Archive for October, 2015

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week four

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Includes top tips for Christmas presents, return of our News under reviews and books of all shapes and sizes. We’re the comicbook equivalent of Revels!

The Troll (£3-00, Accent UK) by Martin Flink.

Whoa, what an unexpected silent pleasure and treasure!

I’m thrilled by a comic that lets me look around.

This one positively begs you to.

Towering above and tunnelling under the coniferous trees, every single panel of this full-colour feast invites the eyes left, right, deep down and up, up, up into a cerulean sky which finally breaks into a majestic double-page spread of billowing cloud formations swept across the infinite heavens as far as the eye can see.

Unlike almost every other page with crisp, white borders, the colours bleed right off the edges – enhancing the vastness of bright blue space – just as any open sky does beyond the periphery of your vision. This is the glee which I glean from nature; this is what I adore about such carefully crafted comics.



The spirit of place begins on the very first page as a family car pulls up in a clearing outside a cabin which is the same rich, rusty colour as the car. A young boy leaps out to look up at the windows between the wooden slats, and their glass reflects the top tips of the trees behind him.

Immediately he sets off to explore and – once more – a judiciously placed focal point of misty, ethereal light in the distance lures your eyes, just like his own, through what would otherwise have been an impenetrably dense and dark forest. It promises at least one potentially safe path through the pines and how could one possibly resist?

The boy climbs and he clambers up an impossibly steep, green, grassy hill and there spies a stone. And what would you do? You’d throw it!

And that, as they say, is what wakes the giant up.

What follows next put me in mind of Shadow Of The Colossus, the sequel to the glorious game Ico – superb sense of scale – and also, in terms of graphic novels, Keaton Henson’s GLOAMING.

Big love to Martin Flink for that one, tense moment teased out by virtue of it being on the right-hand page involving a finger as gigantic and powerful yet as tender as a Mountain Gorilla’s.


Buy The Troll and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison.


“Is he your boyfriend now? Because pet food isn’t the only aisle in the supermarket.”

Some comedies are cleverer than others, and there are few out there who can spring from one sentence to another with such nimble dexterity as Britain’s John Allison who eschews the obvious cheap barb in favour of an unexpected epigram for life.

Allison is ever so good at observing and understanding the unspoken rules of school and young-teenage codes of practice over the last couple of decades. Then he’s ever so clever at translating them. When newcomer Lem arrives the girls hold back from tainting him with their company for fear he’d be rejected by the boys, just as a chick might be rejected by its mother if handled too closely by humans.

“He’s wandering off.”
“He seeks the company of his own kind.”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t have spoken to him?”
“No! We’d have put the stink of girls on him. The boys would have rejected him. Pecked him to bits.”

He’s also very good at remembering our priorities, like Little Claire’s horror at the school-wide 1-ply toilet tissue travesty! We had small square sheaves of waxy toilet paper which was ewww.

On top of all that John gives voice to our wider silliness at any age when sizing someone up at a glance. Parents are particularly funny, aren’t they?

“He was very polite on the phone. Sounded very handsome.”

It’s a brand-new school year at Griswalds Grammar in the town of Tackleford and our six young sleuths are in gleeful form. Together Shauna, Lottie, Mildred, Jack, Linton and Sonny are a force to be reckoned with, but almost immediately the most exhuberant of them all, Lottie, is separated from the group.

First, she simply doodled over the memo she was supposed to sign to join the others in Latin class and so finds herself sitting instead next to Little Claire whose “lithp” makes her sound like a bothersome wasp.*  Secondly she’s the first to fall for the charms of that peculiar new boy Lem who doesn’t appear to others to have any charm: he eats onions and only onions all day! Yet one by one the mystery-fixated group come to the improbable conclusion that “He’s a right laugh once you get to know him”. Then their breath starts to smell weird.

“I’ve blown up like a dead sheep in a river, Shauna.”
“I told you! Onions are a sometimes food!”

Effectively ostracised from her friends as they start being led by Lem to his onion farm and some very odd games there, Shauna finds herself alone and in need of new, unlikely allies like Corky, Blossom and Tuan of the role playing club. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Shauna may have bitten off more than she can chew, but at least she’s not gnashing down on onions. Yet.

As ever the body language on offer is exquisite, like Tuan gesticulating wildly over Corky, casting a “Break enchantment” spell, or one of the brand-new pages (there are always new pages upon printed publication) depicting team captain Linton on the soccer pitch in his pristine white kit, hands on hips as he wiggles the football beneath one boot. Judging by the various other stances, though, I’m not sure it’s going to be the most coordinated of matches.

Blossom has a face like thunder throughout (“I never really thought of Blossom as a girl. More of an unhappy cloud.”), Lem’s nose is as raw as the onions he’s eating and when someone shelters under an umbrella one gets a very real sense of huddling and what’s still getting wet.

The comic kicks off late at night and halfway in, as Shauna clack-clacks and huffs-huffs her way hurriedly down an eerie, empty school corridor which echoes like an indoor swimming pool. She turns to face her enemy. And betrayal from within…

Allison’s comics and comedy are ever so British and each one is self-contained so you can start anywhere you like. BAD MACHINERY VOL 3 which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month is drenched in our national, default meteorological condition (the drains “GLUG GLUG GLUG” in the background here), while his two-part EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2 could not be set anywhere other than England or any when else other than 1996. With an appeal so broad that they exceeded even our own enthusiastic expectations, both those comics have outsold all of their corporate counterparts at Page 45 including Marvel’s annual blockbuster, SECRET WARS #1!

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2: oh yeah, we have your annual stocking fillers right there, permanently in stock.


*What’s up with the word ‘lisp’, eh? Why would you invent a word which those who suffer from it find impossible to pronounce?


Buy Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One and read the Page 45 review here

Briar vol 1 (£8-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Reed & Chris Wildgoose.

I’ve just had to remove “Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition” because we sold all 50 within a week, before I could even contemplate a review.*

Were you among the hundreds (yes, hundreds) who relished Ben and Christian’s PORCELAIN VOL 1? Because PORCELAIN VOL 2 (previewed) debuts next month with another Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition so I would probably pre-order now! Thanks etc.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a princess in possession of a good fortune but hidden behind an impenetrable hundred-foot hedge of wild, red, rambling rose must be in want of a noble knight to rescue her.

Sure enough dozens of valiant would-be suitors have attempted entry but lost their lives and souls to the living briar whose thorns have shredded their shining armour and stripped the flesh behind it, leaving them caught in its coils to echo the entreaties of their equally doomed successors.

The Knight Of The Twisted Oak, however, will not be deterred. He too has heard the calling but holds a certain something up his sleeve which may give him the edge. Even so, he’s in for a rude awakening for the curse is more complex than it seems.

The star of the show under Chris Wildgoose is the titular briar. According to Ben the script for page four ran little further than “The knight encounters the most monumental hedge”. Something similar, anyway. It took him all of ten seconds to type. Now imagine you’re the artist. Have you started crying yet?

The semi-sentient cadavers within are truly harrowing. There’s something fundamentally frightening about one’s orifices being invaded like that.

Tradition after tradition is thrown at you then out of the window, and my educated guess is that as soon as you’ve finished your first read through you’ll want to begin again to see if the illusion cast by the clever script holds. It does.

*Ooooh, actually there are four left At The Time Of Typing! Behold, the bookplate:


Buy Briar vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Red Shoes And Other Tales (£9-00, Papercut) by Metaphrog.

Darkity dark, dark, dark.

Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti recently reminded us how Grimm those brothers were with their stark rendition of HANSEL & GRETEL. Now it’s Metaphrog’s turn to do much the same for Hans Christian Andersen but with much kinder colours.

Rich, rusty browns are set against eerie green architecture, gravestones and woodland and, now that I come to think about it, there’s something of the Richard Sala to the entire proceedings. Period wallpaper and carpet textures are integrated seamlessly into the line art, and the light looks positively subaquatic when young Karen spies the dancer whose skin, shoes and balletic grace she falls in awe with. Rays of sunlight filter from on high much as they might through crystal clear waters and bubbles bounce from the theatre steps as the ballerina tip-toes up them before waltzing through the doorway and vanishing from sight.

“Oh, how I wish to be like her!” muses Karen, mesmerised. From which point onwards she’s caught in a dream state, a fugue. And it won’t end well, I can promise you.

Her earlier years were far less fanciful. Living alone with her mother they were so poor that in summer Karen went barefoot, but at least she could feel the grass beneath her naked feet, and she would dance! In winter she wore wooden shoes which chaffed her ankles, rubbing them raw. But when her mother died a neighbour gave her a pair of soft slippers cobbled together from strips of red cloth. How much kinder on her feet were they!

Alas, her rich, Great Aunt Anna upon taking Karen in deemed the handcrafted handmade and scruffy, even “hideous”, certainly not worthy of her niece. So she took her shopping to a posh part of town which is where Karen comes across the ballerina and then, in a shop window, a pair of patent leather red shoes with straps to secure them fast.

I think we’ll leave it there, shall we? There will be a great deal of dancing, much of it involuntary, as Karen is tossed like a rag doll, a broken marionette, gesticulating wildly, awkwardly, attempting grace even as she falls from it.

Bravo, basically. By the end you too will yearn for the feel of succulent grass beneath your feet. Hindsight is a cruel, cruel thing.

The main event is followed by two further tales: ‘The Glass Case’ and ‘The Little Match Girl’, both of them dealing with oppression (through parenting or poverty) and the consolation prize of escape.

I hope I’ve intrigued you and done this little book some sort of justice. It was an enormous honour to help launch it at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 with Metaphrog’s Sandra and John. They’ve poured their substantial hearts into this and it shows. Mary and Bryan Talbot snapped one up each, which is a greater testimony to its quality that I could presume to offer.

Perfect for Christmas when we resolve even harder to appreciate what we’ve got.


Buy The Red Shoes And Other Tales and read the Page 45 review here

Tribes Of Kai (£18-99, Flesk) by Lance Haunrogue & Darren Bader.

“The Stance is a test of many attributes, but a true Lord of Kai must display honour, bravery, compassion, strategy and wisdom.”

Spread over a page, those five qualities are given a painted panel each, depicting one of the five leaders of the Mantakai tribes supposedly united under their current ruler, the lion-like Lord Fauqua.

But not all strategies, however brave, are honourable, compassionate or wise.

That tableau’s worth studying for we join these individuals at a critical juncture. The balance of nature is delicate, agreed hunting grounds are being exceeded, the food chain is in flux, and ambitions are on the rise.

Change is imminent. The Stance is a ceremony of succession.

After many years successfully ensuring survival through maintaining order and unity, Lord Fauqua is stepping down. He consults his potential successors and pays due deference to tradition and to their ancestors while wondering if every decision he made was right. This is a humility the others can only aspire to. Beware of those who burn with a “passionate intensity” for those who know they are right are almost always horrifically wrong.

Brother will betray brother and so let the enemy in. That is perhaps the cleverest sequence as the reader is whiplashed through strike, counter-strike and trap, counter-trap with opportunities so rashly seized and reactive instinct disembowelling all hope for the future.

The first words I jotted down on opening this up at random were “fire in the night”. Regardless of the images I’ve chosen you’ll see what I mean when you read it. Those who love visions, signs and portents will not be disappointed. Oh no, it’s not SANDMAN but for those who consistently ask for something akin to Dungeons & Dragons or even Game Of Thrones I think we may have found something for you. Albeit starring the feline equivalent of centaurs.

This is undeniably art-driven but the art is a tour de force. Did you love Bertolucci’s LOVE: TIGER and his newly arrived LOVE: FOX? I’m confident that Darren Bader will not disappoint.

With muscle-majestic, neoclassical art to rival that even of its best modern proponent Paul Reid (AKA @Minotaur_Man on Twitter), I know exactly who to sell this to.

The opening. predatory shot looking out from the jungle shadows over a lush river valley ripe for the pickings is even more halting than the version I supply here. There are no words. Instead the tiger-like Niatan rears up on hind legs from a thick, gnarled tree trunk high in the sky, so ancient that it’s been overgrown with green grass and fronds. His left fist grasps a knotted, woody vine worthy of SWAMP THING’s Stephen Bissette & John Totleben. In the far distance, above eye-line, peaks an ice-encrusted mountain piercing the sun-lit clouds; below him – yes, below him – a flock of white birds take flight. Don’t you just love it when you’re looking down on birds in flight?

His and our focal point is a specific stretch of river, centre-right, which gleams a tangy, lemon-mousse yellow with a dry-brush spray under which you can just about perceive the grain of the canvas. Above it billow tree tops highlighted in freshly cut, lime-peel green.

The framing is perfect.

If I’ve failed to sell this to you so far (I really haven’t, though, have I?) I offer you lead-heavy, armour-plated dinosaurs as well as the most agile, crocodilian reptiles you’ve ever seen.

As well as a fight for your life.


Buy Tribes Of Kai and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End vol 1: First Light (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Includes diary entries, a guide to countryside walks, a newspaper reported seized and censored by the military and newspaper pages in which the locals are alarmed at a proposed speed increase on the roads from 10 miles per hour to a positively reckless 15 mph.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES, now collected into a tpb, a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries wish for war and get what they want. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different. The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms.

Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monacled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage – and certainly tight-lipped about the action he saw overseas in the navy – but reluctantly agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover. War Of The ‘Wolds?

The night before notorious poacher Fawkes and his chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence of alcohol, and only Clive gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Gilbert, Peter and Clive set off to investigate, something on six legs stirs at Shortmile End and scuttles towards Mrs. Swagger’s cottage where she works in the kitchen, all alone…

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first story, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and maps throughout which have aged at their edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time in the first chapter that he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

Abnett, meanwhile, relishes the formality and propriety of the strangers’ interactions, especially once they’re joined by contemporary fiction writer Susan Peardew whose eyes too widen at what she encounters: living, concrete proof that her ex-husband’s successful “scientific romances” – which she edited and essentially rewrote – weren’t such fantastical imaginings as they both assumed.

Unfortunately the smaller, spidery scouts which proved lethal enough on their own are soon joined by far more formidable, lantern-topped enemies and our heroes find themselves in a desperate quandary: outgunned, they are being hunted and their only hope lies in greater numbers; but if they run for a village they’ll only lead their pursuers there and so doom its inhabitants.

Continued right now in WILD’S END: ENEMY WITHIN #1. [Don’t read that review, just buy because SPOILERS, obviously!]


Buy Wild’s End vol 1: First Light and read the Page 45 review here

Karnak #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Gerardo Zaffino.

Let me introduce you to the green-cowled Karnak, now Magister of the Tower Of Wisdom, a rigidly austere and imposingly tall “temple” built of heavy grey stone blocks, sequestered on a plateau high in the misty mountains of what I infer are the Andes – or somewhere of that ilk.

A member of its royal family, he once enjoyed the company of his fellow Inhumans. Now his life is solitary, monastic and focussed on silent contemplation, broken only when one of his acolytes announces:

“Magister. The Infernal Device is calling.”

