Archive for May, 2015

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week four

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Ed Brubaker! Steve Epting! Adrian Tomine! David Lapham! Sam Humphries! Marc Laming! James Stokoe! Antonio Altarriba! Victor Hussenot! More! Apparently these lists are great for Google. WE ARE SUCH CYNICS!

The Spectators h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Victor Hussenot.

A book of reverie and rumination, this is a serene experience with plenty of space for you to stop and think for yourself.

It’s full of curiosity and questions, about one’s own life in the grand scheme of things and the lives of others – strangers you’ll never know or whose paths you may only partially, temporarily intersect.

As such there are a lot of silhouettes and shadows seen from afar, perhaps against the light of city windows at night.

And it is very much another city book, but a far less frightening one than FLOOD. There’s a nod to the existence of countryside beyond, right at the start rendered in a Gaugin-esque cacophony of non-local colour, before the tranquil misty blues, salmon pinks and creams herald the start of our tour round a city which has much to show us if we stop to look carefully and much to make us muse if we use our mind’s eyes. There’s a lot of imagining of what lies within and what lies beyond.

City transport features heavily. Early on Hussenot reflects on the contrast between the familiarity of one’s surroundings every day – the actual train or bus – and one’s fellow commuters who come and go. Some may reappear from time to time sitting in different pairs, others may never been seen again. But this was one of my favourite sequences as an actually playing card held up in one panel becomes instead a passenger on a platform seen through a subway car window.

“Arriving at a new station is as exciting as drawing a card in a poker game.
“A new platform appears… it’s a new deal of the cards…
“Some leave the game; others join it… but not always the one’s you’re expecting.
“Each is full of promise, but is the one we really need still hidden in the deck?”

Accompanying that third line is a page of six panels, roughly playing card shape, in five of which a commuter catches the narrator’s eye, their panels lighting up in different colours while the one who is oblivious remains in the figurative dark.

The unexpected one is a bloke, for the narrator’s a bloke, but he doesn’t make it onto the lamp-lit drawing board of possibilities whose face cards are all women!

There’s another devilishly clever page after two men who’ve been sitting inches apart on a bench surveying different aspects of the cityscape in front of them are shown to have largely parallel lives as well – give or take a musical influence. I won’t give the game away but there are elements of Ray Fawkes’ THE PEOPLE INSIDE.

That’s one of the rare instances that any word balloons appear in this graphic novel. Predominantly – if there are any words at all – you’ll find one or perhaps two sentences above, between or below a full-page spread or two or three tiers of images.

There’s a morphing motif which runs throughout, kicked off as our narrator discovers a clothes rail from which four bodies hang with differently coloured clothes. He tries one on for size (and sighs) before selecting another later on. Further down the line he’ll be clicking a remote control for a similar but quicker effect. I’ve been referring to him as our narrator because I couldn’t work out what else to do but he’s not really. Let’s call him our constant companion, even though the body swapping means that constant is the last thing he is!

“When I revisit certain places, painful memories resurface: In find myself back in that moment.”

Sure enough, as our narrator/companion walks onto set, there’s a differently coloured, former version of him sitting at a cafe table with a girl he quite evidently is not longer going out with. But – and this made me sit up and think for I’d never considered it an option – a red-hued future version of him now appears chasing a new girl across the page before they make merry with the drinks and the dancing.

“The only way to erase these memories is to return, again and again, to these same locations and fill them with new moments… Which in turn will become memories, which will renew themselves again… and again…”

I’ll leave you to discover how that is portrayed!

With debossed silver foil on the cover, it’s another Nobrow looker and a dreamy affair with some imaginative framing from which I was abruptly awoken, unnecessarily, by the legal gubbins being printed between the prologue and the main body of work. That was a bit daft, wasn’t it?


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

Optic Nerve #14 (£4-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine…

“Hey, did you see that [censored] gave you a shout out on twitter? She used some of your art for her header image and said your drawing of her in The New Yorker was ‘a teenage dream fulfilled’.”
“Really? Wow, that’s nice!”
“So why didn’t you respond? You could’ve at least re-tweeted and said thanks.”
“Yeah… I’m actually not on twitter. I’m kind of… morally opposed to all that stuff.”
“Well, her two million twitter followers aren’t.”
“Haha… to each his own, right?”
“Made you look like kind of a dick, actually.”

Heh. As ever, the single-page autobiographical strip, once more tucked away right at the end after the letter column, steals the show even after the two brilliant stories that precede it. It is a mere three brief scenes of absolute perfection in terms of how to tell a story: chock full of drama, humour, plus Adrian’s trademark curmudgeonly angst, of course, with a belting piece of misdirection for the punchline that made me laugh out loud. I would say LOL but I know that is precisely the sort of modern day acronymical shennanigans that would make Tomine weep tears of despair. How he manages to pack so much into a mere twenty panels should be a compulsory lesson for all budding creators, that less really can be so much more when it comes to what to put in versus what to leave out.

As before, this issue follows the pattern of two very different longer form stories. The first, in Adrian’s new usual art style, covers the excruciating, budding comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their typical roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig, as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of near hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons of not wishing a spoil a great joke I won’t elaborate on but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style, with lots of black shading and a single secondary light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled, perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the coming and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe, let’s himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, however, again obviously, it’s not going to end well. But that’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve even been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!


Buy Optic Nerve #14 and read the Page 45 review here

The Art Of Flying h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Antonio Altarriba & Kim…

Sometimes, as with people, things are not always as they initially appear. A first glance inside this hardcover revealed what appeared to be a relatively primitive art style, wordily lettered in a somewhat jarring font. I persisted with it though, for three reasons.

Firstly, Random House / Jonathan Cape have published some rather good graphic novels over the years so I thought they at least deserved some benefit of the doubt! Secondly, I was aware this work has won six major European comic prizes including the Spanish 2010 Best Comic Prize. Finally, I do have an interest in that particular era, WW2 and the run up to it.

The Spanish Civil War, though, was not something I knew a great deal about, other than from accounts by people like George Orwell etc. who had volunteered to go there and fight against the rise of fascism in the form of General Franco. So I thought it would be an interesting historical primer if nothing else.

This work is narrated by Altaribba, recounting the entirety of his father Antonio’s life, beginning with his decision, aged 90, to leap from the top floor of his nursing home, freshly shaved and dressed to go out in style, which presumably inspired the title. Once we’ve seen that denouement revealed, we then go back to the very beginning, to his crushingly austere and rather brutal childhood in the rural, agricultural Spanish heartlands.

As biographies of a life go, it’s extremely well told, the child’s clear desire to escape what was tantamount to penal servitude and spread his wings, thus, inadvertently at first, getting caught up in an incredibly turbulent period of Spanish history. Antonio’s teenage and early adult life was certainly also one of struggle and strife, those he never really truly escaped.

After the rather chaotic years of partisan fighting, sometimes of an internecine, factional nature amongst other elements of the Republican resistance, as well as against their main enemy the fascists, things took a considerable turn for the worse  when the Republican forces were finally defeated and driven from Spain. Rather than being welcomed by France, the losers were forced first into internment camps, then indentured labour. The squalid conditions of the camps killed a number of gallant fighters and their families who had already given so much in their doomed support of the cause.

Eventually, seizing his chance to escape, Antonio tried at first to settle in France before eventually admitting defeat and heading back to Spain, where he found a number of his former comrades, now trying to get by in Franco’s Spain by keeping their heads down and their mouths shut about their pasts. For a brief while you could actually say he thrived, being reasonably successful in business, but his latter days were spent once more in comparative poverty, having been financially betrayed by one of his business partners.

Sadly, he then found life in the old people’s home which he entered relatively early – simply by dint of being unable to afford anything else – a rather strictured, unpleasant and ultimately demoralising experience. In many ways, no different from most of his life. So, when you reach the point where the ninety-year-old Antonio is preparing to make his final escape, you can fully understand his decision to depart this world entirely on his own terms.

This is a very moving book in many ways, with much to say about how life less than a century ago in what we now perceive as stable, civilised Western European was anything but, with widespread poverty, violence, political instability and corruption, large scale movement of refugees, discrimination. We do have it easy these days in comparison, there’s no doubt about that.

I think it’s testament to Altaribba Jr.’s narrative skills, plus the fascinating details of Antonio’s life, that very quickly I didn’t notice the art too much. It’s not bad, it’s just nothing special. Frankly, in some ways, the art isn’t actually that important in a work like this, it’s the story which is always going to be the star. I should note, aside from the fact I can’t draw at all, apparently Kim is a highly regarded cartoonist responsible for a hugely popular humour strip in Spanish newspapers called MARTINEZ THE FASCIST, though having googled that it seems far more Robert Crumb / Gilbert Shelton in style than this work. Meanwhile, I did realise that the lettering would obviously have originally been in Spanish, possibly in a different font, so I guess I shouldn’t be too critical on that point. Neither remotely spoilt my enjoyment of what was ultimately a fascinating and highly illuminating biography.


Buy The Art Of Flying h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser.

“That’s what happens when you’re ordered to kill your own husband on your honeymoon, it turns out. You lose your mind.”

1973. There is a Britain-based espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Within that service there are field agents who are not names but numbers, and at its heart lies the Director. The Director has a secretary with long, sable hair now distinguished with a thick, white streak of maturity. She is his eyes, she is his ears but for so many years she was something else: one of ARC-7s most effective field operatives. So deep was her cover that even ARC’s agents aren’t aware of her former activities. And that may prove the undoing of whichever infiltrator has just set her up for treachery, treason and murder.

Throughout VELVET VOL 1 Velvet Templeton has been on the run from her own agency, desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14’s steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why Agent X was murdered from within. What had he discovered that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn’t recover.

But Velvet’s been thinking things through and now she’s done running.

She’s going to do the one thing they’ll least expect. She’s going to turn right around, breeze back into London and head straight into the lion’s den: ARC-7’s highly secure headquarters. And for that she will require a bomb and some far from voluntary help from the Director.

“Velvet… what is this about?”
“I really do wish I could tell you… because it’s not you I don’t trust.”
“You know what you sound like? Like every operative who ever got lost down their own rabbit hole.”

At which point I refer you back to the opening sentiments.

Brubaker’s internal monologues have always been compelling, individualistic and often fucked up affairs – in CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT et al – but here you’re almost as much in the dark as Velvet is, learning as she goes along, so you’re even more emotionally invested than usual. Several times I found myself suspicious of what I was being told because it sounded almost too perfect but with the strangest gaps (why, for example, so-and-so hadn’t been offed when everyone around him had) and I wondered if I was missing something.

I was. But then so was Velvet.

During the final two chapters you will have your head whipped round not once, not twice, but three times in swift succession and at exactly the same moment as Velvet’s because these people she’s up against are so deviously clever and who is playing whom at any given moment is far from obvious.

