Archive for August, 2015

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week four

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Featuring Jason, Joan Cornella, David Lapham, Emma Rios, Will Kirby, Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving, Ludroe, Ethan Young, Andre Sirangelo, Gabriel Iumazark and Hiroya Oku, the creator of GANTZ

Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Will Kirkby, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Robin Bougie.

Big, thick anthology edited by Brandom Graham and Emma Rios which, improbably, is monthly.

ISLAND #1 reviewed by our J45 is back in stock after multiple reorders. I’ve never known an anthology to be this popular but the proof is in the pudding and the chefs are all top-tier talents bringing their very best to the table.

Because it’s a monthly some strips are serialised every four issues or so and honesty dictates that I concede there’s just the one page of Brandon Graham this time round but Emma Rios is back with this glorious cover and the second instalment of her silky, salmon pink series ‘I.D.’ about three individuals so uncomfortable with their bodies that they’re prepared to undergo a radical and somewhat controversial new medical procedure not all recover from: they’re going to have their brains transplanted into a donor’s body. Here they attend the clinic and learn exactly how the process works and what the risks involved are, after which we fast-forward and ooohhh…

The art is sublime with feathery hair and deliciously sinuous finger forms. The aerial shots above  them sleeping are exquisitely lit, but then there are the leaves of the trees under which our pioneer patients meet up and if I could find that particular park I’d probably never leave.

It’s been meticulously researched with the help of Miguel Alberte Woodward MD who provides the prose this issue which further considers the implications and practicalities of the potential processes.

Will Kirby’s vast purple pages of wordless, fantastical cityscapes, mythical birds and a giant, fire-eyed wolf are nothing short of gobsmacking.

No less detailed are Simon Roy’s futuristic yet at the same time ancient-civilisation-based full-page masterpieces for part one of ‘Habitat’ and if you’re missing Moebius and / or adore PROPHET then I’d call this absolutely essential reading. I was entranced from start to finish and stared at the perspective of one shot in particular for half an hour. I have no idea whatsoever how one first sees that in one’s head let alone commit it so successfully to paper.

Love the colouring on the lichen-covered or moss-strewn stone.


Oh look, Jonathan’s reviewed this too! That’s how much we love it…


Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Will Kirkby, others…

“Forward. If you take what is printed, boy… there is no turning back.
“(Where’s that damned punch-card. Ah!)
“By accepting the blade, you swear an oath.
“To forsake your family for the Brotherhood of the Habsec (…which-button-uh-“3D PRINT”…)
“To kill the few so that the many might live; to obey and enforce the emergency measures; even if it means your death.
“And most of importantly: to put the needs of the Habitat above all else.”

Well, the thing I was most waiting for in this second issue of this Brandon Graham-curated anthology was the concluding part of Emma Rios’ I.D. But as brilliant as that was, and it was, I was blown away by the opening part of this three-part sci-fi caper by Simon Roy, set aboard an orbiting habitat where society has long since degenerated into little more than a tribal fight for survival amongst the overgrown ruins of mostly abandoned or partially functional technology.


One of the few pieces of technology that does remain operational, if not remotely understood, is a 3D-printer, activated by a punchcard which has a set template on it. The Brotherhood of Habsec only has one punchcard template which prints out a sword, presented to each new trooper as part of their initiation rites. And what are the main functions of a trooper? To hunt down members of other tribes as food. Yep, cannibalism is rife, and there are some stomach-churning scenes as bodies are processed and the merits of eating spinal columns discussed. This yarn is very much like the first volume of PROPHET, which Roy contributed to art-wise, where one clone of John Prophet is engaged in a struggle for survival on an inhospitable world, as here we follow the exploits of neophyte trooper Cho and his Habsec brothers on the hunt for food. Trooper Cho, however, finds a little more than bargained for, which is all well and good until his curiosity gets the better of him…

Meanwhile, following the pattern of ISLAND #1 we have six beautiful, wordless pages of art as a pre-index opener, which is actually a comic as well this time from Will Kirkby. I would seriously love to see Will do a full strip in this style, it is magnificent stuff. Then a very humorous one-page telephone discussion between Brandon himself and God, who has the temerity to point out that issue two is due and gets very short shrift in return.

There are another couple of essays, one from a neurologist immediately following the concluding part of Rios’s I.D. discussing the scientific aspects of her strip and also the feasibilities of actually undertaking brain transplants. Then there’s an excellent short essay all about a real-life person once again, but rather than a much missed friend, this time it’s about a skyjacker who almost became a spaghetti western star! Fleshing out this second issue of the archipelago is the concluding part of Ludroe’s undead skate-punk shenanigans.


Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

If You Steal (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

Ooh, but the colours are lovely! They’re classy and quiet – the sort of palette Chris Ware employs.

From the king – nay, knave – of anthropomorphic absurdity come eleven new short stories to give you much pause for thought.

Indeed the finale, ‘Nothing’ will stop you dead in your tracks. Nothing will prepare you for ‘Nothing’, especially not Jason’s customarily clever nonsense. In it an old lady in a retirement home sees wizened vultures steal a fork from her hand, her bed from her bedroom and a painting of a tree which you will by then be familiar with from the wall… just as Alzheimer’s Disease has stolen all the labels for these objects from her brain. That one cut me to pieces and the final panel is [redacted]. “Redacted” says it all, I’m afraid.

The storytelling throughout is as deadpan and laconic as ever (this is the man responsible for ALMOST SILENT, after all) which works equal wonders whether the scenes are wistful, leaving you to think, or ludicrous, leading you to laugh.

There’s plenty that’s ludicrous here, like ‘Karma Chameleon’ in which a 50-foot-long incarnation of the googly-eyed lizard manages so improbably to escape being spotted in a small dessert town with very few features, picking off punters one by one with its giant, whiplash tongue (acceleration 500 metres per second), bobbing up and down behind those sent to investigate in scenes reminiscent of a pantomime when your instinct is to scream “It’s behind you!”

There’s such a lot going on with its punchline focussed on the onanism-obsessed professor that it may initially baffle but that’s the thing to beware of with Jason: there’s no hand-holding attendant and you will need to think. Much is implied but still more is left for you to infer. Or in some instances there may not even be concrete answers. Rationalism is overrated, I say, and when I wrote ‘absurdist’ I meant it in its theatrical sense.

On the subject of absurdism there’s ‘Waiting For Bardot’, a riff on Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting For Godot’ in which the traditional two men meet up in the middle of nowhere and wonder where on earth the woman they’re waiting for has got to. Shopping for shoes or painting her nails? Women are an enigma to them. They’re as baffled as Laurel and Hardy. They’re dressed like Laurel and Hardy. Women are almost entirely absent from the script of ‘Waiting For Godot’.

At a particular juncture in one story I will not name it gradually becomes clear that the visual narrative has bifurcated from the literary language – that was is being said is not what’s being drawn. Haha! It happened waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before then.

Two more of the eleven and then I leave it to you.

‘Ask Not’ begins in Stonehenge Britain in 2583 BC where a druid experiences an epiphany. Fast-forward to Salon De Provence, 1554 AD, and Nostradamus has a more specific vision of the same shooting in Dallas during 1963. He writes it all down only for the scripture to be stolen. That which follows throughout time will lead you right up the wrong garden paths, I promise you. What’s key and clever is this: most of the increasingly brief bursts of “history” begin on the final panel of a page and end on the first of a new one and often the next one. What does this do? It undercuts your oh-so-encouraged expectations, answering them with a rebuff or rejoinder, my favourite being September 11 in 2001. Easter Island was downright hilarious. Marilyn Monroe did not die in 1975.

Lastly, ‘If You Steal’ manages to be both absurdist and surrealist at the same time. The clues are in the cues which are all René Magritte, Jason doing riffs on ‘Empire of Light’, ‘Golconda’, ‘La Grande Famille’ and I think the tree which you’ll see not just in front of the safe may be a reference to ‘The Human Condition’. Magritte was an iconoclast, provoking people into rethinking what they are witnessing when viewing an image, his most famous painting perhaps being ‘The Treachery Of Images’ (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Jason doesn’t go in for a great deal of this but there is the scale of the gun being carried.

Told in four-panel, single-page bursts which go backwards and forwards in time, you’re left to join the dots and fill in the blanks for yourself. Again, it’s all implication with more room than ever for inference but one of those bursts goes much further back than the others when the protagonist as a child visits an art gallery with his dad, and I’m sure you can guess whose work he becomes fixated upon.

Unlike ‘Ask Not’ the episodes aren’t dated so you can decide for yourself if you want a happy ending, but I’d suggest that if you steal you won’t have one.

So I guess it’s existentialist as well.


Buy If You Steal and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

“Learn a lesson. The risk is so much higher than the reward… Treat your wife a little better.
“You never know what you’re gonna bring home.”


STRAY BULLETS is the best crime series by several prison blocks outside of Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT. Each of those books has been reviewed extensively so I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.

In this particular car crash of self-contained but cunningly linked short stories set in Los Angeles moving backwards and forwards in time, it’s all about adults having affairs except ‘While Ricky Fish Was Sleeping’ in which you fear an affair is about to be thrust on a woman unwillingly.

It is absolutely terrifying.

Our homes are our castles where we’re supposed to feel safest, but when Ricky Fish collapses drunk as a skunk outside his, Kathy makes the mistake of opening the door to drag her husband inside, only to find another man’s got his foot in it. Roger forces his way in, claiming Ricky owes him big bucks which they need in order to go out dancing, and brings with him another barely conscious inebriate, Puncher, and a girl who’s all over the dozer. Roger careers from seemingly reasonable and complimentary to volcanically furious, bellowing and bullying and, more worryingly still, Kathy spots a gun under his jacket. He claims to be a policeman but that’s far from reassuring. It’s as tense as hell, but you wait until it’s reprised in ‘Little Love Tragedy’ during which some of the cast have moved on.

If “the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar” as Nicholas Hardiman posits in Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE then David Lapham is the most convincing liar I’ve ever read. He will mess with your mind something rotten there and yet you will love him for it. You’ll see!

In ‘Two Week Vacation’ hen-packed Hank, a middle-aged mouse of a man, stupidly steps into the road between cars without looking left or right and is almost knocked down. He then makes the mistake of “retaliating” for his own carelessness by throwing a broken bottle through the car’s rear window and the driver gets out.

“Man, that was the worst thing you ever done.”



Like letting Roger in through that door, those opening pages are the ultimate in regret, that terrible feeling of “If only I hadn’t done that”. How this fits in with affairs I don’t want to spoil for you but that tale too is reprised (everything is connected in STRAY BULLETS), this time in ‘Live Nude Girls’ where we meet Amanda, a serial marriage-wrecker. She’s a textbook case of jealousy, insecurity and self-delusion right to the end.

This volume also features the very finest Amy Racecar episode, and if you marvel as I do at how intricately Lapham links everything up in this series (it’s a chronological cat’s cradle on its 250th twist) you will be staggered further still at this private-eye spoof in which Amy is hired to spy on a wife by her husband. Simple enough you might think, but nothing – absolutely nothing – is what it seems as one reveal leads to another then another, each successively bigger reveal upending the previous pair until the dozen or so characters have back-stabbed the others too many times to be true.

Well of course it’s not true, but that’s the whole point of the Amy Racecar interludes. Have you guessed why yet?


Buy Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Broadcast (£22-50, Archaia) by Andre Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark

Dominique spotted this one.

I think the art said BEDLAM to her and she loves her Bedlam, does Dee. There’s a bit of Ben Templesmith going on too, only more angular. Ashley Wood – those sorts of comparisons.

There’s a cracking full-page shot of urban-exploring 100 feet below San Francisco, looking up from ankle level at gas-masked Niko and Harumi, the two on the cover.

“Look at that crazy door. I think the map is legit after all.”
“If the map is accurate, crazy door is just the beginning.”

It is indeed. Cogs whirr and the metal hatch – the sort of thing you’d find on a submarine – opens, and there’s quite the room inside. The sequence puts me in mind of Riven or Myst. Not stylistically, but in its overall effect of haunting strangeness and thrilling discovery.

What’s uncovered is not unconnected to Ivan The Intrepid, a young escapologist with confidence issues. He’s about to bugger up an audition during which he relates the doomed career of Blachall The Incredible, “a master of shock and awe” who hit it big in 1925 at the Paris World’s Fair. Then he bit the bullet in London, 1934, after a staged game of Russian Roulette went wonky.

This too is about to go wonky but with less catastrophic consequences… so far. Ivan doesn’t lose his life; he loses Alex, his business partner whom Ivan treats as his assistant. It’s partly because of that and partly because Alex has stopped taking his meds. They were making him sluggish, which is bad news for an escapologist. I anticipate further bad news nonetheless: he’s been off them for 48 hours.

With his income teetering on the non-existent Ivan begs magazine publisher Dmitri for work, but Dmitri has lost his last sponsor. What he gains is something altogether unexpected.

In precisely which ways this all fits together remains a mystery, but in any case all this takes place 8 weeks before the explosion at a funfair in San Francisco…

Thus read Stephen’s review of #1. What follows in the next six issues is a magical multiple misdirection of urban exploration, double cross, illusion, hallucinogens, secret societies, mind control, triple cross, voices from beyond the grave and mayhem. Lots of mayhem. Dominique and I stuck with this right through the single monthly issues and we both loved it.

It’s a real rollercoaster ride where the true intentions of most of the protagonists, including the long deceased (or is he?) Blachall, are hidden behind a veritable grand concert hall of mirrors the size of Sydney Opera House and enough smoke to rival a forest fire half the size of California. If you’re in the mood for a modern mystery with its roots in the past, would like to be mesmerised and bemused by the plot before the final grand reveal, I would highly recommend it. Just check underneath your seat before you sit down to read in case you’ve been marked out to be pulled up on-stage to assist in the act!


