Archive for December, 2011

Reviews December 2011 week five

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Oh, and don’t miss the absolutely hilarious additional three-pager right at the end of book, where Hector decides to escape to the pub after relentless nagging… from the contents of his flat. That’s some serious delirium tremens!

 – Jonathan on Hector Umbra

Hilda And The Midnight Giant h/c (£11-99, Nobrow) by Luke Pearson.

Oh, the sheer wonder of it all! That’s what you need to light up the eyes and fire up the minds of young readers: wonder, surprise and a protagonist or two o’er-brimming with an insatiable curiosity. Plucky young Hilda’s is infectious!

Living out in the wilds in a craggy valley surrounded by mountains, Hilda and her mother have recently and quite unexpectedly come under siege from the Hidden People. They’ve never spotted one and have no idea where they live, but this is their sixth little letter this week! And, oh dear, it’s yet another demand for mother and daughter up sticks and leave the valley for good. But when Hilda posts a note of her own asking them to leave her alone, their home is bombarded by stones, their books seem to rip themselves to shreds and it’s almost too much for Mum. Hilda, however, is undaunted. She’s determined to discover who these tiny terrorists are, why they’re so suddenly up in arms and see if she can’t set things straight. Of course, there’s also the question of the vast silhouette that has loomed into view. Bigger than the nearest mountain, its eerie black body blocks out the stars, its white eyes silently scanning the horizon as if in search of something…

From the creator of EVERYTHING WE MISS, HILDAFOLK etc. this a breath-takingly beautiful book, its midnight blues as rich in colour as the daylight scenes. There’s more than a dash of Jordan Crane’s THE CLOUDS ABOVE to the floating woofs migrating across the sky like fluffy, wide-eyed, long-tailed tadpoles, while the giant is pure Tom Gauld. But there’s one monumental page on which the Midnight Giant fills the frame from head to toe, bent on one knee whose composition – you may laugh – instantly reminded me of Bryan Hitch’s Giant Man during his first growth spurt in ULTIMATES volume one! The pink glow on the horizon is a golden touch.

There are some great gags that seem to spring spontaneously from the cartooning, while others are stored up for later with exquisite timing (you’ll love the infestation of nittens!) and a tea joke that’s still making me smile several hours later. Hilda herself is a model of inquisitiveness, resolve and resourcefulness, the plight of the Midnight Giant is truly touching, and adults will groan with recognition at the real reason behind the Hidden People’s sudden animosity. Above all, though, it’s the wonder of it all which will fill many a subsequent dream, so highly recommended to people of all sizes: no height restrictions at all.

Please note: this isn’t the actual cover pictured on our shopping page. Quite where the image came from I’ve no idea, but consider it a bonus and the book itself a giant surprise!


Buy Hilda And The Midnight Giant h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ronin Dogs #2 (£4-99, self-published) by Mark Pearce ~

If John Carpenter were to enlist Jaimie Hewlett to create a Saturday morning cartoon, RONIN DOGS would be the result. The concept is simple: Jen; a beat’em-up vixen, and Derek, a skeleton with a beard, are constantly interrupted from their daily routine of hard drinking and video games by myriad cretins attempting to dispatch them. It’s never explained exactly why Jen and Derek invoke such a murderous reaction in their fellow humanoids, explanations tend to elude them when they have hordes of bounty hunters and assassin droids ruining their downtime. Instead the pair pick up the likeliest decapitator and kick the ever-loving crap out of all and sundry. Especially the sundry.

Mark’s latest caper is a feast at over twice the length of book one and at least six times as awesome. Whilst browsing action movies at the video rental store like true connoisseurs, Jen and Derek are rudely disturbed by trouser-less Techno-Assassins and their assassin Droids (which look adorably like a cross between M.O.D.O.K. and GHOST IN THE SHELL’s Tachikoma). Things look dire and as Jen fights for her life, Derek scarpers. Charming! But what the beardy one finds may change the course of the battle and get them a pretty sweet ride to boot.


Buy Ronin Dogs #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Hector Umbra h/c (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Uli Oesterle…

“In three days the opus is going to have its grand premiere at a worthy venue, with none other than Osaka Best back behind the turntables.
“We’re expecting a myriad of fresh as a daisy teenagers to show up on the dancefloor… with their extremely delicate nervous systems.
“Teenagers’ brains which are, thanks to years of drug experimentation, violent videogames and endless energy drinks, as soft as ghost shit. They’ll be falling into a trance as they gyrate, immediately addicted to the grooves being laid down by your friend.
“It’ll be child’s play to take control of their grey matter at that point in time. It’s going to produce a mass of new hosts in one single night, do you understand?
“A fat booty as they ‘shake their booties’. HAH… HAHA… HA.”

Can’t believe he forgot to mention superhero comics contributing to teenage brain rot! Anyway, it doesn’t sound good forMunich’s teenagers as a dastardly plot is being hatched to establish a first bodysnatching beachhead en route to total global domination. But by whom… or indeed, what?

Hector Umbra has always been a sensitive soul, especially since the death of his best friend, up and coming rock star Joseph Nirwana, to a drug overdose. He tends to spend his days and nights getting drunk, being maudlin and painting morose tableaux in his flat. It’s all his remaining friends can do to get him out on the town for a single night, but he wouldn’t miss his DJ mate Osaka Best, king of the turntables, spinning some classic tracks at Munich’s hippest new club. So when Osaka promptly vanishes mid-set, Hector’s determined he’s not going to lose another friend and begins an investigation that will lead him into the darker recesses of the human mind… quite literally. For it seems that this particular sensitive soul might be mankind’s only hope of uncovering and stopping the impending sonic apocalypse.

What a wonderfully written and equally well illustrated story by Uli Oesterle on the, as ever, marvellously eclectic Blank Slate imprint. Once we uncover the circumstances behind the disappearance of our superstar DJ, we’re firmly in the realms of UMBRELLA ACADEMY-esque absurdity, laced with much black humour rather than horror. But it is gripping stuff, simply because the plot has been so well thought through and lovingly detailed. I think fans of HELLBOY would probably enjoy this also, given the humorous aspect. The slightly miasmic art adds to the disorientating plot, if there’s a single straight line used on any of the architecture in the entire book, I certainly didn’t spot it. Oh, and don’t miss the absolutely hilarious additional three-pager right at the end of book, where Hector decides to escape to the pub after relentless nagging… from the contents of his flat. That’s some serious delirium tremens!

“Hey Hector…what brings you to this forsaken place so early in the day?”
“Another second at home and I’m sure the ceiling would have dropped on my head.”
“I totally understand. What can I get you honey?”
“Water, preferably still.”


Buy Hector Umbra h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 15: We Find Ourselves (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn.

Such a Christmassy cover!

Return of the shambling masses in the zombie series which outsells all others, even Garth Ennis’ CROSSED. Delighted to report that we’ve continued to keep each book consistently in stock no matter how high the demand grows over Christmas or the launch of TV series. We also stock the WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 s/c (first eight books in one bumber doorstop) and the WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR prose novel. If you want any of the two different hardcover formats, please let us know.


Buy Walking Dead vol 15: We Find Ourselves and read the Page 45 review here

Baltimore: The Plague Ships s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Steinbeck…

“Is someone there?”
“You’ve made a terrible mistake…”

Regular Page 45 review readers will know I am an unabashed Mignola fan, and love my HELLBOY and BPRD. What is fantastic about Mignola, though, is rather than just continue endlessly with the same characters which does inevitably get old irrespective of the quality of the writing, he’s also producing wonderful new works like this one and also spin-offs using less exposed characters like LOBSTER JOHNSON and WITCHFINDER which, albeit stemming from the same twisted occult mythos, provide a way of telling yet more complex, classic stories in a genre he really is the modern master of.

BALTIMORE PLAGUE SHIPS gives us the pustulent story of Lord Henry Baltimore, a man with more stiff upper lip than the troutiest, poutiest cosmetic surgery victim could ever wish for, and a never-say-die attitude to match. And it’s precisely that sort of British bulldog resilience that’s landed him in the living nightmare he now finds himself. Knocked unconscious on the field of battle in WW1 during a suicidalmidnightover-the-top charge, ordered by the idiotic top brass safely tucked away behind the lines at HQ, he’s appalled to come round and find gigantic bat-like creatures with glowing red eyes literally draining the blood from his dead and dying comrades strewn around him.

When one particularly loathsome specimen notices the waking Lord Henry and decides to make him the next tasty treat, he manages to fend the creature off with a bayonet in a last-ditch, desperate act, gouging the creature’s eye out in the process. Even so, were it not for the fast approaching sunrise, he’d still have been easy pickings for the enraged creatures who seem unnerved by the rapidly increasing light levels and flee the battlefield.

Subsequently coming to in the middle of the night in a field hospital, minus an amputated leg, he’s approached by a cloak-clad fiend missing an eye who chillingly informs Lord Henry that whilst he and his vampiric brethren had previously been content to merely hide in the shadows, feeding on those who were dead and dying, that thanks to Lord Henry’s intervention, they are as of now at war with humanity.

And the visiting vampire who goes by the name of Haigus doesn’t just mean in the wider sense either; it’s a confrontation that’s soon taken to Lord Henry’s home front as his wife and all his family are massacred and turned into undead themselves after a rather unwelcome social call. Although, Haigus might well just have made a fatal mistake, errr… if that’s possible for the undead… as Lord Henry is not the sort of man you’d want to cross, particularly if you’re a vampire and he’s got a cross or two handy himself. From that point on, as far as Lord Henry’s concerned, he’s already living in hell and now has absolutely nothing to lose. He’s living solely for revenge, and he’s prepared to follow Haigus wherever it takes him as the vampire begins to beat a retreat to theOld Worldin an increasingly desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer.

Superb horror writing from Mignola and Christopher Golden, with appropriately atmospheric art from Ben Stenbeck, who appears to have followed the unwritten rule of illustrating a Mignola story, which is to evoke Mignola’s own art style. I do honestly wonder whether it is something that Mignola insists upon actually, but if he does, fair enough, because it really works and ensures these works feel like an addition to a literary canon. I’m already relishing the next instalment ofBALTIMORElike a vampire plotting a trip to the blood bank.


Buy Baltimore: The Plague Ships s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Drops Of God vol 2 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tadashi Agi & Sku Okimoto.

More wine-tasting trials and supercilious smiles as young Shizuku Kanzaki competes for his very inheritance by battling his palate against the more seasoned connoisseur who’s managed to worm his way into Shizuku’s late Dad’s estate.

