Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 1015 week one

Including Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR, Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN SLIPCASED EDITION,  Noah Van Sciver’s SAINT COLE, Brubaker & Phillips’ CRIMINAL with covers, Gilbert Hernandez’s LOVE AND ROCKETS: OFELIA, and free online Boulet comic underneath!

The Sculptor h/c (£18-99, SelfMadeHero) by Scott McCloud.

“I’m not afraid to die, Harry.”
“Give it time.”

David Smith is a sculptor feeling sorry for himself.

Once he was a prodigy and protégé taken under the wings of a rich and highly influential investor while still at college. He was publicly celebrated for six months: it looked like David’s future would be stellar. But then, in the full flood of that media spotlight which was serving him so well, David was summarily dropped.

In the Art world where a single critic can influence an entire room of sheep-like journalists and investors with a single turn of phrase, this is proving difficult to recover from. On a personal level it has destroyed David’s self-confidence and all hope for glory.

His dad, mum and sister are all dead. David is the last of his family and he’s feeling lost, lonely, left behind and forgotten. It’s made him bitter and resentful and prone to lashing out except towards his childhood friend, Ollie, who works in a gallery and is doing his very best on David’s behalf. That doesn’t stop David taking it out on Ollie’s new boyfriend and fellow sculptor, Finn.

Then on his 26th birthday while David is sitting alone in a diner, contemplating an empty plate and an equally empty future after being fired from his job flipping burgers, his Great Uncle Harry drops by. It’s time for a kindly pep talk.

“Gotta be some way to get you back in the saddle.”
“I don’t see how, with no money, no resources, so one to care, and no time before they kick me out… Still… Every night, I see them… these monstrous, beautiful things I could make… so real I could almost reach out and touch them. My dreams keep growing, Harry, even while my options keep shrinking. It’s like they’re demanding that I make them, demanding to be seen, demanding to exist… And now I’m scared I’ll never finish a single one.”

Then comes the moment of revelation, and it is masterfully done, as David struggles to recall when they last met.

“Man, the last time I saw you, you were…”

Four silent beats alternate between Uncle Harry’s soft but impassive gaze and David’s dawning realisation, closing in slowly, then…

“… Dead.”

“Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, David.”

As David struggles to absorb the truth, ‘Uncle Harry’ presents him with an alternative route to happiness: of a wife, kids, a labrador and a life teaching while working on his art in the basement, but for David this simply isn’t enough: his art is his everything, his art must be seen.

“What would you give for your art, David?”
“I’d give my life.”

So, with some sadness, Uncle Harry offers him a bargain: 200 days to create art with his bare hands from any physical object. But 200 days only, after which David will die. And it’s at this point – as the clock starts ticking inexorably on – that David falls in love…

What follows is a further 450 pages of extraordinary black and blue beauty and a far from straightforward trajectory as David discovers what he can do with this gift, what his art really means to him, what his heart really desires and the price to be paid for all of them.

David is hardly his own best friend. A gift doesn’t change who you are and David is impulsive, compulsive, driven and self-absorbed with neck-breaking mood swings and no sense of moderation. Succinctly…?

“You think too much.”

Given to grudges and paranoia, he also talks too much without the benefit of an internal editor which would prevent him from burning so many bridges. Some things are better left unsaid or at least expressed in a more kindly and considerate fashion. David could do with reading Jane Austen’s ‘Sense And Sensibility’.

The girl he falls for, Meg, is in so many ways his opposite: trusting, compassionate, nurturing and overwhelmingly positive and confident except when it comes to her trade. She’s an actress who’d hoped to be up on Broadway by now but has to be encouraged by her friends to even attend some auditions. She picks David up and takes him in when he’s at his lowest ebb, for David has far, far further to fall. He thinks she’s an angel – which is far from surprising when you discover how they first meet – but no one is that straightforward, are they?

Throughout there are discussions about Art, Art criticism and absolutes – about history, objectivity and subjectivity – and what really matters at the end of the day. There are also the practicalities of commerce and marketing strategies to consider, which David doesn’t.

“I thought if I just gave it everything I had…”

These set pieces are surprisingly succinct for such a vast graphic novel, but then the book would be bloated and there isn’t an ounce of fat on it.

