Reviews November 2013 week four

Editor’s note: both BUTTERFLY GATE reviewed by Jonathan and KNIGHT & DRAGON reviewed by myself come, at the time of typing, with free, exclusive, Page 45 signed bookplates thanks to Improper Books. Do you remember how fast their PORCELAIN’s went? 100 copies sold out within 10 days! We only have 10 copies left of KNIGHT & DRAGON.

 – Stephen on… well, you get the picture.

Butterfly Gate (£7-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Reed & Chris Wildgoose…

Just had a glance at the front cover again, after finishing this work, and pondering upon Ben’s comment that in addition to this being a silent comic, there will be no explanations given or anything revealed that isn’t already on the page… and I’ve just noted something I didn’t spot originally. Well, perhaps I did, but now it has a far greater significance to me…

I’m not normally a huge fan of wordless comics, probably because I can have the nicest artwork in the world but if there isn’t a good plot, it’s just not my thing. Often I will read something twice, once quickly reading the plot and then a second time, taking in more of the art. This wordless piece though, is rather different, which is probably why Ben felt the need to pen his foreword, explaining that this story of two children will, over the course of several volumes, keep leapfrogging forward in time by six months, as happens once within this volume, over a span of ten years of their lives, telling us the story of their epic and bloody adventure. All of which creates a suitably intriguing sense of mystery before you even start reading!

I’m loath to give any of the plot away suffice to say Ben’s use of the words “epic” and “bloody” are certainly not going to be exaggerations if this first instalment is anything to go by. I was enticed in by the two innocent-looking cherubs and taken on the first steps of a journey reminiscent of a Humanoids imprint European sci-fi fantasy masterpiece. If you are familiar with Ben and Chris’ previous work PORCELAIN, you’ll know what an incredible artist Chris is, and I can say with complete certainty what they’ve done here just wouldn’t work in the way it does without his exceptional ability to portray a scene. But what I found most astonishing was just how complex a story is being told by Ben here, without the aid of narration or speech. It’s so ambitious in its scope and I admire that ambition greatly.

Yes, you will have to spend some time occasionally puzzling precisely what the nuances of a given situation are, but I don’t doubt whenever that occurs, it was precisely Ben’s intention that you do so. I actually found myself reading this four times in succession, my understanding of precisely what was being revealed increasing with each subsequent read, particularly in the second half of the book. It does of course finish with a cliffhanger, albeit quite a gentle one (this time at least) that will set up the next six-month leap forward in time, and it’d be nice to think that Ben and Chris are intending to keep up a publishing schedule to match. Just kidding – slightly begrudgingly, I must admit – as I wouldn’t really want them to rush, because when something is this good I am prepared to wait.


Buy Butterfly Gate and read the Page 45 review here

Unforgotten h/c (£14-99, InkLit) by Tohby Riddle.

“Ethereal” is the word which first springs to mind.

Also: an instinctive comparison to Wim Wenders’ haunting and dreamy Wings Of Desire film which boasts one of the finest soundtracks and the most mellifluous German ever spoken. Okay, “mellifluous” isn’t quite the right word: but you’ll feel like your face is resting gently on a duck-down pillow.

So it is here, as tender angels descend on a nocturnal Europe, its cities glowing through the darkness. The angels are drawn in soft grey pencil with a simplicity you might see in stained glass windows, hands clasped in prayer, a cross between the Medieval and Raymond Briggs. The same set of poses are reused throughout, like the white card cut-outs Mark once used for our Christmas window display.

These are superimposed on treated photography and it works so well. Like Philippa Rice’s WE’RE OUT, Bryan Talbot’s ALICE IN SUNDERLAND and Dave McKean on Neil Gaiman’s MR PUNCH, each of which utilise photography in different ways with spectacular success, this too has achieved what was once a jarring proposition which used to send me screaming to the hills.

