Archive for April, 2013

Reviews April 2013 week four

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Profanity, hot bullets and blue Brony action!

 – Stephen on Grant Morrison & Darick Robertson’s Happy.

Montague Terrace (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Gary Pleece & Warren Pleece.

The silk-finish cover makes Montague Terrace look a most attractive prospect for potential residents. Shame it was built over what was once a verdant, urban square – and you wait until you meet its architect!

You’ll have to, for it’s the building’s current occupants you’re introduced to first, and if they’re at all representative then you probably wouldn’t sign a lease yourself. Apart from old Mrs. Greene – a WWII spy once interrogated by the Nazis in much the same threatening, dissembling fashion as the tyrannical council do now – they are each of them broken and, now that I think of it, all of them including the octogenarian are haunted, either by prior failure, success or indeed war. It’s driven its fair share of them mad.

Paul Gregory was once touted by the likes of Melody Maker as the next Scott Walker. He wasn’t. He was a feckless and faithless husband and now he sits in his flat, half-naked and playing his own single to death. T.C.P. DeBoyne was hailed as the modern D.J. Salinger, but his difficult second novel proves too much for the easily distracted, pleasure-seeking wastrel who resorts to disparaging others on the equivalent of the Late Show simply to replenish what little’s left of his advance after this girlfriend’s gone shoe-shopping with all the self-restraint of Imelda Marcos. If I was his publisher, I’d punch him. Then there’s the scientist whose ecological innovations were sabotaged by the government, corporations and an ever-collusive media when detrimental to the “interests of enterprise”. Oh, and the charisma-free conjurer expelled from the Magic Circle who resorts to turning tricks at parties for spoiled, middle-class brats, one of whom gets his come-uppance thanks to a giant, rabid rabbit. Instant catharsis!

The Pleece Brothers have plenty to say, much of it eminently worth saying, and the opening sequence of the modern flat’s erection gave me hope that this might prove a modern equivalent of Will Eisner’s monumental DROPSIE AVENUE or at least THE BUILDING. I loved Mrs. Greene’s reply to any and all neighbourly enquiries as to her health (“I’m not dead yet!”) which resonates all the more affectingly when you come to comprehend its origin; I positively grinned at the tagline for Trendé magazine: “tasteful, high brow trash for the twittering masses”; and the well-meaning interference of the teacher in the domestic well-being of two Iraqi school children was harrowing.

However – although you may love, love, love it – I hated the dénouement, the reveal which to me seemed like something which Vertigo or Warrior Magazine might have editorially insisted on twenty or thirty years ago. The only unifying factor required was the terrace itself, as evidenced by both Eisner books above. Also, on reflection, the format itself is a retrograde step: an A4 softcover albeit with infinitely better production values than those we endured two decades ago. I can’t think of any other books which have recently opted for that format abandoned even by LOVE AND ROCKETS a ways back, and Jonathan Cape have bounded their previous A4 offerings in something much sturdier. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the format; it’s just that the US and UK market have proved resistant to it over the years. Perhaps Cape weren’t aware of that.

Anyway, I can’t bear to conclude as a Debbie Downer where the Pleece Brothers are concerned because a) The Pleece Brothers, b) the black and white art is even more refined than ever with an atmosphere which both anchors you consistently in the day-to-day doings of the tenants, whilst terrifying the reader during the more surrealist nightmare sequences, and c) if the destination didn’t do it for me, the journey itself more than made up for it. I therefore commend to you also Warren Pleece’s exceptional work on Mat Johnson’s INCOGNEGRO.


Buy Montague Terrace and read the Page 45 review here

Happy s/c (£9-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Darick Robertson.

Profanity, hot bullets and blue Brony action!

Many sarcastic thanks to whichever of my sympathisers on Twitter explained the term ‘Brony’ to me some months ago following a flock of five fellows, in a single swoop, signing up to the MY LITTLE PONY #1 COMPLETE BOXED SET at £18-99 each. I cannot unlearn what I now know to be true, so may never fully recover. What I learned was this:

There has been a surge what could loosely be called of man-love for that saccharine pink pony, and those guilty of such a wayward cultural misalignment are called Bronies. Now, I’m hardly the butchest boy in the box and obviously Page 45 is an all-inclusive, non-judgemental love-in for all manner of diverse penchants and pleasures… but there are fucking limits.

By which I mean: “That’ll be £18-99, please. Thank you!”

Anyway, Happy here is a feathered blue pony with big, bulbous, bright shiny eyes, a purple unicorn horn and accentuated, goofy front teeth. Knowing Grant Morrison you may seriously doubt this, but potentially he’s the product of a delirious imagination as ex-Detective Nick Sax is sped across town in an ambulance after receiving several gunshot wounds in part-exchange for having murdered the four Fratelli brothers. They thought they were on a mission to axe our Sax, but it was no-nonsense Nick who hired them in the first place. The police are swift to the scene but that’s good news for no one except the Fratellis’ Uncle Stefano who’s determined to keep it all in the family – “it” being the Fratelli fortune. Unfortunately no one bothered to tell him the password and the only person still alive who knows that now is Nick.

Corruption is the order of the day on the snowy streets of God Only Knows and torture/interrogation will follow, all kindly overseen and endorsed by New Jersey’s Finest in the form of Maireadh McCarthy who’s firmly in Uncle Stefano’s pockets. Time to send in arch-information extractor Mr. Smoothie.

“I feel like the ghost of a hard-on that will not die.”

Along the way we meet a drunken paedophile dressed up as Santa (you’ll meet again – and after Nick knows where, you’ll know when), while Sax quite casually and coincidentally dispatches a serial murderer in a prawn costume smoking a spliff from a back end of a hammer which was five seconds away from coming down on the head of a prostitute blowing him to blissful oblivion. Did I mention it’s Christmas?

From the writer of WE3, JOE THE BARBARIAN and BATMAN INCORPORATED etc. comes something akin to THE FILTH only without the giant, flying spermatozoa. Profanity abounds and he’s set out to sully the holiday season whilst lobbing in the incongruity of bright-eyed chirpy-pants Happy The Horse who claims to be Hailey’s imaginary friend sent to Sax to rescue her from the plastered paedo.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN’s Darick Robertson is on his best form ever with masterfully slick choreography, the sturdiest of figure work and eye-popping street scenes all beautifully lit and then coloured to perfection by Richard P. Clark.


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

Vader’s Little Princess h/c (£9-99, Chronicle) by Jeffrey Brown.

“You are not going out dressed like that!”

From the creator of the fragile, autobiographal comics CLUMSY, UNLIKELY, FUNNY MISSHAPEN BODY etc, the two INCREDIBLE CHANGE-BOTS books and so much more, comes a sister title to DARTH VADER AND SON with Luke replaced by pretzel-haired Princess Leia.

Having played out most of the infant jokes (with considerable aplomb, though there are a few more here which only a daughter could deliver), Jeff swiftly moves to those difficult teenage years when being a single Dad proves problematic – especially with a daughter in danger of dating. Alas, most of the gags are image-specific so quotation is difficult, however…

“Nothing is wrong,” she tells Hans Solo, arms tightly folded and looking away. “I just…”

Hans, arms outstretched to hug her, looks back at his prospective father-in-law enquiringly as if to ask, “What does she mean? Is this what she wants?” Darth simply shrugs, as clueless as the rest of us.

Then there’s the age-old chestnut of getting kids to tidy their rooms. In my case it was miniature cars I used to imagine playing out my private Whacky Races: perfect for a parental pratfall. In this case it’s a clothes-strewn carpet. Also: clothes-strewn bookshelves, clothes-strewn bedside cabinet and clothes-strewn lampshades…


Once more half the humour resides in our cold, calculating, rasping and ruthless, obsidian-orientated, empire-eliminating egomaniac being reduced to a helpless parent, totally in thrall to the whims and wishes of his titular little princess who blithely interrupts his latest death-decree by hugging him at the hip (and so putting him off his sadistic stride) or, conversely, taking paternal interrogation twenty-two steps too far.

The second half of the equation is the familiarity: of Darth, for example, being as behind the times and out of date as all Dads.

“It’s good, Dad, you’d like it.”

He’d hate it. And so do you.

However, my favourite cartoon this time round (it’s a book of cartoons, not comics – did I mention that?) is one which I think we can all empathise with and dearly wish we had a Dad like Darth to dish out the well deserved punitive measures on our infuriated behalf.

“I think it’s telemarketers calling…”

Let it be lethal.


Buy Vader’s Little Princess h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Manhattan Projects vol s/c (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra…

“Grave news… we’re going to have to postpone the orgy.
“Seems those fiends in Los Alamos have decided they no longer need to recognise the authority of the government.
“How’s a President supposed to perform sexually under that kind of pressure?”

Utterly insane! Now the question is, am I referring to pretty much all of the cast of characters, or the plot? Errr… well both, actually. It takes real talent to produce something as completely bonkers yet seamlessly coherent as this title is. And crackers fun, in huge megaton payloads-full!

Following on from the events of MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL 1, where our eclectic bunch of super-genii defeated an entire alien race intent on world domination / destruction, it is perhaps no great surprise they’ve decided they don’t really need the dubious benefits of <ahem> executive oversight from the President and his chums anymore. It’s not that they’ve come out and said so, you understand; it’s just they don’t feel they need to ask permission. After all, when you’ve developed your own nuclear devices and have acquired teleportation technology so you can drop them exactly where you want, Washington DC for example, who is likely to quibble with you? Stupid politicians of course! Cue the smackdown!

In the meanwhile, given the boys from Los Alamos have decided to concentrate on… bigger things…  their first step is to reach out to their Russian scientific brethren ensconced in their own technological complex at Star City to see if they’d like to join in the fun, which gives Jonathan Hickman chance to introduce another wonderful set of oddballs and maniacs! Not that he’s neglecting the megalomania of several of our original cast as the Einstein from another dimension, having covertly replaced the original, continues to hatch his own dastardly scheme, and Joseph Oppenheimer, whom everyone presumes is Robert after he murdered and ate him many years previously, is about to get a rather unpleasant psychic surprise courtesy of his subsumed sibling. Like I said, completely utterly insane all round!


Buy Manhattan Projects vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Point Of Impact (£10-99, Image) by Jay Faerber & Koray Kuranel.

Brace yourself.

