Archive for July, 2013

Reviews August 2013 week one

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

There was a monster on almost every hill overlooking the quiet townships of mid-nineteenth century England. It’s one of the first things you learn at school.

 – Stephen on Monster On The Hill

Primates: The Fearless Science Of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey & Birute Galdikas h/c (£14-99, First Second) by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks…

Buoyed by the huge success of his previous biographical work, FEYNMAN, Jim Ottaviani has decided to tackle three at once this time! I would imagine most people of a certain age will be familiar with the name Dian Fossey, not least from the 1988 film Gorillas In The Mist about her life story studying and living with Gorillas in Rwanda. As a vocal opponent of poachers, including taking direct action against them herself, it was probably only a matter of time before retribution came, and came it did with her brutal murder by a still unknown assailant in her forest cabin.

This work doesn’t dwell on that but instead talks about her work and life whilst alive. In addition, it also highlights the similar careers of two less well known ladies (outside of scientific circles at least) who also studied primates by living with them: Jane Goodall and Birute Galdikas. Actually the majority of the book is focused on Jane Goodall, but it transpires the three ladies shared a common mentor who was responsible for giving them all their initial chance, the great anthropologist Louis Leakey.

It would be fair to say Leakey was a fairly unorthodox, indeed maverick scientist, often recruiting people with little or no academic background or practical experience either, but purely on the basis on his instinct about them. He had a theory that women were better predisposed to study primates up close in the field, not least because the primates would be far less likely to find them threatening. And it seems he was correct in his assumption, given the breakthroughs and discoveries his protégées rapidly made. Much like FEYNMAN, this work focuses on the scientific and personal elements in equal measure. Perhaps the splitting of the focus into three dilutes the depth of the biographical depiction in comparison, but the overall picture it paints serves to highlight the enormous contribution these three gallant ladies made to their chosen field, at not insignificant personal cost.

I loved Maris Wick’s art too. I had a real sense of familiarity with it, even though I’m pretty sure I haven’t read anything she’s illustrated before. I guess in part it reminded me a bit of Gene Luen Yang (AMERICAN BORN CHINESE) and also the John Porcellino in THOREAU AT WALDEN mode. The palette is bright and vibrant and there’s a smooth rotundity to her faces, both human and primates, which I liked. I’m pretty sure there are other works it reminds me of too, looking at it again, but I can’t quite put my finger on them. Anyway, her art certainly compliments this particular subject material excellently.


Buy Primates: The Fearless Science Of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey & Birute Galdikas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Cat (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason…

Fans of John Arne Sæterøy, to use his real moniker, will know there is probably no one in comics more deadpan than Jason. Aside from his chortle-worthy collaboration with Fabien Vehlmann, ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES, which we made a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, he prefers to adopt a rather more straightforward, indeed veritably laconic approach. Often his works pay homage to works in other media, book or films, and this time around is no exception, being one big love letter to The Big Sleep. We have several characters who aren’t what they seem, plus double crosses and secrets galore scattered liberally throughout. It’s up to our Phillip Marlowe / Humphrey Bogart private eye Dan Delon, an anthropomorphic dog obviously, to get the bottom of precisely what is going on, and just possibly get the dame as well.

I really enjoyed this work, as I have pretty much all Jason’s output, but I found the ending of the last twelve or so pages rather… odd. It’s like he suddenly decided to switch genre from ‘40s pulp to ‘50s sci-fi, because he couldn’t work out how to end it properly. It’s odd, because I thought it was all coming to a conclusion quite nicely. Or he just couldn’t help himself. Strange. Still, fans of his will undoubtedly enjoy this. Finally, I did chuckle at the missing person poster for Jason himself after the last page, imploring anyone who finds him to contact Fantagraphics. For no reward!


Buy Lost Cat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Monster On The Hill (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Rob Harrell.

There is a monster on the hill.

There was a monster on almost every hill overlooking the quiet townships of mid-nineteenth century England. It’s one of the first things you learn in this country at school. They used to come down into town and rampage through the streets destroying property and upsetting daily commerce no end. And folks loved it!

It was a tourist attraction: visitors would travel from far and wide to get scared senseless by each other’s monsters, then collect trading-card, poster and model souvenirs. Tentaculor was a particular source of pride for Billingwood. He was big, green, with two enormous fangs and suckered, octopoid tentacles.

As to Stoker-on-Avon, well, there is a monster on their hill too. He’s just… not very good at it.

Rayburn appears to have what it takes – scarlet skin, horns and a ferociously sharp, pointed beak – but he’s suffering a crisis of confidence. He just lies in bed, staring at the ceiling. I think he’s depressed. His wings don’t even work.

“Extra!! Extra! Stoker-on-Avon monster still a no-show! Town at wit’s end!” cries street urchin Timothy.

In desperation the town elders summon eccentric Doctor Charles Wilkie, struck off for… well, malpractice might be a bit strong. Misguided enthusiasm? Unorthodox methods? Being bananas…? Anyway, they charge him with changing their fortunes.

“Extra! Extra! Disgraced Doc to fix town monster!” declares Timothy, five minutes later. The headline now reads: “Will He Be Eaten? Or Worse?”

“How did you do that?”
“The news never sleeps. Can I come along?”
“Come along where?”
“To see the monster. Duh.”
“Now that is a truly horrible idea.”
“Extra! Extra! Doctor rejects poor urchin child!”

It’s time to pay Rayburn a visit. Give him a pep talk, perhaps. Unfortunately Rayburn’s malaise is decidedly deep-seated. Then it starts to rain. And Rayburn may be a dragon, but he isn’t without manners so he invites Timothy and the doctor into his lair.

“Ya ain’t gonna eat us, are ya?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of a pot of tea.”

It’s all quite delightful. Both BONE’s Jeff Smith and SANDMAN’s Neil Gaiman (OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE in stock!) provide enthusiastic endorsements. The monster designs are funny (I liked Kongor the best) and Rayburn’s hooded-eye expressions are worth the price of admission alone.

What follows is a road trip to seek out encouragement and inspiration, calling in on the gargantuan Tentaculor himself – or, as Rayburn’s known him since school, “Noodles”.

But the action heats up, along with a sense of urgency, when it becomes clear that, with Rayburn absent from Stoker-on-Avon, the town is under threat from a genuine attack by the hideous, fur-matted Murk.


Buy Monster On The Hill and read the Page 45 review here

Locke & Key vol 1: Welcome To Lovecraft (£14-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez…

“It was very simple on the roof. This is what I told myself: don’t be heard. Don’t be seen.
“When they came to kill us, I wasn’t heroic. I wasn’t brave.
“Later on, they found bruises on my little brother’s throat. That’s how hard I was squeezing him to keep quiet. I bit my lip until it bled. I just really didn’t want them to hear us.”

Having just read the fifth volume of Joe Hill’s masterpiece I felt it was time we finally reviewed the first volume! Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke have moved back to the old family pile, Keyhouse, in the prophetically named Lovecraft, Massachusetts. It would be fair to say their reason for returning home is not exactly a happy one. Two of their school friends decided to murder the Locke’s father Rendell, apparently at random, and the three kids plus their mother narrowly escaped sharing his fate. Now back where their father grew up, living with their uncle Duncan, life is not about to get any less crazy for them…

Our tale opens with them trying to adjust to their new surroundings, and their new school, Locke Academy, but the ghost of their father, figuratively speaking, is everywhere: at their house, the school, the whole neighbourhood – the Lockes having been a prominent family in the area for hundreds of years. There are more than a few literal ghosts too, some visibly present to the Lockes, some less so. And that really is where the weirdness truly begins, because the murder of their father was, of course, not random at all. As the protagonist begins to secretly make their move against the family, the Locke children discover a strange key that provides the user with the ability to dematerialise and reappear in a different location. It’s not the only key they’ll find either, but that’s for later…

This work really does read like a classic horror novel. It’s all about the characterisation and the dropping of subtle facts which will be revealed to be hugely significant down the line, provided you have been paying attention. I read this series with the fore-knowledge that Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son and I really do have to comment that it feels exactly like one of his dad’s New England horror stories. And that is a huge compliment if you stop to think about it. The tension really builds and builds as we, the reader, see the dastardly plans of the hidden enemy gradually creeping towards fruition, opposed by occasionally unwittingly aided by the Lockes.

So much horror these days is all about the gore, or destruction, whereas this is the exact antithesis of that. Yes, there is truly shocking violence upon occasion, when the story calls for it, but it’s the story itself which is the driving force here. Excellent art provided throughout by Gabriel Rodriguez, I must add. I note that there was even a pilot produced for a TV show in the last couple of years, but it wasn’t green lit for full production as a series. I am astonished about that, actually, because it would be absolutely brilliant. Fortunately for us, we have the comics.


Buy Locke & Key vol 1: Welcome To Lovecraft and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book vol 4 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall, Tom Mandrake.

The fourth volume of Alan Moore’s southern gothic run finds John Constantine (whose first ever appearance was in SWAMP THING BOOK 3) invading Swamp Thing’s turf and getting right under what passes for the Elemental’s skin. Finally the big bang which the Scouse’s been priming him for arrives, and it’s grim as Hell.

Alan Moore exhumes Caine and Abel for Gaiman to play with later, and we hear hints of the infamous Newcastle incident as it becomes increasingly clear that the unfazeable Constantine has been a big, behind-the-scenes bastard in the realms of DC’s occult for a very long time. As a postscript, one of the many things that stood out in this series was Moore’s magical ability to imbue John Constantine with enough charisma to make the callous bastard command readers’ undiluted affection. And, as entertaining as much of the HELLBLAZER series has been, particularly under Ennis’s everyday slight-of-hand, no one else has since matched the sheer presence one feels when the man appears on the page under Moore.


Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book vol 4 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Reason For Dragons h/c (£14-99, Archaia Entertainment) by Chris Northrop & Jeff Stokely.

Someone’s had an awful lot of fun with the design here. Even before you start in there are some cool, fold-out end-papers inviting you into King Henry’s Olde Faire with a map, opening hours and admission fee, plus a competition to draw your own dragon which you can cut off and send in to Archaia. Although I do hope photocopies of that page are eligible: I cannot bear to mutilate a book. It’s like tearing the wings off a daddy-long-legs – I’m sure there’d be screams.*

Then there’s the introduction by PUNK ROCK JESUS’ Sean Murphy, who used to hang out with Chris Northrop in L.A. where they bonded over their deep hatred of Hollywood and shared passion for this project whose original form was an animated cartoon. In the back you can see some of Sean’s original designs wherein he poured as much attention to detail as he did on the attic bedroom in Grant Morrison’s JOE THE BARBARIAN (interior art up with that review). Anyway, what scuppered that incarnation was Chris getting tasered by thieves who ran off with his laptop containing all the files. As much as anything, it’s a cracking insight into Murphy’s own early years.


Wendell lives with his mum and step-dad, Ted, whose passion is for motorcycles. Ted may appear a little stern, but he’s a good man just trying to teach Wendell some basic practicalities: mechanics that will put him in good stead for the future. But Ted finds that sort of stuff intimidating, afraid that he’ll damage Ted’s prized bike, Lilly – which he does. Wendell’s bedroom isn’t without books and toys but it feels empty nonetheless, just like his lonely, suburban existence. His Dad was a pilot. There’s a photo by his bedside.

What on earth does this have to do with dragons? Well, when dared to venture into the supposedly haunted grounds of an old Renaissance Faire once gutted by fire, Wendell discovers that not everyone has abandoned their post. There’s a man still living there in full medieval costume calling himself Sir Habaersham, determined to protect the village from another dragon attack. But, see, it wasn’t a dragon attack that gutted the Faire – it was arson. People died. And, you know, dragons don’t actually exist… Or do they?

I found this surprisingly affecting. For me, it wasn’t Wendell so much as Sir Habaersham and indeed Ted, both of whom genuinely care about their custodial duties. I don’t want to give anything away about Sir Habaersham, but it all makes perfect sense while still leaving room for the completely unexpected. And when that happens, Jeff Stokely really comes into his own – some thrilling design there, against some fab winter colours.

There are five back-up stories of which The Buttermaid was my favourite. It’s still making me chortle now. After that, some process pieces.

*Now that I think about it, it’s a very long time since I’ve even seen a daddy-long-legs. You hear a lot about the disappearance of bees, but what about the daddy-long-legs? My Aunt used to paralyse them with hairspray and –

That’s probably enough about my family.


Buy The Reason For Dragons 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.


Optic Nerve #13 (£4-25, D&Q) by Adrian Tomine

Psychiatric Tales (Expanded Edition) (£10-99, Blank Slate) by Darryl Cunningham

Gum Girl: Music, Mischief And Mayhem! (£6-99, Walker) by Andi Watson

Mo-Bot High vol 1 (£6-99, DFC) by Neill Cameron

Genius s/c (£12-99, First Second) by Steven T. Seagle & Teddy H. Kristiansen

Age Of Bronze vol 3.b: Betrayal Pt 2 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Eric Shanower

The Property (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Rutu Modan

Serenity Rose vol 1: Working Through The Negativity (£10-99, SLG) by Aaron A

Infinite Vacation Deluxe h/c (£18-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Christian Ward

Invincible vol 18 Death Of Everyone s/c (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, John Rauch

Gantz s/c vol 28 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Kitaro (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Adventure Time Encyclopedia h/c (£14-99, Abrams) by Martin Olson

Kingdom Hearts II vol 1 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Shiro Amano

Green Lantern New Guardians vol 2 Beyond Hope h/c (£16-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham, Batt

Savage Wolverine vol 1  Kill Island s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Frank Cho

Soul Eater Soul Art: the Illustrations of Atsushi Ohkubo (£18-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater vol 15 s/c (£7-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Black Butler vol 14 s/c (£7-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

K On College vol 1 s/c (£7-99, Yen Press) by Kakifly

Puella Magi Oriko Magica vol 1 (£7-99, Yen Press) by Magica Quartet, Kuroe Mura

Uncanny X-Force vol 1 Let It Bleed s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Ron Garney, Adrian Alphona,Dexter Soy

Green Lantern New Guardians vol 1 The Ring Bearer s/c (£10-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham, Batt


ITEM! One of our recent Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months, Gilbert Hernandez’s exceptional evocation of youth, MARBLE SEASON, contained a huge number of specific cultural references / props which were explained in the back. Now you can find MARBLE SEASON’s mementos fully catalogued and depicted in this magnificent nostalgia-fest.

ITEM! Shoes! Shoes! Batwomen AND Batmen (I don’t judge), dress to impress in these outrageous high heels. I will give anyone I see in them a free Batman graphic novel of your choice!

ITEM! New LITTLE NEMO anthology with the most amazing line-up of creators: Paul Pope, Bill Sienkiewicz, Becky Cloonan, Brandon Graham. Check out the Roger Langridge page at the bottom!

ITEM! HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo is going to be a very special original graphic novel, and perfectly accessible to newcomers. Please, please pre-order. Here is your incentive (we will providing another shortly – heheh!): a preview page of HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Duncan Fegredo before it’s been coloured! Yeah, I know, right? Amazing!

ITEM! There will be a Sean Phillips exhibition at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which ties in with Sean Phillips’ glorious retrospecive art book available in October featuring a wealth of commentary from the likes of Eddie Campbell and Ed Brubaker. The writers that man has worked with! You can pre-order, if you like, either via that link or by emailing page45@page.45 or phoning 0115 9508045. Cheers,

 – Stephen

Reviews July 2013 week four

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

“We also got thrown off a train at gunpoint.”

 – Jaime Hernandez’s first trip abroad in The Love & Rockets Companion. Addictive!

The Killer vol 4 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

Oil and politics – and a great big kick in the cods for American hypocrisy.

“Exxon Mobil is richer than Pakistan or Peru. Its yearly turnover equals the budget of all the African countries combined.”

With that much money at stake – and what I can only describe as a long-standing, deep-seated hatred of Cuba – it is no surprise that America lies, and is delighted to play host to the Miami Exiles who fled the Cuban revolution.

“In 1976, they blew up a Cubana plane, 73 dead. They planted bombs in Havana. They’ve killed 3,500 Cubans – as many as the 9/11 attacks, but apparently those deaths don’t matter much. And they live like kings here, on C.I.A. money meant to fund more attacks.”

