Archive for January, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2016 week four

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

New Jim Woodring, three Young Adults / Young Readers graphic novels and a socio-political PUNISHER book which I highly recommend. Seriously.

Extensive illustrated news underneath.

Tamsin And The Deep (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron & Kate Brown.

“What was that?” Tamsin asks herself, staring out to sea.

“They’re called Undines. Kind of ocean nymphs, basically. Greedy little buggers. Most people can’t see ‘em, or just mistake ‘em for gulls.”
“Huh. How come I could see it?”
“Well, that’s really the question, isn’t it?”

Tamsin turns round.


Fabulous double-take, there, with ice cream all over the place!

From the PHOENIX COMIC WEEKLY, written by the creator of HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS and drawn then coloured by the creator of FISH + CHOCOLATE (emphatically not for Younger Readers!) comes a family comic set in coastal Cornwall which is funny, thrilling and at times terrifying!

Neill and Kate prove a consummate double-act with so many crafty devices. That scene, for example, is set up to perfection, bright white seagulls wheeling up above in the soft blue sky so that when the pesky little sprite – with its feathered wings and webbed feet – does snatch the cone from Tamsin’s hands it could indeed be so easily mistaken for a gull.

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Even the lettering’s a joy, for Tamsin’s speech bubble coveting her ice cream (“Alone at last”) comes in the shape of a love heart. In other places a winking censorship of exclamatory dialogue covers the regular lettering with a splat of black and a new, less blue word replacing whatever exasperation may have lurked underneath. “What the actual [FLIP]?”

And oh, will you look at that logo!

During the flashback to Tamsin Thomas’ ancestors the panel borders are ragged and torn like ancient parchment, their contents coloured to reflect the same.

But perhaps best of all there’s a sign slapped defiantly across her old brother’s bedroom door. It’s a poster-sized version of a sticker we know far too well:


The trouble starts almost immediately with Tamsin (aged 10) abandoned on the beach by her brother Morgan (13) who had promised to teach her to bodyboard but is enjoying the surf instead with his mates. She’s abandoned but not marooned so sets out to teach herself, swimming out to find the perfect breaker. And she does. But it’s bigger than she thought and Tamsin’s swept down with its crashing current, arms reaching out from what looks like long, green weed to grab her calf. She looks down to see another face glowing back at her from the deep, its eyes a carmine red…

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Eventually the sea washes her up on the shore, but it’s much, much further down the coast. A bus driver takes no pity for, although her ankle is torn, in her wetsuit she is dripping and has no fare so, supported by a knotted staff of driftwood which washed up with her, she hobbles the many miles home.

In another piece of masterful storytelling you know something’s up when she walks through the door. The clue lies in how Kate’s drawn Morgan. Maybe you’ll half-spot it too.

What follows is a story of ancient covenants, creepy white hands, family tragedy and magic in which Morgan has a far bigger role to play than he suspects. But I promised you thrilling, didn’t I? There are two specific moments of exceptional acceleration. In the first Tamsin’s face is a picture of pure unbridled fury and determination; in the second she’s flying forward so fast that her eyes water.

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As to the subaquatic sequences, Brown’s pulled out all the stops on the colouring, the murky green seas bursting with bubbles and – oh! – the fury of her storms is phenomenal!

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Cameron too is on top form. I adored this excerpt from Tamsin’s diary early on and I’d remind you that Tamsin is ten:

“Dear Diary,
“It has been a really weird week.
“So apparently I sank when I was bodyboarding and everyone thought I was drowned and I wasn’t but when I came back [SPOILERS]
“The police came, and there was a lady who was a counsellor.
“Or a councillor?
“One of those.”

He also nails the interplay between younger sister and older brother, the latter continually dismissing Tamsin as “weird”, a “weirdo” and eventually, “You unbelievable weirdo”!

Well, there are going to be some pretty rum doings!

“Word of advice, matey.
“Just ‘cause something’s a fairy story, don’t mean it ain’t true.”



Buy Tamsin And The Deep and read the Page 45 review here

Frank In The 3rd Dimension h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring with Charles Barnard.

Dilate your mind!


Jim Woodring, the creator of WEATHERCRAFT, FRAN, FRANK, JIM, the PROBLEMATIC sketchbook and so much, more presents 27 landscape tableaux (including the front and back covers) given the old-school 3-D treatment by Charles Barnard then printed on hard board as thick as an Early Learning book. It comes with a set of spectacles which only Woodring could have designed, framed in purple and adorned with the cosmos, and protected by a transparent plastic pouch popped into an inset pocket.


Well, Woodring, obviously.

Also, I’ve been in love with this sort of 3-D transmogrification ever since I was a child. Unlike 3-D modelling which aspires to reality, it is, as the word implies, truly magical. It doesn’t aspire to reality but a heightened reality in which flat objects float in a three-dimensional depth, almost as if suspended and luminously lit in a clear, viscous liquid.

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Woodring’s art has always been magical and hyper-real. I’ve often described it as “mind-altering yet legal”. Plus while Frank, Pupshaw and Pushpaw are rendered without texture, his objects and landscapes come with carefully crafted, graduated contours which create a depth of their own.

Seen through rose- and blue-tinted glasses these populated tableaux become dioramas worthy of Restoration Theatre sets: the sort of stagecraft which produces not just a foreground for the actors to work in and a backdrop to set the scene, but layers and layers of contrasting, ornately shaped flats in multiple middle-distances. The exotic, convex domes and concaves scoops of Jim’s Persian architecture make them prime candidates for this peer-to-one-side-and-you-might-see-a-little-more illusion.

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In addition the foreground characters appear like cardboard cut-outs arranged freestanding as part of the ensemble as if using folded-back, ground-level tabs. One scene here depicts the ever-hubristic Frank laughing at a bipedal frog, head bagged in a sack, which always danced but now seems to jig or jerk about in this colloidal suspension with a new sense of movement.

One last example before I go to bed and dream Jim Woodring anew: there’s a gnarled old tree with a knotted trunk, writhing branches and twigs twisted like tendrils. Like a gorgeously grotesque Christmas tree, it’s festooned with trinkets which now dangle as if from a nursery-room mobile in three-dimensional space, one behind the other, never on the same plain.


Buy Frank In The 3rd Dimension h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Extra Yarn (£6-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

Such a satisfying punchline played out over three landscape double-page spreads which I would delight in reading aloud, with the appropriate pause, to young, eager ears!

Like many a great gag (and so many of Eddie Izzard’s) the key is that it’s a reprise of similar sentences set up much earlier on and – as ever with Jon Klassen books – that its weight, its evidence if you like, is visual. This makes it a perfect picture book for reading aloud alongside a young lady or gent, letting their ears attend your words while leaving their eyes to soak in their meaning.

It also makes it a comic.*

“On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every colour.”

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There’s a little more sepia on the printed page than the image shown here. Only a tad, but it makes all the difference.

Slowly but surely, however, more colour is introduced to this winter world by Annabelle’s industrious knitting. First she knits herself a jumper of deliciously fresh and bright citrus colours, and it is ever so fluffy! But because she has some extra yarn she knits one for her dog. When they go for a walk together her friend Luke looks and laughs.

“You two look ridiculous.”
“You’re just jealous,” said Annabelle.
“No, I’m not,” said Luke.

But it turned out he was.

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Over and over again Annabelle knits jumpers – for class mates and her teacher and for every kind of creature – and each time she has extra yarn. She offers to knit for everyone and everything; even for things that don’t normally wear jumpers. Some didn’t think she could do it.

“But it turned out she could.”

Others believed she would run out of wool.

“But it turned out she didn’t.”

Such stories of self-replenishment are far from new and, when used as fables, have at their heart a spirit of generosity. Take this altruism out of the equation and the source dries up.

So it is here, but I won’t tell you why, although I do promise you that our most excellent Annabelle never gives in!

This book is a couple of years old but was never solicited through comicbook channels, hence us being late to the party, so I am hugely indebted to master artist Ron Salas for pointing me in its direction via Twitter. Mac Barnett’s message is ever so brilliant, the words so carefully chosen. Plus Klassen is on as fine a dead-pan form as ever and you may find a certain bear and rabbit oh so familiar! Superb woollen textures.

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P.S. On the subject of self-replenishment, when I was very young I was taught ‘Love Is Something’ AKA ‘Magic Penny’ written by Malvina Reynolds and it’s as good as any guide for life that I’ve encountered ever since. At the risk of sickening you, imagine me as an angelic seven-year-old (I know, right?) singing this ditty in class accompanied by plinky-plonky piano:

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the flooooooooooooor…

If you ask I will attempt to reproduce this on the shop floor, including the fragile, faltering soprano, depending on how embarrassed I feel or how busy we are at the time.

The two may not be unconnected.

P.P.S. * If you’ve not read my argument before, the key to a comic is that it’s a visual narrative. If you can comprehend the story without the images then it’s illustrated prose; but if you can’t then it’s also a comic. Please see Jon Klassen’s I WANT MY HAT BACK, THIS NOT MY HAT, SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE (also written by Mac Barnett) and Shaun Tan’s ERIC which you can also find within TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA.


Buy Extra Yarn and read the Page 45 review here

Nnewts Book 1: Escape From The Lizzarks (£8-50, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel…

“Herk, are you all right?”
“That was a good try, son! You’re legs just aren’t cooperating.”
“Life isn’t cooperating.”

Ha, good comeback. I might have to pinch that for future use myself!

Surprisingly dark all-ages fantasy from Doug TOMMYSAURUS REX, CARDBOARD, BAD ISLAND, GHOSTOPOLIS TenNapel, which would greatly appeal to fans of BONE and AMULET.

He does like to stretch the little readers, our Doug. I’ve commented before that he doesn’t shy away from relatively complex storytelling, nor indeed such topics as the traumatic death of loved ones. I think it’s to be applauded actually. Kids have far more developed imaginations and inner worlds than we give them credit for, and this type of storytelling is a fine medium to be introducing those type of concepts, in small, digestible doses.

Just be aware, though, despite all that, that this might verge on being too scary for the weeniest of younger readers, not least because the villainous Lizzarks with their fangs and claws, plus their bulbous eyes are a rather fearsome sight! Even Whackers, who’s not remotely faint of heart, was somewhat perturbed by their appearance whilst I was reading it to her!


So, young Herk is a Nnewt, who lives with his parents, younger sister and unhatched eggs (who can speak!) in a peaceful rural Nnewtown. He’s got a disability of sorts, as his legs aren’t able to take his weight, so he has to stay in the hatching pool chatting with the eggs, who are just like babies and so drive him mad, or drag himself around the house with his arms, which is rather hard work. Whilst everyone is telling him he’s probably just a late developer, and he’ll soon be up and about, deep down they all know that’s not the case. Not even his father’s magic can help, for his dad is the town magician, though mad inventor might be a more appropriate designation. So was Herk born like that, weak of lower limb? Well, yes, but for a very good, hmm… bad… reason no one knows about. Yet. And as his beloved sister says, he might have little legs, but he has a big heart. He’s going to need that.


Urch, the greatest hunter in the region and protector of Nnewtown, meanwhile, is away foraging for food and resources for the community. In truth he’s been lured away. So when a raiding party of Lizzarks descend on the village, it’s murder and mayhem for the poor residents, and Herk himself barely manages to escape with his life. Other members of his family… they weren’t so lucky. There’s actually a very poignant and touching sequence as the souls of the massacred Nnewts head upwards into the night sky, beginning their journey into their astronomically astounding afterlife and certain people are reunited… Their sorrow in finding out they have passed on is ameliorated in part by knowing they can at least journey on together forever, but also by the joyful realisation of who isn’t with them… and thus must still be in the land of the living. For now at least…

This is just the beginning of Herk’s adventures as he has been seemingly targeted by a particular Lizzark Wizard. And so he’s headed on a very peculiar odyssey which is going to test his mettle and show him more of the world than he ever believed possible – and that’s just in the first volume! Along the way he’s going to learn precisely why, indeed who, is responsible for his malformed legs, and he might even discover some family he never knew he had… Urch, meanwhile, is simply hell-bent on revenge. He’s determined that the Lizzarks who destroyed his town will pay a heavy price. The odds are somewhat stacked against him mind, to say the least. Plus there’s one other survivor of the devastation, but their path lies in a very different direction…


Despite the death and danger lurking round seemingly every tree, there is a great deal of childish – and I mean that in a good way – humour in this work, as there is in all of Doug’s books. He really is a wonderful storyteller of great range. I was particularly amused by an argument between Urch and sidekick Odetto, concerning whether a sandwich which has cheese and ham in should be referred to as a cheese and ham sandwich or a ham and cheese sandwich. You can tell Urch is thoroughly exasperated by Odetto’s perpetual habit of reversing standard convention in such cases wherever possible. Odetto’s logic though when he gets into full debating mode has a certain veracity which is difficult to argue with. Even when Urch tries to let it lie by changing the subject Odetto still can’t resist getting the last back to front words in…

“Odetto, I won’t let even your incessant word-twisting ruin our time amidst the flora and fauna!”
“Fauna and flora…”

NNEWTS BOOK 2: THE RISE OF HERK has just arrived!