Look a little closer and you will begin to notice that it isn’t as simple as all that, for the photographic scenescapes and with their bustling crowds of mortal city-dwellers and modes of transport prove to be collages ripped from both time and space: horse-drawn carriages and stretch limousines, free-standing Corinthian columns and statues of Mongolian or possibly Chinese warriors juxtaposed against heavily façaded shop-fronts while pedestrians mill about from Victorian ladies in mourning and colliery workers to that chap in the Adidas track-top.

It’s like some mischievous child has gone wild on half a dozen Action Transfer kits, perhaps saving the rub-on transfers they failed to employ on their relevant backdrops to redeploy those left-overs here en anarchic masse. It could be any and all times, everywhere and when.

It is a very quiet book, full of luxuriously imagery – improbable clouds and leaves and snow – so light on script that the poetry can be compressed onto a single page at the back as the angels fulfil their mission:

“They come
to watch over
and to warm
and to mend.”

One angel is overcome, sinks, becomes grounded.

“Weakened, it wanders
as if dreaming
resting where it can
until rest is not enough
and it comes to a stop.”

Whatever will become of the fallen angel, sitting invisible, inert and alone on a park bench?


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

Sunny vol 2 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

“Y’know, when I first came to the home I was always crying. But, little by little, you get used to being sad.”

Not “you get used to the home” but “you get used to being sad”.

Japanese orphanages are very different beasts to our own. The homes don’t house orphans: the kids often have parents. Parents who, for one reason or another, leave them in state care.

Can you imagine what that’s like, wondering why you have been abandoned? Wondering if you will ever be reclaimed? Desperate for a visit yet, as soon as that visit starts, knowing it will end; that knowledge colouring all your precious time together?

SUNNY VOL 1 set in the Star Kids Home was so deeply affecting we made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. It’s Dominique’s book of the year. The walls are so thin that one over-excited exchange cuts into another. So many conversations are happening all the time so that, as in any crowd, you may hear only snatches.

And although some kids are quiet and introspective, they can be a chaotic bunch, their faces flushed, hair messy, snot dripping from their noses. They’re pretty outspoken too but Mr Adachi takes it in good humour. It is only young Makio – the calm voice of reason treated by unruly Haruo like a minor celebrity – whom they listen to and respect.

Oh, it’s so acutely observed: the way a story circulates and is repeated, like the approach of a man with dark hands who must be one of those strangers children should never talk to; Kiko’s jealousy at not being the centre of attention, so making a second incidence up – that she was actually kidnapped but got away – then finding herself boxed in and having to embellish the lie, then panicking when caught out. It’s all seen from the narrow lens of small children with the limited understanding of the adult world outside:

“Yelling about it isn’t gonna make it true, liar.”
“Yeah. Y’know lying to the police is called perjury.”
“You might even go to jail, y’know.”
“My Dad says a criminal record stays with you forever.”
“You can never marry anyone.”


“Megumu really bugs me… always feeling sorry for herself,” broods the ever-resentful Kiko, always feeling sorry for herself.

So welcome back to the daily routine and crisis management of the Star Kids Home, where new kids come and go all the time leaving others behind, seemingly destined to spend their entire childhood there, distracted and so saved only by the strength of their imagination and the sanctuary of the Sunny Datsun in which adults aren’t allowed.

It’s parked in the yard, without engine, going nowhere.


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

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kyle Baker…

“…So what’ll it be for you? What is it that you want..?”
“Well, I suppose I want what everyone else wants… Peace, love, and belonging… though perhaps it’s belonging that’s most elusive.”

On the surface this is pure effervescent swinging sixties fun with a dapper yet cheeky biopic feel, portraying the charismatic guiding hand behind the Beatles’ rise to stardom. But when the cheers die down, the after party is over, the champagne bubbles have gone flat, what can you do if what you really feel is completely and utterly alone? Brian Epstein made making the Beatles his life’s work and tragically it probably greatly curtailed his, with his untimely death at the age of 32. As the Beatles themselves began to indulge in less legal pharmacological pursuits, Epstein became first addicted to amphetamines, and then sleeping tablets to try and help with his acute insomnia. Ultimately, it was an overdose of barbiturates which caused his premature passing.