Please see my review of THE DROPS OF GOD vol 1 for far, far more, but this is massive in France, won the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2009 and has been described by Decanter Magazine as “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years”. Far from the sugar-buzz manga that yells from the shelves this is a serious comic that’s sold one hell of a lot of wine. Funnily enough we find customers drinking a hell of a lot of wine helps us sell a serious quantity of comics, hence our online motto: Long on, Get drunk, Buy more product. Off you go, then. Cheers!


Buy The Drops Of God vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes (£4-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Cameron Stewart.

“We take our memories for granted, never imagining the day must come when they, too, will walk out on us, one by one, like the lovers and friends we never truly appreciated until we are alone.”

Now there’s a frightening thought. I can already see mine waving good-bye from here.

At long last, Leviathan’s leader is revealed! Oh, how it all makes perfect sense! Or does it? Grant has weaved an enormously dense and complex tale in the worldwide saga that’s been BATMAN INC., plus it’s been a while since the first volume’s final issue, so if you’re new or a bit overwhelmed or your memory’s as bad as mine, there’s a detailed refresher course in the back before you begin. Top tip, however: do not flick forward from the front to find it! Instead flick backwards, slowly, carefully and no further than the right-hand “Corporate Takeover” title which marks the start of the recap otherwise you risk spoiling the big reveal!

Essentially two issues, the first follows one of Batman’s many minions to girls’ school where it’s all a bit Morning Glories, a control cult of mass indoctrination training and supplying spy girls to whoever can afford them – which is just where Leviathan wants them. Your master of secret ceremonies is a chip off the old block, but which tree he fell from I will leave you to discover yourselves. The second chapter takes no prisoners at all – well, except two Batmen and both Robins in the labyrinth of Doctor Dedalus – as Grant Morrison puts them and indeed you through the disorientating ringer with much misdirection before Bruce finally figures it all out. Uh oh!

Cameron Stewart handles the first half with style, lovely and clean, while Christ Burnham comes across as a very attractive meld of Frank Quitely and George Perez/Phil Jimenez.

Set before the events of FLASHPOINT never mind DC’s New 52, there’s much more to come in 2012.


Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes

New X-Men vol 8 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Marc Silvestri

The final word from Grant, the epitaph if you will, before Joss Whedon takes over with ASTONISHING X-MEN vol 1. I certain don’t think anyone could accuse Grant of being dull. Here the final catastrophe in New X-Men vol 7 causes Scott Summers to lose heart. He abandons the school, and through that single action rather than the death itself a terrible chain of events is set in motion which lead to the worst possible future. Morrison binds much that he has created into what at first appears a confusing few issues. It’s super-charged with long words – high pronouncements and loud protestations – and slashed onto the page through the busiest of hyperactive art. It will need re-reading, it’s so well disguised. But that’s good, and when you finally begin to understand just what has happened it makes perfect sense and provides a very satisfying wrap. Majestic, creative and bursting with energy. It is, in fact, Sublime.


New X-Men vol 8 (Digest)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, more.

“I feel there’s something between us, you and I. I hope that doesn’t sound odd. You baffle me. I’ve been in the centre of the city for my entire life. I have met drug dealers and kings and everything in between. But I have never met anyone like you.”

I adore Sara Pichelli’s art. She is perfect for this title, keeping it young, sprightly and chic. Indeed each of the artists here is on top form but there’s one unassuming show-stealer: Chris Samnee whose subtle expressions do total justice to a scene I never thought I’d see, for the final chapter in this book contains the most surprising yet convincing, fully thought-through portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson since the newspaper publisher was first created fifty years ago. The quiet conversation – the exceedingly frank discussion – he has with young Peter breathes a real life and humanity into a character used in the regular Marvel Universe as nothing more than a two-dimension foil, a bellicose bully, and a very thick man. No one who has achieved what J. Jonah Jameson has achieved in newspaper publishing could possibly be as incessantly stupid as that human hurricane of expletives, that Ian Paisley of pejoratives.

Journalism at its best is a window on the world, and journalists at their best are constantly peering through it, pointing at things and learning from their experiences. Over the past 150+ issues, J. Jonah Jameson has seen a lot he never thought he’d see – a great deal he hoped he’d never see – and his experiences have indeed shaped him. They have changed the man; he has learned stuff. Specifically, he has learned who Peter is and what he really does, and why.

“I know I just said this two minutes ago… but I have never ever met anyone like you before in my entire life.”

J. Jonah Jameson could have outed Peter as Spider-Man weeks ago, and it would have sold him a million newspapers. He hasn’t. He’s thought about it long and hard, but he hasn’t. Here we learn why.

Before that, however, there’s a knock on Aunt May’s door. The government-sanctioned peace keepers, The Ultimates, have had a discussion of their own and some of them are adamant that Spider-Man needs locking up, shutting down or at the very least training. The destruction he leaves in his wake has been enormous (you can expect a great deal of destruction during this particular instalment with the return of the Black Cat and Mysterio hot on her tail). He’s young, relatively inexperienced and been going it solo with no one to advise or in anyway temper him. Up until now, they believe, luck has played no small part in Spider-Man’s survival, let alone his often pyrrhic victories. As to Aunt May, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane… well, prices have already been paid and it’s a miracle that any one of them is still standing. And one day, they are sure… one day Peter’s luck will finally run out and there will be casualties.

Next: Peter’s luck finally runs out.


Buy Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude s/c and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Terry Moore Sketchbook vol 1: Hot Girls and Cold Feet (£8-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Stuck In The  Middle: Seventeen Comics From An Unpleasant Age (£13-99, Viking) by Gabrielle Bell, Ariel Bordeaux, Robyn Chapman, Daniel Clowes, Vanessa Davis, Nick Eliopulos, Eric Enright, Jim Hoover, Cole Johnson, Joe Matt, Jace Smith, Aaron Renier, Ariel Schrag, Tania Schrag, Dash Shaw, Lauren Weinstein

The Cartoon Introduction To Economics vol 2 (£13-50, Hill And Wang) by Yoram Bauman & Grady Klein

Evolution: The  Story Of Life On Earth s/c (£10-99, Hill And Wang) by Jay Hosler & Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon

House Of Mystery vol 7: Conception (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Matthew Sturges, Matt Wagner, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Mike Carey & Luca Rossi, Werther Dell’Edera, Jose Marzan Jr, Brandon Graham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Michael Allred, Peter Gross, Stefano Landini

Hellblazer vol 2: The Devil You Know (£14-99, Vertigo/DC) by Jamie Delano & David Lloyd, Bryan Talbot, Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Dean Motter

Roots Of The Swamp Thing s/c (£22-50, Vertigo/DC) by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson, Nestor Redondo, Michael Wm. Kaluta

Batman: Under The Red Hood (£22-50, DC) by Judd Winick & Doug Mahnke, Paul Lee, Shane Davis, Eric Battle

Generation Hope: Schism s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie,Salvador Espin, Tim Seeley, Steven Sanders

Secret Avengers vol 2: Eyes Of The Dragon softcover (it really *is* the s/c) (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Mike Deodato, Will Conrad

X-Men: Age Of X s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey, Si Spurrier, Jim McCann, Chuck Kim & Mirco Pierfederici, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Clay Mann, Steve Kurth, Khoi Pham, Tom Palmer, Paul Davidson

X-Men: Schism hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen &Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert, Billy Tan

Spawn Origins vol 13 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin & Greg Capullo, Dwayne Turner

Star Wars Omnibus: Shadows Of The Empire (£18-99, Dark Horse) by various

Doctor Who series 2 vol 2: When Worlds Collide (£13-50, IDW) by Tony Lee & Mark Buckingham, Matthew Dow Smith

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol 12 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Koji Kumeta

K-ON! vol 4 (£7-99, Yen Press) by Kakifly

Air Gear vol 21 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Oh!Great

Bloody Monday vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryou Ryumon & Kouji Megumi

Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Official Casebook vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Kenji Kuroda & Kazuo Maekawa

Gantz vol 20 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Tokyo Mew Mew Omnibus vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Reiko Yoshida & Mia Ikumi

Dracula: Classical Comics Original Text (£9-99, Classical Comics) by Bram Stoker, Jason Cobley & Staz Johnson

And that’s it for 2011!

See you all in 2012 with whatever I can cobble together on New Year’s Day for next Wednesday. New Year’s Day! I may still be sozzled. Could make for interesting reading!

 – Stephen

Reviews December 2011 week four

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I can only presume that Shooter was either going through therapy or doing some serious pharmaceutical-grade psychedelics at the time, possibly both.

 – Jonathan on Marvel’s Secret Wars 2. Can anyone recommend a good lawyer?

The Sigh h/c (£8-50, Archaia) by Marjane Satrapi.

Ah, Le Soupir! Almost everything sounds better in French, even an expression of mild disappointment.

I’ll be the first to confess that I let a little sigh slip myself when I first opened this up, but only because my life’s work is comics. Unlike PERSEPOLIS, CHICKEN WITH PLUMS and EMBROIDERIES, this from Marjane isn’t comics but a fabulous story in simple prose illustrated with brightly coloured drawings. It would sit perfectly well in our all-ages section, its silver-framed, black-and-blue cover turning children’s eyes into marbles shining with keen desire. Indeed “once upon a time” does pop its reassuring head up in the second short sentence.

Once upon a time there lived a merchant with three daughters. Since their mother had passed away he raised the daughters himself, doting on them all equally. Once a year he would journey far and wide in search of new goods to sell. Before his departure he would call his daughters together and ask what each would like as a gift upon his return, and then successfully seek out their heart’s desire. This year, like any other year, the father returned home to a delighted reception with presents for Orchid and Violet. Rose, however, had requested the seed of a blue bean, yet try as he might the merchant could find not one single specimen. Mortally embarrassed, he breaks the bad news to young Rose who inevitably lets out a sigh…

“Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
 Knock, knock, knock!
 “Who’s there?” Asked the merchant, surprised to have a visitor at ten o’clock at night.
 “Ah the Sigh!”
 “Ah the Sigh? Who’s that?”
“Your daughter just summoned me. She said, “Ah!” I have something for her.””

It is, of course, the seed of a blue bean which the strange Sigh has brought, and in gratitude the merchant promises that if ever there is something Ah wants in return, he will on his honour gladly give it. Inevitably there is, and one year later the Sigh returns with its request: it wants the merchant’s daughter.