The “here” is Miami, Florida, whose glorious aquamarine coastline is but one of several Jacamon flourishes which will have you gasping. His reflector sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.

The Killer and Katia have flown to Miami following intelligence that the Miami Exiles are planning to blow up their oil rig. Although if you were to believe American politicians warmongering on television, that oil belongs to the USA even though it is being drilled for in Cuban territorial waters. Heaven forbid Cuba should harvest its own resources: that could boosts its economy, feed its citizens and – worst of all – give it independence, circumnavigating America and selling to China!

Yes, The Killer now co-owns an oil rig in partnership with ex-C.I.A. agent Haywood and Mariano, financed by laundering Padrino’s drug money. He is now on a legitimate payroll and it’s taken him by surprise.

“I’ve never wanted to spend my days watching stupid Youtube videos or swapping inanities on Facebook while pretending to work. Maybe that limits my career prospects in the corporate world. Oh, well.”

Fortunately that’s not why he was invited into the deal. His actual job description isn’t something he’ll be printing on a business card, his working day will be spent far away from any office desk, and “negotiations” will take him to Miami, London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.

“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.

“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”

Includes gallery of the original European covers.


Buy The Killer vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Killer Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

First two hardcovers in a single volume. Of book one, I wrote:

Slick and intense European thriller in which we get inside the head of a hitman who seems so disengaged from humanity that it’s all facts and figures, an endless stream of self-justification for being a cool-hearted killer without a care in the world.

“Don’t talk to me about justice or morals. Even God himself I wouldn’t listen to. Not with His track record. I take orders from no one. I report to no one. I have a single motive for what I’m doing: money… I help rich people kill one another. Poor people, they can’t afford me. They handle it themselves. And they end up in jail for life.”

Normally he researches then executes his assignments calmly, methodically, all around the world. Patience is the one virtue he would own to possessing, but this time his target hasn’t even shown, and it’s starting to unsettle him…

Like CRIMINAL, this gets right under the skin of the individual in question who makes more than a few valid points about our own culpabilities, whilst the art is lush with jagged jungle leaves, classily coloured and splinters expressionistically as the pressure builds to force this most dispassionate of men to make a critical blunder. At which point everything unravels, and he’s forced from his natural comfort zone into an environment he does not control.

Of book two:

Welcome to the return of the ruminative assassin. Here he’s particularly preoccupied with the disadvantages of dying in your sleep. And whom it is wise to hang out with.

“The hard part is not the loneliness. The hard part is choosing the right people to have around you, when you finally decide to have people around you. Loneliness offers guarantees that vanish as soon as you try and trust someone. Stepping away from it is running a risk. Especially for me.”

You never do know whom he should trust. It’s a source of suspense which builds and builds.

Previously even the man he’d always placed the greatest trust in, long-time accountant Edward, turned out to be capable of treachery – and pretty stupid into the bargain. Edward had been the conduit in a contract on a man called Martini, and then gone one further and tried to take out The Killer himself. It didn’t really work out for Edward, no.

Now lying low in luxurious seclusion, our anti-hero is visited by a man called Mariano, god-son to a Columbian drug baron called Padrino. Seems Martini was one of three men Padrino had set up in high society Paris in order to distribute his wares. The way Padrino sees it, taking out Martini has caused him some serious inconvenience even though The Killer saw the man under police surveillance and may have done Padrino a favour in silencing him. Unconvinced, Padrino insists The Killer accepts contracts of his own in exchange for forgiveness. It remains a lucrative deal so although the worryingly talkative and inexperienced Mariano is foisted upon him, The Killer accepts.

From Buenos Aires to New York City things go (sort of) well until, while cruising down the Amazon, there’s a vicious attack back home on his lover. Instinct leads him to question whether it was Padrino, but that simply doesn’t add up and The Killer hates it when things don’t add up. He doesn’t like coincidences, either, like the assassination of a second of those three drug dealers in Paris, or being befriended by a cop who’s being investigated for police brutality. Who’s after him now, and what connection does it have to Martini and Edward?

There, I think I’ve accurately set the scene whilst leading you all astray! Your turn now to grow as paranoid on The Killer’s behalf as I was this sunny Sunday afternoon.

That you will all fear for this hitman’s safety is a telling testament to Matz’s skills as a writer. The Killer’s cogitations on his career and craft and its implication for life in general play a substantial part in this. They’re well reasoned and betray a heart he denies having, as do his new sentiments towards the woman he’s chosen to trust. I think you’ll like the cop too.

As to Luc Jacamon, his colouring has always impressed me no end, particularly when it comes to the dappled shadows under a boulevard of trees, and I love the way that there’s this constant presence throughout, even outlined in negative on the side of a building, of an Orinoco Crocodile – the very essence of patient, predatory guile. He excels at details others would never think to incorporate like scaffolding, netted in green, supporting the side of already impressive edifices. There’s a gorgeous sense of space no matter what he’s asked to draw, in whichever country, and there’s plenty of globe-trotting to be done here. I’m an enormous fan of the wit-ridden 100 BULLETS, but it can become bogged down by words whereas Matz never allows any self-indulgence to crowd out Luc Jacamon, maintaining a perfect equilibrium for a pleasurable read as smooth as the operator himself.


Buy The Killer Omnibus vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Great War h/c Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.

Clever, clever, clever.

Spectacular, but also clever.

By “spectacular” I mean this accordian-style hardcover folds out into a seamless, ridiculously detailed 24-foot-long panorama silently detailing the events which led up to the Battle Of The Somme, before launching into the offensive itself on July 1st, 1916.

“Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted a few months later.”

It’s clever because although there are no panel borders which leaves the landscape to bleed unstaunched over each successive page, it is nonetheless a comic: it tells the story in precisely the same way with the passage of time represented by space travelled by the eye from left to right.

It kicks off, of course, in the perfect calm and safe, sequestered splendour of General Haig’s personal HQ, the Château de Beaurepaire, where every morning he takes a stroll round the grounds and then, in the afternoons, enjoys a spot of horse-riding escorted by the 17th Lancers. All very orderly. Jolly good!

Gradually the troops who actually have to do the fighting arrive (and by “fighting” I mean charge like sitting ducks onto an open battlefield to be blown to smithereens), along with the heavy artillery, crates of ammunition and fresh supplies. It’s starting to get rather crowded but it’s still lovely and sunny with birds and bi-planes breezing across the sky above open fields, lush coppices and bucolic churches.  Look, here comes the infantry, all jovial and jaunty, snaking between officers puffing on pipes and queuing outside a make-shift mess while cannons are being loaded and – yeah…

Welcome to the trenches.

The next sequence is particularly impressive, the shadow of night passing over the miles of maze lit only from the occasional bunker below and explosions in the distance – explosions which, as the sun rises, are growing terrifyingly nearer, obliterating first the horizon then those careering over the top. Suddenly the landscape is no longer flat but pocked with craters, a million man-made volcanos spewing earth and entrails into the air in a pointlillistic inferno. I think you can guess where it ends.

Every step of the way, Sacco’s art remains perfectly clear and balanced. He does lead the eye but never impedes it which, given the detail and chaos unfolding, is absolutely remarkable. Also, you have to admire the ingenuity with which he brings the background of the battlefield forward by curving the frontline trenches under the bottom edge of the page, so bringing us over the top as well. It recedes behind ruins and the military policemen arresting any soldier leaving the trenches without permission.

If you’re wondering how I know some of these opening and closing details, a 16-page booklet is enclosed which includes an author’s note, an introduction by Adam Hochschild and a reproduction of the plates along the bottom of the pages annotated with these details by Joe Sacco himself.

I honestly believe this will be massive. Well, it is massive: it’s 24 feet long – you could use it as infant’s playroom dado. Give them some crayons to colour it in! However, figure its quality, the anniversary of WWI and the vast numbers of Page 45 customers buying presents for their dads and grandads and – when asked what their relatives are interest in – telling us that both generations are obsessed with war, well, this is what it’s good for: respectfully expressed and powerfully produced protest art.

Available October 10th 2013.


Buy The Great War h/c Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Walrus s/c (£14-99, Picturebox) by Brandon Graham.

“Magic Is Change, makes cents?”

Yay! More puns, warm-up strips, fleeting thoughts, full-blown sketches and a wealth of archival material stretching far further back than you might imagine, all from the creator of KING CITY and MULTIPLE WARHEADS and the writer of PROPHET.

Well no, actually, not all of them: there are visual exchanges from BEAST’s Marian Churchland who guest-stars heavily as a model, while SHARKNIFE’s Corey S. Lewis finds his intense seriousness the butt of some very funny jokes in the four-page ‘Ninjarage’. Strips like those come with some anecdotal annotations and process revelations.

As to ancient, there’s a reproduction from 1992 of a 16-year-old Brandon’s NINJA HIGH SCHOOL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL pin-up along with a 2011 update replacing the gun with a ‘nana and the cliché manga-sexpot-style with something altogether softer and sexier. Hey, he was sixteen: we all kick off in emulation mode, and that Graham has so successfully found his own style (already much emulated) should give all nascent artists hope for their future.


There are short, experimental strips as sketchy as you like (and I like sketchy) as well as a wealth of fully formed noodling inked to crisp perfection and coloured with restraint. Although there are several straight landscapes of contemporary crumbling walls, shacks and riverside views, a lot of these – as well as the figures – are transformed by Brandon’s sci-fi leanings, but they are emphatically Brandon’s. There’s one particularly gorgeous, full-colour vista looking down a fashionable, far-from-dystopian future High Street full of light and space rather than the dirty, crowded, rowdy free-for-all you’ll find in the likes of TRANSMETROPOLITAN. If I was going to let anyone redesign the Page 45 shop front, it would be Brandon Graham – I could spend hours window shopping here, gawping at all the signage.

It’s evidence of a fertile, organic creativity even when bottled-up during the Tokyopop KING CITY fiasco in which the publishers would neither re-release nor relinquish the title to Brandon’s control, and the man sums up what you can expect from WALRUS beautifully:

“I like the idea that a reader would get a version of the artist through the work that’s them at their most unguarded and comfortable – alone at their desk doing what they love to do. Ideally, them at their most them.”

Bonus: Graham’s John Wayne Airport encounter with their security’s fashion police: “Pull your pants up higher!” one guard demands.  I doubt he can spell “jurisdiction”.


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

The Love And Rockets Companion – 30 Years (And Counting) s/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Los Bros Hernandez, edited by Marc Sobel, Kristy Valenti.

“We had a great time. It was wonderful. We got to know each other. We also got thrown off a train at gunpoint.”

Learn all about Jaime Hernandez’s first trip abroad – to Lucca and Paris via an unscheduled stop in Genovese! Poor Gary Groth – he was doing his best.

Page 45’s love affair with LOVE AND ROCKETS, one of the very pinnacles of comicbook achievement sustained for over three decades now, pre-dates Page 45 by many years; and Mark had been relishing it long before he introduced to me at Fantastic Store.

But before we go any further, a genuine FAQ: you can start anywhere, even as late as LOVE AND ROCKETS: ESPERANZA as I explained in that review, or the recent JULIO’S DAY. And please, don’t be put off by the body of work published over three decades: you don’t have to read it all, you can dip in and out as you like, and come away each time completely satisfied.

Linger a little longer and you will see that the brothers have created entire communities with generations of history. I remember Mark writing that one of the details which impressed him the most was that the crowd scenes were far from anonymous – those suited and booted individuals drinking in the background were either already well established members of the expansive cast, or about to step into limelight themselves.

There’s both a timeline and handy character guide here, as well as checklist of publications which is over seventy pages long, albeit including introductions and pin-ups published in anthologies. The brothers pay homage to their own favourite comics, plus there’s a selection of letter column highlights culled from the first fifty issues including many a familiar name from Andi Watson and Evan Dorkin to Scott Hampton and Steve Leialoha, such was the breadth of the book’s appeal. Regardless of the recognition factor, what is fascinating is how quickly LOVE AND ROCKETS’ readers recognised what it was they held in their hands: something completely fresh and new and intoxicating.

Best of all, however, are the interviews, so utterly addictive that I almost missed my review deadline. All four interviews, coming in at a combined 150 pages, are phenomenal: Fantagraphics’ publisher Gary Groth interviewing Los Bros Hernandez; Neil Gaiman interviewing the brothers; Marc Sobel interviewing the brothers; then Marc Sobel interviewing Fantagraphics’ publisher, Gary Groth himself, beginning with his recollection of the earliest years.

Editor Marc Sobel’s interview with Los Bros Hernandez delivers some astonishing insights into the cycle of each story’s conception, execution, then complete burned-out numbness in Jaime… and workaholic Gilbert’s crippling self-doubt halfway through each chapter early on.

“Halfway through I’d start telling myself, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever done. This is boring. The readers don’t deserve this crap.” It’s just this weird thing that pops into my head halfway through, and I noticed the pattern after a while, so stopped believing in it… I really don’t have that problem so much anymore, because I recognise my patterns of depression. Depression is just… some psychologist on TV said once and I always remembered it… it’s anything that keeps you from doing something.”

They also talk about how the physical changes in their bodies over the years have affected how their hands and wrists operate, how they have adapted accordingly (I think many a younger artist would to well to read this in advance) and how Gilbert was initially confounded by how his work for other publishers, which required he use their standard-sized paper, affected his stress levels and strain.

What startled me is how they perceive the work of others around them. Not individual creators, but entire movements – in particular the genre of autobiography, citing PERSEPOLIS and BLANKETS – and formats like graphic novels as long as HABIBI. Which is interesting in the light of Neil Gaiman’s interview in which they exchange anecdotes about their most complex, long-form, pre-planned episodes, and how they were received when serialised (with difficultly) as opposed to collected together in more coherent graphic novels.

At one point Sobel asks “Can you elaborate on what you mean by calling indy comics a “ghetto”?” The answer will – as corporate comics are so fond of promising – surprise you. But then as Gilbert is swift to admit, he doesn’t have access to everything published. This isn’t unusual for comicbook creators. Many work so hard on their own books that they don’t have time to look up above the parapet and take in the full extent of what else is going on around them. That’s not their job.

But if I am allowed a personal, self-serving observation, the world of comics looks very different and much more optimistic to those of us on the retailer frontline who can witness, first-hand, the overwhelmingly positive reception on the shop floor of the full diversity of graphic novels when stocked. As well as that full diversity itself! But then we are, as I am also swift to admit, in a very privileged position.

There is obviously so much more on offer than I can cover here but, on a more frivolous note, you will love the candid exchanges with Neil Gaiman subtitled ‘The Name Game’ in which they each talk about how their names have been mispronounced and even misspelled over the years and, oh boy, I put my own hand up in shame.

In despair, Jaime even resorted to calling himself “James” for a year. Did you know that?

Buy this book and receive 100 revelations of equally astonishing ilk and free entry into a whole new world of comicbook bliss.*

*Please note: conditions apply. The price of entry does not include the cost of those comics, and then the spiralling repercussions of your new-found addiction. Still, we are on hand to help you access those comics and enable your addiction for free.**

** Please note: conditions also apply. That access is free; those comics are not. You will shortly be broke. We thank you for your wanton suggestibility.


Buy The Love And Rockets Companion – 30 Years (And Counting) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Revival vol 2: Live Like You Mean It (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton.

Previously on REVIVAL VOL 1:

Wausau, Wisconsin, and the dead are coming back to life.

They’re not zombies, they’re fully sentient individuals with a new lease of life, and most are as chipper as ever. Others are distraught for reasons which will become painfully clear. As to the families… some will know new grief in the wake of these resurrections.

Amongst those returned from the dead is Officer Dana Cypress’ younger, resentful sister Martha. Dana’s son, meanwhile, has come into contact with a wraith-like creature which may be trying to say something. Dana’s father, the sheriff, has friends with dubious prior allegiances and agendas of his own, and her ex-husband’s girlfriend may not be the best babysitter in town. Add in a wider cast full of extra-marital affairs, religious fervour, and plans for internment camps, and you have fertile grounds for heightened anxieties, distrust and outright personal grudges.

The entire area has been quarantined, but resources are stretched and such a large rural perimeter so easily springs leaks. It’s not just the news crews and evangelists sneaking it, it’s what’s being smuggled out.

