Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2015 week five

Asaf Hanuka’s THE REALIST: a graphic novel to rival Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! Books by Brubaker & Phillips; Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo! Final SCOTT PILGRIM in colour! (Plus there may be more stickers, oh yes!)

The Realist h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Asaf Hanuka.

“Oh no!”
“What is it?”
“Change the channel to Israel.”

I’ve been desperate for an English-language print edition of this for years.

I do mean desperate. Your eyes are in for a feast and your mind is going to be walking more than that metaphorical mile in Asaf Hanuka’s shoes as he lets you climb into his skin, gives you a great deal to ponder and so expands your compassion and understanding.

Imagine, if you can, how scary it must be to receive a phone call from your landlord, out of the blue, to tell you that she or he is selling the house so you’ve got three months to leave. If you don’t find somewhere else to live, you’ll be out on the street.

Now imagine you have a husband or wife and a child…

That’s how this kicks off in the first three panels, the abrupt and unexpected chaos that was ten seconds ago a safe routine spilling into Asaf’s life as the bottle of ink spills onto his drawing and into the face of its cheerfully waving man.

The second tier portrays the pressure perfectly as Asaf envelopes his wife with a hug while their young son cheerfully building a tower of blocks is startled by its collapse then bursts into tears: the pressure of providing not just security but also optimism when your own hope has just evaporated and so left you empty.

In the final three panels the colour and light has been drained from the day, husband Hanuka lying awake in bed while his wife and child sleep; awake for hours as the bed recedes from us into the middle of a road; then further still, left suspended in space, in a void. It’s your quintessential fear of a future unknown.

I can relate: my most often recurring nightmare has been Page 45 being evicted from 9 Market Street in Nottingham and being forced to move to an attic in Coventry, a cathedral where the pews were our shelves or to the northwest coast where we had no customers whatsoever. Sometimes I couldn’t even find the shop.

That’s just the first of dozens and dozens of impeccably composed pages where the level of thought which has gone into every detail from the tier structure and the movement across the page to the colouring which is never for its own sake but always for eye-drawing or emotional impact.

This was originally commissioned by a financial newspaper as a weekly autobiographical comic following the Hanukas’ desperate search for a suitable apartment in a difficult market. There’s a fabulous page split in two, as an agent with a wide and thoroughly fake grin stands back while wife and child survey the dilapidated room anxiously, side-on, and Asaf, central and to the fore, imagines how it might look with a great deal of work in a mirrored second panel below. Again, the colouring says it all.

The book soon branches out into wider worries or whatever else is preying on Hanuka’s mind. He recently declared that this is how he best deals with his concerns: in nine-panel grids or full-page flourishes, finding the most effective visual ways for conveying his exact mental and emotional states both for the entertainment of readers and his own benefit. Once it’s there in front of him he can process these thoughts more constructively.

As well as being an impeccable draughtsman, the creator’s a superb lateral thinker: you can expect thrilling variety and plenty of the fantastical to keep you amused right through the book.

I loved ‘Eye Exam’ in which a young Asaf plays at being Bruce Lee, a soccer star-striker and John Travolta at the disco. Then he takes that eye test to see if he needs his vision adjusting:


There’s so much here I can relate to: having bad news preoccupy so much that it’s topmost in your mind, whatever you do, whoever you’re with, effectively cutting you off from them.

‘Brave heart’ is brilliant: when you drop your kid off at play group and he begs you “Don’t go!” yet you leave him there anyway then burst into tears in private. One presumes initially that it’s the boy who needs to be brave, but it’s the parent.

In ‘Warrior’s Rest’ so much is conveyed by an open door, the light shining through it and over his sleeping son, the dad’s silhouette partially cast on the wall to one side and the toy spaceman from earlier caught in the middle of the floor between two Transformers and his spaceship.

The elaborate strategy and competitiveness of Facebook is simply hilarious, but this is Israel and there are also security checkpoints, Asaf imagining himself being interrogated, and the white lies you tell your child to protect them from the truth, from the world. In some the couple quarrel and in ‘Less Is More’ Hanuka puts on a brave face… with a felt tip pen.

Others are more enigmatic, open to interpretation and I don’t have all the answers but I do love the questions.

