Archive for July, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week four

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Featuring Jade Sarson, Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung, that chap John Milton & Pablo Auladell, Inio Asano, Jeff Lemire & Emi Lennox and more!

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

This isFor The Love Of God Marie cover a book so bursting with love that it will make your hearts soar!

If understanding and kindness is what you crave, I present you with 225 pages of pure passion initially presented in the most heavenly, cohesive coupling of purples and gold.

There will be many more couplings to come and, as the brilliant Baroness Benjamin once brightly advised, “It might have some sexy scenes”. I can guarantee it, and each one will prove unashamedly joyful.

Just look at the cover with its natural, softly shaded flesh and flowing tresses as resplendent as Sandro Botichelli’s ‘Birth Of Venus’, the innocence of its daisy chain and the rosary beads broken – but why?

“They say what’s most important is loving those around you.
“You must love your neighbour… but not like that.
“Can’t be having that… because it’s wrong… right?”

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It’s mixed messages time for our Marie Lovitt, a girl who instinctively understands what’s most important in life and acts accordingly: she spreads love wherever she goes!

In addition to her nature, there is also her nurture: the lessons she learns from what she is told. Here’s Marie being taught at Catholic school, aged roughly 12, 14 and 16. Everything below is a quote until I speak to you again.

Marie was a very special girl.
She loved to learn.
“Curie was of the opinion that ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.’”
She loved to understand.
“You must love one another as God has loved you.”
And she loved to LOVE.

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“Please copy down the diagram and add the correct labels for the male and female reproductive organs.”
She had a kind soul, dedicated to understanding people.
Unfortunately, most people misunderstood her.

Right, I’m back. Sorry about that – translating such carefully crafted comics to prose isn’t always easy.

So far, so good but I mentioned mixed messages and unfortunately Marie’s Catholic parents perceive things quite differently. To them the emphatically unqualified ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ comes with some pretty specific exceptions.

They’re more concerned with what their neighbours will think – but only about their daughter. To their promiscuous son’s flagrant bedroom antics, right under their noses, they turn a blind eye. “Boys will be boys” is a phrase that will be bandied about all too often here.

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Instead Marie is constantly chastised for not being “presentable” or “ladylike” enough, a superficiality and sexism which will extend to her teacher-trainer once she’s left school, and those propping up the bar where she’ll find herself serving at to make ends meet.

“No one wants a sad pair of tits at the bar, yeah?”

Before we return to all the love I promised you, we should get this out of the way first then I won’t burden you with it to again: if you think the chauvinism’s bad, brace yourself for racist outbursts, some very harsh and hypocritical recriminations, more poisonous, parental words and an abrupt change in colour palette.

The wonderful thing about Marie, though, is her resilience, her complete lack of superficiality, her compassion at school and her unfaltering, unhesitating urge to constantly reach out regardless of what her classmates might think. This extends first to Colin who jumps his own hurdles without the need of much help (they begin in the bed), to the more troubled William who has hidden depths (they convene in the changing rooms, appropriately enough), and to dear Agnes. They end up spending a lot of quality time in the chapel.

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The other wonderful thing about Marie is her complete lack of shame. I don’t mean that she is shameless, for that has come to mean something else entirely – Marie doesn’t even know what a “slut” is. Instead she has a love of luxuriating in both spiritual and physical pleasure of her friends and simply cannot conceive that there is anything wrong with that, especially when it is done with love. Without a sense of shame, the Catholic nuns have nothing to use against her. She disarms them of their best weapon.

And so we come to Prannath whom Marie meets – still early on in the book – after leaving school in 1965 in order to teach, and this is where the colour scheme comes into its own. This is where it truly shines, Marie’s golden hair radiating in both the sun and the rain from which they shelter together under his yellow umbrella. Both hair and umbrella blaze like charms against all adversity including the elements which tower above and rage around them. I cannot conceive a more romantic image.

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The bruised berry purple of the storm clouds and the thrilling sense of movement remind me of the very first page of Alessandro Sanna’s THE RIVER.

It’s in this same park that Prannath courts Marie with twinkling eyes seen through gold-rimmed glasses whose broad frames reflect his openness and honesty; although if you think he’s averse to a little light mischief then you are mistaken! His body language is endearingly coy then increasingly confident as they play chess together in such softly dappled light under a canopy of leaves.

And, oh, Marie, the smile you take away with you along with his treasured umbrella! Utterly smitten but barely daring to hope, she’s biting her lip, eyes gently closed with dreams of a future, even perhaps in prayer.

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Mouths are one of Sarson’s many fortes as an artist. Obviously there’s the body language and oh so many body forms. You wait until you see from behind an old friend bunched over a bedside in a great big, smothering hug! Zero elegance – because who gives a damn about appearances? – but maximum eloquence about what matters more. Obviously there are also the eyes which are ever so expressive. There are so many carefully considered perspectives too, as when reaching up with a helping hand, or looking down over an empty, indifferent, straight-lined, conformist suburb very early on as a heart is broken and someone is left far behind.

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But the contours of the mouths are like nothing I’ve quite seen before, a long way from the many shortcut clichés so-easily absorbed from traditional sources. I strongly suspect that Sarson has been modelling from herself in the mirror, gurning away to achieve her own individualistic grins and grimaces.

I’ve had to be ever so elusive to give you but the flavour of what’s in store, careful to keep the surprises for you. To do that I’ve also virtually ignored the second two-thirds, so what I must emphasise now is the scope of this truly great graphic novel.

It’s a generational saga and its breadth is such that it covers fifty years and encompasses so much that in addition to being a thumping drama of ecstatic highs and gut-wrenching lows, of parental culpability and the determination to do better, of success and failure and reconsideration, it is also a prime slab of British social history which I rank right up there with the triumph that is NELSON and even with the exceptional, historical memory-jog that is Raymond Briggs’ biography of his parents, ETHEL & ERNEST.

It is also exceptionally inclusive and erotic that will be adored by fans of Jess Fink’s CHESTER 5000 XYV and enjoyed on another level entirely.

This is a book so bursting with Jade Sarson’s love that – as I’ve sworn – it will make your hearts soar.

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But, for the love of God, Marie, where will it all end? How could it tie up?

Oh, ever so satisfyingly and ever so pleasurably that you won’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

That’s such a great title.

SLH

Buy For The Love Of God, Marie! and read the Page 45 review here

Paradise Lost h/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by John Milton, Pablo Auladell.

“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

Satan was a silly old sod, wasn’t he?

I’m not saying I’d want to spend eternity in Heaven unless it’s my idea of heaven with Guy Pearce stripped to the waist circa Memento, and Billy MacKenzie and the Cocteau Twins on continual, ethereal rotation, but really…? You’d rather be top dog in an incessant rat race of equally deluded demons in some sort of tortuous cesspit than contribute in some small or even substantial way to something slightly more… azure?

For all the fear Satan so lamentably and so successfully instilled throughout the ages through his veneer of self-confidence, with that single sentence he gives the game away: that he is limited by his ridiculous pride and so self-damned to Hell.

What he does next proves that he’s not half so happy with his lot as he likes to make out, either. Liar!

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Spanish artist Pablo Auladell presents us with a Hell as equally at odds with our traditional view of the fiery pit as Gaiman and Kelley Jones did in SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS. It may have been Milton’s vision too, I don’t know; I’ve never attempted to read the original until now. Either way, what we have here is an endless, colourless gloom so dispiriting that I find it far more frightening. That, to me, would be the terror of an eternity: a monotony of unbroken, infinite, soulless grey.

Auladell juxtaposes this with glimpses of Heaven bathed in the copper oxide aquamarine which we know so well from municipal and ecclesiastical roof tops. It’s used in the lettering too, and the graphic novel is printed on such perfectly chosen paper that it shines.

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Back down below, and I love the way in which, as “the Stygian council” disbands, the winged denizens of hell swarm from Satan’s tower like flies from a putrescent corpse or pile of dung.

Belial, Beelezbub and friends have just discussed their next move after being cast down from above. Open warfare won’t work because, you know, “omnipotent”. Guile ain’t going to cut it because also “omniscient”. Recanting would be rubbish on account of subservience and we all know by now that they’re not keen on that.

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No, what they want to do is truly exasperate Him, get under His skin – to hit Him where it Hurts. And Beelzebub has a cunning plan:

“What if we find some easier enterprise?
“There is a place (if ancient prophetic fame in Heaven err not), another world…
“The happy seat of some new race called Man.
“Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn what creatures there inhabit, of what mould, or substance, how indued, and what their power…
“And where their weakness.”

Wait for it! Killer move coming!

“Let us seduce them to our party, that God may prove their foe.
“This would interrupt His joy,
“And our joy upraise in his disturbance;
“When his darling sons hurled headlong to partake with us.”

Nice! We can’t beat God, so let’s sully his most cherished creation. That’s going to smart something chronic.

It’s like the Farage of UKIP realising that his party will never win a straightforward General Election or he a seat as an MP himself. Why not gain a vainglorious victory instead, less directly, by corrupting the British public with unwarranted fears about immigration and tempt them to his cause with illusory lies about the benefits of economic independence? Let’s fuck everything up purely for personal self-satisfaction! Destroy Britain to damage Europe! Hooray!

Added bonus: the British population are then left riddled with helpless, hopeless guilt because they as individuals went and pressed that bloody button.

Nice one, Satan, it’s your best one yet. I don’t think I’m stretching things, do you?

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I am completely converted to the art in all its eeriness but I have to confess: my God, but Milton drones on. Repetitive, much…?

