Reviews August 2013 week one

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

One Response to “Reviews August 2013 week one”

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