Reviews August 2013 week five

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!

One Response to “Reviews August 2013 week five”

  1. Reviews August 2013 week five - Escape Pod Comics says:

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