Archive for March, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week five

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Scott Pilgrim vol 4 h/c Colour EditionBryan Lee O’Malley News! Also: Jonathan does the heavy lifting with Dan Clowes’ Patience and Sony Liew’s Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, we unearth a review by our Mark for the reprint of Through The Habitrails while I’m all about Tony Cliff’s new Delilah Dirk and Jeremy A. Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl plus Hickman & Ribic’s Secret Wars. Finally! It’s actually very good.

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye h/c (£22-50, Pantheon) by Sonny Liew…

“In the beginning, there was Tezuka. They called him the God of manga.”
“I’ve got that book of his over here…
“As for me, I was born in the year of nothing. 1938.
“Well, as far as Singapore’s history is concerned, anyway… 1938… It was before the war, not a year of any particular significance…
But it was the year that The Beano first appeared in the UK…
“… and Superman made his debut in the United States.”

I never knew that. Perhaps someone needs to organise a Dennis The Menace vs. Superman centennial crossover for 2038? I can just imagine the put-upon Clark Kent being best chums with Weedy Walter. It wouldn’t be the weirdest match up, surely; I mean SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMED ALI was pretty odd, though I would contend BJORN BORG VS. PLUG of The Bash Street Kids, with the toothsome teen thrashing the great tennis maestro, is probably more bizarre still.


Hmm… not sure if one can technically have said to digressed before you’ve actually started something, but I’d best get on with the review! Or at least provide some background first…

Singapore, the “Crown Jewel of the British Empire”, is arguably the most successful former colonial territory, of any of the ‘great’ 19th and 20th Century European empires, in terms of its transition to independence. It’s economic prosperity and increased living standards enjoyed by its citizens were the envy of all its Asian neighbours in the latter half of the 20th Century. Most of the plaudits for that progress can be laid at the feet of The People’s Action Party which has formed the democratically elected and re-elected incumbent government since 1959, and its first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who actually held the position until 1990.

That progress, guided by Lee who is regarded as the founding father of modern Singapore, from “third world to first world in a single generation”, is clearly impressive. As ever, of course, along the way, there were certain dissenting voices who were, shall we say, removed as obstacles, by a combination of political chicanery, state abuse of power (particularly in the sphere of silencing dissenting journalists) and a disturbing use of extended internment without charge for certain radicals. It is probably testament to the relatively small scale and generally bloodless nature of these measures, that the vast majority of Singaporeans regard them as having been a necessary evil.


That moral conundrum, plus the history of this island from colonial trading outpost to fully fledged Asian tiger and much more besides is explored through the eyes, and art, of Singapore’s greatest comics artist: Charlie Chan Hock Chye.  Except… such a person never existed…


Sonny Liew has created a truly fascinating proxy to allow him to take us on the Singaporean independence journey, warts and all. That story in and of itself is immaculately laid out, very objectively, without shying away from any of the darker elements. But it’s the retrospective of the faux career of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, shown in snippets of chapters and sketches, à la mode of Seth’s THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS, which elevates this to a work of genius. Because Charlie Chan Hock Chye was always a man who expressed himself through his comics, and was someone who had much to say. With the arm’s length remove of anthropomorphic satirical gag strips or a speculative fiction premise about a fascistic future regime of hegemonistic alien overlords, his comics allowed him far more freedom of speech than the oppressed journalistic press itself enjoyed.




Thus Sonny Liew is very neatly able to provide a much more personal and subjective commentary on the never changing political landscape and various tumultuous events as they affected the typical man in the street. As with Seth’s masterpiece, you’ll be left wishing that some of Charlie Chan Hock Chye’s works actually existed because you’ll be wanting to read them in full!


There is an additional comedic level revolving around Charlie Chan Hock Chye’s entirely self-appointed status as “Singapore’s greatest comics artist” and his complete lack of any substantial commercial success, including his attempts to crack America, which is almost certainly a bit of personal commentary on Sonny’s part on working as a comics creator I would imagine, but which only serves to season our appreciation of this fake master even further.



Sonny employs a truly enormous range of art styles throughout this work, which is undoubtedly his magnum opus, demonstrating the various creative twists and turns (and cul-de-sacs) a comics artist might take during such an extensive and varied career. Fake or not, he’s had to draw them all! I seriously hope this work serves as a springboard to greater widespread recognition and rewards for Sonny though, because he truly deserves it. I can’t imagine how he can top this creatively, mind you, but I’m fascinated to see how he’ll try.


Buy The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Delilah Dirk And The King’s Shilling (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff.

Key words: energetic, refreshing; thrilling and funny.

We are certainly not at home here to Comrade Cliché who has been sent packing back to his identical twins, Praetor Predictable and Father Formulaic. Instead entire households have the capacity to surprise with their absence of snobbery, racism and chauvinism even if certain less oppressive formalities must be maintained for the sake of one’s reputation.

Ah, reputation, very much at the heart of this tale and on the front cover, dichotomous Delilah having more than one to uphold.

Set in Portugal and Britain during 1809, this quick-witted action-adventure is my fav all-ages read of the year so far. And I do mean all-ages, just like AMULET whose Kazu Kibuishi is an enormous fan.  It’s easy to see why: just as AMULET is bursting with fantastical Hayao Miyazaki flourishes, Tony Cliff delivers landscape after landscape with perfect perspectives and period detail:

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Lisbon harbour with its exotic, early 16th Century Belém Tower; galleons setting sail; and at least three English, aristocratic mansions from the homely and rustic Nichols estate, late on a moonlit night with a solitary room’s windows shining ever so bright, to the more grandiose and Palladian on the evening of a ball.

We are indeed talking Jane Austen’s era of etiquette-ribbing match-making and I can assure you this is equally iconoclastic, only with a great many more swords and some balletic, fight-scene choreography worthy of Frank Miller circa DAREDEVIL.

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We first meet wall-climbing, roof-hopping, sword-flashing Delilah Dirk during a rescue mission / child-abduction in Portugal. It depends on your sense of perspective – something Delilah’s long-suffering side-kick Mister Selim has far more command of than she does. Selim offers a constant, cautionary and pragmatic counsel to his more hot-headed counterpart. Where Delilah sees revenge, Selim would rather seek justice; where Delilah would rather protect her legendary reputation as fearsome and formidable even with an arm wound so debilitating than she could not possibly succeed, Selim suggests strategy. Lovers of nail-biting tension will be delighted to learn that, obstinate to the end, she never listens, even to an obvious admonition to avoid Spanish soil overrun with warring French and English redcoats.

“We should leave. I don’t like all this red. It reminds me of blood; specifically mine, and specifically not where it should be.”

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It’s there that they first come afoul of ambitious aristo-git Major Jason Merrick who has the most god almighty chip on his shoulder on account of feeling unappreciated by his father, Colonel Phillip Merrick. Not knowing whom he has in his clutches, Major Merrick drags Dirk in as a French spy. This goes somewhat unappreciated by his father who knows Dirk by reputation and where her loyalties lie, so he dismisses both the charges as unsubstantiated and his son as ignorant. This is not appreciated by his son who swiftly plants evidence and so now Delilah Dirk has a reputation – for treason! This is not appreciated by Delilah.

Over and over again, this single-minded mule’s deceit will make your blood boil, but that’s as nothing when you find out his true ambitions.

As I say, reputation is central, whether it’s London’s reputation as glorified throughout the wider world, Delilah’s now that she needs to clear her name and ensure no further opportunists believe that they can win a fight against her… and then there is the Nichols family reputation back in England. Who? Oh, for someone who seems to be so concerned about the truth, Delilah has been far from forthcoming herself, especially when it comes to poor Mister Selim.

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What makes this for me is the actual wit – the dry humour – evidenced by Mister Selim. On the very first page there’s some positively parched humour when he attempts to start a small, distracting fire while observing that the grass is far from green; later he’s asked when he would expect out of a British reception. “Nothing extravagant,” he shrugs, eyeing his double-page, imperialistic, triumphalist fantasy which is too funny to behold. I also love the running gag about British tea, the last one I clocked being visual.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and, for the facial expressions and general relationships you might feel towards the characters, make a comparison to Kate Brown (TAMSIN AND THE DEEP, FISH + CHOCOLATE, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 3).

I’m also delighted to have found my final illustration online, for I marvelled at this early page on which Tony Cliff thought to add this extra detail of one of the sheets (drawn down to protect the Portuguese patio from the searing midday sun) either having been taken by a breeze and got itself hooked on the railings or never having quite made it to the floor in the first place!

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Now that is classy.


Buy Delilah Dirk And The King’s Shilling and read the Page 45 review here

Patience h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Daniel Clowes…

“And this is where my story begins.
“The pain was beyond anything you could imagine, a fucking cannon hole in the chest.
“I couldn’t move for what seemed like hours, like I was stuck in drying concrete. Probably just a trick by my DNA to keep me from bashing my brains in.
“The fact is, I didn’t want to kill myself. My memories were all that was left of her. I couldn’t bear to snuff those out too.
“And even though this event had demonstrated the total absence of order in the universe, I couldn’t stand to think of some inhuman demon walking free while the cops pinned the whole thing on me.
“But I’ll be fucked if that isn’t exactly what happened.”

It would be fair to say that 2012 wasn’t a good year for Jack Barlow. I mean, coming home and finding your pregnant wife murdered will do that to you.


When the cops seem more interested in trying to pin it on him rather than conducting a serious investigation into the titular Patience’s death, Jack decides he’ll need to try and find the culprit himself. However, fast forward to 2029 and no matter how many spurious tips he’s run down and flimsy leads he’s followed up…

“… That one fizzled out like all the rest. More pointless bullshit. And so, here we are.”

Indeed. Here we are. At least for now…

Meanwhile the fact that the more time passes it becomes ever less likely Jack will be able to find his wife’s killer is not lost on him. In fact, it’s all he can think about, so obsessed and all-consumed is Jack with what has been taken from him. Not just his wife, but the potential of a being a father, a future of being all together as one happy family. That Jack is utterly convinced the killer is someone from Patience’s shadowy past only adds to his agony.


So when a prostitute Jack saves from a beating lets slip that she has a client who mentioned something about trying to invent a time machine, he’s desperate enough to track the guy down. He knows it’s going to be just one more kick in the teeth, but when it turns out to be true, he’s headed straight back to 2006 to try and learn the identity of Patience’s killer and alter the course of history by stopping her murder.

Of course, Daniel Clowes isn’t going to let it be that simple for Jack, now, is he?! No, what follows as Jack is put through the emotional and temporal wringer, quite literally time after time, is as darkly comedic as it is disturbing. Jack is determined to be the discreet unseen observer, yet completely unable to stop himself from intervening as he sees his wife getting into various horrific scrapes she’s only ever alluded to with various local scroatbags and ends up changing events in ways he could never have envisaged. He’s convinced he can correct matters and still save the day of course, but as events start to spiral further out of his control, and the effects of repeated time hops starts to play havoc with his body and his mind, who knows where, or indeed when, it will all end up.


As ever a note-perfect construction story-wise across the decades, blending complex brooding story-telling with farcical comedy to superb effect once more, just as he did with WILSON. It takes real skill to make a reader want to laugh and cry at the same time, with a fair amount of wincing thrown in for good measure. I frequently found myself shaking my head at Jack’s latest catastrophic transgression whilst simultaneously egging him on.

Art-wise, Clowes is on top form as ever. I particularly loved the grey-haired older version of Jack who looks every inch the bad ass, in complete contrast to the sweet, innocent 2016 version. It’s also quite amusing and revealing when he goes to visit the younger version of his own mother (yet another line he wasn’t going to cross…) and we find she bares more than a passing resemblance to Patience. No idea whether Mrs. Clowes looks like his mother did, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find it was so! Plus there are some great surreal timestream sequences near the end as things start to get very messy indeed. Finally, the absolute last double-page spread, after the story has finished, I could stare at for hours. Purely as a piece of modern art in its own right I think it is one of the most enticing / intriguing / strangely comforting images I’ve ever seen.


Buy Patience h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles (£10-99, Dover Publications Inc.) by Jeff Nicholson –

Includes a new epilogue by Jeff, new foreword and intro by Fraction & Bissette, and fresh, shiny new paper for crisp, pitch blacks and zero ink-bleed. To be honest, it looks as if it’s been completely reshot.

It’s one of our favourites. Review from 2001 by our beardly beloved Mark:

The unnamed narrator works in the illustration department of a large advertising agency, hacking out pictures of happy pizza delivery and pointless mail order trash. He has dreams of producing his own work but the sales force and their little taps that drain the creative juices from his system leave him numb and desolate at the end of the day.

He shows us his colleagues: The Doomed One (his dreaded future), destined to toil there forever, complaining and bitching, trapped at her work station; The Infiltrator, possibly an agent of the bosses, spying on the workforce; the writer who returns after an illness with a great novel but loses his nerve to publish it, sinking back into the soft, easy life.

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Metaphors are pushed to the surface. The creative juice is literally drained from the workers. This is then fed to the maze of gerbils which run round the office in an elaborate tunnel network. The workers – always shown without a mouth – can kill the creatures to relieve stress thus making them feel less helpless.

‘Jar Head’ deals with his descent into alcoholism:

“The act of drinking beer became cumbersome, and I drank in such quantity that it became more practical to fashion a large pickle jar around my head. In time, the air seemed less important, and the carbonation from the beer was enough to sustain me.”

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It’s probably the most grotesque chapter and the page with the scalpels and the insects is not something that I care to think about too often.

Throughout the book, he searches for escape whether it is in relationships, travel or his own projects.

This is horror: one guy quit his job after reading it.


Buy Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles and read the Page 45 review here

Cursed Pirate Girl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastian.

“What business does one so small have afloat those dark waves?”
“You may think me a spring shower, sir. But I’ve a hurricane in this heart that’d sink the Royal Fleet. So if your old bones would be so kind there’s a pirate here that needs to be squeezed through yer pretty door.”

What a thunderous, exuberant and intoxicating read! Jeremy A. Bastian, as if giddy on grog, liberates himself from all constraints to deliver a fantastical romp both above and below the Caribbean high seas.

It is so rich in detail that you’ll be scanning its nautical nooks and pirate-cabin crannies for hours. The lines are ridiculously fine yet as smooth as silk, as shrimp-strewn seaweed swirls to frame the pages or when the Pirate Girl is lowered down the hull of a galleon in a cage which is fashioned in the form of one enormous, ornate teapot. It’s not just ornate, this is bursting with inspiration and imagination, the pages populated by James Gillray grotesques and Sir John Tenniel hybrid creatures.

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And yes, while I’m think about it, there is more than a little of Lewis Carroll’s fantastical mischief here combined with the anarchy of Tony Millionaire (SOCK MONKEY, MAAKIES), whilst the cluttered galleys and captain’s quarters o’erbrimming with jewel-encrusted treasures are delineated with lines as classy and intricate as Bernie Wrightson’s or Franklin Booth’s.

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Charles Vess, Mike Mignola, David Petersen and Gerard Way line up to praise the book’s originality as the Cursed Pirate Girl and parrot Pepper Dice take a deep breath and dive underwater past squabbling swordfish siblings to rise in search of the girl’s missing father, one of five Captains sailing under the Jolly Roger flag in the Omerta Seas. Each ship they board presents a different challenge with new friends or foes, but the Cursed Pirate girl has boundless energy, a quick wit and at least one keen eye, while by the end of this first foray ‘x’ will mark the spot of the other.

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There’s an extensive gallery of previous covers, maps and head-dressed skulls, additional fantasies like the Lands of the Lions whose crowned Kings Castle rises above the forest tree tops and a moat patrolled by gunships like the grandest Indian temple never constructed. Guest artists galore include David Peterson, Katie Cook, Stephano Gaudiano, Mike Mignola and Moritat, they’re portraits coming complete with in-character commentary.

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It’s almost as if Archaia doesn’t want to stop giving you stuff but, alas, they have when it comes to the paper stock which was previously deckled – crisply crinkled as if pressed from older pulp slurry – but is now a smooth, silky cream. French flaps, though!



Buy Cursed Pirate Girl vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mystery Circus – Week One (£9-99) by Verity Hall…

“Yeah well… look I was just wondering… this is a little awkward… but it’s just we saw one of your old posters… and I couldn’t help but notice one of the faces and look just… do you know anything about that girl who died?”
“Excuse me??”
“You know, the gymnast or contortionist or whatever?”
“It’s just we saw this old poster and she was on it and…”
“Anyway I was just curious…
“CURIOUS! About a dead woman? A dead woman you’ve never met?”

As main character Malorey Hassan said herself, awkward! Quite why Mal has got such a bee in her bonnet about a deceased performer of Parvati’s Circus I don’t know. But it is certainly going to get Mal and her friend Eddie into some increasingly exciting social situations, that’s for sure, as they start to investigate precisely what it is that the carnies are covering up. Oh, and some trouble, of course, obviously!


This is the second self-published graphic novella from Verity LIKE A SHARK IN A SWIMMING POOL Hall, and it’s lovely to see her continued development both in terms of storytelling and art. This work is the first volume in an ongoing series, so it’s also great to see there are no limits to her ambition too! By the end of this first instalment I was sufficiently hooked from what juicy details Mal and Eddie have uncovered in their investigations so far – plus some other reveals regarding the characters including one huge reveal regarding Mal herself – to want to know more!

Verity has created some characters with real heart and depth here. I found myself beginning to care as much about them as I was intrigued about just what’s really going on underneath the big top… Fortunately for me, Madame Parvati’s mysterious decision that the circus will stay in their sleepy back water town indefinitely should ensure I get some answers…


In terms of the art, I think it is pretty fair to make the comparison to John Allison’s very early SCARY GO ROUND material. If you look at what John is producing today, you can see how much progress he has made in the meantime, and I don’t doubt Verity has the same intent. This is very colourful, very expressive. It perhaps feels a touch too much so in places, occasionally I found myself noticing I was observing why the construction of a panel had broken my concentration on the story for example.

I think Verity just needs to continue naturally softening her style, which I can see has happened already from LIKE A SHARK IN A SWIMMING POOL. But overall this is an excellent example of the level, in terms of the story, art and production values, that just starting out self-publishers today need to be aspiring to. Verity evens includes a pack of four prints and two stickers featuring the cast as a little bonus.


Buy Mystery Circus – Week One and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Dougie Braithwaite & Leandro Fernandez.

“Later on, she told me the whole story.
“About the way she left her village. About the old man, about Cristu and Vera.
“About the thing her father said.
“About her baby.
“When she was done, I knew a lot of men would have to die.”

The second of four thick volumes reprinting the original ten adult-orientated PUNISHER MAX books plus attendant mini-series, this is a far cry from Ennis and Dillon’s PREACHER-lite burlesque of WELCOME BACK, FRANK. Don’t get me wrong, that book made me chuckle heartily, but any humour here is much, much blacker as Castle confronts real-world politics and sexual slavery.

Following the slaughter or his wife and kids, Frank Castle is a man with one mission: to kill those he believes prey on others, particularly on women and children. As he made resoundingly clear in PUNISHER MAX VOL 1, Frank is not a gun for hire. He accepts no one else’s authority and no one else’s instructions.

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The only man in the Marvel universe who boasts the same self-assured, dogged determination is Nick Fury, which is possibly why he’s one of the few people Castle will listen to.

In ‘Mother Russia’ Castle is told that the Russians have developed a virus; one which – if it made its way onto the black market like other arms from that crumbling military monolith – could prove lethal to the rest of the world. It’s locked in an underground nuclear solo… inside the body of a young girl.

Nick needs the girl safely out, and only Frank would be both insane enough to attempt the mission and ruthless enough to accomplish it. Unbeknownst to Nick Fury, however, there’s a more cowardly form of ruthlessness in action behind the desks of the Pentagon, where they’re prepared to sacrifice innocents to cover their tracks, even if it means doing to others what was done to America on September 11th, 2001.

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That was of Ennis’ best performances to date – you may find yourself punching the air when you hear Castle’s uncompromising ultimatum at the end of chapter five, delivered deadpan to the Russian command. And do you honestly need me to tell you how great Braithwaite’s pencils are (see JUSTICE)? He brings a gnarled and brutal physicality to the proceedings. You can almost feel the bruised, puff-eyed swellings throb and hear the headache behind them. The Russian leaders’ faces are weary, drained of all life and humour. There are a lot of hard stares, and if I had to describe Travino’s colour palette it would be winter gulag green – at midnight.

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However, after ‘Up Is Down And Back Is White’ – which I confess I don’t remember – we come to ‘The Slavers’ also illustrated by Leandro Fernandez and its bite is even harder. It deals with the all too real horror of international sex-slave trafficking: of young women from the Balkans being tricked into believing they have a future in the West, then being sold into sexual slavery here.

