Eddie Campbell & Audrey Niffenegger signing at Page 45, May 23rd 2019!

April 23rd, 2019

Audrey Niffenegger, author of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ and ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’, and Eddie Campbell, creator of ALEC and co-creator with Alan Moore of FROM HELL, will be signing their joint graphic novel BIZARRE ROMANCE (and much more besides!) at Page 45, Nottingham, on Thursday May 23rd 2019 from 5-30pm to 7pm.

 

 

This follows their appearance as Guests of Honour at the Nottingham UNESCO City Of Literature festival earlier in the day.

It’s a very special A&E signing!

We Have (if linked) / Will Have (imminently):

“The attic was infested with angels again.
“I could hear them bumping around above the ceiling.
“Plus, the harp music made it pretty obvious.”
BIZARRE ROMANCE by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell

 

 

Plus by Eddie Campbell:

 ALEC OMNIBUS
BACCHUS VOLS 1 & 2
FROM HELL
FROM HELL COMPANION
A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE
‘The Goat Getters’

 

 

Plus by Audrey Niffenegger:

 ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’
‘Her Fearful Symmetry’
‘Ghostly: A Collection Of Ghost Stories’
THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE
THE ADVENTURESS

Please click on links for reviews.

 

 

The time: 5-30pm to 7-00pm
The date: Thursday 23rd May 2019
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY
Admission: Free!

No tickets, no fee, just turn up and meet two of the world’s finest raconteurs in comics and prose while they sign whichever books you fancy!.

“Aargh, I SO want stuff signed but I live at the South Pole!”

 

 

Not by choice, surely? Brrrr! Still, I do think it’s thawing.

The good news is that We Ship Worldwide!

Order anything by either creator online at www.page45.com before May 19th 2019 and add “PLEASE GET THIS SIGNED BEFORE SHIPPING” in the comments box and it shall be done! Similarly if you select “collect in-store” with “THIS IS FOR THE A&E SIGNING” then we will add that to the signing stash too. Lastly, a lot of that material is prose which we don’t normally stock so we don’t have product pages linked to. Simply email page45@page45.com before May 17th (so giving us time to send you a payment link, and you to fill it in), then we can sort getting that lot signed too!

If in doubt, for all queries please phone Page 45 on (0115) 9508045.

 

 

Keep Up To Date:

Page 45 Twitter: @PageFortyFive
Audrey Niffenegger Twitter: @AANiffenegger
Eddie Campbell Twitter: @ecampbelldammit

https://www.audreyniffenegger.com/
https://www.eddiecampbelldammit.com/
Page 45 News & Reviews: http://www.page45.com/world/
If you have any questions, please phone 0115 9508045.

Cheers,

Stephen L. Holland

Till Monkey With A Typewriter
Co-creator, co-owner, co-manager, Page 45

Special love to Sandeep Mahal, Director of Nottingham UNESCO City Of Literature, for catalysing this comics and prose creator confluence. Also: to Audrey and Eddie for getting hitched.

This has been a special A&E Signing Announcement on behalf of We Hope We Don’t Have To Go To Hospital For It.

You are so welcome.

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2019 week three

April 17th, 2019

Featuring Seth, Emily Carroll, Michael DeForge, Riff Reb’s, A. Tota, P. Van Hove, Terry Moore

Clyde Fans h/c Box Set Slipcase Edition (£42-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth.

 

 

The most eagerly anticipated completion in comics of the last decade alongside BERLIN by Jason Lutes!

From the creator of WIMBLEDON GREEN, IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, GEORGE SPROTT and THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS (those last two being Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months), this exquisite slipcased die-cut h/c collects a 488-page generational epic so long in the making that our Mark was still on hand to review the first instalment, after which Jonathan and I observed PALOOKAVILLE’s progress as it was released periodically.

Honestly? It’s mostly Jonathan.

Book One:

Two brothers inherit their father’s company, selling and manufacturing fans.

In the first half of the book it’s 1997 and Abraham Matchcard wanders through his day, looking back through the ups and downs of the business, admitting that they were unprepared for the rise of the air conditioner industry.

Once thriving, Clyde Fans was overtaken by technological progress, too self-assured to change track when advancements took place. At the abandoned headquarters he voices regrets for his life and that of his brother, Simon:

“Christ, it’s the norm for a salesman to promote himself. That’s the number one produce he’s selling.  It’s also a quality I’ve always found repulsive in myself and others.”

We go back to 1947 for the second part of the story. Arriving in the small Canadian town of Dominion, Simon is out of his depth. He’s asked to be a travelling salesman, wanting to prove himself to his brother, but without the requisite charm and bluff he finds himself knocked back a few times, backing away with sweaty palms. As he walks the street, the buildings seem to crowd him out. He can’t face phoning Abe to say how its all going. And it’s not going well.

 

 

This is not only an excellent character study but also a delicately drawn evocation of the past. Seth, as we know from IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, has sympathies for Abe and his feelings of being left behind as the world expands and thunders on. The detailing of the clothes and stores is wonderful, right down to the cheap, plastic novelties another salesman is hawking.

 

 

There are a dazzling few pages at the beginning showing the dawn approaching as we see the light falling on the buildings. As the pressure builds for Simon, his brother is shown in single panels, looking down on him like an angry God. We feel the guilt and panic.

Book Two:

Abraham Matchcard, President of the Borealis Business Machines company which produces his own Clyde Fans, sits in his office with his lawyer and reluctantly signs the papers that will declare it bankrupt.

On the wall hang photographs of more prosperous times when they could afford to develop charity funds. By contrast he’s about to make every one of his employees redundant, and as Abraham drives past the picket line he’s haunted by each individual face of those he’s just passed. They’re on strike for no more than a decent, basic living wage, but the company can’t afford even that, and by tomorrow morning they will no longer have any job at all.

After that Abraham’s thoughts revert to a father whose face he doesn’t even recall; a man he hated.

This is the story of the steady decline of Abraham Matchcard and his business empire through the inevitable changes occurring in manufacturing industries and the retail sector, but also through the inability of Abraham to adapt. He knows he’s a dinosaur, he can see extinction coming, but he’s still going through the motions.

Later, he endures the very definition of strained conversation with his brother Simon. Strangulated would probably be a better adjective to employ, actually.

 

 

It’s quite incredible how such a downbeat, depressing story can be so utterly gripping.

Design is something that so powerfully stands out in Seth’s work these days. His love of small panels, frequently working on a 4 x 4 or 4 x 5 grid on an already relatively small page, means you really do see the clever constructional conceits that are ever-present throughout his stories.

 

 

I can’t think of another creator where you can be so strongly aware of the design element without it distracting from the storytelling whatsoever. I am still completely present in the moment reading a PALOOKAVILE, but it’s just I am so vividly aware of this extra dimension and depth to the construction of the page subtly subconsciously seeping into my overall perception. His attention to detail is immaculate.

Eventually there’s the inevitable, sad, yet fulfilling moment as the epic story of Simon Matchcard draws to a conclusion by coming full circle back to the year 1957 where we left him at the end of the first half. Here we see the epiphany which sets him on the course of what will turn out to be his long, lonely life. It’s a rather poignant scene, knowing as we do everything that is to follow. For here, Simon is nothing but full of optimism of what lies ahead, certain of the path he is taking and the rewards it will bring.

Eh dear.

MAS & JR with a mere slither of SLH

Buy Clyde Fans h/c Box Set Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

When I Arrived At The Castle (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Emily Carroll  ~

“You really are a timid, shivering thing, aren’t you?
“It has a stink, you know?
“Your meekness.
“It makes me want to vomit.”

Says the Countess, lounging loosely and seductively in an armchair, elegant finger curled at painted lip, body delicately wrapped in swathes of sheer fabric… With hooded eyes she’s hardly giving her guest a second glance. She did, quite rudely, arrive early after all…

The countess has power and she knows it. She is ‘accommodating’ to her guest, but not without torment, for she knows precisely why her guest is paying her a visit, and so will take every opportunity to torment her captive caller.

 

 

Emily THROUGH THE WOODS Carroll is back with another sensual slice of gothic horror. Done with deft elegance in her signature black, white and red, she has woven a fever-dreamlike tale.

 

 

Overlapping images and layers of details and patterns create a chaotic and intoxicating environment, filling the viewer with a certain unease, while well constructed and surprising characters are brilliantly bewitching. Carroll has cleverly entwined fables, which punctuate the story like a slight blow to the head, each time coming to ta new level of disorientation.

 

 

Victoriana gothic horror at its finest, this will certainly tantalise the taste buds of her current fans, but also be a striking draw for newcomers.

JP

Buy When I Arrived At The Castle and read the Page 45 review here

Memoirs Of A Book Thief h/c (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by A. Tota & P. Van Hove…

“I whipped everything out I could remember of Gilles’ speech about art being passé and laid it on him, explaining the connection between car theft and poetry.
“He asked me countless questions. He wanted to know everything. I was forced to make up increasingly unbelievable stories.
“I painted myself as a shrewd connoisseur of modernity, a verbal revolutionary, an adventurer of enigmatic intent…
“Nicole discovered that she was hanging out with an essential player on the international art scene.”

Which was of course total bullshit! Here’s the publisher to tell us more about the deliverer of deception, the font of fabrication, the master of the mendacious that is one Daniel Brodin…

“Paris, the 1950s. Daniel Brodin – bibliophile, book thief, self-proclaimed poet – enters the heated atmosphere of the Cafe Serbier, home of the Parisian literati. Daniel impulsively puts himself forward for a poetry recitation.

Under pressure, he recites not one of his own surrealist poems but an obscure piece of Italian verse he’s certain no one will know. It’s plagiarism, but it’s a triumph. Daniel’s recital marks his entrance into the Parisian avant-garde: a band of cultured rogues and pseudo-revolutionaries for whom life is a playground for art and planning a robbery has as much value as writing a book.

 

 

In this milieu, the wine is good and the girls are beautiful. But can success last if it is founded on plagiarism and theft?”

Well, that depends entirely on if you continue to get away with it, I would imagine! And Daniel does, for a long, long time… But any house of cards will eventually topple if you keep on trying to build it higher and higher…

 

 

I’ll be completely honest now, unlike the disingenuous Daniel: I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this from my first extremely cursory flick through. However, pretty much as soon as I commenced, I was hooked. By the character of Daniel, and indeed all his crackpot cohorts in ‘the scene’ with their hair-brained schemes, both artistic and criminal, their petty jealousies and rivalries, and of course the compulsory booze-drenched lifestyle.

 

 

Consequently I found this a hilarious enjoyable, riotous piece of contemporary fiction, well, part cautionary tale too, I suppose! You’ll find yourself rooting for Daniel, even though you know you really shouldn’t, but we all love a chancer, don’t we? Though he does steal books… so on principle I ought to regard him as a complete and utter irredeemable bastard, deserving of burning in hell forever in the very special corner reserved for those partaking of the five-fingered discount of reading material.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there! Let him takes his chances and we’ll see what happens… For when Daniel eventually finds himself in far, far too deep to extract himself from yet another stupid situation of his own creating, you’ll very possibly groan out loud just as I did at the inevitable misstep he finally makes…

Art-wise, the deliberately, dare I say it, slightly dishevelled style is absolutely perfect for this work. Black and white throughout, the only splash of colour is the red wine in Daniel’s glass on the front cover (and some letters in the title and creator’s names for good measure which actually works very nicely). There’s many an intense stare, sly grin and frequently sweaty brows as Daniel continues to try and navigate increasing murky waters.

JR

Buy Memoirs Of A Book Thief h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Men At Sea s/c (£22-99, Dead Reckoning) by Riff Reb’s…

“One by one, towards the end of the second week, the crewmembers died, some of cold, others of exposure, exhaustion, and melancholy.”

It’s a hard life aboard the good ship Page 45, let me tell you!

Anyway… avast there, me hearties, prepare to have your timbers shivered and your soul sent down to Davey Jones’ Locker for a laugh-a-minute look at the high seas this is not. No. In fact, after reading this dour drove of cautionary tales regarding life, well death, on the ocean waves, I think this land lubber will be steering well clear of coastal climes for many a moon. Which is very possibly what the creator intended, dear reader, but fear ye not as I’m sure you sequential art mariners are made of far sterner stuff than I…

Here’s the publisher to tip you the black spot and mark you guilty of perusing comics for your own piratical pleasure…

“MEN AT SEA is an opus of eight spectacularly drawn dark, poetic stories freely adapted by Riff Reb’s. This collection offers: ‘A Smile of Fortune,’ from Joseph Conrad, ‘The Sea Horses’ and ‘The Shamraken Homeward Bound,’ from William Hope Hodgson, ‘The Galley Slaves’ and ‘The Far South,’ from Pierre Mac Orlan, ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom,’ from Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Three Customs Officers,’ from Marcel Schwob, and ‘The Shipwreck,’ from Robert Louis Stevenson.

These eight tales, themselves interspersed by seven double-page spreads dedicated to extracts from illustrated classics, deliver a rich, poetic, and masterfully crafted work of life and death on the sea.”

 

 

That they do. Particularly death… I think you do probably need to be a big fan of the briny foam or illustrated classics to fully appreciate these tales. The slightly exaggerated art style and limited colour palettes used throughout perfectly highlight the fearsome, ferocious, all-powerful nature of the oceans and one’s chances of survival if you find yourself in a salty scrape, be that confronting a veracious vortex or just stoically dealing with a sinking ship.

 

 

Time for this man to go overboard and swim swiftly on to the next review, but before you read that, you might want to muse on Nick Hayes’ socially satirical THE RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER, which was a decade ahead of David Attenborough when it came to pointing out what we’ve done to our oceans with plastics.

JR

Buy Men At Sea s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Leaving Richard’s Valley (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

“Have you ever thought that maybe the valley isn’t just a place… it’s more like an idea…”
“Yes.”

The master of the disparately absurd returns with his most coherently straightforward work yet.

Haha, you didn’t believe that for a second did you? Just as well! Here is a succinct, sensible summary of DeForge’s latest dene of disastrous daft from the publisher…

“Richard is a benevolent but tough leader who oversees everything that happens in the valley. When Lyle the Raccoon becomes sick, his ragtag group of friends take matters into their own hands, breaking Richard’s strict rules. Caroline Frog rats them out to Richard and they are immediately exiled from the only world they’ve ever known.

 

 

DeForge’s tale expands from a bizarre hero’s quest into something more: they make it out of the valley and into the big city, and we see them coming to terms with different kinds of community: noise-rockers, gentrification protesters, squatters, and more.”

Richard is a dick, and not just in the diminutive sense. That’s not a spoiler, by the way… you’ll certainly pick that up pretty quickly for yourselves. Quicker than Lyle and his chums, I’m sure. But when the penny finally drops they certainly throw themselves into their exiled existence with a newfound zest for life. Amazing what getting out from under the opposable thumbs of a domineering despot can do for your self-esteem…

 

 

I should probably make clear at this point that Richard is the only human in the valley. The fact that he’s decided to sequester himself away in the middle of a park smack bang in the centre of Toronto to lord it over the wildlife possibly hints at why he isn’t ideal leadership material… As Lyle and company manage to start making a go of it in the big city, Richard’s regime, and mental health, inevitably begin to crumble and then collapse apace in tragic tandem.

I’ll possibly have to retract my opening statement to mention that this is, in some senses, DeForge’s least surreal tale, talking animals musing the meaning of life and escape from the clutches of cultdom aside… The strict four-panel-per-page format and askew life lessons put me slightly in mind of PEANUTS, which frankly is a suitably totally ridiculous comparison. This is more like a comedic, satirical, warped version of Ander Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS. With extra added odd.

 

 

In DeForge terms, this is closest in feel to STICKS ANGELICA, FOLK HERO, which actually would be my opening gambit for someone new wanting to give him a try. Or possibly the equally preposterous and indeed hilarious BRAT. This chunky tome is more one for DeForge aficionados as I suspect it would definitely be over-long for someone brand new to his work.

Art-wise it was a slight surprise to see only black and white after all his recent vibrant colour works. I have seen him employ black and white for the odd much shorter strip, but I’ve always personally felt his whacky colour palette only added to his artistic charms. Well, this is monochrome technically, just about, rather than black and white, but still, for such a long work it was possibly a very prudent decision in time terms if nothing else! Surreal he may be, silly he is not.

JR

Buy Leaving Richard’s Valley and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus (s/c £26-99, h/c £35-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

Book One:

SEE SOMETHING
SAY SOMETHING

There’s a sign on the New York subway accentuated, emphasised and made urgent by piercing eyes. It says:

SEE SOMETHING
SAY SOMETHING

In a pressed white shirt, suit and tie, a smart man on his smart phone is standing. He is sombrely checking for texts or the latest, breaking News Headlines. He would do well to do that. Satisfied, he slips the phone into his overcoat, scowling at the crowd as the carriage doors open. Commuters get on, commuters get off and, once on the open platform, he checks his coat pocket as per habit, pat-pat. It is not well weighted.

“HEY! STOP!
“STOP THAT BOY!
“STOP HIM!”

 

 

 

The boy and the man are dashing up the escalator, the small boy diving between pedestrians while the smart man is impeded and – shit – there’s another kid who’s tossed the cell phone sideways in passing! It’s nimbly caught in a pre-planned relay race, the brat in the hoodie heading up the stairs at speed, swerving right towards the foyer’s crossover before throwing this exceptionally mobile phone clean over the gleaming glass balustrade!

It’s gone.

 

 

Down below a good-looking woman in her thirties, well dressed for winter in a jacket and loose woollen scarf, calmly and casually removes the SIM card from its casement. As she discards the rest, the detritus unnecessary to her purpose, she glares up at the smart man who’s not now feeling very smart at all, looks her victim straight in the eye and she gives him a grimace which he will never forget.

Oh my God! It’s — !

Welcome to Terry Moore’s STRANGERS IN PARADISE – or indeed, welcome back! – on this, its 25th Anniversary. You can read our prior reviews if you fancy, but you need know nothing in order to settle straight in to one of the series we have been most phenomenally fond of in all of our years working in comics, for this is a very fresh start.

After surviving all that the world and Katchoo’s pitch-black past could throw at them, Katchoo and Francine are now happily – nay, blissfully – married, living out in the dessert with their two delightful daughters in a luxury villa financed by Katchoo’s highly successful career in fine art… but probably her previous one too.

Katchoo was a Parker Girl. She “belonged” to Darcy Parker. Darcy Parker was a vicious woman who used other women to infiltrate the government at its highest levels. The Parker Girls were essentially the highest paid prostitutes imaginable, and they never got to leave.

Katchoo left, though I will not say how, and now sits with one of Darcy’s former enforcers, the formidable, ever-brooding, stone-faced Tambi, as they watch Francine play, splashing away during the heat of the day, in the extensive garden’s swimming pool with one of their beloved daughters.

There is so much laughter!

Katchoo is smiling maternally, lovingly, with all the adoration she has always held in her heart for her now-wife Francine, right from the very first moment we met them. Reciprocation did not come easily and it did not come quickly. STRANGERS IN PARADISE was a very long series: 2,400 pages long! But here they are, and they have arrived!

You’ll notice Tambi and Katchoo share a certain look. Darcy Parker liked blondes very much. Tambi is not smiling lovingly and her arms are criss-crossed with scars.

 

 

“You know,” begins Katchoo, a twinkle in her eye, “I used to think you only had two looks, mean and meaner. Then I saw you hold my babies.”
“You fought hard for what you have, Katchoo. Wife, kids, a new life… Nothing came easy for you.”

That’s very true.

“I don’t want to see you lose everything you worked for.”
“Why would I lose everything? Tambi?”

I loved the reversal on the first few pages where we came in. Initially I fretted for the smart man with the smart phone (his name’s Scott) for we all fear pickpockets and fewer ever say something even if they see something, and fewer still do anything about it. And Terry keeps you going breathlessly for three pages before you discover the phone’s final recipient.

 

 

Scott’s married to a woman called Laura, by the way.

She’s called Laura, but that’s not her name. Her real name is Stephanie, and she has that certain look too.

“Tambi?”

Oh no.

 

 

Book Two:

“Who controls the past controls the future.

“Who controls the present controls the past.”

 – George Orwell

Who controls the future here remains to be seen.

Previously in STRANGERS IN PARADISE (the Omnibus review is ever so slightly expansive):

Katchoo and Francine have endured the vicious repercussions of Katchoo’s tarnished past – which have come back to curtail their present and so threaten their future – successfully enough against all adversarial odds, to settle down and carve themselves a blissful, tranquil family life with their two daughters in a really rather swish villa strategically sequestered in the middle of nowhere.

It is idyllic!

Then STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV vol 1 kicks off.

 

 

To ensure her family’s safety, Katchoo finds herself racing frantically across the globe from the Isle of Skye in Scotland to the remotest jungles of Colombia. Unfortunately, she’s left Francine and the girls terrifyingly vulnerable in the supposed sanctuary of their home.

 

 

All the weathers are here, both hot and humid and freezing with snow which Moore draws so eye-blindingly well, plus the sort of cliff-leaping, all-out action that you’d expect from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

 

 

 

By now, however, long-term Terry Moore fans will have noticed his various storylines merging, incorporating characters and plot points from previous series MOTOR GIRL, RACHEL RISING and ECHO.

They’re rekindled here to kick off the next series – imminently and ominously – in FIVE YEARS #1 and FIVE YEARS #2 which will automatically be distributed to those signed up at Page 45 for SiP.

For, as I say, who controls the future remains to be seen.

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Note: SiP Omnibus not actual covers. The s/c is essentially #1, h/c #10

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Circle h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Gideon Falls vol 2: Original Sins s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart

Kiss Number 8 (£13-99, First Second) by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw

Maggy Garrison (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Lewis Trondheim & Stephane Oiry

Magic Order vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel

Monster Allergy vol 1 (£9-99, Insight Comics) by Francesco Artibani & Alessandro Barbucci

Pilu Of The Woods s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Mai K. Nguyen

Square s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Tamamo The Fox Maiden And Other Asian Stories s/c (£13-99, Other A-Z) by Gene Luen Yang, Carla Speed McNeil, various

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

Shatterstar s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Tim Seeley & Carlos Villa

The Girl From The Other Side vol 6 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Goblin Slayer vol 4 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Go With Clouds, North By Northwest vol 1 (£11-99, Vertical) by Aki Irie

Today’s Menu For The Emiya Family (£11-99, Den Pa) by Type-Moon & Taa

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2019 week two

April 10th, 2019

Featuring Jaime Hernandez, Guilherme Petreca, Joe Todd-Stanton, Terry Moore, Jiro Taniguchi, Joe Casey, Benjamin Marra

A Mouse Called Julian h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton.

“But Julian didn’t know that he was being watched.”

Watched by a fox!

