Archive for November, 2014

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week four

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

It is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

 – Stephen on Joe Sacco’s Bumf

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard…

One of my  favourite Lovecraft yarns, this, featuring heavily as it does Nyarlathotep, he of a thousand forms and indeed mangled pronunciations.

Ian did try and instruct me in the correct pronunciation when he popped in to sketch in all our copies but unfortunately my dulcet northern tones were not able to effect the correct enunciation, which is probably just as well as I have insufficient sanity points to begin with and can scarce afford to lose any more through an injudicious summoning of the emissary of the Outer Gods…

Note: at time of typing all of those sketched-in-for-free copies have gone so the moral of the story is “Pre-order, please…!”

I do like how each of these four Lovecraft adaptations demonstrate a very different aspect of the Cthulu mythos and H.P.’s writing. I have commented upon it before but AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a real Boys’ Own Adventure, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD a puzzling whodunit, THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME a piece of pure science fiction and a real Rosetta Stone to understanding the mythos, and then this, a veritable hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a trip to the darkest recesses of the human mind, to the dimensional spaces beyond those we can normally access in our waking lives.

I think this tremendous variety in the scope of his writing is partly the reason why Lovecraft has endured. That and we all love being scared senseless. In many ways, though he is not beyond some outright in-your-face horror when required, Lovecraft frequently taps into humanity’s deepest and most complex subconscious fears, that of losing the sense of self, one’s sense of identity, our very coherence of reason itself, by the mere suggestion that there is far more to this world, this unimaginably vast, cold universe, than meets the eye. That in those spaces which we can sense but cannot see, there are beings that lurk, so alien, to encounter them directly would be enough to destroy the delicate balance of one’s mind forever. At least one such victim does shop at Page 45, I think, and he once engaged me in a conversation regarding Lovecraftian characters in such a manner I was left thinking he quite believed they were absolutely real… I kid you not.

[Editor: he told me he began reading Lovecraft aged 4. It showed.]

That very variety and complexity also means Lovecraft is very hard to adapt, of course. In every case I think Ian has done an incredible job deconstructing the work, really allowing the core story to stand out in a manner which makes it sufficiently rich and rewarding enough for the aficionados but also completely accessible for the neophytes. I would be astonished were there not readers out there who have been occasioned to commence reading Lovecraft prose on the basis of encountering these adaptations.

So… Randolph Carter begins to search for the hidden city of Kadath because he has dreamt three times of its glorious spires but awoken each time abruptly just before he can reach it. Repeated prayers to the gods of dream go unanswered, even for the next issue of SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finally arrive, but Carter resolves to find Kadath, no matter what the cost.

What follows is a strange, shifting journey, that on the face of it makes no sense at all, but viewed within the confines of the sleeping world seems not so fanciful at all. Along the way he will encounter strange entities and apparitions, some rather less friendly to travellers than others, and also the sinister Nyarlathotep in more than one of his many guises. Carter, desperate to tread the streets of the hidden city at last, is rather more trusting than he really ought to be. Obsessed, he starts to believe that there could be no possible fate worse than not reaching Kadath. He ought not to be so sure about that…

I can imagine this may well have been the most fun of the adaptations for Ian to undertake, from the perspective of the illustration, because there are the elaborate soaring sequences of pure fantasy which must have been a true delight to envisage. In fact, the book is arguably simply one long fantasy sequence. It’s certainly not as dense or intricate a story as many of his others, a fact which Lovecraft acknowledged during his lifetime, but it is an immensely vibrant, fevered construction, which engenders a sense of both wonderment and unease in the reader, and Ian captures this beautifully with his stygian, soporific cast and wild dreamscapes and netherworlds.

The wonderment comes because we are willing Carter along on his extraordinary journey, but also significant unease because we can see his most fervent desire is blinding him to both obvious dangers at virtually every turn, but also the malevolent, manipulative wiles of others, not least Nyarathotep. Will Carter finally reach Kadath? Well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil it for you would you? Suffice to say nothing is quite as it seems, with an ending that is in some ways as puzzling as it is enlightening, which I think is very appropriate indeed for the resolution to this most unusual of quests.

A true triumph once again, this adaptation, and I personally think Ian deserves great praise indeed for his own unique addition to the Cthulu mythos, which I believe all true Lovecraft fans will rightly hold in the highest regard.


Buy The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath and read the Page 45 review here

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry.

“Come with me to the island tonight.
“We will be alone, just me and you.”

All our copies are sketched in for free!

A haunting tale of love and longing, this is a million miles from THE SUITCASE’s sublime suburban comedy and closer by far to CARRY ME or THE END. Nevertheless it marks another departure for Dan Berry’s ever-evolving art.

NICHOLAS & EDITH has attracted an even wider chorus of voices to shout out in praise of Dan Berry than ever before. HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS’ Duncan Fegredo was in awe of this taut, disciplined and perfectly paced, lovelorn lament.

In a small village by a vast lake Nicholas and Edith are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers.

And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.

It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear.

But when you’re in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island. They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.

“I love you.
“I want you.
“I need you.”

I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan (THE MIRE in particular). When you’ve read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately.

Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.

Visually, things are done with Edith’s hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were! I want to holler so loud about Dan Berry’s craft. What I am praying for shortly is something longer-form so that I can do so without giving too much away.

So let’s pull back to the first two pages.

In the very first panel with its aerial view of the village by the lake we are subtly shown in short-hand so much: that the houses of different elevations have no gardens but instead open up on the streets. These streets boast modest pedestrian courtyards like Venice and other European towns and are planted with trees here in their autumnal colours. It’s beautiful. But there is very little privacy. Everyone is evidently straight in each other’s face.

On page two the script doesn’t say so but the art implies that Nicholas is a builder of boats and Edith sells fish. It is a fishing village after all. Neither is particularly important to the plot except that Nicholas has access to rowing boats but my point is this: Dan Berry understands succinct storytelling in comics: that the image can convey much that the written word can therefore skip past and move immediately on to that which is salient.

The washes are looser than usual and I like that. I’ve always loved loose washes. I cannot believe this was accomplished in a mere 24 hours, pre-planning or no. But it was, as part of Dan Berry’s masterful, multi-creator 24 Hour Comics Marathon for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

This prolific pioneer is a miniature British Comics Industry in his own right, just like John Allison. I heartily recommend you pop them both into our website search engine… but then let them out immediately so they can start drawing again.


Buy Nicholas & Edith and read the Page 45 review here

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.

”There’s been a serious fuck-up.”

No kidding.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth etc and it was all pretty splendid. It was a veritable Eden.

He did make one tiny cock-up as Anders Nilsen makes clear in THE MONOLOGUIST: GOD AND THE DEVIL AT WAR IN THE GARDEN:

He created man.

Years later, then, we’re about to go over the proverbial top in more senses than one. WWI. This is The Final Push:

“At the first whistle the men shall remove their books and uniforms and other articles of clothing.
“At the second whistle, the men shall sport massive erections.
“At the third whistle the men shall advance on The Hun trenches.
“The enemy is to be killed where he is found, and not just killed – the enemy is to be buggered.
“I want to be quite clear about that last point.”

As you may have gathered by now, this is not the Joe Sacco you know from JOURNALISM. Well, it is, but if you want more PALESTINE may I recommend FOOTNOTES IN GAZA, possibly my favourite Joe Sacco so far? This isn’t even BUT I LIKE IT which was early extracurricular activity as a rock and roll roadie.

BUMF – which has a sub-title we collectively decided need not grace our website – is a surreal and scathing satire on modern America, its Homeland Security, neo-Imperialist shenanigans, other military activity and war in general. It is no coincidence that the cast co-starring Joe Sacco, cartoonist, gradually divest themselves of clothes and pop lovely little cloth bags over their heads Abu-Ghraib-Prison-stylee. Or have it done for them.

A female American citizen-suspect, for example, is being interrogated (naked, with a lovely little cloth bag over her head) because Homeland Security became all bent out shape by her inactivity: they picked up no mobile phone signal to trace and track and she breached all modern surveillance standards by buying a pint of milk with cash rather than credit card. Not exactly hard evidence of culpability, the agents concede, but hardly proven innocence, either. Round her up, strip her, tie her to a chair and pop a lovely little cloth bag over her head! There’s tidy!

Here’s President Nixon (it works: this may be modern America in the dock but which President was last successfully impeached?) all at sea with his enablers and a wolf, disposing of an inconvenient dead body discovered in his bath tub.

“Does anyone know of an appropriate prayer, something from the scriptures, perhaps?”
“Afraid not, sir.”
“Well then, I’ll do my best… Man overboard.”

I’ll come completely clean: I opened this up and did not like what I saw. I saw a lot of male and female full-frontal nudity and however keen I am on male full-frontal nudity as a personal pleasure I don’t really do ribald and assumed that this was that. It is not: it is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

“Our hearts go out to the families,” he solemnly declares in situ from his portable podium.

Moments before he clusterbomb-fucks those families.

THE GREAT WAR, Sacco’s most recent triumph, is reprised in an even more savage double-page spread of trench warfare but on the whole this is a very different beast come round at last to Britain to be born, with each cheeky chapter signed in with variations on the theme of “By Joe “Heart And Humanity” Sacco ©2014”.

What a book! What a man! Infinitely more youthful and handsome than he makes out in his self-portraits, by the way.


Buy Bumf vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry.

“When I start feeling too concerned that all the words I write be very smart and about something worthwhile, I find my urge to write replaced with an urge to draw monkeys.”

Me too.

From the Wise Woman of Comics who brought you the inspirational WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS about rekindling creativity (but who also brought you the horrific yet hilarious fictional FREDDY STORIES) comes a lined school jotter of further artistic endeavour.

It’s a collection of notes, drawings and lessons Barry kept during her first three years teaching in Wisconsin-Madison University’s Art Department. Collated non-chronologically, they are still reproduced exactly as they appear in those journals and bound into a round-cornered, card-stock journal giving the effect of a facsimile.

It’s all about questions, exploring and demystifying art, how words and pictures are arrived at and what conditions best suit their construction, their… manifestation. The Image Lab, for example, is a shared space where individuals work on words and pictures in each other’s company – like Dan Berry and his fellow creators during the 24-Hour Comics Marathon – with Lynda wishing to examine what happens in that environment and why.

Many prose authors notoriously seek sanctuary in seclusion, while many artists thrive on sharing studios. Discuss.

“What is the difference between awareness and attention?” That sort of thing. Where do cartoon characters come from? Also, how long do pictures take to make a drawing? The answers aren’t as obvious as you might imagine.

As the title suggests there are plenty of tasks Barry set her students like sketching the same image within 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds, then 10 seconds and finally 5. Keeping diaries she finds essential but not necessarily traditional ones, as you’ll see. It’s all about observing what’s around you, and memory and recollection have always fascinated Barry (see WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS).

There are posters advertising her various classes to potential students emphasising that being able to draw is not a prerequisite for signing up but being willing to and desiring to are essential. There’s an emphasis on the exploration of the mind and on completing handmade compositional notebooks by the end of the semester (“⅓ of your grade”).

Fascinatingly there’s also a page in which she asks herself what qualities she seeks in a student (maximum twenty per class) and the questions she’ll ask them in order to assess whether they’re likely to benefit from the course and are therefore suitable. There are the questions you’d expect about academic history and indeed future plans, but also:

“What were some of the books you read as a kid?”
“What were some of the games you played?”
“Who was your favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Who was your least favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Was there an object of thing that disturbed you as a kid? Why?
“How do you feel about writing by hand?”

Well, I know how my colleagues feel about my writing by hand!!!

Oh, and then there are the dreaded grades but the homework looks enormous fun. I think I’ll do some of it right now with a glass of white wine. I wish I could do that at school. I wish we were set this sort of homework!


Buy Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Ted Naifeh…

“The word you’re looking for is diplomacy.”
“What you’ve come for. A means to put an end to war. I can teach you.”

How on earth to describe this work? It’s like a teenage Red Sonja attending a finishing school for Princesses because she wants to learn how to win friends and influence people, yet continually making social faux pas after faux pas, whilst all the brainless mean girls – who just want to marry a prince and pop out heirs and spares – bitch amongst themselves relentlessly about her. That really is it in a nutshell!

Obviously our axe-wielding heroine gets the meanest, most vain princess of all for her roommate, neatly setting up an ongoing farce of continually clashing opposites, though our two protagonists do gradually begin to earn each other’s grudging respect by the conclusion of this first volume. He does like his outcasts doesn’t he, our Ted? I think fans of COURTNEY CRUMRIN are clearly going to love this work. It is of considerably more knockabout humour for sure, mind you, though not as outrageously daft as, say, RAT QUEENS.



The gorgeous, wide-eyed expressive art style will be familiar to Crumrin fans too, and hopefully win Ted a legion of new fans because he is wonderfully talented. He’s one of those artists whom you find yourself gradually spending more and more time with, just taking in the art as you go along page by page because you start to spot some lovely detailing, which then inevitably leads you to spot some more, and then you start to realise just how much work he’s put in. This is a fun opener of something which is just that little bit different and promises to entertain and amuse in equal measure.


Buy Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros…

“No! I’m not ok! I’ve been lost in a forest, swallowed by a neuron, parachuted into a swarm of monsters and now I’ve almost drowned…
“What else is going to happen!?
“Who are you anyway?
“What’s going on in this submarine?”

Indeed. Perhaps I should let the captain of the submarine explain…

“Relax, my friend, you’re safe. I’m Sir Alan Hodgkin and this is my partner, Sir Andrew Huxley. Together we have been studying how a neuronal signal is actually generated. Here, let me show you…
“Look: electricity! This is the real secret of the brain!”

Have you ever wondered just how on earth the old grey matter works, but couldn’t be bothered wading through a textbook or even a copy of New Scientist? Then this is the graphic novel is for you. Much like the excellent EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA this work takes what is, on the face of it, an extremely complex topic and illustrates it in a witty yet illuminating fashion.

The creators, both Doctors, have gone for a kind of FANTASTIC VOYAGE approach as our unsuspecting wanderer is unexpectedly miniaturised and popped inside a human brain. All without even the aid of even a single Pym Particle! He’s not entirely left to fend for himself, though, for as he goes through each stage of our current knowledge of the physical structure of the brain and how it works, he is guided by the very scientists who discovered that particular functionality. Often there are a couple of the blighters, arguing about precisely who was responsible for the discovery or how they debunked the others’ theories. It’s a lovely little conceit that allows the creators to provide a historical record of the development of our understanding of this most complicated of organs, and also give some well deserved exposure to the people behind the scalpels and microscopes.

As the book moves on, and we reach the modern era, we come to some of the more intangible elements of our cranium and the conundrums and queries faced by today’s scientific minds, such as precisely what is consciousness, where does it arise, is there an unknown component beyond what can be purely explained by the physical? Big questions, which the creators wisely avoid putting forward their own suppositions for because, as they state, the golden rule of science is not making too many assumptions about the unknown.

There will be those that think this work doesn’t go far enough in exploring the nature of the brain and mind but, to be frank, they need to be less lazy and pick up that textbook, because as a wide-reaching introduction to the topic, aimed I would suggest at a fairly broad age spectrum, I think it is an excellent primer. Importantly, it’s written and illustrated in an exciting and engrossing manner that will hold the attention of readers, all the while informing them of the salient points, plus slipping in some very amusing visual gags along the way. I did particularly chuckle at the panel suggesting the existence of the narrators of the book relies on the brain of the reader, illustrated by a panel of someone reading UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud and having the proverbial light bulb turn on inside their head! Very funny.

Respect also I think to Nobrow for publishing this work. I know they work extremely hard to maintain an extremely high quality of output on the imprint and I think this book, whilst certainly rather different in content to other graphic novels they have published, is an excellent choice. And, as ever, with a Nobrow book, it just looks like a piece of art, with its navy blue cloth binding and intriguing silver and gold cover artwork. It certainly attracts the eye, and I can imagine many a casual browser will be lured in, light bulbs a-twinkling inside their bonces.