As I mention in VELVET VOL 1, Breitweiser’s colours have always been one of the title’s great draws. Here she introduces some of the more expressionistic effects which have lit up the THE FADE OUT and helped draw the eye. However, so much of this takes place at night that you may be enjoying the results without necessarily noticing their cause.

As to Epting, once more his eye for period detail – from vehicles to lounge furniture and a particularly posh, trans-European train dining car – makes one deeply nostalgic for a 1970s I really wouldn’t want to revisit if the truth be told. It’s just fortunate that Velvet Templeton’s always had a better fashion sense than most and I almost wept when she had to ditch that knee-length, black and white pashmina cardigan. I’m very emotional, aren’t I?

Epting’s also exceptional at age and Velvet is certainly showing hers. She’s not slowing down – she cannot afford to – but that face could not belong to a thirty-year-old and quite right too. This is a period espionage thriller starring a woman with decades’ experience at the agency. It’s this very history which is revisited which informs her psychological makeup and the whole point of the plot.

Astonishing, then, that an America television channel was so keen to sign up the series… as long as they could turn our Templeton into her twenties. Or maybe not.


Buy Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

“A happy ending is knowing where to put those two words: THE END.”

They usually come way too late in STRAY BULLETS, which can be summarised thus:

Terrible things happen to terrified young people, turning them into terrifyingly out-of-control car wrecks. They get caught in the cross-fire of other people’s greed, grief or beef, and it sends their broken lives careening in horrifying directions.

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to STRAY BULLETS VOL 6: KILLERS, while this contains the second 7 chapters of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition – which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is! However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative. They’re coming out at roughly two a year.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is an 8-panel-per-page density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

Here what seemed like disparate strands in STRAY BULLETS VOL 1 converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. The mayor is waiting for an earthquake to swallow California whole, bringing Seaside to the coast.

Young runaway Virginia Applejack who had it unbelievably tough in book one tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, one of whom looks just like a toad, another of whom has drugs of his own to further blur Nina’s brains out. Nina is far from her own best friend.

Come to think of it she’s no one’s best friend in this state, not even towards the ever-loyal if ever-volatile Beth and Beth’s far more orthodox boyfriend, Orson. Their relationship’s been struggling in this back end of nowhere. Beth craves conflict like smokers crave their next cigarette and she grows jittery and fractious without it. It’s good news / bad news, then when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration that point, but we have only just begun because, remember, this series goes backwards as well as forwards in time!

The main differences between this and, say, 100 BULLETS which we all love to wit-riddled death, is that this is all so intimate, so personal, and that the individuals – the victims in this series – are so young. That’s what made Lapham’s SILVERFISH such a nail-biter too.

As to the art, it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the local behemoth Nick having the burly, hunched-up and sweaty same physicality as the protagonist of Jeff Smith’s RASL. In fact most of these townsfolk are drawn as grotesques. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

Lastly, if you haven’t yet clocked who Amy Racecar really is, all will finally be revealed.



Buy Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

From the writer of SAGA comes the finale to EX MACHINA, my favourite piece of political comic fiction of all time.

Hundred finds his tenure as Mayor of New York City coming to a close more abruptly than he’d planned. He’s already declared he won’t stand for a second term so that he can concentrate on finishing his job rather than campaigning for re-election. But the power of the media is demonstrated when a radio show compels the citizens of the city to rise up en masse and it’s not very pretty.

All of that is as nothing compared to the final issue set several months later where we witness the separate fates of Bradbury, Kremlin and Hundred himself. Not one of them will you see coming.

This is a promise I make to you: not one of them will you see coming.

I almost dropped the book when reading the Bradbury scene, I did drop it during the Kremlin confrontation and my mouth gaped wide after my mind had fully processed the final page and its preceding phone call…


Before the politics rears its ugly head, however, I promised you repercussions when it comes to the sci-fi element and here be rats. A lot of rats. Also a rat catcher with an eye-patch sporting the words “Out Of Order”. Ha!

As Pherson – the man who can command animals the way Mayor Mitchell Hundred can command mechanisms – returns again and again with a message for Mitchell that he simply won’t listen to, we finally learn exactly what all the colour-coded control systems are all about, and why they’ve been given. It’s not good news, nor is the White Box. In fact it has serious implications not just for the future but for how Hundred conducted his original election campaign way back when.

All of which brings us to this new edition’s cover, and way back at the beginning I promised you this series was far from black and white. What does that cover say to you of the man it portrays?

Pour yourself a stiff one. You’re going to need it.


Buy Ex Machina Book 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Godzilla: Half Century War s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe.

“I had arrogantly begun to think of Godzilla as an anomaly, a one-off. An animal of the Atomic Age too stubborn to die. Once the A.M.F. figured out how to deal with him, that would be it. We could all go home knowing that we had done some good.
“Then the others showed up and humbled the lot of us…”

Ah yes, the others

Not since I glued together my very first Aurora model kit, at the tender age of eight, have I been so in love with Godzilla. And yes, I used every piece of glow-in-the-dark plastic they offered, including that magnificent, jagged spine.

Here too the crystalline spine glows, as does the billowing smoke on page after page thanks to some monumentally lambent colouring by, I infer, James Stokoe himself, assisted by Heather Breckel. So much attention has been paid to each cloudy puff’s highlights. From the very first page I can promise you carnage on a gargantuan scale – we’re talking Geoff Darrow on SHAOLIN COWBOY or Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED – whenceforth it only multiplies.

Along with rookie soldier Ota Murakami, we first encounter Godzilla in 1954; in Japan, of course, where they first dropped the bomb. It’s pretty tough luck for the Japanese, having to reap what we sowed in the form of this rampaging mutation. The soldiers cannot contain the beast; they can only survive it thanks to some shit-hot tank driving. In the wake of such wreckage the Anti Megalosaurus Force is formed, Murakami being its key recruit. But it’s in Vietnam in 1967 that they realise Godzilla is far from alone and, worse still, its trajectory is far from random. After that it’s Africa, Bombay, then the whole bloody world as those ridiculous creatures swarm: Megalon, Rodan, Ebirrah, Hedorah, Mothra… Battra! As the stakes escalate, so do the A.M.F.’s counter-measures, but just when you think the odds can’t get any worse, the fight is joined by those from beyond and oh dear lord my eyes are on fire!

Inevitably there’s some manga in the mix this time out, and I love the puffing, sweaty faces. Most of all, however, I love the way the transport subtly reflects each era, especially in 1975 where the crack team’s more of a whack team, crashing about in a VW Campervan presumably pimped in Haight-Ashbury.


Buy Godzilla: The Half-Century War and read the Page 45 review here

Planet Hulk #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Marc Laming.

Seldom has an artist filled every conceivable inch on the page with big, bold forms without it for one second feeling cluttered or crowded.

And that’s what you want from a HULK comic: big, bold forms! Especially when there are multiple Hulks of so many different sizes, hues and degrees of semi-sentience! Regardless of whether or not they’re given lines, each is imbued with a distinct personality, some even less friendly than others.

Back with you in a second…

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

Let’s play Hang Man! It wouldn’t be inapposite.

SECRET WARS, then, is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far many more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Here an incursion is authorised – but by whom? Who is it sitting there scowling implacably on his throne? * He’s a lot less loquacious than usual, I’ll tell you.

As the comic commences a blonde warrior called The Captain is hailed as victor in the latest Killiseum combat tournament transmitted throughout Battleworld. Huge jubilation to the non-existent rafters etc.

His chain-mail, cloth and leather garb combo is a fusion of warrior-race soldiers many moons ago, although its icons and arrangement are strangely reminiscent of a certain Steve Rogers. He has triumphed over the feral Wolverine Clan with the aid of an axe, a star-striped shield and a bellicose, bi-pedal, Cretaceous-era chappie we’ll simply call Tall, Red And Toothsome.


The Captain’s not done this for fame, he’s not done it for fortune. He’s done if for information about a missing companion; for this single moment when the vainglorious master of ceremonies, Arcade, strides forth to commend his accomplishment; and for when Steve Rogers springs his trap – ready and waiting and right by his side.

When you realise where Arcade’s been imprisoned, I promise you will roar with laughter!

What does any of this have to do with multiple Hulks? They’re subsisting in a barbaric environment similar to the original PLANET HULK and under attack by the Hammers of God whom we call Thors. They appear to be holding their own but don’t think they’re all working as one.

According to ****** ****** *** **** this is where The Captain will find his companion. Now why do you think he would impart this much-prized information to someone who has royally pissed him off?

I swear to green goodness that everything I’ve typed has been relevant. Sam Humphries has written this so you will care. It’s not a random companion Cap’s after – guess who! And if you thought someone was missing from this – your official HULK substitute for several months to come – Ahahahahahaha! I give you final-page, revelatory shenanigans!

* It is actually possible to scowl implacably. As irrefutable evidence I present you with exhibit A by Marc Laming. You’ll see.


Buy Planet Hulk #1 and read the Page 45 review here

A-Force #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson & Jorge Molina.

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

SECRET WARS, then is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Although in this case: most definitely trespass!

“In the shadow of The Shield, with the sun on the sea… there is an island. Welcome to Arcadia. It’s pretty tight.”

It’s also thoroughly Florentine in its Italian Renaissance, red-roofed domes. Throw in a little Venice because we’re living by the sea, although there are fewer wooden jetties on stilts and a substantial, solid rock base instead.

Keeping its inhabitants safe from harm is A-Force, an female fun-for-all led by She-Hulk. While patrolling today A-Force discovers a stray mutant Megalodon, which is essential a Great White Shark on spinach and steroids before you even get to the “mutant” part. One of their members acts in haste and the world – in the form of Word From On High – comes crashing down around them. Autonomy? I don’t think so!

Of course I’m still being cryptic. I want you to enjoy discovering these for yourselves but you can join the dots up between what I’ve written here, just as I did with this and the preview for SIEGE #1 by Kieron Gillen & Filipe Andrade into which this so slickly ties. If you need any more clues just think which other Marvel titles Kieron Gillen has written.

Gorgeous art at either end while the bits in the middle are a bit toy-doll, to be frank. Certainly nothing like the great Jimmy Cheung on the cover.


Buy A-Force #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, Jorge Molina.

“Thor… There are things that have happened since you fell… Things you should know before you…”
Not now, Father. It will have to wait until after I’ve –“
“Your hammer has gone missing.”
“And so has your mother.”

Fairly standard superhero art, a little too heavy on the line until Molina turns up, but some pretty cool Frost Giants underwater.

Alas, the Son of Odin has fallen from grace and is no longer worthy enough to lift his fabled Mjolnir. Although neither is All-Doting Daddy. Has the All-Mithering Mother gone and got herself an immortal make-over while their backs were turned?

If she had, then the thought bubbles issuing in tandem with – but in contrast to – the new wench-warrior’s confident Thor-speak wouldn’t be so startled at her current condition, dubious about her abilities or ridden with Americanisms. On the other hand the new soul deemed worthy of being Thor is at least be familiar enough with the Odin-son, his family and his Mjolnir to know their names and past behaviour, so who is she?

