Reviews September 2013 week three

There is, as a consequence, a father/daughter moment at the heart of this book between Odin and the Valkyrie which is as powerfully played as any of the surrounding spectacle, and even more poignant still, partly because of the book’s subtle structure.

 – Stephen on Siegfried: The Valkyrie

Inhumans h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee.

“Imagine you could never make another sound. Not for the rest of your life.
“Not a sigh. Not a yawn. Not a single word. Ever.
“Then, imagine you were given one chance to speak. What would you say?”

So begins what was the single most intelligent and engrossing work published by Marvel some fifteen years ago, and the closest you would have found there in tone to Neil Gaiman; although now you’ll find Neil himself there with MARVEL 1602.

Black Bolt, Medusa, Triton, Gorgon, Karnak and Crystal are the Royal Family of the Inhumans, a race of beings so diverse that each individual is a sub-species of one. In Attilan, a city isolated from humanity with deliberate intent, diversity is admired and prized above all else: to be different is to prove invaluable. So at an age when we hit puberty, the ostensibly ordinary children enter the Terrigen Mists in a daunting ceremony which resembles confirmation or graduation and they emerge, their genetic codes catalysed, as strange and wonderful creatures, as ugly to our eyes as they are beautiful to their parents. If they’re lucky. Because, you see, in this perfect society ruled by an ideal regent, there is an unpleasant secret, a tacit agreement to something tantamount to slavery. And – in the defences which keep these powerful Inhumans remote and safe from our toxic society – there is a flaw. One which is about to be expoited…

Within this sweeping catastrophe Jenkins delivers a series of considered, poignant and contrasting perspectives, sometimes with a quiet irony, but always with a tenderness and compassion greatly enhanced by Jae Lee’s perfectly posed and gently poised figures. Each group or single panel is a triumph of chiaroscuro. Silent panels add weight and timing to a deceptively simple but remarkably clever script. And of course Dave Kemp and Avalon Studios deserve as much attention as anyone else for their rich, lambent colouring, which keeps the whole thing alive.


The interlude featuring the Inhumans’ giant, teleporting hound, Lockjaw, is worth the price of admission alone. He cannot comprehend the scale of the disaster desperately being staved off by all those around him and why he isn’t being played with or fed; but he takes instant delight in rediscovering a plastic doll of Ben Grimm, the Thing.

“Toy! Oh toy! Toy! Toy! Toy!”

It’s funny, but also deeply affecting.

In addition the role of male regent and indeed masculinity are explored using the very epitome of the strong-but-necessarily-silent-type for if the Inhumans’ king Black Bolt speaks, mountains are levelled in his wake.

I never expected to see such an astonishingly moving work from what used to be such a predictably crass company. I suspect its tainted provenance may prove fatally repulsive to so many who would, with an act of faith, adore it. Had this been its first edition I would almost certainly have made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and I’m not even ruling that out.  So thanks to all of you who trusted me enough to buy it in its earlier incarnations, and thanks for your overwhelmingly positive feedback. I hope newcomers enjoy it as much as I am on my fourth reading.

This lush hardback edition comes with preliminary sketch designs, process pieces wherein you can see individual pages evolve for pencils to inks, an interview, and the script to the complete first chapter. £29-99 may sound like a lot but it’s twelve chapters long and a hardback with exquisite reproduction values. That’s less expensive than buying the individual issues separately.


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

The Whale (£7-50) by Aidan Koch –

A beautiful book, the most moving and compelling articulation of grief I have ever read. Brought me to tears.

[Editor’s note: Dominique is astute and concise.

Purely to make room for the cover on our blog, then, I would only add that Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and, later, THE END did the same thing for me.

Anyway, I’ll butt out now, and hope these blatantly artificial extra paragraphs have done their job.]


Buy The Whale and read the Page 45 review here

Siegfried vol 2: The Valkyrie h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Alex Alice.

If sales of SIEGRIED VOL 1 proved anything, it’s that Alex Alice is an artist’s artist: we sold so many copies to comicbook creators, and I’m far from surprised. The eye-candy on offer is breath-taking: vast panoramas of mountains bathed in blue mist, their jagged, craggy summits clawing a sky at sunrise or splintering under the weight of an impossible, land-locked tidal wave; the forbidden forest with its treacherous, Manara-like swamps or the witch Völva’s cavern, the Valkyrie and her pure white steed all reminiscent of Charles Vess. Siegfried and Odin are depicted with all the majesty of P.Craig Russell while, on the very same page and with no incongruity, the Nibelung Mimé’s comedic buffoonery boasts all the cartooning skills of Jeff Smith.

