Archive for June, 2012

Reviews June 2012 week four

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

“Out the window it goes…”

 –  Eddie Campbell on the Lovely Horrible Stuff. I do hope he’s right!


The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c (£9-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“The most creative part of the creative life is coming up with persuasions to get overdue cheques.”
“Do you think all artists and writers in history had to do it?”
“I’ll ask at the café tonight.”

And he does: he asks William Shakespeare who’s been trying to chase payment both wittily and tetchily for centuries. It’s all there in the plays.

Eddie Campbell’s own angry letters dictated to wife Anne are legendary. You can find them dotted about his autobiographical ALEC OMNIBUS, and there are several outstanding accounts to be addressed, stamped and mailed out here. I see dozens of writers and artists seething on Twitter about monies owed. Gary Northfield’s threatened to become a zookeeper. It all saps up time which could be spent far more constructively in daydreaming. 

“Time is money. It’s a maxim that has tended to annoy me. An obstacle in the path of the daydreamer. Who one day might find this his ‘idle daydream’ is worth a great deal. And then he’ll replace the old maxim with a new one: MONEY is TIME.”
Anne: “How much are we worth?”
Eddie: “About twelve months.”

Welcome, then, to THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF, a book about money researched in part on the island of Yap. Situated in the Pacific Ocean somewhere north of Australia and south of Japan(that’s geographical precision for me), it’s been an independent state within the Federal States ofMicronesiasince 1986. Its currency now is in US dollars, but dive deep into its local history and you’ll discover an economy based on giant stone discs carved on the island of Palau then transported over the waves, strapped to rafts in such an ingenious fashion that they work as a keel. These once moon-bright discs shining with quartz are called rai and those not since abducted and sold to museums can still be seen literally lying around the island now covered in moss and lichen. But what’s fascinating is that they were never necessarily in the physical possession of their owners in the first place: some of the largest – up to 9 and 12 feet in diameter – were, after all, pretty tricky to move once exchanged. Plus transportation across oft’ stormy seas was hazardous.

“Many years before, an ancestor of the family quarried the stone and was bringing it home. Caught in a storm, the party had to let it go. They all testified that it was a magnificent piece, lost through no fault of their own. “It was universally conceded that the mere accident of its loss was too trifling to mention… And that a few hundred feet of water offshore ought not to affect its market value. The purchasing power of the stone remains as valid as if it were leaning outside the owner’s house.”

That’s brilliant! But if you think it’s also quaint or whimsical and in no way related to modern western economics, you’d be wrong. In 1932, fearing the devaluation of the dollar,Franceasked the Federal Bank ofNew Yorkto convert its dollar assets to gold. They couldn’t be arsed to have the ingots shipped back toFrance, so they just asked the Federal Reserve to pop stickers on them assertingFrance’s ownership. So what’s one hundred feet of water compared to 3,000 miles across theAtlantic?

All of this, the second half of the book, is interspersed with further legends, tactical variations of the rai (you’ll love the matrimonial Butterfly Stone) and Eddie’s and Anne’s own holiday there mixing with Swiss divers and a bunch of drunken Poles. It’s told in a rich mix of line, colour and blended photography quite unlike anything you’ve seen from Campbellbefore. Oh, there was plenty of each in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST, but not so much on the blended front.

This is preceded in similar style by Eddie’s own experiences of the horrible stuff, some of which are far from lovely, particularly his father-in-law’s pursuit of a legal claim against all measurement of sanity and the best interests of those who had leant him the money: Annie and Eddie! Unfortunately it involved property and, as anyone who’s ever shuddered at the phrase “negative equity” knows, the truth of the dictum “safe as houses” has long since been devalued.

Blessedly most of the stories are far more mischievous in form and absurd in content like the limited company urged on him by Campbell’s co-creator of THE PLAYWRIGHT just so he could write and draw a BATMAN book. It was called Antelope Pineapple Ltd. There are several sequences about his plans for television including the development of an animated After The Snooter (screen shots included) and its funding dashed by the world recession:

“Comedy. It’s all in the timing.”

Bill the Bard’s erudite assistance is once more enlisted, if only to teach TV execs a lesson in the only language they understand, and it’s all threaded through with the verbal dexterity we’ve come to expect from Campbell. But best of all is the story I originally heard told during whichever year it was we conspired to have customer Craig Dawson’s wedding blessed by Alan Moore. In it Eddie seeks from daughter Erin a token contribution to household expenses now that she’s earning and driving his car. It’s an argument that quickly grows heated and Eddie, in retribution, demands the return of his car keys. Erinrefuses leaving Eddie fuming and determined to disable the car. You will not believe the next two pages of outlandish buffoonery but I swear to God that they’re true.

Embezzlement, expenses, and intellectual properties… it’s all here. I’ve no hesitation in commending this treasure trove of stories, worth every one their full weight in gold, but I don’t want you to think too much about money, just the brilliance of the books you can buy with it. That’s it, do come along! The lovely, horrible stuff:

“Out the window it goes…”


Buy The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Nate Cosby & Chris Eliopoulos…

“If you’n your men drop your guns and take a hundred paces away, I promise not to burn your office to the ground.”
“Hangin’ an’ bakin’ are current options… I always been fond’a fire.”

He’s the rootinest, tootinest cowboy by far, a feared bounty hunter on the trail of his entire outlaw family, determined to take them down or die trying. He also happens to be ten years old… This sure is real ‘ornery fun, with back-up short stories from the likes of Roger Langridge to add to the main tale. Many of the contributors have worked with Jim Henson on various shows or books and this has exactly that sort of zany humour and comedy violence. The lovely tanned-hide-effect cover complete with classic Western move title font adds to the rawhide flavour. Fans of CALVIN AND HOBBES-style kid-in-charge chaos would definitely approve.

“An’ how old’re you?
“Age requirement for the chair? Ten. Fairly mature for my age.”
“Mm. Mature enough for a deadly weapon.”
“It ain’t no gun. Just a peashooter with a loud holler.”
“You intend to cause a ruckus?”
“I do not. But the byproduct of my intentions could well lead to ruckus.”

He’s not kiddin’!


Buy Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Want My Hat Back h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

A bear hath not his hat on.

He misses his hat and wants to know where it’s at. To that end he wanders through the forest and enquires of his fellow creatures as to its location. Alas, no one has seen it. Only when one animal asks for a description do alarm bells and recollection ring.

With dead-pan delivery all the way through, this is an exquisitely illustrated and exceptional children’s storybook which is emphatically comics. For without the pictures it simply couldn’t work: the key moment halfway through is image-only and hilarious! Meanwhile that single page’s prose content is mirrored to perfection in the punchline with one single-sentence, laugh-out-loud detour. It’s not this one but…

“Don’t ask me any more questions.”


Buy I Want My Hat Back h/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 2009 (£7-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill…

Let us begin with a controversial statement… is there anyone else who yearns for the more straightforward action adventure of the first two volumes of LOEG? I realise I could be on my own here, but each of the CENTURY books just feels a little disconnected from each other in terms of storytelling style that –  though this third volume certainly feels closer to the second than the first –  the whole arc feels slightly… discombobulated. To the extent, actually, that despite this apparently being the final chapter of volume three, I wasn’t sure if it finished the story off or not! That, of course, could be entirely the effect Uncle Alan is attempting to induce!

I did really enjoy spotting the myriad cultural references in this volume, however, and the many fly posters in the background of this otherworldlyLondondepicting the advertising and cream of musical youth in this world were frequently hilarious in their perfectly parodying crude and bombastic garishness. Plus there are also various real person guest appearances as background characters and even a certain comic shop which resides in the real Soho.

And then there is the big reveal as to identity of the Moonchild, or Anti-Christ, which Mina, Orlando and Allan Quartermain failed to stop the birthing of, back in 1969. Depending on your literary sensibilities it’ll either have you spluttering in outright indignation or snorting furiously with mirth. I note Alan is very careful not to mention the young [CENSORED – but not on shopping page!] by name, however, presumably assuming the author in question might not have a sense of humour about his appropriation of her cash-cow… I mean creation.

It is undoubtedly great fun throughout and Kevin O’Neill adds his own typically anarchic sense of style to proceedings including a cover with I’m quite sure is supposed to make you think of 2000AD, especially given one of the cultural winks Alan drops, being the Dare Dare-related ‘Treen Scum Go Home’ graffiti on a wall.


Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 2009 and read the Page 45 review here

New York Mon Amour h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Benjamin Legrand, Dominique Grange & Jacques Tardi…

“No! I’m still waiting for the wire from Zurich…”
“I knew Otto was going to delay things…”
“Jose too, what the fuck is he doing?”
“He was supposed to take the pseudo-revolutionary monkey out a week ago. What’s he waiting for to knock him off?”
“He insists we can’t use a pro… it would be too complicated…”

Typical Tardi illustrated crime fiction in that things most definitely do not play out smoothly, or indeed remotely how one would expect, with some suitably crazy secondary characters thrown in for good measure. Starring Walter, a cockroach exterminator who overhears a conversation he soon wishes he hadn’t, it’s a suitably gritty tale, set in a very grimy and run-down 1980s’ New York. Walter soon finds himself on the run from the mysterious organisation, with only his colleague Luis, who just happens to be the local gang leader to help him. Except Luis’s motivations in offering to help his colleague are certainly not altruistic as Walter soon founds out. From there on in, it all starts to unravel apace as the shit well and truly reaches the fan travelling at terminal velocity. Not the first work I would point people to who were looking to try some Tardi crime fiction, that’d be LIKE A SNIPER LINING UP HIS SHOT or WEST COAST BLUES, I think, but certainly one for Tardi fans.


Buy New York Mon Amour h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine (£18-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano & Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala.

Bless Delano: he electrified these pages with political storms, raging all around us as they were back in 1989. Here a group of travellers, constantly under threat of harassment from the police and falling foul of new laws contrived to make their lives as difficult as possible, welcomes a wary Constantine in, clothes him, feeds him and builds him a bender to sleep in.

“I always thought a bender was suspended jail sentence or a gentleman of the homosexual proclivity — neither of which I feel in need of just now. Marj nearly wets herself.”

They do so in the full knowledge that he’s on the run, framed for a couple of murders he didn’t commit, because Marj’s precocious daughter Mercury can see the true aspect of people – she’s gifted that way.

It’s unusual and entertaining to see a Constantine so out of his element here: he doesn’t like the countryside much for a start, and he really should have remembered to dig that drainage gully round his tent. He tries too hard to begin with as well, but they’re a forgiving bunch for the most part. Unfortunately that’s when it begins. One bad day kicked off by with one wrong decision which plays itself out like dominoes via a run-in with a fenced-off stone circle patrolled by trigger-happy guards and culminating in a very bad magic-mushroom trip which Rayner and colourist Kindzierski play to nauseous perfection. This is a Constantine who doesn’t know everything – how to handle psychedelics or the exact nature of ley lines – and again that’s refreshing. But he’d better learn fast because someone’s messing with those energy conduits – someone corporate and quasi-military – and there’s far more fear on the way…

Fantastic set-up I relished as much as when it first appeared, Delano taking the time for reminiscence about childhood dens and teenage squats because any life led is always related to its past and we’re always making connections. Unfortunately it’s a game of two halves with a time-out in the middle during which I can only imagine the writer was given the most depressing pep talk in history – or stumbled upon the disastrous twenty-four pages handed in by Hoffman. After that not even Buckingham can inspire Delano to get himself back on the right foot. The mystery sprawls, complicates itself, takes on way too much hippy nonsense in the form of Zed and her earth-mother antics and beggars belief. Hey, I think Freemasons are a bunch of insidious power mongers as well, but honestly… Dr. Gull’s antics in FROM HELL were completely credible given that he was acting on his own obsessions and was quite clinically insane. But this proves too silly, it’s twice as long as it should be, and by the end all timing has been shot to hell with a bunch of travellers embarking on an eight-hour train journey from Scotland in the same time it takes a mason to make a single last human sacrifice.


Buy Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Dogs (£7-50, Top Shelf) by Jeff Lemire.

Originally published by Ashtray Press back in 2005 long before ESSEX COUNTY broke Jeff’s name to the general public, I took a punt and liked what I saw, previewing it thus…

“You really need to see this guy’s art. The cover itself said Ted McKeever to me, but it’s a lot more fluid than that, and really hefty. The brush is laden with ink in as it’s swept across the page, and the cart scene at the docks is beautiful – a real sense of light, the scenery distilled to all that’s necessary. Fine use of grey as well, and I like the pale red on Ulric’s vest. So who is Ulric? He’s a hulk of a farmer, effectively mute, who finds his idyllic rural existence with his beautiful wife and daughter torn apart after a confrontation in the coastal town.”

