Reviews October 2014 week two

Zoey is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl.

Well bloody hell.

  – Dominique on A Voice In The Dark.

Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour…

“Earl… where you goin’, boy?”
“You know where I’m goin’.”
“Vietnam, huh. That’s a long damn way from here. Why you wanna go fight in some war that ain’t yours?”
“It’s the right thing to do, ain’t it?”
“Son, if you gonna go half ‘round the world just to die… least be honest with yourself about why you’re doin’ it.”
“Goodbye, Daddy. Goodbye, Craw County. Good Goddamn-bye, Alambama.”

Earl Tubb never expected he’d be back in Craw County. It’s taken the death of his father to bring him home. There’s his childhood house to clear out, purely to let a realtor put it on the market, before he can leave again, and those three days he thinks it’s going to take are three more than he wants to be there. There are the ghosts of too many memories still present, that much is apparent as our story opens with Earl driving a removal truck to his daddy’s out-of-town property, leaving a message for persons as yet unknown with his mobile phone.

I enjoyed reading Jason Aaron’s foreword. He was born in Alabama, in a small town called Jasper. About an hour away from the town of Guntersville where I spent eighteen very pleasant if bizarre months, funnily enough. I fully understand his comments regarding the deep south of the good ole United States of America… “The south is more peaceful than any other place I’ve ever been. But more primal too. More timeless. But more haunted. More spiritual. More hateful. More beautiful. More scarred.”

And I equally understand why he says he’ll never move back there. I encountered some wonderfully hospitable people who treated me like family, saw places of rugged, outstanding natural beauty, but it also has a darker, other-worldly quality that takes some explaining, never mind understanding. I saw a Christian preacher handling snakes in front of an enraptured congregation. I was given a lecture on how I was going to hell for my Buddhist faith whilst playing pool with a scantily-clad stripper in a titty bar. I watched someone sink a friend’s speedboat with a gun over a disagreement about their water-skiing prowess. And was proudly told by a thoroughly upstanding member of the community that they didn’t agree with the fact that their father had been in the Ku Klu Klan, and that they had nothing whatsoever against black people, but gays, well gays were the devil’s work. All without any hint of irony. And that would be a fairly typical week.

Drugs were everywhere, coke and crystal meth, long before it was made fashionable by a certain Mr. Heisenberg, lurking just beneath the friendly facade of a world where everyone, but everyone, says hello when they pass you by in the street. To not do so is a massive social faux pas expected only of those without manners and any sense of decorum. A civilised veneer overlaying the rather more torrid goings-on.

Alabama is also one of only two places I have ever managed to get myself arrested (the other being at the Polish-German border on suspicion of terrorist offences, but that’s a story for another time). The crime? Public intoxication, for having three beers in a bar and walking one hundred metres down the street to my hotel. The police, meanwhile, were not remotely interested in the departing drinkers getting in their pickup trucks and weaving merrily back and forth across the white lines whilst they made their respective ways home. A stranger on foot though, well, no doubt bound to be up to no good, and more importantly perhaps, just likely to pay the $100 fine after a night in the drunk tank being serenaded by an orchestra of snorers without kicking up too much of a fuss.

So I fully understand the character of this world and its denizens which Jason Aaron portrays for us here. Trust me, much like SCALPED, it is not our civilised world. It is a world perhaps best avoided if you should happen to stumble upon it. For Earl Tubb, though, finally back in the town as a older, if not wiser, bull of a man heading rapidly towards his pensionable years, where his sheriff daddy used to rule the roost armed only with a very large stick both at home and on the streets, well, he just seems to have finally decided he’s not prepared to walk away anymore.

He’ll wish he had.

You certainly get a sense of Clint Eastwood in Earl Tubb. There’s bad men running the town now, controlled it would seem by the local football coach, who was one of Earl’s teammates back in the day. Earl knows he should just let it go, pack up his removal truck and head on out of town. But… the manner of his leaving perhaps means he feels he has unfinished business. There’s seemingly no one prepared to stand up to the Coach and his thugs, so, when Earl receives what he takes to be a sign from his late, if not so much lamented, father, he makes a decision. There will be consequences.

Grotesquely brutal art from Jason Latour, much like R. M. Guéra on SCALPED, which will make you feel every punch, every kick, every baseball bat to the head. Teeth go flying, fingers are smashed, limbs mangled. It’s extremely hard-hitting stuff, with a spectacularly brutal and somewhat shockingly unexpected conclusion to this first volume. Then, just when I was reeling from that, you get the final sucker punch, as you find out just who Earl was leaving that phone message for…


Buy Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sugar Skull h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

If you’re lucky the cold light of day is much kinder.