Buy Nnewts Book 1: Escape From The Lizzarks and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Lewis LaRosa, Leandro Fernandez.

Highly recommended, this is by far the finest run on Frank Castle, finally given a socio-political bite by Ennis’ decision to swerve the Punisher’s targeted sights from superheroes to real-world pricks worth punishing like international sex-slave traffickers. This is the first of four thick volumes reprinting the original ten adult-orientated PUNISHER MAX books plus attendant mini-series which begins with events in Valley Forge, Vietnam, and which will be reprised in volume 4 with its final searing indictment of the false premises upon which America entered the war in the first place. As such it’s a coherent account of Frank Castles whys and wherefores, means and motivation.

“Hold on tight.”

He means hold on tight to what you have, lest you lose it.

“Hold on tight” if you have miraculously survived your third tour of Vietnam and the carnage that was Firebase Valley Forge. “Hold on tight” if the woman you love, the daughter you worship and the son who’s only recently been born are there to greet you at the airport upon your return, and you’re reminded of the deal you made with Death itself for “a war that last forever, a war that never ends” because you were so bloody addicted to combat.

There the three of them stand in front of you, alive and well, but framed in the legendary black and white Punisher skull.

“You remember I mentioned there’d be a price…?”

That Frank Castle will indeed soon embark on a relentless, remorseless crusade of violence back home, against gangsters and crime lords and drug dealers – or anyone he considers unfit for life – and that this vocation will be triggered by the slaughter of his wife and children… this knowledge is what lends the first story originally published as PUNISHER: BORN its ominous air of a crossroads being approached and which makes its punchline a killer.

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It’s 1972 and Captain Frank Castle is enjoying his third tour in Vietnam. If “enjoying” is too strong a term, he’s certainly deriving a grim satisfaction from doing his job well. It’s a job he’s spectacularly good at and Firebase Valley Forge is lucky to have him. The Marine garrison now stands as the lone lookout against enemy movements, yet it has been left undermanned without adequate supplies and its position is being so undermined by the ineffectual leadership of a feckless Colonel that an inspecting General threatens to close it down completely.

That’s something Castle cannot stomach because – from his patrols with the single platoon of twenty-nine motivated men he could muster – he knows that the Vietcong are stocking up for the most god almighty offensive.

All this is observed in measured terms by one Stevie Goodwin who is but 39 days short of going home forever:

“I will not die in Vietnam… I will not re-up and serve a second tour, will not become a combat-junkie like so many of the others… I will not fall in love with war like Captain Frank Castle.”

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Two scenes stand out for me: Frank’s reaction to the order to close down the camp, thereby leaving American positions elsewhere vulnerable to attack (and, by the by, depriving Castle of the action and adrenaline he thrives upon), and an attempted gang rape by the men under his command. I’m not going to spoil either for you, but the first reaction shows a level of cold-blooded ingenuity, the second a warped sense of what constitutes helping someone out. Neither prove predictable, and both leave one ambivalent, torn between wide-eyed horror and a grudging respect for the man.

Robertson’s art is the finest of his career so far. In the back he pays tribute to the soldiers he’s depicting and reprints some of the photographic source material including private photographs taken there and then, along with preparatory work and unused cover sketches. So many of the eyes are haunted and weary, distant and disillusioned.

With Tom Palmer’s smooth embellishment Darick’s jungles are such lush and dense affairs that anyone or anything could be hidden behind the forest of fronds. The tops of the trees behind a meagre clearing are way up in the sky, while the darkest vines and trunks frame the foreground perfectly. Energised during split-second combat, once the adrenaline subsides Castle is still standing strong but lurches, left as spent as the machine gun which threatens to melt his hands off.

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Paul Mounts’ colouring is invaluable to this intense heat which by the fourth and final chapter becomes a deafening, acrid, blistering inferno in torrential rain.

After this PUNISHER MAX proper begins and in the third instalment Irish factions invade Hell’s Kitchen in a turf war. If Ennis knows his military history, technology, terminology and deployment strategy – and he does, making the commands barked out in a crisis completely convincing (see WAR STORIES / BATTLEFIELDS), then he also knows his Irish Troubles all too well, and it begins with a bomb and the most hideous mutilations.

“For the first time in a long time I realise I don’t know what to do… Trouble with a bomb is there’s no one to get your hands on, no way to return fire.”

However, the chapter immediately following PUNISHER: BORN – with its family smiles but its promise of the price to be paid – cuts straight to the present day with that threat already fulfilled thirty years ago, and the juxtaposition is brutal and abrupt. It could so easily have been a maudlin mawkish cliché, but artist Lewis LaRosa presents three large single-panel pages of each of Frank’s family suffering such extreme, specific injuries you may wince. Ennis too rises to the challenge in white-framed black boxes above or below:

“I hit the ground beside my daughter. She’d been gutshot, badly, and when she saw the things that boiled and wriggled from her belly the expression on her face was not a little girl’s.”

Although all the perpetrators and orchestrators behind them are long since dead, Frank’s peace-time war has been relentless. Now he hits a mafia Don’s one-hundredth birthday party to which every family in the country has sent senior representatives, and he does so with military preplanning and precision whose payoff Lewis LaRosa choreographs like a freeze-framed ballet of blood. Frank’s also thorough: there are now forty-two funerals to “attend”.

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This doesn’t so much stir up as hornet’s nest because are few high-up hornets left to speak of. But the three invited back in after years of exile… well, let’s just say they were exiled from the mafia for extremism!

Unfortunately for Castle he’s in on someone else’s wish list too. A covert C.I.A. offshoot has targeted him for capture using the one man who might get the drop on him, not through brute force but through friendship: his former surveillance, intelligence and ordinance-prep manager, Micro. Unfortunately for them, they succeed. And there sits Frank, arms locked behind him, listening silently as Micro offers him permanent employment as a government-sanctioned assassin overseas. It’s an opportunity to kill terrorists using whatever means he deems necessary, only they choose the targets and Frank must do as he’s told.

I’m sorry, I’ll type that again: Frank must do as he’s told…

The extensive scenes played out in private between Micro and Castle while the mafia begins making its move are dark, stark and grim, coloured by Dean White in graveyard or abattoir blue. Lewis LaRosa – once more inked by veteran Tom Palmer – nails Castle’s stony silence, his implacability and most especially his age. It isn’t the age of someone worn out or run down, but the age of someone who acquired extra bulk, extra musculature through long-term endurance. What he has endured shows on his scarred physique and thick, knotted face. That he has endured it informs every single second they spend together, building the tension to its inevitable breaking point.

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It’s presaged to perfection by Ennis when – after Micro has finally finished – Frank tells him a story which occurred thirty years ago, shortly after his family’s slaughter in Central Park. A friend called Bob Garrett mentions in passing that he’s left his wife for another woman. He told Bob Garrett:

“I lost my wife. And you threw yours away like she was nothing.”
“Hey, Frank, look –”

For the PUNISHER MAX series Garth for the most part ditched the burlesque characters he’d populated PREACHER and his previous PUNISHER run with, but there are some residual elements here in the mafia misfits. Also in both the straight-shooting C.I.A. operative for some sexual arousal which will become an increasingly funny running gag, and her more easily intimidated male colleague who experiences a moment of arousal which may make your eyes widen. It won’t be the last time.

Lastly, let us return to unfinished business between Micro and Frank, beautifully built up then left to linger for a couple of chapters by Ennis:

“I want to know why you told me about Bob Garrett. The guy who dumped his wife and you beat half to death.”
“You missed part of it. I warned him first. I told him to run because I knew what I was going to do to him.”
“But why tell me…?”


Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Devolution #1 (£2-99, Dynamite) by Rick Remender & Jonathan Wayshak…

“But still, the war went on. Politicians debated for months before reaching a conclusion. It was clear to them all, in secret meetings of course, that the stem of the problem was religion… and science can cure that.
“They created a secret research team to produce a viral agent to neuter the part of the brain that believed in God.
“An international coalition of scientists devised the agent, named DVO-8, which would isolate the part of the brain associated with belief and devolve it, shrinking it away to nothing. Turning off the recipients’ belief in God

“Of course there were side effects, but nothing severe enough to preclude its use in a few tests.”

And of course they all lived happily ever after…

Ha ha, of course not. The clue as to what those pesky side effects might have been lies in the title… Yes, aside from a chosen few who were inoculated against the virus, and perhaps some with natural immunity, the entire animal population of the planet has devolved. Not just humans, who have regressed physically and intellectually to cavemen, but every living species has also devolved into far more toothsome, scary prehistoric versions of themselves, even the insects.


For those few humans not affected, the world has thus become considerably more hazardous, which is of course the exact opposite of what the great and good intended. But one such lady, our heroine Raja, is convinced the situation can be reversed. She believes there is a revolution agent antidote in a laboratory in San Francisco. She just has to make it there alive… Between the primitives patrolling the overgrown streets for food, and the survivalist remnants hunkered down in their fortified camps – including one run by a completely insane white supremacist with a penchant for hanging people she comes across – it’s clearly not going to be like nipping down to the local chemist for some paracetamol…


Another fascinating speculative fiction premise from Rick which once again isn’t that far removed from what could conceivably happen in the labs of meddlesome government scientists. Apparently this is an idea he’s had on the back burner for the last ten years, presumably whilst working on DEADLY CLASS, BLACK SCIENCE, LOW, TOKYO GHOST and myriad merry projects for Marvel. Fans of his previous stuff are certainly going to enjoy this. What I particularly liked was just as I was coming to the end of this first issue, thinking okay I know where this is going, the story then cut to a small base on the moon, where some uninfected astronauts are stationed. Well, at least they were… Hmm…


I wasn’t remotely familiar with the artist Rick’s working with this time, Jonathan Wayshak, though I thought I could recall seeing his stuff before. Sure enough, he did a LOST BOYS: REIGN OF FROGS movie prelude which we (very) briefly stocked. His style reminds me of Mark Texeira actually, just a tidier version. I rather like it and it certainly suits the visceral nature of the story. So, with apologies to the Beatles, say you want a Devolution, and we’ll add it to your standing order!

[You’re fired. – ed.]



Buy Devolution #1 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.

Envelope Manufacturer (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chris Oliveros

Izuna h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Bruno Letizia, Saverio Tenuta & Carita Lupattelli

Lazarus vol 4: Poison s/c (£10-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Nnewts Book 2: The Rise Of Herk (£8-50, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

Rick And Morty vol 1 (£14-99, Oni) by Zac Gorman & C.J. Cannon

Sweater Weather h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Sara Varon

Tasmin And The Deep vol 1 (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron & Kate Brown

The Comical Tragedy Or Tragical Comedy Of Mr. Punch (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Abe Sapien vol 6: A Darkness So Great (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Bee And Puppycat vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various

Batman By Ed Brubaker vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker & Scott McDaniel, various

Swamp Thing vol 7: Seasons End s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina, various

Black Widow: The Itsy Bitsy Spider s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka & J. G. Jones, Scott Hampton

Inhumans: Attilan Rising: Battleworld s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & John Timms

What If ?: Infinity s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by various

One-Punch Man vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata


Black Dog

ITEM!Announced! Dave McKean’s new graphic novel and performance piece for the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2016, BLACK DOG – THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH

Rolling Blackouts cover

ITEM! Process piece: Sarah Glidden on designed her swoonaway cover to ROLLING BLACKOUTS from Drawn & Quarterly.

Daniel Danger

ITEM! Not comics but visually stunning! Daniel Danger’s Tiny Media Empire website. Dilapidated houses which match my lounge curtains all too accurately.