It’s usually a family business, believe it or not, but you can forget any cuddly connotations that may spring to mind. I remember seeing a couple of undercover investigations into this – and a TV dramatisation – a few years back, and one of the many things that hit me hardest were the madams: the wives of the abductors, the women who would treat other women like meat, offering them up to be gang raped in order to break them early on. It’s all here, barely diluted (“An unbeaten woman is like an untidy house”), and the Punisher realises early on that those he’s up against are more hardened than his regular mafia targets. They’re the father-and-son Romanian leaders of a Serb militia outfit, the results of whose genocidal campaigns had been reported by the papers:

“In the space of two years, they’d taken out a dozen villages.
“The last four places that they hit were different. Same streets of corpses as before, a total of over eighteen hundred. But men, kids and older women only in the last four. All the girls were gone.
“Someone must have had a brainwave. More profit in slavery than massacre. You already run a death squad: all the recruits you’ll need when you join the private sector. And when NATO takes a hand and it isn’t quite so easy doing business, what else do you do but move out West?
“One way or another, the badlands of Eastern Europe have been at war forever.
“They give their world its hardest soldiers. Always have. Men who play soccer with severed heads in kindergarten yards; who wire their captives with explosives, drug them, then send them staggering back to unsuspecting families.
“The things I’d have to do to break those men – to make them talk…
“Would be extreme.”

By the Punisher’s standards.

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Once you meet the father-and-son war-versus-commerce contingent you will understand just how extreme those measures and must be and what an uphill task it will be deploying them without the women being whisked off somewhere else or caught in the crossfire. Because Ennis makes it personal, about individuals, you’ll be rooting from Frank harder than you have done before – unlike the police who are doing fuck all about the traffickers themselves. Instead they’re distracted by one corrupt Detective Westin to lie outright to the media during high-profile press conferences about how Castle is coming undone and assaulting officers, thereby hindering (and in one instance thwarting) Frank’s best efforts to free the women before even worse goes down.

I have to confess that I’m more of a Braithwaite fan than Fernandez, but it’s still powerful stuff and almost every panel the vile old man appears in is suitably grotesque and appalling.

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Next? Believe it or not there will be a little light relieve courtesy of a bloke called Barracuda and – depending what order Marvel choose to reprint things – Christopher Walken as well.


Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars (£16-99, UK Ed. s/c; £37-99, US h/c, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic.

“Everything dies.”

SECERT WARS is many things, amongst which it’s the culmination and climax of a storyline first set in motion by Hickman in his FF / FANTASTIC FOUR run then NEW AVENGERS VOL 1.

“Everything dies” we were told over and over again as the cabal called the Illuminati – Reed Richards, the Black Panther, Iron Man, Beast, Namor, Black Bolt and Dr. Stephen Strange – witnessed a series of Incursions: intrusions of planet Earth from one parallel universe to another. There could only be two outcomes: one of those Earths was destroyed / sacrificed to save the other… or everything died in both.

As the book opens there are now only two Marvel universes left: the regular and the Ultimate. The Earth of each appeared in the other’s sky, blotting out almost everything else up there. Their populations were terrified and their respective superhuman populations went straight on the attack without knowing for the most part that they were essentially up against themselves.

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The good news is that Reed Richards, having seen this coming for months and failed to find an acceptable solution, came up with a contingency plan instead and, along with his equally erudite daughter Valeria (still aged seven or something!), constructed a life raft they believe could withstand the death of the universe. It could contain no more than 60 individuals – Reed’s immediate family, some, scientists and superheroes.

The bad news is that as existence blinked there was a catastrophic hull breach and only a handful of heroes made it through. The others simply ceased to exist.

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“Quarantine is for things that cause doubt.”

A new day, a new dawn, and if there are fewer stars then at least there are a lot more Thors, each wielding an enchanted hammer forged from one of the missing celestial bodies. (Got to love legend! Ignorance is the mother of invention!). They are the keepers of the law, the Hammers of God. They kneel below their omnipotent deity. Is it the All-Father, Odin?

It is not.

It is Doom.

By sheer force of unflinching will – and a certain source of power – Doom has salvaged from both universes what he can and created a composite world of multiple kingdoms from incursion point remnants between which access is verboten unless strictly authorised or summoned for judgement. Judgement proves swift and rarely merciful. Beware which kingdom you’re banished to! Many are key Marvel events playing themselves out differently; others are populated by superhero or supervillain zombies, the seasonally migrating Annihilation Wave or Ultron A.I.s kept at bay by the enormous Shield.

At the centre sits Lord God Doom on his throne, the World Tree Yggdrasil.

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His right hand of justice is Sheriff Stephen Strange who baulked at the prospect of so much power but is the only one other than Doom to remember the past and know this world’s secret: that it is not a naturally occurring phenomenon but a construct. To say so is heresy.

To his left is Valeria, daughter of Doom’s wife Susan Storm and head of The Foundation of science and discovery. What they have discovered is this: an anomaly. A thing which might cause doubt: something which must be quarantined. What do you suppose that is, eh?

Okay, I’ve given you enough, I hope, to raise your eyebrows. Half the fun – very much like Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert’s MARVEL 1602 – will be discovering for yourselves you favourite characters cast in a new light under utterly alien circumstances but with a considerable degree of logic in their new assignations based on their past shared history.

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This is far more complex than your average summer event, and prettier too with sweeping Euro-sci-fi sequences like Minister Powers’ investigations, and vast Ribic landscapes like the Isle Of Agamotto, its epic hidden chambers boasting beasts bearing secrets and gifts on their tongues.

Ribic delivers the best portrayal of Sinister I’ve ever seen. His expressions are so priceless you’ll find yourself acting out the dialogue in your head. Sinister is jubilant, aloof, dismissive and cross; he’s mock-cross, goading and gleeful. He’s basically Tim Currie. In one panel he positively dances his way to a judgement whose authority he’d never recognise nor submit to in a million years. Don’t know who Sinister is? It really won’t matter.

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Towards the end a major battles between two individuals goes representational, totemic, and Ribic pulls that off with aplomb.

I loved that Doom is omnipotent but not omniscient, for his power may have expanded, but not his mind. I like Stephen and Valeria as Doom’s “duelling ideologies” and adored how the survivors interacted with the salvaged, tentatively testing each other out for truth. Other little things like Advanced Idea Mechanics becoming the equally seditious Advanced Idea Mythologies; the Black Panther’s role as king of the dead finally coming into play and line like this from Namor when a weapon makes itself known: “Don’t look at me. We both know I can’t be trusted.”

The epilogue sequences revisiting the genesis of this storyline were enormously satisfying and the final sentence, answering a much older one, note-perfect. I’ve a feeling Hickman had that planned from the start.

Smart move to use capital letters for the regular Marvel Universe castaways and lower case for those washed ashore from the Ultimate Universe whose comics have always used lower case. “I’m sorry…? There are survivors from the Ultimate Universe?!” Why yes. For if one Reed Richards has a contingency plan, then surely the other would too?

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The UK softcover and US hardcover both include the prologue originally published after the first issue, but while the softcover leads with this, the hardcover incorporates it as a bonus in the back. Both editions contain vast quantities of cover / pin-up material. The softcover, since it comes from Panini, inevitably has ugly design flaws between chapters which wake you up from your reverie, but is half the price and – and at over 9 longer-than-usual chapters long – exceptional value for money.


Buy Secret Wars h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Secret Wars (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thors: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Sprouse, Goran Sudzuka.

Includes Walt Simonson’s MIGHTY THOR #364 and #365 from – what? – three decades ago in which Thor has been transformed into a bullfrog and attempts without success to make his plight known to the Avengers’ butler Jarvis and co. Waaaaay out there, yes, but Simonson’s run on THOR was for me the definitive one, he was firing on all thrusters, and the dramatic irony was pretty gripping!

I don’t think he was given the name Throg at the time, but he is here.

“Names, Throg. I need an I.D. on the victims. So far Ray and I have nothing to go on.”
“What can I tell ya? They’re not in the database.”
“None of them? How is that possible?”
“You’re talking to a frog that carries a hammer, pal. Any damn thing is possible.”

It is now!

In SECRET WARS the regular Marvel Universe and its Ultimate counterpart collided, obliterating both. Now all that’s left is Battleworld, consisting of concurrent cross-overs and major events from Marvel’s past playing themselves out further than they did or in different ways. Each takes place in a different domain between which travelling is strictly forbidden by decree of Battleworld’s deity Doctor Victor Von Doom. He is the law; order is maintained by the Thors. This was, therefore, a pantheonic police-procedure crime comic and it began intriguingly enough.

It starred every Thor throughout history – well, Marvel’s history – and there have been many: Stormborn (the X-Men’s Ororo), Thorlief (the Ultimate Universe’s Thor), Beta Ray Bill (he had the head of a skinned horse!) and Throg (he’s a frog – keep up, we’ve covered that). There are in fact hundreds of the hammer-hefting hearties.


The primaries on this investigation are Thorlief and Beta Ray Bill and the pressure is on for it’s just been designated an Allthing by Odin. This means all hands on deck because the case needs to be closed quickly before Doom himself gets wind of it and demotes the two primaries which would involve losing a great deal more than their police pensions.

So what’s got them all baffled? Five dead bodies have appeared in five different domains but what aren’t different are their identities: they’re all the same woman. Five versions of the same woman have been murdered. Who is the woman? Clue: she’s ever so slightly central to the Marvel THOR mythos.

What I love about the best of these SECRET WARS satellite series (and there are hundreds of those too, amongst which we’ve reviewed OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES and PLANET HULK: WARZONES) is that they each contain a different piece of the jig-saw puzzle which is Battleworld and the secrets that lie behind it. Beta Ray’s informant, living on the street out of a cardboard box, knows stuff:

“I can tell you what I’ve learned in the shadows, Stormbreaker. I can tell you why people are dying. Your good friend Loki can tell you about the greatest lie of all. But I don’t believe you’re gonna want to hear it.”

A lie that’s bigger than Loki’s? Blimmin’ ‘eck!

The art initially was by Chris Sprouse so it was big and bold with smooth and attractive figure work without being over-busy or brutal – and then it wasn’t by Chris and to be honest I fell asleep halfway through. If you get to the end and it’s awesome, please shake me and wake and let me know.


Buy Thors: Battleworld s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rivers Of London: Body Of Work (£10-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan…

“My name is Inspector Nightingale, Mr Debben. I hope you don’t mind me letting myself in…
“… and I’m afraid no one goes home just yet…
“… this was merely the beginning…”

I’ll have to confess I haven’t read the Rivers Of London prose books penned by Ben Aaronovitch, but I have had a fair few customers recommend them, so that probably explains why this series was relatively popular in comics form. So much so in fact, it has been expanded from a mini-series into an ongoing one. In a nutshell it’s basically Inspector Morse meets HELLBLAZER. Dapper grizzled humourless veteran cop Inspector Nightingale and his amusing, hardworking sidekick Peter Grant fight crime in the big smoke. Except the twist is the crimes are all of the supernatural variety. They even have their own division, the Special Assessment Unit, known colloquially within the Met, and viewed with equally measures of suspicion and derision by the rank and file plod, as ‘Falcon’ or ‘The Folly.’


This case starts with a drowning in the Thames, a poor unfortunate unable to get out of their car in time after it careered through the barriers. It is, on the face of it, an open and shut case of accidental death. But once Grant receives a tip-off from the daughter of the Goddesses of the River Thames that magic may be involved, our dynamic duo get to work working out who or what is responsible for our victim  taking the plunge. Inspector Nightingale’s mystical prowess is comparable to one John Constantine, with some impressive, show-stopping, indeed life-saving displays of legerdemain. Peter Grant, well, he’s more of a Tommy Cooper standard.


I really enjoyed this work. For a start off, the plot is a relatively involved affair, the main characters have some genuine depth, so Aaronovitch is clearly a decent writer, though when you have a co-author as with Andrew Cartmel here, you’re never quite sure just how much the prose author has contributed. The art is pretty decent fare too from Lee Sullivan. It very strongly minded me of Chris THE TWELVE / MINISTRY OF SPACE Weston, which is never a bad thing. Definitely one for fans of the prose books, but perhaps also HELLBLAZER fans needing an extra mystical fix.



Buy Rivers Of London: Body Of Work 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.

100 Bullets Book 5 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 12: Smoke And Shadow Part 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Clan Apis (£18-99, Active Synapse) by Jay Hosler

East Of West vol 5: All These Secrets (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly (£10-50, June) by Kou Yoneda

Freaky & Fearless: How To Tell A Tall Tale (£5-99, Piccadilly) by Robin Etherington & Jan Bielecki

Golem (£14-99, Magnetic Press) by Lorenzo Ceccotti

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Game h/c (£15-99, Abrams Comics) by Jim Ottavani & Leland Purvis

Octopus Pie vol 2 (£8-50, Image) by Meredith Gran

Paper Girls vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Von Doogan And The Great Air Race (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Lorenzo Etherington

Walking Dead vol 25: No Turning Back (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Justice League vol 7: Darkseid War Part 1 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok

Red Hood Arsenal vol 1: Open For Business s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell & Denis Medri

Wonder Woman: War Of The Gods s/c (£18-99, DC) by George Perez & various

The Uncanny Inhumans vol: Time Crush 1 s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

Attack On Titan vol 18 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 4 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Junko

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 7 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki


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ITEM! You will now be coming to Kendal!

Bryan Lee O’Malley To Make Exclusive Appearance At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14th to 16th!

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That’s right, Bryan Lee O’Malley, the creator of SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA will be making his only UK public appearances this year at #LICAF in Kendal.

It is indeed an exclusive!

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Bryan will not be signing anywhere else in the country this time except with Page 45 in our regular Georgian Room in the Kendal Clock Tower (to which entrance is always free!), in addition to which there will be other events in Kendal yet to be announced.

Of course Page 45 will be bringing Bryan’s books to Kendal, but – guess what? – as well as ordering any of our 7,000 graphic novels from to be sent anywhere in the world, you can  now also select “Collect for free from Kendal  at LICAF 2016 £0.00)” no matter how many comics you order, guaranteeing you whatever you want when you get there!

Pick Up In Kendal

You see that there internet? You’ll find hotels you can book right now!

– Stephen


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week four

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Includes less news but a lot more Retrofit Comics – by Kate Leth,  Ben Sea, Yumi Sakugawa – thanks to UK suppliers, Avery Hill Publishing. And this, by the by, is a brand-new review for a much treasured classic…

Pocket Full Of Coffee (£5-00) by Joe Decie.

“Leaflets, leaflets!” shouts Sam, picking up a leaflet. “What does it say?”
“It says don’t waste paper picking up leaflets.”

Ha! This comic features the best back-cover blurb ever!

“The ink-washed tale of one family’s Wednesday.
“It’s autobiography, but with lies.”

It’s certainly the most honest assessment of autobiography as entertainment and yet the most mischievous, telling you everything you need to know about Joe Decie’s propensity to set the cat amongst the pigeons and revel in all the feathers flying!

“A day-in-the-life story of Joe spending time with his son,” wrote Jonathan, “whilst trying with varying degrees of success to perform other essential adult tasks, this will ring many bells – a veritable cacophony, in fact – with those people who have children. It certainly did with me. As commentary on precisely just how your daily routine will never quite be the same again after the introduction of your very own personal tornado into your life it’s absolutely bang on, even down to Joe’s slightly wistful observation that he doesn’t even have time to indulge in mild hypochondria anymore.”

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Campanology aside, children are inherently funny whether you’ve bred them or not. Minds fizzing, mouths open, internal editors entirely absent, they are an endless, free-flowing stream of nonsense, non-sequiturs and the innocently inappropriate or direct. You can’t possibly listen to everything, which is why so many of Sam’s speech bubbles drift off panel – out of sight, out of mind, and well out of earshot.

They will spare your feelings not one jot.

“You look really scruffy, Daddy. TURBO BOOSTER!”

They’re also tenacious.

“Can I have a sister?” asks Sam, three times, as if requesting an ice cream.

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It helps that Joe himself is as mildly ridiculous as the rest of us. The difference is that Joe The Deech delights in self-denigration and embellishing the already absurd. Do you really think he mans a National Dandruff Helpline?

“I’m listening.
“Do you rinse?

It’s all so whimsical, almost every page accompanied by a punchline which is often prepped by one or two preceding observations about jobs, statistics and to-do-lists written after you’ve already to-done them in order to inflate your sense of accomplishment. There’s even a joke within that joke if you look down the list. Same goes for his household objects like ‘Cheap’ ‘Shoe’.

The ink-washed portraits are an inherent part of the comedy. Decie excels at his own body language but also his own likeness: no one else’s glasses hang on their nose quite like Joe’s. But they’re also beautiful in their own right and some of the compositions are ever so clever – quite subtly so.

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Take the first full-page panel in which those trainers appear on the bedroom floor at eye level, the only thing closer being an empty comic page. They’re sleek and satisfyingly aerodynamic, drawn with the clairest of lignes, the ‘Cheap’ and ‘Shoe’ appellations appearing on one heel then the other, each under a £-sign brand. But that’s by-the-by. What thrilled me was that this particular perspective threw Joe into centre-stage below an open, empty ceiling, the arm he’s studying for its newfound rash exactly halfway up the page and the prime focus of a pentagon which moves from its elbow across Joe’s other arm, then up to his shoulder, from there up Joe’s neck, then back down Joe’s angle of vision to said spotty rash on this wrist.

It’s also a page of perfect three dimensions, each object or appendage cutting just a little in front of the others.

Anyway, all that sounds way too serious so I’ll only add that there’s a lot of clean white space on each and every page which I do so wish students of sequential art would take note of, along with the diligent economy of text. I’ve said it before, but Joe’s lettering is amongst the most attractive and individualistic in the business, achieving the neat trick of make capital letters look and feel like lower case, and therefore more direct and accessible.

SLH with JR

Buy Pocket Full Of Coffee and read the Page 45 review here

Eyelash Out (£3-00, Retrofit) by Ben Sea.

Think Donya Todd’s BUTTERTUBS gone Southern Gothic.


I saw something I wanted last week but I didn’t barge past everyone, slapping them out of the way to pluck the object of my desire from someone’s tender eyelid.

There’s something unique about plucking an eyelash: it’s a very particular and pointed prick of pain – mild, brief but because it’s so close to your eye it’s feels quite the intrusion. To steal an eyelash is therefore a very personal theft.

That’s how this begins, so it was never going to end well. Almost immediately the couple on the bendy-legged run become corrupted by this act of anti-enlightenment, their own sore eyes swelling. I felt no sympathy.

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The lash is not the last thing which will be pulled on, either: laces, entrails, those sorts of things. And there’s a lot of lactating as well – eruptions and excretions galore.

The whole heavenly skyscape seems alive – flashing, twinkling, puffing, dripping, sweating in celestial semi-sentience.

What the hell am I on? It’s quite the trip.

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Buy Eyelash Out and read the Page 45 review here

Ink For Beginners: A Comic Guide To Getting Tattooed (£3-00, Retrofit) by Kate Leth…

“Hi, I’ll start here: I’m Kate, and I have a lot of tattoos!
“I’ll probably have more by the time I’m done drawing this, to be honest.
“I got my first tattoo quite young, so I’ve been a sounding board for questions, advice etc. for a long time. I get asked a lot of stuff…”
“Does it hurt?”
“How expensive is it?”
“Can I bring a friend?”
“Should I tip my artist?”
“How do I take care of it afterwards?”
“Where should I put it on my body?”
“What if my job doesn’t allow visible tattoos?”
“Can I use my own design?”
“Does it have to mean something?”

The answers to all these questions and many more besides you will find within the covers of this handy little primer to permanently printing on your body! The most important I would have thought being, where can I find the Da Vinci of subdermal decoration?


But no, it would seem the topic that probably concerns people the most is just how painful is it going to be. And as Kate says…

“Yes it hurts.”

… but with the important caveat…

“Differently, in different areas and different ways.”


And so she provides two full-page spreads, front and back, of the human body, from tip to toe, detailing all the various places you might wish to get inked with a colour-coded traffic light indicator of just how close to breaking the World High Jump record you might get… from a seated start. Me, all I can see is red, red and more red!


Kate gradually works her way through the various queries one by one and provides her thoughts, plus those of various experienced tattoo artists, to give both perspectives of victim and torturer! So, if you’re planning on turning yourself into a human canvas, I heartily recommending reading this, as it probably will answer just about every single question you might conceivably have. But yes, it will hurt…


Buy Ink For Beginners: A Comic Guide To Getting Tattooed and read the Page 45 review here

Ikebana (£4-00, Retrofit) by Yumi Sakugawa…

“Welcome class, to our final day of critiques.
“As you can all see, we are switching the order of things around a little bit.
“Cassie will be going first today. And in lieu of presenting a year-long body of work as the rest of you have, she informed me via email this morning that her senior thesis will instead be…
“… an organic bio-painting / ritualised movement piece.”

