Archive for February, 2012

Reviews February 2012 week five

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Just when you thought the near-death experience begins to border on cliché, Simone Guglielmini hits you in the face with a double-page spread that would be anyone’s wake-up call. No one at that point is going to hit ‘snooze’.

 – Stephen on Jay Faerber & Simone Guglielmini’s Near Death.

Goliath h/c (£14-99, D&Q) by Tom Gauld.

And lo, there came a stand-off of Biblical proportions. High upon one mountain stood the mighty armies of Israel, massed in the Vale of Elah. Camped upon another, and sore strong in numbers, were the Philistines’ forces for war. Below and between them lay a lifeless valley of stone and sand, and into that valley strode the Philistine Goliath from Gath. He wore a brass helmet and armour weighing five thousand shekels. Almost twice the size of a normal man, he issued a dire challenge which shook and dismayed the Israelites. For Goliath of Gath was a giant of a man, and the king’s chosen champion.

“Are you sure this isn’t a mistake? I mainly do admin.”

Poor old Goliath. His size has singled him out for a cunning plan devised by an excitable Captain and approved by a king far too preoccupied to read it through carefully. Now he’s been given his instructions, a fine suit of armour and his very own shield-bearer. He’s even had his script written for him. It’s pretty incendiary; it might take a little practice. Thankfully no one seems to be biting…

Exceptional work from one of Britain’s finest cartoonists whom you’ll find every week in The Guardian. He’s taken one of the world’s most famous confrontations – the triumph of one barely armed lad over seemingly insuperable strength and aggression – and not so much turned it on its head as tossed its coin to show the other side. For the Book of Samuel is seen solely from the Israelites’ perspective. Nothing here contradicts it. It’s far more of a “Meanwhile, back at the Philistines…” and the comedy lies in confounding your expectations, and the silence which surrounds the gentle giant. It’s all so still.

I love the rhythm and the crisp, white space which surrounds the sand-coloured, meticulously hatched rocks, tents and protagonists. Space equals time in comics and, I would suggest, not just between the panels. Both the silence and the space here stretch the moments. It’s far from a raging arena of testosterone, but a masterpiece of quiet, uncomplaining bewilderment and absurdity. That a boy aged nine is commanded to lug around a giant’s mighty shield!

“Are you ok with that?”
“Sort of.”

The story opens one moonlit evening with a thirsty Goliath popping down for a drink from rippling brook dangerously close to the Israelites’ army. And there he finds a pebble.

“D’you want it?”
“Why would I want it?”

Goliath contemplates the pebble for a moment then tosses it back in the water. “Plop.” He’ll be seeing that again shortly.


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

Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling (£6-99, Walker Books) by Andi Watson.

Schoolgirl Grace is having a bad hair day – in more ways than one! First she forgot to take her plaits out so her silky-smooth hair is a frazzle that dazzles, and now her new school is being attacked by The Follicle Fiend and its super-strong thatch of evil, prehensile hair. Good job she brought a big batch of chemically altered bubblegum to school. This looks like a job for Gum Girl!

Welcome to Catastrophe: with disaster on the doorstep it’s an accident waiting to happen, and Grace’s family have just gone and moved there! It has an active volcano called Mount Misfortune, meteors falling from the sky, and a primary school called Calamity with a giant, marauding robot raiding the Pick’n’Mix and picking on poor Billy Fisher because he forgot to return a ruler. And no one wants to help!

“It certainly sounds like their science and engineering is awfully good, Grace.”
“What! It’s the weirdest, craziest, most dangerous place I’ve ever been and that’s not including the volcano.”
“Then it’s up to us to make it better. You can’t spend your life hiding with your head in the sand; someone has to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.”

And that’s where Grace, her bubble gum and an old chemistry set found in the attic come in. You know, after another disaster! And it’s a brand-new bedroom!

“Uh. Oh. This better not stain.”

Over the course of three bubble-blowing, action-packed episodes Gum Girl must unearth the secrets behind the Bad Brains Trust at Wertham’s Asylum for Crafty Criminals, the Junior Evil Genius After-School Club responsible for the explosive bog roll incident, their plans for Operation Number Two and the sinister truth behind TV super-chef Oliver Ramsay’s healthy school dinners. That salad of things for one girl to cope with!

Puns aplenty in this bright and colourful new series aimed at 7-9-year-olds. Fortunately they’re better than mine. From the tongue-in-cheek Andi Watson, creator of LITTLE STAR, SLOW NEWS DAY and the all-ages GLISTER.


Buy Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling and read the Page 45 review here

Near Death vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jay Faerber & Simone Guglielmini.

“It’s a great twist on the hitman genre that I wish I’d thought of.”
 – Ed Brubaker (CRIMINAL, FATALE etc.)

I certainly sense Simone is a Sean Phillips fan: the shadows cast across the faces are evidence enough, and there’s some fine figure work where the clothes hang naturally. I like the exterior daylight with just enough detail and there’s one extended sequence where the morning mist hangs above the leafy suburbs eroding the roofs and tree-tops beautifully. Ron Riley’s colours are admirably restrained as well.

Our main man Markham has just had a near-death experience. A dispassionate hitman who kills without compunction, he’s come face to face with the lives lost at his more than capable hands. He’s come to a life-altering decision: not only does he desperately need to redress the balance – to save more lives than he’s taken – but he now has to do it without the best weapon in his arsenal. He cannot and will not kill again. For an assassin that’s like operating with one hand tied behind your back, but it’s far from Markham’s only skill. He’s been in the business for so long that he knows how his former peers and now new opponents think so – with a little lateral thinking – it’s time to get creative…

That, I think, is the twist Brubaker’s referring to, and what’s fascinating here is seeing a man unused to weighing up even the most minor moral arguments finally having to engage in the rights or wrongs of his immediate actions and their long-terms repercussions as well. In his efforts to balance the books, he is now compelled now to balance the scales of justice and some of his solutions are poetic indeed. Take the sex offender (oh, let’s not beat about the bush – the rapist) who’s served his time but found himself threatened by the victim’s brother and father. They’re out for blood, geared up to kill the culpable cretin which makes Markham the pig in the middle. But it’s not just for the abhorrent, abominable act itself. Oh no, they have one more specific issue which givesMarkham the leeway and inspiration he needs.

That’s just one scenario of the several so far. Others are a direct result of Markham’s former contracts and, satisfyingly, almost every tangled thread woven within this opening salvo comes back to bite him in the final two chapters. They hit him where it hurts most.

All of which, especially the new, self-imposed commandment of Thou Shalt Not Kill has required Jay Faerber to get creative as well. I’ll be honest: there were moments where I was thinking ho-hum, how predictable. I’d seen it before. But each time Faerber found a new angle, and I will never smoke while sniping again. Just when you thought the near-death experience begins to border on cliché, for example, Simone Guglielmini hits you in the face with a double-page spread that would be anyone’s wake-up call. No one at that point is going to hit ‘snooze’.


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

Clutch #19 The Lost Years (2003 – 2006) (£7-99, Tugboat Press) by Clutch McBastard ~

Understated yet pedantically detailed, Clutch’s daily diary comics can be in an essay in ennui in places, but more often than not surprises with profoundly funny circumstance. The obsessive compulsive desire to not only write but draw about your day must wire your head a certain way, but Clutch isn’t nearly as big a weirdo as he thinks and cameos by some of Portland’s finest comic creators fill his stories with a certain awe from this fanboy’s point of view.


Buy Clutch #19 The Lost Years (2003 – 2006) and read the Page 45 review here

You Don’t Get The From Here #15 – 20 (£1-99 each) by Carrie McNinch ~

Carrie’s Mini’s are just about the most accessible mini-comics going, they’re dense, detailed, pocket-sized and, most importantly, cheap! Plus she has the skill to play a melodious tune on the heart strings in just three panels or build to a crescendo over many entries (trip to Japan!). Jump in anywhere, reading these for the first time is like meeting a new old friend.


Buy You Don’t Get The From Here #15 and read the Page 45 review here

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (£8-50, Amulet Books) by Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telegemeier, Dave Roman, Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist, Stuart Livingston, Johane Matte…

Excellent anthology of seven stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of the enormously popular AMULET series, who also writes the final tale here. These seven stories – very different in tone as well as art style and indeed also plot and setting – are all connected by the premise of a mysterious box, itself featured in rather varied ways. Despite not being a particular fan of short stories as regular review readers may know, I actually enjoyed all seven. Mr Kibuishi has definitely picked his cohorts wisely for this work.

I’m sure it’s not easy to pen a tale that hooks the reader when you have so few pages to work with, and that’s probably even more true in our preferred medium as compared to prose perhaps. What is also nice is that the art styles are all sufficiently distinct from each other than you can admire the flavours each artist adds to this particular selection box. It’s difficult to pick a favourite, but ‘Spring Cleaning’ by Dave Roman & Raina (SMILE) Telgemeier amused me greatly as did ‘The Butter Thief by Rad Sechrist’, which was probably just my pick in terms of the art. There’s a definite humorous element to all the stories which is what makes it ideal as an all-ages read, rather than just being suitable for a younger audience.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the striking cover illustration, also by Kibuishi, which features a lone hiker in a tranquil forest setting, a cascading waterfall on the opposite bank of the river with a huge mystery box looming ominously UFO-like overhead. It’s actually connected to his story, the tale which concludes the book, but I couldn’t help think the particular box looked like something from Hellraiser which Cenobites might pop out of at any moment threatening to tear everyone’s souls apart… before realising they’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in a national park. HELLRAISER and AMULET: now there would be a literary mash-up that would make PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES look somewhat boring, I suspect. There are of course, no Cenobites in this particular box. Now, aliens on the other hand…


Buy Explorer: The Mystery Boxes and read the Page 45 review here

Torso h/c new edition (£18-99, Icon/Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, Marc Andreyko & Brian Michael Bendis.

1935 and Cleveland’s determined to renew itself both economically and socially, hiring Elliot Ness, fresh from busting Capone if only for tax evasion to weed out officers on the take. Unfortunately that means ploughing up the entire flower bed, leaving a skeleton force to investigate a serial killer who begins leaving methodically dismembered torsos scattered around the bay. Without their hands and heads they prove virtually impossible to identify, having neither finger prints to check nor teeth to compare with dental records. Even when heads do begin floating to the surface, financial optimism has created such an influx of new hopefuls seeking employment that the city has grown a whole shantytown of unrecorded migrants, making identification even more problematic. As the crisis deepens hard decisions have to be made, and personal loyalties are tested to the point of breaking.

If I recall correctly TORSO, based on a true story, was Bendis’ last major work before moving to SAM & TWITCH then POWERS. And once you’ve broken into the book you’re rewarded with a thoroughly compelling drama full of hunter/prey psychology, political manoeuvring and some very scary postcards. There’s even a moment which is pure Alan Moore (“You find anything resembling a decapitated kisser yet?” – you’ll see what I mean when you turn over the page). But – you knew there was a “but”, didn’t you? – Bendis was at this point illustrating his own work. And he can do it. Some of the spreads towards the end prove that. An initial, fundamental misjudgement, however, makes the book exceedingly difficult to cut into: he uses photography (to make matters worse, both photocopied and full-tone) for some of his backgrounds which jar horribly with the panels surrounding them, breaking your connection to the work emotionally and distracting your attention from the narrative itself. I can only surmise that the choice was deliberate in order to impress upon the reader that this is a true story: “Look, this happened here – right here!” But whereas the press clippings scattered about the book serve the story well, the photographs prove a massive mistake. Similarly many of the page layouts smack of trying to be clever for its own sake without much thought for their impact. Fortunately I found my eyes beginning to adapt (or at least filter the flaws out) and it’s certainly worth the attempt because the investigation is both well-paced and well-defined, the final hunt is gripping, and the climax is absolutely breath-taking.


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

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Men h/c (£14-99, Marvel) byKieron Gillen & GregLand.

The Juggernaut: a hulking mass of mystically enhanced muscle cased in armour several inches thick. Single-minded and driven to destruction, even before the Serpent arose from Asgard’s arcane past to enhance its chosen servants, the Juggernaut was a terrifying leviathan and a Thor-class threat all by himself. But his might has been magnified beyond all comprehension, he now wields a hammer like the God of Thunder’s, and he’s marching towards San Franciscoto divide, conquer and crush. Relentless, inexorable, truly nothing can now stop the Juggernaut.

“Oh God, I’m going to be Mayor of the flattest demographic groups in the U.S.”

Far more than a mere tie-in to the Fear Itself blockbuster, this is a monumental finale to the original series of UNCANNY X-MEN, as the physical threat necessitates the desperate deployment of as many combinations of power sets as Cyclops can come up with, some equally perilous snap decisions result in significant, long-term repercussions, while the Serpent’s real purpose – the division of mankind from mutant through fear itself – threatens to finally overturn Mayor Sadie’s previously unwavering support for Utopia’s inhabitants, and with it, Cyclops’ own tolerance for diplomacy. The final few pages are full of things that can never be unsaid and come with an ominous, unspoken threat that comes in the form of one waiting man and a lie.

Very well played there both by Gillen and Land, those are the final few pages before the epilogue, anyway. That’s the ultimate issue of UNCANNY X-MEN before the post-Schism relaunch and will give you much to ponder about what’s coming next. Oh, yes, there’s a family tree and everything.

For those whose eyes glow at the prospect of one almighty slugfest, you will not be disappointed: the glossy Greg Land is on magnificent form. But the way Gillen’s written it is far superior to most: wave after wave of X-Men, both old and new, are thrown in the Juggernauts’ path, but each deployment proves ineffective or worse inflammatory in ways Gillen details both precisely and concisely while that desperate measure I spoke of is… negotiated.


Buy Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Men h/c and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Oooh, a whole new spread of Shaun Tan! Reviews to follow or already up. You can check by clicking on whichever you’re curious about: all the titles have been linked to their relevant product pages.

The Lost Thing (£7-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

The Red Tree (£7-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

The Viewer (£7-99, Lothian) by Gary Crew & Shaun Tan

The Rabbit (£7-99, Lothian) by John Marsden & Shaun Tan

The Bird King And Other Sketches h/c (£14-99, Templar) by Shaun Tan

Eric h/c (£5-99, Templar) by Shaun Tan

The Goon vol 5: Wicked Inclinations new edition (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

Snow White h/c (£9-99, Harper) by The Brothers Grimm & Camille Rose Garcia

Judge Anderson: The Psi Files vol 2 (£19-99, 2000AD) by Alan Grant, John Wagner & Arthur Ranson, David Roach, Siku, Kevin Walker, Mark Wilkinson, Steve Sampson, Tony Luke, Charles Gillespie, Xuasus, Ian Gibson, Enric Romero, Mike Collins

The Punisher vol 1 hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by  Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto

Uncanny X-Force vol 4: The Dark Angel Saga Book vol 2 hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena

Daredevil: Ultimate Brubaker Collection vol 1 (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, & Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, David Aja

Ultimate Comics Ultimates vol 1 hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic, Brandon Peterson

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye softcover (Uk Ed’N) (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Rafa Sandoval

Invincible Iron Man vol 8: Unfixable s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick & Salvador Larocca, John Romita Jr., Andrea Mutti

FF vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, Barry Kitson

Spider-Man: The Fantastic Spider-Man hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente, Christos Gage, Rob Williams, Paul Benjamin, Frank Tieri & Stefano Caselli, Javier Pulido, Reilly Brown, Mike McKone, Lee Garbett, Javier Rodriguez

Carnage: Family Feud s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain

Breathe Deeply (£12-99, One Peace Books)Yamaki Doton

Gon vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Masashi Tanaka

Cage Of Eden vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshinobu Yamada

Air Gear vol 22 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Oh!Great

Gate 7 vol 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Gantz vol 21 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Xxxholic vol 19 (£8-50, Clamp) by Clamp

GTO: The Early Years vol 11 (£9-99, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa

Thanks to Alex ‘Velveteen’ Sarll for pointing out an embarrassing error in my original review of BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT – GOLDEN DAWN. Contrary to my initial complaint it isn’t the only place you’ll find the one-shot Grant Morrison wrote called BATMAN: THE RETURN which sets up the whole Leviathan epic to be continued in the forthcoming BATMAN INCORPORATED h/c. You’ll also find it in Batman and Robin vol 3: Batman and Robin Must Die.

