Archive for January, 2015

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week four

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Including art by Fiona Staples prior to SAGA;  MARCH by Congressman John Lewis; a new graphic novel by Michael DeForge; and Hope Larson’s new comic SOLO which is signed, sketched-in and exclusive to Page 45 in the UK!

March Book 2 s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell.

“I’ll end up where I need to be.”

Autobiography from indomitable Civil Rights campaigner – now United States Congressman – John Lewis.

Every event chronicled here in painful, painstaking detail happened to John Lewis and those around him between 1961 and 1963 during The Freedom Rides and Operation Open City.

And there is so much blood.

There is so much blood, so much ferocious anger, so many heads smashed against floors and so many skulls caved in by police batons. Never mind the water cannons then rabid, salivating dogs unleashed against school children by Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor in Alabama. These were not college students but school children aged 7 upwards and nearly a thousand were arrested on May 2nd 1963 during their peaceful protest.

All this very real horror – this leering and jeering and sneering and snarling and spitting and mob attacks by white civilians and policemen and militia upon defenceless black pacifists – is depicted unflinchingly by Nate Powell (SWALLOW ME WHOLE, ANY EMPIRE, THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, SOUNDS OF YOUR NAME). It is at times claustrophobic when The Freedom Riders are trapped on buses which were firebombed… or penned in a waiting room in the dark surrounded by the Ku Klux Klan and affiliated officials and laymen… or thrown into prison for refusing to endorse segregation by paying their fines, so left at the mercy of vicious prison officers given free rein by their equally malicious governor, Fred Jones, away from any possibility of being caught on camera.

In one savage onslaught a woman holding a baby screams at the quiet and respectful pacifists simply standing their ground by standing in line, “GET THE NIGGERS! GET THE NIGGERS!” and it is all one can do not to weep.

This self-contained volume of the trilogy – which began in MARCH BOOK 1 with John Lewis’ childhood then early sit-ins at whites-only cafeterias which were later, here, met with a lock-in and fumigation – is yet again intercut with the Inauguration of America’s first black President, Barrack Obama, in Washington DC on January 20th 2009.

There is an arresting double-page spread of Aretha Franklin, right arm flung wide, singing her heart and soul out at the ceremony in an electric rendition of ‘My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee’, its lyrics splashed across the paper from border to border:


All of which is juxtaposed against a montage of memories – the price which the fight for that freedom cost while those selfsame words were being sung so patriotically but emptily by others – of a policeman casually, dispassionately lighting a cigarette and of the bandaged, bloodied bodies the police were (either directly or through their culpable, collaborative refusal to protect) responsible for.

It’s a testament to Nate Powell that not once do the hundreds of individuals depicted here seem generic: the first black and white Freedom Riders defying transportation segregation by sitting together, each of them identified; the young girl who will not be moved even as a speeding truck screeches to a halt in front of her then revs threateningly, angrily as its driver contemplates running her right over; another schoolgirl on May 2nd 1963 asking for no more than the basic right to freedom as dozens of her fellow protestors are bundled into a police van.

As well as identifying each individual member of the SNCC and the specific, heroic roles they played at each juncture, John Lewis names and shames those who engaged in overt racism on a local, State or national level even as a seemingly powerless government failed to enforce integration, Attorney General Robert Kennedy being completely ignored.

Mendacity was rife.

You may have wondered about the back cover, as I surely did: the stained glass window, the face of Christ smashed in, letting a white light shine through. It was actually night-time on May 21st 1961, to be precise.

“After hearing of the violence at the bus station, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. flew to Montgomery. A mass meeting was called at Ralph Abernathy’s church. Governor Patterson, despite promising to protect us, has warrants sworn out for our arrest.”

Yet another angry mob swelled outside, that brick breached the stained glass window but the troops supposedly sent to protect the church’s vulnerable occupants did nothing of the sort.

“General Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard, a real estate agent in his civilian life, refused to allow anyone to leave.”

Worst of all was that Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor, determined to deport any Freedom Riders who finally made it to Birmingham, Alabama, without their bus being firebombed after letting the mob have its way. Asked on television why there were no police officers at the bus station, he replied:

“Mother’s Day. We try and let off as many of our policemen as possible, so they can spend Mother’s Day at home with their families.”

As I said: mendacity.

“We found out later that he’d promised the Ku Klux Klan fifteen minutes with the bus before he’d make any arrests.”

May 18th 1961 seemed most terrifying to me. After Lewis et al had been banged up in police cells yet again, towards midnight Chief Connor made a personal visit.

“I’m putting you people under protective custody, and sending you all the way back to Nashville where you belong. And just to make sure you get there… I’m gonna ride along.”

All the way back to Nashville…? No. As soon as they reached the Tennessee line, the men and women were summarily ejected from the car in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere without transportation… right in the heart of Klan country.

What this gripping graphic novel makes abundantly clear over and over again is that it is a miracle John Lewis survived to end up where he needed to be: in Washington for the march on August 28th 1963 as chairman of the SNCC. It wasn’t a day without conflict – this time from within – but it did prove a milestone in American history.

However, it isn’t where the book ends, I’m afraid. Someone always has to get the last word in.

It ends on September 15th 1963, outside the Baptist Church of Sixteenth Street, Birmingham, Alabama.

Youth Sunday.


Buy March Book 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Solo: Book One (Sketched In) (£9-99, self-published) by Hope Larson.

“Your dirty look it left a mark
no one can see it in the dark
and if you meant for this to sting
I don’t feel a thing”

Well, will you look at that cover!

With its gold block-printing ink haphazardly rolled on with a brayer, each front cover is unique. With the opening pages signed and sketched in for Page 45, each interior of this pocket book is also unique! Oh, and Page 45 is unique in being the only retailer in the UK to stock this beauty at the time of typing.

It’s in a “shitty little town” in the middle of nowhere, before the final song on the last leg of a tour, that Andy announces to a devastated crowd his split with wife and fellow musician, Leah.

The above was recorded by Leah drunk on Peppermint Schnapps during the first evening of separation, and I know that revenge is a dish best served creatively but the split was at the least ostensibly mutual. On the other hand, when you have your eyes set on a new future, it’s difficult not to blurt out things which may seem a little insensitive, competitive, especially when you are creatively inclined.

So. Leah is hoping to record at Tommy’s studio in Montana, but first she has to get there. When her carburettor claps out not far from the gig and the local mechanic needs $300 which Leah simply does not have, Leah has little option but to pawn her guitar and wedding ring. Imagine you were a massive fan of the band, had been to that gig the night before… and it was you behind that counter.

This is the first half of a whole which I’ve read in its entirety and, boy, you are in for a treat! Have you never day-dreamed about what it would be like to meet one of your idols on neutral, mutual territory? Now imagine it from your idol’s point of view when they’re out of luck.

From the creator of CHIGGERS and MERCURY, the artist on Madeleine L’Engle’s WRINKLE IN TIME graphic novel, the writer of WHO IS AC? and, of course, the co-creator of Page 45’s exclusive Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 signing print, this is a more stripped-down and direct affair, Leah’s eyes gazing out of the page, into the crowd and towards an uncertain future.

It leaves her a little vulnerable, sends her a bit off-kilter and makes her more than a tad defensive, all of which is reflected in the spot-black, grey-toned art as Leah’s mood shifts at a moment’s notice.

96 silky pages with a cardstock cover. And I repeat: grey tone, not green as depicted here.


Buy Solo: Book One and read the Page 45 review here

Guide To The Round Things Of The Solar System (£10-00) by Richard Swan…

“If we were a double planet system then one side of the Earth would face the moon the whole time too and we would be dancing like Rose and Jack on the Titanic. Although romantic and exciting, this would mean that half the planet wouldn’t be able to see the moon and that would affect property prices.”

Wouldn’t it just? Not sure this is technically comics* though Richard does move sequentially from the centre of our solar system, starting with the sun, past the Kuiper Belt into the Scattered Disc region.  He himself describes it as ‘a delicious pocket guide / coffee table booklette of painted solar system objects with heartwarming descriptions”. Which pretty much sums it up, actually; it has that slightly insane feel of the narrator in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, which perfectly complements the surprisingly detailed, dainty paintings.


Overall it looks like the best GCSE astronomy project ever produced, hand-bound with a metal spiral for added boutique effect. I’d give him an A* for this, I really would. Plus, importantly, you will learn stuff. Armed with the knowledge you will cull from this handy reference you should be more than prepared should an impending Vogon Disruptor Fleet necessitate an immediate planetary evacuation…

* Editor’s note: it really isn’t, but it is very beautiful, educational and very, very funny!


Buy Guide To The Round Things Of The Solar System and read the Page 45 review here

First Year Healthy h/c (£10-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

Following an ‘episode’, not elaborated upon, which necessitated a stay in hospital (presumably of the mental variety) our narrator, a young woman possessed of almost Mandlebrotian-style ginger hair has returned to her home town. Whatever this episode was, and however long it lasted, it was of sufficient severity to ensure she is no longer allowed to visit her brothers at their family homes, presumably due to the potential danger she might represent to their spouses and offspring. She doesn’t realise this initially, but the revelation comes as a sudden insight as her life once again begins to fall apart.

This is one of those comics, as all Michael DeForge’s are, which is very difficult to pin down, with an obtuse ending that is left open to interpretation. There’s a representational element throughout involving a huge and monstrous wild cat, replete with fangs and spiky mane, plus a smaller silhouetted cat, at times extending out from the woman’s hair – which suggests much, but clarifies precisely nothing. There’s potentially at least one murder, possibly at least two more, though again, precisely who the perpetrator is, and indeed if any foul play has actually taken place, is not entirely clear. Murder mystery it isn’t, neither horror, more a disturbing tale of woe that is designed to delight and confound.




