One of the best and most sensitive explorations of teenage psychosis and mental illness I have read in some considerable time.
- Jonathan on Look Straight Ahead
If you thought John Cei Douglas’ ‘Living Underwater’ in HOLDING PATTERNS was an eloquent expression of pressure and paralysis, Allie’s analysis of the evaporation and then death of her empathy for anything around her is as thorough and comprehensible as it is halting.
- Stephen on Hyperbole And A Half
We’re Out h/c (£11-99, My Cardboard Books) by Philippa Rice.
One of the finest advertisements for our fine city of Nottingham, locals will be familiar with so many of the images here and relish that recognition – just like I did when Page 45 appeared 36 minutes in during BBC One’s drama Truckers!
This is like Oliver Postgate, creator of The Clangers etc, but with sharper photography and slightly fewer Soup Dragons.
I’m in no way criticising the late and very great Oliver Postgate’s camera skills; I’m merely commenting on modern technology and the advantage Philippa Rice has taken of it in terms of focus and sheen. Boy, does she dust! Whatever can I mean?
Philippa Rice, who designed the GameCity banners which festooned Nottingham’s Council Building, its bus stops and Page 45’s shop window last year, has made her career out of repurposing paper, corrugated cardboard, cloth, wool and the occasional piece of string… chocolate coins, real coins, tin foil and sticking plasters, with pen at the ready and Tippex on standby, to tell the two-dimensional stories of Cardboard Colin and paper Pauline. I don’t mean that the tales fell flat, I mean that they lived and breathed in a two-dimensional world. Now… they’re coming out!
They’re coming out of their comic and into the real world, our world, starting with Philippa’s own flat. And as they heave themselves out of the panels and onto Philippa’s cloth-cluttered, paper-littered desk, the effect is nothing short of stardust. It’s like Bagpuss, Bagpuss, fat, furry catpuss waking up to look at this thing that you bring, and the mice on the magical mouse organ bursting out of their semi-relief in shrill celebration. Oh, how brave is Philippa to open up her bookcases and piles of PS3 console games to the public as Pauline and Colin scuttle about her flat, foraging for food and founding base camps to kip in!
They make one heck of a mess.
But then they flop through the letter box and are well and truly out in the open air, trundling around Nottingham’s Arboretum cemetery in their cobbled-together cornflake-packet car before hitting the city centre and, by pure coincidence (serenditpity, synchronicity – call it what you will), Page 45 appears on its 45th page! How cool is that?! I nearly had a cry.
After a quick picnic on the open Market Square, admiring the Council Building in all its neo-classical splendour, Pauline and Colin become gleeful tourists, taking in The Castle and the Robin Hood statue, clambering onto the rails outside the Caves.
But these characters are just four inches tall and made out of paper and cardboard; plus Nottingham has some serious footfall, thankfully. And rainfall. So puddles. Our puddles are Colin and Pauline’s floods and cornflake cars – whilst economical on the fuel front – are notorious for breaking down at the most inopportune moments, and they have no AA cover!
Will Pauline and Colin be safe? It’s much easier to tear paper than break a bone and, oh, they are ever so small!
All of which is told with wit and a real sense of wonder, the camera angles and compositions chosen for maximum magic and, at times, danger. Quite how Philippa caught the Market Square open and uncluttered by some hideous beach or “fun” fair is beyond me.
As an added bonus a pair of 3-D glasses are included which make a re-read feel like looking through one of those old-school View-Master from forty years ago: everything shining in such sharp, hyper-real relief.
They say you can never go back, nor should you. But in Pauline and Colin’s case it may be vital that they do so, for forces are gathering around them. Can they get back into their comic in time? Or has Philippa returned home to find her house a complete tip and taken appropriate action? Uh-oh!
At the time of typing all our copies are signed and sketched in for free, just like Philippa’s ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON, MY CARDBOARD LIFE, RECYCLOST. Still available: SOPPY, SOPPY #2 and LOOKING OUT.
Maria M. Book One h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.
You’ve not read anything like it! Here are three one-panel snapshot scenes featuring three different men wooing Maria:
“I love you, Maria.”
“I – I love you, Maria.”
“I love you, Maria.” *phone rings* “That’ll be my wife.”
Maria arrives in the U.S. and gradually learns the language as she begins to understand the country, taking and getting fired from a succession of very dreadful jobs while demonstrating even worse taste in men. She’s neither afraid nor ashamed to use her two greatest assets, which are enormous. Eventually she settles down as the doll of drug-peddling mob boss Cienfuegos whose ostensive family business is in ladies’ lingerie, and he treats her well, while one of his two sons, Gorgo, secretly falls in love and silently protects her.