Corrected now, and apologies.

 – Stephen (World’s Worst Detective)

Reviews February 2012 week four

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


Yes, it would be fair to say if you’re looking for examples of dark humour in comics, Jason probably would be a very good place to start…

 – Jonathan on Jason’s Athos In America.


Jinchalo (£14-99, D&Q) by Matthew Forsythe.

Virtually silent sequel to OJINGOGO as the same shouty little crosspatch returns for more morphing dreamscapes, bizarre beasties and sundry transmogrification. It’s a book that rewards several short readings, first for the sheer joy of seeing what Andi Watson might draw in his sleep after eating way too much cheese, but also because retrospect is a funny old thing.

Really it’s up to you interpret what’s going on. However – unless I have this very wrong – here the young girl stumbles on some giant sushi (that isn’t hers), gobbles it up, falls asleep with a grumbling tummy then wakes in a house (that isn’t hers), bad-breathed with bed hair, in time to serve a plaintive ogre food which is clearly inedible. And isn’t hers!

Undeterred, she sets about making a feast before returning to bed with a copy of COWA. When the true occupant, an elderly gent, discovers he’s been eaten out of house and home he goes through the roof before dispatching the girl to market to replenish his cupboards and buy, specifically, a very large egg. What follows is all manner of mistaken identity and hatched-egg extreme imprinting as well as a guest appearance by the artist himself who’s roped in to address his creation.

It’s an absolute delight in black, white, and eggshell blue. The expressions are a hoot and just watching her pack is a riot, as is the school nature trail. Plus, as I say, both the punchline and epilogue will send you scurrying back to the beginning.

P.S. ‘Jinchalo’ is the Korean for ‘Really?’ Really.


Buy Jinchalo and read the Page 45 review here

Athos In America h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason…

After the Page 45 Comicbook of The Month choice ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES in collaboration with writer Fabien Vehlmann, this collection of stories has Jason back on writing and art duties as per usual. It’s the usual collection of laconic oddness and outright weirdness. I did enjoy Vehlmann’s somewhat more overt humour in ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES, I have to say, but there’s plenty to amuse here.

The titular story, which is a very loose prequel to THE LAST MUSKEETER, has Athos recounting a sorry tale of lost love and woe to a 1920s New York barkeep about how he was all set to play himself in a Hollywood film of The Three Musketeers before a dastardly love rival ruined his chance at the big time.

‘The Smiling Horse’ sees characters from one of the stories in LOW MOON feature in a kidnap plot that doesn’t so much go wrong, as just all gets very sinister. ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf’ is a most bizarre mash-up, as the title suggests, told in a most unorthodox order. ‘Tom Waits on the Moon’ features an inter-related tale of four very different people that comes a typically Jason conclusion i.e. not a happy ending.

Then there are my two personal favourites with firstly ‘So Long Mary Ann’ as an escaped convict goes on the lam with his girlfriend who has been waiting for him and the woman they’ve just abducted to help them escape a police roadblock. As time goes on there’s a definite Stockholm Syndrome scenario developing, but will our convict and his new squeeze ride off into the sunset together happily ever after? Err… if you really need that answering you obviously haven’t read much Jason.

And finally the apparently autobiographical – though I hope for all concerned really not – ‘A Cat From Heaven, in which Jason treats his girlfriend like absolute garbage during a break-up then promptly starts to find the green isn’t particularly greener on the other side. Yes, it would be fair to say if you’re looking for examples of dark humour in comics, Jason probably would be a very good place to start…

Buy Athos In America h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Kramers Ergot vol 8 h/c (£24-99, PictureBox) by Anya Davidson, Leon Sadler, Ben Jones, CF, Sammy Harkham, Tim Hensley, Kevin Huizenga, Johnny Ryan, Takeshi Murata, Robert Beatty, Chris Cilla, Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, Gary Panter, Ian Svenonius ~

Just when I thought I was safe, KRAMERS ERGOT blows my mind again. This anthology is the comics equivalent of the Peel Sessions. And as those benchmark musical renditions had a certain standard of aural quality, so everyone Sammy picks has a sense of aesthetic unity. I mean what they produce here is very KRAMERS ERGOT, these comics are quite unlike anything you’ll find outside of its binding. And whether they’re gems rescued from obscurity such as Ron Emberleton & Frederic’s ‘Oh, Wicked Wanda!’ or our own Leon Sadler delivering a vibrant new foray into his pop consciousness, these comics are unique on any shelf, and its 8th instalment is simply wonderful. And it’s equally as satisfying to pick up a collection like this and have the feeling you’re not alone just wanting a pure visceral entertainment, a jolt of delight, guilt-free. This is unapologetic love for comics, and as Ian F. Svenonius implies in his opening essay to this anthology, it’s replaced both sex and religion in our minds. Who among us can deny that’s true on at least one of those accounts? Oh, and Leon? Thank you. Really, man, that brought a grin to my face and a tear to my eye. You are legend.


Kramers Ergot vol 8 hardcover

The Wolf (£25-00) by Tom McNeely…

Part-romance, part-horror story, THE WOLF is a wordless, restless riot of sex, blood and passion, rendered in a very unique way. At times various components of each panel, usually different antagonists, are portrayed in almost incongruous styles. I did see one comment on Tom’s site that mentioned a marriage of cartoon expressionism and a fine art approach in places, and I think that neatly sums it up actually. It certainly adds to the supernatural feel of the work. There’s the occasionally use of a bordered panel per page early on, which quickly changes to using all of the page consistently, but I’m not really sure what that means, I couldn’t see anything significant in the use of the panels. So perhaps Tom just decided to drop the panel approach completely as he went on, or I’m just missing something?! Anyway, this is another impressive addition to his portfolio that is for sure. I doubt this will be in print too long, either, like all his previous stuff, so if you’re a fan I’d grab it right away whilst we have stock. Warning though, most definitely contains adult content. If you’re likely to be offended by a werewolf having graphic sex with a woman, albeit consensual and romantic, this isn’t for you. If you’re turned on by that mind you, well, you’re probably beyond help…


Buy The Wolf and read the Page 45 review here

Sleeper Car (£5-99, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth ~

There is an Orphic quality to Theo’s strange tales, he even makes the classic plots seem mysterious and fresh, and dream logic seems divine through his idiosyncratic pen. Two robots enter into a bet, Marvin III wagers gnomes – living, breathing gnomes – are real. Norman VIII takes that bet, in fact he bets his right arm, as is Marvin III’s prerogative, even though Norman VIII can envision no logical use for his appendage. That doesn’t matter though as gnomes don’t exist, right? With its instructions on how to pitch a pyjama tent in front of Saturday morning cartoons, and Theo’s interpretations of a wandering mind while waiting for a bus, I get the feeling the theme throughout this collection, in both a physical and psychological sense, is travel. At least that’s what I picked up on, it certainly read like a journey I would happily take again. From the creator of CAPACITY.


Buy Sleeper Car and read the Page 45 review here

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart s/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius…

“Before you pass any further judgement on me, I’ll give you a quote, the author of which you’re not worthy to learn: “There is no good or evil, only the divine presence under this or that trapping.”
“Those are the words of a saint!”
“Enough, you guys, this is a University not a temple.”
“Yeah, shut up, you ass-kissers.”

Finally Jodorowsky and Moebius’ masterpiece of religious and philosophical satire is available in its complete form in English. When Dark Horse first published this work in theUKmany years ago, they only collected the first two-thirds (and then only in black and white), which culminated in a rather odd and abrupt ending. Given the nature of the work I personally – like many others at the time having chatted with a few customers about it – just assumed it was a deliberately oblique ending which possibly I hadn’t grasped the full meaning of. I now believe the only reason behind not publishing the third part at the time was it simply it hadn’t been translated yet.

Anyway, enough preamble. How best to describe MADWOMAN to those unfamiliar with the work?! Professor Alan Mangel is a charismatic and eminent Professor of Philosophy atParis’SorbonneUniversity. Whilst beloved by his students, some of whom have taken to wearing purple in reverence of him, Mangel’s private life is somewhat less successful, with a rather bitter (very soon to be ex-) wife who berates him for his impotence and inability to impregnate her. He’s somewhat ambivalent about the whole situation preferring to take solace in, and perhaps also hiding behind, his spiritual practice, until she actually leaves him taking every single possession he owns with her. This precipitates a crisis of confidence and his loyal students soon desert him in droves.

The only student who still believes in Alan in the beautiful Elisabeth, who appears to be completely insane in her belief that she has been chosen for a divine mission, to be impregnated by Alan and thus bring about the reincarnation of John the Baptist. And that’s just the beginning! What follows is a delightfully farcical and satirical romp as Alan, seemingly unable to take control of the situation and sensibly just bring things to a halt, gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

He soon finds himself on the run for a murder he didn’t commit which occurs in the course of helping a local drug dealer spring a girl from a Parisian asylum. Elisabeth is convinced they are the reincarnations of Joseph and Mary respectively, and that they will produce a child who will be the second coming of Jesus. Just to make things a little more complicated for Alan the girl in question is the daughter of a Columbian cocaine baron, who promptly dispatches a hit squad to track down his beloved child and deal with the people responsible for her disappearance. If that weren’t enough to deal with, Alan is also finding himself troubled by a rather lustful inner demon in the shape of his younger self, who chides him for not grasping the moment and making the most of his current situation, whilst continually making some distinctly suggestive suggestions. Oh, and the slightest bit of stress is now causing Alan bouts of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhoea.

I’m not going to go into any analysis of precisely what J & M are satirising with this work. That’s one of the pleasures of reading it in depth for yourself. Not that it is remotely heavy going, and can be enjoyed entirely for its farcical content which comes across in places like a surreal cross-over between Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and a particularly bawdy Carry On film. And I do genuinely mean that in a good way, I really do!!

The final third of MADWOMAN changes in tone as the humour is reined in considerably and things take an even more metaphysical turn out in the jungles ofColombia. It’s a path Jodorowsky has us taken down before in his various comic and cinematic works, perhaps once too often for it to have the same impact for me in all honesty, and it probably reveals more about himself and his own beliefs than simply continuing to entertain the reader with the same bonhomie as the first two-thirds of the work. Still, it doesn’t spoil the book and the plot is definitely still drawn to a very satisfactory conclusion. I do wonder whether there is a deliberate parallel to be drawn in terms of Mangel’s physical and psychological state at the very end of MADWOMAN, with the ending of the soon-to-be-reprinted THE INCAL material and its main protagonist John Difool, but maybe that’s me reading too much into it. I think I understand the point that’s being made, if there is a point that’s actually being made – and that the great thing about MADWOMAN: it will certainly get you thinking!

And of course we have the unique art style that we’ve come to know and love from Moebius, plus there is the added bonus of the truly wonderful conceit that he’s used Jodorowsky’s likeness for Professor Alan Mangel (unbeknownst to Jodorowsky at the time) which continually adds to the amusement as Alan’s circumstances get ever more ridiculous and fraught with danger. This is a genuine classic that stands reading and re-reading. It never fails to raise a smile for me, and still a quizzical eyebrow or two.


Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart softcover

Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself! (£12-99, Workman) by 25 of the hottest paper toy designers in the world!

Monstrous, magnificent and, oh, so cool!

“Pop out! Fold! Glue!”

It’s as simple as that: no safety scissors required, just glue and added glitter if you fancy, for in addition to 50 full-colour, pre-scored mummies, mutants and assorted malevolent meanies there are 10 blank templates for you to design yourselves then follow the equivalent instructions. That’s genius!

We will so be building these for ourselves and I think Page 45 deserves its own moribund monster, don’t you? You know, in addition to that bald dipsomaniac behind the counter who comes off like a cross between Nosferatu and the Addams Family’s wine-addled Uncle Fester. He’s a walking, talking, lazy-assed liability, but he’s better off cared for within the community than without.

I discovered this book at Gosh! in London while waiting for Eddie Campbell’s slideshow and signing. I’m of the view that it’s only polite to put something in the pot if you turn up to a shop hosting a comicbook creator’s appearance, and since I had all the Campbells (and have them all signed – we’ve hosted Eddie ourselves), I scoured their shelves to see what we might have missed out on. Couldn’t find any new graphic novels (we have 7,000 different titles of our own), but I did discover this and Josh at Gosh! and wee Hayley Campbell told me it was this Christmas’s biggest-selling book. I can believe it!

The designs are thrilling, funny and often quite elaborate but the instructions are easy to follow. Plus each has a background story which often interlinks with others’. You can create your own history and nonsensical nomenclature to go with whatever your fevered mind confects in confabulation and I’m still addressing adults. 10-year-old girls and boys are going to squeal at first sight then delight you for days – not just with their absorbed, enormously satisfying silence whilst fashioning these multi-coloured miscreants, but with their end results! A house full of horrors! Windowsills of wonder! Beasties strung up on nigh-invisible fishing wire which your bonce will bump into and curse at forever and ever!

It’s quieter than giving them a drum kit anyway.


Buy Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself! and read the Page 45 review here

GTO: 14 Days I Shonan vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical Inc.) by Tohru Fujisawa ~

Words can not describe how happy I am to see Great Teacher Onizuka find a home at Vertical Inc. after Tokyopop’s implosion! Hopefully they’ll reprint the seminal series in full. In the meantime this spin-off concerns a fortnight our unconventional Teacher spent having escaped from hospital after being shot late in the series before turning up with absolutely no memory of what transpired in those two weeks. There is no doubt that damsels will be saved, honour will be upheld (if not Onizuka’s dignity), and punks will be schooled!


Buy GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 1  and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer: Phantom Pains (£10-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Simon Bisley, Giuseppe Camuncoli…

“There’s nothing quite like a rainy 4am in Brixton. It has a reek of despair that all the newcomers can’t quite chase away with their warm croissants and skinny fucking lattes.”

As so after the honeymoon, it’s back to business for usual for John as he deals with the typical selection of devilish problems, plus his gangster father-in-law causing a few choice additional ones for him, and the aftermath of a certain… incident at his recent wedding involving his  niece Gemma is brought to the fore. Well, you didn’t think it was going to be all marital bliss and pipe and slippers for John now, did you? Oh yes, and he finally decides to get around to sorting himself out a new thumb that, perhaps unsurprisingly given how he acquired it, seems to have a life all of its own…


Buy Hellblazer: Phantom Pains and read the Page 45 review here

Thief Of Thieves #1 (£2-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer & Shawn Martinbrough.

“I told you back then I didn’t need an assistant.”
“Apprentice. You told me back then you didn’t need an apprentice. And you didn’t tell me we’d be sleeping together.”
“We’re not sleeping together.”
“But I think I’ve made it very clear we could.”

Meet young punk and single mother Celia desperately trying to clear her student loan by jacking cars. Redman did.Meet her, that is. He caught her trying to steal the wrong car with the wrong tools, in the wrong way for wrong fools. The wrong car was his.

So the thief of all thieves gave her a quick lesson in grand theft auto, saved her from being mugged by her fence and told her she should totally give it up. She should do something else. And now he wishes he hadn’t, because she has: she’s joined his team of international con artists and, boy, does she relish her roles. Now Redman’s been hired for a job inVeniceand has spent a great deal of other people’s money in preparation. They’re a month behind schedule because Redman claims he’s “still working out a few small details” but Celia has a surprise. He’s about to be ambushed, and Redman is not a man you want to force into a corner.

I was asked last week by a most excellent customer whether this was like Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL. It isn’t, but it does promise to be something like BBC’s The Hustle with all its attendant comedy and I rather liked the art by LUKE CAGE: NOIR’s Shawn Martinbrough who plays it cool with most excellent timing. The set-up’s from WALKING DEAD’s Robert Kirkman while the first story arc is written by Forgetless’s Nick Spencer. I’m totally suckered.


Buy Thief Of Thieves #1 by fishing or phoning (0115) 9508045 then using someone else’s credit card.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli.

Sara Pichelli: she nails every single beat here.

Punchlines can be so easily blown by melodramatic posturing long worn into clichés after so many decades of men in tights, but Sara leaves you hanging on cliffs you’ve never quite seen before and at an angle where you can’t help but admire the view. Better still, her young Miles Morales is an essay in understated anxiety, self-doubt and being struck dumb. There’s one page where you can see so clearly that Miles is having enormous difficulty processing some news, his mouth so slightly agape, and a conversation between Miles and his Dad in the park where Miles asks awkward questions – his lips bunched up, his head slightly cowed, eyes looking up from under a furrowed brow – so evidently unsure as to whether we will like the answers. These aren’t talking heads, these are working minds, Miles’ Dad measuring his words carefully, struggling for an honest expression of his shame, his remorse, and an equally honest explanation for his actions.