Instead Scott McCloud, the creator of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, REINVENTING COMICS, MAKING COMICS, ZOT!, leaves room for some of the most intimate, delicate and touching moments I’ve read in any medium, plus one great big heart-stopper on a rooftop which will have your heart racing and send you reeling from one reaction to the next faster than a Ferrari with its pedal to the metal. Its multiple climaxes – far more wide-ranging than you can possibly suspect – will take your breath away. Oh, the reprises!

It’s also in places laugh-out-loud funny as when it dawns on David whom amongst Meg’s friends and flatmates she’s slept with, Marcos’ eyes bugging out behind him as David puts his foot in it. I’m sorry to make this comparison but those eyes, combined with the no-no shaking of the head, shot me straight back to WIZARD’S TWISTED TOYFARE THEATRE. Credibility is overrated and I’m running pretty low on that anyway.

This too made me smile after David loses yet another game of chess with boney-fingered ‘Uncle Harry’:

“Figures… You always beat me as a kid.”
“Y’get distracted too easily.”
“Come to think of it, you always let me play white too.”
“Hey, I get the last move… you might as well get the first.

As to the sheer beauty which Scott McCloud has brought to the printed page, the light is thrilling whether when lying together on the grass, wandering alone in the cemetery, overlooking Manhattan with a palpable sense space between buildings or as the door opens up and Ollie first surveys what David’s been up to in his rented loft.

There are similar gasp-inducing moments early one morning on a bridge and the first two times he spies Meg, the second taking place across a crowded club, everyone else fading to an ethereal blue as David focuses in on her black hair and skirt and pursues.

Later on, just before David’s days grow painfully few and time accelerates rapidly, the narrative pauses for a page worthy of Will Eisner, depicting a tiny David, hands in his pockets, navigating a pavement made out of calendar dates ending on April 9th after which lies the monumental stone chasm of death. Of course, he can die ahead of his time at any time and the beginnings and ends of each month, which would be blank on a printed calendar, are here similarly treacherous, bottomless pits. Throw in its overheard perspective and a thrillingly acute vanishing point and you have a visual interpretation of Time quite emphatically waiting for no man.

Regular readers will know I love rain and almost anything (other than comics covers) eroded by light. The final page of the penultimate chapter ends with David alone in a borrowed apartment he’s babysitting, looking out of the window at a Manhattan skyline on the other side of Central Park surrounded by shrubbery. Every element of that soft, pale, blue-grey panel streaked by torrential rain is sublime, but it’s the fluid squiggles at the base of the bushes which really made it for me.

Finally for now, one of the key visual moments which McCloud had to nail was always going to be when our sculptor first puts his mind to the task of deploying his gift on his material of choice: a precious block of cold, hard stone which takes months to chip away at with chisels and mallets. As the low morning sunlight floods into his stark, wooden-floored loft, David pauses in front of the “stubborn old bastard”, throws away his tools and feels his way around the block. He then raises his hands and…

What a wallop! The most spectacular, liquid explosion of unyielding granite!

So welcome to the Art world and – to a certain extent – welcome to it, you are!

But as much as anything else THE SCULPTOR is a book like DAYTRIPPER about perspectives and priorities. About what actually makes you happy and how you can bring happiness to others or not. About life while you’re still living it: paying attention to what is in front of you, who is in front of you, soaking it all in and making that count. And, like DAYTRIPPER, it prompted a great deal of self-reflection.

“Look to Heaven!” screams an old man protesting about a protest which he considers blasphemous outside a cathedral.

“Silly people…” says Meg. “It’s all down here.”

SLH

Buy The Sculptor and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oh joy, joy, joy-joy, joy- joy, joy!

Which is more difficult to type than you’d imagine.

This slipcased whopper collects all five of Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN volumes before her brother Lars took over, each of which you’ll find reviewed by myself, Jonathan or Tom, although my more lengthy musings can be found in the landscape colour editions which you’ll also find here in their original black and white.

You’ll also be blessed with a gorgeous A2 fold-out poster of the cover and nearly thirty pages of immaculate character designs both used and unused in Tove’s assured, silky black line on what appears to be aged, tea-stained baking paper: they have that enchanting translucency.

