Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week two

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.

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