1. A young couple in a car is saying goodnight, and arranging a dinner for Saturday. Something smashes onto the roof with such ferocity they’re almost killed in the crash. It’s the body of a beautiful blonde woman, smartly dressed, and she is quite, quite dead.

2. Journalist Mitchell Rafferty is working late, putting a piece to bed. Thankfully his wife, Nicole, has made plans with her sister because he knows she can’t cook to save her life. When he finally gets home, he is knackered. Unfortunately his wife’s not there, but someone else is, rifling furiously through his draws. It’s someone in a mask with a military tattoo. It gets very violent very quickly until there’s a knock on the door. It’s detective Abby Warren with very bad news: his wife is dead. The intruder escapes with a laptop.

3. Simon from technical calls Abby Warren: they were working on Nicole Rafferty’s cell phone when a call came in. They traced it. The caller was one Patrick Boone, ex-army with a record and – yes – that very same tattoo.

Oh, you think it’s that obvious? Now read the comic itself: specifically the bits I missed out like, oh, I don’t know… that voicemail.

Full marks to the artist for the very first panel showing the crime scene under investigation. Immediately I jotted down a note: “How can someone falling from a rooftop land on a car parked that far away from the building?” She’d have had to have taken a running jump, which is a wee bit difficult in stilettos. It certainly wasn’t suicide. You get exactly the same sense of improbability when Abby’s looking down from above.

Full marks also for the art itself, reminiscent in places of Klaus Janson – especially the faces – and Frank Miller’s SIN CITY style when it came to the bed linen. Clean, crisp architecture too. As to the cover… that’s an instant seller and, unusually, an additional clue to the story.

So. That is what I wrote of the first of four chapters, at least. In addition I had always intended to mention that there was a hint of HULK artist Herb Trimpe to the visual proceedings, as inked perhaps by Terry ‘clean line’ Austin.

Alas, although our journalist does look suitable frazzled throughout, I have to come clean and confess that, having now read the whole shebang, it turns out to be way too transparent. I could even see the keyboard being tapped in my mind’s eye as the script slots everything together way too easily and the protagonists reach the requisite revelations or make all their mistakes bang on cue.

It’s still a great cover but, for prime crime, please read THIEF OF THIEVES or CRIMINAL instead.


Buy Point Of Impact and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 1: Avengers World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Adam Kubert, Jerome Opena.

“We have to get bigger.
“We have held for so long, but there is something looming just past the horizon. We can’t see it, but it’s coming. It’s going to be too much, and too soon – and we have to get ready now.
“We’ll keep this quiet until they’re needed – you and I will do most of the recruiting. Specific people for specific needs. But they’ll be out there. Ready… Waiting…
“And then, when that day comes, all you have to do is say the words… Wake The World.”

Oh, it’s coming all right: I can assure you it all pays off next volume. Well, at the end of this one once they decrypt the Builder Machine Code. How good’s your Warren Ellis?

Speaking of Ellis, I know Tony Stark is sounding all Miranda Zero, but don’t expect their new operatives’ deployment to be quite as select as within GLOBAL FREQUENCY: it’s more like banging a global gong, inviting everyone and their mother to dinner.

Hickman’s written a very different AVENGERS book here: it’s no longer a tightly knit family affair, but a military assault reacting to worldwide catastrophe as a group of god-like gardeners plant themselves firmly on Mars and set about weeding out the weaklings on Earth by introducing their own strains – like anyone with green fingers does when they move into a house and discover that their new back garden is blighted by dozens of hideous hydrangeas. What…? Horrible flower, the hydrangea.

Anyway, that’s one bloody big battle, but what they’re left with is an enigmatic being whose language they can’t comprehend – one who appears to have a very important message for mankind if only the Avengers can interpret it in time…

As with all things Jonathan ‘NIGHTLY NEWS’ Hickman, there is some seriously stylish design going on in each chapter break – he does like his symbols, does Hickman, and has a penchant for blue too – including the Builder Machine Code supplied right at the end. Personally I’d read the whole thing without it first time round, thereby walking a mile in the Avengers’ mystified shoes. After that, by all means get your pen and paper out, decrypt like crazy and keep for posterity.

Please note: if you’re wondering why Spider-Man is so hilariously rude right now – I don’t mean cheeky as he’s always been; I mean downright supercilious – you may wish to catch up on events in his own title, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN. Clue: that isn’t exactly Peter Parker under that mask. It may look like him, but someone’s rented a room in his noggin’ and eviction is proving problematic.


Buy Avengers vol 1: Avenger’s World h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£37-99, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill.

“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.”

450 pages of smear and loathing, designed to make your mouth curl at the very same time you’re chortling your toes off. You’ll be gurning and groaning, like the Elephantman being given a blowjob.

Before Veitch delivered pretty much the last word worth saying on the pervy nature of superheroes in BRATPACK (although we’ve since been treated to Garth Ennis’ sustained sexual assault in THE BOYS), Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill voiced their own distaste in their ultra-violent, iconoclastic, joke-in-every-corner MARSHAL LAW books. All things establishment and status quo get a jack-booted kick to the crotch, from Reagan and the Church to the Justice League of America and theme parks. It’s kind of like MAD on crack (I did not just type “it’s kind of like” – you never read that), though I don’t mean Kurtzman-esque, for you won’t find too much social dissection going on. That was left, as previous mentioned, to Rick Veitch.

What you will witness is a gross-out ejaculation of repressed sexuality; of sadism, masochism and self-loathing. Maximum punnage is the order of the day and they keep it coming, thick and fast, spawning now-familiar slogans like “Nuke Me Gently.”

It’s not quite as slick as I recall – the voice-overs don’t half interrupt the flow – but it’s still the work of two men having the grimmest of laughs while firing on all cylinders.

This whopping volume, heavy enough to cave in the cranium of anyone in a kinky costume or cape, reprints MARSHAL LAW #1-6, MARSHAL LAW: FEAR AND LOATHING, MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN, MARSHAL LAW: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND and MARSHAL LAW: THE HATEFUL DEAD, MARSHAL LAW: SUPER BABYLON and MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1-2. Gallery section, and an introduction by Jonathan Ross.


Buy Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition 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.

Marble Season h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez

Courtney Crumrin Spec Ed h/c vol 3 (£18-99, Oni Press) by Naifeh, Ted & Naifeh, Ted

Morning Glories s/c vol 4 Truants (£10-99, Image) by Spencer, Nick & Eisma, Joe

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat s/c (£5-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton

Charles Burns Library s/c vol 2 Big Baby (New Ptg) (£12-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Charles Burns

Dark Tower Gunslinger s/c Battle Of Tull (£14-99, Marvel) by David, Peter & Lark, Michael

Who Is Ac s/c (£10-99, Other A-Z) by Larson, Hope & Pantoia, Tintin

Flowers Of Evil vol 5 (£8-50, Random House / Vertical) by Oshimi, Shuzo & Oshimi, Shuzo

Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams s/c vol 2 (£18-99, DC) by Haney, Bob & Adams, Neal

Uncanny Avengers Prem h/c vol 1 Red Shadow Now (£18-99, Marvel) by Remender, Rick & Cassaday, John

MMW Incredible Hulk h/c vol 7 (£52-99, Marvel) by Various, Herb Trimpe

Fairy Tail vol 23 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 24 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Hiro Mashima

I am Here vol 1 (£12-99, Del Ray) by Ema Toyama

Doctor Who vol 1 The Hypothetical Gentleman (£13-50, IDW) by Andy Diggle, Brandon Seifert & Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond, Ilias Kyriazis

Ningens Nightmares s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Kalonji, J. P. & Kalonji, J. P.

Gantz s/c vol 27 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Oku, Hiroya & Oku, Hiroya

Excel Saga s/c vol 25 (£7-50, Viz) by Koshi, Rikdo & Koshi, Rikdo
Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING has been snapped up for TV! Yay!

Also: The Eisner Nominations 2013. I think there may actually be progress in this traditionally mediocre institution (the British Comic Awards 2012 showed everyone how it should be done) but where the hell is the best book of the year? THE NAO OF BROWN is not mentioned once!


 – Stephen

Reviews April 2013 week three

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Thus we learn about her family history as glimpsed through the prism of mixing bowl and wine glass.

  – Jonathan on Lucy Knisley’s Relish.

Punk Rock Jesus (£12-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy.

“What kinds of things will he be learning?”
“Math, English, American History, Creationism, Faith Healing.”
“Creationism and Faith Healing? You’re kidding me.”
“Many of our viewers are fundamentalist and would be uncomfortable with their saviour learning about science and evolution.”
“That’s ridiculous! The benefit of a billion-dollar learning centre, and all you teach is dogma?”
“It’s the American way.”

It begins with a prayer swiftly answered by violence. God knows where it will all end.

Ophis Entertainment has announced a new reality show starring the first human clone in history: it’s Jesus Christ himself.

Whether or not the revolution will be televised, the countdown to the Second Coming will! Season one will commence with conception and climax at birth. After that both nature and nurture will be on camera 24/7. Audience figures for the J2 Project will reach 3 billion daily and, in order to achieve those ratings, smarmy Dick Slate will do anything – absolutely anything. The insidiousness begins on day one, and the levels it reaches will stagger you.

First it requires a scientist: Dr. Sarah Epstein, geneticist in service to saving the environment. In 2013 she cloned polar bears in an attempt to stave off their extinction, then developed a hyper plant which fed off carbon dioxide faster than anything else. She even tried to pollinate the Brazilian rainforest before being stung by lawsuits from six fast-food chains. Now she’s determined to engineer new strains of algae to halt global warming but to do that she needs funds.

“And if I have to resurrect Jesus Christ to do it, then I will.”

Next the Immaculate Conception requires a self-sacrificial virgin in the form of naïve 18-year-old Gwen Fairling (presented to the world after some swift cosmetic surgery – teeth, nose, breasts), then some of our saviour’s DNA. And, you know, whatever happens next, this exchange on live television should certainly be born in mind:

“There’s never been any evidence that the [Turin] Shroud is as old as Christians would like to believe. And carbon dating has proven that. Most important here is no one outside of Ophis has been allowed to verify the validity of the DNA.”
“Blasphemy. Carbon dating is flawed – the Shroud is real and that proves Jesus was, too!”
“Is what Father Sterlins says true?”
“There’s no disputing carbon data. And there’s never been any empirical evidence that a person named Jesus Christ ever existed.”
“How dare you! Scientists are not to be trusted! Their arrogance has given us atomic bombs and nuclear waste. They tell us that we all come from monkeys, and insist on telling that to our children.”
“Evolution through natural selections is a fact. Fossil records prove it.”
“Evolution is just a theory!”
“So is gravity.”

