Reviews February 2014 week three

Do you know the problem with respite? Its definition.

 – Stephen on Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain

Just So Happens h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Fumio Obata.

You’re going to adore these colour washes. They are clean, they are crisp, and the rooftops and mountains are sublime.

Add in the Jenga-like dream sequence of a wooden, Japanese theatre stage tumbling apart then dispersing around young Yumiko, suspended in a void, and this is quite the spectacle.

“Where I am right now…
“Guess what…
“I am in a theatre…
“Performing a piece, pretending to be something else…”

Yumiko is attending her father’s funeral.

She’s right: funerals all over the world are so often meticulously choreographed pieces of theatre during which mourners become scared in case they miss their queues, forget their lines, show too much emotion or none at all. Really, they should be about honesty, open consolation and saying good-bye.

But Yumiko has been distracted of late from this much honest introspection and open conversation because she has adopted a very specific role. A Japanese woman living in London, she has enjoyed the freedom to pursue her artistic goals abroad which her mother, a generation behind her, had to fight for back in Japan. Even Yumiko’s beloved father disapproved, and her mother had to leave. She’s now a successful critic and teacher.

Yumiko, meanwhile, has travelled abroad, carved out her career and, having assimilated, feels completely at home in the hustle and bustle of London. In spite of the crowds. In spite of the tensions. In spite of being in a relative minority. Or is she as equanimous to it all as she believes?

There’s an early scene so telling when her fiancé, Mark, correctly identifies a couple passing by as Japanese. Yumiko is surprised, but Mark ‘fesses up..

“I still can’t tell the difference between Chinese, Korean or Japanese but I can usually tell from your reaction. It’s quite subtle, though. When you come across another Japanese person, or a bunch of them, you try not to look at them or turn away…”

Called to her father’s funeral following his sudden death, Yumiko flies back to Japan, reminiscing about her last visit when her father was very much alive and, during a public firework display, she was drawn to the hypnotic calm of a Noh theatre performance so improbably late at night that she’s no longer sure whether she imagined it.

The funeral itself is what really sets Yumiko thinking, after which she spends a week with her mother in Kyoto. Together they tour the city, like the spectacular climb up white stone steps through a twisting colonnade of red, black-based Torri surrounded by trees before sitting in quiet contemplation in the open, hillside tea house.

You may want to make a pilgrimage of your own, it’s so beautifully painted and composed.

Because of these washes it seems reminiscent in places of Glyn Dillon’s NAO OF BROWN, but the faces and figures with their inked outlines are more representational. Expression-perfect and bursting with character and charm, they’re no less attractive for that, but it’s quite, quite different. There’s also the use of flat satin flesh tones – sometimes on the same page as the washes – and, back in London city, much looser sketches of the fast-flowing foot traffic as pedestrians flash past your eyes like the phantoms they are. The odd tableau is even akin to Guy Delisle’s shorthand.

It’s a spacious and dreamy book of reflection I read thrice in quick succession.

Plus you’ll find the cutest kettle you ever did see, especially when it boils.


Buy Just So Happens h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Beautiful Darkness h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët.

“But this isn’t how things were supposed to turn out!”

No. No, it isn’t.

This so pretty! The leaves, the leaves!

Kerascoët’s fresh, nesting spring, bug-ridden summer, gold-and-russet autumn and snow-fresh winter out in the countryside are each of them lit to perfection. The underbellies of the flowers and fronds – so much of this is seen from below – are likewise just-so and the shadows cast across glossy beetles and the crumbly earth they’re skittering across make you want to break out your own dried-up watercolours, fill a jar of water, and play.

You may have noticed there are some tiny people, few bigger than a robin red-breast, who have newly emerged from a world of their own. Led by Princess Aurora, such a sweet little girl, they begin colonising this undiscovered country, gathering scant provisions (for they have none of their own), and getting to know the wildlife. There’s a bag and a pencil case and a notebook with a name which they can use for shelter. Oh, there are ups and downs, but they’re lucky to have Princess Aurora for she is kind and practical and thinks the best of everyone. There’s so much to be done!

I’d file this under horror, if I were you.

For God’s sake don’t let it anywhere near your children.

