Archive for May, 2013

Reviews May 2013 week five

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

If it were designed to suck out your soul then deposit it, quivering, down a bleak back-alley in slightly soiled bed linen to subsist on meths for the rest of your life, then I would consider it the most remarkable success.

Fuck it, I’m going home. In fact, I’m going to the dentist to have all my teeth pulled out as a palliative pick-me-up.

 – Stephen on Gabba Gabba Hey: The Story Of The Ramones



In which I give my first-ever 45-minute live interview – with Make It Then Tell Everybody – and grow increasingly “animated”. There are swears!

Make It Then Tell Everybody Interviews Page 45’s Stephen L. Holland

We Can Fix It s/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Fink –

If you or I had a time machine we might go back and, say, kill Hitler. (Or perhaps prevent Diego Maradona from scoring a blatant handball in the ’86 World Cup.) However, if you or I were Jess Fink (CHESTER 5000 XYV) we would use said machine to go back, set ourselves up with hotties, engineer sexy situations and make out with our younger selves because Jess Fink is naughty! College, high school, the workplace – nowhere is safe from Finks finagling. But what starts as a gentle prod in the right direction soon becomes an exercise in micro-management.

After all, we all know better now than we did 10 years ago, or even five minutes ago right? Seems only sensible, then, that Jess should apply her worldly wisdom to help her former selves make better decisions. Don’t date that boy, he turns out to be an arse. Wear something nicer to that party, you’re gonna hook up. And no, that is not how you give a good blowjob! *Tut!* For some reason though, Jess’ former selves aren’t particularly grateful for her advice. Reactions range from “who the hell are you?! You’re scaring me” to “OMG butt the hell out of our/my/your life!” But the more she is rebuffed the more future/now Jess is determined to Make Things Better. And the more she tries, the more she fails. And the more she fails the more she is convinced that she has to go back further to fix the problem at its source. Which is probably birth because, let’s face it, that’s where all of our problems really began.

But of course there isn’t really a problem: there is just a young Jess going about her life, making the decisions and mistakes that will shape her, writing her own history and becoming her own person. Who cares if the fashion choices we made at 14 weren’t the best; if our hair was wince-worthy and our home-made comicbooks were just blatant rip-offs of our favourite artist of the day? Yes, perhaps that time moping in our room agonising over the fact no-one understood us might have been better spent, but so what? Dating people we shouldn’t, quitting jobs we should have stuck with, that ill-advised perm, are all part of what made us “Us”. And then there are the fun times, so often forgotten when we look back with a critical eye. Laughing until your sides hurt, that first kiss, that first love, even that first pay packet. All the things, good and bad, that brought us to this moment on this day as *exactly* the people we are now.  Deep.

I think Fink has pulled off a really difficult thing here, making a book that is very funny and enjoyable but also personal and meaningful. There are chuckles and facepalms on every page but at the same time the observations come thick and fast and are revealing and brave. The story feels honest and self-effacing but never navel-gazey or maudlin. It’s a romp, in the best possible sense – no-holds-barred, silly, passionate, forgiving and smart. Fantastic!


Buy We Can Fix It s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins.

“And with change came fear.
“And with fear, came blame.
“Soon everyone had their very own name for the dread.
“And ultimately, what is the act of naming, but a special kind of tidying away?”

Well indeed, we do love to compartmentalise – see Shaun Tan’s THE LOST THING. In fact, fans of Shaun Tan, please see and read Stephen Collins’ THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL. It’s right up your suburb!

Such is the structure here – with its dialogue and sound effects integrated within the third-person narrative – that I have, however, missed out the nature of the naming:

“It’s a punishment from God.”
“It’s nature’s revenge.”
“It’s just pure EVIL.”

It’s just a little bit of history repeating itself.

Oh, the sheep mentality – those so easily lead to dread all and sundry! Stephen Collins has much to say about our reaction to the new or unknown, and those who would fan the flames of that fear. And he has slotted it all into this whopping piece of whimsy told in softest graphite on thick, cream paper about a man who’s been bald from birth save for a teeny-tiny hair under his nose which will neither grow nor be snipped away. It is a constant, and constants are very reassuring, aren’t they?

Dave lives Here. More precisely, Dave lives on a street on the outer edge of Here which is entirely surrounded by sea. On the outer edges of the sea lies There. No one wants to go There. No one wants to go to sea, and those few who do have not come back. It’s so unsettling that the houses which line the cliff tops are all for sale. None of them have windows on the sea-side: it’s best not to look. Instead they face inwards, looking on to the impeccably maintained, identical streets whose trees are conscientiously clipped into uniform shapes. It’s all very neat and all very tidy – just like its residents.

Dave is comforted by this so sits at his window, alone at night, sketching the suburb without scratching its surface while listening to The Bangles’ ‘Eternal Flame’ on repeat. It blots out the sound of the sea.

By day, Dave ventures into the city, right in the heart of Here and as far away from There as you can get, where he works as a data analyst. He’s not entirely sure where the data comes from or what it is for, but it’s there, every morning, in his ‘Inbox’, ready to be ordered into graphs and pie charts and flow charts and Venn Diagrams. Tidied away, it all makes sense if something without purpose could be said to make sense. Until, one day, it doesn’t, and this sudden, alarming eruption of chaos catalyses a psychosomatic eruption of its own – that of Dave’s beard!

It’s such a dreamy read whose gentle narrative drifts across the pages, in and out of the panels, never assuming or consuming much time, leaving the images to live and breath; leaving the reader time to chuckle at everyone’s absurdity and space to gawp at the sheer majesty of the biggest beard you will ever see in your life!

However will the government cope? Who will be conscripted to whip those whiskers into shape as they sprawl ever onwards, outwards and upwards? Whoever it is, there will be knock-on effects throughout the land and (although I won’t spoil the biggest surprises) I cannot resist The Here Mail headline after a squad of riot coppers kettling the beast fall prey to its fulsome fecundity:


Oh, The Here Mail: you will wince with recognition. Not least at its opinion column entitled…

“Why I’m So Angry About All Of This.”


Buy The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Terrible Tales Of The Teenytinysaurs! (£8-99, Walker Books) by Gary Northfield.

“ARRGH! This is so undignified!”

Exuberant, ebullient and stoopid to boot, this has stampeded to the top of my Babel of books to be recommended to all young and impressionable minds, for it is they who understand so keenly that dinosaur dung is the very height of sophisticated comedy. Especially when plopped on your head from a megasaur arse.*

Gary Northfield is the demented jester behind the PHOENIX COMIC’s Gary’s Garden as well as The Beano’s DEREK THE SHEEP. Truly does this man comprehend the subtle humour of dramatic irony, the Chaucerian slight-of-hand and refined Greek rhetoric. He just ignores them completely in favour of ridiculous buffoonery which is what the kids want!

So meet buck-toothed Reggie, the moron Pteradon who is as lovely as lovely can be; Natasha the smasher, a fearless Triceratops who will not be bossed by the boys; Stegosaur Ronnie, forever chasing dreams… and butterflies… and Natasha; delinquent Dave, the gang’s only member with thumbs (mentally non-opposable); and finally Thomas. Thomas is one of those herbivorous giants with long wriggly necks who we all know were blue, except that Thomas isn’t really that gigantic yet, unlike his big brother Colin who will get roped into all sorts of nonsense like snorting the prehistoric posse off to the moon (fruity, fizzy tastes like Haribo Tangfastics** – but you knew that already, right?).

Together they galumph about their prehistoric domain in increasingly far-fetched escapades, lolloping wildly like a bunch of loopy, slack-jawed Red Setters. The cartooning is exquisite. I live for the panels in which someone’s nose gets bitten and the character’s eyes pop out of their heads, for Gary is the absolute king of wide-eyed, off-the-scale shrieking/agony/outrage. Also, the colouring is delicious and when you get to the undersea episode you are truly in for a treat – and for a startling surprise.

In addition, one adventure turns into a diabolical board game while another gives you not one, two, but three opportunities to help our dino-delinquents rescue Natasha’s new necklace in double-page spreads reminiscent of Jamie Smart’s FIND CHAFFY or Thomas Flintham’s SUPER-FANTASTIC PUZZLES. Finally, ‘Journey to The Centre Of My Brother’ breaks off for a cross-section of Colin’s intestines which has been rigorously researched from the very latest palaeontology evidence, so that you know this is educationally sound.

Caveat: youngsters and adults alike, please refrain from shaking this book before reading. It’s so effervescent you may find yourself covered in dinosaur snot. There’s an awful lot of it inside, as our Cretaceous children will so stickily discover when they discover the true origin of the word “bogeyman”.

* Please apply ointment.

** Product placement! Send a big box to Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY. For the attention of Stephen, please, NOT Dominique. Leave an open packet of Tangfastics anywhere near Dominique and it’s like being visited by Doctor Who’s Nashta Verada. That woman is voracious.


Buy The Terrible Tales Of The Teenytinysaurs! and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Bronze vol 1: A Thousand Ships s/c new edition (£14-99, Image) by Eric Shanower.

“I saw a ship sailing far out on the water – too far to turn back. It caries a man – a boy, really – who burns with a flame that will consume all he touches. A woman rides with him. She is proud and beautiful… but where she treads, death follows.”

First of seven award-winning volumes interpreting the story of Troy most famously propagated by Greek poet Homer. They are bursting with passion, epic in scope and astonishingly rich in detail.

Visual detail comes in the form of beautifully delineated bodies clothed in meticulously researched period clothing and gently nuanced expressions, all of which I’d compare to P. Craig Russell (SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS, FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE etc.) as inked by Art Adams. i.e. Thin, crisp lines but with a far softer touch. There is, however, no clutter at all, the panels composed in a joyous variety of forms all of which are thoroughly accessible to newcomers. There is nothing too tricksy and, in spite of the scope, nothing extraneous nor laborious. It is what they call “a real-page turner”.

It opens in the pastoral calm of the verdant cow-grazing pastures not far from the city of Troy. There young Paris awakes from a dream, about which we will learn only later, to find messengers demanding the family’s highly prized bull for King Priam of Troy’s next Festival Games. Determined to be the one to sacrifice the bull to the gods, Paris persuades his father to take him to the Games but discovers, after victory in a race, that his real father is King Priam himself. Priam embraces his long-lost son and Paris’ new brothers, formally hostile during the competition, all rally round.

Alas, aging King Priam is still smarting from Herakles’ sacking of Troy when he was but a child. It was then that his older sister Hesione was taken and given to the King of Salamis. Now that Troy has been rebuilt, Priam sends envoys demanding her return and although Hesione claims to be perfectly happy where she is, Priam suspects against all evidence to the contrary that she may have said so under duress. His sons suggest war, but they are too young to know war’s terrible cost and wisely King Priam rebuffs them. But when Paris suggests a stealthy raid instead, Priam likes the idea and dispatches Paris along with Aeneas to call on King Menelaus of Sparta first, in order to gain his support and so test recent treaties.

And this is where. It goes horribly. Wrong.

Although brother Hektor attempts to impress upon the inexperienced Paris (but four months at court) the complexity of the current geographical and so commercial context of this already dodgy endeavour, Paris’ eyes already blaze with a much greater ambition than the task he’s been given. So it is that when Paris lands and spies King Menelaus’ wife Helen of Sparta, he determines to make her his Helen of Troy.

The seduction sequence is breath-taking. Told in retrospect, Shanower repeats a single panel of Menelaus’ warning “Do you know what he’s here for?” over and over again, even though, ironically, Menelaus hasn’t the first fucking clue.

Dramatic irony abounds throughout, even for a modern reader. For although today we may not take oracles or horoscopes seriously, we know well enough to trust their eventual unfolding in Greek literature. As to the ancient Greeks – both the cast and the story’s original readership – they believed fervently. They believed so fervently that Menelaus’ older brother Agamemnon, leading the multinational retaliation for Helen’s abduction, risks his army’s starvation in order to wait for Achilles to show his girl-disguised face because only with Achilles on board, it is foretold, will Troy be left burning in ruins. Shame no one listens to the women, then, (same as it ever was) in this case both Kassandra and Helenus. They’re pretty prescient and very, very specific.

As to the prophecies surrounding Achilles, they open up a whole new can of calamari…

Every library should have one. Or two. Or three. School libraries should be a little cautious when it comes to younger readers because this isn’t some simplistic white-wash and there are scenes both of a sexual nature and of child-birth.

It’s one of the very best treatments of Homer I’ve read (although please do see Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY – especially schools, you’re on safer ground there) and far more than a mere adaptation but an integration of so many different sources – often conflicting – as Shanower details in the extensive resources in the back. It is, in short, the version Shanower wants to tell, in considerable depth and with exceptionally keen judgement.

It’s also a lot more fun than my old classics lessons aged 12 when I was forced to translate and study the original. The original is fab, but translating passages aged 12 before reading them outloud in front of your class and a very ‘volatile’ headmaster was far from fun.

Still, I did learn the origin of words like “euphemism”.


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 1: A Thousand Ships s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Godzilla: Half Century War s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe.

“I had arrogantly begun to think of Godzilla as an anomaly, a one-off. An animal of the Atomic Age too stubborn to die. Once the A.M.F. figured out how to deal with him, that would be it. We could all go home knowing that we had done some good.
“Then the others showed up and humbled the lot of us…”

Ah yes, the others

Not since I glued together my very first Aurora model kit, at the tender age of eight, have I been so in love with Godzilla. And yes, I used every piece of glow-in-the-dark plastic they offered, including that magnificent, jagged spine.

Here too the crystalline spine glows, as does the billowing smoke on page after page thanks to some monumentally lambent colouring by, I infer, James Stokoe himself, assisted by Heather Breckel. So much attention has been paid to each cloudy puff’s highlights. From the very first page I can promise you carnage on a gargantuan scale – we’re talking Geoff Darrow on Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED – whenceforth it only multiplies.

Along with rookie soldier Ota Murakami, we first encounter Godzilla in 1954; in Japan, of course, where they first dropped the bomb. It’s pretty tough luck for the Japanese, having to reap what we sowed in the form of this rampaging mutation. The soldiers cannot contain the beast; they can only survive it thanks to some shit-hot tank driving. In the wake of such wreckage the Anti Megalosaurus Force is formed, Murakami being its key recruit. But it’s in Vietnam in 1967 that they realise Godzilla is far from alone and, worse still, its trajectory is far from random. After that it’s Africa, Bombay, then the whole bloody world as those ridiculous creatures swarm: Megalon, Rodan, Ebirrah, Hedorah, Mothra… Battra! As the stakes escalate, so do the A.M.F.’s counter-measures, but just when you think the odds can’t get any worse, the fight is joined by those from beyond and oh dear lord my eyes are on fire!

Inevitably there’s some manga in the mix this time out, and I love the puffing, sweaty faces. Most of all, however, I love the way the transport subtly reflects each era, especially in 1975 where the crack team’s more of a whack team, crashing about in a VW Campervan presumably pimped in Haight-Ashbury.


Buy Godzilla: Half Century War s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Blood Blokes #3 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell.

… At which point Vince woke up in a dress. And an apron.

What…? Oh come on, we’ve all been on more than one of those benders – particularly on New Year’s Eve. Vincent went out on the town but got bit by a bat and ended up on a slab. The good news is that lanky Mike and deadpan Doug then abducted him and brought him back to the semi which they share with Ariana. Which is where we came in and where we do go from here.

“Did you spike my drink, huh? Did you roofie me?”


“Um… you all have fangs.”
“So do you.”

How will our student react to being undead? In a Manchester suburb, and a city-centre pub with a nightly lock-in exclusively for vamps? There’s no going back to his old life now, with his flat, his Mum and Dad and ex-girlfriend Jane…

Oi, Vince! I said there’s no going back to your old life now! Oh, hell…

Clean, lush art which swings between Paul Grist and Jamie Hernandez in places, with crazy dancing, ripped jeans, Batman boxer shorts and comfy sweaters. For more, please see BLOOD BLOKES #1 and BLOOD BLOKES #2.

