Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week one

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

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