For very quickly the innocent child play-acting of dress up and hunting turns to the very worst humanity has to offer: competitiveness, spitefulness, jealousy, deceit, callousness and cruelty – and not just towards each other. Don’t get me wrong, with Vehlmann at the helm (ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES) there is cartoon comedy too, but that evaporates completely once it turns all Lord Of The Flies. Their behaviour is so well observed: these are children at play – with imagination, improvisation and so many rituals – they’re just not playing nice.

It’s genuinely very upsetting in places.


It works so well because Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset (AKA Kerascoët) lure you into a false sense of security with their bright colours, cute, flamboyant cartooning and the lushest of landscapes at sunset, for example. Throughout it is a joy to look at, give or take the odd munched-on maggot.

For it’s only six pages in that you realise where these darlings have emerged from; and the sudden switch to something closer to forensic photo-realism in a full-page reveal is more than a little arresting.

No, this wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out.

Not for any little girl.


Buy Beautiful Darkness h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“She makes love to him one last time, and he knows it’s out of pity…
“But he doesn’t care, this is all he has left.”

Closer now, closer: this is the penultimate volume. You wait until Jo starts dancing. You’ll wish it would last forever…

The present:

Do you remember Nicolas Lash from the very first page of FATALE? He was burying his godfather, author Dominic Raines, and that was where he met Josephine: in a graveyard. Even now, after all that he has lost including a leg and his freedom, he can’t get her out of his head.

Later that night he went through his godfather’s effects and found an unpublished manuscript called ‘The Losing Side Of Eternity’. He read it obsessively, over and over again, hoping it would give him a clue as to how to trace Jo. Now he has lost that too. It was stolen and has since been published with some bits curiously missing. The publisher claims that they bought the manuscript from Nicolas himself, and now he’s due to face trial for murder. If he thought things couldn’t get any worse, he was wrong. His solicitor is slaughtered by a ragged, raving lunatic who calls himself Nelson, just to spring Nicolas from custody. He claims Jo sent him. Did she?

Seattle, 1995:

It’s been a long time since grunge band Amsterdam had their only hit single, ‘Flow My Tears’.  They’re still together; they’re even living together in a neo-gothic house outside of Seattle along with Darcy, girlfriend of guitarist and songwriter Tom. The problem is that Tom is no longer writing – at least, he’s no longer writing songs. He’s out of his head on acid. The others haven’t given up, though. Lead singer Lance in particular is being pro-active. He’s finding them funds for a new killer video – by holding up banks at gunpoint.

Into this already fractious household stumbles our beautiful Josephine, found by Lance naked and clutching a bloody bed sheet on the side of the road. She has no idea how she is or how she got there. This is a mercy given what she’s been through these past centuries… these past decades… these past days.

So, yes, into this already fractious household swans our oblivious Jo and the band is completely smitten. Each one of them. That’s what she does to men, whether she wants to or not. They are in heaven; they are inspired – even Tom seems driven to write songs again. But Jo cannot help herself and resentful, alienated Darcy may be proved right: Josephine is trouble, and there’s plenty more hot on her heels. You wait until Jo starts dancing…

Make no mistake, the two eras are closely connected but Brubaker signposts none of that. You will have to wait and concentrate.

He’s written a tragedy. Josephine begins here as oblivious as Tom and it really is a mercy, a wonderful, liberating respite. But do you know the problem with respite? Its definition.

I have no idea how Brubaker keeps it all clear in his head let alone unfolds each element at exactly the right pace, at exactly the right moment: the men Jo has touched who follow her trail, her psychic scent, unable to let go no matter how many years pass by. Josephine is essentially innocent – at least as far as her intentions go, at least as far as her intentions would be if only she were left alone – yet she corrupts everyone around her and ruins them all, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes to escape. To live to fight another day.

Oh, Josephine has no problem living. It seems she cannot be killed; not for good. But there is a losing side to eternity and Jo is very much on it.

I can think of few other creative teams in America or Britain – and this straddles both – who have produced such an extraordinarily large body of work together, on different titles: CRIMINAL, SLEEPER, INCOGNITO and now FATALE, with THE FADE OUT approaching next. Consistently thrilling, gripping and addictive, they are a match made in… oh, I don’t know… a smoky dive bar, a dark alley best avoided, a speakeasy with the spotlight thrown on its stage.

