Archive for June, 2013

Reviews June 2013 week four

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

“Think for yourself and question authority.”

 – Very sound advice issued by Warren Ellis in Stormwatch vol 2

The Suitcase h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate Books) by Dan Berry.

Dan Berry draws the best cats ever!

Also the best dead bunnies. Here black cat Jerry stands proud yet insouciant over his latest conquest which he has just dragged through a hedge backwards and into Mark’s kitchen. Mark is on the phone to his missus:

“I think Jerry got next door’s rabbit…
“(Jerry! Get Inside!)
“Richard is going to go flipping mental.
“Poor thing must have died of fright. Jerry barely left a mark on her.

Hmm indeed…

Richard’s mental anyway – it’s his default setting. A huffing and puffing volcano of pot-bellied, middle-aged rage, Richard is the very last self-righteous, self-centred git you’d want as a neighbour. Snow-haired Helen, however, is a lovely, but she is in a bit of a quandary. Before Mark’s return from holiday, you see, she was tasked with looking after their black cat Jerry and aging canine Cruncher. And Cruncher’s just bitten the dust.

Helen dutifully rings Mark, and then the vets, but there is still the question of transport. Elderly Helen doesn’t drive. Thankfully Richard does and has just pulled up in his driveway, slamming the car door shut.

“Good morning, Richard!”
“Not really, if I’m honest, Helen.”
“I’m sorry to hear that… I’m not having a good day myself. You see – “
“LOOK, Helen.
“Whatever it is that you want, it can WAIT.
“I am in the middle of an EMERGENCY today.
“A FAMILY emergency.
“So you’ll forgive me if I don’t suddenly DROP everything an come running. <coff!> <coff!>”
“Well ok. I’m sorry.”
“Helen – WAIT!”
“Can you still do Wednesday afternoon?”
“Well, of course I can.”
“Good. Don’t be late this time.”

Which is nice.

So, what’s Helen to do? Cruncher isn’t a small, yappy-type dog. But, if curled up, he might just about fit in Helen’s big trolley-suitcase. It’s going to be bit of a job hauling it up onto the bus, but hopefully some kind sole will give her a helping hand. As long as they don’t ask what’s in it…

There are your component parts, then: a dead rabbit, a dead dog, a suitcase; an angry neighbour with a fixation on Top Gear, a put-upon Helen and a slightly dazed Mark. What more could possibly go wrong?

A prime suburban comedy in three acts, THE SUITCASE is exquisitely structured for maximum satisfaction and laugh-out-loud comedy.

Moreover, Dan Berry’s cartooning – the body language, baggy eyes, and explosions of crimson-faced, misanthropic anger – is delicious. Oh yes, the colours: russet leaves of early autumn still hugging the hedges and trees between crisp, white houses over warm, grey asphalt. I even fell in love with the chequered linoleum in Mark’s two-tone kitchen.

From the creator of HEY YOU! which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month for May 2013.


Buy The Suitcase h/c and read the Page 45 review here

100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1 of 8 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

“We all die as we are born… gasping for air.”

El Hombre Respira!

Oh, yes indeed. After the blood-bath finale of 100 BULLETS (every single one of those books reviewed!) Brother Lono was himself left gasping for air with a great big bullet in his guts, yet here he is in a mass and potentially make-shift Mexican graveyard, at sunset, shoveling the arid earth onto a coffin. Prologue or epilogue? Only time will tell. Also: maybe it’s sunrise and he’s been at it all night…

Either way, the entire team behind 100 BULLETS is back with a wit-ridden vengeance, verbal sabres and all, including colour artist Trish Mulvihill whose rich tones are, as ever, the perfect complement to Risso’s sharp silhouettes. So real is the feel of the heat that you’ll be reaching for your Factor 5,000.

Equally palpable – excruciatingly so – is the post-preamble torture scene. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that comics is a silent medium without the sort of sound effects that come, say, with the hatching of an Alien egg. Its final panel will haunt you with that precise, glutinous crackling all the same. I think we can consider the information fully extracted.

Cut to Father Manny who runs a remote mission full of orphans funded, whether he likes it or not, by Las Torres Gemales – the twin Towers in whose name the above information was being extracted. So that’s awkward. It’s there that a young nun called Sister June is to be escorted by Brother Lono* but the bus she’s travelled in on also carried a D.E.A. about to be fingered by a thug recently released, much to his horror, from jail. Whether he’ll have any fingers left to do that fingering with is doubtful, because he’s being held very much against his will in a smoke-glassed car opposite by the overzealous torturer.

That pick-up scene is so tense there’s barely any air to breathe, Brother Lono and Sister June oblivious to what’s going on around them. Given the cliffhanger, however, I am not at all sure that our Tower twins’ are oblivious to them.

*Brother Lono, it should be noted, is far from clerical and rarely on the side of the angels.


Buy 100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Manara Library vol 5 h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Milo Manara.

Gorgeous production values once more on these 250 pages of exotic, erotic adventure as evidenced by the switch from matt to gloss for ‘To See Once More The Stars’ in which Manara, the classiest of the Eurotitty crew, deploys the most beguiling of wet washes in stormy blues and purples.

The stygian crags (think Gustave Doré) swirling in mist are phenomenal, while the sequestered isle, shrouded in cloud and surrounded by still, inky waters which ripple as the rowing boat approaches, is a compact ruin with poplars reaching for the sky like some detail from a Claude Lorrain landscape after a Biblical flood.

The textures on the early, matte pages will mind you of Moebius; later this gives way to even crisper art with ethereally outlined clouds or, when the wind gets up out at sea, skies depicted in a manner akin to the contour lines on an Ordinance Survey Map when those mountains are at their steepest!

The publisher writes:

“Giuseppe Bergman is still looking for adventure in all the wrong places: from Africa to the Aegean, Manara’s signature character stars in a film with a vanished director; re-creates the legendary voyage of Ulysses; and babysits a woman whose urge to reenact classic paintings lands her in Dante’s hell! Manara’s artwork and satirical voice are both in top form, and these stories, spanning two decades, are among his funniest, sexiest, and most beautiful! Collects the classic An Author in Search of Six Characters and Dies Irae, along with Bergman’s Odyssey and The Urban Adventures.”

For an introduction to Giuseppe Bergman adventures, please see my more extensive review of the MANARA LIBRARY VOL 4 while I covered Manara’s work in general in MANARA LIBRARY VOL 1 – and indeed the other volumes, all in stock at the time of typing.


Buy Manara Library vol 5 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avalon Chronicles vol 2: The Girl And The Unicorn h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Nunzio DeFillipis & Emma Vieceli.


There is a book called Once In A Blue Moon being written by a certain Will Redding. Its chief protagonist is a young woman called Aeslin, a princess and Dragon Knight, heir to the throne of Avalon. Her father, the King, is missing, his throne usurped by Lord Khrom. The strange thing is that this is all happening right now around Will – he’s virtually taking dictation! As for Aeslin Finn, she’s only just arrived in the book. She’s got a maths exam next Tuesday – she wasn’t really planning on becoming a princess or communing telepathically with a strangely colloquial, sardonic dragon.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Aeslin’s best friend Meg makes a startling discovery after being startled when discovered by an Avalon mage working for Lord Khrom.

Lord Khrom is not a nice man. He’s slaughtered the father of the elves’ young unicorn who must now find a mare to make him a man – or a stud at least – and father a male unicorn of his own. To search for a mate it requires a fair maiden true. Will it choose one of the elven ladies-in-waiting or Princess Aeslin, being trained in gentility by a Duchess of dubious allegiance, who might thereby gain the reluctant support of the reclusive elves in discovering what happened to her Dad?

It is not that obvious!

Politics and powerplay – there is so much of it at work here, and I rather think that the young ladies which this book is squarely aimed at will recognise so much it in the world they see around them. I haven’t even touched on the dwarves (much to their relief, I’m sure).

From the writers of THREE STRIKES and the artist on VAMPIRE ACADEMY, FROSTBITE and sole creator of DRAGON HEIR, the first half is, I confess, a slow-burner but nothing will prepare you for the ceremony itself in which Tresselon, the prematurely orphaned unicorn, makes its move in a sequence so arresting it took my breath away. Moreover, it kicks off with a perfectly composed piece semi-symmetry spread across two opposing pages which is to die for.

From there on in everything accelerates at a rapid rate of knots enveloping characters you may have been tricked into considering extraneous. Oh no! As for the cliffhanger, it will k –


Buy Avalon Chronicles vol 2: The Girl And The Unicorn h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Romantic Bison #1(£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

Poor Romantic Bison, yearning from afar, picking apart a daisy one petal at a time!

“She loves me… she loves me not…”

There are two petals left.

“One days she’ll notice me.”

There, there…

The object of our bovine beau’s affection is Sylvia. Sylvia is a rabbit, almost as cute as FLUFFY. She’s currently having a quiet afternoon picnic with Sweary Cat, and she’s not at all sure what the bison in the bushes wants – he just sits staring at them. Still, he’s not doing any harm…

“What a beaut of a day!” says Sylvia the next morning.
“Like vets it is!
“Oh my fleas!! Doom-face bison is in the bushes again. I’m going over to tell him to hiss off!”
“Sweary Cat, no!”

Sweary Cat, yes! Sweary Cat is a real sourpuss, a mardy old moggee not prepared to share her friendship with Sylvia. Why, if Romantic Bison were to ask her to pass on a love letter, Sweary Cat would be a right bag of jealousy, and probably just claim it was a bill. She might even pretend to be Sylvia’s boyfriend. Boy/girl – it’s so hard to tell with cats. What a to-do!

I love seeing mini-queen Lizz do long-form comics. Well, relatively speaking. I wish she’d do more. This is positively Shakespearean in scope, replete with those mistaken gender identities which keep lovers apart and really ram home the dramatic irony.

As to the art, Lunney has for once forsaken the school of neo-classical, photorealism which she employs on all her mini-comics, tote bags, cards and notebooks and settled for a sort of post-Cocteau minimalism which sits perfectly with this format, a 23x11cm landscape booklet containing staples, a speck of dust and 12 pages of comics, the reverse sides of each sheaf left blank.

There you can perhaps make salient annotations, jotting down your appraisal of the story so far, it’s tragic twists and potential for trysts (not looking good!), or perhaps any dating tips you may glean from the proceedings. I learned a lot about friendship, and the next time Jonathan goes upstairs to “pay a bill” I will know for certain that he has run off with yet another of those Valentine’s cards which never seem to reach me. *sob*


Buy Romantic Bison #1 and read the Page 45 review here

7 String vol 1 new, larger format (£10-99, Zetabella ) by Nich Angell.

I’ll start with the art because it’s very, very pretty. In fact we decided to stock the book almost as soon as we saw it just on that basis. Nich’s art is “manga-inspired” along with the big shoes pointy and hair lines, and is very clean and crisp; satisfying to look at on the page. The style of colouring would probably be too bright on shiny paper and in a traditional palette, but the matte paper and pastel shades give it a really gorgeous look. There are some fairly intense chunks of background details in some places which put me in mind of KING CITY and even some Paul Pope panels. Nich clearly has a good grasp on the mechanics of comic books in terms of layouts, well timed splash pages and storytelling.

The story is pretty cool with some classic fantasy-epic elements: a young hero finding his way, factions heading for war and a very bad dude manipulating all behind the scenes. What lifts it up above the average could-be-an-installment-of-final-fantasy story, though, is the musical allegory which runs through the universe and defines everything from the names of the factions to the weaponry and fighting styles they use.

The universe, we are told, is suffused with and sustained by an overarching melody which, when played right, keeps everything in balance. Sounds silly when I explain it but, when described in the first part of the book it makes for an intriguing backdrop, an interesting reframing of the human condition which is, after all, what so many of our fantasy stories are. I was particularly impressed with this prologue-y, narrated part of the book. It’s a device which is often used so badly it sets my teeth on edge, but here I though it worked well, setting the groundwork for the story and helping to explain the strange universe it is set in.