Before Doug wakes up, his dream alter ego Johnny has infiltrated The Hive to bring his bed-ridden beloved the romance comics she craves, along with chocolates in a red, heart-shaped box. She knows she shouldn’t eat them – she is kept on a special diet to maintain her strict schedule – but Johnny insists she at least try one. When they wake up, there’s a problem.

It’s the sort of nightmare scenario, vividly and so horrifically portrayed, that could only happen in dreams.

But Johnny’s reaction is telling.

So BLACK HOLE’s Charles Burns concludes the trilogy begun in X’ED OUT then continued deep in THE HIVE in which Doug dwells on his Dad and casts his mind back on two failed relationships with Sarah then Tina, his early experiments with photography and performance art behind a Tintin-esque mask, and a deep-seated fear of flat-door intercoms. “Bzzzt!”

As with all finales it behoves me to avoid revealing much in the way of detail except perhaps the most minute details of all. There’s a scene in which Doug attempts to win a tortuously circuitous argument by shrugging off his own role in its potential resolution, knowing he’s doing so and so only looking Sarah’s way – more than a little sheepishly, to see if it’s working – once her back is turned. It’s a precisely judged expression.

A little later there’s a rare glimpse at Burns’ talent for exquisite photorealism – on the television screen at his father’s which is where Doug retreats to.

“I wanted a safe, dark place to hide.”


As the conclusion kicks off, Doug’s Dad has been dead for six years but still very much on his mind. Doug’s now seeing Sally and has mended his drug- and alcohol-addled ways, having been clean for one year, seven months and fourteen days. But the past tempts him back in the form of tickets from Tina to see a punk band called Animal Byproducts formerly known as Bacon. That was the band Doug used to perform alongside and whose bandmate Nicky originally introduced him to Sarah.

Foreshadowed throughout, we finally find out precisely what went wrong between Doug and Sarah.

There, I hope you’ve been tempted to try X’ED OUT and THE HIVE. If not, both books are reviewed with far less evasion, especially the nightmare aspects which are threaded throughout the trilogy and so successfully evoke the worst of my own!


Buy Sugar Skull h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Cat Book 1 (£7-99, DFC) by James Turner.

Meet Captain Spaceington, deadly serious action man of no-nonsense derring-do for whom everything is one big frown!

Shake multiple hands with monocular Science Officer Plixx, she of the green, squidgey tentacles!

“She may not know the difference between a proton and a neutron, but she’s always happy to whack them both with a hammer and hope for the best.”


Duck as the most supercilious android of all time, Robot One, casts aspersions on our frail human inadequacies whilst covering up its own lo-tech leanings!

Then fjidbt jablyt when The Pilot sets course for it-gives-not-a-crap-where while attending to anything more interesting instead! That incluses grbatifleds, plimbragrs and blagandrars. Accuracy is irrelevant, disdain is all! Be careful where you leave your loved chocolate puddings.

These are your zero heroes on board Star Cat, the latest and most sophisticated spaceship in blistery whose Super Computer houses a mouse, a mallard and a fish. They will save the galaxy and many more chocolate bars besides from the vaguest of vampires, the worst ice-cream ever and that rage-prone rogue, the two-dimensional Dark Rectangle destined to fall flat on his back along with his paper-thin posse.

“Luckily I’m a Black Belt in Origami!”
“Ooh! Make me into a little hat!”

THE PHOENIX weekly comic for kids and its publisher DFC have become hallmarks of both literacy and lunacy, and this is no exception. LONG GONE DON, GARY’S GARDEN, BUNNY VS MONKEY, CORPSE TALK… even its art book, Neill Cameron’s HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS, is hilarious while its puzzle book, VON DOOGAN, is also a thrilling interactive comicbook adventure!

Nothing escapes the ever-ready eye of Captain Spaceington. Everything escapes Science Officer Plixx.

“Red alert! Raise shields! Evasive manoeuvres! Activate repulsor fields! Pack away the board games!”
“Aye aye, sir!”

*waggle* *turn* *press* *push*

“You have no idea what those controls do, do you?”
“None at all, sir!”

The cartooning is exquisite – almost every expression guarantees grins – while the timing is immaculate. Some of my favourite jokes revolve around their space ship being a cat.

“Pilot, activate Hyper Warp, Level 5!” commands Captain Spaceington.
“Sbejtift,” replies that boss-eyed Pilot, yanking on a lever.