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

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

“Don’t get too excited, they’re mostly review copies. Younger writers are always looking for “blurbs”, one of the few words that sounds exactly as awful as the crime it’s describing.”

Bookgasm is right!

This glorious hardcover reprints the first three softcovers with additional process material in the back as Brian, Fiona and their various cohorts show you down to the most minute detail how a single issue of SAGA is creating from beginning to end. By “beginning” I mean Brian shutting himself off in his shed (it’s probably not a potting shed: I bet it has heating at least and far fewer spiders) and maps out each page in a single sentence before sitting down to write a full script.

It’s at this point he bursts into tears and pulls all his hair out. Ummm. So that’s how that happened.

It’s a relief to know that something that seems so effortlessly brilliant actually involves sweat and tears – actual tears. As well as a great deal of editing.

Fiona takes you through her own process from the clearest of thumbnails – you can see exactly what’s happening to the fully “painted” pages minus everything than the lettering. Although young Hazel’s narration? That’s Staples too.

And then there’s the cover and its design and the thought that goes into that blew me away. Sorry…? You want to know about the story itself,,,?

It’s beautiful, funny and completely unpredictable. New readers, I present you with… previously in SAGA:

Alana and Marko are in love. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon. Unfortunately their people have been at war for as long as anyone can recall. But both factions soon realised that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin out of orbit. Such an assault would be suicidal.

So what they’ve kindly done is they’ve taken their fight to other people’s worlds. Which is nice.

Marko was sent to the frontline, didn’t like what he saw and surrendered. Alana was his captor and freed him. Each, therefore, is now on the run from their respective species for treachery, desertion… and blasphemy. Because, worst of all, they’ve successfully mated to produce a beautiful baby called Hazel. This unholy union is despised by all sides and for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Marko’s people have dispatched The Will, a phenomenal assassin with a Lying Cat. It is a cat that can tell if you’re lying. Problematically, it has Tourette’s Syndrome so it is likely to say so right in the middle of your poker-faced bluff. Alana’s people have dispatched Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets. You’ll be surprised what pops up on his screen.

But Marko and Alana have at least found sanctuary in a semi-sentient, wood-based rocketship along with an impromptu babysitter from what’s left of Cleave’s indigenous population. She’s a floating, glowing, pink ghost of a girl with her lower half missing, trailing her intestines behind her.

Finally they arrive with Marko’s abrasive mother at the doorstep of monocular D. Oswald Heist, the avuncular author of the subversive romance novel that first brought the couple together. He has much to impart: wisdom, wit and cunning ways to win at board games.

He’s singularly smart at ensuring hot heads see eye to eye with him, even winning over Marko’s mother by being candid when it counts.

“They say it’s the worst pain imaginable, losing a child. But that wasn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong, my son’s death just about destroyed me. But if I’m being honest, nothing will ever hurt quite so deeply as the moment I heard the first person I ever really loved was gone. But I don’t need to tell you that, do I?”
“I wear it that plainly?”
“I’m guessing you lost him recently. For what it’s worth, your son will get better with time. And maybe you will, too. But if your spouse was anything like mine, I regret to inform you that the rest of your days will be, by and large, kind of shit.”

Vaughan has enormous fun using this author scenario to poke fun at himself via Heist who first presents himself to the family outside his lighthouse lurching under the influence with a gun in one hand, a bottle in the other, and urine-stained Y-fronts splayed between a dressing gown whose loose belt trails over the rocks beneath his pink-slippered feet.

“Over the years, we met every kind of person imaginable. But no one makes worse first impressions than writers.”

I cannot even quote what Heist says to earn that accolade, but you will guffaw. Like everything here it is handled with delicate – or even indelicate – aplomb by Staples, as is a later scene in which Alana has managed to strike the fear of God into Heist to the extent that his hands close weakly in tentative terror, held up almost in supplication. How has she done this?

“If you like kids’ books so much, why haven’t you ever written one?”
“Because it requires collaborating with an artist. And artists… terrify me.”

The Will, meanwhile, is nursing his ship’s wounds on a planet that seems like paradise, even if its flying fish are sharks which circle overhead. The age-old problem with paradise, of course, is that you have to be very careful what you eat. Haunted and taunted by his dead ex-girlfriend, The Will also has to contend with Marko’s ex-fiancée who doesn’t handle rejection very well. Nor unsolicited attention, for that matter. I really wouldn’t do that, The Will.

They have with them a girl whom The Will rescued from sexual slavery in SAGA VOL 1. She is bright, optimistic, yet suffering from the scars of what she was once made to do. In related news: the best-ever use of the Lying Cat which will elicit the biggest of “Awwws” from each of you and maybe a few choked-back sobs.

All our protagonists will converge before the end of this chapter which, I would suggest, concludes Act One. As surprising as anything and everything that precedes it, I think you will love the punchline.


Buy Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.

Containing LAZARUS VOL 1 s/c and LAZARUS VOL 2 s/c this is one of our Dominique’s favourite current series. It just gets better and better and bigger.

We’ll get to the story in a second, but the extras here which you won’t find in those softcovers include an intro by Warren Ellis, a process piece on this edition’s cover by Owen Freeman, writer Rucka “On World Building”, then the world which he built in the form a map.

Carved up by the families (and, wow, Family Carlyle control more of North America than I realised but not all areas are equally strategic), the atlas is followed by those sixteen families’ profiles, series designer Eric Trautman’s essay on the representation of computer screens and finally all those telling advertisements which say so much about this new world’s priorities.


I swear this will speak to you: a series centred on family, loyalty and power.

In the very near future America’s economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.

It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.

The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base.


But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:


This is where it gets really juicy.

Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight’s time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.

Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there’s that message:


I think I know who sent it.

Flashback to the Southern Sierra Nevada Facility where a young Forever is in training:

“I’m trying to remember… when was the last time I saw her, James?”
“On her birthday, Mister Carlyle… so just over five months ago.”
“Then this should be a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m sure it will. Forever! There’s someone here to see you.”

A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.

“I’m so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!”
“And is this the proper way to greet your father?”

She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.

“No, sir. Sorry, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again, father.”


I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn’t want Forever’s love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member – and a subservient one at that – to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.

“I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
“You’re not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol… or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter.”

In a later visit he even addresses her as “my daughter”. Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?

Forever’s relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.

As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka’s really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.

LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas.  He does youth – as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much – phenomenally well. There’s both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I’d employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever’s face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.

I’ve always loved Lark’s urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas’ subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.

As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.

I will shut up now before I’m accused of gushing.


Buy Lazarus: The First Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger.

Oh, the stuff Neil knows!

The third of four volumes celebrating the breadth and depth of SANDMAN’s rich cultural texture, specifically THE SANDMAN #40-55 along with THE SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 and ‘How They Met Themselves’ from VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3. Just like ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1 and ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 2 this measures 12″ x 12″ and comes in at roughly 550 black and white pages with plenty of space in the margin for the annotations.

Klinger’s previous annotated editions of Sherlock Holmes books have won awards but Gaiman always joked to his friend that he didn’t want SANDMAN annotating until after his death. Then Neil realised he was beginning to forget things. Armed, therefore, with an electronic archive of the scripts, notes and correspondences, Klinger’s own considerable knowledge and Neil as proof reader to correct any errors and point out new secrets, Klinger went away, sat down and delivered this: a casket of hidden treasure that could have been buried forever, now unearthed and unlocked for anyone who cares to marvel at it.

There are notes from Gaiman himself plus historical, geographical, medical, mythological, literary and other cultural references explored. For more please see my review of ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1


Buy Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.


Well, aren’t these two honeys?

[Ed: I suspect they are bumbles]

Are you a melittologist, now?

[… No…?]

Then let us continue. Aren’t these two honeys?

The Orange British Bee appears to be sitting sedately and gorging on nectar. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a farmhouse rose bush like I do, which flowers at least twice a year if you prune it properly. From May to September it is consequently covered in bees very much like this happy chappy. “Nom nom,” he is saying, though I am translating from “Bzzzzzz”.

I have a degree in bee.

The Yellow British Bee by contrast could be almost in flight or maybe he’s just contemplating it. He may be feeling drowsy after being knocked-up on nectar. I’m not normally so gender-specific but I’m on a roll since I correctly identified Simone Lia’s young FLUFFY as a boy bunny rabbit – fifteen years before Simone decided herself!

Also, I have a degree in bee and there are no princesses, only queens. Maybe there are some handmaidens, but I don’t think so. I only managed a Second.

Anyway, if you don’t have a ridiculously rampant rose bush like mine, maybe you’d still like to please your bees? Pleased bees buzz louder than their more disconsolate cousins.

Thinking ahead, therefore, our own Jodie Paterson has popped in a packet of wildflower seeds for you to sew in your garden or sprinkle over a flower pot which you can then balance precariously on your window sill, thereby adding a certain frisson of potential slapstick / litigation if ever it should fall from your four-storey, two-inch-wide ledge onto the naked noggin of Mrs. Dribble-Swift of 13 Calamity Close who famously fails to wear a builder’s hardhat even while walking to work.

Each card, printed on the most luxurious cream-coloured watercolour stock, comes with a sympathetically coloured beige envelope which itself has the texture of a wasp nest’s regurgitated pulp. Fibre in a diet is important.


Buy Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Fox Greetings Card and Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.


Aren’t these cousins cute?

I’m not convinced they’re actually cousins.

I only took Biology to A Level – and even then the scientists begged me to leave for the Arts (just like the Arts begged me to leave for the Sciences) – but I’m pretty sure these must be two different species. I don’t think it’s the same as a blonde boy marrying a sable-haired lady and their daughter or son turning out to be red-head then the in-laws accusing all and sundry of rampant infidelity. I don’t think it’s like that at all.

Both designs are exquisite.

The red fox’s ears are pricked right up, constantly scanning the countryside for sounds which might indicate a desperately desired winter-food source and perfectly valid prey close at hand.

That, or a blast of triumphalist trumpet indicating that a salivating swarm of over-privileged poshos are about to descend on it with rabid killer-hounds in order to rip it – plus its much-loved mate and children – limb from fucking limb just for the sheer bloody ballyhoo scream of it all.

Hahahaha, fuck you, foxes!

No, these are both beauties, the grey fox’s left ear (right as we perceive it) coming around like a cat’s in sympathy to sound it’s attracted to.

Both are printed on watercolour stock and come with an envelope equally classy in stock.

Nature: she is a thing, is she not?


Buy Grey Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Red Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Mistletoe Christmas Card and Candy Cane Christmas Card and Christmas Stocking Card (£3-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.


Limited editions, each of these three festive cards comes with a spangly, gold-foil envelope.

Oh my days, but the attention to detail here!

Printed on thick, vertically ridged, cream card-stock, each of these three limited-edition Christmas cards sent by you to your loved ones will say this:

“We think you’re worth more than a trite country snowscape reproduced at tuppence a pop.”

The sort of thing where the young man is patronising the lady he’s courting by holding her midriff, supporting her fumbling, flailing attempts to ice-skate round a townside lake whose ice probably ruptured mere minutes later with the town’s entire citizenship plummeting into the freezing-cold waters thus annihilating two if not three generations, and consequently leaving the town’s turkeys to burn themselves dry in the oven so that even the scampish scavengers rejected by the local orphanage fail to find so much as one juicy morsel.

“We would never send you one of them. You’re special. We love you. Also, we know that your letter box is tiny.”

That’s what any of these three limited editions will say to your friends.

What you say inside is entirely up to you.

I like the mistletoe best.

Mistletoe is poisonous, isn’t it?


Buy Mistletoe Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Candy Cane Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Christmas Stocking Card and read the Page 45 review here

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

It really is.

And what a cool card!

I adore the calligraphy perfectly positioned above the chilly blue snowflake; yet somehow the slogan’s “Baby” makes everything much, much warmer within. Don’t you feel that too? A little love goes a long way and this warms the cockles of my freezing-cold heart.

It’s deceptively simple yet inspired. Compositions as clever as this make my art-soul grin.

I must ask our Jodie how she came up with this, but not while she’s packing those eighteen graphic novels you ordered from us as Christmas presents because Swansea is a long way from Shoreditch and we must not distract her. We have a 48-hour order-to-door service to maintain.

Did I just throw in some advertising? I am a capitalist nightmare come true.

Watercolour stock with envelope. Classy!


Buy Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

King Shiba Inu and Robin Hood Shiba Inu and Fez Shiba Inu and Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Cards (£2-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.


Printed on a light cream watercolour stock and coming with a crisp white envelope, each of these pink-tongued puppies has a hat on its head.

I don’t know why: you’d have you ask Jodie.

I asked our Jodie and she said, “Can you pass me the Sellotape, please, Stephen?”

Which is very polite and fair enough: we are very busy at Page 45!

They aren’t actually puppies, that’s an expression. But I’ve never heard of this breed so I turn to Wikipedia instead.

“A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It looks similar to and is often mistaken for other Japanese dog breeds like the Akita Inu or Hokkaido, but the Shiba Inu is a different breed with a distinct blood line, temperament and smaller size than other Japanese dog breeds.It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.”

There you go!

Doesn’t explain the hats, though, does it?



Buy King Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy and Robin Hood Shiba Inu Greetings Card read the Page 45 review here

Buy Fez Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Card 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?

American Vampire vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder, various & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown

Arkwright Integral h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot

Axe Cop vol 6: American Choppers (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Grindhouse Midnight vol 2: Bride Of Blood | Flesh Feast Of The Devil Doll s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Federica Manfredi, Gary Erskine

Hinterkind vol 2: Written In Blood s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli

Incredible Change-Bots: Two Point Something Something (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown

Infinite Vacation h/c (£18-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Christian Ward

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c (£55-00, Locust Moon Press) by a multitude of talented artists

Oz: Road To Oz s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy

Royal Blood h/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui

The Shadow Hero (£12-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

Star Wars vol 4: Shattered Hope (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Zack Whedon & Carlos D’Anda, Facundo Percio, Davide Fabbri

Batman And Robin vol 4: Requiem For Damon s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Cliff Richards

Batman Eternal vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Jason Tynion IV, various & Jason Fabok, various

Batwoman vol 5: Webs s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marc Andreyko & Trevor McCarthy, Jeremy Haun, various

Catwoman vol 5: Race Of Thieves s/c (£13-50, DC) by Ann Nocenti, John Layman, Sholly Fish & Patrick Olliffe, Tom Nguyen, various

Justice League: Trinity War s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire, J.M.DeMatteis & Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis, various

Deadpool vol 6: Original Sin s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & John Lucas, Scott Koblish

Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman

Attack On Titan: Junior High vol 2 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Saki Nakagawa

Bleach vol 62 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Blue Exorcist vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Claymore vol 25 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Fairy Tail vol 44 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Opus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Satoshi Kon

Soul Eater vol 22 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo


ITEM! Fascinating and thrilling process piece by Sean Phillips on creating a stunning HELLBLAZER cover from start to finish!

ITEM! Wonderful Worle School starts filling up a display stand Page 45 sent them with the manga we supplied! Page 45 loves, loves, loves school libraries and school librarians. Young Adult Graphic Novels for Schools And Families as of May 2014 with links to our library services for all ages and demographics!

ITEM! Stephen Collins’ latest comic for The Guardian starring Tony Hart’s plasticine Morph. So sad.

ITEM! So UKip wins a second seat. But not really – it was another incumbent Tory who’d merely switched sides from Covert Xenophobic Party to Overt Xenophobic Party. However, the rise of the right is undoubtedly happening again so here’s Tom Humberstone’s incisive and insightful five-page comic, Hostile Environment.

ITEM! LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER looks pretty fearsome. There aren’t enough wildlife comics (ah, how fondly I remember Mike Zulli’s PUMA BLUES, sadly unavailable since as far back as Page 45 opened). Due early 2015, you can read an interview with artist Federico Bertolucci on LOVE: THE TIGER here with a preview underneath! And if you are a wildlife fan and can’t wait, there’s always Brian K. Vaughan’s PRIDE OF BAGHDAD.

– Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week three

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter.

– Jonathan on Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

Reach out and touch faith…

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.