There was the odd bit of bad punctuation and on a couple of occasions the language skirted on the grandiose but I have seen far worse sins committed by much more experienced writers so it’s pretty hard to hold those few minor blips against Nich. In fact the whole book is so big hearted and engaging that I hesitate to pick fault because I am so looking forward to the next installment.

I would say this is a good book for fans of fantasy, fighty manga, SCOTT PILGRIM… which I think covers pretty much everyone so that’s good news! Also did I mention very, very pretty?


Buy 7 String vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stormwatch vol 2 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Bryan Hitch.

“Think for yourself and question authority.”

That is the single best piece of advice that was ever given to me, by a maths master when I was twelve. Actually, he instructed, “Always ask why”.

Stormwatch are the UN-sanctioned international, satellite-stationed, superhuman taskforce orbiting the world in order to keep an eye on it and, using that eye, keep it in order. Its leader is called The Weatherman and its current Weatherman is Henry Bendix. Henry Bendix is pathologically insane.

In this second half Ellis’ run on STORMWATCH which runs smoothly into THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 by Ellis & Hitch (you will hear much mention of the word “authority” right from the get-go), Stormwatch finds itself stymied again and again by an America with vested geopolitical interests. They will also find themselves stifled, for Henry Bendix has vested interests of his own.

First they encounter The High who has been contemplating the human condition for decades. An anti-establishment superman who loathed those who preyed on the poor, he once engaged in liberating tennants from corrupt landlords etc. Indeed he once dallied with Stormwatch Black’s Jenny Sparks, now almost a century old but looking a little under thirty (the bitch!). But he left to meditate, to cogitate on what more he could do than to save but a few. Now he has gathered cohorts around him and the man has a plan as broadcast to the globe thus:

“Fighting crime is no good unless you look past crime, to its root. Saving the world is no good if we leave it the way we found it. It is our intent to hand you a saved world, to offer you tools that will make you great. And then – you will never see us again.
“When we are done, you will be able to provide for yourselves, for free. You will want for nothing. All of your society’s structures will be removed. No laws, no authoritarian structures, no crime, no war. In a few hours it will begin.”

He offer us a Utopia, and the freedom which comes with it. It’s the ultimate in altruism and The High genuinely means it. He seeks no control, only to assist. Here’s what’s on offer:

“The Engineer will seed nanotechnological oases across the planet, and inform you of their use. These will be your horns of plenty.”

Oh dear, he’s anti-capitalist.

“The Doctor will initiate a program of education about the natural resources of this world, its plants and magic. He’ll show you the door to a whole new world just sideways to this one.”

Uh-oh, he’s pro-personal-enlightenment.

“And I’ll talk to you. We’ll share ideas I’ve had. Use, them, ignore them, whatever. During the coming days you may see some of my friends in your cities, towns and villages. They’ll speak your language. Talk to them.”

Now he’s about breaking down borders and instilling worldwide cooperation.

“One final message. There are those of you who will seek to stop us. Don’t. Please.”

They do.

Under Ellis STORMWATCH began changing the landscape of superhero comics: its potential, political emphases, its wit, its sexual mischief and its periodical installments’ structure. He even found novel ways of explication without insulting the intelligence. With THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 Warren Ellis terraformed it, so paving the way for Millar & Hitch’s THE ULTIMATES, the very pinnacle of the superhero science-fiction subgenre including – I kid you not – WATCHMEN. But the changes, they begin here and it is fascinating to watch.

It is a series packed full of political intrigue, international espionage, strategy, subterfuge and personal betrayal. In The High, Henry Bendix has met his match in terms of second-guessing, precautionary measures and indeed ruthlessness. Without Bendix I confess that the series does falter, not least because Rayner is replaced by an artist so insipid we cannot even be arsed to name him.

But wait! THE AUTHORITY’s Bryan Hitch is on the horizon and he brings with him Apollo and Midnighter, first seen post-coitally pulling their clothes back on even though no one spotted that at the time. No one! It’s not just Hitch’s neo-classical figure work which will wow, either: his storytelling transforms the series, injecting a kinetic awe, and you wait until you see his dazzling cityscapes at sunrise as enhanced by Laura DePuy.

Appropriately this book begins and ends with blonde Brit iconoclast Jenny Sparks whose middle name is so evidently Attitude. Along the way you will pick up hints of what is to come: an Engineer (male), a Doctor (black), Apollo and Midnighter in the buff (I may have mentioned that), plus Swift and Jack Hawksmoor because I can promise you that – other than them – there is no one left alive at the end of this series.

An asteroid threatens to enter Earth’s orbit, so a team of two shuttles is dispatched to land and lay explosives so sending its trajectory into the sun. Two problems: a) it isn’t just an asteroid, there’s a spaceship within; b) one of the shuttles successfully makes it back home…

There is an episode missing from this, yes. There’s not much that even DC owned by Time Warner can do about that. Lord knows what price they paid for publishing the periodical in the first place. Still, at least Jenny Sparks and co. thereby discover the transdimensional Bleed.

Next: THE AUTHORITY VOL 1. You will all buy that now!

“There has to be someone left to save the world.”


Buy Stormwatch vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Extinction Parade #1 (£2-99, Avatar) by Max Brooks & Raulo Caceres.

Zombies versus vampires: round one. Hurray!

“Among our kind there is a saying, “You’re only really hunting when your prey is a predator”.”

From the writer of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z plus the artist on Warren Ellis’ CAPTAIN SWING and CRECY etc., I present you with a grizzly, gristle-strewn gorefest full of lobbed-off limbs and putrescent shamblers the likes of which you’ve rarely seen outside of Mansfield on a Saturday night.

Caceres shoves them right in your face, with many an urban, double-page spread that’s splattered with matter and several transport systems that have seen infinitely better days. What is it with zombies and up-turned buses anyway?

While the zombies are busy busting our guts, a somewhat aloof but curious trio of modern-day vampires set off on a sight-seeing mission to the latest outbreak and, smelling blood, can’t resist a quick neck-nibble, either. Yum-yum!

Our vampiric narrator then sets her sights on the sorry old sub-dead only to find herself ignored, for they can’t even smell her. And you know what they say about a woman scorned…

So, as I say, zombies versus vampires round one, and it’s all looking a little one-sided.

“Now I understood why we considered zombies to be a joke. But I had no idea that soon the joke would be on us.”

Next: round two.


Buy The Extinction Parade #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.


Fatale vol 3: West Of Hell (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Prophet vol 2: Brothers (£10-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Farel Dalrymple

Winter’s Knight Day One (£5-99, Great Beast Comics) by Robert M. Ball

Odd Duck h/c (£10-99, St. Martins Press) by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon

New School h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw

Change s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Morgan Jeske

The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island (£18-99, Last Gasp) by Suehiro Maruo

Clockwerx h/c (£22-50, Humanoids Inc) by Jason Henderson & Jean-Baptiste Hostache

The Eyes Of The Cat Yellow Edition h/c (£25-99, Humanoids Inc) by Alejandro Jodorowsky &  Moebius

A Game Of Thrones vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Random House) by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

Hellblazer: Death And Cigarettes (£14-99, DC ) by Peter Milligan & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Simon Bisley

Judge Dredd Casefiles 20 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Grant Morrison, John Smith, Mark Millar, Alan McKenzie, Gordon Rennie & Greg Staples, Carlos Ezquerra, Ron Smith, Mick Austin, Clint Langley, Peter Doherty, Mick McMahon, John Higgins

A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War vol 3 s/c (£16-50, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

The Sky: The Art Of Final Fantasy Slipcase Ed (£65-00, Dark Horse) by Yoshitaka Amano

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias & Crimson Corsair h/c (£22-50, DC ) by Len Wein, John Higgins & Jae Lee, Steve Rude, John Higgins

Before Watchmen: Minutemen & Silk Spectre h/c (£22-50, DC ) by Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 2: Starfire s/c (£10-99, DC ) by Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocafort

Superman Family Adventures vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC ) by Art Baltazar, Franco & Art Baltazar

Batgirl / Robin: Year One s/c (£18-99, DC ) by Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon & Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido

Fantastic Four vol 6 s/c (£18-99, Marvel ) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Choi, Ron Garney, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Dale Eaglesham

Wolverine And The X-Men vol 5 s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steven Sanders, Nick Bradshaw

Marvel Masterworks Avengers vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & John Buscema, Don Heck

Ultimate Comics Wolverine: Legacies s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & David Messina

Wolverine vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Larry Hama, Walter Simonson, Alan Davis & Marc Silvestri, Mike Mignola, Alan Davis

Utsubora: The Story Of A Novelist (£13-99, Random House) by Asumiko Nakamura

Usagi Yojimbo vol 27: A Town Called Hell (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Psyren vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Fairy Tail vol 4 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 11 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Hiro Mashima

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 1-3 (£10-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Oreimo vol 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Tsukasa Fushimi & Sakura Ikeda


BAD, BAD NEWS, sorry. Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson RIP. I was overwhelmed so fiercely and so unexpectedly last Wednesday night and I still can’t fully articulate why. I didn’t know him; I never even corresponded with him – my Fantagraphics contact was always sweetheart Eric Reynolds. But as I told both Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly only a few months ago, both those publishers blazed the trail for the likes of Top Shelf etc to come along later and we are forever in their debt. Page 45 probably wouldn’t have ever have opened without them.

ITEM! Comics and graphic novels at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August! Chris Ware, Posy Simmonds, Joe Sacco, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Hannah Berry, Neil Gaiman, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot… Oh, go look for yourself! Dozens of comicbook events!

ITEM! One of the most profoundly moving comics we have ever sold, you can read the whole of Jordan Crane’s THE LAST LONELY SATURDAY online for free. It’s not very long; you’ll thank yourself.

ITEM! Swoonaway comics, beautifully designed for the internet by Emily Carroll. I particularly recommend ANU-ANULAN.

ITEM! Photos galore! Gorgeously illustrated blog on Gary Northfield’s TEENYTINYSAURS party including nom-nom biscuits.

ITEM! The history of creator rights at 2000AD (I was just about as shameful as everywhere else back then!) plus the story of Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell’s ZENITH in particular. Meticulously researched and entertaining executed by Laura Sneddon – lots of quotes from Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell etc.

ITEM! Bitter Orange, a short film written and directed by Hope Larson, creator of CHIGGERS, MERCURY, illustrator of A WRINKLE IN TIME and writer of WHO IS AC?

We still have a few copies of Page 45’s exclusive Hope Larson / Bryan Lee O’Malley print signed by Hope herself! No extra cost, just £4-99.

ITEM! Lastly, I was gobsmacked to see this outrageous sexualisation of men in console games. I would like to see some more.

 – Stephen


Reviews June 2013 week three

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

You see what the search for casual sex does to you, dear reader? It leaves you in the most awful, bleak and brackish, post-coital come-down.

 – Stephen on Lizz Lunney’s Cat Orgy Notebook

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

“I assure you I am not showing off when I say I am the country’s pre-eminent teenage cryptozoologist. Actually, that isn’t the right word. I think a cryptozoologist might be one of those people who stand around in khaki waistcoats getting aroused about Yetis.
“I must be a monsterologist then. That’s no less embarrassing but it can’t be helped.
“I have known for a year or so – a year last April to be exact: monsters are all around us.
“And to be informed is to be prepared, I say. Bad things happen to the unprepared.”

I found myself reflecting on that particular line, long after I had finished this work, just as a pull quote on the rear, from no less a luminary than Ian Rankin, said I would. The first few pages are initially puzzling, detailing as they do the story of a small boy who encountered the black dog back in 1954 and promptly died overnight. Whilst reading them, and adjusting to the art style – more on that shortly – I really did find myself sighing inwardly, thinking I wasn’t going to enjoy this at all. I could not have been more wrong. What follows those opening few pages begins with the lines quoted above, as we are back in the near-modern day and thus introduced to Frances, who begins to set the scene of her life, and her nascent obsession with the particular, peculiar sub-branch of the supernatural involving the monsters of forklore.