Someone clearly hasn’t done their homework. A whole year’s worth… Rather as I felt entering my second year organic chemistry exam, as long-term review readers will no doubt have heard me mention before, which was most definitely my academic nadir. I somehow managed 14% in case you were wondering…

Still, I’m not sure that even if someone had offered me the opportunity of wondering around Nottingham in my underdraws wearing a pair of palm leaf wings and a giant lotus blossom as a hat instead of taking the exam, I would have taken them up on the offer. Stark naked in the mentally unprepared sense I can deal with, even if I do still wake up occasionally in a panic some twenty-five years later having dreamt I am just heading into said examination room. Physically naked, without the aid of several pints of alcohol at least, is an entirely different matter.


Most of Cassie’s student colleagues aren’t best impressed either, seeing it as a gigantic 365-day skive which their professor seems daft enough to have fallen for. Still, they all traipse off following her around as her silent, one-woman interpretation of The Emperor’s New Clothes begins. By the end, though, there’s only one person left in the mobile audience, as the figurative invisible curtain comes down in a manner entirely befitting the rest of the performance.




Ricky Miller of Avery Hill Publishing, which distributes on behalf of Retrofit in the UK, mentioned to me how much he enjoyed this particular work and I can completely understand why. It’s that perfect blend of sublime and ridiculous. One can entirely believe some desperate art student would come up with such a crackpot scheme, and the conceit is fleshed out and pencilled to perfection by Yumi Sakugawa. All assuming this isn’t some sort of quasi-autobiographical yarn, of course!


Buy Ikebana and read the Page 45 review here

Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography 10th Anniversary Edition (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown.

In one of the most extraordinary transformations in comics since Ed Brubaker ditched autobiography for superhero crime, Chester Brown, better known for his confessional reflections, turned his attention first to Bible and then to Canadian political history in a book which, in its hardcover form, sparked enormous intellectual interest from the likes of Dave Sim, yet also a level of ground-floor sales here which has utterly astonished us (next I’d like to see his mate Joe Matt poke his nose from under those semen-stained sheets and draw a jaunty little travelogue, please).

Here’s a little of what Mark wrote:

“Riel was a 19th Century mystic and politician from Quebec. Due to his bi-lingual skills he was, initially, dragged into the fight between his people (the Métis, half-European, half-Indian) and the Canadian Government. Their land had been sold out from under them by the British and this is partly their battle for independence but mostly about a tumultuous period in Riel’s life, running for Government, his exile in the US and his religious visions.

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Brown has, as he admits in the lengthy appendix, changed a few of the facts, avoided the route of straight historical fiction. Even for Canadians this is a pretty obscure figure but for Brown the story (or the parts that he’s attracted to) has elements that have popped up in his work for years. The historical reconstruction (beautifully done, nothing is crowbarred in) works in the same way that his bible stories did. There was a question about Riel’s sanity which ties in with Brown’s ‘My Mom Was A Schizophrenic’ [reprinted in LITTLE MAN] and the process for that piece was a springboard for RIEL. And he makes it compelling.”

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Coming from Chester Brown April 2016: MARY WEPT OVER THE FEET OF JESUS, in which Chester returns to the Bible and indeed prostitution (see PAYING FOR IT).

In stock right now and reviewed: CHESTER BROWN: CONVERSATIONS.


Buy Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography 10th Anniversary Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Nameless h/c (£18-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham.

“From Earth to the Moon.
“Malkuth to Yesod.
“Shit rains down.
“Nothing is real.”

I don’t think I’ve every typed the words “Morrison”, “predictable” and “pedestrian” in the same sentence before.

I remember “passionate”, “compassionate”, “fiercely intelligent”, “parapersonality” and “transtemporal, pansexual, mulltidimensional fight for the future’s freedom”.

You wouldn’t really forget that one, would you?

Also, drugs: I remember a great many drugs and extreme vacillations between “Comics are ephemera, bound only for bins” and “Comics are the last medium unsullied by compromise with corporations – like the one that publishes most of my comics” depending on which horse du jour he felt like backing that day.

But before we begin, may I take a personal moment to say how fondly I recognised and remembered Glasgow’s Botanical Garden Gates, having lingered there long-time, but not with all those plump, floppy fish seen skewered on its weathervane here?

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“Hebrew letter “mun” means “fish”. “Fish” and “Death”. And death is daath.”

Fair enough. I suppose all that has something to do with The Veiled Lady’s henchmen wearing deep-sea anglerfish head masks when they kidnap our titular protagonist who apparently will remain nameless and dump him in a supermarket shopping trolley. He tumbles out tellingly because our man and his proverbial trolley parted ways way back in 2001 since when, we learn later, he’s been on the run from the police.

Maybe he tried to steal the fuzz’s Dream-Key to their Empty Box in a Tombraider-like dream-space? That’s what our nameless one’s done to The Veiled Lady, which is why she is ever so slightly brittle. Or maybe they want him for pretension, since he’s quite evidently got a Christmas-cracker crash-course on the Kabbalah lodged in his throat.

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Once rescued, our man of arcane knowledge is told there’s an asteroid 14 miles in length and 6 miles wide on a collision course with Earth. It’s called Xibalba, otherwise known as the Mayan underworld, the “Place of Fear” because whichever astronomer was on duty that night was feeling portentous as fuck.

In 33 days there will be an Extinction Level Impact somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but long before that there will be planetary-wide panic. Of course there will! Have you read Dan Berry’s THE END? So psychologically astute!

If that wasn’t bad enough the asteroid bears a symbol carved into its surface. This sigil is three miles tall and half a mile wide. It’s the glyph denoting the door to the Anti-verse, and if you think that already sounds a far from promising picnic spot, there are the transmissions emanating from Xibalba in the Enochian angel language of John Dee – Astrologer Royal to Queen Elizabeth I – which, when translated, don’t bode well for hospitality at all!

“Man – every one of you – prepare for wrath.”

And that’s just the opening gambit. The rest of the message / curse speaks of “one thousand thousand-strong thunders”, “torment”, “flaming firmament”, “poison stars”, “Wormwood” (seldom propitious) and “woe”. All things considered, therefore, I’d probably stick to the original operational agenda which is fly out to the asteroid, drag it off course using tractor physics from off-planet, then bugger off back to moonbase lickerty spit.

I definitely, emphatically, would in no way descend into the crevasse / scar / open wound and investigate gigantic sealed entrances because I have watched Alien many times over and things went awry. I wouldn’t even dispatch drones down there.

Artist Chris Burnham you may remember from Grant’s BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL 1 where he did a mighty fine impression of Frank Quitely. While retaining no small element of that, here he comes over all Richard Corben which is perfect for this kind of psychotropic horror. It’s the creepiest sort of horror going wherein things grow into or out of you, and Burnham will certainly make you wince more than once on that front. He does diseased and invasion of personal space all too well.

He’s also spectacular when it comes to the crevasse’s epic contents, its off-the-scale monumentalism, and indeed the textured surface of the asteroid itself as seen from above in the form of a gigantic, circuit-board skull. That’s worth the price of admission alone.

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In this sort of horror there’s nothing you can fight, only things to scare you shitless like the degradation of the body and degradation of the mind  – madness itself – and the terror of being lost and alone.

“There’s only me left.”

There are a great many doors here. Doors can be very disturbing. Opening one is quite the commitment.

As well as psychological horror, Morrison’s also very good at that sort of awful, gaping nihilism, here evoking the very opposite of Lovecraft’s “most merciful thing in the world” which, in case you’re wondering is “the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents”:

“Humankind is a disease, a malignant mistake. The natural world seeks to purge its blissful, ignorant Eden of our contagion.
“Self-awareness: there is the black worm in the apple. Our curse is to know there’s something terribly wrong with us.”

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But that’s when he uses language one can comprehend and ideas one can take seriously. The rest is occult psychobabble for which I have a notoriously low threshold, and if you think his ‘Keys to the Abyss in THE NAMELESS’ will clarify shit, I’m afraid it’s mostly more mystic mumbo jumbo involving Thantifaxath, Baratchial, the qlippothic Tzuflifu (are you laughing yet, because I have tears streaming down my face) and tarot cards.

For an infinitely more imaginative, coherent and constructive take on the Kabbalah, please see Alan Moore & JH Williams III’s PROMETHEA.


Buy Nameless h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Beauty vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley…

“Two years ago, a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm.
“This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before.
“This was a disease that people actually wanted.
“Victims of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus.
“Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed.
“It became known as The Beauty.
“The Beauty quickly became a fad.
“Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.
“The only downside appeared to be a slight constant fever, but that didn’t seem to slow people down.
“Now, over half the country’s population has The Beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it.”

Which is where our story begins, followed almost immediately by the apparent spontaneous combustion from the inside out of someone rather pretty on the subway.




Ah, so there might just be at least one more teensy-weensy downside to The Beauty than everyone thinks! Consequently, the cops are dispatched to investigate, including the dashing and debonair, virus-free Detective Foster. Sure he has a few grey hairs and some laughter lines, but he’s ruggedly handsome, and completely devoted to his equally naturally lovely wife.

His professional partner, meanwhile, Kara Vaughn, has been virally enhanced to statuesque, goddess-level looks, but she’s actually one of the few people who managed to contract the virus unwittingly, and would rather she hadn’t. Particularly once the forensics expert has given them the run down on what she thinks killed their subject, before agents from the Centre for Disease Control swoop in and quarantine the scene. It’s enough for Foster to draw his own conclusions…

“It was The Beauty. The Beauty killed her, and they know it.”

Still, the why and the how, that remains unexplained, and so our cops do what they do best, and start running down leads on anti-Beauty terror cells – the type of people who might have the inclination to want to induce some temperature-based terror in the more glamorous half of the population. One such lead results in a shoot out with a suspect, requiring some prompt and messy – but ultimately unsuccessful – medical assistance from Detective Foster. After another yet late night on the job, and another missed dinner date with his doting wife, he’s more than happy to hit the sack, but his wife wants to share a tender moment or three before they fall asleep. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up in the morning, feeling twenty years younger. He looks it too. Oh dear. I guess The Beauty might suddenly not just be sexually transmitted… Maybe…

Excellent speculative fiction premise, plus our leads are well written, I can certainly see some potential for sidebar drama. Is Detective Foster’s wife really going to believe the excuse for his – and presumably by extension her own – unexpected midnight makeover? Especially with that hot partner who’s prone to calling him up at all hours of the day and night. I think he might well have to earn his detective corn just to save his marriage, never mind half the population! Still, at least he’s got a real incentive now, what with being a ticking time / sex bomb himself!

Great art too from Jeremy Haun, including a fabulous cover. I can see strong hints of Michael LAZARUS Lark in there, though obviously with softer colours here.


Buy The Beauty vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: America (£13-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Colin MacNeil…

“I can’t remember when I first became aware of the Judges.
“I suppose it’s because they were always there. A dark presence in the background of our lives – as much as a part of growing up as the air we breathed and the streets we played on.
“Wherever we went they were there. Watching. Always watching.
“They could fix you with a special kind of stare, like they could see right into your soul.
“Adults, they’d tell us the Judges were there for our good, to protect us and make the streets safe.
“But we’d hear the tremors in their voices when they talked about them and see their furtive expressions whenever a Judge caught their eye – and we’d know they were afraid.
“And at night mothers would tuck us in with warnings – sleep or the Judges would come for us.
“So we didn’t need ghosts or goblins. We had the Judges.
“And they were worse.
“We knew that they did exist.
“And there was a strong possibility they would come for us.”

Hmm… might have to try informing Isabella about Judge Dredd. Grud knows, I’ve tried everything else to get to her settle down at bed time. Perhaps the concept of someone even more fascistic and totalitarian than her parents might actually have some sway. Failing that it’s going to have be five to ten in the Juve-Cubes for her, or perhaps more likely a Kook-Cube for me…


So, I got this back in because I was doing some recommendations for mail order customer Finlay Jones by email the other day and he had asked about good Judge Dredd jumping on points and self-contained stories. I had commented that you used to be able to get various epics published separately but now they were all reprinted in the many COMPLETE CASE FILES collecting  everything. So, for example, the epic Block War and Apocalypse War are both in COMPLETE CASEFILES VOL 5 and that is a perfect early-ish slab of Dredd to go for. Then once things had gone full colour COMPLETE CASEFILES VOL 14 would be a good modern-ish introductory Dredd chunk as it collects the big epic Necropolis with all the Dark Judges etc.

I was also trying to work out which CASEFILES this story was in when I discovered to my surprise it was completely omitted (possibly because it isn’t a Dredd story). I think I probably did know this but had forgotten. Given it is Dredd co-creator’s John Wagner favourite ever Mega-City One story and considered by many to the best storyline ever, particularly in terms of the socio-political satire it brings to bear, it seems very odd the powers that be should have chosen to omit it. It’s almost as though the powers that be don’t want this seditious material getting into your hands…

Anyway, seen from the perspective of Bennett Beeny, whose unrequited love for childhood friend America Jara eventually drives them apart, only for them to be reunited in the most unexpected and shocking circumstances, this story tells of the growing discontent amongst the covert pro-democracy ranks of the Mega-Citizens that eventually fosters the Total War terrorist organisation, who are dedicated to overthrowing the Judges by any means necessary. Clearly, the Judges aren’t about to take it lying down and what ensues is as brutally violent as it is heart- (and head) breaking.


This collection contains the initial story “America” which was published in Judge Dredd Megazine #1.01-1.07, the sequel “America II: Fading of the Light” from  Judge Dredd Megazine #3.20-3.25 and the coda “Cadet” from Judge Dredd Megazine #250-252. All are penned by Wagner with art from redoubtable 2000AD stalwart Colin MacNeil.

Over the years, as I occasionally re-read some Dredd and have the odd gander at a 2000AD I find the material I am the most fond of is that which really has something to say, beyond the confines of the pages. Which was a surprising amount of the very early material, actually, even story-of-the-week driven as it mainly was for the first few years. In the interim there are only so many repetitive action-based derivative storylines you can recycle over nearly forty years, which I’ve why I’ve long since stopped reading Dredd regularly. But undoubtedly material like this storyline deserves to remain available as part of the historical record of great British comics by great British creators, if nothing else. Plus possibly to scare children to sleep at nights as well…


Buy Judge Dredd: America and read the Page 45 review here

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Omnibus s/c (£22-50, IDW) by Ben Templesmith.

From the artist of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, Warren Ellis’ FELL, Antony Johnston’s DEAD SPACE some SILENT HILL and, unsurprisingly, THE ART OF WORMWOOD GENTLEMAN CORPSE, this was an investigative comedy horror in the vein of Steve Niles’ Cal McDonald CRIMINAL MACABRE starring a sentient worm / maggot animating a dapperly dressed corpse to fend off supernatural disaster.

In the first issue, his favourite lap dancing club hosted by Medusa was infected by a transdimensional, parasitic weed, all because someone was doing something unspeakably rude to the beer pumps.

Or, as Tom once wrote:

Wormwood spends his time “driving” corpses with the sole intention of downing a cold Guinness in Medusa’s strip bar. Which is interrupted every so often by having to save the world from pan-dimensional invasion.

Easily some of the finest art Templesmith has ever done with some really imaginative touches, such as Medusa’s serpents being all-over body tattoos that flow off her as glowing, ethereal, skeletal snakes. Whereas the paralytic, paranormal plots tumble along nicely like HELLBOY off-duty. Cthulu never looked so good (through beer goggles).

Collects issues #0-8, the one-shot, CALAMARIS RISING #1-4, and LAST CALL.


Buy Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Omnibus s/c and read the Page 45 review here

International Iron Man #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

Hallelujah! Bendis is back off autopilot, a word which Maleev can’t even spell.

It’s time once again to throw away the costumes and enjoy some honest-to-goodness human interaction and humour à la JESSICA JONES: ALIAS which was the very best comic ever to be published by Marvel.

As brilliant as Bendis & Maleev’s DAREDEVIL with all of its wit-riddled snappy patter, this catches Iron Man at an inopportune moment under Bulgaria’s Monument To The Soviet Army, dead, paralyzed, or “rethinking his disastrous life choices that led up to this humbling moment”.

Amongst those disastrous decisions was Stark’s determination – twenty years ago while studying at Cambridge – to get to know a mysterious young woman with an overprotective family, famous in some circles at least. She knows exactly who Tony is, but Tony…?

“You really don’t know who I am?”
“Should I? Is your father a big deal or something? Is it – is he Bono?”
“My mother.”
“Is she Bono?”

International Iron Man issue 1 1

“What does your Mom do that warrants bodyguards? I only ask because they’re coming this way and I think one of them is about to punch me in the face so hard I probably won’t remember even meeting you.”
“Ugh! You’re going to get tasered.”
“I’d really rather not.”
“I’m not joking.”
“Neither am I. Can you request that they don’t?”

All the while Maleev plays it as deadpan as usual, except with a new energy and irreverence of youth. Tony cannot help throwing his head back and laughing with joy at Cassandra Gillespie’s fantastic name, nor can he resist smiling at his own bravado and wit.

Paul Mounts’ daytime colouring adds a new air of optimism to Maleev’s fresh-faced students meeting for lunch (less of an assignation, more of stalked-stalking-stalker scenario) and lo if you don’t look at those panels, concentrate on the eyebrows and lip-line especially, imagine a moustache, chop the flop of his hair right back… and that really is our Tony Stark.

“You Googled me by now.”
“I did.”
“How’d that go?”
“I found out you’re a world-class trapeze artist.”
“Is there a trapeze artist with my name?”
“Just admit you trapeze. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

New verb: to trapeze.

International Iron Man issue 1 2

What could any of this possibly have to do with Iron Man flat on his back, systems down, in Bulgaria?

Well, first it’s time to meet Cassandra’s family for dinner in not the most awkward and hostile reception by prospective in-laws ever (he lies)… and then there’s the unsolicited postprandial intervention by those oh-so-shouty, regenerative ones.

Has Bendis watched ‘Brideshead Revisited’ recently? Because Cassandra’s mother is Evelyn Waugh’s Catholic matriarch Lady Marchmain – specifically as played by Claire Bloom – to a tee.


Buy International Iron Man #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Fantastic Four s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Mike McKone, Paul Pope.

One of the closer tie-ins to CIVIL WAR, though by no means as integral as the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN volume, this follows Reed and Sue’s bust-up, showing it to be less abrupt or final than it might seem in the main event – which makes sense. Sue can turn invisible, and you probably would check in on your husband once in a while if you loved him and were engaged in superhuman combat against him.

I have no raw data on this, so if you can turn invisible and you have at one time or another been engaged in superhuman combat against your husband or wife, please let me know how you spent your down-time.

The arguments go round and around in circles, as arguments do, and Sue gets angrier and angrier at what she perceives to be her husband’s cowardice and capitulation, while he sits there like a deflated whoopee cushion, saying, “I know what I’m doing is wrong, but it’s the law.”

Civil War Fantastic Four 1

Actually he has an altogether different motive which he’s kept to himself, and whether it’s scientifically feasible to make the calculations he has or not, common sense weighs in his favour: carry on out of control and things can only get worse. It’s still difficult to sympathise with the pro-registration brigade when they’re being such knobheads in the way they go about things, but still…

I’ll say it again: McKone draws the best Ben Grimm since Barry Windsor-Smith.

Civil War Fantastic Four 2


Buy Civil War: Fantastic Four s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Front Line s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & various.

The first half contains two concurrent stories and a real-world history lesson.

The first follows reporters Ben Urich and Sally something-or-other as they move from mourning the loss of a fellow journalist in the Stamford Disaster to covering the imminent Registration Act (see CIVIL WAR itself). Both are liberals, but the Bugle is enforcing its editorial policy of support for the new laws with an iron fist. Spider-Man pops by Sally’s apartment in the hope that she’ll convey to the public exactly why superheroes with family need to maintain their secret identities, whilst Iron Man makes a public announcement that’s going to make that argument more difficult to sustain.

To be honest, it all felt a bit stodgy.

The second, shorter segment, however, reveals that one of the brazen attention-seekers who appear to have triggered the explosion has survived. You also learn how.

He’s about to learn, however, that he’s probably the most unpopular git in America.

The second half contains Captain America’s last interview before his assassination and Tony Stark’s real game plan uncovered by reporters Ben Urich and Sally Floyd.

It also follows the shooting and masochistic re-emergence of the sole survivor of the original massacre as Penance, and the clandestine use of Norman Osborn as a weapon of “choice” and, as such, leads directly into Warren Ellis & Mike Deodato’s magnificently dark and sweaty THUNDERBOLTS.


Buy Civil War: Front Line s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America: Fallen Son s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & John Cassady, John Romita Jr., David Finch, Ed McGuinness, Leinil Francis Yu.

What a waste of some top-tier artists!

Previously at Page 45, following the most excellent DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA:

“In the meantime, it does make sense to explore such an enormous development in depth — if that’s what Loeb ends up doing.”

Yes, well, I suspected otherwise, and here’s the reason I wish I’d stopped reading ULTIMATES post-Millar and Hitch. (I didn’t, hence this review of Loeb’s ULTIMATES SEASON 3 with a bright red triangle round it as a warning to website traffic of a landslide ahead – if not of rocks, then of standards.)