There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world’s most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. To Cassandra – a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology – the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she’s taking it all very personally.

The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, assigned to young extant lives by their keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age but graceful and quiet with a steely resolve. Throughout the flux – the rise and the fall – Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn’t last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.

Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon’s goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.

“Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me.”
“Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parent’s embarrrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn’t understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who’s been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!”

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Lucifer’s favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci…

I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter’s wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the swoonaway cover and its logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods’ current status. After each major act it’s updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.

As ever with Gillen there’s many a contempory pop culture reference – and I don’t just mean music – like Twitter DMs and “snapchats” and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:

“Blah blah blah…

“Yet more blah…

“This is turning into homework…”

Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen’s good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games’ most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.

Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan’s subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there’s none-more-goth than me.

There are loads of post-show, back-stage extras like the covers, Nathan Fairbairn’s fresco in all its full glory, the series’ two-page teaser plus a four-panel photo-comic starring Kieron Gillen ska-dancing into a shop Madness-stylee in order to pre-order his copies of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Sage advice, wondrously rendered and almost worth the price of admission alone.

What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won’t tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it’s that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:

“Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn’t consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I’ve never tried. They do say I’ve a wicked tongue… Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?”
“Not even a little bit of cocaine?”
“What kind of teenager are you that you don’t have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?”

Tuned in.
Turned on.
Drop doubt.

It’s time to get recreational.


Buy The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe…

“I wish I was still there.”

Ha, not sure how much of this material is autobiographical, quite a bit I suspect, given the final-page reveal which had me chuckling yet again, but in any event what a brilliant exposé of the bizarre and otherworldly place the art school is, populated as I had always suspected almost entirely by people who are either utterly fake, completely weird or indeed some hybrid fusion of the two.

Dan, our hero of sorts, is neither and thus feels extremely uncomfortable upon his arrival, convinced that everyone will think he is an unsophisticated country bumpkin. In reality he’s just being himself but, parachuted unarmed into what seems like an insane asylum, populated by beings from another planet (not least of which being the tutors) whose initial advice on the actual subject of art seems well, somewhat… subjective… at best, it’s understandable how a lad away from home for the first time could feel a little unsure of himself.

Ah, Jamie Coe perfectly captures that sense of leaving home for the first time and heading to University, as it was for me rather than art school though, trust me, the Chemistry department of Nottingham circa 1990 was also populated by some very strange characters… No one knows anyone else, everyone is desperate to impress, and there’s more cheap booze and readily available drugs than you could possibly have imagined in your wildest dreams. Recipe for continuing your hitherto hard-won education in a stately manner, no, but having the time of your young life, oh yes!

But back to the matter at hand: young Dan is gradually finding his feet, getting used to the different categories of weirdo amongst his fellow students and interpreting the nonsense and gibberish as ‘taught’ by the tutors, when a certain young lady takes his eye. She seems keen to be friends, even after he’s knocked out by the falling sculpture of a pair of breasts, but not so keen as to become his girlfriend, which is a conundrum a hormone-laden young chap like Dan finds particularly disconcerting. I wonder if there’s a reason why she’s blowing hot and cold with him, like an arsehole of a boyfriend lurking somewhere perhaps…?

Not content with being a great storyteller, Jamie Coe is also a brilliant artist. I shouldn’t be surprised, I expect no less from a Nobrow-published creator, but still, I can’t believe this is a debut work from such a young man, it’s such an accomplished piece. He already has a complete handle on panel composition, page layout, pacing. I can only imagine how good he can become. There’s no skimping anywhere, the amount of work that’s gone into every single panel is impressive indeed. There were numerous sequences that got me chuckling, not least the classroom sequences with the cringe-worthy tutors, but it’s Dan’s depiction of his student colleagues that had me creased with laughter. There’s a genius sequence where he breaks down the myriad different self-manufactured ‘brands’ of art student and their archetypical fashions and generic foibles and it just had me in stitches.

This work is so, so much fun, an outstanding piece of contemporary British comedy. If you had a riot of a time back in your student days, you’ll no doubt find yourself reminiscing as you read this, but it’s when Dan is focusing on the absurdity of art school and its inhabitants that this work really does hit the heights. As satirical social commentary on this particular corner of the <ahem> art world goes, it’s absolutely on the money. Oscar Wilde may have famously opined “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” but I think if he’d have read ART SCHOOLED, he might have had to revise that opinion.


Buy Art Schooled h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon…

“Karl Marx, hello.”
“So, what’s new?”
“Struggle, always struggle.”
“Struggle… always struggle.”
“Yes! Struggle.”
“Karl Marx, where would you place yourself?”
“Hmm. I’m not a Marxist, I know that for sure.”
“So what do you think about Marxists then?”
“I wanted to found a science not a sect.”
“Happiness, for you, Karl Marx, what is that?”
“Happiness… I’ll tell you, Chateau Margaux 1848. You can’t get more red than that! Cheers!”

So, the really weird thing about this excellent, even-handed biography of one of the most important socio-political pundits of relatively recent times is the fact the artwork minded me slightly of KING ROLLO, and his sidewise, gangle-limbed leaping gait. I could try and make some spurious case as to why it is also an accurate socio-political comparison, given Marx’s wealthy family background, but frankly it would be pushing it, even for me, and also more than a little unfair on the great man.

For me, this biography is up there with FEYNMAN for its part-enlightening, part-amusing depiction of someone who, by his own admission, was desperate to be an agent for social change, or at least be known as such. I wonder what Marx would make of his legacy as it is perceived these days? I think for those in the know, particularly in the academic arena, there is no doubt he is held in the highest regard for his contributions to economics, the social sciences, and indeed philosophy. In fact, I don’t doubt that were he alive today he would be occupying an endowed chair at some esteemed seat of learning, rather than eking out an existence, reliant on donations and unbelievably fortuitously opportune multiple inheritances from various family members, to supplement the meagre royalties from his published works.

That he spent his life espousing socialist revolution is probably how he is best known amongst the public at large. How successful he was, in inspiring others rather than taking direct action himself, is open to debate, but there is no doubt that his was an extremely powerful voice at the time, earning him the wrath and opprobrium of various western European rulers and governments. That he believed that capitalism was a despotic creation whilst desiring to live in the lap of luxury, enjoying the finer things that life could offer, is not so well known, and I think this is where and why this particular biography sheds light on the all-too-human side of the great thinker. It also portrays him as the undoubted family man that he was, notwithstanding his fathering a child by the family’s maid…

I think what would displease Marx most about our current world would be the apparent absolute stranglehold capitalism has over such a large swath of the populace, and I am pretty sure he would raise a knowing eyebrow and sigh a weary sigh if he were to read Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH, but I think he would also be mightily encouraged by the relative freedom of speech we enjoy today compared to his era, and also comparatively comfortable lifestyle the majority of the working and lower-middle classes enjoy. It is exactly the sort of lifestyle he himself aspired to: a warm place to live, food (and wine) on the table, and decent medical facilities available to all. (Not getting into any sort of discussion about the NHS or Obamacare etc. etc. here, merely making a comparison between the 1800s and modern day).

This work does a fantastic job in educating readers regarding the politics and struggles of the day, that Marx faced in constructing and communicating his ideas to the masses, and also the fun and failings of someone who was ultimately only a human being, not an icon, despite how he might be revered and championed, rightly or wrongly, by some today. The fact the creators manage to do it with such humour and panache right throughout, it all seeming like one gargantuan political newspaper cartoon, is proof you can do a riveting biography on what could be a very dry subject indeed, if you know how to bring your subject to life.


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

Expecting To Fly #2 of 2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison.

“I don’t know how one of the kindest people I’ve ever met came out of human garbage like you.”

Ouch. You should see the way Ryan’s Dad’s shoulders stoop in the wake of that pithy put-down. He deserved it, though.

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 was a belter. Set inextricably in Britain, 1996, it saw Shelley Winters cope with loss, Ryan Beckwith attempting to cope with an errant yet distracting Dad, and Tim Jones sailing through school with flying colours. It was smart, sassy, bright and breezy with barely a hint of what’s in store here.

Oh my days, this is dark!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as funny as ever: John Allison’s timing on each page released first online, one at a time, is immaculate. Sometimes the punchline is verbal, often it’s visual, but every page comes with one which makes the final printed copies amongst the tautest comics ever released. Same goes for the man’s BAD MACHINERY. Pop in him our search engine and see what crops up. At the moment John’s comics are all on our counter corner and shooting out.

It all looks so casually done but you can only look this casual when your craft is rigorous. Expressions like bewilderment, mock self-righteousness, delight and despair are matched only with the flamboyance of gestures or tiny, telling postures. I also loved the panel in which Tim tries to explain the mysteries of light physics, folding his arms into a prism so dispersing white light into a refracted spectrum, and the sequence when Shelley starts smoking and her hard-earned halo is left to drift off into the sky.


Everyday observations are lobbed in like they’re obvious but aren’t. Ryan’s been looking after Shelley and here takes her fishing.

“I brought you a bacon and egg sandwich. Thought you might need some strength.”
“Oh, you SAINT.”

Shelley starts munching.

“Ryan, I think fishing is cruel. I don’t know if I wanna catch a fish.”
“You’re basically eating a piglet’s dad and a chicken’s son.”
“They had it coming.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s home work has been suffering on account of his dad’s self-indulgence, taking him out to the pub and getting him drunk on Ryan’s own pocket money. But if you imagine he’s been led astray so far, you haven’t seen anything yet. Then there are the repercussions of Tim’s elaborate act of kindness in helping Ryan grasp basic physics and by the end of this comic everything has changed at home, at school, at work. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Radical.

As a bonus John Allison has spent both issues winking at 1990s’ Marvel Comics on the covers and within, emulating their monthly marketing page with a mock editorial and check list of comics like SURFEIT (*snorts*) and a 12-issue mini-series which spins out into other titles called ENTER THE TAXMAN.

“Every year, the IRS turn me inside out. They work me over like a sailor’s Johnson on shore leave. I heard that possession is 9/10 of the law, but try telling that to them!” There lies the inspiration but you won’t believe it impacts on Scary Go Round’s other titles!

Lastly, back to the fishing expedition and Shelley is curious.

“Have you ever caught crabs?”
“Don’t spoil this.”


Buy Expecting To Fly #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez…

“Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking for it merely for its own sake.”

– Robert Moses.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

– Jane Jacobs.

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter. Clearly then, you have to be single-minded, perhaps to the point of being bloodily so, both in terms of your certitude in the face of dissent and disagreement from others, and also in terms of the sacrifices you are prepared to make, on your own part, but also what you will put others through, just to achieve your aims. Robert Moses, a man I would imagine very few of us have ever heard of, was just such a man.

For a period of around forty years, between the mid-1920s and ‘60s, Robert Moses effectively built up complete control over the planning and implementation of any and all construction in New York City be it housing, civic centres, roads, bridges, tunnels plus all the other general infrastructure that allows a city to function. He managed to head various bodies directly controlling vast amounts of income such as road tolls, millions upon millions of dollars, to effectively have the complete autonomy to create whatever he wanted.


And so he built what we know as modern-day New York. Inevitably, of course, his star ultimately began to fade, as there were the failures as well as the many successes which affected his public popularity, plus his by-then rampant ego causing as much damage for himself as anything else. There were dissenting voices all along the way, not least the strident Jane Jacobs, also accusations of racism against the black communities, but it wasn’t really until the mid ‘70s, when he himself was in his mid-80s, that the wider public opinion, informed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography revealing much about the man himself, finally turned vehemently against him. Though over further time that eventually softened and a strong legacy does endure. Undoubtedly he shaped the New York we know, I think most impartial and informed commentators would agree, both for better and for worse, but what we have today is certainly his vision.

I bought this work in without knowing anything about Robert Moses; I did so entirely on viewing a few exquisite pages of the art which Nobrow had posted on social media, of iconic scenes such as Times Square and the Flatiron Building. Ironically, it was at the Flatiron Building – or the Fuller Building to give it its correct name – where a young Moses volunteered his services to the then administration in the early 1920s. It was an invaluable yet frustrating lesson of the quagmire of politics bogging down progress. Something that no doubt played its part in Moses’ dogged determination to circumvent any outside interference whatsoever in his grand schemes by those with political power.

It’s fitting, actually, that a biography about such an extraordinary man is illustrated so beautifully. I could talk all day about what I’ve learnt about Robert Moses, when I should be raving about Olivier Balez’s art. It has a wonderfully elegant period feel, of a city on the cusp of radical change, both architecturally and also socio-economically with the turbulent forces of the Great Depression of the ‘30s rapidly followed by World War 2, then cataclysmically shaken up again by the swinging ‘60s.

Balez neatly encapsulates the enormous divide between the ‘20s era Gatsby-esque socialites colonising Long Island, oblivious and probably uncaring for the most part, of the deprivations faced by those less fortunate of their not too distant fellow citizens, whose conditions you’ll clearly recognise if you’ve ever read much Eisner. It’s also clear that a desire for social justice did drive Robert Moses to a degree, though how much of that was forged purely by his sense of disenfranchisement from the social elite by his own Jewish heritage is debatable.

But one thing is clear, he was an advocate of social change, and that change in his eyes, could only be achieved by rebuilding the city to his design. As we move forward in time, Balez captures the huge changes in the landscape: architectural, politically and socially, shifting seamlessly back and forth between the changing skylines and construction sites, bustling street scenes and character studies of the locals and bigwigs alike in an understated palette of ochre, pastel blue and other such subtle tones. This work is a fitting testament to Robert Moses, I think, because it succeeds so admirably in its epic portrayal of a man and his city, for the long decades it was simply his.


Buy Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, David Lafuente, Kevin Nolan, Galen Showman.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. And it seemed very normal to him.

A man called Jack killed his parents and older sister but Bod was adopted by ghosts in a graveyard and Silas, a tall, gaunt man who lived by night with skin as pale as the moon.

In the GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL VOL 1 Bod learned all sorts of practical things like how to open Ghoul Gates and survive Night-Gaunts, along with more important lessons about caring for others at all costs. But by and large he did so in a leisurely manner. His night gown seemed to grow with him over the years, but now it’s time to put aside childish things because the men who had his parents killed are coming to kill Bod.

It’s time to grow up in every conceivable manner, and Bod will have to do that very, very fast, using everything he’s learned so far.

After a single introductory chapter drawn by David Lafuente involving an aborted attempt to attend school and a very persistent bully – plus a very funny sub-story about a young man who died furious because as an apprentice he’d been tricked into going in search of red-and-white-striped paint! – this is a startling change of pace with BOOKS OF MAGIC’s Scott Hampton carrying the weight of the book as it charges towards its climax. Scott’s lines are thinner than usual and the chapter’s quite pallid – genuinely scary.

P. Craig Russell returns with Kevin Nowlan and Galen Showman for the finale and it’s devastating in a different way but I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves.

I love the way Gaiman uses language apposite for whomever it concerns. For example, “Miss Euphemia Horsfall and Tom Sands has been stepping out for many years”. You wouldn’t use “stepping out” in a current context but it works for them: Euphemia lived between 1861 and 1883; Tom died during The Hundred Years War. “The couple seemed to have no troubles with the difference in their historical periods.”  That made me smile. And think.


Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell.

“There’s no Jam! yelled Sam.
“This doughnut’s all wrinkly!
“This doughnut is jamless and dry!
“Someone has got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! WHY?”

I don’t know!!! It is an outrage!!!

Mum swears it wasn’t her and it probably wasn’t and Dad is adamant too. The cat’s looking nonchalant so I’m slightly suspicious, but then that’s what a cat tends to do.

Sam sets a trap using doughnuts at night and peers from his sheets, underneath. The trap’s quickly sprung with two critters caught fast and look at their twin shiny teeth!


Well, you can’t really blame them. Of course they drink jam – that’s what Jampires do! But what will happen now that Sam’s sussed them? (I have stopped rhyming now, yes.) It’s time for a tasty adventure!