Quite proud of myself, spotting the potential of powerhouse Jeff Lemire so early on, and in retrospect it’s fascinating to pick out elements that have since become his visual trademarks like the protagonist’s thick brick of a nose… and nigh-ubiquitous sorrow! Some of the pages are dense with panels and pugilism, but others explode with great, hulking forms. I wasn’t kidding about the ink, either. More ink was used over the course of these 90+ pages than the man’s since employed in his entire run of Sweet Tooth.

New preface by Jeff himself.


Buy Lost Dogs and read the Page 45 review here

Dreams And Everyday Life (£7-99, Hedge) by Aviv Ratzin.

Cartoon musings drawn by an animator, and it starts off amiably enough with a hitchhiker from Hell and an all too accurate encounter with one of those twatishly self-important neighbours militantly defending their so-called car parking space on a communally shared road. I’ve got one of those about four doors down. What an utter dickhead.

But then I’m afraid Aviv turns into a bit of a dickhead, angrily overreacting to a waitress who may a little over-loquacious but only meant well. Is not tolerance a two-way street? And then I’m afraid it just lost it for me with pages of silent self-indulgent dreamscapes which we’ve seen so often before and drawn a great deal better. You’re far, far better off on that front with Matthew Forsythe’s masterful and witty JINCHALO.

Meanwhile, down below, some stick figures argue but he ain’t Matt Feazell, either. Next!



Tanpopo vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Boom!) by Camilla D’Errico.

So, your useless fact for this week is that Tanpopo is the Japanese for dandelion. That has no bearing whatsoever on this work, I assume Camilla D’Errico just liked the sound of the name, and so chose it for the name of the main character. Moving on now, apparently this work is based on Faust by Goethe, and indeed this volume does contain passages quoted directly from that text, because the idea with Tanpopo is to apparently simply bring works like that to modern audiences in a format they can appreciate and feel comfortable with. It’s an interesting approach which works entirely because of D’Errico beautiful art, though I can imagine many typical manga readers might just come away feeling this is merely a rather lightweight, if extremely pretty manga. A touch ethereal and insubstantial perhaps, though Faust of course is anything but. I can’t honestly see this appealing to people outside of Camilla’s current fan base which would be a shame for such a brave experiment, though I could be completely wrong.


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

Same Difference (£9-99, June) by Nozomu Hiiragi.

Battle of the beaus and their high-rise, skyline-shattering erections! Yes, it’s a total tower struggle between two alpha males in adjoining office blocks who are going to take far more than their work home with them. In possession of Tower A: jetsetting, multilingual blonde Tsuburaya. He can turn his tongue to any language and his hand to any instrument. In possession of Tower B: arch-narcissist Ozaki whose pheromones are rumoured to get a girl pregnant at one hundred paces. He’s smokin’. Each one lords it over the ladies who gather and giggle in front of them, but now that they’ve noticed each other, it’s a battle for dominance over each other’s hearts, domains and the increasingly damp duvet cover too.

Not to be confused with Derek Kirk Kim’s SAME DIFFERENCE – please don’t! – this is of course more Japanese Hot Boy-On-Boy Action (©™ Page 45) in which each high flyer tries to get his leg over the other without cocking up and making a complete arse of themselves. Much manipulation ensues.

Please note: conducting your courtships like this is highly ill-advised. Sound effects include <shhlp> <spasm> and <shudder>.


Buy Same Difference and read the Page 45 review here

Honey Darling (£8-99, Sublime) by Norikazu Akira.

“Why-why are you spooning me?!”
“Oh, you’re awake.”

Big book of awww as drifter Chihiro adopts a kitten abandoned in a box. When the kitten sickens he rushes it to the nearest vet, the tufty-chinned, smouldering Dr. Kumazawa, only to find himself adopted as live-in dog’s body. Initially the impenetrably serious but far from surly Dr. Kumazawa sees Chihiro as a bit of a kitten himself, while Chihiro begins to see Dr. Kumazawa in quite a different light. And in the shower. And eventually in bed. Lovely little epilogue seen from the kitten’s point of view, wondering what tasty treats they’re not sharing with it behind closed doors.

Unlike so much yaoi crammed full of misery and emotional fuck-ups, this is genuinely heart-warming stuff, beautifully drawn, with Kumuzawa’s straight-laced straight face played to fine comedic effect either when Chihiro is bouncing off the walls or finds the actual kitten hanging off the tip of his tie.


Buy Honey Darling and read the Page 45 review here

The Twelve vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski with Chris Weston & Chris Weston.

“You seem troubled, my friend.”

Already one of my favourite five series Marvel had ever produced, I cannot recall when I last read a book in any genre where every single element was tied in to perfection and its conclusion was so remarkably thorough. An extraordinary achievement: you would never know there was a three-year creative break between the first and second halves.

Twelve heroes lost to cryogenic suspension during World War II find themselves revived in the 21st Century and a world they find baffling. It’s not just the technological marvels, it’s the way society has moved on in their wake. For most it is progress, but not for all. And sixty-odd years in suspended animation give you no free passes for past deeds. Not when we can now match DNA; not when some contracts are open-ended through their signatories’ immortality; not when you alienated your now dying family with your shame about its true heritage. If the world has moved on then these individuals haven’t: they awaken with desires still aflame, words yet unspoken, and businesses far from finished.

At the centre of it all is a modern mystery: a whodunnit, a whydunnit, as a gay bar in New York City is trashed, its pool-playing revellers torn apart, stamped on, stamped out. It’s not as obvious as you might think and its mechanics will keep you guessing until the moment the truth is exposed for all the world to see. Come back and read this review in hindsight, for I have chosen my words with care. In the meantime, for a far, far lengthier discourse I throw you back to 2008 and my review of THE TWELVE VOLUME 1.

Weston has done a stunning job of capturing both periods. So many remarkable little details like Captain Wonder’s exposed, hairy legs making his antiquated costume even more dated. But best of all here I relished Master Mind Excello’s sour, pursed-lipped profile. More than that, however, it’s comicbook storytelling at its finest on every single page: flawless choreography rich in detail and fierce in expression.

You need never have read a Marvel Comic in your life, for these are all heroes previously unheard of, although there is one small but satisfying moment of pay-off if you have involving The Witness. Straczynski’s a writer I’ve long admired ever since Babylon5 and I’ve great affection for a lot (but not all) of his subsequent comicbook work as well. It’s all there in our published reviews – pop his surname in our shopping-area search engine. But this is his first work in this medium in which I can find no derivations. It’s entirely his own beast and will delight not only the more sophisticated, modern-day action adventure readers, but also those now older and more nostalgic. And that is a nigh-impossible trick to pull off.

“Sleep easy, old friend. There’s no need to be afraid of the dark. I’ve left a light on for you.”


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

Daredevil vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera, Emma Rios, Khoi Pham…

“My name is Matt Murdock. I’m here to see my client. His name is Nolan.”
“Tell holding that Daredevil is on his way!”
“Hey, look out! HERE COMES DAREDEVIL!”

Mark Waid continues to prove there’s life in old hornhead yet, as he further develops his utterly implausible main plot thread revolving around the Omega Drive which, despite sounding like a next generation games console, is in fact a vast hard drive containing every bit of incriminating information imaginable concerning five megacrime organisations.

It was being used collectively by the organisations to ensure none of them would try and seize dominion over the others (clearly not the wisest idea they’d ever had to pull all that information in one place), but now it’s in Matt’s hands it’s turning into a free for all as the various megacrime lackeys in their various fancy dress outfits starting falling over each other in comedy fashion to retrieve it first… to try and seize dominion over the others.

Meanwhile, there are some excellent side-bar stories involving a romantic triangle between DD, Spider-Man and the Black Cat and a trip down under to visit the Mole Man who, as ever, is having a confidence crisis in the romance department himself. Delightful, delicately kinetic art again from Paolo Rivera, who is rapidly ensuring he and Waid are well on the way to becoming as good as a DD double act as Bendis and Maleev, including as fine a set of covers on issues #7-#10 as I’ve seen in a long while. Pure design heaven.


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

The Death Of Captain Marvel h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Doug Moench & Jim Starlin with Pat Broderick.

“You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately of all the people I’ve met in my lifetime. I’ve made quite a few friends along the way. I also keep remembering Adam Warlock. I was with him when he died. His was a hard and sad life, filled with pain and confusion. When death came for him he welcomed it as a friend. I’ll not do so.
“I’ve enjoyed this life. It’s had its bad moments, but it’s had far more good moments. I’m going to miss it.”

Surprisingly haunting, even to this day, this was a landmark publication from Marvel in 1982 for so many reasons: it was its first original graphic novel; it was Jim Starlin’s return to a character we all thought he’d had his final say on; and it featured the death of one of its flagship superhumans not in self-sacrificial battle but quietly, in bed from the all-too human disease of cancer.

Like Mark Millar’s more recent, magnificent SUPERIOR, it remains the antithesis of everything that all too often irks me when real-life issues like incapacity or bullying enter the arena of superhero comics. All of Marvel’s preternaturally bright scientists turn up when they finally learn of the good Captain’s fight, and they try and they try, but they still can’t save him. Nor should they have. Back in 1982 it would have been a magic-wand insult to all those with incurable strains of the disease which was far less treatable than it is now. Fighting the disease or lying down and accepting your fate – now that is explored here in great depth from all sides of the argument – and poor Rick Jones, once bonded to Mar-Vell by those place-switching Negabands, takes it harder than most.

Seven years ago a supervillain called Nitro (oh, it’s always Nitro – see CIVIL WAR) succeeded in stealing a canister of nerve gas from the United States Army. During his explosive battle with Captain Marvel, the canister fractured and its lethal nerve agent began to leak out, threatening to kill thousands of local residents. And Mar-Vell – with his alien physiology providing immunity to so much physical harm – stopped up the proverbial damn with his thumb. And promptly passed out. “Is this the End of Captain Marvel?!” screamed the Next Issue caption with customary alarm. Well, no. The thing about superheroes is that they get knocked down – then they get up again! – you’re never going keep them down. And so the Kree soldier soldiered on for many further adventures. In publication terms, it wasn’t even a sub-plot.

Seven years later, and the good Captain is recording his memoirs for posterity. His one unique ability is his Cosmic Awareness, giving him an empathic knowledge of shifts in so much around him. But that power turn itself inwards and, long before he is diagnosed, he already knows he is dying. The photonic power of his Negabands staved off the carcinogenic effect of the nerve gas for seven whole years, but the period of remission is over and now, gradually, one by one, his friends and family find out.

I adored Starlin’s art. In so many ways he took after the photo-realists like Neal Adams with some extraordinarily impressive neo-classical figure work. But then he’d give it a more expressionistic edge, making the jaws more jutting and gesticulations more angular. THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL graphic novel boasted plenty of both, and there’s a particularly brave panel which stood out a mile after Mentorasks Mar-Vell if his lover, Elysius, knows of his terminal condition. After a moment’s silence he looks up from a panel over which Starlin has scrawled – literally scrawled – not photo-realistic shadow but thick lines of creeping darkness right across his face and says, “No… not yet”.

Better still is the composition of the page in which he does break the news to Elysius, out in the sunshine of an idyllic cityside park on Titan, each silent panel interspersed by a narrow window as Mentor watches protectively over them, then withdraws respectfully leaving the couple alone and the window empty and black.

It’s a dignified and respectful book, guest-starring so many of your favourite Marvel characters shown to be unusually uncomfortable, awkward in their impotence and unable to express how they feel. Isn’t that so often the way with cards of condolence? I like this. I still like it a lot. And Starlin wrote a very difficult final few pages very, very well. Before then, however…

“Meanwhile, on the far side of the royal palace, down a long and quiet corridor and behind oak-panelled doors… a woman sits with her man. The long hard vigil that all lovers fears begins.”


For Starlin’s finest hour, please see the life and strange death of Adam Warlock which Mar-Vell is referring to in the opening pull quote: the completely self-contained MARVEL MASTERWORKS: WARLOCK VOL 2. It really is exceptional space-faring science-fiction at its most cosmic and I hope that I gave it the review it deserves.


Buy The Death Of Captain Marvel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Ron Lim.

This is where craggy-chinned Thanos first turned up again after THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, in SILVER SURFER volume two #34-38 and THANOS QUEST #1-2, leading directly into the INFINITY GAUNTLET.


Buy Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Incredible Hulk vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio.

