Archive for April, 2012

Reviews April 2012 week four

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The art has a lovely, swooshy, vogue-ish feel to it that really does put you in mind of sashaying catwalk models and blinged-up sparkly darlings all mwah-mwah air-kissing away. In other words, he’s captured the utter vacuousness of their illusory world to perfection.

 – Jonathan on Knockabout’s Paris

St. Colin & The Dragon signed editions (£6-50, My Cardboard Books) by Philippa Rice.

“My Clopsy got burnt!”

Wheezing myself into extinction over that line, I’m still salty-eyed with laughter. Clopsy, by the way, is one of the many sturdy steeds issued to the King’s chump champions including MY CARDBOARD LIFE’s own Colin. There’s Stormcloud, Captain, Bully, Dynamite and wedding-cake-coloured Clopsy who makes My Little Pony look like a Shire on steroids.

Also, all our current copies aren’t just signed but sketched in. Each one’s different! And you should see the current sketches in our restocks of MY CARDBOARD LIFE – so elaborate!

So. Another comicbook collage created from cardboard, variously patterned paper, cloth, gold/silver foil and – I don’t know – Wheetabix or something, this is Philippa’s first relatively long-form foray into her unique brand of cut-and-paste comedy and, liberated from the need for a succession of instant punchilines, it is on fire! Err, as is everything and everyone else here.

A dragon’s egg has descended from the heavens like a comet ‘cross the sky, and we know how well that omen bodes. Acutely aware of how badly a bad-breathed, bad-tempered dragon’s presence can wreak havoc with property values – along with the properties themselves – the local wizard / wise man recommends treating it like gold for a year, feeding it up so it’ll then fly away:

“Food for dragons:

 Not suitable:
 Boiled egss
Chewing gum”

Dutifully our peasants bring the beaming beastie sheep after fluffy white sheep and our dragon is delighted! Absolutely delighted! It loves sheep. But after four seasons pass, there are no sign of wings and the dragon is gutted when no longer wanted and doesn’t react well to eviction. It’s time to teach the world to singe; and you can forget the perfect harmony.

That, then, is merely the premise. What follows is a life-lesson about making friends, playing nice, and appreciating what you’ve got while you’ve got it. All of which potentially saccharine sentiments are undercut beautifully by Philippa’s uncontrollable mischief whilst enhanced by an exuberance that takes it beyond all measurable levels of cute. It’s too, too funny, and there will be all manner of unexpected metamorphoses as Cardboard Colin finally takes charge and actually gets a result. Well, several results.

As to the craft involved – the pageant of paper-play – that in itself is what will bring so many smiles. The original dragon’s egg in itself is a work of wonder. I think it’s the wit with which Rice has interpreted what’s in her head using the full potential of materials repurposed for her vision, and I love the way the gaily coloured king dances across the page to his knights, like Rick Mayall in Black Adder II only way camper still and almost in jim-jams.

Bonuses include a ‘Celebrity Clopsy’ one-page and four alternative covers. Also: Philippa’s signature on each and every copy. The punchline, by the way, is right up there with ASTERIOS POLYP’s. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.


Buy St. Colin & The Dragon and read the Page 45 review here

The Shark King h/c (£9-99, Toon Books) by R. Kikuo Johnson.

“The sea is full of surprises today.”

Stunningly beautiful, with more than a nod to Gilbert Hernandez on almost every full-colour page, this is from R. Kikuo Johnson whose debut Night Fisher was so electrifyingly impressive it would have definitely been Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month had it only existed back then.

It’s a short children’s story based on the Hawaiian legend of the shape-shifting shark god Kamohoalii who terrifies then rescues a woman prisings limpet from an outcrop of rocks above treacherously deep waters. Soon they are married, then the mother’s with child. Born with an instant affinity to water and a ravenous appetite beyond his tiny body, Nanaue can’t help snatching the fishermen’s quarry from out of theirnets right under their noses, but his inability to control the shark side dormant within finally gives the game away and he flees from the beach for his life. Thankfully, the moment has been prepared for…

The poignancy for me lies in the wife and mother losing both her loved ones, one after the other, to the sea. It’s their nature, their destiny, but I’d reassure your children they’ll be back. Nanaue yearns for his father but at least has his mother who copes as best she can when Nanaue brings home his increasingly unwieldy daily catch: going to need a bigger cooking pot!

Young eyes will sparkle over the subaquatic dives. Likely they’ll be terrified by the majestic silhouette of the king’s true finned form placed so perfectly on the page. They’ll laugh out loud at the snap-snap snapping of the hungry jaws morphing out of the young boy’s back. Me, I’m still in awe of the opening, early morning splash page as the young woman leaps over the rocks below the waterfall in search of her sea snails, the verdant misty mountains cast in cool, purple shadow, the sky behind a bright yellow.

Published by Françoise Mouly’s Toon imprint (yes, that Françoise Mouly, for this is RAW Junior) the book even has some top tips for teachers and parents in the back when exploring these books with young minds. There’s also a website you can visit for free online lesson plans etc. It’s really quite the package and this is far and away the finest book in the range so far.


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

Science Tales h/c (£11-99, Myriad Publishing) by Darryl Cunningham…

This time around we find Darryl in full-on debunking mode, as he takes on the scientific lies, hoaxes and scams that annoy him the most, those being: electroconvulsive therapy, homeopathy, the moon landing, climate change, evolution, chiropractic, the MMR jab debacle and the general denial of irrefutable scientific evidence. I personally would have included shampoo adverts with their pseudo-science, made up chemical names and definitive surveys based on massive sample groups of errr…100 people, but that’s my own personal bugbear!

It’s well researched by Darryl as in each case he goes to great length to not only show how preposterous the various claims are, but also how just unreliable the particular people making those assertions are themselves, and in the case of climate change the infinitely more sinister aspect of just who it is that’s funding the idiots. But this is no diatribe, instead it’s a meticulous picking apart of the ridiculous web of half-baked facts and fiction that’s often woven around one or two grains of truth, usually completely taken and distorted totally out of context, to prove his case. Anyone who enjoyed Darryl’s previous work, Psychiatric Tales, which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, will definitely enjoy this. Darryl also employs the same understated clinical yet also slightly comical art style this time around, once again inserting himself as a talking head from time to time for additional narrational emphasis.


Buy Science Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Paris (£15-99, Knockabout) by Maarten Vande Wiele, Erika Raven, Peter Moerenhout…

Ah, capricious whimsy at its finest as our three heroines Chastity, Hope and Faith set out to find fame and fortune in that most chic of cities, and whilst they might be named after virtues, these ladies will do pretty much whatever it takes to try and succeed. Initially at least, I thought that Hope, a beautiful girl left with ugly scarring on one side of her face after a car accident as a small child in which she also lost her mother, was intended to be the moral rock around which the story would be built; for upon arriving in the big city as a naïve, sensitive soul and hiding her scars beneath her locks, she seems immune to the insidious moral corruption that is utterly prevalent almost everywhere she turns.

Her two roommates Chastity, a party girl who’s determined to sleep her way to the easy life whilst acquiring more than a few column inches in the gossip magazines along the way, and Faith, a singer harbouring dreams of the big time who’ll stab absolutely anyone in the back, repeatedly, to get even a centimetre ahead, are two beautifully observed examples of the modern airhead wannabes and two-a-penny manufactured muso-clones that currently clutter the social landscape like so much detritus.

However, as the story progresses and Hope experiences an unexpected breakthrough into the world of modelling, and is then offered the opportunity to have plastic surgery to fix her imperfection to become a truly unblemished beauty, she inevitably succumbs to the temptations and ego-titillations that accompany such success. From that point on, it’s no longer a question of whether she’ll fall, just how far she’ll drop and how fast she’ll be travelling when she hits rock bottom. It’s going to hurt…

Chastity and Faith meanwhile are also finding that the road to wealth and fame isn’t always straightforward, and that sometimes you’ll need to sell your soul, not just your body (though that goes without saying) just to survive and stay in the game. It’s almost like a fairy tale in reverse really, which is a pretty chilling allegory that the myriad fame-hungry never-will-be suckers of our modern world – who are only too happy to humiliate themselves for the chattering classes’ televisual entertainment on increasingly absurd reality shows – would do well to pay attention to. If they could read, that is.

I think the scariest part is whilst it would be easy to conclude the story here is unrealistically dramatic, I actually suspect it’s pretty much bang on the money, which of course makes it all the more enticing a read, as whilst I’m usually a sucker for a happy ending, I, like pretty much all of us normal people if we’re honest, enjoy watching a good celebrity meltdown in full car-crash effect. Yes, they may be people underneath it all, but they’re celebrities first and foremost, so one can’t help fell they do probably deserve it. At least a little bit…

The art, by one of the three collaborating writers, has a lovely, swooshy, vogue-ish feel to it that really does put you in mind of sashaying catwalk models and blinged-up sparkly darlings all mwah-mwah air-kissing away. In other words, he’s captured the utter vacuousness of their illusory world to perfection. An unexpected guilty pleasure this work turned out to be then, much like reading a gossip magazine, only infinitely more satisfying.



Reset #1 (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Peter Bagge.

Mining a similar vein to Taniguchi’s A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD (two volumes) and Alex Robinson’s TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN, but in his own inimitable car-crash comedy style, HATE’s Peter Bagge returns to the realms of virtual reality. First there was the identity crisis of OTHER LIVES, now it’s that eternal question about whether – given the opportunity to relive major moments – you’d change any decisions you made in your life: things you did, things that you said, things you can never take back. Now you can, or at least washed-up actor/comedian Guy Krause can, after he signs up as a guinea pig for a virtual reality experiment. Thing is, is he only going to make matters worse? I don’t know! He keeps pushing the reset button!

Lead scientist Angie Minor has done extensive research into Guy Krause’s history, gleaning all manner of intimate details based on Guy’s stand-up routine, extensive media coverage and interviews –  that’s what makes him the perfect candidate – but she’s even dug out the relevant college yearbooks. And that’s where the opportunities for exploration begin: on Graduation Day as Gail Malone, a girl Guy had admired from afar, says the first and last word she will ever say to him: “Spaz.” It’s a moment that’s sure left its scars.

Speaking of research, I can’t believe how well Peter Bagge’s thought this through – how they know each specific detail which an increasingly paranoid Krause questions – and can’t wait to see where he’s going. I’ve no idea what the backers are actually after yet, but I think that they’ll get what they want. However many times Guy Krause walks out, he keeps coming back: convicted of road rage, he’s been off the stage for too long, and when he tries to secure the spotlight again, however minor, the rug’s pulled from under him at the last minute. Those mysterious backers are pretty ruthless.


Buy Reset #1 by shouting and snapping down the phone on 0115 9508045 or entering our own virtual reality at

Severed h/c (£18-99, Image) by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft & Attila Futaki.

Nasty, nasty, nasty.

A crafty placement of raised spot-varnish creates quite the chilling 3-D effect as a gnarled hand, dripping with blood, tears through the cover and its unsuspecting city of Chicago to reveal a set of eyes staring right at you that definitely don’t have your best interests at heart.

In BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR, American Vampire’s Scott Snyder proved he could successfully mess with our minds, playing upon our expectations to keep us guessing as to the protagonist’s much maligned innocence or psychopathic guilt. Here, along with co-writer Scott Tuft, he plays upon our fears, our worst nightmares of being lost and alone a long way from home, helpless and hopelessly trapped. Then there’s the matter of trust, and the sinking, hollow horror of finding it most misplaced.

One year ago young, aspiring musician Jack Garron stumbled upon evidenced that he was adopted, ever since when he’s been gripped by the secret hope of finding his father. Instead of confiding in his loving, adoptive mother he managed to make contact, and the last letter he received mentioned a fiddle-playing gig in the city ofChicago. That’s where Jack’s heading now, having run away from home to stow away on a freight train. But the freight train’s occupants are far from friendly, while what’s waiting for him inChicagois even worse. What follows is a cruel breadcrumb trail that will take Jack further from home still; what’s so damnably clever is how that trail was laid.

Unlike BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR this isn’t an “Is he or isn’t he?” – we know right for the beginning that there’s a murderous, cannibalistic monster waiting in the wings, adopting a succession of seemingly beneficent guises and preying on the young and vulnerable, so when Jack strays too close for comfort the dramatic irony racks up a tension so taut it’s not true. As to his new friend Sam(antha), found on the freight train, just… don’t go there.

Attila Futaki’s art has a fine period feel while the colours are suitably dowdy, for this is all told in retrospect. Even the countryside low-lit and earthy. It’s a far from comfortable set in series of uncomfortable, bleak or outright hostile environments: bedsits and bars, hotels and motels and shacks in the middle of nowhere.


