Police s/c (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre.

The pizza factory was a mess.
Inspector Sarah sighed,
”I should have guessed…
“It’s Trevor the T-Rex!”

Of course it’s Trevor! Of course it is!

Those of you who’ve already read Sarah McIntyre’s DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS will be familiar with the terrible Trevor who managed to get himself stuck in a climbing frame… AGAIN! In my review, far more extensive than this (delving in depth into McIntyre’s page composition etc), I wrote:

“The absurdity of that page is a scream. A) What does a T-Rex that large even want with a climbing frame? B) How did such an enormous beast get onto or even into the climbing frame in the first place, let alone then stuck in it and C) … AGAIN?!?!?!?!

There, however, our Trevor was merely a memory-challenged moron.

Here he goes full-on delinquent!

 

 

First in a pizza factory, gorging his fat face off on pizza (I love that Trevor’s face is 87.3% teeth, and that he’s managed to stuff at least two complete pizzas into his gaping gob; that really is the stringiest, gooiest cheese of all time, each loop leading your eye to Trevor), then on a sequential-art rampage through Dinoville, a town otherwise so quaint and quiet that its police precinct’s bulletin board has plenty of room for a missing cat poster!

Yes, even Dinosaurs have cats for pets. And cats will always stray and get themselves stuck up trees, as we discovered in DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS. I also note by scanning the background that Dino-cops have as much of a penchant for doughnuts as their human counterparts.

 

 

Dinosaurs, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. Sergeant Stig O’Saurus (originally of Irish stock) and Inspector Sarah Tops (snort!) fit nicely into their uniforms, colour-coded to denote rank but mostly to complement their hides’ hues, I think. Officer Brachio, however, is of a decidedly bigger build and therefore can’t fit into the police car let alone a standard uniform, so he has his own flashing light for emergencies just like this.

“Sergeant Stig O’Saurus and Inspector Sarah Tops were on their way faster than you can say “WOO WOO”.

Officer Brachio bellows “WOO WOO!” anyway. Because, hey, every officer needs a siren!

A late addition to our phenomenally popular Page 45 Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre Section because you really did demand it, this is yet another beauty for youngsters’ shiny wide eyes to wander around, spotting background details like the multiple narratives going on all about town in the pre-title double-page spread which they can fill in for themselves with their wild imaginations.

 

 

Once more the delightful absurdities had me howling. Last time it was Trevor’s climbing frame fiasco; here it’s Inspector Sarah Tops diligently doing her duty… by handcuffing Trevor.

Because you wouldn’t want to actually immobilize a T-Rex, would you? Or secure that massively muscled mouth with its fulsome array of gigantic gnashers!!! No, what you really need to do is deal with those functionally useless forelimbs!

I’m still chuckling several hours later.

 

 

Deliciously coloured with enormous warmth, I’m now going to call Pizza Italia, and I will have pineapple on my pizza, so there!

SLH

Buy Dinosaur Police s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Signal To Noise (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

I could have sworn that I once wrote a far more extensive review of this, but the below is all I could find.

Originally serialised in ‘The Face’ magazine of all places during the late 1980s, this is another of those dark and personal tales (see THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH – now that is one in-depth review!) at a time when McKean was still using some of the BLACK ORCHID techniques, but had really begun to experiment with expressionism along the Francis Bacon / Baron Storey/ Bill Sienkiewicz lines with distorted body work, and four truly terrifying Horsemen Of The Apocalypse rendered in four very different styles.

A film maker dying from cancer obsesses over the final movie he will never make, about a European village fearing the approach of 999AD, and the Armageddon they believe will ensue.

Prepare for a lot of blue.

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. 2018. Professor Science writes: “Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise.”

I’ve used the term repeatedly to denote the current condition of multi-channel broadcasting (and now social media) and the even wider modern competition for our attention and assault on our senses, for, if one fails to erect adequate mental filters, the signals swiftly turn into noise.

Please see BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN etc.

SLH

Buy Signal To Noise and read the Page 45 review here

Barefoot Gen vol 1 (£13-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa.

“This vivid and harrowing story will burn a radioactive crater in your memory that will never let you forget it”.”

 – Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of MAUS

A true manga classic, finally re-emerging into print.

“Barefoot Gen is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. The honest portrayal of emotions and experiences speaks to children and adults everywhere. BAREFOOT GEN serves as a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people, and as a unique documentation of an especially horrible source of suffering, the atomic bomb.”

 

 

First of ten books in which young Gen has to grow up very fast indeed, and everyone is dripping in sweat which doubles as comicbook shorthand for extreme anxiety or the level of hysteria generated when your experiences are no longer comprehensible or compatible with any sane response. Intense doesn’t even begin describe this, plus you can also see so much of Tezuka in here.

 

 

It’s a long, long, long time since I read this, but I recall that much later volumes finally see him taken under the wing of a kindly artist, start to express himself and then find love, but the effects of the bomb are never far off, nor other hard realities like the corrosive effects of drug addiction, and the arms industry given a business boost by Korean War.

It’s all based to some extent or another on personal experience, and Nakazawa gave an eye-opening interview to THE COMICS JOURNAL in which he talks in detail about his family, the day the bomb dropped, and the deafening silence in Tokyo afterwards about the Atomic bomb whose radiation was rumoured to be contagious.

 

 

Meryl Jaffe writes extensively about BAREFOOT GEN and its techniques for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, with a view to teaching it in school: http://cbldf.org/2013/09/using-graphic-novels-in-education-barefoot-gen/

SLH

Buy Barefoot Gen vol 1and read the Page 45 review here

Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Kaboom!) by Kara Leopard & Kelly Matthews

“Let’s go Po-Metheus.”
“Oh, I like that.”
“I’m Prometheus.”
“But our cat was Po! So now you’re Po-Metheus!”
“It’s not funny if you have to explain it.”

Yep, it’s a talking cat. Well, it was just a cat to start with, then the Titan Prometheus inhabited it when Charlie, Janet, and Trevor accidentally broke Pandora’s box, which had been reshaped into the form of a Greek urn. Nope, I’m not lying, and neither is the cat… See what I did there, non-all-ages comics chums…? Oh yeah, right, it’s not funny if you have to explain it…

Anyway… here’s the publisher fable to tickle and test your foible-for-fun all-ages fantasy material by explaining the mildly implausible set up…

“What starts out as a typical family vacation to Grandma and Grandpa’s house quickly erupts into supernatural mystery and peril when three siblings accidentally break an old, mystical jar hidden deep in the woods, revealing they are descendants of Pandora and their family has been tasked for generations with protecting the very jar they just broke…

 

 

As magical monsters pour out of the fractured relic and run amok, Charlie, Janet, and Trevor must find a way to capture all of the creatures in order to save their family and potentially the entire world before it is too late.

Writer Kara Leopard ([Super]Natural Attraction) and illustrators Kelly & Nichole Matthews (Jim Henson’s Power of the Dark Crystal) weave an otherworldly tale about finding help in the unlikeliest of places, learning the truth about your family history, and most importantly of all, talking cats.”

 

 

Right, firstly, what’s to like about this work? Well, Kelly THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Matthews’ art is truly excellent. That alone is worth the very reasonable price of purchase. Where I have some mild criticism of this work, is that the otherwise exciting story feels very over-compacted and rushed through. It really could have done with another twenty pages or so at least to be allowed to breathe and unwind a bit more naturally. Well, as naturally as any story involving the Titan Prometheus inhabiting a cat trying to take down all kinds of mythical monsters can be…

 

 

Even after the first couple of pages I felt like I had missed a chapter or so of lead in. It is relatively slim in terms of page count, so perhaps it needed an editor stepping in early on in the process to just slow it all down a little bit and suggest inserting a few additional scenes. It’s a relatively small complaint, but one that I feel does stop this being on a par with the likes of NAMELESS CITY, LUMBERJANES and AMULET. Gorgeous art though, and a very cute talking cat! And that’s no lie!

JR

Buy Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 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’

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00, ) by Lizz Lunney

I Am Winter, I Am Bright (£5-00, ) by Joe Latham

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Dredd: Final Judgement s/c (£12-99, Rebellion) by Alex De Campi, Arthur Wyatt & Henry Flint, Paul Davidson

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith

Prisoner s/c vol 1 Uncertainty Machine (£13-99, Titan) by Peter Milligan & Colin Lorimer

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess

Sandman vol 2: The Doll’s House (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Michael Zulli, Clive Barker

Paper Girls vol 5 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Paradiso vol 2: Dark Dwellers (£14-99, Image) by Ram V. & Dev Pramanik

The Wicked + The Divine vol 3 h/c (£39-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Over The Garden Wall vol 1 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Part Of It – Comics And Confessions (£15-99, Mariner) by Ariel Schrag

Lumberjanes vol 10: Parent’s Day! (£10-99, Boom) by Shannon Waters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Soul Dragon OGN s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Kyle Higgins & Giuseppe Cafaro

Batman: Detective Comics vol 8: On The Outside s/c (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hill, Michael Moreci & Miguel Mendonca, various

Injustice 2 vol 3 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Injustice 2 vol 4 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Doctor Strange vol 1: Across The Universe s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz

Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Mariko Tamaki & David Marquez, Paulo Siqueira

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 9: The Hunter And The Hunted s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Francesco Manna, Juan Ferreyra

Attack On Titan vol 26 (£9-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Edens Zero vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

I Hear The Sunspot vol 3 Limit Part 1 (£11-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

My Brother’s Husband vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Blackfriars) by Gengoroh Tagame

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week four

November 28th, 2018

Featuring 24 Panels, Illegal, Traces Of The Great War, Tiger Vs. Nightmare, Fante Bukowski Three, Versailles Of The Dead vol 1, Immortal Hulk vol 1

Traces Of The Great War h/c (£14-99, Image) by Marguerite Abouet, Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Aurélien Ducoudray, Efa, Ergün Gündüz, Régis Hautière, O. Hiroyuki, Joe Kelly, Kris, Denis Lapière, Virtuel L’Atelier, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Robbie Morrison, J.D. Morvan, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, A. Samama, Scie-Tronc. Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Thomas Von Kummant.

“An eye for an eye only ends up with the whole world blind.”

 – Mahatma Ghandi

So begins Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s exceptionally eloquent, direct, pithy and masterfully controlled contribution to this potent anthology so desperately deserving your attention.

Priced at a ridiculously affordable £14-99 for a 150-page, album-sized hardcover, TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR is part of 14-18 NOW and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival’s continued campaign to keep the impact and legacy of WWI alive in our minds, just as Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG did so successfully before it; to make us sit up and think once again about so much that was endured by those caught in the merciless clutches of a physically horrific and mentally shattering First World War before being left mind-blinded, angry and exhausted in its wake.

 

 

 

The Talbots’ post-war ‘Make Germany Pay’ is an improbably calm and well weighted excoriation of the British public’s understandably vindictive demand (egged on as always by the likes of the Daily Mail hate-rag and by opportunistic politicians who could see ever so clearly which way the ballot-wind was blowing) for such extreme, punitive reparations against a drained Germany in the aftermath of World War I that the country-cleaving Treaty of Versailles inevitably – not even almost, but inevitably – led to a Second World War.

So much for the War To End All Wars.

 

 

 

Balanced against this short-sighted slavering is the Talbots’ knowledge of what the Suffragette Movement sought to so stridently educate into the public’s collective mind (their publicly pronounced prescience as to where it would lead: WWII), in authentic, historically documented detail, and who were their greatest supporters…? The returning Allied soldiers: those who knew first-hand, so much more keenly than anyone else, the cruel cost of war. It was they who understood most clearly that their children must never have to witness what they did, to lose so many and so much.

It carries with it a punchline which is as powerful as that of their SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE graphic novel – and equally pertinent – for the Talbots draw a parallel with our next big mistake for precisely the same reason and with exactly the same collaborative entities which is looming so large as I type: Britain’s imminent withdrawal from Europe.

Brexit.

As to gender inequality, you might want to inspect the rationing cards reproduced here from 1918 (above).

 

 

 

There is so much in these diverse perspectives from some of international comics’ finest – along with fellow craftsmen from outside this medium like author Ian Rankin illustrated by Sean Phillips and Oxford Professor of Poetry, Simon Armitage, illustrated by Dave McKean – that is surprising, reflective, intense and affecting, rendered in highly personal and so re-arresting detail.

TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR has also been artfully arranged in its order.

Jean-David Morvain, Scie-Tronc and Hiroyuki Ooshima’s ‘Mines for the miner!’ and Maël’s ‘A Pretty Little Village’ are the perfect examples of all of this. Both deliver fictional first-hand accounts of very real mine-related explosions which occurred at 7:28am on July 1st 1916 (marking the beginning of the Battle of the Somme) and at 16:30pm May 14th 1916, respectively.

On the surface it seems counter-intuitive to run the two stories in reverse chronological order, but the former not only explains the role of the former Welsh miner turned war-time sapper digging deep down underneath enemy trenches, but brings that awful horror alive in personal, self-sacrificial detail.

Then, several stories later, Maël plays a particularly powerful visual trick as two of the troops talk in the French trenches where once stood the village of Vauquois. It is an idle moment during a pause in hostilities, as the two soldiers together conjure in each others’ mind’s eye the idyll of a quiet café life.

“How sad! No birds signing in the trees on a day like this! Mind you, there aren’t any trees left, either… But this place must have been so nice, before the war..”
“Oh yes, it was! I came here once, as a kid – I had some relatives near here. Vauquois.was very pretty, and there were plenty of trees!”

The man lights a tobacco pipe.

“There was a church, too – can you see, just over there? That heap of stones?”
“Right in front of the German machine-gun?”
“That’s it. That’s all that’s left of the bell tower.”

From the muddy bottom of the now-amorphous trenches from which vantage point there are no longer any landmarks to speak of, they imagine / recall beautiful buildings in architectural, sandy-orange line super-imposed on the painted page. Gradually, they then repopulate Vauquois with its joyous villagers, productive, contented or at play. Their imaginations running exuberantly rampant!

But then, in a flash, their minds are no more…

There follows a pastoral page in gorgeous green.

 

 

What else can I promise you? Brothers fighting on opposite sides, early strife without any end perceived in sight, and a quiet contemplative story by Ian Rankin and Sean Phillips called ‘War Games’ in which the creator of a video game company which makes interactive entertainment “for people who like to kill things”, and directs a designer called Helmut who’s working on one of those set in the trenches WWI to see if he can dig into the history of a metal hip flask engraved with the name ‘Reiner Iser’ which was salvaged from the battlefield as a trophy by his grandfather. Helmut’s from Berlin and speaks German. He is a little more successful in his research than perhaps proves comfortable.

 

 

There’s so much more that I haven’t covered like the halting Haiku of Julien Vocance discovered by Riff Reb’s (although by “discovered” I mean pilfered from someone’s party) in The Book Of Haï-Kaï.

Also, the dreadful cost of the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu will astound you; mortality in such numbers as to be incomprehensible to me, but isn’t it always the way that civilian deaths – as in our recent illegal invasion of Iraq – outweigh those of the combatants?

The cost of the “Great” War: 5 million soldiers; 13 million civilians.

 

 

It can’t happen here, it can’t happen now, and it cannot happen again: that’s what Edmond Baudoin is emphatically not trying to tell you in ‘Really?’ There are logistical reasons why this would never happen again, a young boy patiently explains.

“Really?” replies his childhood sweetheart, at the end of every page.

Because, I’m afraid, he is wrong.

Also recommended on the subject of WWI: AFTER THE DREAMLESS DEAD anthology with Eddie Campbell, Simon Gane, Hannah Berry etc and THE GREAT WAR by Joe Sacco.

SLH

Buy Traces Of The Great War h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Illegal (£10-99, Hodder) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano…

“So far, this is not much of a new life.”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If I were living in extreme poverty in, for example, certain places in Africa, I am pretty sure I would be attempting to get into Europe by any means possible, no matter how long it took.

We can debate all day about what has to happen in those poverty-stricken countries, both economically and socially, to dissuade people from needing to leave, but the fact remains, when someone has literally nothing, and certainly nothing to lose, you are not going to prevent them from trying to reach somewhere where they earnestly believe they might be able to build a new and better life. Whatever it takes…

 

 

That people are willing to risk their lives trying should give you some indication of just how bad their situations are. We hear stories of treks on crammed jeeps, indeed even on foot, through the searing heat of the deserts and overloaded cargo ships to Europe organised at great expense by people traffickers, but I don’t think we can actually understand what is really involved in undertaking such an arduous, dangerous journey.

 

 

To be those people so desperate to change their lives that they are willing to put them at such extreme, sustained risk. Even if those new lives aren’t exactly what they expected, or wanted.

Please see Olivier Kugler’s ESCAPING WARS AND WAVES and Kate Evans’s THREADS: FROM THE REFUGEE CRISIS first-hand accounts for some of these individuals’ lives.

This graphic novel attempts to show us their stories through the big, emotion-laden eyes of one young child.

 

 

Here is the publisher’s information and some pull quotes from the broadsheets’ reviewers to tell us more about this very worthy work…

“This is a powerful and timely story about one boy’s epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children’s Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels. Ebo: alone.

His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea.

But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.

Winner of the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards ‘Beautifully realised and punchily told.’ Alex O’Connell, The Times Children’s Book of the Week

‘A powerful, compelling work, evocatively illustrated … It would take a hard heart not to be moved by this book.’ Financial Times”

It’s difficult to know what to add, really. I can only suggest picking up this work, having a look for yourself, and I suspect if you have any soul at all, you’ll be entranced and appalled in equal measures. It’s sensitive and intelligent writing from Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, who put poor young Ebo and his older brother through hazardous situation after situation. It’s never sensationalist or hyperbolic in tone, instead focussing on capturing the humanity of the people who undertake these odysseys.

In that sense, artistically, they have found the perfect foil in Giovanni Rigano. If you don’t find yourself rooting for Ebo, portrayed note-perfectly as the innocent child he is, trapped in the most horrendous and continually trying of crazy circumstances, with his big soulful eyes, that actually save the day upon one occasion, well, then, I suspect you have no soul of your own. Prepared to be moved…

JR

Buy Illegal and read the Page 45 review here

24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire (£14-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen, Sean Azzopardi, Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Al Ewing, Sara Kenney, Alex De Campi, Laurie Penny, Paul Cornell, Dilraj Mann, Antony Johnston, Lizz Lunney, Leigh Alexander, Tom Humberstone, Dan Watters, Ram V, Doug Braithwaite, Caspar Wijngaard, Ted Brandt, Ro Stein, Gavin Mitchell, Paul Cornell, Rachael Smith, Trevor Boyd, Bev Johnson, Robin Hoelzemann, Eshrieka Price, Mike Garley, Sarah Gordon, Deshan Tennekoon, Linki Brand, Tula Lotay, Dee Cunniffe, more.

“In June 2017, the Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-storey tower block in West London. 24 PANELS is an anthology comic to support the PTSD needs of the survivors. Curated by Kieron Gillen (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), it features 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels. Half drawn from professional creators who volunteered their time and half drawn from open submissions, 24 PANELS is about community, hope, and (most of all) raising as much money as possible.”

It was the local council skimping in its fire protection by using cheap cladding What Dunnit.

As Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie note within, this saved but “a piddling thirty thousand pounds”, which looks like a pretty (and petty) false fucking economy right now, doesn’t it?

 

 

That comes in ‘If Einstein’s right…’ which is indeed a celebration of community and hope within the first four panels of its first three pages which evoke the sort of time-caught-in-amber Eternalism that Moore discussed in depth in A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE with its artist Eddie Campbell. Succinctly put, time has already happened – all of it – and is continually happening all at the same time, therefore nothing, and no one is truly lost.

‘If Einstein’s right…” begins thus:

“Don’t fret. If Einstein’s right then time is wrong,
“A shadow that our minds cast as they pass
“Through solid spacetime’s changeless 4D glass,
“Where every moment’s an eternal song

“And nothing dies, and nothing goes away.
“Each life’s held sage amidst the centuries,
“An archived film with every frame on freeze
“In which our legends endlessly replay.”

Then, as I say, Moore and Gebbie go on to celebrate those individual lives within a community in all its colour before a final, horizontal black and white panel on each of the first three pages outlines the guilty as ghosts, like Boris bloody Johnson.

 

 

“But that same year a Bullingdon Club clown
“Swears that he’ll leave fire services alone,
“Then, three years late, cuts them to the bone,
“Says “get stuffed” as ten stations as closed down

“And twenty-seven engines fade from view.
“He also shall endure forevermore,
“His treacheries caught in time’s amber, for
“Disgrace and shame are both eternal too.”

Pertinently enough, he also touched on Eternalism in Alan Moore’s 2017 interview conducted by the Daily Grail, right under the paragraphs in which he lamented “the move from companionable terraced streets to ugly and alienating high-rise blocks, a move made for entirely commercial reasons to maximise the value of a plot of land by building high”. In that context too £30,000 is a pittance.

 

Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay – RTS17W8Y

 

Accentuating the positive, however, the final full-page flourish is a modest tower of building blocks bursting with colour and diversity united in harmony.

‘Silhouette Titans’ by Ram V (GRAFITY’S WALL) and Pablo Clark doubles as a history lesson in all things high-rise from a pillar in India circa 200BC to the very first tower blocks in Chicago in 1885 (after most of the city burned down in 1871), supposedly inspired by the architect’s wife piling a stack of heavy books on a bird cage. Hmmm… There’s one particularly startling fact in that from the highest occupied floor of the world’s tallest building you can’t even see people on the ground anymore.

Anyway, that tale being told to a youngster comes with quite the surprise.

Sticking with buildings and communities (I can’t cover all of these 24 stories, so I set myself a theme) my favourite was possibly ‘They Say’ by Alex de Campi (BAD GIRLS etc) and Ro Stein, Ted Brandt. You could consider it in so many ways an adult-orientated companion to Sarah McIntyre’s all-ages THE NEW NEIGHBOURS. Both feature a block of flats, a journey down through them, and the rebuttal of rumours wherein scurrilous gossip is exposed as not merely idle but also erroneous.

 

 

Here we are told what “They say” about half a dozen of its inhabitants, and what They say isn’t very nice at all. For example, “They say Mrs Abdullah just came here for the benefits. She doesn’t even speak English”, and “They say Kell is on drugs. She hardly comes out of her flat, and when she does, she’s pale and shaking”.