I know the answer, it maketh sense, but after some deft misdirection Aaron rings a clanger of a bell so loud you’ll be hospitalised.

Meanwhile back to the story and Roxon Oil is at it again, sticking its international nose where it does not belong and sinking its corporate claws into that which belongs to others, in this case the skull of a fallen Frost Giant – their dead king. The Frost Giants are led on an underwater assault on Roxon by dark elf Malekith (used for largely comedic purposes like Gillen used Mephisto and Loki) and they’d all deserve whatever they’d get but our new female Thor intervenes.

Neither father nor son is remotely happy that someone has half-inched the hammer. The son’s complaint is proprietorial and so understandable. But the All-Incandescent, All-Intolerant, All-Interfering dipshit of a daddy is going to bollocks things up for everyone just because it wasn’t what he had planned and anyway she’s a girl.



Buy Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/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.

Sam Jamwitch #3 (£2-50) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Scars (£2-50) by Sally Jane Thompson

24 by 7 h/c (£14-99, Fanfare Presents) by Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle

Sithrah Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Coffee Table Comics) by Jason Brubaker

The Power Of Tank Girl (£19-99, Titan) by Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood

Superman Wonder Woman vol 2: War And Peace h/c (£18-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Tony S. Daniel

Deadpool Classic vol 11 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler, Mary H.K. Choi & Bong Dazo, Rob Liefeld, Kyle Baker, Matteo Scalera

Deadpool vol 8: All Good Things s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various

Thanos Vs. Hulk s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Wolverines vol 2: Claw Blade And Fang s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Ray Fawkes & various

A Silent Voice vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (£13-99, Viz) by Shotaro Ishinomori

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Summit Of The Gods vol 5 (£14-99, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

Dan Dare Omnibus (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine

Eric h/c (£5-99, Templar Publishing) by Shaun Tan

Strangers In Paradise vol 3 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore


ITEM! Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources interviews Page 45’s own Jonathan! Loads of photos! Please note: there are two pages of interview! Please click on “NEXT” at the bottom of the first page!

ITEM! Alex De Campi has made a trailer for NO MERCY as recommended by Kieron Gillen & Bryan K Vaughan. Nice! NO MERCY #1 by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil reviewed by moi. In stock now!

ITEM! I watched Alan Bennett’s ‘Sunset Across The Bay’ (1975) again the other night. Devastating. Ridiculously you can buy a 12-film Alan Bennett BBC DVD collection for just £12-83 at Hive Stores. You can even nominate Page 45 as your local independent store so we make a cut and have it delivered here as well so you pay no postage at all. Here are the details:

How To Buy Discounted Books, CDs, DVDs etc Via Hive AND Support Your Local Independent.

“You can’t be branching out into yoghurt at our age!” Bernard Wrigley cameo in Alan Bennett’s Sunset Across The Bay.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week three

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

New comic series from Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey (INJECTION), Phil Hester & John McCrea (MYTHIC) plus THE HUNTER one-shot by Joe Sparrow, Eric Drooker’s silent FLOOD, manga from Tadao Tsuge and more Marvel SECRET WARS with Jodie Paterson’s prints underneath. Hurrah!

Flood: A Novel In Pictures h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Drooker.

Lord, but I love the rain!

Preferably in the countryside during summer, accompanied by the smell of ozone or freshly cut grass; on water, on glass or sleeping under canvas but even at night in the city – I don’t think Japan’s ‘Nightporter’ is entirely innocent of the blame on that score.

When it hits here halfway through – as our beleaguered everyman emerges from the infernal subway which is dark and dangerous yet potentially thrilling in a primal way – it comes to me a blessed relief. There seems to be very real light at the end of that tunnel as the rain pours from the heavens onto the concrete steps below.

But an enormous clock tower is cast in stark contrast, silhouetted against the sky – boy, have we boxed in our lives not just with buildings but with time itself! – and the rain is far from fun for the man sat in it, cold, barefooted and holding out a cup rapidly filling with nothing but water.

Our hero is homeless too: he lost his job, he lost his lover then, evicted, he lost his apartment. His heart is exposed, vulnerable, for you to see.

From the creator of the equally eloquent and political BLOOD SONG comes a hardcover reprint of his first wordless narrative composed of three chapters created at intervals during a seven-year span and you can see Drooker as an artist develop in front of you on the page. (In some early panels Robert Crumb leaps out at you.)

It’s a decidedly surreal yet all too real nightmare of life in the far from civilised city. Anyone who’s read BLOOD SONG  knows that Drooker’s no fan. He grew up in New York and was a first-hand witness to the tyranny of landlords and hostile police action evicting squatters from a tenement building, and an entire population from a supposedly public park in riot gear, on horseback, just because. He sees the city as a cruel and fickle oppressor which man has created and ended up shackling his natural self as a slave to its grinding regime. It’s a despair-inducing chronicle of melancholia, isolation, alienation, and helplessness; a freakshow of the rejected, the dejected and the chaos of hoards before the storm. And when the storm hits, it pours into the city and sweeps all away.

The expressionistic art – an essay in black and white long before Miller’s SIN CITY – is extraordinarily versatile, speeding up, then slowing down, moving in then moving out, and when the blue tone joins it just after the deluge itself it is quite awesome to behold.

As to the rain itself, the subtractive medium of scratchboard is perfect for sheets and sprays of water which erode what we can see beyond them. I am a massive fan of rain drawn by the likes of Sacco and Eisner and indeed Miller in the original SIN CITY, but here it positively hurtles across the page, buffeting our man beyond his ability to resist before sweeping him up into the stormy sky, over the rooftops, past the Statue Of Liberty and – immediately and tellingly afterwards – away from the barred window of a crowded prison cell as its inmates look impotently out.

It ends in the prophecy of another watery Armageddon which harks back to the first – the only way to silence the babble and brutality.

For a silent graphic novel, this is one hell of a noisy book.

“Pictures are a means of communicating with people when words feel inadequate. It’s a way of bridging the language barrier,” says Drooker in the interview afterwards.

“Pictures are a more direct language than words. Words are always one step removed, because we’re encoding what we’re trying to express into verbal symbols – which need to be deciphered. Pictures are the earliest form of writing, and drawing them is something we do as young children – long before learning to read and write.”

It’s a fascinating interview raising points I hadn’t thought of before like this:

“Frankly I feel that our Judeo-Christian culture places undue emphasis on the word: “In the beginning was the word.” Other forms of expression – particularly images are sacrilege. The second commandment given to Moses was: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Jehovah is very explicit: images are taboo.

The one thing that the powers that be have always sought to control is communication.


Buy Flood: A Novel In Pictures h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Trash Market s/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tadao Tsuge…

“Weren’t you supposed to go to the beach with your company today?”
“Yeah… I decided not to go… didn’t feel like it.”
“Don’t be silly, you should have fun while you’re young.”
“No thanks. Call me stuck up, but I’m just not interested in horsing around… you get caught up in these meaningless fads, and afterwards it just makes you stupid, what’s the point?”
“… …”
“Maybe it’s square to stand by one’s principles. But I really have respect for that. That’s the kind of person I want to be… like you, Dad.”
“… …”

Ah, the archetypal, repressed Japanese male. Those two non-replies from the father turn out to be very significant, as he then gradually begins to lose the plot during a long, hot summer resulting in an… unfortunate incident. Tadao Tsuge is one of the great unsung heroes of Japanese comics, the younger brother of the relatively more celebrated Yoshiharu Tsuge (who status-wise has been compared within Japan to the likes of Robert Crumb): both made their names contributing to underground comics magazine Garo in the 1960s and 1970s.

To understand his comics, I think one needs to be aware of the fact that he’s never made a full-time living from them, aside from a couple of very brief periods, interludes really, like most of the creators from the alternative manga scene of that time. Instead he’s held down a succession of menial blue collar jobs, and just done comics in his spare time, many of which I suspect are loosely autobiographical or at least containing characters who have crossed his path.

One of these jobs, several decades ago, which he explains more about in one of the essays included at the back of this collection, was for a blood-bank (known colloquially as an ‘ooze for booze’ operation giving alcoholics a few yen for their blood) with somewhat suspect working practices and hygiene conditions, and which almost certainly resulted in him contracting Hepatitis C…

It’s perhaps not entirely surprising therefore that most of his comics revolve around the down-trodden life of the true working class man. Much like Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s material, it’s a bleak, uncompromising portrait of lives spent in drudgery, where happy endings are few and far between.

His style is even sparser of line and particularly background than Tatsumi’s, though I can see some similarities. If you are a fan of Tatsumi, you would undoubtedly enjoy this material though. It’s a window into a particular time and never ending struggles of a certain social class, as seen mainly from the perspective of eternally tense, uptight Japanese male, who is seemingly only ever one glass of sake away from going off the deep end in some way or other!


Buy Trash Market s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Injection #1 (£2-25, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

Professor Maria Kilbride was once an optimist: a fresh-faced, enthusiastic explorer of hidden science. She was given funding by the FPI and four similarly specialised experts to cross-pollinate with. They were to put their minds together, think outside the box and do stuff. They did stuff.

They poisoned the 21st Century.

They did it with an Injection and now they discover that they and this planet are far from immune.

Professor Maria Kilbride now resides at Sawlung Hospital which, translated from old English, means “giving up the ghost”. Nominally a patient, she but is anything but. She is worn out, fractious, unkempt and implicitly under investigation by the FPI’s own inner Cursus which demands she cleans up her mess. Ever since Maria and her cohorts dissolved their Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit in the wake of their Injection, incidents have occurred. Walls of science and nature have come crashing down or are opening up. The breaches are pretty spectacular.

Professor Maria Kilbride is being dragged out once again to stop what she has started and she will try the best that she can. But she is tired, malnourished and would very much like a fucking sandwich.

Could someone please make her a fucking sandwich?

From the writer of GLOBAL FREQUENCY and PLANETARY, this boasts elements of both: weird science, history, ghostly echoes, specialised experts and catastrophic incidents. It’s also highly reminiscent of Jamie Delano’s early HELLBLAZER with secret, string-pulling organisations and references to stone circles, ley lines, cursuses, cunning folk and the Ridgeway. In other words very British indeed, quaint villages included.

I infer that this is the next Ellis epic and I would advise you to get in on the ground floor, by which I mean right here, right now.

Shalvey and Bellaire have done a tremendous job of separating the past from the present: it couldn’t be clearer. Both the body language and colours command that you consider the contrast. In places I get whiffs of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN’s Kevin O’Neill. I may be down-wind.

It’s also typical Ellis in that the first issue demands you go Google-ing specialised terms and then – if you’re anything like me – pretending you knew exactly what they all meant in the first place. You think I knew what a cursus was? Oh, how you overestimate me!