“Sorry about the mess. There’s only one wardrobe in the house and you’re sleeping in it.”

Flat sharing, eh?


Buy Blood Blokes #3 and read the Page 45 review here

Occupy Comics #1 (£2-75, Black Mask) by Various

Anthologies for a charitable cause are often hit-and-miss affairs in terms of the material you get and this one is no different. But really the point is the cause more than the comics so it’s probably best to take the rough with the smooth; if you are interested in the Occupy Movement or the general furore surrounding it then you will find some interesting little nuggets here.

In terms of the strips three really stood out for me.  CITIZEN JOURNALIST by Ales Kot (WILD CHILDREN, CHANGE) Tyler Crook (BPRD) and Jeromy Cox (many superhero titles) is a snapshot of what it takes to get footage from a scene where the regular media have been “asked” by the police not to film. As you can imagine, what it takes is a mix of ingenuity and courage plus the ability to take a punch or two. Well put together with lovely art. CLEVER by Ben Templesmith is a two page spread explaining briefly how we are all being shafted, complete with zombie/skeletal men in suits. CHANNEL 1% by Matt Pizzolo and Ayhan Hayrula gives a succinct overview of how the events leading up to and including the Occupy movement have been spun.

You also get a bunch of other stuff including a chunk of prose by Alan Moore [the cartoon’s pedigree as a fiercely iconoclastic medium (Gillray) and comics’ too (Hogarth)] and an illustration by Molly Crabapple whose arrest at the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest is well worth an internet search.  Interesting stuff.


Buy Occupy Comics #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gabba Gabba Hey: The Story Of The Ramones (£14-99, Omnibus Press) by Jim McCarthy & Brian Williamson.

“I am sooooo fucken’ sick of this bullshit man. I wanna go home.”

There’s either a comma or a hyphen missing after “bullshit”, I can’t quite decide, but I echo the sentiments wholeheartedly. Comics should be an entertainment, not an endurance test and – in the spirit of full disclosure – I should probably confess that this was such an irritating, infuriating chore that I gave up quite quickly in.

Thankfully not before relishing the introduction by Everett True, stellar music critic from my misspent yoof, whose eloquent recollection and evocation of the band, its individual “brothers” and natural habitat, sent me crashing back in time to Rock City. And let me tell you, resurrecting memories of Rock City from my booze-addled brain is no mean feat. To his eternal credit, Everett makes no mention of the graphic novel whatsoever, but instead enthuses about the band’s cartoon aspects and it all makes perfect sense. It makes so much sense that I would have relished seeing a Ramones biography drawn by either Marc Ellerby (creator of ELLERBISMS and, of course, that issue of CBGB written by Kieron Gillen) or Adam Cadwell of BLOOD BLOKES.

Just not this one. I wouldn’t wish this script on either of those guys.

Unlike CBGB, it has no narrative hook whatsoever. Instead it launches straight in to the most godawful, clunky exposition as Phil Spector introduces himself to the Ramones halfway through their recording process, yonks after they’ve actually met.

“Y’know, I worked with everyone, the biggest of all time! The Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison and my own great stuff with Ike and Tina Turner. You name ‘em, I recorded ‘em!! I changed the face of rock’n’roll forever. You get me!? I make it happen! I hope you got all that…”

Yes, Jim, the readers got all that.

“Everyone recorded here, but I invented the fucking Wall of Sound. Brian Wilson might think he’s a fucking genius, but I, Phil Spector…”

Who are you again…?

“… I, Phil Spector…”

Ah, that’s what I thought.

“… I, Phil Spector, am the all-time numero uno!”

Seriously, who on earth introduces themselves to anyone they’ve been talking to for over an hour, let alone a day, a week, a month or a year? Picture the Page 45 shop floor, where Jonathan and Dominique have been waiting patiently for me to turn up on time for once and I stumble in, three hours late with mismatching shoes, and pronounce….

“Y’know, I created Page 45 with Mark Simpson. I, Stephen L. Holland! Everyone has signed here!! You name ‘em, they’ve signed! Eddie Campbell, Roberta Gregory, Neil Gaiman, Posy Simmonds, Terry Moore, Bryan Talbot, Peter Bagge, Hope Larson, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegredo, Marc Laming, David Hine, Nabiel Kanan, Jeremy Dennis, Donna Barr, Paul Gravett, Paul Grist, Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown, Ed Ilya, Dave Sim, Los Bros Sleaze Castle, that chap called Gerhard, that bloke called Millidge, that girl called –“

“I know!” bellows Dominique, braining me with a LOST GIRLS hardcover. “I organised most of those bloody events!”

Now let me tell you about the art: it is far from cartoon. It is the exact antithesis of the band’s infectious, geniusly-done dumb. It is instead the most morose, photo-realistic, post-apocalyptic, joyless photo-collage of backgrounds mis-married to the portraits (although those are immaculately recognisable) that you can possibly imagine. If it were designed to suck out your soul then deposit it, quivering, down a bleak back-alley in slightly soiled bed linen to subsist on meths for the rest of your life, then I would consider it the most remarkable success.

I’ll take a punt and suggest that this wasn’t the object of the exercise.

Anyway, fuck it, I’m going home. In fact, I’m going to the dentist to have all my teeth pulled out as a palliative pick-me-up.

Since I haven’t even done this graphic novel the common courtesy of finishing it, I leave you with this, from the publisher’s hype-monkey:

“The Ramones were the archetypal American punk band and this is their story, from their beginnings in Queens in 1974, through the burgeoning punk scene at CBGB’s, the excitement of their first album, their brush with the unhinged genius of Phil Spector and the endless touring that saw them perform 2,263 concerts over a 22 year period. Set against a backdrop of New York facing bankruptcy and terrorised by Son of Sam, The Ramones tale takes in endless inter-band fighting and finally the tragic deaths of three of the founding members: Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee.”

There is nothing punk rock about this whatsofuckingever.


Buy Gabba Gabba Hey: The Story Of The Ramones and read the Page 45 review here

Dragon Resurrection s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mark Byers & Erfan Fajar.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Was Dark Horse’s actual, official and (presumably) qualified commissioning editor away on the day?

This is no FOUR EYES, which is a very fine dragon book indeed. This is dreadful. It’s not even pretty like RAVINE (also dragons; also awful, but at least it was pretty).

Instead it’s a woefully stodgy mess of all-too coincidental contrivances in which a father of two determined to find palaeontological evidence of dragons co-existing with men (as opposed to dinosaurs who lived long before) finally hits paydirt and unearths – or at least threatens to defrost – one of two such long-lost legends. A terrorist, working in cahoots with both the US military and some eastern Cabal, blows it to kingdom come but not before the scientist’s daughter Jesse has taken a DNA sample which she sends to her crippled brother Jack.

Her brother, you see, is a genetic scientist desperately working on a hybrid-related cure for his paraplegia following his sister showing off during a backstreet kung-fu altercation with some drug-runners. One of which turns out to be the leader of this rising Cabal. Errrr… Remarkable!

But the dragon DNA won’t work for him, only for his sister who injects it after her brother is abducted by the — shoot me NOW!

The art is so lacklustre it manages to obfuscate a sudden and potentially dramatic space-ship lift-off, its sequential art so staccato you can only conclude that both the writer and artist had hiccups.

Furthermore, the script is so ridiculous that a permanent carbon nanotube linking Earth to its space-station destination is supposedly left undiscovered by any and all nations with satellite radar, plus Jack manages to sneak out and then in again from/to a heavily guarded, alarm-ridden, instant-reaction, technologically impervious research centre whilst trundling along at 0.2mph in the spine-supporting equivalent of a goddam fucking wheelchair.

This doesn’t just insult your intelligence, it shouts “Yo Mama!” jokes at you on every single page.


Buy Dragon Resurrection s/ 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.


Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf h/c (£9-99, Walker Books) by David Almond & Dave McKean

Tales Of The Buddha Before He Was Enlightened s/c (£10-99, Renegade Arts Entertainment) by Alan Grant & Jon Haward

Age Of Bronze vol 3 s/c (£13-50, Image) by Eric Shanower

Clone vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Image) by David Schulner & Juan Jose Ryp, Felix Serrano

Lucifer vol 1 new edition (£22-50, DC) by Mike Carey & Scott Hampton

Uncanny X-Men vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Various

All New X-Men vol 2: Here To Stay h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Stuart Immonen

Superior Spider-Man vol 1: My Own Worst Enemy s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Thor God Of Thunder vol 1: God Butcher h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Deadpool vol 1: Dead Presidents s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Tony Moore, Geof Darrow

Ultimate X-Men vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood, Nathan Edmondson & Paco Medina, Dave Johnson

Punisher: Enter War Zone s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Marco Checchetto

Uncanny Avengers vol 1: Red Shadow s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Cassaday, Oliver Coipel

Indestructible Hulk vol 1: Agent Of SHIELD vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Francis Yu

Mere s/c (£14-99, Picturebox) by  C.F.

Limit vol 5 (£8-50, Random House) by Keiko Suenobu

Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike &  Goseki Kojima

Durarara!! Saika vol 2 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Narita Ryohgo  & Satorigi Akiyo

Soul Eater vol 14 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Star Trek: Countdown s/c (US Edition) (£13-50, IDW) by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Mike Johnson, Tim Jones

Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness s/c (UK Edition) (£9-99, Titan) by Roberto Orci & David Messina


ITEM! TAMARA DREWE’s Posy Simmonds takes Guardian readers through her sketchbook – some fascinating insights into her cultural sources and creative decisions.

ITEM! Dylan Horrocks has reformatted SAM ZABEL AND THE MAGIC PEN in colour. Free comic – yay!

ITEM! Just in: “This year the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the largest literary festival of its kind in the world, is doing things a little differently. A brand new strand of events will focus exclusively on comics and graphic novels. Over forty events (talks, discussions, exhibitions, workshops and even a mini comic fair) featuring near a hundred creators and industry legends make up the fantastic programme.”

Everything launches on June 20th, at which point everything of explodes except, I am hoping, my cat. Watch this space for blogs dedicated to the comics side of things, and follow them specifically at @StrippedFest.

ITEM! Four-panel comic. This is me at Page 45 on a daily basis. It’s a constant source of surprise: one lost soul swimming in a fish bowl by Joe Sayers.


In which I give my first-ever 45-minute live interview – with Make It Then Tell Everybody – and grow increasingly “animated”. There are swears! Listen to HEY YOU!’s Dan Berry pressing all my buttons mere moments in. He knows precisely what he is doing!

Make It Then Tell Everybody Interviews Page 45’s Stephen L. Holland

 – Stephen El Holland

Reviews May 2013 week four

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

I remember picking up a cue, quite determined that it must finally be my turn, failing completely in my three or four attempts to make contact with even the white ball, before realising I had in fact intruded on someone else’s game on an adjoining table.

 – Jonathan on Ferals. (Classy guy, our Jonathan)

Please see way down below, as always, for an even bigger explosion of news than usual!

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

“This is the greatest discovery of my life!”

There! Over again in this truly great graphic novel Gilbert Hernandez nails the experience of childhood – its actuality and expression – but he does it best there.

We have no sense of perspective when young, nor should we – how could we?

Instead there are the immediately uttered explosions of over-excited ebullience and awe-struck wonder when lucky; the silent, destitute chasms of confusion or desolation when disillusionment comes knocking on our door. When we are disappointed by others, or disappointed in ourselves.

Here, for example, our Huey has expanded his own comic collection after relatively new friend Chauncy invites him over to play. Chauncy has quite the stash, and when he pops out for five seconds Huey can’t help himself from helping himself, slipping an issue under his t-shirt before stealing it home, flushed with fear lest he get caught. He doesn’t, but he’s startled to find Chauncy standing in the street and staring into space the next morning.

“You could see a rainbow earlier this morning.”
“Oh, uh… I was inside all this morning.”
“You can keep that comic book you borrowed.”
“W – wha…? I mean…”

He didn’t borrow it, of course, but I don’t think the ethereal Chauncy even suspects the foul play involved: it is his instinct not to imagine the worst, but to assume automatically the best in everyone around him. Huey is shamed by Chauncy’s good will and sets about rescuing the situation, but events back home have since moved on and so, I’m afraid, has the comic.

I don’t know how popular a pronouncement this will be – given Gilbert Hernandez’s enormous body of work, so complex, accomplished and critically acclaimed (oh, see the entire LOVE AND ROCKETS canon) – but this for me is his finest work to date, although last month’s JULIO’S DAY was pretty darn special too. It is certainly the best evocation of childhood in comics bar none, so many of its truths, we are told, garnered from his own early experiences.

I don’t mean that it is bleached into the lowest common denominators we can all immediately recognise in our own lives (although yes, I remember bubblegum cards and I remember hesitantly learning to jimmy a few freebies from their packs’ free-standing receptacles without the legitimate exchange of coins – sorree!), for this is full of surprises. It will teach you about your own experiences and maybe exhume a few memories long since buried and misunderstood until now.

Huey is the middle of three brothers. Chavo is too young to even speak, but Huey loves him dearly, constantly interacting with Chavo as if he understood Huey’s every wild imagining. And Huey has quite the imagination, acting out stories he makes up as he goes along, either alone in the street with his GI Joe action figure or with friends he’s corralled to perform a Captain America Vs The Red Skull play or similar scenarios of extemporised adventure. When they threaten to disband through boredom or disbelief, it is Huey’s older brother Junior who keeps them on board.

Indeed, throughout, Junior is Huey’s guardian angel. There’s a refreshing and heart-warming lack of competitiveness in that family and it is, all of it, firmly seen from the children’s perspective. Just like the Tom & Jerry cartoons where humans are heard but not seen, Huey’s mother appears not once in person, only through second-hand pronouncements.

“Hey, Mom said that she doesn’t want you to have a play in our backyard, Huey. Everybody has to go home.”

There is some exquisite cartooning going on here. There’s the opening scene in which Huey saunters down his safe street alone, dwarfed by the not-too-wide world around him, absorbed in his the contents of his new comic. When Junior casually questions the appropriateness of a prop in Huey’s play, Huey shoots back a wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression so genuinely aghast at his brother’s rare lapse in the cardinal rule of play that it’s actually very moving:


It’s the ultimate answer and a moment reprised, one page on, after they’ve transformed together a plain public Frisbee into Captain America’s shield with a lick of paint and some wire… then Huey slips the shield over his forearm. In that shining moment, costume or no costume, mask or no mask, Huey is Captain America.

The power of pretend!

The relationships between the various young neighbours are endearingly complex. There are the bullies, as you’d expect, and those slightly older who see themselves therefore as infinitely wiser, but also moments of honour and generosity, far from rare. And this is what I mean by complex:

Huey is the local marbles expert: he expects to win. So when Patty asks to play, he agrees and instructs her “Don’t fudge!” But Patty’s a very quick learner and wins.

“I won’t take your marbles. Let’s keep playing.”
“Naw, you won.”
“Can’t we keep on playing?”
“No, I’m going inside and watch Superman.”
“My favourite show is Bozo The Clown.”
“Bozo? Jimmy Olsen is funnier than Bozo! Superman is boss and Bozo’s for dumb little kids, Patty!”

The expression on Huey’s face there is like a venomous toad. He has turned in a split second on the quite innocent Patty who so evidently ‘likes’ Huey, lashing out in a deliberate attempt to devastate her with a killing verbal blow. But when older, baseball-bat wielding tomboy Lana backs Patty up by declaring Bozo new and Superman mere “old reruns”, Patty instead sticks up for the visibly stricken Huey with an emphatic “Mind your own business!”

It’s sweet, and the scene plays itself out until Lana’s alone in the alley.