I once had a set of shower curtains so torn that they looked like props used in Psycho. I began to have baths instead.

Becky Cloonan

ITEM! Becky Cloonan’s Tumblr is always worth visiting for sensuality.

Age Of Bronze 1

ITEM! Attention Nottingham! Eric Shanower, creator of AGE OF BRONZE is in town! It’s a series I love so much I’ve reviewed all four volumes extensively. Eric Shanower’s Greek Mythology & Comic-Making Workshop at Nottingham University is open to all. Sunday 31st January 1-30pm-3-30pm.

Injection vol 1 2

ITEM! New Warren Ellis interview on INJECTION drawn by Declan Shalvey and storytelling structure.

Page 45 reviews INJECTION VOL 1 containing #1-5 and INJECTION #6 is out now.

Wicked And Divine vol 2 festival

ITEM! Brandon Graham reveals so many secrets about THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #17 while linking to writer Kieron Gillen’s own blog on the issue.

Page 45 reviews THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Could I even sound more corporate?

wicked and divine pantheon tshirt

Page 45 still has some WICKED + DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts for sale. (Pictured above.)


ITEM! Tomer Hanuka’s website is ever so lush! Want to see more?

Page 45 reviews THE DIVINE by Tomer Hanuka & Asaf Hanuka

Page 45 reviews THE REALIST by Asaf Hanuka (one of my top two graphic novels of 2015).

Page 45 fully fails to review OVERKILL art book by Tomer Hanuka but at least we take the trouble to import it. Swoon!

I Love This Part 2

ITEM! Avery Hill Publishing announces its graphic novels for Spring 2016!

If you have any doubts as to why we are so excited, Avery Hill’s I LOVE THIS PART by Tillie Walden is Page 45’s current Comicbook Of The Month!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2016 week three

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

A Girl On The Shore (£13-99, Random House / Vertical) by Inio Asano.

“I don’t actually care if you die.”

From Inio Asano, the creator of NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH and SOLANIN, this intensely melancholic work about two lost souls defies the category of romance. You won’t find it filled with flowers and sweet nothings. It’s more an astute, psychologically complex exploration of isolation even during the intimacy of being curled up on cushions.

Moments after the above is uttered by young girl Koume their fingers will link so tenderly.

Yet Koume and Keisuke only bond physically and sexually. Instead they are forever at odds in what they want – or think they want or say they want – from each other. Their relationship is never equal and its balance of yearning and disinterest will shift throughout. The most tentative and reluctant of communicators, opportunities will be wasted on both sides when the other reaches out and there will be so much remorse and regret.

From Keisuke at least there are lone moments of self-questioning like “What do I even want?” and more than a glimmer of self-knowledge:

“I hate the rain. Especially at night like this.
“It’s like I’m drowning. I can’t breathe.
“I keep breathing in, but it’s never enough. I get all spacy.
“I’m not someone who should be having sex and stuff. Every time we do it, I swear to God it’ll never happen again.
“But like, there really is no God, and when I remember that, I end up doing it again. And then I’m thinking “sorry” again in my head.
“It’d be so much easier if I could apologise and be forgiven. I don’t know who to apologise to, though, and here I am.”

Please don’t imagine that he’s feckless, however. He isn’t. He’s been traumatised into reticence and there is a panel so perfectly depicting his detachment from life, weary of it all, hair lank and head lolling to one side, the haze in his eyes as lifeless as a heroin addict’s as he cracks one off in front of his computer, head-phones on.

I wouldn’t ordinarily use language like that in a review, but you do need to know that this is explicit.

It isn’t, however, the sort of explicit that elicits prurience. Quite the reverse, it is almost clinical in places.

It wasn’t always like this. As I say, the balance shifts. As the story opens Koume is infatuated by the stud of the school, Misaki. She is doe-eyed in adoration and eager to please but Misaki blows hot and cold and she veers from excited and optimistic to rejected and dejected. She offloads all this onto Keisuke who himself veers from frustration – that his open proposals to Koume are rebuffed – to a resignation that he will happily take whatever he can get like a lap-dog, just to spend time with her:

“I’ve been thinking about it a ton. And I figure it’s totally fine if you don’t like me or whatever. I’m happy being a useful tool. And I don’t have any friends I could actually tell or anything. If you need to rant about Misaki, I’ll listen ‘til my ears bleed. I guess it’s okay if you just use me, like a toy.”

That final sentence should give you some indication that the previous four were economical with the truth.

It’s at this point we should break briefly to consider the term “like”, used throughout as a sort of halfway point for “love” and “fancy”. Maybe “have a pash on…” It’s not exactly evasive or euphemistic. It’s more like “like” should forever be accompanied by those inverted commas – shorthand for “like me in that way…”

“I know I should just shut up and I’m getting super annoying, so this is the last time I’ll ask. You don’t feel like you could ever like me?”

And I really do think that’s the last time he asks. It’s quite early on.

I don’t know whether I should tell you about the digital camera which Koume is given and for which Keisuke supplies an SD card he found on the beach. On it they find images of a girl on the shore. You thought that was going to be Koume, right? It provokes a terrible act of caprice, one of those terrible mistakes you can never take back – which you would give anything to reverse, anything – and the fallout is horrifying.

Equally horrifying are the moments before the central break which multiple camera angles extend like a ballet in freefall, and between which Asano presents the reader with a deafeningly silent, double-page landscape. It’s an external shot of the city as if from a very high window, having nothing whatsoever to do with what’s happening inside. It’s like a freeze-frame holding its breath and looking the other way, stretching the moment still further as the rest of the world continues, oblivious and indifferent.

The environment – both landscapes and the weather – play a vital role across this saga, and it is beautiful to behold. A lot of these silent sequences add a naturalistic sense of time and geography to the narrative: journeys back and forth.

If Keisuke hates the rain, well, there will be plenty of it, he will be out in it on a very specific day in the year and you too may start holding your breath. There’s also a gale which builds to a climactic moment, thrashing the trees like nobody’s business. There are glorious shots of the sea, but Asano relishes detail whether it lies in a grocery-store’s shelves, the graphic novels lining Keisuke’s bedroom bookcases or the intricate glint in a girl’s eye, so he delights equally in depicting the cat’s cradle of electric wires which criss-cross the roads. Even his urban sprawl is a joy.

There’s one particular shot near Keisuke’s house which is used repeatedly, looking down over a pedestrian street broken by a series of steps and way out to sea. Each time there is a lone figure outside seen variously during the day, at night under street light and then in the rain…

There’s a much wider cast than I’ve indicated here, partly to disguise the first central climax, although absence itself does play an active role.

Trust, too, plus presumption and, as I say, communication.

It’s a hefty four hundred pages which I read in a single sitting. Who knew that reader frustration could be so very addictive? Only if you’ve been made to care as deeply as this does.

“I don’t actually care if you die.”

And I think you lie.


Buy A Girl On The Shore and read the Page 45 review here

Filmish (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Edward Ross…

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.”

Eh dear, I do amuse myself sometimes. Right, got my Travis Bickle moment out of the way, let’s try that again.

“As film-making evolved and narrative cinema developed, the nature of performance changed. Legend has it that film-making pioneer D.W. Griffith invented the close-up to better reveal the beauty of his leading lady. The implications of this were enormous. No longer shot only at a distance, the subtlest facial movements were now as important as grand gestures, and actors were forced to become “maestros of their facial muscles and eye movement.”

Which as we all know reached its zenith with Roger Moore’s eyebrow…

In years to come, when someone does a graphic novel entitled Comicish, I suspect Edward Ross and this work will rate a substantial mention in the first-person talking-head non-fictional comics-as-means-of-explanation chapter. Pioneered by Scott UNDERSTANDING COMICS / MAKING COMICS / REINVENTING COMICS McCloud, more recently championed by Darryl PSYCHIATRIC TALES / SCIENCE TALES / SUPERCRASH Cunningham and Steve Haines & Sophie Standing’s PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE / TRAUMA IS REALLY STRANGE , this is as in-depth a treatise on a topic as any prose work could be. And just like Darryl’s SUPERCRASH this is far more entertaining and dare I say it, clear, than any prose equivalent could ever possibly be.

After all, cinema, like comics, is a visual medium. The only real differences between the two these days are the scale of ridiculous expense and armies of people that seem to be required to make a film. Although judging by how many artists often seem to be credited on a single volume of a DC superhero title – I have seen upwards of twenty artists which for six issues is frankly baffling – that perhaps isn’t 100% true. And clearly, there are still some independent film makers doing it on a shoe string with aplomb and getting the plaudits they rightly deserve.

But like comics, film for the masses has undoubtedly gone through an extraordinary evolutionary process, from its very humble beginnings back in the late 19th century to the sophisticated, nigh-on fully immersive medium it is today. Edward breaks down this journey into seven elements or themes: The Eye (camera work), The Body (specifically film’s approach to the human body itself), Sets and Architecture, Time, Voice and Language, Power and Ideology, Technology and Technophobia, and explores how each has developed, citing various examples of ground-breaking leaps forward and key moments in cinematic history.

Many of these choices, with the scenes illustrated exactly as on the big screen, albeit in Edward’s lovely clear, black-and-white art style, with his sage head inserted, will be familiar to even the casual cinephile, which I think is one of the great pleasures of this work. You’ll be nodding your head knowingly in recognition at the scene in question, before Edward then goes on to explain the relevance of his selection in cogently making his technical point. Obviously, many of the late 19th and early 20th century choices are completely unfamiliar except to those who have studied film extensively, as Edward has to Ph.D. level, but his exposition is so clearly delivered, it’s just a pleasure to let him educate you on the rich history of early cinema as well. You can see just how much hard work has gone into this, and I think it succeeds admirably on every level.


Buy Filmish and read the Page 45 review here

Cerebus vol 3: Church & State I (Remastered Edition) (£25-99, Aadvark Vanaheim Inc.) by Dave Sim.

The original art has been reshot then reprinted on such fine paper stock that the book’s already considerable girth has almost doubled.

“Anything Done For The First Time Unleashes A Demon.”

Around this time there was a CEREBUS cover whose only visual element was the hand-lettering of the sentence above, white letters on black. No picture at all. I don’t recall that being done before or any time since. As both a brave and successful attention-grabbing visual device and as a Truth, it has stuck with me ever since to the extent that I typed the sentence from memory rather than sought out my own issue.

It’s now that we start using the word ‘genius’. Not because I am drunk but because the writing and art have both ascended to the point of inspired precision.

Every look, every line has a weight to it. They’re so well refined and targeted, and amongst the targets are melodramatic superheroes in the form of Chris Claremont’s Wolverine, and organised religion. Not faith – that’s a very different thing. Which is fortunate, for Sim would go on to embrace God with a passion.

Prime Minister Cerebus is persuaded to enter the Church, to vie for the role of Pope which for Cerebus involves throwing babies off roofs to prove a point about obeisance and being careful what you wish for.

Please don’t think that Cerebus has been converted. He hasn’t. The most famous CEREBUS t-shirt has him dressed as Pope declaring, “He doesn’t love you. He just wants all your money.” Specifically, he wants gold.

But Cerebus achieves his status through an assassination out of his hands, and for the first time he observes that “Something fell!” It won’t be the last. It will ripple through time and, when uttered in the future, will become a catalyst for destruction.

This is where the subplot – hiding in the wings but very much in evidence for those who’ve either been looking for it or reading in retrospect – really kicks in. There is something evidently rather singular about our Aardvark. Also something of a duality. Things happen around him. There are the Mind Games, the Strange White Glowing Thing, and the gold evidently wants him as much as he wants it

Did I mention he gets married? If the first book begins as a parody of CONAN, you won’t be surprised at the inclusion of a character called Red Sophia based on female barbarian Red Sonja. What would perhaps surprise you is that Red Sophia’s mother is an extended homage to British cartoonist Giles. It’s brilliantly done, too.

More Mind Games, more chess pieces, more Jaka. Oh, yes, more Marx Brothers!

For more on CEREBUS – an overview or its story and an assessment of its structure, its art, its invention and its place in comicbook history – please see my reviews of every single one of its sixteen component parts making up 300 monthly issues written and drawn over twenty-three years.

Unusually I wrote them back to back just before Page 45’s website launched because a) most of the collected editions were published long before we wrote reviews so we had none, and b) CEREBUS is such a landmark series in the history of comic art and industry that I would not countenance a Page 45 website launching without every single edition being assessed to one extent or another.