What is it with Loeb that when teamed up with Sale he’s reasonably magnificent? Is it because those books, like BATMAN: LONG HALLOWEEN, are set in the past? That he’s good at nostalgia? Because modern, he ain’t! This is everything Marvel Comics used to be – juvenile, superficial, crass:

“You ready to do this thing, Thing? Heh. Thing thing.”

Was that one of the pre-pubescent Power Pack twerps trying to impress his babysitter? No, believe or not, that was JESSICA JONES‘ Luke motherfucking Cage.

Anyway, just in case you forgotten how dead Captain America was this week and how terrible it all was, the mourners obligingly remind you during a poker game:

“Spidey, you aint planning on wearing yer mask while we do this?”
“Yeah… uh… sure… just… <sniff> Look, Ben, my eyes are kinda red and… I just never thought…”

Oh, Christ – cartoon emotion.

And then they fight each other, obviously.


Buy Captain America: Fallen Son 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.

Patience h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Daniel Clowes

Cursed Pirate Girl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastian

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye h/c (£22-50, Pantheon) by Sonny Liew

All My Ghosts (£7-50, Alterna) by Jeremy Massie

Blood And Honor: The Foreworld Saga Graphic Novels (£10-99, Jet City Comics) by Tony Wolf, Erik Bear, Christian Cameron & Joao Viera, Haiwei Hou, Dmitry Bondarenko

Carpet Sweeper Tales (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Doucet

Delilah Dirk And The King’s Shilling (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff

Rivers Of London: Body Of Work (£10-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis h/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Alisson Borges, Dexter Soy

Starfire vol 1: Welcome Home s/c (£10-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Emanuela Lupacchino

Civil War: Marvel Universe s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis, Paul Jenkins, Dan Slott, Ed Brubaker, more & Marco Silvestri, various

Civil War: Young Avengers And Runaways s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Stefano Caselli

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Dougie Braithwaite & Leandro Fernandez

Bleach vol 66 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

One-Punch Man vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Paradise Residence vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Kosuke Fujishima

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P4 Volume 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Mizunomoto

UQ Holder vol 7 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu


Katzine 2 3 photo

ITEM! We adore Katriona Chapman’s dreamy autobiographical KATZINEs.

Now Katriona Chapman walks Broken Frontier through her KATZINE processes – and earlier work – revealing a few secrets completely new to me!

Katzine 1 2 photo

ITEM!  Watch Duncan Fegredo draw, draw, then draw some more; redraw, redraw, draw. Top drawer!

More hairstyles than I’ve had in my entire lifetime.


ITEM! Ryuko, apparently. No, not published in English yet – it’s more of an excuse to reproduce that beautiful drawing.

– Stephen








Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week three

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

This weeks’ new books and extensive, illustrated News underneath!

The Mystic Woods (Signed & Sketched In) (£7-99, self-published) by Rozenn Grosjean.

“You cannot go on living in ignorance.Mystic Woods cover
“It will never bring you happiness.”

An exquisitely beautiful comic whose English-language edition we’ve imported directly from Rozenn in France.

If the colours aren’t enough to make you weep with joy – and I believe they will be – Grosjean has been kind enough to sketch Ansuz, its white raven, in every single copy.

The cover displays a complete command of space as well as weather conditions. I adore the contrast between the wet watercolours bleeding softly beyond the further reaches of the tree – its canopy receding into the mist high above the forest – and the rich, crisp, plumb of the nearest branch and leaves. Between the two Ansuz descends, its equally crisp inverse silhouette quite evidently not of this world.

It’s a cover defined by shapes rather than lines, and the same can be said of much of the interior: the white raven with its yolk-yellow eyes and soft, fleshy pink tongue; its mortal, black brethren perched in the wintry trees later on; the young girl’s fingers and forearms; and the ghostly apparition of Elhaz, the guardian stag-spirit whose pure white glow shimmers in the shallow waters.

Mystic Woods 2


On the following page, I love how the ripples of the young lady’s tears, fallen into the mere, are reflected in the expanding, circular light of the stars.

“Ansuz, the forest has been dwindling for almost a year. What is happening among the spirits?”

What indeed?

It begins with the all-too human girl cupping an onyx-coloured egg ever so gently in her hands, her soft fingers wrapped protectively around its shell. The natural cycle is about to renew. It doesn’t, but why?

This is a haunting story told in three short acts whose middle season with its glacial white snow and frozen greens is juxtaposed with the warmest of purples on either side, the times of transition. The ending is an enigmatic ellipsis whose spectral execution reminded me of the videogame Ico.

Touched on within is our historical interest in omens – in Oracles and other soothsayers – with which the raven has long been associated.

The rest, I leave to you, adding only that the raven’s smile made me do the same, as did Grosjean’s glorious preparatory sketches of the bird in the back, after which follows the original 4-page, black and white story which inspired THE MYSTIC WOODS.

Rozenn’s own magnificent website is linked to in the News section at the bottom of this blog.


Buy The Mystic Woods (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Mercury Heat vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Omar Francia, Nahuel Lopez.

“Mercury’s sun-facing side is hot enough to melt lead. The other is cold enough to liquify oxygen.
“At the border between the two, there is a zone with a survivable temperature.
“It rotates so slowly that its solar day is twice as long as its year.
“On Mercury, you can outrun dawn.”

Gillen’s a dab hand at the 60-second pitch as anyone who’s read the back cover to THE WICKED + THE DIVINE graphic novels knows full well. He’s also quite neat at leaving a beat.

“Just as long as you can keep moving.”

There are ever so many approaches to science fiction, even when set in space. That SAGA is set in space at all is almost is almost tangential to its central core comedy, family, war and romance – except, of course for the diversity of species. Much of THE FUSE, on the other hand, is very much informed by the fact that its police procedural takes place on a gigantic solar panel orbiting Earth, yet one of its delights is its familiarity: space-shuttle interiors resembling aircrafts’ for they serve much the same function; town shop fronts and pavements in what is effectively an indoor city centre.

MERCURY RISING, however, is not only about what might happen specifically on a colonised Mercury and why we’d be there, but the technology we’d develop for – and as a consequence of – a post-skill-set economy. It relishes its cyberpunk elements.

Mercury Heat 1

We’d be there for the solar energy: it’s the planet closest to our sun. Far from post-apocalyptic, an enlightened humanity here has achieved much, proudly reversing our environmental apathy / devastation upon Earth and taking it to another planet instead. Hurrah! You might detect a conflict there. You would be right.

As to the skills which we currently learn in order to earn – during years of soul-destroying, entertainment-free education often followed by a three-year, booze-addled chaser – these can now be plugged in using memory crystals, along with any further top-ups required for specific purposes or locations like learning a language. Kieron has extrapolated further from this. Instead of being recorded in your cranium, one could choose to store specific memories on these crystals, acting effectively as external hard-drives and so jettisoned if proving troublesome. I can think of many social blunders I’d delight in deleting along with a few exes, but there are repercussions. There would also be downsides to deploying emotional dampeners. There are some fairly sound reasons for these emotions, you know.

Mercury Heat 3

Gillen’s inventiveness doesn’t stop there: colour-coding memories – for example false ones, downloaded, so you know they’re not yours – and inserting tabs, little footnotes for future reference or in lieu of what you’ve dispensed with. You’ll see.

Why yes, there would be a black market for memory crystals too; a big one for more sensitive stuff.

So if you can acquire any skill set, what might determine your suitability for a job? Personality types. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that a tendency towards murderous rage might make one a poor match for babysitting, or an overabundance of empathy less than ideal for a seat on the Tory side of our Commons.

At which point I give you what makes much of this even less obvious: our protagonist, Luiza Bora, whose personality was assessed at a tender age and determined to be 57b. Not an ‘a’ or an ‘f’, to be fair, but a 57 all the same.

“I don’t want to hurt people,” she protested when young. She wanted to help people. She wanted to police.

Mercury Heat 2

Unfortunately personality class 57 is not conducive to kindness, nor acceptable for police work on Earth. So a life as a soldier, it was! Until Luiza realised this: 57b ruled out policing on Earth… but not on Mercury.

I’ll leave you to discover the specifics of the career aspects here – no one works under contract any longer; you have to sell yourself on a daily basis via the Grapevine and the tendering process is ingenious – but this is Luiza’s first day on Mercury, she doesn’t have form, so she has to take what she can get. All she can get, for a minimal fee, is a seemingly simple case most would sign off on: the death of one Waldo Burgess separated on the artificial solar belt and burnt up when dawn came upon him. Ouch. I guess he ran out of breath and stopped running. But there’s an anonymous message attached to the case and all of a sudden Luiza’s intrigued.

“While advancing the case to primary will increase your fee,” warns the Grapevine, “initiating unnecessary investigation will negatively affect your Grapevine status.”

I think you can imagine, given that we’re only on page 10, that the investigation will prove just a tad necessary and will encompass almost every aspect of the world I have typed up to date. That impressed me no end.

Mercury Heat 0

It wouldn’t be Gillen if there wasn’t some ‘sploding and there’s plenty of that – this is an action comic – but refreshingly Luiza never did want to hurt anybody, and if the lethal force required impresses individuals then she’s less than impressed with them. These more “tactile” sequences are enhanced with the help of combat upgrades reminiscent of video game-play (Kieron cut his writing skills in games journalism) whose not inexhaustible capacity is monitored by tabs which keep the tension taught while letting the fists and ammo fly.

Nor would it be Kieron without comedy, much of which comes in the less than classy class of technician whom Luiza is lumped with given her limited funds. Oh, and this is emphatically not an all-ages comic.

Omar Francia has dealt with the design work with relish and handles high-octane with aplomb. But when she’s not thrusting her fist in a face, Luiza stands tall, never once thrusting her derrière in your face as is the wont of some artists when given action-orientated lady-leads.

Mercury Heat 4

Better still, there’s a great deal of subtle reaction going on between Luiza and Lucas, and I don’t mean merely reacting to what’s threatening to do them some damage, but to each others’ reactions to what’s threatening to do them some damage. Study those two early pages (above and below) which involve the first act of sabotage, knuckle-crushing metal-wrenching and a beam of extreme heat: over and again, Lucas is reacting to Luiza for she is essential to his survival. It’s a lot less common in illustrated action sequences than you might expect.

Mercury Heat 5

There’s also a delightful and marked softening of lines when it comes to memories of the past – artificial or otherwise.

Don’t think I’m no fan of Lopez – I barely noticed the transition halfway through at the time – but when Francia returns for the ‘Interlude’ (which was original the FCBD edition distributed in advance of the series itself) those forms do surely soften again.

Given how this uses the future to comment on the present and the often robust exchange of ideas (which we call insults), I’d recommend this heartily to fans of Ellis and Robertson’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN – except that this comes with a genuinely Filthy Assistant.


Buy Mercury Heat vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tokyo Ghost vol 1: Atomic Garden (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy…

“Davey Trauma.
“A psychopathic narcissist and millennial nostalgist who got his mind trapped in the net.
“As soon as we grab one o’ his geeks, Davey shuts them down.
“The world’s a video game to Davey. He can control anyone with a nanopac in ’em.
“Meanin’ everyone.
“Everyone except me. Straight edge perks.”

Rick Remender seems to be on a one-man mission to demonstrate the many possible flavours of speculative and science fiction these days. After his turns doing comedic / weird: BLACK SCIENCE, post-apocalyptic / aquatic: LOW, plus super-heroic: UNCANNY X-FORCE, UNCANNY AVENGERS, and even his CAPTAIN AMERICA: CAST AWAY IN DIMENSION Z involved Steve Rogers being castaway into a dimension where time travelled at a far faster rate to our own (possibly meant metaphorically as well as literally as he did adopt a child whilst there. I feel like I have spent considerable time in Dimension Z, wearing out and aging rapidly, over the last four years since Whackers was born…), he’s now crafted something that is straight-up cyberpunk.


The year is 2089, the location the Isles of Los Angeles. Society has most definitely polarised even further between the haves and have-nots, to the degree that the streets are basically one big floating cesspool of humanity, tranquilised on cerebral implants pumping out endless entertainment programmes directly into their vision, and nano-tech continuously adjusting and maintaining their emotional states, and even their physical appearances. All at a punitive financial cost, of course.

That vicious cycle of consumption, addiction and consequent fiscal slavery is not the worst of the population’s problems right now, though, at least for the duration of the opening issue. No, that would be Davey Trauma. When Constable Debbie Decay says the world’s a video game to him, she’s not kidding. To Davey, the Isles Of Los Angeles right now is like his own personal Grand Theft Auto as he goes crashing, smashing and spree-murdering his way to fame and high-score glory. Davey has his own twisted gaming rules, however, such as not taking control of Debbie’s police partner and lover, Led, who is practically catatonic in real-world terms, being permanently immersed in the virtual world, plus utterly addicted to – and superjacked up on – steroids, bone growth stimulators, adrenaline and various other physical enhancers. He’s not above taunting her about the fact he could, though – or with his theories about why she’s involved with Led. Ouch.


This series is as much about Debbie and Led’s peculiar relationship of co-dependence as the central conceit of technology warping the behavioural mores of the individual and wider society. In fact our bipolar duo are just about to be given a mission that will take them to the last straight edge country on the planet: The Garden Nation of Tokyo. For Debbie that’s her idea of heaven. As for how on earth Led will cope getting back to basics and living the good life like Felicity Kendal, well, going organic is going to be a rather more trying experience for him as the narcotic and technological withdrawals really start kicking in. I can well imagine it would be exactly the same if I turned off the wife’s white wine supply and restricted her access to Facebook…

I have commented before that Rick’s artist cohort on BLACK SCIENCE, Matteo Scalera, has a style very similar to Sean Murphy. I do wonder if the choice of Sean for this title is based entirely on Rick’s personal artistic preferences? Plus I’m sure he saw the speculative fiction gold Sean wrought with his own PUNK ROCK JESUS. Combined with the choice of Greg Tocchini for his aquatic artistic endeavours on LOW, messers. Jerome Opena and Daniel Acuna on the Uncanny X&A material, plus Romita Jr. doing a damn fine and trademark distinctive Cap’n A., I can see Greg really seems to appreciate an artist that stands out from the crowd.


Here Sean’s typically dense use of ultra-fine, myriad, parallel black lines and complex yet distinct detailing is perfect for rendering the frenetic hyper-speed streets and angular lunatics of the not so Angelic Isles. Those delicate touches are equally well-employed to produce some astoundingly beautiful and tranquil landscapes in rather more salubriously well swept streets of the Garden Nation of Tokyo. The phenomenal amount of line work Sean puts in to create some of even the apparently more simple panels and sequences is very deceptive. If you allow your eye to linger and start to deconstruct the art you’ll realise just how much effort goes into every single panel. No short cuts. Such dedication to the craft is what makes him of outstanding illustrative talents of his generation.


Buy Tokyo Ghost vol 1: Atomic Garden and read the Page 45 review here

Agony (£9-99, New York Review Comics) by Mark Beyer…

“The way I see it, Amy, you’ve either got to conform to people’s expectations or pay the penalty, though sometimes there’s a difference between acceptable behaviour and what you can acceptably get away with.”

Wise words there from Jordan towards his long-standing and equally long-suffering companion Amy, not that that particular maxim is going to do either of them the slightest bit of good. Unfortunately for these two, regardless of their good actions and their fervent desire to conform to society’s norms and have some sort of moderately peaceful and undisturbed existence, Mark Beyer seems determined to put them through the wringer in all manner of horrifically surreal ways you can’t even begin to imagine, trust me.


In fact, let me name a few: being decapitated by a ghost, having your legs bitten off by a fish, being menaced by a bear, surviving nuclear fallout, being abducted by subterranean dwellers and so it goes on and on…


It seems like Amy and Jordan are forever doomed to suffer their own peculiar brand of urban despair to an extent that would undoubtedly destroy the resolve of anyone to overcome such travails. Anyone except our ever-optimistic duo, that is! Yes, they’ll frequently have their moments of existential crisis when they wonder how the world can possibly be so cruel, but then they’ll find some ingenious method of escaping one particular torment only to fall headlong into the next. Mark Beyer, you are one hilariously cruel bastard!


The art will undoubtedly perplex and confound many being as simple and surrealistic and just plain stoopid as it is. Most simply won’t like it, some might even assume it’s the deranged doodling of a demented nine year old. It actually really does remind me of the crazy shit a former school friend named Adam Buckle used to draw back in junior school. Last I heard he was a comedy writer which doesn’t surprise me at all. Besides, a ‘story’ this insane wouldn’t work with sensible art, it needs something this deranged to work and frankly I feel the art only adds to the crackpot appeal of it all.


To my mind it’s just fantastic to see this lost classic from thirty years ago on the shelves again. It feels as fresh and contemporary as it did back then which is testament to the powers of humankind to be endlessly titillated by safely watching the fictional adventures of other people enduring abjectly horrific and perilous situations. Or as the publisher blurb quite rightly states, “Enjoy the ecstasy of agony.” And before you say I’m one sick puppy, I’ll bet you used to laugh at Laurel and Hardy as a kid, you know you did…


Buy Agony and read the Page 45 review here

The Opportunity (£14-99, Myriad) by Will Volley…

“You need an asset, you need to own something of value, and I’m telling you, this is the only company that will give you the opportunity to own your own business within two years.”
“Be a sales manager?”
“No, this isn’t a sales job. If you want to do sales you can go and work at Burger King down the road for five pounds an hour, okay?
“This is an opportunity.
“And you, Ashley, are going to make it big. I guarantee it.
“You have all the potential. You’re a complete natural, but you have to have a goal… something to work towards…”

A searing indictment of the sales companies which are little more than glorified quasi-legal pyramid schemes, preying on graduates insufficiently worldly-wise enough to realise, initially at least, it is all one massive con at their expense. Anyone who has ever been unfortunate to agree to work for one of these companies, on a commission-only, door-to-door basis, trying to sign people up on direct debits for various charities and other things will undoubtedly shudder at the recollection. I think even anyone who has ever spent some time working at a call centre, the next marginal step up on the modern day slave-labour ladder of pain, will probably grimace in sympathy.


This is the story of Colin, one of those people seemingly on the very brink of making it big, becoming a manager, being given his own sales office, finally starting to reap those huge financial rewards apparently always just around the corner… provided he can continue to keep his sales team motivated for just that little bit longer, to keep hitting those all important targets week after week. So he, sorry they, can all, start to achieve those elusive personal goals.


Colin, of course, is rapidly heading for a nervous breakdown. As the emotional and physical pressures of worshipping Mammon and marshalling his mesmerised sales team continues to build ever more intently (plus the promised promotion seems simultaneously finally within his grasp… but slipping through his very fingers at the same time), something has clearly got to give. Colin can’t see that, so fixated is he on his belief in his proximity to that ever elusive personal goal…


This is one of those gleefully painful reads. On the one hand, I felt myself feeling rather sorry for the increasingly desperate Colin, yet at the same time revelling in the torments of such a completely self-centred egomaniac. We all know people like Colin, I think that’s the point, so deluded in their get-rich schemes and dreams that they are utterly unable to see how the levers of cause and effect truly work, either on in the real world or on an internal basis. Self-delusion, compounded by greed, it’s not usually a recipe for a happy life. But it does make for great comics!

The black and white art, with additional grey tone shading, reminds me a tiny bit of early Steve ZENITH Yeowell in places. Colin in particular, when in full fiscal proselytising mode to one of his minions has a wonderfully manic look that, were it come from a random stranger, rather than your trusted boss and mentor, would have you running for the hills.


One of Will’s self-confessed biggest inspirations is David V FOR VENDETTA Lloyd – and you can definitely see that very strongly as well – which possibly also gives this work a slightly false sense of period, oddly enough. If someone had told me this was published in the nineties I would have completely believed them. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation. There are also some great little dissociations in pencilling style near the end as Colin’s mental collapse really takes hold that made me think of the A-Ha video for Take On Me, which again, probably helped create some strange faux-period association in my mind! I do think for a debut graphic novel this is tremendously accomplished illustration.


Buy The Opportunity and read the Page 45 review here

Embroidered Cancer Comic (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin…

“Come to bed with me…”
“Yeah I guess so.”
“We could look at that Victorian erotica book you like.”
“Huh? No, I’d rather read this book about cancer. Is that ok?”
“Sure, it’s just fine.”

Now, just to clear up any potential misunderstanding, this was not the scene in the Rigby household when I settled down to read this latest work from the publishers of medical-based comics Singing Dragon, following from the excellent works: PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE, WHEN ANXIETY ATTACKS, DAD’S NOT THERE ANY MORE, TRAUMA IS REALLY STRANGE, BLUE BOTTLE MYSTERY: AN ASPERGER ADVENTURE and TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT. Nor indeed, just in case the wife is reading, do I possess any Victorian erotica…

No, this is in fact a conversation that takes place between the creator, Elizabeth, and her husband Bob, who has been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prior to that particular bombshell it seems like they used to enjoy a fair degree of cuddling and canoodling between the sheets, but clearly the stress of worrying over which medical pathway to proceed with and the effects of the testosterone-blocking tablets he commenced to help prevent tumour growth are having a decidedly negative effect on his ardour.