It’s inevitable that any work like this will be only a potted history of events, even in a career as short as Epstein’s, but it features all the notable highs and lows, and of course bizarre anecdotes you would expect. Epstein had his personal demons, primarily due to having to hide his sexuality at a time when despite the Sixties sexual revolution, male homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales, ironically enough only being decriminalised about a month after his passing. And whilst this work doesn’t shy away from looking at the deep sadness Epstein clearly felt about being unable to openly look for romantic love, which he clearly felt could be the one thing that might save him from his workaholic and destructive tendencies, there is also much fun and frivolity about the magical journey he and the Beatles were on. The absolute highlight for me though is his lunch meeting with Colonel Parker, manager of Elvis and a man with a notorious appetite for money…

“You take fifty percent of everything Elvis earns?!”
“No. Elvis takes fifty percent of everything I earn.”




As Parker launches into tirade after tirade about Jews in the entertainment industry then just for dessert indulging some casual homophobia, Epstein begins to see the Colonel almost metamorphosising into some devilish version of Mammon in front of his very eyes. It’s a timely reminder that whilst Epstein himself was on a staggering 25% gross (not including expenses) of The Beatles’ income, he never had anything but their own best interests at heart. Indeed, just three years after Epstein’s death in August 1967 and with the breakup of Beatles then complete, John Lennon noted in a Rolling Stone interview that upon hearing of Epstein’s death: “I knew that we were in trouble then… I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it now'”.

The beautiful artwork, from Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, elegantly captures the wild rollercoaster ride that was Epstein’s life from the moment he laid eyes on the proto Fab Four in the Cavern to the moment he was finally laid to rest, complimenting Vivek J. Tiwary’s excellent script. Not entirely sure how much appeal this will have, either inside or outside of Beatles’ fans, but I certainly found it a very witty and immensely visually appealing read.


Buy The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Comics Art h/c (£18-99, Tate) by Paul Gravett.

Right on the money and bang up to date, you won’t find anyone with a broader knowledge of comics than Paul Gravett. Here he loots the library in his head and the graphic novels on his groaning book shelves to bring you a sweeping guide to a whole century of sequential art, lavishly illustrated by its newest stars like Jon McNaught and Luke Pearson as well and its heavyweights such as David Mazzuchelli, Lynda Barry, Shaun Tan and Lorenzo Mattotti.

Gravett then lobs in some visual grenades from John Miers et al which came as a complete surprise to me, while installations come courtesy of Dave McKean and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. I was also startled to see the “App version” of Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE as a single page which I wish had been blown up into a fold-out insert.

Paul revs up by putting the production of comics into its historical and contemporary socio-political context of which he never loses sight, then accelerates through all manner of the medium’s many aspects from autobiography to wordless wonders, impact and immersion, while peppering the pages with examples of different creative approaches and the effects those diverse decisions have on the way a comic is read. Right down to turning the page.

However, at 150 pages with so many illustrations, it is, inevitably a drive-by. The ground it covers is far broader than the depth into which any given aspect is delved. Gravett’s aim is as always immaculate: I cannot find anything here to disagree with, plenty I might not have thought of, and much I had never seen before in my life. Moreover, the books coherence is astonishing. Were I to attempt such a task, I would have lost my way by page five in one long meander-thon and spent a whole chapter discussing Mazzucchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP then dedicating two to the single greatest body of work in comics, the  ALEC OMNIBUS by Eddie Campbell, who here receives but three sentences, even if one of them is reasonably long.

So no, this is not, as someone ludicrously claimed, the new UNDERSTANDING COMICS. It is far closer to a Getting Acquainted With Comics In All Their Astonishing Diversity (for which I applaud and commend it) which you can then explore in more intricate detail in GRAPHIC NOVELS: STORIES TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE / EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW* already written by the great Gravett himself.