But if you’re also anything like me then you love to learn, you hate being hand-held and you relish a comic with intelligence, wit, and so much hard research and forethought behind it that you embrace the brand-new even when it harks so geo-specifically back to the past.

I am old, I am tired. Can someone please make me a fucking sandwich? Something with mushrooms, tuna and cheese would be ideal, melted even better.

Because like Professor Maria Kilbride I have seen what’s behind this closed door and it shouldn’t be possible.


Buy Injection #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mythic #1 (£1-80, Image) by Phil Hester & John McCrea.

HITMAN’s John McCrea appears to have had enormous fun drawing this – it’s infectious!

The black and white preview of MYTHIC #2 set above the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is positively Walt Simonson in its monumentalism!

This had me from the very first page which reminded me of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s hilariously grotesque and grotesquely hilarious BOJEFFRIES SAGA. In it a poor young man at a clapped out till in a run-down phone shop is confronted by a hideously warty old woman, whom I swear I last saw cleaning a lavatory sloppier than a cowshed in a Parisian hotel which haunts me to this day. Some of its wooden stairs were missing and our room wouldn’t lock. I don’t want to talk about the lavatory in any more detail. I’m not sure what I saw could have actually existed.

Our innocent young salesman is in for a similarly nasty surprise when the harridan plops her mobile phone on his counter with the words “Phone dead” and he makes the mistake of touching it. To his fingers sticks a thread attached via the phone to one of the woman’s larger, thumb-sized facial pustules and he probably shouldn’t have pulled on it because what pops out…

You will never squeeze a zit again.

The entire sequence is choreographed by McCrea with such exceptional physicality than I can feel the tension in that thread myself and feel it pulling on a pustule of my own which I haven’t known in over three decades.

You’re probably wondering what this book is actually about. So is the clerk once those demons are down.

“Nate, I’m not just here to spew cryptic exposition about your newfound destiny. Though I have to admit, I am pretty goddam great at it. I’m her to offer you a job.”

The card says “Mythic Lore Services.”.

Here’s the official blurb:

“Science is a lie, an opiate for the masses. The truth is that magic makes the world go round. And when magic breaks, Mythic fixes it. Apache shaman Waterson, Greek immortal Cassandra, and cell phone salesman Nate Jayadarma are the crack field team assigned with keeping the gears of the supernatural world turning, and more importantly, keeping you from ever knowing about it.”

They certainly have a novel explanation – and cure – for drought but it’s too rude to type. Ah, I see you are hooked! Here’s Cassandra confounding a scientist with a much merrier account of the world as he once thought he knew it.

“We are told the sun tracking through the sky above is a mass of incandescent gas, our earthly home a randomly formed satellite… These facts let you sleep at night, let you pretend to know what the world is all about. When actually the sun is pulled across the heavens by a flaming chariot piloted by a god clad in the dust of comets. Earthquakes are not the shifting of tectonic plates, but the wrestling of massive twin lizard-demons fighting for control of the underworld. The tides themselves rise and fall with the weeping of an immortal princess who sleeps beneath the shore awaiting her drowned lover’s return.”

I knew there was poetry in nature.

So what do you imagine the Giant’s Causeway really is? Heheheh.


Buy Mythic #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Hunter (£6-50, Nobrow) by Joe Sparrow.

Bravado: a “boldness intended to impress or intimidate”.

Bravado: a rash proclamation made when you’re feeling otherwise inadequate.

Bravado: as Marc Almond sang, “Is it me who’s feeling insecure?”

A man whose only skill lies in slaughter holds a big party. For him the best sound of all is “the melodious bark of a bullet”. It’s certainly not conversation so when he finds himself in his own metaphorical kitchen with nothing to say he reacts resentfully and in anger, declaring that he will kill one of every living creature on Earth.


He does so.

“My dear Earl, you’re too much!”

And he is.

But so is what’s coming to get him.

I don’t know why the type and lines have been designed to look like they came out of a dot matrix home printer 35 years ago – all jaggedy. I’m sure there’s a brilliance behind it but it certainly didn’t enhance my reading pleasure. I found it distracting.

Still, I’m totally down with the story and can only endorse its message: predators, please put down your guns and stop shooting the fuck out of our wildlife. Unless you’re doing it on a Sony Playstation.


Buy The Hunter and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars #2 of 8 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribib.

“Quarantine is for things that cause doubt.”

Previously in SECRET WARS #1 (reviewed somewhat elusively for fear of spoilers – stock depleting rapidly!):

The Marvel Universe was destroyed. Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished.

Now (spoiler-free too!):

A new day, a new dawn and a new Thor has been deemed worthy and initiated into the ranks of multiple Thors coexisting side by side. They are the keepers of the law, the Hammers of God. They kneel below their all-seeing, all-hearing, all-knowing deity. Is it the All-Father, Odin?

It is not.

Brilliant. This has been so cleverly thought through and it is so eloquently executed.

Someone has finally got what they always wanted and they are enjoying it enormously. They are king of all they survey (oooh, gender neutral pronoun!) and what they survey are multiple kingdoms between which access is strictly restricted unless someone is summoned for judgement. Judgement proves swift and rarely merciful. Beware which kingdom you are banished to!

Some are populated by superhero and supervillain zombies; others are patrolled by Ultron A.I.s. In others past Marvel crossover conflicts are being replayed in new iterations and you can follow their progress in five and a half billion new, attendant titles which will commence any day now in the place of the those that you loved. You can take a gander at these in Page 45’s Marvel Comics for May, Marvel Comics for June and Marvel Comics for July and a bunch of printed publications (also depleting rapidly!) which we have by our counter for free. If in doubt, ask! We want you to have them!

You’ll find your favourite Marvel heroes and villains cast in brand new lights under utterly alien circumstances but – once again – there is a considerable degree of logic in their new assignations based on their shared past history.

The joy is in discovering all these for yourselves – very much like Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert’s MARVEL 1602 – so I will stay schtum until the collected edition arrives.

I will only add that the already accomplished art has gone up a notch since #1 and here Ribic delivers the best portrayal of Sinister I’ve ever seen. His expressions are so priceless you will be acting out the dialogue in your head. Sinister is jubilant, aloof, dismissive and cross; he’s mock-cross, goading and gleeful. In one panel he positively dances his way to a judgement whose authority he’d never recognise nor submit to in a million years. Don’t know who Sinister is? It really won’t matter.

And if you imagine for one second that this series stands still and you will have to wait for clues as to what waits on the other side of this segue between Marvel Universes, think again!

For what, do you think, has been quarantined?


Buy Secret Wars #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Olivier Coipel, Guiseppe Camuncoli.

Ummm. Okay.

This is volume three of the current incarnation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

It is very pretty. But then you’d expect nothing less of Olivier Coipel who did such a masterful work of rendering Norse eyebrows in THOR and so much more, so maybe pop the artist into our search engine and see for yourself!

In it a feuding family called Inheritors have set their gluttonous eyes on every incarnation of Spider-Man in Marvel’s Earth past, present and future along with its alternate Earths past, present and future. They actually want to eat them and eww.

But, boy, there are a lot of Spider-Men! If you wanted to unlock all these costumes whilst playing a videogame then you would be here for approximately 7 billion hours with button-bashing, calloused thumbs like nobody’s business. There’s Spider-Man, Spider-Ham (I kid you not), Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Spider-Gwen, Spider-*** [SPOILERS! – ed] and even a punk iteration that oh I’ve just bored myself.

If that is your bag then you can consider this the Christian Dior of comics and cheap at just £14-99! Although there is the SPIDER-VERSE OMNIBUS h/c which will set you back oh so much more for a considerably higher, more comprehensive page count. That’d be more of a Gucci suitcase for Spider-spotters. I don’t know, my Fashion-Sense tingles at the mere sight of me in the mirror.

The problem is that what starts off as a customarily witty Dan Slot script with both a sly sleight of hand then an ever so naughty side-bar castigating you for fixating on Peter’s bottom (which the artist has ensured that you will – it is naked and only just beneath the sheets!) turns into an interminable series of side-bar boxes explaining who everyone is and whence they web-weave.

Again, this may be for you the thrill of a lifetime. “Clip ‘em and collect ‘em all,” as Marvel once exhorted of the postage stamps printed within their very own comics. And readers did! They did clip ‘em and collect ‘em, thereby reducing the second-hand sales value of their 1970s’ Marvel Comics from $220,372 a pop to three dimes and a cent.

I have no idea about American currency at all.


Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Goldfish Copper Foil Print (£18-00) by Jodie Paterson.

Oh just look at these puppies!

Err… guppies!

Err… Veiltail Goldfish!

They shine like copper ghosts floating in the dark.

Jodie Paterson’s cards have been an enormous success here so we’re introducing her prints.

They have nothing to do with comics, although – true fact – Jodie’s CV when applying for a job at Page 45 did come accompanied by an autobiographical comic whose climax came with the triumphant “I’VE GOT THE JOB!”

Guess what? She got the job!

Positive thinking works wonders.


Buy Goldfish Copper Foil Print and read the Page 45 review here

Badger Blue Mini Print and Badger Green Mini Print (£8-00 each) by Jodie Paterson.


Meet Lilly and Edwin!

Would you want them on your wall? Of course you would!

You’ll probably start talking to them before long.

Each of this pair of prints comes on classy, textured watercolour stock.

I have absolutely no idea what possessed Jodie to dress badgers in jumpers but it’s a stroke of genius which has paid huge dividends and is even more of a talking point for customers while have their wallets whipped at the till than my own shop dodo.

We honestly do have a shop dodo. It’s quite dead.


Buy Badger Blue Mini Print and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Badger Green Mini Print and read the Page 45 review here

Wanderlust Explore Mounted Print (£20-00) and Wanderlust Run Away Mounted Print (£15-00) by Jodie Paterson.


“Time To Explore!” and “Let’s Run Away!”

I adore Jodie’s calligraphy – the letters positively dance – and each exhortation is perfectly framed in a garland of fresh flowers.

They’re perfect compositions full of space and light redolent of open, wildflower meadows, while both the calligraphy and the colours gives them a thrilling energy.

Also, notice the love heart on “Let’s Run Away!” implicitly meaning “together”! Awww.

Each print comes on textured watercolour stock and is mounted thereby saving you considerable extra expense.


Buy Wanderlust Explore Mounted Print and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Wanderlust Run Away Mounted Print and read the Page 45 review here

Songbird Cetti’s Warbler Mounted Print and Songbird Goldcrest Mounted Print (£20-00 each) by Jodie Paterson.

Both landscape lovelies on watercolour stock are already mounted which will save you some considerable hassle and a little bit of lolly to boot.

I’m not very good with birds [insert your own joke] so I’m relieved our Jodie has already identified them.

Both my mum and my sister are keen, expert birdwatchers while I am the source of some considerable head-shaking, over-optimistically identifying eagles in the sky when they’re not even birds of prey – on one occasion a sparrow.

