Reviews October 2012 week four

“Not my bag” was the favourite catchphrase of a long-tenured and rather world-weary colleague in a former workplace, who used it at least five times a day whilst dodging pretty much any and all tasks which were pushed his way. He did it with such carefree nonchalance he actually managed to get away with it, even when it was the MD himself asking.

 – Jonathan on Not My Bag. There’s more, and it’s hilarious!

Mercy (£3-99, Piper Snow Productions) by Ray Fawkes.

UK EXCLUSIVE! There are only 33 copies of this on sale in the UK, and Page 45 has every single one of them. This makes me very happy indeed. *smiles*

“Fog brushes the grounds of the estate, ribbons of it rising around our black coats. Clement raises the lantern and I look back at the house for a moment (quickly now). The necropolis lies beyond the Southern edge of my land, through the woods, black trunks rising. Fog. There is so much fog. Curling around the bare branches.”

From the creator of ONE SOUL, the previous Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month which had both PHONOGRAM’s Kieron Gillen and ourselves extolling its experimental ingenuity, this is a story to send uncertain shivers up your spine. It’s a nightmare in stark black and white which bursts on occasion into Bill Sienkiewicz territory: I’m thinking the woman’s long raven hair cascading from her casket in a waterfall of ink; the frenzy in a maddened man’s eyes exploding expressionistically across the page…

Death has come to the house of Silas. All is silent and empty, his beloved snatched from his arms too soon. It has left him inert, wanting only to sleep, but tonight he has two visitors: Clement who has lost both his wife and children, and Clement’s quiet, bewhiskered uncle. It is they who insist on immediate action, a galvanised call to unusual arms, for they believe there has been foul play – that there is a monster in their midst. To them it is all that makes sense.

Silas’ considered inner monologue is presented in white boxes cleverly interjected with sporadic bursts of black which reveal his more troubled fears – what he believes to be true at heart. And gradually, as the three proceed, they appear to be increasingly well founded. What those fears are, I shall keep to myself; also… whether they are well founded.

It’s very well played, with perfect timing and a gorgeous cadence to the language which is employed in playing it.

Free for first-comers only, Ray has kindly sent us nine signed prints. Two designs limited to 20 and 40 worldwide. Thank you, Ray, for everything.


Buy Mercy and read the Page 45 review here

Nobrow Anthology vol 7 (£15-00, Nobrow) by Anders Nilsen, Jillian Tamaki, Tom Gauld, Luke Pearson, Joost Swarte, more.

Another lavish slighty-larger-than-A4 outing featuring 4-page comics and full-page prints with ideas to frazzle your unsuspecting minds.

Those who travelled to Nottingham for Page 45’s Anders Nilsen signing for BIG QUESTIONS will be delighted to know that the Poseidon strip which Anders narrated live down the pub has finally been published here. Interestingly, the silhouettes which we saw projected in black have been printed in a luxurious gold with the softest of sheens. Works beautifully, almost as if everything takes place at sunset. Entirely apposite too, for here the Greek god of all things wet and salty casts his mind back to simpler, long-lost days when his pantheon ruled virtually uncontested except for the occasional upstart like Odysseus who only went and smote his one-eyed moron of a son. You’d think revenge would have been easy, wouldn’t you, for a god?

“The so-called Goddess of Wisdom has some sort of weird crush on Odysseus. She used her snivelling lap-dog Hermes, and a bunch of bullshit sneaking around to get the man home. Alive. And that was the beginning of the end.”

Bewildered, Poseidon watches the world and its oceans change out of all recognition – the bigger boats, navigational technology, floating islands of plastic garbage the size of a small country – and as their health declines and the power of his Pantheon wanes, so Poseidon withdraws to a more solitary existence, noting only the strategic relocation of Venus and Eros, Bacchus’ new line in intoxicants and Mars’ far from diminished devotees. Then he takes a wander round America, and wonders at what he sees, until his eyes alight on a certain amusement park. It doesn’t amuse him at all.

Tom Gauld, meanwhile, offers up An Alphabetical Guide To Our Wonderful Future. Also: An Alphabetical Guide To Our Dreadful Future. The last panel made me laugh.

