Archive for November, 2015

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week four

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Please see below New Arrivals for massive influx of new books  from John Porcelino’s Spit & A Half Distribution in America!

Giant Days vol 1 (£7-50, Boom! Box) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman.

“Making love is a beautiful way for two people to share their bodies. That’s what my Granny says.”
“It’s difficult to imagine the exact moment when she’d say that.”

Dear, dear Daisy! So sweet, so innocent, so much hair! Her hands are constantly clasped together or round someone she loves. This is her idea of a dirty secret:

“I was watching napkin-folding videos. They make me… feel nice.”

Aww. She’s just made best friends with Esther and Susan, the three of them thrown together at university during Fresher’s Week. They’re a month in and colds from all over the country have come together for a massive flu-fest, spread by snogging and whatnot. Gothstress Esther De Groot is pallid at the best of times, but now she’s looking like a cocooned corpse, wrapped head to toe in a duvet.

“I can’t tell if I’m hot or cold.”
“You live for compliments, don’t you? You’re hot! You’re very hot.”

That’s Susan Ptolemy, the more motherly of the trio, doing her best to look after the ditzy (Daisy) and the drama-magnet (Esther). Unfortunately she’s currently torn between a sore throat and her craving to smoke.

“Nic-O-Teen. Why are you treating me like this? You cost me a fortune! I demand loyalty!”

And nicotine patches are even more expensive.

“It’s a con! It’s a carnie game! The whole nicotine business is a scam!”
“Congratulations, Ptolemy. You worked it out.”

The man with the moustache clapping away is McGraw. Susan and McGraw have a childhood past. Now that McGraw has transferred in from another university, they’re about to have a somewhat problematic present. Throw in little Ed Gemmel with his shyly guarded pash on Esther, and that’s your basic set-up. It works like a dream, each chapter throwing up college-driven catastrophes-in-waiting with a sub-plot or two simmering underneath.

Written by John Allison, the creator of BAD MACHINERY and EXPECTING TO FLY, the discipline he’s learned from publishing individual pages episodically online – each one demanding narrative movement – means that there’s no filler whatsoever. Instead there’s panel after panel of wild declarations and pithy retorts as the women discover themselves, their new surroundings and each other.

We adore Allison’s art as well, but both his substitutes so far have been golden and I hate to say it but you won’t miss John for one second. Here it’s Lissa Treiman whose energy explodes on the page, matching that of its cast. Her eye for contemporary casual wear is right up with Allison’s and Jamie McKelvie’s, while Esther’s exotic new boots are monstrously fab, even if they’ve cost her a night’s clubbing.

“I apparently spent all my money on these boots. They spoke to me.”
“They said, “You’re not going to have any money any more”?”
“I wish I spoke Boot.”

Chapter three’s final-panel teaser was deliciously drawn by Treiman as Daisy walks away whistling, having dropped enough of a bombshell for Susan and Esther to stare at each other, wide-eyed, over the top of Daisy’s retreating bush of hair, both uttering a wavy, “oooooooooooh!”

That in itself is a joyfully satisfying composition but, brilliantly, Susan and Esther’s expressions are opposites: Susan’s more of a convex, upturned gasp, hair flying, while Esther’s mouth is a great big grin which is reflected in the concave curve of her ski-slope nose, black tresses cascading down.

What are they so intrigued by? Daisy’s new friendship with the gorgeous Nadia, she of the blue-streaked, asymmetrical haircut.

It’s Daisy’s 18th birthday soon. She’s never been clubbing before.

“I don’t… know… if this is the sort of music I like, Nadia.”
“You’ll get into it. You might just need a bit of assistance.”

Haha! It’s amazing what you’ll dance to under the right conditions.

I’m afraid Daisy’s just popped all the pills!


Buy Giant Days vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

King-Cat Comics And Stories #75 (£4-99) by John Porcellino…

“Excuse me young man, are you alright? Would you like a tissue?”

So… I settled down on the tram to read the latest missive from the maestro of US mini-comics and before long the waterworks were flowing. Yes, the pull quote above isn’t from this issue, but a concerned pensioner offering me assistance to wipe away the tears. On the bloody tram…  again!!

Following the saline stimulating powers of DAYTRIPPER and PLUTO VOL 1 whilst enduring the confines of public transport, I have been awaiting the next instalment of Crying Rigby with some trepidation. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t expect it to be a comic about a cat! I don’t even particularly like cats!

But then John P has always written from the heart, so honestly and openly about his life, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at his ability to tug on one’s tear ducts. For this is the life story of Maisie, from the moment John first encountered her at his friend Donal’s apartment in Denver, Colorado in March 1992 as a four month old kitten, to her final moments, in John’s arms, over fifteen years later.

For Maisie soon became his cat, or perhaps more precisely John became her human, and for that period of time they had together on this earth, she was John’s one constant, a comforting, loving presence through traumatic personal illnesses (see THE HOSPITAL SUITE), mental health issues, family losses and two failed marriages (see MAP OF MY HEART: THE BEST OF KING-CAT COMICS & STORIES: 1996-2002). Throughout, Maisie provided John with the unconditional love we all thrive on.

Even now, as I type, I can feel myself welling up thinking about Maisie’s final days. Read this, and you will be in no doubt of the depth of love John had, has, for her. Following hot on the heels of a concluding photograph of Maisie in her pomp, the haiku below, the sole content on the back cover, perfectly capturing the moment John recently had an involuntary Maisie flashback some eight years after her passing, was the final slashing katana blow to my emotional composure…

“Even now
opening up a book
to find a Maisie hair”


Buy King-Cat Comics And Stories #75 and read the Page 45 review here

Doodle A Day (£9-99, Macmillan) by Chris Riddell.

Creativity is cool!

But sometimes we all need a little spark, a little nudge and a little inspiration to get our minds whirring and the artistic juices flowing.

That’s precisely what this is, a book designed to make industry leisure and crafting a pleasure while giving you the structure of a brief, daily routine to ensure you don’t just dawdle but doodle each day.

From Chris Riddell, the current Children’s Laureate and co-creator of Neil Gaiman’s THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and FORTUNATELY, THE MILK (UK edition), comes a pocketbook of illustrated pages each with a blank space for you to add your personal flourishes to. They can be visual or they could be verbal. Some might involve a rebellious retort!

There are ‘Story Starters’, ‘How To’ guides, colouring challenges and blind dates with drawing during which you have to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Please don’t remind me.

Here are some examples:

“Draw some cubs for Sniffy the battle-cat.”
“What has been left all over the floor?”
“Write or draw what happens next…”
“What’s on the end of this stick?”
“Illustrate or decorate this word: DELICATE”

Being contrary, I’m inclined to paste on a more delicate, hand-drawn “delicate” and then leave a white space before slashing in bombastic, crazed chaos all around, so emphasising that unbattered calm left within.

“Write this postcard without lifting your pen off the page.”
“Draw all the square things you can find.”
“Try a modern abstract portrait of someone you know.”
“Listen to some instrumental music and draw what it makes you think of.”
“Look at the front and back of a book you haven’t read, then draw a scene you think might be in it.”

You might prefer to write that instead, for I fully believe that rules must be flaunted. In any case – every so often – anarchy is unleashed:

“Here’s a space to draw whatever you like!”

I’m buying one of these as Christmas presents for almost everyone I know – including my Aunties and Uncles! Creativity isn’t just for the young, it’s for the young at heart too, and thanks to this kindness so many of us can be entry-level students once again, no matter how many decades we’ve let pass since we last picked up a quill.



Buy Doodle A Day and read the Page 45 review here

Our Expanding Universe (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson.

“Trust me, a year from now you’ll be one of those dads telling me that my life isn’t complete until I’ve seen my child look at me and smile because he just shit his drawers again.”

Let’s hope so.

There’s a lot to digest here for this is an improbably well balanced discussion on – and examination of – friendship and parenthood with that bit in between: being part of a couple. But mostly it’s about bringing new life into the world and how that impacts on your relationship and your friendships, your freedom and your future.

Billy, being reassured above by his single mate Brownie, has just learned that his wife is pregnant. It shouldn’t be so much of a shock to Billy since he and his wife Marcy have been trying for a while. There may have been a little pressure from Marcy’s parents since Marcy’s sister Missy already has a kid; and there may have been a little encouragement from Billy’s other mate Scotty since he already has one child with wife Ritu and another on the way. And they seem happy.

But suddenly, to Billy, it is real.

As his single, divorcee mate Brownie says with sympathy, it’s like when you’ve embarked on a rollercoaster ride and the safety bar goes down. At any point before that you could have turned back. But when the safety bar goes down you are locked in to the rollercoaster ride which in the case of parenthood will last for a good two decades and beyond.

And Billy doesn’t believe he is ready.

He is on the precipice of regret.

How do you tell your wife that?

OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE explores the dynamics over time between three male friends, Brownie, Billy and Scottie. It also explores the relationships between Scotty and his wife Ritu, Billy and his missus Marcy, and Ritu and Marcy’s close friendship. Then there’s Brownie, a single divorcee, who feels increasingly excluded by his friends’ forward momentum even though he was the very first to get married. Opinionated and with no internal editor, he does love to pontificate way too much about everything including children which he doesn’t have, and that drives Scotty, father of one – no wait, two – at times to venomous distraction. On the other hand, Brownie has a certain wisdom which comes from being well informed, and is surprisingly principled as you’ll eventually see. Maybe Scotty isn’t as happy as he seems. Maybe he should have come out with this long ago for Billy’s sake:

“Anyone who tells you parenthood is all hugs and ‘Little House on The Prairie’ and soccer games is a filthy fucking liar. You’re going to be stressed, you’re going to worry, you and Marcy are going to get into fights about who left the stuffed frog at the playground. You just hang on, cuz you’re someone’s dad now, and that’s what dads are supposed to do.”

I couldn’t imagine Billy and Marcy fighting. They’re the kindest of all the cast.

There is so much going on which will eventually come out but this isn’t the place.

Please don’t believe this is entirely male-centric, either. For one, there is the central scene published like a play. In it Ritu and Marcy host an evening for their fellow ‘Sirens of Brooklyn’, Julie, Nicole, Kim, Dani and Gina. They’re in various sorts and stages of relationships, some with children, but only one of them have we heard much about: Gina. Gina seems destined to be single forever. She’s had a seemingly endless string of catastrophic dates which she tends to offload to her friends who are in equal parts amused and sympathetic because they do love her dearly. They were united in relief when Gina finally extricated herself from her one longer relationship, which was abusive. Very abusive.

The evening meanders along pleasantly enough with different parties exchanging news, compliments and the occasional slightly overbearing advice. There’s only one awkward moment as Marcy side-steps Ritu’s rash declaration that Marcy might have something to announce, until the evening comes crashing down and we’re given a completely different take on the whole single versus couple scenario which had hitherto been left unvoiced. But it’s not over, for when Ritu and Marcy are left alone to clear up, Robinson pulls out the finest panel in the book as the play gives way to a moment of comics which is worthy of Will Eisner.

Robinson’s storytelling is faultless. There’s an earlier gathering of Marcy’s family, Billy suffering a little ridicule for his chosen profession, and I loved how the pages split vertically as the chatter split into one-on-one offshoots, before merging again as conversations converged, and so on. He’s particularly adept at presenting middle-age and something subtle much later on happens to Billy’s hair.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the astronomy interludes added even after the Planetarium show: I’m not sure they did put “things in perspective” because the point surely is that the dilemmas within are very real to each individual and so of the utmost importance. Although I did learn that there are “rogue” planets which don’t revolve around a star but roam the galaxy in darkness, forever alone.

So: singles, couples, commitment and the conscious decision or to pressures to reproduce. Oh, and one other element I’ve studiously avoided here.

A lot of my friends have got married and had children; a lot of my friends have got married but not had children; a lot of my friends have had children but not got married. They all seem blissfully happy in their unions albeit there are going to be stresses and strains because that is life and that is inevitably strife too once there’s a new, demanding element in the mix. I’ve seen how chicks squawk when they’re hungry!

To dive in regardless is to many a perfectly natural – even biological – imperative and a joy! To forgo that pleasure in favour of a fulfilling relationship free from such distractions is an equally understandable decision. I didn’t even know there was a ridiculous stigma attached to the obviously valid choice not to have children until I read Julian Hanshaw’s great graphic novel TIM GINGER. To remain single is far from the end of the world, but to some it seems so and I sympathise there as well. Every iteration and argument is explored, I promise you, in OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE by the creator of TRICKED and TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN and, originally, BOX OFFICE POISON.

It’s just a shame there have to be arguments, isn’t it? We do love to judge, and there will plenty of that going on here – just not by Alex Robinson.


Buy Our Expanding Universe and read the Page 45 review here

Hitler (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki…

“You can have Austria. Sorry about that misunderstanding.”
“Don’t give it a second thought.”

Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating, flawed characters. Countless experts have attempted to unravel the man, his rise to power and ultimate self-destruction, and here Shigeru Mizuki, one of comics finest documentarians of both historical geo-politics SHOWA: A HISTORY OF JAPAN 1926-1939, 1939-1944, 1944-1953, 1953-1989 and the up close and personal experience of war ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, provides his own irreverent take on the demagogue who had it all, briefly, before his insatiable desire for immortality in the form of total global domination and a thousand year Reich caused it all to turn to dust before his very eyes.

Mizuki wisely steers away from trying to understand what made Hitler tick, instead providing a fascinating précis of some of the known facts thus allowing the rich material to speak for itself, along with an occasional ridiculous punchline provided knowingly to camera by the man himself, such as when having a kiss and make up session with Il Duce Benito Mussolini over their little misunderstanding as to the future ownership of Austria, as in the opening pull quote. Surely a comedic turn only matched in odiousness by the late, not-so-great Bernard Manning!

Mizuki treats his subject, in the pre-political days at least, with a surprising degree of almost affection, playing up the buffoonery of the down and out failed artist in Vienna. Then Hitler’s action-packed military career as a runner in World War 1, including capturing fifteen French soldiers single-handedly, winning him the Iron Cross, First Class, something almost never awarded to a lowly rank-and-file solider.  Followed by his post-war infiltration of the tiny DAP political group, a mere six people, working as an intelligence agent for the German government, before deciding that a future role as a radical politician was the most logical career progression!

Hmm. The only illustrations I can find are in French. I promise you this is in English!

From there, this follows his ascent to real influence over people and the transformation of the DAP into the National Socialists, the early political then military successes as Chancellor of Germany. Before the megalomania, given free rein at last, consumed him completely, causing the rapid implosion of both the Third Reich and Hitler’s grip on sanity and ultimately power as the Allies were finally provoked into launching an armed response which soon bloomed into World War 2. Even then, the ever-escalating conflict only played to Hitler’s sense of grandiose self-destiny, before it became finally clear to him, long after the rest of the German high command, that all was lost.

Inevitably, covering such a vast complex period, Mizuki can only cover the basics, but he does so, particularly where Hitler is involved with a real sense of mischief that has become his trademark. This is mixed in with illustrations partially or fully from photographic reference when narrating factual battlefield events or matters such as death camps which clearly brook no attempts at abrogation through comedy. As a whole though, skewering material like this with a subtle comedic thread serves to capture the imagination and retain the attention of the casual reader. It’s not HIPSTER HITLER, clearly, but it’s just as cleverly done.