One giant eye gazes out from the undergrowth as young Julian returns home with the blueberries he’s gathered, oblivious to the fact that he’s led this hungry predator right to his door!

I do relish a reprise, and that is a sentence which will be returned to much later on, with not one but two whiplash surprises, one almost immediately after the other, which will leave you and your Young Ones breathless!

From Joe Todd-Stanton, the creator of Page 45 best-sellers ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE and MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPINX, comes yet another drop-dead gorgeous graphic novel / picture book that will once again lead shining eyes right round the pages in search of exquisite, half-hidden details like the unexpected furnishings of Julian’s burrow and the wider subterranean lives of his fellow underground occupants.

 

 

All of this comes furnished with the most natural of woodland and pasture colours in earthy browns, warm orange and dark or gleaming greens, printed on each page with the exceptional production values which you’ve come to expect from the Flying Eye imprint of Nobrow Books.

As to those underground occupants, they’re a bit of a bother to self-contained Julian.

“Julian had lived on his own for as long as he could remember, and that was the way he liked it.
“All the animals above ground tried to eat him.
“And all the animals below ground got in his way.”

Well, it can all grow quite cramped and crowded. Above ground, he’s become a bit of an expert at dodging dogs, cats and hungry barn owls while foraging in the fields in order to return safely home.

“But Julian didn’t know that he was being watched.”

 

 

Oooooh! This is the first time we hear that, as Julian opens his secret trap door, gazing diligently around, but in all the wrong directions!

“That night, the fox crept up to Julian’s house, and using all of his skill and cunning… smashed right through Julian’s front window.”

Hmmm… A bit low on the cunning front, that. And the fox hasn’t really thought things through.

“The fox bared his teeth…
“And howled and growled…
“But he couldn’t quite reach Julian.
“The fox was well and truly stuck!”

 

 

That’s a delicious pair of pages: first there’s the fox’s gigantic, snapping, rapacious jaws so confidently close to victory with tiny Julian cowering below in his old leather boot-bed, the reader’s eyes focussed on the peril by the spotlight shone through the window; then, opposite, comically, we’re treated to the foolish fox’s sudden “uh-oh! ” realisation of the rashness of his action in a pan-back that reveals his hind quarters up-ended in mid-air without either purchase or dignity, our eyes again drawn there by his alarmed, backwards-looking eye.

“Pardon me, but would you be so kind as to help me out?” asked the fox.

Eyes, closed, all innocent-like.

“Help you?” yelped Julian, “You just tried to eat me!”
“Of course I didn’t. I was simply popping in to see if you were OK,” lied the fox.

Sounds perfectly plausible to me!

“I’m not OK at all! Your big head is in my house!” said Julian.
“Well, if you help me, I promise you will never see or my big head again,” pleaded the fox.

Now, my lovelies, would you trust that fox, the traditional trickster of the animal kingdom, and specifically the one who has just blithely lied to your tiny, whiskered face…? The one who has never once before popped in to see if you were doing okay, but instead has a prior history of attempting to eat you…?

Well, you’re in for a fair few surprises!

You really are!

 

 

To begin with, however, the question is rendered irrelevant, for although Julian doesn’t want those great big eyes staring into his house and is even more averse to those great big, pointy teeth so close to his nose, the fox is enormous and Julian is no more than a mouse. So try as he might, Julian cannot shift the russet one’s great big behind – it simply will not budge.

Then something heart-warming happens.

“When it got to dinner time, Julian couldn’t bear to watch the fox’s sad, hungry eyes.
“So he shared what he had and they talked and ate long into the night.”

But, best beloveds, that’s merely the beginning, for we’ve yet to encounter the reprise!

What will happen when they wake up in the morning, then go about their respective routines?

One is a hunter, the other is a gatherer. And the gatherer is always being hunted.

“But Julian didn’t know that he was being watched.”

Shadows and focus; darkness and light.

 

 

The richness of emotional experience which Joe Todd-Stanton offers here is not necessarily obvious. While many picture books render as much as possible in the brightest of colours and the shiniest of tones to please both parents and progeny with their immediate feel-good factor which I do not disdain, this is printed on matt paper instead with a firm, focal, candle-lit warmth on the central, pivotal, double-page spread which celebrates the generosity of sharing food… but on either side we experience an extraordinary and unexpected wealth of darkness and light both between contrasting pages and within the same panels.

This keeps us guessing as to motives, and makes one anxious when it comes to outcomes.

And this is as it should be.

Gripped, from start to finish!

SLH

Buy A Mouse Called Julian h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ye s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Guilherme Petreca ~

“Don’t be afraid!
“Keep your heart light.
“Very good!”

It’s a late summer day and the whole village is toiling away in the fields. Well orchestrated, they harvest the crops in harmony; all rather idyllic under the calm, clear skies. That is until a demon makes its presence in the form of an old warplane, filling the sky with the most tremendous rumble and turning it from calm blue to a dispiriting inky grey. A bomb is released as the villagers watch on in terror, and before their eyes it takes a ghastly transformation into a crow, landing atop Ye’s house with delicate footing and a deadly screech.  He clutches his chest and falls to the ground, exhausted and limp. He has caught the king’s breath.

Now the journey of a lifetime must begin. The only person able to help him is Incredible Miranda the Healer, or the “old witch” as she’s more locally known. The only items to help him along his way are a poster of the healer and a single black feather dropped by the crow.

The artwork is textured and delicate, with so many glorious little details you will want to spend a few extra moments poring over the pages to let your eyes drink in everything they have to offer. Though the (somewhat dreadful, frankly) cover doesn’t allude to it, the lines and colour palette within are far softer and embracing.

 

In terms of breadth of storytelling I was reminded of Isabel Greenberg’s THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH; also with the artwork inside and costume designs, but particularly with the poster of Miranda the Witch.

Though small in size, this is a story that packs a punch. Younger readers will be swept away by Ye’s epic adventures through crowded cities, pirate-riddled oceans, and even a tundra that an eccentric clown calls home. While more mature readers will see Ye’s adventures for what they really are. On the surface, a journey for the ages to be loved by all, but just below is a powerful tale of a personal battle against something dark and intangible.

“The Colourless King exists inside all of us, slumbering”

And we will not be defined by our demons.

JP

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

Love & Rockets: Is This How You See Me? h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez…

“Part of me hopes he’ll never know about any of it nor all the other stupid crap I’ve done in my life.”
“None of us is perfect, Espy… I believe a person has a right to keep parts of their life to themselves if it doesn’t hurt loved ones… but also so it doesn’t hurt loved ones… something that remains your own even when… even when…”
“When you move on? I’ll buy that.”

Except many of us can’t move on and we’re still buying it.

LOVE AND ROCKETS, that is! I could try and explain more, but actually the Fantagraphics hypewriter has pretty much perfectly captured the essence of this bittersweet comics symphony. So I’ll simply let them introduce what has already become one of my favourite ever LnR stories…

“In IS THIS HOW YOU SEE ME?, Maggie and Hopey get the band back together – literally. Now middle-aged, they leave their significant others at home and take a weekend road trip to reluctantly attend a punk rock reunion in their old neighbourhood.

 

 

The present is masterfully threaded with a flashback set in 1979, during the very formative stages in Maggie and Hopey’s lifelong friendship, as the perceived invincibility of youth is expertly juxtaposed against all of the love, heartbreak, and self-awareness that comes with lives actually lived.

The result is no sentimental victory lap, however – this is one of the great writers of literary fiction at the peak of his powers, continuing to scale new heights as an artist. Hernandez’s acclaimed ongoing comics series LOVE AND ROCKETS has entertained readers for over 35 years, and his beloved characters – Maggie, Hopey, Ray, Doyle, Daffy, Mike Tran, and so many others – have become fully realized literary creations.

IS THIS HOW YOU SEE ME? collects Hernandez’s latest interconnected vignettes, serialized over the past four years in Love and Rockets, into a long-form masterpiece for the first time.”

Quite so, for this truly is a masterpiece. Just for the record, this collects material from LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES VOLS 7 & 8 and LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL IV #1 – #5.

 

 

If, like me, you’ve kept an affection for Maggie, Hopey and all the other Locas over years, despite my attention inevitably wandering due to the ever-burgeoning output of other wonderful comics out there and also the at times substantial intervals between new LnR material, I think you’ll find this collection both the perfect retrospective and reacquaintance with our chums, young and old versions alike.

Like in THE LOVE BUNGLERS, I found the flashback sequences immensely poignant, with the sheer boundless, buzzing chaotic energy of our characters, especially Maggie and Hopey, (well definitely Hopey!) as kids in stark contrast to the world weary middle-aged versions, sharing their hard won wisdom and reflecting upon how the hell they all ended up where they are. There’s one touching moment in particular that almost had me reaching for my hankie…

Set against the backdrop of a reunion road trip that is just as disastrously action-packed as any of their early escapades, I found myself chuckling at my – and their – subsequent wry realisation that perhaps they hadn’t changed that much after all.

 

 

Jaime is indeed, like brother Gilbert (MARBLE SEASON / BUMPERHEAD / HIGH SOFT LISP / LOVERBOYS / THE TROUBLEMAKERS), seemingly only getting better and better as a writer. Artistically, well, you know what you’re going to get, and that is fine. As good an illustrator as Jaime is, especially in capturing his characters’ emotions (and in young Hopey’s case histrionics), it is his storytelling that keeps us coming back time after time. And we will keep doing so as long as he keeps writing! Pretty sure there’s some serious mileage to be had in pensioner Locas!

JR

Buy Love & Rockets: Is This How You See Me? h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 2: Hide And Seek s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“Who controls the past controls the future.
“Who controls the present controls the past.”

 – George Orwell

Who controls the future here remains to be seen.

Previously in STRANGERS IN PARADISE (the Omnibus review is ever so slightly expansive):

Katchoo and Francine have endured the vicious repercussions of Katchoo’s tarnished past – which have come back to curtail their present and so threaten their future – successfully enough against all adversarial odds, to settle down and carve themselves a blissful, tranquil family life with their two daughters in a really rather swish villa strategically sequestered in the middle of nowhere.

It is idyllic!

Then STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV vol 1 kicks off.

 

 

To ensure her family’s safety, Katchoo finds herself racing frantically across the globe from the Isle of Skye in Scotland to the remotest jungles of Colombia. Unfortunately, she’s left Francine and the girls terrifyingly vulnerable in the supposed sanctuary of their home.

 

 

All the weathers are here, both hot and humid and freezing with snow which Moore draws so eye-blindingly well, plus the sort of cliff-leaping, all-out action that you’d expect from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

 

 

 

By now, however, long-term Terry Moore fans will have noticed his various storylines merging, incorporating characters and plot points from previous series MOTOR GIRL, RACHEL RISING and ECHO.

They’re rekindled here to kick off the next series – imminently and ominously – in FIVE YEARS #1 and FIVE YEARS #2 which will automatically be distributed to those signed up at Page 45 for SiP.

For, as I say, who controls the future remains to be seen.

We only have five years left.

Five years left until what…?

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 2: Hide And Seek s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jesusfreak h/c (£15-99, Image) by Joe Casey & Benjamin Marra…

“You… have my gratitude, beast thing.”
“Is that so? Have you suddenly experienced some profound new revelation?”
“Maybe I have. Now… look in my eyes. Tell me… what do you see?”

THWAK

“Ghuh! Well played. Perhaps you are the blessed one.”

If you ever found yourself in a troubling situation pondering the classic moral imperative “What would Jesus do?” it’s probably fair to say, it would not be what Joe Casey and Benjamin Marra have the mild-mannered, cheek-turning, betrayal-forgiving, enemy-loving peacenik proto-hippy doing.

No.

For their righteous Jesus is more son of a gun than Son of God. I mean, he’s that as well, kind of, it’s just he’s more of a New Testament sword of justice kinda guy. With added kung fu. And he really does have a sword and he’s not afraid to use it.

Because… well why not? He’s the ass-kicking, face-punching, head-lopping action hero saviour the masses need. Apparently!

 

 

 

Here is the sermon from the publishers to tell you about the righteous damnation this bad-ass bible basher is going to rain down on your heads if you don’t all start behaving yourself. But first, can I get a hallelujah? No? How about a punch in the face then? Done!

“The year is 26 C.E. A young Nazarean carpenter is having some trouble adjusting to the violent world around him-and finding his place within it. He knows he’s different, but he doesn’t know why. Not yet, anyway. A bloody, two-fisted tale of historical heroic fiction brought to you by Joe SEX, BUTCHER BAKER / THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER / MCMLXXV Casey and Benjamin NIGHT BUSINESS / TERROR ASSAULTER / O.M.W.O.T. Marra.”

 

 

Fans of classic hack slash material such as Roy Thomas’ SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN (and by the way, Jason Aaron’s new CONAN and Gerry Dugan’s SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN are both really excellent, capturing the flavour of the original material perfectly) and the ‘70s era THE HANDS OF SHANG CHAI: MASTER OF KUNG FU will absolutely love this. It’s as pulpy as a battered bad guy’s head after some serious beat down action.

 

 

It does try to do a little more than viscerally entertain, through senselessly sensual violence, sure, hey this is Jesus after all, but I won’t spoil where they take the character because Jesus’s voyage of self-discover here is half the farcical fun.

Art-wise, Casey has picked a perfect foil in the form of Marra, who’s scathing, satirical ONE MAN WAR ON TERROR material figuratively and literally takes no prisoners itself, and here once more he unleashes his trademark relentless graphic brutality upon our sensibilities almost daring us to blaspheme against his character’s credo of cruel justice. Tough love baby, that’s what the Jesusfreak is dispensing. Take it or leave it.

 

 

On that point, I can’t see many committed Christians enjoying this, but if you’ve half a sense of humour and enjoy seeing the desecration of one of the most pious dudes ever to walk the earth purely for your reading pleasure, dispensing proverbial psalms of pain, then this is sequential art soul food just for you.

And errr… me… Amen.

JR

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

We’ve Found  More Copies!

Guardians Of The Louvre h/c (UK Edition) (£17-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

“Just look at those lines!”

This gasp is elicited by the sight of the glass Pyramid with its astonishing steel struts which rises within the vast courtyard of the Louvre, not so much taking up space but informing it, redefining it, refining it.

It made me laugh, for my eyes had been wide in similar, awe-struck astonishment for each of the nine previous pages, wondering how Taniguchi could make so much even of railings, diverging with precision from a vanishing point on the Parisian skyline without looking at all clinical but tactile and pocked with pits.

We’ve been admiring Taniguchi’s elegant lines every since the original publication of THE WALKING MAN then made A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, but this is the first time the English-speaking world has been blessed with a fully distributed commercial graphic novel of his in full colour. And oh, the colour!

You could spend hours looking at the opening page alone, mesmerised not just by Jiro’s panorama, but what he’s done with the folds of the faun-coloured jacket and the drains of the metal slats beneath the protagonist’s feet and the shadow those legs and feet cast over that walkway.

 

 

When our lone Japanese artist visits Auvers-sur-Oise for a day’s pilgrimage to the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh we will see what Taniguchi can do with vast, verdant fields transected by dry, sunlit tracks, then big bushy trees, clipped lawns and cornfields. But it is the architecture that amazes the most both there and while wandering both inside and outside the Louvre in Paris.

There are so many panels of delicate detail gazing up or looking down over the rooftops which capture the semi-relief I adore so much in window ledges and eves, casting just so much shadow over the creamy stone. Window boxes boast a dappling of foliage and trees dangle leaves over walls along the banks of the Seine.

 

 

Paris is a city designed so that wherever you are you can see over, under and through it ever since Haussmann raised and rebuilt it in the mid-19th Century, giving any pedestrian a very real sense of where they are, wherever they are. Taniguchi so evidently relishes that sense of space and conveys it so successfully one feels as if one’s wondering a couple of steps behind him, beside him, luxuriating in the early summer light.

Once the cultural traveller’s inside the museum, that space is no less in evidence. The Baroque majesty of some of the grand arches and Corinthian columns towering above white stone steps and organic, wrought iron banisters is evoked with perfectly chosen perspective. So many galleries are drawn in meticulous detail including each individual painting housed within, and without his fellow tourists to block our view, it is enough to make the heart and soul soar. How has Taniguchi contrived that we – and our protagonist – might see it so?

 

 

Ah.

Well, it’s all a little fanciful, to say the least, but that made me smile too.

A Japanese artist arrives in Paris following an international comics festival in Barcelona – since he’d come all that way. But the stress of the festival combined with an inability to get over the initial jetlag has played havoc with his immune system and for a whole day he lies shivering, bed-ridden.

“I come to feel somehow light-headed and strange. Suddenly alarming thoughts go through my head, like maybe I’ll just die here like this.”

He awakes the next morning dripping in sweat but, determined to make the most of even a minor recovery, he saunters out onto the streets. One omelette later and invigorated by caffeine, the man makes his way down narrow streets and broad boulevards to spend the first of three days in the Louvre. It is, of course, pullulating with fellow sight-seers which make him dizzy so, once down the escalators, he decides to split off from the hordes and heads towards the antiquities of Ancient Greece and Rome – the Denon Wing on the lower ground floor – only to suffer a relapse. His head swimming, he falls to the floor, the world around him exploding with colour as the statues dissolve into amorphous, floating shapes…

 

 

When he comes to, the museum is deserted save for a woman dressed in the palest of pinks, her hair tied back into an elaborate bundle of buns. She will be his guide through the Louvre, as the artist experiences some extraordinary visions and even more remarkable encounters along with an unexpected moment of personal closure.

Everything else redacted!

 

 

Yes, this is an English-language graphic novel. I just needed to glean some images from France!

SLH

Buy Guardians Of The Louvre h/c (UK Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Leaving Richard’s Valley (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge

Clyde Fans h/c Box Set Slipcase Edition (£42-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth

Men At Sea s/c (£22-99, Dead Reckoning) by Riff Reb’s

Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus h/c (£35-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Strangers In Paradise XXV Omnibus s/c (£26-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 3: The Band (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Carles Porta

When I Arrived At The Castle (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Emily Carroll

Catwoman vol 1: Copycats s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joelle Jones & Joelle Jones, Fernando Blanco

Nightwing vol 7: The Bleeding Edge s/c (£16-99, DC) by Benjamin Percy & various

Planet Hulk (UK Edition) s/c (£24-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, others

Star Wars vol 10: Escape (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Andrea Broccardo, Angel Unzueta

Memoirs Of A Book Thief h/c (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by A. Tota & P. Van Hove

Attack On Titan vol 27 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Candy Color Paradox vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Isaku Natsume

Goblin Slayer vol 1 (£11-99, Kodansha) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Goblin Slayer vol 2 (£11-99, Kodansha) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2019 week one

April 3rd, 2019

Featuring Carolyn Nowak, Carles Porta, Tadd Galusha, Fabien Nury, Bruno, Evan Dorkin, Benjamin Dewey, Julian Glander and more.

Girl Town (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Carolyn Nowak ~

“When we moved in here my dad bought me a housewarming gift – a huge print of Rembrandt’s ‘Abduction of Europa’.
“I sort of think he wanted me to see the anxiety in Europa’s soft face as Jupiter in his bull suit carries her away from land.
“Two days after I hung the poster up I saw Betsy for the first time.
“Loud.
“Fearless.
“And angry.”

This is Betsy adorning the cover; climbing out of a sewer, manhole cover askew, half dressed with arms braced in an aggressive posture, shouting something angrily at the viewer. This is Girl Town, and this is her turf.

It’s a fantastic cover and a great choice of opening story, with its unconventional cast of bitches who despite their ongoing turf war (culminating in the sacrifice of a beloved sock puppet) are all best friends beneath it all. But don’t be fooled, as this is also a clever moment of misdirection, for within the pages of GIRL TOWN are five tender stories of crushes, infatuations, broken hearts and self-discovery.

‘Radishes’ features best friends Kelly, confident and boisterous, and Beth, soft and shy, having a fun day out at the market that will stay with both of them for many years to come. Diana has been badly hurt in ‘Diana’s Electric Tongue’ and decides to invest in a life-size human robot to help cope with a broken heart. But my favourite, as difficult as it was to pick from these cleverly constructed tales of intimacy, is the ending story ‘Please Sleep Over, in which Jess is simply trying to understand her place within life.

 

 

GIRL TOWN is a triumph of stories centred round the complexities of relationships and the intimacy of self-discovery. Above all, these are girls searching for understanding and connection, and if you’re anything like me, you will find yourself connecting with each and every one of them. As I finished the stories in turn, I wanted to gently embrace each of the girls with a familiar knowing hug, for these are girls in places we have all found ourselves at some point or other in our lives.

 

 

Nowak’s cast of characters come with the same level of variety and tenderness as Mariko and Jillian THIS ONE SUMMER Tamaki and Jen PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER Wang, while her stories embrace the slightly absurdist fantasy humour of Noelle NIMONA Stevenson – hardly surprising that she has also worked on LUMBERJANES (!) Her art reminded me very much of the rounded cartooning of Ben YOUR BLACK FRIEND Passmore, with added softness, enveloped in pastel colours.

JP

Buy Girl Town and read the Page 45 review here

Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 2: Hello, Mister Cold (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Carles Porta…

“Maximillian Cold was a child of the richest, most ambitious, coldest family in town. To his family’s horror, young Maxi wanted to be a musician. He adored playing the trumpet.

“Driven away by his father and his siblings, he joined The Band. It was all going quite well until he decided to play a bit of TINC-BLIN-TUT.

“The band leader didn’t think this was a good idea at all, and Maxi was fired on the spot.”

Clearly the band leader needs to broaden his musical horizons! I love me some TINC-BLIN-TUT! And TUT-FANN-BOO and even a bit of TEEP-BOON-KISH! But poor young Max’s penchant for striking syncopated sounds is going to cause him to wander even deeper astray into the musical wilds than he could possibly ever imagine, on a weird, wintery adventure that will feature a most peculiar and petrified audience indeed.

 

 

Let’s hear the publisher plinky plonk some scored notes out that will enchant all those of you who have been avidly waiting for this second seasonal composition, following on from the opening sonata that was the leaf-sweepingly autumnal THE TALES FROM THE HIDDEN VALLEY VOL 1: THE ARTISTS.

“Bundle up and get ready to spend the long winter with the charming creatures in Carles Porta’s enchanting Hidden Valley. It’s winter now in the hidden valley, and Maximus Cold has fallen into the valley, completely by mistake. Everyone thinks he’s a strange, trumpet-playing monster who has kidnapped our wolf friend Yula!

One can only hope that the gang of friends, including the rabbits, Reindeer, the pixie onion-headed ballerina, and Yula’s best friend Sara can save the day with some trumpeting of their own.

 

 

Dive into Carles Porta’s elaborate world of enchanting, snowy forests and mysterious music and meet all the charming creatures of the Valley along the way.”