She lives with her Nan, for reasons which gradually become clear, and is currently waiting for her ‘A’ level exam results with an equal mixture of excitement and trepidation. As each chapter begins with another evocation of a historical bogeyman, we then get more of her story as she passes the time in limbo, waiting on those pesky results, with her best friend Alex and her boyfriend Sam, or Needle-dick the bug-fucker, as Alex refers to him.

Hannah switches between two art styles for the myths and Frances’ story, both of which are intricate yet deliberately sketchy and rough, densely detailed yet also surprisingly delicate. Very distinctive in other words and the closest comparisons artistically would possibly be elements of BILLY, ME & YOU and more so DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER. I was also minded of the latter for the elements of earthy / puerile teenage humour that Hannah liberally applies, particularly when Frances and Alex are wiling away the time, frequently getting up to no good. I was also minded of former work, because there is a tragedy at the heart of NAMING MONSTERS. Whereas with BILLY, ME & YOU, we find out immediately the nature of the loss, here it is for us to discern, though this approach works ultimately just as sensitively upon the reader. So when we get to the sequence where Frances finally breaks down and is comforted by her Nan, I’m not ashamed to say I shed more a few tears. I have yet to read A MONSTER CALLS which Stephen thought was outstanding and extremely affecting, but I would also imagine there would be some comparisons to be drawn there. I shall say no more.

It’s hard to believe this is a ‘first’ graphic novel, it’s such an accomplished work, both in terms of the narrative and its structural composition, but indeed also the art. I admire her ambition in attempting something so complex and seeing it through with such aplomb. One last thing: do read her afterword, the final sentence of which has also stayed with me. It’s an intriguing and insightful comment on how the concept of naming monsters and ownership of such stories is an integral part of childhood, whether it is through the long-standing form of playground oral tradition or more recently online communication. Very interesting.


Buy Naming Monsters and read the Page 45 review here

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting s/c (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle…

“Ha ha! Joke of the century. We’ll be laughing about this for years!”

Heh heh, I did have to wipe a tear of mirth away after reading that one. I don’t want to spoil the punchline; suffice to say it involves a chainsaw and a rather shocked and distressed child. Good old Guy Delisle, when he’s not affectionately poking fun at foreigners ‘ peculiar habits, politics and approach to life in general – PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA, JERUSALEM – it’s his own family that’s the subject of his ever-roving sense of mischief. I can relate, actually, as I think most parents will, to Guy’s continual verbal misdirecting, misleading and occasionally outright terrorising of his kids, whether it’s to stop them doing something they shouldn’t or just for five minutes of peace and quiet.

Actually, pretty much everyone will be amused because, frankly, we all remember the odd whopper our own parents told us, especially when we got to the age where we started to suspect we weren’t exactly getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Guy could definitely put out several more volumes of this type of chuckle-worthy material for me! Also, as ever, he never shies away from showing when he actually ends up being the butt of the joke as here, during a conversation with his son, where he never actually looks up from the book he’s trying desperately to read thus completely missing the intended context to hilarious effect…

“Dad! Dad! What does penetrate mean?”
“Penetration is when a man is sexually aroused and his penis gets all hard. That’s called an erection. And then the man places his penis into the woman’s vagina. That’s penetration.
“But I mean in Zelda… It says I need to penetrate the King’s defences and then I’m stuck.”

I won’t reveal how he manages to extricate himself from that particular situation, but it’s done without a missing a beat and in such a manner his son immediately forgets all about his impromptu sex education lesson. Very clever and very funny.


Buy A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Children Of The Sea vol 5 (£10-99, Viz) by Daisuke Igarashi…

“Close your eyes… now, this is the end. Your part in this… is over.”
“But… I want to see. I want to see what happens next.”

Me too! I’ve waited over a year for the concluding part of what is possibly the most mysterious and meandering manga that we stock. So, do we finally find out what Ruka’s connection to the aquatic world, and indeed the universe, is really all about? Yes, we do, in a truly epic, wordless sequence spanning well over half of this 328-page tome, the ‘real show’ which marine biologists Jim and Angelade have been waiting for as tension has been slowly and steadily building through the previous four volumes.

I have often described this series to people as one where frankly I had no idea what was really going on as fish around the world continued to turn into winking lights then vanish, the various adult protagonists scratched their collective heads, argued a bit, whilst the kids just got on with events, but it was wonderful to be gently moved around by the tidal ebbs and flows of the writing. Much like standing on a beach, enjoying letting the waves lap up eagerly past your ankles, then getting mildly perturbed as the outgoing undercurrent sucks the sand away from beneath your toes making you feel slightly unsteady. All is revealed, all does in the end make some semblance of sense, but as Soma, one of the titular mysterious children of the sea goes on to remark to Ruka, concluding their conversation of sorts quoted above…

“Whatever you see after that… you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. You must search for the meaning alone. Although the truth was made clear before you came here. As long as you keep your eyes open… one day… it will all come together.”


Buy Children Of The Sea vol 5  and read the Page 45 review here

Pick A Unicorn Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

I am so excited! I don’t know which of these to review first!

This is brand-new territory for me. I’ve reviewed plenty of silent comics in my time – Eric Drooker’s stirring BLOOD SONG for a start – but never blank notebooks.

They’re basically mini-comics but with one potentially game-changing innovation which could send ripples throughout our entire industry: there are neither words nor pictures.

So you could, for example, choose to draw your own story in these forty blank pages perhaps inspired by the cast of blissed-up, equine mytho-steeds who grace the cardstock cover.

There’s John, Paul, George and Ringo; and there’s Ziggy Stardust, Glitter Breath and Sparkle Face! Oh, how I am reminded of Clopsy from Philippa Rice’s ST. COLIN & THE DRAGON; and oh, how I am reminded also of our new jittery and jejune crowd of all-too-flappable (and, I suspect, flammable) Bronies currently startling their way round our shelves in search of their latest dainty donkey tale. My favourite is Dream Boy. That’s my favourite unicorn, not my favourite Brony.

Alternatively you could go for a creative non-sequitur and instead fill this fist-sized funathon with some sort of pugilistic, superhero blitzkrieg. Or, subversively, an autobiographical trip down the local abattoir in which you satirise an assortment of Findus frozen meat products.

40 blank pages, measuring 8×14 cm, which will fit into any one of your pockets. I’ve field-tested it on all of mine except for the condom pouch in my jeans, and they fit without fail. Who needs a fucking Blackberry?


Buy Pick A Unicorn Notebook and read the Page 45 review here

Cat Orgy Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

Delightfully decadent notebook measuring 8×14 cm, perfect for your pocket of choice, whose 40 crisp white pages are just begging to be filled with shopping lists.

I went into Sainsbury’s the other day and my shopping list basically boiled down to white wine and cat food. Yes, I AM that old lady and my house may well smell of wee. I really wouldn’t know, I smoke 60 JPS White a day: I have no sense of smell.

But now that I have secured, through crafty retail and product placement, a life-time’s supply of said cigarettes (albeit a life-time substantially shortened by those dark and satanic smokes), let us attend more studiously to this Item of Interest.

It is possibly Lizz Lunney’s ultimate socio-political statement. Like Art Spiegleman’s MAUS, Lunney has cannily co-opted the feline form to express more than you might expect about the life we humans live and – in this instance – our all-too-casual attitudes towards sex and our desperate determination to get a leg-over at all costs.

See those cats cavorting on the cover in their blues and their burgundies? It’s not really burgundy but more of a plum, yet that sentence was going so well; and burgundies á la undies sounded like street slang for pants Anyway, it all seems perfectly delirious, yet between the covers all is empty. And hollow. And blank.

You see what the search for casual sex does to you, dear reader? It leaves you in the most awful, bleak and brackish, post-coital come-down.

Oh, sorry, this is a notebook. As you were.


Buy Cat Orgy Notebook and read the Page 45 review here

Falling Cats Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney.

Oh, these cats, they are falling! Falling from the heavens and only you –


I have just woken up from a dream in which I arrived late for work. Unfortunately reality concurs, for it is half-past nine and I’m not even dressed.

I don’t know what it is I love most about these brilliant beasts, measuring a svelte 8×14 cm and containing 40 blank, make-your-own-flick-book pages but I for one have used this particular edition as my grand diary for 2013. 40 pages: that’s how much heavy-duty shit is going down in my life.

Oh, I can hear what you’re saying: “What if we do more than you. Where will we put it all?” “Don’t you have any graphic novels to review?” “Why are you so lonely?”

And I hate you. You know that, right?

Yet, while the cats are falling, falling as if in a trance, you have the opportunity here to make your mark, sow your seed and possibly even bare what passes for your misbegotten soul within this slim, slight and (thanks to your thoughts) potentially erudite tome. Lizz Lunney has given you this golden opportunity by leaving all the pages inside unsullied by her own deep well of stark and sullen sangfroid. There is a space!

Although there is also a rumour circulating Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction that this work was supposed to contain comics and @lizzlizz either forgot to include them or the printer fucked up, which is why Lunney is fobbing them off as blank notebooks instead.


Buy Falling Cats Notebook and read the Page 45 review here

Conan vol 13: Queen Of The Black Coast (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan.

Mesmerising. Cloonan’s infused the book with a sensual, sexual exoticism, most alluringly and arrestingly on the appearance of raven-haired Bêlit, the sub-titular Queen Of The Black Coast. With her eyes afire and tongue thrust out between ruby-red lips spitted with blood, she’s like a silent Siren with the seduction of a snake and our young, steel-willed stud of Cimmerian is completely in her thrall. The final six pages, coloured to perfection by Dave Stewart are disorientating as hell, and don’t bode well for Conan.

None of which would have worked half so well had Wood not successfully built the barbarian up first as a charismatic and capable man of action: a natural, gifted storyteller far more likely to do the charming than be charmed himself, and more than a match for a capital city’s finest elite guards. As the story opens, after a run-in with Messantia’s corrupt courts, Conan has made a swift exit by sea which is far from his natural element. This has made the captain and crew of the boat he boarded by force personae non gratae on those particular shores, but when they turn their trade elsewhere they hear word that Bêlit, infamous pirate and captain of The Tigress, is circling the waters off coast of Kush like a hungry shark. For Tito and his crew that means sailing those seas is an unacceptable risk; for Conan it’s an irresistible challenge. He’s young, impetuous and about to discover that he’s completely out of his depth.

Best-drawn Conan since Sir Barry Windsor-Smythe’s. The sharks are petrifying.


Buy Conan vol 13: Queen Of The Black Coast and read the Page 45 review here

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

There be dragons! And griffins! And a certain degree of mind-bending, literary paradox!

Timed specifically to coincide with my adventures on Skyrim, it seems, THE AVALON CHRONICLES is the fresh resurrection of the BLUE MOON high fantasy from the writers of THREE STRIKES with a brand new artist for the saga, DRAGON HEIR’s creator and VAMPIRE ACADEMY’s illustrator Emma Vieceli. That means a lot of clean lines, whooshes of fine, flowing hair and bursts of cute comedy, manga-stylee.

But The Avalon Chronicles was also a book which Aeslin’s parents used to read her at bedtime. Aeslin became obsessed with the legend of the Prince and his beautiful Dragon Knight bride until the day her mother demanded she put away childish things and broke the bad news:

“Dammit, Aeslin! We don’t live in that kind of world. There are no happy endings and we don’t ride off into the sunset on the dragon. Your father and I…”
“Mom… where’s Daddy?”