I leave you with one page on which Asaf deliberately deprives you of the answer after struggling with a strip, deadline four hours and counting. His wife offers some sage advice:

“The idea isn’t that important. Just make sure there’s a funny ending that people understand, not just you.”
“Okay… yes… interesting… that could work…”

The final panel shows him scribbling in his notebook.

“Haha… brilliant… brilliant!”

You’ll never know!


Buy The Realist h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 4: Bad Night s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

Warning: do not read this if you’re already coming undone!

This will unravel you further. You will be thrown into the headlights about to blind Jacob and wonder what on earth bloody hit you.

Each and every CRIMINAL graphic novel noir is a twisted masterpiece of multi-layered malfeasance but this one is so fucked up it’s not true. As are its protagonists – all of them. Remember I wrote that when you approach the dénouement, start seeing things from other points of view, then realise that what you’ve been reading is a lie. Or at least not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

So help you, God.

From the creators of Page 45’s current Comicbook Of The Month, THE FADE OUT comes a fourth instalment of CRIMINAL whose first volume was itself a Page 45 CBOTM and whose penultimate chapter comes with a twist of genius I did not see coming. Unfortunately for Jacob, its lust-struck protagonist, document forger and detective newspaper comic strip creator, neither did he. Let us begin.

Do you wish you’d gotten involved when you saw that couple fight?

Most of the time you instinctively fear for the woman. Not always – I’ve known some men get a right battering too – but usually you fear for the woman.

Jacob didn’t get involved that night in the diner; he backed right away. He’d already experienced enough grief in his life when his wife drove off a road in a storm, the car landing in an old culvert pipe where it – and she – lay undiscovered for years while the police questioned him with dogged determination and malice, even leaking his supposed guilt to the press.

But while driving home in the rain Jacob saw the woman once more, flagging a lift, and he pulled in. She was drunk – real booze-breath drunk. Then, a few minutes later, she was passed-out drunk in his passenger seat.

She hadn’t had time to tell him where she lived so he took her to his house, heaved her into his home and onto the couch. Being a gentleman, that’s where Jacob left her, but later that night she was grateful, so very grateful and she showed him her gratitude exactly as you’re imagining.

But it wasn’t too long before he wished that she hadn’t, and that he hadn’t got involved at all. Now the couple are in his home and he can’t get them out. Can you imagine why from what I have written?

Now the couple have leverage. Now the couple have a plan.

No. No, I have not given the game away. I have but alluded and which elements are important I won’t even tell you.

This is much, much more tortuous than you can imagine.

This is petrifying.


Buy Criminal vol 4: Bad Night s/c and read the Page 45 review here

MPH (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo.

Oh, look at that cover!

Cool and contemporary with big, bold primary colours. Now that’s how you stand out on our shelves!

It’s a joy to see Duncan Fegredo back in the real world again – well, something more approximating it than HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS. That was an ethereal beauty and Fegredo was perfect for a series starring a big red guy with enormous hands. The hands!

However, it’s the cool and contemporary I love most about him: the arched expressions and Rodin-like wrists, often at angles in TALES FROM THE CLERKS, for example. There’s a gloriously subtle sequence kicked off on page nine in prison when Chevy looks away from a bald, bearded biker dude just as that dude takes an interest in him. It’s a perfect panel, all the important elements including their stares composed along the lines radiating from its vanishing point, far right.

Three panels later and the biker dude is staring towards the vanishing point and the angle of the eye, if you look very closely, is now aimed at Roscoe’s girlfriend, Rosa. Uh-oh!

Let’s pull back…

In 1986 the first and only sighting of a superhuman occurred late at night after he “ran out of juice” in Missouri. Rocketing uncontrollably at such an impossible speed across multiple States that he left a tornado-level trail of destruction in his wake, ploughing up compacted earth and asphalt, bursting through buildings and shattering glass, Mr Springfield staggered to a halt and was promptly arrested, drugged and locked away in solitary confinement by the United States Army.

That was it for superhumans for nearly thirty years.

Now it’s 2014 and young, ambitious, positive and forward-thinking Roscoe, a courier in bankrupt Detroit, has a shattering experience of his own. On a drug delivery he’s set up by his boss to take a fall with the Feds so that self-same boss, Samurai Hal – owner of The Joyside Lounge strip lounge – can have a clear crack at his girlfriend. Which brings us back to prison.