Look, it’s published by The Tate. That should tell you everything you need to know about its mandate and target audience. It’s an invitation to Fine Art lovers extended by comics’ most eloquent ambassador.

* US and UK titles differ.


Buy Comics Art h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Houses (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil.

“Though they’ve just met, AJ and Danica already have some ideas about each other… They’re both wrong.”

That’s a perfect example of the narrative tone and lightness of touch here: it is detached and observational; highly perceptive yet sparse – concise.

The art from FINDER’s Carla Speed McNeil is soft and pleasing, an expressive cross between BLOOD BLOKES’ Adam Cadwell, and SLEAZE CASTLE’s Terry Wiley (I defy you to look Anne in the eyes and not think Terry Wiley; just look at the hair!). The expressions are sweet and subtle, and the sense of space superb – that will prove very important.

Set in a town called Failin (which is indeed… failing), it is a book about self-esteem and relationships, both generational and romantic, and indeed between people and objects: what we hoard, what we covet, what we collect and what we invest in emotionally. We’re presented with two central family units – mother Cat and son Lewis; mother Danica and daughter Anne – and other orbiting parties: an effectively swift antiques dealer called Ted and unemployed AJ who feels unable to cope as carer to his elderly mother and is today leaving her with Forest Grove Assisted Living which is where Danica works.

Lewis works for his mother Cat (he would say “with”) of Cat’s Matchless Estate Sales, and this is where the objects come in. After helping out a friend many years ago, Cat discovered she had a knack for selling the contents of houses after their occupants had died. These are full of objects their owners never sought to relinquish: they were integral parts of their lives, full of history, full of meaning to them. And that can elicit in others many things: prurience, nostalgia or the chance to make a killing. Also, judgement, as in this mug printed with the legend, “World’s Best Mom”:

“Lewis has seen any number of mugs identical to the one they are contemplating. And always the same hyperbolic phrase, Lewis thinks. Apparently just being a good mom is inadequate. Just once, Lewis would like to see “Mom Who Is Doing Her Best, All Things Considered”. People would pay more for a mug like that, he reasons. It’d be unique.”

Someone should start a line in those: a lot of mums would empathise!

What this book does so beautiful is, as I say, present us with these individuals… and then gradually reveal surprising sides to them. Surprising sides can come as quite a shock when you think you know everything about your loved one.


Buy Bad Houses and read the Page 45 review here

Knight & Dragon (Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition)(£8-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Bevis Musson.

Ah, now this is a little different: a silent story strewn with symbols whose direction is dictated by the protagonist you choose.

The diverging paths of each of the six colour-coded characters are indicated by matching page numbers under each episode: you can choose from dragon, knight, maiden, trusty steed, village hunk (officially “farmhand” but I guarantee you “hunk” is what springs to mind first) and village thief — I mean chief! For the record I chose: horse, then dragon, then maiden and all three endings made me grin my head off.

A knight lollops into town on his carrot-craving horse and is immediately greeted by the villagers as their potential saviour, for there is a big red dragon circling up above and its unregulated displays of fire-breathing are flaunting every possible Health & Safety regulation going. The knight falls for the village beauty at which point their opportunistic leader offers her hand in marriage as an incentive. The maiden is far from impressed; the knight is far from confident; the horse hopes there are carrots at the end of all this because that stick is bloody massive.

What will the knight find in the dragon’s cave? Which secret will the put-upon maiden unearth in the village itself? Who in the end will get the girl? All of this depends on your initial choice.

My favourite branch involved the horse, knight and farmhunk distracted from the matter at hand, much to the maiden’s deliciously depicted, glowering vexation which is all the funnier for being delivered direct to camera. Musson’s art is clean and kid-friendly as is Nathan Ashworth’s sunlit colours.