Luke Pearson’s You Mustn’t Be Afraid didn’t make me laugh, but then it wasn’t supposed to. Coloured in pale blue hues, it has haunted me ever since. The first few panels put me in mind of Jordan Crane’s THE LAST LONELY SATURDAY but then it takes on a tone and a terror and indeed a pressure of its own. You may have thought tidying your bedroom was the most enormous, nigh-impossible task, but tidying up your entire life and all its attendant clutter… Anyway, what a climax.

Equally affecting – and for me the absolute triumph – was Half-Life by Jillian Tamaki (SKIM and INDOOR VOICE).

“Have you lost weight?” a friend asks the narrator over lunch. As casual as you like. And you don’t think much of it, do you? Unless you’re on a diet or piling it on. But it transpires that the narrator has lost weight, and height, and continues to do so. What I loved about this piece was Tamaki’s imaginative extrapolation from what isn’t an uncommon idea, examining the practicalities in thorough and quite personal detail, then running with the repercussions right through to the end. The narrator is surprisingly calm as her life changes drastically and strange accommodations must be made. The art is very physical – the dog shitting on the pavement and the splendid nude at the top of page four – even as the story and narrator herself become increasingly ethereal. However will it end, do you think?


Buy Nobrow Anthology vol 7 and read the Page 45 review here

Everything Together – Collected Stories s/c (£14-99, Picturebox) by Sammy Harkham…

Somewhat of a misnomer this title as it doesn’t contain the brilliant Crickets material we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month when it came out, amongst many other things. A reasonable amount together, would probably have been a more accurate description. What it does contain is all excellent though, as you expect from Sammy, including his other finest work for me, the poignant POOR SAILOR which we still have a few hardcovers of. Here is Tom’s review of that particular piece which sums Sammy up nicely too…

A pioneer for next generation of American cartoonists, Harkham is editor and publisher of the epic Kramers Ergot anthologies. This is his contribution to KRAMERS ERGOT 4 and one of the most moving comics I have ever read. A simple but brilliantly executed tale of a woodsman who leaves his wife and home to join his brother at sea, and the heavy price he pays for his actions. Based upon Guy de Maupassant’s short story At Sea, this will haunt you long after you put it down. As is the way with Sammy’s work, this is a lavish if limited printing.


Buy Everything Together – Collected Stories s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fish + Chocolate h/c new version/restocks (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Kate Brown.

A sublime confluence of words and pictures with the palette of Paul Duffield and Josh Middleton; if you love the art on FREAKANGELS or SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES you will adore these three stories, each of which is in its way is about parenthood.

The first two feature single mothers: the first with two boys, the second with a young girl perfectly content to play round their countryside cottage and its gently sloping Garden of new Earthly Delights. There she finds a cherry tree laden with fruit. She picks one. Her mother composes on the piano upstairs.

The boys miss their father whom they haven’t seen in months, and the oldest wants a television in his room. Their mother argues with her editor but meets up with a friend. It’s a perfectly lovely day and they have much to discuss. There’s an odd-looking man with barely any eyebrows sitting on his lawn by the path. He whistles through a split blade of grass. The boys are curious.

The tunes may not come easily especially when distracted and the man is a little unnerving, but everything on the surface seems pretty much serene. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find skeletons buried and sudden trauma in store, as the tranquillity of sleepy suburbia and that bucolic beauty are shredded by shrieks of wholly unexpected violence. I’m not even going to touch on the third tale (although sneakily I have) but the cover’s stark warning of “explicit content” is far from alarmist.

Oh, but this artist can write! Nothing here is predictable or simplistic, and it was a joy to discover a brand new voice unlike any I’d encountered before, yet the art will sell itself to you all on its own. There’s one particular sequence involving a violin string and a music score which is a visual triumph: a fusion then cascade so clever it is breathtaking. Moreover we have another contender for best rain ever in comics as the sky bursts open, the water cascades and the downpour drowns the cherry tree in a curtain of spray.