Now before you jump to conclusions, all is not as it seems. The Sigh is far from malevolent nor acting on its own behalf, and Rose’s story has barely begun. Indeed this couldn’t really be classed as a fable for there is no moral as such: Rose was being neither greedy, ungrateful nor materialistic, she was simply interested in botany, in nurturing; her sigh was not one of exasperation nor petulance; nor was her father’s promise boastful or rash – he was instead expressing commendable gratitude and offering to pay back a favour. Most importantly of all, no one is being punished. But there is first a mystery to be unravelled about the story behind the Sigh, then a quest with many dangers ahead as Rose embarks in search of an item of her own in order to rectify a terrible mistake.

It’s a book that’s made me ponder, a most unusual story indeed full of families which are in one way broken, damaged or threatened by loss, love or lack of it. So I suppose it is a fable after all, about love, honour and commitment – and possibly courage too.

My only regret is that I didn’t read this in French, for how much more resonant would it have been if – when asked who he was – our mysterious visitor had answered:

“Ah le Soupir!”


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

Feynman h/c (£22-50, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick…

“Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you, Tommy invited us for dinner to meet an old bore.”
“An old bore? Who would… Waitaminnit – did he say an old bore, or meet the old Bohr?*”
“What difference does it make?”
“Well the spelling is different for one thing!”

Ah, whilst Stephen Hawking might arguably lay claim to be the most famous scientist of the second half of the 20th century, and despite the vocoding one busting many a phat rhyme expounding about being down with entropy and dissing the creationists in his hip-hop guise of MC Hawking, the coolest scientist of them all in my eyes at least was Richard Feynman. Most of you will probably never have heard of him, yet he was a key member of theManhattan project during WW2 helping theUS military invent the atomic bomb, and then developed a whole new branch of science called QED, Quantum Electrodynamics. Why is QED important? Well, as Feynman himself was fond of pointing out, with QED you can explain absolutely everything we ordinarily experience on a day to day basis, except gravity and radioactivity, so it’s pretty important.

I suppose Feynman first came to my attention as a kid in the aftermath of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Such was the high regard he was held in within political, military and obviously scientific circles that he was asked to be on the select committee investigating the cause of the disaster. When it became apparent that the usual spin was going to be applied to play down the causes of the disaster he threatened to release his own report, unless his conclusions were included in the official report verbatim. The powers that be reluctantly agreed, including them in their entirety, but as a separate appendix. It was widely observed that most people merely skipped the rest of the report and read Feynman’s unvarnished, and accurate, conclusions.

What I marvelled at most about Feynman, was here was someone who absolutely defied the common perception of the archetypal drab boring scientist. He played bongos, he cracked safes for a hobby, he worked on research papers whilst drinking soda every night in his favourite strip club… which his wife was actually happy to let him do. When he fancied a new challenge, he’d just up and find himself one, learning to play weird instruments, but not just being satisfied to master the basics, he’d have to become good enough to play in a band at the Rio Carnival for example! He taught himself to draw to an incredibly high standard too, and even had a crack at learning Chinese, though he did admit to finding that pretty tough.

When he won his Nobel Prize for physics, it’s pretty revealing that when anyone asked him about it and all the attendant hoopla and ceremony, his anecdote was always the snappy one-liner delivered to him by aNew Yorkcabbie, which he freely admitted he wished he’d thought of himself. The cabbie told him that when he saw Feynman being interviewed on television by reporters and asked to explain exactly why he’d won the prize, he didn’t understand a single word that Feynman had said, and that if he’d been in Feynman’s position he’d simply have stated to the assembled journalists, “If I could explain it in three minutes, it wouldn’t be worth the Nobel Prize!”

It’s a testament to the creators of this work that they manage to capture all these myriad, fascinating facets of Feynman’s life, not just his immense contributions to science, but the vigour with which he approached every single thing he did, including his romantic and professional relationships. This is an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed LOGICOMIX, in fact I would go so far as to say this is actually a superior work, which is high praise indeed given how highly I rate that particular book. And indeed this is also easily my favourite biographical work of this year too hands down. So whilst Hawking might manage to pull his nurse, and get the guest appearances on Star Trek playing poker with Picard, Feynman for me will always be the dude.

* refers, of course, to Niels Bohr, Danish Nobel prize winning physicist and another Manhattan Project member.


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

Absolute Promethea vol 3 slipcased h/c (£75-00, ABC) by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III.

“The sun is rising. Know yourself.”

And I do, a little better, for having read this.

So ended my review of PROMETHEA VOLUME 5 softcover, the final book of one of most joyous and affecting comics of all time, right up there with FROM HELL as Alan’s crowning achievement so far. An extended essay on (and tribute to) the nature, power and accomplishments of the human imagination, it literally changed my life. If that’s sparked your curiosity, it’s all still on sale in softcover form starting with PROMETHEA VOLUME 1, and I went on to review each book in turn.

This too is the concluding chapter in Absolute form: much bigger editions to showcase the art and drool over for eternity. As always there are extras and this time they are substantial: Tom Strong’s perspective on events during the finale, the team-up with Cobweb, Splash Brannigan and Johnny Future; Timmy Turbo’s mirthful original introduction to the series from Wizard Magazine; the Winsor McCay-inspired Little Margie stories; the script to #29; an illustrated essay by artist and illuminator J.H. Williams III on his approach to composition; all the colour variants to #32’s cover; the “making of #32”… and finally a reproduction of the double-sided print previously only available as part of the signed, limited edition of PROMETHEA #32 on which all the individual pages were joined to form two single stunning images and their attendant, free-flowing narrative.


Buy Absolute Promethea vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Same Difference h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Derek Kirk Kim –

Gorgeous new cover for this early work long out of print. A decade or so ago Mark wrote…

“Kim captures the ups and downs of early adulthood with sensitivity and gentle wit…. (And also) captures the small but significant moments that define young adult personalities.”
– The Comics Journal

“No American cartoonist has more promise in 2003 than Derek Kirk Kim.”
-Scott McCloud

SAME DIFFERENCE has two friends who should really get together they’ve got such a good spark. Simon tells of an almost romance he had with a blind girl at school and how he bottled it at the last moment.Nancyhas been misleading a guy through a postal romance after opening a letter meant for a previous tenant. The two Korean-Americans decide to set off to sneak a peek at the deceived Romeo. Derek keeps the beautifully toned artwork simple and direct, taking some cues from manga without straying near the amerimanga that I’ve seen too much of recently.


Buy Same Difference h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mush!: Sled Dogs With Issues (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Glenn Eichler & Joe Infurnari…

“I liked the way you ran the team the other day. You showed real authority.”
“Just doing my job.”
“I wonder if Buddy and Venus are pulling their weight though. The wheel dogs are really supposed to provide the muscle.”
“We got where we were going. I didn’t feel anyone slacking.”
“You might not notice it because you’ve got so many other things to think about. Since I don’t have to worry about being in charge, I can pay more attention to stuff like that.”
“I’ll look out for it next time.”
“You want me to talk to them?”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Sure, absolutely. Just let me know if you need my help with anything.”

Office politics as viewed the lens of a pack of sled dogs. Anyone who has ever worked in a large company will recognise the various archetypes here. This is so well written you could completely forget it’s anthropomorphics until the writer pulls out a purely canine punchline that helps puncture the tension he keeps skilfully building up between the pack. Like any large working environment there’s always someone who’s the top dog either by right or might, plus the loyal and faithful workers doing all the graft and moderately content with their lot though prone to the odd gripe or two, and of course the requisite sneaky, untrustworthy fucker who has got his eye on weaselling himself a promotion entirely at the expense of someone else, seeking to suck the weak-willed and feeble-minded into his dastardly, Machiavellian scheme as unsuspected pawns. And it’s absolutely no different here! Great fun, and lovely crisp wintry art from Joe Infurnari who I must say I’m not familiar with, but he really does a great and often hilarious turn on the dogs’ facial expressions.


Buy Mush!: Sled Dogs With Issues and read the Page 45 review here

Day Of The Magician (£22-50, Humanoids) by Michelangelo La Neve & Marco Nizzoli…

“Find peace in serenity and wisdom. The answers are within you.”
“What? Idiots!”

You’ll like it… quite a lot. Don’t panic, this isn’t a graphic biography of Paul Daniels, but rather yet another fine addition to the Humanoids imprint. This time we have the story of Drazen, son of a renegade magician abducted from his school playground as an infant, then educated (or brainwashed depending on your perspective) in a remote and isolated location and now, finally, as a young adult, being released back into the wider world on a mission to help track down and kill his father.

His father’s crime is simply having dared to break the ancient and sacred laws of the magicians, which primarily revolve around keeping themselves secret from the general population, and being celibate, as human emotions are regarded as the ultimate psychological weakness by the mages. Drazen’s father obviously didn’t succeed too well on the latter score given that he sired himself an heir, and now he’s planning on announcing his existence to the entire planetwith a very audacious scheme indeed. But why is he doing it? Is it for personal power and glory? Or to try and win back his son perhaps? Certainly he knows that the magicians will never rest until they’ve eliminated him, so eliminating them first is definitely high on his agenda. And how will Drazen react when he finally comes face to face with his father? Will he succumb to the mages’ conditioning, or rebel and side with his father? Who of course it goes without saying has a very special plan of his own for Drazen.

La Neve weaves an intricate story, where fantasy and our own modern reality sit quite believably alongside one another. Neither set of protagonists can honestly really claim to have the moral high ground as both parties are prepared to do absolutely whatever it takes to come out on top. I particularly liked the misdirection regarding the final outcome, a nice sleight of hand I didn’t see coming. You start to think you know where it’s all going, perhaps even feeling slightly it’s heading into the realms of predictability and… just like that… you’ve been fooled. Sorry, couldn’t resist a Tommy Cooper reference there. Nizzoli’s art is pretty good too, I must say. He clearly aspires to a Moebius-like style, though at times it perhaps feels ever so slightly stiff in places compared to the great man. But that’s not even a gripe, just a very minor observation, because despite a very chunky page count, I would have loved this work to be even longer, I enjoyed it that much.


Day Of The Magician

Witch Doctor vol 1: Under The Knife (£9-99, Image) by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner.

“Go to the hospital and get a C.T. scan.”
“A Computed Tomography scan. A sciencey thing at the doctory place.”

Fast and furious comedy-horror described byWarren Ellisas “mental”. He’s not wrong.

Meet Dr. Morrow, the man who knows monsters, and he’s got plenty to play with here: demons, Deep Ones, cuckoo faeries and vampires, all infected with parasites desperate to worm their way into all and sundry. Fortunately he’s adept at adapting and able to make complex diagnoses on the run. There’s method in his madness – but then there’s an awful lot of madness to his methods, hence being called up in front of the board.