Buy Hitler and read the Page 45 review here

Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

Riveting and wrenching subaquatic sci-fi about maintaining hope in the wake of barely conceivable adversity. The adversity is natural then compounded by man. We just cannot help ourselves, can we?

“The pamphlets contain a very potent breed of premeditative creativity. They have become… quite contagious.”

The disease these pamphleteers are spreading with their beautiful art and stories is this pernicious, seditious hope. In this society art has been outlawed and optimism is illegal, a crime punishable by death.

The law is enforced by Ministers Of Thought, one of whom lives with a girlfriend who loves to paint. The Minister is petrified of what will happen to her loved one if she’s caught with a canvas, and we’re given plenty of brutal if balletic evidence of what to expect in that nightmare scenario when the lights go out at a printers pre-publication.

That, however, is as nothing to both the love and terror so vividly rendered by both Remender and Tocchini during the final pages of the first chapter when the game back home is presumed to be up and the Minister of Thought knows only too well what is coming. You’ll have to wait a little while to discover exactly who that Minister is, for we then break to rejoin Stel’s quest to get to the surface.

For a far more extensive introduction and art overview, please see our review of LOW VOL 1: THE DELIRIUM OF HOPE, but briefly it has come to this:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will need more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if we haven’t already escaped this solar system we’ll have needed to move underground or deep, deep, deep underwater.

In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Stel – devoted wife and mother of three – is almost unique in remaining optimistic and focussed even though the enormity of the challenge is mind-boggling. Probes were first sent out in search of habitable planets over 13,000 years ago. 13,000 years without success, 13,000 years of failure! Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and, now that less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony, its leaders have caved in to drug-fuelled, let’s-take-what-we-can-get hedonism. They won’t assist or in any way enable Stel’s action, even when she believes she’s successfully retrieved a probe at least to the Earth’s toxic surface.

That’s where she’s headed now with a new group of allies so there really is hope. But there’s also adversity.

Did I mention what’s become of Stel’s husband, her son and two daughters?


Buy Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us and read the Page 45 review here

The Goddamned #1 (£2-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & r.m Guéra.

Well, this is all jolly European: the lines, the light, and the full-frontal nudity.

It’s male, by the way, and he’s blonde if that makes any difference to you.

It’s all very male here – not a woman in sight – perhaps reflecting the patriarchal nature of the Old Testament. Or maybe the women have all seen the brutal, bloody violence ahead and quite wisely eschewed an appearance in favour of something more sedate like a rugby match.

It’s all very western too, with a lone stranger wandering the wide-open landscapes – albeit muddy, faecal-flooded landscapes littered with carcasses being torn into by rabid wolves. He wandered into town last night, got set upon and sliced open by the Bone Boys. After lying face-down in excrement for hours, he seems much better this morning. Not a scar on his body. He’s going to mosey back into town now, and there will be much tohewen and toshrede.

It’s 1600 years after Eden and, my, how man has fallen! Or been pushed. These are those damned by God ever since our protagonist got a little angry and invented murder. Can you guess who it is yet?

“My brother was an asshole. The first two children born into the world and we couldn’t fucking stand each other. That alone ought to tell you how fucked we all are.”

That’s the least sweary passage I could find, FYI. Since then our man with a mission (I think it’s to die) has been cursing God for making him live in a Jim Foetus song:

“I’m watching my life swirl down the drain
And I feel about as Abel as Cain
But I guess that that’s the price of fame
When you’re destined to live in this Street Of Shame.”

Destined to live there forever, by the looks of things. Still, at least they’ve invented alcohol.

The art’s reminiscent of Brent Anderson on KA-ZAR with a little Barry Windsor-Smith modelling. No jungles, but many more cleaved skulls and fire-eyed dinosaurs guaranteed.

From the creative team behind SCALPED.  Ooh, look, here comes another Biblical figure. That explains the series’ sub-title.


Buy The Goddamned #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Red Thorn #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick.

“It rains in Glasgow like nowhere else in the world. It’s hard and cold, and it hits you in the face like a thousand tiny knives made of bone.”

Rarely do I quote a writer’s opening gambit. She or he will have put days of thought into the first few sentences of a brand-new series, so to steal that hard work for your own initial impact seems to me a little lazy. On the other hand, what a golden gift horse!

We’re in Glaswegian graveyard, by the way, with a magnificent mausoleum on its summit.

“The perfect place for a temper tantrum – or a valiant gesture. But whichever of those options this actually was, it was never going to stop the events already set in motion.”

The valiant but doomed gesture comes in the form of pages of a sketchbook being torn out by red-head Isla Mackintosh. They flap and flutter like autumnal leaves up into the stormy sky only to be battered by the positively Bratislavan downpour over the headstones towards us. The first and foremost depicts a wretched figure slumped forward, its wrists and ankles manacled in chains.

The panel beneath that depicts someone or something in a similar predicament, with a long, flame-coloured mane, flopped over her / his face. It is, however, emphatically not a sketch.

There’ll be plenty more of Glasgow, you mark my words, for Isla Mackintosh’s older sister Lauren studied architecture there. Indeed Lauren was much enamoured with the city’s most famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of the recently burned-down art school. Then one weekend she took off inexplicably for the Borders and was never seen again. Isla was born twelve months later. “Classic replacement kid syndrome,” as she concedes, hence the 25-year gap between them. She’s American, by the way, though her grandparents were from Glasgow and, after trying to trace some fresh clues as to her sister’s disappearance and failing, that’s where Lauren’s landed up: at a gig played by Strathclyde’s premier Nirvana tribute act and talking to a young bloke with a beard sitting alone at the bar and reading Camus.

“I couldn’t have met a boy more perfect if I’d drawn him myself.”

I liked his t-shirt (he teases).

So what’s the problem? I have no problem with the comic at all or else why spend this time reviewing it? I loved Hetrick’s spirit of place and her invitingly soft figures and forms. I enjoyed Baillie’s mini-tour of Glasgow and his lovely Scottish lilt which was neither overly broad nor unnatural. There’s a moment of superb foreshadowing involving bridges plus I found his voice-over refreshingly direct and almost hilariously matter-of-fact, especially when it came to the real problem here, for that’s Lauren’s:

“In High School I’d spend most of my time doodling the cool, fun friends I really wanted. Then one day one of my drawings came to life and attended my school for a whole semester.”

I do beg your pardon?

That didn’t end well, but it did end abruptly, since when she’s vowed off sketching people for ten whole years. You’ll know exactly why when you get there.

Then she got drunk with that Camus kid and now something’s knocking on the door.

On the final page artist Meghan Hetrick reprises the first page’s promise but with a marked makeover, for she makes good – oh so very good – on the writer’s own promise when he was recently asked:

“What can we expect from RED THORN tonally?”
“Abs,” he replied. “Lots of abs.”

At which point David Baillie basically won interviews.


Buy Red Thorn #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

Brian Azzarello wrote 100 BULLETS, a dark and compelling epic of conspiracy, deception and manipulation where no one is necessarily who or what they seem. It’s a civil war, waged in secret between powerful parties in order to protect their vested interests. And so is this.

As such I aim it straight at the Milligan HUMAN TARGET fans rather than the Batboys, because it contains just as many twists.

Two sequences, a decade apart, form a puzzle of identity and loyalties revolving around Scott Floyd who, ten years ago, was a black-ops International Operations agent; The Falcon, a terrorist of Gamorran extraction who hasn’t been seen since; and Max Kai, a pyrokinetic firestarter, suited and booted – and highly volatile. All three were once involved on one side or another in a botched hit on The Falcon by the I.O. soldier codenamed Deathblow, as was the enigmatic Agent Fante of the C.I.A..

Now all five have converged once more, it seems, on Gotham where Floyd is a close friend of Bruce Wayne. When the former is burnt to a crisp in a restaurant mere minutes after Bruce Wayne has left the table, it becomes personal. The only lead so far is a charred, severed hand clutching the trademark death card of a man who is himself supposed to be dead: Deathblow.

Who is really working for whom?  What is Agent Fante’s agenda?  Where is The Falcon?  And are I.O. and The C.I.A. really on the same side?  It’s a book of covert licenses, granted by institutions who will use whomever they want to get whatever they want done, and it rings pertinently true (post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq) when you consider America trained the Taliban for their own anti-Soviet ends, and were happy to accept Saddam Hussein when Iran was seen as the greater evil.

Superb pencils (early versions of which are displayed in the back) are inked and coloured by some very talented individuals (including Tim Bradstreet), to form an impressively individual and atmospheric Gotham, replete with sun-blocking stone edifices and a dense smog belching from its industrial chimneys.


Buy Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso…

“You are verified. My message is for you, from the Emperor himself.”
“I serve at the Emperor’s pleasure.”
“Hear and obey.”
“Captain Duvet. You, and a handful and others unknown to you, have been selected for a particular honour. Resistance. Rebellion. Defiance. These are concepts that cannot be allowed to persist, Captain. Operation Cinder is to begin at once. Heed my messenger. He shall relay you to your target.”

“Lieutenant Gulin!”
“The message was from the Emperor himself, Lieutenant.”
“But… but the Emperor is dead, sir.”
“Repeating Rebel propaganda is an act of treason, Lieutenant. We have our orders. Prepare to set a new course.”

After the platoon of titles set post Star Wars IV A New Hope with the original characters in the first flush of youth – STAR WARS, DARTH VADER, PRINCESS LEIA, LANDO, CHEWBACCA – comes this official lead-in to the much anticipated new film. This is actually set immediately after Star Wars VI Return Of The Jedi, so presumably a few decades before the new film, but what it does is immediately establish the Empire are far from defeated.

Quite how it sets up the forthcoming film beyond that simple fact, I’ve absolutely no idea, but I’ll refrain from giving any further plot details just in case there are spoilers regarding the film. Often this type of lead-in tie-ins do enrich the plot of the films, sometimes on specific conceits or devices, so perhaps there are some tantalising clues in there… However, I genuinely can’t conceive the Emperor himself might have survived the climatic events of Star Wars VI Return Of The Jedi, but the powers of the Dark Side are strong indeed, so who knows?!

Essential for those of you who need their Jabba-esque, salivating appetites whetted further, aren’t quite already at Death Star planet melting laser fever pitch temperature, buy this to tease / torment yourself whilst continuing to count down the days until Han and the gang are back on the big screen. Stay on target!


Buy Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

A Glance Backwards (£14-99, Magnetic Press) by Pierre Paquet & Tony Sandoval

Blue Bottle Mystery – An Asperger Adventure (£12-99, Jessica Kingsley Adventure) by Kathy Hoopman, Mike Medaglia & Rachael Smith

Frankenstein Underground (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Ben Stenbeck

Hopeless Savages: Break (£13-50, Oni) by Jen Van Meter & Meredith McClaren, Christine Norrie

Kabuki Library vol 2 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Take It As A Compliment (£14-99, Singing Dragon) by Maria Stoian

The Flash By Geoff Johns vol 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Angel Unzueta, Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

A Silent Voice vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

Inuyashiki vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

UQ Holder vol 6 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 5 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations (£12-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

From America’s Spit & A Half (limited distribution & quantities)

A Body Beneath (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Afrodisiac (£12-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg

Barrel of Monkeys (£16-99, Rebus Books) by Florent Ruppert, Jerome Mulot

Bear, Bird And Stag Were Arguing In The Forest (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Madeleine Flores

The Body of Work (£3-99) by Kevin Huizenga

Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream (£3-99, Uncivilised Books) by Laura Park

Double+ Chapter One: For Seeking Heat (£4-99, Study Group Comics) by Ben Sears

Facility Integrity (£8-50, Pigeon Press) by Nick Maandag

The Frantastic Four (£4-99, Kilgore) by Sam Spina

Ghoulanoids (£4-99, Drippy Bone Books) by Stephen McClurg & Derek Ballard

How Art Can Save The Universe From Total Destruction (£4-99, Drippy Bone Books) by Mark Mulroney

Immovable Objects (£4-99, One Percent Press) by James Hindle

Island of Memory (£9-99, Wild Man vol 1: Island Of Memory) by Floating World Comics

Joey (£3-99) by Melissa Mendes

Limp Wrist (£3-99, Paper Rocket Minicomics) by Scout Wolfcave & Penina Gal

Lydian (£9-99, Space Face Books) by Sam Alden

Megahex (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Simon Hanselmann

Mimi and the Wolves Act 1: The Dream (£9-99, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster


Mimi and the Wolves Act 2: The Den (£9-99, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster

My Hot Date (£5-99, Kilgore) by Noah Van Sciver

Number 1 (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Box Brown

Number 2 (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Box Brown

The Oaf (£5-99, Pigeon Press) by Nick Maandag

Safari Honeymoon (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs

Sea Urchin (£5-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Laura Knetzger

The Second Book of Hope (£16-99, Bries) by Tommi Musturi

Understanding Monster 1 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Understanding Monster 2 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Understanding Monster 3 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Ticket Stub (£12-50, Yam Books) by Tim Hensley

Turtie Needs Work (£3-25, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard

Vampire Cousins (£18-99, Pow Pow Press) by Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau & Cathon

Very Casual (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Wet Cough (£4-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge


ITEM! It upsets me no end when I see any shop close, but this eloquent article about product knowledge, curation and customers service – in this instance now all lost – moved me profoundly:  ‘I Worked In A Video Store For 25 Years. Here’s What I Learned As My Industry Died’ by Dennis Perkins.

ITEM! Sage, practical and vital advice from Andy Oliver for self-publishers about get press and retail coverage for your comics. I’m sure we’ve run this before but we’re never been so inundated by requests to stock comics so lessons learned from Andy are more important than ever.

ITEM! From the King of British self-publishers, Dan Berry, yet another new comic for you to read, free, online: ROUGH MAP. Pop Dan Berry in our search engine. Everything we have by Dan is sketched-in for free.

ITEM!Whoosh” Amazing short animation piece with incredible movement by Julien Grande.

ITEM! There is no logic whatsoever in using “genre” as a derogatory term. The subject matter of any comic, prose book or painting cannot possibly have any bearing on its quality. You might as well judge a book by its publisher. It’s the creators who actually count. ‘Literature Vs Genre Is A Battle Where Both Sides Lose’ by Damien Walter.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week three

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Includes a brand-new review of PORCELAIN BONE CHINA (Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose!

ALPHA… Directions h/c (£29-99, Knockabout) by Jens Harder…

“At first only a germ exists, the singularity.
“From this infinitely hot and dense original state, no bigger than a football, the Universe expands.
“An inflation commences. The beginning of Space-time.
“In a split second, the Plasma inflates to a tremendous volume.”

Wow. Really, just wow. The first line of the blurb on the back of this 360-page tome reads “Fourteen billion years between two covers” and that is exactly what it is! This first volume of an intended three (!) takes us from the moment of the Big Bang right up to the beginning of the Anthropocene era, when the ‘human’ age began. Volume two, therefore, BETA… CIVILISATIONS will cover a five million year period from when the hominids first appeared up to the present day, before Jens will allow himself a little speculation (and trust me, he will have earned this indulgence by then) with GAMMA… VISIONS, where he will attempt to visualise various possible futures. As I said, wow.