Several are the transformations which will occur over the course of the next new months, some more subtle than others. Huey, for example, grows from shorts into long trousers. There’s a brief burst of disruption as two delinquents move in, provoking fights and threatening to lead some astray. Although, again, it’s far from the black and white this is printed on: energy is an attractive attribute in childhood. There’s Elvin the footballer (or will he be chef?) whose body language gives much away; and club-leader Dave who, his brother implies, shouldn’t be playing with children. There are also the crises of confidence, and my hastily scribbled notes make much of even more recognition boxes I ticked: comics without covers (none of the comics in my Gran’s hairdresser’s had covers) and the kid whom none of us really knew declaring the public path by his house completely off-limits.

Truth be told, either this or JULIO’S DAY would make prime Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month material. They are both flawless graphic novels and although Los Bros Hernandez are already famed within my generation of right-minded comicbook lovers, they’re not attracting the level of attention they deserve in newcomers. Plus this is an original graphic novel: none of it appeared in LOVE AND ROCKETS.

So at the time of typing it is May 22nd 2013, with just over a week before we declare our hand, and I have yet to consult Jonathan or Dominique so we shall see. I’d buy it now and be done with it. Oh wait, I already have.


Buy Marble Season h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Authority vol 1 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch.

“We are The Authority. Behave.”

THE AUTHORITY was one of the first superhero series I ever endorsed, back in 1999. It hit the tarmac running and punched you in the socio-political face.

With its clipped, military precision, it reset the standard once monopolised by WATCHMEN. It consciously or subconsciously inspired Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s four ULTIMATES books, and I’m here to tell you that it withstands the test of time. If you want testosterone, it will give you testosterone, but with a great deal more cranial activity to boot.

Guess who’s got the most of both? Jenny Sparks, pragmatic blonde Brit and the sharpest female lead in superhero comics. Naturally she doesn’t wear spandex, she wears an exquisitely tailored, loose cotton suit over a Union Jack t-shirt, but she has more attitude than her entire team together, even if she doesn’t once throw a physical punch.

That job goes to Jack Hawksmoor, at one with Earth’s cities, and boyfriends Apollo and The Midnighter who – contrary to the despicable gay cliché – are neither maladjusted nor lightweights. Neither in the closet nor in your face, no one gives a shit, thank fuck. “Get a room, you two,” is about as much signposting as you’re going to get under Ellis. Apollo smiles with a boyish optimism and he shines as bright as the sun. The Midnighter does not:

“I’ve already planned this fight in my head, a million times, from each and every angle. You think your Kaizen Gamorra’s pretty damn good, I know. But my talents were built in by Henry Bendix, the biggest bastard on Earth, and trained by five years living rough and fighting on the streets of America.
“I won this fight before you even turned up.”

So where does the cranial come in? For a start, from The Carrier. Fifty miles long and thirty-five miles high, powered by a caged baby universe, it tacks into The Bleed between alternate universes, “sailing the outer oceans of ideaspace during the spawning season, keeping pace with a school of Obsession Fish”.

Also the new recruits: The Engineer and the Doctor. I can’t tell you how they solve problems, it’ll spoil all the surprises, but the Doctor’s final solution for an alternate-Earth Italy was … imaginative.

Also it’s the quiet moments, most harmoniously explored in the third chapter of this complete Ellis and Hitch run, as when Angie The Engineer marvels at being in outer space with her view of the moon and laments man’s all too-brief encounter with our lunar sister or relishes her view of The Bleed.

All of which – the quiet wonder and sheer, visceral thrill of seeing spinal chords ripped from their fleshy housing – would be far less effective and affecting were it not for Bryan Hitch, the neo-classical artist behind ULTIMATES and the rejuvenated, resigned Doctor Who TV series some seven years ago. Damn, that man can do scale!

Pity his poor final-inks artist Paul Neary each and every time Bryan Hitch sent him a city-scape or double-page spread of The Carrier so vast and detailed that any normal human being would have simply cried then gone back to bed. There is another double-page spread of a sadistic shoal of cloned, superhuman, black-clothed assassins speeding towards you out of a point of perspective which will fry your fevered brain. All lit, I might add, to sunrise perfection by colour artist, Laura DePuy. There’s also plenty in the backgrounds to amuse if you look closely enough: the multiple pizza-deliveries discarded in Angie’s New York flat or the pantheon of prior shamen who called themselves The Doctor.

So. Under Jenny Sparks, The Authority intend to make the world a better place, whether you like it or not. They will not tolerate an extra-terrestrial invasion, a despotic Eastern assault or a trans-dimensional incursion by a Sliding Albion hell-bent on turning the entire planet into one giant rape-camp.

“Bad things happened when I run teams. And bad things happen when I don’t run teams. This is a hellish gamble for me, Apollo.
“But there had to be someone left to save the world.
“And someone left to change it.”

Jenny Sparks stopped aging at twenty but has protected this planet for nearly one hundred years, for she is the spirit of the 20th Century.

It is now 1999. I repeat, it is now 1999.

“Game on.”


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

Scott Pilgrim vol 3 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Includes… colour. Look, the title says so!

“It’s really for the best that he didn’t get a drink…”
“Oh, does he get up to go pee halfway through the movie?”
“Halfway? Try six times.”

Also extra for this edition: 50 pages that weren’t in the softcover including the Kim Pine story originally published in COMICS FESTIVAL 2007 which fills in a minor plot gap between vols 3 and 4. Also, also: advertisements; an unused, double-page cover concept; hilarious character map; lots and lots and lots of annotated character sketches; three excised story pages never seen before… but, best of all, the 17-page Free Comicbook Day story from 2006 in which Wallace secures free tickets to a gay cowboy film for himself, Ramona and Scott, and Scott totally fails to select a soft drink in time.

Then Scott’s attacked by eight identical, sixteen-year-old ninja girls (“I don’t like hitting them! They’re… soft.”) while Wallace and Ramona ignore his squeals in favour of this telling exchange:

“If one of your seven evil ex-boyfriends a ninja?”
“One or more of my exes might be a ninja, yeah…”

They probably don’t make that film. 45 minutes later:

“Oh dude, this one has +4 to speed! Ha ha ha ha sweet!”
“I hate you so much, Scott Pilgrim. I hate him so much, Ramona.”
“I know you do, sweetie. Scott, why do you ruin everything? Did you really need eight completely different drinks?”
“Yes, and they all have to have complimentary* power-ups! And not be grape. And I can’t go over my daily limit on anything, that’s bad for you. I also like to try and match the colours while I’m at it. You can call me obsessive-compulsive if you want, but I just think it’s better, you know? It’s also good if they all go in alphabetical order, and there can’t be any repeats. And blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!”

*NB: Scott can’t spell.

Cue customary overview!

Scott is a clot. He really is. He’s a total dumpling, and in terms of a Chinese take-away, dim doesn’t even begin to sum the lad up.

He is kinda cute, though, and as the series kicks off Scott is living with gay housemate Wallace for whom sly, dry mockery is a default setting. They’re so poor they even share the same bed. But Scott sleeps soundly until this girl called Ramona comes skating through his dreams – she’s a delivery girl and as you well know the quickest way from A to B is to skate through someone else’s dreams, right? Then Scott meets Ramona in his waking life, falls head over heals in whatever the hell that thing is (he may figure it out eventually) but is casually informed that if he wants her as a girlfriend he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes in combat!

Truly a unique series with a heart of gold, and a wit and a Nintendo logic all of its own. There is not a single comic reader who could fail to fall in love with Scott, Wallace, Ramona or Bryan himself. O’Malley isn’t even close to running out of innovative ideas: his visual gags keep tumbling onto the page, and so convinced are we that this book is for everyone that if you try the first SCOTT PILGRIM black and white softcover at least and aren’t immediately hooked, we’ll give you your money back and even pay return postage.

You will, on the other hand, have totally failed to earn The Power Of Love, so no power-up of a flaming sword for you!


Buy Scott Pilgrim vol 3 h/c Colour Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Ferals vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & Gabriel Andrade…

“Yours are the striped ones, Dale. You may want to move your bottle so you can see them.”
“Theresh no state of drunk inna entire world that’d make me lose to you, Ralph.”

I had an odd flashback reading that sequence, to the last time I drank tequila, which was New Year’s Eve 2001. After consuming about two bottles, err… mostly to myself, whilst we were preparing to go out to The Elbow Room pool bar in Leeds city centre for the night… quite literally the only thing I can clearly subsequently recall about the whole evening is a brief attempt to play pool. I remember picking up a cue, quite determined that it must finally be my turn, failing completely in my three or four attempts to make contact with even the white ball, before realising I had in fact intruded on someone else’s game on an adjoining table. I didn’t actually remember that either for a few weeks…

What actually happened was we were sat in my friend’s lounge, when I remarked when were we actually going to go out? It was then not-so-gently broken to me by my chortling chums it was 4am, that we had already been out, and indeed seen the New Year in a manner best described as roaringly Krakenous. It was at that point I realised there are in fact states of drunk not conducive to being victorious at pool, or indeed preventing brain damage. Aside from an ill-advised reprise with multiple flaming zambucca expressoes on my stag do (for which my stomach has never quite forgiven me), I have subsequently managed to avoid spirits ever since…

Still, Dale’s world is about to turn as shitty as I felt on New Year’s Day 2002. Already reeling from the loss of his best friend to what appeared to be some extreme animal attack, though Dale has suspicions that some sort of foul play might be involved, he’s about to lose his fuck buddy – his best friend’s ex-wife (classy guy, our Dale) – and also the blonde slapper he’s about to pick up post-pool game and shag in the toilets (very classy guy, our Dale) to the very same fate that evening. And then get the blame for it and have to go on the run from the cops and FBI. Oh dear. Plus, were that not bad enough, it appears he might also have picked up a rather extreme STD, of the lycanthropic variety, for his troubles.

So, some trepidation on reading this, penned as it is by David Lapham, but rest assured for those who are relatively faint of heart, it’s just extreme, relentless, gore-filled horror in the vein of CALIGULA, whilst not descending to the tasteless (personal opinion) depths of CROSSED VOLUME 2 and CROSSED VOLUME 3. I can certainly see this appealing to those who are enjoying most of the more horrific end of Avatar’s output. It’s certainly not going to redefine the genre, but it’s well written enough and also competently illustrated, in what seems to almost becoming an Avatar house (of) horror style by Gabriel Andrade.


Buy Ferals vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar Press Inc) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek, Jacen Burrows…

“Sudden and vivid epiphany.
“I am living a horror film and I’m the swarmy one. Aren’t I? I’m the post-modern self-referencing c*** in the group, the one who irritates everyone, the not-a-joker, the tosspot, the loser with a crush on the heroine but no hope.
“He dies, diary. That guy. He always dies first or second. Third, maximum.
“I am an away-team extra in a red fucking shirt, and when I awake from this awful awful dream I will travel to America and take an enormoshit on William Shatner’s face.
“Believe I may be going mad. Something needs to change.”

Ha ha. I do love the character of frustrating writer Shaky. He’s such a two-faced weasely back-stabbing bastard. And yet, and yet, he’s showing all the characteristics needed to survive in the world of the Crossed. Look out for number one and screw everybody else…

After manipulating events in CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE VOL 1 to get himself onto the supplies run to the mainland, he’s up to his usual tricks, putting his unwilling band of comrades / cannon fodder into the firing line to save his own neck, wherever and whenever possible. Along the way we will get the rest of his pre-island life back story, as dictated to his confessional diary, involving the gamekeeper and the nun (which will prove very significant in future issues, trust me). And we also encounter some new characters who Shaky is putting through his very own private reality show to decide which two get to come back to the (comparative) safety of their windswept isle. They’re a ragtag bunch, but they do of course include at least one genuine headcase. As I suspected, I’m now enjoying this even more than the original series, due to its ongoing nature.


Buy Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Metabarons Ultimate Collected Edition (£45-00, Humanoids Inc) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenez >

Gorgeous hardcover repacking the otherwise flimsy softcover component parts that just lolled around on your shelves like flaccid fish caught in a far from jovial net. Or something. I hand you over instead to Professor David Hart, ex of Oxford with a BA Hons in English Literature, and 1st, as it happens:

Castration, mutilation, military prosthetics, whore-priestesses, vast space battles and barely suppressed Oedipal relationships: it’s fair to say that the defining motif for THE METABARONS is ‘excess’. Starting with former pirate Othon Von Salza, THE METABARONS tells the story of a line of technologically supercharged and murderous fucks with relationship problems, each page super-pumped full of more ideas than most comics use in a year, the hysteria dial well and truly turned up to eleven.

Any attempt to summarize the plot is going to make it sound bonkers; which it is, but that’s not the point. While the future medieval setting is as familiar as the space opera genre, what sets this apart is that the opera is very much of the Wagnerian variety. The sets, the gestures, the plots, the characters, all strain their sinews towards the epic. This is opera where the high notes shatter glass and where the fat lady is a psychic ninja cyborg who turns out to be a reincarnation of your mum.

Giminez’ painted art, meanwhile, is a superb match for Jodorowsky’s grandiose vision, grounding even the most outré of events in a human reality. He combines draughtsmanship with a dynamic sense of scale and storytelling, able to move in a flicker from Olympian-scale space battles to the smirk on a father’s face as he pulps his son’s feet in a macabre initiation ceremony.  Ignore the two robots who narrate the book and whose sub-C3P0 witterings litter the text (“What happens next! Do tell before I burst another diode!” Blah and, indeed, blegh). Instead sit back and watch the speed and variety of invention, as bigger and bigger ideas flash across the stage. This first volume ends with Othon and his freshly mutilated son setting off for a new land; it’s worth noting that it’s after this that things start to get really weird…


Buy Metabarons Ultimate Collected Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Indestructible Hulk vol 1: Agent Of Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Francis Yu.

“Good morning, doctors. A pleasure. I am Dr. Bruce Banner, 21-time Nobel Prize loser. And your task is to help me break that streak. I’m sure you have questions?”

KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross was stunning. It’s one of those OMG moments which you never saw coming but which will last blasted into your superhero psyche forever. Mark Waid is an ever-reliable veteran of superhero comics who can carry the corporate torch without sweat but who, like Busiek on ASTRO CITY, really comes into his own when the books are creator-owned. We’re talking IRREDEEMABLE. Go look at the latter: I compared the two.

Yet this is by far the most unexpectedly intelligent that the HULK has been since Peter David twenty years ago and – I’ll wager – is destined to surpass even that. Waid has thought outside the box. Or rather, the man has gone rummaging in the sandbox of past history and potential and found much that has been left to go mouldy there.

Don’t get me wrong: with Leinil Yu of SUPERIOR, SUPERCROOKS and ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VERSUS HULK fame, you are in for some wide-angled carnage on a teeth-grittingly, visceral level that will make your eyes pop out at the sheer weight of the collateral damage doled out here.

But listen, Bruce Banner is a phenomenally intelligent scientist, yet all the plaudits have gone to Reed Richards, Tony Stark and even Hank ‘Smack-My-Bitch-Up’ ‘Who-Even-Am-I-Today?’ Pym.

“Meanwhile, I – I who, forgive me, have just as much to contribute – will be lucky if my tombstone doesn’t simply say, “Hulk Smash!””

Ever since his first catastrophic self-sacrifice transmuting him into the uncontrollable, cyclonic force of nature that is the easily antagonised Hulk, Bruce Banner has been hounded so incessantly that he has only had time to react to each and every onslaught. The perpetual victim, he has never been afforded the opportunity to take stock. Even during brief respites he has his own system perpetually pumping against him as a ticking time bomb which could go off during even the most minor, mundane malfeasance. Like a bump in the queue for spaghetti.

So it is today that Maria Hill, head of SHIELD and on covert surveillance in a common-or-garden diner for another mission she should be attending to more rigorously, is obsessively on the man’s case yet again and against all professional advice.

