Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2016 week two

Featuring Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, Kieron Gillen & Ignacio Calero, Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott, Sarah Andersen, Simon Hanselmann, Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen, Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood, Pierre Maurel, Sylviane Corgiat & Corrado Mastantuono, Brian K Vaughn & Steve Skroce and more!

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

“You going to invite me in?”
“That’s vampires, Alex… Besides, the house knows you.”
“You might’ve set wards.”
“Not yet.”
“That didn’t sound like a joke… Ro? Are you serious?”
“I’m being targeted. Someone… someone is coming for me.”

There’s something about the way that Detective Rowan Black announces her presence at the hostage scene. As she settles into the headphones and mike, her eyes become hooded, staring into a distance measured not just in metres, but in years. Many, many years.

“I’m here” comes with far more weight than a mere “I can hear you.”

Less than an hour ago, she wasn’t anywhere near hostages in the burger bar on McKenna.

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Less than an hour ago Detective Rowan Black was celebrating the balance of the spirit and the flesh, the cycle of death and rebirth, “The Lady and the Lord entwined and entranced, beloved and belonging…” with her the rest of her coven, sequestered in a forest under the crisp light of a full white moon…

Then her mobile phone went off.

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From the writer of LAZARUS. Had I not known, then I would never have guessed it. I don’t mean to impugn the quality here; I mean to commend a writer’s refreshing versatility. I can perceive little connection between the two in style or content, only in the depth of research involved.

For fans of RACHEL RISING we are once more in the realms of witches. Witches who historically have not been well received, so obvious Rowan’s department hasn’t the first fucking clue.

This deliberately, specifically, seeks to juxtapose the contemporary, the clinical, the procedural and the professional with the personal, the spiritual, the historical and arcane which may seem completely at odds or, if not merely at odds then worse: dangerously misaligned.

And now these worlds will collide.

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Oh, you may think on first reading that Nicola Scott’s painted art with its deep motorcycle tyre treads and perfect pelvises is monochromatic, but look again! For a start it’s certainly not black and white, but the softest of warm, natural colours like sable, rabbit pelt and antler grey. The architecture’s very plush. Nobody’s short of a few bob here, not least our Rowan – wait until you witness Rowan’s cubbyhole of grimoires and other esoteric objects! – who probably couldn’t afford all that on a Portsmouth Police pay packet, no.

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Yes, the colouring is restrained, reserved for maximum impact during moments of magic and sudden conflagration when Chiara Arena really lets rip. When that protective ward is finally cast it is breath-taking, sublime. When Rowan glamours a blank silver zippo lighter – freshly engraved with a distracting sigil to disguise it as the police evidence she’s about to purloin – it glows a feint turquoise which only the reader and Rowan can see. Nichole certainly can’t even though she’s looking straight at it. I love implication and inference, don’t you?

But when the hostage taker has secured Rowan alone at the beginning of the book and drops that damned zippo, lit, into the kerosene, the result is truly incandescent.

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“There’s something off with this guy.”
“I think taking hostages was the first clue.”

No, there’s something very seriously off with that guy, and the third clue was kerosene. The second was asking for Detective Rowan Black by name.

His own was Rowan White, by the way, and none of this did he do voluntarily.

“Alex? It’s me.
“It’s starting again.”


Buy Black Magick vol 1: Awakening and read the Page 45 review here

Descender vol 2: Machine Moon (£10-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen.

“This is so… weird. I’ve never seen a book on paper. Why do you like reading them like this? Feels so… fake.”
“I don’t know. Mom used to read them to Andy and me before bed. I grew to enjoy it.”

Any science fiction worth its salty credit chips will not only make you think of the future ahead but ponder the present right in front of you. Different perspectives can be so useful in making you reconsider your own or appreciate it in greater depth.

I’m of an age where reading anything other than printed paper still seems artificially, tinny, awkward and fake: even reviews on a computer screen but most certainly prose or comics on a tablet! To our two robotic boys fashioned to mimic as closely as possible ten-year-olds in order to become perfect companions for humans, young or old, anything other than a straight digital download is going to seem clumsy and impure.

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But of course the Tim series’ emotive abilities were enhanced to adapt and expand, and Tim-21’s experience as a brother to human colonist Andy has left him missing his absent friend terribly. The picture book Tim-21 salvaged from his former colony stars Trinket Tocket And His Tin Rocket, a nod towards another young android, Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy. As Tim-22 excitably dashes off leaving his new companion alone, Tim-21’s artificial fingers trace the wobbly, handwritten inscription below the printed “This book belongs to”:

“Andy Tavers and Tim-21”.

Their friendship bonded in a book for all to see, like some proud, legally binding document.

