Archive for October, 2013

Reviews October 2013 week five

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013


The cadence of this comic is perfect.

I can hear every sentence spoken, and The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Come To Be has all the quick, slick beats of one of those baritone western drawls, and is so well worded it could almost be a Nick Cave gallop like The Ballad Of Betty Coltrane.

 – Stephen on Pretty Deadly #1

Lighter Than My Shadow s/c (£20-00, Jonathan) by Katie Green –

This is a straight-up piece of autobiography about growing up with, struggling through, and eventually facing down the horrible beast that is eating disorders. From early power-struggles at the dinner table we see the seeds of future maladaption sown and though, yes, hindsight is a smug old bugger, it did make me wonder anew at some of the things adults say to children; things which may seem ‘normal’ or even helpful at the time but which can prove to be anything but.

We follow Katie as she grows up, transitioning from child to ‘young woman’, going up to high-school, then to University, becoming ever more aware of the expectations of the world around her. As the pressure grows and she feels less and less sure of herself we watch her turn food into a control mechanism; something to be regulated and rationed, an area of perfect clarity in a life of constant, bombarding change. Very quickly that ‘control’ becomes habitual, involuntary and all-consuming and the consequences change from nagging at the table to trips to the hospital.

Through her ups and downs (of which there are many) we see Katie come so close so many times to putting her finger right smack bang on the problem. She’s not a fool, we can see that she is intelligent and is putting a great deal of thought into her position and her problems, but time and again she is unable to reconcile her rational understanding of what she is doing with the ingrained, deeply woven patterns of behaviour that she just can’t help but follow. I think you’ll agree you don’t have to have an eating disorder to recognise that particular human trait.

In terms of comicbook craft and storytelling LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW is absolutely bare-bones. The story is linear, factual and reads like a cross between a memoir and a diary. There are a few recurrent symbolic themes: the ever-present black cloud, the body which peels or poofs away into oblivion, the head-splitting internal voices; but mostly the cartooning is very straightforward and literal. There’s nothing ground-breaking or stunning in the art or the approach to the material, rather it is the story itself and what it tells us about an all-too-common struggle that kept me reading.


Buy Lighter Than My Shadow s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Pretty Deadly #1 (£2-75, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios.

“Lord. Do they… do they still burn?”
“Never was my eyes that pained me, Sarah… it was always what they saw.”

Oh, the cadence of this comic is perfect.

I can hear every sentence spoken, and The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Come To Be has all the quick, slick beats of one of those baritone western drawls, and is so well worded it could almost be a Nick Cave gallop like The Ballad Of Betty Coltrane.

“It all began when the Mason man took beauty for his bride
He quick turned a fool and made her a jewel
In the crown of his glittering pride

“He’d loved that gal since they were kids, a beauty for more than her skin
But he crushed that joy, when he made her a toy
To tease before covetous men.”

This is the story told by the girl in the vulture cloak whom blind Fox calls Sissy. Professional, travelling storytellers, they stand before the townsfolk on a gallows’ platform, Fox hoisting an illustrative cloth banner above the crowd on a cross. It reveals how Deathface Ginny, born in heartbroken captivity and adopted by Death was raised to be “a Reaper of Vengeance, a hunter of men who hav



Meanwhile, having sung for their supper, Sissy collects coins but is snagged by a ginger called Johnny (as Big Alice will refer to him later on). There is an exchange which each hides from the other (as Big Alice will find out later on). What Big Alice uncovers I will leave you to discover but Fox makes a desert-bound discovery too. All bets are off, allegiances take a desperate, unexpected turn and the hunt on horseback is on.

There are so many questions left hanging in the wind, but I like that! I want a first issue to mesmerise me (it did!) to get my mind whirring (it did!) and leave me desperately wanting more – and it did!

Moreover Emma Rios – along with colour artist Jordie Bellaire – has knocked this out the park. Both scream Paul Pope as loud as the battered crows caw. And, oh, those black feathers! The structure is complex, with inlaid panels revealing some secrets only with a careful scrutiny (for there are many things hidden here), while the surrounding narrative thunders on.

Lastly, big tip of the Stetson to DeConnick’s introductory afterword ‘Falling Up’ which is the most imaginatively contrived account I’ve read both of the origins of a comic and of its writer’s meandering path to creative fulfilment in the form of inspiration-orientated snapshots.


Buy Pretty Deadly #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet #1 (£2-75, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting –

“…A group of highly trained spies and killers, and she’s played each of us… with ease. That was when I realized just how dangerous Velvet Templeton actually was.”

Spy stuff; does it ever get boring? VELVET certainly doesn’t, it’s as slick and punchy a first issue as you could want, taking us from blood on the cobbled side roads of Paris to a smoky London HQ to conspiracies in the rainy backstreets at a pace that’s exactly right for the set-up to a thriller.

An agent is down and the internal investigation quickly points to an inside job. How could it be anything else, given that the agency itself is so secret it barely exists? The idea of an error or an infiltration is almost unthinkable. But that blame has fallen so swiftly at the door of another agent doesn’t sit right with the Director’s P.A. Velvet Templeton, and she’s not going to leave it alone. Because she’s not ‘just’ the secretary, or at least, if she is now, that’s not what she always was.

The writing is excellent: as we follow Velvet’s internal monologue it feels like we are in perfect synch with her, feeling her misgivings as the evidence plays out around her and, as events accelerate, realising what she realises… just a fraction too late.

And the art is gorgeous. Clear, sharp and cinematic in the right places with Bettie Breitweiser colours ranging from murky to luminescent depending on the scene. The character design for Velvet is perfect, giving her age without making her look old, beauty without looking too soft and just enough human vulnerability to make it clear that she’s no super-being but she’ll still kick some arse should the need arise. Needless to say, by the end of issue one the need has most certainly arisen. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what Emma Peel would do if push really came to shove then this book is for you. Good stuff!


Buy Velvet #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Three #1 (£2-25, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Ryan Kelly.

Set in Lakonia, Ancient Greece, sometime after my fiftieth birthday, this is Gillen’s direct reaction to having re-read Frank Miller & Lynn Varley’s 300 after a late-night booze bash.

Legend has it, you see, that a mere 300 noble Spartans defended the free West against an invading monarchy from the East in the form of quarter of a million Persians, and it’s a myth 300 perpetuates. But, as I make clear in my review, the Spartans had many allies; and, as Kieron makes clear in his afterword, the Spartans also had slaves: at least one each, maybe eight, on the battlefield carrying their shields. The Spartans never carried their own shields.

These were the Helots, owned not just by individual masters but the entire state, and their miserable plight forms the core of this series which is essentially about class.

Lords and masters inviting themselves to supper unannounced isn’t something unique to the Spartans. The British monarchy were doing it right up to Queen Victoria’s time, but at least most of them had the decency to phone ahead.  Not so here, and Eurytos and his bullish son plus their heavily armed entourage set foot in a communal Helot household demanding hospitality they also contrive an evening’s entertainment.

What follows makes for very uncomfortable reading, as well it should. You won’t be subjected to the sexual excesses of CALIGULA – both Gillen and Kelly restrain themselves, implying much, showing just enough – but nobility is not a quality very much in evidence here.

Sadism, slave hunting, humiliation, historical rebuttal and a curious reaction to wine are what you’re in for. I was completely unaware of that last one, but since this has all been meticulously researched with the help of Nottingham University’s Classics Department (Professor Stephen Hodgkinson, Lynn Fotheringham et al) I will add that biological predisposition to my knowledge box where it will rattle around virtually friendless.


Helot Terpander’s storytelling (via PHONOGRAM’s Kieron Gillen, obviously) is particularly impressive, its sentence structure in places reflecting that of the classics I translated at school, while Ryan Kelly you may know from Brian Wood’s magnificent LOCAL, THE NEW YORK FOUR and THE NEW YORK FIVE, all highly recommended pieces of contemporary comicbook fiction starring women. I’m delighted to report that his eye for history and frenzy is equally impressive and, combined with some startling work by colourist Jordie Bellaire, you will know the true meaning of bloodlust.


Buy Three #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fran h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

Rarely do I quote from Woodring’s works – being silent, that proves problematic – but I thought I’d make an exception for the ‘Author’s note’ which had me in stitches. But no, I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself.

Discovery is what Jim Woodring’s all about: discovery, temptation, transmogrification, cat-killing curiosity, cause-and-often-unexpected-effect, surreal, dream-like journeys and the sheer love of visual craftsmanship deployed by a shaman whose imagination seems limitless. Here his trademark, rippled-textured contours as if printed from the most intricately carved woodcuts are more splendid than ever, particularly down underground where a thief has built up quite an esoteric stash.

Rarely if ever are they about romance, except between loyal pets Pupshaw and Pushpaw who fit together so snugly side by side as if carved and then halved from the same whole cloth. But now Frank has found Fran in CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS (I would seriously read that first and then again afterwards but SPOILERS!) and poor Pupshaw and Pushpaw aren’t at all sure what to make of her.

She’s playful and physical and bursting with energy – maybe too much energy for our Frank, for he is dragged out of bed when hoping of a lazy lie-in. Still at least it’s all play, so cool! There’s piggy-backs, hide and seek, chase-me, climbing a tree, a holding of hands and then sunset.

You’re getting suspicious, aren’t you?


As I say, FRANK is all about discovery and our uncharacteristically fortunate Frank discovers a treasure-trove of appropriated property including a psychic projector – a memoryscope if you like – and pops it on his noggin. Cue rewind through CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS, the events which led Frank to co-habitational bliss. He is delighted! Next it is Pupshaw and Pushpaw’s turn and they are delighted too. Now it is Fran’s turn…

I’ve written far more detailed reviews of Jim Woodring books including WEATHERCRAFT which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, but I think I’ve said enough. I may have said too much.

So this is me in the corner, recommending this book like nobody’s business not only because he was our Mark’s favourite comicbook creator of all time, but because the journeys have proved increasingly more intriguing, the craftsmanship, improbably, keeps on improving, and there are moments here which you will undoubtedly recognise in your own lives.

I have one word for you here: trust.

And that’s not about buying this book; it’s about the book itself.


Buy Fran and read the Page 45 review here

The Spectral Engine h/c (£20-99, McClelland & Stewart) by Ray Fawkes…

Spooky, steamy shenanigans from the creator of Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month ONE SOUL! The spectral engine chugs its relentless course across Canada collecting the spiritual remains of unfortunates and ne’er do wells alike who have demised in its vicinity. The spectral engine makes no judgements, passes no verdicts, merely collects its passengers and continues on its way.

Now this is how to do a ghost story, or more precisely an anthology of ghost stories! Based on several real-life events taken from history, Ray takes us on a journey to the creepier side of Canada.

Illustrated in a style than seems to fall pretty much half way between MERCY and ONE SOUL on a scale of scratchy to smooth, I think it is more than likely to satisfy fans of both. Also, Ray’s excellent writing here demonstrates just how much research he has clearly done on each of his vignettes, and the conceit of the spectral engine provides the perfect eternal and indeed infernal line upon which to make his stories seamless connect to one another. All aboard!


Buy The Spectral Engine h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Hartlepool Monkey h/c (£12-99, Knockabout) by Wilfred Lupano & Jeremie Moreau.

“Charlie, hanging is not a performance, still less an entertainment. Hanging means a man is dying. There is nothing amusing about that.”

Agreed! Which is why this comedy should never have been attempted. This works not for me on so many levels.

Oh, its heart is in the right place as evidenced by its afterword which is infinitely more enjoyable that the contents which precede it. But intentions are one thing and execution is another. The execution here – literally, figuratively and in terms of story content – is horrific, and this should have been all horror, total tragedy and zero comedy.

Worse still the comedy comes in the form of shouty-shouty kids-comics-for-adults claptrap in the form of scatological shit that never impresses me, duff monkeying-around jokes and visual gah-we’re-all-mad-around-here-aren’t-we stereotypes which completely undercut what should have been the central point:

Ignorance is rife yet nothing to be proud of. Ignorance is what kills people.

In this case it kills a chimpanzee, abducted from its homeland, dressed in French regalia and adopted as the mascot of a French sailing vessel which is shipwrecked off the shores of British town Hartlepool. Its two most abused shipmates are washed ashore: the cabin boy and its monkeeeeeeeeeeeeeey. The town takes the cabin boy in, captures its monkeeeeeeeeeeeeey and assume it is both a Frenchman and but the vanguard for a fully fledged invasion. Because Hartlepool.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, all these maladroit misconceptions are exposed for what they are, but I would return to my central concern: this should not be a comedy and the scenes in which the chimpanzee is incarcerated (seen from its side though gaps in the slats of its stark, dark, claustrophobic prison) and then shaved with bloody cuts, tears and smears before appearing before a bumbling, hastily assembled open-air court are horrific.

If you think I am taking the message out on the messenger, you could be right. You could be. It is simply a matter of taste.

You could claim the creators succeeded: they made the abuse of an innocent animal so repellent that it has shaken me to my core. That is just as it should be. So why all the gags, eh? It’s not that funny, is it?

Almost finally, the lettering is awful: so thin I could barely read it.

Also, stop with the relentless shouty-shouty bollocks. Attempt some degree of nuance at least.



Buy The Hartlepool Monkey h/c and read the Page 45 review here

ERF h/c (£10-99, 2 Badgers And Spitfire) by Garth Ennis & Rob Steen.

From the writer of PREACHER,and so much more you must never let you child near, comes a book for the very youngest of readers, and it has a heart of gold. It still stands a fair chance of traumatising your children for life, and since this isn’t for you I can spoil it with the revelation that it’s about self-sacrifice and appreciating your friends while you have them.

The four friends in question are amongst the first sea-dwellers to discover they have lungs and get all amphibious on the planet. Each has a specialised skill: Figwillop’s a fast-mover, The Booper is a chameleon able to blend in with his environment to the point of invisibility, KWAAH! can inflate himself to twice his natural size, while Erf… is tiny and hasn’t discovered anything special about himself yet. Maybe he never will.

Still, they’re happy to let him tag along and swim in their shadow. Now that they’ve discovered lungs, however, it’s time to lug themselves ashore, onto a small island where they discover someone got there first. He’s mean, he’s green and he’s hungry. He is… the Colossux! He is, however, reasonable and, after much pleading, agrees to eat only one of them for breakfast. They have until morning to decide amongst themselves which one of them becomes so much black pudding.

“Don’t even THINK about escape.
“Because I am much, much faster than you,” he told Figwillop.
“And I can smell anyone in disguise,” he told The Booper.
“And I can eat anyone twice your size,” he told KWAAH!
“And I can… yes, well, anyway,” he told Erf.

The art is everything you would expect from the cover, although it’s slightly less in-your-face and it’s a shame you can’t see Erf’s friends. I don’t have much more to say about it than that except that our current copies appear to be signed and, judging by the thanks in the back, I think it began life as a Kickstarter.


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

Age Of Ultron (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, others & Bryan Hitch, others.

It’s over. They lost. We lost everything.

Civilisation as we know it is effectively over; New York one massive, mangled wreckage, its once vainglorious skyscrapers crumbling into the yawning crevasses of its underground system where the streets and pavements used to be. As lightning crackles rather than flashes overhead, something unimaginably massive hovers above the ruins – an awful, futuristic construction of unknown intent. Nothing and no one is moving. It’s dead.

Move out from under its apocalyptic epicentre, however, and although the suburbs look like a war zone, some of the tenements still stand, barely, and there are pockets of life like this hooker on the street, making a midnight house call. The thugs that answer the door are heavily armed, one with the makings of an exoskeleton. Still, open the door they did – and that’s all he needs. That’s what Hawkeye’s been waiting for…

The opening was off-the-scale epic, and I hadn’t been so knocked out or excited about a Marvel or DC event in years. We’re talking the opening two seasons of ULTIMATES by Millar and Hitch. We’re talking KINGDOM COME which begins after things have already gone wrong and it’s about to grow catastrophically worse. Only here, it’s already happened. Here it couldn’t really get any worse. Here it’s more up close and personal.

What’s left of Marvel’s Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men are all but cowering in seclusion, holed up in a makeshift, appropriated bunker, for venturing out means almost instant detection. Leave and you don’t come back. Leave and you won’t be let back – you could be tracked or tagged.

It seems that only one of them is prepared to take that risk, break the rules and sneak out into the night – even for one of their own. Somewhere in a basement of that tenement is one of their friends and colleagues, tied to a chair and almost beaten to death by a small army of humans armed to the teeth and two former crimelords you’ll know. They have an arrangement with Ultron. Hawkeye doesn’t give a shit.

Every single page of the first few chapters pencilled by Bryn Hitch knocked me sideways – the action was monumental and the atmosphere of desperation, almost defeatism from everyone except Hawkeye and the mate he went to rescue, was sustained throughout…


… Until Bryan Hitch was replaced as artist halfway through, and it was like watching a slow puncture on a tyre as the wind blew out of the story’s sail. Additionally, it was as if that wheel had already been changed because it didn’t even read like the same tale to me, as a couple of the cast took centre-stage leaving the rest to linger on the temporal sidelines. Indeed, it didn’t so much end as serve as an introduction to other, lesser series. Given what has now emerged about whither those series are heading and to what effect, I suspect the change of direction, which seemed such a severe swerve to me, was dictated editorially or from even further on high after half the work had been completed on this book so very long ago.

Shame. On so many levels.

Collects AGE OF ULTRON #1-10 and #10AI.


Buy Age Of Ultron and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 3: Infinity Prelude h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Mike Deodato Jr., Stefano Caselli.

In which things grow increasingly ominous.

You’re reading INFINITY, aren’t you? I reviewed the first issue. All cosmic hell is about to break loose and Thor can surely sense it.

Over in this series’ sister title, NEW AVENGERS, it’s all been about death: universal extinction through dimensional incursions of parallel Earths. Here it’s about life and evolution (see AVENGERS VOL 1: AVENGERS WORLD and AVENGERS VOL 2: THE LAST WHITE EVENT), and as this volume kicks off the Avengers have inherited a new race of zebra-striped humanoids hatchlings. Within days the babies have become children and they seem neither to sleep nor eat and can breathe underwater without gills. They are bursting with energy, insatiably inquisitive and tenacious as hell. They could be immortal. They need to be taught.

Clint Barton AKA HAWKEYE has left his bunch of charges to their own devices to climb a giant rock in the shallows while he and his lady-friend Jessica Drewe AKA Spider-Woman sunbathe on a tropical beach.

“I think the deal was they were supposed to be learning something. Something about accountability.”
“Hey, I’m pretty sure they saw you rubbing the sunscreen on my back and vice versa. I say, lesson learned, kiddo. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about – I was an orphan and look how I turned out.”