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

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror (£13-50, IDW) by H.P. Lovecraft, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Weinberg & Peter Bergting, menton3…

Yet another decent Lovecraft adaption, this particular short story revolves around a demented individual Wilbur Whateley who is determined to get his hands on an original copy of the Necronomicon for the purpose of performing a ritual allowing the ‘Old Ones’ to return. When the librarian at one of the few places to have such an item, Miskatonic University, refuses to let him have it, Wilbur breaks in late at night to help himself. It’s at this point that events take a surprising turn (or perhaps not considering it is Lovecraft) and everything starts to unravel for poor old Wilbur. Probably the closest thing you’ll get to a happy ending in a Lovecraft story, this, if memory serves. Respectable art from Bergting and the oddly named menton3, which I presume is a pen name rather than a jazz ensemble filling in on inks during a particularly quiet gigging period.


Buy H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and read the Page 45 review here

Abe Sapien vol 2: The Devil Does Jest And Other Stories (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejberg, James Harren…

More finny fun with the Bureau’s laugh-a-minute gagster. That’s a joke by the way. A relatively hotchpotch collection of patchy shorts, frankly, much like Abe’s… I really would rather see these solo titles focus more on the characters themselves which – given Abe’s weird and wonderful origin that has only recently been partly revealed in the main BPRD title and with so much more alluded to and clearly yet to come – would have been far, far more interesting to me, than just yet another ghost story. Hellboy obsessives, please note that he guest-stars in one of the stories.


Buy Abe Sapien vol 2: The Devil Does Jest And Other Stories and read the Page 45 review here

genetiks [I] (£14-99, Archaia) by Richard Marazano & Jean-Michael Ponzio…

First volume of some cutting-edge speculative fiction which in addition to being a great little bit of sci-fi in its own right also posits one or two perturbing questions we’re all probably going to be worrying about in the not too distant future; such as the ownership of mapped human genomes and the possibility of genetic manipulation to achieve vastly extended life spans. For the lucky chosen few, that is… and also the consequences for the unlucky expendable few who get experimented on for the ‘greater good’ along the way.

Wisely this work stays away from getting into really hard science and instead concentrates on a character-driven plot as the usual set of dodgy scientists, snooping activists and nosey reporters, power mad businessmen and mysterious men in black bursting through doors in the dead of the night are all used to good effect to drive the story along.

This work also comes as close as I have seen anybody come to getting away with manipulated art that is based on photographs. It doesn’t quite manage it though, with the usual problem of facial expressions feeling rather static, and thus losing the flowing sense of continuity that illustrated sequential art achieves effortlessly when done well. Still, aside from that particular element, it’s rather neat, and makes me think before too long someone will really totally crack this particular artistic approach. They’ll probably be a robot, mind you…


Genetiks [I]

Hellcyon (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Lucas Marangon…

Another title trying desperately far too hard to be the next Appleseed / Ghost In The Shell. However, like the recent woefully bland GHOST IN THE SHELL STAND ALONG COMPLEX manga by Yu Kinutani, without the master himself on the pens, Shirow it is not. I couldn’t establish whether it was the same artist doing the covers; I think it is the same guy, and if so, he’s certainly put considerably more effort into aping Shirow’s style on the front than inside where it all just goes a bit flat and two-dimensional, which doesn’t sound much like the future to me. The story is a kind of Appleseed / ENDER’S SHADOW mash-up. And that’s being kind. Far too kind. I can’t resist finishing with a bit of the dialogue, which seems in places like it’s been put together by randomly picking phrases out of a hat, just in case you were somehow under the misapprehension that I enjoyed this.

“I want to live in Paris some day. What you did back there was very impressive.”
“I’ve never killed anyone before. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.”


Buy Hellcyon and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine And The X-Men vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo.

“Come back here, you stupid blue rats!”

In which a visit from the Department of Education school inspectors passes without incident. <snort> Everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong on the first and possibly last day of term at the new Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, and teachers will surely empathise. There is, however, a great deal more that can go wrong in a school full of mutants which boasts the most dangerous boys’ bathroom in history. Also on the roll call: a junior Shi’Ar warrior, a young and studious member of the alien Brood, a mini-Apocalypse and the spawn of Krakoa, theLivingIsland.

“Is it a him or a her? Can a walking island have a gender?”
“Figure at some point it’ll come in handy to have school grounds that can fight back in need be. Plus I’m trying to teach it to turn our ponds into beer.”

And then there’s the infestation of tiny blue Bamfs out to steal Logan’s liquor. It’s an anarchic mix of misfits which makes the pupils of St. Trinians look like paragons of dutiful obedience, calm and conformity. That Kitty Pryde is headmistress is not unexpected; that Wolverine’s the headmaster is insane. The Toad is their janitor, by the way, and will be spending some considerable time cleaning up that bathroom later on.

Following directly on from the mini-series X-Men: Schism wherein Cyclops and Wolverine stopped seeing eye to eye, there has been a mass evacuation from the X-Men’sisland ofUtopia, Wolverine opting to educate the children rather than allow them to fight. Joining their faculty is the Beast who stopped enjoying Scott Summers’ increasingly militant company quite some time ago plus Iceman, Rachel Grey, Cannonball, Chamber, Husk, Karma, Frenzy, and Doop. Yes, Doop. He of the translatable alien language.

The schism was engineered by Kade Kilgore, school-aged son of a wealthy arms manufacturer, who’s forcefully inherited a fortune and multiplied it considerably by selling Sentinel technology on the back of the some pretty successful worldwide scare-mongering. It also secured him his seat as Black King of the Hellfire Club. His next move, then, is something of a surprise.

Writer Jason Aaron (SCALPED) appears to mainlined raw, liquid sugar, for the whole, frantic fiasco is played purely for laughs, and long may that continue. There’s even a couple of pages of school twitterfeed and a school prospectus in the back complete with extracurricular activities, special events and the proud school motto, “The best there is at what we do”. Courses include “Algebra Sucks: I Know, But You Still Have To Learn It” which is, naturally, delivered by Professor Bobby Drake who couldn’t even spell ‘quadratic equations’ let alone solve one.

Chris Bachalo (DEATH, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, GENERATION X) plays the perfect co-conspirator with cartoon comedy postures, expressions and hyperkinetic action against backgrounds with an enormous attention to detail, injecting background and even foreground jokes galore. That he’s managed to make Apocalypse Jr. look cute is extraordinary.

Meanwhile the unruly Mr. Quentin Quire, Kid Omega, starts as he means to go on, dripping with attention-seeking sarcasm.

“The Wolverine Home For Wayward Boys. I can’t wait for that scene in the third act when your tough love finally breaks through my thorny exterior to reach the frightened, lonely little boy underneath. There won’t be a dry eye in the house. Should we just skip the drama and hug it out right here?”
“Shut your face, bub, before I cut it off. How’s that for tough love?”
“I’m feeling the magic already.”



Punisher Max: Homeless h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon…

A fitting conclusion to Jason Aaron’s non-continuity run in which pretty much everybody dies with the body count reaching truly prodigious levels, as the Kingpin and Frank enter their mutual and most assuredly destructive  end game. But fret ye not, MAX fans, as the baddest eye-patch-toting landlubber of them all, Nick Fury himself, is about to get his own MAX series.


Buy Punisher Max: Homeless h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Venom (£10-99, DC) by Dennis J. O’Neil & Trevor Von Eeden, Russel Braun…

No, not a new DC-Marvel crossover which would no doubt have the fan boys positively covering themselves in web fluid through overexcitement, but a rather old Batman tale (c. 1990) from the now defunct LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT monthly bat-title. In a mildly interesting aside, that particular title when it started was boldly purporting to be telling self-contained five-issue arc stories using rotating creative teams that would be of ‘graphic novel’ quality (bearing in mind relatively little was collected at this time, and what was tended to be things of exceptional quality like Frank Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE).

I suppose therefore it actually foreshadowed how modern comics have pretty much completely gone in recent years with the use of continuous multi-issue arcs, solely for the purpose of collecting as much as possible into graphic novels. There was some pretty good stuff in this title though, especially in the first few years, though this arc which was issues #16 – #20 was decidedly pretty average. So why are DC collecting this now? Well simply because it features the first appearance of the drug Venom which would go on to be used and abused by upcoming Bat-film villain Bane. Here Bruce, feeling somewhat inadequate after failing to save the life of a young girl being held for ransom, decides it be worth trying and that he’ll be able to keep it under control and not get addicted. Cue Bruce losing the plot, in a plot twist we just couldn’t see coming, as he can’t keep it control and gets addicted…


Buy Batman: Venom and read the Page 45 review here

A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Harper) by George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson…

I was slightly sceptical that the ultra-dense plot-packed prose book and recent massive television smash would adapt well to comics, but actually Daniel Abraham has done an excellent job of conveying just how rich a world George R.R. Martin has created with its enormous cast of characters and locations, awash with political intrigues, dynastical double-dealings and Machiavellian manoeuvrings. Not to mention substantial amounts of swash-buckling action and demented monsters causing chaos. It certainly reads like the prose works, and the art from Tommy Patterson is pretty decent too, making this something which will should appeal both to seasoned Thrones fans, but also those wishing to see what all the fuss is about for themselves.


Buy A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Review For An Earlier Book

Strangers In Paradise pocketbook vol 5 (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

Featuring the controversial ‘David’s Story’ – the full history of what originally brought him to Katchoo on that rainy afternoon right at the beginning of the series. Also: see that scene and others played over again. Yeah, all looks a little different now, eh? Also, the funniest gallery show opening imaginable as Katchoo finally hits it big.

Also, also: check out pages 122 and 123 for Leah The Dead Girl. Do those eyes look familiar? Has Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING really been gestating that long?! Too much of a coincidence. “Then she said something no one has ever said to me before… “Have you ever thought about making a story with your images?” I swear the idea had never crossed my mind, but once she said that it was, like, liberating and scary, all at the same time. Not just Deadgirl, the painting… Deadgirl… the story!”

For far more indepth coverage of this extraordinary series, please see reviews of SiPPKT VOL 1 and VOL 2 and, oh yes, VOL 3. One more book to go and it won’t disappoint.


Buy Strangers In Paradise pocketbook vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’rer new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews. “In lieu of”. Get me!


At The Caves (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney

Curse Of The Bogmen / Horseome (£2-00) by Lizz Lunney

A Dinosaur Tale / Tofu + Cats (£2-00) by Lizz Lunney

Dream Locations Postcards (£5-99,) by Joe List, Lizz Lunney, Soju Tanaka

The Babysitter’S Club: Kirsty’S Great Idea (£6-99, Scholastic) by Ann M. Martin & Raina Telgemeier

I’m Not A Plastic Bag h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Rachel Hope Allison

The Avalon Chronicles vol 1: Once In A Blue Moon hardcover (£14-99, Oni) by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir &Emma Vieceli

Chew vol 5: Major League (£9-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

The Boy Who Made Silence vol 1 (£17-99, Markosia) by Joshua Hagler

But I Really Wanted To Be An Anthropologist hardcover (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Margaux Motin

Black Orchid h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Folly, The Consequences Of Indiscretion s/c (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Hans Rickheit

Stormwatch vol 1 h/c (£22-50, DC) byWarren Ellis & Tom Raney

Batman: Knightfall vol 1 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant & Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Bret Blkevins, Klaus Janson, Mike Manley

Gotham Central Book 4: Corrigan s/c (£14-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Gred Rucka &Kano, Stefano Gaudiano

Dark Tower vol 5: Battle Of Jericho Hill s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David, Robin Furth & Jae Lee, Richard Isanove

Wolverine vol 3: Wolverine’s Revenge s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Renato Guedes (£12-99, Marvel) by Rob Williams & Ron Garney, Matteo Buffagni, Riley Rossmo

Ultimate Comics X: Origins s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Arthur Adams

Spider-Man: Flying Blind h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kano

Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Gene Colan

Onamori Himari vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Milan Matra

Onamori Himari vol 2 (£8-99, Yen) by Milan Matra

Itazura Na Kiss vol 7 (£12-99, DMP) by Kaoru Tada

Is This A Zombie? vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Sacchi

Highschool Of The Dead vol 5 (£10-50, Yen) by Daisuke Sato & Shouji Sato

Sailor Moon vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

GTO: The Early Years vol 12 (£9-99, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa

True Blood vol 3: The French Quarter hardcover (£18-99, IDW) by Mariah Huehner, David Tilschman & DavidMessina, Claudio Balboni, Bruno Letizia 

Mass Effect vol 3: Invasion (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Mac Walter, John Jackson Miller & OmarFranca

Sonic Select vol 5 (£8-99, Sega) by Sega

Gears Of War vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Capps, Joshua Ortega & Liam Sharp, Leonardo Manco, Simon Bisley, Joel Gomez, Trevor Hairsine


Waiting for the new issue of FATALE? Try CRIMINAL: COWARD by the same creative team. The crime of our times: Zeitheist!