“Doctor, I’ll remind you again why we’re here –“
“Yes, I know. You want to take away my license. You’re hardly the first.”
“This isn’t some bureaucratic slap on the wrist. When they brand our chakras to destroy your magical abilities, they don’t use anaesthetic. The vocal portion of the spell will be your screaming. Now. Pray continue. …Well?”
“I’ve forgotten my place.”
“You certainly have.”

These are all house calls from hell, so the prescriptions are bitchin’ and if all else fails there’s young Penny Dreadful, the bad doctor’s agile assistant with a ravenous appetite and several mental disorders. She’s not as simple as she seems and I sense a sub-plot in the offing. But it’s all the mad medicine I love the most, so wittily and convincingly adapted to Dr. Morrow’s purpose, for if he’s somewhat cavalier with his caution, he’s thorough in his findings and it all makes perfect sense. Here he’s found a vampire to examine – identity unknown – one with a lot more teeth than the ones you’re used to…

“Show us that lovely smile.”
“Thank you. Lady and gentleman, meet Vlad Doe. A reanimate hematophage.”
“Obligate? Or facultative?”
“Obligate. But blood is just a substrate for pneumatosynthesis – metabolizing other people’s life energy.”
“Does he sparkle?”
“On a sunny day he burns like white phosphorous. That’s…like sparkling. His saliva’s got the usual bloodfeeder chemistry set – vasodilator, anticoagulant, and an anaesthetic – plus some interesting mystical secretions. I think this one’s an anterograde amnesiac.”

Its victims won’t know what’s bit them.

Seifert in the back makes the very valid point that in horror it’s all about the monsters: Count Dracula isn’t the protagonist in Bram Stoker’s novel, yet he’s most certainly its star; it’s the monster who’s remembered in Frankenstein rather than its creator to the extent that the monster’s mistakenly referred to as ‘Frankenstein’ instead. And that’s where Ketner’s excelled – in the monsters themselves, every one of which here is a slimy masterpiece of complete reinvention mostly playing on our deep-rooted fear of parasites. That’s Seifert’s emphasis too: things living inside you. Each of the horrors here is playing host to another looking to spread its disease further still. Infectious!


Buy Witch Doctor vol 1: Under The Knife and read the Page 45 review here

Rocketeer Adventures vol 1 h/c (£18-99, IDW) by various.

“Cliff Secord, where have you been?!”

Not to be confused with Dave Stevens’ original ROCKETEER material already in stock, this is the recent tribute anthology with a stellar line-up of creators, and Dave Stevens would be very proud indeed.

In the first issue alone there were three short stories, each faithful in their own individual ways to different aspects of Dave Stevens’ rocket-fuelled retro with the luscious Betty (Page) centre-stage in each. John Cassady’s lifts off right in the middle of a military heist / blackmail / kidnapping which feels very early-Superman complete with our Lois Lane substitute giving the Rocketeer a right roasting for being late / impulsive / accommodating. On top of that, being Cassady, it is as lush and shiny as hell. Allred’s is a breathless and far more romantic affair which takes full advantage of the Art Deco, star-themed crown of the Chrysler Building for its sense of wonder and air-born liberation. Busiek and Kaluta, however, as you might expect, go for heart as Betty, very much the successful stage star in her own right, eschews the superficial rewards fame lays on for her each and every night to immerse herself in letters sent from the frontline of WWII by her beloved Cliff Secord flying alongside an air force squadron who of course have Betty Page painted on most of their planes’ fuselages. He makes light of the danger but she sees right through him, and suddenly – for days, weeks then months – the post stops arriving and Betty starts to fear for the worst…

One of my favourite Alex Ross pieces in ages graces the front cover. The colours are rich, the perspective a perfect piece of foreshortening; and the different leather textures and metallic sheens all suggest a sunshine up above which fills the space before brightening up the green fields below.


Buy Rocketeer Adventures vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Red Wing (£10-99, Image) byJonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra.

From the creator of NIGHTLY NEWS and current writer of Shield and FANTASTIC FOUR, a science fiction series and a second stab at time travel, this one lighter on text with lots of space and a very clean line. Here we’ve jumped back to the Tithonian Age where the slim ships have to navigate past vast, feeding dinosaurs:

“Just look at that, Captain. Over twenty tons of vegetarian monster the likes of which the world has never seen again… I wonder what they taste like.”

So much for evolution.

“Time travel should have ushered in the golden age of scientific discovery — It should have ushered in the golden age of MAN. Instead, we were reduced to using it for war. And in war total victory is not defined by simple dominance of the battlefield. Overcoming the enemy is not enough. In many ways, victory simply means bitterness and bile for the defeated — The genesis on a deep-seated hatred that is always seen again.”

That’s certainly how WWI turned into WWII, and there’s plenty more to give you pause for thought in the first chapter alone, for if you can wage war in four dimensions – if a battle really isn’t over until you say it’s over as long as you can cling to the technology to travel back in time and change its outcome repeatedly – when do you stop? At what point do you decide enough is enough for any given battle and at which point of time do you begin or go back to start your temporal chain reaction? Also, if your enemy is similarly equipped, surely the only option is to bomb them back into the Stone Age or obliterate them completely or they’ll just reboot things themselves? That’s a whole new frontier you’d need to constantly patrol: you’d need to defend not just your finite, physical borders but an almost limitless number of chronological borders too.

As it transpired, the series ran in a different direction I never foresaw, so I’ve given nothing away at all – just something for you to think about! Instead the focus is on Dominic, a new recruit flying in the wake of his father who went missing in action and so presumed dead, for no one has survived a shield failure during time travel. Mathematically it is so improbable as to be practically impossible.

“But ask yourself: isn’t a statistical improbability a massive number when standing in contrast to all of space-time?”

So what happened to Dominic’s father?


Buy The Red Wing and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Knight by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev vol 1 h/c (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

“I think there’s something really wrong with you, and normally I wouldn’t judge, but you’re playing a dangerous game. You’re asking me to cook up armours and chemicals that even Nick Fury specifically put a kibosh on. You’re walking around with the head of a homicidal artificial intelligence and you want to use it as bait to catch a criminal… And you don’t even know who the criminal is.”
“Here then. You keep it.”
“The Avengers let you keep it?”
“Because Captain America trusts me. Which you’d think would be enough to get anyone to trust me. I wonder what I would have to do to get you to.”
“It ain’t that I don’t trust you.”
“Sure it is.”
“It’s that I don’t think you’re all right. Bipolar, Aspergers… I don’t know what….”
“I hear voices.”

From the creative team behind SCARLET (ooh, look, interior art!), ALIAS (nothing to do with the TV series but possibly the best thing ever from Marvel), SPIDER-WOMAN (lurid!), and definitely the best-ever run on DAREDEVIL… a 7,205th attempt at Moon Knight to coincide with the number of personalities battling away in his nocturnal noggin. You can add three more here, and they’ll be readily familiar to you.

Finally after half a century of modern Marvel continuity, some of the supervillains have figured out that if 963 superheroes have chosen to live in Manhattanand only one in Los Angeles, they’d be 963 times less likely to get busted if they relocated to L.A.. Marc Spector also happens to be in L.A., overseeing the launch of his Legend Of Khonshu TV show, so the Avengers call on him to scare the bejeezus out of the criminal community there… IN HIS MIND!

Lo and behold, however, a new Kingpin has indeed set himself up – one with a power level that makes Mr. Hyde’s look puny. That’s unfortunate for Marc because Moon Knight barely survives a dust-up with Hyde. Instead he’s deep under Hyde’s yacht when the two villains confront each other, and when they do there’s little left of Hyde or the yacht, so Spector retreats with the prize he’s salvaged from the boat: the gleaming head of genocidal Ultron. Obviously Moon Knight is way out of his depth – this is going to take a whole team full of Avengers. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that THEY’RE ALL IN HIS MIND!!!

A clever new twist in Marc’s long-standing mental illness, this series set well away from the somewhat convoluted doings at Marvel central comes with a brand-new supporting cast including ex-Avenger Echo (she’s real), ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Buck Lime and an arch P.A. on the Hollywood set who hates the show she’s working on. Also, that new Kingpin of crime who isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s snappy, far from obvious and whilst Maleev is being far more economical with the art here than he is in SCARLET, there are some exceptional light effects under the water, high above the smoking remains of the yacht, and indeed any time our mystery villain really lets loose. Here’s Captain America displaying his trust:

“If he gets an Ultron up and running… An artificial intelligence that wants to wipe out humankind…”
“I know what I’m doing.”

He really doesn’t.


Moon Knight By Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev vol 1 hardcover

Spider-Man: Mark Millar Ultimate Collection (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Terry Dodson, Frank Cho.

The complete Mark Millar saga which amply answered J.Jonah Jameson’s broken record of a question: “If he’s such a great guy, why does he need to wear a mask?” Because the mafia like to know where your family live.

Aunt May has been abducted by someone who obviously knows who Spider-Man is, but there’s a limit as to who could or should have known and what they could possibly gain. The most obvious culprit is Norman Osborn, The Green Goblin, but he’s under lock and key and swears he has nothing to do with it.

Hampering Peter in his desperate search – harrying him, it seems, at every juncture – is a virtual “Who’s Who” of his worst and oldest enemies, some of them remarkably enhanced since their last encounters. Is this a coincidence, or part of a larger scheme? And could Peter’s worst mistake have been to put his greatest threat behind bars? Because if the stakes are that high, don’t you make contingency plans? If you’re a businessman, don’t you take out insurance, especially when your own life is in danger? It all goes back to control, to the early days of the first superheroes, when those were used to being in charge – politicians and businessmen alike – found these self-appointed crusaders for justice getting just a little too close for comfort, and a little too enthusiastic about their moral crusade. They’re not going to take it lying down; they’re going to provide… distractions.

Sexily drawn by the Dodsons, Millar pushes all the fanboy buttons whilst delivering on the entertainment rather than just stuffing the stocking for the sake of it. It’s the classic Spider-Man tale so far: a rollicking good read with moments of true emotional rather than just splash-page drama, and some clever, logical thought behind it.


Buy Spider-Man: Mark Millar Ultimate Collection and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Mike Zeck, Bob Layton…

“We won the first skirmish, but not the war! Not by a long shot!”
“So let’s go out and win it! Why are we sitting here?”
“First, Wolverine, because we don’t know where all our foes are! It’s a big planet! Galactus, Doctor Doom, The Molecule Man, The Wrecker, The Absorbing Man… and Magneto… are still out there. Any one of the them is too dangerous to take lightly! We have an advantage now! Let’s not blow it!”
“You’re nuts, flag-man!”