But Cienfuegos has plenty of enemies out to get him for good – largely, because he won’t condemn communism! – and Gorgo himself comes under continual attack. Fortunately he is as formidable as he is efficient as he is ruthless; unfortunately he’s not the only target.
With one notable exception involving a full bowl of steaming noodles, Maria is a predominantly passive participant in events which take place around her, and – given the style of storytelling – a great deal does happen during these 136 pages. And remember, this is but the first of two volumes – do remember that, because I didn’t!
The cartooning is, as ever, an immaculately clean and balanced black and white joy, the expressions are exquisite and the breasts, they are humungous. Nudity abounds.
You need know nothing of LOVE AND ROCKETS but as an added bonus for those who do…. Here’s Fantagraphics.
“Long-time LOVE AND ROCKETS readers will find the storyline familiar… and that’s because, in a meta twist, MARIA M is actually the B-movie film adaptation of the life story of Luba’s mother Maria, as previously seen in its ‘real’ version in the classic graphic novel Poison River (available in the BEYOND PALOMAR collection) starring Maria’s own daughter playing her own mother. Confused? Don’t be! MARIA M will work perfectly on its own terms as the kind of violent, sexy pulp tale that Gilbert Hernandez has proven so adept at these past several years, and the ‘source material’ for the story will just provide an extra layer of delight for the cognoscenti.”
Hyperbole And A Half (£10-99, Square Peg) by Allie Brosh.
From the stupidest dog in the world to Allie herself (who appears to be an albino fish with tiny flippers, big, bulbous eyes and a yellow head-fin) it is deceptively simple; but it is as a consequence gleeful, stoopid and expressive as hell. Which is handy, because this eye-wateringly entertaining cascade of self-mockery is all about emotions – of which Brosh has, at different times in her life, experienced both many and none whatsoever.
We’ll get to those more serious sequences later, for this is also profoundly perceptive in its analysis, distillation and then communicating of the most complex, overwhelming and sometimes conflicting sensibilities.
I don’t know if you were a problem child, but Allie was what you’d call challenging. No, I’m sorry: utterly exasperating. Take cake, for example: her mother baked a cake for her grandfather’s birthday but made the mistake of making it in the morning, slathering it in icing and topping it off with candy figures which to Allie were toys. Toys to be played with – and eaten! Cue day-long fixation on Allie’s part not for a slice of the cake but for all of it. And that girl was not without resources from emotional blackmail (ranging from tears and tantrums to full-on kimikazee) to breaking-and-entering. Her grandfather has his cake, but will he get to eat it?
It kicks off when a 27-year-old Brosh rediscovers a letter she had written, aged 10, to her 25-year-old self then buried in the garden. I don’t know if this is true, but it is a good story so I believe it. Its preoccupations and priorities are hilarious and in the following order: dogs, dogs, dogs; plight of pet dog; favourite food; then are her parents still alive? More bizarrely still…
“Below the German Shepherds, I wrote the three most disturbing words in the entire letter – three words that revealed more about my tenuous grip on reality than anything else I have ever uncovered about my childhood. There, at the bottom of the letter, I had taken my crayon stub and used it to craft the following sentence: “Please write back.””
Surprisingly, she does so. Not just to her 10-year-old self, either.
“Face cream is not edible – no matter how much it looks like frosting, no matter how many times you try – it’s always going to be face cream, and it’s never going to be frosting.
“I promise I wouldn’t lie to you about this. It’s honestly never going to be frosting.
“For the love of fuck, please stop. I need those organs you’re ruining.”
Now you begin to understand the cake issue.
As an adult Allie adopts two dogs, one after the other, and they too prove problematic. The second is as rabid about other dogs as Daffyd in Little Britain is about being “the only gay in the village”. The first is merely brainless, Brosh suspects, so she sets about training it (Allie fails) then testing its IQ (dog fails). In all fairness, Allie should have probably tested her own IQ first by learning how to train a dog (she doesn’t). You wait until Allie attempts to move house. Everyone fails then, the dogs setting each other off in an increasingly compounded loop of escalating noise and then a great big ball of bewilderment. Like every piece here – from the life-long repercussions of a juvenile lie told to please two preposterously competitive parents – it is an ordeal.
That each is so diverting is down not just to Brosh’s timing but her natural instinct to think outside the box and present each situation from an unexpected point of view.