First off, yes, Yula is back! Our lupine loonytune once again manages to clumsily collide herself into a comedic situation that’s going to cause much consternation in the Valley. Happily for Yula, and indeed Mr. Maximillian Cold, the denizens of the disguised dale are on hand to confuse matters further… I mean help sort the situation out and ensure a happy ending!

As with the first volume, whilst the offbeat story certainly greatly amuses and enchants with its curious setup and quirky characters, the art then gracefully elevates this to another level entirely. The sense of movement Carles Porta engenders in his exquisite illustrations is just remarkable. And even though this time around everyone is well wrapped up against the grey and white chilly weather he’s not spared the colour palette, going to town on everyone’s scarves and jackets! There’s some seriously flashy winter fashion on show in the Valley!

 

 

I think that Carles Porta must somehow have direct access to the fertile imaginations of small children because these works seem to capture the riotously fun madness that lies within their little heads just so perfectly. I think he’s an extremely talented creator and all I can say is roll on spring time with HAPPY VALLEY VOL 3, sub-titled THE BAND, which might just give a teensy-weeny little clue away as to what the note-perfect happy ending in question to this volume might be…

JR

Buy Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 2: Hello, Mister Cold and read the Page 45 review here

Tyler Cross: Angola h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Fabien Nury & Bruno…

“Tyler Cross regains consciousness in the dark. Right where he wanted to be – safe in the sweatbox.
“His wounds will heal. The Sicilians will back off for now.
“He has time to sleep, to think.
“All is good.”

Not entirely sure I would call having just narrowly escaped assassination by plucking a Mafia’s boss’s eyes out with a spoon, getting battered by guards, receiving thirty lashes from a lunatic insanely angry at the fact you’re not going to be bribing him anymore, before getting thrown in the sweatbox for several days ‘good’.

But then fortunately I’m not Tyler Cross…

 

 

Here is the rap sheet from the publisher to tell you why Tyler’s doing seriously hard, dangerous time in one of America’s most infamous prisons…

“Nury and Brüno (TYLER CROSS: BLACK ROCK) return to their noir antihero Tyler Cross in this ongoing European import series. In 1947, professional criminal Cross ends up on the wrong end of a supposedly risk-free job and finds himself a prisoner in Louisiana’s Angola State Farms.

The festering hellhole is mercilessly dictated over by sadistic warden Captain Kroeker and his small army of brutal guards, bolstered by a quartet of man-eating attack dogs – “Anyone thinking about running… me and my babies love hunting”.

 

 

The inmates’ days are a back-breaking tapestry of chain gang slave labour, where the slightest infraction results in torturous beatings and sometimes outright murder. Tough guy Cross stands a better chance than most, but among the inmates are Sicilian mafiosi whose boss has a hit out on him for a mysterious past betrayal.

While enduring ongoing trials and many plot twists, including the prisoners’ sexual exploitation by the warden’s wife with taciturn grit, Cross begins to plot an escape, made seemingly impossible by the prison’s remote location.

 

 

Nury and Brüno deliver a taut script and stark, moody artwork rendered in black, blue, and searchlight yellows. As intricately woven as the first instalment, this brutal, cool series remains recommended reading for crime thriller enthusiasts.”

That’s actually a really great synopsis and brief summation of the merits of the book. Perhaps the blurb writer has missed his calling as a trial lawyer. But seriously, nice to see a hype writer nailing it down so perfectly for us like a mafia stooge hammering someone’s tootsies into schnitzel.

I absolutely loved this pulpy lump of period noir crime. I’ll have to confess I haven’t read the first volume, but I’m certainly going to now. The blurb for that volume states “operating in a similar vein to Richard Stark’s classic Parker crime novels, the reader roots for the bad guy while being kept aware that he’s a vicious piece of work” and again, that sums up perfectly how I feel about Tyler Cross.

 

 

As a massive fan of Darwyn Cooke’s PARKER adaptations I can truly say that Tyler Crook is a stand up guy who more than measures up to the Don of master criminals himself in Parker. Story-wise Fabien Nury ensures you will indeed find yourself rooting for the hardass with a heart, not least because nearly everyone else in the story is such a complete unmitigated bastard!

Art-wise, whilst it would be nigh-on impossible for someone to match Cooke’s PARKER work, which is just utterly exquisite in every conceivable way, I have to say Bruno is bloody brilliant. He also captures that period feel perfectly, and the point of comparison style-wise I’m going to make, which given the dapper nature of the creator himself is not entirely inappropriate, would be Seth. Though this further benefits from a limited but intensely menacing colour palette. In fact, I had to check the silhouetted head on the front endpapers wasn’t drawn by Seth. Why it would be I have no idea, but anyway.

Let’s be honest, everyone likes seeing a bad guy trapped in an impossible situation. Just look at how much fun it is watching Theresa May having the ultimate bad one day in, day out right now! The only difference being that whilst I’d happily see Theresa May rot in a hell hole forever, I was desperate for Tyler Cross to escape…

JR

Buy Tyler Cross: Angola h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cretaceous (£13-99, Oni Press Inc.) by Tadd Galusha…

“When a Tyrannosaurus Rex is separated from its family unit, it embarks on a harrowing journey to reunite with them before the raw, real dangers of the Cretaceous Era separate them for good. This heart-wrenching story takes to the skies and dives into the sea-and explores everywhere in between in this research-based, fictional account written and illustrated by Tadd Galusha.”

Readers of a certain age – practically the Jurassic, it was that long ago – may well remember Ricardo Delgado’s hugely imaginative and impressively illustrated AGE OF REPTILES, a wordless feeding frenzy of T Rex and Velociraptors working their way down the frightened food chain like someone offered free happy meals for life at the local burger joint. If you’re not entirely fossilised by now under the weight of much collapsed Cambrian canopy and do happen to vaguely remember loving that, well, look no further, you will love this.

 

 

Actually, you should also look at the excellent fourth instalment of Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci’s wordless wildlife watch that is LOVE: THE DINOSAUR.

Artistically, though, this has much more in common with Ricardo Delgado’s material, even down to the startled expressions on the panicky dino-faces as a huge predator comes crashing through the bushes not remotely fussed about their side-order of fries and milk shake.

 

 

I’m pleased the publisher clarified this was a fictional account, though, as I was starting to wonder whether Tadd had access to a time machine like the classic dinosaur farming catastrophe from the pages of 2000AD that was simply titled FLESH.

Anyway… in terms of showcasing the livestock of the epoch we really do get an up close and personal tour of practically all the animals alive at the time. I think even David Attenborough would be impressed at how many Tadd manages to fit in! Though there certainly aren’t quite so many left alive by the end…

 

 

The silent storytelling is excellent, again certainly comparable to AGE OF REPTILES, you have a real sense of being the proverbial prehistoric fly on the wall watching in. Though obviously there were no walls at the time and even if there were the flies would have been so huge they would have probably knocked them straight over…

So if, in summary, you fancy a second course of dinosaur dietary delights or indeed simply wish to sample a degustation of dinosaur dainties for the very first time please just tuck in. Even vegetarians like myself are certain to enjoy…

JR

Buy Cretaceous and read the Page 45 review here

Beasts Of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men h/c (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin & Benjamin Dewey…

“Don’t puff your chest out too far. We knew Tommy was an imposter. Just like we knew we walking into a trap.”
“That true, Tommy? Did they know that?”
“We are called wise dogs, you know. Not daft dogs.”

The conjuring canines return in their most stressfully horrific adventure yet as Evan Dorkin once again puts our favourite pack of man’s best friends – and protectors from mystic malfeasance – through their paces before awarding the top prizes for perilous prestidigitation.

Or something like that… I think I might have eaten one too many dog biscuits…

 

Here is the pedigree from the publisher to bark out a more balanced breeding report…

“This eight-time Eisner Award-winning comic book series blending fantasy and humour features the adventures of paranormal pets investigating the horrors of Burden Hill. A heroic pack of canines known as the Wise Dogs sets off on a mission to clean up a Pennsylvania corridor plagued by seemingly unrelated occult disturbances that include a fire salamander and a horde of mutant lurkers.

 

 

A link is found among the various disturbances, leading our heroes to a mountain village inhabited by a survivalist witch-cult who have discovered the existence of a ‘Blood Lure’ attracting occult forces, creatures, and many more terrors to Burden Hill!”

 

 

As genuinely horrific as the likes of Mike Mignola’s HELLBOY and BPRD material to my mind, and certainly just as well written, this verges on truly psychologically disturbing terror in places, but also has many moments of canine-based charm and black humour that won’t come as any surprise to fans of Evan’s other works such as DORK and THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB.

Benjamin Dewey picks up the paints this time around, and perhaps one of the biggest compliments I can give him is that I didn’t actually realise it wasn’t Jill Thompson for ages.

 

 

For a much more in-depth review of the first volume – which you don’t have to read before this one, but you really ought to read it anyway as it is utterly brilliant – please see Stephen going the full Barbara Woodhouse on BEASTS OF BURDEN: ANIMALS RITES which is now out in softcover.

WALKIES!!! To the till of course!

JR

Buy Beasts Of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men h/c and read the Page 45 review here

3D Sweeties h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Julian Glander…

“Listen… I have a confession… I’m not actually a dog. I just have a weird face.”
“You… you lied to me?”
“I didn’t have the heart to tell you the truth. You were having such a good time.”
“That’s… the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

Purple slime mold “A” (let’s call them “A” because I don’t know their name, or indeed very much about them, other than they seem a bit dim) has clearly had a tough life, if that’s truly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for them. But then, I don’t really know much about the life of slime molds of any colour… Although I can’t imagine it is a particularly pleasant existence perpetually having chemicals poured into you before having them forcibly popped out of you again.

Anyway… why don’t we let the publisher see if they can plop something out which will make more sense of this squidgy-coated manic mess of mirthful material.

“Hilariously absurd stories set in a digital, pastel-hued universe, crafted by one of the most original artists working in animation, video games, and gifs. Glander’s debut collection of comics assembles the best of his thoroughly original short stories, which originally appeared online on sites such as VICE.

Set on a three-dimensional plane, Glander’s stories feature cute, emoji-like characters who deal with twenty-first-century (and beyond!) problems like interior decorating woes, amorous microbiology, and where to find the absolute most aspirational succulents.

 

 

Fall in love with ‘America’s favorite mug,’ Cuppy.

 

 

Hear the familial bickering of sentient purple slime molds. Encounter Susan Something and her unusual attitudes about gaming culture and conceptual art. But most of all, marvel at the playful, absurd look into our online lives that is 3D Sweeties, a book that looks and reads like no comic ever created before.”

Bit hyperbolic, that last clause, but I’ll let it slide over me like a slippery slime surprise as this is indeed rather good fun. It is certainly hilariously absurd, by which I mean the humour is certainly not straightforward gag material and I don’t believe it will appeal to everyone.

 

 

Some of the stories have considerable nuance, depth and satirical social commentary going on, but you will also need to appreciate completely pointless stupidity to get the most out of this, otherwise it might leave you slightly cold, like a bucket of slime tipped down your trousers…

Okay, I will stop with the slime gags now.

Once you’ve opened the satisfyingly squashy, spongy cover, the art, which takes bright and vibrant to whole new levels, will punch you straight in the face. Clearly produced on a computer, which I guess if you are one of “the most original artists working in animation” shouldn’t be a total surprise, this has the madcap feel of the likes of the Gumball cartoon, though weirdly it also reminded me of dear old plasticine Morph as well. You almost feel like the characters are going to start moving inside the panels. Well, I did, anyway! Meanwhile the colour palette is like a smashed up packet of Refreshers. I’ll just leave you with that image… <slime drop>

JR

Buy 3D Sweeties h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Defenders: The Best Defense s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing, Chip Zdarsky, Gerry Duggan, Jason Latour & Simone Di Meo, Carlos Magno, Greg Smallwood…

“And NOW… knock, knock.”
“Hnh. Who’s there?”

I’ll let the publisher answer that question!

“Doctor Strange! The Hulk! Namor the Sub-Mariner! The Silver Surfer! An unsolvable murder. An aquatic doorway to nothingness. A wanderer at the end of time. And a cosmic train of planetary proportions. Four seemingly unrelated events that will require the powers and insights of the greatest non-team of all.

Only they can connect the dots and challenge the strange power behind these disconnected happenings before all of reality pays the price! But Doctor Strange is…dead? Namor has declared war on the surface world! The Surfer once more serves Galactus! And the Hulk is…Immortal! Estranged and distressed can these former allies come together in time to stave off a crisis of cosmic proportions? Don’t call them a team – call them the Defenders! Collecting IMMORTAL HULK: DEFENDERS, NAMOR: DEFENDERS, DOCTOR STRANGE: DEFENDERS, SILVER SURFER: DEFENDERS and DEFENDERS: THE BEST DEFENSE.”

Well, good to see the hype writer can connect the full stops and exclamation marks, if not actually use any commas. That was all a bit breathless, wasn’t it? I wonder if the Hulk was sitting on them?

 

 

Anyway, a rare-ish review for a supes book purely because I really rather enjoyed this. I can still remember the “Whaddya Mean, Non-Team?” proclamation on the front cover of my Marvel UK Weekly reprint of THE DEFENDERS #1. I must have read that issue a million times. That original run of THE DEFENDERS which went on to feature various other characters and get pretty weird in places indeed (the elf with a gun, anyone…?) was a genuine classic run.

So it was with my nostalgia head on that I gave this a whirl and whilst it is certainly no HAWKEYE or MISTER MIRACLE, the talented team of writers and artists involved such as Al Ewing who’s IMMORTAL HULK is my pick of the current Marvel books, make this self-contained yarn a real fun romp that will appeal to old school fans and new ones alike.

 

 

It’s a relay race of a story that passes from character to character rather than a traditional collective team-up, I guess staying true to the original non-team ethos that thus allows each writer to give their particular character their full turn in the (Marvel) spotlight.

 

 

Yes, of course, things start to overlap and intertwine with the obligatory bickering that was also a hallmark of the early Defenders material but as a whole it is perfectly well written tights-and-capes tomfoolery that tickled my nostalgia funny bone in just the right way.

JR

Buy Defenders: The Best Defense s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

A Mouse Called Julian h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton

Gamayun Tales vol 3: Tanya Of The Lake (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

Stray Bullets – Sunshine & Roses vol 4: The Salad Days (£17-99, Image) by David Lapham

Love & Rockets: Is This How You See Me? h/c  (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez

Deconstructing The Metabarons h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Christophe Quillien & Juan Gimenez

Egg Cream vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Czap Books / Silver Sprocket) by Liz Suburbia

Guardians Of The Louvre h/c (UK Edition) (£17-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

Jesusfreak h/c (£15-99, Image) by Joe Casey & Benjamin Marra

Sandman vol 6: Fables & Reflections (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot, P. Craig Russell, Kent Williams, Jill Thompson, Stan Woch, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Duncan Eagleson

Tyler Cross: Black Rock h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Fabien Nury & Bruno

Ye s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Guilherme Petreca

Batman: Detective Comics vol 9: Deface The Face s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by James Robinson & Stephen Segovia, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Stephen Segovia

Teen Titans vol 1 (actually vol 4): Full Throttle s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Adam Glass & Bernard Chang, Robson Rocha with Scott Hanna

Marvel Universe: The End s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Bloodborne vol 2: Healing Thirst s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Blame! – The Electrofishers’ Escape (Movie Edition) (£11-99, Vertical Comics) by Tsutomu Nihei & Koutarou Sekine

Goblin Slayer vol 3 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week four

March 27th, 2019

Featuring Cathy G. Johnson, Emma Yarlett, Kevin Panetta, Savanna Ganucheau, Alexander Matthews, Wilbur Dawbarn, Guillaume Singelin, Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Scott Snyder, Philip Tan and more

Bloom (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau.

Oh what a breath of fresh coastal air in beach-glass blues whose depths, especially at night, you can sink into!

There’s the pallid, ghostly glow of the cell phone across Ari’s face as he lies back on his bed – ever so tentatively hopeful about a bravely sent text message, then resigned about receiving any reply – and the fireworks in an evening sky, viewed from a hillside vantage point, are as thrilling for the reader as they are for those sharing an early, intimate moment.

Over and again, Panetta and Ganucheau display a profound understanding that there are pivotal moments in our lives that will linger with us forever. Accordingly, they let those quietly moving scenes play themselves out during the satisfied silence that follows, for example panning away across a front garden to a flourish of foliage beyond.

And at a full 350 pages, they are afforded plenty of space to do so.

 

 

Recommended especially to those of you who relished the Tamaki cousins’ astutely observed THIS ONE SUMMER, BLOOM is as much about the myriad broader aspects of any friendship – both established and burgeoning – as it is about the romantic affections gradually stirring then establishing themselves in young Ari’s heart, for the first time ever in his life towards any other individual.

I think we can all relate to that: the puzzle as to what one is feeling which can take months to figure out; the yearning for more in the meantime, the gut-churning hollow during any brief absence and, above all, the not-knowing as to whether those acute sentiments and physical sensations are reciprocated in part or at all which David Bowie so consummately communicated in ‘Stay’.

How do you even broach the subject? Will it ruin things if you do…?

 

 

It just so happens to be towards another lad, a slightly older youth called Hector with a positive, even and balanced maturity beyond his years which makes him almost unknowable to a more turbulent mind like Ari’s, for Ari has no idea what he wants from life other than, he believes, to escape what he considers to be the confines of his family bakery business for a more creative life in a much bigger and more culturally fertile metropolis.

Hector, meanwhile, is a beaming ray of practical and positive sunshine, and although far from overconfident he is the first to see the best in others, like Ari’s parents practising the delicate art of stretching phyllo pastry dough in perfect harmony and with consummate skill.

“It’s beautiful.”
“What? The phyllo?”
“Yeah. They’re in sync. It’s so cool.”

Notice the absence of any contradiction, Hector instead moving on to what moves him. A page later Hector expands:

“I would love to have something like that… To be on a team with someone… and to be better together than you ever could be alone.”

 

 

 

Hector has an idea about what he wants, partly because he’s also experienced what he doesn’t want: a relationship that wasn’t in synch but overly reliant and over-clingy. Ari only learns that Hector’s had this relationship with a guy by overhearing halfway through. It startles Ari as much for the normality and so casual, unguarded candour of the conversation as for its revelation, but it neither alarms him nor turns him into a suddenly self-aware sea of raging hormones. It’s simply something to be pondered – not brooded upon – because it’s time for all the friends to have fun at the fair instead…

All of which is to be applauded. All of it!

To their enormous credit, the creators avoid clichés whilst dotting down markers instead which we can all recognise in our own and others’ lives, regardless of our sexuality:

The first romantic physical touch, when Hector unexpectedly grabs Ari’s wrist – superb focus, there –  in an exhilarating, shared “Let’s get out of here!” manoeuvre.

 

 

There’s that shared firework display and rooftop flat-on-your-back star-gazing experience (it may have been cloud shapes for you) in which one learns from the other’s prior knowledge, thoughts or experience.

Then there’s the incremental bonding over, again, shared pleasures, like baking bread together, wherein the more sweeping, organic border panels are demarked by blooms of floral bunting.

 

 

I won’t list which specific, seemingly mandatory stepping stones are refreshingly omitted for fear of spoiling surprises and deflecting your attention from what is so wonderful here. Instead, one of the things I loved best was Hector’s firm-but-fair attitude in not settling for second best and having learned from a previously clingy, cloying relationship and so not putting up with what he would be far too kind to call emotional blackmail in a relationship that is burgeoning but has not yet even established itself!

“I’m back!”
“What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean? I came back a day early. I saw some friends and decided I wanted to get back to work! I missed this place.”

Hector came back a day early, even though he was with friends whom he hadn’t seen in yonks, because he wanted to see Ari! If you were Ari, wouldn’t your heart flutter…?

“Well welcome back.”

That’s flat.

“Hey, what’s going on?”
“Stop!”

Hector gingerly releases Ari’s arm.

“Okay…Sorry… Are you okay?”
“No! You left me here, Hector! Like I just didn’t matter. And I’m obviously not important to my friends.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m useless to my family. I just don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Ari. Nobody knows what they’re doing. You’re not alone in that.”
“Don’t act like you understand me. If you did, you wouldn’t have left me here.”

Oh. So here’s your pick-a-plot moment:

Do you sweep cute Ari into your arms and tell him you understand everything and that you’ll never leave him again?

Do you give him a slap and tell him to wise up to what he’s got going on for him, sugar, not least with a hot stud like you?

Do you say, “Well, I have evidently not been patient enough, so please do explain, for I am here to listen indefinitely to your petulant whinges”?

Or do you write and draw the next two panels instead, which are far from obvious but absolute class, then leave yet another double-page spread space to breathe…

And breathe out.

 

 

There’s some startlingly bad behaviour in evidence both on the part of Ari – who has a lot of growing up to do, but didn’t we all before we grew up? Have I grown up? – and within his circle of friends, so please don’t mistake this for one long cheesy grin. I’ve read some of those books and they bored me rigid. There are harsh times ahead for almost everyone, but also resilience and cake.

I leave you with re-stated admiration for Panetta & Ganucheau, but also for David Bowie because, boy, did this resonate with me, aged 17, from ‘Stay’:

“Stay…

“That’s what I meant to say or do something.
But what I never say is stay this time.
I really meant to so badly this time.

“‘Cause you can never really tell
When somebody wants something
You want too…”

SLH

Buy Bloom and read the Page 45 review here

The Breakaways s/c (£9-99, FirstSecond Books) by Cathy G. Johnson…

“Okay girls, we didn’t do very well last game. Why do you think that is? Sammy?”
“We suck?”
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”
“Haha! Okay okay, girls girls. Now, c’mon girls, think more positively. Anyone else? Zoe, what do you think?”
“I hate running.”
“YES! That is one thing. What else? Molly?”
“We suck?”
“Okay okay okay, just for that, everyone has to run ten laps! MOVE MOVE MOVE!”

Haha, well they really do suck. But, given that this not remotely about football, it really doesn’t matter. Yes, I think we can safely say Roy Race will not be reading this to glean any coaching tips for Melchester Rovers… He could however pick up much useful information on how to build a harmonious and happy dressing room from a disparate set of social misfits and malcontents. Yes, the subtitle of “Bad At Soccer, Okay At Friends” just sums this up perfectly!

 

 

Here are the program notes from the comics chairman to rally the team and tell us all about the buy a pint, get a pie free offer.

“Faith, an introverted fifth grader with a vivid imagination, starts middle school worrying about how she will fit in. To her surprise, Amanda, a popular eighth grader, convinces her to join the school soccer team, the Bloodhounds. Having never played soccer in her life, Faith ends up on the C team, a ragtag group with a tendency for drama over teamwork.

Despite their losing streak, Faith and her fellow teammates form strong bonds both on and off the soccer field, which challenge their notions of loyalty, identity, friendship, and unity. The Breakaways is a positive exploration of the complexity of female friendships, as well as the ups and downs of middle school life.