This is very much aimed at younger readers and as such should probably have been reviewed by one because this adult detected a few shortcomings a child would possibly have glossed over. I was expecting each character’s path to be seen specifically from their point of view yet, for example, there were scenes the horse neither bore witness to nor would have cared about. I personally would have preferred that: it would have given the story more depth, variety and, if properly considered, wit. It would also have added some length because this is very, very short indeed. Also, more could have been done with the opposing pages – something akin to SOCK: MONKEY: THAT DARN YARN or SOCK MONKEY: LITTLE & LARGE.

None of which detracts from the skill of its timing, especially the fair maiden’s ever-increasing exasperation at the sheer uselessness of everyone else involved. Honestly: men!


Buy Knight & Dragon and read the Page 45 review here

Baltimore vol 3: A Passing Stranger And Other Stories h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck, Dave Stewart…

“What if there are vampires?”
“Didn’t you see all of those weapons? That’s what he is, Maxie. He’s a vampire hunter.”

He certainly is, but he’ll happily take on all comers, dead or alive (but especially undead), will our Lord Henry Baltimore. The relentless quest across Europe deeper into the old world for the vampire Hagus continues, but Baltimore increasingly finds his pursuit obstructed by the rise of other equally perfidious supernatural evils, which the widespread return of vampires to the world seems to have awakened.

Plus plague has spread throughout continental Europe, which is always good fun as well, as if fear of having your blood drained by vampires or being eaten by some sort of magically mutated swarm of monster crabs wasn’t bad enough. Then, of course, assuming you’ve survived all that, there are the mentalists of the new Inquisition to contend with, prayer-powered and ready to pluck fingernails and gouge eyes, all to save your soul.

Judge Duvic from BALTIMORE VOL 2: THE CURSE BELLS in particular would like a chat with Baltimore, fervently believing him to be a fundamental source of evil that needs extinguishing, but our Henry has no time for calls of either the social or anti-social variety, after all, he’s a vampire to catch. If you like HELLBOY or BPRD and you haven’t tried BALTIMORE yet, you really are missing out. If you like a good scare and haven’t read any of Mignola’s stuff at all, I’ll pass on your address to Judge Duvic as he clearly needs a word…


Buy Baltimore vol 3: A Passing Stranger And Other Stories h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Mysterious Underground Men h/c (£18-99, Picturebox) by Osamu Tezuka, edited by Ryan Holmberg…

Very early Tezuka from 1948, chronologically his third published work, though interestingly he considered it his first proper release, for reasons elucidated upon in the excellent additional material from Ryan Holmberg. Basically, at that point in time, manga as we know it today was still in its very formative years, beginning to rapidly evolve from the staple pre-war gag strips, due in no small part to the sudden, jarring exposure to Western culture on minds like Tezuka’s.

This is the first English translation of this work which, given it very much has the feel of a 1930s’ black and white sci-fi serial, I wasn’t remotely surprised to see was partly inspired by the Buster Crabbe version of Flash Gordon. Also, and again given the heavy humorous elements Tezuka often employed throughout his career, it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, this work was also apparently influenced by Milt Gross’ wordless classic parody HE DONE HER WRONG. The fact the main character trying to save humanity from a humanoid termite invasion is a talking rabbit called Mimio just adds to the fun…


Buy The Mysterious Underground Men h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Knights: X-Men #1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brahm Revel & Chris Peter.

Page 45 is a comic shop. We are:

Stephen L. Holland
Jonathan Rigby
Dominique Kidd
with Jodie Paterson.

And on any Monday morning our conversation goes exactly like this:

“Ah, Holland, you are an hour late to work!”
“Yes, Kidd, the other original member of Page 45, you are correct! And you are early as you have been for the last 322 consecutive days as I can tell by accessing our alarm system which records when anyone first enters the building.”
“Holland, who was last speaking, I have arrived with the bubonic plague.”
“I sense danger, Rigby! Has your daughter, who is now two years old, acted like a human disease incubator yet again and given you another dreaded lurgy?”
“She has, Dominique (codenamed Kidd who took a seven-year leave of absence during which I snuck in as business partner and rescued Page 45 from the inept fumblings of our improbably resilient, bald-headed git). I am quite poorly.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Rigby (whom we refer to as J-Lo or J-Boy and maybe soon J-Ray), but I think you will find to all intents and purposes (and especially my ego) that I *AM* PAGE 45!”
“Holland, you are now little more than our mascot. Like a shop dog, in fact.”
“Fair enough.”


