Archive for January, 2014

Reviews January 2014 week five

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.

 – Stephen on The Fuse #1.

I was so knocked out that there is a rare preview below.

Grey Area: The Old Straight Track (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…

“It’s slow going on the M6 too…
“The traffic inches forward like water cutting through rock”

“Bloody traffic.”

Ha ha, who hasn’t thought that! Hard to believe a homage to the great British institution that is the motorway could be, well, so moving if you’ll pardon the pun, but this really is! The veritably poetic narration over the comfortably relaxed black and white artwork gives life to what is, in a certain sense, the very backbone of our modern nation. As the creator Tim Bird tells us above a particular panel showing two signs reading ‘SOUTH M1’ and ‘NORTH M1’, perched one directly above the other, but pointing in polar opposite directions…

“The M1 is biography.”

Quite so, quite so. And yet, it wasn’t always there, our beloved-by-some and much-maligned-by-others motorway network, no. As the creator lyrically points out, in ancient times, before service stations were built on pagan sites, standing stones made small by swathes of electricity pylons, ours was truly a green and pleasant land. You… errr… just couldn’t get anywhere very quickly. This juxtaposition of ancient and present day reaches its very logical conclusion where the A303 joins the A344, and drivers pass right by that most celebrated of druidic monuments, Stonehenge, something which has also personally struck me as strange, almost blasphemous, on the couple of occasions I’ve driven that way myself. If there is another location where the Albion of old and our Great Britain of the present day so incongruously and egregiously overlap, I’m struggling to think of it off the top of my head.

This is such an emotional work, I would have scarcely believed someone could inject such… near baroque romance into such a topic! Our motorways do have a peculiar grandeur all of their own, with all the attendant ever changing dramas that unfold upon their tarmac surfaces day after day, unceasingly. Sometimes it truly is all about the journey and I heartily recommend you let Tim Bird take you along on this one. Just make sure you buckle up safely.


Buy Grey Area Issue Two: The Old Straight Track and read the Page 45 review here

Seasons (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia…

Four vibrantly illustrated vignettes, each not only pertaining to a season in the meteorological sense, but also in the metaphorical seasons of life. They are actually a beautiful example of how concise need not necessarily be lacking in content or emotional punch, for taken together, these form an endearing and askance look at some of the emotional milestones we will probably all pass by on our journey through life. Some are uplifting, some tinged with slight sadness, but all are poignant, indeed all four scenes produced a smile for completely different reasons, which is probably exactly as intended.

Even the cover art is seasonally themed with a floral flourish and the comic also comes with a beautiful bookmark entitled ‘Stolen Season’ showing a rather bitter-sweet illustrated poem about a passionate love once known and now presumably lost. Aww. Adorned with apt quotations by poets and holy men throughout for added gravitas, including a personal favourite of mine by Sōtō Zen Master Ryōkan on the inside back cover, SEASONS is a pleasure to read from well crafted beginning to end.

Here is a link to an interview with the creator talking about the work


Buy Seasons and read the Page 45 review here

The Festival (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Jazz Greenhill…

“I wanna have a look around.”
“What! Now? It’s still dark!”
“Yeah, it’s late so no one will be around. We can just quickly look.”
“What if there’s like strange people around?”
“We can just quickly look!”
“Mum and Dad would kill us! I’m going back to sleep.”
“Fine! You stay here.”
“Whadya say Rob?”
“Yeah, well.”
“I knew you’d come through.”
“WAIT! I’m not staying here on my own.”

I am sure there are many of you out there who as a child had a sibling or indeed a friend like Ari. You know, the one who always started the trouble you all inevitably ended up in… So, Ari, Rob and their apparently unnamed sister have been taken to a big music festival by their parents. After a typically tedious car journey they’ve finally arrived on the evening before the festival proper, hurriedly pitched their tents in feverish excitement… then promptly been informed by their parents they all need to get a good night’s sleep.

Being energetic kids sharing a tent together, they’re obviously finding it difficult to get to sleep, unlike their weary parents in the adjoining tent, so when Ari decides he’s going to go for a midnight wander, he manages to coerce his reluctant siblings into accompanying him.

I did at this point wonder just how dark this was going to get, but happily whilst our trio have an adventure that does involving encountering acid-tripping geezers stargazing on a hillside and dreadlocked crusties raving it up in a big top, they do make it back unscathed, and perhaps most importantly of all, without their parents ever finding out.

Illustrated in black and white, in a style that made think me a little bit of Gareth Brookes (minus the embroidery) with maybe even the odd touch of Paul Pope here and there in the facial features, this just perfectly reminded me of some of the shenanigans and crazy fun my mates and I used to get up to as kids, when we would camp out in the fields near our houses, then go off wandering around the village in the dead of night. But then when you’re kids, an adventure like covertly sneaking through an entire street of back gardens in the fastest possible time, busting moves like urban ninjas, is simply hedge-hopping. Do it when you’re an adult, you’re likely to have some serious explaining to do to the long arm of the law. Anyway, THE FESTIVAL is a lovely little reminder of the secret (and fun) lives of kids which as time goes by seems more and more like a distant dream now. Read it and be transported back to when the only thing you really had to worry was your parents grounding you, cracking stuff.


Buy The Festival and read the Page 45 review here

The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Owen D. Pomery…

“If you reprobates have any scientific faculties whatsoever, you shall go forth and find this ‘yeti’ or at least the proof thereof. Succeed and I continue to tolerate The Megatherium Club under my roof, fail and this ‘gin, taxidermy and fucking about group’ will have to grace some other poor bastard’s premises.”
“Fucked if I know, or indeed care!”
“You Sir, shall have your proof of the yeti in your very hands within a week, or my name is not William Simpson!”
“Yeah, it’ll be easy you nob!”

Sometimes, puerile is good. Sometimes… it’s very, very good. At first glance, I wasn’t entirely sure about the art style, but I quickly realised the faux woodcut effect is merely a vehicle for some uproarious lampoonery of the gentlemen explorers’ clubs of yesterday. The Megatherium Club (1857 – 1866) love nothing more than being louche wastrels at the heavily subsidised expense of the Smithsonian Institute. Exploring is all well and good, but holding forth after several decanters of vintage port is considerably less taxing and thus altogether more agreeable.

Alackaday, however, because Smithsonian custodian Joseph Henry has had enough of their juvenile antics, not to mention their repeated efforts to try to and cop off with his two daughters. Thus he’s issued them a challenge to mount an expedition worthy of scientific merit, to prove the existence of the yeti, which obviously he’s pretty sure they’re not going to be able to manage, or face eviction from their cushy number at the Institute.

The redoubtable members of the club aren’t going to go down without at least talking a good fight, though, and decide to split themselves into two distinct groups as they answer the clarion call to action. I’ll let the members themselves regale you with their plans…

“The yeti DOES indeed exist, in these very hills, and I will find him and skin him! Lock ‘n’ fuckin’ load!”
The second opinion was offered by Stimpson, eager to find a practical solution to the problem he had created…
“…Er… has anyone got a spare yeti costume and a camera?”

As I said, puerile, but very very good!


Buy The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape and read the Page 45 review here

Empire Of The Dead #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.

An original zombie comic by George A. Romero himself!

As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!

I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.

Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:

“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”

That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…

The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.

Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.

Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.

“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”


Buy Empire Of The Dead #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton, Kate Brown.

This is a book about breakfasts. It really is.

These Avengers are young and they are hungry. For adventure, yes, but also breakfast. And lunch. And supper. Led there by Loki, Norse God of Mischief, they spend so long in that diner it’s virtually their secret HQ. They’ll be voting in new members there next – new members like Prodigy. He knows stuff like where to find them: in the diner.

It’s also a book about love: about current boyfriends and rejected, dejected ex-girlfriends: “Hel hath no fury” etc. You’ll be meeting an awful lot of them, because the awful lot are in a meeting and Hulkling’s been invited. He’s in therapy, see.

He loves his boyfriend Billy very much indeed, but Billy is a reality warper. Such is his power that Billy/Wiccan brought Teddy/Hulkling’s mother back from the dead. More precisely, he swiped a version of Teddy’s mum from another dimension in which she hadn’t died. Or at least he thought he had but it proved a mistake and now they’re in a great deal of trouble. My point, however, is that Teddy’s got the idea into his head that Billy could be warping reality to make Teddy love him. I wonder who could have put it there?

There are revelations galore in this second of three books, including who is manipulating whom and it’s not as obvious as it looks, I assure you. You’ll have to read carefully, though; this is a series which demands and rewards it.

One revelation you’ll have to wait for is the identity and purpose of the new Patriot (the first Patriot used to lead this team), discovered by Prodigy in a warehouse where he works alongside Wiccan’s brother Speed. This ghostly manifestation appears hobbled and hunched like a zombie, yet he/she/it abducts lightning-fast Speed as if he were a tortoise in treacle. He leaves little more behind him than a puff of white smoke and a bunch of cryptic proclamations.

Which brings us full circle to Prodigy waiting for our friends in the diner. It’s also what propels the second volume: the search for Speed. It’s all connected, but how?

The art for that first chapter comes courtesy of FISH + CHOCOLATE’s Kate Brown. Her gleeful body language is a hoot and she plays the dour and doubtful Prodigy off against the hyperactive, shouty-shouty, up-for-anything Speed to perfection. Her line is much softer than McKelvie’s, the resulting forms more malleable yet I couldn’t imagine a more in-synch substitute, at least until Emma Vieceli’s oh-so sexy pages in volume three. The teenage proportions complement Jamie’s to perfection.

As to McKelvie himself, there are yet more innovative page layouts, a lot of glass shards, and Mother’s own alien dimension is, as in YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 1, a feast of thrilling new special effects while Matthew Wilson contrasts the brightly coloured characters with the crisp, white vacuum of their surroundings. This suggests infinite space (up and down too), into which McKelvie has inserted artfully arranged, geometrical wonders which play with empty panels and some tentacles of doom. All still using white space. You’ll see, but basically this: you’re not in Kansas anymore.

The visual star of the show, however, remains young Loki’s face. His expressions are to die for: gutted by a misordered plate of pancakes, furious at being proved right and “whoops” when it all goes wrong:

“You probably shouldn’t have seen that.”

Just like Jamie’s fashion sense, Gillen’s wit is thoroughly contemporary, whether it’s the language or the circumstances in which that language is employed. One of the funniest pages is a one-page, nine-panel pastiche of a Facebook/Twitter hybrid which I cannot quote here for it requires a certain degree of context, but it involves the cast members taking time out (and thereby indicating the passage of time) to communicate through online social media. There is a great deal of pic-tweeting, unfriending and reporting each other for spam. Specifically there is smooching, and Loki dislikes that a lot. Like any seeming 9-year-old, he doesn’t like anything icky, body fluids in particular.

“Conversations about saliva are henceforth out of bounds until I have breakfast before me! Can’t this spaceship go any faster? Breakfast! Give me breakfast! The Norse God of Mischief craves the congress of breakfast meat!”

Vegetarians will cry.


Buy Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli.

The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is relatively simple but its execution has proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes, mop-topped minger Otto Octavius PhD, finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.

Dr. Octopus has made maximum use of this fitter new body and inflicted maximum abuse on both Spider-Man’s villains and Peter’s own family and friends. He’s been very resourceful, and so it proves here as Peter’s employer, Horizon Labs, comes under temporal assault when they attempt to shake off a corporate take-over by Peter’s old friend Liz Allan (once married to Norman Osborn’s son and now with one of her own) and Tiberius Stone, Horizon Labs’ ex-employee and past saboteur. Cue Spider-Man 2099 comin’ atcha and possibly here to stay.

It’s complicated to describe here, but perfectly clear if you read the book itself, revel in its fireball, nail-biting, game-changing climax so well illustrated in all its time-bubble, eye-popping glory by Ryan Stegman, and then move on to part two involving one of Dr. Octopus’ old flames, newly rekindled, who believes he was killed by Spider-Man. Oh.

This is proceeding at a cracking pace and I can finally confirm that this series will be six volumes long before Peter finally wrestles his way back through Marvels’ revolving death’s-door, as was corporately inevitable. Make no mistake, though: for once this has been no mere gimmick and the journey has proved thoroughly entertaining, rammed to the rafters with dramatic irony and “Why didn’t Peter do that?” Plus I wonder what Peter will finally come back to? He can’t explain these months away to everyone: not everyone knows he is Spider-Man!

Two people do: Forensics Officer Carlie Cooper whom Peter once attempted to date with all the suave sophistication of a highly conflicted and emergency-afflicted Alice-In-Wonderland White Rabbit (it went tits-up, yeah) and Police Officer Yuri Someone-Or-Other AKA The Wraith. Suspicious of this supposedly superior Spider-Man with his bottomless resources and knowing that Peter was broke, they are following the money trail. Unfortunately Carlie is being followed by somebody else.