I’m sure the language was a tour de force in its day to those that learned, but it’s no fun to read right now and I grew so frustrated at having to decipher its every meaning that, I confess, I jumped ship. I abandoned my post long before the final furlong or Judgement Day. I don’t even know if Judgement Day is referenced but I do spy Adam and Eve.

Honestly, what an ignoramus.

SLH

Buy Paradise Lost and read the Page 45 review here

Snotgirl #1 (£2-25, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung with Mickey Quinn.

Meet Lottie Person, who seems so serene on the surface.

“I’m fresh.  I’m fun. It’s just who I am.”

A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect.

Her fans are devoted (she knows), her blogs are the best (she believes) and that goes without saying (she blasés). New verb.

“Except my friends are all horrible people.
“And my boyfriend decided we’re on a break.
“And oh yeah –“

OH NO!

“I have allergies.”

She has such severe allergies that they rule her life. Under the carefully controlled camera conditions of fashion photography, she radiates, she glistens, she sheens. Hung and colour artist Quinn have her emanating girly-girl, cartoon sparkles and her hair bathed in wavy light as if seen through some sort sub-aquatic prism.

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But a surge in pollen or one moment of stress can render her centre asunder. You carry that knowledge wherever you go. Here’s her new doctor, offering her a brand new medication drug trial:

“So much pain in your eyes. You’re a flower afraid of the sun. Lottie… haven’t you suffered enough?”
“Yes, Dr. Dick,” she wells up to herself, “I have suffered enough. I’m a beautiful flower and I deserve to be extremely happy!”

Lord, but I’m taking liberties with verbs.

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In any case it’s just an illusion. Catch Lottie alone at night – free from prying eyes – with her laptop, her allergies, her issues, her tissues and she is one angry, competitive, social-media mess with raging jealousies.

Lottie has locked herself in to a life and a style that can’t handle criticism or blemishes of any other kind. She reduces her so-called friends or at least peers and even complete strangers to one-word labels, defining them by a single trait: Cutegirl, Trashboy, Normgirl, Sandigirl, Custodialdude. She doesn’t appear to like anyone except herself. Oh wait – she doesn’t like Lottie, either.

As Marc Almond once wrote, “Is it me who’s feeling insecure?”

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Then she meets fluster-free, uninhibited, self-assured Caroline, a start-up blogger of extraordinary natural beauty whom she’s so taken by that she immediately christens her Coolgirl and agrees to meet at a bar. Lottie doesn’t go to bars, but…

“People can change! This selfie proves it!”

Nothing that happens next will you in any way see coming. Nothing! No, it’s not same-sex pash time. No, it’s not brand-new boyfarama, either. But I have told you everything that you need to know. I do hope that no one else has spoiled this for you.

Pick this up quick, before someone does! There is far more going on that I’ve so far intimated. The creator of SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA has proved himself over and over again to be a shrewd observer of personal foibles and contemporary interaction. Here each page is packed with both combined in single sentences like inaccurate, emoji-ridden texts sent through a cafe window instead of any meaningful one-to-one communication which could be achieved simply by stepping through a door!

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Hung and Quinn grow better and better with each successive page. I love how everything opens up (from the comparatively confined space) in the two pages where Lottie and Caroline have a meeting of minds over one ridiculously specific coffee. Later in the hot, dark, windowless bar claustrophobia returns, the pressure ramps up, and you can almost feel yourself sweating and spinning thanks to Quinn’s Bourbon colours.

And then you can relax when white space returns in the sanctuary of a toilet cubicle. Can’t you…?

Welcome to my nightmares.

As someone who used to blush or flush at the slightest provocation in public – after which there’d be no recovery for hours – I am ticking the recognition box of wretched self-consciousness and the fear that it could erupt at any second.

Bryan too is writing for experience – and you can tell – in his case with similarly severe allergies. There’s a bit in the back about all of that: a one-page comic drawn by himself.

SLH

Buy Snotgirl #1 Leslie Hung cover and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Snotgirl #1 Bryan Lee O’Malley cover and read the Page 45 review here

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 (£16-99, Vis) by Inio Asano.

Ideally Punpun would like everyone to be happy. He’s quite like to be happier himself.

“Punpun was sick of his own optimism.”

Don’t worry, it won’t last.

From Inio Asano, the most unpredictable Japanese comicbook creator that I’m aware of, comes a second instalment of GOODNIGHT PUNPUN which takes a startling turn for the dark. Although my search for interior art online suggests that we’ve only just begun.

Before we get there, comedy comes in the form of a teacher who has only one expression whatever he says – or doesn’t say – which is boss-eyed and open-mouthed, like a particularly gormless goldfish. There’s a similarly afflicted student who lists slightly as she hovers like a slack-jawed ghost, her back to the others and her hair hanging down in twin, lank bunches like so much pond weed.

“I’m not interested in shallow boys like that,” she pronounces as they discuss teenage Yaguchi’s reputedly prodigious member. I don’t know which is funnier: the delusion or the non sequitur.

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The Onodera family’s an odd one. School student Punpun lives with his excitable, drunken mother and her brother Yuichi who moved in to help out following the father’s… departure. They alone are drawn as stick-limbed, cartoon birds, uncle Yuichi perpetually adorned by a woollen hat. Punpun’s easily flustered timidity is emphasised that throughout he never says a word directly, leaving his friends and relatives to interpret his actions, whereas his uncle never shuts up. Even so, it transpires that he’s been keeping what really lies within tightly bottled up.

Punpun and his uncle are both paralysed by guilt and self-loathing, the first over something he’s not even done yet, the second over a series of events that happened five years ago. It’s a recollection / confession which grows increasingly ominous, even more worrying then finally… good grief!

There’s layer upon layer of I-never-saw-that-coming and it goes a long way in explaining why Punpun’s uncle goes to such enormous, toe-curling lengths to sabotage his own chances of romantic bliss with cafe waitress Midori Okoma.

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Midori is sweet, sincere and both generous and grateful when shown kindness. She’s 25 to Uncle Yuichi’s 33 which is no gap at all, both of them are single, and she is honest and open about her genuine adoration of Yuichi. So what is his problem?

Well, here’s an earlier conversation with a local grocery clerk:

“Yuichi, do you think being alive is fun?”
“Well… what can I say…? It’s not about whether or not it’s fun anymore…”
“Wow… that’s really cool. Then what is it about, Yuichi?”
“Atonement, maybe.”

What happened five years ago is layered and complex and intense – as is Midori and Yuichi’s attempts to work through it and reconcile the past with the present, and I’ve chosen our interior art carefully to hint but not divulge.

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This substantial sequences forms the centre of the book, sandwiched in between Punpun’s own internal self-flagellation on either side, which isn’t helped by the incessant taunts and temptations of a voice in his head whom Punpun has decided is God. He appears to Punpun as a sort of celebrity guru, a hipster with a beard and afro – a grinning, two-dimensional cardboard cut-out.

For all that and more I’d refer you to our review of GOODNIGHT PUNPUN VOL 1, but essentially Punpun’s primary obsession is over a girl called Aiko whom he’s already failed once and who finally reveals one of her fears here:

“You know, I have the same dream over and over. I dream that I’m waiting for someone for a long time.
“In the dark, on a beach, I’m waiting for someone for years and decades.
“But then, at some point, I notice that someone is staring at me. It’s a middle-aged woman I’ve never seen before, but I’m so happy to see her that I pull my feet out of the sand and run over to her.
“But when I get there, it’s just my own reflection in the water.”

Asano’s books take a dozen pages to acclimatise to, after which there’s no leaving them on the table till later. And they’re lengthy. This one comes in at 400 pages long.

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Hands always play a prominent part, and he can draw a tear wobbling on the edge of a lower eyelid with just the right surface tension, transparency and refraction. But the most phenomenal detail is reserved for landscapes, even at night, and the weather – as ever – is going to make itself felt during the climactic scenes.

SLH

Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Plutona s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox.

Deep in the dark, green coniferous forest, a very long way from the bustling Metro City, a woman lies battered and broken and dead. A fly crawls across the black cloth which partially obscures her face. It will be a miracle if anybody finds her.

“Teddy! You’re still not dressed? You better hurry or… “

Teddy’s been studiously logging the morning Metro news. Teddy’s a cape-spotter and there’s been a rare sighting of the reclusive Plutona in combat high over the city’s East end. It’s pretty exciting!

“… You’ll be late for school.”
“Almost ready, Mom.”

That’s Diane, just applying the subtle finishing touches to her light make-up. She can’t wait to wear her grey jacket to school now that it’s been embellished with spiked metal studs. She’s a pretty natty dresser, with a matching, skull-adorned neck chief and olive t-shirt.

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“Yo! That coat looks awesome!”
“You think? Not too much? I did it last night.”
“I want it.”

And what little Mie wants, she usually gets. No “please”, no “thank you”, just “bad ass” once she’s wearing it.

“I get it back at lunchtime.”
“Deal. Awesome!”

She doesn’t get it back at lunchtime.

Then there’s Ray with his black eye. While Teddy, Diane, Mie and her younger brother Mike have been coaxed down to breakfast by their parents, Ray’s been trying to raise his Dad, late for work and passed out on the sofa, beer can still in his hand.

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It won’t be the last time that Lemire contrasts the four households. While Ray sneers and jeers his way to what he hopes is top-dog status in the small pack at school, he’s not just a big man at home. Forced to endure chain-smoked cigarettes and hours of awful television dictated by his dad, he sits there alone and friendless while in the bedrooms Mie texts, Diane plays with her new puppy and Teddy studies Plutona’s history intently.

Because earlier that evening they found the body – Plutona’s body – and they don’t know what to do.

