Archive for February, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2016 week four

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Includes Jacky Fleming’s The Trouble With Women!

The Fade Out vol 3 (£9-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.


“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”

That’s Charlie and Gil through and through. But it’s not a film script for Victory Street Pictures that they’ve co-written wrong – it’s their lives, now spiralling out of control and careening head-on into traffic.

Prime period crime from the creators of CRIMINAL and FATALE, set in the city of secrets and lies, this is third and final volume of THE FADE OUT. Just look at those three covers arranged together, just as they are in our window drawing in completely new crowds to comics! It doesn’t get much more mainstream than this. The design is impeccable, the logos drowning in blood, cold water then absinthe-green.

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I reviewed the first two volumes of THE FADE OUT extensively, covering the spectacular light and non-local colour, and the fantasy of Hollywoodland: the writing and the acting and the myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious, but at Victory Street Pictures they’re all of them at it, even screenwriter Charlie.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Charlie woke up in a bungalow in Studio City built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there was a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminded him of a smile, the smile led to a face, and that face belonged to the woman lying dead on the living room floor. It was Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s been working on, strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie began to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio embarked on: they made out it was suicide and it’s made Charlie sick to the stomach. As for Gil – Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer – he’s still very angry indeed.

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After attacking the mystery from separate angles behind each others’ backs, they now believe they’re close to piecing together what happened from Valeria’s past involvement as a child actress with one of the studio’s co-founders, and their alcohol-addled obsession is going to lead to some extreme, hasty and ill-thought-out action.

Studio spin-mistress Dottie tries to save Charlie from digging his own literal or career grave, but he simply won’t listen. In his tunnel vision he can only see one light, even if he doesn’t know what that light looks like. Briefly he found a respite, a calm sea alongside Valeria’s replacement, Maya Silver, but now….

“Jesus, Charlie… Do you even see me at all?”

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And he doesn’t. Shirt covered in blood, he’s not even looking at the woman who’s risked all to give him sanctuary. Her pain, her disappointment and her worry is exquisitely delineated in a single expression by Phillips. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes.

There’s some similarly subtle work when Gil’s wife, Melba, glances back at Charlie with equal anxiety after he’d been discharged from hospital after the war, bits of him missing inside.

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The couple take him in, and it’s in this recollection that so much about the two writers’ relationship is explained.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead.

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As to Brubaker, I challenge anyone to see what’s coming. None of us did here but we all agree that it was perfect. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. As I said, there have been bits of him missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”

For far, far more on the craft, please see previous reviews of THE FADE OUT which is now complete.


Buy The Fade Out vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

The Trouble With Women h/c (£9-99, Square Peg) by Jacky Fleming.

“Darwin’s friend and colleague George Romanes said although women were the losers intellectually, having five ounces less brain, they were better at soft furnishings and disappointment.

“Which was fortunate.”

I howled with laughter throughout this book whose deadpan delivery is enhanced with immaculate timing, the two paragraphs above separated by the beat of an illustration. In this case it’s a woman weeping with frustration at male hegemony throughout history, men’s crushing refusal to acknowledge any female accomplishment whatsoever and their inarguably superior capacity for patronising dismissiveness.

Or maybe it was just that time of the month.

It’s essentially a ridicule of the ridiculous, a very real history of male oppression, insanity and hypocrisy, cooking anything up to keep women in the kitchen and stitch the more privileged into leading a life of needlework bliss.

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There are also bits which are made up. Which is scandalous. I suspect that the author’s a woman.

But most of this is entirely true. Quite often men are left to be damned by their own words, actions or both. There’s nothing quite as admirable as practising what you preach:

“Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Restless Genius of the Enlightenment and keen flasher, said girls needed to be thwarted from an early age, so that their natural role in pleasing men would come more naturally to them. He put his own children in an orphanage to thwart them.”

You can tell that Rousseau is a genius by his genius hair. This was something women lacked, observed great philosopher Schopenhauer, which “proved them incapable of any truly great or original achievement in art, or in anything at all”. It’s this intense level of cause-and-effect scientific study which has also proved men’s infinitely more meticulous minds.

In a genius stroke to dissuade advancement by follicular folly, “Women with genius hair risked being put in asylums, as it was seen as a sign of mental instability” – which seems reasonable and consistent. Caveat coiffure.

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Women’s innate physical disadvantages when vying for artistic accomplishment are well documented, so we shouldn’t expect much of them anyway.

“Women found lifting a pen very tiring as it caused chlorosis which disrupted blood flow and in some case led to uterine prolapse.
“Or was that the corsets?”

It was probably the corsets.

“Even if corsets did prevent breathing, women collapsed without them, so not wearing one wasn’t an option.”

Many are the recurring jokes, each successively funnier than the last, and there’s little more mirth-making in any comedy routine (like Eddie Izzard’s) than a gag in its own right which is then left well alone only to be brought back as a punchline much later on and completely out of the blue.

It’s better still when that punchline is left un-signposted, in this instance by making it entirely visual. No, I can’t tell you which one or it wouldn’t come out of the blue.

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I’m not sure whether Fleming used a pen or a brush to fashion these Victorian images which have a tremendous physicality to them, keenly demonstrating the restrictions women faced when attempting anything as unladylike as sport, but lifting either implement for this length of time must have left the poor dear exhausted. Maybe she now has man-hands and is therefore a step closer to becoming clever or a coalminer.

According to FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND’s Simone Lia:

“Fleming is a genius but with normal hair.”

Which explains quite a lot. I’m afraid I have to agree.


Buy The Trouble With Women h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Midnight Giant s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Winner of the British Comics Award 2012 in the best Young Readers category as judged by Leeds schoolchildren, this is its first time in softcover.

Oh, the sheer wonder of it all! That’s what you need to light up the eyes and fire up the minds of young readers: wonder, surprise and a protagonist o’er-brimming with an insatiable curiosity. Plucky young Hilda’s is infectious!

Living out in the wilds in a craggy valley surrounded by mountains, Hilda and her mother have recently and quite unexpectedly come under siege from the Hidden People. They’ve never spotted one and have no idea where they live, but this is their sixth little letter this week! And, oh dear, it’s yet another demand for mother and daughter to up sticks and leave the valley for good! But when Hilda posts a note of her own asking them to leave her alone, their home is bombarded by stones, their books seem to rip themselves to shreds and it’s almost too much for Mum. Hilda, however, is undaunted. She’s determined to discover who these tiny terrorists are, why they’re so suddenly up in arms and see if she can’t set things straight. Of course, there’s also the question of the vast silhouette that has loomed into view. Bigger than the nearest mountain, its eerie black body blocks out the stars, its white eyes silently scanning the horizon as if in search of something…

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From the creator of SOME PEOPLE, EVERYTHING WE MISS, and the previous and subsequent HILDA books, this a breath-takingly beautiful book, its midnight blues as rich in colour as the daylight scenes. There’s more than a dash of Jordan Crane’s THE CLOUDS ABOVE to the floating Woofs migrating across the sky like fluffy, wide-eyed, long-tailed tadpoles, while the giant is pure Tom Gauld.

But there’s one monumental page on which the Midnight Giant fills the frame from head to toe, bent on one knee whose composition – you may laugh – instantly reminded me of Bryan Hitch’s Giant Man during his first growth spurt in ULTIMATES VOLUME ONE! The pink glow on the horizon is a golden touch.

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There are some great gags that seem to spring spontaneously from the cartooning, while others are stored up for later with exquisite timing (you’ll love the infestation of nittens!), plus a tea joke that’s still making me smile three years later. Hilda herself is a model of inquisitiveness, resolve and resourcefulness, the plight of the Midnight Giant is truly touching, and adults will groan with recognition at the real reason behind the Hidden People’s sudden animosity. Above all, though, it’s the wonder of it all which will fill many a subsequent dream, so highly recommended to people of all sizes: no height restrictions at all.


Buy Hilda And The Midnight Giant s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doom Patrol Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case, John Nyberg, Doug Braithwaite, others.

A wit-ridden, language-loving psycho-hero series of continual metamorphosis, this whopping 424-page collection contains both CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE and THE PAINTING WHICH ATE PARIS.

“What do normal people have in their lives?”
“What do normal people have?”
“You’re asking the wrong person.”
“I’ve tried to be like them, I really have. But what happens when you just can’t be strong anymore? What happens if you’re weak? My painting’s ruined. Everything’s gone wrong.”

Not yet, it hasn’t.

“Come in out of the rain.”

Welcome to the half-lives of the Doom Patrol who, under Grant Morrison, each pull themselves back from the brink of insanity in order to deal with madness. Meet the consistently bewildered Cliff, a poor soul trapped in a metal body whose physical senses pale in comparison what he was used to, leaving him lingering in a virtual isolation tank where he can only remember what it felt like to touch! Greet Crazy Jane whose disassociation following childhood abuse has left her splintered into 64 unique personalities, each with their own metahuman talent! And frown in perplexity as Rebis reminds you that she/he/it is no longer Larry but a composite being made from black female Dr. Eleanor Poole, white male Larry Trainor and a negative flying spirit that glows green-on-black! Led by the driven but callous paraplegic Professor Caulder, they are the Doom Patrol, and their heads will soon be hurting every bit as much as yours.

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The series is packed full of sharp observations like the urban catechism of subway stations which you grow to know by heart and recite as you pass them by. And if you think that because this is relatively early Grant Morrison that you’re going to be let off the hook, then think again; for here be memetic theory and metatexts, and the wonderful Scissormen – black and scarlet empty people bearing very large blades, reducing human beings to blank stencils in the air and the English language to a series of cryptic crosswords:

“Defeating breadfruit in adumbrate.”
“The leaching will be novelistic for effacement! Curdle your pilgrimage! Curdle your pilgrimage!”

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You could try to translate them but that would be like attempting to decipher what Liz Fraser’s singing on the early Cocteau Twins’ tracks: pointless. Liz Fraser used her voice like a mellifluous musical instrument rather than worry us with real words.

It’s like a water park ride where once you start you cannot get off and, scream as you might, you just have to lie back and enjoy the rapids’ ride. Case in point: the painting that ate Paris:

The Brotherhood of Dada is on a quest for total global absurdity. So they steal a painting described as “hungry” and then let it lose. It quickly swallows France’s capital. Cliff, Crazy Jane and Rebis find themselves in an infinitely recursive world of paintings within paintings and Paris itself is transformed into enough art movements to satisfy even Sister Wendy.

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So many ideas and so much fun, from Mr. Nobody (barely glimpsed out of the corner of your eye, railing like Rick Mayall as an aesthete) to the Hiroshima Shadows, Weeping Blades and a plague of bodiless mouths, while the Pale Police will tempt you into spending hours trying to decipher the anagrams which are their only means of communication. And this time you can! Plus Cliff takes a trip into the fractured mind of Crazy Jane and Morrison introduces The Quizz, a girl with a fear of dirt but in possession of every superpower you haven’t thought of. Yes, the only way to strip her abilities is to think them up fast. “Flight” won’t bring her to ground until you’ve conjured up “levitation”, nor to ground-level unless you remember “height multiplication”, “stretching”, “spinning of spider webs” and “density reduction”.

Why not pair off and role-play the game yourselves? I did:

“In five seconds I will burn you alive.”
“Err, flame throwing, heat generation, nuclear fission, napalm breath –”
“Time out, and I’m afraid you missed the transmogrification of others.”
“I can’t even spell it!”

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Richard Case’s contribution is hugely underrated. Bringing ideas like this to life is no mean feat. His flat, black Mr. Nobody with free-floating eyes isn’t all there – in any sense of the expression! Same goes for the Pale Police: hollow constructs of white ribbons with Joker-like grinning mouths in their chests, a thumbprint of their intended victim drawn on their helmets from the memory of its maze.

In other character designs there’s what I would call an opulence. Moreover, Case’s recursive occlusions are immaculate, his Crazy Jane can be terrifying, and if the Doom Patrol look a little like toy dolls being tossed about by children in tantrums, to a very great extent they are.


Buy Doom Patrol Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oh, of course it’s a LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN book. They’re just not in it.

This beautiful edition collects all three hardcovers, is three pounds less expensive and comes with a slipcase for free! Yippee!

Here we go, then: first one from me, the second two from Jonathan.


“You don’t seem much interested in the plunder, Miss Janni…”
“We’ve enough plunder… I wanted a challenge. Even father wearied of pillaging eventually.”
“Aye, true enough. Sorry if I’ve aggravated you, Captain.”
“Oh, we’ll be home in a week. I’ll be fine. It’s just this coat. It’s so big and heavy sometimes.”

Fifteen years after LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY 1910 Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni is feeling weighed down by the burden of her old man’s legacy – his fame and his accomplishments – and is desperate to step out from under his shadow. Unfortunately he cast it far and wide but, if the truth be told, it is Janni herself who brings it with her, perpetually comparing her progress with his, every step of the way.

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Now she has set her sights set on An Adventure: an expedition to the remotest wastes of Antarctica. Unfortunately her crew have recently earned the ire of the African Queen and Prince Consort of Kor by whipping away their valuables under the watch of a certain newspaper magnate, Charles Foster Kane and a heavily armed, technologically enhanced party has been dispatched in pursuit. Also: just because somewhere is remote, it does not mean it’s uninhabited.

Weird and wondrous – and quite terrifying in places – I just wish we could have spent longer in the likes of Metapatagonia where the anthropomorphs speak French backwards.

Each of Kevin O’Neill’s full-page splashes knock the frozen ball out of the snow-swept park, and Ben Dimagmaliw’s colours are richer than ever, positively luminous.

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What our literary super-crew encounter will be strange and awe-full but I will spill none of it, except to say that when time itself goes awry you are in for a storytelling treat. On the other hand it’s only fair to remind you that these LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN escapades are all collages culled from extant fiction, so… what other works took place in the freezing wastes of the South Pole, eh?



“We must have been hurting Germany’s supply lines for them to go to all this trouble ensnaring us. Do you think we’re any nearer the city’s underworld?”
“Depends. What do you suppose “Staatbordell” means?”

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Jocular japes and steampunk shenanigans aplenty in this second Nemo Jr. adventure following on from the Lovecraftian-flavoured NEMO: HEART OF ICE. As before, there are numerous literary and cinematic references to be found, from the striking nod to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to the rather more obscure which I will leave you to find for yourselves, for that is part of the joy of any new LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN material these days.

Janni Nemo, fearsome fighter and devoted mother has been drawn into a deadly trap, her daughter – presumed captured and spirited off to Berlin by the Nazis – being the lure. But what, or more precisely who, she finds waiting for her in Berlin, is a far more deadly enemy than whole legions of leather-clad stormtroopers. For it is someone with revenge on their mind, and for whom time is no obstacle at all…

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Not sure how accessible a jumping on point this is for new readers, or indeed whether it hits the heights of the original material, but it is great fun and probably closer in both respects than the LOEG: CENTURY trilogy. I think it probably is as good as the original material actually; I just personally miss the team dynamic.

What is certain is that you simply couldn’t have any League material without Kevin O’ Neill on art: the two are simply and sumptuously synonymous for me. Even the four pages before the main story are absolutely glorious, featuring respectively: an all-guns-blazing German battleship, Nemo embracing her lover against the backdrop of a porthole letting a blood-red sky bleed through, a Nazi propaganda poster portraying Nemo as a trident wielding Kraken, and a submerged Nautilus launching a salvo of torpedoes. Not often I’m mesmerised by the art before I even start the story but Kevin managed it here!



“Mr. Coghlan, do you think you could assist me in seating myself? This pile of slain enemies will suffice.”

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Thus completes the Nemo Jr. trilogy, with a high body count of buxom blonde robotic Nazis and the satisfaction of scores finally settled. After the events of volume two set in Berlin, Nemo is chasing Nazis, and the apparently dead Ayesha, to that traditional holiday hidey-hole of Swastika-abusing idiots, South America.

Much like the LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY material I have personally found this run a bit up and down. Or more precisely yet again I’ve loved two volumes out of the three and been considerably less fussed about one. This volume I thought was great fun, with Alan once again working in various parodies of classic 20th century literary characters, which has always been a key facet of the appeal of this material.