And, all this while, the Green Goblin lies in wait, biding his time and building…

Next: Venom. Then finally: the Green Goblin.

If Peter survived, then how? P.S. I DON’T KNOW!


Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c and read the Page 45 review here


The Fuse is out on 12th February 2014. CAN WE HAVE YOUR PRE-ORDERS, PLEASE!

The Fuse #1 (£2-75, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?


On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% clearance over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. Nor do we know when he’ll finally make friends with veteran Klem.

“Short for “Klementina”. You assumed I’d be a guy.”
“I assumed you would not be old enough to retire.”
“And I assumed you would be too old for High School.”

For a German, Dietrich can sure hold his own in a sharp-tongued bout of American verbal sabres. Let’s see how good he is at being thrown in at the deep end when a cabler – one of The Fuse’s homeless – staggers out of the darkness and falls dead in front of him. In her pocket are a phone card which cablers don’t use and an electronic card for a shuttleport locker which cablers can’t afford.

It’s a fast and frantic first issue, perfectly paced, which made me scour every inch of every panel for clues, for details: I couldn’t help myself. As for those details I loved them.

Aside from the term “cabler” which will no doubt prove contextual, there wasn’t a single piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. Nor was there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior was identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.

Similarly, unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.

Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma have made the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino.

Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics.


Buy The Fuse # 1 and read the Page 45 review here

For more on THE FUSE, please see the ITEM!s below the following list…

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.


Lost At Sea h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

RASL h/c (£29-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

I Want My Hat Back s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape h/c (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Lob & Jean-Marc Rochette

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 2: Beyond Hope s/c (£10-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 3: Love & Death h/c (£18-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Aaron Kuder

Justice League Dark vol 3: Death Of Magic s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Mikel Janin

The Unwritten vol 8: Orpheus In The Underworlds (£12-99, DC) by Mike Carey & Peter Gorss, Dean Ormston, Yuko Shimizu

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla

Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Neal Adams, various

Superior Carnage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kevin Shinick & Stephen Segovia, Clayton Crain

Thunderbolts vol 3: Infinity s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 5 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Warlock By Jim Starlin Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Akira vol 4 (£19-99, Kodansha) by Katsuhiro Otomo

Attack On Titan vol 11 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Bokurano Ours vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

Black Butler vol 16 (£9-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Deflower The Boss (£9-99, June) by Ayan Sakuragi

Durarara!! Saika vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Ryohgo Narita & Akiyo Satorigi

Gantz vol 30 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Soul Eater vol 18 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Assassin’s Creed: Brahman s/c (£14-99, Ubi Workshop) by Karl Kerschl, Brendan Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart


ITEM! Extraordinary design and breath-taking panels! Preview of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN by Rob Davis and I cannot bloody wait. Rob Davis was the mastermind behind British Comics Awards winner NELSON and the oh-so sublime DON QUIXOTE adaptation. The man is in possession of a powerful wit.

ITEM! Speaking of exceptional, I have just read the whole of THE FUSE #1 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood! Yowsa! So impressed I previewed it, above. Plenty of previews on THE FUSE tumblr.

ITEM! Interview with Eddie Campbell about his ALEC OMNIBUS which I still declare “the single finest body of work in comics”. You’ll see his diary/notebook for The King Canute Crowd segment alone, and it is virtually cylindrical after all the extra observations he stapled in. Never seen that before! Also: his own reasons for working in a 9-panel grid. Clever! So anyway: Eddie Campbell interviewed for Bleeding Cool.

ITEM! Holy moley will you look at this art book? If you’re into tech, mechs and orgasmic sci-fi scenarios then this by Ian McQue is a thriller. I know for a fact that Duncan Fegredo and Sean Phillips both ordered copies for themselves.

ITEM! Ian McQue also promoted these sterling sci-fi beauties by Theo Prins (whom I confess I have never heard of). I’m still studying them.

ITEM! Have I already run this item? I may have already run this item. Two covers (scroll down for the second, my favourite) for The New Yorker by Chris Ware.

ITEM! GENESIS by Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson looks amazing. And when I say it looks amazing, I’ve seen the whole thing: it is amazing! You can pre-order the GENESIS one-shot here. Please do: it’s a one-shot so you’ll only get one shot at it – there will never be a collection.

ITEM! Subtle and fascinating! BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison (we have so much more! Pop him in our search engine!) revisits an old page from five years ago and inks a panel from it with his current sensibility, then analyses the differences. Anyway, yes, fascinating hindsight process piece by John Allison.

ITEM! Jonathan discovered this: a map of the London Underground in 1914 as seen from above and envisaged as a Medieval walled town! Such exquisite colours and design!

ITEM! Sally Jane Thompson goes from strength to strength. This is her tumblr now.

ITEM! And our own Jodie Paterson is creating the most beautiful images of foxes and goldfish etc here. Please beg her to create a comic about them!

ITEM! Comics for kids should never be sexualised. I think this is incontrovertibly self-evident and, at seven words long, reasonably succinct. A retailer shouts out about the sexualisation of a POWERPUFF GIRLS cover – hurrah! – but does so in the longest-winded way possible.

– Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week four

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Yet more yaoi that is wrong, wrong wrong!

Is it wrong for young men to canoodle? It is not! It is wrong for old men to canoodle? Don’t be so daft! Canoodling is cool, whoever is at it. Apart from your parents, obviously. Ewww.

 – Stephen on Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners.

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (£14-99, Groundwood) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault.

“There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today.”

That opening sentence is a belter. The one word “today” is weighted with implication: of all the many days during which Hélène had hoped to hide, and all the many hours spent dreading each day that she can’t.

So many adults will remember them well, while many still at school will recognise this as an awful, terrifying, daily endurance test for which they revise far more thoroughly than any academic exam – in advance, in excruciating detail; over and over in their heads.

This cold, bleak and solitary existence is reflected in the predominantly monotone art, on the very first page of hard concrete and empty space before zooming in on the featureless, open playground (with no cover, no colour) where no one’s at play. They are ambling idly on their own or huddled in groups, waiting for their next victim. There’s a panel of them on the third page, empty shapes against a raw, black background, laughing like hyenas in the dark.


It wasn’t always this way. At one point Hélène was well-in with Geneviève, Anne-Julie, Chloé and Sarah, sharing their crush on crinoline dresses which were oh so very much the in-thing. They bought them at vintage stores, picking out the prettiest even though they smelled of mothballs. Well, Hélène didn’t. Hélène couldn’t: they cost money. But eventually, late one night, her loving mother stayed up late in the laundry room after having completed so many other domestic tasks and she made Hélène a dress of her very own, fresh and free from the whiff of mothballs. Hélène knows how weary her mother must have been.

“I imagine her running out of thread just before she’d done. I imagine her having to change the bobbin… and threading the needle for the twentieth time… saying to herself out loud so just maybe someone will hear her, even though by now everyone’s in bed, “I’m so tired I could die.””

It was, alas, that very dress which proved our narrator’s undoing.

And, you know, there are worse things than being laughed at behind your back. The worst is when the sniggering bullies do it right in front of you, gathering together just to one side, in groups or in pairs, then deliberately catching your eye so that you know they are bitching about you. Perhaps they have stood there waiting for you to spot the graffiti they’ve scrawled on the walls of a toilet cubicle: “Hélène weighs 216!” “She smells like B.O.!” Imagine being trapped on a bus with them, sitting alone, trying to look busy with a book but reading few lines because instead your head is filled with their intentionally just-loud-enough snipes.

Britt Fanny nails the way we self-conscious outsiders try not to look lonely or left-out: by busying ourselves reading or pretending to look for something important in our bags. Meanwhile Isabelle Arsenault time after time shows Hélène alone, surrounded by space, either in fact or out her depth in her mind. There are lots of lovely expressionistic flourishes like that: the sudden explosion of lush foliage behind a stark city bench as she sits with her mother eating an ice cream. A respite. Bliss.

There are also bursts of colour as Hélène immerses herself in Charlotte Brönte’s Jane Eyre from which she takes comfort and from which, later on, she is in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions. Alas, Hélène has already drawn all the wrong conclusions from the escalating jibes about her weight.

“Geneviève announces in her pinched voice for all to hear, “I stuck a fork in your butt, but you’re so fat you didn’t feel a thing!!” As everyone turns to look at me, the world – even the air itself – jerks to a standstill.
“My heart stops. And waits.
“For anything. Rescue. Reinforcements. The end of the world with any luck.”

As to the conclusions drawn…

“We ate with spoons this morning. But I can’t help wonder, I’ll wonder for the longest time, if Geneviève really did what she said.”

You may have noticed from the start that Arsenault’s depiction of Hélène is at odds with her brainwashed conviction that she is nothing but “a big fat sausage”. She never acts on her impulses, she never speaks her thoughts. For most of the book Hélène never speaks at all – to anyone. She has been effectively silenced, suffocated, paralysed. Will everyone always look away when she’s picked on? Is she doomed to her solitary silence, all drab and grey?

Well, there is the fox…

It’s an enormous powerful book, so attractively, vibrantly drawn. Arsenault’s trees bend beautifully, reaching for the sky. Her foliage is ever so lush, even in black, white and grey, occasionally putting me in mind of Tove Jansson’s very first MOOMIN book, THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD – you can even see it on Tove Jansson’s cover! And, oh, when the colour kicks in!

While reading this I hadn’t thought of it as a children’s book: I was thinking of it selling to those who bought the likes of SUSCEPTIBLE by Geneviève Castrée, and I’m positive it will. But as a graphic novel for Young Adults right into their teens I know it will resonate as sympathetically as Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS.

A big tip of the hat to NOW AND THEN’s Sally Jane Thompson for recommending this to me. We like to think we’ve been pretty thorough at spotting the very best books in advance over the last twenty years, but everyone needs a nudge now and then and I’m so enormously grateful to Sally!


Buy Jane, The Fox & Me h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Chloe Noonan #4.5 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Marc Ellerby.

Signed and limited to 200 copies worldwide, Page 45 had been lucky enough to secure 25, two of which have the most glorious colour sketches in them!

You will have to hunt for those on the shop floor: if you receive one by mail order it has been selected purely at random. It’s possible, though!

This is the best NOONAN nonsense so far, but just as ELLERBISMS’ Marc Ellerby was at great pains to be candid with me (bless ‘im), I warn you right now that this is just 12 pages long with 8 pages of comicbook content. It’s quality over quantity, though, and it boasts a brilliant back cover in full vibrant colour by THE SNOW QUEEN’s Isabel Greenberg who was responsible for my favourite graphic novel of 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH. It may be Isabel’s only contemporary scene so far – complete with a very British, bright-red pillar box – but of course there is snow. Of course!

I would be a fool to give too much away about an eight-page short story, but I will tell you that it is immaculately choreographed with Zoe and Chloe appearing in almost every single panel together. Is this important? Of course it’s important! A conversation isn’t just “he said” and then “she said” or even “she shouted” “making her sigh from the deepest pits of her deeply despairing heart” – it’s about the relationship between the two as they do so.

(That’d be a top tip for new comicbook creators, then: show your characters interacting within the same panel more often, please!)

Also, Chloe and Zoe have a very physical relationship. In a completely different style but just like Dan Berry, Marc has mastered the movement. WOOSH! Indeed. Nor are there many artists whose line is so sharp and precise who can still make it an organic joy. Great grey tones too, giving a superb sense of depth.

“Oh dear God, Stephen, will you at least throw us a crumb? Anything at all!”

It’s “Chloe Noonan: monster hunter” turned “Chloe Noon: monster sitter”. The monster in this case being Zoe who should never have been allowed anywhere near the SUGAR-BUZZ PICK’N’MIX!

The Professor is away at a conference. Chloe needs to feed his captive monsters; Zoe evidently needs to stuff her silly face with Haribo Tangfastics. Dubstep is virtually inevitable.

“Ugh. Asda on a Saturday morning. I may have met my match.”


Buy Chloe Noonan #4.5 and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c (£6-99, NBM) by P. Craig Russell.

“The ugliness of the dwarf is almost ostentatious… he would show much better taste if he looked sad.”

With this, the reprints are complete! All five of P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s socially scathing yet coruscating Fairy Tales – including the immaculately articulated HAPPY PRINCE – are freely available to make you beam at their splendour while giving you much pause for thought. You can find them in our Literary Adaptations.