Cathy G. Johnson brings this diverse and spirited group of girls to life with her joyful art style and honest, thoughtful writing.”

Yes she does, I must say. I found this exploration of friendship in its many different forms as well written and moving as NIMONA with a dash of the daft of the likes of LUMBERJANES and BAD MACHINERY thrown in for good measure too. I nearly said GIANT DAYS, which is of course a fabulous exploration of female friendship with added sauce liberally splashed all over it, but unlike GIANT DAYS this is most definitely all-ages fare, though there are most certainly elements of sensitively dealt with romance as well as much platonic playfulness.

 

 

It’s all about coming to terms with understanding who you are and what you want from your friendships with others, working towards those aims without trampling all over other people’s proverbial toes, and how to deal with the odd, spectacular relationship own goal.

 

 

I thought Cathy G. Johnson weaved the multiple story strands together like a silky skilled striker gliding effortlessly through a mesmerised defence. She certainly doesn’t play favourites, though, as she frequently pits her characters against each other and also even against themselves. Especially themselves perhaps…

Art-wise, it is probably closest in style to some of the LUMBERJANES material, though you will also undoubtedly spot several snippets of many other all-ages favourites in there too. It’s bright and lively yet works just as well for the tender, touching moments. Of which there are plenty, including some touching moments that are very tenderly done too, if you follow my semantics.

A veritable triumph of how teamwork is always better than trying to go it alone if you can just overcome your fears and add your skills to the collective, be that a friendship or a football team. Accept no substitutes!

JR

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

Dragon Post h/c (£10-99, Walker Books) by Emma Yarlett.

Pockets! Pockets of post!

You’ll find interactive pockets of post inside, the envelopes already torn open by small hands which, quite rightly, should go nowhere near a sharp letter knife! Their individual postmarks are funny, as are the letters inside!

Now, Early Learning is very important and I don’t just mean reading skills, although they’re vital too. One of the only things I rue about being so blatantly unfit for parenting is that I don’t get to read to my kids at night, or listen to them read to me. To be clear: I don’t have any children. See “unfit…” etc.

However, life lessons learned early on are equally essential, and here your small human will learn exactly what to do should a big Day-Glo red dragon come to live with them. Government statistics show that this is an increasing common phenomenon, so best be prepared!

 

 

One day young Alex finds a big Day-Glo red dragon has come to live with him in the cupboard under his stairs. Actually, it’s more of a cellar which is thankfully both a little roomier and the perfect choice for maximum visual impact: the daylight floods in from the hallway, illuminating the fork-tailed, scaly lummox whose form positively radiates against the pitch black darkness. Also note the sense of scale: just like Luke Pearson in HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT and Bryan Hitch in ULTIMATES SEASON ONE Emma Yarlett understands that a character needs to challenge its confines and bleed off the page while bending down in order to impress upon the observer just how gigantic they are.

Anyway, Alex finds himself in a quandary:

“I hoped it would stay.
“I’ve always wanted a DRAGON!”

Who hasn’t?

“But… this little dragon looked like it might set FIRE to the HOUSE…
“So I did the obvious thing.
“I wrote to the FIRE BRIGADE.”

 

 

Exhibit number one, then, is the fire brigade’s response which, as you’d expect, is calm, formal, authoritative, practical, detailed and — it is not!!! Far from self-assured, it is one long alarmist panic which pours the proverbial petrol on an already flammable situation before suggesting that Alex douses the dragon with water every day.

“The dragon LOVED it.”

It did not!

“I could tell.”

Hmmmm…

 

 

Lovely contradiction between the text and art, there, just like almost everything by Jon Klassen including SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, written by Mac Barnett. If I were that fish in the fishbowl, whose waters are waiting to be sacrificed to Project Douse The Dragon, I’d be a little less sedate. Nevertheless, it eyeballs Alex accusingly.

Now that we have the not inconsiderable matter of Health & Safety sorted out, it’s time to move onto Nutrition. Not having enjoyed the benefit of a dragon’s dietary requirements as expertly detailed by Philippa Rice in ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON, Alex discovers that jam sandwiches simply don’t cut the mustard. I’d have tried Nutella and crisps in the softest white bread you can bake. I’m not just a cook, I am a chef!

See “unfit for parenting”.

This time Alex turns to a butcher selling “Sam & Ella’s free-range eggs” whose slogan is “nice to meat you”. So that looks promising. He receives a salivating reply within which:

“Your dragon sounds… delicious.
“I wonder if I could taste eat meet your dragon at your earliest convenience.”

 

 

There are several other worrisome issues, not least of which are the disquieted neighbours, and the solicitors are equally funny, but one should remember above all that dragons aren’t renowned for being domesticated and taking them for daily walks is impractical: they need to stretch their wings as well as their legs, so daily flights are advised. Thankfully, you can simply sit on their backs rather than exert yourself too.

This sounds ideal for someone like me. I had a retriever called Leela who refused to retrieve. You’d lob a length of green garden hose about the size of a decent bone as far away as you could, and she’d certainly attempt to locate then grab it, but then you’d have to chase the lolloping, ecstatic hound for a full five minutes before she’d even begin to consider surrendering her prize. Yup, our dog definitely understood the importance and entertainment value of exercising her teenage boy several times daily.

 

 

Aaaaaanyway (reprise), this is a mischievous joy whose cover stands out on Page 45’s Young Readers shelves like some radioactive meteorite.

And it has pockets! Did I mention the pockets? Interactive pockets!

I am a sucker for any sort of interaction, especially one which requires me to pluck something out then pop it back in, like Eeyore and his burst balloon in ‘Winnie The Pooh’ on his birthday.

SLH

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

Useleus – A Greek Oddity (£9-99, Bog-Eyed Books) by Alexander Matthews & Wilbur Dawbarn…

“Minotaur, why are we on a hill in the middle of nowhere?”
“Read that note I gave you again.”
“It says, “Stop asking stupid questions.” But I never ask stupid questions!”
“This morning you asked me who the first ever person to fold towels was!”

Just to stop you asking any questions like “What is this madness?” here is the publisher’s parchment scroll of stoopid to reveal all…

“From battling giants, to outwitting gods, to clashes with mythical creatures, Ancient History has never been more fun! An Asterix for the 21st Century, Useleus is skilfully written by Alexander Matthews and nimbly drawn by Wilbur Dawbarn. Leaping from the hallowed pages of popular children’s weekly comic, The Phoenix, USELEUS channels Ancient History through the madcap eyes of two renowned Beano and Dandy creators, Alex Matthews and Wilbur Dawbarn.”

Haha, I think Useleus’ mental capacities are much more in line with Sergio Aragones’ GROO as Asterix always had a bit of crafty smarts to go with his moustache and muscles, but poor old Useleus is the veritable empty gourd, all sound and no substance. Fortunately for him, though, much like Groo has his loyal canine companion Rufferto to patiently steer him in the right direction, or at least save him from total catastrophe, Useleus has the mighty Minotaur, now retired from labyrinth lurking and having taken on the mantle of teacher to his dimwit charge.

 

 

All the Grecian errr… classics of classics are here to confound, confuse and repeatedly marmalise our ‘hero’. We’ve got monsters aplenty including the three-headed Chimera and the riddling Sphinx, gallant legends such as Icarus and Achilles, plus vengeful gods such as Hera, Hades and the ever uppity, cantankerous granddaddy / daddy / brother of them all Zeus.

 

 

Even a passing knowledge of Greek history will ensure you know most of the set ups, including one involving a certain giant wooden horse… Watch Useleus blunder his way through adventure after adventure and somehow make it out alive, if never actually unscathed. He’s a tough cookie, I’ll give him that.

 

 

Fans of previous Bog Eyed Book publications such as Gary Northfield’s THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS and DEREK THE SHEEP plus DEREK THE SHEEP: FIRST SHEEP IN SPACE will undoubtedly love the level of utterly ridiculous and indeed the frenetic, frolicking art style. This is stoopid done right!

 

 

If for some reason, though, you’re more of a consequential cove and take a rather more highbrow approach to your ancient sequential scroll-based learnin’ please do check out Gareth Hinds THE ODYSSEY and THE ILLIAD, which despite being at the absolute other end of the sensible spectrum is just as superb in its own rather, well considerably more, serious right.

JR

Buy Useleus – A Greek Oddity and read the Page 45 review here

PTSD h/c (£19-99, FirstSecond Books) by Guillaume Singelin…

“I really need your help. I don’t have anywhere else to go.
“I got shot, but I can’t fix myself up. It’s these gangs. They control all the medicine.
“They know that they’re the only option.
“So they do whatever they want to us. I can tell you’re a vet, too.
“I’m sorry to come here begging for help, but I’m lost…”
“Hmmph, fine.”

She’s a people person, our Jun. Here are her discharge notes from the publisher’s medic to tell us why…

“After returning home from an unpopular war, Jun becomes an outsider in an indifferent world. Alone, desperate, and suffering from wounds both mental and physical, she seeks relief in the illicit drugs she manages to purchase or steal. Jun’s tough exterior served her well in combat, but she’ll need to nurture her vulnerability and humanity to survive at home.

 

 

With the support of her fellow vets, the kindness of a stranger who refuses to turn away, and the companionship of a dog named Red, Jun learns to navigate the psychological trauma that she experienced in the war.”

Urmm… I think you forgot the one-woman crusade on the drug gangs that in fact forms a not insignificant part of the story…? It’s all a bit John J. Rambo in the classic original First Blood film about a disaffected Vietnam veteran returning home to a country that doesn’t want him mixed with Charles Bronson in full-on Death Wish wiping out the bad guys mode. A quiet reflective musing on the terrible toll PTSD takes on soldiers, this is not. Though Jun’s PTSD does indeed give perfect credence to her current situation and emotional turmoil.

 

 

I just wanted to be clear that this is primarily part action yarn, part redemption story, albeit with sufficient time given to the PTSD aspect of Jun’s bundle of problems that it does more than just pay lip service to it. But as a work of pure fast-paced fiction I certainly enjoyed it.

The excellent art is a heady melange of many, many, many current contemporary creators such Jen GARBAGE NIGHT Lee, Bryan SECONDS O’ Malley, Enrico VENICE CHRONICLES Casarosa etc. etc. (I really could go on and on) but manages to achieve its own fluid style, ably abetted by truly excellent colouring that really consolidates what could otherwise be perhaps a touch too light and gentle linework for such kinetic activity.

 

 

I did find myself occasionally losing my thread, which might be down to the actual sequential storytelling itself, but it’s a small-ish criticism and actually perhaps given the main protagonist’s issues a tiny loss of occasional coherence isn’t entirely inappropriate…

JR

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

Crowded vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Ro Stein, Ted Brandt.

Originally this was going to have been called CROWDFUNDEAD, which amused me greatly.

I’ll tell you why in a while. This is ever so clever and fresh.

As the cover to SOMETHING CITY made comically clear, we really should share our lawnmowers. Given how modest most of our lawns are, there are a ridiculous number of lawnmowers per suburban square mile.

But we are learning to share more: carpools for school have long been common; now some rent out their homes while on holiday. Then there’s the multiple job front whereby students take part-time work while studying and others take on a second and even third job to supplement their primary wages. Plus, there is now an app for everything.

Sebela has combined all three phenomena and pushed them along the trajectory they look like heading towards their logical, perhaps inevitable, conclusions.

 

 

So imagine an imminent future with even more flexibility in which we rent out, while we’re not using them, our houses, our cars (they don’t half sit idle for most of the day, even week!) and even our best clothes which we wear only to weddings. It does make sense, yes? We probably still won’t share that packet of Maltesers: some things are sacred, after all. Then we take out bit-jobs – a bash at babysitting, a dash of dog walking, a few hours ferrying folks about as a taxi service – all bid for and booked via cell-phone apps called Dogstroll, CitySitter, Kloset for clothes and ‘Palrent’ for when you want some idle company.

Charlotte Ellison embarks on all manner of such innocent yet lucrative activities on a daily basis. So why has someone trying to kill her?

 

 

Ah, well, they’re not exactly. Instead they’ve Kickstarted a campaign on Reapr, raising a not inconsiderable $1,257,642, with 2,249 backers committed to kill Charlotte Ellison. Someone’s popular – or unpopular.

And remember, in a world where any of us might try our hands a anything for a couple of hours if the money’s right, who knows what sort of amateur assassins might take the gig at the right bid? You’ll not see them coming.

Fortunately you can hire bodyguards with equal ease and that’s where Vita Slatter comes in. She may have the lowest rating on Dfend, but she too is wondering why someone might want Charlotte dead.

“Did you cut a guy off in traffic? Act rude to cashier? [Please don’t do that.] Borrow something years ago and forget to return it?”

Structured so that the past day’s recollection is split between action sequences, the first issue clapped along at a cracking pace, with an assured sense of off-hand humour and expressive outrage reminiscent of GIANT DAYS. I loved Ro Stein’s cross-section of Vita’s hopefully safe house, using its rooms stairs and landing as panels, with an ever so clever about-turn to keep the left-to-right reading flow.

 

 

Lastly, there’s a subtle little clue as the TV screen goes blank and plenty of pictures which betray the lies on people’s lips. That’s good comics, is that.

SLH

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

Dark Nights Metal – Dark Knights Rising s/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke.

““D.C.” You wondered what it means, but think about it Bobo… brother…
““Detective Chimp.”
“We’ve watched your life. Immortality has its rewards. We got this fixed back in 2067. The 53rd world is here to help. So… ready to save the Universe, Bobo?”

So that’s what DC means. And obviously Bobo is, now he’s not losing his marbles. The concluding issue in this collection, DARK KNIGHTS RISING: THE WILD HUNT #1, is a glorious rip-snorting ruckus of MULTIVERSITY-inspired madness featuring everyone’s favourite simian Sherlock. Errr… what do you mean you’ve never heard of him?

As I was reading this, I thought it felt like a Morrison-penned portion of malarkey, so wasn’t remotely surprised to find him co-credited on this issue. No idea of precisely how much he was involved, or if it is purely to acknowledge the use of several of his concepts and characters, but it has the feel of being touched by Morrison at least… which is the typically rum and uncanny sensation you would expect.

 

 

The other seven issues: BATMAN: THE RED DEATH #1, BATMAN: THE DEVASTATOR #1, BATMAN: THE MERCILESS #1, BATMAN: THE MURDER MACHINE #1, BATMAN: THE DROWNED #1, BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1, THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 are essentially mad What If? – or perhaps I should say Evil Elseworld – mash-ups each featuring a Batman, and in one case a Batwoman, from an Earth in the Multiversity lost to the dark, who has somehow merged or blended or become corrupted with someone else, those unfortunates being: Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aqua Woman, Green Lantern and just for good measure, the Joker.

 

 

So, in other words, these are the origin stories of all the bad guys deployed by the demon Barbatos in the main DARK NIGHTS: METAL series. These creation cameos are all, I must add, fabulously good fun and tortuously and frankly quite sadistically well thought out. So whilst you absolutely do not need this volume to help you understand the metallic mayhem, I can certainly recommend it.

JR

Buy Dark Nights Metal – Dark Knights Rising s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

 

 

3D Sweeties h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Julian Glander

Barrier Limited Edition Slipcase Set (£23-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin

Catwad: It’s Me (£7-99, Scholastic) by Jim Benton

Cretaceous (£13-99, Oni Press Inc.) by Tadd Galusha

Jim Henson’s Beneath The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Adam Smith & Alexandria Huntington

Lumberjanes vol 11: Time After Crime (£10-99, Boom Entertainment) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo

Middle-Earth: Journeys In Myth And Legend h/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by Donato Giancola

Our Super Adventure vol 1: Press Start To Begin h/c (£13-99, Oni Press) by Sarah Graley

Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 2: Hide And Seek s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Stumptown vol 4: The Case Of The Cup Of Joe s/c (£17-99, Oni Press) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood

Sunstone vol 6 s/c (£14-99, Top Cow) by Stjepan Sejic

Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 2: Hello, Mister Cold (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Carles Porta

Flash vol 9: Reckoning Of The Forces s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Christian Duce, Scott Kolins

Mera: Tidebreaker s/c (£14-99, DC) by Danielle Paige & Stephen Byrne

Super Sons Book 1: The Polarshield Project s/c (£8-99, DC) by Ridley Pearson & Ile Gonzalez

Defenders: The Best Defense s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing, Chip Zdarsky, Gerry Duggan, Jason Latour & Simone Di Meo, Carlos Magno, Greg Smallwood

Ms. Marvel vol 10: Teenage Wasteland s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & various

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 10 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week three

March 20th, 2019

In which we issue a Neil Gaiman Sandman alert….

Asleep In The Back (£5-00) by Tim Bird…

“Lindum Drive
“Goose Lane
“Bawtry Road
“Towards the motorway
“Hypnotised by traffic rhythms
“And monotone radio.”

The master of comics psychogeography returns, in part, to the theme where he and I first met. I remember very well just how entranced I was upon reading his GREY AREA #2 – THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK, a paean to the much maligned and misunderstood Great British motorway network. It’s sadly out of print now, but happily this work brings back wistful memories of my first Tim Bird experience, and indeed also long car journeys as a child.

 

 

If you’d like to be touched by Tim Bird then I heartily recommend GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN, THE GREAT NORTH WOOD, ROCK & POP and THE ROCKET. Go on, you won’t regret it, trust me.

So here, first we see young Tim’s experiences as a nipper being taken by his parents along with his sister to visit his grandparents for Sunday lunch…

 

 

…or more precisely the soothing, sleep-inducing vehicular voyage back to Oughtibridge before finally being carried upstairs oh so gently to bed by his dad.

 

 

Awwww…

Then we get some trademark temporal juxtaposition with a twist as adult Tim and his wife load their car up with their two kids and set off up the motorway for his parents. But immediately before that, there’s a page which, to me, perfectly sums up the magic Tim wields as we see him age from boy to man in three small square panels, superimposed over a motorway flyover bedecked in a continuous red line of sped-up car breaklights, with a full lunar cycle sequence bisecting the page.

The whole image alone is perfect, but there are also two sentences that neatly serve to underscore that Tim is also a master of words. He has a lyrical quality that flows so naturally creating its own imagery that perfectly complements the visual. His choice of words never fails to captivate me.

“Time drives onwards. Year after year like a constant stream of traffic flowing endlessly along the motorway.”

 

 

That it does.

He also does something I’ve never seen him do before, on the final page. I’m not going to spoil it, and I very much doubt it is something he will make a habit of, but if there was a more perfect, heart-meltingly beautiful way to end this work, I can’t think of it.

JR

Buy Asleep In The Back and read the Page 45 review here

Rock & Pop (£4-00, self-published) by Tim Bird…

“On Saturdays my dad would listen to Radio Sheffield on the way home from the football.
“They played pop music in between people phoning in to talk about the match.”

<“Sheffield Wednesday were awful today, we can’t keep playing like that…”>
<“Thanks for the call… we’ll get back to the football debate after some music… this is the new single from Belinda Carlisle…”>

“Heaven Is A Place On Earth is the first song that really stuck with me.
“I remember listening to the radio hoping to hear the song again, but they never seemed to play it after that.”

24 pages of pop perfection, and indeed imperfection (really, Tim… Boyzone! I would ask what on earth you were thinking but as you’ve freely admitted here, you’ve honestly no idea) from the man whose own talent for wordsmithery I rank amongst the finest in comics today.

 

 

It makes perfect sense, therefore, for someone so adroit in their use of the English language to be into such diverse musical offerings as the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Radiohead, Nirvana, Saint Etienne and Neil Young, plus more than a few groups I must confess to being entirely unfamiliar with.

 

 

In this brief chronology of Tim’s life to date he’ll take us on his very own magical musical mystery tour set against the backdrop of some mildly insignificant moments, plus some very significant ones. One scene detailed per page, each with its own particular musical selection. Sometimes the music is the lead, at other times merely the accompaniment.

Thus without giving anything away, the page featuring Tim and his girlfriend April going to see the Magnetic Fields in concert, well, I can completely understand why the track The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side is now forever burnt into his consciousness!

 

 

Many of the earlier pages are more about Tim discovering and getting into various artistes, reminding me wistfully of an age when we had all the time in the world to discover new aural pleasures, whereas it’s the latter pages where the music begins to take a more supporting role of soundtrack to life events.

It’s all combined with the typical Bird visual panache, even when baring his (musical) soul for our amusement, that’s seen him produce such moving and heart-warming delights as THE GREAT  NORTH WOOD, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN and GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA. He’s such a talented creator I bet he could even do a comic about snooker and make it a fascinating read… wait a minute, he has! Check out THE ROCKET.

 

 

Speaking of soundtracks, I’ll let Tim and April play you out to the sound of The Bulldozers with their Another Girl, Another Planet…

“You know how we’ll have been together ten years this year?”
“Hmmm.”
“Why don’t we get married?”
“Hmmm.”
“I’ve started putting some wedding ideas together…”
“Hmmm… I’ll sort out the music.”
“Hmmm.”

JR

Buy Rock & Pop and read the Page 45 review here

Brazen – Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World h/c (£17-99, Ebury Press) by Penelope Bagieu…

A heartfelt homage to women throughout history who never feared to stand out from the crowd and stand up for what they believe in.  And with 30 fabulously ferocious woman ensconced in this 296 page book, it packs just as much punch as its cover suggests.

In celebration of women from all walks of life, these are stories that exude passion and determination, whilst still being full of heart and loving humour. Each one as pleasurable to read as the last, this is a book you’ll want to have on standby, ready to plunge back into at a moment’s notice when the inspiration strikes.

I adore the opening choice of Clémentine Delait, a bearded lady living life to the fullest and giving zero fucks. What a babe! Another personal favourite included Margaret Hamilton, who embraced her unique appearance by giving a terrifying portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. But it was a line about her career following the dramatic events of the film that had me happily chuckling away in admiration: “When it comes to being scary, she is the best. She appears in an episode of Sesame Street. An episode the network takes off air for good after parents complain.” 

As an illustrator and a comicbook lover, taking a huge chunk of my heart, of course, is the tribute to Tove Jansson. I’ve always had a special love for the woman and this beautifully succinct story of her life, in the familiar primary pop colours of THE MOOMINS, is a small slice of perfection, only improved by its end page illustration of Tove and Tuulikki snuggled together reading a paper out on the lake surrounding their secluded cottage. Oh, how my heart did soar!

Danielle Ceccolini deserves a shout out of her own for the brilliant cover design. Emblazoned front and centre is a clenched fist raised high and powerful, gold and bold, almost trophy-like, the emanating rays highlighting its wonder. Portraits of some of the fantastic women depicted inside are artfully arranged around in bubblegum pink bubbles, which only just manage to contain their uniquely exuberant personalities.