This storyline of this particular volume just felt much stronger than the previous one, but taken as a whole I do concede the two together do form one excellent story. Wonderful art from Kevin O’Neill as always, crammed full of lovely conceits, such as Nemo’s octopus-sucker-styled armour. Overall I have enjoyed this trilogy, but I think if Alan decides to return to the League again, I would prefer him to do another team-based romp: I have missed the relentless verbal jousting and interplay between a wider cast of characters that raised the original two books (now compiled in this OMNIBUS) to its considerable heights.


Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Nemo Trilogy (Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Midnighter vol 1: Out s/c (£10-99, DC) by Steve Orlando & Aco, various.

“Currently: single
Looking for: dates, friends, sparring
Interests: violence (inventive)
Chronically new in town.
Computer in brain.
Superhumanly flexible.
Looking for other uses.
Have headbutted an alien.
Whatever you’re thinking, the answer is likely yes.
But with punching.”

It’s an unusual online dating profile, filed only under “M” but the masked mug shot might give it away.

“Wait wait. Midnighter? It doesn’t stand for, like, Mitch? All this stuff here is, in fact, not a joke?”

It’s a bit late now: you’re having dinner.

I’d type “from the pages of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar’s STORMWATCH and THE AUTHORITY…” (the latter highly recommended; the former is Ellis just getting going) except, of course, this isn’t precisely that same psychopath for although Apollo appears to have escaped The Midnighter, The Midnighter hasn’t escaped the relaunch rewrite which was DC’s New 52. I’ve no idea what’s happened since but The Midnighter is now single, on his first date with Jason who seems to be taking it all in his stride. But let’s see what happens when high-tech terrorists teleport into town and put paid to their pudding.

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It’s very attractively drawn with almost insane levels of detail, European-style colouring / modelling, and some thrilling perspectives looking up or down into a disused, industrial….. I’m not sure what it is actually.

There are multiple, miniature inset panels revealing concurrent action – moves and counter-moves – or, when The Midnighter gets into his pugilistic stride, precisely what the local Accident & Emergency will be dealing with in the form of x-ray snapshots of breaking bones. Often they are arranged artfully around the page as The Midnighter’s computer-brain observes and analyses everything around him at lightning speed.

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When it finally stops working – when he realises it’s being jammed – the same panels become a jumble of green.

Aco’s art also comes with a fine line which makes The Midnighter look positively dapper in his waistcoat and tie. Oh yes, he’s in civvies. You never used to see that much, did you? You’re going to be seeing a lot more of it. And him.

So if the sight of a man unbuttoning another man’s jeans is the sort of thing that will make you feel so uncomfortable that you’ll need to walk into a public bar and order a double bourbon in order to feel fully masculine again, I probably wouldn’t buy this comic – because hard liquor is bad for you.

Much was made of Mark Millar’s JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1, not least by me, and its unapologetic post-coital cigarette but this is even less flinching with hands all over the place. Hurrah!

You could argue (and, oh, so many will have online!) that there’s nothing to distinguish this from any other DC superhero title (whereas you know what you’re in for with Millar) and your delicate nine-year-old shouldn’t be subjected to sexuality. And I would agree so long as you would agree that a woman unbuttoning a man’s flies or vice-versa was equally below the belt. On the other hand it has long been established that superheroes have ceased to be the province of nine-year-olds but of college students instead and the fifty-year-olds who used to read superhero series as nine-year-olds and simply never stopped.

Plus, look at that cover! If you’re perfectly content to buy your children a comic with that level of overt violence, then you have already abandoned your parental role as a right-minded moral guardian and have no right to complain about a little consensual fumbling, same-sex or otherwise.

So here’s a suggestion: how about you stop buying your susceptible ones corporate superhero soap operas stuffed full of advertising and designed to addict them to their brand for life? Why not treat them to Page 45’s Young Adult and Young Reader graphic novels catering to every conceivable early teens and pre-teen tastes instead!

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Anyway, there are two parallel subplots which Steve Orlando orchestrates perfectly side-by-side: The Midnighter’s love life which until now had only ever involved Apollo, and his quest to recover a startlingly diverse array of ridiculously high-tech weaponry stolen from the God Garden along with his past. The Midnighter has no memory whatsoever of his past prior to becoming weaponised himself, or that anyone else held that information. Isn’t the Gardener a lovely for keeping that all to herself?

The Midnighter, you see, has been augmented to win any fight, playing it out a hundred times hours in advance and then replaying those scenarios in a split second as they occur. That included his domestic rows with Apollo. Now he’s trying not to do that, to experiment instead and, with his ability to open windows anywhere in the world, he certainly has the capacity to impress a loved one. Or distress them, coming home covered in blood. As to less loved ones – armies armed to the teeth with hate-guided missiles (sic) – I wouldn’t get too blasé, either.

“You’re not surrounding me.
“I’m arranging you”.


Buy Midnighter vol 1: Out and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Leinil Francis Yu.

Genuinely bleak and nasty, this isn’t the upcoming sequel to CIVIL WAR, but another of those satellite series to Marvel’s recent SECRET WARS. But, unlike the few others I’ve dipped into, it didn’t reference that series at all and can be read entirely separately as “What if the original had ended differently?”

I rate the original CIVIL WAR by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven very highly. It had something genuinely interesting to say about privacy and power, and it speaks volumes about our distrust of recent governments – with how lackadaisical they are with our private information, the surveillance they glean it with, and what they are most likely to do with superior military might – that everyone I know instinctively sided with Captain America’s refusal to register with the American authorities and submit to their potential deployment (even though he’s a former soldier used to obeying the chain of command) rather than Iron Man who recognised that those with superpowers are potentially lethal loose cannons, as witnessed when a bunch of relatively inexperienced, attention-seeking teens took on a bunch of supervillains they were woefully ill-equipped to handle, resulting in the death of six hundred souls. It’s interesting because many of those same individuals who sided with Captain America, like almost everyone else in Britain, are adamantly in favour of American gun control which is what Iron Man was effectively advocating.

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In case you’re intrigued enough to take a punt on the collected edition, I won’t tell you how it ended except that it was abrupt, unexpected and yet entirely in keeping with character.

In this alternative scenario – by the writer of DEATH OF WOLVERINE and the artist on Mark Millar’s NEMESIS – hostilities between the two sides of superheroes didn’t cease. They escalated. They escalated because things went horrifically wrong in Iron Man’s prison hidden in a pocket dimension while the two factions were locked in battle.

The Black Panther hacks into its security systems, which sets off a fail-safe self-destruct sequence – something he attributes to Iron Man instead. I am choosing my words carefully, yes. Iron Man is informed by Commander Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. that the Black Panther set off the self-destruct sequence deliberately under direct orders from Captain America. I am still choosing my words very carefully. Both sides are incredulous about the other’s callousness. Then the bomb goes off. The bomb goes off just as Cloak is teleporting as many as possible from both warring parties, en masse, back to New York City. Some make it out, some don’t. What does make it out, is the blast.

The bomb-blast destroys New York and takes fifteen million people with it.

Whose side are you on now?

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I ask that because in spite of my original analysis and the ante that’s now been upped I still instinctively sided with Captain America, and what follows, six years on, only goes on to entrench that alignment… because both scenarios are very carefully written.

Six years on and — haha, no! You wouldn’t thank me. You’ll want to read this comic for yourselves.

I’m a big fan of Yu who is solid, sure and exciting, and studies expressions well. They change only incrementally between panels as our own do between seconds unless something does actually take us by surprise. If every character reacts to everything and every word with melodrama as happens woefully often in superhero comics (and the sugar-buzz mainline of manga) then how do you discern the mellow from the genuinely dramatic? Inked by Gerry Alanguilan and coloured by Sunny Gho, there is a light, bright modelling going on.

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But by “carefully written” I mean who do you think is backing whom? Which of Marvel Comics’ most cherished couples finds itself on opposing sides of the argument, in different camps which are not speaking to each other and so cannot meet in an America which has quite literally, geographically and geologically been divided in two? Can you spell “chasm”? There is one, right in the heart of the desert.

Peace talks are proposed and, against all odds, a single woman persuades Captain America and Iron Man to meet in a building in the middle of the bridge which straddles that cavern.

Even before it goes horribly wrong it is patently obvious that they are both so set in their ways, so locked in their mindsets, so trapped in their past and so bitter about what they believe the other has done that recriminations are all they can offer each other.

Then it goes horribly wrong, and there is no hope to speak of.

Remember: I chose my words carefully. Whomever you suspect, do not make the mistake the protagonists did. It all makes sense in the end.


Buy Civil War: Warzones! s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill one-shot (£3-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Mark Bagley.

I had zero intention of reviewing this and little more inclination to read it. But do you know what? It surprised me.

I loved Nick Spencer’s THIEF OF THIEVES, his MORNING GLORIES is complex and clever, Dominique is a worryingly big fan of his BEDLAM, plus his work at Marvel has been funny. But the last thing anyone wanted or needed so early into Marvel’s fresh, post-SECRET WARS relaunch was a crossover to which this is the kick-off catalyst.

It will envelope nearly a dozen different Marvel titles – ranging from its multiple AVENGERS series to the usual non-entity why-do-these-even-exist – written and drawn by completely different individuals, so the quality here is no indication of what is to come. To be clear: this is not an endorsement of the policy nor an encouragement for you to splash out ridiculous sums of cash on a corporate crossover when superhero fans could instead be buying the enormously entertaining DOCTOR STRANGE or even UNCANNY or THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, both of which essentially feature powers without capes.

But this is, nonetheless, an interesting premise whose initial execution sets the stage for a great deal of dramatic irony.

Now, if I were reviewing the collection on completion, no one would criticise me for laying its prologue bare, and this is essentially its prologue. But you may consider what follows SPOILERS rather than “Oooh, that’s intriguing!” so it is entirely up to you. What I won’t do is ruin its beginning or end which together constitute the heart of the potential dramatic irony and a great deal of self-recrimination when the Avengers begin to be dragged into this.

Are we ready? SPOILERS.

Pleasant Hill is a leafy little town where everyone is idyllically happy and civic-minded. There are restrictions, to be sure: curfews etc, but everyone is exceedingly kind and almost excessively courteous, especially to strangers. Stray upon it by accident and you may not want to leave. Which would be fortunate, since you can’t.

You can’t because it’s a construct, a sham. It’s a prison for supervillains created by S.H.I.E.L.D. which has grown bored shitless of incarcerating super-powered sociopaths only for them to break out and cause billions of dollars of collateral damage (and, incidentally, the loss of lives) to satisfy their psychopathy. If psychopathy is ever satisfied: I don’t think those two words mix, really, do they?

The whole enterprise is understandably way off the books because it involves a complete abandonment of human rights. S.H.I.E.L.D. is using fragments of the reality-altering Cosmic Cube to rewrite the felons’ entire identities. They’re not just brainwashing them, they are refashioning them into new individuals physically and mentally.

Now, let us be clear: I’m all for it. I don’t believe in the real-life death penalty because I don’t have faith in the British or American or almost every other justice system because they have been proved over and over again to be racist and target-driven rather than justice-driven: innocent individuals are locked up every day by those who know they’re not guilty. In the la-la land of superheroes wherein the villains run riot, however, I’m with Maria ‘Pleasant’ Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. – fuck ‘em.

The problem lies in my previous paragraph, because S.H.I.E.L.D. has just done precisely that: they have incarcerated a hero who got too close to their truth. What I will not spoil for you is who has become trapped there and who they’ve been turned into on the very last page. Clever.

Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 1


Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 2

I don’t know if it’s Scott Hanna’s inks or a departure for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s Mark Bagley, but the art here is slightly more grounded in reality, ironically enough.

According to Marvel HQ you should be able to pick and choose which titles you read without losing the plot: which you read will give you different perspectives on what goes down. I don’t actually care. I’m not an apologist for these sorts of shenanigans, I’d rather read the latest comic by Sarah Burgess or Dan Berry. I’m just saying, “Hey, I thought this was going to be utter bobbins and it turns out it isn’t”.


Buy Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill 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.

Amulet vol 7: Firelight (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi

Big Kids h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge

Ganges vol 5 (£5-99, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga

Kill Your Boyfriend / Vinamarama The Deluxe Edition h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Philip Bond

Mezolith vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank

Octopus Pie vol 1 (£10-99, Image) by Meredith Gran

Star Wars: Chewbacca (£12-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Phil Noto

Sunstone vol 4 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stejpan Sejic

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Viktor Bogdanovic, various

Deathstroke vol 2: Godkiller s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Bonny & Tony S. Daniel

All New Captain America vol 1: Hydra Ascendant s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen

Amazing Spider-Man: Complete Spider-Verse s/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, others & various

Siege: Battleworld s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Filipe Andrade, various

Assassination Classroom vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral vol 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima & Rui Watanabe

Fukufuku Kitten Tales vol 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Konami Kanata

One Piece vol 77 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Tokyo Ghoul vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Crossed vol 15 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Mike Wolfer

Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time (£18-99, Titan) by Scott Tipton, David Tipton & Simon Fraser, Roger Langridge, Gary Erskine, Kev Hopgood, others


5000 km Per Second cover

ITEM! Did you enjoy all the weather in THE RIVER?

I predict without hesitation that 5000 KM PER SECOND will be equally huge here!

Pre-orders using that product page greatly appreciated – WE SHIP WORLDWIDE! – or just ask for it to be added to your Page 45 Standing Order!

Thank you!

5000 km Per Second 1


5000 km Per Second 2

ITEM! CEREBUS’ Gerhard draws Harry Potter. But you snooze, you lose: only available until 11:59 PM-PST Sunday, February 28th.

Gerhard Harry Potter print

Yes, of course we stock Dave Sim & Gerhard’s CEREBUS: one of the greatest comicbook creations of all time, and I’ve reviewed every volume / iteration. The artwork is currently being re-shot so some volumes have slipped out of print, but their reprints will be well worth the wait.1 Lakes Fest Clock Tower

ITEM! Creators! Publishers! Retailers! Ragamuffins! Applications are now open for exhibiting upstairs and downstairs in Kendal’s Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on Saturday October 15th and Sunday October 16th.

Artists Alley Kendal

Entry for the public to the Clock Tower is ABSOLUTELY free, making such an attractive proposition that in 2014 we took more money than any other weekend back at Page 45 – even Christmas – and then in 2015 we beat that record by 10%… with just 1% of the range of our stock!

So obviously Page 45 will be back in 2016 as ever in our Georgian Room in the Kendal Clock Tower!

Books best photo

Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 – that’s last year!

Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – massive review with tonnes of photos!

Page 45 is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival #LICAF @comicartfest

Page 45 sign right

– Stephen



Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2016 week three

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Featuring Chris Oliveros, Sarah Burgess, Evan Dorkin, Boulet, Eddie Campbell, John Cassaday, Bob Fingerman, Atsushi Kaneko, Keiichi Koike, Emmanual Lepage, Taiyo Matsumoto, Frederick Peeters, Paul Pope, Katsuya Terada, Naoki Urasawa, Bastien Vives, Tommi Musturi, Joshua W. Cotter Lando, Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell, Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

Don’t forget the New Books and News underneath!

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

“It was clear that there were no longer any possibilities.”

A poignant three-act graphic novel about a business already niche and long left behind, it begins with six colour portraits of chunky and clunky manual machines, silent and free-standing on benches. Without even a hint of automation, they are at once as antiquated and unfathomable as Jack Kirby’s then futuristic constructions.

There follows a two-page prologue gazing up at a small city’s rooftops – both tenements and town houses – as a painfully slow “Ta-tlak Ta-tlak” emanates from the tenth-floor window of what is little bigger than an office. Three more panels it musters before the machine belt breaks, giving up the ghost forever. We will never hear quite the same sound again.

None of the office’s occupants are young.

Hershel, already owed two months’ wages, declares that “There’s no way it’ll hold up for a fourth repair”.

Poor Patsy pronounces “We don’t have the funds to make a new purchase this month”.

But proprietor Mr Cluthers isn’t listening.

“New orders will be coming through by Wednesday, I’m sure of it.
“If we prepare in advance and have the envelopes ready beforehand we can fulfil all of the orders as they come through.
“No point in being caught off guard, is there?”

With what machinery, Mr Cluthers? With what machinery?