There are a number of wonderful things about this work that tickled me greatly, despite the inevitable emotional impact of the topic itself. The first being that this is indeed a comic where all the illustrations are scans of embroidery! For Elizabeth Shefrin is a textile artist and it once again goes to show that whilst the output of a sequential-art-based comic is the same ultimate end point, the means and techniques of illustration of getting there are virtually without limit. The only other comic that I could think of employing embroidery, albeit as an embellishment rather than the main approach, is Gareth Brookes’ THE BLACK PROJECT.


Embroidered Cancer Comic

But what completely got me was the humour, and indeed the love. Throughout, there are some lovely visual gags such as when Bob grapples with the conundrum of radiotherapy or surgery. It’ll not surprise you to learn that depending on whether you consult a radiation oncologist or a surgeon, you’re going to get a different answer. The punchline, though, is when Bob decides to consult a shoemaker…

“I recommend a new pair of shoes.”

As Elizabeth comments, cheekily breaking the fourth wall in the next panel, lest we fear that Bob’s cracked mentally and decided to put his faith in some extreme form of alternative medicine… “Of course, that didn’t really happen.”


So this then is a snapshot of their journey from unexpected diagnosis to where they are today. I found it very affecting and actually quite uplifting. Happily Bob is still with us. As he and Elizabeth both touch on in their separate afterwords, they have had some dark times, but keeping the communication flowing between each other has been paramount. This comic also forms part of the wider conversation about cancer that needs to happen with the public at large, which is obviously an element of the vital mission of Singing Dragon and bless them for that.


I had almost made it through tear-free, when I read the concluding afterword from Dr. Peter Black, Bob’s surgeon at Vancouver Prostate Centre, about how there are a few different versions of the prostate cancer journey. How for many it’s not a particularly threatening disease, if caught early. But for others, treatment is started knowing that a cure is not possible.

That was unfortunately the case for my much loved and much missed father-in-law, Michael, who was diagnosed after his prostate cancer had already metastasised and spread to his bones. So anything which helps raise the awareness and therefore hopefully early detection and treatment of prostate cancer can only be a good thing. If this was in a doctor’s waiting room, I am quite sure it’s far more likely to be picked up and read cover to cover by a pensive man than yet another nondescript leaflet. The sad and poignant thing is I can perfectly picture Michael chuckling at the jokes in this work in my mind’s eye. But as Elizabeth quite correctly concludes her afterword… “It is so important that we laugh as well as cry.”


Buy Embroidered Cancer Comic and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America: Marvel Knights vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by John Ney Rieber, Chuck Austen & John Cassaday, Jae Lee, Trevor Hairsine.

“Ninety percent of the casualties of World War I were soldiers, fraulein. But half of the people who died in World War II were civilians.”
“Half of sixty-one million. I know what I’m fighting for. I don’t want to see World War III.”

No. I think we can all agree that a great many more than 50% of casualties during and since 9/11 have been civilian. My best guess? 95%.

For me the first third of this graphic novel is the best work of Cassady’s career so far. He put so much thought into the pacing and compositions which are far from melodramatic. They’re stark and even solemn at times, with a lot of eyes being looked into, unflinchingly.

The opening sequence is almost bereft of colour, hauntingly so, reflecting the ash everywhere after the Twin Towers had fallen. The first flash of primary cover from Dave Stewart is a shield and only a shield against which a knife shatters, held by a hand with murderous intent in a startling flash of anger, revenge-seeking and racist.

Captain America Marvel Knights 2

NB: this is not that panel which I couldn’t find online – this is the next page!

Pre-ULTIMATES, this was the first time that Captain America’s mask was drawn with some substance, a leathery thickness, and his chain mail delineated as more than mere patterns but with a solid, pound-coin physicality, indicating their practical, protective functionality.

This appeared a decade and a half ago following the events of 9/11 and America’s reaction to it. It is full of that understandable grief but also informed by a resolute opposition to the well of anger which was so alarmingly prevalent at the time.

Captain America Marvel Knights 3

It is not the flag-waving piece of patriotic neo-imperialism the cover might suggest, but a hard, heartfelt and unyieldingly diatribe against war and its terrible consequences.

In a peaceful town now strewn with land mines, in a pew in a church now laced with tripwires (one up against a child’s fallen teddy bear) the hostages held by terrorists are told why and a wife turns to her husband:

This is how you feed our baby? With bombs? You make bombs?”
No! Components – We make components.”

He says, holding his toddler’s hand.


“Land mines outlast wars – aren’t disarmed by treaties. Cluster bomblets fall without detonating – but explode at a touch. Any touch.”

Elsewhen, elsewhere, Nick Fury defends S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’s deployment of terrorist technology.

“They’re the edge that our enemies have, damn it – if we don’t have them too.”
“I know all about your edge. That’s where I’m from. I am military technology. But that’s not all I am.”

Captain America looks him straight in the eye.


As I said, this is quiet. I’ve seen this sort of thing bloated with grandstanding verbosity but Rieber’s self-control makes every word count and Cassady has grasped his intentions to perfection. I re-read ‘Enemy’ and ‘Warlords’ today for the sake of review with unequivocal admiration.

Captain America Marvel Knights 1

After those tales Chuck Austen took hold of the reins with Trevor Hairsine then Jae Lee in the artistic saddles with Rieber popping round for tea whenever he could. I haven’t re-read ‘The Extremists’ or ‘Ice’ which bring this up to a chunky 16 issues, but I remember enjoying them. To a lesser greater, I concede, but what’s not to love about Harisine’s sturdy forms and crunchy textures and Jae Lee’s spiky, shadow-strewn neo-gothic art? It’s all brooding, angular and monumental, and his original Avengers – Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and The Wasp – as coloured by the great Jose Villarrubia, dark-and-stormy-night-stylee, are utterly thrilling.

What I have done is found an old review from fifteen years ago for the second half, but it’s a complete change in tone – thoroughly flip – and contains the most MASSIVE SPOILERS. It did, however, make me laugh, so it’s entirely up to you whether you should stay or you should go now.

Captain America Marvel Knights 5

Previously in CAPTAIN AMERICA:

World War II: Cap and his perky partner Bucky are battling the evil Baron Zemo, the bloke with the tea towel fixed to his face. Zemo launches a whopping great missile and Buck and Cappy spring on top and try to diffuse the puppy. Oh no! It’s about to explode! Jump, Bucky, jump!

Cap falls off but Bucky is blown to tiny teenage pieces, testosterone all over the place. And that’s it for World War II. The next thing Steve Rogers knows is it’s the 1960s and it’s all a bit chilly on the willy on account of having been thawed from a big block of ice found floating in the Arctic, tossed into the ocean by Prince Namor of Atlantis (postcode unknown).

So there you have it, the established story for the last 40 years. Turns out it’s not the truth, the whole truth nor anything like the truth, so help you God.

Say you were the US of A and – with your super-soldier goody-two-shoes keeping your heads above water – you were struggling against the Nazis and their allies, particularly those sneaky ones who redecorated Pearl Harbour without so much as a fabric or colour consultation. And say you finally managed to develop a great big bomb with Enola Gay written all over it, and you decided to drop it on Japan. Well, you don’t think the upstanding Captain would be very pleased about that. In fact, he’d almost certainly attempt to stop you, and nothing much has got in his way before so it’s time for the ultimate decommission.

Put the man on ice, so to speak.

And that’s what they did. It wasn’t some freak accident that saw the Captain spend the 50s in suspended animation. It was the government. The same one he’d been fighting for fearlessly, tirelessly before and ever since.

So upset is Mr. Steve “The Clean” Rogers that he contemplates casual sex. Good grief!

I don’t think this is canon any longer.

Captain America Marvel Knights 4


Buy Captain America: Marvel Knights vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven.

This is a fiercely writtenCivil War cover seismic schism between friendships under pressure from a law long overdue, and ignited in a moment of reckless, pre-emptive presumption.

It’s nothing remotely like the film, imminent, but that is why the graphic novel’s tie-ins are being re-released – some of which we’ll cover, briefly – but it seems stupid do so without republishing an edited edition of the central series’ review.

The Super Hero Registration Act was brought forward after a bunch of attention-seeking, vigilante, not-so-super-powered children bit off more than they could chew whilst filming for a Reality TV show, causing the devastation of an entire neighbourhood in Stamford and the mass slaughter of its inhabitants. Of course action is demanded, and action is taken: all so-called superheroes are now legally obliged to register with the government, surrender their identities, and accept both instruction and instructions in order to minimise loss of life and the destruction of property whilst maximising a coherent fight against crime.

Civil War sc 1

For some, like Captain America, this is an issue of privacy and independence. Those arguments are compellingly made. For others, like Iron Man, it’s the only way to preserve their existence as well as the only responsible option under the circumstances. And on a second read through, those arguments are not just compelling but pretty irrefutable.

One reason why this works is that between the eruptions of consequent, catastrophic combat, Millar allows the sharing of perspectives in a spectrum of colours, whilst those eruptions themselves force the combatants’ hands. Before they know where they are, it’s completely out of control, and already enraged passions give way to blind self-justification, treachery and death.

Civil War sc 2

I don’t know if any other commentators have remarked on this, but the other main reason this works is the current political climate – in America and Great Britain at least. If we lived in countries where we actually admired, had faith in or remotely trusted our governments and their corporate sponsors to do the right thing with our personal information, our money and our armies, Captain America’s arguments would resonate with us not one jot. Look at reasonable people’s reactions to Columbine and this latest campus terror: restrict arms sales! If these acts of callous brutality had been committed by psychopaths with frightening abilities, you’d want this legislation too. You’d see it as the safest, most practical and progressive improvement in law enforcement which only a coordinated, professional strike team of superheroes could bring. But we don’t trust our governments precisely because they do send their soldiers into illegal wars, they do use them to conquer foreign oil fields, and they do hand over the reconstruction contracts to their business buddies. And they don’t half fuck up with their computer systems, dissemination of private information leading to identity theft.

That, I think, is why so many readers including myself instinctively sided with Captain America: not because Millar puts better arguments into his mouth, but because we feel an instinctive disgust and distrust for our current governments, most forms of control, and corporate figure-heads like Tony Stark. Although there’s plenty later on to justify our suspicions, including the unnatural cloning and technological enhancement of a missing Marvel character (that’s another of our worries: scientists playing God, in this case playing God with a God, and that turns out to be a wretched mistake indeed), and Hank Pym loftily declaring, “The public needs super-people they can count on,” whilst popping a pill down his gormless gullet.

Emotive moments include little lines like the Black Panther’s: “Word of advice, Reed. Call Susan.”

Civil War sc 3

Which brings us to McNiven who doesn’t blow those scenes with melodramatic expressions (he gets plenty of release throughout the course of this book, don’t you worry!). He’s softened up considerably since his NEW AVENGERS run: his body language and faces have improved enormously, whilst Morry Hollowell’s colouring keeps the pages warm and atmospheric.

It’s not perfect, and I would heartily recommend picking up CAPTAIN AMERICA : THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA next so that the story moves on even further for you, but conversely I’d also recommend you shy away from most of the tie-in collections to this tome except (maybe – only maybe) for ROAD TO CIVIL WAR.

I’m not going to go to do an INHUMANS, an IDENTITY CRISIS, an ALIAS a SLEEPER, a GOTHAM CENTRAL, an ULTIMATES or a HAWKEYE on you, and claim that this is one of those very rare instances of a superhero book that those who normally distance themselves from this genre should overcome their prejudices to pick up. In spite of the politics, this doesn’t have quite that broad an appeal, I don’t think. On the other hand, it’s not too esoteric, either, and I think Millar was wise not to bother explaining who half these people are on the occasions when it didn’t really matter.


Buy Civil War and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Captain America / Iron Man s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Christos N. Gage, Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev, various.

A very mixed bag which unfortunately contains the only reprint of ‘The Confession’ by Bendis and Maleev, a poignant two-part reprise in which Iron Man addressed Captain America, and Captain America addresses Iron Man under very specific circumstances which I cannot impart for fear of spoiling the first half’s punchline or the end to CIVIL WAR itself.

All I will say is it was typical of Bendis’ instinct for unorthodox storytelling that they are presented in the order they are, and quite rightly so for hindsight is a very cruel mistress courting dramatic irony like she or he was the last lady or gent in town.

DAREDEVIL ’s Alex Maleev delivers it directly and you’ll note that although in the first half – the actual, honest, titular Confession – Stark takes off his helmet, in the second sequence Iron Man keeps his mask on throughout even though the two former friends are alone.

The effect is a stony silence, Captain America’s words effectively bouncing back off the intransigent, impassive metal as if unheard or at least unfelt.

Civil War Captain America Iron Man

I can’t say any more but, given that £18-99 is a steep price to pay for twenty pages, however well worded – King Pyrrhus is referenced with good reason – and however effectively and affectingly drawn, we really won’t mind if you just skip to the end of the volume whilst in the shop and read it from start to finish.

The Brubaker & Tim Perkins / Lee Weeks CAPTAIN AMERICA chapters which precede it, you can pick up in that title’s regular run of graphic novels: you won’t need this for that.

It’s another sci-spy instalment in which the undermining of Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers’ on/off lover, fellow SH.I.E.L.D. agent and unwitting instrument of [REDACTED] begins on the very first page, and it’s gripping stuff.

It’s a book in which the Superhero Registration Act is discussed passionately by those supposed to enforce the law, and stars its own supporting cast while the good Captain fights the good, bad and the ugly fight in the pages of the CIVIL WAR itself.

Most interesting for those following the fortunes of former S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury (SECRET WAR singular etc.), is the tactically brilliant way in which he inserts himself back into the main frame without emerging from hiding, except in very plain sight. And that’s not as cryptic as you might think, if you read it carefully. Gorgeous, shadowy art, like Sean Phillips bathed in milk.  Hell, I know what I mean.

The rest of this is utterly banal fluff in which Captain America and Iron Man meet mid-hostilities to spell out the bleeding obvious to stoopids, so ruining Mark Millar’s subtleties completely.



Buy Civil War: Captain America / Iron Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Wolverine s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Humberto Ramos.

And so the barrel-scraping begins: anodyne and ugly rubbish.

Follow the fortunes of Nitro if you want – it really wasn’t the point of CIVIL WAR – but nine years ago I wrote:

“Complete and utter pants.

“I cannot believe that the man responsible for the substantial mini-series HYPERION VS. NIGHTHAWK, currently playing its political self out, wrote this melodramatic piece of claptrap.

“Ramos’ awkward, posturing figure work doesn’t help, and between them they came out with the very worst example of superficial drivel I have had the misfortunate to endure since… well, Wednesday, actually.”


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

Batman And Robin Eternal vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder & Tony S. Daniel, various…

“Wait, are you a superhero too? How many costumed teens are running around Gotham these days?”
“Back away from my roommate or… Spoiler alert! You’re gonna gargle teeth!”
“They giving out costumes in cereal boxes now?”

The ‘joke’ being that it is Harper Row aka Bluebird being ‘rescued’ from Dick Grayson by Stephanie Brown aka the Spoiler. Also, as the original costumed pre-teen, what right does Dick have to criticise anyone, especially in the area of sartorial elegance, for running around rooftops in ludicrous garb. This story takes place during the current run of Scott Snyder’s BATMAN, whilst Bruce is taking an amnesia induced break from bashing heads and believes himself to be merely a philanthropic businessman, and Jim Gordon is standing in as the new state-sponsored, head-smashing caped detective over in DETECTIVE COMICS.

So when someone starts coming after all of the Batman’s considerable cadre of sidekicks, it’s up to the various Robins, past and present, to look into matters and take care of their own. What they uncover is a shadowy people trafficker code-named Mother who has some rather disturbing historical links to the Dark Knight himself. But with Bruce being, well quite literally just Bruce, they can’t turn to their former mentor, either with accusations, or for answers. And with secret agents, double agents and sleeper agents seemingly lurking everywhere, Dick and his chums seemingly can’t trust anyone… especially the newsagents. Because, as everyone knows, if you want to make sure of getting your regular standing order, particularly for a weekly title like this one, you need to find a comic shop you can trust. Oh, seem to have slipped in retailer rather than reviewer mode there…

Following on from the rather enjoyable weekly romp BATMAN ETERNAL that was also joint penned by Snyder and James Tynion IV, this self-contained story is clearly going to add another typically Snyder-esque layer of ret-conned complexity to the Bat-mythos. There are some lovely little flashbacks to Dick Grayson as the young Robin, joking and messing around in a manner Neil BATMAN: ODYSSEY Adams would heartily approve of, if not Bruce…

There’s a staggering array of Bat-characters, heroes and villains, in this first volume alone, matched only by the numbers of artists DC have employed: 18 pencillers, 6 colourists and err… 15 letterers, in producing this work. There are also 7 people credited with scripting duties! I understand it must be rather a push to get a weekly title out, but it does seem a trifle excessive to me. Anyway, it perhaps surprisingly doesn’t suffer remotely for keeping the entirety of the DC Bullpen in gainful employment. The story feels tighter than young Dick’s neon green tights riding up his bumcrack and the slew of art styles works rather well with the constant switching and shifting of characters and time periods. So far so good.


Buy Batman And Robin Eternal vol 1 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.

Uptight #5 (£7-50, Fantagraphics) by Jordan Crane

Eyelash Out (£3-00, Retrofit) by Ben Sea

Future Shock Zero (£12-00, Retrofit) by various

Ikebana (£4-00, Retrofit) by Yumi Sakugawa

Mowgli’s Mirror (£6-00, Retrofit) by Oliver Schrauwen

Ink For Beginners: A Comic Guide To Getting Tattooed (£3-00, Retrofit) by Kate Leth

The Unmentionables (£4-50, Retrofit) by Jack Teagle

Judge Dredd: America (£13-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Colin MacNeil

Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography restocks (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown

Mystery Circus – Week One (£9-99) by Verity Hall

Nameless h/c (£18-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Phonogram vol 3: The Immaterial Girl (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

The Beauty vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley

Pocket Full Of Coffee (£5-00) by Joe Decie

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Omnibus s/c (£22-50, IDW) by Ben Templesmith

Batman vol 7: Endgame s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman vol 8: Superheavy h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Gotham Academy vol 2: Calamity s/c (£10-99, DC) by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Mingjue Helen Chen, Msassyk

Captain America And Falcon: Complete Christopher Priest Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & various

Civil War: Fantastic Four s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Mike McKone, Paul Pope

Civil War: Front Line s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & various

Civil War: X-Men s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by David Hine, Fabien Nicieza, Peter David & various

Secret Wars (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Secret Wars h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Superior Iron Man vol 2: Stark Contrast s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Laura Braga, Yildiray Cinar, Felipe Watanabe

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor vol 1: Weapons Of Past Destruction (£10-99, Titan) by Cavan Scott & Blair Shedd, Rachael Stott

Birthday Wishes To A Magnificent Chap Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Birthday Wishes To A Truly Wonderful Lady (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Pack Of 4 Thank You Foiled Bees Notelets (£4-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Pack Of 4 Thank You Foiled Ladybird Notelets (£4-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Did Good! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson


ITEM! It’s raining Trinder teapots!

Raining Laura Trinder Teapots

Laura Trinder AKA @xbirdyblue artist on Benjamin Read / Improper Books’ NIGHT POST – tweeted her glorious design the other day, I retweeted then my Tweetdeck Notifications column became a cascade of porcelain as others’ followed retweeted my retweet!

Laura Trinder’s original teapots design in all its refined, full-sized glory Pretty!

Porcelain Ivory Tower

ITEM! Speaking of Improper Books, the finale to PORCELAIN VOL 1 and PORCELAIN VOL 2 (Page 45’s biggest selling graphic novel of 2015) is called PORCELAIN IVORY and Chris Wildgoose is already working on its inks, above.

Jillian Tamaki Subway

ITEM! Jillian Tamaki’s Subway Poster now available as prints. Beautiful!


ITEM! Here’s a Tumblr of art to make your swoon, from the forthcoming Foxfire by Wratt.


ITEM! Retrofit Comics Kickstarter to print more comics – by Eleanor Davis, Leela Corman and co.!

This is SO worth supporting. Above is a batch of Retrofit Comics we got in today, online and linked to under Also Arrived.

Matt Madden’s DRAWN ONWARD, was a Retrofit title: the cleverest comic of last year and one of our Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months.

ITEM! Watch enchanting footage of FeltMistress adorning a barren winter suburb with wonder and colour!

All the characters in DESTINATION KENDAL were created by FeltMistress based on Jonathan Edward’s designs, then photographed by Sean Phillips, all in aid of annual Lakes International Comics Art Festival in Kendal. So funny, so beautiful! Guest-stars Sean Phillips himself! Poor Sean!