Think about it: the so-called-medicinal black market for body parts of those risen from the dead would outstrip even that for tiger cock. And with revivalists slowly regrowing their organs after each gory harvest, well, think about that, too…

No matter what you imagine, Tim Seeley has concocted more, creating some truly grotesque characters both on stage and off. Anyone who’s watched The Jeremy Kyle Show will know that some relationships are truly fucked up, and I find absolutely none of this implausible – I’d just never have been quick enough to come up with it myself.

Mike Norton’s art is glossy, his storytelling crystal clear, and I’ve just remembered where I first heard his name fifteen years ago: THE WAITING PLACE of which we have one full set of graphic novels left – at the time of typing!


Buy Revival vol 2: Live Like You Mean It and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sara Pichelli.

I never saw this coming.

Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers.

I have just redacted an entire paragraph to make even the vaguest hint disappear – even the tone of it – vamoosh! Please read my review of young, sweet Miles Morales’ debut as Spider-Man in ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 instead. I spent hours on that. Or the related SPIDER-MEN whose review, I am astonished to discover, I actually relinquished to Jonathan. Because I’ve loved everything Bendis has done on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN then ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN  for the last decade, and I am far too selfish to share.

Entirely spoiler-free, then (which is a shame because I could sell a lot more copies if you knew what was coming):

ITEM! Following the death of Peter Parker, witness some more exceptional soul-searching on the part of J. Jonah Jameson. What Bendis has done there is both radical and phenomenal.

ITEM! Worry at the return of the perceptive and receptive officer investigating the death of Miles Morales’ uncle. There is always a death of an uncle in Spider-Man mythology but, again, what a clever twist on the blame-game front.

ITEM! Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. They’re not an item, obviously, but is it just me, or does MJ now look increasingly like Enid from GHOST WORLD? Especially sitting next to Gwen “Becky” Stacy.

ITEM! Venom is back.

And due to some monumental fuckwittery on Betty Brant’s part, it believes that Miles Morales’ dad is Spider-Man. It also knows where the family lives.

There goes that friendly neighbourhood, then.


Buy Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Assemble vol 1 s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley.

What is remarkable about this book isn’t, for once, the quality of Bendis’ dialogue nor the litheness of Mark Bagley’s body forms.

It is that Marvel’s hubris has ballooned to the extent that it imagines you are prepared to fork out an outrageous £22-50 on a flimsy eight issues. Eight flimsy issues, at that.

Eight flimsy issues which, I might add, have nothing to do with Bendis’ epic AVENGERS run (this is a complete non-sequitur) but which were lazily lobbed out as a transparent cash-in on the film. See that cast list? It’s the film’s.

I have no objection to anyone wishing to capitalise on success if it’s done with intelligence, but if the only intelligence in question is the reader’s being insulted, I curl my lip in disgust. I endured the first couple of issues wondering whether Bendis had in fact been supplanted by a Skrull.

If you loved the film, please do yourself an enormous favour and read either Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch’s four fabulous volumes of THE ULTIMATES (the top tier in that section on our website – it’s what the film was stylistically based on, but you will be reading a very different story), or Brian Michael Bendis’ run proper which begins with AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED or, if you prefer, NEW AVENGERS VOL 1.


Buy Avengers Assemble 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.


The Reason For Dragons h/c (£14-99, Archaia Entertainment) by Chris Northrop & Jeff Stokely

Fariest vol 2: The Hidden Kingdom s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Lauren Beukes & Inaki Miranda, Barry Kitson

Monster On The Hill (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Rob Harrell

Star Wars: Purge (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jim Hall, Douglas Wheatley

Slaine vol 2: Time Killer (£13-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Glenn Fabry, Massimo Belardinelli, David Pugh, Bryan Talbot

Slaine vol 3: The King (£15-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Glenn Fabry, David Pugh, Mike Collins

Nightwing vol 2: Night Of The Owls s/c (£10-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins, Tom Defalco & Eddy Barrows, Andres Guinaldo, others

Avengers vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Brandon Peterson, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, Terry Dodson, Mike Mayhew

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

Attack On Titan vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Fairy Tail vol 28 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Skip Beat! Omnibus vols 13-15 (£9-99, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura


ITEM! Comics and games! Are you looking forward to GameCity 2013? We have something verrrrrry special planned October 20-26th: you will want to be in Nottingham – particularly around the middle of that week. Heh.

ITEM! In the meantime, Framed, a narrative puzzle game in which you rearrange comicbook panels to change the story and aid the protagonist.

ITEM! Parents! Young Readers! Schools! Get involved in the British Comics Awards by voting for your favourite graphic novel in the Young People’s Comics Awards! Each school signed up with receive FREE GRAPHIC NOVELS!

ITEM! Young People’s British Comics Awards Winner (HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT) Luke Pearson interviewed on Make Then Tell! It’s the best podcast in the business with Dan Berry, the creator of THE SUITCASE, our current Comicbook Of The Month, at the helm.

ITEM! Weekly Lakes International Comic Art Festival update (central news hub, there – and remember, that’s just the front page – click on the numbered buttons at the bottom for more!): book tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival here! Top-tip: try booking before the events are sold out!

I’m fully on board next year to join Dr. Mel Gibson on the schools and library programme., presenting more in-the-round show-and-tells.

ITEM! Download the first part of Hannah Berry’s chiller ADAMTINE for free! Why? Why would you want to do that? Page 45 reviews ADAMTINE. Do not read on a train…

ITEM! Speaking of chillers, FATALE – an interview with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

ITEM! Witty one-page comic on childbirth by Asaf Hanuka.

ITEM! Look at these gorgeous new World Without Cerebus prints by Gerhard, the landscape artist on CEREBUS.

ITEM! Lastly, your first glimpse of ORDINARY by Rob Williams and D’Israeli! Oh,  that light and those colours!

  – Stephen


Reviews July 2013 week three

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Oh, you’ll find so much to relate to, like that unfathomable tangle of wires which links your TV to your digital thingie via the DVD player and VCR, while your PS3 and Wii operate almost certainly by magic if only you can remember which arcane combination of controller buttons to press. God alone knows which plug is which anymore.

– Stephen on Hawkeye vol 2

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

‘Since You’ve Been Gone I Can Do Whatever I Want All The Time.’

In any other context you would take that as a statement of defiant bravado after being jilted; or even a genuine, celebratory reclamation of freedom after extricating yourself from a smothering, destructive relationship.

But Anders Nilsen has a knack for succinct poignancy, and this is instead what little is left of his world following the death of his fiancée Cheryl as chronicled in DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLOW.

He can do whatever he wants now, except what he wants to do. That is now impossible. Instead he can do this – all the time:

“Me crying while doing the dishes.”
“Me crying while trying to eat lunch and read a book.”
“Me crying while trying to work on the computer.”
“Me trying to hold it together on the train in France.”
“Me trying to hold it together while merging on 90-94.”
“Me doing whatever I want with all my free time.”

By the state of his bedlinen there, Anders has being lying under it, facing the wall, for hours.

It’s not maudlin – none of this book is a self-indulgent woe-is-me wallow in self-pity; it is simply the honest depiction of his new stark existence in the absence of all that was there, following the abrupt curtailment of all that was yet to come.

Not every snapshot in that sequence is solitary – he has friends – but there is no conversation. Then eventually even the commentary dries up. The last nine panels depict Nilsen on automatic pilot, going through the routine of his daily domestic chores, alone and in silence.

There is a great deal more here than in the book’s original publication as part of Fantagraphic’s Ignatz line. Additional material has been reprinted from the MOME anthology; other excerpts were originally screen prints.

Whereas the piece above depicts Anders as a full portrait in a thin, fragile, pale blue line, the rest of book is more representational. One shows a simple, silent, silhouette of man, an effigy going up in flames, crumbling into cinders.

Another, ‘How Can I Prepare You For What Is To Follow’, is narrated by a blank outline of a man against the backdrop of full-colour photos of beautiful landscapes, often exotic, as he welcomes you to the world, and all life’s potential. It’s a brilliantly balanced piece, bursting with optimism, but also quiet, cautionary words born from experience.

“It’s a lot, and it’s very exciting. I can see that you already like it here. Your eyes are wide, and you are smiling.
“But I won’t lie to you, little one. The world can be a difficult place, too.
“You will sometimes hurt the people you love, without meaning to. And they will hurt you.
“You will make mistakes, great and small. There will be frustrations. There will be cruelties, there will be humiliations. And some day you will lose something you hold dear.
“Some day, in a way no one can guess, your heart will, in all likelihood, be broken.
“You have a small, fragile heart, the same as all of us.
“But here is the other thing, my little one: you are alive.”

That last line is meant with no irony.

Throughout the book, in the conversations between two more hollow figures, between Anders and Cheryl – or rather than Anders and Anders filling in for Cheryl – there is not just an acknowledgement that things will change for the better, but a certainty, an optimism about it. It’s just that he isn’t there yet, and this is an invaluable, candid and unsentimental documentation of that limbo from someone who’s been there. This, towards the end…

“So, I think I’m starting to… not get over your death, but… assimilate it.”
“I mean… I met someone. I really like her. Are you okay with that?”
“I’m not okay with anything, I dead. You want reassurance.”
“That would be nice.”
“I can’t give it to you. I’m dead.”
“Do you have to go?”
“I’m already gone.”
“So you can stay then?”
“I’m not here. At all. You’re the one that has you go. I can’t leave, because I’m not here. You can’t stay, because you are.”

It doesn’t get much more profound than that.


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

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

“Danny! Follow me!”
“Slow down!”

Danny has forever followed in his older brother’s footsteps, and forever found himself lagging behind.

His awe and desperation to keep up hasn’t served him well. When struck by Luke’s drawing of a dinosaur, Danny held it up the fire light, rendering it translucent, and traced its outline before claiming the accomplishment as his own. They were on scout camp together, and it ended in Danny’s public humiliation at Luke’s own hands.

His parents feel that Danny’s been too long in Luke’s shadow.

His father publishes a quarterly journal of amusement park industry news and analysis, and has long admired one Otis Sharpe, a pioneer whose ideas were rejected in America once Disney had established its stranglehold. Now Otis has set up shop on the remote island of X whose government has given him funding and free reign there to construct Clockworld, recreating periods in time like the Great Fire Of London or a Roman Coliseum. It is there that Danny’s parents dispatch the seventeen-year-old Luke for they feel he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and needs to discover new perspectives.

Fourteen-year-old Danny has been left behind once more.

“What will I do without him? Who will I be?”

But after two year of silence, the parents grow worried about Luke. They believe that to pursue their eldest themselves would risk driving him away further still, but that Luke would accept Danny instead and, after a month, Danny is to return bringing Luke back with him.

“Yes! I will take this quest for you, for myself, and for our Luke!”
“You are a brave soul, my child. You are sixteen – almost the same age as Luke when he made his pilgrimage…It is your time now.”

We’ll return to the language in a second – it is far from accidental – but he does like inventing his sequestered, seeming Utopias, does our Dash Shaw. THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY A.D. (former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) introduced us to a particularly elaborate new society and educational establishment. Here, much in thrall to Otis Sharpe and the construction of Clockworld, it is the whole of the island of X, named after its shape and so boasts a whole lot of coast. Its customs are different to ours. The island of X has no theft: you can leave your bicycles wherever you like; no one will run off with them. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any crime at all. The X men and women have very different attitudes to parenthood and indeed sex, but the legal drinking age is sixteen.

“That’s my age. I can sip the forbidden spice!”
“No shit.”

It is an island of wonders to Danny, with subaquatic libraries housing their much revered books. And speaking of reverence that is precisely how Danny regards Luke. He has always worshipped Luke, and here sees himself as the older brother’s disciple, hence the bursts of Biblical font throughout:

“Teach me, Luke! My ears are yours!” he thinks in complete adoration.

You’ll notice that Luke’s speech is far more colloquial. Shall we say… adjusted? Danny’s social skills aren’t that great. But he is encouraged by what he takes to be moments of meaningful physical contact (“A touch! A playful gesture!”) even though it is immediately apparent to Danny on being met at the docks that Luke has moved on even further. “Luke has taken a lover!” Danny can’t help but focus on their kiss. And Luke’s new stubble. It is a little… alienating. Undaunted, Danny follows Luke and Esther about, keeping up as best he can, but on sipping the forbidden spice it transpires that Danny cannot hold his drink, and Luke will not always be there to hold his hand.

I think I’d better leave it there.

I found this very powerful, the hero worship and humiliations very affecting, all the more so because of Dash’s intense, enveloping art with its colours acting like filters, as if you’re immersed in some low-lit water tank. I can’t claim to know exactly how the effect is achieved but it is as if Shaw has laid each page out in his mind, laid the swathes of colour down first, then drawn over them with a blunt Sharpie.

It will alienate many – it is certainly supposed to be alien; other – but when I was very young I found the art style in MAUS to be alienating too until I began actually reading it. Once I started in on this, I was completely subsumed in Danny’s world, his perspective and in his plight. I can’t think of a single other visual treatment that has made me feel less of an observer and more directly involved, so that when the whole thing burst open I too began to panic, just as I was awed in the subaquatic library.

“The bottom floor rests beneath the blue – so that when you life a book from a shelf, you peer into the glistening sea life living beyond!
“The dusk light passes through the water, illuminating the space in rippling colour! Have my eyes ever seen such beauty?! Bliss! Bliss!”


Buy New School h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Paul Joins The Scouts (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Michel Rabagliati…

Very much in the same laidback vein as PAUL HAS A SUMMER JOB, this might be my favourite Paul story yet, regaling us as it does with his happy days spent cub scouting at his first summer camp, plus the odd evening repeatedly almost managing to kiss his first crush. He does eventually get a bit of lip-wrestling action as well learning how to deal with a canoe capsizing, but what comes across most strongly is his pure sense of joy at just being a kid, when life was so much simpler with far, far less to think about.

We also get to see his nascent interest in comicbook artistry come into being, with some vignettes that are truly fascinating and amusing in equal measure as he struggles to impress his family with his early efforts. All this childhood wonder is set against the background of some rather unpleasant events occurring in Quebec at the time, courtesy of the FLQ, intent on ‘liberating’ Quebec from Canadian clutches. In addition there is a rather shocking ending, when Paul has a nasty accident breaking his leg at the last cub meeting, right before his impending second summer camp, meaning he misses out and is instead laid up in Montreal. Understandably he’s more than a little down in the dumps about it. The breaking of the leg isn’t what is shocking though, in fact that turns out to be a truly huge blessing in disguise…


Buy Paul Joins The Scouts and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days 2 (£4-99, ) by John Allison…

“Were you CAREFUL?”

“In a prophylactic sense, yes, but… I may have knocked his guitar off the wall and broken it… while trying something.”


“He wasn’t pleased.”

Featuring the return of crazy-haired introvert Daisy Wooton, the phlegmatic and rather blunt Susan Ptolemy, plus the divine man-mesmerising beauty that is Esther de Groot. Readers of the first GIANT DAYS may recall our friends are in their first year of University, having only just made each other’s acquaintance in Fresher’s week. Already firm chums, they’re now settling in nicely to Uni life with all the endless socialising and lack of studying that entails. For Esther this also means pining for her boyfriend Eustace from back home and unwittingly attracting the romantic attentions of the completely harmless and also slightly gormless Ed Gemmell.

The fact that Esther is completely out of his league doesn’t deter Ed from dreaming but he’s going to regret revealing his crush to his streetwise new mate, and budding guitar god – in his own mind at least – Steve Shields. Cue one heated phone call from Eustace, a drinking binge at the rock night down the Slag Pit (surely the best name ever for a night club?) for the ladies, and a rather unwise decision on Esther’s part about who to share a taxi home with. The next day there’s a very forlorn Ed to console, a reputation to repair, and a guitar to… err… repair as well. Note-perfect British comedy from Mr. Allison, illustrated as exquisitely as ever.


Buy Giant Days 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time: Playing With Fire s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Zack Sterling –

Super cute tale wherein Finn and Jake take Fire Princess to the carnival kingdom because she has NEVER BEEN TO THE CARNIVAL KINGDOM!!! 😮 They have a lovely time but, of course, some mysterious happening isn’t far away because this is Adventure Time so, yeah. FP wants to see the fortune teller and so off they go. She has to go in alone though. The mystic tells her boyfriend to wait outside. Finn!? Boooooooyfriend!!!! So cute. And then some stuff happens which makes FP think about her true nature; good or evil, hero or villain? (The best she can aim for is chaotic good, in my opinion) Also, kissing! Plus Choose Goose falls foul of that most ancient of truths – nothing rhymes with purple.*

And then the best bit in the whole book – BMO STORY! Our little walking joypad gets into the Forbidden Loot Stash Cupboard. Such a naughty noodle. Will the mess be tidied up before Finn and Jake get back? Probably not, as Bmo’s various attempts at said tidying are each more disastrous than the last.