It was difficult to judge distance that day.


Buy Songbird Cetti’s Warbler Mounted Print and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Songbird Goldcrest Mounted Print 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.

Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser

Ex Machina Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

Elders #1 (£4-00) by Ethan Wiltshire

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 2: Lost And Found (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad

The Art Of Flying h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Antonio Altarriba & Kim

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 4 s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis

Godzilla: The Half-Century War (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 4 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Strangers In Paradise vol 2 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

The Spectators h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Victor Hussenot

The Unwritten vol 11: Apocalypse (£12-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 5: Gothopia s/c (£12-99, DC) by John Layman, Brad Meltzer, Scott Snyder, various & Jason Fabok, Bryan Hitch, Neal Adams, Sean Murphy, various

Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, Jorge Molina

Monster Perfect Edition vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Sailor Moon: Short Stories vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Neko Nekobyou


ITEM! Enjoying GIANT DAYS? Me too, more and more with each successive issue! John Allison is currently serialising his SPACE IS THE PLACE online for free.

ITEM! Both versions have been out of print for a while but THE CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING is now available digitally. If I were a creator or a prospective creator in the comicbook industry I would make damn sure I read it regardless of whether I intended to self-publish. Fore-warned is fore-armed etc!

ITEM! Wonderlands one time only graphic novel festival in Sunderland is on Saturday May 30th 2015

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week two

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Classic Japanese horror from Junjo Ito, violence as a way of life from Jasons Aaron & Latour; the return of RAT QUEENS,  Jim Henson’s STORYTELLER, Frederik Peeters’ AAMA and Stan Sakai’s USAGI YOJIMBO; introducing Stephan Franck’s SILVER. Oh, and Marvel Comics launches the beginning of their end, SECRET WARS #1!

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Shane-Michael Vidaurri, Kyla Vanderklugt, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Stokely.

“Anyone is capable of kindness… I believe.”
“You hope, rather.”

Brrrr… It’s going to get chilly!

Little about the relatively mundane cover can prepare you for some of the beauty within. “There are witches inside” it seems to say, “And you know they’re all warty. It’s the tradition.”

Which is a shame. How much braver it would have been to have gone with Shane-Michael Vidaurri for ‘The Magic Swan Goose And The Lord Of The Forest” with its inventive layout, light and colour is something I’ve spent some considerable time studying. Our own Jodie Paterson – an inventive artist in her own right (see our range of Jodie Paterson Greetings Cards And Prints) – couldn’t agree more.

It tells of a time long ago when a wild, wooded land was so remote that its king had so far failed to claim it. Its virgin, snow-topped mountain overlooked a village so small that it was self-sustaining and at one with its local habitat. It was in harmony with nature.

“The years fell as quickly and as gracefully as the autumn. And what was once a small town became a city, and a king laid his claim on the forest.”

Specifically he laid claim on the forest’s tallest tree: so tall that its topmost branches were said to catch stars which imbued them with magical properties. Philistine that he was, the king chopped the tree down to fashion a crown for the day of his son’s coronation. But the tree was much loved by Lord Of The Forest, a tall armoured rabbit or hare who took umbrage.

That king already had a daughter much older than his son but, of course – oh, of course! – she was but second in-line to the throne. The princess loved her family but cared not for the court and its mannered pageantry, pomp and dull dealings. She preferred to wander through the forest and was particularly drawn to the sturdy, hollow stump of the tree her father had plundered. It was while loitering, daydreaming there that the princess overheard a curse cast upon the crown and what happened thereafter would change the kingdom forever.

I love a good twist – see Becky Cloonan’s THE MIRE – and have chosen my words very carefully.

There is a lovely lilt to how the words tumble and often chime, Vidaurri’s hand-drawn lettering as much an intimate part of the art as it is in Dame Darcy’s MEATCAKE or Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS.

Vidaurri uses the space around each boldly inset panel – often no more than a single panel per page – to further the narration while decorating it with a vaulted ceiling, maybe mountains or mice, oak acorns or red-berried leaves.

The panel borders themselves might be composed as a cloak-clothed woman whose image is mirrored like a knave or queen playing card, or soared over by a majestic white swan. It’s the sort of playfulness I relish in self-published works but which is then often jettisoned when a “proper” publisher makes claim.

But if you prefer your witches traditional then Jeff Stokely’s adaptation of the original teleplay ‘Vasilissa The Beautiful’ with its grotesque Baba Yaga (see Neil Gaiman’s THE BOOKS OF MAGIC and the cover here) will please you enormously. There’s even a wicked step-mother with her equally malicious cuckoo kids and two cracking opening sentences:

“Once upon a time, long winters ago, at the very edge of the world, was a village which God had forgotten. A few lonely houses stood there, fenced by a forest so deep and so dark that the sky stopped above it for fear of getting lost.”

It’s one of three of the four stories here to feature families under threat so prominently. The other is ‘The Snow Witch’ from which I gleaned the opening quotation. It’s a landscape affair which requires you to turn the book 90 degrees but only once when you start to read it. (Too many superhero comics ten years ago required you to do this mid-session then again and again thereby ruining your immersion and – unlike CEREBUS: HIGH SOCIETY – for no reason other than the artist’s self-indulgent ego / whim.)

‘The Snow Witch’ extracts a promise from a young woodcutter never to speak of her existence or she will find and punish him. Her subsequent connivances put him in the most painful position possible (remember, it is all about family) and what follows is the most frustrating intractability which transmutes love into sorrow and suffering. What will cleave your heart in two is that it’s all so profoundly unnecessary.


Buy Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Southern Bastards vol 2: Gridiron s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour.


There are several things which are a great deal scarier to me than horror films. Hatred is at the top of that list.

I never back down but hatred, in truth, scares the shit out of me and hatred backed with the threat of physical violence is all too prevalent.

Welcome to the American South.

Our Jonathan wrote an exceptional review of SOUTHERN BASTARDS VOL 1 in which he cited his own experiences there and I wish that they beggared belief, but they don’t. So you can perhaps see why I was reluctant to read this series at all. I found it traumatising. But it needed to be written, it needed to be drawn and I guess it needed to be read. What the author of the unequivocally recommended SCALPED has achieved here against all odds is to make the vicious villain of volume one the champion of volume two. Aaron is exceptional at delivering different points of perspective and adversity is can be a damn fine catalyst for sympathy and support.

Here you will learn how the American football coach of SOUTHERN BASTARDS VOL 1 came to be in his position of small-town power and the struggle it took to get there. You will also learn a lot about American football. You may in addition be persuaded to thank your lucky stars. Bonus points: if the hero of volume one is gone by volume two, then who do you think will step in for volume three? Surprise, reprise! That’s the other thing Aaron excels at: structure.

Jason Latour’s colouring speaks of a heat in both time periods, but the flashbacks are so dusty you’d be forgotten for checking if you’re got grit in your eye. On the surface the art style may look like Lee Weeks or Ron Garney (which is tribute enough) but stare a little closer and it’s a lot less traditional that it looks with craggy mouths and jagged noses employing the short of cartoon shorthand the likes of Keith Jones use. It can make for some really ugly faces oozing malice and cruelty and there are plenty of both to make you wince here.


Buy Southern Bastards vol 2: Gridiron s/c and read the Page 45 review here

GYO 2-in-1 Complete h/c (£14-99, Viz) by Junji Ito.

The walking fish of Okinawa have moved out of the city and are all over Japan and possibly the rest of the world. The parasite clenched to the underside of the fish, powered by the noxious gas that boils in their stomachs, wants new converts; it want human beings. This is the situation that Tadashi finds when he wakes up at the hospital. His beloved Kaori is dead but her bloated body still runs a strange, biomechanical machine. Somewhere out there, he hopes, is the answer to this terrible blight on the land. So he searches.

While not as beautifully constructed as UZUMAKI, this is still an excellent fix for gorehounds and lovers of twisted horror tales. The parasitic machines with their spines and insectoid legs clatter along in a quite disturbing manner and the gas-ridden near-corpses that fuel it look sickly to the touch.

The ending comes rather abruptly but Viz have rounded the series off with two short stories that reminded me why I was first attracted to Ito’s nasty little works (and why I’ve watched so many bad films based on his manga). ‘The Enigma Of Amigara Fault’ disturbed both Tom and myself. After an earthquake, a new side of Amigara mountain revealed itself. Lots of human shaped holes on the side of the mountain, each distinct from the next. Some have been drawn to the place after seeing a news report, believing that the shapes are meant for them. Then one boy enters one of the shapes and is never seen again. If you’re a tad claustrophobic, stay away from this story.


Buy Gyo 2-in-1 Complete h/c and read the Page 45 review here

aama vol 3: The Desert Of Mirrors h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters…

“In short I believe aama is much more than a way of studying or reproducing life’s evolutionary mechanisms.
“All that’s just a smokescreen. A cover to get people on board. First investors. Then researchers.
“I think aama is a revolutionary attempt to transform the human species by forcing it to take the next evolutionary leap.”
“You’re raving mad. Just like all the others.”

The burning question for me, though, is why there is a girl, who is clearly inextricably linked with the mysterious substance aama, that is the exact double of the daughter of our reluctant hero Verloc Nim, when she is halfway across the galaxy back on earth. His brother Conrad, a secret agent of sorts for the powers that be, definitely knows more than he is letting on, which is why he brought his brother along, under the now transparent guise of fraternal concern.


However, instead of finding the small colony of scientists they expected, hard at work researching this wonder creation in a controlled environment on the planet Ona(ji), it is blatantly apparent the experiment has run out of control and gone completely amok, with the entire ecosystem infected by or integrated with aama. Or, depending on how you look at it, everything has gone precisely how the mysterious shadowy figures behind the ‘experiment’ intended. The resultant genetic modifications to the local flora and fauna are as potentially deadly as they are dramatic.

As Condrad and Verloc travel deeper and deeper into this disturbing new world looking for the epicentre of this distortion of natural evolution, matters start to become even more surreal as our travellers begin to hallucinate wildly. What they see as their perception is forcibly altered, what secrets it reveals, to them as well as us, is key to our beginning to comprehend just what aama might be. And yes, we do finally start to get some concrete answers regarding the identity of his surrogate daughter! Without giving any more away, we leave this volume exactly where we began AAMA VOL 1: THE SMELL OF WARM DUST H/C, thus neatly setting up the fourth and final volume which should hopefully be due before the of 2015.


I heartily recommend anyone enjoying TREES to give it a look, as the writing is of a similarly excellent standard. Also anyone enjoying LAZARUS or EAST OF WEST would almost certainly love it as well.


Buy aama vol 3: The Desert Of Mirrors h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars #1 of 8 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic.

“It’s the end.
“But the moment has been prepared for.”

 – Doctor Who: Logopolis

It really is the end: the end of the Marvel Universe as you’ve known it.