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In a small-scale way it reminded me of Patrick Ness’ ‘The Rest Of Is Just Live Here’ – highly recommended – in that this emphatically not about the action which precedes the main thrust of the tale (I could have done without the flashback at the end of each chapter drawn by Lemire recounting Plutona’s activities the evening before), it’s about what happens to the small-town kids at the periphery.

Lemire’s observation of teenage tensions, strained friendships, loyalties and disloyalties – those tiny, careless betrayals that stack up – is what I enjoyed most about this book, along with Lenox’s fashion sense, subtle, subdued acting and Bellaire’s luminous colours. The teenagers’ eyes are wide and glowing – apart from little Mie’s which are pitch black. The sunrises and sunsets are splendid, with a thrilling spirit of time and place, especially at night under torchlight in the woods.

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Hold on: if they all agreed to keep the secret, who’s out there, alone in the woods, with Plutona’s body? What could they possibly want with it?

I doubt it’s who you’ll expect. Also: they’re not alone.

SLH

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

Huck vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque.

ThisHuck cover is a book that begins as a very sweet tale about a man with a heart of gold and an earnest desire to help whoever he can, whenever he can. He doesn’t wait to be asked, he dreams up kind deeds for the day: selfless surprises like leaving money that he’s saved up in a library book for a stranger; mowing the lawn for all the old people in his remote seaside hamlet; helping a neighbour clear a space for a new barn; taking out all the trash out for everyone overnight.

It’s a lot of work for one man, but he’s very capable.

Huck’s not what you’d call bright in the academic sense nor is he worldly wise. But he’s exceptionally bright in every other sense, beaming at the prospect of giving pleasure. He seeks no reward except the knowledge that someone’s life is made easier, happier or safer.

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His friends are his family for as a baby Huck was left outside the sleepy town’s orphanage with a note in his basket:

“Please love him.”

And they did. And they do. And he loves them very much back in return.

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All he asks is that they keep his deeds secret because, well, if the rest of the world found out that Huck could uproot a three-foot-wide tree stump with his bare hands, that town wouldn’t be so sleepy no more.

The rest of the world finds out.

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The first chapter is magical in a ‘Forrest Gump’ way. I can’t think that wasn’t its inspiration. And there’s a lot of love left to come.

But there’s also a whole lot of hurt.

Albuquerque manages to convey so much in Huck’s physique and body language beyond his weight and prowess, and there’s an earthiness to Dave McCaig’s colouring right from the beginning so that when the book takes a very sharp turn into unhappier terrain it doesn’t jar one jot. It’s as expressive as Eisner, especially when startled, and while so many of those who surround Huck grow nasty, Huck’s face retains its little-lost-boy look of astonishment under all but the direst circumstances.

SLH

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

Doom Patrol Book 2 (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case, many.

“They’re going to… to exterminate imagination and… strangeness…
“They’re building death camps for our dreams…”

A second frazzling feast of Grant’s mind-melting, uber-arty psychohero series which now contains the original, thinner third and fourth volumes and includes litigation-sensitive Flex Mentallo‘s first appearance. You know those Charles Atlas adverts where the beech nerd gets sand kicked in his face? Flex is the end product.

On the whole, though, he reflects the saner side of the spectrum when you consider that the Doom Patrol’s new team member is their own HQ: a sentient stretch of semi-detached housing called Danny The Street. With a penchant for Palare, he’s pretty useful accommodation. Able to do his own dishes, cross-dress his own windows and teleport wherever he fancies, Danny’s going to save a hell of a lot in bus fares. Quite good for rescue missions too.

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If there’s an overall theme to Morrison’s tenure, it’s constant metamorphosis: Rebis’ initial merged state as man, woman and negative energy being, then eventual evolution towards the end; Cliff’s constant robotic body upgrades (which here involves an enormous set of crustacean legs); Rhea’s emergence as if from a cocoon as much as a coma; or indeed Crazy Jane’s abrupt transfigurations as each of her sixty-four personalities with their own unique power vie for control of her body. And that’s just the Patrol itself.

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Then there are supervillains like Agent “!” in search of The Element of Surprise, Number None (“the person who bumps into you when you’re late for the train; the chair that collapses underneath you when you’re trying to make a good impression on your girlfriend’s parents; that man who seems thin but somehow you can’t get past him because he takes up the whole sidewalk…”) and The Beard Hunter, a Punisher parody who’s really a closet case unable to grow his own facial hair:

“You’re thirty-six years old,” scolds his mother. “Don’t you think it’s about time you had a girlfriend?”
“Well, I-I-I’ve got Shu-Sheba. Sheba. What’s wrong with her?”
“Sheba’s a German Shepherd, Ernest. I want grandchildren, not a police investigation.”

One of the most outstanding scenes is a trip to his police station where all the bobbies are shouting “Mee maw mee maw mee maw” and the notices on the walls prove more ambitious that most:

“Wanted: Hope”
“Wanted: The Shape Of Things To Come”
“Wanted: Light At The End Of The Tunnel”.

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The second half kicks off with Flex Mentallo having stumbled upon some unknown horror in the heart of The Pentagon.

“Why is The Pentagon the shape it is?”
“You might as well ask, “Who runs America? Or maybe you just did.”

Also on offer this episode: The Kaleidoscape, the Anathematicians of The Mesh and The Tearoom of Despair.  Meanwhile The Painting That Ate Paris has resurfaced in Venice, Professor Caulder’s building something he probably shouldn’t, Rebis is about to engage in sex with him/her/itself, and Dorothy… Dorothy really should tell the others what price she’s having to pay in order to use her strange abilities.

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Oh yes, there’s also a war on…

“Why are they shouting at each other?”
“Because we have entered the Zone of Words That Kill. Now… Where’s my dictionary?”

SLH

Buy Doom Patrol Book 2 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.

Bone Coda 25th Anniversary s/c (£13-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

Wilds End vol 2: Enemy Within (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

The Arab Of The Future vol 1: 1978-1984 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Never Goodnight (£14-99, The Friday Project) by Coco Moodysson

DMZ Book vol 2 (£18-99, DC) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli

Red Thorn vol 1: Glasgow Kiss s/c (£10-99, DC) by David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick

Lost Tales (£8-99, Phoenix) by Adam Murphy

Guardians Of The Louvre (US Edition)  (£22-99, NBM) by Jiro Taniguchi

New Suicide Squad vol 3: Freedom s/c (£14-99, DC) by Sean Ryan, Various & Philippe Briones, Various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 7: Anarky s/c (£13-50, DC) by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Abc Warriors Return To Ro Busters h/c (£14-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 3: Hyperion (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison, George Mann & Daniel Indro, Mariano Laclaustra, Various

DC Superhero Girls: Final Crisis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat

Agents Of SHIELD vol 1: The Coulson Protocols (£13-50, Marvel) by Marc Guggenhein & German Peralta

Uncanny X-Men vol 6: Storyville s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

X-23 Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31.-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Various & Billt Tan, Francis Portela, Various

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 13-14 (£12-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

News!

Not this week. I’ve only had two days off to read and review the above when normally I have three!

“You have three?!”

Yep, ordinarily I serve at the shop four days a week and it is a joy!

But there’s obviously no time to read comics on the shop floor. It’s ordering this, restocking that, paying for all the gorgeous comics we sell while accounting for everything to those lovely tax people while providing ebullient shop-floor recommendations to anyone who asks (and prompting plenty who don’t) and taking your ever so lovely, hard-earned lolly for which we thank you so much!

All my reviews are therefore written well away from that marvellous, Madding Crowd on my days off and during those scant sober hours after six.*

This week I’m flying solo on two days alone and I don’t think I’ve done badly, do you?

– Stephen

* Some reviews blatantly written while steamingly drunk. Sorry etc  But not this week.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week three

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Includes Una’s On Sanity and exciting Page 45 News underneath! *squeals*

You Belong Here h/c (£13-99, Compendium) by M.H. Clark & Isabelle Arsenault.

You belong here.

You really do.

The publication of this quiet poem of profound truth could not be more timely.

For many weeks now we have, all of us, been assaulted by words, images and deeds seeking to divide and to destroy; to alienate individual human beings from one other. The isolationist emphasis has been on expelling and expunging.

Partly because of this ramped-up rhetoric of outright racism – and the long-term homophobia within the UK Independence party and elsewhere – lives have been destroyed, followed by confidence, a sense of security, physical safety and hope.

Here is a brightly shining beacon of hope just when we need it the most, and it is beautiful to behold.

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It is in part a love poem with a gentle lilt whose personal refrain of constancy and commitment is interspersed by an ode to the natural order of things.

Free from fuss, it relies instead on its simplicity, its eloquence and its truth.

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault with an empathy for both its embracing sentiment and its quiet, comforting tone, the book’s colours glow gently, warmly, whether it’s light emanating from a window on a cold, wintry day or the sandstone shades of senescent leaves blowing past summer to fall.

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You’d expect no less excellence from the artist of the equally tender JANE, THE FOX & ME but this is far more joyful throughout. The landscapes are all fully populated for a start, and not just by single species but by different creatures coexisting in tranquil harmony.

Why the animals are a silvery white will be revealed towards the end, and it’s ever so clever.

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Each line of verse is artfully placed within the images, especially on the very first page whose final promise – and it is a promise – is set apart for maximum impact in a very specific location. It begins thus:

“The stars belong in the deep night sky
and the moon belongs there too,
and the winds belong in each place they blow by…”

we are told

“….and I belong here with you.”

What follows is an assurance that every living creature is in its right place, wherever it happens to be; for we all belong wherever we roam, and you all belong here with me.

SLH

Buy You Belong Here h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

Few thingsScarlet vol 1 cover anger most people I know more than the abuse of power.