“When we were kids we didn’t have – We didn’t see any other opportunity coming our way. Not saying we didn’t have other opportunities… I’m saying we couldn’t see them.”

It’s an exceptional conversation which will resonate later on.

So here we are: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN series three and such a fresh start for which Bendis has built a brand new environment and populated with people you will care for immediately. The last series culminated in the death of Peter Parker, but cunningly (and crucially) this kicks off some several months earlier. I have no intention of giving anything away about the mechanics of this book – how Morales comes to inherit powers like Parker’s – you’ll just have to trust me when I say it makes sense. What I can promise you too is a great many familiar faces, a tumble of surprises I’ve left completely intact and a satisfying mesh with the events in THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN.

For me what’s fascinating and very well played is the friendship between Miles and Ganke, a resourceful young optimist with a passion for Lego and an unusually selfless ability to revel in the good fortunes of others. Because without him Miles would be lost. He’s terrified of his new abilities and their implications for his life in a country which incarcerates mutants regardless of crimes committed. I love the way he struggles to comprehend and express his condition while Ganke grows hugely excited. Obviously there’s a journey involved. So what happens to persuade Miles to bite the bullet and give it a go? How will the population react to a new boy in costume once Peter is dead, murdered so publicly while trying to protect his family? How will Peter’s nearest and dearest react? Nick Fury? Peter’s female clone?! Oh yes, and what’s with the costume, eh?

Love Miles’ family, most intrigued to find out what his Uncle was really after (and secured), and I think it’s hilarious that Bendis has given himself (and Miles) an additional difficulty in keeping his secret life safe in that he’s sent him to a boarding school with shared dormitories!

Tip of the hat to Kaare Andrews for so many splendid covers, and also a quick warning. Brace yourself for this to end 30-odd pages before the back of the book. So often these days Marvel is packing its collected editions with stuff at the back including lead-ins here from DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN FALLOUT to advertise the new series of ULTIMATE COMICS: X-MEN and ULTIMATE COMICS: ULTIMATES.

“Told you Spider-Man was black.”


Buy Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Astonishing X-Men: Joss Whedon Ultimate Collection vol 1 (£22-50, Marvel) by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday.

Collects the first two volumes of four exceptional books created by Whedon and Cassady, more about the humanity than the hitting of things.

Here’s the original review for volume one…

“Flying. God. When you’re flying, in a very literal sense the world goes away. It makes everything else… smaller. And sort of okay, too. It’s the most important feeling. I can’t lose that.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“It’s not?”
“Wing, just ’cause someone goes on TV and says they have a “cure for mutation”… that doesn’t mean that it’s even true. And if it is… nobody’s going to force it on you. Mutants are a community. We’re a people and there’s no way anybody can makes us be what they want. We stick together and don’t panic or overreact… you’ll see. We’re stronger than this.”
“Miss Pryde… Are you a #£$%ing retard?”

Scott’s wife, Jean Grey, is dead. But things have been awkward for a while ever since former telepathic adversary Emma Frost joined the school, insinuated her way into Scott’s heart, and cast pithy put-downs like a cat spraying its territory. When former student Kitty Pryde returns to the mansion with her own verbal claws, Emma finds herself under fresh scrutiny and on the receiving end of as many bons mots as she can dish out. But that’s nothing to the rifts that are raised when an apparent “cure” is discovered and broadcast on the national news, a cure that can reverse whatever manifestations of the mutant gene have already surfaced in young men and women across the globe.

How has this breakthrough been developed? Whence is it derived? What are the political ramifications in a world in which Homo Sapiens has found itself increasingly impotent in the face of an emerging, physically stronger sub-species? And would you or wouldn’t you, if you were a mutant? Would you want the easier life that might come with fitting in better with the flock, or do you prize your individuality and consider it a gift rather than a curse? Each of these questions will spill into future storylines but here it splits the mutant community, including the school, right down the middle.

The mutant as minority outsider has for a long time been used as a metaphor for race or sexuality issues, most recently by Morrison himself upon whose NEW X-MEN books this series is built, and here the obvious parallel is with the religious right insisting that homosexuality is a disease that can and should be cured. Add to that the sad truth that in this age it’s still be easier to be straight than gay (or indeed white rather than black), and you can see the temptation here for some to give in and offer themselves up for treatment. And you can see the anger this would provoke in those campaigning hard for minority rights and trying to instil pride in one’s individuality, for this sends out all the wrong signals.

Having read the subsequent issue (#7) it’s obvious that Joss isn’t just tossing this in, he’s going to play with it for a while for when one young lad takes the cure, he wishes he hadn’t. Oh, and the political implications? Well, who would have a vested interest in ridding the world of mutants? All this and the time-stopping return of a former comrade long thought dead under circumstances in which he wishes he was, a sprinkling of smile-inducing dialogue, plus the gorgeous art of John (PLANETARY) Cassady who plays that return to perfection. And if there was a more compelling reason for readers to return for volume two than the last few lines on the final page, well, I couldn’t have found one. Quality superheroics for real, live adults.

And here’s the original review of the second volume…

The Danger Room has been the X-Men’s training ground for years now. It’s where they’ve honed their abilities. Programmed to produce a myriad of virtual environments to fight in, it has seen each new and old member of the team exhibit their skills, their intuition and their prowess. Over and over again, they’ve studied techniques and perfected their team-work. But as they’ve been fighting not just within The Danger Room, but been fighting The Danger Room itself, it has been fighting them and studying their techniques. Now it’s time to fight back.

Plus: Emma Frost – were you ever convinced of her defection from the ranks of Hellfire?

“Sorry, darling. Had to pee.”

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed may be king; but in the land of White Queen, Cyclops is almost certainly a pawn.


Buy Astonishing X-Men: Joss Whedon Ultimate Collection vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Catwoman vol 1: Trail Of The Catwoman (£22-50, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke & Darwyn Cooke…

“I’m too sexy for my cat, too sexy for my cat, poor pussy, poor pussy cat.”

I can scarcely credit that it is exactly twenty years since Right Said Fred espoused their über-sexiness to the world, with a certain greater crested Stephen L. Holland little suspecting at the time that glistening and follicle-free would soon be his own de facto crop of rather restricted choice. Still, quality does stand the test of time… which is why we’re all delighted to see this new collection of arguably the most un-superhero superhero crime comic of all, though if you said GOTHAM CENTRAL or even IDENTITY CRISIS I wouldn’t really argue with you. And, GOTHAM CENTRAL was obviously co-written by Brubaker himself too.

This volume begins to collect Brubaker’s take on DC’s feline femme fatale and I must say that in conjunction with Darwyn Cooke, this particular writer-artist combination is a most felicitous one indeed. The first story, which was previously collected and available in its own right as Selina’s Big Score, isn’t even Catwoman at all really, as Catwoman has fled Gotham, wanted in connection with the murder of a certain Selina Kyle…

Don’t worry if that last sentence makes no sense whatsoever, all is explained in the subsequent stories upon Selina’s – and Catwoman’s – return to Gotham, which neatly fills in the blanks for us, about what precisely happened to spook this particular kitty and also fleshes out further some of the peripheral characters who feature in the Big Score. Meanwhile, though, Selina is running low on cash to fund her agreeably comfortable, if fugitive lifestyle, and when an opportunity to rob from the bad guys and keep it all for herself presents itself to her on a plate, well, it seems like just too good an opportunity to pass up.

What follows is a clever crafted heist caper as Selina first recruits her team, and then they start to plot precisely how they’re going to swipe the dirty cash right from under the mobsters’ noses. It’s just that the cash happens to be on a rather fast-moving train, so it’s going to call for a rather imaginative approach. It’s slickly presented to us scene by scene in an almost cinematic manner and if you’re a fan of Cooke’s beautiful artwork on the PARKER books, you should definitely take a look at this, plus Richard Stark himself would be more than happy with the crooked little tale Cooke’s penned here, I reckon. Inevitably, of course things don’t exactly go to plan, but that’s precisely when it helps to be in possession the full complement of feline lives. Unfortunately the rest of the team aren’t…

The stories set in Gotham work extremely well in fleshing out just how, and more precisely why, Selina found herself needing to take a permanent vacation, from both her lives, in Gotham. But now she’s back, it’s time to settle some old scores, whilst finding that operating on the right side of the law, albeit only just, might actually be the new life she was looking for. And of course, there’s a certain caped someone she needs to explain herself to.


Buy Catwoman vol 1: Trail Of The Catwoman 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!

Goliath h/c (£14-99, D&Q) by Tom Gauld

Sandman vol 8: World’s End (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot , John Watkiss, Michael Allred, Michael Zulli, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Gary Amaro

Near Death vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jay Faerber & Simone Guglielmini

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (£8-50, Amulet Books) by Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telegemeier, Dave Roman, Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist, Stuart Livingston, Johane Matte

The Chronicles Of Kull vol 5: Dead Men Of The Deep And Other Stories (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Alan Zelenetz & various

Torso h/c (£18-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis, Marc Andreyko & Brian Michael Bendis

Batman Versus Bane s/c (£9-99, DC) by Chuck Dixon & Graham Nolan

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Men h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land

Captain America: Prisoner Of War s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, various & Travis Charest, Ed McGuiness, Mike Deodato and many others

Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Osuga

Hayate Combat Butler vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata

Two things:

Comics’ finest landscape artist, CEREBUS’ Gerhard has a new website:

Following the news that I’ve been invited to give show-and-tell workshops at this year’s big school-library shindig in Windsor (Light The Future – 9,000 delegates!), we’re very much hoping to become more involved in the Excelsior Awards for graphic novels suitable for schools. Check out the blog by clicking on “Excelsior Awards”. Yeah, that one will work too!

 – Stephen

Reviews February 2012 week three

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Cloonan’s infused the book with a sensual, sexual exoticism, most alluringly and arrestingly on the appearance of raven-haired Bêlit, the sub-titular Queen Of The Black Coast. With her eyes afire and tongue thrust out between ruby-red lips spitted with blood, she’s like a silent Siren with the seduction of a snake and our young, steel-willed stud of Cimmerian is completely in her thrall.

 – Stephen on Conan #1


The Life And Death Of Fritz The Cat h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Robert Crumb.

He da man! He da cat wit’ da hat! He’s hung up, strung out, uptight, outta sight! He’s whatever he needs to be to get laid. He is, in fact, one long list of learned behaviour, regurgitating what’s expected of him by his peers whilst incapable of articulating anything beyond the buzzwords of the day.

“Something’s calling me out there, Winston! And my soul is heedin’ the call…! I gotta go! The soul of a poet is forever cursed with the quest to see what’s over the hill! To discover all that is hidden behind the next bend in the road!”

Truly, he is going to “bug out”, dragging lost-suffering girlfriend Winston with him.

“Ahh, Winston! My love! At last we’re zoomin’ down that ol’ lonesome highway! Ahh, it’s wild!”
“Yes, it’s marvelous!”
“Marvelous, my ass! It’s exalting! Elating! That cool night wind blowin’ past the window… Man!”
“I’m hungry… Let’s stop someplace…”
“Th’hell with stoppin’… I just want those miles t’keep flying by!”
“I’m hungry!”
“Okay! Okay! Let’s dig one o’ those little greasy truck stops… I’d like ta talk with those truck drivers… ‘n’ hear what they gotta say about life on the road! Yeah… I bet they got wild stories of the road… drivers.. trucks… hijackers… yeah!”

Needless to say reality fails to match the irresponsible idiot’s vacant daydreams. “You’d be completely lost without me,” warns Winston, and he is. Abandoning her in a broken-down car in the middle of nowhere, it’s not long before he’s a bum, “ridin’ the rails” and imagines that to be romantic too. It isn’t. A wannabe revolutionary, at one point Fritz burns his books to liberate himself from learning; also, his flat, thereby liberating a whole tenement full of friends and neighbours from anywhere to live.

It’s satire, of course, Crumb ripping the piss out of so-called sensitive souls dissing all others as phoneys. You know what I mean. It’s rife in any subculture: cliques looking down on others as impostors for not wearing the right ankh or whatever. In the secret agent escapade the satire extends to America’s fear of communist infiltration and the prevalent reduction of the Chinese, proclaimed by our monarch’s main man to be “slitty-eyed bastards”, to cartoon villains unable to pronounce the letters ‘L’ or ‘R’. I confess laughing out loud at the names Captain Stin Ki Chin Ki and Tung Nchiki but then I’m equally prone to laugh when Harry Enfield sends up all manner of English class caricatures like Wayne and Waynetta Slob and Tim Nice But Dim. You can disappear up your fundamental orifice worrying about stuff like that.

It’s beautifully drawn, even the earliest material. Fritz’s face is as expressive as all get-out, though you may be surprised at how dainty Crumb’s line is mid-period. One thing, however, remains consistent throughout and once more it’s Winston who hits the juvenile nail on its dream-addled, sex-obsessed head.

“Oh you’re such a child! Such a self-centred, egotistical child!”

Fritz the Cat: leading sex kittens aplenty right up the garden path. Or into the bath. Or into a pond. Oh god, that’s his sister.


Buy The Life And Death Of Fritz The Cat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

San Diego Diary (£3-99) by Gabrielle Bell…

“Those guys over there are discussing some movie rights deal. Everyone here is pursuing their fantasy, confined within this hypercapitalistic world…
“Is there anyone here who believes in creativity more than commodification? Who would walk away from the temptation and think for themselves?
“Like Alan Moore when he said, “I will not allow my name to be associated with this movie. This is not what I do.””
“Maybe only people who can afford to can make such a statement.”
“I don’t think so. I think somewhere in the world someone is happily drawing pictures in the sand on a beach and when the tide comes in and washes it away he draws a new picture the next morning.”
“That person doesn’t exist, capitalism reaches every part of the world.”
“I disagree, because I believe there is magic in the world.”

Ever imagine what a comic convention must be like for a lesser-known creator? For someone who isn’t one of the slavering fan-boy favourites? Well, wonder no more as Gabrielle Bell takes her friend Tom toSan Diegoto ‘enjoy’ the delights of Comic Con in all its gaudy glory. Insightful, amusing auto-biographical material finely pencilled in a style which is what probably Chester Brown would be exactly like after 6 beers. That is, of course, a compliment.


Buy San Diego Diary and read the Page 45 review here

L.A. Diary (£3-99) by Gabrielle Bell…

“In France you are expected to kiss someone you’ve only just met on the cheeks. InCaliforniayou’re expected to embrace them. I grew up here inCalifornia, in a culture of hugging but I never got used to it. And lately, I’ve realised whenever I’m hugged, I retreat inside somewhere inside myself and wait for it to be over.”

Almost as much fun as SAN DIEGO DIARY, this work covers Gabrielle’s everyday life in LA doing yoga, sketching and a fair amount of socialising, even if she’s still a little uncomfortable with the usual Californian manner of greeting each other. I really loved the two pages that cover her take on the whole meeting and greeting someone, and precisely who must have been responsible for inventing the hug as a formal greeting. There’s much anyone planning on attempting autobiographical comics could learn from Gabrielle, in particular her ability to cram in myriad events, conversations and narration without the panels and pages ever once feeling cluttered. You always come away from one of her minis feeling like you’ve just read a whole graphic novel, which is a pretty good trick to be able to pull off.


Buy L.A. Diary and read the Page 45 review here

Conan The Barbarian #1 (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan.

Mesmerising. Cloonan’s infused the book with a sensual, sexual exoticism, most alluringly and arrestingly on the appearance of raven-haired Bêlit, the sub-titular Queen Of The Black Coast. With her eyes afire and tongue thrust out between ruby-red lips spitted with blood, she’s like a silent Siren with the seduction of a snake and our young, steel-willed stud of Cimmerian is completely in her thrall. The final six pages, coloured to perfection by Dave Stewart are disorientating as hell, and don’t bode well for Conan.