This would have thrilled me when young: all the imaginary treats in a wonderland made from blueberry pie, ice cream and cupcakes all frosted under a snow of sherbert! The art is ebullient and charming without being remotely cloying. I’m not the target audience of kids’ illustrated prose, obviously, but I do find some of it sickly whereas this is cute and mischievous with funny little things to spot in the background and I know I’d share my jam with these Jampires!

Some of it. Probably.

Though possibly not bramble jelly. Mmmmm…..


Buy Jampires and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen.

Six short, sweet and moving morality tales – each by original MOUSE GUARD creator David Petersen – two of which are completely new. The others appeared as Free Comicbook Day Comics from 2011 to 2014.

In terms of the MOUSE GUARD matriarchal society’s timeline they take place between Spring 1124 and Winter 1155, and in each a young mouse is told a salutary story which will go on to shape their lives.

In the first a town finds itself effectively under siege from three fearsome predators – a hawk, a snake and a crab – but although its mightiest warriors fail to break the giant beasts’ grip, a weaver uses cunning in a way so that each comes undone proving that, as ever, the ken is mightier than the sword.

The second is told as a puppet show involving a town deemed cursed, its mighty gate sporting the slogan, “Evil Prevails”. Thanks to one individual’s actions, however, the sign finds itself substantially amended for by the end.

The third was my favourite: a tale of true love told as a tapestry about a female mouse so beautiful and talented she is not short of suitors. The fourth, using a paler palette, explores the mice’s version of Heaven, Seyan, and its equivalent of Saint Peter at its gates, Sefatus, judging who is worth to enter. It expounds the value of service and sacrifice above notoriety.

Being true to your nature and trusting your instincts lies at the heart of the fifth as three sisters share the role of THE BLACK AXE, cooperating to take on beasts bigger than they might otherwise manage single-handedly, and the sixth is a lullaby.

It’s impressive how much Petersen can slip in to ten-page segments without them feeling cramped, and you’ll feel far from short-changed by the results. The colours are exquisite, the reproduction as classy as ever, and it’s a perfect entry point to the wider world of MOUSE GUARD which would make a thoroughly heart-warming present.


Buy Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess.

A freak child, born with a tail and abandoned in the ghettos of a South American city, is found by a gay transvestite dwarf who also happens to be a prostitute, and who dies while ramming the doors of a church in a cart full of dynamite. Not with, but in.

An outcast raised by an outcast and suckled by a dog in the slums: how southern is your gothic? Can it really grow any grimmer? Yes indeed, for one thing and one thing alone can turn this embittered brat’s life around: the power of a gun.

From thereon in it’s rape, gang warfare, political corruption, torture, attempted castration, initiation ceremonies and assassination, as Juan strives to rise to the top of the criminal cream, all executed with strong action sequences and moody-faced art.

If the colouring’s a sickly spread of oranges, ochres and coffee-carmine, it only adds to the sensation of an exhausting heat in an unforgiving environment.

If you’re feeling starved of Milo Manara, this one’s for you.


Buy Son Of The Gun h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal…

Have you ever wished that battle manga was produced in a larger format in full lush colour on lovely glossy high quality paper stock? If so, you need look no further, for this will fulfil your heart’s desires. It is a bit of a wafer-thin, Final Fantasy-esque, good versus evil, light versus dark, demons, angelic beings, plus of course lots of bad-ass warriors and the requisite cannon fodder plot, I must say. Which if it were to be reproduced in typical black-and-white, pocket-sized manga style, probably wouldn’t overly stand out that much.

That is not a criticism of the story or linework, far from it, because the majority of Viz, Kodansha, Yen Press et al manga output is slickly produced conveyor belt stuff with decent artwork, but there is a rather a lot of it, most of which is much of a muchness. And it tends to take something a bit different from the norm story-wise, like say ATTACK ON TITAN, to achieve a huge break-out success. This work, however, is elevated considerably simply by the addition of colour and excellent production values. I should also add it reads left to right, western-style, which I think is a good idea, further breaking the manga connotation, and thus an apparent restriction on audience.



It’s certainly no ZAYA, a former PAGE 45 COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH from the same publisher, which is wondrous on many levels, packing a really strong story, but this would make a very nice stocking filler for fantasy fans as is great fun with all the over top fights plus whizzing and popping magic everywhere. You’ll need an outsize stocking obviously, because it’s not traditional manga size… did I mention that already?


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

All-New Captain America #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

That made me smile.

There is a new Captain America! There have been plenty over the years, but now it’s Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon and he has never been so beautifully, so spectacularly drawn. The all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Utterly thrilling.

There is also a new side-kick! There have been plenty over the years including The Falcon himself, but now it’s Nomad’s turn. There have been plenty of Nomads over the years including Captain America himself, but now it’s Ian’s turn. Who’s Ian? I had absolutely no bloody idea until I read the handy-dandy summary at the front after which I didn’t really care either way.

Rick Remender is a formidable writer: I am currently lapping up his subaquatic LOW while Jonathan is a big fan of BLACK SCIENCE. And this is a perfectly accessible entry point after reading the summary with even greater gymnastics given that the Falcon can fly, with a couple of key shield moments. That’s Captain America’s schtick, yeah? The shield. Remender remembered and so delivered.

The wasn’t one of them but no one can say Stuart Immonen hadn’t delivered!

I also loved the repartee from the first familiar supervillain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia but here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction and on the mark. It’s thoughtful and balanced is what I’m saying.

The new dynamic with Steve Rogers acting as operations supervisor and Captain America – the U.S.’s flagship superhero – now being non-caucasian will almost certainly be explored and explored well. I look forward to that. As yet, however, it’s not quite that different from the standard superhero fare for it to grip me like, say, MS MARVEL.

But it’s good, it’s good, and my days but that cover!


Buy All-New Captain America #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

This is the fourth incarnation of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, all of it written by Bendis, and I have loved every second.

But it’s the first iteration to have specified exactly who is the ultimate Spider-Man in its title: it’s Miles Morales whose story effectively began in ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 after Peter Parker died in the preceding ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN. Specifying Miles Morales in the title implies that Peter Parker is very much dead and Miles is here to stay.

Imagine your shock, then, on coming back home and finding Peter Parker alive and well, rifling through your things and stealing your stuff.


Yes absolutely and then some.

Is that Peter Parker, and if so how are Gwen, MJ and Aunt May going to react? If it isn’t, who is playing a very sick joke? Also, what is it about S.H.I.E.L.D. custody that sucks so badly that they can’t keep Norman Osborn locked up for more than five seconds?


Buy Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee and many, many, many, many others.

You know, we could have sworn Jonathan reviewed this, but I’m afraid it was me. What Jonathan did, having seen my review, was attempt to explain to me what was happening here with the change in artist and different Earths. Unfortunately it required such an arcane knowledge of DC Comics superhero history that I failed to understand his patient and considered “demystification”.

Which I think says it all. I re-run my original review then, with the disclaimer that I have no idea whatsoever if it works as a complete book. At the end of the first issue I jumped out of the car and walked in the opposite direction.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for while I heralded his work on Paul Jenkin’s INHUMANS as a masterclass in chiaroscuro. It is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a comic I couldn’t comprehend.

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future.

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade.

If you’re looking for some prime Batman, may I recommend GOTHAM CENTRAL, THE BLACK MIRROR, IDENTITY CRISIS and THE KILLING JOKE?

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and one of comics’ greatest chameleons, Stuart Immonen, which is lush!

Always turn a negative into a positive!

Seize every opportunity to sell something!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey.

Did you remember to bring sweets?


Buy Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World 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?


Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

The Art Of Dragon Age: Inquisition h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 1: New Rules (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage, Nicholas Brendon & Rebekah Isaacs

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

Doctor Who: The Blood Of Azrael (£13-99, Panini) by various

Fairest In All The Land s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & many artists

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP

Metroland #2 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson

My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Thomas F. Zahler, various & Tony Fleecs, Andy Price, various

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma

Batman: Detective Comics vol 5: Gothtopia h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman, various & Jason Fabok, Aaron Lopresti, various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 4: The Wrath s/c (£13-50, DC) by John Layman, James Tynion IV & Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Wesley Craig

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews

Runaways Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Wolverine vol 2: Three Months To Die s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell, Elliott Kalan & Kris Anka, Pete Woods, Jonathan Marks

Bokurano Ours vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

My Little Monster vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

Soul Eater vol 23 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo


ITEM! Page 45 is now stocking the full range of our Jodie Paterson’s swoonaway greetings cards!

ITEM! Original comic art auction in aid of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Includes work by Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham, Sean Phillips, Junko Mizuno, Emma Vieceli, Boulet and Jeff Smith

ITEM! Random interview I gave Nosy Bones on Saturday morning. It really was random, relying on the roll of dice!

ITEM! FLUFFY’s Simone Lia writes about whether her characters age. Oh, and Fluffy is now almost definitely a boy – whereas once I felt foolish, I now feel vindicated and my review has reverted to its original form! FLUFFY: one of the most beautiful books in the world!

– Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week two

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

It boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell.

 – Stephen on Zenith

Meanwhile #1 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford.

“Once you have tasted the fruit of the village, it is impossible to forsake its seductive power.”

That certainly sums up STRANGEHAVEN to perfection!

A true British classic beloved by Bryan Talbot, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis and JH Williams III amongst many, many creators, STRANGEHAVEN sadly stalled ten years ago at three volumes with one more to come, but now it is back with a vengeance!

It’s also now in full colour: colours which are so warm and rich against a crisp, cloudy sky and as British as the oak tree itself. As the village’s vicar takes a stroll round the countryside (and swift swig of whisky straight from the bottle) he reflects on how far his beloved flock have gone astray: on the arrival of Alex Hunter “literally by accident – when he crashed his car into a tree” since when Alex has felt unable to leave, his coercion into the masked Masonic Lodge and all the subsequent deaths and disappearances.

“George gave in to the temptation of an illicit affair with the doctor’s wife Maureen. So much for brotherly love.
“But he’s in a better place now.
“In the ground, decomposing.”



I didn’t say “consequent”, I said “subsequent”. Let’s see how it all plays out first, shall we?

It’s a fluent introduction, deftly done with real character, so new readers are embraced and some of us old-timers are provided with a far from boring, much-needed refresher course on just how much is Not Quite Right in this secluded parish of Strangehaven.

Speaking of Not At All Right, there are further Masonic manoeuvrings including temptation and even deeper induction, while one village member’s playing truant. That doesn’t go down well. That doesn’t go down well at all…

MEANWHILE is a fresh UK anthology with something for everyone and almost all of it for me.

I adored Sally Jane Thompson’s self-contained short story told in the same bilberry blues as THIS ONE SUMMER. Their gloss here is so attractive. In it a young woman makes or takes a phone call. We don’t know what she says but to begin with she’s quite quiet, subdued, then annoyed then despondent. When you see how Sally accomplishes that in her speech bubbles, I rather think you will smile. It concludes on a magical note of determined resolve thanks to a blackbird’s feather found on the floor.

Sean Bright’s ‘Peas In Our Time’ one-page, nine-panel nonsense made me laugh and it’s not often that politics makes one laugh at the moment, is it? A bag of frozen peas wins the UK General Election. The effects prove efficacious. And then we go and blow it all in the final panel’s punchline which made me howl!!!!

There’s a burst of black and white sci-fi, a Kate Brown-influenced episode of black and white fantasy from Yuko Rabbit whose external townscape on the final page took my breath away, and then there’s the first instalment of ‘The Bad Place’ by THE MAN WHO LAUGHS’ David Hine and Mark Stafford.

A girl call Jenny is warned away from the fabled perfect new town of Faraway Hills by its Town Crier. He is its only resident remaining. The town was built on the site of Crouch Heath with its tavern, The Horned Man. That too was deserted and had fallen into dereliction but everything was knocked down and built back up apart from the Castavette estate. Nought was left there but a wasteland of tipped rubbish yet with no known descendents, still it could not be compulsory-purchased.

Then overnight the Castavette mansion rematerialised in all its hideous, Victorian, four-storey splendour and that’s when things began to go seriously awry…


Buy Meanwhile #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy.

Dive deep, swim fast!

“Now the creature, the noise it’s making, it sounds a lot like a section of the whale’s song that’s urgent, a section that comes right before a response.”
“What kind of response?”
“A massive response. Because the creature isn’t talking to us. It’s talking to them.”

At which point Sean Murphy will send the mother of all shivers up your spine…

Sub-aquatic, ice-cold horror from the writer of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, SEVERED, BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR, and the current run on BATMAN and the glorious, gawp-worthy writer/artist of PUNK ROCK JESUS, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS.

In 200 years’ time: a wet-suited woman glides over the narrow waterways between what were once dry-land skyscrapers, one of which is leaning precariously. A dolphin harnessed with sonic and survey equipment surfaces from the water lapping gently against a brownstone’s roof. And then there’s another tidal wave!

Now: marine biologist Lee Archer, sacked from NOAA and on the Department of Homeland Security’s shit-list for her marine biology conservation is contacted by Agent Cruz and coerced into flying to Alaska’s South Slope to analyze an eerie, underwater call they cannot explain. Base camp is thousands of feet below sea level:

“Jesus, what is that?”
“It’s called a Ghost Rig. It’s a prototype. Yes, it’s a secret. No, it’s not legal. But it has the potential to extract nearly two hundred barrels a day, so there it is.”

Lee discovers she is not alone. There’s Dr. Marin, successfully published professor of folklore and mythology has been summoned to study an ‘artefact’, and the enigmatic yet supremely capable Leonard Meeks – an infamous poacher of very rare species – to study tissue samples. He looks like a vulture. And where do you think these sounds and tissue samples are coming from? Oh dear, that’s never a good idea…

On one level this is classic Doctor Who: illegal and environmentally disastrous strip-mining of Earth’s natural resources while invading the home territory of an ancient and previously undiscovered species. Exacerbate situation by capturing a creature and then belatedly bring in the experts before all hell breaks loose in a half-lit and confined environment in this case flooded with water. It won’t help that the Merman sprays hallucinogenic toxins from glands in its eye sacks.

But wait: that’s just the first half. In part two we swoop to the future 200 years later which has born the brunt – the repercussions – of the first half’s actions, and the world has surely changed in so many ways. Rarely have I encountered a future so thoroughly thought-through by its writer with some genuine shockers in store. This graphic novel is so much bigger and so much more brilliant than it appears on the sea’s choppy surface.

For a start, it is all about eyes: what we perceive and what we persuade others to perceive. And it’s all about ears: what we hear and that which we desperately hope will be listened to.

It stretches back thousands, nay millions of years. There is a key sequence involving the hunting of a giant white shark by hundreds with spears just like we used to hunt mammoths; and they actually use a downed mammoth as bait.


On the surface this is a beyond-worrying horror story, yes: it will make you go “Brrrrrrr!” But it will also make you think.

In the back of what I consider a very good value-for-money hardcover (£18-99 for 10 chapters) are additional process pieces full of sketch pages, the thought that’s gone into the colouring by the great Matt Hollingsworth and the ridiculous amount of consideration given to the lettering by Jared K. Fletcher.

Now, what is a Raindrop?

“It means the real-life referent that inspires a system of folklore. The raindrop hits the water, and concentric rings of lore spread from the point of impact. Like the Asiatic Bear in Tibet, its habit of walking on its hind legs. Now that inspired legends of Yetis.
“There’s no telling how many legends this creature inspired. From the Mermaids of Assyria, to the Sirens of Greece, with that call it’s making.”

The call that goes out to millions.


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

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly.

Two thoroughly contemporary dramas starring young women handling life in the Big Apple with varying degrees of self-awareness, self-discipline and self-confidence.

There’s a lot of new back-up material including full-colour paintings of the cast, like Ren in a comic shop – that one is so warm and detailed! – and this hefty edition collecting both the original NEW YORK FOUR and THE NEW YORK FIVE is incredible value for money!

As you might expect from the creators of LOCAL this as much about location as those inhabiting it. Kelly proved he could nail so many different urban environments as that series sailed across the States, and evoke their unique ambience as well as physical architecture. Here he fills every single page with hair whose weight and body you can almost hold, masonry you could lean on and gusts of wind and snow in the parks that you can feel against your cheek.

