Archive for June, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week five

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Includes Fight Club 2 h/c by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart, Mythic by Phil Hester & John McCrea, Northlanders repackaged, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso, two Dan Berry comics and News of Cerebus’ return underneath!

The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) (£15-00) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry.

Three Rooms cover

“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”

That’s such a lovely line, lobbed in as effortlessly and unexpectedly as everything else, taking the reader – and Valerie’s boyfriend – completely by surprise. It’s not done in anger but out of calm curiosity, and the trajectory of that particular sequence will prove even more startling and funny than you think.

We will return to that anon.

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Dan Berry’s exceptionally expressive cartooning you may already know from THE END, CARRY ME, THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and far, far more. The singularly dextrous David Gaffney will now be shooting to the top of your attention and the forefront of your radar, once the wit in this read has been savoured. It is ever so carefully constructed.

There are three rooms in Valerie’s mind: a front, a back, and a cellar. But if you think that the front room’s a living room, you are very much mistaken. All she does there is obsess.

What should perhaps command her attention is studiously buried and ignored by banishing it into the back room.

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What Valerie takes out to play instead are the ghosts of her former boyfriends, resurrected from the cellar, positioned like a trad-jazz band and articulated by herself. It is they whom she converses with throughout, wondering where it all went wrong.

“The drawback was having no space in the front room for anything else.”

Well, quite.

Before you leap to too many conclusions, I promised you surprises and I don’t break my promises. There may well be a very good reason why Valerie is so retrospective. And before you go blaming Valerie for being so unlucky in love, the individuals who’ll be paraded in front of you will prove to have looked through odd prisms of their own. Ever such odd prisms. One, for example, invents a car windscreen to compensate for his myopia so that he doesn’t have to wear his glasses or corrective lenses while driving. Which is fine for him and it’s a genius foil against car thieves. Unless they possess the same prescription as he does, they won’t be able to see what’s in front of them. On the other hand, it’s a wee bit rubbish for any passengers he’s carrying and his own rear-view mirror may prove something of a blur.

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There’s a lot of allusion and metaphor in this comic, but I swear that it’s sweet and not half as heavy-handed as my own. “Symbols should not be cymbals,” as Edward Albee once wrote.

Music is one of the big ones, specifically Mahler’s 2nd Symphony plus Valerie’s love of accordions and other bellow-based instruments. Don’t think you have to be an all-knowing clever clogs because I’m certainly not. Listen to Gaffney about music instead:

“It’s pure. Music doesn’t imitate, it doesn’t explain, it doesn’t try to be like other things.”

I’d not thought of that before. Most drawings, paintings, prose, poetry and comics all seek to create, recreate, imitate or elucidate on that which they are not: life, real or imagined. Words convey thoughts, actions or occasions as best they can and I adore them for that, leaving me with the freedom to let my imagination roam. Images imply or are otherwise representational. Music may elicit or imply, but otherwise it is its own beast. In the hands of the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser even songs’ lyrics are left to be similarly ethereal because she left her voice free to be a musical instrument – no real words at all…

But this is a comic with images which do imitate ever so subtly well, and one of its best is the page in which Valerie responds to a former boyfriend’s recollection of their shared, supposedly idyllic past which doesn’t chime favourably enough with her own. The colouring aside, which is mood-specific throughout and beyond this specific page, it’s the body language and expressions which delight. Jake’s finger and closed eyes turn a contradiction – bad enough in Valerie’s eyes – into something close to a rebuke. As to those eyes, narrowed in the fourth panel as she leads challengingly forward, they really do seethe and spit daggers.

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“Valerie,” we learn later, “kept a ball of tissue under her armpit and dropped shreds of it into his food to keep him loyal.”

This is an observational gem, more fanciful and energetic than Tomine’s but no less perceptive and far more engaging in that the reader is enticed into the recollections as an active observer on the spot rather than a witness at a distance. Dan has gone to great lengths to make this so, including a sequence which – I was told in complete confidence – he drew with his left hand in order to accentuate the giddiness which worked all too well on myself, giving me an immediate sense of vertigo while lying flat on my back in bed. That’s no mean feat.

So we return to the where we came in with the opening quotation and its reprise of the vase on the very second page which Valerie’s so intent on remaining oblivious to. I showed you that vase earlier on. Like so many other visual refrains repeated unexpectedly throughout, it’s a fab piece of foreshadowing whose exceptional choreography by Dan Berry is surpassed here as Valerie throws caution to the wind and a bouquet at her boyf. in an act of abandonment which is – to her – delightful spontaneity.

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“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”

As the shining white and blue china hurtles towards him, Brett freeze, recoils and cowers in terror, and the leaves and flowers begin to tumble from their fragile, spinning vessel.

“Is he poised?
“Confident in his judgements?
“Does he seem willing to take responsibility for someone else’s actions?”

David Gaffney has a way with words which dance around and right off the pages to stick with you forever. There’s nothing extraneous or laden. Instead they trill so brightly and lightly like a musical movement that’s subtle and always heading somewhere. As often as not, they’re headed somewhere far from expected.

“You learn the most if the object belongs to someone else.”

SLH

Buy Three Room’s In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) (£5-00) by Dan Berry.

“So basically, it is really easy, everything works first time and you spend your days in satisfied bliss.”

So that’s The Business of Illustration, your career as a creator, and our lives mapped out ahead of us. It all sounds very familiar to me, and I will sleep infinitely easier tonight.

But then there’s the title, isn’t there?

This is a day in the life of Dan Berry, written and illustrated hourly as it unfolded: what could possibly go wrong?

Over the centuries the human race has strived to leave itself decreasingly at risk from the weather. We’ve built houses, bought umbrellas and even erected orange and yellow striped wind-breaks on beaches. (Is that still a thing?) Some days, however, that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

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Over the last few decades, the human race has also strived with all its considerable, intellectual and inventive might to leave itself increasingly at the mercy of machines. There’s barely an institution that can function any longer if its computer systems crash, apart from Mrs Apiary’s Homemade Honey Pot stall in South Swithernshire. They don’t need to rise up en masse and enslave the human race in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to be a cause of never-ending grief. As every one of us knows it is enough for them to sit there in our homes and offices, wilful and recalcitrant on a daily basis.

SENT / NOT SENT. SAVED / NOT SAVED.

These things were sent to thwart us.

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We’ve even brought them alive by imbuing them in our heads with exactly these mean-spirited motivations and emotions. Don’t make them angry; you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

Berry brings all this to the fore early on, along with his role as a Dad to both his children and his cat (“I’m not your Dad”) on the very first page. For something so seemingly spontaneous and extemporised there’s an awful lot of serendipitous stage-setting for a killer drive-home dovetailing and an infuriated admonishment most parents will recognise with a grin.

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I’ve approached reviews of Berry’s comics in different ways, be they THE END, THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE’S HEAD, CARRY ME, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, but it is THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY which inspired me to write about the sheer energy and infectiousness of the man’s cartooning and its wild gesticulations. There will be a great deal more flailing and wailing before his day’s done, but since I’ve singled out machines let’s end with another of my favourite pages for its second-panel evocation of recoiling, venomous, looks-could-kill fury.

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“It isn’t going to be one of those days, is it?”

Yes, Dan. Yes, it is.

SLH

Buy Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Fight Club 2 h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart…

“ThroughoutFight Club 2 cover childhood people tell you to be less sensitive.
“Adulthood begins the moment someone tells you, “You need to be more sensitive”.”

I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written – not suggested – by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.

I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity… whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else’s indoctrination. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

It’s why Jonathan Hickman’s scathing NIGHTLY NEWS rang such a bell with me. The first paragraph of my NIGHTLY NEWS review reads:

“Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man’s enlightenment is the same man’s indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!”

The cult of personality, eh? Unless it’s mine, I’m always suspicious.

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As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that’s why many went to see the film.

Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, “Are You Space Monkey Material?” It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let’s try a few.

“MY GREATEST REGRET IS…

  1. The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
  2. My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
  3. My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
  4. Nothing. Sir.”

We’ll leave aside “DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?” – it is funny, though – and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:

“THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS…

  1. Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
  2. The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
  3. Dwindling honeybee populations.
  4. Me.”

As you may have gathered — whoops, I was about to tell you what to conclude! Someone really should shoot my autopilot.

Okay, so the graphic novel itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.

“Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian… he calls himself happy.”

Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.

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Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.

His wife Marla is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to “deliver me from this bland, boring life”. (First-time readers: you’ll see, you’ll see.) “Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”

By the end of the first issue-worth of material Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime Marla’s begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she’s quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles – “They’re all on the inside!”

Chain-smoking throughout, she’s drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan’s THE DROWNERS, though there’s more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.

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My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals – rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them – are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative’s participants. Whereas the dog’s barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below – with the romantic rose petals at least – suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.

“Happy Annive –“
“I lo – you –“
“Take your pill.”

There’s no hiding that last line.

Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone’s more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.

“Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain… What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule.”

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Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he’s fallen asleep. Now it’s time to wake up.

I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.

What you should now be asking yourself, is just who set off said alarm…?

Aficionados of Fight Club, the prose work that is, will absolutely devour this. It does everything they will have ever craved for in a sequel, which they probably never actually expected to happen, and so much more besides. They will learn who Tyler Durden truly is. Chuck Palahniuk will speak to them, and his characters, directly. No really, and their worlds will crumble into dust and ashes around their ears. Okay, maybe not that last bit, at least not for the readers, but I genuinely didn’t see where this was going until the big reveal and even then, armed with that particular piece of knowledge, I couldn’t see precisely how it would all end.

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As exquisitely complex and tortuously dark as the original, I sincerely hope this encourages more prose literary figures to try their hand at comics writing (as William Gibson has just done with the excellent ARCHANGEL #1). I’m not sure I want a sudden raft of sequels to prose works in comics form, I think there are more than enough sequels generally already thank you, but given the original work was such a distinctive, vicious piece of satire regarding the culture of consumerism and the decay of Western civilisation, that has been proven so acutely accurate in the interim since its release, I think Chuck deserved his opportunity to play Tyler’s story out to its ultimate, nasty unavoidable end-game. In other words: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! The nagging question though, is what exactly is Tyler fighting for?

SLH & JR

Buy Fight Club 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mythic vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Phil Hester & John McCrea.

“The bodyMythic vol 1 cover must be cleansed before entering the sacred cave.”
“Words to live by.”

I do love Cassandra, chic yet louche, with a boyish blonde haircut, sunglasses even after dark, consistently smoking and sipping from a glass. McCrea’s art is dainty and deliriously lithe here, quite the sharp contrast to what you might be used to in HITMAN etc.

It’s also thunderously epic for a giant along the craggy Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hints of Walt Simonson there, and if that evokes fond memories of Norse mythology then you’re in for a treat for MYTHIC delivers that and far, far more in abundance.

Phil Hester is positively bursting with ideas: there’s zero let-up as Mythic Lore Services dash across the globe. In addition to Cassandra (yes, that Cassandra but now she is listened to) their members boast Venus (yes, that Venus, even more beautiful and infinitely more approachable than ever), and a two-eyed Cyclops called Anatol.

“He’s very sensitive about that second eye, Waterson. It’s a birth defect. Don’t bring it up.”

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Plus I’m positive this will prove your first experience of ghost candy.

But let’s pull back to the beginning which had me from the very first page which reminded me of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s hilariously grotesque and grotesquely hilarious BOJEFFRIES SAGA.

On it we’re introduced to a poor young man trapped at a clapped out till in a run-down phone shop who is confronted by a hideously warty old woman whom I swear I last saw cleaning a lavatory sloppier than a cowshed in a Parisian hotel which haunts me to this day. Some of its wooden stairs were missing and our room wouldn’t lock. I don’t want to talk about the lavatory in any more detail. I’m not sure what I saw could have actually existed.

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Anyway, our innocent young salesman Nate is in for a similarly nasty surprise when the harridan plops her mobile phone on his counter with the words “Phone dead”. Then he makes the mistake of touching it. To his fingers sticks a thread attached via the phone to one of the woman’s larger, thumb-sized facial pustules and he probably shouldn’t have pulled on it because what pops out…

You will never squeeze a zit again.

The entire sequence is choreographed by McCrea with such exceptional physicality than I can feel the tension in that thread myself and feel it pulling on a pustule of my own which I haven’t known in over three decades.

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You’re probably wondering what this book is actually about. So is the clerk once those demons are down.

“Nate, I’m not just here to spew cryptic exposition about your newfound destiny. Though I have to admit, I am pretty goddam great at it. I’m her to offer you a job.”

The card says “Mythic Lore Services.”.

Here’s Cassandra confounding a scientist with a much merrier account of the world than the one he once thought he knew, her eyes glowing with the colours of the universe:

“We are told the sun tracking through the sky above is a mass of incandescent gas, our earthly home a randomly formed satellite.
“Of course. A kindergartner knows as much.”
“These facts let you sleep at night, let you pretend to know what the world is all about. When actually the sun is pulled across the heavens by a flaming chariot piloted by a god clad in the dust of comets. Earthquakes are not the shifting of tectonic plates, but the wrestling of massive twin lizard-demons fighting for control of the underworld. The tides themselves rise and fall with the weeping of an immortal princess who sleeps beneath the shore awaiting her drowned lover’s return. In other words, magic makes the world go round. And when it breaks, we fix it.”
“Cass, you’re not really supposed to just come out and say it like that.”
“But I love the look on their faces.”

They begin by curing a persistent valley drought in America which has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with a sexual standoff between the mountains and the sky. They simply haven’t fucked lately. It’s up to one of them to seduce the mountains and cause a raging romantic jealousy, reigniting their elemental ardour. I’m not even kidding you.

That’s their last easy mission as the various global teams become picked off one by one in a long-planned assault, leaving whoever’s left to regroup and follow whatever legendary leads they can.

Oh, the surprises for Nate especially have only just begun.

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Hester is on very rude form in both senses, upending all your expectations including that of the Midgard Serpent, so vast that it will one day encircle the Earth, thereby bringing about the end of the world.

“That’s the Midgard Serpent? I expected… more.”
“I’m a grower, not a shower, baby.”

It’s currently imprisoned close to the snow-swept South Pole. Now, why do you think that is the stupidest place on the planet to imprison the Midgard Serpent?

You’ll find out. And so will they.

“Someone’s trying to Ragnarok us.”

SLH

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

Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga (£22-50, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Daniel Zezelj, Davide Gianfelice.

“Lindisfarne.Northlanders Book 1 cover
“The Holy Island.
“In this bosom of our Lord, we slowly smother.”

A radical repackaging of what was our fastest selling series of Vertigo collections half a dozen years ago, the stories are presented in a completely different order. Jonathan preferred ‘Sven The Returned’, I ‘The Cross + the Hammer, then also ‘Lindisfarne’ and ‘The Shield Maidens’. What this means is that even though the basic theme is Vikings, Brian Wood is bursting with wildly different and totally unexpected takes on the times, from the role of women in the Viking world and Christianity in a Saxon society. In fact if there is a theme running throughout these disparate stories it is the various different beliefs of the day whether religious, secular or societal:

“Sometimes the Fates favour you. But you never take it for granted, never get complacent, because with a flick of their wrist they can sever the thread that is your life. Fate is relentless.”

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That quote comes from the narrator of ‘The Shield Maidens’, one of three women who take a stand which surprises even them against the Saxons re-taking Mercia from the Danes. After slaughtering a Saxon scout they take shelter from the other fifty-odd warriors in an old Roman fort, abandoned by all because no one understood the craft of masonry enough in order to repair the stonework let alone build another. Surrounded by water, they are protected at high tide, only some are more resolute than others. Yet still they make preparations for the inevitable attack because they’ve just realised something vital about the numbers involved and it may just give them a fighting chance.

That one’s drawn by Zezelj, by the way, and its mists and silhouettes are as haunting as you’d expect, whereas Dean Ormston has gone for something completely different but no less striking in ‘Lindisfarne’ as crows circle and snow falls over the Holy Church. It’s a life made all the bleaker for young boy Edwin by both his father and older brother whose ‘cruel to be kind’ philosophy in showing him how to defend himself with a sword he can barely lift manifests itself in a way we’d term abusive. It does, however, stiffen his resolve. Just not in the way that they’d hoped.

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The Cross + The Hammer

Outrageously clever and like nothing else I’ve read set in the early 11th Century, this is more like an episode of Cracker with bows, beards and bramble than some feuding families riddled with lice. And no, you don’t have to have read the first book: it’s set far from there in the rolling wilds of Ireland, magnificently rendered by Ryan Kelly, Brian’s travelling companion in LOCAL.

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Ragnar Ragnarsson, Lord of lands, Dublin, is heading the chase of a one-man death squad, the seed of an insurgency against King Sigtrygg. For months now Magnus has been slaughtering Ireland’s occupiers and it’s up to Ragnarsson to use all his formidable tracking skills and newfangled theories of human psychology in service to the King to bring the man down. There’s only one problem: he’s wrong.

The man is not alone: he’s travelling with his daughter, sometimes carrying her piggy-back to leave but one set of tracks, and intent only in fleeing those in pursuit to keep her from harm. But Magnus is worried that his impulse towards violence in his daughter’s defence is beginning to overwhelm him. He has rages and blackouts which Ragnar may, if cunning enough, be able to use against him.

It’s swift, bloody and beautiful, with quite the revelation. Just remember my first line, is all I’m saying.