Though fond of much finery himself, Wilde’s themes included the over-indulgence of the rich, mindless of the suffering on the poor; crafted opulence versus the beauty of nature; manners and the mannered in lieu of honesty, kindness and genuine good will; pomposity, self-regard and self-aggrandisement through the belittling of others on grounds that are always absurd. Birds and roses seem to feature quite heavily too.

So today is the twelfth birthday of the beautiful Infanta, the Princess of Spain, and what a splendid day it shall be! There will be music and dancing and performances galore! A bear in chains and Barbary Apes firing off guns and parading like soldiers with swords. The little children even enact a bullfight, right to the throat-slitting end!

“On ordinary says she was only allowed to play with children of her own rank… so she played alone. But her birthday was an exception… She walked slowly down the steps towards the garden, the other children following in strict order of precedence, those who had the longest names going first.”

Best of all, however, is the hideous, hunchbacked, young dwarf, newly bought from his father (who was glad to be rid of him), waddling around on his crooked legs. Oh, how they all shrieked with delight!

“Perhaps the most amusing thing about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque appearance. Indeed he seemed quite happy and full of the highest spirits. When the children laughed, he laughed as joyously and as any one of them, and freely.”

He revels in their joy and the knowledge he was perhaps responsible for it. But his day is made when the Infanta throws him the perfect white rose from her hair. She only did it in jest, and to tease her cold, sanctimonious guardians. It was a very funny thing to do!

But during the siesta before his second, hastily scheduled performance, the young man takes it completely to heart, imagining their life together in the forest where they could dance and play surrounded by nature, he standing guard outside her bedroom window at night, protecting her from the wolves. He understands her; she would be free and delighted. What a fabulous future!

With all the courtiers asleep he is left to wander round the palace alone, exploring the chapel, the throne room and more… before encountering his first-ever mirror.


Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ten Grand vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith, C.P. Smith…

“I try to tell myself it was just a dream. Laura’s safe on the other side of the veil. But I taste the ash of the lie even as I try to swallow it.
“Since I signed up for this job, I don’t get normal dreams anymore. The only dreams I get are those that mean something. And I know in my heart that this one…
“… this one means something real bad.”

Amazing how many people will pick something up purely on the strength of Ben Templesmith’s name alone. Which is fair enough, he is an excellent artist and his style certainly complements the story J. Michael Straczynski has come up with here.

Former mob heavy Joe Fitzgerald, having sold his soul to an angelic force, whilst dying in the aftermath of a demonic attack that killed his wife Laura, when his ‘I promise you honey this is my last job and I’m out’ target turned out to have quite a bit more literal firepower backing him up than Joe expected, now finds himself in the service of an apparently higher power. He’s still undertaking missions of a very dubious moral nature, mind you, but now instead of money it’s for the heartrending reward that every time he dies in the service of the cause, he’ll get five minutes with Laura before he is forcibly resurrected once more. But is that arrangement exactly what it seems?

To pay for his earthly needs, however, Joe obviously requires hard cash as well, so he also takes bizarre and supernatural-related cases as a private investigator, always for a flat fee of ten grand, which is sufficient to put off the timewasters and nutjobs, leaving merely the desperate. One particular case put forward by the sister of a missing girl who has got involved with a cult called Divine Will seemingly touches Joe’s altruistic side, as he offers to take the job for free. In actual fact, he’s more than a little disturbed by the fact he knows he put a bullet in the cult leader’s head himself two years ago. Oh, and that he’s the man who killed Joe’s wife…

I am enjoying TEN GRAND, I must say: it is a title I am reading issue by issue as it comes out. Yes, whenever there are demons and angels involved it can all be a little ‘the higher powers of good versus evil’, but rest assured there are plenty of devious sub-plots, copious smoke and mirrors, plus more than a dash of ‘maybe all’s not as it seems misdirection’ going on that’s keeping TEN GRAND rather interesting, so far at least. It’s got a not dissimilar feel to certain arcs of HELLBLAZER, I suppose, and Straczynski has some previous supernatural form with MIDNIGHT NATION which was so enjoyable and different at the time that our Mark adored it. The dialogue is excellent, rather amusing as well as macabre in places, though one would expect no less from as slick a writer than Straczynski.

Overall it is a very solid horror / thriller book, illustrated in exceptional fashion. I should also add that C.P. Smith, who takes over from Templesmith after four issues, is equally fantastic, and to my eye is a blend of Templesmith and Fraser Irving, which is perfect for this book. It’s not a jarring change of art style at all and in fact works extremely well in terms of the context of the plot at that point…


Buy Ten Grand vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners (£9-99, DMP) by Marta Matsuo.

Yet more yaoi that is wrong, wrong wrong!

Is it wrong for young men to canoodle? It is not! It is wrong for old men to canoodle? Don’t be so daft! Canoodling is cool, whoever is at it. Apart from your parents, obviously. Ewww.

It’s not even wrong to get your danglers out (preferably in private) and give your friend a helping hand.

No, what is wrong with so much of this hot-boy-on-boy action is that the relationships are generally so screwed up you could pop even the wettest of coal on top and still light a fire successfully. This, however, takes the soggy biscuit while potentially hitting upon a thrill-seeker’s truth and it is to my complete shame that I found it very, very funny.

Most of this book centres upon a preening professor and his penchant for one particular college student who really isn’t very interested although he has been caught stealing drugs from the campus medical supplies and selling them to those needing to stay up all night to meet deadlines. The professor has him over a barrel. And over a desk but anyway.

Wait, however, until you get to the flashback catalysed by a letter the professor receives in the post. It sets him reminiscing about a summer during which he visited an ex-flame called Daniel and Daniel’s new wife Stephanie. I should point out that Professor Paul is also married to a woman called Judy. Details, details, it seems. Polo practice proves thirsty work for Professor Paul but thankfully there’s a stable boy waiting in the wings with refreshments. Daniel secretly watches them lustfully, but makes the mistake of mentioning to Paul that it’s not very fair on Judy. At which point all their clothes fall off too.

Everyone comes to a head when Stephanie starts searching for Daniel, Paul goading him to shout out from the gazebo so that they might be caught in the very act! The nearer Stephanie gets the more Daniel panics yet the more he is aroused and there is an exquisite moment when Stephanie screams, “Nooooooo!” and the reader and Daniel both believe they are discovered. It’s actually a completely different sort of snake which Stephanie’s spied, but Daniel doesn’t know that and it proves the ultimate thrill, finishing him off quite spectacularly.

See? I told you: wrong, wrong, wrong! Infidelity is wrong.

But if it’s given you ideas, you could recreate this without cheating on anyone by enjoying straight or gay sex in your parents’ hallway just when they’re due back with the shopping.

Is that their car pulling up? I think it might be!


Buy Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners and read the Page 45 review here

EGOs #1 (£2-25, Image) by Stuart Moore & Gus Storms.

Smile, grin, cackle.

This is delicious science fiction, playing in places on a standard superhero set-up only to mock it with throwaway glee. Here: have a team line-up complete with expository power sets! You won’t be needing them: gone.

Time after time the short narrative bursts – each with revelations of their each own – intrigued me with their set-up, confounded me halfway through, then delivered their knock-out punchlines. From the start I trusted Stuart but he teased me into doubting… before shaming me, red-faced, to repent.

It’s all in the narrator: laid-back, lackadaisical to the point of negligence, he’s not taking it seriously but he’ll get there in the end. You’ll discover who he is when you least expect it then it all makes crystal-clear sense – just like the final reveal.



Many moons ago a team of space-faring meta-men and wonder-women called The EGOs were assembled to fight the good fight, led by a dude called Deuce. Deuce was semi-short for Seduce. That was his power, the narcissistic, silver-tongued toad. He preened a lot. It’s here that I pop on my CD player Marc Almond’s ‘Blonde Boy’ and reference Donna Barr’s Dessert Peach. Whatever, shut up, I don’t care.

The titular EGOs did battle with a rogue called Replica whose own minions, however diverse they appeared, were revealed to be but clones of her daughter called Miri. They were legion. Their individuality was a mirage, and they were centrally controlled by Replica herself. At the very last moment Replica’s daughter Miri rebelled, won the day and married our Deuce the seducer.

Now: the EGOs have long disbanded but the universe is once more suddenly in peril. What can the aging Deuce do? Time to smear on the technological slap, address the camera and save the day by any means necessary. Someone will be deeply unhappy.

I liked Gus Storms’ art enormously for this. Drawn perhaps with a Sharpie, it is Liefeld gone lumpy, and it’s Liefeld that this partially parodies. In one panel the fleshy cyborg Norman Coordinate’s repulsive, wizened junk is virtually falling out of his equally repulsive metal nappy / chastity belt.

This is so very wrong it is right.


Buy Egos #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miracleman #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mick Anglo & Garry Leach, Mick Anglo, Don Lawrence.

“I’m Miracleman… I’m back!!”

Indeed. I really can’t be bothered to get into the whole ‘original writer’ shtick. It’s Uncle Alan Moore, for the one person in all of comicdom who doesn’t know. The first part was originally published in March 1982, in the very same issue of Warrior as the first part of V FOR VENDETTA, so Moore was already into his full creative flow and this was around the time he also was doing a fair few futureshocks for 2000AD (prior to THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES in 1984) and also some pretty seminal, and frankly pretty out there for the time, CAPTAIN BRITAIN stuff for Marvel UK with Alan Davis.

Re-reading this material for the first time in a good few years, as indeed whenever I re-read V FOR VENDETTA, you can easily forget what an expansive yet eloquent writer Alan was at the time. I’m not saying he isn’t now, but it’s hard to get away with being so verbose, so wordily dense, in comics yet here, as with much of his SWAMP THING run, he carries it off easily. It’s almost comics with an overtone of narrative prose in places. Perfect for setting the scene, or unsettling the reader… for whilst your eyes are telling you one thing with the artwork, Alan is in fact implanting something into your subconscious that is slightly different, a little deeper, and also darker with the narration.

In fact, this material does indeed have a mild flavour of horror to it, but that may also be with me knowing where the story is eventually going… Yes, it’s superheroes, but there’s an definite edge to it which is just as equally apparent as compared to the more overtly political V FOR VENDETTA. I do remember, though, when I first read the whole run, including the subsequent Neil Gaiman material, wondering if Alan had a clear idea of precisely what, if anything, he wanted to achieve in a wider sense with MIRACLEMAN when he started. Maybe he did have something in mind, though maybe he had more than enough going on in that respect with V FOR VENDETTA. I’m intrigued to see if I have that same sense this time around. Lovely art from Garry Leach too. Not sure why he didn’t go on to do a lot, lot more in comics. I have a strange recollection he did at least draw one issue of GLOBAL FREQUENCY.

Do you need to read this? Should you read this? The answer for me is definitely so. It is a seminal work in many ways, which clearly influenced much of what was to shortly follow in the rapidly darkening superhero genre (remember, Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN weren’t until 1986) but also in a wider comics sense. Superhero comics have often been, are, at their most interesting with heroes who are fundamentally flawed, riddled with doubts and insecurities and, most of all, that unforgiveable cardinal sin in the superhero credo, vulnerable instead of just plain, well, invulnerable. Yes, there were comics before this one that did that, but this work in my eyes does represent something of a turning point, however small, for the genre in and of itself. Anyway, read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

[Editor’s note: actual cover by Joe Quesada]


Buy Miracleman #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Yu.

“If this fleet reaches this system, the next step in human evolution is extinction.”

Exceptional! The climax to Hickman’s run on AVENGERS so far, this blistering, outer-space confrontation and conflagration is also part of 2013’s INFINITY event, the most seamlessly choreographed crossover in Marvel’s history. That it happened to be written in its entirety, including NEW AVENGERS VOL 2: INFINITY, by a single creator is no coincidence. It is still a neat trick to pull off. The only problem is that there is no sign of INFINITY itself being reprinted as a single volume, so you’re much better off waiting for the American hardcover or the two British softcovers which will reprint it all and in the right order, including the material here.

You’ll forgive me, then, if I wait until those are released to give this my full attention: otherwise I will be doubling up my time, just as you will be spending twice as much money, to no greater gain.

I will just say this: Leinil Francis Yu, both inkers and all four colourists, have exceeded themselves. The lighting on the Skrull portraits and the chiselled checks and jaw of Ex Nihilo are glorious. So much work has gone into them – and into the armada of spaceships on both sides.