Buy The Last Broadcast and read the Page 45 review here

Inuyashiki vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku…

“Any damage?”
“Nothing here. However… we did destroy two of the planet’s intelligent life forms…”
“Can we rebuild them?”
“I’m afraid not…”
“Then at least recreate their outer appearances as quickly as you can.”
“Convincing enough that they don’t realise we tampered with them.”
“But we only have weapons grade units in stock.”
“Wait, no! They’ll destroy the entire planet!!”
“That’s not our problem! We need to disengage at once!!

Poor old Ichiro. He’s 58 going on 78. He looks like an OAP and even his daughter pretends he’s her granddad to avoid embarrassment in social situations. Starved of affection and emotionally cut-off from his family, absolutely the last thing he needs is to be told is that he has inoperable stomach cancer which is going to kill him in a matter of weeks.

Which is unfortunate, because after being called in by his doctor that’s precisely the news he receives. Unable even to tell his family, mainly because they won’t pay attention to him long enough for him to get the words out, choked up as he is, he turns to the family pet, a recently purchased Shiba Inu (almost as cute as these ones on the greetings cards drawn by our Jodie wearing a fez, a crown, a top hat and a feathered cap respectively!) called Hana-Ko for solace and comfort. At least he can rely on his canine chum for some consoling licks and wags of the tail!

During a late-night walk through the park, he and a stranger stop to look at a brilliant bright light in the sky, which promptly turns out to be a crashing spaceship that kills them. Much to his surprise Ichiro wakes up in the park the next morning with precisely zero recollection of the events of the previous night. Very quickly, though, he starts to realise something has changed, and before long begins to understand that he is now, to all intents and purposes, a consciousness in a robotic body. A highly weaponised robotic body that whilst it looks exactly like the 58-year-old geriatric Ichiro is anything but. And, of course, he’s no longer dying from cancer.

Unable to turn to his family for support during this rather puzzling yet exhilarating experience he finds himself becoming ever more withdrawn and solitary, taking more late-night walks, as he tries to understand what on earth (ho ho) has happened to him. Which is how he happens to be just in the right place at the right time to save a homeless man from being beaten to death by a gang of teenage kids. It seems as though he might now be able to be the sort of man he always wanted to be. He needs answers, though, clearly. So what of the other person who was in the park that night? Ichiro begins to wonder if they too have been changed in the same way?

Intriguing and hilarious opener from the creator of GANTZ (of which there is a great little in-joke towards the end of this volume, as we finally see what happened to the other person in the park that night). So far so good, this novel twist on the classic bodysnatching theme has the potential to be a great story, much like the sadly out of print 7 BILLION NEEDLES. And, as with GANTZ, there’s a lot of ridiculous humour to off-set the hard sci-fi element.

I love the main protagonist Ichiro, he’s such a downtrodden fellow you can’t help but take to him instantly, and I’m looking forward to seeing what crazy situations I’m certain the creator, Hiroya Oku, is going to put him through, and precisely how his family reacts to their new dad, though I’m quite sure he’s going to keep them in the dark about his robotic makeover. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of those aliens, either. I wonder precisely why they were in such a rush to depart the scene so quickly…?


Buy Inuyashiki vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Nanjing The Burning City (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ethan Young…

“Captain, do you really think we can win this war?”
“Is there any reason to think we’re going to lose?”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve fought the Japs. And now they’ve only gotten stronger. Better tanks, better guns, better plans. I fear… I fear that the next generation of Chinese children will grow up speaking Japanese.”
“They are not going to win. China will prevail. Our nation has been here for thousands of years. Japan might have stronger guns and stronger tanks, but we have a stronger spirit. That is what counts in the end.”

Most people believe that WW2 began in 1939. From a purely western perspective that’s correct, I suppose, but then they may not be aware that Japan and China had been involved in full-blown conflict for nearly two full years preceding that, with all-out hostilities commencing in July of 1937. Indeed, Japan had been occupying parts of north-east China since 1931, a situation which the nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek was reluctantly forced to accept due to a lack of resources and military might to reverse the situation. But no one in the region was in any doubt that the intended Japanese Imperial expansionism was considerably wider in scope than that.

So, by the end of 1937 Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing, which was then the capital, had fallen to the Japanese. Chiang Kai-shek had no choice but to retreat and reconsolidate in the west of China, whilst his erstwhile political rival in the nationalist party, Wang Jingwei, was installed as a puppet leader in Nanjing. Before that happened, though, there was a six-week period of unprecedented brutality which is widely regarded as the single worst atrocity of the World War II era.

Starting on December 13th 1937, the day Nanjing fell, Japanese soldiers ran amok killing and raping seemingly without restraint. The Rape of Nanjing, as it’s become known, remains a contentious political issue and stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations to this day. This work barely scratches even the surface of what happened during that period and so on at level at least has to be regarded as a complete failure in my eyes, even though I think it’s an excellent work in other ways.

I’ve read quite a few articles over the last few weeks, around the 70th anniversary of the deployment of the two atomic bombs on Hirosoma and Nagasakai, all decrying their use from our modern ‘civilised’ perspective, and the complete bewilderment to this day by survivors that such an ‘atrocity’ was even necessary. I would consider myself extremely well read about World War II compared to most (China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival by Rana Mitter being one of the works you really need to read to understand what went on in this particular theatre of war) and whilst I wouldn’t dispute that America would have taken the Japanese islands eventually by conventional means, the two atomic bombs did undoubtedly greatly shorten the war, probably by some considerable length of time, months if not years.

The difficulties the Americans had had earlier that year in simply taking the isolated Pacific island of Iwo Jima against a mere twenty thousand Japanese soldiers I’m sure factored into their decision to deploy the atomic bombs. Along with two other important factors. Firstly, given the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Habour without warning, there was little public or military sentiment in the US for treating the Japanese ‘fairly’. But secondly – and this is where we come back to what took place in Nanjing – the American military was well aware of the Japanese military code of honour that meant surrender was cowardice, unthinkable to the point of being completely and totally unacceptable.

Thus Chinese military prisoners of war, and by extension the Chinese population, given the Japanese penchant for believing themselves to be the superior Oriental race on the peninsula, were regarded as not worthy of honour and less than human. I just do not personally believe the Japanese military would have ever surrendered without the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as tragic as those events were, and the prospect of the total atomic annihilation of their homeland if they did not do so. I suspect, given what we have seen of asymmetric guerrilla warfare and insurgency since WW2 in Vietnam then more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria etc., the war might have been a rather more protracted affair. Instead, you have a nation who some seventy years on, are still, for the overwhelming majority, happily to be constitutionally bound that their military will be not be involved in an overseas offensive combat role. Just an opinion.

I’m not going to get into precisely what did happen during those six weeks in Nanjing, it’s well documented in extremely upsetting detail elsewhere, unless you are one of the people who much like the Holocaust deniers choose to believe it didn’t happen at all, or at least not on that scale, but I can’t see how you can do a graphic novel based during that period and barely touch upon it. The story, of two Chinese soldiers trying to escape the city already occupied by the Japanese, doesn’t remotely convey the magnitude of the suffering and vile atrocities that were committed.

Instead we have a cat and mouse chase story that briefly touches upon rape and starvation, with some Confucian proverbs regarding steadfastness in the face of adversity thrown in for good measure. It just feels like a massive opportunity missed. There is an extremely brief one-page afterword that mentions the barest facts but I just can’t see anyone being minded to pick up something like ‘China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival’ by Rana Mitter after reading this. The foreword from the creator states it is for the forgotten ones, the people who died, yet surely telling the story from the perspective of an ordinary family would have had far more impact?

I just feel the author had a chance to do something that could have stood alongside PALESTINE, PERSEPOLIS, MAUS and yes BAREFOOT GEN (currently out of print), amongst many others as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man, helping to ensure events that mustn’t be forgotten are remembered correctly by future generations and not erased from the popular narrative of history.

From a perspective of pre-, during and post-war Japan, particularly to help get inside the peculiar fascistic nationalistic psyche that prevailed before and during the era of conflict, I would strongly suggest, from a graphic novel perspective, reading Shigeru Mizuki’s exceptional SHOWA treatise:

SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN, SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN and SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN (and the shortly to be published final volume SHOWA 1953-1989). Plus his fictionalised autobiographical material about time served in the Pacific during WW2, which again, perfectly captures the ‘no surrender’ mentality of the Japanese military high command ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS.

The irony is, for all that I have said above, I think this is a great read. If it were to be set against another backdrop, I would regard it as an excellent war story, precisely comparable with Garth Ennis’ WAR STORIES material in terms of tone and content. Plus art-wise, I thought it was extremely accomplished. Some of the action scenes minded me of DONG XOAI by Joe Kubert, though that is pure rough pencils, and this is considerably more polished. If you just want a good war yarn, this is well worth reading. If you want to learn something of what really happened in Nanjing during those horrific six weeks, I would look elsewhere.


Buy Nanjing The Burning City and read the Page 45 review here

Annihilator h/c (£18-99, Legendary) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving…

“I know who you think you are. Max Nomax is a character.
“He’s the lead in my screenplay.
“That can only mean one thing… this is bullshit… or I’ve gone mad.
“So? Have I gone mad?”

Once again Grant Morrison returns to his favourite device of metafiction to craft a weird, warped, time-shifting, modern gothic tale that will amuse as much as amaze. He’s still got it, I have to say, and I do think Frazer Irving is the perfect foil for this dysphasian tale, following on from their collaboration on the Klarion sections of THE SEVEN SOLIDERS OF VICTORY which were the artistic stand-out sections on that equally head-spinning title for me. By the end of this yarn, you’ll be wondering if Grant Morrison has a brain injury or just induced one in yourself, in addition to the equally implausibly named screenwriter (and creator of Max Nomax) Ray Spass’ inoperable brain tumour. And somewhere along the way, the Universe will be saved, of course.

Its classic Morrison, weaving a tortuous tale from a jumble of parts and somehow making it semi-coherent, entertaining nonsense, sometimes even with a few salient philosophical, perhaps even spiritual points to make along the way. I’m thinking FLEX MENTALLO in particular there. This isn’t quite on that level in terms of storytelling, I don’t actually think it’s trying to be, but it’s an extremely enjoyable romp, and Fraser’s particular art style and palette perfectly engenders an almost cinematic rendering of two men and their intertwined melodramas.

So… Max Nomax has been sentenced to life, indeed solitary confinement, in a rather gloomy space station called Dis, which I am presuming is a Dante’s Inferno reference to the city which encompassed the sixth down to the ninth circles of hell; the ninth being rather chilly, much like the vacuum of outer space. And, just for dramatic effect, the space station is orbiting the Great Annihilator, the colloquial name for the supermassive black hole which sits at the centre of our galaxy.

Max’s crime? Breaking the heart of Olympia – the daughter of the ruler of the Universe, Vada – who’s gone and put herself in an irreversible, self-induced coma simply because Max told her “I never loved you”. He was lying, of course, for reasons which become moderately less unclear later on, but just to make his punishment that bit more sanity-bending, they’ve left the comatose Olympia on the station with him to ensure in his quiet moments of contemplation he won’t forget just what a naughty boy he’s been.

Max has no intention of forgetting what he’s done. In fact he vows to reverse the natural order of creation and find a cure for death by bringing Olympia back to life. Errr… it does just occur to me here as I type, and I might possibly be being slightly pedantic, but Olympia is in a coma, not dead, so it’s not actually quite as complicated as he’s making it for himself, but then Max does like his grand, self-important pronouncements. Well, you do tend to, don’t you, when you’re the lead in a film?

Which brings us neatly back to Ray Spass. He doesn’t know he has an inoperable brain tumour yet. He just thinks he’s suffering from acute writer’s block and desperately needs a follow-up to his last smash hit before the studio drops him for that next hot young writer. So he decides a house move – always one of the least stressful things you can do to yourself when you’re in the midst of a drug-assisted nervous breakdown – to a Hollywood mansion with a supernatural history might do the job…

“So what’s it about? Your new movie?”
“It’s for a big studio. I can’t say a thing about the plot… but imagine a haunted house story. The ultimate haunted house story. In space.”
“Aw-kay. Very exciting. Now I understand why you’d to live in this place…”
“See, it’s all making sense.

It really isn’t. But it will before Grant has finished as, much to Ray’s surprise, Max Nomax appears in his living room one night, apparently having travelled from his dimension to ours by means as yet unknown; in fact, as of yet unwritten since he’s demanding that Ray finishes his story. Not that Max seems entirely clueless as to what is going on. In fact, I’m not entirely sure he needs Ray at all, other than as a comedic foil for his leading man routine.

That the FBI who soon come-a-calling seem to know of the existence of Max Nomax is another part of the puzzle and hints that this Möbius Strip entanglement of writer and fictional character – of Ray and Max, of dimensions overlapping and interpenetrating – might not be so implausible as it first seems. But then Ray does have an inoperable brain tumour in his head… Max, meanwhile, claims it’s a data bullet with his own history he’s fired through dimensions direct into Ray’s head to help him complete his story…

Also… we really mustn’t forget this is a haunted house story after all…


Buy Annihilator h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mox Nox (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Joan Cornella.

Looking for happiness is all the wrong places, these six-panel, single-page, full colour comic strips make CYANIDE & HAPPINESS look like good, clean fun.

Innocence is such an anathema to Joan Cornella that I can only compare her to Ivan Brunetti whose HO! we keep bagged at all times.

