Reviews June 2014 week two

I love the way the colour of the crayon mutates to frame the picture it’s written round or to pick out certain elements within it. The drawings themselves are suitably wan in spite of the colours which are far from naturalistic. Hair might be bright red or – in the doctor’s case – in strands of green, yellow and a purple which matches and so complements his loose, short-sleeved smock.

 – Stephen on Everywhere Antennas by Julie Delporte

Petty Theft (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard…

“She chose my book. Of all the books she could have stolen, she chose mine. It’s flattering.”

Ah, Pascal… what are we going to do with you? Not sure who is less of a Lothario between Pascal and Joe THE POOR BASTARD Matt, but one thing is for sure, no matter how shy they are with the ladies, neither of them shies away from bearing their tortured souls and romantic disasters for our salacious amusement. Yes, whilst I bet writing autobiographical material can be cathartic, I feel it takes a certain… special… type of person to let us into their innermost thoughts and intimate emotions.

In Pascal’s case, between coming off the back of a failed relationship, considering quitting comics for construction, staying with a friend and his family, well, he’s not in a good place, frankly. All the wiser, therefore, not to pursue a young lady who frequents his favourite bookshop but seems to be rather averse to paying for her reading pleasures.

However, her selection of one of his books for her latest freebie, observed by him though not of course the proprietor, is enough to convince our hapless hero they could be star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together. That he’s prepared to go great lengths to see this happens, straying into territory most of us would consider stalking, convincing himself it’s under the auspices of getting the bookshop their books back, well, that’s Pascal for you.

Anyone who enjoyed former Comicbook Of The Month and guide par excellence of how best to embarrass yourself at a school REUNION, or the car crash relationship melodrama that is FANNY & ROMEO in conjunction with Yves Pelletier, will know exactly what they are in for. As with REUNION, though, Pascal has an almost Frank Spencer like ability to pull a happy ending of sorts out of the metaphorical bag, whilst nearly managing to suffocate himself with it in the process…

Great fun!


Buy Petty Theft and read the Page 45 review here

Von Doogan And The Curse Of The Golden Monkey (£6-99, DFC) by Lorenzo Etherington.

Alert! Alert! Alert!

For expert-level, decrytological, bright-as-a-kite minds only, this is terrific!

This is both a thrilling, exotic, interactive Young Readers adventure comic (I know it doesn’t look like one inside but it most emphatically is!), and also a truly testing, multi-layered puzzle book which will require a little lateral thinking and an instinct for picking the single first thread which will then unravel the tapestry of each devious dilemma.

I am not kidding you. I was flummoxed for a while on several occasions then came away grinning my head off at Lorenzo’s wit and ingenuity.

There are no pedestrian mazes, no join-the-dots and no simple “Where’s Wally?” spot-athons; instead you will discover a sequence of site-specific conundra which you’ll need to solve in order to bluff your way out of trouble, escape incarceration, win a very cool card game you’ve never even heard of before and follow your informant from the first clue-clogged package he sends you to an island protected by so many ancient safeguards that even Dame Lara Croft might turn back from it in tears.

First you need to figure out this in order for find that which – only if you are quick-witted and eagle-eyed – will help you slip undiscovered onto the right boat, inspect snapshots of the crew then discern the captain through a process of keenly judged elimination before bumping into the first mate who, let me tell you, can spot a liar and a thief a mile away but has the memory of a prodigiously challenged piece of plankton.

And it’s comics!

It’s comics because it is a story told through a sequence of art which is absolutely essential to the narrative. That so much of said art is a metaphorical crossword so cryptic that arch-dunderhead I was occasionally fooled by it is irrelevant.

Plus the whole family can join in (if you let them) because multiple skill sets are invaluable.

All you will require in addition to this book is a pen or pencil, some scrap paper, a mirror and a pair of scissors. Don’t worry, you won’t need to cut up the book itself: you can download Doogan’s Danger Kit from the website address provided. Solutions are provided at the back (teachers and parents, rip ‘em up now!) as well as the logic by which they’re arrived at.

Plus the puzzles could well generate interest in further activity: want to try your hands at a dozen different rope knots which only sailors and scouts have ever mastered? They’re here!

Right, I’m off to tackle the Nine Vine Incline and I get vertigo on the bathroom scales.