Before I try to encapsulate the enormity of this undertaking, I’d like to start with the last two pages, which are mostly blank aside from four notes to four very distinct groups of thinkers: the scientist, the faithful believer in God, the purist and errr… the manga lover. Yes, Jens has thought of everything, including a polite little note for those so inclined…

“Should you, out of habit, have opened Alpha from this page you are hereby invited to continue your reading in the direction most familiar to you. You could well examine all the processes and developments illustrated in this book in a completely new way in a visually retrograde motion. It should also be noted that the pages can be considered not only from right to left but consequently, also from bottom to top.”

Haha and they say the Germans haven’t got a sense of humour! Though actually it was a sentence within the note to the purist that really caught my eye, having completed reading the entire work in the more conventional direction, where Jens states he came up with nothing in this book, “neither factually nor in the drawings.”

He has in fact drawn every single panel, but what he means is he has redrawn everything from “Neolithic cave-paintings to Greek mosaics, medieval altar paintings to modern daguerreotypes and advanced space telescope photography to computer-generated 3D images.” And a lot more besides. Plus he’s eloquently explained the first fourteen billion years of universal history in a manner so clear, so matter of fact, sometimes quite poetic in its simplicity, you’ll be entranced from cover to cover. I can’t even conceive of how much time has gone into researching this, let alone the illustration. If I had fourteen billion years to do it I don’t think it would be enough.

The overall effect of using all these different reference sources, and the continually shuffled order he utilises them in, sometimes putting a medieval altar painting immediately after some space telescope photography, for example, is spectacular. It feels like a gigantic, epic Bayeaux Tapestry assembled by Dadaists (the original monteurs of photomontage). For whilst this is not a collage in the sense of an individual panel, it is in the sense of the work as a whole. There’s something rather clever about using pretty much every type of pictorial representation in history to assemble a Universal story of history. But it is the fact he has redrawn everything into a singular style in relatively muted black and white plus one additional (albeit occasionally changing each epoch) colour tone, that renders it so readily comprehensible and digestible to the human eye and brain.

Jens, I applaud you, for you are a comics genius. Yet another example of the astonishing power of our beloved medium to inform and educate so succinctly in comparison to traditional teaching materials. Really, this is a graphic novel that ought to be made available to every single school pupil, because they could learn more in a single sitting reading this than an entire school year of history lessons.


Buy ALPHA… Directions h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Porcelain: Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose.

“Love leaves but yet is present.
“Love takes your hoard and doubles it.
”Love holds you close and lives forever. Love lives.”

There are few graphic novels which customers are as fond of at Page 45 as PORCELAIN.

We sold out of our original 100 signed bookplate editions in 10 days, since when sales snowballed and anticipation over the intervening two years has been unprecedented. PORCELAIN BONE CHINA was finally released last Wednesday 11th October 2015 and on Saturday sales were so swift that I was too busy to Tweet. It felt like Christmas.

Better news still: however enamoured you may be of PORCELAIN book one, PORCELAIN BONE CHINA, the middle of this trilogy, is bigger, much meatier, more breathtakingly beautiful and – in terms of trauma and complexity – on another level entirely.

Thanks to writer Ben Read you can look forward to feeling your heart swell with all the love in the world. But prepare to have it ripped right from your rib cage then not dashed but smashed to smithereens by a writer and artist you presumed far too kind to care so little for your comfort.

I’m afraid it’s time to grow up.

PORCELAIN book one starred a pugnacious guttersnipe called Child who found herself welcomed into the world and so home of her unexpected benefactor and thence adoptive parent, the enigmatic and reclusive Porcelain Maker. He had grown rich on his inventions: semi-sentient automatons fashioned from china but bound by a secret. She discovered his secret, but at a cost to them both.

Ten years on, and that Child is now wealthy Lady, having inherited the Porcelain Maker’s estate and learned his craft involving the painting of runes. She’s refining his designs and creating new Porcelain, but she’s also desperately trying to undo the damage she’s done. She has complicated things beyond your imagining.

She has, however, lost none of her fight or bite. So when the military comes calling, she is less than impressed with the General’s rank and regalia and reverts to the urchin-speak which Mariem, her chaperone, has been at pains to rid her off.

“I find that the more ridiculous the hat, the more awkward they feel when they have to deal with a ranting guttersnipe. Proper wrong foots them, it does.”

The military are engaged in a war and suffering heavy casualties. This being an era equivalent to Tennyson’s they are in dire need of cavalry replenishment and Lady has agreed to sell them her animated porcelain horses… but emphatically not the artificial soldiers they’re after as well. The general is enraged, but her more conciliatory Captain fares no better in pleading their cause and – as he’ll soon discover – his General isn’t the only one with a short fuse.

All of which begs the question as to what has become of the Porcelain Maker himself in the intervening years and those of you who’ve already relished PORCELAIN book one may believe you know the answer. I wouldn’t be so sure. The refrain exchanged throughout the four chapters is heart-rending. Also, if you think that Lady’s refusal to supply the army with unstoppable soldiers – which won’t eat into scarce supplies but which learn how to shed blood all too swiftly and effectively – is born of mere pacifism, I can assure you that it’s much more complex than that. Our Lady is adamant; the General is persistent; and the military is known not just for its might.

Immediately striking, of course, is the cover both in its own right and in its stylistic cohesion with PORCELAIN book one: much the same frame in ceramic white and a similarly restrained palette switching here from twilight blue to the most verdant of greens from André May.


There are other echoes like the opening pages entering the mansion then sat in front of a roaring fire, but the one that made me grin comes a little later when the Captain is caught clambering over the estate wall and attempting to descend the self-same tree which Child formerly danced down as if on a helter-skelter. Captain is a lot less graceful and his reception by Lady is a lot less gracious than Child’s once was by the Porcelain Maker. That woman has built an even taller wall round herself than the one defending the grounds.

Wildgoose has put a great deal of time and thought into the new designs for the city, the newly evolved Porcelain, the army and specifically the General and Captain’s uniforms and civvies (though don’t think the General dresses down). You’ll find the preparatory work in the back along with a secret involving the runes which will have you flicking back through the book in a flash.


But that’s nothing compared to the finished flourishes which this much longer instalment provides room for. There’s a double-page spread, for example, of Lady’s recent acquisition based on the Chinese war ship sailed by Admiral Zheng He during the Ming Dynasty. Its scooped white sails are echoed in the shapes of the panels below it, while their arrangement across the page reflects the forward-thrusting profile of the boat up above them. Except it’s not a boat, is it?

“It’s actually a ship.”
“Pfff, I paid for it so I can call it what I like.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

It amused me no end that the same argument was made in Antony Johnston’s CODENAME BABOUSHKA #2 which arrived on the very same day. Antony and Ben Read went to school together.

I could pour praise on Chris Wildgoose for several more paragraphs – for his fruit-rich orchard avenue; the municipal majesty; the seasonal chapter designs incorporating apposite elements of the story to come; and Gog and Magog now lither than ever – but we have to end something to let you begin.

Following but a day after Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III’s SANDMAN: OVERTURE h/c, our second-biggest release of the year, PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA is by far our biggest at double the number of books we ordered in and so far we’ve sold thrice as many.

Both are true blockbusters but it just goes to show that publishing status is irrelevant, for the former is published by Time Warner’s DC while the latter is from the UK’s independent Improper Books. Quality is what counts at the end of the day, and you’ll find quality in abundance in both.


Buy Porcelain Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Suite Francaise: Storm In June (£15-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Irene Nemirovsky, David Homel & Emmanuel Moynot…

“We’ll sleep in the car. One night won’t hurt us!
“That’s a French plane I think.”

It’s not… It is the Luftwaffe, but that’s the least of Gabriel Corte’s problems as he tries to flee Paris with his mistress for the safety of, well, anywhere the Germans aren’t. Unfortunately practically every other Parisian in June 1940 has had the same very sensible idea and taken to the roads and rail network causing travel chaos akin to a British Bank Holiday Monday! Amidst this turmoil and mass movement of people we follow the varied misfortunes of several families and individuals of rather diverse social standing seeking refuge en route to apparent safety. As you might expect, there are those whom think they can simply buy or bribe their way out of the situation, and those who are just going to have to rely on their wits, good manners and the charity of others. Oh and of course we will be certain to encounter a few ne’er do wells all the way…

The source material for this adaptation has a fascinating history all of its own. Originally planned as a series of five novels, the author Irène Némirovsky was arrested by French Vichy policemen, ironically enough shortly after having fled Paris for being a ‘stateless person of Jewish descent’ and she died in Auschwitz of typhus just a month later. Her red suitcase containing the two novels she had written was kept by her two daughters but not opened until 1998 as they were afraid it contained their mother’s personal diary. The novels were subsequently published in a single volume entitled Suite Française in 2004 to widespread acclaim and a film part funded by the BBC was released earlier this year.

What captivated me about this adaptation was the real sense of turbulence, indeed absolute utter chaos, brought to people’s lives overnight by the enforced Parisian exodus, and the very different reactions of the protagonists’ responses. The upper crust, you can tell, believe it a mere temporary inconvenience, and you can certainly see how there were those who were only too willing to collaborate with the Germans for a quiet life and return to normality.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say they merely, naively, saw it as little more than an enforced change of government, but they were clearly blissfully unaware of what was going to follow over the next few years. The working class, however, were fairly immediately subject to uncertainty, deprivation and hardship, though again, a mere taste of what they had to expect during the war once it got started properly on the western front.

Reading this certainly left me an urge to try the novels themselves (our Dee is a big fan) as the only downside, probably due to the large cast of characters, was I felt I was getting barely more than a snapshot of each of their stories. I suspect the adaptation must by necessity have been substantially abridged. In terms of the art, had I not known it was a different artist, I would have completely believed you if you told me it was Jacques Tardi, in ADELE BLANC-SEC form, even down to the lettering. In fact I note this artist, Emmanuel Moynot, continued the hugely popular (in France) NESTOR BURMA series of graphic novels after Tardi had done the first five, so I’m possibly not the only one to notice the similarity in style!


Buy Suite Francaise: Storm In June and read the Page 45 review here

Wolf vol 1: Blood And Magic (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor.

“How do you feel about myths, Antoine?”
“I love myths.”
“You are one. And I apologise for not believing you. I hope you understand – the measures we had to take were simply business. Examining the stock, so to say.”

Ooof. Where have you heard that before?

Meet Sterling Gibson, “a well-known supporter of occasionally having black people set on fire”.

Meet Antoine Wolfe, a black person Sterling Gibson saw occasion last night to set on fire.

To be precise, Wolfe was tied into a straight-jacket and set on fire on top of the hills overlooking Los Angeles. It took him quite some time to get as far as Mulholland and throw himself into a white celebrity’s swimming pool. Naturally Antoine is arrested: he’s black. He’s probably not as crispy as he should be, though.

No one who’s read Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE will be remotely surprised to learn that this is beautiful to behold. The eyes particularly have it. This is important given that there’s a great deal of one-on-one confrontation going on. Antoine Woolfe has a clear head and quick wit. But so do those he’s antagonising, and I like that. He particularly enjoys antagonising those with power over others, be they lowlife thieves using mind-control to rob old ladies on buses or multi-millionaire businessmen who support occasionally having black people set on fire. Did I mention Antoine was barely singed? Why would that be, I wonder?

So; eloquent anti-authoritarian occultist detective who relishes playing verbal sabres, has a history with Hell, sticks up for the vulnerable, despises injustice and is haunted by dead friends – in his case fellow former soldiers deployed in Iraq. Have you ever read Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING? As a revitalised John Constantine with a radically different regional dialect, Antoine Wolfe is a joy to spend time with. If Ellis & Shalvey’s INJECTION is comparable to Jamie Delano’s HELLBLAZER then this is akin to Garth Ennis’ run including all sorts of people-playing, a great deal of betrayal and something I slipped in earlier.

The only thing missing is the requisite spirit of place. Except it’s not missing:

“You see this city? This city is a blend. It’s desert and it’s woods and it’s ocean and it’s cheap junk and it’s expensive junk and it’s ugly and it’s beautiful and it’s fiction and it’s real.”

Once more Matt Taylor, lit by Lee Loughbridge, excels. This could not be anywhere other than Los Angeles, a city I know intimately from so many visits… playing Grand Theft Auto. I even enjoyed the treated photography which jarred not a jot: beautifully coloured to denote time of day with just the right degree of detail retained.

This is the most accessible thing I’ve read that Kot’s written, yet it retains the eloquence and intelligence. It’s far from linear with multiple strands I’ve barely alluded to and some that I haven’t even touched yet. But I think we should, for everyone here is connected. I drew a topological map of the plot and it was almost as tight and densely packed as CRIMINAL VOLUME 3’s.

For a start, I think you’ll like Antoine’s mate, Freddy Chtonic, unwanted son of the elder demi-god, whose face isn’t particularly well appointed for drinking coffee without a straw. His landlord’s a vampire.

“And literally.”

He’s bleeding Freddy financially dry, so Antoine takes it upon himself to pay him a rent-related visit and hears screams coming from the washroom. Now, if you think you’ve met every possible iteration of immortality in vampires – if you believe you’ve seen it all when it comes to the best and worst times in the world to be bitten like that poor bloke in LIFE SUCKS who as a consequence is stuck at the age of sixteen, doomed for eternity to be carded at club doors and off-licences – then please think again.

Negotiations will lead Antoine further up the food chain to orgy-loving Frederick Azimuth, but in the meantime a thirteen-year-old girl covered in blood turns up at Wolfe’s door seeking sanctuary. Her mum and step-dad were about to sacrifice her but something intervened at the last minute. She too has company, even when alone, and her name is Anita Christ.

All this at first seems tangential because there was a reason beyond racism why multimillionaire Sterling Gibson had Antoine Wolfe flamed. He was indeed examining his stock to judge its otherworldliness before offering Antoine employment. He needs Antoine to deal with a woman; a woman whom Gibson murdered some time ago. What in the world would possess Antoine to work for a bastard like that?

“Do you believe in Natural Selection?”
“The law of the fittest, that kinda thing? I don’t concern myself with it. Prefer live and let live.”
“Yet “the word on the street” is you are a man who wants to die.”
“The word on the street changes every day. It swallows itself.”
“Exactly. And then the word is reborn anew! A Phoenix, out of the ashes! Ecosystems function like this, and the ecosystems of the word, the story, the myth, are built on the same principle. The strongest story survives. Some would say – the one with the most teeth.”

From the writer of THE SURFACE and MATERIAL plus all the ZERO tpbs and CHANGE, Ales Kot knows all about building stronger stories from evolution.

There’s a whiff of the Apocalypse in the over-arid air.


Buy Wolf vol 1: Blood And Magic and read the Page 45 review here

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c (£37-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“And so it went on for several years. Until it didn’t.”

From the creators of CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT etc, the last two pages set on a shore still make me both well up and smile. It’s a pretty neat trick, possible to pull off only if the writer, line artist and colour artist are working as one and all at the top of their games.

