Archive for September, 2014

Reviews September 2014 week four

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

 – Stephen on The River.

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sanna.

A river is in constant flux.

Its very nature and purpose is a journey.

A coalescence of rain fallen from the sky which absorbs still more as it goes, it is its own transport to the sea.

Even its height and its girth ebb and flow. In the sunnier seasons its source may dry up or it may yield itself prematurely to the skies, but that is where the water was heading, inexorably, even via fauna and flora.

This theme of continual migration runs right through the book, a silent sequence of watercolour landscapes structured as a cycle of seasons; I was mildly surprised to see even evaporation alluded to in its quiet, closing moments. But it couldn’t kick off with more of a bang.

That this will be a journey is suggested immediately by the movement on the very first page. As a wild sky erupts and its bruised-berry clouds burst, the last leaves of summer scatter in the squall and birds take flight – as does a dog and its master. Could there be a greater sense of urgency?


The horizon disappears behind a curtain of rain while the river’s thin skin is lashed and slashed by the cascade. As we close in on its shattered surface there is a very real sense that the river is swelling. Sure enough the cyclist encounters a long line of locals – a very long line of locals – who seem to be watching and waiting. A second dog chases the first, and the cyclist overtakes cattle on the move, racing past tall, skeletal, Lombardy poplars to find another long line of locals, their silhouettes reflected in the ripples of the ever-rising river. They start shoring up the bank as the cyclist sets off on his last stretch home. Tomorrow it will look very different.

I love a wet brush and I love this cover anchored at the bottom by the same rich, rusty browns which draw your eye higher – along with the title and credit – to the sunken horizon, its partially submerged home, and the lone dog left peering anxiously in from the bow of a boat. Alessandro writes in the back:

“Here the rule of thirds is fundamental if you want to see things as they really are: one-third earth and two-thirds sky. When the river rises, the proportions are reversed.”

These proportions are maintained throughout the graphic novel bar each chapter’s opening full-page flourish, dominated by the endless, open heavens.

The colours are phenomenal. Throughout the opening season (‘Autumn’) I couldn’t get ice-cream associations out of my mind, the vanilla breaking through blackcurrant then blueberry frozen crush. I promise you many more palettes but have restricted the interior art to this one so that others remain a surprise.


They’re not obvious, either: ‘Winter’ is uncommonly clement. Sanna reserves the traditional crisp blue for ‘Spring’ with snow-white blossoms budding and puffing on the stark, bare branches. Instead the emphasis is on warmth emanating from within, whether it’s the children crowding at the windows of a school house, smoke rising from chimneys, breath drifting from open mouths or the calf emerging, seemingly white-hot from inside the womb. The overall effect of that stable sequence is like viewing it through a thermal scanner.

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

Apparently Alessandro’s own river is The Po in north-eastern Italy but ‘Summer’ here is even more exotic than that – unless African elephants have migrated much further than I thought. The opening flash of colour there is so bright you’ll be reaching for your shades.

It’s an absolute masterpiece – and I rarely write that more than once in five years. It’s fluid and instinctive yet carefully controlled.

And here’s another thing I rarely do: suggest a soundtrack. But after you’ve floated through this a fair few times in silence, I’d heartily recommend David Sylvian’s ‘Gone To Earth’ – the entire album kicking off with ‘Taking The Veil’ whose musical ripples match those painted here perfectly.


Buy The River h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“They’re the most powerful beings on Earth, and they’re dying of boredom.”

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, then it should.

I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for COURTNEY CRUMRINand Courtney Crumrin herself. I had no idea this would be so severe.

Its origins stretch through the whole of the series, reprising elements and plot points I thought long left-behind, but no. Obviously the last volume’s sheer, severe cliff-hanger must inevitably be played out, but what about the set-up in COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2, eh? And I do mean set-up.

A faction within The Coven Of Mystics has grown weary with the restraints placed on them by Ravanna’s Law, forbidding their witches and warlocks to interfere or mingle with regular folk. Its Council still holds with the law but a council is rarely at rest; there is always a struggle for power.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Great Uncle Aloysius: he’s dying. Sustained only by an elixir withheld by the Council until he returns his niece for what it promises will be a fair trial, he must surely imagine that Courtney will come quietly. She won’t.

Courtney is on the run with her former teacher Calpurnia Crisp, the Council’s marshals mere metres behind. They’re racing round mountain roads, the ocean waves breaking beneath them and they cannot afford to be caught. Calpurnia knows there will be no fair trial and the fate that awaits them is much worse than death: they will be banished, all knowledge of magic and their memories of wielding it erased. They will become hollow shells, ghosts of their former selves, destined only to wonder what on earth could be missing, dimly in the back of their minds. As to Aloysius, Calpurnia knows something few others do, and that changes everything.

Oh my god, girls! Oh my god, guys! When I first realised what [redacted, redacted] was actually showing, my jaw hit the floor. Suffice to say that there is not a second’s preamble; it kicks straight into gear. Rarely have I read a series’ conclusion that wraps everything up not just neatly but nastily with a final confrontation foreshadowed by the words of the hermit Cerridean Olds and the early actions of another who wields far more magic than anyone suspected. If you are as ancient as I am, the words ‘Dark Phoenix’ will mean something. Really mean something, and Naifeh has out-burned John Byrne: if that blistering image swirling in purple above Aloysius isn’t a direct homage then I would be so, so surprised.


Ted’s design work has always been delicious. It manifests itself not just in this new full-colour, hardcover incarnation with its silver inks, but in the enemies themselves: the Rawhead And Bloody-Bones of COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2 with which I am always at pains to frighten young readers along with their parents during shop-floor show-and-tells, and here the various skeletal Golems animated by Cerridean.

I love that there are electricity pylons straddling the cliff tops of the introductory breakneck car chase.

But I wondered why the colours were so studiously muted in purples and blues, pale lemon-yellow and deep olive-green. Well, let’s just say that the bright light of day would be a boon to some if deprived for so long of its beauty, yet to others it could be the worst thing in the world.

“Have you ever awoken out of a deep sleep and found yourself in a place you don’t recognise, forgetting for a moment how you got there? Sometimes, when you remember at last, it’s a relief.
“And sometimes it’s not.”

I am so, so sorry.



Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard…

Poor old Maddy Kettle, the nasty old Thimblewitch has turned her mummy and daddy into rats! And if that wasn’t enough, now they’ve been kidnapped by some creepy creatures! Looks like it’s up to her to save the day, which is going to involve a very scary and spooky adventure fending off vampire bats and Spider Goblins, with peril and danger lurking at seemingly every turn. It’s a good job she’s not the type of girl who scares easily! She’s going to have some help along the way, though,  from Harry the bear and Silvio the racoon, who are cloud cartographers, and handily enough for a rescue expedition, have a hot air balloon powered by moon gas, the most floatable substance known to man, or indeed bear or racoon.

Aww, this is great fun, and it really is spooky. My three-year-old told me she found it scary after I read it to her, and I think it was the Spider Goblins that did it, because much like Maddy she’s not easily spooked!



I am fairly certain I have come across Eric Orchard’s artwork somewhere before, I know he has illustrated children’s books though this is his first graphic novel. The artwork, and tone, also reminded me a little bit of Coraline the film (rather than CORALINE the graphic novel) due to Maddy’s disproportionately large head and eyes, which is also a fright-fest for young kids. This isn’t quite so pulse-raising as everyone ends up friends by the conclusion, even the Spider Goblins, but there might be some peeking out from behind little fingers along the way!


Buy Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch and read the Page 45 review here

The Storyteller: Witches #1 (£2-99, Archaia) by S. M. Vidaurri.

Little about that low-key cover can prepare you for the beauty with its inventive layout, light and colour within.

Fear not, I will show you inside!

Strictly speaking, this is STORYTELLER #1 of 4, but each tale is self-contained, by different and hopefully equally deft storytellers.

This tells of a time long ago when a wild, wooded land was so remote that its king had so far failed to claim it. Its virgin, snow-topped mountain overlooked a village so small that it was self-sustaining and at one with its local habitat. It was in harmony with nature.

“The years fell as quickly and as gracefully as the autumn. And what was once a small town became a city, and a king laid his claim on the forest.”

Specifically he laid claim on the forest’s tallest tree: so tall that its topmost branches were said to catch stars which imbued them with magical properties. The king chopped the tree down to fashion a crown for the day of his son’s coronation. But the tree was much loved by Lord Of The Forest, a tall armoured rabbit who took umbrage.


That king already had a daughter much older than his son but, of course – oh, of course! – she was but second in-line to the throne. The princess loved her family but cared not for the court and its mannered pageantry, pomp and dull dealings. She preferred to wander through the forest and was particularly drawn to the sturdy, hollow stump of the tree her father had plundered. It was while loitering, daydreaming there that the princess overheard a curse cast upon the crown and what happened thereafter would change the kingdom forever.

I love a good twist – see Becky Cloonan’s THE MIRE – and have chosen my words very carefully.

There is a lovely lilt to how Vidaurri’s words tumble and often chime, her hand-drawn lettering as much an intimate part of the art as it is in Dame Darcy’s MEATCAKE or Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS.


She uses the space around each boldly inset panel – often no more than a single panel per page – to further her narration while decorating it with a vaulted ceiling, maybe mountains or mice, oak acorns or red-berried leaves.

The panel borders themselves might be composed as a cloak-clothed woman whose image is mirrored like a knave or queen playing card, or soared over by a majestic white swan.

It’s the sort of playfulness I relish in self-published works but which is then often jettisoned when a “proper” publisher makes claim. Not so here, and for that I applaud both Vidaurri and Archaia itself.

From the creator of IRON, OR THE WAR AFTER.

Spellbound. Enchanted. Enthralled.


Buy The Storyteller: Witches #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase…

“I never dreamed this day would come. That was probably the last ikigami delivery I will ever make.”

The final volume! As Fujimoto becomes ever more dissatisfied with the National Welfare scheme of randomly selecting one young citizen between the age of 18 and 24 every day and informing them they have a mere 24 hours to live, ostensibly to keep the rest of the population in line, he finally finds the courage to join the shadowy group fighting undercover against this fascist policy. Given it’s Fujimoto’s duty to deliver this news, known as an ikigami or death notice, to the individuals in question, it’s not surprising it’s starting to affect him emotionally. Precisely who dies is decided by a small capsule inserted into every child whilst they were at junior school. One in a thousand capsules will prove fatal but there is no way of knowing in advance who has been given a death sentence.

In choosing to finally listen to his conscience and disseminate secret information he hopes will turn the weight of public opinion against National Welfare, Fujimoto risks everything, for if he is found out, he will be immediately arrested, labelled a thought criminal and disowned by friends and family alike, before being forced to undergo the rather grim thought-reform brainwashing procedure. But realistically, what chance do this tiny group of underground freedom fighters have to smash the system? Seemingly none, until war with a neighbouring state breaks out, changing everything overnight as the authorities reveal what they have always denied, that it is indeed possible to deactivate the capsules.

So for those who chose to be conscripted into the army, the choice is simple: are the odds of surviving on the battlefield better than the one-in-a-thousand lottery of staying at home? Or, if someone is already past the critical cut-off age of 24 they can chose to have a younger family member’s capsule deactivated instead, testing the bonds of family love and loyalty, by seeing who is prepared to risk their lives for their children or younger siblings. This revelation, coupled with the stark fact they are engaged in a war they might well lose, shakes society to its very core. But will Fujimoto even be able to have any further influence on what happens next, as unbeknownst to him the thought police are closing in on finding the leak…


I have really enjoyed this series. Most of the previous volumes have followed a set pattern of having Fujimoto deliver two ikigamis and then following the protagonists whilst they live out their final hours, knowing they are going to die, but also that if they commit any crime, their families will subsequently be ostracised by everyone they know, and indeed penalised by not receiving the generous stipend paid to the relatives of those making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ for their country. Ikigami recipients are expected to die with honour, dignity and decorum of course.