We are, of course, looking from outside (not even in from the outside) – as a family cat makes its escape from our main protagonists’ top-floor flat via the flat roof then leaps down the terraced verandas – from which vantage point you cannot possibly have any information relevant to judging someone’s history, motivation, pastime pleasures or character. Then in a matching double-page spread in cross-section, as the cat saunters back in through a window then makes its way up the interior stairwell, we are entrusted with the truth behind the outsiders’ prejudices by peering into each panel / flat and, oh look:

“Mrs Abdullah fled her country after her husband and parents were killed. She works two jobs, ones They don’t want to do, and speaks enough English to know what They call her.”

That final clause was the line that impressed me the most, but you mark my words, there are plenty more revelations in store before our framing family brings kindness and community firmly back into a more balanced equation.

 

‘Heath Magic’ by Leigh Alexander & Tom Humberstone

 

At 100+ pages I think you can imagine that I too have merely skimmed the surface here.

SLH

Buy 24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire and read the Page 45 review here

Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Emily Tetri ~

“The grown-ups think you’re just in my imagination.”
“Do you really think we’d get to hang out and play every night if they knew I was real?”
“Hmm, yeah. Good point.”

Monster is very wise.

Monster lives under Tiger’s bed, a not untypical place for monsters to reside. But this particular monster is a little different. For this monster is a fierce fighter against one of the most frightening things of all: nightmares. Monster is Tiger’s best friend.

Monster also loves curry.

Monster is one half of a perfect friendship, the other half, of course, being Tiger:  a charming kid who is a lover of board games and the owner of a particularly active imagination, and that is what makes their friendship so special. You see, Monster was meant to scare Tiger when she was a baby, but thought it all very unsportsmanlike to scare such a tiny cub, so decided to be her friend instead.

 

Monsters have got to scare something, though, so Monster assumes the role of valiant night-time protector, scaring away Tiger’s nightmares so she has a lovely, peaceful sleep every night without fail. In return for fending off the frighteners, Tiger feeds Monster delicious homemade food. This arrangement continues swimmingly until one evening a nightmare so big and so scary appears that even Monster bottles it!

 

 

Monster scurries away terrified to hide under Tiger’s bed, all sad and remorseful at being unable to keep her friend safe that evening. The next day, after a motivational chat, the two find themselves joining forces to take on the nightmare together. It’s time for Tiger to learn to be brave and to stand up to her fears!

A story of friendship, kindness, and team work, what’s not to love?! Tiger and Monster are two very loveable (and cute!) characters, full of happiness and bursting with personality. Emily’s expressions on Tiger are absolutely perfect and often had me grinning from ear to ear, especially at moments of particular determination from Tiger. She has also infused the two characters’ personalities with wonderful little details, such as Tiger’s tail poofing up like a domesticated house cat when she gets scared, or Monster stretching and limbering up before a long night of frightening. The nightmares themselves are delightfully dark and creepy, with the biggest nightmare being the spookiest of all, of course, and are perfectly designed to be just scary enough to give your little ones a buzz without being so overwhelmingly spooky a trip under the covers is needed!

As for the artwork itself, Emily has flooded the pages with lush, rich watercolour, with additional little details in crayon. It has real honesty, and I would hope upon seeing this that wide-eyed children will be inspired to crack out the paints and crayons themselves to imagine what their monster BFF would look like.

Tiger Vs Nightmare is a great rationalisation of what nightmares actually are and how they are really nothing to be afraid of. It’s a wonderful advocating of bravery and friendship, plus a fantastic example of how through complete determination you can take charge of your own destiny!

JP

Buy Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver ~

“Bret Easton Ellis wrote ‘Less Than Zero’ when he was 21!
“Of course, he was hated by 22…
“I was somehow able to jump right to being hated.
“I win that round.”

Yes, Fante, because that’s the real achievement to take away here <sigh>…

We’re back in Ohio to catch up with the future literary legend himself, as he sees it at least, Fante Bukowski. He’s being interviewed by The Dispatch – the oldest paper in town, as he boasts to his father in a ranting email – as a “notable voice” about the upcoming Zine Fest.

The Fest itself is an “ocean of amateurs” (Fante’s words, not mine), with glorious cameos from Noah Van Sciver himself, selling “…a graphic novel. It’s the comic book of the future!” titled ‘Sad Lincoln’ (THE HYPO – A MELANCHOLIC YOUNG LINCOLN), and a completely haggard and unflattering portrayal of John (KING CAT) Porcellino all burnt-out with a thousand yard stare peering straight out of the panel at us readers.

 

 

Fante, meanwhile, does make a grand total of 25 dollars at the Fest, but maybe if there hadn’t been quite so much glitter involved in ‘Love Songs From Extinction’ he might have been able to snag a few more sales! But the Zine Fest is just the beginning, once again, for Fante. He’s after the big bucks and for once even has a lead on a paying gig! But is the world finally ready for the greatest book of all time? If he actually gets around to writing it that is…

 

 

Accompanying Fante as he drunkenly fumbles his way through life is the sunny, albeit slightly unhinged Norma, an inadvertently hilarious performance artist with her own struggles in the so-called creative industries. Though completely away with the fairies most of the time, she is at least a little more grounded than Fante, knowing that to survive in the real world you need to have an actual paying job on the side and not just <ahem> drink whisky in a prostitute’s back yard. She is a thoroughly delightful contrast to our bitter, downtrodden protagonist; I actually couldn’t get enough of her. I would love to see to have her own book, but maybe that’s because as a former art student she was an all too familiar character for me!

 

 

In this third and final volume, we also learn how Kelly Perkins became Fante Bukowski. The journey from angsty teen Emo, desperately trying to carry on the legacy of a musical movement that even his dad knew was over fifteen years ago, through to his very brief corporate days of interning at his father’s law firm before ‘recreating’ himself. But even knowing his self-inflicted shambolic back story of family wealth-ridden faux woe doesn’t make you one iota more sympathetic towards the delusional, self-titled literary genius. I know you’re probably wondering whether Noah is going to let Fante have an entirely undeserved happy ending, but let’s just say he gets an appropriate one…

Every part of this book is dripping with Fante’s personality. From the less than enthusiastic pull quotes on the back, to the “Emerging Genius” award from a certain Firewater Press (see FANTE BUKOWSKI BOOK 1) emblazoned on the cover. Which itself is even a gag, being a take on the cover of David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’! No doubt Fante considers it one of the greatest modern literary classics – outside of the treasured work of Charles Bukowski, of course – though I have a sneaking suspicion that he may never have quite got around to tackling the full 1104-page tome. He’s probably skimmed it and got the gist so he can wax lyrically about it, for a true literary genius can capture the essence of a great novel with merely a few quick glances. Now if only he could write one as fast…

JP

Buy Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure and read the Page 45 review here

Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane…

Presumably inspired by a manga creator who read or watched PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES – just taking a wild machete swing in the zombie-filled moaning dark there – and decided to put their own slash on it… Here’s the emergency broadcast from the publisher to inform us all how to avoid infection by thinly-disguised rip-offs, I mean reworkings…

Actually, before that, can I just say, copyright-fringe-trimming joking aside, I rather enjoyed this…

“The French Revolution with zombies? A slick, gender-bending twist on history! While en route from Austria to marry Louis XVI and become the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette’s carriage is intercepted by bloodthirsty zombies. The sole survivor of the attack is Marie’s twin brother, Albert. He heads for Versailles in his sister’s gown – and instead of continuing life as himself, decides to take his sister’s place. Now at the heart of the French royal court, Albert must face the undead horrors as the man who would be queen.”

Yep, this really is as daft as that suggests. Played entirely tongue-in-powdered-cheek, heavy on the comedy of manners as the twin stories of the zombie apocalypse and royal court based rumblings intertwine causing a spontaneous outbreak of preposterously bewigged yet strangely amusing nonsensical fright-fest, I couldn’t help but smile. Even the bold legend on the rear cover of “LET THEM EAT BRAINS!” only further serves to indicate what a frightful mash-up creation lies within.

 

 

One sometimes feels in the relentless churn-‘em-out-world of mainstream manga publishing that there is a mentality of ‘gotta publish them all’ and just see what sticks. Somehow this has with me!

JR

Buy Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Immortal Hulk vol 1 Or Is He Both? s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing, various & Joe Bennett…

“Dad… I… I can see…”
“Del?”
“I can see a door. A… a green door… and… and there’s someone looking through it.”

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? It’s Shakin’ Stevens clearly.

No?

Hmm… I wonder who it could be…? How about we let the mighty marketing juggernaut (no relation to Cain Marko, I should add) clue us in…

“Horror has a name. You’d never notice the man. He doesn’t like to be noticed. He’s quiet. Calm. If someone were to shoot him in the head…all he’d do is die. Until night falls – and someone else gets up again. The man’s name is Banner. The horror is the Immortal Hulk! And trouble has a way of following them both. As reporter Jackie McGee tries to put together the pieces, Banner treads a lonely path from town to town, finding murder, mystery and tragedy as he goes. And what Banner finds, the Hulk smashes! Elsewhere, the hero called Sasquatch can’t help but feel involved. In many ways, he’s Banner’s equal – and his opposite. Sasquatch is about to risk his life by looking for the man – and finding the monster! Collecting IMMORTAL HULK #1-5 and material from AVENGERS (2016) #684 by Jim Zub and Mark Waid.”

 

 

Actually, it’s not the Hulk either, immortal or otherwise, behind the green door…

No, it’s… something else entirely… 

Which brings me neatly to my main point. As you might have just gathered, this is not a superhero comic. No, it really is a horror comic masquerading as a superhero comic and it is so, so much better for it. Yes, the Hulk is a monster, and monstrously drawn too by Joe Bennett, all bulging of vein, sinew and also eyes atop the requisite mountain of muscle. And he does bring some of the horror. (In that sense, this version of the old gamma grouch has much more in common with the classic Lein Wein, Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema material and I welcome it whole-heartedly.)

At least at night time anyway, as the blurb suggests. For by day it’s Bruce “Danger Magnet” Banner who goes around allegedly trying to stay out of trouble but of course ending up in a whole Hulk-sized heap of it. Even occasionally getting killed just for good measure. But when the sun sets, the Hulk rises once more and starts playing vigilante smashing criminals left, right, centre and underneath him, plus a fair few of those crazy enough to try and take him down.

 

 

Of course, no self-respecting run on the radioactive wrecking ball would be complete without a roving reporter trying to track him down and this is no exception, with the fearlessly foolish Jackie McGee on the crushed-up case. Who is of course a cheeky nod to the great Kenneth Johnson who played the supremely irritating Jack McGee in the 70s/80s TV version. As a kid I wanted Hulk to squish that particular puny human soooo badly. I mean, Banner warned him enough times… Anyway, issue #3 of this run sees Jackie take centre stage as she interviews three eye witnesses to a recent rampage, all illustrated very differently stylistically by three guest artists, which I thought was a great little additional conceit.

 

 

This is certainly not the comedy cretin Hulk of the Marvel movies, either. No, he’s as devious and dangerously intelligent as he’s almost ever been. He is also seemingly really immortal which of course presents a rather large and tricky problem to the particular authorities who rightly or wrongly view him as one.

As to precisely how that seems to be the case, I sincerely hope it isn’t anything to do with the couple of flim-flam quasi-resurrections during SECRET EMPIRE and NO SURRENDER.

 

 

I doubt it given how slickly Al Ewing is writing this so far, plus the presence of a certain… apparition… of which I shall say no more for the moment, suggests otherwise. No, I suspect it’s far more to do with that green door…

The apparition isn’t Shakin’ Stevens by the way… No, come on, even horror has to have some limits…

JR

Buy Immortal Hulk vol 1 Or Is He Both? 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’

I Am Not Okay With This (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Charles Forsman

Love Removal Men (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

A Dreadful Battle (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

The Herring’s Head (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

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

Dinosaur Police s/c (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre

The Highest House s/c (£22-99, IDW) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

Jimmy’s Bastards vol 2 s/c (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun

The Making Of s/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Brecht Evens

One Dirty Tree h/c (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Noah Van Sicver

Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Kaboom!) by Kara Leopard & Kelly Matthews

The Realm vol 2 (£14-99, Image) by Seth Peck & Jeremy Haun

Signal To Noise (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater

A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse s/c (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Goran Sudzuka

Green Arrow vol 6: Trial Of Two Cities s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Stephen Byrne

Superman vol 7: Bizarroverse s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Scott Godlewski

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman h/c (£22-99, DC) by Liam Sharp

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Back To Basics s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos

Mighty Thor vol 5: The Death Of The Mighty Thor s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, various

X-Men: Marauders s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey & Chris Bachalo, Humberto Ramos, various

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

Barefoot Gen vol 1 (£13-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha (£6-99, Viz) by Dragongarow Lee

Fruits Basket Another vol 2 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

The Girl From The Other Side vol 5 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Inside Mari vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Pez (£22-99, Den Pa) by Hiroyuki Asada

RWBY Anthology vol 3: From Shadows (£8-99, Viz) by various

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week three

November 21st, 2018

Featuring Shaun Tan, Joe Decie, John Allison, Aaron Renier, Sophie Campbell, Paco Roca, Riad Sattouf, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross.

Telepathy Practice (Sketched In) (£5-00) by Joe Decie…

“Here’s let’s practice our telepathy. I’m thinking of an object. Try to picture it…”
“Ok. It’s working.”
“I was thinking of a square.”
“I saw an ice cream.”
“Shall we try again?”
“Or shall we buy an ice cream?”

Haha, the prince of punch lines returns with another twenty single-page strips that will have you gagging on your cuppa. Note: never drink whilst reading Joe’s work or you risk unleashing a mirthy maelstrom of nasally projected beverage. You have been warned!

As ever Joe covers an eclectic range of topics including almost entirely truthful nuggets about family time with his mum, his take on a breakfast classic, worrying (a classic Joe pastime), peculiar British Spring Bank holiday traditions, through to the odd outrageously entirely false fabrication such as his time spent working in the fashion houses of Paris and New York…

 

 

 

 

Yes, you can’t beat a good four-panel fandango! Joe is the master of taking a mundane everyday scenario… his time as the King of Couture aside… and grinding out our grimaces and groans as he takes one step beyond into the fringes of frippery and frivolity ending up somewhere entirely unexpected and utterly implausible, Occasioning you to realise the boy Decie has done it to you again…

Well, not the boy Decie, for the boy Decie is of course Joe’s son, who as long-time Decie devotees will know is frequently wheeled out to provide yet another deadpan delivery to torpedo Joe’s proverbial ship. It’s a lovely conceit that as the owner of an inadvertent child comedian myself, I recognise all too well. I just hope the boy Decie has negotiated image rights with his dad… An ice cream or two at least…

There are some lovely little extras hidden around a Decie book too, if you keep your eyes peeled. Hint: interior covers, front and rear, including this time around some disturbing tasting notes, highly dubious advice on comic storage, plus a sketch of a dripping cone of cold, creamy goodness, complete with flake, apparently sent back in time from the future… How does he do that? Still, good to know that Old Man Decie will still be fracking the nature reserves of domestic comedy for years to come!

Don’t forget the back cover either! The back cover in particular cracked me up as Joe tries one last gambit to ensnare the browsing customer by employing a telepathic suggestion implanting selling technique I have occasionally been known to try on a customer myself…

 

 

You will, you really will.

Please see Joe’s COLLECTING STICKS graphic novel for Decie’s long-form family antics, and for more four-panel brilliance, please see DOGS DISCO and POCKET FULL OF COFFEE, then I BLAME GRANDMA and THERE’S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM for something inbetween.

JR

Buy Telepathy Practice and read the Page 45 review here

Twists Of Fate h/c (£33-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca…

“Some took the opportunity to change their name.”
“Those name changes have made it very difficult for the scholars to follow your tracks.”
“That’s exactly why it was done.”
“But why did they do that?”
“Some out of fear from deserting the Foreign Legion, some of us were afraid that our families would suffer reprisals if we fell into German hands.”
“Wait…! Miguel Campos? Then what my historian friend suspected is true. You… you’re a legendary member of La Nueve.”

Attention! Right you horrible lot, here are the despatches from the publisher HQ to give you your marching orders… straight to the bookshelves of your favourite comics retailer. Which would be us, hopefully…

“Eisner-award winner Paco Roca (Wrinkles) reconstructs World War II through the memories of Miguel Ruiz, a member of ‘La Nueve,’ a company of men that went from fighting against the Franco regime in the Spanish Civil War to battles across Europe and Africa, spurred on by their patriotism and hate for brutal dictatorships.

Ruiz’s stories are filled with horror and humour but Twists of Fate is much more than a forgotten hero’s personal story. It’s a timely look into what we remember and why we forget, a reminder that everyone has a tale to tell, and an ode to a generation that stood up to, and beat back, violent fascism.”

I was utterly gripped, dear reader, for Spaniard Miguel Ruiz aka Miguel Campos was indeed a true war hero. The fact that he managed to somehow disappear entirely at the conclusion of hostilities and live a very quiet life in France is another story entirely. Paco Roca, having managed to track him down through some determined detective work, regales us with both.

This is simply one of the finest ‘war story’ works I have ever read. We see Paco gently interviewing the initially very reluctant Miguel daily over a number of weeks, conversing patiently with him, gradually teasing his remarkable reminiscences out of him.

 

 

During those sessions Paco frequently puts us into the first person perspective of Miguel, allowing us to see through his eyes, which ensures that the reader is fully transported back to those dark, tumultuous days. Of course for the men who had been unsuccessfully fighting Franco’s fascist rule in Spain during their civil war that ran from 1936 to 1939, those days started earlier than for most in Western Europe.

 

 

We see Miguel’s own personal odyssey and also the similar sad stories of a group of very brave individuals who longed to believe that once the Axis powers were dealt with, the Allies would then turn their attention squarely upon the fascist Franco and help them liberate Spain. We see their war, beginning with being outcast and exiled from their homeland, then unwanted and unwelcome in Vichy France and its territories, so having their refugee status promptly revoked and effectively made prisoners of war, toiling as slave labour in coal mines and railroads in the burning heat of Saharan Africa. Eventually they were freed by the advancing Allies, before mostly deciding to join up with the Free Corps of Africa French forces along with deserters from the then Vichy controlled French Foreign Legion and head to mainland France as liberators, indeed ending up as part of the very first group arriving in Paris itself.

 

 

Of course, after overthrowing the Nazis, the Allies decided to let Franco stay in power, being willing to accept Spain’s politically ‘neutral’ position during WW2 as reason to do so, despite Franco letting the German and Italian navies use Spanish ports and various other low grade support for the Axis powers, presumably out of fear that Hitler would prove victorious. To Miguel and his friends, though, it felt like an unforgiveable betrayal. Some former La Nueve fighters tried to start an insurrection, but following one particularly brutal, haunting, personal loss, Miguel decided that enough was enough, his war was over.

Until Paco tracked him down and stirred it all up again… Ultimately, though, Miguel was very glad he did. As, of course, so should we be. So the sacrifices these exceptional people made for our freedom are never forgotten. Plus in this case, the long overdue recognition due to one particularly unassuming individual be made public in this exceptional graphic memoir.

JR

Buy Twists Of Fate h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Aaron Renier…

“…Is this for real? I am beyond excited if so…”
“Yes! It is a thing. I’m sorry it took so long.”
“No need to apologise that is amazing news.”

No, not anything that appears within the pages of this thrilling follow-up to what I had long believed was my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel (and former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN.

No. In fact, this was a conversation between myself and the ridiculously polite Aaron Renier shortly after I had spotted the advance solicitation on the Ingram website earlier this year. Ten long years after poor old Walker Bean and his chums had been left high and dry with us all wondering what might happen next, my prayers to the comics gods had been finally answered… there would be more!!!!

So… now there is a sequel… I can no longer officially call THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel… I’ll guess have to start thinking about what the new title holder might be! In the meanwhile, just to get you up to speed, whether you have read THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN or not, because, you know, ten years is a long time, here’s the publisher’s sea-shanty to test out the proverbial cut of your jib, Jim lad…

“SHIPWRECKED! After their perilous encounter with the sea-witches, Walker and the pirate crew of the Jacklight find refuge on a deserted island. But it might not be as deserted as it seems–shadowy creatures have been spotted in the jungle, and strange animal tracks appear overnight. When Walker, Shiv, and Genoa discover a secret passage and mysterious ruins, the dark history of the archipelago begins to unravel. Legend tells of a mad king, a fallen civilization, and a powerful royal family in search of their lost sister. And for reasons Walker can’t understand, Genoa seems to be at the centre of it all.

In this triumphant follow-up to the epic graphic novel The Unsinkable Walker Bean, Aaron Renier is back with more breathtaking art and high-sea adventure.”

Oh my word, he is. Just let me catch my breath and stop my timbers shivering me hearties! I can’t begin to tell you the joy I felt upon reading this work. You can see once again just how much effort Aaron has put into the story-telling, the character development and oh my goodness the art.

 

 

When something is going to be this amazing, nay spectacular, you don’t mind waiting for it. I mean, it would have been nice to know it was actually happening, instead of just daring to dream like a stranded shipwreck survivor, and I did email his publisher twice without reply during the long interval, I was that desperate to know, but still, now it matters not. For salvation is at hand.

 

 

Everything I adored about the first book – the sheer vibrant grandiose detail of the art (including a dash of glorious shiny signature gold on the cover once more!), the deliberately, rewardingly, complex plot, plus the sheer satisfying depth of the machinations and motivations of all the characters, all so well fleshed out – is all here on show for us once again.

 

 

 

If you didn’t know there was a decade of distress between the publication of the two volumes, you would never know. It is seamless. Indeed, for Walker Bean and his chums, plus some brand-new enemies, nary a moment has passed. So this is in essence a continuation of the first work, not a separate story. You will need to have read what was for ten long years my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel (did I mention that by the way?) THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN before starting on this volume.

But guess what? That is just double the comics joy for you! Will there be more…? I’m not sure…

Certainly there are some plot threads left tentatively dangling… Dare I ask, perhaps press-gang, Aaron? Because I’m sure what has seemed like a long ten years to us has felt like an eternity to him! But this second book could also very easily and very neatly wrap things up perfectly, and I do mean perfectly. In any event these two books together set the bar for all-ages action fiction as high as a crow’s nest of the maritime variety. In fact… they might just be my all-time favourite ever all-ages graphic novel duology…

JR

Buy The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon and read the Page 45 review here

Cicada h/c (£14-99, Hatchette) by Shaun Tan.

“Cicada work in tall building.
“Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
“No sick day. No mistake.
“Tok Tok Tok!”

Deep inside one of a thousand, grey windowless skyscrapers – identical save for the amount of sky that they scrape – sits a solitary cicada, dutifully at his desk.

That grey disk sits within a grey cubicle, within a seeming maze of other grey cubicles, identical save for the fact that the rest are all empty.