Riley is a resident of Park Slope (“NY 101: As good as Brooklyn gets.”) who’s just joined New York University with all the potential that offers in terms of new friends and is getting back in touch with Angie, her black sheep of a sister ostracised by her overbearing parents some years ago for crimes unknown – being far too much fun, by the looks of it. That shouldn’t happen to Riley: she’s a top-grade student, but her sister’s more worried about Riley’s addiction to texting.

She’s not wrong, either: Riley’s no dweeb by any stretch of the imagination, but her journeys are made to an iPod soundtrack and her social life is virtually all virtual, interrupting even the most personal or important conversations to answer messages that could so easily wait. She’s insular to say the least, and she only meets her three new friends by accident through the need for employment and somewhere to live outside campus dorms.

Angie introduces Riley to adult social life in the form of gigs and with the aid of her warm, cool and gregarious boyfriend. And it’s at one of these gigs, the night of Riley’s life, that someone there slips an email address into her pocket, at which point the texts really begin to fly much to the annoyance of anyone trying to get a real-world word in edgeways. As well as the bizarre priority Riley gives to someone she doesn’t know over those she should be caring about, there’s also the very real worry that Riley has no idea who she’s in communication with – an imbalance of power over which she has no control.

Do you think it will all go horribly wrong? It all goes horribly wrong.

I now issue a very rare SPOILER ALERT for the much longer, more substantial sequel hinges on who Riley’s mysterious admirer was.

By now Angie Wilder has her own band which has just struck it big on the gig circuit. But she still has her boyfriend called Frank who is anything but: he anonymously seduced her younger sister Riley by text. Angie’s no longer speaking to Riley, Riley isn’t speaking to Frank, but Frank hasn’t done using Angie to speak to Riley as the first chapter’s cliffhanger makes clear.

Riley’s attending NYU with Merissa, Lona and Ren who all share an East Village flat roughly the size of a cupboard, their rent paid through part-time jobs evaluating PSAT/SAT tests. For this they need to undergo casual therapy sessions but the beautiful, outgoing Marissa’s stopped attending. In fact she seems to be spending an awful lot of time going back home to Queens. Lona’s less outgoing but still going out, if only to stalk her professor. We’re talking the breaking-and-entering end of stalking, dumpster-diving for dirt, and her boyfriend’s unimpressed. I really don’t know what Ren’s problem is. She doesn’t seem to have one right now. She likes older men. Is that a problem?

Here the ever-exceptional spirit of place comes in the form of civic parks in winter, the city skylines at night and the chunky tenements with street-level steps rising up to their doors. The gigs are perfectly populated while the pavement outside is teeming with individuals hanging out on bikes, checking their bags or checking out each other. You can tell when an artist is trying to avoid drawing something; I couldn’t find a single instance of that here. Even the iron fire escapes and scaffolding have been lavished with so much attention that they have as much weight and character as the pedestrians passing them by. When you stop to take in just how many cityscapes there are on top of that…

Someone was on their way to New York the other day, and she asked if we had any comics that would act as a good guide. This would make the perfect guide, dotted as it is with insider titbits on every location featured including The Strand (used book shop), Washington Square, the Ukrainian diner Veselka, and St. Mark’s Place in The East Village:

“NY 101: St. Mark’s Place, as iconic and compelling as SF’s Haight Astbury, this enduring hang-out block is way more seedy and has much cooler rock and roll roots. But, in the end, both succumbed to The Gap. This author’s most-missed: the St. Mark’s Cinema.”

As seen in LOCAL, for me this is what Brian Wood does best: compelling and thoroughly contemporary straight fiction with a young cast of real individuals – females with foibles, individuals with issues – gradually revealing bits of themselves as they contemplate, hesitate or override their better instincts. Because coming back to that cliffhanger, it really is one of those, “Noooo, don’t do it!” moments.


Buy The Complete New York Four and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) (£6-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…

“A life lived in mud and clay… concrete and steel… manuscript and satellite signals…
“Wars fought between settlers along the marshy banks of the River. Ludgate, Tower Hill, Cornhill.
“Kings and Queens ruling far reaching empires.
“Wealth and poverty.
“Heroes and villains.
“New stories being written every minute.
“Constantly on the move.
“East… further east.
“Beneath the surface.”

Tim Bird undoubtedly has what breakbeat meisters the Stanton Warriors would refer to as the power of ‘uninterrupted flow’. Now, I will grant you on the face of it, that is an apparently incongruous analogy to begin a review with, but in fact, Tim’s work is all about and indeed composed of continuous transition, even in the face of the strange disruptive interfaces thrown up between man and nature. His worldview of our sceptred isle encompasses the epochs and the aeons, not ignoring the here and now, but understanding its transitory place astride the fixed topological canvas of the landscape.

One of the most powerful moments for me in his previous work, GREY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK, a testament to that most visible evidence of man’s dominion over vehicular time and space, the road, comes when the tarmac slices right by Stonehenge. Similarly, in this work detailing a trip from the centre of London out to the coast, first by underground and train, then on foot, Tim’s combination of observational illustration and poetic overview has a deeply resonating effect.

Often in our lives, we don’t have the time to think about the journeys we make, so concerned are we with simply getting from A to B as quickly as possible, for usually there is a purpose we need to fulfil that has necessitated our travels. Instead, Tim, wandering without an aim of his own, is able to consider all the journeys ever made along that route, resulting in the incremental changes over centuries from untamed wilderness to the measured, graduated, controlled environment of modernity that is the city of London and its suburbs. But we also see that in reverse, purely in modern day, as he finally ends up at the coast, or as he more romantically describes it…

“A terminus. A place where… the landscape… ceases.”

Then moving on to the sea, as a coda, where once again, we see the fingerprint of man indelibly altering nature, Tim reciting the hypnotic mantra of the shipping forecast sea areas which will be soothingly familiar to anyone who has ever spent much time listening to Radio 4, as a cargo vessel slips past a buoy against the backdrop of a dramatic red sunset. A suitably tranquil, composed ending to another splendid issue of thoughtful musing.


Buy Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters…

“Talk, goddammit!”
“I… I’m afraid I won’t be much help… what I’m seeing is way beyond my wildest imagination!”

She’s not wrong. Verloc Nim and his secret agent – and irritatingly superior younger brother – Conrad have made it to the planet Ona(ji) to establish precisely what has become of the group of research scientists sent to test a potential genetic manipulation wonder agent called aama. They’ve discovered one group of the scientists holed up at their base awaiting rescue. The project leaders, as a result of an apparent ideological schism, have assumed control of the aama agent and decided to continue the experiment elsewhere on the planet.

You could say, in some senses, the experiment has been a resounding success, given the rapidly advanced flora and fauna which Verloc, Conrad, Churchill the robotic ape bodyguard and the scientists brave enough to accompany them encounter en route. It’s clear it has effected an evolutionary developmental process at a rate far beyond natural speeds. It’s also abundantly clear there have been some serious, unforeseen consequences as well. As the group progresses further into the evolutionary wilds, it seems that aama is increasingly aggressively trying to actively incorporate any and all genetic – and even inorganic materials – it can into its ever more rapid modifications. Cue the mad scientist caused horror…




Which still doesn’t bring us up to where we started AAMA VOLUME ONE: THE SMELL OF WARM DUST  with a dazed and confused, amnesiac Verloc trying to piece together what the hell has happened to him and why he is alone. It gives me hope there is still much, much more to come from this prestigious Best Series of 2013 Angoulême prize winner, because it is as deliciously mysterious as it is spectacular. We also learn more of Verloc’s back story, his unusual desire for a genetically unmodified offspring ultimately causing his estrangement from his wife after their daughter was born with what seems to be a form of high-functioning autism.

How that is connected to the unexplained presence of a being with the exact physical appearance of his daughter on Ona(ji) has yet to be revealed, but I will bet that the increasingly unhinged Conrad, suffering an emotional disconnect from not being intrinsically subconsciously linked to the future version of Earth’s internet where everyone is part of a huge, permanent communications net (probably like seeing Facebook every time you close your eyes, which is a truly horrifying thought), almost certainly knows more than he is letting on. So, now I just have to patiently wait until March 2015 for volume three…


Buy aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Zenith: Phase One h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell.

“You don’t understand what time can do to people.”
“It can make them late.”

Perpetually preening, drunk and incorrigibly egotistical, ignorant and easily bored, I basically was young Zenith 25 years ago. I even had the quiff and studded leather jacket. Unfortunately I had none of Zenith’s powers nor musical prowess. Actually, I’m not sure Zenith had any musical prowess but as the first phase kicks off he is at number three in the pop charts.

This is even better than I remembered it to be, and I cherished it dearly back then.

On top of its horrific Neo-Nazi / Cthulu antagonists it boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell. His was the shiniest-ever superhero art, bathed in bold black which benefits enormously for the infinitely improved production values, printed on the crispest of paper preventing any bleed.

Trapped in legal hell for 20 years, it’s almost as surprising and wondrous to find it back on our shelves as STRAY BULLETS.

It kicks off during WWII with a broadcast of blinding hubris as Britain answers the German threat of Aryan meta-man Masterman with its own meta-human Maximan, himself a sort of blonde English Rose. By the very second page, however, it is clear that Britain has underestimated Masterman by misunderstanding his nature and Maximan lies broken in Berlin. At which point we drop The Bomb on them both. The Bomb, yes.

Cut straight to 1987 and pop star Zenith has been invited onto Good Morning Britain to discuss a book re-evaluating the reputation of Cloud 9 – “the group of British superhumans who were as much of the swinging ‘60s as The Beatles or Twiggy” – but he’s really only interested in flogging his new single. Instead it’s the more mature Ruby Fox, former model then known as Cloud 9’s own Voltage, who refutes the allegations of self-indulgence by maintaining that they were all ill-prepared victims of an experimental drug, including Zenith’s own parents, Dr. Beat and White Heat, who went missing in 1968.

Zenith is now the only known active superhuman and he’s only active in ways which enhance his lock-jawed, pop-star, thicker-than-pig-shit career; and only when his fluctuating, monthly biorhythm cycle allows. At its peak he can fly, crush ball bearings and is virtually invulnerable. Well, every 19-year-old feels that way, don’t they? Ruby Fox hasn’t manifested her electrical energy abilities in years, Siadwell Rhys AKA Wales’ pyrokinetic Red Dragon has put himself out with the demon drink and former turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out Peter St. John AKA Mandala has become a high-rising Tory MP destined almost inevitably for leadership. I wonder if he still has those powers of persuasion? It’s funny how former radicals become such reactionaries, isn’t it?

I told you this had a socio-political punch.

Meanwhile, as I say, Britain’s manufactured response to Nazi Germany’s Masterman misunderstood his true nature and Germany had a reputation for using twins. Fräulein Haas and Doctor Driesch have just succeeded in reviving Masterman’s twin and in summoning his true power from Overspace using the Ritual of Nine Angles: it has multiple eyes, many mouths, very sharp teeth and the sound of its wings flapping is something that would drive any man or woman insane.

Masterman has now flown to Great Britain, home to the National Front, and has his sights set first on Ruby Fox left all alone and defenceless in her flat…

What is so extraordinary about this work – other than its thoroughly entertaining, bright social commentary, good humour and space – is that it was serialised in such short segments in the UK’s iconic and enduring weekly comic 2000AD yet feels neither disjointed nor awkwardly compressed when read in this album-sized hardcover. It is as smooth as silk, as rich as Belgian chocolate and as beautiful to behold as anything offered more recently by the artistic masters of the superhero genre, Bryan Hitch, Steve Epting, Michael Larkin, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Deodato, John Romita Jr, Sara Pichelli or Steve Yeowell’s contemporary John Byrne.

Eyes, teeth and hair, folks; eyes, teeth and hair. Also, a fine line in fashion.


Buy Zenith: Phase One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel.

An all-ages album of wonder and friendship which will really tug at your heartstrings, while leaving your eyes twinkling at the sheer spectacle, this new format is the size of the average American trade paperback.

A young boy is left an inheritance by his grandfather and initially he’s unimpressed:

“It was just an old stuffed bear and a broken pocket watch.”

There’s a painful sequence early on where he’s bullied by some bigger kids who snatch away the polar bear, after which Tyler rejects the stuffed toy, and flings it away in disappointment. And that’s when the magic starts.

Kunkel’s animation experience shines through the pages. The black, white and grey forms are softened by his canny decision not to erase the sketchlines underneath, so the figures flow and glide. Added to that the striking scarlet cape of the transformed polar bear, which cleverly enhances the creature’s definition.

The former sketchbook in the A4 is gone, I’m afraid, but it’s been replaced by two new stories so I’d call that a bonus!


Buy Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance and read the Page 45 review here

The Leaning Girl s/c (£22-50, Alaxis Press) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten…

“Honestly, Dr. Texier, can you figure out what’s wrong with her?”
“Hmm… Part of it could be a put-on, it’s possible. Your daughter has always been a character…”

Mary has a condition, a very strange one indeed.

Ever since a ride on a most peculiar rollercoaster during a visit to a large World’s Fair-esque Exposition, she has leant at an angle of about twenty degrees. It is as if gravity, for her, were acting in an entirely different direction to everyone else. Despite the best attempts of doctors to establish the real or imagined cause of her malady, no one really has any clue whatsoever as to why she leans. It is a real condition, that much is apparent to us, but what connection does it have to the strange group of astronomers and physicists sequestered doing secretive research in a mountain-top observatory? And then what possible connection does any of it have to the photo-based chapter interludes featuring a lonely artist struggling to make sense of his life?

There is a foreword from Benoit Peeters which starts with a comment that he and his friend Francois Schuiten created this world purely for the purposes of exploring it. Now, that might mean they basically had no idea what story they were going to write when they started and just made it up as they went along, because I did get a slight sense of that, but even so, they have created something rather unusual which has genuine artistic merit. I’m not sure it works completely, but if you approach this from the sense that you are observing two undoubtedly talented creators undertaking a highly involved experiment, you will enjoy it.

Peeters then details in his foreword how during the long gestation of this work they received much correspondence from someone claiming to be the real Mary, so much so that they received a compiled book of it whilst at Angoulême. He states that most people presumed they were behind the correspondence, particularly because they also openly produced two pseudo-documentaries to publicise this work, but he claims this was not the case, and they are as baffled as anyone else as to the identity of the letter-writing ‘Mary’. Having read the whole of the work, but not wishing to give anything anyway, I would suspect that is complete and utter hogwash, and it was indeed them, and the correspondence is a device which mirrors an element of the plot revealed towards the end. Anyway…

What did really work for me was the art. Beautiful black and white ligne claire with seriously detailed line shading. Gorgeous city-scapes and vivid characters illustrated to a standard not far off Bernie Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN (which they really do need to get on with reprinting). I was also, oddly enough, minded of CEREBUS in places. The photo-story sections really didn’t work for me, they just seemed too jarring until I finished the work, understood the reason behind the conceit, and then I could readily accept them as part of the experimental whole. Overall, I can’t honestly see this work appealing to a wide audience, but certainly there will be those that think it is an exceptional piece.


Buy The Leaning Girl s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“I want you to know, I really do appreciate our little talks. It… really breaks up my days. Helps me… mark time. I think they’re good for you, too, having someone to talk to.”
“Sure. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”
“Wait… before you go…”
“After all this time… all these talks… the things we’ve shared. Do you still want to kill me?”
“Yes… you know I do.”

I have deliberately left out who is talking to whom there for the benefit of those who are not completely up to date, but what I will clarify is time. Two years have passed since the events of ALL OUT WAR, and much has changed. It would seem there has been little in the way of confrontation since then, indeed the communities Rick is now fully in charge of are prospering, despite the ever-present threat of zombies. Often the device of shifting forward in time is done when a writer is running low on ideas, but here it is used to great effect to instantly set up several interesting new potential plot threads, and allow the mass introduction of several new characters, plus radical new haircuts and facial topiary on existing ones…

I am sure there will be some retrospective references that will allow us to fill in the blanks about what happened in the aftermath of the war, but after wondering how on earth Kirkman was going to follow that epic arc, and wondering if it was all going to go a bit flat for a while, I’m now reassured it will be quite the contrary.