Obviously, given the state of mental turmoil most recipients find themselves in, it doesn’t always work out like that, to say the least. Underpinning those dramas has been the ongoing story of Fujimoto, initially an idealistic believer in the benefits of National Welfare, but gradually having his blindly patriotic certainty eroded as he repeatedly witnesses the traumas and heartbreak caused by the policy. This final volume, after delivering his last ikigami squarely focuses on the nail-bitingly tense conclusion to his story. If you would like to read a series that has some thought-provoking points to make about the world we live in and is also packed with action, this may well appeal.

All IKIGAMI books in stock now!


Buy Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato.

Lord, there are a lot of exorcists in Japan, aren’t there? It’s quite the competitive career!

Nor are they wrinkly old God-bothers with round-rimmed spectaclays or fully-fledged men of the cloth. They tend to be sartorially sharp, dashing young dudes with the most enormous weapons for maximum demon-damage or (potentially) shafting their competition.

So it is with the most recent short story in this collection spanning the first ten years of Kazue Kato’s career, spawned from her early notes for what would become BLUE EXORCIST, one of the most resilient titles in the faltering fad that was that sugar-buzz manga. It was a generational thing, and that generation has moved on. Just the sugar-buzz bandits, mind you. I don’t see sales of SUNNY etc declining.

A little more love has been lavished on this, with over a dozen full-colour pages and a contents fold-out flap whose other side reproduces the front- and back-cover spread without words.

It kicks off with ‘The Rabbit And Me’ drawn when Kato was nineteen. Nineteen! Extraordinarily accomplished, there are elements of Otomo which she would swiftly ditch, most clearly discerned in the face and clothes of Shuri Todo. This is a young lad who mercy-killed his own dad, a worn-out street thief wanted for murder, with a sizeable pair of scissors whose handles were bunny ears. Now Shuri’s a killer for hire himself, receiving his contracts half-naked in a public bathhouse, before executing them in goggles and a floppy-eared bunny hat.

The second’s a Western in which an overzealous, tomato-craving bodyguard partnered with an anthropomorphic rabbit is hired to defend vast tomato fields belonging to another (rabbit). The tomatoes are not for eating. They are sacred or something! Apparently Kazue just wanted to draw gigantic tomato fields. Oh, and anthropomorphised rabbits.

She also wanted to draw Indians and horses (Wow! Most artists don’t!) and paint lots of red, so she cakes the next story in blood. She’s definitely driven by what she wants to draw and aimed for “something kitschy” in ‘USABoy’. Mission accomplished! Please find, in gaudy acrylic gouache: candy, flowers, a red-and-white chequered, linoleum floor and a five-year-old boy with a button nose, shiny eyes and big rosy cheeks. Also: a giant rabbit. Rabbits!

‘Nirai’ is a subaquatic dream piece about a drowning man and a beluga-like mermaid, ‘Master And I’ comes with a sudden burst of detail and crazy-paving for panels, while ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ is rendered in pencils. A girl who’s been left all alone in a frozen, isolated village following the death of her parents determines to find somewhere sunnier and does so.

The End.


Buy Time Killers 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?


Bumperhead h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez

Ex Machina Book 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, John Paul Leon

Fatale vol 5: Curse The Demon (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Revival vol 4: Escape To Wisconsin (£12-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Rover Red Charlie (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Michael Dipascale

White Death h/c (£10-99, Image) by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard

The Witcher vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Joe Querio

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels (£16-99, Watson Guptill) by Brian Michael Bendis

Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited s/c (£14-99, DC) by A. J. Lieberman & Mike Huddleston, Troy Nixey

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Oliver Coipel

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge The Earth (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuna

Uncanny X-Men vol 4: Vs. Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Fairy Tail vol 42 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 6 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

My Little Monster vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico


ITEM! I consider myself married to Page 45. In lieu of a boyf, I’m in a loving relationship with a semi-sentient shop and its entire customer base! It’s a monogamous relationship, and Page 45 has never been unfaithful nor let me down.

However, someone has recently – I kid you not! – actually married comics.

ITEM! FUN HOME’s Alison Bechdel wins award, rakes in moolah and announces her new graphic novel about her obsession with fitness fads!

ITEM! Alan Moore announces most unlikely comic yet: CROSSED +100! As in this CROSSED series, yes! Good grief! Well, I guess Alan Moore did write the Lovecraftian NEONOMICON. Brrrrr.

Famously, Alan Moore left comics many years ago. I know this because strangers tell me that with complete authority on a weekly basis. Funny how many new comics and graphic novels Alan has released over the last five or six years.

ITEM! Matt Wilson, colour artist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE reveals #4’s mural credit. (Swoon!)

ITEM! Neill Cameron’s comicbook-creating workshops for schools and libraries!

ITEM! Niche, I know, but if you ever wonder why I cry when trying to complete the monthly PREVIEWS order form, here is Hibbs of Comix Experience and he doesn’t even mention all those wretched variant covers. Thank God we are primarily what Neil Gaiman called a graphic novel shop. For monthly comics, please help us to help you by setting up a Standing Order pull-list at Page 45, reserving the titles you want.

ITEM! So funny! Tom Gauld’s latest comic strip for the Guardian on literary awards!

ITEM! New TV series Gotham is imminent. If that takes your fancy Brubaker, Rucka & Lark’s GOTHAM CENTRAL was the finest ever on-going DC superhero series. Whilst it was going on, anyway. Four books in total, all out and in stock – that link in capital letters takes you to our review of book one with interior art.

ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley convention sketch: SCOTT and SECONDS!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 launches with Scott McCloud’s talk The Magic Of Comics! Here’s an idea of how much of a coup that is: the creator has 350,000 followers on Twitter. If you click on “creators” each is linked to the talks and workshops they’ll be giving, or try the gorgeous Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 programme!

ITEM! Alex Valente reveals Creator Signings Timetable for Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014! Zoom in and click through – all of ours in the Georgian Room are there!

Not long now. Eeeeeeeeep!

– Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week three

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

I.N.J. Culbard has kindly agreed to sketch in all pre-orders for H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Due mid-November).

 – Stephen digressing from Abnett & Culbard’s Wild’s End #1

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“2011 was a year of travel! Through coincidence, work, and luck, I was offered opportunities to take trips. I took as many as possible. Recovering from heartbreak, I was determined to spend my travels having adventures and being a free agent.
“Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles. Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… or give us a glimpse of how it can be…”

I do love a good travelogue! Here Lucy Knisley stretches her wings and heads to Europe in search of adventure, and perhaps a little romance. Well actually there’s definitely going to be romance as she knows she’s meeting up with a boy called Henrik in Sweden, whom she recently made the acquaintance of at a fancy dress party in her home town of New York and was instantly smitten. Combined with a comics convention in Norway that she’s been invited to as a guest of honour, stops in glamorous cities like Berlin and Paris, plus a road trip to meet up with her mother and some of her friends who are housesitting in rural France, it sounds like the perfect cure for a broken heart.

She’s nervous about her trip, though, both in the practical and emotional sense, leaving her apartment, and cat, in the care of her recently exed boyfriend. They’re still good friends, but it seemingly leaves her unsure of whether she’s moving on or perhaps holding on. Sounds like she needs a holiday!


Cue much sight-seeing and smooching as she takes in some European culture, and allows herself to fall in love at least a little, as readers will with her. She’s honest and heartfelt about her emotions without being remotely angst-laden or schmaltzy. Fans of Lucy’s previous work FRENCH MILK will undoubtedly see the leaps and bounds she has made in terms of her storytelling and art, whilst refreshing our mental palettes for the obvious passion she has for her cuisine and gourmet ingredients, also amply displayed in her most recent previous work RELISH.


Buy An Age Of License: A Travelogue and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple.

“In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios.”


This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.

Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It’s how they reproduce.

The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.

The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.

The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards.  They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.


Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis – a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero – struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis’ where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.

When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows – the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from – stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.

“The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
“I tried, but couldn’t close my eyes.
“We weren’t supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
“Something left a back door open.”

As I say, crikey. We haven’t even touched on adult Sherwood’s drunken self-loathing.

“Jesus, I really have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it.”

This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don’t have time and neither do you.

The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies’ HQ and Olweyez’s “Hole” of silos and ducts and The Scientist’s Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.

The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you’ll find it amplified exponentially here.

The Wrenchies’ behaviour as a gang – their levels of respect and appreciation for talent – is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:

“Ooooooh, COOL!”

Everyone loves an artist, right?


Buy The Wrenchies and read the Page 45 review here

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho…

“Ok, people. It’s new and it’s in 30 days. Thoughts?”
Hot. Nine to twelves is a great place to expand their brand. That segment is really opening up. I can get Liz at ChildLike to put together a focus. We’ll get specifics.”
“Right. And parents are a non-starter here. Obviously we’re doing placements, but how many blocks are we talking about? kTV? Street teams? I’d do games but that’s still iffy with girls. Print?”
“Print is dead. And TV is dead. I say we keep building something viral. We’ve been having some fun with Twitter later. But we need a new meme. A new story.”
“How about “Daddy says I smell special?”

“It’s perfume. For little girls. For little nine-year-girls.”

“Well, that was a bit awkward.”

Ha ha, advertising people. I’ve always had the strange feeling with the few I’ve met that they’ve sold so much bullshit to so many people, they’ve actually started to believe their own hype, in that they are a vital cog in improving people’s lives by bringing to their attention things people absolutely need to feel happy and fulfilled. Deep down, I’m sure they probably know that’s absolute nonsense, but if they admit it to themselves, well then how can they keep up the whole charade of what they do, pushing endless inanity to other people?

And so it is with Corrina Park… With a degree in English literature she always imagined that her first job at an advertising agency was merely to get some life experience and pay off her student debts before moving onto her dream career as a successful novelist. Five years later and she’s in a rut, both professionally and personally, and it’s becoming rather apparent to those around her. Her one outlet, to make herself feel at least a little alive, is shoplifting from her local convenience store. Nothing large, just the odd magazine here and there. She’s knows it wrong, but she manages to justify to herself regardless.

The shoplifting element is merely an aside to this work, as it happens, though it does contribute a pivotal moment when her pilfering is finally discovered. What this really is about is being at a crossroads in life, and having the mental strength to make the correct decisions that will keep you moving forward emotionally, rather than merely treading water and stagnating unhappily. Which is something everyone will be able to relate to, I’m sure. You’ll find yourself rooting for Corrina as she struggles with the difficult decision of whether to give up the apparent safety net of a secure if unfulfilling job, to pursue her dreams.



It’s certainly impressive writing from Michael Cho, but the art is even more so. If you’re a fan of Darwyn PARKER Cooke, the comparison will be immediately evident, even down to the use of a single colour alongside black for shading. Though whereas Darwyn usually picks blue or brown to provide an appropriately pulpy noir feel, Michael has gone for a pastel pink that is just perfect for this work, which is obviously completely different in tone to Cooke’s crime joints. From the endless bustle of the big city to the silent, lonesome box of Corrina’s apartment, the art is awash with exquisite detail. A genuinely uplifting read which I enjoyed immensely from start to finish.


