Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week two

December 13th, 2017

Featuring Julie Maroh, Benji Nate, Alex Potts, Sophie Campbell, Elaine M. Will, Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, more!

Body Music (£22-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh.

Love and relationships in all their diversity:

“If there’s no construction, you’re not on the right road.”

What is delicious about the offering of that eye-opening truth is that it’s uttered offhandedly by a woman who is simply giving directions to a friend or family member over her mobile phone.

“No, no, you must have taken a wrong turn… If there’s no construction, you’re not on the right road.”

It’s certainly borne out here, along with so many other open and honest insights into how we treat each other when in love or in lust, explored over twenty-one vignettes with great subtly and empathy by the creator of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR who has quite evidently spent a great many years not simply considering but also listening.

 

 

It should all be so straightforward, really, this thing called love: thrilling, empowering, enlightening, giving, supportive, and celebrated for its pure beauty whenever and wherever encountered. But it comes with complications and a myriad of attendant thoughts and feelings – some of them conflicted and therefore confusing – otherwise everyone who has found a soul mate or fuck buddy would be radiant with pleasure, no one would argue and no one would ever break up.

Over and again I recognised so much within this considered and contemplative graphic novel which speaks of the universal, but BODY MUSIC also reflects a far fuller spectrum of desire and circumstances than any other fiction or non-fiction that springs immediately to mind, so it’s refreshingly inclusive in that aspect too. This can only be healthy, even if some of the relationships are far from it.

 

 

 

For by “diversity” I do mean “between women, between men, between women and men and gender non-conformists alike, all varying in age and race” but I also mean relationships at different stages in their development and success or failure: from first confident flirtations conducted with wit and imagination to first-date post-mortems wrestled over wretchedly and separately by both individuals unsure of themselves, their attractiveness, what they said and why they said it, while one of them waits desperately in hope that the other will text as promised in order to set up a second date… just as the other frets that to do so would just be opening himself up to almost certain rejection. That one’s called ‘”Are you sure you want to delete this contact?”’ and it is agonising in its dramatic irony, whereas the courtship in ‘Playing with Fire’ is funny, feisty, and seductive to boot.

“What are you doing?”
“Looking at you.”

The author has her eyes closed, meditating on much more than the single sense of sight could ever ascertain. Slowly one eyebrow draws dreamily upwards as her little finger nail catches between her corner teeth. Pity the poor barman, then, who is given a most excellent, explicit message to deliver a minute or two later!

 

 

 

Other relationships are far older. One is on the cusp of a new crossroads, a fresh movement forwards, towards even greater intimacy but someone has to speak first and trust that they’re on the same mental tracks, heading in the same direction (“on the right road”, as it were) whereas another relationship – or rather a series of same-time, same-place assignations – has reached such a state of intransigence and immobility that nothing new will ever be constructed, while yet another still, which might seem to have sickened on the surface, proves not merely salvageable but in no danger of destruction because one partner loves the other unconditionally.

I am trying to be discreet in my details, for the joy lies in your own discoveries and there is plenty of the unexpected to surprise both the participants and this book’s audience. Such startling injections include a single, strong dash of the fantastical which is beautiful to behold, although I would emphasise that this pretty much applies throughout: winter park wonderlands frolicked in with abandon; a Montreal fully realised both in its monumental buildings and starry-night skies, streetlights calling across still waters; the zip-zip of cell-phone text messages (the vast majority mundane and inconsequential, others of the most urgent importance); beautiful body forms in bed; muscular, hot and sweaty, shirtless gyrations to a pounding club’s heart beat; small, swollen buds patiently waiting out freezing snowfalls on bare, spindly twigs; oh, and that exquisitely embarrassed waiter!

 

 

There is so much to warm your hearts here, including this which I will give away from chapter one:

“You don’t know each other, you haven’t met.
“Yet you’re about to fall in love.
“Soon both of you will be ready, at the same time.
“That will be in a year or two.”

You think you’re listening to an omniscient narrator proclaiming an inevitable, predestined future as a woman on her mobile strolls obliviously past a bearded, back-packed dad busily attending to his young child, the two failing – this time, only this time – to notice each other in a hot, July, municipal park.

You’re not.

You’re being privy to the deeply romantic, entirely speculative thoughts of a woman old enough to have a working-age son who’s been calling her repeatedly to dinner, while said mum has been lost in her own private reverie upon overlooking that park.

If that doesn’t move you as it did me, what will do much later on is her determinedly un-embittered love for what was, a long time ago.

SLH

Buy Body Music and read the Page 45 review here

It’s Cold In The River At Night (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts.

Alex A QUIET DISASTER Potts returns with his first full-length slice of his trademark downbeat droll!

Our central protagonist Carl is teetering on the edge of a full-blown existential crisis, probably of the early-onset mid-life variety, in his own mind at least… And it’s only being exacerbated by being cooped up in a small riverside house on stilts in the middle of nowhere in Europe, accessible only by boat, with his girlfriend Rita, who is assiduously trying to get her thesis polished off. Methodical, applied, diligent. She’s everything that Carl is seemingly not. If only he could find something to do with his life?! Or at least occupy him for the next few weeks!

He strikes me as being prone to the odd flight of fancy, and indeed fantasy, does our Carl. So after a failed attempt to catch some sardines for lunch, purely because he’s getting fed up with the helpful (and perhaps a tad nosey) landlord Mr. Beuf popping by on his boat with ham and bread for them, he hits upon his next crackpot scheme. He will track down the last remaining artisan responsible for producing the boat-shaped coffins preferred by the locals for their customary interment rites.

 

 

Having located said skilled coffin-maker by means of asking a few questions of the gossipy old men knocking back the vino in the local bar, Carl’s promptly riding the bus even further out into the back of beyond, to offer his services as an unpaid apprentice. How could the artisan possibly refuse such an offer…? One terse, instant refusal later and he’s swiftly heading home, tail between his legs, feeling more sorry for himself than ever. He’s not one to be easily put off, though, our Carl, I will give him that. And the next day sees him gird his loins and head straight back to the coffin-maker’s compound, determined to make him accept his sworn offer of fealty in exchange for teaching him the ancient skills of woodworking.

 

 

The artisan refuses, of course. Carl, believing his life can’t possibly get any worse starts dejectedly heading back to the bus stop, before realising he has somehow lost his wallet… So he’s left with no other choice but to attempt to throw himself at the mercy of the coffin-maker’s hitherto unforeseen, apparently unbeating, mahogany heart and beg for some change to get home. In fact, when in desperation Carl offers to sell him his watch, the artisan finally, reluctantly acquiesces, invites Carl in and puts him to work.

Carl, ecstatic at being in his eyes apprenticed, is consequently somewhat baffled when he finds he has merely been press-ganged into pulling the nails out of some scrap wood, then planing it smooth by hand. Convincing himself it has to be purely a Mister Miyagi-style master-discipline test, he sets to work with gusto. For hours. And hours. And hours. Then, when after several days work, the artisan casually tosses him a box of matches and tells him to burn all the wood he’s just so carefully prepared, he’s is utterly distraught, but still somehow believes it is all part of his initiation. His grand ceremony, however, is still to come…

 

 

 

Illustrated with a vibrant Mediterranean watercolour-esque platter, alongside some very dour and sour long-faced expressions – mainly on Carl and the coffin-maker’s parts in fairness, everyone else including long-suffering girlfriend Rita and the oily Mr. Beuf seem pretty chipper – this work neatly captures the feel of a man on the edge. A very rough, unplaned, jagged-nail, protruding edge… that’s set to snag and tear at the emotional cloth of Carl’s very soul… He strikes me as exactly the sort of person who is in need of a bit of tough love, mind you! Break out the sandpaper!

JR

Buy It’s Cold In The River At Night and read the Page 45 review here

Catboy (£17-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate.

Short bursts of infectious, wide-eyed wonder at the way we behave, with sparkles of get-up-and-go.

Olive is an aspiring, out-of-college artist who makes do with a distinct lack of furniture.

“I’ve never needed it. It’s not like I have people over. Plus,” she explains, eyes sanctimoniously closed at her sacred calling, “I’m a minimalist.”
“No you’re not!” pipes back Henry. “I’ve seen your closet!”

Olive has plenty of clothes to spare, which is handy for Henry, because Henry has none. He’s never needed any before: he’s a cat.

But late one night Olive wished on a shooting star that Henry could hang out with her like a real person and so – Alakazam! – he’s now tall, bipedal and ever so communicative, but innocent of the ways of the world. This is the book’s hook: Henry looking at the world and what we do it anew or askew, oblivious to sleights, jealousies or competitive friendships and indifferent to good or bad form.

 

 

 

But he’s still a cat and conforms to type, so a trip to the local furniture store does not come without cost, his dating advice is questionable (have you seen cats courting…?) and he’s still rather partial to the odd kill.

“Oh! I saved you some bird.
“I think your diet is lacking in bird.”

Olive not so much, but Henry’s expressions of both glee and worry put me very much in mind of BOYS CLUB’s Sarah Burghess, I love the way his head pops up unattended by the rest of his body with odd observations / assertions (“You can put anything in a soup!” – you really can’t)…

 

 

… and, as to oblivion and indifference, it matters not one jot to Henry that he’s wearing Olive’s togs. In fact, he rather rocks them, and between each five-page episode there are portraits of the two dressed up together in different get-ups on which cut-out-and-dress-up paper-doll tabs wouldn’t look at all out of place.

One curious conflation, if you like, is that the cast are of an employable age yet act like ten-year-olds. It works so well, and one of my favourite sequences comes during Henry’s unorthodox organisation of a slumber party to which he’s invited a cat called Scrappy, Dixie whom Olive dislikes (it’s fairly mutual) and Fran, a very odd girl who interjects every five seconds at one hundred miles an hour and takes any opportunity – no matter how inappropriate or unsolicited – to gush about her dachshund puppy.

 

 

 

Anyway, Henry has heard that at slumber parties girls talk about boys they have a crush on, so he throws it open to the floor. Fran fixates on her puppy, Henry offers his appreciation for Old Man Billy “because he feeds the birds every day so I always get a midday snack” and then it’s the turn of the cat:

“What about you. Scrappy?”
“Mow.”
“How scandalous!”

Olive: “I don’t like boys.”
Dixie: “I don’t think we’re doing this right.”

SLH

Buy Catboy and read the Page 45 review here

Look Straight Ahead new edition (£17-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Elaine M. Will.

When this first appeared four years ago, it was one of the best and most sensitive explorations of teenage psychosis and mental illness I had read in some considerable time. It still is, and this new edition comes fully endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Jeremy is an introverted 17-year-old high school kid with very few friends whose primary passion is illustration. He’s possibly genetically predisposed to seeing the world a little differently than everyone else to start with, and after an extended period of emotional bullying at school from the jocks and the mean girls, this develops into a full-blown psychotic breakdown episode, complete with auditory and visual hallucinations. Cue a period in a hospital for observation and the future of a lifetime on medication. Obviously, this isn’t something that seems particularly appealing to Jeremy, and so begins a period of internal and external struggle, as he begins to come to terms with his condition.

 

 

Elaine writes and illustrates in a manner which perfectly captures many elements of the conundrum faced by those in Jeremy’s position. Often, they feel at their best during the pre-break periods of mania where the delusions are almost intoxicating, rapturous even, before the paranoia well and truly kicks in. Afterwards, they can long to experience those states again, believing that the chemical suppression of their medication, which in reality is helping to balance their brain chemistry, is limiting their state of consciousness and preventing them experiencing reality as it truly is. Jeremy is in just such a position, but fortunately for him he has a supportive, understanding parent who is able to prevent him going too far off the rails and possibly hurting himself or someone else in the meanwhile.

 

 

All of which sounds rather intense, and it is in a way, I suppose, but it’s presented with such sensitivity and understanding, illustrating the inner turmoil people in Jeremy’s position face, that first and foremost it just comes across as an excellent piece of contemporary fiction, irrespective of the subject matter.

Elaine’s art style certainly helps in that regard too, and I can see elements of Terry Moore in her work, which should give you a good idea of what to expect should you decide to give this a try.

 

 

For more on this and similar issues, dealt with in different ways, please see Page 45’s Online Mental Health Section.

JR

Buy Look Straight Ahead and read the Page 45 review here

Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

Generation Doubt: late-teen girls of so many shapes, sizes and temperaments navigating sex and uncertain friendships, as one within their midst seethes with psychosis. She’s about to boil over.

Set on and around the Wet Moon College campus perilously close to the swamp, it’s been building steadily for some time now, but this one is nerve-shredding. You’re in constant fear for alone out alone late at night.

It wouldn’t matter so much if Campbell hadn’t mesmerised us into caring so deeply for Mara, Cleo, Audrey, Natalie, and even Trilby whom I singled out in the first volume as the least lovable of the lot. Hey, she’s grown. They’re moon-eyed and vulnerable, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and opening themselves up with wince-worthy candour on their internet blogs. I still don’t know how anyone can live out their lives in so much detail online – even I have an internal editor – but Campbell nails the gaping chasm here between self-knowledge and self-guidance:

“And another thing I can’t brush aside (maybe a private post would be better for this because it involves private stuff and people I know…).”

Yes, maybe it would! I mean, you’re about to out your ex for having sex with a minor you were supposed to be babysitting! As ever, however, Campbell shows her protagonists thinking progressively and there’s some serious contemplation about the issue’s implications.

 

 

Sophie has also created a convincingly familiar (oh too familiar!) malcontent in Myrtle, head and shoulders sagging into her bloated body, lying, scheming, sulking and stewing in the poisonous juices of her own imagination; the single eye that glares so ferociously with self-righteous anger from under her lazy parting, as her poor girlfriend Cleo – always so concerned for everyone else’s feelings – suffers the brunt of Myrtle’s self-destructive rage.
On the other hand, Campbell’s art is a magnificent tribute to the beauty of less conventional body forms when they house a heart of gold, and WET MOON was always streets ahead in her inclusivity of diverse characters of colour.

Also this volume: baseball, being walked in on whilst in / on the toilet, and a series of one-page sequential-art portraits as each member of the cast spends an evening alone. What do they get up to, individually, at night? A couple of eye-openers, there.

 

 

Lastly, against all odds, Trilby and her boyfriend Martin really do seem to have been making a healthy and loving nest for themselves in the most stable relationship here.

SLH

Buy Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones Series 2 vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos.

“Sorry about the neurological damage.”
“It could only be an improvement.”

She’s not wrong.

Private Investigator Jessica Jones has been formidably unlucky in almost every aspect of her life, but then she is far from her own best friend. She’s 99% sass, impetuous, anti-authoritarian and inclined towards heavy drinking. I like her a lot.

Jessica does, however, have a loyal husband in Luke Cage, so doting that he’s even given up his prodigious line in swearing so that their baby girl, Dani, learns only Jessica’s fruity cuss words. Luke has been the making of Jessica whom we first met in JESSICA JONES Series 1 wandering around from bar for bar, drinking whatever she could, shagging anyone who would have her then waking up hating herself. It was a bit a cycle, that thing there. Then she met Luke Cage, and I’m not saying it was the easiest or even most obvious of courtships but it made for the finest four books that Marvel have ever published.

Unfortunately even that relationship is now on the rocks on account of… stuff… but Jessica’s working on that. She’s working on that pretty hard.

 

 

 

 

When everything was once good between the two of them, things went bad when Maria Hill – then director of S.H.I.E.L.D. – sent soldiers to their front door and tried to arrest Luke right in front of their baby daughter.

Now Maria Hill – no longer even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (fired, disgraced) – turns up in Jessica Jones’s bathroom with a bullet in her belly and blood pouring out of her gut. Someone is trying to kill her, but she’s been unable to find out who that is, in spite of her decades of international espionage training. Or maybe because of them:

“I may not have all of my memories. I may have, voluntarily or not, given up memories for national security reasons. Probably so I can sleep at night.”

Against all her better instincts – her complete distrust of this professional liar – Jessica accepts the contract and, about an hour later, finds herself targeted from a rooftop… by Maria Hill.

 

 

Trust is very much at the forefront of all things Jessica Jones. I could write five or six essays on the issue of trust in JESSICA JONES plus her time in Bendis’s SECRET WAR (singular) and NEW AVENGERS books. Oh wait, I already have. Here Bendis builds it brilliantly in one and a half pages of intense, internal monologue as Jessica grits her teeth in full knowledge of Hill’s history of lies, before Maria Hill even starts to speak. Then when she does, she’s immediately disarmed by the truth.

When he’s on top form, Bendis’ dialogue is among the very best in comics, and Bendis is at his best when Alex Maleev or Michael Gaydos comes round to play. I’ve found that some writers flourish when properly partnered, then seem to flounder as soon as some other artist steps in (see PULSE).

Gaydos’s timing, with incremental adjustments to facial expressions between panels, is subtle and flawless and – like Alex Maleev or Michael Lark – it is a shadowy world that he conjures. It’s street-level and dirty and dangerous. Even the Jones’s office is in venetian-blind twilight… until the window gets smashed in, anyway. I hope she has a glazier on retainer.

Even Chinatown fast-food joints become cold, unsafe places to meet under Gaydos – glamour is almost an anathema to him, and not everyone has the looks of a model. Jessica is unsurprisingly permanently tired and weary while Sharon Carter, now sub-director of S.H.I.E.L.D., is looking her not inconsiderable age.

“Where’s Maria Hill? She hire you?”
“I don’t confirm or deny ongoing investigations… But if you want to hire me yourself, you can visit our website and get a look at our rates.”
“I can put you in jail.”
“I am very good at finding people. Is there someone else I can help you find?”

Beat.

“Maybe the person that did that to your hair?”

I did mention that Jessica wasn’t exactly her own best friend, didn’t I? That she was sassy, impulsive and anti-authoritarian.

Famously, Luke Cage spent time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So that’s something they’ll be able to share in the shower if Jessica Jones ever gets out.

“Where are you going?”
“Um… home.”
“Yeah, to quote the great General Solo: that is not how any of this works.”
“But – “
“We’re S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a major public incident. You’re being uncooperative and hostile.”
“But… so is your hair.”

SLH

Buy Jessica Jones vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invisibles Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, Jill Thompson, Paul Johnson, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond.

The Invisibles is a secret cell of anarchists talented in various aspects of what could loosely be described as the occult, determined to see our lives freed from the threat of a trans-temporal, inter-dimensional, pan-sexual straightjacket.

Reality, sexuality, gender, order, chaos, language and control, it’s all here for the decryption. Join Lord Fanny, King Mob, Ragged Robin, Jack Frost, Edith Manning, Jolly Roger and the rest of these mentalists in their fight for your future’s freedom!

I leave you with a guide as to what to expect using the original volumes’ seven-volume titles (this thicker edition reprints #13-15):

Say You Want A Revolution: Did it really all begin here, with a young boy named Dane and a secret world which he suddenly saw lurking behind what passed for reality?

 

 

Apocalipstick: Things go from bad to worse – you can always count on that. You can also count on things not being what they seem.

Entropy In The UK: They say that everyone has their breaking point. But it’s what’s being broken that really matters – and who’s breaking it.

Bloody Hell In America: Secrets are hard to keep, unless they’re too big to be believed. The bigger the government, the bigger the secrets become.

Counting To None: Time is of the essence, it transpires. But the essence of what might surprise you.

 

 

Kissing Mr. Quimper: Learning from history is one thing, but writing the history yourself is another, particularly when it hasn’t happened yet.

The Invisible Kingdom: Who even knows?

For more, please see INVISIBLES BOOK 1.

SLH

Buy Invisibles Book 2 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’.

Motor Girl vol 2: No Man Left Behind (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

25th Anniversary Sketchbook – 8800 Days Of Blondes, Brunettes And Bozos (£14-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Satania h/c (£22-99, NBM) by Fabien Vehlmann &  Kerascoet

Bitch Planet – Triple Feature vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by various

Blood Bowl vol 1: More Guts, More Glory s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Nick Kyme & Jack Jadson

Cyanide & Happiness: Punching Zoo (£13-99, Boom) by Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave

Expansion (£13-99, Adhouse Books) by Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean

Jazz Maynard vol 1: The Barcelona Trilogy h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Raule &  Roge

Lady Killer vol 2 (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Joëlle Jones

Misfit City vol 1  (£13-99, Boom) by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten & Naomi Franquiz

The Forever War s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Joe Haldeman & Marvano

Wired Up Wrong (£10-00, self-published) by Rachael Smith

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Freddie E Williams II

Injustice Year Five vol 1 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Mike S. Miller, various

Suicide Squad vol 4: Earthlings On Fire s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Rob Williams & Tony S. Daniel, various

Trinity vol 1: Better Together s/c (£14-99, DC) by Francis Manapul & various

Champions vol 2: Freelancer Lifestyle s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos

Dark Avengers By Bendis Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, various

Defenders vol 1: Diamonds Are Forever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Hulk: World War Hulk h/c (£19-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Peter David & John Romita Jr., various

Ms. Marvel vol 8: Mecca s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Marco Failla, Diego Olortegui

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man vol 1: Into The Twilight s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Adam Kubert, Michael Walsh

Rocket vol 1: Blue River Score s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Adam Gorham

Star Wars: Captain Phasma s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Marco Checchetto

Venom vol 2: The Land Before Crime s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mike Costa & Tradd Moore

Castle In The Sky Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki & various

Pokemon Adventures vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon XY vol 1 (£3-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yanamoto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week one

December 6th, 2017

Featuring Joe Latham, Luke Hyde, Cyril Pedrosa, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Ian Edington,  D’Israeli, Gigi Dee, Simon Spurrier, Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews, Kim Newman, Paul McCaffrey.

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa.

“What you are doing is pointless.”

What Simon is doing is nothing.

Well, he is teaching and that’s not nothing: it’s the most important job in the world. He’s empowering his young students in multiple ways by showing them that they can draw!

Simon used to draw.

He drew graphic novels which drew critical acclaim but which he didn’t like, and which brought him neither the solace of money nor fame. Critical acclaim can be small comfort if it’s material reward that you’re after.

He has a beautiful, brightly spirited, understanding and encouraging girlfriend called Claire with whom he shares a fairly idyllic townhouse. It’s reasonably rustic even if it’s rented. He probably should mow the lawn occasionally, if only he could be bothered. But swinging idly in a hammock’s much easier. He should probably converse with Claire… if he only could be bothered. But that would mean making some effort. He should probably create once again, as his therapist encourages. But he really cannot be bothered.

“It’s not writer’s block. I just don’t feel like it, that’s all.”

Simon doesn’t feel like it.

 

 

He won’t even pick up the phone to ask for a loan from his Dad in Paris. His Dad called Jean is really quite wealthy, you know. Then Claire and Simon could buy a house, save on the escalating rent and not need to borrow at exorbitant interest from the bank.

“I don’t get it.”
“There’s nothing to get. I just don’t feel like it.”

Understandably, Claire feels frustrated. Inertia, inaction, it’s driving her to distraction, because Simon is simultaneously treading water and drowning.

 

 

That’s beautifully evoked in the art, and not just during the swimming-pool sequence in which Simon only just comes up in time for air. The first several dozen pages are suffocating under drab, murky, energy-sapping olives and tans. When waiting for his father in Paris, Simon is overwhelmed – like the panels themselves – by the cacophonous crowd-chatter in French.

Fast-forward to Lisbon in Portugal to which Simon is invited, as part of a Comics Festival, on the basis of those very graphic novels which he so dismisses. The streets are still densely populated by pedestrians, but because he doesn’t understand Portuguese, the irritating chatter becomes mellifluous music instead, its speech balloons floating soothingly into one ear then out the other.

 

 

It’s something that’s picked up later on.

“A few words in broken English… hand gestures occasionally emphasised with a smile or a raised eyebrow. This basic language, stripped to the essentials, as frustrating as it is, helps us reveal nothing but the best in us.
“The tiny signs that, in a mother tongue, betray stupidity or jealousy no longer exist here.
“I see only their smiles.”

I’ve never read that posited before: that the nuances of one own native tongue can carry loaded connotations – subtle, deliberate or accidental implications; or inferences perceived either rightly or wrongly – whereas a foreign language, struggled with, conveys only the direct, unsullied bare-bones.

 

 

And look what happens to the art!

Like Fumio Obata’s JUST SO HAPPENS, in Portugal the human forms too glide like softened, ethereal ghosts, the buildings, steps and walkways warp as if underwater, and the colours immediately warm then ignite, especially on the sea-front itself! He’s surrounded by enthusiasm, energy and laughter.

 

 

This is Simon Muchat’s first time in Portugal for 20 years. It’s where his family originated from. He’s never been back as an adult. Indeed, he’s felt so distant from his family there that he almost refused a Wedding Invitation from his Portuguese cousin who’s marrying a bloke from a vineyard family in Burgundy. Both you and he will be so bloody glad that he didn’t, as will his Dad.

Because here’s the big thing: you may think that you have a problem with some parts of your family (weddings and funerals can be the worst), but do you ever consider that the generation above you might have even more issues dividing them?

 

 

Expansive, autobiographical excellence from the creator of EQUINOXES (whose multiple perspectives help render it one of the most successfully complex, thought-provoking graphic novels alongside Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN plus Moon and Ba’s DAYTRIPPER), the second section here will mean so much to those who have found family reunions to be either terrifying, enlightening or both.

This turns out to be an absolute blessing, though not in the most obvious or immediate of ways. There’s an early car journey in which the traditional family silence is perpetuated by Simon (already reticent), his dad and his dad’s brother. Simon doesn’t realise that it’s a silence stilled for a great deal longer than he has been on the scene. Nearly 20 years separates his father, Jean, and his older uncle, Jacques, and it’s only when their more impetuous middle sister Yvette gets rolling that they start to rock. She may be sixty now but Yvette has lost none of her mildly iconoclastic but never divisive drive. She’s a catalyst for conversation, a moderator in reasoned perspective and a reminder of what is important. Good manners only get in the way: good will is what’s important.

 

 

Like Pedrosa’s EQUINOXES this is sumptuous with a central Burgundy vineyard which will make you swoon with bucolic jealousy. It’s not without its problems like cattle coming in across the water when they shouldn’t, or freezers spluttering then dying, leaving meat to rot when it’s supposed to be feeding the proverbial five thousand. But each of these instances will coerce those who may have lost the capacity to cooperate to do so again, then share their past.

It’s an enormous wedding party spread over a very long weekend, but much more informal than most as guests split themselves up into groups and do their own thing. You’ll hear snatches of background conversation and so feel that you’re there, rather than simply seeing what’s staged.

This is a book of the past According to Simon, According to Jean, then According to their ultimate patriarch, Abel: three male generations of the Muchat family which initially held little interest for Simon, but whose migratory past he soon finds so fascinating that he is later compelled to… well, you’ll see.

 

 

Anyone who can speak Portuguese is going to enjoy a fifth more than most because so much of this is deliberately left untranslated, as much a mystery to me as it was to Simon. I like that!

SLH

Buy Portugal and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey with Jordie Bellaire.

“Assisted fist?”
“Builder’s term for hitting something with a hammer until it goes in.”

Paranormal investigative fiction in which we return to where we began: the British Isles.

Specifically, we return to the rugged land of barrows and tors, stone circles and moors; of ley lines, megaliths and pre-Christian pits; of spriggans, diviners and cunning-folk. It’s the supernatural as science, the very ancient decoded by the most modern.

Information is everything, and everything is information.

Previously in INJECTION: five experts in diverse disciplines led by Professor Maria Kilbride were given funding by the FPI to cross-pollinate, think outside the box and do stuff.

They did stuff: they poisoned the 21st Century.

They did it with an Injection, and now they discover that both they and this planet are far from immune from what the Injection’s become.

 

 

Now:

“Everything from this point on is sketchy, okay? Every second is like you’re in the middle of making a deal that’s going very bad very fast. You know how that feels. Watch everything.”

Technologist Brigid Roth is tasked by Moira Kilbride of the FPI to investigate signal interference in Cornwall resonating from a stone ring on Mellion Moor uncovered following an earthquake and landslide. Chained to one of the standing stones is the remains of a dead body, skinned and boned. Beneath its central stone they discover what appears to be a massive, slab lid. Would it be wise to lift it?

When Brigid seeks information from local lore expert Professor Derwa Kernick, she appears to oblige with legends that suppose the circle to be a gateway to the Other World. Underneath, in a pit, criminals were chained and in the morning they would be gone. Any mechanism for this, she suggests, must have been lost in our oral tradition. So what happened to the man on the moor chained to the stone circle?

 

 

The tension’s kept caught by the constant reiteration of the deal-about-to-go-wrong warning exchanged between Brigid and rich kid Emma Louise Beaufort whom Brigid selects spontaneously as her driver and back-up based on her past (instantly uploaded from the FPI’s extensive, privacy-flouting files) for drug-dealing, robbery and assault. Emma’s role in many ways is as a Doctor Who companion: someone who observes, questions and panics easily – someone whose safety one worries about – while Brigid inventively (and dangerously) improvises with the most modern technology available today. As you’d imagine from the writer of PLANETARY, the dialogue is ever so satisfyingly slick.

 

 

In keeping with the old and the new, Brigid also comes equipped with an female-empowering Sheela na gig around her neck that is far from cosmetic and which, combined with her contact lenses, allows her instant access to all the message traffic of a computer connected to social media and more. It’s something Ellis floated in DOKTOR SLEEPLESS and which Sheean and Ward used excellently in ANCESTOR. Once more, however, Ellis doesn’t eschew the ancient, like the legendary notion that iron acts as a magic repellent. Pedal to the metal, as they say around race circuits.

 

 

As to the line and colour art – for which Bellaire won the Eisner last year, right here – the fog which shrouds Mellion Moor and its environs is phenomenally effective, there are moments of pure, sinew-shredding horror during which Shalvey reminded me of Kevin O’Neill, while during several key climaxes you will be treated to an ancient, tree-stone cathedral of light erupting in the night.

It’s but a herald of what is to come.

 

 

Incursions are increasing. The Other World of Old England’s coming back.

And it’ll only give the Injection more room to manoeuvre.

SLH

Buy Injection vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Digby Is A Wizard (£9-99) by Joe Latham…

“We all feel small sometimes.
“It’s quite normal to have hopes and dreams fill our heads with bubbly excitement from time to time. It’s also quite normal for those moments to inexplicably lead us down dark paths and exploded bathrooms.
“There are always lessons to be learned.
“I just hope I remember that when I am next scared and lost down a dark path surrounded by scary gnomes with sticks.”

Digby is about have a bad day. A very bad day.

Not quite on the level of Jose Domingo’s ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN, I’ll grant you, but it’s up there. Job interviews can ruin your chilled-out vibe like that, don’t you find?

 

 

It all started out so well too, with a hearty al fresco breakfast followed by a little accidental dungeoneering, broken up by backgammon with friendly goblins and convivial chats with other chums like the giant spider and the demogorgon. Digby even arrived in the nick of time for his interview after a brief misunderstanding with a bridge troll!

But then his composure began to unravel with the onset of a gippy tummy, a bubbling belly that caused him to mishear a question and begin to experience mid-interview anxieties promptly leading to full-on panic. Even after some extreme emergency wizardly… emissions… which resulted in him levelling half the building, he somehow still thinks he’s in with a great chance of landing the job! He’s clearly one of life’s great optimists, our Digby…

 

 

Back home, however, following the inevitable bad news after the usual protracted delay in hearing anything, that’s when the metaphorical shit storm promptly whooshes into town to really blow him away. A case of life imitating fart, perhaps… But as poor old Digby begins to rapidly learn that not gaining errr… gainful employment is about to be the least of his burgeoning problems, I was just chuckling with increasing mirth at his travails and lack of travail, and thinking how glad I am not to have to endure job interviews any more.

 

 

 

Told mainly in a two by three grid panel per page pattern, with the odd spectacular full-page spread or elongated landscape thrown in for good measure, this is a silent affair, though jovially narrated through the conceit of a single, simple surreal / sarcastic / sympathetic sentence hand-scribed below each illustration. There are no panel borders as such, just white gutters. Thus it gives this work the visual feel of a collection of carefully assembled Polaroid pictures, which I loved.

Joe’s art style is wonderfully loose, deceptively simple, yet upon examination reveals a tremendous amount of work, particularly in the countryside and forest backgrounds. Whilst Joe employs a heavier line, this did – perhaps for its delightfully whimsical approach – stylistically remind me of Jordan Crane’s sadly out of print THE CLOUDS ABOVE. In terms of colour palette he’s gone for a Feldgrau grey-green that varies in shade decorated with splashes of scarlet as Digby begins to really lose the plot!

 

 

Originally a Kickstarter project from Joe Latham, whose magnificent, synergistic triptych THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN we could scarcely keep on our shelves when it first came out, I happen to know there are only a handful of these hardcover beauties left to purchase, and that there will be no reprints…

JR

Buy Digby Is A Wizard and read the Page 45 review here

Pollquest (£9-99, self-published) by Luke Hyde.

Ever such a clever conceit and cool social-media experiment engaging fully with an interactive audience, this has been executed with much to-and-fro mischief and visual panache.

The experiment was, if you like, a democratic version of the pick-a-plot books like Sherwin Tija’s YOU ARE A KITTEN and, in comics, Jason Shiga’s highly inventive MEANWHILE wherein you get to dictate what happens next.

But democracy has its dangers as the comic’s protagonist – Bacon the Adventure Dog – would have been worriedly aware of had he been able to peer behind the creative curtain and see what was happening behind the scenes. We will get to that in a second.

Ostensibly, Bacon wakes up one morning, fully refreshed with 3 red-heart lives glowing as they would in a video game, and decides to go on a Poll Quest. He “poot-poot”s himself out of bed, digs his battle-scarred sword out of a treasure chest, taps an app on his mobile which has charged overnight, selects the Haunted Arcade option and defenestrates himself from the top of his tower. I like that fact that it has come under attack on some previous occasion from arrows. I love the fact that he goes splat on his face, immediately losing a life which recovers. He won’t necessarily be so lucky in the future.

 

 

What Bacon doesn’t know is that he has no self-determination.

He’s been saved that particular existentialist crisis.

What we know that Bacon doesn’t is that his entire course of action has been driven by said democracy thus:

Luke Hyde tweets his Twitter followers with a poll which they can then vote on. You know the sort of thing:

“Do you believe #Brexit will be:

“A. Apocalyptic For Our Economy
“B. Bad For Britain
“C. Catastrophic For All Concerned”

Anyone on Twitter can press one of those options and the poll provider will then know what percentage of idiots believe that Brexit will be brilliant for anyone other than the far right like Farage.

In this instance Luke first asked his followers whether Bacon should “Leap out of bed screaming (8%)”, “Roll out of bed farting (46%)”, “Check phone for quests (15%)” or “Sleep another hour (31%)”. Even the poor dog’s flatulence is dictated from on high – which is no viable excuse if you let one off in our shop.

 

 

There were four further polls on that very first page and, vitally, these insights are printed on the left, opposite the ensuing, directly consequent action. Oh, how differently our own lives could have all gone, if we only had responsible adults dictating our decisions behind the scenes. And, oh, how differently our danger-dog’s adventure could have gone if only he too had responsible adults dictating his decisions.

He doesn’t: he has Luke Hyde’s followers instead.

After much Lara-Croft leapin’ about betwixt pillars under peer, dodging the choppy cold waves down below, Bacon back-flips onto a ladder which will take him in into the Haunted Arcade.

“Climbing up, you meet a large door. Do you…

“Open it slooooooooowly
“Blast through with a fist
“Open it butt first
“Jump in shoutin’ ghost pun”

Now, I ask you, which would you have selected? The arcade is haunted. We don’t yet know by what (although we will most assuredly find out), but I was already willing to bet my entire wine cellar that it wasn’t by Randall’s mate Hopkirk (deceased). Slowly seems prudent, a fist might prove pre-emptive and a ghost pun at least empowering / cathartic. But no, Hyde’s good and wise may or may not lead quiet lives, but they whatever they do, they do it butt-first.

 

 

“Butt!!!! Every time the butt!” live-comments Joe Latham, creator of DIGBY and THE FOX and THE WOLF and THE WOODSMAN. And I will remember that, Joe.

Hyde is such an expressive cartoonist that anyone resurrecting Ren & Stimpy, for example, should knock on his door right away. The frantic action has a pull all of its own and so worth the price of arcade-admission.

But there are so many laugh-out-loud instances of such wrong-headed ratiocination on the left-hand page – with poor Luke doing his best to protect the interests of his protagonist against the wilful whimsies of his followers’ wanton irresponsibility – that, as I say, the format of this publication’s reproduction is its forte.

 

 

Plus, Luke himself is a very funny guy. Battered and bruised and (in short) worse for wear, Bacon is given no option by the social-media sadists but to enter a new arena: the sea.

“You dive in… as you fall you contemplate the words ‘salt water’; and ‘deep lacerations.”

SLH

Buy Pollquest and read the Page 45 review here

Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi Dee…

“Cucumber, dear, I just think you ought to run over and see what’s wrong! I’m sure the school will let you reenrol once you’re done saving the kingdom.”

Magician-in-training Cucumber is all set to head off to Puffington’s Academy “for the Magically Gifted (and/or incredibly wealthy!)” when he receives a missive from his apparently imprisoned father that he, and only he – definitely not his infinitely more savvy and tough nut of a little sister Almond who wants to be a knight – can save the Doughnut Kingdom from disaster! For the evil Queen Cordelia has taken control of Caketown Castle and is intent on assembling all the Disaster Stones to resurrect the Nightmare Knight. BOO!!! HISS!!!