Also: so well has Hickman thought it through that you can read this book without INFINITY itself as Captain America leads the Avengers, newly enhanced with beings so meta that one is the universe herself (you’ll see – unfortunately she’s in a coma) against an Armada so vast it’s a suicide mission. You can tell how desperate times are when the good Captain has no option but to join forces with the Skrull Empire, the Brood, Annihilus and even that creep of a king from Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Worse still, Sunspot has caught his best mate Cannonball canoodling:

“This is a total betrayal… How could you go behind my back like this?”
“We’re standing right in front of you.”
“And that makes it even worse.”
“Aww, c’mon, Bobby. Can’t you be happy for me?”
“For us.”
“For us.”
“Yeah, Sam. I’m messing with you. Idiot. Oh… and you’re making a huge mistake, Izzy.”
“I know… Can we talk about it later? Maybe in my room?”
“No. I’m messing with you. Idiot.”


Buy Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott with Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos.

The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is relatively simple but its execution has proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes, Otto Octavius (PhD and at death’s door), finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.

For a while Peter’s own memories lingered on as did his spirit, ever so slightly alarmed about what Dr Octopus was doing with his body, to his friends and even his vilest villains. This niggling nuisance was swiftly purged but not before Peter’s psyche had imprinted itself on Otto’s to the extent that, along with the power, he was indeed going to accept the responsibility of fighting on the other side of the law while ignoring even more of its letters. The villains weren’t just banged up, they were banged about first: the vulture was blinded, the Scorpion lost his lower jaw and J. Jonah Jameson was most impressed. To him this is indeed a far superior Spider-Man. Supercilious too, I might add, and although some have accepted this as maybe a mid-life crisis others have since grown suspicious.

Here we return to The Raft maximum security prison for supervillains in the process of being closed down but not before the Spider-Slayer has been sentenced to death there.

“Spider-Man. Come to supervise the slaying of the Spider-Slayer, eh? I’m sure you’re thoroughly enjoying the irony of that.”

He’s actually more preoccupied with his own past there, locked up as a criminal. These are the sorts of things this series has dealt with: Octavius’ fresh-found perspective on those he once allied himself with, and the irony of J. Jonah Jameson finally coming round to Spider-Man’s cause based on the actions of someone that isn’t even Peter. He’s going to regret that.

Where this moves on further, however, is Otto finally freeing himself of Peter’s private limitations. He’s already infested New York with thousands of miniature, mechanised arachnids, patrolling the city with far more efficiency than one man ever could and spying on all and sundry. Well, almost all and sundry. The Green Goblin who’s gone underground has already infected this infestation with his own virus, The Goblin Protocols which mean that any of his movements – or those of his tattooed acolytes – go undetected. He’s gradually building an army.

Now the superior Spider-Man hires his own private army and builds some bi-pedal tanks. But those who know that Spider-Man is – or was – Peter Parker wonder where the funds are coming from…


Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape 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 Festival (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Jazz Greenhill

Grey Area Issue Two: The Old Straight Track (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird

The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Owen D. Pomery

Seasons (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia

Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Zack Sterling

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 7 – A Cold Day In Hell (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Peter Snejbjerg, Laurence Campbell

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek

Preacher Book vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Steve Pugh, Carlos Ezquerra

Star Wars Omnibus Dark Times vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Randy Stradley & Doug Wheatley

Green Arrow vol 1: The Midas Touch s/c (£11-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul, Keith Giffen & George Perez, Ray McCarthy, Ignacio Calero

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom (UK Edition) s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by various

Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown

Indestructible Hulk vol 3: S.M.A.S.H. Time h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Matteo Scalera

Naruto vol 64 (£6-99, Viz) by Masahi Kishimoto


ITEM! I’m baaaaack!

ITEM! So you do read this bit! Cool and thank you for letting me know on Twitter! You probably want an Item now.

ITEM! This is the funniest, most elaborate piece of Art Terrorism I have encountered since Banksy! The London Underground with brand-new, oh-so-true signage!

ITEM! Coming back to comics, huge announcements for new Image Comics! Kieron Gillen! Jamie McKelvie! Ed Brubaker! Sean Phillips! You can pre-order any one of those since we already know their titles, particularly if you’re signed up for a standing order here. If you aren’t signed up already, this: Page 45’s standing order /pull list service!

ITEM! Ooh, look at these gorgeous Isabel Greenberg prints and plates! From the creator of my favourite graphic novel of 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and also our signed and sketched-in copies of THE SNOW QUEEN, they are exceptional value for money. Original, hand-painted plates! You would be paying at least £35 a pop for those mass-produced by Royal Dalton! Yet these will have individual quirks which will make them ever so cool!

ITEM! New artists, this is sound advice from The Guardian’s Stephen Collins on making a first impression: make it visual! Emails ain’t that visual but send out postcards and prints! Immediate impact, boom! It’s worked on me well. Emails, not so much. Facebook: forget it!

ITEM! Aww, Valentine’s Day approaches and look at this from our own Jodie Paterson, a Valentine’s message perfect to send to your loved one!

ITEM! From ourselves we recommend Philippa Rice’s SOPPY #1 and SOPPY #2, comics which double as cards – with envelopes – for Valentine’s Day!

ITEM! Oooh, look at this image by Sally Jane Thompson! Swoon at will!

ITEM! Also, not comics, but can you imagine a better evocation of arthritic hands? This, by Tim Benson. Neo-classical brilliance!

ITEM! Hilariously bad boy-on-boy chat-up line beautifully drawn by Emma Vieceli! You’ll be hearing a lot more about BREAKS, a webcomic to be launched with a limited-edition, printed first issue which will most definitely be available here!

ITEM! Well, if you insist: myself aged ten and my sister aged four. This is a very real photo, yes.

No, it is sweet. *sigh*

– Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week three

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

What follows starts off as aggressive and confrontational part-psychoanalysis, part-interrogation of the subject, before turning distinctly philosophical and metaphysical through very close examination of the power of the cathode ray tube and a Chris Ware-esque, double-page, gaming walk-through interlude.

– Jonathan on Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On 

Complete Multiple Warheads s/c (£13-50, Image) by Brandon Graham.

“Drawn with fire because paper burns.”

Design heaven and pun-haters’ hell, I’ve rarely read a comic in which its creator is having so much unapologetic, delirious, rip-roaring fun. Like Evan Dorkin, Brandon dashes off more ideas per page than most can muster in an entire mini-series. And, look, here is an entire mini-series!

From the creator of KING CITY, WALRUS and the writer of PROPHET, this a clean-lined, brightly coloured beauty which bleeds right to the ends of each page before crashing through your window and skewering your eye with its sword.

“I love the taste of drama.”

It’s lo-fi sci-fi with sweeping landscapes, toppled statues, call-a-flower seeds (whistle and they grow), mini-marts infested with strange little critters scampering ‘cross aisles, self-heating root vegetables like Turnip The Heat, a palace born on the back of a six-legged ‘saurus (its face a feudal façade) and, waiting within, a dandy of a duke who’s decadent, dotty and divine!

“Is this going to be a ransom sort of a thing, then?”
“I’m going to sell your body.”
“oOOOOoh. Prostitution!”

It’s all so very sexy – and I do mean sexy, for the original black-and-white one-shot has been inserted and it’s not the only thing! Adults only, please.

It has two main strands: a blue-haired bounty hunter called Nura out on the frozen plains, lobbing off heads whenever something sticks its neck out; and – negotiating the Northlandz, Southlands and Neither Landz in between – ex-organ smuggler Sexica and her wolf-tailed boyfriend / mechanic called Nikoli. By “tail”, I mean, you know… Yes, he has two, but we’ll get that. He also has very strange dreams.

At the centre of all this lies the Red or Dead City whose propaganda is direct and to the point:

“We are right!! You are wrong!! (and fat)”
“Also, don’t be too smart – Nobody likes that!!”

It is here that Nura brings her dragon’s head to trader Pumpkin Patch in the liver pool. She split opened a god-possessed Shov Puppet to harvest its lucrative organs, but a dragon gobbled them up so she cut off its head before it could swallow them. She’s been carrying it around ever since. Now she forces it to regurgitate the Shov Puppet’s organs and, boy, there are loads!

“The kid had a lot of heart. heh.”

Sexica and Nikoli, meanwhile, wend their way towards the Whaling Wall in their Mini-like Lenin powered by its Royal Boiler. Along a steep mountain pass they encounter a toll. I’ll spare you the pun about the So Be It Union.

“30 chips for just passing through. Mostly that’s the tacks tax. If no one pays us then we cover the road in tacks.”
“These mountain monks each pay 30 just to die?”
“They pay to jump off our cliff. If they jump anywhere else it’s punishable by death. We also take jars of magic or fingers as payment.”
“Do they give you the finger a lot?”
“No, but people like to flip us off. Just drive around these grateful dead. Pay the high hat at the booth. He only speaks alphabet.”

The heart of the book lies in Sexica and Nikoli, lolling about naked in hotel rooms, bottoms or boobs-up, ordering exotic room service, fetishising about food and discussing comics. It’s such a warm, gentle yet enthusiastic relationship. There aren’t many girlfriends who would smuggle a wolf’s willy for your birthday then sew it on you themselves.

There are diagrams, maps and menus, all riddled with wordplay, and the free-roaming narrative goes wherever it pleases. Its many excursions take in all manner of visual feasts. I don’t know which I loved most: the network of sky-high plumbing with its invisible “disbelief suspension bridge” or the semi-futuristic, medieval mountainside town where fur-snouted kitchen porter Moontoone dreams bad dreams about delivering food to the haunted Humming Tower while wrapped in the arms of his slumbering boyf who likes nothing more than repurposing magazine photos, snipping them out with scissors to make up stories then popping the best ones in his heart-shaped locket.

“I want to be tougher.”
“poo. you’re so tough. My Moontoone is the toughest. Let’s find some tough pictures you can wear in my heart to remind you.”
“I think that’d be nice.”

Aww. For maximum pleasure, read at leisure and soak in this eye-bath for hours. Marinade your minds!


Buy Complete Multiple Warheads s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On (£13-50, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean…

“But how am I supposed to play the game when I am this close to the TV?”
“Are you sure you really just want to play a game? Anyone can do that. It is a trivial matter. Hopscotch is a game. Tag is a game. This is more.”
“I’m not sure if I understand. Aren’t I trying to finish the game? To beat it? To win?”
“If you like. Or you can realise that you are given extra lives in this game. And lives are meant to be lived.”

And thus a star is born. Make no mistake, if you are not already familiar with his work, I am sure before too long you will be, because this boy has talent in abundance. This collection of shorts, a mixture of contemporary fiction revolving around several characters in a dead-end town and other more surreal works shows exceptional promise. Dakota draws comics every day and it shows, both in his art and his storytelling. I know this fact because his website told me, and also because he posts what he draws pretty much every single day. They tend to be Tom Gauld-style gag strips and you can see them for yourself HERE.

Before I talk about the shorts in this book in a little more detail, I must just talk about his art style. You will undoubtedly see, as I did, influences from and subtle nods to, a number of modern masters: Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Adrian Tomine, Peter Bagge, Jason Lutes, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. I could go on, but there really is no need because ultimately his style is his own, he is that good. He manages to blend and vary such subtleties so smoothly into his default baseline style that they merely seem like masterful finishing touches and flourishes. Very impressive. Even the cover is a triumph, showing a fiery figure on the end of a jetty, flames reflected in the slightly choppy water of the lake.

Right, onto the stories themselves. I did enjoy the contemporary pieces revolving around small-town banality, he clearly has a handle on characters and interaction, but the more surreal ones involving such oddities as a ghost rabbit, a man with two birds nesting in the space where his face used to be, and a werewolf mask that seems to freeze time, show real imagination. Not as surreal as say, Hans Rickheit, but weird enough to give you pause for thought and disturb. The fractionally downbeat, slightly pessimistic tone to many of the works, straight and surreal alike, reminded me of things like Jeff Nicholson’s THROUGH THE HABITRAILS and Seth’s IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN. I really feel Dakota has a longer form masterpiece just around the corner if he can draw a lot of these elements together à la Pirus and Mezzo’s KING OF THE FLIES, say.

In fact, you can see it already in what is for me (and Dominique) the standout story in this book, Leave Luck To Heaven, from which I took the quote above. A man arrives at a doorway and begins what we initially think might be a drug deal with the inhabitant of the room. It quickly becomes apparent that a Nintendo cartridge is involved, but this isn’t going to be a simple gaming session, no sir. What follows starts off as aggressive and confrontational part-psychoanalysis, part-interrogation of the subject, before turning distinctly philosophical and metaphysical through very close examination of the power of the cathode ray tube and a Chris Ware-esque, double-page spread, gaming walk-through interlude. Musings on the value of console versus contemplation of art push us further into uncertain mental territory, before the subject, who has possibly just been hypnotised or brainwashed, to unknown ends, is brought back to consciousness by his questioner, leaving him confused as whether what he just experienced was even real.