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Sven the Returned

“At least give me a sword.”
“You think you deserve a warrior’s afterlife? I have spent most of my life doubting the existence of Odin’s hall, of the Norse afterlife, and I confess I still do not believe it exists. But do I dare take that chance, that one day when my life comes to an end and it turns out I was wrong… that, after all, I find myself walking through the great doors of that feasting hall… to find you sitting there?”
<KRRUUNCHHHH>

I guess that’ll be a no, then!

Sven, our eponymous hero, is a deeply troubled man on a personal mission, even if he doesn’t really know what that mission is, at least yet. He just knows he needs to do something having heard the shocking news that his father has been killed by his uncle Gorm to take control of the family wealth and the title of tribal leader. Having left his tribe and family behind on the Orkney isles as a young lad to seek adventure and visit far flung places such as the ‘Great City’ Constantinople which was widely regarded as the centre of the civilised world circa 980 A.D., he now feels the inexorable urge to return. Although the reasons behind that emotional pull back to his homeland seem to have far more to do with the manner of his leaving than any immediate need for revenge.

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Wood makes it easy to imagine that this is exactly what life must have been like in Viking times, full of hardships and privation, fears and superstitions, with loyalty to tribe and fealty to a strong leader paramount for survival. His story telling is perfectly paced, the dialogue suitably blunt and strident without ever resorting to Viking cliché. And we are carried along by Sven’s emotional journey, which ultimately is about someone finding their own place in a changing world, not merely fulfilling the role they are born into. Throw in a couple of unexpected and gruesome plot twists, a rather inconveniently timed mini-invasion by a Saxon expeditionary force and we have a great story.

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I really have to congratulate Davide Gianfelice on his artwork too. He demonstrates a fastidious eye for detail throughout and a wonderful sense of spacing and perspective, frequently using a slightly elevated position to great effect, which becomes particularly apparent in his landscapes and especially his battle scenes which flow from panel to panel seamlessly like cinematic pieces, never seeming cluttered or confused as lesser artists often do. His facial expressions are masterful with appropriate emotion rendered into every illustration from merest hints of deception and guile to full-on mouth-foaming berserker rage. And if that were not enough the colouring really brings everything off the page and almost into the third dimension, from choppy, rolling, slate-grey seas capped with white-tipped breakers, and blood-red spattered carnage overlaying a pristine white snowfall, to glimpses of the gaudy hues of Constantinople itself, it is gorgeous stuff.

SLH & JR

Buy Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso…

“Get up. Go back to work.”
“Your bedside manner is lousy.”
“Your attitude is worse. Calling in sick. Moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Wasting your time with this trash. You’ve accomplished nothing.”
“I’ve been having a hard time.”
“And doing nothing to rise above it. Make a new choice.”
“Like what?”
“Mitigate the chance of being attacked again. For a start. Be alert. Be smart. Drop some weight. Tone up. The exercise will nourish both your body and your mind. Soon you’ll be walking with pride and authority. It will take a few months of hard work, but if you want to heal and restore your confidence, there really is no other way.”
“I want to buy a gun.”

That’s Batman, there, dispensing the tough love to the battered Paul Dini. Back in the 1990s, whilst on the up and up and writing for Batman: The Animated Series in Hollywood, Dini was very badly beaten during a mugging. In addition to shattering his face, the assailants shattered his confidence, resulting in a long and difficult recovery process that was as tough, if not considerably tougher, in mental terms, than the physical.

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During that period, having withdrawn nearly completely within himself emotionally, Dini would frequently find himself talking to the Batman, and a whole host of Bat-villains, all the while oscillating between despair and self-loathing. From blaming himself for walking blindly into the situation, to not being able to fend off his attackers, to repeatedly choosing to avoid putting it behind him and moving on with his life, Dini’s internal dialogues with the cast of characters that it had long been second nature writing, would form his psychological crutch whilst simultaneously also being the barrier preventing him regaining his mental health.

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Much like Steven T. Seagle’s (annoyingly out of print) IT’S A BIRD with art by Teddy Kristiansen, about his mental travails around working on Superman (also on Vertigo), this is not your normal Batman book. There are some fascinating little Bat nuggets thrown in here, including a Sandman and Death guest appearance (blessed by Neil himself) whilst Batman was hovering between life and death that Dini pitched for the animated series and sadly never happened, but ultimately this is simply a very painful, very tragic, true crime story. It is all the more excruciating to read when you are watching the blows rain down and enduring Dini’s protracted, emotionally suffocating recovery process, because you know it really happened.

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He certainly picked the right artist to work with him in Eduardo 100 BULLETS Risso too because as soon as I saw the two hoodlums sauntering towards Dini, him having petulantly refused a lift home from his hot actress date for the evening in a vain attempt to induce jealousy, well, any sort of interest in him from her, and him then thinking I don’t want to be that white asshole who crosses over the road just to avoid two black guys, who are probably simply well-to-do Hollywood creative types, I knew just how viscerally brutally the beat down was going to be illustrated. And it was. It’s one thing revelling in that sort of thing whilst enjoying crime fiction like 100 BULLETS, it’s another thing reading it, knowing it was a man’s life on the line.

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I admire his honesty in writing this. There was undoubtedly some degree of catharsis in doing so, indeed there’s a little sequence between Dini and The Joker berating him for exactly that, but he certainly doesn’t spare himself, or attempt to portray himself as some sort of martyr. Quite the opposite really, Dini lays bare the relentless hard time he, directly, and through the proxies of the entire cast of Bat-villains, plus Batman too, gave himself. For events during, after, and indeed before the mugging. Nowhere near as painful to read as what he went through I’m sure, but he does a very good job of giving us a glimpse of what a punishing period of his life it must have been emotionally.

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JR

Buy Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt…

“Goddammit.
“I let that woman in my goddamn head.
“Now I have nothing.
“I don’t know how she did it.
“Hypnosis. Drugs. Doesn’t matter.
“I don’t care what happens.
“I’m taking that bitch to hell.”

It would be fair to say Astrid Muller is not journalist Chloe Pierce’s favourite person. But then when your fiancé has blown his brains out shortly after reading Ms. Muller’s self help book you can possibly understand why. When you then suspect she might have something to do with why his gruesome half-exploded head keeps popping up out of nowhere and talking to you, well, it’s not the best start to a beautiful friendship, now is it? Some relationships, though, particularly those that get off to such a shocking start, can take a little time to warm up.

And stories too. I read the first issue of this when it came out and was somewhat surprised to find it left me rather cold, unlike some of the other recent Vertigo output such as UNFOLLOW that grabbed me immediately. I like Gail Simone, I think she’s an excellent writer so I’m pleased I persisted because this is an elegantly dark and twisted bit of parapsychological horror that I think would appeal to people enjoying the likes of Scott Snyder’s WYTCHES, Robert Kirkman’s OUTCAST and also given how well  Gail writes strong female protagonists, Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING.

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For something strange and deeply unpleasant also happened to Astrid Muller herself. A long time ago as an innocent child, she was the victim of a particularly nasty hit and run incident. Which seemingly left her with a rather unusual brain injury resulting in extremely horrific hallucinations. If indeed that’s what they were. Fast forward to the present day and it would seem that Astrid Muller is convinced that in fact she developed the ability to be aware of, and commune with, creatures from another reality or dimension.

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A realm that perhaps humans might colloquially consider to be, shall we say, of a rather hotter temperature and brimstone whiff than our earthly plane… She might be right, though in Chloe Pierce’s eyes Astrid Muller is simply a deluded megalomaniac. However, taking the last line of Chloe’s exhortation from the opening pull quote, well, she might just end up getting exactly what she wants if she’s not careful, metaphorically or otherwise.

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What is certain is that Astrid and her cult-like team of associates have a highly secretive agenda that certainly brooks them no favours in the more serious parts of the media. Chloe’s one lead from someone who seems to have escaped Muller’s svengali-like influence, albeit far from unscathed, is regarding something called the Clean Room and in the best traditions of gung-ho investigative journalism she’s barged straight into Muller’s HQ demanding an interview. One very unsettling discussion with Ms. Muller later, and Chloe’s none the wiser as to what the <ahem> heck is going on.

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There’s raw action aplenty in this first volume too which nicely sets up all the various characters and leaves us with much to chew over regarding the ambiguous nature of Astrid. Very crisp clean art from Jon Davis-Hunt that has slight hints of Frank Quitely and Steve Dillon in places and will certainly have you squirming uncomfortably at the terrifying psychic torments visited upon various unfortunates in this opener.

I will be continuing reading, from behind the sofa!

JR

Buy Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception and read the Page 45 review here

NYX: Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada, Marjorie M. Liu & Joshua Middleton, Robert Teranishi, Sara Pichelli, Kalman Andrasofszky.

Hefty, all-in-one package, I reviewed the first four issues by Quesda and Middleton back in 2013:

The first sequential work from Josh Middleton since the frustratingly brief SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES preview, and those who immersed themselves in that ethereal, IKO-like beauty will be delighted to hear that he’s colouring this himself. If, of course, you care for the subject matter which is a long way from the bucolic fantasy which promised so much and delivered… complete silence.

You might be surprised, however, because wherever it’s going it’s taking its leisurely time establishing the fatherless family of a pretty young, pill-popping, trance-dancing people-user called Kiden. And I for one very much enjoyed its pace, the dialogue, and the strikingly different body language Josh is employing during the urban schoolground confrontations, right up until and including the obligatory “coming out” of the latent superpower. It was unusually eerie, surprisingly brutal, and the first time I found myself sympathising with the consistently obnoxious lead.

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Joe Quesada can write.

It’s not often you can say that about an editor, still less an editor-in-chief. Moreover, he displays a different voice from anyone else in his stable, and if foul-mouthed banter is most definitely “in” these days, Joe is far more convincing at it than most.

It doesn’t hurt that he has Josh on board, who – for those unfamiliar with this most distinctive of UK artists [whom I suspect went on to influence FREAKANGELS‘ Paul Duffield] – is in possession of a whole new vocabulary on “pretty” involving delicate lines, bit lips, and a complete command of the juvenile face, arm, wrist and hand.

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Any clichés – and there are a good half a dozen stock plot-points on display – are entirely forgiven on account of the breath of fresh air breezing right through them. Typically ignored by the superhero fanboys, I think you’ll be perfectly safe in assuming that’s a good sign, and – forgive me if I’m wrong – I wouldn’t expect spandex any time soon. More like nightclubs, street life and homelessness.

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As soon as I’d finished typing that, of course, X-23, otherwise known as the current ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, was introduced. Yup, first appearance, hence the cover.

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SLH

Buy NYX: Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters…

I don’t James Bond book coverknow what I expected from this really. I’m a huge James Bond fan, though like many people I have eventually come to feel rather weary with the character. There are after all, only so many retreads of the same adventure yarn you can sit through on the big screen or over a nut roast on Christmas Day. I thought perhaps an outing for James in comics, particularly penned by Warren Ellis, whom I am finding on top form with his outstanding TREES and INJECTION recently, might provide me with something fresh, but unfortunately it didn’t. Maybe there’s only so much even Warren can do with a character weighted down by such extensive cinematic baggage.

It’s slickly written for sure, make no mistake, and I did enjoy reading it tucked up in bed late at night as a quick and easy read before lights out, but it could just be another script treatment for a possible film. It’s all-action, absolutely nothing in the way of character development, with the typical interactions you’ve come to expect between Bond and M, Q, Moneypenny, the love interest, the bad guys etc. from the films. I can’t find anything to particularly complain about, but there wasn’t anything to really get excited about either.

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I will compliment Warren on the dialogue, which did feel completely in keeping with Bond, and there are some amusing pithy asides, plus I did enjoy the bad guy’s dying monologue but if this is going to capture peoples’ imagination and continue as an ongoing series, it really needs to do something different, quickly. I also found the art from Jason Masters somewhat stilted. Possibly it’s the colour treatment rather than the pencils themselves, just failing to bring the illustrations to life, I’m not sure, it just rather flat and thin. Overall, certainly no Octopussy but decidedly more of a View To A Kill than a Thunderball. For a rather different take on the entire Bond film canon, check out young Stanley Miller’s THINGS I THINK ABOUT SOMETIMES.

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JR

Buy James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/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.

Static (£4-00) by John Cei Douglas

Beirut 1990: Snapshots Of A Civil War (£22-50, Humanoids) by Sylvain Ricard, Bruno Ricard & Christophe Gaultier

Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mary Shelley & Bernie Wrightson

Compass South h/c (£13-50, Farrar Straus Giroux) by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock

Copperhead vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Jay Farber & Scott Godlewski

Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Chris Sprouse

Larsen Around – Niche (£5-00) by Ian Larsen

Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist (£2-60) by Paul B. Rainey

Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Nick Barber

Saga vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

White Sand vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor vol 1: A Matter Of Life And Death (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by George Mann & Emma Vieceli

Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus & various

Batman And Robin Eternal vol 2 s/c (£25-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder & various

Supergirl vol 1: The Girl Of Steel s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly & Ian Churchill, others

Angela: Queen Of Hel vol 1 – Journey To The Funderworld s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett & Kim Jacinto, Stephanie Hans

Avengers Standoff h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, others & various

Infinity Entity s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Alan Davis, Ron Lim

Ms. Marvel vol 5: Super Famous s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson & Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon

Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Superior – Survival Of The Fittest s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Greg Land

Venom: Space Knight vol 1 – Agent Of Cosmos s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Ariel Olivetti

Vision vol 1: Little Worse Than A Man s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Assassination Classroom vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Black Clover vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Tabata

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 37-39 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

My Hero Academia vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Tokyo Ghoul vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Vinland Saga Book 7 h/c (£17-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News!

Cerebus In Hell cover

ITEM! It’s bolt out of the blue time! CEREBUS IN HELL?

I never saw this coming, but CEREBUS will be back later this year, just before Halloween 2016 with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0. I’d make note of that question mark. This will be followed in 2017 with a four-part CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series to mark CEREBUS’ 40th Anniversary.

Written and drawn by Dave Sim from 1977-2004 and joined by one of comics’ greatest landscape artists Gerhard for over two-thirds of the 300 monthly issues, CEREBUS was one of the most innovative comics the world has ever seen from its creator commitment to its visual storytelling inventiveness, its lettering, and its defiantly independent publishing status, inspiring hundreds of creators to follow suit and push themselves into new creative territories.

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Dave Sim also virtually invented the collected edition / trade paperback in the US / UK without which you’d still be scurrying to find individual back issues of your favourite series at exorbitant prices to fill gaps in your collection and so read those works as a whole.

So there’s a thing.

Plus without Dave Sim and Gerhard there wouldn’t even be a Page 45.

(Scroll down, you’ll see.)

If CEREBUS wasn’t so important I wouldn’t have ensured that the Page 45 website contained reviews for every single volume before it launched, even though most of those books had been published long before Page 45 began writing reviews. And, oh look, Dave’s customised a page especially for us.

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Co-creator Sandeep Atwal writes:

“Even though Dave Sim hasn’t been able to draw since Feb 2015, we’re not letting that stop us from getting a jump on CEREBUS’ 40th ANNIVERSARY (2017) with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0.

“CEREBUS IN HELL #0 [will be] in the July PREVIEWS for items shipping in October – Diamond Order Code: JUL161105.

“There will be a new CEREBUS IN HELL? strip every day at cerebusdownloads.com after the July PREVIEWS street date (starting June 25) and CEREBUS IN HELL #0 shipping near Halloween. Please feel free to post any of the strips on your website and in your social media. Every Friday, all of the previous week’s strips will be posted at amomentofcerebus.com.”

A lot of them are already there. Please make with the clicky then scroll down if necessary.

“None of the online strips will appear in CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 or in the 4-issue CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series in 2017: they’re strictly to help generate sales (although they will be collected some day!)”

Once CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 is up on our website in the next fortnight, we’ll encourage you to order it there for Worldwide Shipping, but in the meantime you can add it to your Page 45 Standing Order – or, if you don’t have one you can start one up now – by emailing page45@page45.com or asking on the shop floor.

Cerebus In Hell lettering

That’s from CEREBUS: JAKA’S STORY, by the way, a perfect place to start as the review will explain. And yes, that’s Thatcher. See what I mean about the lettering?

Cheers!

–  Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week four

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

New Lisa Hanawalt, finale to Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, Alexis Deacon’s Geis, Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey 3, Sandman Mystery Theatre and Return Of The Dark Knight: Last Crusade with News underneath.

Geis: A Matter of Life and Death (£15-99, Nobrow) by Alexis Deacon.

“Don’t you understand? I have no choice.”

I understand perfectly; you always have a choice.

Whenever I’ve heard “I have no choice” it’s meant, “I don’t fancy the other options I’ve so far considered, so I’m completely abnegating responsibility for what I’m about to do.” Please file with “I’m just following orders”.

Admittedly on the surface the fifty souls sent on a mission here appear to have had their options substantially limited but not curtailed, for where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Before we begin, this is brilliant. Its beauty we’ll come to anon, but I want you to know from the start that this is enthralling and truly startling in places, with curses far more cunning in their detail and execution than you might initially suspect. Underneath the spot-varnish cover we are forewarned thus:

“Geis, pronounced gesh, is a Gaelic word for a taboo or curse. When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. You might be prohibited from calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or from breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.
“But a geis is always broken.
“As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.”

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The matriarch Matarka is dead.

She lies in state in her ceremonial robes on a bed in the centre of a cloister’s courtyard. Around her sit fifty citizens, most of whom seem downright grumpy that they’ve been woken from their beds. The great chief Matarka named no heir but instead proclaimed that there would be contest to select her successor.