Buy Shoplifter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

While we speak of the prolific craftsman known as Nottingham’s I.N.J. Culbard, the man has kindly agreed not only to sign but to sketch in all pre-orders of his forthcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Actually due mid-November.) Ian’s in so much demand that he cannot find time to hit the American comicbook convention circuit but, since we ship worldwide, this would be the perfect opportunity for those on t’other side of the pond to get a free sketch.

End of blatantly self-serving Public Service Announcement.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES #1 and DARK AGES #2 (both still in stock at the time of typing, #1 reviewed with interior art) a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries were wishing for war and got what they wanted. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different.

The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms. Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monocled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical navy-blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage, but agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover.

The night before Fawkes and chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence, and only Slipaway gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Arrant, Minks and Slipaway set off to investigate, something stirs at Shortmile End and heads for Mrs. Swagger’s cottage.

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first episode, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and a map at the back which has aged at the edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

It’s also very, very English. Not British – specifically English – with a fabulous sense of both time and space.


Buy Wild’s End #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown (vol 3) #1 (£2-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

From the writer of LAZARUS. Brits: for flop, read “dive”.

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. This time around, after the frankly odd artwork of STUMPTOWN VOL 2 which felt like an increasingly surrealist experiment (STUMPTOWN VOL 1’s art by the same artist was tremendous strangely enough), he’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, currently also illustrating Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. Issue one concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but I’m sure there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional elements again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key components of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for less gritty and more colourful, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.


Buy Stumptown (vol 3) #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, SAGA and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, this new edition reprints the first two softcovers.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhages in an instant. Think about that – Vaughan certainly has.

“495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners. In the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labour force is still alive..”

Then there’s the religious and governmental significance of this sudden shift in power. Oh yes, and the military. Planes drop out of the sky; the fields, cities, roads and oceans are full of corpses. And although this is itself a damning indictment of the current state of gender play, if you think that the world would be a more peaceful place with women in charge, this series soon puts paid to that. Amazon cults emerge, severing their left breasts, seducing the impressionable and imposing their own bigoted militancy on others. Others wrestle for power, and it’s up to one agent and a lone scientist to escort the sole surviving males – escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey – to a laboratory where the doctor was working on an illegal process she suspects had something to do with the catastrophe when she tried to give birth to her own clone.

An earlier work than EX MACHINA, SAGA or even PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, although some of the dialogue reeks of exposition in the first half, I can assure you it improves swiftly and dramatically, plus Vaughan follows up on more repercussions than so many would have thought of.

The pace of the plot – the twists and the turns – constantly kept me on my toes, and Vaughan really knows when to slip those surprises in. He also threw characters down some unexpectedly dark dead ends, including the protagonist’s sister, and here introduced a town whose inhabitants share a secret they cannot afford to divulge.

Then there’s the matter of a space station, manned when disaster struck but unable to make a safe re-entry. Did the dudes drop dead there? Toss in international espionage, a missing girlfriend and a mother at the top of a precarious political ladder and you have a recipe for ramifications it took Brian K. Vaughan 75 issues to cook through.


Buy Y – The Last Man Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp ~

On the cover you’ll see this book has a “suspicious” leaf motif; on the back, a green and white pill. Why?

Kazahaya Kudo works at Green Drug pharmacy with a tall moody feller called Rikuo and their boss, Kakei. Kakei took them both off the streets, gave them a place (the storeroom) and now they earn their keep filling shelves and sweeping up. Or at least that’s how it seems to outside world. When the doors at Green Drug close, Kazahaya and Rikuo really start to pay the rent. By going on secret paranormal missions for their boss and filling out prescriptions for people with “special ailments”. Things that cannot be cured with conventional medicine.

Oh! The two young bucks have strange, psychic powers too, which kind of helps. Although the plot seems kinda throwaway (which they often do), CLAMP have a great knack of leaving things unsaid or unexplained. Like the guys’ powers, the origins of which will probably be explained later on. With much dramatic posturing and a flurry of multiple close-ups/speedlines. Or the fact that almost all the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.

You might want to check out TOKYO BABYLON as well on that score.

I love the design with this book, lots of nice green on black. The suspicious leaf motif from the logo pops up again throughout.


Buy Legal Drug Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love it.

Short strips merrily defiling innocence on the internet with thirty additional episodes here deemed too way awful for such webular exposure* plus The Hot Date dinner disaster chews-your-own-adventure story.

Instinctively I turned to Page 45 – and you should too, for all your comicbook cravings – and what I found there was so appallingly that I sobbed with laughter:

“You’ll be a big movie star, baby! I see Oscars and Tonys in your future!”
“Where do I sign?”

… he cries gleefully. Later:

“Okay, Oscar and Tony, you’re up!”

I could not possibly even imply the punchline, but infer what you will. The look on the poor lad’s face as he contemplates the nature of niche markets…

Its closest comparison point is the PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP ALMANACK which also straddles the fine line at times between that which is inarguably either spot-on observation of some humans’ nature or the most wittily rendered, left-field expression of a very real phenomenon and that which should perhaps have been left on the cutting-room floor. See also Ivan Brunetti’s HO! If you’ve the stomach for it.

* I am not even kidding you.


Buy Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren…

So, just when think I can’t enjoy this title even more, it steps up the action and drama even further. Quick recap… the world has quite literally gone to hell in a badly woven handbasket following the events of the PLAGUE OF FROGS and subsequent spawning of huge Ctthulu-esque creatures, reducing pretty much every city in the world to slimy rubble.

Amidst the chaos, even darker forces seek to control what remains on behalf of the Ogdru Jahad, those seven entities with designs on our reality who lie beyond our space and time. For now… In New York City, the returned Black Flame, assisted by the ever-helpful Nazi remnants has complete control, reducing what remains of the city’s population to slaves. The BPRD doesn’t know what is going on within the confines of the city due to a strange electronic blackout preventing all communications and surveillance.

Thus, two teams, headed up by the bodiless Johann and resident pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, including various Russian elements from their own BPRD equivalent, are dispatched to reconnoitre and return with hard intel, without confronting the enemy. A simple in-and-out mission right…? Well, it certainly doesn’t help when people won’t follow orders. Still, that always was Liz’s strong suit, not listening to authority. Cue one spectacular conflagration when she confronts the Black Flame…



Buy BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch…

It is a little known fact that, for a number of years, my nickname amongst the circle of my oldest friends was “evil Rigby” for, well, a variety of reasons that I need not elaborate on here. Said behaviour was nothing too untoward, I should add, hence the non-capital ‘e’. Why I felt the need to share that I have no idea.

Anyway… there is a world within the DC Multiverse where those who are good in our reality, are evil in theirs… Thus instead of a Justice League there is the Crime Syndicate containing twisted, villainous versions of all our heroes, who have managed to kill all the heroes of their world and take over the planet. They are probably Evil with a capital ‘E’, therefore.

However, something considerably more powerful than even them has destroyed their world, forcing them to seek another to conquer… ours.

So, this was DC’s big summer event, written by Geoff BLACKEST NIGHT Johns, and it was pretty decent, actually. There were a few clever tricks and switches amidst the usual over-the-top set-piece melees, not least being that Lex Luthor has decided he wants to play hero and be a member of the Justice League. Oh, and he’s worked out who Batman really is. Not that Luthor’s entirely on the straight and narrow, obviously, his ego just likes the idea that they can’t save the world without him.

If you fancy a bit of capes and tights of the DC flavour going at it with everything including the kitchen sink, this will do nicely.


Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark.

“Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?”
“Ha. No… Just do me justice… And make sure all the girls are cryin’.”

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight – the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and action so frantic that it’s like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it’s both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who’s going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan throughout – you really can’t miss them. A joy.

Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what’s left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers’ best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.

Now: the report of Bucky’s death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick’s disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is… who’s going to tell Steve?

Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they’ve arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: who they’re up against and the true identity of their opponents’ target.

The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end…? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.

This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha’s permanently arched eyebrow and you’re in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM’s Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Of the second slice here, I wrote:

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

Of the third and final chapter:

“I like the rain… The way it sounds on the umbrella… The way the air feels.”

With which Ed Brubaker’s triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.

Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.

I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books – particularly the second one – however…

“Here’s the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about… That you’re still in there… Some small piece‘a you is awake… watching. Like bein’ a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free… but you lose… Over and over again… you lose… And it makes whatever you’re forced to do that much worse…”

Oh dear.


Buy Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various…

You know who else reads comics? MY MOM!

It’s true, actually, though probably not REGULAR SHOW. I would imagine it might fall into the ‘too weird’ category. Fans of the show will undoubtedly recognise the long-standing joke, repeatedly exhorted by Muscle Man to the increasing irritation of all the other crazy characters: Rigby, Mordecai, Benson, Skips, Pops and High Five Ghost, who are a bizarre mixture of animals, humans and even someone with a gumball machine for a head, who all live and work in a park. Where very, very strange things happen. A lot.

Obviously, I love comics. I have to say, though, I don’t fully understand the need to produce comic versions of cartoons, the blatantly apparent fiscal and cross-platform marketing benefits aside. To me, when comics and indeed prose books are converted to films or television shows, often much is left out and the adaptations are a pale imitation. I tend to find with cartoons being converted to comics that the same is equally true. For something as zany and insane as REGULAR SHOW, ADVENTURE TIME et al, to me their natural medium is on screen. I just find I am not as entertained by the comic versions of them to anywhere near the same extent as the shows.


Personal, curmudgeonly observations aside, if you are a fan of the coolest racoon* ever – and I don’t mean ROCKET RACOON, though that would be a pretty interesting rodent-related cross-over, now I come to think about it – and his friends, you probably will enjoy it regardless.

* Obviously I am heavily biased given my surname.


Buy Regular Show vol 1 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?


The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sana

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Blue Estate h/c (£22-50, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone, Tomm Coker, Andrew Robinson, Peter Nguyen

Astro City: Through Open Doors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Forever Evil: Arkham War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Scot Eaton, various

All New X-Men vol 5: One Down (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Deadpool Vs. Carnage  (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salvador Espin

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Deadman Wonderland vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Loveless vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Spell Of Desire vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Pandora Hearts vol 21 (£9-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki


ITEM! Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna is in stock at Page 45 now (see top of Also Arrived). Just look at those watercolour landscapes!

ITEM! Alan Moore finishes one-million-word novel, Jerusalem!

ITEM! Spanish artist Max draws Jeff Smith’s BONE.

ITEM! Advance review / preview of Scott Snyder & Jock’s WYTCHES!

ITEM! Thrilling sense of speed then break-neck brakes in MURDER + MIDNIGHT by Jon Eastman & David Ward. Kickstarter deadline imminent. Eeep!

ITEM! Sally J. Thompson’s gorgeous Estonia sketches. Swoon!

ITEM! Sean Phillips’ limited edition giclee for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Finally, fanfare, please…

Behold the brand-new Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2014!

Oh my days, it is beautiful!

So much to see, so much to do, and yet it’s laid out with such clarity I could cry!

Almost everything at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 is FREE (click on that link for their website, click on the one directly below cover for programme) including Page 45’s signings with Scott McCloud & Glyn Dillon and Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash!

However, please note that the ticketed talks with comicbook creators like Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eddie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival do require a small contribution and should be booked as soon as possible because space is limited.

– Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week two

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

 – Stephen on Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton.

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renée French.

Mickey is peering down the back of Marcel’s pants. Marcel, just above his bottom, has a tail.