“Seventeen year. No promotion.
“Human resources say cicada not human.
“Need no resources.
“Tok Tok Tok!

Quite evidently he needs no appreciation, either. Literally, it has been a thankless task.

 

 

While the humans clock off work on time whether their work is finished or not, our cicada remains until his work is done. He is diligent.

He’s also homeless, living hidden in one of the walls. He’s not paid enough to afford rent.

Nor is he allowed in the human washroom. Instead he has to scuttle downtown, twelve blocks, the timed docked from his wages.

 

 

Then there are the beatings.

“Human co-worker no like cicada.
“Say things. Do things.
“Think cicada stupid.
“Tok Tok Tok!”

That painting is particularly clever. The humans tower above the cicada, knocked down on his back and therefore helpless to move. The co-worker who doesn’t like our cicada presses his highly polished shoe down on the data entry clerk’s chest, bringing his full weight to bear, while the other bears silent, collaborative witness. We’re looking in, as if through a door, as if in collusion.

 

 

That element’s ambiguous: it could be other workers or even the boss observing; or it could be signalling that the beating is being meted out in secret. Either way, that door or cubicle wall adds another unsettlingly element to the evidence.

“Seventeen year. Cicada retire.
“No party. No handshake.
“Boss say clean desk.
“Tok! Tok! Tok!”

And then it really grows worrying as the cicada, now homeless, heads for the rooftop, alone.

This being Shaun Tan, however, you’re in for quite the surprise. In fact, you’re in for several.

 

 

From the creator of THE ARRIVAL (also available as a smaller softcover), ERIC,  TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, TALES FROM THE INNER CITY, THE RABBITS, THE SINGING BONES and so much more (please pop him into our search engine, and don’t forget his sequential-art story in I FEEL MACHINE!), what is no surprise either is another poignant approach to how we treat each other, especially when they are ‘other’.

That our cicada is not allowed in the human restroom and is made to travel miles speaks of segregation, of racism, as seen in the film ‘Hidden Figures’ starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

Anyway, dear, dear soulless corporations, and their dehumanization and dismissal of those who work hardest to make them all their lovely money! Ingratitude is to take others for granted, and to fail to appreciate what they contribute to the world – even that of the workplace – and in  this world of grey only the cicada harbours any colour, although he’s had to hide most of it inside his shirt, suit and tie.

For now…

SLH

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

Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

“There are way worse things than you.”

That’s not intended as a comforting balm; it’s a realisation, and an empowering expression of self-liberation after living under someone’s shadow for so long.

Welcome to the WET MOON finale, lord knows how many years in the making, and it is perfect!

After the angriest opening page that I can ever recall, watering with newly released rage, a face so contorted and scrunched up with righteous fury that it almost distorts the paper page, I can promise you closure: so many moments of quiet, intimate closure as things held silently unsaid are finally spoken, at long last shared, and the young women who have endured so much turmoil and conflict and grief, finally find a peace that’s as soft and serene as freshly fallen snow.

Oh, not immediately. There’s so much in WET MOON that’s so far unresolved to be worked through first, including pieces of the past you may well have forgotten, now picked up and put into place. But after all they’ve struggled with, there will be peace and understanding, the mending of ways and the minding if not of manners then of something far more important: each others’ often fractured feelings. Some scars aren’t going to heal or fade away overnight – there will be repercussions – but they maybe they can be lived with.

There will be no spoilers here, as there weren’t throughout our substantial WET MOON reviews; I only hope to intrigue to you.

Except for this: Campbell has unexpectedly burst into colour! Only tinctures, mind, to highlight hair or some clothing, then a snow-speckled sky at night, and it works beautifully.

 

 

What have I loved most about this series?

Its inclusivity, its diverse body forms, its compassion, psychological depth and oh dear god the series came drowning in dramatic irony as this close community of emotionally vulnerable, largely female friends remained unaware until recently of the seething cauldron of hate which lurked within, grinding its teeth with festering, barely contained rage.

I’ve relished the art from the very first edition of book one, then adored seeing Campbell develop visually in public on the page, thanking god that she never saw fit (as others have) to go back and redraw what to me was pretty damn perfect in the first place.

So yes, “There are way worse things than you.”

What are they? What have they done?

SLH

Buy Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold and read the Page 45 review here

The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.

I adore this autobiographical series about Riad Sattouf’s early childhood years following his family as they moved to Libya and Syria, and wrote extensive reviews of THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 1978-1984 and THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 1984-1985.

They are two of the funniest books in comics, bursting with Guy Delisle-like observations of the absurd, so astute observed in one so young, then recalled with astonishing precision.

Alas, sales have been so astonishing flat here – while Guy Delisle’s et al soar – that a third review makes no sense at all: it’s simply not cost-effective.

Read the other two instead, please, and let’s double their distribution in Nottingham. Or even the Middle East: We Ship Worldwide!

SLH

Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 and read the Page 45 review here

Brand-New Editions, Classic Reviews:

The Fade Out s/c (£22-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“All he’d been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

He’d forgotten to ask why.

In which I begin to understand what an exceptionally vivid character actor Sean Phillips truly is.

Oh, I’ve written thousands of words about specific, expressive elements of Sean Phillips’ craft in reviews for CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT softcovers, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES and THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc, but here we are in Hollywoodland so it strikes me as apposite that I finally speak about the acting involved on the part of our favourite artists.

Give me love! Give me lust! Give me conflicted ambivalence and emotional exhaustion! Now give me terrified out of my bloody mind.  Sean Phillips delivers on every single page.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Cinema screenwriter Charlie wakes up in the bath of a bungalow in Studio City, built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

 

 

It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on. They’re going to make out it was suicide, smearing the poor girl’s name, and it’s going to make Charlie, now complicit, sick to the stomach.

“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”
As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry indeed. It’s going to make him drunk and dangerous – especially to himself.

 

 

Period crime from the creators of FATALE and KILL OR BE KILLED and the writer and artist of CRIMINAL and MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, this homes in on Hollywoodland, famous for its writing and acting and myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but so often stars extend this dissemblance off-screen as well, aided and abetted by elaborate campaigns to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a manly ranch-hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”

 

 

There’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman: “I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

This complete twelve-chapter graphic novel gives room for Brubaker to examine relationships in detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This should make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”

 

 

Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last-minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in.

 

 

Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine, and the sea becomes virtually irresistible. Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning right back to the beginning.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val, but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val, but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.

 

 

As I say, it’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead. Instead it’s both impressionist and expressionist, concerned with the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye and emotional impact.

 

 

As to Brubaker, as ever he excels at making you want to linger as long as possible in each of his characters’ heads. I challenge anyone to foresee what’s coming. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes. There have been bits of Charlie missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”

 

 

IMPORTANT:

This complete, all-3-in-1 softcover collection of THE FADE OUT also contains Sean Phillips’ cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – but it doesn’t (does NOT) contain the following which you will find in THE FADE OUT DELUXE h/c edition:

An exceptional wealth of extra back-matter as you’ll find in all this team’s deluxe hardcovers. Sean Phillips introduces his cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – with an exploration of how he came up with their linking logo / motif. Ed Brubaker’s on hand with an explanation of why he teases each of his series with a fully-fledged trailer rather than a random splattering of preview pages, and it makes so much narrative sense. And yes, you get that trailer too.

There are some of the essays and which only appeared in the twelve monthly periodicals, along with all their illustrations; Brubaker presents his research; then Phillips and Breitweiser each introduce then demonstrate so much of their process from thumbnails to finished colour pages.

On the other hand, this softcover is half its price!

SLH

Buy The Fade Out s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.

 

 

In which our six sleuths from school have almost got their next mystery licked by the time the book opens.

“I can’t believe we have to stay here and hold the ladder.”
“Safety is important, Linton. The instructions are printed on the side of it, look.”

Sure enough there is a safety message sticker from the British Ladder Council printed in black on bright yellow with an incautious ascendant plummeting to his doom:

“WARNING: DON’T TIT ABOUT ON LADDERS.”

 

 

From the creator of BOBBINS, GIANT DAYS etc comes more of the best of British which we’ve reviewed extensively – and in the case of BOBBINS in great depth as to its mechanics – so I’ll restrict myself to a brief introduction, then a look at two specific elements of its art and craft I’ve not yet covered.

 

 

It’s summertime, and Jack, Linton and Charlotte have been left behind in Tackleford while Mildred, Sonny and Shauna swan off abroad.

“Maybe this will be your summer of love,” suggests Shauna.
“I am sorry to report that my skull has just filled up with sick.”

Lottie is having none of it. Her eyes blaze into the distance with a ferocious passion and earnestness:

Mystery is my boyfriend.”

 

 

Lottie’s greatest mystery at the moment is what her Mum sees in her new “special companion” Colin who is as dull as three-day-old dishwater but who has been invited to live with them, leading to incredibly violent toilet visits and incredibly dull conversation.

Linton’s greatest mystery is how his newly promoted police Dad is going to cope with the Gravel Pit estate crime rate whose graph is soaring so stratospherically high that, as Linton says, “I wouldn’t want to ride my bike up that.”

Meanwhile at the Tackleford Cormorant offices, Paula’s unyielding reign of inertia at the local gazette continues to confine its fields of interest – and so interest in it – to the unbridled anarchy that is dog mess. Sales have sunk so low that staff reporters have to buy their own tea bags. Except now Paula has taken an unprecedented leave of absence due to “nervous exhaustion, stress and St Vitus’ Dance”, leaving Mike in charge… to do Erin’s bidding. Erin is… ambitious.

 

 

So when “retired” children’s TV puppeteer Don ‘Gravy’ Wilkins is discovered in a ditch at night, catatonic with a rictus grin on his face, then two yoofs are found similarly afflicted and flung up in a tree, Erin smells headline news, Linton’s Dad sees the writing on the wall, and Jack, Lottie and Linton set about solving the mystery of the Night Stalker / Night Hero with some sense of urgency before Linton’s dear Dad is fired.

Unfortunately they are only thirteen with pre-determined bed times.

 

 

It is the age of cast in BAD MACHINERY which Allison nails over and over again, wringing a seemingly ceaseless stream of liquid comedy gold from their restricted circumstances, behaviour, body language and speech patterns. It will be recognised by adults, young adults, even younger adults alike (for, unlike GIANT DAYS with its recreational drug references, BAD MACHINERY is highly recommended to families and essential to school libraries), and I love that that Jack and co are still just young enough to do some of their most serious thinking on slides.

There is the passion – often inversely proportioned to whatever merits it – the petulance, the pouts and the way everything is taken so personally. Not just serious disagreements but mere differences of opinion on, for example, whether their unwelcome nocturnal visitor is indeed a hero or a villain. Conversely, there’s the love. Jack looks not just worried but potentially heart-broken at his friend Linton’s concern for his Dad:

“Come on, Linton! Punch me in the arm! A free punch! Don’t cry!”

Awww….

“I’m not crying! ALL RIGHT? I’ve just got HOT EYES!”
“Do you know who else has hot eyes? Erin Winters.”
“You sicken me.”

 

 

Again, the passion – the disproportionate outrage – in Linton’s eyes when he states that is too funny for words (it’s a reprise, and grows funnier each time), while Jack is clasping his hands in adulation. Erin Winters, it should be pointed out, has a chequered past with our sleuths and Linton in particular. It might involve the selling of his soul or something. But Jack’s reached that age when he has begun to have certain “thoughts” and certain “feelings”.

This brings us neatly to an episode in which Jack and Linton meet Lottie in a lingerie department because she’s been grounded.

“I only got out of the house by saying I was rude because I was worried about bras. So, me and mum are having a bonding trip. BRAS FOR ALL. We’d better be quick, they’re measurin’ her up and strappin’ her in right now.”

There’s a perfect beat which isn’t even a pause but a reversal of camera angles from Lottie’s physical gesticulation across her chest in both directions to Jack, embarrassedly bursting with barely self-contained steam, whom Linton and Lottie both pat-pat on the shoulders with beautifully expressed, unstated understanding:

“Jack, maybe you should go and sit down in kitchenware for a bit.”

 

 

What you should understand is that – although these printed editions are embellished with extra pages and substantial tweaks – Allison publishes most of his stories initially online, page by page on a daily basis, which means each must tell a little story of its own complete with a comedic punchline which is sometimes verbal, sometimes visual and so often both. I cannot conjure in my admittedly addled mind a single other creator with such a high hit rate in that department except Charles Schultz. And although Schultz often mined a vein of an extended storyline, he wasn’t creating such long-form works as these with beginnings, middles and ends.

The upshot of this is that every solo John Allison work is almost incomparably rich and dense in entertainment while this hard-learned discipline has informed his offline collaborative projects too, regardless of whether each page must obey the same “rules”.

So here’s the other element I was just going to “touch on” before leaving you to read or re-read other John Allison Page 45 reviews (best to read BOBBINS as originally published in our blog so that the meticulously chosen illustrations are in synch: http://www.page45.com/world/2016/11/page-45-comic-graphic-novel-reviews-november-week-one/), and that’s Lottie’s language.

 

 

Her pronouncements are so intense, elaborate and embroidered with emphasis as to be hyperbolic. I’m struggling to analyse Allison’s skill and its effect precisely, but it’s as if they are definitive statements. Example the first:

“Whoa, is Erin Winters prayin’?
“Maybe her heart is not pure evil, Jack.
“Maybe she does not have a TAIL as I have LONG SUSPECTED.”

The additional dropping ‘g’s, the phonetic and the slang compounds the comedy with its contrast to the precociously eloquent. Here’s adult Erin followed by Charlotte, carefully chosen so as not to give the game away.

“His face was flickering on and off with the Creeper’s, like a pirate radio station cutting in and out.”
“Worr you can tell she’s a writer. Well evockertive.”

 

 

I will leave you to discover Jack’s pride in being “BEST AT COMPUTERS” and his more hubristic declaration, with attendant celebratory dance, to be “Best at Google. Best at Google. Best at Google” as well as subtle details like him bearing multiple cups of coffee while pushing door open with his foot (recognition button pushed!) and instead finish on his department-store horror at Linton’s suggestion.

“Let’s try CAMI-KNICKERS.”
“Erk, let’s NOT!”

SLH

Buy Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Marvels (Remastered Edition) s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross.

A thoughtful and poignant history of the innocent age of the Marvel Universe, as America at large and a photojournalist in particular witness the arrival in their midst of hybrids, aliens, metahumans, mutants and a brave young man in a black-ribbed, red and blue suit who was destined to see the love of his life die after being thrown from a bridge, her neck snapped by his very own web line.

At which point the innocence is over.

Long before Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s INHUMANS, this was one of the very first comics which Marvel released with an ounce of literacy (other than projects published on its Epic label, Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL).

In addition, it saw painter Alex Ross’s rise to critical claim, and justly so. Unlike many painters who’ve brought their brush to this medium, Alex Ross has a deft, luminous touch which allows your eye to drift across even his most intricate pages as sequential art is supposed to.

 

 

Along with ASTRO CITY and SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY this has also been Kurt Busiek’s finest hour to date, as he observed the plight of individuals from ground-level, looking upwards into the sky.

 

 

It’s a beautiful book which manages, extraordinarily, to recapture the absolute awe one felt as a four-year-old on first beholding a superhero, and wondering what on earth they were.

 

 

SLH

Buy Marvels (Remastered Edition) 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’

Illegal (£10-99, Hodder) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire (£14-99, Image) by various

The Order Of The Stick: Good Deeds Gone Unpunished (£22-99, Giant In The Playground) by Rich Burlew

Piero (£11-99, New York Review) by Edmond Baudoin

Stray Bullets – Sunshine & Roses vol 3: The Queen Of Palm Court (£17-99, Image) by David Lapham

Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Emily Tetri

Unnatural vol 1: Awakening s/c (£8-99, Image) by Mirka Andolfo

Justice League vol 1: The Totality s/c (£15-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jorge Jimenez, Jim Cheung, Doug Mahnke

Immortal Hulk s/c vol 1 Or Is He Both (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing, various & Joe Bennett

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 9: Squirrels Fall Like Dominoes s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ryan North & Derek Charm

Venom vol 1: Rex s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis (Treasury Edition) s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Ed Piskor

Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night & Other Stories h/c (£25-00, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 5 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

My Brother’s Husband vol 2 h/c (£16-99, Little Brown Book) by Gengoroh Tagame

One Piece vol 88 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 4 (£9-99, Manga) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono

Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week two

November 14th, 2018

Featuring Ram V, Anand Radhakrishnan, Sebastien Samson, Grim Wilkins, Ancco, Molly Knox Ostertag, Yupechika, Marie Nishimori, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp

Grafity’s Wall h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Ram V & Anand Radhakrishnan.

“Don’t dream so much, it’s painful to watch.”

Well, this is a little bit beautiful on every level; but it’s brutal too, as the thwarting of aspirations does tend to be.

Dreams can be thwarted by circumstance, happenstance or intention by individuals, and these specific streets of Mumbai – although teeming with life, energy and colour – are far from conducive to seeing them come to fruition.

They’re impoverished and crowded with elements of corruption, but the local police inspector is not the worst worry. That would be Mario, the local drugs baron, who is flash, charming when he wants to be, seemingly paternalistic but vicious and way too well informed for you to want to cross him. The shanty town designated a slum is under threat of being pulled down without any regard to those who will need re-housing (so won’t be), and there is the pressure on the young from older generations to jettison lofty, artistic ambitions which they consider pie in the sky in favour of buckling down to work for a relative pittance.

 

 

Gradually, in a narrative relay race during which a new baton is passed while the old one’s retained and continues to be run with in parallel, we are introduced to four young individuals, Suresh, Jayesh (who prefers “Jay”), Chasma and one other whom I won’t reveal, for I want their inclusion as the fourth perspective when they rise from the background to remain a surprise.

Each harbours artistic aspirations in different fields – art, music, literature and [redacted] – but only one of them (Chasma) attends college, while working long hours at night at an Indian version of a Chinese restaurant where he’s forced to wear a bandana featuring The Rising Sun. Oh ridiculous, I know, but there are plenty of Chinese Takeaways in Britain (in Nottingham indeed) called The Rising Sun!

Suresh draws constantly in softcover sketchbooks he carries round with him, then slips into areas more closely patrolled by the police to spray walls with the most elaborate, intricate and gorgeous graffiti they’re ever likely to see. Albeit a bit bruised, he’s rescued from arrest by Jay, using Mario’s drug money to bribe the inspector, who asks why Suresh does it when “half the chawl would love to have you paint something on their walls”.

“I guess I just like the idea of being somewhere I’m not meant to be. Like sneaking into someone else’s world and leaving a mark.”

 

 

Back home, his mother’s cooking dinner, greets him tenderly but adds ominously…

“And Suresh? Your father’s home.”

It starts of quite well, his father stuffing his smoke in his mouth to inspect his son’s sketchbook.

“Mm-hmm. >snf< These are pretty good. You’re getting better, eh?”

He tries to pour himself another drink, but the bottle is empty so he tosses it out of the window, into the garbage-bobbing waters below.

“You know something, son?
“Nothing is made here, in this place, not anymore. Everything is manufactured. Everything is bought and sold, you understand?”

It’s then that he utters the opening quotation, squeezing both Suresh’s cheeks together with a single powerful hand. It’s then that he does something awful.

Suresh’s face is a malleable joy. On the third page in, artist Radhakrishnan lends him all the power of deep concentration and creative consideration as he eyes what’s on the wall already and contemplates what best to add and how.

 

 

His deep, dark eyes are smoothly, deliciously hooded as hair falls over and on either side, while his top teeth pull his lower lip up and into his mouth. He’s a handsome young lad, and I love his multiple-holster belt, criss-crossed round his waist full of different coloured spray cans.

Jay, meanwhile, bursts blithely into the inspector’s office with greasy hair curling from under his backwards-on baseball cap, three pale plasters comically covering bits of his swarthy, unshaven face. They won’t seem so funny soon.

As to those streets, they’re exquisitely realised with an astonishing sense of three-dimensional, architectural space which almost paradoxically allows their cluttered confines to be rendered in full. A large, four-fifths panel looks down on a multi-tiered veranda, vibrant in floral colour and festooned with rope-suspended red lanterns. It’s populated by residents all perfectly proportioned to fit comfortably within the walks with room to spare, one hanging out the washing, another sitting to read a paper, while others hang or lean lazily over the railings to watch young Suresh being chased down a shop- and vendor-crowded alley by the inspector who’s just had his pride pricked and authority challenged.

 

 

That shanty-town slum is hardly lacking in draped detail, either, as seagulls circle up above. The light throughout is exceedingly well regulated to generate heat (Anand Radhakrishnan.is joined by Jason Wordie and Irma Kniivila on colours), and there’s one nocturnal moment of terrifying power when Mario’s eyes go blank with barely controlled rage, his skin behind glasses glowing a vivid, expressionistic orange, while spittle froths rabidly from his mouth. It is now that those plasters really aren’t funny.

It’s so tightly plotted. For example, poor Jay’s kind deed to Chasma in taking away the free wrap of speed or cocaine which Mario attempts to addict him with… well… you’ll see.

 

 

Chasma is writing letters. Initially, I infer, they’re to his sister Mary back home in Manipur, partly to impart news of his updated circumstances but mostly for the love of writing letters. He likes letters.

“Someone took the pain and the time to make words and put them on paper. There’s an endeavour to put down thoughts that have had time to linger.”

To linger and thereby percolate: some things are important but now largely lost.

“And then, so many people passed the letters amongst each other to make sure it got to the person it was meant for.”

Chasma’s quite the romantic, writing to letters to everyone, anyone and no one in particular, then handing them out, even to strangers. Suresh liked his, Jay can’t read, and some strangers react very strangely indeed. I like this:

“I left one in the back of a rickshaw in Byculla. It has a short story about a found letter.”

 

 

The book bursts with the spirit of place, and the script is lovingly peppered with local language (some of it surprisingly spicy and therefore also surprisingly commonplace – I looked it up!) and it’s worth noting, on the authenticity front, that writer Ram V grew up in Mumbai and artist Radhakrishnan still lives and works there. It’s one of the tightest, richest reads of the year, about four people who are “in love with the promise of things to come… not yet resigned to things as they were”.

At one point Jay protests:

“No… Because I have dreams. And they’re not for sale.”

Each chapter concludes with a full-page portrait of Suresh’s titular, remnant piece of free-standing wall which he discovered on his own turf amongst so much rubble – the sort of thing you’d find in a war zone. It’s increasingly embellished during the intermittent pages, in turns, to pay tribute to his three friends. The celebration of Jay as a master MC, decked out in the finest Day-Glo hoodie etc is particularly poignant given Jay’s plight at precisely that point, but the epilogue’s startlingly unexpected conclusion is so profoundly moving that it brought a choke to my throat, then made my heart soar.