“The rich, the strong, the wise, the powerful, many gave their names in the hope of being chosen.
“But when the night came fifty souls were summoned.”

An agreement is being sent round to be signed and a brief squabble breaks out over power, but it’s silenced by the gurgling of Matarka before an ectoplasmic apparition issues from her mouth to settle in a vessel, a body of an old woman sat slouched at the foot of the bed.

“I am Niope, the sorceress. Prepare yourselves for I have come to test you.
“A good chief should know the land. All the land. Like seed on the wind I scatter you.
“Find your way back to me before the light of the next dawn touches the castle door… or no chief will you be!”

That’s it: that’s all they are told before being conjured into the air and summarily dispatched.

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It’s possible that she may have omitted one or two salient items of interest, as at least a couple of the contestants will later find out. The others will remain oblivious to the consequences but I’ve chosen what I’ve written and quoted here carefully, for it’s not just God who’s in the details.

As we focus on a dozen or so individuals attempting to master their environment to make their way back after being dumped in a cave, between columns of rocks, in a wood and by quicksand or being thrust through a kitchen window, some prove more resourceful than others while others have certain skills which may afford them some desperately needed insight. We also discover that the Kite Lord’s daughter never entered her name into the contest, but when she attempts to withdraw, she discovers she can’t. None of them are going to be able to walk away and return to the lives they once knew, and it becomes increasingly clear that these challenges will be tests not just of capability, but of character too.

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That’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg – with carefully concealed depths – for this is the first in a trilogy in which you will begin to glean the differences between Life Magic and Death Magic and their tightly knit relationship, just as it is with Life and Death itself.

There are some spectacular skies on offer at all times of the morning, noon and night. Not least of these is the early shepherd’s warning behind the monumental composite of a castle whose cloisters we first looked down upon. An unfeasibly large, fantastical and positively Tolkien-esque fortress surrounded by minarets sits atop the base of an already gigantic, heavens-headed gothic cathedral, its architectural details bathed in brown shadow as the dawn behind it ignites in flaming reds, oranges, yellows and purples while the cold, spectral-blue shades of the challengers are whisked round and around then away.

A little later we’ll catch another glimpse of this citadel from further afield, surrounded by substantial Tudor terraced houses and mansions whose warped walls will loom over a protagonist or two as improvisations are attempted. There the softer, sandy colours are dry-brushed against bright white clouds which themselves drift idly across the vastness of a pale green sky.

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Then there are midnight flourishes during an unusually direct confrontation between two of the protagonists lest one learn the secrets of the other then disseminate that knowledge. A freezing, miasmatic mist rises like a monochromatic (but little less spectacular) version of the Aurora Borealis partially occluding a star-strewn, nocturnal heaven.

Atmosphere is all, and you won’t find it any less thrilling in a lamp-lit library as ancient Osha attempts to furnish the Kite Lord’s daughter with knowledge only to find that time has taken its toll and knowledge must be carefully kept alive and preserved… lest it be eaten away.

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School library folks, this is equally fine for your teens or early teens section. It’s going to be another of those graphic novels snapped up by all ages for its wide-eyes wonder and harsh revelations.

SLH

Buy Geis: A Matter of Life and Death and read the Page 45 review here

Hot Dog Taste Test h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt.

In Conclusion:

“Sprouts are fool’s noodles.
“Don’t trust smooth food.
“I have a hunch about croissants.
“Don’t eat your own eggs.”

Good call! It may seem like recycling – or something equally admirable, ecology-wise – but it probably breaks several HFEA guidelines or mandatory laws. Laws appear to be quite mandatory at the time of typing.

Every other non-mandatory law, rule or regulation of Food or Ablutionary Etiquette has been loudly breached in this ridiculous book and we soundly and roundly applaud! Hooray for throwing caution to the wind, kicking common sense to the curb and good taste into the gutters of genuine good will instead.

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Hanawalt has all the good will in the world and here seeks to disseminate that and her recondite knowledge like our very own, much-loved Professor Lizz Lunney, with true scientific and in-depth analysis as when sacrificing her own personal pleasure to make a thorough investigation of New York’s high-sugar, fat-saturated fast-food street vendors solely for her readers’ edification and long-term biological benefit.

I cannot begin to tell you how funny it is, and that’s my main problem. Hanawalt sets up her jokes so well in advance with relatively po-faced matter-of-factism or equally dead-pan facetiousness that it would take me paragraphs to quote. Plus I no longer have the faintest idea which elements of her exclusive behind-the-scenes, hourly diary, day-in-the-life reportage of Wylie Dufresne’s Lower East Side Restaurant’s operations are true, True, “true” or mere off-the-cuff whimsy.

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All I can do is warn you well in advance not to read this while handling heavy machinery because it’s is a convulsive-laugher liability:

La la laaaa…. (reading with interest)

La la laaaaaaaa… (white wine now spuming like a whale’s exhalation through my nose)

There are Q&As, top tips and food-photography terminology neologisms. If I’ve included that in the interior art here it’s worth clicking on to blow up.

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Lisa does like to travel and has much to impart, like Katriona Chapman’s thrillingly informative KATZINES, These bits I’m more inclined to trust for basic veracity, but my metaphorical pinch of salt has been safely stuffed away into my mental hand-luggage just in case.

When visiting an animal sanctuary, Hanawalt manages to pet a pet sloth, who may or may not mind this attention – who is to tell unless you wait five years and three months for its physical reaction?

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Then she swims with miniature otters which “have been bottle-fed and hand-raised. That means we’ll get to touch the heck out of ‘em!” Their synchronised squeaking gives her an all-time heavenly high which she may never be able equal. I’d like to be covered in wet, furry otters forever, please. They can nibble at my neck as much as they want. I will buy them ice cream and spiders.

But basically, this: Hanawalt appears to be permanently hungry and without any sense of self-control. I infer that her trip to Las Vegas with attendant boyf was paid for either by Lucky Peach Magazine or by the Cosmopolitan Hotel wherein she discovers Total Buffet Abandon (officially endorsed medical syndrome as of this review). Whilst suffering from Total Buffet Abandon you can do any goddamn thing you want. You can pile your plate high with everything on offer, mix ridiculously incongruous, mouth-destined dainties or expect a chef to serve them all up in an omelette and no one will complain. Not even Cosmopolitan’s PR manager Ranata for whom gluttony is either par for the course or a word long-eradicated from her dictionary.

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“Look, I wish I could say we went insane and blew hundreds of dollars and then earned it all back! But in reality we bet low, made modest winnings, and basically broke even. Eating is the only thing I like to do to excess. I choose to gamble with my guts!”

What goes in must come out, and no restaurant meal would be complete without a trip to the toilet. Some are so squeamish about public restrooms that they line the toilet seat with toilet paper. Lisa suggests twigs instead, which you can gather, arrange and then nest on. It’s a subject she returns to, including her fear of being caught nesting. I really cannot show you that page. She also imagines travelling through time to see how they did it in the olden days or what spectacles lie in store for us in the future.

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Best of all are her stabs at new slogans for multinational corporations’ advertising campaigns, like Nike’s “Just Do It”:

“Just fucking goddamned do it and be fucking done with it already”

I can’t quote the next line, crossed out, but it had me howling.

We perversely began at the end with this review, just as we purposefully conclude it with a reference to its origin because I can no longer discern rhyme from reason, a sheep from a cow, or what’s coming out of my brain.

That’s now been clinically diagnosed as The Lisa Hanawalt Effect.

It’s as if she turns the world upside down, gives it a damn good shake and sees what falls out.

SLH

Buy Hot Dog Taste Test h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

“Today I’m going to do something terrible to another human being – I’m going to give back the darkness he gave to me.
“It’s not mine to carry.
“It never was.
“The balance is non-negotiable.”

So ends RACHEL RISING, very much as it began.

With a great many shivers, for a start.

It began early one morning in a sequestered glade, with a woman waiting above a dried-up river bed… Until a leaf spontaneous combusts, and our Rachel claws herself slowly, and painfully, from her grave… then stumbles her way back home.

I can promise you two things: Rachel’s no zombie; she’s wide awake and very much aware of everything and everyone around her. But she definitely died.

She just doesn’t know who killed her yet.

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Now, in the final chapter of this finale volume, we’re about to find out.

From the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, this has been another tour de force combing comedy and tragedy, mercy and mischief, fury and all the foibles that make human beings the flawed individuals we are. It’s the humanity I love in a Terry Moore comic.

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I adore Rachel’s Aunt Johnny, the mortician who is resolute and unflustered even when out of her depth. And if I care for anyone above all here it is her assistant Earl whose eyes you never see when hidden behind glasses, but who nonetheless wears his great big heart on his equally gargantuan sleeve and doesn’t have a duplicitous or disloyal bone in his body.

This isn’t misdirection. I do that – a lot. But this isn’t it. I don’t think Terry has created a kinder character: the ultimate gentle giant.

I might even have started to love Lilith.

“Wow, Lilith… I never pictured you as a gardener.”
“Really? I was the first.”

Oh, but Mr Moore has a way with deft dialogue.

“You should have more respect for human life.”
“I would if they would.”

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He drops it onto page after page where so many other authors would simply be concentrating on plot mechanics.

The plot mechanics of this resolution are so fiendishly clever, their foundations laid in images whose meanings will only become clear later on. I’d watch what’s pictured, picked up and pocketed very carefully indeed. I love it when comicbook creators don’t necessarily tell you what you want to know, but show you what you need to know instead. This is, after all, a visual medium.

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There’s more nature than ever in RACHEL RISING, both flora and fauna, in open snow-swept landscapes and dense woodland populated by deer and dogs and ever so many crows. Life and death are central to its premise, the natural cycle all too unnaturally broken by Lilith and Rachel and – of course – in a different way, by the man who’s been slaughtering women then burying them, face down with a rope around their necks in shallow graves.

Aunt Johnny thinks she’s finally found a lead: three bodies in the last 18 months, discovered by farmers or utility crews. Forensics may tell them something, but Aunt Johnny knows a shortcut because Rachel’s been able to experience the final moments before death both of living souls and/or their corpses.

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A child, for example, has just been brought into the mortuary after being run over in a hit and run incident. Rachel reaches in.

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It was a busy school mom driving an SUV. On her mobile phone.

But Rachel can’t make contact with the skeletal remains of the one remaining woman. Perhaps it was the passing of too much time or the lack of soft organic tissue. If only to answer that question, Aunt Johnny casually suggests that Rachel try the remains of a recently dredged up floater. There’s plenty of organic tissue there. In fact, there’s barely anything solid.

And if you’re wincing right now, just wait for the recoil.

Almost everyone plays a key role here including young Zoe, who’s neither young nor Zoe. (You’d better see previous, equally spoiler-free reviews.) And I like that. It doesn’t do to build up your characters then give only the lead a satisfying resolution.

The build-up is so gradual and so measured that when the punches stop being pulled without warning they will smack you full in the face, dislocating your jaw.

And all the while Ma Malai, the Angel of Death, circles slowly and silently in wait…

For anyone.

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust and read the Page 45 review here

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart.

“Hey, Pig! We hear you have an imaginary friend!”
“Lionel, yes.”
“Ha ha. Lionel. If I had an imaginary friend I’d call him… MONSTERTRUCKOTRON 4!”
“Why 4?”
“The previous 3 fought each other to the death!”

Of course they did. Can someone please cut off Skunky’s electricity supply? I don’t even know where he gets it from. It’s time to begin the review-proper.

Oh my days, would you look at these colours! Could they get any juicier? If you want your young ones to devour their comics – to gorge on reading – then this will appeal to their sugar-free frothy fruit cravings. I am salivating!

I demand that the PHOENIX COMIC WEEKLY immediately launches a range of ice lollies. As MEGA ROBO BROS’ Neill Cameron suggested, they could be sellotaped to the front of each paper issue. What could possibly go wrong with that? On this cover alone we have cherry, blueberry and black currant, fizzy lemon, orange and asparagus flavours. Maybe with a cabbage-cream filling. Yum!

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Meanwhile, this is bananas, and the colouring inside is equally lush. The skies on a winter’s morning or early evening are a radiant yellow-below-blue behind purple mountains or peach-beneath-blue against bright white and blue-shadowed snow. It’s beautiful to behold.

But I promised you bananas and it lies in the bombast. Squeals, shrieks and screams fill the forest as Bunny, Weenie and Pig are terrorised by monomaniacal Monkey and too-clever-for-his-own-good Skunky or – in the case of Weenie and Pig – each other. Weenie and Pig are a couple of clots who once played Pass The Brain Cell between them and fumbled it.

The very first strip, ‘Log Off’, has them hiding behind masks. “From what?” asks Bunny.

“Well, I’m hiding from Pig because he’s wearing a scary mask!”
“And I’m hiding from Weenie because he’s wearing a scary mask too!”

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So often it’s a question here of be careful what you ask lest you lose your marbles under a blanket of bafflement, but also: Touch Nothing! This is both, especially true of Action Beaver who is a coiled spring, a self-primed time-bomb waiting to go off with glee. What makes this particular two-pager pure Jamie Smart, however, is that central catastrophe has been carefully sandwiched between Weenie and Pig for a knock-out, domino-effect, double punchline.

Value for money – that’s what I’m saying.

You can read my two previous reviews of the series by hopping over to our PHOENIX GRAPHIC NOVELS emporium in the Younger Readers section. Towards the end of the second volume, Smart started to lay the foundations of a subplot which here begins bearing fruit. Up until then we’d been spending time in this potentially idyllic woodland surrounded only by animals. But the prospect of humans encroaching on their not-so-tranquil repose with roads between cities is forewarned by Le Fox and now they’re all beginning to be spotted.

I think I just sent a shiver up my own spine.

Don’t worry, Pig and Weenie will put paid to that.

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It’s the energy and the expressions which propel these comics. There are teeth, teeth everywhere.

I note of page 34 that some seven-year-old is going to learn the term “synthesise”. I hope they’re more responsible with it than Skunky.

SLH

Buy Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis, John Watkiss, R.G. Taylor.

Jonathan and I both adored this series, a troubling period piece for a very troubled period leading inexorably to war. This isn’t about that war – though it does increasingly cast its pall as time marches on – nor should it be confused with the fantasy of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, although there is a link.

Instead it’s crime fiction populated by remote or cruel parents, brutal, often sexual sadists, their helpless victims and broken progeny, all in a dark, pre-war, post-Prohibition America.

Rarely outside of FROM HELL has a comic been so successfully steeped in and anchored to its era. Guy Davis’ slightly flabby faces, drab clothing, gritty textures and impenetrable night are as accomplished as Campbell’s were for Moore’s Victorian graphic novel and Wagner (with later help from Steven T. Seagle) served up mystery after mystery which the reader could actively engage in solving before the main protagonists.

Wesley Dodds is the apparently dry and studious heir to a now deceased businessman, perfectly at home with judges and lawyers. But all is not as it seems, for Wesley’s sleep is troubled by enigmatic nightmares which compel him to rise and follow their elusive leads.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One 1

Far across town Dian Belmont is both a romantic and a deep thinker, something rare in her socialite circle. Fiercely independent, she also has a strong will and a reckless streak which her doting District Attorney father does his kindly but inadequate best to curb. As the first story opens Dian’s life is one of gossip, privilege and parties, but she’s in for a rude awakening – and about to meet the man of her dreams.

This point in the review is as good a time as any time remind readers that Vertigo is repacking its series into thicker editions they call Books as opposed to Volumes which are their slimmer predecessors. As well as ‘The Tarantula’, then, this includes ‘The Face’ and ‘The Brute’. It was a brief and quickly corrected mistake to let artists other than Guy Davis in, for the second story arc set in Chinatown put a lot of people off – including myself, almost. A huge shame, because virtually everything that followed, including the third four-parter included here, proved gripping.

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Wagner continues to explore the realities of economic hardship, prejudices and dark family secrets. There’s a particularly upsetting sequence involving the sickly young daughter of a professional fighter.  Dian and Wesley’s compassion always provides a stark contrast to the seediness of what they encounter, and it’s their burgeoning romance which creates the momentum that propels the series ever onwards.

Its begins thus in a dream:

“First there is the woman, soft but indistinct. Like words written in darkness or the smell of a ripening peach.
“For soon she is eclipsed… by him.
“The man in black.”

You may recognise the helm, for it belongs to Morpheus.

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Infer what you will, but in all honesty…?  They will not cross paths until much later on in ‘Sandman Midnight Theatre’ found within Gaiman’s MIDNIGHT DAYS. Although The Corinthian will form a clue in a future edition of this series.

SLH

Buy Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade one-shot (£4-99, DC) by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello & John Romita Jr.

“Wolves, sheep… What’s the difference?
“It’s the numbers that count.
“One, two, use your shoe.
“Three, four, bar the door.
“Five, six, teach them tricks.
“Seven, hate…
“Hate
“My favourite number. Turn it on its side and it’s infinite.
“I learned that from a cartoon.”

Deliciously drawn by John Romita Jr, the sequence was perfectly timed as the ticking time bomb that is the Joker detonates his quietly contrived trap and makes his inevitable, unopposed exit through the least secure doors of any Maximum Security Mental Health Hospital in human history.

Arkham Asylum: containment costs little when they cannot contain you.

It’s financially inexpensive, anyway – unlike a new obsession spreading like a virus through Gotham’s wealthiest businessmen. They seem to be losing not just their money but their minds. One’s committed suicide after his bank account’s bled dry. Another’s taken his wife hostage on a bridge at night, holding a gun to her head.

