Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week four

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

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