Hidden behind doors so thick that it takes four to heave them open – and even so, they budge only grudgingly – the Infernal Device is an old-skool, two-way radio supplied by S.H.I.E.L.D., the international espionage agency which now summons him from seclusion to an old substation in Svalbard on the Arctic Ocean where they are experiencing security breaches.

“Ah, Attilan, the seat of Inhumanity, was once located in the North Atlantic. It was a little like this. Bleak. Isolated. Cold.
“It is pleasing to me.”

Karnak is being called upon because a couple’s son – recently traumatised and transmogrified by the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mist into one of their own – has been abducted by terrorists. S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’s investigations have been hampered by legal restrictions and by infiltration whose source Karnak spots instantly.

“My curse is that I see the flaw in all things. Systems. Philosophies. Structures. People. Everything.
“The bullet you fired at me was flawed simply by the act of being fired.
“You were flawed by being born.”

His insight allows him to target these weaknesses and so shatter structures, be they bones, walls or even illusions: comforting thoughts that get us through each day. He does so ruthlessly and remorselessly. Never a party person, Karnak is no longer a people person and far from eager to please. Small talk is an anathema to him; smiling is an insult.

Yet he may be the best Marvel-Comic company you can hope to keep right now outside our good Stephen Strange.

Always reliable for reinvention, Warren Ellis – whose creator-owned comics like INJECTION I hope need no introduction – has stayed true to the character’s focussed nature and distilled it into raw single-mindedness. He’s delivered a much more fractious take on a character about whom you need know nothing prior to this just like the other stand-out, post-SECRET WARS relaunch DOCTOR STRANGE #1 by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo (reviewed and back in stock At The Time Of Typing).

The austerity’s enhanced by Gerardo Zaffino’s gruff, grainy textures and superb command of half-light and midnight when confronted with Karnak’s eye-piercing, soul-searing gaze. The entire comic experience is led by colour artist Dan Brown’s rich olive green. But coming back to Karnak in action, Zaffino stops time virtually dead its tracks as that bullet is fired, the space ahead of its trajectory ruptured as any wound would be while what’s left in its wake flares brilliantly behind.

You will have plenty Matt Fraction & David Aja  IRON FIST kung-fu fighting, with the cliffhanger promising much more to come.

Before SECRET WARS my corporate superhero intake had diminished to virtually zero. If you are of the superheroic persuasion I can wholeheartedly now recommend this and DOCTOR STRANGE #1, plus UNCANNY INHUMANS #1 grabbed me far beyond expectations and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1  (reviewed) and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #2 did not disappoint at all.

You are always, always encouraged – whoever you are – to buy Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee’s self-contained, exceptionally literate, deliciously delineated and lambently coloured INHUMANS collection (think Neil Gaiman, I did you not), but you certainly don’t need it for this.


Buy Karnak #1 and read the Page 45 review here

You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 (£14-99, Conundrum) by Sherwin Tija.

Haha! Once again I issue the dire warning:


Oh, it looks as though it should be since it is indeed an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure story and stars yourself as a cute kitten.

I explain all and at great length in my review of YOU ARE A CAT! PICK A PLOT BOOK 1 which is still in print and in stock at the time of typing. You can view this as its prequel if you like, though in order to do so you’re going to have to survive this experience and you may find the odds stacked against you.

Remember: there are terrible people in this world! You are about to encounter some.

Just like your childhood favourites, this is illustrated prose. But there is a comicbook equivalent in the form of Jason Shiga’s ingenious MEANWHILE which is suitable for all ages. Its panels are linked together in a Spaghetti Junction of tubes which take you back and forth throughout the book using the tabs that stick out from its laminated pages leading almost inevitably towards Doomsday. “3,856 story possibilities” declares the front cover, but only one road leads to happiness. Which is a poor reflection on life and not something you should tell small children.

This kicks off with an evocation of your first bleary-eyed experiences of the world, the initial sensations of your siblings huddled together and being licked in turn by your mother’s tongue. Accompanied by an illustration seen from your own blurred point of view, it’s beautifully written, placing you firmly in your new, soft-padded, fluffy paws.

“You cry out again. Your voice is a dull, inchoate noise mingling with the low-level buzz.
“After a while it’s not so cold anymore. Something large and warm is close by, radiating heat, and you move towards it. You are aware of other bodies, also warm, also moving around you. You follow a deeply satisfying smell toward her.
“Under her fur, the soothing lub-dub of her heart pulsing against your face. The rhythm is a faint echo of the same beat that used to surround you, that was your whole world. It feels so far off now.”

It’s going to feel a lot further off very shortly.

Not all kittens in a litter are wanted, and not all couples owning cats should do so.

I can’t bear to break your hearts by continuing so instead I turn to Tija’s feature in the back: a guide to creating your own interactive adventure which is a great deal more complicated than it looks. The good news is that Sherwin has already written three so he’s encountered the logistical nightmare which is assigning page numbers etc and solved it.

Equally as important is remembering that these interactive adventures at their best are “empathy machines”: you’re placed in someone else’s shoes – those who may face difficult choices – and some may really make you think. Thinking about those choices when creating them is vital: offer obvious ones, advises Tija, and their opposites. “Then offer the offbeat and the outlandish.” Sherwin is a master of subverting expectations as you may have gathered by now!  “Try to offer choices that would appeal to different personality types.”

Too many strands will leave you with an unwieldy 3,000-page epic, so “funnelling is your friend”. Astutely he compares the mapping to capillaries in your body rather than the almost infinite branching of trees, for capillaries leave its arteries, divide further as they supply your muscles etc with oxygen and nutrients (possibly – it’s over three decades since I studied Biology A Level) then regroup and rejoin the main flow as veins.

Also advised are options to jump from one strand of the story to another at intervals; cautioned against to avoid reader frustration is the “try and die” experience. What I’d never thought about are orphan pages: the mischievous incorporation of excerpts which no roads lead to at all!

At eight pages in relatively small print, the guide is far more detailed than I’ve room to go into here and could lead to some exceptionally fun school projects. Just not the main body of work. Oh my days, no!


Buy You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 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.

Love vol 2: The Fox h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci

Owners Manual To Terrible Parenting (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Battling Boy: The Fall Of The House Of West vol 2 (£7-99, First Second) by Paul Pope & JT Petty, David Rubin

Peter Pan (£12-99, BC) by J M Barrie & Stref, Fin Cramb

Never Learn Anything From History (£14-99, Self Published) by Kate Beaton

The Princess And The Pony – signed (£6-99, Walker Books) by Kate Beaton

Pope Hats #3 (£4-99, Adhouse Books) by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats #4 (£5-99, Adhouse Books) by Ethan Rilly

Casanova vol 1: Aciedia (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Fabio Moon, Michael Chabon, Gabriel Ba

Tales From The Clerks (£24-99, Titan) by Kevin Smith &Jim Mahfood, Matt Wagner, Michael Oeming, various

Sherlock Holmes and the Necronomicon (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Sylvain Cordurie & Laci

Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two vol 2 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Thomas Derenick, various

Injustice Year Three vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Mike Miller, various

Guardians Team-Up vol 1: Guardians Assemble s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sam Humphries, John Layman, various

Avengers Ultron Forever s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Alan Davis

Batman Wargames vol 1 s/c (£25-99, DC) by Anderson Gabrych

Batman Adventures vol 3 s/c (£12-99, DC ) by Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, Kelley Puckett, Mike Pardbeck

Evil Emperor Penguin (£7-99, David  Fickling Books) by Laura Ellen Anderson

Adventure Time vol 7 (UK Edition) s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North &Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, various

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 2: Serve You (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, IDW) by Al Ewing, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, various

Naruto vol 72 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Psyren vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Assassination Classroom vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui


ITEM! Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham’s comic for THE PHOENIX WEEKLY begins this week in #200. Yes, THE Philip Pullman whose NORTHERN LIGHTS VOL 1 graphic novel illustrated by Oubrerie is in stock right here, right now and reviewed!

ITEM! John Allison is serialising his 24 Hour Comic, HUMAN SOUP, online! BAD MACHINERY VOL 4 reviewed above!

ITEM! One of ever so many Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 reports with photos.

ITEM! Metaphrog’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE RED SHOES launch at LICAF. Again, photos!

ITEM! Tom Humberstone illustrates ‘Racist One Night Stand’.

ITEM! Interview with Kate Beaton!

Kate Beaton’s STEP ASIDE, POPS! is Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week three

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Adrian Tomine! Matt Madden! Terry Moore! Jeremy Bastien! Mardou! Luke Pearson! Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Chris Wildgoose! Doug TenNapel! Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey. Mark Millar, Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice. So ever so slightly packed, yes!

Drawn Onward (£3-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Matt Madden.

Well, isn’t this a great little piece of comicbook genius?

I’m not wafting that accolade in front of you arbitrarily, either.

For me it would have been enough had it been but a very clever exercise in storytelling structure – though I can think of few others who would have conceived of it in the first place – but in Matt Madden’s hands it has blossomed into an extremely poignant life-lesson in not fucking around with other people’s feelings lest they fuck around with yours in revenge.

The thrill of the chase is a courtship conceit so many worry about: that the person pursuing you is after one thing and one thing only so once you put out they’ll be gone – right out that door! It doesn’t have to be full-blown sex, it can be a kiss or the mere acknowledgement that you fancy them too. Conquest achieved! Next!

But this delves even deeper than that and you’ll want to read it forwards, backwards then forwards again. Maybe then approach it from the middle and read outwards, comparing the pages like I did, and from each end heading inwards as well.

It revolves around a pivotal moment right where the staples scream “symmetry”! Before and after those central staples lie mirror images with ever such clever departures. I’ve studied it for hours and will be using it in every future comics class that I teach.

I never doubted it for five seconds: Matt Madden’s 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY is one of the most witty explorations of comicbook storytelling and along with Jessica Abel (LA PERDIDA and LIFE SUCKS), Madden produced two of the best books on creating comics, DRAWING WORDS AND WRITING PICTURES then MASTERING COMICS.

But to break beyond mere exercise into something which will affect you profoundly – to use that very structural innovation to comment so astutely and so poignantly on the way we may treat each other so carelessly or callously – is when you comprehend that you have a comicbook creator in front of you who is a thinker akin to Eddie Campbell or Scott McCloud.

Even the endpapers will have you grinning.

No clues in the images here!


Buy Drawn Onward and read the Page 45 review here

Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine.

Includes free, fold-out poster while initial stocks last!

From one of comics’ most astute observers of human behaviour – quite often rifts in relationships – this reprints OPTIC NERVE #12, 13, 14 (OPTIC NERVE #14 still in stock) and a substantially revised version of Tomine’s contribution to KRAMER’S ERGOT #7. Other OPTIC NERVE books in stock.

Let the foibles begin!

Optic Nerve #12

“What is it?”
“This is just a proto-type. But it’s a sculpture that I made, with a live plant growing through it.
“In this case, sweet Myrtle, it’s a synthesis of nature and craft, a marriage of the wild and the man-made; a living breathing objet d’art.
“It’s my life’s calling.”

What it really is, I’m afraid, is a rather bad idea which Harold the gardener has chanced upon whilst reading about Japanese horticulture in the bath. It’s an idea so bad in conception that everyone else except poor Harold can see it straight away. But with the type of deluded confidence in his invention you regularly see in the comedy round-up sequence of ridiculous ideas on Dragons’ Den, he presses ahead into fiscal oblivion. The story is told primarily as continuous, four-panel black and white shorts, two per page, with the occasional full-page colour short story, which works well given that it’s spread over a number of years in an episodic manner. The art is as wonderful as you’d expect from Adrian, though it looks far more like Sammy Harkham’s style in this particular tale.

The second story is called ‘Amber Sweet’ and here the full-colour art is more typically Tomine, though the colour palette and odd side-profile facial expression can also make you think momentarily of Chris Ware. Our nameless female lead bares a rather uncanny resemblance to adult entertainment actress Amber Sweet, and it’s making her college experience rather unpleasant to say the least, as everyone seems pretty convinced they’re one and the same person and Amber Sweet is merely her stage name.

This is a great little short story, which if the theory that everyone really does have a doppelgänger out there is true and that encountering them will only bring you misfortune, then having them be a porn actress certainly isn’t going to help matters! In the end, our Jane Doe feels the only way she can ever get closure is to take a road trip and confront Ms. Sweet.


Optic Nerve #13

“Opportunity is… what? Something we create, not something that happens. Right? And there’s always going to be hurdles, but what do we do when He hands us a challenge?”
Utilize, don’t analyze!”
“That’s right.”

Our protagonist walks out at that point, and I can’t say I blame her. It’s not actually a prayer meeting, though: it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s a young-ish woman, more than a little worn by what life has thrown at her. At the moment it’s housing problems.

The woman is pursued by another attendee who looks older than he says he is. He has a certain self-confidence – some would say the gift of the gab – though I would have punched him two pages in. But he offers to buy her coffee, and then puts her up at his gaffe. He probably shouldn’t have snapped at her in bed, but he apologises. He’s very contrite and as good as his word.

“Your key, Madame.”
“I told you… this is just until I get everything squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just… go ahead!”

She opens the front door and there’s a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table, and a banner saying “Welcome Home”. She stands, stunned, in the doorway.

“Sorry, I’m… trying not to cry.”

The OPTIC NERVE graphic novels are amongst Page 45’s biggest sellers. It was fascinating watching Adrian’s style develop so swiftly during his teens in 32 STORIES (such a beautiful package, at the moment: facsimile editions of all the original mini-comics with extras) then, as he refined his line, he settled in for a recognisable Tomine style, similar to mid-Dan Clowes. OPTIC NERVE #12, however, proved to be a marked departure, and so is the lead story here wherein we witness colour-coded snapshots of a relationship as it develops from consolation and practical assistance into something else entirely. What is the word so often used about addiction? Oh, yes, “dependency”.

I promise you this: a degree of hilarity, a great many lies and one massive surprise. It will also keep you on the edge of your seat.

The brief snapshot effect works beautifully, throwing you through their story, and Tomine’s famous observational skills are once more in full evidence. For all that chapter’s shenanigans, I found it no less true to life (I am afraid) than Adrian’s previous, gentler work.

I can see some Beto in the woman’s expressions and some Chris Ware in our other, paunchy protagonist, softened by a less regimented line – particularly when the man high-tails it across the park.

The second story is in full, flat colour as a woman narrates her return to California from Japan to her child. She leaves her parents who do not approve of her decision to fly to San Francisco. She is met at the airport by her estranged husband who has secured them a tiny apartment. It is quiet, measured, profoundly moving and ends on an enigmatic ellipsis.


Optic Nerve #14

‘Killing And Dying’ covers the budding but excruciating comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their habitual roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

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

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

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


Buy Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 6: Secrets Kept (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

How black do you like your humour?

Aunt Johnny is the resident mortician in the town of Manson. She’s just pulled up at the scene of a traffic accident to be greeted by two cops in the rain.

“Some girl lost her head and drove into a truck.”
“Other way round.”
“What’s that?”
“Other way round, I’d say.”

Ouch. As it transpires, they’re both right.