That’s what the best dreams do: they make your heart soar. And it’s one of the very best feelings that a graphic novel can leave you with.

SLH

Buy Grafity’s Wall h/c and read the Page 45 review here

My New York Marathon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sebastien Samson…

“I no longer have legs. I am made only of eyes.
“The opposite is about to be true, although I don’t know it yet.”

Foolish unfit Sebastien, in a moment of mildly drunken madness, proclaims he will run the New York Marathon. Unfortunately, it’s in front of his partner Rosalie and their friends Nadege and Wilfried, all hardcore long distance runners. They of course all burst out laughing at this ridiculous prospect, which only serves to strengthen Sebastien’s alcohol-fortified resolve to do it. Even when he wakes up the next day, he’s still totally determined to give it a go. How hard could it be?!

As the months, weeks and days tick down ever more rapidly to the start line, we follow Sebastien’s outer and inner physical and psychological transformation and turmoil brought about by his relentless training regimen. He knows full well he’s never ever going to be an athlete of the calibre of his chums, all clocking preposterously fast times, but he’s determined to rise to the challenge.

 

 

I greatly enjoyed watching Sebastien’s blood, sweat and tears as he puts himself through his gradually increasing paces, many, many of them, along the scenic coastal paths of Normandy, in preparation for his trip across the pond. By the time the fateful day comes in the Big Apple, he’s as ready to ‘enjoy’ it as he possibly could be.

 

 

Whilst our view of his marathon experience does indeed cover every progressively more tortuous step of the 26 miles 385 yards in question, Sebastien somehow manages to find time to drink in some of the sights and sounds of the city itself, along with much needed rehydration at the requisite water stations!

 

 

Yes, the chance to see New York City itself was a significant motivating factor for Sebastien to train up for the marathon as it was a place he’d always longed to visit. Though probably at a more leisurely pace… and without the aid of a head-mounted video camera for later drawing reference…

 

 

Sebastien has a lovely laid-back writing style, frequently portraying himself as the fool, which will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Guy BURMA / PYONGYANG Delisle. Plus there are some great little conceits as well, such as the incredulous little characters living inside his head, just the like the Numskulls (sic) from the Beano, who are utterly appalled by his masochistic attempts to push his body past his very low limits of initial ‘fitness’.

 

 

Anyone interested in the inner workings of the long distance runner and the insanity of those who would choose to become one of their own free will should read this work and weep. Tears of laughter.

JR

Buy My New York Marathon and read the Page 45 review here

Mirenda (£15-99, Image) by Grim Wilkins…

“You’ll pay your debts this time.”

No, not the Page 45 heavies collecting payment for a long overdue standing order… as most of you pick up your stash promptly thank you very much, and anyway, we just vapourise those miscreants that don’t… but instead one of about five lines of texts in this extraordinarily beautiful wordless (practically) fantasy yarn. Here’s a performance mime from the publisher, helpfully transposed into text, to illustrate a little more…

“When a jungle-dwelling woman gets a mysterious demon trapped in her leg, she sets off on an extraordinary adventure to get it out. Artist/writer Grim PROPHET: EARTH WAR Wilkins plays with the possibilities of comic storytelling, letting the visuals carry the weight. Originally appearing in ISLAND magazine, MIRENDA picks up the gauntlet left by the works of Moebius and Frazetta and runs with it.”

Oh yes he does. That’s a very good summation of this work, actually. The titular Mirenda does indeed end up with an imp in her thigh and it is up to us the reader to puzzle out from the perpetually time- and place-shifting chapters as to why. It is relatively complex plotting, which will require you to concentrate on the devilishly detailed art to comprehend precisely what is occurring, but given the quality of the artwork, that’s an absolute pleasure anyway.

 

 

Yes, the visuals are indeed more than up to the task of carrying the story! In fact, the story probably feels like it is being propelled effortlessly along upon a jewel-encrusted palanquin such is the depth of the design, the lightness of touch of the linework and the calibre of the colouring. It may actually be too much for some, who might prefer a slightly less dense approach to their wordless fun such as that employed by A LAND CALLED TAROT which also debuted in ISLAND, but if you are prepared to slow your eyes and brain right down and get fully absorbed into the illustrated narrative, you will reap the rewards.

JR

Buy Mirenda and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Friends (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Ancco…

“We eventually called our parents.
“But for some strange reason, my parents didn’t get angry.
“I’d assumed they were just waiting to give me a proper beating.
“But they didn’t lay a finger on me, let alone ask where I’d been.
“That’s probably because they’d known where I’d been all along.”

Which was ‘working’ at an escort bar… for all of a couple of days before Jinju and her friend Jeong-Ae began to realise what that would actually entail, and with whom…

But, as she mentions, this was one of the very rare occasions that Jinju didn’t get a right old battering off her dad / mum / close relative / teacher / all of them!

 

Written from the point of view of a comics creator looking back at her high school years – and I think it may therefore be at least in part inspired by Ancco’s own experiences – South Korean society in the ‘90s certainly seemed to espouse a somewhat hands-on philosophy of child rearing, shall we say. Barely a day seems to go by without Jinju being subjected to a GBH-level assault from someone at least mildly irritated with her. Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to tell us more…

“Jinju is bad. She smokes, drinks, runs away from home, and has no qualms making her parents worry. Her mother and sister beg her to be a better student, sister, daughter; her beleaguered father expresses his concerns with his fists. BAD FRIENDS is set in the 1990s in a South Korea torn between tradition and Western modernity and haunted by an air of generalized gloom. What unfolds is a story of female friendship, a Ferrante-esque connection formed through youthful excess, malaise, and struggle that stays with the young women into adulthood.”

But whilst Jinju does briefly run away, this is no QUEST FOR THE MISSING GIRL, neither tonally, artistically, nor indeed simply because her parents didn’t even bother looking for her. Though I suspect on that latter point, it was purely down the fact that they had finally had enough and were hoping a short, sharp shock of hard reality might bring her scampering sheepishly home, which it did.

No, tonally this has much more in common with the likes of Yoshihiro A DRIFTING LIFE Tatsumi’s fictional works such as THE PUSH MAN, all bleak, grim and unhappy, though offset with some dark humour reminiscent of Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY material. The overall feel is thus one of mildly delirious despair, both Jinju with her teenage existential angst and her parents with their rapidly diminishing hopes that their wayward daughter will sort her life out before she does something she really regrets. Like becoming a comics creator…

JR

Buy Bad Friends and read the Page 45 review here

The Hidden Witch (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag…

“I gave Charlie her protection charm today. I wonder who cursed her.”
“It is sad that her family didn’t teach her better.”
“Or him. Shouldn’t we try to find out who it is? Stop their magic from becoming corrupted.”
“There is a reason magic is passed down in families. We teach each other, we watch, we take care of our known. We do things differently from family to family, and we respect that.”

Indeed. For example, only Aster’s family – well, some of them like his Gran at least – is prepared to tolerate a male trainee witch like himself. And of course, not everyone has a family to teach them anything at all, which is the unfortunate case with our ‘hidden’ witch here. Not to make excuses for evil behaviour, but, you know, role models and all that.

 

 

So, new girl in town Ariel, stuck with yet another foster family, has serious trust issues and a shadow self to back up her bad attitude. Aster’s non-witch friend Charlie is trying to make friends with Ariel, as that’s just the lovely sort of person Charlie is, but so far, all she is getting for her troubles is some serious shadowy spectral spooking.

 

 

Much like THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER, this is actually really about being tolerant of differences, encouraging acceptance of diversity and building friendships with people who aren’t simply exact copies of yourself, rather than any sorcery-based shenanigans, though there’s just enough of that to cast a spell on proceedings.

It’s definitely aimed at every element of the all-ages audience, so don’t expect anywhere as sophisticated a storyline as THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER or NIMONA. It’s much more comparable to the likes to REAL FRIENDS, MAKING FRIENDS and pretty much anything written by Raina GHOSTS Telgemeier.

JR

Buy The Hidden Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Satoko And Nada vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yupechika, Marie Nishimori ~

“I’ve… decided I wanna try new things. I’m in America now, after all. I shouldn’t just be with Muslims all the time. I’ve got to try opening a new door…”

Moving from a bustling family unit in Saudi Arabia to study in America, Nata has come to the realisation that solo living isn’t quite for her. So, she does what any typical college student does and puts up an ad for a roommate. And in walks Satoko, a timid girl with disheveled hair, fresh off the plane from Japan. A budding friendship immediately starts to blossom, as Satoko is swept away by Nada’s charm and cheerful disposition, while Nada takes Satoko under her wing, nurturing her curiosity with sisterly compassion.

With each page dedicated to a different theme, the book is split into many small, easily digestible slices of life, tackling many disparate aspects of both cultures including religion, clothing, romance, birthdays and food; always done with such benevolent affection and good humour. Satoko and Nada are a very believable pairing, as they have such warmth and kindness towards each other, embracing each other’s customs with honest curiosity and a healthy dose of good humour.

 

 

Yupechika’s soft line work beautifully reflects the gentle nature of the story and the delicate tenderness with which the girls treat each other. Refreshing and feminine, this charming book is like a comfortable hug from a friend, and you’ll find yourself wishing that you were able to hang out with Satoko and Nada; sharing stories and experiences, and most importantly, your favourite recipes.

 

 

JP

Buy Satoko And Nada vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Green Lantern #1 (£4-25, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

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

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

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

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents.

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Liam Sharp shakes his head.

“What are you even on, Stephen?”

The air is so rare that I’m on a high, Liam. Thank you very much indeed.

 

 

SLH

Buy The Green Lantern #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’

Telepathy Practice (Sketched In) (£5-00, self-published) by Joe Decie

To Build A Fire (£13-99, Gallery 13) by Chabouté

Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Cicada h/c (£14-99, Hatchette) by Shaun Tan

The Fade Out s/c (£22-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Firefly Legacy Edition vol 1 s/c (£22-50, Boom!) by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Jim Krueger, Zack Whedon, Patton Oswalt & Will Conrad, Chris Samnee, Fabio Moon, Patric Reynolds

Kingdom Of The Dwarfs h/c (£26-99, IDW) by Robb Walsh & Dave Wenzel

Doctor Who: The Road To The Thirteen Doctor s/c (£13-99, Titan) by various

Marvels (Remastered Edition) s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross

The Punisher: War Machine vol 2 s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Stefano Landini, Guiu Vilanova

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Yotsuba&! vol 14 (£9-99, Viz) by Kiyohiko Azuma

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week one

November 7th, 2018

Featuring Posy Simmonds, Tom Gauld, Adrian Tomine, Tom Haugomat, David Small, Hector German Oesterheld, Alberto Breccia, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Steve Skroce, Stephen McCranie

Cassandra Darke (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.

On Friday November 17th 2017 a woman’s body was discovered in Surrey woodland by a couple who were walking their dog.

This we are shown in a newspaper clipping on the very first page.

It will not impact immediately upon disgraced and perpetually disgruntled London art dealer Cassandra Darke, her estranged family or her increasingly far fewer friends, for they are all, each one of them, obliviously unconnected.

For the moment.

A gripping, warmly and flavourfully rendered master-class in behavioural self-justification, plot precision, dramatic irony and visually delicious comicbook craft, this comes courtesy of entertainer Posy Simmonds MBE, the creator of British classics TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY, LITERARY LIFE and MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS. And this, her first new work in a decade, is another belter, with the most exquisite and varied tableaux.

 

 

Set in the run-up to two London Christmases – and flashing back to a year’s crucial events before either – the pages glow in the December snow, with store-front window displays luring in bag-burdened shoppers, all clad in scarves or clutching their collars closed.

One of those is Cassandra Darke, decked out in a boiler suit, thick boots and Trapper Hat, though she was only in search of macaroons from Piccadilly’s Burlington Arcade, on a brief break from the gallery which she manages for her ex-husband. He’s been semi-retired for a while now, with Alzheimer’s. Cassandra agreed to return even though Freddie had run off with her stepsister Margot – hence the divorce – because she’d got over him (and it) almost immediately. Still, things aren’t so serene when it comes to Margot, the sons they had together, and especially not their daughter Nikki. That… became personal last year.

Things aren’t so serene, either, once Cassandra spots Jane McMullen – wife of a deceased sculptor whose works Cassandra has traded in – crossing the road on the way to the gallery. Jane had been pestering her all day with emails and phone calls (so far evaded) after a dinner during which an art collector and his wife had cut Cassandra cold then spent all evening muttering in Jane McMullen’s ear. And Cassandra knows exactly what that’s all about: her “jiggery-pokery”, as she puts it, has finally been rumbled.

 

 

We’ll return to the plot twice more, but I love the contrast between the two women, both of a certain age. Stocky Cassandra’s tightly dressed like a Giles character, grimacing away, her sour, disapproving mouth with its pressed, thin lips forming a central beak beneath glasses worn so as to signify a disdain of their own. Jane on the other hand is hat-free with long, jumbled grey tresses which her quarry refers to as a “rats’ nest”, her dress, jumper and loose woollen overcoat all flowing more freely: lots of comfortable, more natural textiles.

And then we’re treated to pedestrian congestion, a crowd-scene which perfectly portrays the nightmarishly crammed and cramped London high street Christmas shopping phenomenon, all in aid of the great god Mammon. It’s lovely and peaceful at Page 45, I promise, where we’re on hand to help you with recommendations and – [Snip! That’s enough – ed.]

I remember when Comics Laureate Hannah Berry was drawing her own exceptional, packed crowd scenes towards the climax of her wicked media, socio-political and pop-culture satire LIVESTOCK, and the sheer masochism, as she saw it, of doing so. Blow up the final page of interior art accompanying that review for one of those crowd scenes and oh dear, there’s me, bottom left, beaming with enrapt adulation!

 

 

My point is, look at this full-page Posy Simmonds accomplishment, with its vanishing-point perspective, and its detail which only diminishes as the human eye can take in no more! At the flock’s front, instead, it’s almost as if the human flood is upon you, about to sweep you away down the street when actually you desperately need to get to the fourth shop ahead on the left-hand side.

Back to the plot and, as she predicts of herself, Cassandra comes a-cropper, busted for selling two collectors the same numbered cast. Fast-forward a year to December 2017 and although she avoided a jail sentence, the disgraced gallery has closed, she’s been forced to sell her second home in France to pay for the damages and legal fees, jettison her driver and housekeeper / cook, and been reduced from nipping down to The Wolsey for eggs Benedict to eating ready meals alone, taking public transport and walking her own dog.

Still, on the whole, she is contentedly self-contained. Until, that is, her ex-husband’s Memorial is announced. Cassandra didn’t attend the funeral for multiple reasons that Simmonds is so astute in understanding – Posy’s very good at getting into people’s heads – but she is tempted into attending the Memorial, albeit covertly, watching from the gallery above the main congregation. Once more the social observation flows freely – one of the wealthy, for example, has a “glue-do” of hairspray – but mostly Cassandra is left to reflect and it is here where we begin to learn her true heart.

For yes, she is mean-spirited and mercenary enough to swindle art collectors, but only the investors: the Speculators whom she despises for their “ignorance, vulgarity and itchy palms”. This is what I meant about Posy being a master of the way we justify our less laudable thoughts and deeds. Cassandra also dismissively refuses to give to the freezing homeless (“that’s the job of the Government… charities… to get them off the street”), and as to those charities themselves, while still a dealer she once berated Jane McMullen for donating her deceased husband’s work to their auctions: “… but don’t you understand? … it lowers Ken’s market price! It hurts your pocket – and MINE.”

 

 

However, in spite of the stream of self-justifications, she’s not self-delusional. During the eulogy to her ex-husband’s Memorial’s eulogy, she observes of her stepsister whom she acknowledges was always the kinder one, the comforter…

“The paean to Margot rolls on. So many virtues! None of which I possess. If I’d been the widow today he’d be pushed to find a fitting cliché. “They broke the mould” (thank God); “Larger than life” (obese); “Blessed with a wonderful imagination” (Liar. Utter crook.)”

In her own words she’s “old and fat” and actively contemplates suicide in forensic detail, by freezing to death in her now derelict garden, so as to avoid her ex-husband’s Alzheimer’s, and the hoists, ramps and grab bars she would need during her slow, lingering death in any twilight home.

 

 

It’s when Cassandra gets home that the shocker occurs, when the true plot finally reveals itself. The alarm to her front door doesn’t bleat (so isn’t set), there are granite chips from the garden which she crunches on down the hall, as well as inside the back door to the garden which is, thankfully, locked. Immediately she suspects burglary and tears round the house but nothing is missing. Then, with relief, she imagines it must be her weekly cleaner, nipping outside for a cigarette and dragging the gravel in on her shoes… except that she hadn’t noticed until now. Then a more paranoid explanation kicks in – one involving Nikki, her ex-husband’s daughter who in 2016 had begged her for lodgings in the separate basement flat, and money to finance her art projects. As I have intimated, that didn’t end well.

Perhaps Nikki had returned with copied keys? So Cassandra tentatively journeys downstairs. Nothing seems out of place since it was cleaned up a year ago. But there’s a grubby towel in the bathroom bin… and, under it, lies a glove, a gun and several rounds of ammunition.

I’ve seen Posy Simmonds described best by Antony Quinn, thus: “Posy Simminds is the laureate of English middle-class muddle, a peerless observer of their romantic confusions, emotional insecurities and professional vicissitudes. She gets to the heart of them more incisively and wittily than any number of her contemporaries…”

By contemporaries, Quinn was referring to Posy’s prose counterparts (Posy is overwhelmingly read by prose readers who don’t imagine or often acknowledge that they’re reading comics!), and he is 100% on the money. To this I would only add that Simmonds here also excels her peers in television in terms of the behavioural and crime-driven, evidential logic. This is immaculate.

 

 

As we flash back to those crucial events of 2016 involving Nikki, her imaginative, crusading art projects, a pivotal hen night and its multiple repercussions, then flow consequently back to the present, every element laid early on comes into play, from text messages sent to the wrong mobile phone (sent erroneously but not accidentally, and that is so key!) to Cassandra Darke’s initial, privileged and self-serving dismissal of charities, and the homeless, her contempt for Nikki’s specific staged social media campaign, yet also Darke’s renowned skills when it comes to analysing clues as to a painting’s provenance, its origin and so authorship.

That the gun (and other vital items) had, we discover, come into her hands through such complex, convoluted and unorthodox ownership – along with her own previous conviction for crime – means that this could not play itself out in anything close to an easy conclusion by calling the police. It does so instead through such deviousness and daring that only a woman who has outgrown self-interest and caution for her own physical safety could muster. Even her own physical weight, of which she is self-conscious, pulls its own here.

Let us say nothing of her dog.

Yes, you will see and come to understand Nikki’s side of things in full, and I warn you that it grows pretty grim when men become involved.

We may begin in posh Piccadilly and cosy Chelsea, in the sort of society for which a funeral is not enough and a Memorial must be held too, but that body was found in Surrey.

SLH

Buy Cassandra Darke and read the Page 45 review here

Through A Life h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Tom Haugomat ~

Rodney is a very curious young boy. If he’s not examining creepy crawlies with a magnifying glass he’s usually watching the seaplanes landing on the nearby lake through his binoculars. Sometimes he’s covertly peeking at the neighbour hanging out washing through the gap in the fence, or standing on tip-toes, peering through the keyhole, to try and see what’s happening on the other side of a door.

But what captures his imagination the most is the moment he gets to view the stars through a telescope, guided by his father. That is in September 1967. Then in July 1969, sat cross-legged on the floor, glued to the television, he gets to watch the first lunar landing. It’s no wonder this lad turns out to be a Trekkie, but that’s just the beginning of his obsession with the final frontier…

 

 

Sparsely illustrated pages of crisp design plot the trajectory of Rodney’s life at approximately a page per year: the discoveries, the successes, the failures, the high points and the lows, each a perfectly encapsulated point of time that we get to witness in its entirety. You see, this is a very unique take on a life story for we the readers are not simply there to watch, but also to experience it exactly as Rodney does… to partake through his eyes.

Presented in a simple yet ingenuous format throughout, with a scene on the left and then Rodney’s view of it on the right, each double-page spread is a construction that gives us the perspective from both outside and also within, which only when viewed together gives us the whole.

 

 

Sometimes it is Rodney peering through a door on the left hand page over to what he can see on the right, other times it is him intently reading a book on the left, with a close up of the page itself on the right. Thus you get to see what Rodney himself is experiencing in each moment, but also the bigger picture, which on occasion reveals a crucial aspect that Rodney himself may have missed.

Being presented with both perspectives like this sounds like it should be intrusive, voyeuristic even, but in actual fact it is far from it, instead creating a real sense of intimacy. More like a story being told to you in hushed tones, almost a whisper, by a close companion while you’re both sequestered away in a secluded spot.

Punctuated with real life events such as the Challenger shuttle disaster the story is grounded in a familiar time and place, and therefore brings with it a real sense of honesty. Its seemingly simplistic art style and subdued palette of crimson, teal and warm, blond yellow holds an abundance of elegant detailing which you’ll discover with delight. A triumph of storytelling through design, fans of Chris Ware should definitely take a look. Also, remember what I said about trajectory…

 

 

JP

Buy Through A Life h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards (£12-99, Canongate) by Tom Gauld.

 

 

From the creator of the longer-form GOLIATH and MOONCOP comes a booklet of fifty literary postcards to puncture our pretensions or wilful dim-wittedness with cartoons and short comics, accompanied where required with the deftest of timing.

The problem with that is it’s almost impossible to convey through quotation, so I selected some choice interior art for you instead. Some of all-time favourites are in here.

“But Stephen, we’ve already read some of these in Gauld’s BAKING WITH KAFKA and YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK!”

Well, tear them out and send them to somebody! It’s a book of postcards!

 

 

 

 

Alternatively frame the fiends, and arrange them artfully around your house where they can cause the most mischief: convulsive with laughter is ill-conducive to an accurate aim in the loo. Hmmmm. Arrange them around someone else’s house, then.

All the above titles reviewed in much greater length and depth. You’d never fit this on the back of a postcard as it is.

 

 

 

SLH

Buy The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards and read the Page 45 review here

Home After Dark h/c (£19-99, Liveright) by David Small…

“Wait. I think I’ve got a quarter. Will you blow me for a quarter?
“Come on, man! I’m all ready!
“What did I say?”
“I’ll see you retards later.”
“Russ! Pal! Don’t leave me here with blue balls! It’s not nice!”