“It’s not as if he’s going to find us,” she texts.
“Hi,” he says, sitting down.

Well that had me won. But there’s more, far more, for Bruce has a plan both pragmatic and proactive.

“First, resolved: being the Hulk is a chronic condition, like diabetes or cancer or M.S. The secret to living with it isn’t obsessing over a cure. It’s in managing what exists. Being vigilant. Like, say, making contact lenses that monitor my vital warning statistics as an early warning system.
“Second: use Banner Time more productively. Invent things. Fix things. Improve things. The Hulk has caused immeasurable damage and heartache over the years. It’s past time that I started balancing the scales by doing as much good as possible.”

He presents Maria Hill with a single canister.

“This? This is a purification unit that, if put into mass production, can eliminate all waterborne disease in the next five years, saving millions of lives.”
“That’s… Wow. Do you have a name for it?”
“Yes. Tuesday.”


Buy Indestructible Hulk vol 1: Agent Of Shield 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.

Blood Blokes #3 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell

Naming Monsters (£12-99, Myriad) by Hannah Eaton

Gabba Gabba Hey: The Story Of The Ramones (£14-99, Omnibus Press) by Jim McCarthy & Brian Williamson

Dragon Resurrection s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mark Byers & Erfan Fajar

Sonic Universe vol 5: The Tails Adventure (£8-99, Archie Comic Publications) by various

Borderlands Origins s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Mike Neumann & Agustin Padilla

Godzilla: Half Century War s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe

Age Of Bronze vol 1: A Thousand Ships s/c (£14-99, Image) by Eric Shanower

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£14-99, Image) by Eric Shanower

Drowntown Book One h/c (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Robbie Morrison & Jim Murray

Demon Knights vol 2: The Avalon Trap s/c (£10-99, DC) by Paul Cornell & Bernard Chang

FF vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Journey Into Mystery (featuring Lady Sif) vol 1: Stronger Than Monsters s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kathryn Immonen & Valerio Schiti

Bakuman vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Saturn Apartments vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Hisae Iwaoka

Sunny vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

X 3-in-1 Ed vol 5 (£14-99, Viz) by Clamp

ITEM! Beautiful six-page comic called BOTTLING IT by John Cei Douglas. *swoons* John you might know from my favourite pages of SOLIPSISTIC POP 4 (and there were an awful lot of glorious pages to compete with there!) Also, BUFFALO ROOTS (quantities of both very limited now).

ITEM! Interior pages from AMERICAN VAMPIRE: THE LONG ROAD TO HELL one-shot due 12th June. You can order AMERICAN VAMPIRE: THE LONG ROAD TO HELL here while you can read the Page 45 reviews of AMERICAN VAMPIRE by clicking here.

ITEM! Extraordinary evocation of depression in words and pictures by Allie Brosh sent to me by Pam McIlroy (@pamreader). Never suffered from depression myself, so it’s helped me get a firmer grip on what a lot of people I know are going through. Important.

ITEM! Oh My God! Yes, a total OMG moment as Art from Kate Brown, Emma Vieceli and Paul Duffield goes on public display around the Tower Of London! Three of my favourite comicbook creators in one massive, history-orientated swoop. So fucking cool, I am swearing. Sorree!

ITEM! Gorgeous colours and character designs in this Kickstarter, HONEYDEW AND MAGIC by Nikki Stu, creator of HERALD OWLETT. And it’s doing so well!

ITEM! Lovely feature on Page 45 by Nottingham Live was posted on Monday, very kind indeed! I swear to God that you cannot see the sorry state of our ceiling tiles when you’re inside the shop. You simply won’t notice. But they’re all part of our major plans for 2015.


Yowsa! This is SUCH an honour! Some amazing photography there as Pauline and Cardboard Colin hop through the letter box at home and trundle through town via the Arboretum Graveyard. Picnics! Yay!

For more Pauline and Colin, see our stock of ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON, RECYCLOST and MY CARDBOARD LIFE itself, all signed and sketched in by Philippa Rice for free.

 – Stephen

Reviews May 2013 week three

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Out of that mouth comes the stench of offal and furious threats he turns into promises, dismissing his son Martin as a “sick heifer” and “starved bitch” and deriding his missus as a “fat sow” and “stupid mare”. His vegetarian son is terrified of him.

 – Stephen on Hellblazer vol 5 which contains seven issues never previously reprinted

Thief Of Thieves vol 2: Help Me (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman, James Asmus & Shawn Martinbrough.


Conrad Paulson quit. On the verge of a Venice job into which old Arno had sunk millions of dollars the most accomplished, plan-ahead thief in modern history quit crime forever.

He loves his wife (but she’s had enough) and foresaw his son Augustus heading the way brother-in-law James went because his talent so spectacularly fails to match his enthusiasm. Unfortunately Augustus won’t quit, had to be rescued from the FBI for fear of incriminating Conrad, and is still in deep shit for what he owes Cristo of the Cartel. And let me tell you, Cristo is not a nice man.

Now Cristo’s kidnapped Augustus’ girlfriend Emma and is threatening to return her finger by finger unless Augustus can convince his Dad to do a job for the Cartel. His Dad’s dead against: he won’t do it; he’s quit. He does, however, agree to rescue Emma but he has a very big problem: Augustus won’t listen to a word he says. God, that boy’s a liability.

Of volume one I wrote that each smartly spliced scene in this classy crime caper has been meticulously arranged in far from chronological order for maximum gasps of “I never saw that coming!” It was insane – all the more brilliant for being so structurally insane.

No less thrilling, this is however far gentler on the cranium chronologically except… there is one massively important piece of recent activity missing. Someone has done something they haven’t told anyone and it will bring every player from volume one back into the game then change its rules forever.

If I was Andy Diggle who takes over next issue (#14) I would be cursing James Asmus for the mess he’s left everyone in, almost as bad as what Bendis left Brubaker on DAREDEVIL. But then it was Diggle who took over from Brubaker on DAREDEVIL so I guess the poor guy’s used to it. (Please note: Andy tells me he’s having a whale of a time, and I don’t doubt him for five seconds. He just says it’s going to get a great deal darker now…)

Shawn Martinbrough, meanwhile, totally owns this series and although I’m rarely wont to comment on covers, a big, big tip of the hat to Shawn for making this complement THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 1 so spectacularly in primary reds and blues. That is Conrad Paulson; this is his son. They don’t compare well, do they?


Buy Thief Of Thieves vol 2: Help Me and read the Page 45 review here

Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Peter Bagge with Alan Moore, Robert Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, Johnny Ryan, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez…

“Jesus lives in my heart, and Satan lives in my womb! …But you know who lives in my brain?”

Superb collection of rib-tickling material from the man who loves to HATE. And chums. Split into various sections, partly by characters who will be familiar to long time Bagge handlers, this work rounds up and corrals material which has previous appeared in HATE annuals, and also collaborations with various luminaries (including Alan Moore, Robert Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, Johnny Ryan, Los Bros Hernandez) which have appeared in various places before as detailed in the introduction.

In doing so you get the complete run of two of my favourite Bagge creations, “Lovey” and the Shut-Ins”. The astutely observed car crash that is Lovey really does remind me of a friend’s ex-girlfriend just a little too much for comfort (enough said), and in our ever more virtual world Chet of the “Shut-Ins” obsession with the internet is disturbingly accurate. This is Bagge at his best for me, poking fun at everyday people with excruciating finesse. The material in collaboration with others, sometimes on writing, sometimes on art duties, is a true mélange of material. Some outright gag strips, others more typical fictional comedy, but always heavy on the characters, and of course the humour. One for the completists certainly, but also something for those wishing to dip their toes into Peter’s weird world. The only negative thing about the whole collection for me is both the front and rear covers, which seem like almost an after-thought, and probably won’t actually encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with, and fond of, his work to pick it up, which is a shame.


Buy Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff and read the Page 45 review here

The Playboy s/c (New Ed) (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown.

In which fifteen-year-old Chester Brown nervously, sweatily buys his first copy of Playboy magazine… then doesn’t look back.

Actually he looks back a lot – mostly over his shoulder, for the paranoia his new porn habit induces is almost as consuming as his early lust. It’s just not enough to make him quit for more than a few hours, days, weeks or – at a stretch – months at a time. It is, however, very successfully conveyed in all its candid detail, and anyone who has ever been furtive about anything in their lives will be ticking the boxes like crazy.

And of course looking back is precisely what Chester Brown is doing here, in one of the most famous comicbook memoirs on record. It’s a dinky, pocket-sized reissue which fits snugly into the palm of your hand, recut by Brown in a final edit, then fastidiously annotated at the back. There we learn that his original inspiration for beginning THE PLAYBOY was the first of many pages which Joe Matt went on to draw about his own experience with pornography which has been infinitely more obsessive and extensive than Chet’s (see SPENT especially). You’ll also see precisely what’s been excised (and so miss nothing; it’s reprinted here), all in service to keeping the issue at hand as fluid as possible and free from digression. The digressions are in the back where Chester clarifies, for example, his sole experience of shutting his eyes and imagining he was having sex with one of this favourite Playboy pin-ups rather than his girlfriend.

No, the work itself is remarkable straightforward: Chester buys a porn mag, desperately hoping no one he knows will recognise him doing so, and smuggles it home. He then selects his favourite page, and wanks over it using a two-palmed technique I’ve never come across before (and, being gay, I may have slightly more experience in this field than most) while worrying he’ll be disturbed mid-shuffle by his younger brother, mother or father. He sequesters the magazine outside, then frets that someone will have spotted him doing that too. He returns later on either to find it still there (though slightly soiled) and panics when it isn’t. You get the picture: it’s one long hormonally induced cycle of temptation and terror, fear and self-loathing.

As time progresses, Chet builds up whole collections of magazines, ditches them in a panic, buys them back up, tears bits off, burns some, agonises over whether someone will find the charred spine and recognise it for what it is, becomes an expert in Playmates and shuns most other brands as aesthetically inferior.

The art is beautifully fragile – far more fragile even than Jeffrey Brown’s renowned fragility – with a thin, crisp line with wavers in the wind when it comes to grass and hair. Seldom are there more than two panels per page, and little is left out. It’s all very, very, very straightforward, candid and clear. Pornography: cause and effect.


Buy The Playboy s/c (New Ed)  and read the Page 45 review here

Nobrow Anthology vol 8: Hysteria (£15-00, Nobrow) by various including Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Jim Rugg…

Whew, fairly intense anthology of material all based on or around the subject of hysteria, coloured entirely in the exactly the same shades of red, green, blue, brown, grey and black. The roll call of creators is either side of two single pages bearing the legend TURN ME NOW in large letters at 180 degrees to each other. One side of the book is wordless and features 32 truly, truly surreal double-page spreads from different creators. It may or may not be intended as a sequential narrative, I’m still not entirely sure after three or four reads through. I can see a very loose strand running through connecting piece to piece, but I am willing to concede any such narrative could be entirely my own imagination. This could actually be what Nobrow was intending, perhaps, the reader looking over bizarre and disturbing material repeatedly until they enter into some sort of hysterical state!

The other side of the book is a more conventional collection of 14 shorts, though with the same slightly migraine-inducing colour scheme, including offerings from Luke Pearson and Philippa Rice! It’s a good eclectic mix of contemporary fiction through to the rather zany. I do enjoy reading these Nobrow anthologies, though I can’t honestly say I understand what Nobrow intend by them, other than they each seem to be objects in their own right. They’re not really promotional of the imprint to an extent, but more like collagic performance pieces, which perhaps fits nicely enough with the Nobrow ethos.


Buy Hysteria: Nobrow Anthology vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 5: Dangerous Habits (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano & Dave McKean, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Will Simpson, more.

“Eyes on the horizon. Future ahead. Never look back. Never let memory step on your shadow.”

VITAL ALERT! This book contains twice as much material as the old DANGEROUS HABITS volume, collecting as it does (in addition to Ennis’ opening salvo) the last seven issues of Jamie Delano’s run for the first time ever, including ‘The Dead-Boy’s Heart’ charmingly illustrated by Sean Phillips in which you meet a very young, ski-slope nosed John, uprooted from Liverpool with his sister Cheryl and staying with his kindly Aunt Dolly and a lot less kindly Uncle Harry.

But if you think Uncle Harry’s abusive, you wait until you meet grotesque butcher Archibald Acland whom Steve Pugh will sear indelibly onto the back of your eyeballs, his ruddy, blubbery face looking like a flabby pig’s arse, his mouth its very anus. Out of that mouth comes the stench of offal and furious threats he turns into promises, dismissing his son Martin as a “sick heifer” and “starved bitch” and deriding his missus as a “fat sow” and “stupid mare”. His vegetarian son is terrified of him:

“He needs to piss but he can’t face the bathroom – the soapy stubble-scum; the excess Preparation H finger-smeared on the basin; the thick, dead, lingering smell of shit. The smell of his father.”

He’s right to be terrified. This is Martin’s eighteenth birthday and he’s about to be forced down a make-shift abattoir for an ordeal so horrific you will not believe what you read. This is HELLBLAZER at its best: binding occult horror to the very real nightmares of actual human suffering, and it is excruciating.

Lastly for Delano there are two of the most important chapters in Constantine’s history. In ‘The Hanged Man’ John finally discovers what’s been nagging him all this time: the identity of the Golden Boy he first saw at his mother’s graveside, so he sets a pre-natal wrong right. The repercussions are played out in ‘The Magus’ illustrated by Dave McKean. It’s a startling final flourish for Delano’s stint which began over three years earlier in HELLBLAZER VOL 1: ORIGINAL SINS.

There I wrote:

“John Constantine is a trouble magnet; the problem is that deep down he enjoys it. Brash, rash and cocky, this streetwise trickster, this Laughing Magician with his nicotine-stained fingers and trademark trenchcoat relishes the war of wits – the blag, the bluff and the quietly palmed ace up his sleeve – and his insatiable curiosity drives him to places where no soul should go. That he somehow returns to enjoy his next pint is a miracle; that his friends rarely do is inevitable.”

Case in point:

“I stop walking.
“It’s quite an effort, because walking’s one of the things I do best. Walking away without a glance over my shoulder at the misery and bloodshed I’ve left behind me.”

Whatever John Constantine’s considerable failings, a lack of self-awareness is not one of them. That and his sense of social justice are his two saving graces, fortified immeasurably with an indomitable, ruthless determination to win. Here in 1991 Garth Ennis takes the reins and immediately gives John Constantine terminal lung cancer with three months to live. Get out of that, John!

Obviously he does, but the key is that he does so not through conjuration – for that would be a complete cop-out – but manipulation and, when you discover exactly whom he manipulates and how, you will laugh your head off at the sheer gall of the guy and determine never to play him at chess.

John will have no time to gloat, however, for although Garth Ennis does introduce a surprisingly sturdy love interest in Kit, he also swiftly sets out his stall for the humanity – and political anger – which he will be bringing to the table as evidenced by his meeting with Matt, already bed-bound by the time John discovers him in hospital:

“He’d been with the desert rats at Alamein, come home to a life that could never quite equal the thrill of his army days, drunk and smoked enough to kill him – and ended up here. Dying in a country that he didn’t know anymore, because all the money was spent on getting a whore into office every four years.”

Steve Dillon will become Garth Ennis’ best known partner in grime both on HELLBLAZER and later on PREACHER, but Will Simpson brings a haggard sense of mortality to the pages which were perfect for these six issues of raw vulnerability and renewed sense of loss.

“I don’t want to hear them call time. I don’t want a nurse asking me if he was a friend, and how sorry they are, and how hard they tried.
“I’d be like evidence for the prosecution at my trial. John Constantine, you have been found guilty of first degree cold-hearted bastardy. Of being a twisted, evil frigger who sneaks and creeps his way out of trouble that those less privileged have no defence against. Of swaggering merrily away from lung cancer while a good friend’s organs split and rupture, without even a hope of the salvation you enjoy.
“Outside it’s still raining.”