As dawn finally rises once more over a dying, skin-chilled Earth, it is in commune with the All-Father Odin. The dragon Fafnir is devouring the Earth from the inside out, and there is nothing that Odin for his fellow gods can do. His own law forbids him or anyone under his influence to interfere. He has therefore recalled the instruments of his will, less that law be broken.

That at least leaves young Siegfried free to act – unbidden and emphatically unaided by those up above – and therein lies hope. But there are two remaining problems: Odin’s own daughter, his most trusted Valkyrie, has failed to answer his summons, and Siegfried, however determined, is woefully ill-prepared. His mistreatment throughout childhood by Mimé has left him distrustful of the Nibelung, and he will take no advice from his only ally. Siegfried is impetuous, contrary, and doesn’t know his own limitations.

Meanwhile the Valkyrie has made a bargain with Völva: prepared to pay the price of her immortality to look into the scrying pool, she watches her own future – Siegfried’s present – unfold. She watches Siegfried and Mimé traverse the forbidden forest to scale the land of the giants and its insurmountable mountains, and those giants are about to wake up…

You wait until Siegfried discovers the nature of those giants. Not what I was expecting at all – infinitely better and infinitely more dangerous. What follows is a breathless race Siegfried cannot possibly win. That will get your heart pumping!





Like the first, this second of three volumes also comes embellished with a sixty-page art section featuring Alice’s own landscape atmosphere studies in multiple media, preparatory character designs, shots from the animated feature film and a double-page spread of Albert Bierstadt’s ‘Storm In The Rocky Mountains which you could devour for an hour and still discover new detail. All this is interspersed with with an extensive interview about Alex’s influences and creative decisions in combining his sources into a fresh and thrilling new narrative in which the Valkryie’s role remains unchanged, for example, but is transposed into a completely different context, inextricably linked to the success or failure of Siegried’s quest.

There is, as a consequence, a father/daughter moment at the heart of this book between Odin and the Valkyrie which is as powerfully played as any of the surrounding spectacle, and even more poignant still, partly because of the book’s subtle structure.

For so many of these tales involve prophecy, but here also laws – specifically Odin’s Law – and the key often lies in how to circumnavigate these decrees without breaking them. Breaking them comes with a cost. But what if the letter of the law can be used to mitigate that cost? And if that price is worth paying?


Buy Siegfried vol 2: The Valkyrie h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Squeaky Noises (£3-50) by Cara Bean –

A retired racing Greyhound recounts the story of his younger years in an interview with a squirrel(!) Utterly gorgeous little book which I will freely admit I ordered in because of my love of dogs and my occasional daydreams about what my dog gets up to when I’m not there.

Cute, sweetly drawn and uplifting.


Buy Squeaky Noises and read the Page 45 review here

New Jobs (£3-50) by Dash Shaw.

In which Ariel’s pregnancy changes everything, and everyone gets a new job.

A new mini-comic from the creator of BODYWORLD, THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY A.D. (both Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months), 3 NEW STORIES, THE BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON and, most recently, NEW SCHOOL, this takes advantage of its lo-fi format to use multiple colours of paper. I don’t detect any specific, consistent significance to them, but that would cause all sorts of structural problems, given a comic’s construction (in terms of paper stock, when stapled through the spine, comics are inherently symetrical).

Given the size of the booklet (it’s mini), the scale of the tale is impressive. It begins with Ariel daydreaming about the nature of any baby she might have with Derrick. She is pregnant; they’re elated; but they’re also strapped for cash. In America, as everywhere, there are homeless people living on the streets. Dr. Kane, Ariel’s gynaecologist, offers her work involving his unusual library of books; Derrick is hired to brainstorm as part of a team creating a sympathetic Senator for maximum popularist consumption. Where once there was harmony, cracks begin to appear…

That’s how it’s told, in a series of flashes as we follow their separate fortunes, and although this is a mini, the description above takes you no further above than halfway, plus there’s plenty I’ve left out. It comes together beautifully.

My guess is that Shaw is still working in Sharpie (see NEW SCHOOL), and both the art and storytelling are representational, but then no one interested in mini-comics in the first place will be remotely off-put by that.