Many years later and Aeslin’s Mum is a politician on the verge of an election and Aeslin’s on the brink of a date with hilariously self-regarding school heart-throb, Michael. He’s invited her to watch him play football tonight. It’s at this point, however, that Aeslin and best friend Meg discover a new shop that’s seemingly sprung up overnight, and in it a copy of Once In A Blue Moon, the sequel to The Avalon Chronicles written by the original author’s son. It costs them everything they have, but Meg is determined to rekindle a reluctant Aeslin’s interest in the series she once loved so dearly. A single stray thought later, it works.

Now Aeslin’s truly immersed in the book. Literally! She’s been sucked into Once In A Blue Moon, only to discover that it’s all about her. She’s even met its author, playwright Will Redding there. But she’s just not cut out for its contents.

“Go home? But Aeslin, you have a grand destiny. You’re supposed to be our Dragon Knight.”
“Me? There’s got to be some mistake.”
“No mistake. I’m charged with chronicling your adventures, like my father was for the last Dragon Knight.”
“I’m not a Dragon Knight. I’m not a fighter. Why not pick Cassidy?”
“Because Cassidy’s not supposed to be the Dragon Night.”
“If you’re writing the book, then change it.”
“That’s not how destiny works. I chronicle the story. I add a certain dramatic flair, if you will. But I don’t change the facts. And the fact is, this is your story.”
“Well, if it’s my story, then I decide. And I want to go home.”

Back home, Aeslin meets up with Meg, but when they open the book again, it’s very bad news.

“Holy crap!!!”
“Is that me?”
“Wow… You don’t come off so good.” “She left Avalon in its hours of need.””
“That Will! He’s doing this on purpose. He’s trying to make me look like a selfish — “
“Will? That’s the playwright, right? So when he writes in his book, it appears in this one. That so cool!”
“Cool?! Michael could read this. He’ll think I’m shallow.”
“Really? Michael… reading? You’re kidding, right?”

Whatever will Aeslin decide to do? Will she embrace her destiny in the hope of embracing Michael? Will she accept the challenge of the Dragon Knight to save a kingdom on the brink of war? Why is Aeslin destined to be the Dragon Knight anyway? And will she pass her maths test on Monday? Lastly, what happened to Aeslin’s Dad? No, I mean what really happened to him? Reading Once In A Blue Moon may be the only way to find out. Hmm. I really didn’t use capitals there, did I? Heh.

There is so much more to this black and white beauty than I’m prepared to giving away right now – plenty of surprises for Aeslin in the book itself – and it’s going to go very well in our young teen section. Probably to adults, if past performance is anything to go by.



Buy Avalon Chronicles Book One: Once In A Blue Moon h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Preacher Book 1 new edition (£14-99, DC ) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

DC are repackaging, and this contains the whole of the original PREACHER VOL 1 and half of PREACHER VOL 2, both of which we still have at the time of typing. If what I write below grabs you then I would grab those then run through the rest before they go out of print, because waiting for a publisher to tidy it all up can be painful.


Attitude on a stick, reading this series is like listening to Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads. It’s brutal and bloody and fucking hilarious. It stars a wayward preacher whose parish has been nuked by a force from Heaven and Hell which gives him the power of God’s Word. When he uses The Word his eyes glow red, and you will do what he tells you to no matter how anatomically improbable. Now he’s off in search of God to make Him apologise for abandoning His creation, and along for the ride are his ex-alcoholic ex-hitwoman ex-girlfriend and a vampire with an uncanny resemblance to Shane MacGowan. I’m not saying Shane MacGowan necessarily drinks blood, but look at the bloody state of him!

Along the way they’ll bump into Jesse’s own family, the vituperative Herr Starr who loses at least one limb per volume, impressionable Kurt Cobain fan Arseface who tried to emulate his idol and is now left with a gaping hole in his mouth and a subsequent speech impediment, plus the last remaining bloodline of Christ who is a delinquent and drooling moron.

Deliriously funny, spectacularly violent and highly blasphemous to boot, this nonetheless boasts at its heart a strong moral core: it’s about friendship, loyalty and doing the right thing.

Exceptional character acting by artist Steve Dillon.

(Have some fun: print this out, bring it in without telling me and ask me to describe this series on the shop floor. I’ve used exactly same words ever since it first came out!)


Buy Preacher Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go…Drowntown!

Professional minder and semi-professional loser Leo Noiret finds himself figuratively and indeed literally dumped into a bigger pile of shit than his usual collection of woes entails. Hired by a shadowy femme fatale with a big reputation in the underworld to uncover her own amnesiacly challenged origins, he quickly starts to find there are more than a fair few bad guys, of all social standings, from the typical low level pond life up to some rather more affluent, well connected and indeed dryer characters, ready to sink his investigation and send him off to a stagnant watery grave. Not that there are any other kind in this flooded London, where the sea level now seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of the top of Tower Bridge and the Thames pretty much merged with the English Channel.

There are two things which set this excellent opening salvo apart from other crime books, the first of which being the speculative fiction element which provides not only the intriguing setting, which has been caused by climate change, but also the various other dubious goings-on revolving around classic future fiction staples such as genetic tampering, and the second is Jim Murray’s brilliant art. Yes, Robbie Morrison’s writing is as wittily engaging as you would expect from a 2000AD stalwart, but it is the art which elevates this out of the gutter into… errr… a higher gutter! Now I’m no clean freak, but I did find myself subconsciously reaching for the antibacterial hand gel more than a couple of times as Leo yet again finds himself right back in the proverbial, such is the overpowering sense of atmosphere, and sewage, that Jim generates! Looking forward to reading the next volume, in which Leo hopefully has the good sense to don a wetsuit before squelching out of his office door, or at least a pair of waders…


Buy Drowntown Book One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman Unchained #1 (£3-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee, Scott Williams, various…

Easy to see why DC have let Scott Snyder loose on Big Blue as his extremely popular, and more importantly excellent, run on BATMAN continues unabated. Whether he can replicate that success on what is a rather more… one-dimensional character (and indeed supporting characters – I really am tired of seeing Lois Lane written as highly strung and career-obsessed, Perry as the gruff editor with a heart of gold, and not forgetting comedy relief and donut delivery boy Jimmy Olsen) remains to be seen, but we’re off to a good start here, even if Lois is full-on multi-tasking mode, Perry yelling at all and sundry to meet deadlines and Jimmy off on a donut run…

Okay, secondary characters aside, I did really enjoy this. It’s an interesting enough set-up with multiple satellites falling from the sky, possibly at the behest of Lex Luthor, currently en route to a super-max prison facility, though he does find time to make a brief show-stealing cameo, showing he has nerves of steel, if not the skin to match. And of course, only Superman can catch them all and save the day, except it seems one additional satellite was stopped from falling… But if Superman didn’t do it, nor following his initial investigations any member of the Justice League or other heroes, then who did? Our glimpsed answer, privy only to us fourth-wall breakers (if not Source Wall – sorry crap DC in-joke), shows that Snyder has already got a potential belter of story arc up his sleeve. Promising…

What of the art then? Well, I must say, since Jim Lee’s relatively recent return to DC and subsequent current run on JUSTICE LEAGUE, written by Geoff Johns, I have been reminded just how good his art can be, when he’s actually illustrating something I’m bothered about reading, like ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, which always helps. Also, this issue features a crazy fold-out page right inside the front cover which gets things off with a bang. It doesn’t entirely work in that once you’ve folded it out, you realise it’s a double page spread on reverse sides of the huge page. I have to admit I did grab a second copy just so I could see what it looked like together in all its glory and who knows, maybe that’s what DC are intending, for everyone to buy two copies, precisely for that reason. Can’t quite imagine how on earth it’s going to work in the trade either, but anyway, it’s a nice touch.

Variant freaks, please note, we do some of the variant covers for this issue available on the shelves at time of typing.


Buy Superman Unchained #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stormwatch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC ) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Jim Lee.

Washington DC, America:

“What the hell is this?”
“Two of yours, Mr. President. These are the explosives experts who murdered one of my officers last night. You either have no knowledge of this, or you will pretend you don’t. It doesn’t matter. You, or one of your creatures, have decided for no good reason to commit an act of war against Stormwatch, and therefore the United Nations. There will be a reprisal. And then we shall see where we stand. Do not test us. We have received your message that we are not wanted or safe in your country. Stand ready for ours.”

This is it: this is where the real Warren Ellis voice finally emerged from its corporate restraints on a title far enough off the radar for anyone to be bothered to bleach it. He inherited a numbskull, run-down Image superhero title and turned it into a literate, Yukio Mishima-referencing, fast-paced, geopolitical, science-fiction action thriller starring a madman called Henry Bendix, the Weatherman, who ran the satellite-based Stormwatch from its platform’s Watch Hall with clipped, military precision.

Like THE AUTHORITY this title grew into, Henry Bendix wanted to change the world whether it liked it or not. And like THE AUTHORITY he quickly discovered that the United States government was amongst the first to stand up and oppose him. Unlike THE AUTHORITY, his methods grew increasingly utterly ruthless. But Stormwatch should have guessed the second he foisted upon its metahuman officers a certain Rose Tattoo, a weapons expert who could drive a man irretrievably mad just by having sex with him.

What astonished me when rereading this 11-issue repackaging of the first two softcovers, is how swiftly Ellis nailed his ambition. I count one page of slightly awkward exposition and that’s it. Like Bendix himself, Ellis swiftly reconfigured the existing Stormwatch to his own tastes and ends, ruthlessly rejecting several of its extant officers, repositioning others and bringing in his own new recruits (Rose Tattoo, the lemon-sharp Jenny Sparks and city-centric Jack Hawksmoor who could commune with his urban environment:

“In situations like these, Jack always checks the windows first. In cities, windows hold images for longer than you’d think.”

It was ridiculously full of new ideas and relevant, news-headline issues, setting the strategically split three teams against Japanese Death Cults, America’s paranoid, racist and deluded militias (claiming to protect its indigenous citizens from the Federal Government by bombing them both into oblivion), and rogue states like the fictional Gamorra funding terrorists to bring down planes over Britain. We are, of course, talking Lockerbie and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi dressed like the legendary Fu Manchu. Throughout the book it’s all-out mutagenic warfare, while Bendix cleverly, covertly, moves his pieces into place while covering his tracks in the process.

There’s one particularly clever issue in which the ageless, no-nonsense Jenny Sparks, the spirit of the 20th Century (“I won’t wear one of those damnfool spandex body-condom things. I don’t have the bust for it.”) finally reveals her 96-year-old history. And hats off to Tom Raney for each decade is drawn in its relevant, predominant comicbook style, successfully mimicking the 1920s’ scientific romance of Flash Gordon, the 1930s’ invention of Superman, Will Eisner’s THE SPIRIT in the 1940s, Kirby, Crumb and then finally Dave Gibbons’ WATCHMEN. Parenthetically, I should just add that there’s a nice (precise) juxtaposition at the end of that sequence of black Battalion’s optimism for the future and the harsh, racist reality he encounters the very next issue. These are not accidents.

But really, let’s get back to the main man Bendix and the madness in his methods. He’s speaking second.

“Torture me, drug me, beat me… won’t do any good. You’re not getting a thing out of me.”
Torture you? Dear God, you are living in the Dark Ages. No, all we’re going to do is strip your scalp, drill a hole in your skull and push scanning needles into your living brain. We’ll extract the necessary information from your brain quite painlessly.”
“Unless we forget the anaesthetic. Hi, I’m the surgeon, and I’m drunk.”

Elsewhere, Jenny Sparks:

“Don’t ever touch my beer again.”


Buy Stormwatch vol 1 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.