Clothed in the brightest, most child-friendly colours, truly this is transgressive, crossing all boundaries of common decency and good taste, and if there aren’t multiple mutilations on any given page it’s only because something even more awful is happening.

There’s a man with a Colgate, rictus grin, handing out leaflets on a lovely, sunny day. He gives one to a young man with red hair and a broad smile. “Jesus Loves You” says the flier. The third panel focussed on the pamphleteer’s shirt breast pocket is the punchline (clipped to the pocket is his name badge, “Jesus”), the next three acting as its elliptical dots.

A lot of the strips involve this sort of lingering worry, like the one with the dog fucking a chicken from behind. It’s not really a dog, it’s a man in a dog suit. He takes off his dog head with a chirpy smile. The chicken does not. The man stops smiling. We close in on the chicken’s fixed, blank eyes stare unblinkingly into his…

There’s a cautionary tale about answering your mobile phone while driving, and indeed surfing. Don’t do that.

My favourite involving an engagement ring and an erection isn’t reprinted in the book, but there are plenty of other body parts – a lot of them where they shouldn’t be. Some strips present the wonkiest of solutions to problematic situations and most make those situations a great deal worse. Extreme Problem Solving, you could call it.

Many of them involve skewed priorities and play on what is considered customary behaviour, upending it, and the unacceptable is accepted with all those gleeful grins.

The book is quarter bound but perversely – and so appropriately – the spine and its adjacent half inch is that of a softcover book, to which two boards have been attached.

That’s not the actual cover by the way. I think there may have been a wise change of heart pre-publication!


Buy Mox Nox 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.

Space Dumplins (£10-99, Scholastic) by Craig Thompson

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 3 (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Little Robot (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke

Snowden (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Ted Rall

Sunny Side Up (£9-99, Scholastic) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Walking Dead vol 24: Life And Death (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Sunstone vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stejpan Sejic

IXth Generation vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Matt Hawkins & Stjepan Sejic

Wayward vol 2: Ties That Bind (£12-99, Image) by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings

C.O.W.L. vol 2: The Greater Good s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis

Amazing Spider-Man vol 4: Graveyard Shift s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Humberto Ramos

Inhumans s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

One Piece vol 75 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Tokyo Ghoul vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 4 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai



ITEM! Interview with Seth, soon to appear at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We made Seth’s GEORGE SPROTT a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Pop him into our search engine! His work’s immediately recognisable!

ITEM! We’re constantly asked for cyberpunk graphic novels so here’s one on Kickstarter that looks lush: METAL MADE FLESH: BLOOD AND OIL.



ITEM! Interview with Jillian Tamaki, co-creator of THIS ONE SUMMER (another Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and SKIM on her radically different and screamingly funny SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY.



ITEM! I leave you with a reminder of Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party on Saturday 3rd October with an all-evening bar brawl (there will be a bar; I doubt we will brawl) preceded by a signing with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia and ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry.



Here’s Fluffy having toilet issues. Awww….

This is going to be our last public party in a very long time so I hope that you’ll come. It’s open to all and we’re not above bribing you with free booze! Please click on the link above.

Thank yooooooooo!


 – Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by…

Do you even read these jokes at the bottom?!?! x

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week three

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

ANNOUNCING: PAGE 45 21st BIRTHDAY PARTY: Evening Booze Bash on Saturday 3rd October plus Afternoon Signing & Sketching with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia & ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry! Please come & celebrate with us! Free drinks, prize draws, sentimental speeches & guaranteed buffoonery!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 (£2-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

“I always wanted to be self-destructive. But I never really had a life to destroy.
“So thank you, other me. Thank you so much.”

I’m chuckling to myself, but I will not explain.

It sounds pretty ominous, right?

From the mischief merchants irresponsible for THE WICKED + THE DIVINE comes more music magic or in this case music as magic as I explained in PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB. Music has the power to alter your brain chemistry – to kick-start your memory and control your mood – and so change reality as you perceive it. I recommend you start either here or there (both in full colour) but PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA was their first book which I’ve often described as HELLBLAZER at Ladyfest because I’m incredibly shallow.

Speaking of superficial: music videos, eh? In the 80s I was obsessed.

Paul Morley denounced Duran Duran as the worst culprits, sneering at their videos’ style and self-indulgence while lamenting all the money they cost while so many working-class people suffered under the austerity of Thatcher’s Britain. What the highly literate, very clever and culturally well versed but fractious, judgemental and supercilious critic omitted from consideration in his verdict is that so many including the working class enjoy style, dream of creating such para-personalities and crave escapism especially when starved of the basics. Even Oliver Twist wanted “more”.

I can assure you that Kieron Gillen has incorporated every single aspect of those last two paragraphs into this comic with comedy, including just how opinionated, competitive and combative critics can be. Ooh, and territorial. Territory is a big thing here. Have you never wanted to hate a band just because someone you despise adores it or vice-versa? We should all rise above that, shouldn’t we? Yup: Gillen has gone there too. This is attitude on a stick.

As for McKelvie, how perfect to homage Patrick Nagel’s Duran Duran ‘Rio’ album cover (Morley’s bête noire was Duran’s ‘Rio’ video) whilst creating a composition entirely new with exquisite finger arrangement and done Patrick proud. Even the intervention of diagonal red lines is apposite for Nagel incorporated those too. Here, however, they’re more resonant of futuristic, prison-cell, razor-red laser beams, trapping the protagonist helplessly where she may well be left to rot.

The first issue takes place in front of the TV screen in South London during 1980s; in a sparse function / club room for the kick-off of a coven in Brighton, 2001; in an equally unadorned office in London, 2009; and somewhere else entirely.

Don’t expect the same pyrotechnics you may be used to in THE WICKED + THE DIVINE but McKelvie delivers on the hair and the fashion front and his expressions are as priceless as ever. I love Kohl’s slightly bulging belly after the passage of time but for once I’m not going to give you plot points – I’ve implied quite enough already. For clues I honestly recommend you listen to David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and ‘Time’. Oh, most especially ‘Time’, regardless of whether you want this comic or not.

From the glossary (you get a glossary):

Take On Me: A-ha song with a pretty memorable video based on a girl in the real world falling into a comicbook. Someone should homage it in a comicbook. That’d be really clever and definitely not twee as fuck.”

Now what do you suppose happens here, hmm?

Oh, it’s cleverer than that. Because in this comic it’s the video someone’s sucked into via the television that played them all over and over again. And – being an ‘80s kid who used to tape hours and hours of pop and alternative MTV shows then edited them down into, ooh, two dozen 3-hour videotapes? – I know exactly how that feels.

The problem with music videos is this: they can enhance, illuminate or elevate what you already loved about the music itself (I love Anton Corbijn as a director for David Sylvian and Depeche Mode) but overwhelmingly they can ruin your own vision of what the music and lyrics mean to you by being so specific and potentially contradictory in their own visual and narrative message. Is that really worth the risk?

I think not.

Which is almost, I think, where we came in. With a certain degree of departure.


Buy Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams (£12-99, Toon Graphics) by Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Gerhard, Charles Vess, Craig Thompson, Jim Rugg, Box Brown, Carla Speed NcNeil, Mark Buckingham, various.

“The only thing better than dreams…
“Is making them come true.”

Awesome, in its truest sense, this will make you grin your head off.

Françoise Mouly has carefully selected thirty-one of the one hundred and eighteen tributes by some of comics’ most creative minds in the gigantic, 16” by 21” LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM H/C for a much more affordable (and portable!) edition.

Mouly and husband Art Spiegelman also provide forewords putting Winsor McCay’s original 16” by 21” weekly comic strips for the New York Herald from 1905-1914 into context creatively, historically, practically in their printing, and personally when it comes to Art and Françoise’s family and careers. Art eloquently identifies so many of the innovative elements which make a prime Winsor wonder so spectacular – so many storytelling inventions only the very best can pull off properly – and there are four full pages to drop your jaw before moving on to see what the modern masters have made from them.

For those unfamiliar with the originals (recent reproductions are very expensive whereas I lucked into my 400-page Taschen h/c at a ludicrous £14-99), young Nemo is a lad in a long white nightgown or red-striped white jim-jams who travels to Slumberland where he experiences the giddiest, most eye-popping dreams imaginable before waking in the bottom, right-hand panel in one panic or another, only to be reprimanded by an often off-stage parent for causing a ruckus, getting up late or eating the wrong thing before bedtime! There are forty such variations on this theme reproduced on the inside front cover and endpaper and, taken together, one can’t help but giggle and the consistent lack of compassion or consolation poor Little Nemo receives after such imaginary trauma!

The architecture in the page and of the page is spectacular. As I say, Art will give you a brief guided tour.

To pay proper tribute to McCay you need to incorporate at least some of the various structural elements that made up his comics and Yuko Shimizu’s panel-free piece still contains multiple Nemos swimming through or buoyed back up by the water in a satisfying arrangement echoing McCay’s own sinuous choreography which leads the eye both to the central bed-ridden figure at the bottom and away from it, up to the right, in a way that emulates the physical effect of a body of water on any body!!

Cliff Chiang also nails this as – in three distinct, middle-tier panels which join seamlessly together through dint of them being a single landscape shot from above – his characters snake through a house, up its stairs and then round the L-shaped landing before ascending towards the attic. It’s so cleverly constructed that I laughed out loud. But wait – it gets better and meta! Along the way they stop to peer through a bedroom door from which hangs a sign saying “Robert”.

“Huh! That kid looks just like you, Neo!”
“He’s sleeping so peacefully.”
“Someone’s in the attic.”

Indeed they are, and they’ve fallen asleep at the drawing board. Robert is, of course, the name of Winsor McCay’s son and model for Nemo. Guess who wakes up this time?

There’s a lovely lilt to the script from FINDER’s Carla Speed McNeil which sounds just like Nemo, and she’s paced the action perfectly, each of her four tiers dedicated to a different ‘floor’ as a giant cat picks Nero up by the scruff of his neck, hoisting him from the safety of his crib upstairs and depositing him in a much rowdier one outside. Animals played a significant role in LITTLE NEMO and CEREBUS’ Gerhard on the back cover won’t let you down, through in this instance the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM H/C is by far the better option because there’s so much going on. As in Carla’s contribution the animals would often be larger than life, so large in fact that it’s scary. One of Winsor’s pages reproduced here there’s an elaborately adorned the elephant which is squeezed between such tight but tall panels that it threatens to burst through and trample the reader to death.

Zander Canon nails this sense of scale, as does James Harvey with his monumental architecture – again in both senses. Harvey has created a vast, arched, stained glass window / advent calendar, its panels numbered as McCay often did to guide you round their intricate arrangement and satisfyingly circuitous path.

MOUSE GUARD’s David Petersen’s comparative simplicity of constructions works wonders for him. Unsurprisingly he brings the requisite animals with him, they are indeed larger than life, one does threaten a trampling, plus there’s the pageantry to boot. J.G. Jones gets the rough-and-tumble just right, leaping through the panel borders, while Brandon Graham fans will love what Andrea Tsurumi has in store both visually and in terms of the wordplay as Nemo’s convinced to go bra shopping! Bra shopping!

“Look! Zebra print! Leopard print! Newspaper print!”

Too funny. The punchline is exquisitely cute.

Arch-satirist Marc Hempel confronts poor Little Nemo with even more adult concerns as an off-panel papa tells a 2015 Nemo that he’s been dreaming for one hundred years and needs to wake up and grow up.

“No more ostentatious, art nouveau splendour for you! Time to get a job! Deal with it! Your new life of complacency and vapidity awaits!”

“Vapidity! Oh! I’m scared, Papa! Maybe I’m dreaming! I wish Flip was here! He’s know what to do! Huh! Oh!”

Love the way Hempel maintains the cadence of Nemo’s speech patterns even as his awakening gets ruder and ruder in the bubble-bursting sense:

“Every horrifically burdensome moment of adulthood is rife with the potential for crushing failure! You’ll hate it, but then you’ll get used to it!”

Bishakh Kumar Som breaks with tradition in a different way by making his dreamer an adult. Long since graduated in architecture, she is left to wend her way through her own overwrought thesis, worried that she might have to take exams again. Familiar, much? The thesis is, of course, a design for a building and Bishakh has drawn this as a single, three-dimensional floor plan, so where this is completely in keeping is a) in its use of architecture, b) the winding road and c) the ‘map’ provided for following the protagonist’s route – in this case the woman’s speech balloons are all joined to each other by a clear, unbroken thread.

Finally, Jim Rugg’s send-off is a scream. and could not be more apposite, messing mischievously with LITTLE NEMO’s one golden rule that the diminutive dreamer will end up safely in or tumbled out of his bed. All I’ll say is watch out for that bed sheet and then the pillow!


Buy Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams and read the Page 45 review here

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl new ed. (£13-99, North Atlantic Books) by Phoebe Gloeckner –

“Who’s Trish? She’s one of your grown-up friends, I guess.”
“On come on… I have to act normal with her… she’s just a friend… Christ, I’m glad she didn’t see you!”
“What d’ya think? She’d wonder what the hell I’m doing with a teenager.”
“You hate me! You’re just embarrassed by me!!”
“You’re just a kid, and you don’t understand. We gotta lay low! I got some Asti Spumante for special occasions. Oh… and the burritos!”

I’ve read bad ‘slice-of-life’ stories that seem forced, projecting the artist’s best or worst side depending on the image they want to create. This book, a mixture of prose diary entries, accompanying illustrations and multiple page comic sections, isn’t that way – from what I can tell, in as much as one person can judge the truthfulness of another’s art, this book is unbelievably honest, and as such it really gets inside your head. To what degree it is actually autobiographical is apparently not important to Gloeckner, nor should it be to the reader, as she makes clear in her foreword. Undoubtedly though, one of the things that makes it so effective and affecting is the art. There’s no doubt that Gloeckner is an extremely technically proficient illustrator.