Envelope Manufacturer 1

Written and drawn by the founder of Drawn & Quarterly who gave up so much of his own creative time to foster other artists’ futures, both the ailing-industry and period aspects may put readers in mind of Seth’s CLYDE FANS whose second part is still being serialised in PALOOKAVILLE, but the lines are markedly different. Tone-free, they stand stark and exposed, many of them quivering with fragility as if what is drawn is teetering on the point of collapse.

The business is on the point of collapse and Mr Cluthers is on the point of collapse. Denial is followed by delusion which his wife has witnessed before.

I loved Mildred’s hair, rolled up like a gigantic sausage at the nape of her neck, but it’s Patsy I fell in love with. Aged around sixty or seventy, she has some weight to her and you get the very real sense that her inflamed feet might be finding her shoes difficult to squeeze into. Eyes blank behind half-moon glasses, it is to Patsy that the unenviable task of stalling creditors falls, holding the fort in Mr Cluthers’ absence as the struggling business faces the final threat of repossession.

Envelope Manufacturer 2

All the while Mr Cluthers is in a daydream. Optimism and stoicism and a refusal to give in are all admirable qualities but here it’s all hot air, blown not to inflate the business but to keep cold reality out of the door. It’ll get slightly surreal in places, hilariously so towards the end in a free-fall sequence suspended in space, presaged during the middle act when Hershel is shouting from the sidewalk “Jump!” “Jump!” at a suicidal window-ledge walker. “Jump!” “Jump!” he encourages – if encouragement is the right word.

There’s a quiet comedy to be gleaned from the absurdity on offer and I think that’s its strength. It’s touching but not maudlin; ridiculous instead. Ridiculous, brilliant and ever so sad.

“It’ll take some big changes, but things will get better before long.”

For more on Oliveros and the publisher please, please see DRAWN AND QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS comics anthology and its absolutely riveting retrospective.


Buy The Envelope Manufacturer and read the Page 45 review here

The Tipping Point h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Boulet, Eddie Campbell, John Cassaday, Bob Fingerman, Atsushi Kaneko, Keiichi Koike, Emmanual Lepage, Taiyo Matsumoto, Frederick Peeters, Paul Pope, Katsuya Terada, Naoki Urasawa, Bastien Vives…

“There’s that great, wonderful day, the one that makes your eyes light up just thinking about it.
“There’s the tragic one, the one that comes out of nowhere and kicks you in the gut.
“There are the historic days that change the face of the world.
“And there’s the day that makes us who we are…
“I’m ten.
“My parents have shipped me off to camp so I can make lots of friends.”

Intriguing anthology of fourteen shorts, all between eight to twelve pages long, which have at their heart, change. Some changes are entirely personal, internal moments of revelation, like Emmanuel Lepage’s story of the sensitive boy on the edge of adolescence attending summer camp.



Others like Atsushi Kaneko’s ‘Screwed!’ featuring a Yakuza whose summary execution at gun point is rudely interrupted by a certain explosive geopolitical event are obviously on a far grander scale.



But what those moments all have in common, if you reflect upon them, is that they are the titular tipping points. From each particular moment forwards, nothing can be quite the same ever again. For better or worse, from seemingly personally inconsequential to most definitely world altering, the proverbial genie is well and truly out of the bottle in each and every case.



The stories cover pretty much all the fictional and non-fictional bases: romance, crime, speculative, science fiction, fantasy, comedy, mythological, philosophical, religious, plus Eddie Campbell wandering around his neighbourhood looking for his lost cat… Which was his fault, obviously!


Eddie Campbell

That’s definitely the most thought-provoking of all the stories actually, Eddie and his lost cat. It’s the musings of a man who, “… might have seen this neighbourhood differently under different circumstances.” Just pause and reflect on that a second. How the particular personal situation we find ourselves in when we first encounter a place affects our perceptions of it.

Certainly, it’s the story of a man continuing to boldly experiment with his art form. I can see hints of all his previous works here in different panels: including the pencils of ALEC and BACCHUS, the silhouettes of FROM HELL, the painting of THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS H/C, the colours of THE PLAYWRIGHT, all interwoven or overlaid in greater or lesser degree from panel to panel with some photography! It’s an evocative mix of techniques exquisitely judged. Whether it’ll help him track down his cat or not is a different matter!



There is something for everyone in this anthology and probably, on balance (see what I did there…), enough to satisfy everyone. They are all great little snippets, but no sooner do you feel you’ve started something than it’s all over. So it feels very much like a plate of delicious canapés, rather than an indulgent feast, simply because they are all very concise, one premise, shorts.



So, reading a few pages of fellow LICAF patron Boulet, and despite howling with laughter at the punchline to his hilarious tour de farce of conspiracy theories, just made me want to read more of him. (Happily, he has recently translated and republished the entirety of his weblog in English HERE.) Taiyo Matsumoto’s story of a schoolgirl’s errant fart instantly made me want more SUNNY.



Paul Pope’s art, unsurprisingly, in his pirate-based esoteric yarn blew me away as ever and left me wanting more, of anything of his – ideally some THB, but I’d certainly settle for the next BATTLING BOY. That’s a common theme with Mr. Pope, though, as we know, being left waiting…



Katsuta Terada’s ‘Tengu’, which closes the book, just made me desperate for him to do some manga, rather than illustrations. If this mythological piece is anything to go by, I think he’d be perfect for anything Brandon Graham wanted to get him involved with. Go on, Brandon, give him a call!



And… I really can’t help but be left wondering… did Eddie ever find his cat?!




Buy The Tipping Point h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Brother’s Story part one (£5-00, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess.

How refreshing: a book of brotherly love!

From Sarah Burgess, the creator of those three delectable volumes of THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR, comes something equally affectionate but radically different in form and content: it’s bursting with full-colour washes for there’s magic in the air.

Deryn adores his older brother Seren. He’d follow him anywhere. And Seren does like to explore, scouring the countryside in order to collect botanical samples to study. Today they were only intending to collect firewood for their family home in the village, but on one they discover radiant magic crystals growing like fungi from the bark. Seren breaks them off.

“Mum and Dad will flip out if they see this stuff.”

According to their parents, magic is not to be messed with and, according to legend, there’s magic everywhere in the big, wide world except in the village. It happened like this: magic and humans were once one and the same, but over time humans found a way to consume magic, turning it into language. They ate it all until there was none left save for a vast, untouchable Angel in the sky. Nonetheless the humans couldn’t resist trying to reach up and bite pieces off and in retaliation the many-eyed Angel bore down on the planet and swallowed it whole before restoring its magic. Everywhere, that is, except for in the village.

At least, that’s what Seren says – their parents tell it somewhat differently, making the Angel seem awful: a bogey monster to keep kids safely at home. Sure enough when Deryn lets slip what they’d been up to there is an almighty row with Seren bearing the brunt, accused of squandering his skills and endangering his younger brother.

Brothers Story part one 2

There’s a tremendous two-in-one panel just before Seren sits alone on the rooftop, as Seren strides upstairs past a cowering Deryn who is wracked with guilt that he’d let his brother down and got him into trouble, sweating with terror that there might now be a rift. There isn’t, of course. Deryn makes sure of that by following Seren up to sit side by side overlooking the village and the forest beyond.

“I feel so alone.”

Deryn thinks about that.

“I know Mum and Dad don’t understand, but I understand. I – I don’t care if the forest is dangerous. I just want to see what’s out there. We can’t be scared forever. We shouldn’t be trapped here forever. You’re not alone.”

It’s an endearing moment of fraternal affection and reconciliation broken beautifully by Seren wrestling his arm round Deryn’s neck and pulling roughly him back into his chest.

“Go to bed, dufus!”

It’s an echo of my favourite page on which the brothers tussle and tumble in the forest between comicbook gutters of sinuous wood which cocoon their struggling forms so tightly that you get a very real sense of their exertions, locked in mock-combat, against each other. How clever is that?

Brothers Story part one

I love the brothers’ physicality and the consistency of their relative statures. I like the rosy cheeks of youth and Deryn’s hunched shoulders as he tentatively tries to coax his mother’s side of the Angel’s story out of her.

Ah yes, the Angel, drawn like a dragon. Surely it doesn’t exist. The story’s some sort of extended metaphor, right? A legend, a fable, a cautionary tale… Don’t bite bits off: magic needs to be whole.

Aaaaaaaand we’re done. It’s your turn to read the rest next!


Buy Brother’s Story part one and read the Page 45 review here

Nod Away (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Joshua W. Cotter…

“While streaming doesn’t exactly turn the user into a mind reader, it does provide one with a connection to a higher collective mind.”
“A higher mind?”
“Yes, you see, the user is, in fact, enabled to connect remotely to a central hub, of sorts, which in turn, is connected to thousands and if all goes as planned, potentially millions of other users.”
“I see.”
“Through these connections, each individual user’s knowledge is drawn, culminating in a rich stream of information.”
“Mental peer-to-peer file sharing if you will.”

Hmm… this is quite the epic. I started off reading and mistakenly assumed it was going to be whimsical fun, not quite serious science fiction and metaphysical philosophy. That misapprehension was entirely down to the art style, which reminded me a bit of Robert BOOK OF GENESIS Crumb, Derf MY FRIEND DAHMER Backderf and even Peter OTHER LIVES Bagge and Judd BARRY WEEN Winnick! My wake-up call should really have been the prologue, though, which was a surreal, abstract construction more akin to something from Simon Russell’s NEARLY MADES


So it therefore took me a while to be able to settle down into the story and realise it has, in fact, got much more in common with the likes of Frederick Peeters AAMA and even Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS as Joshua Cotter attempts to explore the thorny question of the very nature of consciousness. Plus also tell an extremely engaging speculative fiction story about where we might all be heading in terms of how we access the internet, indeed how the general repository sum of all information itself will inevitably evolve, and how, why and indeed where, humanity might be forced to change in response to that. That prologue was suddenly starting to make a lot more sense…


Set in the near future, a small crew of colonists is being prepared to head into deep space to attempt to colonise a planet in a nearby star system. Meanwhile the next iteration of the internet, being referred to as the ‘innernet’ or ‘streaming’ is heading rapidly into the realms of telepathy and shared thought, at least for the sixty percent of people who will be physically compatible… Somewhat disturbingly the core hub of this new achievement, however, is a very unusual human child whom Doctor Melody McCabe has been hired to help mature on a huge second generation version of the International Space Station.


The chapters switch between the different storylines, and also between the real and psychological worlds, which does take a little getting used to until you realise what is going on. Though I think that itself is probably a deliberate conceit to some degree. It’s well worth persisting with though, if you are a fan of speculative fiction. Joshua wisely realises he needs to lighten the tone occasionally, and that’s more than amply provided for by the moderately flawed Doctor McCabe’s mildly erratic social life in the relatively confined quarters of the orbiting research station. I concede the art style may not appeal to everyone, which is a shame, because this is an extremely well-written, thoughtful story.



Buy Nod Away and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Hope h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi…

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

I reviewed the second slice of this work in its individual self-published form and was greatly tickled. This collected edition of THE BOOK OF HOPE from Fantagraphics is surrealism at its most elegant, and indeed eloquent. The simplest way I can start to describe this material is that it has the feel of Chris Ware’s JIMMY CORRIGAN, albeit living in a cabin in the arse end of nowhere. Tone-wise too this is just as downbeat and melancholic as Jimmy’s urban non-exploits, but there are some significant differences.


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


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

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

Movement complete, I was too. Moved, that is…


That was my review of one of the five chapters that form this work. So if that was a movement, then the whole book really is a glorious symphony of sanguine reflection. Obviously, given symphonies have four movements, and although each chapter does have a different emotional tone, my metaphor breaks down rather quickly, but you get my point!


Buy The Book Of Hope h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Eltingville Club h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“It just isn’t fair…”

With the rise to internet prominence of the over-obsessed with their over-entitlement, this scathing satire of malicious male fandom is more relevant than ever, horrifically so.

It is emphatically not an attack on comicbook readers in general or enthusiastic sci-fi and superhero fans specifically. It’s not an assault on the awkward or the reticent, the cosplayer or the collector.

It is one long, lacerating diatribe aimed squarely and ever so fairly at those who are nasty. Who are callous and cruel towards their fellow fans, and send professionals hate mail and death threats for killing off characters which are fictional; the thumb-sucking men-children who send worse to comics journalists because they are women.

It’s an exposé of those who forget in their self-involvement that this is supposed to be fun.

Absolutely horrific and delivered with no punch-pulling by the creator of the equally comedic and combustible MILK & CHEESE, it comes in the form of the whining, bitching, in-fighting, self-destructive pack of maladjusted brats who proudly pronounce themselves to be… The Eltingville Comicbook Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Role-Playing Club! (Membership closed.)

Eltingville Club 1

In one hundred and twenty pages not one of them displays a single act of kindness, even to each other.

Nobody wins, everybody loses as teenagers Josh, Jerry, Bill and Pete argue about everything, insult each other below the belt, compete for rare Star Wars action figures, stash others away at Toys R Us in secret locations so that innocent, wide-eyed children don’t get a look in, implode during a caffeine-crazed 32-hour Twilight Zone marathon (I love how the pages shatter as their frazzled sanity erupts into acts of violence), and steal with self-justification and assumed impunity just to get their fix. One even rips open multiple loaves of bread in a supermarket-search for that elusive, rare trading card which, umm, creator Evan Dorkin confesses to – along with much more in the back!

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Their crazed, red-eyed rage is drawn with such visceral power – it’s as though they’re on the verge of bursting blood vessels – that I can only imagine the process to be sublimely cathartic. The closest contender for such similar meltdowns is Roberta Gregory’s Bitchy Bitch in her beloved, much-missed NAUGHTY BITS.

Eventually they take their one-upmanship shambles to the streets for an organised zombie crawl. But blasphemy strikes in the form of more modern, fast-moving-zombie fans, trampling over our True Believers’ nit-picking standards and indeed our Stan-Lee-loving losers. But believe it or not, the worst is yet to come as one amongst them finally gets his dream job, and it’s fiercely well observed.

“Holy shit. I made it. I have died and gone to Heaven.”

Welcome to Comic Shop Hell.

Eltingville Club 2

Evan Dorkin


Eltingville Club blog only

Jack Kirby

Kicking the doors straight in with a virtuoso parody of Jack Kirby’s classic rainy-night splash-page, “This Man… This Monster” (MMW: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 6), Dorkin delivers “This Fan… This Monster”. It may make your skin crawl, but some of us do love to scratch!

Bill, ostracised by the rest of the group is hired by Joe as his side-kick stooge at Joe’s ‘Fantasy World: Comics – Games – Cards’ and every exchange between the monomaniacal misanthropist and his new acolyte comes with a cringe-inducing superhero reference: they cannot communicate without nerd-boasts.

It’s that specific sort of run-down, cluttered comic shop which is superheroes and sci-fi merchandise only. You’ve heard about it, you’ve maybe endured it, and all its malpractices are blurted out by its owner to his new employee as retailer wisdom, foresight and insight:

“No cheques, no credit cards, no special orders, no arguments, no problems.”

No kindness, no accommodation, no integrity, no diversity, no hope of growth.

Eltingville Club 3

Yet still he has customers, albeit young, spotty and every one of them male whom he belittles and berates.

“We don’t carry manga. We carry comics.”

So, this is Bill’s big chance. Surely he won’t cock it up or let it go to his head? You wait until the other club members turn up.

Eltingville Club 5

Speaking of “Alternative Comics”, don’t think the most elitist, hateful, self-righteous and self-serving fans of those don’t get a roasting. The Northwest Comix Collective wasa  seven-page flipside in which four hypocritical alt/indie wannabes with delusions of adequacy struggle to create, disseminate and get their foot in the professional door. They have just as much a sense of perspective as their Eltingville counterparts and don’t take rejection at all well.

“All we’ve gotten for our troubles is a catalogue and that fucking two-page letter from Evan Dorkin where he says our comics “need work”.”

Yes, it’s a personal, two-page letter from a top-tier, deadline-driven creator in response to unsolicited material and a form letter.

“God! Who the fuck is he to say anything? Christ, he did fucking PREDATOR books – he wouldn’t know a good comic if we sent it to him.”
“Pretentious asshole. It’s not like we asked him for his opinion.”
“Actually, we did. It’s in our form letter.”
“Yeah, but we asked for comments, not unwarranted criticism!”
“Why is Dorkin even on our mailing list? None of us like his shit!”