Cue external shot of the hybrid cat-craft, its gormless eyes staring to camera as a hatch in its head springs open. Then the final panel on the page reveals the elusive, rocket-science secret to the last-resort Hyper Warp 5: a dangling, giant, red ball of wool. The cat’s eyes spy it in a perfectly pitched moment of silent ellipsis…

… And boom!

James Turner is in absolute command of these bottom-page ellipses. There’s another in the very first episode when a space mouse in search of space cheese is considered space harmless, yet no one can work out why The Pilot is strapping itself in for dear life.

Clue: the pilot is also a cat.

As the space mouse passes outside, the Star Cat spaceship opens one eye and spots it…


Buy Star Cat Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.


A new Young Readers’ graphic novel from the headwear-conscious creator of THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK and with writer Mac Barnett on board, hats are no longer the issue.

Nothing here is missing, but an awful lot is missed.

On Monday, you see, Sam and Dave dug a hole.

“When should we stop digging?” asked Sam.
“We are on a mission,” said Dave.
“We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.”

And so dig they do. They dig and dig deep. They dig so deep that their heads disappear underground, and then they dig deeper still. They are, I would remind you, on a mission!

So intent are they on this Important Excavation, what they don’t seem to have noticed is that their dog has embarked on this mission too. Or they’ve forgotten. The dog happened to be standing between them when work first commenced and looked a little dubious from the start. On the cover his eyes are to camera, as if to say, “What a bunch of buffoons”.

Yes, Sam and Dave should probably take a little more notice of their dog.

But they do have a lot of digging to do…

Brilliant! As with both THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK the words tell one story while the images reveal the truth! That’s what makes this comics.

What they also share is a comedic oblivion.


Buy Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Hospital Suite (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by John Porcellino…

Powerful, oh my…

“As the days passed by, despite my condition, things began to take on a startling clarity.
“The whole world seemed to be glowing…
“The trees, the squirrels, the grass, the curbs on the corner.

“And I realised I wasn’t afraid to die.”

I was moved to tears at several points reading this autobiographical tale of ill-health, physical and mental, and also marital breakdown from the creative genius behind KING-CAT COMICS. (Long-time Page 45 review readers will know it goes without saying, but I was on the tram at the time, of course…)

John Porcellino lays himself bare and simply takes us on his journey. You can’t help but feel such empathy for him reading this as he is put through the wringer by a long-undiagnosed medical condition.

He does a fantastic job of gradually self-diagnosing the root of his problem over time, when myriad healthcare professionals seem at a complete loss, but there is extreme punishment to endure along the way as his body and mind play havoc with him, with chronically painful episodes requiring surgical intervention and crippling, recurring bouts of OCD  that paralyse him completely. It’s testament to his ever-evolving Zen Buddhist faith that he has the indomitable will to carry on, where others would perhaps simply give in.

Yes, there are dark days, some very dark days, but once you have glimpsed the true nature of reality, touched it directly as happened to Jon during some of his physically weakest moments, as the line between life and death began to blur slightly, as he describes above, it gives you an inner strength to endure, and endure he does. There are some experiential aspects of faith it is impossible to put into words, they are by their very nature beyond words and ineffable, but John does a wonderful job of expressing the profound joy and deep serenity they bring. As a balm to the suffering, they are like no other.

Ultimately this is a work about transformation and perseverance. Positive change in one’s circumstances, of any sort, inward or indeed outward, can’t come without hard work. Also, you do need a lot of it to become one of the best autobiographical comics creators of your generation – of any generation – which John most certainly is. With a body of work stretching over decades that’s ultimately uplifting and illuminating in equal measure, he’s a genuine treasure. A triple treasure perhaps. (Sorry, a little Zen in-joke I couldn’t resist.)

I wish him continued good health and all the happiness in the world. Keep shining your light, John.


Buy The Hospital Suite and read the Page 45 review here

Loverboys h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gilbert Hernandez.

“Mrs Paz! How many people live in Lágrimas?”
“Well, last time I checked, it was six hundred and seventy-seven, Daniela.”
“Of course a teacher would know the answer! Thanks!”

Mrs Paz turns away from her window.

“Lágrimas… Tears…”

Whenever someone asks for recommendations we first enquire what they’re already into in this or other media, then what sort of a comic or graphic novel they’re after that particular day.

Matching the right books to the right people is crucial, and it’s very easy now there is so much quality and diversity in comics: plenty of politics, masses of memoirs, so much sci-fi, enough crime to fill the average jail cell and quite enough comedy to keep you chortling until you choke. You’ve seen our Young Adult sections, right? Plural, yes.