Saga vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

The Suitcase h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate Books) by Dan Berry

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane h/c (£16-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman

A Matter Of Life h/c (£10-90, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown

Sweet Tooth vol 6: Wild Game (£12-99, DC ) by Jeff Lemire

Burning Building Comix h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Jeff Zwirek

Crater XV h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by  Kevin Cannon

Witch Doctor vol 2: Mal Practice s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner

Mind The Gap vol 2: Wish You Were Here s/c (£10-99, Image) by Jim McCann & Rodin Esquejo

Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens vol 1 (£14-99, Boom Entertainment) by Meredith Gran

Avalon Chronicles vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Nunzio DeFillipis & Emma Vieceli

7 String vol 1 new, larger format (£10-99, Zetabella ) by Nich Angell

Teen Titans vol 2: The Culling s/c (£12-99, DC ) by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza & Brett Booth

All New X-Men vol 2: Here To Stay s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel ) by Brian Michael Bendis & David, Marquez, Stuart Immonen

Avengers vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Marvel ) by Brian Michael Bendis & Walter Simonson, Mike Deodato

The Incredible Hulk vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Marvel ) by Jason Aaron & various

Invincible Iron Man vol 11: The Future s/c (£14-99, Marvel ) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca

Deadpool vol 10: Evil Deadpool s/c (£12-99, Marvel ) by Daniel Way & Salva Espin, John McCrea

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Marvels s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross

One Piece vol 67 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Blue Exorcist vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Bleach vol 57 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Sleeping Moon vol 1 (£8-99, BL Sublime) by Kano Miyamoto

Puella Magi Madoka Magica vol 2 (£8-99, Yen) by Magica Quartet & Hanokage

Puella Magi Madoka Magica vol 3 (£8-99, Yen) by Magica Quartet & Hanokage

Attack On Titan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama


ITEM! Stunning original art by Christoper Mitten inside an Antony Johnston WASTELAND book.

ITEM! Nominees for the British Fantasy Awards includes Sean Phillips. See also graphic novel category!

ITEM! There are no staff photos this week. I cannot even believe I published last week’s in which I was basically a screaming skull.

 – Stephen

Reviews June 2013 week two

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Yippee! Page 45 announces Window Competition Winners and artists permanently featured in our window!

  – Stephen in all the news and previews at the bottom of blog. Warning: there are also a photo down below of the goon at Alton Towers, screaming like a big boy’s blouse.

The Shadow Out of Time: A Graphic Novel (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard…

“Oh dear God, no!”
“NO, NO, NO! Remember, for God’s sake, remember.”

Yes, yes, yes! Another gloriously sanity-shaking adaptation from Mr. Culbard to tip us even further into a state of irreparable discombobulation. I really do marvel at his ability to produce such cogent works from such… steeped… source material. The original novella is probably one of my favourite Lovecraft works, simply because so much is revealed of the various Elder races and the prehistory of Earth before humanity became the dominant lifeform. It isn’t that straightforward a read, though, and I think Ian has done an exceptional job portraying what is revealed to the main protagonist, Professor Nathaniel Peaslee of Miskatonic University, as his mind is snatched from his body and replaced by that of another.

There is some speculation amongst Lovecraft biographers that certain elements of this character are auto-biographical or perhaps inspired by Lovecraft’s father, or that the idea for this story came from repeatedly watching a 1933 science fiction film called Berkley Square. In any case, what he wrote is one of the most chilling pieces of speculative horror fiction I have ever read. One of Lovecraft’s great talents lay in his unparalleled ability to make the reader feel truly insignificant, a veritable speck in a total alien and unfathomable universe, which in turn induces a genuine sense of trepidation in the reader. It’s horrific because of its very subtlety to infiltrate your mind, engendering a sense of unease.

Ian has captured that perfectly here as poor old Peaslee is well and truly put through the wringer both physically and mentally. The PLINK sound effect above, for example, is the sound of a torch going out leaving the poor chap very old in the dark, in somewhere he really, really doesn’t want to linger. Then, the sequences during which we learn precisely where Peaslee’s mind was during the period his body was occupied by… the other… are truly stygian in their alienness. It’s a quite literally mind-blowing reveal and you really get the grandiose sense of scale involved from the artwork, which is a real feat. I keep thinking Ian can’t raise the bar even further with Lovecraft material, but he keeps on managing it.

I am therefore delighted to report Ian has already agreed to do at least one more Lovecraft adapation for Self Made Hero, though I was unable to prise from him precisely which work it will be. I am planning on bodysnatching him, though, with a mind-swap device I keep in my laboratory on the fourth floor of the shop, so rest assured, dear readers, I will let you know more soon enough <fiendish cackles repeated with mild reverb tapering off in a most disturbing fashion>…


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

New revised edition including an extended chapter on fracking, which for those not familiar with the term is slang for a relatively new gas and oil extraction technique, which has revitalised the fossil fuel industry in recent years. It’s clear this is a topic Darryl is especially passionate about exploring as he goes into great detail eloquently explaining the technique for the lay person, weighing up the technical pros and cons, before getting into his real concerns on the matter. The fact that, despite the genuine possibilities of us now being able to extract vast natural resources which were previously unviable in financial terms, there are some very serious safety concerns, with the potential for causing huge irreparable damage to the heath of a huge section of the population. That these concerns are being blithely swept under the carpet and ignored, indeed actively suppressed.

And precisely who is doing this, both in the UK and US, which are of course leading the way in fracking? Well, the titans of the gas and oil industry whose very deep pockets have, through campaign donations, other lobbying mechanisms and general old-school-tie chumminess, managed to ensure their chosen politicians of every stripe are steering the debate and more importantly legislation, in their desired direction.

For example, did you know that Lord Howell, an energy adviser at the Foreign Office is also president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which is sponsored by Shell and BP? He’s also George Osborne’s father-in-law, a man who in 2012 cut wind energy subsidies by 10% whilst giving a 500 million pound a year tax break to offshore drilling. Perhaps more shocking is the case of Lord John Browne, 30% owner of the UK fracking company Cuadrilla, who is an unelected member of the Cabinet Office, with powers to appoint non-executive directors to government departments, including the Treasury and the Departments of Energy and Climate Change plus the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as he sees fit. Conflict of interest, or just business as usual, you decide.

It’s an exposé which, whilst not remotely surprising to me, does sicken me even further that despite the appearance of us living in a democracy where we have control over the executive who make decisions on our behalf, supposedly for our benefit, it is a sham that ensures the same old snouts stay in the trough and damn the consequences. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there are any political alternatives available to us under the current voting system which would make a difference, because there are not. The mainstream political parties are all in bed with big business to a degree which is beyond disturbing, but until we start seriously dealing with the culture of corruption that pervades Westminster, that will never change.

So, are we all going to have to deal with the possible consequences to our health and the environment that Darryl outlines, which the fat cats keep lining their pockets? Probably, but as Darryl points out, the truth does eventually out, as the tobacco industry, another group that was extremely adept at manipulating the political landscape, eventually found out to their cost. Hopefully it’ll be somewhat quicker this time. And on a personal note, equally hopefully, Nuclear Fusion projects like the ITER test reactor, scheduled to be complete sometime around 2020, which will produce around 500 megawatts of output power for 50 megawatts of input power, i.e. ten times the amount of energy, will finally ensure the true clean energy boom begins in earnest, and fossil fuels can at last be consigned to history. Here’s hoping.

What follows below is my review of the previous edition without the fracking chapter.

This time around we find Darryl in full-on debunking mode, as he takes on the scientific lies, hoaxes and scams that annoy him the most, those being: electroconvulsive therapy, homeopathy, the moon landing, climate change, evolution, chiropractic, the MMR jab debacle and the general denial of irrefutable scientific evidence. I personally would have included shampoo adverts with their pseudo-science, made up chemical names and definitive surveys based on massive sample groups of errr…100 people, but that’s my own personal bugbear!

It’s well researched by Darryl as in each case he goes to great length to not only show how preposterous the various claims are, but also how just unreliable the particular people making those assertions are themselves, and in the case of climate change the infinitely more sinister aspect of just who it is that’s funding the idiots. But this is no diatribe, instead it’s a meticulous picking apart of the ridiculous web of half-baked facts and fiction that’s often woven around one or two grains of truth, usually completely taken and distorted totally out of context, to prove his case. Anyone who enjoyed Darryl’s previous work, PSYCHIATRIC TALES, which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, will definitely enjoy this. Darryl also employs the same understated clinical yet also slightly comical art style this time around, once again inserting himself as a talking head from time to time for additional narrational emphasis.


Buy Science Tales h/c (Revised Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

John K Presents Spumco Comic Book h/c (£25-99, IDW) by John Kricfalusi and friends.

“Ah… the Lord loves an idiot.”

The return of the creator of Ren And Stimpy, this reprints the two outrageous, oversized issues much beloved by Mark and originally published by Marvel (good grief!) and Dark Horse some twenty years ago. The latter makes a lot more sense: Dark Horse published Dave Cooper, after all (COMPLETELY PIP & NORTON). There’s extra material in the back which, at an educated guess, probably began life as a third, subsequently aborted edition.

To be clear: this may look as if it’s for kids but it’s almost as foul as PETEY & PUSSY for although the salacious shenanigans are really no saucier than a seaside postcard, there is a great love of turd on display. There, I have said it – or at least I have typed it. I’ve dropped the big one, and so will a dog before having it forced back up his bum, and then so will Jimmy who adopts it as his baby. Actually, now that I’ve typed all that, I’m not sure that it is unsuitable for kids, but on your parental heads be it.

It’s eye-watering, scatalogical slapstick featuring stoopid people, and so evidently the work of an animator: you can almost hear the sound effects as eyes pop out of heads or characters explode into their component colours leaving an empty outline in their wake.

Mark would have written a far more informed review peppered with behind-the-scenes secrets but, on the whole, I think I’ve at least accurately indicated what you’re in for: action-packed bufffonery; Tom & Jerry with turds.


Buy John K Presents Spumco Comic Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

The finest modern version of The Trojan War I’ve come across in any medium, AGE OF BRONZE truly is a labour of love. The detail, both visual and narrative, is meticulous without ever sacrificing clarity or vitality. Indeed his panel composition couldn’t be easier on the eye, and his pen line, increasingly beautiful, is a successful mix of Perez/Jimenez for backgrounds and P. Craig Russell on the figures and faces.

That the third book had me engrossed all Sunday morning when it consists overwhelmingly of negotiations, recriminations, lamentations and strategic planning (this is the third of seven volumes; war may be imminent but has yet to break out) is a testament to Shanower’ s narrative judgement, his skill with words and the seductive beauty of the finished page. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the source material is crammed full of intrigue – seduction, rejection, superstition, betrayal – and revolves around the three most potent human emotions: love, anger and grief.

The interconnected threads are numerous, but the central story spins out of the actions of Paris, brother of Hektor and son of King Priam of Troy. Whilst a guest of one of the Achaean kings, Menelaus of Lakedaemon, he stole Menelaus’ wife, son and household treasure and returned with them to Troy. That wife was Helen, genuinely in love with Paris, yet still concerned for the wellbeing of her husband whom she knows to be a good man. In retaliation for Menelaus’ loss, an army of Achaean soldiers and royalty, led by High King Agamemnon – and including Odysseus, Palamedes and Achilles – has assembled and, after numerous set-backs, is finally poised on the nearby island of Tenedos to sail across the Aegean Sea. But with prophecy on both sides predicting so much loss and suffering from this seemingly inevitable conflict, the Achaeans embark upon a last-ditch attempt at obtaining restitution peacefully, while King Priam merely plays for time as his own allies assemble…

Shanower’s considerable skill with rhetoric does his source material and its characters full justice. That final confrontation by the Achaean embassy of King Priam on his throne, flanked by his sons, is electric. Any chance of reconciliation is scuppered by a goading Paris, gloating in Menelaus’ face and pushing his buttons to breaking point by dragging down Helen, his children and Menelaus’ own son who’s frightened by the father he no longer recognises.

The art of oratory is far from dead. Next: the art of war.


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 3A: Betrayal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you, Tommy invited us for dinner to meet an old bore.”
“An old bore? Who would… Waitaminnit – did he say an old bore, or meet the old Bohr?*”
“What difference does it make?”
“Well the spelling is different for one thing!”