Told in black, white and grey tone in a cute mini-sized pocket book this is a lovely little thing from internet web comics person of note Danielle Corsetto (GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS) and up and coming art person Zack Sterling.

*No, burple is not a word. Please don’t write in.

Buy Adventure Time: Playing With Fire s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bravest Warriors vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes…

“A mission! I love missions!”
“Computer, trace that signal!”
“I’ll make sure we turned the oven off!”
“Hey guys, I am just tossing ideas around… maybe we should ignore the distress call and let the clowns all die?”
“No way! We are the Bravest Warriors, Danny. And we are going to go and save those depressed little bozos from a nightmare storm of frowny faces.”
“We will smack the frowns right off their faces!”

Boo hoo, a planet full of clowns are sad and the only people who can turn those frowns upside down are our merry bunch of transgalactic teenage troubleshooters. Fans of the cartoon from the creator of ADVENTURE TIME will be up to light speed on what to expect. For those unfamiliar with Chris, Wallow, Beth, Danny plus unofficial fifth member Plum, Bravest Warriors is fairly typical of most modern animated fare, in the sense that it makes no sense. Surreal, zany, fast-paced with more bright colours than a vatful of E numbers, their missions are like Captain Kirk’s wildest and most delirious fever dreams. Great fun.


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

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

Previously in ROMANTIC BISON:

After admiring from afar – though maybe not far enough: hiding in the bulrushes all day and just staring seemed like stalking – our mud-loving bull, blissed up on Sylvia the rabbit, finally made his move…via a love letter which Sweary Cat hid from Sylvia, such was Sweary Cat’s jealousy. Sweary Cat pretended that she was Sylvia’s boyfriend and told Romantic Bison to back off. Romantic Bison backed off. Largely because he failed to notice that Sweary Cat was a con, not a tom.

It’s so difficult to tell with cats.

However, all this Shakespearian subterfuge and high dramatic irony finally resolved itself and everyone lived happily ever after. Or did they?

“Oh, Sweary Cat! Don’t be jealous. You’ll meet someone one day too!”
“ARGH! I don’t need to go out with someone to be happy!”

Agreed! Translation: no one ever asks me.

“Oh, Sweary! I didn’t mean to upset you. Everyone wants to be loved by that special soul mate.”
“I hate sole, mate. It’s the only fish I don’t like.”

Errr, I agree. Translation: I quite like sole, but I’m trying to keep a running gag going.

“Soul! Soul mate! Don’t you want to meet another cat to smooch with?”
“No! Leave me alone. I’m fine.”

Agreed, agreed, agreed! Translation: I am unloveable.

“Ok… I’m sorry. I just want to spread the love.”
“Love is an invention of the media to sell products. It’s not real. You are feeling obsession + lust. You just think it is love.”

What a Debbie Downer! It’s a good job Sylvia knows her own heart and, throughout life, has kept her boundaries down stoically enough in spite of any hard knocks to experience all the shades of affection from mere infatuation to true love. You can tell it’s true love here: they have bonded over old Disney movies.

It’s also a good job that Sylvia cares more about Sweary Cat than Sweary Cat does about Sylvia and so takes imaginative, thoughtful steps in trying to rekindle their friendship with the aid of her bad-feeling beau, Bison. Even if they do stray somewhat off the path by signing Sweary Cat up to an online dating agency, unilaterally and without her consent.

That particular cul-de-sac is almost as excruciating as First Dates on TV last night. She (not here, on TV and in order to break her date’s hopeless, fish-out-of-water silence): “What would you like to know about me?” He: “Ten years ago I had a heart attack.”

This is an 18-page, landscape comic with additional card cover which, in spite of its seemingly throwaway comedy, actually nails so much about friendships and the dating game, and the dating reality of love which sometimes threatens to come between close, long-standing friendships. Sometimes that is the fault of those understandably subsumed in a new love affair, but here it is down to selfish resentment and possessiveness of the world’s most morose moggie.

Can’t you just be happy for your friends?


Buy Romantic Bison 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Wasteland vol 8: Lost In The Ozone (£10-99, Oni) by Anthony Johnston & Russell Roeling…

“Why now?”
“Years ago, I… I felt it calling. I don’t know why I resisted. No, that’s not true. I didn’t like the feeling that maybe I wasn’t in control. Do you know what I mean?”
“Oh yeah.”
“And then… I forgot, somehow.”
“We all did.”
“But how could we? And why did we remember that night?”
“Maybe we’ll find out.”
“And if we don’t?”
“I could live with that.”

Well I couldn’t! And I am sure, dear readers, neither could you. But don’t panic, I’m sure Antony is merely teasing us, as a few more secrets are gradually revealed in this volume whilst Michael and Abi head across the desert towards A-Ree-Yass-I. Whilst nothing remotely conclusive is given away, we have now got a few more – just a few, mind – pieces of the jigsaw.

Also, a thought occurred to me actually whilst reading… regarding the Nephilim. Given what A-Ree-Yass-I may or may not be, and if that particular somewhat phonetically misleading / confusing clue does refer to the location I think it does, well the Nephilim might be something entirely different to the divine beings everyone presumes them to be. Or not. I really don’t know, but I do want to find out!!! Also, did you know Anthony is a talented musician? He’s recorded a soundtrack for WASTELAND, free to download, adding a song with each major story arc, that you can find HERE.


Buy Wasteland vol 8: Lost In The Ozone and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 2: Little Hits Now s/c (£11-99, Marvel ) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth with Francesco Francavilla, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Annie Wu.

“Okay… this looks bad.”

Of course it does, Clint: you are involved.

HAWKEYE VOL 1 is the only superhero comic we have ever allowed in the Page 45 window, and the only superhero comic we have ever made – or are likely to make – Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Firstly, David Aja’s design skills are phenomenal; secondly, this isn’t a superhero comic: it’s a grin-inducingly inventive comedy crime caper, full of humanity and accessible to all: you don’t need to have read a single Marvel Comic in your life.

Oh, you’ll find so much to relate to, like that unfathomable tangle of wires which links your TV to your digital thingie via the DVD player and VCR, while your PS3 and Wii operate almost certainly by magic if only you can remember which arcane combination of controller buttons to press. God alone knows which plug is which anymore.

Then there are the ghosts of ex-girlfriends. Oh, not real ghosts, but imagine being caught snogging a damsel in distress (and in dat dress) by a) your girlfriend b) your ex-girlfriend and c) your ex-wife, all at the same time. I’m not exactly sure what a motif is, but Fraction and Aja have turned that trio into one. Probably. They recurr, anyway, at the most inopportune moments.

Once again, this is one long succession of disasters but this time not all of them areof Clint’s making. The first chapter was written on the fly immediately following the horrific storms which hit the U.S. on October 29th 2012.

Clint has bought the tenement building he lives in to safeguard its tenants from a mob in tracksuits. There have been… altercations, bro. He’s also befriended those tenants, especially chubby, middle-aged Grill who insists on calling our Hawkeye “Hawkguy”. As the winds whip up around them, Clint drives Grill to Far Rockaway where Grill’s stubborn old goat of a dismissive dad is steadfastly refusing to pay any attention to the gale or water levels, leaving their last mementoes of Grill’s dead mum in the basement. Oh look, here comes the flood.

The very same night Kate – our younger, female and infinitely wiser Hawkeye – is preparing to hit New Jersey in an elaborate Emanuel Ungaro dress and Christian Dior stilettos.

“What could a storm do to a five-star hotel?”
“It’s New Jersey. There are La Quinta Inns outside of State pens that are nicer.”
“Oh yeah, Mr. Brooklyn? This where you and Jay-Z tell me Brooklyn is the greatest place on Earth?”
“Okay, one, I don’t know who that is, and two, shut up. Brooklyn is great, New Jersey is a punch line, and you are a kid and don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Both threads are moving tributes to people helping each other in times of crises, and that’s what this title is all about: helping people in times of crisis. And it stars the one man above all who simply cannot help himself – in either sense.

“Whoa, man, you look like hell.”
“Walked into a door. That, uh, proceeded to beat the hell out me.”

Clint seems to have spent the entire series covered in plasters.

He’s also spent the series in a line of personalised clothing like the H hat nodding back to his old mask, and the purple target t-shirt. As to Kate, she’s decked herself out in a variety of purple shades which she’s perpetually pulling down to glare her elder in the eyes with long-suffering disdain.

So yes, let us talk more about David Aja’s design which – with Hollingsworth’s white – fills the comic with so much light. His tour de force here is the Pizza Dog issue, told entirely from Lucky’s point of view, wordless except for those basics the mutt might understand. His day is spent constantly interpreting the world around him through sound, smell and association, conveyed by Aja in maps of connected symbols worthy of Chris Ware himself (see BUILDING STORIES, JIMMY CORRIGAN and, particularly for symbols, the early pages of ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20). There is one seemingly throwaway moment where an absence of both sound and smell means everything.



What is particularly impressive is the absence of almost any anthropomorphism (just two raised paws). Instead it’s all symbols and skeuomorphism as the dog goes about its business (and indeed business) on daily patrol. What you don’t see on the unlettered cover to that chapter is the original credits which would normally read…


… but instead read…


And you know what I was saying in HAWKEYE VOL 1 about Matt Hollingsworth’s gorgeous colour palette? There is a highly instructive two-page process piece in the back in which shows you precisely how he achieves that consistency and the trouble he goes to do so. Pays off every single issue.

Anyway, back to the tangled wires and battered old VCR and our catastrophe-prone Clint doing the best that he can.

“Shut up about the show and shut up about my stuff – I know it’s a mess and it’s half-taped together and it’s old and busted – but it’s mine
“And you gotta make that work, right? You gotta make your own stuff work out.”

Or, to put it another way…

“What is the hell have I gotten myself into? What the hell is wrong with me?”

Oh, Clint! Everything is wrong with you.

Except your heart.


Buy Hawkeye vol 2: Little Hits Now s/c and read the Page 45 review here

FF vol 1: Fantastic Faux s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mike Allred, Joe Quinones.


Before we go any further, it behoves me to point out that you really do need to read Fraction’s first foray into the FF, FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 1: NEW ARRIVALS, before moving onto this.

Sue, Reed, Ben and Johnny are decidedly off-planet, and have left the Future Foundation child prodigies in the care of She-Hulk, Queen Medusa of The Inhumans, the Human Torch’s current flame, Darla Deering, and the Ant-Man called Scott Lang. They’re more off-kilter than off-planet and maybe off-message as well. The tabloids sure don’t like ‘em.

Yes, it’s got off to a somewhat chaotic start, not least because the original crew promised to be back in just over a few, time-compressed minutes. That didn’t happen. Instead a fully masked man with silver hair claiming to be the Human Torch has materialised, pronounced the others all dead and Doctor Doom responsible. Doctor Doom, it appears, must die…

Oh, there will be action, there will be intrigue, there will be a missing Medusa. There will be a formidable gathering of foes. But there will also be a whole lot of stoopid, including the disastrous news headline “W.T.FF?” and kids monkeying about it the background. The cover should be sign-post enough that this isn’t about the po-faced pugilism.

The Moloids in particular have stolen my heart. These four subterranean children who look like tiny, wizened old men (one but a head in a floating fishbowl) have transferred their worship of The Ben into their adoration of The Jen. (That’s She-Hulk – Marvel’s second superhero lawyer and green-skinned, Amazonian foxstress.) Here she is applying mascara and day-glo pink lipstick oh so seductively coloured by Laura Allred, while one of the hyperactive Moloids glugs down her nail varnish. Jen has the second line only; the rest is all excitable, analytical Moloids….

“Busy, The Jen? Busy for what?”
“I’m… meeting someone for dinner.”
“Is it a date?”
“A date is a fruit.”
“A date is for a mens and a womens. Or mens and mens. And womens and womens. And dates are for smooching.”

He gets one right on the fishbowl, but that doesn’t stop the children trying to sabotage the date with the help of the preternaturally articulate kid-Wizard-clone, Bentley-23.

Later: one of the Moloids has a personal epiphany and dresses to impress. Colour me impressed.


Buy FF vol 1: Fantastic Faux s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 2: The Last White Event h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato, Dustin Weaver.

Can you see what it is yet?

It’s a Starbrand.

A Starbrand is a planetary defence mechanism triggered by The White Event, choosing an appropriate human to gain almost limitless powers. It was last seen in Warren Ellis’ NEW UNIVERSAL in a very different dimension. But now The White Event has finally hit the Marvel Universe, and it’s gone horrifyingly wrong.

Five hours ago a couple on college campus kiss on a park bench. They’re in love. In the foreground strolls a sullen young man, unnoticed and decidedly unloved.

Four hours ago two mates march down a college corridor so wrapped up in their macho conversation they are virtually oblivious to the fact that they just knocked that kid to the floor.

Three hours ago in the campus canteen a science student argues with his dad on the phone about the career he has chosen for himself. The grey-faced guy serves him without even being spoken to.

Two hours ago, he sits silent in a lecture theatre while others postulate about power.

Now that power has been transferred.

“Defending a planet requires having the ability to break one. Now imagine that kind of power in the hands of someone who has spent his entire life being ignored.”

“The machine is broken. The universe is broken.”

It’s been transferred to the wrong human being.

The story which kicked off in AVENGERS VOL 1: AVENGERS WORLD is inextricably entwined with this – we’re building to something gigantic – and indeed another of the planet’s regions which received catalysts from the cosmic gardners on Mars is explored here with more to come. This one’s in Canada and it will mess with your mind, just as it does with the combined forces of the Avengers and Alpha Flight. It’s wickedly clever and really quite brutal and will have you reading it back a good twice or thrice.

Lastly, however, is a unexpectedly mischievous diversion in which Shang-Chi, Sunspot, Cannonball, Carol Danvers, Jessica Drew and the Black Widow are sent undercover to a Hong Kong casino in order to ascertain the nature of the bioweapons they have put on the international black market, and identify their potential buyers. What follows is tensely worded game of poker with more than the cards at stake, someone having fun with a gun, and Sunspot and Cannonball acquiring the most unlikely drinking buddies imaginable – as well as a very useful advantage for the long game.

You’ll know by now that I have a very soft spot for Michael Deodato, inking his own work here with a much finer line, but all of the art is tremendous and the subtle way those campus scenes were originally played before the key moments are revisited to highlight the invisible man was so neat that I probably shouldn’t have spoiled it. Plenty more to play for.


Buy Avengers vol 2: The Last White Event h/c and read the Page 45 review here

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher…

Aboard the rebel ship
Enter C-3PO and R2-D2.

C-3PO: Now is the summer of our happiness made winter by this sudden, fierce attack! Our ship is under siege, I know not how. O hast thou heard? The main reactor fails! We shall most surely be destroy’d by this. I’ll warrant madness lies herein!
R2-D2:  Beep beep, beep, beep, meep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, whee!
C-3PO: We’re doomed! The princess shall have no escape this time! I fear this battle doth portend the end of the Rebellion. O! What misery!

[Exeunt C-3PO and R2-D2]

And they say Shakespeare has nothing to say to the modern man! This is truly hilarious.

Obviously you’ll need to be a fan of Star Wars to appreciate the gag as scene after classic scene is re-imagined in the inimitable style of the Bard, but it really is the gift that keeps on giving as the ultimate space opera is reduced (or uplifted, depending on your perspective) to a bawdy farcical romp, pitting the Faustian ne’er do wells of the Empire against those most noble heroes of the Rebellion. I do most verily doff my hat to Ian Doescher who has produced this adaption in the style of a Shakespearean play, complete with stage notes, because it is truly note-perfect throughout. Now I just desperately want to see someone put it on as a production!

I should also add that there are numerous illustrations throughout which are equally amusing, my favourite probably being Jabba the Hutt in an Elizabethan hat!


Buy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars 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.