However, occasionally we’re asked for romance and although we fall far from short in that department too, when asked for romances to make you feel better, well… relationships do not end well in comics! Think about it: Adrian Tomine’s SHORTCOMINGS, Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY (she’s dead at the start of that one!), Julie Maroh’s BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (ditto!) Will Eisner’s THE NAME OF THE GAME and even Simone Lia’s FLUFFY can’t be counted on for that!

There is one Los Bros Hernandez graphic novel that gives one unexpected cause for optimism, but if I reveal which one then I’ve rather spoiled it for you. Then there’s quite of lot of Yaoi which is inexplicable give how fucked up most of the protagonists are, and I guess there’s Tomine’s SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE. That ended well: he got married!

But I tell you, we do struggle.

In the small town of tears called Lágrimas young Daniella is suspicious of a strange building, determined to avoid school and toying with idea of blowing up the school building or even the entire town with dynamite. I’m not sure where she’d get some. Now she’s discovered that Mrs Paz will be her new school teacher come Monday and she’ll be giving them a big test immediately. She settles on the more practical solution of pinching Mrs. Paz’s cell phone and cribbing the answers off that.

Meanwhile, her old brother Rocky who looks after her in their parents’ absence is studiously fending the off the advances of his beautiful boss. He only has eyes for his former high school teacher, Mrs. Paz. She isn’t young. She has the worry lines of someone to whom life could have been kinder and a faraway look in her eyes. But with rich, dark hair and eyes to match she remains very handsome indeed.

“Will you go out to dinner with me?” asks Rocky.

Once again, there is that faraway look in her eyes, the top half of her face in close-up. She hasn’t turned round.

But on the very next panel she’s seated at the restaurant with Rocky, and her face has lit up. She’s now wearing lipstick and a simple, elegant necklace.

At which point I refer you back to the beginning of my sales pitch and leave you to wonder what happens next.

This is an original A5 graphic novel completely separate from LOVE AND ROCKETS. At eighty pages it’s a relatively slight affair compare to MARBLE SEASON or JULIO’S DAY but I found it charming. Well, the first fifty pages or so. After that some people start losing their charm, others their tempers, but the first fifty pages have a certain stillness to them. Some of the eyes in particular are very quiet. Also, I notice that with one exception the men are all straight, perpendicular lines – only the women have curves.

So often there is a strong element of folklore in Beto’s books. Jaime’s as well, now I think of it. And quite often that folklore’s proved true.

Lastly, as ever, the children with their often ill-informed perspectives play not inconsiderable roles, and come out with the bluntest of questions.

“How come your name is still Mrs. Paz? Just in case Mr. Paz ever comes back?”



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

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

“Oh, there’s a bump bump bumperhead here! Thumpin’ bumpin’ bumper! El Bumpo!”
“What, you’ve never seen a ten ton bumposity before? Bump thumper! Ba-ba-ba-bumpus!”
“Bump. Bump.”
“WHOOSH! Bump. Bump.”
“Don’t get mad, bumpo! BUMP BUMPO BUMP!”

“Why, God? Why did you curse me with a bumperhead?”

His head, of course, is not that big or oddly shaped, but it is enough for Bobby to attract the unwelcome attention of his older neighbours. You never know with Gilbert what autobiographical material gets recycled into his works, by his own admission, but I will bet a pound to a penny, he knew someone who was just such an unfortunate in his childhood days.

Anyway, happily for Bobby, the Bumperhead moniker soon gets dropped and in fact he starts socialising with his tormentors, once the age difference starts to become less meaningful as they grow up and discover the holy trinity of most boys’ teenage years: music, girls and drugs.  In fact, he is a bit of a ladies’ man, our Bobby, changing his favourite highschool squeeze with a regularity even one Arthur Fonzarelli would approve of, I’m sure. He’s not quite so motivated in the schoolwork arena though, so as his peers start to go off to college and thus onwards and upwards to bigger and better things, he begins the first of many menial jobs, seeding a future social inequity between himself and others that will continue to flourish.

This lack of commitment, to relationships, to learning, to a career, is the major theme of Bobby’s existence, and it’s something that whilst he recognises is the source of much, indeed all of his suffering, he seems unable or unwilling to change his trajectory. There are glimpses of what his life might end up like, all too visible, in the shape of his own father. But again, Bobby’s either too stubborn or reluctant to see, and more importantly admit, that his own potential future is staring him right in the face. It’s like he has subconsciously accepted his fate, whilst all the while blithely assuming something is just going to come along and change everything for him.