The only possible way to stop this dastardly plot is for Cucumber to go see the world protector Dream Oracle and head off on a dangerous quest to acquire the legendary Dream Sword and perform some swash-buckling, sword-wielding antics and save the day. But all poor old Cuco wants to do is learn how to cast spells… Now if only we, and he, knew someone who desperately wanted to be a questing knight…

 

 

Haha, it’s certainly a high fun factor in this all-ages fantasy comedy that also has a surprisingly sharp satirical edge in places. This edition collects a first volume’s worth of material from the hugely popular webcomic that has been running since 2011. After a ridiculously successful Kickstarter that resulted in the self-publication of several books, publishers FirstSecond have bought the rights and put out this first glossy collection.

 

 

With an art style squarely aimed at gamer-friendly minds and a vibrant colour palette to boot, it’s actually a visual feast, not least because all the characters are named and subtly dressed as fruit n’ veg! With bunny ears… I don’t really know what the bunny ears are all about, in truth, other than to further heighten the cute factor, presumably.

 

 

They massively puzzled Whackers, the bunny ears, when I tried this work out on her 6-year-old noggin to her great acclaim. “So they’re all wearing bunny ears, then?” she must have asked about ten times as I attempted to carry on, forging valiantly ever onwards to that delirious moment when bedtime reading is concluded and I can finally go downstairs and relax.  “No, they have bunny ears,” I kept replying, through increasingly gritted teeth. “But they’re not bunnies,” she kept retorting. Statement not question, you will note. Finally, I gave in… “Actually, you know what, I think you’re right: they are wearing bunny ears.”

“… I knew it.”

 

 

Anyway, this is a whole fruitbowl full of fun, a veritable cavalcade of family-friendly crudités. Gigi D.G. has definitely created a work that will delight kids just with its sheer, natural, sugar-laden energy and also make adults cast a wry smile at the more ‘serious’ social commentary jokes thrown in. Thus neatly blending an all-ages smoothie to satisfy both the sweetest of tooth and also provide a bit of crunch.

JR

Buy Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edington &  D’Israeli.

Well, it says vol 2 and we certainly have SCARLET TRACES VOL 1 but I started here, and when you turn over the first four pages you’ll want to too. This is exceptional: scathing socio-political satire made sweet by being British speculative fiction through and through.

With more than a nod to Frank Hampson’s DAN DARE, D’Israeli has excelled himself. There’s an enormous weight to the gravity-defying aircraft, detail galore in the smallest of panels, and the semi-futurist cityscapes come with a vast sense of space and a commanding control of light. You wait until you fly up to Mars!

Coloured to rich, warm perfection, I have rarely seen four more stunning pages kicking off a sci-fi comic, as the tranquillity of a bloody big British loch is shattered by something resembling Thunderbird 3 which catches the lake’s surface with one of its three jutting jet-engines, then nose-dives into what cannot be warm waters.

 

 

Fortunately there’s a rescue party immediately to hand at the shore’s edge. *checks definition of rescue mission*

Oh. Unfortunately what looks like it might be a rescue party turns out to be an assassination squad and the craft crew’s buoyancy blues are compounded by laser beams shot straight through their space helmets. We’re not really talking “injury-to-eye” motif; we’re talking brain-matter skull-‘splode.

 

 

D’Israeli ain’t finished, either. The very next page boasts an orgasmic aerial shot of Crystal Palace Aerodrome rising high into the sky above a lean, clean city with space for verdant parkland and the full majesty of the original giant glasshouse still standing. The lines are crisp, the light is lambent and the design of the leviathan coming in to land – vertically like a Harrier – is so exquisite in red and white that the six-year-old still very much alive in me would dearly adore a heavy model metal version to hold aloft and sweep around my playroom while going “Neeeeeeeeyyyyyyaaaaoww!”

Fans of LUTHER ARKWRIGHT or MINISTRY OF SPACE are also going to get a kick out of this alternate history in which Britain has retained the power it lost with its empire and made leaps in technology before its time – in this instance by reverse-engineering the spoils from a thwarted Martian Invasion.

 

 

In retaliation Britain has taken the fight to Mars with Field Marshall Montgomery in charge, but after 40 years of futile fighting – with national and international opinion set dead against them – things are growing dirtier. Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie, Secretary General of The League Of Nations, comes out with a speech astonishingly similar to Kofi Annan’s condemning Israel mid-2007; Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all set to secede from The Commonwealth; and you just know we’re in trouble if Sir Oswald bloody Mosley is Home Secretary. So you can kiss freedom of the press good-bye, and you can be equally sure there’ll be the thuggish boot boys to beat out insubordination, subversion or subterfuge should anyone get too close to the truth of what’s happening on the red planet.

Photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is determined to have a go, in spite of the odds, and after a treacherous journey finds evidence of a civilisation far older than their enemies, the reason that no one is coming home, and Earth’s Final Solution to its problem.

 

 

It’s all very slick, with winks here and there (an ancient mural depicts Doctor Who’s Silurians and Sea Devils as the contemporary, dominant species on Earth!), and Edginton fills his news reports with all manner of sly contemporary references before things turn very, very brutal indeed…

“In the East End of London, Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Metropolitan police raided a house in Sydney Street where Scottish seditionists ‘The People’s Caledonian Militia’ had established a hideout. After a heated gun battle, many of the insurgents took their own lives rather than face capture.

“However, it is suspected that several escaped in the confusion.
“Detective Inspector Craven of Special Branch anticipates their immediate arrest but warns that if you should see any individuals with a Scots or Northern appearance, do not approach them, but dial 999 immediately.”

Do it, please, for all our sakes.

SLH

Buy Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews.

“A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed and in its light a lost race was reborn.”

We’ll return to that anon, but what you’d most like to know as soon as possible, I suspect, is how this fits in with Jim Henson’s puppet-theatre film?

It’s the sequel. It’s the direct, fully authorised sequel which was developed over many years and original intended to be released as a feature film. As such it’s scripted by Simon Spurrier (CRY HAVOC: MYTHING IN ACTION etc) based on screenplays by Craig Pearce and Annette Duffy and David Odell, and its art doesn’t half glow, which is a good job given that it features a brand-new race called the Firelings. They live near the planet’s molten core. Anyway, here’s Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company and the Muppet maestro’s daughter:

“Jen and Kira have been peacefully ruling Thra from the Crystal Castle for many years… They have grown very old and are living in a haze of memories and ritual, and the peaceful complacency of their court belies a neglect and lack of engagement with the Crystal and Thra itself. Into that setting, a young Fireling girl from the centre of the planet comes to ask a difficult favour of them, a shard from the Crystal to save her civilisation.”

 

 

I’ve only skimmed the first of these chapters reprinting the first four of twelve comics, but it did strike me as odd that “A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed” was impressed upon us three times during the three-page pre-credit sequence, bursts first from the title page yet again, then is repeated two pages later, then two pages after that. It struck me as odd right up until the first chapter’s cliffhanger when I realised why this favour to the Firelings would be so very difficult.

The Gelflings are an animist culture, worshipping the Crystal as a god.

And for a shard to be given, they must first shatter the Crystal itself.

 

 

For more graphic novels, please see Page 45’s Jim Henson Section plus the LABYRINTH 2017 SPECIAL one-shot, released last week and still in stock at the time of typing and the forthcoming 12-part LABYRINTH series whose first issue you’ll find there on our site, although you are very much encouraged to set up a Page 45 Standing Order for the series for collection in store or shipping worldwide as each issue comes out. You don’t pay in advance, only as each issue is collected or dispatched.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Kim Newman & Paul McCaffrey.

Let’s lobs some labels at this, shall we, and see if they stick with you?

Steampunk, neo-gothic vampire comic with elements of Fu Manchu and Giant Monster Movies complete with Kraken. It’s all here, I promise you.

A brand-new story written by the author of the Anno Dracula novel along with its successors set during subsequent eras, this – like its original – takes place during a Victorian England whose crown, through connivance, now belongs to Vlad the Impaler along with Britain’s glorious far-reaching Empire. Not everyone is happy with this (though I’d have thought that one blood-sucking aristo was just as bad as another) so there’s a multinational European naval force assembled just off the Frisian Islands’ North Sea archipelago which is all set to invade / liberate our Sacred Isle depending on your perspective.

Think of them as The Allies. It’s kind of like WWI and WWII except in reverse.

 

 

On top of that there are various clans with secret plans bent on revolution from within, so if skulduggery is your thing you’ll be well-in here. They all seem pretty privileged too, and wear ever such flouncy clothing, plus a great many of them are vampires. This is a certain sub-section of society for whom this is the best wet dream ever.

The series is populated by historical figures, literary characters and those from film and television, so in that regard a bit like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (except that everything there was fictional including the environments) and you might have a great deal of fun spotting them.

 

 

Now, before we go any further, I should emphasise that HELLBOY’s Mike Mignola is the most enormously enthusiastic fan and provides the introduction in which he is at pains to point out that he’s a purist about Bram Stoker’s Dracula and therefore one of the least likely to succumb to the undoubted charms within, but succumb he has. Plus Neil Gaiman wrote “Compulsory reading… glorious!” and I have the most unequivocal respect for Neil to the extent that I know full well that I have never typed – and never will type – a single paragraph that could match his hastily scribbled weekly Sainsbury’s shopping list.

What I am trying to impress upon you is that they are almost certainly right and I am almost certainly wrong. Seriously.

But I cannot read a book in which someone cries “Egads!” or mumbles “’Ow do, lass?” then an anthropomorphic walrus declares, “The jig’s up, socialist rabble.” The first dozen pages made me squirm with embarrassment, so I set it aside and moved on.

 

 

For steampunk fans I recommend instead graphic novels like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, CASTLE IN THE STARS, GRANDVILLE, CLOCKWORK WATCH or SCARLET TRACES.

P.S. Words like “skulduggery” and “turpitude” should only be deployed with an arched eyebrow as well.

SLH

Buy Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem 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’.

Cannibal vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young & Matias Bergara

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

It’s Cold In The River At Night (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa

Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

Babyteeth vol 1 (£13-99, Aftershock) by Donny Cates & Garry Brown

Be Your Own Backing Band (£8-99, Silver Sprocket) by Liz Prince

Body Music (£22-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh

Catboy (£17-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate

Cici’s Journal h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Joris Chamberlain & Aurelie Neyret

Helvetica Standard Italic vol 1 (£14-99, Manga) by Keiichi Arawi

Invisibles Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, Jill Thompson, Paul Johnson, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond

Look Straight Ahead (£17-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Elaine M. Will

Lumberjanes vol 7: A Bird’s-Eye View (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo, Carey Pietsch

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£14-99, kaboom!) by various

Steven Universe: Anti-Gravity (£12-99, Titan) by Talya Perper & Queenie Chan, Jenna Ayoub

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming vol 1 h/c (£11-99, DC) by Enrico Marini

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 5: Supreme s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Goran Sudzuka, Alec Morgan, Ron Garney

Jessica Jones vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

The Girl From The Other Side vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Rivers Of London: Detective Stories (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Star Wars vol 6: Out Among The Stars (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Jason Latour & Salvador Larroca, Andrea Sorrentino, Michael Walsh

Batman & Robin Adventures vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Ty Templeton & Brandon Kruse, Dev Madan, Mik Parobeck, Joe Staton

Green Arrow vol 4: The Rise Of Star City s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Eleonora Carlini, Juan Ferreyra, others

Blame! Vol 6 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Dragonball Super vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Yasuo Ohtagaki

The Mortal Instruments – The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Cassandra Clare & Cassandra Jean

Christmas Shopping at Page 45 2017

November 29th, 2017

Graphic Novel Recommendations for You!

And 36 out of 72 of them this year turn out to be British!

 

 

We adore Christmas at Page 45!

We’re never too busy to help, and we promise it’ll be your easiest, most serene shopping experience this year.

Ask for recommendations tailored to your friends’ tastes!

Come, conjure your friends in our minds’ eyes!
Tell us a little about friends or your relatives and – even if they don’t yet read comics – we’ll find you a selection of presents perfect for them, then show and tell you a little about each choice.
We’ll find you books for difficult Dads, all-ages beauties to make little eyes shine, and Young Adults excellence for even the most discerning.

 

 

Bring wish lists to the counter!

Be they long or short lists, we’ll find your books for you!
Not sure what the book you want is called? We know our stuff! A brief description is all that we need.
If a graphic novel is not in stock we’ll search the warehouses of different distributors: their delivery is ever so fast!

Buy Page 45 Gift Vouchers for in-store or on-line shopping!

Alternatively, Page 45 Gift Vouchers come in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and come with a free card either by Lizz Lunney or Philippa Rice.

 

 

Comics & Graphic Novels for Christmas!

There will be Christmas Present Classics below too, but first we present Page 45’s Very Best of 2017!

Please click on the links below to read our full reviews with interior art!

Important: if you see multiple covers, please click on any for individual reviews!

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Venice (£19-99) by Jiro Taniguchi.

Venice is a city of gently lapping water, of dazzling light reflected on its undulating surfaces; of bridges, of sighs, of the Bridge of Sighs; of echoing footsteps and silent facades which are no less impressive when crumbling. But more than anything, Venice is a city of surprises.

If Paris is a city of vistas re-designed to be seen through, under or over, so that wherever you roam you know where you are, Venice is far more tantalising. You can catch glimpses under and over its bridges,  but such are its circuitous and labyrinthine trails within the embrace of its serpentine Grand Canal that all is revealed only gradually and most unexpectedly, as you take one random turn then the next.

It is magnificent, it is mysterious and it is coquettish. It is my favourite place in the world.

And Jiro Taniguchi is my favourite Japanese artist. Match made in heaven.

Read the full Page 45 review of Venice and buy if you fancy!

Boundless (£16-99) by Jillian Tamaki.

Reveries, perspectives, freedoms, constraints…

Bodies, faces, fiction and fabrication…

Illusion, isolation, engagement and disconnection…

There’s so much to absorb in this phenomenally rich and varied collection of searching short stories. You neither know what you’ll get next nor know how it will be presented or indeed how each will end – except unexpectedly.

Each story comes with a narrative guile and its own art style. I suspect you’ll be grinning for weeks.

Read the full Page 45 review of Boundless and buy if you fancy!

Face (£9-99) by Rosario Villajos.

“Except that she doesn’t have a face…”

Playful and refreshing, rarely has a graphic novel surprised and delighted me so consistently throughout. But the ideas behind it are universally recognisable: a bit key, that.

Conforming to the norm is partly what this is about in so many ways, whether it’s society’s expectations, one’s looks, one’s search for a romantic partner or one’s dynamic within a relationship.

There’s so much to consider here from identity and self-perception to symbiosis, gravitation and assimilation. There will be a certain degree of alignment, as is so often the case, but in far from predictable ways! There are rules of attraction to consider and self-castigation will rear its ever so common head; the way we can end up making constant comparisons with the lives of others: their careers, relationships, creative successes, beauty, athleticism, entertainment value… and gardening expertise.

Read the full Page 45 review of Face and buy if you fancy!

The Worm And The Bird (£14-99) by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

“I am too busy to look,
“I can look another day,” thinks The Worm.

But The Bird is looking. The Bird, up above, is looking right down at the ground.

In this immaculately structured graphic novel – so much of whose story is image-delivered with shiny ink – the creator of THE FOX AND THE STAR, presents much to make us think, much to make us grin, with a drive of dramatic tension as the Worm hurriedly goes about its business oblivious to the patience of the early Bird up above.

Two different perspectives mirror each other, before a third is presented by implication.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Worm And The Bird and buy if you fancy!

Collecting Sticks h/c (£16-99) by Joe Decie.

In the countryside you will need sticks.

If you live in a city, be sure to pack plenty.

Welcome to the mischievous, autobiographical world of Joe Decie, for whom sleight-of-hand is a default setting. When I heralded his DOGS DISCO  as “the return of the pint-sized prankster”, Joe immediately fired back on Twitter, “I’m really quite tall, you know”.

He’d fit comfortably inside your pocket.

Here the family goes glamping – glamorous camping – and his young son Sam steals the show. “Do you believe in the olden days?” he inquires, earnestly. “In the ’80s they used spears.”

You will be beaming with recognition throughout. One of my two Books of the Year.

Read the full Page 45 review of Collecting Sticks h/c and buy if you fancy!

The Sound Of The World By Heart h/c (£22-99) by Giacomo Bevilacqua.

Our Jonathan’s graphic novel of the year.

Photojournalist Sam is on a mission to stay silent for sixty days in New York City, one of the busiest and loudest in the world. He takes meticulously composed black and white photographs. On some of them a mysterious red-haired woman begins to appear, in full colour. She wasn’t there when he shot them.

Soon the girl begins to appear in the real world, seemingly at every turn. Sam’s instinctive reaction is to turn away, to run, to flee. But what is he really running from, where will he end up, and who will be there when he does so?

A quiet, introspective journey of tenderness and beauty.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Sound Of The World By Heart h/c and buy if you fancy!

Unreal City h/c (£14-99) by D.J. Bryant.

David Lynch, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes.

Five stories in multiple art styles in which tables are turned. Relationships, perception, time, manipulation, reality, fiction… all these will be warped as D.J. Bryant presents you with puzzles to mess with your mind and his protagonists’. Control will be sought, control will be lost, and in ‘Objet D’Art’ control may never have been an option in the first instance – whichever instance the first one turns out to be. ‘Objet D’Art’ wouldn’t work in any medium other than comics.

Bryant’s art is meticulous and glossy, sexy and hypnotic. It’s also decidedly top-shelf for two of the tales.

Read the full Page 45 review of Unreal City h/c and buy if you fancy!

The Can Opener’s Daughter (£12-99) by Rob Davis.

Sequel to THE MOTHERLESS OVEN, my fave book of that year, wherein we learned that although it is commonly acknowledged that children are the products of their parents – both by nature and nurture – here parents are very much the mechanical product of their children.

Everything is familiar, yet looked at anew, askew or turned on its head. Words may have multiple meanings depending on intonation or a minor adjustment. Almost every panel demands a quotation, so dense is the wit on display. Perspectives are important, the fresher the better, so here is the second in Rob Davis’ trilogy, dovetailing precisely into the first to illuminate elements of what went before and leave us gasping desperately for more.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Can Opener’s Daughter and buy if you fancy!

The Best We Could Do h/c (£22-99) by Thi Bui.

“Proximity and closeness are not the same.”

My other Book of the Year, this profoundly moving story will win so many international awards, you mark my words.

So often the best route to true understanding lies in the lives of others.

Here Thi Bui seeks to understand her distant relationship with her parents, in order to relax into parenthood herself. To do so she explores their lives in Vietnam and the adversity – often cruelty – which they encountered from without and within, while trying to create a family of their own. That her mother and father met at all was a miracle; that they ever escaped to America was another.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Best We Could Do h/c and buy if you fancy!

Arthur And The Golden Rope h/c (£12-99) by Joe Todd-Stanton.

A most excellent quest involving Thor, Odin and the enormous wolf Fenrir. HILDA and ZELDA fans will lap this up, for Arthur is an Icelandic Zelda, addicted to exploration and acquisition, forever adding artefacts to his arsenal of treasured possessions.

Arthur will to need to summon old friends, all his courage and his quickest of wits to restore fire to his frozen town after its gigantic brazier is knocked down and extinguished by Fenrir. He’ll have to curry the Thor’s favour, and the only way to do that is to help him defeat the 500-foot Fenrir!

Present and correct: wit, rules and exploration for eyes with background details galore. There are swords stuck everywhere in Valhalla’s hall. Can you find them all? Its library is as vast as vast can be. Poor Arthur must read every dusty tome in his research. You can see him scampering up ladders, balancing books on his head, receiving a nasty surprise, but if you look really, really carefully…

Castle In The Stars vol 1 (£14-99) by Alex Alice.

Album-sized, all-ages excellence which had me thrilled by its visual majesty, gripped by its power-play, charmed by its adroitly delivered comedic notes, then caught anchor / line / balloon-ballast in its steampunk spell. I suspect you’ll weep with wonderment at the Aethership blueprints.

It co-stars the white-stoned “Wow!” that is Neuschwanstein Castle, constructed on such a sheer mountainous outcrop that I’ve always thought “How?!?” Alice makes the most of the vertigo-inducing terrain with iron gantries spanning the slopes, cable lifts  and the sort of magical glasshouse laboratory you find in games like Riven and Myst, buttressed out from the escarpment and over a waterfall.

Read the full Page 45 review of Castle In The Stars vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Water Memory (£13-99) by Mathieu Reynès & Valérie Vernay.

Seagulls surf the sea breeze, directing our gaze to the lighthouse on an island not far from the shore. Beyond lies the fishing village, a yawning stretch of bright blue sky between sunlit clouds funneling our attention there too. Later a wave-break of white flowers flows through standing stones.

At the heart of this gripping YA graphic novel lies a mystery which may or may not contain a dark, fantastical element. Regardless, it involves local legends of emphatically not displeasing sea spirits. Its other heart lies in the relationship between Marion and her mother; its driving force any young person’s instinct and compulsion to explore.

Marion and her Mum are moving back into the family house after it’s been empty for 34 years.

Read the full Page 45 review of Water Memory and buy if you fancy!

Geis: A Game Without Rules (£15-99) by Alexis Deacon.

A Geis is a taboo or curse which cannot be broken, but invariably is, and the consequences are always dire.

Diabolically ingenious, every element dovetails precisely, be they the intense, concurrent action sequences of fight and flight or the games and the geis itself, all of which have rules if our remaining competitors from GEIS Book One could only perceive then understand them.

What are they competing for? The kingdom itself. What is at stake? Their very lives. Unfortunately they don’t know that. Only young Lady Io and the duplicitous Nemas have discovered the truth, and they have been cursed into silence. Rising from this rat-race for power is an inspiring spirit of altruism. PS. The colours are amazing!

Read the full Page 45 review of Geis: A Game Without Rules and buy if you fancy!

By Chance Or By Providence s/c (£14-99) by Becky Cloonan.

Was there ever an artist so in love with an era? I think not.

Three fiendishly clever, creepy, mesmerising and beguiling short stories which you will want to re-read the moment you finish, for hindsight is a funny old thing.

This also boasts the best selection of back-matter art that I can recall: page after page of lush, sensual, sexually charged portraits of men and women at one with their natural environment. “Tresses” is a word that evokes a particular period in which hair was worn bound for courtly consumption. As to the guys, you can  smell the male musk and built-up grease by the way the thick strands fall heavy over their eyes which glare up through their parted curtains in anger or seduction.

Read the full Page 45 review of By Chance Or By Providence s/c and buy if you fancy!

Heathen vol 1 (£14-50) by Natasha Alterici.

Under a cover as soft to the touch as a horse’s hide resides a tale of love, resilience and fortitude told with lithe beauty, great supple strength and the odd dash of light, bright humour.

It’s also constructed with precision:  nothing extraneous,  everything is thought through including Aydis’s unconventional construction of her helmet from fallen stag antlers which male deer use in combat for dominance in securing their mates. This is about male hegemony, yes.

Alterici makes everything look effortless, including Aydis’s hand-to-horn combat with the bull. The choreography is exceptionally slick with so much energy in a broken line! She doesn’t seek to confine her virile steeds, stag or stampeding bull in a rigid outline, so sapping their movement and might; instead she suggests their exterior contours and body mass in relation to their environment with flurries and flashes of instinctive slashes, while her colouring is equally loose and lambent.

Read the full Page 45 review of Heathen vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Spinning (£14-99) by Tillie Walden.

Think of the telling title of teenage awakening, not the ostensible, ice-rink subject matter.

Keenly observed, discerning and wise, this eloquent autobiography comes with a mind-bogglingly well balanced sense of perspective which understandably eludes almost all of us aged a mere 21. Or 31 or 41 or 51.

Even more remarkable for someone in her earliest twenties, it is Walden’s fifth published graphic novel so far, two of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. I am practically begging you to pop her into our search engine.

Unbelievably prolific (read: dedicated to her craft), Walden is the most insightful voice of so many to emerge in her generation of comics, and she communicates it with a quiet, controlled consideration and exquisite beauty.

Read the full Page 45 review of Spinning and buy if you fancy!

One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide To Mindfulness (£12-99) by Mike Medaglia.

“Love is everything. It really is.”

A very practical handbook guiding us all towards a greater sense of serenity; nor is it merely for beginners.

In 4 sections titled as seasons, Mike talks us through 24 topics from the all-important Mindfulness and Meditation to diverse jewels like Smiling, Anxiety, The Ego and Impermanence. Each proves powerfully affecting, in subtly different ways, both in their words and accompanying artwork.

For a subject as ineffable as mindfulness, Mike’s is an ideal approach for revealing and refreshing our knowledge of the universal truths we manage to so successfully obscure from ourselves on a daily basis, for we do already know deep down that love is everything.

Read the full Page 45 review of One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide To Mindfulness and buy if you fancy!

Porcelain: Ivory Tower (Signed Bookplate Ed.) (£14-99) by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose.

 

Already our best seller this year, and it’s only been out six weeks!

Child came from nothing. Lady built much. But Mother’s another proposition altogether.

Mother has surrounded her family and estate full of sentient Porcelain creations with an impenetrable wall and built therein the most enormous tower which casts its imposing shadow over the city, drawing attention to its lofty self-seclusion. She had no choice: the military demanded her Porcelain as weapons for war and would not take “No” for an answer. Now everyone and everything she holds dear comes under assault and siege. She has done things in the interest of expediency which she prays no one will know.

But it’s all coming out now, and it’s all coming down.

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Porcelain and buy if you fancy!

Grandville: Force Majeure (£18-99) by Bryan Talbot.

The ultimate Christmas annual for adults!

Fast and furious final of five volumes, with 60 extra pages for a mere 2 quid.

Like Talbot’s equally epic LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, it is steampunk in nature and scathing in its socio-political critiques; but its anthropomorphic execution (with many a sly allusion) allows for a great deal of fun and many a pun alongside the visual wit and dexterity.

All unfinished threads are woven together and tied up by the end, along with several you never knew were still dangling. In addition, substantial chunks of LeBrock’s, Billie’s and sadistic, crime-empire building Tiberius Koenig’s most formative years are finally divulged, informing both what has already happened and what, I’m afraid, will come to pass.

“Keep clear of the badger: for he bites.”

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Grandville and buy if you fancy!

The Girl From The Other Side vol 1 (£9-99) by Nagabe.

“Never, never allow yourself to sympathise with Outsiders.”

If that doesn’t ring wrong with you in this day or any age, then heaven help you. And heaven help the rest of us. Isn’t mankind most excellent at scare-mongering – at spreading poison like a virus – and so causing its own self-destruction? It is also exceptional at viewing the world in blinkered black and white. This is how the white soldiers here perceive what is happening to them, perpetuating it through dictatorial legend and lore.

What Nagabe has so very gently fashioned here is a fantastical fable all too pertinent to our times both created and told in black and white. By “created in black and white”, I mean this is a black and white comic; by “told in black and white” I mean something else entirely.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Girl From The Other Side vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

The Little Red Wolf h/c (£17-99) by Amélie Fléchais.

Oh, but the luxurious landscapes stand out a mile! The anthropomorphic forms are delightful, the rich colours delicious and their harmony with a magically enhanced nature  reminded me of Isabelle Arsenault’s YOU BELONG HERE. There’s also a hint of dear Gustav Klimt.

Many have the riffs been on Little Red Riding Hood and I do not “do” trite nor twee. Rejoice, for this is neither! There is a grandmother but she is a wolf; there is a red hood, but that is worn by a wolf; there are  sprawling woods and navigation may indeed prove quite treacherous but the similarities to previous iterations end there. So many wicked surprises and a very real reason why the wolves are wearing such fine, woven threads.

It is dark, it is witty and although it is pretty, it has quite the lupine bite to it.

Are you all sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin!

Read the full Page 45 review of The Little Red Wolf h/c and buy if you fancy!

Nick Cave – Mercy On Me (£14-99) by Reinhard Kleist.

My own musical Holy Trinity is:

Nick Cave, David Sylvian, Billy McKenzie and Kirsty MacColl.

Because I simply cannot count.

One of our fastest-selling graphic novels this year, this exceptional exploration was (unusually, almost uniquely, for us) reviewed externally by Dr. Matt Green, Associate Professor of Modern English Literature at Nottingham University, and I implore you to read his eloquent, informed and impassioned review in full. It is the single most erudite offering on our website.

He conjures William Blake’s past while emphasising Nick Cave’s presence, but please believe that, as a fellow fan, you need none of Matt Green’s cerebral skills to appreciate Kleist’s devotion to this demi-god of dignity, indignity, passion and poignancy.

Read the full Page 45 review of Nick Cave – Mercy On Me and buy if you fancy!

You & A Bike & A Road (£10-99) by Eleanor Davis.

“I like going further than we tell ourselves is possible.”

Eleanor Davis cycles solo across America – 15 to 50 miles a day – at great cost to her knees. There are remarkable encounters: mostly  spontaneous acts of generosity we should all aspire to.

Her body forms are beautiful: such enormous weight from so few lines as Davis sets up her tent then sits up inside, filling the bright, cosy space while outside the night and unknown are contrasted in a dense, graphite darkness which radiates, as light might. Superb use is made of the shape of her legs, knees and thighs in black lycra, then the strength of her shoulders and the curve of her arms.

“While you are setting up your tent anything can get you. Inside your tent you are safe.” She stares out at us from inside with an expression which implies the qualifying addendum, “arguably”.

Read the full Page 45 review of You & A Bike & A Road and buy if you fancy!

SLAM! vol 1 (£10-99) by Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish.

What a cover! If you don’t relish Roller Derby yet, you will!

Ribon delivers a fun-time comic entirely congruent with this post-patriarchal experience. Men are barely mentioned within. This is entirely about ladies getting together to rediscover themselves and their confidence without comparison points. There’s only one, and he’s a sweetie.

Fish’s art is ebullient yet controlled, depicting real women relaxed in their own space with tall socks , baggy shorts and occasionally war paint. When teams tear round the tracks, Fish’s ability to choreograph the balletic jumps of the jammers working their way through the packs (or falling flat on their backs) impresses upon you the players’ dexterity: the evident edge and pin-point precision required for such tricky manoeuvres. Love the subtle bruises by Brittany Peer who brings such warm tones to Fish’s tender expressions and such rich, vibrant hues to their sports kits.

Read the full Page 45 review of SLAM! vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Kill Or Be Killed vols 1 & 2 (£8-99/£14-99) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

Psychological self-examination of one affable young man’s descent into mass murder.

It is riveting, full of perfectly reasonable self-justification and practicalities.

For noir you must crave to spend as much time as possible in the protagonists’ heads and Brubaker has proved he’s the best in CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT. His previous co-conspirators Phillips and Breitweiser unleash their all, for while Phillips maintains his three-tier structure which makes the comics accessible to all – even newcomers – his art’s gone full-bleed to the edge of each page, so that you’re not longer looking at panels from the outside, but immersed in the action’s environment and so fully engaged.

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Kill Or Be Killed and buy if you fancy!

Black Monday Murders vol 1 (£17-99) by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker.

Ignorance is bliss. Things once seen cannot be unseen.

Clue: on the cover one of the co-creators is listed as Abaddon…

Big, fat-cat package of occult crime fiction exposing investment banking as a deal with the devil. In it conspiracy theory turns out to be decades of carefully constructed malpractice. Surprising no one.

This is about a cabal of rich dynasties controlling everything including the crashes, and it is all kinds of uncommonly clever. It’s only fitting for a crime comic that you’re invited to do some detective work yourself, so inside you’ll find tarnished, symbol-strewn pages as if hastily photocopied for a secret dossier. Please do with them what you will.

Read the full Page 45 review of Black Monday Murders vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Beowulf h/c (£26-99) by Santiago García & David Rubín.

An underground river cascades through a bleak, black cavern below jagged stalactites and knotted, invasive roots. Lurking in the darkness, a pair of glowing, inhuman eyes incarnadine the gristly, reptilian, obsidian flesh surrounding them. Something has already had its fill.

Up above on the snow-swept, pink-dawn plains something hasn’t so much raised a dog’s hackles as left them buffeted weakly by the wind. A deafening murder of blood-stained carrion crows has formed and is feasting, fighting each other for the most prized pickings: the eyes. There appears to be a lot of carrion.

Please see our review in which I take the art fully apart including some devilishly deployed panel “windows”.

Read the full Page 45 review of Beowulf h/c and buy if you fancy!

Moonshine vol 1 s/c (£8-99) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

‘Boardwalk Empire’ meets ‘An American Werewolf In London’.

Do I really need to add anything else? It’s brought to you by the same team that produced the wit-ridden, convoluted crime epic 100 BULLETS. At this point if you’re not reaching for your wallets, what is wrong with you?!

Messrs. Azzarello and Risso return with a mash-up so exquisitely flavoured, I suspect they’ve been supping direct from the mash tub. New York gangsters, desperate to get their hands on the good stuff, get a line on some top-notch moonshine being distilled by a clan of Hillbillies out in the sticks up in the Appalachian mountains. One slight problem: werewolves… Actually, there’s a whole load of other problems too, but the werewolves are kind of the major one.

Read the full Page 45 review of Moonshine vol 1 s/c and buy if you fancy!

Walking Dead: Here’s Negan h/c (£17-99) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard.

Negan’s origin story which never appeared in the monthly comics!

Fans of the WALKING DEAD will already know that Negan’s favourite skull / piñata smasher was named after his late wife. Here’s the heartbreaking end of their marital story, pre-apocalypse, revealing how Negan gradually evolved / devolved, into the chilling yet articulate dictator he subsequently became.

He clearly always had the gags, but was he always such a complete and utter dick, or did he once have a romantic homespun heart of gold? As ever with the man whom we love to despise, it will not surprise you to learn he was always, shall we say, a “complex” character with slightly odious depths.

Read the full Page 45 review of Walking Dead: Here’s Negan h/c and buy if you fancy!

Baking With Kafka (£12-99) by Tom Gauld.

This isn’t a cookery book. I don’t think you’d want a Kafka cookery book. If you would, can you please back away?

‘Last-Minute Changes To The Politician’s Speech’:

“How’s your speech coming along, sir?”
“Almost done. I’m just trying to decide whether to end on the misleading statistics, the gross oversimplification, the glib soundbite or the blatant lie.”

The Art of Tom Gauld part one: innocently expressing an almost ubiquitously held derision from the horse’s unusually candid mouth. Then there are those little home truths we all secretly share, are already vaguely aware of, but recognise instantly upon their exposure. Take ‘My Library’. Is it yours too? Shop-floor guffaws would suggest so!

 

If I’ve yet to convert you, please try this, followed by clicking on our link for my fully engaged assessment, getting to grips with the art of Tom Gauld, the man who brought you much mirth in the form of GOLIATH, MOONCOP and YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK.

Read the full Page 45 review of Baking With Kafka and buy if you fancy!

Livestock (£16-99) by Hannah Berry.

Meet Clementine Darling, up for Best Female Singer And Political Spokesperson. It’s a single award!

A blisteringly funny, fiercely inventive and scathing satire which doesn’t content itself with blasting the blithe disingenuity of transparently mendacious politicians and vapid pop stars, but focuses its ire  on their equally unprincipled conspirators: spin-doctors who here have seen fit to combine their machinations in a coordinated affront on the public’s intelligence in order to benefit both parties and bury what little remains of the truth.

Free, signed, limited edition bookplate exclusive to Page 45.

Read the full Page 45 review of Livestock and buy if you fancy!

Big Mushy Happy Lump (£9-99) by Sarah Andersen.

Do you want to feel happier about your hang-ups?

Sarah Anderson is here to make that happen, and hilariously so! Perhaps you don’t have any hang-ups, neuroses or self-confidence issues: laugh at Sarah’s instead! Recommended to readers of Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, those who’ve read Andersen’s ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH will know she’s mischievous, open and honest; and honesty is vital for comedy that connects.

Tick your recognition boxes on the cruelty of memory which fixates on mistakes, on the squeeze of time, over-thinking things and jumping to conclusions. Andersen pole-vaults to them!

Read the full Page 45 review of Big Mushy Happy Lump and buy if you fancy!

Deserter’s Masquerade (£16-99) by Chloe Cruchaudet.

Aided by his wife, Paul becomes Suzanne to avoid being shot for desertion in Paris, post-WWI.

Most panels are borderless in black and white washes, the hazy, cameo effect reminiscent of early film-making. The bright scarlet dresses and scarf could be a more modern tinting, adding extra sensuality. Lines, noses and high Parisian fashion smack of early-mid Disney, while the exquisitely expressive character acting is pure Will Eisner.

Suzanne will act constantly for fear of being found out, but after an initial reluctance to feminise in order to fit in, Suzanne starts to relish it, and more. At which point, the couple’s lives grow increasingly complicated… It begins with a courtroom trial which informs everything as you read it: what what went wrong, when and why?

AGE ALERT: includes exotic, libidinous, nocturnal activity down the Bois de Boulogne!

Read the full Page 45 review of Deserter’s Masquerade and buy if you fancy!

Love Is Love (£8-99) by Many & Varied.

Love is a positive power which spreads joy.

Hatred is a small, nasty thing which festers inside and destroys all those who harbour it. Hatred is short-sighted, self-destructive and so often counter-productive.

On June 12th 2016 49 individuals were shot dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando. In reaction, comicbook creators from all spheres have much to say in surprising ways about loss, learned behaviour, carelessness, callousness and cruelty. But this overwhelmingly positive and profoundly moving anthology also celebrates courage and commitment and the refusal to be cowed.

All publisher proceeds go to Orlando’s victims, survivors and their families

Read the full Page 45 review of Love Is Love and buy if you fancy!

As The Crow Flies (£26-99) by Melanie Gillman.

Something for Young Adults to make your souls sing!

270 pages of warm, rich, full-colour beauty celebrating the majesty of nature and the impressive ability of young individuals to reach out to one another when people are complex and words can be careless indeed. History and religion are complicated too.