Ah, whilst Stephen Hawking might arguably lay claim to be the most famous scientist of the second half of the 20th century, and despite the vocoding one busting many a phat rhyme expounding about being down with entropy and dissing the creationists in his hip-hop guise of MC Hawking, the coolest scientist of them all in my eyes at least was Richard Feynman. Most of you will probably never have heard of him, yet he was a key member of the Manhattan project during WW2 helping the US military invent the atomic bomb, and then developed a whole new branch of science called QED, Quantum Electrodynamics. Why is QED important? Well, as Feynman himself was fond of pointing out, with QED you can explain absolutely everything we ordinarily experience on a day to day basis, except gravity and radioactivity, so it’s pretty important.

I suppose Feynman first came to my attention as a kid in the aftermath of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Such was the high regard he was held in within political, military and obviously scientific circles that he was asked to be on the select committee investigating the cause of the disaster. When it became apparent that the usual spin was going to be applied to play down the causes of the disaster he threatened to release his own report, unless his conclusions were included in the official report verbatim. The powers that be reluctantly agreed, including them in their entirety, but as a separate appendix. It was widely observed that most people merely skipped the rest of the report and read Feynman’s unvarnished, and accurate, conclusions.

What I marvelled at most about Feynman, was here was someone who absolutely defied the common perception of the archetypal drab boring scientist. He played bongos, he cracked safes for a hobby, he worked on research papers whilst drinking soda every night in his favourite strip club… which his wife was actually happy to let him do. When he fancied a new challenge, he’d just up and find himself one, learning to play weird instruments, but not just being satisfied to master the basics, he’d have to become good enough to play in a band at the Rio Carnival for example! He taught himself to draw to an incredibly high standard too, and even had a crack at learning Chinese, though he did admit to finding that pretty tough.

When he won his Nobel Prize for physics, it’s pretty revealing that when anyone asked him about it and all the attendant hoopla and ceremony, his anecdote was always the snappy one-liner delivered to him by a New York cabbie, which he freely admitted he wished he’d thought of himself. The cabbie told him that when he saw Feynman being interviewed on television by reporters and asked to explain exactly why he’d won the prize, he didn’t understand a single word that Feynman had said, and that if he’d been in Feynman’s position he’d simply have stated to the assembled journalists, “If I could explain it in three minutes, it wouldn’t be worth the Nobel Prize!”

It’s a testament to the creators of this work that they manage to capture all these myriad, fascinating facets of Feynman’s life, not just his immense contributions to science, but the vigour with which he approached every single thing he did, including his romantic and professional relationships. This is an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed LOGICOMIX, in fact I would go so far as to say this is actually a superior work, which is high praise indeed given how highly I rate that particular book. And indeed this is also easily my favourite biographical work of this year too hands down. So whilst Hawking might manage to pull his nurse, and get the guest appearances on Star Trek playing poker with Picard, Feynman for me will always be the dude.

* refers, of course, to Niels Bohr, Danish Nobel prize winning physicist and another Manhattan Project member.


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

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

Awww, I’m sad to say goodbye to another excellent Viz Signature Imprint series that’s charmed and beguiled me with its gentle character interplay and human stories. Will Mitsu make it down to Earth from the Ring, the orbiting space station that’s been humanity home since the Earth was abandoned to allow it to recover? I wouldn’t honestly have expected anything other than a happy ending to this series that has delighted me throughout, but it’s a close run thing as the tension builds up during the run up to the launch. If you are yet to give this series a try but have enjoyed manga like 20TH CENTURY BOYS, CROSS GAME and CHILDREN OF THE SEA, then give it a go, it could be for you.


Buy Saturn Apartments vol 7 and read the Page 45 review here

Kick-Ass vol 3 #1 (£2-25, Icn/Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

“This is me brooding at the graves of my beloved parents. My Mom only dies of a cerebral haemorrhage, but my dad genuinely was murdered by a costumed super-villain.

“I can’t believe I toyed with giving all this up. Standing here and staring at their graves I realise that it’s my destiny to wear the mask on Mondays, Thursdays and every other Sunday.”

“It’s also so much cooler when you’re brooding in a big, black coat. I tired this in my jeans last week, but it all just looked so inappropriately casual.”

With fuck-all power comes enormous irresponsibility, and Dave is back in the saddle, suiting up to take on the seedy underworld once more, even if he can’t quite pluck up the courage to bust Hit Girl out of clink. Those penitentiary walls look really tall!

Not everyone’s as conscientious, though. There’s always one freeloading dick-head, and the self-styled Juicer has moved himself in to Hit Girl’s secret HQ, strewn his dirty laundry all over the floor and spends the entire day playing computer games while raiding petty cash to buy Marvel superhero DVDs.

John Romita Jr captures his goggle-eyes to perfection and, if you look closely, you’ll see how the characters have aged over the series, the kids’ faces having elongated. Also: spot the sly reversal in the tribute to a classic AMAZING SPIDER-MAN cover!

This is the final outing in the series – Mark Millar has laid down some pretty heavy hints as to why – but you can catch up any time you like with the books and our reviews of the KICK-ASS VOL 1, KICK-ASS VOL 2 and HIT-GIRL collections.


Buy Kick-Ass vol 3 #1  and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 18: What Comes After (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“Can I say something? I don’t quite understand the hostility in that look. No fucking sir.
“I’m a special kind of person. I don’t fucking rattle.
“You even made me drop Lucille. You have any fucking clue how much she hates being on the ground? She’s like an American flag that way. You just don’t let it happen… it’s disrespectful.
“Still… here I am, friendly as a fuckless fuck on free fuck day.”

In which everyone’s least favourite pinch-hitter Negan continues his reign of terror, enforced only by his sheer force of will, and of course dear old Lucille, his barbed-wire-decorated baseball bat. Scarcely have I ever wanted a fictional villain to get it so, so badly!! The last time was probably The Governor actually, which all goes to show Kirkman’s horror epic doesn’t show any signs of running out of steam any time soon. What next? A man with a tiger for a pet? Enter King Ezekiel… a man who really has got a tiger for a pet… and who might just be Rick’s best chance at taking out Negan. Somehow though, I can’t quite imagine it’s going to be as simple and straightforward as that. Also, I wish I could get rock and roll god Little Richard screaming Lucille out of my head every time she gets mentioned. I really have no idea what that is all about…


Buy Walking Dead vol 18: What Comes After and read the Page 45 review here

The Crow: Skinning The Wolves s/c (£13-50, IDW) by James O’Barr & Jim Terry.

Twenty years ago James O’Barr’s THE CROW, powerful, poignant and packed full of post-punk references, cast its doom-laden pall over the collective comicbook psyche and, to this day, I am still recommending the removal of all razor blades from any household before reading it. There’s a new edition out, and you’ll find it reviewed on our website with interior art.

This… is not that.

Sporadic references to Wagner’s Ring Cycle aside, it is light on script and bereft of anything resembling a reason for existence. It could easily be Wolverine dishing out death in this WWII concentration camp. And if that’s your thang, then I highly recommend the infinitely superior single issue dedicated to the late, great Will Eisner which you’ll find in the back of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE.

This is mere melodrama, written and illustrated without subtlety, in which a concentration camp is cleansed of Nazis by a vengeful chess player resurrected from his mass grave after… well, you’ll see. Or you won’t.


Buy The Crow: Skinning The Wolves 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.


Romantic Bison (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Romantic Bison 2 (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Pick A Unicorn Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Cat Orgy Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Falling Cats Notebook (£2-00, self-published) by Lizz Lunney

Wood: Machine Sabbath h/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ashley Wood

Star Wars Omnibus Wild Space s/c vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike W. Barr & Adolfo Buylla

Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time vol 1 (£13-50, IDW) by Scott Tipton, David Tipton & various

Preacher Book 1 (£14-99, DC ) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry

Wake Up Percy Gloom h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Cathy Malkasian

The North End Of The World h/c (£37-99, Other A-Z) by Dave Hunsaker  & Christopher Shy

Ferals vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar Press Inc) by David Lapham & Gabriel Andrade

Manara Library vol 5 h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Milo Manara

The End h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Anders Nilsen

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting s/c (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Catwoman vol 2: No Easy Way Down s/c (£18-99, DC ) by Ed Brubaker & Cameron Stewart

Stormwatch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC ) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Jim Lee

Captain America vol 1: Castaway Dimension Z Book 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel ) by Rick Remender & John Romita

Deadpool Killustrated s/c (£10-99, Marvel ) by Cullen Bunn & Matteo Lolli, Mike Del Mundo

Avengers vol 1: Avengers World s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel ) by Jonathan Hickman & Jerome Opena, Adam Kubert

07 Ghost vol 4 (£7-50, Viz) by Yuki Amemiya

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 7-9 (£14-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 9 (£8-50, Random House) by Tohru Fujisawa

Knights Of Sidonia vol 3 (£9-99, Random House) by Tsutomu Nihei

Loveless vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya vol 2 (£8-50, Yen) by Nagaru Tanigawa & Gaku Tsugano

The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya vol 3 (£8-50, Yen) by Nagaru Tanigawa & Gaku Tsugano

Fairy Tail vol 25 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 26 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Stormwatch vol 2 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Bryan Hitch

Thor God Of Thunder vol 1: God Butcher s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Easd Ribic


ITEM! Emma Vieceli (see AVALON CHRONICLES reviewed above) is on Make It Then Tell Everybody. It’s a very funny podcast including a game of old-job one-upmanship:

“We should have stopped at bum wipes.”

ITEM! It’s not just the tune someone’s murdered. Cover to FATALE #19 and so much more at Sean Phillips’ website.

ITEM! For those bored with photo-realistic testosterone carnage, I present this beautiful 2012 Trial gameplay to the The Unfinished Swan. Please, please wait until the ink-splodge, black and white gameplay kicks in and please, please wait until you make it outdoors. After that you may want to switch off, buy the game and just play it through yourself. Comes with the highest recommendation from comicbook creators Kate Brown, Emma Vieceli and Duncan Fegredo.

ITEM! Page 45 announces Window Competition Winners and artists permanently featured in our window! Took me a while, sorry!

ITEM! Preview of Gerard Way & Becky Cloonan’s THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #1, out today!

ITEM! From the publisher of PORCELAIN, a preview of Improper Books’ KNIGHT & DRAGON (Feel free to pre-order!).

ITEM! Preview of Andy Diggle’s THE UNCANNY #1.

ITEM! Caught on camera! Me at Alton Towers, screaming like a big boy’s blouse.

The thing about Oblivion is that it seems so scenic at first. You gently trundle to the top of the ride, several hundred feet above the park and oh, how pretty the tops of the trees look in their fresh Spring livery!

THEN THEY UP-END YOU BY 90 DEGRESS SO YOU ARE STARING DOWN INTO THE OBSIDIAN ABYSS AND THEY KEEP YOU HANGING THERE FOR A FULL FIVE SECONDS so you have time to contemplate precisely how foolish you’ve been embarking on the ride in the first place then…. AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!

– Stephen

Reviews June 2013 week one

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

And children being children, it never occurs to them that the very idea they could fill those gaps themselves, with their own creations, ought to be a) totally impossible and b) a very, very bad idea. 

 – Jonathan on Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf 

Sunny (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto –

The Sunny of the title is a car, an old yellow Datsun Sunny which sits outside the orphanage. It doesn’t run anymore but it still has an important role: it’s the only place where no adults are allowed. The people who take care of the children are very nice but everyone needs their own space; to play or imagine or smoke or just hang out.  So when they want to do that the kids go to the Sunny and “drive” it to wherever they want to go (the desert, the moon, their old houses) or sometimes just sit and chat and argue about the who fancies who and what they are going to be when they grow up. 