“If you were sitting quietly on your couch, waiting for your girlfriend to come back inside so you could finish watching your movie, and while you were waiting, someone called you up and said “I’ll give you a million dollars if you can guess what’s going to happen next,” you absolutely would not guess “I am going to be brutally and unexpectedly attacked by a goose in my own home.” Even if you had a hundred guesses, you would not guess that.”
Before that paragraph, Brosh’s boyfriend is seen smiling away on the couch, reading a book while waiting to resume his horror film, with the door open behind him. After that paragraph, as the goose waddles in and begins to emit its war cry, he’s not looking so sure.
“But that’s exactly what happened to Duncan.”
All of which makes this monumentally more mirthful than some of our similarly racked, comedic sure-fire sellers like HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAT IS PLOTTING TO KILL YOU or (actually recommended, this one) 5 VERY GOOD REASONS TO PUNCH A DOLPHIN IN THE MOUTH but, as hinted earlier, there infinitely is far more to this autobiographical tour than first meets the eye.
Although she coats it with a comedic sugar frosting which she knows from experience appeals so well, there is a deadly serious side to Allie Brosh’s confessional candour, for she has endured the most crippling depression and an apathy which borders on self-destruction. The prevarication displayed during her Motivation Game may sound insane but I’ve been at least halfway there myself. Boy, does she get herself in a self-tortured tangle but – almost inevitably given Brosh’s eye for the absurd – it is still funny.
‘Depression Part One’ and most emphatically ‘Depression Part Two’, however, are not. And if you thought John Cei Douglas’ ‘Living Underwater’ in HOLDING PATTERNS was an eloquent expression of pressure and paralysis, Allie’s analysis of the evaporation and then death of her empathy for anything around her is as thorough and comprehensible as it is halting. Her subsequent attempts to fake joy or sadness to please others results only in further alienation. As to friends’ attempts to help her, their misapprehensions are eloquently explained.
“It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge the fish are dead. Instead they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.”
“My fish are dead.”
“Don’t worry! I’ll help you find them! Are there any clues where they went?”
“I know where they are… the problem is that they aren’t alive anymore.”
“Let’s keep looking! I’m sure they’ll turn up somewhere!”
“No, see, that solution is for a different problem than the one I have.”
This and so much more – like reaching the point where you no longer want to exist, and the problems involved in breaking that news – is a real eye-opener, and a vital contribution in helping to understand the trapped plight of others.
This book contains what may be the most unusual dedication in publishing history. Each routine’s pages are colour-coded too, a bit like a catalogue – a catalogue of disasters.
‘Depression Part Two’ is so important that I’m giving you a live link to the full thing right here: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/depression-part-two.html
Look Straight Ahead (£14-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Elaine M. Will…
One of the best and most sensitive explorations of teenage psychosis and mental illness I have read in some considerable time. Jeremy is an introverted 17-year-old high school kid with very few friends whose primary passion is illustration. He’s possibly genetically predisposed to seeing the world a little differently than everyone else to start with, and after an extended period of emotional bullying at school from the jocks and the mean girls, this develops into a full-blown psychotic breakdown episode, complete with auditory and visual hallucinations. Cue a period in a hospital for observation and the future of a lifetime on medication. Obviously, this isn’t something that seems particularly appealing to Jeremy, and so begins a period of internal and external struggle, as he begins to come to terms with his condition.
Elaine writes and illustrates in a manner which perfectly captures many elements of the conundrum faced by those in Jeremy’s position. Often, they feel at their best during the pre-break periods of mania where the delusions are almost intoxicating, rapturous even, before the paranoia well and truly kicks in. Afterwards, they can long to experience those states again, believing that the chemical suppression of their medication, which in reality is helping to balance their brain chemistry, is limiting their state of consciousness and preventing them experiencing reality as it truly is. Jeremy is in just such a position, but fortunately for him he has a supportive, understanding parent who is able to prevent him going too far off the rails and possibly hurting himself or someone else in the meanwhile.
All of which sounds rather intense, and is in a way, I suppose, but it’s presented with such sensitivity and understanding, illustrating the inner turmoil people in Jeremy’s position face, that first and foremost it just comes across as an excellent piece of contemporary fiction, irrespective of the subject matter. Elaine’s art style certainly helps in that regard too, and I can see elements of Terry Moore in her work, which should give you a good idea of what to expect should you decide to give this a try.
The Hic & Hoc 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.