Charlie Lamonte is worried that this was a massive mistake: spending a week at a Christian youth backpacking camp where, it transpires, all the other girls are white. Charlie, you see, is black. She’s also self-aware, as painfully self-conscious as any teenager, queer, and beginning to question her formerly firm belief in God.

Read the full Page 45 review of As The Crow Flies and buy if you fancy!

Breaks vol 1 (£15-99) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli.

“A love story… but a bit broken.”

BREAKS is an LGBT Young Adult love story: clean so very Mainstream.

It is, however, not remotely coy. There is a very funny toothpaste gag, for a start.

It’s brave, bold and urban with tensions that are ever so taut, and it’s going to grow dark indeed. But there are also moments so tentative and tender that your cold, black hearts will melt. Oh wait – that’s mine. Much love and mischief with some deliciously funny dialogue. I liked the distinction between “secret” and “private”.

Read the full Page 45 review of Breaks vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Close Enough For The Angels h/c (£31-99) by Paul Madonna.

106 lush, predominantly landscape illustrations in Indian ink – line and wash – on watercolour paper, illuminating 450 pages of prose fiction, much of which takes place, or did take place, in Thailand. It is a mystery.

The endpapers tantalise with a path leading down a higgledy-piggeldy, hand-railed bank of bamboo steps towards an enclosure defined by a barricade of bamboo stakes and wooden planks, and a lychgate-like aperture: a gate off the latch and ajar, leading through to heaven knows where?

So many other drawings portray steps and bridges which beg the same question; as well as lush fronds, carvings and sculpture.

 

Read the full Page 45 review of Close Enough For The Angels h/c and buy if you fancy!

On To The Next Dream h/c (£11-99) by Paul Madonna.

More richly illustrated prose, this is Paul Madonna’s reaction to the gentrification of San Francisco and his real-life eviction following sky-rocketing prices. This short, surreal and scathingly satirical farce is ever so early Evelyn Waugh, Madonna casting himself as the central naïf in its first-person narrative, buffeted by the cut-throat market forces in this already overheated closed system.

In his search for new accommodation, he is bashed off the pavement into the path of cars, bundled into others, and caught constantly off balance, disorientated by the ever-shifting dream-like sequences.

One residence on offer is a cardboard box in a corner. You couldn’t afford it.

Read the full Page 45 review of On To The Next Dream h/c and buy if you fancy!

Katzines (£5-50 each) by Katriona Chapman.

These rich, classy covers and card stock interior pages have set a new, top-end benchmark for comics as much-treasured art objects.

They are mesmerising.

Chapman always has something to impart born of her considerable, well travelled experience that is so worth your time and attention, and will leave you pondering long after.

She releases these self-contained issues only with careful forethought as to what might command her readers’ interest, and with due diligence as to their soft-focus, pencil-shaded and humane execution. By which I mean that Chapman brings individuals alive, giving them their unique depths and perspectives. Pick a cover that you love then see what lies inside!

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Katzine and buy if you fancy!

Mann’s Best Friend (£14-99) by Sophie Rickard & Scarlett Rickard.

I turned the final pages slowly, closed the cover and thought, “Raymond Briggs would be ever so proud”.

Terry Mann owns a beautiful, thick-furred dog called Eric, so massive that he overflows a two-seater sofa. They live in silence, Eric eyeing his taciturn master from outside in the cold, or getting in the way of the FIFA results. He only wants to be talked to. Terry also owns a credit card with a £6,500 credit limit he’s maxed out. He’s collecting Final Demands. The bank he works for discovers client money missing.  “The IP address of that hack traces back to your home, Mr Mann.” You will not believe what Terry does next…

I loved Mia Singh’s more homely house with its low timber beams, shower that won’t work, window seats, thick front-door curtain to keep the cold, and the patchwork of rugs arranged so as to create a corridor along which bare feet might travel to collect morning milk or mail.

Read the full Page 45 review of Mann’s Best Friend and buy if you fancy!

A Thousand Coloured Castles h/c (£17-99) by Gareth Brookes.

“Unbelievable.”
“Absolutely typical.”
“Totally outrageous.”

And probably beyond the pale.

British tragicomedy full of singularly English gripes, Raymond Briggs devotees will find much to adore here too. Brookes has resurrected that era in the form of an elderly suburban couple in an equally insular environment. Fred is set in his ways, moaning about anything modern, while Myriam is bewildered by wonders galore spawning in the street, bursting from bookcases or sprouting from electricity pylons. Is she losing her sight or her mind?

With empathy and understanding Brookes evokes the bewilderment, frailty and helplessness of being lost or alone in old age, prospects diminishing rapidly.

Read the full Page 45 review of A Thousand Coloured Castles h/c and buy if you fancy! 

Crawl Space h/c (£17-99) by Jesse Jacobs.

Jesse Jacobs returns to mess with our heads in this full-spectrum spread.  I’ve a suspicion that were I able to see up into ultra-violet and down into infra-red, there would probably be a lot of additional madness happening on the page at those wavelengths too.

However, this is also a story of spiritual growth, of taking a profound journey towards realising an enlightened state of being. Or just getting completely off your proverbial trolley, depending on how you look at it.

A sensuous flow of precise parallel lines, perfectly smooth curves, interspersed with intense contorted shapes and bejewelled with mandala-like creations that combine to beguile and delight. And occasionally terrify!

Read the full Page 45 review of Crawl Space h/c and buy if you fancy!

Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities (£12-99) by Hamish Steele.

“Warning: PANTHEON contains incest, decapitation, suspicious salad, fighting hippos, lots of scorpions, and a golden willy.”

Believe it or not, the “suspicious salad” is the worst offender of the lot, tossed without any mind to Health & Safety. But believe it or not (reprise), Hamish Steele isn’t making this up. Although he’s mined the mythology for maximum mirth – lobbing in every anachronistic, artistic armament he can find – this is honestly how the Egyptian legends of creation and indeed procreation played themselves out without any heed to the niceties of familial decorum, marital boundaries, genetic wisdom or avuncular beneficence.

Read the full Page 45 review of Pantheon and buy if you fancy! 

Dalston Monsterzz h/c (£14-99) by Dilraj Mann.

Within this fashion riot and monster romp there is much scathing socio-political satire about the gentrification of East London and the corruption that’s come with it – right at the top.

Dilraj has a fine eye for chic urban fashion, be it observed or imagined. His body forms are deliciously atypical while his faces can be so grotesque as to make monsters out of everyone, and it’s all so apposite here. The monsters began manifesting during the property development when ugly flats were torn down to make way for luxury accommodation for the stinking rich. Not for the many, but for the few.

Everything here is so masterfully connected. It’s only when you ascend this rollercoaster’s climax that you will comprehend exactly how each element mirrors, is distorted by, or was always going to engender the other.

Read the full Page 45 review of Dalston Monsterzz and buy if you fancy!

Bad Machinery (£ many prices) by John Allison.

TBH we recommend all things John Allison which you’ll find at the link, but BAD MACH is all-ages, and I do mean all-ages: perfectly fun and thrilling for all but largely bought by adults for adults.

Allison’s also one of the finest cartoonists we have, his pages bursting with movement and energy, supple forms and exuberant gesticulation. But more than anything its the astutely observed behaviour and friendships – whether of university students in GIANT DAYS, or adults in at a regional newspaper in BOBBINS or sleuthing school chums in BAD MACH – along with language and speech patterns. Lottie’s my favourite for that, her pronouncements so intense, elaborate and embroidered with emphasis as to be hyperbolic.  “Well evockertive,” as she once said.

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Bad Machinery and buy if you fancy!

Snotgirl vol 1: Green Hair Don’t Care s/c (£8-99) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung.

Lottie seems so serene on the surface.

A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect. Her fans are devoted (she knows). Her blogs are the best (she believes). And that goes without saying (she blasés).  Under the carefully controlled camera conditions of fashion photography, she radiates, she glistens, she sheens. But a surge in pollen or one moment of stress can render her centre asunder. Also, catch Lottie alone at night with her laptop, her allergies, her issues and her tissues, and you’ll discover she is one angry, competitive, social-media mess with raging jealousies.

Also, she has an enemy she doesn’t know about.

Read the full Page 45 review of Snotgirl vol 1: Green Hair Don’t Care s/c and buy if you fancy! 

Relatable Content (£10-00) by Lizz Lunney.

The return of anthropological expert Professor Lizz Lunney, creator of AT THE THEME PARK, AT THE END OF YOUR GARDEN, STREET DAWGZ: BOX LIFE, TAKE AWAY etc is back with a big batch of full-colour comics you all can relate to. So long as you’re a socially awkward, cripplingly self-conscious, over-thinking, agoraphobic, responsibility-shirking, neurotic wreck. Lizz Lunney laughter is a tonic, laced with gin; a potion of a notion which you can administer like lotion and bring a broad grin to your face. It’s like physiotherapy for the soul.

We have free Lunney Money to give away at the counter, perfectly valid in Lizzneyland.

Read the full Page 45 review of Relatable Content and buy if you fancy!

The Practical Implications Of Immortality (£4-00) by Matthew Dooley.

14 full-colour, smile-inducing short stories including ‘A Series Of Things That I Spent My Childhood Thinking About That Have Barely Featured In My Adult Life’ which is astonishingly accurate! ‘Eight Potential Existing Threats For You To Consider’ sits opposite ‘Eight Methods For Distracting Yourself From Possible Existential Catastrophes’ and the possibility of civil breakdown is reprised later on. This is the threat which Dooley deems darkest but there are upsides to everything if you inspect enough angles: “affordable London property”, “new management opportunities” and “the easing of health and safety regulation”.

Other strips explore the gravity of a good night’s sleep, the tyranny of the bathroom scales and the lengths some go to minimise their measurement.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Practical Implications Of Immortality and buy if you fancy!

The Shape Of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration Of Creativity (£11-99) by Grant Snider.

Inspiration, invigoration, encouragement and mirth.

Ideas come in all sorts of shapes and surprises, but you need to fish for them: they’re less likely to bob to the surface if you don’t. There’s a lot of witty wordplay in this collection of success and failure, hurdles and highlights, extreme pain before gain. There’s also a certain degree of poetry. ‘Imitation’ is bursting with novel ways of looking at traditional forms, colours and even art movements.

A  pre-emptive approach to avoiding disappointment is to set your sights low or eliminate them completely, but  inaction gets you nowhere. Openness to opportunity will prove key, but opportunity doesn’t half knock at inopportune moments. Still, dive in! Hanging about will only give you arm ache.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Shape Of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration Of Creativity and buy if you fancy!

Something City (£10-99) by Ellice Weaver.

Look how many mowers suburbia holds per square metre! We really should share, don’t you think?

Ten interlinked short stories, each with its own colour scheme, the panels are relatively free from lines so that they resemble silk-screen prints. Your eyes are invited to explore the chapters’ initial landscapes populated by those going about their daily routines, some dancing, shopping, or stopping to throw up in the street after far too much booze.

The amenities are many and varied, the homes well appointed. There are dogs and cats and fountains and flowerbeds. Any fences or privet hedges are low, with neighbours gaily interacting. It’s all ever so relaxed.

Pffft! Beneath its gentle veneer, Something City is a hotbed of bitching, disgruntlement and conflict – except, ironically, in its prison. The book-end chapters come with a bite but otherwise Weaver gleans a great deal of comedy in these surprisingly satirical short stories with deft turns which will delight you.

Read the full Page 45 review of Something City and buy if you fancy!

Motor Girl vol 1: Real Life (£14-50) by Terry Moore.

From the creator of RACHEL RISING, STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, who’s made a career out of juxtaposing laugh-out-loud comedy with hard-hitting trauma. So it is here.

On the surface it looks like a burlesque starring Sam, a hyperactive desert-based, junkyard mechanic who’s tied at the hip to an anthropomorphic wry, dry mountain gorilla called Mike, who sasses and back-chats. Then there are the diminutive, comedy green aliens and Libby, the direct, gum-flapping old-age pensioner is even less likely to “do” intimidation than Sam.

But, as a Marine, Sam spent 10 months in an Iraqi prison, being beaten every day and generally having the back of her skull smashed in. And that’s after what she witnessed on her tour of duty which you will find… halting.

Read the full Page 45 review of Motor Girl vol 1: Real Life and buy if you fancy!

Pashmina (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nidhi Chanani.

It’s harder to be a girl in India than you think.

Teenage Priyanka Das (she prefers “Pri”) has been brought up in America by her kind and practical mother, and attentive Uncle Jatin who is the nearest Pri has to a father figure because her own dad is a mystery – as is her mother’s past in India. She won’t talk about it, and it’s creating a rift.

Then Pri discovers a trunk containing loving letters from Auntie Meena (who still lives in India) and a pashmina embroidered with a glowing, golden thread. Its effect is transporting!

Magic realism aside, it is time for Pri to discover India for herself, and with it, her family’s past.

Read the full Page 45 review of Pashmina and buy if you fancy!

Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c (£12-99) by Philippa Pearce & Edith.

Exceptional deployment of colour and light!

To avoid catching his brother’s measles, frown-faced Tom is dispatched to his Uncle and Auntie’s who live in a drab flat in a dingy house in the dark hallway of which stands a grandfather clock belonging to the owner, upstairs. During a sleepless night Tom hears it striking 13! To see its face, Tom opens the back-yard door to let in more light… to be confronted by a sprawling green garden in full summer flower and in daylight!

It’s like an orchestra letting rip after mournful, wistful solos. Edith captures not just the scale but the variety of any such rambling estate. There’s the walled vegetable garden with its green door, an ornamental pond, formal walkways round mowed lawns and under organic tunnels of foliage, informal thoroughfares through more remote woodland under vast canopies of trees, shrubbery, flower beds, fences and gates, and a large greenhouse.

Read the full Page 45 review of Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c and buy if you fancy!

Four Points (£15-99/£17-99) by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock.

I love that the covers above look like sequential art! More time has elapsed than it looks.

With the first’s energy, its urgency and its two young twins, it promises a YA period piece of adventure and opposition, But oh, how complicated the lives of these two individuals will become, with so many factions hot on their heels, hampering their progress and taking what little they have left, while repercussions conspire to keep them apart. One of them is a lass, disguised for a reason beyond gender impediment or safety’s sake.

This is no mere A to C while B seems insurmountable, though B does seem a pretty tall order for anyone so short. I was poleaxed by how many threads – and indeed threats – were so intricately woven within these two volumes.

Read the full Page 45 reviews of Four Points and buy if you fancy!

M.F.K. h/c (£16-99) by Nilah Magruder.

Out in the desert a storm is brewing: a storm of sand, and of confrontation and conflict. Hopelessly through one and haplessly into the other staggers young, wounded Abbie with her beautiful feathered steed.

More all-ages excellence which will thrill, chill and get you right riled up, alongside some slapstick comedy, a running gag about badly made pigeon soup, and one page that had me howling with its pitch-perfect timing involving an unattended window, four hot potato buns and an unfortunate cat.

This also deals sensitively with subjects like loss, loneliness, isolation and independence, and does so with ever such expressive eyes.

Read the full Page 45 review of M.F.K h/c and buy if you fancy!

The Nameless City (£10-99 each) by Faith Erin Hicks.

Faith Erin Hicks books are at their heart about friendships, and these have so much heart!

Dozens of pages are devoted to exploring their nuances if new, or history if old, and sharing and caring enough to listen. Hicks is a master of natural conversational triggers, and the way confidences then impact on consequent behaviour.

In THE NAMELESS CITY VOL 1 we learned that The Nameless City straddles the River of Lives at the bottom of an unnatural gorge which makes it the prime trade route to the sea. Over and again it has been conquered, and constantly under new threat. Unsurprisingly occupation – and what becomes of those occupied – is one of the series’ key issues.

Read the full Page 45 review of The Nameless City: The Stone Heart and buy if you fancy!

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank (£13-99) by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss.

4 bank robbers, fresh out of jail, turn up menacingly at Paige’s front door. But it turns out these are old mates of her dad, who did him a major solid by keeping him out of jail so he could raise her. Now they’ve come to enlist him for one last big score, so she decides to take the only sensible course of action to stop him. By robbing the bank first…

All she needs to do is organise her own very motley crew of kids into a well-drilled heist team, plus keep the not-so-bad guys at bay with a crazy selection of diversionary tactics. Oh, did I forget to mention her uncle is a cop? A very good detective as it happens… Fortunately her friends decide they are up to the challenge, and what ensues is one of the most hilariously catastrophic crime capers I’ve read in years. Strategy sessions frequently take place during online gaming sessions as they play out various scenarios through the medium of their favourite video games.

The general level of mayhem greatly reminded me of Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE!

Read the full Page 45 review of 4 Kids Walk Into A Bankand buy if you fancy!

Planetary Book 1 s/c (£25-00) by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday with Laura Martin.

Science fiction at its most wondrous, mysterious and thrilling, this is meticulously composed, vast in scope, broad in appeal and spectacular to look at. It also boasts a mordant wit, with superb cadence in conversation.

Archaeologists of the unknown, Planetary seeks to unearth all the weird science which has been foisted upon the Earth from other dimensions, or which we have visited upon ourselves. Some of their discoveries prove breathtaking treasures, but few are less than horrific, yet Planetary is determined to repurpose as much as they can disinter for the betterment of mankind.

Up against them are The Four, astronauts secretly launched into space in 1961 led by a scientific genius in “disciplines as long as your arm”. They returned changed… and they do not have our best interests at heart.

As PLANETARY kicks off, Elijah Snow – grouchy, suspicious but trained by the best in deductive reasoning – is invited to join them, unaware that he has been a member for years.

Read the full Page 45 review of Planetary Book 1 s/c and buy if you fancy!

Empress (£17-99) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen.

This is sleek, it is slick, it is sexy.

Does your friend love STAR WARS? Then this is for them.

It accelerates from nought to warp in under a dozen pages then continues on much the same flight path at spectacular speed. Implacable tyrant: big, burly and thriving on fear; a right old grumpy-chops with a sadistic smile. Disillusioned Missus: miffed that life with said implacable tyrant hasn’t turned out to be as exotic or erotic as it seemed. Children, sundry: allegiances varied until fired upon by Daddy’s Doberman Punchers. Captain Dane Havelok: loyal to miffed Missus, who effects swift departure from Terminal 5 (inter-planetary, non-domestic) before there’s a domestic.

Result: much maniacal spluttering in soup etc.

Read the full Page 45 review of Empress and buy if you fancy!

Brink vol 1 (£12-99) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Space-station procedural crime (see also THE FUSE), with a touch of pure horror lurking.

The Earth is dead, destroyed by a toxic mixture of pollution and greed. Humanity now lives in scattered, corporation-owned space stations known as Habitats or on the ‘Brink’ as it’s colloquially known. Crammed into such confines, with security provided by private firms, it’s not surprising the locals have a tendency to go stir crazy from time to time. Crime gangs run protection and peddle narcotics, cults spring up as people look for anything to grasp onto, no matter how nonsensical.

Under the disorientating cover which foreshadows the psychological component, there are outer-space shots of the vast stations whose crisp exterior beauty belies their squalid interiors. Action scenes are taut and tense and perfectly capture the claustrophobic confines of life in a floating tin can.

Read the full Page 45 review of Brink vol 1 and buy if you fancy!

Ab Irato h/c (£22-99) by Thierry Labrosse.

Science fiction in which the rich get richer and live even longer… so not actually fiction, then.

The Jouvex company is owned by the megalomaniac Norton who only sells its lifespan-extending vaccine to the select few who that can afford the ridiculous price tag. He had its inventor, Dr. Simon Gomar, murdered to keep it all to himself, but a suspicious Gomar destroyed his perfected formula, leaving only early-stage notes from which Norton’s created an inferior version. 26 years later, the efficacy of the vaccine is beginning to fail.

Set against the backdrop of considerable social unrest in what is already a dystopian society struggling with elevated sea levels, a damaged climate and a staggering wealth gap, Montreal is the proverbial fizzing powder keg getting ready to blow. This sucks. It blows.

Read the full Page 45 review of Ab Irato and buy if you fancy!

Gauguin – The Other World (£12-99) by Fabrizio Dori.

In which Dori nails Paul Gauguin on every level including visual emulation, and constructs a narrative structure, informed by Gauguin’s own art, to reveal the duality of the great painter’s heart.

Liberation was everything to Gauguin. In his paintings he sought to liberate himself from traditional, formal, physical composition, by concentrating on instinctive, suggestive harmonies of colour. He sought to liberate himself from the conservative, supercilious snobbery of the Art Establishment, from his financial failings and cold, grey Europe. He achieved all this in uprooting himself to Tahiti, absorbing its mythology and finding a lover too. Gauguin acknowledged that he found his freedom, his peace, his idyll, his Eden and his inspiration… and he threw it all away.

Because the one thing Paul Gauguin could never liberate himself from was the determination to win.

At the graphic novel’s centre lies Gauguin’s most mysterious celebrated painting ‘Spirit Of The Dead Watching’ or “Watching The Spirit Of The Dead”. You’ll see!

Read the full Page 45 review of Gauguin – The Other World and buy if you fancy!

Poppies Of Iraq h/c (£16-99) by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim.

Guy Delisle fans will adore this. So many absurdities encountered!

The 1970s’ Iraqi government supplied farmers with wheat seed coated in insect-resistant pesticide, instructing that it to be used strictly for planting only.  Instead the farmers fed it to their cattle, which died – and ate it themselves, and died. In disgust, they dumped the rest into rivers. The fish all died.

That’s a fair representation of the nature, cameo style and story which Findakly tells so vividly: the gradual extinction of her treasured childhood and family in Iraq, recalled and evoked throughout with sunshine, charm and all-embracing individuality and illustrated with colourful cartooning by her husband, Lewis Trondheim. 

Read the full Page 45 review of Poppies Of Iraq h/c and buy if you fancy!

Threads From The Refugee Crisis h/c (£14-99) by Kate Evans.

Personal, painful, poignant and uplifting.

A reminder that everyone seeking sanctuary is an individual human being.

The most thorough and affecting documentary I’ve encountered on the refugee crisis, its concise, cause-and-effect analysis is irrefutable except by those with lies on their tongue and hatred in their heart. Contempt for others is never an attractive quality.

Kate Evans concentrates on her hands-on experience of helping out in the camps at Calais and Dunkirk in 2016: on the volunteers’ construction and distribution, on a great many asylum seekers she meets trapped there (often children without family), and on the French authorities’ atrocities, as when the police moved in en masse for what can only be described as a black-booted massacre.

Read the full Page 45 review of Threads From The Refugee Crisis h/c and buy if you fancy!

Graphic Science: Seven Journeys Of Discovery (£16-99) by Darryl Cunningham.

Seven biographies of scientists as fascinating in their everyday lives as they were for their discoveries.

Cunningham clearly expounds the theories for which they were celebrated – though few within their lifetimes – and demonstrates that these very different individuals all had a deep drive to comprehend the world around them despite the paucity of information available. What they struggled with personally and professionally helped shape their formidable minds and thus advance our collective human understanding.

As we move ever further into the modern era of collaborative big science – with huge teams of people working globally on petabytes of data, often provided purely by computer modelling as much as experimental output – it’s becoming harder to envisage individuals making such radical leaps in understanding, often against the conventional wisdom of the time.

Read the full Page 45 review of Graphic Science: Seven Journeys Of Discovery and buy if you fancy!

Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Scientists (£9-99) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy.

“Woo! Yeah! Science!”

– Charles Darwin on discovering the Galapagos Islands

Selected for this year’s Blue Peter Award, this gleeful fun-fest is packed with hard history and 100% accurate science history and scientific breakthroughs given a superb sense of context and explained with skill, clarity and a lateral thinking to match their much lauded (or shamefully side-lined) subjects.

Murphy digs up 18 old fossils – just as Mary Anning did before beardy blokes stole all her credit – reanimating their brittle bones to badger from them as much as he can before their corpses collapse under the weight of his truly awful puns.

Also recommended for kids: everything, like this, in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Section.

Read the full Page 45 review of Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Scientists and buy if you fancy!

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars h/c (£15-99) by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg.

Want to know what one sextillion looks like? 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Sub-titled “Can you imagine so many…of anything?”, that is precisely what this book will facilitate in adults and Young Readers alike, along with how to name ridiculously big numbers from hundreds and thousands to millions and billions and trillions and quadrillions and quintillions and sextillions!

Visually it comes with a colossal sense of scale and an endearing diversity, exploring the plethora of life on this planet, and the mind-boggling numbers into which it has grown. Rabbits, raindrops and a slightly random fact about shark’s teeth, this is one big insight which will generate much household conversation along with a giggle or two.

https://www.page45.com/store/A-Hundred-Billion-Trillion-Stars-hc.html

Glister (£12-50) by Andi Watson.

Set in the same sort of English era as Oliver Postgate’s ‘Bagpuss’, Glister lives with her dressing-gowned Dad in Chillblain Hall which has deep-seated feelings, can change shape and teleport, so don’t call it rickety or it could go off in a huff, leaving you homeless on the village green.

Immaculate cartooning with its gnarled trees, organic architecture, tufted hair and anything-can-happen exuberance, and the language is far from patronising with words like ‘widdershins’ ‘dyspeptic’ and ‘philately’. There’s also much wit as when a new crowd stumbles upon one of Chilblain Hall’s many unusual features: “It’s the Abyss, whatever you do, don’t look into it.”

Extra: things to make or bake along with puzzles, games and an Andi Watson art lesson which comes with the reassurance that even Mr. Watson’s drawings go wonky sometimes!

Collects The Haunted Teapot and The House Hunt, The Faerie Host and The Family Tree.

Read the full Page 45 review of Glister and buy if you fancy!

The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse (£12-99) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

“I may have been swallowed,” said the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.”

Comedic collaborators Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen follow on from their previous farcical frolics (SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, EXTRA YARN & TRIANGLE) with a most unusual story of symbiosis.

Our titular timid rodent, having been gobbled up in the forest by the roving wolf and fearing his story will thus come to a rather abrupt, early end is astonished to find himself greeted by a dashing duck and promptly introduced to a world of fine dining. It’s all inside the wolf’s TARDIS-like stomach, complete with a fully equipped kitchen and resplendent dining room…

Read the full Page 45 review of The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse and buy if you fancy!

Real Friends (£9-99) by Shannon Hale & LeUyen PhaM

“Let’s make the ‘I hate Shannon’ club.”

Fortunately the ‘I hate Shannon’ club only lasted one day.

The ups and downs – or rather ins and outs – of being young friends, this insightful, true-to-life study of playground behaviour will prove instantly recognisable to both kids and their parents alike. It can be mean, possessive or divisive, frequently making young Shannon’s life miserable, but this focuses just as much on Shannon’s true friends as the false ones, and it is interesting to see how those friendships first took root then developed over time, standing the test of it, as well as others’ calculating attempts to hijack them.

LeUyen Pham is brilliant at drawing kids with their myriad facial expressions that can go from ecstatic to devastated and back again in the space of three panels.

Read the full Page 45 review of Real Friends and buy if you fancy!

Wild Animals Of The South h/c (£20-00) by Dieter Braun.

    

Please click on the left-hand cover if your preferred trajectory is North.

You could tell that those animals were all from the North because it tended to be snowing, and several were to be found walking whippets. In the South animals are 80% wealthier, 90% healthier, and far less likely to visit the NHS Drop-In Centre, thanks to having a proper doctor’s surgery in every suburb. Generally there’s also a great deal more sunshine, although be warned that you can stray too far South and so finish back oop North. (See Antarctica / Eastbourne.)

Although you will honestly learn loads. Did you know, for example, that hippopotamuses aren’t especially good swimmers even though we see them doing that all the time with Sir David Attenborough, whereas the African Elephant is a very strong swimmer? I’ve only ever seen them wading. Perhaps the canal at the bottom of my garden’s not deep enough.

Absolute class through and through, these gorgeous all-ages art books have bugger all to do with comics but I am so far past caring because beauty! Please click on either covers for interior art and so see what I mean. Thnx.

Read the full Page 45 review of Wild Animals Of The South h/c and buy if you fancy!

Pug-A-Doodle-Do! (£10-99, Oxford Press) by Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve.

“Do you have any complaints about this book? Write them in the box provided. Please write clearly.”

The box is 5mm squared.

I have never read a funnier kids’ activity book in my astonishingly long life.

It is one big monkey-barrel of laughs; an immersive engagement between two co-creators and their soon to be enraptured, educated and inspired young audience. The idiots bounce off each others’ bonkers ideas, adding an extra flourish here and a cheeky post-script there until every page is jam-packed with all the irreverent exuberance that your sugar-buzzed bambinos could possibly cope with.

There are comics for you to read then comics for you to create: blank panels for you to fill in between a provocative kick-start and a cuddly conclusion. You’ll be encouraged to write, you’ll be encouraged to draw! You’ll be actively discouraged from flinging poo.

This is art. It’s entertainment. It is carefully controlled anarchy.

For fans of Reeve & McIntyre it’s like revisiting your favourite friends – then drawing all over them!

Read the full Page 45 review of Pug-A-Doodle-Do! and buy if you fancy!

The Spirit Newspaper (£5-00) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips and many more!

Distributed Worldwide exclusively by Page 45!

Part of the art of the single-page story is a good, old-fashioned, unexpected twist, either within the tale itself or – in a homage – on whatever it is a tribute to. With love, respect and a great deal of grin-inducing wit, a stunning array of top-tier creators celebrate the centenary of the birth of Will Eisner (1917-2017) with as many twists as you could wish for in this broadsheet-sized 12-page anthology.

The culprits: 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 Aragones, Duncan Fegredo, Seth, Jason Latour, Bryan Hitch, Michael Cho. Introduction by Neil Gaiman

Read the full Page 45 review of The Spirit Newspaper 1 and buy if you fancy!

The World Of Moominvalley (£35-00) by Philip Ardagh

We haven’t reviewed this because there were lots of words and I’m an awfully slow reader. But it’s bound to be brilliant because we’ve sold a bunch and Ardagh is ace.

Publisher says: “Filled with illustrated maps and family trees, facts about Moomintroll behaviour and habits, this gorgeous book contains all you could wish to know about the beloved characters from the original Moomin stories [by Tove and Lars Jansson] and the world in which they live.”

I have reviewed a bunch of other MOOMIN books, though, and indeed the tote bag which you can’t buy anywhere else in the world! Click on the link below for them all! Thanks!

Read full Page 45 reviews of Moonin books and tote and buy if you fancy!

 

 

Christmas Present Classics At Page 45

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Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2017 week four

November 22nd, 2017

Bryan Talbot, Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, Thierry Labrosse, Nick Tapalansky, Anissa Espinosa, Benjamin Reiss, Simone Lia, Warren Ellis, Jason Masters.

Grandville vol 5: Force Majeure (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot.

“Keep clear of the badger: for he bites.”

 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Sign Of The Four

“Terrific!” is a singularly British outburst of unequivocal approval triggered by a tremendous accomplishment or experience that is colossally good fun. And this is truly terrific!

Among the series’ most vocal, high-profile fans are Ian Rankin and Philip Pullman.

FORCE MAJEURE is the fifth and final GRANDVILLE graphic novel from Bryan Talbot. Like his equally epic LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, it is steampunk in nature and scathing in its socio-political critiques; but its anthropomorphic execution allows for a great deal of fun and many a pun alongside the visual wit and dexterity that Talbot deploys in combining some of the beasts’ aspects with those of fictional characters or real-life figures. In GRANDVILLE: NOEL, for example, we were presented with the hate-mongering, far-right religious leader and repugnant bigot Nicholas – a boss-eyed gryphon who looked just like Nick Griffin.

 

 

 

On a lighter note, here we have East End mob boss Stanley Cray (a crayfish, yes – and he had a twin) slapping down his deputy Chaz:

“Leave it out, Chaz, you bleedin’ pilchard!”

Chaz is indeed a bipedal pilchard.

Similarly, the police informant is a (stool) pigeon, you’ll briefly spy “Mutton” Jeff and I still haven’t gotten over the first volume’s appearance of Tintin’s innocent and faithful hound Snowy making a cameo appearance as an opium addict.

Like Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, these books are ram-packed with such sly, hidden references to make you chortle upon discovery, from wall-hung paintings as straight forward as Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’ to a subtly satirical Stubbs and an elaborately recreated yet appositely altered version of Millais’ ‘Ophelia’. Top points if you spot a heavily disguised photographic portrait of Sir Winston Churchill. Strictly speaking – this being Victorian England – it’s a daguerreotype, but since the setting is steampunk, Talbot has come up with “pneumail”, “lumierescopes” and in place of public phone boxes there are street-side “voicepipes” to avail yourself of. Wait until you see the sort of fiendish arsenal which this less technologically evolved world’s version of James Bond’s Q invents for LeBrock!

 

 

Ummm… that isn’t Q’s!

It’s a furious finale which will come at great personal cost for some of the cast – it is by far the most vicious in the series, so although the first four should be okay for most early teens I would strongly consider caution here – and for it Talbot has pulled out all the stops and many a late hour labouring over a fulsome 160 full-colour pages which took four 10-hour days each to complete… on top of the script. All unfinished threads from previous instalments are woven together and tied up by the end, along with several you’d never realised were still dangling. In addition, substantial chunks of LeBrock’s, Billie’s and ruthless, sadistic, crime-empire builder Tiberius Koenig’s most formative years are finally divulged, informing both what has already happened and what will come to pass.

 

 

The foreshadowing is phenomenal.

For Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock the most cherished memories are the years he spent being mentored in observation, quick-thinking and ratiocination by Stamford Hawksmoor (now retired) a Holmesian figure played here to perfection by dear Basil Rathbone.

 

 

We – and LeBrock’s pregnant fiancée Billie – are treated to an entire murder mystery investigated in meticulous detail over dozens of pages from start to finish by the pair many moons ago, and not only is it as devious as the main event, it will prove vital to LeBrock’s strategy in extricating himself from the nightmare scenario he soon finds himself trapped in, and confronting the overwhelming odds stacked against him.

At its heart lies this speech by Stamford, delivered with blazing eyes and impassioned eloquence on the subject of chess:

“It will train your mind in concentration, logical consequences and imaginative extrapolation – the ability to think ahead.
“Just imagine! You have to consider every single piece on the board before each and every move – and in as many moves in advance as you can.
“Whenever possible, you can force moves, put your opponent in a position of having no choice. That way you know what the next move is and can plan accordingly.”

 

 

LeBrock learned his lessons well; unfortunately Tiberius Koenig, last seen vowing vengeance, plays precisely this way too. Precisely.

We begin late at night in an opulent, art nouveau restaurant called Les Fruits De Mer. It serves fish. No, really, I mean that in both senses: it serves fish to fish. The cooks and waiters are aquatic too. It’s all a bit decadent, don’t you think? Amongst the seafood on offer is lobster, being chowed-down on by other, elderly crustaceans, their pigmentation presented like liver spots.

 

 

The very first page is such an impressive eye-popper that you’ll be pining for more A4 efforts but there’s so much story for you here that there seriously isn’t the room. Lobsters sit cramped in a tank, waiting to be boiled, their claws bound: predators suppressed into being prey; violence for now contained but with the threat of being unleashed.

 

 

A lobster’s crusher claw can exert the same pressure as a dog’s bite force, just under a half that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s jaw…

Violence is immediately unleashed on Les Fruits De Mer from Gatling guns concealed in lorries drawing up on an empty street right outside its shell-shaped front windows, thousands of rounds shattering plate glass then tearing into fish-flesh. Health and Safety will be taking a dim view.

 

 

 

The restaurant belongs to Stanley Cray, four weeks out of prison; small iridescent plumes found at the crime scene suggest rival crime lord Harry Feather’s kingfisher enforcers. Retaliation is inevitable, merciless, personal and swift, but something just doesn’t stack up, including LeBrock’s assignation to the case: he’s too personally involved, for Stanley Cray’s brother killed LeBrock’s wife and witnessed the whole thing himself. Reporters somehow manage to evade the police cordon to witness a murderous LeBrock threatening Stanley Cray with retribution and by morning it’s national front-page news.

Well, that’s not something to get too ruffled about: LeBrock’s upper-class Commander can smooth things over with the press’s publishers – they all went to Eton together – if only LeBrock keeps a low profile for a day or two.

But so far all you’ve seen is but an opening, low-level gambit. Individual pieces are now in all the right places for someone to start making the more serious moves.

 

 

No one is above suspicions here: there are so many moles and rats that you’ll never know who’s playing whom. Even LeBrock’s immediate superior, Chief Inspector Stoatson, has personal motives for bringing about LeBrock’s downfall: he’s well aware of how wretchedly feckless and incompetent he is, and was constantly humiliated by Hawksmoor in front of Archie during training. Much is made of class too, for no one is promoted above plod-level if unconnected, and in spite of his exceptional talent and success LeBrock was subjected to an extra, live, on-the-hoof observational and deductive examination by a board stacked with Brigadiers and other assorted aristocrats. It’s designed to discredit and humiliate him, but you will punch the air when our working-class badger doesn’t just pass with colours so flying they’re positively stratospheric, but turns the tables with an alacrity and aplomb that is ingenious.

As well as enormously satisfying, this is all part of the foreshadowing that lends complete credibility to LeBrock’s prowess in the present and the same can be said of Billie.

 

 

Speaking of our happy couple – due to be married this coming fortnight – notice how, although they’re both badgers, their fur is markedly different in texture; hers smooth as silk, his coarser, more tufted and whiskered. That might even be a beard. He’s aging a bit too, perhaps a little tired, his eyes more mellow in love.

It’s easy to see how each page could require the equivalent of a full working week from pencils to inks and a digital painting process whose potentially unlimited elaboration could tempt a perfectionist like Talbot to stick at it for even longer. The background details, both line and colour, are frankly ridiculous – he does love his fine art and William Morris wallpaper, does Bryan.