Because I wrote them back to back, they constitute one complete and hopefully coherent review dealing with different elements like the lettering and art rather than repeating myself each time as an introduction. Begin at the beginning?



Buy Cerebus vol 3: Church & State (Remastered Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Southern Cross vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Becky Cloonan & Andy Belanger with Lee Loughbridge.

“Someone wants to be friends.
“And it’s not me.
“I guess it’s never been me.”

Congratulations to artist Andy Belanger: he made me stare into Alex Braith’s eyes on pages one and two for a good 15 minutes, trying to find the precise right words to describe the look of love she is empathically not giving the officious pen-pusher at customs. Combined with an arched eyebrow which puts even my ceiling-scrapers to shame, it’s this: defiance, contempt and cool-steel rage.

He’s stopped her before boarding the Southern Cross tanker flight 73 to Titan currently docked at a space ring orbiting Earth and pushed all Alex’s buttons: her time spent in jail for assault and battery ten years ago, and her reason for visiting Titan. You don’t visit Titan for pleasure.

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon which does have an atmosphere though it isn’t quite comparable to ours. It does, however, have a whole lot of ice. And oil – that’s what megacorporation Zemi is interested in, although drilling for it is dangerous. Alex’s sister Amber worked for Zemi right up until she died late at night, which is why Alex is flying to Titan: to collect her sister’s remains and effects. She also plans to collect some answers because however hazardous drilling for oil is, that’s not how Amber died. Amber worked in admin.

Now before you jump to conclusions, there are intimations from some of the earliest pages that this isn’t going to be straight, space-based crime like Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood’s cleverly crafted police procedural set on THE FUSE. There are an awful lot of symbols and the atmosphere once the Southern Cross is boarded is dank and dimly lit – like working on a submarine – yet highly luminous. The cabins are equally perfunctory rather those of a pleasure cruise and I loved that water was rationed, allocated to each passenger and accessed via an ID card: you don’t want anyone leaving the tap running on a six-day voyage without the possibility of pulling in for top-ups.

Belanger and Loughbridge establish this luminosity right from the start. With its multiple, meandering boarding tubes glowing in the dark, that’s space ring’s scale is ever so impressive. It looks exactly like an international airport might if gravity wasn’t an issue.

But you wait until you see that Herb Trimpe space-tanker entering hyperdrive! Oh yeah, Belanger has got to be the most enormous Herb Trimpe fan. It’s in the faces, especially – the hair and the eyes from afar.

I was as immediately suspicious as Alex of almost everyone I met within the claustrophobic confines of the craft. I wouldn’t let my guard down, not even for affable Doctor Lon Wells or over-accommodating Captain Mori Tetsuya. He has a fulsome beard and that Herb Trimpe look in his eyes, but still I wasn’t sure. First mate St Martin I could at least empathise with because she’s so bloody busy.

As to smarmy Kyril who is not part of the crew, Alex recognises the tattoos on his knuckles and doesn’t want to get dragged into that line of work again, but he seems impossible to avoid.

Equally unavoidable is Alex’s unexpected roommate who’s already availed herself of the top bunk. Erin McKenna seems confident and courteous but fractious Alex isn’t a people person at the best of time, let alone when she’s been lumbered with a last-minute booking. Plus there are rumours in the mess hall that Erin McKenna is investigating Amber’s death. If only Alex wasn’t such a bricked-off wall she could have at least asked Erin, but when she wakes she finds Erin gone, her clothes on the top bunk arranged ever so strangely. She’s left behind her room key and ration card. She’s also left Amber’s case file.

What’s clear is this: Alex isn’t the only person interested in Amber’s death in one way or another and she won’t have to wait until reaching Titan for revelations. It is, however, bigger than you might think.

For all this while, as the leviathan hurtles through space with its newly installed gravity drive, there is a constant sense of it pulsing eerily, uncannily, unnaturally.

Things grow increasingly tense, sweaty and strange, then positively frantic as the panels lurch then take a turn for the triangular.



Buy Southern Cross vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Starve vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj…

“Gavin Cruikshank is a name that can attract unwanted attention. It’s also a name I gave up years ago. These two things are closely related.”

With very good reason. Gavin Cruikshank was once upon a time a feted celebrity chef, with a moderately popular TV show called Starve. But personal problems – including an extremely bitter divorce with his ex-wife who was a teensy-weensy bit shocked and upset at learning the love of her life and father of her child was suddenly ready to come out of the closet – meant that just disappearing seemed like a good option, even if abandoning his daughter broke his heart.

Plus he had begun to fall out of love with cooking as well, spending increasingly less time in the kitchen and more and more in front of the cameras promoting the Cruikshank brand. To his surprise, in a world where global warming and an increased sea level has wreaked havoc upon major conurbations almost entirely at the expense of the have-nots, vanishing amongst the hoi-polloi in distant south-east Asia was far easier than he expected. Suspiciously easy, perhaps.

Except, except… in this brave new world where most of the population are struggling to find anything decent to eat, the rich have elevated the consumption of excess and fancy to obscene new levels. And thus, during his absence of several years, and quite unbeknownst to him due to his off-the-grid lifestyle, Starve has become the number one rated television programme on the planet.

It’s not the simple cooking programme he left behind, though. It’s become something far more disgustingly voyeuristic than that. As those with all the money flaunt their boorish opulence with increasing abandon, Starve has practically become a culinary gladiatorial arena. These stellar ratings, however, must be maintained at all costs, and so someone came up with the idea to bring back Gavin Cruikshank, to see if he could hack it in this new cut-throat competition.

So the Network tracked him down, keen to keep up the juggernaut momentum of their entertainment behemoth, politely pointing out he was legally obliged to do eight more episodes from his existing contract, then not so politely pointing out if he didn’t they would ruin his life, and oh, he wasn’t likely to see a penny of income from selling his soul once more because his ex-wife now owned all his rights to Starve…

There are all sorts of little games at play here. I’m not sure I entirely believe the Network’s execs, his one-time colleague and rival Roman Algiers who is the current host of Starve, or Gavin’s cunning and still very bitter ex-wife, as to what is going on, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either. It clearly isn’t going to be as simple as that. But he decides to take up their challenge, partly to find out what is going on, also because he wants to rekindle his relationship with his now grown-up daughter, and most definitely due to the healthy pinch of egomania that every top chef needs. He wants to take them all on at their own games and beat them. He trusts his daughter implicitly, though, and I do have to wonder if that isn’t going to be his Achilles heel…

Ah, he does come up with some good concepts for stories, Brian Wood, I must say. There are all sorts of sub-pots, sorry, plots, bubbling away in the background here, but basically this is going to be a character-driven story. You can see the look and personality of Gavin has been part-inspired by the original British enfant terrible of cuisine, Marco Pierre White, and then just given that little bit of a cocktail sexuality shake up before being served with a twist on the crushed ice of a collapsing, polarised society. Sounds tasty!

I really enjoyed Danijel Zezelj’s art here. It’s mean and moody, thickly lined and darkly coloured, with Gavin Cruikshank in particular looking like a brooding serial killer who’d be as likely to carve you up as fillet a fish, and who definitely prefers his steak dripping with blood. As I say, just like Marco Pierre White then. Intriguing palette cleanser of a premise which rapidly develops into a dégustation of deranged delights!


Buy Starve vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

War Stories vol 3 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Matt Martin, Keith Burns, Tomas Aira…

“Welcome back. He didn’t make it I’m afraid.”
“As a matter of fact, you’re the only one from your crew who did.”
“Joe Rehm didn’t have a mark on him…”
“Died of shock.”
“Do you mean to… Am I the only survivor of the whole thing? Out of forty men?”
“Oh, I see where you’re going. No. Your tail gunner’s ammunition cooked off in the fire. The B-17 behind your own was badly hit, the bombardier was killed and both pilots blinded. But the rest got out okay. So if you’re working on some kind of Jonah complex, you can forget it. Anyhow you got a little singed, and that cut on your head needed stitching up, but apart from that you’re fine.”
“And… then what?”
“They find you another crew, and another aircraft, I suppose. Then you get on with the war. So I’d advise you to rest as much as you can.”

Phew, that was a tough first mission, and a very warm welcome to Great Britain for American flyer Leonard Wetmore considering his plane didn’t even get off the ground. Well, I suppose technically it did, given how many pieces it exploded into when one of the bombs went off on the runway… A veritable baptism of fire therefore to Leonard’s wartime flying career. But the lack of altitude means it doesn’t even count towards his requisite tally of twenty-five missions before he’s allowed to go home a hero.

An action packed return for Garth’s brutally realistic tales of derring do and, well, also abominable suffering from conflict zones around the world. As always with this series, in both its WAR STORIES and BATTLEFIELDS incarnations, the tales are fictionalised retellings of true events, to a lesser or greater degree. And as before, he’s included a recommended further reading list at the back.

The three told here: Castles In The Sky, Children Of Israel and The Last German Winter, are of completely different content and indeed tone. The opener, concerning the aeronautical adventures of young Leonard fielding the flack both up in the clouds, and from the young son of the British widow he’s practically accidentally romancing, and the closer, featuring a German panzer crew, out of ammo and on foot deep behind enemy lines in their Russian occupied homeland, trying to escort a civilian family to safety in the depths of snowbound mid-winter, are clearly more of a conflation of general events and various peoples’ stories. Indeed, the last one is a chilling story in more ways than one about the devastating horrors that wholly innocent civilians caught up in conflict can experience. Sometimes, there are no heroes in war.

And yet, sometimes there really are people who save the day: the absolute right person in the right place, in the very moment they are needed most. The middle story, broadly biographical in nature, recounts the desperate tank battle defence of the Golan Heights that made the career, and name, of Avigdor Ben-Gal, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade against the relentless Syrian attack during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

As seemingly one of the very few who actually believed (or perhaps more precisely no else wanted to believe) that another war was imminent, his brigade was the only Israeli Defence Force unit on a full war-readiness footing. A fact that very possibly saved his country from a catastrophic defeat, perhaps even being wiped off the face of the map forever. You can argue the politics of Israel’s very existence as much as you like (amongst yourselves, please), what can’t be denied, however, is that to the Israeli people, General Ben-Gal as he eventually became, is a true war hero.

It is always fascinating to see what stories Ennis will turn to next, which conflicts, and the various protagonists involved. The sad fact is he that has no dearth of material to work with…


Buy War Stories vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Snow Blind #2 of 4 (£2-99, Boom!) by Ollie Masters & Tyler Jenkins.

“The weird thing is, as much as this moment is built on a foundation as loose as mud… it’s probably the closest I’ve ever felt to my parents. And for one brief moment I didn’t care that they’d been lying to me.
“But it must’ve been the painkillers talking.”

A second-issue review happens maybe once a year. After the first you’ll have to wait for the book, but this confirmed all the promise of SNOW BLIND #1 (far more extensively reviewed) then took it to its natural next step, even if I failed to spot it in front of me and so tripped down its storytelling stairs.

Which is precisely what you want from a comic; real life – not so much.

Teddy has been lied to by his parents all his life. They don’t know that he knows that because since he found out he’s been lying to them. Finally he gives them the opportunity to tell him the truth and maybe they do and maybe they don’t. But Teddy’s going to presume that they’re still lying and thus continue to lie to them while he gets to the truth of the matter himself. The truth of a matter he exposed by mistake and which he will now make a great deal worse.

Partly because he’s jumped to one wrong conclusion and – sure as a leopard’s moulting fails to act as an organic stain remover – is about to jump to another.

Here he’s decided to track down last issue’s intruder by asking around in a bad part of town.

“If he’d any sense he wouldn’t be laying low in the nice part of town… He’d be in the parts of town where being nosey get it broken.”

Self-knowledge and self-guidance do not communicate with each other in Teddy’s head.

As I say, far, far more in my review of SNOW BLIND #1, still in stock at the time of typing.

This really is a complete and utter car crash. Every pun intended.

Art shown is from issue 1.