I’ve made much of Sean Phillips’ twilight in past reviews – of the shadows he casts around corners so that you’re reluctant to look, or those he casts across faces so that you are equally reluctant to leave your life in their culpable hands – but what comes to the fore in this series, and in this volume in particular, is how fucking sexy his women are. Also: classy.

Josephine is chic, she is sexy and she is to die for. That is the quintessential point and hook of FATALE, and if Phillips didn’t pull it off in every single panel then Brubaker might as well have stayed home and done the dishes. Oh, when she hitches up her shirt (her shirt, not her skirt) with Lance helpless beneath her, she is completely irresistible! Her spell is blinding and binding and…

“She makes love like a force of nature. Afterwards, he feels nearly broken… but it’s pure bliss… At the edge of sleep, watching her sway to the beat of one of their songs…. He never wants this moment to end.”

Sean is also remorselessly good at rendering suffering and violence, yet without a second’s sensationalism. This is crime with a Lovecraftian twist, after all, and the throwaway punchline to my shop-floor show-and-tell of FATALE VOL 1 is, “Then there are tentacles and their heads fall off”. It usually gets a laugh and an immediate sale.

But this title involves ritualised murder and – key point, this – rendering the invulnerable male vulnerable. It’s all over their expressions once in thrall to Josephine’s allure (even more so once they recognise their helplessness), and he infallibly succeeds in making the male so physically vulnerable (hoist naked, upside down and aloft from a handcuffed beam) that you know they could never recover.

Not-so-gratuitous plug, then: THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS

Next and finally: since the very first issue of FATALE, Jo has had a plan. Well, she did have but it’s kind of fucked. What was it?


Buy Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer vol 2: The Explorers h/c (£19-99, Titan) by Benjamin Legrand & Jean-Marc Rochette…

“Why is there never any good news?”

Errr… because you’re a character stuck on a train called Snowpiercer 2 in a nightmarish, frozen, post-apocalyptic world living in constant fear of collision with Snowpiercer 1 maybe? That’s not going to happen, but not for the reason most of its passengers believe. A chosen few know the real reason, and it’s the first of many excellent twists that punctuate this more adventure-orientated sequel. Whereas the first volume SNOWPIERCER VOL 1: THE ESCAPE H/C takes an almost entirely philosophical look at the confined and claustrophobic life of our protagonists, this volume is more expansive in its focus, not least because the titular explorers actually occasionally disembark their train, albeit to search for luxury artefacts for the great and good who rule the train.

The difference in tone may well be due to the fact it is a different writer, as Lob died shortly after writing the first volume, and possibly explains why Rochette chose a rather different, altogether softer, art style this time around. Whilst it may not be as profound a read, it certainly is as dramatically entertaining, but given the writer, Benjamin Legrand, is a well known French thriller writer, and he has written other excellent comics in conjunction with Jacques Tardi such as NEW YORK MON AMOUR, I would expect no less.


Buy Snowpiercer vol 2: The Explorers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Atomic Sheep (£14-99, Markosia) by Sally Jane Thompson.

Told in dark-chocolate brown and peach-cream, this is another new-school story in the vein of Faith Erin Hicks’ FRIENDS WITH BOYS, as well as Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg’s PLAIN JANES with which it shares the bond of creativity.

All three feature girls arriving at school so many years after everyone else that bonds have been formed in their absence. For Tamrika the real wrench lies in being sent far away to board, and since school regulations permit no unnatural hair colours and a maximum of two piercings per ear it means that she has to dye over her highlights and pop her other studs in overnight to keep the holes from closing. The arrival of her pristine and matronly, new school uniform on the very first page sets off alarm bells about being turned into part of an assembly line of blank-faced robots.

The stomach-churning moment, however, comes once summer has evaporated, leaving just one afternoon out on the lake with her mother.

“So beautiful, eh?”
“I’m really going to miss you while you’re away.”
“Then don’t send me off to school in the middle of nowhere!”

This is what Tamrika thinks crossly before softening. Her parents have sacrificed much over the past couple of years to pay for Tamrika to do Grades 11 and 12 at this prestigious school, and there’s no point to spoiling the day. She says, instead, “Me too” and they hug.