Buy Von Doogan And The Curse Of The Golden Monkey and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 8: Rake At The Gates Of Hell (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon with William Simpson, Peter Snejbjerg.

“What was dying like?”
“Could’ve done it in me sleep.”
“You did.”

Completing the outstanding Garth Ennis run which was as much about friendships as anything else, not only does this reprint HELLBLAZER #72-83 but also the HEARTLAND one-shot set in Belfast which catches up with John’s ex-girlfriend Kit, reveals her family’s harsh history which has had a lingering effect, and takes a look at a city whose streets were habitually patrolled by armed British soldiers from the point of view of a complete outsider as well as a long-standing residents like Kit herself. As always with Ennis the troubles are given careful and level consideration and the dialogue comes with a light Irish lilt which is beautiful.

Almost all of this book is illustrated by Garth’s collaborator on PREACHER, Steve Dillon, and there are few artists who can make a casual conversation – or even a loaded one – as attractive to read as Steve Dillon. His characters are vulnerable and their expressions are not simple but subtle – so many eyes averted or looking down – so when anger or violence explodes his art by contrast is truly shocking.

There are a lot of talking heads in HELLBLAZER: the power of the word can be the most endearing magic or devastating. But there is also a lot of violence.

HELLBLAZER at its best always combines the occult with very real horrors like domestic abuse, bigotry, political and police power misused at the expense of those whom they’re supposed to serve, illness, homelessness and helplessness. The finale partly takes place in the thick of London’s Tower Hamlets during the rise of the right including the B.N.P. and a police force not just systemically racist but overtly so. Crucially John is distracted by that throughout and by an ex-girlfriend he discovers so hooked up on drugs that she is barely coherent and in thrall to a very vicious pimp. He is distracted because he actually cares in spite of his culpable history when it comes to close friends.

Girlfriends are driven away by the shit he cannot resist either embroiling himself in or igniting, and we are reminded well in advance of both romantic and mortal casualties. The moment you even shake hands with John Constantine you are living on borrowed time. Of the friends Garth Ennis introduced us to only Kit, left-leaning urban psychic Nige, ex-army Header and Rick the vicar remain alive as this climax kicks off.

It all harks back to Ennis’s opening salvo, HELLBLAZER VOL 5: DANGEROUS HABITS, in which he gave John Constantine terminal lung cancer with but a few weeks to live. Get out of that one, John! He did, not through hocus pocus but by manipulation. He manoeuvred Satan, the First of the Fallen, and the Second and Third of the Fallen into a stalemate which kept him alive. Ever since then he has screwed over other entities like Archangel Gabriel in such a manner that they might be of use during the retribution he knows is inevitable while continuing to goad Satan himself. Among his many fatal failings, John Constantine simply cannot let it lie. Nor can the King of Hell.

John has always got by on his quick wits and knowledge but now he is neither as sharp as he used to be and – as I say – he is distracted. He has failed to keep track of his pawns.

At which point young Astra, condemned to Hell these sixteen years thanks to John the Con’s arrogance, comes before Satan’s presence with a song. It’s a song Satan’s never heard before: the true history of the Fallen. Let the casualties begin…

Every familiar face you can imagine making a reappearance does so, and a fair few you will never see coming. It is an impeccable climax on every level I’ll refrain from signposting here.

But just in case you think it’s all plot, it is not. Just as Ennis gives voice to life on the streets of Belfast, there is a key conversation between Constantine and the First of the Fallen which reveals what may originally have been Satan’s real role in the God’s Grand Scheme Of Things which is both startling and makes so much sense.


Buy Hellblazer vol 8: Rake At The Gates Of Hell and read the Page 45 review here

Everywhere Antennas (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Delporte.

I’m ambivalent about this one.

An evocation of misery and despair in brightly coloured crayon, it follows a young woman’s rapid decline as she begins to experience crippling headaches brought on, she is convinced, by the radiowaves emitted from what are now ubiquitous antennae and household devices from computers to mobile phones.

She is, in essence, allergic to modern living.

France, for example, has few if any “white zones” left free from radiowaves, and the only country to recognise the illness is Sweden. Reading is next to impossible.

“I manage a paragraph or two but I can’t concentrate. I keep at it, I start over… I feel like everything is a huge waster of time… And I feel like crying.”