I think face of thunder would best describe Russ’ face in response to his ‘friend’ Kurt’s, as he perceives it, hilarious banter. In retrospect, Russ probably didn’t do himself any favours drunkenly mentioning how their school friend Warren had paid Russ to lie on top of him and hug him. But then neither does Kurt know that Russ is in fact gay, albeit very much in the closet, unlike Warren, who is about to be forcibly evicted. Still, with ‘friends’ like Kurt and his sidekick asshat Willie, who for some reason best known to himself (and us the reader) Russ has chosen to hang around with during the summer, Russ is going to have learn to keep his secret under wraps if he wants an easy life. Here’s the publisher’s slightly hyperbolic synopsis of David Small’s latest tale of emotional character torture.

 

 

“David Small’s long-awaited graphic novel is a savage portrayal of male adolescence gone awry like no other work of recent fiction or film. Thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt, abandoned by his mother, follows his father to sun-splashed California in search of a dream. Suddenly forced to fend for himself, Russell struggles to survive in Marshfield, a dilapidated town haunted by a sadistic animal killer and a ring of malicious boys who bully Russell for being ‘queer.’ Rescued from his booze-swilling father by Wen and Jian Mah, a Chinese immigrant couple who long for a child, Russell betrays their generosity by running away with their restaurant’s proceeds. HOME AFTER DARK becomes a new form of literature in this shocking graphic interpretation of cinéma verité.”

 

 

Now, in case you are wondering what cinéma verité or indeed ‘blue balls’ are, dear readers, allow me to enlighten you… Cinéma verité literally translated as “truthful cinema” is apparently “a style of documentary filmmaking, invented by Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov‘s theory about Kino-Pravda and influenced by Robert Flaherty’s films. It combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality. It is sometimes called observational cinema, if understood as pure direct cinema: mainly without a narrator’s voice-over.”

Sounds a lot like a not inconsiderable number of comics to me… Did the publisher really need to make the obscure cinema correlation? Maybe the hypewriter is a cinema buff?

Blue balls, on the other hand, was a term I’d never heard of until I lived in the USA for a couple of years. It’s, well, let’s just say it’s a highly dangerous condition that if not treated rapidly can lead to the sufferers, usually immature young males, exploding. So no bad thing, then, if they are idiots like Kurt.

 

 

Anyway… all you really need to know is that David STITCHES Small is back once again putting his characters through the wringer. All of them, pretty much. I certainly think you’ll be able to gather from the above blurb that Russell is not having an easy time of it. Indeed, the prologue of a young Russell just staring vacantly at his own reflection in a bauble on the Christmas tree – whilst his parents’ climatic argument rages on right before his mother runs off with the local football star – is pretty much the tip of the emotional trauma iceberg that is come for poor old Russell.

With zero in the way of a positive parental role model from his alcoholic dad either, who promptly drags him halfway across the country for a failed fresh start and struggling with his sexual identity, Russell is about learn about life for himself the hard way.

 

 

If only he had some decent friends to help him through it all…

If only Russell was better at choosing his friends…

Russell is actually going to come out of this particularly troubled summer better than some, though, I will give you that…

For those that like their contemporary fiction more than a little dark and troubling, and their art style black and white, with lashings of grey shading and oh so heartbreakingly expressive, this is for you. This very nearly triggered the Rigby tear threshold, I have to say.

JR

Buy Home After Dark h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mort Cinder h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Hector German Oesterheld & Alberto Breccia…

“It’s a pleasure… to see you again, Ezra… Ezra Winston.”
“For me, too, Mort.”
“Someone’s coming, Mort! Sounds like a lot of them.”
“Breathing again… It’s incredible…”
“They’re coming, Mort! The leaden-eyed men!”

You know the type… the ones that don’t set up a standing order and then expect the latest issue of Deadpool Kills Off All Good Comics to be sat waiting for them on the shelves and blink their leaden-eyes in disbelief when it’s not…

Right, without further ado, let us allow Fantagraphics to resuscitate some proverbial reprinted life into the man who could not be killed. Well, he could be killed, but then he kept coming back to life again…

 

 

“The great Alberto Breccia, in collaboration with the Argentine writer Hector German THE ETERNAUT Oesterheld present MORT CINDER, a horror story with political overtones that follows the wanderings through time of a man who rises from the grave each time he is killed, bearing witness to the darkest sides of humanity. American comics creators such as Frank Miller (300, SIN CITY) and Mike Mignola (HELLBOY) owe Breccia a great debt; these horror-adventure tales are as thrilling, dread-inducing, and accessible as when they were created a half a century ago.”

 

 

Verbosely dramatic, intensely pencilled with vast quantities of black shading and shadows casting themselves around dangerously in every direction, this is indeed pulp horror of the finest vintage. It’s a very dense, intense read, which is primarily due to Breccia’s relentless, pressurising style. He never lets up on Mort, the reader, or indeed himself, judging from the amount of effort you can see that’s gone into the artwork, not to overlook the note-perfect feel of the writing and dialogue. He manages to put the reader firmly right into the ever-perilous place of the world-weary Mort Cinder. If you’re reading this late at night in the gloom you might catch yourself nervously looking over your shoulder for a man with leaden eyes… weeping silently over a lack of DEADPOOL first printings…

 

 

In terms of ability, Breccia’s right up there with Sergio THE COLLECTOR / SHARAZ-DE: TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS H/C Toppi for me. Fans of Tiziano Sclavi’s DYLAN DOG, a title that’s never really gained any traction in the English-speaking world – despite again the likes of Mignola being a self-proclaimed massive fan – would undoubtedly appreciate this. In terms of contemporary horror this is just as good as the likes of WYTCHES and HARROW COUNTY.

JR

Buy Mort Cinder h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying s/c (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Adrian Tomine.

It’s an odd title for an Adrian Tomine collection, I grant you, but Jonathan and I are completely convinced it refers to the young woman who insists on performing stand-up comedy. You’ll see for yourself whether she metaphorically kills or dies there.

From one of comics’ most astute observers of human behaviour – quite often rifts in relationships – this reprints OPTIC NERVE #12, 13, 14 (OPTIC NERVE #14 still in stock) and a substantially revised version of Tomine’s contribution to KRAMER’S ERGOT #7. We’ve all Tomine’s other OPTIC NERVE books in stock and reviewed.

Let the foibles begin!

Optic Nerve #12

“What is it?”
“This is just a proto-type. But it’s a sculpture that I made, with a live plant growing through it.
“In this case, sweet Myrtle, it’s a synthesis of nature and craft, a marriage of the wild and the man-made; a living breathing objet d’art.
“It’s my life’s calling.”

What it really is, I’m afraid, is a rather bad idea which Harold the gardener has chanced upon whilst reading about Japanese horticulture in the bath. It’s an idea so bad in conception that everyone else except poor Harold can see it straight away. But with the type of deluded confidence in his invention you regularly see in the comedy round-up sequence of ridiculous ideas on Dragons’ Den, he presses ahead into fiscal oblivion. The story is told primarily as continuous, four-panel black and white shorts, two per page, with the occasional full-page colour short story, which works well given that it’s spread over a number of years in an episodic manner. The art is as wonderful as you’d expect from Adrian, though it looks far more like Sammy Harkham’s style in this particular tale.

The second story is called ‘Amber Sweet’ and here the full-colour art is more typically Tomine, though the colour palette and odd side-profile facial expression can also make you think momentarily of Chris Ware. Our nameless female lead bares a rather uncanny resemblance to adult entertainment actress Amber Sweet, and it’s making her college experience rather unpleasant to say the least, as everyone seems pretty convinced they’re one and the same person and Amber Sweet is merely her stage name.

 

 

This is a great little short story, which if the theory that everyone really does have a doppelgänger out there is true and that encountering them will only bring you misfortune, then having them be a porn actress certainly isn’t going to help matters! In the end, our Jane Doe feels the only way she can ever get closure is to take a road trip and confront Ms. Sweet.

JR

Optic Nerve #13

“Opportunity is… what? Something we create, not something that happens. Right? And there’s always going to be hurdles, but what do we do when He hands us a challenge?”
“Utilize, don’t analyze!”
“That’s right.”

Our protagonist walks out at that point, and I can’t say I blame her. It’s not actually a prayer meeting, though: it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s a young-ish woman, more than a little worn by what life has thrown at her. At the moment it’s housing problems.

The woman is pursued by another attendee who looks older than he says he is. He has a certain self-confidence – some would say the gift of the gab – though I would have punched him two pages in. But he offers to buy her coffee, and then puts her up at his gaffe. He probably shouldn’t have snapped at her in bed, but he apologises. He’s very contrite and as good as his word.

“Your key, Madame.”
“I told you… this is just until I get everything squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just… go ahead!”

She opens the front door and there’s a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table, and a banner saying “Welcome Home”. She stands, stunned, in the doorway.

“Hello…?”
“Sorry, I’m… trying not to cry.”

The OPTIC NERVE graphic novels are amongst Page 45’s biggest sellers. It was fascinating watching Adrian’s style develop so swiftly during his teens in 32 STORIES (such a beautiful package, at the moment: facsimile editions of all the original mini-comics with extras) then, as he refined his line, he settled in for a recognisable Tomine style, similar to mid-Dan Clowes. OPTIC NERVE #12, however, proved to be a marked departure, and so is the lead story here wherein we witness colour-coded snapshots of a relationship as it develops from consolation and practical assistance into something else entirely. What is the word so often used about addiction? Oh, yes, “dependency”.

 

 

I promise you this: a degree of hilarity, a great many lies and one massive surprise. It will also keep you on the edge of your seat.

The brief snapshot effect works beautifully, throwing you through their story, and Tomine’s famous observational skills are once more in full evidence. For all that chapter’s shenanigans, I found it no less true to life (I am afraid) than Adrian’s previous, gentler work.

I can see some Beto in the woman’s expressions and some Chris Ware in our other, paunchy protagonist, softened by a less regimented line – particularly when the man high-tails it across the park.

 

 

The second story is in full, flat colour as a woman narrates her return to California from Japan to her child. She leaves her parents who do not approve of her decision to fly to San Francisco. She is met at the airport by her estranged husband who has secured them a tiny apartment. It is quiet, measured, profoundly moving and ends on an enigmatic ellipsis.

SLH

Optic Nerve #14

‘Killing And Dying’ covers the budding but excruciating comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their habitual roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

 

 

What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons I won’t elaborate on for fear of a spoil a great joke, but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple-car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style with lots of black shading and a single, secondary, light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the comings and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe he lets himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, but obviously it’s not going to end well. That’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!

JR

Buy Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maestros vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Steve Skroce.

Of the very first chapter, I wrote:

Irreverent High Fantasy melded with funny Low Filth, this unsurprisingly appealed enormously to Brian K. Vaughan who gleefully ran a preview in the latest issue of SAGA, although emphatically not the pages which require us to bag every copy so that no eyes younger than sixteen years old stray unexpectedly across the transformational excess of a Personal Legend elixir.

There’s at least one moment like that in every collection of SAGA, reminding you – however lovely Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are – why you thought better of lending the series to your mother, your grand-mother or your youngest nephew or godson.

With detailed blood, guts, gore that will score highly with any Geoff Darrow fan (see SHAOLIN COWBOY: START TREK SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET, SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’LL STOP THE REIGN and HARDBOILED), we open with a splendid, skull-crushing, infernal massacre as the wizard Mardok and his minions stage a surprise assault on the reigning Maestro, eviscerating him, his oh so many wives, and the entire royal family to boot – those who are still residing within the Realms, anyway.

 

 

One of his wives, Margaret, divorced the now former Maestro on the grounds of gross depravity and was consigned to a comfy cage for her troubles, but at least she secured the exile of her son. This saved both their souls, but now they are the only members of the royal line left alive so Margaret is dispatched by a walking, talking, bipedal sunflower to rescue full-grown Willy from his own low-grade, magical, ill-gotten gains before Mardok and his minions (do not forget them!) catch up with him in a strip joint.

 

 

Before you can holler “Too late!” we are treated to an extreme late-night viewing of The Little Shop Of Horrors and a page which I do wish I had for you involving the interior view of a floral gullet which would make a man-eating shark look all gummy and toothless.

Later, we learn about the origins of our planet, as a smaller Willy first discovers that Earth’s creator was in fact his great grand-father…

“We watched your people crawl out of the mud without the help of any magic or gods except what your imagination created. Your will and ingenuity amazed me.”

… And we are presented with a glorious panel of our gradual and deeply impressive evolution, rising up from hunched-over ape to homo erectus thence homo sapiens, to comic-carrying, fizzy-pop-guzzling, puppy-fatted, mid-teen Willy.

 

 

After the more earthly exploits, the vast majority of this collection follows Willy’s accession to his father’s throne and all the internal – and external – politics / skulduggery that comes with it. Expect extreme and unusual forms of torture, both physical and mental.

SLH

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

Moonshine vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso…

 

 

Previously in MOONSHINE VOL 1

“Speaking from experience…
“A lot of experience…
“It ain’t easy to describe the feeling of waking up in the unknown.
“Being in a spot you have no idea how you got to.
“It’s disorienting, a hole in the memory.
“And while the most immediate bit is to get your legs under you, it’s what’s missing that’s overwhelming. The hole…
“Did I dig it myself?”

Like ‘Boardwalk Empire’ meets ‘An American Werewolf In London’.  Do I really need to add anything else?

[Nope! – ed.]

Well, perhaps that it’s brought to you by the same team that produced the mesmeric, convoluted crime epic 100 BULLETS. At this point if you’re not reaching for your wallets, what is wrong with you?!

For far more, please see MOONSHINE VOL 1

JR

Buy Moonshine vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Space Boy vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie.

 

 

Amy and Jemmah grew up together on a mining colony way out in deep space, but when Amy’s dad lost his job, the family was forced to travel back to Earth and begin a new life there, so separating the best friends in both space and time. For Amy knew that she would spend her 30 years on the spaceship in suspended animation and, on waking up, Jemmah would be in her mid-forties and, in all likelihood, with a family of her own.

SPACEBOY VOL 1 (reviewed at length) told of that separation, so agonising to Amy that she couldn’t bear to even contact Jemmah. Instead, she gradually made new friends at a new school in a new city on the coast of a new country on a new planet.

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?

It’s pretty poignant stuff.

However, as I observed at the time, the title of the series wasn’t AMY but SPACE BOY, and this second volume’s cover suggests, the following, late-developing subplot is almost certainly going to come to fruition, for the deepest isolation was yet to come.

Amy has synesthesia: she has always associated people with flavours, sensing different flavours “emanating” from different individuals, and for the very first time she encountered 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 did Amy sense anything other than a void, in art class, when the boy began painting, and then there was something other than a terrible, overwhelming emptiness.

SLH

Buy Space Boy vol 2 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 Friends (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Ancco

Grafity’s Wall h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Ram V & Anand Radhakrishnan

The Hidden Witch (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag

I Am Young h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by M. Dean

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Coronation vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Daniel Bayliss

Mirenda (£15-99, Image) by Grim Wilkins

My New York Marathon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sebastien Samson

Star Wars Lando: Double Or Nothing s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Rodney Barnes & Paolo Villanelli

Twists Of Fate h/c (£33-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca

The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Aaron Renier

Watersnakes h/c (£17-99, Roar) by Tony Sandoval

Champions vol 4: Northern Lights s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jim Zub & Sean Izaakse, Emilio Laiso

Happiness vol 8 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 8 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

RWBY Anthology vol 1: Red Like Roses (£8-99, Viz) by various

Satoko And Nada vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yupechika, Marie Nishimori

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week four

October 31st, 2018

Featuring Una, Dave McKean, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex Sherman

Cree (Sketched & Signed) (£12-99, Mayfly) by Una…

“There was a time I felt completely alone… Now I’m among friends I wonder how I lived like that for so long.

“Joy cuts through every day like a sunbeam. I see beauty everywhere.
“When I finally turned to face the world with a sense of honesty and courage, I found it less fearsome than I’d imagined and much more ordinary.”

Now, just in case you don’t know, and I certainly didn’t, I will let Una explain what a ‘Cree’ is, which she kindly does in her afterword, “…a Cree is a place you go to escape the world, make and fix things and find peace…” Now, for Una, that’s her garden shed, but for the ladies portrayed here in the North East it’s their group where they get together at the Just For Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham to do some crafting and just be themselves.

 

 

It’s a real place, the Just For Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham. A social enterprise run by women, for women, offering all kinds of support and services, advice and education. As you might well imagine, it’s a vital lifeline for women who have, and continue to, endure some tough times. The main character, here, Jolene, is just one such woman. We don’t find out about her particular circumstances that bring her to catch the bus into Stanley from the countryside, attend the Cree, before making the return journey home again, but that’s not what’s important.

No, it’s the transformational power of the Cree to change a person’s state of mind for the better that is the key thing to take away from this work. Through shared experience and communication in a safe and stimulating environment. We see this profound effect for ourselves as evidenced by the uplift in Jolene’s private thoughts on the return leg of her commute, empowered and reinvigorated by her crafting session and natter with her confidantes…

“Starting again… It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
“I don’t where I’m headed next, but I’ll not go round in circles again. Not now. Not ever.”

What a wonderfully uplifting work! And brilliantly constructed, or should I say, crafted. Firstly, I found Una’s use of words during Jolene’s two bus-ride soliloquies immensely moving, which combined beautifully with the imagery, such as an overhead shot of a roundabout juxtaposed with the circles quote above. Comics perfection! On that poetic point, I would put this work up there with Tim Bird’s award winning FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA.

 

 

The art style is a mix of vibrant foreground colours and little to no background throughout, which gives this work a very much handcrafted and therefore personal feel. As with her other works like BECOMING UNBECOMING and ON SANITY there are also several panel and page compositional devices that further draw you in. For example, there is a very clever use of perspective and vanishing points going on in several pages of Jolene’s journey where often she isn’t visible to the reader. The sense of motion, of moving towards a destination, is tangible. Those sections are deliberately minimal in their content, with immense stretches of white background, but have an almost cubist feel in their layout and use of blocks of colour. There are also a couple of expansive foldout pages that welcome you into the Cree itself as Jolene arrives at the Centre and greets her friends. It’s abundantly clear throughout just how much thought Una has put into this work, of the combination of words and images.

 

 

On that note, Una also leaves us with something to think about on the nature of thinking. It’s not something that had ever occurred to me before but I reckon she’s onto something, you know. It’s also presented in a rather hilarious manner that actually makes you start to realise probably just how very true it is. I’m not going to spoil it for you by revealing it, I’ll let you discover it for yourselves, but it just goes to show what an accomplished comics creator Una is.

As well as a wonderful human being whom it was a pleasure to play host to in Page 45’s Georgian Room at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival 2018.

JR

Buy Cree (Sketched & Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Isola vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl & Karl Kerschl, Msassyk.

The cat and the captain have a long way to travel.

Stealthily they prowl across wetlands, through meadow valleys lush with summer-green trees, and over buzzing forest floors which prickle with humidity during daylight, then fall to dark, dank and dangerous at night.

The fabled island of Isola lies far, far away and, they say, is surrounded by vast stretches of water. It is also said that the souls of the dead reside there. But no one knows if it actually exists.

The cat and the captain have a long way to travel, without any guarantee that they’ll ever get there.

That’s one of the reasons. There are so many more.

This first issue opens on a night of natural indigo, high up on a mountain range commanding spectacular views which are obliterated by sheets of driving rain.

 

 

The soldier sits guard outside the tarpaulin tent in a Moebius hat, fur-trimmed cloak, leather boots and leggings. Her lance-like spear is struck, up-ended and so ready in the ground. Under the tarpaulin sleeps the adult tiger, but its rump and tail stick out the back, so the loyal soldier shelters its hind with her shawl.

A ssssss-ssssssound from one side attracts her attention, luring the Captain from her vigil. Repeated, she falls for its call, cautiously following it, bent-over under gnarled, twisted tree-trunks which look more like roots rising from the craggy terrain. And there sits a fox with eyes glowing gold, perched upon what…? A stone seat upon a stone pole? There are others. Did they once house a feral parliament or perhaps a raised rail?

 

 

She follows the fox down into a major brook and the colours shift subtly, introducing more than a hint of lambent green. And there lies her charge: the tiger, shot dead on the river-bank with a flash-flurry of arrows.

“No! No! This is all my fault!”
“Yyyyyyessssss” the sound seems to say, backwards, upside down.
“I’ll kill you for this! You hear me?”

Then the tiger disappears… The arrows disappear… And she’s left standing all alone in the water.

Hello! How are you doing? This is terrific!

Don’t worry, come morning, the big cat rises from the tent and braces itself against itself, stretching its back/spine and sinews under the more golden glow of an early dawn.

 

 

It leaps up the rocks to gain the best vantage point and take in the lie – and so lay – of the land. But it looks back. Back to an island from whose distant, highest peak rises a dark plume of dense, ugly smoke in front of the breath-taking aurora.

And it laments.

It doesn’t speak – this creature cannot speak – but it laments. It’s all evident in its ever so suggestive but underplayed body language.

 

 

Time and again, I’ve written about artist Sean Phillips as an exceptional character actor (most recently in KILL OR BE KILLED and THE FADE OUT reviews), and that’s what our best comicbook artists are. Karl Keschl does the same here for the feline, and it is done with quiet and controlled dignity but also decisiveness as befits the tiger’s true nature.

Like me, you too will be bursting with delirious conjecture yourselves. That’s exactly how it should be. This is both exquisitely beautiful and so supremely well judged, not least for throwing you in half-way through the equivalent of any other chapter two without a clue as to what has transpired so far. You are now embarked – and so invested – with the captain and the cat on their journey.

Neat trick #1: I love the luminous glow of the tiger’s inverse stripes once the sun hits their spots. But only then, for the lighting and shadow do so much to illuminate the big cat’s muscular form. There is a degree of tranquillity and calm which others would have jettisoned in favour of spectacle and show.

 

 

Neat trick #2: they’re a party of two, but only one of them can speak. This is pretty brave storytelling, and it is impressively successful. The Captain can only infer from the cat’s cool, calm but occasionally halting stares and glares, how she / he / it is reacting to what’s thrust against them. Nor can the captain know for sure that what she suggests is fully understood, though I think it is.

You will encounter others on your way, for they will encounter others on their way.

But you just know that they can never go home.

 

 

Top tip: ‘isola’ (ee-so-lah) is Italian for ‘island’.

Due to deference paid by the soldier to the big cat, you may by now have guessed that she isn’t simply a tiger, but that personal pronoun is all I’m giving away. As their perilous journey progresses and they become separated, you will discover other denizens of this world who may not be entirely human either.

