Archive for August, 2013

Duncan Fegredo signing & sketching at Page 45 Wednesday October 23rd

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Also: exclusive Page 45 signed bookplate free with HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS! I’d probably reserve one of those puppies now!


Isn’t that gorgeous?! And yes, it’s available for mail order!

Please note: actual puppies not included.

Page 45 & GameCity8 proudly present:

Dear Duncan Fegredo defacing your books til it hurts!

HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS Book Launch & Bookplate!

Yes, Wednesday 23rd October sees the launch of Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo’s HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS original graphic novel (all-new material, never serialised), and Page 45 will have Duncan signing and sketching here on its very day of publication!

He will sign any and all books you bring, and sketch in one too.

BUT! You don’t have to do any heavy lifting: just buy HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS on the day! Better still, buy it now by clicking on that link and selecting “collect in-store” thereby guaranteeing you a free, signed bookplate! First come, first served! Then collect in-store!

Duncan Fegredo is one of this medium’s most gifted artists. I’ve often compared his dynamic forms, weighted hands and gesticulations to celebrated French sculptor Rodin.

On the other hand, Duncan is also a complete wastrel, as addicted to late-night gaming as I am, which is where GameCity8 comes in. With his artist’s eye and creative experience, Duncan will be appearing there too!

“When? Where? Why?!”

When: 5.30pm to 7-30pm, Wednesday October 23rd 2013
Where: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY
Why: Money!

Sorry – I mean beauty! Also laughter: Fegredo is one of the funniest folks I know. You should follow him on Twitter as @duncanfegredo

Please note: the signing itself is free! Everyone welcome! Come early, ask questions, spend money!

Duncan’s GameCity8 appearances are to be confirmed (watch this space – take breaks for coffee, but watch this space!), and see links below to keep up to date!

Warning: it is not inconceivable that I too will be involved in those events. Sorreeeee.

Hellboy Midnight Circus Preview:

We Have:

Signed bookplate exclusive to Page 45 limited to 150 copies!
Published Wednesday 23rd October – reserve yours now!

TALES FROM THE CLERKS written by that Kevin Smith!
NELSON winner of the British Comics Awards 2012

HELLBOY VOL 9: THE WILD HUNT – more fulsome review, there!

There’s also far more: stick Duncan Fegredo into our search engine at the bottom of Page 45’s front page! Then please let him out or we’re in for a cold, empty evening.

“What Else Is Happening?”

GameCity8 will be taking over Nottingham city centre from 19th to 26th October 2013 with two giant screens occupying the open Market Square, rotating overnight, and dozens of  exhibitions, panels and performances in key locations around the city including Antenna and the Broadway Cinema. This includes live, hands-on gameplay of innovative new games – some still under development – from independent game makers, the chance to meet their writers, artists and directors and hear them talk.

GameCity has always been about breaking down the barriers, encouraging individualistic creativity and enabling fledgeling enterprises through education, which is why Page 45 has been so proud to be in partnership with them over the last couple of years. We even gave GameCity the Page 45 window in 2012 created by Philippa Rice.

Duncan will be appearing there, but I have been strictly forbidden to mention this year’s major new development, only hint. (It isn’t the big screen – though comic readers will want to watch out for news on that score too!)

Big love to Iain Simons and Lee Nicholls at GameCity for their co-conspiratorialisation. It’s something I’ve cherished but still cannot spell, so last year I made the word up.

Keep up to date with GameCity announcements here:



GameCity8 Festival


Keep up to date with Duncan Fegredo here:


Duncan Fegredo

Keep up to date with this dissolute ding-dong here:


Page 45 Reviews

Page 45 Other News

For last minute enquiries please phone Page 45 on 0115 9508045.

Please spread the news by any and all means necessary – carrier pigeon included!



Reviews August 2013 week five

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

As with a fable you know the lesson is coming and dues must be paid; the hook lies in watching the protagonist as the moment approaches. Will they go peacefully or will they refuse to accept what has come calling for them? 

– Dominique on Demeter by Becky Cloonan 

March Book 1 s/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell.

Thoroughly inspiring and beautifully drawn with enormous humanity, this is a far cry from any dry or dictatorial polemic you might understandably be expecting on a subject as serious as America’s Civil Rights movement.

Instead, it is a highly personal, colourful and conversational first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis’ education about and then involvement in the emphatically non-violent protest movement as told, initially, to a mother and two young sons visiting his office before the inauguration of President Barrack Obama in January 2009, and it goes all the way back to his rural childhood on a farm in Alabama, preaching to his chickens.

There Lewis and Aydin have found the perfect structure: the inauguration of America’s first black President whose election, I might add, my friends and I all thought improbable up to almost the last minute given the strength of persisting prejudices. I would consider it one of the five greatest miracles of my lifetime, except that it was no miracle: it was the direct result of hundreds of thousands of individuals’ lifelong struggles for basic human decency in the form of equality in the face of extreme retributory violence. Congressman John Lewis was one of those who, inspired by Jim Lawson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was at the centre of this movement, initially through staging peaceful sit-ins at downtown stores which so generously allowed black people to buy their goods, but not sit alongside white customers at their food counters and eat lunch. Or use their toilets.


But before all that there were chickens to be named, nurtured and preached to. Never forget the chickens! Not a particularly good idea getting that close to something destined for you dinner table, but heigh ho! It’s not necessarily a good idea to disobey your farmer father during harvest idea, either, but the second Lewis got a taste for school, nothing could stop his thirst for learning. A lot of lads desperately skip school; Lewis was so desperate for school he skipped home.

It’s not something the Congressman makes a big issue out of, but I think this early act of familial disobedience – risking the wrath of a father you love – is an enormously telling show of character for someone who would go on to commit non-aggressive acts of civil disobedience, always within the law. Let us not forget that when national Desegregation Laws were passed demanding all schools were integrated, it was local white suits in power who disobeyed them: that was breaking the law!

I raced through this entire book in one sitting, and what I came away with overwhelmingly (along with these individuals’ humbling courage and commitment – a commitment not necessarily shared by their more conservative elders but I leave Lewis to judge, not I), was the emphasis not only on non-violence but civility: refusing to react to anger with anger. The students initially staging test sit-ins had trained themselves rigorously in this:

“Lawson taught us how to protect ourselves, how to disarm our attackers by connecting with their humanity (“Maintain eye contact, John!”), how to protect each other, how to survive. But the hardest part to learn – to truly understand, deep in your heart – was how to find love for your attacker.”

However, their ranks swelled so fast after their initial attempts to be served at the downtown stores’ food counters that new members were issued with the following memorandum:


1. Strike back or curse if abused.
2. Laugh out.
3. Hold conversations with floor walker.
4. Leave your seat until your leader has given you permission to do so.
5. Block entrances to stores outside or the aisles inside.


1. Show yourself friendly and courteous at all times.
2. Sit straight; always face the counter.
3. Report all serious incidents to your leader.
4. Refer information seekers to your leader in a polite manner.
5. Remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. Love and nonviolence is the way.


It is difficult to type those instructions out without trembling significantly with respect, for although, as Lewis points out… “Violence does beget violence. But the opposite is just as true. Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.” … there was a lot of fury and violence to be endured before either subsided, which the police declined to – oh, I don’t know – “police” before sweeping in later to arrest the law-abiding black citizens.

Brilliantly, they refused to pay bail (reduced from $100 a head to just $5 because their police cells couldn’t cope) and were released anyway. They also refused to pay the fines when the all-white jury later convicted them of breaking laws which didn’t exist and so spent time in the county jail house.

“We feel that by paying these fines, we would be contributing to, and supporting, the injustices and immoral practices that have been performed in the arrest and conviction of the defendants. Thank you.”

Always with the “Thank you”. Seriously, even when refused service at the counter: “Thank you”.

Right, I am in danger of telling you the plot. What I will leave you to learn is Lewis’ first childhood road trip through the more racist American states, and all the planning that had to be done to avoid trouble, the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, the formation and growth of the various student organisations, the peaceful 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge which was not met with peace by Alabama state troopers, and how this John Lewis chap imaginatively improvised an incubator for all those chicken eggs.


Buy March Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Soppy #2 (£3-00) by Philippa Rice.

So very sweet, so very cute, and so very romantic, this comes with a deliciously rich burgundy envelope so you can send it to your loved ones.

It’s romantic precisely because it is not some far-flung, far-fetched, passionate whirlwind set against the backdrop of an exotic Africa, desperately trying to save several species in decline while corrupt politicians connive with poachers to fur-line their pockets from the indigenous and the endangered.

It’s Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson reading in bed or doing the dishes, falling asleep on top of each other in front of some late-night TV. The daily domestic routines are the best: Luke, hands in marigolds so diligently deep in the suds-filled sink, racking up a stack of clean bowls and plates; Philippa deciding that now is exactly the right time to make herself a sandwich. It’s the final panel that does it, as Philippa deposits her dirty plate by the sink with most beatific smile in the world, Luke pausing with a soapy hand on his hip.

As to walking home with the shopping, I am exactly the same: fresh baguettes, eh? I never can wait.

Like SOPPY #1 with Philippa trudging grumpily through the rain, one of the funniest pages here begins with a little mardy misdirection, because I’ve never seen this expression on Philippa’s face. I’ve seen ‘puzzled’, I’ve seen ‘thinking the question over’, and I’ve seen ‘seriously concerned for others’. But mostly all I’ve witnessed is ‘radiating happiness’ like the best dressed sunshine imaginable. I’ve never seen the cross-patch here, deep-furrowed frown accentuated by enormous blotches of fire-red cheeks as if there’s a furnace of rage burning inside. In fact I find this so unlikely that I call Philippa on it: I think she’s doing a Joe Decie and making it up!

All this elegant simplicity is accomplished in black and red, with soft, cuddly forms free from outline. As much as anything, you are here for the body language, and the centre spread delivers a semi-symmetrical montage of Luke on the left, Philippa on the right, wrapped up warm or down to nightshirts and pants, munching cereal straight from the packet or chowing down on a fresh slice of melon.

Both rosy-cheeked throughout, if I were to pick out the real stars it would be Luke’s flop of hair and Philippa’s button nose.

Comes with free smiles – ours and soon yours.


Buy Soppy #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Demeter (£5-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan –

We have three self-published beauties by Becky Cloonan in at the moment: WOLVES, THE MIRE and her newest one, DEMETER. I say beauties because they really are – rich, striking covers on the outside and inside Cloonan’s sharp, dynamic art, toned with grey and very easy on the eye.

Like the previous two comics DEMETER is a short story which seems at first to be simple but which you know from the outset will have a twist. It’s not so much the surprise of the twist which grabs you, it’s the inevitability. As with a fable you know the lesson is coming and dues must be paid; the hook lies in watching the protagonist as the moment approaches. Will they go peacefully or will they refuse to accept what has come calling for them? Are they the victim or did they bring this on themselves? And if so, can their weakness be forgiven; is their eventual sacrifice enough to settle the bill?

In proper Gothic Fiction tradition Cloonan’s setting here is Olde Worlde; a beautiful, pregnant young woman tends house by the sea while she waits for her husband’s boat to return. What should be simple and charming is overlaid from the outset with a tinge of dread; even in her husband’s arms our lady seems tense, watchful, on the edge of panic. She is asking him to recall the time they first met but he can’t seem to remember. He’s lost some of his memories, it’s like there’s a boundary in his mind beyond which he can’t move, some trauma that has disconnected him from his past. Is something about to come home to roost?

I love these comics from Becky Cloonan, I hope she always finds time amongst all her other work to turn them out because they are just so gorgeous and satisfying! Her art is clean and line perfect, her stories punchy and paced just right. Really handsome slices of comicbook goodness.


Buy Demeter and read the Page 45 review here

Family Fun vol 1: On Sanity, Madness & Family Tunnel Construction and Family Fun vol 2: On Deserving A Medal (£2-99 each, Unbecoming Press) by Una –

There will be a book from Una soon; however for now, we have a couple of comics in stock and, if these are anything to go by, the book should be very interesting indeed. Issue 2 is perhaps the more straightforward of the two, telling the tale of a mother (I presume Una’s mother – it is – Ed.) who was a nurse back in the day when that was all starched capes and hospital corners as well as patient care and stringent cleaning regimens. The nurse in question has a foot crippled by polio and so faces very open prejudice day to day, the like of which we now (quite rightly) deem unacceptable. There’s no self-pity here, though, only pride and a determination to continue doing a good job and the story is told as such: a narrative of harsh lessons and early starts, occasionally rewarded with a sense of great professional and personal achievement.

Issue one is more abstract but, for my money, no less meaningful because of it. It centres around the concept of the double bind: a form of confusing, often subconscious control that people in close proximity (in this case family units) seek to exert upon one another. Ever felt like someone is requesting one thing but trapping you into doing the opposite thing? Ever been in a situation where *every* answer feels like it will be “wrong”? You may not be paranoid; you may in fact be experiencing the double bind, trapped between two conflicting demands which leave you no chance of success. Unless of course you realise your situation and construct a way out, which Una does in this case by digging a tunnel and emerging into the bright light of the surface. Sparsely drawn, thought-provoking stuff.


Buy Family Fun vol 1: On Sanity, Madness & Family Tunnel Construction and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Family Fun vol 2: On Deserving A Medal and read the Page 45 review here

Anansi Boys s/c new UK edition (£8-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman.

Old Mrs Dunwiddy is making serious preparations for a vital ceremony. All ingredients must be present and correct: there can be no margin for error.

“Now,” said Mrs Dunwiddy, “the devil-grass, the St John the Conqueror root, and the love-lies bleeding.”
Mrs Bustamonte rummaged in her shopping bag and took out a small glass jar. “It’s mixed herbs,” she explained. “I thought it would be all right.”
“Mixed herbs!” said Mrs Dunwiddy. “Mixed herbs!”
“Will that be a problem?” said Mrs Bustamonte. “It’s what I always use when the recipe says basil this or oregano that. I can’t be doin’ with it. You ask me, it’s all mixed herbs.”

It’s all mixed herbs.