What worries her most isn’t the imminent exam she would be doomed to fail, but her future which she feels certain she’ll fail too. All of it. “Could I even teach in this state?” The doctor is typically useless, prescribing antidepressants.

“It makes no sense to me. I don’t have headaches because I’m depressed – I’m depressed because I have headaches.”

Rather than give in, however, she tries a complete change of location and lifestyle in the country but although the headaches ease off, her obsessive worries have by now taken root, and her self-confidence has given way to self-loathing.

I suspect Delporte has just successfully given voice to thousands of misunderstood sufferers whose illness has gone unrecognised and therefore untreated. You can’t make sure massive, relatively sudden and unnatural changes to one’s natural habitat in and to which the human body has gradually evolved and expect there to be no repercussions.

It isn’t comics, it’s illustrated prose: take away the images and little is lost except eye candy. But I do love the way the colour of the crayon mutates to frame the picture it’s written round or to pick out certain elements within it. The drawings themselves are suitably wan in spite of the colours which are far from naturalistic. Hair might be bright red or – in the doctor’s case – in strands of green, yellow and a purple which matches and so complements his loose, short-sleeved smock.

I don’t know if this a complete red herring, but a few of the bits stuck on intrigue me.

“Would I have blown off the exam if my father had been around more? I don’t know.”

The word “know” covers another. Was it simply a spelling error or badly written, or does it replace another word or phrase like “care” or “think so”? “Obsessive” is merely crossed out.

There’s a bizarre choice of countries to move to later on given what we already know about radiowaves, and a curious anthropomorphic, black and white digression in the middle. The contents are perfectly relevant but I can’t fathom the relevance of the anthropomorphism. As to the image sitting aside an anecdote about a young Buddhist monk, I am completely baffled.

Ambivalent, as I say, but I’m pretty sure that the plural of “antenna” is “antennae”.


Buy Everywhere Antennas and read the Page 45 review here

Jonathan Starlight (£2-99, self-published) by Ethan Wilderspin…

“I’ve not been sleeping lately. Maybe it’s because I’m unhappy.
“Am I happy?”

Ah, now that’s a big question to start every day with. Fortunately for Jonathan Starlight, a teenager who bears more than a passing resemblance to an alien with a Santa Claus hat-like bobble quiff, he seems to have his head screwed on and priorities straight. Faced with the endless billboards on the way to school that suggest happiness is a mere purchase away, he knows being suckered in by mindless consumerism won’t make him happy. Until he sees the advert for the Zombie Slayer 2 game, that is. But, even then, it seems as though mindless video game violence doesn’t quite fill the angst-shaped hole in his heart. I wonder what might?


This 16-pager is Ethan’s first comic and it’s a hoot. I was greatly amused by the not-so-subliminal advertising messages pushing society’s various distractions, and those alone show a wonderful sense of comedy. The punchline and cure for Jonathan Starlight’s insomnia when it comes, made me chuckle too. Hand-bound with green yarn in simpatico with the cover just for good measure, you can see Ethan has a care for his craft which I am sure will take him places. Having heard some of his and his cohort James’ plans for future output I don’t doubt that is the case. Prison being one of them possibly…

Watch this space!


Buy Jonathan Starlight and read the Page 45 review here

Afterlife With Archie vol 1: Escape From Riverdale (£13-50, Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla…

“Sorry to disturb you, sir. But, Mr. Lodge, I’ve been trying to sneak into your daughter’s room for as long as I can remember, and I know what a fortress this place is…
“If humanity is going to be making its last stand in Riverdale, it’s gotta be here, at Lodge Manor.”

Okay, first up, you don’t need to have read any all-ages Archie comics to enjoy this work, which arguably manages to simultaneously be a parody and pastiche of its ultra-innocent self, given that it both mocks and celebrates one of America’s longest running comics which began way back in 1941. All you really need to know is that Archie and Jughead are best friends, the latter usually rescuing his somewhat headstrong mate from yet another scrape of his own creation, and that Archie seemingly has the hots for every attractive girl in town. Two of them form his main, if not by any means exclusive, love interests: the ever-attentive girl next door Betty and the well-to-do arch-manipulator Veronica, resulting in an endless love triangle that has produced more mystery and mayhem over the years than even the Bermuda one.