And so it very much goes. What are the chances that at least one of these dismissive dim-wits secretly adores the superhero comics he purports to despise?

None of this material has ever been reprinted, even in the DORK collection, and it’s come from all over the place.

Eltingville Club 4


Buy The Eltingville Club h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gardens Of Glass (£14-99, Breakdown Press) by Lando…

“She needs help, this is bad.”
“This is no longer possible… she needs only to bathe in my waters to ease her pain.”

I think that might be precisely half of the sum total of words uttered in this dystopian surrealist collection of short stories from Greek euro-sci-fi master Lando. I have no idea if that is his real name or if he was just rather taken with everyone’s favourite jive talking <ahem> galactic entrepreneur back in the day. Lando doesn’t seem a particularly Greek name, I must say, but then nothing about this work is of the usual. If I tell you the rejoinder uttered above comes from a statue that controls a small swimming pool which can fly around the desolated and desiccated planet Earth – and indeed enter hyperspace in a manner akin to the finale of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – you’ll probably get some sense of what I mean…


The age of man is all but over. All that’s left is a handful of individuals and small groups warring over the scraps. My first thought upon finishing this collection was that I was reminded of some of Moebius’ more experimental abstract, science fiction works, simply without the humour. You can’t make that comparison art-wise, but Lando certainly has a fetching style all of his own. Fine line work but with a deliberate, rough touch, verging on almost fragility seemingly, that greatly adds to the sense of the total disintegration of the world.


It’s not the same style, but Christopher Mitten’s more heavily inked black and white work on Antony Johnston epic WASTELAND has exactly the same effect on the reader. For me this reaches its zenith in the story where laser-toting survival-suited explorers battle zombies, and each other, to reach some sort of Pantheon-topped, floating Mt. Olympus. The reward for the victor, the first in the race to reach the promised land, is escape from the desolation, to join the demi-gods who now live apart in luxury from the dying remnants of humanity. I think fans of Brandon Graham’s PROPHET and 8HOUSE material would absolutely love this.



Buy Gardens Of Glass and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny: Season Two (£14-99, Dynamite) by Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell.

Increasingly this is becoming a book about families. Whose members treat each other very badly.

It’s also a comic with powers but without the capes, and I love it.


Weaver is a man who can, for a span, absorb other people’s memories and physical capabilities. Take Mr Lee’s bodyguard, Xiong, a black-belt in Taekwondo. One bluffed handshake later and Weaver’s a champion too – plus he also “remembers” exactly what the bodyguard’s packing. Well, almost. There’s a limit to what you have time to recall in the middle of a duff-up.

I admire how Diggle has thought all of this through: both the potential and the pitfalls – the limitations without which there can be no tension. Here our newly formed gang of four’s search for the Source of their preternatural abilities has taken them to a remote island. Wonder why Weaver’s never flown a plane?

“We shoulda just rented a chopper instead.”
“You know how to fly one?”
“You could pull it out of a pilot’s head!”
“And then forget how to fly, two thousand feet above open water? No thanks.”

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With thrilling, shadow-strewn art richly textured by Aaron Campbell (THE TRIAL OF SHERLOCK HOLMES) whose wolves now haunt my own dreams, it’s written by SNAPSHOT and THIEF OF THIEVES’s Andy Diggle whose childhood memory of a night-time fair matches mine exactly:

“Smell of hot sugar and diesel.
“Whirling lights.
“Roar of generators under blaring music.
“And people. All the people in the world.”

Weaver’s first ally was Miss Maggie Ford, a woman with remarkable regenerative capabilities who used to work for Deacon Styles, an enigmatic and acquisitive man of many assets including the ability to cause changes in behaviour both in mind and body through neural induction. If that sounds tame, you’ll soon think again. During a devious double-cross by Deacon which only just backfired they located Deacon’s brother Morgan under circumstances which ensure there’s no love lost between brothers. Morgan is a technopath – an electronics-orientated telepath, if you like – whose “residence” at the clandestine Cadre’s HQ has given him the key to finding the Source. It’s Weaver’s father who abandoned him in parking lot aged 4.

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To find the Source they must first find Weaver’s Dad which is where those fairground memories come in, now being used by their fourth member, Holly, a remote viewer who also used to work for Styles. Looks like those assets are diminishing rapidly but the first to find the Source will find almost everything else redundant.

Firstly, when that happens what happens is very clever indeed.

Secondly, the abandonment of young Weaver by his Dad late at night is ever so touching, especially after being seen from both their points of view. But wait until you find out what happens to a lad in social care when other people’s memories – their very minds – start invading his own, unbidden, and all doctors and psychiatrists resort to textbook diagnoses.

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Not nice at all, but I cannot emphasise strongly enough how much of this is far from obvious. You’ll see what I mean in the very first chapter when it comes to ex combat medic, Denelle.


Buy Uncanny Season Two and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhaged in an instant. Now every male on the planet is dead except escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. What happened and why?

I love a premise you can précis so succinctly. For something more elaborate please see our review of Y- THE LAST MAN BOOK 1.

The writer of SAGA, PRIVATE EYE, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD and EX MACHINA now takes us on a journey to Japan for further clues in a storyline that focuses on Dr. Allison Mann, her new girlfriend, her old family, the assassin and Israeli commander that have been tracking them. Does the catastrophe have anything to do with Dr. Mann’s attempt at cloning herself, or am I sending you up the right alley but to the wrong address? Knock a little harder and someone may answer – just not who you’ll be expecting.

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Before we get there, every member of cast is now withholding secrets from each other. You’d think by now that they’d have all come out, but no, here are some more, and the sheer weight of dramatic irony threatens to thrust the story pell-mell over the side of a cliff. Fortunately it makes for one of the most sizzling episodes in the series so far, including the flashbacks wherein, for example, we learn that Ampersand – Yorick’s pet monkey who may provide the key to saving Earth’s human population – has done a lot more travelling than we thought. Recently he’s been abducted, but now we learn where he originally came from and why he might be that key. Yes, yes, we already discovered the how, but this is the why.

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This one dashes all over the place from Japan to Australia – where Yorick’s searching for his girlfriend – back to America where another girl is now eight months pregnant with Yorick’s child and suspects it’s a boy. Why is that so important? Yorick is the last man on Earth. His very existence is known to few, until he’s forced at gunpoint to drops his drawers for an international photo-journalist. With so many vicious factions at play in this all-female world, that single photo could see him dying of exposure, let alone start an international war, but what’s Yorick really worried about?

“I… I didn’t even have time to chump up. I was like, preternaturally flaccid.”

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I grew increasingly fond of Brian’s dialogue here (it’s a much earlier work that those referred to above), even if it is ridiculously well-informed. Conversations back at my house used to go something like this:

“Ah, these stuffed mushrooms smell great, don’t they?”

But in Y – THE LAST MAN you’d have been treated to a discourse on the psychotropic properties of fungi, along with an annotated history of their social consumption. For example, this time out we learn that the weapon of choice of the Vatican’s Swiss Army is a Halberd (and that it was a Renaissance weapon and that it held off the Nazis in 1943); that men’s buttons are sewn onto a specific side of a coat so that they could draw swords without them getting snagged; that women’s are on the other side so that their ladies in waiting could fasten them from the front; and that “the average human bite strength is two hundred pounds, but some women can crunch up to a grand”. All that, in casual conversation. Well, maybe some of those were the characters’ specialist subjects and they wouldn’t do so well on the general knowledge round, but crikey, Vaughan’s a real swot, isn’t he?


Buy Y – The Last Man Book vol 4 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.

The Fade Out vol 3 (£9-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

American Vampire vol 8 h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque

The Ark h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Stephane Levallois

City Of Clowns (£16-99, Riverhead Books) by Sheila Alvarado

Doom Patrol Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case, John Nyberg, others

Godzilla In Hell s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe, various

The Trouble With Women h/c (£9-99, Square Peg) by Jacky Fleming

Zawa-Zawa: The Treasured Art Works of Ashley Wood (£24-99, Comic Art Pie) by Ashley Wood

Midnighter vol 1: Out s/c (£10-99, DC) by Steve Orlando & Aco, various

Civil War: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool vol 7: Space Oddity s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Sheldon Vella, Bong Dazo

Groot vol 1 (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Loveness & Brian Kesinger

X-Men: Gambit – Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, Tom Defalco & Pasqual Ferry, Steve Skroce

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 3 – Omega s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various including Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, Terry Kavanagh, Mark Waid, John Francis Moore, Warren Ellis, Larry Hama, Fabian Nicieza, & Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Chris Bachalo, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, others

Invincible vol 22: Reboot (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Fairy Tail vol 52 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Inuyashiki vol 3 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 3 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Monster Perfect Edition vol 7 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P3 Volume 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by So Tobita

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Roger Langridge, Noelle Stevenson, Frazer Irving, various


SpiderMan Deadpool cover

ITEM! DEADPOOL’s Joe Kelly is the first guest to be announced for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 from Friday October 14th to Sunday October 16th. He also wrote FOUR EYES, a haunting graphic novel about poverty and dragons set during the Great Depression.

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ITEM! Tribute to David Bowie – including the most beautiful portrait – by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz, creator of STRAY TOASTERS, ELEKTRA ASSASSIN, both adored by Mark and DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS, SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS, much beloved by me.

Daredevil End Of Days blog


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ITEM! Yowsa! Malin Ryden and Emma Vieceli’s free online comic BREAKS reaches its two-year anniversary with quite a cliff hanger! Three more pages until the end of the episode!

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You can begin BREAKS on the its first, front-page cover here.

BREAKS is completely and utterly free, although you can support our beloved Emma Vieceli by becoming a Patreon here.

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Page 45 has copies of the BREAKS prologue signed by Emma Vieceli and reviewed by meeee!

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Vieceli is the artist on the brand-new Young Adults action epic ALEX RIDER: SCORPIA, two AVALON CHRONICLES, three VAMPIRE ACADEMY books and her own DRAGON HEIR and well as appearing in YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 3, all also reviewed by me. Just click on those links, please.

Young Avengers blog

Thank yoooooooooooo!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2016 week two

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Featuring Emma Rios, Hwei Lim, Sarah Burgess, Antony Johnston, Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Leila Del Duca, Brandon Graham, Matt Wilson, Nick Drnaso and more.

Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir h/c (£14-99, St. Martin’s Press) by Tom Hart.

“Looking backwards to our joyous life gone is just horrifying, dreadful.
“Imagining a future without Rosalie, equally horrific, terrifying…
“Your best memories are your biggest torments.”

This exceptionally brave and impossibly eloquent book begins with Rosalie’s favourite image, a scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro.

“In a single night, the oak tree grows to full height from a scattering of acorns in the garden.”

From seed to sapling to tree: this is the natural order of things.

Rosalie Lightning, Tom and Leela’s daughter, died late November 2011 without warning, aged just under two. She barely reached ‘sapling’.

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Every parent prays that their children will outlive them: this is the natural order of things. It is so very natural that every parent could be forgiven for assuming it will be so. But within the space of few scant hours Tom went from a proud, loving Dad looking forward to spending his entire life watching his daughter grow up, to every parent’s “worst case scenario”.

This is such a harrowing read that I’ve multiple knots in my stomach merely typing this. It is grieving laid bare in all its desolate candour. It is forthright yet disciplined, immaculately structured and so well worded that one is tempted to quote from every page. You’ll be seeing a great many trees, and it is surrounded by them that this memoir reaches such an extraordinary conclusion mere months later that one might even call it a climax. In poignant contrast Hart recalls how the three other stories featured within, which he shared with his daughter, conclude: the bird revived, the girl found, the girl freed.

That’s not going to happen here. This isn’t a fiction whose outcome can be controlled and adjusted to suit its creator’s desires. And it’s this very finality, its irreversibility, its cold hard fact which hit me so hard, even more so after the following:

“I do my best when I believe she is coming back.”

How often do you awake from a nightmare to the relative relief of real life? Can you imagine having a dream in which all is idyllic then waking to a stark reality like this?

“What do you do when your child dies? …You fall into a hole. … My heart is a desperate, capacious hole.”

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So many sequences end in a gaping black hole. Others are glimpsed from within that black hole as if seen through a cerecloth. There’s a recurring image of Tom and Leela portrayed as more familiar Tom Hart cartoon characters riding a patched-up rubber-ring boat, struggling through rapids, going swiftly nowhere. Water plays a big part throughout, from Ponyo By The Sea to Tom and Leela by the sea with Rosalie’s ashes.

“Before we leave for New Mexico, I will pay for my daughter’s cremation with an ATM card like I’m buying a bag of bananas.”


So what do you do when your child dies? I don’t speak from personal experience – I’m not even a parent – but this is what I learned from Tom Hart.

You end up “collecting” a lot of other stories of dead children. You can think about throwing yourself under a bus.

You look for signs and portents even in the weather in case they were warnings. In case behaviour held meaning, in case your child was trying to tell you something or knew something you didn’t.

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Everything takes on new meanings, new resonances: words, phrases, images, dreams, objects, songs.

Hart adopts some of Rosalie’s favourite idioms into his own narrative, while thinking of all the words Rosalie never got to learn, all the experiences they never got to share both way in the future and just before she died. There’s the cruelty of hindsight and missed opportunities; the frustration of a corn maze which Rosalie was so excited about but which was closed or about-to-close on two separate occasions after the family’s arrival was delayed by disasters.

And then there’s that cruelty with which “Your best memories are your biggest torments”. Perhaps because of her love of Totoro, Rosalie collected acorns wherever she found them. Hart shows her foraging in full sunlight, picking up an acorn with her smooth and tiny little hand. It’s immediately followed by Tom doing the same, then holding it at a distance with a grimace which signals utterly destroyed, almost disgust, his face scrubbed with the same black which enshrouds them while Leela is wide-eyed with everything.

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Similarly when it comes to the moon which used to mesmerise Rosalie, Tom can’t bear to look at it.

Obviously this isn’t told in the same style as NEW HAT STORIES et al. Much of it is ragged and jagged and raw. There are a lot of close-ups of Leela and Tom very much alone together, Tom’s hair scruffy, their faces leeched of all life. But there are also some powerful landscapes and beautiful, magical, triangular-leafed trees using Letratone – or a Letratone effect. I notice Eddie Campbell appeared first in Hart’s inspirational thanks, so that makes sense.

As to its structure, it begins right at the nub of it all then pulls back to Tom and Leela’s life in New York City before Rosalie was conceived, their escape back to Florida, their tough time selling their old flat (an early offer was made but you won’t believe the mendacity and greed of the institutions who stymied the sale) and Rosalie’s young life which is where the countdown begins. Time is running out because you know that she dies in late November. I guess that’s what you also do when your child dies: everything recalled becomes your last this, your last that and the other.

Afterwards we follow Leela and Tom’s first five weeks without Rosalie, when “Everything is a message. Everything beautiful is her” and you realise that you’ve no idea what strangers at an airport are going through because no one knows – to look at you – what you are enduring too.

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In all honesty I don’t know if I were a parent of a young child that I would want to read this. I’ve forbidden our Jonathan from doing so. But for those who have been left behind, I believe it will provide as much empathy as Anders Nilsen’s DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and especially THE END which celebrate the life then document the death of his fiancée, and the gaping void which she left behind in her wake.

For those of us who aren’t parents at all or have adult children, it can open up a whole new understanding. This, above all, caught me completely off guard.

“Three weeks ago – wasn’t I a father?”


Buy Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vols 1, 2 and 3 (£12-55 each, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess.


“Stop obsessing over things that aren’t going to happen…”

Oh, Blake, how very disappointing and dismissive of you.

During this astutely observed romance Sarah Burgess doesn’t once disappoint. Its open elegance almost belies the keen understanding and complexity of what lies and lingers beneath.

Blake Sinclair, however, will prove quite the frustration. Oh, he is pretty and dippy and o’er-brimming with infectious enthusiasm! He’s that oh so casual, free-roaming spirit, friend to all and declared enemy of the fake. He’s culturally well informed, confident in his opinions, comfortable in his skin and utterly oblivious to cause and effect.

He is, as Adam Ant once sang, “Young, dumb and full of it”.