The confounding elements I’m sure I’ve just explained; the delight, however, comes from Michael DeForge’s unique art style and unusual compositional approach. It looks very simple, minimal even at first glance, but when you start to study each panel, you’ll frequently see a complex, layered construction that is often quite thought-provoking, and again, representational. I would put him up the Chris Ware end of the spectrum, in the sense that there is a preciseness that seems very design led, though there is a surrealist element combined with that content-wise which gives it its own unique bent. Scott McCloud picked one of Michael’s stories for the BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2014 compilation, which gives you some idea of how highly regarding he is within the industry.


Buy First Year Healthy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

“Dear Lord in heaven, if you let this work, I will owe You for the rest of my life.”

If you believe in God then you already owe Him, but how many times have we each uttered a sentence ending in something like “… then I swear I will stop crank-calling my mother.” Kept many of those, have we? Because I’m still working on that one.

From the writer of SAGA, this is one of my all-time favourite series. Obviously EX MACHINA BOOK 1 of 5 is where to really begin, but I don’t see why you can’t start here and with this review. All you need to know is that Mitchell Hundred, Mayor Of New York City, can talk to mechanisms and make them do what he wants. Unfortunately for him, someone’s worked out that it may be a two-way communication: that a machine might be able to make him do what it wants.

All this just as a dying Pope John Paul II requests a private audience with Mayor Hundred at the Vatican… Why would he do that?

It’s not just the slick wit of the dialogue – although that’s here in abundance – it’s the lateral thinking that Brian brings to the table, the very real world politics (here, for example, ex-President Vladimir Putin’s history of covert overseas assassinations) and his interest in stepping outside of his own political viewpoint and giving eloquent voice to others’. It makes for genuine surprises and Mitchell, a natural sceptic, is in for a real revelation. But then sceptics are different from cynics in that deep down, don’t a lot of them rather hope that beneath their doubts something might be true? Here’s some of that deft verbal juggling:

“I’m Father Chetwas, the Vatican’s chief astronomer.”
“Is it so shocking that a Nigerian would be interested in space?”
“I’m not surprised that you’re an astronomer, Father, I’m surprised the Vatican has one on retainer. I have a feeling the guy who said the Earth moves around the sun would be surprised, too.”
“It may have taken The Church three hundred years to apologise for what The Inquisition did to Galileo… but it’s worth noting that your host is the one who made that extraordinary gesture.”

Pope John Paul, by the way, turns out to be the real hero in the book, in two scenes I found profoundly moving and we all know what a sceptic – or even cynic – I am!

Meanwhile Tony Harris’ art manages the improbable trick of filling each page with big, solid forms whilst letting them breathe in plenty of space. His sense of light is impeccable, and he delivers one highly imaginative wrap-around cover.

Finally: Hundred raises his sights from Mayor to a considerably higher office, George W. Bush visits New York City and a young woman inspired by an encounter with the Great Machine conducts a novel protest against Dubya’s presence using a motorbike, the surviving Twin Tower and a parachute.

In this repackaged format there’s just one more book to go with a finale I never saw coming.


Buy Ex Machina Book 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Burning Fields #1 of 8 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel & Colin Lorimer…

“What do you want me to say, Kendrick? You have mutilated bodies, random victims, and no leads. Excuse me if I’m not eager to jump on a plane and play Se7en in the desert.”

And yet, jump on the plane she will, our Dana, to Kirkuk, Iraq, to investigate a very brutal murder indeed on an oilfield. After dealing with some goons who break into her apartment to dispense a warning to keep her nose out, that is. Which of course just makes her even more determined that she’s not going to be intimidated, as well as demonstrating to us she can clearly take care of herself.  The oilfield in question is run like a private fiefdom by an American company called Verge.

The Verge boys in charge on the ground, led by chief goon Decker, are unquestionably morally corrupt thugs and Dana, in her investigatorial capacity, has some serious history with them, but whether they are responsible for the horrific crime scene she finds is open to question. By the end of this first issue we’ve no idea who might have any real motive for the killing, though the opening page does provide us with more clues than Dana gets as to the identity of the assailant, but it’s abundantly clear that pretty much everyone has got some dirty secret to hide.

Impressive opener, this, particularly for a title on the Boom! Studios imprint. We’re mainly reviewing it so it gets the attention of those who enjoyed SOUTHERN BASTARDS, SCALPED, 100 BULLETS etc. because it will certainly appeal and may otherwise slip under the radar. It’s gritty stuff, nicely penned so far by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, and the art from Colin Lorimer is rather well composed. Worth a look if you’re in the mood for some violent crime / thriller action.


Buy Burning Fields #1 and read the Page 45 review here

North 40 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples.

Early work from SAGA artist Fiona Staples and – let’s be clear – that is precisely why DC are reprinting it now and why we have to decided to stock it.

None of us had heard of Staples back then, except as a stationary item whose deployment was and remains as satisfying as popping bubble-wrap.

And it’s fascinating to see her develop on the page and across the series from the barely recognisable to “Look at that hair!” and splat goes the cat.

For yes, this is horror, as a sleepy, seedy, backwards town in the arse-end of nowhere – full of deeply unpleasant individuals and a waitress – is overtaken by a transmogrifying curse following the ill-advised opening of an ancient tome with an octopoid eye on its cover. Borrowed from the local library.

I say “individuals” but, alas, they’re a bunch of clichés from the abusive dad demanding his son fetch his porn to the mayor’s wick-dipping dickhead of a son lying through his teeth to get his rocks off. Basically this: everyone’s very thick.

Then suddenly everyone has wings, fangs or weight issues and they turn mighty violent. I cannot begin to tell you how trite and turgid this is.

“Wouldst though like the honour of opening it?” asks the geek to the gothstress who astonishingly doesn’t slap him upside the head.

No. No, I would not.


Buy North 40 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c (£25-99, Dynamite) by Elian Black’mor, Carine-M.

There is a story told in a Riven / Myst sort of a way. It’s like an ancient, album-sized journal full of sketches and suppositions.

But let’s face it, you’re here – just like me – for the sepia sketches and fully painted art which are both drop-dead gorgeous.

I have experience in this area for I myself have roamed the snow-swept realm of Skyrim, hiking up mountains, dashing down dales, skittering ‘cross scree slopes and plunging all pugilistic-like into a cavern of cobwebs behind which lurk gigantic, venomous spiders. But only if you are very, very lucky. There are worse things in the cracks and crevices, you know.

All the while I have been accompanied by my Clopsy.

My Clopsy is a beautiful, bleating beast with a lead-lined stomach capable of digesting whatever catches its satanic, roving eye. My Clopsy gives me great personal pleasure and on troubled evenings it soothes my furrowed brow. But just the other evening something really got my goat.

Unfortunately it was a dragon.

“On the trail of dragons forgotten,” he quotes, somewhat lazily, “an intrepid illustrator and reporter journeys from Europe through the Middle East and finally to Saigon in search of the dark caverns and mountaintop perches where the elusive winged serpents dwell. With the gift of seeing the invisible, our explorer friend records each encounter in a journal of gorgeous, fully painted artwork, capturing every majestic and fearsome visual detail of the scaly behemoths, and accompanies his findings with snippets of local lore as evidence that these hidden beasts continue to shape the world in ways we may never expect!”

Perched upon your portico, dragons can be intimidating.

It’s for this very reason that Debenhams, opposite Page 45, spikes its window ledges with sharp, metal prongs.

Okay, it’s possibly the pigeons but it’s worked equally effectively against dragons, for I have not once seen a serpent or wyrm up above, waiting to singe me to sleep.


Buy In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Criminal vol 1: Coward s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Love And Rockets (vol 11): Ofelia (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Moomin: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition (£50-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

Outcast vol 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him s/c (£7-50, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Black Science vol 2: Welcome Nowhere s/c (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera, Dean White, Michael Spicer

Plumdog h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Emma Chichester Clark

Run Like Crazy, Run Like Hell h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

Saint Cole (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Bear Hug Card (£2-75) by Jodie Paterson

Moon And Stars Card (£2-50) by Jodie Paterson

Guide To The Round Objects Of The Solar System (£8-50) by Richard Swan

Adventure Time: Bitter Sweets s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Kate Leth & Zachary Sterling, Chrystin Garland

Baltimore vol 1: The Plague Ships h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck

The Squidder s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ben Templesmith

Flash vol 5: History Lessons h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato, Christos N. Gage, Nicole Dubic & Patrick Zircher, various

Avengers: Time Runs Out (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker, Paco Medina, others

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley, various

Deadpool: The Ones With Deadpool s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

Death Of Wolverine (UK Edition s/c) (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Miracleman Book vol 2: The Red King Syndrome (UK Edition) h/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore & Alan Davis, John Ridgway, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch

The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man vol 3: Game Over s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

Uncanny Avengers: Axis Prelude s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Cullen Bunn & Salvador Larocca, Daniel Acuna

Akame Ga Kill vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Takahiro & Tetsuya Tashiro

Black Butler vol 19 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Fairy Tail vol 46 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

One Piece vol 73 (£7-50, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Sword Art Online Progressive vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura


ITEM! Jonathan Edwards, co-creator of chortle-fest DESTINATION KENDAL is currently painting the most staggering, original, organic, thrillingly-full-of-light landscapes like the one above of Swallow Falls. Obviously it’s copyright Jonathan Edwards so consider the previous sentence a review and this a plug for Jonathan Edwards’ online shop where you can buy so many similarly staggering prints! Just click on that link where the type is fainter!

ITEM! New submarine comics by Kate Beaton. Funny!

ITEM! Finally the Tory ban on books being received by HMP inmates from home is being lifted! Prison is precisely the place where as many books as possible should be available for education and entertainment while you have time on your hands lest the devil find work for them. This Thursday Page 45 helped HMP Nottingham’s new librarian hand-pick £3,000’s worth of graphic novels for its occupants and I would give anything to be there when the readers first get an eyeful of all those beautiful books on the shelves!