Goddamn This War! (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

The Love And Rockets Companion – 30 Years (And Counting) s/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Los Bros Hernandez, edited by Marc Sobel, Kristy Valenti

The Killer vol 4 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

The Killer Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 5 – The Pickens County Horror (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & James Harren, Jason Latour, Max Fiumara

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller s/c (£10-99, Archaia) by various

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 4: Materia  Materia h/c (£19-99, Other A-Z) by Tom Siddell

Walrus s/c (£14-99, Picturebox) by Brandon Graham

Eldritch vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Slave Labor Graphics) by Aaron Alexovich & Drew Rausch

Primates: The Fearless Science Of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey & Birute Galdikas h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks

Revival vol 2: Live Like You Mean It (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Glory vol 2: War Torn (£10-99, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell

Kafka h/c (£22-50, Image) by Steven T. Seagle & Stefano Gaudiano

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave Mckean

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 1 – Knight Terrors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins, David Finch, Judd Winick, Joe Harris & David Finch

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 2 – Cycle Of Violence h/c (£16-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & David Finch

Avengers Academy: Final Exams s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos N. Gage & Tom Grummett, Andrea Di Vito

Captain America vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton, Steve Epting

The Mighty Thor And Journey Into Mystery: Everything Burns s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen & Alan Davis, various

Uncanny X-Force vol 7: Final Execution Book 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & David Williams, Phil Noto

Avengers Assemble vol 1 s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sara Pichelli

Wolverine Max vol 1: Permanent Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Starr & Roland Boschi, Felix Ruiz

Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way, Andy Diggle & Paco Medina, Carlo Barbieri, Bong Dazo, Steve Dillon

I’ll Give It My All Tomorrow vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Shunju Aono

Gate 7 vol 4 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp

The Great War h/c Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

3″ (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Marc-Antoine Mathieu

Naruto vol 62 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Pandora Hearts vol 15 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Bakuman vol 20 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata


ITEM! New New Statesman comic by Tom Humberstone featuring the most polite protesters ever!

 “No more animal testing, please!”
“Climate change is a bad thing!”
“Something else that is reasonable”

 ITEM! Have a free online comic: Fallen London by Chris Gardiner & Paul Arendt – it’s cyberpunk in sepia. Made me smile.

ITEM! Amazing crockery (and comics) on Isabel Greenberg’s Tumblr

ITEM! New, all-ages daily webcomic: ASTRODOG by Paul Harrison-Davies

ITEM! Weekly Lakes International Comic Art Festival update (central news hub, there): John Allison will be on hand for portfolio reviews.

ITEM! Leigh Alexander writes about independent games developers PR strategies. It pretty much applies to comics too, and ticked a lot of boxes for me! Please read carefully comics self-publishers – well, all comics publishers!

 – Stephen


Reviews July 2013 week two

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Sean Phillips lets rip with sharp teeth, tentacles and several bloodbaths which would put any modern washing powder to the test.

 – Stephen on Fatale vol 3

The Listening Agent h/c (signed bookplate edition) (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Joe Decie.

Oh, Joe! He’s a husband, a father, yet still as messy as a teenager. You should see his side of the bed! He’s also a…

Working-class drinker: “Mind your backs, please!”
With middle-class rage: “There’s no fucking artichoke hearts!”
And upper-class work ethic: “I’ll just sit here and wait for the money to roll in.”

Reviewing Joe Decie books without illustrations has always been problematic. The pictures with their pin-point timing are almost always so integral to each joke that I was relieved to find that one translated well, even if I mucked about with his timing.

I’ve long considered Joe the new Eddie Campbell, although I am still much in love with the old one. Eddie’s ALEC OMNIBUS contains longer, more involved and some might say more profound autobiographical observations. I’d agree with the first two propositions, but not the last. Broken glass is a magnet to bare feet. Shopping malls are hell on Earth. I also distribute bank statements around town in different dustbins, but in addition I eat them. You may have seeing me doing so in the shop. I chew the details which run the risk of identity fraud until they’re an unreadable pulp. If I were a wasp I would then build a nest with the regurgitated mass in each bank’s fat cat’s bedroom. Or bathroom. Just under the toilet seat.

I’d also extend the comparison to Eddie and Joe each being their respective household’s alpha males, and both being practically rubbish at it.

This is Decie’s best book so far by a very wide margin. He has refined his already attractive line since THE ACCIDENTAL SALAD and POCKET FULL OF COFFEE so that it is exquisitely sharp and his portraiture really quite moving. Just look at his son! The washes are far more controled now, the light bouncing off the walls and the floors and the faces.

The reproduction values have also matched the artwork on offer. This is another of what appears to be Blank Slate’s new standard format: an A4, album-sized hardcover much like those lavish livres cartonnés I stumbled across 20 years ago in an Aix-en-Provence comic shop which directly inspired the creation of Page 45. We had nothing like that then in the US and UK, and I approve!

Like Eddie Campbell’s occasional succinct shorts in the ALEC OMNIBUS, some of the pages here also benefit from the charm of the progeny, for Joe Decie’s son is now older but thankfully no wiser. Just funnier.

His dad’s no older nor wiser, either. Just funnier still.

Joe has long confessed that although this is ostensibly autobiograhical, a lot is made up. And it’s all the better for it when Joe goes off on one, as when he’s mauled by The Hunt.

In closing, your honours and your honouresseseses, I would just add that comics don’t come much more accessible than this. My Mum has had a soft spot for Joe Decie ever since she spotted his ACCIDENTAL SALAD on my coffee table, picked through its raddishes, cleaned it up and then washed the dishes.

This has therefore solved all my Christmas presents for 2013, not just to friends but also to the last of my family who don’t think they love comics yet. They will.

Please Note: Joe has kindly drawn and signed for us a limited edition of 40 signed bookplates exclusive to Page 45. See what he’s done with that designer label? Brilliant! (I imagine l’ll have to delete this paragraph almost immediately. Be quick or look thick!)


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

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

“And so it went on for several years. Until it didn’t.”

Noir with a Lovecraftian twist, FATALE is our best-selling series matched only by SAGA.

Here the horror comes to the fore in different places, different years – 1936, Texas; 1286, France; 1883, Colorado; 1943, Romania – because, yes, the story is older than we thought.

The bookends find the first two volumes’ Josephine beginning to understand what she might be, having tracked down a writer whose mother succumbed to a cult while they travelled out west. Aged twelve, he saw things that no boy should see – and probably nor should you. His mother’s still there in the attic, as mothers are wont to be. Now Jo sees things differently, which leads her to Mirela in occupied Paris and thence to Romania and Walter, which all pulls back beautifully to FATALE VOL 1. You’ll know the scenes I mean when you get there.

In between these chapters we meet Mathilde and Bonnie, both of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Jo, and you will discover why the ancient tome which played such a big part in FATALE VOL 2 is so desperately important. ‘A Lovely Sort Of Death’ set in France in 1286 is particularly horrific for they were cruel enough times without Mathilde’s involuntary sorcery triggering the worst in men. And the shame of it all is she could have been happy, for she met a man of honour and no threat to her at all…

There, I do hope I’ve been vague enough. You can then move straight on to FATALE #15 which returns us to the present and the plight of Nicholas Lash which – improbably enough – is about to get even more precarious! Also, someone’s doing something horrible to Josephine yet again, and you’ll meet a band struggling to fund their next album and video in a highly unorthodox manner.

Bettie Breitweiser has arrived as new colour artists and brings some very neat tricks with her, first during the 1286 episode like the exquisite lighting on an early morning as Mathilde negotiates the snow-swept banks of a narrow, woodland river. It’s but one tiny panel, but such is Breitweiser’s attention to detail.

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, lets rip with sharp teeth, tentacles and several bloodbaths which would put any modern washing powder to the test. His eye for design has given this series the best covers in the business, and here he turns his attention to four stunning, scene-setting first pages for each of the four chapters. Also, the eyes: over and over again here there are eyes which see more than the minds behind them can cope with, and I don’t think I’ve seen “petrified” ever conveyed quite so startlingly.

So here’s how it all opens, with Josephine having left her customary mark:

“Texas – 1936.
“Officer Nelson has been drinking for a few hours when he realises she isn’t coming back for him.
“He breaks out in a cold sweat…
“And his hands start to shake…
“As the world collapses in on him.”

Oh, Jo!


Buy Fatale vol 3: West Of Hell and read the Page 45 review here

The From Hell Companion s/c (£19-99, Knockabout) by Eddie Campbell, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell.

This’ll make your eyes water.

It will make you laugh out loud – for Eddie is one of comics’ finest raconteurs and there is much of mirth to unearth in the creation of FROM HELL – plus almost any other comic artist being presented with scripts like these would have burst into tears and run away long before the end of the prologue.

Presented here (almost all excerpts for the first time) are Alan Moore’s scripts and pre-ambles sent to the artist in preparation for each chapter, arranged by Eddie Campbell into an accessible new narrative of their own, complete with conversational Campbell commentary which is an entertainment in and of itself.

THE FROM HELL COMPANION is, in every way, a biography of the book: FROM HELL’s conception, reception and publishing history; its influences, development and artistic progress including disagreements, regrets and revisions – both at the time and as printed in subsequent editions.

Along the journey Eddie explains his approach to each segment, mostly faithful but requiring no small thought towards interpretation, yet sometimes of necessity piloted off the strict course originally plotted by its navigator. Throughout Alan acknowledges that there is room for manoeuvre and encourages his collaborator if he believes a different approach would serve the same purpose.

Eddie Campbell is a thinker and I believe you’ll find that thinking infectious. Throughout he expounds on his wider theories about comics’ construction from individual pages’ layout to what is required and what should be avoided in any work’s climax and conclusion. There aren’t that many comicbook creators who have given the medium this much minute, phorensic examination; although Alan Moore is most emphatically one of the others as evidenced by these infamously extravagant but gloriously evocative and eloquent extracts which are even more impressive when you consider that they were never intended to see the light of day. All of this beauty – for Eddie’s eyes only!

And you wait until you see Alan expend whole pages justifying his artistic decisions:

“(You see how nervous I get when I’m working with a respected comic book theorist like yourself? All that writing and wriggline just to assure you I’m not getting flashy.)”

Contained both within the scripts and Campbell’s commentary is the thought they also gave to local research, historical verisimilitude and other treatments of similar subject matter. I’m resisting the urge to prove each of my points here by reproducing any of the 1,000-word essays Alan often assigns to a single panel. That’s what Eddie Campbell’s done: you might as well just pick up the book.

There are copious illustrations: each of the original cover paintings, reference photographs accompanied by their use in relevant panels and personal photographs of the creators in question. You may find it better to have a copy either of FROM HELL or the FROM HELL H/C to hand, but each of the pages in question have been reproduced and if you can’t quite read all the dialogue, well, it follows in Alan’s scripts. There are multiple other paintings, Christmas cards, and a fabulous Tarot-like portrait of Alan as the ultimate Gull-Catcher.

Which brings me neatly to the ‘Dance Of The Gull-Catchers’ appendix with all the Ripperologists dancing round in circles vainly trying to snag their prey in butterfly nets. I was unaware until now that a “gull” – in addition to being the name of the hideous protagonist of FROM HELL itself – is “old slang for a fool, or a hoax, to cheat or mislead”.

Oh, the things you will learn…


Buy The From Hell Companion s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Playing Out h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Jim Medway.

Three young kids, far from bored, mess about in town and their zeal is utterly infectious.

Moreover, Medway’s ear for their vernacular, his eye for their body language and empathy for their interaction, so astutely observed and comprehended, took me by surprise and had me glued to my seat. Which is a shame: it was sunny outside.

This isn’t some nihilistic tale of generational ennui wherein all the shops are closed down and a gang of bored youths with fuck all imagination go on a rebellious rampage of casual, ingrained misantropy and vandalism.

These boys are bursting with imagination, find almost everything fascinating – though a few things well weird – and come up with some cracking distractions and low-cost shenanigans. I particularly loved the race through a crowded Debenhams department store, all captured on internal CCTV (I can only imagine the security guards’ reactions), while Connor’s older brother Kieron speeds round the streets outside on his bike to beat them.

Yeah, Jamal and Kieron are twelve and Connor but ten and so, being unaccompanied by an adult and maybe a little too loud, they’re met in some shops with suspicion, distrust and hostility. Particularly when they begin gawping at the knives (oh, how I loved knives!), some so ridiculously elaborate as to be highly impractical (one is basically a shark). Indeed on the one occasion they are welcomed and, far from patronised or rejected, actively helped by a kindly guy showing them how to splice together films using a computer programm, Jamal reacts with barely surpressed anger, so sure is he they’re being laughed at. But they move on and almost immediately return to avid exploration and playing pranks (oh lord, the tram – too, too funny!) but never at anyone’s serious expense.

As to the body language I mentioned earlier, two words: “girls” and “hoodie”. You’ll see what I mean. Defensive, much?

I confess that the cover didn’t do it for me: it sends out the negative, frowny signals I’ve attempted to dispel above. Within, there is far more tenderness both in the lines and the expressions, the kindness and, as I say, the optimism.

For although this isn’t a coming-of-age-story, it is a tale is which Connor is coming to that cusp. This is his summer between little and big school where Kieron and Jamal are already a year or two in. There is a key scene in which young Connor breaks off from his elder idols to revel in the art of mask-making.

“Soz about this, Jamal,” says Kieron apologetically.
“Ah, it’s alright. Look at him go!”

They are almost perfectly patient while the ten-year-old relishes his innocent, instinctive creativity, but when Connor emerges all clowned-up with a mask he adores and shows off, Kieron, not unkindly points out a truth. It’s not that Connor was too long…

“It’s just you’re not gonna be able to act like that come September.”

Brilliantly, there are different end-pages both pre- and post-story. The latter concludes with a perfect narrative ellipsis. I don’t need to know more, this is complete in itself, but if Medway chooses to tell me what happens next, then I would be in heaven.


Buy Playing Out h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Ingenious and inventive storytelling involving a ten-story tenement building carelessly set on fire during a failed suicide attempt.

Possibly inspired by Alan Moore’s tale drawn by Rick Veitch in TOMORROW STORIES (all sadly out of print) which could be read both horizontally and vertically, this isn’t quite as clever but has garnered effusive praise from Matt Madden and Paul Hornschemeier, both of whom know more about comicbook storytelling than I ever will (pop ‘em in our search engine).

After folding the book out into separate storeys (and indeed stories, though you’ll see how they grow increasingly integrated), you start at the bottom in the basement flat where a man decides to end it all, and potentially ends it all for everyone above him. Candles, eh? Which utter idiot could burn his flat down with candles? (Get me drunk and I will tell you. Eastbourne, 25 years ago. Oh, we can laugh now…)

Whether or not he eventually makes it out of his flat door on the right-hand side (a recurring motif as you will see), you then proceed to tier two where the flames will eventually start to burn their way through the first tenant’s ceiling to set fire to the carpet above it. Repeat for all ten storeys, but note that the panels do not correspond chronologically on a vertical axis. Also note how conditioned we are and how difficult it is not to head straight to the top of the book after turning each page. Also, also: as the plights of the various inhabitants become intermingled, some of the panels have wider black borders – these are flashbacks. The flashbacks confused me slightly. You will have to concentrate, but it’s worth it.

Along the way you will meet a pregnant woman, an abusive couple, a frantic dog, and a pair of eyes meeting across the room at a crowded party. At no point does anyone phone the fire brigade or, if they do, that city really needs to look at its congestion.

For more original, inventive storytelling please see the likes of Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE and Ray Fawkes’ ONE SOUL and Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB, all of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month at one point or another.


Buy Burning Building Comix h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Alternative Comics #4 (£4-25, Alternative Comics) by Some Alternative Comic Artists.

They’re not really alternative at all.

I don’t even know what that word means. It’s like “indie”. They’re alternative to “rubbish”, I’ll give them that, for this is brilliant.

“When I was 10 a boat appeared in my backyard… and it took to a place where I was safe. I was safe because in that place I was 23… and I knew that the things that had scared me as a kid didn’t matter to adults.

“Now I’m 23 and I get scared of different things. And so when I need it, the boat will take me back… and I’ll be safe from my problems in a place when I am 10.”

Give or take the boat, which never appeared in my own backyard, that, by Sam Alden, really speaks to me. What you don’t see is the beautifully laid out art which put me in mind of Craig Thompson circa BLANKETS.