I first discovered MOOMIN aged four or five while sleeping over at my cousin’s house, tucked up in bed one Boxing Day evening. The safe and soft sounds of our mums and our dads boozing away merrily below drifted comfortingly up the stairs. It was dark outside and it was snowing. Can you imagine the magic of that?

It was, of course, in the form of illustrated prose paperbacks, whereas this is the comics.

The Moomins themselves were enchanting: a tight but welcoming and insatiably curious family unit forever inviting waifs and strays into their home, then promptly wishing that they hadn’t.

Either that or they’d set out on wild adventures, propelled by Moominpappa’s incurable wanderlust. Moominmamma always managed to pack more essentials and potted geraniums into her capacious handbag than is remotely feasible, but then she was forever having to provide.

“Good thing we have such a lot of bed-sheets and table-cloths for the sails.”
“Yes, dear. Does the hemstitching matter much?”

Essentially none of them could say “no” or at least take “no” for an answer even with a daintily appended “dear”. Young Moomintroll would usually manage to put his foot in it and upset Snorkmaiden, his singularly sensitive belle; and, oh, the weird and wonderful creatures they’d encounter!

Ahead of her times, Jansson depicted floods of quite Biblical proportions and at least one drought, plus she was perfectly aware that the press were not to be trusted.

Everything would be back to a reassuring normality by the end but Tove Jansson’s first MOOMIN outing – the illustrated prose that is THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD – was a very different beast. The sepia paintings are as eerie as you like!

Anyway, fifty quid is an utter bargain when you add up the cost of the first five hardcovers and with these newly unearthed extras in the back it’s a steal.

Irrelevant aside: Tove Jansson is actually pronounced “Two-va Yon-son”, though obviously we won’t be doing that because no one would have a clue who we’re talking about. Also, it’d be like those pretentious old aristos who, in the 1930s, pronounced “champagne” “shom-pan-yer” or a French newsreader suddenly breaking off from her his mellifluous French accent to pronounce “Scunthorpe” in its thickest, bluntest, British best.

SLH

Buy Moomin: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

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

First of the six CRIMINAL graphic novels to be blessed with a new trade dress plus the landscape covers which adorned the original issues. From the creators of FATALE, SLEEPER and INCOGNITO, we rate this right up there with David Lapham’s STRAY BULLETS.

Each of us has our own set of rules: roads you promise yourself you won’t travel down, things you will never do. But how many of us manage to abide by them without failure? For most of us the occasional slip-up may cause complications, but it hopefully won’t be the end of the world.

For Leo, in his line of work, it could prove fatal – for him and for those left around him – which is why he’s always stuck by them. For example, if the job doesn’t need guns, you don’t carry them (“Prisons are full of assholes who valued their own lives only slightly more than other people’s”), and when embarking on any heist, any score, any job at all, you do your homework thoroughly and you always have more than one exit strategy planned. Only once did his father break his own rules, and it cost his freedom and ultimately his life.

That’s not going to happen to Leo, so when ex-colleague Seymour approaches him with another bent cop with insider knowledge of the perfect heist – five million in diamonds in a police evidence van on its way to court – he’s more than a little wary. Unfortunately Seymour knows Leo’s weakest spot – the fact that he actually cares – which blinds him when he should have been paying the most attention, and when the whole thing falls apart mid-heist, it’s all Leo can do to escape.

That’s Leo’s key skill: whether a heist is successful or whether it fails, Leo will get away. That’s what people hire him for. What Leo doesn’t know is that this time he’s been hired to get away, yes… after failing. Why on earth would anyone do that? So clever!

 

This is a seamless pairing of writer and artist, so utterly absorbing that it does what the best art in any medium does: it makes you forget its creation. Yet it’s so well conceived from every intricate angle from the get-up-and-go to the set-up-and-scram, and it isn’t even about the heist itself, it’s about trying to play out a very bad hand when the game has been rigged from the start, what happens when you start to hope for a little bit more.

Brubaker’s always been strong with the internal monologue, but Leo is entirely real to me, as is Greta and indeed lecherous, panty-pilfering old Ivan sinking inexorably into dementia, to whom Leo is devoted. But as much of this if not more is down to Phillips. In this back-alley world of murky morality, half-truths and hidden agendas, the characters’ faces are in constant shadow, laden with the scepticism of past experience or masking deceit. I wouldn’t trust anyone drawn by Sean Phillips.