Colour Wheel

ITEM! Marissa Louise’s breathtakingly illustrated, extensive essay on colour and colouring comics for Women Write About Comics.

ITEM! Creators: Lerner Books calls for submissions of graphic novels in the middle-grade to Young Adult range. Clear submission guidelines included. I have no illustrative image, sorry!

ITEM! MUNNU’s Malik Sajad is Verve’s Storyteller of the Year!

Well deserved too – oh, how I adored Malik Sajad’s MUNNU, a thinly designed graphic memoir about growing up in Kashmir and another Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month in 2015. Lovers of Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS will adore it!

ITEM! Finally, the wonderful website of Rozenn Grosjean, creator of THE MYSTIC WOODS, reviewed by Page 45, above.



I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rozenn with all my heart for her original sketches in each and every copy of THE MYSTIC WOODS which she sent us from France (I don’t think it’s available anywhere else in the UK) and for sacrificing her last 28 copies of this English translation which will be on their way to us in a week if you see “out of stock” on our website. At the time of typing we still have half a dozen of our original batch left, but do order now please, whatever it says, because we sold half our original stock in a single day when I started tweeting, and once those 28 restocks are gone, they are gone until Rozenn reprints!

Thanks ever so much!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week two

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Features the first of Neil Gaiman, Mark Buckingham and D’Israeli MIRACLEMAN volumes, entirely accessible to newcomers.

Hubert (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Ben Gijsemans.

An exquisitely beautiful book with a refined palette restricted to pale creams and antler greys enriched with earthen warmth then printed on thick, calico-coloured paper.

When deep olive greens finally make an appearance they lie far from coincidentally inside and just outside Mr Hubert’s flat: the Swiss Cheese Plant rising from behind his armchair and the more delicate leafy foliage of his neighbour’s window box, opposite, below.

Suspended in space, in the middle of otherwise empty pages, that window forms the occasional focus of Mr Hubert’s attention through his own, while he paints portraits of women from photographs he has taken in a Brussels art gallery, then enlarged on his laptop.

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Mr Hubert is a great admirer of these classical paintings, visiting the museum almost every weekend to spend hours fixated on a single tableaux.

It’s there we begin, Gijsemans reproducing one’s experience of being absorbed in a painting – the eyes being drawn into then over different details before attempting to assess the whole – even as others’ curiosity is only momentarily piqued or pass by with a specific destination in mind. There are two pages each containing nine square panels encompassing exactly the same space from the same angle as its occupants come and go, including a mother and child.

“Come on, love, let’s get your coat.”
“Are we going home?”

Only reluctantly does Mr Hubert move on.

Hubert 1


Hubert 2

It’s a very quiet book, light on dialogue, partly because Mr Hubert is a solitary man who lives alone. In addition, he’s simply not very good at conversation. When attempted, it’s awfully awkward. When his lonely landlady living below invites him in for a drink he usually declines. Perhaps he might accept, just the once.

She likes art too, and has a large reproduction of Manet’s Olympia hanging above her mantelpiece. Nude and slightly confrontational, it could be considered a conversation starter. Or a conversation stopper.

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It’s so quiet that on some of Mr. Hubert’s many visits to the museum you can almost hear his footsteps echoing in the empty gallery as he approaches a specific exhibit. But between the calm solemnity of the Fine Art establishment and his equally silent sanctuary, the city itself must be negotiated and Gijsemans suddenly and abruptly throws in an overwhelming double-page spread of complete chaos and cacophony: a kaleidoscope of concrete and cranes – of cityscape impressions lurching at angles against each other without panel gutters to buffer them, as disorientating to our eyes as they are to Mr. Hubert’s…!

Then peace is restored once more.

The lines here are too delicate for any of these pages to be described as regimented, even when fixed with the same unyielding focus as when Mr Hubert is persuaded to give a bloke a lift back from Paris to Brussels. But they are very precise. There’s a formality to them reflective of the dialogue. It’s difficult to know what Mr. Hubert is thinking behind his glasses, behind his eyes. He often seems furtive, uncertain, nervous, perhaps disconcerted, especially when others are taking photographs in the galleries, or ask him to. I think he thinks he’s being watched by those two on admissions.

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The funniest pages are when Mr. Hubert draws his blinds so that he can no longer be distracted by the opposite window when painting. Or reading. Or watching TV. But he simply can’t settle.

Sometimes hiding something, obscuring it from view, can prove far more fixating than leaving it in plain sight.

As Baroque painters Guido Reni or Caravaggio knew very well.


Buy Hubert and read the Page 45 review here

Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham with D’Israeli.

Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s first of three MIRACLEMAN Ages, perfectly accessible to newcomers. If you’ve not encountered Alan Moore’s run on MIRACLEMAN, no matter. I’ve not read it in 25 years and, in any case, this is a completely different game, a completely different genre.

In fact, it’s a series of short stories in multiple genres with Mark Buckingham employing multiple styles using multiple media – often in the same chapter.

This is “What if Gods walked among us? What would our lives be like?”

This is not their story; this is ours. And it is ever so rich in ideas.

“It was the best of times.
“And what was miraculous was this: everybody knew it…
“For once in our history, the Golden Age was not separated from our hearts and minds by the incomprehensible gulfs of misty-eyed time. It was here. It was now. It was ours.
“God was in his Heaven…
“All was right with the world.”

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In a book spanning seven years we will meet individuals whose lives have been changed by the Age of Miracles and the catastrophe in London which preceded it.

It begins overlooking London and the gleaming, golden statue of Miracleman posed like Lord Nelson atop his column, before pulling ever upwards to take in the Thames and the unimaginably vast new Pyramid, Olympus, which we see rising above the clouds, above the atmosphere, far more visible from space than the Chinese Wall as the sun blazes behind our globe, then finally above them both, above us all… Miracleman gazing down upon us, this thoughts, his perspective, unknowable.

Miracleman Golden Age 1

In the first chapter we meet a man who lost everything in London except Hope. He lost his family in that atrocity but now he is making a pilgrimage along with three others, climbing Olympus to pray and petition. Imagine: making a pilgrimage not to some city made holy through associations with the past, but to petition God himself in the flesh.

At the foot of the steps, the base of this cathedral, Buckingham has created the most massive vaulted ceilings most minds’ eyes couldn’t even contemplate, coloured in gold by D’Israeli like so many more Baroque details to come which are embossed with the Miracleman logo. One is left in no doubt of the awe shared by these strangers. The colours become trippier under more modern, neon installations, a hint of the frazzling some minds will suffer as the atmosphere becomes rarer, one individual undergoing a complete Bill Sienkiewicz, expressionistic meltdown.

And what will they encounter at the top? What are their prayers? How will they be answered?

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The second tale is told during a post-coital cigarette, Jason’s first, to a lover under cover of the sheets. It’s of his own little miracle – an encounter and an escape to the seaside full of period British details.

The third also involves a love life, drawn with an apposite ‘80s poster chic reminiscent of comics’ Paul Smith, as a whisper from lonely John Gallaway is overheard by Miraclewoman high up in the sky during in an electrical thunderstorm. He has retired to a countryside windmill which forms part of a worldwide network powering the planet after becoming disillusioned by imperfections in his lovers. Typing those two sentences reminds me just how intricately Gaiman layered his ideas.

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Next up is the one episode which might require a bit of prior MIRACLEMAN knowledge, but there is a full-page recap at the front of the book. It’s a discussion between two school children – and arguments between others each drawn in a different kids’ cartoon style about the increasing probability of modern miracles – about the possible return of Kid Miracleman, the cause of the catastrophe in London, just as Jesus rose from the dead. I like the flipping of the sides there. The one thing that puzzles me still about the interlude is why the girl is drawn like Jaime Hernandez’s Hopey. I’m sure once someone points it out, it will seem ridiculously obvious. Is it the anti-establishment angle? Possibly, yes. I know why the whole is drawn as it is: for the sake of a punchline I don’t think you’ll see coming. I know I didn’t.

And so to my favourite, ‘Notes From The Underground’, the characters drawn in white pencil crayon (a chalk-like effect) against almost pitch-black subterranean scenes of photorealistic classical beauty reflecting Olympus above them. They’re lit by D’Israeli in dark purples and greens like a tropical nocturnal house in a zoo.

Down below Mors is resurrecting the dead into android bodies, like Andy Warhol who really is a scream. He’s actually Andy 6 because there are multiple, identical copies – of course there are! Andy is success-orientated, money-fixated, fey, jealous, bitchy and ever so slightly vacuous. It’s a perfect impression!

“I wish there was money down here, though. Without money, how do you know you’re doing well?”

It’s a recurrent joke which becomes cumulatively funnier. I won’t spoil it for you.

“We’ve started telling each other stories.
“I like stories. Stories make me happy.
“The trouble is, he wants me to talk, too, and I just like listening, and watching.
“I stayed away for a few days, but then the other Warhols started asking if we’d had a tiff. They’re rats.
“I don’t like myself very much.”

As I say, a perfect portrait as are Buckingham’s. That particular scene with its immaculate compositions made me howl.

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As you can probably tell by now, so much of this is about the human heart. Society may have changed – science or miracles too, but the human heart hasn’t and, as much as anything else, this is a book of contemplation.

Our next heart belongs to Rachel Cohn, a film director who wanted a child to melt a cold place inside her: someone who would adore her, need her and never leave her – at least not for long. Her partner’s certainly unfaithful. So she applied, like other childless women, for a donation of Miracleman’s seed. The result was beautiful baby Mist, who looks like a two-year-old toddler but doesn’t need her mother at all. She floats in the air, glowing, and can traverse the globe in a second. There’s far more going on in her head than it looks. She doesn’t say “Mommy” but “Mother”.

“Mother? How’s the new movie going?”
“It’s fine, hon.”
“That’s good. I saw the last one.”
“Did you like it?”
“Mm. It was okay. But metafictions have an intrinsic distancing effect I think you’re foolish to ignore: the ideas were strong, but if you don’t care about the people, then what does it matter?”

Out of the mouths of babes…

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There’s a children’s story within this story told at bedtime which contains an awful lot of “Good-bye”s.

All these individuals we will meet once again after a grainy, photo-referenced ‘Spy Story’ of signs, countersigns, double- and triple-crosses, and reality-eroding, raging paranoia.

Like the opening gambit, ‘Carnival’ is a pilgrimage, this time a public one where our by now familiar faces join tens if not hundreds of thousands celebrating the Age of Miracles in London after five days of mourning the modern holocaust. It’s a truly inclusive affair, a climax which concludes with a boon, an act of divine beneficence, the one gift so many of us dream about.

Next: The Silver Age.

After that: well, that one is all about Them.


Buy Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine: The Eagle Issue (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

It’s become tradition to kick off any KATZINE review with a declaration of adoration when it comes to the covers and production values.


I did it over and over again – and why wouldn’t I? Because look!

(Okay, not so much with #4, but only because I failed to find time to write anything at all – I can assure you I read it with relish!)

These are no chapbooks – cheap affairs knocked out for maximum accessibility in t’olden days – but amongst the most luxurious mini-comics of all time with the most sensuous pencils printed on warm, fine-grained paper stock with even thicker card covers.

Speaking of covers, wait until you open this one up for the Eagle-fish interface endpapers! Such balletic grace and beauty!

Truly this is the EAGLE ISSUE, Chapman wisely now eschewing enumeration in favour of theme or content on account of readers believing they needed to buy the lot and read in a specific order. You do need to buy the lot – obviously – but you don’t. Each autobiographical outing is completely self-contained with episodes from any era of Chapman’s adventurous life.

Don’t mistake introversion for agoraphobia or indeed self-absorption. Katriona has travelled widely both in Britain and abroad and has much to impart to those eager to listen and learn, rendered in a way which perfectly captures the spirit of place. You might as well be travelling with her.

Regular features return this issue – ‘Local Business’, ‘Fear’ and ‘Love’ along with a botanical page – but there’s also a break for Katriona to explain to the uninitiated from personal experience what being shy does and does not involve. Like Allie Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, this is done solely to promote greater understanding of the misunderstood, and extroverts would be well advised to take a moment out of their convivial lives to take note of the Energy Bucket. These are no melodramatic, egomaniacal, attention-seeking vapidities or woe-is-me wailings, but considered reflections on life.

The most thrilling feature this issue involves the titular eagle in which Chapman displays a masterful comprehension of both story building and narrative cohesion in comics. It’s a thrilling four-page encounter on an uninhabited island whose own rugged contours form the adventure’s background, rising then falling over the twin, double-page spreads as Chapman herself explores upwards to her spell-binding sighting in the sky before returning to her more sedentary mother below to witness the puffins they came for in the first place. The inset panels too reflect the semi-symmetrical nature of the narrative – the puffins first sighted far off then tantalisingly close.

All of which bodes wonderfully well for the extended graphic memoir which Chapman is now embarking upon and whose progress she intends to catalogue throughout future KATZINEs in her ‘Graphic Novel Diary’. And if you think that bodes well, you should read her astute self-analysis in this issue’s first instalment, about the considerable and rigorous editorial decisions necessary for moulding a gripping story out of potentially endless and so lifeless clay. Hint: you don’t just slap everything you experience out on the page because then you’re left with tales told by idiots, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Conversely, for thought-provoking, philosophical brilliance which has been so cleverly crafted – and rigorously arranged / edited, please see Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS.



Buy Katzine: The Eagle Issue and read the Page 45 review here

Thief Of Thieves vol 5: Take Me (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinbrough.

In which a friend in prison proves quite the motivational factor.

“So what are you in for?”
“Ambition, I guess.”

The first four volumes of THIEF OF THIEVES were a complex series of sly slights of hand, right from the word go, and deliciously so.

Readers were as fooled by writers Spencer, Asmus and Diggle as the FBI agents and less salubrious citizens were by con-man and master thief Conrad Paulson’s long-game manipulations under his infamous guise of Redmond. They never managed to successfully link the two, indeed Paulson’s successfully sued the government twice for false accusations and harassment.

This… this is a much more streamlined scenario, and the surprise is very refreshing.

Conrad has finally done what his ex always wanted and retired, unscathed.

His son Augustus has finally done what his Dad always wanted and stopped attempting to emulate him when he was frankly never any good at it. And do you know what? Wouldn’t it be lame if every predator proves to be an intransigent, spotty leopard?

Everyone can finally breathe out… except for Celia, Paulson’s partner in crime, who’s in far greater need of hard cash than Conrad. With Conrad no longer using it, she adopts his former identify of Redmond, and promptly gets herself arrested and charged not just with her own crime but with all of Redmond’s too.

How in hell are they going to get out that one?

No less clever than ever, I promise you!

Thief Of Thieves vol 5

For much longer, more analytical reviews, please see former THIEF OF THIEVES.


Buy Thief Of Thieves vol 5: Take Me and read the Page 45 review here

The Talion Maker Part 2 (£3-50, self-published) by Neal Curtis…

“… I would also like to thank anyone who has or is trying to make a comic. It is very difficult and I have the utmost respect for you.”

So writing a comic is hard? But what about reviewing them, Neal??!! I’ll let him off actually, because he’s very kindly also thanked Page 45 for our support and encouragement. Plus, he’s just published an academic work entitled Sovereignty and Superheroes, so I do know he has also earned his writing about comics chops.

Stephen reviewed THE TALION MAKER PART 1 (there will be three in total), but just to add I found that opener one of the most engrossing and best written comics I had read for a long time, the seamless continual blending of the threads of the story with tangential transitions so subtle you frequently didn’t realise they’d happened until a panel or two later, when it suddenly occurred that you’d been steered off in a slightly different, albeit highly pertinent, direction.

Thus there was a real sense to me in part one of building a picture. Or rather presenting you with the pieces of a jigsaw one by one, minus the box, and encouraging you to try and assemble it. So what we did we learn by the end of that first part? I think we possibly do need a quick recap before I talk about this second part.

So… New Media Lecturer Daniel has managed to get himself ousted from his University by dint of punching the Dean in the face. The Dean deserved it, indisputably, for his shameless, craven lack of support of Daniel when one of his students sent some Bob Dylan lyrics to Downing Street as an Iraq War protest.

One student risibly arrested under new draconian Anti-Terrorism Legislation later – plus an ill-advised interview given by Daniel which was, shall we say, provocatively edited by a right-wing tabloid journalist with an agenda rather than an interest in promoting the truth – and, well, Daniel’s recourse to some fist-in-the-face stress relief was probably morally justified if not entirely sensible. Pretty sure we’ve all felt like belting a boss at some point, though. Good on you, Daniel, that’s what I and probably 99% of the population would say. Unless you’re an employee of Page 45 obviously, whose bosses are perfect and beyond reproach…

Matters were also tragically compounded further when Daniel lost his girlfriend Hannah, murdered in a neo-Nazi arson attack on an independent bookshop. The Minister for Immigration immediately took to the airwaves to tell everyone Hannah had terrorist links whereas actually she was a much-loved human rights lawyer. You would think by now that the public would recognise the relentless spin soundbites and sneaky reputation-trashing that goes on day in day out, but the politicians know that the vast majority of people subconsciously yearn to trust their leaders so, so much, that they can get away with murder. Quite literally. So what’s a daily dose of a few barefaced lies on practically every topic you care to mention on top for good measure too?

But now, with a eulogy to give, and the wounds of his loss still so raw in his mind and his soul, Daniel is a man pondering how best to obtain some further… summary justice. For let me remind you, the definition of talion is “a retaliation authorized by law, in which the punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the injury.” Or, shall we say… an eye for an eye…

It seems that Daniel might now be becoming increasingly set on a course of action that is, to him at least, morally justifiable according to his own innate, grief-stricken sense of justice, though what he’s possibly intending is certainly not legal in the courts of British law.


Ah… once again Neal ably demonstrates you do not have to be a great illustrator to make great comics. I have shown part one, and sold it, to several people who have come in to Page 45 asking about making comics, as an example of how great writing can overcome more mediocre illustration.

I guess a few more years of several hours drawing practice a day and I have no doubt Neal’s illustrative abilities will match his conceptual and storytelling ones! I’m teasing, I know he’s a busy man. Plus I don’t want a punch in the face from an irate Lecturer in New Media. Who would? I’ve heard they’re a fearsome bunch with as solid a sense of social justice as you wouldn’t want to feel connecting with your chin…

What Neal does have, mind you, is exceptional abilities in the area of panel and page composition. There are a number of delightful devices and conceits used here, as in part one, which greatly add to the storytelling. From a certain something lurking under the bed in corner of the very first panel which I fear speaks volumes about Daniel’s splintered state of mind, to the overlaid-panel-within-multiple-bordering-panels presentation of the poem about refugees than Daniel finally settles on for his funereal reading, they all embellish a story that already has considerable depths to it.


Indeed, having just re-read the final few pages I’ve just taken a rather more ominous additional meaning from the final stark panel which sits boldly on its own on the final page. There’s a subtext I’ve possibly been trying to avoid which I now suspect is rising rapidly to the surface. Maybe… And that’s one of the delights of this yarn: it’ll certainly make you think. Daniel, I fear, well, I am pretty sure Daniel has been thinking about it all far too much…

You might conclude I haven’t actually told you too much of the plot for part two. That’s true, I’d prefer you to continue to try and construct the jigsaw for yourself as Neal pseudo-randomly doles the pieces out, shifting backwards and forwards temporally. Suffice to say, this second part does feel like a necessary bridging work. Or perhaps the analogy of walking across a see-saw might be more appropriate. For once you’ve crossed that midway point, the plank is coming down whether you like it or not with increasing rapidity in a manner that is not under your control. I suspect this might well be the case for Daniel.

But as to what the completed picture will look like when the final pieces are placed down, that I genuinely just don’t know. Which in and of itself is an intriguing pleasure, and the sign of a great plot. For that resolution we will have to wait patiently for the third and concluding act…


Buy The Talion Maker Part 2and read the Page 45 review here

Things I Think About Sometimes (£3-00) by Stanley Miller…

Stanley WIZARDS N STUFF Miller returns, another year older and still as delightfully anarchic as ever. He’s a teenager now, our Stanley, thirteen years young, and I can only imagine what the future has in store for him if he persists with comics. I dearly hope so, I can easily see him blossoming into an Anders BIG QUESTIONS Nilsen type of cove, with a very distinct voice and much to say. For the moment, though, he seems for all the world like the natural successor to David Shrigley!

Stanley and Shrigley have something in common actually in that both of them have managed to reduce me to tears of utter, uncontrollable, howling laughter in public with a single illustration. The page of Stanley’s in question is contained within this work, which, if it really is a typical example of things he thinks about sometimes, is proof that Stanley should be locked in a room… with a pad and pencil, and made to draw a lot more comics!

This time around Stanley has decided to opt for the running gag of playfully mangling every single James Bond film title in chronological order complete with a farcically, self-referential illustration hammering home the joke.