Buy Fish + Chocolate h/c and read the Page 45 review here

How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Sarah Glidden…

This is a graphic novel that anyone who has an opinion – informed or just shooting from the lip – on the ‘Palestinian situation’ ought to read. It’s a brilliant work for several reasons, underpinned by the fact that the author finds herself in a position familiar to many modern American Jews of a liberal (i.e. sane) political persuasion. She feels she should inherently be pro-Israeli because she’s Jewish, yet quite correctly believes that the average Palestinian is getting an extremely rough deal at the hands of the Israeli state. But like the vast majority of people who’ve never been to Israeli, Jews and non-Jews alike, she’s aware that her viewpoints are inevitably informed by the political spin and media she’s exposed to constantly, and that she therefore can’t really comprehend the day to day realities of life for Palestinians and Israelis, much less make a definitive judgement on who exactly is to blame for the lack of resolution of the ‘situation.’

As a young Jewish person she’s entitled to make a ten-day ‘Birthright Israel’ trip, wholly funded by the Israeli government, ostensibly to deepen the Jewish identity of Jews living outside Israel, and strengthen their ties to their religious homeland. Sarah’s expectations beforehand are that it’ll be a full-on propaganda blitz designed to convince her that all Palestinians are evil, but in fact the trip provides a rather balanced exploration of the history of the founding of Israeli with some subtle and, yes, a little not-so-subtle propaganda thrown in. Consequently she finds her prejudices challenged and the need to revise her preconceptions on more than one occasion.

This book works on several different levels. Aside from anything else, it’s an excellent autobiographical travel memoir comparable to works by Guy Delisle or Joe Sacco, which is humorously written and wonderfully illustrated. It pokes fun at Israelis (as most definitely distinct from Jews), some of whose youth – if you’ve ever done any backpacking yourself you will know – can be some of the most abrasive individuals you could ever wish not to meet. And certainly, not more than once in any event. I was personally greatly amused that Sarah took the time to highlight this little, yet rather widely observed, national idiosyncrasy.

Secondly, it’s an honest and factually accurate lesson in the history of the formation and early years of the state of Israel. The early Israeli politicians like David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, were not your run of the mill two-faced politicos of the type we have to endure in most countries around the world today. They were first and foremost nation-builders who, as Ben-Gurion was actually brave enough to publicly state, quite regretfully knew what they were taking away from the Palestinians, and therefore knew what the likely consequences would be for generations to come. But to ensure the continued survival of the Jewish race, they simply didn’t believe they had another choice. Compared to some of the ‘difficult’ decisions our so-called politicians claim they have to make on a near daily basis these days, you can’t imagine the burden of having to make such a momentous decision as to found the state of Israel, knowing you were in effect declaring war on all your neighbours and also people living within your own borders.

The warm and even-handed presentation of Sarah’s own journey of discovery about the history of Israel would have actually been enough to make a great travel memoir, but then we also get something else which elevates this work even further in my opinion. Having presented the perceived rights and wrongs of both sides’ cases through the people she meets and talks with during her time in Israel, we then get shown the case for hope, real genuine hope that there are at least some people on both sides of the divide who want to put the conflict behind them. And that there is a way of looking at the conflict that is neither solely Israeli nor Palestinian. Although, unfortunately this clarity of vision for those concerned has come about through very painful and personal losses…

“One Day we got a call from the leader of Family Forum. He asked if he could come to speak to us at our new home.
“For us it was new to hear from an Israeli Jew. When he came it was shocking because he was religious but when he started talking about how his son was killed it didn’t matter than he was Jewish and we were Arab. We just saw that he was human and had our same pain.
“Now through activities with the Family Forum in Palestine we spread our messages of peace and reconciliation. We have to rehumanize the others. The main idea is that you have to talk to someone on the other side.
“We ask only one thing of you and that is not to be pro-Israeli or pro-Palestine, but to be pro-peace. And when you go back to your country explain to your friends about what we do here and help them be pro-peace too.
“Thank you.”


Buy How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Not My Bag (£9-99, Image) by Sina Grace…

A delicate wallflower of a comicbook artist is forced to enter the murky world of fashion retail to make ends meet and it’s pretty certain from the get go that it probably isn’t going to end well. But, much like any other casual summer romance, there could be some fun and frolics along the way. And indeed there will be, for us readers anyway, if not quite so much for the main character, though he certainly throws himself into his new role with abandon, to begin with, until the cold, hard realities of working in retail begin to hit home.