The success of so much comedy lies in the recognition factor, and I recognised the truth of this alternative commiseration card by Lizz Lunney which, given such displays of online agony, would probably outsell those targeted towards weddings, funerals and even Mother’s Day:
“Sorry to hear your favourite celebrity died. Good news is – it makes zero real difference to your life whatsoever.”
Lizz will admit that she is quick to judge – especially people by their shoes. On another page she does so, at length, before concluding incontrovertibly…
“If you don’t want to be judged by your shoes wear a cape.”
Lizz, with Joe List, is in charge of this cavalcade of comedy which we imported direct from the U.S. of A.. Stock is therefore limited and once gone, it is gone.
Some of my favourites were: Fossil Waffle by Kristyna Baczynski because, when you think about it, fossils are the most put-upon victims of musical statues once the fat lady’s stopped singing forever; the unsolicited, self-obsessed suggestions from friends and strangers about what Gareth Brookes should write comics about; Stephen Collins’ for the craftsmanship; and Joe Decie for turning the table on door-to-door salesmen by trying to sell them something instead. Trust me, this works: I’ve had cold-callers hang up on me!
Law Of The Desert Born h/c (£18-99, Bantam) by Louis L’Amour, various & Tom Yeates…
Beautiful looking adaptation of a story from prolific ‘frontier fiction’ author Louis L’Amour. The first time anything he wrote has been made into a graphic novel as far as I am aware, though there have been over forty cinema and television movie adaptations of his tales, mainly during the era when Westerns were king from the late fifties through to the end of the seventies, before sci-fi really took over as the primary escapist genre of choice.
This is illustrated in monochrome watercolour and really captures the period. Beautiful, almost lunar-like landscapes, jam-packed with rough, tough hombres with hearts of gold and ornery rapscallions who would likely slit your throat just for wearing the wrong shade of poncho, this just feels exactly like watching a black and white Western. Hopefully this will be popular enough to justify adapting more of L’Amour’s works, but I don’t honestly know if the appetite is there for this genre any longer as Brian Azzarello found out with LOVELESS, which despite being brilliant, had to come to an earlier conclusion than intended.
Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Bendis & Bagley.
This, some sources say, is the death knell of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. Consequently each series has ceased to be, replaced by three mini-series which tie into this. I know not whether I should be pinching salt or tickling its ribs, but it is far from improbable given that interest in the various series outside of Miles Morales’ has plummeted. More on that in a second.
Following events during the AGE OF ULTRON, a hole has been torn in the universe and globe-gobbling Galactus has found his way to a brand-new dinner table: the Ultimate Universe. It is woefully unprepared, and not just in the crockery department.
This invulnerable grim reaper, so vast it makes Manhattan look like Legoland, has made it to Earth and trampled the whole of New Jersey to dust. Nothing the Ultimates have found to throw at it has even raised its eyebrow. In the regular Marvel Universe only Reed Richards successfully managed to stave off the ravenous appetite of this world eater. And I’m afraid the Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe has taken a very different journey indeed.
Bagley’s interior art delivers the sense of scale which the cover does not – it is a very different beast – while Bendis falls silent (relatively speaking), letting the action rip across the page right from the start.
Don’t worry, everything you need to know was smoothly, succinctly and affectingly explained in the CATACLYSM #0.1 one-shot in which love was finally understood just in time to be too late.
Oh, and if you think that the eradication of the Ultimate Universe means no more Miles Morales, think again. Clue: SPIDER-MEN – a well positioned life raft if ever I read one.
Justice League Of America vol 1: World’s Most Dangerous h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire & David Finch, many more.
In JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL 1 then JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL 2 it becomes increasingly clear that there is a lack of governmental trust in the self-proclaimed Justice League, orbiting Earth from on high. America now wants its own version whose prospective members Amanda Waller here selects much to the horror or Colonel Steve Trevor: they’re a bunch of criminals and psychotic aliens – not all of whom have the American flag in their heart. Trevor is adamant that he will have nothing to do with this ticking time-bomb. Nothing whatsoever! So he’ll be their field leader and mentor, then.
I note Amanda Waller has lost a lot of weight, which is a shame. On the other hand, she has gained a fine line in manipulative reverse psychology which Trevor falls for time after time after time. Finch is one of the finest superhero powerhorses out there – his Martian Manhunter is chilling – while Geoff John’s introduces the set-up and potential fireworks perfectly.
Where it falls short is in Finch’s abrupt departure early on and the squandering of those fireworks, for it turns into pretty pedestrian fisticuffs with no real sense of who was where doing what, nor do I care one jot who the villains were (I can’t even remember) nor who is behind them.