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Perfect in pale peach and lemon yellows, the pages here glow like a summer sunrise or a glass of Bellini with the early evening light pouring through it. They are as tangy as a citrus fruit fool with bits of lemon peel left within.

Until the rain hammers down in volume three.

It begins with Blake Sinclair up bright and early and cheerful as anything, prising open the bedroom window to soak up the sunshine and leap barefoot into the day. He’s young and dashing in a gangly, tousled-hair kind of a way and, oh, how he loves the ladies! He’s just spotted a new one with tufted white hair, up on a balcony, called Blythe. Unfortunately he’s also left one behind in that bedroom whose window he’s now clambering back through. Daisy is just waking up, punctuating her sweet-smiling words with love hearts.

““So, what are we going to do today?”
“…What do you mean?”
“I mean, I don’t want to do anything with you. You’re very attractive, but I never said I liked you.”

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It’s a brilliant Blake and Burgess moment of which there will be many more. Blake may be a little in love with himself (“I just like to sit in front of the mirror sometimes” – talk about self-regarding!) but he doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body. He is completely open and honest – by which I mean blunt and careless and inconsiderate. But he never said he liked Daisy and if the night before was anything to go by, why would he want more of the same? Daisy dominated the entire conversation, force-fed YouTube down him all night, got plastered then groped him. It wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t a date and, to be honest, Daisy’s a melodramatic brat.

Ruthie, however, is not. Ruthie is genuine and affectionate and, when she sees Blake call Daisy’s friends on their tedious, insincere gossip, she summons the courage to follow him home to discover they share the same building. They also share similar interests and swiftly bond, but Ruthie is tentative and fragile and far from ready for Blake’s casual behaviour and his complete inability to communicate when it matters the most…

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We’ve only just touched the tip of the romantic iceberg, as you’d expect with three substantial volumes.

Firstly, Blake’s chilled and worldly-wise friend Janey comes to stay for the summer and they haven’t seen each other for a year. Initially intimidated by Janey’s confidence and misreading Blake’s adoration of his friend, Ruthie finds the arrangement difficult. But Janey may be just what she needs to understand Blake. As for Blake, what he probably needs is a dose of his own medicine and you remember I mentioned balcony-borne Blythe? I think he may have finally met his match.

There’s so much to celebrate here, for it isn’t just about romance but friendship as well. Blythe comes with her own entourage – flatmates Sasha and Gareth – and Burgess understands the initial, wary culture clash of different scenes converging, in this instance punks and indie kids. There are multiple misunderstandings, presumptions and a whiff of judgemental hypocrisy in the tribal pigeonholing. But there are also timely mirrors being held up and the joy of discovering completely new territory and traditions. Book three, for example, may begin back at the same window, this time during a thunderstorm, but it will open onto a completely fresh thrill when Blythe, Gareth and Sasha appear at the door and invite Janey, Ruthie and Blake to a party in the park round a roaring bonfire even though the rain is torrential. Cartoon theme tunes are belted out and new, confidence-boosting bonds are formed between unexpected individuals.

Back in book two, however, Burgess visually nails the isolation and insecurity of feeling lost and lonely at a party where everyone else is jabbering away and gesticulating wildly and you simply don’t feel the same connection or enthusiasm. An essay in timidity and uncertainty, on one page Ruthie is hugging herself defensively before glancing awkwardly around. It’s followed by a full page on which the revellers are coloured in both background and foreground in a warm glow, whereas poor, pale Ruthie, right in the middle, is surrounded by more space than you’d think possible in a crowd.

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There is so much space in all three graphic novels – more space perhaps than in any other comic I’ve read. The forms are all as lithe as you like, the clothes and bed sheets hanging off them with a perfectly judged weight depending on texture, while quite often the panels are free-floating and borderless.

As to the body language, few can use shoulders as well as Sarah. And here’s an interesting thing: instead of orbs for irises, Burgess uses a lot of angled hearts. It’s a way of drawing the natural highlight on an eye, but in Sarah’s hands it also emphasises both sparkle and affection – especially in Janey – and vulnerability and bewilderment in Ruthie.

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Unlike Daisy, Ruthie is far from needy, and I want to give her a great big hug. I want to give Gareth a peck on the cheek, Janey a pat on the back (err, mostly) and Blake a great big slapping for what he does in book two.

There will be drama and laughter, maybe a few tears and an occasional awkward introduction. There will be frank discussions, eruptions of anger and a little lewd behaviour as well. Oh yes, the gossip: I love how the gaggle of friends venting their “tut-tuts” on the very first morning are only partly overheard because half of their sentences are lost outside the word balloons. Same for when Blake walks into a room to find Sasha enthusing about colours. It’s clever like that.

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Speaking of clever, I refer you to Blake’s outburst at the top of this review.

He’s not addressing any of the ladies who hanker after his careless heart. He’s talking to male punk Sasha who’s been in love with Blythe since before Blake ever came onto their scene. I’m afraid that it’s unrequited. Sasha knows this, Blake knows this. But the context is that they’ve been playing an RPG of Blake’s choice in Blake’s own territory with his own friends, and relative outsider Sasha has been good enough to gamely join in. Blake triumphantly declares he has won and although Sasha protests not unreasonably, Blake bursts out with…

“Look, don’t get pent up just because you can’t accept that the treasure is mine!”



Buy The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Beverly (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Nick Drnaso…

“I don’t know.
“I’ve had about all I can take of them. If they wanna have a big nostalgia love fest, leave us the fuck at home, ya know?
“We could rent one of those movies. I might go back down to the pool soon enough.
“Are you hungry? I could eat, but I could wait.
“Wanna order room service?
“Would you please say something?
“Mom and Dad might be able to pretend nothing is wrong, but I don’t think you’ve said one word on this whole trip.
“What’s going on with you?”

He really hasn’t, you know – said a word, that is – Tyler, Cara’s younger brother. I flipped back to the start of that particular story and checked and, sure enough, Tyler has been entirely mute for the duration of his family’s road trip to Cape Cod, to revisit the exact spot where his still loved-up father proposed to his mother twenty-five years ago.


That’s probably the least weird thing about him, though, as we’ve gained a very good idea of what’s going on with Tyler from his hallucinations – if that’s what they are. If not, they are some seriously disturbed fantasies. Tyler, I feel, may well be a serial killer in the making… The holiday therefore unsurprisingly goes pear-shaped when Cara walks in on her brother doing strange things with a pillow dressed in her used bra and knickers whilst their parents are off having a romantic dinner…

Billed as “a darkly funny portrait of middle America seen through the stunted minds of its children” I would have to say that has pretty much nailed it, actually! There are six stories here whose characters overlap, including a reprise for Tyler as a young man in a perturbingly understated finale, where the kids find themselves caught up in some typical teen dramas like house parties, underage drinking and unwanted pregnancy, plus some atypical malarkey such as kidnapping, rape and a fatal car crash.

Through it all Nick Drnaso paints his peculiarly uncomfortable portrait of dysfunctional kids living these tragically hopeless lives. Aimless and aspirationless, the best they can probably hope for after community college, if they even go, is a dead-end job stuck in an indentikit bland town in the middle of nowhere, filled with fast food joints and little else. Middle-aged spread and medicated lethargy, prescription or otherwise, is all that almost certainly awaits…


This is exactly like parts of America I have personally seen. Whereas in tiny old Britain we have sink estates, the good old USA has entire sink States. Like Middlesborough scaled up to the size of Mississippi… Not full-on inner-city deprivation, but perhaps more uncomfortably real for its mere one step remove from the life of the average person. You can’t imagine any of the characters here experiencing any great degree of upward social mobility in their lives, nor indeed perhaps downwards, but then I’ve always believed the desire for change, any sort, has primarily to come from within.

Nick’s cast of characters, however, seem content to simply be part of the fabric of small-town society and be swept along by the tidal undercurrents of malaise present there. They can’t think big. Well, except perhaps for Tyler, and that’s purely in terms of body count. And yet, even when we find out what’s become of the littlest psycho, in the final story, it’s clear even his grand visions haven’t amounted to much. I wonder how many budding, genuine teenage psycho-killers find their lust for life so easily thwarted? Or maybe he’s just been biding his time, the one resident of Beverly with a long-term career plan…


Art-wise, I can see several partial comparisons. The slightly pastel palette and general art style strongly minded me in some panels of Rutu EXIT WOUNDS / THE PROPERTY Modan. Particularly when arms are swinging about or faces are three-quarters on. I can also similarly make a case for some stories in Tomine’s OPTIC NERVE. Also, and I think it is the dot eyes, Raymond Briggs, and also even Ernie Bushmiller’s classic strip NANCY, particularly when characters are face-on. The relative simplicity of the style further allows the excruciating interactions between the various characters to take centre stage. For it’s those which are the atrophied, diseased, fat-clogged beating heart of these stories…


Buy Beverly and read the Page 45 review here

Mirror #1 (£2-25. Image) by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim; Hwei Lim & Emma Rios.

“Humour me… mirror 1 coverTell me how a little rat will succeed where so many mightier have failed?”
“I don’t know if I will, sir. But if I don’t even try, I’ll have already failed.”
“Ah, well. You can only lose as much as you were hoping to gain.”

I’m not sure that last bit’s true.

This is a story which will hit you hard in your heart.

A bright and beautiful comic full of fresh, Spring colours, to read this is like being given glimpses through an ornate window.

There’s no hand-holding, no unwieldy exposition, just key conversations overheard about dominion, control, captivity and aspirations to escape which you may wish to rewind multiple times in order to discern precisely what’s at stake.

The window aspect is emphasised by the arched panel frames on the very first page (third illustration down), then Emma Rios’ illuminations of Hwei Lim’s script for the parallel back-up feature called ‘The Hand That Holds The Leash’ (second illustration down). It is daubed in purple-blossom washes along with a landscape overlooking the cathedral-like Esagila compound at the heart of the young Irzah Colony. From a distance it looks as though it could have been fashioned from glass.

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Come to think about it, Kazbek too is painted by Rios to resemble shards of glass, reflecting the sky’s lilac colours as he sits calm and relaxed in the open-air gazebo or porch surrounded by the greenery of a substantial garden. Set around page four of the main feature, Kazbek is being instructed by Elena to get rid of the dog once it’s recaptured. It’s a dispassionate match of verbal sabres:

“She is much more than a dog.”
“Why do you say so?”
“She truly loves the boy.”
“Heh… nothing knows true love better than a dog…”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why would you have me get rid of her?”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why do you try so hard to make them human?”

There follow the final sentences of the first chapter:

“Yes, I’m being selfish. I’d rather be human and selfish than the noblest of dogs. The hand that holds the leash, not the neck wearing the collar. What about you?”

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Our first encounter is a mere 5 years after the colony’s formation. This prologue is called ‘The Boy And His Dog’. And you would be forgiven for imagining that Sena was a dog to begin with, for young Ivan’s at cheerful play with her. But we’re already fast-forwarding through time as the towering Kazbek interrupts school class, stick clasped behind his back.

“My apologies. I’m in need of Ivan’s assistance again.”

As Kazbek approaches outside, Sena’s delighted bark turns to a growl.

“Come. It is time.”
“Do we have to? She’s not fully recovered yet… “

Notice the cages and lab coats on the very first tier!

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In keeping with the comic itself, I’m loath to give much more away, except that there will be more cages, more mistreated “animals”, more inhumanity. Seemingly reasonable Kazbek will remain dispassionate throughout. That’s part of what makes him so infuriating. While an adult Ivan now seeks to study nature, Kazbek is meddling with it, manipulating it, experimenting with it. Colonists are only visitors, you know…

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Lim’s colours for the main event are less impressionistic than Rios’ but equally lambent. Both artists employ a great many arches and curves in the exquisite architecture, and even rat-monkey Zun’s descent to Ivan’s room is choreographed like a helter skelter ride. Like every 8HOUSE title, you can tell how much time has been spent and how much fun has been had coming up with designs for this society’s fashions. The lettering appears to be species-specific. Love the animal-orientated circular frame.


Buy Mirror #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + The Divine vol 3: Commercial Suicide s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Leila Del Duca, Brandon Graham.

The most contemporary comic imaginable, inclusivity is its middle name.

“A documentary about public grief can never show too many crowds of people freaking out about people they’ve never met.”

Previously in THE WICKED + THE DIVINE:

You know how the likes of Bowie and Kylie are referred to as pop gods and pop goddesses? Turns out some of them really are.

“You are of the Pantheon.
“You will be loved.
“You will be hated.
“You will be brilliant.
“Within two years you will be dead.”

Every 90 years a Pantheon of a dozen gods is born anew, activated by ancient Ananke who finds them in young individuals previously oblivious to their fate. She helps them shine brightly for their brief two years. If they’re lucky. Because some of those lights have been snuffed out already.

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It’s a brilliant conceit. Of course the Pantheon’s role in this modern age would be as those most worshipped today, and Gillen takes the opportunity to examine journalism, fame, fandom, aspiration, envy, competitive back-biting, fear, mortality and manipulation. Some are putting ideas into other people’s heads.

Please don’t imagine we’re treading water in these six short stories focussing on individual members of the Pantheon. If anything, events are escalating in the hunt for the killer. Prepare to drown in dramatic irony.

Since McKelvie was on sabbatical while he drew PHONOGRAM: IMMATERIAL GIRL, his chapter starring Woden is craftily composed entirely of panels repurposed from THE WICKED + THE DIVINE volumes one and two. Which itself involves a substantial amount of time and no small degree of artful judgement. Enhanced with colour filters by Matt Wilson which partially reflect their original source (explained in the extensive process-piece back-matter), it’s so successful that if you have no idea that it’s a collage you’d barely twig. Having this foreknowledge, each page made me smile, and I imagine some soul with enough time on their hands spent an entire afternoon identifying each panel’s specific source.

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What’s particularly clever, however, is that the remix / reconstruction is entirely apposite since it’s Woden recalling a side of the story you never saw in volume two after that gun was put to his head and he ran back to Mummy to tell tales. By ‘Mummy’ I mean Ananke, and this may make you want to re-read the whole series with fresh insight from the start. There’s a very funny sequence in which Luci and Baal’s actual exchange in volume one is replaced by satirical overdubs. There’s also an awful echo of the previous chapter as Woden comes clean about his sexual proclivities:

““How can I do it?” It’s easy. You take women and just forget that they’re people. It’s not hard.”

No, it seems appallingly easy given the deluge of mob-mentality male hatred thrown like so much repugnant, foul-smelling shit across the internet at female comics’ and especially games’ journalists like Leigh Alexander simply because they are women. Gillen pulls no punches in reproducing its sexually explicit venom here as social-media men-children bombard pop goddess Tara with a barrage of Tweets whose infinite, incessant, babbling inhumanity is represented by a final full page of these cold, callous rectangles receding into the distance and disappearing off the edges.

I cannot show you any of those pages – as in, I won’t. But, trust me, nothing has been exaggerated for the sake of sensationalism.

They’re presaged by Tara’s treatment by men long before she could sing – the casual sexism and worse which is faced by women walking the street or in bars – and presented in stark contrast to Tara’s softness, vulnerability and individuality as a human being, the flesh on her face drawn so warmly by Tula Lotay along with the pain and tears in her eyes.

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It’s an individuality no one was ever interested in, only her looks. Her fans hate it when she puts on the mask, depriving them of their pleasure, or sings anything she wrote herself.

“Fucking Tara.” It becomes a mantra of sorts.

Individuality is exactly what each artist offers here, and after you’ve read each chapter you won’t be able to imagine them being drawn by anyone else. For sheer, unbridled fury Kate Brown takes the biscuit and I’m not just talking about the line art, either – there’s a cacophony of colours and you too will see red. What Brandon Graham brings could hardly be more different. His Sakhmet is sexual, sybaritic, reclining like a cat, hunting like a cat and disinterested too. Her performance is phantasmagorical.

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Individuality is also what you’ll enjoy more of here as we learn a lot more about some of the Pantheon and their lives both post- and pre-activation. Plenty of revelations, all of which make perfect sense, particularly and at times hilariously the Morrigan and Baphomet drawn by Leila Del Duca. Heritage also comes up for combative review before artist Stephanie Hans draws Amaterasu going nuclear in the skies above Hiroshima.