There will be repercussions, yes.


Buy Hellblazer vol 5: Dangerous Habits and read the Page 45 review here

Bedlam vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image ) by Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo, Frazer Irving –

Image is producing some excellent stuff at the moment and this is another book which should shift many, many copies because it ticks so many boxes for so many people, myself included. Crime fans, creepy horror fans, psych-based weirdness fans, Joker/Arkham/Batman fans and “isn’t the world a truly fucked up place?” fans will all get a kick out of BEDLAM because it is *mental*.

When the book begins the final, show-stopping crime of the notorious psycho who plagues the city of Bedlam is already underway. In stunning black, white and red we watch his final hideous act before he is taken into custody… only to find that he has arranged a sting in the tail. We watch the panic unfold; the detectives try to reason with the killer, even though he is utterly beyond reason. They try to intimidate him even though fear obviously means nothing to him. And they try begging him despite the fact he clearly has not a compassionate bone in his body. In the end the plot is not thwarted but at least the psycho is dead; killed by his own mistake, a miscalculation which finally rids Bedlam of its stain. Yeah… he’s not dead, though. At least the person who is dead isn’t him. But never mind, he’s not going to be out committing crimes any time soon, or even ever again. Because someone is of a mind to fix him.

Because we are not the things we did in the past, we are the things we do today? Right?

There is so much more I want to write in this review but I also don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s not that there is any great twist that you won’t see coming, rather it’s that I loved the way the story revealed itself and I don’t want to ruin it. There are some brilliant passages; some all about the action and the violence, others about a guy in a room talking to himself. The faceless (literally!) Batman analogue is a perfect one-dimensional foil to the complex, endearing weirdo we follow through the latter part of the story and the police/detective element is a perfect mix of familiar formula and freaky sideshow.

I loved this book. I found it in turns thrilling, amusing, freaky and dark. Also, for £7-50 it’s a no-brainer. (You’ll see what I did there, tee-hee!)


Thank you, my love!

Stephen here, at the behest our dear Dominique, appending my review of the very first issue. I don’t quite know why, but after working with the woman for nearly 18 years I have learned to do as I’m told. (It actually took me three days.)

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to let you know I have just killed… well, a lot of people. I didn’t count. I apologise. To make matters worse, most of these people were children. Which I know you’re gonna say is somewhat below the belt. But I have tried many things, and you are all… Well, you are a pretty stubborn bunch. So now that I have your attention, we should talk about what comes next.”

In which a psychopath torments his audience, captors and the wider public in general – even from behind bars – and does so with such viciousness and at such punishing length that DC would never have published this as an Arkham Asylum book.

Sorry…? Well, if this wasn’t originally intended to be a Joker book, I’d be hugely surprised, and for some reason I’ve decided that’s the equally ill-adjusted Norman Osborn administering the sedatives. Quite the crossover.

With a softer but suitably grimy colour palette to differentiate between time frames, this is mostly told in black, white and red with a cracking design for Madder Red’s Chain Chomp mask. Jonathan mentioned Ashley Wood as a comparison point, and I wouldn’t disagree.

As to what does come next… oh, it’s far from straightforward. I love a good contingency plan, and I am far from alone. From the writer of MORNING GLORIES, THIEF OF THIEVES and so much more.

“I am Madder Red, and I live to surprise you.”


Buy Bedlam vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Ballad Of Halo Jones brand-new edition (£13-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson –

There are books like this that you’ve got to leave alone for a few years if you’re after the same kiddy rush that you got way back when. Just finished the second book, and I’ve still got the goosebumps. Does that make it any good? Well, Terry Jack’s ‘Seasons in the Sun’ will do the same for me but that’s no real measure of quality either way. It still feels special.

The story for those who’ve not read it before: far off into the future, Manhattan Island is dominated by the Hoop, a giant floating ring of slum housing for the terminally unemployable. And in this future that’s a lot of people. There’s dream of escape but there are precious few jobs. This is where we find Halo, an ordinary spod who, almost by accident, becomes something else, something legendary. The first chunk covers life on the Hoop, the almost military planning of a simple shopping expedition, the various forms of entertainment, racial tensions and ways of opting out. By the second book she has a waitress job on a ship heading far off into space. And her experiences change her.

“Where did she go? OUT! What did she do? EVERYTHING!” – original tagline

The three books (there were ten planned) show her losing her charm and innocence in a similar way to Evey from V FOR VENDETTA. At the end of each book she moves on to the next situation, one quite removed from the last. Such character development was a marked change in the usual 2000 AD stasis. Ian Gibson’s marvelous clutter and sharp, dark technology were perfect to delineate the shadowy corners of the plot.

It’s early Alan Moore; he probably hates it.


Buy The Ballad Of Halo Jones and read the Page 45 review here

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness (£13-50, IDW) by Roberto Orci , Mike Johnson & David Messina –

Just like STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN was to the last Star Trek film, so COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS is a prequel to the new film, Into Darkness. Far from being a bit of tie-in tat, the last prequel was actually a good lead in to the film, helping to explain and flesh out a few points and it seems this book will do likewise.

We get a good chunk of action here: when a routine survey mission turns up some odd results Kirk toys with bending the prime directive a little, only to find that his long-thought-dead predecessor has both been there and done that in quite the dramatic fashion. A bows-and-arrows-era civil war has been turned to genocide by the interference of the Klingons who have armed one side, while April, the previous commander of the Enterprise, has weighed in to help the other side fight back. Now the local conflict threatens to turn into a proxy war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire and nobody wants that, do they? Cue the double cross, then the triple cross. Quick everyone, into the Jefferies tubes, because that always ends well…

As the story progresses we are reminded of some key hangovers from the previous film. Spock continues to battle with his human-side emotions after the destruction of Vulcan and with his relationship with Uhura. The fledgling bonds the crew formed last time out are re-introduced and we get to know Kirk a little better as we watch him come to terms with his role as leader and Captain. The likenesses to the screen actors are good as are the production values; a far cry from the “will this do” tie-in horrors of the past. There is a little stiffness in places but that is possibly unavoidable given the strictures of a film tie-in. All in all this is a good appetiser for the new film and a handy refresher on the old. It has certainly got me more excited for the film, if that is humanly possible!

Oh yes, fans of the original series, do you remember Harry Mudd? There’s a nod!


Buy Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Illustrated: Pride & Prejudice s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jane Austen, adapted by Nancy Butler & Hugo Petrus.

I must confess I harboured a prejudice towards this of my own, based solely on the cover by Sonny Liu which has Elizabeth Bennet dressed as a late 20th Century American socialite complete with white power-blouse over a snug black skirt or, at best, slinky Hollywood dress. Wrong! The Regency style involved no blouses, but billowing dresses so grass-ticklingly long that, as Lizzy herself observes during the novel, they’re a bugger when walking through mud. However, since the lesson of the book is to avoid “gratifying [one’s] vanity, in useless or blameable distrust” (courting prepossession and ignorance is evidently more than a passing hobby for me), I have now looked inside to find that the five Bennet sisters have been visually reduced to the sort of air-brained, over-coiffeured, sneering American rich kids who’d appear on Beauty & The Geek and pull each other’s hair out at the drop of a Tiffany tiara, whilst Mrs. Bennet, far from the fussing martyr of a mouse that I’ve always imagined, is now a buxom barmaid from Coronation Street or Black Adder III. Lord knows what Nancy’s done to the text – I’m not prepared to endure that for you – so instead here’s a slightly wayward summary of the original novel complete with SPOILER ALERT:

Laugh-out-loud comedy starring the delightfully playful sister to four other Bennet girls who takes a loving if lofty view of their crushes and gets each object of them wrong whilst failing to identify that she herself may also have fallen in love. Meanwhile her mother flusters about and her father occasionally looks up to undermine his dear wife with witheringly supercilious remarks that we really shouldn’t find funny but do. Plus: cold Mr. Darcy is totally hot, and one of the many reasons that I’m jealous of Jonathan’s middle name.

If you can’t précis Pride & Prejudice from memory then, really, what have you been reading all your life? Anyway, with due hindsight I can now confirm that Marvel’s version of EMMA is infinitely better, as is SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

I will add with additional hindsight, however, that these are mere illustrations of the novels, rather than intelligent and affecting interpretations to comics like David Hine’s and Mark Stafford’s THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and Mazzucchelli’s CITY OF GLASS; or Rob Davis’ uproarious propagation of Cervantes’ original intent in DON QUIXOTE VOL 1 and, best of all, DON QUXOTE VOL 2. Just so we all have terms of reference.


Buy Marvel Illustrated: Pride & Prejudice s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Incorporated vol 1: Demon Star h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham…

“The signal is gone.”
“I don’t care what Bruce said… we’re going in.”
“I told you what she’d do.”
“You stay right here, Damian.”
“Pennyworth. If I don’t save the day… no one will.”

There is a death of an important member of Batman Inc. in this volume. There’s going to be another rather more painful and poignant one in the next volume too, but that’s a different matter… Anyway, moving along rapidly before I spoil anything for the one person who isn’t aware of what I’m alluding to… the biggest and best version of the Bat family is back, and now Leviathan has revealed herself as Talia Al Ghul, mother of Damian, it’s a fight to the finish. And whilst she is bent on world destruction, she’s not above wanting a little personal revenge too…

Another epic sensory-assaulting slice of Bat-mentalism from Mr. Morrison as Bruce’s legion of caped crusaders are attacked from pretty much every direction in an attempted decapitation strike by Talia and her Man-Bat-serum souped-up assassins. It’s a tactic that has Bruce and his chums well and truly reeling punch-drunk on the ropes never mind on the back foot. It’ll all end in tears, mark my words.

Devotees of the previous volume simply entitled BATMAN INCORPORATED will know exactly what to expect. People who haven’t read that, despite this particular book being entitled volume one will be mightily confused unless they do. Good old DC. And, whilst there are more fisticuffs than mindfuck this time around, it’s still infinitely more involved / convoluted than typical Bat-fare. And more prettily drawn, opening with an exquisitely beautiful appetiser from Fraser Irving before Chris Burnham gets down to the main course.

It really is going to end in tears, trust me.


Buy Batman Incorporated vol 1: Demon Star h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller, Paul Smith.

Joe Rubinstein: who was the bright spark who thought he’d be a good match for Miller on inks? Instead of enhancing Miller’s edge like Klaus Janson used to so spectacularly on DAREDEVIL, he suffocates it in a stodgy mess of ill-advised moulding.

Anyway: this was the first of Wolverine’s solo outings and – if I recall correctly – the first-ever Marvel mini-series. Can you imagine the superhero industry without mini-series? It was never a thing before this.

It was also the first time Claremont wrote, “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” It was a brilliant opening gambit which he then copied and pasted every third page for the next thirty years. Diminishing returns.

It’s a Logan/Mariko affair set in Japan complete with attendant ninjas, all of which Dave Sim parodied and improved upon in CEREBUS: CHURCH & STATE VOL 1. (You will roar with laughter; and the greater your affection, the louder your laughter, I promise.)

This edition also includes UNCANNY X-MEN #172-173 pencilled by Paul Smith, which jars not one jot, such is the attention Paul paid to the pacing and panel composition of the original. In it Wolverine and Mariko finally look like tying the knot, just as Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor contemplate the same. But, oh no, do you see that ciggie and sideburns combo? Horribly familiar to all die-hard X-Men fans.

Some great comedy timing offsetting an awful tragedy complete with dramatic irony.


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

Avengers Arena vol 1: Kill Or Die s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker…

“Kill, kill, kill, murder, murder, murder, ain’t nothing personal you see, it’s all about respect…”

Poor old Arcade. Laughed at by his contemporaries, not to mention all the heroes, he’s had enough. He’s decided he just can’t take any more failed attempts to win his rigged games of death and destruction and has decided to open a bar instead. Even there though, he can’t get any peace and quiet, as various villains decide they’re going to start picking on him.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give the murder game business one last try, and like the fine upstanding paragon of morality and fair play that he is, he’s decided to pick on some kids this time… But (as C-Murder exhorts above on a track from the classic 1998 Snoop Dogg album ‘Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told’) Arcade hasn’t got anything particularly against the powered pipsqueaks in question, he’s just after some respect, starting with a little of the self variety. And, if it has to be at the expense of some low-rent, underage underachievers of the hero community, well, that’s just too bad.

Heroes, will die in this series, oh yes. Rather a lot, if the opening flashback is to be believed. Me, having read all the issues out so far, and having seen a couple of instances already of weaselling out of apparent deaths in true 1930s’ black and white Saturday morning Flash Gordon weekly serial fashion, I am still very sceptical about what the final body count out of the sixteen initial participants will be. But I am enjoying this immensely as the pressure mounts and everything starts going all Lord Of The Flies / BATTLE ROYALE. Regular Marvel readers will probably know some of the cast including X-23, Hazmat, Darkhawk, Mettle for example, but there are a fair true Z-listers in the mix as well. Is it wrong I’m actually rooting for Arcade to take a few, errr… all, of them out?


Buy Avengers Arena vol 1: Kill Or Die s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thunderbolts vol 1: No Quarter Now s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Steve Dillon.

In which the Thunderbolts now consist of Deadpool, The Punisher, Elektra, Venom… and one other whose secret identity – and so titular joke – almost certainly formed the entire raison d’être for this latest incarnation.

And that’s fine: it did make me laugh.

Also, Steve PREACHER Dillon art is always a bonus, but if you want the very finest era, which is completely standalone, it’s Warren Ellis’ THUNDERBOLTS ULTIMATE COLLECTION, sweatily illustrated by Mike Deodato, in which the Thunderbolts, who up to now have always consisted of supervillains, are led post-CIVIL WAR by Norman Osborn.


Buy Thunderbolts vol 1: No Quarter Now s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins

Scott Pilgrim vol 3 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Other A-Z) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

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

Naming Monsters (£12-99, Myriad) by Hannah Eaton

Strange Attractors h/c (£14-99, Other A-Z) by Charles Soule & Greg Scott

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar Press Inc) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek, Jacen Burrows

Avalon Chronicles Book One: Once In A Blue Moon h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir & Emma Vieceli

Aquaman vol 1: The Trench s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Aquaman vol 2: The Others h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Batman Beyond: 10000 Clowns s/c (£12-99, DC) by Adam Beechen & Norm Breyfogle

The Authority vol 1 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch

Avengers Vs. X-Men Companion h/c (£75-00, Marvel) by various

Wolverine And The X-Men vol 4 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Jorge Molina

Indestructible Hulk vol 1: Agent Of Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Francis Yu

Captain Marvel vol 2: Down s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy

New Avengers vol 4 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Will Conrad

Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man Digest vol 3 (£7-50, Marvel) by various

Black Butler vol 13 (£8-99, Other A-Z) by Yana Toboso

Bunny Drop vol 8 (£10-50, Other A-Z) by Yumi Unita

ITEM! Tickets for the first-ever Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October are on sale now!

What a beautiful backdrop for a much more European enterprise – all those trees in the autumnal colours: the reflections are going to be gorgeous!

As to the special guests, obviously El Presidentes Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Sean Phillips will be in attendance, as will Ed Brubaker, Duncan Fegredo, Posy Simmonds, Hannah Berry, Joe Sacco, Isabel Greenberg, Luke Pearson, David Lloyd, Al Davison, Glyn Dillon, Dougie Braithwaite, Oscar Zarate, Charlie Adlard and so many more.

Just look at The Lakes International Comics Art Festival Events Listings! Yowsa!

ITEM! LOVE AND ROCKETS’ Jaime Hernandez in conversation with Woodrow Phoenix here in the UK! Thursday 30th May.