It’s an exchange reprised later on when an arrow unexpectedly saves the children from a leaping sabre-tooth lion.

“Ahem! Accountability – being there when it counts.”
“He was starting to burn.”

And I’m afraid, by and large, that that’s where the comedy’s curtailed. For signals are being sent across all known space and something very wicked is heading our way.


Buy Avengers vol 3: Infinity Prelude h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Joker: Death Of The Family h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various…

I was really looking forward to this, but I wonder if I understood the punchline actually, because I didn’t really get it. I was expecting the mental equivalent of acid squirted in my eyes from a fake flower and instead I got what felt like a gentle tickle under the chin with a buttercup…

Without giving too much away things seemed to be building to a particularly dramatic conclusion, as the Joker threatens to rock the Bat family to its very foundations with revelations of dark secrets that Bruce has been keeping from them all, but when you finally get the big reveal, it all seemed rather anti-climatic to me. It just felt like a golden opportunity missed to open a new dramatic chapter in Bat-history by disclosing something spectacular. Also, as seems to be the new thing with DC, this material will be duplicated in all the various individual characters’ books.

For the record this collects BATMAN #17, CATWOMAN #13-14, BATGIRL #14-16, BATMAN AND ROBIN #15-17, NIGHTWING #15-16, DETECTIVE COMICS #16-17, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #15-16 and TEEN TITANS #15, plus pages from BATMAN #13, BATGIRL #13, NIGHTWING #14, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #13-14, SUICIDE SQUAD #14-15 and TEEN TITANS #14 and 16.


Buy The Joker: Death Of The Family h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Green Lantern vol 3: The End h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke, various…

All good things come to an end. Or just peter out.

So, Geoff Johns’ run that began several years ago with GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH finally concludes with an equally titularly appropriate tome, and in fairness it was pretty epic for much of it. I can’t personally remember GL being so consistently well written for such a long time. Yes, it didn’t really have much to say in terms of socio-political commentary, well nothing at all, frankly (unlike the now sadly out of print classic Hal and Ollie ‘on the road’ material from the 70’s), it was simply a very colourful rainbow hued slug-fest, but it was great, great fun taking in both the BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY events along the way.

Possibly, probably, not helped by the New 52 non-reboot which didn’t really affect the Green Lantern titles at all story-wise, but certainly provided a jumping off point for a lot of people judging by the single issue sales, it did feel, despite some decent ideas, that it had begun to wane in the last couple of years. This concluding volume is fairly typical of what has preceded it throughout though, culminating in yet another big punch-up.

Well, almost… because then there is a fairly excruciating postscript which shows how all our Lanterns get their future happy-ever-afters as narrated from the Book Of Oa by a mysterious unnamed character (who I am pretty sure is supposed to be Sinestro). Except of course, the future is constantly being written, by new writers, so why even bother showing things which clearly are not going to come to pass? Schmaltz for schmaltz sake, but I guess I can forgive Geoff Johns this one indulgence. He’s earned it.

What I can’t forgive, however, is the fact that pretty much half this volume has already been published in GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY. This current DC tactic of repeatedly publishing the same material twice is starting to wear very, very thin indeed, and I’m not even buying the books. As greedy as Larfleeze frankly, which as long term GL readers will know, is saying something.

Also, is it just me or is the cover of this volume like some bizarre boy band pose?


Buy Green Lantern vol 3: The End h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story s/c (£10-99) by Sean Howe.

Revealed: Superhero Superstars In Fifty-Year Comicbook Catfight!

This is like one of those celebutard gossip rags but with comics and creators you actually care about! Also: a 99.9% better chance of the dirt being true. There have been no lawsuits. Riveting!

With any book like this, you fear it’ll be a white-wash: a hagiography of corporately endorsed spin; something else for Stan Lee to step in and sign even though he had absolutely no hand in its creation! Nope. I don’t see Stan Lee signing any copies of this meticulously researched muck-raking!

We all know about the wider injustices perpetrated by Marvel and DC on its creators (I was going to type “earliest creators” but DC seem to be keeping that grand tradition alive right to this day/hour/minute), but I had no idea there was so much animosity, back-stabbing and outright paranoia pervading the Merry Marvel Bullpen back then. And I say “paranoia” but that doesn’t mean they weren’t out to get each other. Some of them were, and still are! The shit, it verily flies, I promise you.

Learn why Kirby finally walked (twice) and Roy Thomas as editor-in-chief too! After that Marvel went through four different editor-in-chiefs within 20 months, and it’s easy to see why. It was chaos! Unsustainable chaos drowned in ego-ridden, territory-marking wee-wee. You want to know why Cockrum did so many X-MEN covers after Byrne took over? To piss John Byrne off! He’d manage to irritate the hell out of everyone except Chris Claremont, and now it was Claremont’s turn. Deetz all here!

As to Stan Lee, there is tale after tale of betrayal. He and Ditko couldn’t agree on the direction of Spider-Man, nor the issues’ individual contents (which is rich given how little direction the so-called writer actually doled out before artists were left to create virtually from scratch). As early as issue 18 Stan was so infuriated with how much Peter Parker there was and how little fist-fighting that he settled the score in public:

“Lee’s letter-page description in other Marvel comics that month threw Ditko under the bus even as it made its sales pitch. “A lot of readers are sure to hate it,” he promised of the issue, “so if you want to know what all the criticism is about, be sure to buy a copy!””

When Stan assembled the Bullpen together to record a flexi-disc of banter, Ditko was markedly absent so Stan wrote in a seeming extemporisation:

STAN: “Hey, what’s all that commotion out there, Sol?”
SOL: Why, it’s shy Steve Ditko. He heard you’re making a record and he’s got mic fright! Whoops! There he goes!”
STAN: “Out the window again? You know, I’m beginning to think he is Spider-Man.”

“The month the record was announced, a notice ran on the first page of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. “Many readers have asked why Stan’s name is always first on the credits! And so big-hearted Lee agreed to put Stevey’s name first time this time! How about that?!!!” The joke was that Lee’s name was below Ditko’s – and twice the size.”

Stan sure wrote the dialogue (and dictated the credits) but only after Steve and Jack Kirby had told their own stories. When the Silver Surfer appeared for the first time in an issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, it was a total surprise to Stan. Kirby’s original plan for the Surfer was to make him cold and aloof. He even began work on a solo series with that in mind, but eventually Stan hired John Buscema without consulting Kirby and turned the steely Silver Surfer into the ultimate example of emo.

Coming back to the chaos, the writing was on the wall as early as AVENGERS #16 back in 1965 when the original team was ditched in favour of Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. You think this was a creative decision? Think again! THE AVENGERS was originally assembled as an answer to DC’s success with JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, gathering together their most popular solo superheroes under into a single scout hut to maximise sales. But with Marvel’s key success over DC was that they created a single universe in which the characters constantly interacted, one title’s antics informing the others. But even with a mere handful of titles Stan found he couldn’t keep track of what Iron Man was doing here and Thor was doing there so he replaced those characters with their own comics with those who had none – apart from Captain America whose adventures were handily happening back in WWII.

So many decisions were born out of sheer practicality. Did you ever wonder why Captain America and Iron Man shared TALES OF SUSPENSE? Because DC controlled Marvel’s distribution at the time and forbade them to expand. The creation of Spider-Woman, Ms Marvel and She-Hulk? It wasn’t to cash in on their male counterparts’ success; it was to shore up copyrights. Iron Man’s helmet got a nose for a while because Stan glanced briefly at a single page and didn’t think there was room for a nose in one particularly flat helmet and so dictated it be so.

Miraculously, it’s all so coherently structured and dense in detail without one ounce of fat. Funny, too!

“”I was just as crazy as everybody else post-Watergate, post-Vietnam,” said Starlin, whose hobbies included motorcycles, chess, and lysergic acid diethylamide-25.”

That’s Jim Stalin, by the way, whose enduringly sharp and psychedelic nay psychotropic WARLOCK space-saga is thereby explained, as well as its reception recorded: his fan mail used to come complete with gratefully donated doobage, Valerie Singletons in the form of pre-rolled spliffs.

I’m as guilty as anyone of assuming that a career is one straight trajectory: up, up and then often away with the fairies or booted unceremoniously out of the editor’s door. But no: all and sundry were in a constant state of resignation (in either senses of the word) moving back and forth between Marvel and DC or, in the case of legendary editor-in-chief and acne-ridden obelisk Jim Shooter, retreating home after his child-prodigy antics on LEGION OF SUPERHEROES to run a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Those original SECRET WARS nearly never happened. SECRET WARS 2 certainly shouldn’t have, and you’ll get the run-down on precisely how out-of-control its proceedings were.

More fun facts: DAZZLER #1 sold over 400,000 copies! The concept was originally co-conceived by Casablanca Records (Kiss) who would release both an LP with a singer adopting the Dazzler persona, and film a motion picture to go with it. John Romita Jr. was asked to design her, and he did so, in the vein of Grace Jones, “a very statuesque, international model with short hair.” Oh yeah, and that blue makeup mask. Did you ever make that connection with Kiss? She was eventually depicted as white because Bo Derek once expressed an interest in the projected film version.

As to feminism, Stan Lee came up with three titles the same day: NIGHT NURSE, THE CLAWS OF THE CAT and SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL, “cat-suited sexpots and jungle queens”. But the kicker is Wally Wood inking over Marie Severin’s pencils on THE CAT #1 “with the heroine’s clothes completely removed and Severin – who’d had more than her fill of boys’ club shenanigans over the years – had to white out the Cat’s nipples and pubic hair.”

Also: did you know that Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, Vaclav Havel and even Art Spiegelman were all on board to be published by Marvel at one point? And that, in a cost-cutting exercise, management once seriously suggested that Marvel Comics covers should be printed in only one colour?

Oh, there is so much here, including those lawsuits, and I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t spawn more. One of my favourite revelations was that in the first couple of years, during all Stan’s soapboxing about the Merry Marvel Bullpen, there wasn’t one! Oh, there had been a busy office life before and there would be again, but at the time Stan created the myth is was precisely that: a myth! Stan was virtually alone in the office, with his secretary Flo answering all the fan mail. You’ve got to hand it to Stan, he could weave a magnificent illusion.

Now, do you want to peer behind the curtain and smog-screen? You’ll laugh, I promise.


Buy Marvel Comics: The Untold Story s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: Year One s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Matt Smith & Simon Coleby…

Dredd had been on the streets close to a year. The academy had prepared him as best it could, but it was here where he’d learn what the city would throw at him, in all its strange varieties.

“Quite a haul, and it’s not even nine o’clock.”
“I’m an early riser.”
“Convenient. You can be in a cube by midday. Two years.”

Yes, this much more like it. After my disappointment at the rather tepid other recent IDW Judge Dredd title, it seems I am going to get what I wanted after all. A no-nonsense, not remotely played for laughs, sci-fi/crime mash up with a young Joe taking names and busting heads. I say not played for laughs, but as ever Dredd’s laid back, Jack Dee deadpan delivery of his lines always makes me chuckle. Instantly I am gripped like I’ve been sprayed with a can of Boing by the story Matt Smith has opened with, of normal juves suddenly exhibiting telekinetic powers, some of whom then deciding to take advantage of their new found abilities for the sort of behaviour you just don’t expect from fine upstanding citizens of the big Meg! Good job we’ve got a fresh, well marginally less granite faced, Dredd, only just out of the academy determined to take down any and all perps as hard as humanely possible.

As he starts to investigate in conjunction with the newly formed Psi Division, it becomes clear there’s something most strange indeed going on, and despite his intense distrust of anything outside his comfort zone, i.e. punching distance or Lawgiver range, he’ll grudgingly admit the Psi Judges’ unusual methods are going to be very necessary in his burgeoning crusade to clean up the streets.

This title, if it stays like this, is going to appeal to Dredd purists and sci-fi / crime buffs alike. I would have liked to see an even more lean, sinewy Dredd, as I remember from the very early days of 2000AD, but at least Simon Coleby hasn’t gone for the steroid abuser look you so often see Dredd portrayed as these days. He looks like he means business though, and when that business is cracking heads with your daystick, you certainly do need to look tough! An excellent first volume, no need to dispatch a Rigelian hotshot to IDW just yet…


Buy Judge Dredd: Year One s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.


Rage Of Poseidon h/c (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

Take Away! (£9-99, Blank Slate) by Lizz Lunney

Mara (£9-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Ming Doyle

Assassin’s Creed vol 4: Hawk h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

Assassin’s Creed vols 1-3: The Ankh Of Isis Trilogy h/c (£18-99, Titan) by Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 6: The Search Part 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Charley’s War vol 10: The End (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

Dark Satanic Mills (£12-99, Walker) by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick & John Higgins, Marc Olivent

Explorer vol 2: Lost Islands (£7-99, Amulet) by Kazu Kibuishi and chums

The Last Of Us s/c (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Druckmann & Faith Erin Hicks

Legend Of The Scarlet Blades Deluxe h/c Slipcase Edition (£37-99, Humanoids) by Saverio Tenuta

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates Disassembled s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Carmine Di Giandomenico

Uncanny Avengers vol 2: The Apocalypse Twins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Gerry Duggan & Daniel Acuna, Adam Kubert

Thor Vs. Thanos s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Jurgens & John Romita, Michael Ryan, Jerry Ordway, Jose Ladronn

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Claymore vol 23 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Magi vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

Bleach vol 58 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

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

My Neighbour Totoro Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki & various

Sankarea vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Mitsuru Hattori


ITEM! Absolutely atrocious. You won’t believe what you read. Retailers: never, EVER criticise a customer’s taste in comics! Customers pay your wages. This is beyond arrogant. It is sneering and horrible and harms everyone’s fun. This is all about fun!

ITEM! PRETTY DEADLY preview! Looks pretty tasty, huh? Well, it is very tasty indeed, with one of the most imaginative back-matter introductions I’ve ever read. So not only is that retailer an utter cock, but he has no taste in comics. PRETTY DEADLY #1 reviewed above.

ITEM! Jaime Hernandez illustrates deluxe edition of Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her. Feel free to order via or phone 0115 9508045.

ITEM! IN THE DARK comicbook horror anthology Kickstarter.

ITEM! This marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Page 45 Weekly Reviews so far published every single consecutive Wednesday without fail. Watch me bugger that up now!

Retail can be a highly unpredictable environment, particularly on New Comics Day. Which is a Wednesday, yes! So this unbroken record is little short of miraculous.

There are loads of deadlines that go on behind the scenes – orders, VAT returns, Nottingham Post reviews etc – but this is the most public and I think it’s important.

You should be able to rely on Page 45 for everything from shop-floor customer service and recommendations to prompt and perfectly packaged mail order and, for creators and distributors, payment on time. So it should be for our weekly reviews: you’d scream if Doctor Who didn’t air on its relevant Saturday!

Big love, then, to Jonathan (JR), Dominique (DK), formerly Tom (TR) and now Jodie Paterson (JP) for helping me keep this blog healthy, diverse and eloquent.

And just as much love to Jonathan for teaching me with ridiculous patience how to format these blogs including HTML coding, how to glean and load images, how to format those images, how to link other titles within each review to their relevant product page (and so review) and for sorting out all the little troubles that pop up along the way. And they do – trust me!

You really have no idea how much time and ingenuity Jonathan and Dominique put into sorting our tech (and mine!) so a round of applause is due. Also to Chris Dicken of Random River for the site’s solid foundations, initial instruction, and monthly tweaks and twirls.

It’s also the third anniversary of the website itself which, on materialisation, Kieron Gillen described as “crush-worthy”. I’ve never forgotten that.

Roll website credits: they do make me laugh!

Thank you for reading!

– Stephen (SLH)


To the photographer who made me climb the Robin Hood statue: I’m still sobbing.

Photos and feature in tomorrow’s Nottingham Post. 31/10/13 Halloween!

Reviews October 2013 week four

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013


At the time of typing Page 45 has an exclusive, swoonaway, signed bookplate drawn by Duncan Fegredo printed on lush watercolour stock. It’s limited to 150 copies, we’ve pre-sold 50 and then there’s the launch party signing on its very day of publication on Wednesday 23rd October (the day we are publishing this review) so I would be pretty swift about this, people!

 – Stephen on Hellboy: Midnight Circus

Lazarus vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.

Welcome to the near future.

The economy didn’t just collapse, it imploded taking countries, governments and old national borders with it. Now territories are ruled by those with the most money, for money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.

These are the Families for we’ve gone feudal again, and family feuds are what this book’s all about.

The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on loyal daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness, in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base.

But all is not well within the Family Carlyle. There are vipers in the proverbial nest who may indeed prove sharper than a Shakespearian serpent’s tooth just as it seem another Family is breaking their truce and attacking Carlyle assets so threatening a costly, all-out war. Lastly, there is a secret within the Family Carlyle that not all are privvy to, one which may prove their undoing.


Lord, how I love Michael Lark. He’s worked with Greg Rucka before on GOTHAM CENTRAL alongside Ed Brubaker, and Ed Brubaker’s run on DAREDEVIL. His forms are lithe, his shadows are sexy and brooding, not dissimilar to Sean Phillips’ on FATALE, and there’s plenty of penumbral here. His choreography is as slick as you like, vital for a book with so much close combat. Meanwhile the sunrises and sunsets coloured by Santi Arcas are rich in orange and purples

Greg Rucka has thought long and hard about the world he has built, both its economic and class structure, and the science which he has extrapolated from daily current breakthroughs. There is so much potential here for a series as long-form as SAGA, but don’t think book one is mere set-up. A family nest is a compact thing and in such close proximity secrets aren’t easily to hide.


Buy Lazarus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy Midnight Circus h/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo.

“But he wanted to be a real boy.”


At the time of typing Page 45 has an exclusive, swoonaway, signed bookplate drawn by Duncan Fegredo printed on lush watercolour stock. It’s limited to 150 copies, we’ve pre-sold 50 and then there’s the launch party signing on its very day of publication on Wednesday 23rd October (the day we are publishing this very review) so I would be pretty swift about this, people!

Shivers ran up my spine, tears welled up in my eyes. A gulp got stuck in my throat: I probably shouldn’t have been drinking.

1948 at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence, it’s late at night and quiet.

Scampering secretly through the sleepy, well appointed HQ, a very young Hellboy, his horns still intact, overhears himself being talked of as a terrible threat. It’s all there in the Visions & Revelations of one Arnot De Falvy:

“I saw a city, silent as a tomb, barren as dry bones, and the angel said, “This is Desolation”. And I went down into it and the only living thing there was the creature… In most ways it had the shape and character of a man and was not terrible to look upon… But then I saw in its right hand it held the key to the bottomless pit.”