You’re going to be treated to the lushes of landscapes in every weather, and I, for one, am a sucker for rain under canvas as anyone who’s read Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA AND THE TROLL will already know.

 

 

SLH

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

Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean…

“Dave demands his characters agonize over the meaning of life but he forces us to take the roller-coaster ride as well… right to the heart of the creative process–his words and drawings cascading across the page in perfectly structured cacophony. Beautiful!”–Terry Gilliam

Indeed!

So what mixed-media madness do you get for your moolah then? I shall let the publisher proudly proclaim all. And I do mean all…

“Dark Horse proudly presents Dave McKean’s short cinema on Blu-Ray included in a behind the scenes 9 1/2′ x 11′ hardcover book featuring photos, posters, stills, drawings, and more. A must-have for McKean fans!”

Yes, from the creator of CAGES, BLACK DOG etc, and contributor to 2018’s TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR anthology, here is the Blu-Ray breakdown:

“Week Before – 23 minutes – Inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt, a story about two neighbours, God and The Devil.

Neon – 27 minutes – This film is narrated by Velvet Underground founder John Cale and was first prize winner at Clermont-Ferrand (one of most prestigious short film festivals in the world).

Whack! – 14 minutes – Based on Mr. Punch graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.

Displacements – 14 minutes – A combination of three short films featuring Michael Moorcock, Iain Sinclair, and Ed Dorn.

Dawn – 9 minutes – Filmed after McKeans’s work on the movie Mirrormask, this short is based on the Dark Horse Comics graphic novel Pictures that Tick.

Iain Ballamy & Stian Carstensen – 3 1/2 minutes – A video short of jazz musicians Iain Ballamy & Stian Carstensen.

Sonnet No. 138 – 1 minute – An animated version of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets as part of a large project to turn all of them into short films, the project was subsequently cancelled and all that remains is this short film.

MTV-9/11 Reason – 1 minute – Reason was created to play on Sept. 11th 2002, a year after the terrorist attack in New York in 2001. McKean made this image as an illustration for a memorial book published by Dark Horse, and turned it into a film shortly after.

MTV-World Aids Day – 1 minute – McKean’s short film for MTV on World Aids Day.

Visitors – 15 minutes – Created to be a video shown during live performances for the band Food, this film was shot at the Pacific coastline at Pebble Beach, Point Lobos, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, and at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.

A short film for Adobe – 4 minutes – Short film of the making of an image, which was the cover of The Particle Tarot.

Signal to Noise – 4 minutes – Based of his own Graphic Novel Signal to Noise.

RAINDANCE 7 – 1 minute – Trailer/Advert for the Raindance Film Festival.

KODAK: TAKE PICTURES FURTHER – 40 minutes – Commissioned by Kodak to launch a new film stock, and consisted of a lavish book, featuring several photographer/ artists, and accompanying ‘making of’ films for each contributor.

BUCKETHEAD -THE BALLAD OF BUCKETHEAD – 4.5 minutes – Dave’s ode to the musician Buckethead

Izzy – 3.5 minutes – Film dedicated to opera singer Izzy, featured on MTV’s Classical Channel.

Lowcraft – 1 minute – A music video made for the band Lowcraft, inspired by the artist Lorenzo Mattotti.

The Old Monkey – 4 minutes – A performance by McKean of a song he wrote for jazz composer Iain Ballamy and poet Matthew Sweeney.

9 Lives: Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree; 9 Lives: The Cathedral of Trees – 4 minutes – Two short films from a show by McKean called Nine Lives.”

So now you know you’re getting a pretty sizeable bang for your proverbial buck. Which is all well and good, but what do the films actually look like? At this point, we would normally show you a bit of interior art, but that’s clearly not going to cut it on its own… So I think the best thing to do is link to Dave’s own trailer for this book, which is a glorious dada-esque coruscating spin through most of the shorts on the Blu-Ray. You will be utterly mesmerised I promise. I can now see precisely why Terry Gilliam is a fan. As is actor Michael Sheen, who provides an insightful foreword that posits that Dave’s short films are the answer to “How do you fit an elephant into an egg-cup?”

In terms of the paper-based content, each film is introduced in the first person by Dave, explaining its conception and gestation, accompanied by stills and some trademark McKean constructions of imagery. There is also an occasional in-depth article about a particular piece from relevant others.

 

 

As a companion to the films themselves, this material all serves to provide a deep insight into Dave’s thought processes and working methods. It certainly gave me pause for thought on a few occasions. The notes accompanying the Whack! film, which originally was intended to add to the classic McKean and Gaiman collaboration THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH were utterly fascinating and also disturbing in equal measure!

Certainly one for anyone interested in the art of short film making, but also for anyone interested in learning more about one of this country’s most imaginative and inventive artists and this particular celluloid-flavoured slice of his many, many talents.

JR

Buy Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray and read the Page 45 review here

The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.

I won’t fuck about.

If you love the fuck out of Mafia movies then this fucking fuck will have you sweating like fuck, then running for fucking cover, the fucker.

There may also be the occasional expletive.

I don’t know about you but few things terrify me more than the Mafia or its equivalents, like the IRA. I don’t want to get sucked into worlds which leave me impotent and exposed yet from which there is no hope of escape. People with power who are way beyond accountability who can use you and abuse you and demand your submission.

From the creative team who brought you POWERS comes something equally dark but completely free from capes. In a power struggle between some very dangerous men it is so, so tense. I highly recommend it to readers of CRIMINAL.

Here the Mafia were never subdued in America. Instead a considerable portion of the country was conceded to them to rule semi-surreptitiously and with impunity as long as they left the rest of the politicians alone.

Handsome young Valentine is sworn in as a Made Man long before his few years of service would generally merit it. But his father – and his father’s father before him – was of such stock that he was effectively fast-tracked. And Valentine is equally committed to the family.

 

 

His first duty is to deliver a message to a Senator in Washington DC. The message was in the form of a briefcase and that, however cryptic to others, would speak for itself. Valentine asked for his cousin to accompany him and reluctantly that was agreed. He didn’t ask for hitwoman Jagger Rose to accompany him but she was persuasive, effective, so reluctantly he agreed.

The message was seemingly delivered but another was sent in its place: the detonation of a bomb, blowing up said Senator. Nobody knows what it means. Or at least, no one will admit to knowing or to being its messenger.

The hunt for the truth behind the bomb blast is on and it’s a race against time because Valentine and Jagger Rose – although caught in its path – are the most obvious prime suspects. They’re wanted more dead than alive by the government, the families in general and their very own family in particular who claim to their faces that Valentine and Jagger have betrayed them.

 

 

Whom do they trust? Whom do you trust? Who has set whom up and why?

Oeming and Soma have delivered something dark, stark, brooding and sweaty: claustrophobic and unsettlingly lit. The colours are far from naturalistic and occasionally venomous – I’m thinking the intrusion of Valentine’s Ma on her son and Jagger Rose – while the first page’s flashback in chapter two was a wee bit Hernandez. Lots and lots of silhouettes. Quite a lot of crimson.

 

 

It’s jagged and nasty and grotesque. The faces are like masks when you can see them at all. So often all you get are the eyes, burning with bitterness or hatred. So much of this is instinctively delivered, expressionistic, like lines of reverse silhouettes or tiny side-panels offering background chatter, the rolling of dice and the cocking or firing of guns.

 

 

I haven’t told you everything. Valentine has been set up, I can assure you of that. But was it by his own don, another family, Rose herself or another party? Because in the very first chapter immediately after being sworn in to the mafia family and its innermost circle whom Valentine has been raised to love with all his heart, he is called to one side by his mother.

And she tells him a secret.

I’ve never known a series with so many reversals so early on then repeated throughout right to the very last page. I rated POWERS. I rated it very highly. I am big fan of Bendis to a degree that is almost unseemly. Pop him in our search engine and see for yourself!

But this is on another level from POWERS completely.

SLH

Buy The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set (£26-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sherman.

All three softcovers in a sturdy slipcase, this shouldn’t be confused with THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL three-piece series which, against all odds and prior history, we do have in stock and in depth. Never once before have we managed to acquire all three DARK CRYSTAL CREATION MYTHS for the shelves at the same time!

Five years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Shut up.

 

 

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

You have to really bellow that one.

All the above is true.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set 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’.

Mort Cinder h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Hector German Oesterheld & Alberto Breccia

Black Science vol 8: Later Than You Think s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Cucumber Quest vol 4: Flower Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi D.G.

Dark Justice: Dominion h/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Nick Percival

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! The Complete Collection h/c (£22-99, IDW) by Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, Kelly Jones

Frankenstein Story Collection (£15-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Last Pick vol 1 (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Walz

Lost Soul, Be At Peace h/c (£10-99, Candlewick Press) by Maggie Thrash

Maestros vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Steve Skroce

Moonshine vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying s/c (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Adrian Tomine

Space Boy vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards (£12-99, Canongate) by Tom Gauld

Through A Life h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Tom Haugomat

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming h/c (£29-99, DC) by Enrico Marini

Man Of Steel By Brian Michael Bendis h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis, various

Bleach vol 74 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week three

October 24th, 2018

Featuring Philippa Rice, Kristyna Baczykski, B. Mure, Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Rick Remender, Bengal, Tsutomu Nihei, Lucy Sullivan, John Porcellino, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Sister BFFs h/c SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by Philippa Rice.

Was your brother or sister your very best friend? And have you remained so forever? Or has it been a constant ball-and-chain battlefield from which you have never escaped?

“You’re tacky and boring and I roll my eyes at you so much my eyeball wires have gone curly.”

The disdain in those hooded eyes!

£9-99 for a 140-page full-colour hardcover is ridiculously cheap – the publisher’s bound to notice shortly – and all our initial copies come sketched-in for FREE.

This is tug-of-war territory and most of these battles begin on the sofa.

“Get your feet off me!”
“Sorry, what?”
“They stink of sewage.”
“No, that’s your own breath.”

 

 

 

Quite often Philippa resorts to sitting on Holly in lieu of an argument, in order to extract a retraction or compliant silence. She gets neither.

“The only crush I have… is a crushing despair every time I remember we share a gene pool.”
Your genes aren’t allowed in the pool. They’ve got verrucas!”

It put me in mind of Newman and Baddiel’s “That’s you, that is…” escalating confrontations, except that the comedians’ characters never made up as these two do on occasion, in an alliance of outrage and revenge strategies. Holly’s not above helping out an embattled Philippa, for example, when she’s caught short of make-up in a supermarket where the former “cool guy” from school is spied working on the checkout.  They help themselves to the shelves’ samples of slap, Holly dutifully working her magic.

“You’ve a stubborn face, but I’ve done my best.”

 

 

Then some perfume is required.

“What was that? It STINKS!”
“Um… “
“”A striking fragrance designed by the hit boy band TrueGuyz”. I reek of preteen.”

From the creator of SOPPY, WE’RE OUT, ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON, and OUR SOPPY LOVE STORY etc, these snort-inducing comedy shorts star Philippa and her younger sister Holly – who may or may not be real – in conversational snap-shots either in person or by text. At first I suspected that Holly must surely be fictional, but the bathroom intimacy rings way too true for that.

 

 

It’s partly the cartooning, but also the hyperbole that’s so hilarious: the extreme and elaborate nature of the put-downs, especially in the cramped train carriage sketch conducted via cell phone. It’s beautifully orchestrated with a dip in the middle so that the tirade erupts almost out of nowhere before being deflected by a virtual non-sequitur from Philippa, after which the target of the ire / petulance is redirected once more towards her sister’s fellow travellers.

Anyway, Holly has just been squashed against a man whose coat “stinks of old smoke and rotting vegetables” and is clearly overdue for a weekend break at a dry cleaner’s. Philippa:

“I’d just spritz it with some deodorant.”
“That’s why you stink.”
“No.”
“You stink of boiled eggs.”
“No.”
“You stink of the egg smell that comes out when you open a packet of cooked chicken slices.”
“You do.”
“You bathe in egg-water and use mayo as a face mask and have boiled egg slices on your eyes.”
“Eggs are good for you.”

Rice is immediately recognisable from her autobiographical SOPPY self-portraits. Never one to shy away from self-denigration, there is a delicious panel in which she is shown enthusiastically diving, head-first and with zero dignity, into a bag of her sister’s clothing cast-offs, her rounded bum up in the air, short legs and tiny, white-socked toes waving wildly.

 

 

The two BFFs’ rubber-lipped mouths are flapping, yapping things, like hands in glove puppets of ducks, squidged up against the sisters’ faces, making them pudgier, more chubby-cheeked. They were either the inspiration for or inspired by Rice’s hand-crafted woollen animals who star in her ‘Soft Spot’ animations (http://philippajrice.com/animation/), composed with SOPPY co-star and the creator of HILDA, Luke Pearson. That’s where I first learned that Philippa could be surprisingly and delightfully rude, and so it is here.

“I hate my hair, I hate my face, and I hate my life.”
“Well, you’ll be dead one day. That’s something to look forward to.”

 

 

It’s less Men Behaving Badly, more Children Behaving Competitively, and all the funnier for them being adults. They are obsessed by smells, particularly eggs smells but also bodily function smells and I am heartily relieved that this is not scratch-and-sniff. There’s zero dignity but mass of indignation instead.

Philippa: “I don’t like to think of my organs or innards. I like to think of my body as solid meat all the way through.”
Holly: “I’m solid rage all the way through.”

SLH

Buy Sister BFFs h/c SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN and read the Page 45 review here.

Terrible Means (£8-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by B. Mure ~

It started when the plants began to wilt, and was swiftly followed by the river turning black. Something unpleasant is happening in the Republic Of Ismyre and the government seems to be suffering from a bit of a blind spot. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. But then, they are rather preoccupied at the moment. A charismatic aristocrat has arrived in town with a marvellous new invention, and along with the endorsement of the utterly self-absorbed Lady Morwen, the powerful and wealthy have all gathered to witness the dazzling new product. Swilling champagne and cooing in awe, their greedy eyes are treated to a masterful display of magic like nothing they have ever seen before…

We’re back in ISMYRE, but in this prequel we are taken beyond the confines of the city boundaries into the rolling hills of the countryside. Here we meet botanist Henriett and his dear friend Sybil, both quite distressed by the condition of the native plants, and mischievous young wizard Emlyn, who is somewhat perturbed by the sudden darkening of the river. What is certain is that all of them have reached the end of their tether with the government wilfully choosing to ignore the dwindling magic of the countryside.

 

 

A book as colourful as its cast of characters, Mure uses lashings of translucent layers of watercolour to create a vibrant world that positively glows throughout. With ever so subtle shifts in colour palette the story is given a real pacing, as we begin in a summer-coloured afternoon that transitions to glowing warm dusk, then we’re subdued with sultry, cold blues and purples of the night, before finally being whisked back to life with a pastel-coloured sunrise. It’s a brilliantly executed storytelling device that serves to highlight the sense of urgency felt by our anthropomorphised cast, as we see their story unfurl over just a few short, rebellious days.

A tale of defiance and of fighting the good fight. You’ll be rooting for this unlikely gang of disruptors and be inspired by their determination.

“I’d rather live fighting than die having never tried”

JP

Buy Terrible Means and read the Page 45 review here

Retrograde Orbit (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Kristyna Baczykski ~

“My name is Flint.
“I live on the sixth planet, Tisa.
“Can you hear me?
“Is anyone there?”

For her entire life, Flint has yearned for the distant planet Doma; a lush and beautiful globe of waterfalls and mountains, worlds apart from her condensed, crowded city ‘living’. Her grandmother was lucky enough to spend her childhood on Doma, but was urgently evacuated due to a nuclear disaster – though we don’t speak of that – never to return. The mysterious, unknown circumstances of her forebearer’s enforced departure only serves to further fuel Flint’s curiosity about Doma, which as she approaches adulthood and begins to feel ever more detached from her own world, becomes a burning obsession to get there.

 

 

It’s a refreshing new take on the familiar theme of self-discovery and belonging, or lack of it. Kristyna’s trademark design aesthetic truly lends itself to the sci-fi genre. With her geometric line work and pastel colour palette she artfully merges the everyday with the other-worldly, creating an environment that is both simultaneously familiar and alien. This perfectly echoes the overall theme of the story and drives home that slightly unnerving sense that perhaps you yourself have experienced… of feeling like one doesn’t somehow quite belong in a place one is intimately familiar with…

Having been a fan of Kristyna’s mini comics and self-published zines for years, It was great to finally see her take on a long format story with a fully realised cast of characters and world… well… solar system! It is a lovely first graphic novel and one that will resonate with anyone who has struggled to carve their place in life.

JP

Buy Retrograde Orbit and read the Page 45 review here

Gideon Falls vol 1: The Black Barn s/c (£8-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart…

“Actually, Mrs. Tremblay… there is one thing.”
“Of course, Father. Anything.”
“In all the rush to get to Gideon Falls, I don’t think the Bishop ever told me… how did Father Tom die?”
“Oh. I… I had thought you would have known.”
“No. Was it his heart?”
“I… I’d rather not talk about it.”

Hmm… I have a sneaking suspicion that wasn’t an accidental omission on the Bishop’s part, the lack of details on the sudden demise of Father Tom. Still, Father Wilfred has now arrived in the rural, backwater town of Gideon Falls, against his wishes, to take up the suddenly vacant position of their pastor. He’d have preferred to remain in the seminary, teaching, but the Bishop felt he was the man to answer the call so off he went.

 

 

What precisely Father Fred, as he likes to be known, or indeed Gideon Falls, has to do with the lunatic Norton obsessively cataloguing and cross-referencing specific pieces of garbage across the distant, big city we will gradually learn. We see Norton interacting with and deceiving his therapist, in a bid to avoid being sectioned again, but it would seem, to him at least, that he senses the presence of something or someone he regards as evil incarnate in the vicinity.

 

 

Norton’s collection of disparate refuse is not remotely random, either, to him, for he senses a common source to his slivers of wood, rusty nails, shards of glass and bent hinges, which he unerringly homes in on, however implausible that seems. The disturbing thought occurred as I read the very first issue that Norton was finding all the components you might expect to compose a door… In that respect I was… partly… correct. Though much like Norton I had an incomplete grasp of matters…

 

 

Yes, mystery, murder and suspense abound, both in the urban environment and the dusty countryside, plus most certainly within the pages of this comic book. And horror, genuine blood-curdling horror too. For Father Tom’s death isn’t the only one in Gideon Falls by the time this opening salvo concludes.

So, what are we, the readers left with? An absolute mystery. What is the connection or connections, between the places and / or the protagonists? We’ll learn some answers by the end of this first volume, including one truly heartbreaking one, but there’s so much left to be revealed…

 

 

Andrea Sorrentino, probably best known for his gritty, fine linework on Lemire’s reprise of OLD MAN LOGAN is an ideal foil for such a tense, taut story that slides straight into psychologically perturbing territory right from the off like the veritable knife between the ribs. His panel and page composition in the Norton sequences particularly – complete with several spectacular double-page spreads, one featuring a mind-bending fish-eye lens effect and another a collage of scattered Polaroids over a time-lapsed, anguished Norton rocking in a chair against a cityscape – plus inverted pages and crafty use of symmetry contribute immensely to the disorientating, fractured feel and a very rapidly building sense of unease.

 

 

Then, when the spine goes from mild tingling to collapsing in complete terror back in Gideon Falls, with immense amounts of the colour red involved, I had a strong suspicion I recognised the exact shade from BPRD and BALTIMORE, and yes indeed, it is Dave Stewart providing the colour palette in his own inimitable fashion. It’s a sure sign you’ve probably read too many comics when you can identify a colourist from just one colour… He also seems to have employed a vertical texturing technique on practically every section of black shading which is also cumulatively… troubling… to the eye, and mind… in an artistically positive sense, as if something is persistently scratching away at what you are experiencing. Spooky. And then some.

JR

Buy Gideon Falls vol 1: The Black Barn s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Death Or Glory vol 1: She’s Got You (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Bengal…

“What did the doctor say?”
“Won’t see us. Owe ’em too much money.”
“How the hell do we live in a world where some fuckers at an insurance company get to decide who lives and dies?”

Quite. Action and misadventure abounds in this high-octane opener of a crime caper from Rick THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME Remender and artist Bengal. Plus a bit of relevant social commentary too!

So… Glory Owen needs copious amounts of hard cash fast, like yesterday, to get her adoptive father Red a new liver. Red’s lived his life off the grid, free from the system, in fact, not even Glory knows his real name. Just that he looked after her when her mother died and now it is time to repay him in his dying hours of need. Because no paperwork, no social security number and certainly no health insurance means without serious amounts of hard cash to buy a new organ, he’s on his way out. Glory’s pretty sure Red wouldn’t want her to do what she’s about to do, but in her eyes, it’s time to repay the debt of a lifetime of love he’s shown to her.

 

 

She’s about to rob her ex-husband and big time drug dealer Toby of a briefcase full of his illicit lolly… Well, not him technically, just his couriers, who happen to be the local sheriff and his deputy. She has a plan, kind of, which mainly seems to involve a wing and a prayer and a very fast car. It’s not going to go well, clearly, which of course it doesn’t.

Special mention should also be made of the hitman who has one of the most novel ways of killing people I’ve seen since Javier Bardem went around knocking on doors and nailing people with his pneumatic captive bolt pistol in No Country For Old Men. This lunatic’s weapon of choice is liquid nitrogen…

 

 

Fans of car chases are going to enjoy this series, for sure. Set out in what feels like the Midwest somewhere, it all has a touch of the Dukes of Hazard about it, though the stakes and consequences are clearly somewhat higher.

Artist Bengal, probably best known for the likes of NAJA / MEKA / LUMINAE for Magnetic Press has a lovely crisp style with a cinematically vibrant colour palette. I’ve seen him comment online that he thinks he’s a considerably better inker than penciller but I think he’s being incredibly harsh on himself as it all looks as immaculate and highly polished as a freshly washed, polished and buffed car bonnet.

 

 

Remender only ever seems to work with top quality artists who love a crisp line: Sean Murphy on TOKYO GHOST, Matteo Scalera on BLACK SCIENCE, Greg Tocchini on LOW, Jerome Opena on SEVEN TO ETERNITY and I think Bengal is right up there with those folks.

In the hope that it intrigues, I leave you in noting that Glory’s hunt for a liver donor leads in all sorts of… unexpected directions.