 

 

A peppermint green background complements and highlights the pink wonderfully, which in this case is being used as a celebration of femininity and female identity. Pink is a powerful colour. It is bold, brash, vibrant and fun, much like the women whom you’re about to discover within the pages of this book. I’ll let Janelle Monáe sing us out… “We got the pink!”

JP

Buy Brazen and read the Page 45 Review here

Cult Of The Ibis h/c (£24-99, Fantagraphics) by Daria Tessler…

It’s like stereo surrealists Hans THE SQUIRREL MACHINE Rickheit and Theo THE UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth have had their DNA combined in a terrible accident involving a riso printer and decided the only thing they could possibly do was to carry on making comics. Or something. Here is the marginally more coherent explanation from the publisher for this madness…

“This exquisite and mostly silent graphic novel takes place in a fantasy cityscape loosely inspired by German expressionist films. Cult of the Ibis tells the story of an occultist getaway-driver who, after escaping with the loot from a bank robbery gone wrong, orders a build-your-own-homunculus kit and goes on the lam. Steeped in architecture and atmosphere, Tessler’s gorgeous cartooning fuels this strangely gripping yarn, which is packaged in a gorgeous hardcover design.”

 

 

Despite my recombinant ratiocination the closest singular point of comparison would have to be A. Degen’s MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER.

 It’s all so clear to you now isn’t it?

 …

 Could you explain it to me please?

 JR

Buy Cult Of The Ibis h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III.

Every bit as brilliant as you’ve been told, I honestly do consider this the finest mythology of the last century in any medium.

ALERT: the first re-coloured trade dress of SANDMAN volumes 1 to 10 is fast slipping out of print, so if you’re halfway through I strongly suggest you pick the rest up right now. At the time of typing we still have volumes 2 to 10, and will keep them in stock for as long as they remain available.

If you’ve yet to experience this exceptional epic, there have been five 30th Anniversary Edition volumes so far, all in stock. Gaiman’s most recent return to the series, SANDMAN: OVERTURE with PROMEHEA’s JH Williams III on art matches neither trade dress, so you can add that whenever you fancy.

Right, if you’re all tucked up comfortably in bed, here’s my introduction written a decade or so ago. Interior art by Mike Dringenberg from SANDMAN VOL 4: SEASON OF MISTS

 

 

Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals – though they can surely die – and they change as we change, for they are reflections of our everyday existence.

Destiny, cowled and quiet, holds in his hands the book of all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be.

Dream, his skin as white as the moon, his clothes the colour of midnight, is remote and cold and unforgiving, meticulous in his duties, obsessive when in love.

By contrast, Death, his older sister, is kind and compassionate and far better company than you’d image, although one day you’ll discover that for yourself.

Desire is fickle but irresistible: he/she will appear as the most beautiful woman or man you have ever seen, whereas their twin, Despair, is terrible to behold and terrible to endure.

Delirium doesn’t know what she is for most of the time, but in her rare, lucid moments she remembers many things, most tragically, perhaps, that she used to be Delight. But we are no longer content with mere joy – we demand it on drugs – and so Delirium she has become.

 

 

They are a family, like the Greek gods, and like most families they squabble, they fight and fall out.

One member of the Endless is missing. Who that is I will not tell you, nor why they went away or what might happen if they ever returned. All I will impart is that one member of The Endless is playing a very dangerous game, as another will soon discover…

Over the course of ten books and now prequel Neil Gaiman introduces us to The Endless and their roles in Morpheus’ story. This will draw him to Hell and back via ancient Africa, the East and Greece, Elizabethan England, the dreams of cats, a city preserved inside a bottle, and an American serial killer convention. It’s quite like a comicbook convention, only for psychopaths who get together and swap top tips.

 

 

You’ll meet Norse and Egyptian deities, demons and angels, Lucifer, Shakespeare, Barbie and Ken, Orpheus, the Faerie, and a host of contemporary individuals as they come into contact with Dream and his siblings, for The Endless have always played a role in our lives – often benign, sometimes less so – and none of them are above making mistakes.

Overwhelmingly this is a story about stories and story telling, about decisions and consequences, responsibility, growth and the power of dreams.

It opens in Britain in 1916 where an obsessive occultist, Roderick Burgess, is planning to live forever. In order to do that he must capture Death herself. He fails. He captures someone else instead, and it has ramifications all over the world until Roderick’s son makes a fateful error in 1988…

SLH

Buy Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Infinite Dark vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti…

“What were we seeing back there? That was an incredibly violent reaction, Deva… Do you want to talk to me about it?”
“The simulation degraded and a fucking shadow monster attacked me… what did you expect me to do?”
“You know that nothing in the sims can hurt us. I think there’s more to your reaction than just fight or flight. You just came face-to-face with The Black. Pure entropy. And it’s affected you.”

It’s hard to read in the dark, particularly the infinite kind of dark after the heat death of the universe, I would imagine. But it wasn’t hard to read this horror sci-fi mash-up; in fact I rather enjoyed it. Here is the invitation to the grand finale of existence and the after party from the publisher…

“The universe ended, but humanity survived. And for years, the passengers and crew of the vessel Orpheus found the endless void between realities to be a surprisingly peaceful home. Then they found a body – bloodied, brutalized, and surrounded by inscrutable runes. As Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the Orpheus’ first murder, she’ll come face-to-face with a horror from beyond the confines of time itself…”

If you are a fan of the likes of the classic schlock horror sci-fi film Event Horizon from 1997 with its tagline “Infinite Space, Infinite Terror”, this will be perfect for you. In comics sci-fi horror terms, I would say this falls between Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio’s CALIBAN and Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard’s BRINK. In horror terms, it is much more brooding and involved than the all-out gutripper that is CALIBAN, but isn’t as mysteriously engrossing and indeed clever as BRINK.

But it’s jolly good fun for what it is. Except for the characters trapped on the vessel Orpheus, obviously… with what appears to be their imaginations running riot and meltdowns occurring with increasing rapidity. No, it’s becoming a total living nightmare for them. Surely there couldn’t be anything else out there could there, because there is no out there…?

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the premise was genuinely creepy, how can the end of all reality as we know it possibly not be? The science aspects of how a tiny fraction of humanity has managed to survive it was well thought through, being sufficiently plausible (in science fiction terms at least) to suspend my disbelief. The horror element, when we finally get the explanation of that, works, just about, but then most horror of this type usually has some aspect of the preposterous to it, once you get right down to it. Ultimately this is reasonably well written entertaining slightly middle of the road fright-fun from Ryan Cady.

It actually feels like the end of this arc should be the end of the whole thing as it has a certain finality to it. Yet I note a new arc has been solicited and I can say I will be reading it. So he clearly has done enough to hook me.

Art-wise, Andrea ROME WEST / REBELS Mutti has also turned his hand to science fiction before on Zack Kaplan’s PORT EARTH, which I also note is finally coming back for more issues later this year. His crisp art combined with an eerie palette of aquamarine, cyan, pale blues and many other such colours in which dark shadows can hide and murderously emerge from – if they were real, that is – only add to the spooky atmosphere.

JR

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

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton…

“Every evening, Marcy loved to listen to the tales of her father’s adventures. She never quite believed him… After all, he was very old and far too portly.

“But at night, everything changed. The creatures from her father’s amazing tales turned into terrifying monsters in the shadows. Marcy felt utterly lost and alone in the dark. All she could do was close her eyes tight and wait for sunrise.”

Yes! After reading all about the adventures of Marcy’s dad, when he was just a slim whippersnapper himself in the fabulous ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE I can state two things with certainty. Firstly, I can vouch that he was indeed a formidable hero and secondly, that I was desperately hoping for more of the family Brownstone from Joe Todd-Stanton!

 

 

Once again, this time narrating from the splendour of the Brownstone family’s observatory, complete with a kaleidoscopically coloured telescope and a gigantic clockwork mobile of a galaxy spinning away merrily, the elder bearded Brownstone of the modern era has returned to reprise his introductory preamble to another member of his adventurous ancestors.

Before too long Marcy is plunged into a death-defying adventure of her own that will see her gamely battle ancient Gods in dusty Egypt for high stakes indeed. But first we see the replete, grey-bearded Arthur, complete with eye patch, attempting to take Marcy on her first gentle adventurous excursion into a cave, to surprise her by meeting the benevolent King of the Water Spirits, who looks like a sort of free-floating giant waterfall complete with beatific smile and a tiny crown.

 

 

However, upon reaching the entrance, surrounded by spooky shadows that look very much like the ones that plague her bedroom ceiling at night, little Marcy is frozen with fear and unable to proceed any further… But when Arthur disappears off on an errand to find a mysterious book and doesn’t return, Marcy decides she’s brave enough to head off after him to save the day. After all, in her eyes, her dad has trouble just bending over when he’s dropped his glasses!

 

 

Donning the cap Arthur always told her would summon the mighty bird Wind Weaver, more in hope than belief, Marcy is delighted to see the giant red-feathered friend waiting to whisk her away to lands far, far away in search of her father. And so, her first adventure truly begins! She’s going to encounter dangerous deities bent on world domination, stowaway on a flying boat floating through stunning night skies, brave terrible traps in subterranean, stygian depths, and of course, get to play a round of riddle-me-ree with the mysterious Sphinx itself!! But can Marcy manage to conquer her fear of the dark to rescue her dad…?

 

 

Of course she can!!

What a triumphant follow-up to the brilliant ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE this is! This has all the attention to detail in the exquisite art and madcap mayhem in its plotting that made its predecessor so swoon-worthy and gallantly gripping in my eyes. Once again, reading with Whackers, little fingers continually stopped me from turning the pages so she could take in each page in all its glorious detail, spotting hidden delights and tracing trails of potential doom narrowly avoided!

 

 

I can only add I’m already avidly awaiting the next instalment of the epic endeavours of the brave Brownstone brood!

JR

Buy Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Joe Quesada, Darick Robertson, Tom Mandrake.

Before the more hard-hitting, real-world PUNISHER MAX series written by PREACHER’s Garth Ennis came his more burlesque stab at the PUNISHER which occasionally incorporated the Marvel Universe. But in several stories here you could see him testing the waters for a broader and more poignant approach to how humanity treats itself.

‘Do Not Fall In New York City (Noone’s Going To Catch You When You Do)’, for example, lucidly demarcates the limits of U.S. social compassion, whilst Dillon’s solo outing, as part of Marvel’s silent month, is all the more impressive because I was completely oblivious to its deliberate wordlessness until halfway through.  PREACHER’s Steve Dillon: quite the master storyteller.

Much to my surprise I found several ancient paragraphs like the above in our vaults on the original, thinner volumes which this collects and I reproduce edited highlights here with apologies for their scattershot nature.

 

 

Punisher: Business As Usual was an aptly titled third volume of Ennis’ take on the implacable crime cruncher whose perpetual, straight-faced impassivity, especially under Dillon’s pen line, is all part of the humour.  For those who care – amongst whom I do not count myself – Wolverine guest stars in a two-parter, but the recent Northern Ireland issue, grimly concise, rounded off the volume on a high if hardly up-tempo note, with something to say and something well said.

Punisher Streets of Laredo took the Punisher out West for some old fashioned shootin’ with a new fangled sheriff who’s just lost his boyfriend to a bunch of militia. The best single story was drawn by Steve Dillon in which Frank drops in – unexpectedly and much the worse for wear – on the sweet, timid and doting Joan who used to bake him cookies then sigh herself to love-stricken sleep back in MARVEL KNIGHTS PUNISHER VOl 1 . Unfortunately out-of-commission Frank Castle is being pursued by some less-than-savouries, so it’s up to Joan instead to fend them off as best she can.

Steve plays her bit lips and shy smiles to perfection, as the duo improvise with a penknife, some culinary spoons, a gardening fork and a duck pond.

 

 

 

Here are the bullet points of the fabled Marvel Bullpen which exists neither now nor ever (see MARVEL COMICS THE UNTOLD STORY) howsoever effective the illusion:

“Nobody writes the Punisher like Garth Ennis – and these brutal tales prove it!

When ex-Marine Frank Castle saw his wife and children murdered by the mob, he began a war on crime! So why is he trying to rescue a Mafia don from angry guerrilla fighters in South Africa?

And Frank faces off against Wolverine as the two compete to take down a bizarre underworld predator who’s cutting off crime at the knees!

 

 

Plus: Belfast-born Ennis brings Frank face-to-face with terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The Punisher investigates a drug ring – and the cops meant to be dismantling it.

Frank helps a social worker who has discovered a dark secret beneath the streets…and does a little dental work in a tale drawn by Joe Quesada!

Collecting PUNISHER (2001) #6-7 and #13-26, and material from MARVEL KNIGHTS DOUBLE-SHOT #1.2”

SLH

Buy Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Belzebubs h/c (£13-99, IDW) by JP Ahonen

Beasts Of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men h/c (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin & Benjamin Dewey

Crowded vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Ro Stein, Ted Brandt

Angel Claws h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Roaming Foliage (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Patrick Kyle

Seven To Eternity s/c vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Matt Hollingsworth

The Prisoner vol 1: Shattered Visage s/c (£21-99, Titan) by Dean R. Motter, Mark Askwith & Dean R. Motter

Tyler Cross: Angola h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Fabien Nury &  Bruno

Vei vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Insight Press) by Sara B. Elfgreen & Karl Johnsson

Batman vol 9: The Tyrant Wing s/c (Rebirth)  (£14-99, DC) by Tom King, various & Mikel Janin, Otto Schmidt

Dark Nights Metal – Dark Knights Rising s/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke

Black Panther Vs Deadpool s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Daniel Kibblesmith & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

Return Of Wolverine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven, Declan Shalvey

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: X-Men Disassembled s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson & Mahmud A. Asrar, R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Yildiray Cinar, Pere Perez

Hitorijime My Hero vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Memeco Arii

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week two

March 13th, 2019

“This will resonate with young readers who are perhaps a little shier than their peers. I found it very touching in places.”

 – Stephen on Star Bright by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke.

The Perineum Technique h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerome Mult & Florent Ruppert…

“So, JH. Sarah tells me you’re a libertine?”
“Oh, yeah? Is that how she describes me? Huh. Well, I’d just call myself your average sex fiend.”

I’m not really sure what I’d call him, frankly. Certainly a bit needy and definitely more than a bit seedy. Here is the kiss-and-tell-all profile from the publisher to lure you in further.

“JH and Sarah meet online, connecting on a regular basis for virtual hook-ups. Their unromantic connections, brief and solitary, eventually obsess JH, who tries to convince Sarah to meet him in person. A strange game of seduction ensues, eventually resulting in JH accepting a challenge of abstinence in the hopes of gaining intimacy with Sarah.

The Perineum Technique is a masterful meditation on intimacy in our era of hyperconnectivity, brilliantly employing visual metaphor in lieu of sexual explicitness – the couple’s acts of online congress often begin with naked plunges off giant obelisks – to create a wildly original graphic novel tour through the subconscious of young romance.

 

 

Originally serialized in the pages of Le Monde, the prestigious French newspaper, THE PERINEUM TECHNIQUE is one of the country’s most acclaimed graphic novels of recent years, by two of its most exciting creators.”

Firstly, I’m extremely impressed that this was serialised in Le Monde, because it is certainly no holds barred stuff. Strikes me the editor of Le Monde must be a bit of libertine themselves to allow it. It’s errr… rather racy stuff in places. I think modern erotica might be an appropriate phrase.

 

 

But it’s actually primarily a character study of a rather unusual individual in J.H., a self-professed moderately famous avant garde artist who specialises in making video art. He’s currently working on a piece that uses the metaphor of cutting ones’ own fingers off as sexual arousal but he seems far more interested in getting to physical grips with Sarah.

There’s also a second video involving Samurai that he’s continually trying to progress but inspiration is repeatedly failing to strike, which of course isn’t remotely helped by his state of complete and utter distraction, much to the chagrin of his faithful assistant Julie and video editor / Grindr king Jeremy.

After J.H. finally convinces Julie to meet him, she then propositions him in a most peculiar manner. At least, J.H. thinks it’s a proposition… Given what he undertakes to do, or rather not do, hence the title of this work, for four months, he’s certainly committed. Or perhaps just needs to be.

 

 

Perfectly capturing the absurdity of a “tour through the subconscious of young romance”, this at times titillating tale may well have you frequently groaning in disbelief as well as pleasure. I genuinely had about as much an idea as J.H. as to whether he was going to get a happy ending, of any description. When we eventually got to the climax, it was rather satisfying, though, I have to say.

 

 

Delightfully light, delicate Euro-lines combined with a warm, if slightly subdued colour palette serves to give this work a somewhat surprisingly demure feel. It’s very much in keeping with J.H.’s uncertain, somewhat reserved personality in that respect actually. I have also finally put my finger on a perfectly pointless point of comparison that was driving me mad with ever-increasingly pent-up frustration. I was convinced there was someone who used an identical lettering font, even down to the use of lower case ‘i’s surrounded entirely by capitals. I won’t torture you trying to work it out for yourself, that’d be like asking someone not to, well you know, for four months, positively cruel. It’s Guy BURMA CHRONICLES Delisle.

Anyway, if you fancy learning about what fabulous frolicking fancies the French get presented to them in their daily journals then this is for you. Not one to get caught in flagrante delicto reading on public transport, this is most definitely best consumed at home. Perhaps in conjunction with a coffee and croissant for the full Parisian effect.

JR

Buy The Perineum Technique h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£20-00, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“Even if they are trying to cover something up, you really think you’ve got the authority to expose it?!”

No, but that’s not going to stop Sakijima from going full loose cannon and confronting the corrupt and wonderfully Orwellian sounding Observation Bureau head-on. Good lad. He’s about to get himself into a whole heap of trouble.

Here is the down low download from the publisher to let us know just how bad it is all going to get for him and pretty much everyone else.

“A vast city lies under the shadow of colossal, ancient tombs, the identity of their builders lost to time. In the streets of the city, something is preying on the inhabitants, something that moves faster than the human eye can see and leaves unimaginable horror in its wake. Factory worker Denji Kudou just wants to keep his head down and continue his quiet existence, but he is the key to stopping forces that would bring about an apocalyptic transformation of the world.”

Tsutomu BIOMEGA / KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA / BLAME! / APOSIMZ Nihei is back once again with, well, exactly more of just what it is that he does best. That being dystopian cyberpunk set in an architecturally imposing situation…

 

 

…featuring characters which are prone to spontaneously morphing into gigantic multi-limbed monsters…

 

 

…as they are losing their heads to the horrific sounding “vertebral detachment mechanism”.

 

 

There’s big guns too. Obviously. Plus that all important impending potential apocalypse to be averted, or at least steered in an entirely unexpected direction.

 

 

Surprise? There’s usually at least one whopper in a Nihei work.

Closest in tone, content, pace and art style to BIOMEGA by far, this self-contained high-octane horror in plush hardback form should win Nihei some new rabid fans and go straight on the shelves next to all his other material for existing ones. You could, if you were sufficiently churlish, wonder if he is ever going to do anything completely different, but given I always finish his works wanting more, I’m not going to be that person. Plus I don’t want a chiropractic treatment from the “vertebral detachment mechanism”.

I can’t ever imagine Nihei writing a romance, but if he did, I’d be on tenterhooks waiting for a dashing damsel to turn into an AI-powered flesh-eating zombie and start marauding across a mega-city spreading death and destruction behind them. Nihei’s just that sort of guy. What can I say, I like him a lot! If you finally feel like putting down AKIRA and trying something else, give him a go.

JR

Buy Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

After Man – A Zoology Of The Future h/c (£24-99, Breakdown Press) by Dougal Dixon.

Oh how I adored Medieval Bestiaries when I was a small boy!

You know what I mean: ancient books of awe-inspiring creatures that were imagined to exist based on legend, hearsay or travellers’ wild exaggeration. They were hybrids, a lot of them.

I would pore over those almost excitedly as I would over details of dinosaurs!

Painted ‘Animals of the World’ books were lapped up too. The more exotic the animal, the better, with extinction like the Great Auk a bloomin’ big bonus!

It was the exoticism of it all and, sadly, the impossibility of ever encountering them.

Evolution fascinated me.

 

 

Well, if any of that hits home with you then I have one hell of a treat in store, for this is all of the above wrapped up into one thrillingly illustrated encyclopaedia, complete with an in-depth, 30-page education on evolution before the highly informed and therefore genuinely witty post-Sapiens speculation begins!

It is essentially one big book of extrapolation, and the basic set-up is this: man finally fucks off and dies, leaving beleaguered nature to breath a collective sigh of relief and recover from Homo Sapiens’ 45,000 years of casual, unintentional but unapologetic mass murder beginning with the extinction of Australia’s mega-fauna then bequeathing the same gift to America on first settling there some 29,000 years later. See DARWIN – AN EXCEPTIONAL VOYAGE.

We’re still at it, and accelerating rapidly.

50 million years later, what has evolved from what we were negligent enough to leave alive?

 

 

 

Well, you can forget the remnant populations of big beasts like elephants, rhinos, tigers and whales recovering: we didn’t leave nearly enough of them alive to survive. We probably haven’t already. Crocodiles, maybe: they’ve been around since – I don’t know – the Carboniferous Era? Something close, anyway. I should check.

Instead, Dixon anticipates what will take their place in his first 30 pages. Nature abhors a vacuum in any of its environments and at all levels of its food chain so long as we leave it in peace, so more big beauties will arise from humble origins. The horse, for example, was originally just a couple of hands high, scurrying about in the undergrowth until the plains first appeared. So the place of the whales and other aquatic mammals like the dolphin will be taken by evolutionary offshoots of…

Nope, no spoilers, but it does all make perfect sense, especially when it comes to size, temperature and extremities. I promise you, those first 30 pages before you get to the goods you’re really after are golden.

“The influence of latitude on animal shape and form has two oddly contrasting effects. One known as Berman’s rule predicts that, within related groups, animals living nearer the poles will be larger. The other, Allen’s rule, states that, again in related groups, those living nearer the poles will have smaller extremities. Both effects are heat-conservation measures designed on the one hand to preserve body temperature and on the other to prevent frostbite.”

Equally interesting is the rise of the rabbit and rat in so very many divergent forms here. I loved the reasoning behind the Swimming Ant-Eater. Also if, like me, horns and armour were a big thing for you when it came to dinosaurs, I can promise you protrusions aplenty!

 

 

 

The book’s most famous fan is the great Desmond Morris, he of ‘The Naked Ape’ which I also devoured albeit a little later in life, during puberty, and what an honest, silence-breaking breath of informative fresh air that was precisely when I needed it the most! Morris heaped praises on AFTER MAN in its introduction when originally published back in 1981, while Dixon provides a brand-new foreword which delightedly points out that, during the intervening years, animals similar to those he’d conjured have since been discovered, living and breathing, and I don’t just mean superficially.