This is all quite brilliant and I’m sorry it’s taken me eight years to write a review, but I’m a very slow reader. This was Neil’s last adult novel before THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE whose assessment here you can probably expect circa 2022.

It concerns the trickster god Anansi whom I first encountered aged six. I don’t mean that I actually encountered him: it was entirely my fault that Julie’s chocolate buns had more than a tang of tarragon to them, and that Jacob’s pants had actual ants in them. I mean that I encountered the spider-god in a story. And that is what Neil’s all about: stories.

Here Fat Charlie Nancy (who isn’t all that fat) is living an average, stable life in blissful ignorance. He has a fiancée who is chaste and whom he loves, even though his arid dragon of a mother-in-law hates his guts and is far from shy in showing it. He has a job he is devoted to and good at, even though it’s dull and his boss is a sycophantic con-man. He has, however, always been embarrassed by his father.

Now, a lot of us have been embarrassed about our fathers, but few of us are so perpetually embarrassed by them. Fat Charlie was consistently, persistently embarrassed by his father: his father would play tricks on the poor lad which resulted in play-ground mockery. So our Fat Charlie Nancy is relatively relieved that his dad is dead.

It is then, however, that our not-so-Fat Charlie discovers that his dad was Anansi – which kind of explains those practical jokes – and that he has a living brother who inherited his father’s gaily brandished, perception-distorting guile. What on earth is our naïf to do? Well, once his brother is on the scene there is an awful lot of damage-limitation to take care of. But then, there is also an awful lot of damage!

This is Gaiman’s funniest book to date. I could quote chapter after verse on this instead of writing my own silly words and so sell infinitely more copies. But I don’t think that’s how reviews work, is it?

Reading most prose and graphic novels by Neil Gaiman is like reading Winnie The Pooh. It’s not that they are deliciously child-like, it’s that most sentences Sound As If Each Word Should Be Begin With A Capital Letter: every single sentence is Important and Redolent with Meaning. I love that, but it’s not so much here.

This is a mischievous joy.


Buy Anansi Boys and read the Page 45 review here

The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch h/c restocks (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Todd Klein.

Good lord, Neil has a beard here! And it is most definitely Neil, just as it’s Jonathan Ross and his wife Jane sitting down with him over sushi to recall the events leading up to the strange disappearance of Miss (not her real name) Finch. No one would believe them if they recounted them, but recount them Gaiman does.

It all begins when Neil holes himself up in a London hotel to finish off a script that’s been eluding him. No one should have known he was there, but Jonathan Ross has his means and ways, and invites them out to the theatre with Miss Finch, if only to dilute the horror that is Miss Finch. And she is a horror as becomes immediately apparent when she arrives at Jonathan’s door (he has a very… elaborate home!). An austere and pedantic biogeologist, Miss Finch is an abrupt, humourless, superciliously sanctimonious cow. What then, will they as a party make of the pseudo-phantasmagorical freak-show down in the warren of cellars that stretches under the train tracks of London’s rainy night? Is it really a fake? And what becomes of the stone-cold-hearted Miss Finch? It’s quite the transformation.

Neil keeps the tension racked, whilst Zulli (PUMA BLUES, SANDMAN: THE WAKE, CREATURES OF THE NIGHT etc.) provides rich watercoloured art with the lushest of light in the final tropical jungle scenes. Oh, and Ross is depicted as a slim Oscar Wilde, which I imagine will go down very well with the fop!


Buy The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel 1602 h/c 10th Anniversary Edition (£22-50, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert.

Queen Elizabeth I of England is old and ailing, and much fixated on the freak weather conditions which afflict her kingdom. The skies are blood-red at noon, whilst dry and fiery thunderstorms fill the sky with a deafening noise. Some say it augurs the end of the world; the Queen’s physician isn’t sure. For the moment he’s more interested in what his magics have informed him: that there is an artefact of great power in Jerusalem, the Holy City. It has been offered to the doctor to guard, lest it fall into the wrong hands, yet first it must reach the English coastline safely. Sir Nicholas, the court’s intelligencer, takes charge of the affair, and employs the services of a blind balladeer, whose athletic prowess would suggest that he is more than he seems. In Spain a boy with the wings of a swan is held chained in a tower – the Inquisition will see to it that he burns in the morning. After that, there are dealings to be had with King James of Scotland, who, though Protestant, shares their loathing of all things magical, and may be persuaded to take the throne to his south should its sick queen fall.

Meanwhile the first child born in the American colonies is sailing to England with her Indian protector, to attract more investors. But she is worried that her strange condition may manifest itself once more upon arrival…

A fifty-fifty readership of SANDMAN and Marvel readers seemed to enjoy this. For the superhero fans it was working out who was who, and for the SANDMAN fans I imagine it was Elizabethan England that did it for them. I fall into both camps and I thought it worked very well: an imaginatively re-crafted world, moody art and some great covers.

This is the 10th Anniversary Edition and comes 44 pages of extras from process pieces of those very covers, a brand-new interview with Neil Gaiman, a huge swathe of script, plenty of pencils and interviews with both the colour artist and letterer.


Buy Marvel 1602 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Out (£4-00) by P. M. Buchan, Jack Fallows, Andrew Waugh, Mike Barnes, Joe Whiteford, Phillip Marsden.

“Puzula. One of the nine Dukes of Hell. Corruptor of holy men and besmircher of the chaste and pure of loin. Currently the branch manager of Currys in Dewsbury.”

There are demons amongst us!

Fortunately Andrew Waugh has identified eighteen of them in ‘Framlington’s Abridged Demonology’, and named and shamed another six in ‘Miscreants & Misanthropes’ – otherwise known as the credits page. I think we can safely say they are all going to Hell including colourist Elblondino. I don’t know which of these reprobates to take to task first – probably PM Buchan.

PM Buchan wrote most of these sleazy little numbers which, read in one sitting, present a pattern in the form of the following equation: alcohol + sex = death. Death, shame and regret. Most of these tales conclude with the worst post-coital come-downs in history. The one that doesn’t, Esben & The Witch’, ends in revenge… and two deaths. Okay, the one that doesn’t, ‘The Object Of My Affection’, doesn’t conclude at all, for we are left with a “to be concluded” cliffhanger. I hope it eventually does end in death for its protagonist is a sexual control freak who objectifies women and treats them like dirt. Fortunately he has a blow-up rubber doll to take it out on; unfortunately for that doll, she has been brought to life. Still, at least she gives him a good fisting first. Should have tied his wrists tighter.

So yes, this is sexually explicit; a good old-fashioned throw-back to underground comix. We don’t stock a lot of that, but Andrew Waugh’s clean contribution gave me an excuse to give it a try and see if the likes of Ivan Brunetti fans give it a go.

At least two of these tales – one about a lad on the cusp of freedom, off to university yet mindful what done in his dad was the booze – feature that age-old chasm between self-knowledge and self-guidance in the form of “I really shouldn’t have that drink” followed by “whoops, I have had that drink”. Followed by sex then death.* I think that in a former life Buchan may have been a mantis.

*One of them is followed by death then sex.


Buy Black Out and read the Page 45 review here

Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Troubled Mind s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman.

In SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH the mop-topped minger known as Doctor Octopus side-stepped certain death by swapping minds with Peter Parker as his own sorry, saggy old carcass expired. Now he inhabits Peter Parker’s youthful body and pretty face whilst inheriting Peter’s memories, his relatives and acquaintances, including a confused Mary Jane Watson. This has catalysed a reformation of sorts, for Otto Octavius is now determined to fight crime as Spider-Man but with his own, warped set of priorities and a new, more methodical approach which somehow eluded our Peter. As seen in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN VOL 1, Doctor Octavius has a very different modus operandi, and all a disembodied Peter Parker can do is look on and watch as everything goes “crazy-town, banana-pants”.

Above all else, what Doc Ock has brought with him is a lifetime of resentment which began with being bullied at school and which was exacerbated each time he decided to twist tentacles with the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. The end result is a decidedly less friendly Spider-Man whose tempered is triggered during almost every confrontation resulting already in the death of one villain. The Avengers, merely baffled by the sudden mood shift in which quips have been replaced with snide superciliousness, have finally taken note that something’s a little off and call him in for a brain scan.

Meanwhile Peter is beginning to make tiny steps to reassert himself: small note-book doodles when the doctor is distracted, and he’s desperately hoping that brain scan will secure the Avengers’ help. And the brain scan does reveal an anomaly but who’s best qualified to judge what it is?

There are significant developments here, but not necessarily those you’ll be expecting, and Dan Slott once more proves that he’s thought a lot of this through. The irony of any secret identity is dramatic enough, but it’s substantially heightened by this double deception and Slott milks that for all it is worth.

Better still is the gradual reformation, in certain areas at least, of the bitter old whinger; something I pray isn’t dropped when this has all sorted itself out – which it will the second another film looms onto the horizon.

I’d also like to single out Edgar Delgado’s colouring which in places is far from obvious. I stared at the second page of #9 for quite some time, particularly the bottom right panel where instead of enhancing the curves of the Ryan Stegman’s beautifully drawn nose, Delgado opts to emphasise the shadow of the helmet over Peter’s cheeks. I like what he chose for the flesh tones there as well. In fact a round of applause for Ryan Stegman generally who melds all the melodrama of Humberto Ramos with a softer, gentler humanity. At dinner with Aunt May, for example, you can see a genuinely appreciative if slightly smug Otto Octavius shine through Peter’s fresh-faced puppy-dom. These little things are important.


Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Troubled Mind s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch.

Which really is the most transient? Time or place?

“1955’s always going to be there. The kids can see it another time.”

Every bit as wit-riddled as ULTIMATES seasons one and two, the US version has been left out of print way too long so here we are for an overdue UK family outing.

And family it is, diverse in its passions, priorities, venial failings and foibles. But instead of re-treading old ground, Millar moves on bringing the cast along with him. Reed’s preoccupation for science doesn’t made him a bad dad or neglectful husband: the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, he has to catch a wormhole that’ll close in three minutes and won’t open again until morning, but what does he bring back? An anniversary ring he fashioned himself:

“A micro-galaxy. Seventy-four inhabited worlds and over forty trillion couples in total… all loving each other like I love you.”
“It’s beautiful.”
“So what did you get me?”
“The new Bob Dylan CD.”

Sue meanwhile has started a team of her own to raise money for victims of meta-human collateral damage (a good job considering what lies ahead), and Ben Grimm has finally ditched the self-pity because of course he’s a catch: he’s famous! Johnny Storm, on the other hand, isn’t just blonde – he’s blonde! He’s a narcissistic nymphomaniac for whom even the slightest self-knowledge would be a traumatic experience.

“Say, what’s with the removal guys, Johnny Boy? I thought ya wasn’t goin’ out west to be a stuntman no more!”
“Yeah, weren’t you starting some kinda ladies’ underwear company, Uncle Johnny?”
“Ah, that was two entire weeks ago, Franklin. I just decided it was time to grow up and get serious, so I’m gonna form the world’s biggest rock band instead.”
“Oh, God. I’ve just realised. My little brother’s Paris Hilton.”

So when he catches a new superhuman foxstress raiding diamonds he’s in a bit of a quandary. Oh, no he’s not: it’s straight into bed! Here she is again, naked except for a pile of hundred dollar bills:

“I’ve been a naughty girl and robbed another bank. Does that mean you’ll have to handcuff me? I hope so…”
“Oh, God. How can something so wrong feel so right?”

But where did she come from, who are her strangely familiar friends, and who is the kindly new nanny DeNeuve who knows so much about their daughter, Valeria, still young enough to be coddled in a cot?

“By my calculations, your intelligence took a quantum leap three months ago. You’re not quite as smart as your father yet, but it’s only a matter of time. You’re hiding this because you think it might upset your family, but I came here to tell you that won’t be the case. Both Reed and Sue will be enormously supportive.”
“No, they won’t. My Mom will feel alienated and the family dynamic will be thrown into flux. Dad might be pleased but it’s going to drive a wedge between him and Franklin and their relationship will completely collapse eighty-two months down the line. I’ve done the projections, Mrs. DeNeuve. It’s better for everyone if I keep this a secret.”
“You know who I am, don’t you? Beneath this silly facade…”
“I think so.”

Do you?

Millar has retained everything that made this work and given it an immediate relevance to our actual existence for the villain this time is global self-destruction. Oh yes, Doom and Galactus are in the wings but in a completely different dynamic: the real problem is us. The Earth will be uninhabitable in less than ten years time, and the point at which we could reverse that process passed eight years ago. So Reed’s ex-girlfriend and her new husband are building Nu-Earth, a life-size replica of Earth except for the desserts and the depleted rain forests. Funded by the world’s richest men and women, it’s an escape hatch and new home for six billion people because, as we all know, the world’s richest businessmen got that way by being smashing philanthropists. Likewise the politicians, hence all those old nuclear bunkers built to house… themselves.

This is the first half of the creative team’s stint: eight epic issues with an enormous sense of scale drawn by the world’s finest neo-classical photo-realist, featuring treachery, time travel, the cleverest use of a tracking device idea I’ve ever come across, superhero guest-stars galore, and a big, fuck-off robot fight.

“Doctor Richards, I meant to ask: what’s the idea behind the helmet’s Galactus-style design? Is that to harness the energy you’re stealing from the national power grids?”
“No, I was working from an entirely different principle this time, Rosie. What’s the expression I’m looking for, Frank?”
“It looks cool, sir.”
“That’s the one.”



Buy Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Comics Studio h/c (£19-99, Impact) by Bryan Hitch.

History and ‘How To…’ guide, all beautifully illustrated by comics’ finest neo-classical photorealist as evidenced by ULTIMATES seasons one and two plus Mark Millar’s similarly epic two FANTASTIC FOUR books. Hitch was also responsible for designing much of the new, improved Doctor Who by Russell T. Davies. He has words of informed wisdom for you:

“I don’t consider myself to be an artist, or even a comic artist. First and foremost I consider myself to be a storyteller. It always has to be about a story. Comics are nothing more (or less) than a visual storytelling medium; if you want to draw pretty pictures then be an illustrator, painter, designer or something else that doesn’t require you to tell a story. Comics need this from beginning to end. I’m not trying to be brutal with you but if some part of every decision or choice you make in your comicbook drawing isn’t made because it aids the storytelling, then you need to make another one that does.”