Slight shift in style for Silvestri, possibly on account of the art assist from Michael Broussard and a trio of inkers. The forms are still gigantic, which is what you want for the Hulk – there’s plenty of smashing going down – but the lines are lighter and his monkeys are positively Leinil Francis Yu, he of ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS. ULTIMATE HULK which incidentally remains one of the best books on our superhero shelves. Sunny Gho’s colours whoosh all over the place as if they’re been applied by Magic Markers, too busy in places but very effective when dappling the island jungle with sunlight.

Brand-new start, then, and things have changed, though why remains a mystery. A fully cognisant, bearded Hulk with unkempt, shoulder-length hair, has taken up residence deep underground in the monstrously populated caverns of the… Moloids? Tyrannoids? Whatever. As ever, he just wants to be left in peace. He isn’t. Dr. Banner, meanwhile, has read one too many H.G. Wells novels and gone all Dr. Moreau. Also, he appears to be angry.


Buy The Incredible Hulk vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology h/c (£16-99, DC) by J.H. Williams III & J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman…

One of the new 52 titles I had the highest hopes for, given the retention of J.H.Williams on art duties – well, the Batwoman parts at least – with a different artist being employed on the Katy Kane parts, a device used to superb dualistic effect on the near perfect BATWOMAN: ELEGY. I did, however, have reservations about the fact he was taking over writing duties from Rucka, and despite a superb start with issue #0, in which Dick Grayson tails and surveils Batwoman with a view to establishing her identity and allegiances, it all then gets rather, well, wishy-washy, if you’ll pardon the sub-titular pun. It just feels like it’s lost the punch and drive it had previously and whilst the intriguing side-plots Williams is building up do promise an improvement, this particular main tale just drags on far too long in a somewhat turgid manner.

The art being so superb, though, he does just about get away with it, for now at least.


Buy Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The  Boys vol 11: Over The Hill With The Swords Of A Thousand Men (£14-99, D.E.) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns.

Do yourselves a favour and don’t read any other review of this book which could be riddled with spoilers. Also: don’t flick ahead when you buy it!

This is what it’s all been leading up to: one almighty conflagration, the stakes no less than America itself in the form of the Pentagon and the White House, with casualties on all sides. But only Mother’s Milk has had the tenacity to work out what’s really going on and, as he explains it over the phone to a slack-jawed Hughie, so many of the tiny moments which Ennis slipped in over the last ten books – some of which I had completely forgotten about – now make appalling perfect sense.

Congratulations, Garth, you fooled me completely. You completely fooled Billy Butcher too. Amazingly you fooled [CENSORED] as well. Never saw that coming! Oh dear.

Exceeding violent superhero series featuring a latrine of filthy language about the military, money and power and publishing. Probably best to start with THE BOYS VOL 1, yes.

Bonus points go to the first two panels featuring new character Muzzletov, the male equivalent of Zatanna, gurning and gesticulating madly.


Buy The  Boys vol 11: Over The Hill With The Swords Of A Thousand Men and read the Page 45 review here


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re 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.

Fatale vol 1: Death Chases Me (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Beanworld vol 3.5 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder

Gloriana h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Kevin Huizenga

Journalism h/c (£17-99, Metropolitan Books) by Joe Sacco

The Song Of Roland (£14-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati

Anna And Froga: Want A Gumball? (£10-99, Enfant) by Anouk Ricard

Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Grant Morrison, Barry Sonnenfeld & Mukesh Singh

Black Hole s/c (£13-99, Pantheon) by Charles Burns

A Boy And A Bear In A Boat (£10-99, dfb) by Dave Shelton

Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders (£9-99, dfb) by the Etherington Brothers

Baggage (£9-99, dfb) by the Etherington Brothers

The Guild vol 2: Knights Of Good (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis & various

The Goon vol 11: The Deformed Of Body And The Devious Of Mind (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

The Chronicles Of Conan vol 22: Reavers In The Borderland And Other Stories (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Michael Fleisher, Jim Owsley & John Buscema, Val Maywerik, Ernie Chan

Gotham City Sirens vol 3: Strange Fruit softcover (£10-99, DC) by Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway & Lorenzo Ruggiero, Jeremy Haun, Walden Wong

Wolverine: The Best There Is – Broken Quarantine s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Charlie Huston & Juan Jose Ryp

Conan vol 11: Road Of Kings (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Roy Thomas & Mike Hawthorne

Morning Glories vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

X-Men: Schism s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert, Billy Tan

The Defenders vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, Victor Ibanez

Star Wars: Knight Errant vol 2: Deluge (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Jackson Miller & Ivan Rodriguez, Iban Coello, David Daza

Kick-Ass 2 h/c (£18-99, Icon/Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne, John Romita Jr.

X-Men Legacy: Back To School h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & David Baldeon, Rafa Sandoval

FF vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Juan Bobillo, Nick Dragotta

The Darkness Compendium vol 2 s/c (£52-99, Top Cow) by various

Tenjo Tenge 2-in-1 Edition vol 7 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Naruto vol 57 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

One Piece vol 63 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Bleach vol 42 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 43 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bakuman vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Bakuman vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Arata The Legend vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuu Watase

As you may have noticed the reviews above haven’t yet been added to their product pages. We probably still have the Diamond Previews there instead. Don’t worry, we’re aware of that and you can still buy ‘em. Be up by tomorrow. But at least you get most of the covers in the blog tonight. I am learning stuff!

– Not So Stoopid Stephen

Reviews June 2012 week three

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

There’s even a guide on fishing for pondlife which you can find lurking in stagnant streams or hiding behind copies of The Daily Mail.

 – Stephen on The Moomin Adventure Book

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Alison Bechdel.

“I told the clerk at the bookstore my daughter has a book coming out. She asked what it was about, and I said, “Me!” She said she could get me into a witness protection programme.”

Bechdel’s last book, FUN HOME, was my favourite book of 2006. It’s a literary, autobiographical work about an early Obsessive Compulsive Disorder regarding the truth in Bechdel’s childhood diaries, her deceased father’s predisposition towards artifice, and her relationship with her father who was secretly gay. Not the best idea, having secrets when your daughter is compelled towards truth. Her mother – still very much alive and with some justification – took exception to the private being made public: the exposure of their family life to her friends and neighbours. They didn’t have a tempestuous falling out, but the disapproval was there and was voiced.

So, um, guess what this one’s about?

Yup, in her quest to get to heart of all matters – and matters of the heart – Bechdel pursues the truth about her relationship with her mother, the underlying causes behind it and the effect it’s had upon Alison’s self-esteem and love life, this time with the aid of psychoanalysts’ therapy. Extraordinarily, she does so in the full knowledge of her mum who is given access to Bechdel’s script in time to comment on it. On that level, at least, I think Ma Bechdel is as forgiving as a saint.

Dr. Mary Talbot, expert in Critical Discourse Analysis and author of DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES (about two daughters’ relationships with their fathers), had plenty to say but summed one aspect of the book up beautifully with the word “reflexive”. It really is, and all the more fascinating for it. That it was ever completed at all, given its method of construction, let alone organised with such clarity and precision is a major miracle of creative instinct and discipline.

“Of course, the point at which I began to write the story is not the same as the point at which the story begins.” At the very least!

Visually it’s far more exhilarating than FUN HOME, for Bechdel’s loosened up on the layouts and lines, replacing the swimming-pool blues and greens with a rich, warmer plum, kicking off each chapter with a single image which bleeds right to the edge opposite a full page of said pleasurable plum, and concluding with a double-page spread with a thick frame of black. And, speaking of discipline, I cannot convey in strong enough terms my respect and appreciation for the trouble Alison has taken to reproduce by hand every map, photo, newspaper clipping and prose quotation rather than throw lazy, incongruous and therefore distracting photocopies at us which would have obliterated my immersion in the work.

Those opening sequences, by the way, are each one of them dreams which Alison and her analyst then proceed to interpret as part of their investigative process which also incorporates childhood, teenage and more recent memories and Bechdel’s own research into the infant-based, analytical works of Donald Winnicott and co. And this, I suspect, is where most British critics’ heckles will rise so uncontrollably that they’ll mistarget their ire, disappointment or disdain. As a stiff-lipped nation we have a low tolerance for psychotherapy, dream analysis and the numerology claptrap so enamoured or even obsessed over by our transatlantic cousins. I know I do. But I wince with worry that readers will take exception to the book, which is brilliant, purely because they have issues with Alison’s issues. If I shook my head at some of the conclusions drawn from, say, Alison’s third eye in one dream being hit by a stick, there were other instances, like the anxiety nightmare of a tumourous growth on her cheek, which struck home; plus I still found the surrounding jigsaw puzzle pieced together over the course of the book to be both fascinating and valid, never mind the wider issues of parenting and childhood.

Both Bechdels are fiercely intelligent and culturally versed women, passionate about books and art. However, instead of sharing their opinions in a conversation mutually appreciative of each others’ learning, Bechdel’s mother is instead given to pronounce while Alison’s predisposition is to rankle. It’s produced a certain degree of rivalry which also rears its head as professional jealousy whenever Bechdel hears of the success of others who make a succesful career out of being a feminist – and more specifically lesbian – writer or artist. For, let us be clear, Alison Bechdel is very much a ‘lesbian’ comicbook creator. I’d never define someone by their sexuality but Alison does, as is her right, so there you have it.

For someone who complains about a lack of communication with her mother, you might think it odd that they’re on the phone to each other virtually every day. But what actually happens is that Alison phones her mother in the desperate but vain hope of finally hearing some words of approbation, and then her mother talks at her, about her own current focus of interest while Alison just sits there, recording and acting as little more than punctuation marks in her mother’s self-absorbed discourse.

In keeping with making the private public, then, I can relate to that. On the rare instances my father would venture out of his Cheshire-based comfort zone to the sub-cultured city of Nottingham (once every other year for an hour and never staying over), he would bring with him an envelope; and on the back of that envelope would be detailed notes on the topics he wished to pontificate upon without pause to minimise the risk of discovering anything about my own life. He was a frightened (and so very angry) man, but that particular prospect terrified him, and so I fear it is with Alison and her mother who is far from homophobic but just wishes it wasn’t such a public part of Alison’s private life – i.e. in her comics.

“You’re not going to use your real name, are you? Couldn’t you use one of your funny names?”
“That would defeat the purpose!”
“I would love to see your name on a book. But not on a book of lesbian cartoons.”

None of those books, by the way, now collected as ESSENTIAL DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR would have likely seen the light of day without Ma Bechdel’s unconditional patronage in the form of cheques amounting to $5,200 to support her daughter’s creativity in a field she disapproved of. That, folks, is maternal altruism. Doubly unfortunate, then, that Alison’s moved into a second field her mother disapproves of: memoir, full of “inaccuracy, exhibitionism, narcissism”.

“The self has no place in good writing,” declares mother Bechdel. Or has her reaction to the genre been coloured by her inclusion within it? I certainly don’t believe it was an act of belligerence on Alison’s part as any reading of FUN HOME would make clear, and in any case inaccuracy is an anathema to her.

And so we come to the five A4 pages of notes I wrote while reading the proof copy, not one of which have I used here! “True Self”, “False Self”, and quotations like, “Patterns are my existence. Everything has significance. Everything must fit. It’s enough to drive you crazy.” But do you know what? They’re not for me to transcribe – let alone remember which pages they came from! – they’re for you to make for yourselves, or else why buy and enjoy the book for yourselves?

For the record, I like Ma Bechdel. She had a difficult life you’ll discover for yourself, and she has a genuine passion of her own for truth and discovery, even if some of those discoveries are at odds with what she believed:

“Wait, I just read something interesting about memoir, hang on. Are you there?”
“Uh huh.”
“It’s by Dorothy Gallagher. “The writer’s business is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story. Not, you may note, to serve her family, or to serve the truth, but to serve the story.””
“I know! Family be damned!”
“The story must be served!”

The story, I promise you, is very well served.

FUN HOME’s featured writer was Scott Fitzgerald; this one’s is Virginia Woolf. Excellent!


Buy Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama and read the Page 45 review here

Siegfried h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Alex Alice.

It begins with a crack of lightning and the wrath of Odin as witnessed by ethereal white knights. It begins with the death of the boy’s parents and a broken sword.

In the company of wolves a child is forged into a man fit to fight a dragon. Ignorant of his heritage, Siegfried is raised in the wintry forests by the exiled Nibelung Mimé, a blacksmith addicted to his anvil. But eventually their past catches up with them in the form of a one-eyed traveller determined that the boy’s fate find its rightful path.

Yet another sumptuous, full-colour production from Archaia Studios, this is the first of three books based on Wagner’s operatic Ring cycle previously adapted by P.Craig Russell as THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG which, at the time of typing, languishes woefully out of print. As Alex stresses, however, whereas Russell’s was an ingeniously faithful adaption, this is very much Alex’s own interpertation of the legend drawn from many sources both ancient and modern. That sixty-page interview in the back is illustrated by images taken from the animated feature, whereas the graphic novel is an altogether different visual affair.

