Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week three

December 17th, 2014

Rodin’s hefty hands upon wrists in particular blow me away. With Fegredo the wrists are often set at similarly expressive angles. His figures dance across the page like Nijinsky, so lithe and supple, acting out each drama as choreographically required, while his street clothes are like few others’, their folds flopping or flapping in the breeze.

Stephen on The Enigma by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo

The Great Salt Lake (£5-00) by Matt Taylor.

That’s quite the cover, I think you’ll agree.

And, to be fair, if the following four pages of majestic interior art don’t sell this to you solo, nothing I write is going to make a blind bit of difference.

After the whale dives below the boat the sailor’s mind drifts back to his loved one whose memory draws him ever on, and the ocean becomes a swollen challenge of creatures real and imagined.

For such a silent comic it doesn’t half fill your head with music. It’s like there’s a full orchestra in there for the forms are gigantic, rearing over the waves in inky pools of black or phantasmagorical white and, no, of course I’m not going to tell you what those forms are. It is, however, not entirely silent and the final page will give you much pause for thought.

 

 

 

I’ve seen some pretty special production values on our self-published, A5 beauties over the last few years from the likes of Becky Cloonan, Dan Berry and Robert M. Ball, but this one takes the Belgian-chocolate biscuit. The interior paper is almost as thick as the card stock cover and I can’t get over the illusion of it having French flaps!

Jonathan was thrilled to discover this while wandering round a convention this year: “Here’s something Stephen hasn’t come across yet!” Which is funny because, on the rare instances I stumbled upon something before Mark, I used to feel exactly the same elation. Exactly.

Alas for poor J-Lo, Matt had to tell him I’d already ordered our copies a fortnight before. Still, we are at least on the same page: this is arresting.

SLH

Buy The Great Salt Lake and read the Page 45 review here

Enigma s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo.

Poor Michael. He leads a mundane existence. He doesn’t really seem to count and nothing he does seems to matter.

“Sometimes he feels like a rumour drifting through a world of hard facts.”

Speaking of hard facts:

“Jesus! Where did that come from?”

Michael’s referring to his startlingly less than repressed hard fact poking out of his pants.

It isn’t his girlfriend who’s just turned him on. They only have sex once a week on Tuesdays and although it is indeed Tuesday night neither Michael’s spirit nor flesh was willing; both mind and body were weak. Until a news bulletin alerted Michael to the latest manifestation of the masked man known as The Enigma. That certainly aroused his interest.

You’re about to read a great many superlatives because this hugely underexposed work of sprightly wit and deftly delivered complexity means the world to me and I cannot tell you how euphoric I am that it is back in print. I re-read it today for the first time in over two decades and you know how sometimes you should never go back? How something which impressed you no end once upon a time then leaves you feeling like the younger you was more than a little jejune? Not this.

I want to talk to you about Duncan Fegredo first. This is where my love affair with the artist first began.

I’ve always referred to Fegredo as the Rodin of comics, and I rate Rodin right up there with Bernini. There is a weight to Rodin’s neoclassical sculptures as well as an emotional impact that’s often like reeling from a head-butt. I have been head-butted before so I know what that feels like and the whole of ENIGMA is like that, scriptwise and all. It is a revelation. It certainly will be for Michael.

Rodin’s hefty hands upon wrists in particular blow me away. Hands, wrists and forearms are right up there with the stomach when it comes to male beauty and well exceed anything else. With Fegredo the wrists are often set at similarly expressive angles. His figures dance across the page like Nijinsky, so lithe and supple, acting out each drama as choreographically required, while his street clothes are like few others’, their folds flopping or flapping in the breeze.

Duncan would be the first, second and third to not only concede but to bellow that the first couple of chapters here are overworked: way too many extraneous lines which do describe the forms but not like his later shadows sculpt them. By the time we get to chapters six, seven and eight this relatively young artist has transformed himself in front of us from startling and thrilling to stunning and accomplished. The opening full-page spread of chapter seven remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of comicbook art and I don’t think “startling and thrilling” is a bad starting point, do you?

On it Michael and The Enigma are post-coitally naked, and I know that I am telling you the plot but just this once, all right? Fegredo – in his gentleness of Michael’s wrist and hand and his lolling of Michael’s head – conveys everything you need to know about the dynamics of this sexual relationship. Milligan need not write a word.

He does, however, and every word he writes is delightful.

“An enigma is when a large chunk is concealed. An enigma is a riddle, a puzzle, an ambiguity.”

The Enigma was a three-issue comicbook written and drawn by Titus Bird which Michael cherished as a child. He lost those comics along with his Dad who died in an earthquake which swallowed his household whole. Michael was then abandoned on the sidewalk by his Mum who sealed her betrayal with a kiss. Twenty-five years ago a woman rose in rage and shot her husband repeatedly in the face before ditching her infant down a well.

Now The Head is sucking out brains through a tube, The Truth is confronting those who don’t want to hear it, The Interior League is redecorating lounges like nobody’s business, driving their occupants insane and The Enigma – masked in pure white porcelain and clothed more exquisitely than matador – is hovering aloof above it all.

What could this possibly have to do with Michael? What could this possibly have to do with The Enigma original comic’s creator, Titus Bird? What could this possibly have to do with Michael’s massive erection?

Please do not adjust your sets after the following sentence until you’ve read my follow-up.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen has referred to this as the greatest superhero comic of all time. High praise from an impeccable source. Completely merited, and I can see where Kieron is coming from so I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But to describe it as a superhero comic at all would be like describing Oscar Wilde’s THE HAPPY PRINCE as a fairy tale. Which, umm, Oscar did.

My point is it will disappoint those looking for virtually pointless pugilism while putting the people it’s perfect for off. It’s closer to horror and romance and self-discovery. It’s more like the metafiction of Satoshi Con’s OPUS except that the meta is within the fiction itself, not pulling you out of it through its traditional, shattered fourth wall. Although I will concede that Milligan’s authorial voice is chatty and chummy and will speak to you directly.

“It’s like The Book Of Revelations but funnier. It’s like The Last Trumpet but hopelessly out of tune.

“It’s like the perennial battle between good and evil but no one can quite work out which is which anymore, and most people don’t even know what perennial means.

Some of us can barely spell it.

SLH

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

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul (£14-99) 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 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 and a big, bare, hairy back. And I think it’s spotted them. 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 your noggin’!

“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 blaze 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 EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and 2), its cartoon flourishes like Colm’s world cracking when Charlotte snubs his advances, and all the circuitous shenanigans set at school (they have a new, somewhat unorthodox French teacher in Mademoiselle Broussard) and while kicking around town afterwards.

It also boasts the recognition factor for it’s all so astutely observed: sitting down to supper for 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 including a glossary this time written by Lottie herself and that early schoolground 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 and read the Page 45 review here

Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard…

“Heed not the dissenter! Be not lured from the winding way by their wild abstractions!
“Stay constant!
“Stay steadfast!”

No, not Stan Lee proselytising on avoiding non-superhero comics at all costs, but the followers of The Cog extolling the virtues of being vigilant against the temptations of believing in The Watchmaker. And as the Archimandrite himself is behoved to exhort upon hearing Speaker Eusabius mention such a blasphemous term…

“Speak not that name in these halls! The Cog is, was and always shall be! The Cog was not created by a charlatan prophet! The Cog is creation!”

Maybe, maybe not. It would seem to be a question of faith, misplaced or otherwise… Me, I can’t say I’m a true believer, no matter how hard Stan preaches, but what cannot be disputed is The Cog itself is very real indeed, as yet another epic astronomical introductory sequence by Culbard makes clear. It really is becoming quite the trademark. The world Edginton has created, of a technologically devolving society, living on what seems to be a planet somehow mounted on an impossibly complex mechanical structure bearing, I should add, more than a passing resemblance to watch parts (waiting tensely for divine bolt of lightning to sizzle my private parts), is equally grandiose in concept, magnificently so in fact, both in scope and design. Design… hmm…

The populace at large, though, are almost singularly unaware of their situation. Those who think they know the truth, far fewer in number than the hoi polloi, but of course who have control, are doing their best to avoid dealing with the fact that their world is gradually, year on year, getting colder, with summers shortening and the winters becoming ever more harsh. Almost as though a watch were winding down (air positively crackling now!)…

The one person who does seemingly know the real truth, or at least considerably more than anyone else, a former high official of the church of The Cog, is about to commit a very elaborate form of suicide, both to save his granddaughter from the authorities and also to attempt to absolve himself for a frankly irredeemable sin. That this act will enable his granddaughter Wren to undertake a revelatory journey, both for her and by extension us, is also part of his intentions. Without wishing to spoil anything, it’s perhaps suffice to say The Watchmaker, well, it might not be an entirely abstract concept. But then worlds don’t just make themselves? Or do they?

That was most of my review of just the opening issue after which I added I was hooked! It’s the full line and sinker now after these first six issues as Edginton has astonished me with the truly epic milieu he has plotted out and Culbard has then so sublimely envisioned. By the end of this first arc we have only visited a few of the once heavenly spheres, now mostly in dystopian decline or apocalyptic ruin, as Wren continues her quest to establish why the vast mechanism controlling the various planets seems to be slowly winding down to a state of total heat death. I’m quite sure by the end of the overall story after another two or three arcs, we’ll have had the full galactic tour and maybe even learnt a few of The Watchmaker’s secrets…!

It’s rare to read speculative fiction that is based on such an out-there fantastical premise yet maintains a complete plausibility at all times, though I think the suspension of disbelief is greatly aided by the eccentric cast of zany characters that populate the work. Similarly, rarely do you get such a sense of impending, encroaching all-pervasive apocalyptic doom combined with crackpot, irreverent frippery and frivolous fun, and these contrasts are what make this such an entertaining read. It strikes me as I type this, it’s very Douglas Adams in nature actually this work, which is an extremely difficult trick to pull off, so huge congratulations to Edginton for that.

Culbard meanwhile applies that wonderful mix of character scenes and epic alien landscapes used to such good effect in his four Lovecraft adaptations to give the work a real sense of cinema. Perhaps it’s the lovely larger page size format (and it’s also a very chunky hardback too, I must add, a proper whopper for your £25) but I really noticed reading this how he often mixes those opposites up on the same page or even double-page spread, with the vast landscape or huge action scene that takes up half the space then also providing the background three or four story driving panels sit on top of. Not a square millimetre of page wasted on gutters. It’s a great little compositional trick that adds to the sense of scale and grandeur and, again, that cinematic feel. Fantastic to see two truly great British comics creators right at the top of their game.

JR

Buy Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Bunch Of Amateurs (£4-99, self-published) by Andrew Waugh.

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS is about a bunch of amateurs, each of which turns out to be experts. Experts who have made vital contributions to various sciences.

None of which stops Andrew ‘This Means’ Waugh from having a right old laugh with his imagined scenarios – conversations between these amateur experts and their customers, colleagues or colonels.

Each of the four farces has a different, attractive matt colour palette beginning unsurprisingly with green.

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), you see, was an Augustinian friar who not only grew but bred pea plants at his monastery presumably in search of the ultimate pea soup. Here they’ve become so virile they have indeed all but blotted out the sun and monopolised the monasterial gardens to the point where the monk in charge of the kitchens has had nothing else to work with in two whole years. He’s very patient, though. Well, you’d have to be at a monastery, wouldn’t you?

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) was an Austrian-born actress and star of MGM’s ‘Golden Age’. Together with composer George Antheil, however, she apparently also invented an early form of spread-spectrum communications and frequency hopping which would later pave the way for bluetooth and wi-fi.

Now at this point I was beginning to think we were in Joe Decie’s I BLAME GRANDMA territory in which Joe’s grandmother invented the paperclip. “You couldn’t make this up!” I wrote in my review. Well, I hope you’ve all bought your copies by now.

It transpires that Waugh has made none of this up – apart from the conversations themselves, and this one had me in stitches. It’s Lamarr’s sophistication giving way to an arched eyebrow and exasperation as she pitches her findings to a colonel and a professor, the former chomping on a cigar, the latter puffin on a pipe while Lamarr herself smokes a slim cigarette held like Europeans do at a back-bent angle. It’s also the professor and colonel’s star-struck chauvinism.

“I believe I have something that could greatly benefit the war effort.”
“Indeed. Well, I’ve got to say, you’re already benefiting the room with your presence. Simply ravishing. Am I right, professor?”
“Stunning.”

It gets worse.

“May I continue?”
“Please do.”
“It hasn’t escaped our notice that the country’s torpedoes are a particular risk from signal jamming. All it would take to send one off course would be for the enemy to locate the control signal and broadcast interference at that exact frequency.”
“I’m no scientist, Miss Lamarr but you are undoubtedly broadcasting a signal at this very moment.”
“Excuse me?”
“You’re causing interference in my heart.”
“Woof.”

And so it goes.

Mary Anning (1799-1847) is a plump cheeked palaeontologist in a bonnet, selling her wares on a table by some sand dunes. She did comb the cliffs at Lyme Regis and flogged her fossil findings to punters like this posho who takes her for a simpleton so seeks to take her for a ride. I think you’ll find it’s yourself in the passenger seat, matey.

Finally we have Michael Faraday (1791-1867). Him, you may have heard of. What you might not know, however, is that – following little formal education – he was self-taught during his seven-year stint as a bookseller apprentice.

This one put me in mind of YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK’s Tom Gauld. It’s probably all the books. It’s also another posho punter being inbred, aristocratically stupid as Faraday pops up from behind his test tubes like in Watch With Mother’s Mr. Benn. You know, “And suddenly the shop keeper appeared.”

“Good day, sir. How may I help you?”
“Ah, there you are. Yes, I’m interested in buying one of these new-fangled “books” I’ve heard so much about. Do you have any?”
“One or two, sir.”

Perfect panel, that.

Actually that exchange sounds delightfully familiar.

SLH

Buy A Bunch Of Amateurs and read the Page 45 review here

The Walking Man h/c (£14-99, Fanfare – Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

Do you go walking?

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

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

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

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

10th Anniversary hardcover reprint.

SLH

Buy The Walking Man h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cochlea & Eustachia s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Hans Rickheit…

More mind-rending material from the obscurist’s obscurist, Hans Rickheit. If, like me, you still can’t unsee in your mind’s eye the huge pipe organ constructed from pig’s heads from THE SQUIRREL MACHINE, or perhaps are still nervously trembling in anticipation of what unimaginable monstrosity might lie behind the next door, in his anthology of oddity FOLLY, THE CONSEQUENCES OF INDISCRETION, you’ll know precisely what to expect from this extended collection of material featuring possibly the strangest pair of identical twin sisters you’re ever likely to meet. I’m not sure if trouble is their middle name, but it probably should be as they have a natural affinity for getting into improbably grim scrapes akin to Santa Claus getting his arse wedged, chestnuts-a-roasting, over yet another open fire.

So it proves here as they wake up yet again in someone else’s rather disturbing abode, sparsely yet sinisterly decorated with surreal objets de rather terrifying art, most of which seem as though they might be stuffed / pickled trophies or implements to facilitate inconceivable and possibly anatomically impossible torture techniques. Someone who seems to be half-mole, half-man, and whose residence / laboratory is set in a vast field of birds’ skulls… I sense trouble! If Hans should ever offer to interior-design my house or landscape the gardens, I can assure you I’ll be politely but firmly refusing…

Meanwhile, at first the girls are content to secretly observe the moleman, scrambling along the rafters, but once they spot what seems to be an identical triplicate of themselves, also creeping around the house, it’s not long before they’re discovered and the peril factor starts to ramp up exponentially. As I have mentioned whilst reviewing his works before, the closest analogy I can make in modern comics to Hans’ material would be Charles Burns’ X’ED OUT / THE HIVE / SUGAR SKULL trilogy. This is even weirder, though, trust me.

JR

Buy Cochlea & Eustachia s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets; Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs (£2-50 each) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth >

Sam Jamwitch is a witch made of jam living in a house of toast with her aptly named familiar, Pectin (heh).

In episode one Sam and Pectin go into the woods to collect logs so that they can keep their toast house toasty warm. It is here that they come across the wooden ferrets, who are blubbering because of Sam chopping down the trees. Wanting to be a nice witch, Sam invites them home for a cuppa and crumpets to cheer them up. The wooden ferrets, however, are less than grateful and make a thorough nuisance of themselves, and they should certainly know better than to annoy a witch. It is here that we are exposed to the wonderfully dark humour of Kate and Ed and oh, how perfectly done it is!

It’s playful and naive illustration style perfectly complements the weird and whimsical world in with Sam and Pectin reside. Full of puns and with humour that is thoroughly British, I think that Sam Jamwitch is a bit of a gem.

In episode two Sam is after some Angry Acorns that “keep you at boiling point, maintain a livid complexion, and bitter aftertaste”; the perfect product for a witch finding herself a bit on the soft side these days. For the prestigious job of foraging for the Angry Acorns, Sam employs the Snoozle Pigs. With a nickname like that you would think that the inevitable is obvious, but apparently not to Sam. Oh, Sam. Maybe you won’t need those angry acorns after all.

Once again filled with silliness, puns, and dark humour; this is an enjoyable little treat that’s great for a chuckle.

JP

Buy Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs and read the Page 45 review here

The Shadow Hero (£12-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew…

“NO NO NO!”
“But you don’t even know what a superhero is!”
“Of course I know what a superhero is! They are all over the newspapers!”
“Then why don’t you want to be one!”

Haha, pushy mothers, exactly the same the world over since time immemorial, though perhaps Hank’s mother might have her sights set slightly higher than most. Two Page 45 favourites, Gene Luen AMERICAN BORN CHINESE Yang and Sonny MALINKY ROBOT Liew, combine to tell the tale of the first Asian American superhero The Green Turtle, but it’s an affectionate spoof of American immigrant culture as much as a homage to this little known comics character.

Hank’s mother was always determined her son would amount to more than her worthless – in her eyes – husband, in reality a hard-working family man running a grocery business, harbouring a strange, mystical secret. Before arriving in the US, Hank’s father liked a drink, well quite a few, and whilst in a drunken stupor that ended up with him on a steamer ship to the new world, he made a pact with a powerful spirit force looking to escape the rapidly changing, chaotic world of early 20th Century China. America, the land of opportunity beckoned, but needing a human host to get there it made a deal to grant Hank’s father one wish in exchange for passage.

 

 

I do like a bit of comedy superheroes when it’s done well. Gene Yang plays up the Chinese cultural tropes you would expect to great effect, both in terms of family and the wider potted history of Asian / American superheroes (and villains!), whilst Sonny Liew knows how to work facial features for the maximum humorous effect, that is for sure. Hank’s pained expressions at his mother’s latest crazy attempts to lure him into the world of do-gooding are a joy to behold. Expressions he’s desperate for his mother not to see of course, for whilst the pain of getting yet another battering by the thugs of Chinatown is weighing heavily on his mind, letting his dear mother down would be far, far worse of course!

JR

Buy The Shadow Hero and read the Page 45 review here

The Royals – Masters Of War s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby.

Full-blooded art with some seriously fine architecture, most of it on fire or in ruins during this blue-blooded, Second World War, superhuman showdown.

Initially it’s the riff-raff on the receiving end but this gets bigger and bigger and nastier and nastier, sending you down some very dark and unexpected alleys. I don’t think comparisons with ZENITH Phase One are uncalled for: not just for the WWII setting and the superhumanity, but for the politics as well.

One of the many elements that intrigued and impressed me no end was how Williams incorporated so many historically recorded events so inextricably within the story he wanted to tell – how at times they even propel it – even if their execution and outcome necessarily prove different. The handling of Pearl Harbour in particular struck me as trenchantly observed when it came to the Japanese psyche. I should probably stop there before I give too much away.

London 1940, then, and the problem for young Prince Henry is that not only are his subjects on the receiving end, but they’re the ones doing all the fighting while his father, King Albert, holds lavish court in Buckingham Palace and his older brother gets pissed in the pantry with his trousers round his ankles.

Moreover, Britain is losing. London is being bombed to buggery in the Blitz while the RAF is painfully outnumbered and outgunned by the German Luftwaffe. The threat of an imminent Nazi invasion is all too real.

Royal Secret Intelligence Service liaison, Lt. Colonel Lockhart, isn’t exactly happy about the state of affairs, either, nor the affairs of the State. He’s sickened by the champagne-guzzling elite so far from the front line, and he’s all too easily goaded by the dissolute Prince Arthur.

“May I ask your Highness, why you do not enter the fight yourself?”

“Well… I’d have thought that was blindingly obvious, Lt. Colonel, even to a man of your blatant lack of breeding. But I’ll happily spell it out for you. I am a Prince. My life is extraordinarily enjoyable, and the gullible proles shoot their little guns and get blown to bits on my behalf. It’s a quite marvellous social system.”

So what’s new?

What’s new is this: the royal families of Europe have long enjoyed not only the Divine Right of Kings – the unquestionable and inalienable right to rule – but also supposedly God-given preternatural powers. Naturally they didn’t want to share them, hence all the inbreeding. However, after a little revolution or two in France and Russia – and King Albert being a genetic aberration, born powerless – the King decided to protect his children from jealous Bolshies by pretending his children were born without powers too. They weren’t. Princess Rose was born telepathic (something which drove her own mother mad), Prince Henry was born with the power of strength, flight and a certain degree of invulnerability, and Prince Arthur was born with the ability to piss everyone off within a fifty-mile radius.

Oh yes, Rose and Henry were born with something else which no royal family in Europe had been in possession of since records began: a social conscience. So late that same night, little more than an hour after the last German plane had dropped its incendiary load, they sneak out of the palace grounds, Rose cupped in Henry’s arms as they fly high above London, looking down on its black-out monuments. They are sharing a moment.

“It’s like Peter Pan.”

But as they descend past the dirigibles suspended in the evening sky, they see they are lit from the below, and what lies below is a holocaust of burning buildings, burning bodies and wailing orphans lost and alone in the blistering inferno.

“No, it’s not.”

Of Simon Coleby’s multiple stunning sequences and set pieces – including the prologue set in Berlin four years later; a titanic, oceanic confrontation; a jaw-dropping piece of perspective for the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger and every single subsequent twenty-two pages – this held the most power for me: beautifully controlled one either side by both creators (JUDGE DREDD: TRIFECTA) but, in its molten core, coloured by JD Mettler so that you can feel the unbearable heat and hear the crackling corpses, it’s absolutely harrowing. Cut immediately to a morning shortly thereafter and the next German squadron making yet another of their relentless, remorseless approaches on the London skyline have more than they bargained for ahead of them: dozens and dozens of British fighter planes and a very angry, free-flying Prince Henry. He is not wearing royal livery, no, nor an officer’s uniform, but rank-and-file, khaki, rolled up sleeves, braces and brown tie. Nice.

It’s all quite angrily written, and I like that.

The early history lesson was far from perfunctory exposition but enjoyable in its own right (not a second of this is overwritten) and, in tandem with the ominous prologue, the cliffhanger is quite the ellipsis. Prince Henry has his day in the sun, all right, blasting through German bombers and returning one giant burning fuselage, held aloft, to a crowd cheering round the Victoria Monument with its angel of victory (again, great shot, Simon) but we already know by that point what will happen in 1945 and King Albert is reading The Telegraph headline with dismay.

His scheme had been far from unilateral, you see. He had made an international pact.

“Henry, you utter bloody idiot. Do you really think that we’re the only royal family with power?”

Nothing I have written here will prepare you for the brutality of what ensues or Rob Williams’ closely kept curve-balls; indeed I have compounded his own misdirection at least once above.

I did that with a review last week in a sentence which gave me inordinate pleasure, but only to enhance yours when you get to that comic’s punchline.

SLH

Buy The Royals – Masters Of War s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Zenith Phase Two h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell.

In its time, so contemporary. Twenty-five years on and it’s still so relevant that it appears positively prescient.

There was one particular boy-band manager who was notoriously gay. And not just notorious for being gay – for being casting-couch gay. Pop star Zenith’s manager Eddie MacPhail is much less predatory but he seems to have annoyed U.S. Intelligence’s Phaedra Cale.

“Okay! I’ve had enough of this ‘Monty Python’ stuff! Zenith’s coming with me and I will not be dictated to by some old Scotch fairy!”
“Excuse me!”

Indignation.

“It’s Scots, if you don’t mind. ’Scotch’ is a drink!”

Well played, that man, Morrison!

Powers, politics and some of the slickest superhero art of all time. Reprinted here, it’s so glossy it glows. I used to dream that my hair was drawn by Steve Yeowell. And – to be fair – my hair at the time did look as if it had been drawn by Steve Yeowell. I spent an hour each day making sure of that.

ZENITH Phase One was a beauty to behold but here Yeowell really takes flight, loosening up from what I presume was a John Byrne fetish to become its own flexible thing. My presumptions come from a couple of the poses and the reflective circles of light in young Robert’s eyes. My preference for Yeowell stems from his infinitely keener, contemporary fashion sense and a line which is looser, more humane.

You know how some people wonder which actor they’d like to portray their biopic on screen? I think of that in terms of comicbook artists: I’d like Steve Yeowell to depict me.

Okay, for the set-up, please ZENITH Phase One.

Robert is a pop star whose sales largely centre around him having superhuman powers and a bloody great quiff. He’s not a superhero, mind. He’s not in the hero business at all. He’s all about those singles’ sales so when called on to help out he needs some persuading. Here’s a particularly effective lure: the truth of what happened to his parents.

Zenith is the first pure-bred superhero, resulting from his birth from two others: he’s ingested none of the metamorphic drugs designed to create superhumans from scratch. He is unique. And targeted. And he’s about to meet Daddy.

Meanwhile Richard Branson has set up shop and is about to unleash the most monumental assault on Britain’s sovereign soil on record. Did I say Richard Branson…? It must be the balloon sweaters. I meant Scott Wallace, obviously. Nobody sue me, now.

Includes some of Morrison’s ecological arguments which would manifest themselves far more extensively in ANIMAL MAN and WE3, both recommended.

SLH

Buy Zenith: Phase Two h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (£11-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis & Alan Moore.

Back in 2001 we used to print Recommended Reading Lists which weren’t really lists at all.

But even at their longest they were “mere” 24-page brochures which Mark had enormous fun illustrating with flair, so space was limited and reviews were necessarily condensed from our mailshots or at least succinct.

I once summarised ENIGMA as “Contains a great many lizards and a closet.”

DEATH I described thus: “She’s funny, she’s sweet, she’s gorgeous and gothic. She’s enormously kind and very good company – as you’ll find out for yourself one day.” I pretty much left it like that. Of this Mark wrote in 2001:

“Only last month the latest revamp of the Judge Dredd Megazine had the first couple of stories of the delinquent duo and it still made me laff. A lot seems to have been cribbed from the Hitchhikers Guide but it’s worth the price of admission for the reduced James Dean does Shakespeare skit. Now could someone reprint Moore’s BOJEFFRIES SAGA?”

And they finally have, with a brand-new chapter!

“A suburban sitcom with a Chas Addams twist.”

Ah, I’ve just got it!

SLH

Buy The Complete D.R. & Quinch and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee…

Of the first issue, I wrote…

Easy to see why DC have let Scott Snyder loose on Big Blue as his extremely popular, and more importantly excellent, run on BATMAN continues unabated. Whether he can replicate that success on what is a rather more… one-dimensional character (and indeed supporting characters – I really am tired of seeing Lois Lane written as highly strung and career-obsessed, Perry as the gruff editor with a heart of gold, and not forgetting comedy relief and donut delivery boy Jimmy Olsen) remains to be seen, but we’re off to a good start here, even if Lois is full-on multi-tasking mode, Perry yelling at all and sundry to meet deadlines and Jimmy off on a donut run…

Okay, secondary characters aside, I did really enjoy this. It’s an interesting enough set-up with multiple satellites falling from the sky, possibly at the behest of Lex Luthor, currently en route to a super-max prison facility, though he does find time to make a brief show-stealing cameo, showing he has nerves of steel, if not the skin to match. And of course, only Superman can catch them all and save the day, except it seems one additional satellite was stopped from falling… But if Superman didn’t do it, nor following his initial investigations any member of the Justice League or other heroes, then who did? Our glimpsed answer, privy only to us fourth-wall breakers (if not Source Wall – sorry crap DC in-joke), shows that Snyder has already got a potential belter of story arc up his sleeve. Promising…

What of the art then? Well, I must say, since Jim Lee’s relatively recent return to DC and subsequent current run on JUSTICE LEAGUE, written by Geoff Johns, I have been reminded just how good his art can be, when he’s actually illustrating something I’m bothered about reading – like ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN – which always helps. Also, this issue features a crazy fold-out page right inside the front cover which gets things off with a bang. It doesn’t entirely work in that once you’ve folded it out, you realise it’s a double page spread on reverse sides of the huge page. I have to admit I did grab a second copy just so I could see what it looked like together in all its glory and who knows, maybe that’s what DC are intending, for everyone to buy two copies, precisely for that reason. Can’t quite imagine how on earth it’s going to work in the trade either, but anyway, it’s a nice touch.

[Editor’s note: we haven’t checked!]

JR

Buy Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa…

“If word of their condition got out, the students would have been terrified. I merely did what was necessary to avoid panic. All I need you to do now is find the source of the virus.”

I have commented a fair few times on the Japanese proclivity for basing manga at high schools, not matter what the genre of material, and now you can add official ‘dramatic horror’ video game prequel to that list, for this story arc is intended to act as a lead-in to Resident Evil 6. It’s not remotely connected in any important way I can see other than it shoe-horns various characters from that title in. I long since ceased playing the franchise so I merely read it from a comics perspective and actually it’s rather good.

In terms of both the relentless action and imminent-peril storyline provided by that ever-winning combination of big guns and even bigger monsters (and also the art), I was somewhat minded of GANTZ. Probably one purely for fans of the games, but if a publisher is going to do a spin-off / tie-in, it’s nice to see them make sure it is actually of decent quality.

JR

Buy Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

Saga vol 4 (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples

Thief Of Thieves vol 4: The Hit List (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinborough

7 String vol 2 (£9-99, ) by Nich Angell

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 1: Where The River Meets The Sea (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad,  Derlis Santacruz

Lobster Johnson vol 4: Get The Lobster! (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tonci Zonjic

Second Avenue Caper (£10-50, Hill & Wang) by Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli

Sonic Select vol 6 (£8-99, Archie) by various

Batgirl vol 4: Wanted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Fernando Parsarin, Daniel Sampere, Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl vol 5: Deadline h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett & Fernando Parsarin, Jonathan Glapion, various

Batman And Robin vol 5: The Big Burn h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Mick Gray, various

Swamp Thing vol 5: The Killing Field s/c (£10-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina, Andrei Bressan

The Authority vol 2 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various

All New X-Men vol 4: All-Different s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson

Daredevil vol 7 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, Jason Copland, Javier Rodriguez

Silver Surfer vol 1: New Dawn (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred

Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, Greg Tocchini, Phil Noto, Mike McKone, Julian Totino Tedesco, Dave Williams

Powers Bureau vol 2 (£14-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Assassination Classroom vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Dorohedero vol 14 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 8: The Origin (£22-50, Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Spice & Wolf vol 10 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

News!

ITEM! Ooooooh, look! Saga vol 4 is in! Merry Christmas to us all! Ker-Ching!

Also, this!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week two

December 10th, 2014

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within.

 - Stephen on Angela #1 by Gillen, Bennet & Jimenez, Hans

Here h/c (£25-00, Hamish Hamilton) by Richard McGuire.

1932: “I lost my wallet.”
1923: “I must have left the umbrella somewhere.”
2008: “I think I’m losing my mind.”

500,000 BC: You are currently on the coast. Tectonic plates will need to shift somewhat before that house even gets built.

Absolutely extraordinary.

I have never seen anything like this in my life

Six pages of this were originally published in Spiegelman’s RAW back in 1989. Thirty-five years later: here, have 200+ pages of something so current it could even be Chris Ware.

Every single shot on every single double-page spread takes place from the same vantage point: the corner of one particular room. The camera angle moves not once. However, there are two things to bear in mind:

1) That house has not always stood there.

2) Different things happen in different parts of that room during different periods of time. How interesting would it be to marry those events in separate panels on the same double-page spread?

I think this is one of those “Seeing is believing” books which I may have to show you on the shop floor. It’s a bit like Ray Fawkes’ equally inventive ONE SOUL and THE PEOPLE INSIDE in that respect.

The story weaves backwards and forwards in time as the various inhabitants move in, move out, take family photographs, grow up, grow old or break down. Exterior shots (remember, that house has not always stood there) are startling and rendered in rough-hewn pencil, wash or colour flats. Same goes for the inhabitants whether inside or out. But the interior shots of the room itself are all very much matt, colour flats with only the ever-changing wallpaper boasting any patterned line. It’s beautiful – absolutely exquisite.

‘Life’ and ‘Time’ magazines lie side by side on one tableau’s coffee table which seems – in this context – a very funny joke to me.

Exchanges or reflections may sound familiar:

“You find yourself singing a song…
“Then you realise the lyrics are the perfect commentary on your thoughts. Your subconscious has selected them like a jukebox.”

That happened to me the other day with Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson’s ‘In My Secret Life’ – which I guess is no longer so secret.

A lit fireplace at night in 1955 stood out as surprising, snug and warm; especially since in the inset 1986 panel a couple look coldly away from each other. I don’t suppose they lasted long there.

One page is given over to the multitude of insults thrown over the years.

I cannot be sure what is happening in 1777 but I have some very nasty suspicions.

Highly commended then, with all my soul: this is a graphic novel which will really make you reflect.

P.S. Dear publisher: comics is a medium, not a genre.

SLH

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

The Shaolin Cowboy s/c (£14-99, Burlyman) by Geof Darrow.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Then when those geological features start moving… What? Take a look at the back cover hinted at on its front! Those are quite specific rock formations, aren’t they? There’s a scene here I feel sure inspired another in Brandon Graham’s MULTIPLE WARHEADS.

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

SLH

Buy The Shaolin Cowboy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Blame Grandma (£4-99, self-published) by Joe Decie.

God bless The Deech: all our copies are signed and sketched-in!

I love everything about Joe THE LISTENING AGENT Decie: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects… even his handwriting.

Yes, his handwriting! It’s one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here. (Although now THE END’s Dan Berry’s going to tell me it’s one of the many fonts he’s created.)

Speaking of Dan Berry, like his own NICHOLAS & EDITH this is another of seven 24 Hour Comics he orchestrated at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. I can’t imagine the pressure but it doesn’t look like Joe felt any.

This is as effortlessly entertaining as ever, about how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten’s War Office around 1940. So that’s several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.

 

I always wonder about who invented everyday objects and why: it’s usually necessity popping out another sprog, isn’t it? In this case Joe’s grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she’s given her own office to set to it in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station.

“Apparently it was mostly used for anti aircraft operations, but Gran had her own bit, separate with its own lift!
“From her room she has direct access to the station.
“She said she used to eat her sandwiches down there. In the dark.”

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

Anyway, fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. I’m not going to give the game away, but there’s a big chunk of Joe’s life here I knew nothing about and next time I bump into him I’m going to quiz him quite chronically. Fascinating!

I will just say she that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and – typically – kept it in a tin of boot polish. An empty one, obviously. Well, empty apart from the medal. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too!

SLH

Buy I Blame Grandma and read the Page 45 review here

Hansel & Gretel h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, The Brothers Grimm & Lorenzo Mattotti.

The drawings came first.

They are eerie, awful things, crawling with shadows, swirling in darkness, with the thickest of tree-trunks blotting out the sky.

Stark, dark and black with just a glimpse of white light, they are cold and claustrophobic, evoking all the bleakness of a land ravaged by soldiers to the point of being all but barren, bringing those few inhabitants left to the brink of starvation.

That is why the mother persuades the father to drag their children the ancient forest to be left to fend for themselves. Yes, “drag”, the second time; just look at the angle of Mattotti’s three figures!

“Nobody said anything about killing anybody. We’ll take them deep into the forest, and lose them.”

“We” won’t do anything. She will make him do that.

“They will be fine. Perhaps a kind person will take them in, and feed them. And we can always have more children,” she added, practically.
“A bear might eat them,” said the woodcutter, dejectedly. “We cannot do this thing.”
“If you do not eat,” said the wife, “then you will not be able to swing an axe. And if you cannot cut down a tree, or haul wood into the town, then we all starve and die. Two dead are better than four dead. That is mathematics, and it is logic.”

Terribly, Hansel’s stomach is so cramped with hunger he cannot sleep and overhears that entire conversation.