“You are a literal artificial sun above Hiroshima! Fuck! Are you even aware of how offensive this is?”

We’ve not seen much of Minerva until now. She’s the Goddess of Wisdom, aged twelve. Out of the mouths of babes etc, I’d say she’s one to watch. I certainly wish they would listen.


Buy The Wicked + The Divine vol 3: Commercial Suicide s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scorpia: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown.

“Gentlemen, please. Mr Grendel has wanted to retire of a long time. We must respect his wishes. As my late husband used to say, before his unfortunate fall from a seventeen-storey window, “All good things must come to an end.”

At which point I roared with laughter.

I love a villain so confident in their impregnability that they’re that outrageously brazen and deadpan to boot. Scorpia’s Julia Rothman is just such a woman.

Of course you know that Mr Grendel is not long for this world. I give him six panels, max. But then if you are stupid enough to resign from a wealthy cabal of international terrorists during a meeting in which it’s been declared that thousands of children will die at your hands, you’re going to be stupid enough to believe you’ll survive.

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I love Julia Rothman’s femininity: her long skirt, long hair and make-up. You’ll find few clichés here, though you will be lulled into expecting them by the first, action-packed third: that this is going to be a butter-wouldn’t-melt, Blonde Boy Triumphant book. 14-year-old Alex Rider is preternaturally resourceful, preternaturally capable and preternaturally pretty. He’s been trained by and worked for the British government, and the dying words of Yassen Gregoravich, intimating that his father was a killer, have led him to Venice and almost immediately into the lair of Scorpia which is plotting a massacre on British soil. Go get ‘em, Alex!

But it’s way more complicated than that, and unexpectedly harsh. There will be hard choices, wrong choices but at all times understandable choices as Alex discovers he’s been lied to by MI6 for a very long time about the most personal details imaginable.

Then there’s Scorpia’s plot itself using its newly developed Invisible Sword. Firstly, its end goal isn’t death in itself, but the severing of ties between Britain and America. How? It isn’t as asinine as by making America look responsible for the attack, something which would be discredited immediately. Secondly, there’s its means: by slaughtering thousands of children, specifically twelve and thirteen year olds spread throughout London at exactly the same moment, en masse. How could you be that specific? It’s not a big bomb, I promise you.

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The Alex Rider novels and so graphic novels are of course aimed squarely around the twelve-to-thirteen age range, so that’s very clever. It’s a highly successful brand but I’m not going to claim for one second that this is a Young Adults or Young Readers series which will thrill adults equally like HILDA, AMULET or MOUSE GUARD. It’s not a VELVET of spy thrillers is what I’m saying, but I will tell you that this graphic novel throws everything age-appropriate that it’s got at those early teens, plus a big slab of geopolitics, and I would anticipate edge-of-your-seat nerves, cheers and also tears.

More than anything, however, regular Alex Rider adaptor Antony Johnston (THE FUSE, UMBRAL, WASTELAND and THE COLDEST CITY) has chosen his cohorts well, for the line art by Emma Vieceli (BREAKS, two AVALON CHRONICLES, three VAMPIRE ACADEMY books and her own DRAGON HEIR) and the colour art by Kate Brown (TAMSIN AND THE DEEP, FISH + CHOCOLATE) is beautiful. It is clean and pristine and perfectly captures Italy’s spirit of place.

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Those colours glow on the glossy page whether outdoors midday in Venice, overlooking Venice at midnight from across the lagoon or during an emergency meeting in the Cabinet Office. There’s still lots of light coming in through those windows, and the best description I can think of for the overall palette is summer, late afternoon.

Vieceli, meanwhile, fills the pages with big, bold forms with lots of close ups including, somewhat alarmingly, a Siberian Tiger right in your face. She has enormous fun with Alex’s hair flopping vulnerably across his face, and it’s always the face of an early teenager. His build’s somewhat buffer but the boy’s been trained to peak physical condition so, you know, fourteen-year-old Tom Daley…? Exactly.

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There’s an instinctive use of geometry going on outside of the panels – additional vertical blocks, strips and inlays which add extra movement, both temporal and physical – while all kinds of diagonals are let loose for the climax.


Buy Scorpia: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel and read the Page 45 review here

The Ultimates 1 Ultimate Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch.

A damning indictment of American neo-imperialism rammed with military geopolitics, this is my favourite superhero series of all time. Completely self-contained – you need know nothing before – it’s now collected into two seasons, each containing two of the original softcovers. There’s very little interior art online, but I’ll do what I can!

The Ultimates vol 1:

The world is changing. Threats are emerging that conventional armed forces may be unable to deal with. Last year a terrorist calling himself Magneto single-handedly tore into the Whitehouse and stripped the President naked. The Commander In Chief of the most powerful nation on this planet happened to be saved at the last minute by a couple of rogue mutants, but it could all have been very different. Ah yes, then there’s those mutants… If you were the U.S. Secretary of State, and you wanted to maintain American military supremacy, what would you do?

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General Nick Fury is given 50 billion dollars to build The Triskelion, a military base in the Upper Bay of Manhattan, and a twelve-digit budget to commission a renowned geneticist to replicate the serum that once created Captain America, the World War II human military hardware who went missing after saving Washington from a nuclear rocket decades ago. He hires two other scientists, who claim they have been able to develop a hormonal process which brings about instant height division, to work on other potential enhancements like height multiplication, enlists the trusted brand which is billionaire industrialist womaniser, Tony Stark, and sets about creating The Ultimates, a force of few to take down the many or the unthinkable.

Unfortunately the unthinkable lies within them, for the name of the geneticist – the lonely man whose personal insecurities are compounded by romantic rejection, demotion and failure to come close to recreating a Supersoldier – is Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. He’s tired of feeling small, and is about to do something very, very stupid.

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Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch deliver a summer blockbuster which will blow your brains out long before the main event. Until recently Bryan’s art eclipsed all modern cinematic special effects (I say it still does), and his sense of scale is going to take your breath away. When the rain pours onto the streets of Manhattan, the excess skids across the road, and when lightning strikes you may well begin to believe in Norse Gods. Millar’s successfully taken one-dimensional characters from the Legoland that is the Marvel Universe, shuffled them about, given them rounded (and occasionally split) personalities, then thrown them into the real world of media courtship, self-promotion, political self-justification, and national security.

Gone is the altruism, the gaudy costumes and quaint old supervillains; they’re replaced with bloody big paychecks, functional kevlar, fucked-up relationships and inferiority complexes on prozac. Who in their right mind would want to risk their lives fighting beings that could crush your skull like an empty eggshell? Thor…? Nope:

“Go back to your paymasters and tell them that the Son Of Odin is not interested in working for a military industrial complex who engineers wars and murders innocents. Your talk might be of super-villains now, but it is only a matter of time before you are sent to kill for oil or free trade.”
“Oh, for goodness sake. How can you people just sit there and listen to this “Son Of Odin” garbage? You’re not the New Messiah. You’re just a crazy ex-nurse who had a nervous breakdown three weeks short of his thirtieth birthday and spent eighteen months in a lunatic asylum. You might make a fortune from your lecture tours and trashy self-help books, but you don’t fool me for a second, Mister; I’ve got your secrets right here.”
“And I have your secrets right here, Doctor Banner. Have you told Betty Ross that you cry yourself to sleep every night, or are you too busy fantasising about hurting the Pyms for stealing your old job?”

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The entire first issue is a prologue devoted to the World War II events which robbed the world of Captain America and robbed Steve Rogers, the man behind the mask, of his chance at a happy marriage. When he’s found again in the early 21st Century his relatives are all dead, and the only friend Rogers has left has been married to his old fiancée for nearly sixty years. He’s dying of cancer and she can’t bare for him to see her enfeebled body. As for the rest of them, General Fury is a convincing recreation for a modern age with all the charisma of Samuel L. Jackson, Betty Banner is a self-centred, superficial P.R. guru, Jarvis the faithful butler is now a petulant old queen, and the Pyms have more than one secret which will out by the end of the book. As for Tony Stark, he may be a happy-go-lucky, lady-chasing, booze-guzzling flirt, but if he’s living life to the full it’s because the gauge is almost empty. Still, tomorrow’s just another day.

“Vodka and Orange? It’s only 10 am, Tony.”
“Not in Moscow, old boy. Cheers by the way.”

The Ultimates vol 2: Homeland Security (minor spoilers for vol 1):

When was the last time you saw an action film that was perfect? I mean, completely and utterly perfect: compelling performances, mesmerising special effects, jaw-dropping plotting, and the pithiest and wittiest of scripts. I’ve never seen one. Well, apart from Alien and maybe the very first Matrix. Even with the best, something is always slightly disappointing – a niggle here, a niggle there, an insult to your intelligence, or a ham actor in a vital role. All that money, all that talent and they rarely hit the jackpot, often through underestimating their audience.

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Welcome to THE ULTIMATES: I cannot fault one single second of this on any front whatsoever. If you are amongst the record-breaking numbers to have already snatched up volume one, this knocks its teeth to the back of its throat then pulls them out the other end. The Black Widow’s and Hawkeye’s impossibly spectacular double-act above the streets of New York; the brutal reprisal meted out on Hank Pym for abusing his wife; the running gag about Quicksilver seemingly doing nothing (“Actually if you slow down the building’s security tapes…”Liar.”); that tellingly treacherous little scene between the soldier and the boy, once Stark has been persuaded to rejoin the fray. These and twenty-five other sequences vie with each other for “finest ever seen in a superhero comic to date”.

Did I say “superhero” comic? I wouldn’t mind for once if this won the Eisner.

As we rejoin the series, the band of the few created to take down the many or the unthinkable have, by the skin of their teeth, just scraped through the latter, but at a staggering cost to the population of Manhattan, the dignity of Dr. Banner, and the self-esteem of their resident goliath and biogenetic fraudster, Hank Pym. Banner, whose sex-crazed rampage as the insatiable Hulk caused such loss of life, now lies sedated and captive at the heart of the Triskelion, the Ultimates’ multi-billion dollar military complex. Pym, having beaten and poisoned his wife to within an inch of her diminutive life, is about to find out what it feels like to be on the receiving end from a very, very angry soldier.

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And evidence has now been uncovered of an invasion force of shape-shifting aliens, which has been regrouping since the Second World War, and about to begin their final strike.

Time to go pre-emptive with the biggest airborne fleet of almighty carriers and jets you cannot begin to imagine until you’ve seen Hitch’s panoramas.

Won’t do them any good I’m afraid: they’ve been outmanoeuvred. In a finale which makes the first book’s look like an 18th century picnic in a 16th century park, Plan A is a catastrophe, Plan B proves useless and Plan C runs right out of time. I guess that leaves Plan H, then. How big is your “appetite” for war?


Buy The Ultimates 1 Ultimate Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

I promised you military geo-politics and American neo-imperialist lies.

In lieu of spoilers (umm, mostly), a montage:

“You promised the public that the super heroes would only be used domestically.”

“Forget this little street theatre they’re numbing your brains with. Our primary concern should be the rumours of the Ultimates being deployed in Syria and Iran. Because that’s what’s coming up if we don’t get our act together, Bob. This team wasn’t put together to stop burglars and bank robbers.”

“And when did I become one of the bad guys?”
“Around the time you took part in that pre-emptive strike against a Third World country.”
“A Third World country with nuclear weapons.”
“I think you’ll find that the only nation that’s ever used nuclear weapons against other human beings is the one you pledged an oath of allegiance to.”

“This isn’t a nation I believe in anymore. I never asked for Homeland Security or Guantanamo Bay… You should have seen their faces today, Hank. They were terrified of us.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Haven’t you seen the news? Oh, Hank. It’s been on every channel… we crippled a nation this morning.”

“Tell your boss he has a wolf in his fold.”

The great thing about speech balloons is that they have no regional accents. The great thing about straight prose is that is has no visuals. The great thing about this book is that it boasts the best speeches, the best characterisation, and the best visuals in any superhero comic.

At this point everyone is doing something behind someone’s back except for Captain America and Thor. Shame that everyone thinks that Thor is a basket case.

Thor told them exactly what would happen from the moment he refused to endorse American expansionism by officially joining the team. He warned them kindly, aided them loyally, and they repaid him with cynicism, violence and incarceration whilst the real traitor remained hidden. Now they’re in the Middle East, shutting down a nuclear facility America doesn’t like.

Never has a climax to something like this satisfied me so thoroughly. They reap what they’ve sown as America and its innocent civilians finally learn for themselves what it’s like to be invaded, immolated, and subjugated by a foreign power. It just gets bigger, then even bigger. You’ve never seen an eight-page, gatefold spread like it.

“Shouldn’t have left my fingernails in, dummy.”

“Get the hell away from my girlfriend.”


Buy The Ultimates 2 Ultimate 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.

Love And Rockets (Palomar & Luba vol 6): Comics Dementia (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Love And Rockets: New Stories #8 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez

Nod Away s/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Ernie Bushmiller

The Tipping Point h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Boulet, Eddie Campbell, John Cassaday, Bob Fingerman, Atsushi Kaneko, Keiichi Koike, Emmanual Lepage, Taiyo Matsumoto, Frederick Peeters, Paul Pope, Katsuya Terada, Naoki Urasawa, Bastien Vives

Crickets #5 (£4-99) by Sammy Harkham

Gardens Of Glass (£14-99, BDP) by Lando

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 3: Reason s/c (£12-99, Archaia) by Tom Siddell

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 4: Old Demons (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Megan Levans

Y – The Last Man Book vol 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka

The Eltingville Club h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

Batman: Dark Knight Returns (30th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Frank Miller

Constantine: The Hellblazer vol 1: Going Down s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, various

Injustice Year Three vol 2 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo

Secret Six vol 1: The Secrets Of The Six s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Ken Lashley, Dale Eaglesham

Armour Wars: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Mark Bagley

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 3 – Dawn s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Blue Exorcist vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Giganto Maxia (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura


ITEM! In-depth study: The Making Of Daniel Clowes And A Golden Age Of Comics.

Daniel Clowes’ new, original graphic novel PATIENCE is available for pre-order at Page 45.

ITEM! Dan Berry’s Hourly Comic Day 2016 is now in full colour and free to read online. What are the forces that conspires to save our Dan from doom?

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ITEM! Equally astounding is Joe Decie’s Hourly Comic Day 2016, full of his customary wit and swoonaway portraiture. “Daddy! Spillage in the village!”

Pop both of those creators in our search engine for many more comics, each one reviewed by silly old me.

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ITEM! The Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics exhibition has launched and Sarah McIntyre as always has all the details and all the best photos! Dozens of them with creators identified!

McIntyre also covers the context, including details of the Angoulême Festival’s ignorant dismissal of women, including not one female creator in its recent list of 30 nominations for a lifetime achievement award.

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I got rather angry about that and for the first time ever I’ve seen my Twitter off-the-cuff outburst collected together by SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE‘s Kate Charlesworth.

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ITEM! Paul Gravett interviews his co-curator of Comix Creatrix, Olivia Ahmad.  (Poster by Laura Callaghan.)

Comix Creatrix poster

ITEM! TAMARA DREWE‘s Posy Simmonds is interviewed on BBC Radio 4 about women in comics, chauvinism in comics, dismissal of women at Disney and picketing Punch magazine.

Speaking of, some photos of the only Page 45 window I’ve ever created for when Posy Simmonds signed with us:

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Page 45 Window Centre

ITEM! Most excellent interview with comicbook creators Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Kelly Sue DeConnick on modern comic trends and Things That Matter. Extensive article and everyone is most eloquent indeed. Example:

“[THE WICKED + THE DIVINE] has won praise for its racially and sexually diverse cast, including mainly female characters, a bisexual R&B star, a trans character whose storyline isn’t dictated by her sexuality, and a Bowie-like female Lucifer. “It does weird us out when we’re called a feminist comic book,” says McKelvie. “It feels like we’re getting a cookie for what should be the bare acceptable minimum.”

“We read and advocate a lot of feminism,” adds Gillen, “but we wanted the book to look like London and reflect all the people in our lives. That writing women this way is seen as a feminist act is probably more depressing than anything.”

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 3 reviewed above!

ITEM! Nottingham’s National Video Arcade is hosting its first LGBT night for Gaymers. February 18th.