Racism is one of them, so South Africa under Apartheid was a double whammy, and Congressman John Lewis has some arresting history for you in MARCH Book 1 and MARCH Book 2 when it comes to policing in America.

Because when individuals, corporations or entire state institutions abuse their power and successfully get away with it through powerful connections, political indifference, mass-media collusion or wholesale capitulation, most of us get pretty steamed.

Welcome to Scarlet’s world: it’s just come crashing down around her.

A bent cop, high on drugs, stops and searches Scarlet and co. who are doing nothing more untoward than laughing and drinking coffee in an urban park in Portland. Wisely they attempt to deflect their own sense of violation and diffuse a volatile situation with humour, until the cop frisks Scarlet way too personally and her boyfriend Gabriel smacks him one.

They run, and it’s the most romantic moment in Scarlet’s life. Unfortunately by that point the cop has Gabriel’s wallet.

“Oh my God. He – he knows your name.”
“I’m in a lot of trouble.”

And that lone cop shoots defenceless Gabriel dead.

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Days later when Scarlet wakes up in hospital, she reads the Portland Press front page. It’s complete fabrication.

“Teen Druglord Gunned Down
“Police Say Bloody Showdown Saved Lives”

A hostage situation…? I don’t think so.

“Deputy Commissioner Ashley offered this statement to the press: “I applaud the outstanding and brave work of the officers involved and promise the people of the city that this is only the first of many moves made by us to keep the city clean from any and all predators that think that this city is their playground.”

Imagine reading that after your boyfriend’s being murdered by a cop in cold blood.

“Everything is broken. Everything.
“Good people are victims. Bad people are heroes. Dumb is virtue, food is poison. Corruption is a national pastime. Rapists rape. The poor are left to rot. Religion is business. No one is safe, and everyone thinks that it’s funny.
“Why is the world allowed to be this way? Why doesn’t anyone do anything? Why don’t we fight back? Why is it like this? Why did it happen?
“And then it hit me. It doesn’t matter why.
“”Why” is the cloud. The redirect. The shell game. “Why” is bullshit. “Why” makes you feel better for just thinking the question. The question is… what am I going to do about it?”

Calmly and methodically Scarlet sets about rectifying the situation.

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We’re not just talking revenge; we’re talking flash-mob revolution, which will indeed be televised.

Public opinion must be courted and won. That public most emphatically includes you, for Scarlet breaks off from time to time to talk directly, conversationally, to camera, with a calm, open honesty which is endearing, evaluating her progress and emotional involvement as she goes along. She won’t be alone in that.

Bendis and Maleev provide some additional, exceptional start-stop, flash-title timing which wrings humour from even the direst of circumstances. The first one focussing on a compressed history of Scarlet is the one I have for you here.

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But there’s also the pivotal moment when she meets up with Brandon, Gabriel’s best friend, for the first time since she left hospital and Gabriel died.

“Now I know everyone has to automatically tolerate their best friend’s girlfriends. That is an unwritten rule of the world,” she confides in us.
“So I’m not entirely sure if Brandon likes me of just tolerated me…. because that’s what you do.
“I’m about to find out.”

The sweet thing is this:

“As for Brandon here, he was in love with Gabriel too.
“Not romantically, or maybe he was a little, who can say…”

What follows is that second compressed history reminding us just how romantic true friendships can be.

The art from Maleev is exceptional. That initial urban park with its pedestrians and skaters throwing long, long shadows is lit and coloured to perfection, whilst the watercolour washes round the Hawthorne highway lift bridge melted my heart. You’ll find that it at the bottom of Scarlet’s three-page bullet-point background.

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The expressions are subtle and subdued, and the faces are full of humanity (or inhumanity) with unexpected, mottled flesh tones both warm and cold. When our bent cop sweats under pressure it’s almost as if he’s submerged in an aquarium.

The urban street fashions are immaculate, which is ever so important because as tensions rise and civilians take to the street it is their very individuality and vulnerability which stands out – even en masse – against the uniform wall of uniformed police in black-Kevlar riot-gear.

You’ll be satisfyingly surprised at the schisms within the system as the vested-interest powers-that-wish-to-perpetually-be wake up to the scale of Scarlet’s challenge and the public’s reaction both to it and to her, and Maleev rises to that challenge with half a dozen eye-dazzling, double-page spreads which celebrate those oh so brave folks opposing the phalanx.

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Actually from what will be SCARLET VOL 2 but you get the picture

For earlier Bendis crime please see JESSICA JONES: ALIAS, my favourite comic ever published by Marvel, each of the four books reviewed without spoilers, as long as you’re over 18. I’m delighted to announce that Brubaker and Phillips now have some serious competition when it comes to crime, and if you crave more CRIMINAL then this one’s for you.

Extras include Bendis’ script to issue #1 with its covering note to Maleev and the script to #2 with Maleev’s exploratory doodles upon it.

Final quote (because who doesn’t love an encore?):

“I’ve been watching so much internet porn I think I learned German.”

SLH

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

On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives (£4-99, Becoming Press) by Una.

Powerful, important, sobering and yet surprisingly uplifting book, never has it been more vital to read both the Afterword and Afterthoughts.

These finally and substantially inform the whole, but before you reach this long, winding road of remarkable recovery which no one expected let alone dared hope for, you’re in for a haltingly stark experience articulated ever so eloquently with complete candour.

Told by both Una – the creator of the widely acclaimed BECOMING UNBECOMING – and her mother, now aged 72, it’s an illuminating, autobiographical aperture onto a very specific aspect of madness and one extraordinary, critical morning, after which the afternoon was all too inevitable.

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On that afternoon we find Una and her mother sitting in the kitchen at the back of her mother’s big house, drinking tea, eating biscuits and reading the day’s newspapers.

“One of us waited anxiously for the medical team that assessed my mother under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act to decide whether to detain her. The other was relaxed in the knowledge that she’d been proved right about the global conspiracy against her (which the doctors were clearly in on), so neither of us was surprised when a doctor’s face appeared round the kitchen door to explain what would happen next.”

This house – originally Una’s grandparents’ – is almost a co-star of this comic. It’s the sole setting for its centrepiece and far more of a prison than the place where she is actually detained once liberated. Specific rooms play key roles, as does its layout and some sequences use its very floor plan as narrative panels. Another uses its staircase with its elaborate, angry red, wrought iron banister for a moment of conflict I suspect was imaginary. Others present full portraits of the hallway seen through doorways or of the rooms themselves and what is seen through a window. What you will find in the billiard room, presented with such sense of scale, will astonish you.

On Sanity 2

“After the brace of doctors had left, we waited for the police and ambulance to arrive. There were still four people in the house, but only one of us did not know that.”

So, what happened that morning?

The sad and unnatural schism between mother and daughter during her mother’s mental illness is quietly emphasised throughout. It’s there on that afternoon when one knows more than the other, but also during the entire main body wherein her mum is recalling that day and the world as she perceived it back then – the one she effectively inhabited.

The entire scenario was painfully familiar to me for reasons I touch on during my review of Darryl Cunningham’s PSYCHIATIC TALES which is an equally honest and important work and which sits proudly in our Mental Health Awareness Section alongside this, Terian Koscik’s WHEN ANXIETY ATTACKS, Allie Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, John Cei Douglas’ SHOW ME THE MAP TO YOUR HEART and so much more. That the section is proving so popular – that our customers care – I find immensely moving.

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This comic is divided into three distinct chapters: the first few pages originally created in 2008 when there was no hope to speak of; her mother’s side of the story based on an oral history recorded over tea and biscuits (never underestimate the palliative power of tea and biscuits); then finally the Afterword and Afterthoughts. In the latter Una’s mother shares her current perspective including an episode which, again, ticked my own recognition box, and in the former Una herself provides context and makes an astute observation on what was not observed that day.

The thing, of course, is to cure mental illness. And if the drugs work then they work (eventually).

But understanding is everything in all aspects of life, and if we had more people in this world like Una who seek to understand, then we’d all be a lot closer too.

SLH

Buy On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives and read the Page 45 review here

Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi.

“Fake it till you make it.”Love Addict cover

Outright deceit aside, that’s actually not a bad adage for so many aspects of life.

Long-term facades are high-maintenance and I’ve certainly no time for fakery in friendship otherwise you make all the wrong friends. But if I’m ever feeling a little down in the shop I force myself to smile – which itself releases endorphins – and within minutes a customer’s shared enthusiasm rubs off on me and I’m glowing again.

Slightly trickier is courage, which is only gained after finding some first.

Similarly what we’re talking about here is the chicken-and-the egg confidence conundrum when it comes to success with scoring. And I am specifically talking about scoring. Not love, not romance, not relationships, but picking up men or women and getting beyond second base. The more you succeed, the more confidence you gain, the more likely your chance of a conquest.

But if love is a drug then sex is far more addictive.

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Honestly, it’s in English!

Our narrator, K, is actually quite chipper as this all kicks off. His flatmate Brian is carefree and confident and ridiculously successful at scoring. But on the first few pages without any front or finagling, K manages to turn a casual, earnest enquiry into an honest romance.

They move in together!

It doesn’t work out.

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It’s at this low juncture, on K’s winter birthday, that he’s caught all melancholy, brooding over snapshots of that failed relationship, despairing at remaining single forever, and Brian introduces him to Lovebug. Lovebug is a dating website. Brian schools our reluctant naïf in the art of securing dates not through openness and honesty but by working the system to maximum advantage.

There’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward – it’s important to focus on all your positive aspects it’s sometimes difficult for some of us to recall – but there are those pitfalls I touched on in lying: you attract all the wrong people. And, to begin with, K attracts all the wrong women.

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Truly, this is in English. It’s just that others have been ahead of us.