Buy Snow Blind #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars vol 2: Showdown On The Smugglers Moon (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi, Stuart Immonen…

“I’ve seen your bounty alerts. Quite the price you’ve got on your head.”
“It gets even better. Your wife is a bounty hunter.”
“No! And she’s not my…”
“Suddenly this is all making sense. The rich princess in trouble. Yeah, Han could never resist those. How many times has he rescued you? Bet he even turned down the reward. Yeah, he’s holding out for a much bigger prize.”
“And exactly what sort of “prize” would that be?”
“That’s one of his best cons. He ran the same scam on the daughter of a sultan in the Boz Pity system.”
“What? None of that is true!”
“Really? Maybe we should go ask the sultan. I hear he’s still offering a moon in exchange for your head.”
“Leia, don’t listen to her, it was never like that.”
“Never like what? All a huge lie? Then why is your wife pointing a huge gun at me?”

Ha ha, sleazy Han Solo, he’s right up to his neck in it now. As if being held at blaster point by a deadly bounty hunter, who claims to be his not so dearly betrothed weren’t bad enough, there’s a squadron of Tie Fighters and a Star Destroyer rapidly zeroing in on their position intent on vaporising them all to cinders. Both of which pale into insignificance compared to the righteous indignation of one Princess Leia Organa, who can’t quite believe that ten minutes earlier she was finally starting to fall for his trademark Solo flannel and flattery. He’s going to need all of his smooth talking skills to get out of this situation that’s for sure!


This volume brings together the Han / Leia and Luke story arcs as their planned rescue attempt becomes increasingly more fraught with peril and peppered with pithy one-liners, primarily at Hans’s squirming expense. As with Gillen’s DARTH VADER (who conveniently pops up right at the end here to lead us into the forthcoming VADER DOWN cross-over, which is effectively volume 3 of both this title and DARTH VADER) it’s just great fun and the new characters of Sana Solo and imperial spy Sergeant Kreel add to the merry mayhem.


Buy Star Wars vol 2: Showdown On The Smugglers Moon 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.

Frank In The 3rd Dimension h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring, Charles Barnard

Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic (£7-50, Joe Books) by various

Nnewts Book 1: Escape From The Lizzarks (£8-50, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

Swords Of Glass s/c (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sylviane Corgiat & Laura Zuccheri

Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift (£9-99, Titan) by Meredith Gran & Carey Pietsch

Extra Yarn (£6-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas h/c (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Hunter S. Thompson, adapated by Troy Little

Grayson vol 1: Agents Of Spryal s/c (£10-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, Stephen Mooney

Grayson vol 2: We All Die At Dawn s/c (£10-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, Stephen Mooney

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars (UK Edition) s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Matteo Lolli

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Matteo Lolli

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Lewis LaRosa, Leandro Fernandez

The Ultimates Ultimate Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

The Ultimates 2 Ultimate Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

Ultimate End: Battleworld s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

A Silent Voice vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

Gizza Snog Valentine’s Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

I Like Your Bum Valentine’s Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Are Perfect Valentine’s Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You’re Well Fit! Valentine’s Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson


ITEM! Jade Sarson has FEELS LIKE NOODLES, her 24-Hour LICAF comic for sale on her website. If you enjoyed Sarah Burgess’ comic about struggling with feelings and a cycle of behaviour which I linked to last week I believe you’ll love this too. I did!

ITEM! Brandon Graham writes about his work on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, divulging lots of secrets in the, err, process.

ITEM! Sarah McIntrye is back yet again with more inspiration for creating comics for all ages. It’s a massive blog. How does she find the time? She is a creative whirlwind of a woman! Don’t miss the link to her 24-page JAMPIRES jam-comic created with David O’Connell. It’s not the one I’ve just liked to (that’s the genius JAMPIRES picture book) nor is it the one reprinted below. No, it’s in her blog just above it!

ITEM! And Alex de Campi gives a lesson on lettering comics.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2016 week two

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

The Fox And The Star (£14-99, Particular Books) by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

An exquisitely beautiful book which is wise, gentle, kind and compassionate, its images are so integral to the storytelling that I will happily class it a comic.

Executed with an exceptional degree of control, it is in places like reading through William Morris wallpaper from which rectangles have been excised with a scalpel.

It’s also like watching through a window with its initial broad, white frames.

The early colours, trees and leaves – and indeed that meticulous, compositional precision – put me in mind of John McNaught.

That is the visual template set up early on, although even then a beetle or branch will softly breach the strictly allotted space, a hint of the much more organic to come.

It’s a template thrilling enough in itself but partly set up in order to be broken so that when it is, at precisely the right moments, the contrast is striking.

There will follow full double-page spreads which bleed right to the edges, and canopies or intricate bramble thickets through which you will read but one or two words, arranged just-so. There I thought of Rob Ryden’s THIS IS FOR YOU, but perhaps because I already had scalpels in the back of my brain – a sentence I hope never to type again.

Additionally, once I’d got the idea that the fox and the simplicity of its verbal narrative reminded me of John Klassen (I WANT MY HAT BACK and SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE etc), I couldn’t get that out of my head, either.

As for the colours they range from pitch-black and silver to a star-strewn slate grey; and from warm, russet-red as the fox nestles amongst ferns to a blazing orange speckled with yellow as courage is found, hope takes hold and the world is explored anew.

It’s not always easy, is it?

“Once there was a Fox who lived in a deep, dense forest.
“Because Fox was small and the trees reached far higher than the tips of his ears, he was timid, and afraid to stray from his den.”

Those silver birches are so very tall that their trunks don’t thin one iota before leaving our sight above the pages’ frames, implying an almost infinite, unknowable and therefore unreachable, intimidating grandeur. Fox, his brush curled intimately round one of the birch’s base, looks up wide-eyed, innocent and daunted like The Herb Garden’s Parsley the Lion.

“And yet, for as long as Fox could remember, he would wake at night to the cool, calm light of Star.”`

It’s Star’s guiding light which gives Fox his courage to scamper around and forage in the forest for food and – oh – it is joyous, so joyous!. They race round together, “Star brightening the shadows ahead”.

But Star is Fox’s only friend.

And one dark night Star’s bright, shining light fails to appear.

What Bickford-Smith does with the colours and cramped confines there is truly arresting.


I own we are late to this party for it’s never been solicited through comicbook channels and I know I should be more on the wider, cultural ball – I know! Usually I am or we wouldn’t have Paul Madonna’s architectural eloquence ALL OVER COFFEE which I discovered in San Francisco or his subsequent EVERYTHING IS ITS OWN REWARD.

Nor would we have Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre’s all-ages PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE, let alone McIntyre & O’Connell’s JAMPIRES.

But in this instance I dropped the book-market ball and am enormously grateful and indebted to our customer Fuz who was also responsible for introducing me to A MONSTER CALLS. Don’t read that in public, by the way. There will be tears.


Buy The Fox And The Star and read the Page 45 review here

Deep Dark Fears (£10-99, Ten Speed Press) by Fran Krause.

“Every time I tell someone “I love you”, my soul is split in half. I worry that someday, I’ll have none left.”

No, that’s what happens when you stop telling people you love them.

The premise for this cute little hardcover is pretty straight forward and similar to Jesse Reklaw’s THE NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. There Reklaw illustrated summaries of other people’s dreams. Here Krause does much the same thing for fears, superstitions and anxieties which are often instilled by others, so be warned that this may prove contagious.

Jonathan’s told his daughter so many inventive and elaborate porkies to keep her good and quiet that I’m surprised she’s not a neurotic mess.

In Fear #10 (of 101, only four belonging to Krause himself), a young kid eats a freshly picked blackberry only to be told by an older lad that the seeds would never digest but grow as thorny vines inside his arteries which would then turn to wood making it unbearable for him to move.

“He added that it would be very expensive to treat, so better not to bother my parents about anything and just deal with it.”

I love that he’s then patted reassuringly on the head by the big boy.

“I didn’t sleep for weeks.”

The full-colour, expressive illustrations are as “simple” as Jeffrey Brown’s and there’s a bit of Dan Berry in evidence as well. I say “illustrations” but often they’re interpretations too.

Fear #7 is a pretty sure sign that someone’s read or seen The Omen II which had no small effect on myself aged eleven, either. Some like #44 are purely physical. I too have a fear of gouging my eyes out but in my case it’s on our industrial-sized stapler with the most enormous handle. For Lizzie it’s on wrought iron fences after skidding on ice. Hilariously she worries “it’ll be too slippery to free myself”. Bit late to mind about, I’d have thought.

Others are more surreal. “I used to think that when I closed a book, all the characters would freeze in place…” begins #35 as an Austen-era young lady in a fulsome, floor length dress is depicted playing badminton on the lawn. “…And if I left them for too long,” it continues, “they could get up to mischief.” It’s actually the shuttlecock and racket that have frozen in place, mid-air, leaving the lovely to dash to off and – I don’t know – dote on some snooty single man in possession of a good fortune.

This was quite cute:

“My Mom said she had to be careful of bright lights while driving. At night, someone’s high beams might blind you. I thought she meant permanently, so I shut my eyes and prepared, in case my Mom was blinded and I had to take the wheel.” Aged 8.

TOMBOY and ALONE FOREVER’s Liz Prince’s Fear #47 is typically self-conscious and elaborate, and Krause portrait of Liz’s self-portrait is very much on the money:

“Death is a theatre, full of everyone you’ve ever met, watching a real-time replay of your life, with your every thought narrated out loud.”


Crikey. Lastly #85 reminded me of one of my own childhood fears when, after watching a Boris Karloff or Hammer Horror film late at night I would switch off the living room light whilst already out of the door and in the hall but still staring carefully in, then retreat in similar fashion upstairs, always switching off the lights behind rather than ahead of me.

I don’t think I have fears any longer if you discount cliff edges, sharks and smashing my teeth in. Although I do wish we hadn’t bought that bloody stapler.


Buy Deep Dark Fears and read the Page 45 review here

100 Bullets Book 4 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso with Patricia Mulvihill.

“The Trust decided the Minutemen are obsolete. I’ve been instructed to get rid of you.”
“Get rid of?”
“Retire? Please, Shepherd… I believe the word was eliminate. That doesn’t sound like it comes with a gold watch.”
“No. More along the lines of a lead tie-pin.”

100 BULLETS is a crime and conspiracy comic so sprawling in scope but so tightly plotted and taut with tension that most who read it was a monthly got lost in the long-games and caught between the cracks of the shifting allegiances both overt and covert. Thankfully you don’t have that problem, especially now there are now new big, thick “books” rather than the slimmer “volumes” which are dropping out of print. They’re each of them reviewed.

It’s a war between the Houses of The Trust, The Minutemen they used to employ as keepers of the peace, and anyone Agent Graves believes he can use in his very long game of goading, guile and perfect positioning, even from the very beginning. They needed the Minutemen because each family judged the others’ honesty by their own. It’s not the sort of institution you’d then want to dissolve, is it?

“Medici has been whispering for years that the Minutemen were an obsolete institution.
“I prefer they think of us as rogue.”

Exactly my point.

The crisp lines and ink-pool silhouettes boast an elegance to match the eloquence of Azzarello’s pen. Risso’s shadows are even stronger than Miller’s in SIN CITY whilst Mulvihill has, throughout this series, balanced them with a warmth of colouring which, combined, makes for one of the most palpable atmospheres in comics. There are moments of explosive, balletic violence – more here perhaps than in any other book so far, for key characters are about to bite the desert dust – but they erupt from pages that are predominantly ominous and charged, as the dialogue dances between schemes and schemers who can look each other in the eye, lie through their teeth and grin while they’re doing so. Or, who knows? Maybe they’re telling the truth, or a truth, because the players are constantly taking the last speaker’s words and twisting them in their own personal direction.

Here are the remains of those Minutemen again:

“The deal The Trust struck with the rest of the world… Well, the world’s a lot smaller now.”
“And The Trust is a lot bigger. We live by the original contract. If we don’t… what are we?”
“About to break it.”

Azzarello’s characters do, of course, all possess more vocalised wit than humanly credible, with wordplay and power play galore, but that’s what makes this so hardboiled. It’s such a pleasure to see words dance in this deadly game of verbal fencing.

Everything about this series is serpentine – both coiled and deadly – so there’s no predicting where the layers of manipulation will lead, when the head will strike, or where it will strike. And sometimes the first strike is the decoy.

If you enjoyed our three Comicbook Of The Month choices, CRIMINAL, STRAY BULLETS and SILVERFISH, I recommend you now launch yourself into 100 BULLETS in the knowledge that it gets better and better and its reprints are almost complete. One more book to go!


Buy 100 Bullets book 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Ricardo Delgado.