ITEM! All the creator and publisher exhibitors at this May’s Toronto Comic Art Festival 2015 (TCAF)!

ITEM! There’s a new GIANT DAYS #1 (of 6) on its way in March from John Allison, the creator of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month January 2015, BAD MACHINERY: THE CASE OF THE SIMPLE SOUL and Lissa Treman. Not to be confused with the original GIANT DAYS (all three in stock still, but only just and they are all out of print) by John Allison solo, here’s a great big preview of the spanking new GIANT DAYS #1 by Allison & Treman.

– Stephen


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week three

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Featuring STRAY BULLETS by David Lapham, RACHEL RISING by Terry Moore, a new graphic novel by LAZARUS’ Greg Rucka, Ken Niimura’s new manga masterpiece and more!

Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“My grandfather was lynched with a rope like this. They took a photograph of him… lying on the road.
“His neck looked like yours.”

The next two panels made me burst into tears.

Spoiler-free, I swear, this review is deployed to bring brand-new readers to one of the very best books in the business!

Terry Moore is the Georgie Porgie of comics: he kisses with kindness so making his readers cry.

It’s not enough to show someone in pain: almost every other month for some fifteen years throughout STRANGERS IN PARADISE’s epic, heart-felt run, Moore managed to summon the best in his characters to care for each other whenever tragedy struck or wrong decisions were made. Not necessarily immediately – who of us gets it right every time at the very first sign? – but in the long run. When the chips are down. When it is needed the most.

RACHEL RISING VOL 1 boasts one of the best-ever beginnings in comics:

Early one morning a tall and beautiful but austere blonde woman wanders down to a sequestered glade and waits patiently above a dried-up river bed. Until a leaf spontaneously combusts and another woman claws herself slowly… and painfully from her grave… then staggers her way back home…

That woman is Rachel. She’s not a zombie, I can assure of that: she’s fully mobile and completely cognizant but she is most emphatically dead. She just can’t remember who killed her. All she has to go on is a couple of late-night snapshots of someone bearing down on her and the rope scars seared round her neck.

In the first arc of RACHEL RISING (volumes one to four) so much stuff happened which I am not about to ruin with spoilers. It was nasty and funny – oh, so funny, for Terry Moore has made a career out of combining comedy with tragedy in the best possible way, elevating each element through their juxtaposition – but one major question went unanswered: who killed Rachel and why?

Finally you will begin to receive answers but Terry is so good at scene-cutting! You think I am a tease on Twitter…? Terry has it down to a tee.

So much is going on here that you are left breathless, demanding to know what happens next to this party, that party or what seems like a most ill-advised sortie. There’s one particular death which is very grizzly indeed.

The landscapes towards the end of the book are halting: crisp and crinkled leaves strewn upon winter’s cold-baked, unyielding ground as a major character draws her last breaths and predators swoop down from above to peck out her eyes or stumble unsuspectingly from the dense foliage beyond.

But it’s Terry Moore’s rain that’s most impressive of all: I was so sodden to the core that I had to towel myself down while keeping half an eye on Zoe just in case, just in case… For this eleven-year-old girl has a very sharp blade with a very long history and she is not afraid to use it.

Lastly for long-term readers: did something strike you as odd and unexpected about Aunt Johhny’s [redacted]? Something slightly out of character about her [redacted]’s behaviour? Hahahaha! Terry must have been grinning his head off for months. It’s all there and so obvious when you look back but not necessarily evident at the time. And that’s the best sort of writing, is it not?

On a personal note:

“Someday I’m going to rent a big truck and ram it into every driver on the phone.”

Includes exploding rodents.


Buy Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham…

“You sure this is okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. That’s why it’s called breaking in.”
“You do this a lot?”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been on my own…”
“You must have some crazy stories.”
“I hung out for a while with a guy who pulls fingers off for a living.”
“For a living?”
“Technically, he mostly kills them, but pulling fingers off is his “signature move”.”

For those of you new to STRAY BULLETS, just take a moment to study this cover closely. Very, very closely… because, it actually sums up the complete and utter mayhem you will find within to perfection. And, to get the party started, on the pages inside just like on the cover, is that most cool of cool bad-ass motherfuckers, Spanish Scott, solitary finger raised to lips, instructing us, politely (for that is his way), to quieten ourselves before we read on.


Our story opens in 1978 with young Eli playing peeping tom at his local strip club, peering at the cavorting ladies and sleazy johns. He’s more than a little surprised to see his dad in there, which leads to his first encounter with Spanish Scott. Then follows a two-page driving sequence, Spanish Scott at the wheel with an unsuspecting Eli in the passenger seat, that is pure Grand Theft Auto in its execution. At its conclusion, dropping Eli back off at his house, our superfly bad guy is behoved to dispense a few words of wisdom, to complement the (terminal) life lesson he’s just dispensed to a couple of not-so-wise guys.

“Sorry about that, kid. You have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Your loser father probably won’t tell you that.”

Yes… Eli might not get too many more chances to either… not if Spanish Scott has anything to do with it…

Fast forward to 1986, when everyone’s favourite teenage hellraiser – Virginia Applejack a.k.a. Amy Racecar – suddenly reappears, and where Virginia goes, well, trouble is certainly sure to follow. Eli would do well to heed his mother’s warnings about Ms. Applejack. For Eli though, missing a limb as well as a father, Virginia seems like an angel sent down from heaven to save him. She could well be responsible for getting him there rather quicker than he’d like but somehow these two misfits fall madly in love and before too long it’s them against what feels like the entire world, or at least Eli’s mom.

So when Virginia is hired by Mr. Finger, yes that Mr. Finger, to babysit his kids whilst ostensibly he takes his wife out for a romantic meal, you just know there’s going to be more to it than that. There is, obviously, as in reality Mr. Finger wants Virginia to find his wife’s stash of emergency cash for a ‘business opportunity’ that’s just arisen, and so she gets herself and Eli dragged into some heavy drama that just going to escalate further and further with very serious consequences for all concerned. Just another chaotic episode in the crazy life of Virginia Applejack…


Ah, some people are just made to create a particular comic, and so it is with David Lapham. He is STRAY BULLETS and STRAY BULLETS is him. The snappy dialogue, so street, so witty and so on the money, is beyond even Bendis at his finest. The plot – pure convoluted, gritty, brutal contemporary-fiction unpleasantness – made real for our guilty and salacious enjoyment. Is he the best at what he does, to borrow a well used phrase? I think so, I think so, he is certainly right up there. To give this material some context, there are a handful of other comics of this ilk over the last twenty years that have had as much impact on me. Some of SCALPED and 100 BULLETS probably, much of CRIMINAL certainly, but then STRAY BULLETS is that good, it always was.

There are some artists – and this is the only way I can describe it – about whom you get the sense they are drawing it entirely for themselves, not for anyone else, just for them. I get the strongest sense that Lapham is precisely like that. This is his comic, written just how he wants, then drawn just how he likes: tough, uncompromising, exactly how a contemporary crime comic should be. The psychotic flashes of Amy Racecar fantasy – there is a hilarious issue included in this arc – only serve to heighten the sense of deranged tension you feel reading STRAY BULLETS. With every turn of a page, you’re expecting it all to go pear-shaped, and when it eventually does, it is as spectacular as it is devastating…

Volumes 2 to 5 will be republished shortly, although you can read their entirety now as STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES collecting volumes 1-5.


Buy Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers and read the Page 45 review here

Henshin (£14-99, Image) by Ken Niimura.

“I feel like I’m surrounded by walls made of air.”

Well, that had me thinking….

Thirteen short stories, each of them full of moments of magic or surprise: when music drifts down an alley a young women bursts into dance round the back of city buildings and all over the full-page spread; a shop assistant on an errand in Paris flies high on his ability to communicate; a cat adds its own special ingredient to an improvised gourmet dinner.

Those first two were breathtaking in their sense of space and exuberance, the first putting me much in mind of young Windy in Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s THIS ONE SUMMER bouncing round her chalet’s living room, the second of Stuart Immonen’s extraordinary feats of weight yet weightless in Kurt Busiek’s SECRET IDENTITY – and, oh, that blissed-out smile on his face!

Niimura’s art dispels every ludicrous but annoyingly prevalent preconception and cliché of what manga looks like. Far from the sugarbuzz shout-athon, it’s also a far cry from Taniguchi’s clear, crisp lines. An office scene called to mind Posy Simmonds; at a picnic I perceived elements of mid-Mazzucchelli; a merry reunion boasted bits of both Kyle Baker and Joann Sfar. It’s all very energetic.

‘Henshin’ means “transformation” but it’s this element of surprise which characterises the episodes much more strongly, including wholly unexpected acts of violence.

A niece called Nat bookends the collection, first joining then departing the household of a beaming uncle with something secreted in his car’s glove compartment.

A family home is threatened with a visit by the dad’s company’s C.E.O. and the promise of a promotion if all goes well, as if ripped from the very cathode rays of a 1970s’ BBC Play For Today. It is impressed upon the son that good behaviour is essential but in this instance good behaviour entails not helping out in order to suppress a strange genetic secret!

Victory Sign proves to be a very moving tale of enduring friendship, while Lying Is Bad’s explosive trappings wherein people go postal harbours a serious point about how Japanese treat gaijin with kindly-meant kid gloves – in fact how every nation’s population speaks to new arrivals even 10, 20, 30 years after immigration: differently.

The story title Par-tay immediately evokes the ghost of a Beastie Boys’ bellowing, beer-guzzling house trashing, but it is immediately, hilariously undercut by the refined decorum of a trio of friends sitting quietly on floor cushions around a traditionally low Japanese table, sipping wine while watching a video-game cut-scene in silent appreciation. That’s where the cat comes in, Civet-stylee.