You can see one of Gilbert’s favourite recurring themes, our formative years, explored thoroughly again here as he did so successfully in MARBLE SEASON, whilst also following the JULIO’S DAY near-cradle-to-grave story arc process of one person’s life. I think it’s great Gilbert is in such prolific form at this period of his career; he clearly has many stories left to tell, and clearly is no slacker in the application department himself.


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

Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins…

‘We were all quite surprised when the high street left us.
It just stood up one day and said: “I’ve had enough of the empty shops and the bookies and the vomit. If I’m dying I’m bloody well doing it in style.”
So it went off travelling and after Andean trekking and skydiving in Chile, and a torrid affair with the Champs-Élysées, it finally expired during a PADI course off the coast of Mauritius. It gets a lot of visitors now…
“And to your left you can see the world’s deepest Gregg’s.”’

Do you know, I think this may be the most beautifully illustrated collection of gag strips I have ever seen. Each one is an exquisitely drawn and gorgeously coloured joy to behold.

Whereas most cartoonists have just one style, here every strip is appropriately rendered with incredible attention to detail. I think he ‘just’ does one a week for the Guardian, so obviously he doesn’t have to churn them out on a daily basis, but still, they are wonderful. I wouldn’t characterise them as laugh-out-loud funny gags, more pithy, expertly constructed tableaux that will make the corners of your mouth twitch gently into a smile. Those of you who have read his excellent graphic novel THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL will appreciate his refined sense of absurdist humour already.

With that said, one or two of the more ribald ones that are included in this collection did make me giggle, I must say, with Gwyneth Paltrow bemoaning to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg the mysterious appearance of a massive kebab, right in the middle of the emotional bit of her ‘look back’ Facebook movie, my favourite. His jokes frequently skewer their targets from multiple directions, and you might well need to be up on the current affairs of the day and also rather less newsworthy detritus to fully get all the nuances of some of them, but overall I thought the rib-tickle hit rate was extremely high.

I can see this being an excellent stocking filler for those wishing to find something more discerningly humorous for their nearest and dearest this Christmas. I’ll certainly be buying my dad a copy, along with a new whoopee cushion.


Buy Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Lonesome Go (£29-99. Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane…

“But my destiny lay elsewhere. So I rented a room in a flophouse on Valencia Street for fifteen bucks a night.
“There was an outdated neon sign outside my window that blinked and buzzed theatrically.
“The room was stuffy and the walls seemed to sweat. The air was dense enough to congeal in my lungs.
“I cut off my hair. I washed myself in the sink.
“In the early morning, while the junkies argued in the street, I asked God to shine his light.
“I slept in my sleeping bag rolled out on top of my bed.
“I spent my nights following the Mariachi musicians as they made their rounds from one Mexican restaurant to the next…
“… Watching as they divved up their tips in deliberate silence, tucked into shadowy alleyways between taquerias.”

Phew, Tim Lane really ups the Burroughs factor in this quasi-sequel to ABANDONED CARS. This is a considerably weightier tome at nearly three times the length. If that work proclaimed itself as the ‘Great American Mythological Drama’, this is heading way, way beyond that, deeper into the metaphorical heart of darkness. Again, it’s a narrative of sorts detailing a journey, less autobiographical this time I think, at least I hope so, interspersed with all manner of strange vignettes, bizarre adverts, short pieces of prose and even song lyrics. The overall effect is disorientating and disturbing in equal measure, clearly quite deliberately so.



Yes, Tim Lane wants you to feel disgusted and possible a little aroused by what he is showing us, I’m sure. It’s a freak show of the veritable American heartland laid bare. I came away, just like ABANDONED CARS, feeling somewhat sullied and perturbed for the experience.  The most disturbing thing of all is we know he’s really only showing us what horrors are truly out there, if we were foolish enough to go looking in the wrong places. He may have strayed into the realms of the unreal, with the more surreal elements perhaps, but not by much, perhaps not at all.

There are also some uplifting moments in here though, punctuating the tension and leavening the insanity. I was particularly touched by the ‘Pacific Ocean Or Bust!’ monologue that is pure Kerouac in its Beat faux-Zen optimism. Though I’m not entirely sure whether he is trying to offer up any hope, or merely demonstrate its futility in the face of the overwhelming chaos of existence. Maybe a bit of both, just to keep us off balance emotionally, before he moves on unabated.