So it is that Tammy leaves all her friends behind to face the unknown including a dormitory companion she’s never met. Breaking the ice is essential but it’s so difficult to know what to say! What if she makes a disastrous first impression? Uncomfortable.

Being tongue-tied, at cross purposes or saying completely the wrong thing are recurring fears and mistakes on all parts, shyness exacerbated tenfold when attraction adds itself to the awkward occasion, and young teen readers will find much that’s familiar. There’s also a relationship of convenience that proves inconvenient and a struggle to create in a school which puts no pride in art nor any thought or funds to facilitate it. So that’s familiar too.

This is Sally NOW AND THEN Thompson’s first full-length comic created over a period of four years while freelancing to survive, and this is the fascination of it all: seeing a creator develop in front of you. You need to look carefully, though, because Thompson has gone to great lengths to redraw whole pages in order to root out her early learning processes and some of the more obvious manga influences before she formed a fully-fledged style of her own. Her love of nature and the soft, natural form shows in the lush chocolate strokes, complemented beautifully by artfully deployed flesh tones throughout.

There’s a short autobiographical feature in the back in which Sally explains that the protracted creation of the book was effectively a collaboration with younger versions of herself. Not only wouldn’t she have written it quite like this now, but she couldn’t have because her “interests, ideas, preoccupations” and artistic approach have all changed. As I say, fascinating.

I haven’t the first idea what the title means or the cover is all about. The insides are an environmentally safe, sheep-free zone.


Buy Atomic Sheep and read the Page 45 review here

Line Of Fire: Diary Of An Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914) (£10-99, Phoenix Yard Books) by Barroux…

Based on the diary of a WW1 solider found in some rubbish by a passer-by as a Paris apartment was being cleared, this is a curious sort of work. After the emotionally eviscerating GODDAMN THIS WAR! and the artistically appealing panorama that is THE GREAT WAR, this shows a rather less dramatic side to that most gruesome of conflicts. In that sense it greatly minded me of ALAN’S WAR, a biography of an American G.I. who had a probably fairly typical World War Two experience, in that he didn’t actually see any front line conflict.

There is a real sense here of how the initial, naive excitement of going off to war to defend one’s country can soon be replaced by ennui, as the process of actually getting to the front by means of day after day of hard foot slog, and night after night of searching barns and abandoned buildings for a suitable billet, soon becomes rather tiring and not more than a little dull. Then there is the action, brief as it is, resulting in a shrapnel wound and a period of convalescence, before we are left with the rather unsuitable conclusion that the diary simply comes to an end. Even despite the fact the diarist apparently never gives his own name, we do know where he is from, plus the names of his wife, children, best friend, so I would think surely there must be records the creator could have waded through to establish precisely who he was and what happened to our protagonist.  But perhaps Barroux felt his work was done, and indeed do we actually need to know whether our unknown soldier survived the rest of the war?


Note: on a personal level, proving the internet can actually yield information on pretty much anything if you look hard enough, I actually found out something further the other day about a real life character I happened to gain a chance interest in about ten years or so ago. There used to be a large dull brass plaque on the side of the police headquarters in Prague which caught my eye one day, for the reason that a tiny portion of it appeared polished to a shiny finish, by touch of innumerate fingers as it turned out, thus glinting in the sunlight. The reason? Well, this plaque contained the names of policemen who died in the defence of Prague from the Nazis during World War 2, and one of these officers had the rather prosaic name of Koloman Fucker. Or, as it turns out because the Czechs always say their names surname first, then Christian name… Fucker Koloman.

I’ve long wondered precisely who this chap was, who provided so much amusement to my friends and I, and what were the circumstances regarding his life and passing. To date I’d only previously managed to establish he was actually executed by the Nazis in Prague in 1944 after being finally captured whilst fighting a guerrilla war along with his police comrades, but to my joy the other day I found out he was married in a tavern called Krahulci in a village in the foothills of the Eagle Mountains, which are a 50 km long ridge of mountains near the Czech-Polish border. Not much, I know, but an unexpected fact to find. Also, just to mention should you find yourself in Prague and wanting to go and pay homage to Koloman Fucker as me and my friends always used to do on our subsequent visits, sadly, the plaque was taken down a few years ago, probably because at some point the police twigged what was going on and decided it was disrespectful or whatever, I don’t know.