This skill, particularly in the comic sections, makes them rather menacing and horrifically life-like. I’m in awe of artists who can draw pictures which actually tell you what is going on in the subject’s mind – Gloeckner does this on every page, explaining and revealing, drawing you into these situations, these nightmare places, face to face with these terrible fucking people.

But each event in turn seems to add up to an understanding, or at least some sort of progress. It reminds me a little of Penny Arcade’s stuff, (the spoken word/performance artist, not the webcomic) except that Gloeckner seems to have come out the other side intact and able to get on and tell her, and Minnie’s stories. Part of me finds it insane that anyone would be this honest and this public, but mostly I’m just in awe of the strength, the force of will and the emotional maturity it must have taken to live this life and make an quasi-autobiographical comic book out of it.

Sadly, but perhaps naturally, the reaction to a book like this – and to the current film – is often outrage or scorn. Rather than deal with the reality, we’d like to imagine the whole thing was artistic license, the ravings of a loony, a publicity stunt to sell more whatever. Or perhaps we’re hostile – we ask, why waste your talent drawing such nasty stuff? Gross, thanks a lot, what makes you think we needed to see that? (Or as a friend said to me of the book Prozac Nation; “So she has depression. What makes her think her life is worthy of a book?”)

Despite what I’ve said above, please don’t imagine that this is a self-pitying work, full of whiney angst. Somehow, incredibly, Gloeckner has peppered this story with wry humour, laughing affectionately at the naivety of her young protagonists. It’s a testament to her own skills that she manages to mix humour and subtlety into such a bold and shocking story. I definitely recommend this book. You may want to read it in small bits, you may only want to read it once and then put it away, but once you have read it, it will certainly stay with you for a long while.


Buy The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and read the Page 45 review here

Beauty #1 (£2-75, Image) by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun…

“Two years ago, a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm.
“This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before.
“This was a disease that people actually wanted.
“Victims of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus.
“Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed.
“It became known as The Beauty.
“The Beauty quickly became a fad.
“Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.
“The only downside appeared to be a slight constant fever, but that didn’t seem to slow people down.
“Now, over half the country’s population has The Beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it.”

Which is where our story begins, shortly followed by the apparent spontaneous combustion from the inside out of someone rather pretty on the subway. Perhaps giving an indication to us, the readers, that there might just be at least one more teensy-weensy downside to The Beauty than everyone thinks! Consequently, the cops are dispatched to investigate, including the dashing and debonair, virus-free Detective Foster. Sure he has a few grey hairs and some laughter lines, but he’s ruggedly handsome, and completely devoted to his equally naturally lovely wife.

His professional partner, meanwhile, Kara Vaughn, has been virally enhanced to statuesque, goddess-level looks, but she’s actually one of the few people who managed to contract the virus unwittingly, and would rather she hadn’t. Particularly once the forensics expert has given them the run down on what she thinks killed their subject, before agents from the Centre for Disease Control swoop in and quarantine the scene. It’s enough for Foster to draw his own conclusions…

“It was The Beauty. The Beauty killed her, and they know it.”


Still, the why and the how, that remains unexplained, and so our cops do what they do best, and start running down leads on anti-Beauty terror cells. The type of people who might have the inclination to want to induce some temperature-based terror in the more glamorous half of the population. One such lead results in a shoot out with a suspect, requiring some prompt and messy, but ultimately unsuccessful, medical assistance from Detective Foster. After another yet late night on the job, and another missed dinner date with his doting wife, he’s more than happy to hit the sack, but his wife wants to share a tender moment or three before they fall asleep. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up in the morning, feeling twenty years younger. He looks it too. Oh dear. I guess The Beauty might suddenly not just be sexually transmitted… Maybe…

Intriguing opener from Messrs. Hurley and Haun. I like the premise, I’m intrigued to see where they are going to go with it. Our leads are well written, I can certainly see some potential for sidebar drama with this set-up issue too. Is Detective Foster’s wife really going to believe the excuse for his, and presumably by extension her own, unexpected midnight makeover? Especially with that hot partner who’s prone to calling him up at all hours of the day and night. I think he might well have to earn his detective corn just to save his marriage, never mind half the population! Still, at least he’s got a real hot incentive now, what with being a ticking time(sex)bomb himself as well! Great art too from Jeremy Haun, including a fabulous cover. I can see strong hints of Michael LAZARUS Lark in there, though obviously with softer colours here.


Buy Beauty #1 and read the Page 45 review here

War Stories vol 1 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd.

From the writer of PREACHER, BATTLEFIELDS (more war) and THE BOYS etc.

Four personal and powerful stories set in the thick of World War II, each with an edge of injustice to it.

They’re fiction, of course, but delivered with an authority derived from historical fact. Plus it’s always useful to be reminded that in any war vast numbers of unfeasibly brave men are commanded to perform the impossible, and often succeed.

It’s also useful to be reminded that you enemy combatants are human beings too – individuals with lives, families and friends of their own; aspirations for after the war and many a moral quandary during it.

It’s ‘Nightingale’ which I normally make a song and dance about, with V FOR VENDETTA’s David Lloyd’s raw, haunting art providing chilling company for a tale told by a dead man, which verges on the poetic.

It’s set initially in the Arctic where a supply convoy is being provided with limited protection by escort vessels including H.M.S. Nightingale. Planes and u-boats they could attempt to hold off, but German battleships like the Tripitz were another matter entirely. In those difficult waters harsh decisions were made; decisions which proved almost impossible to live with for those who did not make them.

The one I chose to read again for the review was the first, and Garth goes for a refreshingly unusual perspective: that of a German Tiger tank commander leading his four men in retreat from Russia via the Ukraine and Poland all the way back to the German forests in order to surrender to the Americans. Besieged by Russian armour divisions pressing ahead with their advance, they also have to avoid the German field police who will hang them for desertion if caught. To Johann, his comrades’ safety is paramount – they’ve been through hell together. He only wants to live long enough to ensure their survival. As far as Johann is concerned – for the acts he has inflicted on others – he has forfeited the right to live.

There’s some fine storytelling involved here, and you know that expression being thrown around a lot, “These Ain’t Your Dad’s Comics”…? Well, these certainly aren’t your Dad’s War Comics.

For those, please see CHARLEY’S WAR, all of which is now in print.


Buy War Stories vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & Joe Quesada, Mark Texeira, various.

Christopher Priest is a very funny man.

“With an election a little more than a year away, it was good politics to do something nice for the African-American community. And, had I been in charge of the guest list and not the White House, I might have actually invited some of them. Outside of the king and his entourage, there wasn’t another black person at the ball who wasn’t carrying a tray.”

Fifteen years ago there weren’t too many superhero series that sent you scuttling for the nearest dictionary. But just as Jenkins & Jae Lee’s INHUMANS graphic novel had been and remains a surprisingly thoughtful and visually stunning Gaiman-like outing for a group of Marvel characters previously displaying all the colour and charisma of a bridge-full of cardboard Star Trek standees left out in the rain and then dumped in a St. Annes communal waste tip, this 2001 BLACK PANTHER book comes in way beyond expectations as a sharply constructed (and visually stunning) action-romp/satire, merrily ripping the piss out of racial stereotyping, tokenism, Marvel icons, the FBI and inveterate ramblers – as in people who go off at a tangent, not those who go out in cagoules.

Like the con-man/crime series THIEF OF THIEVES, it’s told to grin-cracking effect in nothing remotely resembling chronological order with a staccato series of ludicrous subheadings, some applying to one panel only, as government agent Everett K. Ross lamely attempts to justify his catastrophic series of diplomatic cock-ups to his girlfriend / boss, all of which begin when he’s assigned to watch over the comings and goings on U.S. soil of T’Challa, king of the high-tech African nation Wakanda.

Not such an easy task given the client’s devious nature and his propensity for slipping into coal-coloured rubber then jumping out of the nearest window.

Hold on, I’ve just said ‘rubber’. As in spandex, right? Mmmmm. No. No, no, no. Well, yes.

T’Challa is the star of the book only in that he has his name on the title and acts as catalyst for all the misfortunes of fall-guy Everett K. Ross (Chandler from Friends provides the bumbling victim ingredient, James Fox in Spin City gives you a fair example of his status and looks). T’Challa does occasionally perform acts of extraordinary prowess and aggression (but then so would you if you’d been lured from your kingdom in the middle of some severe social upheaval to find the murderer of your personally funded U.S. children’s charity poster-girl), but the star is most definitely Everett who struggles to keep up, pick up the pieces and avert several international ‘incidents’.

Here’s one of Ross and Nikki’s attempts to get the story clear. She summarises thus:

“Giant rats. Teenage Amazons. The client tossing drug dealers.”
“And Satan. You left out Satan. That’s important.”
“And then you lost your pants.”
“Wrong. First we went out for Chinese take-out. Then I lost my pants.”

Satan is supplied in the form of Marvel’s Mephisto long before Kieron Gillen employed him to comedic effect in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (highly recommended).

Interspersed between this nonsense are some enlightening thoughts on African politics, international subterfuge and social mores.

Mark Texeira had long established himself as a top-tier Marvel action artist with his neo-classical figure work and heavy modelling but, as directed by Priest, he here displays a hitherto undisclosed brilliance at dead-pan comedy with po-faced expressions and just the right number to beats between dialogue in the form of silent panels.

The longer the series progresses (this repackaging contains the first seventeen issues), the less Texeira there is, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Also recommended by the Reggie Hudlin & John Romita Jr, the later series: BLACK PANTHER: WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?


Buy Black Panther: Complete Christoper Priest Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester.

If you were given a second chance at life, would you be curious about who had attended your funeral? What would be worse: surprise absences, or worryingly unexpected guests?

Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, wasn’t the first of his brightly dressed friends to die, so he made contingency plans for when the inevitable happened to him. But now that he’s back he finds that those plans weren’t followed to the letter, and his old friends discover exactly whom he entrusted them to.

Brad wrote IDENTITY CRISIS, and if you’re one of the many who’ve enjoyed that then you’re more than likely to feel at home here since once more it deals with the importance of privacy and the comfort of friends. There’s plenty of mischief on hand when the rest of the DC crew put in cameos and, now that I think about it, the patter and a lot of the layouts combined with more animated-cartoon art style are as much reminiscent of Bendis’ POWERS as anything else.


Oracle is DC’s ultimate networker, the crippled daughter of Commissioner Gordon, holed up in a high-tech surveillance tower, from which she works closely with Dinah, the Black Canary. Ollie also works closely with Dinah, but in a different way. Here GA and Orcale are communicating via the Canary’s earring:

“What are you doing on Dinah’s line?”
“She left her earrings on my… uh… kitchen table.”
“Don’t lie, Oliver. That microphone was switched on all night. I heard everything. Everything. Trick arrows, my rear end.”
“You serious?”
“Jeez, Ollie, Clark was right — you have gotten gullible in your old age.”
“Listen, you gonna help me or not?”
“Just tell me what you need.”
“I’m looking for a positive I.D. on a guy in a photo.”
“Now you’re singing my song.  Just hold it up to the window — And don’t block it with your fingers. I’ll have one of my satellites scan it from space.”
“You can do that?”
“Oh, Ollie– Such a sucker.”


Buy Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy And The B.P.R.D. (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Alex Maleev…

“That burned body in Buenos Aires is Robert Amsel. Still no word on the man who was seen with him.”
“I suppose that’s it, then.”
“Actually there’s something else, Professor. A witness took a photo at the scene. A rather… strange photo.”

Ha, that’s a great punchline when you see what or rather who – well, probably ‘what’ is more accurate actually – is waving cheerily directly at the camera. Fans of Hellboy, the BPRD and in particular the previous historical arcs detailing various exploits of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm and the young Hellboy, 1946 (which is out of print in single volume form currently),  1947 and 1948 will I’m sure enjoy the joke.

This time around, Hellboy has grown up into a strapping teenager and his adoptive father, the Professor, is finally ready to let him out into the field on his first mission, as he realises he can’t protect him forever. What follows is standard HELLBOY / BPRD fare, rather tame a bit by-the-numbers compared to the extended current BPRD: HELL ON EARTH arc. It very much feels like classic early Hellboy with supernatural monsters and megalomaniacal Nazis trashing a remote Brazilian village complete with spooky castle. So nothing new is what I’m saying, but it is slickly done.


Alex Maleev takes an excellent turn with the pencils, his first for a Mignola creation if I’m not mistaken, coloured in inimitable house style for this title as ever by Dave Stewart. Well, at least this keeps our appetites whetted whilst we wait for the next arc of HELLBOY IN HELL to start.


Buy Hellboy And The B.P.R.D. 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.

Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

The Last Broadcast (£22-50, Archaia) by Andre Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark

The Last Ones h/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by David Munoz & Manuel Garcia

If You Steal (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Adventure Time vol 6 (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North & various

Annihilator h/c (£18-99, Legendary) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving

Bravest Warriors vol 5 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jason Johnson, Breehn Burns & Mike Holmes

Empowered vol 9 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Adam Warren

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 5: Refine h/c (£19-99, Archaia) by Thomas Siddell

Judge Dredd Casefiles 25 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Robbie Morrison, Marc Wigmore, Paul Neal & Carlos Ezquerra, Henry Flint, Greg Staples, various

Mox Nox (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Joan Cornella

Nanjing The Burning City (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ethan Young

Princess Ugg vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Constantine vol 4: The Apocalypse Road s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Jeremy Haun

Fairest vol 5: The Clamor For Glamour (£10-99, DC) by Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham & Russell Braun, Meghan Hetrick, Andrew Pepoy

Gotham By Midnight vol 1: We Do Not Sleep s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Ben Templesmith

Injustice Year Two vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor, Marguerite Bennett & various

Avengers World vol 4: Before Time Runs Out s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries, Frank Barbiere & Bengal, Marco Checchetto

Captain Marvel vol 3: Alis Volat Propriis s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 1: Squirrel Power s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Attack On Titan vol 16 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima & Rui Watanabe

Inuyashiki vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

The World’s Greatest First Love vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Maki Minami


ITEM! Have you booked Saturday 3rd October 2015 in your diary? Page 45 21st Birthday Party All-Evening Booze Bash and Afternoon Signing & Sketching with ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry & FLUFFY’s Simone Lia! FREE DRINKS FOR ALL!