Whatever he dealt, Roscoe wouldn’t even take aspirin so he stays equally clean in jail. He stays positive too, thinking up all manner of ways of legitimately reducing his sentence. Until he finds out the truth, is goaded one step too far by the biker dude and – a stint in solitary later – is offered a pill stamped “MPH”. And he takes it.

MPH stands for Miles Per Hour and, boy, does that change everything!

When you can cross from the East to West Coast in four minutes while time stands still for everyone else, getting out of jail free is a cinch. Getting even is easier still.

Back at The Joyside Lounge:

“These bills floating around you is all the cash you got left, man…
“Any money in the bank I just transferred to a local drugs charity to make up for all those innocent lives you destroyed…
“Oh, I’m not done yet. Because I also just cancelled your home, building and life insurance policies. Can you guess why I’d do a thing like that?
“That gas you can smell is the pipes I bust open…
“The lighter I borrowed from Stacy behind the bar.”

Bam! Bam! Boom!

Each panel lasts as long as he likes for Roscoe who moves faster than lightning. To a horrified Hal they last but a second.


I love that Mark Millar even thinks of the insurance policies on top of the immediate destruction. He’s also thought long and hard about where to set this. Detroit – previously known as at the car capital of the world – has indeed been ditched, as derelict as Baltimore on television’s The Wire. Here’s Chevy with Rosa who has been trying to protect her brother Baseball from getting involved with the local, machine-gun-running local gang:

“What else can he do, Rosa? I know he’s smart, but it’s not just jobs we’re missing now. Half the street lights don’t even work. What kind of city can’t afford to light its own streets? It’s all going to Hell, girl. I’m telling you. America is fucked.”
“Oh, America’s doing fine, Chevy. It’s just us who’ve been left behind.”

At which point Roscoe shows up in the blink of an eye with a wink in his eye.

“Which is why the three of us are moving to California.”

What in the world do you suppose happens next?

Okay, I think I’ve given you all you need to know, summarised as this:

Mark Millar doesn’t write any old meta-human comics. They always have something socio-political to say. Pop him into our search engine and you’ll get comics like SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN (which I always sell as “What if James Bond came from Peckham?”), SUPERIOR (a Faustian pact with a monkey at the bottom of your bed), Marvel’s superhero CIVIL WAR (gun control represented in terms of super-powers) and most recently JUPITER’S LEGACY which, while being blisteringly pugilistic and a great big family fuck-up, has at its heart our wider economic crashes.

He’s good. He’s very good, and he thinks outside the box. I can’t think of a single Mark Millar title which is just a big punch-up. Please do pop him into our search engine. I think I’ve reviewed every title the man has ever written.

Then I give you artist Duncan Fegredo:

When the three of them get together – Roscoe, Rosa, Chevy and soon to be joined by Baseball – all necking MPH then you will see such wonders galore! What does the world look like when time stops still with four rogues running amok?

Rain drops, for instance…?

Duncan Fegredo is an absolute wonder at reaction and glee and – accompanied by colourist Peter Doherty – there is so much light and, yes, colour in this comic! Duncan’s depiction of body language is virtually unparalleled in comics: any comics in any genre. His expressions are exquisite and his gesticulations rival those of Will Eisner. He is one of comics’ greatest communicators.

So what would you do with a vial of MPH pills that could last you a week? A vial of pills that would give you super-fast speed while the world dozed off in your wake? What would you do and could you ever give it up?

Well, this is what they do and those who are in power are not very happy.

They’re not very happy at all!

P.S. I may have misled you a little, but you won’t be alone. Any misdirection is strictly in keeping with what happens within. Infer what you will but of course it’s more complex than this. One of the most unexpectedly delightful endings in comics.


Buy MPH and read the Page 45 review here

Legend Of The Scarlet Blades h/c (£19-99, Humanoids) by Saverio Tenuta.

“I think you still harbour feeling for Raido and myself, yet even so, you ordered his death and have deprived me of the sun. In reality, you are not fully aware of your actions. Do not be so sure that it is you who are the puppeteer.
“That, I never believed. I only cut my own strings and imprisoned the one who controlled them in this temple.”

Terrific surprise, this. I was expecting another SAMURAI: LEGEND, which was certainly very pretty but really little more than another Onimusha.

LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES, on the other hand, is breathtakingly beautiful with vast panoramas of snow-swept mountains and walls snaking up to them; Japanese temples and rooftops, Acer leaves in autumn, cherry blossom petals and birds taking flight; gigantic white wolves called Izuna with ears like the lynx… but it is also an intricately woven story of cause and effect, of nature and nurture, that spans two generations in feudal Japan whose revelations eventually connect almost every event to another and everyone to each other, even if few or even any of the players involved know it until quite near the end. Maybe the wolves know. Yes, maybe the wolves know…

Lone warrior Raido has lost his memory. He’s lost his arm, an eye, and something else – if only he could remember what. Instead he is plagued by voices so loud he can barely sleep. They’re calling to him. He has a tattoo whose symbols don’t bode well and he has a past more complicated than he can imagine which he inadvertently catches up with when he encounters young Meiki and suddenly there’s silence. He sweeps her away from the clutches of Captain Kawakimi, ordered to arrest the girl by Lady Ryin, Shogunai of all that surrounds her. He knows not who they are, but they definitely remember him, as does General Nobu Fudo, the man with three eyes, the man with three arms and the man with two Scarlet Blades. Raido is supposed to be dead.

The past is revealed slowly, subtly and in all the right places, for it’s not as straight forward as you’ll think. For example, does Nobu Fudo have Raido’s eye? He does not. He has an eye that was sacrificed to Raido after Raido as a boy sacrificed his own to feed his starving wolf cub. There’ll be repercussions there. Unfortunately Raido will repay that repayment of kindness with… Ouch. It’s actually pretty affecting in places.

There is a reason, by the way, why the seasons have stopped and the domain of Lady Fujiwara Ryan and Lord Totecu Fujiwara before her is besieged by ice and its raging white Izuna. There’s an explanation for why the Izuna are raging, and why Lady Ryin is such a bitter and cruel mistress. It’s not an excuse but a reason. The same goes for the three-armed Nobu Fudo’s enmity towards Raido.

I can promise you a substantial read and as much eye-candy as you could want whether your thing is majestic landscapes, fantastical wolves or dramatic blade action. It’s not easy painting driven snow, but the blue and purple lights dance off it here perfectly.


Buy Legend Of The Scarlet Blades h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim vol 6 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley with Nathan Fairbairn.

From the creator of SECONDS, one of my two best books of last year, comes the final colour edition of ingenious comedy with a Ninetendo logic all of its own and a seemingly inexhaustible, playful inventiveness.

Flashbacks can come in the form of (highly unreliable!) Memory Cam stills and I think he invented the lobbed-in labels, the character summary or status boxes which so many other writers have emulated since:

“Julie P (the original and best)”
“Sandra (not the original)”
“Monique (not the best)”

Previously in SCOTT PILGRIM:

Scott is a clot, he really is. He’s a total dumpling. In terms of a Chinese take-away, dim doesn’t even begin to sum the lad up.

But Scott’s at least earned the Power Of Love and leveled up. It comes with a flaming sword: +5 for slashiness.

You see, Scott is in love with Ramona and he’s defeated six of her seven evil exes in combat – thereby turning them into a shower of shiny gold coins – with only Gideon to go. But for the moment Ramona’s gone missing and it’s left him in a zombie fugue state, dribbling away on a handheld video game.

Now it’s time for Scott’s own exes to sort the silly boy out in time for him, Gideon Graves, Envy Adams and Romona Flowers to have a final showdown with gay ex-flatmate Wallace boozed up and rolling his eyes sardonically on the sidelines. There may be casualties. Wallace’s tongue is very sharp.

As for the audience, where would they be without their mobile phones?

“Is that chick a dude?”
“I’m googling her as we speak.”


“Is that chick dead?”
“I’m updating her Wikipedia page as we speak.”

Will Scott win through?

He’s almost learned how to tie his own shoelaces.

These colour editions – and oh my days, the colouring is gorgeous; I can no longer imagine the final few pages without it – come with loads of extras in the back. In this instance there’s a step by step process piece with Fairbairn (who also coloured Bryan Lee O’Malley’s tasty SECONDS) taking you through the colouring of a page from flatting through flat colours, lighting and modelling and colour holds to the finish line. If you don’t know what any of those terms mean, you will by the time Nathan’s done. It’s fascinating.

Other extras include O’Malley sketch pages of character fashion designs – actually quite crucial to the series’ success and certainly one of its great pleasures – and posters, other previous versions of covers including the SCOTT PILGRIM BOXED SET interior poster and exterior art, and things that were there but now ditched.