In fact the cat makes multiple appearances for Ken has a crush on one – there’s no other word for it – who visits to accept Ken’s evening offerings of food then leaves him little “presents” as a thank you. Ken’s surprisingly appreciative of them. So appreciative that another dinner digresses onto the subject of poo and where/when you can’t.

No, I wouldn’t have brought that up, either, especially not at the table. But still, I did smile!


Buy Henshin and read the Page 45 review here

The Talion Maker part 1 (£3-50, self-published) by Neal Curtis.

“When he came to see me, I lost it… or found it… depends on how you look at it.”

Under the circumstances I think he found it, punching his University’s Dean in the face.

It was later that this previously pacifistic lecturer in new media lost it: after his beloved Hannah was murdered in a neo-Nazi arson attack on the independent bookshop she helped run, and the Minister for Immigration proclaimed on British radio that she had ties to terrorist organisations. She hadn’t: she was simply a lawyer campaigning for human rights, equality and justice, all of which Tony Blair defenestrated the second he endorsed – and collaborated in – the illegal invasion of Iraq.

This is all relevant, trust me.

Talion is defined thus: “the system or legal principle of making the punishment correspond to the crime; retaliation”.

Otherwise known as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” – which isn’t a strict legal principle, although it was a common and somewhat messy practice leading Jesus to recommending the alternative of submitting to a slapping. I think our protagonist here is way beyond turning the other cheek.

The circumstances which led Daniel to decking the Dean were when the Dean suspended him after one of his students sent a set of Bob Dylan lyrics to Number 10 in protest at the Iraqi War. On these derisibly flimsy grounds said student was arrested then marched from campus in handcuffs under the new Anti-Terrorism Legislation, was publicly branded a terrorist by the Daily Fail and Daniel himself was interviewed by police in a very leading manner.

Do you think this far-fetched? It is not.

It begins well after the fact with a single sentence:

“I’ve been told I need to open up.”

The box flaps beneath it open and close silently in a rhythm resembling lungs breathing in and out. A tentative attempt to open up followed by a reluctance to do so.

Shards of glass accompanied a fractured sentence then reconstitute themselves into a single shattered pane as the narrator tries to piece it all together. And then, bit by bit, he does so.

Let us be perfectly clear: Neal Curtis is no draughtsman. His lines are thin and his figure and facial work is weak, although he does manage an unexpectedly well composed full-page flourish depicting Lake Barley in Ireland with a wall leading down to it in perfect perspective.

And it is the composition here along with the content which caught me for not once did I struggle to comprehend what was being shown or so eloquently said. Moreover, the tricks of this unique medium’s trade don’t merely punctuate the pages, they permeate them: “POLICE /// DO NOT CROSS” tape masking off the panels as the student is cuffed then thrust into a police van and a police officer looms with a transparently insincere, passive-aggressive smile in Daniel’s face.

Sentences are broken between boxes when Daniel confesses about his relationship with Hannah, “We seemed to have… lost touch… with each… other”.

He adapts the familiar open / closed shop sign to forward the narrative twice, that shattered pane of glass will be reutilised as a form of punctuation, and a map is wittily annotated with both “You are here” and “She is here, too”. I notice the comma: this man can write.

And – do you know what? – I say that Curtis’ drawing skills need improvement (and they demonstrate an improvement throughout this first part of 3 or 4), but when he shows you a great big grin, you will know instinctively whose it is.

Dedicated to Mark Simpson (1968-2005).

“Can I take a bit of a break, please? I’m tired.”


Buy The Talion Maker part 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Veil h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Greg Rucka & Toni Fejzula.

From the writer of LAZARUS and STUMPTOWN comes a graphic novel with some nasty nests of rats: subterranean, street-level and skyscraper-high.

It opens with a perfect page based on a 9-panel grid with a diagonal driving it from top left to bottom right as a candle on the point of a pentangle burns bright, is extinguished leaving an acrid plume of smoke, then spontaneously reignites. Elsewhere: a gun holstered behind a civilian belt, money changing hands in front of a tattered triple-X poster, a subway train approaching down a debris-strewn tunnel and a rat looking up, its attention caught by we know not what. Yet.

It’s a status update which will be reprised at the beginning of each chapter, a thick chain featuring with increasing prominence.

But right now that train is approaching fast, the litter on the tracks swirls up ahead of it and a woman sits up suddenly on the subways platform, gasping for air, sending the vermin she’s attracted scuttling for cover.

“Hhn nhnn hu-huh hurts… It… hurts…?”

She’s naked and doesn’t seem to understand the world around her, her vocabulary at first scant and limited to rhymes.

There’s a waxy feel to the pages, Fejzula electing to use colour rather than solid black tone to fill the shapes of shadows, and those colours are at first delicious: pale purples offset by slate blues and greens. There’s also a softness, a vulnerability which each cover sadly lacked.

The first two chapters had me gripped as the woman makes her way up through locked iron gates to a busy red light district and – being naked – attracts all the wrong attention, saved only by the swift intervention of a dude with curvy braids and a nose ring who scoops her away and up to his flat. It’s not much to look at; he apologises.

Unfortunately they’re going to be pursued, relentlessly and by multiple parties, because that pentangle didn’t draw itself, you know.

Alas, halfway through the narrative narrowed into a far more linear affair reminiscent of HELLBLAZER only without the wise guy, wisecracks, history lessons and wider ramifications. Even the politics were nebulous: people after power, the nature of which is never stipulated.

Black and white unpublished pages in the back.


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

Star Wars #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday…

“Threepio, you worthless rust bucket, you better not have damaged my ship.”
“For once, sir, the Millennium Falcon appears to be in good working order.
“As we hoped, Chewbacca was able to pilot us undetected through the moon’s orbital field.
“At present, the Falcon and I are safely hidden amongst the extensive refuse fields that surround the factory.
“If I may say so, Captain Solo, I do find it rather disconcerting that your vessel continues to be so easily mistaken for garbage.”
“You’ll be garbage if you mess this up, Goldenrod!”

Already heading to second printing at time of typing it would seem the appetite for all things Star Wars remains undiminished. It remains to be seen whether such faith is justified, either on the comic or indeed film front. I remember all too well going to see the first of the second trilogy of films and coming away from the cinema probably more disappointed than on any other occasion. Actually, if we’re being honest, Return Of The Jedi wasn’t that great, either. I mean, could they really not have come up with a different plot than another Death Star needing destroying? And Ewoks, sigh, really not that much better than Jar Jar Binks, frankly. And yet, still off I trotted to watch them all…

Anyway… comic readers of a certain age will remember a UK title called STAR WARS WEEKLY, which ran for a considerable period of time immediately after the first film and featured the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2 et al in various adventures, pursued all the whilst by Darth Vader. It was actually rather good, featuring decent writing by, amongst others, Roy Thomas and great art from the likes of Howard Chaykin. Also, being published as it was by Marvel, it had great back-up strips reprinting classic material such as Adam Warlock, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deathlok and Micronauts. For those of us thirsting for more lightsabre-wielding, blaster-frapping, outer-space wise-cracking antics, it was perfect.

This title is basically yet another extension of that original franchise and cast. Obviously Dark Horse started doing exactly the same thing a couple of years ago with the STAR WARS material penned by Brian Wood, which I have no idea whether that now will be considered canon or not. Or any of the other myriad Dark Horse material covering several time periods spanning thousands of years in Star Wars history. Or indeed the original STAR WARS WEEKLY material. Does it even matter, really?

This tale is set almost immediately after the end of the first film. Our chums have a mission to fulfil which naturally involves ridiculous personal and collective peril, implausible hokey plot twists and of course much lightsabre swishing, blaster waving and never-ending threats of personal violence directed at C3PO from Han Solo, sick and tired of Threepio’s verbal diarrhoea. They haven’t even waited five minutes to break out the big bad guns either as Vader is back by the end of this first issue, though the clue is in the background of the cover, I suppose, which does indeed make me think it will be much like the STAR WARS WEEKLY run with the continual cat-and-mouse chase of our pals trying to stay one step ahead of Vader, whilst getting neck deep in whatever various near fatal shenanigans the current plot arc throws up.

I can’t say I was massively excited by this first issue. The humorous dialogue is on point, easily the best thing about it, though the plot seems wafer-thin.

The art, well, for the second time in recent years Cassaday seems a bit stilted and flat frankly, following on from his three issues opening Rick Remender’s UNCANNY AVENGERS before he left / was replaced. I dunno, maybe it’s just not floating his artistic boat, but it seems a far, far cry from his PLANETARY days. Strange.

Will I even bother reading #2? Probably. Will I be daft enough to go see the new film. Certainly.

[Editor’s note: mirth merchants, please check out


Buy Star Wars #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Solo: Book One (Sketched In) (£9-99, self-published) by Hope Larson

Ex Machina Book 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

First Year Healthy h/c (£10-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge

In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c (£25-99, Dynamite) by Elian Black’mor, Carine-M

March Book 2 s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

North 40 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples

Abe Sapien vol 5: Sacred Places (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, various & Guy Davis, various

Bravest Warriors vol 4 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom!) by various

Batman: Beware The Batman vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Ivan Cohen, various & Luciano Vecchio, Dario Brizuela

Black Widow vol 2: The Tightly Tangled Web s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Ghost Rider vol 1: Engines Of Vengeance s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore

Legendary Star-Lord vol 1: Face It I Rule s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Paco Medina, Freddie Williams II


ITEM! MOOMIN global success for one of our favourite comics publishers, Drawn & Quarterly. It’s also a really good overview / intro to the series. How Page 45 loves MOOMIN! And we have so very many!

ITEM! Beautiful Winsor McCay LITTLE NEMO page analysed structurally along with two distinct modes of reading.

