Archive for April, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2016 week four

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Includes FOUR all-ages books from historical education to historical action-adventure and historical hysteria!

Also: Corey Lewis, Alan Moore does Lovecraft and brrrrr….

Mordawwa #666 one-shot (£3-00, ScaryGoRound) by John Allison.

“Please stop calling me “Archduke Horns”, your Majesty. Everybody’s started doing it.”
“Your real name is 15 V’s in a row. I don’t consider that acceptable nomenclature.”

She does have a point. Also: an expansive vocabulary and a waspish tongue with which to dispense it.

From the creator of GIANT DAYS, BAD MACHINERY and EXPECTING TO FLY, welcome to something equally mysterious but a little less institution-of-education-orientated. Allison has for once abandoned the small towns of Great Britain and dug deep – infernally deep – to come up with Mordawwa, Queen of Hell, resplendent in red-lined cape, pin-stripe troos, twin, twisted horns and a tie that disappears ‘neath her bodice.

All is not well as we join the story 666 issues in, for Mordawwa is throwing a party and the only thing she’s pleased with is the sound of her own voice.

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Her greatest friend, ally and guest of honour – the black-winged shadow that’s The Sheriff – is running late and a metatronic call comes in from envious info-entity Ba’Al about a blockage in the River Styx. It’s causing Lucifer to run dry of souls, both pre-tormented and to-be-tormented, and to-be-continued is what he’s counting on.

“Lucifer considers restoration of flow to be mission critical.”
“By mission critical, does he mean “important”?”

It’s an odd assortment she consorts with. The most intelligent amongst them is a sentient blue horse called Scientist whose assistance is impeded by the unfortunate shortcoming of being slightly unable to speak. Barbed Amanita is far from impressed at Scientist’s intricate scuffing of hooves:

“What are you doing, pony? Drawing a map of your favourite places to drop piles of ordure? It must be hard to draw a map that encompasses “everywhere”.”
“Oh Scientist. That is a beautiful solution. There is poetry in your use of compound gears.”
“I’ve trod in Scientist’s “poetry”. Not actually all that great.”

Love, love, love Scientist’s frowny brow, furious at Amanita’s ingratitude and belittling torment.

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So what’s the problem to which Scientist’s solution is so poetic?

“Well,” as Vvvvvvvvvvvvvvv observes, “this isn’t going to be popular.”

Prepare to enter… The Age of Endless Grief!

The subterranean setting gives John an opportunity to have fun with both body forms and architecture uncommon around towns like Tackleford, but you can even see him relishing the full-on curves of his two suited and booted vamps. There’s an exquisite panel in which Amanita drop-kicks her yellow pet at demonic rock throwers who are really going to regret it. Her long, thin legs – muscles in all the right places – are like a black beetle’s body.

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Also amusing: how the shadows thrown totally fail to match those throwing them. Or are there others throwing them, unseen?

I suspect John was the most enormous fan of Marvel’s NEW MUTANTS (Mordawwa’s Illyana; the Sheriff is Lockheed the dragon), and I’m reasonably sure Archduke Horns’ teeth is a Maxx reference. But these are mere fancies, irrelevant to your enjoyment of this underworld absurdity which, like EXPECTING TO FLY, comes with a pastiche of 1980s Marvel Comics’ Checklists, Hype Boxes and Pro Files along with a mail order offer cheap enough to make any bricks-and-mortar comic shop weep.

I might subscribe to Marvel’s SCOTT WALKER, and read it on Mordawwa’s Bone Throne.

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SLH

Buy Mordawwa one-shot and read the Page 45 review here

Providence vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows…

“Say, weren’t you planning on writing a book, I heard?”
“Huh. Lot of planning, no writing. Don’t even have a subject yet, to be truthful.
“I want something big, something that cuts to the heart of this country and these times.
“That talks about things nobody’s dared talk about before.
“You know? Not just another slice of life in the city of bachelors.”

If you Google providence, the two definitions you are offered are “timely preparation for future eventualities” and “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power”. However, I suspect no amount of preparation, nor indeed the care of God, is likely to provide much protection for what is to come for some of the characters in Alan’s return to the Lovecraft mythos in conjunction with artist Jaden Burrows after their grisly but gripping NEONOMICON

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It’s initially set in Providence, Rhode Island, which itself has interesting origins, founded in 1636 by a man called Roger Williams, recently exiled from Massachusetts, to provide a refuge for religious minorities. The year is 1919 and the world, emerging from the carnage of WW1, has undoubtedly changed, yet also much has not. There are people still living double lives due to their sexuality, of which of our main character Robert Black is one.

Now, apparently there is an irony here, as I have read that Alan likes the idea of having a gay character in a period Lovecraftian yarn given that H.P. Lovecraft was, apparently, immensely homophobic.

Whatever the reason it immediately helps creates a state of suspense as he sets about establishing Robert’s back story, his reasons for being in Providence, and the ongoing emotional anguish he endures in trying to maintain a covert relationship, all the whilst endeavouring to appear to his co-workers at the Tribune newspaper as just another everyday Joe.

With the journos all desperate to fill half a page in the next edition at short notice with something a trifle titillating, Robert mentions a French book, Sous Le Monde, which apparently sent people mad if they read it. It is the scandal surrounding this which Robert Chambers apparently based THE KING IN YELLOW on.

Being a bookish sort of cove, Robert knows of a professor nearby who wrote an article on Sous Le Monde, and so is dispatched to interview him. Which is where events start to creep into more Lovecraftian, paranormal territory, as the good doctor has an exceptionally powerful air conditioning system in his apartment, a medical requirement due to an, as yet, unspecified illness… I’m pretty sure, however, it won’t be a malaise covered in any great detail at medical school, not even at Miskatonic University…

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There’s much to admire in Alan’s writing in this volume. I certainly suspect it’s a project he’s greatly enjoying. I like the subtle little points of connection which he weaves in, almost as asides, including one a character makes to Tannhäuser which proves particularly apposite indeed. One of the biggest nods to THE KING IN YELLOW comes in the form of the Exit Gardens, which in truth are state-sponsored suicide chambers, dressed up in art deco buildings in beautiful, floral surroundings. Where, once you check in, you are gently put to sleep forever whilst listening to the music of your choice. A posh version of Dignitas, basically. But because you don’t need to jump through myriad bureaucratic hoops first, anyone can simply walk in, sit down and rest in peace forevermore.

I’m intrigued to see how Robert picks up the pieces emotionally after an early heartbreak and precisely where his investigations lead him. I found myself engaged completely, connected emotionally with the characters, and left wanting more, my curiosity piqued up to piquant levels! Plus having read several issues ahead of the four in this volume I can assure you the horror factor is going to be ramped up gradually until readers’ states of mental wellbeing are in tatters too.

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This limited edition hardcover, of a print run of 6666, will apparently not be reprinted, nor will any soft covers be released until all twelve issues of the series are out and the two further hardcovers released. In any event, both the hardcovers and softcovers will collect all the extensive prose material that follows each individual issue. It’s ostensibly Robert’s journal and it does further and flesh-out the already comprehensive plot substantially. I certainly cannot fault Alan for giving value for money with this series. To my mind, it’s the best thing he has written for several years.

JR

[Editor’s note: for, umm, alternative art which I didn’t feel we could run in the blog, please here click here…]

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

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa…

“Cool.
“Good.
“I’m good.
“It’s all good.
“I am a hero.”

If I had to sum this up in one sentence it would be… “Mentally ill, second-rate manga creator prone to hallucinations finds himself caught up in the zombie apocalypse.’

If I had to sum it up in two sentences, my second would be… “I loved it.”

Hideo Suzuki is many things, but a hero he is not. Yet, at least. As he neatly observes as his life starts sliding even further out of control than he believed possible… “How can I be a hero when I’m not even the main character in my own life?”

It’s just such a lack of characterisation that various editors and sub-editors and sub-sub-editors in the cut-throat world of manga publishing have accused him of, whilst endlessly turning down his latest pitch. Even his one brief hit floundered spectacularly after the second meandering volume for precisely those reasons. He had his fans, including his girlfriend Tetsuko, who works as a manga assistant. Sadly, being a studio assistant is all the manga work Hideo can get now too.

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Poor old Hideo’s tormented to sanity-testing levels by a number of things on a near-continuous basis, but not least these: his lack of success, his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend (an up-and-coming superhot manga creator who ironically is the one person who thinks Hideo’s work is utterly brilliant), whether his girlfriend and said superhot creator might still be having a little something on the side, plus his hallucinations of various odd characters who pop up and start conversations with him at seemingly random moments.

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So when the decaying faeces really starts hitting the proverbial fan and his newly zombiefied girlfriend attacks Hideo whilst he’s letting himself into her apartment, he’s actually convinced he’s merely having a serious mental meltdown! Eventually it becomes apparent even to him, if not to the rest of the manga studio holed up frantically trying to make the next ridiculous deadline, that that the end of the world is nigh. Cue a comedy chase across town (comedy value for viewers only) that’s ended by possibly one of the finest zombie decapitations I have ever seen, caused by the undercarriage of a crashing jumbo jet!

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Oh, I think Hideo might just have unwittingly become the lead character in something. Just not any sort of story you would ever want to star in…

This is such a peculiarly brilliant mash-up mix taking, as it does, the complete piss out of the whole frenetic manga industry treadmill and all its attendant emotionally maladjusted and downright antisocial members, and scaring the bejeebers, or whatever the equivalent Japanese colloquialism is, out of us all while it is at it. For make no mistake, these zombies are horrific, far more akin to Junji Ito-style distorted, bloated, twisted terrors than shambling WALKING DEAD.

So I guess if I had to sum it up in three sentences my third would, as unlikely as it seems, be… “It’s BAKUMAN meets UZAMAKI…”

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JR

Buy I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Nameless City vol 1 (£10-99, First Second) by Faith Erin Hicks with Jordie Bellaire on colour art.

An all-ages epic which stole my heart and took my breath away. Prepare to be dazzled, enraged and ever so proud in equal measure.

Sprawled out at the base of a vast mountain range, and surrounded on all sides by enemies with eyes set on conquest, The Nameless City straddles the River of Lives at the bottom of an unnatural gorge.

The Northern People who first built the city also carved that improbable passage through those enormous mountains, but no one knows how for their language is lost. However, in joining the river to the sea they ensured that the city through which all commerce now passes controls the flow of wealth.

It is a city of a thousand names for everyone envies its strategic position and it has been conquered and re-conquered, named and re-named except by its native inhabitants to whom it is Nameless. Instead they watch silently, resentfully – and hungrily – as wave after wave of invaders steal their natural resources.

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All of this is set out succinctly in the first five pages, Hicks and Bellaire establishing both an epic tone and landscape, emphasising what is at stake. Now they begin to make it personal…

Young Kaidu has travelled from the provinces to meet his father, General Andren, for the very first time. First, however, he must begin training in combat under Erzi, son of the General Of All Blades who conquered the city for the Dao three decades ago. Erzi is determined to ensure that the Dao don’t go soft and sets the fifteen cadets up against his bodyguard Mura, a native from the city below.

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They don’t fare at all well but behind Erzi’s back they disparage Mura sneeringly as “skral” (think “pleb”, “scum” or any outsider you like to look down on and dehumanise). That Kaidu won’t stand for such small-mindedness impresses Erzi (Mura, not so much – not much impresses Mura – I think you’ll like her!) but don’t be deceived: Erzi’s in an odd place mentally and his affinity for the native inhabitants who have begun to call themselves The Named only stretches so far.

“When I was your age, if I went into the city, the children I met there would throw rocks at me. I was born here, but to them I was a Dao invader. When my father began bringing Dao children from the homelands to the city, they thought I was strange. They avoided me.
“The city is my home, and the Dao are my people. I belong to both, and because of that it’s hard for either to truly accept me. “Maybe it will always be this way for me. But when I become the General Of All Blades after my father, it will be the first time the city is ruled by someone who was born here.”

Hmm. By “here” he means within the safety of the fortress, not in the city below. I think he’s missing the point somewhat, especially with Mura standing right behind him!

The cadets are forbidden from exploring the city on their own but Kaidu’s Dad is far from the regimented soldier Erzi aspires to be and the first thing he does is take his son on a field trip to sample the street life and delicious cooked meats outside the walled confines above. They bond easily, swiftly, Kaidu’s father emanating a kindly warmth which fails only on a girl Andren calls out to on a rooftop, offering her some of their food.

“I see her at the market sometimes. She always looks hungry.”

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Seen with fresh eyes, everyone around them looks hungry.

Kaidu’s Dad offers to take him back to the city the next night but in the end trade negotiations keep him away. It is then that Mura steps in, perhaps seeing some hope in the boy after all:

“You should go on your own. You don’t need your father to hold your hand.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to go into the city alone.”
“Everyone should go alone into the city once in their life. To see how it truly is.”

What I hope I’m establishing is that no one here is a two-dimensional cipher with singular loyalties or intransigent dogma because that never ends well. Come to think of it that doesn’t begin well, either, and the bit in the middle’s a bore. Everyone can see that the situation is untenable – no one has held onto the city for long; you might as well invade Afghanistan – but no one agrees on the proposed solutions.

While that discussion evolves and generals are summoned for a meeting, Kaidu does sneak out of the fortress but quickly becomes lost and his reception is bordering on hostile. No one will speak to this Dao except rooftop-racing Rat, the girl from yesterday, and even she’s not going to easy to win over.

What it really needs is someone to reach out: an act of friendship; an act of trust.

A leap of faith, as it were, right over the River of Lives!

And that is one arresting spread, isn’t it?

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From the creator of FRIENDS WITH BOYS and the colourist of INJECTION etc, I am convinced that this will prove massive for fans of AMULET, DELILAH DIRK, PORCELAIN, COURTNEY CRUMRIN and all those Doug TenNapel graphic novels constantly erupting from our shelves.

It’s so well crafted with elements which later prove pivotal presaged well ahead in the game. I don’t think I’ve turned the final forty pages of any book so fast – and then gone back for re-gawp, obv. Love what both Bellaire and Hicks did with the Festival of Ruins at night. It’s not easy upping the exotic on a city already established as so spectacular, but when I first clapped eyes on the festival I thought immediately of Venice.

I like all the design elements which are convincingly coherent and must have taken some time to coalesce. There are early explorations of Rat’s possible garb in the back and, although I enjoyed them all, some were less “indigenous” and a great deal more contemporary than others. What was settled on was perfect for a poverty-stricken child for whom jewellery of any sort would be out of the question.

Not only that, but if you stripped out all the speech bubbles and were compelled to read this “silently”, you’d still understand the import of every sequence and enjoy the actors’ priceless expressions in doing do.

Round of applause for the most unexpected yet very well judged piece of slapstick on page 112.

“Uh-oh” indeed.

SLH

Buy The Nameless City vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Julius Zebra – Bundle With The Britons h/c (£9-99, Walker Books) by Gary Northfield.

Hot on the hooves of JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS clops another instant classic of cack-handed combat and bog-eyed buffoonery as Julius Zebra attempts to win over the hearts and minds of a cruel Britannia.

Yes, not content with becoming a gladiatorial superstar at the Colosseum, Julius Zebra (don’t call him Debra) is hoping to repeat his Roman success while being sent off on his jolly holibobs by Hadrian himself!