“I need to prove to her that I love her.”
“By shooting her in the head?”
“Yes! I love her. I’ll prove it!”

His finger itches on the trigger.

“To an untrained eyes, it’s imperceptible. The slight twitch of the second knuckle.”

But Robin has been exceptionally well trained, all but taking man’s arm off at the elbow with a razor-sharp batarang.

“Robin – you could have just knocked the gun out of his hand.”
“I suppose.”

Yes, Robin has been exceptionally well trained, but there’s not a great deal of empathy there and he’s growing increasingly sullen, increasingly resentful and increasingly violent. It’s Jason Todd, the second Robin, by the way.

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There’s more to that scene than meets the eye, and it forms the main mystery of this one-shot while the meat on the bone comes in the form of a Joker as vicious and eloquent as he became in Miller’s BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and Bruce Wayne as bludgeoned and exhausted as well. His retirement – if not on Bruce’s mind – is certainly at the forefront of his friends’.

Those are the only connections I can discern to BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN other than Miller’s involvement, his use of inappropriately flippant or vapid media commentary from televisual dunderheads and Romita’s mimicry of its presentation with rounded, square sets. Perhaps the pallor of the colours, although there was a lot more white space in DKI.

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No, the main thrust of the story is forward through time and straight into the ever so welcoming arms of the green-haired grinning-one in another Batman classic in which a similar surliness and determination to prove himself won Jason a decidedly shorter career than he’d hoped.

This, then, is a parallel prequel to BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY.

If you don’t know what happens there, please don’t click on the link; but it’s nigh-universal knowledge to anyone who’d be buying a Bat book and does afford this comic its dramatic irony.

Fabulous final page from Romita and the writers, juxtaposing extreme, silent violence on either side of a singular detachment – both voiced and visualised – and the reprise of a refrain which, when finished, gives it a fierce zoological bite.

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SLH

Buy Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade one-shot 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.

Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) (£4-50) by Dan Berry

Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) (£3-50) by Dan Berry

Three Room’s In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) (£8-00) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry

For The Love Of God, Marie! (£16-99, Myriad) by Jade Sarson

I.D. (£7-50, Image) by Emma Rios

Indeh- A Story of the Apache Wars (Signed Edition) h/c (£18-99, Grand Central) by Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth

Screaming Planet s/c (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & various including J.H. Williams III, Jerome Opena, Adi Granov

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Manifest Destiny vol 1: Flora & Fauna s/c (£7-50, Image) by Chris Dingess & Matthew Roberts

Invisible Republic vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Gabriel Hardman, Corrina Bechko

Midnight Days – The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner & Teddy Kristiansen, Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Kim DeMulder, Sergio Aragones

Mythic vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Phil Hester & John Mccrea

Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga (£22-50, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Daniel Zezelj, Davide Gianfelice

18 Days vol 2: Heroes And Legends s/c (£10-99, Graphic India) by Grant Morrison, various & various

Assassin’s Creed vol 1: Trial By Fire s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery & Neil Edwards

James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters

Judge Dredd: Titan (£16-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint

Harley Quinn vol 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab s/c (£12-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palimotti & various

Carnage Classic s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan & various

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur vol 1: BFF s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare & Natacha Bustos

NYX: Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada, Marjorie M. Liu & Joshua Middleton, Robert Teranishi, Sara Pichelli, Kalman Andrasofszky

Yotsuba&! vol 13 (£7-99, Yen) by Kiyohiko Azuma

News!

Lowdham

ITEM! FREE! Page 45 will be in conversation at the Lowdham Book Festival this Saturday 25th June for ‘The Literary Art Of Cracking Comics’ with Sally Jane Thompson and Matt Green.. 3-30pm to 4-30pm at the WI Hall, Main Street.

It should be our Jonathan, but it could also be me. We exist in a state of flux!

Which can be exciting.

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ITEM! BREAKING NEWS!

Page 45 presents: Independent & Self-Publishing Century!

Yes, for over 21 years now Page 45 has extolled the virtues of independent publishing, self-publishing and promoted the best-selling comics and graphic novels that this fecund force has produced on a daily basis.

That’s 7,847 days so far!

In this not-new initiative Page 45 has made so many of these glorious story-telling triumphs not-so-small-sellers thus:

1) They are stacked next to our till!

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2) We have forced them into our window, bound and gagged, against their will!

3) They are racked right round our counter – Page 45’s prime selling spot – in a reckless display of warped priorities. Comics by Lizz Lunney, Philippa Rice et al. It is an outrage and I am disgusted!

Lizz Lunney Emporium

4) To redress this atrocity we have thrown John Allison off our counter and into a comicbook column of his own directly facing unsuspecting strangers as they waltz blithely through our doors. It is a veritable gulag or ghetto.

5) We have them Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month because so many of those creators, oblivious to their insignificance, are the best in the business.

John Allison 1

John Allison 2

In 2015 alone Page 45’s two best-selling comics were self-published: John Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2 beating Marvel’s SECRET WARS issues by furlongs, fathoms and miles.

In 2015 alone Page 45’s best-selling graphic novel was Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose’s PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA published by Improper Books, run out of a farmhouse (I kid you not) by Ben Read himself and MULP’s Matt Gibbs.

PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA outsold the NYT best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s exceptional  SANDMAN: OVERTURE illustrated by comicbook legend JH Williams III even though it was published by DC which is owned by Time Warner. You may have heard of them.

Porcelain Bone China bookplates

But wait!

Now, as part of Page 45’s token effort to promote quality and diversity regardless of its publishing status, we promise this: we will continue this endeavour every single day for the next 79 years!

We call this…. Page 45’s Independent & Self-Publishing Century!

Self-Publishing Century

Only one century, mind.

When the clock runs out on October 17th 2094, Page 45 will jettison this quaint campaign of self-defeating, fiscal insanity which has netted us so much more money than could be dreamed of by insular, unadventurous and corporate-compliant comic shops and we will….

Inevitably cease to exist.

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ITEM! Luke Pearson’s glorious all-ages HILDA graphic novels are to be made into an animated Netflix series! New Yorker interview with that Luke Pearson.

You can swoon over all of Luke Pearson’s HILDA graphic novels reviewed by Page 45 here!

HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST is due out on September 1st.

Hilda And The Stone Forest cover

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2016 (October 14-16 in Kendal) announces more comicbook creator guests!

In addition to the likes of Bryan Lee O’Malley and Mick McMahon, the new list includes Duncan Fegredo, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Ilya, Rufus Dayglo…

… And a Charlie Adlard vs. Dan Berry smackdown!

Adlard versus Berry smackdown

Page 45 will be there, as always, in our very own Georgian Room up the stairs / lift in the Kendal Clock Tower. Entrance is FREE!

Website: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

1 Lakes Fest Clock Tower

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week three

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Featuring Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth, Alexis Deacon, Jiro Taniguchi, Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci. Darryl Cunningham, Simon Roy, Michael DeForge and more!

Guardians of the Louvre (£17-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

“Just look at those lines!”

This gasp is elicited by the sight of the glass Pyramid with its astonishing steel struts which rises within the vast courtyard of the Louvre, not so much taking up space but informing it, redefining it, refining it.

It made me laugh, for my eyes had been wide in similar, awe-struck astonishment for each of the nine previous pages, wondering how Taniguchi could make so much even of railings, diverging with precision from a vanishing point on the Parisian skyline without looking at all clinical but tactile and pocked with pits.

We’ve been admiring Taniguchi’s elegant lines every since the original publication of THE WALKING MAN, but this is the first time the English-speaking world has been blessed with a fully distributed commercial graphic novel of his in full colour. And oh, the colour!

You could spend hours looking at the opening page alone, mesmerised not just by Jiro’s panorama, but what he’s done with the folds of the faun-coloured jacket and the drains of the metal slats beneath the protagonist’s feet and the shadow those legs and feet cast over that walkway.

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When our lone Japanese artist visits Auvers-sur-Oise for a day’s pilgrimage to the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh we will see what Taniguchi can do with vast, verdant fields transected by dry, sunlit tracks, then big bushy trees, clipped lawns and cornfields. But it is the architecture that amazes the most both there and while wandering both inside and outside the Louvre in Paris.

There are so many panels of delicate detail gazing up or looking down over the rooftops which capture the semi-relief I adore so much in window ledges and eves, casting just so much shadow over the creamy stone. Window boxes boast a dappling of foliage and trees dangle leaves over walls along the banks of the Seine.

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Paris is a city designed so that wherever you are you can see over, under and through it ever since Haussmann raised and rebuilt it in the mid-19th Century, giving any pedestrian a very real sense of where they are, wherever they are. Taniguchi so evidently relishes that sense of space and conveys it so successfully one feels as if one’s wondering a couple of steps behind him, beside him, luxuriating in the early summer light.

Once the cultural traveller’s inside the museum, that space is no less in evidence. The Baroque majesty of some of the grand arches and Corinthian columns towering above white stone steps and organic, wrought iron banisters is evoked with perfectly chosen perspective. So many galleries are drawn in meticulous detail including each individual painting housed within, and without his fellow tourists to block our view, it is enough to make the heart and soul soar. How has Taniguchi contrived that we – and our protagonist – might see it so?

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Ah.

Well, it’s all a little fanciful, to say the least, but that made me smile too.

A Japanese artist arrives in Paris following an international comics festival in Barcelona – since he’d come all that way. But the stress of the festival combined with an inability to get over the initial jetlag has played havoc with his immune system and for a whole day he lies shivering, bed-ridden.

“I come to feel somehow light-headed and strange. Suddenly alarming thoughts go through my head, like maybe I’ll just die here like this.”

He awakes the next morning dripping in sweat but, determined to make the most of even a minor recovery, he saunters out onto the streets. One omelette later and invigorated by caffeine, the man makes his way down narrow streets and broad boulevards to spend the first of three days in the Louvre. It is, of course, pullulating with fellow sight-seers which make him dizzy so, once down the escalators, he decides to split off from the hordes and heads towards the antiquities of Ancient Greece and Rome – the Denon Wing on the lower ground floor – only to suffer a relapse. His head swimming, he falls to the floor, the world around him exploding with colour as the statues dissolve into amorphous, floating shapes…

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When he comes to, the museum is deserted save for a woman dressed in the palest of pinks, her hair tied back into an elaborate bundle of buns. She will be his guide through the Louvre, as the artist experiences some extraordinary visions and even more remarkable encounters along with an unexpected moment of personal closure.

Everything else redacted!

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Yes, this is an English-language graphic novel. I just needed to glean some images from France!

SLH

Buy Guardians of the Louvre and read the Page 45 review here

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars h/c (£18-99, Grand Central Publishing) by Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth.

“My grandson was ten years old before he understood that people died in any other way than violence.”

So there’s a sentence to dwell on.

This is a beautiful book.

Its crisp white, satin-sheen pages boast the most fluent storytelling through the most fluid choreography, and the tightest figure work rendered with loose, sweeping brush strokes from the creator of THE LOST BOY.

Horses’ limbs become a blur of motion when galloping. Yet when at rest they have all the weight, along with their flanks, which could carry a man for miles. Their eyes scream with a not-knowing terror as bullets blast into their skulls. When they fail to skitter up vertical hard-rock or scree-slopes which only Apaches and their ponies could conquer, you instinctively understand the skill, momentum and grip required and the gravitational insanity of any such attempt.

These giant mountains rise from the dusty plains like ancient, implacable, geological gods. A testament to time, ‘awe’ is the word we are looking for.

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Faces stare out at you with hardened anger as eyes – which speak volumes and seem older than those who possess them – reflect on what has been seen, what has been done and that which is yet to come. What will be wrought their own hands; and by the White Eyes’.

The fists are very physical, clutching a burning branch to set fire to a pyre, and the hand which reaches out to lift a young girl’s wrist from the palm of her mother’s is unmistakably both flesh and bone. Such is Ruth’s craft that you can feel not only the softness of skin and the tenderness of its touch, but also the emotion behind such a separation.

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In a juxtaposition which drives the cruelty and gaping loss home, Goyahkla’s daughter – alive and well and on the verge of becoming a woman – appears in a ghostly, fleeting flashback, her transition celebrated with due ceremony. Oh, it may delay the Apache in pursuit of their prey, but equally important to them is this: it means that the antelope they are hunting purely for sustenance will enjoy another day of life.

Life.

The balance of life and nature is brought home to you on the very first pages, in a tranquil, pure-water pond in private. It is a private moment, part ceremony, part presentiment, part passing of lore.

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Contrast all that – as both Hawke and Ruth do – with the public, knee-jerk, incendiary actions and reactions of a Bluecoat Colonel whose ego gets the better of him in defending a lie he barely believes in himself, and whose pricked pride then ignites an unnecessary war all in the name of saving face, maintaining authority and his own personal power.

Contrast all that – as both Hawke and Ruth do – with the unnatural, seedy and duplicitous assignations of a prospector called Bruce who boasts of his sexual conquests before throwing them away like Kleenex into an alley of actual excrement. The White Man was always ever so very fond of declaring that his “Civilisation” surpassed the “Savagery” of those whose lands he successively invaded then stole for his own, but which one here stuck scalps up on stakes and boiled heads up in pots?

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This is the crux of the matter: the appropriation of life-giving land, freely roamed by the Apache in harmony with nature, by the White Eyes in order to colonise it, dig out its gold and make money.

“Who are the Bluecoats to give us part of a thing which Usen gave us as whole? It is all our land.”
“Not anymore. None of it is yours but what the White Eyes give you. Understand this.”
“A Bedonkohe does not wait to be given back what was stolen from him!”

There is so much control, vital for a tale this terrible, and it is all too true. It’s just not the one which have been telling in nearly a century of cinema. It is a story of betrayal.

Over and over again, individual trust is rewarded by betrayal.

This is no hagiography whitewashing the extent of the Apaches’ revenge taken in anger. Indeed it begins with the wholesale slaughter of Mexicans including women and children in retribution for the same done to them. But it does redress the balance after years of careless or deliberate, propagandist fiction depicting the Apache people at the time as aggressively and gratuitously vicious, and it does so by presenting the multiple, successive provocations. And I emphatically do not mean provocation by confrontational word; I mean by murderous deed.

Actions and reactions are very different beasts.

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This is in its truest sense a tragedy, for we know what will happen both to individuals like the legendary Geronimo and to the Apache people long after this graphic novel concludes. That is set in all-too-bloodied stone. But Hawke and Ruth compel us – with such passion, compassion and skill – to watch the wretched, hateful and inhuman events unfold before our eyes that we cannot look away. We are simply left to mourn their occurrence.

It’s that historically inevitability which demands I leave you to witness the shameful specifics for yourselves without giving even a hint as to who does what to whom, when and why. At so many junctures so much could have been averted by individuals credited here for their more honourable interventions which are so blithely ignored or thwarted by gang-mentality hatred and flagrant insubordination.

Man’s inhumanity to man. And so it very much goes.

SLH

Buy Indeh A Story of the Apache Wars h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Love vol 3: The Lion h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci.

Not so much the Circle Of Life as the constantly turning tides of food-chain fortune and the constant threat of being stalked, surrounded, flattened, clawed, mauled, mangled and otherwise shredded by crocodiles, vultures, spotted hyenas and even other lions.

Circle of Death, then. I’ve never seen so many carcasses.

No wonder the scorpion crawls back under its rock.

Brrémaud and Bertolucci’s LOVE: THE TIGER and LOVE: THE FOX have already claimed more than enough tiny victims as young souls’ eyes widen with recognition and delight at their covers, eagerly anticipating bright Disney doings, but come away streaming with tears at the ferocity they encounter within.

“Errrrm, probably not…” I’ve warned parents in advance on several occasions, but children can be tenacious once they’ve set their sights on things, can’t they?

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Set on the Serengetti, this is on another level of brutality than either of the other two, genuinely upsetting as the lead lion here enjoys little respite during its solitary roaming even if others do. Briefly. For him it’s one long territorial ostracism.

Even for the others it’s death – death everywhere – and often dragged out. Painful, really.

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Also exceedingly beautiful, obviously. Bertolucci’s animals are exquisitely drawn, their habitats radiant with light or drenched in torrential rain. Other Serengetti animals on offer include baboons, armadillos, a particularly petulant cobra, blue wildebeest, black rhinos, gazelles and assorted flying things.

As for the comet that appears from the sky towards the end, well you’re in for a bit of a surprise as are those lying below. Seriously? After everything else, they deserved that?

P.S. It isn’t a comet.

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For far more extensive reviews, please see LOVE: THE TIGER and LOVE: THE FOX and for more adult-orientated animals, please see PRIDE OF BAGHDAD by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon.

SLH

Buy Love vol 3: The Lion h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Psychiatric Tales (US Edition) h/c (£13-50, Bloomsbury) by Darryl Cunningham.

From the creator of SCIENCE TALES and SUPERCRASH, this is the Bloomsbury edition of his first, vitally important graphic novel which blazed the way for what is now a burgeoning array of comics and graphic novels on mental health issues, currently on our counter for maximum exposure, which have been snapped up because people care. Well, some people.

In some parts of this country Talking Therapy can take up to a year’s wait. And if only you knew the hoops that a friend of mine had to jump through – hours and hours of phone calls being tossed from one department to another and then weeks of waiting for an appointment – when she was seriously and immediately at risk: suicidal.