We did for many years have a mysterious Beeston Triangle in Nottingham that afflicted young Tom’s attempts to get into work from said suburb by bus, breathtakingly described to me as “passing the QMC”. Which itself could take a good hour.

Moving more swiftly on, following the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse everyone is safely sequestered inside the relative safety of the formidable residence of Riverdale’s richest man, awaiting rescue by the authorities. Now what could possibly go wrong?

“One last thing, are all the children safe? And accounted for?”
“Yes, sir. Err… well… that is… except for one…”
“… Andrews.”

Yes… Archie Andrews, the bane of Hiram (father of Veronica) Lodge’s life. Having got all the kids who were at the High School dance to Lodge Manor, Archie has slipped out through the secret passage he was more used to using for nocturnal trysts with Veronica, this time to try and rescue his parents. I’m quite sure Hiram Lodge is hoping Archie doesn’t make it back intact, as it would be fair to say that he doesn’t have the highest of opinions regarding Riverdale’s resident heartbreaker extraordinaire. Events after this point really don’t go to plan for Archie, or indeed anyone else, and I have to say I was genuinely surprised by how moved I was by what happens.

I have no idea who came up with the genius stroke of deciding to do what is effectively an Archie / WALKING DEAD mash-up, but they deserve a medal, because this manages to be both hilarious and genuinely affecting at the same time. All the various characters foibles are dialled up to preposterous levels for maximum comedic effect, whilst the horror, when it begins in earnest, is played completely straight. It’s actually a very clever manipulative trick to put such typically comedic characters through the horror wringer, because subconsciously I just wasn’t expecting it to get as heart-wrenchingly dark as it very quickly does.

Suitably spooky art from Francesco Francavilla, most definitely designed to evoke the style of the classic CREEPY COMICS and EERIE COMICS, this just proves that even when you think that a comic’s title as old as time has surely run its course, done everything it can possibly do, there’s still some life in it yet… until a zombie sinks its teeth in.


Buy Afterlife With Archie vol 1: Escape From Riverdale and read the Page 45 review here

Attack On Titan Colossal Edition vol 1 (£42-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama –

Whopping great new edition of the £8-50 softcover (still in stock) reflecting the scale of the problem at hand! It’s album-sized, reprinting the first five books (oh yes!) and contains (some) colour pages which weren’t even in the original Japanese editions!

We now return you to our Dominique:

ATTACK ON TITAN is set in a world which has been all but overrun by giant humanoid beasts many metres tall. No one knows where they came from or what they are; the only thing they seem to want to do is eat human beings whole. And so, over 100 years after the beasts emerged humanity has been pushed back into one little corner of the planet. A few small cities (well, more like large towns, really) exist inside a series of walls which are constantly guarded in case the behemoths should attack again. But it has been a century since the wall was last breached so everyone is probably safe right? Yeah…

When we meet the group of youngsters we are going to follow through the story we see some familiar themes. A headstrong young man who wonders about the world outside the walls. He dreams of joining the Survey Corps who undertake the dangerous mission of going out into the world to try to make sense of everything. His group of peers, some of whom share his dream while others thinking he is barmy and his sister, who never leaves his side, muttering something about her duty to protect him after she was brought back from the dead. She never seems particularly happy, sad or anything else. Just resigned and, occasionally, worried. We never see her without a scarf around her neck.

Though we begin with a perfectly normal day things, of course, soon go to pot. One minute our guy is having dinner with his family, his father (slightly incongruously) promising to finally show him the big secret in the basement. Then the alarm sounds and chaos descends as a colossus appears and begins destroying the wall. In fact you can see him *over* the wall, at 50 metres tall he is many times the size of a Titan. 100 years of preparing for an attack evaporate in a heartbeat as the outer wall is devoured by this new monster. A desperate evacuation follows but many lives are lost.

A year later we find our group (those who survived, anyway) about to graduate from their training and humanity holed up inside an even tighter boundary, the lands behind the first wall lost to the Titan invasion. The colossus is still out there, the Titans are still out there and it feels for all the world like humanity is just waiting, maybe even hoping for the coup de grace. What can our heroes do in the face of such (literally) massive opposition?