Now wait! This was where I too was worried. I was worried that what I was seeing paraded in front of me, as well as K, were women with fault-lines deeper than San Andreas’. I’m a big fan of the foibles we share which is why I love Adrian Tomine’s OPTIC NERVE so much. We’re none of us perfect. But I have a massive aversion to blanket misanthropy.

But trust in the creator of ABADDON! That’s not what this is about, and everything in my introduction will be addressed here including chauvinism. What this is about is dating sites, addiction, superficiality and self-esteem: because things grow much, much worse when K begins to succeed.

“A new, insatiable greed started growing in me.
“I had already wasted all this time either being single or in monogamous relationships.”

If your eyebrows just arched as antagonistically high as mine at the term “wasted” either in conjunction with the words “monogamous” or “single” then welcome to my ceiling-split world. Sex is fab – I’m reasonably keen – but self-validation through sex alone…?

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“I became arrogant and cocky. My attention span dropped to zero.
“And the weirdest thing was, the more arrogant I became, the more luck I had with women.”

Also: the happier he becomes! He’s finally in a place where he feels he can quit therapy because he doesn’t feel so much of a loser. You can’t begrudge him that! That has to be good, doesn’t it? Yes, it does, if how you treat others is of no consideration to you what so fucking ever.

K’s self-woven web becomes increasingly tangled personally and professionally as an animator – though not necessarily in the ways you might expect.

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There is a glorious physicality to the art which revels in all sorts of female forms including in the more muscular like Robert Crumb did. And this is equally, sexually explicit in places. The forms are soft and round and fleshy – well, the women’s are. K’s a stick insect, and there is a masterful full-page panel when Taylor – who herself falls for Robert Crumb’s work once introduced – reveals herself.

“So, what do you think?” she asks, proudly.

And he sits there, as slack-jawed as he is lank-limbed, timidly on the bed. Better still, the composition is such that the shot is seen from the floor where both Taylor and K’s feet rest horizontally, while she rises up so far above him that his line of sight’s at eleven o’clock, totally dominated by both her confidence and physique. The quadrilateral is completed on the left and right by their vertical bodies.

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It’s possible that I may know stuff.

Joe Matt is a fan and I can see why. K’s eyes behind glasses are never more than a dot, dazzled by almost everything he encounters.

The colours are a warm combination of purples, pinks, browns and terracotta. Structurally this is set up in seasons and when summer arrives, you can sure feel the heat. Whatever the time of year, however, neither the internal nor external environments have been skimped on: where dates take place tends to play a very large role in what transpires, doesn’t it? Brian will provide his own knowledgeable masterclass on that issue too.

Each date is numerically catalogued at the beginning of each chapter, then introduced by one colour-coded text each from K and whoever he’s meeting because that’s how their contact’s been developed after the initial site’s hook-up.

I love the final page’s ellipsis. I think that will make you smile.

SLH

Buy Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater and read the Page 45 review here

Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c (£7-50, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda…

“Be smart. Be obedient. That might keep you alive… but nothing will keep you whole. Not in that place.”

No, not a new Page 45 recruit receiving last-minute instructions before entering the mail order salt mines on the upper floors, but advice offered to Maika as she arrives, bound in chains, at the palatial headquarters of the Cumea, an order of human witch-nuns who seem to like nothing more than vivisecting the Arcanics, magical creatures who are part-human, part-animal, and of which Maika is one.

Once upon a time humans and Arcanics co-existed peacefully, but that was before a bitter war erupted resulting in the deaths of one hundred and forty six thousand Arcanics at the decisive battle of Constantine. Since then the remaining Arcanics have been in hiding, gradually being hunted down and handed over to the Cumea for their vile experiments, but perhaps it’s not too late… Maika certainly thinks so, which is why she has arranged for her own capture.

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She’s convinced it is the only way to get behind the formidable defences of the Cumea headquarters, for she believes there is a mystical artifact the Cumea are looking for and have no idea it is hidden right under their very noses. When she acquires said artifact, though, and goes on the run, well, that’s when her problems really begin bifurcating off in all sorts of unexpected directions. But then, what precisely did she want the artifact for anyway…?

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Well, this was an unexpectedly dark blend of fantasy and horror. Let me make absolutely clear: it’s certainly aimed at a mature audience, not kids. Exceptionally well written, including an intriguing sub-plot about Maika’s late mother, with an extremely broad cast of varied and fantastical characters, but I suppose we should expect no less from a published fantasy author, Majorie Liu, and just as beautifully illustrated by Sana Takeda. They have worked together before these two, on an eminently forgettable few issues of X-23 for Marvel, but they’re clearly both operating well in their respective comfort zones here. This is outstanding work for its particular genre.

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As I say, it’s certainly not one for the squeamish, but both the writing and the exquisitely clean art have the feel of a Humanoids publication. If you liked say THE SWORDS OF GLASS, therefore, I think this would very much appeal.

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JR

Buy Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

LifeInvisible Republic cover on the colony-moon of Maidstone isn’t the gleaming, frictionless future which certain science fictions promised us. Grindingly exploited by its mother-colony, it’s a place of food-stamps, indentured servitude, and political unrest. Recovering from its second violent regime change in living memory, no one can agree whether Maidstone’s deposed dictator – Arthur McBride – was an inevitability, a hero, or a monster.

So when journalist Nicholas Babb finds a diary recounting the untold history of McBride’s regime, he thinks it’ll resurrect his career. Especially when he learns it was written by McBride’s own cousin, Maia Reveron: a woman methodically erased from history. But Babb is about to learn that Maidstone’s past is buried in a shallow grave, and it doesn’t intend to rest in peace.

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INVISIBLE REPUBLIC is as much political thriller as it is space opera; part Fatherland, part Star Wars. McBride seems built from secrets. Even Maia, the person who knew him best, has to suppose his motives, and piece together his schemes. Like the best science fiction, INVISIBLE REPUBLIC treats its future like history: intricate, contradictory, defiant.

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Bechko, Hardman and Ponsor are meticulous world-builders, rendering Maidstone with such intimacy that it’s difficult to believe the place is invented. Bechko never allows her rigorous excavation of its daily life to undermine the dense plotting, while Hardman’s compositions are startlingly generous. He can pack an improbable amount of detail and incident into a single, clear panel. Ponsor’s colours conduct the worn, lived-in Maidstone atmosphere, but grow suddenly rich to highlight moments that are genuine and warm. Check out the jars of honey in issue 5, so thickly golden they’ll make you salivate.

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INVISIBLE REPUBLIC is the good stuff: compelling, convincing, and complex. Strongly recommended to anyone who enjoys politics, history, messy science-fiction, or restless, developed characters.

CG

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

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino with Marcelo Mailo on colours.

A tasty little number deliciously drawn with some relish by Sorrentino, this is actually the third OLD MAN LOGAN but please do not worry for I will explain.

Let’s get my only problems with the book out of the way now, shall we, so I can go out with the prime punchline I’ve already planned: it’s the packaging.

Not the cover – also by Sorrentino – but the chapter breaks which crudely and rudely shatter your immersion which the artists, both line and colour, have gone to considerable, spellbinding trouble to successfully achieve. A black page followed by Sorrentino’s own covers to each subsequent instalment would have saved the day by preserving the atmosphere but instead of the black page Marvel reprints, directly opposite each episode’s cliffhanger… a montage of other artists’ invariably inappropriate variants including, most insultingly, a plastic dolly of Logan because you are aged three.

In addition, the last 30-odd pages are actually a reprint of the finale to the original OLD MAN LOGAN so however thick the book looks, you’re only getting four issues. They just cannot help themselves, these greedy little bean-counters.

On we go, then!

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Third series of this title following Bendis and Sorrentino’s OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES which was itself a sequel of sorts to Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s original OLD MAN LOGAN which is completely self-contained and highly recommended as the finest Wolverine solo series of all time.

The original was set in an arid future when the heroes had lost and the villains have carved up America between them. Something so traumatic had happened to Logan that he’d become a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws for anyone or anything. When you learn what that was, you will completely understand why. Half the fun was wondering – then discovering – what had become of those you once loved. Those few left alive, anyway.

OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES saw that same survivor dropped into Marvel’s SECRET WARS world composed of various domains all ruled over by Vicky von Doom, each playing out alternate versions of key Marvel crossovers from the past or whatever else the writers came up with. It’s kind of difficult to explain, sorry.

“AT LEAST YOU TRIED, STEPHEN!” Thank you.

I adored its colours by Marcelo Maiolo which at times made you feel like you were travelling through the nocturnal section of a zoo’s ultra-violet tropical house under the influence of LSD.

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Maiolo is back to colour Sorrentino’s Jay-Lee like art here with suitable gnarled and jaggedy lines as the by-now thoroughly bewildered, battered and indeed naked Old Man Logan surfaces groggily on Marvel’s new post-SECRET WARS Universe which is almost identical to the one left behind but, since that’s years in Logan’s past, it’s going to take some adjusting to. Trust me: when you get to a certain age, your memory isn’t what it used to be. And then there’s the fuzziness that comes with any transdimensional travel of which I also have some considerable experience.

Presumably his old pals are going to need to make some adjustments too given that they thought their friend dead after the DEATH OF WOLVERINE. Will he tell them what becomes of the poor sods in their future? Will they even believe he is who he claims to be?

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Regardless, once he realises where and when he is, Wolverine’s main motivation and most pressing concern is this: changing the present so that the horrific future he lived through in the original OLD MAN LOGAN never comes to pass. Also: avenging some serious slights to his family that haven’t yet happened.