A book like this, then, is absolutely vital. We made the original volume Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month back in October 2010. This is the Bloomsbury edition of the revised, expanded UK edition which contained two brand-new chapters on different dementias and psychosis.

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It’s by no means a common experience, but there are some books one starts bursting to write about a mere twenty pages in. PSYCHIATRIC TALES is one of those: a book of such instinctive, level-headed compassion, communication and education which nearly never saw completion on account of the creator’s own deteriorating mental health. A childhood riddled with self-loathing only grew worse in adulthood as Cunningham withdrew at the very time he most craved connection. It was his artistic talent that finally gave him a sense of belonging, whilst his desire to understand his own condition and his natural empathy for others (so clearly evidenced here) led him into work as a health care assistant before training as a student to qualify as a mental health nurse.

“And this is when I overreached myself. This is when I broke.”

After reading the book you can comprehend why. It’s no easy job for the sturdiest of individuals but for someone as vulnerable and sympathetic as Darryl, well, it was going to get to him eventually.

The book isn’t about Darryl, though: the preceding pages detail his experiences on the ward and what he learned about various debilitating mental conditions as a result. The very opposite of sensationalist, its measured contents will undoubtedly still prove affecting for there can be few of us who haven’t come suffered from some degree of depression or come into contact with other mental illnesses: schizophrenia with its attendant paranoia and hallucinations; bipolar disorder with its peaks and troughs and compulsion to communicate everything at once; violent anti-social personality disorders; the dementia of Alzheimer’s, the disorientation and delusion and reversion to an earlier period in life; suicidal imperatives; self-harming from anger, self-loathing and a desperation to assert any sort of control even if it involves physical pain as a distraction from the mental anguish.

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Each condition is explained through personal observation and with an education that enables Cunningham to detail current treatments, rebalancing the brain’s chemicals whilst providing the most efficacious environment wherever possible. And without meaning to alarm you, Darryl correctly places an emphasis on one particular truth: it can happen to anyone at any time.

At school the brother of my best friend suddenly started pronouncing himself to be the Second Coming and appointed disciples. I’ve met several self-harmers and known them for years. I know at least one bi-polar, my grandmother slid away from us under Alzheimer’s, someone very close to me is suffering with acute depression and, I guess, most disturbingly of all, a young man I thought brilliant and charming abruptly became barely coherent, violent (he tried to kill his mother and girlfriend) and – because he’d already been misdiagnosed as having a behavioural disorder instead – it took his parents a whole year of research and fighting to get the man properly diagnosed with Cannabis Psychosis and therefore properly treated. The jury is out on whether they succeeded in time. I recognise everything I read here. It’s spot-on, including the patient’s delusion, post-recovery, that sustained medication is no longer necessary.

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As to the artwork, it’s deceptively simple just like Satrapi’s in PERSEPOLIS for maximum empathy, black shadows casting faces into silhouette, a warning of potential bleak, black moods. It’s the perfect balance between word and picture, so as sequential art it reads like a dream. Or a nightmare.

“The effects of suicide ripple outward. Damaging family, friends and strangers alike. A suicide will leave an average of six people immediately affected by the death. A parent, a significant other, a sibling, or a child of the deceased person. The people are referred to as the survivors. These are the ones left to suffer. Never knowing why, always wondering if he could have done more.”

Amen.

SLH

Buy Psychiatric Tales (US Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

War Stories vol 4 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Tomas Aira…

“Did I ever tell yeh me brother’s in the Navy?

“He’s on a destroyer, H.M.S. Harrier.
“He told me he’s spent the last five years escortin’ convoys from America an’ Canada. Food an’ fuel. Supplies for industry.
“It all goes to Britain, but enough of it ends up in Dublin or Rosslare.
“That’s why we’ve not gone hungry, just in case yeh were wonderin’.
“He said the Royal Navy’s lost a lot o’ships to U-Boats. A lot o lads’ve gone down with them.
“He told me that… an’ I didn’t feel very neutral.”

I wasn’t intending to review this volume of WAR STORIES, figuring readers know what they’re getting by now, but exactly as with WAR STORIES VOL 3, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to. As always with Ennis, in addition to giving us a brilliantly well written piece of action, we get tales that educate as much as inform. They’re always as heavily grounded in reality as a bogged-down infantry patrol taking heavy fire in the muddy lanes and densely packed trees of the Reichwald, the Imperial Forest, a historic woodland since the time of the Holy Roman Empire in the heart of Germany.

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Which not-so-coincidentally, is the backdrop for this story of a rather personal moral conflict amongst two members of the remnants of the 3rd platoon of the Irish Rifles. Having already enjoyed the delights of the bocage in France, life wasn’t getting any easier for the Allied footsoldiers as they headed into the Fatherland itself en route to Berlin. I was well aware that a number of brave men from the Irish Republic, many with long family traditions of fighting for British regiments, had joined up in WW2, despite initially facing arrest from their own government if even they tried to leave the country, including several thousand who deserted from the Irish Defence Forces.

I wasn’t aware, however, that there was no conscription from Northern Ireland, a decision taken by the British government due to the heated political situation at the time, as was the case at the time of WW1 as well, though in both conflicts that didn’t stop a great number of volunteers signing up, around 38,000 Northern Irishmen in the case of WW2. I won’t give you any more information about the tête-à-tête in question here, but suffice to say this particular platoon has some soldiers with, shall we say, rather differing political views…

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Then, as with WAR STORIES VOL 3, this volume is also a double header, and here the second tale features the fighter pilots of a US air squadron stationed on Iwo Jima, escorting bombers on their 660-mile trip to Tokyo. Plus, of course, the equally daunting return over a vast stretch of ocean, where weather conditions and mechanical failures were just as likely to prove fatal as a dogfight with the enemy.

There’s much food for moral thought again here, this time on the absolute opposite statistical end of the scale to the first story. But even so, whilst this is partly a tale about the sheer numbers involved in the war of Pacific attrition as the Americans attempted to sap the Japanese will to fight to the death for their Emperor, for those on the front line, it was still a very personal affair.

Here we see matters through the eyes of the grizzled, war-weary veterans and also the very raw fresh-out-of-flying school recruits. Still, combat in the skies seems a much more survivable option than being a Jarhead tasked with hand-to-hand fighting fervent fanatics intent on defending their divine leader and blessed nation to the very last man…

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“What’s your opinion, Captain? I mean the marines are pretty obviously going to be the first ashore…”
“I think it’s going to be the usual bloodbath, Doctor. Or worse than usual: if you look at how hard they fought for this little pimple, you can imagine what Japan itself will be like. I just hope it’ll be worth it this time.”
“Well… of course it’ll be worth it…”
“I think what the Captain means is Iwo Jima wasn’t.”
“You know, I’m a guest here, Major. I should probably shut up, I don’t mean to repay your hospitality by saying anything out of line…”
“Not a bit of it. We’re all grown-ups here.”
“Well… we lost nearly seven thousand marines taking this place. That’s lost as in killed, not including wounded. My company took eighty-eight percent casualties, and, well, what is it you boys do here again…?”
“What do we do? We escort the bombers knocking hell out of the Japs… which’ll make it a lot easier when you go up on those beaches…”
“I’ve heard that one before, Captain. But say Iwo Jima didn’t exist, or we’d failed to take it: those bombers wouldn’t be sent to Tokyo anyway?”
“Well…”
“Because I happen to know they’ve been sending them out since last summer. We only hit this place in February.”
“They took losses operating without us, don’t forget.”
“Heavy losses? How many men in one of those things?”
“Twelve.”
“So how many aircraft do you have to save to justify the men we left behind on Iwo?”
“I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as that.”
“Forgive me, Doctor. When I said my company, I meant the one I was in charge of. To me it’s twice as simple as that.”

Set against the prospect of a protracted campaign to take the Japanese home islands – with the firebombing of cities with houses made from wood and paper being the targets of choice (due to poor accuracy making well defended industrial targets like refineries nearly impossible to hit) seemingly having little or no effect on Japanese morale or desire to continue to wage war – you can perhaps understand why the US government took the decision to drop two atomic bombs. It undoubtedly greatly shortened the war in the Pacific by forcing the Japanese to capitulate, despite incurring huge civilian casualties in the process. They probably weren’t using the term collateral damage at that point in time, but it’s certainly the most spectacular examples of it still. This, then, is a little glimpse into what was happening at the sharp end of the Pacific theatre that undoubtedly factored heavily into that stark choice.

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It’s a shame BAREFOOT GEN is currently out of print, because as anti-war stories go, Keiji Nakazawa’s loosely auto-biographical opus is a tough, emotionally bruising, but essential read. For more WW2 material from a Japanese point of view in general I can’t recommend highly enough Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical inspired ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS about the defence of the Pacific islands. Also his SHOWA material, SHOWA VOL 2 1939-1944 and SHOWA VOL 3: 1944-1953, detailing the modern history of Japan, again spiced with a dash of autobiography, particularly if you are interested in what was going on in Japan itself during WW2, and its aftermath on the Japanese psyche. If you’re also interested in finding out about just how Japan suddenly started focusing outwards and rose in global prominence to become such a fascistic, military dominated regional powerhouse, I’d suggest starting with SHOWA VOL 1: 1926-1939.

JR

Buy War Stories vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Island #8 (£5-99, Image) by Simon Roy, Xulia Vicente, Ben Sears, Michael DeForge…

“This probably seems like a big decision.
“I’m certainly thankful it’s not my decision to make.
“But if it’s helpful, try thinking of it this way instead.
“It’s not a big decision.
“It’s just one decision.
“In a lifetime of others.”

I’m not still going on about the US decision to deploy the atomic bomb in my WAR STORIES VOL 3 review, I promise. (Check me out, getting all meta and mixing my reviews in together like a demented disk jockey!) But, this is the US Vice President, who has been given an impossible conundrum to crack by Michael DeForge. Yes! That Michael DeForge, personal Rigby fave, and he of DRESSING, LOSE, BIG KIDS, FIRST YEAR HEALTHY (and much more besides) fame! I hadn’t realised he was going to be contributing, but it’s just another huge reason for me to continue reading this, to-date excellent, Brandon Graham led anthology.

I note Michael is also slated to contribute to ISLAND #10 as well. Along with Malachi FROM NOW ON Ward, who will be cropping up in ISLAND #9 (which I’m excited about) and considering the other luminaries like Emma PRETTY DEADLY / MIRROR (review of #1 here) Rios and Marian BEAST / FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS (review of #1 here) Churchland who’ve penned and drawn material to date, Brandon’s clearly able to pull in the veritable gamut of heavy hitters in terms of talent, which is why this title has maintained its impetus right from  the get go (review of ISLAND #1 here).

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Well, that was quite the exordium wasn’t it?! I better get on with the actual review now. So, in this extended self-contained yarn, titled ‘Mostly Saturn’, whenever an American citizen dies they are reincarnated as an alien in a Utopian colony on Saturn. Why? No one knows. Just like no one has any idea why these new arrivals reincorporate at the exact age they were at the time of their death before they gradually begin de-ageing, Benjamin Button-fashion, to nothingness. What happens to them then? You’ve guessed it, no one knows. It’s not surprising therefore that more than a few Americans have decided to take matters into their own hands and head off for this brave new world, the President included, leaving the VP up to his neck in it. Where will it all end? Fortunately for us, Michael DeForge does know and if you read this, you will too!

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The other major contribution to this issue which forms just over half of the 70 pages is the chunky conclusion to Simon Roy’s brilliant sci-fi ‘Habitat’ story which is material very akin to PROPHET that he contributed to. I suspect, much like Emma Rios’ forthcoming trade of ID, which was in a couple of the earlier issues of ISLAND, it will get collected separately at some point in the near future.

Filling out the issue are two weird and wonderful silent shorts from Xulia Vicente and Ben Sears of the titillating eye-candy flavour we’ve come to expect from this series. Xulia’s in particular tickled me because I made the fatal error of thinking that her characters looked a bit like Tony Millionaires’ DRINKY CROW (minus the beak, it must be said), and then I couldn’t stop seeing it, which only added to the fun and games!! Keep it up Brandon, keep it up, sir!

JR

Buy Island #8 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. 

Njalla (£8-00) by Rozi Hathaway

Abe Sapien vol 7: The Secret Fire (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt

Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso

Fight Club 2 h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart

Hot Dog Taste Test h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt

Outcast vol 3: This Little Light s/c (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta

Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis, John Watkiss, R.G. Taylor

Sex Criminals vol 3: Three The Hard Way (£10-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Batman: Earth One vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Hawkeye vol 6: Hawkeyes s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat vol 1: Hooked On A Feline s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kate Leth & Brittney Williams, Natasha Allegri 

News! 

ITEM! Young poets! Are you aged 16 to 21? Send your poems in to Words For Walls and see them go up around Nottingham in October!

If you’re selected, you can then splurge your £50 prize on absinthe. 

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ITEM! Okay, well in lieu of anything else, Page 45 broke its June website sales record on Saturday 11th June… with 19 days to go! So thank you for that. You do blow my brains out, you lot.

You’re ridiculously kind.

But aren’t our books beautiful? Behold, above! They really are.

– Stephen

P.S. Illustration above by Bernie Wrightson. I do believe I’ve found a few more copies of his jaw-droppingly detailed FRANKENSTEIN so we’ll add that back to the system once they come in.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week two

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Adam Sarlech Trilogy h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Frédéric Bézian.

One peak inside this substantial, album-sized oeuvre should be enough to convince anyone that Frédéric Bézian is the Francis Bacon of the comic world. What Bacon achieved with swollen, swirling paint, Bézian commits to paper with line and ink.

Both produced distorted grotesques whose faces protrude and implode in places, no more so here than the servant’s with an eye patch which looks as if it’s being sucked into its socket.

In the opening ‘Adam Sarlech’ these marionettes, with utterly mad hair, whirl wildly and gesticulate as if undergoing constant electrotherapy. On methedrine.

They act as if in burlesques, and I’m only half-tempted to qualify that “without the comedy” even though things grow very dark indeed.

The story storms on at a lightning pace, slicing between scenes in the new priest’s church, its graveyard, the moors where a lone orphan called Alba wanders, and the Malherbe family’s château where Doctor Emile Spitzner is their physician in residence, treating widowed matriarch Agathe’s brother, Charles.

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The invalid’s medication has proved ineffectual for Charles has been paralysed for fifteen years, his only actions being the brief cessation of his constant drooling for precisely ninety seconds upon awakening. No one knows if it is a disease or a curse. They do believe in both, especially Agathe’s twin children Ralph and Raphaëlle who have an unhealthy interest in spiritualism – communicating with or even reviving dead spirits. Their younger sister Judith, meanwhile, is as mute as her uncle and a raving nymphomaniac, offering herself even to Raphaëlle’s mannequins. Oh yes, and their servants are zombies who haven’t aged for twenty-five years.

We’ll leave Agathe’s dead husband Raoul alone for now. That’s how he’d want it, anyway. But everything I’ve mentioned is pertinent – including the mannequins – and the astonishing truth behind their past and their present will be revealed in a plot which proves as ridiculously elaborate and intricate as it is extensive.

For who is the titular Adam Sarlech, an infamous spiritualist whose only presence here appears to be through increasingly illegible snatches from his journal which whisper about forbidden love, family ostracism and sexual assignations with ectoplasm? Ah, well, he did once join the family Malherbe for dinner.

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That is the first book in this interconnected trilogy which ends in such a way as to leave everyone left standing completely frazzled. I write “interconnected” but each time a new story started I could not conceive how it would fit into the first one at all. Trust me on this: the connections are far from tangential.

‘The Bridal Chamber’, for example, makes every deliberate effort to persuade you that you’re reading some riff on Bram Stoker’s Dracula: man summoned by stage coach to castle at night, warned by its driver yet greeted genially by a Count who claims to live alone and shuns mirrors. Some succubus appears in his room at night and letters are received from home from children missing their father. The Count continues all calm and courteous as his new employee is driven to distraction.

So what is actually happening here, if not a neo-Nosferatu experience?

Haha! Not telling you! It’s nothing like what you’ve been led to believe, but I will give you this for free: don’t feel you have to read all the satanic ritual dialogue backwards (as I did), for its ‘translation’ is provided during the chapter break. And if you think I’ve given anything away by “satanic ritual” it will only lead your further up that stately home’s substantial, poplar-lined garden path.

The final instalment is called the ‘The Snow-Covered Testament’ in which three former students, now successful professionals, are also summoned, this time by their former lecturer who has become an old, bed-ridden man. That professor is another facial tour de force, the crinkled, wrinkled skin round his eyes resembling that of a chameleon’s.

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Time has elapsed since both previous tales, but you will recognise one of those professionals immediately and then two of the three locations they are dispatched to in search of Emma. Their lecturer claims he is dying and wishes to see “the only woman I ever loved” who left him thirty years ago… around the same time that the four of them were working together on the students’ thesis, ‘Concepts and Definitions of Time in the History of Western Civilisations’ before they too abandoned the lecturer.

He smiles from his voluminous, fluffed-up pillow but there is a bitter bite to his words and as the three stooges embark on their journey they begin to suspect revenge is being wrought. But on whom? By what means? It is all a great deal more diabolical than they could possibly fathom.

The final story is decidedly autumnal, the others more wintry, but in each the scenery is drawn with as much relish as its occupants. The trees rising high above equally jagged bushes along the low, horizontal landscapes are a frenzy of line and colour in orange, ochre and even electric blue. Vast, open skies come slashed in skin-pinks and purples, speaking of gales which have buffeted the birches on higher, more exposed plains over decades.