– Stephen

Reviews May 2013 week two

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Highlights this week include the new Tom Gauld, and Charles Burns’ BIG BABY and Paul Pope’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE HUNDRED, neither of which have we ever reviewed before. I know, right?

I rather believe the comicbook season has begun in earnest. Enjoy!

 – Stephen

Don Quixote vol 2 (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Cervantes, Rob Davis & Rob Davis.

“Is it just me who finds bearded women attractive?”

DON QUIXOTE is the epic tale of a delusory knight and his bumbling squire as propagated by Rob Davis from an account by Cervantes of the translation by a Moor, of the true and faithful biography as recorded by one Cide Hamete Benengeli. Even though the Don, the squire, the Moor, Side Hamete Benengeli and – for all I know – Rob Davis never even existed.

It is far from a hagiography.

It is instead one massive slight of hand delivered with winks, nudges and infinite wit by both authors concerned.* It is one long fabrication about those who deceive others and those who lie to themselves. Indeed between volumes one and two of Cervantes’ original literary prank, some bastard impostor brought out his own sequel which Cervantes, with due dignity, declined to even acknowledge, let alone criticise.

“I will not waste my breath insulting this dribbling, pibbling, milk-livered, craven welp, who shall go unnamed; I will not stoop to the level of the wretched, thrasonical codpiece who sought to steal the tales of our errant knight. His idiocy can be witnessed by any who has had the misfortune to read this shitty book and his folly is in assuring that I will let nothing come between me and completing the true account of Don Quixote’s adventures that you now hold in your hands.
“Pah! What a tit – let his folly be its own punishment, and let us speak of him no more.”

He speaks of him some more.

Just later on.

Furthermore, when Don Quixote discovers that his earlier exploits have been preserved for posterity by far less pissant peasants and asks how they’ve been received, he is answered thus:

“The world smiles at your escapades and marvels at the book. No less than Señior Hunter Emerson says his wife laughed so hard when reading your adventures that her tits came right off. Meanwhile Señior Gravett in the London comedy papers says the adaptor has “a savvy awareness of what comics can really do…”
“Laughter?! A comic?! The adventures of Don Quixote are no comedy!”

At the risk of belabouring Rob’s joke: for those not in the know, neither UK comicbook comedy king Hunt Emerson nor the medium’s Man At The Crossroads Paul Gravett were around in 1604 (they would thank me for pointing that out). If the brilliance of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS was that it didn’t just illustrate the original but interpreted it, the joy here is that Davis has gone on step further and, as I say, propagated the original’s intent.

So let’s pull back.

Don Quixote is a figment of his own imagination. Well, no: he is a kindly, aging man with a gallant goatee, a matching moustache and a prodigious – nay prestigious – pair of snowy white eyebrows to boot. He’s just read waaaaaaay too much chivalrous fiction. This has inspired him to jettison all grip on reality in favour of roaming the lands and setting right wrongs, no matter what the cost to his personal safety, his public dignity or the likely outcome. R.e. the likely outcome: he’s not very good at it.

In DON QUIXOTE VOL 1 he set off with long-suffering squire Sancho on a series of meandering quests at the centre of which was always the honour of his beauteous, dear Dulcinea. I mentioned that he was delusional, right? You wait until you meet her. Now squire Sancho has become so addicted to these escapades that he enables his easily led leader by fuelling his fantasies further, then swiftly gets sucked up into the nonsense too! This is no longer the blind leading the blinded, nor the fool merely following foolish: it is two nincompoops in mutually validating, self-perpetuating buffoonery. Hurrah!

Now, their reputation having preceded them in print, the pair are embraced by a bored Duke and Duchess and truly taken in for their own private amusement. Prank after prank is played at their expense, firstly getting the Don to draw his Dulcinea then using that child-like portrait in the most elaborate, torch-lit ploy imaginable. Then there’s the flying wooden horse (it doesn’t really fly), the curse of the bearded women (they are not really bearded), and the hell-bound unrequited love. It’s not just that Quixote and Sancho are gullible; it’s much worse than that! They are now so addicted to embracing anything that will extend, embellish or facilitate their next quest that, whenever they suspect something may be awry, they fill in the plot pot-holes for them!

This is comicbook comedy gold – right up there with anything by Roger Langridge – and the very best interpretation of any prose to comics that I am aware of. And since I am aware of almost everything that exists in comicbook form, I think we can dispense of that last qualifier and simply conclude that you need this fucking book.

Davis’ cartooning throughout is a gesticulating, ebullient joy. It’s not just Quixote’s grumpy furrowed brows, his apoplectic outrage or his narrowed, eyes-to-one-side when you suspect he may finally suspect something (hilariously, he really doesn’t!). It is his mastery of insouciance, his rodeo-riding of those two runaway eyebrows, but above all Rob’s exceptional understanding of the exact degree of caricature this literary farce requires. It’s all about the mischief.

And then, just when you think you’ve had it all, you are delivered blinding visual flourishes like the full-page portrait of the Knight Of The Mirrors, which blazes like a partially stained-glass window during the brightest day on record.

However, I’d be lying if I said anything I’ve written so far were my favourite bits. No. Cervantes’ book was naughty, clever, and knowing. It was beyond contemporary for its day. How about if Rob Davis introduces a bit of comtemporary too, just at the right moment?

“Ah, look! We don’t need to seek Dulcinea’s palace, here she comes riding towards us on her horse!”
“Are you sure, my squire? I see only the scrofulous peasant riding her mule this way.”
“What?! Are your Grace’s eyes in the back of your head? Is that why you cannot see her? O Queen and Princess of Beauty, I present your knight. See, he is struck dumb by the magnificence of your presence.”

Don Quixote is quite alarmed. Buck-toothed Dulcinea is far from charmed.

“Outta the way, fat boy!”

* It transpires that Rob Davis does exist: you may have read NELSON – former Page 45 Comicbook Of Month and winner of the inaugural British Comics Awards 2012 – which Rob Davis instigated, co-created and edited. It’s pretty special.


Buy Don Quixote vol 2  and read the Page 45 review here

You’re All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld.

Quality jollity using a lot of lateral thinking and the most impeccable timing: one-page comics and cartoons which will extraordinate you!

See this street of increasingly rickety semi-detached housing from the birth of a word to its grave:

“Institute of Neologisms
Department of Everyday Language
Society for the Preservation of Antiquated Terminology
Cemetery of Forgotten Words”

Gauld gleans much of his humour from the juxtaposition of High and Low Art, confronting the historically sacred with the contemporary and crass, whilst puncturing the pomposity which would denigrate one genre or medium by emphasising its own superiority. Hence the title, a retort to those who poo-poo science fiction because they read “proper” books. (Oh, comics, how familiar we all are with that brand of prose-originated disdain!)

They’re all so pithy, too, like ‘Short Story’ and Gauld’s lament for the all-too-brief space race, or the excitable aspirations of an anthropomorphised laptop sold to a critically acclaimed author which are crushed beneath the domestic debris of most writers’ prevarication (sorry – research!) which reminded me so much of Lizz Lunney.

I loved the make-you-own-metaphorical-cartoon on the legacy of Thatcherism using a sausage, a dog and a chair; and as to ‘The Great Author Considers His Response To The Question’, the options mapped out in different areas of his brain made me grin with recognition (insult; sweeping generalization; stunning insight; unrelated anecdote; rant; bizarre metaphor; enigmatic smile; yes; no; straightforward answer). Rarely do I opt for any of the last three in day-to-day conversation. What a knob-end am I, eh?

As to the timing, there is an evening sequence involving a therapist’s chair unable to resist psychoanalysing the consulting-room couch languishing opposite. That extra beat before the chair’s final rejoinder is cleverly provided by a moonlit window absent from all previous panels except for the first. Space really does equal time in comics, and not just between panels.

All this, then, in gentle, joyful colours from the creator of GOLIATH, one of last year’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months, and recommended to fans of Kate Beaton’s HARK! A VAGRANT for its literary leanings.


Buy You’re All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Swear Down h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Oliver East…

Ah, now I do remember Oliver talking to me about this work whilst he was in the shop for the Anders Nilsen signing. I’m not sure how finally formulated it was at that point, but I do clearly recall him describing the intention of walking the line of longitude from his house in Manchester down through England, then Brittany, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. Not sure what’s wrong with Antarctica, South Pole, Scotland and finishing the job off properly, but anyway.

Now, you might be forgiven for assuming that Oliver was intending to do this in one go, but no, and again, I think he might have mentioned this, the idea is to get so far, then go back home, then carry on another day from where he left off. And so forth, and so on. In mountaineering terms, this is very much like scaling a peak single-handed with the multiple trips up and down to various base camps lugging all your own support gear along so it’s always just one camp behind you. But if the goal is the walk itself, then what does it matter? (That’s my way of saying he doesn’t get too far from home in this particular volume, but I am sure he did say it would be a series of books…)

Walking, as TRAINS ARE MINT fans will know, is Oliver’s personal time for reflection, for thinking, both of the serious introspective and more idly day-dreaming varieties, and here he has ample opportunity for both types, the deep and err… slightly more shallow, particularly when thinking about a passing jogger, which made me smile. That is something I have always loved about his works, the moments of mirth as some amusing, unexpected juxtaposition of experience and spontaneous thought randomly occurs, and there is certainly plenty of that here, alongside his best orienteering intentions of ‘walking (and sketching what he sees along) the line’. Much of Oliver’s thoughts throughout this book though are taken up on a rather more serious subject, I’ll let him explain as he sets off from his house…

“I’m supposed to be, or at least be thinking about, writing my thoughts on my son’s birth in some scrapbook. His mum’s written down ages ago.
“I’m not one for writing unless I’m walking and I’m in no rush to relive his two month premature birth.
“Or watching my wife fall into translucent unconsciousness.
“Or circling the slowly congealing pool of blood while surgeons saved her life.
“Or certain relatives repeatedly insisting you looked like a skinned rabbit.
“I know what I’ll write anyway.
“It’ll be some dry but well paced gag.
“About how I’d wanted to watch the Ashes as the last thing on my own terms, but then you came as a complete surprise. (We thought your mum needed a poo I might write.)
“And, after a scare, a downed cocktail, and an ambulance,
“You were born as England won the urn.
“So you better like cricket! (I’ll probably write)
“Or maybe this will do…”

One of the back cover pull quotes is provided by John Porcellino, and I can certainly see why Oliver’s works would appeal to John. They both share their ability to convey the everyday, with deceptively simplistic, and completely unique, art styles. Making truly everyday autobiographical material work like this is tricky, but both Oliver and John manage it with aplomb. I do hope Oliver keeps this up, not least because I would dearly love to know what he makes of walking through Africa!


Buy Swear Down h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Destination X h/c (£9-99, Nobrow Press) by John Martz…

So, Nobrow’s championing of the boutique and bijou continues with this first solo release for John Martz. He has released comics before such as his Machine Gum series, and also appeared in a previous Nobrow anthology (volume 6, I think), but it is nice to see Nobrow bringing another excellent illustrator to print. You have to admire their style actually, quite literally, because what a difference a (hard)cover makes. Much like the first two Jon McNaught books PEBBLE ISLAND and BIRCHFIELD CLOSE, which are of similar pocket-sized dimensions to this little red pocket rocket, they could easily be lost without such a lovely cover design and upscale production quality. Instead you get something that really demands to be picked up and inspected more closely. Plus, it means we can easily stock it on the counter instead of the shelves, which also helps!

This particular cover features, in John’s fine-lined, cartoonish style, which reminds me a little bit of Ivan Brunetti [my vote’s Rian Hughes – ed.], the space adventurer grandfather of our hero Sam descending from a space rocket to be greeted by an alien female, ringed moons and stars glowing and twinkling in the background. Except, it was all apparently a dream, induced from a long cryosleep during his return journey to Earth from another space-faring mission, as everyone knows aliens don’t exist.

It’s always bothered Sam that no one believed his grandfather’s story and it becomes his life’s mission to redeem his hero’s reputation, and make his own in the process. Cue a very comedic story that follows Sam’s manifold trials and tribulations to pursue what he believes is his destiny.

I really enjoyed this, it’s just great fun, illustrated with a wonderfully light touch, underpinned by some bitingly dark humour in places, a great punchline, and Sam’s bouffant quiff just made me chuckle throughout. Much as I commented on Jon McNaught after reading PEBBLE ISLAND, I am quite sure we are going to see plenty more from Mr. Martz in the future.


Buy Destination X h/c and read the Page 45 review here

3 New Stories (£2-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw –

Three short stories in black and white with an underlay of colour provided by photographs beneath the ink. I’m not sure if the photos relate to the stories, add to them or are simply chosen at random. On some pages you can totally make them out, on others they are obscured too much and so tantalizingly out of reach. Is it meant to ape double exposure? Give the impression of reuse, re-purposing of old material? If so why? Poverty? Necessity? Laziness? Maybe it’s just a thing Dash Shaw does because it looks cool, I’ll enjoy reading again to see if I can decide.

The first story was probably my favourite. Sherlock Holmes is laid off as there is little demand for master-sleuthing a recession. He looks for work while his wife and family sell off their belongings one by one to survive. A problem occurs: his high school graduation has been revoked due to some bizarre clerical error. Seems like a whole bunch of people are in the same position, all forced to pay to go back to school to finish up their credits. This raises questions in the detective’s mind as it all seems rather too bizarre to be true. Lovely weird stuff.

From the creator of BODYWORLD and THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY, both of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month on publication.


Buy 3 New Stories and read the Page 45 review here

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest (£12-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess –

Not comics (I repeat, not comics!) but prose with a healthy dose of illustration from the utterly lovely Charles Vess. Good god but do I want to live in a forest drawn by Charles Vess! The shade is cool, the leaves are damp and the tree bark is rough and warm. I do wish he did more sequential stuff but if I am to get my Vess fix through beautifully crafted children’s stories like these then I really won’t complain.

The story is of a likeable, kindly, headstrong girl who lives on her Aunt’s farm and loves to explore the woods around her home. Mostly she is looking for Faeries and magic; she’s sure there must be some about but she can never seem to find it. But when an accident occurs she is drawn into that magic; a magic which has existed all around her for her entire life but which she is only now becoming aware of. So begins the journey with all the trials, lessons and lucky escapes you’d expect from a fantasy adventure such as this.

While the story is very well written, engaging and very sweet in places it is the art which really made this book stick in my head.

Back in the day I had a conversation with the late great Mark Simpson (one half of the genius behind Page 45) about the books which informed our aesthetic. Picture books from very early childhood that we were barely able to remember but which had imprinted on our brains, shaping our idea of beauty before we were even really conscious of what beauty was. He showed me a book his parents had uncovered in storage somewhere; it was full of painted pictures of animals and immediately you could see where some of the colours and shapes he preferred in his own art came from. I feel similarly when I see Charles Vess’ art: there is something about the foliage and the trees which just takes me somewhere *else*. It’s beyond dreamy, utterly gorgeous.

I would have devoured this book as a child and so I have been recommending it to parents in the shop left right and centre! But I also enjoyed it as an adult, not just for the marvellous illustrations but for the rich sense of place the writing created. A lovely, lovely book.


Buy The Cats of Tanglewood Forest and read the Page 45 review here

Charles Burns Library vol 2: Big Baby (New Ptg) (£12-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Charles Burns.

“What’s the meaning of this, Tony? I suppose you think comic books are more important than learning about the human body!”
“You.. you don’t understand! This comic… it is important! It’s what’s happening right now!”


From the creator of BLACK HOLE (and more recently X’ED OUT then THE HIVE) comes an album-sized reprint of comicbook one-shots BLOOD CLUB and CURSE OF THE MOLEMEN originally published by Kitchen Sink Press back when Mark and I were biding our time at Fantastic Store Nottingham, along with ‘Teen Plague’ which originally appeared in RAW.

