Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2015 week four

Brand-new John Allison GIANT DAYS story hidden in an anthology and Page 45 News underneath including Christmas opening times, New UK Comics Day details and our very own Queen’s Christmas Speech.

Boom Box 2015 Mix Tape one-shot (£7-50, Boom) by various inc. John Allison.

“103… 104… 105… My olives are diminished!”

Quelle catastrophe!

Includes a brand-new GIANT DAYS short story not only written by the creator of BAD MACHINERY but – like the original self-published GIANT DAYS mini-series – drawn by John too! Exquisitely lithe lines and Daisy on quite ridiculous physical form in the very first panel. I do believe I have a piece of interior art for you to demonstrate this.

Do you remember your university daze? John Allison’s memory is astounding. I don’t think he drank enough.

Here it’s the all-too-familiar plundering of fridge-food that’s encountered, whether from halls of residence or shared flats and houses. I never resorted to labelling mine, but others did. It made not one jot of difference.

First-year university students Esther, Susan and Daisy have congregated in the Catterick Hall’s communal kitchen where each has discovered that the larder has been looted and their prized midnight feasts have been carried off by some scrounging scoundrel. But who would do such a thing? Who?! Perhaps a stake-out is in order.

“It’s a “kitchenette”. They don’t trust us with a) nooks or b) crannies.”

Maybe a steak out instead?

No, it’s their own food they’re craving – that and the sweet taste of justice. I hope they find both before they fall out. Poor Daisy!

“You two aren’t nice with low blood sugar!”

Also in this annual, album-sized anthology (with French flaps and everything!): ten other contributions including some CYANIDE & HAPPINESS strips and a new LUMBERJANES short story by Shannon Watters and Carey Pietsch which is absolutely adorable. It centres on what has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures and treasures: the making and receiving of mix-tape music compilations as a token of your undying adoration. I have a dreamy, faraway smile on my face.

Mal has made Molly just such a CD, and Mal knows her music so well. Molly blushes with pride and joy as she absorbs at its track list, gazing at it as fondly as she might if it were a wide-eyed, lolloping puppy before declaring, “I’d like to make one for you too!”

But Molly knows nothing about cool music and is feeling woefully inadequate. Awww. What’s she to do? Time to explore some new, unusual and ever so exotic music scenes! Then time to remember what’s really important.

SLH

Buy Boom Box 2015 Mix Tape one-shot and read the Page 45 review here

Trauma Is Really Strange (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Steve Haines & Sophie Standing…

“The goal of this book is to be a non-scary introduction to trauma. For many people, understanding what the brain is trying to do protect them helps healing.”

Follow up by the same creative team to the excellently explicative PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE. This time around chiropractor Steve Haines and illustrator Sophie Haines tackle the subject of precisely what happens to our brains when we experience traumatic events. Acute and chronic, physical and mental, our duo forensically break down the internal processes at work of how we respond neurologically and thus physiologically to such situations. Plus, as Steve states in the quote above, how we might be able to apply some degree of conscious control to improve the outcome rather than just being swept along by the tumultuousness of it all.

Steve, once again in talking head mode, thus diagrammatically takes us through the myriad different forms that trauma can take and what responses we can expect. As before, it’s the incredible degree of symbolism and visual metaphor that Sophie puts into every single illustration which transform this from merely being a succinct and extremely clear explanation of the facts to a fun filled pamphlet of pictorial educational enablement. I think the beauty of this and their previous work is they manage to deal with such complex topics in a manner that would be perfectly digestible and understandable even for primary school kids without remotely compromising on the scientific facts. Brilliant!

JR

Buy Trauma Is Really Strange and read the Page 45 review here

Violenzia & Other Deadly Amusements (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala.

“I find people are less reticent about sharing information when they can see their own blood.”

I find people have more time to share information when they’re not being bludgeoned to death by blue-suited cultists plastered in Gary Numan eyeshadow. I may be at odds with orthodox thinking.

From the spookster supreme of MAD NIGHT and THE HIDDEN fame etc, in full-colour and even more absurd form than ever, at least on either side of what may be some surprisingly serious thoughts on man’s very real history of relishing truly grisly images of ritual torture, devils and demons, and shrouded, skull-faced, scythe-wielding avatars of death.

Just type “medieval monks torture” into your search engine and click on ‘images’ if you doubt me. The racks and entrails are everywhere.