I also note someone has recently started a Czech Guerrilla Of Fucker Koloman Facebook page which appears to be some sort of not entirely serious conspiracy theory group that also enjoys outdoor pursuits. Wow, I really have gone off on a tangent here… anyway… the point being I do think Barroux should have made some sort of effort to establish what happened to our protagonist…


Buy Line Of Fire: Diary Of An Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914) and read the Page 45 review here

The Royals: Masters Of War #1 of 6 (£2-25, Vertigo/DC) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby.

Full-blooded art with some seriously fine architecture (most on fire or in ruins) for a blue-blooded, WWII, superhuman showdown with the riff-raff on the receiving end.

London, 1940, and the problem for young Prince Henry is that not only are his subjects on the receiving end, but they’re the ones doing all the fighting while his father, King Albert, holds lavish court in Buckingham Palace and his older brother gets pissed in the pantry with his trousers round his ankles.

Moreover, Britain is losing. London is being bombed to buggery in the Blitz while the RAF is painfully outnumbered and outgunned by the German Luftwaffe. The threat of an imminent Nazi invasion is all too real.

Royal Secret Intelligence Service liaison, Lt. Colonel Lockhart, isn’t exactly happy about the state of affairs, either, nor the affairs of the State. He’s sickened by the champagne-guzzling elite so far from the front line, and all too easily goaded by the dissolute Prince Arthur.

“May I ask your Highness, why you do not enter the fight yourself?”
“Well… I’d have thought that was blindingly obvious, Lt. Colonel, even to a man of your blatant lack of breeding. But I’ll happily spell it out for you. I am a Prince. My life is extraordinarily enjoyable, and the gullible proles shoot their little guns and get blown to bits on my behalf. It’s a quite marvellous social system.”

So what’s new?

What’s new is this: the royal families of Europe have long enjoyed not only the Divine Right of Kings – the unquestionable and inalienable right to rule – but also supposedly God-given preternatural powers. Naturally they didn’t want to share them, hence all the inbreeding. However, after a little revolution or two in France and Russia – and Arthur being a genetic aberration, born powerless – the King decided to protect his children from jealous Bolshies by pretending his children were born without powers too. They weren’t. Princess Rose was born telepathic (something which drove her own mother mad), Prince Henry was born with the power of strength, flight and a certain degree of invulnerability, and Prince Albert was born with the ability to piss everyone off within a fifty-mile radius.

Oh yes, Rose and Henry were born with something else which no royal family in Europe had been in possession of since records began: a social conscience. So late that same night, little more than an hour after the last German plane had dropped its incendiary load, they sneak out of the palace grounds, Rose cupped in Henry’s arms as they fly high above London, looking down on its black-out monuments.

“It’s like Peter Pan.”

But as they descend past the dirigibles suspended in the evening sky, they see they are lit from the below, and what lies below is a holocaust of burning buildings, burning bodies and wailing orphans lost and alone in the blistering inferno.

“No, it’s not.”

Of Simon Coleby’s several stunning sequences – including the prologue set in Berlin four years later – this held the most power for me: beautifully controlled one either side by both creators (JUDGE DREDD: TRIFECTA) but, in its molten core, coloured by JD Mettler so that you can feel the unbearable heat and hear the crackling corpses, it’s absolutely harrowing. Cut immediately to a morning shortly thereafter and the next German squadron making yet another of their relentless, remorseless approaches on the London skyline have more than they bargained for ahead of them: dozens and dozens of British fighter planes and a very angry, free-flying Prince Henry. He is not wearing royal livery, no, nor an officer’s uniform, but rank-and-file, khaki, rolled up sleeves, braces and brown tie. Nice.

It’s quite angrily written, and I like that.

The history lesson was far from perfunctory exposition but enjoyable in its own right (not a second of this is overwritten) and, in tandem with the ominous prologue, the cliffhanger is quite the ellipsis. Prince Henry has his day in the sun, all right, blasting through German bombers and returning one giant burning fuselage, held aloft, to a crowd cheering round the Victoria Monument with its angel of victory (again, great shot, Simon) but we know what happens in 1945 and King Albert is reading The Telegraph headline with dismay.

His scheme had been far from unilateral, you see. He had made an international pact.