RACHEL RISING is the only horror comic currently on the stands to surpass THE WALKING DEAD. Let’s see if I can persuade you of that.

It began early one morning in a sequestered glade as an austere and impassive young woman waited patiently above a dried-up river bed until a leaf spontaneously combusted and another women, Rachel Beck, clawed herself slowly and painfully from her grave, then stumbled falteringly through the trees to make her way back home.

I can assure you of two things. The first is that Rachel’s no zombie: she’s perfectly sentient; she just can’t remember who killed her. The second is this: she’s most definitely dead.

Along with her best friend Jet, beloved Aunt Johnny and a girl called Zoe whose tender years and delinquent behaviour belie her true age and an enthusiastic tendency towards psychopathic violence, Rachel’s been trying to piece together what happened to her, and it all harks back to a witch hunt in Manson and thence to the first woman in the world called Lilith.

Lilith failed in her first attempt to wreak revenge upon Manson for its genocidal past, but now she’s back and she’s going to attempt a more charming approach for which she will need the help of her sister. Any guesses who that is?

With five prior volumes I believe you’ve some catching up to do.

Given that this is from Terry Moore – the creator of ECHO and the epic STRANGERS IN PARADISE which managed to juxtapose tragedy, romance, comedy and crime so successfully that there are few series our customers are more fond of – I can promise you that you are in for a harrowing but hilarious and humanity-filled treat. Terry’s books always focus on real women full of attitude but also failings and foibles and kindness rather than two-dimensional bravado, and that’s reflected in his art for he draws fulsome curves where they are, rather than where our modern plastic, photo-shop surgeons dictate they should be.

Terry’s is the sort of art where you can feel the soil when it grits beneath your finger nails.

This volume contains what is for me probably the most terrifying single suicide in comics, again in the rain and high above the unforgiving, rock-hard destination below. What makes it terrifying is not just its slippery surface but also its motivation whose agonising details we learn via Rachel. For Rachel – with one foot in the grave and another in some sort of earth-bound afterlife – has a bond both with the quick and the dead. She has the unenviable ability upon touch to divine what’s gone before and then see what will come next. So be careful which questions you ask her.

It also contains one of the most blindingly beautiful moments in comics, right near the end, involving a single pair of eyes previously hidden from us for all five volumes. Not by deceit but by pragmatism, and because no one had ever bothered to look before.

So cleverly withheld from us by a visual device I will not divulge, it is a moment of perfect, spiritual satori and in its single, simple panel it moved me like few other comics this year.

“Why is your touch the other only thing I can feel anymore?”
“Because love is stronger than death.”

You’ll know it when you see it.


Buy Rachel Rising vol 6: Secrets Kept and read the Page 45 review here

Phonogram: Immaterial Girl #3 (£2-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Chris Wildgoose.

If you adore the music and magic of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE I give you music as magic in the form of Gillen and McKelvie’s original break-through project, PHONOGRAM.

And if you grinned yourself senseless at what McKelvie did with the panel gutters during Loki & Wickan’s somewhat innovative and unorthodox escape from limbo in YOUNG AVENGERS, just you wait until you see Emily attempting to escape from music-video hell, jumping up, down, around and through vinyl record covers! Oh, so very clever.

Don’t think her (literal) other half Claire is going to make it easy for her!

But the reason I’m slipping in a highly unusual review of a title’s third issue is to remind you that the back-up stories in each periodical will not be reprinted in the collected edition and in this instance that means you will miss out on PORCELAIN artist Chris Wildgoose’s 5-page tour de force here forever and ever and ever. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Handily we have both previous PHONOGRAM books permanently in stock (reviewed) or, I promise, you can launch straight in with PHONOGRAM: IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 (also reviewed) and PHONOGRAM: IMMATERIAL GIRL #2 which we’re keeping on our shelves for as long as we can!

That was a public service announcement on behalf of your cultural – if not financial – wealth.

Interior art shown here by Chris Wildgoose. Ben Read and Chris Wildgoose’s BRIAR VOL 1 (Page 45 Exclusive Signed Bookplate Edition) on sale now.

WICKED + DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts are also on sale, as it happens. While stocks last. We ship worldwide. Etcetera.


Buy Phonogram Immaterial Girl #3 and read the Page 45 review here

Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 (£7-50, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastien.

Were this not set deep below the salty seas but in some land-locked, fresh water reservoir the detail alone would buoy you to the surface. It is ridiculous! I cannot imagine how large the original art must be.

There’s a fantastical, fold-out, triple-page spread of The Sea King’s Palace, as organic as any coral reef, whose intricate textures will have any bleary eyeballs bathed back to health as you soak them for the half hour it will take to absorb it all in.

It may not be printed on deckled paper like the original CURSED PIRATE GIRL h/c instalment (reviewed: reprint soon!) but the thick, cream-coloured stock more than makes up for the absence.

And this is where I must come clean, I’m afraid, for this is very much the next episode, nor is it the finale, but there’s a comprehensive catch-up page which will tell you all you need to know before embarking upon the next leg of our Cursed Pirate Girl’s quest to find her father, a pirate Captain of the mythical Omerta Seas.

If you love long, flowing tresses and Buccaneer fashion, this one’s for you!


Buy Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sky In Stereo (£13-50, Revival House Press) by Mardou…

“I watch little cells like bricks, spire up over the city I live in.
“And cartoon spinning planets draw closer than our moon.
“This is heaven. I know it. This is more than just a drug. It must be.
“I must be good inside. Righteous, even.
“Otherwise this is not the sky I’d see, right?
“My low self-esteem ends tonight.”

Acid. Lysergic acid diethylamide if we’re being formal. To a certain generation, those coming of age in the early nineties, it was the maximum-intensity drug of choice before Ecstasy and the rave culture really took over, I suppose. I dare say there’s a fair few people out there whose perceptions were altered forever by their casual social consumption of this mind-bending chemical, and various others.

If so, you’ll probably find yourself intimately familiar with the situation young Iris finds herself in: using pints down the pub combined with illicit use of readily available recreational drugs like weed and acid to offset an otherwise rather dreary existence, skiving off college and flipping burgers for pocket money in 1990s Manchester. I note Sacha Mardou was born in Macclesfield in 1975, so I’m mildly suspicious there might be some autobiographical notes contained within this work!

I think perhaps this is one of those works which will either resonate with you, for whatever reason, or simply won’t. It certainly did with me. Iris is stuck in that peculiar limbo of late teenagehood: too young to be fully liberated of the irksome shackles of parents and education, but not nearly old enough to have to face the responsibilities of the world for herself. Not, of course, that as teenagers we realise just how onerous and time-consuming all those myriad responsibilities can be!

So, like most of her college friends and work colleagues at the burger joint, like teenagers the world over, Iris moans about her lot whilst wondering just where the hell she fits in. Her friend Glen, however, despite also working at the burger joint, seems glamorous, alluring, and possibly a little bit dangerous. Iris would certainly like to be more than friends with him, but every time she feels like she’s inching closer towards that possibility, the very next moment it then suddenly feels like he’s moving further out of reach.

Glen seems to be the one person who Iris is genuinely inspired by, even if it’s merely in her desire to try new drugs. After her moment of acid-induced satori leaning out of her bedroom window, as the ego barriers between her and the rest of the Universe temporarily dissolve, she feels a lightness of being she’s never known before. Iris knows she needs to tell Glen all about it, now that they’re equals, because he’ll understand completely. So a couple of days later, setting off from her house, she decides to follow the signs that will take her to him, even though she has no idea where he actually lives…

Glen, meanwhile, has been dabbling with the dark side, trying some heroin. Fortunately for him, it’s merely a passing two- or three-time fancy which doesn’t develop into a habit, maybe because of how chronically nauseous it made him feel. Again, that was another point of reference which seemed all too acutely, personally relevant. Growing up in a perfectly normal suburb of Leeds, I was certainly aware of some of my wider circle of friends who – in addition to being exposed to the usual sundry pharmacopeia which it was practically impossible to avoid – had the misfortune to be exposed to heroin.

No different from myself, no less capable or otherwise at such a tender age of weighing up the true pros and cons of such experimentation, but it certainly wrecked a fair few of their lives: two premature deaths, one person still serving a very long sentence for subsequent, large-scale heroin dealing, others still grappling with heroin and methadone addiction nearly three decades later. Obviously there were those who were like Glen too, who tried it and had the good fortune to not have a particularly pleasant experience or two and never did it again, who’ve gone on to be perfectly normal members of society. I’m just glad I never had the chance to try it because I can’t honestly say whether I would or wouldn’t have been daft enough to do it at the time.

I’ll throw in one more personal observation I had forgotten all about which this work brought back. I actually applied for a job as a teenager as a burger-flipper in a certain well known chain but got turned down. The lady interviewing me saw I went to a private school and asked in a tone dripping with ire whether I felt she should be giving a job to someone like me, or to someone who actually deserved it. It took me a few seconds to understand what she actually meant, not actually having had any experience of any sort of discrimination as a white, heterosexual male. “You know, middle class,” she then added, just in case I was some sort of dim-witted demi-toff who was missing the point! In retrospect I wish I’d politely replied that my mother worked on Leeds’ outdoor market and my father was a sales rep, and that they were scrimping and saving extremely hard because they wanted to give me a decent education which they hadn’t had themselves. However, I just stood there mute like some sort of dim-witted, aspirational, lower middle class teenager with loving parents who had yet to learn the skills of cutting down bosses with my as then unhoned rapier wit… I did at least take my extremely infrequent business from that day to this to the other large well known burger chain…

So this was a fascinating trip, if you’ll pardon the pun, down memory lane for me. A perfectly observed time capsule of being a certain age in that particular era. But I think if you had any sort of… wasted… teenage moments yourselves, irrespective of your age, you’ll certainly smile wryly in more than a few places. This is volume one, so I’m intrigued to see precisely where Iris’ story is going to go, and under the influence of what. I suspect, though, given the circles Iris moves in, that Ebeneezer Goode may well indeed be making an appearance before too long… As a great philosopher once wrote… naughty naughty, very naughty…


Buy Sky In Stereo and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Troll s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Album-sized softcover of the comic formerly known as HILDAFOLK, this is the first story in Luke Pearson’s ever-expanding, award-winning HILDA graphic novel series (each one reviewed!) with a map featuring both destinations and denizens, a double-page spread showcasing Hilda’s delightfully cluttered workstation which made me beam with joy and those critical notes on ‘Trolls & Bells’.

Oh, the difference a dash of spot-varnish makes! Adult and tiny eyes alike will shine like marbles when they see the sheen. We love attention to detail.

Here we find young Hilda following in her mother’s artistic footsteps by taking her sketchbook out into the grassy, rock-strewn hillside to draw. She sketches her pet Twig perched on a tiny island in the rippling plunge pool below a cascading waterfall, she spies a lost Sea Spirit that must have drifted down the fjord; and then finally, excitedly, she discovers a true Troll Rock!

She’d been reading up on trolls the previous day, but then the prospect of camping out under rain had distracted her, as did yet another visit by that strange, silent wood man who keeps walking through their front door completely uninvited (thank you very much indeed!) to lie quietly down by the fireside. What is that guy’s problem?

Anyway, Hilda gives Twig a bell to perch on the Troll Rock’s big, long nose to warn them in case it in transforms (as they’re said to at night!) and starts moving. She then sets about sketching it from every conceivable angle: from afar, from behind and from below – even from on top of its schnozzle! Oh, but it’s tiring work, and soon our pioneer and portrait artist starts to fall asleep, only to be woken up during the bright orange sunset in the middle of a blizzard… by the jingle-jangle of bells!!!

Oh so exciting and full of surprises, this will warm the cockles of the coldest of hearts: the cosiness of camping out at night, and the sound of rain on canvas; a giant lost above the tree-tops, confounded by their conformity; the mystery of the wood man, the wonder of the world Luke Pearson has created, at once familiar yet populated by exotic and fantastical new fauna. I’m not quite sure what Twig is! A blue-grey fox-cat with a bright white belly and antlers? In fact as a colourist alone Luke Pearson deserves to win every award going, and his attention to detail is right up there with Chris Ware. The inside front and back covers would make the best Christmas wrapping paper ever! Indeed Nobrow probably have some, and their paper stock is of the highest possible quality.

An awe-inspiring adventure, then, with two important lessons in hospitality and research. Because you remember that bell…?

“One should always read the whole book. They’re not for dipping into.”


Buy Hilda And The Troll s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ghostopolis (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel…

“So, I was in my bedroom, and suddenly this skeleton horse leaps over me… Next thing I know, I’m in the afterlife!”
“Wow, I had to get here the old fashioned way. But if you’re still alive, then you don’t belong here!”
“I was gonna die anyway. I’ve got an incurable disease.”
“Still, your mother must be worried about you. And even if you only have a short time left on Earth, we should get you back to enjoy that short time!”
“Fine. So how do I get back to Earth?”
“There’s a couple’a ways. Ghosts find their way back by sneaking through cracks, breaking rules, an’ cheating the system. But I have a different idea. Do you know how this whole place came to be?”
“It was all built by one man… a mysterious Tuskagee airman named Joe. He made every mountain you see, laying one chunk of sand at a time. He stacked every brick in Ghostopolis so that ghosts would have a place to live.”

He does like his dark setups, our Doug. He’s not afraid of killing off a parent (CARDBOARD), marooning an entire family on a murderous isle (BAD ISLAND), and here he gives the main character, young Garth Hale, an incurable disease. In fact, Garth hasn’t got that long left to live. Now that’s just plain harsh.

Which is why Garth’s attitude when accidentally sucked into the afterlife – during an accident caused by washed up ghostbuster Frank Gallows, who was in fact chasing after the equine apparition in question – is quite understandably a little defeatist. I should probably state right now – just in case you’re considering buying this for your kids, having enjoyed the likes of Doug’s TOMMYSAURUS REX previously – that please be assured there is a happy ending, a very happy ending.

I think you have to admire the incorporation of difficult topics like mortality into what are essentially children’s stories. I remember as a young kid feeling emotionally stretched by the death of Aslan in ‘The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe’ when I first read it. Obviously there’s a happy end, via a resurrection there, but still, I think if concepts of dying and death can be worked into the odd children’s work, in a background or secondary way, it’s no bad thing. For example, when recommending the majestic AMULET series to people, we always caution that volume one does start with the death of a parent, just in case there might be particular reasons why people would not want the intended recipient reading that even brief nugget of woe.

Before the happy ending though, Garth, and Frank who’s decided to mount a rescue expedition to retrieve Garth from the spooky world of Ghostopolis, are going to have a rather hair-raising adventure. Along the way, they’ll enlist the help of Cecil, Garth’s deceased Grandfather, to do battle with Master Vaugner, the evil spirit who has taken control of Ghostopolis and made it a place of misery. As if being dead weren’t sad enough?!