But that’s just a fraction of what he brings to the table. Phillips is by no means a photo-realistic artist, and thank Christ for that – you can’t help but relish his instinctive, expressive lines, whether on faces or the curling, swirling smoke – and yet there’s something so confident and consistent in his style, in his handling of the cast very much in their environment, in how much to draw and what to leave out, how to light it and how to compose each page, that you are mesmerised into seeing it all play out as if in front of you.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 1: Coward s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Time and again I’m asked where to start on Los Bros Hernandez.

“Anywhere!” is the answer for they’re both consummate storytellers and the most convivial of hosts, introducing you to their cast as they come to each party and you’ll get along fine, I swear.

Luba is reading in bed when first her son then her three daughters climb on.

“The kids at school call me Sissy Boots.”
“Well, climbing into bed with me isn’t going to make you look exactly macho, sweetheart.”
“Just because I hate playing sports and I’d rather play dress up with girls!”
“They call me Tarzan at school just because I like to wrestle with boys instead of play hopscotch!”
“They call me Conan.”
“Some pack I’m raising. Come in then. I don’t need to hear any more. Climb into the Fortress Of Love.”
“Yay! Nobody’s mean to us in the Fortress Of Love!”

Isn’t that cute?

“I don’t need to hear any more” is actually the telling line, though.

Gilbert and Jaime are renowned for their down-to-earth portraits of Mexican and Mexican-immigrant life: a Latino soap opera with a sprawling cast who have aged on the page, loved and lost and now spanned generations. Both brothers portray age so well, from skinny-legged, hyperactive five-year-olds to the coarsely lined evidence of having weathered so many storms.

Both brothers also suffuse their rich, contemporary fiction with the fantastical. Not just local legends, though there are plenty of those. So many of the segments that make up this organic and unusual narrative are decidedly surreal. And it is comprised of segments: short sketches from here and there, now and then, that between them build up to form a much larger picture and although so much is said, so much is left unsaid to simmer in silence.

Like Greek tragedies it’s also full of formalities, of non-naturalistic elements and devices. I mean, does Luba really carry that hammer around with her everywhere? Around the house? Even to work? Well yes, probably, but it’s more a reminder of what she’s endured, and the manner in which she’s endured it!!

Also, consider the effect of Hector dating her knock-out, body-building sister, Petra. The panels are packed with thought bubbles riddled with Hector’s self-doubting insecurities – internal monologues as his mind whirls around in an incessant self-torture of lust and guilt while she, seemingly sublime, gives nothing away. Petra’s not weighed down by a single thought bubble, she just gets on and swims or dances. It keeps you worried that good-hearted Hector is going to balls it up by not paying her any verbal attention, by failing to actively engage and enjoy his time with her.

And then there’s Books, as unrealistic a figure as you can imagine, squat and sour and melodramatic. She’s not really a person, more of a narrative device, passing judgement on the proceedings:

“Patterns repeat themselves, little to no change in their actions, no lessons learned.”

That’s part of the point of this book: that some people simply don’t grow except in their waistline. But it does make the final twist all the more surprising, as one person finally makes a decision to break with the habits of a lifetime, whilst the predominantly ambling pace gives the dark dénouement a stunning punch to the guts.

I’d better give you an idea of what the book’s actually about, hadn’t I?

For a start: sex.  Everyone’s at it, or trying to get at it. It’s a veritable cat’s cradle of relationships! One of Luba’s sisters, Fritz, is dating both handsome soccer champion, Sergio, and his mother, Pipo! Luba herself personifies this (not the sapphic part – she’s actually censoriously homophobic, especially concerning her children). She doesn’t get much herself here but she is a force of nature, unfeasibly well endowed, with a raw sexuality which few are immune to.

What Luba does get comes from Fortunato, an enigmatic, Adonis-like figure from the sea who appears at key moments to seduce or fulfil the sexual needs of the female cast, always with a Reeves-and-Mortimer “Fortunato!” dub over his head!

The odd thing is, he might not even exist except in their heads – in their memories and in their dreams. And what’s the difference between dreams and memories? Neither necessarily represents an accurate recording of the past. They’re both elusive and subject to perception, and within both key elements may disappear with time only to re-emerge, sometimes inconveniently.