More seriously, if it was you in my dreams late Sunday night, could you please get in touch? Thanks ever so much. You were magnificent.

 – Stephen

Reviews April 2012 week three

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

“What is important for you to offer your customers?”
”The credit card terminal.”

 – Stephen in the new Page 45 interview for Sequential Highway What a clown.

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier s/c (£14-9, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

1958, and Britain has only just rid itself of Big Brother. Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain have severed their ties with MI5 and are currently considered rogue agents. Now they are back, sent to steal the Black Dossier secretly stashed in MI5’s Military Intelligence Vauxhall HQ. The Black Dossier, compiled from intelligence records and fragments of fiction, contains every known record of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s various incarnations and its constituent members across the centuries.

Disguised as actress Oodles O’Quim, Miss Murray plays on the vanity of a womanising Secret Service agent licensed to thrill, who can’t keeps his hands off her. Snatch it they do, and from that moment on it’s one long chase up the Thirty-Nine Steps to Greyfriars, the boarded-up boarding school cared for by one William Bunter, then onto Birmingham’s spaceport where Roger The Robot awaits. Unfortunately so do the agents dispatched by the mysterious M. Will you recognise them before they recognise Mina? And what national secrets can the Dossier possibly contain that MI5 is so desperate for it back?

As you’ve probably inferred, like all the other LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN books, everything here is a cut-and-paste collage of previously published fiction, and half the fun is spotting the references. No one other than Alan can be expected to get them all, but merely catching a nod to one of your favourite books like Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies is quite the fuzzy thrill. What is utterly mind-boggling is not only Uncle Alan’s breadth and depth of cultural knowledge, but the ingenuity with which he’s reweaved his unpicked threads into a brand new tapestry which holds so well together. Also, Moore’s ability as a literary chameleon and mimic.

For within THE BLACK DOSSIER lies The Black Dossier containing, amongst many gems, part of a previously undiscovered piece of Shakespearian bawdiness called ‘Faerie’s Fortunes Founded’ starring Masters Shytte and Pysse; ‘What Ho, Gods Of  The Abyss’ by Bertie Wooster; the erotic ‘New Adventures of Fanny Hill’; and ‘A Prospectus Of London (1901)’ from which this description of Freemasons Hall, Vauxhall made me laugh:

“While architecturally an acquired taste, this riverside landmark is an undoubted benefit to the community, as the worthy fraternity within are believed to occupy themselves mainly with organising charitable jumble-sales and similar altruistic activities.”

Naturally Orlando is as ubiquitous as he always claimed!

Also included is a set of 3-D glasses for when Alan and Mina reach Ye Blazing Worlde with its extra dimension, and at this point we really do doff our battered top hats to artist Kevin O’Neill whose art on this series has always been riddled with detail worthy of what must be the most gargantuan scripts imaginable. The 3-D sequences, however, with the likes of the Effervator (an effervescent elevator travelled on via bubbles) is a triumph on another level entirely.

Finally, big love to Knockabout who finally published this in the UK after DC’s Paul Levitz banned it from our shores to spite Alan Moore, thereby rewarding all DC’s loyal readers – and their loved ones buying presents – with petulant contempt, and depriving Page 45 alone of thousands of pounds worth of Christmas revenue. Oh yes. The book gets pretty pugnacious too:

“What’s that he’s wrestling with?
“I – I think it’s poetry. They must be rehearsing for later. Ooh, look at that! It dazzled him with imagery, then beat him over the head with a blunt metaphor!”


Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gloaming h/c (£14-99, Pocko) by Keaton Henson.

“I spent my childhood alone with views of rooftops and chimney stacks,” writes Keaton Henson, “wondering where all the creatures from my storybooks were, why I couldn’t see them in the suburban landscape where they so clearly belonged.”


A haunting, wordless narrative of restless, lonely giants and wispy black wraiths drifting away from the towns and out through the countryside where they try, tentatively to unite. Subtitled 23 Years Of Seeing Things, it starts with a poem evoking a blurring of the boundaries between sleep, dream and the waking world for those who bring their slumbering senses with them. If you succeed, you’ll find the streets stalked by strange and silent somnambulists; naked, sweaty and saggy-breasted giants, their black, greasy hair drawn over their face like the girl in The Ring, slumped over the rooftops of whole neighbourhoods. An enormous, exploratory finger pokes through your bathroom window, like a mildly inquisitive ape’s.

Goodness this is beautiful. The lines are clean, with pools of black ink printed on a thick, creamy stock. There’s a tremendous sense of weight even when the Gloamers take to the air, their limbs undulating or dragging on the ground. It’s also stricken with a terrible melancholy, broken only occasionally when the spirits attract new attention.

The first thing Tom said was, “That’s very Tom Neely”, and he’s right. A little research tells me it was inspired by Scandinavian folklore and Japanese Kwaidan (ghost stories) from the Edo period, and also the films of Hayao Miyazaki. It is its own thing, and it’s great.


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

Lizz Lunney Greeting Cards (£2-20 each, UK Greetings) by Lizz Lunney.

FAQ: “Do you sell greetings cards?” WE DO NOW!

If Lizz Lunney was ever actually on a trolley, the cart has long since sped away, careered down the mountain and jettisoned Ms. Lizz into Page 45’s gratefully open arms.

These, then, from the creator of DEPRESSED CAT: NINE MISERABLE LIVES and all those shiny badges we mercilessly market like boiled sweets in a bowl right next to the till. And the delightful thing is that so many of these are comics: short stories told through sequential art! Each classy card comes matt in two or more colours, and enhanced with a slither of foil. Also, envelopes: you get a free envelope! I can’t tell you how much giving away free stuff sticks in my craw.

The cards weren’t in for five seconds before Jonathan bought CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’RE NOT DEAD YET! and ONE YEAR CLOSER TO EXTINCTION for each of his parents. I’m praying for a week free from irony.

And some of the others are beautifully observed. Everyone’s going to relate to PEOPLE YOU DON’T WANT TO SIT NEXT TO ON A BUS, though I would like to apologise for my initial antipathy towards Facebook given MR FACEBOOK and the fact that I now love Page 45’s. MY MATE PRIMATE is just so stoopid it’s cool, but the pick of the bunch for me and anyone else at the mercy of the technological cynosure that is the bloody computer will be able to relate to this, the DEPRESSED CAT card where he’s hard at work in the office, tap-tapping away for panel after silent panel, hour after hour, sighing his way from 9am to 3pm at which point:

“Due to an internal error all of your work has been deleted.”

Please note: 10% Student Discount applies to these too in the shop, making them the most affordable greetings cards you will probably find around town. Neat, eh? Alas, unlike our DEPRESSED CAT books, none of these cards come signed. YOU HAVE TO DO THAT YOURSELVES!

Take a look at all twelve lovely designs at the link below. If you can’t read the card click on the interior art below it because it zooms up beautifully!


Buy Lizz Lunney Cards and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 1: The Night Things h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

Complete colour hardcover upgrade for which Oni Press have pulled out all the stops: the paper stock is thick and silky, the front matter and end pages are a dark, rich plum printed with silver ink, just like the matt cover hardcover with its spot-varnish and smooth and glossy portrait inlaid. As to the colours themselves – beautiful!

So let’s meet Courtney herself, here dressing down a doppelganger who’s taken her place and impressed her parents. They’re not very impressive parents.

“My Mom would kiss a diseased mollusc if it could get her into a cocktail party. They’re both selfish morons.”
“You have no friends. I made friends…. Cathy Keller says I’m cool.”
“Congrats! You can kiss ass. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. Just the fact that your lame performance actually fooled these people should tell you what nitwits they are.”
“What do you mean, lame?”
“If you wanted to become Courtney Crumrin, you should have done a little homework. I’m rude, bad-tempered and basically, I don’t like people.”

That’s because of the people poor Courtney finds herself surrounded by. Her new classmates are snobbish and superficial bullies, her parents are clueless and indifferent… only the initially austere Great Uncle Aloysius breaks the spell of utter isolation Miss Crumrin feels now that they’ve moved into his creepy old mansion. Gradually, though, young Courtney finds she rather likes creepy, and although she has a knack for biting off more than she can chew she has a few key qualities on her side: resilience, pluck, and a practical approach to problem solving.

Over the course of four self-contained stories Courtney negotiates her new territory with its goblins, changelings, faeries and night things, and learns the lesson of the The Beguiling Glamour. The lesson being, don’t cast it: being too popular brings a whole new set of problems. Much better to be yourself.

The pen lines and character designs are exquisite, the lessons sometimes harsh (at one point it looked like Crumrin was going to give Constantine a run for his money with the body count), and if as many people read comics as books, Ted Naifeh might be almost as rich as J. K. Rowling. He certainly deserves to be.


Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 1: The Night Things h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin #1 (£2-99, Oni Press) by Ted Naifeh.

“Butterworm! I thought I told you humans are off limits.”
“I weren’t gonna eat all o’ her. Just a few bits.”
“Bugger off.”

Brand new series, this time in full colour as a new girl called Holly Hart moves into the neighbourhood and – much to her surprise – Courtney finally finds she has a friend. More surprisingly still, she finds she likes it. Ingeniously Ted mirrors the whole of the first book, as Holly too gets drawn to the woods, to the casting of spells and to the Goblin Market. But she’s taking it all far too fast and Holly has no Great Uncle Aloysius to guide her. And although our Courtney finds her company compelling, she is older and wiser these days and something to her seems ‘off’. She’s going to wish she’d trusted her instincts.


Buy Courtney Crumrin #1 the old-fashioned way by visiting our Goblin Market Street, casting the spell of email alteration or pressing the arcane glyphs 0115 9508045 and intoning politely.

Secret #1 (2-75, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim.

Brutal, industrial, back-door espionage that begins with a break-in and a certain extraction. Continues with extortion which will result in a quite different extraction, then far more break-ins as a direct result. Extortion, extraction, it’s just a distraction.

That’s one way to drum up trade.

Just buy it, it’s brilliant: a series with teeth. In more ways than one. Let’s eat!


Buy Secret by your powers of persuasion on 0115 9508045, or visit and just look at us funny.

The Secret Service #1 (£2-25, Millarworld/Icon/Marvel) by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons.

“Anything new on the kidnappings?”
“Nothing we can figure out. That’s six cast members from the Star Wars films, four from Doctor Who, eight from Battlestar Galactica and five from Star Trek.”
“The originals of the JJ Abrams version?”
“Oh, the originals, of course. But Lady Hunt and I watched the new one on pay-per-view last weekend, and I have to say I was very impressed. I resisted the idea of a remake at first, but the chap playing the doctor was practically channelling DeForrest Kelly.”

Ha! That’s the first thing I ever say about that version too!

This is James Bond with a substantial twist: Jack London is not a public schoolboy. His sister and nephew live in Peckham, southLondon, and they are all kinds of disasters waiting to happen. The father’s a paranoid, violent thug encouraging his young son to roll up his doobies, and that nephew may well object – and be brave enough to voice his objection and stick up for his mum – but he’s out joyriding and about to get nicked yet again, relying on Uncle Jack’s get-out-of-jail-free card. NeitherLondon nor Millar mince their words, and I’m all for that. Let’s “press the issue”, shall we? Plenty of well reasoned abuse on all sides, except for the dad. Thing is, they all think Uncle Jack works for the Fraud Squad, but one of them is about to find out otherwise.

With art by WATCHMEN and indeed WATCHING THE WATCHMEN’s Dave Gibbons, it’s a classy affair with a superb piece of early misdirection which plays with the traditional James Bond opening to perfection. Guest-stars Star Wars’ Mark Hamill.

Buy The Secret Service #1 and read the Page 45 review by looking above, then report for debriefing on 0115 9508045 or

America’s Got Powers #1 (£2-25, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch.

A) My favourite superhero artist of all time, THE ULTIMATES’ Bryan Hitch.
B) Yes, that Jonathan Ross, but on infinitely better form than TURF.
C) Double-sized issue for £2-25
D) Very well structured.
E) Something to say.
F) Funny.