The storyline first set motion in Hickman’s own NEW AVENGERS VOL 1 reaches its climax here. Almost all the Marvel Comics titles have ceased to exist – or are about to – as the world they are set on collides with the Earth of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe and both are destroyed.

What will emerge on the other side is a closely guarded secret, but there are clues if you look closely enough.

In the meantime, for four months, you have this central SECRET WARS series which is chaos choreographed with a military precision and five billion new, attendant titles which you can take a gander at in Page 45’s Marvel Comics for May, Marvel Comics for June and Marvel Comics for July and a bunch of printed freebies we have by our counter.

Take a deep breath: you’re about to be thrown in at the deep end!


So are the two Marvel Earths. Each has appeared in the other’s sky, blotting out almost everything else up there. Their populations are terrified and their respective superhuman populations have gone straight on the attack without necessarily knowing for the most part that they’re essentially up against themselves.

There will be no winners but already there are an awful lot of losers: big-name character casualties that will cleave hearts in two because love.

The Reed Richards – patriarch personified – of each Earth has prepared best of all but one of their schemes is most assuredly about to go all Robbie-Burns-style “agley”.

Perhaps it is the X-Men’s Cyclops whom you should be watching. Because, yes, that was clever!

The problem is, the problem is, I know all this stuff. Although I now read relatively few superhero comics I’m so ridiculously well versed in Marvel Comics’ history that our Mark originally gave me this job 25 years ago on the strength of that arcane knowledge! I cannot unlearn what I know so I have no idea if new readers will relish this as I did or be baffled by it.

On the other hand Hickman certainly capitalises on the freedom of this being the beginning of the end of it all, with the prospect of phoenix-like resurrection. For example, the Punisher gate-crashing a gathering of top-tier villains with this:

“Gentlemen. They say that when you die, you can’t take it with you. Which begs the question: exactly what am I gonna do with all these bullets?”

Polished art. I don’t have anything more to say about the art than that. It’s accomplished superhero art. Not my idea of a particularly good time: I’d rather have someone more stylised like Johnny Romita Jr at the helm but it is what it is and what it is is accomplished.

Also the end of it all, So let us begin!


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

Rat Queens vol 2: Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’rygoth (£10-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic…

Still reeling from the recent upturn in their public approval rating by the good citizens of Palisade, after saving the population from marauding monsters, the Rat Queens get straight back to doing what they do best: binge drinking, excessive drug taking, rampant sexual escapades, just good old fashioned debauchery, really! It won’t be long, however, before their unique brand of bravery is called upon again, as there is a darker evil lurking in the forms of N’rygoth, not an easy name to pronounce after twenty meads!

Continuing on from RAT QUEENS VOL ONE: SASS & SORCERY, we’re gradually getting to learn more about the girls’ utterly bizarre back stories, which go some ways towards explaining precisely why they are as dysfunctional as they all are. They’re an odd bunch to say the least, which probably explains exactly why I like them and their escapades so much! It’s extremely difficult to do ‘ridiculous’ fantasy or science fiction without it being too preposterously so, but for the moment at least Kurtis J. Wiebe continues to maintain the sublimely ludicrous appeal of this title.





Buy Rat Queens vol 2: Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’rygoth and read the Page 45 review here

Silver vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Dark Planet) by Stephan Franck.

Oh, I’m racking this right next to Mike Mignola’s HELLBOY empire and its attendant BPRD spin-offs. It’s the same sort of fusion of horror and period crime.

New York City, 1931, and Jonathan Harker has died, finally reunited with his beloved Mina. He has amassed a wealth of valuable artefacts now being auctioned off to benefit his Harker Foundation, a charity raising money for medical centres for under-privileged children.

James Finnigan is such a successful con-man and thief that his newspaper headlines have paperboys sniggering whenever a policeman passes by. His latest target is that very auction, the final heist which will cap off his career and secure the future for himself and his two cohorts so they can enjoy a relaxed retirement.

Although an expert planner, Finnigan’s heist is not without its complications. It’s only the last-minute intervention of a young Chinese kitchen boy which saves his sorry soul for the lad seems to know what is coming – preternaturally so – and James ends up down a trapdoor leading to Harker’s true secret: an ingot of engraved silver and a journal purporting to tell of vampires and a history dating back five millennia to the existence of a Silver Dragon, a vast, ornate artefact depicting a dragon made from the purest silver which disappeared along with its tyrannical owner and the entire fortress containing it. Obviously that’s rubbish: vampires are the stuff of silly, gothic myths.

Tempting, though, eh?

Once more the cover does no justice to the sleek, slick, black and white twilight within. There are some beautifully high-contrast full-page spreads which I believe would have been better without the occasional, computerised gleam.

The first-person narration carries it through convincingly, entertainingly, and my only concern is that – given this is to all intents and purposes self-published – will we ever see its second-half conclusion? I truly hope so.

BATMAN: LONG HALLOWEEN’s artist Tim Sale is a fan, if that helps, and Mignola fans are in for a treat.


Buy Silver vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Usagi Yojimbo: Senso h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai.

The return of the Ronin rabbit!

It’s no throw-away affair, either. You’re in for a bit of a shocker.

While creating the self-contained 47 RONIN graphic novel Stan Sakai’s been away from USAGI YOJIMBO for three years but in his absence it’s started to be collected into bigger, omnibus editions. Thank goodness because under both Dark Horse and Fantagraphics this has been a title which has been lamentably left half-in, half-out of print for so long that it’s proved very frustrating to consistently stock.

At over 200 issues so far USAGI YOJIMBO is an anthropomorphic epic set in feudal Japan. It’s basically ‘Bedknobs And Broomsticks’ at war with swords.

This flashes forward fifteen years into the future and although almost all of USAGI YOJIMBO’s regular cast have survived the intervening years… not everyone’s going to get out alive this time.


That’s okay. Stan can go back and fill in those fifteen years leading up to this point but, blimey, this is quite the event with a two-tiered double ending which will have you biting your lips for a while. It certainly ramps up the dramatic irony for future instalments.

So it’s the final battle between Lord Hikiji and the Geishu clan: everyone on horseback, charging away, in 17th Century Japan. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Then something falls from the skies. It walks on three legs.

Revelations, I promise you. This is all about family.

And ‘The War Of The Worlds’, obviously.


Buy Usagi Yojimbo: Senso 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.

A Game Of Thrones vol 4 h/c UK Edition (£14-99, Harper Collins) by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

A.B.C. Warriors: Return To Mars h/c (£14-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Aliens: Fire And Stone s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Chris Roberson & Patric Reynolds

Flood: A Novel In Pictures h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Drooker

Revival vol 5: Gathering Of Waters (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

The Hunter (£6-50, Nobrow) by Joe Sparrow

Trash Market s/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tadao Tsuge

Unflattening (£16-99, Harvard) by Nick Sousanis

Forever Evil s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch

Green Lantern vol 5: Test Of Wills s/c (£13-50, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Charles Soule & Billy Tan, various

Amazing Spider-Man: Edge Of Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by David Hine, Dustin Weaver, Jason Latour, Clay McLeod Chapman, Gerard Way & Richard Isanove, Robbi Rodriguez, Elia Bonetti, Jane Wyatt

Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Oliver Coipel, Guiseppe Camuncoli

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker, Mike Deodato, Dalibor Talajic

Drug & Drop vol 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Gantz vol 35 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa

Badger Blue Mini Print (£8-00) by Jodie Paterson

Badger Green Mini Print (£8-00) by Jodie Paterson

Goldfish Copper Foil Print (£18-00) by Jodie Paterson

Songbird Cetti’s Warbler Mounted Print (£20-00) by Jodie Paterson

Songbird Goldcrest Mounted Print (£20-00) by Jodie Paterson

Wanderlust Explore Mounted Print (£20-00) by Jodie Paterson

Wanderlust Run Away Mounted Print (£15-00) by Jodie Paterson


ITEM! Marvel’s SECRET WARS #1 is reviewed up above but SECRET WARS #2 is out already! Blimmin ‘eck!

ITEM! Drawn & Quarterly, publisher of Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry, Guy Delise and MOOMIN – celebrates its 25th Birthday!

ITEM! Fascinating new interview with GHOST WORLD’s Dan Clowes, although I can assure that at Page 45 at least the readers buying books by Tomine, the Tamaki cousins, Anders Nilsen, Marjane Satrapi etc are emphatically not the same people buying superhero comics!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week one

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Jillian Tamaki, Tove Jansson, Seth, I.N.J. Culbard, Osamu Tezuka, Russell Stearman, Sydney Padua and a John Byrne classic that made me chortle!

The King In Yellow (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Robert W. Chambers & I. N. J. Culbard…

“Don’t touch it, Tessie!”
“But it’s just a book. What was it you said to me yesterday about dreams?”
“Hildred read it. Boris read it. Both took their own lives.”
“But it’s just a book! Now who’s being silly?”
“Tessie, don’t! Listen I’m serious. Put that book down. Tessie! I don’t wish you to open it.”

Comics are fearfully powerful juju.

They can make money disappear from your pocket and into the Page 45 till just like that… *adjusts fez*. But… I don’t believe they have power to drive you insane and into the clutches of evil supernatural beings. Well… not until you’ve signed up for a standing order with us and then it’s too late, we got you… MWAH HA HA HA HA!!!

Joking aside, the primary conceit of some of Robert W. Chambers’ interconnected short stories is precisely that. The idea that there is a play, the titular King In Yellow, which in book form can cause a reader to begin to lose their mental coherence and thus become at risk from – indeed subjugated to – mysterious sinister forces lurking at the edge of our reality, including a mysterious godlike being known also as the King In Yellow. To fall into his purview is to begin a journey that will surely lead one to a state of utter desolation. Though perhaps that is not entirely true for all…

It’s well known that H.P. Lovecraft read these stories, first published in 1895, in 1927, and they almost certainly influenced his writing to some degree, not least because he references some elements in passing in a couple of his subsequent stories, so he was at least impressed enough to tip his hat in acknowledgement. Others suggest the style of these stories influenced some of his storytelling techniques to a considerable degree. I don’t know about that, but I do know the first few truly spooky stories from The King In Yellow collection – which Ian has gently reworked here to form this adaption (the latter stories being more of the romantic fiction ilk that Chambers plied through the remainder of his writing career) – are rightly regarded as true classics in the genre of supernatural fiction.

So, what of this adaptation? Well, I know I have made this very point regarding at least one of Ian’s brilliant Lovecraft adaptations (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS / THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD / THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME / THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, plus two more to come later this year!!!) but yet again he’s done a superb job of deconstructing fairly nebulous material content-wise, in this case four short stories, and re-crafting it into a seamless, brilliantly engaging yarn. I had a little chat with him recently and he mentioned he’d only had to invent one brief bridging scene from scratch. The original stories were never truly intended as sequential chapters in a longer narrative, through there are threads of recurring characters and places, but Ian’s taken exactly the right approach by weaving them into one sinister longer-form story. It never feels like a reconstructing of separate tales, merely different strands of individual woe unraveling in turn under the malign, pervasive influence of the King In Yellow.