On the other hand, he was brought up on Leo Baxendale cartoon comedy and even in the heat of the most dramatic action he is far from averse to some cross-eyed slapstick reminiscent, like the pun-tastic wordplay, of Ronnie Barker.

The era is captured with notions of living in sin, closeted homosexuality and its discreet signals for preference and availability still flourishing today if you know your handkerchief dress-code. Then the age is given a steampunk spike with a background gas tower, albeit with a Victorian wrought-iron flourish. Such attention to detail!

 

 

More comedy comes in the form of Tiberius Koenig’s contemplation of what would have happened had Napoleon not won the battle of Waterloo on page forty-two, right down to individual decisions that ensured that he did. (He didn’t; he did here!) But perhaps the funniest of all jokes in this fond farewell is the recurrent appearance of easily intimidated and stuttering Byron Turbot, ghost-writer and hack of crime-fiction pap published as Sixty-Centime Dreadfuls.

“Why, don’t you see? I could write yours! Just think! A whole series of Detective Inspector LeBrock stories! They make a lot of dosh, you know.”
“Get out of it! Go on, sod off!”

 

 

Turbot scampers away, dignity in tatters, as LeBrock kicks him up the arse.

“Prat.”

He’s very persistent, though, is Turbot. He’ll make something of himself one day, you’ll see.

SLH

Buy Grandville vol 5: Force Majeure and read the Page 45 review here

Cast No Shadow (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa.

“We only have so much of our youth left. We’re going to make sure it’s misspent.”

Haha! That’s dear Lyla, an early-teen force of nature and Greg’s best friend who isn’t featured on the cover but will instead punch her way to your hearts with her no-nonsense, forthright directness. Her Dad’s a retired boxer, and she likes hitting things. Even shadows – even Greg’s shadow. Only, Greg doesn’t have a shadow – he was born without one.

Sorry…? Greg most definitely has a shadow. He just can’t see it yet.

A haunted (and in places haunting) Young Adult graphic novel, this is highly recommended to those who love Andi Watson for his brilliant, broad-brush and highly expressive cartooning (see YA / Young Readers’ GLISTER etc.) or to any of us who need reminding that self-involved anger can be blind, careless and have consequences for others who so very often do not deserve it.

It doesn’t look like that sort of a book, does it?

In many ways it isn’t: it’s fun, funny and ever so clever when it comes to the ghostly goings-on; and if you are a wee bit puzzled by the dual narrators’ curiously disruptive role over the first dozen pages (seeming to add little but confusion), a second reading – once you realise who they actually are and remembering what you’ve seen transpire over the course of the adventure – will have you grinning your heads off at its new fluidity and sense-making. Clue: one of the argumentative duo speaks in dialogue boxes coloured a luminous grey, the other’s contains white writing on black.

So, wherever were we?

Greg grew up in a town called Lancaster in the US of A. Everyone could see he cast no shadow, but no one minded at all except for deliriously vacuous school mate Jake. Jake decided that Greg was a vampire and tried every trick in the book (and under the blatantly blazing hot sun) to expose him.

“Holy water.
“Garlic. You name it, he used it.
“All I got was wet and smelly.
“And splinters.”

The last panel there is a delicious piece of un-signposted, visual slapstick comedy relying on your knowledge of vampiric folklore and fear of opening strategically stacked school lockers.

That was too much for Layla who sprang angrily and forcefully to Greg’s defence:

“He. Is. A. Beautiful. And. Unique.”

You recall she likes hitting things, right? Poor Jake!

“They both got detention. He got a broken nose. And a concussion, apparently, because after that he wanted to be best buds.”

And Jake does want to be best buddies: he genuinely does. Over and again throughout this graphic novel the otherwise self-regarding, self-aggrandizing, flirtatious, proud and preening (but, to be honest, exceptionally pretty so you can’t really blame him) Jake makes space in his otherwise massive ego to praise, promote and coddle up to Greg, but Greg bears too much of a grudge to forgive and forget.

He’s angry at Jake, so he’s angry at Jake’s Dad who has risen to Lancaster’s mayor, so he’s angry at all the imported gimmicks which Jake’s Dad has so successfully promoted the town with: The World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle, The World’s Largest Wardrobe, The World’s Largest Paper Clip and now The World’s Largest Hairball which is gargantuan and going on improbably coughed-up display right now! He’s even annoyed at Miss Star and her Psychic Sing-Along, even though she’s a veteran resident.

“Do you hear singing? I don’t hear singing.”

Obviously this sweet little old lady is a fraud. Obviously.

No, Greg is immune to Jake’s undoubted charms. But Layla is not. So there’s his best friend now going out with his perceived worst enemy and getting in the way of their friendship, even though both of them invite him in to share their time together. Greg is furious.

Except that it’s Greg who is getting in the way of friendship.

Did I mention that his mother had died? She had a heart attack three years ago, and Greg misses her terribly. His Dad doesn’t appear to: his Dad has fallen in love with local restoration artist and historian Ruth, and she’s about to move in. Ruth is a lovely. She is thoughtful, spirited, easy-going, understanding and solicitous. But Greg is furious.

He’s mean-spirited and furious.

But then Layla takes Greg to a massive old mansion, dilapidated and beyond the outskirts of town. It is said that, eighty or so years ago, its Old Man Turner lost the plot and murdered his wife and child before killing himself. Certainly it is haunted, for those who have sought to steal things from it have found a lingering spirit shaking the whole house from its very foundations.

Instead it is full of its original prized joys like gramophones, music boxes, vases and very best chairs. They’re a bit the worse for wear, but it’s almost as if someone still lives there.

Someone does: the ghost of a young girl called Eleanor. She is bright and beautiful, kind and considerate, but only Jake can see her. Only Jake can hear her. Jake is overjoyed and smitten by a young puppy-love, but Eleanor is trapped in the house and can never leave.

What do you think this all means?

Not one word I have typed is random or extraneous. And that is the joy of this exceptionally clever comic for Young Adults upwards.

Yes, ever-upwards, I hope.

SLH

Buy Cast No Shadow and read the Page 45 review here

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank (£13-99, Black Mask) by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss…

“Maybe he went to make sure they leave you alone.”
“Maybe he went there to kill them!
“I don’t think he went there to kill them.”
“Like your idea makes so much more sense.”
“It does, actually.”

Given this conversation is taking place between Lance Cardinal Death – “a war priest cursed to fight for all of time by Mister Satan” – and Bae K’Won – “the last warrior of his planet for peace, lost in timespace” – whilst Franky Barbarian – “ruler of the bravest gang in Neo-Chernobyl” – and M.A.D.A.M. Destructrix 7 – “a lady robot built to make all humans die” – help deal with the horde of zombie brownshirts causing havoc in the city centre, you could be forgiven for not realising it is actually about precisely why Paige’s dad went of his own volition to have a seemingly civilised conversation in a diner with four bank robbers, fresh out of jail after long stretches, who recently turned up menacingly at their door before being warned off at gunpoint.

When the penny finally drops with Paige, that in fact these are old mates of her dad, who did him a major solid by keeping him out of jail years ago so he could single-handedly raise her, and now they have come to collect by enlisting him for one last big get-out score, she decides to take the only sensible course of action possible to stop him. By robbing the bank first…

So all she needs to do is organise her own very motley crew of kids into a well-drilled heist team, plus keep the not-so-bad guys at bay with a crazy selection of diversionary tactics. Oh, did I forget to mention her uncle is a cop? A very good detective as it happens… Fortunately her friends, after some relentless one-girl peer-group pressuring, decide they are up to the challenge, and what ensues is one of the most hilariously catastrophic crime capers I’ve read in years. Strategy sessions frequently take place during online gaming sessions such as the one above as they try and play out various scenarios through the medium of their favourite video games.

Stylistically and also in terms of the sheer madcap feel of it all, this strongly reminded me of Matt Fraction’s HAWKEYE, possibly not least because the not-so-bad guys made me think of the endless, calamitously incompetent “Bro”s which Clint had to continually contend with. There’s always that sense of not when is it going to go wrong, just how horrifically bad is it going to be?! The art itself has a wonderful slapstick sense of nonsensical fun combined with a colour palette that somehow manages the neat trick of being both simultaneously subdued and garishly lurid.

So… will Paige and her chums pull off their fantastical felony and ensue a happy ending for all concerned? Well, surely there was one thing that was drilled into most of us as kids (well, those that didn’t have a bank robber for a parent) that is about as universal a truth as there is: crime does not pay!

Crime comics on the other hand… KERCHING!

JR

Buy 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank and read the Page 45 review here

Ab Irato h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Labrosse…

“Now back to the news in Montreal. For three days now, Viger Square has been under rebel occupation. The group calls itself “The Bastards Of God” and their spokesman has claimed that it is just the beginning.”
“What is this crap?! War’s breaking out in the centre of town?!”
“Be quiet! Listen.”
“Their manifesto includes the demand that the Jouvex treatment be made available to all sick children… Ever since the controversy of Little Uji, polls show a growing anger at what is perceived as the authorities’ ineptitude… as there is little question that her death could have been avoided.”
“What more will it take? How many more like Uji will have to die until those assholes do something?! It’s sickening.”
“I know. But that’s life, Leon. We haven’t seen the end of this; there will always be those considered expendable…”

ndeed. But given the Jouvex company, with their bold slogan “Soon, Eternal” is owned by the megalomaniac Norton – who is only interested in selling his lifespan extending vaccine treatment to the very select few of the population that can possibly afford the ridiculous price tag — I can’t see Jouvex indulging in such charitable, compassionate largesse any time soon. Certainly not within the 200 years that the Jouvex treatment is currently allowing people to live, provided they keep up their payments, of course…

 

 

No, especially not given Norton had the original inventor Dr. Simon Gomar murdered to have it all to himself. Gomar suspected something was going to happen, though, and managed to destroy his perfected formula, leaving only the early stage research notes for Norton to piece together an inferior version from. Which is the reason why, some twenty-six years later, the efficacy of the commercial Jouvex vaccine is showing some disturbing signs of beginning to fail…

 

 

Set against the backdrop of considerable social unrest in what is already a mildly dystopian society, struggling with elevated sea levels, a damaged climate and a staggering wealth gap between the very small number of ‘haves’ and the infinitely more numerous ‘have-nots’, Montreal is the proverbial fizzing powder keg getting ready to blow. Indeed, the Latin title of this work translates as ‘from anger’, which is highly appropriate, though I suspect its usage in civil law is the author’s specific intent, where the meaning is of a gift or bequest given with adverse intentions due to anger felt towards the recipient…

 

 

It blows, by the way. The powder keg that is Montreal. Getting caught up in the fisticuffs and fireworks are new boy in town Riel, and his considerably more savvy, burgeoning crush Neve, who takes him under her streetwise wing. There’s also a mysterious lady in trenchcoat and shades, a couple of honest police officers, plus some corporate katana-wielding, star-slinging ninjas and a fair few other oddball characters in this tremendous piece of speculative fiction with its central premise that is very probably going to become reality in the not too distant future.

 

 

Ask yourself the question: do you really think if scientists find a way to massively extend the lifespan of a human being it will be made available to all? No, it’ll most likely be used to further tighten the grip that the one percent has on this planet and its resources, including everyone else. In perpetuity. Just a cheery thought for you.

 

 

Moving on… given how beautiful the ligne claire artwork is from Québécois creator Theirry Labrosse, there was the slight fear in my mind, as there is with all such gorgeous ‘Euro-books’, that does the quality of the story compare? It does, and Labrosse throws in a nice couple of curve balls – which is très tricky and more than a little bit dangerous with solid steel Boules, let me tell you – and keeps it as gripping as a multinational corporation holding onto their taxes, right up to the eminently satisfying denouement.

JR

Buy Ab Irato vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Super Tokyoland (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Benjamin Reiss.

“Without realising it, I started the job making a huge mistake.”

If you’re at all interested in Japanese culture or everyday life, as seen by a gaijin (outsider) but one who lived there for six years, then this may prove fascinating. If you’re interested in the process of making Japanese comics as part of a studio, then this will prove riveting.

I don’t necessarily mean as part of a great big publishing corporation like Kodansha, although Reiss does try to get his foot in that hallowed door, secures an appointment, is given an assessment and later a guided tour round the entire building. All of that you’ll be privy to, so there’s a big bonus, and Reiss never skimps on the visual details while keeping it all uncluttered and crisp, partly through the art of successfully deploying grey tone and yellow ochre. I won’t tell you how the critique goes, but here are some Kodansha Building stats:

“26 floors above ground, 2 floors below ground, directly linked to the subway.”

So that’s a thing. Also: 550,000 square feet, enormous library, vast archives, Japanese garden (inside) and a dormitory with bunk beds. Yes, a dormitory with bunk beds, which brings us back to the studios.

 

 

Eddie Campbell has at times produced comics in a studio fashion with the likes of Pete Mullins and Ilya providing inks, backgrounds or full art in ALEC, BACCHUS and FROM HELL with Pete Mullins occasionally providing a little playful, subversive sabotage. It’s not a cheat or a cop-out: studios have been honoured institutions for centuries in the Fine Art world, and all three of those oeuvres are deservedly much cherished classics. In Japan the system is nigh-ubiquitous because the deadlines are punishing, the workload horrific and each studio set-up, process and working environment can prove radically different. This Reiss discovers to his sleep-deprived cost. It is not uncommon to end up crashing out there and then on site – although he could probably have done with a little warning.

 

 

But if you imagine that it’s all slog and no slay, one of his mangakas insists on Reiss breaking from creating in order to join in their handheld online game-play for hours and hours… and, oh look, the deadline looms even larger. You’ll encounter some crazy stuff and Reiss is very good at warning you when it’s about to go horribly wrong well in advance, so ramping up the tension.

 

 

He also comes a cropper of Japanese work requirements for maintaining his VISA – but finds an ingenious loophole to prolong his stay – meets some other bizarre gaijin, takes up the Taiko, relishes the traditions of the local Sento (Japanese bath house), discovers a nasty streak of overt, unashamed racism there, gets spat on by a kid, finds a job as a coach / janitor / babysitter for foreign high students, does something unbelievably stupid verging on criminal (I’d call it criminal) but refrains throughout from whitewashing his on-page persona so bearing his flaws and foibles alike.

 

 

This brings us back to my pull quote which references his first few hours at a manga studio but could equally refer to the first half a dozen pages in France. It’s supposed to be your lead-in but it nearly threw me out. He accepts a lift in a carpool with two other perky passengers and a very generous driver, but Reiss is a right old grumpy-chops, pretending to fall asleep.

“While I was in Japan everyone kept asking me why I was there. When I came back, everyone kept asking me what I did there for so long. Always answering the same questions gets annoying.”

It’s a real bugger when someone expresses an interest in you, isn’t it?

 

 

Anyway, they ask the same questions.

“And so, once again I was telling my story but this time I hoped it would be my last. I decided to tell them everything, down to the very last detail, and if it bored them, too bad.”

Top tip: don’t suggest that your next 210 pages could prove boring. They don’t, by the way, but still, you started the job making a huge mistake, mate.

SLH

Buy Super Tokyoland and read the Page 45 review here

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

Ooooh, finally a softcover!

“It took me ages to learn Mandarin.”

A deliriously illustrated, all-ages read from the creator of FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND, I gobbled up this deceptively clever 180-page adventure in a single, giggle-filled sitting.

It’s magnificently ridiculous but far from nonsensical, for its howl-inducing comedy is derived from a witty worm logic challenged with deadpan abandon throughout. We all know what a worm is. We all know what a worm can do. We all know what a worm is patently incapable of doing.

Like learning Mandarin.

French, maybe; but Mandarin is ever so tricky.

The first clue comes when Marcus the mud-loving earthworm introduces himself, his hobbies and his habitat in a cross-section of his burrow.

 

 

Of course there’s a table tennis room. Of course there is.

The thing is, once you’ve seen that, you can’t help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia’s genius.

The same goes for when you read each piece of seemingly random ridiculousness, like when Laurence the corpulent, gullible bird is packing light for their holiday together, and Marcus encourages him to take more and more.

“Well, it’s just that… it’s a long way and you might get bored. I thought you might need some other things. You know, for entertainment.”
“I see. Well, I could take my yo-yo.”

And off you go again, your mind’s eye agog.

The preparations grow increasingly elaborate / insane given that Laurence is supposed to be flying them there. So why is Marcus intent on Laurence encumbering himself with everything bar the kitchen sink? (He even un-plumbs his own toilet – just in case there aren’t that many en route.)

Well, Marcus woke up that morning – after a dream about flying a spaceship made from potatoes – to find himself inside a cereal bowl sat between a knife and fork, with a scruffy bird who looks a lot like a chicken fixing him hungrily with big, beady eyes.

And that’s not easy to handle; not before your first cup of coffee.

 

 

No, when you’re a worm staring down the barrel of a peckish-looking beak, it’s quite discombobulating. But Marcus proves very quick-witted and resourceful throughout and immediately introduces himself AND HIS FAVOURITE COLOUR AND HIS FAVOURITE HOBBY AND ASKS WHAT THE BIRD’S NAME IS AND DOES HE HAVE A HOBBY, PLEASE, SIR? in a very loud voice and as fast as he can because it’s much more difficult to scoff someone up when they’re engaging with you personally and ever so politely in conversation.

It transpires that the big bird’s hobby is travelling. But he hasn’t been anywhere – anywhere at all – because he has no sense of direction and is utterly rubbish at map-reading.

I’ll just leave that one sitting there.

Ideally he’d like to go to Kenya in Africa to visit his fellow flamingos (!) which is rather ambitious for any first flight but Laurence is convinced that Marcus’ subterranean homing instincts will serve them equally well in the air… over the Channel, across Europe, then the Mediterranean and… it’s quite a long journey. Maybe they’ll stop off in Paris on the way and visit the Eiffel Tower which is pictured on the front of Laurence’s guide book.

Anyway, the reason Marcus is setting Laurence up for such a substantial heavy baggage penalty is that he’s not sure if he wants to go, but he’s inspired by the sincerity of the plump bird’s seriously deluded flamingo-fellowship, so they take off for the south.

 

 

What follows is a truly epic journey and, if you doubt their combined abilities, there is the most masterful page turn following this:

“As I was pretending to admire the view, I noticed that there actually was a view. And it looked oddly familiar, just like the cover of Laurence’s French guidebook…
“Was it?
“It was…”

The next page’s image is integral to its punchline.

Without that it wouldn’t work, so like Reeve & McIntyre’s all-ages PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH etc, Lia’s illustrated prose often verges on comics. It never quite swerves into that medium as far as Gary Northfield’s profoundly and exuberantly stoopid JULIUS ZEBRA: RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and BUNDLE WITH THE BRITONS but there is a scene wherein Laurence has been kindly leant an ice-cream by a fellow non-flamingo called Bernard:

“Instead of taking one lick – which was what Bernard was offering – he slowly ate the whole thing while staring into space.”

The sentence is sandwiched between two sequential images of Laurence’s absent-minded yet quite thorough scoffing as poor Bernard watches woefully and silently, increasingly regretting his instinctive generosity.

 

 

The main action’s depicted in black, white and grey – including a phenomenal shot of the British countryside from above – with orange dedicated solely to worms, one central surprise much later on, and Marcus’ self-visualisations and daydreams which elicit extra, absurd, worm-logic laughter.

My favourite example of this double-punchline comes after Marcus (in order to avoid becoming an essential ingredient in worm and chicken stew) fools a mole, a squirrel and crow into believing his uncle was a chef in the hope of sending them out for further essential ingredients which they couldn’t possibly collect. One porkie too far and the ruse is rumbled then the mole is furious to have been taken in by the very idea that any worm’s uncle could possibly be a chef.

“I couldn’t look at the mole. He was right.
“My uncle isn’t really a chef;
“…
“he’s a waiter.”

 

 

During any journey there are lessons to be learned, and amongst those on offer are making friends with those you might think are unlikely at first, sticking up for your friends in their hour of need, being proud of who you are and of your friends’ best qualities, and if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.

I’m afraid they don’t teach those at Worm School. Sometimes you just have to figure these things out for yourselves. Or read a good book.

This is a Good Book.

SLH

Buy They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School s/c and read the Page 45 review here

James Bond vol 1: Vargr s/c (£15-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters…

I don’t know what I expected from this really. I’m a huge James Bond fan, though like many people I have eventually come to feel rather weary with the character. There are after all, only so many retreads of the same adventure yarn you can sit through on the big screen or over a nut roast on Christmas Day. I thought perhaps an outing for James in comics, particularly penned by Warren Ellis, whom I am finding on top form with his outstanding TREES and INJECTION recently, might provide me with something fresh, but unfortunately it didn’t. Maybe there’s only so much even Warren can do with a character weighted down by such extensive cinematic baggage.

It’s slickly written for sure, make no mistake, and I did enjoy reading it tucked up in bed late at night as a quick and easy read before lights out, but it could just be another script treatment for a possible film. It’s all-action, absolutely nothing in the way of character development, with the typical interactions you’ve come to expect between Bond and M, Q, Moneypenny, the love interest, the bad guys etc. from the films. I can’t find anything to particularly complain about, but there wasn’t anything to really get excited about either.

 

 

 

 

I will compliment Warren on the dialogue, which did feel completely in keeping with Bond, and there are some amusing pithy asides, plus I did enjoy the bad guy’s dying monologue but if this is going to capture peoples’ imagination and continue as an ongoing series, it really needs to do something different, quickly. I also found the art from Jason Masters somewhat stilted. Possibly it’s the colour treatment rather than the pencils themselves, just failing to bring the illustrations to life, I’m not sure, it just rather flat and thin. Overall, certainly no Octopussy but decidedly more of a View To A Kill than a Thunderball.

JR

Buy James Bond vol 1: Vargr 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’.

Digby Is A Wizard (£9-99, self-published) by Joe Latham

Getting Out Of Hope (£15-99, Conundrum Press) by James Cadelli

Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edington &  D’Israeli

Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith vol 1: Imperial Machine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Pollquest (£9-99, ) by Luke Hyde

Riverdale vol 1 (£15-99, Archie Comics) by various

Roots (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Tara O’Connor

Wayward vol 4: Threads And Portents (£14-99, Image) by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings

Superman vol 4: Black Dawn s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Michael Moresi & various

Superman: American Alien s/c (£14-99, DC) by Max Landis & Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards, Joelle Jones, Jae Lee, Francis Manapul, Jonathan Case, Jock

Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Dalibor Talajic

Infamous Iron Man vol 2: The Absolution Of Doom s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth

X-Men Blue vol 2: Toil And Trouble s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Cory Smith, Giovanni Valletta, Douglas Franchin

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 3 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 4 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

Erased vol 3 h/c (£21-99, Yen Press) by Kei Sanbe

Battle Angel Alita vol 1 Deluxe Edition h/c (£25-00, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Fairy Tail vol 62 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2017 week three

November 15th, 2017

Featuring Melanie Gillman, Jesse Jacobs, Chris Gooch, Pierre Paquet & Jesύs Alonso, John Allison, Jiro Taniguchi, Sara Varon and more!

As The Crow Flies (£26-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Melanie Gillman.

Do you want something to make your hearts soar and your souls sing?

Melanie Gillman presents you with two hundred and seventy pages of warm, rich, full-colour beauty successfully celebrating the awe-inspiring majesty of nature and the equally impressive ability of young individuals to reach out to one another while keeping you worried that they won’t.

And they don’t, some of them – not to begin with. No one is perfect: we can’t ask for that. People are complex, behaviour can be mean and words very careless indeed.

History and religion are complicated too, and it behoves us all to dig a little deeper. But if you think I’ve already given too much away, oh no: there are many mysteries for you to discover for yourselves, some of which I won’t even allude to here.

 

 

“I always thought that was cute – girls with boys’ names.”

Charlie Lamonte has only just arrived, and is already worried that this was all a massive mistake: electing to spend an entire week at a remote Christian youth backpacking camp where, it transpires, all the other twelve-to-fourteen-year-old girls are white.

Charlie, you see, is black. She’s also self-aware, as painfully self-conscious as any teenager, queer and beginning to question her formerly firm belief in God.

 

 

Not only that, but the other girls have already arrived and seem far more confident than Charlie. A couple of them are quiet and dubious, but others have made friends and are playing cheerfully, energetically, even raucously. What greets Charlie is daunting, to say the least. She’s hoping not to get noticed. She’s hoping not to stand out. She’s hoping to find the reason that she believes she was led here today.

“Please talk to me again.
“Don’t go silent.
“Please.
“Please.
“…
“Don’t leave me here all alone.”

There are admittedly worse things in life, but being alone in a crowd is excruciating, particularly when you are young.

 

 

The early signs are not good. Sydney, 13, is combative, swiftly attracting the contempt of the older, slightly sanctimonious Adelaide and Therese for her age, flat shoes and skirt.

“Who wears a skirt on a backpacking trip??”

Therese and Adelaide pair up fast over supper, establishing a pecking order and bonding over the romance of weddings – so that’s another awkward subject for Charlie (“I’ve never really been the, uhh… marrying type)  – and Adelaide even manages to drop in the word “gay” as a lazy, disdainful pejorative.

 

 

The good news is that this week-long camp is thoroughly feminist and so empowering in nature, which is a refreshing change for such a patriarchal organised religion. Counsellors of Charlie’s six-strong Cherokee group – Bee and her 18-year-old daughter, Penny – are at pains to point out that the backpacking hike that they are all about to undertake together follows in the footsteps of the women of the former gold-mining colony who did all the farming on top of domestic duties and raising as many as seven kids, so found themselves with less time and fewer opportunities than the men to form bonding ties on hunting trips or down the local saloon. Led by a woman called Beatrice, they broke ranks with their husbands to proceed undaunted on an expedition of their own up, up and into the chartered wild, creating their own space right at the range’s apex where they celebrated in a ceremony which the girls at Camp Three Peaks will be re-enacting when they too reach the summit. But both Bee and Penny are determined to keep the nature of that ceremony secret from their young charges, and that gives Charlie some concern, to say nothing of the loaded language used to describe it.

Here’s another mystery: if the wives all defiantly struck out in secret and at night leaving their husbands back at base, who looked after their newly-born babies still needing to suckle?

 

 

The trek is arduous.

Over and again Gillman give us silent panels of huge endeavour emphasising both the scale of what these young women are undertaking, but also the difficulties that they casually encounter along the way. One panel gave me extreme vicarious vertigo.

But the views are epic, they are heavenly, and hues are sublime. Gillman’s softly textured coloured pencils really come into their own as the white-hot disc of the sun sweeps across the sky, casting the farthest, hazy ranges into an otherworldly Martian red while the nearer verdant peaks, denser in rugged detail show off both coniferous green and purple concave shadow.

 

 

It’s easier for some than for others, but Charlie is finding it particularly problematic: she’s just come into her period a week earlier than expected so hasn’t brought any sanity-towel protection. Already de-hydrating, this loss of blood is both embarrassing to Charlie but also dangerously debilitating, on top of which she’s plagued by the most excruciating cramps. And she is trying to make friends! And not stand out! The last thing she needs is to feel a burden.

She discovers she’s bleeding while assigned to collect and purify mountain water for the group with 13-year-old Sydney who provides her with tissue paper from her backpack as a stop-gap.

“You okay in there?”
“Fine! Just met some too-friendly foliage.”
“Tell it to keep its grubby tree-mitts to itself!”
“Heh.”
“If I’da known, I could’ve gotten you the mace from my bag, too!”
“Mace?”

They don’t collect much water, but at least they’re beginning to bond and Sydney is kind and inclusive.

“I think we’re destined to be terrible water-bearers, you and I.”

 

 

But Charlie’s curiosity won’t go away.

“Okay, I gotta ask – did you actually pack mace?”
“Would it weird you out if I did?”
“I guess I’d just want to know why.”
“… Not everybody’s equally safe in places like this.”

Sydney looks away, cautiously.
Charlie starts to smart.

“What the hell does this girl know about feeling unsafe?” Charlie thinks.

And Sydney looks back.

 

 

 

Yay for Young Adult diversity and friendships! This will sit beautifully on our shelves next to Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS, Maggie Thrash’s HONOR GIRL and the recent, more urban BREAKS by Malin Ryden and Emma Vieceli, for example.

The art could not be more welcoming, the borderless panels radiating with natural beauty of green, gold and brown between clean white gutters. I make no pretence of knowing Gillman’s visual inspiration, I only observe that some of Charlie’s expressions while she and Sydney are (not!) collecting water put me surprisingly in mind of Richard Sala’s. Eyes / nose, everyone?

 

 

What I loved above all about this on top of Sydney and Charlie’s burgeoning trust and innocent collusion is the absence of unquestioned, theological perfection (why does organised religion insist that such an omnipotent being as God even has a limiting gender? – rhetorical) as well as the complete absence of two-dimensional stereotypes set up purely for the purposes of antagonism. People have the ability to disappoint (and I include myself there), but also to surprise and delight you.

Here’s Adelaide, freely admitting that she really needs to work on being mean (which she can be, even to friends):

“Sometimes I think we’re trained to do just that – make friends like we’re jockeying for position.
“By the time you realize it, it’s already become engrained.
“It doesn’t feel very Christian.”

Amen.

SLH

Buy As The Crow Flies and read the Page 45 review here

Crawl Space h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs…

“It’s hard to explain. It’s full of all these messed up shapes and colours.”
“Jeanne-Claude, you talk like a liar.”
“It’s true! There’s like this weird undiscovered ecosystem under the house.”
“???”
“And it can only be accessed through the laundry machines.”
“PFFFFF.”

“Oh, hey Daisy! This is Daisy, she just moved here from the States.”
“Hey.”
“They don’t believe me about your basement. We have to prove it!”
“New kids are always so full of shit.”
“Come on! Everyone wants to go!”
“Ok, but it won’t work unless you’re pure of mind and purpose.”

 

 

And on the very previous page, Daisy had quite clearly asked Jeanne-Claude not to tell anyone… After all, if you’d discovered a psychedelic portal to an immaterial realm in your basement and you were the new kid in town, you’d probably want to keep it quiet too! Consequently it’s not long before everyone at school is desperate to take a mind-bending trip through Daisy’s mysterious washing machine. Well, and her dryer too because both, with a bit of concentration, allow access to the said world of messed-up shapes and colours. In fact, whilst there, even your own body turns into a strange swirly rainbow affair.

 

 

Jesse Jacobs returns to mess with our noggins in his follow up to the equally bizarre SAFARI HONEYMOON, which told the farcical tale of the traditional post-nuptial holiday gone very badly awry. He clearly likes his transmogrification, does our Jesse… The difference here is that he’s splashed out on some ink and really given it the full-spectrum spread. So much so, I have a sneaking suspicion that were I able to see up into the ultra-violet and down into the infra-red, there would be probably be a whole lot of additional madness happening on the page at those wavelengths too. If not, that’s an idea for his next work!

 

 

However, this is a story of spiritual growth, of taking a profound journey towards realising an enlightened state of being. Or just getting completely off your proverbial trolley, depending on how you look at it… And that perspective, that difference in approach, well, that will make a very significant alteration to what you experience within this peculiar state of existence, plus what psychic imprint you leave behind on it, and its inhabitants… For yes, curious metaphysical beings do dwell there… I shall say no more on the plot front, because some things are best experienced without any foreknowledge or pre-conceptions… Suffice to say, I doubt one leaves this work exactly the same as before one first opened the cover…

 

 

Art-wise, Jesse is like the perfect hybrid of Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown, Marc DRAWN & QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING Bell and Jim FRAN Woodring and yet has a damn good go at transcending them all with a style that is a sensuous, endless flow of precise parallel lines, perfectly smooth curves, interspersed with intense contorted shapes and bejewelled with mandala-like creations that combine to beguile and delight. And occasionally terrify!

 

 

I think it is perhaps, therefore, quite apparent, even from this review, what the not-so-hidden allegorical element(s) to this work might be! I’ve deliberately put that s in parenthesis because depending on how (deeply) you look at it, I think there’s more than one. I loved how the dual potential aspects of the journeys through the realm were presented. Attitude, it seems, really is everything. As a comics creator, Jesse Jacobs certainly has it by the pocket-psychic-universe-full.

JR

Buy Crawl Space h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bottled (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Gooch…

“BLUURRGH!
“…Jane?
“Jane? I want to tell you something…”
“Just focus on not throwing up, okay? We’re nearly there.”
“No, no… I have to tell you, I feel so guilty…
“Do you remember my going-away party? Like before I went to Tokyo?”

Perhaps you have one of those friends, who have done fantastically well for themselves, but seemingly have become rather insufferable with it? Jane does. Her old schoolfriend Natalie, whom she used to be inseparable from at school, is now gracing the Japanese catwalks as a fashion model. Natalie’s coming back home to Australia to do some publicity for her latest campaign and has deigned to suggest Jane and her have a catch-up night out… at a glamorous fashion-world party filled with beautiful people from the in-crowd.

 

 

It’s Jane’s worst nightmare, being very much a girl with her feet firmly on the ground, even though she’s stuck living at home with her mother and her mother’s odious and obviously unfaithful boyfriend Steve. Jane’s desperate to move out with her own devoted long-term boyfriend Ben, but all they can possibly afford is a tiny room in a dreary house-share with some rather odd characters, and even then they’re woeful short of the required deposit. Which is why, when Natalie drunkenly blurts out a previous betrayal in a pissed-up, post-party state, leaving Jane in a state of extreme dudgeon, she starts to concoct an elaborate scheme to get her revenge… and the deposit.

 

 

Chris Gooch perfectly captures Jane’s draining existence and the covert thrills she begins to experience whilst stealthily executing her plot. His chosen colour palette of black, white and dull red, the shading entirely provided by a letratone effect, captures the grim reality of both her suffocating, stilted life and her dark intentions towards her former friend.

 

 

It’s a gritty story with a rather bleak climax, which upon reflection is less simplistic than it first appeared to me. I initially struggled with the openness that Jane acts in the final scenes, but in fact, sometimes, someone just needs to realise that other wronged person really is hammering the nails firmly down on the coffin lid of their dead friendship.

JR

Buy Bottled and read the Page 45 review here

POS – Piece Of Sh*t h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Pierre Paquet & Jesύs Alonso.

Well, wouldn’t you know it: a week after I review MANN’S BEST FRIEND I’m handed another dog-centric story, and this time it’s an autobiography.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful: an expressive, visual treat from Jesύs Alonso thrown together with constant, vivacious, bounding movement, coloured in the countryside with such refreshing, bright-skied joy, but blue as you like at night.

That’s Pierre at the top of the cover looking a bit blank, harrowed, lost, lonely and ashamed, surrounded by the ghosts / empty shells of the lovers he never loved even when he was adored. You’ll meet a fair few of them inside. One was perfect; Pierre was not.

And look! That’s Sonny at the bottom, sitting obediently, patiently and trustingly, looking up adoringly into Pierre’s eyes, waiting for a signal, any sign that it’s time to play! Whatever Pierre has endured over all these years as a lover, publisher and private individual – with careless friends and the occasional outrageous duplicity – Sonny has been his one loyal constant, his confidant, all fluffy and energetic and bursting with unconditional, wholehearted love.

 

 

But Pierre is charging through the city

“Where are you going?”

Interjected between these 250 album-sized pages of green and golden light there is a staccato series of midnight pages – say, a dozen in total – in the centre of each of which lies a single, landscape, cityscape panel as Pierre tears across town at top speed. His loose, French-striped sweatshirt rides up at his back, bearing his sharply defined, taut spine.

“You look like you’re in a hurry…”

He’s carrying a black bin liner which we first spy resting silently by his bathroom door in Pierre’s otherwise empty flat before Pierre enters, strips, looks in the mirror and bursts into tears.

 

 

 

“Wait for me!”

It swings lightly in one hand as he races desperately down the middle of the main road, the only traffic parked and unattended at the curb…

Pierre Paquet is a publisher.

He specialises in comicbook creators whom he believes in: those who aren’t receiving, for example, the Casterman treatment which almost guarantees sales and recognition. At Page 45 we empathise unreservedly. For Pierre it has often proved a thankless task of long hours, hard work and few rewards, as you will see. Perhaps you’d like to travel with him to the French festival at Angoulême and see how that goes?

 

 

“I’m faster than you!”

He’s not immune to being led astray or over-reaching himself, but the one thing he’s never lacked is ambition, zeal, optimism and the sort of bravado that results in eagerly and courageously sticking his neck out. As in publishing, so it has been in dating.

Wow, but this guy knows how to travel! I’m not quite sure how all this was afforded. Evidently we live in very different worlds. Still, it makes for a very rich and surprising tapestry.

 

 

 

“Stop! Talk to me!”

 He wasn’t always so great with dogs when younger.

Earlier on he tries to adopt Lucy against his mother’s better judgement. There’s an exquisitely drawn scene in which Lucy, who is straight out of kennels and bursting with gratitude plus an eagerness to please, cocks her head to one side then another as she listens to their dispute with varying degrees of bafflement, startled alarm, uncertainty yet hope, then an ear-twitching ouch as her elder years are argued as but a short-term and so practical engagement.

But at last there are the cuddles of commitment. Awwww…!

 

 

It doesn’t end well.

“I have a new game we can play!”

Sonny is a different proposition altogether. Now older, wiser, far more capable and flexible, Paquet adopts puppy Sonny born of a Great Pyrenees mum who loved him but an Afghan hound that rejected him in the same shared, restricted space which resulted in their original owners shutting Sonny up alone in a closet for months until neighbours thankfully reported the execrable excuses for human beings..

On the pages that follow Alonso once again rises to the challenge of depicting a too-timid Sonny who understandably takes over a year of reassuring love before he finally stops cowering in public at even the most tentative overture of kindness. When you’ve been rejected for so long, trust cannot not come easily.