But these moments are like rays of sunshine during the darkest of days, something to cling onto during the maelstrom that is this work. He’s a very talented writer Tim Lane I think, and as before, with his rawer than Charles Burns’ BLACK HOLE-esque art style, well, he knows just how to burn his dystopic visions into the very fabric of our souls. I don’t know where it will all end, I really don’t. If you’ve ever seen the 1998 film Dark City, it’ll probably be something like that…


Buy The Lonesome Go and read the Page 45 review here

Doctors (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw…

“I’m sorry I took the form of your daughter.
“She gave me permission… she was the only person in your mind I thought you would listen to…
“I’m sure you must be very confused.”

Ah, Dash Shaw, a man who loves his metaphysics, philosophy, speculative thinking and just generally fucking with your head in his comics. Here he manages to not only do that with us but also his characters as, after their expiration and entry into the unknown limbo of what lies beyond, they are going to get a rather unexpected wake-up call.

For Doctor Cho has invented a device called the Charon, allowing for the temporary resuscitation of a deceased individual – though only for a finite number of day or weeks – in theory to allow loved ones to say their final goodbyes properly, and the reanimated to set their affairs in order. It’s a top secret procedure, of course, available only to those ultra-wealthy and in the know, as Doctor Cho and his assistant, his daughter Tammy, are understandably wary of what would happen if the wider world found out.

There’s just one small, weeny catchette. So far, every single patient they have brought back – by inserting them into someone’s remaining consciousness in the guise of a loved one to tell them they have passed over but can return if they so choose – has ended up going stark raving bonkers. It’s probably not going to be too long before the authorities cotton on to what’s happening…

Great fun, this, and nice to see Dash doing something fairly short form but still substantial, plot-wise. I do love his really brief minis like NEW JOBS and 3 NEW STORIES, but you don’t get enough with those to get a handle on what his writing is really like, and his very chunky longer works like BODYWORLD, THE BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35th CENTURY A.D. and NEW SCHOOL can possibly look a bit daunting for those unfamiliar with him, I suspect. This, I reckon, neatly encapsulates what he’s all about: surreal, haunting, hilarious pieces that are illustrated in his own inimitable fashion in what looks like pretty much just a black felt tip pen. He makes it look so bloody easy, but in reality, that’s just another way he’s fucking with you.


Buy Doctors and read the Page 45 review here

A Voice In The Dark vol 1 (£14-99, Image Comics) by Larime Taylor –

Messed-up stories messed-up people doing messed-up things are (judging by what we seem to like reading and watching on TV) fascinating to us. We love seeing the world from a skewed viewpoint, travelling a totally different, dangerous path and from that fascination some of our greatest stories – horror stories in particular – have come.

Messed-up stories featuring messed-up women doing messed-up stuff, however, tend to be of a very stilted ilk. A (very) few notable exceptions aside, they usually involve heavy doses of tits ‘n’ ass, voyeurism and some version of “Oooooh, I’ve been a very bad girl” along the way. They are generally devoid of plot or character development and are all about titillating the audience until the main girl finally “gets” whatever it is that is apparently “coming to her”. It’s still quite rare, especially in a horror / crime context that we get to see a complex, competent female character that isn’t defined primarily by sex or sexual vulnerability but rather by, you know, all those millions of other things that other characters (a.k.a. male ones) get to be defined by. Obsession, anger, revenge, ego, loyalty, love, passion, moral outrage – Zoey (the main character here) is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl. Well bloody hell.

So, yes, Zoey is the serial killer. When we meet her she has “only” killed once but clearly it’s not going to stay that way for long, because she did rather enjoy it. She feels bad about it, but she definitely did enjoy it all the same. And she’s clever enough and disciplined enough to get away with it, at least for a while, I would guess. The whole murdering thing aside, you’d have to say she’s a good person and that the lives of the people around her, (her sister, her new roommates, her Uncle who’s a Homicide Detective, ooopsie!) would be poorer without her in them. She’s a little reserved at first but once you get to know her she’s warm, clever and interesting. She’s a thinker, a realist and she only really murders people who are kind of dickheads so…

Well yes, it’s murder and clearly that’s not OK and there will have to be a reckoning at some point. But meeting Zoey and following her story through this first volume you can’t help but think that, for the moment at least, the only person who’s in a position to dictate how this all plays out is Zoey herself. She knows what she is doing in every sense of the phrase and watching her come to understand this darkness within herself is far more entertaining and fascinating than a lumbering chainsaw wielding maniac chasing an inexplicably bra-less girl through the woods could ever be. Clever, funny, dark, delicious stuff.


Buy A Voice In The Dark and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey.

“What are you supposed to be?”
“I’m the one you see coming.”