It’s a rollercoaster adventure very much in the mould of AMULET, where ever more perilous danger lurks at seemingly every turn and allies are found in the nick of time in the unlikeliest of places, just when all hope seems lost. Oh, and that mysterious Tuskagee Joe, the long-vanished creator of Ghostopolis, might even make an appearance too before the end…

Lovely, dark, comedic fantasy that’s neither too complex nor too disturbing for relatively young ones. I would say this work, like most of Doug’s, is probably aimed at 7 or 8 years old upwards. The all-action style keeps the pace relentlessly breakneck which ensures the fun factor always outweighs any maudlin moments.


Buy Ghostopolis and read the Page 45 review here

Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice.

“Don’t worry, Mom. You’ve still got us.
“Dad’ll get what’s coming to him.”

If looks could kill…

The prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY is a book about relationships set in a time when the superhero genre looked at them barely at all. Certainly no hero left his wife and children for a star-struck teenager then attempted to recommend her as a new superheroine to his teammates.

What Fitz fails to see is that they’re like a family themselves who’ve grown up together.

“We’ve all known Joyce since we were back in college and we’re not going to let you humiliate her like this.”

The thing is Fitz, The Flare, has enough self-awareness to know he’s doing wrong because his old man walked out of them when he was nine years old, and he doesn’t want to inflict that same pain and disillusionment on his own kids. He even says, “That’s the thing when you become a parent. The kids come first.”

So self-knowledge yes; self-guidance no. Do you fear it will go horribly wrong? The first image here is barely the beginning.

His Fitz’s team-mate Richard finds himself with a very different sexual dilemma. Here he is, enjoying a post-coital cigarette, in bed with an ex-marine he’s only just met.

“How do you know Danny?”
“We used to be in the marines together. He’s hooked me up with a few tricks before, but none of them were as handsome as you. Did you know he hooks up all the movie stars at that gas station? I saw Tyrone Stars out there and Walter Pigeon gave me twenty bucks just to give him a hand-job.”
“Oh yeah?”
“So what line of work are you in?”

The look on Richard’s face, wondering what would happen if the public – or even his peers – found out that one of America’s greatest heroes was into men…

This is 1959 and cinema’s greatest heroes were all in the closet – because, umm, public opinion and box office…? But also: illegal. Yes, it was illegal to love if you were a bloke and your loved one happened to shave too.

Imagine the power that gave others over you – employers, employees, complete strangers and, oh, I don’t know, the American secret service? If they found out it could be immediate arrest, trial, public humiliation, ostracism, disgrace then prison or blackmail for life. There are movies about it: 1961’s ‘Victim’ starring Dirk Bogarde for a start.

Speaking of cinema, here’s Kathryn Hepburn giving Richard her take at a very private party:

“I have to say I find the whole thing ridiculous, Richard… Sure, half of Hollywood’s in lavender marriages, but at least we’re handsomely paid to be hypocrites. You’re out there saving lives every day. Why should you have to lie about who you’re snuggling up with every night?”

“It’s like politicians and preachers, Katie. The public just hold us to a higher standard. People want their superheroes to be whiter than white.”

Quite literally, back then.

“Well, I’m just worried what it does to your health, darling. I’ve seen what living a lie can do. We’re a queer town selling the world a heterosexual ideal. Haven’t you ever wondered why we’re all on pills and booze? A double life is a terrible strain and you’re living a triple life. The stress must be unbearable.”

Torres can capture a perfect likeness, which will come in very handy when it comes to FBI director and notorious muck-merchant J. Edgar Hoover. The art is deliciously innocent, clean-lined and evokes this particular sub-genre’s period perfectly. There are a lot of cheesy smiles and big, broad grins until the considerable repercussions kick but I promise you this: so many of the cast will surprise you.

So yes, from the writer of SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN KICK-ASS, CHRONONAUTS, SUPERIOR, NEMESIS, MPH, Marvel’s CIVIL WAR. WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN – all of them highly recommended – comes the prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY. It is a very different beast, but equally deserves your attention because reading one informs your understanding and so appreciation of the other.

In JUPITER’S LEGACY, following the Wall Street Crash, Sheldon Sampson set about giving America something to believe in, people to give them hope: superheroes. What happens there is disastrous but so far here they’ve done their job admirably and are much respected by the public while being despised  as uncontrollable by the FBI.

Sheldon’s brother Walter thinks they should make the role more official by allying themselves with the FBI who’ve reached out with an offer while making contingency plans if rejected. Sheldon’s dead against it on principal’s sake – they need to remain above politics, autonomous. It’s George Hutchence who elaborates:

“Hoover’s an asshole. Don’t you get it? He’s got dirt on everyone from coast to coast and now he’s trying to get you too. He can’t control us and it’s driving him crazy. He’d bug these headquarters given half a chance.”

As I say, contingency plans.

Bravo for Mark Millar and the post-coital cigarette scene: if you’re going to do this, do it properly with no shying away nor emasculation.


Buy Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Comic Book History Of Comics (£16-50, IDW) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey.

“Stan Lee found himself assigned to the army’s training film division, where he served with such luminaries as director Frank Capra and great New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams. Lee wrote short films, posters and pamphlets on such topics as army finance and venereal disease.”

Venereal disease! It’s amazing what you can pick up here.

Did you know that Terry Gilliam preceded Robert Crumb as assistant editor of Harvey Kurtzman’s HELP, and that John Cleese modelled for one of its photo comics?

Yes, I’ll tell you right now what I love about this: its breadth and above all sense of context, be it personal, historical, social, economic and even international. Tom Spurgeon wrote the introduction, and he’ll not put his name to any old tripe.

It’s also very, very funny in places. At first it rankled with me that this was comics and not prose, especially since Dunlavey’s style of cartooning isn’t my natural comfort zone. UNDERSTANDING COMICS was perfect because as a graphic novel it was self-demonstrative, and the two CARTOON GUIDE TO ECONOMICS books (yes, there was a second on MACROECONIMICS!) worked well because the images made the abstract comprehensibly concrete. Here I wondered at first why we couldn’t just have photographs of the people and reproductions of the covers – until the jokes kicked in, and I realised that Dunlavey was drawing in short-hand what Van Lente would have had to labour over in prose. A bit like I’m about to here!

“Though through our allegedly more “enlightened” modern eyes, romance comics may be seen as simply reinscribing the more patriarchal aspects of American society (as 99.9% of them were written and drawn by men)…
“Oh, John… I’m so happy you allowed me to drop my career to pop out babies for you until you throw me aside for you secretary in two decades!”
“Me too, sugar plum! Now shut your yap and go fix me a sandwich!”

… they almost always encouraged marrying for love rather than any other consideration, and tried to steer heroines away from the wrong kind of man, the template for whom remains basically the same in our day.

Mr. Right: working-class Joe
Mr. Wrong: Well-heeled sharpie
Mr. Right: Wants 2.5 kids
Mr Wrong: Wants in your pants
Mr. Right: 1-beer-a-day guy
Mr. Wrong: drunk right now.”

Every genre and movement is dealt with in detail as well as they’re unexpected impacts on each other, and never have I seen the whole Wertham / Bill Gaines / Senate hearing / Comics Code Authority debacle dealt with in such great depth yet so swiftly. Actually I’ve never seen anyone trying to salvage Wertham’s reputation before, and Van Lente points out precisely why. You’ll be surprised at what good he did do. The connections between comics and the two big animation studios gave me some nuggets on Disney I had no idea about – like the fact that Bambi was a bust and they were only saved by the Pentagon. And speaking of WWII poor Jack Kirby is as down on his luck as ever!

“So you can draw?”
“Yes sir, of course I can draw.”
“I was thinking, ‘Great, some officer wants me to draw his portrait’,” Kirby remembered.

Instead he was sent ahead into live combat zones as a scout to draw maps and pictures.

I learned that Archie Comics’ Archie Andrews was based on the “mercilessly wholesome screen persona of Mickey Rooney”, 50 US States tried to regulate crime comics and Canada managed to ban them. Why does everyone consider Canada so liberal? You try crossing their border with a suitcase full of yaoi! The whole of EC Comics’ horror line makes far more sense when you learn about Bill Gaines’ unresolved parental issues, and there are statistics here to make you weep:

“Industry studies showed that in 1947, a stunning 95% of American boys and 91% of girls between the ages of 6 and 11 were habitual comics readers… along with 87% of teenaged men and 81% of teen women; and a still-impressive 41% of men aged 18-30 and – before romance comics – 28% of women the same age read comics regularly.”

In case you don’t know, today 1% of both genders combined would be an over-optimistic estimate.


Buy The Comic Book History Of Comics 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.

Wild’s End vol 1: First Light (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Don’t Get Eaten By Anything (£17-99, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean

You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 (£14-99, Conundrum) by Sherwin Tija

Tribes Of Kai (£18-99, Flesk) by Lance Haunrogue & Darren Bader

Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison

The Red Shoes And Other Tales (£9-00, Papercut) by Metaphrog

Debbie’s Inferno (£4-50, Retrofit) by Anne Emond

Perfume Of Lilacs (£15-99, Soaring Penguin Press) by Samuel Leblanc

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 5: Through The Looking Glass (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Valerio Schiti

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, Mark Bagley, Rodney Ramos

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

Claymore vol 27 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Master Keaton vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Tokyo Ghoul vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida


ITEM! Simone Lia’s short comic on the art of bluffing! Hahaha! Plenty of that going on last weekend!

ITEM! Congratulations to the Holy ‘Tait’ Trinity – Julie, Sharon & Carol – on The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (#LICAF) 2015! What a weekend! So much love! So much kindness!

Last year Page 45 broke its best ever sales weekend – including Christmas! – at LICAF 2014!

This year? We trounced that record by another 10%!!! Jeepz! I’d probably exhibit there, yes!



Thanks to everyone who contributed including the top-tier creator who spend £14-99 on the Friday afternoon before we’d even arranged half the books for sale on Saturday morning. I cannot name him for fear his missus’d kill him.

Thanks to every comic creator who signed in our LICAF Clock Tower Georgian Room and made us laugh all weekend long. Their 24 Hour Comic Marathon was a triumph!

Thanks to every single LICAF Volunteer, including Lou and Chris. For me they are the festival’s greatest asset and treasure.

I’d also like to thank our Jonathan as ever for bolstering my confidence while emphasising to you all that without Jonathan’s logistical, technological and problem-solving skills Page 45 wouldn’t even be at LICAF – I couldn’t do it – whilst Dominique’s immaculate organisational skills made sure the right books actually went with us in exactly the right quantities, safely secured for zero damages.

Jonathan also designed our Page 45 signage which was beautiful to behold.


LICAF 2016: we have even more ideas including a way to make it possible for you to buy any of our 7,000 different graphic novels in Kendal at LICAF 2016! Oh yes!

Oh, and LICAF’s already secured a very, very special international guest for 2016!

Not. Even. Kidding You. Announcement in January when I’ll probably post all our photos.

LICAF 2016: Friday October 14th to Sunday October 16th 2016.

Oh,my kitty-kins, colour-code those dates in your diary right now!

– Stephen

Page 45: Proud Patrons of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week two

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

This week we surely have something for everyone! Fifteen reviews!

The Story Of My Tits (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Jennifer Hayden.

“On the last day I had tits on this Earth, I painted them yellow, with orange nipples.
“I painted them orange, with green nipples.
“I painted them red, with yellow nipples.
“Then I rinsed off, the tears becoming the water I swam in, red paint ribboning away from me like blood.”

That’s about as eloquent as anything I’ve ever read.

I hope it’s not too stark for this astute, 350-page, autobiographical epic is riddled with wit, mischief, self-deprecation, joy, exasperation, love, learning, empathy and the sort of profound understanding of what is and isn’t important that can only come with hindsight and experience after a whole load of mistakes. It’s a graphic novel that makes you appreciate what you’ve got and who you’re surrounded by. I practically fell in love with Jennifer’s husband, Jim, and Jim’s mother Alice, both bottomless wells of kindness.

The cartooning is rich and playful with parenthetical asides that will have you grinning, and fantastical embellishments that speak volumes in shorthand, especially on recurrence. It’s dense with detail and luxurious textures which convey unmistakable senses of both time and place, but kept clean and clear by spacious gutters between each four-panel page.

I love the pointy noses, and as for the eyes it’s minimum fuss for maximum empathy. Hayden can convey so much in two circles, two dots and a couple of perfectly placed eyebrows. There are lots of clever devices like diagrams and charts and you may end up missing those curly whirly telephone chords which are now almost extinct. Communication is a big theme here. Some people are better at it than others.

Jennifer’s practical mother would rather not, even after a mastectomy.

“You’ve been through something really big, Mom. Don’t you want to talk about it?”
“Well, I certainly don’t think we need to dwell on it.”

Which is admirable in a way, but Jennifer’s own instinct had always been to express and even explode on occasion.

“My revenge was never to stop talking about emotions – mine and everyone else’s.”

She depicts herself like Charles Schultz’s Lucy behind a lemonade booth marked ‘Unlicensed Pyschologist. 5 cents. Free Beer. (The Doctor Is In)’. An unwitting patient’s popped by.

“Holy shit! So how did you feel when you step-mother’s lesbian lover came at you with the chainsaw?”

I did promise you mischief.

Jennifer’s father also avoids communication even when her Mum is diagnosed early in the graphic novel with breast cancer. Jen’s infuriated by his lack of support – he seems almost suspiciously equanimous to it all – but then her parents know something she doesn’t, and when that secret comes out Jennifer will find, not for the last time, that she can remain culpably silent too.

This, then, this is the story of one woman’s breasts from their frustrating late blossoming to their loss forever. It won’t be the only loss, either, for some of Jennifer’s loved ones won’t last the years and I found several passages here to be devastating. But its scope is far wider for how else could you understand that loss? It encompasses more than one family, more than one generation and Hayden herself will grow over the years from a somewhat prickly aspiring writer (who, she says, sucked) and a woman who couldn’t stop judging the success of her own life by the developments in others’ – including marriage and children – into an artist, lover and mother who knows exactly what to communicate, when to communicate and how.

Hayden’s finest moment is possibly when she judges it best to safeguard her children from what she’s going through (breast examinations, biopsies etc) then when to tell them and in what way.

As she endures those examinations and diagnoses and she processes her own options and what they imply for her future it is gruelling and harrowing and, yes, she breaks down, terrified of what lies ahead. She’d been living with the prospect for years ever since her mum was first diagnosed and who amongst us here is superhuman, after all? But at every turn Jim is her enduring rock (they met way back at college!) and if he were ever to read this (I cannot think why) I’d just like to say, you’re a star.

Jennifer, by the way, opts for a bilateral mastectomy – the removal of both breasts when only one was cancerous – and her reasons are arrived at with clarity. It’s a brave thing to do to bear all, but this will undoubtedly shed light and provide hope or – if there is or turned out to be no hope in the end – the sympathy of a shared journey.

There’s a whole lot of love to be had along the way.


Buy The Story Of My Tits and read the Page 45 review here

Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro with Robert Wilson IV.

“Shame them – maim them – try to contain them – stand back – she’s gonna BLOW!”