JR

Buy Death Or Glory vol 1: She’s Got You and read the Page 45 review here

Aposimz vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“N—no! There are people with Frame disease over there…”
“So what? That’s not so rare, is it?”
“It’s a bit weird, though. There’s lot of new ones.”
“New ones?”
“You’re right… There are lots of fresh Frames among them.”
“Yeah. You often see the messed-up old ones, but this…”
“Because of Rebedoa’s invasions, the borders are all in chaos. They could have escaped from some town’s quarantine.”
“They say when you become a Frame, you lose your sense of self, but I wonder if that’s true… If they have even the tiniest bit of consciousness left… and they’re stuck roaming this world in that state for decades, or even centuries… if it ever looks like I’m becoming a Frame, I want you to kill me.”

Weird geographical spacey location involving huge mega-structures… CHECK!
Strange zombie-like creatures… CHECK!
Big guns… CHECK!
Sentient Artificial Intelligence… CHECK!
A brutal asymmetric conflict between two ideologically entrenched opponents… CHECK!
A rag-tag bunch of heavily outnumbered goodies who’ll have to save the day, well everything, actually and / or die trying … CHECK!
Big guns… like REALLY BIG GUNS… CHE... oh, we did that one already…
A talking bear… NO, NOT THIS TIME! BUT THE EMPEROR OF MODERN JAPANESE CYBERPUNK RETURNS!!! WHY AM I SHOUTING??!! BECAUSE I’M EXCITED!!!

Yes! Tsutomu BIOMEGA / KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA / BLAME! returns with another implausibly titled… errr…. title. It is also quite tricky to pronounce. On that note, I am still waiting for someone to definitively explain why BLAME! isn’t BLAM! given it is meant to be the sound of gun going off, but who cares, frankly?! I have absolutely no idea what an Aposimz might be. It sounds like a cybernetically enhanced opossum, and knowing Nihei, that is possible, but it probably isn’t the case.

Let’s see if the publisher’s blurbe! (sic) tells us more…

“This story takes place on the frigid, massive artificial planet known as Aposimz.

 

 

“Eo, Biko and Etherow, residents of the White Diamond Beam, are in the middle of combat training when suddenly a girl appears, Rebedoan Empire soldiers in hot pursuit. The girl asks for their help in keeping safe a “code” and seven mysterious “bullets.” This chance encounter marks a major shift in the fate of the entire planet…”

So that clears that little bit of abstract nomenclature up, then! And probably tells you everything else you need to know as this point. I absolutely loved this frenetic, all-action opener. Fans of Nihei will lap it up, for sure. I can make only one mild criticism which I am prepared to actually classify as merely an observation at this time as I am sure I will eventually adjust to it / it will all be explained…

Firstly, it took me a week or so to actually even pick this up despite it being Nihei because I felt the cover seemed so insubstantial with its entirely white background. Then, once you get inside the art is equally light. It feels like there is a layer of inking entirely missing. There is practically zero shading. Which if you are familiar with his previous works, you’ll know is not his typical style. You could almost make a case for him being a bit ‘ink heavy’ typically. So strange.

 

 

Unless of course the fact they live in the ‘White Diamond Beam’ zone has something to do with it and Nihei will rediscover his inkpot as our cast fight their way towards the subterranean centre of Aposimz? Presumably by the time they get there it’ll be pitch black and the reader will require night vision goggles to follow the action…

 

 

Anyway, consequently this opening salvo felt more like the equally deranged GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando or indeed the also as surreal PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA by Tsemberlidis than Nihei, though the linework is most definitely recognisable as his. With that said, it is always nice to see creators, particularly manga creators who aren’t exactly renowned for changing up their approach, continuing to try new things stylistically.

JR

Buy Aposimz vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Barking by Lucy Sullivan.

Look at that time stamp!

Oh right, we’ll get to that in a bit; you’re probably distracted by the arresting black and white cover, and its black-dog shadow of depression our protagonist can’t shake, her haunted backwards stare at a past from which she cannot escape, and that’s quite the oppressive, heavy-hanging black cloud of awful, unsuppressable anxiety buzzing away above her.

Within, it gets worse.

It’s not a horror comic in the lunar transmogrification sense which I first mistook it for, but it is horror all the same in its all too real-world manifestation, and rendered as appallingly on the page as it is to endure, with power and a punch and an expressionistic frenzy yet total control that put me in mind of Bill Sienkiewicz.

The clue’s in the title which implies a second word, and if you want some idea of how tightly this has been conceived and executed from start to arresting finish, then the opening chapter’s called ‘Hounded’.

 

 

We’re breaking with tradition here of reviewing only that which we stock to hammer out the most urgent exhortation for a project that’s got me fired up into a frenzy of admiration and expectation, based on the first two printed chapters which Lucy Sullivan handed to me in person at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018.

It’s a limited run which you can buy direct from Lucy Sullivan’s website and it comes with a code which will give you 10% off the cost of the full graphic novel. However, to help spread the word even further, Page 45 has kindly been given clearance to use the following consecutive pages plus its much later, subsequent punchline at the bottom of this preview.

I would seriously brace for impact.

 

 

 

See what I mean?

Jeepers, but the kinetic energy is so very well rendered there.

I’m sincerely hoping you’ll back the creator and publisher in its crowd-funding campaign and so receive the entire graphic novel as well as early, immediate incentives.

Plus 10% of the author’s revenue from each Hardback will be donated to MQ: Transforming Mental Health, Charity No. 1139916 & Scotland SCO46075

Ah yes, as you know by now, Mental Health is so important to Page 45 that we have our own prominent shop-floor counter-corner display and Page 45’s Online Mental Health Section, full of non-fiction and fiction alike to help us all personally or increase our understanding of others.

Anyway, here’s the next two pages immediately following and, as I mentioned earlier, just look at the comparative time stamp! Clever, eh?

 

 

 

The publisher portends:

“Alix is having a very bad day. Easily her worst so far.
“A year after they fished her friend’s body from the river, Alix finds herself haunted, chased and driven to the brink by… what? 
“Figments of her addled mind? Certainly.
“Delusions from too much booze and not enough sleep? Probably. 
“Sectioned and left in the hands of an umbrella health system, Alix is about to find out just how fine a line it is between the sane world and the psychiatric ward at St. Judes.”

I leave you, then, with a) the terrible knowledge that this based on the author’s very own devastating experiences of “a grief-triggered mental health crisis”, and b) the much later, final double-page spread.

 

 

Rarely have I been left more chilled and dreading yet desperate to know what happens next.

Here’s an unusual sign-off for us…

SLH

Read the Barking Crowd-Funding Page and Perhaps Back Barking from Unbound

Thanks!

Thoreau At Walden s/c (£10-99, Disney) by John Porcellino ~

Now out in softcover, after over a decade, Tom once took this on thus:

“On Independence Day in 1845, the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau moved into a small cabin, built by his own hands, on the shore of Walden Pond outside Concord Massachusetts. He lived there for two years, two months and two days, and wrote a book about his experience called Walden, which has gone on to become one of the most influential philosophical works in the world. Walden‘s message of self-reliance, self-reflection, social criticism, and harmony with nature has resonated with readers for over 150 years. Thoreau at Walden is an impression of Thoreau’s time at the pond, with text taken directly from Thoreau’s own published writings. Henry David Thoreau is one of my biggest inspirations as an artist and human being, so this project was very near and dear to my heart.” – John Porcellino

For those who’ve followed Porcellino’s KING-CAT comics and know of his passion for philosophy and adapting various moral tales to comics, this should be something of a treat. Set over the course of four seasons, John has taken choice quotes from Thoreau’s book, Walden, and paired them with his own visual musings. Effectively John is developing within comics a style akin to the works of the philosophers he learns from therefore creating his own ethical code. And although he seems too modest and humble to admit it, with his King-Cat Comics he also teaches as he learns. 

A quiet confidence enables John to break away from Thoreau’s powerful words and reflect upon the man and his surroundings in moments of silent wonder which often last many pages. Most artists would inadvertently detract from any deeper meaning here with stylized visual monologues serving to placate their ego rather than pay homage to one of America’s great thinkers. John, however, perfectly complements the original text with his own branch of visual philosophy, making this not just a fascinating introduction to Henry David Thoreau but also to the unique work of John Porcellino. Two great minds for the price of one.

TR

Buy Thoreau At Walden s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Strange: Epic Collection s/c Master Of The Mystic Arts (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko.

Still tripping on the transdimensional trials and tribulations of Doctor Strange in Mr. McCarthy’s SPIDER-MAN: FEVER? [No. It’s out of print – ed. ] Here, true believer, are the original occult-orientated offerings which inspired the brain-bothered Brendan to such lurid lunacy!

[And you can quit the Stan Lee shtick any time you fancy, mate – ed.]

Witness the Dread Dormammu berate Baron Mordo for his mere-mortal impudence! Hear Doctor Strange alliterate himself into a something akin to catatonia! Listen as the white-wigged Clea pleads from her trap-of-the-day! And sweat in fear as the Mindless Ones approach…

“Do you have any DEADPOOL in stock?”

Thirty-one STRANGE TALES of the Sorcerer Supreme complete with the Wand of Watoomb, the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth and the Eye of Agowhatthehey. Correct spelling not necessarily guaranteed.

For more Strange doings please see Page 45’s Doctor Strange section. Particularly recommended: DOCTOR STRANGE VOL 1: THE WAY OF THE WEIRD by Jason Aaron & Chris Bacchalo.

SLH

Buy Doctor Strange: Epic Collection s/c Master Of The Mystic Arts 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’.

 

 

Traces Of The Great War h/c (£14-99, Image) by Marguerite Abouet, Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Aurélien Ducoudray, Efa, Ergün Gündüz, Régis Hautière, O. Hiroyuki, Joe Kelly, Kris, Denis Lapière, Virtuel L’Atelier, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Robbie Morrison, J.D. Morvan, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, A. Samama, Scie-Tronc. Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Thomas Von Kummant

Isola vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Msassyk

Art Comic h/c (£19-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Matthew Thurber

Breaks Book 2 #1 (£5-00, Soaring Penguin Press) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli

Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Aquicorn Cove h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill

A Clash Of Kings (Game Of Thrones) vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Harper) by George R. R. Martin, Landry Q. Walker & Mel Rubi

Likely Stories h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham

Lumberjanes: Infernal Compass s/c (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Lilah Sturges & Polterink

RASL Colour Edition vol 2 (of 3) Romance At The Speed Of Light s/c (£11-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

The Wormworld Saga vol 2: Shelter Of Hope (£8-99, Caracal) by Daniel Lieske

LICAF 2018 Postcard Set 1 (£3-00, LICAF) by Dave McKean, Rian Hughes, Ken Niimura, Kripa Joshi, Petteri Tikkanen, John Ferguson

LICAF 2018 Postcard Set 2 (£3-00, LICAF) by Sean Phillips, Frank Quitely, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Mikiko, Petteri Tikkanen, Stanley Chow

Abbott vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Boom!) by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivela, Taj Tenfold

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (£14-99, Penguin) by Anne Frank, Ari Folman & David Polonsky

The Forever War – Forever Free s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Joe Haldeman, Gay Haldeman &  Marvano

The Funniest Book Ever! (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, James Turner, James Stayte, Laura Ellen Anderson, Jess Bradley

Home After Dark h/c (£19-99, Liveright) by David Small

The Illustrated World Of Mortal Engines (£20-00, Scholastic) by Philip Reeve & Jeremy Levett

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set (£26-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sherman

Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia: The Official Guide To The First 30 Years: 1985 – 2015 h/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by various

To Kill A Mockingbird – A Graphic Novel h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Harper Lee, Fred Fordham

The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Bloodborne: The Death Of Sleep s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Bloodstrike: Brutalists s/c (£8-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Batman vol 7: The Wedding s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Tony S. Daniel, various

Wakanda Forever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nnedi Okorafor & Alberto Alburquerque, Ray-Anthony Height

Doctor Strange: Damnation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates, Nick Spencer & Rod Reis, Szymon Kudranski

My Hero Academia vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

Battle Angel Alita – Mars Chronicle vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

The Flowers of Evil Complete vol 4 (£15-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45’s Signed / Sketched / Bookplated Editions

More at the link above, too!

The Firelight Isle vol 1: Heavenly Blue h/c (Signed) (£19-99, self-published) by Paul Duffield

Tick Tock IPA Omnibus Edition – A Clockwork Watch Story (Signed) (£20-00, ) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jennie Gyllblad

Evolution Omnibus Edition – A Clockwork Watch Story (Signed) (£20-00, ) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jimenez Bradbury

Cree (£12-99, Mayfly Press) by Una

Grandville vol 5 (Exclusive Sketched & Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot

Shenzen h/c (Signed) (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Hostage h/c (Signed) (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles s/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang s/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Jerusalem h/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Traces Of The Great War h/c (Signed) (£14-99, Image) by various

Page 45 Breaks Its All-Time Sales Record at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018 – for the 5th consecutive year!

October 17th, 2018

It’s time for our annual photo-filled blog!

Kendal is kindness personified, and you’ll find every single comicbook creator in Page 45’s Georgian Room, captured below, beaming with unbridled delight! Look, here’s Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura guerilla-signing LICAF’s brand-new TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR graphic novel.

 

 

Page 45 Breaks Its Sales Record at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival for the 5th Consecutive Year!

In 2014 we broke our all-time weekend sales record at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival by taking £5,500, then kept exceeding previous records until we hit £10,000 for two years running.

But in 2018 we’ve just smashed it again by taking £11,006.91 with just 1% of the range of our stock!

£1,784.48 of which – taken on LICAF comics, books, prints and postcards – goes directly to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, its Creators’ Development Fund and the OCD Action charity etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may have something to do with all the gorgeous graphic novels we bring, the glamorous Georgian Room which we are given to curate by ourselves,  the creators who give up their time so generously, and the fact that the Kendal Clock Tower is FREE ENTRY!

That means that those entirely unaccustomed to comics come in out of curiosity, flow through the room, and browse through our books to their hearts’ content.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll bring you more books in a bit. You can pop any of the titles you see – or their creators – into Page 45’s search engine for our reviews. We Ship Worldwide!

Meanwhile, the rest of the Kendal Clock Tower is pretty spiffy too! Here’s the room opposite ours, for example, (there are many) both empty as we’re setting up (it takes us six hours, so we have to start early – you’ll see!), then bustling just 10 minutes after the doors open.

 

 

 

“Who did you have signing and sketching, Stephen?”

Officially we had the beaming ray of sunshine that is Eleanor Crewes all weekend, sketching portraits of her readers in THE TIMES I KNEW I WAS GAY.

Plus the effervescent Una survived a train journey in which a guard carried an axe through her carriage in order to chop down a tree that had fallen across the tracks (I kid you not), to sign and squiggle on Saturday in BECOMING UNBECOMING, ON SANITY and her new book CREE which we’ll have on our system hopefully by the time you are reading this!

 

 

 

 

She’s kindly sketched in all our shop copies for us!

We had Guy Delisle drawing in PYONGYANG (North Korea), SHENZHEN (South China), BURMA CHRONICLES, JERUSALEM and his most recent book HOSTAGE, and if you look in Page 45’s Signed / Bookplate Graphic Novels Section you’ll find, for a limited time, that we still have signed copies of those exceptional observations of the absurd. There’s a lot that’s absurd in North Korea – not short of material, there.

 

 

Then on Sunday, after their triumphant nocturnal steampunk parade / performance with students whom they’d been tutoring on interactive storytelling, we were graced by long-term LICAF exhibitors turned special guests Corey Brotherson and Yomi Ayeni of CLOCKWORK WATCH fame.

True fact: Yomi was one of the very first people I ever met at LICAF five years ago, after I heard him coming two corridors away. Nobody laughs like Yomi Ayeni!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh look, there’s volunteer Dave, out of his Red Shirt and dappered up to the nines! (New verb: to dapper)

He’s standing outside The New Union Kendal (run by the adorable Phil who hosted Page 45’s 20th Birthday Party in 2014, at which Lizz Lunney ate all the cake) where the parade ended and the performances truly began!

Also on Sunday, because it’s now a tradition, we snatched up Emma Vieceli, co-creator of Young Adults LGBT BREAKS and so much more (some clues in the photo, but again, activate search engine, please!) for a special hour of pencil biting. She’s very, very good at it.

 

 

But before that came Phillips & Phillips, that famous legal firm, to launch their brand-new original graphic novel written by Brubaker, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES. At the time of typing we still have a limited number of Page 45’s Exclusive Bookplate signed by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and indeed Jake Phillips, thanks to Sean’s exceptional generosity, and indeed Ed’s, because we can’t seem to get either of them to bill us for the printing and transatlantic postage. Don’t you just love comics people? (A refrain I heard over and over again, throughout the weekend.) This is it:

 

 

Please pop Sean Phillips into our search engine, because I have personally reviewed every piece of paper he’s ever been printed on.

Here he is being photographed with a super-fan who’d traveled all the way from Greece specifically to see him at LICAF.

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Phillips drew while Jake Phillips industriously coloured, until Sean Phillips stopped drawing and just jabbered away. What an outrageous slacker!

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the weekend we were proud to sell LICAF’s official comics, prints, postcards, more copies of THE SPIRIT NEWSPAPER which Sean Phillips curated and personally paid for out of his own pocket (reviewed at that link and now on sale exclusively via Page 45 – and yes, We Ship Worldwide!) co-created by Ed Brubaker, Brendan McCarthy, Graham Dury, Chris Samnee, John M Burns, Sergio Aragones, Peter Milligan, Seth, Jason Latour, Jonathan Ross & Sean Phillips, Becky Cloonan, Brendan McCarthy, Simon Thorp, Chris Samnee, John M Burns, Sergio Aragonés, Duncan Fegredo, Seth, Jason Latour, Bryan Hitch, Michael Cho….

… and LICAF’s brand-new graphic novel TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR (again, now available worldwide via Page 45’s website) by Marguerite Abouet, Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Aurélien Ducoudray, Efa, Ergün Gündüz, Régis Hautière, O. Hiroyuki, Joe Kelly, Kris, Denis Lapière, Virtuel L’Atelier, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Robbie Morrison, J.D. Morvan, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, A. Samama, Scie-Tronc. Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Thomas Von Kummant.

 

 

 

 

The night before I’d waylaid THE WALKING DEAD‘s Charlie Adlard in a new super-secret speakeasy sequestered down a side-street (again, not joking – I only heard about it because Emma Vieceli, Pud and Steven Appleby snatched me away from The Brewery and led me there, blindfolded), and as promised he kindly popped by unannounced to sign in TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR, along with I KILL GIANTS‘ Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura. All of them, absolutely lovelies!

 

 

 

 

All proceeds of our LICAF sales over the weekend went to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (£1,784.48!) – we took not a penny, as is good and proper – and so many more creators kindly popped by to ruin mint copies with their Sharpies including Bryan and Mary Talbot (search engine, please!) who even sketched and coloured in them. (Mary is most excellent at spot-blacks and colours.)

Here’s Edmond Baudoin similarly sketching for us. What a star!

 

 

 

Jonathan and I are so very grateful for these impromptu offers of extra love, especially to Bryan Talbot who sat down to sketch in some special GRANDVILLE bookplates for us completely out of the blue.

For far, far more of our 5-year involvement with LICAF (we are proud Patrons!), please see Page 45’s dedicated Lakes International Comic Art Festival hub with links to LICAF, previous years’ blogs, even more photos and everything!

I type that now (I may reprise it later) because I’m going to go a little off topic with a) How A Room Is Built then b) What We Got Up To In Cumbria. Because if you’re coming to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival – rain or shine – you’re going to want to gawp at the countryside!

How We Cluttered Up Our Georgian Room With Comics

 

 

That is Page 45 Central. It doesn’t normally look like this, honest. We try to make it  as easy as possible for you to hand over cash at the counter.

Every year Jonathan and I ponder previous years’ graphic novel sales at LICAF, figure out what is still working but mostly which brand-new beauties to bring. Bearing in mind that we can only take what Jonathan can fit, Tetris-like, into our van (this is a special skill), it takes some strict discipline and fierce negotiation.

Then we ignore all that and order loads more of the last month’s arrivals to boot.

That’s Jonathan’s job and as I am always adamant in emphasising that none of this would be possible without Jonathan. Dee and Jodie then meticulously catalogue numbers as the books get packed, after which we trundle of to Kendal.

 

 

 

That van was rammed!

Thankfully not by a ten-tonne truck.

This is our room rather naked, soon to be filled with boxes of books courtesy of Mr. Lift and Mr. Minion.

 

 

 

It’s actually Craig Dawson, Page 45’s highest-ever spender at something like £1,600 in a single spree, who is one of loveliest blokes you could meet, generous enough to help us unload every single year. Saves us a good couple of ours with his unpacking too.

Don’t worry Craig, it’s only a listed building.

 

 

 

I think you’ll agree that’s rather a lot of books.

I would remind you that our room looks like this…

 

 

… until it doesn’t after five hours of me tearing my hair out!

(So now you know where it’s gone.)

That’s my job. I try to re-arrange the room each year for increased accessibility, aesthetic beauty and to showcase these glorious graphic novels in the most attractive fashion that they so richly deserve.

 

 

 

Also, you don’t want to bugger up a room as beautiful as that.

We don’t have any round tables at Page 45 so I can’t practise, but the very first year we discovered that the long tables were less conducive to a smooth, organic, undulating thoroughfare accessible to wheelchairs and therefore maximum perusal. Live and learn, eh?

Anyway, here are the books. Reminder: you can pop any of the titles or their creators into our search engine for reviews and Worldwide Shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re using our search engine, right?

Excellent!

 

 

 

 

 

Did I do an okay job?

Dear lord, I hope so! I had to race in on Saturday morning an hour before anyone else was officially let in, so that I could make all the final adjustments.

THANK YOU, SUB-WARDEN PHIL!

 

 

 

 

I liked that shot, so you’ve got it again.

What We Got Up To In Cumbria

or

It’s More Pretty Than A City!

Rain or shine, Cumbria is so bloody romantic.

Which is fortunate, because this year this rain was torrential, and the gales of such strength that the LICAF banner had to be taken down the day after I took this shot on Thursday night.

 

 

 

That’s the view from our Riverside Hotel bar’s balcony above the, err, river.

Fortunately half of it’s undercover, from which we spied this poor, desolate umbrella, snatched out of its owner’s hand. You can see it in situ in the photograph below this if you look hard enough at the bridge’s triangular cutwaters.

 

 

 

That umbrella almost demands narrative, doesn’t it? What is its story, and that of its owner?

As Jonathan observed, it’s like a graphic novel by Chabouté (THE PARK BENCH or ALONE, both pictured above, the first of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month).

I found it a day later outside the Kendal Clock Tower.

 

 

That seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

Anyway, on our way up on Thursday afternoon we called into Kirkby Lonsdale where I taught comics on behalf of LICAF at the Queen Elizabeth School. I’m heading back there again next year, thanks to its ace school librarian Gemma. Below you’ll find photos of Ruskin’s View.