I’ve read many versions of this tale which the Brothers Grimm themselves tinkered with in different editions; none evoked quite this same sense of physical starvation or moral malnutrition. I’ve found almost all illustrations running contrary to the contents with their colour and candysticks. Here the old woman’s domestic lure looks more like some occidental pagoda, its furnace primed for human flesh raging in the darkness.

Not an ideal Christmas present, I grant you, but highly recommended all the same.

Illustrated prose BTW.

SLH

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest s/c (£5-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess –

Not comics (I repeat, not comics!) but prose with a healthy dose of illustration from the utterly lovely Charles Vess. Good god but do I want to live in a forest drawn by Charles Vess! The shade is cool, the leaves are damp and the tree bark is rough and warm. I do wish he did more sequential stuff but if I am to get my Vess fix through beautifully crafted children’s stories like these then I really won’t complain.

The story is of a likeable, kindly, headstrong girl who lives on her Aunt’s farm and loves to explore the woods around her home. Mostly she is looking for Faeries and magic; she’s sure there must be some about but she can never seem to find it. But when an accident occurs she is drawn into that magic; a magic which has existed all around her for her entire life but which she is only now becoming aware of. So begins the journey with all the trials, lessons and lucky escapes you’d expect from a fantasy adventure such as this.

While the story is very well written, engaging and very sweet in places it is the art which really made this book stick in my head.

 

Back in the day I had a conversation with the late great Mark Simpson (one half of the genius behind Page 45) about the books which informed our aesthetic. Picture books from very early childhood that we were barely able to remember but which had imprinted on our brains, shaping our idea of beauty before we were even really conscious of what beauty was. He showed me a book his parents had uncovered in storage somewhere; it was full of painted pictures of animals and immediately you could see where some of the colours and shapes he preferred in his own art came from. I feel similarly when I see Charles Vess’ art: there is something about the foliage and the trees which just takes me somewhere *else*. It’s beyond dreamy, utterly gorgeous.

I would have devoured this book as a child and so I have been recommending it to parents in the shop left right and centre! But I also enjoyed it as an adult, not just for the marvellous illustrations but for the rich sense of place the writing created. A lovely, lovely book.

DK

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown…

“We are unusual men
Though we walk with you
We don’t think like you
We are not like you
We see with unusual eyes
We have unusual minds
We wear one-piece suits
We are not you.”

Song lyrics from We Are Unusual Men, taken from Nine And A Half Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early 1980s by Luke Haines.

Wrestling. For people of a certain generation like myself, Saturday morning television consisted of Tiswas and repeats of the classic Adam West Batman, but Saturday afternoon, well, there was only one thing you wanted to watch during the Dickie-Davies-presented World Of Sport marathon, and that was the wrestling. It’s hard to comprehend now, the cultural sway this pastime held over vast swathes of the nation, young and old alike, at the time. With colourful characters like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Rollerball Rocco and Kendo Nagasaki, it was a glimpse into a strange world of feuds, grudges and vendettas, that could only be settled honourably, or with a bit of judicious bending of the rules, inside the ring. The villains like Rocco always tried to cheat, mind you, but ninety percent or so of the time, the good guys would win out. And if not, well, there was always the inevitable rematch to settle the score.

Of course, we all believed it was completely real… Everyone – sensible, right minded adults, not just the kids – truly believed that someone could actually survive an Atomic Splash whereby a thirty-stone plus man would just drop his full bodily weight directly upon you whilst you were lying prone upon the ground.

Then, someone, the Daily Mail I think (always the Daily Mail…) ran a huge exposé proving it was all a big act, that the matches were in fact fixed, the opponents <gasp> colluding with each other, and somehow it just all seemed somewhat tawdry after that. Actually, I think the nation’s youth became ensconced in the rather more stimulating delights of the ZX Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, BBC Microcomputer et al, but that’s a different story. But, coinciding with it disappearing off television in some sort of rights dispute, well, it gradually drifted from the UK public consciousness entirely.

Meanwhile though, across the pond, the burgeoning US wrestling scene managed to somehow make the transition from illegitimate sporting event to legitimate entertainment spectacle and remain in the forefront of television programming. One of the main reasons for this was undoubtedly the man mountain known as Andre The Giant. I had vaguely heard of him, simply because I was aware that the boxer versus wrestler match between Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan who until the Rock came along in latter years was probably the best known US wrestler in the UK simply by dint of this cameo) in Rocky 3 was based on just such a miss-matchup between Andre and a hapless stooge of a pugilist.

This, then, is the story of one of the most colourful characters in US wrestling history. Born in rural France with a genetic disorder that resulted in his freakish large stature at even an extremely young age, and ultimately led to his premature death, Andre was always marked out as different. Thus when the opportunity to take the road less travelled into the grappling business presented itself, he quite literally seized it with both hands. Box Brown presents a fascinating tale of a complex character, who knew he was doomed to live a shorter life than most, and perhaps thus decided it needed to be lived to the full. You can’t say Andre was entirely a good man, he certainly had his demons and darker side, which came more to the fore particularly towards the end of his life, but he was always entertaining.

Whilst you might not be familiar with Andre, if like myself you think wistfully of the days of Kendo Nagasaki bashing Catweasel’s brains in on the corner stanchion before tagging his tag team partner in to complete the demolition job, you’ll get a flying dropkick out of seeing what was going at a comparable time on the other side of the Atlantic. Even without any great love of grappling it’s a splendid biography of a world inhabited by, as Luke Haines would put it, unusual men, with unusual minds, who wear one-piece suits, and are not like you. Unless you’re into cosplay that is I suppose…

It just goes to show how a biography written by a man with a passion for his topic is always going to engage the reader. Wonderfully illustrated, it really captures the incessant energy and rollercoaster emotions present throughout Andre’s eventful life, from an early encounter as a youth with Samuel Beckett who encouraged him to spread his wings and live his dreams, through to the difficult days towards the end, when prolific drinking was his only solace from the extreme pain of his condition.

 

Box clearly has the sort of fondness for wrestling from this era that I do, and I seriously wonder if could interest him in doing a graphic biography on that most mysterious man of all, Kendo Nagasaki? I can still recall my jaw dropping during his ceremonial unmasking performed in front of literally millions of people on television, with his manager Gorgeous George dressed in some spangly garb more befitting a glam rock star, the two robed acolytes falling prostrate upon the canvas whilst Nagasaki plunged his samurai sword into the centre of the ring, before his mask was removed to reveal a rather striking man with a part shaven head, plaited pony tail and mystic symbol tattooed on the top of his head. Pure theatre, quite incredible stuff, and if you would like to see it for yourself, check it out HERE, because someone has managed to get hold of the original World Of Sport broadcast and get it up on Youtube! These days Kendo holds Buddhist retreats at his Wolverhampton mansion, claims to have remote healing powers, and errr… drives a banana yellow Lamborghini Countach… A most unusual man…

JR

Buy Andre The Giant: Life And Legend and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 (£2-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Gabriel Andrade.

One hundred years have passed since The Surprise.

And it was quite a surprise, let me tell you. You’d be quite surprised if you found yourself in Nottingham city centre and it was suddenly writhing in howling, bellowing, jabbering hoards of half-clad cretins, urinating in doorways and leering lasciviously at anyone who passed by.

Outside of a Saturday night, anyway.

Yet that’s what has happened in CROSSED, kicked off by Garth Ennis a dozen or so volumes ago: a worldwide pandemic of sexually insatiable savages in which no one – no matter how old or young or how closely related – was safe. “This is what the worst of humanity looks like uninhibited by law” is what Garth seemed to say; and you look at some geographical regimes and cannot help but agree.

I enjoyed the first book, if “enjoyed” is the right word. I was actually vicariously terrified, peering through my fingers as I tentatively turned the pages – which isn’t easy using only your elbows. I initially promoted the series thus:

“Whatever your most terrifying nightmare, this is infinitely worse.”

After that, I’m afraid it lost me. The genuine, stomach-churning tension which made me invest emotionally in each individual or shudder at their complete callousness and disregard for their fellow fugitive was replaced by such grotesquery that it repelled me with its not-necessary nastiness and so from what was occurring. Jonathan assured me that its spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was a huge return to form but I haven’t been sufficiently intrigued until the words “Alan” and “Moore” lured me back, and look: he’s brought a rather fine artist with him.

The textures on this detritus-strewn landscape are as rich as its detail: there’s so much to look at surrounding the more obvious focal points of the plot: the libraries, churches and the rusted stream train carrying this cast of archivists across a much more thinly populated wilderness where you can almost hear the silence.

It seems there are now far fewer nests of The Crossed (so-called because of the cross of red blisters which erupts across their faces on infection like some pustular St George’s flag), largely because they’ve eaten their own children before they’re old enough to breed. So it’s relatively (relatively) safe to venture a little further from the tracks to see what can be gleaned from what’s left of the relics of their past to better understand what used to be considered their culture. Although everyone goes armed with a shotgun.

Just as well, because one such expedition is startled to be set upon by a second nest of nudists in two days, covered in blood and faeces, the men as priapic as ever and they are roaring, “Packemin! Packemin! Aha ha haaa…” And they do love to pack ‘em in, but that’s not what they’re screaming. Everyone is in for a very big surprise.

I’m back onboard and, in case you’re wondering, you need not have read a single sentence of this series before to launch straight in now.

This is far more culturally orientated, Moore extrapolating from the Ennis scenario and musing on what might have happened one hundred years on. For a start, the ozone layer has repaired itself. Well, all our smoke-billowing industries have shut down. So it’s not all bad. It’s still pretty bad and right now I am very much appreciating the safety of my study and my steady supply of Sauvignon Blanc.

In particular Moore is considering what may have happened to language and its slang in a world where there are isolated packs of human beings rather than an instantly accessible global information hub. There are neologisms aplenty, many of which made me smile but – Jonathan and I agree – rather too many. Language should enrich a story, not obfuscate it, and I wince typing this for Alan Moore is one thousand times the writer that I will ever be but, for me, the number rendered the narrative just a little too opaque. Maybe I need a little longer to adjust with a couple more instalments – I’m pretty confident that I am the one more likely to be failing!

Bonus in the back: Ennis is interviewed about CROSSED and comes up with some perceptive observations about heroism in fiction and heroism in reality. Sometimes you try, you really do, but sometimes the situation overwhelms you.

It’ll make you think, I promise.

SLH

Buy Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma.

“Oww!”

Why the films never incorporated that knee-scraping trademark as an in-joke eludes me.

It was one of my favourite elements. The favourite element of my housemate’s girlfriend was to send Lara Croft careening over a cliff to her bone-crunching death. Over and over again. My, how she chuckled at those really rather vivid sound effects. (I think she may have been jealous!)

Tombraider has been reborn!

Well, partly. There’s still waaaaay too much hand-holding rather than free-roaming exploration (and exasperation, to be sure) in order to solve the puzzles and so wend your way through; but I loved both the emotional investment and the slickness and thrill of the cut-scene-to-first-person-performance of Lara’s last desert-island outing.

I may have skewered an excessive number of innocent deer given that I’m such a strict vegetarian (who wears leather and eats fish – fish are monumentally stupid, don’t you think?) but I felt their pain too, just as I felt Lara’s bewilderment at her outnumbered predicament and whoooooooooooooo I wasn’t going to cross a rope bridge in my life to begin with but now….? Never.

It’s easy to forget that, before its potency was frittered away on several half-arsed outings, the Tombraider franchise was full of the most spectacular and exotic settings: from Escher-like labyrinths of staircases so high up I came down with vertigo and treacherous stone temples with secret passages, hidden traps and demonic creatures lurking in the shadows to rusting tanker hulks abandoned under the ocean… with sharks on the loose!

It was like Antony Johnston’s UMBRAL.

Then there were those sequences which set you on fire like in Venice when you had to pilot a speedboat through the canals and its mines just in time to… I played that to The Propellerheads’ version of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and ‘Spybreak’. It took me long-time.

Sorry…? No, I’m not reviewing the comic. Not read it. I’m sure it’s aces, though.

I’m just sharing the love of our candelabra-leaping Lara. Even my Mum got in on the act. Remember when you had to judge whether Lara sprang one-step or two-steps between stone edifices? The entire time Ma and I spent in Venice, we couldn’t help but look up and wonder whether various leaps of confidence were single jumps or “runny-jumps”. Runny jumps!

And we were in Venice!

We’re so fucking cultured, us two.

SLH

Buy Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett & Phil Jimenez, Stephanie Hans.

“It was far too early in the day for murder.
“She really was trying to cut down.”

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within. This is a story about loyalty, oath, debt and indebtedness; about having a price, naming that price and then paying that price if that price is not paid.

I should be a bank manager. Or a judge. I’m already a Libran, if that helps.

There’s a lot of dead-pan humour thrown into an already heady mix of action, distraction, reputation and revelation designed to intrigue you further but give you single-issue satisfaction all the same. That’s reasonably rare. There is the mother of all cliff-hangers, don’t get me wrong, but you will still have read something so smile-inducingly succinct with a beginning, middle and end – distilling the very essence of the comics to come – that you will walk away nodding that you now know Angela even if you have never met her before in your life.

Angela has been revealed to be the daughter of Odin and Freyja but was raised to hate all Asgardians because complicated. Don’t worry, it’s all explained in the comic. It’s basically left her between a rock and a hard place, a lineage limbo of sorts, and that’s where we find her, battling through a flesh-tearing temporal sandstorm to save Sera, an angel from Heven (sic).

Flashback to the self-contained sub-story when she did that once before.

Angela used to think that she herself was an angel from Heven but now she knows better. She’s an Asgardian and Asgard and Heven have never got on since Angela was presumed murdered as a newborn babe. I said: “COMPLICATED”! As it so happens, Thor now knows better too and Angela’s done something ever so slightly inflammatory….

Sera aside, I really wouldn’t have recognised Gillen’s book-end sequences as being drawn by Phil Jimenez. Sera’s profiles still boast that George Pérez stamp but inked by the legendary Tom Palmer (John Buscema’s best ink artist) it’s a much fuller affair, closer to Quesada, and I’m equally up for that. Hans meanwhile is more painterly so think Frazer Irving. Either way it’s all very attractive but if you’ll excuse me I need to step back.

It’s “Evisceration Hour”.

For more Angela, please see Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

SLH

Buy Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Origin h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove.

Beautifully packaged hardcover reprint of the softcover reprint of the hardcover reprint of the six-issue series that started off like The Secret Garden (mansion, sickly male child, girl visitor) before blossoming into something really quite powerful. Lost of lush landscapes, gorgeously rendered, and lots of misery spread around by the miserable and twisted. And as hardcover it will sit better on your shelves with ORIGIN II that the ORIGIN I s/c.

For those seeking a straight forward account of Wolverine’s birth, adolescence and the order in which he was enlisted by various agencies before joining the X-Men, you might as well walk away now because Marvel decided not to be so bloody tedious, and instead served up a piece of historical drama, intelligently going for partial revelation with just enough mystery to make you do some of the work yourself.

The sickly, surviving son of wealthy John Howett, James, is given a playmate called Rose. His mother is sequestered on the top floors of the mansion, rarely to be seen since the death of her eldest. Rose recalls the events in her diary, as the pair of them make friends with ‘Dawg’, the gardener’s boy, but of course there’s trouble and whenever there is, James’ irascible grandfather erupts like a volcano and the alcoholic gardener beats his submissive son to a pulp. From the first time you see him, the growling, resentful servant with his feral child will look immediately familiar, and his name will only confirm your suspicions. But I’d curb your initial instincts if I were you, because thankfully this story, like Logan’s lineage, isn’t as obvious as it seems.

Some have said that Jenkins’ attempt at a Brontë feel was a bit naff, but it suits the story and Kubert’s seasonal landscapes, first on the Howlett estate then round the snow-capped mountains and quarries of British Columbia, shifting from parched to verdant then chill, are rendered with detail, majesty and, courtesy of Isanove, a subtlety of colour. The wildlife moves with astonishing vivacity and power, whilst the figure work is all you could hope for.

And, come on, you do want to know now, don’t you…?

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Origin I h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New 52: Future’s End vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Patrick Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, various…

What If… DC decided to do a massive non-continuity event running weekly for nearly a year that focused on various smaller characters? Obviously not a new thing, they did it before with 52, or perhaps The Old 52 as it should be referred to now. Yes, yes, I know technically that was continuity, apparently filling in the ‘missing year’ between INFINITE CRISIS and, the errr… rather imaginatively titled ONE YEAR LATER (that no one remembers) when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had disappeared for some  spurious reason I can’t for the life of me remember, but actually, it was rather enjoyable nonsense.

This is basically more of the same, just with a much more interesting set-up. It all begins 35 years in the future in the BATMAN BEYOND era, which is now apparently in the mainstream DC continuity, whereas it never was before. I know I said this was a non-continuity yarn, but do bear with me, questions may be asked by The Answer Man later and he’s a bigger stickler than Norris McWhirter for detail…

The world of the future is now a total mess with the artificial intelligence Brother Eye having assimilated virtually all our heroes in a dystopian nightmare made real. I’m not quite sure how that factoid ties-in continuity-wise with Batman’s Brother Eye technology from (pre-New 52) THE OMAC PROJECT yet, (does anything pre-New 52 technically have any relevance with current continuity anymore, I honestly have no idea) but given Omacs feature heavily throughout this first volume and it all begins with an elderly cane wielding, if not tap dancing, Bruce Wayne sending the BATMAN BEYOND Batman a.k.a. Terry McGinnis back in time to our era to try and avert the A.I.’s ascension, I’d say it’s a passing nod at least

Anyway, the wrinkle is that Bruce only succeeds in sending Terry back thirty years, to a possible future five years from now, where Earth Prime is recovering from a massive war against alien intruders that came through a dimension rift from Earth 2, which itself had been under attack and virtually destroyed. Note: this really has absolutely nothing to do with the current Earth 2 storyline where Earth 2 is under attack from a vast alien invasion… I know, that confused me as well at first, trying to figure out if it was… I think not anyway…

Vast numbers of Earth Prime heroes were killed in defence of Earth Prime, and only a few hundred thousand Earth 2 refugees, including some of its heroes, were evacuated safely through to this dimension, but now live as mistrusted, stigmatised second-class citizens blamed for the destruction wreaked upon Earth Prime by the aliens – which seems a tad harsh given their world was entirely destroyed, but anyway… Meanwhile, the few surviving Earth 2 heroes have all mysteriously vanished. The overall implication though is that a bigger impending threat to Earth Prime is still looming, which we know of course is the dystopian future of Brother Eye.

What I have enjoyed about this weekly series so far is how it has constantly shifted from set of characters to characters, week after week, focusing mainly on a lot of the old Wildstorm characters like Grifter, Stormwatch etc. but also other random bods like some of the Justice League Dark such as Frankenstein and Amethyst , plus the Atom, Hawkman, Firestorm, Mr. Terrific etc. and only revealing another tiny piece of the much bigger puzzle each time. One issue you’re getting Grifter abducted by Deathstroke and taken to some mysterious island where Cadmus scientists seem to be experimenting on abducted Earth 2 heroes, then it’s into the Bleed where most of Stormwatch are wiped out instantaneously just for fun by some mysterious entity with some as yet unknown connection to what is happening back on Earth, then it’s over to John Constantine trekking round the desert in search of a bearded wandering Superman who seems to be having some sort of existential crisis. And all the while you have Terry McGinnis on his covert undercover mission. He’s obviously realised he’s five years later than he should be of course, but still thinks he can prevent the rise of the machines. He can’t reveal his presence to any of the superheroes of the day, of course, for reasons I won’t elaborate on here, and so is forced to turn to the lower end of the superpowered criminal fraternity for assistance. Who are just delighted to be helping any sort of Batman out of course!

It’s utterly bonkers clearly, but the writing from Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, who I get the impression are each writing the different slices of what I’ve outlined above is nice, slick stuff, and you feel they are enjoying themselves immensely. So much of the DC output at the moment is so turgid it beggars belief, weighed down under its own pomposity and primary-school-level plotting, so it’s nice to have something that’s a bit more convoluted and involved, frankly.

This is the first extended DC run I’ve read since Geoff Johns’ long GREEN LANTERN run that I can say has held my interest to the same degree, Scott Snyder’s BATMAN aside, and even that has had its patchy moments frankly. I think actually the weekly release schedule in helping in that respect, keeping me engrossed. Plus, compared to the hackneyed drivel that is the current big Marvel event AXIS (and hey, I am a big Rick BLACK SCIENCE / UNCANNY X-FORCE Remender fan), this title is positively Shakespearean.

Anyway, if you want an entertaining doorstep of capes ‘n’ tights material, some 18 issues worth which does just about justify the £29-99 price tag, to sensorially sequester yourself away with on Boxing Day whilst the rest of the family watch endless repeats on the goggle box, this will probably fit the bill. Note: I presume there will be two subsequent volumes if the plan is for it to run to 52 issues or thereabouts.

JR

Buy The New 52: Futures End vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marshal Law s/c (£22-50, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill.

“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.”

450 pages of smear and loathing, designed to make your mouth curl at the very same time you’re chortling your toes off. You’ll be gurning and groaning, like the Elephantman being given a blowjob.

Before Veitch delivered pretty much the last word worth saying on the pervy nature of superheroes in BRATPACK (although we’ve since been treated to Garth Ennis’ sustained sexual assault in THE BOYS), Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill voiced their own distaste in their ultra-violent, iconoclastic, joke-in-every-corner MARSHAL LAW books. All things establishment and status quo get a jack-booted kick to the crotch, from Reagan and the Church to the Justice League of America and theme parks. It’s kind of like MAD on crack (I did not just type “it’s kind of like” – you never read that), though I don’t mean Kurtzman-esque, for you won’t find too much social dissection going on. That was left, as previous mentioned, to Rick Veitch.

What you will witness is a gross-out ejaculation of repressed sexuality; of sadism, masochism and self-loathing. Maximum punnage is the order of the day and they keep it coming, thick and fast, spawning now-familiar slogans like “Nuke Me Gently.”

It’s not quite as slick as I recall – the voice-overs don’t half interrupt the flow – but it’s still the work of two men having the grimmest of laughs while firing on all cylinders.

This whopping volume, heavy enough to cave in the cranium of anyone in a kinky costume or cape, reprints MARSHAL LAW #1-6, MARSHAL LAW: FEAR AND LOATHING, MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN, MARSHAL LAW: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND and MARSHAL LAW: THE HATEFUL DEAD, MARSHAL LAW: SUPER BABYLON and MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1-2. Gallery section, and an introduction by Jonathan Ross.

SLH

Buy Marshal Law s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?


A Bunch Of Amateurs (£4-99) by Andrew Waugh

The Great Salt Lake (£5-00) by Matt Taylor

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul (£14-99) by John Allison

Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (£11-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis & Alan Moore

Disenchanted vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & German Erramouspe

Enigma s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo

The Graphic Canon Of Children’s Literature (£25-99, Seven Studies) by various, edited by Russ Kick

In The Frame 2012-2014 (£12-00) by Tom Humberstone

The Royals – Masters Of War s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby

Showa 1944 – 1953: A History Of Japan vol 3  (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

The Walking Man h/c (£14-99, Fanfare – Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Nightwing vol 5: Setting Son s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & various

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 5: The Big Picture s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Will Pfeifer, Joe Keatinge & various

Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, various

Mighty Avengers vol 3: Original Sin – Not Your Fathers Avengers s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Greg Land

Savage Hulk vol 1: Man Within s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Alan Davis, Stan Lee & Alan Davis, Sal Buscema

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 5 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 9 & 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Spell Of Desire vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi 

News!

ITEM! It’s glove weather! So the other morning I rootled through my winter wardrobe (it’s a heap of jumpers and scarves on the bedroom floor) and I found my gloves, hurray! Slight problem, I suspect. I just can’t put my thumb on it.

ITEM! Lizz Lunney’s one-a-day advent calendar comics are hilarious. For best results follow Lizz @LizzLizz on Twitter. For catastrophic results follow me on the Good Ship Drunk As Fuck @pagefortyfive where we sail the stormy — [you’re fired – ed.]

ITEM! I have been offline at home which is where I generally glean these ITEM!s. It’s very disconcerting. It’s like living in a cold dark cave. Thankfully my cave comes with a fridge full of Sauvignon Blanc. I’m diving in now.

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week one

December 3rd, 2014

A damning indictment of man’s ceaseless inhumanity to man in the form of oppression, warfare and retribution: its attempts to justify war in the name of God or country; its failure to learn or advance except in more effective means of destruction; individuals’ consistent failure in power to live up to their promises made in revolution, and all the endemic, sorry subterfuge behind it all.

 - Stephen on Arkwright Integral by Bryan Talbot

Grandville vol 4: Noël (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot.

“We’d best get on with it, then.”
“Sure. All hogtied up like this? You don’t happen to have anything sharp on you, do yuh?”
“Are you joking?

The badger bears his teeth.

The badger really bares his teeth in this fourth anthropomorphic outing to Grandville (Paris), as does its creator Bryan Talbot.

With a title like NOÊL you might expect a lot of Christmas presents – there are certainly enough Easter Eggs – and maybe some saccharine school nativity scenes.

But not from someone like Talbot who here grabs two of my own bêtes noires firmly by the throat and throttles them: organised religion with its avarice, mendacity, brainwashing and hate-mongering, and the similarly styled, racist far-right surging right now in Britain with UkiP as it has for a long time in France under the Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen and his equally loathsome daughter Marine Le Pen who in September topped a presidential poll.

Think about that. You are allowed to get angry; it’s all right if you cry.

 

The prologue takes us a little further afield than usual in GRANDVILLE, to the American East Coast where a religious cult led by a gryphon and its high-priest unicorn celebrates its sanctity by committing mass suicide. “Miraculously” the gryphon and unicorn survive along with their resident, decrepit old mutt of a doctor. Next stop: Grandville…

Back in London it’s beginning to snow, heralding holiday time for Scotland Yard’s Detective-Inspector LeBrock and Detective Sergeant Ratzi who invites LeBrock, his mother and children over for Christmas, along with LeBrock’s girlfriend Billie who, not to put too fine a point of it, is a Parisian prostitute. So that could prove awkward.

Before that, however, LeBrock is implored by his guinea-pig landlady to find her missing niece. Alienated from home by an abusive step-dad who also happens to be a badger (“These mixed marriages never work” – ouch), she doesn’t appear to have been abducted but instead to have found God and fallen foul of The Silver Path’s propaganda handed out by her school gates. The Silver Path and its Church of Evolutionary Theology are based in Grandville. The girl had recently returned from a school trip there and now she’s gone again along with some freshly packed clothes, her step-dad’s wallet, the cash from his money box and all her mother’s jewels.

Guess who’s in charge of the Church of Evolutionary Theology? Guess who’s the guiding light of and along The Silver Path?

As LeBrock steps up his investigations across The Channel he discovers Grandville gripped by a crime wave following extortion mob-boss Tiberius Koenig’s complete victory over the city, buying up all the brothels and much more besides.

On top of that bigotry is rampant. Disparagingly referred to as “doughfaces” (even by LeBrock), humans – very much an underclass discriminated against and often refused board or entry to cafes, bars and clubs – have been campaigning for, well, human rights, and violence on both sides is escalating rapidly. All of which is opportunistically seized on by The Silver Path which has already been fanning the flames of fear and prejudice by blaming the “doughfaces” for every imaginable societal problem, and whose gryphon and unicorn now announce a sister political party with a Final Solution. That is what you think, yes.

The True Gospels mystery I’m going to studiously avoid for fearing of giving too much away, but by gum this is a clever and complex graphic novel, its subplots so intricately interwoven and the implications of its revelations even craftier than you might think. Let us discuss after class instead! I’d so dearly love that!

Back to the story, however, and LeBrock has the bright idea of enlisting the aid of Billie herself to infiltrate The Silver Path cult thereby creating another potential problem, finds himself desperate for the aid of American sharp-shooter Chance Lucas (haha!) of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and is so forced to confront his own prejudices.

 

I like that. Matt Wagner did the same thing with Wesley Dodds in SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL 7: show his hero to have very similar failings.

From my brief burst of parenthetical laughter you will have gathered that, as ever with GRANDVILLE, there are so many Easter egg bonuses. That is Lucky Luke, you did spy Asterix and Obelix (the trousers are a dead giveaway), there are a couple of nods to Hergé and other childhood favourites, and that dying pose is unmissable as The Pietà. There are dozens more, but my favourite is Nicholas, the boss-eyed gryphon (it’s no coincidence that both religious leaders are mythological creatures, the gryphon based on Sir John Tenniel’s), doing his best Adolf Hitler impression during The Last Supper before sitting there silent and smug. Nicholas the gryphon? Nick Griffin, former leader of Britain’s neo-Nazi National Front party. It looks exactly like him!

As ever with Talbot, it is craft, craft, craft all the way with no skimping on detail. Some of the costumes here are ridiculously rich in colour flourishes, the architecture does Paris full justice and the interiors are equally lush. Plus you will love the gondola-like aerial sky tram used here like a James Bond set piece. There’s so much action, choreographed to perfection and you’ll get all your steam, punk, I promise!

The theology is equally up to scratch and meticulously researched, although on reflection I doubt Bryan had to do much more than check a few minutiae – he knows this sort of stuff. That the historical facts involving the True Gospels have been so cleverly utilised for his own anthropomorphic plot’s ends… well, once more, let’s discuss after class, shall we?

Finally, you get quite the bang for your buck. This is as dense as it is intense and whereas most stories are over once the fat lady has sung to crescendo so shattering the glass, here the repercussions are extensive with scene after scene of reprise, reversal, revelation and startling cliffhanger prologue before you even get to the most satisfying four-page epilogue of this series yet. *zips mouth, moves on*

Finally, finally, I think you’ve earned yourself some comedy, so here’s the nannyish Doctor Ermintrude Bovery, head of Religious Studies. Something’s really got her goat:

“You’re another damned atheist, are you, Mister LeBrock? I suppose you’re a meat-eater to boot.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“Why, oh why, are only intelligent people vegetarian? If your evolution tomfoolery were true, Ursine, you’d find that your brains were bequeathed by ancestors who ate no meat.”
“On the contrary. We couldn’t possibly have evolved from a herbivore species.”
“Why ever not?”
“Because, my dear Doctor… IT DOESN’T TAKE A GREAT DEAL OF INTELLIGENCE TO SNEAK UP ON A BLADE OF GRASS!”

SLH

Buy Grandville vol 4: Noël and read the Page 45 review here

Arkwright Integral h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot.

Hefty hardcover reprinting both THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and HEART OF EMPIRE which, at the time of typing, are both out of print.

Bonus material not previously reprinted in either softcover includes all nine full-colour covers to Dark Horse’s serialisation, all nine full-colour covers to Valkyrie Press’ serialisation plus its ARKeogology, the three UK trade paperback covers, a substantial chunk of the enormous Bryan Talbot Arkwright Interview conducted by SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING’s Stephen R. Bissette originally published in 2012 and a new afterword / tribute by TRANSMETROPOLITAN’S Warren Ellis.

Here we go, then, first with THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT:

A damning indictment of man’s ceaseless inhumanity to man in the form of oppression, warfare and retribution: its attempts to justify war in the name of God or country; its failure to learn or advance except in more effective means of destruction; individuals’ consistent failure in power to live up to their promises made in revolution, and all the endemic, sorry subterfuge behind it all.

Bryan’s knowledge of political history is matched only by his command in communicating its lessons, however they may ignored by our lessers, and for a work which is essentially science fiction involving multiple parallel worlds, precognition and psychometry, this has its feet planted firmly in British history and on its very streets as Luther Arkwright is dispatched to a key parallel world in which Britain never succeeded in unshackling itself from its Cromwellian past. There he must uncover the Disruptor agents that have infiltrated key positions in the world’s governments and in particular that of repressionist, Puritan Britain, marshal the underground Royalist forces and start a great big fucking revolution to uncover the legendary Firefrost and prevent pan-dimensional Armageddon. I know that it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

This is a work that is rich in texture, vast in scope and charged with sexual energy. It’s also incredibly dense in its truest sense, for it could have been expanded into four times its length with no filler whatsoever. Instead, by weaving Arkwright’s complex history through the threads of the main narrative, by gradually lacing the present and particular with what is known of the parallels’ past, and by excavating as they go what few clues the guardians of central and stable Para 00:00:00 have of the mysterious Firefrost, their role and their goal in locating that ultimate weapon of mass destruction is slowly revealed. It really is intoxicating, as is the central climax of orgasmic satori when Arkwright rises from his own ashes – a phoenix primed with pure impressionistic poetry – which by contrast is allowed to explode across the pages in all its lush allusion. For anyone else this would be their magnum opus, not their opening salvo.

As indicated, Talbot has much to say about governments and war. The Firefrost, as its name implies, is an entity of opposites, a conjugation capable of destruction and creation, death and rebirth: the ultimate weapon of mass destruction designed to preserve life “until inevitably – as with any deterrent – it was activated”. Concise and to the point, I think you’ll agree.

Nathaniel Cromwell, Lord Protector and head of the Church of England, is an exceedingly ugly creation. A puritanical preacher, he rages against sin yet fornicates in secret, forcing himself on young royalist virgins, bound and gagged in the dark. Riddled with venereal disease, he is rabid in public whilst, in private, deliriously drunk; he is plagued by his father’s abuse which left him sexually disfigured. Even the revolutionary Queen Anne has a ruthless side that will take you by surprise – or maybe not if you’ve read HEART OF EMPIRE. Just like HEART OF EMPIRE (a sequel of sorts) this shares its Shakespearian elements contrasting affairs of state with backstreet bawdiness, and this has an awful lot of omens. Bryan has a worryingly broad and vivid imagination when it comes to the hundreds of worldwide catastrophes visiting the other parallel worlds! Here too are the Hogarthian references as you’ll see down in Cheapside overlooked (I think) by Westminster, as foul-mouthed farter Harry Fairfax (again, some relation to Sir Thomas) questions the meaning of it all.

It’s also in Cheapside especially that the true majesty of the art – until now smothered and smudged beyond all recognition by a printing process inadequate to the task – really shines in this new shooting. The sheer detail on every page is remarkable from the exterior architecture with its intricate cross-hatching to the textures of a library crammed full of foliage, cloth and cultural carvings, and the final battle is epic. Steeped in British legend and lore (Boudicca, Britannia, George and the Dragon…), the World War fighter planes are dwarfed by futuristic helicarriers which hover in the sky like mighty, metal, military toads defying the laws of gravity. Absolute carnage!

October 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the first pages seeing print in one form or another, and I think what may be most remarkable about this is that Talbot had the drive, ambition and courage back then to embark on it at all. That he then managed to successfully complete such a complex and painstakingly rendered grand narrative of sequential art which the British and American markets at the time were neither ready for nor willing to pay properly for, paving the way for future sales and showing what could and should be done, leaves us as progressive retailers (and others as subsequent comicbook creators), I believe, substantially in the great man’s debt.

Please note: readers of editions earlier than 2007 really won’t recognise what they see here: there are mountains whose delineation never made it onto the printed page and stars will explode in a night that was previously pitch-black – or rather bland grey. For many comicbook readers this is their favourite graphic novel of all time, and they’ll now need another copy to see what it should have looked like.

Talbot wrote to me:

Yes, I was trying to do a Hogarthian scene – though it’s not based on any specific one. I just looked at the page in the Czech edition with a magnifying glass and there’s a lot of stuff in there I’d forgotten – me at the drawing board looking out of the top left window, a woman hanging washing in the BG of the next window along, people pissing and fornicating in the narrow alleyway, an old guy sitting on the steps crushing body lice with his thumbnails (as seen in a plate from The Harlot’s Progress – the prison scene). And I noticed, for the first time, not having gone through this edition religiously, that Vaclav Dort, the publisher, has even unobtrusively translated the graffiti on the walls. I think that the tower is one from the old St Paul’s cathedral – the one that burned down on this parallel in the great fire of London 1666. You can see it two pages earlier in the rooftop scene. That scene is based on a Doré print – ‘cept in that it’s the new St Paul’s in the BG. Likewise before the Battle of London when Rose walks up to Westminster Abbey, it has the domes capping the side buttresses that were replaced on our parallel a couple of hundred years ago.
Best,
Bryan

And now our second feature this evening, HEART OF EMPIRE:

Highly ambitious, very British and totally engrossing work, this uses all the clarity and majesty Talbot found for THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT.