Buy New Jobs and read the Page 45 review here

Lone Pine (£10-99) by Jed McGowan –

“Gone to think in woods.”

A man (Jasper) wandering in the woods, possibly being chased, or at least “looked for”, drinks and walks, lies down, gets up and finally comes close to solving the mystery that has driven him out there in the first place. It’s not clear how much actually happens and at which point (or points) he succumbs to concussion, drunkenness, sleep deprivation, exposure or any of those types of things you can presumably suffer from when you stay out in the forest for days on end. But from what we do get to see we can conclude that Jasper has had his life messed up by some petty crime which he wasn’t even involved with but which has nonetheless ruined everything for him.

Using uncomplicated lines and only black, light blue and Letratoneon white, Jed McGowan has created some really stunning visual effects. Torch beams in the darkness, trees viewed through glass, blind spots caused by looking at the sun, light eyes on dark bodies which lurk in the trees are all made out of such simple building blocks that the end result is all the more remarkable. A haunting and gripping tale of a man lost in all senses.


Buy Lone Pine and read the Page 45 review here

Nurse Nurse (£10-99, Sparkplug) by Katie Skell.

You can sure judge this book by its cover!

Poor Nurse Gemma (newly qualified), she’s ever so slightly dubious. All she wants is to be a nurse: to help and to heal and to not get picked on by fellow space cadets Nina and Junny who set her cryogenic chamber to ‘snooze’. Fancy waking up late for your first day at work – on Venus.

And then there are the halucinogenic butterflies, the indie pop group Quality Confections, space pirates including ex-lover and a giant panda, being banished to Mars, caricatured on TV, forced to operate at phaser-point (well she did rather shoot his leg off), and, umm, space sheep! Space sheep pulling a sledge! And more love-inducing, halucinogenic flutterbies! It’s enough to make you fluff your spelling and figuratively blow your mind!

You want my closest comparison point? Yellow Submarine in black and white. The film – not the song.

Surgical precision is not what’s on offer here; it’s dainty and quite dotty whim-and-whimsy full of blasts from the past and decidely non-prescription drugs. Or, as Nurse Gemma puts it at one discombobulating point…

“Fuck – no gravity!”

And I loved it so much for that.


Buy Nurse Nurse and read the Page 45 review here

East Of West vol 1: The Promise (£7-50, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta…

“He should be here.”
“And you are sure that..?.”
“Yes! He was dead on his feet. Something must have gone wrong… more wrong.”
“So we roll, and find out the truth.”
“The eye… the feather… the bullet… the bone… No mistaking those. He’s really left us. We were four, but now it’s just us three.”
“Well… that settles it then. We kill him.”

And so EAST OF WEST opens, with some children whom we soon learn are apparently three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, performing a divination ritual using animal bones, to see what has happened to their headlining colleague, Death. Their location? A huge stone circle in the desert, right in the centre of what we know as the United States of America. In this world, however, it’s also the site of a huge comet strike, a seismic event that perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, marked the end of the American Civil War, and also the war with the native Indians, resulting in the formation of the Seven Nations of America, with an armistice signed at the site.

The comet strike and resulting armistice also may or may not have caused the Prophet Elijah Longstreet, a former soldier, to write the Second Book of Revelations, whilst at exactly the same moment Red Cloud, leader of the Endless Indian Nation, was having a waking vision which he recounted to his council of elders. Upon the conclusion of these two apparently unconnected events, both men promptly collapsed and died. Except it seems these two events were connected, as their respective words were in fact interlocking apocrypha, forming what would become known as The Message, a mystery that remained unsolved for another half century. Until the missing third portion of The Message was inadvertently provided by a very surprising person indeed, Mao Zedong.

Fast forward back to the current day, well 2064 actually, and the location of the errant Death (if indeed that is what he is) and it seems he’s out for revenge, cowboy-style pilgrim. Dressed as an albino gunslinger, so presumably he has been drinking his milk as the real Mr. Wayne suggested, and also an adult rather than a child, I note, which upon reflection makes the tiniest bit of, I suspect, very significant sense and, oh, he’s looking for those who did him wrong. Precisely how and what they did, we don’t know at this point, but there are some very well known names on the list, very well known and politically connected, right to the very, very top of the establishment. Death would have those luminaries on his shit list believe the End Times are a coming and I can’t honestly say at this point he’s not telling the truth. Eek!