ADAMTINE is one of the creepiest graphic novel’s I’ve ever read in my life, while FLUFFY almost certainly is the most beautiful. Details including times,  links to their other books, their websites and the evening’s venue for alcohol-sodden celebration are on the blog I’ve linked to above.

Please spread the word and come if you can!

ITEM! From the Creative Review: the sorry state of affairs of creative education. As in, the teaching of art, design etc. All very familiar from what I’ve been hearing from educators in other university disciplines and it’s pretty depressing.

ITEM! New contemporary manga exhibition at the British Museum.

 – Stephen

Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party! Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing plus evening Booze Bash!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

There will be prizes! There will be sketches!
I will be speechless! You will be there!


“OMG! What Will Be Happening?!”

Laughter! There will be lots and lots of laughter.

Also: hugs & kisses (optional) and a great deal of alcohol (mandatory).

Yes, Page 45 will be celebrating its 21st Birthday on Saturday October 3rd 2015 with a comicbook treasure trail beginning in the afternoon with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia and ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry signing & sketching for free at the shop, then a right-old knees up at the Canalhouse in Nottingham which is open to all!

Whether you’re past, present or future customers – in store or mail order – Jonathan, Dee, Jodie and me would be delirious if you could join us!

There will even be free drinks if you begin at the beginning.

This is the beginning:

Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing & sketching at Page 45 for FREE!

The time: 4pm to 5-30pm
The date: Saturday 3rd October 2015
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY

Stick around! We may open things up around 5pm with a public Q&A like we did with Scott McCloud. They are great friends and very funny ladies!

Although Hannah Berry’s ADAMTINE is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Brrr…

We Have:

FLUFFY by Simone Lia.
ADAMTINE by Hannah Berry

NELSON with pages by Simone Lia
ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD with pages by Hannah Berry
Pack Of 8 Fluffy Postcards by Simone Lia
Fluffy Visits Page 45 Postcard by Simone Lia


Free Prize And Drinks Tickets For Party!

Everyone attending the signing will receive:

1) Free impossible-to-forge drinks ticket which, when signed by Simone Lia and Hannah Berry, can be handed in at The Canalhouse bar for (you’ll never guess) a free drink!

2) Free raffle tickets for each comic or graphic novel by Hannah and Simone which you bring or buy on the day for the evening’s multiple prize draws!

Win pieces of Page 45 history dear to our hearts!

Complete 14-issue set of rare original EXIT issues by our website artist Nabiel Kanan!
Bryan Talbot GRANDVILLE Le Brock badger print bigger than you are!
Framed print signed to the shop by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Hope Larson!
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY standee with its original pockets constructed by Mark!
We have so many treasures upstairs including original art! Also:
More prints! Graphic novels! Items of Interest! A pen chewed by Stephen!

Raffle tickets can only be gathered at the afternoon’s signing; the prize draws will be held in the evening!

Page 45 Party at the Canalhouse in Nottingham from 7pm

The time: 7pm until we collapse
The date: Saturday 3rd October 2015
The place: Canalhouse, 48-52 Canal Street, Nottingham, NG1 7EH
Tel: 0115 9555060 Scroll down for map

Access For All: We’re upstairs in the function room (far exterior door) but there is access via a lift. Please phone the bar on 0115 9555060 when you reach the courtyard and they will open the door and escort you up! We think of these things. Hurrah!

Hannah, Simone, I.N.J. Culbard and Team Page 45 will be with you between 7-30pm & 8-00pm to greet you with glee.

Jonathan will be juggling!*
Simone and Stephen will be dancing the flamenco!**
Hannah will be judging for posture! ***

There will be speeches around 8pm!
There will be all those prize draws a little later!
And you’ll have those free drinks tickets from the signing, won’t you? You will!

“Do we have to come to the signing first?!”

Of course you don’t, though we hope that you will! Simone and Hannah are two of our all-time favourite comicbook creators and if they’re not already two yours, they will be after you’ve read their gorgeous graphic novels!

ITEM! Simone Lia’s website: prints, shop, blog, weekly comic strips for the Guardian / Observer & news about FLUFFY BOOK TWO!


ITEM! Hannah Berry’s website: shop, blog, preview of next graphic novel LIVESTOCK and free preview of ADAMTINE. Though if you’re planning to take the last train home on Saturday 3rd, I’d probably avoid that. Brrrrrr….

Follow Hannah Berry @streakofpith
Follow Simone Lia @simoneliadraws
Follow Fluffy himself @FluffyPulcino  (I’m not actually kidding you)
Follow Page 45 @PageFortyFive (I’m afraid that it’s Stephen; sorry etc.)

* Hopefully untrue
** Decidely untrue
*** Almost certainly true

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week two

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Featuring signed copies of SMALL TALES & FAIRY FAILS by Paul Duffield! BUNNY VS MONKEY II by Jamie Smart! New book by Leslie Stein! WE STAND ON GUARD #2 by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce and more!

PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson is out today! We ship worldwide! Details in the News below!

Hound vol 1: Protector h/c Sketched-in, Signed and Numbered Edition (£20-00, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Barry Devlin & Paul Bolger…

Yes, all our copies have been sketched in by Paul Bolger for free!

“The time of peace will soon see its end.
“I need a strong right hand.
“An unbreakable force none can withstand.
“I have heard his cries in the night. Like a wolf. Howling.
“He does not know it yet… but he is about to become my Dark Blade.”

Based on the stories of Cú Chulainn, a mythical warrior of ancient Erin (Ireland), this Kickstarter project has produced a graphic novel of outstanding artistic merit and wonderful production values. It’s also a gripping action story that would very much appeal to fans of SLAINE and indeed the much lamented and out of print NORTHLANDERS.

Fortunately for us, the creators had a few left over after fulfilling their Kickstarter pledges and, via Dublin’s Big Bang Comics, have kindly offered some of them to us. All our copies are sketched in by co-writer and artist Paul Bolger so will be even more exquisite items!

For those not familiar with the base mythology, all you really need to know is that a boy, Setanta, of slightly disputable parentage but regarded by King Connor as his orphaned nephew, is chosen by the Morrigan, a witch who follows the old ways of the Great Mother Danú, to be her weapon in the times of war to come.

Everyone knows the boy is… different, and as he develops into a man, his reputation as a lone wolf and trouble-causer becomes well known locally. An incident where he slays the huge hound of Cullen the swordsmith in self-defence, and then offers to take its place protecting the swordsmith’s family, only serves to give him his new name, Cú Cullen, literally the hound of Cullen. From there his ability to get himself into trouble, nearly as adeptly as extricate himself from it, only ensures that his legend continues to grow.

After being exiled from the Kingdom to the Isle of Skye for a time for an… unfortunate misunderstanding involving the King’s bride to be, he begins to realise that escaping the confines of Erin, and therefore the clutches of Morrigan who is tied to Erin, might be for the best and so heads across the Giant’s Causeway to Alba (Scotland) seeking further tutelage in the art of combat from the warrior woman named Skye who rules that isle. If he survives the journey getting there, that is.

This is the first of three planned volumes chronicling the adventures of Setanta / Cú Cullen and I think they are going to prove enormously popular. There’s a surprising sense of fun that springs from this character that is quite literally a force of nature, made more than man by the powers of the witch Morrigan, to go along with much head-splitting action. A lot of people who read SLAINE in 2000AD, probably don’t realise he is basically Cú Chulainn rewritten by Pat Mills, even down to his warp spasms, which are taken from Cú Chulainn’s ability to ‘ríastrad (which was directly translated as ‘warp spasm’ by the Irish poet and translator Thomas Kinsella, so Pat Mills even appropriated that term!) where he is able to channel the power of the earth due to his devotion to the Great Mother Danú. We haven’t got to warp spasms etc. yet in this retelling, but I don’t doubt it’s coming in a subsequent volume.

This is definitely a very measured, romantic almost, re-telling of the material, which I think is highly appropriate. Yes, there are moments of utter brutality, and there will be many more in the next two volumes, but ultimately this is the saga of one man and his evolution from a mere boy into a potent symbol of a culture. It’s appropriate therefore that the art is as delicately composed as the story-telling, in black and white with the odd dash of red, usually due to the spilling of blood or supernatural, glowing eyes. Sometimes there are heavily full or near-full silhouetted sections with black backgrounds where the characters are rendered in white, which neatly counterpoint the more typical illustrations of black on white.

The illustration style is quite delicate. Paul Bolger’s faces and anatomy do remind me of Jeff Smith at times (humans à la RASL and TUKI, rather than the family BONE obviously!), yet there’s also the odd dash of Paul Pope’s extravagance and flourishes in the capes and backgrounds as well. It’s a lovely clean style and palette which is in complete contrast to, say, Clint Langley’s painted SLAINE, which is great and perfect for gorefest action, but this sympathetic art style really adds to the story-telling element.

A triumph. I really hope this does well for Paul and co-writer Barry. An incredibly accomplished debut graphic novel. I would not be at all surprised if the rights to this and the next two volumes get picked up by a publisher. I hope so because material as good as this deserves the widest possible audience.


Buy Hound vol 1: Protector h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Small Tales & Fairy Fails signed copies (£9-99, self-published) by Paul Duffield with Morag Lewis.

“Oh Princess, I will show you the world! Full of wonder and splendour!”
“Do stairs mean anything to you?!”

Haha! Of course they don’t!

He’s a Knight in Shining Armour rappelling down the tower with his Rapunzel in hand. That’s how he climbed in; that’s how they’ll get out: through the sky-high window. It’s a Tradition!

I don’t think he looked for a door. It probably wasn’t locked. His “Princess” didn’t even want rescuing, she was happily absorbed playing —

“Sorcery!! Princess! Stand back! That magical chord binds your soul to that evil machinery!”

And some chords do need to be cut, I understand that. I’m umbilically attached most evenings too, so he probably has a point about his Princess being possessed but, boy, did the next panel make me wince!

This is the most mischievous, middle of five stories originally published in THE PHOENIX WEEKLY STORY COMIC (so perfect for all ages, young ones and adults alike) and now bound into a beautifully crafted, signed and self-published artefact with a spot-varnished cover whose design has me mesmerised.

‘The Magic Tower’ plays artfully with ones expectations of a chivalrous tale, undercutting the ancient with the modern including a knowing, to-camera, Colgate toothpaste ting! Its punchline is perfect, as is that of ‘Battle Quest’ which once more appears to be Medieval in nature, a raging battle between The Darkness and The Light as two raving warriors tempestuously clash swords, cleaving the very heavens with their ire.

I did grin my head off but in a completely different, more magical way during the reveal which warmed my sorry soul. Don’t expect the same jokes twice!

Don’t expect the same tone, actual genre, line style or even colouring twice, either. The visual versatility on display is astonishing, each time in strict service to the story being told. There’s a science fiction short about the first young girl to be born in space (I don’t think we’ve done that in real life, have we?) whose lines are clean-cut but not clinical and comes with a burst of special effects which imply infinite time and infinite space.

There also a there’s a haunted house riff called ‘Scaredy Cat’. I have stared at its introductory cover with its summer-sunset colours for ages. Its sky is a shepherd’s delight, but it’s the shadows – not cast but on the trees and house which cast them – that had me entranced: they absorb more light than seems possible without being black. Lovely glints on the broken-glass windows too.

I want to talk about one instance of the masterful sequential-art storytelling without giving a particular story away. The only opportunity I can come up with is here. It’s a page on which, as the reader is pulled back, the descent of the inset panels which perfectly play their part is buoyed aloft by the rooftops below and their horizon beyond which speaks of a potential future long thought lost. We can discuss that in person once you’ve bought this, if you like.

Lastly there is the triple-sized ‘Heart Tree’ which must have been serialised in three four-page instalments, but I can’t see the join. It’s the most moving and profound of the lot. Apart from a russet red for hair, gem, robes and tunic details (and an even richer red for one other element I will not disclose) the colours are much paler combination of washed greens and blue as the energy is leeched out of a kingdom when its kindly king succumbs to a nasty play for power in the guise of peace. He is presented by another realm’s ambassador with a coronet which, it is immediately revealed, will kill him if the king ever takes it off.

There are legends to be sure, but he has only the Machiavellian interloper’s word for it. Will it? Would you? Would you risk it?

But those aren’t even the most important questions. Seen through the inquisitive eyes of one of the court’s scullery boys who adores his king, who wants so desperately to see him live and defends his regent’s honour at every opportunity, the final page is a truth and revelation for all.

From the creator of THE FIRELIGHT ISLE whose inventive compositions will blow your mind and which you can read online here:


Buy Small Tales & Fairy Fails signed copies and read the Page 45 review here

Bunny Vs Monkey Book Two (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart.

“Stop being so stupid.”
“I don’t know how!”

He really doesn’t. None of them do!