“Yoo-hoo! Morning! It is, I, Jodie Paterson who has just joined Page 45 and finally brought a breath of fresh air and some semblance of professionalism to this rag-tag retail outfit located right in the heart of Nottingham (NG1 6HY – right on the tram tracks and just opposite Debenhams). I have coffee for everyone! Jonathan, yours is the large one.”
“That’s what SHE said!”

Everyone punches Jonathan to a pulp.

Okay, this isn’t the world’s worst offender expositionally, but nobody talks like this. For the admirable antithesis, please see IDENTITY CRISIS which is phenomenal.


Buy Marvel Knights: X-Men #1  and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja with Javier Pulido, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Francesco Francavilla, Annie Wu, Alan Davis, Matt Hollingsworth.

Both so-sexy softcovers in one! This is magnificent!

“Okay… This looks bad. Really… really bad. But believe it or not, it’s only the third most-terrible idea I’ve had today and today I have had exactly nine terrible ideas.”

Oh, Clint. Every idea you have is terrible.

Comedy crime with an eye for design so sharp that this is the first superhero book we have ever allowed in our window. Partly because it’s not even a superhero book, but mostly it’s Aja’s design.

There’s a charming use of flesh and purple tones, and a thrilling deployment of stark black and white with plenty of wide-open space. In one instance a newspaper clipping smuggles in the creator credits; in another the only mask in this entire series so far (apart from a certain gold-plated façade) makes for a belly-laugh moment you may have heard whisper of. I’m not going to steal the fun from you. Here’s a Daily Bugle headline instead:

Oh God Somebody Do Something

Fraction’s timing is immaculate. At least three of these stories kick off in the middle, at the height of yet another monumental disaster, the one quoted above then proceeding to count down through each of Clint’s nine increasingly idiotic ideas. Thank goodness for Kate Bishop, then – the younger, female Hawkeye – who’s smarter, sassier and infinitely more savvy, so often left to pull Clint’s fat (and occasionally naked) ass out of the fryer.

“Tell you what, if I die, you can have the case. It’s good for travel.”
“Think I have quite enough of your baggage already, thanks.”

Here’s some of what I wrote of the first issue before the spying, the lying and the videotapes arrived. Before Clint’s sex-drive got him into the coolest comic car chase I can recall, complete with some old trick arrows he really should have found time to label before dipping his wick. Bring on the tracksuit Draculas, bro!

By his own admission Clint Barton can be more than a little juvenile. The man with the hair-trigger temper and mouth to match has a long history of knee-jerk reactions. But for all his sins, this totally blonde bowman and relative outsider has a heart of gold and a social conscience to boot. So when those who have taken him in – the neighbours he shares communal barbeques with on hot summer nights on the roof of their tenement building – fall under threat of mass eviction, Clint can’t help but act on impulse, and you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong.

It’s a first-person narrative with a grin-inducing degree of critical, objective detachment. It dashes frantically, nay recklessly, backwards and forwards in time with little-to-no hand-holding, as Clint watches yet another badly laid plan precipitate a cycle of ill-aimed, flailing thuggery. At its centre lies the plight of a battered mongrel which Barton fed pizza to in order to win the dog over. But now it’s in trouble.

“What kinda man throws a dog into traffic – seriously, I ask you – traffic right now – rain – cabs – nobody watching out for sideways demon pizza mutts – c’mon, Clint – c’mon – nobody – nobody watching out – Can’t watch oh God…”

Now, there is a natural affinity if ever I read one.

Second half:

“Okay… this looks bad.”

Of course it does, Clint: you are involved.