“You don’t have to touch it.”
“Ok, ok.”
“You can touch it if you want.”

Well, now. A new Renée French is always an event. Also, a mystery.

Previously she’s had Neil Gaiman singing her praises after picking up her comics at Page 45. Oh yes! This time it’s the unlikely pairing of Guillermo del Toro and Warren Ellis. The latter writes:

“Like watching David Lynch and Samuel Beckett get mean-drunk: a demented comedy from one of the medium’s authentic geniuses.”

“Surreal”, you’ll be thinking and it won’t disappoint, but Samuel Beckett is particularly perfect as a benchmark. This takes place in a limbo of sorts, a bit like Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS and, as with BIG QUESTIONS, there is plenty of empty silence so that what is said attracts your eye and fires your curiosity.

It’s all in the few carefully muted colours, so cleverly deployed.

Played out on a sepia shore so shrouded in fog that the islands to begin with are blurred and unknown, three child-sized playmates wearing elasticated masks discover Baby Bjornstrand, a bird-beaked blob of no words, little movement, and only one sound – “Hoooooo!” – emitted sparingly. It just sits there, inert. Its very inertia is compelling.









Now, here come the colours (slightly more vivid on the printed page than here): each sprog sports a slightly different mask – variations on a theme – but they each also light up, along with the words that they speak: Cyril in yellow, Mickey in red, Marcel in turquoise. Baby Bjornstrand glows in green.







Formal word balloons with their tagging tails are therefore redundant and so discarded here, adding to the ethereal. The landscape, interaction and sparse sounds are as one, floating together just as they do in real life. Seriously: take a couple of friends out onto some misty moors, then watch and listen as they speak.

Three-quarters of the way through the landscape comes into focus: a vast, Scottish-like lake with sheer, vertical cliff tops on the other side. Are you wondering why this is so?

I was as mesmerised by this as Cyril himself is by Baby Bjornstrand. Marcel and Mickey stage a play of the proceedings. That was funny. There is also a very funny moment involving a ringed doughnut, but throughout I wasn’t sure whether I should be worried or not and that kept those pages turning.


Buy Baby Bjornstrand and read the Page 45 review here

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil…

The debonair and devilish Jaeger, knower of hidden short-cuts and errr… much other useful stuff, takes centre stage in the first colour FINDER material!

It took me a little bit of getting used to that, actually, it being in colour, though I’m not sure exactly why. I guess I’m just subconsciously familiar with how it has always been before. It’s a statement on the quality of the previous material perhaps that I actually found it a little distracting at first, but ultimately the colour is a very welcome addition.

So, what we have here is something which actually adds as much to the mystery of the man as sheds lights on his many secrets, as he forced to take a job, a proper job, and so becomes a parcel delivery man. Which, you might think, would be a waste of his prodigious talents. But no, because these parcels are in places virtually impossible to make a delivery to… For any ordinary person, that is.

And, of course, along the way, Jaeger as ever finds time to become unnecessarily embroiled in other peoples’ business, as well as just doing the odd good deed like getting an old lady home safely. Mainly just getting himself neck-deep into trouble, though.



I think this volume may prove a very good jumping-on point for new readers in that it starts off all fun and froth before descending into typically darker territory as the level of drama – and  danger – escalates apace. Carla really does manage to pack a huge wealth of the diversity of the FINDER milieu into just this one book, a really great showcase for the spectacular speculative fictional world she has created.


Buy Finder: Third World and read the Page 45 review here

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips.

“Nancy… Why are you dancing with that guy? He… he doesn’t even have a head!”

It’s been a complete and utter bloodbath.

Goliath 01 is a prison ship, lost in space. Its inmates – low-level threats like thieves and bankers* – have been slaughtered along with its crew.

It wasn’t aliens; it was a single human being: its commander, Colonel Mercer, officially marble-free and lying in murderous wait somewhere below decks.

There remains a solitary man in orange overalls recalling it all while desperately trying to find some means of escape and avoiding the fate of his fellow felons. Without food or water for two days now and surrounded by entrails and body parts, he’s beginning to lose the plot, hallucinating about an ex-girlfriend, naked. Then there’s the talking banana.

You never thought you’d see Sean Phillips draw a talking banana, did you? Sean is the artist behind FATALE, CRIMINAL, SLEEPER, THE HEART OF THE BEAST, 7 PSYCHOPATHS, INCOGNITO, SCENE OF THE CRIME and indeed THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS (one presumes). He’s well known for noir, but not for science-fiction nor comedy peeled fruit.


He does, however, bring all the nerve-wracking twilight he’s renowned for, and there’s one feverish sequence which has been lit like the nocturnal zone of a zoo’s Tropical House in electric blues and neon purples. He’s also emphasised the relatively low technological feel of a physically flown ship with submarine gauges, gangways riddled with thick electrical cables and heavy iron levers which require real elbow grease to grapple with.

All of which would be – and indeed was – a pretty intense read. However…

Oh, yeah, you’ll be wanting to read this twice.


* … he explains, tautologically


Buy Void h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi.

“Cogsley, we need to tell the Captain about this! If there’s something hidden in that cloud, we need to go back and investigate.”
“We won’t have to go back.”
“What do you mean? Why not?”
“Because it followed us.”

Cue yet another Hayao Miyazaki-inspired double-page flourish! You won’t have long to wait this time, the action kicks off immediately.

Second only to Luke Pearson’s HILDA, this is our biggest-selling Young Adult series of graphic novels and if it wasn’t already one of my all-time favourites (it was) it would most assuredly be now.

So much happens, and so much is revealed that makes perfect sense of the strange allegiances in this far from black and white war. But, oh, no spoilers! Why don’t you go back and read our previous reviews of AMULET – each of them extensive – instead?

Suffice to say that for once younger brother Navin takes the lead in a desperate mission to reactivate a beacon in the burned-out city of Lucien below and promptly gets trapped there along with Colossus co-pilots Aly, Trish and Rob. Is anyone still alive there? Anyone – or anything – at all?

Meanwhile his older sister Emily and fellow Stonekeepers Vigo and Trellis are captured by another, part of whose past is played out in front of them while they seek to keep their amulets unaware of what they’re all up to. What are they up to?

There’ll be plenty of new faces along with some old friends long thought lost, and a great big secret, which I’d forgotten was a secret, from the very first book is explained. There will also be fatalities, I’m afraid.

There are so many landscapes to swoon over here, even in the rain, and one of AMULET’s strengths has always been Kazu’s eye for design, like the Elf King’s metal mask whose shallow, vertical, curved trenches are coloured to highlight their topmost ridges. It’s a design reflected in their airships and elsewhere, but I don’t recall seeing that mask applied before, direct to the face, its razor-sharp, thin, conical spikes slipping into the flesh with a sinister “SHK!”


Buy Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien and read the Page 45 review here

Long Gone Don (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by the Etherington Brothers.

Quality comedy all-out adventure starring a dude who’s gone and dropped dead.

Don drowned in a bowl of oxtail soup. “Which smelt a bit like wet dog.”

It was a freak accident.

It was a really freak accident.

Okay, it was a succession of really freak accidents which fell like dominoes in the form of custard, cards, the caretaker’s leg and a poor, startled hamster. Did I mention the step-ladder? I don’t think we’ll talk about the puddle of puke. That school’s Health & Safety needs a certain degree of attention.

This is perfect for kids aged 5 through 15 to 5,015 which is, I’m afraid, where I come in.

It is full-on mirth-making mentalism replete with puns like The Demon Drink’s salutary slogan: “Cures What Ales You!” Now that’s a pub after my own heart. And probably my liver.

It all takes place in the netherworld known as Broilerdoom with its holy Krapookerville and its less divine, adjacent Corpse City. There Don encounters Castanet the crow with his mortal terror of flying, experiences the Welcome Arena and is showered with gifts only to fall foul of its Unwelcome Arena where he is swiftly relieved of them.

“Lesson number one: Broilerdoom gives with one hand and takes with the other. This is an opportunist’s underworld, Don, which means if you think you can get away with something, you probably can.”

Point in question: the stall called Stolen Stuff which happily sells its second-hand goods back to their original owners.

The demon who’s been getting away with everything up to this point is General Spode, high up in his ivory Bone Tower Monolith. Ruling aside his Regina, he has stolen the crown from rightful king Ripley who has since retired to sign books and shrubs as a celebrity gardener. Think Alan Titchmarsh as a dilettante and dandy. Spode’s right-hand man is Count Valush, a red-eyed shadow in a cape and a tall hat that he is inordinately protective of. Excellent for target practice.

In the opposite corner sit Lewd and Safina back at The Demon Drink, along with many a hidden ally like Viktor Rictus, the sentient squid with sloppy pink tentacles and a singular eye for invention.

Don will encounter and make use of a Brick Licker (armadillo/slug/hedgehog hybrid), Castanet’s tail-feather plumes and a great big bucket of black paint. Also, a lamprey-like giant worm called Thanatos with terrible tombstones for teeth.

If all this wasn’t enough, the art is insanely detailed and lush, with exotic, Eastern architecture not even hinted at on the cover. There are maps and monsters and a magnificent, walled, tiered garden. Moreover, if this was really serialised in THE PHOENIX COMIC, I cannot see the joins.

Also, I have a new favourite expletive:

“Sweet Sherbet Dipdabs!”

Lorenzo Etherington you may already have encountered in the VON DOOGAN puzzle adventure.

“The work those guys put into LONG GONE DON blows my miiiiind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are many, many creators whose work I love and admire and gasp in awe at, but Lorenzo is the only guy I know whose work I look at, and pause, and ask “are you actually HUMAN?””

– Neill Cameron of the awesome comic called HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS

(Errrrr, in a private email which I haven’t even asked if I can quote. I am so indiscrete.)


Buy Long Gone Don and read the Page 45 review here

Thirteen Chairs h/c (£10-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton.

‘“Welcome,” says the pale man. “You are welcome.”’

Put yourself in young Jack’s shoes:

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular wooden table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. There’s a big, bearded man with a bellowing voice; there’s a small girl with thick glasses who speaks in a swift monotone as if empty inside; and then there’s the pale man with well-behaved hair whose presence is commanding and whose posture is excellent.

In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

You know what they say about curiosity, and Jack is a curious boy. Come to think of it, each of these strangers in their own way is curious, as are their stories. Some sound like fables, others like confessions but they all are claimed to be true. Each involves death and most come laden with the weight of poetic justice, although one of the culprits is prose. Who knew that writing could kill you?

We stock very little prose at Page 45. For us, it is all about comics. Sure, we stock a full range of Neil Gaiman, but then he is ever so slightly renowned in our graphic world for things like THE SANDMAN and DEATH. There’s the heart-breaking A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay which you must never, oh never, read in public. But it’s packed full of the most jaw-dropping, Sienkiewicz-via-Steve-Bissette illustrations and – aside from the stories’ chapter breaks – this isn’t. What this has in common, however, is its horror yet humanity and its literary craft. I stole a little bit of it for my introduction. Here’s the pale man, the gathering’s compère:

‘He is a small man, soberly dressed in a dark suit that is neatly tailored and primly buttoned; a crisp white shirt with a wing collar; a plain dark tie. His hair is short and well-behaved. His posture is excellent.’

Try this, too:

‘”Come on in then,” she says, raising an arm and beckoning with long fingers, tickling at the air. “No skulking in the dark. Over here where we can see you.” Her voice is a soft and lovely thing, round and warm and with a sweet tang of teasing laughter.’