With landscapes reminiscent of Charles Vess in places – particularly the aerial view of the vast, snow-swept, Nordic forest – it is a feast for the eyes with a sense of space worthy of Milo Manara and some figure work akin to Jeff Smith’s. The boy and cub hunting and at play in chase of a sprinting stag is a breath-taking sequence rich in sylvan detail, while the mossy carpet on the forest floor is dappled by the light streaming through the tree tops. There are also some of those early Disney, heart-stopping, throat-choking moments of sadness, and you can almost hear Wagner during the climactic thunderstorm.

THE VALKYRIE and TWILIGHT OF THE GODS can’t come too soon.


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

The Moomin Adventure Book h/c (£12-99, SelfMadehero) by Cally Law & Tove Jansson.

“Wait long enough and something interesting is sure to come along, flying, jumping, crawling, buzzing or biting its way out of the undergrowth or from behind the fridge.”

Dear Lord, not behind my fridge, please! It might as well shoot out of Sellafield!

Welcome to the Moomin equivalent of a Boy Scout’s book, full of fun things to do out and about the British countryside, and what to pack for your picnic first. Yes, just like the MOOMINS COOK BOOK this has some tasty treats and is dotted with quotations from Tove Jansson’s prose along with some illustrations. Honesty dictates, however, that I point out straightaway that unlike the Drawn & Quarterly MOOMIN graphic novels (six so far), WHO WILL COMFORT TOFFLE? and A BOOK ABOUT MOOMIN, MYMBLE AND LITTLE MY, this is neither comicbook nor illustrated prose fiction, but a series of handy hints on how to craft rafts, make fishing rods or build a butterfly bar and a hotel for bees. A hotel for bees!

There’s a guide on fishing for pondlife which you can find lurking in stagnant streams or hiding behind copies of The Daily Mail. Also: which British beaches boast the best stones, how to hunt minibeasts and then tell the difference between an insect and an arachnid (hint: count how many legs it has before your child’s pulled half of them off). In interests of anarchy there’s a make-your-own waterbomb suggestion, but in the interest of safety there’s a cautionary note on what not to eat when foraging for food. Personally I’d steer clear of worms, labernum seeds and most certainly baked beans – feral or otherwise.

Whatever you do, please remember this: “Treat the animals with respect, handle them carefully and put them back where you found them.” And be very careful about how you use your magnifying glass on them on a sunny summer’s day. Thank you.


Buy The Moomin Adventure Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Samnee, David Marquez, Sara Pichelli.

Text and pretext:

“Uncle Aaron: hey, little man.
Uncle Aaron: ready to meet?
Sir Miles: No.
Uncle Aaron: I’ll make a deal with you. You take care of one thing for me and I’ll leave you along forever.  1 thing.
Uncle Aaron: meet me on the roof of hotel le bleu.
one hour.”

Miles Morales was bitten by a genetically altered spider which stowed away in a bag of contraband nicked from Norman Osborn’s laboratories by dear Uncle Aaron. Said Uncle Aaron has already discovered what effect that’s had on Miles. Said Uncle Aaron isn’t stupid. He has instinct for body language that rivals artist Sara Pichelli’s and so worked out the young man behind the mask. He is, however, a tad mad and dangerous to know. Also: in deep doo-doo and determined to get Miles to fight his new fight for him. Also, also: as devious as hell. Will Miles succumb?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve loved almost every second of Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man starring young Peter Parker – with a single writer of unusual wit and good will at the helm, it’s been a singularly spectacular and consistent ride. But this might even be better, with so much potential, and although I adore Sara Pichelli to an almost unhealthy degree, when you do see the join as the other artists join in you’ll love them too: magnificent, all three.

Don’t think you’ve seen the last of Aunt May, either, but you’ll just have to wait until volume three. In the meantime Uncle Aaron is so well played – as a confident, cheeky spiv – and knows precisely which buttons to press to push Miles away from confiding what he so desperately should to those who might help, so that his mom and dad have no idea why he’s so downcast and lost in thought at the dinner table. Exceptional, subtle gesticulations between his parents during the deafening silence before Ma Morales breaks it thus with a gentle hand on the young boy’s wrist:

“Hey… I love you.”
“Love you too, mom.”

He smiles, relieved at the connection but the shadow falls back again almost at once.

“Congratulations,” says his dad. “It’s a teenager.”


Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2 hardcover

Spider-Man: Perceptions h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Todd McFarlane.

Guest-starring Wolverine, this is more McFarlane amazing, sensational spectaculary just before he ditched Marvel in a huff over creator rights only to form Image where he promptly shat all over Neil Gaiman’s. Several years of litigation later and here’s the life lesson: don’t shit on someone wiser, richer and more legally savvy than you, just because you think you can. It’s “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” not “Do unto others as has been done to you”. What a hypocratic oaf.


Buy Spider-Man: Perceptions h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thor: Kieron Gillen Ultimate Collection (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan, Rich Elson, Doug Braithwaite, Jamie McKelvie, Niko Henrichon.

Collects what was previously in the THOR: LATEVERIAN PROMETHEUS, THOR: SIEGE and THOR: SIEGE AFTERMATH trades. Below are the mini-reviews for each of those three. Here we go…

In which Kieron Gillen (PHONOGRAM) picks up the mallet Straczynski dropped on Asgard’s head and does it total justice. Returning from exile to Asgard at last (postcode strangely Latverian), Thor is outraged to discover what Dr. Doom’s been doing to his fellow immortals, but Doom is curiously pleased to see him for Thor is just what the Doctor ordered – as is his thunderous rage.

Thor: “Enough, Doom. Enough. ENOUGH!”
Doom (and you can just see the smile on his face underneath the mask): “Quite enough.”

Billy Tan is on blistering form whilst Gillen’s script is indiscernible from Straczynski’s. You won’t notice the difference.

Then it’s SIEGE seen from the Asgardians’ point of view (rubble and dust, largely), and in particular Volstagg’s and Thor’s. Or is that actually Thor? Plus, Kelda visits the mortal parents of her murdered beloved and Loki makes further plans with Hela and Mephisto. Reprints NEW MUTANTS #11 in which de-powered Dani Moonstar learns the price of her pact with Hela made during the Dark Avengers’ attack onSan Francisco, and SIEGE: LOKI in which McKelvie’s Loki is the very embodiment of disarming, guileless guile. Lastly, when the battle is done, who will now rule what is left of the fallen kingdom?

Finally the conclusion to Gillen’s run in which Mephisto, Loki and Hela haggle their way into contracts before wriggling out of them via loopholes. They’d be brilliant at tax evasion. Expect a lot of red, demons and deceit.

Collects # 604-614, SIEGE: LOKI and NEW MUTANTS #11


Buy Thor: Kieron Gillen Ultimate Collection and read the Page 45 review here

Justice s/c (£22-50, DC) by Alex Ross, Jim Kreuger & Doug Braithwaite, Alex Ross.

With its constituent three softcovers out of print, this entire epic has been collected into a single mighty volume.

Superior to anything I was expecting, Braithwaite and Ross combine their singular skills to greater effect than the economy of having Ross paint over someone else’s art would suggest. Braithwaite has a different eye to Ross’ when it comes to layouts, so his pencils – including some epic double-page spreads that fully convey the awe of finding yourself for the first time inside or outside The Fortress Of Solitude – often come with angles that Ross wouldn’t ordinarily have considered. Ross remains on top translucent form while his pairing with Krueger on writing duties has produced a seasoned classic.

Lex Luthor has assembled a rogues’ gallery of supervillains plagued by the same nightmare of a Justice League defeated and their world ton apart. Individually they have incapacitated each key member of the team simultaneously to silence them, then together they have set about curing diseases, irrigating the deserts to form fertile land, and performing other acts of uncharacteristic benevolence like building utopian cities – doing things the supposed heroes had never even attempted before, and succeeding. Naturally Luthor is far from backwards in coming forwards.

“I know what you’re thinking. What can Lex Luthor of all people say to me? And is it true what I’m hearing? Are the world’s ills and humanity’s sicknesses being addressed and cured by known criminals and super-powered terrorists? This is being broadcast around the world, in every city, to every race, in every language. We know you’re wondering where the Justice League ofAmericais right now. And so are we. But we’re also wondering why they never tried to do what we’ve been doing. Why they never attempted to use their powers and abilities to make this world a better place. I believe that their inaction is as criminal as those felonies we went to prison for. Preserving the world and not daring to change it means keeping food from the hungry. Keeping the crippled in wheelchairs. Bowing to the status quo of human suffering. And still they call us the villains.”

But there’s a slight chill in the air – in the Arabic deserts of all places – when Poison Ivy grants it the bounty of fresh fruit:

“Let spring come. Let the richness of summer reign… Until the arrival of the fall.”

You can safely assume that all is not what it seems and slowly the threads come together, but not in a linear fashion. What impressed me no end was how few of the Justice League’s predicaments are immediately solved. Instead they have to be revisited depending on which tools (knowledge, skill sets and powers) are available at any given time. In terms of superhero logic, it’s been very well thought through. I can’t give you specific examples without spoiling your fun, but some of those tools include Superman, Wonderwoman, his X-ray vision, her lasso; the sun, Shazam, and Batman.

You’ll see what I mean when they leave Batman where he is until one of those tools becomes available and why, later on, when Batman’s interrogating a prisoner he cannot be bluffing – indeed has no option to bluff – when he threatens to chop some of the guy’s fingers off. Also, lesser writers would have left Hal Jordan stranded on the outer reaches of space (so far out there are no stars to navigate home by) until the plot required his return, but as he retreats into his Green Lantern ring, its energy depleting, we’re constantly returned to his thoughts.

It seems I never reviewed the third and final segment but by the end of the second, things were looking rather worse than they did when it started. Each was substantial enough that I felt I’d read double the pages on offer and I – constantly carping, cynical old me – thoroughly enjoyed myself.


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


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re 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.


The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c (£9-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 2009 (£7-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Lost Dogs (£7-50, Top Shelf) by Jeff Lemire

New York Mon Amour h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Benjamin Legrand, Dominique Grange & Jacques Tardi

A Monster Calls (£8-99,Walker Books) by Patrick Ness & Jim Kay

I Want My Hat Back h/c (£11-99,Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine (£18-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano & Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala

Tanpopo vol 1 hardcover (£18-99, Boom!) by Camilla d’Errico

Dreams And Everyday Life (£7-99, Hedge) by Aviv Ratzin

Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 18 (£5-99, Sega) by various

Angel & Faith vol 1: Live Through This (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Phil Noto

Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Nate Cosby & Chris Eliopoulos

The Eye Of The World: The Graphic Novel vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Tor) by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon & Andie Tong

Slaine vol 7: The Treasures Of Britain (£14-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Dermot Power, Stephen Tappin

Invincible Iron Man vol 9: Demon h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca

Spider-Man: Trouble On The Horizon hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Chris Yost & Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Matthew Clark

Wolverine: Back In Japan h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney, Steven Sanders, Billy Tan, Paco Diaz

The Twelve vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 2: Scorpion s/c (UK Ed’n) (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Samnee, Sara Pichelli

The Incredible Hulk vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio

The All-new Batman: The Brave And The Bold s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Rick Burchett

Batman: The Black Glove h/c (Deluxe Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, Tony S. Daniel

Until Death Do Us Part vol 1 (£12-99, Yen) by Hiroshi Takashige & Double-S

House Of Five Leaves vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono

Gantz vol 23 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku


THE BOYS vol 11 is also in, but I’m not linking to that tonight because we still have the publisher’s Diamond preview up and there are some terrible SPOILERS in it!

– Stephen.

Reviews June 2012 week two

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

“Words are proclamation; images are evidence.”

– Stephen on Sally Jane Thompson’s Now And Then


The Year Of The Beasts h/c (£12-99, Roaring Brook Press) by Cecil Castellucci & Nate Powell.

Brilliant. But, before we begin, I must emphasise that everything written below excludes the last twenty-five pages. Each one is as magnificent as those which precede them but I never saw them coming, nor should you.

From the writer of Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month PLAIN JANES and its sequel JANES IN LOVE and drawn in part by the creator of SWALOW ME WHOLE, this is an exemplary Young Adult prose and graphic novel which teens will empathise with all too well and older readers will recognise with groans of hindsight. Falling in love in your early teens is one great big ball of hormonal confusion. Some of us don’t even realise we’ve done it.

“Tessa couldn’t understand the way things worked or why she felt so conflicted. She had a boyfriend. She felt that she should be happy, too.”