None of which would have worked half so well had Wood not successfully built the barbarian up first as a charismatic and capable man of action: a natural, gifted storyteller far more likely to do the charming than be charmed himself, and more than a match for a capital city’s finest elite guards. As the story opens, after a run-in with Messantia’s corrupt courts, Conan has made a swift exit by sea which is far from his natural element. This has made the captain and crew of the boat he boarded by force personae non gratae on those particular shores, but when they turn their trade elsewhere they hear word that Bêlit, infamous pirate and captain of The Tigress, is circling the waters off coast of Kush like a hungry shark. For Tito and his crew that means sailing those seas is an unacceptable risk; for Conan it’s an irresistible challenge. He’s young, impetuous and about to discover that he’s completely out of his depth.

Best-drawn Conan since Sir Barry Windsor-Smythe’s. Next issue there will be actual sharks. I’ve seen them and they’re petrifying.


Buy Conan The Barbarian #1 by dispatching a carrier pigeon to or yelling down the gulley on (0115) 9508045.

Undertow h/c new edition (£14-99, Soaring Penguin) by Ellen Lindner…

Ahh, partly due to being a massive fan of Walter Hill’s seminal classic film The Warriors, I’m a guaranteed sucker for all things Coney Island-related. And here we have a glimpse of what life was actually like for 1950s poor working classNew Yorkyouth whose only respite from a pretty austere and rather tough existence was to head to the beaches and amusement parks of Coney every weekend and cut loose. Hard drugs, gang fights, unsafe sex all helped to temporarily assuage a general feeling of pointlessness to their lives. They could see the rich kids with all their advantages making good and moving onwards and upwards whilst they got left further behind and stuck, usually for life, in the poorest boroughs ofNew Yorkwith little real prospects of their own.

UNDERTOW’s main character is the sassy Rhonda, a smart girl already suffering emotionally and physically at the hands of her alcoholic parents, and on top of that now struggling to come to terms with the unexpected death of her best friend. At this uncertain time she finds herself strangely attracted to the rich Chuck who has come down to her neighbourhood to do some social work as part of his college education. It provides a stark contrast between the lives of the haves and have-nots at the time, and a poignant example that despite what successive governments throughout the ages may trumpet out, social mobility has never been an easy thing to achieve and if you really want to better yourself, it’s up to you to do something about it. Others may be able to provide help, albeit slightly pious and perhaps self-serving, if well meaning help, but you have to believe you can make the change for yourself. Rhonda is a typical example of someone smart enough to be able to help herself but, beaten down continuously by her surroundings, she’s finding it hard to believe she can actually do it. But as Rhonda’s budding romance with Chuck shows hints of blossoming further, is one of them perhaps using the other, or are they actually falling for each other across the social divide? Can a romance started on such shifting ground ever succeed at all or will the inevitable tides of class and money pull them apart again before it even really begins?

I loved UNDERTOW; this is great piece of period fiction, where the main protagonists all perfectly fit the time and place without feeling the slightest bit stereotyped or caricatured. Lindner expertly captures the simultaneously bleak and grubbily hedonistic feel of lower working class ’50sNew York. UNDERTOW isn’t merely a romance story, although it does deliver that key aspect of a good romance – you willing the characters to get together whilst they ebb and flow to and fro, towards then away from each other – but it’s also a great piece of social history too. Her art style is perfect for this story, as these characters aren’t people who hide their emotions but display them for all to see. She certainly does an excellent angry girlfriend and sheepish boyfriend! I loved the attention to period detail too, with the huge cars, the hair styles, the boys’ leather jackets and the girls’ skirts, and the ever-present, slightly worn but kitsch interiors. The palette of black and white with very light blue tones helps to convey the ’50sConey Islandmood perfectly.


Undertow hardcover

Jim Henson’s Tale Of Sand h/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Ramon K. Perez…

Interestingly, glancing around the internet, I note I am not the only person to make an immediate connection and comparison between this work and the 1968 Monkees’ “psychedelic comedy-adventure” film Head. That film, written and produced in part by Jack Nicholson (who also produced the soundtrack) and heavily, heavily influenced by LSD, is primarily meant to be a stream of consciousness burble about the nature of free will, and most definitely has much in common, concept and content-wise, with Henson’s screenplay for Tale Of Sand.

Which makes it all the more surprising, given that Henson was pitching his screenplay to studios around the same time that films like Head were being made, that it didn’t get picked up. This is undoubtedly a far tighter single concept story than Head; in fact on the face of it, it’s just one long extended dream / nightmare chase sequence, with a psychological undercurrent that gets resolved right at the conclusion. I would have thought it would have been ideal for an experimental film. Evidently so did Henson.

Happily for us (the altogether more low-budget, though no less beautiful medium of comics),  the masterful penstrokes of Ramon K. Perez finally allows Henson’s dream to see the light of day. There’s little I can add to my comments about the plot. Instead, I’ve posted some artwork on the product page to give you a glimpse of the bizarre world Henson envisaged and Perez magically transports us to. There’s no doubt in my mind that Henson, undoubtedly a master craftsman himself, would have been absolutely delighted by, and enchanted with, Perez’s adaptation. This is a beautiful constructed work, and who knows, may start a whole new trend for adapting screenplays which have never been made. I like to think Henson would have got a real kick out of that if so.


Buy Jim Henson’s Tale Of Sand h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Invention Of Hugo Cabret h/c new printing (£18-99, Scholastic Press) by Brian Selznick —

Hugo, a boy who lives in the walls of aParistrain station, keeping the clocks correct, is also the possessor of an automaton that does not work. His attempts to mend it and solve the mystery it represents, without telling his own secrets, lead him into jeopardous contact with a bitter old man who runs a toy booth and a bookish girl, both of whom have secrets of their own. The narrative resolves their mysteries, discovers their identities and explores the ways that memory and media can be interlocked. It also acts as a celebration of creativity, and shows that in making a work of art one will live on in the imagination of later generations.

This is a clever, atmospheric, lyrical and thoughtful book that employs a distinctive combination of word and image. It does not move swiftly, unfolding like a dream rather than engaging with action, but offers a great deal to readers of any age. The main appeal is that of solving the mysteries in the narrative, but just as interesting is working out how the book works, an exploration which itself reflects the parts of the narrative that focus on the repair and maintenance of clocks and automata.  

Overall the book is dominated by text, but this is interwoven with a range of images. Some of the images are stills from films, whilst others operate as storyboards, offering a sequence of images that move the action on for key moments in the narrative. The images are one image per page, or per double page spread, so using a structure more typically associated with picture books than novels or comics. These devices set the tone of the narrative, which initially offers a cinematic movement from a long shot ofParisat night to a close up on the central protagonist, giving a sense of space and journeys within the narrative. It also gives important clues as to the root of the mystery. These images sometimes supply all the information for a part of the narrative, but also sometimes repeat what is in the text (the written text is sometimes rather directive). This combination of repetition and carrying key information can be destabilising for the reader (in a good way) and also maintains the dream-like air and the mystery and fantasy of the narrative.

 – Dr. Mel Gibson for Page 45

Buy The Invention Of Hugo Cabret h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Quest For The Spark: A Bone Novel: Book Two (£8-50, Scholastic) by Tom Sniegoski.

More prose I’ve no time to read just now (I have some short stories on the go written by MOOMIN’s Tove Jansson), but checking the full-colour Jeff Smith illustrations, everyone appears to be present and correct including the Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures.


Buy Quest For The Spark: A Bone Novel: Book Two and read the Page 45 review here

Fear Itself: Secret Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer with Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton with Peter Nguyen.

“So… you’re not fighting to stay here. You’re staying here to fight.”
“No, no… You’ve still got it all wrong, my friend. To stay here is to fight.”

While battle rages all around in a Blitzkrieg USA, while the population cowers, its soldiers barely holding the line and its heroes running out of time, options and confidence… while Fear Itself grips the nation and the wider world as well… one man in Washington D.C. is determined to make a stand, holding the political floor he struggled so hard to secure. His name is Congressman Lenny Gary, he has an empty chamber but the cameras are still running, and he will secure funding for a desperately needed health clinic forWest Virginia miners even if the walls come tumbling down upon him. Please see quotation above.

This book which could so easily be dismissed as “the Secret Avengers that isn’t by Brubaker or Ellis” will surprise you. Or maybe not because apart from one short story this is all written by EXISTENCE 2.0 /3.0’s Nick Spencer and drawn by Doomwar’s Scot Eaton, and they’ve turned it into a remarkably thoughtful series of short stories set away from the main action.

The above co-stars the Beast, while another relates how Brunhilde first impressed Odin enough with her love and defiance for him bestow upon her the mantle of the Valkyrie, ferrying the souls of dead warriors toValhalla. She’ll be doing a lot of that after this war is over.

But most nuanced of all, however, is a conversation about death between the editor and writers or an online newspaper and an initially enraged Black Widow. Her lover, Bucky Barnes, has fallen in battle during Fear Itself. He died on the front line, but the newspaper claims it’s a hoax. In retrospect – now that we know that it was indeed a hoax solving all sorts of political problems (see CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE TRIAL OF CAPTAIN AMERICA and Prisoner Of War, the CAPTAIN AMERICA: FEAR ITSELF book when that appears and the current WINTER SOLDIER series reviewed last week) – it’s laden with all sorts of additional ironies. But even when we thought Bucky dead it raised my eyebrows, the arguments flying into all sorts of unexpected territories. If death is more final for civilians and their families than it is for superheroes (in their fictional world), which feels it more? Those without any hope that their loved ones will be resurrected, you’d have thought. Well, Natasha has some very sound counter-arguments about the grieving process, one’s need to let go, one’s need to build a new life for yourself, and what it would mean for your lover to return to the land of the living when you now love another. Scott Summers.  Moreover, if you have a car accident one of the first things you’re encouraged to do is get back in the metaphorical saddle as soon as possible for fear you’re discouraged for life. Imagine getting straight back in the saddle of battle after being killed in conflict. That’s got to take some guts! There’s plenty more where that came from, I assure you.

Perfectly shiny art from Scot Eaton in the Butch Guice / Stuart Immonen / Dale Eaglesham vein.


Buy Fear Itself: Secret Avengers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Avengers #22 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Gabriel Hardman.

“Picking up a large blast of organically magnified energy in the Dera Ghazi Khan district of Pakistan, resulting in several hundred civilian casualties. No mutants detected on a sweep of the area.”
“Who will we vilify in their absence?”

Well done, Rick: another masterfully written McCoy. The Art Adams cover to this new creative team’s take on Steve Rogers’ covert Avengers screams, “Look! You can come back kids! This is no longer that odd Avengers title Nick Spencer made thought-provoking and Ellis turned into GLOBAL FREQUENCY II. This is much, much safer with colourful costumes, Hawkeye at the helm and even a brand-new Avenger in the form of Captain Gaudy-Pants Britain himself!”

All of which does Remender, Hardman and ace-colourist Bettie Breitweiser (see WINTER SOLDIER reviewed last week) a huge disservice for – the scenes featuring Captain Britain aside – this has so far proved plenty interesting with a startlingly unusual set-up beginning with a suicide bombing in Pakistan market place. There a young woman and her infant son have been shopping for cumrin, turmeric and bay leaves to prepare a small feast for Papa’s return. They believe they’ll eat well, but when the bomb goes off it’s the explosion she devours in an instinctive act to protect her child. It would have worked too, except when the military crowd round, only concerned for her safety, the bewildered mother reacts once more, entirely against her will, expelling the inferno she absorbed through her mouth. If that wasn’t startling enough the act appears to trigger reactions in four other individuals around the world, the nature of which I still haven’t quite figured out yet, let alone the punchline which appears to feature some pretty major Marvel characters a most unlikely meeting.

So basically stick around, at least for a while, if only to laugh at the idea that you could send someone dressed like CaptainBritaininto any arena and still remain covert. I bet his underpants are an absolute riot.


Buy Secret Avengers #22 without opening your mouth at or phoning (0115) 9508045. If you melt the receiver at your end, that’s your problem.

Daredevil vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Riveria, Marcos Martin…

Well, that was a short road trip wasn’t it? Guess it didn’t take Matt Murdock too long to realise home is where the radar-sense-detectable heart is. And obviously there’s always a need for a little cleaning up in Hell’s Kitchen, that’s for sure, which is of course the NYC locale which Matt has made his own personal stomping ground over the years. Whenever there are some local hoodlums who need a good stomping on that is, not to mention super-villains and various semi-organised shadowy plotters.

So after the events of SHADOWLAND and Daredevil: Reborn, arguably two of the weakest DD arcs for a good long while (hey it’s a personal opinion), are things back on billyclub bouncing-off-five-walls-before-crunching-head track? Yes, I believe they are. This is all about set up, in more ways than one. Various shadowy organisations have decided to pool their resources, in a manner which slightly defies belief, frankly, given how vulnerable it leaves them should a certain item fall into the wrong hands… say a certain costumed, club-wielding vigilante. Can you guess what’s coming next? Well, probably not, I suspect, which is why I think Waid’s run may already be shaping up to be a blinder. Figuratively, obviously, no imminent attack from radioactive trucks to the reader intended or implied.

We also have one of the finest fight scenes I’ve read in a while as Matt uses his brain as well as his brawn to work out exactly how to defeat his opponent. And I think I’m going to end up loving Paolo Riveria’s art too. It’s got a certain old-school flavour which may not be to everyone’s taste after the uber-gritty one-two combo of Maleev and Lark which worked us all over so effectively on the Bendis and Brubaker-penned runs. This distinct change of style is probably exactly what was required though, to take the title forward again.


Daredevil vol 1 hardcover

Fantastic Four: Season One h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & David Marquez.

First of a series of Marvel graphic novels going back to characters’ earliest adventures, embellishing their skeletons and thrusting them into a more modern context. Some will be delighted at the renovation, others will be enraged at the sacrilege. I if ever do care less about something I’ll be sure to let you know.

Perfectly competent, this incorporates the four adventurers’ first flight and fight with the Moleman, their run-in with Namor, and obliterates all sense of their early, natural naivety and gradual adjustment to powers and popular attention. Boring! Next?


Fantastic Four: Season One hardcover

Batman: Time And The Batman s/c (£10-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Fabian Nicieza & Tony Daniels, David Finch, Cliff Richards, Andy Kubert, Frank Quitely…

“How am I supposed to follow your insane leaps of logic?”
“Exactly. Maybe when you do, you’ll be good enough to be Batman. Trust me. It’ll all make sense one day.”

Honestly it will. If Dick Grayson says so, I believe him anyway. Probably the superhero question we got asked most frequently in late 2008 / early 2009 was, “So how come if Batman dies when the helicopter blows up and sinks in the harbour at the end of BATMAN R.I.P. is he alive and well until he dies in FINAL CRISIS then?” Well, finally, all is revealed with the publication of the two-parter ‘R.I.P. – The Missing Chapter’ that explains exactly what happened to Bruce between those two events. Actually, Grant being Grant, it’s quite a bit cleverer than that, as we get some snippets of information, sly nods and cheeky winks here and there, that also make segments of FINAL CRISIS and THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE clearer and more coherent as a whole too, as well as finishing BATMAN R.I.P. off properly.

Of course Grant being Grant, those two issues are prefaced by a story called ‘Time And The Batman’, featuring Batmen of several eras past, present and future which I had to literally read three times to understand. It is most definitely a proper detective story though, with a classic ‘locked room’ case to crack… if you can follow it. The story as a whole is exceptionally well put together, with substantially different art from several quality contributors to help emphasise the jumps in time, and there are loads of amusing references for the Bat-literati to pick up on.

Oh, and yes, there’s a rather good Fabien Nicieza-penned story thrown in with this volume for good measure too.


Buy Batman: Time And The Batman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: The Black Ring vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Paul Cornell & Pete Woods.

“Lex Luthor! Kneel before GRODD! You have walked into my ambush! And I have brought my biggest Combat Spoon — to eat your tasty brains!”

Grodd, it should be pointed out, is a giant gorilla.

He slurps down cerebella like oysters from a shell in order to absorb their knowledge. But he’s about to bite off more than he can chew, just as Luthor is about to bite the proverbial dust and so meets his taker: Death of The Endless. Or does he? Well yes, he does meet Death but not under normal circumstances.

In or around BLACKEST NIGHT, Lex Luthor came in possession of an Orange Lantern Ring and it gave him the power he’s always secretly craved: the power of a superman. Now that power is gone but the Ring’s left its mark of avarice and what he craves now is more: the power of the Black Ring energy which reanimates the dead and seemed to have dissipated as the Black Rings disintegrated. But surely it must have gone somewhere and left tracks in its wake?