Buy Scott Pilgrim vol 6 h/c Colour Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Queen & Country Definitive Edition Vol 1 by Greg Rucka & Brian Hurt, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Christine Norrie, more ~

First two softcovers repackaged as one, and although the first half of this spy drama came across a little shaky – not unlike a seventies BBC buddy cop series, wobbly cardboard sets, wooden acting and bad research were all present and accounted for – thankfully the second was far more polished with some really gripping pacing.

Tara Chace, after assassinating a high-ranking member of the Russian mafia, has an attack of conscience which, understandably, could affect her line of work. While she’s sent to the couch (psychiatrist), two of her fellow male operatives are sent to Afghanistan, to find a list of contacts before the Taleban do.

This was apparently all written before 9/11, and it’s a good side plot an’all but that’s not what keeps the ball rolling – Tara’s detailed self-destruction is. She becomes a ticking time bomb, unable to work because of her state of mind, the poor luv spends her days drinking heavily and having meaningless sex with strangers just to see if she can still feel at all. I know just how she feels.


Buy Queen & Country Definitive Edition Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars Activity Book (£18-99, Marvel) by David Anthony Kraft & Carlos Garzon.

“My Spider- Sense is tingling! That means we’re in danger!”
“No kidding!”
“What evil lurks beyond the next corner?”


Oh yes I do, because I’ve just turned the page! I hadn’t realised there was an actual narrative going on. It’s Vic “What A Dick” Doom, Kang The Constantly Conquered, Mag “Not- So-Neat” Neto and Doctor “Minging And Mop-Topped” Octopus. What a bunch of buffoons!

Most have bits of them missing because this is a collection of children’s activity books first printed some thirty years ago to tie in with Marvel’s first line-wide crossover / tie-in thing, SECRET WARS which was originally designed to sell toys. Not to be confused with Bendis & Dell’Otto’s pertinently political and beautifully painted SECRET WAR and under no circumstances to be confused with SECRET WARS II which was drawn by Al “No Idea How He Got The Job” Milgrom and was equally awfully written.

The kids could do no worse so there are speech balloons left empty to fill in, blank faces and appendages to draw, puzzles to decrypt, pages to be coloured in (on paper which will bleed any felt pens like crazy), two big, fold-out posters and lots and lots of oh-so-retro stickers. It’s so totally naff that it is absolutely brilliant.

Written and drawn by two people who had never set foot in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen so had no comprehension of contemporary Marvel art (it was farmed out to a company presumable specialising in kids’ activity books), it loosely follows the story of SECRET WAR itself which featured all the major Marvel heroes and villains abducted by a virtually omnipotent being and dumped on a otherwise lifeless planet to brawl and bicker like crazy.

You may have heard that something vaguely similar of the same title is on the imminent horizon during which all the regular Marvel titles will cease before reappearing several months later on the other side in a potentially very different Marvel Universe. During the break there will be hundreds of other titles, some of which are new iterations of previous company crossovers, all of which are alternate versions of oh my god I’ve just bored myself. Ask at the counter etc.

Quite cleverly during the original version the comics carried on but jumped to what was to happen afterwards so that, for example, readers were suddenly presented with Spider-Man in a sentient black costume and you were left to wonder how on Earth that happened for something like six months until it finally appeared in the SECRET WARS mini-series. Credit where it’s due: that must have taken a great deal of cross-company planning and a lot of restraint on each writer’s part not to slip up with spoilers.

Discredit also where due: read about the sordid truth behind Marvel’s closed doors including this event in MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY. It is a complete revelation, a gigantic scandal-fest and laugh-out-loud funny. Jonathan and I raced each other through it to be the first to delight in each successive outrage!


Buy Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars Activity Book and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Javier Pulido, Francesco Frankavilla, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm.

First two so-sexy softcovers in one! This is magnificent!

“Okay… This looks bad. Really… really bad. But believe it or not, it’s only the third most-terrible idea I’ve had today and today I have had exactly nine terrible ideas.”

Oh, Clint. Every idea you have is terrible.

Comedy crime with an eye for design so sharp that this is the first superhero book we have ever allowed in our window. Partly because it’s not even a superhero book, but mostly it’s Aja’s design.