Not only that, but all his equally inept friends will be coming with him. Bang that bucket! Spank that spade! Pack your favourite pebble collection!

Slight problems:

1) It is no holibob
2) It is to Britain
3) So it will be cold and it will be wet, for there will be rain.

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There will be so much rain that artist Gary Northfield will need to buy himself an extra pot of ink.

And it’s not as if central heating had been invented.

[Editor’s Note: Errr, it had, by the Romans and they exported it to Britain.]

Well it’s not as if our chums are going to benefit. They’re all still slaves so the only stars of their accommodation will be the ones they can see through the gigantic hole in its leaking roof, they’ll have to swab the ship’s deck on their way over and these animal crackers couldn’t survive in the wild, let alone in a deadly arena.

“I hate running!” spluttered Felix. “I’ve got flat hooves.”

Felix is an antelope.

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Why has Hadrian really bundled these bozos off to Britain? Which bad-ass beasties will be breathing down the numpties’ necks? What lurks in the spooky old shack and why did she spit in the cauldron? (“Needs more salt.”)

As the clots trot up the gangplank at the start of their voyage they have idea of the traumas in store on our shore. Let’s hope they learn to tut loudly while queuing.

I love this hybrid of comics and prose which slip in and out of each other effortlessly. I couldn’t bear to part with Julius all dubious about the bowl of broth he’s been offered (see “Needs more salt”!)…

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… and the former often delivers a punchline to the latter which could not be replicated with words alone. So integral are the illustrations that if you attempted to remove these visual and verbal gags you’d be left wondering which pages were missing.

Like GARY’S GARDEN and THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS this is in part about animals attempting to make sense of the world around them – which, when we’ve constructed it, rarely has their best interests at heart – specifically animals with barely a brain cell between them.

It’s essentially CCLXXV pages of mad-eyed, exuberant high camp. Gary Northfield has turned gormless into an art form and a hugely enjoyable spectator sport – just like gladiatorial combat. The two probably shouldn’t be mixed…

Back at the gate Julius put his head in his hooves.
“This isn’t going to end well.”

You sense that, don’t you?

SLH

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Buy Julius Zebra – Bundle With The Britons h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Discover… The Ancient Egyptians / Discover… The Roman Empire (£8-99 each, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg.

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First two fabulous and – important, this! – fun books in what I hope will be a sprawling series of history lessons, excitedly received by those who love works which wink. All education should be entertainment and this balanced both so beautifully that at the end of each I was holding out my begging bowl for more.

Instead of feeling like illustrated prose, the Mediterranean-coloured, image-orientated pages read like info-splattered illustration into which is injected the illusion of comics. The illusion of comics! So clever!

The illusion’s achieved by assigning mischievous môts and satirical side-swipes in speech balloons to the guides, guest-stars and bystanders commentating on the institutions, inventions and initiatives being explored.

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I particularly enjoyed the third and fourth page instructing us on Egyptian gods: Osiris of the underworld, Isis (both his sister and wife – don’t try that at home, kids!), their son Horus of the sky and… oh, there’s always one in every family, isn’t there?

“This is Seth. He’s Osiris’ brother, and he was the god of chaos… He’s trouble!”
“Heh heh heh,”

… Pants jackal-headed Seth, a barely suppressed smile playing across his mouth. I suspect he knows what’s coming next, and I fear “trouble” might be understating it slightly.

“Seth brutally murdered his brother Osiris….”

What I did I tell you?

Fortunately Isis resurrected Osiris long enough to have that child Horus so that this could all this symbolically represent the death and regrowth of crops which is nice.

“Heh heh heh” smirks once Seth again but Horus won’t let it lie:
“I declare you shall be banished, Uncle Seth!”
“Ugh. Whatever.”

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If all this seems so very Lizz Lunney it’s actually the result of the Greenberg sisters, Isabel of course being responsible for the enormously playful ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH which was my favourite graphic novel of its year. It was Epic and Awesome, a story about Stories, but brilliantly it poked fun at itself, the Epic and the Awesome.

As to the other tome, did you know that as well as their own gods the Romans were such big-hearted / open-minded / conquest-crazy fickle thieves that they worshipped gods from other countries and religions as well? See Isis above, but also Pan, the Greek god of mountains it says here but also field-friendly discos.

Books like these should always surprise and this certainly throws in a few googlies down its timeline. You’d get a Q.I. alarm bell, for example, if you buzzed in with “Emperor Julius Caesar” for he was nothing of the sort. Caesar was a genius general who declared himself dictator only to be ousted before so very long by his adopted son Augustus who did become the first Emperor of Rome. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth” etcetera.

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Before we return to Ancient Egypt, here’s another one: not only did Emperor Constantine (pronounced ‘wine’, just like the star of HELLBLAZER – they are related!) convert to Christianity, taking much of the empire with him, but he built a new capital to rule from which he called Constantinople. Which was just as well because – believe it or not – the Roman Empire kind of lost Rome in 410 AD to the Visigoths and, umm, never recaptured it!

Coming back to how well visual aspects like the River Nile are incorporated and utilised within the page, I loved how the Egyptians’ pyramid-shaped, feudal society, is explained within a pyramid. Apposite in every way.

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Surprises from thereabouts come in the form of our 365-day calendar which they invented (although it fell to the Romans to add the twelve months and seven-day weeks), a three-season year revolving around the condition of the Nile (and therefore the crops), and the surprising news that Upper Egypt was down south and Lower Egypt was oop north because the Nile ran south to north and the Egyptians rulers were all a bunch of elitist Tory bastards.

Lastly, the Ankh…? It’s a hieroglyph meaning life, not DEATH, which was Neil Gaiman’s point all along. So I imagine that’s sent a whiplash round what’s left of the gothic community.

Heh heh heh.

SLH

Buy Discover… The Ancient Egyptians and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Discover… The Roman Empire and read the Page 45 review here

Take Me Back To Manchester (£12-00, self-published) by Oliver East.

In April 1872 a man called Lorenzo Lawrence walked a seven-year-old Asian Elephant called Maharajah 200 miles south from Edinburgh to Manchester in 10 days.

Why? Entertainingly, it depends on who you believe, but here are some facts:

On April 9th,1872, an auction was being held at Waverly Market in Edinburgh to dispose of the animal assets of Wombwell’s Menagerie – some at such knock-down prices one might suspect the knackers yard was their next destination. Many including Maharajah were scooped up by one James Jennison, co-owner of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens (as they were all called then) back in Manchesterland.

As the animals were being loaded onto wagons at Waverley Street Station two days later the normally placid Maharajah, quite used to being transported, threw a strop, thrust his head through the front of the horse box then backed through its rear, causing quite a commotion as he did so. Wombwell Menagerie’s resident lion tamer, one Lorenzo Lawrence, bravely stepped in to quell the bellicose beast’s ire… almost immediately after which it resumed its regular, docile demeanour.

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It was then that Lorenzo offered to lead Maharajah to Manchester, thereby neatly postponing his penury by prolonging his employment. I don’t want to sound cynical – though I wouldn’t be the first – so instead I will congratulate Lorenzo on yet another sterling performance: in agitating the elephant in the first place!

As the graphic novel proceeds we follow Lorenzo – as loquacious as The Good Old Days’ Leonard Sachs – as he barters his way down south, earning extra money by giving rides and seeking what lodgings he can for himself and a steaming elephant. It’s quite the pantomime and no trick is lost in maximising publicity including an increasingly exaggerated account of Maharajah’s dismissive disdain for the route’s multiple toll gates.

Very clever, that: these seemingly ubiquitous toll gates must have been as unpopular with a poor public as the Poll Tax, and the pachyderm’s trash-and-dash reputation must have made it a people’s champion.

What do I love about this graphic novel?

The story itself, the colours and its forms!

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I’ve not seen magnolia and walnut brown dominate a comic so boldly as here and it works so well in a scene, for example, framing the elephant sleeping in peace outside an inn, the courtyard viewed from inside a stable which almost certainly failed to accommodate the animal.

I also adored the corrugated aspect of the beast’s furrowed forehead and trunk – viewed both in profile and face-on – demarked by a brush or nib (virtual or otherwise) which doesn’t once leave the page. The ridges are so deep you can almost fit your fingers in and maybe use them as handholds to scale onto the beast’s back.

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Again I would return to the brown and the cream and their sheen on glossy white paper. I’ve stared at some of those pages for ages.

There’s another couple opposite each other which deploy a tempestuous purple along with cream which to me streams from the heavens like sunbeams through thunderous clouds – possibly the most dramatic of any weather conditions – the left-hand page emphasising the wide-open space of the British countryside as well as the distance travelled each day, the right at rest and under shelter being positively cosy by comparison!

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Set pieces like those genuinely took my breath away but this isn’t a gallery of images, it’s a comic. It’s a sequence of images supposed to tell a story and I have to tell you that there were so many instances – quite important ones– during which I did not have the first clue as to what was going on, such was the lack of defined or precise visual information.

It may sound as if I did, but I had to do research. Flashbacks were unheralded and that’s fine if you’re Greg Ruth or Hwei Lim and at least giving clues for the reader to latch onto. Here I was utterly lost. Sometimes I felt as if I was trying to peer through a dense, form-eroding mist for the slightest hint of context.

Also, I hate to sound like a martinet but there’s organic lettering and then there is scrappy and scruffy. This was in places unnecessarily scruffy.

Nevertheless I’m convinced that the images reproduced here will impress you enough to embrace once again an old favourite – your travelling companion on TRAINS ARE… MINT and PROPER WELL GO HIGH etc – who himself undertook the arduous walk from Edinburgh to Manchester to get a proper feel for the trek. Whether he talked to himself in the same affectionate manner Lorenzo chatted with Maharajah (as we do with pets, supplying each purported reply in our head), I don’t know; but I suspect so, don’t you?

This is Lorenzo at the start of his journey but you just know that it’s Oliver East all the way.

“What did you buy?”
“Um, maps. I bought maps.”
“Maps? But it’s just two roads. South to Carlisle then the old Roman Road to Manchester.”
“What can I say? I like to know where I’m walking. Might as well learn while I’m on the road.”

SLH

Buy Take Me Back To Manchester and read the Page 45 review here

Sun Bakery #1 (£4-50, Press Gang) by Corey Lewis.

From the creator of SHARKNIFE comes exactly the sort of comic I wanted to produce aged 12: quick-fire, episodic, multi-saga, idea-driven with bat-shit crazy energy and visuals.

You know, as opposed to long-form, pensive, self-contained, streamlined, narrative-conscious, photo-realistic and world-changing.

And although I began with zero technical skills, between the ages of 10 and 12 I did produce some 15 issues of just such a comic containing superheroes, sci-fi, comedy and even a little politics – school politics, anyway. The comedy, as I recall, centred around the search for the singular of ‘sheep’. (It’s a ‘shoop’, since you ask. I WAS TEN!)

Mine was multi-story and episodic because I’d been brought up on black and white Marvel reprints; in Corey’s case it’s been inspired by Japan’s SHONEN JUMP weekly manga anthology which brought us the likes of DRAGON BALL, NARUTO and DEATH NOTE.

And let us be perfectly clear: this is the comic a 12- to 15-year-old would produce if he had Corey Lewis (Reyyy)’s keen adult technical skills. The key is that Lewis hasn’t let those skills inhibit the storytelling.

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What’s it all abaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!

‘Bat Rider’ is a thrilling, maximum-contrast, shadow-heavy, skyscraper-silhouette-strewn, black and white, urban challenge starring a chick with a cape, a chap with a Mercury-winged biker’s helmet and his seemingly sentient skateboard. Next!

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‘Arem’ appears to be riffing off ‘Beyond Good And Evil’ in that the female protagonist dashes about an alien planet identifying local fauna that occasionally fights back by snapping its photo then loading it onto social media for critical approval, like. Oh yes, she does so in a big, bio-hazard, heavily armoured exo-skeletal fight-suit.

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Huge exterior shots of primordial landscapes, the orbiting spaceship and maximum mecha fanfare use up the world’s entire supply of mauve, lilac and indigo for the next fortnight. Also, I loved the structure of one page in particular of our protagonist 1) liking NextiGrams while licking pizza 2) thundering down a treadmill 3) kicking a sack in the same direction before 4) standing before her mighty mech in solemn preparation.

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‘Dream Skills is Fruit Salad flavoured (Fruit Salad as in the chews) and follows two female friends, one of whom introduces the other to the sacred art of the sword following the discovery of protective “aura circles” owned by everyone. These have suddenly been triggered (we know not how nor why) rendering lead non-lethal and guns therefore redundant. Besides, blades are flashier (discuss). That one looks like it may contain the most mystery, legend and lore and at this early stage, who knows?

Contains 730% of your recommended daily sugar allowance.

SLH

Buy Sun Bakery #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Vader Down s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen & Mike Deodato, Salvador Larroca…

“The boy cannot hide from his destiny.

“Or from me.”

It’s time for a STAR WARS / DARTH VADER crossover party, as Daddy Darth indulges in some hide and seek with Luke, whilst Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen play pass the writing parcel and Mike Deodata and Salvador Larroca swat the goodie-filled pictorial piñata to and fro. Technically this is volume three of both series, though Marvel will no doubt number the next individual volume of each as the third, being the party poopers they are…

Anyway, Darth is hot on the hyperspace heels of Death Star destroyer Skywalker, and he’s tracked his wayward progeny down to the planet Vrogas Vas, where Luke is visiting the remains of an old Jedi temple searching for some answers of his own. Cue one unfortunate encounter with a Rebel Squadron later and we’re crash-landing our way into a little father son tête-a-… errr… helmet… on the surface.

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But, it’s not all about father / son time! Rest assured Princess Leia plus C3P0, Han and Chewie are soon en route to the knees-up, despite not being invited. Plus everyone’s favourite new characters Professor Aphra and her psychotic robotic entertainers Triple-Zero and BeeTee are gate-crashing too. That trio alone are guaranteed to make sure any party goes with a bang, and the guests with a blood-curdling scream… In fact, I’ll leave it to them to explain precisely what mayhem is going to ensue during the course of this particular reunion celebration…

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“This is officially not good. I’ve intercepted Rebel communications that say Vader was definitely shot down over Vrogas Vas. No word yet if he’s alive or dead. At this point… I’m not sure if which would be worse. But either way, we’ve got to go after him. And if he’s dead…”
“We could always simply murder everyone we encounter. No matter the problem, I usually find that to be the most elegant solution. BeeTee rather excitedly agrees.”
“ We’re flying right into a nest of Rebel troops, Triple-Zero. I expect you’ll get your wish.”
“How splendid! Did you hear that, BeeTee? We get to torture and exterminate indiscriminately!”
“BLEEP!”

JR

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Buy Star Wars: Vader Down 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.