Art-wise I will simply say the eyes have it. Or rather they don’t!  A distinct lack of pupils on the part of most of the characters, a devilishly deliberate conceit on Ian’s part, is incredibly disconcerting. In certain instances it has the particularly perturbing effect of seeming to allow the character’s gaze to break the fourth wall out to us, the readers, without them even looking directly at us. There’s a cumulative effect to it which is increasingly unsettling, I must say.

There’s also a spectacular extended sequence, as I’ve also come to expect from Ian, where one of the characters, perhaps foolishly believing themselves to have put their macabre travails behind them and taken refuge in the sanctity of a church, listening to a reassuring priestly sermon, is then promptly taken on a mind-bending journey through time and space, or perhaps merely their own disintegrating perception of reality and rapidly draining sanity, before coming face to face with the King In Yellow itself.

Sadly our perilous wander through this weird world all too soon comes to an end. You will be left wanting more though, as was I. Maybe this is not the last we’ll see of the King In Yellow… though if we should see him, it will certainly be the last of us?!

So put this book carefully back on the shelf and watch out for strange people who pay too close attention to your business… or before you know where you are you’ll find yourself penniless and bereft of coherence, wandering Market Street with only a Page 45 bag full of comics in your hand…

Cue the sinister Vincent Price laughter like at the end of the Thriller video again…


Buy The King In Yellow and read the Page 45 review here

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

What an ending!

Here’s a prediction: the first three or four pages will utterly confound you and the title itself may put you off but then it is rather misleading.

Please, please don’t be dissuaded, for this pays big comedy dividends once you’re within.

It’s certainly a very different beast to the Tamaki cousins’ THIS ONE SUMMER and SKIM in form, tone and content except that in some ways it’s not: it’s all-inclusive, has a heart of gold and fiercely astute at observing and understanding the behaviour of young teens: how they treat each other or what they’re really thinking.

But. This is a comedy! It’s a wickedly clever comedy too, so many of the final panels of the one-page gag strips up-ending the five that have preceded it with a whiplash reversal. As such it’s as likely to appeal to fans of CYANIDE & HAPPINESS for who knew that Jillian was so naughty? Who knew she was such a comedian?

As I first read it I wondered if a longer-form narrative might eventually emerge and sure enough it does, centred on deadpan Marsha’s hilarious hidden crush on Wendy. I was going to attempt to transcribe The Hairbrush incident but I’ve found the actual page so see below or to your right if you’re reading this in the book’s product page. Brilliant!

Wendy is super-lovely, kind of heart and going out with Adam. On one page they make out, Adam asking if Wendy would be put off if she found out he was a robot. No, she says; and no, he wouldn’t be either if he found out Wendy was a robot, he promises. “Sentient robots are so hot, Wendy”, he says.

Wendy considers this for a panel while looking at the reader before uttering, “Beep, boop, beep, beep…”

Adam shudders.

So let us address the title SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY and really there is very little here which is about being a supermutant. Some of the protagonists – but only some of them – just look a little different. Wendy, for example, has cat ears. Not cosplay cat ears but actual cat ears. Another student is a hammerhead shark. Most of them, however, are completely human although Ethan (we only learn later) is Ethan The Everlasting Boy. Which retroactively explains why in one strip a tree has grown round him! There’s no hand-holding whatsoever which is why a second read-through is even funnier.

It is all so, so deadpan and I think Frances the curly-haired, precocious / pretentious performance artist may be the funniest of all. There’s a scene which she films as director, the first (and last, screaming) character wearing bunny ears and a medieval Plague Doctor mask, carrying an alarm clock on the end of a stick which is a cacophony of “MOTHER” tick tock and “father” tick tock before a rat nibbles seeds and “SCREEEECH” tick tock tick tock tick tock.

Pull back to Frances in her director’s chair:

“Cut! Print it. Excellent.”

Excellent indeed! I have no idea how Tamaki thinks of these things! There’s one strip which does touch on what the academy does and who tends to attend. It involves a session in which practising magic turns into the tragic. The pupil changes his form by invoking its desired Latin name. First he becomes a bear. Then he becomes a penguin. But when asked to turn himself into a butterfly he fumbles the ball and so turns into one. Footballs don’t have mouths. He is consigned to a cart full of other footballs destined forever to be kicked about during the school’s P.E. classes. One suspects the other soccer balls were students with similar slip-ups.

This is empathically not necessarily the slick and sumptuous art you have come to expect from THIS ONE SUMMER throughout which is once more why this might baffle you to begin with. Don’t worry about that. Really. This was originally a webcomic and I suspect that Tamaki just did what it took to meet her own deadline because that’s a big thing with webcomics. A lot of it is shorthand but not once does it fail the story she’s seeking to tell.

And I know a lot of this is quotations, but when a comic’s this comedic then the dialogue speaks for itself. It’s its selling point. Here we’re talking the role playing game of Dungeons & Dragons as a young man defends the pastime and his involvement:

“D&D is actually a very sophisticated role-playing game. While it may appear as merely an indulgence in Tolkien fantasy tropes, it is actually an epic, open-ended exploration of free form group storytelling, strategy, psychological warfare, and moral truth in a shared imagined space.”

Playing later:

“You’ve encountered a female dire-waveryn on the trail.”
“Does it have a vagina?”
“What do I need on this roll to have sex with the dire-waveryn?”

OMG boys!

Contains the best metaphor for leaving school, ever. Just when you think you’ve got one life licked, you have to move on to another.


Buy Supermutant Magic Academy and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oh my goodness, this is exactly what we do at Page 45!

“I just asked if I can help you with anything.”
“Well, no… just… uh… looking. Um… Actually… I’ve never been in a bookstore before. Pathetic, right?”
“Not to worry. Let’s go. We’ll start at the beginning. You were curious enough to come inside and have a look, right? That’s the main thing. Sooooo… Tell me, what kind of movies do you usually like?”

Providing recommendations – especially for first-time browsers based on what they love in other media – is the best part of this job!

So why is Zoe now curious about books?

Well, hacked off with her boyfriend who sleeps with his socks on and spends his unemployed days slouched in front of the TV… taking a break from her job as a product rep pestered by creeps who want their photo taken with her… Zoe was sitting alone on a park eating her lunch when the curtains in a window opposite started to flutter. There was a man in glasses peering furtively down at her. And she needed the loo so she buzzed his apartment.

He’s the world-famous prose novelist, Thomas Rocher and for some reason he wants her in and out quickly. He’s cagey, suspicious and expecting Zoe to pester him with questions. At first when she doesn’t he’s indignant.

“Don’t you recognise me?”
“Should I? Are you on TV?!”
“But… but I’m Thomas Rocher!”

Then it seems like a massive relief and he begs her to stay longer or at least come back soon.

So begins a completely new sort of relationship for both of them. Zoe finds herself treated to great food and with respect; Thomas finds the fact that she’s not a fan refreshing. She inspires him, curing his writer’s block.

But Zoe begins to grow bored when the curtains stay firmly closed and they never go for walks in the park. In fact, he never leaves the apartment at all. Would he really get mobbed if he did? I didn’t see the real secret coming at all. It’s a bit of a scandal!

Bagieu‘s cartooning is bright, light and expressive: you can tell exactly what’s going on behind each pair of eyes. Thomas’ visiting ex-wife and editor (she’s still firmly his editor) could have been a two-dimensional dragon or fashionista but although she does have a little fun with Zoe’s insecurity you can tell by the way she holds her finger to her mouth that her peace offering of a croissant is genuine.

There’s also a delightful scene with Zoe at work at a cheese fair dressed as a block of Edam, her colleague as a Friesian.

“You look kinda hot as a cow.”

Exquisite Corpse, by the way, was a game of collective creativity invented by the surrealists very similar to the one we used to play as a family called Consequences. You’d take it in turns supplying a word or sentence according to pre-agreed rules thereby building a sentence or an entire story.

I should perhaps also supply you with the definition of a ‘red herring’.


Buy Exquisite Corpse h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I have no intention of going into detail here…
“About my teenage sexual habits.
“Unlike some of my cartoonist peers…
“I have no compulsion to reveal.”

Ha, that did make me chuckle. He’s talking about his good chums Chester THE PLAYBOY / PAYING FOR IT Brown and to a lesser extent Joe SPENT Matt, of course. As ever, this next volume of Seth’s magnum opus includes the continuation of the Clyde Fans saga as Abraham Matchcard now contemplates the wreckage of his life following the bankruptcy of his business and endures the very definition of strained conversation with his brother Simon. Strangulated would probably be a better adjective to employ, actually.

It’s quite incredible how such a downbeat, depressing story can be so utterly gripping. I’m always a little disappointed reading a new volume of PALOOKAVILE but only because I inevitably forget the Clyde Fans material only forms the first half of the book! (Note: CLYDE FANS BOOK ONE collects the material that appeared in Palookaville #10-#15 if you want to get started!) But then I’m utterly delighted because I remember there will be some equally fascinating new autobiographical material from Seth’s formative years in the second half of the book, separated with something wonderfully random in between.

This time around the random wonder is photographs and a fake back history, including a fold-out comic about the original proprietor, of the Crown Barber Shop, which in reality Seth recently interior (and exterior) designed for his wife Tania Van Spyk, when she was ready to open her own barbers shop. It’s absolutely beautiful I must say, and you can read a little more about the process HERE in an online newspaper article about the shop.

Design is something that so powerfully stands out in Seth’s work these days. His love of small panels, frequently working on a 4 x 4 or 4 x 5 grid on an already relatively small page, means you really do see the clever constructional conceits that are ever-present throughout his stories. I can’t think of another creator where you can be so strongly aware of the design element without it distracting from the storytelling whatsoever. I am still completely present in the moment reading a PALOOKAVILE, but it’s just I am so vividly aware of this extra dimension and depth to the construction of the page subtly subconsciously seeping into my overall perception. His attention to detail is immaculate.

Which is why it is also always a little surprise each time to remember he deliberately employs a much less precise style for his younger days’ autobiographical material. The grid and page design elements are still there, but you can see he has just quickly drawn each grid with a pen and ruler, plus the lettering is very evidentially done by hand. It’s a clever trick because it immediately helps transport us back in time, to the boy discovering comics, and life itself.

And whilst he might not reveal his teenage sexual escapades, or lack of them, he does lay himself bare. It’s just as painful as any of Chester Brown’s or Joe Matt’s more sordid disclosures in its own way. For example, the choice snippet that he will probably be able to discern a piece of arcane film monster information from his collection of magazines results in the lasting embarrassing schoolboy nickname of “Back Issues”. Although, in retrospect, even he has to admit it was ‘deadly appropriate’.