It is that childhood friendship seen from both perspectives after so many years apart which will form the heart of this second volume, along with the nascent relationship between the two Tim bots which will prove far from obvious (they’ve had different experiences, after all) and that between Tim-21 and Bandit, the artificial dog he’s been forced to abandon on a hostile planet.

Can you imagine what that must feel like?

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The key to this title’s success is that Lemire and Nguyen have both imbued Tim-21 with more humanity than anyone else in this series which now seems set of a cycle of destruction. They only way you can tell Tim-21 and Tim-22 apart – and indeed Tim-22 from a human child – is that latter’s lack of speech contractions and perhaps an overly analytical interest in what’s prepossessing him. Tim-21’s ditched that in favour of something simple, more intuitive: a core response to his own feelings.

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For a detailed analysis of the catastrophic events leading to a universe if which our treasured robotic servants have become outlawed and hunted down in the hope extinction through no fault of their own, please see my extensive review of DESCENDER VOL 1: TIN STARS. The plot is ridiculously clever with a great big lie revealed right at the climax which makes a re-read almost obligatory, and I stick to my guns comparing Nguyen’s delicate, lambent watercolour washes here – loose enough to let lots of white-paper light shine through – to Jon J. Muth’s in the much-missed MOONSHADOW collection. Blugger even reminds me of Ira.

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Now you will meet not only The Hardwire robots, rebelling against the universal cull (designated terrorists, obviously) but also The Between whose queen has a personal past with one of our cast. They’re technologically augmented humans. Quite how they’ll fit into the big picture I’ve no idea, but The Hardwire won’t necessarily respond in kind to their cull because – remember – they are not human and we shouldn’t judge them by our own lack of standards. Although one of them’s quickly catching up, obviously…

Now, what about Tim-21’s dream about a robotic afterlife, like some heavenly data-dump up in the clouds…?

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Buy Descender vol 2: Machine Moon and read the Page 45 review here

The Fuse vol 3: Perihelion s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood…

“This is not so bad. I expected chaos.”
“Hold that thought, Marlene. After today’s done, then come talk to me about chaos.”
“I find the entire concept fascinating. Five million kilometres closer to the Sun may sound a lot, but our total distance is still 147 million kilometres. On a stellar scale the difference is negligible.”
“And yet, enough to drive people crazy.”
“But I wonder, how much of it is cultural? A self-perpetuating social construct. What if people go crazy on Perihelion day precisely because everyone expects them to?”
“That’s amazing, Marlene. I can’t believe nobody ever suggested that before. Maybe you should write a book, do the talk-show circuit.”
“Your mockery is unnecessary, Sergeant. I realise I am not the first to consider the theory, but it remains interesting.”
“Yeah, well, like the old Chinese curse says… May you live in interesting times.”

Ah, she’s quite the wag, our grey-haired, grizzled Sergeant Klementina ‘Klem’ Ristovych! When she’s not cracking cases, she’s keeping herself busy by busting her partner’s chops, the relatively new arrival Detective Ralph ‘Marlene’ Dietrich. I think it’s done out of affectionate respect as much as anything, but still, it’s good to see the time-honoured tradition of taking the piss out of the rookie is alive and well, even in the futuristic confines of a cop drama on the orbiting energy-generating platform known somewhat prosaically as The Fuse. Klem clearly has no idea that Marlene is keeping secrets from her…



It’s perhaps not surprising, mind you, missing what’s right under her nose. Firstly, because Marlene is being very, very careful. Secondly, Klem’s got the busiest beat of them all, 22,000 miles up in space with half a million people stuffed into a five-mile tube, and today just so happens to be the busiest day of the year, Perihelion…

You can postulate theories all you like as to why a bit of extra sunshine might send people round the bend, like mad dogs and Englishmen swilling lager and getting all leery in the oh-so-brief summer rays, but between a knees-up that makes the Notting Hill Carnival look like a sedate affair, a hair-snipping serial killer, a political rally threatened by a terrorist group claiming to have a bomb, a mob boss with a dodgy ticker trapped while a nutter holds an entire hospital hostage, an artificial farm food worker seeing visions of the Devil, an escaped prisoner and oh, a mysterious murder of an apparently devoted husband… well, you can see how Klem might not spot anything shady about her partner. Yet.


We, the readers, finally find a little more out about what he’s up to though… maybe. I’m not entirely convinced whether the big reveal at the end of this arc is exactly what it seems or merely misdirection, so that particular little mystery continues unabated. Oh, Antony, you are a tease! As ever, Justin Greenwood’s art is note-perfect for this unique blend of cop drama and speculative fiction. He does the best sneaky sideways glances of which there are more than a few in this arc!