Panther h/c (£19-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Brecht Evens

At War With Yourself (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Samuel C. Williams

Black Magick vol 1: Awakening (£7-50, Image) by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott

Brodys Ghost: Collected Edition (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley

The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch h/c (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli

The Last Dragon (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Jane Yolen & Rebecca Guay

Octopus Pie vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Meredith Gran

Rumble vol 2: A Woe That Is Madness s/c (£12-99, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 6 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Wet Moon vol 1: Feeble Wanderings (New Edition) (£14-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

Wood: The Of Art Of Tomorrow Kings h/c (£39-99, IDW) by Ashley Wood

Adventure Time vol 8 (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Ryan North, Christopher Hastings & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Zachary Sterling

Adventure Time: Fist-Bump Cavalcade (£9-99, Titan) by various

Tiny Titans: Welcome To The Treehouse s/c (£9-99, DC) by Franco Baltazar & Art Baltazar

Astonishing Ant-Man vol 1: Everybody Loves Team-Ups s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas

Carnage vol 1: The One That Got Away s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Conway & Mike Perkins

Doctor Strange vol 1: The Way Of The Weird h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

Extraordinary X-Men vol 1: X-Haven s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Humberto Ramos

Spider-Man 2099 vol 1: Smack To The Future s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 4 – Twilight s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Assassination Classroom vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Goodnight Punpun vol 1 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Shuriken And Pleats vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Koutarou Yamada

News!

How fabulous to find Page 45 on a billboard! An Etherington Bros billboard with a pull quote from 5,000-STAR review of VON DOOGAN AND THE GREAT AIR RACE which you’ll find with all our other PHOENIX WEEKLY COMIC favourites!

Von Doogan Page 45 Billboard

Other than that you’ll have to wait till next week, I ran out of time! Reviews! Life! Etc!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2016 week three

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

New John Allison GIANT DAYS, graphic biographies of Munch and an Olympic athlete we’ve never heard of; Chester Brown, God, Jesus, Mary and Vikings!

Hello, what’s this?! A brand-new CRIMINAL reviewed on its very day of release with interior art you’ve never seen before thanks to Sean Phillips?! Hurrah!

Criminal 10th Anniversary Special Edition (comic-size £3-99, magazine-size £4-50; Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

CRIMINAL is the best crime comic in the business.

I have without fail reviewed every single edition, and relished doing so. This is its brand-new, 10th Anniversary, self-contained one-shot and a perfect introduction to these imperfect individuals in their less than ideal worlds.

How was your childhood?

“It’s easier to be a fictional character.
“How sad is that?”

Not as sad as the ending, as an almost unheard of act of kindness in twelve-year-old Tracy Lawless’ bleak young life is flushed down the pan, along with all its potential, out of fear.

Looked at from another angle, however, it is perhaps the one ray of hope that Tracy might turn out okay against all nature and nurture odds, because it’s not for himself that he fears. It’s for a local girl who’s befriended him on the streets of a small town where, as a stranger, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

“I’m not supposed to be doing this. Mike Johnson isn’t supposed to have fun.
“And he doesn’t get to make friends. Friends get remembered.”

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Oh dear. We’ve already discovered what happens to those might remember Tracy. Brubaker deliberately sets this up on the very first pages so that it informs everything else that follows, throwing a terrible pall over anyone who comes near the boy.

This includes Lana, one of the individuals that Tracy’s Dad is out searching for. Because of this looming threat one fears, rightly or wrongly, that Tracy may have doomed the smiling shop assistant simply by identifying her. Tracy himself recognises this almost immediately afterwards. It’s not exactly a Judas moment, but it’s certainly made all the more poignant by their mutual, momentary affection which elicits the other act of kindness and their eyes light up. So it might as well have been a kiss.

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Mike Johnson, by the way, is that fictional identity Tracy is forced to adopt whenever he’s travelling on the run (or otherwise undercover) with his career-criminal dad. He shouldn’t have been roaming the streets, he should have stayed safely shut away in the motel reading the comic which his father Teeg stole for him (which is nice), but Teeg hadn’t come back in the evening nor in the morning, and that’s pretty much par for the course. The boy’s got to eat.

What follows is a rough scrap of a friendship scraped from the car crash of Tracy’s neglected childhood before he witnesses that which a twelve-year-old son never should.

There’s a telling line early on from Tracy himself, referring to himself being taught to drive his dad’s getaway car last year as “just a kid” as if he considers himself an adult now. But he’s neither one thing nor the other: he’s not his father’s adult accomplice because he’s not been let in on what the mission is; yet if he’s still a child what on earth is he doing behind the wheel and changing number plates? What is he doing – worst of all – understanding his father’s fucked up priorities?

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Sean draws the boy all droopy-mouthed and saggy-shouldered – weighted, weary beyond his years, far from care-free and truly troll-like. His eyes would be scathing if they could summon the energy but are instead so heavy, so sceptical, expecting nothing – which is just as well. It’s what makes the brief burst of reignited hope and rekindled vivacity in the shop with Lana so unexpected and arresting. The boy can actually smile – he can beam – if engaged with at all.

But that’s as nothing to the central panel in a single page which is one of the finest I’ve seen in comics.

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It is the epitome of wide-eyed, awe-struck enchantment as Tracy’s face comes electrically alive, spellbound by the DEADLY HANDS OF comic which straddles the same worlds he does between adult and child.

“This comic is weird…
“It kind of reminds me of the ones my dad gets some times…
“But those have naked ladies and stuff in them.
“And this one, you just feel like it’s about to have naked ladies all the time.
“Like it’s a comic for kids pretending to be a comic for grown-ups.”

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Of course it is. It’s a mischievous tribute to a Marvel Comics combo of SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG-FU and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT – very seventies indeed, Daddio – pages of which are paraded in front of you in all their tanned, aged-paper glory by Sean Phillips in immaculate impressions of expressionist Paul Gulacy the for sub-lunar werewolf sequences and of the far more conservative Sal Buscema inked by the likes of Mike Esposito when the angst-ridden protagonist reverts to puny Peter Parker-like form. It’s all in the eyebrows.

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Tracy’s father, of course, was reading the equivalent of macho, alpha-male CONAN in the previous CRIMINAL SPECIAL EDITION #1 (also available as CRIMINAL SPECIAL EDITION #1 MAGAZINE SIZED; both still in stock at the time of typing) whilst biding his time and trying to stay off the radar in jail. I like that they share an interest in something, but I still don’t think Teeg’s going to be winning many parental awards any time soon.

I like what Breitweiser’s done with both the daytime and evening colours here: it’s something completely different to FATALE or THE FADE OUT for this is set is in such a small town it’s virtually deserted after dark. There are no fancy-schmancy multicoloured neon bar signs projecting onto the street: in the evening the only monochromatic glow comes from the few sickly sodium lights and they don’t light anything up properly. In the daytime the colours may be muted and mundane but they do at least look relatively healthy and safe by contrast.

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I don’t know whether Brubaker of Phillips decided which comics would be racked in the grocery store’s spinners but whichever it was we evidently shared similar summer holiday experiences. Speaking of similar summer holiday experiences, hats off to both for the kids’ visit to the second-hand bookshop – the only place you’d find old comics back then. Phillips has almost beaten Bernie Wrightson at his own game for internal clutter. I could feel the binding of every single book on those shelves, but of course Tracy’s not interested.

“I’m just looking for comics.”

We’re all just looking for comics.

Criminal 10th Anniv screenshot

SLH

Buy Criminal 10th Anniversary Special Edition and read the Page 45 review here

The last magazine-sized edition came with a faux letter column for the CONAN-like comic. This one signs off with the latest DEADLY HANDS movie machinations and hints to its “female-type readers” that they might soon find themselves represented in the form of QUEEN LAO, the She-Fighter!!! Bonus black-and-white painted pin-up!

Buy Criminal 10th Anniversary Special Deadly Hands Of Magazine Ed and read the Page 45 review here

An Olympic Dream: The Story Of Samia Yusuf Omar (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Reinhard Kleist…

“Training at Coni Stadium in Mogadishu is a bit different than at the Beijing Olympic Games. Here you have to be careful not to trip. There are holes all over the track from the bombs.”

The German comics biographer Meister returns with another intriguing choice of subject. Following on from the likes of CASTRO, ELVIS and JOHNNY CASH, his previous work – his best for me – was on a considerably more obscure figure in the form of THE BOXER: THE TRUE STORY OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR HARRY HAFT. Much of its appeal was the fact its subject was someone I knew absolutely nothing about, but whom had lived a long, difficult and utterly fascinating life.

This time it’s the story of an equally obscure athlete, Samia Yusuf Omar, who represented her country of Somalia at the Beijing Olympics with great pride and whose great dream was of competing at London 2012. Sadly, that aspiration was cruelly dashed as she drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy along with several other migrants. But in her short life she achieved, and endured, far more than most of us pack into a lifetime.

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It’s a very clever work, this. Yes, it’s Samia’s story, but it’s also the stories of the multitudes who attempt to seek a better life in Europe, regardless of their reasons. For whatever one’s opinions, informed or otherwise, regarding the rights or wrongs of ‘illegal’ economic migration, there is one simple fact which remains true. Would the vast majority of EU member state citizens, if we found ourselves in the same position as those people in Eastern Europe and Africa, do exactly the same as they are doing? I know I would.

Anyway, Samia’s heart-wrenching decision to leave her mother and the rest of her family was simply in order to be able to train. For the main problem she faced in Mogadishu was not simply the lack of facilities in her war torn country, but the fact that the ruling Islamist militia Al-Shabaab had deemed running unacceptable for women under their repugnant version of Sharia law. After the summary execution of her father in the market place a few years previously Samia had learnt to keep her head down and try to avoid trouble, but she was still determined to pursue her training.

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However, the daily harassment from the local armed goons eventually turned more serious, with texted threats informing her they knew where she lived and that she would be killed, finally convincing her she had to leave. Initially she moved to Ethiopia to train there, but the usual official corruption and also misogyny, albeit not on the levels of Al-Shabaab, forced her to decide to try to get to Italy in the belief she would be able to pursue her athletics there in freedom. Her story ended, like so many others attempting similar journeys, in tragedy, and not before experiencing incredible trauma and hardship along the way.

Putting a very human face on migration, as Kleist does here with Samia’s story, undoubtedly helps people to understand precisely why people do leave their homes and attempt these odysseys in search of a better future. Her conversations along the way with fellow travellers attempting the journey for far less prosaic reasons are extremely illuminating. When we talk about social inequalities between the haves and have-nots in our own rather more comfortable country, it’s easy for us to forget that as tough as many do have it in the UK, it’s absolutely nothing in comparison to the suffering and utter destitute poverty some people experience day in, day out elsewhere in the world.

So again, I return to the fact that were I in their situation, would I attempt to get into the EU no matter what it took? Of course I would. Economic migration has been going on since time immemorial and whilst the rewards might not be quite what they believe, à la Dick Whittington and his streets paved with gold, when their lives are so deprived and so hard, I can completely understand their motivations to try. Would Samia have ever won a medal at an Olympics? It’s extremely unlikely. But did she deserve the opportunity to be able to try and achieve her dreams? Of course.

JR

Buy An Olympic Dream: The Story Of Samia Yusuf Omar and read the Page 45 review here

Munch (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by Steffen Kvernland…

“Munch is the perfect comic book character! Almost everything he created was autobiographical, so I can use his letters, diaries, notes, drawings, graphic works and even his paintings. He called some of his diaries ‘literary journals’, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt. But what the hell, it’s great stuff!”
“Yeah, it’ll actually be Munch on Munch! And all of the diaries are pretty much literary dramatisations.”
“Will you keep the spelling mistakes or outdated language?”
“Yup, everything stays! The language will be totally uneven with lots of the sources and historical periods all jumbled together. But a quote is a quote! My contribution will be my subjective perception of Munch, and that’ll mostly be determined by the visual interpretations of, and what will be included or not. It’s going to be a monumental puzzle to figure out. I’ve read kilometres of books on Munch and there’s more to come.”
“It’ll take years to draw everything!”
“Huh! A year at the most!”

‘…Seven years later…’

Ha, I really did enjoy the prefacing six-page autobiographical introduction explaining just how Steffen Kvernland convinced himself over a very boozy lunch that it would be a great idea to do a graphic biography of Munch. Little did he suspect what he was letting himself in for! I’ll say this for him, though: he stuck the course over those seven long years and ended up producing a masterpiece.

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Speaking of liquid heavy repasts, Edvard Munch was undoubtedly, besides being a great artist, a true hellraiser, surrounded as he was for most of his early career by a coterie of artists and intellectuals who were, of course, all massive pissheads. So by the time he reached his mid-forties, with his most celebrated works long behind him, his lifestyle of hard drinking and love of brawling was close to tipping him over the edge, necessitating some chill-out time in rehab.

However, I love the fact that as part of his ongoing treatment his doctor advised Munch “to only socialize with good friends and avoid drinking in public.” After that episode he became extremely reclusive, but still immensely prodigious, even if none of the output achieved the recognition of early paintings such as The Scream series. It was as though, to quote the final two pages of this work…

“Munch had become a monk whose life was devoted to art.
“Art was his religion.”

Quite so. What is so impressive about this work is just how comprehensive it is. Yes, Munch was undoubtedly a real character, but it’s delightful to read a graphic biography by someone who is a true aficionado on their subject. Not only does Kvernland have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Munch, both the man and his art, but you can tell he has a real passion for him. It’s this enthusiasm, combined with a compelling art style that makes this such a pleasure to read, or indeed just look at.

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The stroke of genius, though, is making Munch himself the main narrator. Mainly it’s a wiser, more sanguine Munch looking back at his capricious, youthful self, but it imbues the book with a sense of truthfulness that might otherwise give way to mild disbelief at the appalling antics and emotional eruptions Munch was prone to. It allows Kvernland to walk us through Munch’s careening career and louche life without passing comment, but merely act as our educated museum guide, adding in some judicious hard facts.

The art though was a revelation. I can see exactly why it took him seven years. Munch famously advocated painting not what he saw, but what he felt, and you can see Kvernland has adopted this process to a degree. The artist’s early life is portrayed in really quite jocular caricature, entirely befitting Munch’s absurd behaviour, with vibrant colours and dashes of cubist flourish. Also, Munch’s haunted eyes occasionally minded me of a Richard Sala creation! The elder Munch, in his rare ‘on camera’ appearances, is portrayed much more statesmen-like in black and white, Victorian plumbago-style portraits.

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Sitting alongside PABLO and VINCENT as part of Self Made Hero’s Art Masters range, this exquisite picture of a most peculiar man and highly talented artist should help inform new generations that The Scream was first and foremost a series of paintings and not merely an internet meme

JR

Buy Munch and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days vol 2 (£10-99, Boom) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin.

“This next place is great. It’s the ultimate. It has the answers we seek.”
“Please no more boutiques, Esther. I can’t take my clothes off again today.”
“All these fancy shops. There are so many clothes. So many garments. And they’re all… they’re all made of stars.”

That’s a perfect opening page, neatly encapsulating one aspect each of Esther, Susan and Daisy: up for adventure, bewildered by fashion, and away with the fairies, respectively.

It also kicks off the first chapter’s challenge immediately: prep for, then survive a university ball. Survive means 1) not snog your best mate’s face off, 2) not cop off with your ex and 3) not make a fool of yourself in front of the beau of the ball. Umm… that’d be a great big whoops, then.

But first they need to dress for the occasion and Lissa Treiman does each of them proud, although Susan was always going to be traumatised now matter what she ended up in.

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“You look amazing!” gasps Daisy, hands clasped with rapture as is tradition. “Esther is like a wizard.”
“First she squeezed my blackheads. Then she trussed me up like a turkey. Then she aggressively blow-dried me for twenty minutes.”

One of Allison’s many seemingly simple skills is lobbing in one extra word like “aggressively” and making it work for him like a ‘Q’ tile in Scrabble placed on a Triple Word square, maximising the comedic value of entire paragraphs.