This is spectacular stuff set in San Francisco seventeen years after a giant blue stone lands there, and every pregnant mother within a five mile radius successfully gives birth. No matter how pregnant, they all give birth at exactly the same time. To children with gifts. With powers. Every single one. Except Tommy Watts, brother to Bobby, the boy who burned out on TV. See, there’s a TV show now called America’s Got Powers which is a bit like Gladiators but without the – which is exactly like Gladiators: preposterous posturing, rabid crowds, and the biggest star is the biggest dick! So anyway, Bobby Watts won all his battles but it cost him too much and he died.

Which was absolutely fantastic for ratings!

Reacting accordingly, the producers of the new season ofAmerica’s Got Powers have lifted all limits on the level of violence permissible! The mechanical Paladins will be bigger and operating at maximum force, and the combatants can use all that they’ve got. Of course, there may be some military motivation behind the rule changes that nobody’s thought about…

There’s so much merely hinted at so far: the San Francisco Power Riots that prompted the development of these TV tournaments in order to channel the children’s attention and give them a controlled outlet for their potentially destructive gifts; the military’s beef with the project’s head scientist Professor Syell; and Syell’s latest discovery which sounds ominous. Anyway, I can assure you it’s all going to go to hell in a helicarrier.

Some of the best bits, even visually, are set high above the stadium (which I note is adjacent to Alcatraz); also in the cash-cow gift shops of the super-mall surrounding the arena, which sounds odd when one considers Hitch’s gift for hyper-dynamic fist-fights which are totally stunning here, but I’ve always loved his architecture, his everyday faces and civilian clothing. Oh, there are no masks: good. Not necessary. 

Jonathan Ross has relaxed and really thought this through: the timing is excellent from the 8-page introduction right through to the punchline right at the bottom of the panel. The chirpy commentators’ blithe blood-thirstiness as combat goes disastrously wrong is perfect and far from overplayed – the key being “blithe”, oblivious to their own crass, crowd-pleasing cretinicity and indifference to everyone’s health and safety including innocent bystanders. Tommy is spontaneously iconoclastic without being a relentlessly rebellious smart-arse and – given the reputation of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury– I love that the teenagers who received their gifts from that big blue stone are called “Stoners”.

Gentle reminder: £2-25 for full-colour, double-sized quality. Have you bought it yet?


Surrender to Stephen’s outrageous huckstering and half-arsed neologisms by grabbing that phone and hammering 0115 9508045 or emailing NOW!

Batman Incorporated h/c (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart, Dave Beaty.

“You heard the rumour the Dark Knight has become a kind of God?”
”He’s only a man. Let him build his army. We are ready for war are we not?”
“The first 500 are in place. Each trained to imitate the actions of a virus. Infiltrate. Contaminate. Destroy.”

Following directly on from Batman and Robin vol 3 at the end of which Bruce Wayne returns, summons his cohorts and declares war on crime financially, internationally and technologically, this substantial, oversized hardcover reprints the entire first series of BATMAN INCORPORATED including its climax, the Leviathan Strikes one-shot.

Grant has weaved an enormously dense and complex tale in this worldwide saga taking inAfrica,Argentina,Australia,ParisandJapan. Old allies in the Batman family reaffirm their allegiance; others have their faith sorely tested; and new ones are recruited all around the globe. The plan is to be everywhere at once. But all the while Batman knows he’s not the only hunter, for the great beast called Leviathan, with its multitude of fiercely cunning killers, has its eyes set on world domination and settling one particularly personal score. Over and over again, it’s strike and counter strike on both sides as each army attempts to pre-empt the other.

It kicks off in seriously old-school fashion with giant robot rats and the first of so many increasingly ingenious death traps as Bruce hires Selina Kyle to slink alongside him and burgle a criminal mastermind. Then it’s on to Japan to find and train a new Batman but the man he’s set his sights on is dead, his hands and face melted away by nitro-hydrochloric acid by Lord Death Man, a sadist in a skeletal Halloween costume who seems one step ahead of everyone including the boy who escaped him earlier. Maybe Batman will have to settle for a Japanese Robin. You know, if Catwoman survives the giant, carnivorous octopus!

I love the way Grant threads each climax through with teasers for next issue. Thankfully they’re all still here. Never seen it done quite like that before and it works like a dream.

My favourite sequence, though, is the attack on the internet which is, let’s face it, the frontier so many criminals have now set their sights. Bruce Wayne’s scientists have developed Internet 3.0 a virtual version of most major business cities of the world in mind-boggling detail. He and his investors are admiring it from within. Suddenly they’re assaulted by malware, a zombie virus in the form of cadaverous avatars smashing through the virtual pane glass windows, armed to their skeletal hilts. But wait until you see Batman Incorporated’s anti-viral software!

“I’m scanning for a signature, but it’s polymorphic. And there should be a mutation engine somewhere to make all this work, but I haven’t found it yet. All I know is somebody brought the engine through my firewalls. Which means one of your investors is a Trojan Horse… and we need to test the system. But you knew that, didn’t you?”

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

The book features a superb set of artists including Chris Burnham doing a fine impression of Frank Quitely, while Scott Clark with Dave Beatty on the virtual reality chapter will dazzle your eyeballs for daze. There are pages of preliminary sketches in the back along with a guide by Grant Morrison just in case you lost track of things the first time round and want to go back with hindsight and new set of clues.

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

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


Buy Batman Incorporated h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Steve R. Bissette, John Totleben.

Exceptional piece from Jonathan here, only so far down because it’s a reproduction of his hardcover review. But that was ages ago, so enjoy!

“It’s raining in Washington tonight. Plump, warm summer rain that covers the sidewalk with leopard spots. Downtown, elderly ladies carry their houseplants out to set them on their fire escapes as if they were infirm relatives or boy kings.”

The new softcover version of the first part of the classic Alan Moore reworking of the SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, during which DC finally gained enough balls to take the shameful self-censoring Comic Code Authority Seal Of Approval stamp off the cover of one their titles for the first time, and fully let loose the monster that is Alan Moore’s imagination on its readers. To be fair, you have to give due credit to whoever made that decision at DC, because it certainly helped in beginning to change corporate comics at the time.

For me, Moore’s run on SWAMP THING is some of his finest storytelling ever as he takes over a previously peripheral DC character and creates a wondrous, beguiling and captivating story that is truly mammoth in its vision and scope, so vast it’s impossible to summarise everything it encompasses. It is truly worthy of the description ‘epic’, a saga indeed. True to the original Len Wein origins of the character, there are some genuine moments of real horror which are very unnerving and very uncomfortable stuff to read, with potentially nightmare-inducing artwork. But there are also moments of genuine tenderness, as a very unlikely inter-species romance unfolds between the Swamp Thing and Abby Cable. We are transported along utterly, emotionally and spiritually, with this entity that is on a quest like no other to understand his place and at times simply survive, in a very confused and unforgiving universe.

In short, the writing is everything you would expect ofMoore. From excursions to the very depths of hell, the heights of heaven and the myriad realms in-between. Reaching down to the ancient roots of the earth and the forgotten, timeless elementals that dwell there, to the void-filled outermost fringes of the universe where life exists but not as we could have ever imagined it. With metaphysical explorations of the very nature of insanity and enlightenment and the sometimes infinitesimally fine line that divides the two. The truly amazing thing is that all this takes place within the costumed mainstream DC universe and it just works perfectly. Yes, we get the obvious more mystical characters cropping up such as Boston Brand / Deadman, the Spectre, the Phantom Stranger etc. but we also see Swamp Thing go toGothamand take on an uber-fascistically depicted Batman (“You ever threaten my city again, I’ll kill you…”), and we also see him in Metropolis encountering an ignorant, almost arrogant Superman. We even see him encountering Adam Strange on the dying desiccated planetof Rann during his enforced off-world sojourn. Mind you, we also get plenty of madness with incestuous villains that just refuse to die and when they finally do confound the very demons of hell by being happy, underwater vampires, a cabal of South American tribal magicians with seriously ambitious plans to change the order of things through more than a few unwilling sacrifices, not to mention an island-sized technology-based alien life-form rapist drifting lonely in the vastness of interstellar space.

It’s just that when Moorechooses for the Swamp Thing’s path to intersect with those of the costumed characters he does it so seamlessly, always seen from the Swamp Thing’s perspective which has become ours so completely, that it works perfectly. Again and again we feel the sadness and confusion of a being who quite frankly would just like the world at large to leave him alone, but sadly – as is very much true for all of us – life just doesn’t unfold as smoothly as that, does it? And let us also not forget that we see the first appearance of a certain John Constantine, serene, dapper, cocksure and at his most arch and manipulative, indeed at the very top of his game. In fact Constantine is a very central character throughout the entire run once he has made his dramatic first entrance in volume three and anyone who has ever read HELLBLAZER and enjoyed it should not miss out on reading SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING. One of my favourite moments is at the end of one particular storyline as Swamp Thing and Constantine are stood by the side of a road preparing to part company and John is repeatedly teasing Swamp Thing about a great vegetable joke he’s got but it would be completely wasted on him due to his lack of humour. In the end the frustrated Swamp Thing is basically manipulated into asking him to tell the joke. John feeds him the opening line whilst Swamp Thing’s back is turned (“How do you baffle a vegetable?”) and when Swamp Thing turns in exasperation having answered that he doesn’t know and received no reply, Constantine has simply vanished into thin air.

Masterful stuff and a neat example of the counterpoint humourMooreincorporates to the horror and seriousness which lightly punctuates and delicately seasons his writing to perfection.

This first new softcover edition includes the very first Moore issue which was never included in the original softback collection simply because it actually concludes a story started by Marty Pasko who himself put together a very creditable 19-issue run and established many of the minor characters used throughout the Saga by Moore and later Rick Veitch. Then we get Moore’s start proper, his reboot origin tale for Swamp Thing told very cleverly and obliquely within another story featuring a most obscure DC villain, Jason Woodrue the Fluoronic Man, who inadvertently awakens to the underlying consciousness connecting all plant life on the planetand promptly goes mad. We also get a most amusing cameo from a very baffled and helpless JSA which neatly sets the tone for the disdainful and delightfully dismissive manner in whichMooretreats the super-heroes whenever and wherever they crop up throughout his entire run. This collection concludes with a disturbing horror story wherein Jason Blood and his alter-ego, the rhyming Demon Etrigan, are tracking down a very, very unpleasant fear demon which has recently moved into the Louisiana Bayou.

I personally can’t recommend SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING highly enough. If you like horror writing, you’ll love it. And If you liked intelligent explorations of topics such as heaven and hell, enlightenment, the nature of reality and relationships as only Alan Moore can in works like PROMETHEA, you’ll love it too. The SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING is definitely an oft-overlooked part of his canon that deserves much more praise.

As to the art: as orgasmic as it is organic. And it is set in a swamp…

Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Daredevil: Season One h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Antony Johnston & Wellinton Alves.

“Well. I didn’t see that coming.”

Another of Marvel’s original Season One graphic novels taking you back to each character’s earliest days, this one written by Wasteland’s and THE COLDEST CITY’s Antony Johnston.

Here blind defence lawyer Matthew Murdock is still leaping around in his black and yellow costume wondering why his foes are so far from afraid of him. Closer to home, and Matt’s fallen in love with secretary Karen Page. He’s about to mention it to business partner Foggy Nelson when Foggy pre-empts him: he’s going to ask Karen to marry him. Which is awkward.

All of which has been firmly established in Marvel history. What’s new is a distraught Father Samuel Mullen, Matt Murdock’s Catholic priest, turning up at their office. City Hall claims the lease on St. Finnians will expire next year, and it’s going to evict them. That lease should be good for another twenty years but the original documentation’s gone missing. Meanwhile Councilman William Doyle – who’s on the Land Board himself – is campaigning for mayor on a ticket that involves freeing up land for lucrative property development. A little bit obvious, wouldn’t you say? Ah, but no. It’s far more complicated than that, because the lease isn’t the only paperwork missing…

X-MEN: SEASON ONE drawn by Jamie McKelvie was particularly beautiful. Here too the art is clean and shiny. Shame about their impenetrably stodgy covers, then.


Daredevil: Season One hardcover

Essential Avengers vol 8 (£14-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie & George Perez, Dave Wenzel, John Byrne and more.

Prime old-school AVENGERS boasting one of my all-time favourite AVENGERS covers, recoloured to perfection, as Henry Peter Gyrich – who will go on to be a thorn in the X-Men’s side – dictates to everyone assembled round the coffee table exactly who will be the new members. Trust me, it doesn’t go down well. And it really is a very full house at that point for this black and white monster package incorporates THE KORVAC SAGA which required every extant Avenger bar the Hulk.