Tessa is Lulu’s older sister. A year ahead of her, Tessa was always the one Lulu looked up to in matters like boys, while Tessa found her limpet-like company just a little irksome. But now it’s Tessa looking up to Lulu in height, receiving hand-me-down clothes and shoes. The biggest blow on the bruise, however, is that Lulu now knows more about boys – and one boy in particular, the sports hunk Charlie, whom Tessa’s had her sights on for ages. Through a freak accident in a tent of carnival curiosities, Lulu and Charlie were thrust together and came out a couple. Tessa went in with the rarely glimpsed Jasper, the local weirdo who wears t-shirts she doesn’t understand, and Tessa came out… confused. Unable to shake off not exactly her attraction to Charlie but what she perceives as her prior claim, she cannot help but feel jealous whenever Charlie and Lulu are together – and they are together, kissing forever in front of her. Then, as is traditional, it’s time for him to come round for tea.

“Even though Charlie wasn’t her boyfriend, Tessa was just as nervous as Lulu before he came over. How would her parents look to him? Would he think that her dad’s long hair and piercings or her mother’s sleeve tattoos were weird? Would her father, not a sports person at all, try to engage Charlie in conversation about things he didn’t know about and look dumb? Would her mother go on and on about her rock tours with her riot grrrl band, bring out her guitar, play a few of the old songs? Would she put on an mp3 of her one college radio hit and hope that he recognised it?”

They don’t. Nothing about this book is predictable. The parents are neither ridiculous nor oppressive. The sporty crowd doesn’t bully Jasper. Lulu doesn’t gloat and Tessa doesn’t sulk. She is jealous, and the occasional unkind remark slips out uncontrollably before being instantly regretted, but this isn’t your typical teen angst. There are no bad guys. Instead Tessa removes herself from time to time, slipping into the woods to explore a clandestine closeness she’s kindled with Jasper, a naturally bright and instinctively tender young lad who’s long been ostracised but who’s not one for company anyway. Normally their time together is bright and full of imaginative whimsy, but here Tessa’s distraught not about all the attention lavished on Lulu, but all the new clothes she’s been bought now that she’s bigger than Tessa while Tessa gets nothing but cast-offs at an age when she so desperately desires to look more attractive. And Jasper, bless him, does his best to console offering well reasoned solutions followed by…

““Well, the shoes you’re wearing now look really good. I like them.”
Tessa was exasperated. She wondered why he couldn’t understand. She cried harder. Jasper pulled her in close and kissed her all over, even her tears.
“Your tears taste sweet even though they are salty,” Jasper said.
But Tessa didn’t smile. So he made some goofy voices. First a robot. Then a dinosaur. Then a pirate. Then he bellowed like a wild beast.
And then Tessa couldn’t help but smile. And smiling led to laughter. And laughing led to feeling better.”

Sometimes reason simply doesn’t cut the mustard; distractions work better by far.

All of which is dealt with in prose, beautifully, poignantly, delicately. At which point we come to my one slight reservation about the book which, surprisingly, is about the comic sequences interspersed between each chapter. These tell a far more surreal story. They’re nightmare sequences in which Tessa’s hair is a hissing mass of sentient snakes she tries to suppress with Lulu’s headscarves. This is, quite obviously, a manifestation of Tessa’s low self-esteem when it comes to her looks, and in particular her constantly curling hair, which she often compares unfavourably to Lulu’s.

“But you’re beautiful! Everyone loves you! I see the way they touch you. Take your shells! Comb your hair! No one can even stand to look at me.”
“I can. But I won’t be able to if you keep running away.”

In and of themselves, they work brilliantly as self-conscious, anxiety dream sequences with the constant threat of exposure, fearing ridicule or rejection. My only problem is this: they’re entirely at odds with the level of neurosis portrayed in the prose. The exchange above would have been brilliant in any other book, but at no point is there any danger of this happening, nor does either sibling perceive such a threat. Not to that extent anyway.

There is the constant threat of physical danger, I felt, alone in the woods or in the darkness of the carnival, but each time my fears were ill-founded. Such a relief. But we’re really not going to be talking about the final few pages, exceptional as they are. We’ll talk about those when you’re done.


Buy The Year Of The Beasts h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Citizens Of No Place: An Architectural Graphic Novel (£12-99,Princeton) by Jimenez Lai…

“Plans are superior. It is impossible to evaluate anything without objectivity. You can strategize… conspire holism, map the future, intelligently assess your contexts! We can learn even more about space by isolating conditions in plan.”
“But plans rely on an unattainable gods-eye-view that humans can never experience. From human perspective, these complex plans are mere extrusions. In other words, your thick 2-D becomes just a bunch of boxes. Frankly, if I may, it is quite unspectacular.”

Wow. It’s a relative rarity that something even gets added to avant garde section on thePage 45 website but this definitely qualifies as I have never read or indeed seen anything quite like it before. However, being produced by someone who is a qualified professor of architecture and the founder and leader of the Bureau Spectacular, one shouldn’t perhaps expect anything of the ordinary. I would attempt to succinctly explain what the Bureau is, but the Wikipedia entry nails it perfectly and probably gives you an ideal starting point for imagining what you will find inside this work. And so I quote…

‘Bureau Spectacular is an operation of architectural affairs founded and led by Jimenez Lai since 2008. It is based in Chicago and closely affiliated to the Midwest Mafia of Architecture Schools. The office imagines other worlds and engages the design of architecture through telling stories. Beautiful stories about character development, relationships, curiosities and attitudes; absurd stories about fake realities that invite enticing possibilities. The stories conflate design, representation, theory, criticism, history and taste into cartoon pages. These cartoon narratives swerve into the physical world through architectural installations, models and small buildings.’

Each short in this work, therefore, is preceded by a quotation or statement about the single concept at the heart of the particular story, which is then explored in a manner that is part-narrative, part-draughtsmanship, part-symbolic, part-design, but always sequential art. Whether it is the ergonomics of individual living modules on a wafer-thin Ark spaceship travelling through the galaxy, or the challenges of living in the stratosphere twelve kilometres high, in an oxygen-deprived penthouse on top of the tallest building in the world, by the time you’ve reached the end of the story, you’ll find you’ve been nudged to think about the situation in a manner which is as engrossing as it is astounding. Lai clearly has more than a few social and political points to make here, but they are typically the subtext – although occasionally the outright punchline – rather than the main strata of the work. So in my eyes it seems that not only can design lead stories, but stories can also definitely lead design.

Finally, I really wasn’t going to go down the route of lazy metaphors referencing other creators or books on this work, as it deserves better, but just in case you’re not getting it from my review so far… in other words, short stories with scripts that seem like they have been assembled from mere shards of ideas by a hyper-focussed Grant Morrison, then interpreted by an autistic Jonathan Hickman on art, with occasional dashes of TEKKON KINKREET / THE INCAL stylistic oddities melded in, to just add a layer of genial softness to all the stark finesse and precision. All then design-distilled byScott McCloud into something of rare beauty that certainly is comics, but also something more than comics. That’s what I got from it anyway, but just read it and marvels because Jimenez Lai is clearly a very clever and talented man.


Buy Citizens Of No Place: An Architectural Graphic Novel and read the Page 45 review here

Ed The Happy Clown h/c (£18-99, D&Q) byChester Brown…

I dearly love all of Chester’s autobiographical work, but this is absolutely nothing like that, except in art style. It’s like master obscurist Hans FOLLY Rickheit has bodysnatched the normally demure Chester and wreaked merry havoc! Or not so merry in the case of Ed himself, who doesn’t particularly seem to enjoy a happy time of it, though come to think of it, neither does any of the other characters! So, first off, if you think this is going to be similar to much of Chester’s other work, be warned, it simply isn’t. If, however, you like surreal and utterly unpredictable, slightly macabre in places, downright oddness (the unpredictability in part coming from the fact this material originally started as unrelated shorts) then this could be just your cup of tea. I would, though, just check that no one has put something in your tea as you could easily believe you’re hallucinating wildly as you read this. It’s nigh on impossible to summarise the plot with a penis featuring the talking head of Ronald Regan being just one of the many inexplicable things you’ll encounter within the pages. I would say just enjoy, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the right word to use! It is, however, definitely a seminal work…


Buy Ed The Happy Clown h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Now And Then (£3-99, self-published) by Sally Jane Thompson.

“It’s so easy to think of past generations as some other species, inhabiting period dramas, not as breathing people who lived and felt just like we do, despite the different context.”

So wrote Sally Jane Thompson in the back after discovering a website full of photographs of “Victorians smiling – hanging out with friends, goofing off”. She’s absolutely right.

Under a classy cardstock cover in fawn, foul and a rich, chocolatey brown, a young American woman takes a break from London to visit the Derbyshire countryside, staying at a Bed & Breakfast and exploring the ancient environment, both the bucolic landscapes and the old stone towns like Matlock. She picks up bobbins and shuttles and sits quietly absorbing the local mining industry over a steaming mug of coffee. And then, at night, she dreams…

Almost the opposite of an elegy, this a celebration and reawakening of life as it was then, reconnecting it to how it is now. Not so very different, considering. It’s beautifully expressed, mostly in pictures which join the dots as well as any words, perhaps better. Words are proclamation; images are evidence. And these images owe so much in places to one of our favourite creators, Hope Larson of CHIGGERS, GRAY HORSES, MERCURY and SALAMANDER DREAM, particularly the magical elements.

Sally’s been producing some beautiful work for a while, and here all the promise has come to a perfectly poised fruition, a complete comprehension of what to put it, what to leave out – when to leave a reader in peace to absorb for themselves.

At the time of typing, all our copies are signed and sketched in for free.


Buy Now And Then and read the Page 45 review here

The Summit Of The Gods vol 3 (£14-99, Portent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi…

It’s in at last!!! Volume three (of five) of my current favourite (and indeed possibly absolute favourite ever) manga is in! Yes, it is coming out slowly, dare I even say it, at a glacial pace ho ho, but yet again the wait was well worth it as Taniguchi’s exceptional adaptation of Baka’s award winning prose tale of mountains, obsession and skulduggery continues. Fukamachi the photographer decides to return toKathmanduto continue his search for George Malory’s camera, which potentially promises to finally reveal whether Malory made it to the summit of Everest, some thirty years before Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing finally claimed the greatest mountaineering prize of all. But why is Bikna Sanp, known inJapanas the bloody-minded and frankly somewhat obnoxious Jouji Habu, apparently secretly preparing for an expedition to Everest? Is there something so unfeasible, so utterly foolhardy, which no one else has even dared to contemplate, that he believes can at last confirm him as the mountaineering legend he deserves to be?


Buy Summit Of The Gods vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Idyll (£14-99, D&Q) by Amber Albrecht.

Can an art book be quiet, or is it just my hushed awe?

This is gorgeous little book. The shapes and the colours are so clean and delicate, precise yet organic, with leaves in abundance and trees taking root everywhere. That jellyfish was almost inevitable. Much as I’m reluctant to lure you anywhere outside our own website, the only way to do this justice is thus:

Here’s the publisher’s original pitch to us all. I don’t think I’d make a very good art critic. You may have noticed.

“Much of Amber Albrecht’s work is inspired by the dreaminess of childhood, whether expressing her cloudy recollections of the storybooks she read as a child or the forested West Coast landscapes that surrounded her. On the pages of IDYLL, a series of interconnected myths emerges fully formed, each myth articulating a sense of wistfulness for a past that never was. IDYLL employs female iconography in myriad way – many of these works feature female figures, the lushness of the natural environment, and female-associated textures. Albrecht’s IDYLL communicates questions about loneliness, passivity, and loss through investigations of femininity and nostalgia for an imagined past.”


Buy Idyll and read the Page 45 review here

Baltimore: The Curse Bells h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck…

“Surrender to the shadows if you wish, Mr. Hodge. But I have come this far… gotten this close… and I will not despair now. This is closest I have been to Haigus since the night he murdered my bride. Doors and walls and the hordes of hell may be between us, but this close, nothing will stop me from killing him at last. We are both prisoners now. And perhaps we shall both die here, Haigus and I… but his death will be at my hands.”
“Well, well. Still the chase goes on. Round the maelstrom and even round perdition’s flames. This should be interesting.”

I’ll say! Poor Lord Henry Baltimore, so near and yet so far… from getting his hands on the vampire who killed his entire family. Since then he’s been in relentless pursuit acrossEuropeas Haigus flees back towards the old world ofEastern Europein a vain attempt to shake Baltimore’s attentions. But Haigus is far from the only horror abroad as myriad inhuman evils seem to be rising, perhaps awoken by the horrific carnage and bloodletting of World War One.