All of which brings us pertinently to Ofelia herself, Luba’s elder cousin. Oh, Ofelia has plenty of memories which she threatens to transcribe into a book, yet she doesn’t appear much except at the beginning and the end. Instead we gradually discover that she’s lived her stifled life almost entirely vicariously whilst nurturing both Luba then two generations of Luba’s offspring and it’s left Ofelia resentful.

But Ofelia she has one unspoken memory, shared by several, and that in itself may be the key as to why she chose to stay at home in the first place…

Tip of the hat to the chapter title, ‘Spot Marks The Ex.”

For more of Pipo and Fritz, please see HIGH SOFT LISP.

SLH

Buy Love And Rockets (vol 10): Ofelia and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How did I let things get so out of hand?
“Within days I have destroyed everything.
“Why did all this happen to me?”

Not, you’ll note, “Why did I do all this?”

By the very last page Joe has indeed destroyed everything – more than you could possibly suspect, even though there’s a clue halfway through! – and it takes less than a week.

If you really are after an answer, though, Joe, it’s because you have no self-control, no sense of responsibility and ignore what little better judgement you have, so giving swiftly in to every ill-advised temptation that comes your way.

Noah Van Sciver’s Joe is one big car crash and there he is on the third page, weak, wet and bedraggled, staring into the abyss you’ll only find out about right at the end. The only things left are Joe’s constant sneer lines on each side of his nose.

I love Sciver’s heads, often sitting wonkily on shoulders like the protagonists’ necks are broken, and Joe’s mother-in-law is the most brilliantly repulsive, lager-swigging, pot-smoking, baggy and saggy waste of space – space that used to belong to Joe, Nicole and their baby. No more.

With thick, curling lines emanating from Joe and swirling round the innocent, oblivious customers, Noah’s also a dab hand at the sweaty delirium of drunk, which is what Joe is during most shifts at the pizza place where he works as much overtime as he can get in order to feed his missus and kid.

So you’ve got to give him that: he does work long hours in order to provide but with all sixteen fingers on the self-destruct button. Also, get a load of this:

“I’m 28 years old, working everyday to take care of my girlfriend – who will not get a job – and our child, who was unplanned and is more expensive than we thought.”

Nicole is the mother of your newborn babv, Joe! How is Nicole supposed to get a job? And “more expensive than we thought”..? Slightly more time consuming as well, I expect.

Joe doesn’t really do reality, as you will see. Nor forethought. He does boorish, belligerent, bad-tempered and “what could possibly go wrong?” The answer is “everything”.

Expect: sheets and puddles of dirty wet rain, clouds of sickly-sweet smoke and a punch in the face or two. I know I would, and I haven’t hit anyone in my life, I don’t think.

SLH

Buy Saint Cole and read the Page 45 review here

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

Once more with the gorgeous calligraphy, here in a subtle purple, surrounded by silver stars!

I love the final ‘S’ and its gradation of depth and colour.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside from our expanding range of Jodie Paterson Cards was equally beautiful.

I’m not quite sure where the moon has got to. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what its inclusion means. The moon has long been a reference to madness, as in “lunar” / “lunatic”. Is giving this breath-taking beauty on Valentine’s Day akin to saying “I love you profoundly even though you’re off your fucking trolley”?

It probably is. And I have just quadrupled our sales.

SLH

Buy Moon And Stars Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

D’awww! This is so sweet!

Like all Jodie Paterson Cards this is printed on a classy watercolour stock with an equally rich envelope.

It depicts… well, you can see what it depicts: two bears, one with rosy cheeks and long lashes so signifying that one is a big, buff male bear and the other is a laydee bear – or that the other has recently watched Cabaret.

Watching Cabaret was a highly formative experience when I was fifteen. [That will be quite enough of that – ed.]

Our Mark was a bear, you know. A bear is a gay guy of a certain girth with a great big beard and a heart of gold. An otter is a gay guy of slightly more marginal girth or maybe a beard that could do with some fertiliser.

A sea lion is a cute but singularly stupid animal that claps its flippers together and balances a ball on its nose, even in the wild. Scientific FACT!