What a set up! This could easily prove to be Hickman’s most comprehensive piece of speculative fiction yet. This first volume reads very, very much like the opening chapter to a prose novel, it is that rich with detailed promise of what is yet to come, and also to be revealed, of what precisely has transpired in the distant past to bring us to such an… unusual… time and place.

The closest comparisons to previous Hickman works so far would be PAX ROMANA for the intriguing premise, but also S.H.I.E.L.D.: ARCHITECTS OF FOREVER for the beautifully bizarre cast of characters and insane, pacy action. Excellent art from sometime FF compadre Nick Dragotta too, though no Hickman-penned work is really complete without a cheeky page or panel designed and illustrated by the man himself, in this case a map of north America simply entitled “The World As It Is” laying out the various territories of the seven nations.


Buy East Of West vol 1: The Promise and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown vol 2 h/c (£22-50, Oni Press Inc.) by Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth…

“What does that mean!?!?”
“It’s the seconds you have left before every cop in southeast Portland is crawling up your ass in response to this little home invasion of yours. Average response time in this part of town is about three minutes. Which means you got about half that time left to vanish.”
“Brad! We gotta…”
“You… you’re full of shit.”
“Time the time to stab me and you’ll to find out.”
“Get to the truck… deal with them later… ‘especially you, bitch.”
“Uh-oh! Hear that? That sounds like sirens! Bye bye.
“Skinheads. What’re you gonna do?”

Volume two of STUMPTOWN wasn’t what I was expecting at all, either in terms of the story or the art, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. I guess I expected the story to focus much more directly on Dex and her continuing personal and professional travails, particularly with the crooked casino owner / crime boss from first time around, who I presumed was being set up as some sort of arch-nemesis. But this, to start with at least, is much of a straight gumshoe case, revolving about a professional musician and her stolen guitar. At least until the skinheads turn up looking for their stolen methamphetamine. Plus the art just seemed rather different from volume one, certainly a considerably different colour palette, which threw me off at first.

I wasn’t remotely disappointed in the story, but something I absolutely loved about the first arc was its real emotional heart, and this was just different in tone. Still, once I’d made the mental shift I got into the story, and one thing that was exactly the same this time around, Dex’s ability to irritate just about everyone she meets from skinhead thug to DEA detective, is just a pleasure to behold. And that crooked casino boss, well maybe he’s not quite so absent from this story as I first presumed and Mr. Rucka is just playing the long game. I hope so, but if that is the case, he does need to get subsequent arcs out much quicker. Please!

Also Stumptown fans who are not aware, please note, it shares the same continuity as the Rucka prose novel Fistful of Rain and also his seven Atticus Kodiak prose novels as apparently several secondary characters crop up in both. For anyone who hasn’t read any Rucka prose, I can highly recommend it, including his Queen & Country books, which intertwine with the QUEEN & COUNTRY graphic novels.


Buy Stumptown vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ritual #1: Real Life (£4-99) by Malachi Ward –

We have the first two issues of this in and it looks really good so far. In issue one we start with the divide between dream sequence and reality clearly drawn but by the end we are wondering which bits are actually happening and if they are… why and how?

A couple go about their daily, fairly boring-seeming life in their apartment. The style is a bit like a looser version of Chris Ware, black, white and tone, cleanly drawn and pleasing on the eye in the larger, A4 size format.

The scene is domestic and any weirdness is confined to a bad dream. The power goes out but this seems like a semi-regular occurrence, irritating but not overly concerning. But now things are darker they begin to feel different, the atmosphere sliding further along the scale towards troubling. By the end things have got positively not-OK.


Buy Ritual #1: Real Life and read the Page 45 review here

Post York (£6-99) by James Romberger

By the co-creator of 7 MILES A SECOND and AARON AND AHMAD.

In the not-too-distant future vast parts of New York are partially submerged, inundated by rising sea levels and increasing storm activity. People still live there, holed up in the higher buildings, travelling by boat, keeping diving gear to hand. Our guy potters about in his boat looking to scavenge what he can whilst trying not to take more than his share. Elsewhere a group get together in an old Cinema and use a generator to run some films. Cleanly drawn and eerie, a peek into one of our possible futures.

Bonus: A flexi-disc single in the back!


Buy Post York and read the Page 45 review here

Henry & Glenn: Forever & Ever #1 (£4-25, I Will Destroy You Comics) by Tom Neely, Benjamin Marra, Ed Luce, Scot Nobles with Coop, Eric Yahnker, Keenan Marshall Keller.