From such a simple concept comes an utterly beautiful, luminous book about childhood, love, abandonment and yearning. There are tinges of otherness around the edges of this story, reminiscent of his earlier book TEKKON KINKREET, however for the most part these seem like fairly regular kids dealing with their slightly irregular situation. Because what I didn’t realise until I read this book (and then took to the internet for further explanation) is that many Japanese orphans have at least one living parent or guardian who has, for whatever reason, chosen to leave them in the care of the state. So most of the kids here are in limbo: they can’t legally be adopted, their parents still have ultimate control over their lives but they know in all likelihood that no-one will ever come to take them back home. Some parents visit their kids; bring them presents or take them for days out. Others live nearby meaning that their children can pop round to see them but ultimately go back to the orphanage in the evening to eat and sleep. No wonder then that the Sunny is a sacred space where kids rule and adults have no say. 

The cast of children and young adults are skilfully written, each character developed with care as we get to know them through glimpses of their lives. Some moments are utterly heartbreaking; we see the kids wrestle with questions, perfectly reasonable questions given the circumstances, and we worry that their young minds might settle on answers that will set the on the “wrong” path. On the other hand we watch them troop on together, looking after each other, accepting each other, playing, laughing and building bonds which transcend the rejection the adult world has presented them with. They have their own universe with their own rules; they are smart beyond their years. 

The art is absolutely gorgeous. Matsumoto has added an inky wash shading to his black and white art which gives warmth and depth to the detail. The painted colour sections are lovely, as are the opaque covers, front and back, and the chapter breaks. The book is a beautiful thing to hold in your hand. Sometimes scratchy and intense, sometimes sweeping and clean, Matsumoto seems to know just how much ink to put on the page to get the feeling of the scene across. Each child is unique, each set of eyes holds something back or lets something out at a key moment. My favourite book of the year so far, I can’t wait for the next volume. 


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

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

“This is a very peculiar world!” He looked up at the clouds.
“Why are there so many gaps and spaces in it?” he yelled. The Gods took no notice.
“It needs more things in it!” he said. Still no notice.
Little Ben sighed. “Have you ever looked into an empty space?” he asked his friends.
“Of course we have,” they said.
“Sometimes,” Little Ben continued, “when you look into an empty space, you can kind of see something in it.
“Something in an empty space?” said Harry.
“Yes,” said Ben. “You can sort of see what’s missing from it.”
“Like what?” asked Harry.
“Like… a mouse.”
“A mouse?” said Harry. “What on earth is a mouse?”
“I don’t quite know,” said Ben. He wrinkled his nose and scratched his head. “It’s a mousey kind of thing, I suppose.”

Harry, Sue and little Ben live in a blissful world, full of amazing vistas and wonderful animals, created by the Gods above. Gods who, having produced such beautiful creations, understandably felt a bit hungry. So, they decided they ought to have some cake, but then, feeling rather full and weary they thought they should probably have a little nap too. After a few days of such relaxing, and much self-congratulation about having created a near-paradise, they duly forgot all about the fact that it wasn’t quite finished… In fact, there were rather a few empty spaces to be found once you started to look around for them – as inquisitive children are prone to doing. And children being children, it never occurs to them that the very idea they could fill those gaps themselves, with their own creations, ought to be a) totally impossible and b) a very, very bad idea. Obviously, point a) turns out to be surprisingly easy, while point b)… well, let’s just say that the title of the book gives a very good indication of the escalating dangers the children are about to put themselves through… 

This is a most engaging and very enchanting modern fairytale of the dangers of biting off more than you can chew, and indeed the dangers of creating something that can bite off far more of you than you would ever want chewed. I enjoyed David’s story immensely, with his lazy, glib Gods and boisterous, unabashed kids, but as with their previous collaborations THE SAVAGE and SLOG’S DAD, it is Dave’s art which brings the witty narrative into vivid, lustrous, breath-taking life. There is a great pull quote from Neil Gaiman on the back cover which sums Dave and the art in this work very nicely indeed, “I don’t think there is anything Dave McKean cannot do as artist.”

So, I decided to put this work the ultimate test and read it to my two-year-old nutjob at bedtime. Being the demanding jumping bean she is, she has a high quality threshold for nocturnal recitals, and indeed I have had a couple of books forcibly closed on my fingers as not suitably entertaining enough. This, though, was a resounding success, as I suspected it might be, given the high animal content which is always a winner with my daughter à la CHU’S DAY and I WANT MY HAT BACK. Indeed, a rare immediate encore was requested, duly granted, though a second curtain call had to be refused on the grounds that Daddy needed to finally put a certain someone to bed. Tears ensued, but were quickly stemmed on the promise of future performances. I think we can state therefore this was an undoubted hit given how much I liked it too! 


Buy Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wake #1 of 10 (£2-25, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy.

“No… It can’t… We’re so close…”

Sub-aquatic, ice-cold horror from the writer of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, SEVERED, BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR, and the current run on BATMAN (BATMAN: COURT OF OWLS etc) and the glorious, gawp-worthy artist of PUNK ROCK JESUS, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS.

In twenty years time: a wetsuited woman glides over the narrow waterways between skyscrapers, one of which is leaning precariously. A dolphin harnessed with scientific survey equipment surfaces from the water lapping gently against a brownstone’s roof. And then… another tidal wave.

Now: marine biologist Lee Archer, sacked from NOAA and on the Department of Homeland Security’s shit list, is contacted by Agent Cruz and coerced into flying to Alaska’s South Slope to analyze an eerie, underwater call. Base camp is thousands of feet below sea level:

“Jesus, what is that?”
“It’s called a Ghost Rig. It’s a prototype. Yes, it’s a secret. No, it’s not legal. But, it has the potential to extract nearly two hundred barrels a day, so there it is.”

There Lee discovers she is not alone: Dr. Marin, professor of folklore and mythology has been summoned to study an artefact; the enigmatic Meeks to study tissue samples. And where do you think these sounds and tissue samples are coming from? Oh dear, that’s never a good idea…

It’s classic Doctor Who, actually: illegal, environmentally disastrous strip-mining of natural resources invading the territory of an ancient and previously undiscovered species. Exacerbate situation by [redacted] and then belatedly bring in the experts before all hell breaks loose in a half-lit, confined environment.

Exceptional opening sequence.


Buy The Wake #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Happiness Is Freedom, and Freedom Is Courage”
– Pericles, Funeral Oration

For centuries the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled the lords of Japan’s feudal domains with an iron fist, dispatching samurai to subdue and control the population through intimidation and ruthless brutality. This they performed with relish, taking the opportunity to increase their own hegemony in the process. In 1655, however, the Ogami clan vanished completely; in 1681 so did the Yagyu clan. This, then, is a possible explanation for these events, a classic Japanese tale of loyalty, power, corruption, betrayal and revenge. 

Unlike more romanticised fantasies, the samurai here – other than Lonewolf himself – are exposed as nothing more laudable than the highly skilled bullies and puppets they were. Nor is there a great deal of honour to be found amongst them (Lonewolf notes more common courtesy amongst the Yakuza he meets than amongst samurai), and when it’s invoked it tends to mask mere pride or self-interest at its heart. On one occasion early on a promise of immunity is granted only to be shamefully ignored, as is the honourable option of a one-on-one duel in favour of a mounted ambush, the supposedly brave and mighty warriors seeking safety in numbers and trickery.

As you might suppose from his name, Lonewolf no longer considers that Happiness Is Belonging*, having fallen victim to the power struggles at the top of this corrupt and treacherous hierarchy (the story is partially revealed at the end of the first volume). Instead he finds the courage and determination to face the world alone, relying on his own skill and intuition, trusting no one and nothing other than his own judgement and conscience.  Travelling with his infant son, he offers his services as an assassin, only to discover, as often as not, that those same agents who hire him seek his destruction. The work is filled with Lonewolf’s iconoclastic pronouncements and selfless actions, standing up to authority, deflating humbug and exposing hypocrisy, dishonour and deceit. If it wasn’t such dodgey territory I’d assert that, just like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (a satire of society where form and manners take priority of genuine goodwill), there’s something of the New Testament about all this.

So what of the form itself? Each chapter is self-contained and, unlike the dog’s dinner of a film (Shogun Assassin, now available in its original, more coherent trilogy), there is more than enough room for the quiet, even tender moments here. This is where Koike and Kojima’s storytelling skills come to the fore, in the pacing and evocation of mood through landscape, whilst Kojima’s sense of movement is both acute and intelligently communicated. The tranquillity of a forest walk with gently falling leaves, for example, may suddenly explode into a fluid frenzy of speedlines and blurred limbs as an attack is instigated and parried; you’ll find yourselves turning over a whole succession of pages without necessarily having seen anything – just the impression of movement – perfect for conveying the preternatural reflexes of the matchless Ronin. And then, as I said, there’s the delicate handling of atmosphere where solitude is emphasised, subtly, by the use of single trees or potted plants, the retreat in ‘Waiting For The Rains’ being a prime example, and internal thoughts are given expression by a change in the weather.

This is a new 3-in-one edition in a taller, broader format.

* A notion being taught to this day in self-styled ‘Bushido’ cults disguised as self-defence classes as an insidious means of recruiting then maintaining power over intitiates. Ironically enough this work – and indeed the legend as a whole – remains immensely popular with this same flock of sheep who appear to miss the point. Wherein, sadly, lies another New Testament parallel.


Buy Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Bronze volume 2: Sacrifice (£12-99, Image) by Eric Shanower.

Projected to run for seven volumes, this epic, in-depth and dramatic retelling of the Trojan War has garnered Eisner Awards as well as praise from outside our industry from the likes of The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Booklist said that it “unfolds with heartbreaking determination,” and they’ve pinpointed one of its chief strengths.

If you’re not that well schooled in the classics, this will prove startling and compelling; if you are, then so much of the power lies in the inevitable, for you know just who is doomed, how and why – but it won’t stop you desperately hoping that they somehow avoid their destiny. Speaking of destiny, this is a time where the population believed in Fate, believed in prophecy and portent and, unfortunately, sacrifice. It’s amazing what your beliefs will make you do, but that doesn’t make you any less courageous. For some, it will prove the ultimate test: betray your army, or sacrifice your daughter? It’s not so cut-and-dried as it sounds. You have responsibility not just to your kingdom but to thousands of lives under your command. And if it does sound like a no-brainer then Shanower will convince you otherwise, for this is huge enough that everyone is rounded out, given a depth and an individual perspective.

There are some superb visual devices as well, from the mists that rise to isolate Helen and Paris atop Troy’s tallest tower (“It’s as if we’re the only people left in the entire world.”), to the pages of constant wind, denoted by “SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS” between each tier of panels until Agamemnon’s daughter leaves her tent for the final time. It’s a very clear panel structure as well, like Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT or Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN, making it effortlessly readable by those unused to comics.

Also there’s a map, for the names have all changed (along with the territorial boundaries), a couple of family trees, and a great big glossary of names including how to pronounce them.

For far, far more, please see my new review of AGE OF BRONZE VOL 1: A THOUSAND SHIPS.


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Welcome Back.”
“Go To Hell.”

From the creator of POWR MASTRS (two volumes reviewed with great approbation) comes a collection of zines, one of which purports to be a “suicide prevention comic”. I really couldn’t tell, but on the subject of suicide I wholeheartedly recommend THE NEXT DAY by John Porcellino & co.

It’s not all comics. Under a gorgeous, blue-striped, burgundy cover framed in a black and white chain of spot varnish there are also random photographs, rudimentary sketches, eye-pleasing patterns and… hmmm. Why don’t I let Nicole Rudick describe her reaction? From the introduction:

““Huh?” or a similar expression of total confusion, accompanied my first reading of C.F.’s zines – and I think I’m not alone in that.”


“The comics are narratively perplexing, and though the elements one expects to find in a zine are there – artwork, graphics, stories, notes from the author – their meaning and significance are largely enigmatic.”


“But C.F.’s work is disarming; it elicits, as Ruscha says, “a kind of ‘Huh’,” meaning bafflement but also surprise, an inability to stop thinking about it after putting it down.”

I wouldn’t go that far.



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

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz s/c new format (£10-99, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young.