Ostensibly little more than a 1984 twelve-issue mini-series vehicle to help launch a Mattel line of toy figures by contriving a situation whereby pretty much all the major Marvel superheroes and villains could have one massive sequence of fights. And yet, and yet, somehow it became something so much more splendidly, ridiculously epic than that, as Jim Shooter just let his imagination run riot. The paper-thin plot device to start the ball rolling involves the cosmic entity known as the Beyonder clicking his fingers and spiriting all and sundry – and a good chunk of New York to boot – off to a planetcalled Battleworld, created just for the occasion, where after said fights to the death the winners would receive all they could possibly desire.

There’s pretty much the then Who’s Who of the Marvel Universe duking it out including, for some strange reason, Galactus who you might think would have a bit of an unfair advantage. What makes this fun, though, are all the crazy side plots going on. The winsome Wasp having a strange beauty-and-the-beast interlude with the Lizard, Spider-Man donning his black costume for the first time (little knowing that in fact it’s the alien symbiote Venom), Owen Rees the Molecule Man figuring out that in fact he’s near-omnipotent himself, and good old Doctor Doom, who despite the top prize on offer decides he’d rather take on the Beyonder himself. Does he not realise it’s going to take the mother of all team-ups to take down that bad boy? Still, everyone’s got to do the let’s-all-fight-each-other bit first, I suppose, those are the rules after all!

It’s absolute hokum, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever, but it is such good fun, you can’t help but shake your head and go with it. Every character gets a chance for a quick star turn and there are some lovely moments I can still remember reading with awe as a twelve-year-old from first time around, such as Captain America, in the aftermath of the final battle, with the Beyonder’s residual cosmic energies still crackling all around, reassembling his shattered shield using only his indomitable will power and wholesome all-American apple-pie goodness. And then, before you can reach for the ultimate (plot device) nullifier, everyone is back safe and sound inCentral Park. Well not quite everyone, Ben Grimm stayed behind for a year or so, sulking, in a truly forgettable mini-series of his own, but that’s a different story which is definitely not worth reading… ever.

Bagatelle art from Mike Zeck and Bob Layton complement Shooter’s frenetic storytelling and over-the-top dialogue perfectly. (I’m surprised the letterer didn’t get sick of finishing every single sentence with an exclamation mark, actually.) If you’re only going to buy one big slice of stinky, vintage cheese for Christmas this year, then make it this one.


Buy Secret Wars and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars 2 (£22-50, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Al Milgrom…

“So uh… uh, you observed Earth through the pinhole and decided to check it out right? Why don’t you lie down again, Beyonder, and we’ll retrace your steps after you came to Earth!”
“All right, but there’d better be a point to this!”
“Here we are a few weeks after you came to Earth and assumed human form! Tell me about this time in your life!”
“Well, I was pretty bored! I’d learned humans want things… money, power, each other, you know… and try to acquire them! So I thought I’d do that too, see if it brought some kind of fulfilment! I’d taken over the whole world…”
“No fulfilment that way huh?”
“No! And no other way either!”
“You tried finding love right?”

So, because the first mini-series went down so well, and presumably sold millions of toys, they wouldn’t let it lie would they? (Nor the non-stop exclamation marks neither.) In fact, they got this sequel out pretty sharpish (just one year later in 1985), in which the Beyonder comes to Earth, still puzzled by the events on Battleworld, desiring to understand humanity better, and whilst I remember being massively disappointed by it at the time, thinking it was complete drivel, in fact I found it hilariously brilliant this time around.

It is quite literally like nothing else from Marvel you will have ever read. Shooter clearly knows he’s got to come up with something different for the sequel (surprising given Marvel have based their entire existence on just retreading the same thing ad nauseam) and boy did he do just that. It’s like a five-year-old omnipotent child romping through the entire Marvel cast, desiring to be enlightened and educated, by asking the most ridiculous questions and doing the most ridiculous things, such as flying a Lamborghini Countach through fighter jets whilst chopping up vegetables in a food processor for example. I kid you not…

I can completely understand why I wondered what the hell I was reading at the time, and why this was regarded as such a complete turkey, and I suppose, technically it is. But hey it’s Christmas, and even turkey gets its turn once a year no? If you want to read something so completely different, so completely out there, that it makes Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the Beano then this is for you. I can only presume that Shooter was either going through therapy or doing some serious pharmaceutical-grade psychedelics at the time, possibly both. It’s clear the only way this project could have possibly got past the editorial committee at the time is because he was actually the then editor-in-chief of Marvel!

I think actually this is possibly is a work of genius, deranged genius certainly, but I defy anyone not to open this book at any random point whatsoever, read just two pages and not be amused by what they read. Even as I type this I’m shaking my head chuckling. Makes the STRANGE TALES humour strips look like serious, heavyweight stuff.


Secret Wars 2

Daredevil: Guardian Devil restocked (£14-99, Marvel) by Kevin Smith & Joe Quesada.

Just before the Brian Michael Bendis run…

Daredevil is given a child only to be told by one party that it’s the Saviour, and by another that it’s the Anti-Christ, and he’s barely able to catch his breath before someone very close to him pays the price. Film-maker Smith writes intelligently and compassionately about love, faith, death and the will to go on, and the art is equally up to the task. For whilst Quesada and Palmiotti, with the help of some gorgeous, lambent colouring, deliver a feast of bold and thrilling form, they still manage to bring a simple quietness to the many scenes which require both delicacy and restraint.


Buy Daredevil: Guardian Devil and read the Page 45 review here

Hitman vol 5: Tommy’s Heroes (£22-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea.

Bullets, bravado and bar-room banter. Not your regular DC Universe fare at all, this is a much bigger slab than usual, and may – may – be the first time this material’s been reprinted. I know DC never made it to the end the first time round. They say…

“When British S.A.S. commandos and a troop of mafia soldiers target Tommy Monaghan and his partner, Natt, they must stand side by side in a fight they cannot win. Then, Tommy and his comrades sign up for mercenary action inAfricaagainst super-powered opponents. Collected from HITMAN #23-36 and 1,000,000.”


Buy Hitman vol 5: Tommy’s Heroes and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Hector Umbra h/c (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Uli Oesterle

Hilda And The Midnight Giant h/c (£11-99, Nobrow) by Luke Pearson

Walking Dead vol 15: We Find Ourselves (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn

Baltimore: The Plague Ships s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Steinbeck

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes (£4-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Cameron Stewart

New X-Men vol 8 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Marc Silvestri

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, David LaFuente, LanMedina, Ed Tadeo, Elena Casagrande, Chris Samnee, Justin Ponsor, Joleele Jones, Sunny Gho, Sakti Yuwono, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Scottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Star Wars: Blood Ties: Jango And Boba Fett (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Tom Taylor & Chris Scalf

Farscape vol 6: Compulsions s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Keith R.A. Decandido & Will Sliney

Dorohedoro vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

Tenjo Tenje 2-in-1 Edition vol 4 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Kobato vol 5 (£7-99, Yen) by Clamp

The Drops Of God vol 2 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tadashi Agi & Sku Okimoto

Higurashi vol 16: Atonement Arc vol 2 (£7-99, Yen) by Ryukishi07 & Karin Suzuragi

March Story vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Kim Yang

XXXholic vol 18 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Clamp

Mardock Scramble vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Tow Ubukata & Yoshitoki Oima

All being well there will be more as usual next week, though current correspondents, please take note: retail at Christmas is such a big rush that I don’t even have time to read my own speeding tickets!

On yeah, wait: deliveries for the next fortnight are on Thursdays rather than Wednesdays, so maybe reviews will be on Thursday nights. Not sure – I’m making this up as I go along.

Either way, big hugs for Christmas, folks, and thanks so much for your support this year. 2011 has been a tough one for every retailer and we’re not immune. That you even read these reviews is very much appreciated!


– Stephen

Reviews December 2011 week three

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Okay, so… it’s basically CRIMINAL, BATTLEFIELDS and a few superheroes this week. Not Page 45’s normal configuration at all! But then this volume of CRIMINAL is very, very high up in my top ten books of the year! Next week: Marjane Satrapi’s THE SIGH. Sounds much better in French: Le Soupir.  *sigh*

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent (£10-99, Icon) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

The best crime comics in the business, CRIMINAL is a series of completely self-contained stories you can read in any order you like, and this strikes me as its finest outing yet. There is the added, private satisfaction of spotting faces familiar from one book in another, but it’s never an essential requirement.

Summoned home by his father’s sudden illness then death, Riley Richards has briefly escaped the city of his sins which have begun to cost him dearly, and travelled back to the town of his youth. It was a sunlit life immersed in the relatively innocent pleasures of crime comics bought by his Dad, and meeting down the diner where his best friend Freakout, stoned, with monumental munchies, would break records for scoffing ice cream. Then there was sweet Lizzie Gordon, the girl who lived literally next door; the girl that everyone assumed he would marry. If only he had. But his life changed course dramatically on the arrival of rich bitch Felicity Doolittle, bringing with her the alluring, honey-pot cocktail of novelty, sophistication, self-confidence and sexual availability. They argued, they split, they got back together, but eventually Riley made a fatal mistake: he married her.

Now he’s a man who witnesses the world around him at a remove, as if it’s not his own life at all. He’s become so detached that he doesn’t know how to feel at his father’s funeral, he just calculates what’s expected of him. He’s become so resigned that when he caught his wife shagging Teddy, the man he loathes most, he concludes that it simply makes sense. He’s almost immune to his father-in-law’s long-voiced contempt, and he all but ignored the slurred cries for help Freakout would leave on his answer phone before finally seeking help and sobering up for good. But returning home – seeing Lizzie as kind and beautiful as ever and Freakout still funny when dry – has reminded Riley of how promising it once looked before the empty marriage and the crushing gambling debts in the city that he’s grown to hate. And it occurs to Riley now that there may well be a way to reverse all his fortunes in one fell swoop. He’s going to kill his wife.

Nothing Brubaker drops in early on is accidental; everything is reprised. Riley’s machinations are fiendishly clever. There is nothing and no one he won’t use to achieve his goal, but that’s all it is to him: an objective. You’ll be shaking your head at the calculated lows he will sink to and yet – an incredible testament to the creative team here – you’ll probably still root for the man, fearful for where he’s fucked up!

