Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2016 week three

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”
“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.


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.

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


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!

1 Sarah McIntyre Neil Gaiman

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!

1 Seawigs sketched

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?


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