So this manga has a bunch of classic elements: wilful protagonists, family tragedy and a foe so hideous it seems like a case of when, not if humanity will be destroyed. There are a few touches and elements which set it apart from run of the mill, though, which is probably why the manga has proved so popular in Japan. There are flashes of repressed memory which get you thinking that all may not be as it seems inside the walled enclave. It seems like there are lots of secrets and undercurrents to be explored. And there is a very detailed and ingenious combat system involving lines and winches which allows the tiny humans to actually go into combat with the giant enemy, though always at great personal risk. There are no punches pulled when it comes to that combat: death isn’t by a tidy death ray or an annihilating stomp. It’s all bitey and disgusting and in places really quite disturbing, which actually brings the characters closer to your heart because, bless them, they don’t have it easy.

Most striking for me was the sheer ickyness of the Titans. They are so close to being human and yet so obviously inhuman, all teeth and unsheathed tendons. They seem mindless, except for their determination to devour their prey and their lack of obvious reason or communication skills leaves any negotiation or bargaining out of the question. They give me the same visceral heebie-jeebies as the album cover to News of The World by Queen used to as a kid, or the sleeve art to the Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. Just… *shiver*. I can see why this series is so popular in Japan and I can’t wait to read more.


Buy Attack On Titan Colossal Edition vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Toshiro s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jai Nitz & Janusz Pawlak…

Long-gestated project which at last gets a publisher that, as one of the creators’ comments in the afterword, will finally outlive the character. It’s a steam-punk / samurai / zombie / Lovecraftian mash-up as the titular character, a steam-powered robot samurai, fights for the forces of good alongside a mysterious American adventurer in Victorian England.

I did quite enjoy it. There are some interesting plot devices and amusing dialogue, though I found the art a trifle confusing at times. If you like steam-punk material generally, or some of the period B.P.R.D. spin-offs like ABE SAPIEN VOL 1, or maybe even samurai shenanigans like USAGI YOJIMBO at a stretch, I think it will have some appeal. It’s certainly no NEW DEADWARDIANS in terms of horror with a twist, though it is written well enough.


Buy Toshiro s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli.

Kitty Pryde: “I hate space. I’ve had very bad luck in space.”

Yes, you have.

Third book of the current GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series and the fifth book of ALL NEW X-MEN both written by Bendis with a great deal of mischief and charm. Moreover Pichelli and Immonen are such a perfect match that you won’t see the join.

They’re thrilling and yet subtle artists with complete command of body language and interaction which is vital when you’re working with Bendis because interaction is all. Also, I see so many teenage superheroes bulging with muscles whereas here the young X-Men are as lithe as you like.

In MARVEL MASTERWORKS: UNCANNY X-MEN VOL 5 an adult Jean Grey lost control of the Phoenix Force and gobbled up a sun, effectively committing genocide as its orbiting planets’ populations went with it. The Shi’Ar put her on trial, not least because she turned rather tetchily on them as well. They basically made sure she was dead.

Now a much younger Jean Grey has been whisked from the past to the present along with her team-mates, the Shi’Ar have found out, want to put her on trial and basically make sure that she’s dead. The point is put to the Shi’Ar’s Gladiator over and over again that this Jean Grey has not yet committed the crimes she’s being charged with and possibly never will. Gladiator really doesn’t care. He’s not interested in justice, he’s out for blood. He basically wants to make sure that she’s… yup.

Guardians and X-Men to the rescue.

It’s some of Bendis’ best writing recently, with Shi’Ar telepath Oracle acting as counsel for Jean Grey so effectively stuck in the middle. There’s plenty of playful dialogue between both sets of friends, like Star-Lord to Gamora:

“What is a Canada?”
“It’s cold and distant. You’ll love it.”

Rocket Racoon has christened Gamora and Angela the Murder Girls. They are effective, Angela believing in decapitate first, ask questions never. Sending her into battle as your advance party is good strategy.

“Gentlemen… It’s time to move to the second part of the plan. But I have to warn you… it’s a little messy in here.”
“Angela, will you marry me?”
“You’re too short, Rocket.”
“This is Gamora..”
“Oh. Then I’ll think about it.”