So young Hellboy does what you would do at this covert equivalent of a boarding school: he runs away. And something is there to greet him, to entreat him, to seduce and reduce the poor boy to tears.

When the Midnight Circus first appears, the impact is halting. Young Hellboy crouches overlooking through a dry-stone wall the valley the circus’ gigantic tent has been erected in. He’s inked in Fegredo’s Mingola-inspired trademark stark shadows, whereas the circus itself is swathed in misty, miasmatic watercolours as will be everything that transpires within. It’s mesmerising.

And, oh, what the young boy discovers inside. Whom the young Hellboy discovers inside! SPOILERS!

Have you read Pinnochio?

There is so much to commend this graphic, not least of all Duncan Fegredo’s swoonaway art. Long have I compared his gesticulations, dramatically angled wrists and hefty, heavy, laden hands to the mighty French sculptor Rodin. That’s not something I do lightly. But here it suddenly struck me how similar his women are to that of FATALE’s Sean Phillips. And also those washes, as evidenced in our bookplate.

You wait until you see the sunken Galleon.

If you’ve never read HELLBOY before in your life, this is the perfect introduction. It will leave you with questions, yes, but then you have a whole library to explore, all in print and in stock right here, right now.

Mignola has built up a legend which is why this works so well. There has been foreshadowing aplenty and this is another key part of the puzzle.

You’re just a young lad. All you want to do is what’s best, especially as you grow up. Okay, you shouldn’t have had that smoke, you shouldn’t have made that joke and maybe you shouldn’t have run away. But they are your decisions, surely? They can’t affect anyone else.

“Oh, my boy… what have you done?”


Buy Hellboy Midnight Circus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Looking Out (£3-99, Hic & Hoc) by Philippa Rice.


Quiet and eerie, this mystery in space almost echoes with melancholy.

On a world that may well be our own but whose landscape is now rigged to the rafters with all manner of spheres, transport systems and other automatic processes, a young women called Lori waits in a crowd for the elevator to come. She looks up and sighs. The building like most is over 2,000 feet tall so no one uses the elevator.

She decides to use the elevator.

That’s how she meets Daniel who reluctantly decides to join her. It’s quite the treck. When they stop to take a breather Lori still has forty-six more floors to while Daniel and fifty. When, after a great deal of mutual encouragement, Lori reaches her door she gives Daniel her number so he can let her know when he’s made it. They begin to text each other, Daniel tentatively, Lori confidently, but when he asks her if she wants to meet up she tells him she’s heading off into space on a work trip.

“Annoying, sorry. – Lori x”

It transpires that this isn’t the first distant voyage and it probably won’t be the last for a very long time to come. Why?

From the creator of ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON, MY CARDBOARD LIFE, RECYCLOST and – just in! – WE’RE OUT (all signed and sketched in at the time of typing), this will come as a complete surprise, for it is like nothing you’ve seen or felt from Philippa Rice before. It may be black and white line drawing (with grey tone), but it’s still radically different from SOPPY and SOPPY #2 except perhaps for the rosy cheeks and the protagonist’s body form.

The constructions and flora both on and off-world are genuinely alien, with a molten highway hyperstream that cold have been devised by Jack Kirby – I love it when she leaves it – and a cityscape that put me in mind of early Simon Gane. There’s another comparison I’m reaching for that Mark would have been able to put his finger on instantly, but it’s all as brilliantly bizarre in its own way as Yuichi Yokayama’s GARDEN.

As to the sense of space, planetside, and when Lori’s exploring a new world, diligently and undaunted by being the only living creature for what may well be light years, it is vast in spite for being far from empty. And that’s a pretty neat trick to pull off.

This, from American publishers HIC & HOC, was up for an Ignatz Award. Because we had to import it directly from them quantities for this, as for the HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOUR VOL 2: THE UNITED KINGDOM curated by Lizz Lunney and Joe List, are strictly limited. There will be no restocks, so please hurry!


Buy Looking Out and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin: Comic Strips vol 8 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson.

“I never thought it was so difficult to get wrecked.”

I seem to have no trouble at all.

The Moomin family, however, are struggling to sink their ship. There’s no wind to speak of to bash their boat against the rocks, and the only rocks they can find are far too submerged. There’s not even a decent sandbank in sight.

Only the Moomins would want to beach themselves, but why? Because of their thirst for adventure! It’s what sets so many of their stories en route to delirious disaster: Moominpapa is an insatiable pioneer plus once Moomintroll gets a bee in his bonnet – or an idea into his hippo-like head – he cannot let go, inevitably dragging poor Snorkmaiden along with him while Moominmamma dutifully follows behind, picking up the pieces. She’s rather like Gerald Durrell’s mother in the likes of Birds, Beasts And Relatives, isn’t she?

This time young Moomintroll has become obsessed with Robinson Crusoe, but it’s not just the concept of shipwrecked survival, it’s the very letter of its lore that must be obeyed. They must take everything with them that Robinson Crusoe took, even if it fell to the bottom on the sea like lead and so wasn’t even used.

“Now where shall I get three kegs of gun-powder and ten muskets?”

Once safely shipwrecked Snorkmaiden forages for food leaving Moomintroll to ham-act delirious then despair (it’s all in the book) and drive them all mental with his strict judgements of what other modes of behaviour are or are not genuinely Crusoeish.

I remember my best friend Anita, post-punk to the core, indulging in a packet of peanuts inNottingham’s Dragon Inn. She wore the most beautiful, arm-length, black silk gloves into which she nonchalantly poured the salted contents before picking them off her palm one by one. “NOT terribly gothic!” she said with a moment-relishing smile.

Lars Jansson not only pillories Moomintroll’s manic behaviour but the book itself in which Mr Crusoe Esq failed to fish though surrounded by sea, and never once took a walk around the island.

“He didn’t? How stupid, he might have found anything!”
“But look, he might have found people! He might have been rescued before enough had happened to fill more than a few pages!”
“That’s true.”

As to the cartooning, it’s an exuberant as ever and I loved the strip (for these graphic novels are composed of single-line strips) after which, having irritated the Captain of a ship he’s stowed away on (one that looks rickety enough to sink) with his overenthusiastic pessimism, he sabotages the submerged hull by drilling right through it. The sailors hoist Moomintroll over their heads, pressing him to the top of the ceiling which of course is the panel border itself, and Moomintroll pulls his weight down on it, so wrinkling the very border.

All of which is the tip of the iceberg (which would have been handy): a quick and skinny dip into the first dozen pages. Do enjoy the rest!

[The cover colours as shown are gorgeous, but I’d argue the virtually day-glo orange Drawn & Quarterly have substituted on the spine is even more delicious. It’s turned it into a lemon and tangerine mousse and looks very tasty in our window on these darker days.]


Buy Moomin: Comic Strips vol 8 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Great War: An Illustrated Panorama Of July 1, 1916: The First Day Of The Battle Of The Somme h/c Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.

I love my comp copies! Originally previewed a few months ago thus:

Clever, clever, clever.

Spectacular, but also clever.

By “spectacular” I mean this accordion-style hardcover folds out into a seamless, ridiculously detailed 24-foot-long panorama silently detailing the events which led up to the Battle Of The Somme, before launching into the offensive itself on July 1st, 1916.

“Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted a few months later.”

It’s clever because although there are no panel borders which leaves the landscape to bleed unstaunched over each successive page, it is nonetheless a comic: it tells the story in precisely the same way with the passage of time represented by space travelled by the eye from left to right.

It kicks off, of course, in the perfect calm and safe, sequestered splendour of General Haig’s personal HQ, the Château de Beaurepaire, where every morning he takes a stroll round the grounds and then, in the afternoons, enjoys a spot of horse-riding escorted by the 17th Lancers. All very orderly. Jolly good!

Gradually the troops who actually have to do the fighting arrive (and by “fighting” I mean charge like sitting ducks onto an open battlefield to be blown to smithereens), along with the heavy artillery, crates of ammunition and fresh supplies. It’s starting to get rather crowded but it’s still lovely and sunny with birds and bi-planes breezing across the sky above open fields, lush coppices and bucolic churches. Look, here comes the infantry, all jovial and jaunty, snaking between officers puffing on pipes and queuing outside a make-shift mess while cannons are being loaded and – yeah…

Welcome to the trenches.

The next sequence is particularly impressive, the shadow of night passing over the miles of maze lit only from the occasional bunker below and explosions in the distance – explosions which, as the sun rises, are growing terrifyingly nearer, obliterating first the horizon then those careering over the top. Suddenly the landscape is no longer flat but pocked with craters, a million man-made volcanoes spewing earth and entrails into the air in a pointlillistic inferno. I think you can guess where it ends.

Every step of the way, Sacco’s art remains perfectly clear and balanced. He does lead the eye but never impedes it which, given the detail and chaos unfolding, is absolutely remarkable. Also, you have to admire the ingenuity with which he brings the background of the battlefield forward by curving the frontline trenches under the bottom edge of the page, so bringing us over the top as well. It recedes behind ruins and the military policemen arresting any soldier leaving the trenches without permission.

If you’re wondering how I know some of these opening and closing details, a 16-page booklet is enclosed which includes an author’s note, an introduction by Adam Hochschild and a reproduction of the plates along the bottom of the pages annotated with these details by Joe Sacco himself.

I honestly believe this will be massive. Well, it is massive: it’s 24 feet long – you could use it as infant’s playroom dado. Give them some crayons to colour it in! However, figure its quality, the anniversary of WWI and the vast numbers of Page 45 customers buying presents for their dads and granddads and – when asked what their relatives are interest in – telling us that both generations are obsessed with war, well, this is what it’s good for: respectfully expressed and powerfully produced protest art.


Buy The Great War: An Illustrated Panorama Of July 1, 1916: The First Day Of The Battle Of The Somme h/c Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

The Weirdo Years h/c (£19-99,Knockabout) by Robert Crumb.

“People make me nervous.”

Having just retweeted about the phrase “not my thing” and its attempt to diffuse any potential argument and stifle meaningful discussion, I now commit that very crime, for this is very far from my thing. I’ve always enjoyed MR NATURAL and FRITZ THE CAT but, these amazing colour covers aside, a lot of this is far too “heavy” for me. And if you can find a more evasive word than that, good on you.

There plenty of exceptions like ‘Where Has It Gone, All The Beautiful Music Of Our Grandparents?’ in which Crumb laments both the lost age and what was then the present – the New Wave movement he couldn’t abide. He rages at its ubiquity imposed on him in public (oh, how many times did I hear that back then!) but summons a character sympathetic to his alienation who nonetheless challenges his dismissiveness and anger. It’s an autobiographical exploration of Crumb’s ambivalent frustration, hating what he hears yet knowing he shouldn’t get so exasperated and intolerant.

Plus the whole of WEIRDO is highly regarded by those with much bigger brains than I, so I leave you with one such authority, the publisher.

“All Crumb’s work from his very influential WEIRDO magazine. Considered to be some of his best ever work.

WEIRDO was a magazine-sized comics anthology created by Robert Crumb in 1981, which ran for 28 issues. It served as a “low art” counterpoint to its contemporary highbrow Raw. Early issues of Weirdo reflect Crumb’s interests at the time – outsider art, fumetti, Church of the SubGenius-type anti-propaganda and assorted “weirdness.” With issue #10, Crumb later handed over the editing reins to Peter Bagge; with issue #18, the reins went to Crumb’s wife, cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. The three editorial tenures were known respectively as “Personal Confessions,”  “Coming of the Bad Boys,” and  “Twisted Sisters.”

“The incredibly varied stories include TV Blues, Life of Boswell, People Make me Nervous, The Old Songs are the Best Songs, Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis, Kraft Ebbing’s’ Psycopathia Sexualis, Goldilocks, The Life of Philip K Dick, and many more. Also within are several photo strip stories featuring Crumb himself and various of his trademark well-built women including his wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb in tales such as Get in Shape and Unfaithful Husband.

“Includes all his stunning covers from all 28 issues.”


Buy The Weirdo Years h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Colder vol 1 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra.

“These dogs don’t care about fear. You can be as afraid as you want. Just don’t smell insane.”


No really, this mental: it’s all about madness and Juan Ferreyra has done a bang-up job of illustrating the impossible, the irrational, the terrible, the physically transitional and all that should be glimpsed from but the corner of your eye.

Once something is seen, it cannot be unseen and therein lies of the peril of a poor, altruistic nurse who took in and cared for a cold, comatose patient abandoned by all after being passed on from one institute to the other, ever obliterating evidence of the long and winding road that brought him to the present from Sansid Asylum, Massachusetts in 1941.

Oh, there are drug trials today, but you volunteer for those. However, there is a long, well documented history that has recently come to light of American authorities conducting drug trials on its black population, plus we all know how those certified insane (or, you know, merely pregnant when out of wedlock) have been treated over the years. When institutionalised, your recourse is virtually non-existent, your vulnerability high. Safety standards: nil.

So what happened to Declan Thomas all those years ago? Who or what is Nimble Jack, the Joker-like japester who can drive a man mad? How can Declan cure them? What is the cost? And what will happen to Nurse Reece Talbot, stuck in the middle, whose only crime was to love a lad insane?

Expect extended food metaphors, a back-up feature on the somewhat striking cover, plus a great deal to worry about.

“What the hell are you?”
“I’m hungry.”


Buy Colder vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hinterkind #1 (£2-25, Vertigo) by Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli.

I don’t want to give the game away, but the opening sequence veers swiftly from ominous to totally sublime to completely ridiculous! Funny, though – and you’re supposed to laugh.

Thanks to Francesco Trifogli, this is the most beautiful apocalypse you will ever behold, and well worth the sacrifice of what we laughably call “humanity”. Nature has reclaimed even New York City: verdant, fully formed trees blooming atop its tallest skyscrapers – vast, billowing clouds of lush, leafy green. The roots have… caused damage.

“Calling it the end of the world was a conceit. The world kept ticking on just fine, it was humanity that took the hit. Seven months from top of the food chain to endangered species.
“Mother Nature breathed a sigh of relief. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “Fish and house guests smell after three days”. By extension, after three hundred thousand years, we’d really stunk up the place.”

There are still some of us left, though, hunting with bows and arrows – loin cloths thankfully absent. No, I don’t mean we’re naked, which is just as well for one of our cast. I won’t be telling you why. Small numbers of survivors have built a village in Central Park, its relatively formal parkland repurposed for agriculture. There are also stockades scattered across America in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis, for example. Or at least, there were. They’ve recently gone radio silent, though their channels are still open. The most recent to fall but a few hours earlier was Albany.

Against everyone else’s better judgement their resident doctor, Asa, has determined to make the two-month round-trip to Albany to find out what became of their friends, with Angus and Asa’s accomplished hunter and grand-daughter, Prosper, in quick pursuit. They’re moving fast because something is now hunting them. As to what lies ahead… nice punchline.

It’s a refreshing change to see a post-disaster world so lush even if it hides some pretty grim secrets. It’s not The Last Of Us, but that’s set standards that are impossible to beat and the opening double-page spread here will make you gasp. This isn’t a zombie comic – I should make that quite clear. The enemies within are much more colourful and come in all shapes and sizes.

Many thanks to Francesco for the nicely played, beautifully drawn page of semi-nudity (male). People should knock before entering.


Buy Hinterkind #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Kree / Skrull War s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Neal Adams.

An absolute classic and oh, my days, but the extras! Twelve pages of gorgeous Neal Adams pencils taken from AVENGERS #93 (‘Journey To The Centre Of The Android’ etc.) and five additional pages of uncoloured excellence toned and inked by Tom Palmer, the last of which originally depicted Rick Jones with six fingers! Roy Thomas’ note to production read, “Rick has six fingers here; please take off, as carefully as possible, whichever one you feel will be missed the least.” Alas, this is the post-production page! There’s also a gallery of covers used for previous reprints formats though I’m delighted to see they have opted this time to merely recolour the majestic cover to #92.

Not exactly recoloured as colour-corrected (eliminating a couple of misplaced yellows and filling in the formerly dotted blues and flesh tones), this new h/c printing kicks off with four issues of enormously sexist silliness drawn by Sal with The Avengers reduced to The Vision, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. And yes, this is where that oddest of Marvel relationships kicks off with The Vision discovering that not only can an android cry, but he can also love and is quite prepared to beat a bastard to death because of it. That scene, which I probably wasn’t alone in being stunned by at the time, comes later during the Neal Adams climax.

Clint Barton has swapped his bow and arrow as Hawkeye for Hank Pym’s growth serum as bare-skinned muscle-and-metal Goliath, whilst Captain America, Thor and Iron Man return to find they’ve managed to disband The Avengers. How could they?! They didn’t. Nor was it a group of three cows that shot down the Vision. Well, not exactly. We’re going waaay back to earliest days of the FANTASTIC FOUR.

Mar-Vell (Captain), Rick Jones, Ant-Man, The Inhumans and Carol Danvers are also caught up in the war raging above and so below, whilst the public are incited into anti-alien lynch mobs by political opportunism, scare-mongering and imprisonment-without-trial in a McCarthy-esque witch-hunt that will be as all too horribly familiar to modern Americans as it would have been at the time to those who’d witnessed or even endured the U.S. internment camps for the resident Japanese during World War II.

By which point Neal Adams has taken over the art, and it becomes pure, purple-prose, neo-classical gold! With the Vision in a coma after his bovine beating, Ant-Man is called on to shrink even further than ever in order to navigate what passes for the android’s blood stream only to be assaulted as an alien entity by anti-bodies. Superbly visualised by Adams, but that’s just the beginning: the sheer scale of Goliath bashing on a spaceship; Triton emerging from the Hudson, his gloved left hand the very model of foreshortening; and the ever-impassive Vision losing his cool for the first and worst time ever in search of his beloved Wanda:

“Vision – stop! Your android strength — ! You’ll kill him! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
“Another correction, Iron Man: my brain is a miniaturised, high-speed computer. I always know precisely what I am doing. I – AM – KILLING – HIM!”


Buy Avengers Kree / Skrull War s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.