Take his Oakleaf Toad:

“It gets its name from a peculiar fleshy outgrowth on its back that looks exactly like a fallen oak leaf. The toad lies partly buried in the leaf litter, totally camouflaged and quite motionless except for its round, pink tongue which protrudes and wriggles about just like an earthworm. Any small animal that approaches to investigate falls victim to the toad’s powerful jaws. The animal’s only real enemy is the predator rat.

 

 

“These two creatures, the oakleaf toad and the predator rat, have a curious relationship. Within their blood streams lives a fluke that spends the juvenile stage in the toad and the adult stage in the predator rat. When the fluke approaches adulthood it produces a dye that turns the leaf-life outgrowth on the toad’s back bright emerald green. As this happens in the winter the toad becomes highly conspicuous and is quickly eaten. In this way the fluke is transferred into the body of the predator rat, where it becomes sexually mature and breeds. The fluke’s eggs return to the toad through the predator rat’s faeces, which are eaten by beetles that are preyed on by the toad. As the fluke needs to spend a period of at least three years growing in the toad’s body before it is ready to parasitize the predator rat, and the toad is sexually mature at eighteen months, all toads have the opportunity of breeding before being exposed to predation.”

How well thought through was that speculation? Sure enough, such a parasitical relationship has since been unearthed!

You will learn loads about parallel and convergent evolution, and the overriding role that environment plays (either stable or in flux) upon natural selection / evolution!

But really you’re here for the pictures aren’t you?

If so, I heartily commend to you also WILD ANIMALS OF THE NORTH and WILD ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH

Oh, I had fun with those two reviews!

SLH

Buy After Man – A Zoology Of The Future h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Bright (£11-99, self-published) by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke.

“You’re so much better at making friends than me, and… I feel like I’m losing you.”

Awww, no!

“I’m not yours to lose.”

Oooof!

Don’t be too quick to judge: there are subtleties at work, the behavioural observations are astute and this is a big bag of warmth for your young ones.

Successfully crowd-funded through Kickstarter (such was the level of interest in the title’s original appearance as web comics), this will resonate with young readers who are perhaps a little shier than their peers.

I found it very touching in places.

A young girl called Zoe has two close early-teen friends called Robin and Sarah, yet turns down every invitation to visit them at home and stay overnight, no matter how alluring the offer is of sharing their favourite anime.

“Ah, it’s okay. I have stuff to do and my Mum will probably say no.”

Her cheeks flush red, but why? And why does she presume that her Mum will say no…? It was clever to introduce that so early on.

 

 

Then one night in a bright ball of light, so golden that it glows in the sky, an alien crash-lands in Zoe’s back garden, takes up residence in the bottom drawer of her dresser and goes to school in the guise of her cousin. Instantly popular, it’s not that Star tries to intrude; it’s just that her inquisitiveness is natural, her enthusiasm is infectious, and she can see no reason not to start accepting Zoe’s friends’ invitations while Zoe stays home on her own. I mean, Zoe was invited too – it was her choice to decline.

But really, how would that make you feel?

How would you feel if you were too anxious to express your thoughts and feelings on any given topic – if you felt uncomfortable in a crowd but really not that more confident with far fewer around – and suddenly, everyone in your tightly knit group is hanging off your new friend’s every word?

How would you feel about that, if you were shy, even when Star is consistent in her kindness and solicitous of Zoe’s feelings? I think you might feel a little jealous and left out, even when no one is excluding you for five seconds. Worse still, I think you might feel even more inhibited, inadequate.

This is so well balanced.

 

 

 

In addition, the tone is masterfully controlled right from the get-go, a bright burst of initial colour to invite you in followed by sombre grey tones once Zoe’s turned down that first invitation. The light fades fast as she sits alone at the bus shelter, then on the bus. Home is in half-light, like a limbo, as Zoe treads water while her parents converse.

But then the night sky erupts to spectacular effect, for a quite different new light is about to enter Zoe’s world and all will be well in the end!

 

 

 

Alice Clarke works at Dave’s Comics in Brighton. You really must pop in whenever you’re down south. I’m so very fond of them: one of my five favourite comic shops in the UK!

For more “alien lady lands on Earth and lives in the world of humans”, please see the three volumes of Mark Oakley’s more mischievous, mirth-inducing STARDROP.

SLH

Buy Star Bright and read the Page 45 review here

Days Of Hate vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj with Jordie Bellaire.

 

 

“You want to ask me something. Go ahead.”
“No. I can’t. It’s not your fight.”
“Oh really? Honey… do I look particularly white to you?”

I love how the covers of this two-parter look together on our shelves.

It’s like your annual eye test.

On which does the writing look clearest to you?

Seeing clearly is precisely what this is about. Not everyone is as alert as they should be when their country starts sliding into fascism.

 

 

 

Britain’s well on the way, with Theresa Dis-May’s personally instigated Hostile Environment; her “Go Home Or Face Arrest” vans (I still cannot f***ing believe them) and the Windrush Scandal which has seen the wrongful deportation of so many perfectly legal UK residents who’ve worked ridiculously hard for decades for the likes of the NHS after this country begged them to help out after WWII by upping-sticks and leaving behind their family homes and beautiful, bountiful, warm and sunny countries of original for this sad, small, cold, rainy country which met them with racism and resentment.

We’re back to bookshops being raided by masked men, such is the renewed rise of the far right, fanned by the hate-flames of the Daily Fail and the most extreme and self-serving of the isolationist Brexiteers.  We’re back to assaults on buses and trams of people of colour and an increase in domestic violence. All hate crime is on the rise while those now joining, advising and leading Ukip are uglier politically than Nigel bloody Farage. Not a sentence I ever anticipated typing.

 

 

 

We’re even facing the very real possibility of an overt racist leading the Tories – as opposed to the barely covert one we have now – as our Prime Minister in the form of Boris Johnson. He’s already been Foreign Secretary. A racist Foreign Secretary! For Britain!

As for America, this is where it’s headed and is almost there, far further ahead down the slippery slope to inhumanity, fascism and indeed feudalism than even we are.

 

 

 

 

My review of DAYS OF HATE VOL 1 was so much more on-topic than this – lavishing praise on the dark, stark, rugged art which at the same time managed to glow –  that most things I could write now would be repetitive, redundant and potentially full of spoilers. However:

One moment, almost unimaginably awful, has torn two lovers apart.

One of them has joined a small resistance cell, investigating homophobic bombings – which now elicit no response from the government or public alike – then turning the tables, meting out their revenge, but not without considerable risk to themselves. The other woman has fallen into the hands of – then thrown herself into bed with – the manipulative monster in charge of capturing her ex-lover who has teamed up with a man equally disaffected by this grave new world, and who can no longer visit his family, for the law isn’t above using your loved ones.

And the law, it dutifully visits all their loved ones, one by one…

 

 

 

Let’s leave it with that chilling ellipsis, shall we?

What’s extraordinary about this second half, in addition to its emotional charge, is that Ales Kot is not renowned for this reticence in writing. He is a furnace fired up with ideas. Yet he has left Zezelj and Bellaire so much room for their penumbral art to haunt you in silence.

It hovers like a shroud throughout, over everything and everyone.

For more, please see DAYS OF HATE VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Days Of Hate vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Last Siege s/c (£17-99, Image) by Landry Quinn Walker & Justin Greenwood.

Enjoyed this!

It’s a castle-based, hereditary, territorial pissing contest.

Should appeal to Game Of Thrones folks.

Unless you’re only there for the dragons.

SLH

Buy Last Siege s/c and read the Page 45 review here

 

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Asleep In The Back (£5-00, ) by Tim Bird

By Night vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom! Studios) by John Allison & Christine Larsen

Cult Of The Ibis h/c (£24-99, Fantagraphics) by Daria Tessler

Dragon Post h/c (£10-99, Walker Books) by Emma Yarlett

Infinite Dark vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton

Oblivion Song vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici

PTSD h/c (£19-99, FirstSecond Books) by Guillaume Singelin

Rosalynd h/c (£19-99, Dark Planet) by Stephen Franck

Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III

Sandman vol 3: Dream Country (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Malcolm Jones III, Charles Vess, Steve Erickson, Colleen Doran, Kelley Jones

Sandman vol 4: Season Of Mists (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones, Harlan Ellison, Mike Dringenberg

Sandman vol 5: A Game Of You (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, Samuel R. Delany, Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran

The Breakaways s/c (£9-99, FirstSecond Books) by Cathy G. Johnson

The Hunting Accident: A True Story Of Crime And Poetry h/c (£26-99, FirstSecond Books) by David L. Carlson & Landis Blair

The Iliad (Graphic Novel) s/c (£12-99, Candlewick) by Gareth Hinds

Useleus – A Greek Oddity (£9-99, Flying Eye Books) by Alexander Matthews & Wilbur Dawbarn

Batman And Harley Quinn s/c (£12-99, DC) by Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett

Justice League Dark vol 1: The Last Age Of Magic s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Daniel Sampere

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Joe Quesada, Darick Robertson, Tom Mandrake

Giant Spider & Me – A Post Apocalyptic Tale vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kikori Morino

Mob Psycho 100 vol 2 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by One

My Solo Exchange Diary vol 2 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Nagata Kabi

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week one

March 6th, 2019

Cat Getting Out Of A Bag mashed up with ‘Alienand served in a cute, full-colour kitty bowl of joy, complete with all those horrible bits of congealed jelly on top to queasify the unsuspecting stomach.”

 – Jonathan on Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c by Rory Lucey

Hicotea: Nightlights Book 2 h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez.

“This place is not yours to understand.
“It is mine to devour!”

Ooooooooh, it’s going to grow proper scary, shortly!

At that moment, the warm, rich palette of organic oranges, greens, browns and blues will abruptly give way to a pale purple void and a dark, blackcurrant vacuum: a roost ruled over by an enormous, yellow-eyed agent of destruction and despoiler of spaces, a sharp-beaked bird that can transform itself into a vast, black flapping flock, stealing away Sandy’s sketchbook and the wetlands of this world.

Nature itself is under assault, as we all know too well.

Lorena Alvarez – the creator of NIGHTLIGHTS, now out in softcover – returns with some of the most gorgeous sequential-art spreads you will ever behold, some earthly, some unearthly but always with such a command of form and colour that adults and youngsters alike will fall mesmerised until their spell!

 

 

The wide, misty wetland being explored by Sandy and her school friends invites wide eyes to roam around its outer reaches, spotting brightly coloured birds hopping between early autumnal berries, the leaves just beginning their senescent switch from dark summer-green to a rusty golden brown. Yet, like Joe Todd-Stanton’s MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX, these landscapes also lead the eye round the page through carefully choreographed conversation, perfectly balanced in its visual timing.

Okay, the first one here is more of an argument than a conversation, and Sandy’s so concerned for the wellbeing of all the critters being captured and collected – being removed from their natural, safe, life-sustaining environment and dropped into empty jam jars without any thought as to what they might eat – that on the very next page she kicks out in frustration before realising it wasn’t some sort of rugby ball she’d punted into mid-air, thence the brook’s waters, but a small turtle, hiding in its shell… and she is devastated.

 

 

 

 

I adore Alvarez’s eyes: pools of circular black ink so solid that you could, paradoxically, dive into then swim in them. It’s as if you can see straight through to Sandy’s emotional core, and a brain actively generating questions.

“Hello?” being an odd opening gambit to an amphibious reptile but sure enough, after a Lewis Carroll rabbit-hole segue, we discover that the shell’s inhabitant, curating a collection, is indeed entirely sentient with questions of its own.

Once more, those children’s eyes, they are going to wander!

 

 

At first the picture frames appear to contain birds, beasts and relatives in portrait mode; flora and fauna and full-blown landscapes, with the odd geometric arrangement.

But then there are colour wheels, solar systems, inventors and inventions like Da Vinci’s design for a bird-like flying machine! Hicotea, you see (a Colombian turtle), has been on a quest, a quest for knowledge but I’m afraid her source has dried up. We’ll get to that in a bit.

“I’ve been collecting these things for a while. Each of them represents a question that someone asked, and their journey to find an answer… an answer that might show the world in a different light. Take my home, for example. Something that you thought was small is in fact almost infinite… or if you look at a marble, perhaps there is a whole universe inside!”

 

 

On the subject of spotting details, I adored how the spiral staircase is carved out of a gnarled, ancient tree, and I admired all the clambering involved in Sandy and Hicotea’s journey through the found objects.

“You just have to ask the questions to find out, don’t you?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess. Sometimes it is easier to stay quiet. People get tired of questions that can’t be answered.”
“Or scared of the answers they find…”

Hicotea had been exploring the wetlands where she felt comfortable, safe and quite at home, but now they appear to have vanished along with all their vibrancy, life, variety and colour, the portal reduced to a blank space.

“There’s something out there that won’t let me through.”

Sandy manages to topple through, though.

Unfortunately she might not like what is waiting for her.

 

 

We haven’t even reached page 20. There is far, far more to explore, and along with all the scary stuff – whose compositions with the spaces and holes also manages to evoke a strong sense of emptiness and loss – there are some delightfully funny moments, as when Sandy, in a panic, fleetingly thinks that she’s been invited by new friends into their home as dinner, rather than guest.

Alvarez’s decision to concentrate on a specific natural ecosystem is very wise, especially one which many schoolchildren will be more likely to have discovered for themselves. We certainly took jam jars down to a big pond at infant school. If you try to communicate to Young Readers all our self-inflicted problems on a global scale, it all grows a bit too enormous, even nebulous rather than, ummm, concrete. This approach, by contrast, makes it more involved and personal.

 

 

From Flying Eye / Nobrow, the publisher responsible for Luke Pearson’s HILDA, ANIMALS OF THE NORTH, ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH, ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE, AKISSI, THE JOURNEY and oh so very much more!  

SLH

Buy Hicotea: Nightlights Book 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Little Bear’s Spring (£6-99, Macmillan) by Elli Woollard & Briony May Smith.

It’s the light, basically.

I bought this in for the light inside which is absolutely exquisite!

Over and over again, Briony May Smith captures – as perfectly as anything I’ve seen – the warm glow of a weak winter sun, low in the sky, on otherwise freezing cold snow. The dappled purple shadows are also present and correct. There’s one page in that respect that I’d rank right up there with Monet.

Contentious!

 

 

The solitary bear cub waking up alone after hibernation is as cuddly as can be. He’s feeling so small in this vast wintry landscape, but finds a little stone looking sad, lost alone, and so adopts it. It’s good to have friends, isn’t it?

 

 

Mind you, I also relish a good rhyme, and Woollard delivers that too. I can already hear you reading this to your kids. The cadence is perfect, and we are in a good old gambol up and down dell (okay, it’s more of a mountainous forest), leaping about with some hares racing round, excited for spring and its much softer ground; or birds flitting high with no time to rest, each in search of twigs for their nest.

“Oh,” the bear muttered. “So what is the spring?”
“Spring,” said the birds, “is a magical thing!
“The sun shimmers out through the cold winter’s gloom,
“And the buds open up and burst forth into bloom.”

“Oh!” said the bear. “I could help build a nest!”
But although the bear tried, his attempts weren’t the best.
So the bear lolloped off down the track all alone,
Saying, “Oh… well at least I have you, dear Stone.”

Slight mistaken identity there, mate, as soon you shall see.

 

 

It’s all so ridiculously pretty that I do wish I had more interior art for you but couldn’t find that much online, and what I could find was mostly, lamentably, cropped. However, this will only serve to enhance your own wonder when you open the book up for yourself.

Three gasps and you are legally obliged to buy the book.

I will be listening from behind our counter.

SLH

Buy Little Bear’s Spring and read the Page 45 review here

Guantanamo Kid – The True Story Of Mohammed El-Gharani (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jérôme Tubiana & Alexandre Franc…

“We know you were working with Al-Qaida in London in 1993. You were part of a clandestine cell led by Abu Qatada Al-Masri.”
“Are you sure?”
“Look: 1993.”
“You should be smart and say 1998 or 1999. In 1993, I was six.”
“HA HA HA.”

Ever wondered precisely what it would be like to be a detainee in Guantanamo Bay? If so, this work will shed some light on the shady incarceration practices of the U.S. government perpetuated in the name of the war on terror. Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to lay out the charges…

“Saudi Arabia offers few prospects for the bright young Mohammed El-Gharani. His access to healthcare and education are restricted; nor can he make the most of his entrepreneurial spirit. At the age of 14, Mohammed seizes an opportunity to study in Pakistan.

One Friday in Karachi, Mohammed is detained during a raid on his local mosque. After being beaten and interrogated, he is sold to the American government by the Pakistani forces as a member of Al-Qaida with links to Osama Bin Laden, but Mohammed has heard of neither. The Americans fly him first to Kandahar and then to Guantánamo Bay. GUANTANAMO KID tells the story of one of Guantanamo Bay’s youngest detainees.”

 

 

Yes, if we are to believe Mohammed El-Gharani’s story, as the Americans obviously didn’t, he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, having chosen to fly under an illegal passport to Pakistan to study I.T. The illegal passport being necessary because his parents didn’t want him to leave Saudi Arabia.

Sold on to the Americans for the not inconsiderable sum of $5000, which perhaps explains why the local Pakistani authorities on the ground might have been happy to provide an endless production line of potential jihadis for enhanced interrogation at Camp X-Ray, Mohammed was about to lose several years of his life, indeed probably his entire potential future, at least as he foresaw it. Do make sure you read the writer Jérôme Tubiana’s afterword, because Mohammed’s problems with various security services continue to this day.

With a strength belying his tender teenage years, or perhaps because of it, Mohammed adapts, survives and possibly even thrives during his imprisonment with a surprising degree of stoicism and indeed even more astonishing displays of defiance.

 

 

It’s very difficult to know precisely just how one would react in such a situation. I’m not sure I would have responded with such defiance the way Mohammed apparently did, but then I’m not expecting to be hauled off the streets and forcibly rendered halfway around the world for the ultimate surprise getaway. Mind you, neither did he…

Along the way he befriends someone who most politically aware people in the UK will probably have heard of, the Saudi citizen and British resident Shaker Aamer, who was held at Guantanamo without charge for more than thirteen years, considerably longer than Mohammed’s not insubstantial seven, and became an unofficial spokesperson for his fellow detainees, though Mohammed too frequently advocated and agitated for better conditions at the camp.

 

 

I found Mohammed’s sad story incredibly upsetting. That seemingly pure sheer unfortunate circumstance can lead to such destruction of a life, indeed lives, because of course his family was devastated too. And yet, given the judicial injustices we see frequently repeated on domestic soil, particularly American, by law enforcement agencies, is it really so hard to believe Mohammed, and indeed Shaker Aamer’s  stories, amongst so many others?

 

 

I thought Alexandre Franc’s black and white, relatively straightforward art style, worked well for disseminating Mohammed’s hardships without making it overly-dramatic or indeed too emotionally difficult to digest. It’s punchy enough, though, and it also works perfectly in conveying the humour the inmates manage to find, and also the mischief they managed to make, in even the most trying of circumstances.

JR

Buy Guantanamo Kid – The True Story Of Mohammed El-Gharani and read the Page 45 review here

Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c (£9-99, Titan Books) by Rory Lucey…

Haha, this is basically CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS mashed up with ALIEN and served in a cute, full-colour kitty bowl of joy, complete with all those horrible bits of congealed jelly on top to queasify the unsuspecting stomach. Let me allow the publisher to give you fair warning of the playful trip of terror you’re about to embark on…

“Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day, his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted. The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house-trained.

In space, no one can hear you meow.”

True, that final point, if a little unimaginative. I think my favourite rework on the classic Alien movie poster simply has to be the tagline for the surprisingly good horror film Killer Clowns From Outer Space which proclaimed that… “In space, no one can eat ice cream.”

Anyway, I dairily digress, because this is hilariously brilliant. From the moment Jonesy wakes up yawning and stretching and promptly attaches herself to Ripley’s still sleeping head like an alien facehugger that simply will not be shaken off, I was chortling away.

 

 

This work follows the plot of the film faithfully, just from the very puzzled feline eye of Jonesy who wonders who in space this shiny, spindly interloper might be and how they can be chased off. At least to start with…

 

 

You’ll recognise many of this movie’s iconic moments, such as the exploding chest and the acid dissolving through the floors, but just not quite how you remember them.

 

 

However, you might still find yourself watching, I mean reading, through your fingers (which does make it rather tricky to hold onto the book, I have to say) as Jonesy continues to burn through his allotted lives quicker than a squadron of suicidally gung-ho space marines confronted by a gaggle of excited Xenomorphs. Sorry, unnecessary sequel reference.

 

 

I liked the little intro from the creator who comments after finally convincing his wife to watch the film with him that there was only one thing she wanted to know before it started: did the cat survive?! Well, according to Jonesy’s own version of events, it was an extremely close call indeed! Repeatedly!

JR

Buy Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hobo Mom h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman & Max de Radigues…

“Sissy, go inside. What are you doing here, Tasha?”
“I just wanted to see her… Get to know her.”
“You don’t have the right. Did you tell her?”
“No. ‘Course not.”
“And you’re not going to. Why… what do you want?”
“Nothing. I swear.”
“I don’t have no money.”
“Like I said, I just want to get to know her.”
“You don’t have that right!”

Charles THE END OF THE F*CKING WORLD Forsman and Max MOOSE De Radigues combine their own unique talents to produce this mysterious low-key tale of a lady riding the rails instead of running the family home.

 

 

I say mysterious, because in true Forsman fashion, the main characters don’t offer up all the answers to their current motivations and precisely how they ended up in the collective and individual messes they find themselves in. Well, any answers really. Instead we are left wondering how this particular family hit the buffers and why Mom decided a life on the open road was the solution to her personal problems. We get feelings, though, albeit mainly of the intensely repressed kind. Some will out quite spectacularly. For a while at least…

 

 

Max De Radigues captures this sense of subdued yet strained inhibition very neatly with minimal linework combined with red letratone shading. For folks not familiar with his work I can see bits and pieces of Kevin FIELDER Huizenga, Hartley YOUNG FRANCES Lin and even a touch of Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown.

 

 

There’s a tangible sense of space in the artwork here which probably accurately reflects the emotional distance between the roving, restless mother and her sad, sweet husband and unsuspecting daughter.

JR

Buy Hobo Mom h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You woke up in the hospital with a bump on your head and no memory of life before the accident. Sound about right? Nyseth’s people call it a “springboard”. Meant to keep you from asking questions about your previous life.”
“You’re lying.”
“Your D.N.A. matches his.”
“I’m not him! You hear me!”
“We found records of the operation when we raided Nyseth’s lab two months ago.”
“I’M NOT HIM!”

Oh, but you are, Nathan. Well, you’re not Nathan actually. You’re the most wanted man in existence called Ian Black. That’s a bit dull isn’t it…? Not the most wanted man bit, obviously, I meant the name.