I don’t think that constitutes a spoiler, more of a promise that this won’t let you down. They’re the last two pages of the series, so they’re the last two pages of this book.

Or rather, they would be had you elected to read FATALE in softcover.

Sean never skimps on his deluxe editions’ designs or back-matter and here he introduces the covers freed from their frames which is almost a shame, I grant you. FATALE boasted the best consistent cover design which I’ve ever seen in comics, which is why some of us bought the individual comics to read then decorate our halls with. But reproduced unfettered in a format which is almost A4 they take on a new life in all their grey-tone-wash glory, each with a single extra flourish of colour. And, of course, he explains why.

These are followed by extra finished art and process pieces (I love seeing how an artist develops his ideas from start to finish) while, in between, come the landscape paintings Phillips adorned the periodical’s essays with (again, type-face-free) and just one of those essays, on Lovecraft.

For FATALE is crime with a Lovecraftian twist.

It is, as Brubaker explains in the brand-new afterword, about taking the cliché of the single-minded femme fatale and turning her into an individual human being cursed by the very dint of her persuasive powers which she cannot shut off to become, in its truest sense, tragic.

This hefty volume begins, quite unexpectedly, in 1936 before sweeping even further back to [redacted], thence to Seattle in 1995 before returning us to the present as events reach the climactic head which they have always threatened to.

The series itself begins in a graveyard.

Nicolas Lash is burying his godfather, one Dominic H. Raines who published a string of bestselling detective novels beginning in 1960 before dying alone, bitter and broken. He was also an avowed atheist, so when Nicolas spots three sigils on Dominic’s gravestone, he is ever so slightly perplexed. At which point Jo, the most beautiful woman Nicolas has ever beheld, appears as if out of nowhere:

“My grandmother had them on her grave too…
“She and Mr Raines were in love once. I think that symbol was something private between them…
“Some piece of the past they couldn’t let go of.”

And immediately, like a kid in a school yard, Nicolas is irretrievably smitten.

Later that night he goes through his godfather’s effects and discovers an unpublished manuscript dated 1957 called ‘The Losing Side Of Eternity’.

At which point all hell breaks loose before we flash all the way back to San Francisco, 1956, when Dominic Raines was a happily married man with a kid on the way. He’s not yet a writer, but a reporter determined to expose police corruption and in particular one Walt Booker who happens to be dating… oh, hello! She looks familiar!

Then there are tentacles and some heads explode.

For more, please see FATALE DELUXE HARDCOVER VOL 1 or indeed any of the five softcovers. They’re each one reviewed because I loved them so much.


Buy Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Unfollow #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling…

“It’s okay Rees, I removed your name from the 140.”
“Okay! You got me! You caught me, all right! I added myself to the 140 list… But you need me, Rubenstein. I programmed the app. You need me… You… Oh Christ… You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”
“One hundred forty characters. Now it can begin.”

Larry Ferrel is rich. Very rich, to the tune of 17 billion dollars, made through building social media platforms. He is also dying of pancreatic cancer. Which is why he has decided to donate his money. All of it. To 140 lucky people. That’s 120 million dollars each… I should probably add for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, 140 is the number of characters that a single tweet can contain, presumably explaining the conceit of the title.


But, clearly, given this issue starts off with the murder of one of Larry’s loyal – well, not-so-loyal, actually – employees by his right-hand man Rubenstein wearing an Aztec priest’s mask, the 120 million dollars might come with a few strings attached. Such as possibly not living long enough to spend it…

Plus there’s various other weirdness going on, such as the ominous appearance of a talking black ghost-dog to one of the about-to-be-winners, which convinces me think this title is going to get a lot stranger yet. By the end of this first issue we’ve only met four of the 140 and I can see no pattern whatsoever though I’m sure there’ll be one. I’m certainly intrigued enough to keep reading. Art-wise, I can see some hints of Frank Quitely in Michael Dowling’s work, but the person I am mostly strongly minded of is Arthur MAZEWORLD (and sadly currently out of print BUTTONMAN) Ranson. It’s the black linework, particularly the faces.


Buy Unfollow #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Monstress #1 (£3-99, Image) by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda…

“Be smart. Be obedient. That might keep you alive… but nothing will keep you whole. Not in that place.”

No, not a new Page 45 recruit receiving last-minute instructions before entering the mail order salt mines on the upper floors, but advice offered to Maika as she arrives, bound in chains, at the palatial headquarters of the Cumea, an order of human witch-nuns who seem to like nothing more than vivisecting the Arcanics, magical creatures who are part-human, part-animal, and of which Maika is one.

Once upon a time humans and Arcanics co-existed peacefully, but that was before a bitter war erupted resulting in the deaths of one hundred and forty six thousand Arcanics at the decisive battle of Constantine. Since then the remaining Arcanics have been in hiding, gradually being hunted down and handed over to the Cumea for their vile experiments, but perhaps it’s not too late… Maika certainly thinks so, which is why she has arranged for her own capture. She thinks it is the only way to get behind the formidable defences of the Cumea headquarters, for she believes there is something the Cumea are looking for and have no idea it is hidden right under their noses.



Well, this was an unexpectedly dark blend of fantasy and horror. It’s certainly aimed at a mature audience, not kids. Exceptionally well written, but I suppose we should expect no less from a published fantasy author, Majorie Liu, and just as beautifully illustrated by Sana Takeda. They have worked together before these two, on an eminently forgettable few issues of X-23 for Marvel, but they’re clearly both operating well in their respective comfort zones here. This is outstanding work for its particular genre.

As I say, it’s certainly not one for the squeamish, but both the writing and the exquisitely clean art have the feel of a Humanoids publication, rather than a typical monthly single issue. If you liked say THE SWORDS OF GLASS, therefore, I think this would very much appeal.


Buy Monstress #1 and read the Page 45 review here

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton…

Matt & Sara’s very own Rodentia Of The Lost Ark continues as our bewhiskered adventurers Jack and Vicky head from their revelatory dig site in Egypt, where they uncovered a mysterious stone tablet setting them off on the quest (see MULP #1), over the oceans to the heady heights of Machu Picchu in Peru! They won’t encounter any marmalade-crazed bears whilst in the Andes, but there’ll certainly be danger and tight squeaks aplenty for our daring duo and their chums Cornelius, Elizabeth and Professor Harvest-Scott, as once again they are beset by the villainous Moreau and the other expedition racing to find the perhaps not so mythical sceptre of the sun.

If you have a liking for fast-paced, period, anthropomorphic adventure amidst beautiful scenery then do take a look. Matt’s spinning an epic tale with more protagonist peril for the little blighters than ten back-to-back episodes of Tom and Jerry, whilst Sara’s illustrations yet again convey the exotic locales to perfection. It really did take me back to my own breathless ascent of Machu Picchu and also my encounter with those most mysterious markings in the desert, the Nazca Lines. The only question is where in the world will our furry friends up end heading next…? I suspect we might well end up spanning the entire globe before this series is concluded!




Buy MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Man Of Glass (£3-95, Accent UK) by Martin Flink.

The layout is clear, the segues spot-on, the colouring warm and sympathetic.

From the creator of last month’s THE TROLL which was such a stunning evocation of space and place that we’ve restocked this treasure from five years ago.

Like Jordan Crane’s tiny masterpiece LAST LONELY SATURDAY, there must by necessity be little I can tell you, but it’s an equally poignant piece ,free from maudlin melodrama, about a young boxer who has it all: genuine friendships, a loving relationship full of tactile tenderness and a beautiful boy as a consequence.

What, then, is his connection to the broken old man who drinks cheap beer in the park and carries his belongings in two plastic carrier bags?

It’s like a small holding of ESSEX COUNTY, highly recommended, with an improbably dignified ending.


Buy the Man Of Glass and read the Page 45 review here

Trashed (£11-99, Abrams Comicarts) by Derf Backderf…

“In six months I’ve gone from a college student to being taught the finer points of sweeping crap off the road like I’m a drooling moron. Yes, there’s little doubt I’ve hit rock bottom.”

The man whose childhood mate turned out to be serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (MY FRIEND DAHMER) is back and this time it’s a load of rubbish. The subject matter, that is, the graphic novel itself is hilarious, being a fictionalised reworking of his time on the bins in small town America in 1979 and 1980.

In fact, his first version of working this rich source of fertiliser – I mean material – into comics form, as an autobiographical mini in 2002, earned him an Eisner nomination. He returned to it a couple of times before polishing it up into this version you see today. Now, I always thought they said you can’t polish a turd but Derf Backderf has clearly proven otherwise with a bit of elbow grease and done a sterling job recycling his experiences into comedy gold.

Anyone who has had a shit job, temporary or otherwise, will attest to the soul-crushing repetitive horror it can reduce your day-to-day 9-to-5 life to. And yet, and yet, if you are the sort of person who can find humour in adversity, and friends in the unlikeliest of places (well, second unlikeliest after a psychopathic serial killer, perhaps…) you can still find innumerate childish ways to wile the painful hours away and have a laugh or two. Granted, it’s a nihilistic sort of pleasure which if you were staring at the possibility of it extending through the rest of your working career it well might send you round the bend, but if it’s for a year or two, who knows what valuable life lessons you might pick up. Along with the trash, in Derf’s case…

I do like Derf’s dark sense of humour, I must say. He’s a keen social conscience, though, partly honed from his work on his long running syndicated cartoon strip The City that appeared in over 140 publications. And here, alongside the, as he puts it, “ode to the crap job of all crap jobs”, he takes the time to regale us with more than a few shocking statistics regarding the ever-growing problem of just what happens to everything we casually throw out of our houses ever week with barely a second thought. I don’t know what the answers to mankind’s wasteful ways ultimately are, neither does he, but in the meanwhile my plan is to just keep reading comics as funny as TRASHED and try to ignore it…


Buy Trashed and read the Page 45 review here

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Junji Ito.

“What even…?” you may be asking.

And after you’ve read this, you may well be asking yet again.

From the manga master of horror as nasty as it is compelling – the queasy, curdling and claustrophobic UZUMAKI and GYO – we are now presented with a cute, autobiographical cat book.

Or are we? Take a closer look at that cover!

On the right sits Mu, a Norwegian forest cat which I concede is quite cute: long fur, attractive markings, dark, glossy eyes. Awww. But if you don’t pick up intimations of stormy seas from the screw-you eyes of Yon to the left, then you are no Doctor Dolittle. Ito’s exuberant fiancée we will address later on, but Ito below is hardly looking a picture of relaxed mental health, is he? They do say that pets can be perfect for reducing blood pressure, but Junji’s is about to go right through the roof.

He does it to himself, you know, imagining all sorts of nightmares where there are none – which is an occupational hazard of horror, I guess – but he positively invites it all on himself.

Page one, and all is idyllic. Ito has bought himself a brand-new home with “fresh white wallpaper, sparkling clean floors, the pleasant scent of new construction…” and then his beloved fiancée appears. She does nothing worse than ask him the simple question of whether he considers himself a cat person or a dog person, but he manages to work himself up into such a frenzy of second-guessing what he’s supposed to stay that by the bottom of page two his eyes are two sore, stressed out balls of burst blood vessels.

Imagine his reaction, then, when this highly strung dog person is presented with not one but two cats. After which he is persuaded by fiancée A-Ko into lining all the nice new walls and wooden banisters with protective plastic sheets. He doesn’t like it.


A sane reaction, to be sure: what could possibly induce you to live in a plastic, padded cell?  Insanely, however, he acquiesces.

What follows is one long meltdown of overreaction, competition for affection, hallucination and practical jokes gone awry.

You’ve seldom seen such sweat-soaked foreheads and floods of tears. In addition, Ito’s beloved fiancée is presented throughout as a creepily demonic succubus with blank, white eyeballs – no irises or pupils at all. I can see where that’s coming from: it’s Ito admitting that the stress is all self-induced, figments of his overactive imagination.

All of which work beautifully in Ito’s horror stories but here I’m left cold because although the stories start off well enough, they almost immediately meander into the mundane before simply stopping. They commit the cardinal sin of being dull.

Jeffrey Brown manages more meaningful, recognisable and so affecting presentations of feline behaviour on almost every single page of both CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS and CATS ARE WEIRD AND MORE OBSERVATIONS than this misconceived project does during the entire book.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I would be rubbish reviewing the latest biological or technological discoveries in New Scientist; I’m afraid that Ito is equally inept at autobiography which is trickier than you think, requiring a great deal of carefully considered structural discipline and an internal editor to prune the excesses to show off the successes.

No, Junji’s forte is horror, at which he is virtually unparalleled in Japanese comics. Although please do try Inio Asano’s NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH because brrrrr…


Buy Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Princess Leia (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Terry Dodson…

The sassiest royal of them all is ready to rumble once more! Yes, Princess Leia Organa, scourge of the Empire is back with her own mini-series that once again reminds us that femininity need not be in inverse proportion with one’s ability to cause fatalities… In these days where strong female heroes are commonplace, it is easy to forget there was a time when that wasn’t always so, perhaps not even a long, long time ago… (Sorry, couldn’t resist at least one Star Wars pun). And that Leia was one of the first.

You can understand why Marvel are doing all these character mini-series, to re-introduce all the original characters, possibly to people who might be meeting them for the first time. I can only say as a five year old that Princess Leia made a very striking impression on me though I wasn’t exactly sure why at the time! I can categorically state that Terry Dodson has captured the vital essence of the youthful Leia. The artwork, inked to perfection by wife Rachel, really took me back in time nearly thirty years.


The story by Mark Waid is relatively standard fare. Our headstrong royal is once again rushing headfirst into trouble before kicking and blasting her way out of it. Who needs Han Solo to save the day, not her! I think Waid neatly suggests Leia’s somewhat suicidal approach to her missions is due to survivor’s guilt, after the dramatic destruction of Alderaan by Darth and his Death Star. Probably so, two billion deaths is rather a lot to have on your conscience, it’d certainly keep me up at night, and provide more than adequate motivation to ensure the evil Empire gets totally eradicated. This mini-series, like the others and the ongoing STAR WARS title, is set directly after the events of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.


Buy Star Wars: Princess Leia 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.

Giant Days vol 1  (£7-50, Boom! Box) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman

Junction True (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Ray Fawkes & Vince Locke

Our Expanding Universe (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson

Swamp Thing: Darker Genesis s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Mark Millar & Phil Hester, Chris Weston, John Totleben, Jill Thompson, more

Mouse Guard vol 1: Autumn 1152 s/c (US Edition) (£14-99, Villard) by David Petersen

Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso

Dungeon Fun (Sketched In) (£12-00, DoGooder Comics) by Colin Bell & Neil Slorance

Puma Blues Complete Saga h/c (£22-50, Dover) by Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli

Hitler (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Batman Adventures vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kelley Puckett

Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Batman And Robin vol 6: The Hunt For Robin s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Andy Kubert, various

Superman: Earth One vol 3 s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ardian Syaf

A-Force vol 0: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson, Marguerite Bennett & Jorge Molina

Captain Marvel & Carol Corps: Warzones! s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kelly Thompson & David Lopez, Laura Braga, Paolo Pantalena

Guardians Of Knowhere: Warzones! s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato

Korvac Saga: Warzones! s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett & Otto Schmidt, Nico Leon

Marvel Zombies: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Simon Spurrier & Sean Phillips

Ms. Marvel vol 4: Last Days s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson, Dan Slott & Adrian Alphona, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kris Anka

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 1 – Alpha s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Various including Scott Lobdell, John Francis Moore, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Larry Hama, Fabian Nicieza, Jeph Loeb & Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Steve Epting, others

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 2 – Reign s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Various including Scott Lobdell, John Francis Moore, Warren Ellis, Larry Hama, Fabian Nicieza, & Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, others

Bleach vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Gantz vol 37 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

One Piece vol 76 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata


ITEM! Angoulême 2016 poster by AKIRA’s Otomo! Read all about it there! Lovely to see Moebius’ Arzach flying high! Lots of other details abound, hidden away in the detail.