Buy Palookaville #22 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“What a wonderful feeling to be poor… and listen to the rain on my little hut.”

There speaks a very rich man!

“Of course it is romantic to play poor, but I don’t like it when the roof leaks… and it is rather chilly sleeping under a boat at dawn.”

Hmmm. That’s the Marquis Mongaga in love with the idea of being bohemian and slumming with the Moomins after they’ve had enough of high society and posh hotels, neither of which they understood. Nor could they comprehend why almost everywhere was marked “PRIVATE”.

“I think picking flowers would soothe our nerves. It usually helps.”
“This is a private wild meadow. Get off this property!”
“But who owns everything here, then?”
“People with money, of course!”


I think you’ll find that 99% of the biggest Bajan houses are owned by 1% of Barbados’ population and 99% of them will be white and only part-time residents.

Still, Snorkmaiden and Moominpappa did want to see The South (it really was that vague) and so they set sail to foreign climes with alien customs. They found it surprisingly easy to get a room at the snazziest hotel but they were under the impression it was a house and they were its private guests. Do you suppose that it all went horribly wrong?

Over and over again Tove Jansson in the form of right-minded Moominmamma extols the virtues of a modest life in MOOMIN (and boy, do we have all the MOOMIN!). She finds the hotel room way too big for comfort so they retire to the bed instead and set up shop under its canopy.

I love the way she answers everyone about everything with “Yes, dear”, reassuring all and sundry whilst sort of ignoring them.

May 22nd 2015 sees the UK release of this as a feature film, by the way. The illustration shows the original black and white Tove Jansson strip which you can find in MOOMIN THE DELUXE SLIPCASE EDITION or MOOMIN COMIC STRIPS VOL 1 and its transformation into an animation frame. This particular version is coloured too, but differently.


Buy Moomin On The Riviera and read the Page 45 review here

Insurrection #0, #1, #2 (£1-50, £2-50 & £2-50 respectively, Lost Publications) by Russell Stearman…

“Pointless isn’t it?”
“Huh? I’m sorry?”
“Pointless, I said it’s pointless.”
“What them? They look like they’re doing okay…”
“Noo, I don’t mean the people, I mean him, Mr. Heart Attack there.”
“I don’t see what’s pointless about having a heart attack.”
“Look at him, what do you see? Don’t look at his condition, look at the man.”
“Erm, he looks like an ordinary man…”
“Ordinary? Of a type maybe, but what is ordinary? He’s a City businessman who probably worked late for the umpteenth time, possibly for years now. He’s had a stressful day, or will have tomorrow. This was his lifestyle and now this.”
“Well I suppose that’s fate, the way it’s mean to be.”
“Fate. An interesting view, but he’s been working hard for this, his true epoch, his fin-de-siecle award.”
“I don’t want to offend, but how could he have been aiming for a heart attack?”
“See that?”
“His I.D. badge has a RBS symbol on it. He’s a banker, the kind of person who caused the recession.”
“That’s a pretty tenuous connection, he might not have been involved. Anyway one person can’t have the power to cause such a cock-up. And he couldn’t have the power to stop it, things got out of control.”
“You can’t let yourself be carried by the tide even if it seems more fun, one person can make a difference. After all what is a crowd but a group of individuals? He should have been a whistle-blower, should have realised the results of what was going on. Now in his time of individual need he’s in the arms of helpless strangers.”

And they say people don’t converse on the Tube! Clearly our protagonist Matt got somewhat more than he expected when he sat down next to this particularly verbose individual. Matt’s not the sort of chap who’s probably considered anything more radical than what type of beer to drink when he’s down the pub. That’s all about to change though when he meets a girl with a conscience. It’s fair to say his life is about to get turned completely upside down as he’s practically kettled completely unprepared into the unfamiliar world of social activism and protest. It’s probably exactly the kick right in the cods his life needs, but will he survive the experience physically intact, and without getting gripped by the long arm of the law?!

What a fantastically well written piece of polemic this is, which combined with some classic fish out of water comedy makes for a riveting read. Although, most people, myself included, might well add that it really isn’t that contentious to conclude where many of society’s recent problems have arisen from. Darryl SUPERCRASH Cunningham would agree wholeheartedly, I am sure.

So, storytelling chops Russell Stearman has in abundance, for sure; his illustrative abilities do need a bit of work, mind you, which I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning. Much like THE TALION MAKER by far-flung Page 45 customer Neal Curtis, he can certainly construct his panels and pages, it is just the art itself that rather is on the raw side at the moment. That will undoubtedly improve with practice though, he clearly has potential. And much like THE TALION MAKER, this is an extremely strong work with a fantastic story to tell that doesn’t remotely suffer unnecessarily from any artistic shortcomings. If you have any sort of interest in class activism or the protest movement, take a punt on this because you will enjoy it.


Buy Insurrection #0 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Insurrection #1 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Insurrection #2 and read the Page 45 review here

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

I honestly can’t decide whether I like this or not. It does have much to recommend it, but it’s not without flaws, I must say. I think I would have much preferred a straight biography a la LOGICOMIX, which manages to explore both the life and mathematical works of Bertrand Russell in a witty, pithy manner that is as entertaining as it is educative. In contrast, this purports itself to be the ‘mostly’ true story of the first computer, whilst regaling us with the thrilling adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. Not that thrilling, frankly.

The true story is that Charles Babbage almost managed to build the first computer, his ‘difference engine’, way back in the 1830s, and that Ada Lovelace suggested computational programs that would have run on it, thus earning her the perhaps deserved moniker of the first computer programmer. The only things that prevented the building of the difference engine really, were ultimately a lack of funding, and perhaps Babbage’s own fondness for argument with all and sundry over just about everything. He was a rather cantankerous chap.

So, when someone decided to build a working difference engine in 1991 from Babbage’s original plans, and worked to the engineering tolerances possible for machining parts in the early 19th century, they did produce a working machine. Babbage also designed a more complex machine, and indeed even a printer, which were both also never built. He was also responsible for code and cipher breakthroughs during the Crimean War, for which he was never credited with during his lifetime. It is perhaps not entirely surprising therefore, that he died an unhappy and somewhat unfulfilled man. Arguing with everyone continuously can’t have helped either, I’m sure…

To me, you could do a brilliant graphic novel biography from such material. Instead this is farcical, spasmodic comedy shorts, weighed down with vast footnotes and interspersed with informative sections that are basically illustrated prose. It just doesn’t quite work for me, unfortunately. Either you have to wholly adopt one approach, like LOGICOMIX, or the other, such as EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH.

This veers around too wildly stylistically, page layout-wise also, for my liking, though others may well not find that a problem whatsoever. I’m not entirely sure the creator knows what audience she has put this together for, though she has certainly done a fantastic job researching and presenting such a body of – relatively complex in places – information. Overall, I certainly learnt a lot, mainly from the footnotes and illustrated prose sections, which of course must be one of the primary, if not the main, aims of any work like this.


Buy The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Published by blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-merchants DMP… so it may well be already out of print by the time you read this review… this work definitely sits down near the fluffier end of the Tezuka canon. This is quite understandable given it was originally serialised in Weekly Shōnen Sunday in the very early 60s, but given the series takes place on Mars, post human colonisation, where humans have already begun persecuting the indigenous Martians thus resulting in mutual loathing, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to learn there was some mild social commentary regarding the post-WW2 American occupation of Japan.

Particularly given that in some other later, more serious Tezuka works like MW, the Americans are often portrayed as an aggressive nation, though never referred to by name, merely as Nation X or similar. Anyway, Captain Ken is a sort of Lone Ranger character, a human who fights for justice on the side of the Martians, trying to prevent their exploitation.

It’s probably one more for the Tezuka completists than an entry point, but it is great fun. I have to say, though, there are many, many other more serious Tezuka works I do wish someone would translate and publish. And then keep in print…


Buy Captain Ken vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Before NEW AVENGERS came Bendis and Finch’s AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED which did what it said on the tin: it tore the team and one of the team members quite literally apart.

Whence the HOUSE OF M graphic novel in which everyone has to decide what to do with an insane but comatose Scarlet Witch before she wakes up and starts using her powers to alter reality so that pigs might really fly, baked beans taste like food and Marmite becomes something other than the bilious tar coughed up by a minotaur on eighty cigarettes a day.

Bendis drew on two key moments in Avengers’ history in which the Scarlet Witch had already shown signs of not being ‘all there’ (although marrying a sentient vacuum cleaner wasn’t the clearest sign of sanity) and this is the main one.

Her husband, the android Vision, is abducted, reduced to nuts and bolts then reassembled using a Homebase instruction manual. So of course there are a few bits missing: like his feelings.

There’ll almost certainly be a second volume in which Wanda’s children are dealt with (clue: they don’t actually exist – something she should have cottoned onto given that everyone else got a good night’s sleep) when I’ll be forced to look up the word “doolally” in Roget’s Thesaurus for further variations on the expression. In the meantime, this is what happened.

Imaginative plottery, but ridiculous also. Byrne’s art is still oh so solid, but the inking by other parties is blunt and lazy. Honest assessment: when I was younger, I loved it.


Buy Avengers West Coast: Vision Quest s/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.

aama vol 3: The Desert Of Mirrors h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Shane-Michael Vidaurri, Kyla Vanderklugt, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Stokely

Rat Queens vol 2: Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’rygoth (£10-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic

Silver vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Dark Planet) by Stephan Franck

Skim (£9-99, Groundwood Books) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Southern Bastards vol 2: Gridiron s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason LaTour

The Michael Moorcock Library vol 1: Elric Of  Melnibone h/c (£18-99, Titan) by Roy Thomas & P. Craig Russell, Michael T. Davis

Batman: Earth One vol 2 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Batman Superman vol 2: Game Over s/c (£12-99, DC) by Greg Pak, Paul Levitz & Jae Lee, various

Superior Iron Man vol 1 (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Yildiray Cinar, Laura Braga

Gyo 2-in-1 Complete h/c (£14-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Magi vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

Magi vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

Magi vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

Magi vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tsubasa Haduki

Usagi Yojimbo: Senso h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai


ITEM! Neil Gaiman, Alison Bechdel and Art Spiegelman step in to host PEN gala which will honour Charlie Hebdo with a Freedom Of Expression Courage award after other authors back out. Note how it’s the comicbook creators who are cited in the headlines. Progress.

ITEM! Jillian Tamaki’s SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY is reviewed above and it is cripplingly funny! You can find Jillian Tamaki’s SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY posted online and select ‘previous’ and ‘next’ at the bottom of each page.

Sorry there’s no more: I’ve been on holiday!

Just so you know, Marvel’s big blockbuster this year has begun: SECRET WARS #1 out now, review next week. We’ve lots of freebies to give away too: just ask at the counter or when ordering online!

– Stephen