Meanwhile, a very much human evil has managed what Baltimore could not, to trap the vampire Haigus, and use the vampire’s blood to resurrect a powerful witch and command her to give him an army, by cursing a church’s bells to enslave the entire population of the town below upon their peeling. So… canBaltimorestop the evil magus, defeat the undead witch, a legion of vampire Nuns and an army of enslaved townsfolk, never mind despatching Haigus? Oh, and just for good measure there’s a psychopath from the Inquisition hot on Baltimore’s heels who’d like to introduce him to his case of ‘cleansing’ tools! Well, something’s got to give, not least because I don’t want this brilliant series to end any time soon! Neither I suspect, does Mignola…

“You’re too late, I’m afraid.”
“Where is Haigus?”
“You’ve missed him again.”
“HAIGUS!! You can’t run forever!”
“He doesn’t have to run forever. You don’t have forever. Eventually you’ll die. Until then, you are his plaything.”


Buy Baltimore: The Curse Bells h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman vol 1: Blood h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins.

“This storm, Hippolyta… Its fury – “
“ – Is of a woman scorned.”

Yes, serial philanderer Zeus has been at it again, and this time he’s no longer around to sort out the fall-out. Instead he’s left a power vacuum and a very angry wife.

Although I’ve yet to read BATMAN VOL 1: COURT OF THE OWLS which Jonathan is so enamoured with (Snyder’s BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR was chilling), I hereby declare this by far the best of the DC New 52 relaunch that I have read. Completely accessible to those who’ve never read nor wanted to read a single Wonder Woman story in their lives, it plays instead on Greek mythology so, so well. Hera, Hermes, Hades, Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo – they’re all here, amongst others.

Being the Tom Waits of comics, Brian Azzarello is the last creator you’d expect to take on Wonder Woman but he’s thrown himself into it with gusto, and the word-play above and the finishing-off of each others’ sentences you may already recognise from his gritty crime masterpiece 100 BULLETS. It’s almost Shakespearian in its punnery.

“Why, if Zeus were here, he would break your bones.”
“He’s not, though, is he?”
“No, he isn’t. Gone into the ether, it seems. Heaven has left his throne wanting an ass to warm it. And though both of you certainly qualify in that regard, neither of you measure up to mine.”

Yes, there be bawdiness to boot. I told you it was Shakespearian.

“There is a price to laying down with my husband.”
“Which no one knows better than you, hmm? Where are they now?”
“That cockless coop, improperly named…Paradise Island.”

Paradise Island is the home of Hippolyta and her daughter Diana (AKA Wonder Woman), and all of the rest of the Amazons. Legend and DC lore has it that Diana was created from clay, willed into being by her mother Hippolyta. Everyone knows that, for there are no men allowed onParadiseIsland, hence the “cockless coop”. But now a shameful secret is revealed that will turn everything on its head and allies against each other. With a mortal woman also visited by Zeus trapped in the middle, it’s all-out war. Yet stand-offs threatening even more violence occasionally disperse into moments of unexpected tenderness as the women console each other in their shared sense of violation and betrayal by men. One man in particular, for the titular “blood” is not one of gore but of lineage.

Neither Chiang nor Akins are artists of the testosterone-fuelled variety and thank gods for that. The photo-realists and sugar-buzz spectaculars have their place, but here they’d get in the way of what is essentially a humane tale of improvised camaraderie and a battle of wits. Instead this boasts some highly imaginative design work like Lord Hades, his head lit up as a massive candle, its wax dripping down to obscure his face and, perhaps, his intentions.

Jaw-dropping climax.

To be continued. Oh very yes: to be continued indeed!


Buy Wonder Woman (New 52) vol 1: Blood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Phoenix – Endgame / Warsong (£22-50, Marvel) byGregPak & GregLand, Tyler Kirkham.

[Sprurious review with in-joke apologies: this was originally written during the 2006 season of Big Brother and Morrison’s run on New X-Men when Magneto infiltrated the X-Men as new teacher Xorn. I can’t even recall who that Richard was anymore. Sorry! – ed.]

First time if was ENDSONG, now it’s WARSONG. Next time out, I’m fully expecting it to be LAPSONG SOUCHANG. It might go something like this, with Cyclops and Wolverine strolling down the hall and Professor Jean Luc Picard calling from afar…

[Off camera] “To me, my X-Men!”
“Did you hear something…?”
“Eh, you know how these corridors echo.”
“Well, I’m just going to take a look. It’s been months since the funeral, and not a word from Jean.”
“Dude, it was Jean’s funeral.”
[Off camera] “To me, my X-MEN!!!”
“There we go; he’s on the crazy paving again.”
“Professor!  Are the grounds breached?”
“Has your blanket slipped?”
“Are we under attack?”
“Do you need changing?”
“Scott, I’d dropped my saucer! My tea was getting cold.”
“You can’t drink tea from your cup?”
“Yes, but you see, Scott, I like to pour it — into my sauce-er.”
“From your cup…?”
“Before drinking it, yes.”
“But, Professor, that’s what makes it cold…”
“And listen, Chuck, can’t you just ask nicely? All this, “To me, my X-Men!” It’s a little –”
“Shakespearian…? Melodramatic…? Morrison-esque…?”
“Yes, yes, Logan, I see, I see… How about “I’ve dropped my saucer, my X-Men, do come and see that it’s righted!””
“Haven’t we forgotten a little something…?”
“’… Do come and see that it’s righted right now!’”
“’… Do come and see that’s it’s righted, my dears…?’”
[Strolling away]
“By the way, who’s that guy in the purple cape and helmet, with his gloved mitts in the mansion’s Milk Tray?”
“One of the new teachers, I think.”
[The Diary Room]
“Hello, Eric, this is Big Brother. How are you feeling today?”
“Vain, supercilious and monomaniacal.”
“Oh I’m sorry, Richard, I thought you were somebody else.”


Buy X-Men: Phoenix – Endgame / Warsong and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re 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.


The Moomin Adventure Book h/c (£12-99, SelfMadehero) by Cally Law & Tove Jansson

Siegfried h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Alex Alice

Dark Tower vol 9: The Gunslinger – The Way Station h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Robin Furth, Peter David, Richard Isanove & Laurence Campbell

Justice s/c (£22-50, DC) by Alex Ross, Jim Kreuger & Doug Braithwaite

Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology h/c (£16-99, DC) by J.H. Williams III & J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman

Seven Soldiers Of Victory vol 2 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving, Pasqual Ferry, Ryan Sook, Mick Gray, Yanick Paquette, Serge Lapointe, Doug Mahnke, Billy Dallas Patton, Freddie Williams II, J.H. Williams III

Spider-Man: Perceptions h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Todd McFarlane

Carnage U.S.A. h/c (£18-99, Marval) by Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain

Daredevil vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera, Emma Rios, Khoi Pham

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 2 hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Micha%l Bendis & Chris Samnee, David Marquez, Sara Pichelli

Essential Spider-Man vol 11 (£14-99, Marvel) by various

Avenging Spider-Man vol 1: My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends h/c (£18-99, Iarvel) by Zeb Wells & Joe Madureira, Greg Land, Leinil Yu

Thor: Kieron Gillen Ultimate Collection (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan, Rich Elson, Doug Braithwaite, Jamie McKelvie, Niko Henrichon

Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man And The Avengers (£7-50, Marvel) by various

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

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 11 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi

Three Wolves Mountain (£8-99, Sublime) by Bohra Naono

Honey Darling (£8-99, Sublime) by Norikazu Akira

Same Difference (£9-99, June) by Nozomu Hiiragi

Puella Magi Madoka Magica vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Magica Quartet & Hanokage

 On Tuesday customer Daniel Mulligan called out on Twitter for the first example of a speech balloon – a balloon, mind, not just writing.

Gosh! in the form of Hayley Campbell immediately enlisted the aid of ASTRO CITY’s Kurt Busiek who came up with this example of speech balloons from 1775, but also – and this works for me, being writing clearly contained with a tail to boot – this detail of a speech scroll from 1506. But then, Kurt added, “Banderoles (speech scrolls) in European art date at least to 975 AD (he said, trusting Wikipedia)”..

Kurt Busiek: he knows stuff.

Reviews June 2012 week one

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

The bright, bold art is a carrier for Langridge’s infectious joy. The plotting’s so precise it’s invisible. And it’s funny. Properly funny. Langridge uses panels and page-turns to pace and punch with flawless comic timing. He does wit. He does slapstick. He does elaborate set-ups. He fills his backgrounds with gags and cameos.  Even the sound effects are funny. Ever wonder what noise a treacle sandwich makes when used in anger? Apparently, it’s “splorch!”

 – Chris Gardiner on Roger Langridge’s Snarked.

Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle…

“I got news about your coordination request for Gaza…”
“They refused.”
“No way… damn it…”
“How come? What was their excuse?”
“They said , ‘The guy who draws comics? Forget it.’”

“Maybe they got me mixed up with Joe Sacco?”

Ha ha, very funny! In fact, as ever, there’s a lot to smile wryly at in Guy Delisle’s latest travelogue, this time to the Holy Land. Once again he’s playing house husband looking after their two kids as his wife’s latest year placement with Médecins Sans Frontières takes the family to Jerusalem, where almost instantly his romanticised preconceptions of the place are utterly dashed and so his usual explorations and excavations of the absurdities of everyday life for the locals can begin in earnest.

One of the many great things about Guy’s work, having been to one of the places he’s written about (see Burma Chronicles), is that he does completely capture exactly what life is like, down to its frequently confused minutiae, for those who have to live there, and this time is no exception as he shows the cramped and convoluted living arrangements that currently passes for Palestinian society, compressed and literally incarcerated in Gaza and the West Bank as they are by the Israelis. Guy being Guy though, he does try, and admirably manages it, to show the story from both sides without particularly taking either.

Though with that said, when he goes on a tour with a group of Israeli settlers (at the request of the Palestinian tour guide whose tour he’d been on a week previously, again to be fair and to see things from the other perspective) he simply reproduces the settler tour guide’s own words verbatim and lets the man damn himself. And when he’s not finding out about local political intrigue or getting into trouble with the police for picking yet another inappropriate sketching spot, he’s hunting out little oases of calm like the zoo or playgrounds to keep the pesky children entertained and give himself a much needed breather.

Jerusalem is probably his finest work yet, possibly because there’s just so much packed into one year compared to anywhere else he’s been and Jerusalem is such a fascinating place with all its contradictions and contrasts, but also artistically too, as whilst he adopts his usual laconic style there’s subtle additions such as extra background detailing or occasional splashes of colour onto his duotone, single-colour-per-panel palette which add a certain little something.

This would actually be an ideal work for anyone who is interested in finding about the day to day politics of the city and its inhabitants, and the history of the city itself, but isn’t ever going to have the time or perhaps the inclination to visit for themselves. It’s certainly one of the most confusing places you could ever go by the sounds of it, in every respect, but Guy almost always manages to find someone who can talk some sense about any given situation…

“It’s always surprising who you meet at these expat evenings. There are basically three categories: journalists, aid workers and diplomats. I meet a Scotsman who works for the Mideast Quartet. Since 2007 Tony Blair has been its official envoy. So here’s a guy who’s high up on the political and diplomatic ladder. This is my one chance to get some firsthand information.

“What your work like on a daily basis?… Are there optimistic moments once in a while, or do things look pretty bad most of the time?”
“Things look pretty bad most of the time.”
“Ah… and how’s Tony?””


Buy Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward: A Graphic Novel (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard…

What a wonderfully evocative opening two pages, as we pan in from the depths of frigid outer space very gradually down to the surface of Earth at night, reminding us, lest we forget, how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, before finally reaching an empty cell in a sanatorium. The perfect beginning for a Cthulu story, though at the risk of mixing my authors for a moment I could almost hear Richard Burton intoning “slowly and surely they drew their plans against us” from H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds whilst Jeff Wayne begins to play in the background. Anyway, it sets the atmosphere straight to spooky levels instantaneously, which is my point!

What follows is the finest H.P. Lovecraft adaptation in comics to date bar none, as a most curious case of nocturnal nefariousness and ghoulish experimentation is uncovered by the family physician to the Ward family, Dr. Willett. Asked to investigate by Charles’ father, growing increasingly concerned about his son Charles’ mental state and obsession with an ancestor named Joseph Curwen (who apparently practiced alchemy of a most unwholesome kind some two hundred years previously), what Dr. Willard begins to uncover scarcely seems believable, with suggestions of reincarnation or reanimation of ancient cadavers by a cabal of individuals of greatly extended lifespans seeking arcane knowledge of mysterious rituals. Yet, the further Dr. Willett progresses in his search for answers, the more likely it seems that such a cabal is still active today, and that Charles is slowly being drawn into their midst, for reasons yet unknown.