Each focuses on the big bald baby called Tony whose knowledge of the human body is indeed so lamentably shallow that he is prone to make the most socially and sexually inappropriate observations out loud. Pity the poor baby sitter, then, who invites her boyfriend over. Happier by far to bury his head in horror comics, or decapitate plastic soldiers in aid of a story he’s spinning solo rather than engage with his father in a game of catch (interaction with adults is far from his forte; actually, interaction is far from his forte), Tony is prone to wild imaginings, transferring fantasies from behind his Ood-like eyes onto what transpires around him: his babysitter’s hickey, for example, is a clear indication that she has been taken over by the hypnotic eye and devilish tongue of the almighty Kaballa-Bonga, while the hole being dug in his neighbour’s back yard by a sweaty labourer is evidence of buried treasure.

To be fair, in that second instance the guy with the shovel does tell Tony he’s digging for treasure, and his babysitter’s boyf does have the most alien rash spreading rapidly across his chest and down his legs and it’s growing increasingly pustular. Also, on the summer camp, Tony does see the ghost of the weeping boy, hovering in the air all foetal and naked, who went missing several years ago when his creepy team leader, the self-style “Uncle” Rory was but a cub or a scout or whatever it is they have over there. Actually, almost everything happening in Charles Burns’ suburbia is far from the American wholesomeness it purports to be. Still, make-up was invented for covering those bruises, wasn’t it?

You can see how elements of these relatively early works have since made their way into Burns’ more mature fare – the sexually transmitted body-horror, for example – but thematically I don’t have a lot more to say. Big Baby likes his plastic horror toys, and so did Charles Burns.

What is already in fully fledged evidence is the total command of panel and page composition dominated by eerily lit faces and the lushest of spot-blacks. The men are square-jawed and lock-jawed into forced bonhomie; the women have spray-set ‘do’s.

I guess if there is a common cause here it’s that if the picket fence has been recently white-washed then there’s usually something unpleasant being covered up, and you’d stand a better chance of being taken seriously when you do discover something seriously amiss if you didn’t make up stupid stories all the time like some socially awkward, self-absorbed, nine-year-old. Sorry…? Well, I’m not sure but I think Tony may well be nine years old. What are you going to do?

Love it.


Buy Charles Burns Library s/c vol 2 Big Baby and read the Page 45 review here

The Dreamer new ed (£12-99. WW Norton) by Will Eisner.

More hard graft, these are the creative and publishing years that Eisner hops over in TO THE HEART OF THE STORM, having detailed them here in this earlier work. It’s more heavily disguised autobiography than TO THE HEART OF THE STORM but Denis Kitchen, formerly publisher of Kitchen Sink, is on hand to provide detailed annotations and historical corrections.

And it really was history in the making as Eisner rejects a lucrative job offer from the mafia-run distribution network to provide illegal, erotic knock-offs of established cartoon strips and instead embarks on a pioneering publishing venture to produce new material rather than reprints, and thousands of pages at $5 a pop. This he does almost single-handedly to begin with and then, as a pragmatic compromise, by developing an in-house production line akin to a studio or, erm, a sweat shop! Along the way you’ll encounter Bob Kane, a very early close friend, see Eisner reject Superman who takes off at DC (oh wait, he doesn’t mention that here, but it happened!), and watch Will lose his company $3,000 by refusing to lie at trial about a deliberate Superman rip-off called Wonder Man.

Finally his long hours are rewarded and he takes a leap of faith by selling his share in the publishing business to accept an offer to provide a syndicated, regular and original 16-page comicbook supplement to newspapers. As a reward he was allowed the unheard of privilege of retaining ownership of his character. The character? The Spirit.


Buy The Dreamer and read the Page 45 review here

Shame vol 2: Pursuit (£7-50, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton.

SHAME VOL 1: CONCEPTION was an exceptionally twisted thing with the strangest mother/daughter/mother relationship imaginable. Or was it a daughter/mother/daughter relationship? Read my review and it may become clear! The begets do beggar belief, but that’s witchcraft for you.

It was also quite dense, which this is not. It is instead the middle movement of the trilogy in which Kindzierski and Bolton explore the wider world of corruption under Shame’s bitter reign while sexy Daughter Virtue (as opposed to desiccated Mother Virtue) is trapped in her ‘mound’, enclosed in a prison forged from obsidian brambles. You can tell Shame is evil because she has black hair. She doesn’t half ramble on – to herself, her minions and the darke daemon Slur.

Oh, she shall sully all and sundry! Once she has conquered, cursed and corrupted the whole wide world, there will be no free school milk (hmm), no more bedtime stories and every Kinder Egg will come with quite the salutary surprise. Worse still, every chocolate in every box will henceforth be Turkish Delight. She will whip down One Direction’s kecks on live TV (actually, this gets my vote) and curdle your clotted cream teas. There will, in short, be suffering the likes of which has barely been endured outside of a modern British Post Office.

But wait! Do we have a vessel of vengeance, perchance? A young, simple man whose father is smitten before his eyes, now determined to follow his mother’s verbal breadcrumb trail to who knows what end?

Meanwhile Slur hovers at sybaritic Shame’s side, addressing her as “my shapely talon”, “my septic blossom”, “dear putrescence”, and “my mephitic marchpane”. (New words: “mephitic” meaning “foul-smelling” and “marchpane” meaning “marzipan”.)

Which witch will prevail?

John Bolton’s painted art you may already know from Neil Gaiman’s THE BOOKS OF MAGIC and Peter Straub’s THE GREEN WOMAN, but this is what he’s perhaps best known for: buxom babes in fantasy settings. Plus there be boobage, yes.


Buy Shame vol 2: Pursuit and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Year One Hundred new edition (£14-99, DC) by Paul Pope with Jose Villarrubia…

“I don’t get it. By now they must have some footage of you or something. Why not just come out with it? Why not just come out with it?”

“What, and admit there’s somebody out there they can’t identify or control? …Oh, and, by the way, he’s called “Batman” and he kicked our asses? Get real.”

Okay, it’s not new Paul Pope, but it is Paul Pope doing one of the finest non-continuity Batman stories that’s ever been written or drawn for that matter, so will that do you whilst we wait for the entrance of THE BATTLING BOY? (Note: BATTLING BOY prequel one-shot THE DEATH OF HAGGARD WEST is out in July. Whilst it is not entirely clear if any or all of it will be in BATTLING BOY it is almost certainly going to go straight out of print, so fervent Papists, I would advise pre-ordering…)

The year is 2039 and the future is distinctly Orwellian with the all-seeing state, including psychic police, keeping the populace under close scrutiny and a very heavy boot heel. The powers that be aren’t exactly squeaky clean themselves, though, enjoying the excesses of their more than equal labours, wearing their sharp suits and smoking fat cigars. But in this dystopian world there are no more superheroes, not even any supervillains as we find out in one particularly dark moment, as government control has become near absolute. Except for one man who refuses to even contemplate defeat.

A figure so shadowy, so wraithlike in his ability to go undetected, even the bad guys refuse to acknowledge his existence, though that is primarily because those in charge want to deny people even the solace of the faintest hope. The total media blanket suppression, though, means that the Batman has once again become a creature of legend, a whispered urban myth with the power to frighten children and crooks alike. Which is of course not exactly undesirable for someone who wants to cause near cardiac failure in those he’s out to bring down…

Pope is undoubtedly an artist whose style one could accurately describe, I feel, as unfettered. Complex, intricate, ornate even, but also possessing a freedom you don’t see in everyone else’s work. I am quite sure it isn’t the case, but I get the distinct impression even he doesn’t know what he’s going to draw, particularly in terms of background detail, before he puts pen to paper, it just looks so, so effortless. But the same is also true of his writing, for whilst it’s very easy to be distracted by the beauty of what you’ve been presented with visually, he really knows how to spin a story, and punch out the pithy and poignant dialogue with breathtaking ease.

This is a new printing and when I re-read it, I had honestly forgotten what a brilliantly dark and dense tale he’d put together here. It is certainly in my top five Bat-books, comparable with, say, THE LONG HALLOWEEN. The other additional factor that makes this work near-perfect is the colouring. More often than not Paul’s work isn’t coloured, and frankly it doesn’t need it, but here Jose Villarrubia really does add another dimension to the artwork with an additional layer of vibrancy that demonstrates exactly how you should colour a book that has so much happening in dark shadows during nocturnal activities! Neon signs atop grim sky scrapers seem almost luminous and holographic displays showing Bat-vital information are practically standing out from the page, wonderful work.


Buy Batman: Year One Hundred and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: Earth One vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis…

“I have spent the last twenty years searching for something. More accurately someone.
“My journey has taken us to a dozen worlds, but I still have not found the target.
“If he is hiding here, I will continue the attack until he is provoked into revealing himself…
“If it turns out he is not here, then I will leave your world and try elsewhere.
“But only after several million of you are dead, so that I will know that I have done everything possible to provoke a response…
“To my target, if you are listening, those are the terms. Reveal yourself and surrender. Or watch your world die around you.”

Free from the constraints of mainstream continuity J. Michael Straczynski has turned in a genuine epic with SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE. This work most definitely has the feel of a blockbuster film, in all the positive senses one can mean that, in stark contrast to the last actual Superman film, which began with a fine action set-piece and then was utterly boring drivel throughout its remainder.

Here we start with a familiar premise, Clark Kent leaving the comfort of Smallville and the bosom of Ma Kent and heading for the big smoke that is Metropolis. But then we’re presented with a rather different story to the one we’re used to, as instead of immediately assuming the persona of a mild-mannered reporter Clark investigates a number of different career options from American football to research scientist, and seems rather less reticent about using his abilities in everyday life, even in a low-key manner, than we’ve become used to. He does visit the Daily Planet, but leaves initially rather unimpressed with the bullpen and its cast of characters including the paternal Perry white, a rather abrasive Lois Lane and a somewhat more genial shutterbug Jimmy Olsen. Good to see Straczynski hasn’t changed everything! We even get the revealing information that Ma and Pa Kent always saw their adopted son as a hero that could inspire the world, even providing him with his costume, yet this Clark Kent seems very reluctant to consider, never mind embrace his eventual destiny. Or even try on his tights. So what’s going to change that then, I wonder?

Well, here again Straczynski takes a completely different route from the time-worn approach. No low-key introduction to hero-dom here for our reluctant youth, instead we’re thrown into the middle of a full-on alien invasion of Earth. It seems the invasion force is looking for a certain individual, the last survivor of Krypton, to complete their genocidal assassination contract to wipe out the entire Kryptonian race. What follows thereafter is an epic finale that would worthily grace any cinematic adaptation of old red-and-blue, as the villains get spanked and vanquished, and Clark realises that taking a considerably more low profile approach to civilian life, and a somewhat more flexible job, might be rather useful in maintaining a secret identity. Now, if only some genial editor had offered him a job as a reporter…


Buy Superman: Earth One vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ten Grand #1 (£2-25, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith –

I really like both the creators on this book so I am hoping for good things. Already in the first issue there are some lovely JMS ideas and nuances taking shape and the art hits some brilliant notes in places, with all that scratchy intensity and breaking through of light that Templesmith does so well.

The overall story doesn’t seem that subtle so far, I have to say: bad guy doing one last job before he gives it all up to be with the love of his life is killed, along with said love. Fair to say he isn’t destined for Heaven, however he is given one last chance: be brought back to life to do good and eventually, when the Powers That Be decide he has paid his dues, he can die again and spend eternity with his beloved. No telling how long that will take, nor how much he might have to suffer on the way, but for her he is willing to do what it takes.

So yeah, a bit cheesy on the surface but there is potential for some great occult stuff mixed with some good old hard-bitten P.I. drama. It is very pretty as well and some of the dialogue is very sharp indeed. Going to be interesting to see where this one goes.


Buy Ten Grand #1 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.

Oh wait, there’s been a Bank Holiday. Potentially means we won’t have this list until tomorrow. Sorree!


ITEM! Huge, in-depth article in Publishers Weekly by Heidi MacDonald about the growth of graphic novels in libraries. Librarians (school and otherwise), here’s a big blog I wrote containing all the links you could possibly need to great graphic novels but also the show-and-tell services and discounts Page 45 gleefully offers to libraries!

ITEM! Free Comicbook Day has come and gone. We don’t do Free Comicbook Day, sorry: never been an official member, though we do carry some of those books at their nominal 22p cost. Usually I talk about that in the Page 45 Mailshot, this time it was on Bookface. Still, if you want brilliant free comics, try the entirety of FREAKANGELS by Warren Ellis, Paul Duffield and Kate Brown. Magnificent!

ITEM! We stock and promote THE PHOENIX, by far the best kids’ weekly comic I can ever recall. It is a very far cry from the illiterate rubbish you’ll find on most supermarkets’ shelves, begging to be bought because of its plastic novelties. It’s packed full of rotating, top-tier creators like Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Kate Brown, Neill Cameron, Paul Duffield et al, and now THE PHOENIX has a brand-new website! So many cool party packages and deals to be had!

ITEM! I owe an apology to everyone I served on Saturday. I was ill, sorry! Tried my best, said what I could, but sometimes I was well short of breath. Not what you come to expect from Page 45, and I am deeply apologetic. Why didn’t we get someone better on the day? Well, we did – we had Dominique who exceeds me in every aspect, but alas Dee also had to deal with mail order upstairs as well. I am not trusted on mail order. And if you’ve ever seen my Christmas presents wrapped, you would know why! If you have any doubts as to precisely how ill I was, I wnet straight to bed at 7pm with no booze for the first day in over 25 years.

I am much better now. Sadly, my Christmas wrapping will never improve.


 – Stephen

Reviews May 2013 week one

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Bookface is not somewhere you should live out your misery in public. It is self-detrimental and boring to others. When done repeatedly, it erodes your friends’ empathy and serves only to validate and so consolidate your own negativity, creating then perpetuating your own downward spiral. There, you’ve been told.

 – Stephen on Hope Larson & Tintin Pantoia’s Who Is AC

The Man Who Laughs (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Victor Hugo, adapted by David Hine & Mark Stafford.

“My Lords, I come to warn you, your happiness is forged from the misery of mankind.”

As adaptations go, I rank this right up there with Rob Davis’ DON QUIXOTE. Victor Hugo’s original is not a story of mistaken identity so much as buried birth and hereditary powerplay, but even so it is a tale so twisted it would make Shakespeare’s own head spin. What’s more, its socio-political poignancy is powerful harnessed by David Hine and Mark Stafford throughout, and in particular during the House Of Lords climax which is as fiendishly clever as the speech is rousing as it is derided by its orator’s peers. If only it weren’t so pertinent right now.

As to the last dozen pages, six of which are silent, they are a tour de full-colour force which will leave you as breathless as Eric Drooker’s BLOOD SONG. It’s a masterclass from both creators on adapting prose to comics, the key being interpretation rather than illustration for the last six pages of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs were necessarily far from silent. Yet look what a graphic novel can do…


On the surface it would seem that Stafford’s style of cartooning is perfect for hyperactive comedy like the Talbot-penned CHERUBS, but oh how well it works on a more controlled satire, and his use of colour is a revelation for me. The sub-zero midnight blizzard curling and swirling around young Gwynplaine is absolutely freezing (and once more put me in mind of Drooker’s FLOOD and BLOOD SONG). Abandoned on the winter shore, nine-year-old Gwynplaine plucks a baby from the ice-solid teat of its dead mother, half-buried in the snow, and wraps it in his own tattered overcoat, exposing himself to the elements that rage all around. He struggles against a howling wind, carrying them on to their uncertain future. It’s quite the trajectory.

The Man Who Laughs is an impassioned attack on injustice – on the scheming, self-serving rich for whom the poor are but playthings to be milked even drier in order to feed the aristocrats’ appetite for all things opulent and excessive. They have so little to actually do that they spend their time guarding their grudges then taking them out on each other and those they grind under their suited and booted feet.