“She said she worked out I was the exact same shape and height as Bette Midler.”
“Ohh!”
“After that, she looked at me the way Stephen Hawking looks at a Black Hole. She knew too much.”

Both Treiman and Sarin succeed in squeezing out the maximum drama from every line, whether it’s Susan staring into the distance there as if having undergone some profound Lovecraftian trauma, Esther’s gleeful self-satisfaction at building then delivering a kidney-kicking pun, or Daisy’s wide-eyed worry at where it will all end. Here’s Susan’s ultra-practical ex, McGraw, bypassing some bouncers and flourishing his gadget like Zelda levelling up:

“I had to get in… with this 12-in-1 multi-tool. I pried the beading off a uPVC window casing and removed the sealed unit.”
“What if you used those powers… for evil?”

This is the thing that daunts me about BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison: how does he even know about uPVC beading? How did “meniscus” end up in his vocabulary? And what does this even mean?

“Lovely use of the flat felled stitch on Susan’s seams, by the way.”
“Sir, you’re making me blush.”

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Esoteric is inherently funny, I think. Of course there’s also room for slapstick and I for one wholeheartedly side with Susan, having lived on top of Nottingham’s tallest knoll above the Arboretum Park, and attempted to scale its glacial 3-in-1 winter summit wearing Cuban heels.

“There’s nothing wrong with my shoes! It’s this hill that’s wrong. They built this city wrong!”

There follows the suicide slide I know oh so well right back down to the bottom of the hill.

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Previously in GIANT DAYS SELF-PUBLISHED PACK and then in GIANT DAYS VOL 1: Susan, Esther and Daisy experience the joys of communal kitchens etc at university for the very first time.

Now it’s the Student Ball, Christmas Break, Exams and Bad Boyfriend Decisions. Susan has a secret! Daisy becomes a Life Coach! Ed Gemmell bears his soul – then quickly covers it up again but is he in time?!?!

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John Allison knows exactly how old couples rekindle their flame, loudly, arms flailing:

“Best record! Best songs!
“I agree completely!”

All three panels are too, too funny.

Also, watch what Treiman does when Esther hits the dance floor in Northampton to attract / distract every boy in sight. She succeeds, of course, but as anyone who’s seen such a show will know, half the lads are checking out each others’ moves, not the luring lady’s.

SLH

Buy Giant Days vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown.

“Simon.”
“Yes, Jesus?”
“If you consider Mary to be a sinner, you don’t understand my teachings.”

Quite.

Love, love, love the format unique to comics, emulating the shape and weight of a prayer book.

Within you’ll find nearly 200 pages of Biblical comics with a very strict theme and 75 pages of afterword / annotation. Even the afterword has been annotated, as have a couple of the annotations!

But one man’s onerously self-referential is another man’s thorough and I found this fascinating. I was transfixed throughout, and if you have any interest in stories – in their evolution, censorship and other sleights-of-hand – then I think you will be too.

For a start, intentionally or otherwise, they are delivered with all the droll deadpan of IF YOU STEAL and LOW MOON’s Jason. Here’s King David who’s been availing himself of Bathsheba, wife of one of David’ most loyal and committed soldiers, Uriah.

“David sends Bathsheba home before the sun rises. Weeks later, one of her servants delivers a message to him.”
““I’m pregnant. – B””

Given his sincerity I’m not sure Chester was intending to be this comedic throughout, but the modern economy of that note put me in mind of Tom Gauld’s GOLIATH (nothing to do with its subject, everything to do with its execution) and even the iconoclastic satire of anti-atheist Evelyn Waugh. Indeed it is that very economy and stripped-down clarity of storytelling throughout which makes much of this so laugh-out-loud funny.

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Now, I’ve heard some of Chester Brown’s peers saying that they enjoyed the comics in their own right and have zero interest in reading the annotations. Normally I might be tempted to side with them but I was curious enough about what Chester was up to (it struck me as far from clear as why these specific stories had been selected: what themes or thought processes linked them), and it took no more than three of four paragraphs to have me hooked.

The afterword and annotations in this instance are for me the absolute heart of this book and its riveting joy. A couple of Brown’s arguments struck me as a bit of a leap but overwhelmingly – 98% of the time – I was as surprised by his observations as Jesus’ followers were by the big man’s radical rule-breaking and bowled over both by the thoroughness of Brown’s scholarship and the persuasive logic of his analysis.

There is a lot to analyse: not just the stories as published in the current, compromised editions of the Bible, but previous versions like ‘The Gospel of the Nazareans’ which has a very different, infinitely more likely take on the parable of the Talents and was written in Aramaic (Jesus’ own language) before being translated into Greek then presented as the Gospel we now know as Matthew’s.

And let’s face it, it’s all thoroughly compromised whether through oral inaccuracies, accidental translation errors, deliberate tampering for political propagandist reasons, physical manuscript loss, omissions, misrepresentations, misinterpretations, and the slight fact that not only was no one standing next to Jesus H Christ with a microphone as he spoke, but the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were highly unlikely to have been written by anyone called Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the first place!

And that’s just the New Testament. Anyone entering into the Old Testament unaware that it’s out-and-out fiction should have their heads examined. What’s more I’ve always considered it reactionary fiction designed to intimidate, control and make subservient as opposed to liberating radicalism of JHC but what Chester Brown has succeeded in doing is marrying the Old to the New in a way that is mutually illuminating especially when it comes to the ostensibly odd tales like God’s seemingly incomprehensible reaction to Cain and Abel’s sacrifices.

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He’s done this by altering some of the stories as he sees fit, but why shouldn’t he after they’ve all been “tweaked” so spectacularly already? It’s always done with well reasoned insight, expounded upon in the back, in order to bring some consistency and coherence to the proceedings.

Context – because context is always important: Chester Brown considers himself a Christian. However, “It’s a version of Christianity that’s not at all concerned with imposing “moral” values or religious laws on others; its focus is inward. As Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within”. I’m interested in personally connecting with God, not in imposing my beliefs on anyone else. While I accept that Jesus was a genuine historical figure, I don’t think he was God or “The Son Of God”… rather, Jesus was a spiritually advanced man.”

I’ll say! Basically, Chester believes in the central tenant of love rather than the hypocritical hate-mongering which too many deeply flawed, self-serving human beings within organised religions spread in God’s Name without His Permission. You know, the sort of thing that Jesus himself exposed and condemned as abhorrent.

This is all vitally important because, as I say, above all else Chester succeeds in tallying the teachings of Christ with the old tales of God in a way that shows them both to be contemptuous of man-made religious law when it gets in the way of what is truly important like helping people (see ‘Good Samaritan’). Moreover, his carefully considered reinvestigations of the stories strongly suggest that God was very fond of rule-breakers – those who thought for themselves utilising their God-given Talent of Free-Will – rather than simply followed subserviently like the Good Son in ‘The Prodigal Son’ who ended up sulking sullenly, blinded by resentment. That’s never going to do you any favours.

This is where Cain and Abel come in, I promise you, along with Chester’s restoration of the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and I say “restoration” because it is there that his arguments hold most persuasive water. Remember ‘The Gospel Of The Nazareans’? Eusebius, the first Christian historian (circa 240-340) recalls the Talent contest thus:

“[The master] had three slaves, one who used up his fortune with whores and flute-players, one who invested the money and increased its value, and one who hid it. The first was welcomed with open arms, the second was blamed, and only the third was locked up in prison.”

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Firstly, the parable as currently represented celebrates financial investment which Jesus emphatically didn’t; it fails to reflect the nature of Jesus’ parables which always clash with “traditional views of justice” and “challenge conventional thinking by containing an element of surprise”; and thirdly, makes no storytelling sense in that it lacks the natural, three-stage progression – two of the slaves do the same thing with the same result – whereas the Nazarean version contains three slaves, three different approaches, three different results. Oh, and there’s also the question of the circular tendency which works rather well in the older version.

I suspect I know what you’re thinking. It’s about the sex-workers, isn’t it? You don’t think Jesus would approve of blowing your wad – or someone else’s – on sex workers. Well, boy, does Chester Brown have some meticulously researched and impeccably well argued news for you!

It involves the rabbis of the Talmud’s teachings on the three levels of charity; attitudes towards sex workers – at no time outlawed in ancient Israel – during both periods of the Bible (as I say, context is so important: try reading Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’ without its socio-historical context and you might mistake Fanny for a wimp when she is in fact quite the proto-feminist); and extensive research into various translations of the words for prostitute and their appearances in the Bible aaaand….

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Once you’ve read all that and about Matthew’s inclusion of women in his gospel’s genealogy (and some very specific biblical women at that) which was so unheard-of as to be pointed, everything else about this book, its narrative as a whole and Chester’s interest in its elements falls into place. It’s at this point, perhaps, that I should reference Chester Brown’s PAYING FOR IT.

As I say, I am completely won over, even to the idea that Jesus’ mum was a sex-worker. Yup, that Mary, but wait until you read the research. And if part of your reaction to that is assertion is, “Eww, sex-worker,” well, shame on you because that’s what Jesus’ enemies used too. Hope you enjoy the other ironies.

I don’t think it’ll come as any surprise to anyone that the titular Mary (Magdalene / of Bethany) was a prostitute but Brown delves deep into the traditions of hair in conjunction of the specific scenario in order to shore up the argument while reminding you that her specific act of anointing Jesus is what made him a “messiah”, a “Christ” (translation: “anointed one”). “That’s a point worth emphasising: a prostitute made Jesus a christ.” It is indeed a pretty big deal, entirely in keeping with the man constantly demanding his followers rethink their priorities and reject superficial and groundless prejudice.

Umm… guess what the Hebrew for feet was often a euphemism for? I’m probably not going to go there.

Anyway, love verses piety, taking the sexual initiative, employment versus charity, Christ the questioner – and Chester too – and stop pointing your finger lest fingers point back to you, Judah!

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I think the story of Tamar and Judah, as told here, may be my favourite apart from the parables. It’s where onanism comes from.

There is so, so much to discover or perhaps rediscover here and I’m certainly going to enjoy re-reading this in a newly informed light.

I began with Chester’s deadpan delivery which I personally cannot unsee, but more objectively it’s a side-effect of Brown wisely playing down the emotional and the emotive in order to present the tales as honestly as possible in spite of him making bits up! There’s a little anger in evidence from the slave master and a panel of merriment at the Prodigal’s return but on the whole the cast of characters remain implacable – even Job under considerable provocation. In addition the strict four-panel grid maintains an even equally even keel free from distractions.

As to Jesus, you’re only shown him only in silhouette. Another wise decision.

SLH

Buy Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Road #1 (£2-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown…

“Fuck off. I’m eating.”
“Take it easy.”
“This is business. You are Magnus, yes?”
“I only arrived in town this morning. No one should know me.”
“Perhaps your reputation precedes you?”
“Reputations kill. I prefer to be alone and unknown.”
“How much privacy, Magnus, would this buy you?”
“What’s that for? You want someone killed?”
“Not at all! Good heavens. I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about an escort job. Taking a church official up the Northern Road to Hammaruskk Coast.”
“The Northern Road. We call it the Black Road, and had you spent more than two fucking minutes in this land, you’d have known that. And a voyage up the Black Road most likely is a murder trip.”

Finally! For those of us who have been waiting patiently since the flaming longboat burial afforded to Brian Wood’s NORTHLANDERS saga on the Vertigo imprint, our patience has been rewarded, and how! Magnus the Black is a man with much on his mind. He’s had the emotional bedrock of his life shattered with the loss of his wife and seen the presumed sovereignty of Odin and the old gods smashed by the one true God of Christianity.

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It’s the latter which probably causes him to take the escort job, at four times the original price of course, because it gives Magnus the chance to ask the Cardinal some burning questions. About how a man born a heathen can get into Heaven, for example… He’s hoping the answers will give some structure to the rest of his life, one way or the other. Not that he believes a life of piety and forgiveness will be required in either eventuality…

“… I wanted to be closer to the Christians. They talk in riddles. They preach peace and love in the midst of performing incredible violence.
“There’s a structure, a purpose to what they do that is beyond my ken. They’re changing Norskk, changing it with words and with iron and with blood. I need to understand them better.
“I have yet to determine if I will go to war for the Christians, or against them.”

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It won’t surprise you to learn that the trip up North isn’t without its challenges. Of the head meets hammer variety, that is… The Cardinal’s not worried, though, he says he’s got a guardian angel. Which is where the mystery really begins…

What a wonderfully dark opener! It’s like NORTHLANDERS never went away (please note, the re-collected bigger editions of NORTHLANDERS will be starting to come out in about four months). And whilst Garry Brown never worked with Brian Wood on that title, fans of THE MASSIVE will be more than familiar with his work. It’s a gritty, flinty style that’s perfect for this title and as with NORTHLANDERS, the colours, provided here by Dave McCaig are suitably understated and restrained.

JR

Buy Black Road #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: The Men Of Tomorrow (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & John Romita Jr…

“Oh. Oh, I get it. You almost got me, Clark. I have to admit, without the glasses, you’re actually a dead ringer. How did I ever not notice it before?”

That takes some brassneck as a writer, does that, bringing up possibly the most ridiculous secret identity conceit in all of comicdom! It works, though, because actually the concluding issue, well more of a coda really as the potentially world shattering action is all done and dusted by the penultimate slice, is a lovely little Jimmy & Clark buddy-buddy piece. It is one of the sweetest chunks of SUPERMAN you’re ever likely to read. After all the recent hoopla regarding the recent dark cinematic depiction of the world’s greatest boy scout, this is Big Blue back to doing what he does best.

It begins with Clark professing his true identity to a disbelieving Jimmy before our duo simply go for a quiet stroll in the park together… I was fully expecting there to be a cat stuck up a tree that needed rescuing – actually it was a child falling out of one – before there’s a half-hearted mugger to talk down. There’s a twist to it all, of course, which I’m not going to spoil, but after the maximum peril level dimensional invasion of the preceding eight issues, it was just the perfect wind-down.

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The main event is great fun too. It’s not the most original story, with a benevolent Superman-like character called Ulysses returning as an adult from another dimension, having been sent there as an infant by his scientist parents when they believed their research site was about to explode. Again, there’s a twist, obviously – several, as it happens – but it’s well written. What increased my enjoyment of it considerably, though (well okay, made me bothered enough to read it in the first place) was Romita Jr.’s art. I do like Romita Jr. He’s the first superhero artist whose style struck me, when young, as really different to the norm with his work on IRON MAN: ARMOUR WARS II back in 1990, and it’s nice to see he’s still on absolute top form.

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I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to recommend Superman comics, normally because they’re utter bobbins – classic exceptions like Morrison’s ALL STAR SUPERMAN and Millar’s SUPERMAN: RED SON aside – and whilst this is nowhere near the level of those, it’s still a significant cut above the run of the mill if you’re desperate for a fix of Big Blue.

JR

Buy Superman: The Men Of Tomorrow 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.