Just when you thought it was safe to creep back into the Cretaceous shallows that lurk down the bottom of your tree-lined cul de sac if only you had the courage to leap over your neighbour’s fence and jump into their garden pond… *


The impeccably choreographed AGE OF REPTILES OMNIBUS of do-or-die dinosaur survivalism is a best-seller here. Who on earth doesn’t love dinosaurs?

These are all silent series for the dinosaurs are resolutely not anthropomorphised as they are in many recent family-friendly animations, but ferocious and vicious and if not malicious then at least more than capable of defending their territory whether they be predators or prey.

Size matters. Size splatters. And there is much to be said for safety in numbers.

All of which you will witness in this new graphic novel where there’s a lot less light and a lot more looming.

Gone on the whole are the arid plains and open, cerulean skies for very ancient Egypt wasn’t the desert you’re accustomed to but boasted many more trees (enormous), much more water and plenty of bloody big fish. There are two forewards on hand by outside experts to provide the geological and paleontological details, after which you’re left to fend for yourselves in a world which is teeming with life and indeed so much death that the pages in places become a blood-bath of angry red.

It stars a land-loving but equally subaquatic Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus. Imagine a crocodile but with longer legs and consequently greater agility but an equally considered, time-biding approach to getting what it wants most – food – while avoiding what it wants least: a crippling injury followed by death.

Our snaggle-toothed protagonist bears many scars suggesting that these are lessons learned through painful experience, but learned they most assuredly are.

Much of the first instalment is conveyed in slow and stealthy horizontal panels which are given a quick flick of movement in triangular fashion, whilst most of the epic this time comes in the form of the mighty weight of the vast herbivores rising up in numbers to bear down on our lone-roaming ronin.


Yes. Far from a pack hunter, this is a sole survivor.

Please see the first of Delgado’s four impassioned essays in the back in which he talks enlighteningly not about archaeology but about controversially coloured Westerns and the far from black and white films of Akira Kurosawa which inspired them.

* Your neighbour’s pond is indeed a trans-temporal gateway. You may claim that your neighbour has no pond – and so may they – but they do!


Buy Age Of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians and read the Page 45 review here

Aquila: Blood Of The Iceni (£18-99, Rebellion) by Gordon Rennie & Leigh Gallagher, Patrick Goddard…

“Raze Londinium. Burn it to the ground and piss on its ashes, as the Romans once did to Carthage. They will rebuild it, and send a legion… and then another one. And another one if need be… to punish and destroy you.”
“Is that why you’ve served the people who enslaved you and put you to the cross? Because you see no alternative to defying their power?”
“I have served them because killing is my stock in trade, and service in the legions of Rome is the quickest and easiest way to ply that trade.”

Originally published in three chunks over twenty-four 2000AD progs in 2012 and ’13, this is a bloody nasty bit of magic-infused, period mayhem set in the first century AD. For our main character, slave-turned-gladiator Aquila, it all starts over a century before that, though, with his part in the Spartacus-led revolt. Obviously we all know how that turned out, and Aquila was one of the six thousand rebels crucified right along the 132 miles of straight road between the cities of Capua and Rome. In his hour of need, however, upon the cross, he prayed to all the gods he knew for a swift demise. But whilst his prayers were answered, it wasn’t quite the salvation he expected that he received. Instead an inescapable immortal life of servitude awaited him, to Ammit the Devourer, to wreak destruction and death in his name.

After nearly 130 years of dispatching souls for the Devourer he’s unsurprisingly had enough of the bloodletting. So when he hears rumour that he might not be the only cursed immortal, invulnerable havoc-causer wandering around the battlefields of Europe, but that this one has slipped the mystical chains of his godly master, he decides to try and track him down. A certain Emperor of Rome, though, with a penchant for pyromania and stringed instruments, has designs of his own about not growing old gracefully and takes more than a passing interest in our long-lived chum…

Along the way even a certain Peter the Apostle makes an appearance, cropping up on the hit list of Nero and Aquila both! Oh and Queen Boudica who, quite understandably in my opening pull quote, is somewhat perplexed as to why Aquila would fight on behalf of those who nailed him to two planks of wood. She’s got a point, I feel. But when a man’s got to kill, a man’s got to kill. Particularly when there’ll be a certain demonical deity wanting to have a swift word if he starts coming over all soft and cuddly…

Ah, I did enjoy this mix of historical carnage and supernatural slaughter. Always nice to see something a bit different in the galaxy’s most zarjaz comic. I think Gordon Rennie has created a character here that will be reprised for several more story arcs yet. I mean yes, it’s arguably a variation on the Slaine-esque theme but when they totally done that particular character to death, what better to do than come up with an immortal alternative?! One for the followers of tartan-clad Mr. McRoth then certainly, but possibly also Miller’s 300 and Gillen’s THREE, I think. There’s sufficient historical content to elevate this well above a mere slashathon.

Suitably gritty art from Leigh Gallagher and Patrick Goddard which minded me of Darick THE BOYS Robinson in places. In fact this is exactly the sort of thing I could imagine Garth Ennis penning so if you’re a fan of his this might well be worth a look too.


Buy Aquila: Blood Of The Iceni and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader vol 2: Shadows And Secrets (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca…

“You guys are not team players.”
“Yeah, the wookie’s right, you better not have crossed us, Aphra.”
“Statement: you can’t hide from the bounty hunters.”
“Strictly speaking you can hide, it just tends to be ineffective. Running is statistically better, but only fractionally.”
“Comic murderous pedantry aside, the droid’s right. You all know I’ve got a fairly lax attitude to property rights, but do you think I’d cross four of the deadliest bounty hunters in the galaxy?”
“I think you’d think about it.”

Everyone in the galaxy seemingly has an opinion about the new Star Wars film. Most seem to run quite contrary to mine in that they wholeheartedly enjoyed it. My first, and still remaining thought, upon exciting the cinema was, why on Endor couldn’t they get a comic writer to do the script? Disappointed I was…

I mean, Gillen’s DARTH VADER has everything, absolutely everything I would want from a new STAR WARS yarn. An intricate, intriguing, interesting plot with more twists and turns than a womp rat scurrying for cover. Hilarious witty dialogue (right up there with Bendis in his pomp, I feel) that can raise a chuckle or make you shiver in trepidation in equal measure, from note-perfectly observed old characters but also delightful new creations alike.

His utterly selfish corsair Aphra and her psychopathic droid duo of Triple Zero and Beetee are simply brilliant, darkly reflecting Luke, C3PO and R2D2 in such an ironically twisted manner, I would dearly hope someone at Disney was paying sufficient enough attention to think, “You know what, let’s pinch them for a Darth Vader film.” Because no doubt surely there will be one at some point if they’re even making a young Han Solo flick… In fact, while Disney are at it, can they also get Kieron to write it, please?


Buy Darth Vader vol 2: Shadows And Secrets and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones: Pulse – The Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley, Brent Anderson, Michael Lark, Michael Gaydos, Olivier Coipel.

JESSICA JONES: ALIAS volumes one to four constitute the finest comic series Marvel has ever published. It is the story of a brilliant woman trapped in a self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing and self-destruction with a beginning, middle and oh so satisfying end.

Essentially a detective series with some of the deftest dialogue in any comics genre, it’s packed with anti-establishment attitude and thoroughly cathartic. It has very little to do with costumed fisticuffs and I commend it to almost all of you heartily, no matter what else you’re currently reading. Each book has been reviewed and praised to the heavens with zero spoilers.

Although there are several chapters here with ALIAS artist Michael Gaydos back on board which reprise the heart and spirit of the old title here – specifically when Jessica is introduced by Carol Danvers to Sue Storm and they do lunch (so, so good!) – this is not that, and I do believe the grotesquely twee, airbrushed cover says it all.


With one wince-worthy exception written over a decade ago I try to avoid spoilers. Even if I’m reviewing the fourth volume of a series, it’s essentially a sales pitch to new readers for the first book (if, you know, I love it) with some new angle to keep those already on board guessing.

Here I’m out of options so please, please read the whole of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS before you read this review.


I’m not even kidding you. Go away!

The first third of this has an identity crisis. It’s not sure if it’s a Spider-book or not. Jessica didn’t appear on a single one of its covers and with Gaydos unavailable Bendis brought in Mark Bagely, his artistic partner on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. I love what Bagley did there. He was perfect for what was a teenage-centric book, but here he makes formerly nuanced and ragged adult characters look like toy dolls.

Many writers are either inspired by their co-creators or write specifically for them. I know Bendis does, but here his trade-mark witty staccato banter, caught in the conflicting sensibilities, becomes a juddered mess of awkward exposition. I can hear it being typed, which is a no-no.


Seriously, just because I haven’t spoiled anything yet, I’m about to with the very next sentence not just for this book but for the whole of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS.

Now that Jessica is pregnant her priority is medical insurance. Self-employment as a private detective won’t provide that so she accepts a gig from J. Jonah Jameson as a columnist for the Daily Bugle, making reporter Ben Urich her partner and co-star along with boyfriend Luke Cage, the prospective father of her child. But just as she does so a fellow female reporter ends up dead in the water, having followed up one lead too many that takes her to Osborn Enterprises, home to the Green Goblin. Yeah.

The second sequence is a vast improvement, thanks partly to GOTHAM CENTRAL’s Michael Lark and ASTRO CITY’s Brent Anderson. The art is much more grounded, the characters very much a part of their environment which is about to become very uncomfortable. A superb evocation of frustration, fear and bewilderment, I’d recommend you read this in advance of Bendis and Dell’Otto’s SECRET WAR (singular, not plural – and it ties in directly) so that, being equally out of the loop, you can empathise with Jessica’s traumatised isolation and helplessness.

For here, in a split second, she finds a woman at her window, her apartment torn apart and her boyfriend blown into a coma. Because of Luke’s unbreakable skin surgeons find it impossible to operate. Then the terrorists strike again – this time at the hospital. The Emergency entrance becomes the emergency… and Luke Cage goes missing.

What do the terrorists want? Why are they doing this? What does it have to do with Luke’s past involvement with Nick Fury, and why will nobody – not even her employers at The Bugle nor her ex-boyfriend at S.H.I.E.L.D. – help her? It’s complete and utter carnage and – I would remind you – Jessica is pregnant. Everything about this book is about the baby.

The final instalment brings back Gaydos and everything feels right with the world again.

If Andi Watson’s LITTLE STAR was all about being a Dad, this is the closest thing in comics I can think of to being a pregnant Mum of the verge of giving birth. In a world where Dr. Strange is going to deliver your baby, sure, but the lunch with Sue Richards offering Jessica insight as to what to expect from motherhood was right on the money and written from experience.

Look this space, dappled light and shadow! I’d eat anywhere drawn by Michael Gaydos.

“Well, I’ll give you the good news… The good news is that once you’re a mom, all this energy you spend on yourself, all that self-involvement…”
“I have self-involvement?”
“The second your baby’s born… it’s all gone. It’s this huge weight – [to waiter:] thank you – this huge weight that you didn’t even know was there… and it’s lifted right off you. It’s such a relief. And that energy you used to put on yourself… now it’s all directed right at her. It’s all on her now. All of you is on her. The bad news is that it’s a horror movie that never ends. Just terrifying. Caring for a child. Just terrifying. I know you don’t want to hear this, but it is – it’s terrifying.”
“Because you can’t control so much of it. They fall down and split their lip — ugh. The boo-boos. They’re fine in five minutes. Me? I have to lie down for the rest of the afternoon. Oh my god! And — and you have to let them fall down. You have to. It’s life. It’s learning. It’ll kill you, but you have to.”
“Your kids have… powers.”
“Had. Yes.”
“Are you scared?”
“Oh my children? No.”
“Of what then…”
“Screwing them up?”
“Of course! But not because they have powers or because we’re superheroes… it’s because… Listen, you are talking to someone who has read every baby book written on this planet, and a few from other ones… no joke. And all I learned is this: There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only love and — and guidance and kissing the boo-boos. And you can do everything right… and they still might grow up to put on a big frog costume and jump around the city.”

Quite. If you wrap kids in cotton wool, you end up with the eponymous star of PERCY GLOOM.

The final chapters run with the first exploration in detail of “What if a woman with superpowers gave birth? What would that really involve?” and it’s done with careful consideration. Then Luke does something markedly un-Luke-like and it’s brilliant.