The Park h/c (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by Oscar Zarate

Adventure Time vol 2 Mathematical Edition h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Stephanie Gonzaga, Mike Holmes

ERF h/c (£10-99, 2 Badgers And Spitfire) by Garth Ennis & Rob Steen

Fables Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Jess Nevins, Bill Willingham & various including Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Joao Ruas, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha

Judge Dredd: Year One s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Matt Smith & Simon Coleby

Marvel Comics The Untold Story s/c (£10-99, Harper) by Sean Howe

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 1 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

My Little Pony: Pony Tales vol 1 s/c (£14-99, IDW) by various

Simpsons: Simps-O-Rama (£8-99, Titan) by various

Triton Of The Sea vol 1 (£14-99, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka

Batgirl vol 2: Knightfall Descends s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Ardian Syaf, Ed Benes, Vicente Cifuentes

Batgirl vol 3: Death Of The Family h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gail Simone, Ray Fawkes & Daniel Sampere, Ed Benes

Suicide Squad vol 3: Death Is For Suckers s/c (£10-99, DC) by Adam Glass & Henrik Jonsson, Sandau Florea

Age Of Ultron (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, others & Bryan Hitch, others

Avengers vol 3: Infinity Prelude h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Mike Deodato Jr., Stefano Caselli

Journey Into Mystery (featuring Lady Sif) vol 2: Seeds Of Destruction s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kathryn Immonen & Pepe Larraz, Valerio Schiti

Thanos Rising (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi

Thor God Of Thunder vol 2: Godbomb (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Butch Guice, Esad Ribic

Super Crooks vol 1: The Heist s/c (£12-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu

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

Hayate Combat Butler vol 22 (£6-99, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata

Juicy Cider (£9-99, June) by Rize Shinba

Priceless Honey (£9-99, June) by Shiuko Kano

Sankarea vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Mitsuru Hattori

Sankarea vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Mitsuru Hattori


ITEM! Fantagraphics have an extensive preview of Jim Woodring’s new FRAN!

ITEM! Just found a new tumblr to swoon over. If you love Japanese-influenced art (I mean, traditional Japanese), this one’s for you! You can follow its creator on Twitter as @pintendo64

ITEM! Page 45 announces signed bookplate editions from the publisher of PORCELAIN which sold 100 copies at Page 45 in 10 days. BUTTERFLY GATE from the creators of PORCELAIN limited to 50 copies’ KNIGHT & DRAGON limited strictly to 20 copies. We expect both to be sold out before publication, so please pre-order now!

ITEM! Right then, we should probably have a signing now. I wonder if Duncan Fegredo’s free?

– Stephen

Reviews October 2013 week three

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

As I always say to people, it would be a very boring world if we all liked the same things.

Except peace, obviously: everyone liking peace would probably be a good thing. And liking John Porcellino. If I just had to pick one I probably would go with peace, though.

Sorry, John…

 – Jonathan on Treasury Of Mini Comics vol 1 h/c

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg.

In the beginning there was a boy and a girl and they loved each other very much.

She lived at the South Pole, he came from the North, and they do say that opposites attract. Unfortunately due to a small, inexplicable quirk of physics they found they couldn’t touch. Even the wise Shaman of the south couldn’t explain it, but the girl believed so profoundly in the overwhelming power of their love – that it could conquer all – that they married all the same. They slept together yet kept apart, finding a way to feel the warmth of each other.

“Each morning they would get up and swap sides of the bed. That way they could lay their heads in the impression the other had made in the pillow. And for a few fleeting moments, until the pillows cooled and the warmth faded, it was almost as though they were holding each other.”

Have you ever read anything more romantic in your life? Isabel draws a ghost of the couple holding each other between the reality of their separately sleeping selves. It’s all right if you want to cry.

“So the days became weeks, and the weeks became years, and still the magnetic force did not relent. They spent hours staring into each other’s eyes. And yet still they could not so much as brush fingertips.”

So instead, during the freezing cold nights, they tell each other stories into small hours of the morning. And this is the story that the man tells his wife, beginning with the Three Sisters Of Summer Island…

Of course, that wasn’t the beginning at all. It was just how this story began and what follows is a series of stories within stories – some of which you may find strangely familiar – which explain how the world came to be, how the man came to the woman and, oh yes, that strange quirk of physics which proves no mere quirk at all!

The irony of it all is that the two genuine lovers find themselves if not poles apart then at least a good foot or two, whereas so much of what follows involves rival siblings who should love each other causing so much conflict through competition. Kid and Kiddo are the funniest. They’re the children of the Eagle God BirdMan who forbids them to interfere with mortals (so you know what inevitably happens) yet takes great delight himself in the plight of two brothers, Dag and Hal, which won’t end well at all – not for them or for an entire population for hundreds of years to come.

“We can have some fun with this.”

… says the Eagle God Birdman, staring down at the world through his scrying pool which happens to be one of several bathtubs.

It’s all so wonderfully absurd, like the agoraphobic Mapmaker who entrusts his cartography to monkeys. Also, Greenberg takes great delight in puncturing the solemnity of her epic storytelling with modern mischief, as when the Nords are invaded by pillaging, helmeted Strangers who high-five each other…

“Lads lads lads! Waaaay!”

… before repelling them…

“Oh bloody Hell! Run, lads!”

As to the art, it is a joy, joy, joy. Initially and instinctively I thought of EPILEPTIC’s David B, but it has a far lighter touch and its roots go much further back to the early days of print when naturalistic perspective had either been lost or abandoned and figures were far more representational. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for the landscapes here are bursting with folklore character and the quality cream stock does it all full justice. Also, I am big fan of water and there is water, water everywhere, either in inky darkness or washed in blue with some of the most beautiful ripples I have ever beheld. Overwhelmingly Isabel goes light on the colours so that when they’re deployed in deepest scarlet or a light, cornfield yellow they really make their presence felt.

This is an astonishing debut, and the best graphic novel I’ve read so far this year. Normally I pronounce this rather recklessly in March but hey, you know, it’s October.

In summary what you’re in for is an epic journey and a great many struggles in the wake of adversity – a lot of which come from on high: gods interfering with mortals as ever it was in the legends of Greek mythology, SANDMAN etc. You’ll read so many tall tales, some of which provide currency, others proving life-savers, each told with such charm, warmth, humour and authority that I believe every single one of them! Even those about Kid and Kiddo who, inadvertently, created the world we all live in.

“We’re so awesome I basically can’t cope!”

You wait until Dad finds out.


Buy The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tiny Pencil (£14-99, Tiny Empire Publishing) by Amber Hsu, Lizz Lunney, Kristyna Baczynski, Katie Green, Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, many, many more.

Thrilling box of magical moments in the form of mini-comics, coloured pencils, dice “plus stickers, secrets and surprises!”

The three mini-comics ‘Mammals’, ‘Martians’ and ‘Monsters’ feature stories, ditties, puzzles, games, colour-by-command, pages to fold and primates to pimp. (Please note: Jordan Carter’s Tarsier may not be a primate – it’s one of those cute, cuddly little things which cling to trees at night – but it sure could use added bling.)

This is oh so much fun – and completely bananas!

There’s another science and philosophy lesson on energy particles and inky bloaters from Professor Lizz Lunney (PhD: Pudding). Also, top tips on human etiquette for Martian explorers of Earth and a similar set of recommendations / prohibitions should you rock the Red Planet yourself.

“Do: be friendly + polite.”
“Don’t: take them to your leader.”

You won’t thank yourself if you do.

You can marvel at Kristyna Baczynski’s ‘Menagerie of Mammals’ (then get stuck in with those colour crayons), and I loved Kate Hindley’s saga of the stolen sausage hidden amongst fairground felines. Gary Northfield starts out semi-serious on his Mud Larking expedition along the banks of the Thames (you can scavenge anything you like but not look under rocks; apparently you need a license for that), but quickly devolves into his trademark lunacy when challenging you to find six specific artefacts like a loose tooth or the Sword of Solomon. You’ll be looking for cloven babies next.

Finally for now (hey, there would be no secrets if I shared everything), Sarah McIntyre wades in with a ‘Design Your Own Monster’, suggesting possible skin features like spotty, hairy, scaly, oozy, leafy and tartan. Tattoos seem equally far-fetched but better to try them out on a monster first rather than head straight down to your local parlour blind-drunk.

If you want to explore this properly at the counter, please do so! Seeing is believing, and even then you won’t believe what you see!


Buy Tiny Pencil and read the Page 45 review here

Palookaville #21 (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth…

“When complaints arise, do I handle them cheerfully and quickly?”

Excellent triple-header from the creator of WIMBLEDON GREEN, GEORGE SPROTT and THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS, those latter two being Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months.

PALOOKAVILLE has always been Seth’s forum for public musing and showing off the contents of his sketchbook. Along the way the opener, Clyde Fans part four, has become a regular, portraying as it does the steady decline of a Abraham Matchcard and his business empire, both through the inevitable changes occurring in manufacturing industries and the retail sector, and also through the inability of Abraham to adapt. He knows he’s a dinosaur, he can see extinction coming, but he’s still going through the motions. It’s classic Seth, a master at spinning drama out of the downbeat, and even squeezing a little comedic relief out too, though usually at a protagonist’s expense.

Second up is a rather charming excerpt from his rubber stamp diary. Starting with about ten different designs, he now has at least thirty different rubber stamps which he lays out in a two-by-four grid, then embellishes with mainly inner dialogue to form his entries. Very cleverly done and I can see why, having suggested it as an idea to Ivan Brunetti, he instantly regretted it and claimed it for his own!

The closer is a nostalgic and unashamedly sentimental auto-biographical tale from his younger days, recalling a relatively difficult-at-times childhood, which the older Seth reflects upon, honest enough to explain for our benefit how those events went on to shape the man he is today. It is very much in the vein of IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN and will probably leave you feeling a touch sad and wistful; I know it did me.


Buy Palookaville #21 and read the Page 45 review here

Battling Boy (£10-99 s/c, £18-99 h/c, First Second) by Paul Pope…

“Regard, child. What do you see below?”
“… I see a humongous city under siege, father.”
“Indeed, yea… a city and a siege. How grim, they call this city Acropolis. Her vast city walls hugging mountain and glen from sea to sea. A city the size of the land itself! Grim for now a plague of monstrosities pours down upon her, battering her buttresses under abusive burden.”
“A monstrous city – overrun with monsters?”
“… AYE! Sadly, it is not the first.”
“What will become of them father?”
“… Oh, it is the old story… the humans will lose, their bloodlines reduced to dust… thirsty, weedy brambles will break the paving stones of smitten streets. The four horsemen will have their day.”
“That is unless you succeed.”
“Huh? Wait, you… you don’t mean… I… I…”
“AYE!!! I MEAN, AYE! AYE! This scattered scene of fervent calamity… is to be the theatre of your passing stage, aye!”
“Man is no match for the monsters, it is why we have come. Acropolis needs her hero. Thus, do your labours before you lie…”
“But… but when I woke up this morning I didn’t know that, and… I mean, I can’t stay here ‘cuz I don’t have any of my stuff with me.”
“Yes… we’ve seen to that.”

You will believe that a man can die. Gasp, no, please say it’s not true, not the invincible Haggard West, scourge of monsters and protector of the good folk of Acropolis! Who can possibly save them now?!! Enter a twelve old demigod whose parents have decided a little solo holiday to Acropolis might be just what’s required to toughen him up a bit. Packed off with nothing more than a few t-shirts, each bearing a design of a different animal… and being the secret source of his wondrous powers… he quickly finds himself battling the bad guys and lauded as the city’s new saviour. His name?

“ARCO-LAD!!? What’s this?! My name is Battling Boy!!”
“Yes… we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that… we’ve done some focused market research, and…
“Focused what?”
“… “Battling Boy” is perhaps a bit too drastic, too violent for your target demographic. Arco-Lad is a fine name! Distinguished, civic-minded, unique!”
“It’s a stupid name.”
“It’s catchy! It’ll look good on merchandise. You must consider these things now, Arco-Lad. You’re a public hero.”

Sheesh, Bruce Wayne never had to put up with being told what to call himself by local politicians and their attendant PR busy-bodies. And whilst having a thunder god for a father might at least prepare you a little in the smashing monsters department, dealing with bureaucracy and red tape is an entirely different matter! Ah, Paul Pope, I always forget he’s not just a brilliant artist, but a fantastic writer too. In fact I’m going to stick my neck out and make a bold statement now. I think, given BATTLING BOY is intended to be an ongoing work, if he can actually keep turning it out on at least a semi-regular basis (THB anyone?), this could well turn out to be his magnum opus. He’s clearly given a lot of thought to what his vision for it is, I just hope he can maintain his own interest, because he’s certainly going to capture everyone else’s. Near perfection.


Buy Battling Boy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Battling Boy H/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 4: Monstrous Holiday h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

Oh my days, just look at this beautiful burgundy cover! Swoon at the silver ink on the inside and out! Then cast your eyes back on the other the library editions of COURTNEY CRUMRIN’s impetuous exploits! The new designs are consistent and flawless, finally befitting the quality of what lies within.

You’ll find the previous three instalments reviewed at length and in depth. This deserves no less but I have Katie Green’s LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW to read and review in the next week, I am a very slow reader, and it is as enormous as it looks beautiful.

I leave you then with the highest commendation you could possibly conjure in your own magnificent minds, and the words of our Tom when this fourth series first started:

“The first stop on Uncle Aloysius & Courtney’s jaunt around Europe finds them in Romania as the unexpected guests of Professor Alexi Markovic and her daughter, Magda. Embroiled in a love triangle between her betrothed – the boorish and rich Petru – and Jan, a warm-hearted gypsy violinist, Magda is a torn woman, fighting for her dignity in the day, while at night her suitors fight as hunter and… wolf? Ted Naifeh explores the classic horror motifs with a depth and originality rarely seen these days. This is a classic cautionary tale of romance and tragedy, using the folklore and myth of Eastern Europe to send a chill down your spine rather than a gore-splattered, plotless shock factor most comics pertaining to be horror rely on. Did I mention Naifeh’s beautiful art? Or that this, like all the COURTNEY CRUMRIN books, is suitable for children?”


Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 4: Monstrous Holiday h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Shaolin Cowboy vol 2 #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow.

There is something so moving about seeing a comicbook legend long-lost and lamented return at the very top of her or his game.

Geof (one ‘f’) Darrow was the artist on Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED, a series so ancient, pre-Page 45, that it was never reviewed. His clean line and detail rivals even that of the great George Pérez, but with far more gore and a much wider sense of space. I used one of the panels from HARD BOILED in the Page 45 15th Anniversary Booze Bash quiz, so high is my admiration for the man and so long has his art endured in my memory.

So what is this?

This is the comicbook equivalent of one those enormously enjoyable and equally improbable kung-fu classics starring the likes of Jackie Chan, and that ingenious acrobat is referenced here. I, however, would contend that any cinematic version of this virtually silent, stop-and-gawp slice-and-dice-athon is more likely to star the dour Beat Takeshi. It’s that left-field.

Forget the insane, two-page prose introduction (funny, though), and ignore the fact that an amphibian frog inherently quite partial to water is highly unlikely to be sitting on a menhir in the middle of an oh-so-arid dessert! Relish instead the resurrection of the Shaolin Cowboy who has literally clawed his way back through the earth from Hell, bringing with him woefully attendant and decidedly persistent, pugilistic zombies. Good job there’s a bamboo pole enhanced with a chainsaw at each end. Shame there’s a car full of carelessly bigoted wastrels heading in his direction. Or is it? *smirks*


Some of the best choreography ever in comics, and a concrete lesson warning you against using the word “gay” as a lazy pejorative. Seriously: don’t do it! The Shaolin Cowboy will show you why.

Please note: actual cover coloured differently. (Better, more naturalistic, in darker tones.)


Buy The Shaolin Cowboy vol 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Death Sentence #1 of 6 (£2-99, Titan) by Montynero & Mike Dowling.

“Brilliant! Genuinely original.” – Mark Millar

Bang, bang, bang: dazzling debut from Montynero IF YOU ARE OVER 15! If you’re under 16 then please move along, nothing to see here, it was rubbish.

Three young, disparate individuals have just contract the G-Plus virus: Verity, Weasel and Monty.

There is currently no cure for the G-Plus virus and within six months they will all inevitably die. If there’s a silver lining to their situation it’s that, give or take extreme mood swings, the symptoms are a lot kinder than any other virus known to man: they will begin to experience increased energy, physical fitness and a variety of metahuman abilities. On the negative side, this makes them a target for both the British Intelligence and military.

Verity’s the most vulnerable because her readings are off the scale and nobody knows who she is. Oh, she’s a graphic designer – or she was (see mood swings; they’re terribly funny and her abusive boss gets the brunt of it) – but Monty is a smug-as-fuck media personality who knows how to play the game while Weasel is a talentless and so successful musician. Plus his PR people really know how to milk his wretched, risibly unproductive ass:

“How much is this sonic diarrhoea costing us?”
“Erm… £6000 a day.”
“Pull the plug.”
“OK… what do we do instead?”
“Well… we’ve done the supermodel… the blood stunts… prison… collaborations… a covers album… and reforming the old band. So the only fresh angle is the G+ virus.”
“He has developed some skills… though nothing reliable or useful yet.”
“Who cares! Just spin his ‘G+ Hell’ to the tabloids. How’s demand for the Valedictory Tour?”
“Strong. There’s an army of numpties buying into the ‘Misunderstood Genius’ crap who’d basically pay to watch him take a dump on the stage.”
“They have, actually.”

That’s about as much as I can quote and I will leave all the paranormal manifestations to surprise you.  They certainly shock the hell out of everyone in attendance.

Mike Dowling lets rip with wild gesticulations like a young Duncan Fegredo, while Montynero packs every page with immaculately thought-through ramifications, far from gratuitous profanity but the most blasphemous use of a crucifix I can conceive of! Most impressive of all so far is the trajectory of libertine wastrel Weasel and his outrageous self-indulgence: boozing, reckless sex and – it transpires – some very dodgy connections. He is, however, deliciously undaunted even in the wake of extreme adversity.

A six-month death sentence during which you will feel better than ever, physically: what would you do?


Buy Death Sentence #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Treasury Of Mini Comics vol 1 h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by various, edited by Michael Dowers…

Huge selection of minis which, being truthful, vary as much in quality as they do in style.

Arranged loosely by decade chronologically from 1969 through to the current day, there are some genuine nuggets of pure gold in there from the likes of John Porcellino, Roberta Gregory, Marc Bell, Ron Rege Jr. and Carrie McNinch, but also some stuff that I glossed over rather. As a potted history of mini comics it certainly works, mind you, which is probably the point, and Michael Dowers has done an excellent job editing it all together.

Possibly not the selection I would personally assemble to showcase that homespun segment of our industry in all its glory. But on the other hand mini-comics and self-published material is also probably the part of comics which most divides opinion over what is actually good and what is not. But as I always say to people, it would be a very boring world if we all liked the same things.

Except peace, obviously: everyone liking peace would probably be a good thing. And liking John Porcellino. If I just had to pick one I probably would go with peace, though.