Whilst remembering A) that this is based on the original prose not the film and B) it has sold by the shedload in its two prior formats, this is what I knee-jerked some several years ago about its first chapter.

I don’t know if this is new Oz material from Eric (AGE OF BRONZE) Shanower or some of his old work. Nor do I care because I hate The Wizard Of fucking Oz film with a passion. It’s everything I loathe: twee morality, camp acting, gaudy colours, bloody fucking pigtails on prissy little girls, tiny little munchkin people (that might even be what they’re called – how would I know? I’ve never been able to stomach more than seven-second snatches of it), and worst of all, songs!

Whoever first invented the musical should be disinterred, brought back to life, not healed in any goddamn way, shape or form and then subjected to an eternal loop of The Village People’s videos at full blast for ever and ever or at least until America elects Sarah Palin and the whole world goes up in a ball of flames. A ball of pro-life flames, mind – no contradictions there.

However, Skottie Young makes this look better than it has any right to whilst still calling itself The Wizard Of Oz, so I could not possible scowl at you for ordering this. If, however, you do so whilst telling me how sorry you feel for Judy “tragic” Garland then I will lock you our cellar and let the snakes there have their say.*

*Emily was horrified last weekend to hear me tell a customer’s young son that if he touched the figures in our cabinet one more time then a trap door would open and he’d fall into our pit of snakes. On reflection – you know, when the tears started streaming down the poor kid’s face – it was a mite harsh, but I tell you: those tiny little hands never so much as wandered in the vicinity of that cabinet again.


Buy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“That’s some willpower you got, Jesus.”
“Yeah. Have to admit I was wavering over the babes.”
“So how’d you manage?”
“Gotta thank my dad. The bastard watches everything I do.”

Think Alan Grant attempting to channel the spirit of Gilbert FURRY FREAK BROTHERS Shelton, with a dash of more simplistic, ribald Viz (the irreverent British publication, not the Japanese publisher) humour thrown in for good measure, and you’ve pretty much got it nailed. I will say it is rather a one trick pony in terms of the jokes, as Buddha wanders the Earth smoking bubonic chronic and nailing pretty much every available piece of skirt. Some will no doubt find it hilarious, others be left yawning. Me? I’ll simply leave you with some ancient Buddhist wisdom I have often found appropriate in many a situation. With the ideal comes the actual…


Buy Tales Of The Buddha Before He Was Enlightened s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Reviews of previous volumes one and two which comprise this tome are reproduced below.

Volume one…

The devil is walking the earth for, in the SANDMAN series, Lucifer quit his day job in hell for a piano bar in Los Angeles. Now he’s received an assignment from The Creator Himself, and if Lucifer agrees to do Heaven’s dirty work he can name his own price. It’s a journey that will require harsh sacrifices, but then it won’t be Lucifer making them!

Reprints #1-4 of the main series plus the preceding three-issue mini that featured Scott Hampton’s painted art and some very fine dialogue.

Volume two…

I’ve been avoiding the Gaiman strip-mining experience for some time now, and although I can’t remember what it was that made me think twice and actually read this cover to cover, I’m grateful for it. The problem is that you look at these things, at the pages in front of you, and you just think “Oh god, where is the joy, where is the passion, the slightest flicker of flair?” Because Ormston aside, the art here is just so thin, so flat, so unimaginative, so lacking in fire, and when you’ve been given such exotic locations, such an epic scale, and such a considered sense of repressed melodrama and timing, it seems so ungrateful to deliver such uninspired, asexual bloodlessness.

All credit to Carey then for persevering when presented with the art, for not only are the plots – the intrigues and manipulations – clever, and the revelations perfectly placed, but the pace is jaunty as we shift scenes at an almost metronomic pace which, far from being monotonous, lends the storytelling a clipped vibrancy and momentum, keeping up with the constantly twisting plights of the various players. Above all, it’s Lucifer’s dialogue, which is played with an economical, dry wit, a self-assurance without triumphalism. I’m not really going to bother with the plot here; I tried but did the book a total disservice. Though I have to advise that this isn’t Gaiman so I was expecting total tedium, which may account for the extent of my praise.


Buy Lucifer vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Clone vol 1: First Generation s/c (£9-99, Image) by David Schulner & Juan Jose Ryp.

Dr. Luke Taylor is going to be a dad.

A man of medicine, he is, however, utterly confounded by the practicalities of assembling a flat-packed crib. Eight left-over screws is not a good sign, as well we all know. He’s also ill-prepared for his new role in life given that his own father abandoned him, and now he’s having dreams of being hunted down and shot in the chest.

So imagine Luke’s shock when he hears a crash downstairs, follows a thick trail of blood to the kitchen, and discovers an identical twin collapsed under the draining board with a gaping hole in the guts.

“Well,” observes the twin, “this is awkward.”

Amelia Taylor is having a sonogram. It doesn’t go as smoothly as she hoped: the baby’s growth is unusually accelerated. But before tests can be conducted, Luke appears and strong-arms her out of the surgery. But if that’s her husband, who is calling her cell phone?

Vice President Mike Charles is voting in favour of a ban on embryonic stem cell research, even though his daughter suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. No matter, he has his eye firmly on the Presidential top spot and for that he needs conservative voters with their myopic votes. Embryonic stem cell research is a sin against God… which they’ve been merrily committing for thirty-odd years.

What follows is a thoroughly frantic page-turner with an ever-increasing if superficially identical cast. Just bear in mind that the nurture of nature is going to produce very different results when conducted in far from laboratory conditions.

Carnage comes courtesy of the artist on Warren Ellis’ BLACK SUMMER and NO HERO .


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

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

“Ahhh! I can’t take this anymore! It’s – It’s crazy-town banana-pants!”

First thing you should know: this isn’t a sideshow spin-off. This is the main Spider-title replacing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, however temporarily, and we don’t know how temporary Peter’s current condition is yet.

In SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH the mop-topped minger known as Doctor Octopus side-stepped certain death by swapping minds with Peter Parker as his own sorry, saggy old carcass expired. Now he inhabits Peter Parker’s youthful body and pretty face whilst inheriting Peter’s memories, his relatives and acquaintances, including a confused Mary Jane Watson. This has catalysed a reformation of sorts, for Otto Octavius is now determined to fight crime as Spider-Man but with his own, warped set of priorities and a new, more methodical approach which somehow eluded our Peter. Doctor Octavius has a very different modus operandi

And this is the delight: some of Otto’s innovations are genuinely clever and infinitely more practical; some of his strategies risk ruining Spider-Man’s reputation for good; some of his quick thinking has paid dividends which poor Peter never saw; but some of his costume modifications are dangerously diabolical. Meanwhile some of the much older man’s moves on Peter’s young loved ones are positively icky.

And all Peter Parker can do is float there and watch…

Oh, he is far from gone, I can assure you! There is enormous comedy potential to be had here and Dan Slott has seized it, revelling in the dramatic irony that is everyone’s ignorance except Carlie Cooper’s.

Moreover, the longer this goes on, the more it makes sense that it was Dr. Octopus who finally seized control of Peter Parker’s life, for they share so much in scientific background and acumen. Otto can take full advantage of Peter’s position at Horizon Labs, he’s just less likely to share. He can be convincingly savvy in all of these spheres and, in addition, his arrogance comes across to those not in the know merely as renewed self-confidence: the diffident ditherer is gone, and some women find that attractive…

Pretty much impressed by the art as well which comes across as Eric Larsen inked by Howard Chaykin on Ryan Stegman’s part, then with Giuseppe Camuncoli it becomes something more akin to mid-John Romita Jr inked by Eric Larsen.

Above all, this is far from assembly-line fisticuffs. It is very well thought-through. What could so easily have been a gimmick merely treated as such by 1990s writers has instead been seized as an opportunity to surprise.

It is bananas, for sure, but it is far from pants. It is instead, crazy-town banana-pants.

And I think that is where we came in.


Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 1: My Own Worst Enemy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Here’s the pitch. I don’t care about mutants. I don’t care about the good mutants and I don’t care about the bad mutants. I used to. Sometimes I cared a lot.
“But you know what? Charles Xavier is dead. And so is his dream.”

Previously in ALL-NEW X-MEN VOL 1: the Beast has brought the original X-Men forward through time in order to shock Scott Summers AKA Cyclops out of declaring a mutant revolution and so risk a civil war and its potential, genocidal backlash. The first confrontation between Uncanny teams old and new was explosive and the time-rush has triggered Jean Grey’s latent telepathic powers way too early. She’s discovered how they lived and how she died. She has determined that they will stay, and she is not above using her new-found, mind-bending abilities to ensure that this happens.

Meanwhile they live at the new school for gifted mutants run by Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, and Kitty is attempting to train each of the volatile youngsters to survive the present.

“Now you listen, lady, I’ve been an X-Man for –“
“What? About three weeks?”
“I fought Magneto!”
“You threw snowballs at him.”
“Oh yeah? You know Unus The Untouchable? I totally touched him! (That sounded wrong.)”

Dear Bobby Drake. I love the way Immonen draws his early-teen ice form: all soft snow and shiny coal eyes.

Now Angel meets his future self who evades explaining when has happened to his wings; Captain America discovers what the Beast has done; the younger Cyclops steals Wolverine’s bike and comes face to face with a world he cannot comprehend along with a certain shape-shifting, blue-skinned spinner of half-truths with plans of her own which drag in S.H.I.E.L.D. Finally, the current, renegade Cyclops teleports into town with an offer:

“To me, my X-Men!”

Marvel’s insistence on releasing as many titles as possible twice a month has inevitably led to lapses in quality, and the Angel episode is both out of character and excruciating in its lack of lustre. Plus – whether or not directed by Bendis – David Marquez’s panel composition is virtually unreadable in places. Enough with the unnecessarily confusing layouts, especially across double-page spreads! I’ve been reading comics for 40+ years and took several wrong turns.

That aside, it’s all ramping up beautifully and, having read ahead in the serialised floppies, I can promise you much meat ahead. The cliffhanger will have you wriggling in your seats and the ramifications will be severe.


Buy All New X-Men vol 2: Here To Stay 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.


Misty Circus h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Victoria Frances

John K presents Comic Book h/c (£25-99, IDW) by various

Walking Dead vol 18: What Comes After (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Eye Of The World: The Graphic Novel vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Tor) by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon & Chase Conley

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics vol 5 (£14-99, IDW) by various

The Crow: Skinning The Wolves s/c (£13-50, IDW) by James O’Barr & Jim Terry

Batman And Robin vol 1: Born To Kill s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason

Batman And Robin vol 2: Pearl h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason

Harley Quinn: Night And Day s/c (£12-99, DC) by Karl Kesel & Terry Dodson, Pete Woods

Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four vol 9 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Spider-Man: Danger Zone s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Zeb Wells & Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Steve Dillon

Blood-C vol 2 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Ranmaru Kotone


ITEM! Fascinating comic on drug addiction research by Stuart McMillen sent to me by my old mate Nigel Brunsden (@Mannaz) whom I worked with at Fantastic Store Birmingham. He introduced Antony Johnston to CEREBUS. #truefact

ITEM! Worldess, tactile comic for the blind sent to me by Richard Hanks (@FolkyDokey). I’d love to get my hands on a copy.

ITEM! Oh dear GOD! School capitulates to mass fear of fundamentalists by banning even-handed (equal opportunity?) cartoon satire which just this once happens to have the temerity to take on Islam after addressing other, equally repressive organised religions. Thereby proving the point of my final sub-clause. Via @CBLDF (Comicbook Legal Defence Fund), obv.

ITEM! Comic on courage, vulnerability and surviving sexual abuse by psychologist Nina Burrowes (@NinaBurrowes). Please watch the video at that link – this is so important. Nina Burrowes calls out for artists to help create that comic here.

ITEM! Brilliant new Billy Bragg single on DIY-fail – video features a wealth of UK comic talent (err, as in comedians)

 – Stephen