“Pig, how would you… uh… what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to catch jelly on my head!” *SPLAT* “Did it!”
“Can I ask why?”
“I, um… Oh. I forgot.”
“Pig, how would you like a life of adventure, danger and excitement?”
“Will it hurt?”
“YES! But it will also be very funny.”

From the pages of BUNNY VS MONKEY BOOK ONE and the creator of FISH HEAD STEVE, the certifiable delinquents are back: Bunny, Monkey, Weenie, Skunky, Pig, Le Fox, Metal Steve and Action Beaver – the idiots to entertain you!

Ogle the pink Octo-Blivion! Learn about artist lie-sense! Then forget about it immediately thanks to Skunky’s mind-wiping Memory Ray.

“Last I remember, I was on the toilet.
“Hang on a minute. Monkey’s don’t use toilets.”

Normally at this point I’d go off on one, bellowing like Brian Blessed about how they all “Eeek!” “Ptoomph!” “Fwooosh!” “Shriek!” “Screech!” “Splat! “Bosh!” “Pschh!” “Crunch! And “P-tingg!” their way through these pugilism-packed pages, for this comic is louder than TV’s Tom & Jerry but infinitely more inventive.


Please don’t mistake the lack of a volume control for an absence of sophistication. Anarchy like this needs to be strictly controlled, especially when you’ve only two or three pages to play with. But not only is the choreography as tight as you like – often with multiple reactive expressions and gesticulations to make you giggle with glee – Smart also still manages to pack in spectacle after spectacle and even finds room for running gags within the same stories, my favourite being the “outside variables” (“Eeek! Variables!”) which will put paid to each individual’s carelessly laid plans and culminate in a “lemony waft”.

Then, just when you thought Smart couldn’t work that one further, the events are reprised quite unexpectedly in a ridiculously clever climax called ‘The Small Matter Of The End Of The World’ which involves brain-twisting time travel and the return of that mind-wiping Memory Ray as inventor Skunky from the future meets himself in the past over and again in order to avert disaster he caused in the first place.

“Have I invented the Memory Ray yet?”
“What, this?”
“ Yes! Give it to me! I must remove all knowledge of the Doomsday Device from your brain!”
“Oh, hang on. If I remove it from your brain, then I’ll forget it too.”
“Hello, have we met? Are you me from the future?”
“I suppose so. But I can’t remember why I came here.”
“Let me have a go in your time machine. I wonder how it works?”
“Me too. Let me know if you find out.”

All of which is impressive enough, but wait until you come to the final two episodes, the Christmas and New Year specials, which introduce a brand-new element to the series which could change everything and hint at a subplot which may – seriously – send a shiver down your spine.

Back to the beginning, however, and Skunky has invented the Wish Cannon which fires whatever you want: cakes, kittens, ham and sauerkraut… It even fires fire and I’m afraid Monkey’s got his mitts on it.

“I’ll swamp you that thing for this cake.”
“Ooh, I do like cake.”

For more Jamie Smart, please see the News section below! Thank yoooooooooo!


Buy Bunny Vs Monkey Book Two and read the Page 45 review here

Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein.

Serving behind the bar…

“Oh yeah? How long are you guys on tour for? Three sold-out shows at the Ballroom?! Wow! Tomorrow? You’ll put me on the list? Totally! I’ll be there!”

Back home, completely immersed in making comics, Leslie looks up at the clock.

“Oh shit.”

There’s a moment’s pause for self-reflection.

“I am what I am…”

Stein is an artist driven by the need to succeed and to hone her craft at every opportunity – every non-working hour – and over the course of a year and these very pages, you can watch her doing so, aged 32. I was enamoured from the very first page, but you can see the style and ideas coalesce with confidence. The lines are delicate and as soft as well conditioned hair, of which there is plenty on display: Stein’s faces are formed from hair, eyes and mouth only, the contours largely left well alone. The washes are light with lots of cream-coloured space between them and between the lineless, free-floating panels, except during the occasional frenzy of form, thought and colour. Oh, and three portraits of a turtle including a close-up of its beak and eye which are completely at odds with everything else on account of being virtually photorealistic!

The lettering’s rendered in multi-coloured pencils for emphasis and aesthetics. It works particularly neatly in terms of the mood of what is being said. During a piece when she’s told at a comicbook convention, “Hey Leslie! I really like the new style you’re doing!” she replies “Hey! Thanks so much, man!” and the lettering is as ebullient as she is. “Can I ask what inspired it?” “Despair.”

There are doubts in evidence but she usually finds within herself the courage to cope with them, recognising that “life is non-linear” and “you can’t depend on anyone else for your feelings of happiness and self-worth”. “Life is messy,” she writes, “But life is supposed to messy.” A bit like her home!

“Listen, man… lemme lay it out for you… It doesn’t really matter. I’m the only one here.”

Thanks, Leslie. I feel a lot better about my bedroom now.

On the other hand, this:

“I still look into people’s windows… I can’t help it. Mostly, I wonder, “Are they happy?” Is it possible?”

The biggest obstacle Stein has to race herself through is chronic insomnia, no doubt exacerbated by bar shifts which can play havoc with your body clock. It seems a minor miracle when she’s awake during the day and asleep at night, and she’s constantly dozing off when and where she shouldn’t.

“I have to fall asleep in my bed tonight…”

Hey, it’s an aspiration! Once more we are kindred spirits.

Overwhelmingly, though, this is fun, fun, fun and there’s a lovely regular originally from Ethiopia who props up the bar and likes to sing, “I am very happy”. One day he asks Leslie if he can borrow “one penny” for a lottery scratch ticket, promising her a 50/50 split if he wins. While scratching away while she washes up, her back turned, his head disappears into a green ball of frenzied squiggles before he knocks over his pint and re-emerges all radiant.

“$100!! $50 for you! $50 for me!”
“Aw! That was nice of you… You could have pocketed it all… I never would have known!”
“Les-lee…” he says, patting his heart sincerely. “I do not want that feeling!”

She hands him a replacement pint, and he breaks back into song.

There are childhood reminiscences of summer camp, her first guitar lesson, Christmases, painting on bedroom walls, the unlikeliest Halloween costumes, and a trauma aged 5 which will strike home with fans of Liz Prince’s TOMBOY. In the present day there’s a comics festival in France, setting up for gigs, bar shifts and booze, and a day during which she is set upon by a dog.

“I wouldn’t let you hump me so you bite me?! I’ve met your kind before and I’m not dealing with that shit!!”

Lastly, there’s a day of triumph when Stein arrives back in town, she’s met her deadlines, chucked in her bar job and has an entire week free to draw as much as she wants. “Solid gold!”

Which is obviously the exact moment she catches flu.

Sitting at her laptop, completely cocooned head to toe in a pink duvet with a bobble hat on top of it, she looks just like Philippa Rice in SOPPY.


Buy Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Everything Is Teeth (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner.

The family has caught a boat full of Bull Sharks and towed a seven-footer to shore, leaving it to thrash itself out and die.

“She is fat with young, and when she’s cut open they lie in dead rows. They look like puppies, soft and smooth and slippery. I get one to hold and watch as my uncle cuts out the mother’s mouth, then saws off her fins and rolls the trunk back into the river.”

Visually those of two of the best pages, the shark and her dozen pups nigh-on photorealistic, a tide of blood flooding out of the mother’s womb and belly, down the beach and right across the second, right-hand page under the grim panels above. Another cracking pair depict a seventeen-foot White Pointer  in a tank which is barely much bigger, “suspended in a liquid the colour of tobacco teeth”, its nose, back, fin and tail horribly hooked-through with cables, as if in a torture chamber.

Wyld and I share a childhood obsession with sharks. I had nightmares about them at least once a week and would regularly check the shadows of indoor swimming pools just in case. This extended to a morbid fascination with photos of their massive carcasses hauled upside down, their mawling jaws of death dropped open to reveal bloody-gummed rows of razor-sharp teeth. I’m not proud of that and both scenes here are suitably repugnant.

Where we differ is that Wyld would holiday in Australia where sharks did swim in the same waters as young Evie and her family. There are some fairly terrifying pages to come.

With the sole exception of the excerpts from ‘Jaws’, Sumner depicts the sharks in the same pencilled (or pencil-effect) photorealism throughout. Everything else even within the same panels is in a very basic cartoon style including the waters in which the sharks – real or imagined – glide through. Sometimes the contrast works to spine-shivering effect, even when following Evie home from school or gliding past her living-room window at night.

Certainly it wouldn’t have worked at all had the sharks been drawn with the same uneven and inconsistent, blunt, big-nosed, cartoon line. The only element I can rescue from that is the depiction of Wyld herself as having the same pitch-black eyes as the sharks. The rest is a mess.

For a start, I initially thought the writer’s mother was a man. Even after I’d identified her as the mother, I continued to misidentify her as a man each time I saw her.

Secondly, the lettering in places is as awkwardly and amateurishly laid out as a nine-year-old novice’s. “Oh, that sentence doesn’t quite fit in here; we’ll just add another few words in an extra bit of the box up above.” Not a separate box or a whole extra layer, but an ugly stump akin to castellation. I cannot over-emphasise how ugly this is.

Thirdly, there are way too few actual gutters; the panels often divided by nothing more than a line. I’m sure that can be made to work although I cannot think where I’ve ever seen it successfully done – these aren’t inset panels I’m talking about – and all you have to do is glance at the difference between those with and without gutters here to recognise immediately that those without are a massive mistake.

Fourthly – and this is the belter – there’s an early double-page spread at a party whose middle tier either is or has the illusion of being a single panel. A basic rule of the comics medium is that you read horizontally, only dropping down a tier once you’ve done so. Pop a widescreen middle-tier panel across the whole of a double-page spread as Katriona Chapman did so spectacularly in her self-published KATZINE ISSUE TWO (such a great comic!) and every reader knows that you read every panel above it on both pages before those underneath. Not here, nope. You’re expected to read the panels on the left-hand side below the panorama before those above it on the right.

I cannot believe that whoever edited this at Jonathan Cape / Random House, home to some of the greatest British graphic novels of modern times (ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, BUILDING STORIES, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and FLUFFY), didn’t immediately reject those pages – the gutterless, the castellated, and those breaking that fundamental rule of sequential-art storytelling – as simply not good enough. If I were this hypothetical editor at Cape I’d have sent this straight back with a copy of Will Eisner’s COMICS & SEQUENTIAL ART and Scott McCloud’s MAKING COMICS, so I can only suspect that there’s no editorial shepherding on offer for creators at all.

And that’s fine if you’ve commissioned veteran comicbook creators like Bryan Talbot who know their craft inside out. But it’s a poor state of affairs when you risk your reputation by publishing people with zero experience or evidently comprehension of comics purely because they’ve garnered potentially well deserved success in other media, and then fail to supervise them.

A prose writer does not necessarily understand the distinct medium of comics; a fine artist or cartoonist does not necessarily comprehend sequential-art storytelling. This is exactly the mistake which reputable prose publishers made twenty-five years ago and it did very real damage to the public’s perception of the medium at the time, setting it back in the US and UK by over a decade.

I have other issues, I’m afraid.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the end asserts that something that else is going on other than a fascination with sharks, but it isn’t presaged within the body itself, simply lobbed on. Then there’s the sequence about Wyld’s brother being bullied and beaten up back home, but that’s never resolved. Its inclusion appears to be merited purely because he was told shark stories to calm him down. Right, sharks were involved in some spurious capacity. But not relevant: it should have been edited out.

You’d be amazed at how many novels and great graphic novels there are which we all adore whose original incarnations before prudent, pre-publication pruning are not what you’ve finally read. Their creators I know of are all very grateful.

I want to reiterate that some of the pages are powerful. This had so much potential but it desperately needed a steward.

The best thing about this is the title. Sorry.

SLH, winning no friends today.

Buy Everything Is Teeth and read the Page 45 review here

Meat Cake rare restock (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy.

Macabre and mysterious neo-Victorian fantasy with speech balloons that glide and slide surreally round the panels, this is like Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS in spidery black and white.

Truly there are few creators as magnificently individualistic as Dame Darcy. Think Donna Barr in a secret passage full of cobwebs and bats! Kate Bush or Danielle Dax lost alone in the woods!

In 2003 Mark previewed this collection in hardcover form thus:

“I love people who draw and write as if no one matters but themselves. Selfish storytelling, done for their own obsessions and somehow leaked out into the world for the occasional sympathetic eye to wander over. If Edward Gorey had a sickly daughter who refused to live in – and was possibly allergic to – the 20th Century, she would look and draw like the singular Dame Darcy. Willowy, kohl-eyed waifs summoning up the energy to pine for a similarly insubstantial beau, identical twins, ghost girls, animal-headed ne’er-do-wells all live here in the woods.

“A keepsake collection of the best of the first decade including the collaboration with Alan Moore. Darcy followed in Melinda Gebbie’s tailored satin footwear by drawing the ever-slinky Cobweb stories for Alan’s TOMORROW STORIES. Here she brings more attic-creaky, two-headed girl freak stories littered with romantic Victorian prose and consumptive females. Characters named Perfida and Hindrance are not to be passed over.”

Speaking of Cobweb, here’s a one-page rhyme which is equally louche when you see the gorgeous tease of the final panel with its protagonist wagging her finger at you:

“Shocking, shocking, shocking!
A mouse ran up my stocking!
When it got to my knee, oh what did it see?!
Shocking, shocking, shocking!”


Buy Meat Cake and read the Page 45 review here

We Stand On Guard #2 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce.

In which I’m won over.

The writer of SAGA, EX MACHINA, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, Y – THE LAST MAN and THE ESCAPISTS needs no introduction, so I was going to write that you can consider this a re-introduction, then I looked back and realised that politics and military might play a substantial role in almost all of those, while PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is overtly critical of the American military’s conduct (and indeed very presence) in Iraq.