Speaking of Craig Thompson, he’s here on the back-cover story in somewhat psychedelic mode being illustrated by Theo Ellsworth of CAPACITY.

There’s also the first new Allison Cole material I have seen in a long, long time, in which a stray cat’s true ownership is sought. Novel investigative approach, that. You should all try it! There’s over a dozen pages of James Kochalka, you can pop your head round the door of the Frustrated Artist’s Society, it’s always a joy to see Sam Henderson being naughty and cartoonists everywhere will be able to relate to Noah Van Sciver’s depiction of the overwhelmingly high esteem society all holds you in.

“My admiration for your cartoon drawings knows no bounds, sir. May I touch the hem of your coat?”
“I am no on display to be fondled by walking chamber pots! Taste the lead from my derringer and consider it my autograph to you!”

Note: not actual cover.


Buy Alternative Comics #4 and read the Page 45 review here

Satellite Sam #1 (£2-75, Image) by Matt Fraction & Howard Chaykin.

“Mikey, any chance that dick you call a dad will grace us with his presence today?”

New York City, 1951, and Satellite Sam is the name of a space-faring television show recorded live – though thankfully not in front of a studio audience. Its titular star, Carlyle White, is ever so slightly unreliable, you see, and although he’s only got one line this week – and right at the end of the show – no one is confident he’ll make it.

A shame, then, that a) some vital investors have popped into the studio control room unannounced and b) this week’s episode has just begun filming. Looks like its time for some improvised stalling in the form of over-egged extemporised lines and a mad dash across town for the network’s Elizabeth Meyers to Carlyle’s secret pad. I wonder how she knows where it is? I wonder what she will find there? I wonder what miraculous cliff-hanger they can come up with in the next half an hour in case Carlyle is a no-show for the show?

Howard Chaykin is perfect for this period piece, relishing the fashions, and his art’s a lot softer than of late. Not everything’s inked – there’s pencil shading and well placed tones. Fraction, meanwhile, has nailed the on-the-hoof histrionics and network skullduggery/ambition.

Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning this, but because you would expect an Image book to be in colour, I will just add that it’s black and white – just like the television of the times.


Buy Satellite Sam #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu vol 2 (£13-50, jaPress) by Junko Mizuno.

A love forever thwarted. *sobs*

I learned loads about Japanese culture: there are so many footnotes! I learned about Soaplands, a speciality of the Japanese sex industry which offers customers a brothel-plus-bathing experience. I learned about White Day, which is a Japanese holiday on 4th March, when a man gives a woman a gift in return for the one she gave him on Valentine’s Day. I suspect in this country if the man leaves it a whole month before reciprocation, then that relationship would be long over! I learned about Talents: “Japanese media personalities, ironically possessing no discernible talents.” Yeah, we have the same over here; we call them celebutards. Finally I learned about Japanese iced lollies whose sticks, when licked, often revealed prizes using the words for win (“Atari”) and lose (“Xbox One”).*

The protagonist Pelu is little and fluffy and – in at least one episode involving a family of nymphomaniacs – a bit of a gigolo. As we learned in LITTLE FLUFF GIGOLO PELU VOL 1, he is also from the Princess Kotobuki and in want of someone to mate with and make babies. It’s something of a biological imperative for him, to which end he has travelled to Earth but it’s not working out of him. He’s homeless for a start, and his companion in alms, Su-san (male), keeps nicking the money they make selling second-hand books to stuff his feckless face with strawberries.

The most promising hope lies in a fancy woollen glove-puppet made by Murako, wife to Mamoru. They met at a high-school knitting club where their fellow members kept stuffing M & M’s home-made toys down the toilet. They’ve barely spoken to each other in two years – partly because Mamoru has given himself over to some slightly unorthodox medical experiments – which makes Murako sad. Murako’s sadness animates her glove puppet and Pelu falls in love with it immediately. You can probably see that one unravelling.

Beyond bonkers, it is the most innocent of erotica (a lot lighter than some of Mizuno’s more murderous creations) although quite who would get turned on by it, I have absolutely no idea.

* Okay, no, it’s “Hazure”.


Buy Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

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

A man wakes up in an iced bath with an incision in his abdomen and a stick-it note stuck to his forehead:


But he still has two kidneys, there’s no blue in his urine, no evidence of drugs in his system and the incision’s healed up just fine. The problem is, one of those kidneys isn’t his. It’s time for a second opinion courtesy of Dr. Vincent Morrow, Eric, and the skull-like Penny Dreadful.

“Dr. Morrow is the leading expert in these cases.”
“What kind of cases is that?”
“Really weird ones. That’s Penny. Say hi, Penny. Penny’s… another of Dr. Morrow’s patients. And also his, uh, anaesthesiologist.”
“Does he have to anesthetize a lot of people?”
“You have no idea.”

Dr. Morrow runs a very peculiar practice. Hopefully one day he won’t have to practise: he’ll get it right first time.

“There’s an infection witches sometimes get that causes them to steal organs. But it’s only endemic in India – and it makes them steal livers, not kidneys.”
“You can just tell me when you don’t know stuff. You don’t have to brag about all the stuff you do know.”

Oh yes, he does, he can’t keep his gob shut – no internal editor at all. It doesn’t make for the most reassuring bedside manner.

Quick-fire comedy horror, then with some of the most gruesome manifestations, monsters and throat-choking giant parasites designed with such evident relish by Lukas Ketner. For more, far more, please see my review of WITCH DOCTOR VOL 1.


Buy Witch Doctor vol 2: Mal Practice s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Daredevil: End Of Days h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack & Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, David Mack.

Matt Murdock is dead. He was beaten to death in full view of the public, and the ugly images were transmitted uncensored across the nation, across the world, to an audience transfixed by their grotesque brutality. And I do warn you right now that Klaus and Billy have ensured that it is very uncomfortable viewing. It’s supposed to be.

But if you were to listen closely on playback, if you were to turn up the volume and really, really concentrate, you would hear a single word muttered by Murdock as his last breath passed his lips. Bugle veteran Ben Urich, once one of Matt’s sole confidants, heard what was said and will not let it lie. Disgusted by the sensationalism, he is equally confounded by the circumstances of Matt’s death and the events leading up to it during which Matt killed the Kingpin, alienating all of his peers, then completely fell off the radar. But Ben is nothing if not dogged, and determined to do his old friend one last kindness. He wants to tell the world what Murdock was doing before he died.

Unfortunately no one is pleased to see him.

As Urich begins to revisit Murdock’s past and those who populated it you’ll begin to see the depth and scope of this story gradually unfurl and then comprehend – like Urich himself – the extent of the silence he’s up against. It’s not a wall as such, but a void. An evasion. And a secret almost nobody knows.

Out of the shadows steps someone who should know what happened; someone who is old and angry and claiming that Urich’s best lead – Matt’s former lover, the Black Widow – is dead. Then into the shadows steps Urich when he tracks the license plate of an SUV from Matt’s funeral, ill-attended apart from the media vultures, to a park where children are playing soccer and one particular mother is watching, missing knowing.

“It’s very brave of you to come here, Mister Urich. You remember me when I had nothing to lose… Imagine what I’m like now.”

Oh yes, almost everyone you would expect to see makes most unexpected appearances. The strange fate of Typhoid Mary, for example, is both surprising and delightful but packed with poignancy. Oh, her final panel!

The art is absolutely extraordinary throughout and grows increasingly refined as everyone settles in, with additional bursts of David Mack splendour when appropriate. But right from the beginning there is the sheer sense of space in the Daily Bugle office in a double-page spread whose interior windows I stared at for ages; the breathtaking, Sienkiewicz-solo of the Kingpin at night, brooding as he stares out at the neon-blazed city he ‘owns’, or two separate panels of gritted teeth in the second chapter’s dark, dank, behind-the-bar alley – the first coming off like Byrne at his best, the second perfectly recapturing the glory days of Frank Miller as inked by our good Klaus Janson, present and correct on pencils.

What you see here are artists at one – no egos – each working in unison in service to the story, and there’s a considerable gallery of process pieces in the back which will show you Janson’s original pencils for that Daily Bugle spread, Bill Sienkiewicz’s sketches and inimitable inks (and I used the word “inimitable” with precision), David Mack washes you can bathe your sore eyes in, plus a host of unused covers.

Meanwhile, Bullseye himself is discovered dead in a rented room, a bullet blown straight through his skull. Above him, scrawled in his own blood, is the last word Matt Murdock ever uttered: “Mapone”.


Buy Daredevil: End Of Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies Now h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting.

“Goddess, oh goddess.
“Save me from what this world demands.
“Save me from righteous men.
“Save me from thinkers.
“Save me from summoners.
“Save me from midnight kings…
“And the devil himself.
“Oh goddess, save me…
“Save me from what we are about to do.”

Both Jonathan Hickman’s AVENGERS books are about Big Ideas, eloquently and indeed ominously expressed. This one will have you shivering, even more so on the second read-through once you realise all of its awful predictions comes true.

They’re certainly not about the supervillain du jour although, unexpectedly, a couple of very big players do pop their helmeted heads round the multi-dimensional door, and that last page bodes well for no one. Of the two, however, this boasts the closest relationship to its previous incarnations in that there is a set team and sense of family. It’s just that this particular family is The Illuminati (see NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI and – even more relevant here – AVENGERS VOL 2), so there’s a lot less trust involved given a) their past, b) what is at stake and c) the drastic solutions proposed.

The still-covert Illuminati are now Reed Richards, Captain America, Iron Man, Dr Strange, Black Bolt, the Beast, Namor the Submariner… and the Black Panther who previously, quite adamantly, refused to join. It is he who summons them now, even though Namor was last seen slaughtering thousands of his Wakandan subjects (see AVENGERS VS X-MEN).

I keep saying “see” but that’s merely a service: Jonathan Hickman is a keenly intelligent writer and will show you all that you need to know as you go along while chilling your blood to sub-zero.

In addition, Steve Epting’s art is so beautiful I could almost cry. His Black Panther is everything I cherished in John Buscema, John Perez and John Byrne’s interpretations but, if anything,  he is here lither still. And when he confronts Namor in public with not threats but a promise, his eyes blaze with the fiercest of intensities.

Epting’s ability to convey scale is well off the… scale, and it needs to be for what the Black Panther witnesses is a giant purple planet – and it is another Earth – bearing down on our own on a collision course of mutual destruction. From this parallel Earth descends a white-haired woman with cohorts, one of whom bears the trigger for a bomb. The bomb is an anti-matter bomb and has been armed on the alternate Earth. It is detonated.

But according to this white-headed woman – now their captive and called the Black Swan – this is only the first such Incursion. Every single Earth in the multiverse is headed for collision, one after the other, each destroying the universe it lives in. Something has triggered a mass, multi-dimensional implosion. Her solution was to blow up one Earth to save another. She saved this entire universe’s lives, and indeed the one she came from )give or take its planet Earth). Will The Illuminati be prepared to do the same?

“It breaks hope – it crushes what makes us decent and steals what little honour remains. You have no idea what is coming.”

They don’t. And, one by one, the Black Swan is proved right on every single count.

Friends fall apart, and more dramatically than you can possibly imagine.


Buy New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies Now h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving.

“Scott Summers is not the face of the mutant race. He is not the face of the future. He is a murdering monster.
“You need to get Scott Summers to reveal himself to the world. You need him to self-destruct in public.
“It won’t take much and it won’t take long…
“And I’m here to help make it happen.”

Companion title to Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN, and I leave you to read our review for that to glean both the background and status quo .

This is Cyclops’ side of the story, whipping in to rescue new mutants in such a violent and confrontational manner as to risk whipping up renewed fear and hatred towards all mutants world-wide. Hence the ALL-NEW X-MEN’s determination to stop him. And yes, you will see that second confrontation from the other side of the coin with some neat uses of mid-panel stark black and white, for this runs parallel to the other title though approximately one volume behind at the moment.

Chris Bachalo’s art is exquisite, particularly his icy outdoors which he coloured himself. It was he who so successfully designed Cyclops’ black-and-red, blind-eyed mask to better reflect the man’s new, even more blinkered, X-focussed outlook. A++ There are sketches in the back.

Frazer Irving, however, when we come to the scenes set in [redacted], has given them his fully painted all. So much fucking work has gone into each infernal rage-page. Blistering. The results are catastrophic, and I mean that in a good way.

The only caveat I would add is that if you are allergic to nuanced dialogue and smart characterisation, then this is not the book for you. This one is wordy, but I rather like words.

Some are deployed for deception, for one member of the team is playing an ambiguous game of dubious intent; others are employed for the sort of “What the fuck have I let myself in for?” that any young teen would scream when moved to a new school – let alone being confronted with a new genetic evaluation, peers and pressure.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” wrote Erasmus.

Someone certainly has aspirations.


Buy Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Beautiful (and massive), satin-sheened boxed set with a ribbon-tipped lip for you to pull revealing three hardcovers of illustrations for the first ten Final Fantasy games by SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS’ original artist, Yoshitaka Amano. More deetz:

“Each hardcover book in The Sky Slipcased Edition is 11 5/8′ high by 10 5/8′ wide, and printed on glossy stock. Volume 1 contains Amano’s work for Final Fantasy I-III. Volume 2 contains his contributions for Final Fantasy IV-VI, and volume 3 features his art for Final Fantasy VII-X. The slipcase containing The Sky I, II, and III features the same wraparound exterior artwork as The Sky Boxed Set, with a double-hinged flap that folds around the open edge and is held flat to the back side with a hidden magnetic closure, making it easy both to remove the books and to display the set closed.”


Buy The Sky: The Art Of Final Fantasy Slipcase Ed 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.

Giant Days 2 (£4-99, self-published) by John Allison

Family Fun vol 1: On Sanity, Madness & Family Tunnel Construction (£2-99, Unbecoming Press) by Una

Family Fun vol 2: On Deserving A Medal (£2-99, Unbecoming Press) by Una

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code – The Graphic Novel (£7-50, Disney) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

Percy Jackson And The Sea Of Monsters s/c (£9-99, Penguin) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti & Attila Futaki

Lost Cat h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Jason

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 5: The Search Part 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse ) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Diablo Sword Of Justice s/c (£10-99, DC) by Aaron Williams & Joseph Lacroix

Star Wars: Darth Maul: Death Sentence s/c (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo

Dark Tower vol 9: The Gunslinger – The Way Station s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David, Robin Furth & Laurence Campbell

Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book vol 4 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall, Tom Mandrake

Locke & Key vol 5: Clockworks s/c (£14-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 21 s/c (£5-99, Archie) by Patrick Spaz Spaziante

Bravest Warriors vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes

Justice League Dark vol 2: The Books Of Magic s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter Milligan, Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin, Ryan Sook

Before Watchmen: Comedian & Rorschach h/c (£22-50, DC ) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo, J.G. Jones

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl & Dr Manhattan h/c (£22-50, DC ) by J. Michael Straczynski & Adam Hughes, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert, Eduardo Risso

Captain America vol 1: Castaway Dimension Z Book 1 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Romita

Gambit vol 2: Tombstone Blues s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Asmus & Pasqual Ferry, Clay Mann

Hawkeye vol 2: Little Hits Now s/c (£11-99, Marvel ) by Matt Fraction & David Aja

FF vol 1: Fantastic Faux s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mike Allred, Joe Quinones

Avengers vol 2: The Last White Event h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato, Dustin Weaver

Demon Love Spell vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Mayu Shinjo

Tokyo Babylon vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse ) by  Clamp

Loveless 2-in-1 Edition vols 7 & 8 (£9-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

ITEM! Loads of quality, creator-owned Image comics announced new books by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser; Straczynski & Bill Sienkiewicz; Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo; Matt Fraction and more! IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PRE-ORDER! or 0115 9508045.

ITEM! Are you going to Lakes International Comic Art Festival The whole town is going to be given over to comics, beautiful comics with so many top-tier creators including Ed Brubaker’s first appearance in the UK (see FATALE VOL 3 reviewed above – Sean Phillips will be there too; he’s one of the festival’s founding patrons)!

They even have a Prize competition to design new character for The Beano!

ITEM! Beautiful, tender short comic online about being an introvert. It’s by @luchie_hm   Believe it or not, this really is me at parties. I can’t handle them at all.