ITEM! Hey! Hey! Comicbook creators: are you even aware about the Public Lending Right organisation? The Public Lending Right organisation remunerates creators for graphic novels borrowed from public libraries! Sign up now!

ITEM! NOTES FROM THE SOFA by Raymond Briggs: fund it now, receive rewards later! There are few graphic novels I love more than Raymond Briggs’ ETHEL & ERNEST. A glorious slice of British socio-political history!

ITEM! Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie discuss their plans for THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, PHONOGRAM III, Gillen’s own LUDOCRATS and more.

ITEM! Ever the iconoclasts and entertainers, Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie then submit themselves to an online question-and-answer session which… oh, just read it and weep!

ITEM! Neill Camerom invites Young Adults to the new run of MEGA ROBO BROS in the weekly PHOENIX COMIC this Friday!

ITEM! Lizz Lunney is interviewed! That is the creator of TAKE AWAY!, yes!

ITEM! Five Questions for Philippa Rice about her new SOPPY h/c

Phillippa Rice and Luke Pearson Co-Signing SOPPY on Valentine’s Day 2015

Please click on that link for the deetz!


– Stephen

Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week two

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Unlike Mattotti’s illustrations to Gaiman’s HANSEL & GRETEL which I can only describe as bucolic gothic, Chris Riddell’s are so crisply delineated that one might suspect the deployment of Rotring.

 – Stephen on The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

Bark! (£3-00) by various including Philippa Rice, Jack Teagle, Roddy Doyle…

“The rainforest is full of bugs.”
“I can’t see any.”

Heh, he soon will, our Cardboard Colin – oh yes! – in this exclusive 2-pager by Philippa Rice for this most worthy conservation conversation compilation! As ever he is accompanied by Pauline, who takes great delight in being his rainforest guide with a difference.

Schoolkids Max and Reuben decided to do their bit to help save the rainforest by creating a comic to raise funds to purchase some rainforest in conjunction with They contacted various creators for submissions which you can read more about on their blog and the end result was this wonderful self-published comic.

Philippa’s strip is just great fun, as is Jack Teagle’s, but there are also some more serious and informative pieces in the twelve you’ll find inside. How’s that for value for money?! You’ll see from the interior art there’s a great selection of material and I am extremely impressed with what the boys have put together. Budding publishers of the future, perhaps!





All proceeds go to charity, we aren’t keeping a penny, so why not buy a copy and support a good cause? Incidentally, just in case you’re thinking that buying a paper comic probably isn’t the best way to save the rainforest, be assured (as indeed it says on the rear inside cover) that “forestry, paper and printing are amongst the most sustainable industries in existence”. Just not illegal logging and deforestation obviously…


Buy Bark! and read the Page 45 review here

Second Avenue Caper (£10-50, Hill & Wang) by Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli…

“Hold on… I’m talking to Dr. Molina. There’ve been reports of a drug that might help. It’s only available in Mexico.”

AIDS. Obviously not a joyful topic, but imagine yourself in the position of someone in the early 1980s struggling to understand and come to terms with the illness suddenly ravaging their friends and community. Joyce Brabner, possibly best known for her excellent collaborations with her husband Harvey Pekar on a number of works such as OUR CANCER YEAR, tells us one such story, that of her friend Ray. What follows is actually a rather uplifting story of activism and mutual support in the face of adversity, prejudice and of course, ignorance.

As the few facts known about HIV and AIDS begin to disseminate amongst the gay community of New York, and the diagnoses and deaths begin to rise, there is understandable despondency. So when Ray hears of a drug that offers some promise against the virus, but it’s only available south of the border, it’s time for a road trip. Oh, and a little pharmaceutical smuggling.

Assisted and abetted by various shady contacts within the world of organised crime (though morally dubious favours are of course required in exchange), Ray and friends manage to acquire the drugs and dispense them free of charge within the community. They fund their own version of the NHS through the cultivation and sale of another illegal drug… marijuana.

So clearly whilst this biography, illustrated by Mark Zingarelli as it was narrated to Joyce by Ray, has its darker, desperate, more poignant moments, there is a lot of laughter and hi-jinks here also. It’s certainly far more uplifting than the hard-hitting 7 MILES A SECOND which I found such an eloquently profound yet distressing read when it was first released back in 1996. Reading this work, you can’t help thinking if there was such strong general community spirit shown at the best of times, not just the worst, then the world might be an altogether happier place. A worthy addition to the canon of literature documenting this traumatic time when, let’s not forget, before relatively recent pharmacological advances, contracting HIV was basically a death sentence.


Buy Second Avenue Caper and read the Page 45 review here

The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

“Names are in short supply in this telling.”

They are indeed, they are indeed.

Why do you imagine this would be so?

Ah, but that would be as telling as the telling of names and in this telling – in this marked departure of what you may think you know of the princess cursed to lie prone by the pricking of her thumb – everyone is in for a nasty surprise.

“The queen woke early that morning. “A week from today,” she said aloud. “A week from today, I shall be married.””

She doesn’t look very happy about it. Oh, that frowny face! Those heavy, dolorous eyes staring mournfully into the abyss of impending marital bliss… Even her ebony tresses hang lank if still lustrous as she sits up in bed. The day’s dress awaits, presumably propped over a mannequin, but with its headless ruff splayed like a frilled-necked lizard’s it looks like the ghost of a monarch beheaded. The reginal counterpane is embroidered with gold… gold skulls.

Did I mention that this is illustrated prose?

Unlike Mattotti’s thick-set illustrations to Gaiman’s HANSEL & GRETEL which I can only describe as bucolic gothic, Chris Riddell’s are so crisply delineated that one might suspect the deployment of Rotring. They too have much of the gothic about them – it is, after all in the nature of this narrative – but it’s more neo-gothic, more late-Victorian fantasy. And then there’s the gold, adorning the dwarfs’ candle-lit mining lamps, which comes to a crescendo of its own at the close.

Sorry…? Ah, yes, the queen! I don’t think it’s her suitor that’s at issue here. It’s the finality of it all.

“It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children.”

I think you will find that being reigned over limits your choices more than the reigning, but she does have a point about children. Most people choose to have children but when you’re a queen and then married, well, the press won’t let babies drop until you have.

Meanwhile three industrious, loyal dwarfs determined to find the finest silken cloth fit for their queen have bypassed the impassable mountain range separating the queen’s kingdom from Dorimar by going underground. And I feel for them, I really do: from October to December Page 45’s office / mail order salt mine is blocked from all passage by just such a mountain range made out of cardboard. Graphic novels don’t materialise in our sort of quantities without a great many boxes being involved.

Once they’ve resurfaced in Dorimar the dwarfs find an inn filled to the brim with refugees fleeing the knock-on ill-effects of a curse in the heart of a castle. I think you know the drill: a princess has pricked her thumb on a spindle and, it / she being cursed by a wicked old witch, it’s made her ever so woozy. Okay, she’s totally conked out and flat on her back (so they say) but not so the roses which are positively virulent. They’ve writhed and risen right up the castle walls, carrying with them whichever brave souls have strived to get in – knights impaled on their thorns now reduced to armour-clad skeletons – and formed an impenetrable wall.

But the sleeping sickness is spreading at an alarming rate and it knows no mountain-range boundaries. The queen’s own kingdom may be under threat! It’s probably time for a quest.

Far, far longer than HANSEL & GRETEL – a quest takes time, after all – this doesn’t actually feel quite so Gaiman-y. I couldn’t discern the same level of portentousness that usually makes Gaiman read like A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh in which Almost Every Sentence sounds like it should Come With Capital Letters. I like that in Gaiman’s prose.

It is, however, as ingenious as you’d expect – although I’d plump for “devious”, actually.


Buy The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gun Machine new printing (£12-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis.

“He glided across the street to the fenced perimeter of Central Park and slipped between its bones like a knife.”

Behold the hunter, a predator subsisting on what little is left of Manhattan’s nature, a man more in tune with its past. The present is virtually toxic to him. He is a creature of ceremony, of meticulous preparation and exact execution, successfully stalking both the streets and his targets undetected for years. He is a man with a mission, and it has just been rudely interrupted.

Detective John Tallow has been jaded and weary but he’s waking up now with a start. His partner’s had his head blown off by some random naked guy with a shotgun. Another blast strayed and sprayed into an apartment wall through which John can see guns: hundreds and hundreds of guns arranged in a precise pattern of rows and spirals and… there appear to be gaps yet to fill. They’ve all been used. They have all done their duty, the purpose for which they have been precisely selected. And now they are Tallow’s problem. He should be on sick-leave on compassionate grounds, but for some reason his Lieutenant has kept him on the case. He’s being set up to fail, and he’s now on the hunter’s radar.

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

If you love your language, you’re in for a treat. What struck me very early on was that Ellis has changed voices for this second prose novel, not altogether but enough to set this apart from CROOKED LITTLE VEIN and indeed almost all of his comics to date bar PLANETARY. The one sequence that did put me in mind of CROOKED LITTLE VEIN was when Tallow snaps on the police radio to shut everyone up, and it surely does.

“All at once, horror tumbled out of it.”

Crime after almost inconceivably grotesque crime floods from its speakers in a relentless slurry of casual sadism and cruelty. It’s like a condensation of FELL: FERAL CITY. But beyond that the lurid sex-talk and angry bombast which amuses me no end has been set aside for now, replaced by two alternating narratives, one following Tallow, the other the hunter.

It’s as much about observation as anything else, for here we’re presented with two preternaturally perceptive individuals able to read the world and the people around them, albeit in radically different ways. I doubt my tells would get past either of them.

“Emily seemed to be sliding into a state of… he wouldn’t say emotionlessness, but certainly distance and apathy. Her voice came from somewhere deep inside her, somewhere dusty that was a long drive away from being present in the world. The same remote point that he has sometimes, in rare self-aware moments, heard his own voice coming from over the past few years.”