Here, in a century’s time, America invades Canada in retaliation for what it perceives to be – or claims to perceive to be – its drone strike on The Whitehouse. We don’t even know if it was Canada that was responsible. It seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? But Canada does have a lot of lovely water much wanted over the border.

Disproportionate response is nothing new when it comes to the US military and I think you can consider Ottawa obliterated in the first few pages of WE STAND ON GUARD #1 reviewed by our Jonathan. During this almost instantaneous assault without any evidence of investigation Tommy and Amber’s parent’s limbs blown are off in front of them, their dad’s dying words being…

“tommy… you listen to me… you… look after… your baby sister… whatever happens… you never… leave her side…”

Twelve years later, on the very next page, Tommy has left Amber’s side. She’s all alone in the Canadian snow-swept wilds, armed with a crossbow, hunting for her supper.

But she’s about to have company and not necessarily any of it good.

I was uncertain about Steve Skroce’s art to begin with. I certainly found no fault with his sense of scale: the American military’s four-legged All-Terrain Tanks towering above the tallest of the trees in the Northwest Territories are monumental, terrifying, their armour so evidently impregnable. But what won me over completely was the second issue’s invasion of the cosy, well-appointed home of a couple of pensioners quietly sitting on their suburban settee. The clarity verging on the clinical elevates the incongruity of what you’re witnessing, and that’s the genius of the series itself.

Somehow (somehow) it’s one thing for American soldiers to bust down so many domestic doors in Baghdad and brutally manhandle their occupants without any hope of being reasoned with, but setting this in Canada where the tree-lined avenues look so similar to our own and, of course, America’s…

Well, it brings the horror all home, hopefully.

So what happened to Amber’s brother, Tommy? Well, we do know he was captured by the Americans and presumably taken to one of their camps. Probably to what is ominously being termed “the basement”.

Unflinchingly brutal.


Buy We Stand On Guard #2 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.

The Art Of Mouse Guard 2005 – 2015 h/c (£45-00, Archaia) by David Petersen

Black Science vol 3: Vanishing Point (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Hellblazer vol 11: Last Man Standing (£18-99, Vertigo) by Paul Jenkins & Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Warren Pleece

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1952 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Alex Maleev

Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams (£12-99, Toon Graphics) by Windsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Gerhard, Charles Vess, Craig Thompson, Jim Rugg, Box Brown, Carla Speed NcNeil, Mark Buckingham, various

Pugs From The Frozen North (£8-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Shutter vol 1: Wanderlost (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Shutter vol 2: Way Of The World (£10-99, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mark Hempel, Cameron Stewart, John Totleben, various

War Stories vol 1 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester

Black Panther: Complete Christoper Priest Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & Joe Quesada, Mark Texeira, various

Deadpool vol 3: X Marks The Spot s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Paco Medina, Shawn Crystal

Captain Ken vol 2 (£10-50, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka

Gantz vol 36 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku


ITEM! From the creators of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson is out today! We have a metric tonne of ‘em and we ship worldwide!



ITEM! Families! More MOOSE KID COMICS created / curated by Jamie Smart of BUNNY VS MONKEY (reviewed above) up online for free! So many fabulous creators have contributed: Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Neill Cameron, Abby Ryder, Roger Langridge,.. Click on ‘Our Artists’ for details!

ITEM! Joe Decie’s drawing some more hilarious home comics on his Tumblr that will tick all your recognition boxes including the most British holiday activity ever! Pop Joe Decie in our search engine if you enjoy those, but let him back out later or his family will miss him terribly.

ITEM! Neil Gaiman interviewed on his MIRACLEMAN run finally nearing completion after over two decades. Reprints of Gaiman & Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN can be pre-ordred here- they begin any day now – while the whole of Alan Moore’s run is now out in collected editions beginning with MIRACLEMAN VOL 1.

ITEM! My favourite comics podcasts ever are Dan Berry’s Make It Ten Tell Everybody interviews with the likes of Liz Prince, Scott McCloud, Hope Larson, Jason Shiga, Woodrow Phoenix, Jess Fink, Jillian Tamaki, Paul Duffield, Emily Carrol, Jeffrey Brown, Gary Northfield, Lizz Lunney, Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson, umm, Page 45. Everyone, basically! Listen to as many as you like for free! A lot of time and travelling’s involved so please support Make It Then Tell Everybody here. Then stick Dan Berry in our search engine because his comics are the bestest too.

ITEM! It was Eddie Campbell’s 60th Birthday on Monday. Why don’t you pop him in our search engine as well? It’s getting awfully cosy in there! I’ll start you off with ALEC and BACCHUS and FROM HELL, but we’ve so much more!

John Parker wrote an exceptionally fine tribute and introduction to Eddie Campbell’s work for Comics Alliance.

I’m raising my glass in celebration. Cheers!

 – Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a short-sighted sea anemone with Attention Deficit Disorder

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week one

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Return of THE REALIST’s Asaf Hanuka with Tomer Hanuka in THE DIVINE!

Also:, two wordless comics (Shaun Tan fans will love LEAF), Katriona Chapman’s exquisite zines, HAWKEYE VOL 4, new Leah Hayes, a book about doubt and more, more, more!

Leaf (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Daishu Ma.

A magical wordless narrative in soft pencil lit with bursts of blue and yellow, this will draw parallels with Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL for its form, its style, its fantastical nature and its social metaphor.

Daishu Ma is a Chinese creator, and the smog-inducing industrialisation which China has undergone so swiftly over the last few decades informs everything here from the message itself to the depiction of workers boxed into endless rows of cubicles crammed with unknowable levers, lights, buttons and gauges, all dwarfed below giant power-grid screens. This is the futurism not of now but of the early-to-mid 20th Century – of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis et al.

But it begins in the rolling countryside overlooking the city with the last leaves falling from the trees and a bird taking flight from its otherwise empty nest. Those out strolling brush through carpets of leaves as crisp and clean as if they had been freeze-dried then strewn by species into specific plots. A young man with a thick woollen scarf wrapped round his neck spies something glowing beneath the grey debris and pulls out a single perfect leaf glowing blue with bright white spots.

Slowly he walks back into town, its concrete suburb walls cluttered with steam pipes and valves and funnels and gauges and clocks. He passes through residential areas then those selling goods from small stalls or warming their hands over an open fire. But everything – even the fire – is tinged with the coldest of blues. Once home he opens the shutters to let in the light – the electric blue light of a bulb-lined leafless tree – then nods off beneath the window. Briefly, ever so briefly, he has a vision of the bulbs replaced by leaves back on the branches radiating a warm, golden glow.

This isn’t as obvious or as black and white as I supposed on my first read through. Initially I thought those were the last leaves of winter – that the senescence was seasonal. I’m not so sure now. Also, that leaf isn’t necessarily glowing blue. Colour here seems to denote temperature, yes, but also mood and – for want of a better word – health or lack thereof. Furthermore there is a glorious double-page spread of an enormous tree in the city’s circular square, strewn with big, bright, domestic-sized bulbs which has the admirers gathered round it enraptured. There are many forms of beauty which we do delight in – even if there’s a price to be paid.

That price is made abundantly clear a dozen or so pages on, after our young man has shown his new prized possession to an elderly man in glasses and been introduced to the first of the city’s secrets which he will pursue later on. It’s a full-page depiction of that same barren tree at the bottom, the circle of houses surrounding it reflected towards the top in a stark silhouette of the vast factory complex sitting on the skyline, its chimneys belching smoke like a volcano fed from below… or like a similarly circular verruca whose roots suck the life out whatever its grown on.

Context – and a decidedly thrilling contrast – to all this is provided when our protagonist stumbles upon his first waking glimpse of a golden glow, emanating from a house above whose door hangs a leaf in semi-relief, carved into wood. The context comes in the form of multi-year memory of the home’s occupant, of her father first building a simple wooded shack from which he used to sell fertile potted plants, then its gradual evolution, Will Eisner-style, into its modern bricks-and-mortar incarnation. The final panels’ flurry of falling leaves come as little surprise, but they aren’t the first to go. Take a close look when browsing because what happens in panel six is very telling.

As to the contrast, it’s the burst of organic warmth inside the home where a woman sits studiously at a candle-lit table surrounded by shelves thick, bound books and far more exotic leaves that we’ve encountered previously – and which presumably no longer grow – pressed onto paper or displayed in glass cases, bottles and jars. Suspended from the ceiling are even more elaborate specimens reduced to their skeletal, dried-out midribs and veins.

Where his curiosity will take the young man – and what will catalyse his final decision – I’ll leave you to learn. Unlike THE ARRIVAL the reason this is wordless has nothing to do with any language barrier. It’s more about encouraging readers’ interpretation and a shared journey in uncovering the graphic novel’s mysteries.

There are several stand-out sequences for me like the nine-panel grid of ever-ascending steps and ladders in a monumental factory, arranged so that the stairs match up from left to right, drawing your eye diagonally upwards and emphasising the illusion of climbing even though the topmost ledge is at the bottommost panel! That’s clever enough, but the composite effect is that the walls look like a circuit board.

The storytelling is as gently paced as any perambulation, which is what this essentially is. In fact it’s only when the chap speeds up that he runs into trouble.

I think you’ll love lingering anyway because, oh, the colours!


Buy Leaf and read the Page 45 review here

The Divine (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Boaz Lavie & Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka…

“All right, ladies. I’m only going to brief you once.
“We will descend approximately fifty feet into the lava tube.
“It’s gonna be very dark in there.
“So we are gonna have to trust each other.
“Two men will monitor the entrance. Four will follow me inside.
“When it’s all done we just need to make sure the receiver is fully exposed.
“So when the helicopter comes, they can remote detonate.
“And the place blows sky high.
“If anything goes wrong, at this point in the mission… my buddy here is an ex-con with four murder convictions. He’ll make you regret the day you were born.”
“What the hell, Jason?”
“Better to be feared than loved.”

Well, there certainly isn’t anyone who is going to love Jason, not now, not ever. He’s somehow managed to bully and cajole his friend Mark into accompanying him on a CIA black ops mission to the Southeast Asian country of Quanlom, a country America officially has no diplomatic relations with. They both work for the CIA, but whilst Mark is a sensitive family man with a child well on the way, who just also happens to be a consulting civilian explosives expert, his  old army ‘buddy’ Jason is a jacked-up jarhead who lives for the mission, preferably jungle-based ones which are as hazardous as possible.

On the face of it, this is a simple military mining contract, blowing up a mountain, but there is far more going on in Quanlom besides a civil war between the army and the guerrillas. As Jason and Mark’s mission begins to unravel, they start to discover the legends of Leh, a spirit inhabiting and protecting the uplands, might not be quite so mythical after all.

Hot on the heels of THE REALIST, Asaf Hanuka and his brother Tomer (with whom he collaborated a long time ago on the short lived BIPOLAR series) combine to create a visually stunning collision of mythology and military might. Penned by Boaz Lavie, this story is very loosely inspired by Johnny and Luther Htoo, two twelve-year-old twins who led a splinter guerrilla group in Myanmar in the late 1990s, and who according to their foes where reputed to have magical powers. The children running the guerrilla group in this story, nine-year-old twins, are known locally as The Divine, one of whom really does have some magical and perhaps even telekinetic abilities. In any event they are most certainly a formidable fighting force.

As Mark becomes increasingly uneasy over the mission objectives, and Jason’s gung ho behaviour, he finds himself in a moral quandary. He makes his decision, but by then the decisive conflict between the world of the physical and that of the supernatural is utterly unavoidable. The climactic battle is an artistic delight, as huge colourful spirit demons assault the military camp, defended by desperate defenders armed with RPGs and machine guns.

There were elements of this work that minded me a little of AKIRA from an artistic perspective. I am thinking particularly of a sequence where the powered twin is levitating and almost in a warped berserker state.

There will certainly be people who pick this up purely for the art, but it’s also an excellent clash of cultures, and morals, story. I can see why this garnered much critical acclaim when released in France earlier this year. My only minor complaint is I would have liked it to be two or three times as long!


Buy The Divine and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine Issue One (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

Production values ahoy!

Not only does the cover come in that thick, grained watercolour paper stock with glowing, organic-fruit hues, but the interior pages are equally classy allowing Chapman’s rich graphite shading to shine in all its soft, polished beauty. The art is so warm that it’s like being nuzzled up to by a faun’s felt-covered antlers. Katriona doesn’t just invite you into her life, she makes you feel as comfortable in it as if you were sitting beside her on the sofa, sharing a glass of wine.

This is unmistakeably about Katriona but it’s not for one second egomaniacal. She’s not declaring; she’s sharing. I believe you two will get along smashingly.

In the opening two-page salvo winningly entitled ‘Hello’, Chapman presents quiet, brief bursts of some of the elements which form her profound passions while dictating her daily routine – a routine which we will see disrupted with surprisingly stoical equanimity in KATZINE ISSUE TWO. (Clue: London Transport at night. No thanks!)

They’re not necessarily the passions you’d normally associate with a 36-year-old woman, which she owns almost immediately and increasingly endearingly. Family-run hardware shops for a start! Katriona tells of a childhood trip to B&Q when she became transfixed by racks and racks of wooden, decorative moulding. The illustration accompanying that recollection – its harmonious arrangement of cross sectional shapes and three-dimensional shading with an almost Escher-like, hypnotic harm – will convert you to her point of view, I promise.