Some of the Christian contingent are all for it – it combines their favourite pastimes to perfection – while others like the New American Christians protest vociferously outside Ophis’ island HQ. They’d far rather protest inside the high-tech laboratory turned TV studio, of course, which is where our Irish head of security comes in, born of sectarian violence. Yes, Murphy’s brought Northern Ireland into this already flammable mix: Thomas is a former member of the IRA!

I think it was HELLBLAZER’s Andy Diggle who first said to Sean, “And Vertigo gave this the green light?!?” You’ve got to admire the guy’s guts, for this is as packed as the pulp paper it’s printed on with plot and sub-plottery destined to offend all and sundry. Or delight them. I am totally delighted.

Don’t think this is but a convenient peg on which to hang Thomas’ heart or explain his efficacy, either. The book begins twenty years earlier with his parents’ slaughter right before his impressionable eyes, leaving young Thomas vulnerable to his uncle’s indoctrination. The Irish troubles are addressed and indeed redressed later on – if not in full then certainly in terms of Thomas’ history – and it’s all very far from random.

Indeed every element of this socio-political masterpiece is commendably complex and thought right the way through. For what follows is everything you suspected of Reality TV, taken to the extremes deemed necessary when your star is supposedly the saviour: media manipulation, emotional blackmail and indeed outright abuse, all in service to the ratings.

Gwen’s trajectory is particularly tragic, trapped as she is in this fishbowl for her own personal safety and stuck on a white-knuckle ride she could never conceive of. When she turns to drink (supplied by Slate to “cheer her up”) and mistakenly fills her baby’s bottle up with wine rather than juice, it’s spun as a biblical miracle while Gwen herself sinks even further into self-loathing. As to Jesus “Chris” Christ, fed lies all his life, well, you know what happens when you hit your teens: you take your education into your own hands and it generally begins with vinyl. All his life he’s been shown how to grab the public’s attention, so over the years he’s learned a thing or two and when the worm turns, the tables do too.

As to the art, you’ve already swooned over Sean Murphy on JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS and this is every bit as thrilling in its post-Bachalo, black-and-white beauty – a comparison which holds true right down to the o’er-shaded nose tips. It is so ridiculously rich in detail, from the Irish pub walls to the stadium-sized concerts, that you can only gasp at the sheer graft which Sean has put in. The action sequences are spectacular, for Murphy doesn’t half love his motorbikes and the NAC will seize any opportunity to sabotage the show. Also, when the Flak Jackets strike their opening crash-chords the pages sound as loud as Paul Peart-Smith’s in NELSON. Dear lord, but the energy released is intense.

So has Project J2 really played God with God and cloned the Second Coming into existence? And, if so, will he fare any better than his progenitor at the hands of those who worshipped his deity-Dad? What really happened to that other little miracle, his genetically impossible twin sister snuck in by Sarah Epstein then drowned at birth? And what, ultimately, does Chris himself believe?

“I don’t care whose DNA I come from. The way I see it, I’m the bastard child of America’s runaway entertainment complex.”

Preach it.


Buy Punk Rock Jesus and read the Page 45 review here

Relish – My Life In The Kitchen s/c (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Lucy Knisley…

For some people, food is part of their heritage. For Lucy, born to parents in the business of cooking, her palette was always going to be stimulated from a very young age. Thus we learn about her family history as glimpsed through the prism of mixing bowl and wine glass. I love it when people tackle an autobiographical work from a completely different perspective such as this: it shows imagination and awareness of how to present a tasty morsel for the reader’s delectation. If you have read one of Lucy’s earlier works, FRENCH MILK, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to be served; otherwise, have a seat and don’t forget to put a napkin on in case you start drooling!

Knisley vividly conveys the impression of a family whose lives frequently revolved around the kitchen and the dining room table. Family friends and members are introduced, not just by their names, but their involvement with food, usually on a professional basis. It’s a work of genuine bonhomie, as Lucy never really delves particularly deeply into relationships or highly charged emotional content (she doesn’t explain why her parents split up, for example), instead preferring to tickle us with amusing anecdotes, such as a trip to Mexico with her mum, Aunt and cousin. Mum and Auntie fall ill, leaving the two kids to roam around and get up to mischief, whilst sampling local food, of course.

Similarly, there’s no proselytising about gastronomy either. One of the sequences I loved most was of her taking a trip to Rome with her father and driving him mad by purchasing a McDonalds burger and fries for breakfast one morning. Even though they were divorced by this point, it prompts a conversation of near total disbelief between her parents.

Her art has come on too since her earlier works, and here she often manages to pack in a huge amount of detail with her relatively sparse style, using an incredibly vibrant palate, without it ever seeming crowded. It’s quite the trick actually, because if you study some panels, many of them, it’s difficult to conclude whether there’s a lot going on or virtually nothing at all. I like her style, it all seems very effortless, yet that clearly isn’t the case.

At the conclusion of each tale or chapter, we are also presented with a family recipe, some of Lucy’s own creation, and I must say, I am very tempted to give the rancheros huevos a go, as it looked delicious, not to mention the multiple versions of chocolate-chip cookies. I hope I haven’t understated my pleasure in reading this work. Despite being a gentle, frothy affair, it’s certainly well seasoned and rich, not remotely lacking in flavour, and leaves a pleasant after-taste upon finishing. And if that’s more than enough food analogies for you, let get the waiter to bring you your coat…


Buy Relish – My Life In The Kitchen s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Unico s/c (£25-99, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka –

This is the story of Unico, a cute little blue Unicorn who befriends a mortal maiden named Psyche. It’s a full-colour Disneyesque book with a fairytale quality which is certainly aimed at kids but which also had me giggling in places and sniffling a bit in others.

Unicorns (apparently) have the power to do anything and everything for the ones they love, including flying, shape-shifting and conjuring fish for dinner. Pretty Cool! However, their power fades if the friendship weakens: they’re all about the love, are Unicorns. Unsurprisingly, given their cool powers, super-cuteness and capacity for limitless affection, being beloved of a Unicorn will bring a mortal a lifetime of guaranteed happiness. And as Unicorns don’t give their love to just anybody, you can be sure that a mortal with a pet Unicorn is a very lovely person indeed.

Psyche is just such a person: gentle, kind and, despite her legendary beauty and many, many suitors, modest. Jealous of all the attention Psyche is getting, the goddess Venus decides to spirit Unico away, leaving his beautiful owner to wither in endless sadness. And so our poor, cute little hero is cast away through time and space to ever more distant lands with no memory of who he is or where he came from. Each adventure has elements of familiar tales; from the Native Americans vs. the White Man to the struggles of an unwanted cat to battles over fairytale kingdoms. Because he is such a little darling Unico always makes a friend wherever he lands up and tries to make their life better. This angers Venus further and so every time you think he might be winning he is whisked away again, ever further from his true home. Will he ever make it back to poor Psyche?

The blurb on the back of the book informs us that this is the “perfect first manga to read with the little ones” and it’s hard to argue with that, although, as with many fairytales we encounter sadness as well as joy and adventure. There is something there for adults too; silly humour and slapstick abound and, if you are a bit of a softie like me, there are some borderline tearful moments as well. Not the most sophisticated thing I will read all year I’m sure but quite lovely nonetheless!


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

Swamp Thing vol 2: Family Tree s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Yanick Paquette….

Okay, I now understand why DC released this volume a few months after ANIMAL MAN VOL 2. It does tie up time-wise, but then that now leaves me wondering if people reading the issues of both these titles as they were coming out month by month were slightly bemused. Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, for anyone reading merely one or neither of these titles – either in issues or trades – and wondering what on earth I am rambling on about, we are still being told two sides or strands of the same story, revealing the latest see-saw in the ongoing three-way balancing acts between the forces of The Green, The Red and The Rot, fought through their various forces, including their avatars.

The current avatars of The Green and The Red are of course better known to us as Alec Holland and Buddy Baker respectively. The avatar of The Rot, when finally revealed, is probably no great surprise to Swamp-heads, but I won’t spoil that here. I enjoyed this volume considerably more as a trade than in the issues, which I actually gave up on. In part because it is one long (still) ongoing story arc, but also because it’s trying to gradually build other things along the way, which I was losing track of in the issues. Here it felt a much more fluid read.

As I commented in my review of ANIMAL MAN VOL 2, SWAMP THING is also trying to simultaneously be a Vertigo(-lite)-style title and, of course, a New 52 ‘superhero’ one. It’s a commendable approach, actually, which I think is working for both, without, yet at least (and perhaps inevitably), hitting the heady heads of either the Grant Morrison or Alan Moore runs. Neither title is esoteric enough for me personally in their story-telling with the characters, but the writers are probably pushing it as far as their remits allow, plus getting in the undoubted quota of mandated fight scenes. I will keep reading both, I am enjoying them, it’s just a touch frustrating when you know what could be done with the characters, a sentiment Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire doubtless share, I suspect…


Buy Swamp Thing vol 2: Family Tree s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: Secret Identity (£14-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Stuart Immonen.

Until Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely produced the note-perfect ALL-STAR SUPERMAN four years later, I wrote that if you were ever going to buy any Superman book, this should be it. Even though (or perhaps because) it’s not about Superman at all.

It’s about a boy called Clark Kent who grows up in Kansas and whose parents really weren’t thinking when they christened him. All his life he’s had to endure jibes about his name and birthday/Christmas presents focussing almost exclusively on the Superman theme just because he shares the comicbook character’s name. It’s not as if he has super-strength; he can’t hear whispers several miles away; he can’t even fly. Or at least he couldn’t. Then one night, much to Clark’s teenage surprise, he finds that he can.

So what you have here is a clean slate with someone whose powers echo Superman’s, but who then has to navigate his way through a real-world context of education, careers and relationships, and a real-world context of the CIA and American military who you just know would do anything to lay their hands on someone they would consider either an asset or a direct threat to their national and geopolitical interests. Either/or. “There ain’t no neutral ground”. They cannot just leave him alone, they’re constantly trying to track and trick him, but Clark doesn’t want to end up their pawn and cannot afford to endanger his family, and you really do spend most of the series anxious about the consequences.