The search takes Luthor fromAntarcticaandUganda, and with him come assistants who are necessarily obsequious if they don’t want a hole in the head. Also: Deathstroke andLois Lane. Sorry…? Yes, as the book kicks off Lex Luthor is shacked up with Lois. Or is he?

Cornell likes to hide things and mess around with chronology so that you only discover later what he set up long ago. Sometimes it’s eminently satisfying like the Grodd campaign, but it can also disorientate or even alienate so I’d urge you to persevere through the first chapter where little is what it seems except that Luthor’s desires – his needs – are getting the better of him.

I’m really not sure about the telepathic alien caterpillar and I wince at “quaint” speech patterns like that prick Yoda’s or the “Urgent Decision: emergency extraction! Exclamation: now!” shit here but, as I say, do bear with it because it’s no simple A to B to C fist-fight but something quite cleverly constructed, and only round one. The art’s not bad, though setting each chapter up with a David Finch cover doesn’t do poor Woods any favours because, Hitch and Cassady aside, it’s pretty difficult to match Finch in the superhero stakes.

Oh yes, sorry. Do beware: Superman doesn’t actually appear! It’s a Lex Luthor comic.


Superman: The Black Ring vol 1 softcover

Arrived, On-Line & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up if they’re softcovers of previous hardcovers. Regardless, you can go straight to each book’s shopping page by clicking on its title. Hurrah!


Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart softcover (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Hellblazer: Phantom Pains (£10-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Simon Bisley, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Athos In America h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Sonic Universe: 30 Years Later vol 2 (£8-99, ArchieComics) by Ian Flynn & Tracy Yardley

Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself! (£12-99, Workman) by 25 of the hottest paper toy designers in the world!

Daredevil: Reborn softcover (£12-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle & Davide Gianfelice

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Uncanny X-Force vol 2: Deathlok Nation s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Esad Ribic, Rafael Albuquerque

Astonishing X-Men: Joss Whedon Ultimate Collection vol 1 (£22-50, Marvel) by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday

Marvel Zombies: Supreme s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Frank Marraffino & Fernando Blanco

Annihilators softcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Tan Eng Huat, Timothy Green

Inuyasha vol 10 Vizbig Edition (£14-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Bloody Monday vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryou Ryumon & Kouji Megumi

Cross Game vol 6 (£10-99, Viz) by Mitsuri Adachi

Gon vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Masashi Tanaka

Pandora Hearts vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 2 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 3 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 4 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 5 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 6 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 7 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 8 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki


Spent Monday morning being interviewed by the magnificent Lynette from the Nottingham Post while their photographers swooned over Jonathan. We don’t know which edition of their weekend supplement we’ll appear in yet, but I think there’ll be a fold-out poster of Jonathan topless.

And the sales go through the roof….

 – Stephen

Reviews February 2012 week two

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Show me how to successfully defend a den. I’ve not managed it once yet. I’m thinking of trying something more basic first, like Mr. Bob-san’s cat flap. I fear we will have intruders.

 – Stephen on Assassin’s Creed: The Fall

Pope Hats #2 (£4-99, Adhouse Books) by Ethan Rilly.

“Excuse me, is this 26-D?”
“No, this is 26-E. Strictly for discoveries. Can’t you tell by the lighting scheme? Turn left at the Jackson Pollock.”

Franny is about to be promoted which, as we all know, means four colleagues’ workloads with no raise at all. Working in legal that means daily hell and evenings full of research. Those higher up fare no better, trying to suppress panic attacks by lying on their desks and counting the ceiling tiles only to realise their fellow associate partners have more ceiling tiles than they do. That means they have a bigger office, which in turn means they’re climbing further up the corporate ladder leaving Nina, for example, behind.

“I serve on six different committees, but Brian plays squash and has better anecdotes about the proceedings. So he’s handed the prime clients and gets to advance while I’m stagnating on a single dog file.”
“You two seem so friendly.”
Please. It’s a daily dogfight! If I don’t break past 1800 billable hours by Christmas I’ll be called into 25-H and fired. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I have nearly $200,000 in unpaid law school loans and a closet of clothes with the price tags still on.”

Meanwhile poor Franny, stressed, exhausted and suffering from insomnia, observes her flatmate Vickie’s more cavalier attitude and copes with its consequences with the patience of a saint, even when Vickie climbs through her bedroom window and flops onto Franny’s bed in the middle of the night with Peter in tow:

“Jesus – – Vickie!”
“Lost my keys again. Ooh, I’m so glad you’re here. I love you, Frannigan! Look at your silly underwear.”

I mightily enjoyed the first issue which Seth described as the best opening salvo he’d seen in years, but this is even better, with more than a dab of Kevin Huizenga / Luke Pearson to it, particularly the second story, Gould Speaks, in which a young man hurtles towards Montreal in a double-decker coach and analyses its occupants’ behaviour and the journey itself… out loud… before moving onto our obsession with measuring time, the fluctuating density of relationships and the current job market. No wonder he’s told to shut up! Brilliantly done.

So yes, finally we’ve managed to grab enough copies of this (and POPE HATS #1) from John Porcellino for the book to stay in stock long enough for me to review. I wouldn’t linger o’er long, though.


Buy Pope Hats #2 and read the Page 45 review here

King-Cat Comics & Stories #72 (£2-99, Spit & a Half) by John Porcellino ~

John had a time tough time of it last winter; he pretty much had his world spun out from under him with his second marriage over. And as despondent and reflective as he gets in the first half of this issue, a break into almost instantaneous and short-diary comics halfway through changes the pace and shakes things up, not just the flow of the zine but of his life too. And in the closing story about a Bruce Wayne-ish encounter with a creature of the night, that Porcellino spirit pulls through to show how spontaneous life can be.


Buy King-Cat Comics & Stories #72 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Cutter #10 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by Damien Jay, Jesse Reklaw, Minty Lewis ~

I’ll always remember that fateful day when I discovered LOVE & ROCKETS, EIGHTBALL, BLACK HOLE, THB and OPTIC NERVE. My eyes opened, my brain expanded with each subsequent panel, it was my radioactive truck accident, a comic bomb for my senses.

Opening a copy of PAPERCUTTER reinvigorates my love for comics in exactly the same way; each issue of this anthology introduces new old favourites and makes me want more in a most satisfying way. Plus on a purely aesthetic level, these anthologies tick every box for me. They’re printed incredibly well on great stock with attention to detail, but better than that they’re affordable, you could walk away with a handful of culture in any given issue, for under a fiver. And that in many ways is what this medium is all about.

In this issue Damien Jay delivers a tender ghost story in ‘Willy’. Each night the recently departed body of William visits her bedside. No one else will wake up to help her, it’s as if they’re under a spell, so each night she escorts Willy back and reburies him. There’s dirt under her nails, and no one can stay up through the night to help her, or at least check she isn’t sleep-walking, but there’s definitely something more to this than poor Willy will ever know. Minty Lewis (PS COMICS) supplies one of our five-a-day with one of her best stories of Apple and the other anthropomorphic fruit in her office. It’s a bitter mix of The Office and Peepshow awkwardness, and will leave you cringing despite the ability to turn the cast into a delightful summer lunch.


Buy Paper Cutter #10 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Cutter #11 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by Amy Adoyzie, Jon Sukarangsan, Dustin Harbin, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg ~

One extra long story this time round with a couple of shorts to back it up. Jon Sukarangsan gives Ryan Kelly a run for his money in Amy Adoyzie’s Lululland. Lulu is a Post-Grad washing dishes, piling debt, and dealing with the ennui which exists in the silence when you ask “What now?” When her sister offers a perfect escape, is she really in charge of her own life? This had the feel of classic OPTIC NERVE, brilliant existential fare.


Paper Cutter #11

Paper Cutter #13 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by Matt Weigle, Col. Tim Root, Jonas Madden-Connor, Nate Beaty ~

In Orphan Baiter, Matt Wiegle delivers an absolutely hilarious Dickensian send-up. Augustus is disappointed with the meagre inheritence he’s earned, a vacant plot of land in the middle of town while he covets his late father’s large estate full of exotic animals. Thrown off the land by his father’s groundsman, Bailey (with the help of a giraffe), Augustus builds upon his lot an orphan-fed entertainment called “Pelt The Beast” in which he encourages orphaned boys to don animal masks and run around being pelted with fruit. Augustus makes a tidy sum off the fruit stand, and the orphan gets to keep any fruit that hits him. All couldn’t be better until Bailey invents a steam-powered orphan to render the cruel business obsolete! So Augustus enters Bailey into a wager, the two orphans pitted against each other: whichever orphan can insult the crowd the best and therefore get hit by more fruit wins! The winner gains the other’s estate, the stakes are high and so are the insults!


Paper Cutter #13

Paper Cutter #14 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by Dave Rocke, Nate Beaty, Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca, Farel Dalrymple ~

Nate Beaty (who illustrates the inside cover in each issue) breaks out with a tale of vacation horror by Dave Roche. Train bound for the Grand Canyon, Dave gives up his spot in the apparently three-person cabin to give his niece and father some actual room. This is the first of a series of minor mishaps that precipitate an encounter with a paralytic passenger on an ever more crowded couch towards the tourist-heavy destination. The one-page interlude is brought to you by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca and adds to the world they shaped in STREET ANGEL and AFRODISIAC. Bald Eagle, the one-limbed skateboarder, attempts to win a go-cart race with the help of his trusty deck and an extremely dangerous-looking firework. I guess that explains why he has only one arm! Farel Dalrymple also brings a spin-off to the table with a lost story from his breakout debut, POPGUN WAR. This completely standalone story is a gloriously surreal look at a band practice. Farel’s art is a pure joy, and as much as I look forward to him illustrating Brandon Graham’s PROPHET later this year, I would love to see more of this. And no-one draws a more reclined cat.


Buy Paper Cutter #14 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Cutter #15 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by James Madden-Connor, Melinda Boyce ~

“The Most Gripping Mind-Exploding Triumphantly Electric Mind Of Our Time” is the aptly named SF by James Madden-Connor. The strange Alfie-esque alien, Dr Yacto, secretly lives in the basement of Ms Least and her young son Lavin’s home. Between helping Lavin with his homework and telling him bedtime stories he tries to find a way back to his Earth. But when he finds this world isn’t parallel to his but existing within it, more specifically in the experiment he left running at home, how will the minds of his hosts cope with the knowledge that God essentially lives in their basement? Melinda Boyce will make your face screw up like a lemon with his tale of adolescent misadventure concerning a stale ball of congealed gummey bears, a trampoline, and two front teeth. Ouch!


Paper Cutter #15 doesn’t appear to be on our system yet, but I’m sure you can just ask for it to be added to your order!

Paper Cutter #16 (£3-99, Tugboat Press) by Joey Alison Sayers, Liz Prince, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Nate Beaty ~

Joy Allison Sayers tells the hilariously grim tale of an 8th-grade science teacher slowly being distilled into a crazed lunatic by his bullying students. I know a few people in teacher training; I may have to send them this one! Liz Prince invites us into the utopia that is her mind, and Alexis tells a beautiful cyclic tale of a hunter that is just too nice for her own good.


Buy Paper Cutter #16 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Cutter #17 (£3-99) by James Martin & Jesse Reklaw, Calvin Wong, Corinne Mucha, Francois Vigneault, Sarah Oleksyk, Hellen Jo, Vanessa Davis, Nate Beaty ~

A break in the formula in the latest issue. All the stories are autobiographical and written by James Martin, but illustrated by an alumni of zinesters. The only names I know are Hellen Jo (JIM & JAM) and Vanessa Davis (SPANIEL RAGE, MAKE ME A WOMAN) which is brilliant as that just means I have more to discover! Like the anthology NELSON, each story here is reflected exquisitely by the artist’s style. But these stories have more space to play out as they aren’t trapped by the march of time as the creators in NELSON were. Jesse Reklaw resonates with the style of crayon-drawn superheroes in ‘The Weeper’ while managing to not look amateurish in the slightest. And in ‘Scenes From The Fire’, Calvin Wong captures the smoke-damaged remains of James’ life when his house was turned over, first by a fire, then the firemen!


Buy Paper Cutter #17 and read the Page 45 review here

Jennifer Blood vol 1: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Adriano Batista, Marcos Marz, Kewber Baal.

“Oh, the drama. He really did make a performance out of it. Not so I got as far as drumming my fingers and sighing, or anything – but how much blood can one man have in him? Honestly.”

Growing up, my Ma was awesome. We’d see three meals a day, a vacuumed dog, banana bread in summer, damson gin in winter, pocket money for fairs, an elaborately planted garden, the same garden defiantly dug up by the dog, and Adam Ant played 24 hours a day. Then, after she’d tucked us in at night, she took out her derringers, Uzis, nail guns, plasma rifles and hand-held cruise missiles to violate the Cheshire countryside and its livestock in a vigilante rampage that made Judge Dredd look like Bonnie Langford.

Such, I kid you not, is the premise of this latest comedy mischief from the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER and THE BOYS. Jennifer Blood: model mother by day, vigilante by night, donning a wig and going off like a grenade, introducing a particular family of ruthless criminals to Mr. MP5 and his 10mm children. To ensure she’s not missed, her own kids are sedated but that’s de rigueur these days, helping to make Prozac a household name.

There is, however, more than a little method to her madness and what distinguishes the series – and absolutely makes it for me – is the juxtaposition of extreme violence with Jennifer’s hilariously detached, pragmatic, systematic, yet conversational daily diary discourse on getting the most out of suppressors, extracting the maximum length of human gut, and her domestic routine, all rounded off with her signature shrug of mild despair: “Honestly.” Here she’s encountering her new neighbours Jack and Laura Thomas after correctly identifying Jack as potential trouble.

“Blah, blah, blah. Nice smile (but not too nice when Jack’s looking), eyes bright, keep nodding. It’s moments like this when I really do feel like I’m playing a role. My mind always wanders. I’m talking schools but I’m thinking fields of fire. I should probably stop doing that.”

Infinitely more pleasurable as a full collection even if the robust art does wobble in the middle, this reprints #1-6, Monday to Saturday: Jennifer’s first working week getting a fifteen-year-old chip off her shoulder. You wait ‘til you meet the cheerleading Ninjettes dispatched to take care of her. Honestly.


Buy Jennifer Blood vol 1: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done s/c and read the Page 45 review here

American Vampire vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque, Sean Murphy.

Nazis! Vampires! Nazi vampires!

Nazi vampires drawn by JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS’ Sean Murphy!

“To play your best, you have to be fearless. You have to play like you’re playing your last gig. Every time. Play like death is at your side, her cold chin on your shoulder, because she’s exactly the girl you’re trying to take home. It’s been a long time since I played on the road, but I’ve learned that there are other times this saying works too. In war… in love… and at times like this… when you know you’ve reached the end.”

And so – after a Wild West interlude drawn by Zezelj – we move on to World War II. Neither Pearl Jones nor Skinner Sweet have aged a day nor changed one jot: Skinner is still the untamed, arrogant son of a bitch as ever, but he’s in for a rude awakening when he follows Pearl’s man to Taipan. The all-too-mortal Henry Preston has signed up for a five-man search-and-destroy mission after the Vassals Of The Morning Star receive intelligence that a brand-new breed of vampire has been discovered on the Axis-occupied island 20 miles of the coast of Japan. It’s lither, more feral and appears to have developed the hitherto unknown ability to turn a human almost instantaneously. Which would be worrying enough in its own right, but factor in the Japanese army’s tradition of combative suicide and an ingenious degree of lateral thinking, and they’re in all in very deep trouble indeed.

That one’s set in 1943, but back in 1941 Cash McCogan and Felicia Book learn of potential cure for the vampire condition which may have been developed by one Erik Pavel, a Romanian botanist and expert on plant-produced, photo-reactive compounds. Unfortunately the castle he’s holed up in – one of those imposing, mountain-top affairs – has been taken over by the Germans. For Cash the stakes could not be higher. He has a son caged up in the Vassal’s basement, yet another victim of Skinner Sweet’s ruthless cruelty, while Felicia Book feels personally responsible for his infection. So both are dispatched posing as wealthy donors to the Nazi cause only to discover that the Nazi cause has espoused another, equally supremacist faction. And there are other things, far, older, stashed away in the caves below…

For more, please see AMERICAN VAMPIRE VOL 1 co-written by Stephen King.