Chapman is that winning combination of accessible and exotic and above all eclectic in taste. She has the confidence to create, print and distribute a high-end ‘zine of comics and lavishly illustrated prose yet suffers from social anxiety. I think you’ll be enamoured with her regular, admirably balanced feature of ‘Fear’ and ‘Love’ on opposite pages. The ‘Love’ in this instance springs from her job as an usher at a theatre during moments when she takes advantage of her introversion. You’ll see – such positive thinking!

The extended feature this issue is ‘All Summer Long’, musing over her family holidays in Canada, the friends she made and – now that she’s on the point of return – wondering whether it will be weird going back as an adult.

However, it was upon reading the two-page illustrated article on the International Space Station – I had no idea one suffered such tissue loss working in zero gravity but it does make sense when you’re not really using your muscles – that I realised how I would most accurately described this gorgeous artefact: it’s like the most artisan school project you’ve ever read!

It’s all so loving put together with attention to detail, like the inside front and back covers which not only glide effortlessly into the endpapers but – were you to remove that cover – form a panoramic star chart of their own.


Buy Katzine Issue One and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine Issue Two (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

A second swoonaway cover!

I love how the ripple-free, smooth and flat blue shapes of the river and the lakes its feeds into cut into the ruggedly and vertically textured geological giants. So subtle, but clever!

‘Local Businesses’ returns from KATZINE ISSUE ONE with affectionate amusement at misspelled signage and it’s this interest in language which will form the ‘Love’ half of this outing’s ‘Fear’ and ‘Love’ duo (secret: I share exactly the same fear!).

This issue eleven whole pages are dedicated to Katriona’s travels, this time in the jungles of Costa Rica during 2005 – offset by the context of where she has lived a more sedentary life – and it benefits enormously from the space as well as her exceptional talent for flora and fauna. The monkeys and lizards are lovingly drawn but the horses and horse heads, shown at almost every conceivable angle, are immaculate.

It’s a geographical and spiritual journey deep into the wilderness kicked off with the following thought:

“I think the banana skin was when things started to shift.”

With an intro like that how could you not read the rest?

As you can tell from the cover, Chapman is also adept at embedding her figures firmly within their surroundings. And as you may gather from their regular features, she’s a plant lover too, which stands her in very good stead for a super-dense jungle and its flamboyant leaves lit up in the foreground then left to be swallowed by darkness beyond.

Her pièce de resistance comes at the climax reprising the cover – albeit at a very different locale – which could not be a more striking contrast: a single, middle-tier, double-page panorama panning 360 degrees high atop ancient ruins overlooking the canopy of trees, encompassing four separate shots of Katriona herself rotated at 90 degrees.

You really do need to see this for yourself. And now you can!


Buy Katzine Issue Two and read the Page 45 review here

Haunter (£10-99, Study Group Comics) by Sam Alden.

Here’s pretty, then.

A wordless – at times breathless! – comic, this is so colour-driven that I instinctively thought of Dash Shaw circa NEW SCHOOL. It’s far more traditional storytelling on a four-panel grid, with the sharper lines laid down first, but the initial four double-page spreads which you won’t find online only confirmed the association for me.

There the solitary human outline is minimal and far off in the background, leaving the lambent landscapes to dominate, daubed in very wet watercolours without any lines at all. The sun-kissed sides of the heavily knotted trees twisting up the grassy hillside in carmine or snaking in and out of the stream in green are left entirely white. But so artfully is the paint applied that their forms aren’t eroded by the light: you can almost feel how thick and gnarled the bark is.


The colours continue to dominate as the crisp line-work kicks in and a hunter emerges from the forest in search of prey. His pursuit of a narrowly missed boar (I think you can’t guess which expletive the giant red ‘X’ denotes!) takes him into most unexpected early Tombraider territory including anachronistic upgrades found in a statue’s secret stash. Two of the three objects made me laugh. Do you think the hunter will become the hunted? I think he may. Things tend to come alive in Tombraider, which you touch things, don’t they?


Although the application of colour is completely different to that of Lara’s subterranean shenanigans, that is exactly the experience on offer here – presuming that you’re watching someone else play. That’s why the quote on the back baffles, no, infuriates me. It bigs this book up undeservedly at the expense of videogames, raising expectations unrealistically and thereby doing both a disservice. Few of the videogames I play frustrate me aesthetically – I can only imagine that someone needs to broaden their game-playing experience.

BONE, TUKI and RASL’s Jeff Smith, on the other hand, is bang on the money on the back when he writes, “It’s impossible to start the thing and not keep reading.”


Buy Haunter and read the Page 45 review here

Not Funny Ha Ha (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Leah Hayes.

There’s little worse than going through something difficult and upsetting alone. What is most certainly worse is going through something which is difficult, upsetting and unknown alone.

Sub-titled “A Handbook For Something Hard”, creator Leah Hayes is here to hold your hand and rub it gently while explaining what you can expect to experience emotionally, physically and practically if you find yourself pregnant and decide that you need an abortion.

She is at great pains to disentangle the process form other issues like sex and contraception, to be clear, honest and entirely non-prescriptive: whatever you decide is your decision and your decision alone.

But it’s always best, isn’t it, to talk to others and have someone with you if you can? If you can’t, here’s Leah.

Although she stresses that you must talk to your G.P. (“This is a book, not a doctor!!”), Hayes addresses everything from the timing of your decision and the timing of your treatment to what that implies for your options: where to have an abortion (at a clinic or at home) and how (surgically or medically). We’re then introduced to expect from each of the procedures, and from ourselves while experiencing them and how long we can expect the processes and their after-effects to last. I always find that hugely reassuring: knowing if something is normal or not. Sadly in America it is normal at a clinic to be searched by a security guard.

Another thing I find difficult except professionally is picking up the phone in the first place. Leah understands that but emphasises that, although you shouldn’t be afraid of the clock, in this case time really is of the essence.

I found this book to be enormously kind, gentle and informative. It looks longer than it is thanks to the big hand-lettering and illustrations, and it isn’t a graphic novel because without the images I would have understood absolutely everything written. But I appreciate the advantage of this being illustrated prose rather than a clinical leaflet. It’s not that the illustrations serve to break the information up into easily digestible pieces – though they do – it’s that they humanise it all. The paper is predominantly a warm yellow, the two women’s cheeks warmer still. They’re sympathetically drawn and easy to relate to.

Here’s Ellen Forney:

“Reading this book is like sitting down with your cool older sister and having her assuringly and frankly explain a really tough situation you’re facing, and then convince you that you’re going to get through it and be okay.”

Yep, that is precisely what this is like.


Buy Not Funny Ha Ha and read the Page 45 review here

A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams (£6-50) by Dori Kirchmair.

“Doubt is really a big one for me…
“All the time it keeps me from doing what makes my heart sing…
“But then, not only do I talk myself out of my own dreams. On top of that is what everyone else has to say…
“Not to mention how the world is supposed to work.”

There Kirchmair slumps at her desk, as crushed and crumpled as a discarded drawing, weighed down by the dictates of others. “You must…” ”You should…” etcetera.

I feel there will be a lot of empathy for this succinct little storybook. There’s a neat little one-page comic within called ‘The growing of dreams” in which Kirchmair’s ideas and ambitions grow from a potted sapling into a vast, verdant tree. The biggest panel is reserved for the pinnacle of the process when all seems about to bear a fruition which she finds “fascinating”… only for those wretched doubts to creep in once again, telling her that it’s “all a bit unreal” and she chops the tree down in fright.

You might suppose that this is the work of a young lady embarking on a newfound enthusiasm for creativity. It is not. I’ve met Dori and she’s my age. Our doubts don’t just disappear.

But nor does Dori’s determination. Throughout the watercolours on a delicate black pen line are bright and healthy and in natural tones of grass-green, aquamarine, sky-blue and earthen or tree-trunk brown. She has suffered set-backs but she won’t be bowed into submission for…

“Somewhere deep down I know it’s not right to throw away your dreams.
“It’s not ’environmentally friendly’, either.”

Ha! Unlike the single-page comic which is perfectly poised, I own that the text and illustration of the main body are not ideally integrated – the timing’s a bit dislocated in places – but there is a great deal of white space so a whole lot of light, and for once I didn’t mind the typed script.

What I did object to was its original cover and I told Kirchmair so, thereby becoming yet another of those didactic pests. *slaps own wrists* But it looked like a type-led cover to a particularly bland catalogue for lord knows what and Page 45 deals in a visual medium. No one would have looked past its cover here.

So we come to what I mean by Dori’s determination and her practising what she preaches – because I promise you this has a thoroughly uplifting end and a cracking punchline which harks wittily and unexpectedly back to its title. Although the creator had a finished product to sell me with multiple copies… she printed a fresh batch with a new, image-led cover and a burst of much more organic lettering which broke up the blandness and emphasised that she has something to say which is probably worth reading. In a humble way. Dori was determined to get this booklet onto our shelves even if she had to go to extra expense.

Oh look, she’s succeeded. Respect.


Buy A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Chris Eliopoulos, Francesco Francavilla…

“I pulled the records of that strip club you busted up.”
“How did you know about that?”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I wasn’t there for the girls I was there for the guys. No, wait…”

Ha ha, the gags are still coming thick and fast in this final volume of Fraction, Aja et al’s career-redefining highlight. Clint Barton’s, that is! This volume collects #12-13, #15, #17, #19 & #21-22 as the monthly title bobbed backwards and forward from East Coast to West Coast between Clint and Kate’s stories. Her final volume was collected in HAWKEYE VOL 3: L.A. WOMAN, though of course Kate does turn up here in just the nick of time to save Clint’s behind one more time too!

Before that there’s time for a family reunion as Barney Barton turns up to continue the Barton Brothers’ trademark love-hate sibling rivalry. In reality though, they’ve always had each other’s backs, and Clint is going to need all the help he can get as the Tracksuit Draculas perform their very own climatic remake of Assault On Precinct 13 on Clint’s apartment building. But who better to take on the not-so-dapper mafia bros than the Barton Bros? It’s an enduring double act with its own special magic that’s all about the timing…


“Surrounded, Bro. Van, Bro.”
“C’mon, c’mon… one trick, one time. You guys might be my last audience ever, right? Come on. Just say the magic word.”
“…Is…is…”Abra Cadabra”?”
“What you say, Bro?”
“”Barney,” say “Barney.””
“No, no, come on, it’s a magic trick and I got my pants down. You all gotta shout it.”
“Thanks, Bro.”

Enter Barney Barton stage left armed only with a dustbin lid for some Bro head-cracking activity…


Buy Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle…

“Hmm… this strange crystal is definitely a test! Maybe a puzzle? To see if I can harness the power of super special gem!! I will discover all your secrets!!”
“Gasp!! Steven, what happened?!”
“Uuuuughm… I couldn’t discover the secrets… I tried everything but I couldn’t figure out the secrets of this special gem, I understand why you can’t take me on missions.”
“Ha ha ha!! Steven, it’s not a gem.”
“It’s a disco ball.”
“This is more amazing than I could ever have imagined.”

Sadly it really isn’t. How disappointing. I love Steven Universe the TV show but this isn’t a patch on it. Surprisingly for a show with such clean animation, they have decided to employ an artist with a far looser style. Actually, it looks a little bit like Jen IN REAL LIFE Wang if I am being overly kind, but that’s by the by. All the characters are recognisable but it just doesn’t feel like the show.

Then, there is the fact that each single issue was a different short, well two actually, a colour one then a very short black and white one, which disrupts the reading process even further. To me, this title was begging for four- or six-issue story arcs, being illustrated exactly like the show. So it would then have been a perfect continuation of it.  Instead it just feels like a cheap throwaway cash-in. Others may disagree.

I felt exactly the same about REGULAR SHOW, a programme I adore, but I can’t even bring myself to look at the comics for precisely the same reasons. Incredibly short throwaway stories, little more than gag strips, which look nothing like the show. Having just checked, yep, that’s the same artist as here, Coleman Engle. I feel harsh criticising someone who is clearly a very good artist. But they are just not the right fit for either of these titles. And if I wanted gag strips, I would read PEANUTS. Actually I wouldn’t, I would read HYPERBOLE AND A HALF or CYANIDE AND HAPPINESS but hey ho, you get my point.


Buy Steven Universe vol 1  and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews.

Small Tales & Fairy Fails (£9-99) by Paul Duffield

Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein

Corpse Talk Season 2 (£7-99, DFC Books) by Adam Murphy

Everything Is Teeth (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner

Chew vol 10 Blood Puddin’ (£10-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Superman vol 6: The Men Of Tomorrow h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & John Romita

All New X-Men vol 7: The Utopians (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Del Mundo, Mahmud Asrar, Andrea Sorrentino

Black Butler vol 20 (£9-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Naruto vol 71 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

A Silent Voice vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima


ITEM! Ladybird Books Modern Makeover! Genius covers, there!

I was raised at infant school on Ladybird’s ‘Peter & Jane’ books which starred a sickeningly wholesome family, so revenge on Saturday night on Twitter was s-weet. I can’t reprint it all here (dear lord,no! If you’re curious, I’m @pagefortyfive) but basically this: I realised they were all on temazepam including the children. The father was a serial philanderer, the mother a serial killer. I wrote a little poem:

Jane likes to get squiffy
Peter likes to get rat-arsed
Dad prefers glue if he’s truthful to you
Mother screams at night

ITEM! An online version of Sam Alden’s THE HAUNTER, reviewed above. The lighting as lambent as anything, but it doesn’t include the four double-page spreads I swooned over which are only available in the printed version.


Simone Lia’s weekly comic strip for the Guardian / Observer on ‘To Do’ lists is oh so woefully familiar.

I have an extensive ‘To Don’t’ list. And still do them anyway.

 – Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by…. Oh, wait – still on my ‘To Do’ list.