Sorry, John…


Buy Treasury Of Mini Comics vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gyo vol 1 New Edition (£7-50, Viz) by Junji Ito –

The walking fish of Okinawa have moved out of the city and are all over Japan and possibly the rest of the world. The parasite clenched to the underside of the fish, powered by the noxious gas that boils in their stomachs, wants new converts; it want human beings. This is the situation that Tadashi finds when he wakes up at the hospital. His beloved Kaori is dead but her bloated body still runs a strange, biomechanical machine. Somewhere out there, he hopes, is the answer to this terrible blight on the land. So he searches.

While not as beautifully constructed as UZUMAKI, this is still an excellent fix for gorehounds and lovers of twisted horror tales. The parasitic machines with their spines and insectoid legs clatter along in a quite disturbing manner and the gas-ridden near-corpses that fuel it look sickly to the touch.

The ending to the concluding GYO VOL 2 comes rather abruptly but Viz have rounded the series off with two short stories that reminded me why I was first attracted to Ito’s nasty little works (and why I’ve watched so many bad films based on his manga). ‘The Enigma Of Amigara Fault’ disturbed both Tom and myself. After an earthquake, a new side of Amigara mountain revealed itself. Lots of human shaped holes on the side of the mountain, each distinct from the next. Some have been drawn to the place after seeing a news report, believing that the shapes are meant for them. Then one boy enters one of the shapes and is never seen again. If you’re a tad claustrophobic, stay away from this story.


Buy Gyo vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fortunately, The Milk h/c (US Ed’n) (£10-99, Harper) by Neil Gaiman & Skottie Young.

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

This US edition of Neil’s new Young Adult prose comes with Skottie Young illustrations which you can compare and contrast with Chris Riddell’s on the UK edition of FORTUNATELY THE MILK. It is entirely up to you; we stock both.

I will only note that both versions are genius and enormously good fun, and that Chris Riddell anchors this wayward shaggy-dog story in urban England, whereas Skottie Young comes over all Jill Thompson and turns the family into a cast of crazee people: a literary ménage à quoi.

I would also note that the last paragraph was highly pretentious, written whilst drunk, and that Skottie Young has engaged with Neil Gaiman’s prose in the same way that Dave McKean did in CRAZY HAIR, embracing the lettering as part of the art.

Every double page comes with at least one of Skottie’s ebullient drawings, 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?


Buy Fortunately, The Milk h/c (US Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Lucifer Book 2 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Christopher Moeller, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Jon J. Muth…

Oh what a tangled web we weave…

Yes, the fallen angel from SANDMAN has his master plan, and its grandiosity in scope is quite staggering. Not that it is revealed to us yet but, when the time is right, everyone will know about it.

Rather hoping LUCIFER catches some more attention this time around as the volumes get condensed into these chunkier versions. It deserves to and anyone who is reading Mike Carey’s THE UNWRITTEN, but has yet to read this would absolutely love it.


Buy Lucifer Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: Endless Wartime h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Mike McKone…

Music maestro, please!

“Meet the Avengers, it’s the Avengers. We’re here to entertain, as well as save the day!

“We’re the Avengers, the Mighty New Uncanny Avengers, here to make it all okay!” *

Well, I never thought I would live to see Avengers The Musical in comicbook form, and in truth, I haven’t yet, but this is one of the most peculiar graphic novels tone-wise that I have read in a long time. I would think it has, in part, been released as an ‘original graphic novel’ – i.e. not appeared before in single-issue format – primer for those people unfamiliar with Marvel’s premier superteam, who maybe saw the film and now want to read comics, but feel a little uncertain where to start. For whilst it is the usual top-notch Warren Ellis fare of speculative-fiction weirdness which always adds something to a superhero romp, it is also very much a jovial introduction to the various team members, which almost feels at times like it should be set to music. Maybe…

It works, however, because long-time readers will probably just breeze over the jarring narrative paste-overs and concentrate on the story, which is brilliant, vintage Ellis, and new readers will learn that Clint Barton is pure comedy gold and undoubtedly want to read HAWKEYE.

* Note: at no point are these words sung or indeed uttered during this graphic novel.


Buy Avengers: Endless Wartime h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thanos Rising s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi…

“Because no one can see me. No one ever has. No one but you, Thanos.”

Surprisingly dark tale, even by Thanos standards, which finally reveals (or further obscures, depending on your point of view) his obsession with death. Is the mysterious woman he sees encouraging and directing his murderous urges real? Or perhaps merely a figment of his imagination? Long-term Marvel readers will have always assumed that Death was real. But now, well, I’m not so sure…

Also, one particularly brutal infanticidal crusade is quite important with respect to the current INFINITY event…


Buy Thanos Rising s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars vol 1: In The Shadow Of Yavin (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Carlos D’Anda, Ryan Odagawa…

For those of you who like it old school, the gang are back. Yes, set immediately after the events of the first Star Wars film, this reprises all your old favourite characters, blasters a FRAP FRAP FRAPing and laying on the cheese thicker than a Bantha hide. Not sure yet how these stories fit continuity wise with all the old STAR WARS WEEKLY comics that ran for over a hundred issues (also featuring some glorious Marvel back-up reprint strips, being the first time I read Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos, Deathlok, Micronauts, Star Lord etc.),  but even so, does it matter? Though I would love to see some of the other characters from that run such as Baron Tagge.

Anyway, just enjoy and let Brian Wood take you back to a galaxy far, far away…


Buy Star Wars vol 1: In The Shadow Of Yavin 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.


We’re Out h/c (£11-99, My Cardboard Books) by Philippa Rice

Adventure Time With Fionna & Cake s/c (£14-99, Kaboom) by Natasha Allegri, Noelle Stevenson, Lucy Knisley, Kate Leth

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 1 s/c (£7-50, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell

Fran h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

The Hartlepool Monkey h/c (£12-99, Knockabout) by Wilfred Lupano & Jeremie Moreau

Love And Rockets: New Stories #6 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez

Moomin: Comic Strips vol 8 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson

The Spectral Engine h/c (£20-99, McClelland & Stewart) by Ray Fawkes

Uber Enhanced vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White

The Weirdo Years h/c (£19-99, Knockabout) by Robert Crumb

Woman Rebel – The Margaret Sanger Story h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Peter Bagge

Catwoman vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Ann Nocenti & Rafael Sandoval, Adriana Melo, Emanuela Lupacchino

Green Lantern vol 2: The Revenge Of Black Hand s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke, various

Green Lantern vol 3: The End h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke, various

The Joker: Death Of The Family h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Thor: The Dark World Prelude s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Christos N. Gage, Christopher Yost, Craig Kyle & Lan Medina, Scot Eaton, Ron Lim

Wolverine Max vol 2: Escape To L.A. s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Starr & various

The Black Beetle: No Way Out vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Francesco Francavilla

Doctor Who: Chains Of Olympus (£13-99, Panini) by Scott Gray & Martin Geraghty, Mike Collins

Doctor Who: Hunter Of The Burning Stone (£14-99, Panini) by Scott Gray & Martin Geraghty, various

Judge Dredd Casefiles 21 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Dan Abnett, various & Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson, various

Soul Eater vol 16 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Wild Honey (£9-99, June) by Sei Takenaka


ITEM! Page 45 appears in episode 1 of BBC ONE’s new Nottingham-based drama Truckers. And it’s bloody brilliant! 36 minutes in.

ITEM! Dark Horse announces new SERENITY: FIREFLY CLASS mini-series!

ITEM! Updates on Antony Johnston’s new UMBRAL epic! Please, please pre-order if you know you want it now.

ITEM! Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month is Gareth Brookes’ THE BLACK PROJECT. (Please click on the covers in the grid for reviews.) Read a brilliant blog by Nicola Streeten on Gareth Brookes and Sara Lucas.

ITEM! Alan Moore & Neil Gaiman’s MIRACLEMAN is finally coming back into print and will be completed! Begins January 2014!

ITEM! Geof Darrow’s SHAOLIN COWBOY #1 is reviewed above and Dark Horse have delivered a preview!

ITEM! Kate Brown and Paul Duffield have finally revealed their glorious animation of The Princes In The Tower! They’ve had to keep it under their regal hats for yonks!

ITEM! Remember PORCELAIN? We sold 100 copies in ten days! Page 45 can reveal we will be having limited edition signed bookplates once again for the next two Improper Books. Preview of BUTTERFLY GATE and KNIGHT & DRAGON here.

ITEM! We are beyond delighted to announce that artist Jodie Paterson has joined the Page 45 family to work alongside us part-time. Check out Page 45’s new line-up! You are almost guaranteed to meet this wonderful woman at the….



Kari and Katie at Dark Horse comics have been ridiculously generous in sending us so many exclusive freebies for the day – and they were very busy indeed with the New York Comic Con!

For example, we will be raffling off a complete set of all six HELLBOY LIBRARY EDITION hardcovers! Anyone who buys a HELLBOY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS from us and turns up for the signing will be asked to write their name and phone number on their receipt and Duncan himself will draw the winning receipt out of a hat. If we can find a hat. Failing that some other opaque receptacle.

That is, like, £250 (and several stone) of pure, comicbook brilliance!

I think we owe Dark Horse a link. Yeah, we do!

There are also Zelda bookmarks you probably won’t find anywhere else in the country, limited edition prints, HELLBOY comics, TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS FREE COMICBOOK DAY EDITIONS and stickers and Dark Horse Comics wrist tags we’ll be giving out free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Queue starts at the door as soon as you bloody well like.


– Stephen

Reviews October 2013 week two

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Featuring four of the finest pages ever in comics, this is a black, white and decidedly blue collection of meticulously composed short stories; all bar one sad, mournful, some lamenting lost love.

 – Stephen on John Cei Douglas’ Holding Patterns.

Smoke / Ashes h/c Signed Slipcase Edition (£39-99, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Igor Kordey, Felipe Sobreiro, Carla Speed McNeil, Richard Pace, Dan McDaid, Mack Chater, Colleen Doran, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alice Duke, Alem Curin, Jesse Hamm, James Smith, R. M. Guera, Tim Durning…

Stephen on Smoke…

TRANSMETROPOLITAN meets HEART OF EMPIRE meets GIVE ME LIBERTY. That’s Ellis, Talbot and Miller = quality.

Near-futuristic, militaristic worlds in which society has gone tits-up under a corrupt and totalitarian government are two-a-penny. They usually boast smug toffs, reluctant heroes, iconoclasts, media satire and “amusing” posters. But with very few exceptions it’s ham-fisted, obvious and lifeless. The exceptions include those titles listed above, and now this.

It has natural pacing, a complete grasp of storytelling (the flashbacks slip in effortlessly and interestingly rather than being wedged in with a jemmy), and a constant stream of good posters and apparel: “Mrs. Beaton’s Ready Meals… Because Fresh Food Has Germs!” and an editor’s cap that reads “Don’t AssUme!”. British law applies throughout the country – except in the Walled City of London. It’s governed by puppets manipulated by schemers who use hitmen to get their way. It’s facing an oil crisis, which is reported on by self-regarding, preened airheads like Jennie Bland (one for our UK readers, that), and it still has a Royal Family whose champagne-vomiting regent is usually to be found naked in a pool of spent women:

“Your Majesty?”
“Your majesty, the Opec President is waiting for you downstairs…”
“Is he here to give me a blowjob?”
“Erm, I don’t think so, your majesty.”
“Tell him he can fuck off, then…”

Very Warren Ellis. The heart lies in one of the assassins (Rupert) and his connection to two other ex-soldiers, one of whom is now a paraplegic since a bomb went off years ago, the other of whom (Tim de Havilland, their former C.O.) has just been murdered amongst his roses. Rupert used to go out with de Havilland’s daughter until something went horribly wrong, de Havilland was forced to retire and Rupert had to… leave abruptly. They all thought they had a deal. But perhaps de Havilland never quite understood the game at all…

I should just mention that this is a very different Igor Kordey for those of you who might have seen his efforts on Morrison’s NEW X-MEN. You’d barely recognise the visuals. They’re lither, clean and brighter.

Jonathan on ASHES:

Wow, what a collection of talent Alex has managed to assemble to illustrate this sequel! It can be a tricky thing, utilising so many different artistic talents coherently in one story, but it works perfectly here, not least because, as the good lady herself pointed out to me, each chapter is quite discreet in terms of location and secondary characters. I should have asked her about the title too, actually. Obviously ashes are going to follow smoke and presumably a blaze, but my thoughts were of a phoenix-like resurrection of an old enemy from SMOKE which sets up this work…

I shall say no more simply because I don’t wish to spoil the plot! Though I shall reveal our two central heroes from the first volume, the likeable journalist – hey some of them have to be – Katie Shah and the albino assassin with panache, Rupert, are back, but they’re not going to get any peace and quiet this time, no. Not even in the countryside, to where they retreat to regroup and plan how the hell they’re going to get out of the predicament they find themselves in this time. And it is a very dangerous and most peculiarly intractable predicament indeed…

Art-wise, ASHES will blow you away. It is difficult and possibly unfair to praise any one person’s contribution above others, but I am always a sucker for Sienkiewicz, and Colleen Doran’s pages positively oozed danger in the most delightfully delicate way. I loved Carla Speed McNeil’s flashback pages too, which of course just made me want more FINDER ever so desperately. I also felt ASHES was rather different in narrative terms to SMOKE as well. It’s still an espionage thriller, but it feels far more intense, up close and personal, than SMOKE. Tenser, tighter, there is less cloak and dagger and more full-on frontal assault, with some rather unsavoury speculative sci-fi thrown in for good measure. And I use the word unsavoury quite deliberately…


But despite the differences ASHES actually dovetails perfectly with SMOKE and you do feel like you’re reading one extended story rather than two component parts, with ASHES being the denouement. It is absolutely a separate story in and of itself too though, so Alex has done an exceptional job to make it such a smooth continuation and also sequel. Finally, I did enjoy the nod to a very upper crust British comics character of the military variety from yesteryear, which also misdirected me perfectly too, at which point I shall leave you dangling once more…

Right, at time of typing, we have but two, count ‘em two, of the limited edition signed by everyone hardcover slipcase editions left. When they are gone, they are most assuredly gone, never to be reprinted or repeated. We will be getting the softcover version in, but why not treat yourself before some other blighter gets there first?

[Editor’s note: if you’re just in time to be too late we do now have the SMOKE /ASHES s/c in stock at £22-50.]

SLH and JR

Buy Smoke / Ashes h/c Signed Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Chris Peterson.

Hot, sticky and delicious!

“Midsummer. The Red Planet hangs in the thick night air like a drop of blood in oil.
“Everything is bursting.
“Everything is whispering. Now.
“Now. Now.”

Beautifully played opening there both by Alex De Campi (ASHES / SMOKE), artist Chris Peterson and indeed colour artist Nolan Woodard. The page is ripe, dripping with honey and sexual juices as cats copulate and a woman pleasures herself in what might be the back of a car. Bees buzz round red rose flowers and an empty beer can strewn on the ground.

There is something very wrong on Cemetery Hill. There are too many bees, and some are so big that when one bursts on a windscreen the splatter drives the sheriff off the road. Those bees are producing an awful lot of honey and it is being harvested. It may be an aphrodisiac. A man is discovered on Cemetery Hill in a car, lipstick smeared on his collar and jeans. There are bits of him missing. Like his head and, umm… yeah. A thick flood of blood leads into a thicket of roses, their thorns as big as their heads are red. Don’t go into the thicket sheriff. Don’t go home, either. You really don’t want to go home…

Covered in bees! We love bees. Bees are beautiful, but not so much here. There is one particular stand-out Chris Petersen page whose layout is immaculately composed for maximum suffocation. It involves… No, reviews shouldn’t be about me going, “Ooh, look what I spotted!” but about tempting you in to spot stuff for yourselves. Oh my days, but the cover to GRINDHOUSE issue #2!

The inside front cover also boasts the first part of an eight-page poster by THE RINSE’s Marc Laming, I stared at it for ages. Don’t know what it is yet, but I’m thinking there’s flesh & bone! Brrr…


Buy Grindhouse #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Holding Patterns (£5-99) by John Cei Douglas.

Featuring four of the finest pages ever in comics, this is a black, white and decidely blue collection of meticulously composed short stories; all bar one sad, mournful, some lamenting lost love.

‘Footnotes’ is John Cei Douglas’ tour de force. Each silent page is a perfectly balanced composition of light, line and colour, the first three of which each find focus by dint of a borderless spotlight on a young couple together on a train station platform over a period of time. These are surrounded by train journeys to and fro, some shared, some solo, gazing out of the window with dreamy optimism or more melancholic doubt. Rarely have I seen these scenes through a carriage window so well conveyed; similarly the station and platforms themselves which, when empty, echo with a real sense of space and melancholy. The expressions are as subtle as they are economical – we’re talking Andi Watson at the top of his game – but alas I can say little more when I have a dozen more sentences in me which desperately want to explain why this tale is so super. SPOILERS etc.

‘Living Underwater’, ‘Bottling It’, ’Lost’ and ‘Found’ are four poignant pieces about anxiety and depression, the last three silent and more metaphorical, the first direct, autobiographical and explanatory. If you have ever sunk beneath a sea of suffocating, paralysing depression and anxiety you will find much empathy here and may want to share it with your friends. If you haven’t, welcome to John’s world: it will help you to understand.

It concludes with ‘Follow me’, and a moment of magic.

Please Note: this particular edition is limited to 100 worldwide. We took 20 and they are signed and numbered.


Buy Holding Patterns and read the Page 45 review here

Show Me The Map To Your Heart (£5-99) by John Cei Douglas.

“They made a map for their future.
“And hoped it was true.”

‘Poignant’ and John Cei Douglas are synonymous.

This beautiful black and white A5 comic is a pastoral, passionate times-past love story intriguingly framed by a more anonymous urban present. In it a travelling troubadour called Alexander falls profoundly in love with a farmhand named Heléna, and she with he.

“They lived underwater and dined under moonlight.
“They sailed to the moon and listened to the stars.”

They explored the world and all its potential together and looked loving, optimistically to the future.

John has a thing about maps at the moment, and there are several within using carefully composed destinations in lieu of standard panels. One of those maps folds out to a full A3. There are also sequences composed like a diamond quilt, and one employing a mountain motif, its centre one giant peak which stretches from the bottom right to the pinnacle of the page.

So much wisdom and craft. And what a brilliant title, eh?

Please Note: this version is signed, numbered and limited to 25 copies worldwide. We were allocated 10.