 

 

You’ll notice that I’m concentrating on the dog here. There’s so much more, I promise you, from childhood friends grown larger and more dominating, to lawsuits and lovers and an exceptionally curious visit to the “studio” of a very well known artist within the comicbook community that I still cannot quite believe was the real deal. Oh yeah, Paquet’s life is not uneventful.

“But… what’s going on?”

I once lost my dog Leela for half an hour while she chased after her own tail up Peckforton Hills, a mere fifteen minutes from where I used to live in Cheshire. She was way too stupid to hunt, track or trail anything real, which is one of the many reasons that I loved her so much. In that one half an hour, during which I could not recall her (however loudly) into my sight, my heart took up residence in my mouth, paid sixteen months rent and threatened to sign a legally binding lease. At one point Paquet loses Sonny in the middle of nowhere he knew for a full night and day. I cannot even imagine…

However, did I mention that Alonso consistently conveys every nuance of emotion within to note-perfect perfection throughout? My own tautologies aside, you will be able to imagine exactly what Pierre was going through.

 

 

Alonso does lip-biting, eye-watering, toe-curling (literal, orgasmic toe-curling during sex), dazed, doting, head-over-heels, blistering fury, blessed relief and gastric fever like no one’s business.

“I’m… hey, are you crying…?”

Lastly, if you’re still wondering where my only quotes are coming from, they’re reproductions of those big black, midnight pages I mentioned earlier in which Paquet is careening single-mindedly down whichever central avenue it is, hand clenched over the throat of that plastic bin-liner which his eyes so studiously avoided and for so long back at the flat.

Sonny is chasing after him, lolloping as lovingly as he ever did with boundless, infinite enthusiasm, but completely unable to comprehend why Pierre won’t listen or cannot even hear him any longer.

Figure it out for yourself: I can’t even see this screen for tears.

SLH

Buy POS – Piece Of Sh*t h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul s/c Pocket Edition (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.

“Rain rain rain rain flipping RAIN, Mildred.
“What’s for dinner tonight?
“Wait no, don’t tell me, is it RAIN?”

Britain, eh? We have, like, two hundred words for rain. Outside the singularly British town of Tackleford it is torrential, and the page is lit to perfection in that strange, almost eerie off-greeny-grey that often accompanies an impenetrably stormy sky.

“We can get out of it in the barn, Lottie.”
“It smells like a bonfire.”
“Be careful not to sit on a rusty nail. That’s basically deadly.”

It smells like a bonfire because it was one. Someone’s been lighting up local wooden barns – accidentally or otherwise – and there’s so little left of this one that I’d probably keep that hood up, Lottie. This, of course, is exactly the sort of mystery that our two competitive teams of pre-teen detectives would be investigating but both are currently a proverbial man down. Linton and Sonny have lost Jack while Charlotte and Mildred are missing Shauna on account of Shauna and Jack are in lurve.

“Jack, Wouldn’t it be romantic is we were run over by a combine harvester together?”

Hmmm. Unfortunately Jack isn’t very good at romance: he can’t read the signs. I love his dopey lips and wide eyes as Shauna presses his hands to her heart. She is excited! She’s excited because although they have avoided death-by-threshing, they’ve just spotted a huge, hunched man with no shoes or socks, but a big, bare, hairy back. And I think it’s spotted them too. It’s hiding under the bridge like a troll.

Jack forbids Shauna to tell Lottie and Mildred but “Sisters before Misters”, right?

 

 

Meanwhile at school Linton and Sonny have acquired a substitute for Jack in the form of Irish lad Colm who’s more than a wee bit wayward when it comes to “shopping”. So that could get them in trouble: there are such things as security cameras, you know. On the other hand, he’s refreshingly direct and seems to know stuff.

“Now then, lads. That’s your missin’ friend isn’t it, over there with blondie? Don’t worry, you’ve got to let ’em go so they’ll come back. That’s what my da’ says. Of course, he’s talkin’ about pigeons.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“I believe pigeons are in some way… magnetic?”

Oh, Sonny! Sitting on the grass, all dopey, with a daisy-chain draped over his head!

“Sonny, take that off. Someone will thump the dinner out of you.”

Effortlessly Allison has set up all the elements that will come into play later on as the temperature rises on the burning barns, Tackleford’s fire department blazes into rash action and Lottie’s new obsession with romance leads her to try teaching the troll they’ve been tracking The Art Of Romance. He’s about as good at that as Jack.

 

 

You don’t see John doing this because every page is such a glorious distraction both in its body-language beauty (see BOBBINS), its cartoon flourishes like Colm’s world cracking when Charlotte snubs his advances, and all the circuitous shenanigans set at school and while kicking around town afterwards.

It also boasts the recognition factor for it’s all so astutely observed: sitting down to supper first the first time with a family and encountering alien table manners; the jumbled mess of less technically minded adults’ computers; Lottie and sister Sarah’s push-and-pull, tactile relationship and the sort of cheeky, kind-hearted teasing that can only come from love and trust; teachers and their elbow patches; teachers down the boozer of a Friday night.

 

 

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention the petticoat. I don’t think I’ve typed the word “petticoat” before and so seldom see one worn anymore. Credit-hogging, local journalist Erin Jane Winters is wearing one and, as drawn by Allison, its pendulous pleats are ever so pretty.

There are thirty new pages here since it was originally published online including a glossary this time written by Lottie herself and that early school-grounds landscape is a spacious and spatial joy. Speaking of Lottie, I loved her book of local beasts.

“Jerry the Cyclops
“Fearsome looking but his lack of depth perception and physical fitness mean he is NON-THRETTENING.
“Giant bee
“Does it make giant honey?
“NOT SURE
“Local cyborg
“Not billionaire playboy as suspected, just an idiot with a soldering iron and too much spare time.”

SLH

Buy Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul s/c Pocket Edition and read the Page 45 review here

A Zoo In Winter h/c (£18-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi…

Ahh, Mr. Taniguchi you’ve done it again with this deeply thoughtful fictional work suffused throughout with gently beating veins of autobiography. Just how much of this work is purely fictional and how much is directly autobiographical I honestly have no idea, but I certainly read it with the strong sense that the portrayal of the main character, Hamaguchi, is perhaps very closely based on Taniguchi himself. Also, certain specific events that take place within the book are direct representations of actual events, I suspect.

Regardless of the emotional connection to Taniguchi’s own past, though, this is a really moving work, and certainly one that alongside A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, THE SUMMIT OF THE GODS and VENICE etc. I will be recommending in perpetuity to people who inquire about more sophisticated manga.

The story opens with a young man at the beginning of a fairly typical salaryman’s career working for a textile manufacturer in Kyoto circa 1966, who then almost by chance falls into a new career as a mangaka’s (manga master’s) assistant in Tokyo. From then on the story focuses heavily on the trials and tribulations that a budding manga artist faces both in terms coping with the hectic working schedule and hitting the relentless weekly deadlines, but also adjusting to the social life of the more bohemian set. Along the way there’s just enough time for some romance too, both firsthand with a particularly frail young lady and also at a remove as a chaperone to the textile boss’s daughter.

 

 

As ever, Taniguchi’s art is impressively crisp and precise, with typically lavish attention paid to minute background details, without them ever becoming a distraction. I always feel that reading something illustrated by Taniguchi is a genuinely immersive experience, precisely because of such detailing. It draws you in deeply to the world he’s created as much as any well produced television programme or film does, and thus creates a seamless experience for the reader.

Much of the subtle poignancy of this work does come from wondering precisely which are Taniguchi’s own experiences, particularly when it comes to the romantic element, not least the slightly mysterious ending that’s not really an ending. I would love to know whether the frail young lady was a real person in Taniguchi’s life and, if so, precisely what did become of her. I have my suspicions, but no amount of googling has yet revealed any definitive answers! Maybe that’s for the best, as no answer is necessary really to receive the warm emotional message which Taniguchi would like you to take away from this work.

JR

Buy A Zoo In Winter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Summit Of The Gods vol 1 (14-99, Fanfare/Ponent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi…

”So you really did the Demon Slab huh?”
“Ahaha! I guess so! Looking back on it, it’s like I did the climb all by myself.”

June 8th, 1924 at 12.50pm, was the last time that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were seen alive. Observed very briefly during a break in the clouds from one of the lower camps by Noel Odell they were far, far up above up on the final summit ridge near the peak of Mount Everest. Then the clouds closed in once more and they were never seen again. To this day, despite the discovery of Mallory’s frozen body on Everest’s North Face in recent years, there is still no clear evidence as to whether they failed in their brave attempt to be the first to conquer Everest, or whether they reached the summit and were in fact on a triumphant descent when the weather closed in and disaster struck. The only hope of solving this mystery lies in finding Mallory’s camera, which sadly was not on his body when it was finally discovered in 1999.

 

 

SUMMIT OF THE GODS is set in 1993 with Mallory’s body still undiscovered on the mountain, and a Japanese photographer Makoto Fukamachi, seconded to a failed Everest expedition organised by wealthy Japanese executives, stumbles across a 1920s Kodak camera in a Kathmandu junk shop which he quickly realises is very probably Mallory’s. Before he can do anything with the film, however, the camera is stolen from him, and we are introduced to the character whose life story, told in flashback, occupies the rest of this first volume. Enter Jouji Habi, one of the greatest and possibly the most single-minded Japanese mountain climbers ever. Not to mention the most social awkward and indeed certainly most obnoxious one. A true lone wolf who preferred to climb alone, he had simply disappeared from public view after a failed Everest expedition in 1985. So what, wonders Fukamachi, is Habi doing in Kathmandu, and what is his personal interest in Mallory’s camera?

Baku’s writing has me totally engrossed: it’s packed with characterisation and plot detail to rival any prose work. The story of Habi’s early years as an upcoming mountaineer in Japan just grips you like a crampon and never lets go. I really wanted to read on at the end of volume one, but I already have no doubts that the next four volumes will be just as wonderful. To be honest, I’m just desperate to see where the story goes next! Taniguchi’s detailed and realistic art, especially on the climbing sequences, really transports you and puts you right in the perilous position of those engaged in this most dangerous and foolhardy of pursuits. He captures the epic grandeur of the mountain range and really gets right into the devilish detail of precarious hand – well fingertip – holds.

 

 

SUMMIT OF THE GODS has won a few prestigious prizes too, which I just mention to underscore the point that this is a series which is going to be regarded as a classic for years to come, so why not take a look? Winner “Best Art” Award at Angouleme Festival 2005, Winner “Excellence Prize Manga Division” at Japanese Ministry of Culture’s Media Arts Festival 2001, and the original novel was the winner of the prestigious 11th Shibata Renzaburo Award in 1998.

JR

Buy Summit Of The Gods vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Northlanders Book vol 3: The European Saga s/c (£31-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchelli, Leandro Fernandez, Simon Gane, Vasilis Lolos, Matthew Woodson…

Third and final substantial repackaging of NORTHLANDERS whose scope far outstretched expectations, being as much about multiple cultural perspectives as much as anything else.

This collects ‘The Plague Widow’, ‘The Siege Of Paris’ and ‘Metal’, about which the latter I wrote…

Young lovers go on the run murdering all and sundry who disagree with their particular worldview under the pretence that they’d just like everyone to leave them alone. That’s ‘Metal’ in a hammer-obliterated priest’s nutshell for you. Consequently I wasn’t exactly getting the happy-ending vibes as I began.

Young Erik who, looks-wise and possibly in the brains department too, seems to be a mix of Thor and err… Obelisk… isn’t feeling too well disposed towards the Christian priests who seem to be doing a remarkably good job of just breezing into village after village deep in the Norse heartlands, taking over with no more than the barely veiled threat of heavy cavalry lurking just over the horizon, should the locals fail to build them a church or two and generally put down the hammers and pick up the crosses. Well, after they’ve built the churches obviously…

 

 

 

Still, getting Erik’s village elders to divert the nearby river so it runs immediately next to the newly built Church – just so the priests can wash themselves without having to be watched by heathens – is probably taking the piss just a touch too much.

So Erik decides to do what any typical rebellious teen would do in the same position: take a shitload of drugs. Except, whilst Erik’s high on mushrooms, the Norse version of Mother Nature appears to tell him to turn up his internal satanic death-metal soundtrack to eleven, and remove the Christians from her sacred lands. That he’s taken a shine to an albino nun who has clearly been forced to convert against her wishes probably tips the balance, and so he decides to tune up his axe and go on a rampage, liberating Ingrid in the process and throwing in a few head-banging solos along the way with his hammer for good measure.

 

 

In some ways this was the most overtly violent NORTHLANDERS story that Bryan wrote, which is saying something in and of itself, but as ever it also delivered on the emotional content. For above all, that’s what this series has always had at its cold and frosty core in aplenty: fiery passion manifesting itself in deep loves and equally deep hatreds.

Also recommended by the same writer – and set in the same era – BLACK ROAD (two volumes so far).

JR

Buy Northlanders Book vol 3: The European Saga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bake Sale (£15-99, First Second) by Sara Varon.

Eggplant is an aubergine, Cupcake is a cupcake, and this is another tale of friendship from the creator of ODD DUCK and ROBOT DREAMS.

But whereas ROBOT DREAMS was built on an early twist so unexpectedly harsh that ninety-five percent of its sales here have gone to adults (I think we’ve each of us at some point in our lives has felt left on the proverbial beach), this one is aimed squarely at younger, wide-eyed readers with a love of soft sponge and sugar frosting.

Cupcake runs a small bakery by day, then practises drumming in his band by night. Life’s pretty good and looks even better when Eggplant invites him to visit Aunt Aubergine, a world-renowned cook in Turkey. But how to afford the air fare? Reluctantly Cupcake gives up his role in the band so he can take his tasty produce on the road and diligently develops new fondant fancies, each themed according to the festival he attends.

 

 

He’s slightly dismayed to discover himself so quickly replaced on drums by a potato (“A potato?! Everyone knows potatoes have no rhythm!”) but soldiers on like a trooper until Eggplant breaks the disastrous news that he’s out of work and can’t afford the ticket himself. Having sacrificed so much for the opportunity to benefit from Aunt Aubergine’s inspiration, what is Cupcake to do? Like any good friend, instead of flying to Turkey himself he buys Eggplant’s ticket for him.

 

 

Gamely he waves Eggplant off, but his motivation has waned and things start to unravel when he finds himself late for work then settling for second-best with two-day old coffee, stale cakes and brownies. As for the blackboard behind the counter, instead of a long list of freshly baked Specialities Of The Day, it simply reads, “Nothing is special today”. When he goes to watch his old band parade through the streets and clapped on without him, it’s a physical disaster. Whatever will be left of Cupcake and his customers upon Eggplant’s return?

 

 

 

I knew it couldn’t be all sweetness and light with Sara Varon at the helm, but eventually things start to look up again and there’s a life lesson worth learning very early on: there’s no substitute for giving less than 100%. You know it when you do it, and it’ll just make you unhappy.

Don’t fret about being unable to read the full recipes over Cupcake’s shoulders as he embarks on a new mouth-watering experiment: they’re all printed in full at the back!

SLH

Buy Bake Sale 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’.

Ab Irato vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Labrosse

Cast No Shadow (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa

Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi Dee

Deconstructing The Incal (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jean Annestay, Christophe Quillien

James Bond vol 1: Vargr s/c (£15-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters

Regression vol 1: Way Down Deep s/c (£8-99, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Danny Luckert

Spectrum 24 s/c (£31-99, Flesk) by various

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

World Reader vol 1: Dead Stars s/c (£15-99, Aftershock) by Jeff Loveness & Juan Doe

Batman / Aliens s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse / DC) by Warren Ellis, Ian Edginton, Mark Scultz, Ron Marz & Bernie Wrightson, Chris Sprouse, Ariel Olivetti, others

Batwoman vol 1: The Many Arms Of Death s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV & Steve Epting, others

Flash vol 4: Running Scared s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Howard Porter, various

The Legend Of Wonder Woman – Origins s/c (£17-99, DC) by Renae De Liz & Ray Dillon

Wonder Woman vol 4: Godwatch s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Bilquis Evely, various

X-Men Gold vol 2: Evil Empires s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Ken Lashley

Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Kim Newman & Paul McCaffrey

Bleach vol 71 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing vol 3 (£11-99, Vertical) by Katsuyuki Sumizawa & Tomofumi Ogasawara

My Hero Academia vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 84 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Steven Universe And The Crysal Gems (£11-99, Titan) by Josceline Fenton & Chrystin Garland

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

Steven Universe vol 2 (£10-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2017 week two

November 8th, 2017

Featuring Nidhi Chanani, Matteo Farinella, Sophie Rickard, Scarlett Rickard, Tim Bird, Lae Schäfer, Ted Naifeh, Rebecca Morgan, Sara Corbett, Tobias Schalken, Eleanor Davis, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, J.C. Menu, Noah Van Sciver, Tommi Parrish, Kaela Graham, Daria Tessler, Conxita Hererro, Malachi Ward, Matt Shean, Antoine Cosse, Sammy Harkham, Nick Thorburn

Pashmina (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nidhi Chanani.

“How come you never talk about your sister?”
Your Meena Mausi?”
“Yeah, were you close?”
“Why this sudden interest in your Meena Mausi?”
“Mom! Just answer!”
“We were close. It’s harder to be a girl in India than you think.”

Teenage Priyanka Das (she prefers “Pri”) has been brought up in America by her doting, level-headed, kind and practical mother, Nimisha. Oh, they don’t have material riches and Pri is spitefully nick-named “Thrift Store” by her wealthier, dismissive classmates. But they have a loving extended family in the form of Auntie Deepa and Uncle Jatin. Uncle Jatin in particular is so solicitous that he’s prepared to help Pri learn to drive, and she loves him dearly for that and much more besides.

Uncle Jatin, you see, is the nearest that Priyanka has to a father figure because her own biological dad is a mystery – as is her mother’s entire past prior to her arrival in America from India around the age of eighteen. Every time that Pri tries to broach either subject with understandable curiosity about her mother and her mother’s home country, it is shut down either casually with an evasive verbal manoeuvre or overtly and firmly with “No!”

And this is creating a rift.

 

 

 

 

Pri has been brought up to believe in the wisdom and empowering beneficence of the Hindu goddess Shakti, a source of great strength, creativity and fertility, and an agent of change. Pri’s not so sure, but she does remember the inspiring stories of Shakti and, albeit reluctantly, is prepared to follow the rituals of gratitude which her mother insists on before evening meals. Then Auntie Deepa becomes pregnant, quite late in her life, and Pri is so worried that children of their own might lessen her links to both Auntie and Uncle that, alone at night, she lights the customary incense stick and prays:

“Shakti, I don’t ask for much. Please…
“Please don’t take Uncle Jatin away from me.
“He doesn’t NEED a baby.”

Oh! Yes, I know…! And so does Priyanka…

In the very next panel through one halting visual at the bottom of the page, Chanani makes Pri’s private guilt and immediate contrition crystal clear. It is an exceptional piece of succinct and communicative cartooning.

 

 

I won’t tell you what happens immediately after, but I will reveal that a suitcase is soon discovered with old, loving letters from Auntie Meena (who still lives in India) to which Pri’s mother has never replied. Also in that suitcase is the most exquisite pashmina that you or I have ever beheld, embroidered with exceptional, female craftsmanship using a glowing, golden thread. And its effect is transporting!

I love the elements of magic realism incorporated into this story of contemporary life both in America and India. The glowing, patterned, pashmina swirls which introduce each colour vision (in contrast with the purplish black, white and greys of the everyday) are delightful. But – here’s thing – the visions don’t serve only as fantastical entertainment, but a vital part of the evasion, suspense and ultimate revelation involving the Das’ family history that goes a little further back than you might imagine while bringing us back up to date in the present day.

 

 

No, there is not one single cop-out within this exceptional Young Adult graphic novel. For, above all, what has been left to Pri’s uninformed imagination must be – and most certainly is – contrasted with reality when she is finally allowed to visit and experience India for herself, through her loving Meena Mausi, and discovers how different life is for women and children, for women who would have children, and for women who would be wives.

It’s gently done, it’s deftly done, but without any thought to softening the truth about prevailing power of a patriarchal society and the hypocrisy and superficiality of those who believe that appearance is all.

 

 

Auntie Meena has much to show and tell Pri when they visit a school where Meena teaches and Pri’s overcome with sadness. Poverty pervades and there are rats.

“Do not look at the dirt. Look at the people.”

Appearance is not everything: it is context that’s all.

“They are learning and that will change their lives, Priyanka.”

Priyanka will return to America with a much greater sense of practicality and perspective, far prouder of her Indian heritage (including her name) and much more understanding of her mother who, whilst only trying to shield Pri from her past, does allude to it early on:

“Sometimes we have to do the hard things.”

I really don’t want to give too much away, but this:

It’s harder to be a girl in India than you might think.

SLH

Buy Pashmina and read the Page 45 review here

Mann’s Best Friend (£14-99, Gluepot Books) by Sophie Rickard & Scarlett Rickard.

A very British graphic novel full of very British squabbles, this had me hooked from its opening double-page spread of a northern, rural British town nestled between rolling green hills populated by black-faced, white-wooled sheep, giant gleaming-white wind turbines and the sort of exposed moorland trees which have been buffeted and so sculpted by horizontal gales.

What clinched it for me was the 24% gradient sign on top of the one-track road wending its way down to Oldroyd, a good old-fashioned 1 in 4!

All of this is lit as an early winter’s evening sets in, closing on 5pm. I think there’s a storm brewing.

As above so below: the modern inhabiting the traditional. Yellow light begins to glow from the tall plate windows of the old stone building complete with corner quoining, as the half a dozen inhabitants of the stark, open-plan office to Berkeleys Corporate Banking start shutting up shop and casting on coats while laughing delightedly. It’s all a bit Beryl Cook!

 

 

 

 

Bespectacled programmer Terry Mann isn’t laughing. He’s still hunched over his computer terminal, crossly typing in code. He’s going to grow increasingly crosser over the next 48 hours, and then Terry Mann will do something truly terrible.

“Animals give you true love when people just let you down.”

That’s far from an absolute truth, obviously, but the same people who’ll let you down are as likely to let their animals down, when dogs in particular seldom given less than 100% of their unwavering, unconditional love.

It’s been exactly 60 years since we launched little LAIKA into space, the first animal to orbit the Earth until it promptly died, presumably terrified, five hours after lift-off. Nick Abadzis’ graphic novel of the same name will set your fires burning long before re-entry.

 

 

Terry owns a big, beautiful, thick-furred, greyish-white dog called Eric, so massive that he overflows a two-seater sofa. Something like a Scottish Deerhound, I’d have thought. He doesn’t like the expensive, vitamin-enriched diet he’s on, so in Terry’s absence, Eric raids the kitchen bin instead and throws up all over the living room carpet.

They live together largely in silence, Eric eyeing his taciturn master through the French windows from outside in the cold, dark garden, or getting in the way of the FIFA results on the television set.

He only wants to be spoken to. Terry switches the lights off and goes to bed instead.

 

 

Terry Mann also owns a credit card with a £6,500 credit limit which he’s just maxed out. In addition, he’s assiduously collected some Reminders and a Final Demand.

Terry’s sister Debbie is ebullient! She’s engaged to be married to handsome and suave Vikram Singh, recently promoted to management at Berkeleys Bank. They’re all going to celebrate tomorrow at some hideous, staid golf club – a meal which Terry can ill-afford.

Terry’s parents are overjoyed at the engagement, in the sort of cloying, superficial, success-orientated way that might make any reasonable observer vomit. Vikram’s family too are ecstatic, proud of their son, but in the same boastful manner as the Manns while dismissing their daughter Mia as a failure. Right in front of her face.

Here’s our preening Debbie, not so much disdainful as utterly incredulous:

“So Mia, you’re an actual gardener? Like… outside, digging? Not a florist?”
“Mmm.”

Mia keeps her own counsel.

 

 

Terry tends to be a quiet one too. He’s called into Meeting Room D at Berkeleys Bank to find his own immediate manager, Celine from HR and Mr Frank Grace who’s visiting from Internal Audit. Client money is missing – a lot of it.

“Right. I want to get to the bottom of this before I involve the police and the financial services regulators.
“I’m looking for a cunning, highly skilled technician with access to Corporate Banking back-end systems and Secure-Code areas. I’m looking for an indebted, desperate person who made one mistake…. Just once the hacker accessed the system from outside the Bank.
“The IP address of that hack traces back to your home, Mr Mann.”

Summarily suspended, Terry is escorted off the premises in front of his co-workers, drives back to the home he cannot afford, picks up a new batch of bills he cannot pay, then treads in more dog vomit.

Eric looks innocently up. You will not believe what Terry does next…

 

 

So much of this made me smile with recognition. I loved the contrast between Terry’s expensive but clinically appointed flat and Mia’s more homely house with its low, exposed timber beams, shower that won’t work, window seats, cosy blanket thrown over the old tatty settee, thick curtain to keep the cold out from the wooden front door under which I bet that the wind whistles through, and the patchwork of gradually acquired rugs arranged across the front room so as to create a corridor along which bare feet might travel, perhaps, to collect the morning milk or mail.

 

 

The formal, golf-club luncheon sequence is delightfully staged like the top table of a wedding feast or the Last Supper, with the smug couple beaming from its centre, approving parents on either side, then Terry and Mia – the outsiders – sat opposite each other at either end. Both mothers are a treat in body language and expression, while Mia’s hair, flopped easily over one eye, is ever so endearing. I like that she doesn’t do handshakes.

Scarlett’s colours are perfect, particularly at night, out in the countryside or in the rug-orientated confines of Mia’s sitting room. She plays deliciously with the 1 in 4 gradient during certain scenes with 45-degree panels!

 

 

I’ve only given you one side to one part of the story, of course, and even then I’ve resorted to allusion. You might wonder why Terry has such an expensive house in the first place and why he owns such a big hound which he doesn’t even like. Sophie has thought it all through, but delivers the goods only at the appropriate hour.

A lot of travelling will be involved before we are done, and there’ll be a fair few car conversations.

After enormous satisfaction I turned the final four pages slowly, quietly absorbing their contents, closed the cover with the palm of my hand and thought, “Raymond Briggs would be ever so proud”.

SLH

Buy Mann’s Best Friend and read the Page 45 review here

The Senses h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Matteo Farinella…

“Sometimes we tend to treat our body as simply a shell, a temporary house for our mind…
“… but the truth is that our body is much more than that: it shapes the way we think.”

The co-creator of NEUROCOMIC returns, this time with an assault on our senses. Or is that the other way around… as we learn all about our five primary senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing and vision from the inside out. Yes, once again Dr. Farinella goes all Fantastic Voyage on us, shrinking down our protagonist, a mildly mad scientist, to miniature size through a virtual reality experiment gone awry.

As before we get both a science and a history lesson as various renowned scientists of yesteryear spontaneously pop up to explain all about their discoveries and just how clever they are. As tour guides go, they certainly know their stuff! But as with the brain in his previous work, Dr. Farinella also takes the opportunity to point out there is an enormous amount we still don’t really know about how we make… errr… sense of the huge amount of sensory input we are continuously receiving. In fact, the sensory data we process has an enormous influence on how we actually think, which is very neatly presented here.

 

 

In terms of explaining relatively complex concepts to us laypeople, I find Matteo Farinella’s entertaining artistic approach as wonderfully clear and concise as Darryl Cunningham’s GRAPHIC SCIENCE. It’s exactly the sort of approach that will leave you wanting to know much more about precisely how our noggins deal with our unique human perception of reality. We just need the scientists to get on with their research!

 

 

Yet again, comics like this, plus Darryl’s excellent works and also the Cannon Brothers’ EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA plus Adam and Lisa Murphy’s CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING SCIENTISTS make you realise there really could be a much better way to educate and inform kids about what could otherwise be such very, very dry material to young minds.

 

 

 

A final mention for the cover, which with Nobrow’s typically glorious production values, all shiny gold and silver printing on beautiful red cloth, has got to be a contender for the most dazzling cover of the year. It’s a visual delight and highly satisfying to the touch, which I guess, is entirely appropriate for this work. Gently rubbing it against the ear also produced a mildly satisfying buzzing sound and I have always loved the smell of printed paper. I can’t say it tasted particularly nice, though.

JR

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

Rock & Pop (£4-00) by Tim Bird…

“On Saturdays my dad would listen to Radio Sheffield on the way home from the football.
“They played pop music in between people phoning in to talk about the match.”

<”Sheffield Wednesday were awful today, we can’t keep playing like that…”>
<“Thanks for the call… we’ll get back to the football debate after some music… this is the new single from Belinda Carlisle…”>

“Heaven Is A Place On Earth is the first song that really stuck with me.
“I remember listening to the radio hoping to hear the song again, but they never seemed to play it after that.”

24 pages of pop perfection, and indeed imperfection – really, Tim… Boyzone! I would ask what on earth you were thinking but as you’ve freely admitted here, you’ve honestly no idea – from the man whose own talent for wordsmithery I rank amongst the finest in comics today.

 

 

It makes perfect sense, therefore, for someone so adroit in their use of the English language to be into such diverse musical offerings as the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Radiohead, Nirvana, Saint Etienne and Neil Young, plus more than a few groups I must confess to being entirely unfamiliar with.

 

 

In this brief chronology of Tim’s life to date he’ll take us on his very own magical musical mystery tour set against the backdrop of some mildly insignificant moments, plus some very significant ones. One scene detailed per page, each with its own particular musical selection. Sometimes the music is the lead, at other times merely the accompaniment.

Thus without giving anything away, the page featuring Tim and his girlfriend April going to see the Magnetic Fields in concert, well, I can completely understand why the track The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side is now forever burnt into his consciousness!

 

 

Many of the earlier pages are more about Tim discovering and getting into various artistes, reminding me wistfully of an age when we had all the time in the world to discover new aural pleasures, whereas it’s the latter pages where the music begins to take a more supporting role of soundtrack to life events.

It’s all combined with the typical Bird visual panache, even when baring his (musical) soul for our amusement, that’s seen him produce such moving and heart-warming delights as GREY AREA – OUR TOWN. He’s such a talented creator I bet he could even do a comic about snooker and make it a fascinating read… wait a minute, he has! Check out THE ROCKET.

 

 

Speaking of soundtracks, I’ll let Tim and April play you out to the sound of The Bulldozers with their Another Girl, Another Planet…

“You know how we’ll have been together ten years this year?”
“Hmmm.”
“Why don’t we get married?”
“Hmmm.”
“I’ve started putting some wedding ideas together…”
“Hmmm… I’ll sort out the music.”
“Hmmm.”

JR

Buy Rock & Pop and read the Page 45 review here

Now #1 (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Rebecca Morgan, Sara Corbett, Tobias Schalken, Eleanor Davis, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, J.C. Menu, Noah Van Sciver, Tommi Parrish, Kaela Graham, Daria Tessler, Conxita Hererro, Malachi Ward, Matt Shean, Antoine Cosse, Sammy Harkham, Nick Thorburn…

“Hi! You must be Noah! The famous cartoonist! Jonah talks about you all the time!”
“Hello.”
“Jonah says you’re a real biblio-phobe! I am, too! I’m always reading!”
““Biblo-phobe?””

Haha, I’m sure Jonah Van Sciver cannot possibly be the completely sex-crazed younger brother Noah FANTE BUKOWSKI TWO makes him out to be in this delightfully excruciating thirteen-page farce entitled ‘Wall Of Shame’. Noah’s making a trip home to Denver for an exhibition including his work at the Denver Art Museum and is catching up with his family at the same time, including crashing on his mum’s couch. Suffice to say he’s not been chez mom too long before he gets a flash of inspiration for a comic which he promptly jots down in his journal…

“Story idea: Held captive by family member(s).”

 

 

This is probably my favourite of the fourteen strips contained within this bumper 128-page first issue of the new Fantagraphics anthology, curated by Eric Reynolds who has now spent well over twenty years at the publishing house since he joined them fresh out of college. They range in length between cheeky one-pagers – of which there are four, the pick of those probably being “I, Marlon” by Sammy CRICKETS Harkham about Marlon Brando’s <ahem> introspective time on Tahiti, though actually, I did love Gabrielle TRUTH IS FRAGMENTARY Bell’s “Dear Naked Guy…” – up to Eleanor YOU & A BIKE & A ROAD Davis’s 26-page end-of-the-world reflection on a very odd and perhaps unhealthy proto-romantic relationship entitled “Hurt Or Fuck?”

 

 

The vast majority, though, very sensibly range between 4 to 12 pages and cover all manner of shenanigans in a profusion of art styles. There was only one that didn’t quite find the mark for me, which out of fourteen strips is a damn splendid hit rate, and I won’t name it because I suspect it’s probably entirely down my own personal artistic tastes, and surely the point of such a diverse an anthology as this is to broaden readers horizons a bit.

My other absolute pick of the bunch, which much like Noah’s cringefest I could have quite happily read ten times as much of, was Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean’s alternative history of the space race entitled “Widening Horizons.” Which as I type I realise means I really ought to go back and change the last sentence of the previous paragraph… Fans of their ANCESTOR speculative fiction runaway insanity jive will already be aware of just how far out there these two can take something.

 

 

It’s a very clever piece, actually, combining genuine historical facts and figures liberally sprinkled with fictional content as we gradually deviate further and further from our own timeline. It actually begins in the very first panel, with something casually dropped in regarding H.G. Wells that I was pretty sure was wrong and I was rather puzzled by, before I realised what was going on!

A resoundingly strong start for this exciting new anthology and hopefully the quality of content will be maintained. Flicking ahead to the solicitation for NOW #2 and seeing some of the creators involved like personal favourites Dash COSPLAYERS Shaw, Tommi THE BOOK OF HOPE Musturi and Joshua SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST Cotter, plus a pretty bonkers cover, I’m extremely confident that will be the case.

JR

Buy Now #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Secrets (£2-00, self-published) by Lae Schäfer.

“My dad has never told me he loves me.”

Snuggled between more exuberant pages extolling the virtues of friendship and sex, the above is all the more poignant for it lying under the stapled-shut cover of a comic called SECRETS, implying that it was difficult to share.

Also moving, somehow: that the words are coming from a small, fragile seahorse.

There are fourteen finger-sized pages for you to thumb through once you’ve cut across the dotted line to gain entry. And you can: you won’t lose a thing, unless you’re as accident-prone as our Dee – in which case you should probably live in a hospital.

They’re single-panel cartoons, coherently connected almost enough to consider this a comic, delivered to camera by animals ranging from an ant to an armadillo or pangolin. *checks armour-plated animals online* Yup, it’s a pangolin.

 

 

And I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect their construction is something akin to Nick Park’s dear ‘Creature Comforts’ in that Schäfer was told all these secrets first, then assigned them to an apposite orator. I think it’s the honesty and the fact that they’re far from obvious. The sex I’ll leave you discover for yourselves (always the best option), but here’s another entry which, again, I found affecting rather than sad, simply bitter or even pitiful…

“A friend of mine moved abroad some years ago and still calls us best friends.
“It’s annoying.
“Clearly we’re not.”

I’m not sure what that critter is – something racoon-like and feisty.

It’s at this point I should note that the packets are a limited edition of 150, we have only 12, and that Lae is Dutch so we won’t have further access. She dropped them off in person this Sunday after attending a zine fair and I was so immediately taken that I snapped them up. Their format reminded me of Jeremy Dennis’s glorious packages of mini-comics which often exploded with glitter. Oh my days, but I adored them!

 

 

Even after snipping the zine open, the balance of art and oratory could not be better judged. The images I have for you here were photographed by me after the “crusts” had been cut off. Such mad skillz – I wish I’d bought more.

“The only thing I really regret is getting ‘A’s in high school.
“Could’ve used that time spent studying and energy for more important things.”

In the spirit of this endeavour I too share a secret: in order to gain employment I had to remove my degree from my CV. Every manager felt threatened – one overtly said so – when all I ever wanted was to work behind a till of a record or book store.

Or a comic shop.

Hello!

SLH

Till monkey with a typewriter.

Buy Secrets and read the Page 45 review here

New Edition / Substantially Expanded Review

Courtney Crumrin vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

First in the complete, seven-volume, full-colour series of COURTNEY CRUMRIN collections, now available in affordo-vision; I recommend this highly to adult and Young Adult Harry Potter fans, and those desperate for the last two Kazu Kibuishi AMULET books, but be warned in advance that this grows both dark in art and harsh with injustice – especially the second volume – so please don’t presume on happy endings for all.

Moving into someone else’s house is never easy. When the original occupant turns out to be a warlock, there are additional complications.

Going to a new school in a new area is never easy, either. Starting at school late, when everyone else your age has already paired off or made friends with each other, is next-to-impossible as Faith Erin Hicks makes clear in her phenomenal FRIENDS WITH BOYS and, now that I think of it, THE STONE HEART.

 

 

 

Let’s meet Courtney herself, here giving a damn good dressing-down to a doppelganger / impostor who’s taken her place and impressed her parents.

Which is shocking: they’re neither impressive parents nor easily impressed.

“My Mom would kiss a diseased mollusc if it could get her into a cocktail party. They’re both selfish morons.”
“You have no friends. I made friends…. Cathy Keller says I’m cool.”
“Congrats! You can kiss ass. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. Just the fact that your lame performance actually fooled these people should tell you what nitwits they are.”
“What do you mean, lame?”
“If you wanted to become Courtney Crumrin, you should have done a little homework. I’m rude, bad-tempered and basically, I don’t like people.”

 

 

That’s because of the people poor Courtney finds herself surrounded by. Her new classmates are snobbish and superficial bullies, her parents are clueless and indifferent… only the initially austere Great Uncle Aloysius breaks the spell of utter isolation Miss Crumrin feels, now that they’ve moved into his creepy old mansion.

Gradually, though, young Courtney discovers that she rather likes creepy, and although she has a knack for biting off more than she can chew, she has a few key qualities on her side: resilience, pluck, and a practical approach to problem solving.