There are some writers who really don’t fare well in standard superhero comics but who shine on their own pet projects, and Kurt is one of them. This harbours all the affection and thought that he pours into ASTRO CITY, and I think much of that has to do with the fact that if there’s no continuity, no context other than that of his own choosing, and he’s particularly interested in the perspective of ordinary human beings when confronted with the extraordinary, which is where this succeeds.

What do you tell your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife? And at what stage of the relationship? What, if anything, do you ever tell your family? How would any of these people react? And what would you do with your gifts? What would it actually be like, to suddenly discover you could fly?

I think Immonen gives you a pretty fine description, visually, with some awesome midnight scenes above the Kansas countryside, and this is leagues above anything I’ve seen him submit before. He’s on colouring duty as well, and uses that to soften the forms, retaining as much pencil as possible.


Buy Superman: Secret Identity and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd vol 1 (£14-99, IDW) by Duane Swierczynski & Nelson Daniel…

Sheesh. If the penalty for jimping – impersonating a Judge to you citizens who aren’t down with Mega-City slang – is twenty years in a cube, then I shudder to think what the punishment for impersonating a Judge Dredd writer is. Life in a kook cube perhaps. I fear Duane Swierczynski may well find out though. I had such high hopes for this title, I really did. What I wanted was something action-packed, yet totally completely deadly serious. Hard-boiled future fiction crime. What I didn’t need was yet more naff comedy capers. Surely, surely that is what 2000AD is for? Even though in 2000AD they have tackled relatively serious storylines before, in fact they’ve been some of the very best ones, such as the classic ‘America’ which is part of the wider ‘Democracy’ story, it’s relatively rare they tried to tell an ongoing story with real depth, which is partly due to the short length weekly format of the strip. When they do it’s great, but they can’t do that week in, week out.

Thus when I heard Swierczynski, a published crime writer, and whose runs on MOON KNIGHT and THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST I really enjoyed was going to be the scribe on this new monthly I got excited. But if this is really as good as it’s going to get, I simply shouldn’t have bothered. Why oh why they didn’t decide to play it as straight crime with a sci-fi twist, plus with the politics and intrigue of a Judge’s sector house thrown in for good measure I just do not know. This series as it is will tank so badly, particularly with our American chums. So it’s probably going to be another opportunity to make this character truly globally massive missed yet again. Shame.

Note: Judge Dredd: Year One, also by IDW, was exactly the Dredd title I had been waiting for!


Buy Judge Dredd vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hot Girls, Cold Feet restocks (£8-99, Abstract) by Terry Moore.

Wistful, loving, naughty and nice. Impish, anarchic, even angry. Above all, however, funny!

Terry Moore’s love of women wells up from the heart and there is nothing remotely voyeuristic about the pleasure of basking in his pencil and ink sketches, most of which have never before been seen. Doesn’t stop them being sexy, though!

Mischief ahoy from the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE, ECHO and most recently RACHEL RISING!

You might also want to check out Terry’s HOW TO DRAW to see how he drew ‘em. It’s not just a practical manual, either; it’s a philosophical treatise as entertaining as anything he’s ever written.


Buy Hot Girls, Cold Feet 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.

Montague Terrace (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Gary Pleece & Warren Pleece

Happy s/c (£9-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Darick Robertson

Manhattan Projects vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Angel & Faith vol 3: Family Reunion (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs

Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£37-99, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill

Avengers vol 1: Avenger’s World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Jerome Opena

Venom: Devil’s Pack s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Thony Silas

Dial H vol 1: Into You s/c (£10-99, DC) by China Mieville & Mateus Santolouco

Bokurano Ours vol 8 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

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

Durarara!! Saika vol 1 (£8-99, Other A-Z) by Narita Ryohgo & Akiyo Satorigi
There’s been a bit of a funeral today. But, as someone tweeted, it’s hardly a day of national mourning if you need the British Army to contain the mass of protesters. TAMARA DREWE creator Posy Simmonds honours the day with a Grantham fairytale on the Guardian website. Meanwhile the ever-inspired comedian Stewart Lee demonstrates that ‘hagiography’ has acquired a dual meaning in the media’s coverage of Thatcher’s death.

Moving on to SAGA #12: we have loads on our shelves (you can buy online by clicking on that link) – there was not, nor is there, a problem with the printed versions.

However, there remains confusion on the part of customers as to what exactly was up with the whole Apple/ComiXology debacle in not carrying the book. Who declined to do what and why? Was it, as initially suggested, the two teeny-tiny stamp-sized images of gay sex? Was it the subsequent ejaculate? I held my issue in all day until some of the truth began to emerge.

Here’s an interesting summary tweeted by Evan Dorkin, which answers some questions and poses a few more. 4th Letter on SAGA #12. Here’s Image’s Eric Stephenson’s account of SAGA #12’s release.


I have updated the Page 45 FAQs. Same goes for About Page 45 and Website Credits. There’s some comedy content there too.

Finally, this was sent to me by our Foxstress of Facebook, Ryz Glover: an original, unedited sequence from Doctor Who ‘Blink’. Funny!

My Mr. Bob-san can’t even spell ‘stealth’.

 – Stephen

Reviews April 2013 week two

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Jake and Finn mess with Princess Bubblegum’s time machine. Do you know what that is? It is mmmmmuuuUUUNNNNACEPTABLE! 

 – Dominique on Adventure Time vol 2 

Julio’s Day h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

Long have I loved Beto, but this blew my brains out. On page after page after page, this is arresting.

“People who have secrets go to Hell.” 

This is the story of Julio Reyes, from the moment he’s born screaming until the day he dies gasping for air. It begins and ends with a gaping black mouth. There: I’ve given it all away. 

Actually, I have told you nothing, and I intend to keep it that way.

It is not the story of Julio who is but a witness to his family’s travails, for he emphatically does nothing at all. He keeps everything bottled up, right to the bitter end. He wastes his entire life. Instead he witnesses others going off to war and falling in love; dying, lying and crying. Some will cry over him but Julio is resolutely impassive. Or missing something – an emotional chip, maybe. I’ve known people like that.

So it is instead the story of several generations of his family – of his sister and her daughter and her daughter’s son and grandson – who do quite wonderful things and quite shocking things. There are a good five buzz words that would send you scurrying to this book, but I cannot deploy them or you would not then be shocked. Trust me: you will be shocked. And pleasantly surprised.

It is a book about love, about lust, about helping others and taking advantage of them. It is a book about family. It is a book about 99 pages long and about £15 unless you have a student card, a UB40 or an Old Age Pensioners’ bus pass.

The landscapes are astounding: great big rock formations and mudslides and torrential rain. The skies at night are the stuff of the Northern Lights.

There’s a certain formality to it, as there is to Julio and indeed this review. It begins in 1900 and ends in the year 2000.

“No secrets in the house!”

Don’t you believe it.


Buy Julio’s Day h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hey You! (And Other Stories) (£6-00, self-published) by Dan Berry.


My favourite book yet from the creator of AFTER WE SHOT THE GRIZZLY and CAT ISLAND – and that’s no easy feat.

Bound as ever in a quality card-stock cover here in white and lime greens, this beautiful short-story collection is a observational gem full of delicate pen-and-ink drawings, some with soft washes, others warm and bold, one midnight cold.

That would belong to belong to the titular ‘Hey You!’, an ode to insomnia about the people and paranoia which can keep us awake in hotel bedrooms until the early hours of the morning. Perfect punchline!

Equally eerie is the second of our spooks, the ghastly Grey Man – as invented by Joe List in LAND LUBBER. This elusive agent of malaise lurks and lingers, leaving disconcerting evidence of his cold and clammy touch, or simply dampening your day with his mild malignancy.

The second of these has been completely recoloured since its online incarnation seen here, offsetting the drabness of the Grey Man himself with the warmest of mayonnaise yellows and blood-clot burgundies (it really is the colour of a scab), and is a masterpiece of single-page composition, the punchline not being “You get no change” but the Grey Man’s defiant, impenitent, territorial “HSSSSSSS!”. You’re not going to get any change.

‘Men Who Climb’ is absolutely true. I have witnessed precisely this scenario underneath Trent Bridge with a man feeling up the chunky stone masonry with an almost fetishistic lust for many minutes, before proceeding to climb, if only two feet off the ground, and stay there, his entire body pressed against his beloved wall.

The longest piece is a record of Dan’s trip to Algiers where he gave lectures and workshops in comics. Oh, the heat and the hiccups! Transportational, mainly. Thankfully Dan’s mobile phone has a torch. Cell phones have torches?!

I found this piece particularly interesting, culturally, as Dan embarks on his storytelling workshop:

“I used the premise I normally use when I do these things – a man wants to steal a book from a book shop. Starting from there, we talk about what the story requires, how best to approach it and how to show the character’s motivations. When I’ve done these sessions in the UK, the character’s motivations have always emerged as selfish, but in Algeria, the character that we developed acted nobly. I ended up daring three panels of the character getting rejected at a cash machine as final artwork to show more of my process.”

I should also make mention of the vast sense of space in ‘Algiers’, the white between each spot-illustration reflecting the wash slapped all over the North African masonry to keep cool the homes which would otherwise bake in the desiccating heat. This is enhanced in no small part by lettering which is exquisitely neat but far from clinical. The landscapes are glorious, while poor Dan’s sun-induced suffering could not be conveyed with more sweaty success. If sunstroke were contagious, I’d have caught it.


Buy Hey You! (And Other Stories) and read the Page 45 review here

Uber #0 (£2-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White…

It does amuse me greatly that our very own resident grammar-Nazi, Stephen L. Holland, quite firmly insists that no accents or umlauts must be used in titles or creator names on the Page 45 website. He’s right of course, because no one with an Anglicised keyboard ever bothers typing them into search engines thus causing a perilous lack of results if they are used, but I am quite sure it must be distressing his leather-clad interior editor to see deliberately mis-spelt words. Is it wrong therefore that I derive more than a little schadenfreude from this situation heh heh?

I am actually going to suggest anyone reading this starts at the back. Not with the ending obviously, but Kieron’s mini-essay explaining, almost apologetically, precisely why he’s written this work. It’s amusingly self-deprecating and is a roundabout way of politely pointing out that whilst yes, it’s a no-holds-barred gore-fest of a comic about super-Nazis, he is actually trying to make a few points about what WW2 and all its intrinsic horrors says about us as a species.