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It is all quite, quite mad, as are almost all of the players. Some of them have been mad for many more moons than you might initially suspect.

This is in English, by the way. Regardless of which language you see spoken in our interior art, we would make a point of mentioning if any graphic novel was foreign-language!

SLH

Buy Adam Sarlech Trilogy and read the Page 45 review here

Peplum (£15-99, New York Review Comics) by Blutch…

“Well comrades, is she not worthy of Helen, or Venus herself?”
“A goddess among goddesses!”
“Imprisoned in the ice!”
“Ours!”

Hmm… the moment I read that particular panel I had my suspicions there was going to be a fair degree of tragedy, to complement and counterbalance the saucy sexual antics, brutal violence and ribald comedic elements. Laying claim to ownership of gods and goddesses rarely ends well for those concerned. In the case of Publius Cimber, exiled Roman knight, it’s going to be a long, tortuous punishment for coveting the affections of his icy maiden indeed.

Well, it would be if it weren’t for the fact that one of his colleagues had murdered him and assumed his identity. Hmm… pretty sure stealing the identity of a well known knight, brother of a Roman senator, exiled by Julius Caesar himself, is merely compounding one’s already idiotic behaviour, but at least we will have chance to enjoy his travails whilst he is forced to endure them. This opening chapter of rapturous discovery in a wintry corner of the far reaches of the Roman Empire of 44 B.C. gives little away regarding the carnage, chaos and sexcapsades to follow.

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Publius Cimber, by the way, is the brother of Lucius Tillius Cimber, or Metellus, to use the name Shakespeare gave him in his play Julius Caesar. Those of you who know your Classics, or indeed perhaps your Shakespeare, will know that Metellus was one of the conspiring senators involved in the assassination of Caesar. Indeed, his theatrical plea for a fraternal pardon was the successful diversionary tactic employed to get all the conspirators close enough to enact their dastardly regicide. Or liberating decapitation-strike, depending on your point of view. That event, forever framing the 15th of March in infamy, forms this work’s second introductory chapter, before we really get into the meat and drink and various other hedonistic pursuits proper.

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I have seen this work described as a sort of sequel to the Latin work the Satyricon Liber which translates as The Book of Satyrlike Adventures, again giving you a pretty good idea of what to expect. There are those experts who claim the Satyricon as the first true novel, which it may or may not have been, but it certainly provides intriguing, salacious insight into how the chattering classes of Rome lived at the time. With libations and salutations primarily, I think. I’m not entirely sure I agree with the term sequel, though. This work seems to me to serve as more of an homage, appropriating liberally certain plot strands of the Satyricon, but also adding in additional themes and expanding the storyline – encasing it, really – in a very sophisticated comic tragedy. I think a certain young bard from Stratford-upon-Avon would wholeheartedly approve of the treatment, actually.

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The black and white art is the closest thing I have seen to woodcut style recently. The thick black ink penmanship minded me a tiny bit of both Robert Crumb (which I believe is a comparison that has been made by the French press before) and Dylan Horrocks (though a fair degree of that is the lettering, I think). I can think of a number of other random minor points of comparison that surprised me reading through from Joe Daly to Shiguru Mizuki to Craig Thompson, make of that what you will. It is a very bold, stark style, which despite that is immensely engaging.

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Who would like this? Well, anyone who loves a great, sexy, action-packed story punctuated with bawdy laughs, basically. And people who love classics. So really, pretty much anyone. Ah, except people who like a happy ending, I suppose. Unless you count well deserved comeuppances…

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JR

Buy Peplum and read the Page 45 review here

There’s No Time Like The Present (£18-99, Escape Books) by Paul B. Rainey…

“Look at this. ‘Now you too can look like your favourite member of The A Team, B.A. Baracus, with these authentic looking neck chains.’ My favourite member of the The A Team was Mad Murdock.”
“What is that you’re reading? Are you reading G.Q.?”
“It’s a monthly magazine listing all the comics and sci-fi product to be available to specialist shops in two months time.”
“It’s just that I’ve never seen such a thick magazine before. You’ve got to be holding a branch right there.”
“Don’t be fooled. It’s printed on very cheap paper. It’s got to be at least eighty percent air. There’s no B.A. wig. What’s the point of having all the chains if you haven’t got the B.A. wig?”
“I like it when you talk about The A Team.”
“You do?”
“Oh yeah. It means that you’re not rattling on about Dr. Who. Where is your magazine, anyway? Did you leave it in the bus shelter?”
“No… Look. I’ve always tucked my magazines into my sock if I don’t have a bag, ever since I was a boy. It prevents my fingers from making them all grubby and the wind from blowing them out of good condition. Plus it leaves my hands free. Good thinking don’t you think?”
“Leaves your hands free for what?”
“Well, you know… free to deal with any sneak attacks.”

Haha, that really is a Diamond PREVIEWS magazine he has got stuffed down his sock! I can’t imagine his sock will ever be the same after that behemoth has been tucked down it, mind you. I don’t know about sneak attacks, but it certainly does prove useful in getting Cliff out of a tight spot on the bus, when caught in a quandary over whether or not to belatedly offer his seat to one of the gaggle of angry old ladies staring at him accusingly. It’s not that he isn’t willing to, he’s more than happy to, it’s just he hadn’t spotted them gathering and now he can’t decide which one he should proffer it to without causing offence to all the others. How does PREVIEWS help in this tricky social faux pas of a situation, I hear you wonder? Well, rather craftily he pretends it’s a false leg, necessitating he remains seated!

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Paul B. Rainey will always hold a place in my comics heart for his MEMORY MAN, something now lost to the midst of time – much like my own memory – that our Mark showed to me back in the veritable day. In more recent times he’s compiled THE BOOK OF LISTS which did tickle me rather and he has been contributing to Viz with the chortle worthy 14 YEAR OLD STAND UP COMEDIAN (of which you can read a few strips on Paul’s blog HERE). He had obviously also been working on this 350-page wedge of gently whacky very British sci-fi comedy, which I am delighted to report had me chuckling throughout.

The main characters Cliff and Barry are collector nerds of the worst possible kind. Men-children stuck in an obsessive-compulsive world of the acquisition of science fiction merchandise and paraphernalia. Plus the odd comic, to be fair to them. Unlike their adolescent crackpot American cousins in Evan Dorkin’s savagely funny THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB, the rather more sedate Cliff and Barry are already well into the age where they ought to be settling down, buying a house and starting a family. But as Barry rather sagely observes during one of their many amusing self-deprecating conversations (for they know exactly just how socially maladjusted they are) there is precisely zero chance either of them actually managing to meet anyone remotely romantically inclined towards them, let along spawn any offspring.

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Cliff, though, despite, (or maybe because of!) being a Doctor Who-a-holic is a secret romantic at heart, holding a flickering, stuttering torch for his landlord, the dairy product-addicted and highly neurotic Kelly. Barry, well, Barry’s got his own methods of dealing with his desires. Suffice to say, there just so happens to be a massage parlour opposite their local purveyor of sci-fi tat, Ye Old Sci-Fi Shop…

So far, so funny. Where does the sci-fi come into it then? Plastic crap aside. Well, in this world, the future has made contact. Yes, people have time travelled back from generations hence, opening up whole new vistas of knowledge. In fact, there is a whole new branch of the world wide web, known as the Ultranet, where if you’re not careful and start doing searches on yourself, you might well find out the date of your death. Or just how long you’re going to be stuck in that dead-end boring job you hate. Unsurprisingly, though, most people use it for illegal downloading of film and television programmes yet to be broadcast! Here’s Barry trying to tempt the previously temporally pious Cliff to the dark side…

“Why don’t you borrow this episode of Dr. Who? It’s only from next week so, legally, it’s already been made and you’re not cheating the ‘natural order’ of things.”
“Well, if that’s okay…”
“And look, it has the holographic sleeve with it as well, printed by me. Good, eh?”
“It is very alluring.”

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Barry’s hooky material is provided by the third of our triumvirate of social maladroits who goes by the unlikely name of Inspector Jive, or just the Inspector for short. Struggling with agoraphobia, he’s been lured out of the house by Barry to impersonate someone from the future for a crackpot scheme to make Cliff’s landlady fall in love with him. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t quite work out as they’d hoped. Well, not right now, anyway. For as the full version of the proverb goes, at least according to the great 16th Century compiler of proverbs John Trusler (who I’m sure was also quite the barrel of laughs at a party)… “No time like the present, a thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time.”

And indeed they will for I have barely scraped the surface of the crazy, timey-wimey plots going on here. There’s the mildly sinister mono-horned Admiral Ogmyre from several thousand years in the future (who I am convinced may well be a little nod to H.R. Costigan from LOVE AND ROCKETS) and who also has designs on Kelly. Plus this is a story also told in two (well several, actually, but mainly two) time periods. In addition to seeing Barry, Cliff and the Inspector in their pomp, we also see them as pensioners set against the backdrop of all the world’s governments deciding that the present era of humanity must retain freewill, thus all connections with the Ultranet will be shortly severed and time travel to and from the future must cease completely, to save humanity from itself.

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For people like Barry, the imminent ‘retrograding’ represents a complete disaster, though the three chums set up a club in their community centre to rewatch and discuss historical TV classics like Babylon 5 to help assuage the loss of illicit viewing pleasures. For others, like their care worker Lara, a tourist from the future, pregnant and unable to book herself passage back to her rightful point in time amidst the mad scramble before the retrograding is complete, it’s potentially far more serious than that.

Will it all work out for everyone in the end? Well, wrapping up all the loose ends in time travel yarns is notoriously tricky, but Paul’s mad methodology had me guessing and gasping right up to the end. It all goes a bit gloriously Scooby Doo in a manner somewhat akin to the Tom Cruise film Vanilla Sky, which are two things I never thought I’d squeeze into the same sentence, but it’s very cleverly done. So after restraining himself admirably on the sci-fi front for the first four-fifths of the book, which is really far more a comedy of manners with a dash of Carry On than anything else, Paul lets himself run riot portraying a future – futures, sorry – which makes even the most insane episode of Doctor Who look rather pedestrian.

If I had to sum this up in a single sentence I would have to say it’s like Gilbert Hernandez crossed with VIZ. In other words, utterly brilliant.

JR

Buy There’s No Time Like The Present and read the Page 45 review here

Hole In The Heart: Bringing Up Beth (£16-99, Myriad) by Henny Beaumont…

“Hi Henny, you’ve had your baby! What did you have?”

“Fuck, I’m going to have to tell her.”

“Oooh, look at those lovely little feet. So sweet. What did you have?”
“I had a little girl.”
“Oh, how lovely, three girls!”
“She’s got Downs.”
“That’s so weird! A friend of mine just had a Down’s baby.”
“Wow! Really?”
“Yes, she had an abortion.”

“Shit, why did I tell her that?”

“Why did she have to tell me that?”

I just knew this was going to add to the canon of comics that have made me cry. On the tram as bloody always… It’s a fairly eclectic list, in order of increasing incredulousness: BILLY, ME & YOU, DAYTRIPPER, PLUTO VOL 1, CHOPPER: SURF’S UP and err… the DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH one-shot, but I was pretty sure this one was going to play rhapsodically on the heartstrings like a professional harpist. And so it proved…

It’s from the same publisher, Myriad, as Nicola Streeten’s BILLY, ME & YOU and that is clearly the one from my waterworks list which this has the most in common with. There is an important distinction as Nicola’s work dealt with the devastating, unexpected death of a child, though this work, detailing Henny and her husband Steve’s initial shock, and subsequent reactions, to discovering their new born child has Down’s Syndrome, is just as traumatic a story in its own way.

Though as with Nicola’s work, some of the most painful sequences are where Henny is talking with other adults, who don’t know what to say, or saying the wrong thing, and we are privy to Henny’s thoughts about precisely what she would love to say, shout, even scream, but doesn’t.

But, at the risk of spoilers, what really got me all choked up are the sequences showing precisely how the family overcame their collective difficulties, and just how lovely and loved Beth is. Not just by Henny and Steve, but also her two older sisters, and indeed her younger brother. And there is a sequence where Henny and her husband debate the wisdom, bravery required, and perhaps possible insanity of having another child after what they have just been through. Bravo to them.

 

Whilst it probably won’t surprise you to read about the prejudice and difficulties, particularly in the educational and social spheres, that the family endured, it is still upsetting to see how much people have to fight simply for basic compassion and pastoral care for their child, who just basically needs that little bit more support and understanding from her peers and teachers.

Beth’s just started secondary school as this work concludes, and by the time Henny has taken you along on their emotional rollercoaster from her birth to the present day, you’ll very probably be a blubbering wreck too.

Art-wise, I will make nearly exactly the same observation as I did with BILLY, ME & YOU. In that Henny, who is an accomplished artist and portrait painter, has employed a relatively simplistic art style, which perfectly lets the overpowering emotional content speak directly to us for itself. When dealing with such a serious topic, just as Rosalind Penfold did with DRAGONSLIPPERS, I do think utilising a less ‘serious’ art style really can help get the message across without distraction. As ever, I commend the resolute bravery of people who choose to share their very intimate and personal stories with everyone like this, for the benefit of us all.

JR

Buy Hole In The Heart: Bringing Up Beth and read the Page 45 review here

Hippopotamister (£13-50, FirstSecond) by John Patrick Green.

The joy of learning job skills and finding your personal calling!

Packed with wit and delivered with relish, this is a delightful Young Readers surprise told in three acts during which every aspect of the initial decay is, most unexpectedly, dealt with. I love a good structure and this is ever so neat – unlike these entropic enclosures.

“The old City Zoo was falling apart.
“No one was buying tickets.
“No one was managing the office.
“The habitats needed repair.
“The monkeys had no energy.
“The lion’s mane wasn’t very regal.
“The walrus’s smile wasn’t very bright.
“And in the centre of it all lived Red Panda and Hippopotamus.”

To be honest, the whole thing needs relocating and a thorough Gerald Durrell make-over. But it’s an old City Zoo and I think we can leave matters of a breeding programme to one side with 3 to 5 year olds.

Red Panda is thoroughly bored of it all and leaves to live amongst humans, returning each season to impress Hippopotamus with a dazzling array of jobs he claims are “awesome”. Indeed they may be, but either Red Panda has the attention span of a bluebottle on Benzedrine or… well, we’ll see shortly, won’t we?

Finally his friend becomes fed up too, and asks Red Panda if he could find him a job too. Ever enthusiastic, Red Panda immediately agrees, for to live amongst humans you must learn to stand on your own two feet. And they do, quite literally, hence Hippopotamister!

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Together they try their hands at construction, banking, hairdressing… and it swiftly becomes clear that although Hippopotamister has an aptitude for almost everything, well, here’s what happens when they attempt to cook up something suitable in the kitchen.

Hippopasta Primavera:

Pasta al dente tossed with garlic and olive oil.
Steamed broccoli, crisp bell peppers, and grape tomatoes.
Sprinkling of parmesan over sautéed onions.

Antipasto A La Red Panda:

Critters, insects and assorted bugs.
Twigs, pebbles and burnt rocks.
Lint and mismatched buttons.
Red vine liquorice, mushrooms and car keys.

Car keys! I love that the rocks are burnt!

No matter, what Red Panda lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for with inexhaustible optimism. “This is going to be the best job ever!” he declares each and every time. You too will probably wince when they enter the dental practice. Particularly funny was the accelerated four-page montage during which Red Panda manages to make such a spectacular – and I mean catastrophic – mess of absolutely everything that he turns failure into an extreme sport. I loved their fling at being firemen!

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However, if there’s one thing Red Panda excels at, it’s energy and enthusiasm and he doesn’t know how to give up. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

It’s at this point I leave you for fear of having to type “Hippopotamister” again, but it will all fit together – a lot better than Red Panda’s plumbing, anyway.

SLH

Buy Hippopotamister and read the Page 45 review here

Art Ops vol 1: How To Start A Riot (£10-99, Vertigo) by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred, Matt Brundage.

Let’s play a game of “Can you tell what is yet?”

It’s a heist, but a very specific heist and it’s happening in The Louvre. I’m sure you’ll spot the clues.

“Ms. Del Giocondo, my name is Regina Jones and along with my associates here, we are the Art Ops. I know this may a shock to you, but -”
“Please. You think this is my first time out of frame?”
“Someone’s stealing and destroying famous works of art. You need to come with us. You’ll be safe. I’ve got more experience than you’ve had forgeries.”
“And that homely looking thing is the best you could do as my stand-in? She’ll never pass.”
“Ugly isn’t easy.”
“I heard that.”

Ms Del Giocondo is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The Art Ops have just extracted her live and bickering from that famous – nay, iconic but teeny-tiny – painting and placed a carefully made-up model in her place.

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Someone is indeed stealing and destroying famous works of art. Someone is about to steal the entire Art Ops organisation including Regina herself, winking it out of reality. Fortunately Regina has a son called Reggie. Unfortunately Reggie considers her a worthless mother.

Oh, and then there was that accident when graffiti came to life and ripped off Reggie’s arm but it’s been ‘surgically’ replaced with animated tubes of vibrantly coloured paint. Time to make a splash!

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Bonkers is a word almost synonymous with MADMAN’s Michael Allred and Shaun Simon provided him with a virtually perfect platform to begin with. My enthusiasm extended into the second chapter’s opening pages set in 1987 during which Gina discovered that CBGB’s basement bathroom (UK translation: toilet) was a forgery and the original – complete with its famously embellished walls, floors and porcelain throne – was potentially sentient and teleporting all over the place.