Yes, you read that right: there’s a pin-up page by Coop. As if Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig aren’t pin-ups enough already! They’d certainly be on each other’s bedroom walls were it not for the fact that they here share a bedroom. Also, its bed.

Fear not, this is completely smut-free. Like the original, HENRY & GLENN FOREVER, it is instead a light-hearted romcom featuring the unlikeliest of lovers trying to sort out their issues. The main issue is that Glenn is a self-centred, melodramatic cry-baby whose career has dead-ended, leaving our stoical Henry to deal with the domestic practicalities and bring home the bacon by appearing as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race (true fact – I’ve seen an episode, and good for him!) and indeed The Henry Rollins Show where he interviews Kevin Smith:

“So, Kevin… how big is Ben Affleck’s dick? Sorry, I meant: how big of a dick is Ben Afleck?”
“This interview is over.”

Tom Neely’s cartooning is a fun-filled joy with elements both of Peter Bagge in Glen Danzig and square-jawed Chester Gould in Henry Rollins. Benjamin Marra, meanwhile, delivers a back-stabbing satanic-cult romp in the style of Golden Age superheroes inked in Rotring. Erick Yahnker’s photo-realistic portrait in grey washes was actually quite touching. Coop’s homage to Frank Frazetta wasn’t!

Daryl Hall and John Oates, meanwhile, return as the long-suffering neighbours, while Morrissey finally brings accord to their discord, albeit in opposition. Bonus on the back: Glen Danzig’s real-life, recorded reaction to HENRY & GLENN FOREVER. Aww, there, there. I’m not going to kiss you better.


Buy Henry & Glenn: Forever & Ever #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fortunately, The Milk… h/c (£10-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

“Do you like hard-hairy-wet-white-crunchers?” he asked.
“Coconuts?” I guessed.
“I named them first.”

This UK edition of Neil’s new, Young Adult prose comes with an irresistibly shiny cover and Chris Riddell illustrations. Riddell is an award-winning political cartoonist with two Kate Greenaway Medals under his belt (or pinned to his lapel or adorning a wall) who works for Observer, and conjures an impressive likeness of Neil himself here as a dad who popped out for some milk.

Every double page comes with at least one of Chris’ infectious illustrations, whether it be of the green, globular aliens (twin obsessions: abduction and art), Professor Steg and his Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, the Eye of Splod, or the wumpires. Wumpires are a bit like nocturnal umpires only with a darker dress sense, sharper teeth, alternative diets and insatiable appetites: once they’ve made their decision, you’re out.

Mum has gone away for a conference. She has left the narrator, his sister and their dad with a set of instructions, along with the knowledge that they are almost out of milk.

Now they are out of milk.

Last night, you see, there were those mugs of hot chocolate to make up for their Missing Mum. And orange juice on cereal isn’t quite as tasty as milk. Dad pops down the corner shop to fetch them some milk, but he takes an awfully long time about it. Where on earth has he been?

You just know from the start that this is Neil Gaiman’s version of those tall tales we tell when late for work. “The bus got stuck in traffic.” “There were road works.” “I left the house, forgot my keys and locked myself out so I had to break in via a second-storey window and got caught by the police.They’re not pressing charges.”

If you think that’s elaborate, you wait until you read what happened to dad: alien abduction, time travel, more time travel with a couple of complementary paradoxes, dinosaur space police and narrowly avoided but potentially catastrophic global renovation.

“You are charged with breaking into people’s planets and redecorating them,“ said a noble and imposing Tyrannosaurus Rex. “And then with running away and doing it again, somewhere else, over and over. You have committed crimes against the inhabitants of eighteen planets, and crimes against good taste.”
“What we did to Rigel Four was art!” argued a globby alien.
“Art? There are people on Rigel Four,” said an Akylosaurus, “who have to look up, every night, at a moon with three huge plaster ducks flying across it.”

You will smile very broadly when you understand the context of the title.


Buy Fortunately, The Milk… h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Asthma (£12-99, Sparkplug) by John Hankiewicz.

We bought our original stock back in 2007 when I wrote…

An experiment. A bold experiment. This is a series of bold experiments. I simply haven’t a clue what its subjects are, let alone its objects. Charting the subconscious? Riding the ripples of a stream of consciousness?