The dialogue is as deft as you’d expect for which Ellis supplies two new assistants, albeit slightly less filthy that TRANSMETROPOLITAN’s, except when Tallow’s just bought them coffee:

“Oh my God,” Bat prayed. “I love you. I would let you have sex on me and everything. But I am very tired and would prefer not to move.”
Scarly killed a cup lid with feral fingers and chugged a third of the container. Her eyes flexed weirdly in their sockets. “Oh, that’s the stuff,” she said. “That really is the stuff.”
Bat was weakly pawing at the lid of the cup nearest him. Tallow reached over and took it off him, abstractedly wondering if this was what fatherhood felt like.

The history and geography of Manhattan lie at the book’s heart, and possibly its future too, for there’s a very neat use of security cameras. Above all else, however, I can promise you a killer the like of which you’ve never encountered before, and I hope you never will. There’s probably one out there waiting, though.


Buy Gun Machine and read the Page 45 review here

Drug & Drop vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by CLAMP.

“What you see before you isn’t necessarily what it is. The same may be true… about me.”


That’s not the sort of thing you want to hear from your employer. I had one once who was jailed by the Greek authorities for plane spotting. Such a dark horse!

The Japanese CLAMP collective is known for two modes of manga: cutesy, cutesy CARDCAPTOR SAKURA and really rather mischievous yet danger-driven yaoi like TOKYO BABYLON (recommended) and indeed LEGAL DRUG to which this is a sequel.

Of LEGAL DRUG our Tom wrote the following observational sentence and its blindingly brilliant follow-up:

“All the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.”

Haha! Also: correct. It isn’t an issue here. There isn’t even the will-they-won’t-they sub-plot that permeates most yaoi yearnings. Kazahaya Kudo and Rikuo Himura may or may not be boyfs and their pharmacy boss Kakei may or may not be shagging that chap in shades. What is important is Kazahaya’s visions (he is an empath) and Rikuo’s past (or is it Kazahaya’s?)

Both involve a woman covered in blood.

Now their boss Kakei sends them to Kimihiro Watanuki’s shop which trades on wishes and his wish is that they journey to another building, dark and derelict and haunted by a young man who – oh god, I’ve bored myself.

Involves blood and alcohol as do most of my evenings, but at least I get to the point.

“How much can a guy drink, anyway?”

You have no idea.

“Even in the clutching of the one thing left to you, you shall still experience… THE ABYSS OF DESPAIR.”

I will not be held responsible for UKiP’s manifesto.


Buy Drug & Drop vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Death Of Wolverine h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven.

“I deserve to be known for something other than helping to make a killer unkillable.”

There you go, that’s your clue.

The very first thing one asks oneself when presented with a title like this is, “How will he die?” Will it be a deathly dull slugathon signifying nothing like THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN? Will it be an ingenious, plot-driven slight of hand like THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA? Or – saints preserve us – will there be something apposite about the final furlong and finishing line?

Yes. Yes, there is and the pull quote above only adds to the irony, so well done, Charles Soule!

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

It’s Steve’s art that impresses, increasingly so with each project he graces, and the opening double-page spread may not be the flashiest you’ve ever seen but its composition is impeccable: those man’s shoulders are very broad indeed.

The second chapter’s – set in a club’s private booth – is in some ways a reflection of the first’s but just wait until you flip open the third’s, set in Tokyo’s Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens. Lord, I love me some Acers – I’ve half a dozen in my own back garden – and what colour artist Justin Ponsor brings to bear on the water garden’s vertical reflections, contrasting beautifully with the bright green, horizontal, lily-pad flats, is a shimmering marvel.

Logan has lost his healing factor, the one thing that helped him survive the most comprehensive filing in dental history during WEAPON X.

As the book opens he’s sat on a battered porch clutching his Mom’s sick note so he can skip P.E. and mooch around a mall, but both he and his claws are covered in blood. This is bad news because, as Reed Richards explains, without his restorative powers…

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

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

Word gets out.

It’s not long enough for Soule to soak this in history but it certain dips its toes in all the right waters, though not every fellow swimmer is exactly who they seem. It’s also not long enough for me to divulge much more without giving too many games away but, as I said, the final few pages will certainly make you nod your head and wonder how he’ll get out of that one.

Process pieces are fascinating, and in the last dozen or so pages – after 2,375 variant covers – Steve McNiven takes you through pages as they evolve and shows you a few he simply binned because the composition wasn’t right. He pays tribute to Barry Windsor-Smith’s work and ably shows how he’s incorporated that double-barrelled influence.

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


Buy Death Of Wolverine h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ant-Man #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas.

“That thing earlier was just the setup. There was no way to beat it.”
“You mean like the Kobayashi Maru?”
“The what?”
“From Star Trek.”
“Oh, you’re of those.”

Stark’s arched eyebrow there by Ramon Rosanas is priceless. I think he’s a John Byrne fan which is no bad place to start especially since Scott Lang’s first appearance in MARVEL PREMIERE was drawn by Byrne.

So yes, this is the Scott Lang Ant-Man not Hank ‘Who Even Am I Today?’ Pym, he of the multiple mental breakdowns, identities and size issues whose early exploits in TALES TO ASTONISH made me chuckle greatly.

This too made me chortle but I expected no less from the writer of THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 1, EXISTENCE 2.0 / 3.0, FORGETLESS and MORNING GLORIES. He’s gone for the HAWKEYE model of self-deprecation on the protagonist’s front for Scott is a clot and always has been, even in FF: FANTASTIC FAUX.

He’s a failed thief (he got caught), ex-convict and ex-husband but his redeeming feature right from the start has always been as a doting dad. Spencer wisely focuses in on this – his relationship with his daughter and his ex-wife – so that there are as many “Awww” moments as Grant Morrison’s family-centric ANIMAL MAN which comes highly commended and in three volumes.

Scott’s also an ex-corpse: explaining that gap in your CV is never easy.

Nevertheless – in spite of all the above – he does get an interview with Tony Stark for the job of Stark Industries’ Head Of Security. Stark turns him down immediately. Nevertheless he does get the chance to hack Stark’s security alongside the likes of Prodigy. He fails. Nevertheless he decides to do what he does best which is steal the password instead by breaking into Stark’s private apartment at night. He gets caught.

“Tony, I, uh… I don’t know what to say.”
“Hey, if I saw what you just saw for the first time in there, I’d be speechless too.”

Oh my god, knob gags!


Buy Ant-Man #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: No More Bullying one-shot (£1-70, Marvel) by various.

Okay, this is no HEART TRANSPLANT but then its heart is already in the right place and this is aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters and parents of youngsters to help them talk about this most important of childhood issues.

To break the silence.

It works.

Okay, I don’t know if it works yet: it’s too early to have received any concrete feedback. But I can see how it could help bolster those bullied and even help bullies realise what they’re doing when some may well be oblivious.

It may help parents recognise either trait in their children. It gives hope and a few practical solutions. Above all it has a damned good go while keeping the price point low and – now that I’ve written the final couple of paragraphs of this review – it occurs to me that even if you neither bully nor are bullied, it’ll give you much to recognise, think about, then act upon.

There are four tales, three super-centric with one at the end deliberately set in a scenario kids are more likely to relate to: school. Oh, they’ll recognise elements in the others, don’t you worry.

The first – featuring Hawkeye made to feel small, ineffectual and undervalued by his fellow Avengers – addresses the cumulative effect of casual teasing: the sort of affectionately meant mockery which many most don’t realise is seriously degrading to a recipient’s self-esteem… Especially when everyone else joins in as it becomes a running joke. I don’t mean the sort of ribbing Dee and I give each other: she for my complete illegibility when it comes to hastily scribbled notes, I for her… loquaciousness! You can tell this is mutually agreed-upon because we send ourselves up for exactly the same things while uniting in our self-deprecating role as Page 45’s Saturday Girls (emery boards, ahoy!) then constantly extolling each other’s virtues loud and clear for all others to hear.

Which is rather sweet on Dee’s part because I don’t have any virtues: she has to make them up.

No, this is the sort of humiliation which occurs when you receive only criticism and no praise. A glib, post-prank “I was just joking” is the ultimate in passive-aggressive.

The second – starring The Guardians Of The Galaxy – is about ostracism: about joining in the rat race by not sticking up for your friends. You know, “I do like you but I can’t be seen to like you when the rest are around”. I found it genuinely moving.

The third is the sort of overt bullying that results in kids being physically humiliated in public: taped to lampposts then – increasingly – the bullies spreading photos of the victims via social media. Spider-Man’s solution to that is ingenious: he snaps a thumbs-up selfie of him and the young lad which he knows is more likely to go viral.

I mention that in case you don’t buy this comic because it‘s something constructive which we, as parents or friends, can all participate in: if you know that someone of whatever age has just been humiliated, snap a photo of the pair or a group of you together rejoicing in each other’s company and send it out into the ether. You may not have the social profile of Spider-Man but it’s a very effective start.

A big thank-you to editor Devin Lewis who provides an afterword for putting this all together.


Buy Avengers: No More Bullying #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Soppy h/c (£10-99, Random House) by Philippa Rice

Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Veil h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Greg Rucka & Toni Fejzula

American Vampire vol 7 h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque, others

Crossed vol 11 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Justin Jordan, Simon Spurrier & Georges Duarte, Rafael Ortiz

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker, Paco Medina, others

Flash vol 4: Reverse s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

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

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

Henshin (£14-99, Image) by Ken Niimura

Meanwhile #2 (£4-95, ) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford, others

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 6 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ted Anderson, Jeremy Whitley & Agnes Garbowska, various

Sonic – Mega Man: Worlds Collide vol 3 (£8-99, Archie Books) by various

Whispered Words vol 2 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Spider-Verse Prelude s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Avengers vol 5: Infinite Avengers (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli

The Punisher vol 2: Border Crossing s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson, Kevin Maurer & Mitch Gerads, Carmen Carnero, Phil Noto


ITEM! Nottingham’s Ideas On Paper is a beautiful, beautiful shop down Cobden Chambers selling independent, esoteric, artisan magazines you won’t find anywhere else. Delicious! How often do you call a shop not selling fine food delicious? Click on the above for a brilliant, illustrated appraisal by @IanSanders! Click on this for Ideas On Paper’s website!