“Did you dream?”
“N-no. I don’t think so.”
“Did you make it to the end of the game?”
“Ah. It’s just as well, I suppose. The ending reveals that the whole thing was just a dream. Some people are disappointed.
“On the other hand, all you did today was move your thumbs back and forth over a piece of plastic. But you won’t remember it that way, will you?
“If you return next week, make sure to bring further payment.”

If psychoanalysis was an entertaining as that, I’d be signing myself up, let me tell you!


Buy Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

Every bit as witty, pithy and compelling as the same author’s SAGA, I give you the finest political fiction infected with a nasty science-fiction virus and drawn with a smooth and sexy neo-classical realism with big, bold forms and the most voluptuous shadows.

This repackages the first two original softcovers with, umm, the first chapter of volume three. Which is weird. And unhelpful. Still, a long time has passed since I reviewed the first two books and I’ve since learned to enthuse about this series slightly differently (plus I now know how it ends – one of the most unexpected dénouements in comics’ history!) so it is time for a substantial rewrite.

I loved The West Wing: one of my three all-time favourite television series with snap-snap, deadpan dialogue and prices to be paid. But I am a liberal-leftie-feminist and The West Wing – let us be honest – was a liberal-leftie-feminist’s wet dream. President Bartlett and his fiercely intelligent, movingly compassionate, education-orientated speech writers, however flawed, had all the best lines. The corporate cronies on the right were a bunch of smug, initiative-stifling weasels. Or were they? Just like The West Wing, EX MACHINA gives some of the best lines and arguments to random Republicans and I love that; plus Mayor Mitchell Hundred is far from squeaky-clean.

The present:

Mitchell Hundred can talk to mechanical objects – he can order them about. He can make guns backfire, lights switch off, and disable bugging devices with a word. Which is handy if you’re a politician. Quite how this process came about, we don’t yet know. What we do know is that Mitchell decided that he could make a bigger difference to people’s lives as Mayor of New York City rather than some sort of superhero. He could make them easier. Unfortunately it’s making his life more difficult.

Here he is at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, subsidised by grants from his office, standing in front of an imposing painting of President Abraham Lincoln (the “Great Emancipator”) upon whose portrait has been stencilled the word “nigger”. It’s not graffiti; it’s the artist’s own statement. In that situation, what is the first question you would ask yourself?

“This artist. Is she…?”
“Is she what, Mr. Mayor?”
“Is she, you know…?”
“Is she black?”

Meanwhile, as a snowstorm threatens to engulf the city and bring it to a halt (since its snow ploughs and ploughmen are being targeted by a terrorist), we are given glimpses into how Mayor Hundred got elected in the first place, who stood in his way and the methods they used to do so. Also, I made mention of the nasty science-fiction strain and some really vicious horror comes home to roost even closer than you might expect.

But my favourite bits are the politics and the humour. As promised there are arguments here during which each side sounds equally convincing, and not everyone you’d expect to be cool is quite the cucumber you’d hope and not every lemon is as sour. For example, progressive Mayor Mitchell Hundred is determined to marry his right-hand-man Wylie’s equally black brother Todd to Todd’s white Republican boyfriend Bill in spite of the potential public and legal backlash. But Bill isn’t necessarily as grateful as you might imagine…

“Sometimes, you can be so hopelessly fucking naive.”
“Believe what you want. I’ve met the Mayor a few times. He’s good people. Hell, anyone who can put up with my brother on a daily basis is a saint.”
“Hundred’s just another homophobe with a title. If he were serious about same-sex marriage, he’d let us meet in his office, not outdoors like friggin’ animals.”

Cue Mayor Hundred strolling onto the scene:

“Sorry, I thought you two’d be familiar with City Hall Park from all your late night “cruising”. Kidding, of course. Everyone knows you people stick to The Rambles for that.”

Lastly, dogmatic atheist and all-round sceptic Hundred comes down pretty damn hard on a fortune teller and exits in a cowardly fashion. Here’s why she claims she predicted 9/11 but only told one soul she saved, yet didn’t alert the authorities:

“Who would have listened to me, Mr. Hundred? All I would done is set up my family and myself for a lengthy detention by federal authorities.”

And she isn’t wrong, is she?

Next volume: we return to that same-sex marriage and I have repeatedly promised you that not everything here will be as black and white as it seems. Nor as rose-tinted. I may also have mentioned that I like that.


Buy Ex Machina Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian K. Vaughan & Roger Petersen, Phil Hale…

I must have missed this attempted reboot at the time, which is surprising given I was reading most of the Vertigo output around 2000, and I am a big SWAMP THING fan. It’s rather good, actually; not sure why it didn’t find an audience, which is I presume why it was cancelled. The basic premise is Tefé, the daughter of Swamp Thing, Abigail Arcane… and… John Constantine (see HELLBLAZER vol 1 for more on that particularly bizarre ménage à trois) is having an unexpected identity crisis, primarily due to her unusual parentage, and events are rapidly spiralling out of her ability to control or indeed, initially at least, even comprehend them.

The identity crisis is unexpected because Abigail, in conjunction with Constantine, had suppressed Tefé’s memories and given her a new identity by swapping her body with that of a terminally ill teenager, who then made a miraculous ‘recovery’. However, years later, a confused Tefé has now spontaneously recovered some of her memories and is once again at large in the world causing chaos. Cue Abby and Constantine’s attempts to stop her.

I rather enjoyed this. It’s a very dense read, and I wonder whether new readers just found it all a bit much, but it’s actually not dissimilar in tone to Alan Moore’s early SWAMP THING. Weird, contemporary horror, basically. Some lovely art in places, including four spectacular pages from Paul Pope I hadn’t ever seen before, plus five pages from Guy Davis that I liked too. I’d love to see either of those two illustrate a full run on SWAMP THING at some point.


Buy Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Will O’ The Wisp h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchison.

Another Archaia tome with lavish production values, this comes with a brass clasp so you can lock the contents safely away lest prying eyes stray across its creepy contents or, worse still, whatever lurks within gets out! Perhaps you should hide it under your bed for good measure. No, wait…

Poor Aurora Grimeon has been orphaned after her parents’ death by massive mushroom poisoning. She only survived the pasta disaster because Aurora doesn’t like mushrooms and ate only the sauce. Also, some European thistle milk was chanced upon and turned out to be a cure. Who knew?

Her only living relative is grandfather Grimeon who didn’t get along with Aurora’s parents. Or was it vice-versa? He lives on Ossuary Isle, a cemetery island surrounded by swamps where the dead are buried just above water level. His house is ancient and foreboding, full of strange specimens, and in its cellar pit he buries bodies with beetles which eat off all the soft, dead tissue so cleaning the bones. He then makes casts of the skeletons for medical students and studies their causes of death. It’s a living.

The other inhabitants of the sprawling graveyard are elderly and superstitious, and although grandfather Grimeon is a man of science he knows well enough that they must be humoured for them all to get along. For guidance they look to Mama Nonnie, a kindly hoodoo practitioner with all sorts of potions and spells and a somewhat evasive dead husband.

“How is your husband today? That’s not really one of his bones, is it?”
“Of course it is! A chicken bone isn’t going to get me in touch with him on the other side. But thank you for asking. He wasn’t being very communicative. In fact, he hasn’t been communicative in quite a while, but no reason to stop trying.”
“How often do you two, umm, talk?”
“I haven’t found him on the other side yet, but it’s inevitable. He can’t hide from me forever. Willston, like many folk down here, was born talking.”

There’s a gentle humour early on before the horror hits in its full ferocity and Miss Prissy Mirabel – grandfather Grimeon’s pet raccoon – is Hutchison’s finest creation here. On their first night together Missy snatches a cob of corn from the communal dinner plate and hisses territorially before flipping off the table top and dashing off to the swamp to wash it.

“No food is right till it’s been washed, in her opinion.”

It’s beautifully directed, as is their second confrontation, nose to nose, as Missy helps herself to some jam.

“By sunset, I dare say you both will have learned something about this household. Aurora, you will know to keep a more vigilant eyes on your breakfast, and Missy is about to learn not to wash jam in the swamp before she eats it.”

Hutchison’s art is angular, spindly and spiky. Not all the action scenes are as convincing or easy to follow as you would hope but where she excels, ably assisted by colourist Adam Guzowski, is on the full-page landscapes which are eerie and lonely or spooky as hell when you discover the wrecked train and boat jutting out of the misty swamp waters.



As to the mystery, Hammock introduces all the elements early on without you necessarily noticing them. For there is something stirring in the swampland, something which Aurora caught but a glimpse of on her very first night, and which caught a glimpse of her: a ball of glowing blue fire which Dr Grimeon dismisses as spontaneously combusting methane. But as bodies begin washing up on the jetty or discovered trapped under sub-aquatic roots, the isle folk become jittery, suspecting Aurora’s new presence as the catalyst. Then the twin gravestones of Dr Gideon’s parents are found shattered, a trail of burnt grass leading towards the water. Like Aurora’s own parents, they too died on the very same date while grandfather Gideon was just a child. And it wasn’t through mushroom poisoning…

Returning to that brass clasp, I imagine it looked lovely in the production office and will be treasured by each of its owners. But it hasn’t been entirely thought through when it comes to the retailers racking it! The sharp nodule which sticks out is going to damage any books stacked on shelves to its right and if stored spine-on you do risk bending the metal and so locking the book forever. I don’t suppose Diamond Distributors were greatly amused when it came to packing copies en route to retailers, either!

Still, they’re here now and so come take a look, if you think you’re brave enough. You’ll find it racked in our young teens’ section, somewhere near BOO!, the horror anthology for even younger readers.


Buy Will O’ The Wisp h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cemetery Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c (£16-99, Inklit) by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden & Don Kramer…

Okay, maybe you are aware of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and their author Charlaine Harris? I wasn’t, but even I have heard of their HBO TV adaptation, True Blood. I have to admit I wasn’t massively familiar with, according to the blurb “acclaimed comic book artist”, Don Kramer, either. I had to look up what stuff he’d worked on for, which is pretty much exclusively second-line titles for DC, and I did happen to see he’s mates with Christopher Golden, which is presumably how he got this gig, as the Golden one is co-writer on this book. Christopher Golden I am hugely familiar with from his excellent work on BALTIMORE and other Mignola tidbits, I should add, and he is a writer I rate very highly. Golly, this really is a rambling start to this review isn’t it?

I think where I am going with this is… in conjunction with the rather prose-novel looking cover, of which pretty much half is taken up by Harris and Golden’s names in huge orange and grey letters, my expectations were pretty low for this title. Yet actually, those expectations were at least partially confounded, I must say.

I presume Harris has provided the plot (and dialogue) which involves an amnesiac teenage girl, dumped and left for dead at some cemetery gates. Rather than go to the police for reasons which escaped me slightly, the girl decides to take refuge in a crypt, covertly stealing food from the cemetery caretakers and nearby residents, at least two of whom are aware of their nocturnal visitor, when she sees an occult murder. The ghost from this murder then enters into her body… I’ve just realised as I’m typing how slightly risible that all sounds… but it does actually work. I’m guessing perhaps Golden has then adapted it for comics, he’s done a sound job there if so, but I would expect no less. And Kramer supplied the art, which aside from looking a bit flat in places, is pretty decent, though I can see why I hadn’t heard of him.

Overall it is a decent story, told well, illustrated reasonably competently, but I’m not really sure what market the publisher is pitching this at. I’m guessing from the cover they’re thinking that name power alone is going to sell it, exactly like a new prose book from this author. It might, it might not. Probably not here, though maybe in a Waterstones propped up near her prose work, I guess. Which I surmise is exactly what the publisher had in their collective minds when they put this together.


Buy Cemetery Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c and read the Page 45 review here

All-New Marvel Now.1 #1 ANMN (£4-25, Marvel) by various.

That, I kid you not, is its title.

It’s a one-off anthology and prologue to several new Marvel series including AVENGERS WORLD #1.

My favourite was the not-yet-solicited SILVER SURFER which I am on board for purely on the strength of this left-field outing which I suspect may be informed by relatively recent Doctor Who. It’s not just the fact that the Surfer has a human companion: it’s her bubble-bursting irreverence and broader perspective on the potential for space exploration… together! It is a complete departure from any previous treatment of the surfing silvered one which has always been somewhat portentous and, being illustrated by Michael Allred, I was convinced I was reading Matt Fraction. (Please see FF VOL 1: FANTASTIC FAUX and its successors; please seem them – they’re brilliant!) I was wrong: it’s Dan Slott. Well done, Dan!