This takes the sepia form of ‘Forgotten’ which begins innocently enough (for Sala!) with a respectable-looking gentleman with neatly cropped hair wandering into an old town, head-down, oblivious to the ghouls and ghasts which populate its bridges and walkways, shambling by or leering at him over low stone walls.

“Where am I going?
“How did I get here?
“Try to remember… Oh yeah, I’ve got an appointment. I’m on my way there. And I seem to know the way.”

I can think of countless similarly somnambulistic scenarios from Sala: the straying of lost souls into an eerily empty town, danger lurking but a doorway away or perhaps in an ill-advised acceptance of an offer of a lift. But this is where I began to take this episode more seriously:

“The next step in evolution is already happening: Empathy is dying out. The world of your children will be viewed from the cast-iron minds of sociopaths, shielded from all caring and sincerity.”

Nothing in the art betrays any such departure yet: it’s still all squint-eyed hunchbacks, Nosferatu silhouettes and bats as balloons, blowing in the wind. Still, there’s a very good reason this man knows his way, even if he’s forgotten it.

I own that I could be way off-base: it could be just another exercise in self-amusement, but it did make me think. And shiver. And strengthen my resolve never to enter doorways I haven’t been invited through, preferably by people I know.

In addition there’s a colour poster gallery of ‘Malevolent Reveries’ – an A to Z of assonance and alliteration in which I obviously felt thoroughly at home – which might be book covers or B-movie posters with far more “Boo!” for your buck than most. We were lucky if Lon Chaney Junior wired his jaw for a single grotesque in any given celluloid outing, but almost all of these propositions like ‘Bad Business Brewing’ are overflowing with assorted monstrosities. ‘A Quagmire of Qualms’ was more favourite title. It spoke to me.

It made me laugh too. If there’s more than that behind the titular Violenzia episodes then, some satisfying story structure aside, I have no idea what it is!

The interior art image I’ve captured here says it all: into many a melee – each and every one of them ridiculous – slips, slides and somersaults the silent Violenzia, dressed like a modern Robin Hood (ooh, gender non-specific!), bang-banging out barely aimed, double-barrelled justice with economy and equanimity.

She is implacable, unstoppable and although I cannot quite picture Richard Sala playing early Tombraider that, nonetheless, is the comparison I’d make.

I do not, by the way, consider that lowering the tone.

SLH

Buy Violenzia & Other Deadly Amusements and read the Page 45 review here

Harrow County vol 1: Countless Haints s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook.

Bucolic horror set in the American South starring a seventeen-year-old girl called Emmy, raised alone on a farm by her father, Isaac.

“Look at all them fresh graves! You had a spot of misfortune, Isaac?”
“Nothing I can’t handle. Just a fever running through the livestock. And nothing you need worry yourself with.”
“You sure about that? Emmy’s almost of age.”

What do you think they are worried about?

Many moons ago the good folk of Harrow hanged a Healing Woman called Hester from an old oak tree.

Then, for good measure, they set fire to her gasoline-soaked corpse. Except it wasn’t a corpse and, as the flesh of her face bubbled away in the conflagration, she hissed out a promise:

“Not the end… never the end for me… I’ll be back…”

Now I’ll have you know that Emmy’s a good girl, she is. Devoted to her Dad whom she knows needs her, she hasn’t travelled far, never cussed nor never kissed a boy, neither. But Isaac’s cattle are beginning to suffer: calves being born deformed with too many legs or pustules round their eyes. And Emmy can’t do a thing about too many legs, but one bright morning she cures a calf of its blisters with but a touch, and even the most doting Dad would start to harbour niggling suspicions…

Community is a mighty fine thing, isn’t it? I’m serious, it is: neighbours looking out for one another when the authorities won’t. But there’s a flipside to that – the sheep mentality, the mobs and the masses, turning on those who do not fit in. Young Emmy fits in fine right now and has the kindest heart you could ever imagine. It would be the most godawful, crying shame if her neighbours, friends and even family turned her into the enemy which she most emphatically is not. Is she?

Hmm, shades of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, there – creating your own monster through rejection and adversity.

Haints, by the way, are lost souls; restless spirits of the dead who have failed to move on from the physical world. You’ll find plenty of them here and I’ve cut back on the variety of interior art with its nasty, nasty entities to ensure there are plenty of visual surprises, to focus instead on the landscapes which are glorious whether wintry or in their fiery, autumnal splendour. The oak tree is oh so surely an oak tree with all its gnarled, knotted, pock-marked bark.