So… It is the very dying moments of the war, the Russians are already ploughing through the suburbs of Berlin and Adolf is just waiting for the knock on his door to see if he wants to come out and play. Any German soldiers with any common sense whatsoever are doing their very best to look busy whilst shuffling subtly westwards in the hope of surrendering to the Allies rather than the Reds. Except, a certain research division might just have come up with something that, whilst it might be too late to completely turn the tide, could at least ensure the Allies’ victory is a pyrrhic one at best. Cue the super-Nazis! Who really do make Captain America look like a boy scout, as they not only have increased strength but other insanely destructive capabilities like energy manipulation powers. Game on!

There is a substantial cast of characters introduced in this first issue, on all sides, including some whose allegiance might not be quite as it seems, which is as it should be, because espionage was an extremely important part of the war effort on all sides.

I really enjoyed this opener, I must say. I have a huge interest in WW2 and I enjoyed Kieron’s attention to detail: he clearly has done his research as he alludes to in his afterword. And from this issue we can clearly see he is, as promised, not shying away from displaying the very disturbing underbelly of the conflict and its toll upon the civilian populace.

Note: this issue #0 is already out of print. Now Avatar are doing a very limited reprint (7500 copies) of a £4-99 version of it, with lots of extra non-story material included. It is the only reprint there will be before the trade comes out. Which, personally, I think if daft, but anyway if you want one, please let us know quickly. We have ordered some of the reprint, but how many we will receive I don’t know.


Buy Uber #0 and read the Page 45 review here

Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa…

“Did you hear that song, just now?!”
“I’m the one that put it on.”
“Starting from tomorrow… I… I was never going to do anything with anybody, ever again… Will you be my friend?”
“Sure, but… you don’t become friends with somebody just by saying you will.”
“Hey. You’re…”

Haha, don’t panic, for those of who have been reading Naoki Urasawa’s 20TH CENTURY BOYS for the last eight years, I am not about to spoil the grand reveal of the identity of the Friend which we’ve all waited so long and so patiently to learn, suffering the myriad misdirections Mr. Urasawa has beguiled us with along the way! All good things must come to an end, even in the world of incredibly long manga series, and this is no exception. It seems somehow fitting therefore that the reveal is provided by something as innocuous as a conversation between our young hero Kenji and the Friend himself.

A conversation that’s taking place in virtual reality… witnessed by the adult (and real) Kenji, whilst he searches for clues to the location of the remote control for the Friend’s ultimate doomsday weapon. It’s rather amusingly obvious in retrospect where it was going to be, but I certainly didn’t guess! Of all of the excellent titles on Viz’s more intelligent and thought-provoking Signature Ikki line (PLUTO, IKIGAMI, HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES, SATURN APARTMENTS, CHILDREN OF THE SEA, BOKURANO OURS, BIOMEGA, I’LL GIVE IT MY ALL TOMORROW… to name some of my personal favourites) this is by far the longest at 24 volumes: 22 volumes of 20TH CENTURY BOYS and the 2 concluding boos entitled 21st CENTURY BOYS, as mostly they run to a maximum of 8 or so. But Urasawa is a master at producing an extended storyline, as he proved with the frustratingly out-of-print MONSTER (I believe there is some dispute temporarily preventing reprints). He knows exactly how to tantalise and tease, inserting twists and turns that prolong the reading experience, without ever feeling like it’s just for the sake of selling a few more volumes! If you like light-hearted speculative fiction, do give it a try, especially as now it is complete, so you won’t have to wait a full eight years to read it all, unlike us!

Finally, the one thing I can tell you without spoiling anything, just in case you were wondering is the identity of the song referred to above. It is of course, 20th Century Boy by T. Rex!


Buy Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time vol 2 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Mike Holmes, Lisa Moore –

Jake and Finn mess with Princess Bubblegum’s time machine. Do you know what that is? It is mmmmmuuuUUUNNNNACEPTABLE!

The entire timeline of Ooo gets messed up, everyone is a bit wrong, Finn looks sort of like Susan Strong but with a cyborg arm and Bmo is being very weird. Obviously our bros must fix it so that o gets back to normal, and fix it they do in their inimitable ADVENTURE TIMEy style.

They’ve done an excellent job with this comic because bringing the insane awesomeness of the cartoon onto the printed page can’t have been easy. It really is like reading an episode; it looks and feels like the Ooo we all know and love and secretly want to live in. My favourite touches are the tiny, almost illegible footnotes at the bottom of the pages; little fourth-wall-breaking bits of nonsense that add another layer to the comic and make it less like “just” a silent version of the cartoon.

Apart from that it’s all very straight forward: grab your friends and go to very distant lands! The art style is pretty much faithful to the cartoon, very pretty, bright and cute. You’ll be able to spot your favourite characters (snow golem!!) in the background even if they are not in the main story and just generally marvel at how people come up with all this insane stuff. There is a cover gallery in the back too, reproducing the variant covers from issues 5 to 9, if that’s your sort of thing. Lovely, jolly stuff perfect for fans of ADVENTURE TIME, young relatives who have birthdays coming up or just anyone who could do with cheering up really!

Also, apparently there is an Acoustics Princess. Who knew?


Buy Adventure Time vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Husbands h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Jane Espenson, Brad Bell, Ron Chan & Rob Chan, Natalie Nourigat, M.S. Corley, Ben Dewey, Tania del Rio –

“Surprise is my best weapon. Well, my flesh-eating battle vomit is my best weapon, but surprise is part of that, too.”

If you are not sure what HUSBANDS is, it is the collection of the digital comics of the TV series wherein two high-profile gay guys do a Ross & Rachel and get accidentally married in Vegas. Fearing that a “quickie” divorce will harm the campaign for marriage equality they decide to give it a go, producing, in TV parlance, hilarious results. The comics are not part of the series; they stand alone as a set of very silly short stories which start when the cast are drawn into the pages of an enchanted comicbook filled with one-off adventures, each (possibly) more zany than the last. A quote on the cover proclaims the book to be a “…romp through genre.” And at this point you are possibly poised to do a facepalm because it sounds like a classic TV/Cinema abuse of the medium, right?

No! Luckily it is 2013 and people are finally waking up to the fact that comics are a medium not a genre and that they can be used to, you know, tell stories and have fun and stuff. The quote I mentioned above is from Neil Gaiman (woot!) and the “genre” he mentions is, of course, not comics: it’s all the different genres of fiction, cinema, TV, comics and fairy tale through which the writers gleefully “romp”. So what you get here is six very silly short stories told in deliberately over-the-top fashion, each one a pastiche. As our newlyweds battle through scenarios in (among other places) space, Riverdale High and some kind of James Bond / Indiana Jones / Miami Vice world, we wonder, will they learn about one another or will they be doomed to drift forever, Dungeons & Dragons cartoon stylee?

Jane Espenson wrote some of my favourite episodes of BUFFY and I think you can see her touch quite clearly here, yay! The art is cool too, there are a few different styles for the different stories, none of which would look out of place in a regular comic series; an absolute world away from the “will this do?” output of TV side-projects gone by. The humour isn’t always spot-on but I did chuckle out loud in quite a few places. So it’s not a book which will change your life but it will give you a laugh; a perfectly silly, gigglesome book to cheer you up on the bus to work. Plus boy-on-boy kisses!!


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

Iron Man vol 1: Believe h/c (£18-99, Marvel) byKieronGillen & GregLand. 

“Have you ever believed in something? I’ve always had trouble.
“When my parents tried to tell me about Santa Claus, I just thought ‘Gee – that guy’s business model has got to be unsustainable.
“And God? Oh, me and gods. I mean, I’ve met a few and I still don’t believe in them.
“Side-stepping precise definition of belief: tedious evidence, empiricism, pedantry and so on and so boring… There’s only two things I ever managed to believe in. Firstly, myself. And even then only about 50% of the time. Secondly, they future. That there would be one, and we’d make it.
“By default, optimists make the world, because pessimists never even try. I’ve believed that for as long as I’ve been me. No matter what.
“And in my life, there’s been a lot of ‘what’.” 

Cue a lot of ‘what’.

Note-perfect prelude, there, to this brand-new series of high-tech hit, hit harder and runs, in which Gillen immediately returns to Warren Ellis’ definitive IRON MAN: EXTREMIS as Tony Stark discovers the enhancile-enabling technology has fallen into the wrong hands. Many wrong hands. For one, it appears to have fallen into a somewhat rejuvenated Warren Ellis’, for there the future is space exploration, and the aspiration proves inspirational.

Falling back a bit, not every hand it falls into is out-and-out evil (I would never call Ellis evil, though he’s delighted when you do); for what you have to remember is that Extremis rewrites the body’s operating system and not all bodies operate equally. That’s how people die.

So much thought has gone into even the most miniscule moments here, and Gillen has furnished Tony Stark’s interior monologue / voice-over with all the charm, wit, intelligence and determination with which such a successful entrepreneur and promiscuous reprobate must so self-evidently be blessed.

Brilliantly, he has also played to artist Greg Land’s notorious reputation – scurrilously propagated – for using soft-porn as photo-reference material, by including all manner of flirtatious encounters with women who, in Greg Land’s hands, are indeed drop-dead gorgeous, then undercutting the expectations of the blonde-joke brigade by giving the girls more intelligence than most credit them for.

Meanwhile, of course, Pepper Potts, long-suffering-secretary-turned-CEO (and Tony Stark’s oft-ignored Jiminy Cricket) fumes. But she does so with the same empowering arched eyebrow which used to belong to Mrs Arbogast and equally pithy, observational bons mots:

“Tony… Your sober is drunker than most people’s drunk.”

Hello, my name’s Stephen and I am… the exception.


Buy Iron Man vol 1: Believe h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man: Extremis s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Adi Granov.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Iron Man: Extremis s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four vol 1: New Departure, New Arrivals s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mark Bagley, Michael Allred.

Communication is hardly this family’s strong suit, is it? Someone’s always failing to speak up, failing to listen and – frankly – failing to tell the truth.

Also, Reed and Sue: worst parents ever! So far for Franklin they’ve hired a nanny whom they knew was a witch, replaced her with a fleet of steel automatons and even lobotomised the poor boy. By the looks of this opening salvo they are about to do something else incredibly stupid… after failing to listen to Franklin’s fears, failing to speak up about them (Sue) and failing to tell the truth! Here’s Reed:

“Journal entry. Timestamp. Nth encryption on closing, please.
“There’s something very wrong with me. The unstable molecules that have created my elastic physiognomy seem to have reached some point of cellular entropy. They’re breaking apart – I’m breaking apart. At a molecular level. My concern is that the others are affected too – or will be very soon. My powers are dying, and they’re taking me with them.”