HAWKEYE VOL 1 is the only superhero comic we have ever allowed in the Page 45 window, and the only superhero comic we have ever made – or are likely to make – Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Firstly, David Aja’s design skills are phenomenal; secondly, this isn’t a superhero comic: it’s a grin-inducingly inventive comedy crime caper, full of humanity and accessible to all: you don’t need to have read a single Marvel Comic in your life.

Oh, you’ll find so much to relate to, like that unfathomable tangle of wires which links your TV to your digital thingie via the DVD player and VCR, while your PS3 and Wii operate almost certainly by magic if only you can remember which arcane combination of controller buttons to press. God alone knows which plug is which anymore.

Then there are the ghosts of ex-girlfriends. Oh, not real ghosts, but imagine being caught snogging a damsel in distress (and in dat dress) by a) your girlfriend b) your ex-girlfriend and c) your ex-wife, all at the same time. I’m not exactly sure what a motif is, but Fraction and Aja have turned that trio into one. Probably. They recur, anyway, at the most inopportune moments.

Once again, this is one long succession of disasters but this time not all of them are of Clint’s making. The first chapter was written on the fly immediately following the horrific storms which hit the U.S. on October 29th 2012.

Clint has bought the tenement building he lives in to safeguard its tenants from a mob in tracksuits. There have been… altercations, bro. He’s also befriended those tenants, especially chubby, middle-aged Grill who insists on calling our Hawkeye “Hawkguy”. As the winds whip up around them, Clint drives Grill to Far Rockaway where Grill’s stubborn old goat of a dismissive dad is steadfastly refusing to pay any attention to the gale or water levels, leaving their last mementoes of Grill’s dead mum in the basement. Oh look, here comes the flood.

The very same night Kate – our younger, female and infinitely wiser Hawkeye – is preparing to hit New Jersey in an elaborate Emanuel Ungaro dress and Christian Dior stilettos.

“What could a storm do to a five-star hotel?”
“It’s New Jersey. There are La Quinta Inns outside of State pens that are nicer.”
“Oh yeah, Mr. Brooklyn? This where you and Jay-Z tell me Brooklyn is the greatest place on Earth?”
“Okay, one, I don’t know who that is, and two, shut up. Brooklyn is great, New Jersey is a punch line, and you are a kid and don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Both threads are moving tributes to people helping each other in times of crises, and that’s what this title is all about: helping people in times of crisis. And it stars the one man above all who simply cannot help himself – in either sense.

“Whoa, man, you look like hell.”
“Walked into a door. That, uh, proceeded to beat the hell out me.”

Clint seems to have spent the entire series covered in plasters.

He’s also spent the series in a line of personalised clothing like the H hat nodding back to his old mask, and the purple target t-shirt. As to Kate, she’s decked herself out in a variety of purple shades which she’s perpetually pulling down to glare her elder in the eyes with long-suffering disdain.

So yes, let us talk more about David Aja’s design which – with Hollingsworth’s white – fills the comic with so much light. His tour de force here is the Pizza Dog issue, told entirely from Lucky’s point of view, wordless except for those basics the mutt might understand. His day is spent constantly interpreting the world around him through sound, smell and association, conveyed by Aja in maps of connected symbols worthy of Chris Ware himself (see BUILDING STORIES, JIMMY CORRIGAN and, particularly for symbols, the early pages of ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20). There is one seemingly throwaway moment where an absence of both sound and smell means everything.


What is particularly impressive is the absence of almost any anthropomorphism (just two raised paws). Instead it’s all symbols and skeuomorphism as the dog goes about its business (and indeed business) on daily patrol. What you don’t see on the unlettered cover to that chapter is the original credits which would normally read…


… but instead read…


And you know what I was saying in HAWKEYE VOL 1 about Matt Hollingsworth’s gorgeous colour palette? There is a highly instructive two-page process piece in the back in which shows you precisely how he achieves that consistency and the trouble he goes to do so. Pays off every single issue.

Anyway, back to the tangled wires and battered old VCR and our catastrophe-prone Clint doing the best that he can.