Undeniably John is a thinker, but if I thought as hard as this I’d be in a straight jacket by now. Maybe I’m in a different sort of straight jacket because I don’t think as hard as this, who knows? Relationships seem to figure into these vignettes prominently – that and communication:

“You e-mailed me a photo of a cat sleeping on your chest. I replied with an over-earnest personal anecdote.” I liked that.

Also, ‘Martha Gregory, Serious Thinker’ which is one of a sequence of pages in which Martha Gregory thinks. “Exactly when do I officially disappear? When people start searching for me in earnest… in vain. I don’t have to leave; I could hide – or else change myself somehow. Hiding would be harder than leaving, though, and changing would be harder than hiding. Changing into a roll of pescia paper, for instance. Then again, changing is a more surefire way of disappearing than leaving or hiding, and a much better test of character. Test… the test is whether people notice my absence, perceive some mystery in it, and feel at least a little helpless in the face of that mystery.”

The form and style varies dramatically according to content. There’s a comparatively standard narrative involved in reminiscing about the recent history of a railway station in architectural flux, the visual snapshots rendered with crisp precision (although there’s a nod to how everything looks bigger when you’re young), whilst the relationship ‘Dance’s are enacted by cartoon marionettes, some more abstract than others. These things I got (I think), along with the alternating ‘Nap’ and ‘Jazz’ (it’s not always ‘Nap’ but it is always ‘Jazz’), even though it goes full-on surreal as a gleeful doll-like child plays merrily in her fantasy land whose ground is spiked with shards of glass, while a man and her woman (her parents?), often naked, worry about potential hazards to her safety. However, I’m by no means confident in my deductions, and the silent eight-panel pieces, told in four sets of pairs about a man and some chairs, is a strange sort of mime whose meaning or purpose eludes me completely.

I strongly suspect that I’d get a whole lot more out of this if I put more in, but it’s my personal equivalent of the one-eyed widow’s woodcuts I swore I would never introduce as Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month choices. It’s certainly the most experimental book I’ve come across since MOTHER’S MOUTH, and when you learn that John is one of the Holy Consumptives (along with Anders Nilsen, Paul Hornschemeier and Jeffrey Brown), that certainly explains the thought behind this, and suggests it almost certainly is worth the more inquisitive amongst you investigating.


Buy Asthma and read the Page 45 review here

Kings Watch #1 (£2-99, D.E.) by Jeff Parker & Marc Laming.

“It’s happening all over the world, you know. The people you used to protect, they’re all having nightmares of what’s coming. You wouldn’t know that, magician. You keep your dreams sealed, don’t you –“
“Silence, demon. You have no knowledge that I want.”
“Then why did you enter this room, where you keep me imprisoned? It’s okay, Mandrake. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the end of the world.”

Oh, this is tremendous!

It kicks off with the same Bam! Bam! Bam! as the penultimate episode of Doctor Who – Catherine Tate’s season. Each protagonist gazes up at a sky that should not be: Mandrake the magician turns away from his East Californian window and the demon who goads him; the Phantom in his East African jungle shields his eyes; Dale Arden’s sentence trails off in sheer disbelief. Something is coming…

I’ll be perfectly frank: I read this because I saw the artist of THE RINSE on the credits, and I will read anything drawn by Marc Laming that isn’t PLANET OF THE APES. It’s not that his chisel-jawed men wink like nobody’s business – though they do – or that his women are some of the most curvaceous in comics – though they are, and with the best hair ever! It’s the sheer thrill of seeing immaculate, beautifully finished layouts whether quiet and measured as in Dale Arden’s office or filling the entire page when an African Elephant is startled and savaged by some red, reptilian, bipedal beast so massive it virtually smothers the bull. Cue tree-top choreography and yowsa! He doesn’t skimp on details, either, like a driveway’s locked gates.

I really have no idea who The Phantom or Mandrake are, though I am peripherally aware of their existance, nor do I have any lingering love for Flash Gordon let alone read of his exploits in comics. But this snaps together seamlessly, and – you know what? – we are allowed to have fun!

Great big tip of the hat to colour artist Jordan Boyd whose palette glows with red, purples and green while keeping the whole soft with careful lighting and by refraining from throwing everything at us at once.

So yes, there is a… spatial anomoly… slithering and crackling in the sky; visions abound of whip-wielding, spear-throwing nightmares on rough-horned steeds; the media is full-throttle in scare-mongering mode and, oh… look who’s just made the perfect landing in a spaceplane on his dad’s carefully manicure croquet lawn! It’s Professor Hans Zarkov and his irrepressively chirpy blonde pilot. I imagine there’s a universe to become saviour of.