Also, it does provide an excellent starting point for new readers in terms of the single issues. Alternatively, just start at the very beginning with WALKING DEAD VOL 1 or why not WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 if you’re feeling flush / want to have something really heavy to hand just in case the zombie apocalypse begins…


Buy Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

This is a book of impressions: of memories, shadows and echoes.

So many songs evoke a past much missed, misremembered or barely recalled at all.

There is a wreck of man out there called Carl; a drunken, washed up, one-time player full of hot-air and an acrid obsession with the ex-wife who had the audacity to leave him for another, less violent man, and then testify against him. Her name was Susan Linden and he killed her for it. Or he thought he had; he’s in for a bit of a surprise.

For then there was the other Susan. An effective, solitary agent, undercover and on the brink of exposing a criminal organisation and the mastermind behind it. They caught her, they shot her, they set her on fire and then bombed the inferno for good measure. She was the Black Orchid, named after a flower that doesn’t exist and she is quite, quite dead.

So who is this new Susan of radiant purple, grown in a greenhouse, and cast adrift in a world she’s had no time to comprehend? She has no idea. She doesn’t know who she is, what she is, or what she should do now. The only clues lie in a dead man’s past, in his contemporaries at college: Dr. Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland. Her only brief ally is a man in a mask who hides in the shadows of Gotham, and he says:

“Most of the things that “everyone knows” are wrong. The rest are merely unreliable.”

Now, several of those names may sound surprisingly familiar for a Neil Gaiman book. What one forgets is the Vertigo line originally had far stronger ties to the DC universe and its superhero community; what one may also have forgotten is that this was created long before the Vertigo line even existed. It’s a far more ethereal read than most DC Universe books – it’s far more of a child of Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING – but a DC Universe book it most certainly is. It’s just… going to do things differently.

“I’ve seen, y’know, the movies, James Bond, all that. I’ve read the comics. So you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to lock up in the basement before interrogating you. I’m not going to set up some kind of complicated laser beam death-trap, then leave you alone to escape. That stuff is so dumb. But you know what I am going to do? I’m going to kill you. Now.”

That was within the first six pages, and it was quite the arresting development.

Returning to the legacy of Alan Moore, the early segues and black humour owe much to THE KILLING JOKE. “You’re fired” was inspired. But it quickly establishes its own tone which, as I say, is far more ethereal, far more impressionistic, as our newly bloomed Orchid struggles with the genetically implanted memories she shares with her dead sister, and reacts to the world empathically. Here, for example, is Arkham.

“This is the bedlam. The jungle of despair. I watch their expressions: milky eyes peering from frozen faces, mouths unsmiling wounds in ruined flesh. I spy a skull-faced man who lies unsleeping; his nightmares pool and puddle on the floor around him. In a glass cell a blazing x-ray sits and smoulders and weeps. His tears burn as they fall… then his out on the pocked glass floor.”

Another marked departure from the superhero genre is that the only hunting being done apart from the peripheral predators – domestic and child abuse both play a part here – is by the antagonists and the only one out for revenge is the bitter ex-husband and resentful ex-employee. Some people really don’t handle rejection well. In other authors’ hands it would be the Black Orchid out to avenge her predecessors’ murders – particularly given their shared memories – but no, that is the instinct of the animal. A plant has quite different priorities.

It’s a beautiful book, rich in green and purples, by a Dave McKean in his photorealistic phase, much inspired at the time by Bill Sienkiewicz. The computer has yet to be embraced and the only element of photographic collage I registered was the psychotic grin. Instead it employs pencils – sometimes coloured – and paint, some chalk and maybe, I think, oil pastels. There’s a terrific sense of light. It’s also thoroughly accessible to new readers, McKean splitting the page in half horizontally then working with three or four columns across. The occasional break into tumbling panels and the larger compositions in the Amazon jungle are all the more spectacular for it.

This new deluxe edition also boasts those rarest of extras: handwritten early jottings from Neil Gaiman’s notebook, Karen Berger’s first, detailed reactions to Neil’s draft proposal, Neil’s own proposal and promotional marketing text,  preliminary notes and dialogue sketches for the second of the three original issues, its page-by-page, one-line breakdowns and an excerpt from its draft script.

“Winter is coming. The leaves are beginning to fall.”


Buy Black Orchid s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean.

Batman: “You’re free. You’re all free.”
The Joker: “Oh, we know that already. But what about you?”

The new, new 25th Anniversary edition comes packed with even more extras than last time. Still here: Morrison’s complete script and original notes, annotated by both himself and Karen Berger, many of Morrison’s original thumb-nail breakdowns (like Bendis and Moore, he’s not a bad artist, either), and lots of other behind-the-scenes tomfoolery. But now: all the different covers over the years including the Japanese hardcover, an illustration for The Face, another for UKCAC ’88, the clay mask used as the base for McKean’s photo-painterly jiggery-pokery and convention painted “sketches” in a completely different style. Good golly!

I loved this dark, sexually charged Bat tale in which The Joker taunts Batman into Arkham Asylum (where both of them belong) through sadism and psychology, then pinches his bottom.

“Loosen up, tight ass!”

McKean was still in his BLACK ORCHID post-Sienkiewicz stage, using both pencil and paint but little photography, and his exploded, expressionist artwork brings the Joker to cackling life, Day-Glo green hair flowing like sea-grass, his speeches slashed freely across the page in bright red ink, unconstrained by speech bubbles.

And all the other regular inmates are on hand to scare what passes for the daylight out of Batman including the Scarecrow, Two-Face and, here, the Hatter:

“I’m so glad you could make it. I have so many things to tell you. You must be feeling quite fragile by now, I expect. This house… does things to your mind.
“Now, where was I? Where am I? Where will I be?
“Ah yes, the apparent disorder of the universe is simply a higher order, an implicate order beyond comprehension. This why children… interest me. They’re all mad, you see. But in each of them is an implicate adult. Order out of chaos. Or is it the other way around? To know them is to know myself.
“Little girls especially. Little blonde girls. Little shameless bitches! Oh god. Gold help us all!
“Sometimes… sometimes I think the Asylum is a head. We’re inside a huge head that dreams us all into being. Perhaps it’s your head, Batman.
“Arkham is a looking glass. And we are you.”


Buy Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various.

And £17-99’s not bad given that Marvel U.S. want you to fork out £37-99 for a hardcover. This UK softcover contains ORIGINAL SIN #0-8 and ORIGINAL SINS plural #1-5. Let’s stick with the original here.

From the writer of SCALPED.

For eons The Watcher has overseen Earth’s most seismic schisms.

His presence is a prescience born of pure instinct.

Whenever a crossroads has manifested itself requiring soul-searching and due diligence rather than desperate, knee-jerk reactions, Uatu has appeared. He is there not to counsel but to observe, for Uatu is forbidden to interfere. But his very materialisation has proved a welcome warning for all to think very carefully before the wrong road is taken in haste.

Can you imagine what The Watcher has seen, what his eyes have beheld? Such knowledge would be a most coveted prize.

But how do you ambush a being who sees what will be? Well. Ambushing a being like Uatu would be seismic schism in itself. He would surely, ineluctably, be drawn there. Not sure that’s what happened but that would be my merry Marvel No-Prize entry in case it needs be explained!

Instead what is concentrated on to begin with is the firepower needed to take the bald boy down for that is what’s happened: The Watcher is dead, shot point-blank in the head. Few know Uatu exists; fewer still have the wherewithal and weaponry to execute him. Most of them are on the side of the gods so if stones are upturned will it be a superhero seen scrambling from underneath?

Nick Fury is recalled from self-sequestration.

Some unlikely allegiances are formed amongst the superhero community (exemplary clue: Dr Strange and the Punisher?!).

And Mike Deodato has rendered it all in his exceptional, neo-classical demi-darkness.

How did play out? It was epic thanks in no small part to Mr Deodato whose sense of scale is breathtaking.

It was also a little turgid and utterly implausible but given that Marvel already has Wolverine on twenty-two teams and in thirty-six countries at once, you shouldn’t be surprised that someone here is revealed to have had more than two day jobs and for a very long time. Another character acquires another new job to boot.

Are you watching carefully?


Buy Original Sin (UK Edition) 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?

Expecting To Fly #2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen

Night Post h/c (£12-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez

Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Single Black Glove (£3-50, ) by Kate Hazell

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess

Stickleback vol 2: Number Of The Beast (£14-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Batman Adventures vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kelley Puckett, Martin Pasko & Ty Templeton

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee

Batman Superman vol 2: Game Over h/c (£18-99, DC) by Greg Pak, Paul Levitz & Brett Booth, Jae Lee

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli, Dale Keown

Deadpool Vs X-Force s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski & Pepe Larraz

Fantastic Four vol 2: Original Sin s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk

Original Sin: Thor And Loki – The Tenth Realm s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing & Simone Bianchi, Lee Garbett

Invincible vol 20: Friends (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Deadman Wonderland vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka

Sword Art Online: Aincraid (£14-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tamako Nakamura

Gantz vol 32 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Mistletoe Christmas Card (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Top Shiba Inu Greetings Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Grey Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson



ITEM! Ooooh, on sale NOW: the magical, silent, all-ages NIGHT POST by Ben Read (PORCELAIN, BUTTERFLY GATE) and Laura Trinder. This preview of NIGHT POST points to it being perfect for Christmas! There’s even an enchanting NIGHT POST trailer!

ITEM! Speaking of PORCELAIN, we have free copies of the PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA preview to give away in the shop – and why not ask for one when placing an order by mail? Isn’t it beautiful?!

ITEM! Harlan Coben’s all-time favourite Amazon one-star review. Funny! You know, if you’re not keen on Amazon you can buy discounted prose, CDs and DVDS via Hive, delivered to your door or even delivered to Page 45 for collection for free Either way, if you nominate Page 45 and we make a cut! Hurrah!

ITEM! SelfMadeHero’ Spring Catalogue 2015 includes Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! SelfMadeHero is the publisher of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month, Rob Davis’ magnificent MOTHERLESS OVEN and currently all Page 45’s copies of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN come with a free, limited edition, signed bookplate.

ITEM! Preview of Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE which looks stunning! Page 45 will be receiving copies very shortly indeed!

ITEM! Molly Crabapple’s 15 Rules For Creative Success – make perfect sense to me!

ITEM! Look at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Poblin Award statuette! Isn’t he cute?

I don’t have any big announcements for you this week, sorry.

But I can tease you about one!

Be here on Valentine’s Day 2015 for something a bit special.

Heh heh,

– Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week one

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

 – Stephen on Ms Marvel. Highly recommended.

Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy (£14-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham…

“This is where the ‘greater fool’ theory comes into play.
“The theory is that there is always a greater fool, somewhere, who can be sold a toxic loan and the dangerous piece of paper attached to it.
“Globalisation had opened up a whole world of fools who did not understand the American mortgage market.
“Nobody ever thinks that they themselves might be the greater fool…
“… caught holding the package…
“… when the music stops.”

“During 2007, lenders began foreclosure proceedings on nearly 1.3 million properties – a 79% percent increase over 2006. Then things got worse. By August 2009, 9.2% of all US mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure. One year later, this had risen to 14.4%. The party was over. The music had stopped. The bill had to be paid at last.”

Indeed it did. Just not by the people who had created the problem. I think this may well be the finest piece of investigative graphic journalism I have ever seen. I know Darryl doesn’t necessarily consider himself a journalist, from his perspective he’s just telling the story as he sees it, but it lays bare the truths and falsehoods behind the cause and consequences of the ‘supercrash’. And, as you might intuit from the title, there is undoubtedly blame to be apportioned, and he does so in a truly excoriating yet completely fair manner.

But there is also a wider story to be told here, because inevitably events of this magnitude don’t come about overnight, and in Darryl’s eyes we need to start by looking at the life and influence of Ayn Rand. Rand was a strange, practically messianic figure to some, yet full of contradictions evidently apparent to anyone not blinded by the fervency of her socio-political assertions, and also someone who brooked absolutely no dissent from her coterie of followers who became rapidly known as ‘The Collective’. Amongst those heavily influenced, some might say indoctrinated by Rand, was one Alan Greenspan, who rose in power to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006.

Chief amongst Rand’s beliefs was in the need for absolute unfettered freedom of the financial markets. Regulation by government of the financial systems was tantamount to heresy in Rand’s eyes. The markets should be left to regulate themselves. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine what is going to happen if you let the most avaricious members of society set their own rules does it? And yet, that is precisely what Greenspan presided over during his tenure as the top financial dog of the US economy. Gradually the checks and balances that were in place to prevent the wholesale rape and pillage of the bedrock of the US financial economy were eroded, sidestepped or just outright dismissed  as ever more toxic debt was packaged and passed on in ever more inventive and increasingly immoral, if not at times also downright illegal ways.

Eventually as Darryl explains so clearly, unravelling the mess as he does in the second act of the book, someone was going to end up in deep trouble, and so the runs on the various banks began, the frantic bailouts negotiated by Governments globally at the taxpayers’ expense, whilst the villains of the piece, the individuals that actually caused the problems got off not only scot-free but also trousering vast amounts of cash, some of them in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. I am pretty sure I am right in stating that not one high level banking executive in the UK or US has been sent to prison for any sort of financial impropriety associated with the supercrash.

Gradually however, through pieces like this shining a bright and focussed light on the industry as a whole, and more traditional investigative journalism, we are at last starting to expose very serious wrongdoing such as collusion in fixing the LIBOR rate etc. which must surely see some custodial sentences imposed. Though when we actually see someone sent down instead of merely being given a hefty if token fine I’ll believe it. Plus I’m old enough to remember one Ernest Saunders, sent to prison in the early 90s for fraudulently attempting to manipulate the price of Guinness shares, his sentence commuted after a mere ten months in prison on compassionate grounds due to him almost immediately developing the incurable Alzheimer’s disease, and his subsequent miraculous full and entirely unique recovery upon release.

Reading Darryl’s work makes you realise how much corruption there is at the highest levels of government and the finance industry, how very often it’s a rotating door between the two for various individuals who have no sooner passed laws benefiting investment banks then promptly ending up on the board of one, at least one, in some capacity or other. Capitalism might not be the outright brutal oppression that North Korea imposes on its people but it’s definitely designed to minimise true social mobility and ensure all the wealth remains concentrated in the palms of the very few.

So in the third act, titled ‘The Age Of Selfishness’ Darryl tackles the thorny topic of what could replace capitalism, and how perhaps the ever swinging pendulum of political liberalism and conservatism (to use the American definitions) is in part responsible for the situation we currently find ourselves in. He goes on to make some interesting observations regarding how early people’s political tendencies are apparently created, before looking at the current political situation in both the UK and the US. It’s pretty bleak stuff I must say, but fortunately the final three pages provide some small cause for optimism pointing out as they do that mass citizens movements have brought about substantial societal change before, and have the possibility to do so again.

This is a truly outstanding piece of work, illustrated so intelligently as ever in his wonderful no nonsense informative style, which hits new heights of in terms of detail and its ability to disseminate such complex information so simply, and it deserves to win awards and gain the highest praise and plaudits from not just within the comics industry but also the wider world. I also don’t doubt he’ll now find himself on the watchlist of some very wealthy and well connected people, but that’s the price you pay for shining the light of truth on such a murky morass of quasi-illicit activities by the so called great and good. He’s probably ensured he’ll never get a mention on the Queen’s birthday honours list now either, but he’s certainly deserving  of it in my book for the public service he’s done everyone in writing this work. Bravo Darryl, I salute you.


Buy Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy and read the Page 45 review here

Ordinary h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli.

“You let people down. It’s… who you are.”

Drawn with such energy then coloured to sunshine perfection, this is packed with hundreds of visual background jokes. D’Israeli appears to have had the laugh of his life!

As to Willams, “Truly, we were on the road to random”, I thought – utterly bananas! And it is. But scratch below the surface and so much makes sense and you wait until you encounter its heart.