Here’s what you need to know about Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight: he’s barking mad. Or at least we thought he was.

Turns out he’s merely brain damaged, his brain colonised by an ancient consciousness with whom he communes late at night. It appears to him as a cobwebbed, skeletal humanoid in the same white suit Spector wears, it’s skull reminiscent of a Plague Doctor with a big beak. Maybe this is a reference to the Benu Bird, I don’t know. Spector believes it’s the Egyptian god Khonshu under whose statue he died before rising again from the dead with four individually functioning personalities to protect travellers in the night – dreamers included.

The storytelling is as efficient and effective as Moon Knight himself: sparse dialogue with the narration left largely to Declan Shalvey using a lot of landscape panels. There are six self-contained chapters, each with a succinct, one word title and a colour scheme of its own heralded by the covers. Green was particularly well deployed. The last is a reversal of the first and so it is inside, following the repercussions of a dismissive discussion in chapter one.

There Ellis swiftly establishes a new aesthetic and modus operandi.

Rather than descend, crescent-caped from a ‘copter, Spector sits sedately in the back of a whit, voice-controlled stretch-limousine, calmly coordinating technology to take him to the scene of a crime. He inspects the scene of that crime. He doesn’t exactly consult with the cops although he does acknowledge their presence. He analyses, deduces and decides on a unilateral plan of action.

He is, in short, a gentleman in a gentleman’s attire, and he will take matters into his own more-than-capable hands with the maximum preparation that’s possible for an impromptu operation with the minimum of fuss.


The action is swift, clipped and decisive.

There is something slightly Ditko-esque in Declan Shalvey’s side-stepping, white-suited squire and the way he descends through the city’s strata. Maybe it’s more Dean Mutter’s MISTER X – unlike Mark I never read enough of that. Regardless, I loved the way he strides to the scene, all matter-of-fact and determined, without a care in the world for how he’s perceived, gimp-mask and all. I also loved Jordie Bellaire’s complete disinclination to colour him in costume: it’s pure black and white. Spectral.

The second story starts out using panels in a similar structure to Ray Fawkes’ ONE SOUL and, more recently, THE PEOPLE INSIDE whereby the same panel every page is devoted to a single individual at the same time until each is taken out by a sniper one by one. The panel then disappears leaving a stark, empty space for Ellis to fill with narration, should he be so inclined. He is not.


Buy Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jim Henson,  Jerry Juhl & Roger Langridge.

Ian Herring’s colours on Langridge’s line-art are a joy.

There’s not a spot of black. The closest you’ll get even at night is a purple, and that’s not as dark as it looks.

As to what he’s done when there’s music in the air, it’s like ten of the most expensive Catherine wheels going off in your living room all at once. Which is not as good an idea as it sounds.

As to the Musical Monsters, they’re an instantly recognisable Jim Henson / Dr. Seuss hybrid: strange, colourful, adorable.

However, if you take a look at the photo Jim Henson took in 1968 in the woods behind his house (reprinted on the inside front cover)… well, it’s quite a surprise. The original puppets Don Sahlin built from Jim Henson’s designs which Jim then posed with his children amongst the undergrowth (it was always going to a be show set outside) are a perfectly camouflaged dark, mossy green. Their eyes are bright and shiny, but their fur is scraggy, scruffy and matted like they’ve all jumped in a stagnant pond and haven’t yet dried off.

Now, I like that look – I love it. But I think it goes some way to explaining why the proposed TV show was never optioned.

As to actual graphic novel, I found it all a bit obvious. Eccentric, loving family – already persecuted by pitchfork-wielding, irascible neighbour Mister Sump who is determined to lay claim to their land – befriends music-loving, rock-munching, non-monstrous monsters which then provide the perfect excuse for Mister Sump to terrorise them further.


The gag that did make me laugh early on was the poor man who’s finally finished painting his huge “Welcome To Turkey Hollow” sign (Human Population 28; Turkey Population 3,687). He’s just had to change 28 to 27 and now another truck-load of caged turkeys passes by, either to be released into a farmer’s open enclosure or on their way to the Turkey Burger factory 50 yards up the road.

Take your pick: either up or down, that population just changed substantially.


Buy Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/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?