Wittily conceived, perfectly targeted and mercilessly executed, this is a two-pronged attack on the sort of chauvinism we’ve kind of convinced ourselves died out with the Victorians. It hasn’t. It’s alive and unwell in the form of day-to-day condescension like man’splaining, force-fed through media manipulations on female beauty and rears its ugliest head on the internet in the form of outright misogyny towards comics and games journalists.

One of those two prongs – “Hey Kids, Patriarchy!” – is the funniest and most lacerating series of faux advertisements I’ve ever seen. Take the wonders of weight loss:

“We guarantee you will lose
“Your balance!
“Your energy!
“Your joie de vivre!
“Your will to live!”

“Advice For Ladies” in that lovely, frilly, feminine type-face includes an advertisement for Agreenex pills:

“What’s Wrong With You?
“Be the you he likes. Good to be around, any time, any day. Agreenex helps. It doesn’t change your circumstances, but it keeps you from caring. Because without thoughts, feelings or inconvenient opinions, you’re more fun to be around. So use Agreenex. Isn’t he worth it? (And if he kicks you out, where will you live? Do you really think someone would give you a job? Look at you.)
“Agreenex: because he’s sick of your shit!”

From the writer of PRETTY DEADLY, this is a different beast altogether, and I warn you right now that it’s not safe for work.

Female compliancy is paramount both in the eyes of the advertisers and in the body of the storyline itself.

Half of it is set on the so-called Bitch Planet, an off-world, all-female penitentiary run by the earth-bound Bureau of Compliancy and Corrections staffed by men. Some of the inmates are murderers, but others are in for “seduction and disappointment; emotional manipulation” and “disrespect”, while one Marian Collins’ crime was to be in the way of her husband having an affair. There’s a beautiful sequence of misdirection so successfully set up by both DeConnick and De Landro – as Marian’s husband desperately pleads with the BCC’s Off-world Overseer Roberto Solanza for the return of his wife – that I had to flick back and read it once more to see if it was watertight. It was!

There are plenty of subplots to keep you guessing but the main thrust that currently propels BITCH PLANET is Father Josephson’s search not just for the TV ratings he deems meaningless but for engagement. “Engagement is the measure that matters.” To that end he enlists Roberto Solanza, proposing that a team be created on his Bitch Planet for Josephson’s best broadcast, the contact sport called Duemila or Megaton which makes American Football look like a game of tiddlywinks. To make this happen the one inmate they have to secure is the athlete amongst them, Kamau Kogo. She’s far from convinced:

“Megaton? You want a bunch of girls to get their asses beat to pay for the system that locks them up. The fuck outta here.”

But the system has leverage – doesn’t it always? – and some of Kogo’s fellow prisoners have very persuasive agendas of their own. Not only that, but Kogo herself is very resourceful as you’ll discover when she encounters a peeping tom through a hole in the shower walls. That balletic sequence is gloriously drawn and coloured by main artist De Landro who nails Kogo’s gymnastic prowess and the muscles required to accomplish such feats. All of De Landro’s body forms are highly individualistic as displayed in “The Obligatory Shower Scene” but, unlike most such shower scenes, it is empowering rather than objectifying. Also, much is made earlier of how cold and uncomfortable the women are when naked en masse – it’s far from erotic, but awkward viewing instead.

My favourite chapter is the middle one focussing on Penelope Rolle, a woman of considerable girth drawn by Robert Wilson IV in a style that makes the most of her physique. The assaults on Penny’s presentation throughout her past are relentless. Indeed amongst the crimes she is charged with are “Aesthetic offences and wanton obesity”. Conformity and compliance are all, remember? They’re actually assaults on her happiness.

Back on Bitch Planet the authorities’ greatest threat in order to ensure her compliance is to dig deep into Penelope’s psyche to reveal Penny’s own ideal self: to confront her with how she wishes she looked and so shame her with the reality.

“Visualization is the key to achieving our objectives. We are trying to help you.”

They’re not, but they do!

Finally, Father Josephson himself is a right piece of work. He’s the sort of casual power-player who answers the phone with “Yyyello?” and redirects conversations with “Anyhoo” – both of which actually do deserve immediate incarceration.


Buy Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey.

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

They did stuff: they poisoned the 21st Century.

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

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

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

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

Shalvey and Bellaire have done a tremendous job of separating the past from the present: it couldn’t be clearer. Both the body language and colours command that you consider the contrast. They’ve also executed the most furious and thrilling cyclone of leaves I ever thought possible, while the action sequences later on come with balletic grace and a clipped, military precision.

In places I get whiffs of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN’s Kevin O’Neill. I may be down-wind.

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

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

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

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



Buy Injection vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Bouncer (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq…

“Well, my chickadee, who gives a damn about all this water when we have enough gold to open a casino in San Francisco!”
“You’re even stupider than I thought.”
“We’re rich. We can start a life far from this miserable shit town.”
“No! You are without doubt the world champion of idiocy. You’ve just managed to transform my land into a desert, and now you expect me to fall into your arms and run off with you?!”

No idea why Humanoids have decided to stop releasing the English translations of BOUNCER in the format of two French album-sized works collected together (often the stories are two-parters) after the first four, but this is the first seven albums, created between 2001 and 2010.

It’s even more puzzling because there have actually been two more French albums since, the two-handed ‘To Hell’ / ‘And Back’ from 2012 and 2013 respectively, but those aren’t collected here. I can only presume it’s a) a financial decision, and b) there are going to be more volumes coming out in the future. Anyway, this chunky tombstone of a tome certainly represents excellent value for money. Unless, perhaps, you already own the first four sevenths of it…

Anyway… this is probably Jodorowsky’s finest work in comics outside of MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART and THE INCAL for me. And yet, possibly because it’s not illustrated by Moebius or part of the wider INCAL mythos like the METABARONS or TECHNOPRIESTS material, it doesn’t receive anywhere near the same sort of acclaim. It’s certainly not metaphysical, psychological or even psychedelic in nature like those works, or indeed his surreal and highly acclaimed cowboy film El Topo, but BOUNCER is definitely one of the finest Western genre stories in comic form.

I think the best Westerns – primarily cinematic, I think we can agree; Brian Azarello’s self-contained EL DIABLO and sadly truncated LOVELESS being two of the few brilliant period examples in comics – certainly have a touch of Shakespearean melodrama about them, and Bouncer definitely has that in abundance. Tragic heroes, comedic fools, oft one and the same, both Machiavellian and moronic villains, plus damsels in distress and femme fatales, you’ll find them all within these pages, scrapping for status or simply survival in these very baddest of lands.

Rather like the HBO show Deadwood in style, then, full of ornery characters and insalubrious saloons, BOUNCER retells the classic cowboy story of a man of mysterious origins, standing apart from his fellow citizens, both by his choice and theirs. A man of few friends, but no shortage of enemies. A man of a certain moral compass, despite living a debauched whisky-drenched life, that’s inevitably bound to point him firmly in the direction of trouble, sooner or later. More often than not.

BOUNCER has all the required elements for the perfect Western story: of greed and wrongs to be righted, innocent victims suffering horrifically at the hands of swinish brutes, and above all, one man prepared to do whatever it takes, no matter the personal cost, to make sure evil doesn’t prevail. And as mentioned, whilst the art isn’t by Moebius, don’t be put off from taking a peak through these swinging saloon doors, because Francois Boucq’s ligne claire is equally as beautiful and lustily, dustily coloured too in an appropriately vibrant sun-drenched manner.

I realise Westerns are regarded as somewhat passé in comics these days, despite modern takes on the genre like Jason Aaron’s and R.M. Guera SCALPED. But I hope this type of material can keep interest alive in the genre, because a great Western at its best is nothing more nor less than a fascinating character study of the true nature of man. Usually some poor unfortunate trying not to buckle under the most intense pressures from every angle. A bit like getting the Page 45 mail order out, then…


Buy Bouncer and read the Page 45 review here

Klaxxon (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Si Spencer & DIX.

Queasy, disorientating horror of hopelessness and helplessness from the writer of HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS and BODIES, this is set in a suburbia that has been bleached of all colour.

What remains are various hues of mud, from clay to grey to khaki.

The life had been sucked from the area by a parasitic landlord who grins like a lunatic while enfeebling his son.

Two “friends” squat on a Carlisle’s grimy sofa, high on cavity wall insulation which they pick in tiny pieces from a hole behind them. Going out is an anathema to them. They personify inertia.

A young woman called Carole moves in next door with her voluminous mother. There’s something not right. Instead of taking the milk in from the doorstep in the morning, Carole puts it out. There seems to be a surplus.

Against his friends’ explicit wishes and advice Carlisle goes round to greet his new neighbour to see if he can help.

And in the bleak playground across the road, four identical, lank young ladies drop down from the impossibly high swings to crouch on the asphalt like broken-boned gymnasts or ghoulish gibbons.

Then there’s the banging. Then there’s the klaxon…

Okay, so that’s not a review; it’s more of an evocation. It’s a pretty accurate indication of what you’re in for.

Unsettling, to say the least.


Buy Klaxxon and read the Page 45 review here

Fables Comics h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Simone Lia, Tom Gauld, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez, James Kochalka, George O’Connor, Vera Brosgol, Graham Annable, Roger Langridge, R. Sikoryak, Jennifer L. Meyer, Gregory Benton and more.

Fables: short stories, typically starring anthropomorphic animals, conveying a moral message. Well, if not a moral message then at least useful instructions to guide you through potential pitfalls in life. Aesop’s generally your go-to guy but there are so many more.

The worst are strictly prohibitive affairs: don’t do this or life will spank you, possibly in the nuts. The best encourage you to rethink the immediate or the obvious in favour of a more canny approach and so a positive outcome.

Honesty is the best policy.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Those in glass houses should grow more greens.
A stitch in time is a temporal anomaly.
He who laughs last is a dimwit.

If you think I’m being irreverent then so is this, while remaining absolutely faithful to its original sources. I think that’s why it works so well: children get to learn their valuable life-lessons while their parents are amused by the detours and departures.

From the stable that brought you the mischief-ridden FAIRY TALE COMICS and NURSERY RHYME COMICS – both reviewed and both best-sellers in our Young Readers’ section – comes an equally naughty new comics anthology from some of our most cherished adult-orientated creators.

Tom Gauld is up early with ‘The Town Mouse And The Country Mouse’ and I love what he’s done with the marginal panels to reflect each environment.

‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ by Jaime Hernandez is possibly the most traditional retelling but its message is one of the best: “There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth”. It’s something comics corporations should have learned long ago.


‘The Crow And The Pitcher’ by Simone Lia reminds you that sharing is caring before revealing a top tip in water displacement which might save your life if you’re ever caught in the desert with a well whose water you cannot reach and have a steady supply of rocks handy. You know, on the off-chance.

R. Sikoryak adopts a full-blown George Herriman KRAZY & IGNATZ approach for ‘Lion + Mouse’, right down to the language, while George O’Connor handles three mythical duties with a Hermes that put me in mind of Eddie Campbell. You can always rely on Eleanor Davis for juicy colours and here she presents a wake-up call in the form of ‘The Old Man And Death’.

Jennifer L. Meyer’s ‘Fox And Crow’ couldn’t look more different with its intricate, detailed pencils, its soft and delicate pink, purple and sage green washes and the most dashing fox dressed up in tails.

I count twenty-eight offerings in total from this individualistic bunch which proves, on top of everything else, that variety is the spice of life.


Buy Fables Comics h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Island (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel.

“I’m kind of worried. What are we supposed to do out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Same as we always do for the kids… pretend like we know what we’re doing.”

Ha, the punchline to that particular parental to and fro is the dad then being completely and utterly unable to light a fire for his family and having to be rescued with a book of matches from mum, much to his chagrin. So, here we have a rather typical nuclear family of dad Lyle, mum Karen, teenage boy Reese and his younger sister Janie. By which I mean they’re only ever one careless word away from it all exploding! Ah, happy families…

Dad Lyle is convinced that what they really need is some quality family time together, it’s just he’s the only one who seems to think taking a boat trip is a good idea. One tropical storm later and our not-so-fantastic foursome find themselves washed up on a most peculiar island. How so? Well, I would say freakish monsters, zombies, skeletons, aliens, giant robots, plus a dash of magic would qualify as peculiar, wouldn’t you? It’s the sort of scenario you might concoct if you mashed about eight different episodes of Scooby Doo up together, and it’s certainly more than enough to keep our reluctant castaways in a permanent state of consternation.

Gradually, though, they start to put the pieces together of what on Earth, and from Outer Space, is happening. By the end they’ve discovered that essential quality for pulling together as a family: gritted teeth! No, sorry, I meant teamwork, of course! But before then there more bizarre island-based escapades to endure than you’ll find in the entire five seasons of Lost before the vacation is over.

Ha, if any budding creators want to understand precisely how you can throw even the proverbial kitchen sink at a story and still pull it all together plot-wise, they could do a lot worse than study this. It’s the fraught family dynamics that really make this work shine though, particularly the relationship between Dad Lyle and young teenager Reese, who is desperate to show his father that he can be trusted and is well on the way to being a grown up. Dad Lyle, perhaps understandably, is so busy trying to make sure his family survives through to the end of each tropically terror packed day, that he’s unable to see how much his son needs his father to just let go a little bit, and trust him…

There’s a little musing for real life thrown in right there, plus given Doug TenNapel has four children himself, I suspect he knows more than a little about how combustible a pastime parenting can be, for all concerned. Another excellent all-ages read to add to the ever burgeoning kids corner of Page 45! We’re going to need to annex half the manga section soon for our cornucopia of teenagers and young reader material, I think!


Buy Bad Island and read the Page 45 review here

Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Rafael Albuquerque, Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque.

If your first impression upon opening a graphic novel is, “Ooooh, look at those colours!” then you’re off to a good start.

Unless it’s in black and white, in which case it’s high time you rethought your LSD intake.

Tones of turquoise form the consistent base on black and white. Throw in butterscotch, bloody red splatters, then lime-green or purple or blue and I was primarily more than impressed, until I realised it wasn’t just a pretty face I was looking at. They’re actually chronological colour codes: the past is in green, the present is purple, the future is blue, whereas the butterscotch Meld “is something else entirely”.

And it is.

It’s a pocket dimension in time into which things fall from the past, the present or the future, often by accident as if caught in some sort of Bermuda Triangle but occasionally by design. Joshua’s been sent quite deliberately from the future into the Meld in order to assassinate The Spear. He’s volunteered in exchange for the scientist’s help curing his comatose wife. Unfortunately he’s lost the majority of his memory and when he tries to communicate with the future using the frequency of 8 he’d drawn on his wrist, he hears instead a woman’s voice urging him to follow the dinosaur: that little critter which has just appeared to his right.

He follows the lizard only to encounter a woman called Nila whose voice is identical to the one he’d just heard, but she’s never seen him before in her life. She’s certainly never spoken to him.

Meanwhile, Doctor Hamm in the present has chartered a plane to fly into a storm he believes will take his team to the Meld. It doesn’t. It takes him waaaaaay back in time and into a period of the past populated by sabretooth lions.