Ian Culbard has done a truly sterling job adapting this work, essentially a detective story, which is in complete contrast to the innate boy’s own adventure flavour of his previous Lovecraft adaption AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (which I also loved), and again, his unique art style is perfect for a creeping tale of eldritch horror. It’s entirely credible art, yet sufficiently dissembled from a realist approach that we are little by little unnervingly tugged towards the inevitably unpleasant conclusion (good old H.P. just did NOT do happy endings) as the emotional intensity of the story is gradually ratcheted up to, then well beyond, breaking point.

The whole point about Lovecraft’s monsters (and indeed his approach to horror) was that they were amorphous, indescribably alien, completely incomprehensible to the human eye and mind, so when they do finally make an appearance how on earth do you actually draw them?! Well, no spoilers but suffice to say, were you ever to see in real life what Ian has drawn, I think your sanity would go in an instant. I know mine would! And once you have finished reading and are left to make your own conclusions about the… resolution… of Charles Dexter Ward’s curious case, Ian then pulls the masterstroke of reversing his initial opening page, panning back out to show the Earth as a tiny, helpless marble in the vast stygian depths of dark, very dark, space, in case we’d momentarily forgotten the Elder ones are still out there watching us, just biding their time…


Buy The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward: A Graphic Novel and read the Page 45 review here

Channel Zero: The Complete Collection (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan.

“It’s about anger as a positive force of creation… Someone’s remembered what comics are for.”

 – from the introduction by Warren Ellis

It doesn’t get much more pertinent than this. You wait for the next wave of attempts to crack down on the internet.

Before LOCAL, NEW YORK FOUR, NEW YORK FIVE, NORTHLANDERS, DMZ or even this couple’s DEMO VOL 1 and DEMO VOL 2, there were two CHANNEL ZERO books, damning indictments of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s ruthless sanitisation of New York City with the complicity of the corporate media, the post-911 scaremongering and accompanying attacks on such silly civil liberties like privacy and free speech. It must have been enormously frustrating to Brian Wood that they were out of print during the Occupy crackdown during which pensioners were dragged away, bundled into police vans or beaten up.

“Good morning. This is WCBC News at Sunrise. Today marks the one year anniversary of the signing of The Clean Act, the event that launchedAmericainto its rebirth from sin and its rise to power in the world arena. Parades are planned in major cities, and all citizens are urged to attend church tonight to receive heavenly guidance and uplifting.
“In contrast it was six months ago today that the illegal television broadcasts created by the person known as ‘Jennie 2.5’ began. Using stolen computer equipment and passwords restricted to government personnel, she routinely breaks onto the airwaves, spreading her filth and communist propaganda.
“We have tolerated her actions as a gesture of Christian compassion and forgiveness, as we would all God’s children, but her campaign of terrorism has gone too far. This is not “art”, citizens. It is not harmless, and it is not legal.
“We urge all our viewers to guard against being influenced by the broadcasts, and put your trust in your government to correct the problem.”

They haven’t tolerated Jennie’s actions, of course; they’ve been desperate to nick her. Nice use of the ultra-inflammatory charge of “terrorism“ too. And by “nice” I don’t mean “precise”. All Jennie’s doing is breaking into the barefaced lies propagated by the mass media along with its asinine programming designed to tranquilise, and call out to an America so woefully apathetic that it tolerates this assault on their intelligence, settling for second-best and the spoon-fed mediocrity pumped out over its airwaves.

In that respect it’s like Transmetropolitan only without the jokes, the drugs and the comfort of colour, for this is stark as anything, and deliberately low-fi. It’s sparse, it’s succinct, and I love the way Radio Villinokiv’s feed streams live like ticker-tape across the bottom of the page. It’s a remarkable achievement by someone fresh out of Art School, and not only do you get both graphic novels in a single package here, but all the short stories, the original Final Year project, and so many of the satirical posters, as sharp as you like. People forget that Brian Wood is an artist in his own right – and a particularly fine designer – but when Becky Cloonan comes along for the JENNIE ONE prequel you will not believe she was still at college! (Although, if you’ve read Becky’s Minis 2000-2002…)

The high-contrast art comes with the perfect punk aesthetic, Jennie’s coal-black eyes staring out of the page defiantly. The snow alone is worth the price of admission, eroding the forms it flurries across and reminding me of Frank Miller’s RONIN. It’s the story of an artist radicalised by the very forces attempting to sedate and intimidate the masses. But Jennie quickly discovers she doesn’t “do” intimidated, nor is she easily seduced by those posing as punk but living in relative luxury.

It’s a far from predictable read, and the chapter seen from the Cleaner’s perspective will certainly surprise. I think my favourite moment, however, was the all too predictable behaviour of the networks as Jennie 2.5’s four-minute bursts of subversive sabotage prove so popular that they try to figure out how to sell commercial air time for them. Fans of Jonathan Hickman’s NIGHTLY NEWS, this one’s for you.


Buy Channel Zero: The Complete Collection and read the Page 45 review here

Dracula h/c (£13-50, HarperCollins) by Bram Stoker & Becky Cloonan…

Ben Templesmith’s DRACULA has to be one of the best-selling illustrated prose books we’ve ever had at Page 45 (second only to Bernie Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN probably), and rightly so given his terror-inducing talent for ferocious, fanged faces. I did wonder therefore how the mighty Becky Cloonan could possibly top it, but top it she has by going for a more subtly gothic, almost romantic approach, which immediately put me in mind of the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation starring Gary Oldman as the Count with a heart. Yes, there are fangs but what Becky brings through so strongly is the passion and the drama of Bram Stoker’s epic story, whereas Templesmith’s version is simply straight horror – not that there is anything wrong with that. The style she displays is clearly Becky’s own, but the depth of line, colour palette and grasp of period certainly wouldn’t look amiss in BALTIMORE or WITCHFINDER, and makes me think she’d be a brilliant choice for a Mignola book actually.

Another significant difference between this version and Templesmith’s is whereas in that version the illustrations are full, single pages which each preface a new chapter, here Becky has gone for a variety of illustrations, vertically as well as horizontally aligned, interspersed throughout the text to dramatise specific scenes or moments, and it’s an inspired idea which works superbly well. It’s difficult to pick a favourite illustration, and whilst the gently embossed cover itself is a strong contender and amply demonstrates the quality of illustration you’ll find within, I think the image of Miss Lucy with the wild garlic flowers in her hair just about steals it for me.


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

Snarked: Forks And Hope (£10-99) by Roger Langridge >

“I’m Princess Scarlet, and this is my brother Rusty, the prince — as if you didn’t know.”
“Of course, of course! The commemorative stamps. I believe I’ve often licked the back of your head.”

The king is missing. His advisors plot to seize the throne. Only eight-year-old Princess Scarlet stands in their way, and if their hired killer the Gryphon has his way, she won’t be there for long.

So Scarlet does what any sensible princess would: she flees the castle, heads off to find her father, and recruits heroes to help her. Well. Let’s put “heroes” in inverted commas, there, since we’re talking about Wilburforce J. Walrus (mellifluous con-artist) and Clyde McDunk (dim carpenter). Thing is, they might turn out to be just the people for the job…

Set in a world patched together from Lewis Carroll’s nonsense-poems and novels, SNARKED is a glorious, escalating spiral of scams and chases. It’s got bow tie-wearing walruses, Cheshire Cat secret agents, talking oysters (briefly – they get eaten), dopey guards fooled by the most rudimentary of cross-dressing, and treacle sandwiches. Lots of treacle sandwiches. If, like me, you wouldn’t know your jabberwock from your bandersnatch, don’t worry. Langridge leads the way with strong characters and action, building his world bit by bit in between all the funny.

He clearly loves his source material. Not in a stodgy, overly-reverential, BBC-costume-drama sort of way, but the way a kid loves his favourite toys.  They’re not for looking at. They’re for breaking out, covering in sticky fingerprints, and banging together while you go “whee!’

Except that understates the craft at work. The bright, bold art is a carrier for Langridge’s infectious joy. The plotting’s so precise it’s invisible. And it’s funny. Properly funny. Langridge uses panels and page-turns to pace and punch with flawless comic timing. He does wit. He does slapstick. He does elaborate set-ups. He fills his backgrounds with gags and cameos.  Even the sound effects are funny. Ever wonder what noise a treacle sandwich makes when used in anger? Apparently, it’s “splorch!”

Deft, surprising, and full of characters you’ll love, SNARKED is brilliant. And you like brilliant things, don’t you? I could tell just by looking at you – something about the dignified angle of your nose. You’ll want this, then.

“I can work with this. Get me half a dozen of your best men, some fresh ammunition and three treacle sandwiches.”
“Treacle s-sandwiches?”
“I…I like treacle sandwiches.”

Chris Gardiner

Buy Snarked: Forks And Hope and read the Page 45 review here

Deadenders (£22-50, Vertigo) by Ed Brubaker & Warren Pleece…

Touted as part-Clockwork Orange, part-Trainspotting, part-Quadrophenia on the cover – which should actually make it my dream read given my penchant for a bit of the old ultra-violence, lashings of lovely, lovely Ludwig Van, oodles of pharmaceuticals and a good mop-top – I found this a little bit of an unsatisfying read in places unfortunately. In the first half it all just seemed somewhat unsure exactly what it wanted to be, rather disjointed in fact, which is not something I’ve ever thought about Brubaker’s work, but in the second half once he begins to concentrate more on resolving the central plot thread, it settled down and I did really enjoy it, though I only really got the Quadrophenia comparison frankly.

I felt at times in the early issues perhaps it was trying to emulate early LOVE AND ROCKETS with its slightly sci-fi edge, and cast of loveable rogues, but it didn’t really pull it off for me, mainly because the main character of Beezer, who is meant to be a complete nob, is such a completely charmless nob unlike, say, the suave sophisto that is Alexander DeLarge, that I just wanted him to crash his moped and die. Harsh, I grant you, but there we go. However, once I accepted that he is very much a product of his very peculiar environment, I did warm to him a tiny bit.

So, something called ‘The Cataclysm’ has occurred meaning that the city ofNew Bedlamis now split into various sectors, of which the central sector is something akin to paradise compared to the outer sectors.  That is in considerable part to due to the weather machines which ensure the outer areas never see sunlight whilst the centre enjoys a continuously beautiful sunny climate. Not surprisingly culture in the outer sectors has collapsed and life seems to mainly consist of getting battered on drink and drunks whilst simultaneously avoiding getting battered at the hands of drug dealers. Then there are those who, remembering how positively utopian things seemed to be in comparison everywhere before ‘The Cataclysm’, have become part of a new religion called Doomsterism, which has nothing to do with paying homage to Victor Von D, but instead seems to consist of having one hand cocked behind the ear, whilst looking skyward and moaning about how bad life seems. Err… hasn’t Morrissey been doing that for years?

Meanwhile, Beezer, definitely not a charming man, is having visions which seem to be of what was happening in whatever specific location he currently is in, just before The Cataclysm took place. And apparently, he may not be the only one. There is a good reason for that, which does eventually tie everything in together nicely as I mentioned. It’s no FREAKANGELS though I should mention Tom is a big fan. Very nice art from Warren Pleece, mind you, would love to see him do more.


Buy Deadenders and read the Page 45 review here

Spandex h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Martin Eden…

“So apparently the Queen is really pissed off…”
“Yeah, you can say that again. I reckon I’ll have this bruise for a few days at least.”
“<Sigh> Not you Luke.”
“We’re gonna have to get the real Queen’s stuff back ASAP!”
“How are we going to do that? We don’t know the first thing about Mr. Ninja.”
“Does anyone know any telepaths?”
“I went out with one once, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They know when you’re faking it. And lying. And sleeping around.”
“Wouldn’t that describe pretty much all your relationships, Diva, honey?”
“Okay, okay, guys, back to the matter at hand. How do we find this ninja and get the crown jewels back?”
“I believe I may have an answer for you…”
“Good morning! Your opponent has brought the stolen goods back here and this ninja gentlemen has left a calling card. And a corgi.”
Come and get me! – N x

Easily the most amusing superhero-related fare I’ve read since James Kochalka’s SUPERF*CKERS, this features Prowler, Liberty, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr. Muscles and Diva, who together are Spandex, the first all-gay superhero team. They are, of course, based in Brighton, and comprise of the whole LGBT spectrum, but rest assured this is not a cliché-ridden, entendre-laden exploitation. Well, maybe is it actually, but it is hilarious from start to finish and done with such a lovingly knowing fake-lashed wink, and apparently low-fi art style, that it is simply a glittering success. I say apparently low-fi art style, because the more you look at it, you actually realise it’s extremely cleverly put together and detailed, but manages at exactly the same time to look like it’s been dashed off with just a twelve-colour set of felt tips. A comic like this though needs to have exactly this sort of art style, to patently make the point it isn’t taking itself remotely seriously, otherwise it just wouldn’t work, exactly like SUPERF*CKERS.

