Reviews May 2013 week two

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

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