We loved the church’s well wonky clock tower (seriously, just look at that clock’s positioning) and its graveyard’s Mr. Tickle Tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then back in Kendal we spotted this most alluring of alleys, and I love what they’ve done with the down-lit lighting, making maximum use of the textured stone walls.

 

 

 

 

And that’s where we’ll leave it, I think.

I was going to show you Ullswater where the inland lake was as choppy as a stormy sea, but you can discover it all for yourselves next year, eh, when you all come along to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2019. Good on you! I would. We will!

Oh wait, the speakeasy hahaha!

It’s now open all year round down a side-alley on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was told not to tweet about it while I was up, so I didn’t. I’m not normally that well behaved. But I did take a shot away from it on Friday night, if you can discern from this where it might lurk.

 

 

On Saturday night I could tell that Jonathan was curious even though he did his best to hide it, so I led our ensemble down the street in search of it… a full 50 yards further on until I told them they’d missed it. Truly, it is that covert!

I’m not about to spoil things now, but it is well worth the hunt, for within lies such exceptional character acting and cocktails composed individually to your specific tastes. Jonathan asked for something smelling of bonfires (!) and I swear to god that I have never sniffed anything so reminiscent of an autumnal bonfire than the glass which this magnificent madman concocted out of his incomparably arcane and erudite knowledge of alcohol.

 

 

Oh, go on, then, you can glean clues of your own from following him @blind_bus on Twitter!

I’m @PageFortyFive

There’s More Of A Story Than Anywhere Else You Will Visit

Even the torrential rain gave me so many romantic shivers. It really is more pretty than a city which you might visit for a comicbook convention, and it’s overwhelmingly free-entry

Plus we broke our all-time sales records, regardless of the gales!

Of course it all cleared up on the Sunday afternoon! Of course it did!

 

 

And, in case it needs saying, all these photos are my own from this very year. Feel free to use them in order to promote LICAF.

Huge love for all that they do to Julie Tait, Carole Tait, the incomparable Aileen, Chris, Chris, Dave, so many Phils and everyone whom I’ve so rubbishly failed to mention!

LICAF Volunteers are the best in the world. I am in awe and, ever since year one, I’ve been forever in their debt. As a visitor, please do ask and they will provide!

For far, far more of Page 45’s 5-year involvement with LICAF (we are proud Patrons!), please see Page 45’s dedicated Lakes International Comic Art Festival hub with links to LICAF, previous years’ blogs, even more photos and everything!

I’ll see you in 2019, then?

Marvelous!

 – Stephen xxx

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week two

October 10th, 2018

Featuring Tillie Walden, I.N.J Culbard, Luke Jones, Anna Mill, Greg Rucka, Justin Greenwood.

On A Sunbeam h/c Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition (£24-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tillie Walden…

“Gracie. Time to go.”
“Not yet. Mia is coming to say good-bye.”

Arrrrgghhhhh. 271 pages in to this 534-page tome, just past the halfway point, and I could feel a little tickle in the tear ducts beginning… I’ll give no spoilers – which is actually going to be impossible, thinking about it so forget that – but suffice to say, some goodbyes will haunt you… Even if it’s only one you’re reading about rather than experiencing first hand… I then spent the remaining 263 pages desperately hoping that Mia would… could… somehow… sniff… where’s my hanky…?

Speaking of moist moments, I have to say, as a complete digression, I almost had another one reading the afterword. It is one of the sweetest, most complimentary ones I think I might ever have read. It is certainly one that only Tillie could have written. Bless her, just when you thought you couldn’t love her any more than you already did!

Right, what to expect from this epic interstellar romance set in two time periods a mere five yet interminably long years apart…?

 

 

Well, we will see the budding romance between moderately tough-nut fourteen-year-old Mia and the mysterious new girl at school Gracie. They are quite literally worlds, if not galaxies apart, and yet… there’s a mutual attraction which neither can deny. Mia doesn’t particularly want to. Gracie it seems might, but then all that’s to do with the whopper of a secret she’s hiding…

“You’re an IDIOT.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said you’re an IDIOT. You don’t get it, do you?”
“Um, I…”
“I like ALL of you, Grace. Even the parts I don’t get yet. I’m not dating the 12% of you that I understand, I’m dating 100% of you. Including all your secrets that I don’t know. So don’t EVER say I’d hate you because that’s stupid and not true.”
“Oh, Mia. I’ll tell you everything someday…”

 

 

And that sad day will come dear reader… But fast-forward five years and Mia is cast adrift, emotionally at least, on the spaceship Aktis. Well, I say spaceship, imagine a beautiful tropical fish with a huge caudal fin and vast wing-like pelvic fins, all dazzling of colour, twizzling friskily through the vacuum like a salmon desperate to get upstream for some fun and games and you should get the picture. I seriously think Tillie Walden should design spaceships. Perhaps someone can have a word with Elon Musk? She’s also very good at naming them too…

This time(-period) around it’s Mia’s turn to be the newbie, joining a rag-tag crew assigned to renovating weird old buildings like abandoned churches that just happen to be merrily floating in space. They’re an extremely tight bunch, yet over time, as she proves herself to be just as much of an oddball as the rest of them, Jules, Charlotte, Elliott and Alma welcome Mia into their little family of sorts. Indeed when she reveals her secret to them, she finds to her complete surprise they are more than amenable to help her with an epic quest of the heart… not least because of a couple of guilty secrets of their own…

 

 

Ahhh… so many secrets! I wish Tillie would let us into the one of how she keeps getting better and better! For this is, for me, her finest work yet. Not just in the storytelling, which will both melt and break your heart over and over, but also artistically. The trademark gentle, almost too delicate, linework, is still very much in evidence, but she’s given her imagination full rein in terms of design and expression. This work brings together and incorporates all the different aspects of her pencilling we’ve seen so far, from the architectural grandiosity evident in THE END OF SUMMER to the quiet intimacy between characters that proved so moving in I LOVE THIS PART to the sudden flights of the fantastical that made A CITY INSIDE so compelling a read.

 

 

Here she seamlessly visually blends profound emotional drama and high concept fantasy with such ease that at differing times you could very easily forget this is both science fiction and romance. Because at one moment you’ll be quietly observing star-crossed lovers looking intently into each other’s eyes and the next simply marvelling at an intricately constructed landscape. So very cleverly done.

Colours-wise, I think this is also the most I have ever seen her use in a single work and the shifts back and forth between the few subtly different palettes is used to great effect, not least when Mia’s quest takes her to the strange region of space known as The Staircase where there’s a wondrously alien yet comfortingly animistic feel to the world we encounter. The textures and depths she manages to achieve with complimentary pale colours such as lilac, pastel blue, cornflower yellow and burnt ochre are spectacular.

 

 

I genuinely wonder how on earth, or indeed space, she can possibly top this work. I will wait with bated breath to find out. The brilliant thing about the prolific Miss Walden, though, is that I will probably only have to wait a few months! Which is a very good thing, because I don’t believe I could hold my breath much longer than that…

 

 

Were the above exhortation of excellence not enough to entice you to purchase this work Tillie has also produced an exclusive Page 45 signed and numbered bookplate for us, available whilst stock last. Oh, and don’t forget to read that afterword. It will truly make your heart melt one last time.

For more Tillie Walden, please see her autobiographical SPINNING which sheds new light on I LOVE THIS PART, and her recent contribution to I FEEL MACHINE.

THIS IS THE SIGNED BOOKPLATE:

 

 

JR

Buy On A Sunbeam h/c Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Square Eyes h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Luke Jones & Anna Mill ~

“Picture it in your mind… think about its shape, its texture.
“… Not too hard…
“Don’t injure yourself…
“It just starts to take shape on its own… reading the impression you mentally project.
“See how it starts to emerge kind of hazy at first but your mind starts to populate it…
“… Now it’s sharpening.
“Can you see it?”

Fin is the creator of a cutting-edge computer programme that blurs the boundaries between the real world and the digital by creating an interface between the visualisation space and the brain. Called ‘Corvis’, it’s an incredibly powerful piece of technology that allows its users a collective, visual experience, which just a few days ago Fin was demonstrating live-on-air to a completely captivated studio audience.

 

 

But now Fin has woken up disoriented and disconnected. There is a strange woman living in her apartment – at least she thinks that’s her apartment – and her memories are vague and unrecognisable, if indeed they even are her memories at all…?

 

 

SQUARE EYES is a cyberdelic mind-melt of a mystery, set in an entirely plausible, indeed rapidly approaching, near-future of augmented reality and constant connectivity; where technology is a part of your very being, and every piece of information you would ever need is literally at your finger tips. But when the most talented programmer out there finds herself cut off from the world and her code stolen, it becomes a race to find out who has it, before such incredible power falls into the wrong hands.

 

 

Visually stunning, you’ll certainly be fully immersed in this overwhelming, holographic world, no headset required! Overlapping imagery and choice colours of reds, blues and purples create a gently kaleidoscopic aesthetic, which might leave you thinking that perhaps you were missing a set of cardboard 3D specs. I’m actually intrigued to see what difference they would make!

 

 

You will also be treated to an elegant interface of carefully constructed chaos, looking as though it has been hacked directly from the dreamy depths of Chris Ware’s sleeping mind, and the most intelligent use of negative space as a storytelling device I have ever seen in comics. Square Eyes truly is an outstanding achievement of design.

Runner Up in the 2010 Observer / Cape Graphic Short Story prize to a certain Stephen THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL Collins, it is absolutely fascinating how this story has evolved, both artistically and in plot terms, beyond practically all recognition from that comparatively sparse initial concept. You can see for yourselves from this article. It’s certainly makes a compelling case for believing in your artistic vision and persevering with a good idea.

JP

Buy Square Eyes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

HP Lovecraft: Four Classic Horror Stories h/c SIGNED & SKETCHED IN (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by I.N.J. Culbard…

I.N.J. Culbard gives terrifying form to four classic tales by H.P. Lovecraft: ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,’ ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ and ‘The Shadow Out of Time’ in a gorgeous hardcover collection priced lower than two of its constituent softcovers!

Here are all my original reviews in the order the softcovers appeared.

At The Mountains Of Madness

“Do you have a name for them yet?”
“Yes I do. Remember the book that Professor Armitage kept under lock and key in the university library? The Necronomicon?”
“I… I do.”
“Then you’ll understand when I speak of Elder Things.”
“Bill?”
“I’m here.”
“I think… err… think we should tone down reports to the outside world for now… until at least until we’ve substantiated these findings.”

 

 

On the face of it Ian Culbard’s well rounded style of art so ably demonstrated on the four recent SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptations is not perhaps the most obvious for adapting a classic horror story, probably one of the two finest works within Lovecraft’s Cthulhu canon along with (in my opinion) The Silver Key. Except in fact in this case, it is absolutely perfect, because MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is nothing to do with gore and everything to do with a very unsettling story that moves the reader inch by imperceptible inch nearer to an uneasy psychological state. This is classic horror, in that fear of the unknown, “What exactly is it lurking in the hidden depths?” type of horror. Or in this case, within the Mountains Of Madness, a virtually impenetrable mountain range right in the heart of the frozen Antarctic wastes.

I can certainly understand why they’ve picked this particular work for adaptation as it is in some ways the most straightforward and comprehensible of Lovecraft’s books, simply because whatever else it is, it’s also a great Boy’s Own adventure tale. To set the scene it’s September 1930 and an expedition from Miskatonic University is in the Antarctic taking deep geological samples when they make some rather puzzling and shocking finds. These inexplicable discoveries quickly change the planned intent and indeed course of the expedition, taking the learned explorers into hitherto unexplored and inaccessible territories. Discoveries and geography which start to seem disturbingly familiar to some of the explorers who have read the fabled Necronomicon, kept safely under lock and key by a colleague back at the university.

Indeed the marked similarities of what they find, compared to the widely considered fictional rantings of a madman suggest the world may have a rather longer, darker and most disturbing pre-history than current academic wisdom would opine. As things take a sinister and even more suspenseful turn with the disappearance of part of the exploration party, those that remain at base camp feel compelled, against all good sense and reason, ever nearer the soaring jagged mountain range ahead.

If you like intelligent horror, do take a look at this. It’s been very cleverly adapted by Culbard who works in the more fantastical elements in a manner than never seems completely outlandish or utterly unbelievable. Indeed his warm art style and vibrant colours perfectly counterpoint the bleak locale of the situation, where it’s all too easy to believe, in a time where the world still had some unexplored and remote regions, that such a place could just possibly exist.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

What a wonderfully evocative opening two pages, as we pan in from the depths of frigid outer space very gradually down to the surface of Earth at night, reminding us, lest we forget, how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, before finally reaching an empty cell in a sanatorium. The perfect beginning for a Cthulu story, though at the risk of mixing my authors for a moment I could almost hear Richard Burton intoning “slowly and surely they drew their plans against us” from H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds whilst Jeff Wayne begins to play in the background. Anyway, it sets the atmosphere straight to spooky levels instantaneously, which is my point!

What follows is the finest H.P. Lovecraft adaptation in comics to date bar none, as a most curious case of nocturnal nefariousness and ghoulish experimentation is uncovered by the family physician to the Ward family, Dr. Willett. Asked to investigate by Charles’ father, growing increasingly concerned about his son Charles’ mental state and obsession with an ancestor named Joseph Curwen (who apparently practiced alchemy of a most unwholesome kind some two hundred years previously), what Dr. Willard begins to uncover scarcely seems believable, with suggestions of reincarnation or reanimation of ancient cadavers by a cabal of individuals of greatly extended lifespans seeking arcane knowledge of mysterious rituals. Yet, the further Dr. Willett progresses in his search for answers, the more likely it seems that such a cabal is still active today, and that Charles is slowly being drawn into their midst, for reasons yet unknown.

 

 

Ian Culbard has done a truly sterling job adapting this work, essentially a detective story, which is in complete contrast to the innate Boy’s Own adventure flavour of his previous Lovecraft adaption AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (which I also loved), and again, his unique art style is perfect for a creeping tale of eldritch horror. It’s entirely credible art, yet sufficiently dissembled from a realist approach that we are little by little unnervingly tugged towards the inevitably unpleasant conclusion (good old H.P. just did NOT do happy endings) as the emotional intensity of the story is gradually ratcheted up to, then well beyond, breaking point.

The whole point about Lovecraft’s monsters (and indeed his approach to horror) was that they were amorphous, indescribably alien, completely incomprehensible to the human eye and mind, so when they do finally make an appearance how on earth do you actually draw them?! Well, no spoilers but suffice to say, were you ever to see in real life what Ian has drawn, I think your sanity would go in an instant. I know mine would! And once you have finished reading and are left to make your own conclusions about the… resolution… of Charles Dexter Ward’s curious case, Ian then pulls the masterstroke of reversing his initial opening page, panning back out to show the Earth as a tiny, helpless marble in the vast stygian depths of dark, very dark, space, in case we’d momentarily forgotten the Elder ones are still out there watching us, just biding their time…

The Shadow Out of Time

“Oh dear God, no!”
PLINK
“NO, NO, NO! Remember, for God’s sake, remember.”

Yes, yes, yes! Another gloriously sanity-shaking adaptation from Mr. Culbard to tip us even further into a state of irreparable discombobulation. I really do marvel at his ability to produce such cogent works from such… steeped… source material. The original novella is probably one of my favourite Lovecraft works, simply because so much is revealed of the various Elder races and the prehistory of Earth before humanity became the dominant lifeform. It isn’t that straightforward a read, though, and I think Ian has done an exceptional job portraying what is revealed to the main protagonist, Professor Nathaniel Peaslee of Miskatonic University, as his mind is snatched from his body and replaced by that of another.

 

 

There is some speculation amongst Lovecraft biographers that certain elements of this character are auto-biographical or perhaps inspired by Lovecraft’s father, or that the idea for this story came from repeatedly watching a 1933 science fiction film called Berkley Square. In any case, what he wrote is one of the most chilling pieces of speculative horror fiction I have ever read. One of Lovecraft’s great talents lay in his unparalleled ability to make the reader feel truly insignificant, a veritable speck in a total alien and unfathomable universe, which in turn induces a genuine sense of trepidation in the reader. It’s horrific because of its very subtlety to infiltrate your mind, engendering a sense of unease.

Ian has captured that perfectly here as poor old Peaslee is well and truly put through the wringer both physically and mentally. The PLINK sound effect above, for example, is the sound of a torch going out leaving the poor chap very old in the dark, in somewhere he really, really doesn’t want to linger. Then, the sequences during which we learn precisely where Peaslee’s mind was during the period his body was occupied by… the other… are truly stygian in their alienness. It’s a quite literally mind-blowing reveal and you really get the grandiose sense of scale involved from the artwork, which is a real feat. I keep thinking Ian can’t raise the bar even further with Lovecraft material, but he keeps on managing it.

I am therefore delighted to report Ian has already agreed to do at least one more Lovecraft adapation for Self Made Hero, though I was unable to prise from him precisely which work it will be. I am planning on bodysnatching him, though, with a mind-swap device I keep in my laboratory on the fourth floor of the shop, so rest assured, dear readers, I will let you know more soon enough <fiendish cackles repeated with mild reverb tapering off in a most disturbing fashion>…

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath

One of my favourite Lovecraft yarns, this, featuring heavily as it does Nyarlathotep, he of a thousand forms and indeed mangled pronunciations.

Ian did try and instruct me in the correct pronunciation when he popped in to sketch in all our copies but unfortunately my dulcet northern tones were not able to effect the correct enunciation, which is probably just as well as I have insufficient sanity points to begin with and can scarce afford to lose any more through an injudicious summoning of the emissary of the Outer Gods…

 

 

I do like how each of these four Lovecraft adaptations demonstrate a very different aspect of the Cthulu mythos and H.P.’s writing. I have commented upon it before but AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a real Boys’ Own Adventure, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD a puzzling whodunit, THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME a piece of pure science fiction and a real Rosetta Stone to understanding the mythos, and this a veritable hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a trip to the darkest recesses of the human mind, to the dimensional spaces beyond those we can normally access in our waking lives.

I think this tremendous variety in the scope of his writing is partly the reason why Lovecraft has endured. That and we all love being scared senseless. In many ways, though he is not beyond some outright in-your-face horror when required, Lovecraft frequently taps into humanity’s deepest and most complex subconscious fears, that of losing the sense of self, one’s sense of identity, our very coherence of reason itself, by the mere suggestion that there is far more to this world, this unimaginably vast, cold universe, than meets the eye. That in those spaces which we can sense but cannot see, there are beings that lurk, so alien, to encounter them directly would be enough to destroy the delicate balance of one’s mind forever. At least one such victim does shop at Page 45, I think, and he once engaged me in a conversation regarding Lovecraftian characters in such a manner I was left thinking he quite believed they were absolutely real… I kid you not.

[Editor: he told me he began reading Lovecraft aged 4. It showed.]

That very variety and complexity also means Lovecraft is very hard to adapt, of course. In every case I think Ian has done an incredible job deconstructing the work, really allowing the core story to stand out in a manner which makes it sufficiently rich and rewarding enough for the aficionados but also completely accessible for the neophytes. I would be astonished were there not readers out there who have been occasioned to commence reading Lovecraft prose on the basis of encountering these adaptations.

So… Randolph Carter begins to search for the hidden city of Kadath because he has dreamt three times of its glorious spires but awoken each time abruptly just before he can reach it. Repeated prayers to the gods of dream go unanswered, even for the next issue of SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finally arrive, but Carter resolves to find Kadath, no matter what the cost.

What follows is a strange, shifting journey, that on the face of it makes no sense at all, but viewed within the confines of the sleeping world seems not so fanciful at all. Along the way he will encounter strange entities and apparitions, some rather less friendly to travellers than others, and also the sinister Nyarlathotep in more than one of his many guises. Carter, desperate to tread the streets of the hidden city at last, is rather more trusting than he really ought to be. Obsessed, he starts to believe that there could be no possible fate worse than not reaching Kadath. He ought not to be so sure about that…

I can imagine this may well have been the most fun of the adaptations for Ian to undertake, from the perspective of the illustration, because there are the elaborate soaring sequences of pure fantasy which must have been a true delight to envisage. In fact, the book is arguably simply one long fantasy sequence. It’s certainly not as dense or intricate a story as many of his others, a fact which Lovecraft acknowledged during his lifetime, but it is an immensely vibrant, fevered construction, which engenders a sense of both wonderment and unease in the reader, and Ian captures this beautifully with his stygian, soporific cast and wild dreamscapes and netherworlds.

The wonderment comes because we are willing Carter along on his extraordinary journey, but also significant unease because we can see his most fervent desire is blinding him to both obvious dangers at virtually every turn, but also the malevolent, manipulative wiles of others, not least Nyarathotep. Will Carter finally reach Kadath? Well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil it for you would you? Suffice to say nothing is quite as it seems, with an ending that is in some ways as puzzling as it is enlightening, which I think is very appropriate indeed for the resolution to this most unusual of quests.

A true triumph once again, this adaptation, and I personally think Ian deserves great praise indeed for his own unique addition to the Cthulu mythos, which I believe all true Lovecraft fans will rightly hold in the highest regard.

JR

Buy HP Lovecraft: Four Classic Horror Stories h/c SIGNED & SKETCHED IN and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown vol 3 s/c (£17-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing monthly series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. He’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, who also illustrated Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

 

 

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters as their transatlantic cousins. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. The first issue of this volume concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but of course there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional components of this series again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key elements of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for a less gritty and more colourful approach, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

All that remains now is to leave you with that classic parting shot by Bexsy (Gary Oldman) from what remains to this day, hands down my favourite football hooligan film, The Firm. The original from 1989, not the wishy-washy remake from a few years ago. As a young lad skirting around the periphery of football related violence back in the late 80s, early 90s, well, trying to avoid it at all costs frankly, his terrifying performance was seared into my mind’s eye creating a football hooligan bogeyman potentially lurking around every corner at away games, tooled up with hammer and Stanley knife, ready to smash me up then cut me to ribbons…

“I come in peace. I leave you in pieces…”

JR

Buy Stumptown vol 3 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’.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast s/c (£8-99, Heavy Metal) by Lexi Leon, Ian Edginton & Kevin West

Konungar: War Of The Crowns s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Sylvain Runberg &  Juzhen

Retrogade Orbit (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Kristyna Baczykski

Royal City vol 3: We All Float On s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire

Doctor Strange vol 1: God Of Magic s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Terrifics vol 1: Meet The Terrifics s/c (£14-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Ivan Reis, others

Aposimz vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Escape Journey vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ogeretsu Tanaka

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