Time after time Bryan backs this up after a quick tour round his workspace, writing about panel composition, visualising scripts and making early rough doodles, adapting the pace of any given script, how to create different rhythms, his love of impact, drawing your eye, creating roughs so that you address any composition problems at the earliest possible stage, camera angles, focus, vanishing points and perspective, character placement taking into account where the word balloons will go, graphic blacks and the best way of creating night-time cityscapes, environments (see, told you they were ever so slightly important) and plausibility or – I love big words, me – “verisimilitude”, before getting down to the nitty gritty of tool options and the business end of things.

I can’t impress on you strongly enough how detailed this all is, adroitly illustrated by the comics pages he chooses to reproduce both in pencil, ink and fully finished colour as required by what he’s discussing. I’ve long been in love with neo-classicism but as Hitch says, if the story ain’t there it means nothing to me, hence my love of David Finch’s AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED yet my contempt for ULTIMATUM which I duly savaged. Bryan Hitch, however, is far and away my favourite superhero artist, though, and you need ULTIMATES seasons one and two.


Buy Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Comics Studio 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.


The End Of The Fucking World s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman

Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly s/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Kyoko Okazaki

Fairy Tale Comics h/c (£14-99, Other By A-Z) by Chris Duffy & Jonathon London, various

Hellblazer vol 6: Bloodlines (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis, John Smith & Steve Dillon, Will Simpson

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Omnibus (vols 1 & 2) s/c (£22-50, DC) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

The Savage Sword Of Conan vol 14 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Dixon & Gary Kwapisz, Ernie Chan, Doug Beekman

Kick-Ass 2: Prelude Hit-Girl s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Daredevil vol 4 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, Mike Allred

Fury Max vol 2: My War Gone By s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Dave Johnson

Secret Avengers vol 1: Reverie s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Luke Ross, Tomm Coker

Young Avengers vol 1: Style > Substance s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Guardians Of Galaxy vol 1: Cosmic Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven

Talon vol 1: Scourge Of The Owls s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynioniv & Juan Jose Ryp, Guillem March


ITEM! The full programme for The Comic Art Festival in the Lake District’s beautiful Kendal is now up online at The Comic Art Festival website! Even the programme itself is a thrill to read – I have no idea how you’ll decide what to do there, it’s bursting! Maps, time tables, everything you need to know. You’ll find the programme click button to the right!

ITEM! Vertigo’s ENIGMA and SEBASTION O (both out of print at the time of typing, sorry) were originally going to be Disney comics under the imprint Touchmark designed by Todd Klein. Never knew until THE RINSE’s Marc Laming sent me that link!

ITEM! Dominique found this brilliantly inventive and hilarious stop-motion film about a magic beard – our Mark would have chuckled himself hoarse.

ITEM! A documentary on 2000AD’s on it’s way!

ITEM! Someone from Nottingham Bid phoned last week because they’re filming at Page 45 on Wednesday or Thursday to promote this year’s Nottingham Independents campaign. Page 45 won Best Independent Retailer in 2012 so I’m all up for that, regardless of whether we’re eligible to win a second time. The conversation was going fine until…

“Are you okay to talk about the campaign on camera?”
“Yes, whoever’s around will be more than happy to talk about it. We’ve done loads of radio and TV slots. We’re vocal and passionate about being Independent.”
“Great! The script we’ve writ –“
No one puts words into my mouth. Hello? Passionate? Independent?!”

Evidently these people don’t comprehend that the best bit of being Independent is Independence.

Also, we won the award partly on account of twenty years of vocal campaigning. Since then we’ve appeared on radio, TV and in various newspapers, eulogising about the merits of being Independent, so we can probably write our own scripts thank you very much indeed.

Then on Saturday Dominique and I stumbled on the words they had wanted one of us to recite. They didn’t even have a clue who we were.

“One of the highlights of my job is being able to track down something really rare for a customer – a special item they’re desperate to get hold of but haven’t been able to find anywhere else. That’s why I went into business.” 

It really isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the unparalleled diversity of our stock here, and I did once track down a MOOMIN rarity which gave a woman great joy. But the whole point of Page 45 is that we are here for readers, not collectors. To promote comics to the Real Mainstream, not the niche market they presumed was all we catered for.

What they should have been doing is interviewing one of us so that it was genuine and off the cuff, but they did at least agree to a rewrite. I rewrote:

“The most exciting part of working at Page 45 is introducing all these beautiful graphic novels to new, inquisitive readers, giving them personal, shop-floor recommendations tailored to their tastes, and then see them return for more, absolutely delighted. That’s  why I went into business.”

Although I am very tempted to throw them a curve ball this afternoon and pronounce, direct to camera:

“The best part of my job is all the fit blokes.”

– Stephen

 P.S. Turns out the camera crew were brilliant – took a lot of time and trouble – so I didn’t mess them about. Also, I am officially a One-Take Wonder!

Reviews August 2013 week four

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

In which Mark Russell takes the tediously turgid Bible and condenses it into an infinitely more digestible, colloquial chit-chat threaded through with a modern, irreverent vernacular that makes for the jolliest of juxtapositions and punchlines galore. I wouldn’t say Russell’s being particularly iconoclastic, either: he’s just telling it like it is without all the portentous jibber-jabber.

 – Stephen on God Is Disappointed In You

Alan Moore Fashion Beast s/c (£18-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren, Antony Johnston & Facundo Percio.

“They knew it! They knew the meaning of glamour; its oldest, original meaning. Glamour means “magic”. Glamour is magic! Our affectations, our vanities, these are the devil-masks that give us power, that makes us loved or feared.”

They are also walls erected to keep others out; suits of armour welded air-tight with attitude.

High above the Celestine factory floor there is a room with a thick, semi-opaque window where sits the world-famous fashion designer, Jean-Claude Celestine, staring into a mirror which reflects an ugly eye, veined and troubled by hair, dealing from his deck of Tarot cards and issuing pre-programmed commands by rapping on glass.

Behind the bar of a busy club’s cloakroom Doll Seguin performs to her captive audience, pummelling them with put-downs as she takes their coats and racks up her verbal victories. Soon she will ascend to another opaque window and vogue. But there’s always a heckler, isn’t there?

The heckler is Johnny Tare and he’s about as convincing a boy as Doll is a dame. He’s Celestine’s resident dresser and after his act of sabotage ensures Doll gets the boot, and Doll gets her foot in Celestine’s door as next season’s top model, Johnny finds the shoe is on that other foot.

The seven-page introduction by Alan Moore is as hilarious as it rare, detailing the origins of the script in a meeting of minds with musical magpie Malcolm McLaren, he of the mad hair and constantly fizzing brain. But we’ll get to that later on after a round of applause for WASTELAND and THE COLDEST CITY’s Antony Johnston and artist Facundo Percio on account of the wonders they’ve worked with the twenty-five-year old project originally written as a screenplay for a film.


As Moore himself notes, the opening sequence in which three distinct beats compete for aural dominance, while adjacent bedsit residents dress to impress for a night on the town, is as impressively translated to the silent page as its gradual fade when the action kicks off on the silent streets outside. Doll certainly knows how to turn heads.

“You know, you shouldn’t laugh. I’m only this way because I have a disability. I was born without a penis.”
“Christ, fella. I’m sorry, we didn’t know.”
“It’s hereditary… I got it from my mother.”

The implication is that Doll is a drag queen. That’s what Johnny assumes, while Doll is convinced that Johnny’s a Tom Boy for that’s what it says on his hoodie. But this is all misdirection and ambiguity enhanced by Facundo’s masterful artistry. It is a pretty neat trick draw “a girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl” and “a boy who looks like a girl who looks like a boy”, two elements introduced to the synopsis early on by Malcolm McLaren himself.

As to the Celestine’s two right-hand Madames, I have no idea what they are, but they look like a couple of spectacularly sour Ugly Sisters.

“Oh, my dear, just look at the poor creature. Is she walking, do you suppose, or having sex with a mirage? No, no, I don’t think she’s quite the thing for us. Although I did think those radiation burns were rather fun. Assuming they weren’t real, naturally.
“Real would be a little too tacky, don’t you think?”

Behind the scenes at Celestine’s, meanwhile, looks like the backstage of a theatre or film studio, its walls like temporary slats resembling the rear-side of stage scenery. The whole of Celestine’s is a far cry from reality, and as Doll gets sucked into its fiery politics she loses sight of the dodgy politics outside and discovers the Madames’ complicity in a terrible lie: a complex which keeps Celestine creative.

The whole work is heavily – and very satisfyingly – staged, and I’d compare it to Peter Greenaway films like ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’. There are a couple of pages in which Doll Seguin explores the factory which look like something out of an Escher illusion.

It’s alluring and seductive, but set against a world climate in thrall to the fear of a nuclear winter, conscription and the effect of AIDS in the army.

Back to the introduction, then, in which Alan recalls the origin of the project in Malcolm McLaren’s concept of fusing film with comics and searching for an appropriate writer:

“He’d decamped to a bustling and thriving comic shop in Saint Mark’s Place and had asked the coolest-looking thirteen-year-old kid that he could find who his favourite writer was. According to Malcolm, this unusually insightful and right-thinking young man had replied, without hesitation, “Alan Moore: left hand of God”. In the unlikely event that I ever write a characteristically unassuming and self-effacing autobiography, this will almost certainly be its title.”

Alan goes on to extol McLaren’s virtues, describing him as “self-consciously Mephistophelean” and “one of the most effervescent pop-culture intellects of the twentieth century”.

“In conversation he was effortlessly entertaining and incisive both, a smoothly flowing stream of arcane details on a dozen different subjects, fascinating linkages and promising juxtapositions all delivered in those sinuous and slightly nasal tones, the most persuasive and most archetypal tradesman at the modern world’s fluorescent street-bazaar.”

You wait until you read his reply when Alan asks him what he thought of his portrayal as a saturnine Svengali in Alex Cox’s ‘Sid And Nancy’. Very funny!

Sorry…? Oh no, you’ll have to buy the book, I’m afraid.

The FASION BEAST’s Tarot deck, by the way, was designed by FREAKANGELS and THE FIRELIGHT ISLE’s Paul Duffield. Watch out for THE FIRELIGHT ISLE online later this year. I’ve seen the first dozen “pages” and it is going to be monumental.


Buy Alan Moore Fashion Beast s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Grandma? Please open up!
“Give me a sign that you’re all right.
“If you don’t make a sound I’ll have to break the door down.
“You won’t be comfortable sleeping in the shower.

Elderly Jewish battleaxe Regina is heading to Warsaw on a mission. In tow are her granddaughter Mica and the immensely obsequious and irritating Avram, ostensibly a friend of the family. The mission in question is to reclaim the titular property, seized from the family by the Nazis after they fled Poland during World War Two. Well, that’s what she’s told everyone, but in fact Regina also has a secret mission too, to try and find out what happened to her sweetheart. Who, unbeknownst to most of the family, including Mica, was the father of her child, Mica’s recently deceased father.

It would be fair, and just about politically correct for me as a Gentile, to observe Rutu Modan has certainly made hilarious use of more than a few stereotypical (allegedly) Jewish traits in this work. The opening sequence at the airport where Regina argues with the young security guard about not being allowed to take her bottle of water through security made me smile, and certainly leaves us in no doubt Regina is a tough old boot who is used to steamrollering her way over all and sundry and leaving people trembling in her wake.

So, arriving in Warsaw, it’s a puzzle to Mica, and also Avram who has his own agenda in sticking uncomfortably close to the two ladies, that Regina seems strangely reluctant to get in touch with the Polish legal contact, Attorney Popowski. Enter Tomasz, the handsome local tour guide, to provide a bit of romantic interest for Mica, and the plot starts to thicken more quickly than a pan of gravy that’s had a whole sack of cornflower tipped into it. Kosher, obviously.

I absolutely loved THE PROPERTY. I already knew Rutu had a great sense of humour from JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES and the ability to weave an engrossing tale from EXIT WOUNDS, but this neatly combines both to produce a gentle farce which is also a heart warming yarn. Her art style for those unfamiliar is best described as an expressive Hergé with a distinctly Mediterranean colour palette. Even in chilly Warsaw, there are plenty of vibrant colours brightening up just about every panel. The first two pages, a gorgeous two-page spread of a lake in Sweden, a location of great significance to Regina, even though she’s never been there personally, are the perfect visual equivalent of an amuse bouche to get us salivating for the main course to follow. Highly recommended.


Buy The Property and read the Page 45 review here

The Summit Of The Gods vol 4 (£14-99, Ponent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi…

“What did you just say?”

Errr… that volume four of what is now most assuredly my favourite manga of all time is out? Actually, it’s a quote taken from the climax of this work, which when I heard it chilled me to the bone, though probably not quite as much as the two protagonists involved in the exchange, the first half of which I have redacted so as not to spoil it for you. Habu’s solo winter assault without oxygen on the north-west face of Everest has begun, a feat considered completely impossible, in fact suicidal, by the mountaineering community, and photographer Fukamachi is determined to follow him as far as he can to document it.

Their agreement is that Habu will not acknowledge Fukamachi in any way, even if he is in mortal danger, and Fukamachi must not assist Habu whatsoever, to avoid jeopardising the solo nature of the climb . Upon finishing the final page of this volume I felt myself in somewhat of an anguished state, not least because I know it will be at least six months before the concluding volume is released! Scarcely have I ever wanted so, so badly for the characters in a work of contemporary fiction to be successful in their respective aims, in Habu’s case to reach the summit and achieve mountaineering immortality, and in Fukamachi’s to prove whether indeed George Mallory did indeed become the first man to reach the summit of Everest on June 8th 1924, virtually three full decades before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay achieved their own place history. I’m just not sure either of them will…


Buy The Summit Of The Gods vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

God Is Disappointed In You h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler.

“Later the Pharisees caught Jesus eating lunch without washing his hands first. They started in on him, blowing their whistles and shouting, “The Law Of Moses requires you wash your hands! You have defiled yourself, sir! You have eaten lunch without washing your hands, and now you are defiled!”
Jesus rolled his eyes, and said, “People aren’t defiled half as much by what goes into their mouths as by the shit which comes out.” Then he went back to eating his sandwich.”