How much more should I tell you? The Spear too has a time capsule which he doesn’t know how to operate and now leads The Tyrant’s soldiers in search of the rebels amongst whom is Nila. Nila’s younger brother has a monkey dressed in a NASA spacesuit, while Nila herself bears an uncanny resemblance to Joshua’s wife from the future.

Will everything connect? Oh yes, with much more to come, including that marking of ‘8’ Or infinity.

It’s not quite as breath-taking as the ridiculous clever and compact time-travel chapter in Warren Ellis’ SECRET AVENGERS VOL 3 or the first season finale of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, but it’s plenty satisfying, I promise you.

The figure work throughout is rough-hewn but gorgeous, Albuquerque’s animals are thoroughly thrilling, while the elaborately helmed Tyrant looks like he’s drawn by Sir Barry Windsor-Smith – especially his nose, jaw and mouth. Which was unexpected.


Buy Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Codename Baboushka: Conclave Of Death #1 (£2-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Shari Chankhamma.

“You might think she’s a hero.
“That would be a mistake.”

Doesn’t the cover scream James Bond title sequence at you? We’ll return to that in a minute.

From the writer of UMBRAL, WASTELAND, THE FUSE and its colourist on full art duties here, this a marked departure from Johnston’s other espionage outings like THE COLDEST CITY. As Antony mentions in the back, THE COLDEST CITY’s star “pulls a gun precisely three times, only shoots once, and doesn’t hit a thing”. Baboushka will be shooting, hitting, poisoning and blowing many, many things – and by ‘things’ I mean people.

“I promise you, these earrings are dynamite.”

She’ll be doing so swiftly, methodically and effectively without the art once losing its femininity.

Chankhamma’s faces put me in mind of Kate Brown (FISH + CHOCOLATE, NELSON etc) and she luxuriates in the Contessa’s scarlet high heels, tiered pearl necklace and flesh-coloured dress then throws everything she’s got – just like the security guards – at Baboushka in the field.

What might take a moment to drop like the proverbial penny is that this 80-mile-an-hour action sequence isn’t the main event – it isn’t the titular Conclave of Death which Contessa Annika Malikova is being blackmailed to infiltrate by the American government. The clue lies in the instructions issued by her man-handlers from EON (Extrajudicial Operations Network): do not kill the retiring ex-CIA gun-runner called Felton, but persuade him to sell her his secrets. These are very much on the table for the highest bidder but Felton would never sell to the Americans. He might, however, sell them to the notorious mafiya boss Baboushka if she came out of retirement. Guess which guise Contessa Annika Malikova used to go by back in Russia?

So no, this is not the main event. This is emphatically but a prologue precisely like those James Bond opening action-fests leading straight into the films’ title sequences as Codename Baboushka comes out of retirement in spectacular fashion.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to attract Felton’s attention.


Buy Codename Baboushka: Conclave Of Death #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Girls #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang.

I like what Matt Wilson – colourist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE etc – has done with the faces. The mouths, eyes and brows have retained Cliff Chiang’s black lines while the more subtle shadows round the lips, nose and furrows are gentle, darker tones of the flesh itself.

Apart from the winged apparition of Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe in full space helmet and shaggy old Beelzebub torturing Erin’s young sister in her school classroom.

“We warned you… Never eat from the Tree Of Knowledge.”

Dreams, eh?

November 1st 1988 and Erin awakes at 4-40am to prepare for her paper round. She’s got a big stash of cash in her bedroom’s desk drawer next to the keys and elastic-band ball so she’s obviously not doing badly (?) but this morning she’ll have to contend with the teenage detritus of last night’s Halloween so thank goodness for MacKenzie, KJ and Tiffany, three more paper girls who’ve banded together for mutual protection precisely in case of dweebs like these.

They’re going to need it too because, umm, that thing in the basement. Extra constellations in the sky. And three skulking figures wrapped in black linen with far from humanoid pupils. You won’t like what they find underneath. Thank goodness one of the young ladies had saved up enough paper-round money for a pair of walkie-talkies. You remember them…? Oh god, you’re eighteen, aren’t you?

Excellent execution of environment with Cliff Chiang providing scowls, late ‘80s early teen fashion, exquisite figure work, pavement-level perspectives and a sprawling, early morning suburbia with enough trees to make it somewhere you wouldn’t actively hate to live – unless, like MacKenzie, you have the local cops on your case.

Brian K. Vaughan wisely leaves Chiang to deliver most of the explication in the form of evidence around Erin’s bedroom.

Otherwise…? I have absolutely no idea.


Buy Paper Girls #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Strange #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo with Kevin Nowlan.

Best single issue of DOCTOR STRANGE I’ve ever read in my life, and the most beautiful. How could it be otherwise from the artist of Neil Gaiman’s DEATH?

Like Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s self-contained INHUMANS graphic novel, this has an appeal well beyond its Marvel Comics confines and you need know nothing before its Sanctum Sanctorum. But since we are in the business of beginnings here, let me help you.

Doctor Stephen Strange was once a surgeon.

In a way he still is. It’s just that the cancers he cuts out from infested individuals are now more mystical in nature and often come with a great deal of grumpy attitude, several sets of serrated teeth and breath that stinks of sulphur. But I believe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

As a highly skilled and sought-after medical doctor Stephen had an ego like nobody’s business until an accident crippled the nerves in his hands. He searched the furthest and most inaccessible corners of the globe for a miracle cure – which is an odd thing to do for a man of science or even basic geometry – and found instead The Ancient One, after which he earned his place as Master Of The Mystic Arts and the Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.

“The nerve damage never healed properly. My hands still ache and tremble most of the time. Which is why my handwriting is beyond atrocious, even for a doctor.”

Hold on, which Stephen is this? Out-of-control ego…? Atrocious handwriting…?

Anyway, instead of an ego he now has a libido, even when confronted by an insectoid laydee sucking away at the soul of a comatose boy. What does our Stephen Strange do?

“Quietly casting a spell of romantic divination to confirm my suspicions. I think she’s into me.”

Hmmm. I think the ego’s intact.

He cures this poor lad but on his way to a regular meet-up with Doctor Voodoo, Shaman and the Scarlet Witch in a most irregular, sequestered magicians’ bar he is set upon by a gigantic, transdimensional lamprey. Easily dispatched. Easily, but messily.

“Sorry, guys. My last appointment rang a bit long.”
“Sure it did. What was her name this time?”
“Well, as it happens, there was a woman involved, but I don’t think it’s liable to work out between us.”
“Of course it won’t, Stephen. Because you’re a dog. And I say that as a dear friend.”
“Actually, it’s because she’s a soul-eater from the sixth dimension.”

So there’s the soul eaters, the leech and – after a pint down that pub – a woman appears on Strange’s doorstep with irate eyes and a ravenous mouth growing out of her scalp.

“It started a few weeks ago. I thought it was just a rash. Then it grew teeth and bit my hairbrush. I went to the emergency room, but they screamed and threw bed-pans at me.”

Then it explodes in his face.

“When all the birds fly away in a hurry, get ready for a storm.
“So if these are still just the birds…. what the hell is that storm going to look like?”


From the writer of SCALPED and SOUTHERN BASTARDS, I commend this Marvel Comic to you mightily. Chris Bachalo brings you late-summer leaves and trees and a mansion you might malinger outside as well. Within you’ll find exquisite, leather-bound books and I adore what he’s done with the photo-shopped textures for teddybears.

Aaron has learned his HAWKEYE lessons well: if you want to make superhero comics more mainstream with a much wider appeal then sever them from extraneous continuity no one can keep up with, make them fun, full of foibles and a humanity we can all comprehend.


Buy Doctor Strange #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Invincible Iron Man #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

So yes, even though SECRET WARS is far from finished, Marvel have elected to relaunch their brand-new universe on time with –

Oh, of course it’s not brand-new! It’s barely tweaked so its fans will still feel at home, yet everything can be marketed with big “#1”s on the covers.

The good news is this: so far, so good. I’ll be stunned if anything manages to match the knock-out quality of DOCTOR STRANGE #1, but you can rely on Bendis to be brilliant even if he doesn’t appear to have brought anything particularly new to the table yet other than a woman Tony Stark will almost certainly find worth waiting for. She’s not feisty, she’s thoughtful, and I like her already.

She also has a secret which she’s handling very well – with admirable integrity – but hasn’t thought completely through. I don’t think Bendis has done with the X-Men yet.

Marquez is equally magnificent during the quiet, tender moments high above New York City at night – his fashion sense is impeccable – and thrilling at the high-octane action sequences starring someone both Stark and Bendis are well acquainted with.

The cliffhanger implies that SECRET WARS may well have at least one radical ramification. It works very well not as a spoiler but as a “How did that happen?” which should instead intrigue.

Also launched: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. This too comes with one change, the return to a much earlier supervillain subplot, plus an excellent joke about Kraven’s nipples.

Also: AVENGERS #0 which sets the stage for half a dozen new titles. A bit messily, to be honest.


Buy Invincible Iron Man #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 (£45-00, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

There’s probably only one word I need to utter to sum up this entire third compendium of over a thousand pages collecting issues #97 to #144 of THE WALKING DEAD, which is… Negan.

He might be an utterly evil bastard, but he’s undoubtedly the wittiest, smoothest evil bastard to grace the pages of this comic, and practically every other. From the moment he first crosses the path of Rick’s merry band, making quite the… impact (regular readers of the title will know exactly what I am referring to) he’s quickly become the man we love to hate, but also hate to admit we love. He alone took my already considerable enjoyment for this title to such new levels, I ended up reviewing three successive smaller graphic novel arcs, practically unheard of for a title that’s been going this long, which is thirteen years to date! Having reread them, I might as well just reproduce them in full as they sum up the mayhem contained within this brick of a compilation perfectly. Here’s hoping the series continues long enough that there’s sufficient of these compendiums to construct a zombie proof dwelling with…

Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After

“Can I say something? I don’t quite understand the hostility in that look. No fucking sir.
“I’m a special kind of person. I don’t fucking rattle.
“You even made me drop Lucille. You have any fucking clue how much she hates being on the ground? She’s like an American flag that way. You just don’t let it happen… it’s disrespectful.
“Still… here I am, friendly as a fuckless fuck on free fuck day.”

In which everyone’s least favourite pinch-hitter Negan continues his reign of terror, enforced only by his sheer force of will, and of course dear old Lucille, his barbed-wire-decorated baseball bat. Scarcely have I ever wanted a fictional villain to get it so, so badly!! The last time was probably The Governor, actually, which all goes to show Kirkman’s horror epic doesn’t show any signs of running out of steam any time soon. What next? A man with a tiger for a pet? Enter King Ezekiel… a man who really has got a tiger for a pet… and who might just be Rick’s best chance at taking out Negan. Somehow though, I can’t quite imagine it’s going to be as simple and straightforward as that.

Walking Dead Volume 19: March To War

“We’re the big swinging dick of this world… have been for a long fucking time… but it seems people are forgetting that.
“So now our big swinging dick is going to swing harder… and faster, until we take off like a motherfucking helicopter and blow all these motherfuckers away.

“SIGH. We’re going to war.”

Ha ha I really can’t see that little speech ever making it into the TV show!! I am so pleased Robert Kirkman didn’t kill off the megalomaniacal Negan almost immediately as originally intended, because he really has been absolute comedy gold. The pained look on his face after his troops just don’t get his motivational message and he has to break it down for them had me giggling on and off for a good hour afterwards. I do love the TV show but the comic is just brilliant right now.

Walking Dead vol 20: All Out War Part 1

“So… today’s the day?”
“How do you feel?”
“Overwhelmed… this is big… bigger than anything we’ve ever done. This is war.”

“You can’t have a war without… casualties.”

Poor old Rick, he always seems to have the weight of the remaining world on his shoulders. Yes, never a series to shy away from killing beloved characters, Mr. Kirkman has decided to up the ante and go all-in for the next twelve issues, six of which are contained within this volume. Well, technically all-out according to the title, but that didn’t work with my poker metaphor.

What next? Rick and Negan doing the all-in, all-out Hokey Cokey mano-a-mano to decide the winner of their private war? I think I saw that in a Kevin Costner film once… More likely, though, is simply the highest body count yet, as both sides conclude peace in their time is starting to look about as likely as a zombie Michael Jackson suddenly appearing to lead the walking dead in a rendition of Thriller. Though, technically, if you think about it, that is possible: he has to be shambling around somewhere…

Pretty surprised Kirkman hasn’t played the celebrity zombie card yet… in fact, maybe like Rick’s weird technocolour alien dream sequence in issue #75, Kirkman’s saving a celeb cameo for the 200th issue… How about a zombie Stan Lee…? Also, remember the tiger? Yes, that tiger which spawned the “Ezekiel has got a tiger” merchandise t-shirts? Not sure if it’s too late to get a refund, but…


Buy Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday…

“Threepio, you worthless rust bucket, you better not have damaged my ship.”
“For once, sir, the Millennium Falcon appears to be in good working order.
“As we hoped, Chewbacca was able to pilot us undetected through the moon’s orbital field.
“At present, the Falcon and I are safely hidden amongst the extensive refuse fields that surround the factory.
“If I may say so, Captain Solo, I do find it rather disconcerting that your vessel continues to be so easily mistaken for garbage.”
“You’ll be garbage if you mess this up, Goldenrod!”

Judging by the myriad reprints required for the issues contained in this first trade since Marvel re-took control, it would seem the appetite for all things Star Wars remains undiminished. It remains to be seen whether such faith is justified on the film front, but I think we can now conclude this run of comics is indeed a worthy addition to the canon. I remember all too well going to see the first of the second trilogy of films and coming away from the cinema probably more disappointed than on any other occasion. Actually, if we’re being honest, Return Of The Jedi wasn’t that great, either. I mean, could they really not have come up with a different plot than another Death Star needing destroying? And Ewoks, sigh, really not that much better than Jar Jar Binks, frankly. And yet, still off I trotted to watch them all…

Anyway… comic readers of a certain age will remember a UK title called STAR WARS WEEKLY, which ran for a considerable period of time immediately after the first film and featured the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2 et al in various adventures, pursued all the whilst by Darth Vader. It was actually rather good, featuring decent writing by, amongst others, Roy Thomas and great art from the likes of Howard Chaykin. Also, being published as it was by Marvel, it had great back-up strips reprinting classic material such as Adam Warlock, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deathlok and Micronauts. For those of us thirsting for more lightsabre-wielding, blaster-frapping, outer-space wise-cracking antics, it was perfect.

This title is basically yet another extension of that original franchise and cast. Obviously Dark Horse started doing exactly the same thing a couple of years ago with the STAR WARS material penned by Brian Wood. I have no idea whether that now will be considered canon or not. Or any of the other Dark Horse material covering several time periods spanning thousands of years in Star Wars history. Or indeed the original STAR WARS WEEKLY material. Does it even matter, really?