“Shut up about the show and shut up about my stuff – I know it’s a mess and it’s half-taped together and it’s old and busted – but it’s mine.
“And you gotta make that work, right? You gotta make your own stuff work out.”

Or, to put it another way…

“What is the hell have I gotten myself into? What the hell is wrong with me?”

Oh, Clint! Everything is wrong with you.

Except your heart.


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

Batman Detective Comics vol 3: Emperor Penguin h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman & Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke…

I did actually read this arc in comics for whatever reason*, so it behoves me to at least mention, I suppose, that it features the creation of quite an interesting new Bat-villain and nemesis to Mr Cobblepot in the shape of the titular Emperor Penguin. But that’s really all I can say about it…

* I remember why! Because of PENGUIN: PAIN AND PREJUDICE which I really enjoyed, it being one of the darkest Bat books I think I’ve ever read, as the true brooding villainy of Oswald is revealed, and just as good as Azzarello’s THE JOKER. This isn’t remotely in the same latitude.


Buy Batman Detective Comics vol 3: Emperor Penguin h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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


Throw Your Keys Away (£6-00) by Dan Berry

Cat Island (£6-00) by Dan Berry

Giant Days 3 (£4-99) by John Allison

Rules Of Summer h/c (£14-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

BPRD: Vampire vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Hilda And The Bird Parade (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Hilda And The Midnight Giant (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Life Begins At Incorporation s/c (£14-99) by Matt Bors

The Ring Of The Seven Worlds h/c (£19-99, Sloth Comics) by Giovanni Gualdoni, Gabrielle Clima & Matteo Piana

Sex vol 1: Summer Of Hard (£7-50, Image) by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski

Batman And Robin vol 2: Pearl s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray

Batman And Robin vol 3: Death Of The Family h/c (£16-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray

Batman Incorporated vol 1: Demon Star s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Batman Incorporated vol 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Fabian Nicieza, Scott Snyder & Pasqual Ferry, Timothy Green II, Greg Capullo

Marvel Masterworks: Ant-Man / Giant-Man vol 1 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby, Don Heck

Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk vol 1 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby

Uncanny Avengers vol 2: The Apocalypse Twins (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Gerard Gorman Duggan & Daniel Acuna, Adam Kubert

Attack On Titan vol 9 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Fairy Tail vol 29 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 30 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 31 (£7-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 32 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 33 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Naruto vol 63 (£7-50, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Pink (£10-90, Vertical) by Kyoko Okazaki

Vampire Knight vol 17 (£7-50, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Sonic Universe vol 6 (£8-99, Archie) by various


ITEM! R.e. Action Transfers in my review of UNFORGOTTEN up above: you have no idea what I even mean, do you? You poor, poor children! Action Transfers were the best thing EVER!

ITEM! It’s competition time! First Graphic Novel 2014: Myriad Editions are offering a contract, a week’s retreat in France! Last year’s winner was THE BLACK PROJECT by Gareth Brookes which proved so good we made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month October 2013! PS There is a £10 admin entry fee.

ITEM! British Comics Awards Winners 2013 Announced, and excellent they all are! Read our reviews:




While Leed’s schoolchildren voted for THE COMPLETE RAINBOW ORCHID in the YOUNG PEOPLE’S AWARD. Garen Ewing wrote a piece on his Young People’s Comic Award victory.

HALL OF FAME: Leo Baxendale.

It was an enormous honour to be the only judged asked back for its second year, and it gave me a great deal of pleasure! Seriously, you have no idea. I know how many hours I put in, so I can only begin to imagine how long it took The Committee to select the nominees. A round of applause for The British Comics Awards 2013 Committee!

ITEM! ITEM! ITEM! Lastly, Paul Duffield’s THE FIRELIGHT ISLE. I told you months ago how beautiful this was, and now it’s gone live! World-building at its best. Oh, Lord, the colouring! Even the lettering is to die for!

– Stephen x

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