Buy Jessica Jones: Pulse – The Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

A Girl On The Shore (£13-99, Random House / Vertical) by Inio Asano

Cerebus vol 3: Church & State I (Remastered Edition) (£25-99, Aadvark Vanaheim Inc.) by Dave Sim

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Nemo Trilogy (Slipcase Edition) (£26-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 11 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Shutter vol 3: Quo Vadis (£10-99, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Southern Cross vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Becky Cloonan & Andy Belanger

Starve vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj

War Stories vol 3 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Matt Martin, Keith Burns, Tomas Aira

Hellblazer vol 12: How To Play With Fire (£14-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins, Garth Ennis & Warren Pleece, John Higgins

Death Of Wolverine s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 1 (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & various

Flash vol 6: Out Of Time s/c (£12-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth

Flash vol 7: Savage World h/c (£16-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth

Guardians Team-up vol 2: Unlikely Story s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by various

Star Wars vol 2: Showdown On The Smugglers Moon (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Simone Bianchi, Stuart Immonen

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 2: Fractures (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison & Brian Williamson, Mariano Laclaustra

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 31-33 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Youth Is Wasted (£10-99, Adhouse Books) by Noah Van Sciver

Baltimore vol 6: The Cult Of The Red King h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Peter Bergting

Judge Dredd: Dark Justice h/c (£14-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Greg Staples

Batman: Detective Comics vol 6: Icarus s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 7: Last Call s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell & Geraldo Borges, various

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 3 (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker, Mike Deodato, Mike Mayhew

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 4 (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker, Mike Deodato, Dalibor Talajic

Darth Vader vol 2: Shadows And Secrets (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

Tokyo Ghoul vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Souleater Not! Vol 4 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo


 Yippee! Philippa Rice’s SOPPY ‘s back in print! Dear Jodie!

ITEM! For fans of Allie Brosh HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, I give you Sarah Burgess’ beautifully observed, empathy-filled and organically structured single-page comic on a pattern / cycle of behaviour you may find very familiar!

ITEM! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s stellar Kieron Gillen on writing comics from story idea to finished script.

ITEM! Announced: Colleen Doran to adapt Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge to comics – Colleen’s own comments.

ITEM! Broken Frontier’s Comic Awards 2015. Who gone won the day?

ITEM! BOXERS & SAINTS’ Gene Luen Yang, the Library Of Congress’ National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature picks five graphic novels, each of which is stocked by Page 45. Please pop ‘em in our search engine!

ITEM! Article on10 comics which the Comibook Legal Defence Fund was forced to defend from censorship in America, so-called Land of the Free.

ITEM! Damien Walter on the women-hating, thumb-sucking menchildren in comics and games fandom. Let us counter this phenomenon with the wit-ridden wonder that is OffWorld games journalism.

ITEM! This a graphic novel, not an art book! It comes with a ltd ed signed bookplate and it looks pretty complex! THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE by Sonny Liew coming soon. Paul Gravett interviews Sonny Liew himself and previews the graphic novel.

ITEM! Lastly, did you see the comics car-crash that was Angoulême this week?

Grand Prix d’Angoulême 2016 lifetime achievement award shortlist featured 30 nominees, all of ‘em blokes, then Franck Bondoux responded to criticism with “Unfortunately there are few women in the history of comics.”

Which is rubbish, obviously. I can’t recall how many tweets I expended, listing female comic creators off the top of my head, but ugh!!!

The Angoulême car-crash continued….

…threatening to become a multiple pile-up…

ITEM! Typically PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH’s Sarah McIntyre responded to Angoulême with a huge, constructive, empowering resource encouraging more people – women and men – to make comics.

Well done, Sarah!

 – Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2016 week one

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I Love This Part (£8-50, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tillie Walden.

It’s my favourite part.

“Can we ever tell anybody?”
“Probably not.”

Simple, subtle, sublime.

Two girls share experiences, confide in each other and reassure each other gently.

They explore landscapes together, looking out, over or nestling within them. This is the sweet languor of youth when you still have time to rest supine and stare at the sky up above you.

There’s an intimacy right from the start in the way they inhabit those landscapes, absorbing a song, one ear-bud each, or crouched under a duvet in front of a laptop with a night-time cityscape rising behind them, its tiny, square, skyscraper windows brightly lit while their monumental silhouettes stand out, crisp and bold, against white and purple-tinged clouds.

“I got an ipod Shuffle once for Hanukkah and it really stressed me out that I never knew what song was next.”

That made me smile. It’s true, isn’t it, that we enjoy the segue from one song to another on an album we love, subconsciously anticipating what we know will come next as the final chords on the current one fade or when it concludes in a blistering crescendo? It’s the same with any mix-tape you’ve made.

So here’s the thing: the story is told in single-panel pages and if the landscapes are so often majestic – mountains, canyons, valleys – then the two girls are equally epic and so completely at one with them.

Their positioning is perfect and the sense of scale is breathtaking. Tillie Walden already demonstrated an adoration of Windsor McCay’s LITTLE NEMO in THE END OF SUMMER; here she takes that influence and makes of it something uniquely her own. Winsor thought like this, but he never did this. There’s also that dreamlike comfort to it. Or at least there is to begin with.

Initially each full-page panel features both girls in synch, either side by side or opposite each other, but then there’s a brief falling-out over a photo uploaded onto social media without the expressed consent of the other. It’s still gentle and the kindness – the reassurance – remains. But there follows a telling page in which they’re no longer completely as one but staring in different directions and, oh, the art is exquisite as one girl’s swimsuit hugs tight while the other’s dress billows carefree in a breeze.

Gradually there encroach pages in which only one or neither girl features, silence falls and texting begins instead.

Never forever, I promise you, for this is far from linear but it’s in marked contrast to what went before when their relationship morphs as they tentatively explores new territories, not necessarily successfully.

Aaaaaand we’re still only a fraction of a way in.

The comic’s not long but it’s still substantial, begging you to linger and rewarding you if you do.

It’s fiercely well observed with incredible understanding and empathy but without demanding you recognise that, for so much is left to be said by the silences. I’m in awe of that confidence. And if it isn’t confidence then it’s one massive leap of faith in an approach which is an unequivocal success.

I could type ten more paragraphs precisely proving in which ways Walden has achieved that – I honestly could – but I’m here to intrigue you to discover the rest for yourselves rather present evidence for my assertions once again for the university examining board.

That’s part-relief, part-frustration but if I’m invited back onto the panel of judges for the British Comics Awards 2016 then they’ll get that dissertation, in full, later this year.

I love that part.


Buy I Love This Part and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Benidis & Michael Gaydos with Mark Bagley, Rick Mays.

This is it.

This the big pay-off, the climax and conclusion to JESSICA JONES: ALIAS, the finest series Marvel has ever published. Why has Jessica Jones, private investigator, been wandering around from bar to bar drinking whatever she can lay her hands on and fucking whoever will have her? Why is she caught in this self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing?

It’s far from simple or straightforward. It’s not a single event but a conglomeration of blows upon bruises which began in childhood. But yes, there was one final, painfully extended trauma which tipped the scales right over and it’s finally going to come out.

“Young maiden of Midgard, thy language leaves something to be desired.”

Oh dear. Jessica’s has just thrown up all over Thor’s yellow boots. Well, I say “just” but that was back in her teens after she first found out she could fly. But not very well. She came splashing down in the Hudson River and almost ended up drowning. Hence throwing up on those boots.

Now: she’s woken up once again in a strange bed with a chronic hangover.

“Where the fuck am I? Seriously. Where the fuck – I have no idea where I – ah! Fffgod damn it! Where are my clothes?
“Oohh… Please tell me I didn’t fuck someone I don’t know.”

It’s then that she spots the man’s enormous, familiar, trademark yellow shirt.

“Shit. Seriously, shit.”

Way back in JESSICA JONES ALIAS VOL 1 she ended up shagging Luke Cage: one more drunken misdemeanour in a succession of many before and since. Thing is, Luke was an adult about it; Jessica wasn’t. Thing is, Jones is now supposed to be dating Scott Lang. And the final thing is, she doesn’t seem overly keen about it… or on him.

“You up?”
“Hey Luke…”
“You can’t be my sidekick if that’s what the shirt’s about.”
“Should I even ask where my clothes are or what I am doing here?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Luke, please…”
“It was some wild shit. We had a big freak on. You gang-banged the New Warriors and then –“

Jessica gives him the evil eye. I love Michael Gaydos’ art – it’s so expressive. In a single, subtly nuanced expression you can see her not finding that remotely funny, albeit she has no moral high ground to stand on.

“Do you remember calling me?”
“Clearly: no.”
“You don’t remember calling me drunk out of your fucking mind and telling me that I’m not half the man Matt Murdock is and that I could go fuck myself?”
“Oh man…”
“Yeah. And then, about fifteen minutes later or so, you flew into my window and crashed into my fridge.”

Exhibit A: a seriously trashed window. Exhibit B: a severely dented fridge. Guilty as charged.

Luke was a gentleman last night and, once more this morning, he is a complete but no-nonsense adult about it. And she was doing so well. She hadn’t had a drink in quite some time. So what made her come undone?

It was a job: a job involving a callously, carelessly but still calculatingly manipulative bastard whom she had prior history with. Oh, our Jessica is far from a pushover and decides to face up to her past in order to lay it to rest while helping others and finally get some closure. But I’m afraid it doesn’t go well.


I cannot begin to tell you how well written – how well structured – and how well drawn this all is. Bendis takes what was once a relatively throwaway, c-list supervillain whose specific ability had been used previously by other writers as little more than a plot-point for pugilism and makes of it the most horrific essay in emotional abuse. And then he plays with it, and – in doing so – allows the playa to play a little longer too. There’s no fourth wall breach here but there is the illusion of it as cast so jauntily by the self-involved, egomaniacal wretch himself.

Before you get anywhere near that, however, this volume opens with two whole chapters of flashbacks far further into Jessica’s past than you would have anticipated – into to her teen years at High School. Initially it looks like an improbable, throwaway joke tying in to not one but two major superheroes’ established – *gasp* – secret origins. The art there is a delicious, delirious, accomplished and apposite evocation of Steve Ditko for the extended cast and of romance-era Jack Kirby for Jessica Jones herself. As time passes and Jessica ages the style morphs closer and closer to Gaydos’ own.

Additionally there are some hilariously bouffant, Farah Fawcett hairdos.

So when the first real trauma which will catalyse so much of the deep-seated guilt kicks in, you will be watching it as incredulously as any catastrophe you can think of. Then you can see young Jones beginning to build those insurmountable walls brick by godawful brick.

Then we return to the present; then we return to the really nasty shit.

But, do you know what? Way back when I promised you a journey and I promised you a miracle. Not a Deus Ex Machina, but a brilliant, broad beam of hope.

And – with subtle foreshadowing but subsequent misdirection – Brian Michael Bendis typically leaves it until the very last minute. What a lovely, lovely man.

Unlike almost every Marvel Comic series which quite rightfully has its specific sort of fans, I recommend this almost unequivocally to the Real Mainstream – the average person on the street who enjoys non-genre, contemporary fiction – so long as you’re over fifteen.


Buy Jessica Jones: Alias vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

The Abaddon (£18-99, Z2 Comics) by Koren Shadmi.

Coloured in a wan and sickly combination of conjunctival red and pale, broad-bean green, this really is my idea of Hell. It’s suspiciously close to many a bad dream I’ve endured before.

The closest nightmare in comics I can conjure up is Si Spencer & DIX’s KLAXON: things are eaten which should not be eaten and the neighbours aren’t very nice.

Let’s get ‘Abaddon’ out of the way first: in Hebrew terms it’s a bottomless pit and Koren Shadmi has successfully created just such an eternal, cyclical torture. It’s also something else, but that might constitute spoilers.

The opening page is a cracker: a man knocks on a green door, wondering what lies behind it.

It’s a surprisingly well appointed and spacious living room populated by tenants who seem quite agreeable even if every single name has been hideously abbreviated to Shel, Vic, Bet and Nor. Even our protagonist’s called Ter. It’s as if no one can remember the second syllables. Certainly our man Ter with the bandaged head can’t remember much of who he is or why he’s here except in search of lodgings. The room Bet shows him is far less palatial: cramped with cracked walls and a single bed, its ceiling is one of those horrible whorled-plaster affairs and the overhead light won’t switch off.