Prior to that it also includes the sequence in which Count Nefaria, currently appearing in Brian Michael Bendis’ Moon Knight, first sends off for the Charles Atlas programme, and Hank Pym’s oedipal offspring, the robot Ultron, creates a lady friend for himself using the brain patterns of his ‘mother’, the Wasp, just as he used the brain patterns of Wonderman when he created the Vision. Wonderman himself in his original gaudy costume is having doubts about his courage/manhood (doesn’t get any better in his new, red-leather-jacket edition), Ms. Marvel arrives, and Thor struggles with memory loss as that KORVAC SAGA subplot kicks in as the Avengers, both here and abroad, start blinking out of existence one by one.

Visually what’s interesting is seeing what difference an inker makes to John Byrne’s art. Pablo Marcos fleshes it out with sinew, Gene Day stays true while adding texture, while Klaus Janson goes for a whole new moody approach. I like all three.

Collects AVENGERS #164-184, Annual #7-8, and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Annual #2.


Buy Essential Avengers vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Harper) by George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson.

Surely this is going to sell itself?

Good, because I know nothing whatsoever about this or what it’s based on. Feel free to write your own review.


Buy A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of older books.. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

The Shark King h/c (£9-99, Toon Books) by R. Kikuo Johnson

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland h/c (£16-50, Top Shelf) by Harvey Pekar & Joseph Remnant

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror (£13-50, IDW) by H.P. Lovecraft, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Weinberg & Peter Bergting, menton3

Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924: At Last My Drim Of Life Has Come True (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by George Herriman

Cinderella vol 2: Fables Are Forever (£10-99, Vertigo) by Chris Roberson & Shawn McManus

Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief (Graphic Novel) (£9-99, Puffin) by Rick Riodan, Robert Venditti & Attila Futaki

Abe Sapien vol 2: The Devil Does Jest And Other Stories (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejberg, James Harren

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Guy Davis and many others

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 2 h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, Guy Davis and many others

American Gods UK edition (£8-99, Headline Review) by Neil Gaiman

True Blood vol 2: Tainted Love hardcover (£18-99, IDW) by Marc Andreyko, Michael McMillan & Joe Corroney

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War (Complete) (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Peter J Tomasi & Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzeta

Batman: Venom (£10-99, DC) by Dennis J. O’Neil & Trevor Von Eeden, Russel Braun

Six Guns (£10-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle &  David Gianfelice

Wolverine And The X-Men hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 4: Death Of Spider-Man s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

Red Hulk: Hulk Of Arabia (£10-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker & Patch Zircher

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force / The Deep h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rob Williams, Cullen Bunn & Simone Bianchi, Lee Garbett

Cross Game vol 7 VIZBIG Edition (£10-99, Viz) by Mitsuru Adachi

Dorohedoro vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Katsuya Terada’s The Monkey King vol 2 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Katsuya Terada

Gantz vol 22 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

r.e. The Lizz Lunney greeting cards reviewed above: today someone literally did ask, “By the way, do you sell greetings cards?” He bought this one, about knitting your own beard.

 I don’t think Mark would have approved!

 – Stephen

Reviews April 2012 week two

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

For me this is a contender for the best ‘metaphysical’ work Morrison has ever done, simply because he stays on theme – albeit of the hypersigilic variety – and doesn’t go over the top. Well, only just past the event horizon by his standards.

– Jonathan on Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Rachel Rising vol 1: The Shadow Of Death (£12-99, Abstract Studios) byTerry Moore.

From the creator of Echo and STRANGERS IN PARADISE.

High above a sleepy town, way beyond its verdant pastures lies a wood that is dense with ancient trees. In the early morning light a statuesque woman with long blonde hair, tied back at the top, strolls calmly through its lush, leafy undergrowth to wait patiently on the bank above a deep, dried-up riverbed. Four birds, silhouetted against the sky, take off through the canopy. And then it happens: a solitary leaf lying in the middle of the dirt track spontaneously combusts. The soil starts to crumble. Fingers emerge, a body struggles free of its shallow grave, gasping for breath… and the tall woman watches impassively.

The pacing of the first chapter is masterful, the resurrection through dried chunks of clay so evidently arduous. And then those stricken eyes – the irises bright, the whites blood-red from asphyxiation – as Rachel rises in her short black dress and starts to grasp where she is if not why… When she finally looks up there is no one to be seen. Instead she stumbles painfully up the furrow until the trees finally part and she emerges, exhausted, dirty and limp onto the grassy meadow beyond.

Oh, so many questions! Again, it’s all in the pacing and the relative silence as Rachel makes her way home, showers, looks in the mirror, absorbs what she sees there and the flashbacks begin. Her memory is incomplete, but evidently whatever happened occurred on Tuesday night. It’s now Friday evening.

“You’re not Rachel.”

This was by far my favourite new series of 2011. I can’t recall the last time I read a first issue this self-assured let alone this beautiful. I’m mesmerised. Just look at these haunting pages:

That’s not Rachel, but the first woman above, a catalyst for death who’s now shadowing Rachel whilst corrupting the innocent, turning love into hatred and the town of Manson into a mass graveyard. Well, it already is – look to the past. Nothing good can come from a town called Manson.

So far this series hasn’t been about Rachel’s death but her life: the current state of her unnatural existence. We know she’s been strangled as well as asphyxiated – not only does she bear the scars but she’s been coughing up rope – but we don’t know by whom. Given recent events the perpetrator might not even remember they did it, let alone have been responsible for their actions; and that opens up a whole new set of awful possibilities.

As always with Terry the cast are predominantly women. There’s a young girl called Zoe orbiting the central narrative very much against her own will, and Rachel’s best friend since childhood, a mechanic and guitarist called Jet. Best of all, though, there’s androgynous Aunt Johnny, a mortician working well into the night and quite used to the company of corpses.

“Johnny, what’s wrong with me?”
“You’re dead, honey. Get the butter for me, will you?”
“In the fridge. Grab the milk, too.”
“Okay, you just said I’m dead.”
“… So I’m in heaven?”
“No, you’re in the kitchen, dear. You wanna check the fridge? Butter… milk?”

A pragmatist to the end and seemingly unflappable, even Aunt Johnny is in for some rude awakenings. In fact, it’s the wakenings one worries about most. It’s not just Rachel who’s rising. Killer cliffhanger.


Buy Rachel Rising vol 1: The Shadow Of Death and read the Page 45 review here

Please God, Find Me A Husband! h/c (14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Simone Lia.

Your prayers have been answered! From the creator of FLUFFY, one of our all-time favourite graphic novels, comes an autobiographical episode in which Simone, recently dumped by email, begins to fret at still being single aged thirty-three, asks God if he can fix it for her to find a husband, then dances with Him to INXS. This is Simone Lia we’re talking about, after all. Quickly she comes to the conclusion that what she really needs is “an adventure with God” which she plans and lays out to Him, in a room down the hall:

“Okay, so I like the idea of hazards and excitement. That sounds great. I was thinking that perhaps we could go to the outback somewhere in Australia. We’ll visit a religious hermit in a remote location. And then I thought it would be good if I have a near-death experience. It would be an interesting near-death experience. Probably involving animals, dangerous ones.”

God’s expression at this point is a picture. He surreptitiously swipes Simone’s best laid plans to inspect the details… and presumably check that He’s in them.

“Then at some point I meet a gorgeous man. We fall in love. No, he falls in love with me. I’m unsure about him but he manages to woo me. Let me write that bit down. At this point we’ll probably be in Sydney. This will give us a chance to go to some trendy parties. Then I suppose I have to go back. I’ll be here and he’ll be there. We won’t be able to see each other – that’s not good. Why is life so complicated? Maybe you can sort something out so that we can be together. A little miracle would be lovely, please.
“Anyway – I’ll leave this with you to mull over. I’ll get googling for hermits.”

“With hindsight,” writes Simone, “I wish that I’d waited to hear what God thought, what His plans were for me. I’d not heard of the expression: If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans.”

Sure enough God has a good old chuckle. And a sigh.

What follows is indeed an adventure with God which eventually lands her in Australia with a friend where she meets a real hermit – and a man! – but I’ve no intention of revealing how that goes down. It begins, however, in a far more contemplative manner at The Society Of Our Lady Of The Trinity community in Wales. Population: four. There she and her friend Sister Mary visit sick parishioners, reflect on the Gospel together and back at the community they meditate on the charity of Christ. Well that’s the idea, but Simone swiftly slips into meditating instead on an email from her publisher questioning a book’s ‘commercial potential’ – and then descends into brooding on her own abject worthlessness. Even during the act of Adoration, kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacraments, Simone is prone to distraction and wonders if the two weeks are working for her. They are working for her, splendidly, but before the gain there comes that aphoristic pain.

“I became aware of internal wars raging. Painful memories. Fear and hurts buried in my heart. Unlikely triggers allowed feelings to surface in unexpected and spectacular fashion.”

Tellingly, it’s a child’s teddy-bear mug inscribed with “I love you” and the break-down is immediate, tearful but ultimately cathartic.

Gradually Lia learns to relax in the tranquility of the retreat and begins to achieve a genuine sense of peace and perspective. That sense of silence is beautifully evoked in the art which opens up into quiet, sparsely populated panels in the same cool blues that pervade the book, adding their own gentle serenity, then warmed with the odd spot of flesh tones. Indeed those scenes in the kitchen and chapel are in marked contrast with the London commuters crossly cramped together and often glaring at each other with extreme irritation or even mild malevolence. Life in the city, eh?

I love everything about this book. Simone has softened then slayed the cynic in me, and I came away enormously impressed and respectful of her own love of God which never prevents her unique brand of fanciful mischief bubbling playfully to the surface. It’s honest, very honest, and I would imagine that regardless of its religious content – and sometimes because of it – a lot of the territory covered here about self-love, self-doubt and even being left on the shelf will be so very familiar to many. Also, the trauma of constantly rowing parents, from a scene in which Simone as an adult revisits her younger self and remembers how it once was:

“I’ve turned into a block of concrete, Jesus. I feel so sad here. I want to cry. I can’t start crying here. There’s too much inside. I’ll hold it in, I don’t want to disturb anyone.”

Very affecting.

So has God found Simone Lia a husband? I’m not telling you, but you can be sure she’ll be asked that forevermore. Even pre-publication it’s started as evidenced by this Twitter exchange between us after I remarked that one particular panel – coloured as it was and set in the morning kitchen – could be called ‘Blue Nun for Breakfast’.

“Ha ha. My builders have just knocked on my door to ask if I’ve found a husband. They were in the kitchen reading the book! The builder was laughing at a picture of the nun falling off her chair, then the chair that HE was sitting on broke. Was that the wrath of God?”

“No,” I replied, “if it had been the WRATH of God, you’d never have had to buy rock salt AGAIN. You would, however, have needed to find a new builder.”

“Ha ha. New builder and a MUCH bigger salt pot! I think probably I gave him too many hob-nobs with his tea this morning.”

She probably did, too.


Buy Please God, Find Me A Husband! h/c and read the Page 45 review here.

Flex Mentallo, Man Of Muscle Mystery h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely…

“You look lost son. Need any help?”
“I’m looking for a friend. His name was The Fact. He was a crimefighter.”
“What is this place? This used to be the School For Sidekicks until they closed us down.”
“If they closed the school, why are you here, old-timer? I hope you don’t mind my asking, but who exactly are you anyway?”
“Me? I’m the mightiest man in the Universe, son. Got a secret origin too. I saw the old man in the underpass, thought he was ill. People were just passing by but I gave him some money… In return for my kindness, he gave me a crossword puzzle to fill in. Said I should speak aloud the last word I wrote down. He claimed it was the word God said: the word that brought the Universe and consciousness into being. So I tried it. What boy wouldn’t? Didn’t ever see the old man again. Sometimes I think he was my own future self.”
“But why are you here? If you’ve got all those powers you can help me save the world.”
“It’s just people who need saving. The world’s fine as it is.”

Part of the thematic hypersigil trilogy (apparently, according to Grant) along with THE INVISIBLES and THE FILTH, this work was never collected at the time, but I remember picking up the four issues when they came out circa 1996 and enjoying them immensely. Ostensibly it’s the story of Flex Mentallo, Man Of Muscle Mystery and all-round hero of the beach. Those who’ve read DOOM PATROL will be familiar with, and probably fond of, the character already, but here he’s the undoubted star of the show. Or is he? Is he even real in fact? As in what appears to be our real world, a failed pop star Wallace Sage (again, familiar to readers of DOOM PATROL) is in the process of committing suicide by overdosing on alcohol, pills, LSD and ecstasy. Not surprisingly he’s having a trippy time of it as he rambles on to the Samaritans over the phone about his childhood memories of comicbook heroes, including his own comics he used to draw as a kid and a certain leotard-clad strongman. There’s a connection between the two stories and worlds, if you will, which becomes gradually more apparent as the stories progress. For Flex Mentallo, meanwhile, there’s a case to solve, as he investigates where the ultimate superteam, The Legion Of Legions, have disappeared to. Have these creations really abandoned Flex’s world? Or is it just somehow possible that whilst they are of course fictional, they are also somehow real and are going to return and save us all?