Mordawwa #666 (£3-00, Scary Go Round Comics) by John Allison

Angel Claws Deluxe Coffee Table Edition h/c (£59-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Kramers Ergot vol 9 (£33-99, Fantagraphics) by various including Michael DeForge, Johnny Ryan, Gabrielle Bell, Al Columbia, Dash Shaw, Kim Deitch, Marc Bell, Antoine Cosse

Providence vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows

Bad Machinery vol 5: The Case Of The Fire Inside (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison

Criminal 10th Anniversary Special (£3-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Criminal 10th Anniversary Special Deadly Edition Magazine Sized (£4-50, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Death Sentence vol 2: London s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Montynero & Martin Simmonds

I Hate Fairyland vol 1: Madly Ever After (£7-50, Image) by Skottie Young

Julius Zebra – Bundle With The Britons h/c (£9-99, Walker Books) by Gary Northfield

The Nameless City (£10-99, First Second) by Faith Erin Hicks

Novo vol 1: The Birth Of Novo Extended Edition (£14-99, Alterna) by Michael S. Bracco

Retroworld s/c (£14-99, Humanoids) by Patrick Galliano & Cedric Peyravernay, Bazal

Star Wars: Vader Down s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen & Mike Deodato, Salvador Larroca

Astro City: Lovers Quarrel s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Flash By Grant Morrison And Mark Millar s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Ron Marz, Chuck Dixon & various

Justice League: Darskeid War – Power Of The Gods h/c (£22-50, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Francis Manapul & Fernando Pasarin, various

All New, All Different Avengers vol 1: The Magnificent Seven s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mahmud Asrar, Adam Kubert

Captain America: Sam Wilson: Not My Captain America vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Daniel Acuna, Paul Renaud, Joe Bennett

Deadpool And Cable: Split Second s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza & Reilly Brown

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 1: Millionaire With A Mouth s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Mike Hawthorne

New Avengers: A.I.M. vol 1: Everything Is New s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Gerardo Sandoval

A Silent Voice vol 6 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosario s/c (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tsubasa Haduki

News!

Step Aside Pops 0

ITEM! This had me howling with laughter: Kate Beaton takes on the twerps who designed Dagger’s breast-baring costume plus porno-pose artists with… Tit Windows!

I’m not posting a single one here. You *will* have to click on that link and go to Kate’s website.

Love, love, love Kate Beaton: try STEP ASIDE, POPS!

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ITEM! Teachers! Schools! Families! Sarah McIntyre introduces four Book Trust videos on making comics in the classroom, and does so with tremendous enthusiasm, and empathy for others.

Pop Sarah into our search engine to discover where the Sea Monkeys came from (OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS) and so much more besides!

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ITEM! Una unveils her new comics project, a very personal insight into mental health

 

ITEM! And the Eisner Awards 2106 Nominations are in! Congratulations to all! Pop any of those puppies in our search engine to read our reviews!

Superfab congrats to Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle for their Eisner nominations for 24 BY 7 collection of comics created at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal.

24 Hour Comic Crew

Photos of the 24 Hour Comics Marathon comics & creators 4/5ths of the way down this extensive account of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014!

24 Hour Comic

All the news so far for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14th-16th. We will be there – will you?

Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2016 week two

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

News underneath including Re-imagining Beatrix Potter competition!

5000 Km Per Second h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Manuele Fior.

Now that is a cover.

Against all your understandable expectations, it is not a scene that happens anywhere in this ever-so-sad graphic novel.

By the time the rain pours down back in Italy, Piero will have stopped doing anything so care free as riding that bike and Lucia will no longer be such an inexperienced teenager caught in the summer-sunshine of its headlights.

Lucia will have moved on and then on again, but Piero the worrier will still be dwelling about what he had and what he lost, and why. Alas, self-knowledge was never his forte.

No, it’s not a scene that happens anywhere, but it does encapsulate the whole perfectly. For although it begins in the blinding lemon-yellow and lime-green of a blissfully hot summer in Italy when adult concerns and parental practicalities seemed so constrictive, restrictive and dull, the rain begins falling almost immediately between each consecutive chapter in one drop, two drops, three drops then four as Lucia and Piero find themselves 5000 substantial kilometres and one second apart.

Après ça, le déluge.

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This is a graphic novel rammed full of possessive jealousy, one of the most potent poisons in any relationship, pushing away everything and everyone it seeks to contain and sustain.

Lucia will bear the brunt of it not just once but shockingly twice. The second time when she is far more vulnerable is perhaps infinitely worse but in any case it is telling that after escaping the first she writes to Piero, “I felt like I could breathe again.”

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As to Piero, well, we’ve already established that he’s far from self-aware so if he’s the victim as well as the culprit of this sort of smothering intensity and it singularly fails to register, do not be surprised.

It is oh so cleverly crafted with Piero’s childhood friend, Nicola – sweet, loving, loyal and uninhibitedly tactile Nicola – caught to one side / in the middle.

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“From the moment we got together Nicola became so jealous,” says Lucia.” Not that he liked me… he was just scared of losing his friend.”

Entirely understandable: not only had Piero’s eyes alighted upon new arrival Lucia, but he was also about to move away soon to university while Nicola, far less gifted academically, was always going to stay behind and take over his father’s shop. Yet in spite of all this – in spite of his friend about to leave him behind on the metaphorical beach (see ROBOT DREAMS), Nicola did nothing wrong.

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Fior’s forte for me came in the form his portraits of a mature Lucia, out to dinner, so happy to be laughing until she could barely catch her breath, then quietly and with defence-free dignity considering her failure in love, after which her face almost implodes with grief (?) embarrassment (?) at what she considers her diminished appeal. I remove one spoiler yet this remains:

“I teach literature at a provincial technical school. I’ve gotten as fat as a cow.”

She really hasn’t. But the worst face comes later when Piero just won’t let it lie.

Expect telling dream sequences, anger, resentment and an unexpected element of futurism dropped in at the end.

SLH

Buy 5000 Km Per Second h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Delilah Dirk And The Turkish Lieutenant (£12-99, First Second) by Tony Cliff.

“It’s nice here. I like it.
“Lots of ground. Nice, dependable, solid ground.
“Very nice indeed.”

Poor Mister Selim! Flying boats are not his cup of tea.

Come to think of it, even when they were sailing on the ocean he was all at sea.

He doesn’t know his port from his starboard, but do you know what? Delilah could have said “left” or “right”, couldn’t she?

A couple of weeks ago I raved about Tony Cliff’s all-ages DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING with its gorgeous Portugese and Spanish landscapes, its British stately homes, its exceptional fight-scene choreography and the genuine wit in the snappy patty patter between Delilah Dirk and her travelling companion, Erdemoglu Selim, whose first name will henceforth be Mister. Feedback informs me that you liked the promise of running tea jokes best and there are plenty more here from page three onwards.

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This is the first book in the series which chronicles how the unlikely pair met in Constantinople, Istanbul, 1807. Mister Selim was a lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps; Miss Dirk was the Agha’s captive. Neither party’s position there lasted very long. There’s an exquisite early sequence with Selim extolling Delilah’s reputed prowess in escapology and combat, his master believing not one word of it, culminating in Miss Dirk bashing her captors through a thick wooden door and waving.

“Hi, Selim!”

So that’s Mister Selim unceremoniously sacked. I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him. He wasn’t earning very much. The Agha’s method of distributing his soldiers’ salaries was far from orthodox: he threw a bit pot of gold coins into the centre of a room and let his employees scrabble about the floor, snatching up whatever they could.

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Surrounded by much bigger bruisers all poor Selim came away with was much bigger bruises.

It’s at this point I break to remind you just how lithe Cliff’s figure work is, and how supple their limbs in motion. There are some thrilling perspectives as well, some of the action being perceived from ground-level.

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The balance between the calms and the storms is very well judged. The pair’s travels go uninterrupted just long enough to soak up the bucolic beauty and for Delilah to contemplate why she lives her nomadic existence and explain it to her charming and charmed new recruit.

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Speaking of charming there’s another perfect piece of sequential art storytelling when the couple are offered ten days’ respite as guests of a full-on friendly man and his family, the images contradicting Mister Selim’s somewhat disingenuous narration in every possible way. Wonderful!

Indeed all the Turkish people we meet are open, kind, convivial, and generous to a fault apart from evil pirate Captain Zakul The Terrible, but you can’t exactly accuse him of wearing sheep’s clothing. Also explaining his somewhat sullen behaviour, Delilah may have slightly stolen a great big cart load of treasure from him.

This is where we came in, with Delilah and Mister Selim fleeing the hoards of Captain Zakul (The Terrible) in a flying wooden boat bombarded with multiple flaming arrows. It’s an incendiary combination that causes them to crash-land under an aqueduct and I don’t suppose that landmark lasts very long, do you?

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What I’m trying to get across to you is how much fun this all is. Personally I’d still start with DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING which packs quite the punch but I will take anything from Tony Cliff I can get. There the journey’s Delilah’s, here it’s Mister Selim’s for as our story opens Delilah craves adventure and thrives upon it; Mister Selim emphatically does not.

“Ugh. What is happening? Why… did you cut me free back there? Why did you bring me all the way out here?

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“Because, Mr. Selim…. you make the finest tea in all of Europe.”

SLH

Buy Delilah Dirk And The Turkish Lieutenant and read the Page 45 review here

Wild Animals Of The North h/c (£20-00, Flying Eye Books) by Dieter Braun.

You can tell that these animals are all from the North because it tends to be snowing, ice features fairly prominently in their habitat, and several are found walking whippets.

100% class through and through, this deliriously seductive all-ages art book has bugger all to do with comics but I am so far past caring because beauty.

Recommended to fans of Brrémaud & Bertolucci’s LOVE: TIGER and LOVE: FOX, the paper stock is thick and matt and the hardcover itself roams free from the fetters of any unsightly insta-rip dust jacket, thus making it ideal for school libraries.

As a kid myself I own that my idea of nature-book heaven would have been one illustrated by KINGDOM COME’s Alex Ross but as a big kid now this more stylised approach with elements of Jonathan Edwards lights my fire far, far more.

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The forms are bigger and bolder for their blocked-out beauty and I strongly suspect that any family acquiring this educational excellence will discover their young ones equipping themselves with paper, pencil and paint in no time in order to emulate its awe.

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Featured creatures come with a paragraph which is far from predictable, eschewing cold stats in favour of something more akin to storytelling, bringing each animal’s individuality alive.

Snow leopard:

“A snow leopard never roars.” Already I am surprised. I never knew that.

“Its call is drawn-out howl which – depending on the direction of the wind – can be mistaken for the cry of the yeti.” I’ve never heard a yeti, so I’m not sure what that means.

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“Because it’s so shy and rare, the Kyrgyz people also call it the ‘ghost of the mountain’. Its long busy tail gives this avid climber the necessary counterbalance it requires for scaling the mountainside. When resting, it uses its tail to protect itself from the cold by curling it around itself and covering its nose. It is said to jump over 15-metre crevasses – and even if the crevasse were a few centimetres shorter, this cat would still be the world champion long-jumper of all mammals.”

See? Instantly memorable even if you have the attention span of a five-year-old that’s just washed down a dozen packets of Tang-Fastics with five fizzy litres of teeth-melting pop-u-like.

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Other birds, amphibians and mammals, alas, come with little more than a name but maybe you can make your own entry up for Mountain Goats which I’ve seen abseiling down cliffs without ropes. I’ve also spotted them walking along sheer drops, halfway up on what must be three-millimetre-thick ledges, suggesting that each and every one was once bitten by a radioactive spider.

I know my natural science!

SLH

Buy Wild Animals Of The North h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

From the creator of all-ages entertainment and education EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH, comes his first classic graphic novel from 2000 which BONE fans adored. Our Mark was particularly smitten and wrote this:

“I discovered this treasure on a glorious sun-filled afternoon, spent lying on the grass in one of my favourite quiet places and reading this surprising book. It’s partially an educational volume – you’ll get to learn plenty about the life cycle of a bee and the rules and traditions of a hive – but it’s also a fine dramatic story.

“We meet Nyuki as a larva basking in the hedonistic glory of being able to relax and just plain eat for five days. She’s unwilling to make the move and metamorphose into her next state, for growth can be a frightening concept. Luckily she has Dvorah on hand to explain her role in the community and the life outside her cell. Once fully grown she ventures outside, meets other insects, collects pollen and generally does what bees do.

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“Holser has managed to give the central characters enough individuality without removing them from the hive collective mentality.

“There’s an introduction which echoes the ‘form & void’ creation of the world seen in CEREBUS: CHURCH & STATE and an attached sense of religious invention that recalls Jon Lewis (a high recommendation).

“The guy’s a research biologist so he knows his bees.”

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Editor’s note:

Hosler also knows his beetles as evidenced in this far more recent graphic novel, LAST OF THE SANDWALKERS, which maintains educational standards whilst upping the adventure element considerably.

Here too there’s a host of educational extras in the back putting both bees and insects in general into context, as well as the story itself. Sub-titles include How To Build A Bee and The Calm Before The Swarm which, I assure you, is no mere pun.

For more education please visit www.jayhosler.com/clanapis.html]

MAS / SLH

Buy Clan Apis and read the Page 45 review here

The Fix #1 (£2-99. Image) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber.

“If you liked classic crime comics like CRIMINAL and 100 BULLETS we apologize in advance for letting you down.”

Having read over 100,000 solicitation summaries over the past 25 years – most rammed full of po-faced hyperbole – it’s refreshing to read something that redirects a mug of tea right through your nose.

It also sets the tone perfectly for this is far closer to the mischief-riddled THIEF OF THIEVES, except that these contemporary criminals here have zero finesse, cannot conceive of pre-planning and couldn’t even spell ‘fiscal prudence’. Thanks to Steve Lieber there’s even some fine visual slapstick as the buffoons who pass for our heroes only just get away to steal another day.

Let me be perfectly clear: if I were a betting man I wouldn’t bet on these two.

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They do, however, have an ace up their career sleeve I which I won’t spoil for you even if the original solicitation copy did. It’s delivered in the form of a very specific car radio after their old people’s home heist, during which they are gentle, respectful and far more considerate than their absentee orderlies and supervisor.

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That car radio changes everything you thought you were about to read, but then that’s what this comic does: confound your expectations at every comedic corner over and over again. Sometimes it’s no bad idea to return to the scene of a crime; sometimes you simply have no choice. And always these two cannot resist pushing things just a tad too far.

“I wish we could chalk this up to being a learning experience…
“But that would require learning something.”

What they have learned is that modern crime is virtual. The only people who carry cold, hard cash are old age pensioners, hence the heist, and it’s true. It is not unusual for someone to pay by credit card for a two-quid Lizz Lunney comic at Page 45 after they’ve asked for a Student Discount.

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What you will learn is the lack of wisdom in sticking someone up while wearing a floral shirt, and at this point I would like to thank all the shoplifters who’ve taken the trouble to identify themselves in advance with very specific, stand-out tattoos.

Far more when the book is released but for now I’ll simply assure you that you will laugh and laugh and laugh. Though by the end our champ chumps will have their grins wiped right off their gormless faces.

SLH

Buy The Fix #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Empress #1 (£2-99, Icon / Marvel) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen.

Ive Svrocina produces some lovely lambent colours for Immonen’s art which delivers dinosaurs, a vast arena, space ships, dogfights with ‘dactyls and many a ‘sploding flight deck.

It is sleek, it is slick, it is sexy.

A man of many feathers, Immonen here is in shiny ALL-NEW X-MEN mode rather than the cartoon bomb of NEXTWAVE, SECRET IDENTITY’s neo-classicism or RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING’s quiet if colourful restraint. He’s basically delivering your epic  STAR WARS space opera, just as he is in, umm, STAR WARS right now.