This is so funny I have been crying with laughter.

I warn you right now it isn’t comics, it’s illustrated prose in which Mark Russell takes the tediously turgid Bible and condenses it into an infinitely more digestible, colloquial chit-chat threaded through with an irreverent modern vernacular that makes for the jolliest of juxtapositions and punchlines galore. As he concedes in the introduction, “James never called anyone a “prick” as far as we know” but it’s all about rendering the arcane comprehensible. I wouldn’t say Russell’s being particularly iconoclastic, either: he’s just telling it like it is without all the portentous jibber-jabber.

For example, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and Timothy – Paul had a lot of pen pals! – is turned into chatty ongoing narrative as Paul pops in and out of jail, signing off with “Hugs and Kisses”, “Smooches!” and “Keepin’ it real”. It’s long stream of unsolicited advice, like an Agony Aunt making up correspondence in order for fill column inches, but there are some seriously sound nuggets in here:

“Stay focused. If you’re going to criticise people for being loose and immoral, then you need to be able to resist temptation yourself, or you’re going to end up looking like a total douche.”

Also: some analogies and metaphors date better than others, so Russell brings things up to speed right from the get-go.

“God created the human race to be his pets. As a first-time owner, God wisely chose to start small, creating just two people: Adam and Eve. But, much like baby alligators, they proved to be rotten pets and were thus flushed into the sewer, where they propagated, until the sewers were overflowing with wild humans, hissing and spitting, fornicating and worshipping idols. So God flushed out the entire human race with a flood.”

That’s The Torah getting a look in, by the way, before Genesis kicks off in slightly more detail, turning the lights while inventing solar energy to power things. If it wasn’t broken, we probably shouldn’t have fixed that.

The light switch analogy I borrowed from Shannon Wheeler, he of TOO MUCH COFFEE MAN, who provides the cartoons, like Adam and Eve in marriage counselling, sitting naked on what I hope are well padded chairs and being told, “You need to stop playing the ‘blame game’.” Also there’s Moses being issued from the clouds with what I guess should have been the eleventh commandment, “Don’t forget the fine print”. The twelfth should have been: don’t make up any fine print! It says “Love Thy Neighbour”, guys: don’t make up qualifiers and exceptions just because some people have better tans than you do or wobbly their willies in different directions! Peace, y’all.

I always liked the name Nebuchadnezzar, though I probably wouldn’t impose it on the son I will never sire. In the book of Daniel, if you remember, he has a dream and summons his assorted sycophants to interpret it without telling them what that dream was (good call: other people’s dreams tend to be boring, don’t they?).

““This is the only way I can sure your interpretations is coming from the gods,” he explained, “rather than just some pop psychology bullshit you picked up in college.””

Man, this is going to be all my Christmas presents this year. Apart from Jonathan’s and Dominique’s. That would be tacky, right?

And so we come to my favourite part of the Bible (oh yes, I’ve studied in depth: I got 99.3% in my Divinity O Level): the New Testament in which one of the loveliest men of all time gives hypocritical religious leaders a great big kick up the arse, castigating them for bigotry, superficiality and materialism, for which he was well and truly crucified then completely ignored by the ensuing Christian churches preaching these self-same gospels. Weird, huh?

Mark Russell is in spectacular form throughout, Jesus’ words rendered in red type as when Peter asks him exactly who he is.

“Who do you think I am?”
“I think you’re the Messiah. And maybe not just the Messiah, maybe even the Son of God.”
Jesus puppy-clapped Peter’s cheek and said, “Well, don’t tell anyone, okay? At least not yet.”

Now, I don’t know if I have to issue a SPOILER WARNING to anyone, but it doesn’t go well for Jesus in the end. I’m sorry to say that that crucifixion thing I mentioned wasn’t metaphorical. The beginning of the end comes halfway through the somewhat ominously titled Last Supper during which Jesus lifts his wine glass and makes the most startling after-dinner speech on record:

“Well, this is it, boys. Tonight one of you is going to betray me. I will be arrested and put to death. This is the last glass of wine I’ll ever drink until we all share one together in Heaven.”
“What? Betray you?” they said. “Who is going to betray you?”
Jesus nodded at Judas.
“Oh shit… I just remembered there’s something I’ve got to do!”


Buy God Is Disappointed In You h/c and read the Page 45 review here

House Of Fun restocks (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“When life gives you lemons…”
“Punch life in the fucking face!”

More maniacal malfeasance from MILK & CHEESE, The Murder Family, Bad Rabbi, Shitty Witch And Crappy Cat, Myron The Living Voodoo Doll and – coming soon! – Hank Jenkins, Chronic Masturbator. (“Yes indeed. I spill the seed.”). No one packs in more to a page than Dorkin. His mind fizzes with lateral-thinking lunacy.

Read ‘A Day In the Life Of Milk & Cheese’! There’s a certain consistency to it. It’s the consistency of blood-curdled milk. See them sent a “Cease & Desist”, sued by the Disney Corporation! And here they’ve distracted themselves from burning down the house with the prospect of X-Ray Spex:

“I must say, it seems a little silly to send away for an item advertised in a decades-old comic.”
“The contrivance excites and delights me. It’s a gap in logic worthy of George Lucas.”
8-10 weeks later.
“Aha! Yes! This is it! Our eyes now have mad skillz!”
“I can see through everything now! Feng Shui! Scientology! ‘Family Guy’!”
“Science is wicked! What will it think of next?”
“Genocide boots, I hope!”

The Eltingville Comicbook Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Role-Playing Club have taken their self-destructive, one-upmanship shambles to the streets for an organised zombie crawl. But blasphemy strikes in the form of fast-moving-zombie fans, trampling over our True Believers’ nit-picking standards and indeed our True Believers. Also: The Murder Family (“The family that slays together stays together!”) is threatened by some late-night, extra-marital mutilation, but before then Ma Murder tries to set standards for son Dougie’s version of courtship:

“You weren’t over at that Judy Pilkington’s house again, were you? You know I don’t approve of her.”
“Aw, no, Mom! She got a court order! I’m stalking a new girl now, Vanessa Dobkin! You’d like her. She’s vulnerable!”

At the time of typing the MILK & CHEESE hardcover, a complete package of their rants and ransackage prior to these stocking-filler shenanigans is also in stock (adults stockings, please; and not elderly adult stockings, hole-ridden and wrinkled, either). It’s big and it’s heavy and so handy for settling arguments.


Buy House Of Fun and read the Page 45 review here

Saga: Lying Cat t-shirts (many sizes, £17-99 each) by Fiona Staples.

Slinking out of the series called SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples comes a range of black t-shirts for menz and womenz with the head of its feline fault-finder known as a Lying Cat.

Basically, if you lie in its company, it will announce it to the world. I probably wouldn’t let one sit on my lap whilst playing poker, no. They’re too big for that anyway: think hairless blue puma.

Its outbursts are entirely involuntary. It has the cat equivalent of Asperger Syndrome.

I am the proud owner of one of these t-shirts purely for the love of pranksterism and spent a whole day on its release tweeting that I was “so fucking fit” and being asked out on a date by Guy Pearce. The punchline to each tweet was this:

I’d like to apologise to anyone who even briefly believed we had the complete BIG NUMBERS by Alan Moore & Bill Sienkiewicz in stock.

So there you have it, I am but a child. Next?


Buy Lying Cat t-shirts and read the Page 45 review here. You will need to scroll down!

Bad Break h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Philippe Riche…

Noir thriller featuring an unlikely trio of characters in the form of a mysterious antiques dealer, a guy who works in a scrap yard, plus a sultry porn star, who team up to try and find a mysterious treasure, before they get whacked by some spade-wielding nutters that seem to be shadowing their every move.

Enjoyable enough, but I just found it all so highly improbable, including a plot twist so convenient at the end it was truly risible, that I couldn’t really suspend disbelief sufficiently to get into the story properly.

Nice highly stylised black and white art, very different from the usual colourful ligne claire Humanoids output, which just about made up for the plot shortcomings overall, for me at least.


Buy Bad Break h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Right State s/c (£12-99, DC) by Mat Johnson & Andrea Mutti…

I wonder, particularly given the black and white art, whether this was originally intended as part of the hit-and-miss Vertigo Crime imprint. It’s an okay story by Johnson, though nowhere near as strong or layered as his DARK RAIN: A NEW ORLEANS STORY.

This also gets into the murkier end of domestic US politics, set against a worrying upsurge of popularity for right-wing militias, but it felt more like a by-the-numbers Jack Bauer-style caper than having anything particularly worthwhile to say. There are some interesting-ish characters, but we just never get to care about them particularly.

Ah well.


Buy Right State s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Infinity #1 of 6 (£3-50, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Jimmy Cheung.

“Hope for the best, Tony. Plan for the worst.”

Holy hell, this is enormous!

Not just in scope, either. I think this is 64 pages? It’s certainly all Jimmy Cheung – with Jonathan Hickman’s signature design work in the chapter breaks – and his work is so sleek and slick. Shiny, shiny, shiny!

This is very clever once you puzzle out all the pieces. I touch on them below in dot-to-dot fashion without giving you the numbers to successfully join them up. Haha, what a bastard, eh?

Jonathan Hickman has been building towards this in AVENGERS VOL 1: AVENGERS WORLD, AVENGERS VOL 2: THE LAST WHITE EVENT and NEW AVENGERS VOL 1: EVERYTHING DIES with a book each yet to come out before this summer blockbuster kicks off.

The biggest permanent assembly of Avengers has been gathered, while a covert offshoot, the Illuminati, have taken desperate measures to fend off the incursions of parallel Earths, accidentally destroying the Infinity Gems in the process. And you know who has a history of coveting those Infinity Gems, right?

Meanwhile Black Bolt of the Inhumans harbours secrets of his own – a plan he has hatched out with his mad brother Maximus – driving a wedge between him and his wife Medusa. An alien Outrider has been dispatched to steal a secret from Black Bolt’s mind, but that one isn’t it.

Now, just as the Avengers uncover a cadre of shape-shifting Skrulls on Earth without a single warrior-class member, they receive verified data that a distant Kree moon has been destroyed. It came via an unprecedented Kree distress signal. A force of destruction so massive it blocked out its sun is on the move and every space empire is scrambling. Extrapolating the trajectory of this armada of Armageddon, its target is indisputably Earth.

And, on the dark, stark starlit moon of Titan, Thanos smiles.

Because the Avengers have just made the most gigantic strategical error.


Buy Infinity #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine vol 1: Hunting Season s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Paul Cornell & Alan Davis.

“I’m an Avenger, code name Wolverine. Your target is down, so be calm, okay? I will hand the boy over to a paramedic. I don’t want him going into shock while you guys follow protocol. And get me some damned pants!”
“Hold off on that last part. Okay, Logan, now I can say I’ve seen everything.”

One of several fresh starts for our hirsute mutant, and the four chapters drawn by Alan Davis and inked as ever by Mark Farmer are, of course, beautiful. Davis’ forms which inspired Bryan Hitch are always so smooth and rounded, and you can also feel the weight of his characters’ backs when turned. The young boy caught in the middle of his dad possessed going postal with a disintegrator gun and a semi-disintegrated Wolverine who’d just popped into the skeleton-strewn mall for some coffee beans, is the epitome of bereft innocence. Then, when possessed himself, the lad’s wide-eyed face is startlingly confrontational.

Mirco Pierfederici’s final two chapters, by stark contrast, are horrible. The layouts are a jumble, the figure work wonky and the faces are some of the ugliest I’ve seen in comics – and I don’t mean in a deliberate Basil Wolverton-like fashion.

It’s at that point that Cornell’s writing falters too, though that could possibly be on account of editorial interference given how abruptly between chapters Logan stops referring to himself as “an Avenger, code name Wolverine” and becomes “The Wolverine” following the film. I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t so awkward and artificial and therefore insulting. I can almost hear Cornell wincing too.

As to Logan’s co-star, if you’re wondering why Nick Fury now looks startlingly like THE ULTIMATES’ version that’s old Nick’s son; although obviously, again, that’s just editorial’s excuse following demands issued from Marvel-on-high that Fury in both universes looks like the one on the big screen. No awkwardness there – in fact I was fairly amused when MARVEL NOW introduced the character with no explanation initially at all. Kept you guessing. I just wonder where the original Nick Fury’s at. Must have missed something.

Anyway. People are being possessed and Wolverine – sorry, The Wolverine – uses his newly formed entourage of superhero experts down the local boozer to figure out how and why.  In all honesty there’s not really a lot more to it than that, although The Wolverine’s new allegiance with the new Nick Fury is apparently going to change the world.


Buy Wolverine vol 1: Hunting Season 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.


Soppy #2 (£3-00) by Philippa Rice

Strangers In Paradise Omnibus Box Set Softcover Slipcase Edition (£75-00, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Marbles: Mania,  Depression, Michelangelo & Me (£12-99, Robinson) by Ellen Forney

Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Comics Studio h/c (£19-99, Impact) by Bryan Hitch

March Book 1 s/c (£10-90, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Chew vol 7: Bad Apples (£9-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Willow Wonderland (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Jeff Parker, Christos N. Gage & Brian Ching, Jason Gorder, Michelle Madsen, David Mack

Rin-Ne vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Rin-Ne vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

The Facts In The Case Of The Depature Of Miss Finch h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Todd Klein

Marvel 1602 h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert

New Avengers vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis &  Mike Deodato, Michael Gaydos, Michael Avon Oeming, Carlos Pacheco, others

Spider-Man: Dying Wish s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, Richard Elson

Fantastic Four vol 2: Road Trip s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mark Bagley

Deadpool vol 2: Soul Hunter s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Scott Koblish, Mike Hawthorne

Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Troubled Mind s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, various

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

Iron Man: The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham

Attack On Titan vol 6 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama


Now in a break in our regular news platform, Page 45 proudly presents…

Milkshake Gate

My sympathisers on Twitter may recall that a couple of months ago while J-Lo and I were on the shop floor, a woman came in with a milkshake. We have a No Food & Drinks policy here because comics. Paper. Accidents. You know? But we were busy and we thought she looked sensible…

Until she put the milkshake down in the middle of the shop floor while browsing through graphic novels on the book plinth. I suggested she didn’t do that.