It is, in fact, thoroughly Shakespearean both in scope and treatment, alternating between high matters of state and street-level bawdiness whilst emphasising the connection through social and sexual decadence amongst the aristocracy and their entourage, and revolutionary aspirations and individual courage in the no-go areas of London. Then there’s the dilemma raging between the individual and his/her role in society, the missing kin, the moment of upheaval and the looming cataclysm – all traditional elements of Elizabethan theatre; it might be stretching it a bit but the parallel worlds could be looked at as foreign territory and the science fantasy element as replacing the role of magic.

As to the story itself, 23 years ago Luther Arkwright saved this alternate reality, leaving behind him a wife, two children and an ambitious empire whose heart is Albion (England), and which has by now conquered most of the known world outside of America. Only the Vatican is allowed a modicum of independence. This world is very much a contemporary of ours – the two US reporters make that clear – but so much of it is Victoria in extremis: the all-consuming, rapaciously greedy imperialism, the vast state expenditure on monument (Talbot’s art here, particularly for the creation of the neo-Crystal Palace and its environs, is awe-inspiring, right up there with Guy Davis but with his own distinctive light and clarity), the seemingly unassailable, matriarchal monarchy, slavery bolstered by racism and apartheid, the hypocritical sexual values forced upon the commoners yet flouted by the well-to-do, flaunting both their bosoms and their catamites. Some sciences have advanced whilst others languish, superstitious prophets and quacks maintaining weight amongst the court, madhouses still the destination of the unstable or politically undesirable.

From the very first page looking out through a Roman window, with its overripe fruit cleaved by a knife, the waste, decadence and latent violence is made patently clear.

Talbot’s anti-authoritarian credentials are well documented (see ALICE IN SUNDERLAND’s substantial post-script), and this work has at its heart a total disgust for inequality, control and corruption. Machinations are rife. Brutality is common. Sycophancy permeates the court. But even so Talbot is not so dismissive as to avoid counter-arguments, and his strength as a writer shines through in his portrayal of the protagonist, for the princess at the heart of the story has a journey to make, and as the story opens she is as cold and aloof as the empire but has made use of its wealth, power and her own talent to build an astoundingly beautiful city, replete with buildings, squares and vistas rarely seen since the Renaissance, and on a scale we don’t even aspire to any longer.

The resources of the many squandered by the few on self-aggrandising, imperialist spectacle…? Well of course, but it’s more than a little tempting to mourn such architectural planning and achievement, especially after Talbot’s pen lines.

The book also boasts some fine Alan Moore-ish LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN mock endpapers, a great deal of explicit sex and I wasn’t kidding about the bawdy humour, so be warned. Okay, back to the plot and an interdimensional apocalypse approaches…

Haha!

Quick reminder that you can find Page 45’s Bryan Talbot interview in our website’s FUN & RESOUCES section. There are several paragraphs there relevant to this including a couple of behind-the-scenes secrets.

SLH

Buy Arkwright Integral h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Opus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Satoshi Kon.

“So it’s true… my life is someone else’s story…”

Prepare yourselves for a mind-melt!

“Somehow I expected God to have a beard… not two days’ growth.”

You may have read comicbook metafiction before like Grant Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN or Dave Sim’s CEREBUS: MINDS wherein the fourth wall is breached, creator meets the characters and Grant Morrison’s cat becomes copyright DC, but this goes several steps further with a conclusion previously unpublished which… well, we’ll get there, don’t worry.

Satoshi Kon created the gripping graphic novel TROPIC OF THE SEA and directed the anime Perfect Blue which also impressed me no end. (His second film, Millennium Actress, tied with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away for the Grand Prize in the Japan Agency Of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival.)

In terms of comics, however, this is the big one. The second I banged the book open I thought of AKIRA and there’s some serious structural damage going on here too, but the cause is dramatically different.

As the story opens Chikara Nagai’s spectacularly successful manga series, ‘Resonance’, is reaching its dramatic, nay shocking conclusion. Psychics Satoko and Lin are confronting The Masque, a mesmerising religious cult leader of The Nameless Faith. The Masque does indeed go down but takes Lin with him in a blast of pyschokinetic energy that bursts right through Lin’s chest and out of his back. Even its publishers never saw the ending coming, largely because Chikara changed it at the last minute. He’s just shown his editor the rough, pencilled pages.

“Wait. You’re killing off Lin…?”
“Yep.. bang! Epic, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s badass, and I like what you did, but… what happened to Satoko defeating The Masque…? The happy ending… all that?”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I tried a few ideas… but with Lin becoming more prominent in volume three, The Masque got stronger also. Too tough for Satoko to realistically take out… I thought this would make for a big finish.”

His editor trusts him and gives him the go-ahead but…

“I guess everyone has their favourite character… I just hate to see him go out like that.”
“I’m sure Lin hates to go like that, too…!”

And he laughs. Oh, Chikara, so glib, so glib… Those words are going to come back to bite you.

In spite of the deadline pressure Chikara relishes inking the final-page shocker but it does leave him frazzled. There’s a bang and a quake and now a new piece of artists’ bristol board materialises on his desk depicts a narrow shaft leading down with Lin crawling angrily up.

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily, asshole…!”

Several seconds later the comicbook artist finds himself tumbling down this Lewis Carroll-ian rabbit hole and trapped in the very fictional world he created himself but hasn’t quite finished. The Masque is still very much alive and bent on his destruction; Lin – determined to avoid his final, brutal fate – has swiped the book’s final-page splash and is bent on changing the future by destroying his fictional past; Satoko with her own childhood trauma is reluctant to go where no woman has gone before; and Lin’s young, blind, second-sight sister Mei registers what they are all reluctant to accept.

“The truth is that this world is fiction.”

That, I can assure you, is only the tip of this metafictional iceberg destined to destroy everyone’s lives and “lives”. Cracks begin to appear between reality and fiction and within the very volumes of the fiction itself as Lin tears through the pages of the last book to crawl himself into the earlier ones and stop the serial killer who will later become The Masque before The Masque kills the copper who will be reincarnated as Lin.

Look, I told you this would melt your mind.

I haven’t even touched on the logic that if a creator can become trapped in his own comicbook fiction then it stands to reason that fictional characters can break out into reality. A reality which is a fiction, by the way, because this graphic novel was created by Satoshi Kon not Chikara Nagai.

You just wait until the final chapter.

That final chapter, as I say, is new. Just like ‘Resonance’ never gets completed because… oh, you’ll see…Satoshi’s animation career took off so spectacularly that OPUS itself never got finished. Oh, the ironies! The final chapter here was found in Satoshi’s personal files after his passing and is printed in pencils with the script inked-in with the permission of Satoshi’s family.

This is a 350-page monster with incredible depth and I had so much more to report. Pages of notes! Like when Satoko is spotted in our world by a manga fan and assumed to be a cosplayer. When Satoko spies the artist’s girlfriend and realises who she’d modelled on. And when the artist improvises in his own fictional world by grabbing a moped to escape pursuit because his studio artist has put in all the hard work.

Background details! You gotta love ‘em…”

SLH

Buy Opus and read the Page 45 review here

Night Post h/c (£12-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder…

Like Raymond Briggs’ Snowman meets the Munsters in a true monster mash-up, this wordless yarn will bring a little festive fright cheer into your homes this Christmas. Actually, as our story begins with a typical day like any other drawing to a close, it is clear from the profusion of pumpkins peering out spookily from windows or devilishly illuminating doorsteps that this is around Halloween. But, irrespective of the time of year, the post must go out. So, after a doting dad has settled his precious little princess with a story, it’s out to work, heading off to the ‘Regal Mail’ depot for the late shift. Which is where we get our first hint that the job of the night postie might not be quite so straightforward as during the waking hours…

Past the restricted access door marked ‘Night Post’, down the endless, uneven stone steps to a gloomy dungeon lit only by a flaming brazier, our postie at last approaches a huge wooden door, festooned with elaborate ironmongery. With the aid of the golden key hanging half-hidden round his neck, he gains access into the inner sanctum of… the sorting office… Yes, at first glance you might think this is just a normal bustling posse of posties, sorting their bags and plotting their routes, but look closer… Are those bats hanging from the rafters? Do some of his colleagues look, well, a little ghoulish? Why are there tentacles wriggling out from underneath that desk?! Why is there a crocodile encased in purple paper wrapped paper complete with a lovely red bow perched on top of that desk?!! Still, his workmates give him a cheery wave and welcome him in, like it’s all perfectly normal. And, after some slight difficulties ramming one last huge, bizarrely shaped parcel into his TARDIS-like bicycle panniers, he’s ready to turn those peddles and get posting, which is where the fun-filled fright-fest really begins!

 

 

Ghosts, goblins, witches, werewolves, zombies, vampires, in fact pretty much every horror monster ever conceived, created or indeed brought to life with lightning in a laboratory are on our intrepid postie’s route. Most are delighted to receive their letters and parcels, but there are more than a few that just can’t help reverting to type and trying to munch their messenger immediately after receipt! How very ungrateful of them! Our valiant envoy of the Regal Mail will manage to complete his deliveries of course, rest assured, but there are going to be many an amusing close call along the way!

Ah, this is great fun. I loved reading it to my daughter, who does like her monsters, and hearing her cackle with delight as the postie came ever closer to being somebody’s supper. I say “read”, mind you, but do bear in mind this is a wordless tale. The upside of course being it will stimulate the imagination of children everywhere as their inner narrator gets to work composing a soundtrack and dialogue for the action. The downside is if you’re a knackered dad wanting to get his child off to bed so you can finally relax, you’ll have to put a bit more work in doing a monstrous enough narration to satisfy your audience. Actually I felt rather like I’d put on a one-man Hammer House of Horror half hour homage show by the time I’d finished – PG rated, obviously – but it was well worth it listening to Isabella’s giggles. Trust me, though, doing sound effects for the Creature From The Black Lagoon plays havoc with your tonsils…

So much to admire in the script and artwork here, there are some absolutely brilliant visual gags, such as when you find out that the vampire’s parcel in fact contains a vegetarian cookbook! Ben has really thought through his narrative and Laura has illustrated it to perfection in a style that is a glorious mix of Raymond Briggs and Charles Vess. There is an immense amount of work gone into the storytelling here, which of course is essential if you are going to do a wordless book, but having read more children’s books than I can recall in the last three and a half years, I can truly say this has been produced with so much more love and attention to detail by its creators than most. Adults will get a kick out of spotting all the classic monsters, as I did, and kids will adore the fact that it’s a teeny, weeny bit scary yet utterly ridiculous at the same time. Plus, there is that all important happy ending which I thought was very sweet and touching, actually.

JR

Buy Night Post h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP…

“I DON’T NEED A BATH! I’VE CAST A CLEAN SPELL SO THERE!!!”

Ha ha, very funny. In our house it is usually not wanting to have hair washed and conditioned, because a certain somebody knows as sure as night follows day that the comb will then come out. And when your hair mysteriously likes to entangle itself in Gordian-level knots that even the hoariest of salty sea dogs would find tricky to untie, well, it’s going to hurt. So, a combed hair spell would be ideal.

Parking the preamble and moving on… Huxley Leighton-Lomax is a tiny tot of a wizard. With a cute hat that looks more akin to Wee Willie Winkie’s than Merlin’s, he’s clearly just begun the perilous path of mystic learning. Which probably explains why he’s not aware that feeding the monster under your bed with cornflakes is never, ever a good idea. He thinks he’s just doing his new friend a good turn, which is sweet of him, bless him, but as the monster begins to get hungrier, taking a fancy to Huxley’s little sister, he realises he’s got a serious problem. Unfortunately for Huxley, his dad doesn’t believe for a moment that malicious forces are at work, disrupting their household; he just thinks Huxley’s wild imagination is running away with him causing chaos. So it looks like it’s going to be up to Huxley to save the day and vanquish the monster all by himself! I reckon he’s up to the task…

 

Another exquisitely well produced release from Avery Hill featuring the talents of EDieOP who had a tale in issue #2 of the Avery Hill house anthology READS where I made the point that she has a great sense of fun and also a uniquely endearing art style. And so it is here, in her first longer-form work. There is a lovely sense of mischief in this yarn, you never really get the sense Huxley and his sister are in mortal peril, but the creepy critter inhabiting the house, all black and shapeless with multiple grasping hands, is certainly an intimidating foe for a wannabe wizard of such tender years. Not that Huxley is intimidated, far from it, Huxley doesn’t do intimidated, but initially at least, he really struggles to keep a lid of what is threatening to develop into full blown pandemonium. It’s just so unfair his dad is convinced it’s all just Huxley being naughty!

I do love EdieOP’s art style. It’s rare anyone lets you see all the initial pencil guidelines under their watercolours, but it really adds a sense of depth and motion to her panels. She’s gone for a quite a subdued palette of various hues of blue here, compared to her fairly riotous use of colour in The Story Of Lucius Jellybean (her story in READS about a whole new lifeform created from a dissolved slug), though I completely understand why. As does Huxley once he locates the relevant spook in his wizard’s tome on the Paranormal, as this beastie likes nothing more than to lurk and forment fear from the shadows. A great all-ages read and perfect for terrorising tiny tots as what might be lurking under the bed if they don’t stop wriggling about and fall asleep!

JR

Buy Maleficium and read the Page 45 review here

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c (£55-00, Locust Moon Press) by a multitude of talented artists.

What a whopper!

This hardcover is so utterly enormous I cannot take it home to review.

It’s not so much a coffee-table book but – pop four stacks of bricks underneath it – a coffee table.

Take a quick gander at this list of creators: Bill Sienkiewicz, J.H. Williams III, Paul Pope, Michael Allred, David Mack, Stephen Bissette, Craig Thompson, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, Peter Bagge, J.G. Jones, Yuko Shimizu and many, many more.

If you’re unfamiliar with Winsor McCay’s original LITTLE NEMO published between 1905 and 1914, the titular chappy was a young lad in pyjamas travelling through his dreams to Slumberland, inevitably waking at the bottom of each page in one panic or another, to be consoled by parent or grandparent.

The concept, character and indeed the very format have all been used, incorporated or adapted to their own works by an extraordinary number of modern creators, most obviously by Gaiman in ‘The Dolls House’ chapter of SANDMAN.

The architecture, the warped scales (everything’s either far bigger or smaller), the perspectives, the design element (gradually elongated, vertical panels climaxing in Nemo tumbling from his bed, for instance), and the figure drawing were nothing short of spectacular, and more often than not a single page will have you mesmerised by a meticulous and improbably successful use of colour and pattern motif (striped shirts, dancing mermaid tails, elephant heads, whathaveyou) perfectly placed throughout the individual panels. Awesome to behold.

Here, have a sense of scale next to UMBRAL VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon.

I’ll come clean.

Well, I would if this blood would wash off, but we seem to be in Shakespearean “seas incarnadine” season as I commit so many culpable sins on Twitter.

It was Black Friday last, uh, Friday and I felt we had to join in with the special offer that if you gave Page 45 £45 we would give you £45’s worth of comics. Bonanza!

Seriously, retailers: don’t discount! You’re only hurting yourselves. I can honestly say that it drove me to drink – although I did ask to pull over when I saw that the off-licence was offering a two-for-one wine offer. I hate myself.

Sorry, where were we?

Basingstoke. Right…

“In the film Serenity, outlaw Malcolm Reynolds and his crew revealed to the entire ‘verse the crimes against humanity undertaken by the sinister Alliance government. In this official follow-up, circumstances force the crew to come out of hiding, and one of their own is captured, setting them on another mission of rescue and resistance . . . Collects the six-issue miniseries and the 2012 Free Comic Book Day story.”

Okay, yes, I’ll come clean: I’ve not read a word of this nor seen a single second of its on-screen incarnation but you seem to care because we’ve sold pod-loads which is why I mention it now. I might also mention the recent arrival of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 10 VOL 1 s/c which seems to tie in this blatant piece of hucksterism.

Potentially brilliant!

I am a capitalist nightmare come true.

SLH

Buy Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy.

I can’t get it out of my head.

I started singing “Punk-Rock Jee-sus” to the tune of Captain Scarlet and now that mind-worm is here to stay.

Dun-dun dun de-de dun! Whoo!

Hold this sucker side-on and you will see from all the white that a phenomenal third of this hardcover is extras above and beyond the PUNK ROCK JESUS softcover.

I have never in all my years as a comics reader seen such a wealth of process-piece material whereby you sneak behind the scenes like an errant school-child to see deleted scenes, thoughts in progress, character designs, sketches, thumbnails, self-analysis, concept art, studio photos… This is an artist’s artist edition. This is the Holy Grail!

Which is an interesting analogy given what we’re considering.

What we’re considering is this:

“What kinds of things will he be learning?”
“Math, English, American History, Creationism, Faith Healing.”
“Creationism and Faith Healing? You’re kidding me.”
“Many of our viewers are fundamentalist and would be uncomfortable with their saviour learning about science and evolution.”
“That’s ridiculous! The benefit of a billion-dollar learning centre, and all you teach is dogma?”
“It’s the American way.”

It begins with a prayer swiftly answered by violence. God knows where it will all end.

Ophis Entertainment has announced a new reality show starring the first human clone in history: it’s Jesus Christ himself.

Whether or not the revolution will be televised, the countdown to the Second Coming will! Season one will commence with conception and climax at birth. After that both nature and nurture will be on camera 24/7. Audience figures for the J2 Project will reach 3 billion daily and, in order to achieve those ratings, smarmy Dick Slate will do anything – absolutely anything. The insidiousness begins on day one, and the levels it reaches will stagger you.

First it requires a scientist: Dr. Sarah Epstein, geneticist in service to saving the environment. In 2013 she cloned polar bears in an attempt to stave off their extinction, then developed a hyper plant which fed off carbon dioxide faster than anything else. She even tried to pollinate the Brazilian rainforest before being stung by lawsuits from six fast-food chains. Now she’s determined to engineer new strains of algae to halt global warming but to do that she needs funds.

“And if I have to resurrect Jesus Christ to do it, then I will.”

Next the Immaculate Conception requires a self-sacrificial virgin in the form of naïve 18-year-old Gwen Fairling (presented to the world after some swift cosmetic surgery – teeth, nose, breasts), then some of our saviour’s DNA. And, you know, whatever happens next, this exchange on live television should certainly be born in mind:

“There’s never been any evidence that the [Turin] Shroud is as old as Christians would like to believe. And carbon dating has proven that. Most important here is no one outside of Ophis has been allowed to verify the validity of the DNA.”
“Blasphemy. Carbon dating is flawed – the Shroud is real and that proves Jesus was, too!”
“Is what Father Sterlins says true?”
“There’s no disputing carbon data. And there’s never been any empirical evidence that a person named Jesus Christ ever existed.”
“How dare you! Scientists are not to be trusted! Their arrogance has given us atomic bombs and nuclear waste. They tell us that we all come from monkeys, and insist on telling that to our children.”
“Evolution through natural selection is a fact. Fossil records prove it.”
“Evolution is just a theory!”
“So is gravity.”

Some of the Christian contingent are all for it – it combines their favourite pastimes to perfection – while others like the New American Christians protest vociferously outside Ophis’ island HQ. They’d far rather protest inside the high-tech laboratory turned TV studio, of course, which is where our Irish head of security comes in, born of sectarian violence. Yes, Murphy’s brought Northern Ireland into this already flammable mix: Thomas is a former member of the IRA!

I think it was HELLBLAZER’s Andy Diggle who first said to Sean, “And Vertigo gave this the green light?!?” You’ve got to admire the guy’s guts, for this is as packed as the pulp paper it’s printed on with plot and sub-plottery destined to offend all and sundry. Or delight them. I am totally delighted.

Don’t think this is but a convenient peg on which to hang Thomas’ heart or explain his efficacy, either. The book begins twenty years earlier with his parents’ slaughter right before his impressionable eyes, leaving young Thomas vulnerable to his uncle’s indoctrination. The Irish troubles are addressed and indeed redressed later on – if not in full then certainly in terms of Thomas’ history – and it’s all very far from random.

Indeed every element of this socio-political masterpiece is commendably complex and thought right the way through. For what follows is everything you suspected of Reality TV, taken to the extremes deemed necessary when your star is supposedly the saviour: media manipulation, emotional blackmail and indeed outright abuse, all in service to the ratings.

Gwen’s trajectory is particularly tragic, trapped as she is in this fishbowl for her own personal safety and stuck on a white-knuckle ride she could never conceive of. When she turns to drink (supplied by Slate to “cheer her up”) and mistakenly fills her baby’s bottle up with wine rather than juice, it’s spun as a biblical miracle while Gwen herself sinks even further into self-loathing. As to Jesus “Chris” Christ, fed lies all his life, well, you know what happens when you hit your teens: you take your education into your own hands and it generally begins with vinyl. All his life he’s been shown how to grab the public’s attention, so over the years he’s learned a thing or two and when the worm turns, the tables do too.

As to the art, you’ve already swooned over Sean Murphy on THE WAKE, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS and this is every bit as thrilling in its post-Bachalo, black-and-white beauty – a comparison which holds true right down to the o’er-shaded nose tips. It is so ridiculously rich in detail, from the Irish pub walls to the stadium-sized concerts, that you can only gasp at the sheer graft which Sean has put in. The action sequences are spectacular, for Murphy doesn’t half love his motorbikes and the NAC will seize any opportunity to sabotage the show. Also, when the Flak Jackets strike their opening crash-chords the pages sound as loud as Paul Peart-Smith’s in NELSON. Dear lord, but the energy released is intense.

So has Project J2 really played God with God and cloned the Second Coming into existence? And, if so, will he fare any better than his progenitor at the hands of those who worshipped his deity-Dad? What really happened to that other little miracle, his genetically impossible twin sister snuck in by Sarah Epstein then drowned at birth? And what, ultimately, does Chris himself believe?

“I don’t care whose DNA I come from. The way I see it, I’m the bastard child of America’s runaway entertainment complex.”

Preach it.

SLH

Buy Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Royal Blood h/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui.

“Hold your tongue, harlot!
“A king is above human judgement!
“He knows neither limits nor taboos.”

Blimmin’ heck, he’s not kidding. This king certainly knows none!

If I were to name those taboos here I could set off so many ranking alerts it’s not true! As to the limits, that’s not the first tongue he’s silenced. Permanently. There’s hands-on parenting and hands-on parenting: this is the wrong sort of hands-on parenting.

This is excruciating and bloody and nudey. I believe the Borgias were better behaved.

The painted art’s rich in detail and just what medievalists tend to love: great big battle scenes, stone throne rooms so vast you can almost hear them echo, and at one point the weather got so chilly on the page that I put on a jumper.

Here’s the publisher:

“A shocking tale of betrayal, lust and warring kingdoms, from acclaimed creator Alexander Jodorowsky! Wounded, betrayed and left for dead, King Alvar returns to his kingdom to regain his stolen throne. Hungry for revenge, Alvar finds himself in the middle of a bloody political game for power. To keep his throne he must crush his enemies who would destroy him with their machinations. But his own horrific appetites may prove his undoing!”

If punching wolves in the face fires you right up, then this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Royal Blood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others…

“So we remember… and we don’t. We’re the Justice League… but we’re not.
“Am I the only one who thinks this is the stupidest idea ever?”

Judging by how few people are reading this title in single-issue form, at Page 45 at least, apparently not, but you know what? Everyone else is wrong because this is just utterly hilarious off-the-wall fun. If you ever read Giffen and DeMatteis’ classic JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL back in the veritable day, then you should have had some idea what to expect frankly with quality writing, crackpot plotting and bonkers characterisation. On the other hand, given the relative sales strength, rightly or wrongly, of the other JUSTICE LEAGUE titles, it is perhaps not surprising yet another apparent variation on a theme is falling through the cracks a bit.

So… it is the year 3000 and the Justice League are long dead. So why are Clark, Bruce, Diana, Hal and Barry running around acting like callow imitations of themselves? Well, that might be because the Wonder Twins (no, not those two, thank goodness) have partially successfully cloned our super friends and brought them back from the dead, to fight the encroaching threat of the hive-mind known as The Convert and his ultra-powerful shock troops, the Five, who have taken over the Commonwealth of planets.

It’s a last desperate attempt by the scientists of Cadmus to stave off impending galactic domination, but it’s immediately clear these versions of the Justice League are not exactly like our chums of old. They may have a handful of the memories and some of their powers, sure, but they’ve none of the traumatic yet formative experiences / years of disciplined training, so consequently they’re like five squabbling egomaniacs who seem as likely to punch each other’s lights out as follow the mission parameters. Yet the strange thing is they all know they are acting like complete bickering idiots, but aren’t really sure why. When we finally get the real answer to why they aren’t perfect clones of the originals, it certainly suggests the boffins might have circumvented a few ethical boundaries in their haste to try and save the galaxy.

It’s a great concept, this, from Giffen and DeMatteis, which they’ve clearly thought through and is already providing me with as much fun as I got from the classic JLI material. I hope they manage to keep this title going for a while at least, as it is easily one of the most entertaining titles of DC’s current output, such as it is. Also, really nice art from Howard Porter, who I haven’t seen that much of since he worked on the moderately seminal run of JLA with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid.

JR

Buy Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews.

HAWKEYE’s Matt Fraction and David Aja are a hard act to follow. Their previous run on IRON FIST was a rejuvenating joy.

Fortunately one of comics’ finest chameleons, Kaare Andrews of SPIDER-MAN: REIGN, is no slouch.

He’s using at least four different visual styles so far including an exquisitely rendered black-and-white sequence like freeze-frame footage from a Bruce Lee film lit from the left by an industrial spotlight so throwing Daniel Rand’s body into stark silhouette, indelible on the east but eroded from the west.

He’s channelling Jim Steranko. With elements of SIN CITY there, yes.

“Two apaches descending hard and fast almost drown out the slide of nylon rope and chambered bullets. Almost.
“I draw them away from the girl. The apartments. Away from innocent lives.
“If they’re looking for something to destroy, how about an insurance company?
“I’m assuming they’re covered.”

Daniel Rand is tired and jaded. Numb. He is going through the motions.

He is being interviewed by a young lady “three steps out of a journalism degree, subsidized by Mommy and Daddy, enabled by a pretty face”. He is aware of the flattery yet prone to her interest not to mention her young, pretty face. So he tells of his childhood wrenched from home and into blizzardous mountains but seconds away from an avalanche by his father’s mad-eyed obsession with the mythical city of K’Un Lun. The expedition didn’t end well.

Now he’s in bed with her because, whatever, he’s earned it.

But whether sat opposite in the restaurant, brushing his teeth both before and afterwards or lying catatonic beneath Debbie / Barbie / Brenda or whatever her name is during sex, he remains robotic-eyed, close to drooling.

That is, until the helicopters strike.

I’d quote you the restaurant monologue in lieu of actual conversation which is hilarious in its relentlessness and slide towards size but please pick up the comic instead.

Once upon a time these satellite C-list series were mere filler while the big guns blazed well ahead. Now there seems so much invested in the five million Avengers titles to fuel its films’ fires that they’ve become self-indulgent, turgid and impenetrable. I prefer these far more accessible and individualistic series when given to creators of note, like LOKI and MS MARVEL and MOON KNIGHT – and of course YOUNG AVENGERS before them.

For more about Iron Fist himself, please see my review of THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST: COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 1 and buy Fraction’s book: it’s a killer.

SLH

Buy Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman.

In which a cloud of Terrigen Mist is sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans.

“You really need to think about a change.”

A change, you say? Did you know there is a cloud of Terrigen Mist sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans?

“Change. Pfft. Easy to say. Hard to do.”

Not when there’s a cloud of Terrigen Mist sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans.

“I’m on a track, with no way off. I know it’s not what I’m supposed to be. I can feel something better for me, I just can’t find it.”

Don’t worry, it’s heading your way, sweeping across the world as a cloud of Terrigen mist. Look, it’s on the TV in the next panel, and it’ll be with you on the next page. That’s, like, so ironic.

Drivel.

As to the art: horrible. Especially the colours by Marte Gracia who has made this as impenetrably murky as ULTIMATES vol 3.

I recommend MS MARVEL. That series is brilliant.

SLH

Buy Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Here h/c (£25-00, Hamish Hamilton) by Richard McGuire

I Blame Grandma sketched-in (£4-99, self-published) by Joe Decie

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest s/c (£5-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess

Cochlea & Eustachia s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Hans Rickheit

Hansel & Gretel h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, The Brothers Grimm & Lorenzo Mattotti

Just The Tips h/c (£9-99, Image) by Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky & Chip Zdarsky

Marshal Law s/c (£22-50, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’neill

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 3 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

The Shaolin Cowboy s/c (£14-99, Burlyman) by Geof Darrow

Slaine: Books Of Invasion vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Spectrum vol 21 s/c (£25-99, Flesk) by various

Wasteland vol 10: Last Exit For The Lost (£10-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Brett Weldele, Sandy Jarrell, Omar Olivera, Christopher Mitten

Zenith Phase Two h/c (£18-99, Titan) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell

The New 52: Futures End vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Patrick Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, various

Red Lanterns vol 5: Atrocities s/c (£14-99, DC) by Charles Soule, Antony Bedard & Alessandro Vitti, Yildiray Cinar, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, various

Dorothy And The Wizard In Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Thor God Of Thunder vol 3: The Accursed s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Nic Klein, Ron Garney, Das Pastoras

Wolverine: Origin h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove

Assassin’s Creed vol 5: El Cakr h/c (£8-99, Random House / Vertical) by Eric Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

News!

ITEM! Gary Phillips & Marc Laming’s graphic novel THE RINSE to become a TV series. This pleases me enormously, especially if Page 45 gets to keep its San Francisco branch. Seriously, Page 45 is in THE RINSE! In San Francisco. Ask me in-store and I’ll show you!

ITEM! Calvin & Hobbes doing a little animated dance! We love CALVIN & HOBBES. And stock it too!

ITEM! New interview with Bryan Talbot with loads of behind-the-scenes insights into the world of GRANDVILLE including the fourth book reviewed above!

ITEM! Angoulême 2015 prize nominees announced! Includes so many of my favourite graphic novels!

ITEM! THE NAO OF BROWN Competition Time Winner! A couple of weeks ago we asked you which ridiculous faux pas I managed (out of a career of so very many) when it came to Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN signing in our Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. The clue was I came clean in that very blog. This is 15 minutes prior to the signing:

Just as I’m getting very, very excited in walks this well-handsome man with a gentle demeanour and asks how we’re doing.

“Oh, tremendously well, cheers!” I croak. “I mean, look at this lavish room the festival has given us! We’ve a rotating cast of creators all sketching and selling away! We’ve all these jaw-dropping graphic novels the public are lapping up. And. And. In fifteen minutes time we have the great Glyn Dillon not just signing or sketching but painting in THE NAO OF BROWN!”

And this lovely, lovely oh lovely man says, “Who on earth do you think I am?”

The winner, drawn by ATOMIC SHEEP’s Sally-Jane Thompson, is the lovely oh lovely Leigh Hobson who now owns this sketched-in copy of THE NAO OF BROWN. Hurrah!


ITEM! “I’ve handed in scripts where instead of writing Hepzibah I typoed Hezbollah, which is a very different kind of X-men story where an entire political organization is sleeping with Cyclops’ Dad.” THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen writes about what he sees as his scripts’ shortcomings, and is as entertaining as ever.

ITEM! One of comics’ finest-ever colour artists, Bettie Breitweiser (Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting’s period spy thriller VELVET and so much more), pays tribute to her right-hand man Eduardo Navarro, no longer with us.

ITEM! The ever-erudite Damien Walters exhorts science fiction authors to up their already considerable literary game to compete with video games. Brilliant article and overview.

ITEM! The Guardian First Book Prize goes to Colin Barrett’s Young Skins. In case you’ve forgotten it once went to comics’ own Chris Ware for the graphic novel JIMMY CORRIGAN. Oh yes!

ITEM! Loved GOLD STAR by John Martz – still available in print. John Allison calls it one of the best comics he’s recently and posted the link to read GOLD STAR online.

ITEM! Christmas Shopping At Page 45! Yes, I could do with updating the recommendations there but the key points still apply! Tell all your friends and family that, if they bring wish lists to the counter, we’ll find those graphic novels for them or – if they want fresh recommendations for out-of-the-blue surprises – we love, love, love providing shop-floor show-and-tells tailored to your taste!

Christmas shopping made easy and interactive at Page 45!

Someone write me a jingle.

- Stephen

 

 

 

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week four

November 26th, 2014

It is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

 - Stephen on Joe Sacco’s Bumf

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard…

One of my  favourite Lovecraft yarns, this, featuring heavily as it does Nyarlathotep, he of a thousand forms and indeed mangled pronunciations.

Ian did try and instruct me in the correct pronunciation when he popped in to sketch in all our copies but unfortunately my dulcet northern tones were not able to effect the correct enunciation, which is probably just as well as I have insufficient sanity points to begin with and can scarce afford to lose any more through an injudicious summoning of the emissary of the Outer Gods…

Note: at time of typing all of those sketched-in-for-free copies have gone so the moral of the story is “Pre-order, please…!”

I do like how each of these four Lovecraft adaptations demonstrate a very different aspect of the Cthulu mythos and H.P.’s writing. I have commented upon it before but AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a real Boys’ Own Adventure, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD a puzzling whodunit, THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME a piece of pure science fiction and a real Rosetta Stone to understanding the mythos, and then this, a veritable hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a trip to the darkest recesses of the human mind, to the dimensional spaces beyond those we can normally access in our waking lives.

I think this tremendous variety in the scope of his writing is partly the reason why Lovecraft has endured. That and we all love being scared senseless. In many ways, though he is not beyond some outright in-your-face horror when required, Lovecraft frequently taps into humanity’s deepest and most complex subconscious fears, that of losing the sense of self, one’s sense of identity, our very coherence of reason itself, by the mere suggestion that there is far more to this world, this unimaginably vast, cold universe, than meets the eye. That in those spaces which we can sense but cannot see, there are beings that lurk, so alien, to encounter them directly would be enough to destroy the delicate balance of one’s mind forever. At least one such victim does shop at Page 45, I think, and he once engaged me in a conversation regarding Lovecraftian characters in such a manner I was left thinking he quite believed they were absolutely real… I kid you not.

[Editor: he told me he began reading Lovecraft aged 4. It showed.]

That very variety and complexity also means Lovecraft is very hard to adapt, of course. In every case I think Ian has done an incredible job deconstructing the work, really allowing the core story to stand out in a manner which makes it sufficiently rich and rewarding enough for the aficionados but also completely accessible for the neophytes. I would be astonished were there not readers out there who have been occasioned to commence reading Lovecraft prose on the basis of encountering these adaptations.

So… Randolph Carter begins to search for the hidden city of Kadath because he has dreamt three times of its glorious spires but awoken each time abruptly just before he can reach it. Repeated prayers to the gods of dream go unanswered, even for the next issue of SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finally arrive, but Carter resolves to find Kadath, no matter what the cost.

What follows is a strange, shifting journey, that on the face of it makes no sense at all, but viewed within the confines of the sleeping world seems not so fanciful at all. Along the way he will encounter strange entities and apparitions, some rather less friendly to travellers than others, and also the sinister Nyarlathotep in more than one of his many guises. Carter, desperate to tread the streets of the hidden city at last, is rather more trusting than he really ought to be. Obsessed, he starts to believe that there could be no possible fate worse than not reaching Kadath. He ought not to be so sure about that…

I can imagine this may well have been the most fun of the adaptations for Ian to undertake, from the perspective of the illustration, because there are the elaborate soaring sequences of pure fantasy which must have been a true delight to envisage. In fact, the book is arguably simply one long fantasy sequence. It’s certainly not as dense or intricate a story as many of his others, a fact which Lovecraft acknowledged during his lifetime, but it is an immensely vibrant, fevered construction, which engenders a sense of both wonderment and unease in the reader, and Ian captures this beautifully with his stygian, soporific cast and wild dreamscapes and netherworlds.

The wonderment comes because we are willing Carter along on his extraordinary journey, but also significant unease because we can see his most fervent desire is blinding him to both obvious dangers at virtually every turn, but also the malevolent, manipulative wiles of others, not least Nyarathotep. Will Carter finally reach Kadath? Well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil it for you would you? Suffice to say nothing is quite as it seems, with an ending that is in some ways as puzzling as it is enlightening, which I think is very appropriate indeed for the resolution to this most unusual of quests.

A true triumph once again, this adaptation, and I personally think Ian deserves great praise indeed for his own unique addition to the Cthulu mythos, which I believe all true Lovecraft fans will rightly hold in the highest regard.

JR

Buy The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath and read the Page 45 review here

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry.

“Come with me to the island tonight.
“We will be alone, just me and you.”

All our copies are sketched in for free!