Expect memory flashes which will be new to you, a checklist of those who need to be taken out in order to divert the course of history, spectacular landscapes and a startling double-page homage to Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS in the present. By “spectacular landscapes” I mean breathtakingly misty-blue, oceanic vistas whose horizons are bleached by the sun and whose crystal-clear waters seem so pure, belying what lies beneath. Contrast that with the rusted, battle-damaged hulk of a vast S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier under whose shadow has sprung and spread a shanty-town market, trading on the gutted carrier’s cargo and technology, all executed in the sort of colours you associate with old, frontier photographs.

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Lemire directs Logan’s trajectory with an impeccable logic derived from the character’s now much longer past which still allows for grin-inducing surprises – for the reader, Wolverine, and those he tracks down – while Sorrentino and Maiolo will make you yearn so hard for the safety of those long since lost. Which is a pretty tall order and massive achievement, I think you’ll agree.

However, there’s one enormous, incontrovertible and insurmountable snag to Logan’s reasoning and for his new-found campaign which lies ahead.

I wonder if you’ve worked it out, already. Either way, it’s quite the moment.

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Greg Rucka & various.

Contains WONDERWOMAN: THE HIKETEIA and WONDERWOMAN #195-205.

This is all I’ve got, sorry, from a dozen or so years ago:

Attractive, J.G. Jones-like art accompanies a solid story revolving around the Erinyes, or Furies, and a Greek supplication ritual used by a woman who pledges herself to Wonder Woman, who in turn is then duty-bound to protect her.

In this case from Batman.

Why does he want her? What crimes has she committed, and why was she encouraged in this by the Erinyes? And is Diana prepared to make herself an accessory to murder after the fact?

Yes. Yes, she is.

From the writer of LAZARUS, BLACK MAGICK, GOTHAM CENTRAL and the current WONDER WOMAN post-52 series.

SLH

Buy Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews.

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 (£16-99, Vis) by Inio Asano

Paradise Lost (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by John Milton, Pablo Auladell

Time Clock (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein

Cloud h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by K. I. Zachopoulos & Vincenzo Balzano

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 4 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Doom Patrol Book 2 (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case

Huck vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque

Four Eyes vol 2: Hearts Of Fire s/c (£9-99, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara

Miami Vice Remix s/c (£9-99, Lionforge) by Joe Casey & Jim Mahfood

Plutona s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox

Green Arrow By Kevin Smith s/c (£18-99, DC) by Kevin Smith & Phil Hestr, Ande Parks

Joe Golem Occult Detective vol 1: Rat Catcher And The Sunken Dead h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Patrick Reynolds

Cursed Earth Uncensored (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Matt Wagner, various

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Captain Marvel vol 1: Rise Of Alpha Flight s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters & Kris Anka

Star Wars Obi-Wan And Anakin s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Marco Checchetto

Rocket Raccoon And Groot vol 1 :Tricks Of The Trade s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Filipe Andrade, Various

Spider-Man: Brand New Day vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Joe Kelly, Various & Chris Bachalo, Marc Guggenheim, Various

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl And The Great Lakes Avengers s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Steve Ditko, Dan Slott, Various & Will Murray, Matt Haley, Various

X-Men Trial Of Gambit s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Scott Lobdell, Various & Joe Madureira, Various

American Vampire vol 8 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuqerque, Dave McCaig

Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Bruno Redondo, Mike S Miller, Juan Albarran

News!

Nottingham Independent Business Awards

ITEM!  Page 45 Makes The Top Ten in the Nottingham Independent Business Awards 2016! THANKS TO YOUR VOTES!

Goodness but I hope they’ve announced that by the time this goes to press! I’ve been bluffing my ignorance of the outcome on Twitter since Monday!

To win the award again, highly cherished by Page 45, we will be assessed along with the other nine qualifiers by the Judges, deep undercover as Secret Shoppers! I love Secret Shoppers! I hope they were given a big budget.

Page 45 won the first-ever award for Best Independent Business in Nottingham 2012

Page 45 won the second-ever award for Best Independent Business in Nottingham in 2013

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Thank you again for your votes!

What may have swung it was my last-minute plea on Twitter declaring that, if you didn’t vote for Page 45, you’d find Boris Johnson at the till and Donald Trump providing shop-floor recommendations!

AND YOU WOULDN’T LIKE THOSE

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ITEM! Craig Thompson joins stellar line-up at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14-16 in Kendal!

That’s quite the coup, and a perfect match for this relaxed, town-wide festival which is like nothing else in this country and far closer to European model for comics celebrations.

By Craig Thompson:
HABIBI
SPACE DUMPLINS
GOOD-BYE, CHUNKY RICE
BLANKETS
CARNET DE VOYAGE

Craig Thompson is also featured in:
LITTLE NEMO’S BIG NEW DREAMS
FAIRY TALE COMICS

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ITEM! I love these two pages of THE SHORT CON (you can pre-order there – we have to place our own pre-orders by 26th July) by Pete Toms & Aleks Senwald.

Here’s Aleks Senwalds’ website.

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ITEM! Huge thanks to Chris Gardiner for the guest review this week. It’s years since we had a guest review. We don’t encourage guest reviews because this isn’t a democracy and we think trust and consistency is vital – “Jonathan / Stephen loved my last favourite and they’re also recommended this, so I’m definitely in!” – but it was so fine I was tempted to put my own initials on it. Cheers, mate!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week two

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

In which we talk of William Godwin, Mary Shelley and Bernie Wrightson. News from Bryan Talbot and The Lakes International Comic Art Festival underneath!

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá.

“You cannot hear a poem without it changing you.”

Reading a short story, a prose novel or a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman is both a transforming and transporting experience.

So often they begin as tales ostensibly set in this world and may well return to this world once more, but only after passing over a metaphorical bridge – or some sequestered, sun-dappled stepping stones – into another.

It’s as though a rarely spotted signpost has popped up, redirecting you down a road less travelled, a side-path to somewhere else, somewhere other.

I’m thinking of DEATH, his BOOKS OF MAGIC, CORALINE, ANANSI BOYS and most especially THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. That particular signpost was never meant to be glimpsed, I don’t think.

What you see is so rarely what you get. I wouldn’t bet on getting anything you see on the surface in a Gaiman graphic novel. THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS will give almost everyone involved far, far more than they bargained for, including its readers. You should be careful of bargains, always.

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Gaiman’s knack is to present you at first with the familiar, then take a subtle, almost unnoticeably swerve at the transdimensional traffic lights into the far from familiar in order to enlighten, to frighten and to change.

The set-up here is ever so familiar to those of us who, in our teens, didn’t know how to talk to girls at parties.

Vic and Enn are going to a party. The narrator, Enn, is being dragged along in the wake of Vic’s ebullient, carefree enthusiasm. He trails behind physically just as he has always lagged behind emotionally, and he is very much aware of his comparative awkwardness and ineptitude. To be honest, he’s terrified.

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How To Talk To Girls 3His experience of girls is especially limited since he’s attending an all-male school. And then there’s the post-pubescent leap.

“When you start out as kids, you’re just boys and girls, going through time at the same speed. And then one day there’s a lurch and the girls just sort of sprint off into the future ahead on you…  And they know all about everything, and they have periods and breasts and makeup and god-only-knew-what-else… for I certainly didn’t.
“Biology diagrams were no substitute for being, in a very real sense, young adults.
“And the girls of our age were.
“Vic and I weren’t.”

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All of this understandable hand-wringing is presented in the first half a dozen pages as the boys wend their way through London suburbs. And it is all so familiar.

“You just have to talk to them,” says Vic, helpfully.

But remember what I said. I don’t think it’s going to be quite that simple today.

It’s all so familiar because Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, the creators of DAYTRIPPER and TWO BROTHERS have from the very first page established the spirit of place and time so superbly. Yes, time! This is a period piece, set in the early days of punk, and music will play its own part.

Look at the cars, the fashions, the dresses and blouses – and the hallway globe Atlas which I used to take great delight in spinning while studying its demarcations not one jot! African masks were a very big thing when I were a lad.

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I love the late-summer light reflected later on in the conservatory, and the way in which the pavement bends and almost buckles beneath them. It’s all very human, comforting, soft and vulnerable. Anything ruled more strictly would have been way too clinical and far too modern.

There are no straight lines here. Avenues curve tantalisingly out of sight ahead of our teens as the regular, rhythmic pulse calls them ever on before then emanating from the bowed bay windows of the one detached house in the street.

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But have you noticed the stepping stones being crossed?

The seed of doubt which Gaiman has so cleverly planted as quickly as Vic has dismissed it?

Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are the perfect twin collaborators for this project. In my review of their DE: TALES long, long ago I referenced Neil Gaiman for it felt to me that so many of the short stories there could not only have been originated by but written by Gaiman as well.

This review will take you no further than the first dozen pages of this graphic novella, for this to me is Important. But once you’ve crossed over its yellow-bricked, wooden-fenced threshold both Moon and Bá will make the shadows dance, along with the house’s occupants.

Did you bring your bottle of blanc?

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SLH

Buy How To Talk To Girls At Parties and read the Page 45 review here

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

“EverywhereFrankenstein cover I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”

I don’t think the chances are great.

A glorious, cloth-bound hardcover, white and silver on black, with crisp reproduction values so superior to its original printings that it’s barely recognisable, we thought we’d seen the last of this but I’ve salvaged some more from abroad.

We’ll come to Wrightson’s outstanding illustrations anon, but between them sits Mary Shelley’s original 19th Century prose, intact, reeking of self-obsessed arrogance, decrying social injustice and delivered in the form of ambulatory, Godwinian chit-chat.