 Blacksad: Amarillo h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Best American Comics 2014 h/c (£18-99, HMH) by various including Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, R. Crumb, Raina Telegemeier, Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault, Tom Hart, Brandon Graham, Chris Ware, Ron Rege Jr, Michael DeForge, Theo Ellsworth edited by Scott McCloud

Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi with Jean-Pierre Verney

The Motherless Oven (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis

Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Zac Gorman

Crossed vol 10 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Christian Zanier

East Of West vol 3: There Is No Us (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors (£8-50, Amulet) by Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Jen Wang, Faith Erin Hicks, Johanne Matte, Jen Breach, Steve Hamaker, Douglas Holgate

The Goon vol 13: For Want Of Whiskey And Blood (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

In A Glass Grotesquely (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala

Regular Show vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom!) by various

The Unwritten vol 10: War Stories (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Al Davison

America’s Got Powers s/c (£13-50, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch

Batman vol 5: Zero Year – Dark City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Earth 2 vol 3: Battle Cry s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson, Paul Levitz & Nicola Scott, various

Green Arrow vol 5: The Outsiders War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez

Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido, Annie Wu

She-Hulk vol 1: Law And Disorder s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Javier Pulido, Ronald Wimberly

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 16-18 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Manga Dogs vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ema Toyama

Spice & Wolf vol 9 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Vinland Saga Book 5 h/c (£16-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura


ITEM! Equality versus Equity – such a clear, clever image brought to my attention by comicbook creator Kate Brown (@autojoy on Twitter).

ITEM! Jamie McKelvie (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE) posted some fan art he’d drawn 10 years ago. Super-sweet!

ITEM! FLUFFY and FLUFFY VISITS PAGE 45 and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND’s Simone Lia has a revamped website including pages from BAD MOTHER for you to read.

ITEM! ELLERBISMS’ Marc Ellerby visits Page 45 for the first time ever! I was so stoked! Here is Marc Ellerby with John Allison on Page 45’s counter.

ITEM! SelfMadeHero to publish Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! There’s a link there to some beautiful blue art!

ITEM! Gorgeous roofscape by Ian McQue! Believe it or not, that is a work in progress. Compare it with this interior art from Robert M. Ball’s DARK TIMES below:

ITEM! Well impressed by Salgood Sam’s DREAM LIFE preview pages! Such a lot of work has gone into them. If you too are impressed you can buy the graphic novel in print or digitally by following this link.

ITEM! HOW TO DRAW AWESOME COMIC’s Neill Cameron continued his Comics And Literacy campaign for Young Adults throughout the whole of last week. You can read his final post there with links to the others.

ITEM! Andrew Waugh has a new website: clean, elegant, full of beautiful art.

ITEM! A lot of American Comic Conventions stopped being comic conventions a long time ago, but it’s only getting worse. Here the The Beguiling’s manager and Toronto Comic Arts Festival explains exactly what’s wrong and why these conventions are so wrong for comics.

ITEM! Thankfully The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is ALL about comics. AND IT IS ALMOST UPON US!

ITEM! Glyn Dillon (THE NAO OF BROWN) and Fumio Obata (JUST SO HAPPENS) have an exhibition of original art in The Warehouse Café in Kendal. If you’re up for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival this October, make sure you visit!

ITEM! Page 45 Celebrates its 20th Anniversary on 17th October 2014 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. So much going on in our very own comicbook-creator-crammed room.

As to my own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, it is now in the can!

Which is an odd place to give it, I grant you.

Page 45 Signings Schedule in Georgian Room, Comics Clock Tower

Saturday 18 October 2014:

Main Tables

10am – 12pm   Scott McCloud
2pm – 4pm       Glyn Dillon

Table 1

10am – 2pm      Dan Berry & Kristyna Backzynski
2pm – 6pm        Lizz Lunney & Joe List

Table 2

10am – 2pm      Jack Teagle & Joe Decie
2pm – 6pm        Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Table 3

10am – 2pm      Sarah McIntyre & Warwick Johnson – Cadwell
2pm – 6pm        Fumio Obata & Dan Berry

Sunday 19 October:

Main Tables

2pm: arrival of 24 hour comic marathon limited edition comics and all creators available

Table 1

10.30am – 2pm     Liz Lunney & Donya Todd
2.30pm – 5pm      Fumio Obata & Joe Decie

Table 2

10.30am – 2pm     Sarah McIntyre & Dan Berry
2.30pm – 5pm      Warwick Johnson Cadwell & Joe List

Table 3

10.30am – 2pm     Jack Teagle & Kristyna Backzynski
2.30pm – 5pm       Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Please see Page 45 20th Anniversary At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival blog for more details including my own show-and-tells, The Art Of Selling Comics talk, and the Page 45 Booze Bash on Friday 17th October!

– Stephen

P.S. Click on this cover for the coolest comic in town!


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