Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week two

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



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