One of Bendis’ many endearing trademarks is the complete lack of defensiveness he imbues his characters with when it comes to gender and sexuality. Here’s the delightfully juvenile Bobby Drake (Iceman), given to squealing “Yike-a-hooty!” when attacked and who, as drawn by both artists, continues to be an absolute sweetie.

“I just like talking to the talking raccoon. It makes me feel like a Disney princess.”

“We’re here because… princess?”
“What? I’d make a better princess than you.”

Amazingly the Guardians’ sentient, bipedal tree’s singular declaration “I am Groot!” has yet to wear thin. His name is indeed Groot, but he’s not necessarily introducing himself. “I am Groot” could mean any number of things from, “I don’t like line dancing at the best of times but you’re treading on my toe” to “If you think I’m wearing mauve, you are very much mistaken”.

Dale Keown and Jason Keith’s cover to ALL NEW X-MEN #23, published in the back, plays with this beautifully.


Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stormwatch vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Bryan Hitch, various.

“Think for yourself and question authority.”

That is the single best piece of advice that was ever given to me, by a maths master when I was twelve. Actually, he instructed, “Always ask why”.

Stormwatch are the UN-sanctioned international, satellite-stationed, superhuman taskforce orbiting the world in order to keep an eye on it and, using that eye, keep it in order. Its leader is called The Weatherman and its current Weatherman is Henry Bendix. Henry Bendix is pathologically insane.

In this second half Ellis’ run on STORMWATCH which runs smoothly into THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 by Ellis & Hitch (you will hear much mention of the word “authority” right from the get-go), Stormwatch finds itself stymied again and again by an America with vested geopolitical interests. They will also find themselves stifled, for Henry Bendix has vested interests of his own.

First they encounter The High who has been contemplating the human condition for decades. An anti-establishment superman who loathed those who preyed on the poor, he once engaged in liberating tenants from corrupt landlords etc. Indeed he once dallied with Stormwatch Black’s Jenny Sparks, now almost a century old but looking a little under thirty (the bitch!). But he left to meditate, to cogitate on what more he could do than to save but a few. Now he has gathered cohorts around him and the man has a plan as broadcast to the globe thus:

“Fighting crime is no good unless you look past crime, to its root. Saving the world is no good if we leave it the way we found it. It is our intent to hand you a saved world, to offer you tools that will make you great. And then – you will never see us again.
“When we are done, you will be able to provide for yourselves, for free. You will want for nothing. All of your society’s structures will be removed. No laws, no authoritarian structures, no crime, no war. In a few hours it will begin.”

He offer us a Utopia, and the freedom which comes with it. It’s the ultimate in altruism and The High genuinely means it. He seeks no control, only to assist. Here’s what’s on offer:

“The Engineer will seed nanotechnological oases across the planet, and inform you of their use. These will be your horns of plenty.”

Oh dear, he’s anti-capitalist.

“The Doctor will initiate a program of education about the natural resources of this world, its plants and magic. He’ll show you the door to a whole new world just sideways to this one.”

Uh-oh, he’s pro-personal-enlightenment.

“And I’ll talk to you. We’ll share ideas I’ve had. Use, them, ignore them, whatever. During the coming days you may see some of my friends in your cities, towns and villages. They’ll speak your language. Talk to them.”

Now he’s about breaking down borders and instilling worldwide cooperation.

“One final message. There are those of you who will seek to stop us. Don’t. Please.”

They do.

Under Ellis STORMWATCH began changing the landscape of superhero comics: its potential, political emphases, its wit, its sexual mischief and its periodical instalments’ structure. He even found novel ways of explication without insulting the intelligence. With THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 Warren Ellis terraformed it, so paving the way for Millar & Hitch’s THE ULTIMATES, the very pinnacle of the superhero science-fiction subgenre including – I kid you not – WATCHMEN. But the changes, they begin here and it is fascinating to watch.

It is a series packed full of political intrigue, international espionage, strategy, subterfuge and personal betrayal. In The High, Henry Bendix has met his match in terms of second-guessing, precautionary measures and indeed ruthlessness. Without Bendix I confess that the series does falter, not least because Rayner is replaced by an artist so insipid we cannot even be arsed to name him.