Buy American Vampire vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fractured Fables s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ben Templesmith, Bryan Talbot, Terry Moore, Shannon Wheeler, Bill Morrison, Jill Thompson, Scott Morse, Peter David, Larry Marder, Ted McKeever, Nick Spencer & more.

Mischievous mistreatment of your favourite bedtime stories.

Talbot and D’Errico retell ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ from the wolf’s point of view (sheep dip isn’t a particularly appetising side-dish), ‘Little Miss Muffet’ by Royden Lepp is a take on pet spiders so dark as to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, and whilst you may think Derek McCulloch & Anthony Peruzzo are following the misadventures of a spectacularly dim Rapunzel, it’s a case of mistaken identity on both counts!

The real gem, however, is Terry Moore’s illustrated prose take on The Frog And The Princess:

“One day, Gertie was standing by a well near the castle stables, texting a friend, when a loud noise startled her so that she dropped her phone. Plop! Plop! Splash! went the phone, down the well, into the muddy water where all the mosquitoes lived. Oh, the princess was mad! She cried. She wailed. She even said a bad word that no nice girl should ever say unless she catches her husband making a fool of himself with a tart half his age.”

On top of that startling departure for an all-ages book of olde worlde pageantry, Terry delivers some top-notch throwaway visual gags whilst coming off all Giles, like Gertie later on heaving a full-sized red telephone box down the well, complete with long, striped scarf. Of everyone, Terry has positively thrown himself into the endeavour, although I have to concede that I have no idea how Peter David, illustrated by Juan Ferreyra, came up with his ‘Little Mermaid’ scenario! Lastly, whilst not note-perfect, Neil Kleid and Fernando Pinto’s ‘House That Jack Built’ is so ebulliently anarchic that, like Jack himself, you may prefer staying in a hotel.


Fractured Fables softcover

Winter Soldier #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice.

Spinning out of Brubaker’s own exceptional CAPTAIN AMERICA series – and following the surprise revelations of his FEAR ITSELF: CAPTAINAMERICA one-shot – comes a series necessarily more covert in nature since the world once more believes that Bucky Barnes is dead. The last time was after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming their occasional stealth assassin. Unfortunately there were three other such Sleepers in stasis tubes that have since been shipped toUS soil and someone’s been sold their locations.

So far Bucky and his lover, the former Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, have arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: whom they’re up against and the true nature – or identity – of their target. Not as obvious as you might think.

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight– the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and frantic action so that it’s like being in the frenzied firefight yourself. It’s also a well written relationship and the best Marvel Universe form that Brubaker’s been on since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself.


Buy Winter Soldier #1 by infiltrating our email at or ringing (0115) 9508045 using the secret password “FATALE sounds magnificent too. I’ll take that as well”.

Fatale #2 (£2-75, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“Even a rabid dog has its uses.”

Desperate measures for instant results mean that everyone’s moving faster than they intended. There will be casualties, yes. Still Brubaker and Phillips have held back on the horror, so for now it feels just like period CRIMINAL, which couldn’t make me happier.
We have restocks of FATALE #1 reviewed at great length here. Best series so far of the year.


Buy Fatale #1, 2 or the entire series by phoning (0115) 9508045 or emailing

Batman: Gates Of Gotham s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrot & Trevor McCarthy, Graham Nolan, Dustin Nguyen, Derec Donovan.

“The family will fall by the Gates of Gotham.”

When a terrorist blows up three Gotham bridges at once, it’s immediately assumed by Batman (Dick Grayson) and Red Robin (Tim Drake) that the Gates of Gotham are exactly that: its bridges. But only one of those bridges is a gateway, the other two are internal, and the Gates in question aren’t what but who. I’ve not read it, but I issue a cautionary note in the interests of honesty: Scott Snyder supplies some of the plot but none of the dialogue.


Buy Batman: Gates Of Gotham s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Assassin’s Creed: The Fall s/c (Deluxe Ed’n) (£13-99, Ubisoft) by Cameron Stewart, Karl Kerschl.

“Ah, Ezio, another page of The Codex! What a surprise. Just this once, you couldn’t have brought prosecco and a panini…? No matter, let’s see… Hmmm… If I transpose the letters for numbers, the directions for plumbers, and the lint in my belly button for the leaves in my tea… Yessss… It is perfectly clear to me now! It is essential that you assassinate every minstrel in town. You will gain nothing, but I will be rid of my headache.”

I love Assassin’s Creed. After the Baroque, the Italian Renaissance is my favourite era of art history and Venice my most treasured (and visited) city in the world. To scale then dive-bomb off the all the Florentine landmarks was a dream come true. It was certainly one way to conquer my crippling fear of heights, and I could not believe the lighting. On the other hand I quickly developed a Pavlovian reaction to each city’s minstrels: come anywhere near me with a lute and I will garrotte you. You couldn’t commit a worse crime if you’d cried for a team hug. It doesn’t matter if I’m executing the final few seconds of an intricate, fifteen-minute stealth-athon, it’s an emphatic Hey Nonny “No!” from me.

Imagine my relief, then, to enter Constantinoplein Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. No minstrels!* Oh, there are the begging women who get in the way and spoil my stride, and I can’t kill them ‘cause they’re laydeez. But see, they’re not strumming and humming the same stupid tune on a loop that makes me see read.

So what do we have here? Ubisoft have reclaimed the Wildstorm mini-series and added an exclusive prologue (which they call an epilogue) to ASSASSIN’S CREED: THE CHAIN which will presumably be published at some point. There’s also a further 28-page section of extras including history, artists’ field research and an unused 3-page sequence featuring Ezio himself before they opted to go with Assassin Nikolai Orelov instead. Following a thwarted attempt to dispatch Tsar Alexander III on his way by train to St. Petersburg (see history lesson), the Mentor dispatches Nikolai to Tunguska in 1908 in search of the Staff of Eden which the Templars are experimenting on using electricity. I repeat:Tunguska, 1908, electricity. Can you spell ‘Nicolas Tesla?’ (“Rot in hell, Thomas!” snarls Tesla, as he pulls the switch – nice touch!) Meanwhile in the year 2000 – and in the run-up to a certainUSelection – a young drunk called Daniel is plagued by hallucinations: flashes of combat in European languages he can’t comprehend. Discovered one night in a violent rage by a modern-day Assassin’s cell, he’s taken in much against his will. They’re convinced he’s one of them: he has the visions, he has the tattoo… so why is he not on their records?

Me, I’d rather play the computer games than read comicbook franchise spin-offs, but I will say this: the creators have taken the opportunity afforded here to radically depart from the game-play requirements – namely, that you win. Also, it’s the modern-day sequences which are the real attraction and to focus on the American election in which George Bush steals the country from its electorate was damnably clever. I wondered what on earth they were on: surely the writers can’t interfere with history? That’s part of Assassin’s Creed’s charm, that it dovetails so imaginatively with what’s already known. Well, you wait and see, you wait and see.

Mission: read this book on the bus without being spotted, causing a disturbance or missing your stop. For full synchronisation: using your eagle vision, identify the miscreant playing minstrel music on their iPod, gather their headphone wire from behind and silently strangle them. Make sure they’re dead. Seriously, take no chances. Destroy the iPod.

Upgrades available throughout Nottingham City Centre (see map):

a) Protect Page 45 from stumbling junkie theft.
b) Poison anyone playing a penny whistle.
c) Assassinate a traffic warden.
d)ReclaimNottinghamCityCouncil from the tossers currently running it.
e) Investigate whyNottingham’s Mayor is allowed to park on the pavement outside Natwest Bank between 10-30am and4pmwhen the whole of the city centre is out of bounds for those legitimately delivering to retailers.
f) Read Page 45’s other game tie-in graphic novel reviews especially SILENT HILL.
g) Blog or Tweet this review to your gaming friends/colleagues.
h) Show me how to successfully defend a den. I’ve not managed it once yet. I’m thinking of trying something more basic first, like Mr. Bob-san’s cat flap. I fear we will have intruders.

For more on Nicolas Tesla, please see Jeff Smith’s masterful science fiction series, RASL. Also, please note: there is no version that is anything other than ‘deluxe’. I think Ubisoft simply added that to the title to distinguish it from the collected edition which Wildstorm solicited but were never allowed to print.

* Big love to whichever customer promised me, further in, a moment of extreme satisfaction. I got there; you weren’t kidding!


Assassin’S Creed: The Fall softcover (Deluxe Ed’N)


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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

The Life And Death Of Fritz The Cat h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Robert Crumb

Undertow hardcover (£14-99, Soaring Penguin) by Ellen Lindner

Jinchalo (£14-99, D&Q) by Matthew Forsythe

King Conan vol 1: The Scarlet Citadel (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Timothy Truman & Tomas Giorello

iZombie vol 3: Six Feet Under And Rising (£10-99, Vertigo) by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred

Johnny Red vol 2: Red Devil Rising (£14-99, Titan) by Tom Tully & Joe Colquhoun

Quest For The Spark: A Bone Novel: Book Two (£8-50, Schoastic) by Tom Sniegoski

Batman: Time And The Batman s/c (£10-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Fabian Nicieza & Tony Daniels, David Finch, Cliff Richards, Andy Kubert, Frank Quitely

Superman: The Black Ring vol 1 softcover (£10-99, DC) by Paul Cornell & Pete Woods

Fantastic Four: Season One hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & David Marquez

New Avengers vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Daniel Acuna, Mike Deodata, Howard Chaykin

Fear Itself: Secret Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton, Peter Nguyen

Daken: Dark Wolverine vol 3: The Pride Comes Before The Fall h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rob Williams & Michele Bertilorenzi, Matteo Buffagni, Riley Rossmo

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Tori Fujisawa

Sailor Moon vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Arisa vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Natsumi Ando

Arisa vol 6 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Natsumi Ando

Black Butler vol 8 (£8-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Negima! vol 33 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Fairy Tail vol 17 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Had a smashing time last Friday watching Eddie Campbell laugh his way through THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF slide-show in London. The titular “stuff” is money, the graphic novel is due out in May, and you can learn more by clicking on that link. Funnier still was his section on Alan Moore’s script for FROM HELL, and the insane level of detail Eddie was supposed to incorporate into each tiny panel. Funnier and funnier and funnier!

Anyway, I zapped back up the motorway on Saturday only to find Eddie, Anne and wee Hayley Campbell all on my snow-covered doorstep on Sunday. Typical. We spent the entire afternoon and evening skidding across Nottingham’s icy pavements in an eight-hour pub crawl with screenwriter Michael Eaton and, let me tell you, I am loaded with gossip. Good job I’ve no time to blog right now.

In case you missed me tweet it, here are the Comics And Graphic Novels Due Out From April Onwards.

 – Stephen

Reviews February 2012 week one

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Once you realise it’s more hot boy-on-boy action, you’d be forgiven for suspecting the whole thing was set in a Japanese toilet.

 – Stephen on Mr. Convenience.


Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes h/c (£14-99,JonathanCape) by Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot.

“Claims about men being unable to express emotion irritate me no end. My father did anger very well.”

A remarkable piece of British social history brought vividly alive by the legendaryBryan Talbot, DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES is a personal memoir of Dr.Mary Talbot growing up under the fiery gaze of her “feary father” James S. Atherton – a renowned Joycean scholar – and draws remarkable parallels and striking contrasts with James Joyce’s relationship with his own titular “dotter” on whom he doted. For me it’s already a strong contender for the finest graphic novel of 2012 for its brilliances are manifold:

The segues between the narratives are fluid and deft, the parallels between the two time frames perfectly accentuated. The art captures the chic of the period if you were privileged as well as the dowdiness if you weren’t. There are superb portraits of James Joyce himself, the visual flourishes on pages 37 and 83 are magnificent in every way, and the production values are superb, the rich paper stock doing full justice to the cream-coloured pages with their watercolour texture.

It kicks off one morning on February 2nd when Mary, at home, stumbles upon the ration book and social security card of her now-deceased father. This catalyses a day’s reverie illustrated by husband and visual chameleon Bryan Talbot who has shifted styles yet again from the multi-media, photo-montage of ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, the slick, computer-coloured anthropomorphic steampunk of GRANDVILLE and the watercolour Lake District landscapes of THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT accentuated by black lines on an acetate overlay, to soft washes over pencil and ink in two distinct, colour-coded palettes representing very different past periods in time.

What unites them is what I loved most about Raymond Briggs’ ETHEL & ERNEST: the candour and humanity which will resonate with readers. There’s an eternal and – I would have thought – ubiquitous fascination in the relationships between parents and offspring and of school life often suffered under duress: everyone makes comparisons to their own. Like ETHEL & ERNEST it’s also an infectious double-dose of vital social history brought alive for those of us who take so much for granted these days, like contraception and birth before marriage. So many of my friends have children without bothering to get married and we think nothing of it but go back but a couple of decades and it was a very real social stigma. Did you know that James Joyce left it years into his daughter’s life to even consider marrying Lucia’s mother? I didn’t. Very brave of them both and almost certainly why they swiftly eloped fromDublin.

There’s one halting sequence in which Mary gives birth enduring an extreme episiotomy which I was first presented with in portfolio form by Bryan and Mary over dinner. Also present: our own Jonathan whose wife was due to give birth within the month. I tucked those pages back into Bryan’s bag very swiftly indeed while outwardly smiling: “Nothing to see here!” Please, please don’t read this book if you are about to give birth until after the stork has delivered.

But it is as well to remember these things: sectarian divides still far from united, gender segregation, and the suffocating sway that any family can have over you. Like the LOGICOMIX graphic novel about Bertrand Russell which sold out of its first UK printing in under a week, DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES will strike chords far beyond those interested in James Joyce and his own creativity; but it will be additionally fascinating both for those devotees and followers of Bryan Talbot, for there are insights to be gleaned into the comic creator’s teenage years when first meeting Mary, and their shared trepidation of life under the threat of nuclear annihilation.

DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES is published by Jonathan Cape on February 2nd 2012. It’s a significant date, being the 130th anniversary of Irish author James Joyce’s birthday and the 90th anniversary of the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses.


Buy Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Best Of Girl (£14-99, Prion) by various.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”.
 – The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

Born in Britainin 1951, GIRL was the self-styled “Sister Paper To The Eagle”, and like my time spent with the EAGLE ANNUAL: BEST OF THE 1950s and EAGLE ANNUAL: BEST OF THE 1960s, I was all set to sit back and make a little light mockery of its naivety. In actual fact, and in almost every way, it’s infinitely superior to much that has superseded it to this day – for the target audience in magazine form.

A collection of one-page comic instalments, announcements, advice columns and top-tip health and beauty strips, even the How To Make Your Bed provides a few sage words most of us scruffy merchants would do well to embrace. Roll back the duvet! Open the window! Turn over the mattress occasionally! If you think I’m making a hospital corner, though, you are very much mistaken. Look, you just shove the sheet under, and preferably before you pass out. What’s wrong with learning how to waltz? Also, yes, great hair tip: however tempting, “it’s inadvisable to change your hairstyle before a big date. Give yourself time to get used to it – and forget it.”

A regular feature was ‘What’s Your Worry?’ At first most of them seemed like the ageless anxieties we all still suffer at school to this day to which few have found satisfactory answers. But there was a whole batch later on which I actually applauded. I did. I put the book down, clapped my hands and knocked over my mug of tea.

“Q. We are four friends, all 14. One of us likes classical music only. We like classical music and jazz. She says we have no minds of her own. What do you think?”
“A. We think the appreciation of music is a very personal matter. We should all respect each other’s likes and dislikes, without feeling superior or inferior about our particular choice. Our view is that it is a good idea to have broad musical tastes, but you just wait until rap comes along. Your parents will take an axe to your iPod and quite right too!”

That’s one and a half sentences shy of the real answer, but I hate smug bastards who think their taste in music, books and comics makes them superior to others, especially their friends. Frankly, I should be shot. One girl writes in worried that although her parents don’t mind that she and her friend hang out with two boys, she’s worried that other tongues may wag. This is the 1950s, remember, so you may be expecting a cautionary or admonishing reply. Nope.

“A. We cannot see any reason why other people should criticize you, and we think you should go on enjoying your friendship together.”