Michael is a muppet. A divorced plumber with a son in school… somewhere… he is perpetually late, increasingly broke, in debt to some thugs and in spite of a widow’s peak of raggedy, receding hair he dreams of his chances with actress Scarlett Johansson.

Today he is late assisting his business partner with an octogenarian’s crapper. The assistance in question is taking on the old biddy’s verbal incontinence while Brian finally gets down to the plumbing. On his way he encounters said thugs and in the middle of negotiations a plane breaks down. Well, its engine goes boom. Then everything starts to change.

Well, every one. Everyone in the world experiences a transmogrification, reflecting their career, personality or self-esteem. One bloke turns into a dragon, a New York Yankees baseball player becomes a giant, thwacking off the top of the Empire State Building and it turns out the American Chief of Staff is a Hawk. Who knew? Even a taxi driver appears to have experienced an epiphany of sorts – calmness, satori, enlightenment. Instead of a know-it-all he’s genuinely omniscient. If he was working in London, he might even drive south of the Thames.

Everyone except Michael, that is, who is freaking the fuck out and I seriously can’t blame him.

For so long irresponsible, he now grows increasingly desperate about his young son’s safety, last seen at school over the river on Manhattan island. As he struggles to get there a powerplay erupts between the American Vice-President who wants to amplify his superpower’s superpowers and Dr Tara McDonald who is determined to find a cure. Dr McDonald doesn’t appear to have manifested a preternatural ability but I can assure you she both has and does. And I’d keep an eye on the religious Vice President’s aureole of demons and angels slogging it out round his bonce for supremacy.

I wouldn’t call all these mutations “abilities” – some are most emphatically afflictions. The President, for example, has his thoughts made manifest while addressing the nation in actual, visible thoughtbubbles just like a comic and, oh my, how I love creators who really think about their medium of choice!

Another waterslide ride like Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL, this is totally mental but you cannot stop and sure can’t get off so you might as well sit back and adore the insane trajectory. Long before approaching its perfect finale you’ll have realised how rich this really is.

Backtracking to the kick-off, D’Israeli delivers on the sweaty, weeping desperation department swiftly followed by the stooped head and sunken shoulders of a down-trodden man. Will this prove the making of him or the breaking off him?


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

In Real Life (£13-50, First Second) by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang…

“I’m a gamer and I kick arse. No, seriously. I organise a guild online and I’m looking for a few of you chickens to join me.
“This is Coarsegold Online, the fastest growing massive multiplayer role-playing game with over 10 million subscribers worldwide. You might’ve heard of it.
“This is my avatar. In game, they call me the Lizanator, Queen of the Spacelanes, El Presidente of the Clan Fahrenheit.
“How many of you girls game?
“And how many of you play girls?”

I don’t play MMORPGs so I was unaware that the vast majority of female gamers apparently don’t play female characters online, basically through not wanting to be harassed by men-children. Highly topical in the light of the recent #gamergate controversy, I must say. It’s not the main thrust of this story, the fact the main character Anda joins a guild created by ladies for ladies only, so they can feel confident enough to play female characters online, but it does firmly ground the story in reality for sure.

Anda our heroine is blown away by the presentation at her school and offer by renowned gamer Liza McCombs to join her Coarsegold clan as a probationary member. Assuaging her mum’s well-meaning concerns about her playing games on the internet with complete strangers, Anda convinces her mum to use her credit card to sign her up, and promptly enthusiastically dives into the online world, making firm friends with another newbie called Sarge. At first they undertake the usual levelling up antics battling monsters, but then Sarge gets wind of a way to make some cash in the real world, by assassinating gold farmers.


Gold farming for the uninitiated is defined by Wikipedia as ‘playing a massively multiplayer online game to acquire in-game currency that other players purchase in exchange for real-world money.’ And apparently again according to Wikipedia ‘gold farming in the People’s Republic of China is more pervasive than in any other country, as 80% of all gold farmers are in mainland China, with a total of 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country as of far back as 2005. Gold farming in China is done in Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes. When organized as an actual informal business, they are known as gaming workshops. Prisoners in Chinese labour camps have been forced to engage in gold farming for the financial benefit of prison authorities.’ Righty-o.

Consequently, the act of gold farming is generally frowned upon and real world bounties are indeed placed on the heads of specific groups of gold farmers, often at the behest of other nearby competing gold farmers obviously… The naive Anda initially believes she’s going after bots, but even after she realises she is wiping out real players, Sarge persuades her that they deserve it and Anda is simply doing every other Coarsegold player a favour. And, even better than that, she’s getting real money arriving in her PayPal account as a reward to boot. Well, actually it’s her mum’s PayPal account, which she has access to.

It’s only when she befriends a young gold farmer and learns his real world story, that of someone, indeed in China, struggling on the breadline, in harsh working conditions, that she begins to wonder whether her homicidal actions are justified, causing a serious fracture in her friendship with Sarge, as she tries to galvanise her new Chinese friend to talk to his workmates and take some collective action to improve their lot by demanding better pay and conditions from their boss. Meanwhile, her mum, finally noticing her PayPal account is suddenly awash with cash, sent by various strange men, goes ballistic and electronically grounds Anda, despite her protestations, cutting her off from the internet completely leaving her with no way of knowing what has happened to her friend. When she finally gets back online, well, things have changed…

What a well written, totally plausible tale this is, highlighting various social issues associated with online gaming, without ever seeming preachy. The pull quote from Felicia Day, actress and star of amongst other things The Guild and also writer of THE GUILD comics states entirely accurately, ‘A lovely graphic novel for gamer girls of all ages’, but I’d go further than that, it’s something that boys and indeed parents should read and would also enjoy immensely too.

I’m immensely impressed with how well constructed this story is, which despite being about a subject many a reader would know precisely nothing about, is written in a manner by Cory Doctorow which elucidates an otherwise potentially mysterious topic beautifully. The art similarly, by Jen KOKO BE GOOD Wang is perfect for this tale and moves seamlessly from online to offline and back again scenes. I actually think they’ve made the right call not utilising a different art style for the two worlds, the real and the online, aside from the use of characters’ avatars to depict them in the Coarsegold world, because isn’t the whole point, indeed points, of this story that in fact the two cannot be separated? Another brilliant addition to the ever-burgeoning legion of books we can whole heartedly endorse for teen and younger readers and school libraries.


Buy In Real Life and read the Page 45 review here

Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 (£7-50, First Second) by Paul Pope, J. T. Petty & David Rubin…

‘There were three ‘big conversations’ in Aurora’s childhood.
Age 3…
“Your father is a science hero. We fight monsters.”
Age 7…
“I should tell you the story of how your mom died…”
Age 14…
“I’m going to train you to fight monsters.”’

Volume 1 of 2 detailing the back story of Aurora West, the feisty monster fighting daughter of Haggard West, last seen being extremely perturbed by the show stealing arrival of BATTLING BOY in her home city of Acropolis.

First up, I have to give the warning that this work is not illustrated and indeed only part written by Paul Pope. Why that would be so, I honestly don’t know. Whether it was originally intended this was something Paul would do, or just a great subsequent idea for a spin-off he didn’t have time to do, I don’t know. It’s also in black and white, not glorious colour like BATTLING BOY.

Your initial impression therefore may well be the same as mine, one of mild disappointment, simply because BATTLING BOY was so, so good, I wanted more of the same, and this didn’t seem to be it. But if you can look at this work in its own right, it’s actually brilliant fun, very well written and extremely well illustrated. It’s just going to suffer a bit in comparison for some people, die hard Pope fans, on first impressions at least.

So, Aurora West is an all-action girl, learning multiple martial arts and mystical meditation techniques alongside her regular schooling by day, whilst being her heroic dad’s sidekick by night. She’s determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s death, but there’s a monster named Sadisto running a local gang snatching kids off the streets to contend with first. Sadisto has much bigger plans too, but perhaps Aurora’s decision to undertake some investigations of her own might not be the wisest course of action…

I would say this is ostensibly aimed at younger readers, perhaps a touch more so than BATTLING BOY, though I certainly enjoyed it too. There is a reasonable degree of extreme if comedic violence, plus the use of various martial arts weaponry, so it might not be suitable for the smallest of readers, and obviously the loss of a parent is always a difficult subject to write sensitively about, but if action is what is required to entertain, this certainly has it in abundance, as Aurora careens from one dust-up to the next.

I think J.T. Petty may well be responsible for the majority of the writing duties with Pope advising on continuity and plot perhaps, though the general feel and dialogue of BATTLING BOY and this work are reasonably similar, and David Rubin’s art style is just close enough to Pope’s that you feel this work can co-exist quite nicely in the BATTLING BOY milieu, though ultimately it also stands alone quite nicely as well. I will certainly be recommending people read it in its own right.


Buy Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass (£14-99, Vertigo) by Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Jamie Delano & Sean Phillips, Pat McEown.

“The Second Coming of Johnny Silk Cut.”

John Constantine: basically he’s one big smoke-screen.

So Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis / Steve Dillon eras of HELLBLAZER in all their quick-witted, socio-political brilliance are wrapped up, complete, and we start afresh with new regular artist Sean Phillips of FATALE and CRIMINAL fame. Including a few earlier appearances Sean drew 38 issues in total with an unbroken run of 44 painted covers beginning here.

I know this because I bought THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS written by Eddie Robson based on extensive interviews with Sean and his collaborators, and heartily recommend that you do so as well! It’s not just an art book, it is a full and frank insight into one career and the recent history of comics as a whole. Within you learn also how many rewrites were demanded of ALEC, FROM HELL and THE PLAYWRIGHT’s Eddie Campbell on HELLBLAZER which is why, after such a frustrating experience, he quit. Really: you would demand rewrites of Eddie Campbell? It is to Eddie’s credit that you really can’t tell. His Johnny Silk Cut is a riot.

“Sashimi… Had some of that in a restaurant once, Arthur… I took it home and cooked it… Tasted just like fish.”

John is called in to exorcise a mate’s Uncle Arthur, killing him in the process. Whoops. What worries our John is that Arthur was having the same apocalyptic visions as himself and a quick browse of his bookcase confirms that Arthur was far more than he let on.

At which point Arthur’s family disappear, replaced by Murnaar the bipedal cat demon, Bona Dea who’s both blind and blunt, and the ghost of Sir Francis Dashwood, legendary founder of the equally infamous Hellfire Club. They have a warning:

“Reality has been hacked in the middle with a machete. The guts are about to start puking out.”

Urban legends are being made manifest.

“Unreason has been let loose like a mad dog.”

They claim the only way to reseal the fragile, thin membrane separating life and death, reality and unreality, reason and unreason is a world trip by plane, binding its circumference in a circle using a talisman which is Constantine’s case is a zippo lighter engraved with a snake-circled tree. Of course it is. It’s far more relevant than you think.

It’s the perfect plot for Campbell who lets loose his encyclopaedic knowledge of history, politics, literature, theatre and folklore while exploring the preoccupations with life and reality which he would later expound upon to great comical effect in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST.

“Wait! This isn’t a joke! This serious – real life’s a joke!”
You’re tellin’ me.”

All the while Sean Phillips is choreographing Constantine in what amounts to a ballet: as one ciggie after another is lit to perch permanently between his teeth, he is left with both hands free to lurch and pinwheel across the page, smoke swirling ever upwards. All this, I might add, is drawn straight into inks giving the forms, shadows and action a fluidity which blew my mind at the time. Phillips’ art is always fully grounded in each environment without cluttering it up with detail when unnecessary. His Australia is as immediately recognisable as his London suburbs in spite of all the photo references Eddie Campbell had diligently supplied getting no further than DC HQ. There’s also an arresting, haunting depiction of effects on an individual’s body of the Ebola virus as Eddie warns the world 20 years ago of what we’re all facing now. If only more people read comics, eh?

Paul Jenkins picks up the plot post-Campbell (who has stuck around long enough for a rip-roaring finale), delaying John’s flight from Australia just long enough to embroil him a struggle between Aborigines under siege from the relatively recent white man and facing eviction from their land that has been theirs for millennia. It gets brutal.

Before all of this, however, original series writer Jamie Delano returns to deliver a Constantine classic which finally explains precisely why his long-suffering taxi-driving constantly-on-call mate Chas is so loyal – no, so devoted – to the presumptuous, manipulative man who gets him into so much trouble with his missus, Renée.

It is gloriously gross, involving Chas’ excruciating dreadful mother – the proverbial mad woman in the attic – and her pet / agent / spy / familiar with whom she appears to be in symbiotic, telepathic contact: a wig-wearing chimpanzee called Slag.


Buy Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 4 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

“Listen, Haruo. School isn’t just where you come when you’re hungry. You gotta show up in the morning an’ study too.”
“Yer gonna mess up my internal clock!”

Dear, dear Haruo has an answer for everything; but also one specific vulnerability.

Welcome back to the Japanese orphanage where imagination is one of the children’s very few assets and parents are everything.

That may sound like an odd thing to say about an orphanage but Japan is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Many of these “orphans” still have living parents who have jettisoned them into state care because looking after their children would evidently be too much fucking trouble.

“No need to sugarcoat it,” says Asako to her foundation-caked and rouge-slathered mother who’s all doll-faced mutton dressed up as lamb. “We’ll be fine. You just keep doing whatever makes you feel good.”

Haruo is feeling restless and has taken to petty theft. I mean, really taken to it. The local traders only tolerate it because they know what a rough life he’s had, but the teachers are mortified to the core: honour and the genuine shame felt at inconveniencing others are so profoundly important to the Japanese people (please see A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD VOL 2). But Haruo is utterly unrepentant in spite of a store owner kindly declining to call the cops until his teacher promises, “I’ll make sure his mother hears about this.”

“Adachi, don’t tell my mom!! PLEASE, ADACHI, PLEASE!”
“We’re not talking about that now. How much is the pencil case?”
“If you do, she’ll never let me live with her again! I’LL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY!!”
“Uh… 1,200 yen, but…”

As ever with Matsumoto, there’s no sugarcoating the children, either. These aren’t the wide, shiny-eyed super-cutesies from sugar-buzz manga, but flush-faced, tiny-teethed and dripping with snot in the cold. They have straw hair and tantrums rather than glossy, tufty-wufty quiffs falling half-over their eyes and melodramatic, stylised gesticulations and proclamations.

There’s a sadness which haunts the series, often kept quietly to itself in ellipses, and if you want to gauge how highly we value this title, the first volume of SUNNY was our Dominique’s book of the year.


Buy Sunny vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Quiet Disaster (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts…

‘Philip was getting old. His face was getting wrinkled, his hairline was moving backwards and he was on the waiting list for a knee operation. It was his day off and he didn’t have any plans, so, he ate his breakfast in front of the computer screen… and asked himself…
“What do I want to do?
“Is there anything in the world I actually want to do?
“Nothing comes to mind.”’

Not enjoying the luxury of ever having any personal spare time between the shop and my family, I can’t quite imagine myself in Philip’s envious position. I do vaguely remember the days where I could just do whatever I wanted, all day, but they seem like a distant dream now frankly. Two minutes on the toilet before my three-year-old nutjob bursts in demanding to know where I am is as good as it gets these days. So whilst I read this beautifully illustrated missive from the temporally rich Phillip as he puts on whatever half clean clothes he had lying around and sets off on a quiet stroll with no particular destination in mind, I allowed myself not to be too jealous as I eagerly awaited the riposte of his impending titular disaster.

When I’d finished reading, I actually felt a little sorry for lonely old Phillip. It’s not remotely dramatic at all this tale, which I guess is alluded to from the quiet element of the title, but there’s a real poignancy to several moments where we are seeing his overlaid memories, provoked by being stood in a similar place or situation, of what I believe to be the ending of a relationship. Meanwhile there’s also some strange comedic relief provided by a dog apparently wearing sunglasses that Phillip repeatedly encounters, or at least he thinks he does, which leads him into an embarrassing farcical finale of a confrontation in a local pub at last orders.