William Godwin was Mary Shelley’s father, author of ‘Political Justice’ then the novel ‘Things As They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams’ whose protagonist isn’t half such an ugly-head but still feels the stick of social stigmatisation after asking too many questions of his landed employer which he really didn’t want to know the answers to. He then promises to keep his boss’ secret but Good Intentions Alley inevitably leads to Destination Hell:

“Here I am, an outcast, destined to perish with hunger and cold. All men desert me. All men hate me… Accursed world! that hates without a cause.”

I’d remind you that’s Godwin’s Caleb Williams, but the similarities are striking.

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Subtitled, ‘The Modern Prometheus’, ‘Frankenstein’s protagonist is – unlike the original Prometheus – no benefactor of mankind, but a vainglorious git who gives not one whit for this fellow man nor for his immediate loved ones. Instead he creates a creature from disinterred human body parts and imbues it with life without any consideration for the quality of it. So repulsive is this cruelly self-aware, intelligent individual to its fellow human beings that he is universally shunned by the very society he craves. Added blows upon this bruise come, for example, when he saves a girl from drowning only to be shot at by a local.

“This then was the reward for my benevolence! …The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave way to a hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance on all mankind.”

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This edition’s reproduction is infinitely clearer, I promise!

Frankenstein is, in fact, the first scientist for whom the question “Just because I can” was in serious need of an Ethical Standards Committee musing on whether he should. Accepting no responsibility for his actions – a huge theme of Godwin’s – Frankenstein refuses to right his wrongs or even mitigate them, failing his creation whose endurance goes beyond stoical and whose sincerity in determining to change is genuine even after repeated rejection.

“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eyes upon thy creature, who implores they goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?”

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This isolation and sense of self-imposed exile is felt keenly throughout Wrightson’s illustrations, whether the creature is crouched cramped in his “kennel” (Shelley’s own words), filling that solitary space and watching the world turn without him or in the multiple, magnificent landscapes which rarely depict more than one rambler. The weather plays its own substantial part in the emotional charge, and even inside Wrightson brings it to bear along with the further seclusion of Frankenstein himself for whom connection is an anathema and moping about with quill and paper is a default setting.

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It’s all ever so Byronic with its rain-streaked windows, high collars and neck-length, wavy hair. The drapery isn’t just decadent but decayed and appealed to my post-punk teenage angst enormously. If you’ve ever been inside my study you’ll have seen a full-colour, signed and lovingly framed print as the centre-piece above my open fireplace. Pass me the absinthe, why don’t you?

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Astonishingly for such dark, brooding pieces there are very few solid blacks. Instead the art is composed of an eye-frazzling array of intricate, layered lines and subtle feathering, which screams of Gustave Doré via American illustrator Franklin Booth. The compositions are markedly different to Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe’s, but you won’t be disappointed when it comes to the thousands of individually drawn blades of grass. The figure work is equally phenomenal and when there are two protagonists in a single shot their antagonism is projected by both their posture and lines of sight.

The novel’s more heart-breaking than horrific, but therein lies a horror of its own.

“I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? …I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.”

Man’s inhumanity to man, with more than a dollop of hubris.

SLH

Buy Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Magical!

Magical, exquisitely coloured, and so beautiful to behold, the third of the four all-ages HILDA graphic novels is now available in softcover.

Young school girl Hilda lives with her mother, a professional artist, out in the wilds of the most majestic countryside with mountains that rise into the crystal-blue skies, their snow-capped peaks enticing you ever upwards to explore!

They’re populated with fantastical creatures which Hilda loves to dash out to document and draw! Armed with a rucksack full of pens, pencils, paper and nature books, Hilda could spend an entire day…

… sitting bored indoors, looking mournfully out of her bedroom window onto the deadly-dull streets of a city suburb she is forbidden to set foot in. Oh dear. They’ve moved.

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To her mother’s mind these city streets are infinitely more dangerous than the troll-troubled hills they once frequented. With no discernible vantage points you could get so easily lost in the maze of seemingly homogenous house fronts, and then there are the people. People ain’t no good. Anything could happen to a young girl, out on her own…

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Bravely Luke Pearson has set his series on a brand-new course and brilliantly he’s played to his loyal readers’ fears. The school children who entice Hilda out know all the cool places, but they are very far from cool. They ring on doorbells and then run away, goading their potentially impressionable new friend to do the same. She doesn’t, for Hilda knows her own mind (thank you very much indeed!) and so stops to chat to the old lady she’s just called upon and takes time to compliment her window box of flowers. And then, just when you think Hilda’s winning, and beginning to bring them round in their search for the best and shiniest of rocks, there is a moment of awful brutality that had my jaw on the floor. Also: she does get lost.

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But oh, Luke Pearson, how well you know your craft! One of his finest skills is the ability to surprise – to make you gasp – and everything you have read so far is designed to do precisely that. Who am I to spoil that pleasure?

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There will be wonder aplenty, discoveries made from true discernment, and a heart-racing climax to get to the annual Bird Parade on time! Then the colours will morph out of all recognition and you will know the glow of an evening on fire. It’s so lambent, so eye-poppingly awesome, with exotic forms that fill every inch of each page.

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I love Hilda’s mouth when she goes “Oooh!” I’m making that face as I type: a projection to a small, rounded mouth to one side that lets out a well-rounded “Oooh!” It’s infectious – the sort of art that encourages you to enact what’s happening and so makes for the very best bed-time reading.

Coming shortly in 2016: HILDA AND STONE FOREST!

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SLH

Buy Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire, Marco Rudi, Javier Pulido, Steve Dillon, Chris Visions.

“I’ve had some problems in the past.
“My life has been a minefield of missteps, mistakes and – I’ll be the first to admit – even some mental instability.
“But I am more than the sum of those mistakes and I am better than that.
“And I resolve to put things right.”

A surprisingly spandex-free, site-specific series, its international, geographical locations are stunningly well served by each of the artists with deliciously disparate styles.

Following the films there are flocks of new Scarlet Witch fans actively asking for her key appearances on our shop floor. I’ll be helping you out at the bottom of this review, but rest assured that this is a book itself is a perfectly accessible entry point which wends its own way, free both from convoluted Marvel history and Wanda’s own past, though the ghost of Agatha Harkness, as arch as ever, may well intrigue.

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It’s an occult detective series during the course of which Wanda Maximoff follows a trail of broken or corrupted magic from New York to the Greek island of Santorini, thence to an Ireland whose fallow fields are as beleaguered by arable plague as they were during the mid-19th Century during the Potato Famine. The series is site-specific, as I say, its writer James Robinson focussing on each country’s legend, lore and often all too awful history.

The first volume finishes in the bucolic back roads of Spain, in a vineyard built on the site of an ancient nunnery whose inhabitants had taken a solemn vow of silence. Accused by their own religion of witchcraft during the Spanish Inquisition, their unfaltering devotion to God led not one of them to break their most sacred vow, even in their defence. They were burned or buried underground, chained to walls of their very own crypt. But now it’s been broken into by labourers employed to extend the vineyard’s cellar space and they’ve all become possessed of a fearful madness. The very church which caused this human catastrophe was summoned to perform an exorcism, but an exorcism requires words and anyone who speaks inside the walls suffers the same fate.

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Cue master class in silent storytelling by one Javier Pulido and some elegant forms and impressive spot-blacks worthy of Gilbert Hernandez.

It’s not quite HELLBLAZER but please believe that – as written by Robinson – Wanda is not without her wits, tricking her way to against-all-odds success at least once. Robinson knows that nebulous spell-casting to win the day makes for zero dramatic tension. There has to be a certain degree of logic: there have to laws as well as lores to contend with and be obeyed, bent or broken.

And here is the thing: within Jason Aaron’s equally accessible, current DOCTOR STRANGE it has been established that – just like Newton’s Laws of Physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every spell cast there is a price to be paid.

For every spell that Wanda’s now casting a price is being paid. For the moment it’s only glanced in a distorted mirror like a peak into Dorian Gray’s hidden attic, but her soul is aging rapidly. Plus, as long-term readers already know, sanity was never her strong point, either.

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Coloured by Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey’s opening chapter in greys, greens and reds is as haunting as you could wish for. Even on the daytime streets of Manhattan it remains ethereal, Maximoff striding between two worlds, the mundane grey of one and the sorcerous scarlet of the other cleverly combined on the page in her garb. New York at night is a dream, lit up not by neon, but by the colour-coded impressions of its denizen’s souls.

Fast-forward to Greece and Marco Rudy’s painting presents you with both midnight hues punctuating once more by blood-red and with majestic daytime vistas of the island’s white-washed walls of its hillside town gleaming and beaming in the full summer sun against the Mediterranean blue of its cool ocean waters. Marco’s maze-like, circular and segmented panels are no random choice for we are in the modern lair of the Minotaur as Wanda strives to puzzle out its nocturnal activities then navigate her way to their core.

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Steve Dillon’s depiction is much more contemporary and chic, especially within the Irish airport, Maximoff striding down its functional thoroughfares in a long-coat/rain-coat affair buttoned at the belly. But it’s abruptly broken when Chris Visions steps in with something a little more… ancestral.

Hahaha SPOILERS! We no longer do spoilers around here, nor have we for years.

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We did once, which makes my AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED review one of the worst I have ever written. Please do not read it if you’re interested in picking up that book. But if you want the ultimate, all-encompassing background on Wanda Maximoff – if you’re not satisfied with this as your entry point – it will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the troubled woman and her oh so chequered past with a passion I poured in, perhaps too liberally! I originally wrote it as an introduction to Bendis’s subsequent NEW AVENGERS run which lasted almost a decade.

I promised you other recommended Scarlet-Witch reading above, and this is it:

AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED and its immediate sequel, HOUSE OF M

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOL 2 purely as background

ULTIMATES SEASON ONE and ULTIMATES SEASON TWO which are my two favourite superhero books of all time.