See what they did there?

Gaymer Night

ITEM! Wise words from Una on communicating traumatic events, and avoiding violence visually when critical of it. Please see Una’s BECOMING UNBECOMING.


ITEM! John Scalzi writes about Impostor Syndrome with which I completely sympathise and have felt myself – “felt”, mind, which is a different thing altogether than believed. Everyone has doubts, do they not?

“Impostor Syndrome, briefly put, is the feeling that one’s achievements and status are a fluke, and that sooner or later one will be revealed as a fraud.”

I’m not sure than I have any status, but our achievements here are no fluke! This shit takes some planning, you know, by which I mean the whole shop. There’s a 2009 Page 45 15th Anniversary interview in which I explain the whole thing.

However, our Jonathan has just given another interview to be published in a couple of months’ time in a very prestigious non-comics magazine, which is one of the most impassioned things I’ve ever read. I anticipate whoops of empathy all round for our beloved medium of choice and a great many wide very eyes when you discover exactly which household name is our new co-conspirator / ally for 2016 and thereverafter.

New word: thereverafter.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2016 week one

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Includes new Sara Varon, Greg Rucka & Michael Lark’s LAZARUS VOL 4, Manchette’s FATALE, Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly’s CRY HAVOC #1, Marc Ellerby in RICK AND MORTY VOL 1 and more!

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

Well, this was worth re-reading: so many layers, so many secrets and so many lies.

As pertinent as ever, it will make you think long and hard about the tradition of Punch and Judy that presented itself as a childhood morality tale in which justice was never served. In which the philandering, maniacal, child-dropping, wife-beating, cop-killing, mass murderer escaped the noose right under our noses.

Punch slaughtered each and every one of them, and we were made to witness it all. Do you think that made us complicit?

“The path of memory is neither straight nor safe, and we travel down it at our own risk.”

It is indeed a maze and a hall of mirrors, prone to distortion; but then so is the present to a child. This is a book told in retrospect as the narrator recalls a past which will become increasingly troubling as moments take on more significance and clarity to an adult mind’s eye.

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For as a young lad he was sent to stay with his maternal grandparents and left to wander around his grandfather’s eerie, failing and virtually deserted seaside arcade which was visited by his uncle and one other. Then the boy saw more than he should; now he learns more than he wanted to.


“What baby?”
“Our baby, you wicked old man. I left it with you to mind, didn’t I, boys and girls?”
“It’s asleep.”
“You wicked, evil Mr. Punch. It’s not asleep. He killed my baby, didn’t he, boys and girls?”
“Oh! You wicked storytellers!”
“You’re a very naughty Mister Punch, and I’m never going to kiss you any more.”

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“They began to hit each other,
in an intricate bobbing dance,
the Judy puppet flew into the air
and fell, lifeless
of the

Between Neil Gaiman’s quietly controlled script and Dave McKean’s nightmarish puppetry (frenziedly photographed during the sequence above in which Mr. Punch’s rabid eye virtually hisses with brazen psychopathy) you will perhaps begin to wonder what the fuck we were all laughing at.

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There’s a scene on the beach during which the boy stumbles upon a private performance of Punch and Judy so early in the morning that nobody should have been there – certainly not the puppet master. He witnesses father Punch’s defenestration of his baby and is addressed directly: “Aren’t any boys and girls. Only him.” It’s possibly the most chilling panel in the entire graphic novel.

It will resonate later on for this is a comic with carefully constructed parallels.

It’s also a comic about being a child in an adult’s world “to which children are denied access”, full of the things which adults tell children and the ambivalence or uncertainly with which we as children receive them.

One of its delights is Gaiman’s ability to recall elements of youth which were legendary to our shared generation, as demonstrated most effectively in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. There it was the penny or ha’penny chews; here it’s the Heart ice-cream with its tangy raspberry ripple and rich coating of chocolate. In both instances it’s the seemingly life-altering decision on what to spend your much-prized, meagre pocket money. Of being left alone in a car while adults did their thing. Thunderstorms. Apple-peeling. Grandparents sleeping in separate beds. Lives you could never imagine they once had before they became the only thing you perceive them to be: your Gran and Granddad.

In contrast throughout McKean skilfully and thoughtfully employs a range of media – pen, paint, modelling, photography and extra special effects – to harrowing effect. For example, there’s a page in which the grandfather’s mania is recalled, using grainy, outdoor photographs of a man with a Toby-jug-sized head bellowing at a woman sitting meekly in a chair by a table and lamp, closing in on the mask’s wild, white-eyed fury. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. Unsettling.

All of it is.

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To my mind this is one of the greatest graphic novels Britain has ever produced and two decades ago it was massive. Since then it’s slipped below the radar and become submerged below so much subsequent brilliance, but it needs to be refloated.

This 20th Anniversary edition comes with a brand-new gallery in the back including the witty Comics Journal cover featuring photographs of Gaiman and McKean pulling the strings of their puppet portraits; previous covers; thumbnail sketches; photographs from the film Whack! by Tim Etchels and Dave McKean inspired by the graphic novel; collage images from the inside of Mr. Punch’s head, plus other designs for the never-completed nor released CD-ROM and photographs from the ‘Comics Unmasked’ exhibition at the British Library.

As to the printing, although the cover claims that it has been “completely re-mastered”, previous reproductions have been pretty classy and all I detected was a slightly more blue hue on some pages. I wish they’d corrected the commas instead which is my only complaint: they can barely be distinguished from the full stops. What I do like is the lower case – unusual outside of Eddie Campbell back then – which gives a diary and so confessional air to the proceedings.

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I’ll leave you will this which surprised and alarmed me, though I don’t know why I was surprised. Please bear in mind that amongst Mr. Punch’s many audacities and “accomplishments” was that he also slew the Devil.

“I thought I saw the Punch and Judy man a year ago last May, in a churchyard in Covent Garden. They celebrate Mister Punch’s birthday there, and Punch and Judy professors come from all over the country to tell his story. The church even invites Mister Punch into the pulpit to read the lesson, in his squeaky, secret voice. I wonder what the Devil thinks of the arrangement – but I am sure he has spoken from the pulpit or the lectern in his time, also.”


Buy The Comical Tragedy Or Tragical Comedy Of Mr. Punch and read the Page 45 review here

Sweaterweather h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Sara Varon.

Awww! It’s all about friendship with Sara Varon – friendship and kindness.

From the much-loved creator of ROBOT DREAMS, ODD DUCK and BAKE OFF comes a double-sized expansion of the original all-ages SWEATERWEATHER from 2003 with extra stories from all over the shop in navy blue, lilac and pinks.

‘Lion Comic’ from 2009 is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. A lion living in genteel elegance buys a book on ‘How To Fit In’ on the African Plains then settles down in a comfy chair with a steaming cup of tea to absorb the instructions. Thereafter the lion strolls out onto the Savanna and attempts to fit in, fails to fit in, fails to see that it’s failed to fit in, fails to understand that it never needed to fit in anyway… then writes a review for The Times on how well it’s succeeded.

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There’s Sara’s Five-Day Diary for The Comics Journal, a mini travelogue on Mexico City’s bizarre bazaar subway, and a few friends interviewed on staying productive while working from home when Sara leaves her part-time job at New York City’s School of Visual Arts to do just that.

Otherwise, Varon prefers silence while telling her tales including the original short story which became ROBOT DREAMS, one of my all-time favourite books about friendship even though it involves an act of betrayal. Most of us feel that at some point or another we’ve been left behind, abandoned on the metaphorical beach, and giving ROBOT DREAMS as a gift to another signals that you will never be so careless or callous.

All of this is compensated for by a story about campsite kindness and in a bit about boxing which could not be cuddlier. Also, who knew that Sara Varon used to box? Oh yes, each of these stories is preceded by a series of short insights into the construction of the comic, the history behind it, materials used or some personal anecdote.

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What else do we have? Hibernation, cooperation and cosiness; the final acquisition of a coveted “prize” possession; growing feathers for flight; a great deal of cooking; Secrets Of The Beehive; dinosaurs really feeling the heat before finding the obvious solution (which is usually ice cream, is it not?); and a cute little comic about building an indoor swimming pool and the distribution leaflets for it under the sea. Leaflet included, bound-in!

I’ve taken a photo of that page because it’s a brilliant example of the power of the comicbook panel. Take a look at that lush, navy blue page and then imagine it without the panel border below the sheep fishing on the jetty: the frog is no longer underwater diving for the sea bed, but swimming towards the shore.

It’s almost all anthropomorphics, and approachable one’s at that – Sara’s chosen child-like forms coming with an aura of innocence.

Miraculously I have unearthed a long-lost treasure: one of Mark’s Magnificent Musings when the softcover originally appeared in 2003. Hurray!

“Probably the cuddliest, fluffiest book I’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m tempted to say wait ’til the winter comes before buying as it’s best to snuggle up with it under a huge duvet while you’re spannered on Neurofen Cold’n’Flu. The cute figures (cat, rabbit, turtle, snowman) amble through an oft-frosty world, pull together and everything’s alright. In the back there are cut-out figures to play with as your mucus-filled head wonders if you should go for honey & lemon or menthol or just work your way through the Hobnobs. Nice bit about bees too. Aren’t bees nice?”

They are!

I’d just add that it’s typical of Varon to add extra mischief to the cut-out paper figures and their garb, for behind each lies either a skeleton, beating hearts, cogs whirring in the brain, a sandwich in the tummy, a penny in a pocket or the fish in the sea. Once constructed, you will need to unfold the flaps to peek inside and see them again!


Buy Sweaterweather and read the Page 45 review here

Manchette’s Fatale (£19-99, Titan) by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Max Cabanes & Doug Headline…

“A light went on in my head. Those assholes could be killed after all. Besides, I needed money but I didn’t want to work.”
“Look, what I do is work too you know. I go from town to town, hobnob with the upper crust. I watch them. There are always conflicts.
“I wind up finding them. Someone always wants to kill someone else. The rest takes a light touch.
“The idea of killing is already in their heads. You make them think it is theirs.
“Then I offer my services… When possible, in a time of crisis.
“I don’t tell them I’m a killer. No one would believe me. I tell them I know a killer.
“Now… now it’s all fucked.”

Jean-Patrick Manchette will already be very familiar to fans of Jacques Tardi for his trio of adaptations of Manchette’s crime novels: LIKE A SNIPER LINING UP HIS SHOT, RUN LIKE CRAZY, RUN LIKE HELL, WEST COAST BLUES. This work, adapted by Max Cabanes and illustrated in one of the most opposite of styles to Tardi possible, was originally published in prose form in 1977, immediately after the prose release of West Coast Blues and just before Like A Sniper…


Intriguingly Manchette himself considered this work more of an experimental novel than a thriller. It’s difficult to say why he made such a distinction without reading the original, because to me this is as straight-up crime thriller as it gets. It tells the story of femme fatale Aimée Joubert, a former victim of domestic violence turned ice-cold, calculating killer. Her modus operandi is to turn up in a town under a new identity, insinuate herself into local society, uncover everyone’s dirty little secrets, then act as agent provocateur, gradually turning the great and the (not-so) good against each other. Eventually someone cracks, they always do, but rather than inducing them to break the law so they’ll be arrested, that’s when Aimée offers her own unique services to remove the problem, permanently. And so it is once more in the sleepy seaside town of Bléville. This time though, not everything is going to go according to her plan…


Manchette is regarded as a true literary giant in France, and rightly so. I have enjoyed all of his works that have been adapted into graphic novels and translated into English immensely. If you read our reviews of LIKE A SNIPER LINING UP HIS SHOT, RUN LIKE CRAZY, RUN LIKE HELL and WEST COAST BLUES you’ll note certain themes running through. Great dialogue and narration, intensely flawed, dysfunctional characters, and endings that are neither straightforward nor particularly happy following considerable violent unpleasantness. It’s very much a case of plus ça change therefore again here! People don’t change, they’re still the same conniving, two-timing, weak-willed, greedy inveterates wherever Aimée goes. She knows that all too well, in fact, she’s relying upon it…


What is different, though, is the art. Gone is the ultra-gritty, roughly inked black and white of Tardi who can do broken-nosed, Gitane-smoking street thugs like no one else, replaced by delicate ligne claire coloured in a delightful faux watercolour effect palette. It’s entirely reminiscent of much Humanoids output, and is a perfect choice of style given that Aimée is exquisitely beautiful. Yes, she will undoubtedly end up blowing your brains out, but she’s probably going to make you lose your mind with desire first.


It’s only reasonable in the spirit of full disclosure I do mention there’s a modicum of naked flesh on show, entirely Aimée’s, as she is prone to wandering around her hotel room in the altogether, and err… having the odd moment or two of, shall we say, autoérotique in the bath. Which could come across as overly-prurient, I suppose, but in fact only serves to reinforce the feeling that here is a woman who is wholly self-sufficient, and indeed entirely self-interested. If she wants a man, she’ll take one, or equally take him out, but she certainly doesn’t need him.

As ever, I find myself left wanting more Manchette. Fortunately, he was an extremely prolific writer so there’s plenty more for people to adapt.


Buy Manchette’s Fatale and read the Page 45 review here

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

One of my favourite five monthly comics.

There will be no spoilers here; just enough to intrigue new readers to snap up book one.

“I looked on him and I was not assured. I looked on him, and I was afraid.”

That’s Sister Bernard gazing up in contemplation at a dilapidated statue of Saint Christopher in a derelict cathedral in Havana. He’s not just the patron saint of travellers, but of soldiers too: “A patron of holy death.”

There will plenty of travelling, a great many soldiers and blistering fire-fights in the most freezing conditions because Family Carlyle is about to go to war.

Before that, however, we must walk hundreds of miles in Sister Bernard’s pinching shoes. Nuns are given a degree of leeway by some Families to practise their faith and perform acts of medical charity for those without means – and most have no means – which involves traveling. In exchange for funding, Family Carlyle requests occasional favours from Sister Bernard whose mobility between borders makes her the perfect if petrified spy. She’s had no training and feels she has no aptitude – all she has is her faith, which here is tested to breaking point.

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Previously in LAZARUS:

In the not-too far future the world’s economies imploded, its political systems collapsed and the globe has been carved up between the sixteen wealthiest Families because money buys technology, money buys guns and money buys people, which together buy power.

It is a feudal system, an archetypal, bottom-heavy pyramid with Family at the top, a wafer-thin secondary layer of privileged serfs selected for their key skills below, then underneath the vast majority dismissed as “waste”.

Family Carlyle has invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on youngest daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate bodyguard, military commander and assassin. She’s been genetically enhanced with regenerative capabilities, trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat and has been indoctrinated to believe that there is only one law: “Family Above All.”

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The structure which Greg Rucka’s employed to introduce this grave new world has been impeccable, and it too has been a pyramid: LAZARUS VOL 1 showed us the focal-point Family Carlyle and two sharp-toothed vipers in its nest; LAZARUS VOL 2 broadened its scope to societal structure and the means by which waste might elevate themselves to serfdom; LAZARUS VOL 3 widened its outlook yet again to the geopolitical set-up as decrepit old Jakob of Family Hock takes advantage of a schism within Family Carlyle by ransoming its one errant member while attempting to steal from his body the Longevity Code which has granted Family Carlyle and some of its serfs a vastly extended lifespan. We met many more Families, each with their own Lazarus / bodyguard, and a play was made which ensured that war was inevitable.

And now… for the shooty bits.

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Michael Lark’s landscapes are phenomenal, and the characters could not be more grounded in their landscapes. That’s vital for depicting urban warfare with its geographical opportunities and obstacles; its cover, its exposure and its range. In addition, he has a complete command of weather conditions – in this case a blizzard of snow – and an eye for carefully judged detail so that readers get a tangible sense of what the terrain feels like and what can and cannot be seen by individuals on the ground. That’s vital for immersion: targets and troop movements cannot be nebulous if you want readers’ blood pressure to rocket alongside the protagonists’.

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The key is in making you care and Rucka is equally adept at making it personal. Forever Carlyle has of course been deployed while the rest of the family desperately struggle with their own problems back at base. But she’s made some discoveries recently causing her to make a decision which could put everything and everyone in jeopardy, not least herself.