Buy Kings Watch #1 and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD: 1948 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Max Fiumara…

“During the war, the Germans were attempting to break through a barrier between worlds, to access some power that they could use against the allies. They failed… and yet they didn’t fail.”
“I’ve never heard anything about this. How is that possible?”
“You never had the clearance, Anna. But I checked Colonel Betz, and the State Department, and you have it now. As I said, they failed to win the war, but a gateway was opened… and a creature did come through.”
“My God, it’s just like a little devil. Looks like we got it instead of the Nazis, huh? Is it still in custody?”
“Er, actually I’m raising him.”
“RAISING HIM?!! Raising him to be what?!”

Third part of the 1940s’ arc starring the founder of the BPRD Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, revealing cases from the bureau’s earliest days, and of course the adventures of young Hellboy. Not quite as action-packed as the two preceding volumes, 1946 and 1947, but still great fun, as Trevor is invited by the US military to investigate the strange monsters popping up at a remote nuclear test facility. Positively utopian days compared to the current HELL ON EARTH the bureau is having to deal with in the modern day, frankly.

Hellboy, meanwhile, is going through a sensitive phase, which is going to require a hacksaw to resolve, and in the process finally clear up one of the great Hellboy mysteries. Also, everyone’s favourite demon in a Russian child’s body returns, although it seems the only person who can see her, aside from us, of course, is the Professor. Spooky. Which is the point obviously. Given her current… status… in modern times BRPD I am intrigued to see how her story is going to play out.


Buy BPRD: 1948 and read the Page 45 review here

Thrud The Barbarian h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Carl Critchlow.

“Beer! Now you’re talking!”

Behemoths, barbarians and buckets o’ booze, all spinning out of the Games Workshop WHITE DWARF strips. The story’s not the real draw (stupid Barbarian inadvertedly massacres a kingdom’s saviours from ruin, then inadvertedly saves the kingdom from ruin whilst inadvertedly ruining it etc); it’s the joyous interior art nothing like the cover, which is all outline including the shadows which are flat-coloured so softly that they are filled with light.

Here’s what the publishers say:

“The Eagle Award-winning barbarian parody series is collected at last! Thrud the Barbarian leads a simple life, one of popping down to his local pub, quaffing a few tankards of ale and starting a fight in which everyone else is beaten senseless. After which comes the wenches! Hurrah! Trouble is, there always seems to be someone with a quest to interrupt his peace, quiet and packet of crisps! In his first-ever collection, Thrud faces down a necromancer, protects his beer against fierce Frost Giants, faces his arch-nemesis, assumes the role of the king he accidentally killed, and gets his pint spilled on a mission into the depths of the jungle!”


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

The Halloween Legion h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Martin Powell, Diana Leto & Thomas Boatwright.

Younger Readers’ graphic novella in which a ghoulish gang of five take on whatever is troubling the town of Woodland: zombie-gators, miffed mummies or even a fleet of aliens.

Thomas Boatright’s pages are fun to look at. The cat is a cat, the witch is a fairly standard witch and the ghost is little more than the traditional, unironed, floating white bedlinen; but young Molly Aldrich, the orphaned fire elemental, is decked out in a girl’s Halloween devil outfit and gesticulates beautifully as she flash-flames her foes, and I detect a great big whallop of John Byrne’s Ben Grimm in The Skeleton’s physical form and posture.

Alas, the rest is paper-thin. No depth, no wit, no decent jokes and no real plot to speak of. Oh, there’s a story but it’s strictly linear, whereas any decent plot presents set-ups that pay off when returned to. Ask Jill Thompson, whose MAGIC TRIXIE  books are no longer than this but have infinitely more to say. See, yeah, you should probably also have something to say as well. This is just fighting, while the redundant school sequence goes nowhere.


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

Indestructible Hulk vol 2: Gods And Monster h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Walter Simonson, Matteo Scalera.

Oh yes, more THOR art from that title’s definitive writer and artist some thirty years ago, for Banner has created a portal to Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants, in the interests of absconding with some of its mythical Eiderdurm!

