Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week one

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

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