ITEM! FISH HEAD STEVE’s Jamie Smart on creating comicbook collectives of artists in multiple media for maximum, mutually beneficial cross-pollination.

ITEM! The British Comics Awards 2015 winners announced! Page 45 could not be happier with the results!

Page 45’s Review of Rob Davis’ THE MOTHERLESS OVEN, Winner of the BCA Best Graphic Novel 2015!

Page 45’s Review of Tim Bird’s GREY AREA: FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, Winner of the BCA Best Comic 2015!

Page 45’s Review of James Turner’s STAR CAT, Winner of the BCA Young People’s Comics Awards 2015!

Congratulations to – and website of – Rachael Stott, Winner of the BCA Emerging Talent 2015!

What a weekend!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week two

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III.

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.

SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.

I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave them birth. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.

I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!

Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including interviews with the artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.

As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait.

No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition.

That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”

Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*


Buy Sandman Overture Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Denis Bajram.

Deeply satisfying sci-fi originally published in France in which the Purgatory Squadron encounters The Wall and gets quite the education, whether they need none nor not.

The Purgatory Squadron is an eminently expendable group of space soldiers each awaiting Court Martial for a list of offences whose specifics are kept secret from each other. You really don’t know who you’re bunking up with or why. Unnerving, much…? They’re led by Lt. Colonel Edward Kalish, a genius who was formerly the head of the United Earth Forces’ Space Physics Research Division.

The Wall, on the other hand, is an immense and seemingly impenetrable black barrier defying analysis which has suddenly appeared in the middle of our solar system cutting off access to any planet beyond Saturn. Three billion kilometres in diameter and filling a third of the night sky, its centre appears to be Oberon, a moon of Uranus.

Given the existing tensions between the governing United Earth Forces and the Colonization Industrial Companies which control the various off-Earth outposts and colonies, the UEF suspects the CIC of testing some top-secret weapon from their research facility orbiting Oberon, and accuses the CIC of wanting to secede thus raising the spectre of a potentially catastrophic civil war.

But when our Purgatory Squad figures out the physics and learn that it’s a form of inverted worm-hole, Earth’s military encounters a fleet of space ships within, which they should be able to take on quite easily but can’t.

Why? The enemy fleet appears to be uncannily fast and uncannily accurate whenever they fire. And there’s a very good reason why: it’s just a question of time…

It was at that point I really started to enjoy myself when I read this on holiday six years ago – so much so that my notes came to an abrupt end.

But it becomes a philosophical debate on cause and effect, and a complex murder mystery for quite early on one of the squadron, Balti, emerges from The Wall a mere minute after he went rogue and flew in there. But he does so in a brand new ship, different clothes and a great big hole in his chest.

Written, pencilled and inked by Denis Bajarm this was the best straight science / speculative fiction graphic novel which our Jonathan had read for some considerable time. If you’re a lover of prose sci-fi you’ll greatly appreciate Bajarm’s detailed and intricate plot and his extensive characterisation of the Purgatory Squadron members and the UEF and CIC big-wigs. His art too is epic and exquisitely detailed and, without giving too much away plot-wise, the sequences inside the barrier are genuinely unnerving in the sense that you really feel people are messing around with potentially galactic-shattering forces that aren’t even remotely under their control.

This hefty edition collects both previous volumes published by Marvel’s abandoned Soleil imprint, while this review is complete mash-up of our previous efforts back in 2009 to the extent that single sentences have been spliced together and I’m currently experiencing an entirely apposite identity crisis.


Buy Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Surface (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Langdon Foss…

The children turned off their lifelogs.

“…our war against the hackers and digital pirates… the true heirs to the damaged brand of terrorism perpetrated by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS… has reached its final stage..”

People don’t usually do that these days. Turn off the lifelogs, I mean.

“… it is true that most of their leaders are locked up… but new, even more cunning, cold-blooded worshipers of terror stand in their place…”

The popularity of lifelogging exploded fast. Wear a few tiny unobtrusive camera chips and microphones at all time. Log your life.

“… as we know, most of these hacker terrorists are… known spies…”

The ‘share’ buttons became the ‘no-share’ buttons. Privacy as an opt-in. Sharing as default.

“…I refuse to give them but an inch of our civilisation… our land, our data, our capital…”

Embrace interconnectivity. Have a memory you can access any time, a complete account of your life, and more than that.

The opening issue of THE SURFACE was the best bit of cyberpunk I’d read for a while, combining as it does cutting-edge technology and a chaotic society either on the brink of dystopian collapse, or evolving apace in ever more unpredictable ways, depending on how you look at it. And all the while the great and good try and cling on to their power and wealth through whatever nefarious quasi-legal means are at their disposal.

Unfortunately readers in the wider world did not apparently agree resulting in this title being curtailed and wrapped up in a mere four issues. Wrapped up might not be the right term, actually, for the concluding fourth issue was one of the strangest individual issues I’ve read in some time, as Ales goes all meta and gets very up close and personal with both us and himself to provide a suitably surreal, yet utterly crystal clear, ending. To see reality as it truly is, all you need to do is sit and relax. And maybe read a few of Ales’ comics…

Anyway, I think we can all agree that the premise of lifelogging is almost certainly going to come to pass en masse in some form or other in the not-too-distant future. It’s not that far a remove from how some people seem to use Facebook right now, frankly. In THE SURFACE, the people in charge would have you believe it’s only a boon, after all, how you can you ever be accused of a crime you didn’t commit if your entire life is documented for all to see? Or looking at the flipside, how can you ever get away with doing anything at all they don’t like? Particularly something that might upset the status quo.

Which is where our main characters Gomez, Nasa and Mark come in. Mark, by the way, is the disowned son of the President of the Three State Union, that chap who was spinning bile about hackers and pirates above on television, whilst Mark provided the counterpoint narrative. Mark has some rather interesting ideas about the nature of reality itself – dangerous ideas, some like his dad might argue – and he’s decided it’s time to test his theory. Believing that the universe is a holographic  projection which we inhabit, he’s posited a VERY BIG question. If that theory is correct, then precisely where is it projected from?

“A surface separates inside from out and belongs no less to one than the other.” That’s from Don Delillo, an American author who has himself been referred to as the ‘chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction’ and where the title of this comic comes from presumably…. But as Delillo also said, not quoted here… ‘Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments… I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us’. He’s got a point. I think it’s a school of thought Ales subscribes to.

Much like Ales’ previous works (WILD CHILDREN, CHANGE, ZERO) this is chock full of current scientific theories and ideas, designed to make you stop and think. Plus there’s a lot going on even on top of the incredibly rich plot itself, from the infovercial complete with barely visible seditious lines of tiny yellow type, the mysterious prologue, fake adverts, the odd page of scientific concept presented in essay form, and a three-part interview with the ‘elusive writer’ which may or may not be a real interview with Ales himself.

Whilst this is no way the same sort of story as TRANSMETROPOLITAN, it does have the archetypical idiotic corrupt politicians, which combined with the technological shenanigans did bring it to mind. Also, there is great a little nod to Spider Jerusalem in the background of a panel which made me chuckle. I can well imagine fans of that title might get a kick out of this.

Nice art from Langdon Foss, which reminds me of Brandon Graham, particularly KING CITY (and I think it is probably the speculative fiction context driving that connection), which combined with the lurid colours employed by Jordie Bellaire (whom Ales has worked with before to great effect on ZERO) serve to create a real sense of a future permeated with data feeds and flows, bursting to capacity, headed somewhere, probably not the right direction, at breakneck speed.


Buy The Surface and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Put a pebble in a shell.
“Put the shell in a box.
“Put the box in a bag.
“Put the bag in a trunk.
“Then throw the fucking thing in a cave and blow the opening shut with dynamite.
“THAT’S what it’s like trying to pin down ‘Amiel Boutique.’
“On paper he’s a labyrinth with no exit.”

Then the grey men attack and Casanova Quinn, our debonair gentleman criminal and occasional spy, is forced to disrupt his research on his enigmatic employer and dispense some fatal lessons in library etiquette. Or, as he so eloquently puts it…

“What, you think because we’re in a library I won’t fuck you up and get a little LOUD? COME ON!”

The strange thing is not that Casanova Quinn has been attacked by mask-wearing persons mumbling strange symbolic languages intent on doing him serious harm. That’s par for the course for an individual whose father, Cornelius, runs the global spy organization E.M.P.I.R.E. which doesn’t even come close to describing the everyday weirdness of his existence. Indeed, it’s even the second assassination attempt he’s survived in the opening few pages! The first being at the hands of a naked and nubile young lady who has enticed him onto the diving board of a swimming pool, long after a party at his boss’ Hollywood Hills mansion has wound down and all the other guests have safely departed.

No, the really curious part is that his attempts to decipher the mysterious past of his employer, the ultra-rich Amiel Boutique, are entirely at Mr. Boutique’s request. For Amiel Boutique’s history is so shadowy, so secretive, that even he can’t remember it beyond a certain point, which unsurprisingly troubles him greatly. And in return, Mr. Boutique has told Casanova Quinn, currently living under the name of Quentin Cassidy, that he will do the same for him.

For Casanova too, is suffering from an amnesia of sorts, (long-time readers will know precisely why, new readers, just dive in then go back and read CASANOVA LUXURIA, GULA and AVARITIA to explain all), which means he has no idea of his true identity, merely that is he skilled in the various dark arts of subterfuge, self-defence and myriad other chicanery. Thus, a job as a majordomo for a man who asked no questions seemed like the ideal employment. Now that other factions are starting to move against him and Ariel both, well, it seems like a good idea to try and find some answers. What the right questions to ask are, though, and to whom, is a whole different matter.

Magnificently stylish. Not just Fraction’s writing – of a story that continually and seemingly effortlessly manages to serially and surreally reinvent itself and its main protagonist – but also Fabio Moon’s gloriously retro chic art. Casanova Quinn looks like a cross between a ’60s footballer and James Bond, and knows how to act the part too – subconsciously, that is, for the moment. The overall feel is something of Barbarella meets Austin Powers. Given how utterly out-there the previous three volumes have been, I can’t imagine for one moment this isn’t going to go all sideways, very shortly, well into yet another universe or timeline at least…

Beautiful artwork from one half of the team responsible for DAYTRIPPER and TWO BROTHERS. The other half, brother Gabriel Ba, gets a chance to contribute to the fun once more in a chortle-tastic back-up strips penned by Michael Chabon, author of the prose Pulitzer-Prize-winning Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend. I say back-up strips, but I suspect they will turn out to be highly significant in some way before the end of the arc. Also, a rare mention for a letterer, Dustin Harbin, who I think may well be the best in the business right now. He also did the letters for a book called SECONDS by a certain Bryan Lee O’ Malley, which you may have heard of…

Finally, just in case you are wondering, the subtitles for each arc are the Latin versions of each of the seven deadly sins, acedia being sloth. So there will apparently be seven volumes of CASANOVA in total, one for each sin. I have at this point no real understanding of how that motif underpins or even pertains to the work, but I am sure it will at some point become clear. Maybe.


Buy Casanova: Acedia vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Becky Cloonan, Hannah Christenson, Ryan Lang, Skottie Young, Dustin Nguyen, more.

If you’re looking for a MOUSE GUARD entry point, we recommend MOUSE GUARD: BLACK AXE which takes place before the first two and features some sequences worthy of Arthur Rackham himself, along with his colour palette. The series is set in a feudal society of anthropomorphic mice governed by a matriarch. Interestingly, most of the other animals have no human traits and are mostly feral predators.

Here for the third time creator David Petersen provides the linking sequences as patrons of the June Alley Inn are invited by its proprietor to sing for their supper – or, in this case, tell stories in a bid to have their tabs cleared in full.

They are, of course, actually told by guest writers and / or artists in a variety of styles from Skottie Young’s exuberant cartoon line work (see ROCKET RACCOON) to Ryan Lang’s hyper-real, computer-generated 3-D modelling. Normally the latter doesn’t do it for me, but ‘The Watcher’s Stone’ is a lambently lit tale of bravery and resourcefulness turning one ill against another to save a small, embattled town struck down by sickness and starved while under siege by a formidable foe.

My favourite, however, came from Hannah Christenson whose mice are so lean and tufted that you can almost feel their silky fur as well as the hard skulls underneath.

‘The Armor Maker’ stars a blacksmith who dreams of battle and, so inspired, takes enormous pride in his commissions, creating elaborately engraved, gold and gleaming armour which at one point positively dances across the page along with its attendant weaponry, while the tools of his trade hang as if suspended in air. There’s another composition as organic as J.H. Williams III is wont to work with.

Becky Cloonan’s contribution is customarily spooky and all the original covers are reproduced as double-page spreads in the back, along with cast and creator note and two cut-away, three-dimensional floor plans for the June Alley Inn’s ground floor and dormitories above.

Yes, don’t imagine Petersen’s on holiday: his patrons are dressed to reflect their individuality and even the simplest stairwell is transformed under his eye for detail into a grained wooden structure which could conceivably creak.


Buy Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Butterfly h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett & Antonio Fuso, Stefano Simeone.

Somalia 1993:

“We were meant to bring peace to the region. Clean water. Safe schools. Instead, we were rooting out militants opposed to an oil pipeline – a pipeline that did not appear on any known record for the Department of Defence or the CIA.
“Once the militants were extinguished, I believed the pipeline would be sold to whichever corporate interest Project Delta chose.
“They were going to kill my wife, and they were going to kill my daughter, Rebecca.”

David Faulkner was ex-CIA, poached for Project Delta. Now he is simply ex, having died in the Somali desert, gagging on his own blood.

Norway today, and David’s daughter Rebecca Faulkner has followed in her dead father’s footsteps. Ex-CIA, she too now works for Project Delta. Codenamed Butterfly, she is one of Project Delta’s deep cover agents sent on a retrieval mission, but at the precise moment she bends down to pick a package from the pocket of a Russian oligarch, he collapses, choking, and dies.



Now she needs to escape – and fast – but the cell numbers she needs for extraction are dead. Refusing to believe Project Delta would abandon her, she follows a trail from an abandoned shipyard to Le Papilllon Rose Vineyard freezing in France.

““Nightingale”, the message said. But Nightingale is a myth to trainees at the Project. A burned operative, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale.”

No, Nightingale was Rebecca’s father who faked his own death in the belief that he needed to protect his wife and child from Project Delta itself. And she’s just led them straight to his door.