Buy The Fuse vol 3: Perihelion s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Elias The Cursed h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Sylviane Corgiat & Corrado Mastantuono…

“Those pieces of The Game Of Celestial Beings make you a great Magus.”
“What do you know of this game?”
“During my travels I never stopped reading the fables and legends of these talismans coveted by fools. They say that this game comes from an era so ancient that it has been forgotten. They say that its power is so great that a lifetime is not sufficient to reunite the 32 pieces that are scattered throughout the world…”
“They say that the 32 pieces represent 32 stars in the sky and that each one imparts its special power to a talisman…”
“… And especially he who reunites the game in its entirety. They will then have access to a 33rd power. That is what you wish, is it not?”
“What more do you know, little man? And what is the power in question?”
“He who possesses the game in its entirety has the power to change his destiny, to travel back in time and start anew wherever he chooses…”


Which would be very handy for someone who has been cursed. Someone, say, who used to be a mighty and feared tyrannical ruler, having conquered most of the known world by the age of twenty before losing his entire army during a catastrophic 128-day siege and climatic final battle with the magician Melchior, who just for good measure then stole Elias’ youthful body for his own. Now, believed to be dead, Elias wanders the earth looking for a way out of his plight, and perhaps also reflecting on the foolishness of youth, desiring world domination and indeed coveting talismans. Although, perhaps he’s not entirely realised the latter just yet…

Another action-packed, exquisitely decorative slice of high fantasy from Humanoids. The French writer Sylviane Corgiat came to my attention with the brilliant THE SWORDS OF GLASS and here has come up with a yarn that’s even more intricately crafted and just downright epic. Well, it was originally published in 2004 through 2007 in three parts in France, though wasn’t translated into English until now as this complete collection. Italian artist Corrado Mastantuono is new to me I have to admit but it’s the typical beautiful ligne claire illustration you hope for in a Humanoids publication.


I actually wrote of THE SWORDS OF GLASS that it was ‘The best slab of Euro-fantasy I have read for some considerable time.’ I think this is even better actually in terms of story-telling. Corgiat puts Elias through the veritable wringer plus assorted other medieval torture/plot devices on his quest to obtain the 32 talismans, and of course obtain his reckoning with Melchior, in a tale told with as much humour as there is gore.


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

Cinema Purgatorio #1 (£4-50, Avatar) by Alan Moore, Kieron Gillen, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Christos Gage & Kevin O’Neill, Ignacio Calero, Raulo Caceres, Michael DiPascale, Gabriel Andrade.

“Let’s get back to the station. A little child’s gone missing.”

Quick! Back into the truck!

“Ten to one the parents did it, eh?”


What’s so arresting is that the above comes in the form of one of those ornate white-on-black caption cards from silent, black and white comedy capers like the Keystone Cops which we all associate with hilarity. Within panels – or frames – here, the violence no longer seems quite so “cartoon”, their mass incompetence not half so funny or innocent.

Was it ever really so when one of their stars, Fatty Arbuckle, was framed with a smear his career never recovered from?

Oh look, there’s Charlie Chaplin distracting the paying public with a card trick while booting a bag of the robbed bank’s lolly into the back of the van! Now turn back to the movie’s title: silence is golden, they say.

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That’s the first self-contained story from the Moore and O’Neill, creators of the equally acquisitive and satirical THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and O’Neill gives it all the energy you associate with the stunt-centric buffoonery.

It’s joined in this not overly horrific horror anthology by the first chapters of four serialised stories: a Godzilla monster-movie riff; something involving the American Civil War which is explained in an afterward; a piece of vampirical whimsy and – my other favourite – a sort of post-apocalyptic Pokemon written by THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen in which the cutest daemon imaginable – a doting, Alsatian-sized dog with butterfly wings and long, lolling tongue who won’t bark but “Yip! Yip”s instead – is coveted by a Daemonatrix who’s gotta catch ‘em all.

“You know the rules. Fight or just hand her over.”

It’s not Fluffbumble’s owner who has to do battle, it’s Fluffbumble herself who quite obviously doesn’t have a bellicose bone in her body. Nevertheless she is forced to fight something that looks like a mechanised, weaponised Judge Death.

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Full marks to Ignacio Calero for a Fluffbumble that’s a gentle giant, loyal and stoical but far from effete – anything camper would have rendered this into crude, two-dimensional comedy. Instead the pep talk and aftermath are both genuinely affecting.


Buy Cinema Purgatorio #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Megg & Mogg In Amsterdam And Other Stories (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Simon Hanselmann.