It is of course, just as much about the various members, their relationships, the intrigue and the drama, as actually fighting the bad guys, though it must be said that Martin Eden has come up with some brilliant villains for our group to do battle with in this collection of the first three issues, including the team which will apparently go on to become their ultimate nemesis in the future, Les Girlz, comprised of Incognita, Hag, Pussy, Queenie, Ms. Fantastic, Chunk and Crusader. The third issue in particular, featuring our spangly group doing battle with an alien creature called Nadir that has managed to enslave the entire human race, turning them and the whole world grey, is just brilliantly done. It’s just well written superhero comedy that I found far funnier than THE PRO or EMPOWERED.

I was also rather amused by Martin’s comment in the extras material at the back that he deliberately did a cover for issue #3 featuring Spandex in black outfits showing more boobage, because he was  worried that straight readers at conventions were being put off by the really pink cover to issue #2. Whereas I just assumed it was a Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN piss-take with their leather jumpsuits! So in conclusion I eagerly look forward to more Spandex, particularly their ongoing attempts to find a decent battlecry, which is a great running joke throughout.Meanwhile I’ll leave the last word to Prowler and Diva.

“What exactly do you do with a 50-foot lesbian?”
“You really want me to answer that?”


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

Batman: Death By Design h/c (£18-99, DC) by Chip Kidd & Dave Taylor…

If the most beautifully illustrated Bat-book of last year was undoubtedly Lee Bermejo’s BATMAN: NOËL, then I think we need look no further for this year’s because I simply cannot believe anyone will beat Dave Taylor’s masterclass in pencilling and shading, and I for one am absolutely delighted for him, as he’s not had the happiest history working on American superhero comics over the years, being pretty shabbily treated by DC back in the ‘90s, primarily due to deadline issues. Still, he’s clearly moved on, and without being under the time constraints of a monthly title (apparently this book took three years to put together!) has unquestionably produced a true masterpiece here.

It helps immensely of course that Chip Kidd (himself a graphic designer) has come up with an exceptional non-continuity story, set in some indeterminate art deco age, which revolves around the period architecture of one of Gotham’s most striking buildings, the old Waynestation, slated for demolition due to its decrepit state. In its place Bruce has commissioned something spectacular from the current architect du jour but not everyone is happy about the impending demise of such an iconic landmark.

I could wax lyrically about Dave’s art for several paragraphs more, including his depictions of Batman who has an almost brutally simple 1920s newspaper periodical appearance, The Joker, perfectly capturing the cheeky, theatrical nature of the murderous blighter, and Bruce Wayne who surely has never looked more of a brylcreemed matinee idol than he does here resplendent in his white tuxedo, but instead it just makes far more sense to showcase several panels and pages of exquisite interior art for you to admire, so enjoy!


Buy Batman: Death By Design h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Daredevil: Ultimate Brubaker Collection vol 2 (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, & Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Paul Azaceta.

“This is what love is… what happiness does to you… Reminds you how fragile it all is. How easily it can be taken away.”

From the first chapter or prologue to this new storyline, it’s immediately clear that this is about Mila, Matt’s new, blind wife. She sits up late into the night, worrying for him and waiting for him to come home, trying to define her heart. But Mila thinks the fragility and danger lie in Matt’s life as Daredevil: that something even more terrible than last year’s nightmare – when his secrets were uncovered, his mind unravelled and he ended up in prison – will happen to her husband and steal away her happiness. And something will happen, but it will happen to Mila, and neither you nor she will never see it coming.

Meanwhile The Gladiator – a reformed and at heart honourable man – is caught at the scene of a massacre in his jail’s workshop, his trademark saw-blades embedded in the victims’ chests. But he swears he didn’t do it, and the puzzler is that when Matt, however reluctant to take the case, visits him in prison, he can tell through listening to the man’s heartbeat that he didn’t do it. Or at least, he doesn’t remember doing it. He certainly believes he’s innocent, but is he? When push comes to shove, what are any of us capable of…?

Obviously we recommend the whole of Bendis’ run as much as we do Ed’s first storyline, but you can jump straight in here, and I encourage any readers of GOTHAM CENTRAL, SLEEPER or CRIMINAL to do so. Lark brings those same sensibilities to bear here that he bestowed on GOTHAM CENTRAL – lot of texture in a nocturnal urban landscape – and he’s quite close to Phillips in feel if not overall style.

Absolutely devastating. Cleverly composed, superbly orchestrated, and poignantly performed, all without recourse to extrinsic extended metaphors.


Buy Daredevil: Ultimate Brubaker Collection vol 2  and read the Page 45 review here

The Cape h/c (£18-99, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Zach Howard…

“After the accident, ma was convinced I had jumped out of the tree on purpose, trying to fly.
“When I came out of the hospital, it was gone. She said she threw it out because she had enough problems already and didn’t need a cripple to look after.
“I should have known better.
“That cheap bitch never threw anything away.”

Always nice to see someone do a different take on the superhero genre, and here we have a bitterly twisted short story by Joe (LOCKE & KEY) Hill, adapted for comics by Jason Ciaramella, that is most definitely first and foremost horror, not of the overt variety but the purely psychological kind… until the psychopath really gets going, that is…

Eight-year-old Eric loves nothing more than to play superheroes and villains with his brother, wearing the cape his mother has made for him from his old comfort blanket and emblazoned with a patch from his dead marine father’s uniform, plus a large red felt thunderbolt just for good measure. One day, during a particularly boisterous game, Eric finds himself in a bit of a predicament when a tree limb he’s balanced on breaks, sending him hurtling to the ground and he finishes up impaled on said limb, adding considerable further injury to already serious injury, never mind the insult. It’s just that in the instant before Eric began to plummet, just before he wrenched the cape off himself in floundering panic, it seemed like he was floating in mid-air. He’s pretty sure he didn’t imagine it, his brother even thought it too, though they both obviously thought better than to mention it to anyone. It’s just that Eric believes he will never know now for sure, because whilst he was lying in the hospital, head held together with forty  staples, body battered and broken, his mum kindly told him she’d thrown away his beloved cape, his favourite thing in all the world, the cape that might just possibly have really enabled him to fly. Now that, that really was the insult to add to the catalogue of injuries.

Several years on, a now-adult Eric has seen his life go pretty much nowhere, plagued by near-constant headaches, whilst his brother has gone on to be a successful doctor. The one bright point in his life, Angie, the girl whom he wooed away from his brother as a teenager, has finally got fed up with his apathy and thrown him out. Forced to move in back home with his mum, moping around in his bedroom, having finally hit rock bottom, he chances across a certain item he truly thought he’d never see again, his cape. Turns out his mother simply couldn’t be bothered to throw it away, she’d just hidden it. And sure enough, it wasn’t his imagination, whilst wearing the cape he really can fly. But will Eric take his chance at redemption and become the hero he always dreamed of being as a boy, or will years of bitterness and anger mean he chooses a different direction and start to settle a few old scores? Well, like I said in my opening sentence, this is a horror story…


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


Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re 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.


Now And Then (£3-99) by Sally Jane Thompson

Walking Dead vol 16: A Larger World (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Summit Of The Gods vol 3 (£14-99, Portent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

The Year Of The Beasts h/c (£12-99, Roaring Brook Press) by Cecil Castellucci & Nate Powell

Idyll (£14-99, D&Q) by Amber Albrecht

Ed The Happy Clown h/c (£18-99, D&Q) byChester Brown

Baltimore: The Curse Bells h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck

DMZ vol 12: The Five Nations Of New York (£10-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli

Hack Slash Omnibus vol 4 (£25-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Faces Of Death h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel

Red Lanterns vol 1: Blood And Rage s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter Milligan & Ed Benes

Moon Knight vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Avenging Spider-Man vol 1: My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Humberto Ramos

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 3 (£8-50, Viz) by Toru Fujisawa

Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Megumi Osuga & Kotaro Isaka

Sakura Hime: The Legend Of Princess Sakura vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Arina Tanemura

Arata The Legend vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuu Watase

Bleach vol 40 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 41 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Hi Fructose Collected Ed vol 2 h/c (£29-99, Hi Fructose) by various

Somewhat off-topic, here’s a couple of letters Morrissey wrote to a pen-pal about to visit him in the early ‘80s pre-Smiths. Effortlessly and endlessly funny. Don’t think the visit went too well, though! Follow @LettersOfNote on twitter.

Also, Happy Fortieth Birthday to our very own Jonathan.

I leave you with news of the new Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. It’s THE BOY WHO MADE SILENCE by Joshua Hagler.

– Stephen

Page 45 School Library Workshops

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Hello, School Librarians!

I am delighted to announce that I’ll be attending Lighting The Future, the joint School Libraries Conference in Windsor, on Saturday 9th June 2012 presenting interactive show-and-tell workshops on Manga And Graphic Novels.

I’ll have some 50 beautiful Young Adult graphic novels for you to feast your eyes on and for us to discuss as we gather round the tables and gawp.

Each graphic novel which has proved popular – both on the shop floor and with the school libraries we supply – has been carefully selected fromPage 45’s range of over 7,000 different graphic novels to demonstrate the quality and diversity of comics available for both genders, each age range and different environments.

There will be no PowerPoint presentation with me talking at you. Instead it’s about you, the books and your pupils. I’ll also be available throughout the day (just ask the organisers – they have my mobile number) and for as long as you want afterwards for further discussion and questions.

The Books

These are the books I’m currently scheduled to bring with me, and each title has been linked to the book on our site so you can read its Page 45review. If a series of books appears, please click on any individual cover to read the review.


Anya’s Ghost
Courtney Crumrin vol 1: The Night Things
Death Jr.
Grandville: Mon Amour
Gunnerkrigg Court vol 1: Orientation h/c
Life Sucks
Mouse Guard
Robot Dreams
Scott Pilgrim vol 1 (of 6)
Silverfin: A Young James Bond Adventure
The Arrival
The Lost Thing
The Plain Janes
The Rabbits
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Zita The Spacegirl

Younger Readers

Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish s/c
Glister: The Faerie Host
Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling!
Magic Trixie vol 2: Magic Trixie Sleeps Over
Sonic The Hedgehog
The Shark King h/c
Vern and Lettuce


Evolution: The Story Of Life On Earth
Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels
Manga Shakespeare
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Science Tales
Understanding Comics


Asterios Polyp


Dragonball Z
Legend Of Zelda
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind
One Piece
Saga Of Darren Shan

The Strategy

The key to a successful manga and graphic novel section in any school library is three-fold: quality, diversity, contemporary. If they’re not currently being bought in our shop, they’re not going to be read at school.

Unlike larger distributors not on the front line themselves, we know exactly which titles young adults are choosing to spend their own money on, and there’s no more telling sign than that.

Young male literacy especially is down, but the good news is this: we’ve had a headmaster phoning us up mere days after a delivery and delightedly reporting his male pupils were fighting – fighting over the manga and graphic novels! I’d call that a win. Well, he did!

I could have brought forty more suitcases of manga alone, and another sixty superhero crates too. But don’t worry, we can help you select any you fancy to tie in with perfectly with the latest films, whilst making sure that the more violent ones never sully your shelves!

The recognition factor should not be overlooked: if they already know about a title from animation, television, cinema, games or – in the case of The Saga Of Darren Shan – prose, then that’s a lure which often proves irresistible.

It is just a launch pad, though, and the books I’ll bring with me will take both you and your pupils further.

Useful Information

Page 45’s dedicated Library page including discount levels, free delivery, invoicing, and how we can help you with our hands-on experience.  

About Page 45.

Contacting Page 45.

Browsing Page 45’s website.

But basically this: we’re here to help. Email, phone or pop in yourselves. Don’t feel you need to make appointments – our regular customers don’t, so why should you?

Proof Of The Pudding Post-Script

Confession: I was a reluctant reader. My Mum couldn’t get me to read at all until she bought comics. But they worked, I lapped them up voraciously and – many more moons ago than I care to confess – I grabbed myself a B.A. Hons in English Literature and the History Of Art.

They’ll work for your schools too.

Don’t misunderstand me: graphic novels have never been a poor man’s substitute for prose. They’ve just been perceived that way in the UK. This medium is magnificent, firing up adult imaginations all round the globe, which is why I’m here.

They will also engage the imaginations of the pupils you work with – guaranteed!

– Stephen