There’s a charming use of flesh and purple tones, and a thrilling deployment of stark black and white with plenty of wide-open space. In one instance a newspaper clipping smuggles in the creator credits; in another the only mask in this entire series so far (apart from a certain gold-plated façade) makes for a belly-laugh moment you may have heard whisper of. I’m not going to steal the fun from you. Here’s a Daily Bugle headline instead:

“Oh God Somebody Do Something”

Fraction’s timing is immaculate. At least three of these stories kick off in the middle, at the height of yet another monumental disaster, the one quoted above then proceeding to count down through each of Clint’s nine increasingly idiotic ideas. Thank goodness for Kate Bishop, then – the younger, female Hawkeye – who’s smarter, sassier and infinitely more savvy, so often left to pull Clint’s fat (and occasionally naked) ass out of the fryer.

“Tell you what, if I die, you can have the case. It’s good for travel.”
“Think I have quite enough of your baggage already, thanks.”

Here’s some of what I wrote of the first issue before the spying, the lying and the videotapes arrived. Before Clint’s sex-drive got him into the coolest comic car chase I can recall, complete with some old trick arrows he really should have found time to label before dipping his wick. Bring on the tracksuit Draculas, bro!

By his own admission Clint Barton can be more than a little juvenile. The man with the hair-trigger temper and mouth to match has a long history of knee-jerk reactions. But for all his sins, this totally blonde bowman and relative outsider has a heart of gold and a social conscience to boot. So when those who have taken him in – the neighbours he shares communal barbeques with on hot summer nights on the roof of their tenement building – fall under threat of mass eviction, Clint can’t help but act on impulse, and you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong.

It’s a first-person narrative with a grin-inducing degree of critical, objective detachment. It dashes frantically, nay recklessly, backwards and forwards in time with little-to-no hand-holding, as Clint watches yet another badly laid plan precipitate a cycle of ill-aimed, flailing thuggery. At its centre lies the plight of a battered mongrel which Barton fed pizza to in order to win the dog over. But now it’s in trouble.

“What kinda man throws a dog into traffic – seriously, I ask you – traffic right now – rain – cabs – nobody watching out for sideways demon pizza mutts – c’mon, Clint – c’mon – nobody – nobody watching out – Can’t watch oh God…”

Now, there is a natural affinity if ever I read one.

Second half:

“Okay… this looks bad.”

Of course it does, Clint: you are involved.

Until MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo this week, HAWKEYE VOL 1 was the only superhero comic we have ever allowed in the Page 45 window, and the only superhero comic we have ever made – or are likely to make – Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Firstly, David Aja’s design skills are phenomenal; secondly, this isn’t a superhero comic: it’s a grin-inducingly inventive comedy crime caper, full of humanity and accessible to all: you don’t need to have read a single Marvel Comic in your life.

Oh, you’ll find so much to relate to, like that unfathomable tangle of wires which links your TV to your digital thingie via the DVD player and VCR, while your PS3 and Wii operate almost certainly by magic if only you can remember which arcane combination of controller buttons to press. God alone knows which plug is which anymore.

Then there are the ghosts of ex-girlfriends. Oh, not real ghosts, but imagine being caught snogging a damsel in distress (and in dat dress) by a) your girlfriend b) your ex-girlfriend and c) your ex-wife, all at the same time. I’m not exactly sure what a motif is, but Fraction and Aja have turned that trio into one. Probably. They recur, anyway, at the most inopportune moments.

Once again, this is one long succession of disasters but this time not all of them are of Clint’s making. The first chapter was written on the fly immediately following the horrific storms which hit the U.S. on October 29th 2012.

Clint has bought the tenement building he lives in to safeguard its tenants from a mob in tracksuits. There have been… altercations, bro. He’s also befriended those tenants, especially chubby, middle-aged Grill who insists on calling our Hawkeye “Hawkguy”. As the winds whip up around them, Clint drives Grill to Far Rockaway where Grill’s stubborn old goat of a dismissive dad is steadfastly refusing to pay any attention to the gale or water levels, leaving their last mementoes of Grill’s dead mum in the basement. Oh look, here comes the flood.

The very same night Kate – our younger, female and infinitely wiser Hawkeye – is preparing to hit New Jersey in an elaborate Emanuel Ungaro dress and Christian Dior stilettos.