T is for Transgression!

Hurray for Transgression!

But also for Tales so Toxic your skin might start itching and skunk so soporific that you run the risk of suffocation. It billows in pungent green clouds from almost every one of these pages so that if you’re not properly ventilated your mind might grow light and your stomach may turn.

Megg is a witch, Mogg is her monged-up moggie and this will be so, so familiar to anyone who is – or ever has been – so drug-dependent that you’ll do almost anything or anyone to get more, after which your decision-making processes are even further impaired.

Whatever I have found in the way of interior art above, below or to your right is infinitely cleaner than almost every page. Clue: Megg and Mogg are in a relationship. A sexual relationships. Pray, do not go there – unlike Megg.

The sordid sequel to Hanselmann’s MEGAHEX, this is empathically not the FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS who, for all their derring-doobage, at least kept it amicable and none of them interfered with FAT FREDDY’S CAT.

This is far from amicable, for Mogg and Megg share a flat with Owl who wants a clean, quiet house, secure from burglars, so he can sleep soundly. He is going to get none of those.

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Neither Megg nor Mogg are disposed to give a fuck, nor is their neighbouring drug-dealer called Werewolf Jones who – over and over again – manages to wangle his way into their home along with his delinquent ten-year-old kids whom he’s brought up as personal slave-labour and public performers on webcam. Those sorts of performers, yes – as a rule of thumb, if you want to infer the worst from whatever I write about this, you would not be far wrong.

At home the kids are content to shit all over their lawn because it’s their turf and they are wolves. At Megg, Mogg and Owl’s they’re still left to run amok, one of them shattering Owl’s beak with an ashtray. Twice. So well drawn is this that if you don’t immediately think of and fear for your own teeth then I’d be very much surprised. Parental supervision?

“I blame the school system.”

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To be fair, Owl is an uptight, judgemental prick. On the other hand it must be hard to find your clean white towels strewn all over the bathroom, shit smeared all over the toilet, junk all over the floor, a naked, jaundice-skinned witch passed out next to a stinking bucket bong, a dildo on your kitchen table, crumbs in your best butter (crumbs in your best butter!) and a cat in your kitchen sink:

“Quit whining, Owl.
“Nothing matters. Everything is meaningless.
“Stop trying so hard.”

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A triumph of injustice, I present you with the unhealthiest comic ever committed to paper, a dire warning never to share a flat nor invite any guests over ever, and the most careless, callous and often mean-spirited miscreants ever to spoil your party / meal / gig / camping trip / holiday abroad / quiet, private time / underwear / appetite / fondest memories imprinted on photographs.

All of the above actually included.


Buy Megg & Mogg In Amsterdam And Other Stories and read the Page 45 review here

Adulthood Is A Myth (£10-99, Andrews McMeel Publishing) by Sarah Andersen.

Of course it is! I’m still playing videogames into the early hours of the morning, and do you know how old I am now? No…? Good!

Even parents are merely playing at being adults. Responsible…? Knowledgeable…? They haven’t got the first flippin’ clue. The whole rearing thing is done on a wing and a prayer, the prayer predominantly being “Why did I ever have children?”

Now along comes Sarah Andersen with a big book of comic strips designed primarily to make you feel so much better about your lives – your own insecurities and perceived inadequacies when compared the rest of the right-thinking world which doesn’t actually exist.

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This will tick almost every recognition box except those possessed by ridiculously high achievers who would be hard pressed to pass for human anyway.

Delivered in the Matt Groening school of cartooning, even the Groening failed to achieve such a high hit/miss hilarity ratio in his LIFE IS HELL series, as Anderson addresses the following with admirable confessional candour:

Nightmares for introverts, written communication versus verbal communication, oh so clammy hands; comfort dressing, heels, clothing sizes in general; over-think on dates, over-prepping for dates, and how to know that your loved one is here for the long haul; gorging, guilt and the making of friends (sort of – neuroses neutralising all hope of progress); good relationships / bad relationships, new relationships / old relationships; internet comment threads, internet search histories (yours!) and the barely controllable desire to defenestrate your laptop each and every time some twerp tags you in a Facebook photo.

Adulthood Is A Myth 3I feel Sarah’s frustration at slow walkers ahead of me, five-abreast families scoring 10,000 bonus points for being inconsiderate oblivo-bots! I demand the right to complain without someone soothing me with mitigating plus-points or stress-relieving advice; but I have to confess I had no idea about when to wash bras versus when most women truthfully wash them. Is this a thing? Admittedly I cannot recall any lad at school washing his groin-protecting cricket box out during an entire year of dashing sweatily between creases, but nor do I remember any of them still wearing that box out of a date.