On the other hand, when he asks how much the rent is, Bet replies, “Oh, we’re very flexible, whatever you can pay is fine. We don’t even have a lease here as far as I know.”

It seems too good to be true.


Because it is.

Without giving too much away the publisher does mention that this is loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Huis Clos’, a play whose various English translations (Behind Closed Doors’ or ‘No Exit’, ‘Dead End’) all fit the bill. But it’s only that scenario they have in common, so I’d say more “inspired by” than “based on” – there’s not a great deal of existentialism going down.

Instead after hostilities open with a startling non-bluff by Vic, Ter finds himself trapped in an apartment of mismatched flatmates constantly in conflict for he finds that he cannot leave. The apartment door is locked and not only is there no key, there’s no keyhole. It only opens when Bern comes calling and no one except Ter seems remotely interested in leaving or the fact that there is no way out. There are not clocks, either, and things have a habit of resetting themselves, so maybe the lack of consequences is some sort of comment on existentialism after all.

Oh, and the windows are all bricked up.

That’s only the set-up and the set-up of the first act at that. I haven’t even mention the substantial side-bar when Ter’s memories slowly return.

I’m not quite sure what the fly motif as all about, but there’s a real spirit of decay about the place. Stuff starts oozing out of cracked piping which Nor then sculpts to please Shel who’s far more interested in vamp-like Bet and because of the colouring when Bet begins to bathe in a free-standing bath the water is as red and gloopy as the ooze – it might even be the same stuff.

Like KLAXON this made me feel queasy and thoroughly unsettled. I don’t want to read it again, thanks!


Buy The Abaddon and read the Page 45 review here

Low Moon (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

The Things We Do For Love.

Finally it’s back! Coming in at over 200 full-colour pages, this was at the time Jason’s thickest work to date: 200 pages of thwarted passion and murderous intent divided into five stories of varying degrees of absurdity. Jason is a master of suspense, building expectation with repetition and unanswered questions as his anthropomorphic black and white bears and beaked ones solemnly go about their business, their expressions seldom giving anything away. Wide-eyed and often clueless yet determined, half of them are dapper but a surprising number are dowdy. It’s comedic enough in itself.

‘Emily Says Hello’ sees an awkward suitor murder a series of men for a skinny woman in exchange for an escalation of sexual favours only to experience the ultimate in anticlimax.

‘Low Moon’ takes place in a West which is so very far from Wild that its inhabitants are more likely to die of ennui than anything else. Their equivalent of duelling is a game of Extreme Chess as Bob McGill returns to town for a rematch, bringing with him some killer moves.

The incongruities may make you smile.

‘&’ follows two separate stories on opposite sides of the page as one man takes to crime in order to pay for his mother’s operation, whilst another persists in trying to obtain his loved one’s hand in marriage whatever the barriers.

The comedy is ratcheted up each time the same process is repeated in accelerating fashion, Jason employing the shorthand of eliminating increasingly unnecessary panels just as he does in ‘Proto Film Noir’.  There the adulterous lovers’ persistence in successfully offing the woman’s husband each day is matched only by the husband’s insistence on returning home each morning for breakfast, delighted at the prospect of another sunny day in the garden. So predictable does this become to them that when a policeman calls in search of the victim after another grisly deed, they confidently tell him to come back in the morning.

Lastly I can assure you that ‘You Are Here’ only sounds familiar because it’s the title of a Kyle Baker graphic novel, and not to be confused with another Jason book, YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE, whose name alone still causes me much mirth.


Buy Low Moon and read the Page 45 review here

Buttertubs (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Donya Todd.

“Boo hoo” sobs a spoiled little madam, high up in here castellated tower.

“Sob sob sob,” she boo hoo hoos.

I don’t know why, she lives in Pretty Land above the Sparkle Sea beyond the comparative dowdy Plain Plains. Oh wait, no she doesn’t – that’s where Princess Puppy known to her friends as PeePee lives, and she’s throwing a party. Unfortunately I think the stomping stroppy thing has had her invitation nabbed by the Hotdog Queen and “It’s not bloody fair!”

“Oh hush ya royal little wibble shit!”

Yes, just in case you were taken in by pretty cover and the equally colourful My Little Pony pageantry inside, the weenie witch Hotdog Queen sure has a potty mouth and there’s going to be a race through this bizarre, fantastical quagmire of danger to see who’ll get to the party first: the sweary one and her flying pet Booboo or Hester and her friction-free Buttertubs.


Buttertubs, you see, is a great big ball of butter-blubber, constantly dripping and slipping and sliding all over the place. On the very first page it’s clearly too close to the camp fire on which Hester’s having an eggs and sausage fry up.

I can actually smell the black, soporific clouds of fatty fumes floating above the frying pan, and I can almost feel the greasy sweet-sweat being constantly exuded by Buttertubs.

I’m not sure what else to tell you. It’s all very loud and very energetic with thunder, lightning and mustard rain, plus the most enormously dilated pupils and weird, floppy fronds filling the pages to what must surely be maximum capacity.


Buy Buttertubs and read the Page 45 review here

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

From seven or so years ago, this was a much better title for this than the original CHOSEN as will become apparent only at the end.

“Can I ask you something, Father?”
“Of course you can. That’s what I’m here for, right?”
“Nah, you’ll just think I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t even be here. My mom and dad aren’t even Catholics.”
“Well, neither’s Muhammad Ali, but I’d still give him five minutes of my precious time. Just tell me what you want to know.”
“Do you think it’s possible I’m the returned Jesus Christ?”

Jodie’s a normal kid who’s been living the normal life a normal kid does – comics, salvaged porn and average grades at school. Then one day a truck careers off a bridge and lands right on top of his noggin, but Jodie walks away without a scratch – just a fresh fluency in any known language, an intuitive understanding of all forms of science and a complete encyclopaedia of history on tap in his head.


When his mother tells him she’s never had sex, he begins to entertain the idea that he’s the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, as do many of those around him with the emphatic exception of the local priest. As the priest explains, it’s common for people Jodie’s age to think they’re a little different, especially after they’ve survived some sort of accident. It’s tempting to give in to grandiose presumptions of being special. Tempting, and dangerous.


Gross keeps suburban life real, whilst Millar keeps the suspense simmering, exploring what a young boy like Jodie might make of the situation. I loved the extended comparison Jodie comes up with between the Bible Testaments and the Star Wars Trilogy. Not only does it work, it’s just what a kid might do if they were suddenly that bright. As for what’s really at work, well, Jodie’s thirty-three as he looks back at these difficult days, so he’s evidently come to terms with how things have turned out.

One way, or the other…


Buy American Jesus and read the Page 45 review here

Planet Hulk: Warzones s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Marc Laming.

In which I talk about the tradition of Marvel monster comics and their long-established place in Hulk’s hefty history. Oh yeah, I know stuff.

But for the moment, seldom has an artist filled every conceivable inch on the page with big, bold forms without it for one second feeling cluttered or crowded.

And that’s what you want from a HULK comic: big, bold forms! Especially when there are multiple Hulks of so many sizes, hues and varying degrees of semi-sentience. Regardless of whether or not they’re given dialogue, each is imbued by our monkey Marc with a distinct personality, some even less friendly than others. I’ll be back with you in a second…

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and almost everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances. This Battleworld was divided into kingdoms or Warzones between which trespass was strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys, ****** ****** *** ****. Let’s play Hang Man, shall we? It wouldn’t be inapposite.

SECRET WARS, then, was the central title around which were launched satellite series like this, most of which focussed on a distinct kingdom or zone to which the curiously titled WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN VOL 00: WARZONES! proved a hitch-hiker’s guide because Logan can’t even spell ‘verboten’. Here an incursion is actually authorised – but by whom? Who is it sitting there scowling implacably on his throne? He’s a lot less loquacious than usual, I’ll tell you.

As the comic commences a blonde warrior called The Captain is hailed as victor in the latest Killiseum combat tournament transmitted throughout Battleworld. Huge jubilation to the non-existent rafters etc.

His chain-mail, cloth and leather garb combo is a fusion of warrior-race soldiers many moons ago, although its icons and arrangement are strangely reminiscent of a certain Steve Rogers. He has triumphed with the aid of an axe, a star-striped shield and a bellicose, bi-pedal, Cretaceous-era chappie whom we’ll simply call Tall, Red And Toothsome.

Recognise him, anyone?

The Captain’s not done this for fame; he’s not done it for fortune. He’s done if for information about his missing companion, Bucky, and for this single moment when the vainglorious master of ceremonies, Arcade, strides forth to commend his accomplishment and when Steve Rogers springs his trap which is ready and waiting and right by his side. When you realise where Arcade’s been imprisoned, I promise you will roar with laughter!

What does any of this have to do with multiple Hulks? They’re subsisting in a barbaric environment similar to the original PLANET HULK, ruled by the Red Hulk and under attack by the Hammers of God whom we call Thors. According to ****** ****** *** **** this is where The Captain will find his companion. Now why do you think he would impart this much-prized information to someone who has royally pissed him off?

Sam Humphries provides lies, treachery and slights of hand and a Captain America who’s wracked with guilt and goaded by Doc Green into getting in touch with his gamma side. I did wonder why but I shouldn’t have doubted – I just didn’t see that particular twist coming.

But the big draw for me was the art. As he proved in KINGS WATCH Laming’s sense of scale is jaw-dropping and here he has delivered something long lacking from Marvel: a truly monumental monster comic! That’s what classic HULK tales under the late, great Herb Trimpe were always about.

They were the comicbook equivalent of Godzilla movies: the military versus the monsters. General Talbot Ross and his cronies supplied the former while the latter came in all shapes and sizes (but basically big) from familiar Marvel villains like The Rhino, The Juggernaut and Wendigo to tailor-made gamma-goons like the Abomination and the Harpy. Finally there were the really off-the-wall – literally, in the case of the Hulk’s shadow. Yes, even the Hulk’s shadow couldn’t be depended upon for loyalty. It was also a case of crossed wires when it came to Zzzax, the big ball of humanoid electrical fizz/ fuzz who spoke like he had a mouth full of wasps.

“Zzzax feedzz on energy from humanzzz’ brainzz!”

Zzzaz was a zombie. He must be the only zombie who ever got that apostrophe right.

Muck-monsters like the Glob and the Man-Thing were a staple diet in HULK comics, but for sheer quantity in a single story you couldn’t beat THE INCREDIBLE HULK KING-SIZE ANNUAL #5. There the terrifying bundle of white fluff known as Xemnu had replicated aliens from the old TALES FROM SUSPENSE and WHERE MONSTERS DWELL like Groot, the talking tree trunk (oh yes, he’s not new) and Blip – although given that he was from the junior generation, I guess he was just a minor Blip.

Then came Goom and Taboo and Diablo:

“Hulk has never seen smoke-thing before — why does smoke-thing want to kill Hulk?”

It’s on every packet of 20, you viridian vacuum!

But I digress (as Peter David used to say).

This is a monster comic. That’s what HULK comics were and I’d be bloody delighted if that’s what they became once again. As long as Marc Laming or someone like David Finch is on board.

I laugh heartily at the very idea that I may once more be able to bellow: “I am Taboo!”


Buy Planet Hulk: Warzones s/c 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.

There will be more here on Thursday. Yes, Thursday which is New Comics Day this week once again for reasons we cannot possibly fathom!

Revival vol 6: Thy Loyal Sons & Daughters (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton, Jenny Frison

Superior Iron Man vol 1: Infamous s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Yildiray Cinar, Laura Braga

Silver Surfer  vol 3: Last Days s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Michael Allred

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 4 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

Copra Round Three s/c (£14-99, Bergen Street Press) by Michel Fiffe

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Aquila: Blood Of The Iceni (£18-99, 2000AD) by Gordon Rennie & Patrick Goddard, Leigh Gallagher

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 6 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Fairy Tail Ice Trail vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Yuusuke Shirato & Hiro Mashima

Die Wergelder vol 1 (£14-99, Kodansha Comics) by Hiroaki Samura

Uncanny X-Men vol 5: The Omega Mutant s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles Book Two: Primordial h/c (£16-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & Simon Davies

Judge Dredd Casefiles 26 (£19-99, 2000AD) by John Wagner, Mark Millar, various & John Burns, Henry Flint, various


will return next week once I am sober. Thank yoooooooooooo!

– Stephen