Dave Shelton is the author of the delightful all-ages comedy we also broke our no-prose policy to stock, A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT, which we still seem to be selling at least one copy of every single week – usually to adults for adults. My Auntie Squee adores it. This is all-ages too, but emphatically not comedy. I was worried throughout, and so was Jack, and there is an ice-cold, chilling secret lying within which will reveal itself as soon as you’re ready to see it. The finale’s pay-off is sublime.

In the meantime you’ll enjoy multiple stories from diverse voices, each as distinct from each other as this is from A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT. I was beseeched by its publisher to announce my favourite but I quite simply can’t. It could be the phantom in and of the deluge which I picture in my mind’s eye drawn by Will Eisner or coloured by Bettie Breitweiser. It could be Mr. Fowler’s childhood recollection of shirking work in his uncle’s tavern, spellbound by a ship all at sea and the cost to its crew of two brothers at war. Or maybe it’s matter-of-factual Amelia:

‘”I am not loud or funny or cheeky or popular. I am quite clever and quiet and not cool, and the other children make fun of my glasses, which are held together by sellotape at the moment because Dad fixed them with not very good glue in a hurry after Ellie sat on them, and so they broke again really easily when Sam kicked a football in my face, which was an accident again.”’

So no, actually, this isn’t without laughs.

‘”If Callum wants to try to make me cry he should call me something to do with being little, like ‘titch’ or ‘stick insect’ or something, because that would make more sense (even though it still wouldn’t make me cry because I don’t care about that sort of thing because I have a Positive Self Image because Dad told me I should).”’

She’s worried that Callum will “want to do revenge” on her because she got bored of him throwing her school bag in the air because it contained her school lunch and that contained tomatoes which could go squishy (they did) and so she punched him in the tummy and that made him sick all over his silly trainers.

‘”I try to keep an eye on them, but I drop some tomato on my biscuits (Dad gave me biscuits today because it is a Wednesday and Wednesday are biscuit days, and Mondays and Fridays are too, and Tuesdays are Healthy Choice days), and so I have to pay attention to that and get the seeds and juice off the top biscuit as fast as possible to stop it from being too tomatoey to eat (the bottom one is absolutely fine). I’m just deciding that the top biscuit is not OK to eat because it will be too tomatoey but that from now on I’ll ask Dad to wrap the biscuits in cellophane as well for extra safety, when I realise that I can’t see Mrs Fleet at all any more.”’

It reads breathlessly, like an infant’s school essay, doesn’t it?

I might have to concede, however, that my biggest soft spot is for big, bearded Piotr who repeats a story with a very grisly end told to him by his grandmother. (”My grandmother swears by her moustache that is true. So must be so.”) This is what I mean by completely different voices:

‘“So they take him to house, give him soup and bread and they tell him legend of silver ghost and red tree. Only they argue and can’t agree how story go. There is red tree and there is silver ghost, and some children and menfolk go missing in woods, and some cattle and plants die. This much they all agree. But rest? Oh boy! One say silver ghost live in red tree. One say, no, you fool, red tree grow fruit to protect from silver ghost. Another one say, you both wrong, silver ghost guard red tree. This all go on very long time and woodcutter bored. Also, soup is no good.”’

I’ve just realised I’ve picked out the two comically delivered monologues. I can assure you the rest will make you very uneasy.

So masterfully told are all these tales that only towards the end of each does it dawn on you where it is heading and whence it came: how expertly its outcome has been presaged. Within every one lies this moment of minor satori and that’s very clever, Mr. Fowler’s particularly so. All of which can be said for the book as a whole, but I see I must say no more.

So pull up a chair – any one from this spot-varnish cover, each as individualistic is its occupant – and prepare to be deeply unsettled by cats and by clocks and by things which are Not Quite Right.

The candles are burning low now.

But you may have just enough time.


Buy Thirteen Chairs h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various.

Eddie Campbell:

“It’s a bit preposterous us thinking we can illustrate this stuff that we know nothing of – sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms trying to imagine the horrors of being knee deep in mud with your feet rotting off.”

Well, quite.

Nevertheless, Eddie does a convincing impression of knowing precisely what it felt, looked and smelled like, at night, and throws it in front of your face. Towards the end there is a close-up of what left of a clod-encrusted cadaver, its skull-thin face with opaque eye-jelly being crawled round by maggots.

“A barb had pierced his eye and stuck there, rusting in the socket from which sight was gone.”

It opens with the occasional crack of sniper bullets whipping the sandbags as soldiers stumble about like phantoms in the miasmatic fog, barbed wire lit up in ghostly electric arcs or, later, glistening with spiders’ webs and dew drops as it resists being dragged down and sucked into the mud by the weight of what’s left of a once-living human being. What’s left of Loos church and graveyard is also lit up in a ghastly, bone-strewn son et lumière. The overall effect is like staring into old-school black and white photographic negatives: indistinct, often terrifying.

Campbell chose to condense the closing chapter of a novel by Patrick MacGill, The Great Push (1916), but the rest of this black and white book is given over to the World War I Trench Poets – writers on the frontline responsible for breaking through the propaganda with their terrible truths – interpreted by an impressive array of comicbook creators:

Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Lilli Carré, Lisbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, Phil Winslade.


George Pratt takes on Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est and Greater Love. He notes in the back that, wishing to avoid overshadowing the words, he deliberately used thick tools like paint rollers and knives which wouldn’t allow him to overwork the images with details. It works.

My other favourite is Simon Gane’s second piece here, Osbert Sitwell’s The Next War, using war memorials from Britain and France, trailed with ivy, their age and textures perfectly rendered, each improbably well chosen to match and so evoke what was written. I urge you to hit the internet and gawp at the man’s architecture and landscape sketchwork.

Here you go, a rare external link:


There is an excellent introduction by Editor Chris Duffy, and commentary by the creators bringing up the rear. Kevin Huizenga’s is particularly worth noting.


Buy Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by Chris Cardenale, Ethan Heitner, Seth Tobocman, Kate Evans, Paula Hewitt Amran, Jordan Worley, Mac McGill…

Do you think the world is unfair? Specifically, do you think capitalism is an unjust system which can only inevitably end in the destruction of our planet if left unchecked? Many would agree, I think, to some degree at least, and so consider this a primer.

First of all in ‘Creation to Extinction’ and ‘the nightmare is real…’ we see it graphically explained where this path of rampant consumption is taking us. Then in ‘The Enemy of Nature’ we see how the capitalist juggernaut was created, and thus precisely why and how we find ourselves in a situation where over 99% of the world’s material wealth is in the hands of less than 1% of the population, and what that inequity inevitably causes to happen to those at the opposite end of the fiscal scale. For the creators of this work, capitalism is simply a cancer which, if left untreated, can only lead to a painful demise for us all.

Next up, leavening what is obviously a somewhat serious read is Kate Evans using the Three Stooges to explain why ‘Money is Green too’, ‘Environmentalism for Dummies’ and ‘Socialism for Suckers’. Here we see why even what most people would consider tools for good, like environmentalism, have been subverted by the capitalist structure and how what most people would consider as the obvious alternative to capitalism, socialism, has been expertly and quite deliberately demonised by those in control, particularly in American, as akin to communism.

Finally, alternative solutions to the impending apocalypse are pro-offered, along with a further reading list of some several hundred prose titles covering such diverse topics as ‘The Ecosocialist Horizon’, ‘Fighting Oppression’, ‘Anti-Capitalist Energy Transition’ and ‘The Solidarity Economy’.


I admire the enthusiasm and endeavour of all the creators. I agree with them to some extent, though I don’t entirely share their views by any means. But what this certainly is, though, is indeed a curriculum. The addition of the reading list, for those who do wish to learn more about class activism and the socio-economic chains that bind virtually all of us to lesser or greater degrees, is a fantastic collation of essential critical thinking and instructive works. A very worthy endeavour, which is also a fascinating and thought-provoking magazine-sized comic collection.


Buy Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World and read the Page 45 review here

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic.

El Niño, of course, is the name for the massive warming of coastal waters around South America resulting in freakish storms, shifts in currents, raisins in jam and huge piles of pasta all over the floor.

Well, it does if you’re on board a boat in one of those storms. Guess where Vera is? On board a boat in one of those storms.

Returning to Paris from a gruelling Red Cross mission, Vera, a self-confessed Gadjo (non-Gypsy), visits her father’s grave in Père-Lachaise to find some of her old folk there, eating brunch. When she visits them later in a flooded suburb, they reluctantly tell her about Kolya, her supposed Siamese-twin brother, who joined the merchant navy before disappearing, never to be heard from again. The last thing they received was a letter from one Jean René Isnard in Polynesia, who claims Kolya’s safe and on his way back home.

Confused by the medical knowledge that Siamese twins can’t be of different sexes, and restless to leave Paris in any case, Vera flies out to Polynesia to discover that Jean René is dead and his son, now a captain of a vessel himself, isn’t best pleased to see her. Now obsessed, Vera tries to intercept the boat in Bora Bora, which brings us to the storm.

Prime European drama (he says, sweepingly), with exotic landscapes perfectly evoked and the mandatory gratuitous nuddie scene. I’m a third of the way through and I can’t put it down…

… I wrote back in 2005.

I did put it down eventually: once in 2009 to celebrate Page 45’s 15th Anniversary with Jonathan, Dominique, Bryan and Mary Talbot, dear Liam Sharp, Dr Mel Gibson and over a hundred of you lovely wastrels; twice in 2011 to go to the toilet; then once during our recent Bryan Lee O’Malley signing when I dropped it on my knee. It’s very heavy, and I’m still wearing a Tubigrip to bring the swelling down.

We should probably celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary in some fashion this October. Fancy coming along?


Buy El Nino h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Death Of Wolverine #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven.

The cover is a great deal shinier than this, but the comic isn’t as long as it looks.

I warn you about that right now. Process pieces are fascinating, and in the second half Steve McNiven takes you through pages as they evolve and shows you a few he simply binned because the composition wasn’t right. He pays tribute to Barry Windsor-Smith’s work and shows have he’s incorporated that double-barrelled influence.

Then there’s an extensive interview with Wolverine’s co-creator Len Wein who pays tribute to Dave Cockrum and explains that the name came from Roy Thomas and how he lined Logan up in case the X-Men were ever revived from their hiatus.

Fab. I’m just saying, brace yourselves for the credits to roll halfway through: it’s a right downer hitting To Be Continued when you thought you’d another 20 pages in store.

Anyway, yes, Steve McNiven you may know as Mark Millar’s artist on WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN, NEMESIS and Marvel’s CIVIL WAR, all of which come with the highest recommendation to superhero fans, the first one being my favourite Wolverine book to date. Obviously to become an old man he’ll need to last a lot longer than this title implies which should probably be Looting Logan For All He’s Worth Although It’ll Be Pretty Damn Lucrative When We Bring Him Back Too.

As the weekly, five-issue mini-series kicks off, Logan is sat on a battered porch clutching his Mom’s sick note so he can skip P.E.. Both he and his claws are covered in blood, which is bad news because as Reed Richards explains, without his healing factor…

“You’re a prime candidate for heavy metal-related leukemia. If you don’t get endocarditis from all the bacteria you pull into yourself every time you use your claws.”

So far neither Stark nor McCoy nor now Reed Richards have been able to revive Wolverine’s healing factor so staying out of brawls until they do is Logan’s best bet. Unfortunately the second word gets out that small, dark and hairy is vulnerable brawls are going to be unavoidable. Word gets out.