Here’s the future fiction forecast from the publisher for the incoming sequential storm front about to blight Nathan Bright’s life…

“The future’s only hope… has a zero percent chance. Nathan Bright had it all: an awesome girlfriend, a kickass dog, and a job as the #1 weatherman on terraformed Mars. But when he’s accused of carrying out the worst terrorist attack in human history – an event that wiped out nearly the entire population of Earth – Nathan becomes the target of a manhunt that spans the galaxy.

 

 

But is Nathan truly responsible for such a horrific crime? And why can’t he remember? Confused, terrified, and totally unprepared for life on the run, Nathan’s fate lies in the hands of Amanda Cross, the disavowed government agent assigned to his case.

Together the unlikely duo will have to rely on each other as they battle their way through the solar system in search of the truth, and the key to stopping a second extinction-level attack.

A full-throttle, wide-screen, science-fiction epic about the damage we do in the name of justice and what it truly means to be redeemed.”

 

 

They didn’t mention the ridiculous humour for some reason! I think I’d have been tempted to label this as a full-throttle absurdist science-fiction romp as it’s definitely played for laughs… The initial character of Nathan Bright, before his entire world falls apart, you know, like he apparently did to the Earth when he was Ian Black, is just so incessantly cheerfully chirpy you want to punch him in the face repeatedly. He’s just one of those people who is so happy it hurts everyone else. Hahaha, it’s not going to last. Oodles of daft dialogue too, that’ll have you shaking your head in disbelief whilst smiling away merrily.

We don’t get to do it – punch him, that is – but plenty of others, both the good guys and bad guys, do. Good. Even though it really isn’t Nathan’s fault. Good job he’s got the lovely Amanda Cross, who definitely enjoys punching Nathan in the face, to keep him safe from practically everyone while they try and sort it all out.

 

 

I predict trouble aplenty ahead for one of the most entertaining and quite literally throwaway characters I’ve wanted to punch, I mean read, for a while! I actually started to wonder if writer Jody LeHeup might have a deep-seated pathological hatred of weathermen he gives Nathan such a proverbial buffeting. Maybe one ran off with his girlfriend or something…

Strong art too, from Nathan Fox, bursting with angular energy and vibrant colour. It’s a little bit Paul BATTLING BOY Pope in places and most definitely a dash of Jim STREET ANGEL Rugg too. Actually, maybe a bit of Alan TANK GIRL Martin as well, now I come to think of it. It matches the writing perfectly.

 

 

If you fancy reading something that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, like MAESTROS, but with far less profanity and a sci-fi twist instead, this could be for you. I believe this is one and done too. It says volume one on the side, but it seems all blown over to me by the end.

JR

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

Cold Spots s/c (£14-99, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres.

An SUV drives through the wrought iron gates of an estate substantial enough to have a sizeable spread of trees, yet close enough to a major city that its light pollution taints the sky purple at night.

It pulls up at the imposing entrance to an even more imposing mansion.

“Mr. Warren values punctuality.
“You’re late.”

It’s always a good idea to establish the hierarchy of employment early on, isn’t it?

A man much younger than the snow-haired butler steps out of the vehicle.

“Is that right?
“Because your boss once told me that he never wanted to see me again.
“By my watch, that makes me early.”

It’s a good line in itself, but also a careful clue artfully slipped in early on, which is why I haven’t quoted you the publisher’s own blurb which is one big blunder-headed spoiler. Instead, I’ll leave you to join your own dots because, quite rightly, they aren’t in the comic itself.

 

 

 

Mr. Warren has reluctantly summoned this Mr. Kerr back after 8 years of absence, for he values his ability to find those who’ve gone missing. And Mr. Warren’s daughter Alyssa went missing, a month ago. There’s a photograph of her in an envelope laden with cash.

“Seems like there was an envelope full of money on the desk the last time I was here.”
“And tell me… how long did those funds last?”

It’s the second photograph which first ruffles Mr. Kerr’s cool, of a girl nearly 8 years old.

“Her name is Grace. She vanished along with her mother. She’s a special child, Mr Kerr, and the courts have seen fit to make me her legal guardian.
“Alyssa was never one to make good decisions.
“I’m concerned for my grand-daughter… for Grace… and I want her brought back to me, where I can protect her. If Alyssa doesn’t want to return… well… It wouldn’t be the first time she’s used poor judgement.”

It’s a scene well played by Mark Torres, for at that last implied sleight, Mr Kerr’s eyes shoot daggers.

Have you figured it out yet? One final clue: Mr Kerr calls Mr Warren “Arthur”.

It’s pretty cold where Mr. Kerr’s headed, to the coast which is close to an offshore island whose inhabitants have recently chosen to dispense with a ferry altogether.

 

 

 

It was preternaturally cold when we first and last saw that island, during the first four pages. Even inside with the thermostat turned up, the breath of the bearded man hangs in the air. His shoulders hang heavy too. He sits alone and pallid in the bungalow’s colourless lounge, overly empty save for some family portraits, also hanging, on the wall.

His wife in the kitchen’s stopped washing the dishes. Instead she’s staring out of the window.

 

 

“Louise? What are you doing?”
“Hmm? I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was just watching the boys play.”
“The.. the boys? What are you talking about? You can’t watch them play. The boys are –“

The boys are in the garden, one standing on a swing, the other racing towards a football.

 

 

But you can see right through them. And then there are those faces and eyes

Beautifully judged by Torres for maximum eeriness, there will be more temperamental temperature during the second half of this first issue which I’ve not even touched on.

From the writer of HARROW COUNTY (first two volumes reviewed).

SLH

Buy Cold Spots s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Shazam s/c (Movie Cover Edition) (£11-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank.

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself, do you? How sad is that?”

Another reboot yarn this time featuring Billy Batson, here updated for the 21st century as a right royal pain in the arse. A problem child who is unwanted and unloved, stuck in foster homes for most of his life, and consequently has a gargantuan chip to carry on his young shoulders. If only he could turn into someone super-strong to take the weight of all his woes… Gosh, that’d be magic wouldn’t it?

It works though, because the character of Billy is given real depth by Johns and there is an excellent supporting cast of goodies and baddies that flesh the story out perfectly. Excellent art from Gary Frank, who as usual has provided a masterclass of exactly how superhero books can and should be drawn. Every single face he has drawn here shows emotional content which adds an extra dimension to the storytelling.

 

 

Wonderful.

Apart from the new cover.

JR

[Editor’s note: collects the back-up strips from JUSTICE LEAGUE (NEW 52) #7-11, 0, 14-16 and 18-21. I love Gary Frank. See DOOMSDAY CLOCK etc. He makes you believe that a muscular, 15-stone man can fly – or even float in mid-air.]

 

 

Buy Shazam s/c (Movie Cover Edition)  and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Blossoms In Autumn h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Zidrou & Aimee De Jongh

Book Learnin’ – A Pie Comics Collection (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee

Brazen – Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World h/c (£17-99, Ebury Press) by Penelope Bagieu

Girl Town (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Carolyn Nowak

Kid Gloves  – Nine Months Of Careful Chaos (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Lucy Knisley

Kill 6 Billion Demons vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Last Siege s/c (£17-99, Image) by Landry Quinn Walker & Justin Greenwood

Man-Eaters vol 1 (£11-99, Image) by Chelsea Cain & Kate Niemczyk

The Perineum Technique h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerome Mult & Florent Ruppert

Star Bright (£11-99, ) by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke

Walking Dead vol 31: The Rotten Core (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Wicked + The Divine vol 8: Old Is The New New s/c (£15-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans, Andre Araujo, Ryan Kelly, Aud Koch, various

The Wild Storm vol 3 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt

This Woman’s Work (£18-99, Drawn + Quarterly) by Julie Delporte

Xerxes: The Fall Of The House Of Darius And The Rise Of Alexander h/c (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Frank Miller

Avengers vol 2: World Tour s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, Ed McGuinness

Fantastic Four vol 1: Fourever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Sara Pichelli, various

Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£20-00, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei

RWBY Anthology vol 4: I Burn (£8-99, Viz) by various

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 4 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 5 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 6 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 7 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 8 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 9 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week four

February 28th, 2019

“It’s about creation, illusion, reality and fiction; survival, escape and escapism.

“On so very many levels, it’s about escaping your past.”

 – Stephen on Mister Miracle by Tom King & Mitch Gerads.

Mister Miracle s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads.

“I can always escape.”

 – Scott Free, Mister Miracle

“Comics will break your heart.”

– Jack ‘King’ Kirby, creator of Mister Miracle (and so much more)

Before we begin, I promise you this:

This is no more a superhero comic that Fraction and Aja’s run on HAWKEYE. Indeed separating this eminently approachable book from its publishing past – of which you need know nothing – plays an integral part in its mischief and in its multilayered narrative.

It is instead a Real Mainstream book, accessible to all, with exceptionally nuanced, neo-classical yet expressionistic art owing much to Bill Sienkiewicz, bursting with wit, insight and passion, about discerning one’s true priorities and appreciating your bounties; embracing and so not running from them, but celebrating them instead in all their often irksome but iridescent best.

 

 

Sure, it’s also about torture, death-traps, war, paternal betrayal, screwed up ideas about what constitutes a wholesome upbringing, and unleashing a weapon of prevalently held fears and anxieties upon mankind in an eons-old feud between two warring Kingdoms of Gods.

But really it’s about the indispensable upgrade, to any occasion, of a fresh veggie tray and dips.

 

 

It’s about creation, illusion, reality and fiction; survival, escape and escapism.

On so very many levels, it’s about escaping your past.

This goes equally, whether you’re a comicbook creator like Jack ‘King’ Kirby, or one of his creations, Scott Free.

Above all it’s a slick comedy, merrily juxtaposing the crazy and the quotidian, the dire and the daft.

Like Scott’s beautiful wife’s less than becoming bed-face, drawn to observational perfection by line and colour artist Mitch Gerads.

 

 

And the strange but not unexpected truth that even a stinking dungeon-kingdom of hellish fire-pits called Apokolips must have a restroom somewhere.

It’s… different.

First we’ll talk plot, then we’ll talk craft.

 

 

Celebrated escape artist Scott Free (Mister Miracle) has an enviable life in sunny Los Angeles, with an ever so understanding, preternaturally tall wife, an equally adoring public and – he will soon learn, at the least appropriate juncture – a beautiful baby boy on the way. Oh, there are such play times ahead! So why has Scott Free attempted to pull off the ultimate escape trick, from life? For there he lies sprawled on the bathroom floor, wrists slit, blood swimming round the toilet bowl, staining his colourful costume and mask.

Why does his wife Barda catch him, upon convalescing, talking to an old colleague about new manacles, reputedly impossible to escape from, and a kid who once drew the unknowable: the very face of God? Oberon passed away last month, from throat cancer brought on by his cherished cigars.

Has someone – or something – got to Scott?

“Everything’s wrong. Everything.
“I can’t… There’s something wrong with me.
“I see things… I do things… Things that aren’t…
“I don’t know how to escape this.”

And why is our vision constantly fritzing in and out, like a broadcast losing its tuning? (Bottom left.)

 

 

I’ll tell you why.

Scott Free was a God of the Fourth World, born of the Highfather, ruler of New Genesis. The Highfather was engaged in a relentless, ruthless bloody war with Darkseid, ruler of Apocolips, hell-bent on unleashing the Anti-Life Equation.  After untold eons, they eventually called a ceasefire. To cement this fragile truce they agreed to swap their own baby sons: Darkseid’s spawn Orion would live on New Genesis, while Scott Free was abandoned to Darkseid and tortured by Granny Goodness (mythological sarcasm) in the stygian X-Pit of Apokolips. It was there that he met his future wife, Big Barda, herself a resilient product of those pits. Unsurprisingly, Scott spent his entire youth determined to escape, and eventually he did so. He moved to planet Earth and became a celebrated escape artist with an enviable life in –

I’m sorry, but you’re breaking up again…

 

 

Scott Free AKA Mister Miracle never actually existed except in the fictional DC Comics universe. He was and remains a fictional character from the Fourth World created at DC by Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) after he left Marvel Comics. At Marvel Comics he co-created Captain America, then later the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and so many more characters with the infamously alliterative Stan Lee who stole as much of the credit for those fictitious children as possible while the company declined to pay Kirby royalties and managed to “lose” almost all of his original art.

See MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY.

“Comics will break your heart.”

Jack meant the US/UK comics industry. He’s not wrong, and all of this is relevant.

 

 

As this book opens, ‘The Secret Origin of Mister Miracle’ is being retold as if on a TV screen in a very specific typeface with a certain degree of moralistic simplicity, a huge heap of hyperbole and a thunderous foray of exclamation points!!!! The art by Mike Norton emulates that of Jack Kirby.

Abruptly we’re then thrown on that cold bathroom floor with Mitch Gerads’ comparatively photo-realistic art and Scott Free’s slit wrists.

“I can always escape” is both Scott’s boast and his fall-back plan.

But can he? Should he? Did he?

What is he really running from, and what’s coming next?

Well, I know it doesn’t sound like it at this point, but the answer is an enormous amount of laughter as every aforementioned element comes into play including Stan Lee returning to the fore as Scott and Barda’s baby son’s nanny. Their son is tellingly called Jacob. Scott Free has a penchant for wearing DC superhero comics t-shirts (the icon range), swapping them between chapters (this escalates), so he isn’t averse to buying his son cuddly superhero toys to play with. This leads to the one line that I never thought I’d read in a DC Comic:

“Batman kills babies.”

Former DC censor-in-chief and professional worrywart Paul Levitz would never have allowed a single sentence of this iconoclastic book to exist. He’d have put it all in the microwave, along with creator Kyle Baker.

 

 

Tom King wrote my favourite ever Batman story in BATMAN: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT in which Lois Lane, Selina Kyle, Clarke Kent and Bruce Wayne bond during a night off at a theme park. Tom King thinks outside the box and brings things back down to Earth.

Throughout, Scott and Barda – who’d prefer to do lunch, bask on beaches or survey the starry night sky from the hills above LA’s city lights – are called away to Awful Events, Terrible Treaties and Outrageous Ultimatums from far-off quarters of the Mind-Blowing Multiverse linked (via a teleportation-like conduit called a Boom Tube) to their condominium’s front door.

“Have you fed the cat?”

You’ll be treated to an exquisite short story about a painter and his apprentice which echoes beautifully with the comic’s concepts of illusion and verisimilitude, and if you thought hospital child birth was traumatising enough under ordinary circumstances, it’s infinitely worse when there are harridans outside the ward waiting patiently to disembowel your husband.

 

 

Artist Mitch Gerads plays it all to perfection, accentuating the contrast between luridly coloured off-world evisceration and a quiet, pale blue palette with sand, cream and flesh for what you and I are more used to, and his crisp, clean, nine-panel grid ensures that no one will feel alienated, however new they be to comics.

It’s also integral to the comedic timing, a final beat so often falling on the finale.

 

 

His forms are both sturdy and svelte, and his incorporation of Kirby’s original rendition of craggy-faced Granny Goodness (Denis Healey runaway eyebrows and all!) into his own Bill Sienkiewicz / Sean Murphy style is seamless.

 

 

Plus his light, deft, balletic choreography of the life-or-death fight, flight or infiltration scenes emphasises the ease of their execution while Scott and Barda concentrate instead on their far more pressing issues, like how to best rearrange their condo cupboards and living room in order to incorporate the arrival or their soon-to-be newborn child.

 

 

Almost lastly, this: I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m visiting my friends, getting to grips with the idiosyncrasies of their showers is of paramount importance and often completely baffling.

 

 

So it is that we return at last to escape and escapism, the struggle to survive, and the will to live through it: to move on, create and to thrive!

“And the son asked, “What is the Fourth World?”
“And the father said,
“The First World is the Old World, the world of my parents from which they fled.
“The Second World is the New World which they sought, which they found, where I came to be.
“The Third World is our world as it is now, in the making, the future being born.
“And the Fourth World, my child, that is my world. The world I see when I close my eyes…”

Young Jack Kirby, born of Austrian Jewish immigrants, looks at us directly, out of the page…

“And try to escape.”

SLH

Buy Mister Miracle s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 of 6 (£3-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Simone Bianchi.

“You’re looking at eighteen months’ intensive deep cover to get all your criminal friends in one place. I wasn’t proud of what I did in this holo-suit, but I’ll do what it takes if the price is right.”

Oh, the look on the lured victim’s fast-paling face!

And oh, the glee in the patient angler’s grin…

“Oh yeah.”

I chuckled like a sixteen-year-old schoolboy.

Mark Millar enjoys throwing it all about these days, hopping swiftly from one speculative sub-genre to another, as if the last one’s caught fire, in a concerted effort to cater for as many science-fiction tastes as possible. It’s quite a broad church. Admittedly it is a prerequisite that any of those tastes include an attraction to action, arched-eyebrow attitude and more often than not a certain degree of sexual mischief.

 

 

He’s not lingering long enough in any one territory for some serious dissection. Quiet and contemplative, he’s not. Not any longer, anyway. It’s been a while since JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL ONE, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL ONE and TWO then JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL TWO (to be read in that order, and highly recommended), and much longer still since THE ULTIMATES (ditto). But since most of Millar’s recent set-ups could be considered emergency situations leaving his protagonists neither time to consider nor room for manoeuvre, it works.

Like Millar’s own EMPRESS with art by Stuart Immonen, we’re once more flying across the cosmos, albeit in a space-faring ice-cream van, such is Sharkey’s woeful credit status. And with painterly art by Simone Bianchi, Warren Ellis’s artistic partner on the self-contained ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST BOX, this may well appeal also to those of a European Humanoids persuasion.

I also sensed trappings of old-school 2000 AD, the bawdy bits of Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s first Barracuda story in PUNISHER MAX VOL 5, the first two Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisley LOBO mini-series, and perhaps Warren Ellis and D’Israeli’s LAZARUS CHURCHYARD (there’s even a toilet in the first few pages, though thankfully it keeps its own counsel).

That doesn’t smell overly fresh, does it?

Even the woman determined to transform herself into a security vehicle smacked of something which Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s DESCENDER dealt with in far more depth.

Yet I was entertained, momentarily.

 

 

MAGIC ORDER is where brevity has worked best for Millar most recently – indeed it proved pivotal to the proceedings, rendering the last two of six chapters side-blindingly brilliant in their multiple reveals – and I’ll be back to beseech you to buy that book once it’s been collected, with a far more reasoned response.

For now: contrary to his outward disdain for others and against his better judgement, bounty hunter Sharkey saddles himself with a pre-teen side-kick after handing the boy’s bald uncle in for a lot less lolly than was originally offered because he’s so massively in dept that bondsmen have been instructed to deduct it from his earnings at source. Fortunately a much more lucrative contract is offered and that’s where we’re heading, only it’s been openly tendered so expect competition – from the bloke gloating in the pull quote, for one.

Thanks to Simone Bianchi – still employing the trademark white-lined cut-out effect surrounding some faces and forms – Sharkey with his nascent handlebar moustache comes off like Nick Cave circa ‘White Lunar’ with the other Warren Ellis. The big difference is that above his long-worn, slick black hair, Saint Nick’s not bald on top. Sharkey most emphatically is.

On confronting his shaven-haired quarry, this led Sharkey to a proud bald-bloke joke which our Jonathan enjoyed enormously. As did I, for I too am an angler, patiently waiting with a small smile on my face for J’s inevitable Day of Decision.

 

 

SLH

Buy Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos.

“Journalism is just a gun. It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world…”

DC has recently been repackaging its slimmer Vertigo volumes into heftier editions, and this combines the first two precisely – BACK ON THE STREET and LUST FOR LIFE – for little more money than those single editions.

Back On The Street

Campaigning journalist Spider Jerusalem is a very cranky man. Five years ago he sold his ass to a publisher for a two-book deal whose advance he squandered on escaping his fans by barricading himself up in a shack on a mountainside and surrounding it with mines, guns and ammunition.

Spider is not a people person.

 

 

So here is he is with not a word written, hairy and naked and covered in tattoos, the guns now bartered for drugs which have long since run out and the devil is wanting his due:

“That ignorant, thick-lipped, evil, whore-hopping editor phones me up and says, “Does the word contract mean anything to you, Jerusalem?” I was having a mildly paranoid day, mostly due to the fact that the mad priest lady from over the river had taken to nailing weasels to my front door again.”

And so it is that to avoid being sued Spider Jerusalem has to return to a noisy, stinking city he loathes but which feeds him exactly what he needs to write. There he hunts down old friend Mitchell Royce, city editor of The Word, for a regular, paying column in which to scream truth to apathy and all the blind eyes being turned. After that it’s one long refrain of “Where’s my fucking column?!”

 

 

Set in a future not so distant as to be unrecognisable from the present which it’s passing judgement upon, this was Warren’s first perfect vehicle in which to address his chief obsessions – technology, politics, drugs, sex and bowel movements – and do so in a foul-mouthed frenzy of highly cathartic rage. Apart from political and social apathy, his first targets included organised religion (Spider dressed up as Jesus at a temple of mad new religions, overthrowing the stalls of the money swindlers) and multi-channel TV saturation, all the hideous advertising that comes with it, and the state of what passes for journalism there:

“…You people don’t know what the truth is! It’s there, just under their bullshit, but you never look! That’s what I hate most about the fucking city — lies are news and truth is obsolete!”

 

 

It’s also round two between him and the US President about to seek re-election, in a hotel toilet with a bowel disruptor gun. That one’s going to run. But first it’s live feed from a rooftop overlooking the massacre by the state police of a group of Transcients (“Transcience is all about the right to change your species”) mislead by their dickhead and dick-led leader into attempting secession from The State.

It’s a riot throughout, with the second half lightening up both comedically and visually with fewer panels bleeding off the page and the return of some white behind the panel borders. Darick undergoes a massive leap from the very first page of the fifth issue, his faces and figures more fully formed, but he’s the perfect artist for this from the start, as are the two cover artists Geoff Darrow and Frank Quitely. It’s packed full of background details from a Direct Action Baptist roaming the streets with a water cannon (I laughed a lot at that), hoardings advertising newly invented foods or fetishes, and the insignia of the Transcients, a smiley button with three eyes and a devil’s tail smile.

 

 

Lust For Life

Although most readers become instantly addicted to the profane ragings of the easily antagonised political columnist Spider Jerusalem, there are some who come away bewildered by the bombast. Here, however, the first three issues are an emphatic change of style and pace as Jerusalem – against all expected odds – shows that he has a heart. Each self-contained chapter is bursting with speculative science about where humanity and the societies it inhabits might potentially go from here.