A haunting tale of love and longing, this is a million miles from THE SUITCASE’s sublime suburban comedy and closer by far to CARRY ME or THE END. Nevertheless it marks another departure for Dan Berry’s ever-evolving art.

NICHOLAS & EDITH has attracted an even wider chorus of voices to shout out in praise of Dan Berry than ever before. HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS’ Duncan Fegredo was in awe of this taut, disciplined and perfectly paced, lovelorn lament.

In a small village by a vast lake Nicholas and Edith are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers.

And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.

It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear.

But when you’re in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island. They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.

“I love you.
“I want you.
“I need you.”

I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan (THE MIRE in particular). When you’ve read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately.

Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.

Visually, things are done with Edith’s hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were! I want to holler so loud about Dan Berry’s craft. What I am praying for shortly is something longer-form so that I can do so without giving too much away.

So let’s pull back to the first two pages.

In the very first panel with its aerial view of the village by the lake we are subtly shown in short-hand so much: that the houses of different elevations have no gardens but instead open up on the streets. These streets boast modest pedestrian courtyards like Venice and other European towns and are planted with trees here in their autumnal colours. It’s beautiful. But there is very little privacy. Everyone is evidently straight in each other’s face.

On page two the script doesn’t say so but the art implies that Nicholas is a builder of boats and Edith sells fish. It is a fishing village after all. Neither is particularly important to the plot except that Nicholas has access to rowing boats but my point is this: Dan Berry understands succinct storytelling in comics: that the image can convey much that the written word can therefore skip past and move immediately on to that which is salient.

The washes are looser than usual and I like that. I’ve always loved loose washes. I cannot believe this was accomplished in a mere 24 hours, pre-planning or no. But it was, as part of Dan Berry’s masterful, multi-creator 24 Hour Comics Marathon for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

This prolific pioneer is a miniature British Comics Industry in his own right, just like John Allison. I heartily recommend you pop them both into our website search engine… but then let them out immediately so they can start drawing again.

SLH

Buy Nicholas & Edith and read the Page 45 review here

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.

”There’s been a serious fuck-up.”

No kidding.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth etc and it was all pretty splendid. It was a veritable Eden.

He did make one tiny cock-up as Anders Nilsen makes clear in THE MONOLOGUIST: GOD AND THE DEVIL AT WAR IN THE GARDEN:

He created man.

Years later, then, we’re about to go over the proverbial top in more senses than one. WWI. This is The Final Push:

“At the first whistle the men shall remove their books and uniforms and other articles of clothing.
“At the second whistle, the men shall sport massive erections.
“At the third whistle the men shall advance on The Hun trenches.
“The enemy is to be killed where he is found, and not just killed – the enemy is to be buggered.
“I want to be quite clear about that last point.”

As you may have gathered by now, this is not the Joe Sacco you know from JOURNALISM. Well, it is, but if you want more PALESTINE may I recommend FOOTNOTES IN GAZA, possibly my favourite Joe Sacco so far? This isn’t even BUT I LIKE IT which was early extracurricular activity as a rock and roll roadie.

BUMF – which has a sub-title we collectively decided need not grace our website – is a surreal and scathing satire on modern America, its Homeland Security, neo-Imperialist shenanigans, other military activity and war in general. It is no coincidence that the cast co-starring Joe Sacco, cartoonist, gradually divest themselves of clothes and pop lovely little cloth bags over their heads Abu-Ghraib-Prison-stylee. Or have it done for them.

A female American citizen-suspect, for example, is being interrogated (naked, with a lovely little cloth bag over her head) because Homeland Security became all bent out shape by her inactivity: they picked up no mobile phone signal to trace and track and she breached all modern surveillance standards by buying a pint of milk with cash rather than credit card. Not exactly hard evidence of culpability, the agents concede, but hardly proven innocence, either. Round her up, strip her, tie her to a chair and pop a lovely little cloth bag over her head! There’s tidy!

Here’s President Nixon (it works: this may be modern America in the dock but which President was last successfully impeached?) all at sea with his enablers and a wolf, disposing of an inconvenient dead body discovered in his bath tub.

“Does anyone know of an appropriate prayer, something from the scriptures, perhaps?”
“Afraid not, sir.”
“Well then, I’ll do my best… Man overboard.”
“Amen.”

I’ll come completely clean: I opened this up and did not like what I saw. I saw a lot of male and female full-frontal nudity and however keen I am on male full-frontal nudity as a personal pleasure I don’t really do ribald and assumed that this was that. It is not: it is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

“Our hearts go out to the families,” he solemnly declares in situ from his portable podium.

Moments before he clusterbomb-fucks those families.

THE GREAT WAR, Sacco’s most recent triumph, is reprised in an even more savage double-page spread of trench warfare but on the whole this is a very different beast come round at last to Britain to be born, with each cheeky chapter signed in with variations on the theme of “By Joe “Heart And Humanity” Sacco ©2014”.

What a book! What a man! Infinitely more youthful and handsome than he makes out in his self-portraits, by the way.

SLH

Buy Bumf vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry.

“When I start feeling too concerned that all the words I write be very smart and about something worthwhile, I find my urge to write replaced with an urge to draw monkeys.”

Me too.

From the Wise Woman of Comics who brought you the inspirational WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS about rekindling creativity (but who also brought you the horrific yet hilarious fictional FREDDY STORIES) comes a lined school jotter of further artistic endeavour.

It’s a collection of notes, drawings and lessons Barry kept during her first three years teaching in Wisconsin-Madison University’s Art Department. Collated non-chronologically, they are still reproduced exactly as they appear in those journals and bound into a round-cornered, card-stock journal giving the effect of a facsimile.

It’s all about questions, exploring and demystifying art, how words and pictures are arrived at and what conditions best suit their construction, their… manifestation. The Image Lab, for example, is a shared space where individuals work on words and pictures in each other’s company – like Dan Berry and his fellow creators during the 24-Hour Comics Marathon – with Lynda wishing to examine what happens in that environment and why.

Many prose authors notoriously seek sanctuary in seclusion, while many artists thrive on sharing studios. Discuss.

“What is the difference between awareness and attention?” That sort of thing. Where do cartoon characters come from? Also, how long do pictures take to make a drawing? The answers aren’t as obvious as you might imagine.

As the title suggests there are plenty of tasks Barry set her students like sketching the same image within 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds, then 10 seconds and finally 5. Keeping diaries she finds essential but not necessarily traditional ones, as you’ll see. It’s all about observing what’s around you, and memory and recollection have always fascinated Barry (see WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS).

There are posters advertising her various classes to potential students emphasising that being able to draw is not a prerequisite for signing up but being willing to and desiring to are essential. There’s an emphasis on the exploration of the mind and on completing handmade compositional notebooks by the end of the semester (“⅓ of your grade”).

Fascinatingly there’s also a page in which she asks herself what qualities she seeks in a student (maximum twenty per class) and the questions she’ll ask them in order to assess whether they’re likely to benefit from the course and are therefore suitable. There are the questions you’d expect about academic history and indeed future plans, but also:

“What were some of the books you read as a kid?”
“What were some of the games you played?”
“Who was your favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Who was your least favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Was there an object of thing that disturbed you as a kid? Why?
“How do you feel about writing by hand?”

Well, I know how my colleagues feel about my writing by hand!!!

Oh, and then there are the dreaded grades but the homework looks enormous fun. I think I’ll do some of it right now with a glass of white wine. I wish I could do that at school. I wish we were set this sort of homework!

SLH

Buy Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Ted Naifeh…

“The word you’re looking for is diplomacy.”
“Eh?”
“What you’ve come for. A means to put an end to war. I can teach you.”

How on earth to describe this work? It’s like a teenage Red Sonja attending a finishing school for Princesses because she wants to learn how to win friends and influence people, yet continually making social faux pas after faux pas, whilst all the brainless mean girls – who just want to marry a prince and pop out heirs and spares – bitch amongst themselves relentlessly about her. That really is it in a nutshell!

Obviously our axe-wielding heroine gets the meanest, most vain princess of all for her roommate, neatly setting up an ongoing farce of continually clashing opposites, though our two protagonists do gradually begin to earn each other’s grudging respect by the conclusion of this first volume. He does like his outcasts doesn’t he, our Ted? I think fans of COURTNEY CRUMRIN are clearly going to love this work. It is of considerably more knockabout humour for sure, mind you, though not as outrageously daft as, say, RAT QUEENS.

 

 

The gorgeous, wide-eyed expressive art style will be familiar to Crumrin fans too, and hopefully win Ted a legion of new fans because he is wonderfully talented. He’s one of those artists whom you find yourself gradually spending more and more time with, just taking in the art as you go along page by page because you start to spot some lovely detailing, which then inevitably leads you to spot some more, and then you start to realise just how much work he’s put in. This is a fun opener of something which is just that little bit different and promises to entertain and amuse in equal measure.

JR

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

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros…

“No! I’m not ok! I’ve been lost in a forest, swallowed by a neuron, parachuted into a swarm of monsters and now I’ve almost drowned…
“What else is going to happen!?
“Who are you anyway?
“What’s going on in this submarine?”

Indeed. Perhaps I should let the captain of the submarine explain…

“Relax, my friend, you’re safe. I’m Sir Alan Hodgkin and this is my partner, Sir Andrew Huxley. Together we have been studying how a neuronal signal is actually generated. Here, let me show you…
“Look: electricity! This is the real secret of the brain!”

Have you ever wondered just how on earth the old grey matter works, but couldn’t be bothered wading through a textbook or even a copy of New Scientist? Then this is the graphic novel is for you. Much like the excellent EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA this work takes what is, on the face of it, an extremely complex topic and illustrates it in a witty yet illuminating fashion.

The creators, both Doctors, have gone for a kind of FANTASTIC VOYAGE approach as our unsuspecting wanderer is unexpectedly miniaturised and popped inside a human brain. All without even the aid of even a single Pym Particle! He’s not entirely left to fend for himself, though, for as he goes through each stage of our current knowledge of the physical structure of the brain and how it works, he is guided by the very scientists who discovered that particular functionality. Often there are a couple of the blighters, arguing about precisely who was responsible for the discovery or how they debunked the others’ theories. It’s a lovely little conceit that allows the creators to provide a historical record of the development of our understanding of this most complicated of organs, and also give some well deserved exposure to the people behind the scalpels and microscopes.

As the book moves on, and we reach the modern era, we come to some of the more intangible elements of our cranium and the conundrums and queries faced by today’s scientific minds, such as precisely what is consciousness, where does it arise, is there an unknown component beyond what can be purely explained by the physical? Big questions, which the creators wisely avoid putting forward their own suppositions for because, as they state, the golden rule of science is not making too many assumptions about the unknown.

There will be those that think this work doesn’t go far enough in exploring the nature of the brain and mind but, to be frank, they need to be less lazy and pick up that textbook, because as a wide-reaching introduction to the topic, aimed I would suggest at a fairly broad age spectrum, I think it is an excellent primer. Importantly, it’s written and illustrated in an exciting and engrossing manner that will hold the attention of readers, all the while informing them of the salient points, plus slipping in some very amusing visual gags along the way. I did particularly chuckle at the panel suggesting the existence of the narrators of the book relies on the brain of the reader, illustrated by a panel of someone reading UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud and having the proverbial light bulb turn on inside their head! Very funny.

Respect also I think to Nobrow for publishing this work. I know they work extremely hard to maintain an extremely high quality of output on the imprint and I think this book, whilst certainly rather different in content to other graphic novels they have published, is an excellent choice. And, as ever, with a Nobrow book, it just looks like a piece of art, with its navy blue cloth binding and intriguing silver and gold cover artwork. It certainly attracts the eye, and I can imagine many a casual browser will be lured in, light bulbs a-twinkling inside their bonces.

JR

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

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

“Bookgasm.”
“Don’t get too excited, they’re mostly review copies. Younger writers are always looking for “blurbs”, one of the few words that sounds exactly as awful as the crime it’s describing.”

Bookgasm is right!

This glorious hardcover reprints the first three softcovers with additional process material in the back as Brian, Fiona and their various cohorts show you down to the most minute detail how a single issue of SAGA is creating from beginning to end. By “beginning” I mean Brian shutting himself off in his shed (it’s probably not a potting shed: I bet it has heating at least and far fewer spiders) and maps out each page in a single sentence before sitting down to write a full script.

It’s at this point he bursts into tears and pulls all his hair out. Ummm. So that’s how that happened.

It’s a relief to know that something that seems so effortlessly brilliant actually involves sweat and tears – actual tears. As well as a great deal of editing.

Fiona takes you through her own process from the clearest of thumbnails – you can see exactly what’s happening to the fully “painted” pages minus everything than the lettering. Although young Hazel’s narration? That’s Staples too.

And then there’s the cover and its design and the thought that goes into that blew me away. Sorry…? You want to know about the story itself,,,?

It’s beautiful, funny and completely unpredictable. New readers, I present you with… previously in SAGA:

Alana and Marko are in love. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon. Unfortunately their people have been at war for as long as anyone can recall. But both factions soon realised that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin out of orbit. Such an assault would be suicidal.

So what they’ve kindly done is they’ve taken their fight to other people’s worlds. Which is nice.

Marko was sent to the frontline, didn’t like what he saw and surrendered. Alana was his captor and freed him. Each, therefore, is now on the run from their respective species for treachery, desertion… and blasphemy. Because, worst of all, they’ve successfully mated to produce a beautiful baby called Hazel. This unholy union is despised by all sides and for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Marko’s people have dispatched The Will, a phenomenal assassin with a Lying Cat. It is a cat that can tell if you’re lying. Problematically, it has Tourette’s Syndrome so it is likely to say so right in the middle of your poker-faced bluff. Alana’s people have dispatched Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets. You’ll be surprised what pops up on his screen.

But Marko and Alana have at least found sanctuary in a semi-sentient, wood-based rocketship along with an impromptu babysitter from what’s left of Cleave’s indigenous population. She’s a floating, glowing, pink ghost of a girl with her lower half missing, trailing her intestines behind her.

Finally they arrive with Marko’s abrasive mother at the doorstep of monocular D. Oswald Heist, the avuncular author of the subversive romance novel that first brought the couple together. He has much to impart: wisdom, wit and cunning ways to win at board games.

He’s singularly smart at ensuring hot heads see eye to eye with him, even winning over Marko’s mother by being candid when it counts.

“They say it’s the worst pain imaginable, losing a child. But that wasn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong, my son’s death just about destroyed me. But if I’m being honest, nothing will ever hurt quite so deeply as the moment I heard the first person I ever really loved was gone. But I don’t need to tell you that, do I?”
“I wear it that plainly?”
“I’m guessing you lost him recently. For what it’s worth, your son will get better with time. And maybe you will, too. But if your spouse was anything like mine, I regret to inform you that the rest of your days will be, by and large, kind of shit.”

Vaughan has enormous fun using this author scenario to poke fun at himself via Heist who first presents himself to the family outside his lighthouse lurching under the influence with a gun in one hand, a bottle in the other, and urine-stained Y-fronts splayed between a dressing gown whose loose belt trails over the rocks beneath his pink-slippered feet.

“Over the years, we met every kind of person imaginable. But no one makes worse first impressions than writers.”

I cannot even quote what Heist says to earn that accolade, but you will guffaw. Like everything here it is handled with delicate – or even indelicate – aplomb by Staples, as is a later scene in which Alana has managed to strike the fear of God into Heist to the extent that his hands close weakly in tentative terror, held up almost in supplication. How has she done this?

“If you like kids’ books so much, why haven’t you ever written one?”
“Because it requires collaborating with an artist. And artists… terrify me.”

The Will, meanwhile, is nursing his ship’s wounds on a planet that seems like paradise, even if its flying fish are sharks which circle overhead. The age-old problem with paradise, of course, is that you have to be very careful what you eat. Haunted and taunted by his dead ex-girlfriend, The Will also has to contend with Marko’s ex-fiancée who doesn’t handle rejection very well. Nor unsolicited attention, for that matter. I really wouldn’t do that, The Will.

They have with them a girl whom The Will rescued from sexual slavery in SAGA VOL 1. She is bright, optimistic, yet suffering from the scars of what she was once made to do. In related news: the best-ever use of the Lying Cat which will elicit the biggest of “Awwws” from each of you and maybe a few choked-back sobs.

All our protagonists will converge before the end of this chapter which, I would suggest, concludes Act One. As surprising as anything and everything that precedes it, I think you will love the punchline.

SLH

Buy Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.

Containing LAZARUS VOL 1 s/c and LAZARUS VOL 2 s/c this is one of our Dominique’s favourite current series. It just gets better and better and bigger.

We’ll get to the story in a second, but the extras here which you won’t find in those softcovers include an intro by Warren Ellis, a process piece on this edition’s cover by Owen Freeman, writer Rucka “On World Building”, then the world which he built in the form a map.

Carved up by the families (and, wow, Family Carlyle control more of North America than I realised but not all areas are equally strategic), the atlas is followed by those sixteen families’ profiles, series designer Eric Trautman’s essay on the representation of computer screens and finally all those telling advertisements which say so much about this new world’s priorities.

Anyway.

I swear this will speak to you: a series centred on family, loyalty and power.

In the very near future America’s economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.

It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.

The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base.

 

But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

This is where it gets really juicy.

Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight’s time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.

Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there’s that message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

I think I know who sent it.

Flashback to the Southern Sierra Nevada Facility where a young Forever is in training:

“I’m trying to remember… when was the last time I saw her, James?”
“On her birthday, Mister Carlyle… so just over five months ago.”
“Then this should be a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m sure it will. Forever! There’s someone here to see you.”
“DADDY!”

A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.

“I’m so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!”
“And is this the proper way to greet your father?”

She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.

“No, sir. Sorry, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again, father.”

 

I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn’t want Forever’s love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member – and a subservient one at that – to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.

“I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
“You’re not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol… or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter.”

In a later visit he even addresses her as “my daughter”. Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?

Forever’s relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.

As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka’s really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.

LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas.  He does youth – as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much – phenomenally well. There’s both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I’d employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever’s face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.

I’ve always loved Lark’s urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas’ subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.

As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.

I will shut up now before I’m accused of gushing.

SLH

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

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger.

Oh, the stuff Neil knows!

The third of four volumes celebrating the breadth and depth of SANDMAN’s rich cultural texture, specifically THE SANDMAN #40-55 along with THE SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 and ‘How They Met Themselves’ from VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3. Just like ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1 and ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 2 this measures 12″ x 12″ and comes in at roughly 550 black and white pages with plenty of space in the margin for the annotations.

Klinger’s previous annotated editions of Sherlock Holmes books have won awards but Gaiman always joked to his friend that he didn’t want SANDMAN annotating until after his death. Then Neil realised he was beginning to forget things. Armed, therefore, with an electronic archive of the scripts, notes and correspondences, Klinger’s own considerable knowledge and Neil as proof reader to correct any errors and point out new secrets, Klinger went away, sat down and delivered this: a casket of hidden treasure that could have been buried forever, now unearthed and unlocked for anyone who cares to marvel at it.

There are notes from Gaiman himself plus historical, geographical, medical, mythological, literary and other cultural references explored. For more please see my review of ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1

SLH

Buy Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Well, aren’t these two honeys?

[Ed: I suspect they are bumbles]

Are you a melittologist, now?

[… No…?]

Then let us continue. Aren’t these two honeys?

The Orange British Bee appears to be sitting sedately and gorging on nectar. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a farmhouse rose bush like I do, which flowers at least twice a year if you prune it properly. From May to September it is consequently covered in bees very much like this happy chappy. “Nom nom,” he is saying, though I am translating from “Bzzzzzz”.

I have a degree in bee.

The Yellow British Bee by contrast could be almost in flight or maybe he’s just contemplating it. He may be feeling drowsy after being knocked-up on nectar. I’m not normally so gender-specific but I’m on a roll since I correctly identified Simone Lia’s young FLUFFY as a boy bunny rabbit – fifteen years before Simone decided herself!

Also, I have a degree in bee and there are no princesses, only queens. Maybe there are some handmaidens, but I don’t think so. I only managed a Second.

Anyway, if you don’t have a ridiculously rampant rose bush like mine, maybe you’d still like to please your bees? Pleased bees buzz louder than their more disconsolate cousins.

Thinking ahead, therefore, our own Jodie Paterson has popped in a packet of wildflower seeds for you to sew in your garden or sprinkle over a flower pot which you can then balance precariously on your window sill, thereby adding a certain frisson of potential slapstick / litigation if ever it should fall from your four-storey, two-inch-wide ledge onto the naked noggin of Mrs. Dribble-Swift of 13 Calamity Close who famously fails to wear a builder’s hardhat even while walking to work.

Each card, printed on the most luxurious cream-coloured watercolour stock, comes with a sympathetically coloured beige envelope which itself has the texture of a wasp nest’s regurgitated pulp. Fibre in a diet is important.

SLH

Buy Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Fox Greetings Card and Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Aren’t these cousins cute?

I’m not convinced they’re actually cousins.

I only took Biology to A Level – and even then the scientists begged me to leave for the Arts (just like the Arts begged me to leave for the Sciences) – but I’m pretty sure these must be two different species. I don’t think it’s the same as a blonde boy marrying a sable-haired lady and their daughter or son turning out to be red-head then the in-laws accusing all and sundry of rampant infidelity. I don’t think it’s like that at all.

Both designs are exquisite.

The red fox’s ears are pricked right up, constantly scanning the countryside for sounds which might indicate a desperately desired winter-food source and perfectly valid prey close at hand.

That, or a blast of triumphalist trumpet indicating that a salivating swarm of over-privileged poshos are about to descend on it with rabid killer-hounds in order to rip it – plus its much-loved mate and children – limb from fucking limb just for the sheer bloody ballyhoo scream of it all.

Hahahaha, fuck you, foxes!

No, these are both beauties, the grey fox’s left ear (right as we perceive it) coming around like a cat’s in sympathy to sound it’s attracted to.

Both are printed on watercolour stock and come with an envelope equally classy in stock.

Nature: she is a thing, is she not?

SLH

Buy Grey Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Red Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Mistletoe Christmas Card and Candy Cane Christmas Card and Christmas Stocking Card (£3-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

   

Limited editions, each of these three festive cards comes with a spangly, gold-foil envelope.

Oh my days, but the attention to detail here!

Printed on thick, vertically ridged, cream card-stock, each of these three limited-edition Christmas cards sent by you to your loved ones will say this:

“We think you’re worth more than a trite country snowscape reproduced at tuppence a pop.”

The sort of thing where the young man is patronising the lady he’s courting by holding her midriff, supporting her fumbling, flailing attempts to ice-skate round a townside lake whose ice probably ruptured mere minutes later with the town’s entire citizenship plummeting into the freezing-cold waters thus annihilating two if not three generations, and consequently leaving the town’s turkeys to burn themselves dry in the oven so that even the scampish scavengers rejected by the local orphanage fail to find so much as one juicy morsel.

“We would never send you one of them. You’re special. We love you. Also, we know that your letter box is tiny.”

That’s what any of these three limited editions will say to your friends.

What you say inside is entirely up to you.

I like the mistletoe best.

Mistletoe is poisonous, isn’t it?

SLH

Buy Mistletoe Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Candy Cane Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Christmas Stocking Card and read the Page 45 review here

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

It really is.

And what a cool card!

I adore the calligraphy perfectly positioned above the chilly blue snowflake; yet somehow the slogan’s “Baby” makes everything much, much warmer within. Don’t you feel that too? A little love goes a long way and this warms the cockles of my freezing-cold heart.

It’s deceptively simple yet inspired. Compositions as clever as this make my art-soul grin.

I must ask our Jodie how she came up with this, but not while she’s packing those eighteen graphic novels you ordered from us as Christmas presents because Swansea is a long way from Shoreditch and we must not distract her. We have a 48-hour order-to-door service to maintain.

Did I just throw in some advertising? I am a capitalist nightmare come true.

Watercolour stock with envelope. Classy!

SLH

Buy Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

King Shiba Inu and Robin Hood Shiba Inu and Fez Shiba Inu and Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Cards (£2-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Printed on a light cream watercolour stock and coming with a crisp white envelope, each of these pink-tongued puppies has a hat on its head.

I don’t know why: you’d have you ask Jodie.

I asked our Jodie and she said, “Can you pass me the Sellotape, please, Stephen?”

Which is very polite and fair enough: we are very busy at Page 45!

They aren’t actually puppies, that’s an expression. But I’ve never heard of this breed so I turn to Wikipedia instead.

“A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It looks similar to and is often mistaken for other Japanese dog breeds like the Akita Inu or Hokkaido, but the Shiba Inu is a different breed with a distinct blood line, temperament and smaller size than other Japanese dog breeds.It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.”

There you go!

Doesn’t explain the hats, though, does it?

  

SLH

Buy King Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy and Robin Hood Shiba Inu Greetings Card read the Page 45 review here

Buy Fez Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?


American Vampire vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder, various & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown

Arkwright Integral h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot

Axe Cop vol 6: American Choppers (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Grindhouse Midnight vol 2: Bride Of Blood | Flesh Feast Of The Devil Doll s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Federica Manfredi, Gary Erskine

Hinterkind vol 2: Written In Blood s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli

Incredible Change-Bots: Two Point Something Something (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown

Infinite Vacation h/c (£18-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Christian Ward

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c (£55-00, Locust Moon Press) by a multitude of talented artists

Oz: Road To Oz s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy

Royal Blood h/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui

The Shadow Hero (£12-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

Star Wars vol 4: Shattered Hope (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Zack Whedon & Carlos D’Anda, Facundo Percio, Davide Fabbri

Batman And Robin vol 4: Requiem For Damon s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Cliff Richards

Batman Eternal vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Jason Tynion IV, various & Jason Fabok, various

Batwoman vol 5: Webs s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marc Andreyko & Trevor McCarthy, Jeremy Haun, various

Catwoman vol 5: Race Of Thieves s/c (£13-50, DC) by Ann Nocenti, John Layman, Sholly Fish & Patrick Olliffe, Tom Nguyen, various

Justice League: Trinity War s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire, J.M.DeMatteis & Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis, various

Deadpool vol 6: Original Sin s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & John Lucas, Scott Koblish

Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman

Attack On Titan: Junior High vol 2 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Saki Nakagawa

Bleach vol 62 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Blue Exorcist vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Claymore vol 25 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Fairy Tail vol 44 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Opus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Satoshi Kon

Soul Eater vol 22 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News!

ITEM! Fascinating and thrilling process piece by Sean Phillips on creating a stunning HELLBLAZER cover from start to finish!

ITEM! Wonderful Worle School starts filling up a display stand Page 45 sent them with the manga we supplied! Page 45 loves, loves, loves school libraries and school librarians. Young Adult Graphic Novels for Schools And Families as of May 2014 with links to our library services for all ages and demographics!

ITEM! Stephen Collins’ latest comic for The Guardian starring Tony Hart’s plasticine Morph. So sad.

ITEM! So UKip wins a second seat. But not really – it was another incumbent Tory who’d merely switched sides from Covert Xenophobic Party to Overt Xenophobic Party. However, the rise of the right is undoubtedly happening again so here’s Tom Humberstone’s incisive and insightful five-page comic, Hostile Environment.

ITEM! LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER looks pretty fearsome. There aren’t enough wildlife comics (ah, how fondly I remember Mike Zulli’s PUMA BLUES, sadly unavailable since as far back as Page 45 opened). Due early 2015, you can read an interview with artist Federico Bertolucci on LOVE: THE TIGER here with a preview underneath! And if you are a wildlife fan and can’t wait, there’s always Brian K. Vaughan’s PRIDE OF BAGHDAD.

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week three

November 19th, 2014

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter.

- Jonathan on Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

Reach out and touch faith…

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.

There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world’s most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. To Cassandra – a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology – the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she’s taking it all very personally.

The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, assigned to young extant lives by their keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age but graceful and quiet with a steely resolve. Throughout the flux – the rise and the fall – Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn’t last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.

Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon’s goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.

“Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me.”
“Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parent’s embarrrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn’t understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who’s been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!”

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Lucifer’s favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci…

I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter’s wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the swoonaway cover and its logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods’ current status. After each major act it’s updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.

As ever with Gillen there’s many a contempory pop culture reference – and I don’t just mean music – like Twitter DMs and “snapchats” and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:

“SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Blah blah blah…

“ANOTHER SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Yet more blah…

“AM I GOING TO HAVE TO
“GO ONTO THE SECOND
“PAGE OF SEARCH
“RESULTS? OH GOD. NO.
“This is turning into homework…”

Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen’s good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games’ most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.

Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan’s subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there’s none-more-goth than me.

There are loads of post-show, back-stage extras like the covers, Nathan Fairbairn’s fresco in all its full glory, the series’ two-page teaser plus a four-panel photo-comic starring Kieron Gillen ska-dancing into a shop Madness-stylee in order to pre-order his copies of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Sage advice, wondrously rendered and almost worth the price of admission alone.

What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won’t tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it’s that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:

“Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn’t consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I’ve never tried. They do say I’ve a wicked tongue… Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“Not even a little bit of cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“What kind of teenager are you that you don’t have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?”

Tuned in.
Turned on.
Drop doubt.

It’s time to get recreational.

SLH

Buy The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe…

“I wish I was still there.”

Ha, not sure how much of this material is autobiographical, quite a bit I suspect, given the final-page reveal which had me chuckling yet again, but in any event what a brilliant exposé of the bizarre and otherworldly place the art school is, populated as I had always suspected almost entirely by people who are either utterly fake, completely weird or indeed some hybrid fusion of the two.

Dan, our hero of sorts, is neither and thus feels extremely uncomfortable upon his arrival, convinced that everyone will think he is an unsophisticated country bumpkin. In reality he’s just being himself but, parachuted unarmed into what seems like an insane asylum, populated by beings from another planet (not least of which being the tutors) whose initial advice on the actual subject of art seems well, somewhat… subjective… at best, it’s understandable how a lad away from home for the first time could feel a little unsure of himself.

Ah, Jamie Coe perfectly captures that sense of leaving home for the first time and heading to University, as it was for me rather than art school though, trust me, the Chemistry department of Nottingham circa 1990 was also populated by some very strange characters… No one knows anyone else, everyone is desperate to impress, and there’s more cheap booze and readily available drugs than you could possibly have imagined in your wildest dreams. Recipe for continuing your hitherto hard-won education in a stately manner, no, but having the time of your young life, oh yes!

But back to the matter at hand: young Dan is gradually finding his feet, getting used to the different categories of weirdo amongst his fellow students and interpreting the nonsense and gibberish as ‘taught’ by the tutors, when a certain young lady takes his eye. She seems keen to be friends, even after he’s knocked out by the falling sculpture of a pair of breasts, but not so keen as to become his girlfriend, which is a conundrum a hormone-laden young chap like Dan finds particularly disconcerting. I wonder if there’s a reason why she’s blowing hot and cold with him, like an arsehole of a boyfriend lurking somewhere perhaps…?

Not content with being a great storyteller, Jamie Coe is also a brilliant artist. I shouldn’t be surprised, I expect no less from a Nobrow-published creator, but still, I can’t believe this is a debut work from such a young man, it’s such an accomplished piece. He already has a complete handle on panel composition, page layout, pacing. I can only imagine how good he can become. There’s no skimping anywhere, the amount of work that’s gone into every single panel is impressive indeed. There were numerous sequences that got me chuckling, not least the classroom sequences with the cringe-worthy tutors, but it’s Dan’s depiction of his student colleagues that had me creased with laughter. There’s a genius sequence where he breaks down the myriad different self-manufactured ‘brands’ of art student and their archetypical fashions and generic foibles and it just had me in stitches.

This work is so, so much fun, an outstanding piece of contemporary British comedy. If you had a riot of a time back in your student days, you’ll no doubt find yourself reminiscing as you read this, but it’s when Dan is focusing on the absurdity of art school and its inhabitants that this work really does hit the heights. As satirical social commentary on this particular corner of the <ahem> art world goes, it’s absolutely on the money. Oscar Wilde may have famously opined “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” but I think if he’d have read ART SCHOOLED, he might have had to revise that opinion.

JR

Buy Art Schooled h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon…

“Karl Marx, hello.”
“Hello.”
“So, what’s new?”
“Struggle, always struggle.”
“Struggle… always struggle.”
“Yes! Struggle.”
“Karl Marx, where would you place yourself?”
“Hmm. I’m not a Marxist, I know that for sure.”
“So what do you think about Marxists then?”
“I wanted to found a science not a sect.”
“Happiness, for you, Karl Marx, what is that?”
“Happiness… I’ll tell you, Chateau Margaux 1848. You can’t get more red than that! Cheers!”

So, the really weird thing about this excellent, even-handed biography of one of the most important socio-political pundits of relatively recent times is the fact the artwork minded me slightly of KING ROLLO, and his sidewise, gangle-limbed leaping gait. I could try and make some spurious case as to why it is also an accurate socio-political comparison, given Marx’s wealthy family background, but frankly it would be pushing it, even for me, and also more than a little unfair on the great man.

For me, this biography is up there with FEYNMAN for its part-enlightening, part-amusing depiction of someone who, by his own admission, was desperate to be an agent for social change, or at least be known as such. I wonder what Marx would make of his legacy as it is perceived these days? I think for those in the know, particularly in the academic arena, there is no doubt he is held in the highest regard for his contributions to economics, the social sciences, and indeed philosophy. In fact, I don’t doubt that were he alive today he would be occupying an endowed chair at some esteemed seat of learning, rather than eking out an existence, reliant on donations and unbelievably fortuitously opportune multiple inheritances from various family members, to supplement the meagre royalties from his published works.

That he spent his life espousing socialist revolution is probably how he is best known amongst the public at large. How successful he was, in inspiring others rather than taking direct action himself, is open to debate, but there is no doubt that his was an extremely powerful voice at the time, earning him the wrath and opprobrium of various western European rulers and governments. That he believed that capitalism was a despotic creation whilst desiring to live in the lap of luxury, enjoying the finer things that life could offer, is not so well known, and I think this is where and why this particular biography sheds light on the all-too-human side of the great thinker. It also portrays him as the undoubted family man that he was, notwithstanding his fathering a child by the family’s maid…

I think what would displease Marx most about our current world would be the apparent absolute stranglehold capitalism has over such a large swath of the populace, and I am pretty sure he would raise a knowing eyebrow and sigh a weary sigh if he were to read Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH, but I think he would also be mightily encouraged by the relative freedom of speech we enjoy today compared to his era, and also comparatively comfortable lifestyle the majority of the working and lower-middle classes enjoy. It is exactly the sort of lifestyle he himself aspired to: a warm place to live, food (and wine) on the table, and decent medical facilities available to all. (Not getting into any sort of discussion about the NHS or Obamacare etc. etc. here, merely making a comparison between the 1800s and modern day).

This work does a fantastic job in educating readers regarding the politics and struggles of the day, that Marx faced in constructing and communicating his ideas to the masses, and also the fun and failings of someone who was ultimately only a human being, not an icon, despite how he might be revered and championed, rightly or wrongly, by some today. The fact the creators manage to do it with such humour and panache right throughout, it all seeming like one gargantuan political newspaper cartoon, is proof you can do a riveting biography on what could be a very dry subject indeed, if you know how to bring your subject to life.

JR

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

Expecting To Fly #2 of 2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison.

“I don’t know how one of the kindest people I’ve ever met came out of human garbage like you.”

Ouch. You should see the way Ryan’s Dad’s shoulders stoop in the wake of that pithy put-down. He deserved it, though.

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 was a belter. Set inextricably in Britain, 1996, it saw Shelley Winters cope with loss, Ryan Beckwith attempting to cope with an errant yet distracting Dad, and Tim Jones sailing through school with flying colours. It was smart, sassy, bright and breezy with barely a hint of what’s in store here.

Oh my days, this is dark!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as funny as ever: John Allison’s timing on each page released first online, one at a time, is immaculate. Sometimes the punchline is verbal, often it’s visual, but every page comes with one which makes the final printed copies amongst the tautest comics ever released. Same goes for the man’s BAD MACHINERY. Pop in him our search engine and see what crops up. At the moment John’s comics are all on our counter corner and shooting out.

It all looks so casually done but you can only look this casual when your craft is rigorous. Expressions like bewilderment, mock self-righteousness, delight and despair are matched only with the flamboyance of gestures or tiny, telling postures. I also loved the panel in which Tim tries to explain the mysteries of light physics, folding his arms into a prism so dispersing white light into a refracted spectrum, and the sequence when Shelley starts smoking and her hard-earned halo is left to drift off into the sky.

