Reviews August 2013 week three

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

2 Responses to “Reviews August 2013 week three”

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

    […] post Reviews August 2013 week three appeared first on Page 45 | Comics & Graphic Novels | Independent Bookshop | […]

  2. Page 45 on Over the Wall « Uncivilized Blog says:

    […] just saw a nice review of Peter Wartman’s Over the Wall on the UK site Page 45: I can barely believe this is Peter’s first graphic novel. He’s arrived on the published page […]

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