“Henry, you utter bloody idiot. Do you really think that we’re the only royal family with power?”


Buy The Royals: Masters Of War #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Constantine vol 1: The Spark And The Flame s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Renato Guedes, Fabiano Neves.

I came to praise Constantine, not to bury him!

Alas, I am left with no alternative. The very first paragraph is a raging non-sequitur:

“This is how the world is supposed to work: you give and you take. Cause and effect.”

No. You can give and you can take; you can give or you can take. But neither action affects the other. They may amount to some nebulous equilibrium if sagely balanced, but there is no cause and effect at work. What. So. Fucking. Ever!

Sloppy: Mr. John Constantine (rhymes with wine which is fine; emphatically not Con-stan-teen which is tinny and shrill just like this comic) would know better. And there, my lovelies, we have only begun.

I don’t believe for a second that a decent, demanding and – at its best – remanding HELLBLAZER comic with all the addictive and anti-establishment elements that word ironically implies could only be written by Brits. That’s like declaring that British writers cannot write American superhero comics. Although they are at their best satirically: see Warren Ellis’ NEXTWAVE and Garth Ennis’ THE BOYS.

So against all North American odds, I was dearly hoping that my beloved creators of ONE SOUL, MERCY, ESSEX COUNTY, THE NOBODY, SWEET TOOTH, LOST DOGS, ANIMAL MAN and THE UNDERWATER WELDER might know, perchance, what they were bloody doing. They do not. This is so peculiar – so singular – for Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire that I am going to blame editorial interference.

This isn’t just a bad HELLBLAZER book, it’s a bad comic.

As far as a John Constantine chronicle is concerned, it is awful: gone are the socio-political commentaries, the dry, wry mockery, the ingenuity, the wit and the spirit of place. There is almost always a spirit of place. In their stead: superpowers! Yay! Just look at the cover: John can now zap you with a blue-tinged pentangle or some sort of shit. Gasp at his leg muscles! Give them a pinch! Wey-hey!

Inside there is also one god almighty cleavage cock-up. Breasts do not look like that, six pages from the first chapter’s limping end, bottom panel.

Also pathetic: the climax to the first chapter after which John walks away as cockily as he used to BUT SHE CAN BLOW UP TAXIS! How is John getting away?!

HELLBLAZER played by some rules, even when John busied himself bending them. That was what the book was about: guile.

But without rules, you have no boundaries. Without boundaries, you have no tension. Without tension you have no reason to invest in a comic emotionally.

I have stopped caring, yes. And so have you.


Buy Constantine vol 1: The Spark And The Flame s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Review Resurrected!

Editor’s note: from the creator of February’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, aama VOL 1: THE SMELL OF WARM DUST, this book fell of the system so we lost its review. Don’t you just love back-ups? Here’s our Dominique:

Pachyderme h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters –

You know those dreams where you are hopelessly lost in a large building but then the wall opens up and you step inside what appears to be your own womb except it is full of trees and tiny sad babies who won’t leave you alone? Well, I am happy to report that this is one of those kind of books.

I love a circular tale; a story that seems to make sense, then begins to crack, becoming implausible before finally being resolved into a satisfying, edifying whole. Here the tale begins with a woman on her way to a hospital to see her husband who has been in an accident. Her car breaks down and so she decides to continue on foot; the first of many decisions which seem reasonable in isolation but which, when you step back and think about it, seem a bit off.  That’s another thing I love, the surreal aspects of a story being introduced skilfully, building a sense of off-kilterness slowly. There is no “weird for weirdness sake” here, every event flows from the last in a seemingly reasonable fashion but with a growing edge of not-quite-rightness. Thus, when the strangeness really kicks in it does not feel jarring or contrived, it just draws you along with it.

Though all we seem to do is follow a confused woman around a hospital there are a few meaty issues to this story. Post-war paranoia is one: the book is set in Europe in the ‘50s so memories are still fresh and bitter. The role of the wife is another, also the frustrated artist, the barren woman, the political ideologue, the wistful Imperialist are all touched upon but not in a heavy-handed way. The pervading sense of weirdness in the story means that the book stays engaging and interesting as we are never quite sure what will turn up around the next corner.