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Throughout Anderson bravely hangs her mental underwear out on the metaphorical line in order to demystify our oh so common neuroses whilst praying you don’t laugh at her bloomers.

Basically this, then: you are not alone.

And you never listen to your own sage advice.

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Buy Adulthood Is A Myth and read the Page 45 review here

Blackbird (£12-99, Conundrum International) by Pierre Maurel…

“And now, closer to home: parliament today adopted a law that repeals the fixed price on books. It includes a clause that prohibits self-publishing. All published works are now required to pass through the hands of accredited certified publishers. The new law is intended to crack down on contentious content and improve distribution for all authors.”

Whatever would Dave Sim say?!!!

Where does suppression of public discourse really begin? What would be the thinnest leading edge of that particular wedge? You might believe that freedom of speech is something we in our country are entitled to without any strictures or consequences. But if the government were going to attempt to begin to crackdown on those with dissenting views, or indeed any views, what form would it take…? Here Pierre Maurel looks at a world where the diminishing of such liberties begins with the removal of the right to self-publish. The criminalising of the independent proliferation of ideas on paper if you will.


Unsurprisingly, there are those amongst us who aren’t going to just take such injustice without fighting back and this is their story. The makers of the Blackbird zine are a rag-tag bunch of libertarians, anarchists, political thinkers, pissheads and skate punks. They don’t have much, but the loss of their right to be heard, irrespective of what they’ve got to say, doesn’t sit well with them at all.


Clearly they’re not going to be able to act with impunity, though. No, covert guerrilla tactics and more than a few kickflips and emergency ollies are going to be required to escape the ever more encircling arms of the law, as their campaign escalates from initial amusing and seemingly harmless protests against politicians to rather more serious tactics. But can they really fight the encroaching evil of authoritarianism, or is it just a matter of time before the law wins? But if they do fall, who, if anyone, will step forward to take their place?


Very salient piece of social commentary wrapped in an incredibly engaging and believable story, much like Ant Sang’s THE DHARMA PUNKS. Just as Ant did, Maurel has also captured the essence of his characters perfectly. I have no doubt such a group would be composed of the bickering dilettantes he depicts, and he extrudes the various clashing personalities out into fully fleshed-out individuals with their own stories, plus the sacrifices that they are prepared to make for the cause. Some considerably more than others…


I can see various different creators in his black and white art. Early Chester Brown, Dylan Horrocks, Jessica Abel, even a bit of Jeffrey Brown and possibly even a bit of Jacques Tardi, actually. This will appeal to anyone who appreciates the power of protest and absolutely loves the idea of someone sticking it to the man. So me at least, then!


Buy Blackbird and read the Page 45 review here

Rebels vol 1: A Well-Regulated Militia s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Andrea Mutti, Matthew Woodson, Ariela Kristantina, Tristan Jones…

“Hold still, or I’ll shoot.”
“My father told you about crossing our fields, you spook the cows and the milk comes spoilt.”
“Come off it, Mercy Tucker. That’s just famers’ superstition.”
“So, what? We’re famers, ain’t we? We’d know, wouldn’t we? You two just gonna stand there like a pair of jackanapes?”
“Mercy, your Pa knows what’s at stake. He knows the militia is what’s keeping this farm out of the hands of the thieves down in Albany. Your Pa would let us pass freely. Your Pa wouldn’t point a musket in our faces.”
“Redcoats came up the big house three days ago, Ezekiel. Pa signed the grant papers over to the Sheriff. Made us tenants, didn’t they? I’ve been out in these fields since, ashamed to see my Pa, knowing he’d be ashamed to by seen by me.”
“Mercy… tell your Pa, we’ll be back with those papers.”

Young Seth Abbott has a lot to learn about the different ways war can be waged. He might be a member of the local militia sworn to achieve independence from the British and their hated occupying armies of Redcoats, but not all battles are fought with a gun.


I suspect this is going to be a fascinating series for anyone interested in history, and particularly this period, which I will fully admit is not one I know much about, partly because, given the British ultimately got booted out, it doesn’t get taught much in UK schools!

I do, however, clearly remember inadvertently instigating a full-on cowboy-style barroom brawl in Alabama one 4th of July, when asked by a smartarse local what we called Independence Day in the UK. My somewhat alcohol-aided throwaway riposte of it being known as the Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish Day provoked a wild swing from my outraged non-compadre which I fortunately dodged.