“What could a storm do to a five-star hotel?”
“It’s New Jersey. There are La Quinta Inns outside of State pens that are nicer.”
“Oh yeah, Mr. Brooklyn? This where you and Jay-Z tell me Brooklyn is the greatest place on Earth?”
“Okay, one, I don’t know who that is, and two, shut up. Brooklyn is great, New Jersey is a punch line, and you are a kid and don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Both threads are moving tributes to people helping each other in times of crises, and that’s what this title is all about: helping people in times of crisis. And it stars the one man above all who simply cannot help himself – in either sense.

“Whoa, man, you look like hell.”
“Walked into a door. That, uh, proceeded to beat the hell out me.”

Clint seems to have spent the entire series covered in plasters.

He’s also spent the series in a line of personalised clothing like the H hat nodding back to his old mask, and the purple target t-shirt. As to Kate, she’s decked herself out in a variety of purple shades which she’s perpetually pulling down to glare her elder in the eyes with long-suffering disdain.

So yes, let us talk more about David Aja’s design which – with Hollingsworth’s white – fills the comic with so much light. His tour de force here is the Pizza Dog issue, told entirely from Lucky’s point of view, wordless except for those basics the mutt might understand. His day is spent constantly interpreting the world around him through sound, smell and association, conveyed by Aja in maps of connected symbols worthy of Chris Ware himself (see BUILDING STORIES, JIMMY CORRIGAN and, particularly for symbols, the early pages of ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20). There is one seemingly throwaway moment where an absence of both sound and smell means everything.

What is particularly impressive is the absence of almost any anthropomorphism (just two raised paws). Instead it’s all symbols and skeuomorphism as the dog goes about its business (and indeed business) on daily patrol. What you don’t see on the unlettered cover to that chapter is the original credits which would normally read…


… but instead read…


And you know what I was saying in HAWKEYE VOL 1 about Matt Hollingsworth’s gorgeous colour palette? There is a highly instructive two-page process piece in the back in which shows you precisely how he achieves that consistency and the trouble he goes to do so. Pays off every single issue.

Anyway, back to the tangled wires and battered old VCR and our catastrophe-prone Clint doing the best that he can.

“Shut up about the show and shut up about my stuff – I know it’s a mess and it’s half-taped together and it’s old and busted – but it’s mine.
“And you gotta make that work, right? You gotta make your own stuff work out.”

Or, to put it another way…

“What is the hell have I gotten myself into? What the hell is wrong with me?”

Oh, Clint! Everything is wrong with you.

Except your heart.


Buy Hawkeye vol 1 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?

Palookaville #22 (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth

Criminal vol 4: Bad Night s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Exquisite Corpse h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Penelope Bagieu

Fables vol 21: Happily Ever After (£13-50, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Mark Buckingham, many others

Moomin On The Riviera (£6-99, Enfant) by Tove Jansson

Adventure Time: The Flip Side s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover & Wook Jin Clark

Avengers West Coast: Vision Quest s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by John Byrne

Spider-Verse Omnibus h/c (£55-99, Marvel) by Various, Olivier Coipel

Sunstone vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stjepan Sejic

Supermutant Magic Academy (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jillian Tamaki

The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage h/c (£16-99, Particular) by Sydney Padua

Walking Dead vol 23 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Of Menance h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Batman vol 5: Zero Year – Dark City s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman vol 6: The Graveyard Shift h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Gotham City Sirens Book 2 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Antony Bedard, Peter Calloway & Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, various

Angel Of Elhamburg vol 1 (£12-99, Yen) by Aki

Assassination Classroom vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Captain Ken vol 1 (£10-50, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 9: Lalah (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

One Piece vol 74 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura

The World’s Greatest First Love (£8-99, Sublime) by Shungiku Nakamura


ITEM! Interview / preview of STRANGE FRUIT written by Mark Waid and painted by J.G. Jones! Pretty impressive! Pre-order STRANGE FRUIT #1 from Page 45 here.



ITEM! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen plus many more join the creator line-up attending The Lakes International Comicbook Festival in October 2015!

ITEM! James Brubaker’s SITHRAH looks lovely Follow that link then give it a few pages and it really warms up. You can pre-order SITHRATH from Page 45 with a click of this sentence. We ship worldwide! “We know!”

ITEM! Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, will co-star a graphic novelist!

–       Stephen

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