“Lord David seeks his pleasure through membership of the many aristocratic clubs of London. The Ugly Club, that worships deformity.
“The Fun Club, which exhorts its members to create mischief wherever possible. The rich break the windows of the poor.
“The Mohawks, where creating evil and injury is a matter of duty and the height of fashion is to deftly slice the nostrils of a rustic with the point of the sword.
“Thus Lord David prepares himself for public life, for it is no easy matter to become an accomplished gentleman.”

The titular man who laughs is Gwynplaine himself who is cursed with the same sort of rictus sported by The Joker in comics and Tony Blair in political cartoons. Only this grin is even more hideous, the lips stretched apart and agape, exposing every millimetre of gum in a masca ridens. Taken in by the elderly medicine man Ursus and his pet wolf Homo, the baby Gwynplaine rescued from certain death grows into a beautiful but blind woman they christen Dea, but her early trauma has left her fragile with a heart that flutters like a bird trapped in a cage: any sudden shock might kill her.

“I am only happy when you’re near me,” she tells Gwynplaine, who replies, “Then let us swear never to be apart – we’ll be happy together.”

And they would be, but as Ursus observes, “Happy, are they? Don’t they know it’s a crime? To declare your love too loudly is to invite evil.”

And evil, it certainly comes knocking in the form of Duchess Josiana, pretty sister to petty and ugly and resentful Queen Anne, and engaged by royal decree to be married to Lord David. But it’s a marriage they’d both prefer to avoid and so Lord David introduces the twisted Josiana to Gwynplaine whom he’d spied performing in a play, and her perverse desires along with the machinations of a courtier, will spell the most convoluted doom for them all.

For a bottle has been washed up on the shore, and there is a message in that bottle: a signed certificate of sin from many years ago committed by Gernadus and his travelling troupe of Comprachios, so severe that they felt compelled to confess and cast that confession into the sea in a bottle belonging to one Hardquanonne, “the greatest sinner” of them all. It was they who abandoned Gwynplaine all those years ago. What exactly had they all done so wrong?


Buy The Man Who Laughs and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 3: The Twilight Kingdom h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Ted Naifeh.

“He’ll be lonely without me.”
“He’ll get over it. We all do. There are worse things than loneliness.”

After months spent exploring the inexplicable at her uncle’s house, young Courtney finally revisits her old neighbourhood while her worn-out parents try unsuccessfully to sell their old home. In Courtney’s absence her former best friend Malcolm has fallen under the influence of two house-breaking idiots, because there’s really nothing else for him left. Why, I will keep schtum on, but Malcolm falls out with Courtney painfully as she tries her best to steer him away from the delinquents – again, unsuccessfully.

It’s all very tenderly done, but only the prologue to a tale which will take Courtney on a reluctant journey from the grounds of her school to the Twilight Kingdom in order to find the cure for a curse so carelessly cast on one brother by the other.

Friendship and responsibility are as ever the key themes on offer, all concealed under a gothic facade of fantasy and danger, and portrayed with the lushest of artwork now in full colour which has drawn, unsurprisingly, the admiration of Charles Vess.

It’s the third in the series and does touch upon old plot points, but can be read independently and is heartily recommended to the 150+ of you to have already purchased PORCELAIN; as is COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 1 with its poison-purple cover and COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2, bound in library green. The production values on this new range of hardcover editions are glorious, with silver ink framing the cover and pin-up gallery, printed on thick, quality paper.

A quietly touching ending, and a very cool read.


Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 3: The Twilight Kingdom h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Shall I tell you what I love about this graphic novel?

It emphasises the poison of self-pity, especially when made public in blogs.

Bookface is not somewhere you should live out your misery in public. It is self-detrimental and boring to others. When done repeatedly, it erodes your friends’ empathy and serves only to validate and so consolidate your own negativity, creating then perpetuating your own downward spiral. There, you’ve been told.

This, however, is a Young Adult graphic novel: a superhero-style, countryside fable as filtered through CLAMP – it’s not WET MOON! – so instead of sinking into an alcohol-exacerbated rage against the world, horse-loving, blog-prone Mel is possessed by a black-hearted internet demon who demands she troll for more followers like Trace. Tongue-tied Trace is a bit smitten by Mel (who is still hung up on Hunter – or rather guilt-ridden, you’ll see) so already susceptible to Mel’s conversion on account of a grudge he has on AC.

Who is AC? AC is a really a young writer called Lin, new to town; a fiercely independent girl who has the gumption to serialise and self-publish her swashbuckling fantasy by taking it down to the local photocopier, stapling the results together and leaving them, sale-or-return, in the local bookshop. Bravo! I love that too: Hope Larson encouraging others to create and disseminate – to act on their aspirations and so turn them into reality.

Unfortunately Lin has been taken over too (albeit by a more benign force via her mobile phone) and transformed into a lance-wielding superheroine who leaves a snowstorm of white rose petals wherever she goes. She saves the local photocopy shop from a robbery but later, accidentally and unknowingly) blows Trace off his bike who loses his glasses as a direct result. And Trace’s parents aren’t going to fork out for a new pair.

“Just sit at the front of the class, Trace.”
“Right. With the kiss-ups.”

So: misunderstandings all round (I mentioned Hunter, didn’t I?) and Lin’s own well meaning parents are going to put their proverbial feet in it too.

Hope cleverly interjects the proceedings with young teens’ current obsessions and terminology, and if you think all will be wrapped up in a happily-ever-after for all then you very much underestimate CHIGGERS’ Hope Larson. Life doesn’t work like that, as any teen reader will tell you. Try to say otherwise and they will reject you.

I was also rather fond of the ebullient black and white artwork, splashed with purple during the battle blasts, which reminded me fondly of Tim Fish, even though I found its androgyny confusing. I couldn’t work out whether Trace, for example, was male or female for several pages and the same goes for the book-shop owner. Maybe that was intentional, sending the message that gender is unimportant whether it comes to relationships or careers (it should be entirely irrelevant), and perhaps a younger audience than myself won’t even notice nor care.



Buy Who Is Ac s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“These tides are really weird,” said the boy. “It’s not like this at Cromer.”

A young boy hops on board a boat bobbing on the water and captained by a bear. He asks to be taken to the other side.

“Right you are,” said the bear.

He’s as confident as the lad is vague, neatly setting the scene for nearly three hundred pages of magically illustrated mirth as the pair find themselves all at sea and struggling to land either a fish or themselves.

It’s a book about learning to keep friends afloat in the wake of adversity – and in the wake of absurdity too. Faith, confidence and improvisation: pulling together instead of falling out and, as a consequence, falling apart. Thinking of others instead of yourself and jollying each other along!

Shelton manages all of the above with a touch as gentle as the giant of a bear’s. With little land in sight throughout the entire book, he nails the boy’s cross-patch frustration at the bear’s evasive optimism, and then the boy’s petulance and remorse. Oh, how we find it difficult to apologise! It’s also a book written by a man whose childhood was spent a long time before videogames and other portable distractions or in-flight entertainment.

“Are we nearly there yet?” said the boy.
“We are well on our way,” said the bear.

And that’s just page fifteen. There’s so much more you will recognise from childhood, like the fun to be had on a bright summer’s day, messing about colours and the light behind closed eyelids. “He liked the greeny blue the best, but it was difficult to hold on to for long.” I myself bounced spectral amoebas up and down my eyelids all day long. Still unsure if they existed.

With limited resources our duo try their hands at fishing, first with a fly (oh, all right, a tuft of the poor bear’s fur plucked while his bottom was turned), then with live bait and then – oh, dear – they really are going to bite off more than they can chew! Here they’re down to one last sarnie, and the bear’s previous combos (sprout and honey; anchovy, banana and custard; broccoli, sherbet and gooseberry) have been eccentric at best.

The boy looked at the proffered sandwich. He noticed that the bear was holding it rather gingerly in the tips of two claws and right at the corner. Despite this, the bread did not bend at all. The boy looked up at the bear. He looked back at the sandwich. It was very difficult to tell what colour it was by moonlight, but whatever colour it was didn’t seem right.

“What’s in it?” said the boy again.
“I can’t remember,” said the bear.
“Well, open it up and take a look,” said the boy.
“I can’t,” said the bear. “It’s stuck.”
The boy looked up at the bear. The bear smiled thinly down at the boy. They both looked back at the sandwich.
“Is it…” said the boy.
“What?” said the bear.
“Is it… only a bit, but is it… glowing?”
“No,” said the bear.
They each squinted at the sandwich and leaned in (cautiously) to look more closely.
“Hardly at all,” said the bear.

We rarely stock anything other than comics at Page 45, but this prose is a wonder and I’ll be buying it for adults instead. Plus our Dave won my heart by including a comic within and reminding us how, when we were young, we would pore over them time and time again when we had so very few, savouring their strangeness even if we hadn’t a clue what was going on. But back to the future, and the bear has it all in hand.

“Bored, eh? Well, I suppose you’d better try the complimentary on-board entertainment then,” said the bear.
“On-board entertainment?” said the boy, smiling expectantly.
“Oh yes,” said the bear. “You’ll love this.”

He really doesn’t.


Buy A Boy and a Bear in a Boat s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

And you think your school days were a nightmare…

It’s in, I’m sure it’s as riveting as the first three, but it’s the fourth volume and I have other things to do. I went to great lengths reviewing the first three volumes, which you can read instead:


There you go. At the time of typing we also have copies of MORNING GLORIES #26 which follows immediately after this book at a mere 99p. Probably worth a punt, no?



Buy Morning Glories s/c vol 4 Truants and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny Avengers vol 1: The Red Shadow h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Cassady with Olivier Coipel.

Last week the Avengers truly assembled. As if to remind us of exactly how many there are now, every single AVENGERS title disgorged itself onto our shelves:


Yes, we were well and truly avenged, though I’m not entirely sure who done us wrong in the first place.

So what is UNCANNY AVENGERS and what sets it apart from the pack?

Well, the artwork, for one, by John Cassady whom you’ll doubtless know from the genuinely ASTONISHING X-MEN VOL 1 and indeed VOL 2, and from all four volumes of the epic science-fiction masterpiece, PLANETARY. Cassady is class. His is a neo-classical art interjected with a gloriously attractive, smooth version of classic superhero stalwarts like George Perez and John Byrne. It has a solidity, and chic sense of style in its fashion sense. Cassidy, as I say, is class.

But when the script rolled in I suspect his eyes rolled up to the heavens: “Jesus Christ! I’m used to working with Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis. What the hell is this shit?”

It’s ill-thought-through and hideously overwritten – appallingly turgid, like wading through a sewage system that’s experienced intense evaporation during a singularly soporific heat wave.

Following the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN, Captain America comes to the realisation that the Avengers never did enough to help the mutant population in the past, even though some of its earliest members (and several since) have themselves been mutants. That much makes sense, as does his idea to redress the public’s increased alarm by forming a specific Avengers squad composed both of the trusted (Thor and the good Captain himself) and ostracised mutant population (Wolverine, Rogue, Havok and the Scarlet Witch). It will send a signal that the Avengers stand by their mutant comrades, even though they’ve torn each other apart for weeks. Let’s forget that Brian Michael Bendis just ended his Avengers run with the Avengers themselves firmly in the media-manipulated dog house. Their endorsement really shouldn’t mean shit right now. Still.

The bit that makes no sense whatsoever is that, of all people, Havok is invited to lead this team in the field. Havok. It’s not just that he’s a D-list mutant (you may never have heard of) and brother to Cyclops who’s been responsible from the recent escalation in mutant phobia (something he’s escalating to this day – see ALL-NEW X-MEN VOL 1), it’s that Havok has little experience is successful leadership and, uh, Captain America’s on the team. Also, yes, why not welcome back the Scarlet Witch after her sanity-free sabbatical by immediately popping her on the same team as the mutants whose population she decimated in HOUSE OF M? (I know the proper definition of “decimated”, but it’s the term Marvel used, so…)

“But it will make for cool conflict, Stephen!”

Potentially, yes, but it doesn’t. It makes for painfully predictable grudges and, in any case, those are my points:

1) You can hear the writer (or editorial board) thinking, “This will make for cool conflict!” when you should never hear them whisper let alone think.

2) It makes no strategic sense whatsoever. And I thought Captain America was supposed to be the ultimate strategist in the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, the Red Skull has stolen the body of Professor Charles Xavier (RIP for three seconds) and surgically removed his nice juicy brain which he can somehow pop in his own cranial cavity without extracting his own and command all and sundry, telepathically, to misbehave. Yes, they’re going to vote BNP, UKIP or Tory (one of those xenophobic, hate-mongering hoards) and bring about a right old Reich or something.

As to the overwritten, see the return of the overwrought caption boxes explaining the action you’re supposed to see happen (and do) abandoned long ago by everyone other than Dame Christopher Claremont.

“The change happens immediately… the man is gone. The killer is set loose.”

“The assassin is silent. Were it not for the Red Skull’s new-found telepathy, he would surely be killed. “

Surely. Slaughter me now, or shut up.


Buy Uncanny Avengers vol 1: The Red Shadow 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.

Feynman s/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick

Shame vol 2: Pursuit (£7-50, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina & Leonardo Manco, Andrea Mutti

Bedlam vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image ) by Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo, Frazer Irving

Peter Bagge’s  Other Stuff (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Peter Bagge

World Of Warcraft: Dark Riders h/c (£18-99, DC) by Mike Costa & Neil Googe

Aliens: Inhuman Condition h/c (£8-50, Dark Horse) by John Layman & Sam Keith

Don Quixote vol 2 (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Cervantes & Rob Davis

Marvel Illustrated: Pride & Prejudice s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jane Austen, Nancy Austen & Hugo Petrus

Destination X h/c (£9-99, Nobrow Press) by John Martz

Castle Waiting vol 2 h/c (Definitive Edition) (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Linda Medley

All New X-Men vol 1: Here Comes Yesterday s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Iron Man vol 1: Believe s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land

Superman Action Comics vol 1: Superman And The Men Of Steel s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales, Andy Kubert

Superman: Earth One vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis

Superman Action Comics vol 2: Bulletproof h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales

Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vols 13-14 (£13-50, Seven Seas) by Yu Aida

Knights Of Sidonia vol 2 (£9-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

ITEM! Young Hellboy stars in an original graphic novel HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo this Autumn. Early images of Duncan Fegredo’s SUPER-CUTE young Hellboy

ITEM! Preview pages for JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely and now Preview pages for JUPITER’s LEGACY #2 by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely! We still have copies of #1, reviewed and linked to above! Plus you can pre-order JUPITER’S LEGACY #2 here (or, you know, add it to your standing order by phoning 0115 9508045 or emailing or even tweeting me @pagefortyfive.

ITEM! PORCELAIN: If you’ve yet to pick a copy up and gasp, this beautifully animated PORCELAIN trailer should do the trick!

ITEM! More on Terry Moore’s RACEL RISING TV deal. Brilliant!

ITEM! Interview with Ed Brubaker on the future of FATALE with gorgeous new art from Sean Phillips.

ITEM! Yay!  WE’RE OUT! The new long-form comic from ST. COLIN & THE DRAGON’s Philippa Rice who created our GameCity window last year. They’re out from their 2-D confines and into the real world! I’m just out.

BITE ‘EM! Squeaking of which… Lovely gay laydeez laughing at ludicrous preconceptions and prejudices with enormous good humour and hysterical wit.

It’s been quite the week, hasn’t it?

With Jonathan in Italy, Dominique and I spent an entire eight-day stretch week and indeed our first two Saturdays in over ten years working on the shop floor together. Oh, the laughter! Until, during the military exercise that is delivery day, Jonathan sent the following text: “Eating pizza and drinking wine on an island in the Italian lakes.”

The text I shot back was considerably shorter.

 – Stephen