It’s a very quick comic which accelerates from nought to warp in under a dozen pages even if there’s nothing you can call new so far.

Do we trust Mark Millar? I think we do.

This is the man responsible for KINGSMAN, JUPITER’S LEGACY, JUPITER’S CIRCLE, ULTIMATES, NEMEMIS, MPH, SUPERIOR, CIVIL WAR, AMERICAN JESUS, CHRONONAUTS, MARVEL 1985, SUPERCROOKS and so much more. Hey, that’s what our search engine’s for.

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In summary, then:

Implacable tyrant, big and burly, as merciless as Ming; a right old grumpy-chops with a sadistic smile.

Disillusioned Missus, miffed that life with an implacable tyrant isn’t as exotic or erotic as it looked like from the other side of the bar she once served him in.

Children, sundry; allegiances varied until fired upon by Daddy’s Dobermen.

Captain loyal to miffed Missus effects swift departure from Terminal 5 (non-domestic) before there’s a domestic.

Much spluttering in soup etc.

SLH

Buy Empress #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + The Divine vol 1: Year One h/c (£33-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie.

Matt black hardcover with gold-foil design which reprints the first two WICKED + DIVINE softcovers with the following back-matter:

Variant covers
Promo poster
Two-page promo teaser comic
Gillen’s photo-comic on pre-ordering comics
That Nathan Fairbairn fresco in full
Three early character descriptions with Jamie’s design sketches
Process pieces
‘Immortality, Of A Kind’ poem by Gillen
All 11 issues’ Writer’s Notes

We begin with Side A:

“Reach out and touch faith!”

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.

There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

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I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world’s most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

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And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. Malcolm McLaren. To Cassandra – a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology – the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she’s taking it all very personally.

The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, found within young, extant lives then activated by the pantheon’s keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age, austere and unknowable. Throughout the flux – the rise and the fall – Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn’t last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.

Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon’s goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.

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“Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me.”
“Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parent’s embarrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn’t understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who’s been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!”

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Lucifer’s favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci…

 

I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

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From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE and cyberpunk MERCURY HEAT, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter’s wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods’ current status. After each major act it’s updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.

As ever with Gillen there’s many a contempory pop culture reference – and I don’t just mean music – like Twitter DMs and “snapchats” and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:

“SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Blah blah blah…

“ANOTHER SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Yet more blah…

“AM I GOING TO HAVE TO
“GO ONTO THE SECOND
“PAGE OF SEARCH
“RESULTS? OH GOD. NO.
“This is turning into homework…”

Wicked And Divine vol 2 Clothes

Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen’s good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games’ most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.

Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan’s subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there’s none-more-goth than me.

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What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won’t tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it’s that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:

“Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn’t consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I’ve never tried. They do say I’ve a wicked tongue… Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“Not even a little bit of cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“What kind of teenager are you that you don’t have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?”

Tuned in.
Turned on.
Drop doubt.

It’s time to get recreational.

Wicked And Divine 0

Side B:

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

One of the most important lessons my maths teacher taught me had nothing to do with geometry.

“Always ask why,” he said. Always ask why.

For more, please see my WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 2 review.

SLH

Buy The Wicked + The Divine vol 1: Year One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invincible Iron Man vol 1: Reboot (£18-99 h/c; £10-99 s/c, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

This is the first book since SECRET WARS which I am not about to spoil with its most enormous repercussion here. I’ve even chosen the illustrations carefully.

There will be no love lost there but in Dr Amara Perera Tony may have finally found someone worth dropping his facade for. She’s not feisty, she’s thoughtful, and I like her already.

“I have a cure for the mutant gene.”
“You do not.”
“One that would absolutely do not harm to the host.”
“Wow.”
“But it… it is like curing Judaism. It’s not to be done. I won’t do it.”
“Because by the weekend it would become a law that everyone has to take the cure.”

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should is no new scientific argument, but usually those who have discovered fight the opposite, self-serving corner. I told you I like her.

“I didn’t even write it down. I didn’t want anyone to find it if I died.”
“That’s not good enough, actually. There are psychic spies, psychic industrial spies, and psychic mutants. And psychic mutant industrial spies.”

If that does become sub-plot it’s not happening here.

Invincible Iron Man vol 1 2

Under David Marquez the various Stark Towers, particularly the one is Japan, are slick pieces of architecture and Marquez’s fashion sense is impeccable with smooth, broad strokes for soft-skinned beauty contrasting with the most intricate details of Dr. Perera’s necklace or Madame Masque’s mask. It’s almost unearthly – which is handy given what will become of Madame Masque and her mask.

Invincible Iron Man vol 1 1

Yes, sorry, the protagonist is Stark’s ex-lover Madame Masque who – in an uncharacteristic departure – has taken it upon herself to seek out mystical artefacts which that have fallen through the cracks between dimensions into ours. What would possess her to do that?

None of this has ping-ed on the astral radar of our Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, but it’s certainly set off alarm bells at Castle Doomstadt – home to Doctor Doom – which Masque has raided for a Wand of Watoomb. Apparently there are five of those spell sticks. Who even knew there were two?

Again, not Doctor Strange, but in case you’ve forgotten Victor Von D is an accomplished mage himself and here comes before Stark as a much-changed man, and in more ways than one.

It’s going to drive Tony nuts.

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As much as anything else, this is a comedy. Everything Bendis writes is at least in part a comedy, even JESSICA JONES. The reason it works so well here is that Tony Stark is at the top of his inventive and mental-health game, but he’s thrown by all the magic involved, confounded by Doom’s open-arms about-face* and finally found a woman – in complete contrast to mentalist Madame Masque – who deserves being dealt with sincerely rather than charmed using his trade-mark, defective, deflective, non-stop quippery / self-deprecation:

“I can’t shake the idea that becoming the man that would actually deserve you… would be a good goal in life at this stage of the game.”

It’s not the only serious thing he says, either. For the first time there is some serious consideration of whether Tony truly has any friends he can offload to when things go wonky on the scale that they do. It would go some way to explaining his former ‘friend’ in the bottle. Offloading is important, but Stark’s faced with two walls few seem prepared to scale: in his line of work someone else’s day was almost certainly worse, and poor little rich boy, boo-hoo.

Some of the best exchanges are between Stark and his dead-pan, on-board artificial intelligence called Friday, partly because they can afford to upset / annoy each other, and do. I cannot wait, however, to see what happens when someone new joins the crew next volume. She’s been a major supporting cast member of another title for decades and Bendis has written her before but within NEW AVENGERS instead.

Lastly, this delivers the best “Hail Hydra” ever, in the most unexpected context.

Invincible Iron Man vol 1 4

* I am trying to be subtle here!

SLH

Buy Invincible Iron Man vol 1: Reboot h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Invincible Iron Man vol 1: Reboot s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Punisher War Journal s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Frank Tieri & Ariel Olivetti, Mike Deodato, Staz Johnson.

While Garth Ennis continued to bring serious real-world issues like sex slave-trafficking and military geopolitics into PUNISHER MAX, Fraction was assigned to tackle his interactions with the spandex brigade of Marvel Universe who at this point – you might have heard – had a bit of a bust-up called CIVIL WAR.

I haven’t wanted to read much of this which appears to be one long arched eyebrow from Luke Cage and co. aimed at Captain America enlisting the aid or accepting the assistance of Frank ‘Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right: I Think You’ll Find It’s 5,722 Wrongs’ Castle, but when I dipped in I quite enjoyed the issue set in a bar where some C-list super-villains are holding a wake for one of their own: the dude at high altitude, Stilt Man, a thief who’s shtick was to totter on top of a couple of ever-expanding tin tubes.

“Are there a lot of banks up on the 30th floor or something?”

It had the added advantage of being drawn by Deodato rather than Ariel ‘Opaque’ Olivetti, and you don’t generally associate Deodato with comedy, do you?

“It’s just – I’ve struggled with depression, you know? This is hard.”
“Let it out, guy. Let it allll out.”

Civil War Punisher War Journal

Deodato

 

Civil War Punisher War Journal 0

Olivetti

Every so often the primitive Doombot (Victor Von Doom decoy) which they’ve rigged to make the Stiltman’s wife think he ranked higher than he did declares “Kneel before Doom!” at random and increasingly funny intervals, even as he attempts to get served at the bar.

Here they’re toasting Wilbur Day, the Stilt-Man:

“To the man that made me a momentary super-villain!”
“Wilbur Day!”
“Wilbur Day!”
“Kneel before Doom!”

SLH

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

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

Goodness, you don’t think that cover gives the game away, do you?

In spite of some of the names credited above we are in the realms of Public Service Announcement rather than recommendation for – on top of all the ugly, unlisted dross to appear here – the Brubaker / Fraction / Aja IRON FIST short story will mystify anyone who’s not read Brubaker’s run on DAREDEVIL.

In addition the post-CIVIL WAR pieces written by Ellis and Bendis leading into THUNDERBOLTS and MIGHTY AVENGERS VOL 1 respectively are drawn by Silvestri and that’s no good thing by this point, the women being drawn in porn poses. Even the final shot of an armoured Iron Man from behind makes him look like he’s braced in stilettos. You’re not missing anything.

Civil War Marvel Universe

Collects CIVIL WAR: THE INITIATIVE #1, CIVIL WAR: CHOOSING SIDES #1, CIVIL WAR: THE RETURN #1, SHE-HULK (2005) #8 and WHAT IF: CIVIL WAR #1.

SLH

Buy Civil War: Marvel Universe and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War: Peter Parker Spider-Man s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Clayton Crane, Angel Medina, Sean Chen.

Ah, bless ol’ Spidey: he’s Amazing, he’s Sensational, he’s Friendly in your Neighbourhood, and he manages to be all three at the same time! Maybe you read CIVIL WAR and then CIVIL WAR: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and you thought you knew what Peter’d been up to during those hours. Somehow he’s managed to squeeze in all this as well.

I wish I had three titles: I could accomplish so much more!

I could do the dinner, the dishes, the drinking and play PS4 games in the HILARIOUS, HOUSE-BOUND HOLLAND. At the same time I could burn off all those calories down the Derbyshire Dales in SEASONAL STEPHEN, SAUNTERING while making money at Page 45 as TILL-MONKEY TURPIN. I could even take at least one ANNUAL holiday.

Anyway, by pure chance I actually read the first issue of this (SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #28, with art by Clayton Crain), and it’s brilliant. Its focus is Jordan, one of Peter’s students, a young man whose passion for marine biology has driven him to contact the University of Miami well in advance of needing to apply, just to find out what he should be doing right now. He studies hard on his own, but wants to be pushed and Peter – as Jordan’s fill-in biology teacher – has promised he’ll be there to push. Then, one morning, Jordan wakes up to see his teacher splashed all over the news, at a specially held press conference. Well, I know I’d be thinking “How does this affect my grades?!”

The script’s neither heavy nor sloppy, but warm with a twinkle in its eye, and with Dr. Octopus feeling just a little bit dim that – after originally unmasking Peter back when the boy was fifteen – he dismissed the kid as being too young to be Spider-Man and “threw him back”.

Can’t say I’ve read the rest or want to, but you may…

SLH

Buy Civil War: Peter Parker Spider-Man 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.

Take Me Back To Manchester (£12-00, self-published) by Oliver East

Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown

An Olympic Dream: The Story Of Samia Yusuf Omar (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Reinhard Kleist

Discover… The Ancient Egyptians (£8-99, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg

Discover… The Roman Empire (£8-99, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg

Hellboy: In Mexico s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Mike Mignola, various, Mike Mignola

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 12 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

The Manhattan Projects vol 6 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Rat Queens vol 3: Demons (£10-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Tess Fowler

Batman: Europa h/c (£16-99, DC) by Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee, Diego Latorre, Gerald Parel

Superman vol 6: The Men Of Tomorrow s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & John Romita

Invincible Iron Man vol 1: Reboot s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Mrs Deadpool And The Howling Commandos s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Salva Espin

Thanos: The Infinity Finale h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Ron Lim

Uncanny Avengers vol 1: Unity – Lost Future s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Ryan Stegman, Carlos Pacheco

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 7 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Fairy Tail vol 53 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Tsubasa: World Chronicle 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

News!

Love Lion 1

ITEM! Six-page preview of Magnetic Press’ LOVE: LION graphic novel.

You can pre-order LOVE: LION by Brremaud & Bertolucci from Page 45 here

Love Lion 2

You can buy LOVE: TIGER by Brremaud & Bertolucci, reviewed by Page 45, here

Love Tiger waterfall

 

Love Tiger waterfall 2

You can buy LOVE: FOX by Brremaud & Bertolucci, reviewed by Page 45, here

Love Fox 3

 

Love Fox 4

ITEM! Gerard Way interviewed about his very own ‘Young Animal’ DC comics imprint

Already written by Gerard Way we have:

UMBRELLA ACADEMY VOL 1

UMBRELLA ACADEMY VOL 2

TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS

Delilah Dirk King 2

ITEM! We reviewed Tony Cliff’s DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING a couple of weeks ago and DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT above.

However, to whet your appetiteTony Cliff has a 36-page self-published comic DELILAH DIRK AND THE SEEDS OF MISFORTUNE available online as a pay-what-you-want e-book.

Lumina

ITEM! Italian graphic novel LUMINA just needs a few more Euros to fund it. Looks pretty swoonaway to me!

1 Lakes Fest Clock Tower

ITEM! Ah yes, a rollickingly well edited promo video for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival: youtu.be/OiyhwGT4RP4

LICAF Beatrix Potter Competition

 

Beatrix Potter Competition

ITEM! New Beatrix Potter Competition For Students from The Lakes International Comic Art Festival!

Spread the word far, spread the word wide, my lovelies! Judges for the competition are #LICAF Patrons:

Sean Phillips
Emma Vieceli
Bryan Talbot
Mary Talbot

Stephen El Holland

Yes, this old buffoon! What on earth do I know about creativity? About Beatrix Potter…?

Enough to remind you that you really should have read Bryan Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT by now! Contemporary fiction set in the Lakes District, it’s pretty powerful stuff!

Tale Of One Bad Rat cover

 

Tale Of One Bad Rat 1

 

Tale Of One Bad Rat 2

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2016 week one

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Julie Doucet returns! So does The Phoenix Weekly Comics’ Von Doogan in a second fiendish puzzle comic for kids! Alan Turing sadly does not return, but is here all the same.

NEWS GALORE UNDERNEATH!

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

“Whoa.
“I am tripping my face off.”

And it all looks so innocent and straightforward on the cover.

I’m not sure chain-smoking’s a particularly wise idea for a 16-year-old – or at any age, trust me – but then MacKenzie’s going to be displaying a distinct lack of wisdom, 1980s-style, throughout. It wasn’t a particularly compassionate time, was it? I think you can trust the writer of EX MACHINA and SAGA to make that matter. Retrospect is a funny old thing. “The past is a foreign place” etc.

Before we begin, I like what Matt Wilson – colourist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE etc – has done with the faces within. The mouths, eyes and brows have retained Cliff Chiang’s black lines while the more subtle shadows round the lips, nose and furrows are gentle, darker tones of the flesh itself.

Apart from the winged apparition of Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe in full space helmet; and shaggy old Beelzebub torturing Erin’s young sister in her school classroom. Dreams, eh?