Together she and he visit an outer-space Venice to witness a firework display composed of cosmic rays. I am not going to spoil Slott’s joke, but it’s a good one delivered with a deft slight of hand relying on Marvel readers’ inescapable knowledge of a certain phenomenon. (Truly and trust me: this one is inescapable.) Its ten pages are packed with wit and I wonder if this is Allred’s true calling as – via Kirby – one of Moebius’ most successful successors. Let’s see if he goes there.

Phil Noto on BLACK WIDOW is delightfully Bill Sienkiewicz minus the expressionism.

Plus both G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona made me smile on the MS. MARVEL prologue. That’s the other breath of fresh air here: MS. MARVEL. I can completely understand commentators’ advance criticisms that a Muslim Marvel superhero smacks of tokenism given the corporation’s previous history of, well, tokenism… but this is not that. It is witty and wise and it is young! I couldn’t give two hoots about the initial fight scene but as soon as the family aspect kicked in via a mobile phone call, I was hooked.

“Late-lateef bhangi!! Your cousin’s Mehndi started an hour ago!!”

That’s Kamala’s mother. Her first sentence translates as “chronically late scruffy person”. If you cannot hear the melodious Pakistani intonation in G. Willow Wilson’s acutely observed dialogue both here and subsequently, I cannot help you. Did I mention that this was young? Kamala is a teenager and – far more than the original or ultimate Spider-Man – if this continues to be played right, it will be all about family and the generation gap.

The big thrust here, however, is a prologue to the new series of LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett. It darts in and out of the others. Due to the structure of this issue I can’t quite tell which bits were theirs, but it’s very funny in places.


Buy All-New Marvel Now.1 #1 ANMN and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers World #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli.

Respect to everyone who’s picked this up having picked it apart from both the free preview anthology and the free Marvel calendar on our shelves which bore nigh-identical covers. I salute you!

Does it not seem all kinds of crazy to you that Marvel apparently has so much spare art lying around that they print five different covers for the same comic, yet pick the same cover to three completely different products?

“Get on with the review!”

Then don’t give me lame-brained reasons to digress!

So if NEW AVENGERS is about death and parallel-dimension threats and its sister title, AVENGERS, is about life and cosmic invasion, what is its inbred off-spring, AVENGERS WORLD, all about? Judging by this opening issue, it’s about multiple global threats all kicking off at the same instant and attempting to juggle your responses with quick-snap decisions and practised, prioritised precision using the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D., while S.H.I.E.L.D. busies itself utilising the Avengers for PR purposes.

It also appears to be a nexus tying together all sorts of plot threads kicked off in (or left over from) SECRET AVENGERS and AVENGERS VOL 2. You can read this with no knowledge of either; it’s just a little more satisfying if you’ve seen that groundwork being laid.

Multiple global threats kick off at the same instant and Captain America, Bruce Banner and Director Maria Hill attempt to juggle their responses with quick-snap decisions and practised, prioritised precision using their shared resources. Fortunately due to Tony Stark’s initiative in AVENGERS VOL 1 they have those resources: gazillions of Avengers.

I cannot claim to be a massive fan of Caselli’s facial expressions (everyone looks constipated) but his three full-page landscapes featuring the transmogrification of Madripoor, a subterranean city of the dead, and what is clearly no longer A.I.M. Island as they knew it are, each of them, wondrous. And that’s not an adjective employed at random.

There’s a prologue to this in ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW.1 #1 ANMN if you fancy, involving Maria Hill, Captain America and a toaster. She picked it out specially.


Buy Avengers World #1 and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by so, so many.

Marvel released two giant crossovers at the same time recently: INFINITY starring the Avengers which was powerful, thrilling and immaculately orchestrated; and, also, this.

Following the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN and AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES scientist Dr Henry McCoy AKA The Beast decided in ALL-NEW X-MEN that he had no other choice but to bring the original X-Men including his younger self from the past to the present with the sole purpose of bringing the now-militant Cyclops into shocking contact with his earlier, idealistic self.

Many thought this a mistake – not least some of those now-disconcerted X-Men – but what no one had considered is what would happen to a young, telekinetic Jean Grey were her telepathy to kick in prematurely and so learn her fate. Her fate largely involved a great deal of dying.

Now a group of X-Men from the future have arrived including an even older Beast (mutated further and missing a ram’s horn), a barely sentient Iceman, an older Kitty Pryde, Deadpool, a certain bald telepath and, ummm, someone looking an awful lot like Xorn (who was at one point revealed to be Magneto… but then they decided otherwise and… I have no idea what the final score was with that). Can you spell “convoluted”? You just wait.

Although very cagey, they do reveal that the future is bobbins and that the blame lies with time-travelling X-Men: the time-travelling original X-Men, not the time-travelling X-Men that blame the time-travelling original X-Men for travelling through time. They demand that the original X-Men travel back through time.

No one stops to ask the original X-Men what they want. 

Some of the more suspicious X-Men then travel through time, because clearly not enough damage has been done. In the future they encounter a completely different group of mutants including… oh you’ll find out… who claim that they are the real X-Men and that the X-Men who travelled back in time are not who they appear to be. They all, therefore, travel back through time.

There are fights. There are more fights. There are commands and “belay that command”s as faction after faction of territorial X-Men splash-page themselves into multiple grand entrances, and then there are more fights. Those pages are awfully soggy.

The great bits: Immonen’s art, as ever; trying to work out who is the progeny of whom; the central reveal of what happened in the future that so broke the Beast’s heart. That was arresting. Quite why this was the original X-Men’s fault wasn’t ever explained. However, it finally sinks in to Hank McCoy’s genius scientific brain that his time-travelling medalling was a mistake. Which is why he does it again.

The bad bits: everything else. It’s a protracted and wearisome mess made worse by how many times the panels slide across a double-page spread without ample sign-posting so that you haven’t a clue whether to read down or across. Also the final battlefield seems to have been contrived merely to make a weak visual gag, clumsily inserted, which requires you to remember that Xorn was originally Magneto which is why I told you so. Quite where young Jean Grey’s original X-Men uniform came from on that battlefield is beyond me.

Collects X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM #1-2, ALL-NEW X-MEN #16-17, X-MEN (2013) #5-6, UNCANNY X-MEN (2013) #12-13 and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #36-37.

I cannot wait to enthuse about INFINITY. That was quite brilliant.


Buy X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: The Judas Coin s/c (£10-99, DC) by Walter Simonson.

When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did it with a kiss, and it was for thirty pieces of silver.

Only when Jesus was tried and then sentenced to death did Judas attempt to return those shekels, but they were already seen as soiled: blood money, cursed. So Judas threw them on the temple floor and hanged himself. Good riddance.

Unfortunately there was no getting rid of the silver…

It’s a surprisingly short sequence in the New Testament but, oh, so powerful: the man who preached love betrayed by one his twelve closest confidants, and done so with the most intimate act of affection. No wonder the money which can’t buy you love was cursed – cursed to reappear like the proverbial penny and dooming all hell-bent on acquiring it. Simonson has taken that idea and run with it, fusing it with DC legend and lore: the Viking Prince, the pirate Captain Fear, cowboy and quick-thinking mischief-merchant Bat Lash, right through to Batman and beyond…

It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Walt Simonson’s epic arc on THOR that the Viking sequence is one of the strongest here with massive visual flourishes like the giant Green Man statue carved from the most monumental living tree, but also the language:

“The susurration of the wind through the tree-tops is the only sound.”

The buccaneer episode is equally thrilling and frantically paced with great big Galleons and vast sails right from page one using the vertical axis for maximum, eye-piercing impact. On its last page alone the specific curse of the coin comes back into play several times over. Better still are Bat Lash’s multiple sleights-of-hand delivered with dexterity during “Ill-Gotten Gains” as an entire town sets off in hot-headed, post-poker pursuit of our man with the plan which he makes up on the hoof while admonishing the morons he fools. The colour art there is tinted with a sandy filter before arrestingly switching to stark black and white for the ‘Gotham Gazette’, an episode featuring Bruce Wayne, a newspaper seller and multiple broadsheet clippings.

There the silver shekel has resurfaced as part of a private collection exhibited in a public Museum and naturally one man above all others has set his skewed sights on acquiring it: one of Batman’s arch-enemies, Two-Face. Yet here’s the really clever bit: our coin-tossing criminal has spent his entire life understanding the odds – it’s what he does for an Obsessively Compulsive Disorderly living – and he’s the first to figure out the totem’s true nature. So the thin-skinned, fiery-tempered, dual-personality renowned for going postal does so in a different, more deliberate and deliberated way.

Oh, very well done, Mr. Simonson! I can’t say I cared for the Roman chapter or really the bit in the future whose comicbook context I didn’t understand because I can’t know everything, can I? But I approached this book with minimum interest and left laughing heartily. Also with a new word: susurration. Expect it, now acquired as my own, in a new review imminently.


Buy Batman: The Judas Coin 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.


Chloe Noonan #4.5 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Marc Ellerby

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (£14-99, Groundwood) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c (£6-99, Other A-Z) by P. Craig Russell

Ten Grand vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith, C.P. Smith

Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Yu

Green Arrow vol 2: Triple Threat s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ann Nocenti & Harvey Tolibao

Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Guiseppe Camuncoli

Avengers Arena vol 3: Boss Level s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cristos Gage, Dennis Hopeless & Karl Moline, Kev Walker

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 3 – Mad h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Ethan Van Sciver, Szymon Kudranski

Attack On Titan vol 10 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

The Art Of Bioshock Infinite h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Doctor Who series 3 vol 4: Dead Man’s Hand (£13-50, IDW) by Tony Lee & Mike Collins

Doctor Who series 3 vol 3: Sky Jacks! (£13-50, IDW) by Andy Diggle, Eddie Robson & Andy Kuhn


Oh, you don’t read down here, do you?

Do you?! Tweet me if you do!

It’s so lonely!

– Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week two

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

HELLBLAZER was always at its best when occult horror took second stage to real-life horror in the form of racism and the BNP, homophobia, poverty, homelessness, sickness and death; of hopelessness under crushingly callous governments and helplessness under intransigent authority. This is HELLBLAZER at its very best.

There aren’t many horror comics which can actually make you cry.

 – Stephen on Hellblazer vol 7 

Celebrated Summer s/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman.

“I’d give anything not to be so scared.”

Beautifully drawn in a thin, fragile line with lots of intricate crosshatching and stylistic nods towards Trudeau (Mike’s profile) and Huizenga (Grandma’s profile), this is a very quiet book, sparse on dialogue.

This is partly because Mike has nothing to say (or nothing worth saying) while the enormous Wolf with his short-cropped mohican has retreated into himself ever since he accidentally broke a boy’s arm at school. Then he stopped playing and started watching instead. Now, increasingly placid, he’s virtually stopped speaking except when prompted. He’s timid, he’s isolated, and he’s scared. He can’t even pee in public. There’s a lot of nervous sweat.

It may also be because they’re concentrating on their trip: two tabs of acid each, and a drive to the beach. That adds a certain tension to the book: who’d take drugs and drive?!

It’s a black and white book, yet the two main instances of tripping far from suffer for it. Mike’s is short and sweet: a full page given over to single flower opening as if in stop-motion. The panel borders evaporate, leaving twelve clean images of the blossoming bud surrounded by identical leaves as if viewed though a fly’s eye. Wolf’s is more dramatic and – to him – disorientating / nauseating, as an arcade game’s screen morphs into some psychedelic optician’s test complete with a lot of circles.

James Sturm and Chester Brown are both fans, if that helps.


Buy Celebrated Summer s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

“Friend of yours?”
“Must be. He’s dead.”

Please don’t judge this book by its hideous cover: Dillon’s art looks nothing like that. You have to be a wilfully stupid art director not to ask Steve Dillon for a new piece of art or at least reuse the original Glenn Fabry paintings which, as you’ll see within, were glorious.

HELLBLAZER was always at its best when occult horror took second stage to real-life horror in the form of racism and the BNP, homophobia, poverty, homelessness, sickness and death; of hopelessness under crushingly callous governments and helplessness under intransigent authority. This is HELLBLAZER at its very best.

When Alan Moore created John Constantine and introduced him in SWAMP THING, it became immediately clear that he was a very dangerous man: he was already pursued by the ghosts of friends who’d paid the price for even knowing him. So it is here, and one of Garth Ennis’ strengths was bringing friendship to the fore, thereby making the violence wrought against them all the more personal and so horrific. Dillon was no slacker in that department, either: there is a facial close-up here which is as abhorrent and as repulsive as it should be. Man’s inhumanity to man. So it is at the top of this review, with a rent boy John got to share a mattress with, and if you think John’s being glib then that’s a mask he wears or swiftly pulls back on whenever threatened, and a knee-jerk reaction to power: he cannot resist flipping the figurative bird.