Best of all, though, in an era when racism was rife and B&Bs were legally allowed to hang signs in their windows saying “No Coloureds” (ugh!), this is what up-ended my china cup and saucer (I don’t really drink from mugs). Forgive the girl’s fourth word – again it’s the era and she has been trying to make friends:

“Q. There is a coloured girl who has come to live in our street. She seems afraid of us and hardly says anything but ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when we speak to her. Would it be best to leave her alone?”
“A. No, don’t leave her to be lonely. It is natural that she should feel rather shy and out of things at first. Invite her to your home and also ask one or two friends who would be particularly interested in making friends with her.”

An article like ‘The Art Of Conversation’ you might also presume to be either laughably redundant or full of conventions more likely to produce something stilted. Far from it. Best advice ever, and especially for those who find themselves self-consciously tongued-tied. Stop gabbing, tying to impress or (if applicable) worrying about your hesitancy: ask questions instead and then concentrate on listening. Brilliant! That sort of advice must have been invaluable to young readers – it still is to us antediluvians. Conversations are infinitely better than pontification. It’s no use me just telling you what I think the best graphic novels in the shop are. If you ask me for recommendations, I’ll ask you what you really enjoy first, listen, learn more about you and then tailor my suggestions to your personal tastes. Yay, conversation! Yay, a more likely-to-buy-and-then-satisfied customer!

And so onto the comic sections, and again there are several impressive surprises. The ‘Lettice Leefe: The Greenest Girl In School’ strips are the odd ones out, being short comedy capers relying for their punchlines on slapstick and so drawn accordingly. But the long-form serials like ‘Belle Of The Ballet’, ‘Angela Air Hostess’, ‘Kay Of The Courier’ etc. boast deceptively skilful narratives. For a start it’s not easy fitting enough into a single-page weekly instalment to cultivate and then satisfy a craving mind. Secondly, it wasn’t immediately obvious to my modern mind what you can do with such subject matter. But these were dream jobs which back then, and being an air hostess was terribly exotic, something both the writer and artist capitalised on as the story progressed with rivalry, romance, a plane crash (!) and a flight to Grodnik to ferry some scientists which nearly (or may have – the serials reprinted here are far from complete) turned into an espionage thriller and international incident!

But here’s what impressed me most: Angela initially had trouble getting off the ground because her single working mother (yes, single working mother – albeit as a result of being widowed) couldn’t afford to lose her daughter’s help making ends meet as a B&B landlady. She’s a sour-faced… sorry, she’s rushed off her feet… and I admired enormously the concentration on day-to-day financial practicalities (including the ramifications of a freeloading son much admired by mother but basically stealing from his sister) rather than pie-in-the-sky fantasy. It brought with it a real tension. Conversely ‘Wendy And Jinx’ begins as an all-too chummy and privileged boarding-school pash-in (oh no, their beds have been separated and Wendy has always slept right next to Jinx!) but there soon evolve strains of alienation based misunderstandings because one of them is secretly working (concentrating on earning hard money) to help out a debt-ridden cousin.

In his introduction Steve Holland (no relation nor clone: Steve is a renowned expert on British comics right up there with Paul Gravett; I am an ill-informed, drunken baboon) astutely observes that, unlike the EAGLE, most of these series relied less on cliffhangers involving physical danger but more on emotional crises instead. To every predisposition there is by definition a wayward exception (including a few instances in the strips above) and ‘Vicky And The Vengeance Of  The Incas’ as the title suggests is very much that. It’s full-colour action adventure in foreign climes drawn by Dudley Spout starring Vicky and her pipe-puffing father, Professor Curtis. Which brings me neatly full circle for a more modern smile. Bearing in mind that I am a committed smoker of sixty a day who is utterly frustrated when I can’t puff in pubs or round my friends’ houses, here’s a final instalment of ‘ace’ advice column ‘What’s Your Worry?’

“Q. For some reason, I hate tobacco and always have. Now I am older it sometimes leads to embarrassment, because I don’t like passing a packet of cigarettes from one person to another. Can you help me with this stupid habit?”
“A. First of all, give up thinking of it as stupid. We all have some queer little fear or other. We expect that you unconsciously associate tobacco with something you dislike, and this makes your feelings rather acute. You can help yourself get over this dislike by accepting it and learning to live with it. Keep a cigarette or two in your room. This will help you make friends with your enemy!”

Something she dislikes?! Yes, cigarette smoke! And it’s not queer to fear cancer. You certainly don’t want to make friends with an enemy like that. She’s probably dead now, cheers! In this modern age, we would sue.

*Lights a JPS White*


The Best Of Girl

You Are A Cat! Pick A Plot Book 1 (£12-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija.

WARNING: most certainly not suitable for kids!

Oh, I know it looks as if it should be: for a start it’s a cat, secondly it’s riffing off and indeed mimicking your childhood favourites where you controlled the narrative (to a certain, illusory extent) by becoming the protagonist, making her or his decision for them, and then turning backwards or forwards to the duly prescribed page. Based on your decision, the story dictates your fate…

“A strange man is offering you a grape. Do you run screaming down London’s dank alleys or get into the coach and become a victim in Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL? If your senses are intact, turn to Page 45. If you have lost all raisin [sorry], turn to Page… look, it really doesn’t matter. THE END.”

Obviously the ramifications back then weren’t half so severe; but the point I’m making is that these are! Like Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE, which wittily translates the prose concept into true comicbook genius (this is pure prose with spot illustrations), YOU ARE A CAT boasts few happy endings, either for the titular cat or indeed its owners. Giving this to a small child will traumatise them for life. You will also have to answer questions about what cats do when they “fuck”.

You might not expect such mischief from the creator of THE HIPLESS BOY but read the same man’s Pedigree Girls and it all becomes infinitely clearer. Turn to the back of the book and it becomes clearer still, for proposed further volumes include PICK A PLOT! YOU ARE DOING 20 TO LIFE; PICK A PLOT! YOU ARE COMMITTING SUICIDE; PICK A PLOT! YOU ARE A CULT LEADER and PICK A PLOT! YOU ARE A CONCENTRATION CAMP COP. We don’t know how far Tija’s tongue is in his cheek there – he may have absolutely no intention of producing those books – but what a great way to test demand! Also, each resume is hilarious.

The main meat itself is monumentally subversive, partly because it’s delivered so dead-pan. So what are your domestic servants actually up to while you’re grooming yourself, battering flies and wondering whether to square up to the tom down the road? Don’t take your eye off the ball, but turn to page one and find out.

Oh, look! There’s a squirrel!


Buy You Are A Cat! Pick A Plot Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Manara Library vol 2 h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Hugo Pratt, Mino Milani & Milo Manara.

Another weighty wonder, we’ll get to the lavish, full-colour saga that is EL GAUCHO in a second.

For the moment, however, here’s something completely different. I had no idea, but early in Manara’s career he was hired by Boys’ magazine Il Corriere dei Ragazzi to illustrate ten ‘Trials By Jury’, predominantly in black and white, in which historical and literary figures were taken to court, the cases for and against them outlined as dispassionately as possible by the magazine’s editor Mino Milani. Their actions are told in comic form, interspersed with prose pronouncements from the prosecution and defence, while their innocence or guilt was left for the reader to determine. In the dock you’ll find George Armstrong Custer, Hernán Cortés, Attila The Hun, Robespierre, Oppenheiemer, Emperor Nero, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (the commander-in-chief of the Japanese fleet said to have conceived and then launched the attack on Pearl Harbor) and even Alfred Nobel, he of the illustrious prize. Helen Of Troy, bless her, is put through the wringer twice!

It’s a magnificent concept and should be reinstigated immediately so that we can take out our frustration on those who have so far managed to escape criminal justice. If anyone deserves the Helen Of Troy treatment it’s George W. Bush, first for the coup d’état and then for his illegal invasion of Iraq. Prior indictments for drink driving etc. will, of course, be kept from the jury – unless it’s me on art duty. I’ll squirrel it into the backgrounds somewhere.

Aaaanyway, the main attraction here is EL GAUCHO in which a wizened old white man is discovered by the Spanish army in South Americaliving with Indians. They call him Paraun, but his real name was Tom Browne of the Highland71st Infantry, a sixteen-year-old drummer back in 1806 when a combined invasion force of the Royal Navy and British Army had gathered off the coast of Buenos Aires to goad each other senseless, rodger the cabin boys and ultimately invade. For the officers’ rest and relaxation they’d brought with them a bevy of beauties including one Molly Malone, a Dublin fishmonger purchased with her mother from debtors’ prison. Neither Tom nor Molly are in for a good time at the hands of either military side especially as events move inland, but they have one guardian angel in the form the compassionate young hunchback, Matthew. But what exactly became of them all? What drove drummer Tom to go native?

War and cruelty is familiar territory for Pratt and Manara (see THE MANARA LIBRARY VOL 1), and so it is here. There are moments which are top-shelf explicit with exposed lady-bits, but it is as ever mesmerisingly beautiful, particularly the lush inland waterways of tangled tree roots and flocking birds, and the English galleons with their huge stern galleries, vast masts and intricate rigging. As well as sensual, wistful women, Manara’s drawn some of the best clothes in the business. Molly’s dress, drawn up in her hands, dances to perfection when she does and, depending on how it hangs, you can feel the exact thickness of each uniform’s cloth. He also goes light on the colouring where others would overdo it, keeping the light bright and the landscapes spacious.

New translations by Kim Thompson.


Buy The Manara Library vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Atmospherics colour edition (£4-99) by Warren Ellis & Ken Meyer Jr.

“She’s in a hospital. Except it may be a police station. She’s been traumatised. Or she’s been arrested. She’s the only living witness of a cattle-mutilation style attack on humans. Or she’s a multiple killer who has a psychotic reaction to heroin use.”

The answer, of course, is not quite so simple, for this is Mr. Ellis who keeps us guessing then polishes the story off with a few words of his own on cattle mutilation and alien abduction, which reads like an excerpt from his Bad World:

“All these things happen in banjo country, and are usually reported by people half-blind from moonshine saying that there are strange bright lights in the sky when it happens, that have nothing at all to do with dynamiting Cousin Betty Mae for looking at a black man.”

Originally published in 2002 in black and white, just like this review (Lord, I was lazy back then) this is its first appearance in colour.


Buy Atmospherics colour edition and read the Page 45 review here

Mr. Convenience (£9-99, June) by Nase Yamato.

A title like that would sound perfectly innocent in any genre other than yaoi. Once you realise it’s more hot boy-on-boy action, you’d be forgiven for suspecting the whole thing was set in a Japanese toilet. And Takashi does indeed work for what could loosely be termed a cottage industry. With his older brother and a few other pretty young things he’s part of a cooperative working from a street corner which renders its diverse services out at local customers’ convenience. If a shop’s having a rush hour they call on our boys. If someone needs a lightbulb changing, they just pick up the phone. It obviously doesn’t pay that well, at least not until Takashi receives a drunken email from one Aki Kirigaya.

As President of his father’s successful big business Aki is finding it hard at work. He doesn’t like to look weak. So now he’s called Takashi round to offload on him (oh puh-lease… that doesn’t happen until later…), but only once. He doesn’t want Takashi getting attached and coming round his flat all the time. But of course that’s precisely what Takashi wants to do, and soon he does. And so does Aki. And it pays very well indeed thank you.

I don’t think I’ve spoiled anything there. Yaoi pretends to be a will-they/won’t-they subgenre but it’s never more than a matter of time before all their clothes fall off.

In the second instalment another of our street-corner servants finds himself under investigation by a private detective, and a most thorough investigation it is. No nook nor cranny is left uninspected. Ryuichi’s family are concerned that their son’s line of work may lead him into compromising positions. Well, it wasn’t until the private detective started poking about, and now he’s reported back that their son will do anything for a buck, but he didn’t. Ryuichi didn’t do it for the money, he did it because he wanted to and now he’s love and, oh, the heartache!

Features lots of frustration, internal turmoil, disjointed monologues, explicit shenanigans and hilarious sound effects.


Buy Mr. Convenience or indeed the book and read the Page 45 review here

Replica vol 1 (£9-99, DMP) by Karakara Kemuri…

Aside from the relentless speculative fiction magnificence that is GANTZ, battle manga really isn’t my thing, but actually I found REPLICA pretty entertaining. There’s enough intrigue and intricacies about the plot involving towns being attacked by rogue toys, and the main character, the half-cocked Yojimbo known as Red Dog, plus the shadowy organisation CARDS dedicated to destroying the toys and tracking down their maker, to make me interested enough to pick up volume two when it comes in. It is more straightforward than the delightful weirdness which is DOROHEDORO, which is also a battle manga of sorts, I suppose, but it has enough about it to elevate above the usual battle manga chaff.


Replica vol 1

A.D.D. Adolescent Demo Division h/c (£18-99, Vertigo/DC) by Douglas Rushkoff & Goran Sudzuka…

“I’m getting too old for this shit.”

Thus spake Danny Glover ad infinitum in many a Lethal Weapon flick, and in a way perhaps he reflects my sentiments regarding this book too. Maybe given the title it is aimed at pimple-faced teens, but it’s actually meant to be a clever byte (sic) of dystopian speculative fiction about computer games, media manipulation, corporate greed etcetera etcetera. I understand why they’ve used a pull quote from Grant Morrison as the initial premise of young adolescents being sequestered away and… altered… reminded me of the school for bad boys in THE INVISIBLES.

But I just couldn’t really get too hot under the collar about the plot of A.D.D. generally. All the little plot devices and tricks dropped in here and there have been used many, many times before from Max Headroom to Jonathan Hickman’s TRANSHUMAN. There’s just nothing new here, which given the author, Douglas Rushkoff, has apparently written over a dozen books on technology and culture, and originated terms like “viral media”, “screenagers” and “social currency”, is somewhat surprising. The author was also supposedly mates with Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, so he must be of a certain… post-adolescent age, shall we say… not that that is any bar to writing good comics.

I also found some of the dialogue rather irritating, and the solitary invented word, which seems to get repeated far too frequently to indicate what jolly cutting-edge times these teenagers are living in, is ‘dekh’, used in the sense of looking at something. Well, presumably Mr. Rushkoff wasn’t aware that the phrase ‘let’s have a dek at it’ was something used by teenagers in Yorkshire some twenty five years ago… If you want to see future slang done to perfection in comics, look no further than Brian Azzarello’s SPACEMAN, which absolutely nails it. If you want to see speculative fiction done well in comics, don’t bother wasting your time reading this.


Buy A.D.D. Adolescent Demo Division h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sweet Tooth vol 4: Endangered Species (£12-99, Vertigo) by Jeff Lemire.

From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE NOBODY and the current run on ANIMAL MAN. If you want to avoid SPOILERS, read the review of SWEET TOOTH VOL 1 instead!

The young, antlered, human/animal hybrid called Gus senses the secret to the sickness that has wiped out billions lies to the north in Alaska. The militia’s chief scientist believes this too, having stumbled on a secret ‘bible’ written by Gus’ father. But for some of the group the prospect of a safe and unexpectedly comfortable safe haven in the form of an abandoned hydro-electric dam may prove too tempting. But was the dam ever truly abandoned, and is it really safe?

Who can Gus trust? Jepperd, the man who betrayed him by selling him to the militia? Singh, the chief scientist who experimented on him and countless others? Or the dam’s sole caretaker who offers them all sanctuary? Stories are told, the visions intensify and tempers begin to fray. But I really would dawdle, folks.


Buy Sweet Tooth vol 4: Endangered Species and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Steve McNiven.

“They’re the worst kind of enemy… They think they’ve been betrayed… And maybe they have…”

A shiny new start for Steve Rogers as Captain Americawith the ever-attractive, clean-cut, lotsa-light Steve McNiven (CIVIL WAR, NEMESIS, WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN) only interrupted for a few brief pages by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Don’t worry; you’ll barely register it, like a one-second power cut. New readers will find no prior subplots carried over, so there’s nothing to confound.

Steve Rogers is once more feeling his age. A soldier during World War II, he should by all rights be an old man by now, but his time in suspended animation and the anti-agapic effects of the supersoldier serum – the world’s ultimate moisturiser – have kept him relatively young, physically at least. Former fellow combatants have not been so lucky and today, in Paris, Nick Fury, “Dum Dum” Dugan, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter have gathered together to bury Peggy Carter, Sharon’s aunt and Steve’s former girlfriend. Her work in the French Resistance was legendary but not all of their missions together were made public and some were more successful than others. When a sniper almost succeeds in targeting Duggan, CaptainAmericagives chase only to recognise the would-be assassin as Codename: Bravo, missing in action since WWII.