And then we received a letter of complaint from her boyfriend!

He also posted in on Facebook. When I heard that I couldn’t wait to get home. Sadly what I didn’t realise (I am not a fan of Facebook and understand it even less) was that the posting was private and you lot couldn’t see it. And that’s just not fair

For the first time, then, I give you the finale to Milkshake Gate: his letter of complaint and my reply. Have fun! I certainly did.

To whom this may concern,

Today my partner and I were browsing in your store and we both entered with drinks, and since there is no indication that food and drink are not allowed on the premises we both proceeded, there were two members of staff present to which both did not protest. My partner and I both came with the intention to purchase items mainly my girlfriend as she had the intention to purchase the entire Moonin graphic novel collection, my partner proceeded to place her drink on the floor as not to spill any liquid on the books whilst picking them up , as doing so a member of staff spoke to her in a manner that I believe is the height of rudeness, instead of asking her politely to pick up her drink the member of staff and I quote said “errrrrr no, we don’t normally allow food or drink any way but to place it on the floor is just asking for it”.

I am appalled at the way this member of staff spoke to my partner and after we both left

my partner broke down in tears , this is an appalling example of customer service and as an independent shop I would have thought that customer service would be important and this is a clear example that you do not value your customers, I am appalled that this behaviour is accept in the establishment and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

As a result of this my partner and I will be boycotting your shop and will no longer purchase any items from your shop and we take our custom else were, to were members of staff treat their customers well and value customer service.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Scott Andrew Smith

* * *

Dear Mr Smith,

When we consulted on Twitter about this incident and your complaint, the response from our customers was, for example, “When did it become ok to take food and drink into shops?” (Luke) and “Especially fucking book shops” (Xander) and from comicbook creator Paul Duffield, “Wow, entitlement has reached new heights”.

We don’t have a sign outside our shop saying, “No food or drinks” because we rely on common courtesy and common sense: this is shop full of exquisite but easily marked paper artefacts. You wouldn’t take poison into a pet shop (I hope). Also, I would point out, we don’t have a sign outside our shop saying, “Please don’t stick your fingers into the electrical sockets”. Though in your case, feel free.

In spite of the fact that you breached basic etiquette by bringing drink into the shop, we trusted your judgement to keep it well away from the comics and certainly off the floor where it could so easily have been kicked over by anyone innocently browsing the shelves without stuffing their faces. Our mistake, clearly. Your recollection of my somewhat surprised reaction is completely accurate: far from rude, though stating the blatantly obvious – your partner’s faux-pas was indeed asking for a major milkshake misshap which, where positioned could have caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage. What is your major malfunction?

Page 45’s reputation for customer service and – let us be clear – kindness is legendary, hence our substantial following on Twitter, our 2004 Diamond Award for best retailer in the country, our 2012 Award for Best Independent Retailer in Nottingham and Neil Gaiman declaring us in public as his favourite graphic novel shop anywhere in the world. When my original business partner Mark died, so many customers turned up to the funeral that it was standing room only. That doesn’t happen if you are unkind to customers.

Here’s a clue: you’re overreacting, nay overcompensating for your own bad manners. If you want to confirm the veracity of my quotations above you can find me on Twitter @pagefortyfive



Member of staff since 1994. Also: co-creator & co-owner, as it happens.

* * *

ITEM! Have a new comic by Lucy Knisley. It’s awfully good!

ITEM! Have a Dalek hewn from hay to harvest humankind. I drove past this on Sunday. It’s gigantic.

 – Stephen

Reviews August 2013 week three

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Now that we’ve received the original art to the STRANGERS IN PARADISE OMNIBUS retailer print, donated by Terry Moore for us to raffle off exclusively to Page 45 customers, I have looked back on these pages, and realised just how fine and precise Terry’s line has become.

 – Stephen on Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising vol 3

Fish Head Steve! (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart.

“I think your head is really swish
Even though it’s a dead fish,
I dream about you every day,
You’re handsome in a fishy way.
Fish fish fish, Steve Steve Steve.
“And then I kinda ran out of rhyming words.”

Hooray! Hooray for stupidity! Hooray for hopelessness! Hooray for manic zeal delivered at sixty gags a second, as if fired from a machine gun made out of ice cream and jelly. Hooray!

At which point I have no choice but to invoke comics’ comedy legend Roger Langridge for the above is pure FRED THE CLOWN with elements of ART D’ECCO: LOUCHE AND INSALUBRIOUS ESCAPADES lobbed in later. And earlier. Throughout!

I also rate Mr. Smart right up there with MILK & CHEESE’s Evan Dorkin both for his cartooning exuberance and each page’s fun-filled, pun-packed hyperactivity. The only difference is that (after squirreling a copy away for yourself) you can also buy this for your kids, safe in the knowledge than they won’t begin on the gin and then trash your living room.

There is a knock-out visual punchline to Fridge-Freezer Alice’s declaration of doting adoration but it’s difficult to replicate that in a prose review so bless you, Jamie, for supplying its interior art.


Jamie Smart is just the funniest on Twitter – and there’s some pretty fierce competition from the likes of Gary Northfield, Neill Cameron, Warren Ellis and @LizzLizz – for his brain seems to fizz all day long, exploding with random scenarios that would never occur to a mentally healthy human being, then either splurging them into the Twittersphere regardless of the consequences or throwing them down on paper.

Here we have a town full of freaks – gormless and gleeful – with animals, vegetables and minerals for heads. Some of those heads are even semi-sentient! Selena, for example, seems to have merged with a purple, upside-down cat with a will of its own, while Alan’s bread-head is thankfully unaware when birds deign it so high up in their pecking order. Bestest of all is Cowboy whose head is a fully functioning cow – and cows, as you know, tend to go plopsies.

The book climaxes in a couple of five-page flourishes, but the majority of these misadventures are two-page gag-athons meticulously composed to incorporate a single, giant, introductory panel setting the sanity-free scene with a protagonist’s portrait and brief editorial commentary (like Stan Lee used to in the early days of Marvel) or just landing you right in the deep end. My favourite is ‘Farmer Wars’ wherein the entire town has become obsessed with the livestock equivalent of Top Trumps or Pokemon gaming cards. The golden collectible is Farmer Joe with “Vocabulary 10, Tractor Driving 10, Goat Grappling 10”, but lookout for Farmer Giles: “His lack of pasteuring skills is legendary”.

Everyone has taken to wearing a farmer’s flat cap, while Cowboy’s cow has gone one further and determined to smoke a pipe. “Moof!”

And herein lies one of the many keys to the success of Smart’s cartooning: throwaway background jokes, visuals and sound effects, which fill every page to bursting point. Other than Dorkin, I cannot think of a comicbook creator who delivers it so fast and thick.

It’s also in the mouths and eyes. The mouths range from petulant to gasping, empty and dismayed, open shouty-shouty or pure Leo Baxendale (see The Bash Street Kids in THE BEANO), especially Cowboy’s cow with its tube-like “Moof!” when a thermometer’s stuck up its bottom. Combined with the histrionic, wide, white eyes and mad, black-dotted pupils this, I exaggerate not, is cartooning genius.

Anyway, it’s about time I returned you to our regular schedule on Spumville TV:

“Coming up later: a pig in a speedboat, pudding-wearing fashion ideas, and Doctor Fwapfwip’s Fwopding Fwoopfwup!! Cowboy, this is scheduling gold!!”
“We’ll be TV stars!”

Squelchy squelchy! Moof!


Buy Fish Head Steve! and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 3 Cemetery Songs s/c (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

“So, Carol…”
“What has Johnny told you?”
“About what?”
”About Rachel… and me.”
“Well… she told me you girls have had a lot to deal with lately. And you need your family and friends around.”
“Did she tell you we’re dead?”
“We all have little quirks, dear.”

Rachel is dead. Her best friend Jet is dead. Both of them have died twice so far, but they look pretty good on it – if you discount Jet’s neck brace, the electrocution burns on her chest, Rachel’s rope burns round her neck and the one-inch, empty hole in her stomach. But in all honesty, most dead ladies don’t get to walk around town in snow-blown, sub-zero temperatures in little more than t-shirts and jeans. Most of them don’t get to wander anywhere; they’re usually six feet under.

At the beginning of RACHEL RISING VOL 1: THE SHADOW OF DEATH Rachel was only six inches under but, in one of the finest opening sequences in comics, she clawed her way out of her shallow grave to stumble back out of the leafy, early-morning glade. She still has no idea how she got there, nor how she got up.

Since then the town of Manson has seen all kinds of crazy. Rachel has met Lilith and had flashbacks to some terrible times in Manson. A young girl called Zoe has been both the innocent victim of attempted assaults and their sly, spry perpetrator. Now she has sought sanctuary in a church with a somewhat unorthodox priest.

“I wonder sometimes if any of this is real – or is it just a business, selling hope to people who can’t afford it?”
“Clever people have been asking that question since the Stone Age, Zoe. The answer remains the same.”
“Business is good.”

Science, religion or magic: which holds the answer here? Friendly mortician Aunt Johnny is convinced that it’s science but so far can’t explain Rachel or Jet. Earl, also a mortician and devoted to Jet, is told the true tale behind Sleeping Beauty, and it disturbs him greatly. Jet… Jet is slightly tired of waking up naked with new wounds, but it hasn’t dampened her sense of mischief.

“No, Aunt Johnny… You’re not going to learn anything by examining my hole or Jet’s neck. If anything, they prove my point…”
“Heh heh.”
“Did I say something funny?”
“You said…”
“Shut up.”

And now Mary Scott, Hannah and Lilith have hatched plans, some very nasty plans to turn the town of Manson into a screaming death trap. Finally you will begin to receive some answers, while our bewildered cast begin making connections, but one of the chief strengths here is Terry Moore’s ability to surprise. I can think of at least half a dozen “Oh my God!” moments I never saw coming because the man is a master of misdirection, the spirit of which I have tried to uphold.

He’s also outstanding at making you care, even about murderous Mary Scott, and that will really pay off in a scene that careers between worry to serious worry and then into totally unexpected territory. Earl in particular is a gem. Bulky and bald, wearing glasses so thick you can’t see his eyes, he’s not as simple as he seems. Out of everyone here he knows right from wrong. He’s just reticent and easily embarrassed, so suffers unjustly because of it.

Now that we’ve received the original art to the STRANGERS IN PARADISE OMNIBUS retailer print, donated by Terry Moore for us to raffle off exclusively to Page 45 customers, I have looked back on these recent pages too, and realised just how fine and precise Terry’s line has become. His forms are so soft – all of his women are real women with curves, not spindly stick insects – yet within those forms lies so much detail:  Rachel and Mary Scott’s hair, in particular; the wood grain of doors, steps and umm, coffins; the wool of Jet’s jumper; the fur on the wolves; the blood in the snow.

His expressions have always been priceless and, once more, Mary Scott steals the show. Mary Scott has anger issues and is enjoying herself enormously venting them. You’ll enjoy yourself too. It’s funny what we find funny.

So let us close at the beginning, with Aunt Johnny preparing to leave hospital. Something is slightly amiss.

“The water… smells funny.”
“Oh, stop your whining, I got it from the faucet.”
“No, I’m serious. It smells… feral.”

You may want to hide behind your sofa.


Buy Rachel Rising vol 3 Cemetery Songs s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Fire (£4-99) by Rachael Smith.

“So basically, I am in charge of this whole section. Crafts are my bitches, yeah?”
“I think that bit of felt has enough price things on it, Jenny.”
“You can never be too clear with crafts, Tessa. People who are into crafts don’t have time to look for prices. They want to get home and haberdash the shit out of everything.”

Yes! This is what I have been waiting for from Rachael Smith!

I knew she had it in her, and John Allison fans (BAD MACHINERY, THAT etc.) are hereby exhorted to sprint to this full-colour, 44-page, incendiary A5 adventure starring two of the least likeable brats in the whole history of comics.

Jenny is disdain personified, evidencing not one slither of gratitude to elderly Joan who has kindly taken Jenny under her wing for two weeks Work Experience in the craft section of E. Dingle & Co.’s department store which is apparently “all pompoms and wool and shit”. Although there are tubes of paint. Which Jenny has just squished all over the counter, then mopped up with tangles of wool so that it looks like so much multi-coloured spaghetti bolognese. She was on the phone to her worried mother – when she should have been serving an increasingly long line of customers. Finally she glares up at them.

“Do you still want this stuff? ‘Cause it’s all fucked up now.”

Chris is also on Work Experience, attending a fire safety consultancy firm. A morose malcontent as boring as he is bored, Chris couldn’t give a shit, either. He probably doesn’t have the energy to. His supervisor Bryan, on the other hand, is a feckless waste of space who swiftly discovers that his cringe-inducing attempts at charm are no more effective on Chris than they are on his long-suffering secretary Julia.

“So Chris, mate… lemme ask you… What interested you in fire safety? Pal?”
“My parents thought it would be good for me on account of my recent foray into pyromania.”
“Umm, right. Cool. That’s cool.”

It’s not cool, of course, and it’s about to get pretty damn hot in that office as everything which can goes up in flames does so, along with Bryan’s hopes of salvaging his nerves.

At which point we are a mere seven pages in, so I ask you, what could possibly bring Jenny and Chris in contact with each other and how badly wrong do you think things will go.

Really? I’d notch that suspicion up substantially!

Rachael’s cartooning here is delicious. Jenny’s glares are as hilarious as Julia’s fuming, while Chris’ face could not be more expressionless. If the tone owes much to John Allison, I detect more than a trace of early Marc Ellerby in the style.

Moreover this cannot have been an inexpensive production, for the paper is thick, the colour glows and it’s a substantial story involving long-standing, deep-seated resentments which I haven’t even touched upon, fuelled by a final twist met with hilarious resignation.


Buy I Am Fire and read the Page 45 review here

Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir (£11-99, Plume) by Graham Roumieu.