I really enjoyed this work, not least because it confounded my expectations, whilst simultaneously delivering a gripping, if paradoxically gentle, read. On the one hand, from start to finish, I kept thinking something tumultuous was imminently about to occur, yet the graceful poise of the plot makes perfect sense in its entirety. I was left feeling rather like Phillip at the start of his day, a bit deflated and empty, though I did raise a smile at the epilogue, which I think shows Alex has taken us on an all too typical day in the life of this character very successfully indeed. Alex has a nice style of illustration too, which reminded me a little bit, possibly more due to the colour palette than the penmanship per se, of Dan Berry. Just like Dan’s works, this has a very British feel to it, and fans of his should definitely check this out I think. One to watch out for.


Buy A Quiet Disaster and read the Page 45 review here

C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis.

“Why does everyone think they can touch me?”

Chicago 1962: hello, rank and ubiquitous chauvinism!

Well, I wasn’t expecting this: gripping from cover to climax and cover, this was both thrilling and faultless.

I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the creators. Certainly if I’d encountered artist Rod Reis I’d know about it because on the very first page (bottom panel) I was wowed instantly into thinking of Bill Sienciewicz’s NEW MUTANTS run. Blaze is essentially Bill’s Canonball.

The quality is maintained on each successive page, the period feel denoted by palettes of blue-greys or fauns with the occasional deft touch of luminous erosion. Nor is there anything meek or effete about the expressions as the members of C.O.W.L. take one for the team or, I’m afraid, from them.

There is, you might say, something rotten in the state of Denmark.

C.O.W.L. is an organisation of on-the-clock metahumans run by Geoffrey Warner who, post-WWII, have been employed by the city of Chicago to police the streets and protect its citizens specifically from other superpowered threats. (They’re not exactly nine-to-five for they operate for obvious practicalities’ sake in similar shifts to the police.) Even more specifically they were employed – as in paid good money – to protect Chicago from The Chicago Six and halfway through the very first chapter the last of The Chicago Six is taken down.

To all ostensible intents and purposes, C.O.W.L.’s work is done. They have effectively been so effective that they have won themselves out of a job.

It is therefore in every member of C.O.W.L.’s best interest to prove they still have some value to the city of Chicago and the politics here are played beautifully. Contracts for any sort of renewal have to be negotiated right down to terms and conditions and pay. And there is a strike. But the crucial thing about any strike is that if no one notices the difference between you being on the job and on strike… well, you’ve just proved yourself superfluous.

Some members of C.O.W.L. are better team-players than others, some more altruistic and some more… indulgent. Some do enjoy just getting their rocks off. The most conscientious is John Pierce of the Investigations Division. He’s not a punch-thrower, he’s a detective whose wife would love him to call it C.O.W.L. quits right now when the institution is on the brink of dispersal and the police would snap him up in an instant: it was Johns’ due diligence that delivered the last of The Chicago Six.

But the problem is… the problem is… some people are wise, some otherwise and the truth is not what it was.

It is John’s commitment and exceptional eye for detail which uncovers what could jeopardise his company’s reputation and so completely undermine the delicate balance of power in the above negotiations.

I hope I’ve been vague enough.

If you loved early POWERS – and I really, really did – you are going to adore this! Same goes for GOTHAM CENTRAL readers and those who relished IDENTITY CRISIS or THE AUTHORITY.


Buy C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c and read the Page 45 review here

100 Bullets Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

Collects first three 100 BULLETS volumes in one! It’s a thing DC’s doing now.

Gripping conspiracy crime fiction which, initially, looks simple enough: Agent Graves, a man of almost pensionable age in a suit and tie, arrivals on your doorstep with a briefcase.

In that case is irrefutable evidence that someone has seriously screwed you over plus the culprit’s identity. There’s also a gun and 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. By “untraceable” I mean that if even a single bullet is found at the scene of any crime, investigations into it will cease immediately. How is that possible? Why is he doing it?

Would you use that gun, knowing you could get away with murder?

As the series progresses it becomes increasingly evident that this isn’t a game, it’s not even a private obsession. It’s a war.

Strings are being pulled while ties have already been severed; activations occur, more revenge is sought, but neither the original victims nor on occasion the original perpetrator are necessarily unconnected to Graves’s past or present. And some of them haven’t a clue they were victims, let alone connected.

There’s Mr. Shepherd, the Trust, the Minutemen and their history. There are several long-games in play.

So clever is this that there’s a stand-alone chapter in the next book containing two seemingly separate stories seamlessly interwoven and choreographed across a single park, and I cannot fault a word of dialogue. Azarello’s ear for dialect is superb. He has every nuance, every cadence of urban street patter down to perfection.


In the final story arc here we are introduced us to Loop, a young black guy raised in Philadelphia by his Ma, and whose Father is just someone she refers to. Loop talks the talk (and the talk is captured to the very syllable, with its own lyrical beauty), but so far he’s not yet walked the walk, though he teeters alarmingly close. A fine time for Agent Graves to tip the balance, providing Loop with an opportunity to meet the father he’s never known and resents, but for whom he constantly yearns. Unfortunately his Father turns out to be equally rudderless, collecting debts for a gnarled old loan shark, and although reconciliation does seem possible, they may well end up being the death of each other.

Recommended to readers of CRIMINAL and STRAY BULLETS. And indeed vice-versa.

Risso’s art is an essay in silhouette and shadow, so it’s recommended to SIN CITY patrons as well. There will be much more on Risso and the colouring so close that you can hear the cicadas anon.


Buy 100 Bullets Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Terrible things happen to terrified young people, turning them into terrifyingly out-of-control car wrecks. They get caught in the cross-fire of other people’s greed, grief or beef, and it sends their lives careening in completely unintended directions.

Joey’s a car wreck. You just won’t find out why for hundreds of pages and then it all makes such appalling sense. But almost immediately it will dawn on you that a main protagonist in one chapter plays another role in someone else’s story as the narrative flips backwards and forwards in time.

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly. The new series kicked off with STRAY BULLETS: THE KILLERS #1 at £2-75 and, back in stock, that’s the perfect, affordable place to start and the best single comic I’d read all year. You know, until the other eight came out.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to the current STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS, while this contains the first fifth of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is. However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is a density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

In a way we are in Lynchian territory, for these suburban families seem perfectly normal from without, but wait until you see what simmers within. Also, I remember wondering what the fuck was up with the early, action-packed episode starring Amy Racecar and set in outer space. All I will say is that David Lapham isn’t the only one with a vivid imagination.

In later volumes these lives converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. Young Virginia Applejack tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, while Nina’s own friends, the ever-volatile Beth and Orson, land in trouble of their own when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration at that point, but we will have only just begun. It’s followed by a new set of domestic freaks, and a short story which shows Lapham at his most manipulative:

After Kathy drags her boozed-up man into the house and out of the rain, she hears a knock at the door and finds two guys and a gal, pissed out of their skulls, insisting that Ricky owes them money. Kathy tries to shut the door on them, but the big guy – who insists he’s a cop – wedges his foot in the door, and the rest of that chapter grows increasingly worrying. Anything could happen. Anything.

Lapham’s command of the way dialogue can shift from confrontational to conciliatory to threatening – within breaths – will keep you on the edge of your anxious seat, but you’ll never guess from the lead-in how this story will end. To kick up the contrast, the next issue sees the return of the inimitable Amy Racecar in a private-eye spoof as ridiculously convoluted and funny as the opening credits to American television’s satirical SOAP. Amy’s on top, world-of-her-own form, and possibly Lapham’s most clever creation; I’m constantly forgetting that she’s actually [redacted].

Just when you think you’ve witnessed the worst atrocities this series of victims, survivors, chancers, bullies, losers and lowlifes has to offer, Lapham delivers a story of fatally misplaced trust which will have you turning the pages so tentatively with the words “No… no…” quietly riding your breath. You’ll start to worry ten pages in. It’s always the quiet ones to watch out for, but as soon as that photograph is surreptitiously slipped into the pile that the man is showing the boy, you’ll begin sweating. Child abduction and abuse are not subjects to be treated lightly or sensationally. Lapham does neither; you’ll soon wish he had.

The main differences between this and, say, 100 BULLETS which we all love to wit-riddled death is that this is all so intimate, so personal, and that the individuals – the victims in this series – are so young. That’s what made Lapham’s SILVERFISH such a nail-biter too.

As they reach their mid-to-late-teens with sex high on the agenda they make more mistakes. And because they’re older and capable of doing so much more with much greater strength, those mistakes have greater consequences. Brian and Mikey… now that’s one friendship which will never be the same.

As to the art, extraordinarily Lapham starts off knowing immediately how he wants to present these tales: all 1,200 pages are completely consistent whereas during STRANGERS IN PARADISE you can see Terry Moore develop in front of you. The paper used here has a satin sheen so that the shadows shine on the page. And it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the forms soft are soft and yielding, and the hair falls just-so. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This book contains the first series’ first seven issues.


Buy Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism and read the Page 45 review here

Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona.

“Everyone else gets to be normal. Why can’t I?”

Scream three hundred million teenagers worldwide.

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

“It’s almost like a reflex like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel… uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool. But instead I feel small.”

Page after page is riddled with this insight and empathy and it will mean so much to so many. If I have one piece of advice to those younger than me, to do better than me, to feel more comfortable, earlier than I did because I made this all-too common mistake, it comes in the form of this perfect observation:

“Being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting.”

Quite so. Be yourself!

It won’t get you a free pass to a party, mind you.

“Can I go a party tonight?”
“On the waterfront.”
“With boys?”
“Very funny.”

Hahahaha! Oh, how I love this family. And that above all is what this comic is about: family and friendship.


Unlike most superhero comics this is genuinely mainstream with mass appeal. “Abu” the father is dead-pan and dry but unlike Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet (Pride And Prejudice) he is so full of love. His priority is not how things look, but his daughter’s safety and happiness.

Starring sixteen-year-old Kamala, an American-born Pakistani, it confounds stereotypes and is instead packed full of genuine individuals like Kamala’s stylish friend Nakia who is thoroughly modern and savvy yet still proud of her Turkish heritage. For although Kamala can’t go to the party because there will be alcohol, Nakia won’t go to the party because there is alcohol. She knows her own mind, is what I’m saying.

Nor is Wilson afraid to pick holes in her own religion’s more superficial sillinesses, like the segregation of women from men in a mosque. It is rather difficult to concentrate when you can’t see the speaker!

Here there are those for whom race and religion don’t even figure like young shop assistant and school high-achiever, Josh, with the crush on Kamala that nobody notices. Then there are cast members who fail to see beyond the stereotypes, like over-privileged social blonde butterfly and concern-troll, Zoe.

“Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that colour.”
“But I mean… nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to, like, honour kill you? I’m just concerned.”
“Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it’s a phase.”
“Really? Wow, cultures are so interesting.”

Kamala thinks Zoe “nice”, “happy” and even “adorable” but she’ll be disabused of that naïve notion before too long. Unlike Nakia, Kamala doesn’t yet know her own mind or other people. When she sneaks out at night to go to the waterfront the drink which she insists must be alcohol-free is spiked then she’s laughed at. As she stomps off in a defeated huff a metamorphic mist descends and Kamala passes out. Did I mention that she’s ever so slightly obsessed with Avengers? She writes online fan fic and everything! So Kamala has a vision…

From On High through billowing clouds, winged sloths and bobble-hatted doves descend her Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, the white, blonde goddess whom Kamala adores. Is she having a religious experience?!

Adrian Alphona’s art is adorable throughout. It’s soft and sweet and full of comedic expressions with a clearly defined spirit of place.

But it is on this particular page that he shows his real wit, transposing Iron Man and the couple of Captains gesturing beatifically into a traditional religious tableau complete with scrolling ribbons and… is that a hedgehog giving the victory salute?

“You thought that if you disobeyed your parents – your culture, your religion – your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?”
“They – they laughed at me. Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb. But that’s not why I snuck out! It’s not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it’s just – I grew up here! I’m from Jersey not Karachi! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be.”

It’s then that the vision of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) asks a key question:

“Who do you want to be?”
“Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you. Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.”

Like the later shape-shifting episode in the school washrooms, the punchline to that is hilarious. If there weren’t shrieks of outraged horror deafening the internet from those who could not wait, read, or comprehend a comic correctly then I would be very much surprised. Kamala has a lot of growing up to do, and I’m going to love watching her do so. While getting into trouble with her family.

Like YOUNG AVENGERS, HAWKEYE and LOKI, this is another fresh face for superhero comics, broadening their appeal through diversity. And I don’t even mean racial, religious, sexual or gender diversity – though that is important too – I mean that Willow G. Wilson has brought with her a different voice which is far from worthily earnest, but genuine, sympathetic and understanding of young hearts instead.

Here is Kamala transformed by the power of her will and the whim of her instinct into blonde superhero Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers.

“I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull off great boots, if I could fly… that would make me feel strong. That would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch… and this leotard is giving me an epic wedgie.”


Buy Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Guillem March, various.

If it wasn’t for the obligatory, silly supervillain sequences I’d be more disposed to remember the cute lines and deft expressions given by writer and artist to Harley Quinn, here back from a massive shopping spree dressed as a school girl with her blonde hair done up in a couple of bunches. Catwoman, having learned that her other co-star Poison Ivy has donated the 30 million dollars she gave her to global reforestation projects, reprimands Harley on her consumerist splurges:

“You’re worse than that the flower child. You might as well be throwing away your millions on the Joker.”
“Not this time. I’m over Mr. J.”
“Oh, please. He’ll be calling for your money the second he hears about it.”
“Then you’ll be skipping out the door for another round of abuse, humiliation and regret.”
Has he called?!”
“Oh. Well, like I said, I’m over Mr. J.”

So: the three girls are going to move in together. What could possibly go wrong?

Collects #1-13. Thirteen? Unlucky for some!


Buy Gotham City Sirens Book 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?


aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

All You Need Is Kill (£9-99, Haikasoru) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Nick Mamatas & Lee Ferguson

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 9: The Rift Part 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros

Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Animal Man vol 5: Evolve Or Die s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Batman Beyond 2.0 vol 1: Rewired s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Thony Silas, Eric Wight

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

Avengers vol 6: Infinite Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool Classic vol 10 (£22-50, Marvel) by Gail Simone, Buddy Scalera, Evan Dorkin, Daniel Way & various

Elektra vol 1: Bloodlines s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Haden Blackman & Mike Del Mundo

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

New Avengers vol 4: Perfect World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various

Attack On Titan vol 14 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Gantz vol 33 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

UQ Holder vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu


ITEM! We have new Page 45 Tote Bags! Oh yes! Both a fashion statement and a status symbol, our first batch of 250 are almost sold out and – haha! – we created a variant cover! Because you know how much I love those! *spits* It was a printing error at the manufacturer but plenty of shop-floor folk have said they prefer the new one. Please do state your sartorial preference when ordering online or being fleeced on the shop floor. Cheers!


To celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary we went to Kendal for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and I done wrote big blogs about both of those. Full of photos!

We even had Glyn Dillon signing, sketching and watercolour washing in THE NAO OF BROWN which I declared two years ago to be the finest piece of graphic novel fiction of all time. So that was an honour!

What we have here is a copy of THE NAO OF BROWN which Glyn Dillon – after two hours hard work signing and sketching for Page 45 which we so, so appreciate – then went on to draw in with a unique variation on his regular thang. Look at this! *swoons*

That book is yours for free including postage (for we ship daily, worldwide) if you can just tell me this:

In my Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 blog which blinding faux pas did I confess to about meeting Glyn Dillon?

Everyone who answers correctly within a week will be put into a hat. Because it’s winter now and hats are warm and snuggly. You’ll enjoy it in there!

At the end of the week we’ll get one of Nottingham’s finest creators like I.N.J. Culbard, Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson or D’Israeli to draw one of you out of that hat and you will receive that gift for free with love from Page 45 and gratitude for all your support.

Seriously: thank you.

Please email your answers into with the title heading THE NAO OF BROWN COMPETITION and we’ll print ‘em all off.

Right, having bought this building last Monday, we’ve got a £350,000 mortgage to pay.

Fancy buying a comic?


– Stephen