There’s not a great deal more to report on the story front. You can expect at least one supervillain per issue and I suspect that will only escalate. It’s Steve’s art that impresses, increasingly so with each project he graces, and the double-page spread here may not be the flashiest you’ve ever seen, but its composition is impeccable: those man’s shoulders are very broad indeed.

No, no, you’re quite right: this may be the dullest review I’ve ever written.


Buy Death Of Wolverine #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thunderbirds vol 1, vol 2, vol 3 (£6-99 each, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy.

“Thunderbirds are go!”

You’ve got to love that tune: a jaunty little western number given the Flight of the Valkyries treatment.

Just like the films of Ray Harryhausen, Gerry Anderson’s puppetry – or supermarionation – represented class and craft, as well as an easy-to-mimic wibbly-wobbly walk in the school playground.

The Thunderbirds themselves were some of the most thrillingly designed crafts of all time, none more so than Thunderbird 2: ribbed, thick and sturdy in army olive green, boasting two enormous red engines and a series of interchangeable, central pod / hangars to carry industrial drilling machines or, most often, subaquatic, canary-yellow Thunderbird 4. Ahead of the craft’s take-off from the Tracy family island, twin rows of palm trees would flop obligingly over to let it through. I built a gigantic beast of a version in Lego (complete with slide-down hangars, yes) and would flick my own Lego trees over manually, two at a time.

Thunderbird 1 exploded out of a hidden central silo, Thunderbird 3… well, we rarely saw that, nor does it appear here except on the third volume’s cover! But each was reached by secret metal chutes hidden behind trapdoors hung with their respective pilots’ portraits (whose eyes lit up during communication!).

And oh, those pilots were fit! Scott Tracy of Thunderbird 1 was one of my very earliest crushes. The other Tracys were way too blonde and Captain Scarlet had a propensity for six o’clock shadow which, as a five-year-old, I simply couldn’t get into.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Thunderbirds was thrilling, and something we could all act out between episodes. Equally thrilling here is the F.A.B. art because, if I haven’t already succeeded in tripping your nostalgia switch, let me just repeat the name Frank Bellamy: Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy. There is the sleekest foreshortening from behind or in front as each super-jet hurtles full-throttle towards you. And the colours, oh lord, the colours…

Of course, if you stop to think for five seconds, the whole Tracy set-up was one hell of a patriarchal boys-only club – science boffin Brains bobbing obediently alongside them, wittering “G-g-g-gee, Mister Tracy” before even evacuating his bowels – wisely eschewed by aristocratic super-sleuth Lady Penelope (who must surely be some sort of an influence for Lara Croft) who preferred to park up that pink Rolls Royce alongside her own English mansion, thank you. Or get Parker, her swarthy-faced butler, to do it for her.

At which point I’d like to close by ruining your childhood with one of my favourite jokes. You need to get into character for it, so practise Lady Penelope’s purring lilt and Parker’s sinus-troubled subservience…

Lady Penelope returns to her stately home after a night out on the town to find her butler Parker waiting dutifully at the door.

“Parker,” she murmurs in her sultry, upper-class accent, perhaps a little sloshed on champagne, “Please come upstairs to my bedroom.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Now, Parker, I want you to take off my coat.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my boots.”
“Yuss, m’lady.
“Take off my stockings.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my blouse.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my skirt.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my bra!”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my knickers!”
“…Yuss, m’lady.”
“And never, ever let me catch you wearing them again!”


Buy Thunderbirds vol 3  and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 1 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?


The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple

Zero vol 2: At The Heart Of It All s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Vanesa R. Del Rey, Matt Taylor, Jorge Coelho, Tonci Zonjic, Michael Gaydos

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho

Uber vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White

Y – The Last Man Book vol 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra

Justice League Of America vol 2: Survivors Of Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Matt Kindt & Doug Mahnke, various

Justice League vol 4: The Grid s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, various

Justice League vol 5: Forever Heroes h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Joe Prado, various

All New X-Men vol 5 One Down h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Castle: Calm Before Storm s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Robert Atkins

Thor God Of Thunder vol 1: The God Butcher s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Thor God Of Thunder vol 2: Godbomb s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Butch Guice

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge Earth h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuña

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark

Attack On Titan Guidebook (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Bleach vol 61 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

D. Gray-Man vol 24 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Noragami Stray God vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Adachitoka

Rosario Vampire Season 2 vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki


ITEM! Tom Gauld’s hilarious Guardian comic on grammar-correcting gits – oh god, I may be guilty, myself!

ITEM! Come along, creatives! Neill Cameron has big blog of free resources to go with his awesome comic, HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS! He even links to our review where you can buy it directly from us. Bananas!

ITEM! Awesome photos as ever: Sarah McIntyre’s blog on GARY’S GARDEN graphic novel launch night! Are your eyes boggling? Page 45’s review of Gary Northfield’s GARY’S GARDEN.

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre writes about why she loves teaching kids to create, she doesn’t want any of her own. Clear, candid and lovingly expressed.

ITEM! ‘Morrissey Gets A Job by Brian Brooks’. ( I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday — To Me.)

ITEM! Infiltration, ahoy! Susie Cumberland has taken it upon herself to promote quality British Comics – on a website which seems dedicated solely to American superheroes. Love the subversion! Love her choices, too. What a kick off!

ITEM! Following last week’s article by Leigh Alexander, Penny Red on how and why women in games and comics are winning the war against online misogynists. Brilliant!

ITEM! Oh dear lord, but I love me some neo-classicism. Paul Reid’s ‘Cernunnos Study’. Oil on canvas

ITEM! Our Jonathan will be speaking at this free Nottingham Trent University Event for Small Businesses. Please see “programme” for the, err, programme.

ITEM! Nottingham’s GameCity 2014 (25th October to 1st November) clashes not with the Lake District’s Comic Art Festival 2014 where Page 45 will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary! Both events linked to there, yes!

My own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, which you will need to book in advance is, incredibly, one of the best subscribed to, so please book now so I can call my next one The Art Of Selling Bums On Seats.

I refer, of course, to bottoms (and so often I do) not the vagabond chic I doubt you’ll be dressed in. You leave that to me.

– Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week one

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Buy this from Page 45 then post Anders an idea, and he will send you an original, signed drawing of your idea for free!

 – Stephen on The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden by Anders Nilsen.

How To Be Happy h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis.

“We are all going to cry tonight!”

I hereby nominate this cover as the best so far in 2014!

Its composition is immaculately weighted and its colours are as warm as a travelling rug and equallly as embracing. It makes me happy.

The comics inside make me so happy too, but few of its protagonists.

As Eleanor Davis is swift to point out before you’ve even begun, “This is not actually a book about How To Be Happy”. Instead it’s a graphic novel full of people looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and either failing or fooling themselves into the easily led lie that they’ve succeeded.

Take ‘No Tears, No Sorrow’ in which a gullible group of individuals, desperate to feel anything, fall for the fraud of a man making money from their disengaged doubts. ‘No Tears, No Sorrow. No Sorrow, No Joy!’ is title of his facile and fatuous book, and his workshop is worse. He presents them with abstractions to which he wants them to connect, and so determined are they in a competitive way to not be the ones falling short that they rewire their own brains leaving their emotions, forced here, to get the better of them outside.

It’s artfully swathed in a cacophony of light and bright colours contrasted by the emotions evoked: mostly anger rather than empathy. Anger at themselves for failing to feel the masterly manipulated mass hysteria all around them.

Now have a listen to this. It’s from ‘Darlng, I’ve Realised I Don’t Love You’ in black and white in which a couple commune. Sort of.

“If I loved anyone, it would be you. But I love no one.”
“I’ve come to understand I don’t care about anything except myself.”
“Any kindness I’ve ever shown has been in my own self-interest.”
“The very existence of other people seems doubtful.”
“I wanted more from life than this.”
“Let’s have a baby.”


‘Stick And String’ doesn’t reflect well on the strengh of a relationship, either.  Told in line and rich, tree-trunk colours, a lute player enchants his countryside audience by day then is lured into the depths of forest at night by the bom-bom of drums being beaten round a crackling fire. The wild wood creatures scatter but one woman is tentatively drawn back as the man strums his lute anew…

‘In Our Eden’ sees a small group gradually disperse as their self-proclaimed leader – who’s ditched the name Darryl in favour of Adam! – rages at them in blood-vessel-bursting red to return to the bliss that was Eden. Hmmm. ‘Nita Goes Home’, meanwhile, harks to a future when the organic / genetically engineered produce debate is far from over and, with her father ailing, a sister returns from Satorispace to a city so toxic that you have to wear full-body bio-hazard suits in order to venture outside. Naturally, fashionistas have been catered for. Here (and elsewhere) I was put in mind of Dash Shaw but the variety of styles being employed within HOW TO BE HAPPY is mind-melting.

A lakeside tale of longing and love was so poignant; another black and white tale, ‘Thomas The Leader’, less so, examining as it does the hegemony of boyhood friendship, both mental and physical.


Finally (although there are many, many more), ‘Seven Sacks’ was for me the most beautiful and unnerving. A ferryman is hailed by a succession of nasty-looking (and if one case, nasty-smelling) creatures to take them and their wriggling sacks across the river in his small punt. Apparently the sacks contain rabbits. I have my doubts. My favourite of the critters is either the whiffy, dark woollen one with eight dangling arms and an odour that curls and swirls out behind it (I’m thinking camel pong at the very least) or the brown, beaked beastie cloaked in the skin and plumage of some poor speckled bird, its evil eye glaring through the sewn-back socket, the overall effect being of a 17th century plague doctor.


Buy How To Be Happy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince.

Liz Prince likes who she is.

She’s always liked who she is. It’s just others who’ve had a problem with her being a tomboy. And you know what school’s like, right? Here comes one heck of a reminder!

Funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking and at times very poignant, what struck me above all about this is that kids wouldn’t have complexes if they hadn’t been given them by others.

In a sequence which reminded me of Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS not simply because it’s set at summer camp, Liz suddenly becomes painfully, heart-breaking body-conscious after hearing two girls bitch about – sorry, judge – another:

“Did you hear that Dakota actually got naked in the shower?”
“Oh, gross.”
“So gross, and afterward she put on a bra even though she has no boobs. Like, dream on.”

If you don’t go to boarding school then something like a girl scout camp is the first time you might shower and dress communally. Prince’s preference for boys’ clothes had caused her to be singled out for years, but not what lay beneath them.

“I knew that girls made fun of each other, but talking about someone’s body like that seemed so wrong. You can’t choose your body! I was suddenly aware that I was under-performing in ways I didn’t even know existed.”

Immediately she starts showering in her swimsuit because obviously that’s how you’re supposed to shower (thanks, girls!) but also, in an effort to avoid others judging her body’s lack of development, she begins swimming in a t-shirt thereby drawing attention to it.

“It is conspicuous,” she writes above a drawing of herself in a very baggy t-shirt sporting the slogan “I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH MY BODY”. The only thing that could have been worse would have been her boys’ tightie-whities falling out of her rolled towel or kit bag. Obviously that’s what happens next.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since the age of four at least, Liz Prince has been a tomboy: “a girl of boyish behaviour”, and of course “boyish” is or should be subjective but alas, we haven’t as a society quite got there yet. Liz didn’t just prefer boys’ clothing, she refused to wear dresses but when you stop to think about it, that’s pure aesthetics.