Buy Show Me The Map To Your Heart and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Troll h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Album-sized hardcover of the comic formerly known as HILDAFOLK, with a brand-new map featuring both destinations and denizens, a double-page spread showcasing Hilda’s delightfully cluttered workstation which made me beam with joy and those critical note on ‘Trolls & Bells’

Oh, the difference a dash of spot-varnish makes! Adult and tiny eyes alike will shine like marbles when they see the sheen. Tilt it under lamplight and you’ll note it’s been administered not only unto young Hilda, Twig, and the snow gently falling over the rich brown mountains, but also just to the left, below each snowflake, effectively rendering them 3-D! We love attention to detail.

From the creator of SOME PEOPLE, EVERYTHING WE MISS etc., a brand new edition of the very first adventure before the award-winning HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT then HILDA AND THE BIRD PARADE where we find young Hilda following in her mother’s artistic footsteps by taking her sketchbook out into the grassy, rock-strewn hillside to draw. She sketches her pet Twig perched on a tiny island in the rippling plunge pool below a cascading waterfall, she spies a lost Sea Spirit that must have drifted down the fjord; and then finally, excitedly, she discovers a true Troll Rock! She’d been reading up on trolls the previous day, but then the prospect of camping out under rain had distracted her, as did yet another visit by that strange, silent wood man who keeps walking through their front door completely uninvited (thank you very much indeed!) to lie quietly down by the fireside. What is that guy’s problem?

Anyway, Hilda gives Twig a bell to perch on the Troll Rock’s big, long nose to warn them in case it in transforms (as they’re said to at night!) and starts moving. She then sets about sketching it from every conceivable angle: from afar, from behind and from below – even from on top of its schnozzle! Oh, but it’s tiring work, and soon our pioneer and portrait artist starts to fall asleep, only to be woken up during the bright orange sunset in the middle of a blizzard… by the jingle-jangle of bells!!!

Oh so exciting and full of surprises, this will warm the cockles of the coldest of hearts: the cosiness of camping out at night, and the sound of rain on canvas; a giant lost above the tree-tops, confounded by their conformity; the mystery of the wood man, the wonder of the world Luke Pearson has created, at once familiar yet populated by exotic and fantastical new fauna. I’m not quite sure what Twig is! A blue-grey fox-cat with a bright white belly and antlers. In fact as a colourist alone Luke Pearson deserves to win every award going, and his attention to detail is right up there with Ware. The inside front and back covers would make the best Christmas wrapping paper ever! Indeed Nobrow probably have, and their paper stock is of the highest possible quality.

An awe-inspiring adventure, then, with two important lessons in hospitality and research. Because you remember that bell…?

“One should always read the whole book. They’re not for dipping into.”


Buy Hilda And The Troll h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Very Casual (£10-99) by Michael DeForge >>

A carefully arranged collection of previously printed work, we are presented with an obscure and grotesque anthology. With larger comics sandwiching many smaller strips the curation of the book envelopes you, submerging you in the surreal and absurd world of Michael Deforge.

Beautifully grotesque, the stories within VERY CASUAL don’t necessarily stick to any real rules of formatting or narrative. They instead feel free and carry with them a real honesty. The stories are not overthought, but are carefully considered, so as to involve the reader so much in such a short story.

Personal favourites of mine: ‘All About the Spotting Deer’, the longest in the collection, and ‘S M’. ‘All About the Spotting Deer’, originally published as ‘Spotting Deer’ by Koyama Press, is a documentary-style comic illustrating the life, habits and mechanics of this bizarre creature. From the biological details of its antlers and its mating habits in the wild; to its humorous identity in popular culture; to its life amongst humans in Canadian cities. However, in turn this story reveals the author of the documentaries: a depressed creator obsessed by this otherworldly creature that no one else seems to care about. ‘S M’ follows the Spotting Deer and has a different feel entirely. A much shorter story of only 12 pages, this is the tale of two rebellious punk girls after a hit. By cutting off a slice of a snowman-like creature and ingesting it the story becomes hallucinogenic, almost euphoric, but it soon escalates into something much darker.

A rollercoaster of humour, honesty and the downright grotesque, VERY CASUAL is a beautifully put together book and one certainly deserving a comfortable space nestled amongst your bookshelf. It is something that you can pick up time and again for a casual read when the moment takes you. However, those of you who are new to Deforge’s work may feel the need for a palate cleanser afterwards; such as a lemon sorbet or a picture of a kitten in a box.


Buy Very Casual and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: Trifecta h/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Al Ewing, Simon Spurrier, Rob Williams & Simon Coleby, Henry Flint, D’Israeli, Carl Critchlow…

This is as near perfection of a Dredd and indeed Mega-City One story as you are likely to read, which is why I presume it has been released as a nice hardback edition standalone graphic novel rather just getting collected in the JUDGE DREDD COMPLETE CASEFILES in time.  Not sure why it needed a lenticular cover, which appears to have been glued on, because after staring at them for a whole month during DC Villains arc I am sick of the sight of them, but anyway.

If you are a long time Dredd fan who hasn’t partaken for a while, for whatever reason, do take a look, you will not be disappointed. Essentially starts off as three apparently entirely unrelated stories featuring Dredd, Judge Point who is an undercover Wally Squad member posing as a private investigator in pretty much the most insalubrious sector of the Big Meg, and Dirty Frank, a vagrant who is rather puzzled to find himself on the Moon. It’ll all make sense to him, and us, by the end, but it is a hell of a ride along the way. There’s a coup d’etat afoot from within the Halls Of Justice and the only person who seems to suspect is Dredd. Acting alone, without even authorisation from Chief Judge Hersey, are the odds too heavily against him, even for Joe this time?

The art style changes in turn for each of the three stories, before they eventually come colliding together. Clever stuff, plus so witty and acerbically funny in places too, about pretty much everyone and everything, pure satirical social commentary, which reminded me exactly why I used to read 2000AD for such a long time.


Buy Judge Dredd: Trifecta h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Unexpected s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by various including Paul Pope, David Lapham, Dave Gibbons, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Brian Wood, Jill Thompson, Gilbert Hernandez, many more.

A collected combination of Vertigo’s THE UNEXPECTED one-shot and indeed GHOSTS which, when we only carried graphic novels rather than comics on our website, I signed off thus:

“Buy Ghosts through means of a Ouija board. While the glass moves through 0115 9508045 or you may feel the eerie sensation of a hand on the wallet in your pocket. It’s only me.”


This anthology contains the last-ever work story written and drawn by the legendary Joe Kubert who died this August, and it could not be more apposite as a fond farewell. Why that is, I will leave you to read for yourselves to discover; but it has nothing to do with the title of this anthology, just the content and conclusion of the story itself.

It was commissioned by Karen Berger especially for this anthology and, thankfully, was written, pencilled and lettered in full when the great man passed away. Kubert would have gone on to ink it, certainly, but I have always preferred the man’s pencils and here they are haunting.

Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo’s ‘The Night After I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost’, however, is a riot in ectoplasmic green. In it the newly installed office worker is haunted by the aspiring musician in him, playing Ladytron riffs all night long on his keytar, enthralled his friends with stories from the other side (“Ian Curtis? Yeah, we jam.”), and soon charming his way up the corporate ladder too, neatly leap-frogging his living self for promotion by spouting “team synergy” claptrap. Dismayed by what has become of his phantasmagorical counterpart, he quits in protest. The punchline is absolutely brilliant.

There are eighteen stories in all and I cannot possibly cover them all here, but ‘Family First’ by Mat Johnson and David Lapham is a terrifying chase in a virtually deserted and ruined suburban cul-de-sac as a brother and sister break off their improvised meat barbeque to hide inside – in the sister’s case, hide inside the oven. To protect her – and the family huddled inside the garage – the brother dashes out back to lead the intruder away. Umm… And then it grows truly grotesque. Lapham is back where he’s best: children in fear like SILVERFISH.

Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire produce a sweet and satisfying story about a mercenary man and his brotherly ‘Ghost For Hire’, scaring the bejeezus out of families and indeed those occupants out of their homes in order to aid eviction. The still-living sibling needs the money for something very specific; the dead one has a conscience. Works out brilliantly for both!

You can always rely on Gilbert Hernandez, and this particular tale would be far from out of place in LOVE AND ROCKETS itself, but what about the piece conceived by HEAVY LIQUID’s Paul Pope, scripted SILVERFISH’s by David Lapham and then drawn by Paul Pope himself?

Don’t expect a conventional ghost story in any way shape or form. Instead ‘Treasure Lost’ is the sort of space-faring yarn you’re more likely to encounter hard-covered on the continent as an eleven-year-old prince and his sister are kidnapped for ransom by a brutal race of stellar pirates who have no idea how intransigent their father is likely to be. An act of sabotage from within the spaceship gives both brother and sister, who have long since stopped seeing eye to eye, the opportunity they need to set the factions they’ve ingratiated themselves to against each other, but the ironies, they will abound…

Lastly for now, Brian Wood & Emily Carroll’s century-spanning ‘Americana’ is a truly moving mother-and-daughter, generational affair about the dangers of dissolution – by which I mean secession, civil war, devolution and disunity. There is something to be said for fewer borders: less antagonism, animosity and territorial violence being very high amongst them. It is intimate, it is reflective, and it is tenderly rendered by Emily Carroll in the most exquisite, loving embraces.


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

Lost Boy s/c (£9-99, Scholastic) by Greg Ruth.

A Young Adult book which I will concede I had misgivings about which were completely ill-founded and which I mention here now only in case you do too. Persevere! Also, please let me help for it will surprise, delight and maybe move you to tears.

Superficially, I wasn’t sure about the glossy reproduction of the sublime soft pencil and grey-wash pages. Trust me: you will become completely immersed for the art itself is to die for. I’d make comparisons to John J. Muth then mix in moments of Riven or Myst. Secondly, I had trouble with the segues until I realised that all events in the past had borders of black, and all strife in the present comes mounted in white. You will probably never experience those stumbles – but hopefully it helps.

Teenage Nate moves with his loving family into a new home. He’s encouraged to choose a room and, in doing so, discovers an old-school tape-recorder sequestered under its floorboards. Neighbouring Tabitha is eager to meet her new neighbour but is horrified when she discovers those self-same tapes. Why?

Flashback to young, missing Walter Pidgin, author of those tapes recorded on his dead mother’s recorder he carried around on his back many years ago. He’s begun to experience… visions? His dismissive father doesn’t want to know. He’d rather enjoy his playing-card games of solitary Patience. But there is a talking insect called Baron Tick taunting him on a mutt, a somewhat abrasive squirrel called Pettibone and a creepy, doll-like Tom Button who seems to want to give him a key. He visits bar-owner Haloran in the hope of finding some answers. He receives some answers, but unfortunately not all of them.

There is gateway at the bottom of his garden. There is something trying to get out. There are players choosing sides and using young Walter for their own purposes. There is also a bully called Curly Bill whom Walt bravely wrestles to rescue diminutiveTom Button. And that is his undoing. What happened to Walt?

Back in the present Nate and Tabitha attempt to unravel the mysteries of Walter’s sporadic recordings and in doing so discover the boy’s true fate. And that will take your breath away. They too are being used, but by whom? To what ends?

The best bits for me were both the subtle and stark differences between Walter, Nathan and Tabitha. Are you a second-chances kind of a gal or guy, or do you draw the line earlier? Is it wrong to stand up to bullies? How far should you take that? What can be forgiven, what can be forgotten, and what would naturally happen if you were ignored back home?

A true tragedy with unexpected consequences and a frightening power, this graphic novel starts low-key but then bursts into a scrambling struggle for fight-or-flight survival involving truth, consequences and very real vertigo. I’m not crossing that rope bridge!

It also sets the scene for far more to come.


Buy Lost Boy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Vinland Saga Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura…

It might be pushing it slightly to say this is the manga version of NORTHLANDERS, given there are the occasional inevitable comedic asides you would expect from a Kodansha title, but it’s not far off, you know!

This is the story of Thorfinn. It begins with him as an angry young man, fighting with group of mercenaries and their dashing leader Askeladd. He’s not really one of them, but Askeladd has promised him his heart’s desire if he proves himself in battle. Given that desire is a duel to the death with Askeladd himself, well you can see why he’s being made to work for it. In the second half of this volume, we go back in time to see the upbringing of Thorfinn the boy, and in doing so we learn his reasons for hating the leader of the brigands. Art style exactly as you would expect from a Kodansha manga, but it just works somehow.


Buy Vinland Saga Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mutts Treasury: Cat Crazy (£14-99, Andrews McNeel Publishing) by Patrick McDonnell.

Earl and Mooch, pup and cat, are tucked up in bed, heads on pillows.

“So, Mooch, we’re going to hibernate.”
“This is so exciting!
“I don’t want to miss a minute of it.”

Elsewhere, Mooch’s elderly owners gaze out mournfully through their window at the dark and storming weather…

“Yikes! – It’s a good day to stay in and be cosy.”

Mooch concurs.

“I recommend the sock drawer.”

My last two cats’ favourite snooze sessions took place in my upturned washing basket. Of course half the comedy is visual and this is so fluidly drawn. It’s also very well observed, like this, in bed, late at night, and I think your can probably relate.

“Meow. Meow. Meow.”
“Please. Mooch. Let me sleep.”
“? We have all day for that!”


Buy Mutts Treasury: Cat Crazy and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Matt Kindt & Marco Rudy.

Rarely do you see anything like this in a Marvel Comic.

It is delirious, with expressionistic writing and art coloured to eye-popping perfection by Val Staples. There’s an eye-leading deployment of black and white during both the intricately cross-hatched panels and the smoke-ridden segues, Marco Rudy veering drunkenly from J.H.Williams III to Jae Lee (INHUMANS, FANTASTIC FOUR F 1 2 3 4) and even Bill Sienkiewicz (ELEKTRA ASSASSIN, STRAY TOASTERS) with some of the side-bar instructions. Plus the double-page spread whose lettering forms the Spider-Man chest symbol with its stream-of-barely-consciousness is brilliant! Should we credit letter artist Clayton Cowles there? I don’t know, because this is very much an ensemble effort and a virtuoso performance even if Peter appears boss-eyed on one page and looks nothing like Parker anyway. Minor snaffu.

(Are there two ‘f’s in ‘snaffu’ or have I just manifested my own?)

What the hell is actually going on we don’t yet know. Which is perfectly apposite, because neither does Peter. He has been lured to a neo-gothic, three-storey house by way of a low-grade photo assignment. Within he finds psychic Madame Web – the old crone version, and therein may lie a clue – who predicts he will die unless he can solve the fabled riddle of the Ninety-Nine problems while the exploding robotic girls beg, “Help me!”

The rest is like one long, disorientating, underwater acid trip as multiple foes (with the promise of many yet to come) assault him with gas, taunt him with pills (which he may have already taken) and who even knows if they are real or not? It’s a bit disconcerting to suddenly find yourself in a passenger-jet aisle.

The obvious guess would be it’s all down Mysterio, but a cunning customer proffered a more contemporary explanation with would tie in with current continuity. It would also explain Madame Web. The cover gives you clues of who’s yet to come.


Buy Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1 of 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America: Living Legend #1 of 4 (£2-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle & Adi Granov.

From the writer of the exceptional HELLBLAZER: JOYRIDE and UNCANNY and the artist on Warren Ellis’ IRON MAN: EXTREMIS, this is a both beauty and belter whose trajectory I cannot foresee.

My favourite page was the exterior shot of the present-day space station as it undergoes a terrifying transmogrification – Adi Granov excels at technology – but it kicks off in April 1945 on the Bavarian Alps with Russian soldiers closing in on a Nazi bunker housing a prize which they seek. America’s after the very same thing, and it is a matter of historical fact that they acquired it, if not here.

Sergeant Volkov is the most zealous of all, disobeying his critically wounded Captain in ordering the final, suicidal assault against tanks when they have nothing in their arsenal to penetrate them. Which is where our good Captain comes in. What happens within the bunker, however, is far from predictable, nor the ramifications in Siberia, Soviet Union 1968. And I don’t just mean scientific ramifications, I mean personal ramifications. Basically, I mean ramifications, a word that now looks weird to me. What we still don’t know is what happens immediately thereafter for we jump to the present on board a space station experimenting in Dark Energy as a source of free and indeed pollution-free energy for Earth. Whoops.

Cut to the Captain and Sharon Carter aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier Odyssey and a single word transmitted from the space station. I wonder if the hairs on the back of the Captain’s neck stood on end?


Buy Captain America: Living Legend #1 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.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 vol 4: Welcome To The Team (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Andrew Chambliss & Georges Jeanty, Karl Moline

The Chronicles Of King Conan vol 6: Death In Stygia (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Alan Zelenetz, Don Kraar & Marc Silvestri, Mike Docherty

Colder vol 1 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra

Courtney Crumrin vol 4: Monstrous Holiday h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Dark Tower vol 10: The Gunslinger – The Man In Black s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Robin Furth, Peter David & Alex Maleev, Richard Isanove

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

The Great War: An Illustrated Panorama Of July 1, 1916: The First Day Of The Battle Of The Somme h/c Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

Lazarus vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Lighter Than My Shadow s/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Katie Green

Lucifer Book 2 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Christopher Moeller, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Jon J. Muth

My Little Pony Animated vol 1: The Magic Begins (£5-99, IDW) by Lauren Faust & Justin Eisinger

Palookaville #21 (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth

Smoke / Ashes s/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Igor Kordey, Felipe Sobreiro, Carla Speed McNeil, Richard Pace, Dan McDaid, Mack Chater, Colleen Doran, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alice Duke, Alem Curin, Jesse Hamm, James Smith, R. M. Guera, Tim Durning

Star Wars vol 1: In The Shadow Of Yavin (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Carlos D’Anda, Ryan Odagawa

Star Wars: Dark Times vol 6: Fire Carrier (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Randy Stradley & Gabriel Guzman, Doug Wheatley, Garry Henderson

Treasury Of Mini Comics vol 1 h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by various, edited by Michael Dowers

Batman vol 2: The City Of Owls s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynioniv & Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Becky Cloonan

Avengers Kree / Skrull War s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Neal Adams

Superior Spider-Man vol 2: A Troubled Mind (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman

Thanos Rising s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi

Thor God Of Thunder vol 2: Godbomb h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Butch Guice, Esad Ribic

X-Men: Storm s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Terry Dodson

Judge vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Yoshiki Tonogai


ITEM! PAGE 45 IN NOTTINGHAM INDEPENDENTS VIDEO ALERT! (I haven’t dared watch it yet. I asked my sympathisers on Twitter to check it out for me in case I made an arse of myself. One kind sympathisers said, “No more than you do here.”