ITEM! 22 Cartoons full of heart, humanity and uncowered solidarity in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

ITEM! 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY’s Matt Madden writes about the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris as an American comicbook creator and father living in France. It’s very thoughtful and far from obvious.

ITEM! Joe Sacco’s response questions the need for satire. Some good points, but it is a bit rich coming from someone who’s just produced BUMF.

ITEM! @RubenBoiling responds to Joe Sacco’s response.

ITEM! And Stephen Fry caps it all off beautifully with a sense of perspective and a heart of gold

ITEM! Want to create your own comics but don’t know where to start? JAMPIRESSarah McIntyre has some top tips to enable you to get started in comics and cartooning. Creativity is cool!

ITEM! IDW acquires Top Shelf, one of our favourite publishers, but don’t panic: Top Shelf will be a distinct imprint with the great Chris Staros its Editor-In-Chief. Phew!

ITEM!  Ed Brubaker interviewed on the new CRIMINAL self-contained one-shot and working with Sean Phillips. The CRIMINAL collections are about to be repackaged one by one but we still have most in stock and I’ve reviewed each and every one. Noir at its best. The same creative team responsible for FATALE.

ITEM! Kieron Gillen announces Image announcing Gillen’s LUDOCRATS. Funny!

ITEM! Image announces everything ever to come. Seriously, bookmark that page and pre-order now! May include a tiny little thing about the return of one of my favourite series of all time.

It’s called PHONOGRAM!

– Stephen



Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week one

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

So much of this is about eye contact: about trust and distrust, truth and lies. Which will be which, I wonder?

 – Stephen on They’re Not Like Us #1

Shadow Show #2 self-contained (£2-99, IDW) by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Mort Castle, Maria Frőhlich.

ATTENTION! You don’t need #1 and won’t need #3!

Neither Audrey, Eddie nor Neil have stories in any other issue of this mini-series dedicated to Ray Bradbury than this completely self-contained edition containing adaptations for comics of two original short prose stories by Niffenegger and Gaiman.

Both of them were brilliant but Niffenegger’s now glows with its fresh composition across each page in a mixed-media style which ALEC’s Eddie Campbell has been developing ever since THE FATE OF THE ARTIST and last seen mutating further still during THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF – which is money.

Here the pages have opened right up with vacuums of white: silent space upon which each panel seems to float or hang as if suspended in space and indeed in time. Just like the words themselves.

The effect is that within the all too fluid prose as the narrator talks herself out of an existence she no longer cherishes in favour of her frail, aging father, each solitary reflection is given its due. It’s difficult not to linger. It also divorces Helene from the world she perceives and the life which she reflects upon remotely, dispassionately as her boat backs away from Seville.

Helene’s father has been recently widowed, you see, and she has taken her mother’s place on their traditional Mediterranean cruise holiday. Slowly but surely as Helene reflects upon what little she has made of her own life, she comes to the conclusion that her more interactive, proactive father could make far better use of her extra time which she – being too timid and ineffectual to date – wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with.

It concludes with a final sentence which is full of a confidence which we are… No. We will discuss after class, haha!

Having redacted five further sentences to maintain the ellipsis, we come to Neil Gaiman’s tale about words, names, labels and things going missing. And as someone whose Senior Moments are mounting to the point of suspected senility, I can relate! It’s ever so slightly terrifying.

Neil explains the story’s context halfway through the comic, as does Niffenegger the origin of hers. But having analysed Audrey’s above I have to leave you something to look forward to in Neil’s. How about this for a love of language?

“I remember my boots going. Boots do not just ‘go’. Somebody ‘went’ them.”


Buy Shadow Show #2 and read the Page 45 review here

7 String vol 2 (£9-99) by Nich Angell…

“But what can I do? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I made a promise, no instruments. I guess the only option left is playing it by ear!”

Zach’s back! Actually, if I were to compose something more musical for my percussive punnery (which, given how the entire milieu of 7String is constructed from musical terminology and references, would be highly appropriate) I could possibly have gone for Zach’s Bach! But, really, it would have just looked like a daft typo, wouldn’t it?

Yes, the melodious mash-up of SCOTT PILGRIM vs. AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER continues in its own inimitable style from 7 STRING VOL 1 as Zachary Briarpatch, wielder of the legendary 7STRING guitar sword, quests to find the mysterious war-mongering murderer of his mother. I think my favourite character ,though, might be the renegade assassin with a conscience, the exquisitely named Efex Petal.

I love the planet of Melodia which Nich has created: he really has permeated it with the musical conceit as far as is possible to go, I think. There is a great map after the initial prologue showing the world and its various continental masses and oceans including the B-Flats, C-Major and its smaller neighbour C-Minor plus – my favourite – the great expanse of water known as the Middle Sea, as well as a compass constructed, of course, of treble and bass clefs. This theme runs throughout with various cities named by musical time such as FourFour, characters like The Soloist (HINT: he’s not a team player) and arcane, hidden locations such as The Record, plus various lyrical turns of phrase like the opening quote.

It’s a tricky one to keep a conceit as huge as this going (much like a concept album, I’d imagine) without falling into the realm of parody, deliberately or otherwise, or going down the route of outright full-on comedy like the also musically themed RAYGUN ROADS by Owen Johnson & Indio, which I did enjoy, but I think would be far too much for more than a one-shot. Nich manages it admirably, though, and the musical references are always key to the plot and action rather than merely being adjunct labelling.

So why the SCOTT PILGRIM / AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER comparisons? Well, there are some moments of great bombast and pure, rock-star posturing and posing during the crazily choreographed fight sequences that really minded me of Scott’s excitable exclamations, often ‘to camera’, as it were. And, with the whole four Clef clans: Brace, Altern, Trouble and Tremor, each providing a different element of musical balance and ideally overall cultural harmony, though with of course the potential for dischord (sp.), you get the similarity with the four ‘tribal’ elements of air, earth, water and fire utilised in AVATAR.

Probably the work 7STRING comes closest to though, both artistically and also in sensibilities, might be KING CITY by Brandon Graham. I can well imagine his fans enjoying 7STRING for its imagination and innate sense of fun. I can also see elements of James ORC STAIN Stokoe in there as well, particularly in the elaborate stage costumes and clothing. Also, anyone who loves the sheer exuberant playfulness of ADVENTURE TIME is sure to find this a sure-fire hit.


Buy 7 String vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

They’re Not Like Us #1 (£2-25, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane.

“She’ll be fine as soon as she stops feeling sorry for herself.”

I love Simon Gane.

Since ALL FLEE I’ve been smitten, his landscape sketchbooks are amongst the most thrilling I’ve seen and his contribution to ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD: WORLD WAR I IN POETRY AND COMICS was for me its star turn: all those ivy-strewn statues setting the tone in stone and reinforcing the poem’s haunting sentiments.

From the very first page he does not disappoint, the leaves on the trees as special and semi-detached as ever, enhanced by colour artist Jordie Bellaire paler echoes behind and beyond.

His clothes have all the requisite wrinkles depending on where they’re stretched by the flesh beneath – the sort of detail Art Adams excelled at – while his faces are angular yet soft and where Simon excels is at eye contact.

So much of this is about eye contact: about trust and distrust, truth and lies. Which will be which, I wonder?

Atop the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, San Francisco, a young woman balances perilously close to the rooftop’s edge, her arms outstretched, tears streaming down her eyes.

“I live to fall asleep.
“It’s the only way I can get some relief from it all.
“The worrying.
“The planning.
“The lying.
“It’s the only way to escape from the complete lack of silence, the complete lack of peace. All I have to do is close my eyes and I’ll be at rest forever.”

Now, I was curious as to exactly why “the worrying” was set against an old woman, face buried in her hands; why “the planning” showed a handsome young man, smiling as he stood at a tram stop; and “the lying” seemed to refer to a middle-aged businessman dressing after sex with a woman who clearly wasn’t the one about to jump off life’s cliff.

You’ll have to wait a few pages while a dapper young man in a suit and tie – who clearly loves himself dearly – tries to talk this nameless woman down and fails. The young woman – who will remain nameless throughout – has been dragged in and out of that hospital by her parents for years. She’s been plagued by voices, so many voices; a cacophony that has driven her to distraction while building a barrier between her and her parents who have never believed her.

But she’s been telling the truth: she’s a telepath, and it’s only now that The Voice has found her that she’s found a sympathetic soul able to explain her condition and ease her mind. Finally there is silence and sanctuary in a gabled, gated mansion thick with Simon Gane foliage. I’d like all my foliage to be Simon Gane foliage. I wonder if he’d come and draw my garden for me? It’s in a bit of a state.

It’s at this point, however, that I ran into difficulties as did our J-Lo and Jodie, but I love Simon Gane and I trust Eric Stephenson so I will be back to watch, wait and see. I think the big reveal is almost a distraction from a very important sentence which – combined with an extreme sense of entitlement expressed by The Voice – bodes ill for them all. I’m wondering about those paintings too. Anyway, the big reveal comes in the form of ten other occupants who are not all straightforward telepaths but an empath, a clairvoyant, an illusionist, a pyrokinetic, a –

Are you getting whiffs of Charles Xavier’s School For The Self-Sequestrated?