Or has she? Flashing backwards and forwards in time, there are multiple trust issues here, not least between father and daughter, but I’m not sure whether this is complex or convoluted, and the bottle of Beaujolais left in the shipyard container still makes no sense to me if any of the suspected parties (and there are many) didn’t know where Nightingale was. Maybe I’m missing something.

Certainly there seem to me many things missing here – it can be very abrupt – but what isn’t absent is a moment of startling betrayal based on conviction, followed so swiftly by a reversal of fortune that you may end up needing a neck brace.

It’ll keep you guessing right until the end – or maybe afterwards.

I’m led to believe Channel 4 have picked this up, presumably based on its skeleton because this is going to need a lot of fleshing out. You’re not given enough time, for example, to care what happens to Angelique and Martin, David’s new family.

The interior art I’ve supplied is an unbroken sequence by Antonio Fuso depicting the moment the retrieval goes wrong and beyond. Neatly done, I thought, and of the two contributing artists (Stefano Simeone takes over halfway through), he’s easier on the eye.


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

100 Bullets Book 3 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

“There’s a war coming.”

Crime so hardboiled you could wrap it in plastic and sell it by the quarter-pound.

For “Previously in 100 BULLETS…” please see Books 1 and 2 which each collect almost three of the previously slimmer Volumes.

This brutal and brilliant conspiracy thriller thunders on with more hearts of darkness. Now we’ve been introduced to all the major players, they start moving each other into position: last-minute adjustments plus lots of hard looks, harsh words and a dash of tough luck.

After the superbly choreographed ‘Ambition’s Audition’ starring Benito, Shepherd, Mr. Medici and a game of dominoes, we’re locked in a US penitentiary which is way too comfortable a description to convey the hot, sweaty, razor-edge tensions of this dark and brutal hellhole. This is Eduardo – and indeed Brian – in masterful mode, and it’s as nasty as anything I believe you’ll have seen on TV’s Oz. If it isn’t, I do not want to see Oz.

Expect intimidatingly massive body builds, worryingly unpredictable shower scenes, and a lot of very vicious violence. Because it’s part of 100 BULLETS you can also expect hidden agendas, brinksmanship, twists, and the most beat-perfect prison patter you’ll probably need an inmate to decipher in places:

“Wassup Erie?”
“Same ‘ole same oh, Loop. Heard on the wire they was lettin’ your toad ass out the hole… Figure I’d stop by, see who you was hol’in up.”
“Wha? You miss me?”
“Fuck that. You ain’t pussy, dawg. Potential investment, s’what you are. Whole lotta book bein’ made… on yo’ onion. As in how long Nine Train’s gonna wait to peel it. You ain’t thinkin’ ’bout’, are you?”
“Wha? Kick it with the chomos, rapists an’ retards in Protective Custody? You trippin’?”
“Jus’ checkin’, ain’t frontin'”
“Why? You got my back?”
“Dawg, you know if I could –”
“You wood?”
“Goddamn, Loop. You an’ that muthafuckin’ sideways shit. Never give it a rest.”
“Arrest is what got me locked up wit’ yo’ Nazi ass.”

Lastly Agent Graves sends Wylie Times on a journey to a sultry New Orleans that will change the battle lines of his private war for good. No, really, it will. He’s given Wylie the briefcase containing that gun, those 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition, and a target for revenge: Shepherd. But Shepherd’s got Dizzy with him, and looks aren’t the only things than can kill: so can words.

Knock-out shadows and silhouettes are Risso’s forté, enhanced by menacing eyes and pouting lips, while Patricia Mulvihill’s colours radiate so much heat you’ll be mopping your brow.


Buy 100 Bullets Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Luthor s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

From the writer of 100 BULLETS, this comes highly recommended to those who demand more from animosity than pugilism.

Lex Luthor stares into space and broods about humanity being subject to the whims of a potentially untrustworthy alien being, whilst those around him – from employees in the form of construction workers to a cherished servant in the form of his own artificially created, female metahuman – find out what it’s like to be subject to the bitterness of a decidedly untrustworthy human being.

Far more interesting for me than Azzarello’s team-up with Jim Lee (SUPERMAN FOR TOMORROW), there are some credibly vocalised motivations, an ingeniously manipulated climax designed to discredit Superman through his own benevolent nature, and a tense stand-off through a plate glass window as Luthor stands way above the streets in his skyscraper tower, and Superman, floating outside, stares back. Hard.

This was the second time Azzarello and Bermejo had worked together on one of DC’s top properties, the first being BATMAN/DEATHBLOW wherein Bermejo rendered a Gotham in almost permanent, smog-shrouded twilight, the third being JOKER which will have you wincing on the edge of your seat throughout.

Here we join Lex Luthor as the sun sets over a futuristic Metropolis, sharpening its edifices’ corners and reflecting off the glass of the vast monuments to man’s imagination, aspiration and ingenuity. At the end of another long day Lex sits and chats with Stan the cleaner, as they gaze out across the skyline at the Metropolis Science Spire, the billionaire’s latest project whose grand opening is due shortly.

Bermejo’s expressions are quiet and subtle, Lex all delightful smiles, his brow only furrowing with concern when he learns that that Stan’s son, though bright, is cutting classes. It’s then that you see Luthor as a human being whereas Superman throughout the first chapter is depicted as volcanic, his eyes burning with the fire of a thousand foundries. Here’s the beautiful Mona:

“The Von Raunch Academy’s Benefit Ball is tonight. I’m going to present your very generous donation, and tell them that though you would have loved to be there, some matters came up and –”
“Hmm. That’s that exclusive school, isn’t it?”
“Well, if you mean by exclusive it hand-picks only twelve students for acceptance each year, then yes. It’s exclusive.”
“Right… an employee of ours has a son who I think merits inclusion in that twelve. Joey’s a bright boy. Tell the Head Master I’d consider it a personal favour.”
“I will, but next semester’s class has already been selected. One of those children would have to be –”
“A personal favour, and I would be very grateful. Have a good time, Mona. Give everyone my best.”

See, he’s not all bad.

That scene is played to perfection – just like the reader.


Buy Luthor and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez…

“We’re really sorry, sir. It was my idea.”
“I don’t care whose damn it was! I want the damn grass cut!”
“Then why don’t you cut it yourself you lazy #$%#…”


“That the best you can do, old man?”
“You mouthy little #%$!”


“Get your bike!”
“We gotta go now, Clint!”
“Where we gonna go, Barn?”
“I don’t know. Just keep biking.”

Well now, this was an unexpected delight. I mean, I probably shouldn’t have been remotely surprised given how highly I rate Jeff Lemire, but let me tell you, if you were perhaps also worried this title was going to take a dip following the departure of Messrs. Fraction and Aja (and let us also not forget Pulido and Wu on HAWKEYE VOL 3 art duties) I can most emphatically assure you that will not be the case based on the evidence of this first volume.

Okay, so what’s different and what’s the same? Well, we still have some elements of the dual narrative structure, but not just through the eyes of current-day Clint and Kate, wise-cracking and one-upping back and forth whilst bulls-eyeing bad guys, but also a young Clint as the issue switches between a typical high-octane all-not-exactly-going-to-plan Hawkeye-Hawkeye team-up taking down a Hydra cell, and new, fleshed-out flashbacks to Clint and Barney Barton’s childhood together. Also, I may just have broken my own record for most hyphens in a sentence there.

The two time periods are rendered with dramatically different art styles but by the same artist, Ramon Perez. In fact for the modern Hawkeye Sr.&  Jr. double-act he’s gone for a style not entirely dissimilar to David Aja’s, so much so in fact that I had to check it wasn’t him! I can only presume this is to (subliminally) reassure readers that whilst much will be different about this title going forward, the panel-by-panel fun and frolics element is going to remain largely unchanged, visually at least. I think this is an entirely wise decision on Lemire’s and Perez’s parts, given Lemire’s own comments in his afterword of the first issue about the humongous size of the scarlet booties they were filling.

What is radically different, though, are the dreamy sequences featuring a young Clint and brother Barney finding themselves unwelcome at yet another foster home, largely due to their own inability to conform, behave and obey like good little boys, it must be said. Well, perhaps also Barney smashing their new foster father over the head with a baseball bat this time… These are produced in a water colour style, with a palette entirely composed of myriad hues of purple, minus any panels or gutters whatsoever, giving the effect of recalling long-forgotten memories of a misspent youth.

I suspect it’s this era’s portrayal which is going to provide the real heart and emotional depth of Lemire’s run, given how much poignancy he manages to encapsulate in barely a handful of pages right from the get go. But I also doubt – especially given how the two time periods’ stories and art styles begin to intercut and interact and eventually collide before culminating in two emotionally polar opposite but equally dramatic finales for the first chapter – that events in the modern era are going to be mere spurious fun, either. No, I don’t think they are going to be light and frothy throwaway frippery at all…


Buy Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Roleplaying Game Boxed Set (£52-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen.

Plus boxed set containing:

320-page softcover rule book
48-page supplementary rule book
Four sets of weapon and armour cards
Four sets of condition cards
20 custom mice – sorry, dice
A gamesmaster screen
Pad of character sheets
Pad of gamesmaster record sheets
Map of the territories

The 320-page softcover is illustrated throughout with some lovely scenes of pastoral tranquillity and danger. The box 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!

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. The book itself is exactly the same size as the MOUSE GUARD graphic novels 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 Boxed Set 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.

Porcelain vol 2: Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 signed bookplate edition)  (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose

Bookplates strictly limited to 200 copies. One day in? We’ve already sold 50. Bless you to bits!


Wolf vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor

Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c (£37-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Doodle A Day (£9-99, Macmillan) by Chris Riddell

ALPHA… Directions h/c (£29-99, Knockabout) by Jens Harder

American Vampire vol 7 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque

Cyanide & Happiness vol 4: Stab Factory s/c (£10-99, Boom) by Kris, Rob, Dave

Double D vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Eddie Argos & Steven Horry

Love And Rockets: New Stories #7 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez

The Man Of Glass (£3-95, Accent UK) by Martin Flink

Morning Glories vol 9 (£9-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Prison Island (£11-99, Zest Books) by Colleen Frakes

Suite Francaise: Storm In June (£15-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Irene Nemirovsky, David Homel & Emmanuel Moynot

Trashed (£11-99, Abrams Comicarts) by Derf Backderf

Green Arrow vol 7: Kingdom s/c (£10-99, DC) by Andrew Kreisberg, Ben Sokolowski & Daniel Sampere

Scooby Doo Team-Up vol 2 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Dario Brizuela, Scott Jerralds

Superman Adventures vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Scott McCloud & Rick Burchett, Bert Blevins, Mike Manley

Age Of Ultron Vs Marvel Zombies: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson, Brian Michael Bendis & Steve Pugh, Bryan Hitch

Spider-Island: Warzones! s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Paco Diaz

Fairy Girls vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Hiro Mashima

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu  (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Junji Ito

Monster Perfect Edition vol 6 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Merry Christmas Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Wrapped Up Good Wrapping Paper Set (£6-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson


ITEM! Poignant article on Charles Schulz’s introduction of Franklin to PEANUTS. Schulz proves to be careful, considered then not one to back down. You’re a good man, Charles M Schulz.

ITEM! SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE is voted best graphic novel in Spain!

Newsflash: SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE by Mary Talbot & Kate Charlesworth, Bryan Talbot was one of the best graphic novels in Britain too, as I hope Page 45’s review makes clear.

ITEM! Duncan Fegredo sketching HELLBOY on YouTube!

ITEM! A very short comic which had me howling with laughter. “If you like I could explain it to you.” Yes, man’splain it, do! ‘Depressingly Earnest Indie Comic Punchface’ by Ned Hartley. (You can follow @NedHartley on Twitter)

I once had a late-teen tell me on the shop floor in no uncertain terms that “PERSEPOLIS is not a comic; it is autobiography!” I gently suggested that they were confusing the medium with the genre. Such indignation: “I am a student!”

Good luck with your study, buddy. Don’t take no notice of till-monkey me!

ITEM! Yet another well reasoned blog on why comicbook creators should shy away from the myriad demands – from even corporate chancers – to work for free, this one by the great Greg Ruth.

Greg Ruth’s LOST BOY reviewed.

ITEM! Would you like to buy a comic starring Page 45’s Stephen L. Holland as a “minor celestial bureaucrat”? Of course you would, and you can do so there! It’s so obviously my calling. Dave Crane, creator of VOICES OF THE OTHER DAY is interviewed on his comicbook craft.

– Stephen

Still working on those opposable thumbs.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week one

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

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

“Yaqub, come… give your brother a hug.”
“From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.”

But which war is Omar and Yaqub’s father referring to? I see no peace treaties let alone offerings in this tense household. The two brothers, after five years apart, stare quietly into each other’s eyes, their expressions impossible to read.

As intense as any book I’ve read for some years, for all the Brazilian sunshine outside it is the brooding atmosphere within the luxurious homestead which dominates this doomed, generational saga. It is rank with resentment and forever threatened by possessive jealousy, while exploding all too often with a callous, hedonistic disregard on Omar’s part so long as he gets what he wants.

It is rendered with all the confidence in the world in the warmest black and white possible. At first I thought of 100 BULLETS’ Eduardo Risso but, when you study the ornate textures of the furniture thrown into shadow and the curved, heavy silhouettes which loom large, there is far more of the Mike Mignola and – in some of the expressions and the stylised buildings, the trees and their trunks – the perfectly judged shorthand of Marc Hempel.

The ageing process is particularly well handled, and I don’t just mean that the characters acquire lines, grey hairs or whiskers. It’s in how actions and time take their toll on their bodies, their postures, their energies and what their instantly recognisable but transmuted expressions then project. Zana maintains her glamour to old age. Her earrings and collar go unchanged for decades after settling in at an attractively fashionable middle age and she resolutely refuses to let her coiffeur subside. Her blouse moves up with dignity to cover her chest and her arched, pencilled eyebrows are as high on her forehead as ever, but her hooded eyes droop down with exhaustion, disappointment and scorn.

It begins near the end with the matriarch Zana having to leave everything behind including her household now empty and echoing with the ghosts of her father, husband and sons. Everything she had ever wanted, everything she had fought for, spied for, connived for is gone.

But seriously, what did the mother expect would happen? And why did the father never act?

The twins’ father Halim never wanted children. He wanted sex. His passion for Zana was sincere, his loyalty unwavering to a fault. He warned of what would happen if his wife continued to treat the boys as she did, but he always caved in to her wishes. He never knew his own father so perhaps he never knew how to be one. He observed the results of overindulging Omar’s pleasure-seeking but failed to discipline him until it was too late.

Zana’s sudden declaration that she desired children came on the death of her father. Although Halim knew they would rob him of his private pleasures, he complied, and two years later the twins were born, followed by a daughter called Rânia. Beforehand, however, a nun had offered them an orphan called Domingas whom they adopted as a servant, and it is she who observes most of what follows, passed down in turn to her son.

It was to Domingas’ care that the elder twin Yaqub was fobbed off while Zana lavished all her love and attention on Omar – often ill during the early months – to an excessive, bewildering degree.