 

 

Over the course of four self-contained stories Courtney negotiates her new territory with its goblins, changelings, faeries and night things, and learns the lesson of the The Beguiling Glamour. The lesson being, don’t cast it!  Becoming too popular brings a whole new set of problems: much better to be yourself!

 

 

The pen lines and character designs are bold and beautiful, the lessons sometimes hard (at one point it looked like Crumrin was going to give John Constantine a run for his money with the body count), and if as many people read comics as books, Ted Naifeh might grow almost as rich as the ever-generous, golden-hearted champion of what is right, J. K. Rowling.

He certainly deserves to be.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin 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’.

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank (£13-99, Black Mask) by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss

As The Crow Flies (£26-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Melanie Gillman

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul s/c Pocket Edition (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Broken Frontier 2017 Small Press Year Book – New Horizons (£7-99, Broken Frontier) by Jey Levang, Grace Wilson, Emily Rose Lambert, Tim Bird, Rebecca Bagley, Danny Noble, Rachael Smith, Brigid Deacon, EdieOP, Steven Tillotson, Emma Raby, Ellice Weaver, Rozi Hathaway, John Riordan, Kim Clements

Crawl Space h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs

Elenora Mandragora: Daughter Of Merlin h/c (£13-99, IDW) by Severine Gauthier & Thomas Labourot

Mann’s Best Friend (£14-99, Gluepot Books) by Sophie Rickard & Scarlett Rickard

Northlanders Book vol 3: The European Saga s/c (£31-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchelli, Leandro Fernandez, Simon Gane, Vasilis Lolos, Matthew Woodson

POS – Piece Of Sh*t h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Pierre Paquet & Jesus Alonso

Real Life People’s Secrets vol 3 (£2-00, ) by Lae Schafer

Rose vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by Meredith Finch & Ig Guara

Star Wars Darth Maul – Son Of Dathomir s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeremy Barlow & Juan Frigeri

Batgirl vol 2: Son Of Penguin s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Hope Larson & Chris Wildgoose

Justice League Of America vol 2: Kingbutcher s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Steve Orlando & Felipe Watanabe, others

Edge Of Venomverse s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg, Simon Spurrier, various & James Stokoe, various

Secret Empire (UK Edition) s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & various including Steve McNiven, Leinil Francis Yu, Daniel Acuna

Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol 3 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Szymon Kudranksi, Juston Ponsor, Oscar Bazaldua

A Zoo In Winter re-issue by Jiro Taniguchi

Bake Sale restock by Sara Varon

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2017 week one

November 1st, 2017

Featuring Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Lizz Lunney, Kevin Czap, Geof Darrow, Seth Fishman, Isabel Greenberg, Jonathan Hennessey, Jack McGowan, Ray Fawkes, Tim Pilcher, Dave Gibbons, Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, more!

Futchi Perf (£14-50, Uncivilised Books) by Kevin Czap.

“Now you can run for days on a single good memory.”

Down with dystopia; up with utopia, as close as it needs credibly get!

This beautiful book full of thought, thoughtfulness, optimism and kindness is something for which I am grateful.

I find it profoundly moving that a powerful imagination could so sincerely project such a positive future, especially in this day and age. But this is the way we create one.

In the face of hostility, hatred, division and derision, all spread with contempt from on high, this is defiantly loving, embracing and inclusive of all, putting hierarchy it in its place where I hope it will sit all alone, bereft, unattended.

The same goes for heavy industry, pollution and environmental degradation, replaced by a balanced and sustainable harmony through human ingenuity which reaps rather than rapes our rich natural resources in order to provide for all. I will repeat:

“Now you can run for days on a single good memory.
“And you can give this happiness to others.
“Seventh Energy.”

 

 

The script is succinct. Each word, phrase, neologism, reclamation or association like “Seventh Energy” has been so carefully chosen.

Instead this is as much driven by the smooth, strong drawings of individuality, diversity and naked affection, at one and so at peace, sharing and so finally satisfied. The colours are of the cold reignited or pushed back by warmth either through individual interactions or communal gatherings and community spirit. The predominant, winning pink is that of the heart which is blood-pumping and thumping with life; mind-muscles being stretched to summon elation in each other’s presence, then pass it on unencumbered by any sense whatsoever of being beholden.

 

 

It begins thus:

“It’s Election Day so you’re reviewing the candidates and issues one last time to be sure you’re making the right choices for your city.”

Can you imagine such diligence where it is due? Can you imagine this too?

“Thankfully everyone has easy access to such straightforward information and as a result, Cleveland is one of the best governed cities in the country.”

Kevin Czap has imagined it, then put it on paper to give us all something to aspire to, and actively pursue with renewed vigour.

 

 

A world in which we are well served by helpful, informative facts rather than factional, emotive, propagandist fiction, opinion and lies from the vain and vested interests, the powerful and power-hungry, the corporation-controlled broadcasters and politicians alike. I would emphasise “as a result” and, as a result:

“All the right things are winning!
“A continuation of this legacy of progressive and humanist policies… Nowhere else is the arts infrastructure so solid.”

We’ve been shown not only the way but also its rewards. Now it is time for us to pay Czap back by putting it all into action.

“Your best friend is moving to Cleveland – to your street!
“This neighbourhood is swarming with all your closest friends!
“Oh my god! They’re throwing you a surprise birthday party!!”

This is no pipe dream; it is entirely within our collective power to turn things around through our individual actions, which together can make all the difference, and fashion a future which we’d all love to live in.

“You’ve never been so happy!!!”

 

 

It’s time to dance.

SLH

Buy Futchi Perf and read the Page 45 review here

The Worm And The Bird (£14-99, Particular Books) by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

“There’s not much room where I live
“And all the earth around me is filled with life.”

Ah, life!

If you stop to look around, so much of it both thrives and abounds; as above, so below.

The subterranean pages teem with tiny beetles and gleam against the black with a shining ink which highlights the passage of the worm though buried, senescent, autumnal leaves as ants also scurry forth. There’s even a slug and a safety pin.

In this immaculately structured graphic novel – so much of whose story is image-delivered – Bickford-Smith, creator of THE FOX AND THE STAR, presents us with much to make us think, much to make us grin, and no inconsiderable drive of dramatic tension as the Worm goes about its determined business oblivious to the patience of its early Bird up above.

 

 

“I am too busy to rest,
“I can rest later,” says The Worm.

But The Bird isn’t busy. It’s resting on the handle of a garden spade, even as the wind blows, night falls and then the rain pours down from the heavens. Its subtle, comedic expressions are as priceless as those of Sage the fat, feathery Owl from The Herb Garden!

 

 

“I am too busy to look,
“I can look another day,” thinks The Worm.

But The Bird is looking. The Bird is looking right down at the ground.

“I am too busy to listen.
“I can listen when I am finished,” believes The Worm.

Possibly… Or you could start listening now.

There’s so surprisingly much to take away from such a brief book, which is far more mischievous than its equally eloquent predecessor. If you’re not too busy to look, you will find hidden treasures, feet firmly planted, leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves and an evasive-action manoeuvre reminiscent of the hours you spent playing Snake on your Nokia 3310.

 

 

There’s a certain degree of black humour in its irony – dramatic then otherwise – as two different perspectives mirror each other, before a third is presented by implication. For, if you really do stop to look around and perhaps far further afield, so much quiet life both thrives and abounds; as below, so above.

SLH

Buy The Worm And The Bird and read the Page 45 review here

The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen…

““I may have been swallowed,” said the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.””

Comedic collaborators Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen return following on from their previous farcical frolics (SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, EXTRA YARN & TRIANGLE) to entertain us with a most unusual story of symbiosis.

Our titular timid rodent, having been gobbled up in the forest by the roving wolf and fearing his story will thus come to a rather abrupt end is completely astonished to find himself greeted by a dashing duck and promptly introduced to a world of fine dining. It’s all inside the wolf’s seemingly TARDIS-like stomach, complete with a fully equipped kitchen and resplendent dining room…

 

 

 

 

Now, I will grant you, this does seem like a most unlikely locale for cooking up a storm and enjoying your high-end nosh, but the duck and the mouse are soon having their time of their lives, knocking back the wine like Keith Floyd and enjoying candle-lit, music filled soirées. Their hedonistic rich-living and incessant demands for more top quality ingredients, however, under the crafty auspices that it will cure the wolf’s increasingly sore stomach, soon start to make the unlucky lupine realise that these two particular menu items are going to prove impossible to digest.

But then the poor wolf finds himself firmly in the sights of a passing huntsman, and with the gravy train in mortal danger of hitting the proverbial buffers and the claret catastrophically spilling every which way, it’s up to our dynamic dining duo to prove this isn’t just a parasitic relationship and save the dinner, I mean, day!

 

 

As ever, whilst Mac Barnett crafts an entertaining nonsensical story, Jon Klassen delivers on the art front with his trademark deadpan expressions and deliriously daft scenes. I won’t spoil for you precisely how the mouse and duck combine to run the huntsman off, but suffice to say it involves a fair amount of clanging culinary equipment… and a hockey stick!

JR

Buy The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse and read the Page 45 review here

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars h/c (£15-99, Greenwillow) by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg.

Would you like to know what one sextillion looks like?

Of course you would! Here we go:

100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Goodness! I wouldn’t mind seeing that on our end-of-day checkout! Would one of you like to win the lottery, please?

For someone who considers the decimal point on a till highly overrated, I found this riveting.

Sub-titled “Can you imagine so many…of anything?”, that is precisely what this book will facilitate both in adults and Young Readers alike, along with how to name ridiculously big numbers in ascending order from hundreds and thousands to millions and billions and trillions and quadrillions and quintillions and sextillions!

 

 

 

 

Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg, creator of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and her subsequent THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO (both of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month without batting an eyelid), it comes with a colossal sense of scale and an endearing diversity which embraces all, from each of us as individual human beings to the plethora of life on this planet.

Fishman infuses the book with infectious enthusiasm for what our world holds and into which mind-boggling numbers they have grown: from people and trees and ants underground, to the weight of the world on one girl’s young shoulders. She balances it with commendable agility and grace, one foot firmly planted on a set of bathroom scales.

 

 

“On the other side of the planet, where the sun isn’t shining, you can see bright lights like little stars on its surface.
“Those are the lights that come from 2,500,000 cities and towns and villages filled with people…
“Some even reading books.”

Rabbits, raindrops and a slightly random fact about shark’s teeth, this is one big insight which will generate much household conversation along with a giggle or two.

“Now take a deep breath and hold it for five seconds.
“Just do that another 6,307,200 times and you’ll be a year older!
“Or don’t.
“You’ll be a year older in 31,536,000 seconds anyway.”

I counted each and every one of those at school.

 

 

Truly, this awe-inspiring album puts everything into perspective, its concluding perspective being that there may only be one of you amongst all these masses – ever so tiny and dwarfed by the universe – but also this: that there is only one of you, and that you are just as important, wonderful and unique!

SLH

Buy A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Relatable Content (£10-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

At the laptop:

“I can relate!
“I can so relate!
“Ha ha oh boy I relate!”

Outside:

“I just don’t relate to anyone.”

There’s a word for this, isn’t there? Otaku, I think.

Some of us are sliding into self-sequestration, living our lives only online – or at least presenting a vague approximation of them. Or lying through our teeth. Don’t think that eludes Lizz Lunney, either: the veneer, I mean. I’ve seen some pretty gleeful holiday postcards written teeth-clenched in anger. I guess I’m not easy to get along with.

 

 

I wish more people could empathise online: there’d be far fewer angry and ill-informed knee-jerks, and a lot less click-bait. That’s what comes from staring at a screen all day. You couldn’t get so furiously steamed if you were out strolling in the Cotwolds, could you? We were probably socially doomed from the day we stopped hunting and gathering.

The creator of AT THE THEME PARK, STREET DAWGZ: BOX LIFE, TAKE AWAY etc is back, back, back with big batch of full-colour, one-page comics you all can relate to. So long as you’re a socially awkward, cripplingly self-conscious, over-thinking, agoraphobic, responsibility-shirking, neurotic wreck.

 

 

Like the sun. Why do you think it keeps going in?

Some physical conditions are more easily treated by the doctor. Well, more easily prescribed.

“I’ll prescribe these painkillers for your back. The side effects are nausea, dizziness, financial difficulties, stress and death.”
“But will my back be pain free?”
“No guarantees.”

 

 

Lizz Lunney laughter is pain relief of the most efficacious order. It’s a tonic, laced with gin; a potion of a notion which you can administer like lotion and bring a broad grin to your face.  It’s like physiotherapy for the soul. Although your ears may prove another matter:

“Doctor, I’ve caught Copacabana…” had me cackling with laughter until I realised it was a pretty serious condition whose cure quite literally sounds worse.

 

 

I don’t know if Lizz has realised she stopped drawing cats years ago. They look more like blanched devils or demons. Oh, cats, then.

“I can leave the house in this weather without covering myself in Factor 50.”
“Why does it smell so sweet? That’s… that’s sun cream not ice cream!”
“Oh! Did I say Factor 50? I meant pistachio.”

Of course you did.

It’s the gleefully absurd delivered deadpan.

SLH

Buy Relatable Content and read the Page 45 review here

The Comic Book Story Of Video Games (£16-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey & Jack McGowan…

“Holy…! That’s the largest blip I’ve ever seen on an oscilloscope!”
“Don’t worry about it.”

That was Pearl Harbour.

And I don’t mean the Attack On Pearl Harbour flight simulator game which was pretty decent, though I was more of a Capcom’s 1942 man myself. Give me a vertical scrolling shoot-‘em-up over a flight simulator every single time. Anyway, that quote from was the real Pearl Harbour. And Naval HQ deciding that the huge blip which the radar operator had seen on his new-fangled oscilloscope couldn’t possibly be real. Ah…

Now what, you might be asking, has that possibly got to do with the history of video games? Well, apparently, to fully understand the development of video games we need to go right back to 1857 when German scientist Heinrich Geissler discovered that electric voltage passed through gas-filled tubes caused them to glow different colours. It then took another forty years before Karl Ferdinand Braun invented the Cathode Ray Tube. Plus, not mentioned in this work (oddly given the first sixty odd pages are almost entirely given over to how the science of visual telecommunication developed), John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of television in 1925.

 

 

We do eventually get around to a history of video games proper, and it is quite informative, telling us about the various machines, the games and the larger-than-life characters involved, though the end does come a bit abruptly. I just can’t help but think those first sixty pages could have been far better utilised, as interesting scientifically as they are.

I can completely see the intellectual journey Jonathan Hennessey is trying to take the reader on, I just would have rather he concentrated on the video gaming element more. It’s like he spent hours researching, forgot his brief, got carried away with including the science stuff in the first sixty pages and then had to cram as much as he could in at the end before he ran out of memory – sorry, space.

 

 

Plus, UK gamers of a certain age will feel somewhat short-changed by the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance of a ZX Spectrum 48K and Commodore 64 sharing one solitary panel without even saying what they are. So consequently pivotal, keystone games like Elite don’t even get a mention. But then hopefully one day someone will do a graphic novel about the UK home computing explosion of the 1980s featuring the likes of Sir Clive Sinclair and Jeff Minter. I could very well imagine Darryl Cunningham tackling that!

 

 

Granted as the gaming industry has blossomed and burgeoned to the monster it is today (the revenues of the gaming industry now far exceed the movie industry in the USA), it would be utterly impossible to detail everything of significance in a single volume, but overall this just feels like it misses the mark. It’s a very engaging read, it just probably doesn’t deliver what the reader would be expecting, or indeed want. I do wonder whether, on the back of the hugely successful THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF BEER, Jonathan Hennessey fully realised the enormity of what he decided to tackle as a follow up.

Personally I think the author would have been far better advised to tackle this in three or four volumes split into, say, the early decades of proto-gaming, the seventies boom in arcade machines, the eighties and early nineties rise of home computing and the explosion in consoles, then the expansion of PC gaming and second wave of consoles, plus of course the evolution of modern massive, multi-online gaming, like errr… a certain game called Elite, plus the likes of World Of Warcraft, obviously. I am pretty certain there would have been a voracious appetite for it.

 

 

Ed Piskor took four volumes to lavishly detail a mere decade with his HIP HOP FAMILY TREE series, for example, so in retrospect, there was no way anyone could ever do justice to the history of video gaming in a mere 181 pages. Ah well, it’s a decent enough, if protracted, potted history, I suppose. And ardent gamers will certain enjoy spotting the myriad character cameos popping up left, right and centre in the most unlikely times and places throughout. That was a very cheeky conceit which I did enjoy very much.

JR

Buy The Comic Book Story Of Video Games and read the Page 45 review here

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign? h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow.

“Then I learned killing techniques using everything from sharp-edged weapons to social media.”

It’s amazing what a little meditation can achieve.

There’s never time for any such calm, self-centring shenanigans here: you get exactly what you see on the cover from start to finish: the most awesome, relentless, smack-down video game you’ve never played. The resolution is sharper than a surgical scalpel, its effects very similar too. Darrow is famous for his detail: like the band aids patching up not our protagonist but his shirt, belt and pistol-butt.

Nevertheless, if you’ve any sense whatsoever the character you select to play as will be the Shaolin Cowboy: never bet against him even if the odds are insane. Think Jackie Chan replaced by a chubby but equally acrobatic Beat Takeshi. Button mashing is not an option.

 

 

 

 

You don’t have to have read anything previously, but FYI this picks up almost immediately after SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET during which Darrow nimbly and fluidly fashioned variation after variation of meat-cleaving mutilation in what I can only describe as the ultimate chainsaw massacre before the juice runs dry and our Cowboy quick-foots it across the top his quarry instead (not a quarry or the quarry but his quarry), deftly dispatching the beetle-bearing shamblers on the stepping-stone hoof.

It was utterly relentless and all the funnier for it.

This instalment has a bigger bite to it, with satire splattered all over the background details including car number plates, car stickers, graffiti, advertising slogans, other assorted excrement (one dog to another: “Man… what have you been eating?”), cigarette-smoking spiders, street-walking komodo dragons, assorted other unhealthy animals and a piles and piles of discarded tins cans. It’s not a nice neighbourhood, is what I’m trying to say.

 

 

The radio shows are no better.

“You got Dick Jeezuz on all Christian, all American, all white, alright Radio K.R.O.S.S. – what’s your question, brother?”
“Dick Jeezus… big believer. Listen to you every day. What kinda gun do you think Jesus carries?”
“Well, bless you, son. To answer your question, the Son of God don’t carry no gun. He is a gun. Next caller!”

I think it’s fair to say that Geof (one ‘f’) Darrow is not a big fan of organised religion incorporated. Nor of so many modern priorities and propensities such as driving while using a mobile phone which, I would remind you, is quite rightly illegal in this country.

 

 

His books are full of such careless cretins and this is no exception: an endless convoy of cars and commercial lorries hogging the desert highway, either oblivious to our battered and blood-soaked hero or throwing cigarette butts at him as they speed noisily by, ejecting a seemingly limitless stream of beer cans and fast-food trash, as well as expletives at their children.

Following the all-eviscerating events in SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET our Shaolin Cowboy is much the worse for wear, but is doggedly pursued by vultures…

 

 

 

… a glowing green warden from Hell, knife-legged dogs, a gigantic porcine powerhouse with weaponized nipple piercings, plus all and sundry in service to cranky crustacean King Crab using their I’m-Hung cell phones to track him via drones and satellite.

Each with their own vengeful reasons, they’re out to enlighten the shit out of his high-flying ass using sass, secret origins and shotguns. Some might un-friend him Facebook.

 

 

How can a two-tonne, elephantine pig raised on Cola and pork crackling possibly be balletic? Geof Darrow, that’s how. Now here comes the sow:

“We ninjas are known as the accountants of the martial arts world, because we always keep our balance! And I’m going to put you in the red!”

What horrors did Hog Kong behold as a piglet to drive it so stir-fry crazy that it’s now craving Shaolin Cowboy cutlets? It’s as funny as it is upsetting. Vegans will weep. Oh, the final three pages!

 

 

I don’t know how more emphatically I can commend it.

This is the only graphic novel that will GPS you all the way to Nirvana.

“Buddha be praised.”

SLH

Buy Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Underwinter vol 1: Symphony s/c (£8-99, Image) by Ray Fawkes.

“I keep having these nightmares and I think I know why.”

‘Symphony’ is all very sensual.

It’s also more than a little sinister, evoking early on the taut tensions of sado-masochism, the sharp string bow playing across soft, bared flesh.

Precisely worded, like any musical movement it builds beautifully.

“It’s my bruised ribs, struck, col legno, hit with the bow and not the hair…
“It’s my welted skin, the jete strokes, where the bow bounces again and again in ricochet.
“And then as the music intensifies, sautille, tremolo, bariolage… then it is also my voice.
“And there’s a pain that is beyond all imagining, beyond sanity
“And I weep…
“Because I don’t want it to end.”

‘Overture’ has two meanings, you know.

 

 

A string quartet is invited to play blindfold at an exclusive party at a secluded mansion. There is a lot of money involved: £10,000 each for this first session. If they are pleasing, and enjoyed, they will be asked back.

The gig is brought in by Kendall, the libertine of the group: well built, well racked and well packed, first seen laid back in the arms of an older man, his lunchbox painted to be prominent.

However harmonious they may be on stage, in private Ms Ortiz at least is fractious, sneering, until she sees the colour of the money.

“Welcome. I am Meister Maranatha.
“You will play the pieces in the order selected for you. Do not improvise. Do not speak during the performance.
“You will wear the clothes we provide. You will not remove your blindfolds.”

 

 

From the creator of the fiercely inventive ONE SOUL and THE PEOPLE INSIDE whose construction, specific to the medium of comics, you will never have seen the like of (no exaggeration), this is a complete change of delivery in watercolour washes reminiscent of David Mack, expressionistic flourishes which reminded me of Bill Sienkiewicz and Francis Bacon, then a raw, roaring, abrasive crescendo during which the blindfold slips and –

You might want to Google ‘Maranatha’.

SLH

Buy Underwinter vol 1: Symphony s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wildstorm: A Celebration Of 25 Years h/c (£26-99, DC) by Warren Ellis, Brett Booth, Brandon Choi, J. Scott Campbell, Dan Abnett, Christos Gage, Ed Brubaker & Bryan Hitch, Brett Booth, Jim Lee, Neil Googe, Dustin Nguyen, Sean Phillips.

“I’m not going to be here forever.
“When I go, you’re next up.
“So wake up and think.”

None of us are going to be here forever.

All of us will need our successors, so let us pray that they wake up and think.

Fortunately mine is a clear and indisputable upgrade, for our Jonathan gave you this very website precisely seven years ago upon which we published our first new Reviews Blog in November  2010, Week One.

Mark and I had been writing reviews a whole decade before that, but they were sent out only once, in our Page 45 Monthly Mailshot. If you weren’t signed up or never opened the email, then that was their only airing: they were subsequently lost to the world. Now old and new reside here together and forever I hope at www.page45.com. You can search by genre, title, creator or bits of creator. Please choose your appendages wisely.

Yes, anniversaries are awesome and this is Wildstorm’s 25th. Wildstorm was originally neo-classical superhero artist Jim Lee’s personal imprint of Image Comics, which he sold  to DC Comics where he has since become head-honcho / publisher. It was responsible for Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’s EX MACHINA which most now assume was originally from Vertigo.

 

 

Along with brand-new stories by the likes of Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch – reprising their run on THE AUTHORITY for the very first time since 1999 – this hardcover reprints many of Wildstorm’s past stellar moments both at Image and at DC, some of which are so rare that you may not have seen them, such as Brubaker and Phillips’s sequential-art intro / advertisement for SLEEPER SEASON TWO.

 

 

Others are reproduced in ways previously unseen, perhaps in black and white or uncensored, like two episodes of Millar and Quitely’s run on THE AUTHORITY which are in fact reproduced both in black and white and free from prior censorship.

I’ve done a compare-and-contrast and the original excisions are substantial and ridiculous, including turning the Engineer’s up-yours one-fingered salute into a fuck-you V sign whilst expanding “#$%hole” into a fully-fledged “asshole”. The rapist Colonel was re-inked and coloured up to disguise his Captain America mask as a gimp-suit mouth hole, all specific references to East Timor were erased and as for  Princess Diana’s final moments… ah, see for yourselves! 

But let’s take Ellis and Hitch’s THE AUTHORITY reprise, quoted above, for it is perfectly conceived and executed both as an anniversary celebration, as a piece poignant with hindsight, and as a re-visitation of their characters’ clipped, military precision when engaging effectively in a fist-fight. This Ellis invented, along with the mechanics and lateral-thinking logic of such a super-powered, problem-solving enterprise, and I’ve rarely seen that matched outside of Jim Kreuger’s, Dougie Braithwaite’s and Alex Ross’s JUSTICE.

 

 

By which I mean this: you are faced with a situation which can only be solved by specific power A once power B has enabled power C to free A from her (or his) restrictions using D’s specific knowledge and E’s unique, innate skills.

“Jack, we need you in play.”
“I’m dying. I get a day off for that.”
“Jack, name a city that hasn’t got any people in it.”

Why does Jenny Sparks need Jack Hawksmoor in play above all others? He can talk to cities. (You might recognise his surname.) Why do they need a city? They’re being assaulted by a giant Houseplant of Death. Why do they need it vacant? Because of what Sparks has in mind.

“Songliang, China. One of their ghost cities. Built, never populated.”

It’s time to open a door. But the aperture may need adjusting…

 

 

So many superhero series feature bland, repetitive pugilism devoid of dramatic tension (“I hit you, you hit me; I zap you with some nebulous powers”) but Ellis has always been exceptional at such site-specific or science-fiction-based riddles plus his historical knowledge is expansive so I cannot commend to you highly enough both his Cassady-illustrated PLANETARY and  THE AUTHORITY.

There will be material inside this hardcover which cannot match their ingenuity, for sure. I recommend the named creators’ own specific titles instead. But if you want just a little bit more, or are at all interested in the history of Wildstorm which Ellis is currently revisiting and re-inventing in his Euro-science-fiction series WILD STORM, then this is for you.

I loved Britain’s Jenny Sparks. She was far from invulnerable but she was entrusted with the protection of our 20th Century and she gave it her all, right up until her very last, pre-ordained, combative dying breath.

“Make it so the people of the 21st Century can sing a song of you.”

They’ll only do that if you show steel and kindness.

SLH

Buy Wildstorm: A Celebration Of 25 Years h/c and read the Page 45 review here

How Comics Work (£16-99, Rotovision Books) by Dave Gibbons, Tim Pilcher.

“Remember, the key to creativity is always observing the world in different ways.”

An exceptional guide to how comics and indeed the eye works, this can, should you fancy, also kick-start your own creativity and, as important as anything else, catalyse some creative thinking.

For this is no mere “how to draw” but more – like Scott McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS and MAKING COMICS and so many other books in Page 45’s Creating Comics Section – a manual that delves deeply into the mechanics of how this unique medium of sequential-art narrative actually operates. There will be plenty of illustrated advice on lettering, colouring, cover design and all visual elements which can be incorporated into comics, but more than anything else, as Tim Pilcher emphasises, this is about telling stories, and it comes from one of the medium’s most respected storytellers.

 

 

You might have heard of Dave Gibbons: WATCHMEN etc. Yes, he has fair few comics under his belt. Largely, then, he draws on these fifty years of experience and his own body of work to illustrate the variety and complexity of techniques, many of which may never have occurred to you, which he and Tim Pilcher examine together.

However, Gibbons has his own heroes including co-collaborators like Frank Miller, and their contributions are also called upon in interludes. Of GIVE ME LIBERTY, Gibbons recalls:

“I also suggested a character who saw crime as a disease, and [Frank’s] response was, “Yeah, but what would be better is a character who sees disease as a crime”. That was the Surgeon General.”

His medical approach was quite militant.

 

 

It’s a huge book of enormous scope and depth, and I’m a slow reader (and writer) so please forgive me if I leave you largely to absorb the book itself, by yourself, rather than simply regurgitate it on this keyboard. I’d be wasting both your time and mine.

However, I found the pages on ‘Hot Spots’ fascinating, and this is what I meant by “how the eye works”.

“Basic art theory states that within a given area, there are certain points, or ‘hot spots’, that the eye is attracted to, so it makes sense that this is where you should place what it is you really want people to look at.”

 

 

He elaborates and illustrates, obviously. No, this art isn’t one that you’d necessarily identify upon reading a comic. Ideally you should be immersed. I cannot abide a comic whose script I can hear being typed and, as Edward Albee once wrote, “Symbols should never be cymbals”. The analyses do remain riveting, though.

Landscapes, vehicles, character design, grid structure, panel designs, pacing and movement, thumbnails, pencils, inks (manual and digital), the practicalities or printing, lettering, dead space, colouring, covers and even back-cover design are all delved into – along with the spine! – before daily exercises are suggested including ‘mind maps’.

 

 

I can show you how to operate a till if you like, but for this infinitely higher skill set I hand you over to Mssrs Gibbons and Pilcher. Avoid repetition and keep it kinetic even in conversations, folks!

SLH

Buy How Comics Work 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’.

Black vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Black Mask) by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3 & Jamal Igle

The Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997 (£17-99, Spit And A Half) by Jenny Zervakis

Courtney Crumrin vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Elves vol 3 (£12-99, Insight Comics) by Marc Hadrien, Jean-Luc Istin & Ma Yi, Kyko Duarte

Freedom Hospital – A Syrian Story (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hamid Sulaiman

Jackass! (£8-99, Sublime) by Scarlet Beriko

Pashmina (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nidhi Chanani

The Senses h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Matteo Farinella

Justice League vol 4: Endless s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hitch & various

Superman Action Comics vol 4: The New World s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & various

Assassination Classroom vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Spirited Away Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2017 week four

October 25th, 2017

Featuring Dilraj Mann, Lizz Lunney, Darryl Cunningham, Tim Bird, Ben Read, Chris Wildgoose, Steve Skroce, Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, more!

Porcelain vol 3: Ivory Tower (Signed Bookplate Ed.) (£14-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose.

 

“Absolutely outrageous! You were definitely cheating! Because I was and you still won.”
“Never play cards with an ex-street thief, dear.”

It’s a beautiful, playful scene: Child who became Lady and who is now Mother, wrapped up all warm and sat on a tarpaulin-lined travelling rug, out in the snow among the shattered remains of the cemetery. Her two immediate children, Ariemma and Victorienne – one adopted, the other almost all that is left of the love of her life – have brought her a picnic of secret provisions and there is finally a brief lull or lacuna for laughter.

There’s also Nana, her former lover’s mother who provides nourishment and encouragement without fail.

“Steady on. Things aren’t that bad, are they?”
“I think… they are. It’s all falling down.”

Child came from nothing. Lady built so much. But Mother is another proposition altogether.

 

 

While resolute in her principal of defence not attack, Mother has surrounded her estate full of sentient Porcelain scientists, craftsmen and guardsmen with a vast, impenetrable wall and built therein – and high into the sky – the most enormous, elaborate tower structure which inevitably casts its imposing shadow over the surrounding city, forever drawing attention to its lofty self-seclusion.

She had no choice: the military wanted to use her Porcelain creations as weapons in their war and would not take “No” for an answer. “No” was her answer anyway, but it cost her dearly. Now she has seen everyone and everything she holds dear assaulted and under siege. She has done things in the interest of expediency which she prays that no one will know.

But it’s all coming out now, and it’s all coming down.

“Mother? Your order.”
“Launch the attack.”

 

 

I cannot even begin to tell you what a heart-wrenching tide you are in for. I could try, but your jaw will still hit the floor when turning the pages yourself.

PORCELAIN volume II was our biggest-selling graphic novel in 2015, even though it came out in October that year. Its sales eclipsed everything that was published as far back as January, February and March, and at Page 45 even doubled that of its worthy rival: Neil Gaiman’s return to SANDMAN with SANDMAN: OVERTURE.

Let’s play that again: Neil Gaiman, New York Times best-selling novelist returning to one of DC’s biggest perennial sellers, owned by Time Warner with its multi-million-dollar advertising budget. Its sales were, as expected, stratospheric. PORCELAIN is published from a small British farmhouse with an advertising budget of approximately zero.

 

 

Essentially steampunk, yet effortlessly levitating over any of those more quirky elements which might make it more niche, PORCELAIN is the story of one woman’s trajectory in life from a street-thief who had nothing but bullish friends to a woman who inherited – through assiduous attention and learning – a craftsman’s creative genius and then, in his memory, was inspired to set about building her own principled legacy whilst under pressure from society’s baser instincts and territorial demands. But that’s the funny thing about principles while under restriction and covert or overt attack: you inevitably compromise some, and there was always a dark secret at the heart of their art. Over and again, Mother maintains that if only she’d been left in peace in order to protect, then none of this would have been necessary…

PORCELAIN has also always been about family since volume one when the original Porcelain-maker adopted Child – who had none – as an “Uncle”. Now she too has adopted, and both her girls have become teenagers, eager to learn but restless and testing boundaries when the biggest boundary of all is that impenetrable wall, outside of which they aren’t safe. Nana is part of that family as are her trusted, wealthy advisors, Prosper and his lover Siegfried. But so are Mother’s Porcelain for they are not just sentient, they are each of them unique individuals with desires of their own and lives they might lose.

Ah yes, motherhood: it forms a much broader part of this arc than I’m willing to divulge, but here is a key moment when an option to evacuate is offered by the city, under safe passage aboard a fleet of trading vessels  en route to the Island States.

“Captain, you speak well, but I will not trust my children in another’s hands.”
“Great Alchymic, my reputation… my fleet would stand for you, as though my own children. Sail with us away from this coming war. Please.”
“… No. We leave in our own fleet one day or not at all. I’m sorry your time was wasted.”
“My lady, you must come with us. My future depends on it.”

There’s not one random word in the Captain’s entreaty and, when you read it, watch Chris Wildgoose’s body language carefully, then weep.

So we leave wordsmith Benjamin Read to focus on Chris Wildgoose, letter artist Jim Campbell who accentuates the Porcelains’ individuality through subtle variations within their speech balloons, and colour artist André May whose seasons, weather fluctuations and times of day are eloquently evoked even indoors. It’s a predominantly soft, subtle and complementary palette which May employs so that when the green glows, it does so eerily, ethereally and – in several eye-smacking scenes – as aggressively as if it were red.

As last time, Wildgoose provides nearly a dozen pages of detailed, annotated preparatory work showing just how much thought has gone into each Porcelain’s evolving body structure, red-glass armour, robes or uniforms, limb joints and the “almost ivy-like growth to the Rune patterns”.

I’ll have already slapped you with Chris Wildgoose’s monumental aerial shot of the tower structure which may have required a little more effort on Ben Read’s part than the similarly striking second page in their brilliant book, BRIAR. But I’d have to ask! It manages to combine, harmoniously, elements of the European and the traditional fairy-tale castle with Persian minarets and futurist buttressing, gangways and even gardens. Once more, hats off to André May in lighting each outcrop up against the city beneath it, distinct yet distanced by haze.

Mother’s face is more drawn than Lady’s, increasingly so as she wears herself out in The Link. The Link is where Mother can co-opt an individual Porcelain’s body momentarily or see through the eyes of all her creations at once – which gives one quite the advantage over any other generals when in command of an army.

The lines are crisp and ridiculously rich in detail, but never stiff, never without humanity especially when it comes to the Porcelain, some of which are slender and others ape-like in posture while Alder, the loyalist of the loyal, has a soft, tender gentleness in spite of his hulking body and massive, heavy hands.

As ever at Page 45 each copy of PORCELAIN comes – initially at least – with an exclusive bookplate signed by Ben Read and Chris Wildgoose for which we are profoundly and eternally grateful, just as we were proud to launch this third volume in our very own Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017, much to the surprise of all including ourselves! I heartily love a last-minute surprise!

They never last long, so please snap them up. While stocks last, etc.

So here we go: once more the military will not take “No” for an answer and once more the adamant answer from Mother remains “No”.

The citadel is surrounded on all sides and – with the war over – the army has turned its full attention and all its resources upon Mother, her entourage and their sky-scraping enclave. Please do not think they are stupid. They have stratagems of their own.

Does our commanding ex-street thief having something fresh and unexpected up her sleeve?

She does! Yes, she does!

Oh. I’m very much afraid that she does.

SLH

Buy Porcelain vol 3: Ivory Tower (Signed Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Graphic Science: Seven Journeys Of Discovery (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham…

“In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance of images often accompanied by flashes of light which marred the sight of real objects.
“When a word was spoken to me, the image of the object it designated would present itself vividly to my vision. Then I observed to my delight that I could visualise with the greatest faculty.
“I needed no models, drawings or experiments. I could picture them all as real in my mind. But I never had any control of the flashes of light to which I referred.
“In some instances I have seen all the air around me filled with tongues of flame.
“Their intensity increased with time and seemingly attained a maximum when I was 25 years old.
“During this period I contracted many strange likes, dislikes and habits. I had a violent aversion to the earrings of women but I was fascinated with the glitter of crystalline objects with sharp edges and plane surfaces.
“I would not touch the hair of other people, except at the point of a revolver.
“I would get fever by looking at a peach.
“I counted the steps of my walks.
“And calculated the cubical volume of soup plates, coffee cups and pieces of food.
“Otherwise my meal was unenjoyable.
“All repeated acts or operations I performed had to be divisible by three, and, if I missed, I felt impelled to do them all over again, even if it took hours.”

Can you guess the mad scientist yet from that bonkers introduction?

No? I’ll give you one more clue…

“I was interested in electricity from the very beginning of my educational career.”

Yes, it’s Nicola Tesla!

