Reviews January 2014 week four

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

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