Six pages later: “Susan. I’m fine. Trust me.”

Instead Reed has declared a year-long, transdimensional family field trip, ostensibly as education. In truth he is secretly attempting to find a cure for his disease – without actually telling anyone.

It’s funny, though. Not that bit, but Johnny Storm surpassing his own stupendous record for vacuous egomania. Here he is with girlfriend Darla, making up for his errant ways with a private candlelit dinner in the Negative Zone (while war rages all around them) and talking at her about cars and bikes and fame and… oh, Johnny!

“Baby, this is me now. Johnny Storm, not the Human Torch or the – Darla, I brought you all the way out here to the Negative Zone tonight so I could tell you that I… see, Darla, I don’t just like you, I…”

He slips out a tiny jewellery box, the size of a ring…


… and opens it.


It’s his mobile phone number. *sigh*

However, in an unexpected move, Marvel has packaged this new series of FANTASTIC FOUR #1-3 together with its sister title FF #1-3. Equally unexpectedly, it works – and does so seamlessly. Here the game gets goofier still.

“Our compass is curiosity. Our destination is the infinite.” 

Goodness, that sounds profound. And it is! This is the Future Foundation we’re talking about, set up by Reed Richards to educate and galvanise the next fledgling generation of precocious science prodigies regardless of race, gender, species, and so set course for the future.

But, oh, how the children steal the show! The very first page is a scream, young Valeria Richards eloquently extolling the lofty ideals and far-sighted goals of the Future Foundation to their novice leader while older brother Franklin pulls all manner of faces behind her back like the sugar-buzz delinquent he is. No one but Allred could have done that full justice. Long have I loved him but that, for me, is his best comic page yet! In fact, all of his pages are full of mad, Ditko-esque postures and ginormous Jack Kirby machines.

Speaking of children and delinquents, there is another classic Johnny Storm sequence during which – after each other member of the family has gone about dutifully, solemnly and responsibly attempting to recruit replacements while the family takes leave – he wakes up in bed with his girlfriend, cannot even remember what is expected of him and so consults his mobile-phone reminders:

“Oh. ‘Ask somebody about the thing.’ That’s no help.”

That’s the thing on your to-do list, Johnny. The thing you’re supposed to ask – oh, why do I even bother?

“Um. Do you like The Thing? Y’know – Ben Grim? Big, dumb orange rock guy, talks like an old-timey movie?”
“Yeah, sure, he’s alright I guess.”
“But not as much as the Human Torch, right?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“Cool. I have asked somebody about The Thing. Now let’s get breakfas

Absolutely delightful, and “delightful” isn’t a word you regularly associate with a superhero comic. You’d type “spectacular” or “gut-wrenching” or “jaw-dropping” or even “same old corporate crap” if you had a mind to. This is genuinely delightful in the same way you’d talk about Simone Lia’s FLUFFY.

So here are the new Fantastic Four: Ant-Man, Darla, She-Hulk and the magisterial Medusa, Queen of The Inhumans, who’s perplexed that nobody’s bowing. Also, while everyone else scoffs breakfast downstairs, she’s still sprawled in bed in her nightie, ringing for room service with a hand-held bell.

“Erm. Hello…?”


Buy Fantastic Four vol 1: New Departure, New Arrivals s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thanos Rising #1 (of 5) (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi…

Surely not spoiling anything by now to mention that Thanos is going to be the villain in the next Avengers film, hence yet another series about him. This time, we have his origin story told right from his birth. He wasn’t a bad chap growing up, quite a mild-mannered individual in fact, before a certain malign influence began to exert itself over him.

Hmm, I don’t know whether this series is really necessary, frankly. Thanos is one of the classic Marvel villains precisely because he is a one-dimensional grade ‘A’ mentalist capable of the most vile and cunning deeds. He is just quite simply evil incarnate, serving his mistress Death, when he’s not trying to turn the tables on her à la INFINITY GAUNTLET.

To learn, therefore, he was a bit of a bookworm milksop is, well, a bit disappointing. Without igniting a nature versus nurture debate, surely some supervillains are just born / created / winked into existence bad? Nutjob is as nutjob does.* So I just couldn’t get myself particularly bothered by the story, so far at least, though I am mildly intrigued to learn who it is that is trying to send him round the behavioural bend. I am presuming it is Death, or an avatar thereof, but maybe not. Confusingly it looks like a young Gamora, though I am pretty sure it is not. Stridently different art from Simone Bianchi, who illustrated Warren Ellis’ brilliant ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST BOX, of which rather surprisingly we have, at the time of typing, an unplundered hardcover left in our half-price sale. Follow the link and grab the swag!


*Editor’s note: “Nutjob” is precisely how Jonathan refers to his two-year-old daughter. Also: he recently taught her to say “No way!” Oh, the evil which will ensue… 

Buy Thanos Rising #1 and read the Page 45 review here

DC Universe By Alan Moore (£18-99, DC) by Alan Moore & various.

Alert! A new edition with a slight change in title, this no longer includes KILLING JOKE (now available as a gloriously recoloured hardcover) but does still contain SUPERMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW. Space has been filled instead with some Wildstorm gubbins from WILD WORLDS written while Alan’s brain was on vacation.

Here’s our Mark on the rest of the original edition:

“A baker’s dozen of stories from ’85 to ’87. Only a short period but it feels like a ‘best of…’ of someone else’s work. About half of this I’ve never seen before as they came out when Moore was still rising up through the ranks and once you’d heard about them, they were pretty unobtainable. His GREEN LANTERN CORPS were always fun. Even now, if you give him the possibility of an alien race, he’ll come up with an idea so obvious that you wonder why it took so long to be voiced. As with all of his writing, connections are shown. So, a new Green Lantern is needed in a far flung sector and a missionary is sent out. The problem starts when she realises that it’s a light-free planet and all the inhabitants are blind. How do you explain what a lantern is? One of the other GLC stories has Kevin O’Neill art and got into trouble with the Comics Code Authority because of the foul, dripping artwork which makes you realise how lucky we were to have him on [2000 AD’s] NEMESIS in the UK. As a nostalgic superhero fix, it’s the tops. You get Batman, Superman, Swamp Thing and some very nice Dave Gibbons artwork.”



Buy DC Universe By Alan Moore 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.

Punk Rock Jesus (£12-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy

Batman: Detective Comics vol 2: Scare Tactics h/c (£22-50, DC) by Tony S. Daniel

Judge Dredd vol 1 (£14-99, IDW) by Duane Swierczynski & Nelson Daniel

Point Of Impact (£10-99, Image) by Jay Faerber & Koray Kuranel

Relish – My Life In The Kitchen s/c (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Lucy Knisley

Swamp Thing vol 2: Family Tree s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Yanick Paquette

World’s Finest vol 1: Lost Daughters s/c (£10-99, DC) by Paul Levitz & George Perez

Marvel Universe: Iron Man Digest (£7-50, Marvel) by Various

Essential Iron Man vol 5 (£14-99, Marvel) by Various

Oz: Road To Oz h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Captain America vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Patrick Zircher

Uncanny X-Force vol 6: Final Execution Book 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Mike Mckone

X-Men: Reckless Abandonment s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood, Seth Peck & David Lopez, others

Wolverine: Covenant s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Paul Pelletier

Unico s/c (£25-99, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka

Hot Girls, Cold Feet (£8-99, Abstract) by Terry Moore

Slaine vol 8: The Grail War (£17-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Steve Tappin, Nick Percival, Massimo Belardinelli


Surprise Announcement!

We were certainly taken by surprise!

After ten years working with Tom, Tuesday proved to be his last day here. I’d have given you all a big one-month drum roll, but we only found out on Saturday!

Tom, as you probably know, is training to become a chef and it was clear from week one that he would excel. Now he’s been headhunted full time for a new restaurant in Beeston starting on Saturday, so how could he turn them down?

 Tom was single-handedly responsible for Page 45’s manga sales success, steering our selections in the direction of quality rather than the unsellable dross that began to flood the market when Tokyopop’s arrogance persuaded them that any old dross would do. It didn’t do, and it killed them, whereas Tom knew exactly what he was doing.

 Tom was also responsible for a couple of killer window pieces and the man who made sure – along with Dominique – that you’d need Semtex to open your damage-proof packages through the mail.

Here’s an interview from 2009 with myself, Tom and Jonathan in which Tom tells how he joined Page 45 and mocks me mercilessly.

There will be news of our recalibration shortly.

In the meantime, THIS. THIS! THIS! THIS!

Genius one-page comic with beautiful colouring, cleverly using the mechanics of the medium to turn adversity to advantage. “Believe In Yourself” by David Jumble.

 – Stephen

Reviews April 2013 week one

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

John writes his stories with such apparent carefree glee and obviously really understands the inner workings of the juvenile mind because, over and above the chortling fruitloopy storylines, it’s the interaction between all the kids that make this such a total hoot.

 – Jonathan on Bad Machinery.

Bad Machinery vol 1: The Case Of The Team Spirit s/c (£14-99, Oni Press Inc.) by John Allison…

“Well now, you have a good day at school.”
“Aw Mum, don’t cry.”
“Snif, I can’t help it, sorry love.”
“Bye then.”
“Aren’t you going to give your mummy a kiss?”
“Do those boys not have mothers too? Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, my little baby boy!”

“Linton, you really ought to catch the kisses your mum is blowing. They’re for you, it’s only right.”

Yes! Finally John Allison’s web-comic magnum opus is seeing print, in a gloriously over-sized, floppy landscape fashion. Not ideal for our, or indeed your shelves, frankly, but who cares when something looks as gloriously technicolour-widescreen-amazing as this! If I had to name one person in comics whose art style is the very definition of illustration, I personally would immediately say John. To see his work laid out like this, really is like watching an exquisitely produced animation, his linework is so consistent and the colours so eye-strainingly vibrant.