I did chuckle throughout this work from Sina Grace, not least because “Not my bag” was the favourite catchphrase of a long-tenured and rather world-weary colleague in a former workplace, who used it at least five times a day whilst dodging pretty much any and all tasks which were pushed his way. He did it with such carefree nonchalance he actually managed to get away with it, even when it was the MD himself asking. If you ever really tried to insist that he do something, you would then probably get a “Whoo-hoo, I’m not your man for that,” before he would walk off whistling to himself, whilst you shook your head in disbelief. Anyway, I digress.

Sina has crafted a work of real humour here, which anyone who has ever had to do a job they knew deep down wasn’t really right for them, not just in retail, would appreciate. That’s pretty much just about everyone then! There are the usual collection of characters you’d expect in such an environment including the shark-natured salespeople, the asshole bosses and the gullible customers. (Note: Page 45 has no gullible customers: you are to be commended for your enthusiastic reception of our sincerest recommendations!) Initially at least our artist revels in his brave new world, gradually learning how to work his marks, ring up the sales and get that all important commission.

He’s been spotted by the new boss and virtually promised a promotion onto the real high-end brands as soon as a spot becomes available. Except, of course, that isn’t going to happen, and as he gradually works out for himself that his boss is a two-faced piece of sh*t, his initial enthusiasm starts to wane, then evaporate very rapidly indeed. The question now, though, is whether he’s become addicted to his larger paycheques (and all important staff discount!) or whether he’s got the self respect to walk away.

A great little fun work with lovely art which looked to me like a harmonious blend of Peter Kuyper and Andi Watson, if you can picture that!


Not My Bag

Alan Moore’s Another Suburban Romance restocks (£5-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore, Antony Johnston & Jose Ryp.

Just enough is what Moore and Johnston have delivered amongst the carnage of Ryp’s beautiful pen line. Like Geoff Darrow on HARD BOILED, it’s all detail and destruction, so don’t judge this book by its improbably ugly cover: the real goods lie inside. I loved the Alsatian with the machine-gun choker and the hurricane left in The Hairy One’s wake and, as I said, the information overload is quietly countered by a minimum of language. The series of three shorts read like poetical pop promos, as a chap pops out for a summertime stroll (well, maybe), the second short reports a glamour of gunfire and, finally, old man Alan plays the Pied Piper, and takes in the trash for a final defiant romance.


Buy Alan Moore’s Another Suburban Romance and read the Page 45 review here

Mudman vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Paul Grist.

Oh, how I love Paul Grist! He’s the comicbook equivalent of Alan Bennett: a national treasure that I imagine constantly taking tea, possibly with cake, and almost certainly still darning socks.

Perhaps best known for Kane – with its unique blend of wit-ridden crime with the most meticulously placed shadows – Grist also has a soft spot for superheroes. That always makes me smile. That they are British superheroes only Paul Grist could get away with, and that’s because they are entirely testosterone-free. And genuinely British, gentle, with our love of self-mockery, not aping Americans like CAPTAIN Gaudypants BRITAIN used to.

This is ever so British and delightfully old-fashioned, set at the seaside with socks and sandals, and penny arcades on piers. Candyfloss too, plus two clod-hopping thieves, one with a mild brummy accent.

15-year-old Owen Craig lives in Burnbridge-on-Sea with his sister and Dad who’s a DC with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. His best mate’s Jack Newton and together they’ve just broken into the old Scooby Doo house right on the coast, overlooking a perilous patch of quicksand.

“When I was seven my Dad told me about this crazy old guy who used to live here. One night there was this epic storm. Thunder, lightning, all that. And in the middle of it all, the old guy climbs on the roof. He’s just ranting and raving at the storm – proper mental like. There was this huge explosion – the sky lit up an’ everything – and the storm just stopped. Nobody ever saw that old guy again. An’ no one’s ever lived here since.
“Mind you, my Dad told me a lot of stuff when I was seven. Most of it turned out to be lies. Ow!”

Owen fumbles for a light switch. He finds a switch all right, but more is revealed that he counted on. Then he’s discovered, chased onto the sands and shot three times in the back.

The beauty of all this is the structure. You don’t see what happens next. Instead you fast-forward to Owen waking in up his bed. He thinks it’s a dream, but it isn’t. The second chapter then mirrors the first, seen from the assailants’ perspective. And then there are flashbacks and, oh, bit by bit, bit by bit….