For any successful first-person narrative it’s crucial that reader wants to spend time in protagonist’s self-absorbed head, and that’s where Brubaker excels. That the intricate plot mechanics are so devious and the delivery so adroit is what makes each read so enormously satisfying. What makes them so attractive is the art of Sean Phillips, by far the finest draughtsman in this most twilight of genres. His faces stay cast and masked in a permanent semi-shadow: I never trust anyone drawn by Sean Phillips, and some of them are positively threatening. Allowed for once to play in the suburban sunlight as well as the metropolitan grime, Phillips appears to have had great fun not only in capturing a much younger, less tainted crowd, but also in drawing the flashback sequences: snapshots of memory rendered here in Archie Comics innocence, even when the style beautifully belies the content under Felicity’s prom-night gown. To top it all off, this time the cover comes with a silky sheen rather than laminated gloss, rendered in the most velvet of blues.


Buy Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent and read the Page 45 review here

The Complete Battlefields vol 1 (£18-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, Peter Snejbjerg, Carlos Ezquerra.

As Dynamite have decided to reissue the first three Battlefields trades in one heavy calibre volume, here’s our three reviews of each individual part.

Vol 1: The Night Witches

A Soviet squadron of female bomber pilots and gunners is reluctantly received by the base’s commander – a chauvinist of his times – then sent out to destroy a bridge just captured by the Germans in rattling biplanes far inferior to their male colleagues’ fighters. The Germans hear them coming a mile off.

As ever with Ennis’ war comics he not only has something to say and says it with punch, passion and compassion, but he takes the trouble to individualise soldiers whichever side they may have fought on. Two separate stories here – that of the invading German unit, and then the women finding themselves relegated to the airfield’s cowshed for quarters – meet in a terrible moment, as Ennis explores what war does to human beings:

“Out on the edge of man’s experience for certain, a thousand miles from home with our fingers in another country’s innards. Later, I will pray for absolution. Later…
“Now I try to put the things I’ve done today in order, to box and label all that image and sensation. But stabbing a human being in the face defies me.
“Then again, I suppose I am the new boy.”

Vol 2: Dear Billy

One of the finest Ennis War stories I’ve read, right up there with the best of Vertigo’s WAR STORIES volume one because this also takes one of the paths least trodden: the individual’s perspective, at odds with what is either commonly perceived or fashionably encouraged. Back in the days of COMMANDO (and we do have COMMANDO which still satisfies many a younger reader), it was us against them, and as black and white as the printed page. Then came the anti-war messages like CHARLEY’S WAR, and quite right too. War’s fucking rubbish. We’d be far better off nurturing our begonias. I wasn’t going to deviate into films likeMerry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence but that one’s actually quite pertinent here, for this is a nurse’s story written in the form of the last letter she wrote, in the wake of the Second World War, to the man she grew to love.

She met him in Calcutta – in a hospital where she tended the wounded: those who’d actually fought on the front lines against the Japanese and sustained horrible injuries just like Billy’s. It’s not just the injuries, either, it’s the ordeal, and Billy had been bayoneted nineteen times in a frenzied attack he endured on his own with no hope of salvation. But he tries to keep the details of that incident from Carrie; just as he then tries to keep her from the squalid carnage he continues to inflict as a pilot on those self-same Japanese. Billy’s good at his job: he gets it done, even if it means a thousand troops helpless on boats fleeing down a river, because any enemy combatant who survives is another Allied soldier’s potential death. He doesn’t apologise for it, nor does he show any mercy. But nor does he revel in it. And when the war is over and victory is won, then is the time to make sure that the mistakes of the First World War are not repeated. It is not the time for the humiliation of – nor retribution on – the Japanese people for the ruthless of their warriors’ crimes. It’s a time to build and embrace, to forgive and let live. And that – coming from Billy – is a mighty big step to take.

So surely Carrie the nurse can take those steps too? Or is there something she’s not told anyone because doing so would have destroyed her life? Something so appalling that it has already destroyed herself?

It’s not that I’ve never been a fan of Peter Snejbjerg, it’s just that I’ve not been a fan of much he’s been assigned to. Here he truly shines, and most effectively in the close-ups – which is an odd thing to say about someone who boasts such an economy of line. You might think there’d be too much open space, but actually he stops you in your tracks: it’s a genuine encounter.

And that’s what this is: a genuine encounter, and all the more powerful for it.

Vol 3: The Tankies

Garth Ennis is fast becoming a war veteran himself, the BATTLEFIELDS books being amongst his best, but this couldn’t be further from DEAR BILLY. While that BATTLEFIELDS volume dug deep into the scarred psyche of one young nurse traumatised by her treatment by the Japanese, this pulls back to observe the command and coordination – or lack of thereof – in Eastern Normandy post-D-Day, as the British infantry and scattered tanks desperately tried to inch their way through a German army supported by a blockade of infinitely superior Panther and Tiger Tanks hidden in dense woodland, waiting just around the corner.

I’ve not seen better storytelling from Ezquerra. To depict manoeuvres like this – ensuring that the reader instinctively comprehends where each vehicle is in relation to the others and so understands the immediate the threat they face – is no easy job, and Ennis manages the supporting history lesson here in much the same manner as Ellis did in CRÉCY: through a monologue, in this case issued by a determined corporal with a fierce Geordie accent taking blunt command of a Churchill made late for its rendez-vous with the infantry by its Lieutenant’s decapitation. Although the dialect is kept to a minimum to avoid bewilderment the accent is nevertheless note-perfect and entrancing, whilst the officers’ relative dispassion voiced in aristocratic Queen’s English sets them as far apart from the immediate action as they are geographically. A certain degree of caricature seems unavoidable when Ezquerra joins forces with Ennis, but that doesn’t make this a comedy (indeed the only element of that comes from Cassady on the cover to chapter two). In this instance it contributes to conflict within the Churchill tank which could at any moment be turned into a locked coffin of blazing hot metal, and in spite of the fact that I am by no means a war junkie, Ennis has me gripped yet again.


The Complete Battlefields vol 1

X-Men: Days Of Future Past s/c (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne.

A much bigger edition than previously issued, this reprints all the final Claremont & Byrne issues following immediately on from X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga, drawing a line under the title’s finest era until Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon thenWarren Ellis revitalised the property just a few years ago.

As such it kicks off with Jean Grey’s funeral on a bleak autumn day, the bitter wind blowing leaves across an empty sky and tugging at the mourners’ black trenchcoats. There her lover, Scott Summers, stands silently at the graveside, churning over the events that led them to this awful moment, at the end of which he will say good-bye. However revised since then, it remains a useful synopsis of the X-Men’s early history, and when first published acted as a fitting way of letting the severityof what just occurred sink in. No fights, no sub-plots, just a group of friends standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, utterly bereft.

All the original X-Men attend but only the Angel stays on, and finds himself both out of practice and a fish out of water. Things have changed. The days are far darker and there’s much worse to come, their one hope lying in their youngest recruit who arrives in a taxi and sits on her suitcases awaiting their return: Kitty Pryde aged 13 ½.

The atmosphere’s broken somewhat by the annual illustrated by a John Romita Jr. far from fully formed as yet, and I’d probably skip that if I were you. Go back and read it later after the Wendigo storyline guest-starring Alpha Flight and the final farewell as Kitty Pryde undergoes a rite of passage, alone in the X-Mansion, single-handedly fending off an intruder Alien-stylee.

In between all that we have Days Of Future Past itself, a pivotal X-Men two-parter which will be revisited over and over again but never with the same shocking power. It kicks off abruptly, right out of nowhere, in a future where Kate Pryde (whom we’ve barely had time to meet) is one of the last surviving members not just of the X-Men but the entire superhero community exterminated alongside most of the mutant species in a cold, methodical pogrom executed by the robotic killing machines known as the Sentinels… initially at the behest of the American government. Now the few mutants left alive subsist in a concentration camp whose endless rows of tombstones pointedly outnumber its inhabitants. She’s on her way to meetLogan, now with the Canadian resistance movement, and theNew Yorkshe navigates is a bleak, bombed-out and perilous pile of ruins barely populated save for punk-like predators.Loganhas what she needs: the final component of a mechanism that will block the inhibitor collars worn by Kate’s few surviving allies: Storm, Colossus, Franklin Richards and his telepathic wife, Rachel Summers. Oh, and a man in a wheelchair, but not necessarily who you think.

Their plan is two-fold: break out and attack the BaxterBuilding, the nexus of the Sentinels’ genocidal operations before the world retaliates with a nuclear holocaust, and send Kate Pryde back in time to prevent this future from ever happening. Friday October 31st 1980 and Presidential candidate Senator Kelly is about to deliver his address on the Mutant Hearings attended by Moira MacTaggert and Professor Charles Xavier. By the end of the day all three will be dead, murdered by the new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, so sparking the future we’ve seen come to pass… unless Kate in young Kitty’s body can convince the X-Men to stop it.

Let me tell you: the final few pages are devastating.

It’s become second-nature these days to criticise John Byrne for his conservatism (and I think we can all consider that a euphemism by now) andClaremontfor his long-winded exposition and interminable sub-plots but here they are both at the top of their games on a title I loved dearly. For corporate superhero comics at the time, it was intricate, innovative, disciplined, and paid off in full. It looked pretty sexy as well.


Buy X-Men: Days Of Future Past s/c (New Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

The Defenders #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson.

The Defenders should always be played for laughs, and not just in the pages of Twisted Toyfare Theatre. The Kieth Giffen era, in fact, when they used to run one-line adverts for other titles at the bottom of each page was the only one worth paying attention to until now. The original core members consisted of Dr. Strange trying to pacify the Hulk and Namor while the Silver Surfer buried his head in his hands and bemoaned man’s inhumanity to man. Actually, he did most of that in his own title.

From the writer of CASANOVA, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN and the recent rejuvenation of IRON FIST comes a cry for help from a more-than-usually-responsible Hulk answered by Dr. Stephen ‘still-sleeping-with-his-students’ Strange who promptly reforms the Defenders by making house calls on Namor (imperiously wrecking a posse of killer whale cullers), the chrome-domed wielder of the Power Cosmic who answers the flurry as a blizzard of snow (he’s… experimenting), the Red She-Hulk (oh, I know, totally lame, but well written here) and, of course, Iron Fist who himself is having a one-night stand he probably shouldn’t and buries himself in some comics instead (approved!). Each receives their own colour-coded perspective in the monologue boxes and is considerable enhanced by being drawn by Terry sexy Dodson.* Also, guess what’s back? The seventies’ one-line adverts at the bottom of each page! Funny.

*Please note: I have no idea if Terry is sexy; presumably his wife thinks so. But as artists they both deliver in some of the most sensuous lines in superhero comics.


Buy Defenders #1 having read our review by emailing, picking up the phone or – you know – visiting!