This tale is set almost immediately after the end of the first film. Our chums have a mission to fulfil which naturally involves ridiculous personal and collective peril, implausible hokey plot twists and of course much lightsabre-swishing, blaster-waving and never-ending threats of personal violence directed at C3PO from Han Solo, sick and tired of Threepio’s verbal diarrhoea. They haven’t even waited five minutes to break out the big bad guns either as Vader is back by the end of this first issue, though the clue is in the background of the cover, I suppose, which does indeed make me think it will be much like the STAR WARS WEEKLY run with the continual cat-and-mouse chase of our pals trying to stay one step ahead of Vader, whilst getting neck deep in whatever various near fatal shenanigans the current plot arc throws up.

The humorous dialogue is certainly on point, and after the first somewhat flimsy issue plot-wise, which is basically a throwaway adventure simply allowing every character to be wheeled out to say hello, things start to build up nicely in terms of storytelling. The art, well, for the second time in recent years Cassaday seems a bit stilted and flat, frankly, following on from his three issues opening Rick Remender’s UNCANNY AVENGERS before he left that title. I dunno, maybe it’s just not floating his artistic boat, but it all seems a far, far cry from his PLANETARY days. Strange. I note Stuart Immonen has now picked up the pencils (as with #8) and it is a vast improvement.

Will I continue reading this title? Probably. Will I be daft enough to go see the new film. Certainly.


Buy Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader vol 1: Vader (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca…

“The Darth to the Vader
Flip over the crossfader
I’ll serenade you with a bag of space raiders
Or Walkers or Smiths or maybe even quavers.”

‘You Knows I Love You Baby’ – Goldie Lookin Chain

I have always seriously wanted to believe that the various buttons and LEDs on Darth Vader’s chest activated breakbeat samples and some different vocoder options, perhaps a Cornish accent, rather than just being some ridiculously vulnerable life support system. I have my suspicions he would be a bit of a dad dancer, mind you, though you never know, he might well be able to moonwalk across the road, always looking both ways first, of course, obeying the Green Cross Code. If anyone is going to unveil the mysteries of Darth’s lighter side, it’s going to be Kieron Gillen, I feel.

Some of my favourite sequences in the seventies Star Wars run of comics featured the original man in black throwing his telekinetic weight around and administering virtual Chinese burns to the throats of his cowering lackeys. Even as five-year-olds playing Star Wars in the playground for months afterwards, no one minded being Darth, simply because he was cool. Even my little four-year-old nutjob spotted the cover of this issue at home and commented, “Who’s that? He’s not a goodie, is he? I like his mask, though.”

Having recently had a revelatory conversation with said nutjob regarding the Maleficent film, how it was possible for someone to start off being nice but end up a baddie due to unfortunate things happening to them, I therefore explained that this was the same scenario. “But is he good again in the end, like Maleficent?” was the next question, which I knew full well was coming. When I said that indeed, there was a happy ending and Darth helps save the day, all was well in the nutjob’s world.

We can perhaps leave the irredeemable villains of the universe like Ming the Merciless for a little while yet, I think, and thus we moved on to the merits of a lightsabre versus a regular sword… “I bet it’s easier to cut someone’s head off with a lightsabre than a sword, isn’t it daddy?” Truly, I feel the moment of sitting down and watching Star Wars IV together is edging ever nearer…

Anyway, I really enjoyed this first volume: Kieron does an excellent job of showing Darth does have his own mind and isn’t just the Emperor’s preferred implement of inducing blunt Force trauma. In fact, it’s what the Emperor is getting up to behind his back which is intriguing our Lord of Sith, believing as he did that he was the Emperor’s most trusted and valuable lieutenant. Given the dressing down and demotion he’s just received, being instructed to start taking orders from Baron Tagge (excellent – he was one of my favourite characters in the original run), he decides he needs to chalk up something in the win column, and soon.

Cue a little friendly lightsabre-twirling, telekinetic throat-tickling chat with Jabba The Hut to engage the services of a certain green-helmeted bounty hunter whom he tasks with tracking down the naughty young master Skywalker. That should set the chest lights flashing, I reckon. Great opener with lovely art from Salvador Larroca, you can practically hear the asthmatic wheezing when Darth is glowering at all and sundry.


Buy Darth Vader vol 1: Vader 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.

Two Brothers (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon

Killing And Dying (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine

Briar (£8-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Reed & Chris Wildgoose

Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 (£7-50, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastien

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 3: United (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad, Cliff Richards

Death Vigil vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Image) by Stjepan Sejic

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 1 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Junko

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 10 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Multiversity Deluxe Edition h/c (£37-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Marcus To, Paulo Siqueira, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin, Jonathan Glapion, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Jaime Mendoza, Eber Ferreira


Page 45 is off to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 this weekend! Friday 16th October to Sunday 18th. We’ll have creator special guests and graphic novels to make you squeal.

Please come and join us! It’s enormous fun!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week one

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Includes Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights Graphic Novel vol 1 adapted by Stephanie Melchior & Clément Oubrerie. New Gregory Bention and Michael DeForge.

Page 45 21st Birthday Party photos below!

Also new this week: The Wicked + The Divine Pantheon t-shirts! We ship worldwide!

From Under Mountains #1 (£2-99, Image) by Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson & Sloane Leong.

Brother Marcellus to his sister Elena about their father from astride his snorting steed:

“Have you asked him about your trip yet?”
“I’m putting it off so I can pretend he might say yes.”
“I’ve been to Menka a dozen times. I don’t see why you can’t.”
“Don’t you?”
“He might let you come along with me in the spring. I’ll bring it up when I get back.”

Marcellus charges out into the sunlit desert beyond the thick-stoned keep.

“Close the gates.”

Conceived by the creator of BEAST (and more recently the artist of 8HOUSE #1) it’s no surprise that this too deals in part with the dismissal of women in a patriarchal society. Here we have one that’s feudal too and that Elena springs from nobility empowers her not one jot, her father seeing no more than a strategically advantages marriage in her future. Judging by this first issue, I’m not sure that the house of Karsgate has much of a future. Their Volan neighbours are encroaching increasingly on Karsgate territory, while the keep itself will be infiltrated tonight by an intrepid young Tova and although she thought she’d be alone in that, she won’t be.

Something else has been set free by a summoning well beyond those walls.

Born of fire and a frenzy of hands under a low red moon, it is both ethereal yet as weighty as the words which have bound it. It is luminous in blue and purple and is given a ceremonial knife…

Claire Gibson’s script is indeed well weighted and nothing whatsoever appears extraneous.

“Every decision you make must have your full attention, no matter how small,” cautions Marcellus’ father and the same could be said of every word Gibson’s written for Churchland’s new series.

As Elena attempts to confront her father on her lack of opportunity to learn through travel, birds flap about the sky, mostly off-panel. There’s quite a lot of Paul Pope in Leong’s faces, while her colours are rich and redolent of the east. A lot of attention has been given from the get-go by Marian herself to the various classes’ costume designs reprinted in the back along with early thumbnail sketches, a great big map and a landscape double-page spread by Brandon Graham.

Plenty more politics to come as the last four pages introduce a new player who’s seen better days but about to be offered a second chance by a council I fear is about to go covert. But to what end?


Buy From Under Mountains #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Smoke (£10-99, Alternative) by Gregory Benton.

Whoa! What a playful, magical, visual thrill!

There’s no skimping on big, bold forms and elemental colours: lots of fire, water, earth and sky here.

There are also some spectacular vantage points like the floor of an open warehouse looking up at its rafters which are being hung with bushels of produce, presumably to dry out.

I love silent, surreal and slightly secretive stories requiring active interpretation, but I don’t recall many that have messed around with the structure of the narrative to quite such clever effect.

Let me see what I can do to intrigue without giving the game away.

Locals are being bussed to a harvest. It’s not a community harvest, it’s very much paid, outside employment. One of two brothers enterprisingly brings a cool box full of bottles which he sells before being encouraged to join in the hot, sticky work.

A billboard and a factory billowing smoke behind the plantation would suggest it’s tobacco, although the consistency of what’s sliced through is more like a cactus and the runny gloop dripping down seems psychotropic to some.

Suddenly the two brothers are not in Kansas anymore and that’s one hell of a skull-faced Toto looming over them. And she or he really does – loom, almost out of the page! But you’ll notice its tail is wagging.

Okay, so the narrative has now split into two threads (which I would suggest are deliberately out of synch) for the brothers are both still very much still back on planet Earth where certain events will be “anticipated” in the dreamscape long before they break out in the warehouse.

I really can’t say any more except that there’s an early clue built on quite quickly as to whether this will wander in the form of something else by the roadside right on page one which is now tattered and torn but still there.

Two tiny details: I loved the pools of water in the black dog’s eye sockets, lapping over one edge like a tear. Then I adored its massive, muscular form friskily shaking its coat dry. It’s such a happy image with bright summer-green grass, thick foliage behind and cold blue water flying everywhere!

Now turn the page!

Impeccable storytelling, far from obvious yet perfectly composed.


Buy Smoke and read the Page 45 review here

Palefire (£8-99, Secret Acres) by M.K. Reed & Farel Dalrymple…

“God, mom, he’s not an arsonist.”
“Sigh. Alison, what will it take to convince you that you are wrong here?”
“How do you know I am wrong? Maybe I’m right and you’re wrong.”
“Oh, you’re starting a new trend.”
“Yes, I’m a cruel bitch for wanting to err on the side of you not being burned alive.”
“I NEVER get to have fun.”
“Yeah, well stop picking things that make me think you’re going to be maimed or killed or sent to jail as fun and that would be a change.”
“You’re totally paranoid.”
“Did he or did he not blow off his brother’s hand?”
“I don’t know, I’m not his biographer.”

Darren did, for the record. Blow his brother’s hand off, that is. With a string of bangers. Now, whether it was deliberate or not is a subject of intense debate amongst the local highschoolers and their understandably concerned parents. Particularly Alison’s mother, who is obviously beside herself at the prospect of local headcase Darren taking her daughter out for a ‘hot’ date…

Actually there is a pretty good chance that frying flesh, total immolation, or a trip to the clink is one of the evening’s outcomes for Alison, for Darren is indeed a firebug. But Alison feels that even despite that, Darren is the pick of the local young suitors keen to take her out. Compared to some of the other weirdoes who will also be at the party they’re heading to – Casey the pot-head space cadet, boring Tim with his jug ears, and dull-as-dishwater, judgemental Paul – she might even have a point!

But once Darren’s explosive temper gets the better of him at the social gathering and the twosome leave for a drive in the woods, you know it’s only a matter of time before the sparks begin to fly…

I am on record several times as stating my long-time love for Faryl Dalrymple art, which all started with a recommendation from Mark to look at the sadly out of print OMEGA THE UNKNOWN, so it was no surprise to me I loved this work. It was a slight surprise to see it uncoloured, as I haven’t seen anything from Faryl au natural before, but it doesn’t need it and it just gave me chance to appreciate the illustrations even more.

Faryl really is a master of subtle facial emotions, which perfectly counterpoint the witty dialogue. The vast majority of this work is based around conversations between different sets of two people, so to have the subtext conveyed so exquisitely is a joy. There is also a great little moment involving eyes, which is an inspired tiny additional conceit, that finally convinces you – because prior to this point I was continually thinking, well, is he or isn’t he? – that Darren is indeed a raging pyromaniac.

I also had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be brilliantly written too, given how much I loved M.K. Reed’s AMERICUS and THE CUTE GIRL NETWORK, and so it proved. The characters – even tropes as some of them inevitably are, given the extremely short amount of time they are in panel – are completely believable. An acutely and painfully well observed selection of teenage life, therefore. My only gripe is this is a novella rather than a full-length novel. I could quite cheerfully have burned through several more chapters of these particular characters! I think M.K. Reed and Faryl definitely should do something else together.


Buy Palefire and read the Page 45 review here

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge…

“Can I join you?”
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for a flirting fish.”
“What’s that?”
“Just a type of fish. They’re a thing here.”

Ha, do you know, I think Michael DeForge might be the uncrowned king of surreal comics, I really do. Yes, Hans COCHLEA & EUSTACHIA Rickheit is right out there ploughing his own dark furrow of oddness, and Jim FRAN Woodring is always able to upset your mental equilibrium, but Michael can seemingly do every genre of fiction, from contemporary, romantic, speculative, fantasy, you name it. All the whilst maintaining the surrealistic flavour with a nonchalance and breezy ease that makes flirting fish, miniature opticians living inside your eyes, transforming into a Martian lifeform, jumping over one billion miles, and a mermaid dating site seem like mere everyday occurrences.

Much like Box Brown’s brilliant recent AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, Michael presents us with a eclectic selection of shorts pulled together from various mini-comics, zines, anthology contributions, each taking a single rum and uncanny conceit as its central premise and just running zig-zag, eyes closed, with it to see where the hell it goes and what walls he bounces off along the way. I’m pretty sure he has absolutely no idea where a story will end up when he starts each one, but boy does it work.

Often the characters are just trying their darndest to live normal lives amidst the maelstrom of mad that Michael is testing their (and our) mental mettle with, but what always amazes me about his work is how much poignancy he manages to weave in. Now, you would think with a story involving flirting fish, it’s not got much potential to tug on your heartstrings, but you would be completely wrong. It doesn’t end well, not for the piscine playa, and certainly not for the unlucky lady.

A quick mention also for Koyama Press who are based in Toronto. In the eight or so years since they started, they have done a fantastic job championing and publishing the works of both emerging and more established creators. Unfortunately we can only manage to get hold of a relatively small selection of their wider output, usually via John Porcellino’s excellent Spit And A Half distribution channel, as only the more well known creators’ works like Michael’s are distributed by Diamond.


Buy Dressing and read the Page 45 review here

Lose #7 (£7-50, Koyama) by Michael DeForge…

Two bites of DeForge-based barmy in a week! The Lose series has always been Michael’s sandbox of insanity where he really lets himself go and experiments to the max. Ironically, this issue, the first of the Lose series in full colour, contains one of his most straightforward stories. For Michael, that is… It’s entitled ‘Movie Star’, an epic 35-pager which is sandwiched between two much shorter, and considerably more surreal stories, that start and finish the issue.

The two shorts are both great, but it’s ‘Movie Star’ which had me utterly captivated. Kim and relatively decrepit Dad, Louis, live a very mundane life in their tiny flat, the highlight being their movie nights when they’ll watch endless action films. Kim is utterly obsessed with her Dad’s likeness, as a young man in old photographs, to the current-day huge movie star, Gregory Tan. Louis doesn’t want to hear anything about it, for reasons he won’t explain to her, but one day whilst Kim is out shopping, he makes a phone call that will change their lives forever…


Which is where matters start to get weird, of course! Kim arrives home to find Gregory Tan sat in her living room drinking beers with her dad, chatting away merrily, just like it was the most normal thing in the world. They are indeed long-lost brothers and the process of familial reconnection begins. But Michael being Michael, it’s not your usual sort of catching up. Kim might just end up wishing she hadn’t kept bugging her dad about Uncle Gregory, not that any of us, let alone Kim, could possibly guess what is going to happen next…


Buy Lose #7 and read the Page 45 review here

Wizards N Stuff (£2-99) by Stanley Miller.

Stanley Miller is 12 years old.

Stanley Miller is a huge Lizz Lunney fan.

Stanley Miller is a mini-comic genius.

