Reviews April 2013 week three

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

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