It’s also clear John really does have a love for sleuthery, mysteries and general all around weirdness, as seen in his SCARY GO ROUND material, and his shorts featuring the slightly ditzy children’s author and part-time detective Shelley Winters, THAT! and MURDER SHE WRITES. Fans of that last work will be delighted to learn, if they didn’t know already, that Charlotte the tween sleuth is one of the six young stars of the show here, as the boys and girls of Tackleford form their very own Blyton-esque numerical investigative unit to find out who or what is behind the apparent curse on the mega-rich owner of local football club Tackleford FC. Results haven’t been going well recently and the one boy who is actually bothered about football is concerned that their benevolent oligarch will up sticks and leave. I needn’t add that all is not as it seems I’m sure! It did amuse me greatly too that I didn’t guess who the ultimate culprit was! I also suspect Surreal may well be John’s middle name, as along with his brilliant art, this type of off the wall humorous fiction really has become his trademark.

John writes his stories with such apparent carefree glee and obviously really understands the inner workings of the juvenile mind because, over and above the chortling fruitloopy storylines, it’s the interaction between all the kids that make this such a total hoot. It really does take me back to the more inane aspects of schoolyard humour, and the dashes of ribald cruelty too, which I had mostly forgotten about. For me John’s star has been steadily rising, and I do hope, and think, this could be the work that really breaks him through to a considerably wider audience. Well worth building a tidily landscaped extension onto your shelves for!


Buy Bad Machinery vol 1: The Case Of The Team Spirit s/c and read the Page 45 review here

East Of West #1 (£2-75, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta…

“He should be here.”
“And you are sure that..?.”
“Yes! He was dead on his feet. Something must have gone wrong… more wrong.”
“So we roll, and find out the truth.”
“The eye… the feather… the bullet… the bone… No mistaking those. He’s really left us. We were four, but now it’s just us three.”
“Well… that settles it then. We kill him.”

And so EAST OF WEST opens, with some children whom we soon learn are apparently three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, performing a divination ritual using animal bones, to see what has happened to their headlining colleague, Death. Their location? A huge stone circle in the desert, right in the centre of what we know as the United States of America. In this world, however, it’s also the site of a huge comet strike, a seismic event that perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, marked the end of the American Civil War, and also the war with the native Indians, resulting in the formation of the Seven Nations of America, with an armistice signed at the site.

The comet strike and resulting armistice also may or may not have caused the Prophet Elijah Longstreet, a former soldier, to write the Second Book of Revelations, whilst at exactly the same moment Red Cloud, leader of the Endless Indian Nation, was having a waking vision which he recounted to his council of elders. Upon the conclusion of these two apparently unconnected events, both men promptly collapsed and died. Except it seems these two events were connected, as their respective words were in fact interlocking apocrypha, forming what would become known as The Message, a mystery that remained unsolved for another half century. Until the missing third portion of The Message was inadvertently (I think) provided by a very surprising person indeed, Mao Zedong.

Fast forward back to the current day, well 2064 actually, and the location of the errant Death (if indeed that is what he is) and it seems he’s out for revenge, cowboy style pilgrim. Dressed as an albino gunslinger, so presumably he has been drinking his milk as the real Mr. Wayne suggested, and also an adult rather than a child, I note, which upon reflection makes the tiniest bit of, I suspect, very significant sense and, oh, he’s looking for those who did him wrong. Precisely how and what they did, we don’t know at this point, but there are some very well known names on the list, very well known and politically connected, right to the very, very top of the establishment. Death would have those luminaries on his shit list believe the End Times are a coming and I can’t honestly say at this point he’s not telling the truth. Eek!

What a set up! And I really have only untangled a few of the miasma of strands Hickman has thrown out for us to ponder in this first issue. I think, upon reflection, he’s given absolutely nothing away at this point either, at what is really going on. This could easily prove to be his most comprehensive piece of speculative fiction yet. This first issue reads very, very much like the opening chapter to a prose novel, it is that rich with detailed promise of what is yet to come, and also to be revealed, of what precisely has transpired in the distant past to bring us to such an… unusual… time and place.

The closest comparisons to previous Hickman works so far would be PAX ROMANA for the intriguing premise, but also S.H.I.E.L.D.: ARCHITECTS OF FOREVER for the beautifully bizarre cast of characters and insane, pacy action. Excellent art from sometime FF compadre Nick Dragotta too, though no Hickman-penned work is really complete without a cheeky page or panel designed and illustrated by the man himself, in this case a map of north America simply entitled “The World As It Is” laying out the various territories of the seven nations.

[Please note: any restocks we receive are unlikely to be first prints. If you really don’t care which printing you receive, please add note saying so when ordering. A) You are infinitely more likely to receive a copy and B) we will understand you to be a balanced human being – ed.]


Buy East Of West #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Time Warp one-shot (£5-99, Vertigo) by Dan Abnett, Damon Lindelof, Tom King, Simon Spurrier, more & Ian Culbard, Jeff Lemire, Tom Fowler, Michael Dowling, more.

I thought I’d start at the end because, well, Dan Abnett and I.N.G. Culbard, basically. In ‘The Principle’ the creators of THE NEW DEADWARDIANS offer us the almost inevitable result of commercially affordable time travel: a pretty fractured time stream in dire need of Elastoplasts in order to preserve the present from interfering amateurs. And we all know exactly which eras would be most eagerly subject to change – one is the most bandied-about hypothetical ever.

‘It’s Full Of Demons’ shows what could happen if that principle was flaunted, but from a completely unexpected angle. In 1901 a girl witnesses her brother being shot through the head by someone dressed in an umbilically attached space suit who promptly disappears through the crackling portal he or she opened. To our young protagonist it can only be a demon. She is disbelieved by her father and thrashed for it. As the century moves on her plight proves increasingly dire while history as we know it unravels.

‘R.I.P.’ resurrects time traveller Rip Hunter for one final transtemporal outing. No, make that two. Or actually three. Wait – it would have to be four. With multiple time spheres and a very hungry dinosaur. Clever!

My favourite, however, is ‘The Grudge’. It takes the form of a lecture delivered by Dr. Zachary Penge on the history of his one-upmanship with a fellow scientist, each striving to embarrass the other in public using puerile sexual slurs delivered via ridiculously high-tech science. That driving necessity is their mother of invention. Written by Si Spurrier, you will be unsurprised to learn that it is the filthiest thing ever published by DC by a factor of fifty.


Buy Time Warp and read the Page 45 review here

All New X-Men vol 1: Yesterday’s X-Men h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen.

“Let us hope that one of us is as smart as the other one thinks he is.”

“This isn’t the future. This is Planet Backwards!”

“We played with fire and got burnt.”

Dr Henry McCoy was the first of his species to undergo a secondary mutation, years before his peers. It turned him blue and furry. Regrettably, it was self-inflicted: he tinkered with his own genetic code. His actual next-generation mutation brought with it no problems, but now his early meddling is coming back to bite him, for with yet another mutation hitting him hard, it’s as much as his body can handle. He’s dying.

Meanwhile, in AVENGERS VS X-MEN, original X-Man Cyclops succumbed to the temptation which the Phoenix Force brings with it, the temptation of virtually limitless power. The first time it killed his beloved Jean Grey; this time it killed their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier. Or rather, Cyclops did.

Now he’s gone underground, setting up a rival school for gifted youngsters in the Weapon X base where Wolverine was tortured and – with Magneto, Emma Frost and Illyana – he’s begun a Mutant Revolution. There are new mutants popping up all over the place and, to Storm and Kitty Pryde’s alarm, Cyclops is beating their own to team to tag them, rescuing them from potential harm at the hands of humans but doing so with violence and on camera. He’s destroying all their hard work for peaceful coexistence, threatening a mutant civil war and running the risk of provoking mutant genocide.

The Cyclops they grew up with would be appalled – of that Ice-Man Bobby Drake is certain. And that gives Dr. Henry McCoy an idea, a last, desperate attempt to set things right before he dies. He’s going to go back in time and bring the original X-Men back with him to the present: to confront Cyclops face to face with his younger, peace-focussed self; to shock and shame him into retreating. And then there’s the matter of the young Jean Grey…

Well, this is brave and quite brilliant. Nor is it going to be brief. The X-Men of the past discovering the most alarming changes both in themselves and the world around them is the very premise not just of this volume but of the title itself. Although, typically, Booby Drake (oh, sic, why not?) is more interested in the size of modern television screens. His are the funniest lines by far. Young Hank McCoy is the clear-headed and capable one, young Scott Summers/Cyclops is like a deer caught in the headlights, The Angel is increasingly disturbed that no one will tell him what’s become of him now, while Jean Grey… She’s going to be ruthless. She didn’t learn to read minds until later, but bringing her to the present has catalysed that latent talent early. Perhaps too early, and there’s no Charles Xavier to train and gently nurture that talent. You wait until she finds out what happened to her.

Equally, there’s plenty going on in the other camp. You think it’s all forgive and forget? Think again, as Cyclops and Magneto rescue Emma Frost from internment.

“Damn it! Why’d you even bother?”
“All things considered, it’s the least we could do.”
“All things considered? Does that include the fact that everything we built together – everything we were working towards is over? Does that include the fact that you ruined my life by leaving me in the hands of the humans after stealing my Phoenix Force?”
“It wasn’t me, Emma.”
“It wasn’t you?”
“You know that wasn’t me. You know the Phoenix was making us crazy.”
“So it wasn’t you who betrayed me and left me for dead? It wasn’t you that murdered Charles Xavier in front of all of us?!”
“It wasn’t me.”

Yeah, it was you, mate. As for Magneto, he’s far from equanimous, either.

“You stripped me of my God-given power.”

God-given. God loves, man kills.

Anyway, apart from Illyana who feels quantifiably better, their powers are fucked. You should see Cyclops’ optic rays now: Marte Gracia has done a mean job colouring those to spectacular effect, while Stuart Immonen has brought all sorts of tricks to the table. The first confrontation between the two Scott Summers is blistering, while you can actually see young Henry McCoy in the older one and vice-versa for the first time I can recall. It’s not just in the eyes, but the musculature of the face. I love the Art Nouveau panel corners during the sequence in which the older (if not wiser) Henry and Jean are in telepathic communion (let us remember his time-travel reservations in Ellis’ SECRET AVENGERS VOL 3, the best time-travel episode anywhere in comics).

Bonuses in the back include Bendis’ original proposal for the series written long before the decision was made to kill Professor X (there are some sneaky redactions, but hey) and a gallery of alternative covers plus a few process pages (seeing the artist at work, thinking through their creative decisions).