ITEM! Voting for Nottingham’s Best Independent Retailer Award 2013 has closed. Thank you so much for voting, and thanks such much for retweeting our manic scrabble to get into the top five to be judged by the judges. Did we? Did we manage that? Watch this space! [Editor’s update: we did! Thank you!]

ITEM! Page 45 reviews GRINDHOUSE #1 above; Dark Horse have an online preview!

ITEM! Interview with THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH’s Isabel Greenberg (in stock at Page now!) with lots of glorious photos! (Not sure about some of the journalism, though.) Looks like a beautiful book – can’t wait!

ITEM! This week’s VERY CASUAL review is by comicbook creator and occasional Page 45 stellar support, Jodie Paterson Click on that link for her Tumblr!

WIN FREE EDDIE CAMPBELL GRAPHIC NOVELS donated by Page 45 to the Nottingham Playhouse!

Jonthan and I have now seen Charlie Peace, the new play by Michael Eaton MBE with set projections by comics’ own Eddie Campbell and it is a magnificent melodrama with a little early audience participation – funny! Last night Eddie himself was enjoying its ditties while I stared at the dozens of ridiculously crafty projections onto the central “theatre-front” construction (itself a work of art), slack-jawed, trying to figure out how they even DID all the clever combos! You wait until you board the train!

I wrote an introductory blog about the whole affair here: Eddie Campbell’s set designs for Michael Eaton’s new play Charlie Peace at Nottingham Playhouse! There are also links to our reviews of all Eddie’s graphic novels.


Any day now! Yes, 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!

Comicbook creators D’Israeli, Ian Culbard, Marc Laming and Ian Edginton will all be present and we may pester then to sign stuff for you as well! Well, we will, I just haven’t had the common courtesy to ask them yet! Hahahaha! Typical me!

– Stephen

Reviews October 2013 week one

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Although do bear in mind that some suspect God was but a pseudonym for Science.

 – Stephen on John Porcellino’s Thumb

The Black Project (£12-99, Myriad) by Gareth Brookes…

Richard, a decidedly odd teenager (even by typical teenage standards) concludes that given his chances of actually managing to get a proper girlfriend are pretty slim, so he is going to make his own.

No, this isn’t the prelude to some Weird Science-esque fantasy whereby a buxom Kelly LeBrock mysteriously appears out of thin air, but a farcical piece of contemporary fiction which is all the more disturbing for its complete believability. If he survives his adolescent years, there’s a very good chance Richard might go on to be a world class prop designer but, in the meantime, he’s more concerned about the survival of his succession of lovingly assembled girl friends. Some people have luck with the ladies, but Richard definitely isn’t one of them…

Note: some will find Gareth’s woodcut / iconography art style rather challenging (he actually uses linocuts and does actually embroider some sections!), but after being initially unsure, before commencing, I found I loved it. It’s actually very clever, packed with lots of detail, and incredibly well executed.


Buy The Black Project and read the Page 45 review here

Tropic Of The Sea (£10-99, Random House / Vertical) by Satoshi Kon.

As exquisitely beautiful as anything drawn by Jiro Taniguchi (A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD etc), I wondered why I hadn’t heard of this creator before. I had: he directed the anime Perfect Blue. So that made sense.

He shares the same fine line as Taniguchi, as well as an immaculate eye for rich, detailed and beautiful, bucolic landscapes, of which there are many here, threatened though they are by the concrete and steel of the Ozaki Group who are “developing” the rural fishing town of Ade into a vast holiday resort which has already resulted in the closure of many a local market shop. The fishermen are livid, adamant that their livelihoods are threatened.

However gobsmackingly gorgeous the dry-land scenery – like the verdant climb to the Hiratsu Shrine – the tour de force here lurks underwater: the shadow early on and late at night of what may or may not be a giant mermaid tail, glimpsed from above by falling torchlight. It ripples under the gentle waves. Later on young Yosuke will fall in, and never have I seen subaquatic suspension judged and then drawn with such precision: by which I mean, the degree of resistance water exerts on a body and the eruption of consequent bubbles below and on the surface. Sublime.

Yosuke Yashiro is a handsome teenager one year away from leaving home for university. His family have been entrusted with the Hiratsu Shrine for generations. The shrine houses what is reputed to be a mermaid’s egg, the most recent one discovered almost sixty years ago on the shore by his grandfather and custom dictates it be returned to the sea whence it came on that sixtieth anniversary and not a day later. Its tank is regularly refreshed with seawater, and prayers of gratitude are given to the mermaid for the fecundity of the ocean and the subsequent livelihoods of the local fishermen.

The media has never been allowed access before, but Yosuke’s father has just broken this bond for the sake of publicity for the resort’s development and Mr Kenji Ozaki himself of the Ozaki corporation has arrived for the occasion, dressed to impress in suit and shades. Yosuke’s father has been championing this urbanisation as vital to local commerce and does not believe in the legend of the mermaid, but Yosuke’s devout grandfather does, and is so furious that he has discharged himself from hospital. The next morning the mermaid egg is gone.


What follows is such a rapid page-turner that you may experience paper cuts. You will discover an underwater shrine on an off-shore island – one destined to be covered in concrete as part of the mariner linked to the mainland by a giant harbour. Yosuke will begin questioning his own resistance to the mermaid myth and discover what really happened on the day his mother drowned. You’ll learn why the introspective Rami has returned from Tokyo without her fiancé, and just how ruthless the Ozaki corporation can be in their faithless dealings with the local lobbies and in pursuit of whatever Ozaki sets his sights on.

I can promise you action, reaction and a palpitating heart. Above all, I promise you wonder under a perfect blue sea.


Buy Tropic Of The Sea and read the Page 45 review here

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

“And now the weather, oh shit the weather…”

It must be pretty depressing being a newsreader.

I had forgotten.

Mea culpa, for I own almost everything within in its original form, but I had forgotten just how brilliant, brave, vital and way ahead their time this team was. This collection, bursting with raw passion and fierce creativity, will ram that home page after page.

Long before Grant Morrison’s ZENITH there was PARADAX; indeed long before Grant Morrison’s VINAMARAMA there was ROGAN GOSH, while the cover to STRANGE DAYS #1 invented Marilyn Manson, contact lenses and all. That SKIN was ever printed was a miracle – printers objected and publishers rejected it, once right at the very last minute, until Tundra came to the rescue – so uncompromising is the violence of its content and language, with the great Carol Swain embellishing McCarthy’s line work with the best deployment of pastels I’ve ever seen.

SKIN is the story of Martin ‘Atchet Atchitson, a skinhead and thalidomide victim, told in the lurid vernacular of its time (“snot rag” “you dirty Arab”) by one of his mates, and if you are of a delicate disposition you may want to look away now.

“The wankers had a word for it.
“We saw it in a book Crosseyed Ruby showed us. Phocomelia. Ruby said that’s Greek and means seal limb. Fukkin’ Seal Limb!
“Poxy little flippers sticking out the side of his body. But seals can clap their flippers and that, can’t they? Martin couldn’t.
“Martin was once of those thalidomide babies. His mum took a pill to stop herself puking when she was pregnant. Bet she puked enough when she saw Martin.
“Martin looked like a wanker but of course he couldn’t even do that. Wank, I mean. Couldn’t shakes his own knob, wipe his arse, comb his hair. But he didn’t need to comb his hair.
“Martin Achitson might have looked like a wanker who couldn’t wank, he might have been a Seal Boy, but he was one of us. We called him Martin ‘Atchet.

You can hear the snarling accent, can’t you?

Martin is as uncompromising as the contents, telling every wanker to fukk off even when they showed him kindness. Crosseyed Ruby gets the worst of it. He doesn’t actually nut her, though he does nut the hippy bird that gets him stoned then gets his rocks off. Martin reckoned they were laughing at him, even the bird and the bloke that were having sex right in front of him.

And a lot of people did laugh at Martin, even the skins that were supposed to be his mates. There are a lot of fights. What Martin isn’t interested in, initially, is the rich wankers at Maxichem still riding around in their Rolls Royces while resisting all calls for compensation – and that, my dear readers, is a true story. Still, there’s no telling what Martin will do.

PARADAX couldn’t be more different. Milligan and McCarthy’s earliest collaboration, it is everything you might love about ZENITH without the alternate dimensions, though there’s plenty of bonkers. It’s about a young, naïve taxi driver called Al Cooper who finds a book in the back of his cab with a bright yellow bodysuit in it. Weird things start to happen, though he still spends most of his time slouched in front of the TV with a brew.

“Never in the field of human vanity, has so much madness been bestowed upon such a non-entity.”

That pretty much sums it up. He gets duffed in a bar by a redneck who comes round eventually when Al gets shafted in his rashly signed contract, and later stories veer into DOOM PATROL territory (goodness, how Morrison had a field day “sampling” all this).

There’s lots of additional material I don’t have time to go into here including those gorgeous SHADE THE CHANGING MAN covers, for now we come to ROGAN GOSH, the most immediately recognisable of the creative team’s back catalogue stylistically.

ROGAN GOSH comicbook is opiate: psychedelic art with glowing colours matching the delirious, transcendental proceedings involving a curry house, its exceptional fit waiter, one of its dozier customers, a very naughty imperialist in India, a search for karmic severance, and what was at the time a startling amount of unexpected gay sex. Brilliant!

The language is rich and gleeful in its word-play:

“In Dean Cripps’ life the unpredictable played little part. A mere fingered and forgotten sliver of Bombay Duck: more fish than fowl, more foul than finished. He left school uncurried by learning or ambition, he got a job, he got a car, he fucked the first girl that let him… (Though his sexual hunger has been sadly stunted by an unordered helping of premature Prawn Sag)…”

And you know how a lot of my reviews are little less than silly jokes and a summary of the story? I couldn’t even tell you the exact plot to this – certainly not what it’s about! I feel rather like the man answering the phone here, called by a man who may be on the metaphorical way out.

“Oh, we have an exquisite and extensive menu, sir, using only fresh herbs and spices to create authentic Indian delicacies.”
“That’s nice… but I’m not really hungry. I just want… to talk to someone… Listen… could you tell me.. is this the way the dream begins… or… is this the way… is this the way… the dream… ends…?”
“I’m very sorry, sir, but this is just a simple, albeit exquisite curry house… I’m afraid you’re going to have to find that one out for yourself.”


Buy The Best Of Milligan & McCarthy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Both previous softcovers printed in a single h/c with the saving of ten quid. Brilliant!

“Is it just me who finds bearded women attractive?”

DON QUIXOTE is the epic tale of a delusory knight and his bumbling squire as propagated by Rob Davis from an account by Cervantes of a Moor’s translation of the true and faithful biography as recorded by one Cide Hamete Benengeli. Even though the Don, the squire, the Moor, Side Hamete Benengeli and – for all I know – Rob Davis never even existed.

It is far from a hagiography.

It is instead one massive slight of hand delivered with winks, nudges and infinite wit by both authors concerned.* It is one long fabrication about those who deceive others and those who lie to themselves. Indeed between volumes one and two of Cervantes’ original literary prank, some bastard impostor brought out his own sequel which Cervantes, with due dignity, declined to even acknowledge, let alone criticise.

“I will not waste my breath insulting this dribbling, pibbling, milk-livered, craven welp, who shall go unnamed; I will not stoop to the level of the wretched, thrasonical codpiece who sought to steal the tales of our errant knight. His idiocy can be witnessed by any who has had the misfortune to read this shitty book and his folly is in assuring that I will let nothing come between me and completing the true account of Don Quixote’s adventures that you now hold in your hands.
“Pah! What a tit – let his folly be its own punishment, and let us speak of him no more.”

He speaks of him some more.

When Don Quixote discovers that his earlier exploits have been preserved for posterity by far less pissant peasants and asks how they’ve been received, he is answered thus:

“The world smiles at your escapades and marvels at the book. No less than Señior Hunter Emerson says his wife laughed so hard when reading your adventures that her tits came right off. Meanwhile Señior Gravett in the London comedy papers says the adaptor has “a savvy awareness of what comics can really do…”

“Laughter?! A comic?! The adventures of Don Quixote are no comedy!”

At the risk of belabouring Rob’s joke: for those not in the know, neither UK comicbook comedy king Hunt Emerson nor the medium’s Man At The Crossroads Paul Gravett were around in 1604 (they would thank me for pointing that out). If the brilliance of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS was that it didn’t just illustrate the original but interpreted it, the joy here is that Davis has gone one step further and, as I say, propagated the original’s intent.

So let’s pull back.

Don Quixote is a figment of his own imagination. Well, no: he is a kindly, aging man with a gallant goatee, a matching moustache and a prodigious – nay prestigious – pair of snowy white eyebrows to boot. He’s just read waaaaaaay too much chivalrous fiction. This has inspired him to jettison all grip on reality in favour of roaming the lands and setting right wrongs, no matter what the cost to his personal safety, his public dignity or the likely outcome. R.e. the likely outcome: he’s not very good at it.


He sets off with long-suffering squire Sancho on a series of meandering quests at the centre of which is always the honour of his beauteous, dear Dulcinea. I mentioned that he was delusional, right? You wait until you meet her. Squire Sancho becomes so addicted to these escapades that he enables his easily led leader by fuelling his fantasies further, then swiftly gets sucked up into the nonsense too! This is no longer the blind leading the blinded, nor the fool merely following foolish: it is two nincompoops in mutually validating, self-perpetuating buffoonery. Hurrah!

Their reputation having preceded them in print, the pair are embraced by a bored Duke and Duchess and truly taken in for their own private amusement. Prank after prank is played at their expense, firstly getting the Don to draw his Dulcinea then using that child-like portrait in the most elaborate, torch-lit ploy imaginable. Then there’s the flying wooden horse (it doesn’t really fly), the curse of the bearded women (they are not really bearded), and the hell-bound unrequited love. It’s not just that Quixote and Sancho are gullible; it’s much worse than that! They are now so addicted to embracing anything that will extend, embellish or facilitate their next quest that, whenever they suspect something may be awry, they fill in the plot pot-holes for them!

This is comicbook comedy gold – right up there with anything by Roger Langridge – and the very best interpretation of any prose to comics that I am aware of. And since I am aware of almost everything that exists in comicbook form, I think we can dispense of that last qualifier and simply conclude that you need this fucking book.

Davis’ cartooning throughout is a gesticulating, ebullient joy. It’s not just Quixote’s grumpy furrowed brows, his apoplectic outrage or his narrowed, eyes-to-one-side when you suspect he may suspect something’s up (hilariously, he really doesn’t!). It is his mastery of insouciance, his rodeo-riding of those two runaway eyebrows, but above all Rob’s exceptional understanding of the exact degree of caricature this literary farce requires. It’s all about the mischief.

And then, just when you think you’ve had it all, you are delivered blinding visual flourishes like the full-page portrait of the Knight Of The Mirrors, which blazes like a partially stained-glass window during the brightest day on record.

However, I’d be lying if I said anything I’ve written so far were my favourite bits. No. Cervantes’ book was naughty, clever, and knowing. It was beyond contemporary for its day. How about if Rob Davis introduces a bit of contemporary too, just at the right moment?

“Ah, look! We don’t need to seek Dulcinea’s palace, here she comes riding towards us on her horse!”
“Are you sure, my squire? I see only the scrofulous peasant riding her mule this way.”
“What?! Are your Grace’s eyes in the back of your head? Is that why you cannot see her? O Queen and Princess of Beauty, I present your knight. See, he is struck dumb by the magnificence of your presence.”

Don Quixote is quite alarmed. Buck-toothed Dulcinea is far from charmed.

“Outta the way, fat boy!”

* It transpires that Rob Davis does exist: you may have read NELSON – former Page 45 Comicbook Of Month and winner of the inaugural British Comics Awards 2012 – which Rob Davis instigated, co-created and edited. It’s pretty special.


Buy The Complete Don Quixote h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sex Criminals #1 (£2-75, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky.

The comic whose title I couldn’t even tweet for fear of falling afoul of Google!

It’s like Bonnie & Clyde with orgasms – orgasms during which time stops more than figuratively and the world goes completely silent. Do you see stars when you come? Sorry, that was a bit personal. Suzanne sees swirling colours and flashes of light which linger longer than you’d expect. Or maybe you wouldn’t. You lucky thing.

All of this Suzanne discovers during her first, unplanned episode with her head underwater and the taps still running… in just the right place. She had her head underwater and the taps still running to drown out the sound of her mother crying. Her mother was crying because Suzanne’s father was killed by a git with a gun under cocaine psychosis went postal after the stock market crashed and decided accountants were to blame, or something. It didn’t bring them together; it opened a yawning chasm of silence between them.

None of which makes it clear that this is a comedy.

“The jokes are coming. I promise.”

So imagine what sex would be like if you were Suzanne: you orgasm, and the earth may move for you – and the colours may come – but the world itself stops and goes silent. You have to extricate yourself from your partner who’s paralyzed. That’s not… completely satisfying. You might feel slightly isolated. Then imagine that, after years and years of this, you met someone else just like you and you could finally enjoy post-coital bliss together.

“Jon… is your dick glowing?”

None of which makes it clear why I wrote my second sentence, but you’ll see.

This is absolutely magnificent – if you’re eighteen or over. If you’re under eighteen, it’s rubbish, I swear. You really won’t want it. Please don’t try to buy it, we could get into trouble. I never did learn about reverse psychology. *sigh*

Chip Zdarsky is the perfect choice of artist for he draws a bit like Michael Avon Oeming, so whilst explicit, it isn’t titillating [good recovery, Stephen – ed.]. It’s sexy art, don’t get me wrong, but sexy as in stylish, engaging and thoroughly attractive, non-titillating way.

This is all told by Suzanne in flashback for now, and Chip “I’ll have another vowel please” Zdarksy places older narrator Suzanne in the same shot as younger, often bewildered Suzanne beautifully – a task not necessarily as easy as you might imagine. The multiple, highly imaginative sex acts graffitied with a marker pen on the toilet cubicle wall by Rachelle (“the biggest ho-bag in Eastview Middle School history”) are hilarious.

As you may have gathered, this whisks backwards and forwards in time throughout, and its script is full of mirth-making winks. Moreover, however much of a Matt Fraction fan I already am (and I am: please see HAWKEYE VOL 1 which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and HAWKEYE VOL 2, both of whose reviews come with orgasmic art of their own by David Aja), this is like nothing he has written before. It has a completely different voice, tailor-made for his new perky, self-confident but slightly apologetic first-person female narrator.