The real beauty of this absurdist nonsensical work is it all does make complete perfect sense in the end. I actually remember being profoundly moved by the pay-off when I first read it, probably not least in part due to a certain paradigm shift that had happened inside my own mind just a few months beforehand, and the whole thing certainly hasn’t lost any of its grandeur or impact over time. For me this is a contender for the best ‘metaphysical’ work Morrison has ever done, simply because he stays on theme – albeit of the hypersigilic variety – and doesn’t go over the top. Well, only just past the event horizon by his standards. By sensibly restricting himself to working on a set number of story-telling levels, the overall coherence is sufficiently maintained in a way that unfortunately disappeared at times in THE INVISIBLES. Indeed, I would go so far as to say FLEX MENTALLO is most definitely a work of genius, and should be on everyone’s ‘to read’ list. If you have a friend who says superhero comics are all complete and utter rubbish, this may well be the one book which will prove him right… and change his mind…

Plus, the art is quite simply pure Quitely perfection. Try saying that ten times quickly! He was clearly having an absolute ball bringing to life some of the crazy creations Morrison came up with for this work like Origami The Folding Man, which made me chuckle then, and did so once again this time around. And his rendering of the Charles Atlas pastiche that is Flex instantly evokes the classic adverts from ‘70s DC comics showing how you too could go from a pot-bellied wimp to a dynamite-encrusted bicep-laden Adonis in a mere handful of weeks. If you stopped reading comics and got off your arse for long enough to get down the gym that is…

Finally I’ll leave you where I found you, with the crossword puzzle mentioned above, which I think has to be one of the finest pieces of misdirection ever in comics.

14 Across: A mystic word imparted by God that has the power to transform a small boy into a superhero. SHA_A_


Buy Flex Mentallo, Man Of Muscle Mystery h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sharknife Stage Second: Double Z (a bargain at £8-99, Oni Press) by Corey Lewis ~

Twice the size and at least five times the action, the sequel to SHARKNIFE: STAGE FIRST delivers in true videogame sequel style. Throwing even more of everything at you, DOUBLE Z expands theArcade universe with origin stories, more characters, and an actual point to the relentless fighting. So kick back and relish in the combo hits.

Ceaser Hallelujah is a cool-headed bus boy at Guangdong Factory, the world-famous five-storey restaurant, which faces constant attack from his rival Ombra Ravenga’s weird monsters. Luckily Ceaser is just one fortune cookie from transforming into Sharknife, his half-ninja half-shark alter ego. With nearly 100 monsters under his belt, Sharknife is due to level-up, but Ombra has designs on the raw power unleashed when Sharknife evolves into his Double Z state.

But how on earth did a half-ninja half-shark come to be? Learn the shocking possible truth as Ceaser’s crush, Chieko, dreams of that fateful day years ago when her father built Guangdong Factory using just his chi. Emerging from the shiny new establishment came a monster eel which tried to eat her Peeps (li’l chicks), and it would have succeeded if Jaga the Shark King hadn’t arisen also with a challenge for the young Ceaser and his buddy Enta Dadragon, the winner of which would become protector of the best restaurant in the world.

This is a world apart from Corey’s first volume (some seven years back, and back in print along side this) which suffered from its tiny size, as the art needed to be printed in a larger format, but Corey’s style has changed considerably since then. He manages to delicately balance a potentially chaotic infusion of action while remaining clean, clear, and infused with video-game logic.


Buy Sharknife Stage Second: Double Z and read the Page 45 review here

Pandemonium (£14-99, Humanoids) by Christophe Bec & Stefano Raffaele…

“Hey, PSST!… My name’s Louis… So you’re sick too?”
“Yes, I caught tuberculosis.”
“Then you’re going to die.”
“You’re a liar! Why do you say that?”
“It’s true! I’m no liar! It’s not me who said it. It was George… He says thousands of people have died here already.”
“And this George who said it, how does he know?”
“You’ll see for yourself. He only speaks to kids, and he says some terrible things… he says that the sanatorium is the antechamber of death.”

They’re a cheery little double act, George and Louis, aren’t they? Just what you need to entertain you if you’re a small girl whose been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Now in 1951, six years after the discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic, your chances of surviving TB should actually be pretty good, except of course if you’re being treated in a remote sanatorium that is steadfastly persisting is using antiquated medical procedures. Which is precisely the unfortunate position Cora finds herself in. Oh dear…

On the face of it, given that her own mother, who has accompanied her to the sanatorium to work as a nurse and pay for her daughter’s treatment, made a successful recovery from TB in that very hospital as a child herself, it appears to bode well for Cora, but it quickly becomes apparent to us that patient mortality at Waverly Hills isn’t necessarily something some of the medical staff are too concerned with. Not as long as they get chance to continue their own experiments, that is, be that electro-convulsive shocks, trepanation or other macabre surgical procedures.

True, genuine horror, with just the teeniest amounts of gore to unsettle and unnerve in the right places, from writer Christophe Sanctum Bec that plays out rather like The Shining as the spookiness and sanity-twisting shenanigans are oh so gradually ratcheted up. Cora’s mother meanwhile is beginning to suspect something is amiss (finally!) but is it going to be too late to save her own daughter? Fine euro-style art from Stefano Raffaele too to produce yet another excellent work on the Humanoids imprint.


Buy Pandemonium and read the Page 45 review here

The Year Of Loving Dangerously (£13-99, NBM) by Ted Rall & & Pablo G. Callejo.

Homeless, penniless and perfectly prepared to have sex for shelter. Maybe a sandwich for the road, if possible.

Autobiography from the renowned satirist and creator of Silk Road To Ruin and TO AFGHANISTAN AND BACK, and a quietly attractive if basic artist who reminded me of a more accomplished Judd Winnick. In fact I think this’ll go down very well with the many of you who’ve enjoyed Pedro And Me. I certainly couldn’t put it down, and if ever you find a large wart appearing overnight, I think you’ll be seeking immediate medical attention.

That’s what happened to Ted: he found one on his chest, the root grew down into his aorta and popped like a cork. Blood all over the place. Illness led to absence which led to being kicked out of college – it was a particularly ruthless college. Fired from his last job because someone else had stolen a bicycle and diverted attention to Rall, he was also up to his eyeballs in student-loan debt. Refusing to take the crap that would have come with falling back on his mother, he found himself the unexpected object of female attention in a diner whilst eating his last dollar’s worth of pizza, and so started down a road leading to a daily game of musical beds, a certain degree of mild deception and a mystifying range of female hair products. Fascinating in terms of human nature and a very different side of New York at ground level. His friend Chris was a right prick, and yes, in danger of dragging Ted down with him.


Buy The Year Of Loving Dangerously and read the Page 45 review here

The Wolf Man: Graphic Freud (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Richard Appignanesi & Slawa Harasymowicz.

“The aim of analysis is modest. To turn neurotic misery into common unhappiness.”

Not something you tell your patient before you begin!

Brave but unfortunately unsuccessful stab at adapting From The History Of An Infantile Neurosis, also known as The Wolf Man, a case study first published by Sigmund Freud in 1918, eight years after he began treating Sergei Pankejeff for what he considered obsessional neurosis stemming from some pretty dark and evidently traumatic encounters in Sergei’s past. And if Freud is to be believed they resulted in some seriously fucked-up, repressed, sadomasochistic sexual desires towards both his mother and his father. Particularly his father. Modern opinion, I’ve read, favours the diagnosis of borderline pathology. I’m no expert but that seems right to me!

The wolves in question were white in the night and sitting on a walnut tree, staring at Sergei in his dreams. Visually, that’s most the impressive part of this adaptation, but I knew we were in trouble by the very third page when Freud’s floating head found itself pasted artificially above Sergei’s country mansion estate like Jack Kirby used to on Marvel Comics covers. On the covers, mind. It returns five pages later – the exact same head. That’s but one symptom; the real malady here is the composition. It’s extraordinary how cramped some of these pages are considering how little is depicted and written on each page, with some panels’ contents cropped quite unnecessarily when a far better balance would have afforded much greater clarity. It is, in short, an ugly, ill-proportioned mess in such heavy graphite you expect it to rub off on your fingers. In all fairness, however, the script itself doesn’t make it easy on the artist. Here Sergei tells Sigmund about this sister Anna’s death:

Sergei: “Anna went to stay at our Aunt Xenia’s estate in the Caucus in the Summer of 1905.”
Anna: “Adieu, Sergei. Don’t forget me.”
Sergei thinks: “Why so sad?”
Sergei: “Some weeks later, we heard that Anna had shot herself.”
Sergei thinks: “This is the result of repressing her femininity.”
Sergei’s Dad: “Your mother is still in Italy. She won’t receive the news in time for the funeral.”
Freud: “You felt no grief.”
Sergei: “What for? Now I was sole heir to my father’s fortune.”

It’s all so forced, so jumbled and I winced once more when the thought bubbles crept in, not just at their very inclusion, but in this instance their baffling contents. Maybe it’s intentionally bleak give the contents of Freud’s findings and the path of Sergei’s own life depicted well past Freud’s first therapy sessions which, parenthetically, don’t seem to have worked as Sergei develops both chronic hypochondria and a catalogue psychosomatic illnesses whilst sponging off Freud (whom he deceives) after his vast fortune’s whipped away in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Something he then blames on Freud.

So don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have read this. I found the subject matter fascinating with its castration complexes et al, though I am a bit of a sceptic when it comes to stretched connections like these, when Sergei recalls being panicked by a striped yellow butterfly.

“The way a butterfly moves its wings… like a woman opening her legs. And it forms the Roman number V, the hour of my depression.”

Honestly, I just think he was startled. There’s a great deal of peeing and also some pooing, very early sex with his sister, a craving for parental attention and an unhealthy desire towards mutilation. Depression is a very real and terrible illness which should be taken very seriously indeed. But in Sergei’s case, and in Freud’s place, I’d have been inclined to just tell Sergei he was a deeply unpleasant man and have done with him.


Buy The Wolf Man: Graphic Freud and read the Page 45 review here

Crazy Hair s/c (£5-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

An exquisite nonsense poem set to pictures by Dave McKean. Well, it’s not really nonsense if you’ve big hair and run out of conditioner: it’s more of a diary. I’m sorry if you’ve an infestation of birds, beasts and relatives snuggled up in your enveloping locks and the BBC has declared an expedition is in order. That’s exactly what happens here.

“Twisting tangling Trails and loops,
Treasure chests And pirate sloops,
These await The ones who dare
Navigate my crazy hair.”

A great little children’s book or indeed a fully fledged art book, for McKean is on top form, sizing and swirling the verse as he sees fit.


Buy Crazy Hair s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Joe Golem And The Drowning City h/c (£19-50, St. Martin’s Press) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden.

100 illustrations from Mike Mignola himself, and a beautiful, spot-varnished cover. The same team’s Baltimoresold spectacularly well as a prose novel long before it became the graphic novel BALTIMORE: THE PLAGUE SHIPS.

“Fifty years have passed since earthquakes and a rising sea level leftLower Manhattansubmerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the ‘Drowning City’. Among them are fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time, Orlov the conjuror was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man; a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a séance goes horribly wrong, Felix Orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits, and Molly finds herself on the run. Her flight leads her into the company of Simon Hodge, a Victorian detective, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past and true identity is a mystery to him.”


Buy Joe Golem And The Drowning City h/c and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Here we go, then: reviews already online if their new formats. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the miscroscope next week,while  the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.


League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier s/c (£14-9, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

The Celestial Bibendum (£24-99, Knockabout) by Nicola de Crécy.