ITEM! Ha! This is better than “MY MUM THREW ALL MY COMICS OUT!” I laughed – I laughed loads. And winced.

ITEM! I liked these drawn Daleks. Funny!

ITEM! Paul Duffield’s THE FIRELIGHT ISLE page one. Spectacular! Researched, plotted and designed  for over a year now, this comic is going to be absolutely epic. But please note, Paul’s only just started it in earnest.

ITEM! You can’t complain about the cancellation of your favourite childhood comic if you didn’t buy that comic for you own children. Buy comics for kids! Jamie Smart (The Phoenix, Beano etc) issues an exhilarating call to arms about creating more weekly comics for kids – and how to go about it! Hint: employ more female creators; they will attract more female readers. That is 50% of your target readership, after all.

ITEM! The judges for the British Comics Awards 2013 has been announced! What a fab line up – apart from this gobsmacked gibbon. What on Earth am I doing there again?!

I’m the only returning judge!

I’m.. I’m… Oh God…

I’m the Simon Cowell of comics!

 – Stephen

Reviews July 2013 week one

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Bravo! A book about cherishing your individuality, celebrating the difference in others and jettisoning neither to suck up to the sheep. Possibly the most important early life lesson ever. 

 – Stephen on Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon 

Tonnes and tonnes of news under the reviews – and one very revealing photograph! 

The Mire (£5-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

“Please remember, this letter means the difference between life and death.”

What a gorgeous, silk-screened, card-stock cover – it positively glows in the dark! You wait until you see the other side… This isn’t distributed by Diamond so I’m not sure where else you will find it in the UK.

On the eve of battle, Sir Owain dispatches his young squire on an urgent errand. He is to deliver to Castle Ironwood a letter which is sealed with wax and stamped with the knight’s Signet Ring. The squire protests, for he swore an oath to fight at his master’s side, but when Sir Owain insists that this is a most noble and vital task, the squire promises to be back before the fighting is done.

However, the swiftest route is via the Withering Swamp, a stagnant mire rumoured to be haunted. What will our squire encounter during this treacherous endeavour?

“We all have ghosts that haunt us.”

This is Cloonan at her finest, crafting a tale so clever that you will want to re-read the second you are done, for hindsight is a funny old thing.

It’s also beautifully written: I love how Cloonan maintains the metaphor between these two sentences:

“The trees stood guard like a row of immovable sentinels. Any light that managed to break their lines felt old and mouldy.”

She’s also employed a neat little trick which David Mazzucchelli utilised in CITY OF GLASS whereby speech bubbles drifting directly out of the mouth imply that the words aren’t spoken – no lips are moving – so much emanate from somewhere deeper and darker and colder within

From the creator of WOLVES, DEMETER, the co-creator of PIXU and the artist on Brian Wood’s DEMO VOL 1, DEMO VOL 2 and CONAN, I commend this to you with all my heart.

“So I kept moving. You should keep moving too.”


Buy The Mire and read the Page 45 review here

Wolves (£5-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

It’s all in the eyes.

This is a lovingly hand-crafted, self-published mini-comic with 24 pages of black and white interior art under a swish, silk-screened, card-stock cover. From the creator of THE MIRE, DEMETER, the co-creator of PIXU and the artist on Brian Wood’s DEMO VOL 1, DEMO VOL 2 and CONAN. Like the first two, it’s not distributed by Diamond, we went direct to America and our stock is limited.


Buy Wolves and read the Page 45 review here

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

Whoo! Beautiful colours and quality printing. At the time of typing all our copies have exquisite, signed, original head sketches in the back, like DON QUIXOTE’s Rob Davis washed over with HEY YOU!’s Dan Berry.

Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning, and there’s a raven up there on the snow-swept, mountain-top graveyard. I doubt this will prove a good day for our white-haired knight. I don’t really think it’s been a good year. He’s all hunched up, his thick olive cloak is ragged at the edges and he’s so very hungry it looks as though he’ll eat anything: that handsome black stag should probably bolt.

Utterly beguiling, this is virtually wordless, for to begin with there’s no one to talk to and those who turn up aren’t very interested in small talk.

Instead, it’s all about the colours and the shapes – the shapes of colour, for there are no lines, and most of the shapes are sharp, jagged affairs while the colours are so rich, even the pastels, that you can virtually taste each one of them. I don’t normally “do” pink, but then I’ve never seen it used so skilfully again ice-white and deep, slate blue.

The title is wittily hewn out of gravestones. Death hangs heavy in the air.


Buy Winter’s Knight Day One and read the Page 45 review here

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

Hilarious, beautiful, brilliant.

Previously in SAGA VOL 1:

Alana and Marko are in love. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon called Wreath. Unfortunately their races have been at war with each other for as long as anyone called remember. But both factions realised a long time ago that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin right out of orbit. Such an assault would be suicidal.

So what they’ve kindly done is taken their fight right across the galaxy, using other planets as their playground. Which is nice.

Caught in that crossfire is the planet called Cleave. Marko was sent to its frontline, didn’t like what he saw and surrendered. Alana was his captor and freed him. Each, therefore, is now on their run from their own people for desertion… and blasphemy. Because, worst of all, they’ve successfully mated to produce a beautiful baby girl. This unholy union is despised by all sides and, for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Marko’s people have dispatched The Will, a phenomenal assassin with a Lying Cat. It is a cat that can tell if you’re lying. Problematically, it is likely to say so right in the middle of your bluff. Alana’s people have dispatched Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets. You’ll be surprised what pops up on his screen. But Marko and Alana have at least finally found sanctuary in a semi-sentient, organic rocket ship along with an impromptu babysitter from what’s left of Cleave’s indigenous population. She’s a floating, glowing, pink ghost of a girl with her lower half missing, trailing her intestines behind her.

Now: meet the in-laws. They’re not best pleased, either.

The thing about SAGA is that it’s so damn surprising, so revealing any more about this volume would not be a kindness. I can tell you, however, that Marko encounters the very last thing you’d like to see in the company of your Mum. So if you’re reading this book at home, beware: Fiona pulls no punches! Also: exes are a right pain, aren’t they? There’s rarely such a thing as a clean break.

Brian K. Vaughn you may already know from Y – THE LAST MAN, the series in which everyone with a Y chromosome (apart from escape artist Yorick) drops dead and EX MACHINA which combines politics with pugilism and had some of the best dialogue in the business. Also, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD about a pride of lions – in Baghdad. 

Fiona Staples you probably won’t know from Adam, but you will be knocked out to meet her acquaintance. Her expressions are exquisite, the design work ingenious, and her capacity for underplayed comedy virtually unparalleled. Above all, her work is very, very sexy.

“One more step, and I tell my rocket ship to blow you out an airlock or something. It’s already seen me naked, so I’m pretty sure it’ll do what I say.”


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

A Matter Of Life h/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown…

“Hey dad.”
“Do you know what the sun looks like to me?”
“A bug!”
“Hey Oscar? Are you chewing on my hair?”

The first full colour autobiographical work from Jeffrey finds him in a relatively sanguine mood by his standards! As a contented husband and parent he’s reflecting upon two extremely different elements of his life, that of fatherhood and faith. Very much brought up in the church, tricky to avoid when your dad is a minister really I would have thought, Jeffrey followed a similar path to many such kids faced with relentless biblical indoctrination. Namely extreme boredom followed by a gradual process of extricating oneself as teenage years began to offer far more enticing alternatives.

There’s pressure, even as an adult, polite enough, for him to maintain his Christianity, from family and friends, but unless one hears the calling for themselves, no amount of worrying about someone’s soul is going to lure them back into the flock. I always personally thought the metaphor of the general public as sheep and the preachers as good shepherds was a mildly disturbing one myself, sheep not being particularly highly regarded for their capacity for thinking for themselves, make of that what you will… He’s not without beliefs, spirituality, call it whatever you like, our Jeffrey, commenting as he does very early on in this work, almost apologetically, that this lack of faith in Christ doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in something bigger than himself, but this element of the work certainly provides some insight into how he believes that part of his life shaped who he is today.

It’s interesting, to me at least, therefore, that the other aspect of his life he chooses to illuminate for us, in comparison as contrast is too strong a word to use, I think, is that of being a parent. Becoming a parent, provided you stick around and do your bit, I suppose, is to create a bedrock so solid, for your entire life to be very firmly grounded upon, that you won’t have any time for worrying about your soul, or indeed whether Jesus or even his Dad might just find you special enough to want to whisper in your ear. On the other hand you’ll find yourself so delirious with tiredness at certain moments that you’ll be gazing skyward at the firmament requesting divine intervention, true believer or otherwise.

Being a parent, as Jeffrey ably shows us, instantly means you become part of something bigger than yourself anyway, whether you’re ready or not. And whilst Jesus may or may not have died to save us, you will feel like ending your own life after sacrificing everything, from your social life to your sanity, to keep your little bundle of joy happy and healthy.

Here are Jeffrey and his wife having to pacify their highly medicated son Oscar, suffering from an allergic rash on his entire body and a double ear infection to boot… with the power of the Smurfs. Sounds straightforward? No, even a saint would have their patience tested by an ill toddler…

“Oscar, can we watch something else? Mummy’s getting tired of the Smurfs?”
“I can’t take it anymore! We’ve watched nothing but Smurfs for four days!”
“I know, but look at him, he’s miserable.”
“I’m going to buy more Smurf DVD’s. We can at least watch different episodes.”
“Crap, this is the only Smurf DVD they have.”
“Got it!”
“No, REAL Smurfs! Real Smurfs!”
“Oscar, this is the Smurfs.”
“I think he can tell this is from later seasons!”
“Don’t argue with a three-year-old on steroids.”


Buy A Matter Of Life h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Quite the revelation, this is a breath-takingly beautiful book whose exotic, erotic island will have you gasping over and again as each new, sweeping panorama is unveiled to startling and spectacular effect just as it is to the wife of phenomenally rich industrialist Genzaburo Komoda.

Truly it is a pleasure paradise sequestered in the middle of a remote island and accessed only via transparent tunnels which snake over the tropical seabed before bursting into the open air and dazzling sunshine to reveal the first of so many set pieces: waterfalls the size of Niagara’s, ornamental edifices, a multi-tiered Indian-themed acropolis and botanical vistas which make the formal French gardens of Loire Châteaux like Villandry and Chambord look tame and restrained. Each of these is populated both by monumental sculptures of dragons and snakes and satyrs and a hundreds of performers paid to be naked at play. And I do mean play – frolicking through meadows – but also at play with each other, yes. Eighteens and over, please.

All of which put me much in mind of Milo Manara but inked with a detailed ligne claire more akin to Jiro Taniguchi’s. It’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And I love a good orgy.

This, then, was constructed as the dream of a lifetime, but here is the rub for Genzaburo Komoda: the dream wasn’t his. The dream was that of failing novelist Hitomi Hirosuke whose manuscript containing this elaborate fantasy was repeatedly rejected. He went to college with Genzaburo Komoda and looked so alike that they were nicknamed twins. So when Hitomi learns of Genzaburo Komoda’s death he hatches a plan fake his own death then to exhume the multi-millionaire’s corpse and take his place, not raised from the dead as a miracle but recovering from a medically well documented cataleptic episode.

Now all he has to do to fool Komoda’s entourage: his managers, his servants, his family… his wife.


Buy The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Now do this. See? It shifts a bit.”
“Uh, yeah.”
“In other words, the left and the right eye see slightly different things. The one for which they stay put is your dominant eye. You thought you were seeing the same thing with both did you? You’re not.”
“Uh, but then… why do we have two eyeballs?”

This work really stuck with me after finishing it, as over the course of the next couple of days a few realisations of additional angles to the plot and also the characters kept popping into my mind, thus subtly changing my interpretation and increasing my appreciation of the piece. I thought it was very clever to begin with, now I know it is exceptionally so, as the core theme of duality runs very deeply through it indeed.

I started to realise that there is quite literally no one who does not have a hidden secret or side, either huge or on the face of it inconsequential, which either influences the plot or the motivations and emotional state of the character in question in some way, small or large. Very clever, because there is also a huge amount of ambiguity throughout, continually obscuring precisely what is actually going on, particularly with one of the two main characters, who actually may or may not be one or two people. It’s not often that a work spontaneously deconstructs itself in my mind over time in this manner, but I think it is a measure of the craft with which this has been written, and also drawn.

The story itself begins which a murder, which may in fact be a suicide. And in mirror fashion concludes with a suicide, which being one of the things that occurred to me after the fact, could well be a murder. What is certain, to the public at large at least, is that Shun Mizorogi, the renowned and enigmatic author, has finally begun writing again after a somewhat difficult fallow period. Or has he…?

It seems as though he has been inspired by a new muse, a beautiful young lady going by the name of Aki Fujino. A lady with a very mysterious past, who has apparently, for no reason whatsoever, jumped off the top of a very tall building. The police are suspicious, not least because they are struggling to make a positive identification, the only connection to the lady being Mizorogi. But he himself had only met her on a handful of occasions. Long enough though to be intrigued, not just by her looks, but also her writing. His latest work, also titled Utsubora, turns out to be plagiarised from her submission to a first-time writers contest in the very magazine currently serialising it on his behalf.

As one of the judges, Mizorogi, was able to ensure that no one else read the girl’s submission so, at this moment in time, he is the only person aware of his… appropriation. Obviously given that would give him the perfect motive, he’s not about to volunteer that information to the police. But everything is then turned on its head as the girl’s identical twin sister appears. She claims they were brought up by different parents, not having seen her sister for years, but something about her seems… very familiar. Is it possible that Aki – if that really is her name, which itself seems increasingly doubtful – is in fact dead at all? Has she staged her own death? But why stage the death of someone who doesn’t even exist? And how, given the police can find no evidence of anyone else being up on the roof with the jumper, is that even possible?

Question after question, with only more uncertainty for answers, you’ll find yourself drawn into Mizorogi’s increasingly unsettled world, a world made even more complicated by his increasingly suspicious editor, who also has his sights on Mizorogi’s niece (in reality a close family friend’s young daughter), who in turn is secretly in love with Mizorogi. Something which may or may not have been encouraged by her family. I think I’ve probably revealed enough, though in reality I have actually given precisely nothing away. This is definitely one for those who like to be bewitched and beguiled. Lovely art too, which reminded me a little of Natsume HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES Ono, though this is even more delicate, with some clever mirror and dualist devices thrown in for good measure.


Buy Utsubora: The Story Of A Novelist and read the Page 45 review here

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

ATTACK ON TITAN is set in a world which has been all but overrun by giant humanoid beasts many metres tall. No one knows where they came from or what they are; the only thing they seem to want to do is eat human beings whole. And so, over 100 years after the beasts emerged humanity has been pushed back into one little corner of the planet. A few small cities (well, more like large towns, really) exist inside a series of walls which are constantly guarded in case the behemoths should attack again. But it has been a century since the wall was last breached so everyone is probably safe right? Yeah…

When we meet the group of youngsters we are going to follow through the story we see some familiar themes. A headstrong young man who wonders about the world outside the walls. He dreams of joining the Survey Corps who undertake the dangerous mission of going out into the world to try to make sense of everything. His group of peers, some of whom share his dream while others thinking he is barmy and his sister, who never leaves his side, muttering something about her duty to protect him after she was brought back from the dead. She never seems particularly happy, sad or anything else. Just resigned and, occasionally, worried. We never see her without a scarf around her neck.

Though we begin with a perfectly normal day things, of course, soon go to pot. One minute our guy is having dinner with his family, his father (slightly incongruously) promising to finally show him the big secret in the basement. Then the alarm sounds and chaos descends as a colossus appears and begins destroying the wall. In fact you can see him *over* the wall, at 50 metres tall he is many times the size of a Titan. 100 years of preparing for an attack evaporate in a heartbeat as the outer wall is devoured by this new monster. A desperate evacuation follows but many lives are lost.

A year later we find our group (those who survived, anyway) about to graduate from their training and humanity holed up inside an even tighter boundary, the lands behind the first wall lost to the Titan invasion. The colossus is still out there, the Titans are still out there and it feels for all the world like humanity is just waiting, maybe even hoping for the coup de grace. What can our heroes do in the face of such (literally) massive opposition?