 

Everyday observations are lobbed in like they’re obvious but aren’t. Ryan’s been looking after Shelley and here takes her fishing.

“I brought you a bacon and egg sandwich. Thought you might need some strength.”
“Oh, you SAINT.”

Shelley starts munching.

“Ryan, I think fishing is cruel. I don’t know if I wanna catch a fish.”
“You’re basically eating a piglet’s dad and a chicken’s son.”
“They had it coming.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s home work has been suffering on account of his dad’s self-indulgence, taking him out to the pub and getting him drunk on Ryan’s own pocket money. But if you imagine he’s been led astray so far, you haven’t seen anything yet. Then there are the repercussions of Tim’s elaborate act of kindness in helping Ryan grasp basic physics and by the end of this comic everything has changed at home, at school, at work. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Radical.

As a bonus John Allison has spent both issues winking at 1990s’ Marvel Comics on the covers and within, emulating their monthly marketing page with a mock editorial and check list of comics like SURFEIT (*snorts*) and a 12-issue mini-series which spins out into other titles called ENTER THE TAXMAN.

“Every year, the IRS turn me inside out. They work me over like a sailor’s Johnson on shore leave. I heard that possession is 9/10 of the law, but try telling that to them!” There lies the inspiration but you won’t believe it impacts on Scary Go Round’s other titles!

Lastly, back to the fishing expedition and Shelley is curious.

“Have you ever caught crabs?”
“Don’t spoil this.”

SLH

Buy Expecting To Fly #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez…

“Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking for it merely for its own sake.”

- Robert Moses.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

- Jane Jacobs.

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter. Clearly then, you have to be single-minded, perhaps to the point of being bloodily so, both in terms of your certitude in the face of dissent and disagreement from others, and also in terms of the sacrifices you are prepared to make, on your own part, but also what you will put others through, just to achieve your aims. Robert Moses, a man I would imagine very few of us have ever heard of, was just such a man.

For a period of around forty years, between the mid-1920s and ‘60s, Robert Moses effectively built up complete control over the planning and implementation of any and all construction in New York City be it housing, civic centres, roads, bridges, tunnels plus all the other general infrastructure that allows a city to function. He managed to head various bodies directly controlling vast amounts of income such as road tolls, millions upon millions of dollars, to effectively have the complete autonomy to create whatever he wanted.

 

And so he built what we know as modern-day New York. Inevitably, of course, his star ultimately began to fade, as there were the failures as well as the many successes which affected his public popularity, plus his by-then rampant ego causing as much damage for himself as anything else. There were dissenting voices all along the way, not least the strident Jane Jacobs, also accusations of racism against the black communities, but it wasn’t really until the mid ‘70s, when he himself was in his mid-80s, that the wider public opinion, informed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography revealing much about the man himself, finally turned vehemently against him. Though over further time that eventually softened and a strong legacy does endure. Undoubtedly he shaped the New York we know, I think most impartial and informed commentators would agree, both for better and for worse, but what we have today is certainly his vision.

I bought this work in without knowing anything about Robert Moses; I did so entirely on viewing a few exquisite pages of the art which Nobrow had posted on social media, of iconic scenes such as Times Square and the Flatiron Building. Ironically, it was at the Flatiron Building – or the Fuller Building to give it its correct name – where a young Moses volunteered his services to the then administration in the early 1920s. It was an invaluable yet frustrating lesson of the quagmire of politics bogging down progress. Something that no doubt played its part in Moses’ dogged determination to circumvent any outside interference whatsoever in his grand schemes by those with political power.

It’s fitting, actually, that a biography about such an extraordinary man is illustrated so beautifully. I could talk all day about what I’ve learnt about Robert Moses, when I should be raving about Olivier Balez’s art. It has a wonderfully elegant period feel, of a city on the cusp of radical change, both architecturally and also socio-economically with the turbulent forces of the Great Depression of the ‘30s rapidly followed by World War 2, then cataclysmically shaken up again by the swinging ‘60s.

Balez neatly encapsulates the enormous divide between the ‘20s era Gatsby-esque socialites colonising Long Island, oblivious and probably uncaring for the most part, of the deprivations faced by those less fortunate of their not too distant fellow citizens, whose conditions you’ll clearly recognise if you’ve ever read much Eisner. It’s also clear that a desire for social justice did drive Robert Moses to a degree, though how much of that was forged purely by his sense of disenfranchisement from the social elite by his own Jewish heritage is debatable.

But one thing is clear, he was an advocate of social change, and that change in his eyes, could only be achieved by rebuilding the city to his design. As we move forward in time, Balez captures the huge changes in the landscape: architectural, politically and socially, shifting seamlessly back and forth between the changing skylines and construction sites, bustling street scenes and character studies of the locals and bigwigs alike in an understated palette of ochre, pastel blue and other such subtle tones. This work is a fitting testament to Robert Moses, I think, because it succeeds so admirably in its epic portrayal of a man and his city, for the long decades it was simply his.

JR

Buy Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, David Lafuente, Kevin Nolan, Galen Showman.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. And it seemed very normal to him.

A man called Jack killed his parents and older sister but Bod was adopted by ghosts in a graveyard and Silas, a tall, gaunt man who lived by night with skin as pale as the moon.

In the GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL VOL 1 Bod learned all sorts of practical things like how to open Ghoul Gates and survive Night-Gaunts, along with more important lessons about caring for others at all costs. But by and large he did so in a leisurely manner. His night gown seemed to grow with him over the years, but now it’s time to put aside childish things because the men who had his parents killed are coming to kill Bod.

It’s time to grow up in every conceivable manner, and Bod will have to do that very, very fast, using everything he’s learned so far.

After a single introductory chapter drawn by David Lafuente involving an aborted attempt to attend school and a very persistent bully – plus a very funny sub-story about a young man who died furious because as an apprentice he’d been tricked into going in search of red-and-white-striped paint! – this is a startling change of pace with BOOKS OF MAGIC’s Scott Hampton carrying the weight of the book as it charges towards its climax. Scott’s lines are thinner than usual and the chapter’s quite pallid – genuinely scary.

P. Craig Russell returns with Kevin Nowlan and Galen Showman for the finale and it’s devastating in a different way but I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves.

I love the way Gaiman uses language apposite for whomever it concerns. For example, “Miss Euphemia Horsfall and Tom Sands has been stepping out for many years”. You wouldn’t use “stepping out” in a current context but it works for them: Euphemia lived between 1861 and 1883; Tom died during The Hundred Years War. “The couple seemed to have no troubles with the difference in their historical periods.”  That made me smile. And think.

SLH

Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell.

“There’s no Jam! yelled Sam.
“This doughnut’s all wrinkly!
“This doughnut is jamless and dry!
“Someone has got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! WHY?”

I don’t know!!! It is an outrage!!!

Mum swears it wasn’t her and it probably wasn’t and Dad is adamant too. The cat’s looking nonchalant so I’m slightly suspicious, but then that’s what a cat tends to do.

Sam sets a trap using doughnuts at night and peers from his sheets, underneath. The trap’s quickly sprung with two critters caught fast and look at their twin shiny teeth!

THEY’RE JAMPIRES!!!

Well, you can’t really blame them. Of course they drink jam – that’s what Jampires do! But what will happen now that Sam’s sussed them? (I have stopped rhyming now, yes.) It’s time for a tasty adventure!

This would have thrilled me when young: all the imaginary treats in a wonderland made from blueberry pie, ice cream and cupcakes all frosted under a snow of sherbert! The art is ebullient and charming without being remotely cloying. I’m not the target audience of kids’ illustrated prose, obviously, but I do find some of it sickly whereas this is cute and mischievous with funny little things to spot in the background and I know I’d share my jam with these Jampires!

Some of it. Probably.

Though possibly not bramble jelly. Mmmmm…..

SLH

Buy Jampires and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen.

Six short, sweet and moving morality tales – each by original MOUSE GUARD creator David Petersen – two of which are completely new. The others appeared as Free Comicbook Day Comics from 2011 to 2014.

In terms of the MOUSE GUARD matriarchal society’s timeline they take place between Spring 1124 and Winter 1155, and in each a young mouse is told a salutary story which will go on to shape their lives.

In the first a town finds itself effectively under siege from three fearsome predators – a hawk, a snake and a crab – but although its mightiest warriors fail to break the giant beasts’ grip, a weaver uses cunning in a way so that each comes undone proving that, as ever, the ken is mightier than the sword.

The second is told as a puppet show involving a town deemed cursed, its mighty gate sporting the slogan, “Evil Prevails”. Thanks to one individual’s actions, however, the sign finds itself substantially amended for by the end.

The third was my favourite: a tale of true love told as a tapestry about a female mouse so beautiful and talented she is not short of suitors. The fourth, using a paler palette, explores the mice’s version of Heaven, Seyan, and its equivalent of Saint Peter at its gates, Sefatus, judging who is worth to enter. It expounds the value of service and sacrifice above notoriety.

Being true to your nature and trusting your instincts lies at the heart of the fifth as three sisters share the role of THE BLACK AXE, cooperating to take on beasts bigger than they might otherwise manage single-handedly, and the sixth is a lullaby.

It’s impressive how much Petersen can slip in to ten-page segments without them feeling cramped, and you’ll feel far from short-changed by the results. The colours are exquisite, the reproduction as classy as ever, and it’s a perfect entry point to the wider world of MOUSE GUARD which would make a thoroughly heart-warming present.

SLH

Buy Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess.

A freak child, born with a tail and abandoned in the ghettos of a South American city, is found by a gay transvestite dwarf who also happens to be a prostitute, and who dies while ramming the doors of a church in a cart full of dynamite. Not with, but in.

An outcast raised by an outcast and suckled by a dog in the slums: how southern is your gothic? Can it really grow any grimmer? Yes indeed, for one thing and one thing alone can turn this embittered brat’s life around: the power of a gun.

From thereon in it’s rape, gang warfare, political corruption, torture, attempted castration, initiation ceremonies and assassination, as Juan strives to rise to the top of the criminal cream, all executed with strong action sequences and moody-faced art.

If the colouring’s a sickly spread of oranges, ochres and coffee-carmine, it only adds to the sensation of an exhausting heat in an unforgiving environment.

If you’re feeling starved of Milo Manara, this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Son Of The Gun h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal…

Have you ever wished that battle manga was produced in a larger format in full lush colour on lovely glossy high quality paper stock? If so, you need look no further, for this will fulfil your heart’s desires. It is a bit of a wafer-thin, Final Fantasy-esque, good versus evil, light versus dark, demons, angelic beings, plus of course lots of bad-ass warriors and the requisite cannon fodder plot, I must say. Which if it were to be reproduced in typical black-and-white, pocket-sized manga style, probably wouldn’t overly stand out that much.

That is not a criticism of the story or linework, far from it, because the majority of Viz, Kodansha, Yen Press et al manga output is slickly produced conveyor belt stuff with decent artwork, but there is a rather a lot of it, most of which is much of a muchness. And it tends to take something a bit different from the norm story-wise, like say ATTACK ON TITAN, to achieve a huge break-out success. This work, however, is elevated considerably simply by the addition of colour and excellent production values. I should also add it reads left to right, western-style, which I think is a good idea, further breaking the manga connotation, and thus an apparent restriction on audience.

 

 

It’s certainly no ZAYA, a former PAGE 45 COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH from the same publisher, which is wondrous on many levels, packing a really strong story, but this would make a very nice stocking filler for fantasy fans as is great fun with all the over top fights plus whizzing and popping magic everywhere. You’ll need an outsize stocking obviously, because it’s not traditional manga size… did I mention that already?

JR

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

All-New Captain America #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

That made me smile.

There is a new Captain America! There have been plenty over the years, but now it’s Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon and he has never been so beautifully, so spectacularly drawn. The all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Utterly thrilling.

There is also a new side-kick! There have been plenty over the years including The Falcon himself, but now it’s Nomad’s turn. There have been plenty of Nomads over the years including Captain America himself, but now it’s Ian’s turn. Who’s Ian? I had absolutely no bloody idea until I read the handy-dandy summary at the front after which I didn’t really care either way.

Rick Remender is a formidable writer: I am currently lapping up his subaquatic LOW while Jonathan is a big fan of BLACK SCIENCE. And this is a perfectly accessible entry point after reading the summary with even greater gymnastics given that the Falcon can fly, with a couple of key shield moments. That’s Captain America’s schtick, yeah? The shield. Remender remembered and so delivered.

The wasn’t one of them but no one can say Stuart Immonen hadn’t delivered!

I also loved the repartee from the first familiar supervillain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia but here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction and on the mark. It’s thoughtful and balanced is what I’m saying.

The new dynamic with Steve Rogers acting as operations supervisor and Captain America – the U.S.’s flagship superhero – now being non-caucasian will almost certainly be explored and explored well. I look forward to that. As yet, however, it’s not quite that different from the standard superhero fare for it to grip me like, say, MS MARVEL.

But it’s good, it’s good, and my days but that cover!

SLH

Buy All-New Captain America #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

This is the fourth incarnation of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, all of it written by Bendis, and I have loved every second.

But it’s the first iteration to have specified exactly who is the ultimate Spider-Man in its title: it’s Miles Morales whose story effectively began in ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 after Peter Parker died in the preceding ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN. Specifying Miles Morales in the title implies that Peter Parker is very much dead and Miles is here to stay.

Imagine your shock, then, on coming back home and finding Peter Parker alive and well, rifling through your things and stealing your stuff.

Yes.

Yes absolutely and then some.

Is that Peter Parker, and if so how are Gwen, MJ and Aunt May going to react? If it isn’t, who is playing a very sick joke? Also, what is it about S.H.I.E.L.D. custody that sucks so badly that they can’t keep Norman Osborn locked up for more than five seconds?

SLH

Buy Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee and many, many, many, many others.

You know, we could have sworn Jonathan reviewed this, but I’m afraid it was me. What Jonathan did, having seen my review, was attempt to explain to me what was happening here with the change in artist and different Earths. Unfortunately it required such an arcane knowledge of DC Comics superhero history that I failed to understand his patient and considered “demystification”.

Which I think says it all. I re-run my original review then, with the disclaimer that I have no idea whatsoever if it works as a complete book. At the end of the first issue I jumped out of the car and walked in the opposite direction.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for while I heralded his work on Paul Jenkin’s INHUMANS as a masterclass in chiaroscuro. It is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a comic I couldn’t comprehend.

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future.

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade.

If you’re looking for some prime Batman, may I recommend GOTHAM CENTRAL, THE BLACK MIRROR, IDENTITY CRISIS and THE KILLING JOKE?

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and one of comics’ greatest chameleons, Stuart Immonen, which is lush!

Always turn a negative into a positive!

Seize every opportunity to sell something!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey.

Did you remember to bring sweets?

SLH

Buy Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

The Art Of Dragon Age: Inquisition h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 1: New Rules (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage, Nicholas Brendon & Rebekah Isaacs

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

Doctor Who: The Blood Of Azrael (£13-99, Panini) by various

Fairest In All The Land s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & many artists

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP

Metroland #2 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson

My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Thomas F. Zahler, various & Tony Fleecs, Andy Price, various

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma

Batman: Detective Comics vol 5: Gothtopia h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman, various & Jason Fabok, Aaron Lopresti, various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 4: The Wrath s/c (£13-50, DC) by John Layman, James Tynion IV & Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Wesley Craig

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews

Runaways Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Wolverine vol 2: Three Months To Die s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell, Elliott Kalan & Kris Anka, Pete Woods, Jonathan Marks

Bokurano Ours vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

My Little Monster vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

Soul Eater vol 23 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is now stocking the full range of our Jodie Paterson’s swoonaway greetings cards!

ITEM! Original comic art auction in aid of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Includes work by Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham, Sean Phillips, Junko Mizuno, Emma Vieceli, Boulet and Jeff Smith

ITEM! Random interview I gave Nosy Bones on Saturday morning. It really was random, relying on the roll of dice!

ITEM! FLUFFY’s Simone Lia writes about whether her characters age. Oh, and Fluffy is now almost definitely a boy – whereas once I felt foolish, I now feel vindicated and my review has reverted to its original form! FLUFFY: one of the most beautiful books in the world!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week two

November 12th, 2014

It boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell.

 - Stephen on Zenith

Meanwhile #1 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford.

“Once you have tasted the fruit of the village, it is impossible to forsake its seductive power.”

That certainly sums up STRANGEHAVEN to perfection!

A true British classic beloved by Bryan Talbot, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis and JH Williams III amongst many, many creators, STRANGEHAVEN sadly stalled ten years ago at three volumes with one more to come, but now it is back with a vengeance!

It’s also now in full colour: colours which are so warm and rich against a crisp, cloudy sky and as British as the oak tree itself. As the village’s vicar takes a stroll round the countryside (and swift swig of whisky straight from the bottle) he reflects on how far his beloved flock have gone astray: on the arrival of Alex Hunter “literally by accident – when he crashed his car into a tree” since when Alex has felt unable to leave, his coercion into the masked Masonic Lodge and all the subsequent deaths and disappearances.

“George gave in to the temptation of an illicit affair with the doctor’s wife Maureen. So much for brotherly love.
“But he’s in a better place now.
“In the ground, decomposing.”

 

 

I didn’t say “consequent”, I said “subsequent”. Let’s see how it all plays out first, shall we?

It’s a fluent introduction, deftly done with real character, so new readers are embraced and some of us old-timers are provided with a far from boring, much-needed refresher course on just how much is Not Quite Right in this secluded parish of Strangehaven.

Speaking of Not At All Right, there are further Masonic manoeuvrings including temptation and even deeper induction, while one village member’s playing truant. That doesn’t go down well. That doesn’t go down well at all…

MEANWHILE is a fresh UK anthology with something for everyone and almost all of it for me.

I adored Sally Jane Thompson’s self-contained short story told in the same bilberry blues as THIS ONE SUMMER. Their gloss here is so attractive. In it a young woman makes or takes a phone call. We don’t know what she says but to begin with she’s quite quiet, subdued, then annoyed then despondent. When you see how Sally accomplishes that in her speech bubbles, I rather think you will smile. It concludes on a magical note of determined resolve thanks to a blackbird’s feather found on the floor.

Sean Bright’s ‘Peas In Our Time’ one-page, nine-panel nonsense made me laugh and it’s not often that politics makes one laugh at the moment, is it? A bag of frozen peas wins the UK General Election. The effects prove efficacious. And then we go and blow it all in the final panel’s punchline which made me howl!!!!

There’s a burst of black and white sci-fi, a Kate Brown-influenced episode of black and white fantasy from Yuko Rabbit whose external townscape on the final page took my breath away, and then there’s the first instalment of ‘The Bad Place’ by THE MAN WHO LAUGHS’ David Hine and Mark Stafford.

A girl call Jenny is warned away from the fabled perfect new town of Faraway Hills by its Town Crier. He is its only resident remaining. The town was built on the site of Crouch Heath with its tavern, The Horned Man. That too was deserted and had fallen into dereliction but everything was knocked down and built back up apart from the Castavette estate. Nought was left there but a wasteland of tipped rubbish yet with no known descendents, still it could not be compulsory-purchased.

Then overnight the Castavette mansion rematerialised in all its hideous, Victorian, four-storey splendour and that’s when things began to go seriously awry…

SLH

Buy Meanwhile #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy.

Dive deep, swim fast!

“Now the creature, the noise it’s making, it sounds a lot like a section of the whale’s song that’s urgent, a section that comes right before a response.”
“What kind of response?”
“A massive response. Because the creature isn’t talking to us. It’s talking to them.”

At which point Sean Murphy will send the mother of all shivers up your spine…

Sub-aquatic, ice-cold horror from the writer of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, SEVERED, BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR, and the current run on BATMAN and the glorious, gawp-worthy writer/artist of PUNK ROCK JESUS, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS.

In 200 years’ time: a wet-suited woman glides over the narrow waterways between what were once dry-land skyscrapers, one of which is leaning precariously. A dolphin harnessed with sonic and survey equipment surfaces from the water lapping gently against a brownstone’s roof. And then there’s another tidal wave!

Now: marine biologist Lee Archer, sacked from NOAA and on the Department of Homeland Security’s shit-list for her marine biology conservation is contacted by Agent Cruz and coerced into flying to Alaska’s South Slope to analyze an eerie, underwater call they cannot explain. Base camp is thousands of feet below sea level:

“Jesus, what is that?”
“It’s called a Ghost Rig. It’s a prototype. Yes, it’s a secret. No, it’s not legal. But it has the potential to extract nearly two hundred barrels a day, so there it is.”

Lee discovers she is not alone. There’s Dr. Marin, successfully published professor of folklore and mythology has been summoned to study an ‘artefact’, and the enigmatic yet supremely capable Leonard Meeks – an infamous poacher of very rare species – to study tissue samples. He looks like a vulture. And where do you think these sounds and tissue samples are coming from? Oh dear, that’s never a good idea…

On one level this is classic Doctor Who: illegal and environmentally disastrous strip-mining of Earth’s natural resources while invading the home territory of an ancient and previously undiscovered species. Exacerbate situation by capturing a creature and then belatedly bring in the experts before all hell breaks loose in a half-lit and confined environment in this case flooded with water. It won’t help that the Merman sprays hallucinogenic toxins from glands in its eye sacks.

But wait: that’s just the first half. In part two we swoop to the future 200 years later which has born the brunt – the repercussions – of the first half’s actions, and the world has surely changed in so many ways. Rarely have I encountered a future so thoroughly thought-through by its writer with some genuine shockers in store. This graphic novel is so much bigger and so much more brilliant than it appears on the sea’s choppy surface.

For a start, it is all about eyes: what we perceive and what we persuade others to perceive. And it’s all about ears: what we hear and that which we desperately hope will be listened to.

It stretches back thousands, nay millions of years. There is a key sequence involving the hunting of a giant white shark by hundreds with spears just like we used to hunt mammoths; and they actually use a downed mammoth as bait.

 

On the surface this is a beyond-worrying horror story, yes: it will make you go “Brrrrrrr!” But it will also make you think.

In the back of what I consider a very good value-for-money hardcover (£18-99 for 10 chapters) are additional process pieces full of sketch pages, the thought that’s gone into the colouring by the great Matt Hollingsworth and the ridiculous amount of consideration given to the lettering by Jared K. Fletcher.

Now, what is a Raindrop?

“It means the real-life referent that inspires a system of folklore. The raindrop hits the water, and concentric rings of lore spread from the point of impact. Like the Asiatic Bear in Tibet, its habit of walking on its hind legs. Now that inspired legends of Yetis.
“There’s no telling how many legends this creature inspired. From the Mermaids of Assyria, to the Sirens of Greece, with that call it’s making.”

The call that goes out to millions.

SLH

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

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly.

Two thoroughly contemporary dramas starring young women handling life in the Big Apple with varying degrees of self-awareness, self-discipline and self-confidence.

There’s a lot of new back-up material including full-colour paintings of the cast, like Ren in a comic shop – that one is so warm and detailed! – and this hefty edition collecting both the original NEW YORK FOUR and THE NEW YORK FIVE is incredible value for money!

As you might expect from the creators of LOCAL this as much about location as those inhabiting it. Kelly proved he could nail so many different urban environments as that series sailed across the States, and evoke their unique ambience as well as physical architecture. Here he fills every single page with hair whose weight and body you can almost hold, masonry you could lean on and gusts of wind and snow in the parks that you can feel against your cheek.

Riley is a resident of Park Slope (“NY 101: As good as Brooklyn gets.”) who’s just joined New York University with all the potential that offers in terms of new friends and is getting back in touch with Angie, her black sheep of a sister ostracised by her overbearing parents some years ago for crimes unknown – being far too much fun, by the looks of it. That shouldn’t happen to Riley: she’s a top-grade student, but her sister’s more worried about Riley’s addiction to texting.

She’s not wrong, either: Riley’s no dweeb by any stretch of the imagination, but her journeys are made to an iPod soundtrack and her social life is virtually all virtual, interrupting even the most personal or important conversations to answer messages that could so easily wait. She’s insular to say the least, and she only meets her three new friends by accident through the need for employment and somewhere to live outside campus dorms.

Angie introduces Riley to adult social life in the form of gigs and with the aid of her warm, cool and gregarious boyfriend. And it’s at one of these gigs, the night of Riley’s life, that someone there slips an email address into her pocket, at which point the texts really begin to fly much to the annoyance of anyone trying to get a real-world word in edgeways. As well as the bizarre priority Riley gives to someone she doesn’t know over those she should be caring about, there’s also the very real worry that Riley has no idea who she’s in communication with – an imbalance of power over which she has no control.

Do you think it will all go horribly wrong? It all goes horribly wrong.

I now issue a very rare SPOILER ALERT for the much longer, more substantial sequel hinges on who Riley’s mysterious admirer was.

By now Angie Wilder has her own band which has just struck it big on the gig circuit. But she still has her boyfriend called Frank who is anything but: he anonymously seduced her younger sister Riley by text. Angie’s no longer speaking to Riley, Riley isn’t speaking to Frank, but Frank hasn’t done using Angie to speak to Riley as the first chapter’s cliffhanger makes clear.

Riley’s attending NYU with Merissa, Lona and Ren who all share an East Village flat roughly the size of a cupboard, their rent paid through part-time jobs evaluating PSAT/SAT tests. For this they need to undergo casual therapy sessions but the beautiful, outgoing Marissa’s stopped attending. In fact she seems to be spending an awful lot of time going back home to Queens. Lona’s less outgoing but still going out, if only to stalk her professor. We’re talking the breaking-and-entering end of stalking, dumpster-diving for dirt, and her boyfriend’s unimpressed. I really don’t know what Ren’s problem is. She doesn’t seem to have one right now. She likes older men. Is that a problem?

Here the ever-exceptional spirit of place comes in the form of civic parks in winter, the city skylines at night and the chunky tenements with street-level steps rising up to their doors. The gigs are perfectly populated while the pavement outside is teeming with individuals hanging out on bikes, checking their bags or checking out each other. You can tell when an artist is trying to avoid drawing something; I couldn’t find a single instance of that here. Even the iron fire escapes and scaffolding have been lavished with so much attention that they have as much weight and character as the pedestrians passing them by. When you stop to take in just how many cityscapes there are on top of that…

Someone was on their way to New York the other day, and she asked if we had any comics that would act as a good guide. This would make the perfect guide, dotted as it is with insider titbits on every location featured including The Strand (used book shop), Washington Square, the Ukrainian diner Veselka, and St. Mark’s Place in The East Village:

“NY 101: St. Mark’s Place, as iconic and compelling as SF’s Haight Astbury, this enduring hang-out block is way more seedy and has much cooler rock and roll roots. But, in the end, both succumbed to The Gap. This author’s most-missed: the St. Mark’s Cinema.”

As seen in LOCAL, for me this is what Brian Wood does best: compelling and thoroughly contemporary straight fiction with a young cast of real individuals – females with foibles, individuals with issues – gradually revealing bits of themselves as they contemplate, hesitate or override their better instincts. Because coming back to that cliffhanger, it really is one of those, “Noooo, don’t do it!” moments.

SLH

Buy The Complete New York Four and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) (£6-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…

“A life lived in mud and clay… concrete and steel… manuscript and satellite signals…
“Wars fought between settlers along the marshy banks of the River. Ludgate, Tower Hill, Cornhill.
“Kings and Queens ruling far reaching empires.
“Plagues.
“Fires.
“Riots.
“Wealth and poverty.
“Heroes and villains.
“New stories being written every minute.
“Constantly on the move.
“East… further east.
“Beneath the surface.”

Tim Bird undoubtedly has what breakbeat meisters the Stanton Warriors would refer to as the power of ‘uninterrupted flow’. Now, I will grant you on the face of it, that is an apparently incongruous analogy to begin a review with, but in fact, Tim’s work is all about and indeed composed of continuous transition, even in the face of the strange disruptive interfaces thrown up between man and nature. His worldview of our sceptred isle encompasses the epochs and the aeons, not ignoring the here and now, but understanding its transitory place astride the fixed topological canvas of the landscape.

One of the most powerful moments for me in his previous work, GREY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK, a testament to that most visible evidence of man’s dominion over vehicular time and space, the road, comes when the tarmac slices right by Stonehenge. Similarly, in this work detailing a trip from the centre of London out to the coast, first by underground and train, then on foot, Tim’s combination of observational illustration and poetic overview has a deeply resonating effect.

Often in our lives, we don’t have the time to think about the journeys we make, so concerned are we with simply getting from A to B as quickly as possible, for usually there is a purpose we need to fulfil that has necessitated our travels. Instead, Tim, wandering without an aim of his own, is able to consider all the journeys ever made along that route, resulting in the incremental changes over centuries from untamed wilderness to the measured, graduated, controlled environment of modernity that is the city of London and its suburbs. But we also see that in reverse, purely in modern day, as he finally ends up at the coast, or as he more romantically describes it…

“A terminus. A place where… the landscape… ceases.”

Then moving on to the sea, as a coda, where once again, we see the fingerprint of man indelibly altering nature, Tim reciting the hypnotic mantra of the shipping forecast sea areas which will be soothingly familiar to anyone who has ever spent much time listening to Radio 4, as a cargo vessel slips past a buoy against the backdrop of a dramatic red sunset. A suitably tranquil, composed ending to another splendid issue of thoughtful musing.

JR

Buy Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters…

“Talk, goddammit!”
“I… I’m afraid I won’t be much help… what I’m seeing is way beyond my wildest imagination!”

She’s not wrong. Verloc Nim and his secret agent – and irritatingly superior younger brother – Conrad have made it to the planet Ona(ji) to establish precisely what has become of the group of research scientists sent to test a potential genetic manipulation wonder agent called aama. They’ve discovered one group of the scientists holed up at their base awaiting rescue. The project leaders, as a result of an apparent ideological schism, have assumed control of the aama agent and decided to continue the experiment elsewhere on the planet.

You could say, in some senses, the experiment has been a resounding success, given the rapidly advanced flora and fauna which Verloc, Conrad, Churchill the robotic ape bodyguard and the scientists brave enough to accompany them encounter en route. It’s clear it has effected an evolutionary developmental process at a rate far beyond natural speeds. It’s also abundantly clear there have been some serious, unforeseen consequences as well. As the group progresses further into the evolutionary wilds, it seems that aama is increasingly aggressively trying to actively incorporate any and all genetic – and even inorganic materials – it can into its ever more rapid modifications. Cue the mad scientist caused horror…

 

 

 

Which still doesn’t bring us up to where we started AAMA VOLUME ONE: THE SMELL OF WARM DUST  with a dazed and confused, amnesiac Verloc trying to piece together what the hell has happened to him and why he is alone. It gives me hope there is still much, much more to come from this prestigious Best Series of 2013 Angoulême prize winner, because it is as deliciously mysterious as it is spectacular. We also learn more of Verloc’s back story, his unusual desire for a genetically unmodified offspring ultimately causing his estrangement from his wife after their daughter was born with what seems to be a form of high-functioning autism.

How that is connected to the unexplained presence of a being with the exact physical appearance of his daughter on Ona(ji) has yet to be revealed, but I will bet that the increasingly unhinged Conrad, suffering an emotional disconnect from not being intrinsically subconsciously linked to the future version of Earth’s internet where everyone is part of a huge, permanent communications net (probably like seeing Facebook every time you close your eyes, which is a truly horrifying thought), almost certainly knows more than he is letting on. So, now I just have to patiently wait until March 2015 for volume three…

JR

Buy aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Zenith: Phase One h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell.

“You don’t understand what time can do to people.”
“It can make them late.”

Perpetually preening, drunk and incorrigibly egotistical, ignorant and easily bored, I basically was young Zenith 25 years ago. I even had the quiff and studded leather jacket. Unfortunately I had none of Zenith’s powers nor musical prowess. Actually, I’m not sure Zenith had any musical prowess but as the first phase kicks off he is at number three in the pop charts.

This is even better than I remembered it to be, and I cherished it dearly back then.

On top of its horrific Neo-Nazi / Cthulu antagonists it boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell. His was the shiniest-ever superhero art, bathed in bold black which benefits enormously for the infinitely improved production values, printed on the crispest of paper preventing any bleed.

Trapped in legal hell for 20 years, it’s almost as surprising and wondrous to find it back on our shelves as STRAY BULLETS.

It kicks off during WWII with a broadcast of blinding hubris as Britain answers the German threat of Aryan meta-man Masterman with its own meta-human Maximan, himself a sort of blonde English Rose. By the very second page, however, it is clear that Britain has underestimated Masterman by misunderstanding his nature and Maximan lies broken in Berlin. At which point we drop The Bomb on them both. The Bomb, yes.

Cut straight to 1987 and pop star Zenith has been invited onto Good Morning Britain to discuss a book re-evaluating the reputation of Cloud 9 – “the group of British superhumans who were as much of the swinging ‘60s as The Beatles or Twiggy” – but he’s really only interested in flogging his new single. Instead it’s the more mature Ruby Fox, former model then known as Cloud 9’s own Voltage, who refutes the allegations of self-indulgence by maintaining that they were all ill-prepared victims of an experimental drug, including Zenith’s own parents, Dr. Beat and White Heat, who went missing in 1968.

Zenith is now the only known active superhuman and he’s only active in ways which enhance his lock-jawed, pop-star, thicker-than-pig-shit career; and only when his fluctuating, monthly biorhythm cycle allows. At its peak he can fly, crush ball bearings and is virtually invulnerable. Well, every 19-year-old feels that way, don’t they? Ruby Fox hasn’t manifested her electrical energy abilities in years, Siadwell Rhys AKA Wales’ pyrokinetic Red Dragon has put himself out with the demon drink and former turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out Peter St. John AKA Mandala has become a high-rising Tory MP destined almost inevitably for leadership. I wonder if he still has those powers of persuasion? It’s funny how former radicals become such reactionaries, isn’t it?

I told you this had a socio-political punch.

Meanwhile, as I say, Britain’s manufactured response to Nazi Germany’s Masterman misunderstood his true nature and Germany had a reputation for using twins. Fräulein Haas and Doctor Driesch have just succeeded in reviving Masterman’s twin and in summoning his true power from Overspace using the Ritual of Nine Angles: it has multiple eyes, many mouths, very sharp teeth and the sound of its wings flapping is something that would drive any man or woman insane.

Masterman has now flown to Great Britain, home to the National Front, and has his sights set first on Ruby Fox left all alone and defenceless in her flat…

What is so extraordinary about this work – other than its thoroughly entertaining, bright social commentary, good humour and space – is that it was serialised in such short segments in the UK’s iconic and enduring weekly comic 2000AD yet feels neither disjointed nor awkwardly compressed when read in this album-sized hardcover. It is as smooth as silk, as rich as Belgian chocolate and as beautiful to behold as anything offered more recently by the artistic masters of the superhero genre, Bryan Hitch, Steve Epting, Michael Larkin, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Deodato, John Romita Jr, Sara Pichelli or Steve Yeowell’s contemporary John Byrne.

Eyes, teeth and hair, folks; eyes, teeth and hair. Also, a fine line in fashion.

SLH

Buy Zenith: Phase One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel.

An all-ages album of wonder and friendship which will really tug at your heartstrings, while leaving your eyes twinkling at the sheer spectacle, this new format is the size of the average American trade paperback.

A young boy is left an inheritance by his grandfather and initially he’s unimpressed:

“It was just an old stuffed bear and a broken pocket watch.”

There’s a painful sequence early on where he’s bullied by some bigger kids who snatch away the polar bear, after which Tyler rejects the stuffed toy, and flings it away in disappointment. And that’s when the magic starts.

Kunkel’s animation experience shines through the pages. The black, white and grey forms are softened by his canny decision not to erase the sketchlines underneath, so the figures flow and glide. Added to that the striking scarlet cape of the transformed polar bear, which cleverly enhances the creature’s definition.

The former sketchbook in the A4 is gone, I’m afraid, but it’s been replaced by two new stories so I’d call that a bonus!

SLH

Buy Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance and read the Page 45 review here

The Leaning Girl s/c (£22-50, Alaxis Press) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten…

“Honestly, Dr. Texier, can you figure out what’s wrong with her?”
“Hmm… Part of it could be a put-on, it’s possible. Your daughter has always been a character…”

Mary has a condition, a very strange one indeed.

Ever since a ride on a most peculiar rollercoaster during a visit to a large World’s Fair-esque Exposition, she has leant at an angle of about twenty degrees. It is as if gravity, for her, were acting in an entirely different direction to everyone else. Despite the best attempts of doctors to establish the real or imagined cause of her malady, no one really has any clue whatsoever as to why she leans. It is a real condition, that much is apparent to us, but what connection does it have to the strange group of astronomers and physicists sequestered doing secretive research in a mountain-top observatory? And then what possible connection does any of it have to the photo-based chapter interludes featuring a lonely artist struggling to make sense of his life?