Unfortunately for him, it smashed the orneriest nutter in the bar squarely on the back of the head, whom, delightedly taking offense with the idiot in question, after eyeing the pair of us up and deciding my best “it wasn’t me, honest guvnor” face was clearly one to be trusted, went at the haymaker like an out-of-control combine harvester. Suffice to say, before you could utter “Four score and seven years ago…” there were Stetsons being knocked jauntily askew left, right and centre as a group of about thirty locals started going at it en masse, settling old scores. I just inched my way through to the edge of the melee somehow unscathed, picked up my Heineken which was perched on the bar and propped myself up to enjoy the scene. Good times.


Anyway… digression done with, Brian Wood has commented he intends this to be a NORTHLANDERS-style title. By which he means that each arc will be self-contained thus allowing him to tell various different colonists’ stories, not just the famous figures of the time. For let’s not forget that ultimately this is what all the non-indigenous inhabitants of North America were at that time really: not natives, but relatively recently arrived pioneers who, for the most part, actually didn’t wanted to secede from British rule until the British government caused such dissent and consternation with their taxation policies. Then their rather heavy-handed attempts to crush any dissent didn’t help.

This everyman concept – which I think worked extremely well in NORTHLANDERS in allowing him to explore the very diverse elements and traditions, plus the varied political and social structures of the Viking world, in addition to some major events of course – could translate very nicely to this milieu, even though it was of course considerably briefer and more geographically condensed. Because actually, that’s what I’m interested in: what was life like for the settlers during this incredible period of upheaval? Inevitably sides had to be chosen, stands taken, and many a heavy price paid. Just not tea taxes…


This first arc, then, deals mainly with young militia man Seth Abbott and his bride Mercy Tucker. Actually, it’s mainly about their dual lives, during the long, seven-year separation the war causes them. In truth, though, it’s as much choice for Seth as duty, something his wife, bringing up their son and protecting their homestead alone, does not appreciate one iota, even if she intends to remain faithful and true to her wedding vows. Then there are also some individual issues featuring very different characters: a wife fighting alongside the soldiers including her husband on the front lines, a Native American Indian who finds conflicting friendship and tribal loyalties impossible to resolve, and a freed black slave fighting on behalf of the Crown. I think Brian Wood certainly delivers and then some on his intentions to show the individual human stories of the war.

Lovely delicate art from Andrea Mutti on three of the six issues in this volume (#1, #4 & #5), he does like his line shading, very ably supported by Matthew Woodson, Ariela Kristiantina, Tristan Jones, who take an issue each. The changes in art style neatly accompany the changes in character or focus of the storyline.


Buy Rebels vol 1: A Well-Regulated Militia s/c and read the Page 45 review here

DMZ Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli.

Manhattan is no longer the thriving hub of culture and commerce it once was.

It is a wreck ravaged by all, caught in the crossfire between the U.S. Army and America’s own home-grown, anti-establishment militias which rose up while all the eyes and soldiers’ feet were abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and did a little insurging of their own.

A supposedly demilitarized zone, Manhattan is prone to be bombed with a moment’s notice and has become a no-go zone for everyone but the most intrepid or reckless reporters.

Matty Roth is neither of those. He’s an inexperienced rich kid whose dad called in a favour and bought him a ticket to shadow a veteran war journalist on an expedition into the heartland of the DMZ. They had a military escort but that lasted all of five seconds before an ambush left Roth scuttling for cover, alone and ill-equipped to survive this alien, inhospitable and virtually lawless environment.

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Roth tries to report what he sees, but it’s not long, of course, before he begins being used by the military and media alike, whose mendacity is not to be underestimated.

Gruelling but gripping. Warren Ellis raved about the final issue reprinted here, ‘New York Times’, as the most ground-breaking comic of year in which it was originally published. It wasn’t, but it was a clever collage, with Brian Wood himself (or rather, the protagonist) assembling snapshots of life and culture into a “year-one report” for Independent World News.

Other than that, Burchielli’s art reminded me a little of Mike McMahon’s on THE LAST AMERICAN. It was craggy that way, with a lot of chin. Also, it was the shell-shocked and pocked environment.

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Like Brian K. Vaughan in Y – THE LAST MAN, Wood soon begins to examine other practical ramifications of his chosen scenario, in this case the island’s isolation, the lack of sustainable firewood and the fate of the zoo whose custodians turn out to be a lot less cuddly than David Attenborough or dear old Johnny Morris.

The best is yet to come, however, when the series whose premise is the result of America’s illegal invasion of Iraq becomes the perfect vehicle to damn so much that occurred there including the deployment of private military corporations like Blackwater, the deadly, indiscriminate, gun-ho actions of its mercenaries, and oh so much more.


Buy DMZ Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

We Stand On Guard h/c (£18-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce.