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“We warned you… Never eat from the Tree Of Knowledge.”

Of course it’s an apple. There will be a lot of apple for you to discover / decipher / decrypt along with a secret language – I’m not even joking. Decoding that by substituting letters of the alphabet for the symbols will yield many more lines of dialogue. There’s even an apple phone – which is ahead of its time.

November 1st 1988 and Erin awakes from her nightmare at 4-40am to prepare for her paper round. She’s got a big stash of cash in her bedroom’s desk drawer next to the keys and elastic-band ball so she’s obviously not doing badly, but this morning she’ll have to contend with the teenage detritus of last night’s Halloween. Thank goodness for MacKenzie, KJ and Tiffany, then – three more paper girls who’ve banded together for mutual protection precisely in case of dweebs like these.

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Erin is slightly in awe of MacKenzie, the first local paperboy who wasn’t actually a boy.

“Hey, I was the altar girl long before Mac took over her brother’s route.”
“Yeah, Tiffany’s like the Amelia Earhart of crap that doesn’t matter.”

They’re going to need it too because umm, that thing in the basement. Extra constellations in the sky. Extra creatures in the sky. Three skulking figures wrapped in black linen with far from humanoid pupils. You won’t like what they find underneath. Thank goodness one of the young ladies had saved up enough paper-round money for a set of walkie-talkies. You remember them…! Oh god, you’re only eighteen, aren’t you?

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I love how the kids attempt to rationalise all the strangeness their lives have just become in terms they can comprehend without completely freaking out. People keep blinking in and out of existence as if they’re not really there. Or weren’t there. Or won’t be.

Take MacKenzie’s mom who is well past freaking out and reduced to glugging bourbon straight from the bottle. She introduces herself to Mac’s friends, but…

“Actually Alice is my stepmother. She met my dad in A.A.”
“Which part of anonymous don’t you understand?”
“I don’t know, which part of not drinking don’t you understand?”

Paper Girls 1

There’s an excellent execution of environment with Cliff Chiang providing scowls, late ‘80s early teen fashion, exquisite figure work, pavement-level perspectives and a sprawling, early morning suburbia with enough trees to make it somewhere you wouldn’t actively hate too much to live – unless, like MacKenzie, you have the local cops on your case. Once this essential grounding’s been done in dullsville, the odd giant flying reptile tends to mark more of an impact.

Best sequence so far: Tiffany’s life flashing before her eyes. All of it.

“…Why didn’t I stop when I was stuck at Level 28…”

Hilarious.

Paper Girls 4

SLH

Buy Paper Girls vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Photo-comics – weren’t they fun?

Julie Doucet: she was a riot too!

Now the creator of MY NEW YORK DIARY and MY MOST SECRET DESIRE is back, but she’s ditched the drawing board for paper, scissors and glue, creating satirical short-story collages from 1970s Italian fumetti and – by the look of the type-faces – slightly earlier magazine adverts.

The women are kohl-eyed, demure, wistful and all waiting for Mr Wonderful to come along and sweep them off their suburban feet with the latest carpet cleaner or sundry other domestic appliance. That’s the state of the sweet nothings on offer from these Connery Bonds and Roger-Moore Saints as they express their adoration in words that only a housewife would understand:

“Kiddie, I AM Dust-Resistance for you. ME Clean “Magic” carpet LOVE.”

Carpet Sweeper Tales 2 - Copy

And if you think love and romance is all that’s become commoditised, I offer you spirituality in the form of Sister Chevrolet!

Sister Chevrolet – the nun who runs on many more miles per gallon than any other wimpled recluse – pimps the Virtue Bra and teaches caution at all times, especially when it comes to one’s own inner plumbing:

“Install the new Safest Chimney ever built NOW!”

Carpet Sweeper Tales 1 - Copy

Yes, do it now – and at all costs before page 132 when the first of the one-track brat packs appear! These James Dean drop-outs have got on their bikes in search of skirt, and got their leathers in a virtually monosyllabic lather:

“OOOK!”
“DDDDDOLL!!!”
“BBABYYYY”

You can almost see the drool dripping onto their chrome handlebars. Finally the poor woman snaps and confronts them face-on.

“STOP it you APES, me no banana.” This they clearly can’t comprehend, for she’s met from a floating fence of question marks and she’s not best pleased – disdainful in fact – “Boo boo!”

By the time we get to “Tuf! Treat ‘em Ruf They Plenty Tuf!” the Marlon Brando bonobos have forgotten what women even are, along with vowels. Instead they turn on each other with one long, primal and guttural consonant: “ggggggggggggg”.

“Bbbbbbbbbb,” begins another before their allegiances dissolve and they resort to that time-honoured past-time of all healthy young males: smacking seven shades of shit out of each other. Down goes the weakest, held face-down in the dirt before hissing a resentful submission. It’s good to be a guy!

All this is rendered in multiple type-faces which I can’t duplicate in this blog or on our product pages, ‘B’s, ‘b’s, ‘G’s and ‘g’s in multiple fonts flaunting most laws of grammar. It’s all very merry and mirthful, although I have to confess some the material in the middle lost me.

I leave you with the inner musings of a nascent feminist determined to stand on her own two feet:

“I AM me NO hangers around, no Sponge no Rfrigerator…
“IM A BIRD.”

BBbbbbbabbyyyYYY.

SLH

Buy Carpet Sweeper Tales and read the Page 45 review here

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

“People don’t want to be free. They want to be slaves. They want to be told how to live. They want an excuse to complain, an excuse for failing in life.
“Peace is the greatest gift we can offer humanity, but sometimes violence is necessary to obtain it. Peace can only be maintained by absolute power. And absolute power comes from money. This is why the masses must endure misery: to live in peace.
“Nanomachine G is an attack on capitalism and the very balance of our democracy. The people find peace from envying the rich and taking no accountability for themselves.”

All hail President Trump! Ah, sorry… wrong dystopian future…

Well, Magnetic Press have turned up another gem! Following on from the likes of LOVE: THE TIGER, LOVE: THE FOX (and the forthcoming LOVE: THE LION), DOOMBOY and A GLANCE BACKWARDS comes another slice of self-contained hybrid Euro / Japanese style sci-fi in the mode of former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month ZAYA.

Golem-4

Set in a frenetic hyper-capitalist Italy – now little more than a tiny node within the overarching Eurasian superstate, which is itself merely a front for four controlling mega-corporations that have achieved almost complete control of the citizens through an indoctrinated culture of spend, spend, spend – paid-for politicians front the show and ensure the wheels of industry run ever smooth.

Every consumer’s need is anticipated and a simple and immediate route to purchase provided. About to run out of toothpaste? Don’t worry! A virtual advert, floating in mid-air, complete with buy button will pop up in right front of you. About to run out of comics? Don’t worry! Head to www.page45.com and… whoops, got a bit carried away there…

Golem-1

This relentless, quite literally in-your-face continuous 24/7 sales pitch, all under the auspices of making peoples’ lives simpler – of course – has greatly contributed towards turning the populace into good little consumer drones. That’s exactly how they wanted it, though, if you believe the faceless ones in charge that is… Cash dispensers even offer an optional fruit machine game: a chance to win some extra cash for a small fee, though in reality it is of course a mug’s game. What a hideous nightmare, though it is really that unbelievable? I suggest to you it is already well on the way. It might only be targeted advertising on your browser today…

However, there is hope. Several years previously a scientist was on the verge of a miraculous breakthrough called Nanomachine G, a particle capable of recombining matter at the molecular level using just a little water and light. Anything could be transformed into anything else. Limitless inorganic and organic resources beckoned… removing the need for production and all its associated waste, pollution and energy consumption at a stroke. Removing the need for commerce, therefore. But no commerce means no need for money… which means capitalism dies. Unsurprisingly, those four mega-corporations controlling the status quo were not happy at all.

“Our power is based on commercial consumption. A one-way channel of goods!”
“A machine that can freely transform and recombine matter will allow people to produce any goods they want! It will eliminate the very concept of purchase and possession!”
“An economy based not on money, but on the concept of sustainable recycling and the free sharing of knowledge… do you have any idea what that would mean??”
“Stop them. By whatever violence necessary. Or you will pay with your own life. Go! That’s an order of the high board of Eurasia!”

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So they thought they’d silenced the scientist permanently, before he could complete his work. In a way they did, but not before he’d hidden it in the most unlikely of places. Now, a small resistance group of futuristic ninjas known as the Shorai, aimed with illegal cutting edge technology, have seen a unique opportunity arise to try and take down the government and free the population from their ideological and fiscal chains.

I really, really enjoyed this. Yes, it’s a wee bit whimsical in that way Euro sci-fi can be, rather than pure hard sci-fi in the ilk of say LAZARUS. But it’s clearly pushing a message that the vast majority of us would dearly espouse. Evil mega-corporation owning overlords aside, I think we’d all like to see the sort of utopian future that Nanomachine G might bring about. Wouldn’t we? You don’t really find peace from envying the rich and taking no accountability for yourself, do you?

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The art, though, is genuinely exceptional. If you are a Brandon Graham fan then I think you’ll be in absolutely heaven. I have no idea if Lorenzo Ceccotti is a Brandon Graham fan or vice versa, but the similarities are most certainly there in the illustration style. Then there are also those hints of other Magnetic Press books like ZAYA and LUMINAE, also present in pure manga like Tsutomu Nihei’s ultra-kinetic BIOMEGA. Plus there are some seemingly almost oil-painted dream sequences which are used to great dramatic effect. I presume they are actually done using computer software.

I’ll freely confess I hadn’t heard of this Italian creator before, but I am extremely impressed. I will have to ask my Italian bank manager mate who is a massive fumetti fan to see if he is well known over there. Hmm, actually thinking about it, bank managers, they wouldn’t want a world without money would they, or they’d be out of a job?!

JR

Buy Golem and read the Page 45 review here

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

“That wasn’t the only madness he was up to.
“There was also, well… I don’t even know how to… I mean, I was proud of him, but…
“Machines that think? How… distressing.”

Hmm… she was very good at changing the subject, Alan’s mum. Particularly when people were trying to pin her down on whether she knew about his sexuality. I read an extremely good book regarding the wartime goings-on at Bletchley Park and the various code-breakers many years ago, the name of which eludes me now, unfortunately. But understandably it contained a substantial section on Alan Turing, though primarily focused on his immense contribution to the war effort, so I was reasonably aware of him already from that respect.

This work covers not only that esteemed service to King and country which saw him awarded an O.B.E. immediately after the war in 1945, but also substantially bookends it, beginning with his childhood as a socially awkward mathematical prodigy, his subsequent prodigious academic achievements at Cambridge and Princeton, and his burgeoning reputation as a leading thinker of his time. Post-war it covers his remarkable grounding-breaking work in the design of possible ‘stored-program’ computers and his still applied Turing Test which has become an indispensable concept in the debate surrounding artificial intelligence.

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Then comes his devastating fall from grace due to his arrest for gross indecency in 1952, homosexual acts between men being a criminal offence in UK at the time, a law that was not changed, albeit then even partially, for over another decade. Offered hormone treatment as an alternative to imprisonment (in effect chemical castration), the immensely detrimental effects on his mind and body tragically led to his death within two years.

Whether it was suicide or not remains the subject of some debate, though it seems inconceivable to me given the circumstances of his demise that Turing did not choose to end his suffering. (Which is handled very well here, actually, and something Ottaviani talks about in his afterword.) That such a visionary, on the cusp of further amazing discoveries and progress, could be brought down in such a devastating and discriminatory fashion is a salutary reminder it really isn’t that long ago that times were very different and much less enlightened indeed.

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This is an extremely detailed and thorough graphic biography. I shouldn’t be surprised, it coming from the same writer as FEYNMAN and PRIMATES: THE FEARLESS SCIENCE OF JANE GOODALL, DIAN FOSSEY & BIRUTE GALDIKAS. It works through both a direct presentation of the facts and also retrospective interview excerpts with family and colleagues, talking about Alan directly. What comes across very strongly is just what a remarkable man he was, held in the very highest esteem by those who understood his work, or him, just enough to see his brilliance, and through his shy, shuttering demeanour that could easily be misunderstood for aloofness.

It took me a little while to get into the art, I must say. Leland Purvis’ style not being so easy on the eye as Ottaviani’s collaborators on his other works, but once I had I didn’t find it a distraction at all. Though I suspect that is in great part testament to the fascinating subject matter and the writing. There are some excellent conceits and artistic devices employed upon occasion that add a little something, though. I particularly enjoyed a theoretical discussion between Alan and two colleagues on the subject of building a machine (the term computer not yet being in use) constructed of an infinitely long strip of paper with someone marking marks on it to give this construct instructions. As the three walk through their imaginary discussion, alongside the paper, Alan gradually leaves his colleagues behind in their respective capacities to understand his ideas, and eventually is surprised to find himself standing alone, holding the paper, looking around to see where they have disappeared to, before shrugging his shoulders and carrying on, theorising to himself.

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For anyone wanting to learn more about this great man, a true genius of the 20th century, who ought to be held in as high regard as the likes of Albert Einstein for his contributions to science, this is an excellent starting point. Most people aren’t aware but there is actually an annual award, the A.M. Turing Award, which is given to an “individual selected for contributions of lasting and major technical importance in the field of computer science.” This award is recognised as the highest possible distinction one can achieve in the field, and is regarded as being as prestigious as a Nobel Prize. So it’s nice to know that at least his peers did find a way to recognise his brilliance for all posterity.

JR

Buy The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Game h/c and read the Page 45 review here

 

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

Suffering semaphore!

How keen are your code-cracking skills? How refined is your spatial awareness and how sharp your straightforward eyesight? Strategic planning? Is this the season of reason for you?

If your answers are “mighty” and “I leap logic for breakfast” then this is the comic for you!

Comic…? Why yes, from THE PHOENIX comic weekly, that stable of thoroughbred storytelling, this is both a death-defying, danger-driven, neurotic, exotic comicbook adventure and a set of 37 mind-frazzling puzzles so grin-inducing fiendish that they will ruin other puzzle books for you.

Except for Lorenzo’s previous puzzle-comic VON DOOGAN AND THE CURSE OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY, of course!

Von Doogan Great Air Race 1

To move the story along you will need to solve puzzles like these:

See through a disguise in a crowd by piecing together what someone’s torn up and trashed.

Escape through the burning wreckage of a fuselage using fire extinguishers to clear paths through a maze – but each fire takes up a whole tank and you can only carry two extinguishers at once – it’s trickier than you think!

Repair circuitry, avoid collision, and identify which pilot is flying which plane based on a series of statements.

Best of the lot: after examining a map of a cafe and 8 separate pieces of time-specific and location-centric evidence from 4 different waiters, work out who was the only diner that night who didn’t have an opportunity to poison competitor Klaus!

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Impossibility Levels ranging from one to five indicate how much of a meal you might make of things.

With puzzle 1, ‘Sandwich Secret’, you’re looking at a light snack – no, you actually are! There’s a tray in front of Von Doogan bearing sandwiches, a drink with a straw and umm, a triangle (because triangles are tasty?) You need to summon your spatial awareness skills to work out how each of the items would look to Von Doogan (who’s facing you) in order to decode a secret message, thence a secret location around you in the room. This has an Impossibility Level of Two Skulls.