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Moreover, whatever she was wearing and however her hair was cut, our Mona Lisa now roaming the real world was instantly recognisable on account of Allred’s remarkable reduction of her facial complexities to six or seven lines representing her cheeky, knowing eyes and enigmatic smirk to improbable perfection.

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Alas, however fast, furiously and intriguingly the comicbook ball was initially pitched, it was miss-hit then fumbled in the field, with few follow-throughs. I suspect I’ve mixed or even mangled that metaphor through lack of sports knowledge, but if you want something which absolutely nails the art scene come alive in philosophical, science-fiction combat, I highly recommend Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s fiercely intelligent, mischievous and wit-ridden DOOM PATROL: BOOK 1 whose new, bigger incarnation includes the Brotherhood of Dada in ‘The Painting That Ate Paris.’ Its kick-off is blindsiding, its toe-to-toe tactics so dazzlingly deft, then it scoops up its multiple balls in play and rams each and every one of them right into the back of the net.

[You’re benched – ed.]

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Doom Patrol: The Painting That Ate Paris. Art by Richard Case.

SLH

Buy Art Ops vol 1: How To Start A Riot and read the Page 45 review here

Apocrypha Now (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler.

In which God proves to be a wily old fella, constantly getting one over on a Satan who really should have seen it coming, but falls for it every time.

““Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Satan said.”

By “it” I mean the Deceitful (and Increasingly Exasperated) One is tricked by old Beardy Face in bets whose goal posts God moves in mysterious ways. He cheats, basically.

From the mirth-making miscreants responsible for GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU come the bits too bonkers even for the Bible, retold in a more modern context and vernacular for maximum incongruity. Both are prose accompanied by cartoons, and both are quite brilliant but I don’t have time for an extensive review today so please see GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU instead.

The title sold itself, and I gave five copies as Christmas presents the year it came out, one to an ex-Jehovah’s Witness.

Here you can relish the spectacular sexism of Solomon, the Creation of Earth (and the drastic reduction of the Moon in a fit of contrary petulance), the Creation of Man (controversial decision) and the frustration of King Nebuchadnezzar when furnace-flung Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego set their audience on fire with bitchin’ rhymes and snazzy dance moves.

“”Oh, come on,” the king said indignantly. “When did they have time to work on choreography?”

Their performance proves smokin’ but they’re not even singed.

““Poor some lighter fluid on them,” the king said. “See if that helps.””

SLH

Buy Apocrypha Now 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. 

Guardians of the Louvre (£17-99, Ponent Mon Ltd) by Jiro Taniguchi

Indeh A Story of the Apache Wars h/c (£18-99, Grand Central Publishing) by Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth

Love vol 3: The Lion h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci

Geis : A Matter of Life and Death (£15-99, Nobrow) by Alexis Deacon

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 4 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Nova vol 1: Burn Out s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Sean Ryan & Cory Smith

Deadpool vol 1: End Of An Error s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish, Brian Posehn

No Mercy vol 2 (£10-99, Image) by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil, Jenn Manley Lee

Black Butler vol 22 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

News!

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ITEM! Every single copy of Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH (signed, limited edition, natch!) which had been ordered by Friday was dispatched worldwide by our Dee and Jodie on Friday then this Saturday latest. Many were bought by such exceedingly high-profile comicbook creators that I almost squealed.

That turnaround thanks to Dee and Jodie is a phenomenal achievement given that all those books were in Kendal last Bank Holiday Monday, driven over to my place by The Lakes International Comic Art Festival’s Aileen and Roger, then couriered to work by myself on Thursday night. All in pristine condition.

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I’m giving myself a slight pat on the back because have you ever tried finding Page 45’s Market Street by car? Nottingham’s city-centre, post-tram one-way streets are a hilarious, positively intestinal maze of counter-intuitive, serpentine and circuitous routes and it is only through travelling with Jonathan after LICAF to return our few unsold graphic novels that I learned their Arcane Secrets!

But as well as Dee and Jodie’s assiduous organisation and meticulous packaging, the real credit has to go to Aileen and Roger because driving those books from Kendal to Nottingham took every single uncertainty – when would they arrive and in what condition? – out of the equation.

A round of applause to everyone, I think!

We do have a few copies left and they are finally on our shop floor as well for you to peruse at your pleasure, but I’d like to emphasise that they didn’t make it there until all mail orders had been catered for first.

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ITEM! Comicbook creator Geniève Castrée could sure use your help. A little kindness after being diagnosed with cancer.

To give you some sort of context we regard her SUSCEPTIBLE very highly indeed.

ITEM! Video footage of Neil Gaiman being exceedingly funny at the Union Chapel in London.

I probably don’t have to tell you who Neil Gaiman is. Although it does delight me to introduce his work to new readers on our shop floor. Maybe start with SANDMAN, but do pop the poor poppet into our search engine is well for he owns his own throne at Page 45, taking up an entire shelf above our Vertigo wall.

Singing Bones cover

ITEM! Speaking of Neil Gaiman, here’s Shaun Tan’s new book called THE SINGING STONES due in September. Please click on “more commentary” to read more commentary.

What is the connection to Neil? Well, check out these two covers with contradictory claims. Hilarious!

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PS I have no idea.

We adore Shaun Tan (THE ARRIVAL and THE RABBITS etc), so please pop him in our search engine too! It’s probably quite crowded within there, so at some point or another you might want to let one cat out of the bag at least.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week one

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

News, as ever, below including Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG shipping info!

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (Signed Limited Edition) (£30-00 or £45-00, LICAF/Hourglass) by Dave McKean.

“Art is an empathy machine. Art allows one to look through a fellow human’s eyes.”

Art – when derived from studious and subtle observation – can not only allow one to look through another individual’s eyes but to communicate what you see there, to pass on those perspectives.

In that endeavour as in so many more, BLACK DOG is a clever, profound and eloquent beast.

With sympathetic skill Dave McKean has succeeded not only in communicating to a new audience and a new generation Paul Nash’s vision and visions but, in doing so, furthered Nash’s goal to “bring back words and bitter truths” to remind us of the horrors and insanities of war which show no sign of stopping, and to counter those who would perpetuate them.

“I hope my ochres and umbers and oxides will burn their bitter souls.”

Good luck with that one, the pair of you. But they can instil in the rest of us, prone to forgetfulness, a renewed revulsion in order to speak out against these repugnant warmongers and their godawful obliteration of lives, of individuals, they leave in their wake.

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That was the vocation discovered by Paul Nash, and the whole raison d’être of the commission by 14-18 NOW, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and On a Marché sur la Bulle: to blast back into our consciousness the very real, specific horrors of World War I during its centenary years.

McKean has delivered on every front, but he has done so in ways that are far from obvious. For a start, it is not just through the queasy deployment of “ochres and umbers and oxides”, much in evidence during the gruelling sequence setting sail from Southampton Docks along with its sea-slick of blood…

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… but in contrasting them with the most spectacular colour: with that which is other and bright and beautiful; with that which is natural and which should be instead.

One of the most vivid chapters is Nash’s dream, whilst convalescing, of a viciously sharp, scarlet-thorned briar which impedes his progress towards the shimmering blue light of a kingfisher, thence its elusive clutch of tiny, fragile, life-giving eggs.

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“How can this delicate perfection exist in the same world as a 14-ton howitzer firing 1,000 kg shells that propel hot metal shrapnel into soft human tissue, into minds protected by perfectly proportioned, frangible shells?”

Three shells, then: the brain’s, the bird’s and the bombs’. It is in gently compelling us to compare this absurd contrast in our own minds that the truth seeps out: the first’s content is creative, the second’s procreative, while the third’s sole goal is destruction and death.

It is the power of the mind – as well as its vulnerability, to be sure – which is evoked as much as anything during this intense graphic novel. Nash sees colour in the unexpected green shoots amidst trenches when few could see through their desolate, limb-numbing, mind-flattening, seemingly never-ending nightmare to any form of future at all. I wouldn’t be able to without McKeans’ help here.

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But once again, it proves part of what Nash wanted for the future: a tsunami, a revolution of thought “breaking over our ossified society, tabula rasa, wiping the cant and lies from English life.” Sure enough, following the juxtaposition of life-giving green and bleak brown trenches bursting with a spray of white butterflies, there rises an almighty tidal wave that is thunderous.

There will be more time spent in the trenches – with Nash’s brother, just once, when they discuss the distraction and abstraction of the artistic process which may go some way to explain Nash’s later, problematic detachment – but this narrative stretches far further thematically, both backwards and forwards, to what else might have made this man, including the “sadistic discipline” of a school “which was ideal training for an infantryman’s life in the trenches.” He continues:

“It taught me nothing worth speaking of, it answered none of my questions, it required only a kind of desperate obedience, and a stoic acceptance of the constant threat of sudden and terrible violence.”

The grotesque, gap-toothed giant of a martinet towers over young Nash, barking out garbled, mathematical commands as nonsensical as those which would follow, and as impossible to answer with any sane response.

The person who does teach him something worth learning is his grandfather who is by contrast “a man of infinite calm and discretion”, nurturing Nash’s love of art. It’s a scene played out against a chessboard, another battle arena around which Nash and his perpetually distant father keep their distance from each other like any pawn and opposing king lest their contact prove fatal.

“The kings checks his position
“As the pawn moves towards promotion
“Hoping not to be seen
“And neither of them comment on the absence of the queen.”

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The first page consists of four square panels; the second of nine; the third expands into that fully fledged chessboard of similarly black and white squares. Across this are drawn multiple, fractured images of Nash’s distressed mother, oscillating between the darkness and light, representing her turbulent, chequered present. Something extraordinary occurs.

“The dog didn’t return to my dreams
“For a very long time.”

Up until this point we’ve said nothing of the titular black dog, as I think is right. But its shadow has haunted him from the beginning and it will hound the painter almost until the end in a very telling sequence. At times it is ferocious, at others a bounding spirit he pursues. But its presence is pervasive and it goes by another name which is just as revealing.

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You need know nothing of Nash before embarking upon this, but his paintings are referenced throughout both in the language and images (‘We Are Making a New World’,’’The Shore (at Dymchurch)’, and I see ‘Wood on the Dawn’ in the boy’s early trees). Often I find engaging in a work like this without prior knowledge a boon. It will surely prompt a wave of its audience to embark on research afterwards and subsequent readings will then spark satisfying flashes of recognition.

Visually the storytelling displays a complete command of dream logic and that “hypnagogic” or indeed hypnopompic state wherein you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. It is in constant flux, morphing from one medium to the next, from light to dark, with subtle sheens, bleeds or explosions of colour. “The fog of war” which drifts over St. Martin-in-the-Fields church to overshadow Nash’s wedding day is terrible to behold, casting a pall over the proceedings: “A confetti of embers and ash approaching the church ahead of the leviathan.” And wait until you see that coelacanth monstrosity.

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But it’s this lyrical deftness I came away admiring the most. McKean manages to find exactly the right word, time after time again, to pair one thought with another, to throw a startling new light on our expectations or twist the natural order of things, as when Nash is advised to “fight to live another day”.

For it’s not just the battles with bayonets and barbed wire and bombs that one fights on the field, but also hunger and disease and madness and memory, both then and thereafter. Nash sought to evoke this in his art and so McKean too seeks to peel back the layers, to get beneath the skin and comprehend the complexities which lie beneath. To examine not just a life but what is ‘lived’ – which is something altogether different.

SLH

Black Dog extra

This graphic novel will be released in two editions – this limited edition in May 2016 then a full publication launched in October 2016 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (14-16 October 2016).

This is that limited edition of 300 copies, now available worldwide exclusively from  Page 45.

For more Dave McKean graphic novels (MR PUNCH etc) please pop him in our search engine.

Page 45 is a proud Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Page 45 joins LICAF every year, exclusively, with hand-picked creators signing and sketching for free, and the most glorious graphic novels for sale in our Georgian Room within Kendal’s Clock Tower. Entry is free.

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (Signed Limited Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Watching (£13-99, Soaring Penguin) by Winston Rowntree.

“On weekends
“We walk out to where the past used to be
“And where its stories remain.”

As opening sentences ago, that one’s a belter.

It’s set aside footprints in the snow, and implies so much so succinctly.

There’s nothing more to be found on that page and that’s as it should be.

It encourages you to pause and to dwell, which is precisely what the narrator will be doing throughout this graphic novella. There will be a great many pauses and a good deal of dwelling.

“On weekends” implies that, wherever or whenever the Watcher comes from, what they will be doing is a pastime. It’s not a scientific endeavour, a studious obligation, but a matter of voluntary, pure fascination. It is the most popular pastime and, if one could look into the past and witness it happening all around you, then but of course it would be.

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The more narcissistic among us might pop back to gaze on ourselves, but we can’t interfere because this isn’t time travel per se. You’re not going anywhere or any when. A window is being opened instead on that which once was, in exactly the spot it occurred.

Do you wonder why someone is physically climbing up into a window on the second page, being pulled up by a friend, so that she or he can sit and wonder at giant, flying reptiles by the sea? It’s because landmasses have since shifted considerably during the intervening eons. What is now snow down below was once buried by just such a landmass which has since been eroded or shifted by massive tectonic movements. I imagine for other such recces you would have to dig deep instead.

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“We are all watching at one point or another
“And the reasons are many
“But they are really only one.
“We watch to understand.”

Understanding is a great deal more worthy than blasting seven shades of shit out of an alien online. I cite bathing my eyes in beauty as motivation for my videogame pursuits – but I’m far from averse to locking and loading, either.

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One can infer from this desire to understand that something has been lost from this future, however much more it has gained: some area of knowledge. The passage of time does that to any society.

“And I am watching the sick girl,”

… our narrator continues…

“And I do not understand.”

There are two refrains throughout the work with variations on their theme. Both work beautifully well.

Re-designed from its original if equally impressive website by Woodrow Phoenix (RUMBLE STRIP, NELSON, SUGAR BUZZ et al), this is quite the immaculate composition and I can only apologise for a couple of our wonky scans made necessary by the virtual absence of any usable interior art online. Please stop being so protective, publishers: it is an own goal.

Both the words and the images are so artfully arranged on the page with a crisp sparseness which is compelling. The pauses are, most of them, beat-perfect, and the vast expanses of silence are eerie but also this: indicative of the Watcher’s tenacity and patience and genuine desire to understand. The light will prove part of its timing.

A panel from Watching, by Winston Rowntree.

A panel from Watching, by Winston Rowntree.

Scenes will repeat themselves. You can always go back and look again. But this particular Watcher at least is mindful that she or he is looking in on a very real life and treats it with the due deference and respect it deserves, sitting outside the sick girl’s room without intruding, for it has many visitors.

It’s a ward in a hospital which is no longer there. It wasn’t on the ground floor which is why the scenes are suspended in space.

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When it was there its walls and its floors and its ceilings come dented or occasionally cracked but more strikingly with thin, broken lines just inside of their boundaries denoting a physical crumbliness with isn’t some clinical futuristic cleanliness, but a reflection in their imperfection of what we can currently do for deteriorations of the flesh as well.

What the Watcher doesn’t understand I will leave for you to discover, but it isn’t as obvious as you might think. I can promise that you too, however, will be doing a great deal of pondering afterwards, lest you do not understand.

SLH

Buy Watching and read the Page 45 review here

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

It seemed rather appropriate to me that this work is dedicated to Iain M. Banks who, as the dedication itself rightly states, was a ‘creator of socialist utopias’.

Bryan did very kindly offer to introduce me to Iain when I told him that Banks was one of my favourite ever authors. I gratefully declined because sometimes, I think, it’s better to know one’s heroes through their legacies, be that literary, cultural or social.

Which is in some ways what makes this such a fascinating work, because the titular Red Virgin, Louise Michel, is an unfamiliar figure, to most of us in the UK at least (excluding Jimmy Somerville presumably, who was obviously aware of the 19th century French political scene), but one whose legacy to the causes of equality and feminism, and indeed anarchism, is just as powerful and just as  important from a global perspective, as the rather more familiar to British readers Pankhursts whose contributions Mary and Bryan obliquely touched upon in their SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE with co-collaborator Kate Charlesworth.

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This, then, could rightly be seen as a companion piece to that work, where they employed the device of looking at the suffrage movement through the eyes of a fictitious working class northerner, and Bryan has indeed employed the same art style to great effect once more.

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This time, we are engaged in a discussion between the American writer and feminist reformer (and speculative fiction aficionado!) Charlotte Perkins Gilman and our primary narrator Monique. Upon her arrival in Paris in January 1905 Miss Gilman is shocked to find that Louise Michel has passed away, and thus over dinner, the two, later joined by Monique’s mother, herself a former revolutionary comrade in the Montmarte region of the Commune of Paris, begin a posthumous dissection of Louise Michel’s life and works.

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I found it personally engaging, as I’m sure many will, to be so entertainingly educated about such an important figure that I knew practically nothing about. Works like this are extremely important in ensuring future generations don’t forget the vital contributions of those who have come before, at such great personal cost. In helping to pave at least a few further steps on the tortuous route towards that socialist utopia we will finally, hopefully, reach one day. Thus Bryan and Mary rightly deserve their due plaudits for undertaking such a herculean task of research and exemplary execution of another sterling piece of biography.