There is a foreword from Benoit Peeters which starts with a comment that he and his friend Francois Schuiten created this world purely for the purposes of exploring it. Now, that might mean they basically had no idea what story they were going to write when they started and just made it up as they went along, because I did get a slight sense of that, but even so, they have created something rather unusual which has genuine artistic merit. I’m not sure it works completely, but if you approach this from the sense that you are observing two undoubtedly talented creators undertaking a highly involved experiment, you will enjoy it.

Peeters then details in his foreword how during the long gestation of this work they received much correspondence from someone claiming to be the real Mary, so much so that they received a compiled book of it whilst at Angoulême. He states that most people presumed they were behind the correspondence, particularly because they also openly produced two pseudo-documentaries to publicise this work, but he claims this was not the case, and they are as baffled as anyone else as to the identity of the letter-writing ‘Mary’. Having read the whole of the work, but not wishing to give anything anyway, I would suspect that is complete and utter hogwash, and it was indeed them, and the correspondence is a device which mirrors an element of the plot revealed towards the end. Anyway…

What did really work for me was the art. Beautiful black and white ligne claire with seriously detailed line shading. Gorgeous city-scapes and vivid characters illustrated to a standard not far off Bernie Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN (which they really do need to get on with reprinting). I was also, oddly enough, minded of CEREBUS in places. The photo-story sections really didn’t work for me, they just seemed too jarring until I finished the work, understood the reason behind the conceit, and then I could readily accept them as part of the experimental whole. Overall, I can’t honestly see this work appealing to a wide audience, but certainly there will be those that think it is an exceptional piece.

JR

Buy The Leaning Girl s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“I want you to know, I really do appreciate our little talks. It… really breaks up my days. Helps me… mark time. I think they’re good for you, too, having someone to talk to.”
“Sure. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”
“Wait… before you go…”
“Yeah?”
“After all this time… all these talks… the things we’ve shared. Do you still want to kill me?”
“Yes… you know I do.”

I have deliberately left out who is talking to whom there for the benefit of those who are not completely up to date, but what I will clarify is time. Two years have passed since the events of ALL OUT WAR, and much has changed. It would seem there has been little in the way of confrontation since then, indeed the communities Rick is now fully in charge of are prospering, despite the ever-present threat of zombies. Often the device of shifting forward in time is done when a writer is running low on ideas, but here it is used to great effect to instantly set up several interesting new potential plot threads, and allow the mass introduction of several new characters, plus radical new haircuts and facial topiary on existing ones…

I am sure there will be some retrospective references that will allow us to fill in the blanks about what happened in the aftermath of the war, but after wondering how on earth Kirkman was going to follow that epic arc, and wondering if it was all going to go a bit flat for a while, I’m now reassured it will be quite the contrary.

Also, it does provide an excellent starting point for new readers in terms of the single issues. Alternatively, just start at the very beginning with WALKING DEAD VOL 1 or why not WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 if you’re feeling flush / want to have something really heavy to hand just in case the zombie apocalypse begins…

JR

Buy Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean.

Batman: “You’re free. You’re all free.”
The Joker: “Oh, we know that already. But what about you?”

The new, new 25th Anniversary edition comes packed with even more extras than last time. Still here: Morrison’s complete script and original notes, annotated by both himself and Karen Berger, many of Morrison’s original thumb-nail breakdowns (like Bendis and Moore, he’s not a bad artist, either), and lots of other behind-the-scenes tomfoolery. But now: all the different covers over the years including the Japanese hardcover, an illustration for The Face, another for UKCAC ’88, the clay mask used as the base for McKean’s photo-painterly jiggery-pokery and convention painted “sketches” in a completely different style. Good golly!

I loved this dark, sexually charged Bat tale in which The Joker taunts Batman into Arkham Asylum (where both of them belong) through sadism and psychology, then pinches his bottom.

“Loosen up, tight ass!”

McKean was still in his BLACK ORCHID post-Sienkiewicz stage, using both pencil and paint but little photography, and his exploded, expressionist artwork brings the Joker to cackling life, Day-Glo green hair flowing like sea-grass, his speeches slashed freely across the page in bright red ink, unconstrained by speech bubbles.

And all the other regular inmates are on hand to scare what passes for the daylight out of Batman including the Scarecrow, Two-Face and, here, the Hatter:

“I’m so glad you could make it. I have so many things to tell you. You must be feeling quite fragile by now, I expect. This house… does things to your mind.
“Now, where was I? Where am I? Where will I be?
“Ah yes, the apparent disorder of the universe is simply a higher order, an implicate order beyond comprehension. This why children… interest me. They’re all mad, you see. But in each of them is an implicate adult. Order out of chaos. Or is it the other way around? To know them is to know myself.
“Little girls especially. Little blonde girls. Little shameless bitches! Oh god. Gold help us all!
“Sometimes… sometimes I think the Asylum is a head. We’re inside a huge head that dreams us all into being. Perhaps it’s your head, Batman.
“Arkham is a looking glass. And we are you.”

SLH

Buy Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various.

And £17-99’s not bad given that Marvel U.S. want you to fork out £37-99 for a hardcover. This UK softcover contains ORIGINAL SIN #0-8 and ORIGINAL SINS plural #1-5. Let’s stick with the original here.

From the writer of SCALPED.

For eons The Watcher has overseen Earth’s most seismic schisms.

His presence is a prescience born of pure instinct.

Whenever a crossroads has manifested itself requiring soul-searching and due diligence rather than desperate, knee-jerk reactions, Uatu has appeared. He is there not to counsel but to observe, for Uatu is forbidden to interfere. But his very materialisation has proved a welcome warning for all to think very carefully before the wrong road is taken in haste.

Can you imagine what The Watcher has seen, what his eyes have beheld? Such knowledge would be a most coveted prize.

But how do you ambush a being who sees what will be? Well. Ambushing a being like Uatu would be seismic schism in itself. He would surely, ineluctably, be drawn there. Not sure that’s what happened but that would be my merry Marvel No-Prize entry in case it needs be explained!

Instead what is concentrated on to begin with is the firepower needed to take the bald boy down for that is what’s happened: The Watcher is dead, shot point-blank in the head. Few know Uatu exists; fewer still have the wherewithal and weaponry to execute him. Most of them are on the side of the gods so if stones are upturned will it be a superhero seen scrambling from underneath?

Nick Fury is recalled from self-sequestration.

Some unlikely allegiances are formed amongst the superhero community (exemplary clue: Dr Strange and the Punisher?!).

And Mike Deodato has rendered it all in his exceptional, neo-classical demi-darkness.

How did play out? It was epic thanks in no small part to Mr Deodato whose sense of scale is breathtaking.

It was also a little turgid and utterly implausible but given that Marvel already has Wolverine on twenty-two teams and in thirty-six countries at once, you shouldn’t be surprised that someone here is revealed to have had more than two day jobs and for a very long time. Another character acquires another new job to boot.

Are you watching carefully?

SLH

Buy Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

Expecting To Fly #2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen

Night Post h/c (£12-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez

Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Single Black Glove (£3-50, ) by Kate Hazell

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess

Stickleback vol 2: Number Of The Beast (£14-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Batman Adventures vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kelley Puckett, Martin Pasko & Ty Templeton

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee

Batman Superman vol 2: Game Over h/c (£18-99, DC) by Greg Pak, Paul Levitz & Brett Booth, Jae Lee

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli, Dale Keown

Deadpool Vs X-Force s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski & Pepe Larraz

Fantastic Four vol 2: Original Sin s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk

Original Sin: Thor And Loki – The Tenth Realm s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing & Simone Bianchi, Lee Garbett

Invincible vol 20: Friends (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Deadman Wonderland vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka

Sword Art Online: Aincraid (£14-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tamako Nakamura

Gantz vol 32 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Mistletoe Christmas Card (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Top Shiba Inu Greetings Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Grey Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

News!

 

ITEM! Ooooh, on sale NOW: the magical, silent, all-ages NIGHT POST by Ben Read (PORCELAIN, BUTTERFLY GATE) and Laura Trinder. This preview of NIGHT POST points to it being perfect for Christmas! There’s even an enchanting NIGHT POST trailer!

ITEM! Speaking of PORCELAIN, we have free copies of the PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA preview to give away in the shop – and why not ask for one when placing an order by mail? Isn’t it beautiful?!

ITEM! Harlan Coben’s all-time favourite Amazon one-star review. Funny! You know, if you’re not keen on Amazon you can buy discounted prose, CDs and DVDS via Hive, delivered to your door or even delivered to Page 45 for collection for free Either way, if you nominate Page 45 and we make a cut! Hurrah!

ITEM! SelfMadeHero’ Spring Catalogue 2015 includes Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! SelfMadeHero is the publisher of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month, Rob Davis’ magnificent MOTHERLESS OVEN and currently all Page 45’s copies of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN come with a free, limited edition, signed bookplate.

ITEM! Preview of Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE which looks stunning! Page 45 will be receiving copies very shortly indeed!

ITEM! Molly Crabapple’s 15 Rules For Creative Success – make perfect sense to me!

ITEM! Look at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Poblin Award statuette! Isn’t he cute?

I don’t have any big announcements for you this week, sorry.

But I can tease you about one!

Be here on Valentine’s Day 2015 for something a bit special.

Heh heh,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week one

November 5th, 2014

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

 - Stephen on Ms Marvel. Highly recommended.

Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy (£14-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham…

“This is where the ‘greater fool’ theory comes into play.
“The theory is that there is always a greater fool, somewhere, who can be sold a toxic loan and the dangerous piece of paper attached to it.
“Globalisation had opened up a whole world of fools who did not understand the American mortgage market.
“Nobody ever thinks that they themselves might be the greater fool…
“… caught holding the package…
“… when the music stops.”

“During 2007, lenders began foreclosure proceedings on nearly 1.3 million properties – a 79% percent increase over 2006. Then things got worse. By August 2009, 9.2% of all US mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure. One year later, this had risen to 14.4%. The party was over. The music had stopped. The bill had to be paid at last.”

Indeed it did. Just not by the people who had created the problem. I think this may well be the finest piece of investigative graphic journalism I have ever seen. I know Darryl doesn’t necessarily consider himself a journalist, from his perspective he’s just telling the story as he sees it, but it lays bare the truths and falsehoods behind the cause and consequences of the ‘supercrash’. And, as you might intuit from the title, there is undoubtedly blame to be apportioned, and he does so in a truly excoriating yet completely fair manner.

But there is also a wider story to be told here, because inevitably events of this magnitude don’t come about overnight, and in Darryl’s eyes we need to start by looking at the life and influence of Ayn Rand. Rand was a strange, practically messianic figure to some, yet full of contradictions evidently apparent to anyone not blinded by the fervency of her socio-political assertions, and also someone who brooked absolutely no dissent from her coterie of followers who became rapidly known as ‘The Collective’. Amongst those heavily influenced, some might say indoctrinated by Rand, was one Alan Greenspan, who rose in power to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006.

Chief amongst Rand’s beliefs was in the need for absolute unfettered freedom of the financial markets. Regulation by government of the financial systems was tantamount to heresy in Rand’s eyes. The markets should be left to regulate themselves. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine what is going to happen if you let the most avaricious members of society set their own rules does it? And yet, that is precisely what Greenspan presided over during his tenure as the top financial dog of the US economy. Gradually the checks and balances that were in place to prevent the wholesale rape and pillage of the bedrock of the US financial economy were eroded, sidestepped or just outright dismissed  as ever more toxic debt was packaged and passed on in ever more inventive and increasingly immoral, if not at times also downright illegal ways.

Eventually as Darryl explains so clearly, unravelling the mess as he does in the second act of the book, someone was going to end up in deep trouble, and so the runs on the various banks began, the frantic bailouts negotiated by Governments globally at the taxpayers’ expense, whilst the villains of the piece, the individuals that actually caused the problems got off not only scot-free but also trousering vast amounts of cash, some of them in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. I am pretty sure I am right in stating that not one high level banking executive in the UK or US has been sent to prison for any sort of financial impropriety associated with the supercrash.

Gradually however, through pieces like this shining a bright and focussed light on the industry as a whole, and more traditional investigative journalism, we are at last starting to expose very serious wrongdoing such as collusion in fixing the LIBOR rate etc. which must surely see some custodial sentences imposed. Though when we actually see someone sent down instead of merely being given a hefty if token fine I’ll believe it. Plus I’m old enough to remember one Ernest Saunders, sent to prison in the early 90s for fraudulently attempting to manipulate the price of Guinness shares, his sentence commuted after a mere ten months in prison on compassionate grounds due to him almost immediately developing the incurable Alzheimer’s disease, and his subsequent miraculous full and entirely unique recovery upon release.

Reading Darryl’s work makes you realise how much corruption there is at the highest levels of government and the finance industry, how very often it’s a rotating door between the two for various individuals who have no sooner passed laws benefiting investment banks then promptly ending up on the board of one, at least one, in some capacity or other. Capitalism might not be the outright brutal oppression that North Korea imposes on its people but it’s definitely designed to minimise true social mobility and ensure all the wealth remains concentrated in the palms of the very few.

So in the third act, titled ‘The Age Of Selfishness’ Darryl tackles the thorny topic of what could replace capitalism, and how perhaps the ever swinging pendulum of political liberalism and conservatism (to use the American definitions) is in part responsible for the situation we currently find ourselves in. He goes on to make some interesting observations regarding how early people’s political tendencies are apparently created, before looking at the current political situation in both the UK and the US. It’s pretty bleak stuff I must say, but fortunately the final three pages provide some small cause for optimism pointing out as they do that mass citizens movements have brought about substantial societal change before, and have the possibility to do so again.

This is a truly outstanding piece of work, illustrated so intelligently as ever in his wonderful no nonsense informative style, which hits new heights of in terms of detail and its ability to disseminate such complex information so simply, and it deserves to win awards and gain the highest praise and plaudits from not just within the comics industry but also the wider world. I also don’t doubt he’ll now find himself on the watchlist of some very wealthy and well connected people, but that’s the price you pay for shining the light of truth on such a murky morass of quasi-illicit activities by the so called great and good. He’s probably ensured he’ll never get a mention on the Queen’s birthday honours list now either, but he’s certainly deserving  of it in my book for the public service he’s done everyone in writing this work. Bravo Darryl, I salute you.

JR

Buy Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy and read the Page 45 review here

Ordinary h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli.

“You let people down. It’s… who you are.”

Drawn with such energy then coloured to sunshine perfection, this is packed with hundreds of visual background jokes. D’Israeli appears to have had the laugh of his life!

As to Willams, “Truly, we were on the road to random”, I thought – utterly bananas! And it is. But scratch below the surface and so much makes sense and you wait until you encounter its heart.

Michael is a muppet. A divorced plumber with a son in school… somewhere… he is perpetually late, increasingly broke, in debt to some thugs and in spite of a widow’s peak of raggedy, receding hair he dreams of his chances with actress Scarlett Johansson.

Today he is late assisting his business partner with an octogenarian’s crapper. The assistance in question is taking on the old biddy’s verbal incontinence while Brian finally gets down to the plumbing. On his way he encounters said thugs and in the middle of negotiations a plane breaks down. Well, its engine goes boom. Then everything starts to change.

Well, every one. Everyone in the world experiences a transmogrification, reflecting their career, personality or self-esteem. One bloke turns into a dragon, a New York Yankees baseball player becomes a giant, thwacking off the top of the Empire State Building and it turns out the American Chief of Staff is a Hawk. Who knew? Even a taxi driver appears to have experienced an epiphany of sorts – calmness, satori, enlightenment. Instead of a know-it-all he’s genuinely omniscient. If he was working in London, he might even drive south of the Thames.

Everyone except Michael, that is, who is freaking the fuck out and I seriously can’t blame him.

For so long irresponsible, he now grows increasingly desperate about his young son’s safety, last seen at school over the river on Manhattan island. As he struggles to get there a powerplay erupts between the American Vice-President who wants to amplify his superpower’s superpowers and Dr Tara McDonald who is determined to find a cure. Dr McDonald doesn’t appear to have manifested a preternatural ability but I can assure you she both has and does. And I’d keep an eye on the religious Vice President’s aureole of demons and angels slogging it out round his bonce for supremacy.

I wouldn’t call all these mutations “abilities” – some are most emphatically afflictions. The President, for example, has his thoughts made manifest while addressing the nation in actual, visible thoughtbubbles just like a comic and, oh my, how I love creators who really think about their medium of choice!

Another waterslide ride like Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL, this is totally mental but you cannot stop and sure can’t get off so you might as well sit back and adore the insane trajectory. Long before approaching its perfect finale you’ll have realised how rich this really is.

Backtracking to the kick-off, D’Israeli delivers on the sweaty, weeping desperation department swiftly followed by the stooped head and sunken shoulders of a down-trodden man. Will this prove the making of him or the breaking off him?

SLH

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

In Real Life (£13-50, First Second) by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang…

“I’m a gamer and I kick arse. No, seriously. I organise a guild online and I’m looking for a few of you chickens to join me.
“This is Coarsegold Online, the fastest growing massive multiplayer role-playing game with over 10 million subscribers worldwide. You might’ve heard of it.
“This is my avatar. In game, they call me the Lizanator, Queen of the Spacelanes, El Presidente of the Clan Fahrenheit.
“How many of you girls game?
“And how many of you play girls?”

I don’t play MMORPGs so I was unaware that the vast majority of female gamers apparently don’t play female characters online, basically through not wanting to be harassed by men-children. Highly topical in the light of the recent #gamergate controversy, I must say. It’s not the main thrust of this story, the fact the main character Anda joins a guild created by ladies for ladies only, so they can feel confident enough to play female characters online, but it does firmly ground the story in reality for sure.

Anda our heroine is blown away by the presentation at her school and offer by renowned gamer Liza McCombs to join her Coarsegold clan as a probationary member. Assuaging her mum’s well-meaning concerns about her playing games on the internet with complete strangers, Anda convinces her mum to use her credit card to sign her up, and promptly enthusiastically dives into the online world, making firm friends with another newbie called Sarge. At first they undertake the usual levelling up antics battling monsters, but then Sarge gets wind of a way to make some cash in the real world, by assassinating gold farmers.

 

Gold farming for the uninitiated is defined by Wikipedia as ‘playing a massively multiplayer online game to acquire in-game currency that other players purchase in exchange for real-world money.’ And apparently again according to Wikipedia ‘gold farming in the People’s Republic of China is more pervasive than in any other country, as 80% of all gold farmers are in mainland China, with a total of 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country as of far back as 2005. Gold farming in China is done in Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes. When organized as an actual informal business, they are known as gaming workshops. Prisoners in Chinese labour camps have been forced to engage in gold farming for the financial benefit of prison authorities.’ Righty-o.

Consequently, the act of gold farming is generally frowned upon and real world bounties are indeed placed on the heads of specific groups of gold farmers, often at the behest of other nearby competing gold farmers obviously… The naive Anda initially believes she’s going after bots, but even after she realises she is wiping out real players, Sarge persuades her that they deserve it and Anda is simply doing every other Coarsegold player a favour. And, even better than that, she’s getting real money arriving in her PayPal account as a reward to boot. Well, actually it’s her mum’s PayPal account, which she has access to.

It’s only when she befriends a young gold farmer and learns his real world story, that of someone, indeed in China, struggling on the breadline, in harsh working conditions, that she begins to wonder whether her homicidal actions are justified, causing a serious fracture in her friendship with Sarge, as she tries to galvanise her new Chinese friend to talk to his workmates and take some collective action to improve their lot by demanding better pay and conditions from their boss. Meanwhile, her mum, finally noticing her PayPal account is suddenly awash with cash, sent by various strange men, goes ballistic and electronically grounds Anda, despite her protestations, cutting her off from the internet completely leaving her with no way of knowing what has happened to her friend. When she finally gets back online, well, things have changed…

What a well written, totally plausible tale this is, highlighting various social issues associated with online gaming, without ever seeming preachy. The pull quote from Felicia Day, actress and star of amongst other things The Guild and also writer of THE GUILD comics states entirely accurately, ‘A lovely graphic novel for gamer girls of all ages’, but I’d go further than that, it’s something that boys and indeed parents should read and would also enjoy immensely too.

I’m immensely impressed with how well constructed this story is, which despite being about a subject many a reader would know precisely nothing about, is written in a manner by Cory Doctorow which elucidates an otherwise potentially mysterious topic beautifully. The art similarly, by Jen KOKO BE GOOD Wang is perfect for this tale and moves seamlessly from online to offline and back again scenes. I actually think they’ve made the right call not utilising a different art style for the two worlds, the real and the online, aside from the use of characters’ avatars to depict them in the Coarsegold world, because isn’t the whole point, indeed points, of this story that in fact the two cannot be separated? Another brilliant addition to the ever-burgeoning legion of books we can whole heartedly endorse for teen and younger readers and school libraries.

JR

Buy In Real Life and read the Page 45 review here

Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 (£7-50, First Second) by Paul Pope, J. T. Petty & David Rubin…

‘There were three ‘big conversations’ in Aurora’s childhood.
Age 3…
“Your father is a science hero. We fight monsters.”
Age 7…
“I should tell you the story of how your mom died…”
Age 14…
“I’m going to train you to fight monsters.”’

Volume 1 of 2 detailing the back story of Aurora West, the feisty monster fighting daughter of Haggard West, last seen being extremely perturbed by the show stealing arrival of BATTLING BOY in her home city of Acropolis.

First up, I have to give the warning that this work is not illustrated and indeed only part written by Paul Pope. Why that would be so, I honestly don’t know. Whether it was originally intended this was something Paul would do, or just a great subsequent idea for a spin-off he didn’t have time to do, I don’t know. It’s also in black and white, not glorious colour like BATTLING BOY.

Your initial impression therefore may well be the same as mine, one of mild disappointment, simply because BATTLING BOY was so, so good, I wanted more of the same, and this didn’t seem to be it. But if you can look at this work in its own right, it’s actually brilliant fun, very well written and extremely well illustrated. It’s just going to suffer a bit in comparison for some people, die hard Pope fans, on first impressions at least.

So, Aurora West is an all-action girl, learning multiple martial arts and mystical meditation techniques alongside her regular schooling by day, whilst being her heroic dad’s sidekick by night. She’s determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s death, but there’s a monster named Sadisto running a local gang snatching kids off the streets to contend with first. Sadisto has much bigger plans too, but perhaps Aurora’s decision to undertake some investigations of her own might not be the wisest course of action…

I would say this is ostensibly aimed at younger readers, perhaps a touch more so than BATTLING BOY, though I certainly enjoyed it too. There is a reasonable degree of extreme if comedic violence, plus the use of various martial arts weaponry, so it might not be suitable for the smallest of readers, and obviously the loss of a parent is always a difficult subject to write sensitively about, but if action is what is required to entertain, this certainly has it in abundance, as Aurora careens from one dust-up to the next.

I think J.T. Petty may well be responsible for the majority of the writing duties with Pope advising on continuity and plot perhaps, though the general feel and dialogue of BATTLING BOY and this work are reasonably similar, and David Rubin’s art style is just close enough to Pope’s that you feel this work can co-exist quite nicely in the BATTLING BOY milieu, though ultimately it also stands alone quite nicely as well. I will certainly be recommending people read it in its own right.

JR

Buy Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass (£14-99, Vertigo) by Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Jamie Delano & Sean Phillips, Pat McEown.

“The Second Coming of Johnny Silk Cut.”

John Constantine: basically he’s one big smoke-screen.

So Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis / Steve Dillon eras of HELLBLAZER in all their quick-witted, socio-political brilliance are wrapped up, complete, and we start afresh with new regular artist Sean Phillips of FATALE and CRIMINAL fame. Including a few earlier appearances Sean drew 38 issues in total with an unbroken run of 44 painted covers beginning here.

I know this because I bought THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS written by Eddie Robson based on extensive interviews with Sean and his collaborators, and heartily recommend that you do so as well! It’s not just an art book, it is a full and frank insight into one career and the recent history of comics as a whole. Within you learn also how many rewrites were demanded of ALEC, FROM HELL and THE PLAYWRIGHT’s Eddie Campbell on HELLBLAZER which is why, after such a frustrating experience, he quit. Really: you would demand rewrites of Eddie Campbell? It is to Eddie’s credit that you really can’t tell. His Johnny Silk Cut is a riot.

“Sashimi… Had some of that in a restaurant once, Arthur… I took it home and cooked it… Tasted just like fish.”

John is called in to exorcise a mate’s Uncle Arthur, killing him in the process. Whoops. What worries our John is that Arthur was having the same apocalyptic visions as himself and a quick browse of his bookcase confirms that Arthur was far more than he let on.

At which point Arthur’s family disappear, replaced by Murnaar the bipedal cat demon, Bona Dea who’s both blind and blunt, and the ghost of Sir Francis Dashwood, legendary founder of the equally infamous Hellfire Club. They have a warning:

“Reality has been hacked in the middle with a machete. The guts are about to start puking out.”

Urban legends are being made manifest.

“Unreason has been let loose like a mad dog.”

They claim the only way to reseal the fragile, thin membrane separating life and death, reality and unreality, reason and unreason is a world trip by plane, binding its circumference in a circle using a talisman which is Constantine’s case is a zippo lighter engraved with a snake-circled tree. Of course it is. It’s far more relevant than you think.

It’s the perfect plot for Campbell who lets loose his encyclopaedic knowledge of history, politics, literature, theatre and folklore while exploring the preoccupations with life and reality which he would later expound upon to great comical effect in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST.

“Wait! This isn’t a joke! This serious – real life’s a joke!”
You’re tellin’ me.”

All the while Sean Phillips is choreographing Constantine in what amounts to a ballet: as one ciggie after another is lit to perch permanently between his teeth, he is left with both hands free to lurch and pinwheel across the page, smoke swirling ever upwards. All this, I might add, is drawn straight into inks giving the forms, shadows and action a fluidity which blew my mind at the time. Phillips’ art is always fully grounded in each environment without cluttering it up with detail when unnecessary. His Australia is as immediately recognisable as his London suburbs in spite of all the photo references Eddie Campbell had diligently supplied getting no further than DC HQ. There’s also an arresting, haunting depiction of effects on an individual’s body of the Ebola virus as Eddie warns the world 20 years ago of what we’re all facing now. If only more people read comics, eh?

Paul Jenkins picks up the plot post-Campbell (who has stuck around long enough for a rip-roaring finale), delaying John’s flight from Australia just long enough to embroil him a struggle between Aborigines under siege from the relatively recent white man and facing eviction from their land that has been theirs for millennia. It gets brutal.

Before all of this, however, original series writer Jamie Delano returns to deliver a Constantine classic which finally explains precisely why his long-suffering taxi-driving constantly-on-call mate Chas is so loyal – no, so devoted – to the presumptuous, manipulative man who gets him into so much trouble with his missus, Renée.

It is gloriously gross, involving Chas’ excruciating dreadful mother – the proverbial mad woman in the attic – and her pet / agent / spy / familiar with whom she appears to be in symbiotic, telepathic contact: a wig-wearing chimpanzee called Slag.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 4 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

“Listen, Haruo. School isn’t just where you come when you’re hungry. You gotta show up in the morning an’ study too.”
“Yer gonna mess up my internal clock!”

Dear, dear Haruo has an answer for everything; but also one specific vulnerability.

Welcome back to the Japanese orphanage where imagination is one of the children’s very few assets and parents are everything.

That may sound like an odd thing to say about an orphanage but Japan is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Many of these “orphans” still have living parents who have jettisoned them into state care because looking after their children would evidently be too much fucking trouble.

“No need to sugarcoat it,” says Asako to her foundation-caked and rouge-slathered mother who’s all doll-faced mutton dressed up as lamb. “We’ll be fine. You just keep doing whatever makes you feel good.”

Haruo is feeling restless and has taken to petty theft. I mean, really taken to it. The local traders only tolerate it because they know what a rough life he’s had, but the teachers are mortified to the core: honour and the genuine shame felt at inconveniencing others are so profoundly important to the Japanese people (please see A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD VOL 2). But Haruo is utterly unrepentant in spite of a store owner kindly declining to call the cops until his teacher promises, “I’ll make sure his mother hears about this.”

“Adachi, don’t tell my mom!! PLEASE, ADACHI, PLEASE!”
“We’re not talking about that now. How much is the pencil case?”
“If you do, she’ll never let me live with her again! I’LL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY!!”
“Uh… 1,200 yen, but…”
“I PROMISE I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!”

As ever with Matsumoto, there’s no sugarcoating the children, either. These aren’t the wide, shiny-eyed super-cutesies from sugar-buzz manga, but flush-faced, tiny-teethed and dripping with snot in the cold. They have straw hair and tantrums rather than glossy, tufty-wufty quiffs falling half-over their eyes and melodramatic, stylised gesticulations and proclamations.

There’s a sadness which haunts the series, often kept quietly to itself in ellipses, and if you want to gauge how highly we value this title, the first volume of SUNNY was our Dominique’s book of the year.

SLH

Buy Sunny vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Quiet Disaster (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts…

‘Philip was getting old. His face was getting wrinkled, his hairline was moving backwards and he was on the waiting list for a knee operation. It was his day off and he didn’t have any plans, so, he ate his breakfast in front of the computer screen… and asked himself…
“What do I want to do?
“Is there anything in the world I actually want to do?
“Nothing comes to mind.”’

Not enjoying the luxury of ever having any personal spare time between the shop and my family, I can’t quite imagine myself in Philip’s envious position. I do vaguely remember the days where I could just do whatever I wanted, all day, but they seem like a distant dream now frankly. Two minutes on the toilet before my three-year-old nutjob bursts in demanding to know where I am is as good as it gets these days. So whilst I read this beautifully illustrated missive from the temporally rich Phillip as he puts on whatever half clean clothes he had lying around and sets off on a quiet stroll with no particular destination in mind, I allowed myself not to be too jealous as I eagerly awaited the riposte of his impending titular disaster.

When I’d finished reading, I actually felt a little sorry for lonely old Phillip. It’s not remotely dramatic at all this tale, which I guess is alluded to from the quiet element of the title, but there’s a real poignancy to several moments where we are seeing his overlaid memories, provoked by being stood in a similar place or situation, of what I believe to be the ending of a relationship. Meanwhile there’s also some strange comedic relief provided by a dog apparently wearing sunglasses that Phillip repeatedly encounters, or at least he thinks he does, which leads him into an embarrassing farcical finale of a confrontation in a local pub at last orders.

I really enjoyed this work, not least because it confounded my expectations, whilst simultaneously delivering a gripping, if paradoxically gentle, read. On the one hand, from start to finish, I kept thinking something tumultuous was imminently about to occur, yet the graceful poise of the plot makes perfect sense in its entirety. I was left feeling rather like Phillip at the start of his day, a bit deflated and empty, though I did raise a smile at the epilogue, which I think shows Alex has taken us on an all too typical day in the life of this character very successfully indeed. Alex has a nice style of illustration too, which reminded me a little bit, possibly more due to the colour palette than the penmanship per se, of Dan Berry. Just like Dan’s works, this has a very British feel to it, and fans of his should definitely check this out I think. One to watch out for.

JR

Buy A Quiet Disaster and read the Page 45 review here

C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis.

“Why does everyone think they can touch me?”

Chicago 1962: hello, rank and ubiquitous chauvinism!

Well, I wasn’t expecting this: gripping from cover to climax and cover, this was both thrilling and faultless.

I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the creators. Certainly if I’d encountered artist Rod Reis I’d know about it because on the very first page (bottom panel) I was wowed instantly into thinking of Bill Sienciewicz’s NEW MUTANTS run. Blaze is essentially Bill’s Canonball.

The quality is maintained on each successive page, the period feel denoted by palettes of blue-greys or fauns with the occasional deft touch of luminous erosion. Nor is there anything meek or effete about the expressions as the members of C.O.W.L. take one for the team or, I’m afraid, from them.

There is, you might say, something rotten in the state of Denmark.

C.O.W.L. is an organisation of on-the-clock metahumans run by Geoffrey Warner who, post-WWII, have been employed by the city of Chicago to police the streets and protect its citizens specifically from other superpowered threats. (They’re not exactly nine-to-five for they operate for obvious practicalities’ sake in similar shifts to the police.) Even more specifically they were employed – as in paid good money – to protect Chicago from The Chicago Six and halfway through the very first chapter the last of The Chicago Six is taken down.

To all ostensible intents and purposes, C.O.W.L.’s work is done. They have effectively been so effective that they have won themselves out of a job.

It is therefore in every member of C.O.W.L.’s best interest to prove they still have some value to the city of Chicago and the politics here are played beautifully. Contracts for any sort of renewal have to be negotiated right down to terms and conditions and pay. And there is a strike. But the crucial thing about any strike is that if no one notices the difference between you being on the job and on strike… well, you’ve just proved yourself superfluous.

Some members of C.O.W.L. are better team-players than others, some more altruistic and some more… indulgent. Some do enjoy just getting their rocks off. The most conscientious is John Pierce of the Investigations Division. He’s not a punch-thrower, he’s a detective whose wife would love him to call it C.O.W.L. quits right now when the institution is on the brink of dispersal and the police would snap him up in an instant: it was Johns’ due diligence that delivered the last of The Chicago Six.

But the problem is… the problem is… some people are wise, some otherwise and the truth is not what it was.

It is John’s commitment and exceptional eye for detail which uncovers what could jeopardise his company’s reputation and so completely undermine the delicate balance of power in the above negotiations.

I hope I’ve been vague enough.

If you loved early POWERS – and I really, really did – you are going to adore this! Same goes for GOTHAM CENTRAL readers and those who relished IDENTITY CRISIS or THE AUTHORITY.

SLH

Buy C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c and read the Page 45 review here

100 Bullets Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

Collects first three 100 BULLETS volumes in one! It’s a thing DC’s doing now.

Gripping conspiracy crime fiction which, initially, looks simple enough: Agent Graves, a man of almost pensionable age in a suit and tie, arrivals on your doorstep with a briefcase.

In that case is irrefutable evidence that someone has seriously screwed you over plus the culprit’s identity. There’s also a gun and 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. By “untraceable” I mean that if even a single bullet is found at the scene of any crime, investigations into it will cease immediately. How is that possible? Why is he doing it?

Would you use that gun, knowing you could get away with murder?

As the series progresses it becomes increasingly evident that this isn’t a game, it’s not even a private obsession. It’s a war.

Strings are being pulled while ties have already been severed; activations occur, more revenge is sought, but neither the original victims nor on occasion the original perpetrator are necessarily unconnected to Graves’s past or present. And some of them haven’t a clue they were victims, let alone connected.

There’s Mr. Shepherd, the Trust, the Minutemen and their history. There are several long-games in play.

So clever is this that there’s a stand-alone chapter in the next book containing two seemingly separate stories seamlessly interwoven and choreographed across a single park, and I cannot fault a word of dialogue. Azarello’s ear for dialect is superb. He has every nuance, every cadence of urban street patter down to perfection.

 

In the final story arc here we are introduced us to Loop, a young black guy raised in Philadelphia by his Ma, and whose Father is just someone she refers to. Loop talks the talk (and the talk is captured to the very syllable, with its own lyrical beauty), but so far he’s not yet walked the walk, though he teeters alarmingly close. A fine time for Agent Graves to tip the balance, providing Loop with an opportunity to meet the father he’s never known and resents, but for whom he constantly yearns. Unfortunately his Father turns out to be equally rudderless, collecting debts for a gnarled old loan shark, and although reconciliation does seem possible, they may well end up being the death of each other.

Recommended to readers of CRIMINAL and STRAY BULLETS. And indeed vice-versa.

Risso’s art is an essay in silhouette and shadow, so it’s recommended to SIN CITY patrons as well. There will be much more on Risso and the colouring so close that you can hear the cicadas anon.

SLH

Buy 100 Bullets Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Terrible things happen to terrified young people, turning them into terrifyingly out-of-control car wrecks. They get caught in the cross-fire of other people’s greed, grief or beef, and it sends their lives careening in completely unintended directions.

Joey’s a car wreck. You just won’t find out why for hundreds of pages and then it all makes such appalling sense. But almost immediately it will dawn on you that a main protagonist in one chapter plays another role in someone else’s story as the narrative flips backwards and forwards in time.