Batman: No Man’s Land vol 1 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Bob Gale, Dennis J. O’Neil, Devin Grayson, Ian Edginton, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Lisa Klink, Kelly Puckett & Alex Maleev, Roger Robinson, Dale Eaglesham, D’Israeli, Frank Teran, Jason Pearson, Damion Scott, Chris Renaud, Guy Davis,Jon Bogdanove, Phil Winslade.

Chunkier slab of the series which chronicled the repercussions ofGotham’s collapse under an Earthquake (BATMAN: CATACLYSM) and its subsequent year of penury and lawlessness whenAmericadecided it simply wasn’t worth rebuilding and summarily ejected it from theUnited States. Obviously the struggle to retakeGothamsucceeds eventually, but who gets the last laugh? It’s not Batman, and it most certainly isn’t Commissioner Gordon.

Roughly twice the size of the old edition, this reprints SHADOW OF THE BAT #83-86, BATMAN #563-566, DETECTIVE COMICS #730-733, AZRAEL #51-55, LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #117,118 and BATMAN CHRONICLES #6.


Buy Batman: No Man’s Land vol 1 (New Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Brightest Day vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi & Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Fernando Pasarin, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado…

“I’m sorry about your son.”
“Welcome to the family business, eh?”
“Out of all the people that were buried six feet under, you get to live again. And I wish I could say you’ll turn over a new leaf, but I know you. I know what you’re going to do so I came here to tell you not to bother.
“Bother doin’ what, mate?”
“Trying to escape. To pull more jobs. To hurt more people. To make me run after you.”
“Why me and not my son, or Cold’s sister or your ridiculous friend the Elongated Man? Hell if I know, but I’m not going to sit in here letting that rot my brain.
“Is that a threat?”
“Naw, mate. It’s a Flash fact.”

Hmm, after the rather ridiculous slug-fest finale of BLACKEST NIGHT I can’t say that what I needed next was another ‘event’, so it is a positive that BRIGHTEST DAY is most definitely not an ‘event’. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal going on at all. But… that is actually what is intriguing about this title. In a way BRIGHTEST DAY is a throwback to the old team-up titles where you never really knew who was going to be in it from month to month. This is like that, but there is a fine plot thread running throughout, mostly hidden, which is very gradually starting to be revealed.

It involves an unusual selection of post-BLACKEST NIGHT resurrectees, heroes like and villains alike, and a disembodied White Lantern voice directing and cajoling the various characters, but particularly the now-human Boston Brand, to perform either very specific actions, some seemingly very random, or follow very vague orders. And that, really, sums up BRIGHTEST DAY so far. It works well in that there is a genuine sense of mystery as to what is going on (I think perhaps DC learnt from Trinity that espousing the whole plot in the first few issues of a year-long event is not a good idea), but it would be nice to have a little more sense that the writers actually do perhaps have a definitive plot in mind. Having read a few issues beyond this volume already, happily I think perhaps they do.


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

Superman: Secret Origin s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank.

Gary Frank: always a hallmark of quality. No one can do weightless yet physically present quite like Gary, and Geoff Johns has written the perfect vehicle for him. Another book then to add to the relatively short list in answer the customer’s question, “Which SUPERMAN books do you recommend?” Like Geoff and Gary’s SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES it’s a book about belonging; about being accepted for who you are and what you do, not where you come from.

“Why are you here?”
“To help people.”
“And do you expect us to bow down before you in return?”

And it’s a classic case of transposition there as Lex Luthor attributes his own motivations of self-interested hegemony to the most altruistic, benevolent being on the planet.

For when a young Clark Kent first arrives inMetropolis he finds the city in thrall to Lex Luthor, and its citizens beholden to him either because he’s already picked them from each morning’s crowd gathered outside his gates desperately begging to be aided, or because they’re still part of that crowd praying beneath him that they’re next. 78% ofMetropolis’ real estate is owned by Lexcorp, the American military has derived most of its new hardware from the man, and the media is in his pocket and under his thumb. No wonder The Daily Globe is on the brink of bankruptcy:Lois Lanewon’t let the real story go.

So when Superman finally reveals himself and the city’s focus shifts from Lex Luthor’s inventions and seeming philanthropy to the genuine beneficence of a flying man in a big red cape, the two are set on a collision course from here to eternity for as long as they both shall live. It’s personal.

It has nothing to do with Luthor’s overt protestations that the man is an alien, although that is precisely what’s been troublingClarksince childhood. As the story opensClark’s powers are emerging in parallel with puberty. Indeed he almost sets fire to the school in a sudden spurt of heat vision catalysed by a kiss. It’s comically clear what that alludes to! But he feels so guilty about breaking the arm of a friend during American football that he makes all manner of lame excuses to avoid a rematch, and it’s his very consideration for them that alienates his once-tight circle of friends. As David S. Goyer perceptively identifies in the introduction there is a deeply affecting key scene which would both warm and break the heart of any father, adoptive or otherwise, afterClarkis told the truth of his lineage and recoils, fleeing to the cornfield in under abjection. Joined by Pa Kent, he struggles through his tears.

“I don’t want to be someone else. I don’t want to be different. I want to beClarkKent.
“I want to be your son.”

It’s something he’s going to have to live with, work his way through, then find a way to be both. Thankfully he has nothing to prove to his parents.

“Clark… you are my son.”

Old film fans will get a kick out of seeing Christopher Reeves resurrected by Frank in the bumbling reporter and his dopey, disarming smile (the ultimate in feigned innocence), whilst the young Lex Luthor’s optimism, confidence and ambition is every bit as inspiring as his supercilious superiority is repugnant. Other origins embellished here includeMetallo and Parasite.


Buy Superman: Secret Origin s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Spectrum vol 18 s/c (£22-50, Underwood Books) by various.

Annual outing for the fantasy art anthology with a brief pause for sculpture. Rick Berry does a mean impression of Phil Hale.


Buy Spectrum vol 18 s/c and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

The Sigh h/c (£8-50, Archaia) by Marjane Satrapi

Absolute Promethea vol 3 (£75-00, ABC) by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III

Ronin Dogs #2 (£4-99) by Mark Pearce

Witch Doctor vol 1: Under The Knife (£9-99, Image) by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner

Rocketeer Adventures vol 1 h/c (£18-99, IDW) by various

Same Difference h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Derek Kirk Kim

Mush!: Sled Dogs With Issues (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Glenn Eichler & Joe Infurnari

The Red Wing (£10-99, Image) byJonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Soloman Kane vol 3: Red Shadows (£13-50, Dark Horse) by BruceJones & Rahsan Ekedal

Fables vol 16: Super Team (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Eric Shanower,Terry Moore, Andrew Pepoy, Richard Friend

Hitman vol 5: Tommy’s Heroes (£22-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea

Deadpool Max vol 1: Nutjob s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by David Lapham & Kyle Baker

Secret Wars (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Mike Zeck, Bob Layton

Secret Wars 2 (£22-50, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Al Milgrom

Spider-Man: Mark Millar Ultimate Collection (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Terry Dodson, Frank Cho

Secret Warriors vol 5: Night s/c (£10-99, Marvel) byJonathan Hickman & Mirko Colak, Alessandro Vitti, David Marquez

Moon Knight vol 1 hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys vol 18 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa

House Of Five Leaves vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono

No Longer Human vol 2 (£8-50, Vertical) by Usamaru Furuya

Princess Knight vol 2 (£10-50, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka


A month ago wee Hayley Campbell sent me a tweet saying there was a new film out starring Guy Pearce with a shaved head… which was therefore me. I’ve a bit of thing for Guy Pearce so I scoffed. Then my mate sent me a link and… Good grief: filming that must have been the biggest blackout of my life. And I’m the first to confess I’ve had a fair few. 30 seconds in: see what you think.

 – Stephen

Reviews December 2011 week two

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Jeff Smith has immersed himself in the underworld of fringe science, Native American mythology and symbolism, and even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti.

 – Stephen on Rasl vol 3


Blood Blokes #1(£2-99) by Adam Cadwell.

“Sigh. You know I like you…”
Whoa! No good sentence ever started like that. Don’t say but.”

It’s New Year’s Eve 2000, and young quitter Vincent is having a very bad day: four hours sleep, a freezing flat, a shower that refused to heat up and he’s late for a shift selling tickets at the Odeon which he swapped with co-worker Andrew. Still, at least that means Andrew will cover for him later so Vince can meet up with his girlfriend. Wrong! Andrew has just pulled a sickie, effectively pulling the rug from under young Vincent who’ll now have to work a double shift, miss his date and – Oh wait, unless he quits. You know, just like he quit his Philosophy course at university where he first met his girlfriend Jane. But as far as Jane is concerned this latest quit is one quit too many: it’s time to call it quits. New Year’s Eve 2000: what a total pisser!

Which reminds me – roaming the streets of Manchester after storming off in a huff (and typically forgetting his jacket) – Vince is in need of a piss. Oh, look, a dark alley! Did I mention this is a vampire comic yet? With its feet set firmly on the Mancunian ground it’s like none other you’ve ever seen before, with a tremendously funny final-page spread.

What a brilliant surprise! I’ve loved Cadwell’s THE EVERYDAY entries for ages (three issues, all in stock), and his NELSON pages did not disappoint, but this is a revelation. Right up there with Paul Grist, its lines are absolutely delicious, its spot-blacks are placed to perfection, the scene-cutting’s note-perfect, while the choreography… There’s a single stand-out freeze-frame panel towards the end of Vince in mid-air, going down for the count (not as rude as it sounds – sorry, Yaoi fans), which is magnificently weightless, every single line of his belt-loosened jeans a joy. Vince himself is a chipmunk: adorably cute, exasperatingly idiotic and very, very familiar.

This is a writer and artist relaxed, having fun, and it shows. Exposition-free, he’s in total control: lots of great visual gags, superb gesticulation on the dance floor, top-notch timing, plenty of room for layout surprises and this, Adam Cadwell, is your key to the city. The cover’s a killer as well.


Buy Blood Blokes #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Chloe Noonan Colour Special (£3-99, self-published) by Marc Ellerby.

“Look, stick together and we’ll get through this nubile-hipster nightmare in one piece.”

Production values ahoy as La Noonan stars in her first colour special with much thicker paper and a card-stock cover! Obviously Noonan’s delighted. You can tell.

“Oh good they’re playing ‘Chelsea Chelsea’.”