I could educate you on the subject of gay, back-pocket handkerchiefs and what each colour code means, if you like? I educated Ian Culbard on just that subject which he then slyly incorporated into his great graphic novel CELESTE which has the most swoon-worthy sense of space. Do you have a copy yet? Check out the handkerchief, I am not even kidding you!

Regardless, it’s still pretty chilly so this couple of bear-faced beauties are surrounded by shrubbery and probably in hibernation. Given half a chance I would join them.

For similarly calamitous reviews, please check out the rest of our Jodie Paterson Cards for I have sullied each and every one with highly inappropriate verbiage and yet we have still had to restock two times in just as many months!

SLH

Buy Bear Hug Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

Some sources said this was to be the death knell of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. I wasn’t sure whether I should be pinching salt or tickling its ribs, but it was far from improbable given that interest in the various series outside of Miles Morales’ had plummeted.

And in some ways it was its death knell because – once more outside the subsequent Miles Morales relaunch which came with quite the cliffhanger – there is now zero interest in any of the abominable titles that lamentably limped from this wreckage.

Following events during the AGE OF ULTRON, a hole has been torn in the time-space thingummybob and globe-gobbling Galactus has found his way through to a brand-new dinner table: the Ultimate Universe. It is woefully unprepared, and not just in the crockery department.

This invulnerable grim reaper, so vast he makes Manhattan look like Legoland, has made it to Earth and trampled the whole of New Jersey to dust. Nothing the Ultimates have found to throw at it has even raised its eyebrow. In the regular Marvel Universe only Reed Richards successfully managed to stave off the ravenous appetite of this world-eater, but the Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe has chosen the distinctly different career path of monomaniacal would-be world-tyrant.

“What’s to do?” as Victoria Wood might say.

Bagley’s interior art delivered the sense of scale which this cover does not while Bendis fell relatively silent for the initial onslaught, letting the action rip across the page right from the start, but since this includes every single mini-series which attended and even preceded the event (like HUNGER), the rest is a very mixed bag.

Among the 20 issues here is the prologue which smoothly and succinctly explained everything you needed to know about the situation as it stood, regardless of whether you’d picked up AGE OF ULTRON or indeed a single Ultimate comic before, whilst delivery an affecting tale of love understood just in time to be too late.

SLH

Buy Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand 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?

The Pirates Of Pangaea Book 1 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 3 – Mad s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gregg Hurtz & Ethan Van Sciver, Szymon Kudranski

Superman: Earth One vol 3 h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ardian Syaf

Teen Titans vol 5: The Trial Of Kid Flash s/c (£13-50, DC) by Scott Lobdell & various

Inhumanity s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Mat Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, Kelly See DeConnick, Jonathan Hickman, Christos Gage, Matt Kindt, Sam Humphries, Warren Ellis & various

Monster Perfect Edition vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Master Keaton vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tsubasa Haduki

News!

ITEM! Boulet’s short comic, THE GAENEVIAD online for free!

ITEM! UNDERSTANDING COMICS and THE SCULPTOR’s Scott McCloud examines seven graphic novels which deal with artistic frustration.

ITEM! AKIRA, sci-fi, manga and comics fans in general Paul Gravette presents a riveting and meticulous article on AKIRA’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo, putting his work into context and revealing so much which we in the west have yet to see.

ITEM! A week ago I foolishly declared that Page 45 was so close to its January sales record – which had stood stubbornly strong since 2004 – that only a blizzard could stop us. Next day…?

Still, doesn’t our shop glow in snow?

Oh, and we trounced the record anyway, by over 10%. Thank yooooooo!

ITEM! “ Is it time we agreed on a gender-neutral singular pronoun?” hand-wrings the Grauniad. Been using “they” – even as a singular – for thirty-five years now and it’s always worked for me!

ITEM! Paul Duffield demonstrates the beauty of spot-varnish covers in his SMALL TALES & FAIR FAILS update.

ITEM! An Oxford-based Comic Club where kids can learn to make awesome comics with Neill Cameron on Saturdays. Yay!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2015! Whopping announcements begin this very month, so I would seriously bookmark that link and follow @comicartfest on Twitter!

Creator, publisher and retailer bookings for the LICAF Comics Tower where Page 45 took a record amount of money in 2014 are open until February 27th 2015! You bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there once again, with some very special guests!

– Stephen

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