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly. The new series kicked off with STRAY BULLETS: THE KILLERS #1 at £2-75 and, back in stock, that’s the perfect, affordable place to start and the best single comic I’d read all year. You know, until the other eight came out.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to the current STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS, while this contains the first fifth of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is. However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is a density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

In a way we are in Lynchian territory, for these suburban families seem perfectly normal from without, but wait until you see what simmers within. Also, I remember wondering what the fuck was up with the early, action-packed episode starring Amy Racecar and set in outer space. All I will say is that David Lapham isn’t the only one with a vivid imagination.

In later volumes these lives converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. Young Virginia Applejack tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, while Nina’s own friends, the ever-volatile Beth and Orson, land in trouble of their own when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration at that point, but we will have only just begun. It’s followed by a new set of domestic freaks, and a short story which shows Lapham at his most manipulative:

After Kathy drags her boozed-up man into the house and out of the rain, she hears a knock at the door and finds two guys and a gal, pissed out of their skulls, insisting that Ricky owes them money. Kathy tries to shut the door on them, but the big guy – who insists he’s a cop – wedges his foot in the door, and the rest of that chapter grows increasingly worrying. Anything could happen. Anything.

Lapham’s command of the way dialogue can shift from confrontational to conciliatory to threatening – within breaths – will keep you on the edge of your anxious seat, but you’ll never guess from the lead-in how this story will end. To kick up the contrast, the next issue sees the return of the inimitable Amy Racecar in a private-eye spoof as ridiculously convoluted and funny as the opening credits to American television’s satirical SOAP. Amy’s on top, world-of-her-own form, and possibly Lapham’s most clever creation; I’m constantly forgetting that she’s actually [redacted].

Just when you think you’ve witnessed the worst atrocities this series of victims, survivors, chancers, bullies, losers and lowlifes has to offer, Lapham delivers a story of fatally misplaced trust which will have you turning the pages so tentatively with the words “No… no…” quietly riding your breath. You’ll start to worry ten pages in. It’s always the quiet ones to watch out for, but as soon as that photograph is surreptitiously slipped into the pile that the man is showing the boy, you’ll begin sweating. Child abduction and abuse are not subjects to be treated lightly or sensationally. Lapham does neither; you’ll soon wish he had.

The main differences between this and, say, 100 BULLETS which we all love to wit-riddled death is that this is all so intimate, so personal, and that the individuals – the victims in this series – are so young. That’s what made Lapham’s SILVERFISH such a nail-biter too.

As they reach their mid-to-late-teens with sex high on the agenda they make more mistakes. And because they’re older and capable of doing so much more with much greater strength, those mistakes have greater consequences. Brian and Mikey… now that’s one friendship which will never be the same.

As to the art, extraordinarily Lapham starts off knowing immediately how he wants to present these tales: all 1,200 pages are completely consistent whereas during STRANGERS IN PARADISE you can see Terry Moore develop in front of you. The paper used here has a satin sheen so that the shadows shine on the page. And it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the forms soft are soft and yielding, and the hair falls just-so. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This book contains the first series’ first seven issues.

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism and read the Page 45 review here

Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona.

“Everyone else gets to be normal. Why can’t I?”

Scream three hundred million teenagers worldwide.

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

“It’s almost like a reflex like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel… uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool. But instead I feel small.”

Page after page is riddled with this insight and empathy and it will mean so much to so many. If I have one piece of advice to those younger than me, to do better than me, to feel more comfortable, earlier than I did because I made this all-too common mistake, it comes in the form of this perfect observation:

“Being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting.”

Quite so. Be yourself!

It won’t get you a free pass to a party, mind you.

“Abu?”
“Hmm?”
“Can I go a party tonight?”
“Where?”
“On the waterfront.”
“With boys?”
“Yeah…”
“Very funny.”

Hahahaha! Oh, how I love this family. And that above all is what this comic is about: family and friendship.

 

Unlike most superhero comics this is genuinely mainstream with mass appeal. “Abu” the father is dead-pan and dry but unlike Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet (Pride And Prejudice) he is so full of love. His priority is not how things look, but his daughter’s safety and happiness.

Starring sixteen-year-old Kamala, an American-born Pakistani, it confounds stereotypes and is instead packed full of genuine individuals like Kamala’s stylish friend Nakia who is thoroughly modern and savvy yet still proud of her Turkish heritage. For although Kamala can’t go to the party because there will be alcohol, Nakia won’t go to the party because there is alcohol. She knows her own mind, is what I’m saying.

Nor is Wilson afraid to pick holes in her own religion’s more superficial sillinesses, like the segregation of women from men in a mosque. It is rather difficult to concentrate when you can’t see the speaker!

Here there are those for whom race and religion don’t even figure like young shop assistant and school high-achiever, Josh, with the crush on Kamala that nobody notices. Then there are cast members who fail to see beyond the stereotypes, like over-privileged social blonde butterfly and concern-troll, Zoe.

“Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that colour.”
“Nakia.”
“But I mean… nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to, like, honour kill you? I’m just concerned.”
“Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it’s a phase.”
“Really? Wow, cultures are so interesting.”

Kamala thinks Zoe “nice”, “happy” and even “adorable” but she’ll be disabused of that naïve notion before too long. Unlike Nakia, Kamala doesn’t yet know her own mind or other people. When she sneaks out at night to go to the waterfront the drink which she insists must be alcohol-free is spiked then she’s laughed at. As she stomps off in a defeated huff a metamorphic mist descends and Kamala passes out. Did I mention that she’s ever so slightly obsessed with Avengers? She writes online fan fic and everything! So Kamala has a vision…

From On High through billowing clouds, winged sloths and bobble-hatted doves descend her Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, the white, blonde goddess whom Kamala adores. Is she having a religious experience?!

Adrian Alphona’s art is adorable throughout. It’s soft and sweet and full of comedic expressions with a clearly defined spirit of place.

But it is on this particular page that he shows his real wit, transposing Iron Man and the couple of Captains gesturing beatifically into a traditional religious tableau complete with scrolling ribbons and… is that a hedgehog giving the victory salute?

“You thought that if you disobeyed your parents – your culture, your religion – your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?”
“They – they laughed at me. Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb. But that’s not why I snuck out! It’s not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it’s just – I grew up here! I’m from Jersey not Karachi! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be.”

It’s then that the vision of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) asks a key question:

“Who do you want to be?”
“Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you. Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.”

Like the later shape-shifting episode in the school washrooms, the punchline to that is hilarious. If there weren’t shrieks of outraged horror deafening the internet from those who could not wait, read, or comprehend a comic correctly then I would be very much surprised. Kamala has a lot of growing up to do, and I’m going to love watching her do so. While getting into trouble with her family.

Like YOUNG AVENGERS, HAWKEYE and LOKI, this is another fresh face for superhero comics, broadening their appeal through diversity. And I don’t even mean racial, religious, sexual or gender diversity – though that is important too – I mean that Willow G. Wilson has brought with her a different voice which is far from worthily earnest, but genuine, sympathetic and understanding of young hearts instead.

Here is Kamala transformed by the power of her will and the whim of her instinct into blonde superhero Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers.

“I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull off great boots, if I could fly… that would make me feel strong. That would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch… and this leotard is giving me an epic wedgie.”

SLH

Buy Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Guillem March, various.

If it wasn’t for the obligatory, silly supervillain sequences I’d be more disposed to remember the cute lines and deft expressions given by writer and artist to Harley Quinn, here back from a massive shopping spree dressed as a school girl with her blonde hair done up in a couple of bunches. Catwoman, having learned that her other co-star Poison Ivy has donated the 30 million dollars she gave her to global reforestation projects, reprimands Harley on her consumerist splurges:

“You’re worse than that the flower child. You might as well be throwing away your millions on the Joker.”
“Not this time. I’m over Mr. J.”
“Oh, please. He’ll be calling for your money the second he hears about it.”
“Then you’ll be skipping out the door for another round of abuse, humiliation and regret.”
Has he called?!”
“No.”
“Oh. Well, like I said, I’m over Mr. J.”

So: the three girls are going to move in together. What could possibly go wrong?

Collects #1-13. Thirteen? Unlucky for some!

SLH

Buy Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

All You Need Is Kill (£9-99, Haikasoru) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Nick Mamatas & Lee Ferguson

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 9: The Rift Part 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros

Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Animal Man vol 5: Evolve Or Die s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Batman Beyond 2.0 vol 1: Rewired s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Thony Silas, Eric Wight

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

Avengers vol 6: Infinite Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool Classic vol 10 (£22-50, Marvel) by Gail Simone, Buddy Scalera, Evan Dorkin, Daniel Way & various

Elektra vol 1: Bloodlines s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Haden Blackman & Mike Del Mundo

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

New Avengers vol 4: Perfect World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various

Attack On Titan vol 14 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Gantz vol 33 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

UQ Holder vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

News!


ITEM! We have new Page 45 Tote Bags! Oh yes! Both a fashion statement and a status symbol, our first batch of 250 are almost sold out and – haha! – we created a variant cover! Because you know how much I love those! *spits* It was a printing error at the manufacturer but plenty of shop-floor folk have said they prefer the new one. Please do state your sartorial preference when ordering online or being fleeced on the shop floor. Cheers!

ITEM! IT’S COMPETITION TIME!

To celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary we went to Kendal for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and I done wrote big blogs about both of those. Full of photos!

We even had Glyn Dillon signing, sketching and watercolour washing in THE NAO OF BROWN which I declared two years ago to be the finest piece of graphic novel fiction of all time. So that was an honour!

What we have here is a copy of THE NAO OF BROWN which Glyn Dillon – after two hours hard work signing and sketching for Page 45 which we so, so appreciate – then went on to draw in with a unique variation on his regular thang. Look at this! *swoons*

That book is yours for free including postage (for we ship daily, worldwide) if you can just tell me this:

In my Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 blog which blinding faux pas did I confess to about meeting Glyn Dillon?

Everyone who answers correctly within a week will be put into a hat. Because it’s winter now and hats are warm and snuggly. You’ll enjoy it in there!

At the end of the week we’ll get one of Nottingham’s finest creators like I.N.J. Culbard, Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson or D’Israeli to draw one of you out of that hat and you will receive that gift for free with love from Page 45 and gratitude for all your support.

Seriously: thank you.

Please email your answers into page45@page45.com with the title heading THE NAO OF BROWN COMPETITION and we’ll print ‘em all off.

Right, having bought this building last Monday, we’ve got a £350,000 mortgage to pay.

Fancy buying a comic?

Cheers!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews October 2014 week five

October 29th, 2014

“Lived and died
“And struggled and lost
“And the end was unceremonious.”

 - Perfect cadence in Mike Medaglia’s Last Days Of Nobodies (Signed & Sketched In)

Expecting To Fly #1 of 2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round Comics) by John Allison.

“I reckon computer game realism has reached its peak.”

He’s playing Doom!

But didn’t we all think that when first immersed in the video game Doom? Racing down that first, three-dimensional tunnel alone blew my newbie little mind. Then eventually oh my god it was green and red and terrifying!

Set inextricably in Britain 1996 when copper-wire theft was a thing and some VHS video machines ran on short and long play (compatibility alert!) this is John Allison’s best book yet. And that’s saying something given how much I adored the revised-for-print edition of BAD MACHINERY: THE CASE OF THE GOOD BOY. I love the Marvel-homage and Tetris-tribute cover. Tetris is very telling here:

“It’s the perfect game. The rules are clear. Organise the world into perfect, neat little rows. Watch your problems disappear. There’s a tiny, two dimensional world in there. I’m keeping it going.”

So speaks Shelley Winters, a slim and attractive redhead always smartly dressed for school. She’s quick, witty and seems very wise. But she’s having to “keep it going” against all odds in the wake of a family tragedy.

Tim Jones too appears to have a level head on his shoulders. Older and taller than Shelley and his best mate, Ryan Beckwith, he seems organised, smart, attentive, generous and reliable. Ryan, meanwhile, has much to contend with. We’re talking about Tetris again:

“My life’s more like the ‘B’ game. It’s Level 9, High 5. Big messes clogging things up, making it impossible to do well. Everything happening too fast to change.”

The difference in Tim and Ryan’s lives in is made grin-inducingly clear during their morning schedule readying themselves for school. Allison ingeniously depicts this in a large, early shot of the two adjoining halves of their semi-detached house, each window of which is a panel. Ryan calmly brushes his hair, slips on his jacket, kisses his mum good-bye and leaves the house. Ryan panics, brushes his teeth, flails manically as his mum attempts to attach a school tie and… you get the picture.

The “big messes clogging things up” actually boil down to his dad. His parents are separated and his dad has moved out but he keeps coming back and dragging Ryan out to the boozer.

“Mum told me not to let you in the front door, Pa.”
“I let myself in the window anyhow, so it’s not a problem.”

Oh yes, it is.

However. However. Ryan is actually capable and he cares. He’s not the irresponsible idiot some might suspect from afar. It’s just difficult to say no to your Pa.

Two of the elements I love most about John Allison’s art are his figure work and faces. Everyone has a different body form and body language: Ryan wide-eyed and gesticulately wildly, though all too often weighed down by pressure and hangovers; Tim tall and lithe but not lanky; and the small of Shelley’s back could not be more perfect.

John also does “drunk” very well!

So. Ryan is assigned to watch over Shelley by a teacher who suspects she is fragile. Tim is very much taken by Shelley while Ryan fancies Becka and a party at Mick Speight’s approaches.

How long do you think it will be – in Tetris terms – before, I’m afraid, it’s game over?

SLH

Buy Expecting to Fly #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Collector h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Sergio Toppi…

“Let’s get one thing straight: don’t mistake me for your usual collector who fills his gallery with sundry items picked for age, trade value, and intrinsic beauty. Most such folk have no trouble showing off their treasures. That’s not me.
“I only collect things of deep personal means to me, things that have ‘lived’, actors in histories I alone know, from research. Once I obtain them, I set them aside, no one else ever sees them again.”

Originally published in 1984, at long last this masterpiece has been translated into English. I believe this is pretty much the only original longer form work that Toppi did, instead preferring to concentrate on various one-shots. I have no idea why that would be, perhaps just the circumstances and fashions of the Italian and French comics scene at the times, but to our modern tastes, seasoned as they in favour of the extended narrative, I can’t help but think that is a crying shame. Because as truly wondrous as Toppi’s line-led art style is, here the writing is equally as well crafted. He clearly was able to spin a tale just as well as he could illustrate it, because in the Collector he has created a truly fascinating character.

Yes, the Collector is a man who always gets what he wants, whether it be an enchanted Native American peace pipe, or a necklace imbued with magical powers once owned by the great Lama Padmasambhava. But when an object of his desire is acquired, it will never be seen again by another living soul, for the Collector’s treasures are for his avaricious pleasures alone. For the most past he is a man of absolute honour, but he’s not above a moment of crafty chicanery, devious double-dealing, or even outright treachery to gain his prize. And for those who cross him, or worst still also lust after what he covets, well, he’s a fearsome enemy to have to face.

There’s a superb foreword from Sean PUNK ROCK JESUS / JOE THE BARBARIAN Murphy which absolutely nails the appeal of Toppi’s unique style, and for me underscores everything that is beautiful about our preferred medium of choice. There is no wrong or right way to illustrate a comic, as Sean states, “Here’s the first lesson of Toppi: you don’t even need pretty lines to create pretty artwork – even the most basic, entry level type of scribble can be turned into a masterpiece if you apply it correctly.”

Toppi found a unique methodology of drawing that allowed him to express his own inner vision to its fullest. But beyond that, he also had an incredible understanding of how to make his artwork stand out from the page. Look closely at this work and what you’ll immediately notice is whilst there is immense foreground detail poured into the characters, there are equally vast expanses of white background, ensuring the focus stays firmly on the principals of the scene. He was very figure-focused, Toppi, but even on the occasions where there are vast open vistas, the insanely detailed landscape itself is contrasted against a blank white sky. Contrast is the key word here, and it’s a tool in all its forms that many artists don’t understand how to use properly, or haven’t mastered, at least not to this degree. Not all artists have styles that demand it as much as Toppi’s, to be fair, but where you have a style as rich in textural complexity as this, it’s essential for the balance of the panel composition.

At the start of this work there are listed about 20 or so other works by Toppi, as yet untranslated. I fervently hope that Archaia will continue to publish English language versions of this material, because it so deserves the widest audience possible. A true great.

JR

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

Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) (£7-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia.

“Lived and died
“And struggled and lost
“And the end was unceremonious.”

Oh, but the cadence is perfect! I’m adding that to my top twenty sentences written in the English language.

Wreathed in religious scrolls, this quietly elegaic and unsensationalist full-colour comic is both eloquent and beautiful to behold.

Framed in bright white yet drawn on a fine-grained, calico-coloured paper, it tells of Vincent van Gogh’s final countryside walk.

As he strolls the world whorls and warps around him as it did in his paintings. The sun is blinding, then a further two pages post-gun-shot are devoted to cross-hatched silence, the second one denser like woven wool in red and green. Later still, Vincent’s fading breath floats from his eyes and mouth to frame images of the alarm raised around town, the doctor dashing to Van Gogh’s assistance.

Wow. Just wow.

It was Jonathan who discovered Avery Hill Publishing here and so far that house appears to be an impeccable hallmark of quality.

Did I mention this comic is signed and sketched in and limited to 100 copies?

SLH

Buy Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) and read the Page 45 review here

The Garden Of Words (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Midori Motohashi…

A genuinely wonderful surprise, this understated tale of romance. I nearly didn’t bother giving it a read but I’m pleased I did, as it is of equal quality in terms of storytelling and art to the much lauded (and rightly so) 5 CENTIMETRES A SECOND. And like that work, it was also first an anime. The titular garden of words refers to a beautiful space in a Tokyo park where a 15-year-old schoolboy and 27-year-old mysterious woman forge an unlikely acquaintance over the course of the early summer rainy season.

Takao aspires to be an artisan shoemaker and finds the park a peaceful place to sketch his designs, and Yukari, well, her motives for visiting the park are not something she’s willing to speak about nor something the polite and well mannered Takao is willing to pursue. As their first chance meeting draws to a conclusion Yukari says goodbye to him by quoting an enigmatic poem, leaving Takao bemused and intrigued in equal measure.

Soon enough there’s a tacit agreement that both will find the other there when it rains in the morning, and so they gradually continue to further their acquaintance. It’s clear to both there is a potential mutual attraction, though obviously their age difference means it must remain unstated. Then summer comes into full bloom and the rains just stop. For several weeks Takao wonders if he will ever see Yukari again, but when he eventually does, it’s in very different circumstances.

Ah, I’m loathe to say any more, because what I’ve really done here is take you up to what is the pivotal moment of the story. To give anything else away would completely spoil things, I think, whereas hopefully I’ve merely piqued your interest. If you like a little anguished and tortured, will-they won’t they, romance, then you will absolutely love this. There’s a real delicate touch in the art that perfectly captures the gentleness of Takao’s and fragility of Yukari’s personalities that is a delight to behold. Their peculiar friendship is perfectly plausible, and in Japan’s formal society it’s glacially slow unfolding only adds to the deep emotional undercurrents present in the story.

JR

Buy The Garden Of Words and read the Page 45 review here

Doomboy h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Tony Sandoval.

“How to say good-bye to the dead.”

ID is a kid just like any other, only more partial than most to doom metal.

“Doom metal is this extreme type of metal with a real slow tempo and crunchy guitars playing these heavy sounds you don’t hear in other kinds of metal. The music and lyrics work together to give this feeling of despair and horror and looming danger.”

He goes to see gigs with friends like Spaghetti, a hulk of a teen with a temper; and with Sepilium whose eyes like ID’s lie completely hid under a long mane of hair. He plays his guitar which Annie drew eyes on but Mina’s the minor celebrity around these coastal parts.

Then one night ID takes a shortcut home across grass and there’s a freak gust of wind curling and swirling, throwing up trash with a noise. He finds his mum sitting up in the lounge.

“Annie’s mom called… She didn’t wake up in the hospital.”

That’s when everything changes.

ID finds a great big hole in his chest. Not just in his heart, but in his chest. He has the most almighty, violent break-up with his band who ostracise him, threatening ID with violence; he buys a star for inspiration from a girl he’s never seen before, selling them far from legally on the kerbside; he reinherits the dog Elsy he once gave to Annie; and he starts seeing vast wonders up in the sky…

Then he begins playing. Under the nickname Doomboy which Annie gave him, he plays his guitar secretly on the shore with Sepilium transmitting it into the ether. And the crowd, as they say, goes wild. They just don’t know where the music’s coming from.

Tony Sandoval grew up in the Northwest deserts of Mexico but this art feels continental to me. There’s a thin, fragile line matched with ragged textures, but big round heads with tiny eyes and tiny noses – elements of Lowbrow, now that I come to think of it – and mouths that break out into great big shouty chasms. The name Sam Kieth keeps cropping up in my mind.

The colours are predominantly sandy, brown, green and blue, and as for the cloud-bursting visions… You may want to click on these, blowing them up to full size!

The book hangs not heavily with melancholy but there’s certainly a yearning throughout, along with the constant threat of danger both from his pride-pricked, vengeful ex-bandmates and from Spaghetti about whom ID discovers a startling secret. I’d love to talk about that and the spot-on way Sandoval played it, but I want you to be as gobsmacked as Sepilium and ID.

SLH

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

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs…

As you can see from the photo below, Jörg Tittel is a very intense man. I can testify to this personally having met him at The Lakes Comic Art Festival in Kendal recently. It took him about thirty seconds before he was interrogating me as to precisely why we weren’t stocking his book at the show. I told him that whilst I did enjoy much of it, that it did indeed have some salient points to make about the US military-industrial complex, China’s disregard for intellectual property – the titular Rickey Rouse being a blatant rip-off of Mickey Mouse – and much else besides, that I felt it all suddenly went a bit Die Hard, like some ‘80s action movie, with a completely preposterous, over-the-top ending.

Jörg then fixed me with his scary gaze and told me that was precisely what he had intended, satirising the golden age of action films whilst providing some serious political commentary. He may have been hypnotising me, actually, because the more I thought about it, the more I realised there are probably several Page 45 customers who would get a real kick out of it. So, buy this, it’s like Die Hard with an armed-to-the-teeth nutter dressed in a faux Mickey Mouse suit fighting terrorists who’ve taken over a theme park…

 

 

 

I should add that Jörg was an immensely entertaining bloke to chat and share a few beers with, and in addition to this work he has written and produced a play starring Richard E. Grant, plus written and produced a film ‘Testudo’ which was entered in competition at various top film festivals. He’s big into transmedia, particularly in the concept of games interacting closely with films and television. Sounds completely mad, but then having met him, I reckon if there is anyone insane enough to make it work, it’s him!

SLH

Buy Ricky Rouse Has A Gun and read the Page 45 review here

Action Philosophers h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey…

“If a tree falls in a forest and Ryan Dunlavey isn’t there to draw it and Fred Van Lente isn’t there to script it, will it make a comic?”

Heh. There are as many word gags as visual gags in this panel-based philosophy primer, and they are multitudinous. In fact, scarcely a panel goes by without fun being poked at some great and learned thinker or their theories in some outrageously insouciant manner. Considering that intensity of humour, therefore, it is astonishing that this material is as wonderfully informative and subtly educational as it is. Weighty topics are dealt with precisely and succinctly, before yet another punchline has you sniggering again.

This tenth anniversary über edition collects what was previously four volumes featuring 40 luminaries from the ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary ages of philosophy. Slightly surprised not to see the wisest modern action sages of them all in there – Evan Dorkin’s MILK AND CHEESE – but I guess that just gives them something else to get irate about!

 

 

Anyone who enjoyed the excellent EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA would definitely find this material as interesting and amusing a read. And genuinely, a really good philosophy primer.

JR

Buy Action Philosophers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c (£55-99, Dynamite) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, David Curiel, Dave Mckean

Signed!

Signed not just by Neil Gaiman and by Mike Zulli, artist on Neil’s THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF THE DEPARTURE OF MISS FINCH CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, but also signed by Mr Face Paint himself, Alice Cooper!

So, you know, I’d act fast.

Inevitably brief return of the elusive Gaiman story that originally saw print at Marvel, the first part of which came, I think, with the Alice Cooper album which Gaiman wrote lyrics for. Seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s just a dream I had.

Steven, not the bravest of blokes, takes a ticket to the Showman’s Theatre of the Real on a dare, then wishes he hadn’t.

SLH

Buy The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Powers vol 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.

Out of print for a long, long time, so please bear in mind that what follows was written just as our records began…

Bendis is doing the Warren Ellis thing at the moment. He’s someone working in the superhero field, writing what seems like half a dozen titles, touted by everyone as the new big thing and suddenly you turn around and there’s a bunch of his books on the shelf.

POWERS focuses on the police force in charge of a superhero-filled city. Detective Christian Walker is assigned a new partner. He and Deena Pilgrim make a good team, upholding the tried and true rules of the genre: he’s not happy about the arrangement, she’s heard about him and eager to make a friend. It’s not exactly ‘Tango & Cash’ but they hover in the same area. Bendis, as detailed in FORTUNE & GLORY, has had some dealings with Hollywood and his scriptwriter’s ear for quick, snappy, overlapping dialogue and understanding of screen formula pacing makes this, along with his surprisingly enjoyable ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, a modern superhero take in a way that ASTRO CITY actually isn’t. Oeming’s art treads around the animated Batman arena, touching on Hempel’s SANDMAN work with rich, complementary colours by Pat Garrahy, bringing out the fluorescent lights and night time skies.

Retro Girl, one of the most loved figures in the city sky is dead. The media are quick to paint her as a mix of Kurt Cobain and Lady Diana. Walker and Pilgrim are on the case, rounding up the suspects and trying to find out what the graffiti at the scene (‘chaotic chic’) means.

SLH

Buy Powers vol 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Parker Luck s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos…

“Alright it’s true. I am Spider-Man. But I’m not the Spider-Man you know. Or the Peter Parker you think you know.”
“Wait. What does that even mean?”
“Months ago a very superhero-ish thing happened to me. I got mind-swapped with a bad guy.”
“You’re serious?”
“Yeah. But I’m back to normal now.”
“Mind-swapped?”
“Yeah.”
“With a supervillain?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Which one?”
“Doctor Octopus.”
“For how long?”
“Before we ever met.”
“So this whole time… Doctor Octopus?”
“Yes… I know this is a lot to take in, but the person you… had a relationship with wasn’t me. That was…”
“That mad scientist. The one with the metal arms?”
“That’s the one.”
“Well he was bold and decisive…”
“Sounds like him.”
“…yet surprisingly tender.”
“I… uh… wouldn’t know about that.”
“And that does account for his unparalleled genius.”
“Well, not to brag, but I am a bit of a… Sorry.”

Ha ha, poor old Peter Parker, even now he’s back in control of his body, he’s still clearing up the various messes Otto left behind. And, as ever with Peter, it’s affairs of the heart that usually cause him the most consternation even when he’s not to blame. I think out of all the Marvel titles, ASM is the one that can rightly be most labelled as pure soap opera. And I do mean that in a positive, affectionate way. The endless rounds of fighting then making up between Peter and his friends, plus the ever-amusing pantomime villainy of one J. Jonah Jameson, fresh from his the debacle of his term as Mayor, ruined for him of course in his eyes by the wondrous web-slinger, ensure this title remains interesting, if not ground-breaking.

I did enjoy the SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN run, I must say, because when a solo character has been going for as long as Peter has, it is nigh on impossible to keep coming up with new ideas to freshen things up, but even so, I can’t help but be pleased Peter is back. There’s something mildly comforting about the fact that even someone with the proportional strength and speed of a spider has about as much luck as a fly trapped in the proverbial web. And, Dan Slott seems to still have a few more ideas up his sleeve for tormenting Peter based on this ‘first’ volume, so I shall keep reading!

JR

Buy Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Parker Luck s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega s/c (£18-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Impressively cataclysmic conclusion to Joe and Gabriel’s sotto voce horror masterpiece. The school year is winding to an end, graduation looms for many of our cast, and the kids of Lovecraft are preparing for their after prom party, a rave in a cave, yes that particular cave, which you might think by now everyone would be trying really hard to avoid… though I suppose everyone thinks the villain has already been vanquished at the end of volume five. OH NO HE HASN’T! As we well know…

The dastardly miscreant in question has been secretly going about his business in the possessed body of [SPOILER] and now has almost everything he needs to execute his apocalyptic plan and bring the rest of his kind through the portal into our world. There’s just one more of the Keyhouse’s keys he needs to get his hands on, and he’s knows Kinsey Locke will be bringing that particular item to the party, which just so happens to be taking place where he needs it most… in that cave! Fortunately for the Locke family, the residents of Lovecraft and indeed the entire world, Tyler Locke has finally realised precisely what his lucky charm gifted by deceased father actually is, and more importantly, how it can be weaponised. He also has a sneaking suspicion everything isn’t over just yet. Clever boy.

Tyler won’t be the ultimate hero of the piece, though. No, that prize is reserved for someone else: someone, who after all he has been put through already in a very, very difficult life, truly deserves it, bless his cotton socks. It’s time for the pure of heart and simple of mind to take centre stage at last as Rufus and his toys undertake their final mission for the highest of stakes.

Joe Hill has created a brilliant set of characters within this work, but Rufus has easily been my favourite. He now knows exactly who the villain is and exactly what needs to be done to stop him, but when you’ve the mental capabilities of barely more than a toddler, and you’re locked up in a secure hospital several miles from where the action is going to go down, what can you do? The answer? Whatever it takes soldier! Go, Rufus!

When you’ve put so much time and effort into following a series, you obviously want it to conclude in a befitting and satisfactory manner. Happily Joe Hill achieves that with aplomb and I believe this will be a series that continues to sell for a good number of years to come. It has everything you could possibly want in a good horror yearn: creepy locations, a fabulous cast of fully realised primary and secondary characters, plus an evil menace beyond measure. Also Gabriel Rodriguez has provided stellar art throughout. My initial impression was the art style was going to be incongruous with horror writing, but it just works perfectly in conveying the more fantastical elements of the story whilst dissembling the occasional burst of shocking violence. So, when all is settled are there happy endings for everyone? Certainly not, but suffice to say, some people get the endings they certainly deserve…

JR

Buy Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 (£7-50, First Second) by Paul Pope, J. T. Petty & David Rubin

In Real Life (£13-50, First Second) by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

The Leaning Girl s/c (£22-50, Alaxis Press) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten

Preacher Book Book 6 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, John McCrea

Star Wars vol 3: Rebel Girl (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Stephane Crety

Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis

100 Bullets Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

DC Comics Year One h/c (£25-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Green Lantern vol 4: Dark Days s/c (£12-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Billy Tan

Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich & John Buscema, Don Heck, Werner Roth

Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying (UK Edition) h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mich Anglo & Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Don Lawrence, Steve Dillon, Paul Neary

Miracleman Book vol 2: The Red King Syndrome h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore & Alan Davis, John Ridgway, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch

Ordinary h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli

Attack On Titan: No Regrets vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Gun Snark & Hikaru Suruga

Black Butler vol 18 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Blade Of The Immortal vol 30: Vigilance (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Fairy Tail vol 43 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Perfect Edition vol 2 (£14-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Naruto vol 67 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Vampire Knight vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

News!

ITEM! Nottingham’s GameCity9 is a go! On now! Until the weekend! Good golly!

ITEM! Jonathan and I have bought Page 45’s building. All four floors and the cellar! It cost us hundreds of hours work and £350,000 so please pop in and spend money!

ITEM! Yay, no capricious landlord and the freedom to renovate when necessary.

WE ARE NOW IN FEROCIOUS NEGOTATIONS WITH OURSELVES ABOUT THIS OUTRAGEOUS RENT!

I WILL NOT BACK DOWN! BUT NEITHER WILL I!

THIS COULD GO ON FOR FIFTEEN YEARS!

ITEM! Page 45 review of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. It is epic. But then so was the festival.

ITEM! Page 45 declares its return to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in 2015 and promises to be there forever!

It’s the same blog. It took me ten days. I even review a comic there by local school children who are amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews October 2014 week four The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Special

October 27th, 2014

Page 45 took more money at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – with under 5% of our shop’s range – than we have during our busiest-ever Christmas weekend.

 - Stephen on an all-time high. There will be a great deal of name-dropping!

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 (£0-00 totally free, LICAF) by Julie Tait with the best Festival Volunteers the world has ever known.

A round of applause for Julie Tait, please, for this was magnificent!

Kendal is kindness personified, and I was ecstatic for every second that I spent there.

I cannot think of many other experiences in my life about which I can say that. And I can’t think of any I can say that about when I was so hilariously ill.

I lost my greatest asset – my voice – after the preceding night while projecting in a very loud bar full of creators and customers whom we call friends, all celebrating Page 45’s 20th Anniversary. Yippee! But the more one projects, the more others project and soon the room is one great big Brian Blessed!

TAKE AWAY‘s Lizz Lunney & me:

Jonathan and I were so thrilled with everyone who turned up: shop-floor customers like Lou and Rob Lewis, mail order customers like Craig Naples, Lou and Chris Powell whom we so rarely see, creators we’d known for 20 years like Mary and Bryan Talbot, Ivy and Scott McCloud, Gary Spencer Millidge, the dapper Woodrow Phoenix who pinched my cheek (*swoons*) and THE UMBRAL’s Antony Johnston who’s one of the kindest men you will ever meet! Vijaya and Jeff Smith with whom we’d only corresponded briefly via email or snail mail dropped in; more recent comic buddies from whom we make so much money like Lizz Lunney, Becky Cloonan, Dan Berry, Ian Culbard, Sally-Jane Thompson, Paul Duffield and Emma Vieceli after a nightmare drive up with Pud. Still they both came!

Customers Lou Powell, Craig Dawson, Chris Powell:

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL‘s Stephen Collins & THE SUITCASE‘s Dan Berry:

I met up with reviewer Richard Bruton and his missus for the first time in yonks. His daughter Molly wears MOOMIN, and quite right too! I met Nora from Knockabout. And Titan. And Soaring Penguin Press. And Foyles. And… I’m not sure where Nora doesn’t work.

There were comicbook creators we’ve long-loved but never met in person like Sara Dunkerton, Matt Gibbs, Stephen Collins, Joe List, Rob Davis, Adam Cadwell, Jorg Tittel, John Aggs and the festival mascot creators Jonathan Edwards and Felt Mistress (we may have hatched plans!). I think Joe Decie floated in. Please forgive serious omissions for I got somewhat plastered and I promise I’ll get round to you later!

Even the magnificent Julie Tait, the Festival’s director, popped her head round the door in spite of being so ridiculously busy with final preparations. That was a bit special. We’d been planning Page 45’s appearance since the July 1st 2013 but never once met. I can honestly say that other than Team Page 45 I have never before worked with someone so tirelessly enthusiastic, so ridiculously well organised, so can-do, will-do, imaginative, innovative and generous. None of this would have been possible without her – the entire festival, I mean!

So that was a moment.

We did all this at Ruskins run by Philip Walker (who’s a sweetie) and his staff who were each of them legendary including Nina Pengelly, Fergus Atkinson, Rory Swords, Dane Wallace and Sally Thompson. They presented us with champagne (I am rather partial) and a beautiful cake which blew me away.

Look, here’s J-Lo and me cutting into it!

I think this means we’re now married.

Not a single crumb was left over. Lizz Lunney saw to that almost single-handedly, growling proprietorially every time Felt Mistress came near!

This, then, is my Page 45 Lakes International Comic Art Festival Diary seen from a guest’s perspective. A first-time guest at that! We’ve never done a festival or convention before. It was time to learn stuff. Please click on any image to enlarge.

Warning: this is ebullient!

Thursday 16th October

Boxes of comics on our shop floor, waiting to be loaded. At this point Jonathan phones for a bigger van. They don’t have one.

Thankfully it transpires that our J-LO is a comic box ninja. Total Tetris level-up!

Hint on Twitter that there may be Page 45 20th Anniversary Blog with previously unseen photos of our beardly beloved Mark. My great mate Monkey Marc Laming, one of comics’ most marvellous artists, gets very excited indeed. He is a lovely.

Friday 17th October

8.30am Publish the Page 45 20th Anniversary Blog. Wonder if anyone will care.

Tweet blog, phone taxi, return to Twitter and almost burst into tears. Apparently people care quite a lot.

Thank you for that, by the way.

Taxi to J-Lo’s, quick ciggie and it’s The The, Beck, Depeche Mode and Madness all the way to Kendal.

Arrive 1pm and oh my days, Kendal’s gorgeous! Autumn colours against a blue sky.