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JR

Buy The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Disquiet s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver…

“Why’d you run away, Dad?”
“Huh?”
“From Mom and me. How could you do that? How could you be so selfish? We needed you.”
“Hold on a minute.”
“Not having you around really fucked me up. Mum had to work at an art store. We were poor. Where were you?”
“Is this what you found me for? To confront me?”
“I’m trying to understand you.”
“If I could go back in time there’s a lot of things I would do differently.”
“You wouldn’t have run out on us? You would’ve stayed with mom?”
“I wouldn’t have married your mom.”
“And where does that leave me? In the same spot?”
“You’re a grown man now, Nathan. I’m sorry for any problems you have, but part of being an adult is to stop blaming your parents for whatever shortcomings you have. That’s pretty basic.”

The Archduke of downbeat returns with a collection of 14 shorts that range from the darkly comedic to just plain dark.

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This selection of historical material showcases both Noah’s prodigious writing talent and evolving artistic capabilities, covering tales such as the black and white ‘Dive Into The Black River’ and also ‘Down In A Hole’ that have that bittersweet impending car crash feel, and look, of his longer form SAINT COLE.

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Then there are the more overtly humorous pieces such as the colour ‘Untitled’ that minded me of the brutally farcical FANTE BUKOWSKI. The second volume of FANTE I am delighted to report is well underway, and I did chuckle to see the not-so-great man of literature himself sat on a bench, note pad in hand, bottle at his feet, as a bonus extra between two stories. Plus Noah also revisits his love of the  yarn a couple of times (as in the sadly out of print THE HYPO: THE MELANCHOLIC YOUNG LINCOLN) with particular period linguistic vigour in ‘The Death Of Elijah Lovejoy’ about a Presbyterian newspaper editor who had dared to take a stand against the lynching of an escaped slave.

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I only see Noah on an upward trajectory, I have a feeling there’s much, much more to come from him. He seems such an unassuming chap as well, even down his recent assertion that he only has the 4th best moustache in comics! It’s a real bushy belter of an ‘80s Tom Selleck Magnum PI number which I suspect and sincerely hope has been grown for entirely comedic effect. I am also intrigued as to who he ranks as 1, 2 and 3! He seems like a real sweetie, he must be because he’s even managed to get his ex-girlfriend to write a very endearing and only mildly revealing foreword for him. Why am I not surprised he’s a Belle and Sebastian fan?

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JR

Buy Disquiet s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Highbone Theater h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Joe Daly…

“Before there is order there will be more chaos… and there ain’t a thing you can do about it.”

I knew without a shadow of a doubt it would be, but this is easily the weirdest thing I have read so far this year, and I absolutely bloody loved it.

Following on from the hilariously brilliant but currently between-printings DUNGEON QUEST series and the subtly mind-bending THE RED MONKEY DOUBLE HAPPINESS BOOK – which I read with increasing bemusement in the somehow mistaken preconception it was autobiographical before it became really apparent it just couldn’t possibly be – comes a weighty 572-page tome of complete bonkers.

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As the book opens we find ourselves watching the protagonist Palmer performing a reverse Reggie Perrin, striding out of the sea stark bollock naked – be warned, there are a lot of willies in this work – before twirling his beard and slapping a towel around it, then sparking up a big joint. There is also a lot of doobage going on here too.

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Parker is a muscle-bound slacker with a heart of gold who seems to be surrounded by odious, steroid-jacked ‘friends’ with physiques akin to THRUD THE BARBARIAN and insane, conspiracy theory-obsessed work colleagues at the paper mill where he labours away his days. All his spare time is spent caning weed, practising one of the strangest stringed instruments I’ve ever seen, enduring excruciating attempts to chat to the ladies and musing about the Universe whilst getting mildly paranoid about the mysterious hidden forces apparently controlling everything. He might well have some justified concerns on the last point, mind you.

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As Parker ploughs his own unique furrow with his mojo bag of roots to hand at all times to calm his ever-fluctuating emotional state, he’s going to be taken on a very strange journey of shamanic magic, subterranean realms, secret societies and psyops. Oh, and self-discovery. Above all, self-discovery. But let me tell you, before there is any semblance of order there is indeed going to be a whole lot of chaos going on…

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I think anyone who has enjoyed Charles Burns’ X’ED OUT, THE HIVE, SUGAR SKULL trilogy would get a real kick out of this. The main difference is whilst both are as utterly insane the focus here is far more on the humour rather than horror. But in terms of taking the reader on a surreal journey, they are both right out there.

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JR

Buy Highbone Theater h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Harrow County vol 2: Twice Told s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook.

The worst horror lies not in squelching shadows – though you will have plenty of that – but in being deceived and disbelieved.

It lies in someone who spreads lies and bile about you.

The very worst horror lies in someone who spreads hatred in your own name.

Imagine how much worse that would be if they looked like you and they talked like you and everyone believed that it was you – yes, you – who was slurring and slandering those whom you loved, and awakening in others a terrible antipathy you’d long held at bay.

Horror comes in many forms, but never is it so vile and terrifying then when it comes from within.

Bucolic horror set in the American South starring a seventeen-year-old girl called Emmy, raised alone on a farm by her father, Isaac.

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Many moons ago the good folk of Harrow hanged a Healing Woman called Hester from an old oak tree. Then, for good measure, they set fire to her gasoline-soaked corpse. Except it wasn’t a corpse and, as the flesh of her face bubbled away in the conflagration, she hissed out a promise:

“Not the end… never the end for me… I’ll be back…”

Can Emmy, with her strange gifts, persuade the locals that she is not Hester reincarnated or will they add fuel to the fire and perpetuate their crimes? And who is that rich young lady now come to town, so strikingly similar to Emmy that she could be her twin?

Sun-soaked or rain-drenched, the countryside is so rich in colour and texture and detail – you can feel the clammy mud as it is smeared on a petticoat – while the creatures which lurk in the depths of the forest are many, varied and terrifying.

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For more, please see HARROW COUNTY VOL 1 or I will send you additional homework.

SLH

Buy Harrow County vol 2: Twice Told s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War II #0 of 7 (£3-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Olivier Coipel.

Elegantly drawn by Olivier Coipel and deliciously coloured by Justin Ponsor, Bendis really needed to surprise on the script if he was going to shed doubts that this would follow the law of diminishing returns following the original CIVIL WAR and accusations of being a mere cash-in on film.

Mission accomplished.

I have no idea where this is going. Okay, I do have the general gist because we have to order these comics two months in advance and there’s usually some solicitation copy. More accurately, then, I have no idea where two strands have come from, and what impact they’re likely to have on what will ensue.

Bravely, until the final four pages, this is a refreshingly quiet prologue culminating in the mini-series’ catalyst. In that moment a young man and woman – whom he’s been fond of from afar – are transformed by a cloud of Terrigen Mist into something other than they were. Neither transmogrification works well for them and the boy finds himself seeing something he shouldn’t. Or should he?

I’m now quite delighted with myself that I’ve managed to deliver the crux of the series without giving the game away: half of Marvel’s superheroes will come to believe he shouldn’t have seen it; the other half will be bloody delighted that he’s answered their prayers. In what way precisely…? We do not do spoilers around here.

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Thread one: Jennifer Walters, a defence attorney (who is, by the by, preternaturally tall and a gamma shade of green), commands attention in her closing statement not by her appearance but by her eloquence. Her client, a former supervillain, has been slightly stitched up by the local constabulary (NYPD) through entrapment. Worse still, it’s not as if they found anything worth charging him with but, seeking to justify their man-hour expenditure, they threw the book at him anyway and took him to court. For speculating, idly – that’s all he did. He mused about the “good old days”, wondering what he might have done differently when he once wore a mask. Which he hasn’t – for yonks – and didn’t again. He did nothing wrong, this time at least. And yet he was convicted. Jennifer Walters failed and the individual in question is banged up to wrongs.

Later, high up in the sky aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Maria Hill speculates that he would have done it again:

“They always do.”

So that’s the person in charge of the U.N. Peacekeeping Task Force, then. Which is nice. And if you think that’s got Jennifer’s goat, you wait until you discover what happened during the innocent’s intervening hours.

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I mention all this because I cannot see how this pertains to the coming storm in any way whatsoev – oh wait, now I do. Again, this is wonderfully underplayed by Coipel. There’s a look in Walter’s eyes which is almost an ellipsis. But it has nothing to do with the individual’s identity – only his conviction and Hill’s supposition.

Thread two: Colonel James Rhodes is summoned to the White House. Specifically, he is summoned to its Situation Room. There isn’t a situation. As War Machine (a sort of Iron Man knock-off / stand-in) Colonel James Rhodes has just diffused the most recent situation in Latveria. No, he’s been called to the Situation Room because it’s far more private than the Oval Office, for a one-on-one private consultation with the President who makes Colonel Rhodes a most unexpected offer… as well as a future trajectory Rhodes could never have seen coming.

Ooh, I’m doing rather well in my crypticism, aren’t I? This time I really do not have a clue as to how this might impact on what looks likely to follow. Except… do you know who James’ best friend is? Ah, you won’t need to. Bendis is ever so brilliant and all will be laid clear within.

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Thread three: Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel is back on deck, the deck belonging to The Triskelion, headquarters and home of the Ultimates. She receives a visitor, an old friend who wonders how she’s doing on zero-hours sleep. The thing is, you see, Carol has taken command of three separate superhero entities, co-ordinating them to avoid the disaster she sees as inevitable – the ‘situation’ which the metahumans will finally fail to react to in time.

So many of these so-called near-disasters are only narrowly averted every year in the Marvel Universe lest the company begins to publish one long picnic and Peter Parker porks-out something chronic. Even then, when I type “near-disasters” I mean complete catastrophes. During the recent SECRET WARS, for example, the Marvel Universe ceased to exist. Bit of a lose, really.

“The illusion of control. It’ll eat you alive.”

I know exactly where that one’s going.

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So in addition to its relative tranquillity and the space it has afforded Coipel to turn in a truly nuanced performance with slow, subtle reactions and the thoughts lingering behind the eyes of those in conversation, what I liked was this: relatively minor characters coming to the fore and providing their own current perspectives on their present circumstances and what they infer from them for the future.

Unfortunately as the legendary Leonard Cohen once growled:

“I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.”

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SLH

Buy Civil War II # 0 and read the Page 45 review here

Okay, this one has ALL the SPOILERS. ALL of them!

But Jonathan’s right: you can’t seriously have missed them online already.

If you have, just read the pull-quote, know that it’s heartily endorsed, then skip to the pre-ordering instructions for second print beneath the review. The first print at £2-25 is long-gone.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 2nd Ptg (£4-50, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez and Ivan Reis…

“There’s going to be a war between hope and despair.
“Love and apathy.
“Faith and disbelief.
“When I was outside of time I felt their presence.
“I tried to see who it was.
“I couldn’t, but I know they’re out there.
“And they’re waiting to attack again for some reason.
“I can feel it.
“Even now, Barry…
“… we’re being watched.”

If you’re the one remaining person on Earth-33 (New 52 Multiverse designation) who doesn’t know the twist at the end of this one-shot which, rather neatly to be honest, explains why the entire New 52 Multiverse was a… fabrication… I’m not sure I can actually review this without spoiling it for you so I’m not even going to try. The implication is that Dr. Manhattan, yes he of WATCHMEN fame, was unbeknownst to anyone, responsible for hijacking events during the resolution of FLASHPOINT, and ensuring that reality took a different turn resulting in the creation of the New 52 Multiverse.

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It’s a ballsy move by Geoff Johns, which is sure to antagonise as many people as it delights, but given he’s now moving on to take up the position of co-overlord of the DC Film division it’s up to everyone else to step into his sizeable scribe shoes and follow the blazing path he’s set with this revelatory one-shot. It think that’ll be tricky given this is easily his best bit of writing (possibly his best full stop) since his exemplary extended run on GREEN LANTERN which perhaps co-incidentally, or perhaps not, began with a mini-series entitled GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH

Interestingly that particular rebirth brought back someone the fans had long been clamouring for the return of but which seemed impossible for reasons I really don’t need to elaborate on, in the form of Hal Jordan. And here, Johns performs the same trick again, as the Scarlet, well ginger, speedster Wally West, last seen during Johns’ BLACKEST NIGHT before apparently ceasing to exist when the New 52 came into being post-FLASHPOINT (also penned by Johns), is trying to break back into the DCU. Where has he been for the last several years? Well, Johns’ makes good use of the Flash fact that unlike all the other myriad speedsters Wally couldn’t be separated from the Speed Force, so has merely been lost there for ten years due to the mysterious meddlings of who we now assume to be Doctor Manhattan.

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Wally therefore is the thread quite literally running through this entire issue as he tries desperately to find one of his friends, even one of his enemies, who might, despite their minds – indeed entire reality – being altered, somehow remember him and bring him back. His problem is that to all intents and purposes everyone he has ever known has absolutely no idea he even existed. As he zooms from locale to locale, allowing us readers glimpses of what is to come for all the major characters shortly getting their own rebirth, (see the APRIL DC PREVIEWS and MAY DC PREVIEWS solicitations for more details on what’s coming out each month) his connection to the real world becomes ever more tenuous as he faces the prospect of physical disincorporation and completely merging with the Speed Force to become nothing but fuel for other speedsters to tap into.

Even his beloved Linda, ten years younger than he remembers (as everyone is, again due to the mysterious meddling, conveniently explaining how all the heroes had their ages reset when the New 52 started) simply has no recollection of who he is. That only leaves Uncle Barry, the original Flash. Wally knows not even Barry will be able to rescue him, but he feels he needs to say his thanks to his inspiration and mentor then say goodbye before he disappears forever.

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Which is the point at which I had to reach for my hankie… or to paraphrase a certain well known DC tagline, you will believe a man can cry… Forget the hyperbole of the Watchmen connection, the real heart-wrenching gooey emotional centre of this yarn is Wally, plus the promise of what’s to come for the characters themselves. Even John Constantine, cheerfully calling Swamp Thing a turnip makes a cheeky cameo promising, we hope, a return to HELLBLAZER proper. I came into this Rebirth one-shot full of cynicism and a heavy heart, my DC reading over the last few years having tailed off to simply Scott Snyder’s BATMAN and nothing else, but you know what, I’m actually now rather inspired to give the new slate of titles a try!

JR

To pre-order DC Universe: Rebirth #1 2nd Printing please email page45@page45.com or use your phonicular device pressing 0115 9508045 or that speed-dial facility we are so clearly on.

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.

Art Ops vol 1: How To Start A Riot (£10-99, Vertigo) by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred, Matt Brundage

Birth Of Kitaro (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Hole In The Heart: Bringing Up Beth (£16-99, Myriad) by Henny Beaumont

Peplum (£15-99, New York Review Comics) by Blutch

Psychiatric Tales (US Edition) h/c (£13-50, Bloomsbury) by Darrryl Cunningham

Hippoptamister (£13-50, FirstSecond) by John Patrick Green

War Stories vol 4 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Tomas Aria

The Goon vol 15: Once Upon A Hard Time (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

There’s No Time Like The Present (£18-99, Escape Books) by Paul B. Rainey

Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks s/c (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Yishan Li

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Back To The Future vol 1: Untold Tales And Alternate Timelines (£14-99, IDW) by various

Doctor Who: Four Doctors (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Paul Cornell & Neil Edwards

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 4: The Then And The Now (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Si Spurrier, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Warren Pleece

The Mighty Thor vol 1: Thunder In Her Veins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

A Silent Voice vol 7 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

News!

Kill Or Be Killed promo

ITEM! Promo teaser for KILL OR BE KILLED by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser fresh from the Ed Brubaker newsletter which you can sign up to!

From the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE and CRIMINAL, I love the way Sean Phillips has expanded the pages with full bleeds to the edges yet, even with inset panels, has kept the clear three-tier grid which, along with his lettering composition, has made the comics and graphic novels so accessible to newcomers.

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ITEM! Podcast interview with Scott McCloud about comics, composition and the signals we send out. May make you think again not just about comics, but the ways you communicate in real life too.

Highly recommended, Scott’s comics to make you think:

THE SCULPTOR
UNDERSTANDING COMICS
MAKING COMICS
ZOT!

All in stock, reviewed. That last one may be my longest review ever!

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ITEM! Thanks so much for your weekend support for Dave McKean’s live performance of BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH in Kendal – about which I have rarely heard so much gushing from his fellow creators who attended – then on Bank Holiday for the BLACK DOG graphic novel, reviewed above, and distributed worldwide exclusively by Page 45.

We’d sold out of the £45 version by Tuesday morning and for all I know as this goes to press we may have also now sold out of the £30 edition which still has the die-cut dustjacket signed by Dave McKean. If it doesn’t say sold out, it isn’t – we’re very precise about these things. If it does… well, aren’t you amazing?

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Our copies of the graphic novel – nearly half its entire print run – are all here and will start being dispatched on Friday. Not a bad turn-around given that the books were all still in Kendal on Monday morning! Thanks to LICAF’s Aileen and her husband (Roger? Please let it be Roger!) for driving them down in person so ensuring timely dispatch and perfect condition.

Thanks also to our Jonathan whose birthday it is today!

There wouldn’t even be a Page 45 website without Jonathan. There wouldn’t even be a Page 45 these days without Jonathan as I hope I made clear during Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Blog!

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But, just so you know, Jonathan also gave up a great deal of his family weekend to make sure the BLACK DOG product pages were prepped and ready for action the second I hit ‘publish’ and Tweeted.

Thanks for all your retweets, your orders and your tireless support on this – especially you, Sean Phillips.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! We all love you soooooo much!

– Stephen