So this manga has a bunch of classic elements: wilful protagonists, family tragedy and a foe so hideous it seems like a case of when, not if humanity will be destroyed. There are a few touches and elements which set it apart from run of the mill, though, which is probably why the manga has proved so popular in Japan. There are flashes of repressed memory which get you thinking that all may not be as it seems inside the walled enclave. It seems like there are lots of secrets and undercurrents to be explored. And there is a very detailed and ingenious combat system involving lines and winches which allows the tiny humans to actually go into combat with the giant enemy, though always at great personal risk. There are no punches pulled when it comes to that combat: death isn’t by a tidy death ray or an annihilating stomp. It’s all bitey and disgusting and in places really quite disturbing, which actually brings the characters closer to your heart because, bless them, they don’t have it easy.

Most striking for me was the sheer ickyness of the Titans. They are so close to being human and yet so obviously inhuman, all teeth and unsheathed tendons. They seem mindless, except for their determination to devour their prey and their lack of obvious reason or communication skills leaves any negotiation or bargaining out of the question. They give me the same visceral heebie-jeebies as the album cover to News of The World by Queen used to as a kid, or the sleeve art to the Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. Just… *shiver*. I can see why this series is so popular in Japan and I can’t wait to read more.


Buy Attack On Titan vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Also out now: Attack On Titan vol 2, Attack On Titan vol 3 and Attack On Titan vol 4

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

Bravo! A book about cherishing your individuality, celebrating the difference in others and jettisoning neither to suck up to the sheep. Possibly the most important early life lesson ever.

In this instance the sheep are ducks, all gleefully and colourfully portrayed like everything else here by Sara Varon, creator of BAKE SALE (perfect for youngster who love cooking), ROBOT DREAMS (a silent and startlingly dark graphic novel recommended to all as a present for a friend you promise never to leave on the metaphorical beach) and contributor to NURSERY RHYME COMICS whose iconoclastic visualisation of traditional infant ditties will entertain the adults who read it aloud as much as the youngsters who listen.

There is so much attention to detail, as evidenced by the opening double-page spread of the mildly eccentric Theodora who sleeps in a waterbed with a difference. Makes perfect sense if you are an anthropomorphised duck. Theodora is sartorially genteel and decades out of fashion and swims in a straight line in smartly polished shoes and a bathing cap with a cup of tea on her head. She buys all the regular duck food but likes to spice it up a bit with some mango salsa who nobody else will buy. She borrows all the regularly recommended books from the local library but is aesthetically curious and so checks out several each week that have been so neglected that they have literally gathered dust! She even likes to try her hand at crafts which no ordinary duck would even consider.

But she likes her routine, does our quiet Theodora and she’s slightly stuck in her ways. So when a new neighbour arrives Theodora is slightly apprehensive. Chad is not the sort she is used to; in fact he is decidedly outré. He makes unconventional conceptual sculptures in his garden, dyes his feathers in multi-coloured highlights, and sings enthusiastically yet off-key while violently dancing to loud music. Theodora likes to exercise every morning too, but she does so with dignity. And although she tries to reach out with a neighbourly cake and Chad receives her with zeal… no, it will never work out.

I loved everything about this. It has been so well thought-through, especially the clash of the idiosyncrasies. Nor does this journey safely on in the straightforward trajectory you’d anticipate. Yes, Theodora and Chad do make friends because, in spite of their differences, they have so much in common.

But careless, callous spite, when overheard, can be so upsetting, can’t it? And it always comes from those snickering together safely in a circle.

Don’t worry, it all works out fine: this is a gloriously positive message for each and every child in the world. Embrace your unique talents and interests and deportment – even if others consider you odd! Enthusiasm is a glorious thing.


Buy Odd Duck h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens vol 1 (£9-99, Titan) by Meredith Gran…

“This is the most… UNACCEPTABLE THING EVER!!!”

No, not Stephen berating a tardy standing order customer for having failed to collect for over three months, but everyone’s second-favourite sourpuss, the Earl of Lemondrop discovering that Jake and Finn have set up a lemonade stand! I think, in this particular instance, I can understand why he is a bit peeved!

The main event of Marceline going on tour with Princess Bubblegum as her trusty personal assistant / roadie and falling out then making up every five minutes is great fun too, but the little bonus stories that came at the end of every single issue from superlative scribblers such as Liz Prince, Jen Wang and Kate Leth manage to steal the show for me. A case of the support act overshadowing the headliners perhaps. Fans of the show will know exactly what to expect. Anyone else deserves a million years dungeon for not watching…


Buy Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Utterly insane.

That probably sums this up perfectly. Possibly the most surreal adventure I’ve read since FAR ARDEN, the first tale of the redoubtable Amy Swanks, salty sea-dog and swashbuckler par excellence! This time around he matches up against rabid walruses, devilish femmes fatales plus some astronauts with their own covert agenda. And pirates, of course – there have to be pirates involved somewhere, this time of the Siberian variety. All this occurs during wild speedboat chases, visits to abandoned moonbases and other equally implausible scenarios.

Superlative nonsensical story-telling of the most absurd variety. Dare I say the thinking man’s AXE COP? I think I just did!


Buy Crater XV h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

This really is the week for the rum and uncanny, isn’t it, as Bix Barton might have commented? I remember being utterly baffled by issue #1. Well, I still am to a degree, but I really enjoyed this frontal-lobe-bending, pre-apocalyptic tale. The world is most definitely looking like it is going to end in somewhat spectacular fashion and our potential saviours are… well… not the sort of people you would want handling this type of situation. Not remotely, given they include a failed screenwriter, a rather obnoxious rapper, an astronaut who doesn’t look in the best of conditions to say the least, and a child with some serious issues.

Difficult to say exactly what CHANGE is like. In terms of recent material I was probably most minded of PROPHET, actually, more so the art but also the story to an extent, though this is probably even more surreal, on a level with, say, Grant Morrison’s THE FILTH. Maybe a bit of Shaky Kane too – yeah definitely thinking about it – see THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN. I was also obviously reminded of the excellent WILD CHILDREN, which isn’t too surprising given Ales Kot also wrote that too, and opened my eyes to the genuine scientific theory that life could exist inside black holes on planets orbiting the singularity cores, held in asymmetric orbits by gravitational repulsion.

Ales may or may not be a heavy user of psychedelic drugs. Judging by this picture of him I would guess it is a distinct possibility.


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

Uncanny #1 (£2-99, Dynamite) by Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell.

“How the fuck did I get Lee so wrong…? I shook his hand before the game. Got a good solid read on him.
“His head was full of angles, every one of them a bluff. I saw it. I took it in. Turned it against him.
“Unless somehow he knows what I can do. Prepared for it… and played me like a violin.”

Oh, we loved this! Simple set up, maximum action, charismatic voice.

Weaver is a man who can, for a limited span, absorb other people’s memories and physical capabilities. Afterwards there’s a crashing come-down but, hey, with skills like those you could do a lot of good for the world. You could also do one hell of a lot of damage.

Weaver has no such ambitions either way. He’s just a gambler and a thief, enjoying the kiddie thrill of conning people, getting one over them and taking their money. Currently he’s in Singapore sitting opposite Mr. Lee with a poker face on. Then there’s a smile. It’s about to wiped right off his face.

But I mentioned the physical abilities too, right? Mr Lee’s bodyguard is a black-belt in Taekwondo, so now Weaver is too – plus he also “remembers” exactly what the bodyguard’s packing. Well, almost. There’s a limit to what you have time to recall in the middle of a duff-up.

As slick as you like with barely a second for breath, the first printing has sold out at the publishers but we’ve already ordered some second prints – hurrah! If it matters to you whether or not your comics are first printings… then please get a life.


Buy Uncanny #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

That’s it, it’s over, kaput. The last dozen or so issues of HELLBLAZER taking you up to #300.

Will trickster John get his karmic comeuppance and finally bite the big one, buried under a cascade of cancer sticks and the lorry they fell off the back of?

Or will DC editorial transform John into a superhero replete with rippling thighs that bulge through his trousers in a new title CONSTANTINE which everyone – even the English – will studiously mispronounce for now and evermore? There are some fates worse than death you know.

P.S. The answer is “yes”.

P.P.S. Clue: it’s Constan-tyne as in the Emperor Constantine, not Constan-teen as in a scrofulous yoof.

You’re welcome.


Buy Hellblazer: Death And Cigarettes and read the Page 45 review here

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

Victorian-era steampunk conspiracy shenanigans illustrated in delightful ligne claire fashion as we have come to expect from Humanoids. It’s not the strongest title plot-wise on the imprint by any means, slightly by the numbers really which is mildly ironic given there are three writers credited, but enjoyable enough. Looks as though this is the opening volume of a continuing story given the ending, though this is not credited as volume one and I can find no information regarding any sequel being published in French to date. Certainly not sci-fi enough for the usual big robot tech-head crowd, more one just for genteel purveyors of nice art really.


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

The Cape: 1969 h/c (£16-50, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Nelson Daniel…

“You surprise me, Captain… For a seasoned pilot you seem to be making a habit of falling from the sky.”

Fans of THE CAPE will finally get their answer to the big question left unresolved by that horror / superhero mash-up. How is it in our real world that the cape can give the wearer the power of flight? I suspected the regiment patch of Eric’s father, lost in Vietnam, had something to do with it, and it turns out I was correct. For this is his story, a tale equally dark and disturbing as the original, which despite the fact we already know the ending, that obviously isn’t a happy one, is equally as gripping. Captain Chase, his helicopter shot down, and then captured by the Vietcong, has got big problems. All he wants to do is make it back to his wife and sons, but when he has the chance to make good his escape, will he pick salvation or revenge? Errr… I’m sure you can guess, but it’s a tale well told, and if you enjoyed the first book, well worth reading.


Buy The Cape: 1969 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman/Superman #1 (£2-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for and it is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a script I couldn’t comprehend. [Jonathan writes, “Stephen, you are a moron. It was clearly about other stuff I have already read and so understand.”]

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future. [Jonathan writes: “The whole thing was intentional. For God’s sake get a grip.”]

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade. [Jonathan writes: “Agreed!”]

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either the brand-new SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1 by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen which is lush!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey. Did you remember to bring sweets?


Buy Batman / Superman #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

In which John Buscema arrives on the scene and kickstarts my life-long crush on the title.

Oh, we’ve had our lovers’ tiffs! In fact, apart from a few drunken phone calls when Buscema returned twenty years ago, we weren’t speaking to each other for decades until Brian Michael Bendis came along with AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED.

Nor is this John’s peak period, but it’s just around the corner when he inspires Roy Thomas to think bigger, better and more thoughtfully about the human condition etc (see Even An Android Can Cry, the wedding of Yellowjacket and The Wasp et al) and it is at least the start.

Includes the Wasp’s inheritance (and subsequent fashion-fest), Hawkeye and Hercules sulking each other to death, the Black Widow lost, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch falling pray to daddy dearest (Magneto), Dragon Man, the Black Knight II and – let me come clean – way too much awful exposition. But it was all so colourful and my nine-year-old mind was ignited.

Note: not actual cover. (Nor is that cover Buscema – it’s Don Heck.) All our MARVEL MASTERWORKS covers are the modern, painted variations with black backgrounds – infinitely classier.


Buy Marvel Masterworks Avengers vol 5 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

A retelling of the Chinese Monkey King legend that a lot of you will know from the ’70s Monkey television series. Both DRAGONBALL and DRAGONBALL Z are part of the same storyline, the first is the beginning of the travels of Son Goku while the second is quite a few years later when he’s grown up and lost his tail. Fun, knockabout storytelling. The group of adventurers search for the legendary seven dragon balls that, when collected, will summon the dragon that can grant them one wish. ‘Z’ is more fight-orientated and got more attention due to the cartoon being shown on afternoon tv.

The publisher writes:

Legend has it that if all seven of the precious orbs called ‘Dragon Balls’ are gathered together, an incredibly powerful dragon god will appear to grant one wish. Unfortunately, the orbs are scattered across the world, making them extremely difficult to collect. Enter 16-year-old Bulma, a scientific genius who has constructed a radar to detect the exact locations of the Dragon Balls. She’s on a mission to fi nd all seven orbs, but fi rst she must convince young Son Goku to join her on her quest. With a monkey tail, superhuman strength and a magic staff for a weapon, Son Goku is ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.”


Buy Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 1-3 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.


Playing Out h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Jim Medway

The Listening Agent h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Joe Decie

Wasteland vol 8: Lost In The Ozone (£10-99, Oni) by Anthony Johnston & Russell Roeling

Paul Joins The Scouts (£14-99, Other By A-Z) by Michel Rabagliati

Axe Cop vol 4: President Of The World (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Green Lantern Corps vol 1: Fearsome s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin, various

Green Lantern Corps vol 2: Alpha War h/c (£18-99, DC ) by Peter J. Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin

Daredevil: End Of Days h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack & Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, David Mack

New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies Now h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving

Venom: The Enemy Within s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Peter David, others & various

Kingdom Hearts vol 1: Final Mix (£9-99, Yen Press) by Shiro Amano

Pandora Hearts vol 16 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Jun Mochizuki

Spice And Wolf vol 8 (£9-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Puella Magi Kazumi Magica vol 1 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Masaki Hiramatsu & Takashi Tensugi

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 2: Garma (£22-50, Random House) by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Hajime Yatate & Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Star Wars: Lost Tribe Of The Sith: Spiral (£14-99, Titan) by John Jackson Miller & Andrea Mutti

Chronicles Of Conan vol 24: The Blood Dawn And Other Stories (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jim Owsley & John Buscema


ITEM! Full-colour LOST AT SEA 2002 SPECIAL by Bryan Lee O’Malley

ITEM! This bit’s simple: a whole host of new Vertigo titles heading your way… and here you’ll find details of the SANDMAN: OVERTURE mini-series by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III. Pre-order, pre-order, pre-order! or 0115 9508045. Never too early.

ITEM! The phenomenally fucked up DC Villains Month: a concise, customer-centric guide.

These are the DC comics solicited for September 2013. (You can navigate to other publishers or graphic novels using the bar of type underneath the black ribbon at the top.)

Firstly, there is a one-shot or mini-series (I know not which) called FOREVER EVIL #1. Fair enough. But then, instead of one regular issue of your favourite titles, there are multiple issues of the best sellers (e.g. BATMAN #23.1, BATMAN #23.2, BATMAN #23.3, BATMAN #23.4) so that some are, effectively, weekly… but written and drawn with few exceptions by creators other than those you actually signed up for so that they are, effectively, weakly.

Apparently they all feature some flashy, enhanced cover of some sort so I hope that will mollify you, though I suspect it may not. In our experience those signed up with us on standing orders (asking us to reserve each issue of a title as it comes out) are completists and so won’t want to miss out even if you smell “filler” when you read it. So you will receive these issues from us automatically, though if you do want to throw them back on the shelves (please don’t – ask us to do that thing for you!) I would not blame you for five fucking seconds.

All I would add is please, please don’t blame us. We didn’t ask for this insanity. At least you have the option of saying “no” rather than wanting them after they have all gone out of print.

These are Comix Experience owner Brian Hibbs’ Tilting At Windmills thoughts. It’s rather long winded but right on the money and will give you some sort of context from a retailer’s point of view. I’ve no idea what he’s going on about with his automatic ordering system and changing their names and what have you. We won’t do that – we will pop them straight in your files and let U decide.

ITEM! Oh, this is fascinating! HAWKEYE #11: Anthropomorphic Skeuomorphisms. I didn’t even know what a skeuomorphism was until now. Brilliant!

ITEM! Outrageous sexualisation of men in computer games. I would like to see more!

ITEM! Page 45 exclusive signed bookplate for Joe Decie’s THE LISTENING AGENT. 40 copies only! So beautiful and so very, very witty.

ITEM! Following ALTONTOWERSGATE which saw me screaming like a big boy’s blouse (scroll down to bottom of the blog) there have been requests for further photos of this editorial buffoon, so try these taken at my Auntie Mandy and Uncle John’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. The first is innocuous enough as I slip outside for a crafty fag (you can’t smoke in Auntie and Uncle’s house – it’s an original Tudor mansion) and hang around outside the dining room window so as not to miss anything. At which point Uncle decides to enjoy his first cigarette in exactly one decade.

It was mine he nicked 10 years ago too.

And below… I show my true colours.

You all figured me for a blood-sucking Nosferatu anyway, right?

 – Stephen