Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week three

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

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