For me the star of the show so far is the woodland itself.

Although I did like Emmy’s unexpected, floppy-skinned ally with its skinless counterpart straddling the trees up above. I’ll need to read more before making my mind up, but the final few pages certainly promise the unexpected!

The colours are ever so rich, ripe, muddy, waxy and rancid as required.

For more comics which rich in the witch, please see RACHEL RISING by STRANGERS IN PARADISE’s brilliant and blessed Terry Moore.

SLH

Buy Harrow County vol 1: Countless Haints s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Sniff. Sniff. What’s that smell?”
“Ahem… must be the dog.”
“The dog’s been dead for years.”
“Well… I guess it’s me then. Tee-hee. The truth may lurk anywhere.”

I am mainly reviewing this self-published work which we got in via John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half US distribution channel because there is a collected edition of the first swath of material entitled, surprisingly enough, THE BOOK OF HOPE coming from Fantagraphics very shortly, plus it is downright hilarious. I think the simplest way I can start to describe this material is it has the feel of Chris Ware’s JIMMY CORRIGAN, albeit living in a cabin in the arse end of nowhere. Tone-wise too this is just as downbeat and melancholic as Jimmy’s urban non-exploits, but there are some significant differences.

For whilst Jimmy is a kind and simple mouse of a man, destined to never succeed, instead being continually trampled and trammelled down by life (and his relatives), here our middle-aged, moustachioed married lead is left wistfully wondering how it all got away from him. Just how did he end up right here in this moment, in this place so far removed from anything? An unusual palette of tertiary colours, purples and mustards, only adds to the backwoodsy, isolated feel.

For the most part there is silent contemplative acceptance of his lot, punctuated with daydreaming moments of inner flights of surreal fantasy or the occasional utterance of some choice savant philosophy to no one in particular. Here’s one such soliloquy offered to the universe, brought on by staring into the remaining eye of a tatty old childhood teddy bear whilst attempting a bowel movement on the outside privy at in the lonely cold depths of night, full moon shining down through whispy clouds and bats fluttering through the air…

“Childhood ends when the fight begins.
“Youth fades when the word falls from your lips for the first time.
“Say it slowly, and you can hold on to it for an instant…
“… before you are overwhelmed by the wary weight of midlife…
“… you console yourself, saying…
“… perhaps there was no before…”

Movement complete. I was too. Moved that is…

JR

Buy The Second Book of Hope and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Pooping.
“One of a number of bodily functions that we deal with on a daily basis. Not something to think too much about about, right?
“Well it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about.
“More specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bathroom habits of our over one thousand employees working for us here in our corporate headquarters.
“This report on the investigation I commissioned has confirmed my suspicions. It concludes that the practice of allowing our employees to take a shit on the job accounts for a productivity loss of over four percent. That we deal with on a daily basis.”

Mr. Azwype has his mind in the toilet, quite literally. It’s been bothering him recently, the amount of deliberate dilly-dallying and time-wasting taking places in his business’ bathrooms… He’s long suspected that people aren’t pooping promptly enough and taking unauthorised breaks on his time and now he has the evidence to prove it! The question is… what is he going to do about it?!

Now, the concept of firms monitoring their staff’s toiletry tardiness is certainly nothing new. A good friend of mine got fired from a certain large call centre in Leeds over twenty years ago due to routinely needing longer than was allowed for a loo break. The firm was able to monitor their staff’s <ahem> movements because they had to log in and out of their call software every time they left their desk. His protestations of irritable bowel syndrome were to no avail.

Mr. Azwype however, has decided to take things one step further. He’s simply decided no one will be allowed to do a number two during working hours. Lunch hour excepted, of course – what a benevolent boss! A tinkle in the trap at other times is fine, but nothing more, and to enforce this new constipating corporate policy he’s brought in a security guard to ensure people can’t access the cubicles! The cunning staff, though, are determined not to let their boss have the final word if it’s the last thing they poo, I mean do! Some of them are planning on causing a real stink…

Haha, he does daft very well Mr. Maandag. I also loved his other current work THE OAF about a couple of extremely mis-matched housemates. Here he does that classic trick of picking one already ridiculous concept and just letting the nonsense grow and grow to the point of utter ridiculousness. Yet let’s be honest, it’s really not that much of a stretch of the truth given the pressurised working conditions we hear about in the factories producing Apple products in China and the like.