Worse still, where this makes zero creative or reader-friendly sense is in its collation here: build up to attempted crescendo then massive gap between said crescendo and Trinity War part two (you get no one here) then Trinity War part four (you get nothing for three).
To be begun, concluded and Polyfillered elsewhere but, oh, you’ve already laid out close to a twenty quid note! DC are evidently relying that to cajole into you buying another book you may not have wanted. Shameful.
Good job someone is honest and upfront.
Page 45: just like during Villains’ Month, we’ve got your beleaguered back.
Batman vol 3: Death Of The Family h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo…
In a book trailed as one of the biggest Bat-shockers for a while, the highest rumble on the Richter scale of comic reading, to me anyway, was that DC only used one of five issues from this volume in THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY H/C. I would have expected at least three the way they’ve been doubling up recently. Holy double-fisted cash-counting Batman, will these evil money grabbing fiends never stop?!! Also… I really must stop reading BATMAN 66 which is rapidly becoming a guilty pleasure (first trade to come soon, hopefully) as it has been great fun.
Moving swiftly on… I still just don’t really understand the negative reaction of Dick, Damien, Tim, Barbara and Jason to Bruce after the Joker’s antics during this story arc. Anyone who wants to explain it to me, please feel free, because I must be missing something. It’s a fun enough story, I guess (lovely art from Greg Capullo, I should add) plus as a chemist I did chuckle at the epilogue punch line.
Also, nice to see they carried through the die-cut cover theme of the single issues through to this hardcover with a partially transparent plastic dust jacket acting as the Joker’s skin mask over the skinned face underneath. [Editor’s note: this transparent dust jacket is for first printings only. This they have publicly declared.]
Still, after an extremely strong start, this title is starting to feel slightly like it’s treading water and the rubber shark is fast approaching. Now if only I could find my Bat-shark repellent…?
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.
Page 45 Card designed by Lizz Lunney (£1-50 or FREE WITH PAGE 45 GIFT VOUCHERS, Page 45) by Lizz Lunney
Page 45 Card designed by Philippa Rice (£1-50 or FREE WITH PAGE 45 GIFT VOUCHERS, Page 45) by Philippa Rice
The Art Of Sean Phillips h/c (£29-99, Dynamite) by Sean Phillips, edited by Eddie Robson
Eisner: Graphic Storytelling And Visual Narrative (£16-99, Norton) by Will Eisner
The Extraordinary Life Of Alan Moore h/c (£20-00, Aurume) by Lance Parkin
Hip Hop Family Tree (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor
Old City Blues vol 2 (£9-99, Archaia) by Giannis Milonogiannis
Scott Pilgrim vol 4 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Slaine: The Book Of Scars h/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Glenn Fabry, Simon Bisley, Clint Langley, more
Sonic – Mega Man: Worlds Collide vol 1 (£8-99, Archie) by various
Walking Dead vol 19: March To War (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
Aquaman vol 2: The Others s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado
Aquaman vol 3: The Throne Of Atlantis h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier
Injustice Gods Among Us vol 1 h/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Jheremy Raapack, Mike S. Miller
Red Lanterns vol 3 The Second Prophecy s/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter Milligan & Miguel Angel Sepulveda
Swamp Thing vol 3: Rotworld: The Green Kingdom s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire & Yanick Paquette
Avengers vol 2: The Last White Event (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr., Dustin Weaver
Avengers vol 3: Infinity Prelude (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Mike Deodato Jr., Stefano Caselli
Sabertooth Swordsman h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Damon Gentry & Aaron Conley
Uncanny X-Men vol 2: Lost In Limbo h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Frazer Irving, Chris Bachalo
Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Simone Bianchi
Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima, Frank Miller
Showa 1926 -1939: A History Of Japan s/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki
Triton Of The Sea vol 2 (£14-99, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka
ITEM! Extensive preview of KNIGHT & DRAGON from Improper Books. If you want a copy of Page 45’s exclusive KNIGHT & DRAGON signed bookplate edition, you will have to be quick!
ITEM! The Mermaid: a gobsmacking Cornish fairy tale by Briony May Smith with colours that put me in mind of my facsimile of William Blakes’s The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell.
ITEM! Everyone’s been doing the North-o-Meter to gauge how Northern they are. Sean Phillips, for example, the artist on FATALE, came in at 70% Northern which is somewhere around Hull – or Cumbria. Me, I came in at 1% Northern, which is basically the South of France, and was only saved by my knowledge of oatcakes, otherwise I’d be a Sahib in Bangladesh.