The opening pair of “Dr. Toe” and “From Russia With Gloves” started a smile twitching at the corner of my lips and by the time we’d eased out of the Sean Connery epoch with “Diamonds Are For Trevor” and got to the Roger Moore era proper, there was one belter of a malapropism title-wise in particular I don’t wish to spoil, and I suddenly found myself in absolute hysterics.


I’m dearly hoping Stanley’s next project will be a piece of sequential-art-based storytelling. I’m absolutely convinced he’s got what it takes to do something as superb as it would undoubtedly be surreal. If you make it, Stanley, and it’s as this good as this, I promise you we’ll sell it. With that said, please keep doing this gag material as well because I think it’s brilliant stuff and frankly who doesn’t need to nearly wet themselves with laughter every once in a while? In fact I’d like to see this material prescribed to people for stress relief, if perhaps however not for incontinence issues…


Also, as before, Stanley has very kindly added some additional, and different, colours to each cover, ensuring every copy is completely unique. He’s clearly thought about this, our Stanley…


Buy Things I Think About Sometimes and read the Page 45 review here

Black Canary vol 1: Kicking And Screaming s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher & Amy Chu, Pia Guerra.

“From the moment the lights went up, the Wizard’s Wand show in Detroit was a performance to remember. Paloma Terrific debuted her new custom gear in the rig. D.D. was finally playing to the crowd. Lord Byron sat perfectly in the pocket playing to the crowd. And silent wunderkind Ditto pulled sounds out of her semi-acoustic so otherworldly that Leon Theremin would’ve been dumbstruck.”

– From some music magazine or other.

Artist Annie Wu a great many of you will already know from the deliciously drawn HAWKEYE VOL 3, given which you will be far from surprised that this is not your average superhero comic.

It’s not even your average superheroine comic because although Black Canary still sports fishnet stockings, this isn’t about the long legs, thigh shots and deep, forward-thrusting cleavage otherwise known as “tits’n’ass” comics which are a total disgrace to the medium.

Here the fishnets are torn in punk and post-punk fashion and that’s a studded leather jacket on top of the bodice which reveals nothing at all except a new wave fashion sense as our trouble magnet, now lead singer of the rock band Black Canary, lets it rip into the mic.

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Wu’s lines are all whoosh-whoosh on the page, hair flying everywhere or lolloping over the forehead when the cast is feeling more sedate. It keeps the story sweeping along beautifully and the story right now seems to centre on Black Canary’s mute guitarist Ditto, for although it looked as though D.D. was attracting all the violence spilling onto their set so cutting the gigs short and ruining their reputation, she was merely defending their territory.

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Really they were after the silent and secretive Ditto – she of the ethereal strings – and their assailants were merely the vanguard. What’s coming next (and I do mean what, not who) I can only compare to the Umbral in UMBRAL. Lee Loughbridge’s colours do something clever there: they take over everything on the page – all the linework and shadow which would ordinarily be black – except for the creatures themselves. The effect is to render the inky ones alien, otherworldly and the centre of your eyes’ attention. They’ve got the bands too. Thank goodness D.D. used to be in the Justice League. For five seconds.

So what’s her story, then?


Buy Black Canary vol 1: Kicking And Screaming s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman Unchained s/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Synder & Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, various…

Of the first issue, I wrote…

Easy to see why DC have let Scott Snyder loose on Big Blue as his extremely popular, and more importantly excellent, run on BATMAN continues unabated. Whether he can replicate that success on what is a rather more… one-dimensional character (and indeed supporting characters – I really am tired of seeing Lois Lane written as highly strung and career-obsessed, Perry as the gruff editor with a heart of gold, and not forgetting comedy relief and donut delivery boy Jimmy Olsen) remains to be seen, but we’re off to a good start here, even if Lois is full-on multi-tasking mode, Perry yelling at all and sundry to meet deadlines and Jimmy off on a donut run…

Okay, secondary characters aside, I did really enjoy this. It’s an interesting enough set-up with multiple satellites falling from the sky, possibly at the behest of Lex Luthor, currently en route to a super-max prison facility, though he does find time to make a brief show-stealing cameo, showing he has nerves of steel, if not the skin to match. And of course, only Superman can catch them all and save the day, except it seems one additional satellite was stopped from falling… But if Superman didn’t do it, nor following his initial investigations any member of the Justice League or other heroes, then who did? Our glimpsed answer, privy only to us fourth-wall breakers (if not Source Wall – sorry crap DC in-joke), shows that Snyder has already got a potential belter of story arc up his sleeve. Promising…

What of the art then? Well, I must say, since Jim Lee’s relatively recent return to DC and subsequent current run on JUSTICE LEAGUE, written by Geoff Johns, I have been reminded just how good his art can be, when he’s actually illustrating something I’m bothered about reading – like ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN – which always helps. Also, this issue features a crazy fold-out page right inside the front cover which gets things off with a bang. It doesn’t entirely work in that once you’ve folded it out, you realise it’s a double page spread on reverse sides of the huge page. I have to admit I did grab a second copy just so I could see what it looked like together in all its glory and who knows, maybe that’s what DC are intending, for everyone to buy two copies, precisely for that reason. Can’t quite imagine how on earth it’s going to work in the trade either, they probably want people to buy two copies of the trade knowing them, but anyway, it’s a nice touch.

[Editor’s note: we haven’t checked!]


Buy Superman Unchained 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.

The Mystic Woods (Signed & Sketched In) (£7-99, self-published) by Rozenn Grosjean

Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles (£10-99, Dover Publications Inc.) by Jeff Nicholson

Tokyo Ghost vol 1: Atomic Garden (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy

Mercury Heat vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Omar Francia, Nahuel Lopez

Crossed + 100 vol 2 (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Heinz, Rafa Ortiz

Eagle Strike: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako Damerum, Yuzuru Takasaki

Point Blanc: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako Damerum, Yuzuru Takasaki

Skeleton Key: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako Damerum, Yuzuru Takasaki

Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£11-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako Damerum, Yuzuru Takasaki

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 4: More Than Kin (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad, Cliff Richards

Batman And Robin Eternal vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder & Tony S. Daniel, various

Batman Beyond vol 1: Brave New Worlds s/c (£10-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Bernard Chang

Batman: Contagion s/c (£25-99, DC) by Alan Grant, Doug Moench & Kelley Jones, Vince Giarrano

Justice League vol 6: Injustice League s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Jason Fabok

Captain America: Fallen Son s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & John Cassady, John Romita Jr., David Finch, Ed McGuinness, Leinil Francis Yu

Captain America: Marvel Knights vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by John Ney Rieber, Chuck Austen & John Cassaday, Jae Lee, Trevor Hairsine

Civil War: Black Panther s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Reginald Hudlin & Various, Michael Turner

Civil War: Captain America / Iron Man s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Christos N. Gage, Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev, various

Civil War: Wolverine s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Humberto Ramos

Thors: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Sprouse, Goran Sudzuka

X-Men ’92 vol 0: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Chris Sims, Chad Bowers & Scott Koblish

The Flowers Of Evil vol 9 (£8-50, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 10 (£8-50, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 11 (£8-50, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi


ITEM! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: Jamie McKelvie is back! Gasp at the blistering recap and teaser!

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Bearing in mind that in reviews of second, and third volumes I will not spoil ANY of volume one – there are carefully worded, designed to intrigue newcomers…

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOLS 1 to 3 reviewed by Page 45!

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #18, the first issue after VOL 3 – please pre-order!

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THE WICKED + THE DIVINE deluxe h/c reprinting first two s/cs with extras – please pre-order!

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts – just a few left now, tiny sizes depleted! Bet you wish you’d pre-ordered!

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ITEM! Craig Thompson is signing and speaking at Orbital Comics in London on March 23rd!

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It’s free if you buy a copy of Craig Thompson’s SPACE DUMPLINS (which seems only fair!) reviewed there by our Joanthan. If you’re not going to the signing, by all means purchase from us (We Ship Worldwide!) by if you are, buy from Orbital so you get to see the talk for free!

Also reviewed by us:

Craig Thompson’s HABIBI
Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS (Out of print at the moment)
Craig Thompson’s GOOD-BYE, CHUNKY RICE
Craig Thompson’s CARNET DE VOYAGE (succinctly!)

ITEM! Extensive interview with Mark Millar on his new series with Stuart Immonen, EMPRESS.

You can pre-order EMPRESS #1 here or just pop it onto your Standing Order.

ITEM! ‘Transmetropolitan: the 90s comic that’s bang up-to-date on Donald Trump’ by Damien Walter

I reviewed every single volume of Warren Ellis & Darick Roberston’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN, all permanently in stock, lacerating in its indictment of American and British politics as well as voter apathy / abstinence. Attitude on a stick.

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ITEM! Broken Frontier interviewed Ben Gijsemans, the creator of HUBERT, reviewed by Page 45 above.

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ITEM! Tickets on sale for world-premiere of multimedia performance of Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH, initiated by The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, 28th May 2016 in Kendal Town Hall, Cumbria

It will then tour France before returning to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14th to 16th.

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ITEM! Dark Horse to release mass market edition of Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH original graphic novel of October 5th 2016, 10 days before it is launched, along with a multimedia performance at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Lots and lots of interior art at the bottom of that article!

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ITEM! Legendary 2000AD and LAST AMERICA artist Mick McMahon is the first UK comicbook creator to be announced for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016.

The announcements are going to come thick and fast now! I’m sitting on a secret and it’s killing me!

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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 LICAF

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!

Kendall Town Hall

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

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– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week one

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Featuring Kazu Kibuishi, Meredith Gran, Kevin Huizenga, Michael DeForge, Grant Morrison & Philip Bond, Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank, Sheila Alvarado, Stephane Levallois, Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen. News underneath!

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

“I got drunk in the afternoon, fell asleep.
“I felt the change when I woke up.
“The first thing I noticed was the television set.
“It looked different, but the same. It was identical, but not at all like it was before.
“It still had the same buttons.
“I recognised the channel, the show playing.
“I recognised the actors – again different, but the same.
“Even the way the light shone against objects in the room had changed.”

Yes, because he’s turned into a tree…

Now, the thing is, this is all perfectly normal for a Michael DeForge yarn. We never find out the main character’s name, a young teenage boy grappling with his sexual identity and being abused on a daily basis, physically and emotionally, by his so-called friends, but handily his family’s lodger April is helpfully able to explain it all to him. And us…

“You’re a tree, now. It happens to most people when they reach a certain age. You’re aren’t hallucinating. You’re seeing the world through tree eyes.”
“So what I was seeing before wasn’t real?”
“It’s not that you weren’t able to see before, or that your sight was faulty. You’re just about to see more now.”
“How come no one told me this was coming?”
“Some people don’t tree until later in life. Some turn into twigs and stay twigs until they die. We don’t like bringing up tree-ness in front of twigs. Twigs don’t know they’re twigs. They don’t know they’re missing out.”


I have occasionally pondered the idea that Michael (LOSE #7 / DRESSING / FIRST YEAR HEALTHY) DeForge is a reincarnate Rinzai Zen master who just likes messing with our heads, attempting to induce kenshō in those curious enough to pick up his books through the supranatural, mind-shattering power of his comic kōan. I also like to think he is the William Blake of 21st century comics, forever destined to be viewed as an idiosyncratic lunatic by those unable to perceive the philosophical nature of his works. He is, I believe, a genius. Open this book, open your mind. Turn a page, tune in, let your ego drop out. Maybe don’t transmute into a plant-based life form, though…


Buy Big Kids h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”
“It’s like, 4.5 billion years.”
“Yeah right, ha ha… that’s what they’ll try and teach him in public school.”

What you can’t see from the above exchange between Kevin, his wife Wendy’s cousin Angela and her son having dinner together after the funeral of Wendy’s Great Aunt Shelly is the huge kick under the table Kevin receives from Wendy, when he answers the young kid’s question without thinking! I should probably add that Shelly’s family are Baptists living in Florida and smack bang in the heartlands of America’s Bible Belt. Creationism is rife down there and offense can be taken very easily.

Meanwhile, not thinking, and indeed, not doing, are two things Wendy accuses Kevin of rather a lot. Quite rightly so, by his own admission, but it’s to the extent that not only can he now usually see an admonishment of yet another transgression coming, but he’s developed a whole range of deflective techniques to avoid said lectures on the twin topics of his thoughtlessness and procrastination. This time, though, Wendy’s needed to put the boot in sharpish before he can sink his own foot any deeper into troubled temporal waters. It’s not even the first time she’s had to do it today, either, having already dispensed another covert leg sweep during the eulogy itself as Kevin zoned out to a happier place of pondering the big question you might find yourself asking at any funeral… of what they were having for lunch…




As ever, Kevin does a marvellous turn in self-deprecating humour and once again the amusing auto-biographical material provides a neat lead-in to this issue’s topic on which he’d like to enlighten us, the evolution of our planet, and the timescales thereof. Or as he much more prosaically describes it… “Time Travelling: Deep Time.”


I love how Kevin really let’s his talents for composition run wild in these sections. He always starts us off gently with a few simple devices, gradually increasing in educative and artistic complexity, as he explains how Scottish “Gentleman Scientist” James Hutton, who we could arguably call the first geologist, decided in the 1700s (pre-Charles Darwin mind) that the Earth simply had to be considerably older than the perceived scientific wisdom of the time of a mere five to six thousand years.


Kevin then walks us through Hutton’s theories and thought experiments to show us how he hypothesised the formation of the planet, plus also illustrating the geological processes actually involved, culminating in a truly impressive double page spread. His ability to get what he’s visualising out of his head and onto the page is exceptional.

[Editor’s note: each issue of GANGES can be read independently of the others.]


Buy Ganges vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I have never travelled there to help someone remember.
“These memories are the kind you want to forget.”

These memories are also the kind which others want buried, forgotten.

They have been wiped from the minds of individuals and hidden deep underwater in The Cortex, a space ship the size of a city. It’s there that Emily must travel next, in the company of one other Stonekeeper and an old enemy whom she has little reason to trust, except that he warned Emily so long ago about her Stone and its Voice and she singularly failed to listen.

But trust has to be earned, and it has to be reciprocated in order to mean anything worthwhile. I’m afraid in one instance here, it may prove everyone’s undoing…

I don’t think we’ve been underwater in AMULET before, have we? What creatures do you imagine lurk in its vast, inky depths? What does a Tenta-Drive look like? The Cortex itself, shimmering in the dark, will take your breath away!

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AMULET is our best-selling all-ages fantasy renowned for its majestic landscapes; its Hayao Miyazaki flourishes like the library in the lake surrounded by pale, mist-shrouded mountains last volume, its ancient structure built on the back of a gigantic stone sculpture of the Elf nation’s very first leader, holding it aloft like Atlas.

Here there’s a vast mountain range whose massive, craggy, snow-ridged peaks rise high above the clouds, and I love the dry-brush effect of the yellow-green grass on their sweeping plains and the perilous path which Navin and company must negotiate in their next step to be reunited with his sister Emily and the rest of the resistance.

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AMULET began with family and here it comes back to the fore.

There’s the flying restaurant where Suzy makes a point of treating her staff like family and ensures the patrons feel like they are dining at home. There’s the Elf King, his son Trellis and Trellis’ Uncle Virgil: Uncle Virgil taught knowledge, history and the importance of asking questions; Trellis’ father dismissed all those in favour of training in tactics and military exercises as well as blind obedience.

Specifically AMULET began with the death of Emily and Navin’s Dad in a car accident back on Earth, after which their Mum took them to live at their great grandfather’s empty and abandoned house in the countryside. Swept through a portal into the world of Alledia, they’ve made many allies but also enemies and become embroiled in a war between humans and elves, the real reason behind which will finally be revealed. Along the way Emily found herself in possession of a Stone which granted her telekinetic powers. Or did she become possessed by it? We’ve since met other Stonekeepers, some kindly, some less in control than others. Crucially none of them were ever trained to become Stonekeepers but selected instead.

Then the Stone started speaking to Emily, and less and less has she liked what it said.

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“Vigo… do you think all Stonekeepers are cursed? Maybe that’s why we were chosen.
“Not because we were the most powerful… but because we were the most vulnerable.”

As AMULET VOL 7 opens Emily awakens from a heart-wrenching dream of her Dad to find that her Stone seems particularly interested in their new destination: a supply station which was attacked but not ransacked and is now flooded with echoes, with memories. Which is where, I believe, we came in.

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“Be careful who you trust, Chief.
“Not everyone you believe is an ally has your best interests at heart.”

Trust, trust, it’s all about trust and while the above is most certainly true – leading readers to watch old allies and newcomers anxiously! – what’s very refreshing about this series is how many supposed enemies have proved themselves capable of reconsideration, gratitude and honour. Throughout AMULET Kibuishi has made it equally clear that you cannot judge individuals by their race or nation, and the majority by the actions of the minority at the top. Humans versus Dark Elves: it may seem clear-cut on the surface but everything is a matter of perspective, and humans, as we know, are capable of many atrocities and much injustice. So many here have become moulded by their past.

Much of which Kibuishi has carefully laid down long ago is finally coming together – so much more than expected. It’s not over yet but, given the scale of the revelations and reactions – the most shocking in the series so far – we’re certainly getting close!


Buy Amulet vol 7: Firelight and read the Page 45 review here

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

Set in the unspoiled wilds on the eastern shores of Stone Age Britain 10,000 years ago, this is a book of beauty that will make your eyes glow and heart sing as a boy called Poika takes his first tentative steps towards becoming a man.

It’s an unforgiving life where wounds are deep, infection rife, the winters harsh and tribal territories fiercely enforced; but it’s also one rich in folklore, and although the lad’s courage far outstrips the experience his elders will need to teach him – about hunting, survival and the balance of things – his affinity for nature, tenacity and curiosity will undoubtedly prove the making of him.

It’s the oral tradition of passing down stories from one generation to the next which lies at the heart of the book. Since knowledge came so often at a terrible cost and survival depended upon it, preserving as much as possible in the form of fables was essential.

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All the legends involve suffering and mortality to some degree or another. Personal histories are embroidered upon, giving them a fantastical, mythical status, but don’t be deceived: whatever her true origins, Korppi Velho – the medicine woman clothed in raven’s wings who is of the Kansa tribe but lives apart like a hermit – is as capable as her revered reputation, perhaps preternaturally so.

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It’s an all-ages book, and since Brockbank’s film credits range from Harry Potter to Maleficent you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the luminous artwork here is a joy, whether it’s of the five ebony-eyed sisters with their snow-white swan feathers draped over their silk-smooth, cream-coloured bodies, the expertly choreographed hunt for fresh meat which goes awry or simply the woodland climbs in the heat of the day.

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The light plays on the rocks and grass wherever it can penetrate the pines, the shadows are clean and crisp, the wildlife is a wonder, and the boy grows visibly physically, during the course of the book.


Buy Mezolith vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Another repacking, and not bad value for money, either.


“Got a bit carried away there.”
“Shit. No more vodka.”

“I didn’t really think he’d do it. He’d killed him with no remorse, no pity, no regard for the sanctity of life. He’d gunned down my whole future.
“I think I’m in love.”

Fourth printing of Morrison’s ode to anarchy originally published in 1995, as a charming man sweeps up a bored British schoolgirl from the suburban straightjacket of settling for second-best: Mums who search their teenage children’s drawers, three-wheeled cars for the disabled (“Even the fucking car’s an invalid. They ought to give people a bit of dignity.”), boyfriends who leave you with little more than a peck on a cheek, and suffocating in a vacuum of nothing better to do than watch Top Of The fucking Pops when one minute with an Uzi in Mr. Mandible’s Geography class would solve most of your psychological problems for the next three years.

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Way ahead of its time and without an inhibition in the world, this “Get it out of your system” made TANK GIRL look like JACKIE or BUNTY. I could have pulled a quote from every single page. That this is its fourth production speaks volumes about its popularity, an appeal shared by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo’s equally antagonistic and refreshingly outspoken GIRL which, criminally, has not been reprinted once.

Bond with D’Israeli on inks is a magnificent combo, a pair who should be reunited this very instant – and until I say otherwise – to give us more British eyes, hair and teeth which we can all fall in love with. They keep the urban urbane then slowly but surely introduce a Chelsea-Girl glamour after the eyes start lighting up with new life.

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Time to trash a tea room in search of consumables and pull out a gun for a bun:

“Look, we’re starving and we want some of your cakes.
“If you don’t give us free cakes, we’ll kill you.”

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.



A title more misspelled than any other – oh, come on, you type VINAMARAMA too! Here’s our Tom who, since leaving us, has become a chef. Tom was very fond of cake too.

Sofia: “That tiny little sort of popping noise you just heard was the sound of me going completely insane.”
Ali: “Mine was sort of a ‘ping’.”

Poor Ali is at a crux in his young life. His father has arranged for him to be married to an accountant’s daughter from Southampton. If she’s ugly (or stupid or boring), Ali will take it as existential proof that God does indeed hate him, and hang himself. But before he can get too Emo, the floor at his father’s shop caves in, burying his brother Omar under a mountain of Turkish Delight and creating an opening to an ancient city which has lain dormant under what we now know as Bradford for six thousand years.