How? How this memoir missing from silly shop for whole year? Shop badly run by nincompoop.

Bigfoot say “poop”. Ha ha.

“About the creator: this is Graham Roumieu’s second book. It was poorly researched.”

Roumieu’s first foray into fur-faced stoopidity was IN ME OWN WORDS: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BIGFOOT, the third was BIGFOOT: I NOT DEAD, and this is very much more of the same gleeful satire, as our learn-ed Missing Link ruminates on life’s ups, downs and indignities, opening with the following:

“Stink. Yes, everyone know Bigfoot smell like shit. Please make effort not to point out every time you see Bigfoot. Thank you.”

The art is one long scrawl with ink washes spilled all over it, probably through clumsiness.

My favourite page is entitled ‘Undermine’:

“Spend life trying build cool image. Try be serious, try be frightening. Still people laugh at Bigfoot. Certain element of woodland society want keep Bigfoot down. They run slander campaign.”

It shows a racoon up a tree with a megaphone and a sign which reads “Bigfoot Pees Bed”, whilst beleaguered old Bigfoot, below, brandishes one of his own: “No pee Bed!”

Something for own politicians to aspire to, then. The only way is up.


Buy Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir and read the Page 45 review here

Over The Wall s/c (£10-99, Uncivilized) by Peter Wartman.

I can barely believe this is Peter’s first graphic novel. He’s arrived on the published page fully formed with exceedingly attractive cartooning skills and the most extraordinary ability to propel his protagonists through a completely credible, solid labyrinthine environment shown from multiple and thrilling camera angles.

It’s Younger Readers’ adventure about courage and determination set in a vast, ornate Incan city protected by thick stone walls and abandoned by humans, long, long ago. It is there that the local villagers dispatch their sixteen-year-old boys for a day as a rite of passage. So it was yesterday, and all the children returned on time and unharmed… except for Anya’s older brother. Unfortunately no one remembers this. No one except Anya.

So tonight young Anya is setting off alone, with a rucksack she packs very carefully, to the ancient city which towers above her. An enormous wooden tower has been erected, for the walls have no gateway. Undaunted, Anya ascends… only to discover than the city which sprawls for miles below her may have been deserted by humans, but certainly isn’t empty.

Why has the city been abandoned? Who used to live there? What used to live there? And how did they comport themselves?

Depicted in black, white and a luminous purple, this is thrilling. The masonry adorned with semi-relief statues, stories and vistas is rendered in all its weight with cracks and chinks, while Anya herself veers from wide-eyed terror to steely resolve for she will not be dissuaded. She is not leaving without her brother.

Never underestimate a young lady!


Buy Over The Wall s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Trillium #1 of 8 (£2-25, Vertigo) by Jeff Lemire.

From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE UNDERWATER WELDER (conveniently forgotten about by DC in their publicity for this title) and Vertigo’s SWEET TOOTH (oh, that made it into the pitch), comes a deliriously coloured piece of science fiction whose twin narratives dovetail beautifully when they meet at the middle during this episode’s conclusion.

You can read either half first, and indeed are given no guidance as to which way to go, for both ends of the comic are covers, vertically reversed. My suggestion is to start with war-troubled William hanging upside down against the backdrop of an alien landscape, rather than the white-haired space explorer upended against a World War battlefield.

William is determined to find the fabled Lost Temple Of The Incas deep in the Peruvian jungle even though Sir Terrance Morgan’s old escapades ended very badly indeed. His older brother is sceptical, but they do find something – more than they bargained for.

Nika has found the Lost Temple Of The Incas but [redacted, redacted, redacted]. What she desperately needs is some of the flowers within to cure a singularly virulent virus which could wipe out all mankind. Unfortunately she is running out of time and her commanding officer may have to resort to less verbal methods of “negotiation”.

Aargh, DC’s hype-monkey gives everything away! Thank goodness we’ll be replacing that script with this in our product page! I found the first half (well, first as I read it) slightly pedestrian, but then flipped it over and couldn’t wait to see how that worked out. It worked out to perfection, and now I’m left slightly frazzled.

Best of all is the colouring: old school washes bleeding beautifully and – as required – eerily. The corpses as recalled by William on the battlefield, drowning in muddy water, are horrific. Lemire’s spindly art really takes off in the second half, with gloriously detailed [redacted]. My one major consternation was back in the Peruvian jungle which looked far from jungular, and when one of the expedition members declared, “Dear Lord, I didn’t think the underbrush could get any thicker!” I looked around and all I could see on any of the panels was perfectly accessible grass, three or four trees per hectare, and a couple of random vines.



Buy Trillium #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man vol 2 Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Book 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham.

Tony Stark has decided to explore deep space. In full armour, he has been consorting with a purple-skinned beauty with white feather for hair, roaming a palace of wonders. Now they have reached her quarters.

“So… it’s your birthday. Which one?”
“Ugh. … begins with a three.”
“Is that old for your people?”
“Depends who you ask.”
“Are you still virile?”
“Depends who you ask.”
“I shall inform you in the morning.”

A blast of hot steam vents from Iron Man’s mask.

What happens next is hilarious, but that page is enough in itself, Gillen directing Greg Land to show Stark’s knowing, flirtatious face oozing with a sexual self-confidence within his helmet at precisely the right juncture. And Greg Land’s pretty good at sexy.

Tony Stark is a naughty man and so is Kieron Gillen, which made him the perfect authorial puppeteer for Loki in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY. Gillen has a mischievous, seductive wit with which he infused playboy Stark right from the start in IRON MAN VOL 1: BELIEVE, making it entirely credible that the man could charm the pants quite literally off anyone he chose, thereby making it all the funnier whenever he meets his match. There the industrialist inventor was in his element, completely in control; here far from it.

For it’s barely five seconds before Stark finds himself in legal difficulties, and legal difficulties on this planet involve mortal combat. I can only assume their lawyers earn a fortune – sorry, more of a fortune. Following events in AVENGERS Vs. X-MEN these people have come to regard Tony Stark as The Godkiller. He has had his armour confiscated and must now face off against the mightiest of champions without it. And they include the mercenary Death’s Head, yes?

A few hours earlier, however, Tony Stark receives an unexpected visitor. He is a Rigellian Recorder – Recorder 451 to be precise (although “There was a very long serial code too”) – a line of humanoid machines so sophisticated that you can already play PS4 games on them while copying Blu-Rays and downloading songs for karaoke sung by Gregorian Monks. They do what it says on their tin: they record what they see in the galaxies around them before returning home to download their findings into a central storage system. They certainly don’t interfere – they are programmed not to interfere. So why is Recorder 451 about to break his programming and interfere? Clue: this rogue operator has been doing it for years.

“What on earth does this all have to do with the book’s title and cover?” you ask in habitual exasperation. Ha ha! Boy, are you in for a surprise! And so is Tony.

But not as big as the very nasty surprise next volume. If you’re playing a long game, it would be foolish to play all your cards at once.


Buy Iron Man vol 2 Secret Origin Of Stark Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lenore Purple Nurples Colour Ed h/c (£13-50, Titan) by Roman Dirge.

“The fridge, something awful is in that fridge…”

I can relate! There’s also something awful in my oven, my food cupboards, and in my sink. It shows evidence of life, and may soon learn to talk.

Lenore is having trouble with her fridge. All she wants to do is make a Mummy sandwich.

Sorry…? Lenore is a cute-but-dead girl. Everything cute ends up dead in LENORE. Usually with multiple holes in it. Or burned to cinders, eviscerated, but immolated one way or another.

Join Mr. Taxidermy, Ragamuffin, Pooty, the Spam-Witch and Herman Von Ficklefrog for tweeny-goth terror and laffs. Or don’t. I think I’ve filled enough space so that the cover won’t overrun.

This collects #4-7 of the current, full-colour Titan series.


Buy Lenore Purple Nurples Colour Ed 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.


Black Out (£4-00) by P. M. Buchan, Jack Fallows, Andrew Waugh, Mike Barnes, Joe Whiteford

House Of Fun restocks (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

Martiniere: Trajectory h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Stephan Martiniere

Bad Break h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Philippe Riche

God Is Disappointed In You h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler

The One Trick Rip Off + Deep Cuts s/c (£14-99, Image) by Paul Pope

My Little Pony Digest vol 1 s/c (£4-99, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 6 – Return Of The Master (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tyler Crook

Right State s/c (£12-99, DC) by Mat Johnson & Andrea Mutti

Flash vol 1: Move Forward s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul

The First X-Men s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Neal Adams, Christos N. Gage & Neal Adams

Wolverine vol 1: Hunting Season s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Paul Cornell & Alan Davis

Knights Of Sidonia vol 4 (£9-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

The Summit Of The Gods vol 4 (£14-99, Ponent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

Magi vol 1 (£7-50, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka


ITEM! I have just been asked out on a date by Guy Pearce! Yes, THAT Guy Pearce!

ITEM! Yet another exceptional one-page comic from Asaf Hanuka which will elicit enormous empathy from those of you coming a cropper of traffic wardens.

ITEM! The history of the Batman logo throughout the last century. Quite cool, really!

ITEM! Comics creator Ian Culbard interviewed on adapting Lovecraft to comics. Sales of that man’s Sherlock Holmes and HP Lovecraft graphic novels could possibly keep us afloat single-handedly, and you’ll find most of them signed for free here. In addition, you may see them sketched in. Ian Culbard’s own tentacles in our graphic novels! (I do hope I’ve typed that correctly.) Pop his name in our search engine! He drew THE NEW DEADWARDIANS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

ITEM! Gorgeous new prints from Simone Lia, creator or FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND. I love the worm’s utter delight in having no brain. I can relate to that! (It’s a mercy, you know.)

ITEM! Some fantastic photos of Top Shelf’s San Diego Comics Con appearance here including Congressman John Lewis signing copies of his new graphic novel (public release shortly) and the ever-adorable Jeffrey Brown whose A MATTER OF LIFE comes with a free, rare signed print from Page 45. Just ask!

ITEM! OMG! Stunning four-page comicbook trailer for VELVET, Ed Brubaker’s new series with Steve Epting, You can pre-order VELVET #1 from Page 45 right now using that link, or just add to your Page 45 Standing Order by email, phone or Twitter. If you don’t already have a Standing Order with Page 45, then why? It guarantees you get what you what the second you hear about it. Please, please, pre-order! Our final orders have to go in two months in advance, so the earlier you pre-order, the more likely you are to get what you want!

It’s a lot less likely if you order a day before publication because everyone got there before you!

Keep track of Page 45’s latest monthly PREVIEWS online here. Make it your favourite!


– Stephen

Reviews August 2013 week two

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

For the body of the book Teddy Kristiansen’s drawings and washes are almost ghostly: pale things enhanced by representational touches like Hope’s green “mask”, like a mud-pack, when feeling ill. But this serves to make the eight-page flourish during the climactic epiphany – with its magical colours and sweeping textures which explode across the eye – all the more dazzling.

 – Stephen on Genius by Seagle & Kristiansen

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


“There we were, under the scorching sun: France’s little soldiers, trampling through fields of wheat, fields of glory in our minds, with a knot of fear in our guts and a load of shit in our pants.
“We were utterly cocksure, though. The moment we left Paris, we’d already taken Berlin in our minds. This was our shot at getting even for 1870, now that those pain-in-the-ass Huns were at it again.
“But this time we were ready. We were gonna stuff their boiled leather helmets down their throats, spikes and all.”


“They carved up old Colin good. They fixed him as best they could, but his hands and legs were gone. So much for fishing.
“They pinned a medal on him, right there is that putrid recovery room.
“And later still, they explained to him about gangrene and bandages packed with larvae that feed on dead tissue. He owed them his life. From one amputation and operation to the next – thirty-eight in all – the docs finally got him ‘back up on his feet’. But by then, the war was long over.”

Phew. Not an easy read, but what a powerful one. As far as anti-war comics material goes, this is pretty much as hard-hitting as it gets, painting a very graphic picture of the horrors of World War I, a particular personal bête noire of Tardi’s. Perhaps bête noire isn’t exactly the correct term to use, given his obsessive interest of WWI, but you can certainly see his hatred of the damage war causes to the common man, so maybe it is. Substantially different in narrative construction and artistic composition than the Eisner-winning IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES, and indeed superior in both respects, this material is arranged chronological year by year from 1914 to 1919 (dealing with the aftermath of coming home post-1918 and the end of the war).

The book begins in the beautiful countryside of France, in vivid watercolours, during the heady early days of the conflict when most of the participants, on both sides, assumed the war would last a matter of weeks, maybe months at the most. No one was predicting at that point that advances in technology of war machinery and armaments – made ever more rapidly possible by the profiteering fatcats of industry –coupled with unbelievably poor strategic decision-making from incompetent leaders would ensure a bloody stalemate would ensue for years to come.

There is so much to admire in this work. Rather than taking the nationalistic route and deigning to hate the Germans and their Triple Alliance comrades-in arms for their part in ‘beginning’ the conflict, Tardi instead simply focuses on the outrage of war itself. That the common man should be forced to take up arms against someone no different from himself, separated only by a handful of kilometres geographically, murder them or be murdered, at the whims of the great and good, playing their geopolitical game of brag and bluster purely to satisfy their own egos under the auspices of national security and advancement.

Looking at things after the fact for a moment, it is no wonder that the Russian Revolution took place immediately after this brutal conflict, as increasingly the frontline forces on all sides realised their status was little more than that of pawns, to be used as utterly dispensable cannon fodder, sometimes sacrificed on a whim. In retrospect, it’s perhaps more of a surprise that other governments were not overthrown in the turmoil following the war. Certainly, it’s now not particularly well known that even countries such as Portugal and Belgium were subject to failed attempts at Bolshevik revolution.

The entire work is told from the perspective of an unnamed French infantryman, whom as the conflict progresses goes through such a personal realisation regarding the conflict, but with the ever-present military police ready to execute anyone attempting to flee, or indeed just fail to obey a suicidal command to go over the top, he realises there is little choice but to fulfil his ‘duty’ to his country. As the war progresses, much like the skull device he employed in IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES, Tardi gradually tones down the colour content until we are left in a virtually monochrome sea of mud. Afterwards the colour gradually begins to return and I was particularly moved by a sequence at a flag-waving victory parade where a bitter, blinded veteran holding a begging cup is oblivious to the spectacle around him.