Courtney Crumrin vol 1: The Night Things h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 3 h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, Guy Davis

Gloaming h/c (£14-99, Pocko) by Keaton Henson

Brody’s Ghost vol 3 (£4-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley

The Curse Of The Masking Tape Mummy: A Collection Of Basic Instructions (£10-99,) by Scott Meyer

Severed h/c (£18-99, Image) by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft & Attila Futaki

genetiks [I] (£14-99, Archaia) by Richard Marazano & Jean-Michael Ponzio

A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Harper) by George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

Dollhouse: Epitaphs (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon & Cliff Richards

Charmed vol 3 (£11-99, Zenescope) by Paul Ruditis & Dean Kotz, Tess Fowler

Batman Incorporated h/c (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart, Dave Beaty

Hitman vol 6: For Tomorrow (£22-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea

Batman: No Man’s Land vol 2 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Dennis J. O’Neil, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Kelly Puckett, Chuck Dixon, John Ostrander & Mike Deodata Jr., Damion Scott, Andy Kuhn, Staz Johnson, Roger Robinson, Scott McDaniel, Dan Jurgens, Jim Balent and more

Punisher Max: Homeless h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon

Essential Avengers vol 8 (£14-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie & George Perez, Dave Wenzel, John Byrne and more

Daredevil: Season One hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) byAntony Johnston & Wellinton Alves

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne

X-Men Legacy: Lost Legions s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey & Khoi Pham

Itazura Na Kiss vol 8 (£12-99, DMP) by Kaoru Tada

Magic Knight Rayearth vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Pandora Hearts vol 9 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Reviews April 2012 week one

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012


Before someone becomes a monster, what were they? How did they become something so beyond the comprehension of most normal people without anyone apparently noticing?

 – Jonathan on Dahmer, written and drawn by one of Dahmer’s classmates.


It’s book of bad decisions. Awful impulses acted on, and then immediately regretted. People lost, lonely, isolated and alienated, out of step with their times and under so much pressure in Japan of the 1960s where, as Tatsumi tells line editor Adrian Tomine, “Economic development was considered more important than the way people actually lived their lives”.

 – Stephen on Abandon The Old In Tokyo.


Gone To Amerikay h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Derek McCullough & Colleen Doran, Jose Villarrubia…

“What’s that song, that one where you start off singing way up high, Johnny?”
“The Road From Ballycrovane.”
“Oh yes, yes, that’s it. I like how you start way up high, then Brian comes in lower, then you go down lower still… the way you go down on each other, it’s marvellous.”

Which is made all the more amusing given that Johnny and Brian are indeed lovers, for a time at least, and the panel in question is hilariously illustrated as Johnny is having to physically stifle Brian’s laughter with a hand over his mouth as Johnny’s unsuspecting landlady heads into the kitchen to fetch them their dinner. GONE TO AMERIKAY is an exceptional work, both in terms of the storytelling (well, that should be stories plural, I suppose, given that we have three interrelated tales all set in New York told from differing time periods of 1870, 1960 and 2010), but also in terms of the art which may well be the finest I’ve seen from Colleen Doran to date.

The overall story – part-historical fiction, part-detective story, and indeed even a little bit of spooky stuff thrown in for good measure – is gently unravelled for us using the conceit of Lewis Healy, an Irish billionaire who wants to find out more about the music that so enchanted him as a child. And thus we find out more about the life of one Johnny McCormack, a Galwaylad who arrives in the Big Apple in 1960 dreaming of bright lights and a singing career. He’s well versed in Irish folk songs and one in particular tells the story of a Ciara O’Dwyer, an Irish immigrant who arrived in the slums of 1870’sNew Yorkwith her young child, expecting her husband to follow after her shortly. But when her husband never arrives Ciara is forced to face the harsh realities of her new life alone.

I’m loath to give anything more away about the stories, actually, as there is a real joy in following the complex thread of the narrative and finding out more about the lives and circumstances of our various protagonists and sundry secondary but equally important characters. Derek McCullough manages to give this work such intimate depth and real emotional content that many supposedly worthy prose works struggle to achieve, and the weaving backwards and forwards in time to seamlessly tease out each plotline, making the connections between the three time periods gradually more apparent is so, so deftly done. Plus, as you can tell from the quote above, there’s certainly plenty of bawdy humour too. And then in perfect harmony – much like Brian and Johnny! – with the writing, is the art. The beautifully clean lines perfectly capture the privations and misery of 1870’s slum life whilst simultaneously dramatising the up-and-coming bohemian bustle of the Greenwich Village social scene of 1960. This is a fabulous work and I do just hope it doesn’t fall flat like some other Vertigo attempts to present their readers with something completely different have done before. That would be a real shame, as this is a mini-masterpiece.


Buy Gone To Amerikay h/c and read the Page 45 review here

After We Shot The Grizzly (£6-00) by The Handsome Family & Dan Berry.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful: each and every page of this book is a compositional joy.

There’s some fiercely expressive cartooning in thrillingly tight, dark pencil and luxurious, black cherry washes as our not-so-merry men set about sabotaging their own expedition when they descend into Darwinian Hell. Whether doomed, albatross-like, by the titular crime, by the series of initial catastrophes or by their own subsequent, survival-of-the-fittest free-for-all, doomed they most certainly are. Although can I just waft in a comparison to Jordan Crane’s LAST LONELY SATURDAY while you’ll be unaware of its context? Thank you. Wonderful book.

The words are taken from The Handsome Family’s song of the same name, butBerryhasn’t simply illustrated each of the lyrics’ lines; he’s inferred extra narrative angles, apposite to each. That’s why I say each of these panels tells a story in its own right: for such a short read it makes for a long, lingering gaze.

Not only that, but the production values are gorgeous. Printed on thick watercolour stock throughout with an even tougher cover, it’s exactly what printed comics need to be in the age of the digital download: objets d’art you want to have and to hold forever.

And if all that wasn’t enough (and it really, really is), Dan has kindly signed and sketched in every one of our copies – elaborately so! Each sketch is completely different, and in watercolour or ink wash. I’d be bloody quick about it, if I were you.


Buy After We Shot The Grizzly and read the Page 45 review here

Cat Island (£6-00) by Dan Berry.

Signed and sketched in for free! Cat sketches: you want!

Dan Berry does love his production value: thick, silky smooth stock this time, showcasing a fine pen line and glowing, autumnal colours. There are trees and leaves galore in this suburban battle for territorial supremacy between one feather-ruffled man with a freshly cleaned car and his muddy-pawed moggie. You know who’s going to win, right? But wait; add to the domestic drama a newborn baby with its routine-wrecking demands and anything could happen. Anyone who’s ever had a baby will roll their eyes with recognition.

“As far as anybody could tell, the baby had three modes: 1. Crying because she was tired. 2. Crying because she had pooped. 3. Crying.”

Really, I think our Jonathan should have been reviewing this.

So what exactly is the CatIsland? Nope, no clues, but fans of Jeffrey Brown’s CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS and CATS ARE WEIRD AND MORE OBSERVATIONS will instantly fall for Dan’s lithe, leaf-chasing and occasionally petulant puss who obviously steals the show, while its insouciance put me in mind of Lizz Lunney. Superb, silent punchline that will have you roaring with laughter.


Buy Cat Island and read the Page 45 review here

Abandon The Old In Tokyo s/c (£12-99, D&Q) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

“Excuse me. I seem to have lost my way.”

Rarely have I found a quote more apposite to kick off a review.

It’s book of bad decisions. Awful impulses acted on, and then immediately regretted. People lost, lonely, isolated and alienated, out of step with their times and under so much pressure in Japan of the 1960s where, as Tatsumi tells line editor Adrian Tomine, “Economic development was considered more important than the way people actually lived their lives”. In lieu of actual conversations, so often the male protagonists remain silent while they’re being talking at by their mothers, girlfriends or co-workers. People feeling dragged down and trapped…

And over and over again things are thrown away. Not just worn-out yet still serviceable household objects, but marriages, people and pets. There’s a scene in a zoo involving monkeys which you simply will not believe. Also, jobs are lost, limbs are lost and businesses go under. Sex is far from celebrated, either, but an object of obsession or revulsion. It’s pretty dark but far from bleak, such is the beguiling quality of each short narrative; I don’t think comparisons with Eisner are out of order. Occasionally an element of horror creeps in, but even then it’s in service to the thematic content summed up beautifully here:

“Please help me… I fell down this hole… I can’t get out.”

We also have new softcover editions of THE PUSH MAN AND OTHER STORIES and GOOD-BYE as reviewed by Tom. I don’t know why we never got around to reviewing ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO before. It begins with a man on the toilet; it ends with a man down the sewers.


Buy Abandon The Old In Tokyo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dororo: The Omnibus Edition (£18-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka ~

Supernatural fantasy set during the “Warring States Period” (5th Century BC).

Daigo Kagemitsu, a Samurai aspiring for total dominance overJapanoffers parts of his unborn child to 48 demons for the realisation of his selfish dream. Discarding the “deficient” newborn into a river, Daigo soon forgets about his terrible acts. But somehow the boy survives. Calling himself Hyakkimaru he roams the country looking for the 48 demons and his missing body parts, aided by incredible prosthetics, telepathic powers (as he has yet to find his eyes/ears/mouth) and an irritating boy-thief named Dororo who wants the blade hidden in Hyakkimaru’s arm.

Not quite as epic or deep as BUDDHA or PHOENIX, this is nonetheless excellent Tezuka and the relationship between Hyakkimaru being a man physically in pieces and Dororo, a boy whose mind is in a similar state, is fascinating.


Buy Dororo: The Omnibus Edition and read the Page 45 review here

The New Deadwardians #1 (£2-25, Vertigo/DC) by Dan Abnett & Ian Culbard.

“How are you this month, Chief Inspector?”
“Very well.”
“Do you require any dental attention?”
“I had them filed back the week before last.”
“Good, good. So… have you been having any tendencies?”

Haha! Aristocrats are vampires and the lower classes are all mindless zombies: everyone’s prejudices satisfied, then.

From our very own Ian Culbard (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, SHELOCK HOLMES: THE VALLEY OF FEAR etc.) and good ol’ Dan Abnett interviewed about THE NEW DEADWARDIANS here comes a series featuring fick Laaandan accents and the first reference to the scavenging Mudlarks I’ve seen since… well, since I acted in a version of the film’s screenplay. Completely forgotten about that.

London 1910, and quite what happened during the hinted-at war to turn the aristocracy Young and the proletariat Restless, we don’t yet know, but whole zones are barricaded off to keep out the ravenous riff-raff, and quite right too. Unfortunately Chief Inspector George Suttle has had a break-in, and lost one member of his household staff to a curiously pin-striped zombie with another bitten and in danger of turning. To save her, Suttle takes Louisa to receive the Cure while he receives a booster of blood himself.

Meanwhile overnight a body has washed up on the banks of the Thames. Or, more specifically, it’s been dumped on the mud right in front of the Houses of Parliament and the Albert Memorial Tower. Is someone making a statement, do you think? The body is male, naked, had his right hand chopped off and in his mid-forties. Well, he might be, or he might not. Because he’s recently had his teeth filed too.

“That’s not possible, Chief Inspector. For a fatal case, there are none of the three causes present: impalement of the heart, decapitation, incineration. None of them.”
“Quite so. I didn’t say I could explain it, Doctor. But somehow, someone has managed to murder that which was not alive.”

Abnett has packed so much in to this seemingly simple package. Even the reference to The Young And The Restless TV show with its mixed financial fortunes works perfectly. I’ve no idea if I’ve caught something salient in the pin-stripped, three-piece suit or whether I’ve thrown you a red herring. Certainly there are political stirrings like the Zone-B union protestors. For those familiar with Ian Culbard’s work, you’re in for a bit of a surprise: his lines here are far slimmer and crisper than usual and that works rather well for this particular project. His tour de force, however, is George’s bedridden mother, whose hooded eyes and pursed lips in one silent panel of what-on-earth-does-that-matter disdain are an absolute scream. It’s my single favourite Culbard moment so far.

“My breakfast is inordinately overdue, George.”
“I’m sorry, mother. There was an incident below stairs this morning.”

Cue silent panel.

“I am quite beside myself with hunger. I think I may perish.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever perish, mother.”


Buy The New Deadwardians #1 by telegraphing, sounding the horn on 0115 9508045 or just shambling in off the streets. Current copies at the time of typing are all signed by Ian himself.

My Friend Dahmer (£11-99, Abrams) by Derf Backderf…

“Derf! It’s me! It’s going nuts in the newsroom! There’s a big story breaking.”
“Yeah? Whassup.”
“This guy in Wisconsin killed a bunch of people! He had sex with the corpses… and ate some of them!! Derf, this guy went to Revere! He was in your class!!”
“What!?! Who!?!”
“Well… who do you think it was? Guess!”
“Um… no, that isn’t it…”
“Yes! Dahmer! Yeah, that’s the guy!”