Codename: Bravo was part of a covert attempt to thwart an allegiance between Baron Zemo and a new SS off-shoot called Hydra. To enter the Hydra base they were to use Jimmy Jancovicz, a bright young lad who had access to Slipstream Space, a dimension between layers of reality which he could enter, manipulate, and exit at will bringing whatever he wanted with him. For nearly seventy years now Jimmy’s been in a coma, but Bravo’s return can mean only one thing: Jimmy has just woken up.

Why is that exactly? What went wrong with the mission? And what does Bravo want now?

It’s a clever little number relevant to our times and perfectly accessible to newcomers. But for readers of Ed Brubaker’s early books (differentiated from this series with their subtitles) and veterans older still there’ll be some familiar faces and a blast from the past in the form of a ‘giant’ surprise. Refreshingly, some of the motives are far from obvious and the same could said of the objectives: they’re sowing the seeds of self-doubt. And doing so quite effectively.


Captain America vol 1 hardcover

FF vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, Barry Kitson, Greg Tocchini.

“So… I think it’s time we had a chat.”
“What’s on your mind, Susan?”
“First, I’m happy you’re here, Nathaniel. We all are. But, while Reed may trust you implicitly, I don’t care that you come from the future… I find myself struggling with just doing what you say ‘needs to be done’.”
“Unbelievable… There’s a gang of supervillains in the next room cleaning out my refrigerator. How about we start there?”

I love Steve Epting’s Susan Storm: she looks so calmly, completely in control. She really isn’t. Almost everyone’s been going behind her back: her husband, her father-in-law, even her daughter Valeria – and Reed has most decidedly cocked up.

With Doom on their side, Black Bolt resurrected, the Inhumans up in arms, three multiversal Reed Richardses still on the loose and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence sowing a Supremor Seed which will take root in some most unexpected soil… all the disparate plot lines which ran through Hickman’s first four FANTASTIC FOUR books then FF VOL 1… the Moleman Man, High Evolutionary, The Cult Of The Negative Zone, the prophecy that “All hope lies in Doom”… continue to converge as I predicted they would for what I can promise you will be one almighty conflagration following the cliffhanger here. Hell/handbag, handbag/hell. It’s all-our war!

I just wish it was all Steve Epting. Barry Kitson’s a most able substitute but I’m simply no big fan of the muddiness Tocchini tramples over the comicbook carpet. Still, it was only the first two chapters setting the Kree and Inhumans at loggerheads. Good news, by the way, if you like your guest-stars: Ben Grimm’s about to return, and you know who he’s been holed up with lately, don’t you?


Buy FF vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man: Extremis h/c (UK Ed’n) (£9-99, Marvel) byWarren Ellis & Adi Granov.

Absolutely first-rate. So well written that it bored the pants off a lot of Marvel readers as a series. They didn’t like what they saw as its verbosity, but which I enjoyed as a fierce intelligence really bearing down on its subject matter: technology, its funding, its application, and the future. And isn’t that what a book starring a guy in the most advanced technology on the planet should be about? Technology! What took them so long?!

Tony Stark has built for himself one of the richest and most successful technology corporations in the world, but in order to do so – in order to kick-start the company and finance future ideas with medical applications and mass-market commercial uses – he developed military weapons. During a critical interview (with John Pilger – it’s definitely the real-life John Pilger!), we flash back to see Stark critically wounded out in Afghanistan by one of his own landmines. With less than a week to live – with shrapnel digging further and further into his heart – he is forced by his captors to develop arms for them, but instead desperately sets about constructing an armour which can serve the dual purpose of saving his life and killing his captors.

Ellis makes the Iron Man armour the very centre of Tony’s inner struggle, as well as the wider debate about technology and its deployment for military and medical purposes. It’s a debate which continues right into the action when the Extremis Project is stolen by a small cell of anti-establishment militiamen heading to Washington DC to cause as much damage as possible. What is the Extremis Project…?

“It’s a bio-electronic package, fitted into a few billion graphic nanotubes and suspended in a carrier fluid. A magic bullet, like the original Super-Soldier Serum — all in a single injection. It hacks the body’s repair centre — the part of the brain that keeps a complete blueprint of the human body. When we’re injured, we refer to that area of the brain in order to heal properly. Extremis rewrites the repair centre. In the first stage, the body essentially becomes an open wound. The normal human blueprint is being replaced with the Extremis blueprint, you see? The brain is being told that the body is wrong. Extremis Protocol dictates that the subject be put on life support and intravenously fed nutrients at this point. For the next two or three days, the subject remains unconscious within a cocoon of scabs. It’s pretty gross, as you can imagine. Extremis uses the nutrients and body mass to build new organs. Better ones. We loaded in everything we could think of. The hypothetical we were given was to build a three-man team would could take Fallujah on their own.”

And now it’s been injected into a domestic terrorist who has murder in mind, and the body with which to commit it. Can Stark’s exterior armour keep up with this madman’s inbuilt capabilities, or is it time for the ultimate upgrade?

This is overwhelmingly a boy’s book. I don’t mean it’s a book for children (please, no, there are exploding heads!), and I don’t mean that no women will necessarily enjoy it. That’d be enormously sexist of me. But it really is a book for boys who like toys – new tech gadgets like ipods and cell phones and PS3s and shiny, flying armour that can rip a car in two (oh, god, how I want some!).

The art is shiny too. I still can’t find a better comparison than TRIGAN EMPIRE, and it’ll take very good care of you in the all-out action sequences, most of which are full-page or horizontal, slipped in cleverly between the vertical conversation pieces.


Iron Man: Extremis hardcover (Uk Ed’N)

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne with George Perez.

Finally the X-Men are home! For far too long they’ve been trying to get back toAmericaafter being abducted by Magneto and stuffed under a volcano in the Savage Land. Thought long dead by Professor X and Jean Grey, the professor has left the planet while Jean retired with Moira MacTaggert toMuir Island. There she’s been running some tests on Jean’s ever-increasing psi-powers. They should be draining, utterly exhausting but instead they make Jean sing with new life. Moira is worried. She should be.

Includes guest appearances by the Beast, Jamie Madrox, Havok, Banshee, plus an assault fromArcade, Proteus on the loose on Muir Island, Scott and Jean’s tentative reunion, more insidious infiltration of Jean Grey’s mind by the aristocratic ‘Jason Wyngarde’, and the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, the Dazzler and Emma Frost, the White Queen. Pretty key stuff, then! It also features some of John Byrne’s sexist, most thrilling art, and the paper stock here keeps it clean whereas originally it bled badly, plus Glynis Wein’s colours are brighter than ever but far from gaudy.

Reprints UNCANNY X-MEN #122-131 and ANNUAL #3, leading into (and incorporating some of) the Dark Phoenix Saga.


Buy Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman & Robin: Dark Knight vs. White Knight h/c (£16-99, DC) by Paul Cornell & Scott McDaniel, Christopher Jones…

“What am I late for?”
“A new production of Das Rheingold sponsored by the Martha Wayne Arts Foundation Master Richard.”
“Will I like it?”
“Did you enjoy Bugs Bunny in ‘What’s Opera Doc?’ as a boy?”
“Then I assume you will enjoy this tremendously.”
“Alfred, did you bring…”
“Your shoes, sir.”

As so we head into the P.M. era of BATMAN & ROBIN (post-Morrison that is), we get not one but three different writers in the form of Paul Cornell, Peter J. Tomasi and Judd Winick. And consequently three rather different stories. Now, I am a big Cornell fan but I really didn’t care for his three-issue story at all, I found the villain just too ludicrous to be even remotely believable, which may or may not be a result of him writing this shortly after the hilarious bat-spin-off KNIGHT & SQUIRE. It just had the feel of some filler dashed off rather too quickly.

So… moving swiftly on, we then have a nicely thought out and well crafted three-parter from Peter J. Tomasi featuring another new villain, the altogether more sinister White Knight, who turns out to be behind the rash of particularly garish ‘suicides’ of an apparently random set of law-abiding Gotham citizens. There’s a connection between the victims of course, and we get some real detective work for a change as Dick and Damian try to piece together the clues before the White Knight gets the chance to complete his master plan for a brighter future for Gotham.

And concluding this volume we have a four-parter featuring the return of the Red Hood penned by Judd Winick, who of course has history with Jason Todd in BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD. And after the veritably theatrical Morrison version not so long ago, here Winick returns to his concept of Todd as a much more measured, calculating nutjob. Winick’s Todd sees himself as the natural successor to Batman, the only person prepared to do precisely whatever it takes to further the mission. And of course, that’s going to bring him into direct conflict with Bruce’s anointed successor Dick. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Overall, the excellent second two-thirds of this volume more than make up for the weak opener. Decent, if completely different, art for each part, with Patrick Gleason on the middle story being my pick of the bunch.


Buy Batman & Robin: Dark Knight vs. White Knight h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution (£12-99, DC) by Adam Beechen & Ryan Benjamin…

“Okay, we’ve trained for this. You know how to beat the Justice League. You’ve got to strike first.”

Of course, after the usual fist-à-tête, Neo-Gotham’s Batman, Terry McGinnis, is clearly going to team-up with the Justice League to take down the bad guy, the Matter Master, despite the reservations of mentor and constant bellowing presence in his ear, Bruce Wayne. This volume is another most excellent adventure for the future caped crusader, which DC have managed to establish into a character well worth reading, as opposed to Marvel’s ill-conceived and best forgotten set of 2099 debacles.

I must confess I’ve never seen any of the animated series, so I have no idea how similar the art is, but I do like Benjamin’s angular yet cartoonish pencils, and also the vibrant – again relatively cartoonish – colourful inking from Stanisci. As I think I might have mentioned in my review of the previous volume that if you’re burnt out on the current-era Bat-books and fancy trying something a little different, then the BATMAN BEYOND stories are definitely worth a look.


Buy Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Big thanks to John Porcellino for most of the below. Some beautiful books and comics. 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!

Good Minnesotan #4 (£4-99) by Zak Sally, Kevin Cannon, Will Dinski, Tom K., Nic Breutzman, King Mini, Toby Jones, Sean Lynch, Ed Choy Moorman and many more, totalling 32 artists

L.A. Diary (£3-99) by Gabrielle Bell

San Diego Diary (£3-99) by Gabrielle Bell

Bound And Gagged (£9-99, I Will Destroy You) by Andrice Arp, Marc Bell, Elijah Brubaker, Shawn Cheng, Chris Cilla, Michael Deforge, Kim Deitch, J.T. Dockery, Theo Ellsworth, Austin English, Eamon Espey, Julia Gfrorer, Robert Goodin, Levon Juhanian, Julaicks, Kaz, David King, Tom Neely, Anders Nilsen, Scot Nobles, Jason Overby, John Porcellino, Jesse Reklaw, Tim Root, Zak Sally, Gabby Schulz, Josh Simmons, Ryan Standfest, Kaz Strzepek, Matthew Thurber, Noah Van Sciver, Dylan Williams, and Chris Wright.

Clutch Nineteen: The Lost Years (£7-99, Tugboat) by Greg Means

Dark Tomato #1 (£4-99) by Sakura Maku

Lose #2 (£4-99) by Michael DeForge

Lose #3 (£4-99) by Michael DeForge

Spotting Deer (£4-99) by Michael DeForge

Okay? Okay! (£4-99) by Melinda Boyce, Aaron Whitaker

Clutch #22 / Invincible Summer #19 (£1-99) by Greg Means, Nicole Georges

Sleeper Car (£5-99) by Theo Ellsworth

You Don’t Get There From Here #15 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

You Don’t Get There From Here #16 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

You Don’t Get There From Here #17 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

You Don’t Get There From Here #18 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

You Don’t Get There From Here #19 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

You Don’t Get There From Here #20 (£2-99) by Carrie McNinch

The Wolf (£25-00) by Tom McNeely

Not My Small Diary #16 (Double Pack) (£5-99) by Trevor Alixopulos, Donna Barr, Buzz Buzzizyk, Max Clotfelter, Jaime Crespo, Joe Decie, Brad Foster, Kelly Froh, Andrew Goldfarb, Roberta Gregory, Ayun Halliday, Dave Kiersh, Patty Leidy, MariNaomi, Carrie McNinch, Dan Moynihan, Joel Orff, John Porcellino, Patrick Porter, Liz Prince, Jim Siergey, Jerry Sims, Sam Spina, Noah Van Sciver, Julia Wertz, Jenny Zervakis, and, incredibly, MANY MANY more

Paper Cutter #10 (£3-99) by Damien Jay, Jesse Reklaw, Minty Lewis

Paper Cutter #11 (£3-99) by Amy Adoyzie, Jon Sukarangsan, Dustin Harbin, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
Paper Cutter #13 (£3-99) by Matt Weigle, Col. Tim Root, Jonas Madden-Connor, Nate Beaty

Paper Cutter #14 (£3-99) by Dave Rocke,Nate Beaty, Jim Rugg ,Brian Maruca, Farel Dalrymple, Nate Beaty

Paper Cutter #16 (£3-99) by Joey Alison Sayers, Liz Prince, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Nate Beaty

Paper Cutter #17 (£3-99) by Jesse Reklaw, Calvin Wong, Corinne Mucha, Francois Vigneault, Sarah Oleksyk, Hellen Jo, Vanessa Davis, Nate Beaty

King-Cat Comics & Stories #72 (£2-99) by John Porcellino

Polly And The Pirates vol 2 (£8-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh & Robbi Rodriguez

American Vampire vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque, Sean Murphy

Kramers Ergot vol 8 hardcover (£24-99, PictureBox) by Anya Davidson, Leon Sadler, Ben Jones, CF, Sammy Harkham, Tim Hensley, Kevin Huizenga, Johnny Ryan, Takeshi Murata, Robert Beatty, Chris Cilla, Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, Gary Panter, Ian Svenonius

Fractured Fables softcover (£14-99, Image) by Dara Naraghi, Ben Templesmith, Bryan Talbot, Terry Moore, Kristen K. Simon, Shannon Wheeler, Marie Cruz, Shane White, Doug TenNapel, Bill Alger, Bill Morrison, Phil Hester, Royden Lepp, Neil Kleid, Nikki Dy-Liacco, Len Strazewski, Alexander Grecian, Joshua Williamson, Jill Thompson, Scott Morse, Jeremy R. Scott, Peter David, Brian Haberlin, Laini Taylor, Joel Valentino, Derek McCulloch, Larry Marder, Ted McKeever, Nick Spencer & many of the aforementioned plus Grant Bond, Camilla d’Errico, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, Mike Laughead, Fernando Pinto, May Ann Licudine, Paul Fricke, Christian Ward, Vicente Navarrete, S. Damoose, Juan Ferreyra, Jim Di Bartolo, Anthony Peruzzo, Robin Esquejo, Mike Allred

Jennifer Blood vol 1: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Adriano Batista, Marcos Marz, Kewber Baal

Jim Henson’s Tale Of Sand h/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Ramon K. Perez

The Art Of Carbon Grey h/c (£22-50, Image) by various

Batman: Gates Of Gotham s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrot & Trevor McCarthy, Graham Nolan, Dustin Nguyen, Derec Donovan

Superman: Reign Of Doomsday h/c (£16-99, DC Comics) by Paul Cornell, Geoff Johns, Paul Dini, Damon Lindelof & Axel Gimenez, Pete Woods, Kenneth Rocafort, Jesus Merino, Ronan Cliquet, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Gary Frank

Big love to Jonathan for linking those this week, huge apologies that we’ve only just spotted last week’s new blog links were duff. They were fine in Word…

I’m off to Gosh! in London this weekend (1, Berwick Street, Soho, W1F ODR) to drool over their shop and hug Hayley, Anne and Eddie Campbell. Poor, beautiful Hayley done come off her bike this week after pirouetting on its handlebars, and there will be much kissing her better. Anne and Eddie both hate London so there will be much kissing them better too.

Please buy Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. Or FATE OF THE ARTIST. Hayley and Anne feature prominently in both. For more, just pop the man in our search engine.

 – Stephen (back in the shop a week tomorrow)