It is friendship too which proves his undoing here – or actually fully fledged love. For the first time ever John drops his guard and lets someone in, and Kit was definitely worth waiting for. Over from Belfast, Kit was tender, tough and took no shit, giving as good as she got. But remember that occupational hazard? Remember John’s occupation: he’s a rake, he’s a rogue, he’s a trickster, and his victims come from both Heaven and Hell. In that line of work you make powerful enemies.

Constantine isn’t in the habit of losing: not to sexual, predatory priests; not to racists, vampires, demons or even archangels, all of which feature here. But just as he achieves one of his slickest, sickest and most vicious victories (which may yet prove his salvation in the dangerous long-game he is playing) Garth Ennis pulls the rug from right under him.

“There’s always somewhere lower you can go.”

My favourite chapter is ‘Heartland’. Set in Belfast in 1993 it’s essentially one long conversation between Kit and her wee sister with a big chunk in the middle down an Irish boozer with some mates reminiscing about the past and discussing the Provisional IRA. All of which was rather brave, but Ennis’ Irish accent and speech patterns had a lovely lilt and I can think of few comicbook artists other than Steve’s brother Glyn (THE NAO OF BROWN) who could have done such talking heads justice. Sean Phillips, Dave Sim, Fiona Staples perhaps. And you just wait for the visual punchline, as underplayed and heart-rending as anything else you will see in comics.

There aren’t many horror comics which can actually make you cry.


Buy Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c and read the Page 45 review here

You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse (£13-50, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tjia.

What was that sound?!

Imagine you’re curled up on lounge sofa, merrily moulting ginger cat hair all over your owners’ black cushions after having scratched several shades of shit out of their floor-length, velveteen curtains. It was exhausting – you deserved a nap.

But just as you’d settled down to doze, contemplating the decapitated frog you’d left beside the bed upstairs (exactly where the mother will soon place her naked foot), there’s a jangling of keys and the teenage girl of the house laughs her way through the front door accompanied by her new girlfriend. And that’s okay, but when her father staggers in a few minutes later and slumps like a drunk against the hall wall… that’s when your life changes forever.

Before we launch properly in I should emphasise that, unlike the two self-determining graphic novels we stock (KNIGHT & DRAGON and Jason Shiga’s enormously inventive MEANWHILE), this and YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 are both illustrated prose brought to our comicbook attention on account of Tija’s magnificent short-story collection HIPLESS BOY which I described as “early Tomine if Adrian was an optimist.” Of the seemingly innocuous YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 I wrote:

“WARNING: most certainly not suitable for kids! Oh, I know it looks as if it should be: for a start it’s a cat, secondly it’s riffing off and indeed mimicking your childhood favourites where you controlled the narrative by becoming the protagonist, making her or his decision for them, and then turning backwards or forwards to the duly prescribed page.”

What it actually contained was all manner of mischief involving moments of a dysfunctional family that only a cat would witness. This time the warning’s in the title and the cover, but nothing there could possibly prepare you for the true horror within. And we’re not even talking about the zombies: there are worse fates than getting your neck nibbled on by a bunch of hive-minded shamblers.

“The next two hours are awful.”

That, I promise you, is an understatement, for Sherwin Tija has put his thinking cap on sideways and come up with all manner of fucked-up futures for a cat caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, several strands involving you being bitten and infected yourself.

I am no expert in zombies, myself, but I consulted with Dominique and it appears that there are indeed very few strains which involve a zombie’s perspective, let alone a zombified cat, and Tija’s take is far from obvious because, to his mind, every animal would react differently. At one point when fresh human flesh is on offer you’re given three options, one of which is “Will you teach them your love?” * Funny.

There are a substantial two hundred and fifty pocket-sized pages here which Sherwin has packed with enormous fight-or-flight variety involving your bit of fluff down the road, her aging owner, a fenced-off enclave surrounded by snipers, a helicopter, outrageously ruthless scientists and some brand-new means of infection which I would have imagined in a million years. Hint: you may never breast-feed again.

As to the myriad of final fates, they are soooooooooooooo dark that the brightest is almost the opportunity to throw yourself off a roof without having even attempted to negotiate DC’s juddering, advert-stuffed website.

“But, Stephen, is there no hope of happiness?”

Maybe. Define “happiness”. Hahahahaha!


* That was a written note and I can no longer find that page so it may not be verbatim. Also, I made the decapitated frog’s head up from a personal, cold, clammy and squelch-crunch experience.


Buy You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse and read the Page 45 review here

Caligula Vol 2: Heart Of Rome (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & German Nobile.

Here’s one for CROSSED fans, you sick, sick people.

Previously in CALIGULA VOL 1… Look, the clue’s in the title: Emperor Caligula wasn’t exactly a philanthrope. Not for him, the altruistic satisfaction of municipal benefaction, building orphanages for the wee ones and bearding-up as Santa Claus each Christmas. No, it was white-knuckle ride taking in the not-unexpected hamlets of Death and Depravity but with a surprise detour through the unhistoric town of Demonic Possession.

It basically went tits-up for everyone.

As the second book opens, Emperor Claudius has seized the city of Rome with his smothered son Britannicus due to succeed him, while Caligula’s ambitious sister Agrippina is living in exile with her son Nero. Since SILVERFISH’s David Lapham is playing fast but only a little loose with history, Nero can considered safe this round. Not so those around him, especially when you learn who Nero’s father is.

Tribune Laurentius, meanwhile, who saw Caligula for what he really was before sorting him good-and-proper-like, is hired by Agrippina, one of few who believe Laurentius’ claims of demonic possession and that Caligula’s spirit lives on. Laurentius is presumed to have gone a little mental ever since his own wife Julia was turned into the sort of modern art which even Damien Hirst would blanche at. And it’s been happening on a lot recently on the streets of Rome: grotesque “installations” using imaginatively repurposed body parts – it’s just the authorities have initiated a cover-up. Re-enter Junius, the vengeful olive farmer who endured so much in CALIGULA VOL 1 just to get close enough to Caligula to kill him. He now owns four gladiators including an unbeatable champion called Verraxis, and massive gambling debts.

There you go, that’s your basic line-up. Where resides the spirit of Caligula? Who’s vying for a Tate-Modern Turner Prize? What’s Agrippina really up to? How naughty is Nero, even as a child? He’s quite naughty. I hope no one is silly enough to give him some matches.

German Nobile is back to render all manner of sexual protrusions in a manner which, ordinarily, would send their owners straight down the Genito-Urinary Clinic. His colours are lurid, sordid and opaque, which is no bad thing in this instance – I don’t think Alex Ross would be quite right for this book. I wasn’t always entirely sure what was going on, but on occasions I was grateful. I think more of that may be due to a little too much happening off-screen, as if bits of the script had been excised due to space.

There will be a third volume at the very least as the conclusion will make clear. I imagine once Nero hits puberty everyone will be in a great deal of trouble.


Buy Caligula Vol 2: Heart Of Rome and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Scientifically sophisticated and philosophically exceptional for any genre in comics, this has only just begun. You wait for the linguistic punchline.

The Black Panther, Reed Richards, Iron Man, the Beast, Namor of Atlantis, Black Bolt of the Inhumans and Dr. Stephen Strange: they are the Illuminati, a cabal of Earth’s superhumans – some of them sovereign – who have been working behind the scenes to preserve all life as we know it. Now they have been told:

“Everything dies.”

In NEW AVENGERS VOL 1 they witnessed a series of Incursions: the intrusion of planet Earth from one parallel universe to another. From up in the sky it descends on a collision course, and there can only be two outcomes: one of those Earths is sacrificed in order to save those universes… or everything dies in both.

For years this has been happening all over the multiverse but now it has come home to roost and it is happening with alarming frequency: four Incursions right here in a single month.

The Illuminati are working on it, but this is their dilemma: they want to preserve this Earth that they live on with those they hold dear but, in order to do so, they must destroy another Earth equally as valid as theirs. They must commit global genocide – the obliteration of billions of individual human beings with loved ones of their own – and I’m afraid they have built the weapons to do so.

The Illuminati have fooled themselves that this will be a last resort, but so far they have been lucky: firstly events outside their control meant that they haven’t had to deploy this Final Solution yet, plus they have been dealing with physics which they have successfully stretched their collective and substantial scientific brains to just-about-comprehend. But 1) time is running out, and 2) prepare for a paradigm shift.

Seriously, when you read NEW AVENGERS #13 which immediately follows this book, you will begin to understand as I did what is meant by a “paradigm shift”.

Meanwhile, all is far from well between the individual members of the Illuminati with sub-plots not simmering but raging galore. Black Bolt is hiding something monumental; Dr. Strange has gone unilateral; Reed Richards and Iron Man have entrusted their own private plans to whom we don’t know; plus Namor’s Atlantis and Black Panther’s Wakanda are at war. Let’s not even talk about what they’ve done to Steve Rogers.

I wish we could have an artist as dark and brooding, as foreboding and neo-classically epic as Mike Deodato on board to make this as visually impressive as it deserves. Oh, wait – we do!


God, but he’s good, isn’t he?


Buy New Avengers vol 2 Infinity 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.

Cemetary Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c (£16-99, Inklit) by Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden

Complete Multiple Warheads s/c (£13-50, Image) by Brandon Graham

Conan vol 14: The Death s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Declan Shalvey, Vasilis Lolos, Becky Cloonan

Ex Machina Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

The Incal h/c (£29-99, SelfMadeHero) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On (£13-55, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean

Percy Jackson And The Titan’s Curse s/c (£9-99, Disney) by Rick Riordan, Robert Vendetti & Attila Futaki

Prison Pit vol 5 (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Johnny Ryan

Quantum And Woody vol 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team s/c (£7-50, Valiant) by James Asmus & Tom Fowler

Vampire Academy vol 3: Shadow Kiss (£9-99, Razorbill) by Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon & Emma Vieceli

Will O’ The Wisp h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchison

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 2 – Cycle Of Violence s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & David Finch, Richard Friend

Batman: The Judas Coin s/c (£10-99, DC) by Walter Simonson

Green Arrow vol 3: Harrow s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ann Nocenti, various &  Freddie Williams II, various

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian K. Vaughan & Roger Petersen, Phil Hale

All New X-Men / Indestructible Hulk / Superior Spider-Man – The Arms Of The Octopus s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by various

Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by various

Awkward Silence vol 4 (£8-99, Sublime) by Hinako Takanaga

Century Of Temptation s/c (£9-99, DMP) by Kairi Shimotsuki

Depression Of The Anti Romanticist vol 2 (£9-99, DMP) by Yasuna Suginuma & Riyu Yamakami

Dorohedoro vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners (£9-99, DMP) by Marta Matsuo

Mr. Mini Mart (£9-99, DMP) by Junko

Sherlock Bones vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yuma Ando & Yuki Sato

ITEM! Brief comic: LIFE WITH / OUT A CAT by Rachel Dukes who bears an uncanny resemblance to our own Dominique!

ITEM! Gorgeously coloured New Year’s Resolution comic by BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison (oh, just stick him in our search engine – we’ve loads more comics and free stickers to go with them)!

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS is returning! (see Page 45 reviews January 2014 week one for deetz!) Nearly fifteen years ago its creator David Lapham printed a letter from Page 45 in STRAY BULLETS #10, and you may find its contents… familiar. Over the years, I’ve either scored on consistency or bored with repetition!

ITEM! I’m sick of hearing the ridiculous repetition that Alan Moore’s left comics! He’s just left DC, and who can fucking blame him after the way he’s been treated? Here’s a preview of the latest LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN coming in May 2014. Yes, I know it doesn’t say so on the cover, but it is, and you can pre-order NEMO: ROSES OF BERLIN here! You already have NEMO: HEART OF ICE, right?

ITEM! Batman’s Gotham City really does originate from a town outside Nottingham. Our J-Lo spotted that BBC report. For more on Gotham and its links to Batman, see this article at Dawn Of The Unread.

ITEM! Illustrated interview with Antony Johnston on his forthcoming sci-fi thriller THE FUSE. You can pre-order THE FUSE #1 here and pre-order THE FUSE #2 here or just tell us to add it to your standing order. Preferably before we order next week, please!

ITEM! Details on forthcoming BREAKS webcomic co-created by Emma Vieceli. Looks gorgeous! Did you catch her pages in YOUNG AVENGERS #14? I swooned. Pop Emma Vieceli in our search engine! (Copy and paste: otherwise you’ll only spell her name with an ‘a’ and two ‘l’s  – I always do!)

ITEM! New Dr Sketchy’s life drawing class on Saturday February 8th. It’s the Flirty Thirties! NOW AND THEN’s Sally Jane Thompson will be there along with our Jodie, and they’ve offered to lend me their pencils and pens so I’ll see if I can get some cover to come along too. You could win graphic novels donated by Page 45! We are proud official sponsors.