 

 

Once again, Darryl Cunningham returns to educate and entertain us in equal measure with seven – count ‘em! (not you Tesla, you’ll be here all day!) – biographies of scientists who were just as fascinating in their everyday lives, if not more so, as they were for their discoveries. I would imagine that most people have probably at least heard of Tesla, but the other six will be far less well known to many, particularly if science is not your thing.

But that’s precisely why you should read this work, because not only does Darryl regale us with fun facts about his chosen luminaries, plus considerable detail about their particular privations and hardships that they endured, but he also clearly expounds the hypotheses and theories – some considerably more valid than others – for which his quorum of boffins became… okay, well, not well known to the general public, but certainly celebrated within their preferred fields of science. Though not all within their lifetimes unfortunately.

 

 

So in addition to Tesla we have Antoine Lavoisier who managed to debunk the then held theories about the composition of air and the illusory element Phlogiston before ultimately going to the guillotine during the French Revolution. Mary Anning, who did so much to further our understanding of geology and fossils but went almost completely uncredited purely due to her gender.

 

 

George Washington Carver, one of the last Americans to be born into slavery who fought against racial discrimination throughout his entire life whilst working on modernising agricultural techniques.

 

 

Alfred Wegener, who first put forward the concept of Pangea, though because it was before our understanding of how plate tectonics worked was frustratingly unable to provide a convincing mechanism to support his theory whilst alive.

 

 

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars and who was denied even a share of the Nobel Prize for her discovery due once again to gender discrimination.

 

 

And finally Fred Hoyle, who whilst he did some sterling work on explaining the abundance of all the various elements in the Universe, wasn’t averse to coming up with outlandish theories on pretty much anything and everything seemingly whenever the fancy took him, which contributed to costing him a Nobel Prize.

 

 

 

Moving forward from the mid 1700s to the modern day with this work, what Darryl so admirably demonstrates is that all of these very different individuals had a really deep compunction and relentless drive to experientially comprehend the world and universe around them, despite the relative paucity of information that was available to them. Their stories, of what they struggled with personally, as well as professionally, undoubtedly helped shape their formidable minds and thus to help advance our collective human understanding.

As we move ever further into the modern era of collaborative big science, with huge teams of people working globally on petabytes of data, often provided purely by computer modelling as much as experimental output, it’s perhaps becoming harder and harder to envisage individuals making such radical leaps in understanding, often against the conventional wisdom of the time, as our learned colleagues here all did.

For as we iterate ever closer to complete intellectual understanding of, well, everything in the Universe, with our rapidly burgeoning computer power, and indeed the advent of artificial intelligence driving virtual research many orders of magnitude faster than a human mind could even conceive of, you also get the sense that there are going to be fewer and fewer opportunities for such intuitive geniuses to help us spontaneously burst out of our currently held intellectual cul-de-sacs.

Fortunately, there will always be a need for comics, particularly ones by Darryl. It just occurs to me, actually, that there is a lovely dual meaning in the title for this work. For not only is Darryl detailing these scientists’ seven individual journeys of discovery, but he’s also very kindly providing us all with seven journeys of discovery of our own to engage upon.

Art-wise it’s the usual comically clinical, wittily engaging style which has served him so well to date with his previous works: PSYCHIATRIC TALES (we’ve more stock on its way!), SCIENCE TALES and SUPERCRASH. Though I am rather sad not to see Darryl’s own talking head this time around! He does however provide a very inspiring foreword, I must say. But I do always manage to spot something different each time, and here I found myself marvelling (no pun intended) at some Jack Kirby-esque moments whilst Darryl was illustrating some mysterious goings-on deep in outer space.

 

 

It also reminded me he did an amazing sequence of cosmically crazy character designs that he put up on social media a few months ago which I really, really hope end up getting used in something!

I will leave you with part of the concluding paragraph of his foreword, which, as I say, I found very rousing. From my perspective, he himself is doing exactly what this call to action exhorts us all to do…

“Be a scientist in your own life. Change things the way these seven people did. They were not superhuman. They struggled much as we do. Yet they have transcended their lives and given much to the world.”

JR

Buy Graphic Science: Seven Journeys Of Discovery and read the Page 45 review here

Dalston Monsterzz h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dilraj Mann.

“Last time I saw you I predicted you’d meet a new boy… Is this he?”
“No no no. This is another guy.”
“You have two?”
“He’s not another guy. He’s the other one’s friend.”
“You’re seeing two friends? Risky.”

It’s the way that reputed fortune teller Afsa Al Ansari holds up her palm advisedly – along with her doubtful gaze – that makes it so funny.

Lolly and Roshan did not get off to the best start. Lolly started dating Roshan’s best friend Kay and Roshan swiftly grew meanly, inarticulately jealous: she was coming between their bromance.

Thing is, poor Roshan had only just got out of Holloway’s Young Offender Institution after a criminal six-month sentence for idly stealing a £1-50 bottle of water and (one bike ride aside) suave and confident Kay has been far from attentive. He’s been partying away while Roshan’s languished alone in his nagging home in one of the old Brutalist block of concrete flats.

Parenthetically, Rosh was stitched up by an opportunist politician called David Dawes. And if that sounds slightly familiar then, yes, real-life Nicolas Robinson received a six-month sentence for stealing a £3-50 case of water from Lidl in Brixton in August 2011 following the London riots and subsequent looting. It was a £3-50 case of water! That’s something that I’m unlikely to ever forget.

 

 

So be not deceived: within this fashion riot and monster romp there is a great deal of scathing socio-political satire about the gentrification of East London and the corruption that’s come with it – right at the top.

Property developer Conrad Vess is at its epicentre. Oh, he has many a dark secret, does Conrad Vess, not least his family circumstances. He also has connections, from the police head-honcho to his close Confidence, leader of the Teenage Mutant Dalston Bastards. There are many such gangs in East London and you’ll find a handy map and breakdown of these territorial tossers on pages 34 and 35, plus they all have their own monsters outside of Conrad Vess. Monsters…? Giant Monsters! We will get to them in a second, but each gang has its own schtick: its base location, modus operandi and unifying sartorial brand – they are beautifully designed. I particularly liked the t-shirt triangles and their inverted red facial tattoos or face-paint.

 

 

Dilraj has a fine eye for chic urban fashion, be it observed or imagined. It won him a place in the British Comics Awards a few years ago, deservedly so. His body forms are deliciously atypical while his faces can be so grotesque as to make monsters out of everyone. In some ways he reminds me of Dave Cooper. Anyway, it’s all so apposite here.

So: there are monsters – ever so colourful, some of them. They are reckoned to have begun manifesting during the massive property development upheaval when ugly flats were torn down to make way for luxury accommodation for the stinking rich. Not for the many, but for the few. They crawled out of the gaping holes in the housing market and have since started parading around Dalston on stilts (by which I mean their own legs) or bouncing about Lolly’s symbiotic best friend Neana. When her monster rests Lolly grows super-strong, able to punch up a posse or strike down a dude on one go. They can communicate, although wait until you work out how Neana is summoned. Clue: it requires a quick trip into the bushes.

Lolly, I should tell you, is Vess’s step-daughter and she has gone officially missing. This has pissed off Conrad Vess for reasons beyond parental pride or protection for in fact our Lolly was kicked out of home. So he has called on gang leader Confidence to root her out of hiding, but Confidence kidnapped her boyfriend Kay instead in order to lure Lolly to Conrad’s Zag complex from which he operates a brutal underground tournament entertainment for international investors to gather round then bet on.

Did I mention that there might be a smidgeon of socio-politics?

“Let’s get out of her, Neana.
“It’s time for some exposition.”

 

Lolly is probably right: you’re feeling a little lost. We are in desperate need some sort of summary so let’s hear it from Roshan who is riding high on monster Neana with Lolly whom he used to loathe.

“So let me get this straight.
“Your old gang kidnapped Kay.
“We need to get to this Zag place but you don’t know where it is.
“And all the gangs in Dalston are after you?
“Oh, and I need to ask… What is a Bad Bitch and how do I become one?”

You’ll need to level-up, Roshan!

 

 

This is delirious and I am in love, with everything from its design to its sequential-art narrative. There is a flight and fight scene spanning two pages which thrilled me. I’ve not seen anything quite like it. That double-page spread boasts multiple, split but grouped panels within what would normally be a single panel to reflect – I think – the ever-increasing, frantic and bellicose beat of the pursuers and pursued ones’ hearts. Towards its climax the colours do the opposite of flat-line yet flatten to a potentially explosive vital, vivid and cardiac red.

Whooosh! when you turn over the page, however! It’s like an intense compression giving birth to brand-new day and a life-saving opportunity to live yet another!

Everything here is so masterfully connected. It’s only when you ascend this rollercoaster’s climax that you will comprehend exactly how each element mirrors, is distorted by, or was always going to engender the other.

Oh. Now, do you remember where we came in with Lolly asking Afsa Al Ansari for directions only to receive dubious dating advice? It turns out that Afsa’s daughter Aisha has some precognitive skills of her own, advising our Roshan to Google “Falada” or else be consumed during his rescue mission by monsters. You might want to Google that too.

Lastly:

“For your information, it wasn’t parsley…
“It was coriander.”

Haha! You’ll see!

SLH

Buy Dalston Monsterzz h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Street Dawgz: Boxlife (£5-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

“Still I’ll find new accommodation…
“We’ll make plans… from mobile phones.”

 – David Sylvian / Japan

Wait, wait – mobile homes!

It’s mobile homes, Stephen!

But either applies here. You’ll see.

It’s the return of anthropological expert Professor Lizz Lunney for a searing socio-political indictment of poverty, class, and homelessness in the form of the demi-delusional STREET DAWGZ whose last beatnik appearance I treated with equally rigorous academic acumen.

Dingo, Jekyll, Rossetti and Ian (that still makes me laugh) are all living the dream from the confines of their shared cardboard box, and they have everything they need for a fulfilling life of high-brow art-assessment and low-brow, bow-bow begging.

“Apart from food.”
“And water.”
“And intelligent company.”

 

 

Who needs an architect to draw up a costly, intricate extension to bricks and mortar when you are quite literally living in a box? Not these four fools. They can just scavenge for a second, open-plan cardboard cottage and bunk up in pairs. But they will need to put more thought than that into curing dipstick Dingo of his newfound hound-held addiction to social media.

Oh yes, even the homeless pine for a fulfilling life online – and why wouldn’t they when their real one is so deprived? Dingo has acquired a smart phone (I know not from where) and has become utterly absorbed in his daily desire for constant affirmation through BookFace, Bitter and Winstagram:

“If I get a million ‘likes’ for one of my images I win.”
“Win at what?”
“At life, I hope.”

I think that’s unlikely, Dingo, but do please see HELLBOUND LIFESTYLE for similar struggles and potential recognition-box-ticking. Then enjoy Dingo’s wider algorithm blues.

It’s all too, too funny! And true!

I think you’ll enjoy the Lord Of The Rings “Precious” reference.

 

 

If picking this up from our counter or ordering online, please help yourselves to free money. It claims that it’s “worthless” but it’ll set you up right proper in Lizzneyland.

I’d like to live in Lizzneyland. I doubt you can drive there. It’s more of a state of mind, medically referred to as dementia.

SLH

Buy Street Dawgz: Boxlife and read the Page 45 review here

The Rocket (£4-00) by Tim Bird…

 

“I think he’s overdone that slightly.”

On the face of it, a comic about snooker doesn’t seem like the most fascinating topic. Yet for fans of stroking their balls across the green baize, or just larger than life sporting characters such as one Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan, this will be just like the moment they first heard Captain Sensible sing the Snooker Song. But better. Much better. Though with that said, here’s John Hurt reciting from the Hunting Of The Snark mashed up with the not-so-Sensible one doing the Snooker Song all accompanied by a full orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. It certainly makes you miss John Hurt…

Anyway, back in 1997 the youthful O’Sullivan achieved an outlandish feat, which to me and many other amateur cue-men, seemed verging on the impossible: hitting a maximum 147 break in a mere 5 minutes 20 seconds. 36 shots of potting perfection at an average of a mere 8.8 seconds per shot.

 

 

Casting my mind further back to watching the moustachioed Cliff Thornburn’s epic 147 at the Sheffield Crucible in 1983, which seemed to take an eon – I can still clearly see the look of fearsome ‘tasche-twitching tension on his face as he took on a long-distance pressure pot on the final yellow – the idea that someone could clear the table whilst making it look like they were simultaneously going for a walk in the park seems utterly preposterous. It still does, frankly.

 

 

Here, Tim Bird provides us with his unique take on this slice of snooker history. I’ve often commented that Tim’s exquisite combination of words and images has a majesty akin to poetry. Here he manages to achieve that feeling with only the barest amount of text, this being mostly silent, aside from the referee racking up the Rocket’s scorching scoring and the odd nod to Ted Lowe’s apposite sublimely understated commentary.

“Four minutes for the century.
“Amazing.”

 

 

Instead Tim conjures up various camera angles and close-ups, makes full use of the classic trajectory-line-on-table BBC special effect, plus throws in one very neat time lapse trick on a full-page spread where we get multiple Rockets (nine!) at the same time, slamming balls in from every conceivable direction that even the master trickster John Virgo would simply have to stop and marvel at.

 

 

It’s a visual feast of intricate page and panel composition throughout that neatly captures the insanely brilliant lunacy of five minutes and twenty seconds of non-stop action from a man in a dinner suit nailing snooker shots with a precision of an expert sniper caressing a chattering, smoking AK47. Or was that just chalk dust? Not even Bond could do it better.

 

 

I genuinely think Tim Bird is as amazing as Whispering Ted Lowe thought Ronnie O’Sullivan was. A neatly framed piece of comics perfection.

JR

Buy The Rocket and read the Page 45 review here

Maestros #1 (£3-25, Image) by Steve Skroce.

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), 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. At least, those still residing within the Realms.

 

 

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 fully-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.

 

 

Please ask at the counter if you’d like to see what’s inside, or indeed my resignation.

SLH

Buy Maestros #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth.

From the writer of LAZARUS, BLACK MAGICK and half of GOTHAM CENTRAL etc, if you like Lark’s art you will love Southworth’s. I’d been looking forward to this for months now when the hardcover came out five years ago, and it did not disappoint!

It’s something more for CRIMINAL and indeed SCALPED readers to get their teeth stuck into; even the art bears a resemblance to Sean Phillips’s, only with a little more light and a few ruled lines.

It’s not noir, but it is fine contemporary crime set around Portland starring a P.I. called Dex who’s smart on a case but dumb in a casino. The truth is she just can’t quit. It’s a trait that’s going to land her in so much trouble tonight when she agrees to look for Charlotte, the granddaughter of the all-seeing owner of the casino who is prepared to write off Dex’s 18K in return for her services. Charlotte’s taken her clothes and toiletries but not her car. And she is still alive but Dex’s investigations are hampered by two additional but very different parties also after Charlotte.

As with GOTHAM CENTRAL, Rucka’s created a cast with more than a little heart – everyone asks after Dex’s younger brother Ansel, no matter which side they’re on.

 

 

The dialogue is a free-flowing, naturalistic joy, clues are dotted all over the place if you care to scan the panels properly and – oh look! – we even have interior art to show off! That is one majestically sweeping piece of inset-panel placement.

SLH

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

Hookjaw – Classic Collection h/c (£29-99, Titan) by Pat Mills, Ken Armstrong & Ramon Sola, Juan Arrancio, Eric Bradbury, Feliz Carrion, Jim Bleach.

The one that got away!

The Great White Shark returns from the depths of censorship to swim another day and bite another boy in two.

Another classic British strip from the pages of ACTION weekly, which fell foul of ill-informed media outrage rather than anything else, as is always the way. The public was lapping it up.

Ramon Sola drew a voracious, dead-eyed predator which did actually look like a Great White coming at you from all angles, churning the Caribbean seas up with enough lithe ferocity to give you the willies. Alas, once Felix Carrion took over there was barely more than a single head-shot repeated ad nauseam, with rows of cartoon spikes rather than teeth.

Now, unlike Hookjaw himself, I haven’t had time to digest everything in sight, but to an adult’s eyes the writing seems as lame as the lettering: bland capitals not in speech balloons, but in stencilled boxes whose individual lines bulged awkwardly as dialogue required. Each week Armstrong sought another excuse to send his oil rig workers back down underwater to scream “The jaws! The jaws!” as the ecologically driven Hookjaw (he had a hook through his lower jaw, courtesy of episode one) made it his personal mission to sabotage any form of self-sufficiency in the Caribbean oil industry. No wonder Shell handed back their license to Trinidad in 2003.

Another oddity which someone might explain to me is how come a commercial aircraft crashes conveniently beside the oil rig as Hurricane Clara hits in 1970 six pages after the series has been explicitly anchored in 1973.

Okay, I’m expecting too much: it’s just a production line to sate kids’ interest on a weekly basis following the success of the film Jaws. If I’d read it myself back then I’d have been as hooked as the giant haddock here, having spent a childhood with at least one nightmare a week involving sharks to the point where (thanks perhaps to James Bond) I could even make them out circling around the shallow end of an indoor public swimming pool.

 

 

2009 saw a half-hearted attempt to collect the carnage with atrocious reproduction values and the sort of contents page that puts one in mind of a nineteen-year-old-student’s first dissertation before computers were invented. Fortunately this is far more lavish, complete with its original coloured pages and, in any case, is not to be confused with last year’s HOOKJAW by Simon Spurrier & Conor Boyle which our chum Jonathan (who bought the original series as it came out!) reviewed with relish.

SLH

Buy Hookjaw – Classic Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wild Storm vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt.

“Take it from me: there’s no such thing as being alive too long.
“There’s always something new.”

There speaks the futurist in Warren Ellis, constantly scanning the technological, literary and political horizons for what’s coming next.

This time, however, the creator of INJECTION, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, TREES et al is concerned with new iterations, specifically of old Wildstorm characters like those he himself introduced in THE AUTHORITY and its predecessor, STORMWATCH. It was a broader science fiction than its subgenre of superheroes, whilst keeping some of its more prominent trappings – the costumes, HQ and action – right out in front in order to please its readers. It did please its readers including me. I recommend THE AUTHORITY unequivocally.

This veers even further away into purer science fiction with a far more European sensibility aided by Jon Davis-Hunt’s clean detail and spirit of place, and Ivan Plascencia’s cool blue and brown, sky and earth palette slashed with mere traces, tiny trickles of blood which make them all the more painful and worrying.

 

 

You need have read nothing before: Ellis is starting from scratch as if nothing had gone before, although there’s no point in throwing the babies with some potential out along with the cold, dirty bathwater. Deliberately, then, I’ll mention no more of the imprint’s prior incarnation and simply suggest some of what is presented here.

 

 

Covert civic operations seeking to keep gene-spliced blood out of the city’s water supply. Overt economic operations seeking to make big bucks from cleaner energy sources while keeping the alien nature of their corporation’s head under wraps. Covert International Operations seeking to keep quietly running the world while wizened Henry Bendix aboard Skywatch keeps tabs on them suspiciously from above. Miles Craven, director of I.O., seeking to share a street-side citron pressé with his husband Julian without being harassed by a clumsy, scatty and intense scientist / employee called Angela Spica determined to raise the bar on their ambitions exponentially in order to enhance lives worldwide in a whole new way.

Each one of those goals is compromised, in one way or another, by the chain reaction within.

 

 

For a start, Angela’s already experimented on herself.

I’m going to leave it there for fear of spoilers, but I’ll just return, if I may, to Jon Davis-Hunt and that “tiny trickle of blood”. There’s a slash in Angie’s t-shirt suggesting the experiment hurt plenty, but that’s nothing compared to a small sequence of panels after Angie sees a man bursting out of a plate glass window high above the HALO billboards advertising “Solar For Homes”, “A Battery Cell For Life” and “We’re Making The Next New World”. It is excruciating, as jagged shards of cellular meta-metal rearrange themselves and multiply, tearing through tissue then skin. The skin is just under one of Angie’s eyes. Every element there has been designed to emphasise the personal price and pain.

 

 

So:

HALO wants to make the world cleaner.

Angie wants to make the world safer.

International Operations wants to keep the world broken: it’s easier to control that way.

I was going to expand my re-edited review of the first issue to the whole collection but then I read this on the back cover and vomited: “These legendary antiheroes transformed the way superhero stories were told. Their return will rip the system once again”.

Typical hype-monkey lies, through and through.

 

 

Corporate hype-monkeys: you are transparent. How do you even live with yourselves? You’d fit in so well at UKIP and the Tory party.

I bet they sell insurance on the side.

SLH

Buy The Wild Storm vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman / The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition h/c (£17-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Tom King & Jason Fabok, Howard Porter…

“Flash. The bloody button we found in the cave after Wally appeared. I was looking over it again, and it had some sort of reaction to Psycho-Pirate’s mask.”
“Oh, Bruce, hey! So yeah, I’m kind of in the middle of a kind of Samuroid invasion thing. Sorry, can this wait?”
“The radiation we found on the button seems to have spiked. Appeared as if it ripped a hole in the Speed Force. I saw… there was… something wrong at the bottom of the hole.”
“Okay… well, there’s, like, still thirty-seven of these things coming. Should take me… I don’t know…. How about I meet you at the cave in one minute?”
“All right.”
KKRACKK
“You said a minute. Of all people, Flash, didn’t expect you to be early.”
“Flash? No. Quite the reverse, actually.”

Ostensibly this is part two of the ongoing epic that sees the regular DC Multiverse and the Watchmen Universe collide (see DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH for a review of part one to get you up to speed as to why the entire New 52 epoch was a… fabrication)  which will conclude imminently with the forthcoming DOOMSDAY CLOCK penned by Geoff Johns, as was DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH.

 

 

Now… even though Geoff Johns isn’t credited with any writing duties on this particular 4-parter that ran through the regular BATMAN and FLASH titles, I can detect his sticky little paws all over it. Not least because, to my mind, it subtly references (in addition once again to FLASHPOINT) two other previous books by Johns in the form of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: THE LIGHTNING SAGA and FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF 3 WORLDS. Make of that what you will… Yes, many loose ends are simultaneously becoming unravelled and others getting tied up as it all becomes a bit timey-wimey in this bridging volume. Maybe we’ll finally find out where that pesky lightning rod came from!

 

 

Once again, this is a very well written piece of fun, with not one, but two, real ocular moisture-inducing moments for the more histrionic of DC fans, as Bruce and Barry set off for a jog on the cosmic treadmill to discover precisely why the Reverse Flash is lying dead in a crispy friend fashion on the Batcave floor. I wonder, can we think of anyone previously accused of irradiating people…? Let me give you a clue… he’s blue and he has a self-inflicted brand on his forehead.

 

 

Just in case you’re really not sure by now, the postscript featuring Dr. Manhattan (well, his arm at least) will only tantalise you further as said clock ticks inexorably towards midnight…

I would probably pre-order DOOMSDAY CLOCK right now in order to avoid becoming the splattered victim of your own Rorschach Test.

 

JR

Buy Batman / The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: Standoff s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, various & Mark Bagley, various.

I had zero intention of reviewing its prologue and little more inclination to read it. But do you know what? It surprised me. What became of the story as a whole I will never know but, for what it’s worth, I wrote this of the first forty pages:

I love Nick Spencer’s THE FIX and THIEF OF THIEVES plus his work at Marvel has been better than most. But the last thing anyone wanted or needed so early into Marvel’s fresh, post-SECRET WARS re-launch was a crossover to which this is the kick-off catalyst.

It will envelope nearly a dozen different Marvel titles – ranging from its multiple AVENGERS series to the non-entity why-do-these-even-exist – written and drawn by completely different individuals, so the quality here is no indication of what is to come. To be clear: this is not an endorsement of the pocket-gouging policy nor an encouragement for you to splash out ridiculous sums of cash  on a corporate crossover when superhero fans could instead be buying the enormously entertaining JESSICA JONES, INFAMOUS IRON MAN or even THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, all of which essentially feature powers without capes.

But this is, nonetheless, an interesting premise whose initial execution sets the stage for a great deal of dramatic irony.

Pleasant Hill is a leafy little town where everyone is idyllically happy and civic-minded. There are restrictions, to be sure: curfews etc, but everyone is exceedingly kind and almost excessively courteous, especially to strangers. Stray upon it by accident and you may not want to leave – which would be fortunate, since you can’t.

 

 

You can’t because it’s a construct, a sham. It’s a prison for supervillains created by S.H.I.E.L.D. which has grown bored shitless of incarcerating super-powered sociopaths only for them to break out and cause billions of dollars of collateral damage (and, incidentally, the loss of lives) to satisfy their psychopathy. If psychopathy is ever satisfied: I don’t think those two words mix, really, do they?

The whole enterprise is understandably way off the books because it involves a complete abandonment of human rights. S.H.I.E.L.D. is using fragments of the reality-altering Cosmic Cube to rewrite the felons’ entire identities. They’re not just brainwashing them, they are refashioning them into new individuals physically and mentally.

Now, let us be clear: I’m all for it. I don’t believe in the real-life death penalty because I don’t have faith in the British or American or almost every other justice system because they have been proved over and over again to be racist and target-driven rather than justice-driven: innocent individuals are locked up every day by those who know they’re not guilty. In the la-la land of superheroes wherein the villains run riot, however, I’m with Maria ‘Pleasant’ Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. – fuck ‘em.

 

 

The problem lies in my previous paragraph, because S.H.I.E.L.D. has just done precisely that: they have incarcerated a hero who got too close to their truth. What I will not spoil for you who has become trapped there and who they’re been turned into on the very last page. Clever.

I don’t know if it’s Scott Hanna’s inks or a departure for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s Mark Bagley, but the art here is slightly more grounded in reality, ironically enough.

SLH

Buy Avengers: Standoff 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’.

Monograph h/c (£45-00, Rizzoli International Publications) by Chris Ware

The Comic Book Story Of Video Games (£16-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey & Jack McGowan

Futchi Perf (£14-50, Uncivilised Books) by Kevin Czap

Now #1 (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Rebecca Morgan, Sara Corbett, Tobias Schalken, Eleanor Davis, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, J.C. Menu, Noah Van Sciver, Tommi Parrish, Kaela Graham, Daria Tessler, Conxita Hererro, Malachi Ward, Matt Shean, Antoine Cosse, Sammy Harkham, Nick Thorburn

Present (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Leslie Stein

Redneck vol 1: Deep In The Heart s/c (£14-99, Image) by Donny Cates & Lisandro Estherren

The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls (£12-50, Dark Horse) by various including Mariko Tamaki, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu, Margaret Atwood, Jen Vaughn

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow

Super Tokyoland (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Benjamin Reiss

Underwinter vol 1: Symphony s/c (£8-99, Image) by Ray Fawkes

Batman: Night Of The Monster Men s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, various & Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald

Hellblazer vol 2: The Smokeless Fire s/c (£14-99, DC) by Simon Oliver & Philip Tan

Super Sons vol 1: When I Grow Up… s/c (£11-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Jorge Jimenez, Alisson Borges

Wildstorm: A Celebration Of 25 Years h/c (£26-99, DC) by Warren Ellis, Brett Booth, Brandon Choi, J. Scott Campbell, Dan Abnett, Christos Gage & Bryan Hitch, Brett Booth, Jim Lee, Neil Googe, Dustin Nguyen

Weapons Of Mutant Destruction s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Mahmud A. Asrar, Robert Gill, Marc Borstel

Inuyashiki vol 9 (£10-99, Viz) by Hiroya Oku

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2017 week three: Lakes Festival Special

October 19th, 2017

The following comics, Moomin tote bag and prints are now available for Worldwide Distribution EXCLUSIVELY from Page 45! Festival photos below!

Also: thank you, thank you, thank you! Page 45 broke its own weekend sales record yet again! £10,195.27 is what we took on top of Nottingham sales, and exactly £1,300.00 of that goes directly to OCDAction and LICAF itself, including its Creator Development Fund, through weekend sales of the following…

Spirit Centenary Newspaper (Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017) (£5-00, LICAF) by Sean Phillips (editor), 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.

“Oh. Thank Goodness. It was a dream.”
“Umm… Not this time, Mister Spirit.”

Haha, dear, dear Chris Samnee!

It can be a rough-and-tumble world, fighting crime.

Under a sensual, bold and beautiful Becky Cloonan cover, this 12-page anthology of 10 self-contained stories is a breath-taking, broadsheet-sized spectacle at a whopping 23” x 14.5” or 58 x 27 cm.

With love, respect and a great deal of grin-inducing wit, a stunning array of top-tier international comicbook creators celebrate the centenary of the birth of Will Eisner (1917-2017) in a project instigated by John McShane and LICAF itself, then directed and edited by Festival Patron Sean Phillips, artist on KILL OR BE KILLED, CRIMINAL, USER, THE FADE OUT, FATALE and so much more.

I don’t know if it’s wholly inappropriate to note that Sean also paid for its printing from his own pocket, but I am my own editor, and so I do so.

Sean provides a full page here along with his co-conspirator on the above, Ed Brubaker. It is as subtle as you’d imagine. It is so subtle that you will need to read it with your eyes peeled at least twice to spy what The Spirits spots on Marvin to make him such an obvious suspect in the killing of sadistic (so not much missed) crime lord Mugsy Cleaver.

The Spirit takes his time and does our Zippo-dead Marvin a favour. After all, Marvin has done us all one of those.

Honour, justice, care and compassion: that was Will Eisner through and through.

Ever since our beardly beloved Mark first introduced me to Eisner in the form TO THE HEART OF THE STORM, I have relished the humanity, wisdom, dexterity and integrity of this humble, sequential-art giant who remains the comicbook king of gesticulation. I don’t have many true heroes in life: Rosa Parks, MARCH’s Congressman John Lewis and Will Eisner – I think that’s about it – so I would please urge you at your leisure to pop Will Eisner into our search engine to explore the breadth of his non-genre fiction. I do believe that I have reviewed every single one of his graphic novels, some at great length… except for THE SPIRIT.

I confess that THE SPIRIT is a mystery to me apart from its iconic incorporation of titles into the very environment of its opening splash pages.

From the LICAF Eisner exhibition. More photos below!

Those I have relished for hours. But if, like me, you are new to the character and are buying this to see all the love lavished upon him by some of your favourite contemporary creators, then we are in the same boat! It is completely accessible, I assure you.

Part of the art of the single-page story, it strikes me, is a good, old-fashioned, unexpected twist, either within the tale itself or – in a homage – on whatever it is a tribute to.

ENIGMA’s Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo provide both!

It took me a full three panels to realise that we’ve fast-forwarded to the 21st Century because I am a complete and utter moron. It’s there, right in the opening shot of a subway-train passenger who is accessing – via his mobile phone – one of those ghost-hunting TV-host twerps, grandstanding away in a graveyard.

“For over fifty years people have seen a figure moving among these chill gravestones…
“The figure is usually wearing a crumpled blue suite. Sometimes he sports and ridiculous mask… or a hokey old hat…”

Nice! Unlike that preposterous, self-serving charlatan, attention-seeking is the last thing on The Spirit’s agenda.

“Since Wildwood gained a reputation for being haunted, sartorial insults are the least of my problems…”

He needs anonymity, plus peace and quiet to slip in and out of his home swiftly, unnoticed, or he could miss his opportunity to apprehend. Instead he’s had to skulk in the shadows and dart circuitously from one ivy-strewn gravestone to another to keep undercover. Still, if there’s one thing that The Spirit is adroit at, it’s using whatever’s to hand in order to solve his problems – even if whatever’s to hand is the problem itself. Oh, so many twists are in store!

Jonathan Ross (yes, that Jonathan Ross) and Bryan Hitch give it their all. Truly there is no stinting. Ross takes on Miss Verushka Diamandas – the very essence of sybaritic, oh so supposed insouciance – and peels her back to her bleached, back-street, wrecking-yard roots. But she simply refuses to submit.

If you relish the scale and neo-classical figure work as much as I do of Bryan Hitch (THE AUTHORITY plus THE ULTIMATES SEASON ONE and THE ULTIMATES SEASON TWO, my favourite socio-political superhero comics of all time – yes, including that one!), then you are in for a treat.

“I’m Verushka Diamandas. And I want my jewels.”

I’m not so sure that The Spirit is. I think he’s in for more of a gulp.

ROGAN GOSH’s Brendan McCarthy brings a softer brand of his customary psychedelic swirls of colours to bear on a tremendously moving and affirmative clarion call from the afterlife into action, and you might notice an addition to his blue suit. Loved it!

Seth is more solemn and as quiet as a mouse. He focuses on the buildings and topography of Central City, as you might expect from the creator of GEORGE SPROTT etc. The last two panels say it all. Very sad, that.

By contrast, you just know that Sergio Aragonés is going to make you howl, but he leaves it until the very last minute for maximum impact and the chap checking his watch is a triumph. Irreverent? Of course it is! This is the co-creator of GROO – and there’s a clue!

VIZ’s Graham Dury and Simon Thorp start in on the first paragraph – naturally! – in their ‘Blyth Spirit’:

“Blyth seafront… The biggest magnet for every lawless hood, crook and lowlife in the North East. Except perhaps Sunderland. And some parts of Middlesbrough.”

Of course Britain’s Spirit is going to be bonkers – bonkers, and a bit BEANO.

You’ll be in for a completely different twist from John M Burns (2000 AD’S GREATEST etc) which is ever so contemporary and cool. Such delicious figure work there, with his unmistakeably rich, old-school colour palette.

Finally, Jason Latour (LOOSE ENDS etc) goes for more of a montage effect (above), breaking the collection up brilliantly, nailing Will Eisner’s rain, displaying his broad knowledge of Eisner’s legacy outside of the obvious, making his Spirit ethereal but the very opposite of ephemeral.

Oh yes, sorry: proceeds from sales will go to LICAF’s Creators’ Development Fund. That is exceptionally cool!

SLH

Buy Spirit Centenary Newspaper (Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017) and read the Page 45 review here

Starting (£5-00, LICAF) by Chris Gooch, Marc Jackson, Luke McGarry, John Martz, Mikiko, Jake Phillips.

“In the beginning there was nothing.
“Then there was Kevin,
“And Kevin was hungry.”

Everything has to start somewhere.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes it’s that often very daunting challenge that prevents or delays all manner of things from communication, creativity, going outside or moving forward in any meaningful manner to ditching a bad habit, tackling an addiction or perhaps turning over a lesser new leaf.

In my Page 45 Staff Profile I wrote:

Which qualities do you least admire in yourself?
Procrastination when I know something definitely needs to be done – all in the vain hope that it doesn’t!

Once I get started I find that I’m fine, but it can prove a struggle for some of us, and so it is in a couple of these stories, but let us first return to Kevin, for he is very hungry.

“He began to feast on the nothingness around him.
“As he ate he expanded.
“But he couldn’t stop.”

So there’s the flipside: sometimes once you’ve started, you simply can’t stop. However, once you’ve digested Jake Phillips’s full four pages alongside their visuals, you might feel very grateful that Kevin consumes. It really is a cosmically quick-witted comic with at least four starting processes, one of which I will leave you to discover for yourself.

Each of the six comicbook creators fashioned a four-page story in the space of four hours on the subject of STARTING. Immediately afterwards they were collated and printed in the form of this anthology, published and on sale the very next day on Saturday 14th October during LICAF 2017. That was a truly Herculean endeavour and monumental achievement by contributor Marc Jackson who had to learn it all on the hoof. If anyone started something astonishing for the first time here, it is he.

Like last year’s LICAF anthology COELIFER ATLAS (reviewed and still on sale for worldwide distribution by Page 45) every single penny of its £5 cover-price continues to go directly from Page 45 to LICAF without us taking a retail cut: thence to OCDAction in the case of COELIFER ATLAS to provide support and information to those affected by OCD and raise awareness amongst the wider public; or in this instance split between OCDAction and LICAF’s Creator Development Fund.

COELIFER ATLAS is a single story told in a relay race between artists that deals directly and eloquently and startlingly with OCD itself, whereas the remit of STARTING is all in its title and, like Jake Phillips’s contribution, once you’ve had time to consider each one properly then multiple beginnings become clear.

Chris Gooch’s cold blue opening offering takes place at the dentist during a check-up on teen Johnny’s braces. He’s just started a new school. But Johnny started something else a long time ago and he’s already started again. Now his dentist starts something else in the hope that he’ll stop. How dark do you like your comics?

With frantic lettering more exuberant than I can match here and eye-frazzling lines that refuse to sit still, Marc Jackson’s about to start using a Wacom and draws a robot. But the robot starts making demands:

“Can you draw me a wife? I’m going to get lonely in here!”
“You got it, Robo Man!”
“Make sure she has lots of rivets, I love rivets!
“O… kay…”

It won’t end there, but where will it?

Equally on the product-placement ball, Luke McGarry begins receiving strange visitors just as Donald Trump starts World War Three (next Tuesday it says on my calendar) then McGarry’s going to need to start keeping warm – one way or another.

John Martz of BURT’S WAY HOME and A CAT NAMED TIM is determined to start his first novel. As I say, everything has to start somewhere. You can crack your knuckles for as long as you like, but nothing beats hitting the keyboard. No, not with drum sticks! Faced with a blank screen, I honestly suggest that you simply start typing. I do that all the time. Plus, we no longer need to use Tippex.

Finally Mikiko’s young artist is off to many a false start, scrunching most of them up then lobbing them into the bin. I’m afraid it’s a bit full by now, but it all could be much worse as the penultimate page close-up makes clear. That’s ever so clever, I promise.

Six creators, four pages each, and not one of them coasting, even under such pressure.

SLH

Buy Starting and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin / LICAF 2017 Tote Bag (£5-00, LICAF) by Tove Jansson & Steve Kerner.

Yes, unless I have maxed out my memory and mislaid my marbles yet again, the iconic logo for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival was created by Steve Kerner; and I have to concede, such is my admiration, that I prefer it even to Page 45’s… just!