A dad recently told me his son’s favourite colour was pink. The dad found it charming if anything, and irrelevant at heart which it is: any colour is an aesthetic preference that says nothing about your gender, sexuality or algebraic aptitude for solving complex quadratic equations. But he confessed – with embarrassment – that it was a concern to him how others would react. No need for embarrassment: that is pure paternal love and completely understandable because, as a society, we have not quite got to the bloody obvious yet!

Anyway, as well as the clothes Liz happened to like a great many sports which for no very good reason were and still are, to a ludicrous extent, seen as the exclusive province of boys. Also, the toys. There’s one screamingly funny episode in which Liz and her mate Tyler terrorise the playground with their twin set of watches in the shape of emergency vehicles complete with very loud, requisite sirens, honing in on whoever’s to hand in a pincer movement with their arms outstretched:

“You’re under arrest!”
“And on fire!”

What isn’t so funny is what happens to their friendship when Tyler becomes the first boy ever to develop a crush on Liz. It is, in its truest sense, tragic.

Which is, I believe, where sex education comes in, and the irony that the gender boundaries come down (instead of girls thinking boys are icky and v-a-v, classroom crushes are ignited and the chases begin) then go straight back up again when it becomes clear that any such overt affections are one more flag-waving “target me!” for further teasing and worse. Still, who here hasn’t stalked a be-crushed one, artfully positioning yourself in the place most likely to meet them by complete accident?!

“Dare I drink from this anointed fountain?” ponders young Prince once so-sporty Caleb has sipped from the water font, so rendering it the equivalent of Lourdes.

The art of all this is that although Liz Prince has a specific story to tell about having the outrageous temerity to, you know, not like all things flowery and frilly, its incidents and even issues will all prove so painfully yet (hopefully by now) hilariously familiar.

The hilarious is due in no small part to the cartooning with bashfulness, embarrassment and pleased-as-punch pictured to perfection – along with one poor lad’s bugged-out eyes in a necklock.

There are diagrams like ‘Ye Olde Social Ladder’ so that you know (but also “know”) your place, plus faux diary entries and oh god please shoot me now.

The style seems on the surface to be a combination of Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino and the UK’s Andi Watson, but it isn’t any of those individually. It’s far less abstract than Porcellino, much less dense and intense than Jeffrey Brown nor as precise as early Andi Watson, but fans of all three – who are legion here – will embrace it to bits. It is crisp, clear and emotive and playful as hell.

It’s also a much, much longer, less episodic and more focussed read than anything Prince has attempted before (ALONE FOREVER, most recently) and so shifts her standing from the effortlessly engaging and entertaining to the cream of the comicbook crop.

One final note. Liz is incredibly lucky to meet a woman called Harley. Harley spies her potential and encourages Prince’s creativity just when it’s needed the most. Later she will meet Maggie who will introduce her both to zines and to a scene which will finally make her feel comfortable. Prince pays tribute to both these women and I love that. She also records one conversation with Harley which puts a second reading of this firmly into perspective.

For all that young ladies like Liz have endured because of our obsession with the woefully superficial as opposed to what it is really important – what lies underneath – it is still much easier for girls to wear boys’ clothing than it is for boys to wear girls’.



Buy Tomboy and read the Page 45 review here

The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden (£11-99) by Anders Nilsen.

Rare, limited edition, A-4 album of exquisite beauty from the creator of one of my all-time favourite graphic novels, BIG QUESTIONS.

This isn’t being distributed in the UK, so we bought these in direct from Anders himself.

Unlike future editions, if any, these initial copies come with the CONVERSATION GARDENING mini-comic bound inside.

As Anders explains within, if you buy this from an independent retailer like Page 45 then post him an idea, he will send you an original, signed drawing of that idea for free! You will need to send him your receipt: all items bought at our till or on our website come with such a receipt.

Why would Nilsen give you this labour-intensive love? To support independent retailers.

CONVERSATION GARDENING is a mischief in and of its own right in which a cartoon centaur of sorts, standing in for Anders himself, illustrates Amazon’s business practices and its customers’ all too willing compliance and collaboration by way of slapstick visual metaphors and dead-pan rejoinders:

“Hey, excuse me.”
“Ah, hi. Yeah?”
“Did you just throw someone into that hole?”
“Why, yes I did. Why do you ask?”
“Why would you do something like that?”
“Well, it was incredibly cheap. And super convenient. I didn’t even have to get out my credit card.”
“Oh. I see. Have a nice day.”
[To reader:] “See how that works?”


We’re still only touching on the mini-comic. I promise we’ll get to the main feature soon, but here’s Nilsen’s moment of satori after he has explained why the exchange of ideas through the previously free printed press is so important:

“So there I am, this super lucky author, drinking my coffee one morning and looking at the internet. And I read this blog post about how Amazon, who has a near-monopoly, is making books it doesn’t like disappear from its site.
“The main book they’re disappearing is called ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone.
“It’s about Amazon’s history and business practices. How it used books as a way to get customers’ information to create a monopoly. How it puts small booksellers out of business.
“On purpose.
“As part of its business plan.
“So, it’s critical of Amazon.
“But they’re also disappearing other books by the same publisher, Machette.
“And it’s not the first time. They have a history of doing this with other publishers and other authors.
“When the mob does it, it’s called extortion.”

The main, album-sized event whose name is so long I am not going to retype it is riddled with similarly incisive socio-political commentary, often without recourse to words. The three-Act cover alone is a masterpiece.

The front depicts an Eden complete with tree – a few thorny vines snaking round it – lounged on by a leopard while wildlife roams freely below. Now open it up, and more majesty unfolds seamless on the other side: African plains as nature intended (bar a few touristy palms) and amongst the indigenous animal population streaks a naked boy playing with a toy plane in one hand and a leopard cub in the other. You may have noticed he’s white. Still, it remains pretty utopian. Fold out the final, french-flap segment, however, and you’re in for a surprise. Remember that long-winded title now?

I’m not going to give all of this away because then why buy the book yourself? However, the first image inside is equally telling. It’s another landscape seemingly pastoral and tranquil in nature but far further from Heaven. It’s populated by domesticated ducks surrounding two unicorns who graze and gaze round them; one quite mournfully, the other quite angrily for a unicorn. The lawn is hedged-in. There is soulless, geometric topiary: the sort of thing you might find shorn on a poodle-dog’s tail. There are rubber tires.

All of which is reprised on either side of two damning, war-centred shorts, in the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil’s rootball and a waste of land in a vast, vacant lot. I’ll happily chat with you on the shop floor about all that remains after you’ve read it.

For example, you may be used to Anders’ fragile line and vulnerable forms, but the man is a trained artist with neo-Classicism at his disposal so witnessing his silhouettes of a hand holding aloft a flawlessly facetted diamond in stark black and white is something which will elicit a sharp intake of breath.

The First of the Fallen bears witness to God’s creation of the universe and even nudges the Dithering Deity along, but then he detects a flaw in His latest project called Man. He warns God against it, but when you’ve created something in Your Own Image then you’re going to take that sort of criticism personally.

Those eyes are haunting.


Buy The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden and read the Page 45 review here

The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnson & Justin Greenwood.

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

Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?


On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% case clearance rate over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. We do that that making friends with veteran Klem will prove difficult.

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

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

Almost immediately a second Cabler falls flat on his face with a similarly fatal wound right outside Midway City Hall, dropping a gun with two empty chambers. And that’s an odd direction to head in. Inside Mayor Rocky Swanson is preparing for re-election by practising his speech craft:

“As you probably know, I lost my family in the riots of ’97.”
“”Fires of ‘97”. FLF will fall on any violent imagery. Add “like most of you”. Inclusive, even nostalgic.”
“When I needed help, Midway City took me in. Raised me, educated me, even sent me to college. This city became my family.”
“More vulnerable. Build up to the defiance.”
“Now, like any family… Sure we argue from time to time. We don’t always agree on how to get things done.”
“”Argue around the dinner table”. Like normal people.”

Oh, there will be family arguments all right. Did I mention that the phone card was used to contact the City Hall twice? And the riots…? They were race riots. There’s plenty of hard politics here along with a murder mystery which, in spite of hard-won leads, will confound Klem and Dietrich almost to the end.

Aside from the term “Cabler” which I promise you proves contextual, there’s barely a piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. (I liked the “Fuck a spaceman!” swear of exasperation or surprise.) Nor is there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior is identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.

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

Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma make the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino. No one looks particularly healthy – they’re all slightly wan – and you wait until you see where and how the Cablers live in their vertical shanty-town shafts of precarious metal ledges.

Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics, while subsequent chapter breaks are variations on that big, bold theme, all retaining its circular motif.

There were a couple of spreads I had to read twice, their top- tier panel layouts having failed to alert me that I needed to read right across the double page before dropping down (top tip: make sure the centre panel of that top tier is spread evenly over the crease, please) but that’s the VAT-man in me determined in find at least one fault in what’s otherwise perfection.

Antony proved himself a world-builder par excellence in UMBRAL without spewing it clumsily and messily at your feet all at once. Similarly here you’re left to learn the history and politics (office and otherwise) gradually and in manageable bursts as newcomer Dietrich does. He’s going to make mistakes. They all are.

Lieutenant Yuri Brachyinov:

“I hope we’ve all learned a valuable lesson today, or some other bullshit. Now get out there and solve these fucking murders.”


Buy The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by J. . Rinzler & Mike Mayhew…

It’s Star Wars, George, but not as we know it.

A long time ago…

I heard a story regarding a young George Lucas, around the time he made THX 1138 – his first film, which if you haven’t seen you really should, it is a dystopian classic – touting a rough draft of his next film around various producers and moneymen in Hollywood, with a view to getting funding.

That was, of course, Star Wars but apparently the draft film, including sequences of space battles recreated with biplane dog fight footage, left the industry luminaries less than impressed and initially he struggled to find backers. This was perhaps not that surprising given the general attitude towards science fiction pictures at the time in Hollywood, post the 1974 debacle that was Zardoz* featuring Sean Connery rocking the mankini long before Borat made it popular. Seriously, how was he ever persuaded to wear that?

Anyway, what I don’t know is how much of that Star Wars proto-film was based on the final screenplay, and how much of it was based on this earlier draft, as the two are rather different. That proto-film is actually a DVD extra I would happily pay for, but maybe it is lost to the mists of time, or Lucas has long since wiped it, which would be a shame. In any event, this comic gives us a fascinating glimpse into a work in progress. It’s just as solid a script in its own right as the final version, and apparently Lucas himself okayed this comic page by page, so it is as close to a cinematic version of his original screenplay as we are ever likely to get.

Pretty much all the characters you would expect are here, just not as you know them. Not remotely. Certain key plot points also remain, but in essence it is a completely different story.


Nice, clean if slightly stilted art from Mike Mayhew, plus cinematically lit with vibrant colours from Rain Beredo, carries the relatively complex story well. Some may consider THE STAR WARS yet more indulgent and unnecessary retrospective tinkering with the Star Wars canon and established mythos by Lucas, but I think this work has genuine value for its insight into the early process that produced, whether you like it or not, a genre defining and generational cinema classic. Also, it is just great sci-fi fun in its own right.

(* If you have never seen Zardoz either, you really do need to see that as well, trust me. It takes some believing, given is truly awful on so many levels, with one of the most utterly bizarre ‘plots’ ever conceived, but it is a triumphant cult classic without a doubt.)


Buy The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

“Poor Mexico – so far from God and so close to the USA.”