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Ali’s baby nephew, Imran, decides to learn to walk and goes off exploring the buried city, accidentally releasing an army of 8-foot-tall demons bent on unleashing hell on earth. Now the only one who can stop them is… No, not Ali, but Prince Ben Rama and the Ultra-Hadeen. Unfortunately for Ali, Ben Rama gains his power from love – and he loves Ali’s betrothed, Sofia, who’s actually everything he could want in a girl. Now the world’s going to end, the girl of Ali’s dreams has been pulled by an 8-foot Demi-God, and everyone’s going to die before he’s even had a chance to really live.

I’ve never seen Bond’s art look better than it does here. Nobody draws slightly despondent young adults quite like him. And, yeah, this isn’t WE3 but if you ignore all the weird fantasy and boil this story down, it’s all about family. And how at 18 years of age they may seem like nothing but a hindrance, when in fact they really are your only hope.


Buy Kill Your Boyfriend / Vimanarama The Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Based on experience? The things you get excited about fastest are the things that get boring the fastest. Anything that ever meant a damn took a while.”

I wouldn’t call that a universal truth, but when I thought about the two times I have genuinely fallen in love (as opposed to mere infatuation; who can even tell at the time?) I found this to be right on the mark. I’m kind of hoping that, given whom the conversation’s between, there’s a degree of dramatic irony there which Gran has planned from the beginning and things will develop against the current odds.

It was also my experience with OCTOPUS PIE which took me a little while to warm to before falling in love, but then this is a 250-page collection of its first two years and everyone and everything needs time to develop. I’m a big believer in “publish and be damned” when it comes to creativity: get yourself going, get yourself out there; don’t wait until you consider yourself fully formed before letting rip because you risk never pleasing yourself enough to go public. One of the joys of STRANGERS IN PARADISE is seeing the skills of its beloved creator Terry Moore develop on the page in front of you.

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OCTOPUS PIE was originally published on the internet in daily single-page bursts which quickly coalesced into longer storylines focussing on health food shops, bike theft, romances, childhood rivalry, nerds-versus-stoners rivalry, selling fares at Renaissance Fayres and urban development in Brooklyn. Right from the start it is topical for its time, raising serious issues like security versus freedom albeit in ludicrous ways. This is, after all, a comedy.

“Perhaps someday I’ll wear a costume that inhibits my shame.”
“How ‘bout a Wall Street business suit?”
“Blam! Topical.”

It stars Eve Ning who works as a clerk at Olly’s Organix (“empty calories for empty people”) and a flatmate foisted upon her called Hanna who bakes cakes for a living while stoned. She can’t seem to do it straight. Eve has no problem which all the doobage wafting sweetly through the air, yet balks when she discovers that young Will – whom she’s on the verge of dating after such a long non-courtship – is Hanna’s dealer. There’s nothing shady about the lad; he’s into rock-climbing.

A fellow enthusiast: “I’ve been doing this for years! Makes you feel closet to Heaven!”
Ning, looking below her: “Agreed.”

Perhaps my favourite sequence involved the ludicrously detailed, military-level pre-planning strategy session for a laser-tag contest to settle the nerds-versus-stoners dispute, then its life-or-death execution. I once scored minus 180 at Laser Quest.

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But some of the comedy is much gentler, more universal and oh so wittily expressed:

“Let me guess: lured here against your better judgement for a weekend’s pay?”
“Man, is the story of my life that obvious?”
“Not obvious, just widely read.”

On the surface Gran comes from the Matt Groenig school of cartooning, with big balls for eyes which are squished to denote various levels of knowingness, suspicion and cunning. There’s a certain degree of melodrama, yes, but that’s part of the energy and the silliness. The fashions, meanwhile, remind one of SECONDS / SCOTT PILGRIM / LOST AT SEA‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley (Will in particular) who is the most enormous fan, describing it as “unafraid to be ridiculous, wildly experimental, deeply personal. It’s sort of like a SCOTT PILGRIM that *I* can enjoy because it isn’t by me.”

Look a little closer and many of the characters are rendered in their own, distinct signature style: Hannah’s all lank and spiky with a beak-like mouth! Same goes for the woman Will meets at the fayre – could not be more differently delineated.

Then, just when you think you know all there is to know about Gran’s repertoire, she hits you with an ice-skating scene of pure balletic grace, the contours of Eve’s shoulders, waist and skirt’s hem flowing just-so. Typically, Eve dances the entire manoeuvre, from start to finish, as grumpy as ever.

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Lastly for now (there’s plenty more to come) I’d never even considered the sexist hypocrisy of women being scorned for going topless in public when men go bare-chested all the time. Of course the restriction would be unconstitutional, and I was delighted to learn that “Eventually, in 1992, the court ruled that prohibiting exposure of breasts served no governmental purpose – nor did our “public sensibilities” justify a discriminatory law.”

OCTOPUS PIE: learn as you laugh.


Buy Octopus Pie vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here


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

“The way my mother sometimes spoke of Pasco, one might imagine an Andean paradise instead of the poor and violent mining town it really was. Lima frightened her. She felt safe in exactly two places: our house and the Azcarates house.”

Lima frightened me a little too actually. Aside from the Plaza Mayor main square and a not particularly pretty Cathedral it’s an unremittingly dreary, rubbish-infested shit hole of a city. Apologies to any residents of Lima reading this review, but I suspect you’ll be in completely concurrence if so. I had been warned it was a muggers’ paradise and the few times I ventured out of my hotel before getting out of town and heading up into the Andes I did feel a continuous sense of unease that I was being watched as a predator might size up his prey.

Plus the peculiar micro-climate due to the Humboldt Current means Lima is by far the cloudiest, mistiest, foggiest city in South America, which only adds to the depressing feel. The second you get a reasonable distance up the highway to the north of the country into the desert plains the blazing sun comes out and it did feels like a different altogether more welcoming world entirely. Until you get to Cuzco, that is, and have to have eyes in the back of your head once more for the infamous strangle muggers apparently lying in wait down every side street for unsuspecting gringo tourists! Yes, I much preferred Bolivia to Peru, I must say.


Anyway… the prospect of reading a story set in such a dispiriting locale was perversely part of the appeal in having a look at this work centred around the neophyte journalist Oscar. Having discovered that his recently deceased father, a philandering petty criminal, had another family has left Oscar deeply questioning his own identity. In trying to understand how much of his personality has been shaped by his father and his wayward lifestyle, Oscar finds himself becoming increasingly estranged from his mother, perhaps not least because she seems be developing an almost sisterly bond with the other woman. Oscar’s own feelings that his father perhaps regarded the other woman and their children together as his real family is starting to push him into an emotionally unstable state.


His editor, meanwhile, is pushing him no less hard for a news story. Short of ideas, and time, he decides to explore the world of Lima’s street clowns, whose bleak, begging lifestyle was apparently the inspiration behind Smokey Robinson’s 1967 Motown classic “Tears Of A Clown”… That, obviously, is a complete and utter fabrication, worthy of the sort of nonsense Oscar’s father would spin to him to justify his house-breaking sprees, illicit activities which Oscar was eventually forced to be complicit with and indeed participate in. But, it is perhaps more than a little ironic that the destitute denizens of one of the most soul-breaking cities in the world feel the need to dress up as circus performers to try and blag enough money from commuters just to make it through another day. Well, that and play pan pipes made of empty plastic bottles lashed together to unsuspecting, and conveniently trapped in situ, bus travellers which, trust me, after the eighteenth time you’ve heard El Condor Pasa so mangled is enough to make you want to dispense some summary plastic recycling advice…

Anyway, feeling like a man adrift from what was the bedrock of his life, Oscar concludes the best way to understand the tears of a clown is to become one, if only for a week. (No pan pipes thankfully…) To his surprise, the anonymity of the greasepaint, wig and costume provide just the remove, and perspective, both figuratively and literally, on his family and own emotional state, to finally begin to come to terms with it all.

This is wonderfully written material, if rather on the dark side obviously. The art style matches the tone of the piece perfectly, though I found myself appreciating it rather than enjoying it. There is so much black ink and so many heavy lines I found it a little oppressive, but I suspect that is entirely the point, and as I say, entirely appropriate. I had a little look at the artist’s other works online, and I couldn’t find anything else like this, it is all incredibly vibrant and colourful, so I can only conclude this is a very deliberate use of style. She’s clearly extremely talented to be able to so radically adjust her techniques to the story.


Buy City Of Clowns and read the Page 45 review here

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

This hauntingly illustrated silent work left me slightly bewildered. I enjoyed it, I think, absorbing it rather than reading it. I think that might be the best way of expressing it. It’s clearly allegorical but I must profess myself unable to decipher the hidden meaning or meanings.

A lone being in a diving suit straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is relentlessly dragging a huge wooden ark through a near-featureless desert. Nothing dents their relentless progress towards… well, what?

In the meantime, to keep us entertained, there is a dramatic plane crash, a zeppelin patrolling the dazzling skies, mysterious lighthouses arising from receding sands containing caged Siren-like seductresses clad in burkas, plus battling bands of Bedouins and beautifully livered soldiers. Oh, and a boy holding a scorpion in each hand! The ark, though, forges on regardless…






It may even be there are several allegories being made here. My best guesses are: man versus nature, the futility of war, the greed of man ensuring self-destruction etc. All the usual tropes perhaps, and yet this work does have an enigmatic and endearing quality which kept me enraptured right until the end. Partly because I wanted some answers. Who is the figure in the diving suit, what was on the Ark, where was it going? But maybe THE ARK is all about the journey, not the destination, as they say…

… and the art, which is as beautiful as you would expect from a Humanoids publication.


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

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

“That’s me. Nothing but the truth from the lips of your old pal John.”

Surely there isn’t anyone left in the entirety of the DC Universe(s – however many there are now…) who’d fall for that one?!! John Constantine is apparently still in the DCU as this is on the DC imprint rather than Vertigo, but I am extremely happy to report this has far more in common with the original Vertigo HELLBLAZER than the recent semi-execrable New 52 CONSTANTINE. It’s back to what John does best: verbally jousting with demons and staying one step ahead of the hordes of hell rather than all that posturing and faffing about with the tights and capes brigade.

John is thus once more the debonair, debauched, trench-coated purveyor of prestidigitation who’ll proffer one hand in friendship whilst simultaneously stabbing you in the back with the other. All the whilst charismatically reassuring you that nothing is amiss until the sickening moment you realise he’s completely shafted you, often either at the expense of your life, or soul, or indeed even both!


Here he’s involved in a scheme to try and save the ghosts of his past that frequently haunt his waking moments, always reminding him of his myriad moral trespasses against them, as something has begun murdering the dead themselves. Along the way he’ll re-encounter an old adversary and various other characters that will be familiar to long-term Constantine devotees.


I like what writers Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV are doing with John, I must say. They’ve certainly captured his scathingly sarcastic wit and louche personality perfectly, plus whereas it was certainly alluded to a couple of times in HELLBLAZER that he might have had an eye for the chaps as well the ladies, here we’re left in no doubt as he pursues a rather hunky barista who seems as equally enamoured with him for whatever reason. Yep, expect one coffee-dispensing casualty before you can say “I’ll have a half-whole milk, one quarter semi-skimmed, one quarter non-fat, split quad shots – one and a half shots decaf, two and a half shots caffeinated – no foam latte, with a touch of vanilla syrup and three short sprinkles of cinnamon.”

I do so absolutely hate it when Stephen asks me to make that for him… Every bloody morning, what a diva! Nothing but the truth from the lips of your old reviewer Jonathan…


My one small caveat is I do feel this is ever so slightly HELLBLAZER-lite, with not quite the same seriousness of the original, though Riley Rossmo’s art might possibly be a factor in my thinking there. It is excellent art, mind you, I am certainly not knocking the talents of Mr. Rossmo and the supporting pencillers, it’s perfectly suitable for this character and title, but the style just doesn’t quite have the gravitas of say, a Sean Phillips, that I feel should go hand in hand with Constantine. With that said, there were arcs towards the end of HELLBLAZER itself that I felt suffered from the same problem but far, far worse, where the cartoonish style of the art totally diluted the intensity of the writing for me, eroding my suspension of disbelief. Which is never a good thing where magic tricks are involved, let’s be frank.



Buy Constantine: The Hellblazer vol 1: Going Down s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“That’s the problem with having people you care for, isn’t it? Love is such a liability.”

As frazzling, dazzling and fast-paced as this is, it’s essentially a book about family, just like Remender’s subaquatic sci-fi, LOW. If the theme of LOW is maintaining hope in the wake of overwhelming adversity, the lesson here is about not only looking out for your own family’s future but for others’ as well, even down to the specific threat faced which I will not be spoiling for you.

We’ll get to all that in a second, but in the meantime: Stuart Immonen.

Immonen is one of those rare comic artists like Mark Buckingham and Bryan Talbot who is a true chameleon, able to adapt his style to suit his subject, and quite radically so. Rarer still, he operates both within and without the superhero subgenre.

All New Captain America 3

In RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING written by his wife Kathryn, Stuart used colour not only to convey light and temperature but also sound. When attending Kurt Busiek’s SECRET IDENTITY scenario of what might happen in the real world if a Superman was discovered by the C.I.A., he produced exquisite, photo-realistic landscapes and forms which even when floating conveyed a physical weight.

Illustrating Warren Ellis’ bombastic, mischievous, pugilistic pageantry of the absurd in NEXTWAVE Immonen reduced the sort of neo-classical, visceral thrill you’ll relish here to comedic cartoons. And on Bendis’ original run on ALL NEW X-MEN Stuart proved he could separate the lither forms of teenagers from their older antagonists.

Here the all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Its G-Force is utterly thrilling.

All New Captain America 1

With Steve Rogers now semi-retired, aged closer to what he would be without the aid of his anti-agapic Supersoldier Serum, the mantle of Captain America has not been passed to Steve’s adopted son Ian but to his long-standing friend and former partner in crime-fighting, Sam Wilson AKA the Falcon.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

At an early age Sam lost his father, a minister revered throughout Harlem, when the preacher was gunned down while trying to calm down a fight. Soon after his mother too died, leaving Sam to raise his sister alone. His younger sister’s since had two beautiful children, whereas Sam’s been too busy helping others – both as a social worker and a superhero – to start a family of his own. Now that opportunity make be taken away from him for good, not by standing in for Steve Rogers but by what happens here.

Neo-Nazi Baron Zemo, son of the original, has acquired a young man whose blood has very specific properties and which will be dispersed throughout the globe in multiple locations using diverse methods of deployment. Many of them are highly inventive. To make our new Captain’s desperate attempt to stop this disaster from detonating all over the planet, Zemo has surrounded himself with some of Steve Rogers’ most formidable foes, now made even more effective by Remender’s ability to instil them with real wit and intelligence. The repartee from the first familiar super-villain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction, and it’s not off the mark.

All New Captain America 2

There is no let up. Everything happens so fast that Sam’s interior monologue is but a series of snap-shot impressions: he’s given no opportunity for analysis or consideration – no evaluation of what he’s been presented with by enemy and ally alike. So don’t take everyone at face value like Sam.

Finally, a sermon of sorts from Sam’s mother before she passed away, after her husband was gone, and Sam is left wondering what would have happened if only his Dad had kept his mouth shut and not intervened:

“Sam, if we only looked out for our own families, if every person only worried about and cared for themselves… what kind of a word would this be?

“If we stop trying to help other people, we give up everything. And sometimes this has a price.”

I completely agree.

Wait, did she mean the price came with stop trying, or trying?

Sometimes I’m afraid that it’s both.


Buy All New Captain America vol 1: Hydra Ascendant s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

From the last incarnation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the central storyline is very pretty, but then you’d expect nothing less of Olivier Coipel who did such a masterful work of rendering Norse eyebrows in THOR and so much more, so maybe pop the artist into our search engine and see for yourself!

In it a feuding family called Inheritors have set their gluttonous eyes on every incarnation of Spider-Man in Marvel’s Earth past, present and future along with its alternate Earths past, present and future. They actually want to eat them and eww.

But, boy, there are a lot of Spider-People! If you wanted to unlock all these costumes whilst playing a videogame then you would be here for approximately 7 billion hours of button-bashing with calloused thumbs like nobody’s business. There’s Spider-Man, Spider-Ham, Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Spider-Gwen, Spider-*** and even a punk iteration that… oh I’ve just bored myself.

The problem is that what starts off as a customarily witty Dan Slot script with both a sly sleight of hand then an ever so naughty side-bar castigating you for fixating on Peter’s bottom (which the artist has ensured that you will – it is naked and only just beneath the sheets!) turns into an interminable series of side-bar boxes explaining who everyone is and whence they web-weave.

Amazing SpiderMan Complete SpiderVerse sc

This may be for you the thrill of a lifetime. “Clip ’em and collect ’em all,” as Marvel once exhorted of the postage stamps printed within their very own comics. And readers did! They did clip ’em and collect ’em, thereby reducing the second-hand sales value of their 1970s’ Marvel Comics from $220,372 a pop to three dimes and a cent.

I have no idea about American currency at all.

If it sounds like your bag then you can perhaps consider the slimmer SPIDER-VERSE UK edition the Christian Dior of comics and cheap at just £14-99! This version will set you back oh so much more for a considerably higher, more comprehensive page count encompassing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2014) #7-15, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #32-33, SPIDER-VERSE (2015) #1-2, SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #1-3, SCARLET SPIDERS #1-3, SPIDER-WOMAN (2014) #1-4, SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2014) #5-8 and material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014.

I guess that makes it more of a Gucci suitcase for Spider-spotters.

I don’t know, my Fashion-Sense tingles at the mere sight of me in the mirror.


Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Complete Spider-Verse 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.

Hubert (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Ben Gijsemans

In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way – A Graphic Novel (£19-99, Gallic) by Marcel Proust, Arthur Goldhammer & Stephane Heuet

Katzine: The Eagle Issue (£5-50) by Katriona Chapman

The Talion Maker Part 2 (£3-50, self-published) by Neal Curtis

Things I Think About Sometimes (£3-00, self-published) by Stanley Miller

Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham

Sky Doll: Decade 00 > 10 h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa

Thief Of Thieves: Take Me (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinbrough

Black Canary vol 1: Kicking And Screaming s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher & Amy Chu, Pia Guerra

DC Comics: Bombshells vol 1: Enlisted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage, various

Harley Quinn And Power Girl s/c (£10-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Stephane Roux, others

Injustice Gods Among Us: Year One Complete Collection s/c (£18-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & various

Superman Unchained s/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Synder & Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, various

Civil War: New Avengers s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Howard Chaykin, Leinil Yu, Oliver Coipel, Pasqual Ferry, Jim Cheung

Assassination Classroom vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

The Flowers Of Evil vol 6 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 7 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 8 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Junko

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 3 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Junko

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 6 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki


Mirror 3

ITEM! Extensive, in-depth interview with Emma Rios & Hwei Lim about their collaborative process on their glorious, oh so lambent MIRROR comic.

Page 45 reviews MIRROR #1 by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim, with interior art, still in stock at the time of typing! Please scroll down!

Mirror 1

ITEM! Lynda Barry’s new interactive art exhibition.

You have no idea how fervently I worship Lynda Barry! Perhaps the most inspirational comicbook creator of all time, her gorgeous graphic novels actively and practically encourage you to create too!What It Is 2

Please pop Lynda into our search engine, beginning with WHAT IT IS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back when it was first published. I think that may be the best review I’ve ever written, which I put down entirely to Lynda’s own exuberant excellence.

What It Is

ITEM! What a beautiful book shop: Libreria! Lots of photos there. I think it’s this one, pictured.

Bookshop design

ITEM! Speaking of brilliant book shops, Nottingham’s Five Leaves – fiercely independent and run by Ross of the much lamented Mushroom Bookshop – is up for this year’s Booksellers Award. Finges crossed for the win!

ITEM! SANDMAN’s Neil Gaiman to release The View From The Cheap Seats non-fiction prose collection.

ITEM! “I want more comics!”


Understood! Read this for free: BOUNDLESS by Jillian Tamaki, co-creator with her cousin Mariko of THIS ONE SUMMER.

ITEM! Coming this November: ALEISTER & ADOLF by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Oeming. That’s Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler, yes.

Aleister & Adolf cover

ITEM! If you see this painting by Bill Sienkiewicz (STRAY TOASTERS, SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS, DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS etc) for sale anywhere – on ebay, other websites, in a shop or at a convention – it is STOLEN. It was ripped from a package heading to a private collector in France. Please report it immediately via Bill Sienkiewicz’s glorious website. Bill is also on Twitter as @sinKEVitch. If you’re the thief, please send it back to Bill, and you’ll make one of comics’ greatest artists very happy indeed.

Bill Sienkiewicz stolen art

Update: @SalAbbinanti, Bill’s art dealer, is offering a $5,000 reward for its return. You can contact him via his website:

That was the news.

– Stephen