That’s right… Dahmer was my second guess…

Before someone becomes a monster, what were they? How did they become something so beyond the comprehension of most normal people without anyone apparently noticing? In retrospect, were there warning signs that were ignored by authority figures like parents and teachers? And by their friends? Written and illustrated by a classmate of Dahmer’s who was probably the closest thing he actually had to a friend in high school, this work certainly sheds some light on the peculiar teenage years of the boy who would go on to become America’s most infamous mass murderer, but also leaves several questions hanging rather disturbingly unanswered. And indeed perhaps makes you realise they are in the end utterly unanswerable, even to Dahmer himself.

Certainly in the interrogations after his arrest Dahmer was at somewhat of a loss to understand how his life had taken the course it had, whilst also displaying some not inconsiderable regret for his victims. But as to whether it was nature or nurture that him made into a sociopath, that isn’t immediately apparent, and perhaps in the end, for Dahmer at least, it almost certainly was a combination of the two. Even from early adolescence his sexual urges included the desire to have sex with corpses, and the lack of virtually any parental engagement, positive or otherwise, meant he was left to grapple with his very considerable inner demons entirely alone.

His social network at high school consisted of those, like the author, who were prepared to tolerate his social awkwardness, which often manifested itself in bizarre mannerisms or verbal absurdities that became known as Dahmerisms and were much copied and repeated as colloquialisms by the author and his friends. In fact Dahmer became almost something of a mascot to them, and whilst not exactly wholly part of their social circle he certainly wasn’t excluded.

It was only as Dahmer’s demons began to take a deeper and deeper hold and he resorted to drinking massive quantities of alcohol daily, presumably to numb himself and keep his urges in check, that he began to drift away from the author and his friends completely. They were aware of his drinking, but just put it down to Dahmer’s incredibly difficult living situation with his warring parents, including his most definitely mentally ill mother. But perhaps because they were also subconsciously aware that there was something just not quite right with him, they never made any effort to reach out to him or offer help. Astonishingly his teachers seem to have been completely unaware of any of what was going on.

This work is the perfect combination of truly fascinating biography of the teenage Dahmer, combined with the unique autobiographical perspective of the creator, whose own insight into the troubled teen makes for uncomfortably gripping reading. The final revelation that the last time the author or any of his friends saw Dahmer, the body of his first victim was probably in the boot of his car that he was driving the particular friend home in, is disconcerting to say the least! Derfbacker’s art style, possibly influenced by Robert Crumb a little, may not be to everyone’s taste, but I actually thought it helped to get me in the appropriate ‘70s highschool state of mind. (Actually, Crumb provides the pull quote on the front cover, so perhaps the observation regarding artistic influence is justified.)


Buy My Friend Dahmer and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Avengers vol 3: Run The Mission, Don’t Get Seen, Save The World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Jamie McKelvie, David Aja, Michael Lark, Kev Walker, Alex Maleev, Stuart Immonen.

Bang, bang, bang. Science fiction at its swiftest.

Like Ellis’ own GLOBAL FREQUENCY this contains six self-contained bursts of frantic covert activity which rely not one jot on any previous knowledge of this series or who these people are.

As drawn by Moon Knight’s Alex Maleev, the time-travel episode starring the Russian superspy Black Widow was so jaw-droppingly clever (and funny, and sad) that I read it three times, each time gleaning an extra nugget of clever. I think there may be one crucial panel missing – or at least a button that needed pressing on camera – but still…

It’s all gone catastrophically wrong: against overwhelming odds and some seriously high-tech weaponry, the Secret Avengers have failed. Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers and War Machine are dead. Reluctantly the Black Widow retreats – five years into the past – taking with her a responsive time-travelling device seemingly designed to tease her to death with hints about what she can and can’t do. What she cannot do is materialise behind the bad guys three minutes before she left with a bloody big gun.

“The flow of time must be preserved.”

What she can do is use her knowledge of the past to her maximum advantage and change time in such a way that it appears not to have changed at all… to fill in the gaps, as it were, with what she wants to happen. It is, as I say, ridiculously clever, right down to where the Shadow Council originally sourced their high-tech weaponry from. It’s all so self-fulfilling, Natasha cleaning up after herself beautifully. On top of that there’s a stand-out sequence of three-panel daily syndicated newspaper strips called ‘The Black Widow’ designed to look time-aged and repurposed with new captions in the word balloons just as Natasha herself is “repurposing” history.

In addition, Michael Lark provides some magnificent city snow scenes in Symakaria (borders on Latveria, Serbia and Transylvania, geographical fact fans) with the sort of rough textures we all loved in GOTHAM CENTRAL, while at the other end of the spectrum Jamie McKelvie (PHONOGRAM, SUBURBAN GLAMOUR, X-MEN: SEASON ONE) delivers a subterranean, futuristic cityscape on a breathtaking scale with the clairest of lignes imaginable.

Warning: the cover looks nothing like this. Which is a shame.


Buy Secret Avengers vol 3: Run The Mission, Don’t Get Seen, Save The World h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas & Don Heck.

“Beware of the man who sets you against your neighbour!”
“For, whenever the deadly poison of bigotry touches us, the flame of freedom will burn a little dimmer.”

Bravo! In 1966 Stan Lee took a brief break from his stream-of-sexism to tackle racism, and did so with commendable directness and fairly robust language. In AVENGERS #32 and 33 he introduced the Sons Of The Serpent, Marvel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, seen here spitting their white supremacist venom to a crowd which laps it up:

“Our enemies must know we will show them no mercy! As the original serpent drove Adam and Eve from Eden… so shall we drive all foreigners from the land!”

Err… really, it didn’t: that was God. But then these are racists, so of course they’re stupid. Instead the serpent poisoned the mind of innocents – and with that double whammy we’ll notch the scene up to a Serendipitous Stan. Coming back to the commendable directness there’s another scene in which the hate-mongering tosspots set about ethnically cleansing a section of the city by beating the living crap out of a man while successfully intimidating neighbours into doing absolutely nothing:

“We warned you not to move into this neighbourhood!”
“But it’s a free country! I’m a law-abiding citizen! You have no right –“
“You dare speak to us of rights? You – who were not even born here!”

Up above:

“Henry! What’s the commotion outside the window?”
“It’s the Sons Of  The Serpent! They’ve cornered Mr. Gonzales! We – we have to do something –!”
“No! Come away from there! It’s dangerous to get involved! It’s none of our business!”

Well, isn’t that so often the way? Lest some of his readers learn the wrong lesson (bear in mind a lot of them were young and impressionable), Stan takes a moment to emphatically sneer at the couple’s cowardice:

“Thus we take our leave of Henry and his wife – two less-than-admirable citizens who feared to get “involved”…”

Again, bravo! This is, after all, a book about getting “involved” – that’s what the Avengers do – and they’re not slow off the mark voicing their own disgust after Goliath catches the racists attacking Bill Foster outside his lab. I think that may be the first appearance of Bill Foster (he went on to become Goliath himself), and it’s certainly Steve Rogers’ first trip to the S.H.I.E.L.D. H.Q. buried under a barber shop. This is also the era when Hercules signs up as an Avenger and the Black Widow signs up to S.H.I.E.L.D. having spectacularly failed to win a place with the Avengers. Meanwhile Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have lost their powers but Stan The Man has lost none of his way with women. The Wasp speaks last:

“If you wish to see Captain America alive once more, you are to follow these instructions to the letter! You will report to the next meeting of the Sons Of The Serpent, at the following address – “
“They can bet on it – we’ll be there!”
“I’d like to see someone try to keep me away!”
“Oh dear! I haven’t a thing to wear!”



Buy Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Supercrooks #1 (£2-25, Icon/Marvel) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu.

From the creators of SUPERIOR, one of my favourite books by Mark Millar to date, comes a news series that will eventually be set in Spain. And if the architecture on the front cover is anything to go by, I cannot wait until they get there! Want to see what I mean? It’s right at the top of this illustrated Mark Millar interview.

Yes, it’s all a bit Ocean’s Eleven, isn’t it? Deliberately so! Imagine trying to run a casino in world of telepaths and precogs.

Five years ago Johnny Bolt was busted. Again. With four of his similarly empowered mates he’d attempted a diamond heist but was dispatched by the Patriot in, oh, about seven seconds. Five years on, he’s finally out but his fiancée’s no longer speaking to him. Why? That jewellery store robbery Johnny fucked up was pulled on the morning of they were supposed to get married. It’s only when their old friend Carmine collapses in front of them owing one hundred million bucks to a casino he’d tried to fleece that Kasey reluctantly relents and takes them both in. Now, to help Carmine, they’re going to do something both incredibly stupid and really quite smart. Johnny’s going to call in the old gang to pull off the biggest job of their careers. It’s incredibly stupid because, well, look at Johnny’s track record:New York City is with superheroes. But Spain? Not so much.

Way too early to give you much more than that, but you don’t often see this sort of thing from the supercrooks’ side, do you? I’m looking forward to the strategy sessions.


Buy Supercrooks #1 by emailing or phoning 0115 9508045.

Axe Cop vol 3 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle.

“All right. I’m inside the mouse’s imagination. It’s full of unicorns and cheese.”

Of course it is.

Hyperactive crime and punishment as dreamed up by a seven-year-old and meted out by a cop in a cat suit (occasionally). Guess what his weapon of choice is? In addition to Dinosaur Soldier, this time there guest-stars galore include Army Chihuahua, but there are emphatically no girls allowed:

“Sorry, no girls allowed on my team. Girls are not good fighters.”

They are, in fact, all on The Dumb List. Of course it’s sexist: it’s written by a seven-year-old boy! Well, most of it, because this time the proceedings are fleshed out by ‘Ask Axe Cop’, a feature in which internet readers pose soul-searching questions or demand the floor plans to Axe Cop’s secret headquarters (it’s very well defended), and the best single page here is in fact written by a five-year-old called Nicholas. It’s in answer to the question, “What would you be if you weren’t an axe cop?” and almost every single sentence is priceless.

“I would be a ninja. I would have a sword instead of knives because swords aren’t sharp. I would get my degree fromTikiBeach, the best ninja school in the country. Octobie is the first bad guy I would steal from [he steals his pants]. I would solve world peace by spying on people… mainly girls. The way to spy on people is by punching them into the air. I would make three dollars.”

That’s it, beginning to end. There’s a Christmas-coloured special in green and red, Vikings, pirates, rocket ships, dating tips, and radical solutions for housing the homeless. Also, an AXE COP spin-off pitch by UBU BUBU’s Jamie Smart. For details on how this is all actually created, please see AXE COP VOLUME 1. Dismissed.


Buy Axe Cop vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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.


Rachel Rising vol 1: The Shadow Of Death (£12-99, Abstract) by Terry Moore

Flex Mentallo, Man Of Muscle Mystery h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Thank Goodness For Herald Owlett #1 Ver 2.0 (£4-99) by Nicola Stuart

Thank Goodness For Herald Owlett #3 (£4-99) by Nicola Stuart

Fragile Things s/c (£8-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman

M Is For Magic s/c (£6-99,Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman

Crazy Hair s/c (£5-99,Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Joe Golem And The Drowning City h/c (£19-50,St. Martin’s Press) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Steve R. Bissette, John Totleben

The Wolf Man: Graphic Freud (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Richard Appignanesi & Slawa Harasymowicz

Pandemonium (£14-99, Humanoids) by Christophe Bec & Stefano Raffaele

30 Days Of Night: The Beginning Of The End vol 1 (£13-50, IDW) by Steve Niles & Sam Kieth

Farscape vol 7: The War For The Uncharted Territories Part One s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Rocke S. O’Bannon, Keith R.A. Candido & Will Sliney

Star Wars: The Old Republic vol 3: The Lost Suns (£9-99, Titan) by various

Batman: Gotham Shall Be Judged s/c (£14-99, DC) by David Hine, Fabian Nicieza, Peter Calloway & Cliff Richards, Guillem March, Freddie Williams II, Andres Guinaldo, Lorenzo Ruggiero, Walden Wong

John Carter: A Princess Of Mars (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Roger Langridge & Filipe Andrade

Shattered Heroes hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Jeph Loeb, David Lapham, Chris Yost, Fred Van Lente, Brian Michael Bendis & Butch Guice, Adam Kubert, Salvador Larocca and many more

Ultimate Comics Ultimates vol 1 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Spider-Man: The Return Of Anti-Venom s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos

Rin-Ne vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Bleach: Masked (£9-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Spice & Wolf vol 6 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

The Drops Of God vol 3 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tadashi Agi & Shu Okimoto

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 2 (£8-50, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa
There will be new SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers. Bigger, better and beautifully coloured. Reserve yours NOW!

Also: Malley talks about his career to date here.

Right, I’m off to meditate on the legend that is Bryan Talbot in preparation for my interview on camera tomorrow for the Talbot DVD. Pants-wettingly terrified, thanks for asking.

– Stephen