The writer of SAGA, PAPER GIRLS, EX MACHINA, Y – THE LAST MAN, THE PRIVATE EYE and THE ESCAPISTS needs no introduction, so I was going to write that you can consider this a re-introduction, then I looked back and realised that politics play a substantial role in almost all of those, while PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is overtly critical of the American military’s conduct and indeed very presence in Iraq.

Here, in a century’s time, America invades Canada in retaliation for what it perceives to be – or claims to perceive to be – its drone strike on The Whitehouse. We don’t even know if it was Canada that was responsible. It seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? But Canada does have a lot of lovely clean water much wanted over the border so that’s convenient, eh?

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Disproportionate response is nothing new when it comes to the US military – nor a deliberate mis-identification of any clear and present danger – so I think you can consider Ottawa obliterated in the first few pages of chapter one. During this almost instantaneous assault without any evidence of investigation Tommy and Amber’s parent’s limbs blown are off in front of them, their dad’s dying words being…

“Tommy… you listen to me… you… look after… your baby sister… whatever happens… you never… leave her side…”

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Twelve years later, on the very next page, Tommy has left Amber’s side.

She’s all alone in the Canadian snow-swept wilds, armed with a crossbow, hunting for her supper.

But she’s about to have company and not necessarily any of it good.

I was uncertain about Steve Skroce’s art to begin with. I certainly found no fault with his sense of scale: the American military’s four-legged All-Terrain Tanks towering above the tallest of the trees in the Northwest Territories are monumental, terrifying, their armour so evidently impregnable.

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But there’s something inescapably toy-doll about the figures, their arrangements on the page and how they sit in their environment.

What won me over was the second issue’s invasion of the cosy, well-appointed home of a couple of pensioners quietly sitting on their suburban settee. The clarity verging on the clinical elevates the incongruity of what you’re witnessing, and that’s the genius of the series itself.

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Somehow (somehow) it’s one thing for American soldiers to bust down so many domestic doors in Baghdad and brutally manhandle their occupants without any hope of being reasoned with, but setting this in Canada where the tree-lined avenues look so similar to our own and, of course, America’s… Well, it brings the horror all home, hopefully.

So what happened to Amber’s brother, Tommy? Well, we do know he was captured by the Americans and presumably taken to one of their camps. Probably to what is ominously being termed “the basement”.

What you’ll find there will be unflinchingly brutal, come with complete deniability, zero qualms and no hesitation whatsoever.


Buy We Stand On Guard h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Spider-Man: Brand New Day s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Bob Gale, Zeb Wells, Marc Guggenheim & Phil Jimenez, Steve McNiven, Greg Land, Phil Winslade, Mike Deodato, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Barry Kitson, Marcos Martin, Mike McKone, Paulo Siqueira.

Omnibus reprint of what – in many ways – was that start of whichever SPIDER-MAN series you’re reading now.

Following Jo Quesada’s intervention at the end of Straczynski’s run, “Brand New Day” should have been a very hard sell. The clock hadn’t just been turned back, it had been thrown against the wall, smashed to pieces and put together again with some missing parts replaced. Some of the cogs were new, some were very old, and some had simply been given a different coloured varnish. But guess what? The clock still ticked at a fine, steady pace – it was just a different clock.

Peter had never married Mary Jane – in fact, they broke up, though why was a mystery they let linger for a while. Harry Osborne – the son of the original Green Goblin and his successor – was still alive and suddenly no one knew who Spider-Man was, not even those who saw him unmask during CIVIL WAR.

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“Oh no!” the men-children cried. “That means that the last twenty years of stories I’ve enjoyed never happened!”

“No,” I replied, “they never did happen. They never happened because this is fiction and they are stories! But you enjoyed reading those stories, so what are you complaining about?! Here are some more stories. If sales here are anything to go by, you’re enjoying those as well, aren’t you?”

Anyway, as I say, something happened to prevent Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane. You won’t find out what yet because they’re avoiding each other. In the meantime, Harry Osborn’s back from Europe with a sexy entourage and determined to slide his way into politics, Aunt May is doing voluntary work with someone a lot shadier than she knows, Peter’s given Jameson a coronary, and Jonah’s wife’s solution to his stress levels is to sell his shares in The Daily Bugle!

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Oh yes, all-new villains, even if one of their rides looks a lot like the Goblins’. Do you think all their cackling, monomaniacal ways will cross? I suspect so!