But wait! THE AUTHORITY’s Bryan Hitch is on the horizon and he brings with him Apollo and Midnighter, first seen post-coitally pulling their clothes back on even though no one spotted that at the time. No one! It’s not just Hitch’s neo-classical figure work which will wow, either: his storytelling transforms the series, injecting a kinetic awe, and you wait until you see his dazzling cityscapes at sunrise as enhanced by Laura DePuy.

Appropriately this book begins and ends with blonde Brit iconoclast Jenny Sparks whose middle name is so evidently Attitude. Along the way you will pick up hints of what is to come: an Engineer (male), a Doctor (black), Apollo and Midnighter in the buff (I may have mentioned that), plus Swift and Jack Hawksmoor because I can promise you that – other than them – there is no one left alive at the end of this series.

An asteroid threatens to enter Earth’s orbit, so a team of two shuttles is dispatched to land and lay explosives so sending its trajectory into the sun. Two problems: a) it isn’t just an asteroid, there’s a spaceship within; b) one of the shuttles successfully makes it back home…

There is an episode missing from this, yes. There’s not much that even DC owned by Time Warner can do about that. Lord knows what price they paid for publishing the periodical in the first place. Still, at least Jenny Sparks and co. thereby discover the transdimensional Bleed.

Leads straight into Ellis & Hitch’s THE AUTHORITY VOL 1.

“There has to be someone left to save the world.”


Buy Stormwatch vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?


Hoax Psychosis Blues h/c (£19-99, Ziggy’s Wish) by Ravi Thornton & Hannah Berry, Karrie Fransman, Leonardo M. Giron, Julian Hanshaw, Rozi Hathaway, Rian Hughes, Rhiana Jade, Ian Jones, Mark Stafford, Bryan Talbot

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 1 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

Baltimore vol 4: Chapel Of Bones h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck

Cat Person (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Seo Kim

Doctor Who: The Cruel Sea (£14-99, Panini) by various

Showa 1939-1944: A History Of Japan vol 2 (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane s/c (£10-99, Harper Collins) by Neil Gaiman

Catwoman: When In Rome s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

JLA: The Deluxe Edition vol 5 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Mark Waid & Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 4 s/c (£12-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Julius Gopez various

Deadpool: Night Of Living Deadpool s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Ramon Rosanas

Wolverine: Worst Day Ever h/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Barry Lyga & various

X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong / Warsong s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Greg Land, Tyler Kirkham

Gangsta vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Kohske

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 3 & 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi


ITEM! Haha! They so cute! Jonathan Edwards & Felt Mistress’ mascots for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in a boardroom meeting. If I owned that photo I’d turn it into a caption competition.

ITEM! Luke Pearson on his five new Charlie Mortdecai Penguin Book covers – and the covers! Delicious colour scheme.

ITEM! Stewart Lee interviewing Alan Moore on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.

ITEM! Marc Ellerby draws a new CHLOE NOONAN comic about his comics to help fund his… comics. Brilliant!

ITEM! Lots of lovely original festival sketches via Jock.

ITEM! Massive tidal wave by Marc Laming. Phenomenal sense of weight, power and tension.

ITEM! Two poignantly contrasting Chris Ware covers for the New Yorker.

ITEM! Time lapse vimeo of Oliver East painting his giant murals for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Dave Sim on CEREBUS past, present a future plus new work. Best interview with Dave I’ve seen in a long, long time.

ITEM! Goodness! CALVIN & HOBBES creator Bill Waterson really has returned to comics – in secret – and here’s how. Funny!

REMINDER! This is your last chance to vote for Page 45 as your favourite Nottingham Independent Business 2014. Only the ten most popular businesses will get through to be secretly shopped and assessed by the judges! Please take a moment to vote!

How To Vote:

1. Tweet @itsinnottingham with “I vote for Page 45” or something similar. Takes two secs!

2. Comment “I vote for Page 45” on the It’s In Nottingham Facebook page You might even add “You can tell I really mean it because I’ve taken the trouble to wade through this deeply unfriendly, over-the-hill quagmire of a social medium in order to do so”.

3. Email with (you’ll never guess) “I vote for Page 45”!

4. Fill in voting cards at Page 45 itself by Wednesday 18th June.

They’re on the counter next to the big batch of free newspapers on page three of which you’ll find that fame-addled idiot Stephen L. Holland extolling the virtues of Independent Retail.

– Stephen’s Mum

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