There are myriad such powerful and uncomfortable scenes throughout, both of the war itself, and its human consequences. I defy anyone to read this and not be forced to seriously think about how insane war is. With that said, in some ways, despite the counter-intuitive idea that more powerful weapons are a good idea, you have to question whether or not the concept of mutually assured destruction in the nuclear age is what finally persuaded more developed nations that talking through conflict might be a more sensible way of going about things. You’ve only got to look at any number of civil conflicts globally and also regional wars in Africa currently, to realise that as long as a military stalemate can be maintained, irrespective of whether anyone believes a decisive military victory can actually be achieved,  neither side’s leadership is going to move an inch ideologically or politically. Particularly if they’re not stood in the front line…

It’s possibly a tad surprising, therefore, to say this work is not without humour. Indeed there is a far amount of the gallows variety, which I’m sure perfectly captures the mood of the enlisted man at the time. They know they’re probably doomed, but there is literally nothing they can do about it. If they fight, they probably die; if they don’t fight, then they’re certain to die, either at the hands of their foes or the military police. There is a song which was sung by Frenchmen at the time, author unknown, that perfectly sums the situation up, and their disgust at the powers in charge. The Generals became so concerned about its mutinous potential, that even to sing it was made an act of sedition, punishable of course, by execution. But despite a then truly eye-watering award of one million francs plus an immediate honourable discharge from the army being offered to anyone revealing its author, the men stood firm and never gave up its creator. It’s called the The Song Of Craonne, and is reproduced in full at the end of the book, followed by an excellent essay on the chronology of WWI, again year by year, extending into 1919 once more, by Jean-Pierre Verney (a renowned French historian), peppered liberally with some astonishing and horrific photographs of the time from his personal collection.

For anyone interested in WWI, or just in trying to understand what it must have been like to be to be on those battlefields and go what those gallant men went through, this is essential reading. It is very simple to understand why people who went through conflicts such as WWI were – indeed are – reluctant to talk about it afterwards, but it is extremely important that we remember their sacrifice so hopefully, one day, war can be consigned to the history books forever.


Buy Goddamn This War! and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Opportunity is… what? Something we create, not something that happens. Right? And there’s always going to be hurdles, but what do we do when He hands us a challenge?”
Utilize, don’t analyze!”
“That’s right.”

That’s right, for God works in mysterious ways.

She walks out at that point, and I don’t blame her. It’s not actually a prayer meeting, though, it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s a young-ish woman, more than a little worn by what life has thrown at her. At the moment it’s Housing Court.

The woman is pursued by another attendee who looks older than he says he is. He has a certain self-confidence, some would say the gift of the gab, though I would have punched him two pages in. But he offers to buy her coffee, and then put her up. He probably shouldn’t have snapped at her in bed, but he apologises. He’s very contrite and as good as his word.

“Your key, Madame.”
“I told you… this is just until I get everything squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just… go ahead!”

She opens the front door and there’s a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table, and a banner saying “Welcome Home”. She stands, stunned, in the doorway.

“Sorry, I’m… trying not to cry.”

Adrian Tomine is one of the most astute observers of human foibles in comics, the OPTIC NERVE graphic novels amongst Page 45’s biggest sellers. It was fascinating watching his style develop so swiftly during his teens in 32 STORIES (such a beautiful package, at the moment: facsimile editions of all the original mini-comics with extras), then, while did Adrian refine his line, he settled in for a recognisable Tomine style, similar to mid-Dan Clowes.

OPTIC NERVE #12, however, proved to be a marked departure, and so is the lead story here wherein we witness colour-coded snapshots of a relationship (okay, it doesn’t sound too different so far) as it develops from consolation and practical assistance into something else entirely. What is the word so often used about addiction? Oh, yes, “dependency”.

I promise you this: a degree of hilarity, a great many lies and one massive surprise. It will also keep you on the edge of your seat.

The brief snapshot effect works beautifully, throwing you through their story, and Tomine’s famous observational skills are once more in full evidence. For all that chapter’s shenanigans, I found it no less true to life than (I am afraid) than Adrian’s previous, gentler work.

I can see some Beto in the woman’s expressions and some Chris Ware in our other, paunchy protagonist, softened by a less regimented line – particularly when the man hightails it across the park.

The second story is in full, flat colour as a woman narrates her return to California from Japan to her child. She leaves her parents who do not approve of her decision to fly to (I infer from the skyline – I could be wrong) San Francisco. She is met at their airport by her estranged husband who has secured them a tiny apartment. It is quiet, measured, profoundly moving and ends on an enigmatic ellipsis.

Then there’s the regular letter column which, customarily, is filled with human oddities, most of whose social skills and self-awareness are non-existent. I think it was Kieron Gillen (PHONOGRAM etc.) who pointed out that those tweeting a comicbook creator a link to a negative review they had written of said creator’s work was just… weird. Why would you do that? Welcome to the OPTIC NERVE letter column.


Buy Optic Nerve #13 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It turned out there were two kinds of knowledge: brain knowledge and heart knowledge. I was grossly over-developed in one. Painfully under-developed in the other.
“I worry that I still am in a lot of ways…”

Ted tested genius-level at school. Mentally dwarfing his classmates, the school teachers advanced him a year, then they advanced him a second. Which was fine until all the other boys hit puberty and he – lagging two years behind his peers physically – did not. The showers at school are a very different environment to the class room.

Fast-forward and Ted is married with two kids. His fourteen-year-old boy is way past puberty and approaching Smooch Central. Ted caught him groping a girl in their living room, and tells his wife.

“So he’s not gay? I was really thinking he might be gay.”
“He was this close to not being gay right in front of my eyes, Hope.”

It’s probably time for that talk. Yes, that talk. It doesn’t go the way you’ll expect, for there is delightful candour on both sides. I so desperately want to quote it in order to sell sixty copies in a second, but it will distract us from the issues at hand.

The point is that we have a loving family here – apart from Ted’s father-in-law, who is a grouchy son-of-a-bitch, prone to selective memory. He may suffer from senile dementia or he may simply be playing Ted to make him suffer more. In any case, he doesn’t rate Ted’s manliness any more than his classmates did in the showers. Those exchanges are hilarious too.

What is far from funny is Ted’s current predicament. Hired straight from college by a physicist think-tank on account of his precocious acumen for all things theoretical in physics, he has had no big ideas of his own for years. Others have. But Ted has now lagged behind mentally as well as physically and is close to being shown the door. And something happens within the family to make a personal break-through at work absolutely imperative. Ted is desperate. So desperate that he would even contemplate plagiarism.

And it is at this point that his father-in-law let’s slip that not only was he once Einstein’s bodyguard, but Einstein entrusted him with a secret he had told no one else. A revelation so vast that it could change the world. It could certainly transform a career overnight. But Ted’s father-in-law swore an oath never to impart this knowledge to another human being, and he certainly isn’t about to break that oath for a son-law he regards as a pussy…

For the body of the book Teddy Kristiansen’s drawings and washes are almost ghostly: pale things enhanced by representational touches like Hope’s green “mask”, like a mud-pack, when feeling ill. But this serves to make the eight-page flourish during the climactic epiphany – with its magical colours and sweeping textures which explode across the eye – all the more dazzling. I mean, truly mind-bending.

I was put in mind of the truly great Russell Mills, but even that does not do justice to Teddy’s evocation of the ultimate revelation. It is electric.

From the creators of THE RE[A]D DIARY, a book so fiercely inventive we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and Vertigo’s IT’S A BIRD which anyone even conceiving of an essay on Superman truly needs to absorb, this is yet another deeply thoughtful gem grounded in a family environment which will have you smiling throughout.

“You got a hand job at fourteen?”
“Thirteen. It was in March. A-ma-zing.”
“Oh, God.”
“High five!”


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

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

In some parts of this country Talking Therapy can take up to a year’s wait. And if only you knew the hoops that a friend of mine has to jump through – hours and hours of phone calls being tossed from one department to another and then weeks of waiting for an appointment – when she is suicidal! Aaargh!

A book like this, then, is absolutely vital. We made the original volume Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month back in October 2010. This new, expanded edition features two brand-new chapters on different dementias and psychosis.

It’s by no means a common experience, but there are some books one starts bursting to write about a mere twenty pages in. PSYCHIATRIC TALES is one of those: a book of such instinctive, level-headed compassion, communication and education which nearly never saw completion on account of the creator’s own deteriorating mental health. A childhood riddled with self-loathing only grew worse in adulthood as Cunningham withdrew at the very time he most craved connection. It was his artistic talent that finally gave him a sense of belonging, whilst his desire to understand his own condition and his natural empathy for others, so clearly evidenced here, led him into work as a health care assistant before training as a student to qualify as a mental health nurse.

“And this is when I overreached myself. This is when I broke.”

After reading the book you will easily comprehend why. It’s no easy job for the sturdiest of individuals but for someone as vulnerable and sympathetic as Darryl, well, it was going to get to him eventually.

The book isn’t about Darryl, though: the preceding pages detail his experiences on the ward and what he learned about various debilitating mental conditions as a result. The very opposite of sensationalist, its measured contents will undoubtedly still prove affecting for there can be few of us who haven’t come into contact with mental illness: schizophrenia with its attendant paranoia and hallucinations; bipolar disorder with its peaks and troughs and compulsion to communicate everything at once; violent anti-social personality disorders; the dementia of Alzheimer’s – the disorientation and delusion and reversion to an earlier period in life; self-harming from anger, self-loathing and a desperation to assert any sort of control even if it involves physical pain as a distraction from the mental anguish; suicide.

Each condition is explained through personal observation and with an education that enables Cunningham to detail current treatments, rebalancing the brain’s chemicals whilst providing the most efficacious environment wherever possible. And without meaning to alarm you, Darryl correctly places an emphasis on one particular truth: it can happen to anyone at any time.

At school the brother of my best friend suddenly started pronouncing himself to be the Second Coming and appointed disciples. I’ve met several self-harmers and known them for years. I know at least one bi-polar, my grandmother slid away from us under Alzheimer’s, someone very close to me is suffering with acute depression and, I guess, most disturbingly of all, a young man I thought brilliant and charming abruptly became barely coherent, violent (he tried to kill his mother and girlfriend) and – because he’d already been misdiagnosed as having a mere behavioural disorder – it took his parents a whole year of research and fighting to get the man properly diagnosed with Cannabis Psychosis and therefore properly treated. I recognise everything I read here. It’s spot-on, including the patient’s delusion, post-recovery, that sustained medication is no longer necessary.

As to the artwork, it’s deceptively simple just like Satrapi’s in PERSEPOLIS for maximum empathy, black shadows casting faces into silhouette, a warning of potential bleak, black moods. It’s the perfect balance between word and picture, so as sequential art it reads like a dream. Or a nightmare.

“The effects of suicide ripple outward. Damaging family, friends and strangers alike. A suicide will leave an average of six people immediately affected by the death. A parent, a significant other, a sibling, or a child of the deceased person. The people are referred to as the survivors. These are the ones left to suffer. Never knowing why, always wondering if he could have done more.”



Buy Psychiatric Tales (Expanded Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Not gonna lie… Going to one’s own funeral is a pretty fucked up experience. Especially when you don’t know anyone there.”

It’s that third sentence that clinches it. From the writer of BEDLAM, THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 1, FORGETLESS, EXISTENCE 2.0 / 3.0 and MORNING GLORIES, yet another series rammed to the rafters with ideas. So often I’ve seen an intriguing concept let down by a failure to follow through, to extrapolate from that central conceit, but not here.

Plus it’s all so bright and beautiful. There’s lots and lots of light because there’s lots and lots of white, so showing off the richness of the colours. Some of those are washes (or wash-effects) some are flat, and then there are hilarious brief breaks for photographic marketing pitches. The climax is an orgasm of colours, as if you’d spilled two dozen paints pots at once and they’re swirling down a giant white sink.

Mark lives in a world where you can buy your way into an infinite number of realities by trading with unlimited variations of yourself. You don’t change your body like you can in SURROGATES, you change its existence, its life: your environment, history and so potentially future, and Mark is a bit of an addict. He averages 9.7 life changes per day. He’s restless, thoughtless and indeed feckless, always ending up in the same dead-end job with ruined relationships, feeling the need to press the virtual reset button again and so start afresh.

The only version of him that has ever found happiness is the one who ditched college to start a surf shop in Fiji, and even that was on his roommate’s advice. Mark knows this because he’s now met him on a ‘lifeshare’ – an Infinite Vacation where you don’t take over your counterpart’s life, you visit for a nose around and maybe a confab. Here they are, lying on the beach in front of the most spectacular sunset:

“I know what your problem is, dude.”
“You do?”
“Yeah, all you guys, it’s the same thing. I mean, hell, man, when’s it gonna be enough? You got yourself so hooked on infinity, this bullshit they feed you about how you can ‘have anything – live everything’. Fuck that, man – you’re so obsessed with having everything, you can’t enjoy anything! My advice? Just find one thing, dude. Find that one thing that makes your life worth more than you can put up for sale on your phone, and give that everything you got. You hearin’ me?”
“Ah, fuck it, man. What do I know? Come on, let’s hit a wave.”

Two days later, he’s dead, shot in a robbery gone wrong. You can’t take an Infinite Vacation from death, but one doubts that that version of Mark would have wanted to. At least he died happy. Unfortunately that single Mark is not alone. A lot of Marks seem to be winding up dead. You can keep track of that, you know.

“Google makes this really nice RSS news aggregator that helps you keep track of what happens to you everywhere.”

Of course it does! However fascinating it may be keeping up to date on other people’s lives on Twitter, you’d be riveted keeping track of what’s happening in your counterparts’ lives! Yeah, you would. They’re essentially you. And that’s what I mean about extrapolation. That and the fact that your ideal therapist would be a version of yourself (“No one knows you like you, right?”).