Dan Slott absolutely nailed the tone, the characters, the humour and the pace, whilst McNiven’s camera angles, even during conversations, were unusual and fun. Not only that but throughout the run which eventually culminated in Doc Ock’s tenure as SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN (after a few more books yet to be repacked into these new, giant-sized editions) Slott managed to corral its multiple contributors into creating a surprisingly consistent series.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Chris Bachalo came on board with all the blizzard scenes I’ve found as your interior art here, but it began round the breakfast table in the New Avengers’ hideout with Wolverine drinking beer, Dr. Strange walking air and Spider-Man stealing the toy from the cereal box. *sigh*

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It’s freezing outside.

Dr. Strange: If you’re sure my assistance isn’t required…
Spider-Man: Well, I’ve got twenty blocks to go in this blizzard. If you can make it stop snowing, I’d appreciate it.
Dr. Strange: Hmmm. I will not stop the snow, but perhaps I can tell you when it will cease.
Wolverine: Yeah, this is a good use of his time.
Spider-Man: I was kind of joking…
Dr. Strange: Verium, equinu, helerium….
Wolverine: You’re using our Sorcerer Supreme as a weatherman…
Spider-Man: I have a lot to do today…
Dr. Strange: The storm comes not from the north, east, west or south… But from the void, from darkness’ mouth. There is no time, the end is near, in blackness dies all we hold dear. From the snow a threat emerges, eyes of red, with murderous urges. A protector fights to seal the lock… Right here tonight… at four o’clock
[Dr. Strange collapses: THUNK!]
Wolverine: Anything else?


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.

From Now On (£10-99, Alternative Comics) by Malachi Ward

Lou (£10-99, Alternative Comics) by Melissa Mendes

Mega Robo Bros vol 1 (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

Pop Gun War: Gift (£10-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple

Secretimes s/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Keith Jones

Invader Zim vol 1 (£14-99, Oni) by Jhonen Vasquez, Eric Trueheart & Aaron Alexovich

The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Mary M. Talbot & Bryan Talbot

Why Would You Do That? (£7-50, Hic & Hoc) by Andrea Tsurumi

Chew vol 11: The Last Suppers (£10-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Codename Baboushka vol 1: Conclave Of Death s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Shari Chankhamma

Complete Peanuts: 1999 – 2000 (£16-99, Canongate) by Charles M. Schulz

Hellblazer vol 13: Haunted (£18-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis, Darko Macan & John Higgins, various, Francis Manapul

Judge Dredd Casefiles 27 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Henry Flint, Peter Doherty, Greg Staples, Ian Gibson

Stan And Nan h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Sarah Lippett

Twilight Children s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gilbert Hernandez & Darwyn Cooke

Batman And Robin vol 7: Robin Rises s/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Andy Kubert, Juan Jose Ryp, Ian Bertram

Injustice Year Four vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Bruno Redondo, Mike S. Miller, various

All New X-Men: Inevitable vol 1: Ghosts Of Cyclops s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

Catwoman vol 5: Backward Masking s/c (£18-99, DC) by Will Pfeifer & Pete Woods, David Lopez

Grayson vol 3: Nemesis s/c (£12-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, various

All New Wolverine vol 1: Four Sisters s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & David Lopez, David Navarrot

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 1: Chinatown s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Ron Garney, Goran Sudzuka

Spider-Gwen vol 1: Greater Power s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Latour & Robbi Rodriguez, Chris Visions

Spider-Man / Deadpool vol 00: Don’t Call It A Team-Up s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, Joe Kelly, Daniel Way & various

Web Warriors Of The Spider-Verse vol 1: Electroverse s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mike Costa, Robbie Thompson & David Baldeon, Denis Medri

Monster Perfect Edition vol 8 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Tokyo Ghoul vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Paul Goes Fishing (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michel Rabagliati. Again?!?!


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ITEM! The debate rages on!

Article on print versus digital reading in schools, who prefers which and what makes all the difference in the world: choice!

Young, male, reluctant readers make good use of the iPad, probably because it turns reading into something that feels similar to a computer game, but the preference for print is encouraging and here’s some things you might not have thought of:

1) A book is more likely to be read, finished and enjoyed if the child has had an active role in selecting that prose book or graphic novel
2) iPads give very few clues as to form or content of any prose book or graphic novel
3) To successfully select, you first need a wide range to choose from.

Can’t wait to expand the space we give teen comics too, but in the meantime, yes, Young Readers, we have choice!

Librarian posters by Sarah McIntyre

Librarian posters by Sarah McIntyre

ITEM! Interview with MEGG & MOGG’s Simon Hanselmann (see review above) who you might remember getting married to comics (yes, comics) during the Ignatz Awards at SPX 2014 and snogging Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth.

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It is an exceptionally fine and fun interview about Simon’s creativity, cross-dressing and drug-addled mother. Simon makes a much prettier Megg than Megg does.

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– Stephen


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