Initially the boys’ behaviour wasn’t markedly different – they both loved to climb, fish and run around with glee – even if Omar sometimes left Yaqub trailing in his dust. But then, aged thirteen, there were two fateful nights, the first at a Carnival ball at the Benemous’ mansion. Yaqub had eyes for a beautiful girl called Livia but was told by his mother to take his young sister home. On his return he was shocked to discover that his brother had taken his place in the young girl’s arms.

That, however, was as nothing compared to an evening soon afterwards during the projection of a film in a blacked out room after Livia joined Yaqub on a seat he’d saved for her at the front. At the back, Omar seethed. Until an opportunity presented itself…

And you know what I said about the feckless father? No, there was no recrimination to speak of and no discipline at all. Instead the twins were subsequently separated, Yaqub sent to the Lebanon to learn other languages leaving Zana to spoil Omar further.

Five years later Yaqub returned, which is where we came in.

“Yaqub, come… give your brother a hug.”
“From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.”

The war has only just begun.

From the creators of DAYTRIPPER and DE:TALES, it’s another graphic novel that may make you sit and think.

The story is laid out in layers, temporal strata which the narrator digs up – not necessarily in the order in which the events originally occurred – in an effort to get to the bottom of what continued to go so very wrong, and why. The sons come and go and, as you’d expect by now, one of those sons’ absence being tolerated, indeed welcomed more than the other’s. It is the story of a mother who will not let go, a father who becomes bitter and resentful, and two brothers who prove a perfect case study in nature and nurture.

The narrator, I would remind you, is the son of the family’s servant Domingas. He has no idea who his father is, but he has his suspicions.


Buy Two Brothers and read the Page 45 review here

Becoming Unbecoming (£14-99, Myriad) by Una…

“Women and girls are not just sexual victims. They have their own sexuality, needs, desires…
“But if professionals in the justice system aren’t able to work out the issue of consent…
“I repeatedly encountered a complete lack of interest in my consent, and total uninterest in my pleasure. What a strange thing this is to overlook.
“Whether I said yes or whether I said no, the end result was the same.
“The problem seems to be… a climate of confusion, collusion and self-delusion.
“The solution? Sexual partners have to make sure consent is free and full. With a partner who is able to consent.”

Una, the creator of this brilliant part-autobiographical work, part-analysis of the disparity in levels of sexual violence experienced by women and men, part-biography of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and his victims, grew up in West Yorkshire only a few miles away from me, as it happens. She’s a little bit older than myself, being twelve years old to my five in 1977, so her memories of the reign of terror that Peter Sutcliffe engendered in the female population of the region are somewhat more grounded in genuine feelings of fear, rather than the slightly confused ideas of a child trying to get to grips with the concept of the existence of a real-life Bogeyman apparently right on his doorstep.

Obviously as I got a little bit older, by the time Sutcliffe was finally caught in January 1981, I had begun to realise the full horror of his crimes, and the nationwide consternation he had caused during that period. Even as a child I do remember my mother being extremely concerned on the occasions she had to drive over to Harrogate and back on some Friday evenings on business, particularly because she drove right through Chapeltown, where the Ripper was known to prowl.

So, the Ripper and his activities – and the exploration of some of the lives of his victims in more detail – help to set the seventies scene and allow Una to explore the rather more primitive cultural attitudes towards women generally at the time. Her teenage years were certainly ruined by unwanted sexual interactions, and the social difficulties this consequently caused her – with both sexes, distressingly enough. I’m reluctant to go into more details because I think Una does a wonderful job in explaining the particular circumstances involved. Suffice to say that consent certainly wasn’t something which was asked for or wholly given. She then provides an in-depth illustrated statistical overview of sexual violence toward women, both historical and current.

It’s an uneasy read (particularly for the father of a young girl) which amply demonstrates that whilst the antics of the Ripper and his ilk might grab all the headlines, the reality is that everyday casual sexual misconduct of all degrees towards women is still considerably more widespread and pernicious than the typical man might realise. Yes, times have changed to some extent, but even so Una was able to educate me with some rather alarming fact and figures. She then goes on to explore and debunk some of the various theories as to why we as a so-called civilised society still find ourselves in such a predicament. I found her analysis fascinating and extremely well thought through, I must say.

Consequently as a piece of graphic journalism I found it as compelling and technically well constructed a read as Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH. It’s that good. What makes this work so emotionally compelling, though – and heartbreaking, actually – is her older self’s attempts to understand and explain what her younger self was going through, both emotionally internally, and externally at the hands, physically as well as metaphorically, of her contemporaries. Then the long hard road as an adult gradually coming to terms with what had happened to her, not attempting to forget or bury it, but trying to deal with it and move past it.

I can’t say for sure whether producing this work has formed part of that healing process for her, but certainly her resolute bravery in laying her story so publically bare can only be commended, as it adds a deeply powerful emotional connection to the wider topic she is trying to draw our attention to. Plus in addition to being a genuinely moving autobiographical work, this is also a fascinating time capsule into the wider social mores of the time, riven as they were then with considerably more casual social misogyny than today.

Surprisingly then, for a work dealing with such darkness, there is a tremendous amount of humour to be found, often from the illustrations Una employs to underscore a point, particularly when highlighting some of the now frankly ridiculous attitudes of the times. I can imagine she would make a great satirical cartoonist, actually, if she ever needs a sideline.

The work then concludes with a sequence of thirteen full-page portraits that I have to say brought a tear to my eye. I will leave it for yourselves to discover precisely who they portray and how… But it’s a very appropriate and moving finale to such an emotionally charged work.


Buy Becoming Unbecoming and read the Page 45 review here

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

Please don’t judge this book by its cover.

Glowing and graceful, frantic and thrilling, this explosive, Arctic, fight-for-your-life from the creators of LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER features a far wider cast of land and sea creatures than you might initially suspect.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is obviously a metaphorical aphorism / admonition / exhortation advising you against judging an entity’s innate worth by its outward appearance. But it’s based on the literal, literary observation that an illustration doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality nor nature of the written word within.

It was coined long before the invention of graphic novels which, given that comics is a visual medium, I believe you should be able to judge to some substantial degree by their covers. Unless, you know, some corporation sticks a completely different artist on the front, which I consider false advertising.

It won’t tell you anything by the artist’s ability to tell a story in a sequence of panels, but it should at least reflect the quality of the art within. This one doesn’t. It’s okay, but every single image inside is infinitely more impressive.

Bertolucci’s criss-cross relay race of predators and prey is flawlessly choreographed like an aerial, mountain-bound and subaquatic ballet as the hunters soar, swoop, dip and dive, some rediscovering a little too late that they’re not where they thought on the food chain. Timing is everything when you’re hunting for food and Bertolucci’s timing is sharper on one occasion than that of the sea lion which has its eyes on a prize but not on the sea’s centre-forwards.

A whale and its calf are harried by Orcas seeking to dislodge the vulnerable one from its poor mother’s back; Northern Gannets plunge from the skies en masse for fish; a Kodiak encounters a Polar Bear as, all the while, our titular fox – very much aware of its limitations – ducks and dives and cowers as required in order to survive not just the weightier, more ferocious beasts but also the island itself.

An avalanche is one thing, but Brrémaud has added an extra element of urgency which sets the clock ticking and it will take all the energy and agility of the fox to avoid traps – like the pitfall a porcupine succumbs to – in order to get where she needs in time.

The landscapes are as majestic as LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER’s with fiery autumn leaves, hard ice and soft snow, while below the ocean’s surface it’s truly chilling. One false step and anything could end up in there, where the glossy, inky-blue-black of Killer Whales’ skin and those terrifying white patches behind their eyes may the last thing an animal ever sees.


Buy Love vol 2: The Fox h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You haven’t forgotten your toothbrush?”
“It’s nice what you’re doing for your Aunt Rose. She’s really delighted, you know. Besides, you’ll spend the summer in the countryside, near a lake. Out of the city will do you the most good.”

It’s 1997 and Nicolas has been volunteered by his parents to spend the summer with his mourning Aunt, ostensibly to help her keep on top of the large garden, but primarily for some company. Despite her status as a ‘sweet aunt’ who spoiled him rotten with Ninja Turtle toys as an eight year old, he’s got pretty much about the same enthusiasm any weed-smoking older teenager would have for such an onerous task: none.

But… there will be some surprising compensations for his soon-to-be summer of splendid isolation, in the feminine forms of local teen Jessica and Rose’s rather more mature neighbour Laurence. They’ll provide a heady combination of seductive and sensual scents that will prove rather more alluring than any floral perfumery to be found in his Aunt’s garden…


This is a rather sweet little coming of age story which draws elements from the sublime THIS ONE SUMMER and the ridiculously hilarious DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER, which are probably as disparate works on school summer holidays as it’s possible to imagine. As the creator’s first published book, it’s unfair to compare it to either of those but suffice to say both Samuel’s writing and illustration show immense promise. I found the character of Nicolas and his sexual escapades completely believable and fun to read. I may have even been shifting uncomfortably in my seat at Nicolas’ somewhat typically teenage boy callous-ish behaviour towards the lovestruck Jessica…

The sketchy thick black line art style, with some additional small amounts of grey tone shading, is rather good, particularly where there’s any degree of additional background. Occasionally I found the odd isolated head shot felt rather exposed, like it could do with some more shading and some background, and there are a few attacks of mild boz-eyes which are a touch unfortunate, but these are very minor gripes. You can definitely make comparisons to early Jeff Lemire in some senses I feel. Overall, an excellent first book, I must say. Well done to Soaring Penguin Press for publishing it.


Buy Perfume Of Lilacs and read the Page 45 review here

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

“We have to get out of here.”
“You can talk? I knew it.”
“I am only talking because this is an emergency. Come on, let’s go!”
“Nah, I’d rather just lie here and watch cartoons. This isn’t even water. What is it?”
“It’s what happens when you wallow for too long. Well that’s enough. I’m going to get you out of here whether you like it or not.”

Sat on your sofa bed drinking pop and shovelling crisps in your face whilst you watch endless cartoons, probably the last thing you’d expect is your cat to start talking to you. Or perhaps it is the room rapidly filling up with a strange liquid! Either would be strange… but both? Well, something rum and uncanny is obviously afoot, that’s for sure. Fortunately for Debbie, her cat is about to rescue her! Not that it’ll feel much like a rescue as she’s dragged through various troubled states of mind in her own loose recreation of Dante’s Inferno. THE CLOUDS ABOVE by Jordan Crane, this is not…

Poor old Debbie, she’s absolutely no idea why she’s subconsciously, spontaneously decided to have an existential crisis, but it’s going to be a tour de farce as her moggie first drags her to the land of cold fish, then through the world of icy hearts, rapidly followed by the desert of burnt-out passion, the cave of self-loathing, the jungle of jealousy, the land of crowds, the plain of broken hearts and the mountains of no atmosphere before it’s all over!! Still, it could have been worse: she managed to avoid the land of people who have their heads stuck up their asses!

It’s traumatic yet titterworthy stuff as Debbie is forced to confront her inner neuroses time and time again, running the gauntlet of a gamut of emotional agonies before making it back the safety of full consciousness. The question is when she does is she going to reach for another packet of crisps or finally for the off button on the TV remote…


Buy Debbie’s Inferno and read the Page 45 review here


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

“Wendy, you are wrong about mothers.
“Long ago, I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was barred, for my Mother had forgotten about me… and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”


But then it’s harsh both ways for think of the grief of the mother while Peter was playing away. Nor is he above forgetting people and appointments himself, and the final word of the prose and this graphic novel wasn’t lobbed in there by accident.

If you’d forgotten how unexpectedly dark J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was in places – a quality he’d often whiplash back from with a clause of carefree comedy as during Tinkerbell’s expulsion – this will remind you. There’s jealousy, betrayal, banishment and one particularly terrible temptation plus the threat of a cat o’nine tails. And although Peter’s petulance and unbridled egomania were played for comedy early in the story (“I can’t help crowing when I am pleased with myself”), there’s also the scene later on when Wendy wants to return home to her parents taking both her brothers and the Lost Boys with her, whereas Peter obstinately refuses lest he become an adult and be robbed of his freedom and fantasy.

“If she did not mind the parting, then he was going to show her, was Peter, that neither did he. But of course he cared very much; and was so full of wrath against the grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five a second.”

Wait for it.

“He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible.”

There’s much to break any heart in the last few pages, but much to make one’s imagination sore long before we’re left there and Stef and Cramb have let their own really rip. The panel layouts and compositions within the early bedroom scenes are full of such fresh colour, space and light I was put in mind of Tony Millionaire’s SOCK MONKEY: GLASS DOORKNOB.

I loved how Stref divided a single exchange into three vertical panels so that as the children flew overhead the landscapes below showed them crossing to the coast in a flash. As for our first sight of Neverland itself, it rises out of the crystal clear ocean like an early amphibian, its conch shell head rearing towards the sun gleaming on the horizon, while its tail twists down into the sea.

In conjunction with such a pristine line, period costumes, the initial bedroom setting and the quaint formality of exchange one cannot help thinking smilingly of Winsor McCay (see LITTLE NEMO’S BIG NEW DREAMS and its gargantuan ‘parent’ LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM) which is a perfect comparison point to aim for in so many ways. Phrases like John’s “Hallo, I am up!” don’t hurt, either (even if John’s still in bed, whereas in the prose at least he’d been unceremoniously punted out by Peter).

Oh and before I forget, just like Metaphrog’s recent RED SHOES, there are carpet and wallpaper prints seamlessly integrated into the Darlings’ interior decor, the underground retreat and its artful entrances could not be more imaginatively illustrated and holy heck is the Captain / crocodile climax done eye-bursting justice by both Stref and colour artist Cramb. Gorgeous, gorgeous greens!

What is missing necessarily from the prose at least (I’ve not seen the original play which is the source of this adaptation) is much of the early mischief. ‘Thimble’ still becomes a verb meaning ‘to kiss’ after Wendy’s substitution, but once you’ve relished this glorious graphic novel I wholeheartedly beseech you to pick up the prose (preferably illustrated by Jan Ormerod if those editions still exist) for diversions like these:

“Mrs Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying her children’s minds.”

The idea is expanded upon beautifully but also, while we remain in the children’s minds…

“Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John’s for instance, had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.”

If you’ve never encountered the story in any of its iterations, a very brief summary.

Wendy, John and Michael – the children of doting Mrs Darling and the fiscally minded and far from team-player Mr Darling – are lured from their home by Peter Pan who knows how to flatter a girl and appeal to her maternal instincts. They fly to Neverland where no one has a mother – not even the pirates – and so someone to tell them stories. There Captain Hook of the Jolly Roger (“cannibal of the seas”) has sworn revenge on Peter Pan for the loss of one hand subsequently swallowed by a crocodile (along with a clock) which now has a taste for his blood.

Wendy’s younger brothers begin to forget their parents but when Wendy tells their own story they begin to worry about the mother they’ve abandoned. And that’s when some difficult choices begin.

There’s a lot of astutely observed interaction and role playing between the children, and I leave you on a cheery note with this.

“The difference between Peter and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.”


Buy Peter Pan and read the Page 45 review here

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

Highly recommended to everyone over 16. Except your grandparents.