The nightmare in question is a club night in Ravensdale where Doug is checking out the girls (entry fifteen plus!), Zoe is drinking whatever she can lay her hands on (she can lay her hands on a lot) and Chloe is scowling forBritain. That’s what Chloe does. But you remember she also hunts monsters, right? Turns out not everyone in the club is who they first appear; it also turns out that not everyone Chloe vents her frustration on is prepared to just sit back and take it. It’s going to be an evening that booze-blinded Zoe probably won’t remember; it’s going to be an evening that Chloe will never forget.

The colours are rich, the expressions hilarious and there’s even a guest appearance by Adam BLOOD BLOKE Cadwell. Oh yes, please note: all our initial copies are signed for free! Please note that, because I didn’t!


Buy Chloe Noonan Colour Special and read the Page 45 review here

Tesoro (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono ~

Natsume’s art style dances across the page with a nervous energy in these stories of food, family, friendship, and, well, food! She really does like writing about culinary delights. Whether it’s the pickles from HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES or Epicurean drama in RISTORANTE PARADISO, she almost always has a thread running back to the kitchen. It’s evidently a passion of hers and almost all the stories herein express it often with the humorous foibles of her characters.

In ‘Three Short Stories About Bento’ a group of working Joes, bored of their work-bought lunches, decides to change the rota in which they order from their client’s restaurant. It backfires when no one remembers to bring their own lunch on the off days, but everyone is too proud to let anyone know they’re starving. In ‘Padre’ a father tries to convince his son to eat broccoli, but his tactics are all wrong and eventually scares Padre into eating more of those bitter little trees then any boy should.

The two stories that really stand out here though are ‘Eva’s Memory’ and ‘Senza Titolo #5’, both of which share ingredients with her first success, NOT SIMPLE. Eva is an orphan with little memory of her early life, and no knowledge of who her father is. She spends her days overcompensating for this by referring to every man as her Dad, confusing and embarrassing all but the orphanage’s owner and his son. Then she sees a politician on local TV news and rushes out to meet him, there in the huge crowd she shouts “DAD!” and causes a strange chain of events to reveal more truth about her past then she may be ready for. In ‘Senza Titolo #5’ Alex is set to be released from prison and ponders why in the movies only one car ever comes to meet you when you leave. Little does he know that he will have a cavalcade of family and friends waiting with their passenger doors open. As we see each car prepare to meet Alex, we’re given opportunity to learn more about him from the reflection he makes on those closest to him.

Natsume’s stories and in particular her art style which is constantly growing and changing throughout her career is so unlike anything else coming from Japan (or anywhere else for that matter); she is a true original, and if your standard fare is Drawn & Quarterly / Fantagraphics / Top Shelf then I implore you to give this collection of her early Doujinshi (essentially mini-comics) a look.


Buy Tesoro and read the Page 45 review here

RASL vol 3: Romance At The Speed Of Light (£10-99, Cartoon books) by Jeff Smith.

From the creator of BONE, a third album-sized volume of intense speculative fiction with one more to come, and I heartily suggest you read the reviews of books one and two because by this point it’s growing increasingly hard to explain without giving too much away.

Robert has been hopping divergent dimensions using science he stole from the research facility he helped run, and the one he’s in now appears to be cracking. There are… echoes, traces, visual footprints if you like, and seemingly random bursts of electricity strong enough to kill hundreds of birds in the sky. Then there’s the strange little girl, mute with a lolling head, who seems to know more than she should. On top of all this Robert has been complicating things beautifully by seeing two different women with multiple counterparts and… oh, you really do have to read this for yourself!

Jeff Smith has immersed himself in the underworld of fringe science, Native American mythology and symbolism, and even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti – something that’s imprinted itself on the art here. These trips, complete with photographs, sketches and concepts for the covers, are documented in the back.

It’s eerie, it’s unnerving, but utterly compelling, particularly the science itself. It is also, as you’d imagine, very, very beautiful in bold black and white with some extraordinary effects as the rooms start to ripple and morph.


Rasl vol 3: Romance At The Speed Of Light

My Skateboard Life (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Ed Syder.

Courage and competitiveness when confronted with a vert ramp of doom, a shop full of snazzy equipment, and the watchful gaze of girls. I was looking forward to this enormously: the cover design in black, white and red stands out a mile, Syder’s wide eyes greeting his potential readers’ straight on, and it’s easy to see why hisManchestermusic scene posters were so sought after. Also, the way he draws hair is lovely. Lovely.

Sorry, that’s about it.

It’s very thin in every aspect. There’s none of the broader self-questioning that made KING-CAT’s John Porcellino such an instant hit at Page 45 with PERFECT EXAMPLE (particularly with skateboarders but also our wider community of students) then kept them on board throughout MAP OF MY HEART etc., and when the publisher claims two “mini-interviews” with classic skateboarders as a bonus, you could fit each on the back on a postcard – after you’ve filled in the address. There’s no insight, no discipline and, worse still perhaps, even as an outsider I cannot think I learned anything new at all. A mere two-pager from ALEC’sEddie Campbell gives me far more to digest than this entire graphic novel put together. Plus Ed’s limitations as both storyteller and artist are readily apparent in the expressions which barely fluctuate and the top-left panel halfway through in which Ed is indistinguishable from his mother. Incredibly disappointing.


Buy My Skateboard Life and read the Page 45 review here

Nobrow 6: The Double (£15-00, Nobrow) by various.

Album-sized anthology closer in aesthetic to KRAMERS ERGOT rather than, say, SOLIPSISTIC POP. Under a cover and interior front page by Tom Gauld, you’ll find two pages each from the likes of Kevin Huizenga (GANGES, THE WILD KINGDOM, DRAWN & QUARTERLY SHOWCASE VOL 1, more), Luke Pearson (EVERYTHING WE MISS, SOME PEOPLE, Dull Ache etc. ), Jon McNaught (PEBBLE ISLAND, BIRCHFIELD CLOSE and one the very best sequences in NELSON) Jesse Jacobs (EVEN THE GIANTS), Matthew Forsythe (OJINGOGO, NURSERY RHYME COMICS and, soon, JINCHALO), Michael Deforge (BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2011, STRANGE TALES II, Blanquet (DEAD HERRING COMICS), Gemma Correll (MAMESHIBA)…all of which we have in stock!

Some are stories, some are prints, most are bursting with pink, peach, orange and blue; and all are on the subject of doubles/duplicates. I’ve been told recently by a top-notch creator that I give far too much away in some reviews, which is the perfect excuse in this strapped-for-time week to shut up, stay neutral and let you discover how each artist interpreted their instructions for yourselves.


Nobrow 6: The Double

BPRD – Being Human (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi & Karl Moline, Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck, Guy Davis, Andy Owens, Jo Chen.

Self-contained short story collection which works as a timely introduction to the series until Dark Horse rebundles the first four books in a single package in March 2012 (as Bprd vol 1: Plague Of Frogs rather than HOLLOW EARTH  which is now out of print).

Just so you know, these tales of witchcraft and the undead come from HELLBOY: BEING HUMAN, BPRD: THE DEAD REMEMBERED #1-3, BPRD: CASUALTIES and BPRD: THE ECTOPLASMIC MAN.


Buy BPRD – Being Human and read the Page 45 review here

Monkey King vol 1 (£7-50, JR Comics) by Wei Dong Chen & Chao Peng.

Sun Wu Kong – he such a cheeky chappy. An irrepressible free spirit with a lust for life, the Handsome Monkey King refuses to be bound by the laws of God, man, beast or even nature itself. He’s a buffoon, he’s a braggart and to be honest he can be a bit of a nob, but he’s got a driving ambition and courage aplenty. These are his earliest escapes from his sun-baked birth from a egg made of stone, his early training at the hands of Master Puti (publicly exasperated by his lack of discipline but privately impressed with the monkey man’s tenacity), his return to Spring Mountain, his brazen challenges to the Sea King et al and the Jade Emperor’s vain attempts to distract Sun Wu Kong with a position in his heavenly court. And it works for a while until the Monkey King learns of its status.

As a colourful introduction for kids to his Chinese legend, it’s not a bad précis. The art is energetic and it gallops along at a furious pace, but an intro and précis is all that this felt like. Maybe an introduction is all that’s intended – there are at least twenty more books yet to come – but I would have enjoyed more japes myself. Oddly, there is a précis of the précis in the back, but also a mini-poster looking a little more like the Jademan art some may be used to.


Buy Monkey King vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Hush Absolute Edition (£75-00, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee.

8″x12″ slipcased hardcover reprinting BATMAN: HUSH (available as a full-colour softcover or a deluxe hardcover called BATMAN: HUSH UNWRAPPED featuring Jim Lee’s original pencils) along with a sketchbook, and the enlightening, issue-by-issue, in-depth commentary that originally appeared in WIZARD magazine.

This still feels like a console game, the end-of-level bosses in this case including Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, The Joker, Rrahs Al — Rah’s Al Gh– the beardy bloke who relishes a good afternoon’s soak in the tub… and a back-from-the-dead Jason Todd (Robin mark II).

But I wasn’t actually kidding about how illuminating the commentary is. For example, I hadn’t realised how cleverly Jim Lee had painted the flashback sequences: the further back in time you go, the more monochromatic they are. The colours fade to grey like old photography.


Buy Batman: Hush Absolute Edition and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcover of hardcovers. Regardless, you can now go straight to these books in the shopping area simply by clicking on their titles! Hurrah!

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent (£10-99, Icon) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Sandman vol 7: Brief Lives (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Jill Thompson, Vince Locke, Peter Straub

Day Of The Magician (£22-50, Humanoids) by Michelangelo La Neve & Marco Nizzoli

Superman: Grounded vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski, Chris Roberson & Eddy Barrows

Batman: No Man’s Land vol 1 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Bob Gale, Dennis J. O’Neil, Devin Grayson, Ian Edginton, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Lisa Klink, Kelly Puckett & Alex Maleev, Roger Robinson, Dale Eaglesham, D’Israeli, Frank Teran, Jason Pearson, Damion Scott, Chris Renaud, Guy Davis,Jon Bogdanove, Phil Winslade

Brightest Day vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi & Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Fernando Pasarin, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado

Superman: Secret Origin s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Avengers West Coast Avengers: Sins Past h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Steve Englehart & Al Milgrom

X-Men: Days Of Future Past s/c (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne*

X-Men: With Great Power softcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler & Chris Bachalo

Tezuka: Black Jack vol 17 (£12-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Shunju Aono

Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex vol 2: Test Station (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yu Kinutani

One Piece vol 60 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Naruto vol 54 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Spectrum vol 18 s/c (£22-50, Underwood Books) by various

Noche: D.Gray-man Illustrations (£16-50, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino


* I really didn’t write that review. <sigh> Next week.

– Stephen