There’s so much going on here. I haven’t even mentioned the Deadenders – that rare 3% of the world’s population who haven’t given in to giving in and jettisoning the lives they’ve worked so hard at for the sake of any easy fix and a brand new existence they played no part in building. I love a work of art that makes me think: that makes me question its society and characters in a way that has implications for my own. And I admire the mind that can make me do that. I’m also a sucker for a ridiculously complex mystery like the film Memento, and when you hit the final page of the first chapter, I think you’ll be hooked as well.


Buy Infinite Vacation Deluxe h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

The time for oratory is over. Now there can only be war.

Thanks to the recklessness and goading of the inexperienced, headstrong Paris who disobeyed his father, King Priam of Troy, and stole King Menelaus’ wife while one of his guests, the other Achaean kings have united in outrage, assembling a vast armada which has survived countless delays, ill-winds and in-fighting. Now it sets sail for Troy with Achilles determined to be first on the enemy’s shores.

Prophecies on both sides predict loss and suffering but most of those seers have been ignored. Not so Kalchas, who has deserted Troy for the Achaean side leaving his daughter Cressida behind to suffer ignominy for her father’s treachery. But Troilus is true. Another of Priam’s sons, he is so deeply in love with Cressida that he cannot bear to be separated and positively begs Cressida to flee with him far across the sea even though it will mean they can never return.

Well, we all know how that ends.

Shanower’s portrayal of Troilus and Cressida’s plight, their profound love caught in the crosshairs of their respective families actions and then the practicalities of mere survival is heart-rending, and forms the backbone of this arc along with the all out naval assault then javelin charge against the Trojan charioteers. And it is eye-popping: all the chaos of combat delineated in such exquisite detail you could cry. The attention to armour – each individual plate of metal – is as rich as the linen patterns, the leather-strip binding of the chariots’ baskets and each customised helmet. As to the sea I have never seen black look such a deep blue, the sailships’ wakes gleaming under the Aegean skies! The figure work itself is impeccable, as if drawn by George Perez under a microscope using a nib one atom wide, then fleshed out with a brush two horse-hairs thick.

And, oh, the look of love which Troilus casts up at Cressida in the heat of battle, the veil she gave him tied round his helmet in luck! And the smile she radiates from the Trojan battlements above, then wiped off her face as an arrow whistles by too close for comfort, before everyone starts screaming when swords are plunged into mouths and… this is breath-taking!

As to the relevance of the cover, all will become clearer towards the awful end.

For much more elaborate considerations of this masterful amalgamation of the Trojan War sources, please see all three of our previous AGE OF BRONZE reviews, for this is book 3B, i.e. 4. Cheers!


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 3.b: Betrayal Pt 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Get ready for Mo-Bots!
“For Digital Robotic Combatsuits in thrilling, titanic battles!
“Get read for excitement on a whole new level!
“But first… get ready for double geography.”

Aaaaargh! New schoolz! What a nightmare!

It’s difficult enough when you leave one at the top and have to start down on the bottom rung again, but at least a whole year of your peers is suffering similarly. It’s infinitely worse if everyone has already settled in, learned the rules, formed alliances, absorbed all the quirky customs and knows where to hide when it’s time for P.E.!

Pity poor Asha, then, dropped in at the deep end by her doting dad, right in the middle of term. Where should she go? Who does she need to sign in with? And what the hell are those glowing, six-storey-high, ridiculously high-tech robots doing bashing each other overhead in the playground?!

They are Digital Robot Combatsuits, Asha, summoned by your mobile phone! Didn’t you have those back in London? Honestly! Thank goodness Shelly is on hand to make friends, steer her by the arm, and drop Asha in deep doo-doo within seconds. She didn’t even call this town a dump – that was Shelly!  But arch-bully Sasha is having none of it and her spotty stooge Gemma, a girl with so many chips on her shoulder she could be a battered piece of cod, challenges her to a Digital Robotic Bash-athon! How do you even pilot these things?!

Cameron has done a bang-up job of evoking all the sob-inducing disorientation of a new environment, and poor Asha is give no time to acclimatise at all. It’s positively frantic. So frantic that you might miss the enigmatic blue-haired girl gliding quietly round the grounds, or the elderly school caretaker who certainly sees more than the teachers do, for they are oblivious to the multi-coloured mecha.

Ah, yes, the multi-coloured mecha! They are the highlights for me. Their stances, readying themselves to weigh in, are charged with weight and power, while the colour design is chic, sharp and gorgeous. Upgrade sufficiently and you can customise your own with floral motifs that seem to shimmer and shift like patterned liquid in a translucent shell. Oooh, I want me one of those, but I can barely operate my mobile as it is. Young readers won’t have the same problem – they’re all more technically savvy than me, anyway.

But what does the cliff-hanger mean? What? What?! I hate you, DFC! More, now, this instant!


Buy Mo-Mot High vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“There’ll be no clashing colours in my Kingdom!”

How does this man even do it? There are no clashing colours anywhere in this graphic novel, and yet there are so many! Firstly, there’s all the white, but also a virtually peerless talent for colour composition. I should probably hire Andi Watson to detoxify my kitchen – visually, I mean, for there’s no hope for its sanitation.

I talk more about this very neat trick more in GUM GIRL: COUNTDOWN TO DESTRUCTION, the third book in Andi’s all-ages comicbook triumph. Here is the fourth and, I fear, final volume but you should pester both Andi Watson and Walker Books for more. We are making a fortune!

(Sorry, I meant: “Because they are gud!”)

And they are oh so good, unlike the despotic villains determined to impose their own so-called standards upon Calamity High, care of Catastrophe, a citadel singularly plagued by gremlins with gripes.

Princess Pigmentia, an old dame with dementia, wants to paint the town red. She’s certainly seeing it, and has scooped up all the colours for miles around, leaving Catastrophe prone to chaos. With traffic lights bleached of their instructional guidance, who is to say whether you should stop, go, or rev your BMW engine in irritatingly impatient exasperation? Do come along, there is tailgating to be done!

Mime Man, on the other hand, cannot bear all the noize issuing not just from Calamity High but from Gum Girl’s own bedroom. Oh yes, it’s the old karaoke, into a brush!

Lastly we have Stick Man, a self-duplicating sheep so self-loathing that he hates individuality and wants to stamp it out, replacing all and sundry with carbon copies of himself. But we all love individuality, right? It is so mega-cool to be different and have your own interests! Otherwise why would you be interesting to others?

All of which, I hope, comes across as one big love letter to Andi Watson, one of my favourite comicbook creators in the whole wide wibbliverse. I want to see all his adult graphic novels back in print right now, please, including LITTLE STAR which we made our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

For more on Gum Girl’s serendipitous origin, please see GUM GIRL: CATASTROPHE CALLING, for more on its outrageous punnage, please see GUM GIRL: THE TENTACLES OF DOOM. And for additional, all-ages brilliance and beauty, I commend to you his glorious GLISTER.


Buy Gum Girl: Music, Mischief And Mayhem! and read the Page 45 review here

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

We’re doing a roaring trade on Aaron Alexovich’s new ELDRITCH VOL 1, so welcome back SERENITY ROSE, which I originally reviewed thus ten years ago thus:

When previewing this a few months back, I gave ‘aaron a’ (as he likes to refer to himself) an unnecessarily mean-spirited rodgering. And the sweetheart wrote in with more good-hearted humility than I will ever be able to summon in my misbegotten life, to ask where I thought he was going wrong. I offered to post the reply with a weblink, but I probably made things worse because I heard no more about it. The truth is that Aaron (as I prefer to refer to him) isn’t going wrong at all. Not if he wants a dip in that ocean of free-flowing, teeny-goth cash, lapping languidly against the foot of our till.

Young Serenity pushes all the right buttons by remaining defiantly outcast, self-absorbed and cynical about the conformist world around her. There’s even a cat (check), a cast of freakish schoolmates (check) and a visual reduction for Serenity herself to the minimalist, animation-style bundle of fluff which is the toast of the comicbook town these days. Yet where Mr. Alexovich (as he’s legally know) has risen above the prevailing Darke Clouds of Doom is that the maudlin monologues are riddled with wit, and largely well targeted. I can’t say for sure whether this is likely to continue, but I’ll stick my neck out and predict that there may be more to Aaron Alexovich (as his parents first christened him) than many of his contemporaries, based in part on the following extract from one of Ms.Rose’s diaries:

The 10 commandments according to television
(by a potato aged 16)

I. thou shalt not resist booze.
II. thou shalt not disparage money.
III. thou shalt not refuse sexual relations, as sexual relations are the only important thing in the whole wide world ever.
IV. thou shalt never be average in the looks department. (ugly is right out)
V. thou shalt never deny the existence of some sort of god or something.
VI. thou shalt never fail to defend your friends and family (those similar to you) regardless of the facts.
VII. thou shalt never fail to attack your enemies (those dissimilar to you) regardless of the facts.
VIII. thou shalt have a whole mess of spawn (min. 2)
IX. thou shalt never be alone.
X. america rocks!!

So next time I lay into something without due care and attention, please ignore me. If, you know, you pay any attention to me in the first place.


Buy Serenity Rose vol 1: Working Through The Negativity and read the Page 45 review here

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

Liberated from Tokyopop and so back in print along with several new KINGDOM HEARTS graphic novels, I never heard a word of complaint from its wide-eyed readership, but in the interests of honesty…

This is a double whammy in that if you’ve never played the game before, this is so badly constructed that you won’t be able to follow a page of it and, if you have, this will prove the biggest disappointment since that love letter which you found left tucked in your coat pocket turned out to be intended for your identically dressed best friend.

The game Kingdom Hearts was a charming blend of Disney and Final Fantasy characters, full of light, colour, secrets, battles, and moments of “aww” as well as “aarggh! (“I’ve gone through the wrong door, the roof’s now a floor and the fireplace is completely inaccessible! Plus I’ve just been smacked to death by a giant, unravelly thing that appears to be made out of yellow and blue baubles!”). It was exciting, it was mysterious and it gave you a considerable degree of freedom in what you chose to explore and when. On a giant TV set.

This… this is a miserable little black and white mess, barely readable through ill-judged layouts, completely without surprises and therefore utterly pointless. So why are we selling so many? Is it the comfort of the familiar? Are we really that unadventurous as a race now?

There were so many pieces of beautiful animation – like the two young lovers holding out their arms to embrace, but floating straight through each other – that are completely buggered, drained of all emotional power.

“The door is opening…” Well, shut it, along with this book.


Buy Kingdom Hearts vol 1: Final Mix 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.


Rachel Rising vol 3 Cemetary Songs s/c (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Fish Head Steve! (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Alan Moore Fashion Beast s/c (£18-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren, Antony Johnston & Facundo Percio

I Am Fire (£4-99) by Rachael Smith

Crossed vol 6 s/c (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis, various & Raulo Caceres, Miguel Ruiz, Raulo Caceres

Battlefields vol 7 Green Fields Beyond s/c (£12-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Carlos Ezquerra, Garry Leach

Adventure Time vol 3 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Chris Houghton

Over The Wall s/c (£10-99, Uncivilized) by Peter Wartman

Lenore Purple Nurples Color Ed h/c (£13-50,Titan) by Roman Dirge

07 Ghost vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Amemiya

Rin-ne vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vol 7 s/c (£8-99, St. Martins Press) by Yu Aida

Tezuka Twin Knight vol 1 (£10-50, Random House / Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

Fairy Tale vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit  vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir (£11-99, Plume) by Graham Roumieu

Witchblade: Rebirth vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Top Cow) by Tim Seely & Diego Bernard

Anansi Boys (£8-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 2 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

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

Daredevil By Mark Waid Prem vol 5 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Venom Toxin With A Vengeance s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Declan Shalvey

Iron Man vol 2 Secret Origin Of Stark Book 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham, Tbd

Savage Wolverine vol 1 Kill Island Now h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Frank Cho

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs, Paul Dini, Marly Halpern-Graser & Mike S. Miller, Dave Wilkins, various

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Jorge Jiminez, Mike S Miller, various

Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi vol 2 Prison Of Bogan (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire vol 2 Hard Targets s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Davide Fabbri


ITEM! Truly we all bowled over by Jacques Tardi’s GODDAM THE WAR (reviewed above), an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing, illustrated to heart-stopping perfection, which somehow manages flourish after flourish of wry wit amongst all the horror. It is almost impossible to believe that it isn’t actual autobiography. Anyway, you’ll find a substantial preview online at that link. Many thanks to Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds and Paul Baresh for taking the time and trouble to supply us with the interior art for our review.

ITEM! Oh what a clever use of online formatting for this vertical story beloved, unsurprisingly, by Scott McCloud of UNDERSTANDING COMICS. It’s called The Long Journey, and it is a very long journey down, down, down!

ITEM! Sir Barry Windsor-Smythe is one of my favourite comicbook artists and here Tom Scioli does the man full justice while bemoaning recent recolouring without a notion to paper quality or original intent: Whatever happened to Barry Windsor-Smith?

ITEM! Oh. My. Days. I predicted that THE NAO OF BROWN would be very best graphic novel of 2012 six months before its publication. And I was right. For 2013, then, I give you the most extraordinary comic of 2013: THE FIRELIGHT ISLE by FREAKANGELS’ Paul Duffield.


2) THE FIRELIGHT ISLE page one production process, start to finish, accelerated to 12 minutes.

Yes! Yowsa indeed!

ITEM! Yeah, you know what? I am so fucking bored of seeing people refer to Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s record (and brilliant) stint on the FANTASTIC FOUR as if it had never been broken since! Dave Sim broke it years ago on CEREBUS. He fucking trashed it! 300-plus issues! Here Dave Sim talks about breaking the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR RECORD. And I could not agree more.

ITEM! I am a massive Greek mythology buff and I swoon all over the Italian Baroque as well as its original Greek incarnations. Do you? Then you desperately need to catch Paul Reid’s Edinburgh exhibition August 2013.

ITEM! Receive ye one massive inducement to pre-order HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo for here is a formidable preview! I will provide you with added inducements soon, if you order via us. Hahahahahahahahahah! Pre-order here: HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS. News to follow.

No, really.

 – Stephen