– Diaz Ordiz, Mexican President, 1960

And so, with this reprint collecting volumes three and four, we start afresh with the titular assassin three years into retirement, lazing on the beaches of Venezuela. Lazing – that really doesn’t sound like him, does it? On the other hand he might well have stayed there had Mariano not sent fresh clients his way. Maybe they were the itch he couldn’t help scratching as they fed him a succession of contracts, one after the other.

The first seemed relatively straightforward: a Spanish oil broker living in Venezuela but thankfully staying in Mexico. Then an assistant manager of the Venezuelan National Bank: a little close to home but another easy target because riding a scooter in Caracas is tantamount to suicide anyway. But it’s the third target which begins to rattle our unflappable killer who hasn’t been as calculating as he should have been. Her name is Madre Luisa, much loved in Latin America as a nun working the shunned slums of Columbia. He’s basically been asked to off Mother Teresa. Why?

With the help of Mariano and his Padrino, the connections become as clear and as they prove crude. This is Venezuela, after all, the third-largest supplier of the USA’s oil. Its President Hugo Chavez is determined to nationalise the industry. Unfortunately that doesn’t change anything except the likely identity of his clients and their potential reach: if he doesn’t kill Madre Luisa someone else will, and then they’ll come looking for him.

As topical right now as I’m afraid it’s likely to prove for quite some time, events spiral out of control on a national level and when Cuba’s interest is revealed the cold cogitations inevitably take a turn for the political. Here’s our man in Havana:

“There were fewer people sleeping outside and dying of hunger in the streets of Havana than in New York or Bombay. Not bad for a country strangled by American embargos for more than forty years. They weren’t rolling in dough and might not eat their fill every day, but they weren’t America’s whore or flunky, or anyone else’s and they knew it.
“Why is Fidel criticised? ‘Cause Cuba isn’t a democracy? What country is? The USA and Europe are in name only. And they impose their so-called superiority on the rest of the world. Easy enough when you rape and pillage, when you grow rich off other men’s work, when you don’t respect the rules you force on them. Bolivar said in 1823: “Providence seems to have destined the United States to rain all sorts of calamities on South America in the name of liberty.” Seeing that far ahead is really something…
“Castro’s funny too. He once said Christ’s sermons would make for good radical socialism, whether or not you were a believer. At the UN, 184 out of 192 countries voted to lift the embargo on Cuba. Only Israel, the US, the Marshall Islands, and Palau voted no… and won. Democracy in action.”

There’s plenty more where that came from in a thriller whose killer has much more to say about foreign intervention and genocide throughout the ages and across the globe. You might say it’s his specialist subject and once more it’s that part of his nature he denies having that lands him in trouble: he can’t help but question everything he’s told, everything he sees around him, and in spite of his protestations he does actually care. In his line of work, nobody likes a troublemaker.

It’s the light that readers comment on most. Whether it’s the dappled shade at a corner café or looking up from the forest floor to the canopy above, the foliage growing fainter as more sunlight shines through, the colouring’s a joy. Plenty of Cuban sunsets this time, and Miami’s glorious aquamarine coastline is yet another of Jacamon’s flourishes which will have you gasping. His reflector sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.

Further “negotiations” will eventually take him to London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.

“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.
“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”


Buy The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New Wipers Times (£5-00, Nottingham City Museums) by various including Helen Cross & Carol Adams…

A wonderfully witty nod to the trench magazine published by soldiers who were actively fighting in WWI. Not many people have heard of the original Wipers Times these days, let alone know it was produced by the Sherwood Foresters regiment. In 1916, the 12th battalion of the Foresters was at Ypres when they came across an abandoned printing press. One of the soldiers, a printer in peacetime, managed to get it working, and thus the satirical paper, its name a deliberate mispronunciation of where they had found the press itself, was born.

It proved hugely popular with poems, cartoons, essays and jokes regarding the War from anonymous contributors. I can well imagine the paper wasn’t particularly well received by the top brass, who were often portrayed as clueless and self-absorbed, but at least they didn’t try to suppress it unlike the French Generals did with The Song Of Craonne, offering a million francs and an immediate honourable discharge to anyone who identified its creators. Not that anyone ever did.

This tribute, published by Nottingham City Museums, contains a selection of material written by army families, adults and children, edited by Helen Cross and then illustrated in a variety of styles by the redoubtable Carol Adams that neatly captures the subversive and silly flavour of the original. Not that the stories are all WWI based, far from it, many illustrate the current concerns of modern military spouses and kids. The pieces are liberally interspersed with spoof adverts for ridiculous contraptions of the ilk that DR. GRORDBORT would undoubtedly approve of!

I was very impressed, I must say, both by the quality of writing and also the artwork. Yes, you can obviously tell what has been penned by the different age groups, but there is some rather moving material here, as well as the more overtly humorous. The co-ordinator of the project, Kay Culbard, mentioned to me that Helen Cross, the artist, was determined to use a number of different styles, despite a rather tight deadline, and it was well worth her efforts because it really adds to the depth of this anthology as a whole. Lovely to see people remembering the sacrifices made by those who fought in WW1 in a touching, contemporary and innovative manner.


Buy The New Wipers Times and read the Page 45 review here

Invincible Days h/c (£14-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan.

“Bittersweet, joyful and reflective.” Yes, okay.

Childhood memories supplied to Atangan by friends and family then popped in a blender and poured onto each rigid, four-page tray like so much chocolate cake mix.

Look at the colours! They may be bright but they’re also pallid and opaque. Look at the anthropomorphics: each narrator’s child hasn’t been transformed into an animal, they’ve been turned into a plush-toy version of that animal. It’s like lingering uncomfortably long in a four-year-old’s bedroom. Cloying, to say the least.

My main problem, however, isn’t the colours or the teddybear protagonists, it’s the stop-start nature of the broken sentences divided almost equally and so arbitrarily between each unyielding panel of each identical twelve-panel page of each four-page story.

We’re not baking buns here, we’re making comics.

And actually, I’m not too sure about the “joyful” or “bittersweet” – most of those I’ve read are desperately sad, particularly when it comes to pets for whom it doesn’t end well. But yes, they are reflective and some are genuinely affecting, like ‘Displacement’. In it a grandmother is moved into a nursing home, enduring without complaint a feeding regime which will appal you, and leaving both a vacuum and a rift in the family household.

Moreover, the book ends on an absolute belter called ‘Responsibility’ in which the narrator’s sister is given a goldfish won by her boyfriend at a fair. Initially she is thrilled: she buys a bowl, some pebbles to line its bottom and even a plastic castle. But she swiftly loses interest in the bowl and its water’s maintenance and therefore the health of the animal, leaving her brother to intervene on the goldfish’s behalf or it simply wouldn’t get done.

She’s now pregnant.


Buy Invincible Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sisters (£8-50, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier…

“Should we tell her?”
“I don’t know, what if it’s a boy?”

Ha, well it was a girl, but Raina certainly didn’t get the soulmate of a younger sister she was expecting. Instead she got a sibling, Amara, who seemingly has no interest in socialising with her, or indeed even being social to her. Right from her birth, her sister seems to take delight in generally antagonising and annoying her. Their only shared interest seems to be drawing, but even that doesn’t seem to be something they can bond over.

Meanwhile, the time has come for a family vacation and whilst Dad is flying to and from the destination of Colorado, Mum, the girls and their younger brother are going to drive in a VW camper van. From California. It proves to be a very long trip, in both directions, broken up only by a family reunion with various aunts, uncles and cousins, with whom they are staying. There is one female cousin in particular Raina is looking forward to catching up with, as she felt much more of a sisterly connection with her the last time they met than she has ever felt with her own. Several years have passed since then however, and now their slight difference in ages, Raina being the younger, is rather apparent, leaving Raina first a tad bemused and then disappointed.


If you are a fan of Raina’s previous work, the dentally traumatic SMILE, then you will be familiar with her cheerful, breezy art style, and find this just as much cringeworthy fun. I loved the recycling of the SMILE cover image into this cover as well, very amusing. This is a warmly written, humorous, and I am sure entirely accurate portrait of what it must be like to have endured a shared childhood with someone you could quite cheerfully have strangled at any given moment. Fortunately, being an only child I managed to avoid all that, though obviously now having Stephen as a business partner I feel I might be gaining some insight into the matter…

Amara can’t have been that bad though, or maybe they just get on better as adults, as Raina does dedicate this work to her!


Buy Sisters and read the Page 45 review here

Dream Locations Postcards (£5-99,) by Joe List, Lizz Lunney, Soju Tanaka.

Come visit Page 45’s brand-new Lizz Lunney Megastore!

“Greetings from the void,” says one of Joe List’s postcards, neatly naming my brain, while Lizz Lunney invites you to “Lovely, sunny, beautiful… Squirrel Park.” Keep your windows up and don’t get out of the car!

I was once chatting to a professional pest control expert and, if you think squirrels are cute little critters who just love to nibble their nuts, you wait until you get some in your loft. And if you do find some in your loft, under no circumstances try a summary eviction yourself. Rats will run away. Squirrels do not back down! Nuts are aphoristically famous for being tough to crack, so imagine the damage a squirrel’s teeth can do to yours.

Anyway (one public service announcement later), we are now bursting with Lizz Lunney epistolary madness, and this neat little booklet of 21 postcards by Joe, Soju and Lizz comes with a bonus of  8 glossy stickers.

I’m constantly misreading “the sea of faces”, though. I wonder if that’s intentional?


Buy Dream Locations Postcards 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?


Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renee French

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil

Pariah vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Aaron Warner, Phillip Gelatt & Brett Weldele

Probably Nothing: A Diary Of Not-Your-Average Nine Months h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Matilda Tristam

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various

Thunderbirds vol 1 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 2 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 3 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by various

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 5 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

Batwoman vol 4: This Blood Is Thick s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. H. Williams, Haden Blackman & Trevor McCarthy, Francesco Francavilla

Deathstroke vol 1: Legacy s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Deathstroke vol 2: Lobo Hunt s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch

Green Lantern Corps vol 3: Willpower s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Geoff Johns & Fernando Pasarin, various

Battle Angel Alita Last Order vol 18 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 2 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori


ITEM! Colleen Doran’s Orpheus and Morpheus from SANDMAN!

ITEM! New Neil Gaiman short story collection (prose) Trigger Warnings: Short Fictions and Disturbances revisits American Gods. Due February 2015.

ITEM! Marc Laming is knocking it out of the park on a daily basis. Starlord – immaculate composition.

ITEM! Ian McQue’s sublime Lost World in green.

ITEM! Leigh Alexander writes about the damage done by Gamers to the reputation of the wider games industry. If you can’t see similarities with the less healthy aspects of superhero comics culture (I emphasise superhero there – not the Real Mainstream comics culture we all know, love, promote and propagate here), then I cannot help you.

ITEM! Comics and Graphic Novels for September 2014 onwards is up on Page 45’s website for free! Please add new titles you know you will want to your Standing Order here (or start up a new one) as soon as possible and you will be guaranteed copies! Alternatively please pre-order directly online!

Either way, ordering the day after publication reduces your hopes dramatically and may induce tears, making your mascara run so that you look like a raccoon. It’s not a good look.

Our Image Comics page includes Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C #1 What’s this? It’s Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C previewed here!

ITEM! Page 45 proudly announces its Lizz Lunney Megastore! A one-stop shop for all Lizz’s self-published comics and notebooks and cards. If it’s in print, we’ve got it!


Also: don’t forget Lizz Lunney’s TAKE AWAY, the TINY PENCIL anthology artefact, the HIC & HOC HUMOUR anthology and Page 45’s exclusive Lizz Lunney greetings card!

“You always have friends when you have comics.”

– Stephen