I always call Dr. Sketchy’s the “not-up-their-arse art class”. They are so welcoming and creativity is cool!

– Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week one

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Okay, there are very few reviews this week, but then there were very few books! We can only deal with what we are dealt. Still, they’re all brilliant, and there are loads of news links at the bottom, as always.

Happy New Year!

 – Stephen 

aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c (£12-99, Self Made Hero) by Frederik Peeters…

Pure science-fiction heaven. I now see exactly why this won the prestigious Best Series of 2013 prize at Angoulême. As utterly bizarre and charming in its own way as perhaps the greatest science fiction graphic novel ever, THE INCAL, yet without the existential farcicality and turbo-paced freneticism of that particular classic, it won me over instantly. Possibly the highest personal praise I can proffer is that it greatly minded me of Iain M. Banks’ prose, in the sense that we are presented with a highly complex and well developed universe and cast of characters, but there is a real sense of mystery to the plot which immediately draws you in. The art also, has a lightness of touch yet richness of detail which engendered a sense of real wonderment in me. Suspension of disbelief complete, this was a joyful thirty minutes reading indeed.* For someone who likes his fiction with a futuristic twist, this is as close to nirvana as it gets.

Confusion abounds from the beginning as the story opens with our central protagonist, Verloc Nim, groggily waking up in what appears to be an impact crater in the middle of nowhere on a dessert-like planet. He’s suffering from total amnesia but fortunately for him, and us, a cigar-smoking robot monkey called Churchill is loitering nearby to pass Verloc his handwritten diary, allowing him to catch up on what the hell has happened to leave him isolated in such a curious predicament. 



As Verloc reads he begins to remember his miserable life, losing the business he inherited from his father in a confidence trick, plus also his wife and daughter as he recalls his descent into depression and addiction. Furthermore, eschewing the medical advances of this future society he blamed for all his problems and indeed despised almost as much as he despised himself, he’d begun to physically unravel as well. All until his estranged younger brother, Conrad, the shining star of the family, asks Verloc to accompany him on a mysterious mission to another planetto retrieve a biological experiment called AAMA. 

Fans of Frederick, who’ve already read the autobiographical BLUE PILLS, the enigmatic ‘Tales of the Unexpected’-esque SANDCASTLE and the equally surreal PACHYDERME, will already know of his ability to craft and illustrate stories with an almost cinematic sense of pacing and scope, to display genuine emotional depth in characters both lovable and loathe-worthy alike. This is probably his most complete and indeed accessible work for me, despite the genre which will probably limit its appeal to some people, although it really shouldn’t. I am pleased the jurors of Angoulême and European readers of bande dessinée in general are able to appreciate greatness irrespective of its flavour. I am delighted also to report this is merely volume one in what I hope to be a long-running epic.

* [Editor’s note: Jonathan is a very fast reader.]


Buy aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Sleepwalkers (£8-99,Walker Books) by Viviane Schwarz.

“Good morning. I trust you slept well?”
“Don’t talk to him before he’s had some tea, it’s cruel.”

This is the truth!

This is also a woefully late review on Page 45’s part for a graphic novel which was successfully nominated for the British Comics Awards’ Young People’s Comic 2013 as judged by school children. Now that I’ve read it, I cannot comprehend why I resisted because it is fabulous!

It may have been the cover’s underpants-on-the-head, but I understand that now: Bonifacius the bear doesn’t wear a mask to hide a secret identity, but because “It makes me feel better”. Just like when I slip on some gloves or a new pair of cowboy boots: it feels like a full set of armour. I basically level-up!

This is full-on and frantic as three learned sheep attempt to rescue small children from their nocturnal nightmares, making quick-snap decisions on the hoof. I can already hear your first question: “Why are none of those sheep on the cover?” Patience, dear reader, patience!

Instead we have Bonno the bear clutching Buddy the dog, leaping into stellar-strewn action with Amali the sock monkey riding his back and Sophia the nib-nosed crow flying close behind. Sophia’s beak really is a functioning fountain-pen nib: she communicates with scrawls on the walls – which are difficult to read when it’s dark.

Buddy’s been there for a while but the other three are new recruits to the travelling Safe House who are dreamed into being and fashioned from inanimate objects. Our fine flock of three then try to teach them all that they know about tackling the terrors in time for yet another young cry for help. Necessity is the mother of invention and, boy, do they have to improvise because dreams have a habit of flying off in surreal and unexpected directions, don’t they? Viviane has that down to a tee.

Schwarz’s cartooning is an expressive joy, ebullient in action but also as tender and moving as early Disney feature film during the quiet moments of loss. Oh, Buddy’s face when he breaks it to Bonno about the truth behind the white, one-way door!

“I thought you said only you can go through that door?”
“Only I can come back.”

The glow-in-the-dark episode was particularly thrilling – positively electrifying – and there are breaks in the story for a quick cup of tea (there is always time for tea!) and a bit of cookery or craft, just like Jill Thompson’s glorious SCARY GODMOTHER.

My only problem was the prevalence of “No problem!” over and over again.

I dislike that response to someone thanking you for your help. It should be “My pleasure!” because helping people is indeed a great pleasure, whereas “No problem” implies that it could have been a problem and that possibly it was a problem but you put yourself out anyway. It effectively doubles the indebtedness instead of relieving it.

Emphasising the indebtedness could not be further from these sheep’s minds, however. They are entirely altruistic and that was one of the many elements I adored in this book. There is neither maudlin mawkishness in evidence nor reluctance in their hearts when they come to pay the price for helping others. It’s “Oh, well, we have to go!” and where they have to go is through that white, one-way door.

Most welcome mats say “Welcome”. This one reads “Good-bye”.

“Everyone has to wake up sometime.”


Buy The Sleepwalkers and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde: The Young King and The Remarkable Rocket s/c (£7-50, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell.

“Shall joy wear what grief has fashioned?”

It’s a good question, and one which dear Oscar posed a century before anyone investigated overseas child-labour in service to big-brand trainers.

Following the success of P. Craig Russell’s impeccable adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s THE HAPPY PRINCE, publisher NBM is gradually going back to reprint his earlier efforts. THE HAPPY PRINCE is recommended with all my heart as a tale of iniquity and inequality, true love and self-sacrifice, no matter the consequences. It is an ode to the redistribution of wealth, and a poignant and persuasive one at that.

The first story here pokes a socialist sceptre at those very same issues but proves problematic, if only because Russell’s craft and colouring hadn’t quite reached their peak and some of the script lies buried under very dark purples and reds. That at least could have been rectified for reissue. The Young King’s mullet is probably unsalvageable.

The only daughter of a king has a dalliance with a beautiful boy “of marvellous and foreign beauty” way beneath her station. She has a baby boy who is promptly dispatched to the countryside to be brought up as a shepherd, thereby prepping him for his Jesus Complex later on in life. At the same time the princess is poisoned and dumped in an open grave along with her upstart lover. Fast-forward a few years and the king is dying. In a fit of remorse (or the more likely desire to keep it in the family) he acknowledges his long-lost heir who is scooped up from penury and deposited in a palace of incomparable beauty and riches. To his credit, the prince does seem smitten by the beauty rather than the wealth which that beauty represents, although tellingly he does have a thing for a mirror held by a naked Narcissus. I imply no same-sex stirrings here – however homoerotic P. Craig Russell’s art always is – but a certain degree of self-regard.

For his coronation, then, he designs the most luxurious robe, crown and sceptre, demanding that everyone hop to it, labouring on the loom night and day or searching the world far and wide for the whitest pearls and the reddest rubies. The boy then experiences an epiphany in the form of three dreams during which he sees the suffering endured by others to order to meet his somewhat superficial and difficult demands. For example, an old man toiling at night on the robe:

“The land is free, and thou art no man’s slave.”
“We have chains, though no eye beholds them; and are slaves, though men call us free. Through our sunless lanes creeps poverty with her hungry eyes, and sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us in the morning, and shame sits with us at night.”

When he wakes up he throws a diva fit, refusing to wear the robe and crown or carry the sceptre. Which is all very well, but they’ve been made now. Instead he slips back into the shepherd’s smock and takes up his old staff, crowning himself in thorns for good measure. It doesn’t go down well, not even with his poorest subjects waiting for him on the road to the Cathedral, expecting a right royal show.

“Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich cometh the life of the poor? By your pomp we are nurtured, and your vices give us bread…. What hast thou to do with us, and what we suffer?”
“Are not the rich and the poor brothers?”
“Ay, and the name of the rich brother is Cain.”


The courtiers, the commoners and the Church tell him that his self-abasement brings shame to them all; that the current hierarchy is just as it should be; that he cannot do anything about it; indeed that he should not do anything about it. Here’s the bishop:

“Is not He who made misery wiser than though art?”


Wilde’s scenario seems completely valid to me: if, on his Coronation Day, Prince William strolled up solo to the doors of Westminster Cathedral in jeans and a t-shirt thereby saving the country a billion pounds which could be redirected to our crumbling schools, put-upon teachers, neglected nurses and virtually broken NHS, there would be the most almighty fucking uproar even from those who stood to benefit from those services most: the fanatically royalist poor who line the streets a dozen deep to wave their flags whenever even the lamest royal retard waves a bloody pinkie at them.

Whoops, there goes the knighthood.

The second story follows The Remarkable Rocket who is most remarked upon by himself. In fact he spends so much time blowing his trumpet up his own arse that he probably never learned how to spell “self-regard”. His trajectory is far from stellar.

Oscar Wilde is legendarily the most quotable writer in history – so succinct when taking the pith – and although this is far from his most famous short story, it is bursting with witty aphorisms as The Remarkable Rocket’s own words line up to condemn him as the rudest, most deluded pyrotechnic in history. Bang, bang, bang!

“You cannot understand my friendship for the prince.”
“Why, you don’t even know him.”
“I never said I knew him! I dare say if I knew him I should not be his friend at all. It is a very dangerous thing to know one’s friends.”


Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde: The Young King And The Remarkable Rocket 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.


Celebrated Summer s/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman

Soul Eater vol 17 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

New Avengers vol 2 Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Jorge Jimenez, Mico Suayan, various

Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 3 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Jorge Jimenez, Dave Wilkins, various

Dorohedoro vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Q. Hayashida

Gantz vol 29 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Judge Dredd (£13-50, IDW) by Duane Swierczynski & Nelson Daniel

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic vol 3 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse (£13-50, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tjia


ITEM! Love this poster for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. There’s a real sense of magic and mystery and “Whatever Will I Find There?!” That’s certainly how I’d market a comic arts festival! 

ITEM! Inspiring! Practical! Empowering! Becky Cloonan on self-publishing, including top tips to help you do it too!

ITEM! Liz Prince blogs about 2013 with hints for her work in 2014. It’s very personal with struggles and triumphs, all beautifully put and respectfully expressed. Although, a big lesson in turned adversity into adventure.

ITEM! I spy sad, striking parallels between the US and UK comics industry twenty years ago and the games industry right now as highlighted by one of games’ finest analysts and writers, Leigh Alexander (on Twitter: @leighalexander).

Oh, they persist here: Marvel and DC still attempt to bludgeon comic shops into stocking nothing more than their niche superhero soap operas by churning out so much product (and I do mean “product”) that they hope comic shops have no room for the diversity which attracts the Real Mainstream. They don’t embrace this diversity any more than they ever have creator rights: they token-tolerate it as a necessary evil to make more money and the occasional, hyperbolic media-splash.

But both they and their subordinate, collaborative retailers have lost that war because those retailers have been made redundant by bookshops embracing the graphic novel as published by the likes of Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Great BeastUK, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate,JonathanCapeet al, in all its splendid variety.

Dear Corporation and Indoctrinated, Dead-End Superhero Comic Shop, you have been successfully bypassed!

Anyway, here’s Leigh Alexander’s ‘Playing Outside’.

ITEM! Page 45 broke every monthly and quarterly sales record in 2013! Thank you, thank you, and thank you! That’s diversity for you. The next person who tells me that print is dead: I will cut you. In fact, I will paper-cut you.

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS is back and we have deciphered the cryptic solicitations in January’s PREVIEWS for March 2014 for you:


The previously unreleased final issue of the original series’ last story arc. This issue will be contained in the STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES EDITION.


All 41 issues of the original series in one big book! The best crime in comics, right up there with Brubaker & Phillips’ CRIMINAL.


The beginning of a brand-new STRAY BULLETS series. See STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES EDITION for the complete original series.

There you go, Happy New Year! 

 – Stephen