Cleverly – I‘ve just realised – this first chapter is perfectly structured in accordance with its hook, for it opens with Suzanne and her newly found sex-partner Jon being caught in the act in a loo. At which point, obviously, time stands still. At which point there is all the time in the world for Suzanne to take you down to her river of life and see what lies at its sauce. [sic] Aaaaaand then we crash back to where we began and I wonder what happens next?

“Don’t freak out. It’ll all be okay. We just stick to the plan and it’ll all be okay.”
“Oh, Jon.
“What about this looks okay to you?”

None of which – oh, you’ll see!


Buy Sex Criminals #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wu Wei: A Spiritual Comics Anthology (£6-00) by various…

“Meditate or levitate. Your choice.”

Thus spake the presumably not so depressed cat. Yes, Lizz Lunney is but one of the wise contributors to this very eclectic selection of material. Some serious, some most assuredly not so, some abstract, some straight down the line, the only thread neatly pulling it all together is the mainly Buddhist spiritual element. The art styles are equally disparate from some relatively fine art orientated pieces to… a levitating cat. The serious stuff is all pretty good, worthy in a good way I should add, but it’s the humorous material that really hit the spot for me. I’ll leave you with some dialogue from ‘Mediation Stops You Going Mental’ by Alex Potts, a philosophy I can most definitely espouse myself…

“Meditation is great because it stops you going mental.”
“How does that work? If you’re going mental it’s because you’ve got a disease.”
“It’s like when everything in your head is getting too intense, meditating kind of sets everything back to normal.”
“Hmm… sorry, no that doesn’t sound right to me.”

Later (thinking to himself during meditation)…
“Stupid arsehole…
“I bet he’s never even tried it…
“I never liked him anyway…
“… daft hair cut.”


Buy Wu Wei: A Spiritual Comics Anthology and read the Page 45 review here

Mimi And The Wolves (£10-99) by Alabaster >>

With a first glance at this book you would be forgiven for thinking that it is going to be a cute, girly tale with its woodland creature characters living amongst a whimsical backdrop, but give this a read and you will soon find there is much more than meets the eye.

Like a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale it begins all rather lovely and innocent, with Mimi making garlands in her tree house. However, there is a much darker side to this story lurking just below the depths. Mimi is having a recurrent dream that she longs to understand, and with the gift of a lucid sleep potion made from Feverfew, Saint John’s Heart and orange rind she gets to understand its secrets, which change her life, for better or for worse.

‘The Dream’ may only be the first instalment: small yet perfectly formed, it will leave you eager for the next. And with its beautifully hand-screen-printed cover how could you say no to this little self-published gem?


Buy Mimi And The Wolves and read the Page 45 review here

John Porcellino’s Thumb (£3-99, Spit And A Half) by John Porcellino’s Mum and Dad.

This thumb is a good thumb.

It boasts all the basic requirements: opposable, four fingers to oppose, and hand still attached for maximum opposition.

In addition it is clean and healthy with no evident signs of necrosis.

The real treasure and star attraction, however, is the thumb nail which is perfectly formed and diligently clipped. Its keratin is shiny and its cuticle kept at bay, revealing a perfect, pale lunula.

This nail is also naturally translucent whereas many come covered in an opaque, albeit glossy colouring which is sometimes a bonus but rarely on men – the male finger and thumb are ill-designed for such a varnish, being relatively stumpy. This is a subjective aesthetic assessment, of course, but it comes irrespective of societal judgementalism which is as much of an anathema to me as variant covers. Please note: there are no variant covers to JOHN PORCELLINO’S THUMB.

In summary, Mrs. and Mr. Porcellino are to be commended for their remarkably good-looking genes and impeccable design sense which harks back to the early work of God. Although do bear in mind that some suspect God – a bit like Shakespeare – was but a pseudonym for Science.


Buy John Porcellino’s Thumb and read the Page 45 review here

Zero #1 (£2-25, Image) by Ales Kot & Michael Walsh.

A story so fast, furious and tight that it uses the inside covers, back and front, for story.

2038 AD. Atop the white cliffs of Dover sits a battered but buff military man, a bottle in his hand. Behind the man stands a boy about twelve, and in his hand is a gun. It is pointed directly at the back of the bruiser’s head.

“You sure this is a decision you want to make, kid?
“I killed my first man when I was ten. The Agency wanted to make sure we were all ready early on. The point being, killing is easy. You can do it. I won’t try to stop you…”

The boy hesitates, uncertain.

“… Just got a story to tell first.”

And this is the story he tells…

“A warzone. A mission. A target.
“A thing to steal. A place to use. A person to kill.”

The warzone is the Gaza Strip, 2018. The mission is an extraction. The target is a Hamas soldier, biomodified with a unit in his chest using tech stolen from The Agency’s lab. That is what he is there to steal: he is going to extract that unit. Unfortunately there is a complication: Israeli soldiers after the very same thing. His progress is being monitored.

Can’t begin to tell you how quick and slick this is, narrated with total authority backed up by hard research, and punched onto the page by Michael Walsh in gruesome glory using broad brush strokes uncluttered by extraneous detail. Jordie Bellaire’s palette is a minimal mix of sand and blood – although there is an awful lot of that, along with shards of broken glass.

It’s far more direct than Kot’s two previous books, WILD CHILDREN and CHANGE (whose first chapter, I confess, lost me, so thanks to Jonathan for taking that review on!) and it ends on a figurative ellipsis which has me panting for more. Judging from the final sentence, I don’t think there will be any let up.


Buy Zero #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Jedi Academy h/c (£8-99, Scholastic) by Jeffrey Brown…

“Roan, you must be.”
“I must be what?”

Ah, hopefully this material – which is actually proper comics – is going to be as popular as the one page gag books Darth Vader And Son and Vader’s Little Princess. It deserves to be, as it has exactly the same sensibilities, but obviously has less novelty value for the general public. Actually though, I can well imagine this being some youngster’s first experience with comics, bought as a stocking-filler by a well meaning relative, which is a nice thought. The Force does indeed work in mysterious ways…

Anyway, our hapless hero Roan, having failed to get into the Pilot Academy like all his friends is faced with the unenviable prospect of attending Tatooine Agricultural Academy, to… errr… learn how to make crops grow better. Obviously, it’s not a career path he is relishing, so when an invitation to attend Jedi Academy drops completely unexpectedly onto the doormat, courteous of a certain Master Yoda, he decides to take the plunge.

Cue the laughs, told in true Jeffrey Brown journal style, of a very eventual freshman year. Great fun.


Buy Star Wars: Jedi Academy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

A lush, landscape hardcover you can squeeze (it’s sort of padded – no idea how they do that), but a word of warning: if you do, it may exude beetle juice.

This, you see, is buzzing with insects. It’s an entomologist’s heaven but hell for anyone who squirms at the up-turn of a stone and what you’ll find creepy-crawling underneath. In a jungle. And in close-up, with your nose in the soil.

It’s also a exuberant song, if you like, bursting with slick and witty rhymes, its music a visual feast of hot, frantic, mandible action as ravenous predators catch each other on the fly. It’s glossy, ridiculously detailed with huge landscape flourishes as when a swarm of diverse, exotic and colourfully winged wonders take to the air, viewed from below, the backdrop a seemingly infinite blue sky. That one is pure Alex Ross, if Alex Ross was a lover of bugs.

Have a drole death toll:

“A constant din of witless nits, and sap whose senses lapse,
Of scrotes who idly scratch their sacs, and croakers who collapse
A host of jokers and chokers,
All will pay their tax.

Taxpayers emit a familiar scream
That rolls around the photosynthescene;
Give thanks for Darwin’s de-selected,
They take one for the team.”

Not quite sure about the scansion, but that last line was a killer.


Buy Salsa Invertebraxa h/c and read the Page 45 review here

All New X-Men vol 3: Out Of Their Depth (£10-99 s/c, £18-99 h/c, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen.

Previously in ALL NEW X-MEN VOL 1 and ALL-NEW X-MEN VOL 2:

Dr Henry McCoy AKA The Beast has brought the original X-Men forward through time in order to shock Scott Summers AKA Cyclops out of declaring a mutant revolution and so risk a civil war and its potential, genocidal backlash. The first confrontation between Uncanny teams old and new was explosive and the time-rush has triggered young Jean Grey’s latent telepathic powers way too early. She’s discovered how they lived and how she died. She has determined that they will stay, and she is not above using her new-found, mind-bending abilities to ensure that this happens.


One of the original X-Men leaves the school in disgust for Cyclops’ renegade UNCANNY X-MEN team just as everyone starts to discuss whether the younger incarnation should even be in the present. That argument only escalates in the next book when time-travelers from the future arrive.

Here, however, we concentrate of Jean Grey herself, who simply won’t learn her lesson and is imposing her will on others and bursting through her telepathic and telekinetic upgrades with temper tantrums like nobody’s business – and nobody likes that business. Too much power too soon is what turned her into DARK PHOENIX, don’t forget.

Kitty Pryde is possibly the kindest X-Man ever, but as both school headmistress and its conscience / unwavering moral compass she will not brook such mind-control and gives Jean the most unflinching ultimatum during a private pep talk. And Jean takes it exactly the right way, understands, concedes and even agrees. She tentatively reaches out.

“I think I’m going to hug you now.”

This one of the many reasons why I adore artist Stuart Immonen: Jean is offering the hug, but it is subtly clear from the body language of that hug that it is Kitty who retakes the initiative, is in command of that hug, so relieved to have been offered it and determined to reaffirm her affection. And this is one of the many reasons I adore writer Brian Michael Bendis: he lets Stuart handle this solo. There is no verbal sign-posting. He leaves it for you to infer.

One of the many reasons I adore Stuart Immonen part II: there are four hilarious panels later on in which Bobby Drake AKA the ever-immature Iceman (Jr, as it were) fails to listen to Kitty Pryde and he lobs a snowball at a Thor he believes to be fake. Let me repeat that: he aces the Norse god Thor on the kisser. The expressions on Thor and Captain America’s speechless, incredulous faces are to die for. I laughed and I laughed then I laughed once more. Bobby Drake’s expression – on realising his error – is a pantomime of repentant horror / contrition.

There is also a thoroughly moving speech by Kitty Pryde about being proud of your heritage in the wake of bigoted adversity which, in the self-indulgent old days of my Bendis reviews, I would have typed up at length and in full. Suffice to say, it is about her being Jewish but not having a “quote unquote Jewish sounding same” nor looking or sounding Jewish “whatever that looks or sounds like” and having had the most enormous crush on a boy who then makes an anti-Semitic remark so appalling she cannot and will not repeat it. And it broke her heart

“I realised I was… maybe for the first time ever…. I was really proud of myself.
“I am Jewish.
“I am a mutant.
“And I want people to know who and what I am.
“I tell people because, hey, if we’re going to have a problem with it… I’d like to know.”

Hello, my name is Stephen. I’m both very stoopid and I am gay. I do act stoopid but I don’t act gay – largely because I don’t act. But if we’re going to have a problem with either of those things, I would like to know now.



Buy All New X-Men vol 3: Out Of Their Depth s/c (UK Ed’n)  and read the Page 45 review here

Buy All New X-Men vol 3: Out Of Their Depth h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel 1985 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Tommy Lee Edwards.

Affectionate and heartfelt tribute to Marvel’s ’80s output and maybe even Millar’s dad, I don’t know. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and it all came together beautifully and unexpectedly at the end.

It’s 1985, and young Toby is starting to see things out of the corner of his eye. He swears blind they’re the supervillains from his favourite comic books, but no one believes them because this is the real world. The real world in which his perfectly lovely but daydreaming Dad, down on his luck financially, has been shunted aside by Toby’s mother for another man who’s perfectly all right but not Toby’s Dad whom Toby loves with all his heart.

“He says I need to get my head out of the clouds and start making an effort in school.”
“Well, you know what? Hart’s probably right. There ain’t a job in the world where you need to know Giant-Man’s secret identity, and you don’t want to end up dumb and broke like your stupid old man. He’s good to you and he’s good to your Mom, Toby. You don’t need to hate him to please me.”


Toby’s right, though: somehow the villains have made their way into our world where there are no superheroes to stop their rampage, so they’re going to have a field day. Can Toby’s knowledge of the comics help save the world? Yes it can – very clever.

The art’s fantastic too with well defined, individualistic faces and some boyish features pouting to perfection, like Duncan Fegredo with a big, thick brush. Works very well for when the worlds collide and Galactus finally turns up.

Also features a comic shop scene which had me in stitches as I found myself split into two, the owner talking to Toby about the wonder of Marvel which is what young Toby loves, and the other guy wearing a CEREBUS t-shirt butting in thus:

“And so the Marvel zombies enlist another brainless wonder. Why don’t you spend your money on something that’s actually gonna advance the medium a little? You never heard of Love And Rockets? You never heard of Cerebus?”
“Pardon me, Mister Gary-Groth-In-Training, but I believe you have shelves to stack, and this store is not the letters page of the much-acclaimed Comics Journal.”


Buy Marvel 1985 s/c (UK Ed’n)  and read the Page 45 review here

Shazam vol 1 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank…

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself, do you? How sad is that?”

Another reboot yarn this time featuring Billy Batson, here updated for the 21st century as a right royal pain in the arse. A problem child who is unwanted and unloved, stuck in foster homes for most of his life, and consequently has a gargantuan chip to carry on his young shoulders. If only he could turn into someone super-strong to take the weight of all his woes… Gosh, that’d be magic wouldn’t it?

It works though, because the character of Billy is given real depth by Johns and there is an excellent supporting cast of goodies and baddies that flesh the story out perfectly. Excellent art from Gary Frank, who as usual has provided a masterclass of exactly how superhero books can and should be drawn. Every single face he has drawn here shows emotional content which adds an extra dimension to the storytelling.


[Editor’s note: collects the back-up strips from JUSTICE LEAGUE New 52 #7-11, 0, 14-16 and 18-21. I love Gary Frank. He makes you believe a 15-stone man can fly – or even hover, mid-air.]


Buy Shazam vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League vol 3: The Throne Of Atlantis h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire & Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier, Tony S. Daniel…

The first poor Geoff Johns-penned story I have read in ages. Very much feels like a filler before the Trinity War malarkey that itself leads into Forever Evil and villains’ month etc. etc.

Odd really, because it features Aquaman in the starring role, and Johns’ run on that title has been excellent, a really good example of how you can make a weak character interesting.

This is more like throw a dozen characters in a bag, or fishing net, shake it about, and see what comes out. A mess, really.

[Editor’s note: what a shame, I quite enjoyed the first two volumes. This reprints JUSTICE LEAGUE #13-17 and AQUAMAN #15-16.]


Buy Justice League vol 3: The Throne Of Atlantis h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Mark review rediscovered:

Queen of the Black Black (£5-99) by Megan Kelso –

Originally appearing as back-ups for a longer story, the pieces within this book show themselves to be far more accomplished than even the author gave credit for at the time.

Megan’s art style has changed and refined over the six or so years since the earliest of these strips were published, and that in itself makes this book fascinating to read. Watching ideas evolve, changes in lettering and line and her varied and beautiful attempts at depicting music give insights into the shifting ways one artist has found to tell her stories. The subjects vary widely, from low key ‘slice of life’ tales to atmospheric dream scenes, and musings on the nature of art and the motivation of the artist are never far from the surface.

My favourites?  The colour-washed title piece, (maybe a warning or a prophecy on the consuming need to ‘create’ to the exclusion of all else) and ‘Glamour’: isolation, paranoia, closure and rebirth all played out in a piece conceived by the author so she could ‘learn how to draw bikes’. Exciting and moving as a comic book, and incredibly engaging as a piece of art.


Buy Queen Of The Black Black 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.


Looking Out (£3-99, Hic & Hoc) by Philippa Rice

Show Me The Map To Your Heart (£4-99) by John Cei Douglas

Holding Patterns (£4-99) by John Cei Douglas

The Hic & Hic Illustrated Journal Of Humour vol 2: The United Kingdom (£9-99, Hic & Hoc) by various including Lizz Lunney, Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Joe List, Joe Decie, Timothy Winchester, Dan Berry, Gary Northfield, Gareth Brookes, many more

Smoke / Ashes h/c Signed Slipcase Edition (£39-99, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Igor Kordey, Felipe Sobreiro, Carla Speed McNeil, Richard Pace, Dan McDaid, Mack Chater, Colleen Doran, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alice Duke, Alem Curin, Jesse Hamm, James Smith, R. M. Guera, Tim Durning

Eisner: Comics And Sequential Art (£16-99, Norton) by Will Eisner

Fortunately, The Milk h/c (US Ed’n) (£10-99, Harper) by Neil Gaiman & Skottie Young

Dark Tower vol 11: The Gunslinger – Last Shots s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David, Robin Furth & Richard Isanove

The Unexpected s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by various including Paul Pope, David Lapham, Dave Gibbons, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Brian Wood, Jill Thompson, Gilbert Hernandez, many more

Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland s/c (£10-99, DC) by Bill Willingham & Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton, Jim Fern

Mutts Treasury: Cat Crazy (£14-99, Andrews McNeel Publishing) by Patrick McDonnell

Carbon Grey vol 2: Daughter Of Stones (£10-99, Image) by Hoang Nguyen, Paul Gardner & Khari Evans, various, Hoang Nguyen, various

Batman: Odyssey s/c (£14-99, DC) by Neal Adams

Earth 2 vol 1: The Gathering s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson & Nicola Scott

Earth 2 vol 2: The Tower Of Fate h/c (£18-99, DC) by James Robinson & Nicola Scott

Avengers: Endless Wartime h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Mike McKone

Psyren vol 12 (£7-50, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 4-6 (£10-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

One Piece vol 68 (£7-50, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Midnight Secretary vol 1 (£7-50, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 3: Ramba Ral (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Vinland Saga Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura



You know, by clicking on that link! Page 45 won Best Independent Retailer 2012 and the publicity was phenomenal. So we would be enormously grateful if you could help us win again. You don’t have to be local, it’s about what you love most in Nottingham – and it’s unlikely to be the weekend puke in the doorways!

ITEM! Contemporary comic called SWALLOW by Liz Greenfield. You never had a hangover? Once it’s printed, it will be massive here!

ITEM! New Ed Brubaker series with Steve Eptic art: VELVET preview and interview!

ITEM! MIMI & THE WOLVES review is by comicbook creator and occasional Page 45 stellar support, Jodie Paterson Click on that link for her Tumblr!

ITEM! Preview of Antony Johnston’s new comic UMBRAL! We wish you would pre-order comics. It helps us gauge their potential sales, and it helps you get what you actually want. You can pre-order Antony Johnston’s UMBRAL here.


ITEM! 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! And while we’re at it,  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!


– Stephen