I say the beauty of all this is the structure, but I lied. The true beauty lies not within but without: the layout of each page and the exquisite style of Paul’s deft drawing. I adore his body forms, as lank as you like and flattened to extremes. They twist and curve so beautifully yet retain far more weight that most other artists’ do on the page. It’s the postures, so effortlessly dynamic without the hard rendering of, say, Scott Williams on Jim Lee’s pencils. I’ve often made comparisons to Frank Miller as reinterpreted by Nabiel Kanan but those are mere references: no one does Paul Grist at all. It’s so exuberant and the only other pages I can think of which are so free from clutter are Andi Watson’s. The cover to the first issue, reprinted here prior to kick-off, is possibly the cutest superhero I have ever seen in my life.

To begin with its small-scale but there’s a much wider web being woven which involves ancient enemies and dire repercussions and a mysterious woman who appears to young Owen Craig – and Owen Craig only – much as she looked forty years ago: on a library microfiche of a local newspaper under suspicion of something quite shocking. It’s no wonder Owen’s Dad blanched at the photograph.


Buy Mudman vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mind The Gap vol 1: Intimate Strangers (£7-50, Image) by Jim McCann & Rodin Esquejo…

This work starts with the main character in a coma after a brutal attack by persons unknown and by the end of this volume I rather felt like I was in danger of slipping into one too. The basic premise seems to be that Ellie, the coma victim in question, is watching subsequent real world events unfold from a limbo-like zone where other coma victims at the same hospital have also gathered and can interact with each other. She is different from the others however, in that she is able to enter other coma victims’ bodies just before they die, allowing her to briefly interact with the real world. Her attacker meanwhile is still at large, and her wealthy and rather unpleasant family may or may not be involved somehow. I can’t imagine I will bother reading the second volume to find out though.


Buy Mind The Gap vol 1: Intimate Strangers and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League Dark vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter Milligan & Mikel Janin…

I don’t really like making negative comments about anything by Peter Milligan, but HELLBLAZER this is most certainly not, at least so far anyway. I can just imagine the editorial meeting where the great and good decided that sticking all the various magical / odd characters that don’t have / can’t sustain their own title in one monthly comic, glued together with a sprinkle of Constantine, would be a sure fire hit in the most delightful way. After all, characters like Shade The Changing Man, MADAME XANADU, Deadman, Zatanna et al are pretty interesting in their own right, it’s just this feels rather contrived, written purely to bring all the cast together as expediently as possibly, despite some amusing exchanges and dialogue throughout. Hopefully once we get into some proper stories things might improve as Milligan is certainly way, way better than this.


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

Punisher Max: Homeless s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon…

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


Buy Punisher Max: Homeless 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.
Mrs Weber’s Omnibus (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds

The Lost Art Of Ah Pook Is Here h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by William Burroughs & Malcom McNeill

Dockwood h/c (£13-95, Nobrow Press) by Jon McNaught

Comic Sketchbooks (£24-95, Thames & Hudson) by various

This Is Not My Hat h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Hilda And The Bird Parade h/c (£11-95, Nobrow Press) by Luke Pearson

Mutts Treasury: Bonk! (£14-99, AMP) by Patrick McDonnell

Ralph Azham vol 1: Why Would You Lie To Someone You Love? h/c (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Lewis Trondheim

Doctor Who: The Child Of Time (£16-99, BBC) by various

Huntress vol 1: Crossbow At The Crossroads s/c (£10-99, DC) by Paul Levitz & Marcus To

Marvel Masterworks: Captain America vol 2 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Gil Kane

Spider-Man: Flying Blind s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Mark Waid & Humerto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kano

Astonishing X-Men: Exalted s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Warren Ellis & Mike McKone, Adi Granov

Wandering Son vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Shimura Takako

Gantz vol 25 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Limit vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Keiko Suenobu

Nana vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Ai Yazawa

Totally off-topic, but I was watching someone restore my internet connection, totally absorbed in what they were doing, and felt the same quietly ecstatic, vicarious buzz tingle up the back of my neck which I first experienced watching my uncle play with my metal toy fire engine aged 3. I’ve never been able to identify what this sensation actually was nor heard anyone else mention but, on Twitter, @jadedlyco responded with this on ASMR, and it’s perfect.

 – Stephen

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