Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week three

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

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