Featuring some of the finest dialogue in any genre of comics – full of the staccato start-stop and rewind of any real-life conversation – I couldn’t imagine anyone except Gaydos delineating its largely deadpan delivery. His sequential storytelling is full of incremental eye movements and the sort of small, languid gestures we might idly make while avoiding eye contact during an awkward exchange or on a first date. We will get to the first date anon.

Michael is joined here, however, by David Mack whose expertise in collage is put to appropriate use for a missing girl’s scrap book (reprinted in even greater glory in the back) and the tell tale clues it might hold for the young woman’s whereabouts. Also, briefly, Bagley comes aboard with strikingly brighter panels flashing back to Jessica’s earlier years when her life seemed so full of prospects.

On the whole, however, it is Gaydos who keeps it real in small-town America, sitting at a street-side cafe or outside a beleaguered lawyer’s office (see interior art) for there are sly ties to Bendis & Maleev’s equally eloquent DAREDEVIL as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are hired as bodyguards now that Matt Murdock has been outed as the superhero he once defended in a courtroom thereby committing perjury. There Luke rebukes Jessica for her resentful behaviour following their night of consensual steamy sex in JESSICA JONES: ALIAS VOL 1 which she can probably barely remember, and does so in explicit detail. This before they both realise that if Matt Murdock is Daredevil (and they both know he is) his acute hearing which compensates for blindness has ensured that he has heard every single word they said.

Quick recap, then on with the show.

This isn’t superheroes at all. It’s the messed-up life of a woman who cares and who gives as good as she gets. She could have given and gotten a great deal more except that something so harrowing happened to her years ago when she was once a cape that it’s set her down a self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing.

Night after night Jessica wanders around from bar to bar drinking whatever she can and sleeping with whoever will have her. She wakes up in the morning and hates what she did, so she wanders around from bar to bar, drinking as much as she can and sleeping with whoever will have her.

Set at the peripheral, adult side of the Marvel universe where ladies do lunch and individuals actually swear, have sex and suffer from chronic period pains, it’s a journey during which Jessica Jones finally comes to terms with the fact that she’s been not a failure but a victim of one wretched bastard’s callous and cruel objectification and – anyway, you’ll have to wait for book four, but the hints begin here. It does have a happy ending whose seeds are sown early on, but it’s a tortuous path till we get there.

In her new career as a private investigator, Jessica is hired by a mother and her sister in small-town and small-minded America to discover the fate of a missing teenage daughter called Rebecca. Both seem oblivious to their error of judgement upon alerting the local media to Jessica’s presence even when it’s spelled out to them that such publicity gives any miscreant the heads-up and so opportunity to hide any evidence of their crime. Certainly the mother admits she isn’t particularly close to her daughter – she can’t even remember the last time she saw her – and is convinced her estranged, drunken husband’s to blame. The father is fractious but seems genuinely concerned about his kid even if his ire at his wife overcomes him. The sheriff is positively lackadaisical. The local priest is a bigot and a half. His venomous sermons preach hatred towards so-called abominations like gays and mutants, for which he is much loved by the community except local reporter Patrice.

The mutant thing is very much an issue for word has got around that the missing girl had proclaimed herself one. She hadn’t. Perhaps out of solidarity, she simply hadn’t denied it. Here’s one of her High School peers:

“You know it’s true, because, like, why wouldn’t she deny it? Liz flat out asked her and she just – I mean – being a mutant is like being gay or Jewish – You don’t want to pretend you are if you’re not, right? Right?”

The town is not without a history of children being beaten within an inch of their lives for being different. So what really happened?

I promise you that plays out brilliantly and unexpectedly enough. Although, as expected, Jessica makes more drunken mistakes.

But I promised you a first date, didn’t I? So I now return you to the appallingly bad habit which I ditched when this website went up half a dozen years ago: that of quoting dialogue at excruciating length. But it’s relevant in that – apart from being evidence of Bendis’ ear for such things – it’s the first time that our Jessica is stood up to on the alcohol front.

“Hi, I’m Julie. I’ll be your waitress for the night.”
“Hi Julie. I’ll have a double vodka on the rocks and –”
“Um –”
“How about you don’t?”
“…I’m sorry?”
“I was hoping we could not drink tonight.”
“If that’s okay.”
“I’ll have a coke.”
“…. I’ll — uh — I’ll have a sprite — I guess. But don’t go too far.”
“I’m sorry. I just — Carol told me you have a tendency to drink and then be mad at yourself about it afterwards… And I thought this being our first date, and a blind date, and life being too short and all that maybe we could — uh — not drink, and have a nice, real, genuine conversation.”
“You’re mad.”
“No, I’m stunned. This is stunned.”
“If you want a drink, have a drink. I — clearly overstepped my –”
“No, we can do it this way.”
“Carol wasn’t talking behind your back.”
“Ooooh, yes she was.”

First dates. Aren’t they fun? Someone remind me.

No, don’t.


Buy Jessica Jones: Alias vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Magick #1 (£2-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott.

“There’s something off with this guy.”
“I think taking hostages was the first clue.”

No, there’s something very seriously off with this guy, and the second clue was kerosene.

Detective Rowan Black, could you please just listen?

The sad, sweating man may have a death wish involving self-immolation, but perhaps he has a target, and that target is you. Kerosene, Rowan, kerosene. Don’t let your guard down when there’s so much at stake.

Not every protagonist is as wise as you’d wish.

From the writer of LAZARUS but, had I not known, then I would never have guessed it. I don’t mean to impugn the quality here, I mean to commend a writer’s refreshing versatility. I can perceive little connection between the two in style or content, only in the research involved.

For fans of RACHEL RISING we are once more in the realms of witches. Witches which, historically, have not been received well, and there is a prose piece in the back which I won’t elaborate on for fear of giving a game away. It’s very well written. It involves a sense of perspective. It adds a sense of adversity. Which may well go on to inform the present.

This deliberately, specifically, seeks to juxtapose the contemporary, the clinical, the procedural and the professional with the personal, the spiritual and the historical which may seem completely at odds or, if not merely at odds then worse: culpably misaligned. But accusations of the heretical thrive on the hysterical, the ignorant and so thence doom the damned.

So let’s see what everyone’s made of, shall we?

Detective Rowan Black is an American cop.

Detective Rowan Black is a practising Wiccan.

Detective Rowan Black has a heritage which unknown entities take very seriously. And now these worlds will collide.

Oh, you may think on first reading that Nicola Scott’s painted art with its deep motorcycle tyre treads and perfect pelvises is monochromatic, but look again! It’s subtle to be sure – so subtle you might miss it – but look again. Hinted at early on, the colours of the flames are reprised during a single, incandescent sentence and –

The lights go out.

“It’s starting again.”


Buy Black Magick #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Art Ops #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred.

Let’s play a game of “Can you tell what is yet?”

It’s a heist, but a very specific heist and it’s happening in The Louvre. I’m sure you’ll spot the clues.

“Ms. Del Giocondo, my name is Regina Jones and along with my associates here, we are the Art Ops. I know this may a shock to you, but –“
“Please. You think this is my first time out of frame?”
“Someone’s stealing and destroying famous works of art. You need to come with us. You’ll be safe. I’ve got more experience than you’ve had forgeries.”
“And that homely looking thing is the best you could do as my stand-in? She’ll never pass.”
“Ugly isn’t easy.”
“I heard that.”

Ms Del Giocondo is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The Art Ops have just extracted her live and bickering from that famous – nay, iconic but teeny-tiny – painting and placed a carefully made-up model in her place.

Someone is indeed stealing and destroying famous works of art. Someone is about to steal the entire Art Ops organisation including Regina herself, winking it out of reality. Fortunately Regina has a son called Reggie. Unfortunately Reggie considers her a worthless mother.

Oh, and then there was that accident when graffiti came to life and ripped off Reggie’s arm but it’s been ‘surgically’ replaced with animated tubes of vibrantly coloured paint. Time to make a splash.

Bonkers is a word almost synonymous with MADMAN’s Michael Allred and Shaun Simon has provided him with a virtually perfect platform. Vertigo as an imprint has long since fallen from its previously dizzy heights, but this is right up there with Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke’s TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1, also on sale right now.


Buy Art Ops#1 and read the Page 45 review here

New And Improved:

Adamtine Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate Edition (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hannah Berry.

Now with an Exclusive Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate!

“Right, then. Let’s go and talk to the driver. Staying here is frankly more tedious than I’m prepared to tolerate. And I’ve been to Basingstoke.”

They’re not going to find a driver.

Two years ago a man called Rodney Moon was acquitted of abducting strangers. At the trial, however, he admitted to the judge and jury that he had passed on notes to each and every one of them: cold, clinical letters that were found in their stead, detailing moments of misjudgement. He claimed they were given to him by the real kidnapper – a monster, he said – but no one believed him. Certainly not the victims’ families, or their friends, or the newspapers.

Still, he got off. Though no one is quite sure what happened next.

Now four passengers who took the last train home are stranded in their carriage in the middle of the night. The train hasn’t moved for two hours. Presumably there are leaves on the line. Their cell phones are dead and the intercom is just a fuzz of static punctuated by brief bursts of strangely familiar words. Outside all is black, though there may have been a man outside…

Hannah Berry is back and on rollicking form. The painted art with its pallid palette save for one rich red jacket is perfect for this eerie echo of a book. The panels are framed in an endless inky black for the present and stark white for the past. The huge noses put me in mind of Beryl Cook.

There are some absolutely cracking exchanges, but the creator of the singularly British BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY is far from having a laugh. This is a chilling read, as disorientating at first as it is for the four seeming strangers; but their secrets do give themselves up, eventually.

Ridiculously clever once the connections are made, you’ll want it read it once, twice, thrice like I did, and then possibly never again. It really is that disturbing. Just leave a little note in its place, but don’t ever take the last train home.


Buy Adamtine and read the Page 45 review here

Britten & Brulightly Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate Edition (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hannah Berry.

Now with a Page 45 Exclusive, Signed 21st Birthday Bookplate!

“I’m sorry.”
“… Yes, people are, aren’t they?”

From the creator of ADAMTINE which will send shivers down your spine comes curious crime fiction as sly as it is dry. Welcome to the rain-soaked world of Fernández Britten, a man whose shoulders sag under the weight of it.

“As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose.”

He is not an optimist.

“Ten years ago I began a private investigation agency with the glorious aim of serving humanity and righting wrongs. In all these years the only wrongs righted have been on my tax returns.”

“The people who burst righteously through my door are either jealous lovers seeking justification for their jealousy, or vengeful lovers seeking dirt on jealous lovers. Most of them already knew what they paid me to tell them, and those that didn’t would have worked it out on their own. None of them liked what I had to say.
“I had made something of a name for myself in the field. That name was ‘The Heartbreaker’.
“My partner in the agency, Stewart Brülightly, suggested we be more discriminating in the work we accept. No more lovers, either jealous or vengeful. Nowadays I don’t get out of bed for less than a murder. I don’t get out of bed much.”

His partner, by the way, is a recalcitrant tea bag whom Britten carries around in his top pocket just in case he can shed light on the proceedings. It’s not the only thing he sheds.

“Listen, Fern… when you jumped into that ditch… I think I… uh… Look, I’m sorry. I infused in your waistcoat.”

This is as deft as deft can be. On almost every page Hannah Berry takes sentences out to play, toying with their structure to deliver droll declarations as dismal as the weather. For the rain it poureth down, and whether it’s a cityscape from above, the sodden clots on the furrowed fields Britten finds himself traipsing across, or the overgrown undergrowth surrounding a potential stake-out, Hannah Berry has mastered her nation’s default weather-setting. She’s British. It’s wet.

She’s also thought long and hard about portraying her protagonists as well: Britten, for example, is one huge dollop of a nose with eye-bags so sunken-grey they could be dark holes in the porcelain mask of his face. He is lived-in, but in spite of his reputation for being The Heartbreaker which he will confirm once again here, he may just be able to make one last difference in a case that is so cleverly crafted I had to read it twice.

I failed to unravel its weave before the final revelation for there are so many other conclusions to jump to, but nothing here is extraneous and everything is detectable if you just look hard enough.

“If you’re six feet underground, a little more digging makes no difference.”

Don’t you believe it.


Buy Britten & Brulightly and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System:

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

All three books (CLERKS, CHASING DOGMA, BLUNTMAN & CHRONIC) in one package.

Can’t believe the CHASING DOGMA series was back in 1998.

Beware: as well as being very funny and far more loose and inventive than Smith’s comparatively lacklustre superhero work, it was very naughty indeed, with Jay ending up fluffing a male porn star!

Fegredo (MPH, HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS etc) was a gift from the gods: with a Silent Bob you need all the comedic skills you can muster from timing to expression, and few artists can load a single gesture or lip-curl with such nuance, whilst the wilder buffoonery – with the orang-utan or Jay’s impassioned railing against being thrown from a bus – leaps off the page.

I’d forgotten how good that particular four-parter was.


Buy Tales From The Clerks 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.

100 Bullets Book 3 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Butterfly h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett & Antonio Fuso, Stefano Simeone

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by David Petersen & various

Mouse Guard: Roleplaying Game Boxed Set (£52-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen

Crossed vol 14 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Rafa Ortiz

Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Dave Justus, Matthew Sturges & Steve Sadowski, Shawn McManus, Travis Moore, Eric Nguyen, Christopher Mitten, Andrew Pepoy

Star Wars: Kanan vol 1 – The Last Padawan (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Weisman & Pepe Larraz, Mark Brooks

Star Wars: Princess Leia (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid  & Terry Dodson

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 4 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

The Surface (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Langdon Foss

Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Denis Bajram

Luthor s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Age Of Apocalypse: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza & Gerardo Sandoval, Iban Coello

Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez


ITEM! Reminder: the British Comics Awards 2015 nominees. I’ve got just one week left to hand in my contribution to this year’s judging process. I’m on my third reading of some of these and ‘Best Comic’ in particular is proving impossible. Also, the Best Newcomers could not be more different to each other. And we have to rank each one, you know, it’s not just a question of selecting first place.

ITEM! Kate Beaton interviewed by Laura Sneddon!

“You don’t want to make fun of people who were genuine heroes, whose life was hard, who struggled against injustice … so you construct a punchline that skewers the society that failed them. But for a while I left those types of figures out because I didn’t want to be seen to be making fun … but then you’re only making comics about the powerful white guys and that’s just another example of leaving out stories. I didn’t want that either.”

Best Beaton interview I’ve read this season. Learned loads. Pop Kate Beaton into our search engine: all six books in stock right now!

ITEM! UMBRAL / THE FUSE’s Antony Johnston interview on writing comics you want to write and letting the reader decide if she or he wants to read them.

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable festival I have ever been to. LICAF mixed the “high” and “low” together and blended it in with the general public in a way we can’t quite pull off in the States.”

Frank Santoro totally gets the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and writes about the cultural experience as a whole.

ITEM! Now that’s what I call a campaign! From conception to execution, “Climbing The Mt Everest of Comics… AGAIN!” puts CEREBUS squarely back on the map! Brilliant!

Page 45 has reviewed every single CEREBUS book. 6,000 pages in total. Not the reviews, thankfully.

– Stephen