JR

Buy Facility Integrity and read the Page 45 review here

The Oaf (£5-99) by Nick Maandag…

“How did tomato sauce get on my dress shirt?!
“… Oh, that…”
“What do you mean “Oh, that”?”
“I forgot about that. That might have been my fault.”
“How do you get tomato sauce on my… this isn’t coming out!”
“Don’t you have another dress shirt?”
“No! This is my only one!”
“So buy a new one.”
“There’s no time! The interview’s at two! I have to leave NOW! I’ll have to wear THIS!”

The huge stain is all over the back of the shirt, which means the Oaf’s housemate has to ensure he remains strictly face-on to the interviewer at all times! One hilarious interview later and of course he doesn’t get the job… which means he is stuck with his crap job as a pizza delivery man, and thus can’t afford to move out. It’s almost like the Oaf wanted that to happen…

The relationship between the slovenly, unemployed Oaf who seems practically welded to the settee in their horrible apartment and the fastidious friend is classic Odd Couple material, yet I’m not entirely sure the Oaf’s friend is quite so different from the Oaf as he’d like to believe which is probably the real reason he’s still living there, or perhaps at least he’s not murdered him yet… For that’s certainly something he’s given some serious consideration to!

Even so, despite their evident apparent differences, the escalating tension, and the friend’s ever increasing blood pressure, this work had one of the most amusingly appropriate ‘happy’ endings I’ve read for a while. Great fun.

JR

Buy The Oaf 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.

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 12 – Metamorphosis (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Peter Snejbjerg, Julian Totino Tedesco

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 1: Terrorformer (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison & Dave Taylor, Mariano Laclaustra

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 2: Research s/c (£12-99, Archaia) by Tom Siddell

Future Imperfect: Warzones! s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Peter David & Greg Land, Daniel Valadez

American Jesus (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Peter Gross

News!

ITEM! New Raymond Briggs interview!

We love Raymond Briggs! Please see:

ETHEL & ERNEST – the biography of his parents and a brilliant piece of British social history.

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS – a searing indictment of the atomic con: i.e. that we could survive such an assault.

GENTLEMAN JIM – about a gentle man who cleans toilets.

ITEM! Angouleme’s Official Selection for 2016 – the most prestigious comics awards in the world. Some belting nominations there!

ITEM! 2016 UK exhibition Comix Creatrix featuring female comic creators. I could personally lose that excess of ‘x’s but perhaps that’s just olde fashioned me. Some of my all-time favourite creators of any gender there!

ITEM! Joan Cornella animation project on Kickstarter. The video has to be seen to be believed, but seen right to the end. Have you watched it now? Yeah, I know!!!

I hope his MOX NOX comix collection is reprinted soon!

D’oh!

ITEM! The Sequential Artists Workshop! Learn to craft comics and become completely obsessed with spiders.

Am I selling that to you?

ITEM! And now we break for Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Next New Comics Days:

Wednesday 23rd December as per normal
Thursday 31st December (New Year’s Eve! We may close around 4pm)
Thursday 7th January…. then back to Wednesdays as normal

Please note: the comics will only arrive on our doorstep during those Thursday mornings so they will take some processing! Please don’t expect Page 45 regular Standing Orders to be ready for collection immediately. The laws of space and time apply – which not even I can override in spite of my deal with the devil.

Page 45 Holiday Opening Hours:

9am to 6pm, Mondays to Saturdays as always
11am to 4pm Sundays as ever
Closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day – or my family would kill me.

Please note: we usually close early around 4pm on Christmas Eve because

a) everyone else does
b) I’m usually half-cut by then.

Pictured is my favourite-ever Christmas present as a kid, aged around 7. This is the actual copy, well leafed-through, still treasured and roughly the size of your abdomen. I read it 8 billion times and then learned to draw from it. Comics of any genre were a rarity back then, so lord knows how my parentals acquired it. Look at all the loveliness we’re so lucky to choose from now!

That’s it, we’re done! Thank you so, so much for a fabulous 21st year selling very cool comics to the most beautiful people in the world. We wouldn’t be here without you.

– Stephen xxx

I am am almost crying with nostalgia. Thanks, Mum. And Dad. x

Comic for Christmas, eh?

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