 

 

In the first Spider’s assistant finds herself nursing a broken heart as the boyfriend whom Spider never liked ditches her in order to die. At least, that’s how she sees it, but Jerusalem has prior experience of the transfiguration: a friend who’s already successfully “downloaded” himself into a billion tiny machines, self-sustaining and strung together by lightning, so leaving his mortality behind. In an attempt to give her closure he explains the process as they travel by a horse-drawn cab through the open parks of the future city, introduces his friend and then arranges for her to witness the event itself. Unfortunately the final moments are so traumatic that she ends up quitting to join a nunnery.

 

 

That’s followed by two of Spider’s columns. The second sees the journalist experiencing firsthand some of the reservations built to preserve ancient societies, whilst the first follows the story of one woman’s attempt to preserve herself by electing to be cryogenically frozen, then revived when technology had advanced far enough to create for her a new artificial body. And it has. But society hasn’t advanced far enough to care. She’s dutifully revived as per contract — then left to fend for herself in a traumatically alien world. It’s touchingly done, Jerusalem/Ellis juxtaposing each remarkable feat of science involved in recreating her brain for a new body not only with the less than clinical conditions it’s performed in, but also the less than impressed performances of those executing it in-between petty office politics, casual drinking and sex in the toilets. Oh yes, and when her husband died three years after Mary he was too far from America to be frozen himself, so Mary wakes up alone.

After that… it’s back to the bombast as Spider finds himself the target of a death threat conspiracy involving the theft of his ex-wife’s cryogenically frozen head, a longstanding French vendetta, a disgruntled target of Jerusalem’s journalism and an apoplectic British Bulldog whom Spider once relieved of his prodigious wanger.

Tip of the hat to artist Robertson, not just for making the burlesque great fun, but also for the most gorgeous landscape portrait of a contemporary San Francisco Bay swathed in fog under the crystalline light of an early morning sun.

 

 

Reminder: Spider Jerusalem is not a people-person:

“If you loved me, you’d all kill yourselves today.”

SLH

Buy Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Nightlights s/c (£8-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez.

Now out in softcover, just in time for its sequel, HICOTEA!

And that cover is such a pretty thing in orange, blues and purples, with tactile spot varnish picking out the title, some flowers and Sandy’s sketches. Oh how she loves to draw! But I promise you that this is nothing compared to the wonders within…

Sandy is lying flat on her back on the lounge carpet, as far from her bedroom as possible, positively gluing herself to the ground.

“I’m a heavy, heavy rock…”

Haha! So many kids do love to prolong the day, don’t they? They go to great guileful lengths, first to avoid climbing those stairs to Bedfordshire, then to keep Mummy or Daddy reading to them for as long as possible. For example, when all else fails and her bedside light looks like going out, our Jonathan’s young Nutjob has been known to clasp her hands studiously, look him in the eyes with a serious, concerned expression and say:

“So, Daddy, tell me about your day…”

I don’t quite know why Sandy’s so keen to delay, for her day is far from done.

 

 

Once the bedroom is dark, tiny pink baubles of light appear above her head, which – with a whoosh of wide-spread arms – she transforms into the most magical and diverse parade of magnificent space-swimming creatures! Some come from the ocean, like a gigantic red octopus with big bulbous yellow eyes; some seem to float in their own bubbles of water complete with seaweed. One’s like a giant white wolf with huge orange orbs, there’s an owl, a regal lute-strumming monkey and a cat at the back that could be its queen. She might be reading her own bedtime story.

 

 

There’s so much for wide eyes to explore and linger over – those two double-page spreads are actually one long scroll which I’ll show you at the bottom – and Alvarez does aqueous and gelatinous so very well, with pools of light reflected on the membranes. As your eyes drift slowly from left to right, you will see Sandy drifting too – off to a contented sleep.

 

 

In the morning it’s time for school. It’s run by nuns, and the Sister supervising the front gate to take attendance is ever so stern.

“Where’s the rest of that skirt, Miss Garcia? This is a sanctuary for learning, not a disco.
“Miss Lopez, are you trying to blind me with that pink hairband?
“You there! Pull those socks up!
“And I don’t want to see you wandering off at break again, Sandy.”

Break seems like fun, and they’ve grass to play on rather than a hard asphalt school yard. It’s just as well, because one of the young ladies is rugby-tackling another to the ground!

 

 

Sandy is diligently sketching some of the wonders from the night before when she’s interrupted by a moon-faced girl with lavender-tinted white hair who asks to look at her drawings. She studies them while Sandy waits, worried that she might disappoint and that this newcomer won’t like what she sees, but…

“Your drawings are really good!
“You’ll be famous one day!”

Her name is Morfie, she says, and it’s her first day. But suddenly a storm sets in and Sandy quickly gathers up her school books and hurries inside.

“Bye, Sandy.”

But how did she know Sandy’s name? And why – when Sandy looks out of the window during lessons – is Morfie sitting perched up a tree, with the rain pouring down all around her, her hair blowing like the loose leaves in the squall?

 

 

Rain is another element which Alvarez excels at. I can hear all the little droplets’ individual, pitter-patter impacts and splashes on the grass and the trees, and then on the fresh, green heathers and ferns as Sandy cycles back home.

Alvarez incorporates so many of these feathery fronds into the fantastical pages too. But soon the eyes from the nocturnal sequences start to appear in the woods during daylight. Fungi sprout from the tree trunks and the leaf sprays take on a purple, luminous glow.

 

 

Morfie’s expressions, already ambiguous, begin to look greedy, her flattering attentions more overtly manipulative, and her demands on Sandy’s creativity become… vampiric.

 

 

More than once Sandy uses her drawing skills to create escape routes, and her clever delaying tactics prove that she does at least occasionally pay attention in class.

You will be unsurprised to learn that this gorgeous graphic novel comes from Nobrow. They and their Flying Eye imprint are responsible for a significant sum of our most luxurious Young Readers picture books including Luke Pearson’s HILDA.

 

 

Alvarez has lavished NIGHTLIGHTS with so many double-page spreads festooned with such a variety of cute wide-eyed wonders that perhaps your young ones’ imaginative minds will make up adventures of their own. When Philippa Rice once filled Page 45’s window with a vast diorama of colourful paper figures, I saw a five-year-old boy singling some of them out, and I overhead him tell his grandfather the most elaborate stories about them, conjured up on the spot.

There’s certainly plenty to play with here.

SLH

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

The Electric State h/c (£18-99, Simon & Schuster) by Simon Stalenhag…

 

 

Given that this isn’t comics, I will let the publisher have the first plug to power things up before I switch on my current punnery. Ah, too late…

“Stranger Things meets On the Road in this hypnotic, lavishly illustrated novel. Set in a post-apocalyptic 1997, The Electric State is the story of Michelle who, accompanied by her toy robot Skip, sets out across the western United States in a stolen car to find her missing brother. Told in achingly melancholy, spare prose and featuring almost a hundred gorgeous, full-colour illustrations, The Electric State is a novel like no other.”

 

 

That is a fairly accurate description, I have to say. The artwork is exquisite. Simon Stalenhag has clearly started off with photographs, primarily of urban settings and rural landscapes then managed to manipulate them so they don’t look like manipulated pics at all, but more like painted artwork.

 

 

Before adding in the madness of huge robots and various other future tech…

 

 

The result is a gloriously bleak dystopian road trip with the prose elements recounted in the first person by Michelle.

 

 

You will be hanging on before turning over each page to fully take in the art, but also hanging in there to see if there is to be a happy ending.

 

 

At 144 pages, it’s far more substantial than you might expect.

JR

Buy The Electric State h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hiroshima – The Autobiography Of Barefoot Gen (£18-99, Rowman & Littlefield) by Nakazawa Keiji, Richard H. Minear.

Prose autobiography from the creator of BAREFOOT GEN, invaluable for students in prising apart the fiction from the heavily autobiographical elements in the classic, harrowing manga series.

“This compelling autobiography tells the life story of famed manga artist Nakazawa Keiji. Born in Hiroshima in 1939, Nakazawa was six years old when on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb. His gritty and stunning account of the horrific aftermath is powerfully told through the eyes of a child who lost most of his family and neighbours.

The narrative continues through the brutally difficult years immediately after the war, his art apprenticeship in Tokyo, his pioneering “atomic-bomb” manga, and the creation of Barefoot Gen, the classic graphic novel based on his own experiences before, during, and after the bomb. Despite the grimness of his early life, Nakazawa never succumbs to pessimism or defeatism. His trademark optimism and activism shine through in this inspirational work.”

SLH

Buy Hiroshima – The Autobiography Of Barefoot Gen and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

BPRD Vampire s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Glint vol 1: The Cloud Raiders (£11-99, Caracal) by Samuel Sattin & Ian McGinty

Cold Spots s/c (£14-99, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres

Guantanamo Kid – The True Story Of Mohammed El-Gharani (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jerome Tubiana & Alexandre Franc

Hobo Mom h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman & Max de Radigues

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 9 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c (£9-99, Titan Books) by Rory Lucey

Little Bear’s Spring (£6-99, Macmillan) by Elli Woolard & Briony May Smith

Nightlights s/c (£8-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Space Boy vol 3 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Weatherman vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox

Green Lantern By Geoff Johns Book 1 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons & Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason, Carlos Pacheo, Darwyn Cooke

Shazam s/c (Movie Cover Edition) (£11-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Superman: The Unity Saga vol 1: Phantom Earth h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis, various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Friends And Foes s/c (UK Edition) (£11-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Humberto Ramos, Michele Bandini

Spider-Geddon: Covert Ops s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by  Priest, Jody Houser & Paulo Siqueira,  Andres Genolet, others

Aposimz vol 2 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Barefoot Gen vol 7 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Black Torch vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 89 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 9  (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week three

February 20th, 2019

“It serves to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.”

 – Jonathan and Stephen on The Giver by Lois Lowry, adapted by P. Craig Russell

The Giver h/c (£20-99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Lois Lowry & P. Craig Russell with Galen Showman, Scott Hampton…

“I certainly liked the memory, though. I can see why it’s your favourite. I couldn’t quite get the word for the feeling that was so strong in the room.”
“Love.”

“Love.”

As to why absolutely no one in the Community has any idea what the emotion love is except The Giver, and now Jonas, the new twelve-year-old Receiver, well, that’s where our sad, dystopian tale of woe, but also ultimately hope, begins.

At first black and white glance, especially through the eyes of the young children being inculcated into the system of beliefs and morals that prevail, you might conclude that this is a utopian paradise. In fact, everyone living there (except The Giver who must keep his own counsel), is wholly convinced that it is.

From the moment they were born – then taken away from their anonymous birth mothers and placed by committee with carefully selected parents, who themselves have had their partners and jobs specifically chosen for them to match their mindsets and abilities – free will and choice is effectively entirely absent from their lives.

 

 

Obedience is everything, and nothing so troubling as novelty or diversity is allowed to intrude on their bliss. Through a combination of conditioning and emotion-suppressing drugs, the population of the Community has, so it seems, quite literally nothing to worry about.

Even after a full life spent contributing to the Community, people go to live in the House Of The Old, cared for tenderly and attentively by the young people, until their joyful Release is granted.

This blessed Release is practised by the Community as a way to bring a long and valuable life to a peaceful and celebrated conclusion, their life achievements being read out in a ceremony before they wave a cheery goodbye then walk through a door.

People are also Released under other instances. For example, if babies don’t settle sufficiently at night to be placed with a family after being professionally nurtured, then they too are Released, so as not to bring distress into any household.  If someone gives birth to identical twins then the child with the lowest birth weight is also Released, for the Committee fears the heinous confusion that two identical-looking beings would cause in their meticulously ordered idyll. And above all, to maintain the tranquillity, if someone fails to adhere to Community standards of behaviour or questions authority on more than two occasions, then they are most definitely Released…

 

… into another community. Apparently.

People just don’t seem willing, or able, to think too deeply about what is actually going on. Except Jonas… which is how he ends up being selected for the once in a generation job of Receiver. He’s been selected by committee for the role because he is brave and because he is different.

But maybe picking someone capable of independent thought to be entrusted with the entire memories of all mankind’s history: the good, the bad and the very, very ugly, isn’t the Committee’s best idea…?

For that is the role of the Receiver: to be the repository of everything that the rest of the Community, including the Committee, is shielded from, handed down from the previous generation’s Receiver who as he becomes the Giver is finally freed from his painful burden. But it seems quite clear even to young Jonas that, as the old Biblical adage goes, surely tis better to give than to receive…?

I’ve really only touched upon the barest premise of this tremendously affecting work. I can see why the prose original has sold millions of copies since its release in 1993 and won myriad awards including the prestigious Newbury Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” for its author Lois Lowry in 1994. It’s definitely an all-ages work this, though. I personally found it both deeply disturbing and immensely uplifting as everything Jonas has ever known is fundamentally challenged and his inherited beliefs shaken to their very foundations.

P. Craig Russell has taken on the immense challenge of adapting and illustrating this modern classic, and he has done so with all of the careful deliberation and lateral thinking which he brought to bear on THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, as he makes abundantly clear when interviewed in the back of the book.

Initially, as I alluded to above, the story is only told in black and white, with some additional blue pencil for texture and emphasis. This is because the Community’s emotional natures are so suppressed and lives been so deliberately homogenised that they can now only see in black and white. Jonas, however, begins to have small spontaneous flashes of colour vision appear to him, such as an occasional object like an apple, or a friend’s hair. This is perceived as him having the ability to ‘see beyond’ and is further taken by the Committee as a sign of the veracity of their wise choice in making Jonas the new Receiver.

 

 

As more and more of the memories of humanity, painful and pleasurable alike, are passed to him by the Giver, and he ceases to take his medication prescribed to quell early romantic and sexual stirrings, Jonas’ perceptions and emotions begin to rapidly open up and he starts to experience reality increasingly more vividly. There’ll be substantially more colour by the time the book ends, but I don’t really want to spoil anything as to explaining precisely why. Suffice to say as the book reaches its dramatic climax there’s a delightful ambiguity to the ending which left me pondering deeply.

I can certainly see this is a book which would provoke a considerable amount of debate and discussion amongst young readers, particularly if it were put on a school syllabus, not least on the subject of empathy. Which is a subject more than a few adults could do with a refresher on, frankly.

P. Craig Russell’s art, exceptional as always, should help to ensure this reaches a whole new audience and will hopefully serve to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.

JR with SLH

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

Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Jesse Hodgson ~

High in the Himalayan mountains you’ll find the mischievous red panda cub, Pip, and her mother, playing in the trees and nibbling delicately on the bamboo shoots. They have a glorious home, a place abundant with life and bursting with every colour imaginable, a true image of paradise! But danger is just around the corner for our blissful pair, as their utopia is on the brink of disastrous change…

Pages drenched in crayon create a tactile and tangible world. You feel as though you could almost stroke the luscious fur coats of Pip and her mother, run your fingers through the velvet grass, or feel the hard rocks, cold to the touch in the high altitude snows. And this truly is a story that tells itself through colour, as subtle as it may be to young eyes.

 

 

We begin in a verdant forest, filled with greenery and flowers while stoic mountains in rich teals watch over the pair, the sun casting its glorious, embracing orange glow as it sets for the evening.

 

 

But that warm glow quickly gets turned into fire-red danger, when a turn of the page reveals that the habitat that Pip and her mother love is being ravaged by monstrous claws as they dredge up the earth and tear the trees to the ground. In black silhouette, Pip and her mum scurry away to safety as quickly as they can. We’re then thrust into a long dark night of cobalt blues as our two refugees travel through scary places unknown in search for the mystical bamboo path, and a new place to call home.

 

Hodgson has crafted a beautiful book encouraging bravery, understanding and the strength and importance of togetherness. Importantly, it’s a whimsical telling of a very real plight of the critically endangered red panda. Hopefully, it will encourage young nature lovers to understand the impact of humans on the environments, and the plight that animals have to go through in order to adapt and survive in places they’re never expected to.

A charming story, elegantly told with an abundance of cute. I couldn’t get enough of Pip’s little expressions, especially in moments of play with pink-padded paws splayed and tail thrashing in the air. I implore you to name a creature cuter than a baby red panda!

SLH

Buy Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System

Eightball: Pussey! (£11-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes.

A reprint of material from the early 1990s which Clowes, in his introduction, puts down to frustration and jealousy he felt while trying to carve a viable career of his own as a comicbook creator in a country where the medium and industry were dominated to their detriment by superheroes.

I don’t think he should be so hard on himself: this is a surprisingly accurate skewering of the industry not only as it was then, but had been for years, with some side-swipes at the easily bought – sorry, SPONSORED – Comics Buyers Guide; Stan Lee (the way in which he ran Marvel Comics back in the 1960s and the way in which those veterans continued to be treated at conventions until recently); the original Image Comics crew… and even Fantagraphics’ co-publisher Gary Groth makes a brief but verbose appearance as Mr. Anger.

Mr. Anger!

 

 

But it’s more complex than that. Just like Feb 2019’s CRIMINAL #2 (which too takes place in the comics world) with few exceptions you can’t really say, “This is him, this is her” etc. They’re more embodiments of common attitudes and behaviour in the industry and without: the lessons here about pride, fall, fame being both fickle and fleeting, treating people on the way up then being treated on the way down… They’re timeless. I may be missing something, but I certainly can’t pin buck-toothed Dan Pussey down as any artist in particular. And I wonder if Chris Ware was thinking of the narrative structure here when he began to offer up pieces of ‘Rusty Brown’, because it does dot backwards and forwards in time, gradually revealing what made Dan Pussey into the repressed man-child and hackneyed superhero artist who eventually becomes comicbook king… for a year.

If you’ve ever heard of superheroes being referred to as male power fantasies and didn’t quite know what was meant by that, this is the definitive explanation with ‘The Origin Of Dan Pussey’ providing an uncomfortable portrait of a weak and unsociable child with daydreams of revenge as one of the superheroes he draws badly: “I’ll crush you all like ants!”

 

 

Like Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB, another classic stab at the less salubrious aspects of a superhero-dominated US/UK industry – Clowes is more even-handed than you might expect, because the pretensions of the Fine Art Gallery crowd come under fire as well, and my favourite scenes were those set in the world of the wilful obscurists, a collective published by Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine (“Look how much it costs — they must pay higher page rates!”) whose editor is as rapacious and slimy as the superhero hustler who cons his crew to work for nothing. In fact the entire book is about money and using people.

“Welcome, my boy, to the editorial offices of Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine: The moderne, avant-garde, neoexpressodeconstructivist Compendium of Comics (or, as I like to call them, Kommix). I am Gummo Bubbleman: Editor, Emperor, Enfant Terrible. Did you bring any samples of your work, or are you just here to waste my time!?”
“No… I – I figured you’d have seen it… I’m Dan Pussey!” 
“Pussey? …Pussey? …No, can’t say that I have. Tell me, Pussey… why do you want to work for me?”
“Eh… well… I … I… eh…”
“So! You’re a snivelling little cowardExcellent! That’s a quality I admire in an artist!”

 

 

The next day, Dan brings in some samples of his superhero work…

“Pussey, this is really first rate work! You’ve captured the primitive essence, the crude vitality of derivative, mindless slop! It’s really quite an achievement! You’ve got keen sensibilities to be able to recognise and deconstruct the various trite and mundane clichés inherent in the common comicbook… and to lay them bare in such an artless and… and venomous way!”

Oooh, that sounds insightful and intense, while utilising unique aspects of this medium to —

“I-It was s’posed to be kinda like Batman crossed with Star Trek…”

Oh dear.

This, of course, was long before Clowes turned his hands to mainstream, mass-appeal contemporary fiction like GHOST WORLD whose quieter, more natural and nuanced visual sensibilities matched the friendship study portrayed. Here instead we are firmly in the realm of highly accomplished and ugly caricature with aforementioned buck teeth, rictus grins of self-satisfaction and deceit, the odd penis-shaped nose, greasy hair falling across undoubtedly acne-pocked foreheads, fashion senses in middle age indicating that those who sport them are stuck in era even earlier, and an astonishing array of spectacles, not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it.

 

 

I’ve just typed “Not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it” and realised for the first time ever that we refer to a singular set of glasses as a pair, as in plural, and it has confused the linguistic / syntactical hell out of me. I guess it’s because there are two lenses…?

SLH

Buy Eightball: Pussey! and read the Page 45 review here

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth…

“I know that time is ticking toward twelve. But perhaps our day will dawn again. Maybe this graphic novel thing has some legs.”

There are some works which demonstrate their grand majesty, their epic qualities, immediately on their first page; you just know you’ve struck gold as soon as you begin reading. And then there are those works which go quietly about their business, building their story, drawing you in little by little, encompassing your imagination further and further, until almost without realising it, you’re completely immersed in a marvellous and splendid world, on a journey that you never want to come to an end, and when you finish the final page and close the book, you’re already a little wistful for what you’ve just left behind.

This latest work from Seth is a classic example of the latter, though it actually almost never saw the light of day at all, as in its original incarnation in his sketchbooks, it started off as more of an essay on early Canadian cartoonists, and frustratingly for the author, wasn’t really progressing in the way he’d hoped. So instead he concentrated on the hilarious story of the world’s greatest comic collector, WIMBLEDON GREEN, and was apparently only convinced to return to this work after friends who’d seen the roughs convinced him there was a classic of a story waiting to told, and so he set to work. The first thing he did was completely revise his vision, and in fact ended up redrawing most of it, incorporating many fictional elements, to produce this finished work. So what exactly is the Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists?

Ostensibly it’s a story told on two levels, an actual tour of the headquarters of the said  club of luminaries by Seth himself, wandering round the various lounges, halls, corridors and studios, (several of which provide an art deco statement la Société des Artistes Décorateurs would have been proud of) whilst he narrates the great history of the club and regales us with examples of many of its famous members’ most outstanding and noted works, thus providing an elaborate illustrated history of the 20th Century’s most celebrated Canadian cartoonists.

 

 

Except, of course, most of these people never existed and these stories were never told! For sure there are some nods to real-life greats like Doug Wright worked in there, clearly someone Seth has a lot of affection for, but on the whole it’s fictional stories about Eskimo astronauts, generational period dramas and flying ghostly canoes that capture the imagination. There are many, many tantalising tidbits of such stories shown to us, which I’d dearly love Seth to go back and expand on at some point, as they contain such wonderful ideas it seems a shame not to explore them further.

 

 

Even though Seth shows us a myriad of these creators throughout this book, the art style remains his own throughout, with only the most minor stylistic modifications employed to illustrate the many creators’ works. It’s a conceit that works extremely well actually, because otherwise it undoubtedly would lose the coherency that pins this work together, the sense of seamless progression through the ages as we wander deeper and deeper into the club itself, finally culminating in an appropriately wistful little rumination from Seth himself, quoted above, as he enjoys a quiet cigarette on the roof overlooking the city skyline. And if people can keep producing graphic novels as outstanding as this work, I don’t think we or Seth need worry about our beloved medium for a long, long time to come.

JR

Buy The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

 

 

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