But up immediately next is The Magic Square puzzle whose solution will enable you to work out numeric values of similarly square but quite complex symbols which when translated into letters in turn reveal the location of a race, after which there’s another challenge to discover its date… all on the very second page! This has an Impossibility of Five Skulls – Five Skulls already!

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What I’m trying to convey is that these are far from straight forward, and you will at the very least need a pen and scrap paper, a pair of scissors and Doogan’s Danger Kit, a copy of which you can download from an address in the back so you won’t need to cut up the book (or you can trace shapes and use coins).

You will also need maths skills. Not advanced mechanics skills, but maths skills all the same. At one point to you have to determine how long you’ve got to rescue a pilot bailing from her plane by calculating how long her parachute drop takes when free-falling then open, after which how long she can survive at sea during specific water temperatures.

There are clues in the back if you struggle on any particular page and then the solutions. I think I found an additional solution to ‘The Dreaded Fog’ which didn’t involve me crashing my plane and which may have moved me ahead in the race! Umm, it might also have got me disqualified.

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I cannot begin to tell you how much glee I gleaned from this, but I do wonder if you’ll work out long before I did exactly which character is attempting to sabotage your best efforts to win this whacky race. There is a certain logic I should have seen through earlier, and I think you may rechristen me Dumbo. Do let me know!

For laugh-out-loud Etherington Brothers idiocy (Lorenzo being joined by Robin), please see their LONG GONE DON and MONKEY NUTS graphic novels.

SLH

Buy Von Doogan And The Great Air Race and read the Page 45 review here

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

‘Chapter 5: The Shipshape Shop’

“The Captain did not choose the name of his shop because he liked to keep things tidy. The shop was almost as messy as Ruby’s bedroom. No, the real reason was that The Shipshape Shop was a shop shaped exactly like a ship. Which is hard to believe, but even harder to say.”

Haha! Brilliant!

A shop shaped like a ship! What could be cooler than that? If it sold comics, of course, and it does!

Two of its most popular titles are the titular FREAKY and FEARLESS – printed throughout this book in their EC-style, blood-dripping logos – much beloved by storyteller Simon and his ace-cartoonist mate Whippet. The book opens with the first three pages of the latest issue of FEARLESS and, my, how prophetic they’ll prove to be! Indeed, it gradually dawns on Simon that so much of what happens today will have been presaged by stuff that popped into his head – almost if he made it come true!

Illustrated prose perfect for those of my own mental age (if not reading ability!) written by one half of the Etherington Brothers, the mirth-merchants responsible for kids comics LONG GONE DON and MONKEY NUTS, instead of FREAKY & FEARLESS this could have been equally aptly entitled, ‘Smelly & smellier’ for it includes a chapter called ‘The Toilet That Trolls Built and it pongs like nobody’s business.

It clops along at a cracking pace and it is – as you’d expect – both thrilling and hilarious but it also boasts an arresting turn of phrase of two for, then it comes to said toilet…

“Darkness looked as if it had been painted across every inch of the rotten, two-storey shack, and painted with a brush made from pure misery.”

Simon had never seen the shack before because it was hidden under the archway of Turnaway Bridge whose foreboding nature had always instilled in Simon so much fear that he’d never been able to face it. Jan Bielecki’s illustration for the page on which he finally does so positively looms over the boy, the black left-hand page with its white words sucking all warmth as well as light from the scene.

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Does this all sound too scary? It isn’t! It’s eerie, to be sure, and exciting, I swear, but at the same time it’s mostly played for adrenalin and laughs as Simon, Whippet and the dual-crossbow wielding, no-nonsense, nine-year-old death-machine known as Lucy Shufflebottom pursue a shadowy creature which has escaped from Castle Fearless, pursued Simon at a distance then snatched his baby sister Ruby. Why?!

Have you ever played ‘Simon Says’?

I have so much I could shout about here, from the clever way Robin drops Simon’s age into the proceedings by pronouncing that his eleven-year-old arms weren’t up to a task (how much better than the dismally dull “Simon was eleven years old”) to chapter titles like ‘Seven Seconds In Which The Worst Happened’ during which the worst happens during seven bullet-pointed seconds arranged down a no-pause-for-breath time-line… and Simon spinning one of his fanciful yarns about The True Pre-History Of Garden Gnomes And The Slightly More Migratory, Predatory Dinosaurs.

“The word ‘massacre’ isn’t quite big enough, so let’s say that by the time the dinosaurs were finished, there were very few gnomes left in one piece. Those that did survive did so by hiding. Standing still didn’t work. The dinosaurs called the gnomes who tried to hide by standing still ‘ready meals’. The ones who tried to run were known as ‘fast food’.”

Look, we don’t stock that much prose here. With 7,000 different graphic novels we’ve no room for prose if it ain’t absolute genius like Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Dave Shelton, Gary Northfield, Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre, Patrick Ness & Jim Kay. I’m struggling to think of much more, making it less than 0.25% of our stock. I’m having this because I bloody loved it and any of our younger readers who enjoy our more ridiculous graphic novels in THE PHOENIX weekly comic range by Northfield, Smart, Murphy and Turner will laugh their snot-ridden heads off.

Oh, and do you remember The Shipshape Shop that sells comics?

“One final thought: you two can believe what you like, but Captain Armstrong really is a pirate. I’ve seen him in action. The real question to ask is why would a famous pirate sell comics for a living?”

*smiles benignly*

SLH

Buy Freaky & Fearless: How To Tell A Tall Tale and read the Page 45 review here

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

“No more attachés, no more revenge…
“No more hundred bullets. Graves’ game is over.”

Oh, but it has been a very long game, cleverly played, and it ain’t over until Agent Graves says it’s over. There are many more bodies to be bagged before then.

No one here gives up without a fight, least of all Lono and, let me tell you, it’s going to get gruesome.

There has been an additional mini-series since these 100 issues, already collected into 100 BULLETS: BROTHER LONO which, if anything, is even more wince-worthy. Each previous book has also been reviewed in greater depth than this. However, how’s this to whet your appetite?

100 BULLETS was riveting crime fiction which sensibly began with a simple proposition before spirally into all-out warfare.

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The war is being waged between the Houses of The Trust, The Minutemen they used to employ as keepers of the peace, and anyone Agent Graves believes he can use in his very long game of goading, guile and perfect positioning, even from the very beginning.

The proposition was this: ancient Agent Graves would turn up at your house and present you with a briefcase. In that briefcase would be irrefutable evidence that someone has done you wrong, who the culprit was, and how if not why. Also enclosed: a gun and 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. By that I mean that if these rounds were found spent or unspent at the scene of any crime, all investigation into that crime would cease. You have immunity – from the cops at least. What would you do?

Every nuance, every cadence of contemporary urban street patter is captured. Each line has a lovely lilt, and every character is ridiculously witty that the series reads like one long Jim ‘Foetus’ Thirwell song.

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As the series unfurls sleeper agents are activated, sides are taken, sides are swapped and lives are wrecked at home, in the street, and in prisons, bars and hotels all over the country. Now the final battle is on.

The shadows – already dark – grow longer, the colours are very rich in red and, lord, but those bruises are livid.

“Some people just deserve to die.”

The End.

SLH

Buy 100 Bullets Book 5 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“That’s all you got?
“My father hit harder than that.”

Ooof!

You love alternate Earths with divergent histories, don’t you? Stuff like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, MINISTRY OF SPACE. Here’s another and it’s fiercely intelligent and fresh. There have been four substantial reviews of EAST OF WEST already – the first two by Jonathan; the second pair by me – so this is just a nudge to say that book five has arrived and that they are all very much deserving of your attention.

America which has been divided between Seven Nations, representatives of whom sit on a secret council and conspire against each other, vying for power, even though their goal is the same: to bring about Armageddon. It is their sworn duty, for they are The Chosen who follow The Message, a sacred text heralding the end of the world.

Fighting the same nihilistic corner are the Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, resurrected in EAST OF WEST VOL 1 as children. Well, three of them were: War, Famine and Conquest. Death was conspicuously absent.

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Why? Death, had stayed behind as a white-skinned, white-haired, white-clothed, gun-slinging adult because he’d fallen in love with Xiaolian Mao, now leader of the Mandarin-speaking People’s Republic Of America and a woman who, he discovered, had born him a child.

The hunt is now on for that son dubbed The Great Beast, Babylon.

The Child Horsemen want to kill Death’s progeny; Death wants to save him.

Death wants to save the whole world.

It’s that sort of a book, riddled with ironies, like the Endless Nation of Native Americans once so myth-based now being the technological champions of the modern world and, militarily, its mightiest: they have just conquered The United States of Texas.

Hahahahahaha!

SLH

Buy East Of West vol 5: All These Secrets and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Hnh. Almost amusing. The silent king cannot keep his word.”

Very good, very good! If I’d written a line like that I’d have taken the rest of the month off.

Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee’s self-contained INHUMANS s/c or h/c comes highly recommended as an introduction to this royal family but also to all – not just Marvel superhero fans – as a very clever, considered and beautiful series about society. Some of it smacked of Neil Gaiman. No word of a lie.

This is much more Marvel-centric and quite specific in its context but certainly one of the best most recent examples with a cracking punchline bursting with attitude which was set up very early on indeed. Comeuppances are so very satisfying.

From the creative team behind the DEATH OF WOLVERINE, the first chapter shone under its clear blue skies, crackling temporal energy and the sound of a whispered word. No clues as to whose required.

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Uncanny Inhumans 2

I personally missed Justin Ponsor’s colours after that opening salvo, but it’s still all much more attractive than this stiff and ill-composed cover.

The silent king is Black Bolt who cannot speak a word for fear of levelling a mountain – the very essence of the strong, silent macho man – and he’s certainly going to be biting that stiff upper lip raw now that he’s been deposed and his ex, Queen Medusa, is dating the Human Torch. It’s a startling development given The Torch’s history with Medusa as a member of the Frightful Four and with Medusa’s sister Crystal as an ex-lover. Also given that Medusa is one of the most reserved and dignified characters in Marvel’s stable, while Johnny Storm is its mad, rutting colt.

It all came crashing down for Black Bolt in the highly recommended Avengers crossover INFINITY VOL 1 and INFINITY VOL 2 from which to you can move straight on to here. Here is mere moments before SECRET WARS – before the death of everything.

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Events first brought to light in NEW AVENGERS VOL 1: EVERYTHING DIES are about to come to a cataclysmic head as the two main Marvel Earths (regular and Ultimate) are about to collide, wiping them both out along with their universes. That is why Black Bolt’s palm is glowing: the final Incursion is imminent and there is one thing above all which he must ensure – that his son Ahura survives. Now, how would you ensure someone survives the end of the universe, do you think? I’d probably take them outside of time itself.

“If I do this thing for you, if I take your son back into the timestream with me, saving him from what is to come, then he is mine.
“Forever.
“Even if the death of the universe is somehow averted, know that Ahura will belong to Kang always.”

Yes, it’s Kang The Constantly Conquered.

Chapters two to five take place after SECRET WARS when, umm, the death of the universe was somehow averted. Whoops.

SLH

Buy The Uncanny Inhumans vol: Time Crush 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.

5000 Km Per Second h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Fior

Delilah Dirk And The Turkish Lieutenant (£12-99, First Second) by Tony Cliff

Giant Days vol 2 (£10-99, Boom) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 2: Creation Myths s/c (£10-99, Archaia) by Joshua Dysart & Brian Froud, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Chain Mail Bikini: The Anthology Of Women Gamers (£14-99, ) by various

The Complete Alice In Wonderland s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Lewis Carroll, Leah Moore, John Reppion & Erica Awano

Flink (£10-50, Image) by Doug TenNapel

The Journey h/c (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Francesca Sanna

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal

Munch (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by Steffen Kverneland

The Wicked + The Divine vol 1: Year One h/c (£33-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Wild Animals Of The North h/c (£20-00, Flying Eye Books) by Dieter Braun

Batman: Adventures vol 4 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Bruce Timm, various

Gotham By Midnight vol 2: Rest In Peace s/c (£12-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Juan Ferreyra

Wonder Woman: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Worldwide s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 3 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest, J. Torres & Sal Veluto, Jorge Lucas, Ryan Bodenheim, Jon Bogdanove, John Buscema, Paolo Rivera

Civil War: Peter Parker Spider-Man s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Clayton Crane, Angel Medina, Sean Chen

Civil War: Punisher War Journal s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Frank Tieri & Ariel Olivetti, Mike Deodato, Staz Johnson

Invincible Iron Man vol 1: Reboot h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Awkward Silence vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Hinako Takanaga

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 34-36 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 4 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura

News!

Paul Duffield costume

ITEM! I think you’ll agree this is a pretty neat design from FREAKANGELS’ Paul Duffield which would look perfectly at home in his continuing FARLIGHT ISLE project, yes?

Now, imagine Paul Duffield actually inhabiting that costume. In real life! Photos! Pretty special, huh?

Fegredo time lapse - Copy

ITEM! Duncan Fegredo draws! Time-lapse! Jaw-drop! Etc! I find watching all those individual creative decisions and revisions being made fascinating.

Julia Scheele - Copy

ITEM! For those who’ve enjoyed the Sarah Burgess and Jade Sarson’s pages I’ve linked to here, I think you’ll love the empathy and understanding Julia Scheele brings to mental health / confidence in her comics.

Rachel Rising vol 4

 ITEM! Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING BLACK EDITION OMNIBUS – pre-order now direct from Terry Moore only!

750 copies only worldwide
Signed, limited bookplate
Signed, limited print BUT ONLY FOR THOSE WHO PRE-ORDER
$90 before postage is not expensive. IT’S LESS THAN THE 7 SOFTCOVERS IT CONTAINS!

Why we love RACHEL RISING: all six books so far reviewed by silly old Stephen.

Giant Days vol 2

ITEM! John Allison’s most recent BOBBINS from the beginning. I’ll never get tired of typing sentences like that. Free online comics are one thing, but free online comics as funny as that?

Err, why we love John Allison: BAD MACHINERY/ GIANT DAYS / EXPECTING TO FLY / MURDER SHE WRITES comics all in stock and all reviewed apart from GIANT DAYS VOL 2, out today and in stock now!

 

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ITEM! Another blog, another new graphic novel from THE PHOENIX weekly comic library reviewed above, plus an Etherington Brother prose book too!

Page 45 now has a category for all of THE PHOENIX comic’s graphic novels (as well as associates) which you can reach from our website’s front page by clicking on:

LET’S START SHOPPING
TEEN & YOUNGER READERS
YOUNGER READERS
PHOENIX BOOKS at the top!

Cairo Mural - Copy

ITEM! Giant mural across 50 buildings in Cairo! And if you think this image is spectacular, click on the link for photos of its creation, night scenes and so much more!

Cairo Mural at night - Copy

 

Rough Trade cover

ITEM! Rough Trade has a brand-new music magazine out! Oh yeah! You can buy it from that product page or from Rough Trade shops in London, New York City and Nottingham. Nottingham!

Apart from our shared adoration of our respective media and our fiercely guarded independence, why that launch – and Rough Trade in general – is particularly important to Page 45 will become increasingly clear in the next few months.

Fabulous interview with Rough Trade Magazines’ curator Liz Siddall – another name you’ll be hearing a lot more of here. I like her No Wankers policy.

Rough Trade Nottingham

Rough Trade Records Nottingham, 5 Broad Street. 0115 8964012

– Stephen