Speaking of revelations, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so shocked by a final page. It’s no deus ex machina, but proof of an audacious authorial slight-of-hand much earlier on, which was so cleverly played by both writer and artist that I know of nobody who saw this one coming.

“Family Above All.”


Buy Lazarus vol 4: Poison s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cry Havoc #1 (£2-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly.

“So why is she on her own?”
“Huh. She ate her sister. Ah, it was ill. Probably would’ve been put down anyway. But Princess Giggles, there? Whoof.”

In which you will learn more about hyenas than you expected to. Certainly more than I’m comfortable talking about here. If you care to read Si’s extensive notes in the back you will learn even more, though not as much about the werewolves yet, except that we shouldn’t be calling them werewolves. For now, I will be calling them werewolves.

I like a comic whose unusual aspects have been thoroughly researched but isn’t insistent on ramming that research down your throat in order to get a First Class degree in Esoterics. By all means give us a gander in the back, but not in the story itself, please. Hurrah for Si Spurrier, then! I thought this was enormous fun.

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Drawn throughout by LOCAL and THE COMPLETE NEW YORK FOUR artist Ryan Kelly, CRY HAVOC flips between three time periods coloured and colour-coded by Nick Filardi for the sequences set in London, Matt Wilson in Afghanistan and Lee Loughbridge in… well, not in a good place. In a cage.

That’s where we know blue-haired violinist Louise Canton ends up, some undisclosed time in the future. Back in London she’s looking inside that hyena’s cage in the zoo where her girlfriend works. In the middle Louise is in Afghanistan, dressed in military combat gear, and looking outside a CH47-F Chinook Helicopter which is hovering above the exploding guts of a goat it’s just fired upon.

It’s not an obvious career move, I grant you.

But back in the beginning while busking by the Old Bailey, she was bitten down an alley by what looked like a werewolf and it unleashed in her a sensory overload, a craving – an intoxication.

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Each of the crew Louise has now found herself with appear to have had similar experiences with differing results and know more about their condition and its history than she does. Enough, at least, not to call their predator a werewolf. It’s more complicated than that.

Now she’s being transported to a deserted U.S.-run rendition centre which was mothballed when “a civilian employee lost her shit, killed five C.I.A. agents, released ten insurgents. By “lost her shit” he means she went feral.


They’re here to track her down.

It’s not just the colour-coding and panel grids which differ between time periods, but Kelly’s art too. London’s the style you’ll be accustomed to. I’ve never seen him draw anything like the Afghanistan sequences before: much sharper, more detailed lines in both the interior and exterior shots of the rendition centre, while the faces in places are closer to Mark Laming’s and, in one notable instance, almost as if inked by Tom Palmer.

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That Chinook’s pretty mighty when seen from below with a tremendous sense of weight which is being so improbably held aloft by the whirling blades above it. Below and behind, the dusty mountains fade into an almost infinite distance. It’s quite a big country.

There’s plenty of politics to sink your teeth into, playful dialogue, behavioural and cultural analysis and only the most ominous hints so far about the proto-mythology actually being explored and what’s been unlocked in each individual.


Buy Cry Havok #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It’s okay, Morty. Just stick with me and do exactly what I say, alright? Technically I’m not allowed in this building.”
“I thought you said this was on the up and up, Rick. You know I don’t like to break rules!”
“Yeah, and that’s a real… real… URRRP!… charming quality. I bet the girls love that one, don’t they, Morty?”

I’m just trying to think how best to describe Rick and Morty for those not familiar with the cartoon. Rick Sanchez is a mad scientist who likes a drink. Well, actually thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him sober! Or indeed, not covered in vomit… He’s a man who uses belching as means of dramatic emphasis and he’s practically turned life hacking into an artform, though in a Salvador Dali surrealist sense of art perhaps.

For example his use of a future-predicting device to play the intergalactic stock exchange to make him and his sidekick grandson – the infinitely more conventional and straight-laced Morty – richer than their wildest dreams seems, as Rick explains to an uncertain Morty, the simplest thing in the Universe. Unfortunately all of Rick’s madcap schemes have a tendency to spin out of control faster than a whirling dervish riding a waltza, and so it’s really no surprise when the time police show up pre-emptively, obviously, to try and warn them off.


Rick’s incessant goading and bullying of Morty ensures the two of the them press ahead with their fiscal thievery, however, and for a while their life of crime reaps rich pickings, but eventually the long hand of the time police catches up with them and a life sentence in the Clackspire Labyrinth awaits. Fortunately Rick, knowing he would eventually get locked up for something heinous eventually has, or more precisely had, a plan…

“You think I’d a build a crazy space dungeon and n… URRP!… not assume I’d get imprisoned in it one day? I’m familiar with dramatic irony, Morty.”


Indeed he is, he’s practically the poster boy for it. It’s a familiar refrain of mine but you never know whether these adaptations are going to be as good as the show, or indeed any good at all. Some succeed like ADVENTURE TIME, others fall woefully short: STEVEN UNIVERSE. Happily, this comes as close to its television show as I think it’s possible to get in terms of art style and tone, possibly the truest adaptation of a show I’ve seen, actually. Lovely clean lines, ultra-vibrant colour palette and the requisite complete and utter nonsensical mayhem. Rick puts Morty through the wringer repeatedly as usual, but for some insane reason Morty keeps on coming back for more. Morty’s mum, sister and step-dad are all here as well, bemoaning their perpetually pissed-up patriarch as their lives inevitably lurch from calm to catastrophic and back again on a daily basis. Great fun. For us anyway, not so much for them!

This first volume collects issues 1-5 plus bonus shorts featuring the delectable Marc ELLERBISMS Ellerby on art!


Buy Rick And Morty vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Disclaimer: this is a heavily edited version of a cursory review I wrote some fifteen years ago, reprinted purely because its punchline made me smile. I haven’t re-read the material although a quick glance at the watercolour washes of Scott Hampton’s pages had me swooning all over the place.

This collects the two mini-series from 1999 and 2001 written by dear Devin Grayson (much missed in comics; she was responsible for the early analysis of MMORPG addiction in THE USER, sadly never collected), the second in conjunction with LAZARUS, STUMPTOWN and GOTHAM CENTRAL’s Greg Rucka.

With artwork by JG Jones on the former (see cover) and Scott Hampton on the latter, they were at the very least two of the sexier superhero books around at the time.

Introducing a younger, more idealistic challenger for the position of Black Widow, the first storyline featured the bewilderingly popular comicbook trope of the drug that turns the taker into a super-strong berserker for two minutes before killing them off.

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The second is a riff on the Face/Off film as the older, original Black Widow undergoes brain surgery in order to swap bodies with the younger pretender for somewhat pointless reasons. To be fair, the writers seem to have realised the somewhat tenuous nature of the plot as several supporting characters feel the need to stand around asking why innovative transplant surgery is needed in order to work out the location of some missing missiles.

Less John le Carré, more John Le Mesurier.


Buy Black Widow: The Itsy Bitsy Spider s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Old Man Logan #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino.

Third series of this title following Bendis and Sorrentino’s OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES which was itself a sequel of sorts to Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s original OLD MAN LOGAN which is completely self-contained and highly recommended as the finest Wolverine solo series of all time.

Both those books are reviewed far more extensively but, in short, the original was set in an arid future when the heroes had lost and the villains had carved up America between them. Something so traumatic had happened to Logan that he’d become a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws for anyone or anything. When you learn what that was, you will understand why. Half the fun was wondering – then discovering – what had become of those you once loved. Those who were left alive, anyway.

OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES saw that same survivor dropped into Marvel’s alternate SECRET WARS world composed of various domains all ruled over by Vicky von Doom, each playing out alternate versions of key Marvel crossovers from the past or whatever else the writers came up with. It’s kind of difficult to explain, sorry.


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I adored its colours by Marcelo Maiolo which made you feel like you were travelling through the nocturnal section of a zoo’s tropical house under the influence of LSD.

Maiolo is back to colour Sorrentino’s Jay-Lee like art with suitable gnarled and jaggedy lines as the by-now thoroughly bewildered and battered and indeed naked Old Man Logan surfaces groggily on Marvel’s new post-SECRET WARS Universe which is almost identical to the one left behind but since it’s now years in Old Man Logan’s past, it’s going to take some adjusting to.

Presumably his old pals are going to need to make some adjustments too given that they thought their friend dead after the DEATH OF WOLVERINE. Will he tell them what becomes of the poor sods in their future?

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Avoiding those events and that future is now Wolverine’s main motivation and most pressing concerns. Also, avenging some slights that haven’t yet happened. Expect memory flashes which will be new to you, a checklist of those who need to be taken out in order to divert the course of the present (slight spoilers if you haven’t read the original yet; you’re encouraged to do so as soon as possible), spectacular landscapes and a surprising double-page homage to Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.


Buy Old Man Logan #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Yes, you are! I’ve always thought so, anyway.

You shop with us for a start or, if you don’t, at least you take the time to trawl through our reviews.

Finally, thanks to our own Jodie Paterson, Page 45 has a range of Valentine’s Cards to sell on its shop floor saving you the annual trouble of fixing a stamp and plopping it in a letter box so that they then descend en masse through mine, cluttering up my hallway and making it impossible to leave for work without the aid of a shovel.

Now you can simply pay at the till, borrow a pen from our counter, write your anonymous sweet nothings to me then hand it over. Or, if you want to engage in traditional stealth, leave and pass the envelope to someone incoming at our door, asking them to give it to “the totally delusional bald git”.

What I adore about Jodie Paterson’s Paper Pipit cards:

The calligraphy, class, composition, carefully chosen colour palettes and, increasingly, a satisfying coherence within each seasonal release: three or four variations on a theme which give them a striking beauty when arranged together, along with a recognisable brand identity. As evidence, please check out the other card Jodie Paterson Cards & Prints including her thank-you notes.

P.S. I don’t know how many Valentine’s Cards you receive on an annual basis, but one year I scored Minus One: a boyfriend ditched me by post, the letter arriving on February 14th. I’m not even joking. It was a very sweet letter, but still…


Buy You Are Perfect Valentine’s Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

You are most certainly are!

Just look at you with your eyes, teeth and noses all in the right places!

Probably cut back on the noses, though: just one will do.

I notice you also carry a Page 45 Tote Bag. It’s a fashion statement! And a status symbol!

Finally, thanks to our own Jodie Paterson, Page 45 has a range of Valentine’s Cards to sell on its shop floor saving you the annual trouble of fixing a stamp and plopping it in a letter box so that they then descend en masse through mine, cluttering up my hallway and making it impossible to leave for work without the aid of a shovel.

Now you can simply pay at the till, borrow a pen from our counter, write your anonymous sweet nothings to me then hand it over. Or, if you want to engage in traditional stealth, leave and pass the envelope to someone incoming at our door, asking them to give it to “the totally delusional bald git”.

What I adore about Jodie Paterson’s Paper Pipit cards:

The calligraphy, class, composition, carefully chosen colour palettes and, increasingly, a satisfying coherence within each seasonal release: three or four variations on a theme which give them a striking beauty when arranged together, along with a recognisable brand identity. As evidence, please check out the other card Jodie Paterson Cards & Prints including her thank-you notes.

P.S. I don’t know how many Valentine’s Cards you receive on an annual basis, but one year I scored Minus One: a boyfriend ditched me by post, the letter arriving on February 14th. I’m not even joking. It was a very sweet letter, but still…


Buy You’re Well Fit! Valentine’s Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

You know that I do! If I can see it, anyway.

I don’t need to see your actual bum – heaven forbid! – but I yearn for the resurrection of jeans which don’t droop at the back showing off your crack or My Little Pony underpants. You’re forty years old – what is wrong with you?!

Also, how do those jeans even work, gravity-wise? It’s a mystery to me.

Finally, thanks to our own Jodie Paterson, Page 45 has a range of Valentine’s Cards to sell on its shop floor saving you the annual trouble of fixing a stamp and plopping it in a letter box so that they then descend en masse through mine, cluttering up my hallway and making it impossible to leave for work without the aid of a shovel.

Now you can simply pay at the till, borrow a pen from our counter, write your anonymous sweet nothings to me then hand it over. Or, if you want to engage in traditional stealth, leave and pass the envelope to someone incoming at our door, asking them to give it to “the totally delusional bald git”.

What I adore about Jodie Paterson’s Paper Pipit cards:

The calligraphy, class, composition, carefully chosen colour palettes and, increasingly, a satisfying coherence within each seasonal release: three or four variations on a theme which give them a striking beauty when arranged together, along with a recognisable brand identity. As evidence, please check out the other card Jodie Paterson Cards & Prints including her thank-you notes.

P.S. I don’t know how many Valentine’s Cards you receive on an annual basis, but one year I scored Minus One: a boyfriend ditched me by post, the letter arriving on February 14th. I’m not even joking. It was a very sweet letter, but still…


Buy Like Your Bum Valentine’s Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

Please do! Or at least a hug!

Maybe you have to build up to a snog. Some might consider it inappropriate on your first purchase.

“Ah, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE volume one! That’ll be £7-50, please.”
*lunges at me across the counter*
*flails helplessly whilst sadly recognising it’s the best tongue-action he’s seen in well over a decade*

Yes, let’s develop our relationship gradually. We might want to start with a trip to the cinema to see a French art film in black and white, with subtitles, starring a bowl of fruit. I am the epitome of a good time!

Finally, thanks to our own Jodie Paterson, Page 45 has a range of Valentine’s Cards to sell on its shop floor saving you the annual trouble of fixing a stamp and plopping it in a letter box so that they then descend en masse through mine, cluttering up my hallway and making it impossible to leave for work without the aid of a shovel.

Now you can simply pay at the till, borrow a pen from our counter, write your anonymous sweet nothings to me then hand it over. Or, if you want to engage in traditional stealth, leave and pass the envelope to someone incoming at our door, asking them to give it to “the totally delusional bald git”.

What I adore about Jodie Paterson’s Paper Pipit cards:

The calligraphy, class, composition, carefully chosen colour palettes and, increasingly, a satisfying coherence within each seasonal release: three or four variations on a theme which give them a striking beauty when arranged together, along with a recognisable brand identity. As evidence, please check out the other card Jodie Paterson Cards & Prints including her thank-you notes.

P.S. I don’t know how many Valentine’s Cards you receive on an annual basis, but one year I scored Minus One: a boyfriend ditched me by post, the letter arriving on February 14th. I’m not even joking. It was a very sweet letter, but still…


Buy Gizza Snog Valentine’s Card 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.

Beverly (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Nick Drnaso

The Book Of Hope h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi

Brother’s Story (£5-00, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess

The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 1 (£12-55, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess

The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 2 (£12-99, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess

The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 3 (£12-99, Zetabella Publishing) by Sarah Burgess

Hilda And The Midnight Giant s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Phonogram 3: The Immaterial Girl Issue Pack – All Six Issues! (£12-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

The Wicked + The Divine vol 3: Commercial Suicide s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Leila Del Duca, Brandon Graham

Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir h/c (£14-99, St. Martin’s Press) by Tom Hart

Scorpia: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown

Hinges Book 2: Paper Tigers (£11-99, Image) by Meredith McClaren

Lumberjanes vol 3: A Terrible Plan (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Noelle Stevenson, various & various

Squarriors s/c (£14-99, Devil’s Due) by Ash Maczko & Ashley Witter

Star Wars: Lando (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Alex Maleev

Stinky Cecil In Terrarium Terror (£7-50, Andrews McMeel Publishing) by Paige Braddock

Trigger Warning (£7-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman

Uncanny: Season Two (£14-99, Dynamite) by Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell

Bizarro s/c (£10-99, DC) by Heath Corson & Gustavo Duarte

New Suicide Squad vol 2: Monsters s/c (£10-99, DC) by Sean Ryan & Philippe Briones

Deadpool And Wolverine Digest s/c (£7-50, Marvel) by various

Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops vol 2 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Reki Kawahara & Neko Nekobyou

Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Reki Kawahara & Koutarou Yamada

Adventure Time: Masked Mayhem s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Kate Leth & Bridget Underwood

Edward Scissorhands: Parts Unknown (£14-99, IDW) by Kate Leth & Drew Rausch


On hold for next week!

It was this or Jodie’s Valentine’s cards reviewed above.


– Stephen