But I don’t think there will be any big battles except between egos and control-freaks within. I don’t think everyone’s showing their true colours. I think there’s some deliberate misdirection going on. As to the rules, you’ll like the rules, though I’m not at all sure our new girl will. It may depend on just how estranged she really is.



Buy They’re Not Like Us #1 and read the Page 45 review here

BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape (£7-50, Boom! Studios) by Shannon Watters et al.

“He didn’t exactly give me a lot to go on.”

Trust me: that’s toilet humour. Also one of my favourite lines in this A4, softcover album with French flaps.

I reckoned an anthology curated by Shannon Watters featuring an adventurous, reach-out combination of LUMBERJANES and CYANIDE & HAPPINES with a transfusion of new blood was worth a punt and certainly both those lived up to expectations, the latter casting the truth behind “The Creator’s Curse” on an otherwise optimistic self-doubter while giving those of us game-players considering New Year’s Resolutions a timely if self-defeating fail-safe.

The LUMBERJANES short, ‘A Girl And Her Raptor’ was a pretty poignant affair for those who dote on their dogs and keep them close by, but see them relegated to kennels at night. On the other hand a raptor is no more of suitable household pet than, say, an orang-utan or a leopard, is it? I don’t mean it’s not suitable for the household – though it isn’t – it’s not suitable for the creature in question. So: pertinent as well as poignant.

MUNCHKIN was rescued by a maths-centric punchline, THE MIDAS FLESH by some cartooning which dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy, ‘The Port-A-Potty Of Remington Lane’ by puns like the above and ‘The Last Bigfoot’ by Becca Tobin’s tasty cocktail colours.

The rest come across as utterly pointless to me, and I do seem to require a point. Is that a failing in myself, a shortcoming perhaps? Or does it indicate of a set of standards?



Buy BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape and read the Page 45 review here

SHIELD #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Carlos Pacheco.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is well worth your attention. The comic, I mean, but also this:

“It’s fun when your hobby becomes your work.”

It really is!

There Mark Waid speaks for himself, for chief protagonist S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson and for me too. The key, once it’s your job, is to stop treating it as your hobby and to hone your knowledge and affection into something professional, invaluable and accessible to all. That is exactly where all too many comic shops fall so lamentably short and where a fair few comics writers fail too. Not Mark Waid. Nor Agent Coulson.

In the opening flashbacks Agent Coulson is seen gleaning superhero knowledge from almanacs then transcribing it onto index cards from the tender age of nine; seen analysing the information from television news coverage aged eighteen; updating it as a junior agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. aged twenty-five; using it to save his sanity before being saved from solitary only last year and then deploying it last night to clean up at poker. With a mind like that you could not only card-count but anticipate your superhero competitors’ every move and motivation.

It is in the field, however, where it proves invaluable. At his disposal Agent Coulson has so many power sets to call in as required for each specific threat. He’s basically Miranda Zero from Warren Ellis’ highly recommended GLOBAL FREQUENCY. He will have to improvise depending on who’s already preoccupied with other repeat offenders (which presumably means reading 261 Marvel titles monthly) or merely reroute those already in the field with a crafty slight-of-hand.

That is precisely what Coulson does here and the pay-off is so satisfying you may squeal.

Also set up well in advance: this month’s surprise superhero guest stars disguised as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

“Are you the new Thor?” Leo Fitz asks an imposingly tall blonde lady.

The word balloon drips ice.

And let us be clear: this is a fully fledged superhero comic at the heart of the Marvel Universe not – as been the case before – a satellite spy thriller or a time-travelling mind-melt. As such it comes with thrills-aplenty Pacheco art featuring so many of your favourite powerhouses attempting to contain the demon-strewn, multidimensional fallout of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge being shattered into portal-opening pieces.

Coming back to the strategic planning, Agent Coulson could do none of that in this comic if veteran writer Mark Waid (KINGDOM COME etc) didn’t excel at precisely the same key skills: using his encyclopaedic knowledge of superheroes both past and present (always with his finger on the pulse of the present) then judging how to combine the most interesting and unused elements in the most intriguing new ways.

My only criticism – apart from the unnecessarily jarring credits page with pedestrian art by who even knows whom? – is the price point which, on top of the other 732 Marvel titles this month, will put so many potential readers off. Wouldn’t it be more constructive if Marvel had the same faith in its series as Image (whose first collected editions like UMBRAL VOL 1 are just £7-50 for up to six issues) and set even double-sized first-issue entry points at just $2-99?

It would indeed!


Buy SHIELD #1 and read the Page 45 review here


Porcelain vol 2: Bone China (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose.

Available 2015, but we know not when.

“I do not walk alone at night.”

I don’t know if we’re allowed to say this yet, but haha, Page 45 will once more have an exclusive signed bookplate edition limited to 200 copies.

I would probably pre-order right this second because this is what happened when we did the same thing with PORCELAIN volume one:

“Never in over two decades have I witnessed such a zealous reaction to a new creative team and a publisher’s first-ever graphic novel in advance of publication. I kicked off our campaign on Friday 1st February 2013 and within a mere 36 hours we’d received 25 pre-orders. I am delighted to the report that rose to 50 pre-orders and the book is in stock now! Although we did sell out of our 100 limited edition signed bookplate editions in 10 days!”

And now Ben and Chris are much, much better known.

Immediately striking, of course, is the cover both in its own right and in its stylistic cohesion with book one: much the same frame in ceramic white and a similarly restrained palette switching here from twilight blue to the most verdant of greens from André May. Also: Child is now very much a Lady, although not above resorting to urchin-speak when it suits her needs:

“I find that the more ridiculous the hat, the more awkward they feel when they have to deal with a ranting guttersnipe. Proper wrong foots them, it does.”

In this instance “they” are the military engaged in a war and suffering heavy losses. This being an era equivalent to Tennyson’s they are in dire need of cavalry replenishment and Lady has agreed to sell them her animated porcelain horses… but emphatically not the artificial soldiers they’re after as well.

The general is enraged, but her more conciliatory adjunct fares no better and – as he’ll discover all too soon – the general isn’t the only one with a short fuse.

All of which begs the question as to what has become of the Porcelain Maker himself in the intervening years and those of you who’ve already relished PORCELAIN volume one may think you know the answer. I wouldn’t be so sure. I wouldn’t be so sure…

Preview copies wherein you can find out the answer are still available at the Page 45 shop-floor counter for free or you can request a copy with any mail order purchase. They won’t last much longer, so chop-chop!

Decidedly off-topic, I had dinner with Chris Wildgoose and NIGHT POST’s Laura Trinder for the first time the other month (they are in luuuuurve) along with my good mate Marc Laming (THE RINSE, KINGS WATCH). Given the refined nature of PORCELAIN’s beauty – and indeed my intake of Sauvignon Blanc – I felt forced to blurt out the following:

“I had no idea you were so young, Chris!”

Having no internal editor, I found myself adding, “Or so hot!”

Page 45: above all, we’re professional.


Pre-order Porcelain vol 2: Bone China 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?

Bark! (£3-00) by various including Philippa Rice, Jack Teagle, Roddy Doyle

Soppy h/c (£10-99, Random House) by Philippa Rice

The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Meanwhile #2 (£4-95, ) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford, others

Drug & Drop vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Gun Machine (£12-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 6 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ted Anderson, Jeremy Whitley & Agnes Garbowska, various

Sonic – Mega Man: Worlds Collide vol 3 (£8-99, Archie Books) by various

Whispered Words vol 2 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Spider-Verse Prelude s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Avengers vol 5: Infinite Avengers (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli

Death Of Wolverine h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

The Punisher vol 2: Border Crossing s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson, Kevin Maurer & Mitch Gerads, Carmen Carnero, Phil Noto


ITEM! Anders Nilsen’s brilliant and beautiful comic on Optimism. Includes surprise guest-stars right at the end!

ITEM! YouTube interview with Shaun Martinbrough, artist on THIEF OF THIEVES. THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 4 out now!

ITEM! Snoopy reacts to publisher’s rejection slip. Brilliant!

ITEM! Cat comics from Liz Prince, creator of TOMBOY, FOREVER ALONE etc.

ITEM! More short autobiography, this time from Lucy Knisley: ‘A Comic About A Sad Thing That Happened’. Pretty poignant.

ITEM! To those peering in through our glass door with a certain degree of trepidation, then failing to fall in, I say this!

ITEM! Moebius’ ‘Brief Manual For Cartoonists’. If I were a cartoonist or comicbook creator, the one cartoonist and comicbook creator I’d take advice from would be Moebius.

ITEM! This on Twitter from @ljeomaOluo. Succinct and spot-on. Guys, get a grip!

“Woman: There’s still a long way to go to equality

“Dudes: Not true: A woman was mean to me once.

“Woman: That’s not what –

“Dudes: SO MEAN”

ITEM! Nottingham’s National Videogame Arcade is of even wider interest and importance than it may at first sound. Like all things GameCity it’s about interaction, education and creativity. Opportunity too! Consider joining The National Videogame Arcade Crew!

ITEM! ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’ exhibition at The British Library. I have it on good authority that it is spectacular!

ITEM! Although not available as comics you can buy prints of Natalie Andrewson’s swoonaway folktales from around the world! I think you will gawp.

ITEM! PREVIEWS for comics and graphic novels arriving March 2015 is up on our site. You can search by comics or graphic novels, then by publisher. Pre-ordering is vital for retailers because we have to order 2 months in advance too, just after the middle of each month. If you have a Page 45 Standing Order, don’t think you have to order online. You may want to add Becky Cloonan’s new comic, SOUTHERN CROSS, on a regular basis. Just tell us in the shop, email or phone in!

Here’s an interview with Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger about SOUTHERN CROSS.

ITEM! Lastly… drumroll…


FLUFFY is one of our all-time favourite graphic novels and – you mark my words – we have plans of our own for Fluffy in 2015!

Happy New Year!

– Stephen