Buy All New X-Men vol 1: Yesterday’s X-Men h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl h/c (£16-99, Titan) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr….

“OMG. Look at her revolting hair! I mean, I know her mom isn’t used to dressing kids, but seriously! Those bangs make her look like a drag queen.”
“You’re terrible, Debbie Forman.”

“Daddy, you taught me how to blind a man with my thumbs, build a bomb with the contents of a kitchen cabinet, and skin a wolf with my bare hands. I’ve shot people, choked people, even drowned a motherfucker… why can’t I handle these bitches?”

All Mindy ever wanted was not to be normal. Since the passing of her vigilante father, Big Daddy, who taught her everything she knew about fighting crime, and her subsequent promise to her adoptive dad, Marcus, to give all that up, she’s been finding it rather hard to fit in. When you know a thousand ways to disable someone, it’s kind of difficult to suck it up when the mean girls at school are giving you grief.

So, when you need advice on how to be to be the very epitome of normal, to know what clothes to wear, what TV shows kids are watching, what bands to listen to, who can she turn to? Why Kick-Ass of course! And in return, Mindy is going to officially swear him in as her sidekick and teach him to be a proper crimefighter instead of a fancy-dress-wearing liability! Now she’s realised she just needs to treat being Mindy as her secret identity, to make sure no one ever suspects her of being Hit-Girl so her family is protected; well, it’s just another essential crime fighting skill to learn. Except… those bitches really do deserve some sort of covert payback, right?

I howled with laughter in several places throughout this! Anyone who doubts Millar is a great writer should read it, they really should. His dialogue throughout is utterly hilarious, and serves to compliment the beautifully ludicrous and preposterous plot. Clearly the whole concept of KICK-ASS is a just one-trick pony joke, but when the ride is so enjoyable, what does it matter? Romita Jr. provides suitably gruesome, quite literally eye-popping, art. And, rest assured, Debbie Forman is well and truly going to get hers…


Buy Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superior s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu.

“Oh, baby. I know it’s embarrassing. But the hospital said we need to get used to it. You can’t just have baths when your dad’s around.”

The Mark Millar project I was most worried about turns out to be one of his finest. Like MARVEL 1985 it has so much heart, and Millar has a knack for writing young boys: how they perceive the real world around them. It’s also dazzlingly drawn in breath-taking detail, whether it be a quiet afternoon secluded under the fiery canopy of the woods in autumn or during the epic scenes of colossal devastation. Yu can be tender and intimate as during the mother-and-son bath scene above, yet impressively bold. Some of his forms and compositions reminded me of Travis Charest.

Set in a world where superheroes are mere fiction, the province of comics and films, twelve-year-old Simon Pooni and his best pal Chris have just been to see Tad Scott star in the latest Superior movie. The special effects are stunning, but in all honesty the franchise is tired. And now they’ve been ambushed by the all-too-familiar school bullies who always kick hardest when someone is down.

“Hey, homos. You have a nice time making out in the back row?”
“Just ignore him, Chris. I hear the basketball team’s really missing you these days, Pooni. Still, the way these guys play, they might as well have a cripple up front.”
“You’re an asshole, Sharpie, and you’ve always been an asshole. If I wasn’t in this chair, I’d kick your ass all over the mall.”
“Yeah, well. I got news for you, Simon… you kinda are in that chair.”

Yeah, Simon kinda is in that chair.

Multiple Sclerosis snuck on him with particular aggression; he’s even lost the sight of one eye and on bad days he can barely talk. There are days of remission, weeks even, but nothing permanent. Once a basketball player of promise, sometimes Simon’s on sticks but mostly confined to a wheel chair so his muscles have gradually atrophied through lack of use. It’s unlikely to get any better. Until, late one night…

“Simon? Wake up, Simon. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“I’m here to make a serious proposition.”
“HOLY SHIT! Mom! Dad! There’s a monkey in the room!”

There really is a monkey in his room; a monkey in a spacesuit who has selected Simon as the “most appropriate” out of six billion candidates to be turned into the adult, post-human powerhouse Superior: the fictional character as played by Tad Scott. Now that would take some explaining to his mother.


Now, I don’t really want to tell you what happens next, I just want to reassure you that it is far from obvious, right up to the end. My one worry was that this, Millar’s riff on Superman/Shazam, ran the risk of insulting the plight of those who can’t call “Kimota!” and transform into perfect superhuman specimens but have indeed lost the use of one side of their body or their peripheral vision, rendering them unable to scan more than one word at a time. (Parenthetically, comics – with few words per line – are far more accessible to those without peripheral vision. I’m told by dyslexics that they’re a much easier read too.) My best friend had Multiple Sclerosis and – by far the finest dancer I’ve ever had the pleasure of filling the floor with – that’s exactly what happened to her.

I would have been livid, but Millar doesn’t fall into that trap for this is far less straightforward than it initially appears, being more a Faustian pact with some serious twists, some serious bait, and some seriously hard decisions ahead. Not just for Simon, either, but for the Lois Lane counterpart. And that really is where we have to leave it with just one observational note that a talking monkey at the bottom of your bed is hardly conducive to an easy night’s sleep.

“You gonna tell [your Mom] about the space monkey?”
“Sure. Especially now I’ve figured out who he really is.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, I prayed every night that my Multiple Sclerosis would go away and Mom was always praying that America would get fixed again too. So what if that magic wish was the answer to both our prayers? What if Ormon was an angel? Did he turn me into a superhero because America really needed one right now?”
“I dunno, man. I’m twelve years old. I struggle with friggin’ long division.”

The scene pulls back to a rooftop opposite where Ormon, the cute little spacemonkey sits, wide-eyed, staring at them from a distance.

“An angel? That’s hilarious.”

The monkey bears his teeth: two rows of sharp enamel spikes like a dental mantrap.

“I’m afraid I’m actually quite the opposite.”


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

Dave Sim: Conversations h/c (£29-99, UPM) by Dave Sim, Eric Hoffman, Dominick Grace.

Interviews from 1982-2006 with Dave Sim – Gerhard occasionally present – along with a convention panel during the CEREBUS UK TOUR ‘93. One of ‘em is conducted by Stephen R. Bissette, another by Tom Spurgeon and – at a glance – it seems thankfully CEREBUS-centric rather than veering of at <ahem> Tangents. I mean, really getting to the meat of the matter, its creation and though processes behind it.

The first question Jonathan asked on its arrival was, “Are you in it?” I am not. And, so far as I know, no one other than Mark ever heard the interview I conducted with Dave and Ger, all four of us stoned and drunk, even though a C90 cassette tape of that debacle does exist. Please note: no one makes a fool of themselves in that interview except me, and I emphatically do. One day we may release it as a podcast – maybe to raise money for Children In Need – I certainly come away with red cheeks if not a red nose, and I seem to recall Sim beginning to say, “You’re losing points, Stephen…”

The risotto portofino I cooked was fucking amazing, though.


Buy Dave Sim: Conversations h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader And Son 30 Postcards (£7-99, Chronicle Books) by Jeffrey Brown.

“Dad, why is it called a ‘Death Star’?”

Haha, excellent.

Spinning out of the mirth-making DARTH VADER AND SON from Jeffrey Brown, the creator of CLUMSY, FUNNY MISSHAPEN BODY, the two INCREDIBLE CHANGE-BOTS books, CATS ARE WEIRD…,  CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG and so much more, this reprints so many of those cartoons in postal-ready form that I thought I could get away with reprinting the old review verbatim, but it seems the-powers-that-be have chosen mostly different images to the ones I referenced.

It’s full colour comedy in which our Jeff captures the contrariness of childhood to perfection, along with its nagging and needs, while Darth dotes on his darling boy like any other proud father. It’s the humour of incongruity, the joke being that the dastardly Darth isn’t really renowned for his kindness and compassion.

The recognition factor will keep you chuckling throughout: Darth with a dead arm, cradling a slumbering son he doesn’t want to disturb; puddle-splashing, tittle-tattle and, oh, why do they always do this…?

“Luke, do you need to go potty?”
“Well, you’re kind of doing a little dance.”
“I don’t have to go.”

He really has to go!

Also: some highly unorthodox uses for the Force, but you just know that you would if you could. You need know nothing about Star Wars to yuk it up here – I don’t. Still, it does make you wonder about nature and nurture.


Such a rebellious child.


Buy Darth Vader And Son 30 Postcards and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader And Son Journal (£7-99, Chronicle Books) by Jeffrey Brown.

Cashing in on / spinning out of the chortle-inducing DARTH VADER AND SON book of cartoons by autobio darling Jeffrey Brown (CLUMSY, FUNNY MISSHAPEN BODY etc.), this is a journal of blank pages decorated with small images of the troublesome tyke and doting dad.

Little more needs to be said, but I’ve somehow got to type enough words so that the cover image fits on the blog without bleeding into the next book.

Oh, I know, I’ll pop this at the bottom of the reviews then it won’t even matter. Although maybe I’ve written enough now.

Imminent, I promise: VADER’S LITTLE PRINCESS.


Buy Darth Vader And Son Journal 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.


Hey You! (And Other Stories) (£6-00, ) by Dan Berry

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

Julio’s Day h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics vol 4 (£14-99, IDW) by various

The Savage Sword Of Conan vol 13 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Charles Dixon, Larry Yakata, Don Kraar & Gary Kwapisz, Ernie Chan, Dave Simons, Andy Kubert

DC Universe by Alan Moore (£18-99, DC) by Alan Moore & various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Faces Of Death s/c (£12-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel & various

Iron Man vol 1: Believe h/c (£18-99, Marvel) byKieronGillen & GregLand

Iron Man: Extremis s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Adi Granov

Fantastic Four vol 1: New Departure, New Arrivals s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mark Bagley, Michael Allred

Kick-Ass 2 s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Umineko vol 2: Legend Of The Golden Witch vol 2 (£13-99, Yen) by Ryukishi07 & Kei Natsumi

Limit vol 4 (£8-50, Vertical) by Keiko Suenobu

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

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 1: Activation (£22-50, Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Hajime Yatate

Blue Exorcist vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Bleach vol 56 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Until Death Do Us Part vol 3 (£13-99, Yen) by Hiroshi Takashige & Double-S

Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa


Alas, as promised, PUNK ROCK JESUS is not amongst them, but when it does arrive, there will be extra, previously unpublished story pages within. Oh yes! Have a PUNK ROCK JESUS double-page spread preview.

 – Stephen