The book is a translation into English which also lends it an extra edge of quirkiness, for want of a better word. Little things like sound effects and background chatter are written in a slightly different way to that which you would see in a native English book and I really liked that. For me it added to the sense of otherness and bewilderment as we wander round an unfamiliar place, trying to make sense of stuff that just does not seem to fit together right, looking for a reasonable conclusion.

If you like David Lynch films and other such strange journeys I think you will find PACHYDERME a very enjoyable and satisfying read. Plus the cover recommendation is by Jean Moebius Giraud which speaks volumes!


Buy Pachyderme 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.


On Loving Women (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Diane Obomsawin

Revival vol 3: A Faraway Place (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

The Cute Girl Network (£12-99, First Second) by Greg Means, M. K. Reed & Joe Flood

We3 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Zero vol 1: “An Emergency” s/c (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Michael Walsh, Tradd Moore, Morgan Jeske, Will Tempest, Mateus Santolouco

Green Lantern: Wrath Of The First Lantern h/c (£22-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Tony Bedard, Peter Milligan & Doug Mahnke and a mere thirty four other artists

Journey Into Mystery: Kieron Gillen Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Robert Rodi & Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson, Pasqual Ferry, Whilce Portacio

Nova vol 1: Origin s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness

A.B.C. Warriors: The Solo Missions s/c (£13-50, Rebellion) by Pat Mills, Alan Moore & Steve Dillon, Henry Flint, Kev Walker, Tom Carney

Ultimate Comics: X-Men vol 3 s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Wood & Alvaro Martinez

Deadman Wonderland vol 1 (£6-99, ) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Nights (£8-99, Sublime) by Kou Yoneda

Pandora Hearts vol 18 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 19 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Pandora Hearts vol 20 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki


ITEM! Yeah, I went into THE ROYALS: MASTERS OF WAR #1 is more detail than normal – and gave far more away than I ever would about a complete graphic novel – but a) I fear it’s a series which might be overlooked in spite of its quality give its awkward publishing provenance (superheroes at Vertigo?!), b) I left out the prologue, c) you will want to see Simon Coleby’s storytelling prowess for yourself and d) I’m trying to sell a whole mini-series here.

It’s d) which is the key. I’ve omitted so much from FATALE VOL 4 which could so easily have excited you (who is after Jo now and why, for example) but then you’d have nothing left to worry you when you read it yourselves. A first issue is a different beast, I’ve decided today. Who knows that the next chapters hold?

I don’t normally try to justify my reviews. You either like them or you don’t. But I thought you deserved an explanation this time, as do Rob and Simon if it ever hits their radar. Do let me know what you think pro or con @pagefortyfive

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS multi-page preview! Yessss!

ITEM! ‘The Girl Next Door’. Three-page, full-colour CEREBUS short story by Dave Sim & Gerhard you won’t have seen unless you were collecting the EPIC ILLUSTRATED anthology 30-odd years ago.

ITEM! More comicbook moments from the French comic festival of Angoulême, from Ben Hatke, creator of ZITA THE SPACEGIRL

ITEM! New Jeffrey Brown book, KIDS ARE WEIRD, trailer. Pre-order, pre-order, please!

ITEM! Love this tribute to Robot & Frank by Christian Palmer AKA @PaperRobot AKA Mr Bow-Tie. There’s both a fragility and an intimacy, accentuated in no small part by the gap in the fingers of the left hand, with a full-on hug would have obliterated.

ITEM! Revealing insight into one comicbook creator’s experience of trying to get himself onto ComiXology Submit.

ITEM! ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD has quite the line-up: Simon Gane, Luke Pearson, Isabel Greenberg, Anders Nilsen… the list goes on!

ITEM! Lizz Lunney talks about her comics and food – her comics as food. Lizz Lunney likes food. Also about the cover design to her graphic novel TAKE AWAY.

ITEM! Lastly, delirious thanks to everyone who’s bought Page 45 Tote Bags. 50 copies sold in its first seven days, now approaching 75! At £2-99 a pop we’re not making much of a profit on them – though we will save money on carrier bags – but it’s the ever-so-slightly humbling realisation that you are proud enough to shop with us that you want to advertise us and your loyalty to the general public for free.

We only printed 250.

You blow my brains out on a weekly basis.

Thanks you,

– Stephen

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