Specifically he has harnessed the hilarity of the completely unexpected: of rug-pulling, ninety-degree turns.

“You know the feeling when you wake up and feel good about yourself, it’s a nice day, the sun is shining?
“Now imagine that feeling but from the perspective of an elastic band.”

There is a four-panel gag here whose punchline made me laugh louder than any other in comics, in which a parent coaxes her or his baby to open wide for the next spoon of goo. Oh, you know how it’s done! “Open wide!” etc. Please clear your own orifice of any food or drink before reading.

If I reproduced that strip which I’ve found online you would all buy this mini-comic in an instant, but it’s very much the highlight, so no.

Being a Lizz Lunney fan I think you’ll know the sort of stripped-down simplicity you can expect from the art with wibbly-wobbly arms and the most basic of shapes – something Miller mirthfully, knowingly plays with in ‘What Are They?’ Your guess is as good as mine and almost as good as Stanleys.

‘And Now To The BBC’s News Teams Where You Are’, on the other hand, is a cut out + keep collection of TV journalists from Huw Edwards to Nick Robinson, each of whom is immediately recognisable.

It’s completely nonsensical, obviously. All of this is. Though I will be play much closer attention from now on to teeny-tiny fairies just in case they’re carrying a great big bazooka.

Each cover is hand-coloured in felt-tip pen so colours will vary.


Buy Wizards N Stuff and read the Page 45 review here

Material vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kott & Will Tempst.

A tired and disillusioned professor questions the merits of modern life – how we’re spending so much time with machines that we’re becoming like them. A student objects and his daughter – via Skype – tells him she’s pregnant. At which point his computer begins to engage with him too.

A visionary director reaches out to a washed up, self-sedated actress for his next, largely improvised film. The studio seeks more commercially viable and quantifiable slants than ten sheets of blank script but the director is determined that the film will be both about and by the actress. Surprisingly it turns out she does have a mind of her own.

A fifteen-year-old boy standing passively at a protest march carrying the hand-written placard declaring “I cannot breath” is arrested, detained and questioned. On release, while babysitting, he discovers a pamphlet about The New Black Panther Party.

Seven months after being liberated from Guantanamo detention centre an innocent man finds he can no longer relate to his family or even touch his doting dog whom he played with as a puppy. They used dogs on him in the prison camp. Waterboarding too. He never hurt anyone, nor planned to hurt anyone. But the only thing which arouses him now is being held down and hurt.

As with Kot’s ZERO, CHANGE, WILD CHILDREN and THE SURFACE, this is so unapologetically intelligent that it takes more than a single read to take in, and I’m still not entirely sure how these four scenarios except that lives are being changed. Rebellion seems to be on the cards.

Each is given two colour-coded pages at a time on a nine-panel grid, lending it a clarity I’m enormously grateful for. The art is direct, thin-lined and brittle. That bit about the dog really got me.

A synopsis is not a review, it’s true, so consider this a story about a story or a sales pitch. I bought it.


Buy Material vol 1 and read the Page 45  review here

Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£12-99, Doubleday) by Philip Pullman, Stephanie Melchior & Clément Oubrerie.

I am the most enormous fan of Clément Oubrerie and the humanity he brought to AYA: LIFE IN YOP CITY and AYA: LOVE IN YOP CITY, those two sparkling comedies of family antics set in Africa you could comfortably log under Behavioural Studies, and the more recent biographical PABLO (Picasso).

I’m also the most enormous fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy which I found commendably iconoclastic.

This is the first third of the first book in which we find young Lyra growing up as the only child within the traditional, rarefied, patriarchal confines of Jordan College, Oxford. A wild spirit who refuses to be contained by class or gender, Lyra’s best friend is kitchen boy Roger and they’re emphatically not above spending time with the gyptians – nomadic families often persecuted by the authorities who roam Britain’s waterways – even though she fears that feisty Ma Costa hates her. Feisty Ma Costa has bigger things on her mind: her son Billy’s gone missing, presumed abducted by the Gobblers. No one has seen these so-called Gobblers because no one’s seen an abduction, but there are an awful lot of children missing now and someone close to home will be next.

Lord Asriel, Lyra’s uncle, visits Jordan College with a discovery from the frozen north: chemically treated, photographic slides which he claims proves the existence of a substance called Dust, news which is greeted as heresy. Then there’s another side showing something more spectacular than the Aurora Borealis itself: an ornate classical city with vast spires glowing blue… from another dimension.

Having survived an assassination attempt within the college cloisters, Lord Asriel heads north again and whereupon chic Mrs Coulter inserts herself slyly into Lyra’s life. It is agreed by her guardians at Jordan College that Lyra needs female company and should be educated from here on by Mrs Coulter, in London where she is fêted by the very highest echelons of society as a great explorer. Lured by the prospect of adventure and initially enthralled by the novelty of Mrs Coulter’s seemingly anti-establishment, educational, inspirational, liberating and empowering ways, Lyra soon wishes she’d listened to her dæmon’s instincts for all, as they say, is not what it seems.

The scope of the trilogy is enormous and will embrace many more perspectives than you’ll expect. Seeing it from the other side is an extraordinary experience.

The above’s but a slither and this is where we hit the problems, I’m afraid, for this loses a lot in translation.

The adaptation is so truncated that huge leaps are made and at times it stops making sense. If I hadn’t read the original I would be wondering, for example, why Lyra was in such mental and physical anguish when Mrs Coulter’s pet monkey grabs Lyra’s pet polecat and Lyra grabs her own throat as if staving off being strangled.

Nowhere has it been explained that these aren’t just talking pets: that these are familiars, shape-shifting dæmons, that every human grows up with one and that a strong symbiotic link which must never be severed is shared between human and dæmon. That will prove ever so slightly important later on.

The dialogue was never one of the trilogy’s multiple fortes yet that’s all that’s left: gone is the immersion in Lyra’s mind she desperately tries to interpret the world around her; you are no longer sharing her journey but watching it from the outside.

Where it succeeds is in Oubrerie’s external and internal architecture evoking an Oxford and London very familiar yet ever so slightly removed.

Also, you’re left to spot Mrs Coulter’s golden monkey making a much earlier appearance than you might at first expect.

And if this adaptation lures in reluctant readers and proves sufficiently intriguing for them to venture towards the original novels, then I think they’ll be instant, lifelong converts to prose.


Buy Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Cardboard (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel…

“I have the best, most amazing, and utterly stupendous gift in the history of the universe… but I’m saving it for a really good kid.”
“My son is a pretty good person, Mr. Gideon. He takes after his mother.”
“Then you must give him what every son wants from his dad…”
“Gideon, this is an empty box.”
“Empty? It’s full! Full of ideas… projects… adventure!”
“He does like to make things.”
“Now you’re getting it! Make a submarine, a monster, a train! It sure beats the heck out of some dumb ol’ hundred-dollar, remote-controlled car! To the naked eye, it appears to be just a plain old cardboard vessel! But this is actually a father-and-son project in disguise! Slay the giant! Kill the Nazis! Hunt for buried treasure! It’s up to you! No, this is not just a box! It’s everything mankind ever needed to accomplish pressed into a cube of corrugated pulp!”
“Okay, okay! How much?”
“The price is right there on the lid.”
“Seventy-eight cents! That’s the exact amount of change I happened to pull out of the pocket!”
“Huh. What a coincidence.”
“Wait! There are rules!”

Cam’s dad, Mike, recently unemployed and still grieving the loss of his wife, can’t afford to get Cam a decent birthday present. Well, any sort of present, actually. When he stops at a roadside stall he finds himself being talked into buying a cardboard box as a gift by the manic Mr. Gideon. He’d make a good comics retailer I suspect, Mr. Gideon! But Mike is going to wish he’d paid more attention to the rules, though, oh yes. Even though there are only two rules… One, he has to return every scrap he doesn’t use. Two, he can’t ask Mr. Gideon for more cardboard.

Cam really is a lovely kid, and totally appreciates his dad just hasn’t got any money to buy him a present. Marcus, the neighbourhood jerk, however, whose parents just spoil him completely, spotting Mike bringing home the box and putting two and two together, thinks it’s absolutely hilarious.

But Cam and Mike, determined to make the best of it, spend the night having great fun constructing and painting a cardboard boxer, with only a few scraps left over afterwards. They’re more than a little surprised though, when they wake up in the morning to find the cardboard man has come alive! So is Marcus and, suddenly more than a little jealous of Cam’s gift, he gleefully soaks the paper pugilist with water causing him to start to disintegrate. Told you he was a jerk!

What follow are some frantic attempts to patch the boxer up with the insufficient leftovers, plus a frantic but futile plea to Mr. Gideon who reminds Mike of the rules. Yes, those pesky rules. But suddenly Mike has a brainwave! What if they built a magic cardboard-making machine with the few remaining scraps?!! It’s crazy, sure, but any more crazy than a cardboard man coming alive in the first place?! Cue one prize-fighter beating the count, back on his feet, and Marcus is more consumed with envy than ever! After Marcus then manages to steal the magic cardboard-making machine and lock himself away in his bedroom to begin the process of industrialising cardboard, and therefore magic cardboard monster production before anyone can stop him, well, you know it’s all going to get very seriously out of hand…

Ha, ha, I loved this work from Doug TOMMYSAURUS REX TenNapel. It’s a great take on the hypothetical nightmare apocalyptic ‘grey goo’ scenario which more than a few scientists are seriously worried about should we ever build self-replicating robots. It has that necessary heart and charm though, that the most preposterous of stories require to carry them right through to the end as the bonkers level escalates! For whilst you start off thinking this is Cam’s story, he really is just the straight man which everything bounces off.

In fact it turns out to be his dad’s and also nemesis Marcus’ stories that will tug on your heartstrings. Can Mike finally move on from mourning his wife and find happiness in the arms of the beautiful next door neighbour who is absolutely crazy about him, and just as frustrated with him? And can confused and lonely Marcus finally stop being such a jerk and find redemption, forgiveness and perhaps even friendship? Assuming the world isn’t completely consumed by a near-infinite rampaging horde of cardboard monsters that is… But then there’s a certain boxer who just doesn’t know when he’s beaten who might have something to say about that!


Buy Cardboard and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen.

It’s ba-aaaaack!

320-page hardcover, illustrated throughout with some lovely scenes of pastoral tranquillity and danger, which sits beautifully by the till right next to the lush-as-you-like ART OF MOUSE GUARD 2005-2015 oversized hardcover.

Here’s Petersen:

“Luke Crane was masterfully able to take the things about MOUSE GUARD that are important at its core, and mould his Burning Wheel roleplaying system around them. His fresh techniques cast off the idea of characters driven by statistics and lucky rolls of the dice, and focus on true character building.”

The dice aren’t gone, though – Lord, but that way lies anarchy! Self-determination! Arguments! – for you’ll need, says Crane, about 10 six-sided dice, two to six people, some pencils, paper and a copy of this book bought from Page 45 (apparently no other copies will work half as well).
I have absolutely no idea what to tell you about this because I haven’t a clue about role playing unless it’s playing the role of a rapacious retailer but it really does look brilliant. The ‘Denizens of the Territories’ chapter was fascinating. Mystifying, but fascinating. There are Apiarists (“SKILLS: Apiarist 5, Loremouse 3, Queen-Bee-wise 4” – what does that even mean?!), Archivists (“TRAITS: Nocturnal 1”), Beetle Wranglers (“CIRCLES: 4” – are circles good?) Brewers (I’m sticking with them), Charlatans (I think I am one of them!), Muscles (I don’t have many of them), Politicians (I’m seriously considering it) and what I’d have thought was all your standard fare clearly defined in tables of stats.

Then there are the Weasels and other wild animals like Bullfrogs, Crabs, Crows, Great Horned Owls, Newts, Snakes (various), Porcupines and, err, Wolverines. Maybe that was inevitable. Anyway, they all have their own traits and I imagine you’ll stumble on them from time to time in your micely manoeuvres. It’s exactly the same size as the MOUSE GUARD volumes and printed on quality cream paper that’s been given an aged effect with some exceptional design work completely absent from books like the MARVEL ENCYCLOPAEDIA.

Sorry if I haven’t done a very good job of selling this to you. If one of you buys a copy (from us, remember, or you’ll probably end up eaten by newts in the first few throws) feel free to send us a more informed review – and a couple of paragraphs on one of your adventures. We’ll stick it up on the website and everything!


Buy Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

Bouncer (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq

Cindy And Biscuit vol 1: We Love Trouble (£10-00, Milk The Cat Comics) by Dan White

Darth Vader vol 1: Vader (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca

Deadly Class vol 3: The Snake Pit (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 2: The Weeping Angel Of Mons (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison & Daniel Indro, Elenora Carlini

Drawn Onward (£3-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Matt Madden

Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque

Fables Comics h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by various

Ghost Cat’s Pedigree Chums (£5-00, Ripe Digital) by Craig Conlan

Hilda And The Troll s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Injection vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Brian Froud

Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice

Klaxxon (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Si Spencer & DIX

Lumberjanes vol 2: Friendship To The Max (£10-99, Boom Box) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis & Brooke A. Allen

Meanwhile #4 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Darryl Cunningham, David Hine, Mark Stafford, Yuko Rabbit

Outcast vol 2: A Vast And Unending Run s/c (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta

Silent Hill Omnibus vol 2 (£18-99, IDW) by Tom Waltz & Steph Stamb, menton3, Tristan Jones

Sky In Stereo (£13-50, Revival House Press) by Mardou

Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday

The Comic Book History Of Comics (£16-50, IDW) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey

The Story Of My Tits (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Jennifer Hayden

Uber vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete, Canaan White

Upside Down Book 2: A Hat Full Of Spells (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Smart Smiley

Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 (£45-00, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Astro City: Private Lives s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Batman Eternal vol 3 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & various

Batman: Road To No Man’s Land vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by various

Convergence h/c (£22-50, DC) by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens & Ethan Van Sciver, various

Brian Froud’s Goblins h/c (£16-99, Abrams) by Brian Froud

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 28-30 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Final Fantasy Type 0 vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Tetsuya Nomura, Hiroki Chiba & Takatoshi Shiozawa

Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D vol 7 (£10-50, DMP) by Saiko Takaki

Spice & Wolf vol 11 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura


Page 45 celebrated its 21st Birthday with a great big signing last Saturday starring Simone Lia (FLUFFY, PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND) and Hannah Berry (BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY, ADAMTINE).

To all those who came, thank you very much!

I know it looked like I’d taken them to a pre-signing soccer match but actually we were strolling into town via the river and the canal, the crowd caught up with us and we just… went native!

So then we had an all-night booze bash with a prize raffle draw hosted by our Jonathan,  I ventured into half an hour of stand-up comedy recounting bits of Page 45 history we’ve never revealed before…

… and rather than go for a conventional birthday photo, we opted for a Charlie’s Angels approach.

Left to right: Dee, Jodie, Emily (back for the party after seven years away) and Jess. Below: myself and J45.

Lastly, look at this lovely: an original Simone Lia painting given to me after the party! I am a very, very lucky boy!

– Stephen