Eiderdurm isn’t some form of well insulated (if antiquated) sleeping facilitator filled with duck feathers; it’s a mythical liquid ore that only exists in subzero temperatures, which is probably why you haven’t seen it for sale in the shops. Banner is hoping it’ll turn out to be a superconductor that will shave ten years off abandoning fossil fuels. He’s also hoping Thor’s memory will kick in soon, for when the Norse god finds them trespassing there, he cannot remember ever having encountered Dr. Bruce Banner or even his short-fused, monosyllabic alter ego. But then wait until you see how Thor’s attired: that might give you a clue.

Lots of high-octane action there, and I can assure you that Simonson has not lost his touch. Meanwhile Waid has enormous fun with the English – and Asgardian – language / terminology, and reveals at least one of the secrets harboured by Banner’s new scientific colleagues. I mean, why would you want to be part of the entourage of a man who any moment can turn into a mindless man-mountain of destruction?

“Suicide by Hulk.”

What does that even mean?

The second half guest-stars Daredevil, and it’s far from a coincidence. See, in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK VOL 1, Banner made a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. whose resources he’s now using to make all these scientific advances. In exchange, he lends them the ultimate in human fire-power in the form of the ever-irascible Hulk. But it’s a tenuous relationship which could backfire on either parties at any moment, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has almost certainly prepared contingency plans. Well, two can play at that game.

Includes lots of extra process pieces in the back, and a great deal of shouting – neither of which is any use or good for a blind superhero with an overdeveloped sense of hearing.


Buy Indestructible Hulk vol 2: Gods And Monster 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.


Pop! A Complete History vol 1 (£5-00) by Jonathan Edwards

At The Theme Park (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney

Blue Is The Warmest Colour s/c (£14-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh

The Complete Don Quixote h/c (£19-99, Self Made Hero) by Miguel De Cervantes & Rob Davis

Reggie 12 h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Brian Ralph

Romeo And Juliet s/c (£9-99, Random House / Vertical) by William Shakespeare & Gareth Hinds

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice h/c (£16-99, DC) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

Technopriests Supreme Collection h/c (£37-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me h/c (Expanded Edition) (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Peter Bagge

Century West s/c (£5-99, Image) by Howard Chaykin

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics vol 6 (£14-99, IDW) by various

Angel & Faith vol 4: Death & Consequences (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson, Steve Morris

Halo: Uprising s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Salsa Invertebraxa h/c (£20-00, Pecksniff Press) by Mozchops

The Best Of Milligan & McCarthy h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Peter Milligan & Brendan McCarthy

Batwoman vol 2: To Drown The World s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder, J. H. Williams III, Trevor McCarthy

Batwoman vol 3 Worlds Finest h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & J. H. Williams III

Thunderbolts vol 2: Red Scare s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way, Charles Soule & Phil Noto, Steve Dillon

Indestructible Hulk vol 2: Gods And Monster s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Walter Simonson, Matteo Scalera

All New X-Men vol 3: Out Of Their Depth h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

All New X-Men vol 3: Out Of Their Depth s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Chi’s Sweet Home vol 10 (£10-50, Vertical) by Kanata Konami

Sailor Moon: Short Stories vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Attack On Titan vol 7 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Battle Angel Alita Last Order vol 18 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro


ITEM! I will be appearing at The Broadway Book Club at 7-30pm on Thursday September 26th for a Page 45 interactive evening of glorious graphic novels. And yes, I done wrote a blog on that. Do have a click, even if you can’t come – you must book in advance – because there are some beautiful books there, linked to their reviews! Cheers!

ITEM! Reminder: Page 45 reveals comics’ own Eddie Campbell’s set designs for Michael Eaton’s new play Charlie Peace at Nottingham Playhouse! Big blog there including the actual projection designs! Also, links to loads of Eddie’s glorious graphic novels. You know we made most of them Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month? More than any other single creator.

ITEM! Time’s running out to enter the prize draw for our original Terry Moore art! Competition closes at the end of September! Please see Page 45’s  STRANGERS IN PARADISE OMNIBUS blog.

ITEM! New Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo superhero book MPH due in February! You can pre-order now. You should, in effect, pre-order now! *swoons*

ITEM! And while we’re at it, a reminder that DUNCAN FEGREDO IS SIGNING HERE ON OCTOBER 23RD FOR THE LAUNCH OF HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS! It’s the very day of publication and Page 45 has the graphic novel’s  EXCLUSIVE BOOK MARK EDITION!

The next two months are going to be cracking!

I haven’t even talked about the Nottingham Independents Awards kicking off next week, or the British Comics Awards in November.

More next time!

– Stephen

One Response to “Reviews September 2013 week three”

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

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