Attempt to find The Brewery Arts Centre. Discover the circuitous delights of Kendal’s one-way system. This takes five minutes. Drive past The Brewery Arts Centre and contemplate what another circuit would mean. Jonathan pulls up and reverses slowly down what is a one-way street.

A police van drives past. I kid you not.

We hold our breath but apparently so many heinous crimes are being committed in Kendal that their presence is required elsewhere. Either that, or they’re hungry. It’s lunchtime.

Discover The Brewery Arts Centre. Turns out that’s gorgeous too.

The Festival Volunteers direct us to Kendal’s Clock Tower. Apparently the route is… circuitous. J-Lo parks outside The Kendal Clock Tower and guards the van while I jump out and enter gingerley. I’m really quite shy, you see.

That’s when I meet Sharon Tait, and from that very first second I realise this festival is going to switch from being very, very hard work… to a joyous holiday. That woman, I tell you, is a goddess! I receive immediate hugs, complete reassurance, our festival passes plus a tour to The Georgian Room upstairs which has been dedicated solely to Page 45. Guess what? Turns out that’s bloody gorgeous as well.

I start beaming. I don’t stop for next 60 hours.

The box-carrying cavalry arrives in the form of Craig Dawson, Retail Director of That’s Entertainment and record holder of the biggest single non-librarian spend at Page 45: over £1,500 in one afternoon. And he’s in at least four times a year.

During our 15th Anniversary Booze, Craig and his fiancée challenged me to get their impending wedding blessed by Alan Moore. I don’t know Alan Moore. We’d only met once. But I do know Eddie Campbell and wee Hayley Campbell and a couple of months later I found myself boozing in Nottingham’s Olde Trip To Jerusalem with Eddie Campbell and Michael Eaton who were creating a graphic novel about Charlie Peace which turned into a fabulous play. (Click on that sentence for Eddie’s astonishing stage set designs!) We all went to see it together this time last year with Eddie’s lovely lady,  The Time Traveler’s Wife’s Audrey Niffenegger.

Anyway the very next day, Eddie was set to meet up with wee Hayley Campbell and Alan Moore in Northampton. So this happened.

 

 

 

Mission accomplished, but I digress.

Sally-Jane Thompson arrives with birthday chocolates and robot mug and together we decide how to organise the tables to show off the stock and all our creators in residence to best effect. Having a comicbook creator like Sally around is quite an advantage for that! A lovely bloke called Stephen comes in to drape the tables in black, Sally and Craig unpack and I take three whole hours arranging all our gorgeous graphic novels!

 

 

 

Andy Diggle wanders in. Hurray! I’ve never met Andy before. Thankfully he introduces himself: I’ve no idea what so many comicbook creators look like. You’ll remember I said that later! *cries*

Mary and Bryan Talbot wander in and introduce us to Vijaya and Jeff Smith. I’ve never met them before, either. Hurrah!

Ivy and Scott McCloud wander in.

Oh, them I’ve known for just over twenty years. We named Page 45 after the 45th Page of UNDERSTANDING COMICS (for the full story see the Page 45 FAQs here). It’s why they insisted on signing with us at the festival. Lucky us!

Then a career highlight: I introduce the Scott McCloud to a graphic novel that he’s. Never. Heard of: THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna.

It’s Scott who introduces you to comics you’ve never heard of!

Second career highlight on the trot? A tall man I don’t recognise starts inspecting all our meticulously arranged lavish, hardcover graphic novels. “Oh, these are marvellous, beautiful, fabulous books…” Or words to that effect. I can’t really remember. I think I introduce myself and explain what we’re doing over the weekend. I can’t really remember that, either. My memory’s rubbish isn’t it? Do you want to write this blog instead?

Anyway, he has a French accent so that was a clue. Turns out it was Boulet! And if Boulet believes you have beautiful books… Well, I began to believe we might have brought the right graphic novels!

 

 

J-Lo returns from the hotel, we pop up our signs (note for next time: we need more, and bigger ones!) and wander down to reception wondering where Ruskins could be.

It was at this point we began to discover the festival’s greatest asset:

THE LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL VOLUNTEERS CANNOT DO ENOUGH FOR YOU!

Seriously. They bring you tea and coffee and water all weekend round. Ask for anything: an extra table, some tissue paper to absorb the excess watercolour on Glyn Dillon’s brushes… Ask for anything at all and ye shall receive within seconds. They’re constantly and consistently asking if you need anything. One wonderful woman fetched me throat lozenges and I didn’t even ask! She’d simply spotted that I’d started struggling.

There were always several on hand in the lobby with Sharon Tait and outside offering programmes to the public passing by – smiling, never flagging – and one young man (everyone’s a young man to this Methuselah) didn’t just point us in the right direction, he took us to Ruskins – right to its door.

Which, I believe, is where we came in: Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash.

Have a photo of Festival Volunteer Alex Valente. I tried introducing comicbook creators to Alex Valente but almost all of them knew him already. He’s that kind of guy. What a star!

Saturday 18th October

We’d been booked in to The Best Western Green Castle Hotel. Hey, guess what? It was gorgeous. Breakfast had quite the view.

There were a lot of comicbook creators booked in there, but mysteriously none of them made it to breakfast quite as early as we did. I’d pop in a wink but it turns into a smiley on blogs and they bug me.

Sorry…? Nope, I don’t get hangovers. I am immune. But apparently not to a ragingly raw throat. I rasped my way right through the festival.

9.30am and our first roster of rotating creators begins to arrive in the Georgian Room. Rotating? Sarah McIntyre positively pirouettes! Here she is with Ivy!

 

They start setting up their stalls of self-published comics backed up with their books which we’d brought with us from various other publishers. Look, here’s Kristyna Baczynski!

Kristyna with the 24-Hour Comics Marathon maestro, Dan Berry!

Jack Teagle on the right, Joe Decie to his left, with a seemingly invisible left hand!

Warwick Johnson-Cadwell popped in later. You’ll see him in the 24-Hour Comics Marathon photo later on! Ooh, and Oliver East swings by to make sure all ten of issues of his comic THE HOMESICK TRUANT’S CUMBRAIN YARN are on sale in our room. They are, and readers have already been asking about specific journies. (I have to tell you, Oliver is looking so hot these days. I had to tell him too, because some days I have no internal editor).

The public begin drifting in. The public start surging in. The public start browsing our books. The public start buying our books!

One of the most rewarding aspects of this Festival is how many members of general public – The Real Mainstream, many of whom had never come across adult graphic novels or quality Young Adult and Younger Reader graphic novels before – flooded into the Clock Tower. It’s because it’s such an attractive venue in the centre of town and the whole of Kendal is taken over by comics way in advance. Unlike some other conventions, you cannot accuse The Lakes International Comic Art Festival of failing to advertise – they do it months in advance!

Also: NO ENTRANCE FEE! Nice one! Why wouldn’t they meander in and take a look? I would. I did! I might have put in some work.

Another equally rewarding aspect this year was how many of The Real Mainstream who never knew they were in search of Real Mainstream graphic novels like ours then studiously picked them up and leafed through them. Then another! Then another! Not “Oh no, this isn’t for me!”

And then there were families! Oh my days, there were families! Thankfully early on I’d decided to devote an entire round table to kids’ comics because kids’ comics are cool!

 

 

Look, here’s Captain Stoopid himself, the gorgeous Gary Northfield, sketching in our copies of TEENYTINYSAURS and GARY’S GARDEN!

That man is a star! He was over in The Phoenix Comic area at the Shakespeare Centre doing workshops with Adam Murphy and Neill Cameron et al, teaching Young Readers and Teens HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS. He didn’t have to zap round to Page 45 and sketch for us too, but he did! And guess what? Over the weekend, we sold out!

Similarly Adam Murphy slipped round early Sunday to sign CORPSE TALK but we were already down to three copies! And then there were none.

It was RAINBOW ORCHID’s Garen Ewing who declared, “Children aren’t the future of comics; they are the present!” Quite right too! Pop quality kids’ comics in front of bright, shiny eyes and they will devour them. And fibre is awfully important in any diet.

10am to 12pm: our Scott McCloud signing!

So that was a thing.

This really is Scott with Aliki Chapple to the left:

It was at this point, I think, that mail order customer Derren Phillips popped in with birthday cards both for the shop and for silly old me. He’d secretly contacted J-Lo to supply him with our logo and typeface and replaced “PAGE 45” with “AGE 49” and “AGE 20”. So cool!

1pm. I announce to a packed room – rather bravely, I thought – that it is time for my first show-and-tell. Like Tom Waits with a loud hailer (I can project, sore throat or not!) “Who’s here for my show-and-tell on The Hidden Secrets Of Graphic Novels?”

Deafening silence. The creators howl with laughter.

Bums, I think, but launch in anyway with the wonderful Jade Sarson helping me unravel Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR to great gasps! Immediately I have an audience! I am utterly astonished. Then on I charge through Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL and David Mazzucchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP showing them how each creator had so cleverly composed those graphic novels with secret tricks that only the comics medium can muster. I’m not sure how many books we cover. Maybe a dozen, perhaps? I love every minute of it.

Throughout the weekend some of that audience come back and buy graphic novels, asking me to remind me which ones they were. So it worked after all. Never miss an opportunity to spread the good word, I say! Turn every obstacle into an opportunity!

1.45pm and we are approaching our Glyn Dillon signing.

I have publicly declared Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS to be the finest single body of work in comics, and it is. Eddie is comics’ finest raconteur as everyone attending his talk at the festival found out and his autobiographical musings are as profound as they are laugh-out-loud funny. Whenever I spend time with Eddie he is always full of stories and almost always half-convulsed with laughter.

“But enough of Eddie Campbell!” (cries his entire family), we are here for Glyn Dillon right now, and I am rather excited! I have known Glyn Dillon via Twitter and e-mail for three or four years having publicly declared THE NAO OF BROWN to be the book of the year… six months before it was published. I’m rather brash with my public declarations, aren’t it? But I’d already seen enough. On publication it turned out to be substantially more: the finest piece of comicbook fiction of all time.

He’d already shown me so much support and so many behind-the-scenes kindnesses like during the only time I can recall ever having been attacked on Twitter – by someone in our own industry whom I’d always supported. That was an odd evening.

But. Glyn and I have never met. Just as I’m getting very, very excited in walks this well-handsome man with a gentle demeanour and asks how we’re doing.

“Oh, tremendously well, cheers!” I croak. “I mean, look at this lavish room the festival has given us! We’ve a rotating cast of creators all sketching and selling away! We’ve all these jaw-dropping graphic novels the public are lapping up. And. And. In fifteen minutes time we have the great Glyn Dillon not just signing or sketching but painting in THE NAO OF BROWN!”

And this lovely, lovely oh lovely man says, “Who on earth do you think I am?”

If ever you had any doubts (I know you don’t), I am indeed an utter buffoon.

 

As revenge we keep Glyn busy for a full two hours and I even pronounce his brilliance rather loudly across the room in order to ensure extra sales and make the man blush. Both worked rather well, I thought.

You can buy THE NAO OF BROWN t-shirts we had on sale here.

Next up at 4pm is my Kids Comics Are Cool! show-and-tell and thankfully an audience arrives for that. Smaller than the last one, I grant you, but then I’d already given a private showing to mail order customer Marcus Nyahoe. Marcus Nyahoe is one of my favourite people anywhere in this world. He wanted recommendations for his young son called Max. So I ask what Max likes and he likes ninjas and stoopidity and –

I didn’t have to hear any more.  I showed him a lot but I focussed on Jamie Smart’s FISH HEAD STEVE. This is the result: one happy chappy!

Yeah, that’s my favourite photo of the festival as well!

At 6pm Jonathan shows me our Z Read. That’s when you find out how much you’ve taken.

J-Lo has been in charge of the till, by the way. He’d created a hybrid of our original Ronnie Barker ‘Open All Hours’ till drawer (it is rapacious!) and a modern console which thanks to J-Lo’s inexhaustible ingenuity meant that we could take credit cards as well as cash. It might sound like I had been working but while J-Lo was stuck behind the till I had snuck off for some smokes. Such a slacker!

There I’d finally met up with my Duncan Fegredo and festival patron Sean Phillips whom I’m begun to fear that I’d miss. Duncan Fegredo was the reason that Page 45 couldn’t do the festival’s first year because of this. That’s right, blame Duncan Fegredo! *eyes wander skywards innocently*

“BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR TAKINGS, YOU NAME-DROPPING NUMBSKULL?”

Oh. We’d taken already taken more money on the first day than we expected to in our wildest dreams all weekend. Page 45 took more money at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – with under 5% of the full shop’s book range – than we have during our busiest-ever Christmas weekend.

Time to celebrate!

 

Back we go to The Brewery Arts Centre where people with passes get fed. For free! Alas, we have mislaid our meal tickets, but here comes FREAKANGELS’ Paul Duffield who has been buzzing all weekend long. I’ve never known him as hyper as this! On Saturday night he was stood at the taxi rank with Emma Vieceli and Pud then abruptly changed his mind and bolted right back to Ruskins. Hurrah!

Paul takes the time and trouble to scout round his table for spares just for us and, oh, but the food is delicious. I hadn’t eaten for 48 hours. Well, I had breakfast but unfortunately my throat decided against it and my loss was the toilet bowl’s gain.

We have dinner with Hannah Berry for whose ADAMTINE we ran a chilling – and I mean chilling – campaign when Hannah designed these replica notes which we snuck into other graphic novels all round the shop. Read the review and all will become clear! That’s my letter knife and old keyboard, by the way. One is slightly shinier than the other. Theatrics are important!

Also sitting with us: Jade Sarson, Darryl Cunningham, Stephen Collins, Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Publishing along with their Gareth Brookes and, oh, there’s Joff Winterhart – two of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month creators sitting next to each other! I never got to speak to Joff Winterhart – I didn’t want to interrupt – but apparently lovely things about Page 45 were said in his talk. I don’t quite know what but Sharon Tait said it was so. Thank you, Joff!

Once everyone packs up along come replacements Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger and Dan Franklin. Eddie and Audrey, I know. But Dan Franklin is essentially the commissioning editor of graphic novels and beyond at Jonathan Cape. He’s Bryan Talbot’s editor. He’s Salman Rushdie’s editor. I am slightly intimidated.

Oh wait, no I’m not. I don’t do intimidated; I do drunk. I campaign relentlessly. Every obstacle is an opportunity etc! I should probably have done intimidated.

Left to right: Matt Green, J-Lo, this idiot, Craig Dawson, Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Dan Franklin:

Scottish-born then Australian-bound Eddie insists I tell everyone about my big gay bed. He does this every time.

I think we may need a little context.

Eddie Campbell’s entire family came to stay with me some 18 years ago. I’m guessing at this point, but 18 years sounds about right. Hayley was about 10, wee Callum was roughly 4 and Erin was there in the middle. Eddie and Anne had my en suite guest room, Hayley had my double bed, Erin had the spare room’s single and Callum had the couch. Everyone went to bed and Callum dozed off while Eddie and I blathered on until 4 in the morning about everything from comics to ancient Greek statues. That was when I first learned – from Eddie – that Greek statues weren’t white. They were very brightly coloured.

Anyway, I have a thing for black sheets and Hayley decided they were gay.

Now I cannot recall if wee Hayley knew I was gay but knowing wee Hayley I suspect this is so. Regardless, she certainly wasn’t using “gay” in its pejorative sense, as in naff. *Kicks you in the cods if you use it that way!* She’d decided my black-sheeted beds were gay. Or used for gay purposes. *snorts*

And the very next morning – after I’d spent the rest of the early hours on the sofa watching Disney films with four-year-old Callum who’d woken up just as Eddie collapsed into bed – Hayley Campbell declared that I had a “big gay bed” and a “wee gay bed”.

That night I had no gay bed.

“But enough about Eddie Campbell!” (shrieks his entire family). “What happened next?”

Next was Bryan Talbot!

Now, I’ve known Bryan Talbot for years. THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT – set, of course, in The Lakes District – catalysed our friendship: an impeccably composed graphic novel whose Beatrix-Potter-inspired cover sold itself to The Real Mainstream, it was one of our very first golden winners. When Bryan first came to sign we sold  a copy to a blue-rinsed octogenarian Tory who’d wandered in by mistake. She recognised specific landscapes in Bryan’s book and was instantly converted to comics.

Later, Mary Talbot came to live with me for a year while lecturing at Trent University. She showed me healthy salads; I showed her my fridge.

I even appear on Bryan Talbot’s GRAPHIC NOVEL MAN DVD, popping up when you least expect it. I’m so sorry about that.

Blame its director, Russell Wall. I’m quite good at this blame game, aren’t it?

So there I am chatting to Bryan, Mary, Russell and Kate Charlesworth, illustrator of their SALLY HEATHCOTE: SUFFRAGETTE, when somehow their friends Dougie Braithwaite and Dave Gibbons are mentioned and I’ve never met either. Bryan fixes that immediately. They’re both here! Doug has an exhibition on at The Brewery Arts Centre.

So I finally met Dave Gibbons in person and tweet that I may have been squiffy. The great man replied, “There’s no “may” about it.”

And frankly, there really wasn’t.

Sunday 19th October

Yup, up, yup, up bright and early!

Did I mention I’m immune to hangovers? Sorreeeeeee!

Now new stars appear in our Georgian Room who’d been there the previous day but post-2pm! Donya Todd and Jade Sarson who kindly helped with Saturday’s Show-And-Tell!

Fumio Obata! Such a gracious man!

Joe List and Lizz Lunney!

Lizz Lunney made us a present! How cool is this?!

10.30am The Art Of Selling Comics.

This was completely new territory for me.

Well, selling comics isn’t, obviously, nor putting that dark art into such card-crushing practice that some poor customers have found themselves careening from healthy savings account to second mortgage in six seconds flat! But although I’ve enjoyed delivering loads of interactive, hour-long show-and-tell sessions with librarians and book clubs, I’d never constructed a PowerPoint presentation with a sort of set “script” dictated by the order of slides. I love learning stuff – it’s empowering and the construction itself was great fun.

Dr. Mel Gibson kindly volunteered to act as compère and took me took the Council Chamber hidden behind closed doors at the back of the Clock Tower. It was quite the revelation: ornate wooden panelling, with rows of seats raised round the room above the central presentation point with its screen. It felt a bit like a courtroom (there was even a gavel!) in the round. Every seat had a microphone, and maybe I should’ve used mine because my tongue by now felt like it was made of red-hot barbed wire. But the one thing I can always do is project, and I was determined to keep it as lively and theatrical as possible, kicking off with how I hand-sell Isabel Greenberg’s THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH directly to customers on the shop floor.

Fortunately my routine for that contains multiple jokes: all education should be entertainment to keep your audience engaged, whether it’s a review, a presentation or Twitter! Also, by good fortune, that routine contains almost every element I wanted to explore on The Art Of Selling Comics which I’d bullet-pointed on two sheets or paper – one addressing retailers, the other addressing creators and publishers – both of which I’d left by each seat because a) I had no idea who would be which and b) to show that they’re pretty much identical. Whether it’s a review for readers or a preview for retailers, both are sales pitches and both, to my mind, should reflect the spirit of the book that you’re selling.

As it happens Jared Myland from OK Comics kindly came, as did Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Publishing and, at a guess, 30 more?

Sharon Tait told me it generated a big buzz in the lobby afterwards and it certainly got a lot of laughs during the talk, but if I am brutally honest with you it was the one part of the festival for me which didn’t go according to plan. Sorry! Having a throat that sore and a voice that raw is distracting. I forgot a few things (I read from no script, relying instead on the slides to prompt me on the elements I’d rehearsed, because reading from a script can be crushingly dull and you don’t meet the eyes of your audience), I overran painfully to the point where I’d just ten minutes left to address publishers properly and there was no time for questions except afterwards. I could really have done with an extra half hour. My bad, I know! Still, live and learn!

I took a particularly good question outside from two young creators currently creating a comic which reminded me of a crucial First Second article on building your fanbase, and my advice was to start getting pages online well in advance of pitching to publishers or pitching directly to retailers like me, then hitting Twitter  and spreading the word.

Hmm. I appear to have slipped into past tense.

Returning to our room I discover Eddie Campbell has sidled by to sign the ALEC OMNIBUS, THE FROM HELL COMPANION etc, then Jeff Smith squiggles in RASL.

Mary Talbot signs SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE, one of my biggest books of the year:



She so chic!

2pm. Time for the 24-Hour Comic Marathon celebrations!

A phenomenal achievement, Jack Teagle, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Donya Todd, Dan Berry, Fumio Obata, Joe Decie and Sarah McIntyre (left to right) had all created comics in just 24 hours then the printers miraculously turned them around in under 12!

Here they are artfully spread around by the marathon’s instigator and coordinator, Dan Berry, creator of THE END and THE SUITCASE etc. (Pop Dan into our search engine – we’ve loads of his comics!)

 

Awards were presented by Dougie Braithwaite, and there was a roar of laugher as Sarah McIntyre wrestled with getting her medal over one of her legendarily large and ornate hats! Here’s Sarah McIntyre’s ‘A Peak At The 24-Hour Comic Marathon’! Her blogs are the best! Such fun photos!

Shortly afterwards I served comics maestro Hunt Emerson and FATALE’s Sean Phillips dropped in for a chat, reuniting me with WALKING DEAD’s Charlie Adlard.

Charlie and me went to school together – we even attended the same art class every week! Guess which one of us is now one of comics’ most successful artists and which one’s the till monkey! We hadn’t actually spoken since school: Charlie wasn’t even sure it was the same Stephen Holland at Page 45 that he went to school with. And now we’re back in contact! Hurrah! Do you think we may have hatched plans?! Hahahahahahaha!

And then suddenly it was all over and we had to pack up.

Once again, without the help of the help of the Festival Volunteers this would have been so much more arduous. There was time for a final round of hugs, two swift smokes then into the van. Leaving Sharon Tait was such a wrench.

Jonathan and I had a riot on our way back, manically exchanging anecdotes and planning for even more fun in the future at what I honestly believe to be the greatest UK Comicbook Festival of all time. It was our first, it was fabulous and we made so much money selling great graphic novels and comics to those who’d never encountered a single graphic novel in their lives. We have ideas! Oh, so many ideas!

And we will be back, I promise you. We will be back with a vengeance!

Always finish with a flourish and a startling surprise.

Page 45 Announces Its Presence At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 Oct 16-18

We will be back upstairs in The Georgian Room with more gorgeous graphic novels and rotating creators signing and sketching for free just like this year. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Why’s that a surprise?

Page 45 had promised in public to hold its 21st Birthday Party and my own 50th Birthday Party on Saturday 17th October 2015 in Nottingham. It’s the very same day: we opened by chance on my birthday.

I hate breaking promises. Moreover, I don’t normally celebrate my birthdays any longer and Page 45 customers will understand why I couldn’t possibly celebrate my 40th birthday in any way shape or form: we’d just lost our Mark. So I’d set my heart on being in Nottingham that day with friends, relatives and customers if only for one year only.

I can promise all of you this: Page 45’s 21st Birthday Booze Bash will be in Nottingham on a subsequent Saturday which we’ll announce as soon as humanly possible. And we will make it special!

But all weekend long we were asked if we’d be back to LICAF next year in the sort of tone than implies “Please!”

We reached The Real Mainstream, converting hundreds of new people to comics and that has always been Page 45’s prime stated mission.

In doing so we took more money this year at LICAF than on our biggest-ever Christmas weekend with under 5% of the range of our books.

Those two paragraphs are not unrelated.

Then Festival Director Julie Tait and Sharon Tait asked us back immediately in two eloquent emails which moved me like few others I have ever received in my life.

Lastly, when the momentum is a strong as this, when a Comic Art Festival in only its second year does such enormous good for our beloved medium of choice, it would be insane not to commit yourself to it every single year. So that’s my second announcement:

Page 45 Announces Its Presence At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Exclusively & Forever

We now have the courage to take our shop roaming to the Book Festivals too, where we can continue our crusade to bring comics and graphic novels to new readers. But for comics Page 45 has found its natural home in The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. That’s where we’ll be every year.

Thank you for reading, thank you for coming; I hope you’ve had as much fun as us.

I’ve had the time of my life. See you in Kendal next year!

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL‘s Stephen Collins & THE SUITCASE‘s Dan Berry:

SLH

Here’s The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 Programme It was pretty fabulous, yes!

Lakes History Mysteries (£1-00, Langdale Primary) by school children assisted by Jim Medway.

“I think I’ve invented the Plinky Plonk!”

Haha! Genius!

This is as hilarious as only young minds like the great Gary Northfield’s can be. Please see TEENYTINYSAURS and GARY’S GARDEN.

It costs one whole Earth Pound which I know is outrageous, but all funds raised go to a cancer charity and we’ve already paid them at full cover price, so hurrah!

Created by Lakes District school children then hand-sold by those same young entrepreneurs all around The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014, it boasts a startling line up of comicbook stars in the making:

Tarantula Ninja Squad, Jellyfish Egg Lazer, Angry Bird, Mini Haribo. 3 D.S., Robot Hedghog, Jim Bob, Mr Jellytime, Hyper Squirrel, Magnetic Squirrel, Appl Craver, Trigger Button, Alligator Wigwam, Jelly Lemon Biscuit, Coconut Cracker, Electric Bubble Water, Jammy Nutellacustard, Turquoise Wallaby, Isla Maize King, TrGo Fenfer, Kally Elly Pepper, Sam Gutter!

Do you think Hyper and Magnetic are related?

Some of the creators in our Georgian Room like Joe List and Donya Todd thought fast on their feet and got their copies signed so they could soon be worth a small fortune. I’m not even kidding you. If you’re confident enough to co-create then sell a comic at ComicArtFest and already thinking about page composition at such a tender age, the chances are you’ll go far.

Also, how kind was that? Established comicbook creators treating the young girls and boys as their equals and make them feel as special as they are. That’s one of things I love about the comicbook industry and I swear I almost cried.

LAKES HISTORY MYSTERIES is a relay race of artists and writers telling speculative stories about Necessity’s daughter Invention along with her close living relative Accidental Discovery over the last 5,000 years.

Inspired by local artefacts like a lithophone and prehistoric stone tools, each creator pops on their thinking cap and wonders how or why these objects were invented. Also: who were their first casualties and what do you think happened next? It definitely has the “Whoops!” factor.

The consistency of line is astonishing, every three-panels-per-page layout is as clear as clear can be, plus the paper stock has an attractive satin sheen which shows off the black ink beautifully.

Brilliant! Congratulations to all and good going, Jim Medway, creator of PLAYING OUT on his two-day workshop which evidently worked wonders.

Sincere apologies to any creator whose immaculate handwriting fell foul of my fumbling fingers in transcription.

Signed,

Typo Turtle Twit

SLH

Buy Lakes History Mysteries and read the Page 45 review here

Destination: Kendal! (£1-50, Lakes International Comic Art Festival) by Jonathan Edwards, Felt Mistress, Sean Phillips.

There is nothing I love more than mischief.

And when it comes cloth-covered in kindness, I love it even more!

I love it when writers and artists – or indeed anyone else – understand and trust each other to the point where they relish having fun poked at them!

Me and our Dee are constantly teasing each other on the shop floor. We’ve worked with each other for nearly twenty years now, mocking our own mannerisms, our failings and foibles whilst poking each other in the metaphorical ribs all day long. It makes me so happy.

This too makes me very happy indeed!

Produced to promote The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and on sale there all weekend, this laugh-until-you-cry comic stars its Poblin’s Gang of hyperactive, completely deluded yet infectiously exuberant red, furry mascots.

Designed by POP! A COMPLETE HISTORY’s Jonathan Edwards, brought to lush, three-dimensional life by CREATURE COUTURE’s Felt Mistress and then photographed here by FATALE’s Sean Phillips, the Poblins are each as individual as the Banana Splits and are en masse an insane force of nature to be reckoned with. Now they are coming to town!

The town is Kendal, home to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 in this, its second year, and the town doesn’t quite know what’s hit it.

These gleeful nutters have made studious notes on which comicbook creators will be appearing where and when (Scott McCloud, Becky Cloonan, Jeff Smith, Mary and Bryan Talbot, Glyn Dillon, Lizz Lunney, Dan Berry, Eddie Campbell, Junko Mizuno et al) but seem singularly fixated on artist and patron, Sean Phillips.

“We really hit it off when I visited his studio,” claims Poblin. “When I climbed up his drainpipe to wave at him through his studio window he screamed with delight that I was back again!”

Poor Sean! As for Poblin’s unauthorised helping hand to TRAINS ARE MINT’s Oliver East and his painstakingly painted, black and white murals, it was at that point that tears of laughter ran down my face right there on the bus back home.

This too, from queen of the zines, Zinny:

“My first was called “Zinny’s Zine” then I teamed up with my friend Dan on “Zinny’s Zine With Dan”, then I thought it would be funny to do a zine about Zinedine Zidane with Dan called “Zinny’s Zinedine Zidane With Dan”. Then I got writer’s cramp.”

Poblin himself is the most manic and crush-worthy creation in town! Fall for his lop-sided lunacy, gawp at his gormless grin and then hug him to death for his wide-eyed naivety and the most tactile, svelte pelt in history!

Photographed by Sean Phillips against Kendal’s green grass and then framed on the reddest paper in history, our comic-crash casualties come truly alive! Those colours are to die for.

I so, so want to meet them. I wonder if they’ll wander into Page 45’s Georgian Room in Kendal’s Clock Tower where we will have over £12,000 worth of the most diverse and individualistic comics and graphic novels on sale and where we are playing host to so many of those creators noted earlier?

If so, I pray they will allow themselves to be photographed with us and by us – unless poor Sean has recovered enough from Poblin’s last apparition to stop by himself. I want this so much. I don’t normally fall for the hirsute but if Poblin ever exhibits any, you know, “tendencies”, then I’ve begged the magnificent Felt Mistress to let me know.

I’d send Poblin flowers, but he’d probably eat them.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 takes place from 17th to 19th October. This is the Lakesfest website! This is the Lakesfest 2014 programme!

All proceeds from our sales go directly to the Lakesfest: we’re not taking a penny. We’re doing this because we believe in this festival with all our hearts plus its director and curator, Julie Tait, is a complete and utter star.

There: I’ve said it.

Big hugs also to the Lakesfest’s Sharon Tait, Sandra, Jenny and all the volunteers without whose organisational acumen – equal only to Julie’s – exhibitors would be dazed and confused. You are all so loved and thank you.

SLH

Buy Destination Kendal and read the Page 45 Review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

A Quiet Disaster (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts

Adventure Time: The Art Of Ooo h/c (£24-99, Titan Books) by various, edited by Chris McDonnell

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Guy Davis and many others

Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) (£6-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird

Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) (£7-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia

Meanwhile #1 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

Storm h/c Signed Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

Storm s/c (£12-99, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

The Garden Of Words (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Midori Motohashi

The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c (£55-99, Dynamite) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, David Curiel, Dave Mckean

Zenith: Phase One h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell

Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Guillem March, various

Harley Quinn vol 1: Hot In The City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, various

Suicide Squad vol 5: Walled In s/c (£12-99, DC) by Matt Kindt, Sean Ryan & Patrick Zircher, various

Hulk vol 1: Banner DOA s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mark Bagley

Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen & Mark Bagley, Luke Ross

Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy (£14-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Sunny vol 4 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is 20 Years Old. I wrote that blog about it!

Thank you for reading and thank you for everything during the 20 best years of my life.

Good night!

- Stephen x

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

October 17th, 2014

We hope you have enjoyed the show!

Page 45 opened twenty years ago this very day! When I, quite clearly, was five.

Look, that’s me above with Mark to my left at our opening night’s Booze Bash!

I’ve had customers live with me, find love on our shop floor, and made friends for life with the people I am so, so lucky enough to work alongside.

Here’s a stat to knock your socks off: in those twenty thrilling, remarkable years only one member of staff has left Page 45 voluntarily: Tom Rosin, after ten years’ tenure to pursue his career as a chef.

Well, that’s not quite true: our original member Dominique has tried to get away three times, but she’s always come back, without once returning her leaving presents.

Dominique has promised never to leave Page 45 again. I hold this to be true, for I have refused to write Dee another reference. So ingenious are Dee’s innovations and so meticulous her systems (she labels everything – our labels have a label saying “labels”) that we couldn’t function without her, so there’s no escape now.

I think that stat speaks volumes about how much fun this job is: introducing such beautiful books to such brilliant people and you are, all of, you brilliant! Without your loyalty, hard-earned cash and shared enthusiasm for our chosen medium Page 45 would not be here today.

You pay our wages and we recognise this to be true.

Of course without our beardly beloved Mark we wouldn’t be here today, either. Here he is with the great Huw Feather, artist of Soft Cell and early Marc Almond single sleeves, album sleeves and videos. I have some original Huw Feather art! Oh yes!

Together we co-designed Page 45 and you can  see those early designs here.

Twenty years for any Independent Retailer maintaining diversity on our increasingly homogenised High Streets is an accomplishment indeed. I may have an announcement to make about our next twenty years in about a week’s time – what a tease!

In the meantime, more never-before-seen photos of our first Pan print and the colour separations for its t-shirt. Highy collectible!

(My first-ever job was as a screen-printed t-shirt designer.)

 

 

So much has changed in these last twenty years, almost all of it for the better. For a start, back then there were only a couple of hundred graphic novels worth stocking and now we have over six thousand! Six thousand different graphic novels so that each and every genre – from straight fiction to politics, autobiography, travel, crime, sci-fi, humour and horror with a burgeoning gay content too – is bursting with breadth and depth to appeal to all tastes, and Young Readers’ and Young Adults’ graphic novels are fizzing with sophisticated thrills to get our kids reading again!

The UK comics industry, which Mark and I both firmly believed in (and staked a substantial amount of money on) twenty years ago, has properly come of age and is flourishing! Just one look at Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month Club shows how many of our selections – a disproportionate number considering how many of our graphic novels come from America – are British. We didn’t choose them because there are British, we chose them because they were the best.

And almost every day someone completely new to comics comes through our door because the message is finally out there, spread all over the broadsheets, that comics are cool, that comics have so much substance that graphic novels like Mary and Bryan Talbot’s DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES can beat prose in the Costa Book Awards, and the comics are now seen as so respectable that a comic shop like Page 45 won Nottingham’s Best Independent Business Award two years in a row.

I wish Mark could be here to see it today. I really do. But sadly Page 45’s co-creator Mark Simpson died in 2005. I like to think – no, I know – that Mark would be proud of what we’ve accomplished since in his memory, and would especially proud with what our Jonathan has achieved in bringing Page 45 bang up to date with the website you’re now reading this on which comics’ Kieron Gillen called “crush-worthy”!

It is a beautiful beast, is it not? I particularly adore Page 45’s website front-page illustrated by another British comicbook legend, Nabiel Kanan. It’s a comic. It really is. Not just because it has panels, but because it tells a story in two sequential images: young women and men arrive at our door, thrilled by what they might find, then come to our counter where we whip their wallets and utterly traumatise their credit cards.

But if I can be serious for one moment, none of that would have been possible without Jonathan arriving in the nick of time some six or seven years ago as my new business partner with a vision for Page 45’s future.

No word of a lie: if it wasn’t for Jonathan, there would no longer even be a Page 45.

We certainly wouldn’t be celebrating Page 45’s 20th Anniversary at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014.

I can sell a comic. Heh, I can really hand-sell a comic as so many of you know to your cost! But I don’t have that same incredible acumen for technology and organisation that Dominique and Jonathan – equally adept at frisking you financially – do! They’re also very, very good teachers.

Jonathan has been my absolute rock for the last six or seven years, both professionally and personally. If something goes wrong at home on my computer or whatever it’s, like, “Jonathaaaaaan…?”

These days on the shop floor and on Twitter I’m basically front-of-house. No, wait: I’m essentially the shop dog!

It’s Jonathan, Dominique and Jodie on our worldwide mail order you should be thanking, and that is what I hope I’m doing here.

I’m also thanking you. Without you there would be no Page 45, either.

Thank you for your support, thank you for your extraordinary kindnesses – customers and creators alike – and thank you for what is truly an endurance test as I make so much booze-addled mischief @pagefortyfive on Twitter.

Know this, please: I am so, so grateful and you are so loved.

A toast then in closing, if I may, on Page 45’s 20th Anniversary:

“To quality, diversity and creativity in comics!”

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 is a comic shop. We are:

Jonathan Rigby
Dominique Kidd
Stephen L. Holland
with Jodie Paterson

Quite often with Bryan Lee O’Malley!

spacer
spacer
spacer