Meanwhile, behold young Moomintroll performing a back-flip / handstand with all the grace of Tom Daley on the very top diving board of an Olympic-size swimming pool! He is at peace – at one with his newfound, gymnastic equilibrium – and so will you be once you’ve purchased this in-store or online for worldwide distribution. The only question in-store is, “Do you want this to be the bag, or be in a bag?

This is printed in black on precisely the same colour and heavy-duty, graphic-novel-bearing cloth as the classic Page 45 Tote Bag  which is both a fashion statement and a status symbol.

Page 45 carries the complete range of the Janssons’ MOOMIN graphic novels as well as the very first Tove Jansson MOOMIN novel, THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD, and indeed Philip Ardagh’s new MOOMINVALLEY book. You know how to use our search engine, I’m sure.

SLH

Buy Moomin / LICAF 2017 Tote Bag and read the Page 45 review here

Michael Cho LICAF 2017 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 50) (£25-00, LICAF) by Michael Cho.

What do you want me to say? It’s gorgeous, innit?

Sterling composition featuring the hills above Kendal where one man who bought the print said he walked his dog every day. He showed me exactly where.

This is one of the many things I love about LICAF: Entry is free so locals and tourists flood in to discover comics for the very first time. It’s a festival that truly reaches out.

The locals are lovelies. Kendal is kindness personified.

SLH

Buy Michael Cho LICAF 2017 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 50) and read the Page 45 review here

Jonathan Edwards LICAF 2017 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 50) (£25-00, LICAF) by Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards had loads of his own prints on sale in our room – I bought two of those in 2016 and now I’m having this one, cheers.

I was chatting with Sean Phillips about Jonti’s process video of painting a waterfall and he said, “I have no idea how his brain works – to be able to translate what I see into what he sees… It’s astonishing.”

Our own Jonathan suspects he has some sort of prism glasses.

Anyway, Jonti (please call him Jonathan – never call him John – I’m allowed specially dispensation with “Jonti”) is the co-creator this year with Louise “Felt Mistress” Evans of the glorious Archipelagogo exhibition in Kendal inspired by Tove Jansson (photos below).

In our first year at LICAF FeltMistress came up to me in The Brewery bar and said, “I love your Georgian Room: it’s where all the cool kids hang out! Can we sit there next year?” She has a lovely Welsh lilt.

Obviously I screamed “YES!”

They’ve been with us ever since.

SLH

Buy Jonathan Edwards LICAF 2017 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 50) and read the Page 45 review here

Ken Niimura LICAF 2016 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 40) (£25-00, LICAF) by Ken Niimura.

I don’t have an image in front of me as I type this, but I was exceedingly grateful to Bryan Lee O’Malley for introducing us to Ken last year A) because he’s such an exceptionally gifted creator B) because he’s so sweet and C) because he promptly spent £150 in our Georgian Room on graphic novels which we then shipped across the ocean to him.

They would have exceeded his luggage allowance.

That was an awful review, I’m sorry.

SLH

Buy Ken Niimura LICAF 2016 Print – Signed & Numbered (Of 40) and read the Page 45 review here

LICAF Comics & Graphic Novels Still On Sale, Reviewed

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (£100-00, original LICAF edition signed and sketched on) by Dave McKean

Carrot To The Stars (£6-00, LICAF) by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s (translation by Carole Tait)

Coelifer Atlas (£5-00, LICAF) by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters & Charlie Adlard, Dan Berry, Nick Brokenshire, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia, Bruce Mutard, Ken Niimura, Jake Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Craig Thompson, Petteri Tikkanen, Emma Vieceli.

How To Create Graphic Novels (£5-00, LICAF) by by Rodolphe Töpffer with John McShane

New Arrivals, Online & Ready To Buy!

Please scroll down: they’re all at the bottom! Meanwhile (photos mine unless stated otherwise) …

Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017: Behold Beauty!

 

 

Oh wait — that’s Jonathan.

We were enraptured by Jonthan Edwards & Louise ‘Felt Mistress’ Evans’s Archipelagogo exhibition inspired by the works of MOOMIN’s Tove Jansson (still on in Kendal!), but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Let’s start again: Behold The Beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh sorry — that’s Jonathan again.

Even in the rain and especially in Autumn, Cumbria is drop-dead romantic – which sounds a bit Keats!

Many of those photos were from our Friday morning stroll right around, up and above Grasmere Lake, a mere half-hour drive from Kendal.

But we’ll get to that again too, and Kendal itself is a town to fall in love with, full of intriguing alleys which promise hidden treasures and more open courtyards and twisted vistas to make your heart soar!

 

 

I do hope the Cumbrian Tourist Board is paying attention. If you could possibly pay Page 45’s hotel bill next year then we would be eternally grateful.

We adored Kendal’s Riverside Hotel where LICAF logistics Commander Carole Tait placed us this year.

Come to think of it, Riverside, you might consider giving us a freebie in 2018. The tourist board could perhaps pay for our petrol.

 

 

Basically this: it’s more pretty than a city!

An entire town en fête, as in Europe, dedicated to our shared love of comics!

One of the many things I love about LICAF is that entry to its core Kendal Comic Clock Tower is free so the locals flood in and swoon over glorious graphic novels and comics for the very first time!

 

 

 

It’s one great big loving outreach to everyone, and that is Page 45’s own Georgian Room, yes!

We were a little bit busy! We broke our own weekend record for the fourth consecutive year, taking over £10,000 and with just 1% of the range of our stock.

Essentially it’s all that we can fit in a van.

Here’s that process from start to finish, with Jonathan playing immaculate graphic novel / tight-van Tetris, and silly old me unpacking all the graphic novels then laying them out on tables until, after four hours, I am vaguely content that we’ve done our best to showcase our shared, beloved medium:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then along comes Oliver East with THE LANKY (brand-new and hot off the press – so I haven’t had time to review it yet, but every copy you buy from that link has kindly been sketched in for free!) and we have to make room for more!

Oliver signed in our room for half the festival along with his adorable son Hunter (a new joke every five minutes – too funny! – I want Hunter signing solo in our room next year!) who bought a 3-foot bag of what claimed to be over-sized Cheesy Wotsits for a quid. They looked like packing chips and tasted like packing chips.

Top-tip: if something looks and tastes like a packing chip, it probably is a packing chip.

 

 

 

We didn’t have to make room for Festival Patron Emma Vieceli and her new YA LGBT graphic novel BREAKS (reviewed) co-created with Malin Ryden because we’d already received that a fortnight before anyone else thanks to Soaring Penguin Press and we’d already sorted out space for Hannah Berry signing LIVESTOCK etc (also reviewed – basically, if I’ve linked to it, the graphic novel’s been reviewed) because, well, Hannah!

LIVESTOCK was one of our best-selling books of the Festival!

Here they all are: Emma Vieceli, Hannah Berry and the stellar Emmeline Pidgen signing and sketching in our Georgian Room.

So, so proud-making!

 

 

 

 

What we did part our graphic-novel Red-Sea for – like Moses – was the surprise, Exclusive Worldwide Book Launch of PORCELAIN III: IVORY TOWER!

We’d grabbed PORCELAIN‘s Ben Read and Chris Wildgoose from Improper Books (who were exhibiting elsewhere in the Kendal Clock Tower) for a Saturday signing but we had no idea that they could deliver book three in time for the Festival!

PORCELAIN II was Page 45’s biggest-selling book of 2015, even though it came out only in October, eclipsing 2-to-1 Neil Gaiman’s return to SANDMAN with SANDMAN: OVERTURE which is published by DC owned by Time Warner with its multi-billion-dollar advertising budget. PORCELAIN comes out of a British farmhouse!

Here’s Ben and Chris and indeed the legendary Paul Gravett who popped by for a chat.

 

 

 

Page 45’s free exclusive signed bookplate. I’d probably order right now!

 

 

We also had our GRANDVILLE V: FORCE MAJEURE book launch which totally sold out!

Big love to Volunteer-In-Chief Chris who with quick wit worked out a way to start the Bryan and Mary Talbot signing an hour early. But even then it lasted over four hours in total. The queues snaked back and back!

You want your copies early? I’d probably pre-order from Page 45 using that link. We Ship Worldwide! We have some signed and sketched-in bookplates to give out for free to the earliest birds.

 

 

 

Mary: “This queue is ridiculous!” Bryan didn’t stop until the last fan / reader was satisfied.

 

 

Oh, by totally sold out, I mean that we had no copies of the new GRANDVILLE graphic novel for sale on Sunday.

Still, I’d recommend the equally anthropomorphic BLACKSAD, which is what I did when the Talbot Tower came crashing down leaving but five graphic novels left standing plus that brilliant Bryan Talbot DVD. It’s in stock, by the way, whatever our website says: we simply haven’t unpacked it from all our boxes back home. My Mum adored the DVD, particularly the tour round the ONE BAD RAT Lakes District.

 

 

Anyway, we also had Jason and those amazing folks from Metaphrog, Sandra and John, signing with us too.

We’re a little bit lucky, you know, to have all these lovely creators giving up their time to sign for free.

I’m not sure why they do it. I’m not sure how they do it. Please think about this: they give up their time which they need so desperately to create and so earn money.

I’m a little bit in awe of all of them.

 

Oh! This photo’s by Jonathan! I spy customers Stephen and Dee Mortiboy in the background! You’ll see them again later. And so did I. For which I was grateful! 😉

 

 

Lastly, we welcomed that dear man Sean Phillips whom you may have seen mentioned above, Festival Patron and artist on KILL OR BE KILLED, CRIMINAL, USER, THE FADE OUT, FATALE and so much more. I may have reviewed those (I did, at length and each one in-depth). The hardcovers are the best reviews, even if you buy the softcovers, because by that point I’ve had time to truly digest the whole. No spoilers, I promise you: even when you read a fifth’s book review, I will not ruin book one.

Here he is signing copies of the LICAF EXCLUSIVE SPIRIT NEWSPAPER whose printing he paid for himself, and his own rubbish comics.

 

 

 

Have we all done now?

I’d like to take a break. Somewhere beautiful, perhaps.

I would particularly like to take time out to drink on this glorious Riverside Hotel balcony.

By day or by night.

You could do that while visiting the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

 

 

 

You might enjoy this view opposite from the Riverside Hotel which might consider paying our basic board next year, but even if they don’t then THEY ARE ADORED.

 

 

Seriously, everyone has been lovely.

Exhibitors helping each other: our Jonathan, I believe, even fixed someone’s wonky credit-card machine on Sunday morning! The best volunteers in the world are forever at your side and Colin, the man who commands the keys to the Kendal Clock Tower, let us in early, out late, and could not do enough for us. The volunteers pretty much made me cry with their heart-felt conviction.

We go out with some photo-blasts. firstly from the Will Eisner original art exhibition (I love seeing the deployment of white-out)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That last one is exactly what I meant when I wrote the “comicbook king of gesticulation”.

Now bask in some bucolic beauty, persuading you perhaps to come to next year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival because we had a gas around Grasmere Lake.

It’s just up the semi-submerged, water-flooded road!

 

 

 

 

 

You know, I’m not entirely sure that even was a waterfall before last week.

And now, back to the Archipelagogo!

This exhibition by Jonathan Edwards and Louise Evans is still on show in Kendal!

 

 

 

 

Me in the mirror: I couldn’t resist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Splinters are just wood’s way of shaking hands.”

Brilliant!

Lastly, THIS NEVER HAPPENED!

 

This photo’s by Jonathan too. Obviously!

 

Big love to Page 45 customers Stephen and Dee Mortimer for the “lift” back to our hotel on Saturday evening! What am I like?

But everyone needs a helping hand, now and again, and that’s what LICAF is all about!

Come to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018 from October 12th to 14th and find out for yourself!

Big love as ever to Festival Director Julie Tait for her unwavering encouragement and support.

Have some BBC LICAF coverage!

– Stephen

Proud Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

New Arrivals, 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’.

Porcelain vol 3: Ivory Tower (£14-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose WITH FREE SIGNED BOOKPLATE EXCLUSIVE TO PAGE 45!

The Worm And The Bird (£14-99, Particular Books) by Coraline Bickford-Smith

Relatable Content (£10-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Street Dawgz: Boxlife (£5-00, ) by Lizz Lunney

The Lanky (£10-00, self-published or LICAF) by Oliver East

The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Bottled (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Gooch

Giant Days vol 6 (£13-99, Boom! Box) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Harrow County vol 5: Abandoned s/c (£12-50, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Carla Speed McNeil, Tyler Crook

I Hate Fairyland vol 3: Good Girl  (£14-99, Image) by Skottie Young

Marney The Fox h/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by Scott Goodall & John Stokes

Mr Higgins Comes Home h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Warwick Johnson

Baltimore vol 8: The Red Kingdom h/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Peter Bergting

Rashomon: A Commissioner Heigo Kobayashi Case h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Santos

Rock & Pop (£4-00, ) by Tim Bird

The Rocket (£4-00, ) by Tim Bird

The Tea Dragon Society h/c (£15-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill

The Wild Storm vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt

Guardians Of The Galaxy – An Awesome Digest s/c (£8-99, Marvel) by various

Spider-Gwen vol 4: Predators s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jason Latour, Hannah Blumenreich & Robbi Rodriguez, Hannah Blumenreich

Inuyashiki vol 8 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2017 week two

October 11th, 2017

Featuring Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard’s Walking Dead: Here’s Negan! story which was never published in the regular Walking Dead comic series! OMG it is brand-new to you! Also, Nilah Magruder, Alexis Deacon. William Gibson, Butch Guice Katriona Chapman, Mike Medaglia, John Klassen, Konstantin Steshenko. I do hope my spelling’s been up to all that!

M.F.K. h/c (£16-99, Insight Comics) by Nilah Magruder.

Out in the vast, open desert a storm is brewing: a storm of sand, and a storm of confrontation and conflict.

Hopelessly through one and haplessly into the other staggers young, wounded Abbie with her beautiful feathered steed, a giant, speckle-breasted moa.

Exhausted, the moa doesn’t make it, but thanks to the determined and instinctive intervention of Jaime and his grandfather, Iman, Abbie is carefully carried back to the sheltered safety of their family house in their remote town, all alone in the desiccating dunes. As they do so, a blue-and-black-furred jackal-like rakuna watches carefully, cautiously, yet knowingly.

“They’re the servants of Raku,” explains Jaime’s Aunt Nifrain, “Deva of long journeys. And difficult times.”

 

She’s seen a rakuna once before, many years ago, and she will see another shortly.

Abbie’s journey has already been long and she has far further to go in these difficult times, for she seeks to carry her dead mother’s ashes in a fragile urn up  to the mountain range called the Potter’s Spine, there to scatter them and mourn in private.

For the moment, however, haunted by dreams of her dearly departed, she must take time to recuperate in the company of Jaime, Iman and Nefrain.

There’ll be no peace and quiet, but recover she will, for Auntie Nifrain is a doctor with a fiery temper and a very sharp knife, determined that her patients will be healed whether they like it or not! Nurse Nefrain will not brook a bad patient, and even fiercely independent Abbie will have to do as she’s told – for now…

Nor is the wider town life any less loud, for it is constantly beset by roaming, opportunistic Parasai demanding tributes from the poor population. These Parasai look like anyone else, but have tremendous strength and psychokinetic powers which they once used to aid those in need but now take from them instead. One comes off like an anti-Desperate-Dan, even juggling a cow for good measure. But basically they have sunk to the low level of bullies and the town’s mayor does nothing but appease.

“We’re a humble people here. We know our place in the world, and we have no trouble with paying what’s due to those who are better.”

Such low self-esteem!

“All we ask is to live our lives in peace.”

He adds, later, “Treasures can be remade. Lives cannot. You’d do well to teach your grandson, Iman.”

The trouble is that they cannot and are not living their lives in peace while these public raids continue.

But what, do you think, has any of this to do with Abbie?

More all-ages excellence which will thrill, chill and get you right riled up, but which will also take you in unexpected directions and make you laugh as it does so. There is some exquisite, slapstick visual comedy, a running gag about badly made pigeon soup and one page that had me howling with its pitch-perfect timing involving an unattended window, four steaming-hot potato buns and an unfortunate cat.

I so do wish I could find that and perhaps I will before we go to publication but in case we can’t it’ll give you something to really look forward to!

Here you go! – Stephen

The same thing goes for an air-punching moment of cactus catharsis, but I’m saying nothing.

Nilah Magruder isn’t afraid to mix up the art with a plethora of clever comedic devices, one utilising both form and colour for a frozen, statuesque moment of mortified horror during an accident accentuated with the beauty which precedes it in the form of an intricate, delicately blown, marigold-coloured glass figurine. Again, though: there will be surprises!

On a more serious note, this album-sized graphic novel also deals sensitively with subjects like loss, loneliness, isolation and independence, along with family matters, and does so partly with ever so expressive eyes.

Abbie, for example, isn’t the only individual left without parents. Jaime’s mother had an incurable, innate wanderlust, so she left him when young to be looked after by her father and sister Nifrain. They’ve never considered Jaime a burden, but that doesn’t mean that Jaime has thought the same way.

I don’t know either way, but I do wonder if the jackal-like rakuna draws on the same mythology as the apparition in Leila Del Duca & Kit Seaton’s AFAR? Either way, I would watch out for that as you watch out for each other – a concept very much at the heart of this journey.

I don’t think that it’s over.

What a tremendously bright, profoundly moving and highly intriguing punchline!

SLH

Buy M.F.K. h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Geis Book 2: A Game Without Rules (£15-99, Nobrow) by Alexis Deacon.

“This is magic.
“This is life.
“It is the will that shapes the world.”

Remember this also:

“There can be no magic without life.
“To make magic, life must be given or it must be taken.
“Student of magic, your first question is this:
“How much will you take?
“How much will you give?”

For something so dark, there is so much bright light and the most radiant of colours to match!

Also life-lessons we would all do so well to learn: give what you can and take only your time. Consider this: what if they were me?

Diabolically ingenious and so cleverly constructed, every element here dovetails precisely, be it the multiple, intense, concurrent action sequences of both fight and flight or the games and the geis itself, all of which most assuredly have rules if only our remaining competitors could perceive then strive to understand them. You, the reader, will have to work out what they are too, so I will merely allude!

What are those who have reached the supposed sanctuary of the castle competing for? The kingdom itself. What is at stake? Their very lives.

Unfortunately they don’t know that. Only young Lady Io and the duplicitous Nemas have discovered this, and they have been cursed into silence.

“Why don’t you just kill us now and have done with it?”
“I cannot. The Geis binds us all alike.  You are bound to be tried and I am bound to test you. This bond cannot be broken.”

This is true. The sorceress Niope may not interfere directly. But what if those tests were to include individual temptation?

In GEIS BOOK 1: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH we saw the greedy and the opportunistic as well as those who thought they could bring justice all sign themselves up to compete for the kingdom after their matriarch passed away. But from her corpse materialised the sorceress Niope, old and haggard and blue, who issued their first challenge: to reach the castle before sunrise. Some gave up and went home; they did not live long to regret it.

Lady Io never signed up but found herself embroiled all the same. She assumed that her wealthy parents entered her. They hadn’t. In her efforts to save others she has been burned by the life-giving sun, then poisoned by Nemas. Still she saved his life, but in doing so she may well have condemned everyone else to death.

GEIS BOOK 1 was so phenomenal that we made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and has sold in droves to adults and Young Adults alike, but Book 2 is on another level entirely, forty pages longer, even more beautiful, and far more complex as the stakes and so struggles are ramped up dramatically in direct confrontations.

We begin with a telling prologue from Nemas’s youth in which his identical twin Caliphas invented an innocent, imaginary game to play, along with its goals, its rules and its risks. Their elder brother Toras bullied his way in, threatening to beat Nemas to death with brute strength. Now Toras is a general, Caliphas an architect and Nemas has a chip on his shoulder the size of a wooden stake.

Also key in this second of three instalments are Nelson the doctor, little Artur the bookkeeper who’s lost his spectacles,  their friend the wizard Eloise who has a third eye and so vision, and good-hearted but blundering Count Julius who doesn’t stand a chance on his own.

Then there’s cunning advocate Malmo and his bitter old tutor Tomas who turn the law into a game of recrimination in order to settle old scores. As to Law itself, it’s a loquacious albino raven which was once rescued from its stronger sibling’s attempts to push it out of their nest by The Judge who as a girl learned a prime lesson there and then:

“Law… It must be built upon a single question. It must ask, what if it was me?
“What if I was weak? What if I was strong?
“What if I were the one? What if I were the other.”

She adds:

“The law is no game.
“The law is all that stands between us…
“And the dominion of monsters.”

Are you intrigued? It is time for the second challenge to begin!

“I divide you into two.
“Play the game until one side alone remains.”

Niope dips her now far healthier hand to the throne-room floor and in a flash the castle is cleaved clean in two: one side is white, one side is black.

The contestants / combatants are also cleaved in two, thrown flat on their backs from the monochromatic chasm, their colourful clothing instantly bleached or blackened. Unlike upon a chessboard, however, her black pieces lie on white ground, her white ones on black. Nothing I type here is random.

“Keep to the rules at all times or you will be removed from the contest.”
“What are the rules?”
“What rules?”
“You haven’t told us what they are!”

And she won’t.

“I give each of you two gifts. Do with them what you will.”

Each receives a large coin which they then choose to wear as medallions (engraved on one is “Take”; on the other side “Give”) and a staff or perhaps stick according to colour: chalk for white, charcoal for black. Beneath their very feet they find ancient writing which the learned Judge alone can translate:

“As it is written, so shall it be.”

Now, what do you think that implies? They’ll have to figure it out for themselves.

The sequential-art storytelling is exceptional, not least because Deacon refuses to hold your hot, sticky hands with explicatory words, but instead successfully supplies you and the contestants with all the clues you will need within the art or they in their environs. I cannot begin to tell you how much respect such narrative confidence commands in me. The instant effect of what is hidden within one panel is essential for what follows but it resolutely remains un-signposted so, in the spirit of which, somewhere within this review, I have supplied a page of interior art without comment just as Deacon does. Boy, is it ever so clever!

While we are reaching for superlatives, several sequences struck me as modern manifestations of LITTLE NEMO’s Winsor McCay, not least the page I refer to above but also its equally magical tip-toe through the proverbial, bell-ringing tulips. Or in this case, giant mushrooms.

“Whatever you do, stay in the contest!” screams Lady Io, and I am in awe of her altruism.

As to the central challenge, our bewildered, embattled ones must each make their own up games and write their own rules. Those rules will require quick wit and attention to detail: the very letter of the law, you might say.

The pen may prove mightier than the sword; although sometimes the former can also be utilised as the latter.

It’s all very black and white, with one side fighting the other. Or is it? Please read this review once again.

SLH

Buy Geis Book 2: A Game Without Rules and read the Page 45 review here

One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide To Mindfulness (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Mike Medaglia…

“Love is everything.
“It really is.
“Such an abstract concept. Super hard to define in words. But the fact of its existence is undeniable.
“Love is safety.
“Love is purpose.
“Love is learning who we are as individuals through the way we love others.
“Love is our greatest antidote to hate.”

Very true. From a Buddhist perspective love really is absolutely everything. Even hate, which at its root is, in fact, merely a twisted, malformed version of love. You find many such pearls of wisdom in this latest treatise from Mike ‘Now Several Years Wiser thanks to ONE YEAR WISER 365 ILLUSTRATED MEDITATIONS / ONE YEAR WISER A GRATITUDE JOURNAL / ONE YEAR WISER 2018 ART CALENDAR Medaglia. Not the least of which is that the simple practise of mindfulness will get you on that path to acquiring your own moments, days, months and indeed years of wisdom.

All of which will be very hard won, but very worthwhile. The rewards, though, of seeing one’s own true nature and being able to achieve a degree of tranquillity and equanimity are truly joyful and self-nourishing.  For whilst the practice may indeed be simple, it is the continuing work of a lifetime. But start with a mere moment or two and you’ll soon be very glad you began your own personal empowering promenade, believe me.

Here, over a series of four sections titled as the seasons of the year, Mike talks us through twenty-four varied topics such as the all important Mindfulness, and Meditation, but also diverse jewels like Smiling, Anxiety, The Ego and Impermanence. I note, purely for my own amusement, that the first time Mike sprang fully formed to our attention, was with his superlative SEASONS, featuring four vignettes ruminating not only meteorologically, but metaphorically on the passing of time. I didn’t know at the time he was a fellow Zen practitioner, but it didn’t come as any surprise when I found out.

All the twenty-four chapters in this work are powerfully affecting, in subtly different ways, both in their words and accompanying artwork. I should probably add at this point, that this is a work which can neither be pigeonholed under the description illustrated prose or comics. For it is emphatically a wonderful synthesis hybrid of both! I also totally approve of Mike’s use of his own talking head as occasional narrator, often with a personal salient observation on his own practice, or indeed simply himself! It helps remind the reader that this is indeed not just an academic text, but a very practical handbook.

And it’s not just a primer for beginners, either. There’s a conceit within Zen that is often referred as the layers of the onion. You can think you have attained all the wisdom you might possibly do so about a certain point or topic, but then something in your currently held paradigm will shift and you realise that there is indeed yet another layer to said vegetable and deeper understanding to be found. Thus reading works such as this can be just as enlightening to long term practitioners as novitiates approaching the subject for the very first time with trepidation.

For a subject as ineffable and as ungraspable as mindfulness Mike’s is an ideal approach for revealing and refreshing the knowledge of the universal truths we manage to so successfully obscure from ourselves on a daily basis. We do already know deep down that love is everything, and many other such powerful, profound truths that could aid us in any moment were we to able to keep them to mind. We just need to sit still long enough for our minds to calm down and our natural innate wisdom and knowledge to (re-)appear and replenish our daily selves.

So a big thank you Mike for this wonderful gift to us all… even if we’re then going to make all you good folks pay for it! I highly recommend buying one for yourself and then multiple copies for everyone else you know. Remember, love is everything, and nothing says it like a lovely gift.*

* This is not strictly true, but go on, why not treat them, and yourself?

PSSSST. If you want to treat yourself to two bonus topics / chapters, or perhaps merely dip your toe into Mike’s World Of Mindfulness to get you started, I can heartily recommend his recent two self-published minis POVERTY OF THE HEART and RUSHING FROM A TO A.

JR

Buy One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide To Mindfulness and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine: The Guatemala Issue (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

Yet anotherhttp://www.page45.com/store/Katzine-The-Guatemala-Issue.html rich, classy cover for the self-published series which has truly set the new, top-end benchmark for comics of any origin in terms of production values as well as engrossing content.

Wouldn’t huge publishers do well to follow suit and lavish their readers with much-to-be-treasured art objects such as these, rather than immensely enjoyable but arguably throwaway pamphlets?

I’ve said this before but I reckon it’s worth repeating that within each KATZINE Katriona always has something to impart born of her considerable, personal and broad experience that is so worthwhile your time and attention.

She releases them only with careful forethought as to what might genuinely command and so demand her readers’ interest, and with due diligence as to their soft-focus, pencil-shaded and humane execution. By which I mean that Chapman brings individuals alive, giving them their unique depths and perspectives, each and every one.

Here we are treated to not only a preview of her forthcoming long-form graphic novel of travel which you will never again see in this richest of blacks, whites and greys but in full colour (I adore both!), but the most arresting of group-thefts while back-packing in Guatemala.

Chapman’s fellow travellers gather together somewhat despondently but determinedly and between them they piece together the evidence until they logically come to the conclusion that one particular party or its entourage must be responsible. Still retaining the beyond-altruistic, kind and commendable, deep-seated desire that they not offend anyone, hurt their feelings or in any way falsely accuse, they do reluctantly – and with great grace – summon the courage to broach this breach in trust with carefully considered words.

Personally, I was in awe. But what happens next?

Characteristically, Chapman then proceeds to contrast and so mitigate this understandable disappointment in human nature with an uplifting series of cameo accounts of ‘Nice Things’: her many experiences of strangers going beyond the call of anyone’s duty to act in charitable ways when either she or her boyfriend Sergio have been in trouble.

That’s balance, that is. But it’s more than that: it’s a deep-seated sensitivity to her readers’ sensibilities and a care that we don’t despair.

SLH

Buy Katzine: The Guatemala Issue and read the Page 45 review here

Archangel h/c (£18-99, Other A-Z) by William Gibson & Butch Guice…

“Mr. Vice President, please remain still… as I remove the bandages. The final procedure was entirely successful. See for yourself.”
“Granddaddy was a good looking man.”
“They know nothing of D.N.A., so they’ll have no way of knowing you’re not him. You should have no difficulties assuming his identity.”

So why would the Vice President of the United States of America want to travel back in time to February 1945 and replace his relative, one Major Aloysius Henderson of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the C.I.A? Well, given it seems like there has been some sort of catastrophic global nuclear conflict, judging from the scenes of total devastation in Tokyo, Moscow and London that we get a glimpse of on the opening page dated February 2016, I suspect altering the course of history might be high on the VP’s to-do list. A list entitled ‘Archangel’.

Not that it seems everyone on the experimental Quantum Transfer project is of the same mindset. The chief scientist Torres, who seems to have a pretty good idea of precisely who is to blame for the current highly radioactive state of the environment, has just enough remaining quantum transfer juice to send a stealth fighter and two marines back as well, to try and foil the VP’s plot. Except whilst the first time jump works perfectly, the second, well, let’s just say there are some unexpected complications. The action then shifts to 1945 where the various Allied intelligence services suddenly find themselves with a rather perplexing puzzle to solve.

This the first crack at comics from the acclaimed cyberpunk author, and I must say, on the whole, I’m certainly impressed as he avoids the pitfalls most first-timers, even big names, can find themselves tumbling headlong into. ARCHANGEL has the serious speculative feel of say, Greg Rucka’s LAZARUS, which I think from the tone of the writing and cast of characters is probably the most obvious comparison to make. There are some fabulous bits of dialogue too, particularly in the WW2 era between various spies who seem just as concerned with getting one over each other as dealing with the situation in hand, which also minded me of Brubaker’s VELVET.

Gibson can certainly write decent comics based on this outing. There was an interminable delay getting the monthly issues out during the run of singles, which did rather disrupt my enjoyment at the time, but happily, in the collected form, it all runs very smoothly. Just not for the characters… any of them at all in fact. I did slyly enjoy Gibson’s afterword which talks about revising his ‘alternate time-track story’ as he went along. I know he probably wasn’t referring to the publishing schedule but it did make me giggle. Amongst other plot points, he’s actually very specifically referring to the epilogue, which again, caused me to occasion a very wry smile. I thought it a rather fitting conclusion.

The art from Butch Guice is excellent, fans of his work on THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA and WINTER SOLDIER will know what to expect. I always feel he’s like a slightly grittier version of Bryan Hitch though here he most reminds me of Michael Lark’s work on LAZARUS, actually. Not sure if Gibson has any further plans to write more comics, this apparently started life as a screenplay before discussions with IDW led to it being commissioned as a comics series. But I’d love to see him tackle a longer speculative fiction series, something which acclaimed horror author Joe Hill did superbly for IDW with his LOCKE & KEY epic.

JR

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

Walking Dead: Here’s Negan! (£17-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“You pull your pud that slow, fuckwit?!
“GAME POINT!
“If I had a wrist that weak, I’d need three pictures of your mom to blow my load.
“Now which one of you little pricks is next?”

“Sorry, Coach Negan. Josh has always been kind of a pussy. I’ll try to calm him down.”

And so, the big secret is finally out!! Not the full story of Lucille, but we will get to that, rest assured. No, fans of the man we all love to hate have often pondered precisely what Negan did for a living back in the pre-apocalyptic world. The rumour for a while was that of used car salesman, which I could see, but actually, demented P.E. teacher makes far more sense.

In many ways, he does remind me of a certain junior school games teacher of mine called [REDACTED] who always seemed part-clown / part-concentration camp commandant. One minute he was laughing and joking with us all, the next dispensing immense knee grippers and one-eared full-body-lifts for no apparent reason whatsoever.

I do very vividly remember a certain incident as an eight year old when I got chewing gum stuck in my hair on a school trip and [REDACTED] took just a bit too much pleasure in cutting it out with the serrated blade on his Swiss Army knife. The glint in his eye as he approached me was probably how the cowboys felt when they were out of ammo and that fashionable new haircut that the Native American Indian barbers were offering free of charge beckoned. I should just be grateful he wasn’t using a barbed-wire-encrusted baseball bat, I suppose!

I digress.

Fans of the WALKING DEAD will already have known that Negan’s favourite skull pinyata smasher was named after his late wife. What we get in this collection of material that first appeared in the excellent Image Plus previews magazine (not in the regular comics), is the heartbreaking end of their marital story, pre-apocalypse, and then how Negan gradually evolved / devolved, depending on your point of view, into the chilling, <ahem> articulate dictator he then subsequently became.

He clearly always had the gags, having polished his material ad nauseam no doubt on his young wards, but was he always such a complete and utter dick, or did he once have a romantic homespun heart of gold? As ever, with the man we really, really do love to utterly despise, it will not surprise you to learn he was always, shall we say, a… complex character… with hidden, slightly odious depths.

As good as any regular WALKING DEAD arc, if you are a fan, you will want this, trust me. Yes, it’s a little slim, and it has unfortunately been released as a hardcover first, thus being a different size to all those twenty eight trades you have on your shelves, but it is riveting, essential reading.

I have no idea whether the success of this arc will prove the spur to do any further prequel comics material featuring other significant characters. The Governor received his own similar treatment with the well received quadrilogy of prose novels, which are still available should anyone wish us to order them in. I can’t say there is any real need for exploring the back stories of other characters, though I really wouldn’t be adverse to volume two of Negan’s…

JR

Buy Walking Dead: Here’s Negan! and read the Page 45 review here

Screwed Up (£5-99, Adhouse Books) by Konstantin Steshenko.

Too, too funny!

It is a terrible truth that some marriage proposals swim more smoothly than others.

Some suitors are imaginative, some are so witty; others are eloquent and indeed dextrous, performing this most sacred but fun rite or ritual with elan! I hear to this day of several taking the more traditional root of proposing to their parents-in-law first, which strikes me as both funny and very romantic.

However it comes, however it goes and however the proposal is received, I wish each and every one of you the best in its success and your future happiness!

This proposal, I’m afraid, is a proverbial car crash that takes place far too close to a train track.

Darkness ensues.

 

It many ways I’d compare it to Jason Shiga’s DEMON (cue instant increase in sales!) for its optimism, its pessimism, its staged performance, its utter outrage and one other element that I cannot reveal. Also in this: we really shouldn’t laugh, but I did.

Truly, I must be a monster.

And I am going to leave it there.

SLH

Buy Screwed Up and read the Page 45 review here

New Edition / Classic Review

We Found A Hat s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

“We found a hat.
“We found it together.
“But there is only one hat.
“And there are two of us.”

So the dilemma begins…

“It looks good on both of us.
“But it would be right if one of us had a hat and the other did not.”

Awww! Kind and considerate, brotherly love!

They’ll just have to leave it where they found it, in the middle of the desert, right? Hmmm…

This is the third and final instalment of Klassen’s hat-trick trilogy which began with I WANT MY HAT BACK followed by THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I can only assume that Klassen suffered some sort of hat-related trauma during his formative years, for in each of first two an item of headgear is stolen. Neither ends well for the thief, and quite right too!

Deliciously, what looked on the surface like straightforward illustrated prose was, in fact, comics; for without the images all would have been lost. The pictures began in perfect accordance with the written word, but swiftly started shedding controversial or even contradictory light on what was being said. Howls of laughter from me and every youngster I’ve seen being shown the books on our shop floor.

The simplicity of what’s said is of equal importance – there is an identifiable Klassen cadence – for when the rhythm is first broken in I WANT MY HAT BACK, that’s when you suspect that something is up.

Here we are presented with a three-act play, and although I promise you that Klassen will not prove predictable, there will of course be an equally mischievous break between overt claim and covert curiosity, with its attendant hiccup in the otherwise rhythmic beat.

Also recommended by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett: EXTRA YARN and SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE plus TRIANGLE.

SLH

Buy We Found A Hat 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’.

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars h/c (£15-99, Greenwillow) by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg

Coady & The Creepies s/c (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Liz Prince & Amanda Kirk

Dark Souls vol 3: Legends Of The Flame (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann & Alan Quah

Harrow County vol 6: Hedge Magic s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook

Hellboy In Hell Library Edition h/c (£44-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

Hookjaw – Classic Collection h/c (£29-99, Titan) by Pat Mills, Ken Armstrong & Ramon Sola, Juan Arrancio, Eric Bradbury, Feliz Carrion, Jim Bleach

How Comics Work (£16-99, Rotovision Books) by Dave Gibbons, Tim Pilcher

Last Driver (£11-99, Dead Canary Comics) by C.S. Baker & Shaky Kane

Letters For Lucardo vol 1 (£13-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Noora Heikkila

Low vol 4: Outer Aspects Of Inner Attitudes (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

Mega Robo Bros vol 2: Mega Robo Rumble (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Splice & Dice s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by John Layman & Chris Mooneyham

Rat Queens vol 4: High Fantasies  (£13-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Seven To Eternity vol 2: Ballad Of Betrayal s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, James Harren

Star Wars: Screaming Citadel s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron & Marco Checchetto, Salvador Larroca, Andrea Broccardo

Stumptown vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth

The World Of Moominvalley (£35-00, Macmillan) by Tove Jansson

Batman / The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition h/c (£17-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Tom King & Jason Fabok, Howard Porter

DC Comics Bombshells vol 5: Death Of Illusion s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & various

Avengers By Bendis Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch, John Romita Jr., Renato Guedes, Chris Bachalo, Daniel Acuna

Avengers: Standoff s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, various & Mark Bagley, various

Goodnight Punpun vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

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