KNIGHTS OF WUNDAGORE and the sequel to AVENGERS: VISION QUEST are, at the time of typing, out of print. Not my fault, I’m not the publisher. Sorrreee!

SLH

Buy Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“D’you know what? I’ve been paying National Insurance for decades and there are only three things wrong with me: my hair, my eyesight and my teeth, none of which is covered by the N.H.S!”
“Perhaps you would like to make an appointment to see our specialist to discuss the work?”
“Sigh. Why not? What harm can it do?”
“She has a space free on Monday at three-thirty if you’re available.”
“Yeah, I can make that.”
“Please be aware that there is a charge of one hundred and thirty pounds…”
“WHAT?! A couple of years ago, I had doubleglazing put in! When I saw the man to discuss the possibility of me placing an order, it was free! This is because as an individual operating in a free market economy, he understood that if I placed an order, I would be spending a lot of money with him!”
“So, shall I book you in for Monday?”
“Go on, then.”

Ha, the punchline to this particular instalment of Pope Francis’ saga to find an NHS dentist with reasonable waiting times and affordable prices is that he has second thoughts overnight at the cost and thus decides to cancel his appointment and continue looking. It’s almost like his never-ending, self-perpetuating quest is his personal penance for his sins. Though to him, I’m sure it seems more like purgatory!

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Fresh from his brilliant recent time-travel epic THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT, Paul’s rounded up this self-published collection of gag strip material featuring the likes of the dentally delicate Pope Francis, Monsieur Octopus the comics artist, Big Town News featuring a certain oafish mop-haired Mayor, the 14-year-old stand-up comedian, avid console gamers God + Son, plus Doctor Poo and his lovely companion Dara O’Briain in a particularly scatological strip!

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The whole thing reads like some bizarre sketch show whipping from one ridiculous character another, keeping the laugh factor as high as the preposterousness of scenarios our characters find themselves in. This is the most consistently funny, and daft, selection of peculiarly British shorts I’ve read for a while. Though actually, many of these strips are rather slyly satirical, with some choice observations to make about our current socio-political malaise.

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Paul even finds time to include a little autobiographical number “What Dave Gone Did” about his brief adventure to see Depeche Mode play, his favourite band of all time, in which amongst other things he pays homage to the fact that Dave Gahan didn’t succumb to a drugs overdose on May 28th 1996.

Great fun and fantastic value at the cost of less than a tube of toothpaste. The parsimonious Pope Francis would be ecstatic!

JR

Buy Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist and read the Page 45 review here

Boy’s Club (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Matt Furie.

“My bad.”

Rarely have I found a pull quote which sums up the whole so succinctly.

Andy, Bretty, Pepe and Landwolf share a flat and a proud penchant for fast food, slow digestion, regurgitation, other-end excretion, video games and psychotropic ganja. Accidents will happen – except most of these aren’t accidents.

There will be many melting faces as the hit takes hold, and a plenty of trips to the toilet to perform, photograph and then finally freeze one enormous faecal trophy. Never let it be said that I leave you ill-prepared. That’s not the only trousers-down performance, either. Inhibitions are overrated, aren’t they?

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There are no inhibitions here.

I pretty much cracked all my weed jokes when reviewing Simon Hanselmann’s MEGG AND MOSS IN AMSTERDAM set in a similarly transgressive household, and if you lapped that up you’ll love this too, though you may want to wash your tongue afterwards.

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That review was far more fulsome and is a fair reflection of what you’ll find here except there are no dissenting voices – the dudes are as one, revelling in their physical pleasures, although there are limits.

“No pants, no chance.”

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Otherwise it’s pure, undiluted glee.

I wish the back-cover blurb hadn’t referred to the Muppets because I wanted to make that comparison too. It’s especially evident in the mouths and tongues. I would suggest “What if Fozzie Bear was a delinquent” but he was, wasn’t he?

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Please Note: actual printed line art comes in a range of pretty colours. The lines, I mean.

SLH

Buy Boy’s Club and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You got one fuck up. That’s it. Just one. Normally we don’t care who you hang out with on your own time, but considering the circumstances, if it keeps up I’d be forced to wish you luck in your future endeavours, so to speak. We clear here?”
“Crystal clear. Thank you, sir.”
CLICK.
“Who was that?”
“Talent relations. Don’t worry about it.”
“They mention me?”

Like CRIMINAL meets ANDRE THE GIANT, with a dash of the humour of THIEF OF THIEVES thrown in for good measure, this crime versus wrestling tag team caper mashes up the action and drama to provide more entertainment than Rollerball Rocko receiving an Atomic Splash from Big Daddy. But as we know – well, some of us at least – whilst the violence between the ropes might be entirely make-believe, what brutality takes place outside the ring has rather more devastating and lasting consequences. Not that I would want to have received a Kamikaze Crash from Kendo Nagasaki, you understand, fake or otherwise!

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Daniel Knossos AKA The Minotaur was one of the good guys, a babyface in wrestling parlance if you will. He’s retired now, having finished a stint in Japan after getting himself blacklisted on the US wrestling scene. He’s back in the country though, looking up old friends, but also with a score to settle. Not surprisingly his appearance has ruffled a few feathers, but there’ll be a lot more getting ruffled than that by the time the final bell rings. But for whom will it toll…? Ah, well, that’s where a plot filled with more twists and turns, including a classic heel turn, than a WWF title run comes into play!

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Lovely chunky art from Nick Barber, ably coloured by Simon Gough, which is perfectly suited for a taking a dive into the seedy underbelly of the wrestling circuit.

JR

Buy Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe and read the Page 45 review here

 

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

In which the newest version of the Ultimates attempt to get the entirety of Page 45’s Tuesday delivery of new comics and graphic novels bagged, taped and ready for Wednesday customer collection and mailing out before the end of play. Once that impossibility has been dealt with our team of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ms. America, Spectrum and Blue Marvel move on to dealing with the easier task… Galactus. But, for a change our heroes aren’t suggesting a fisticuffs-enforced calorifically controlled diet for the purple-panted glutton, but instead deploying a game-changing idea worthy of Reed Richards to transform the Mr. Greedy of the Marvel Universe into an altogether more responsible type of cosmic citizen.

It’s a bold stratagem, but precisely the sort of high-level problem-solving our team have set themselves up for a fall over – I mean, to undertake. For, whilst their intentions might be morally sound, and on the face of it completely successful, it’s the unintended additional consequences of their actions which leave us with a very intriguing sub-plot… Cue a mysterious conversation between Galactus and Eternity, the very embodiment of the Marvel Omniverse itself.

“My apologies. One of them managed to achieve a state of hyper-cosmic awareness. Fortunately he will not be believed… and the others saw only what I wished them to. A simplified view of timespace. Seeing the full scope of reality would be too much for them…”
“And are you any different, Galactus? If I show the truth to you.., can you bear the sight?”
“No… Who did this? Who could do this? Who chained the cosmos?”
“If that is your question, Galactus… then that must be your task. Return to me. And find out.”

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I’m betting on Stan Lee, I’ve always had my suspicions about that guy… Meanwhile, cosmic-level fans with find their power palates further sated with a mixture of covert and overt appearances from the likes of Thanos, Owen Reece AKA The Molecule Man, Master Order and Lord Chaos.

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I’ve personally found this title to be easily the best ‘Avengers’ title since the post-SECRET WARS reboot, the ramifications of which get touched on here. Too many of the other Avengers titles feel utterly spurious, lightweight and throwaway currently, to me at least. Al Ewing has imbued this with a science fiction vibe which Jonathan Hickman employed to great effect, particularly in his extended FANTASTIC FOUR / FF run, most of which, baffling enough, is out of print. Also, given the current uncertainty regarding the whereabouts or eventual return of said World’s Greatest bunch of sticking their noses into cosmic matters that don’t concern them bickerers, I suspect this team may well be being set up as the interim substitutes for the time being. So FF fans should definitely take a look too.

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Marvel newcomer Kenneth Rocafort does a sterling job on art with his gritty but clean style for the first five issues, which again, I prefer massively to the relatively cartoonish styles going on in some of the other Avengers titles currently, and he is the ongoing series artist, but his thunder is stolen somewhat by a gorgeous final issue from Christian Ward employing his trademark mesmeric psychedelic touch that will be familiar to readers of his and Matt Fractions’ ODY-C. I think it would be a bit much on an ongoing basis, but what a show-stopper to conclude this opening volume!

JR

Buy Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Great big crossover whose repercussions are still being felt, whose opening chapter pleasantly surprised me and which I read reviewed thus:

I loved Nick Spencer’s THIEF OF THIEVES, his MORNING GLORIES is complex and clever, Dominique is a worryingly big fan of his BEDLAM, plus his work at Marvel has been funny. But the last thing anyone wanted or needed so early into Marvel’s fresh, post-SECRET WARS relaunch was a crossover.

It will envelope nearly a dozen different Marvel titles – ranging from its multiple AVENGERS series to non-entity why-do-these-even-exists – written and drawn by completely different individuals, so the quality here is no indication of what is to come. To be clear: this is not an endorsement of the policy nor an encouragement for you to splash out ridiculous sums of cash  on a corporate crossover when superhero fans could instead be buying the enormously entertaining DOCTOR STRANGE or even UNCANNY or THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, both of which essentially feature powers without capes.

But this is, nonetheless, an interesting premise whose initial execution sets the stage for a great deal of dramatic irony.

Now, if I were reviewing the collection on completion [which I am now, so don’t worry about it], no one would criticise me for laying its prologue bare, and this is essentially its prologue. But you may consider what follows SPOILERS rather than “Oooh, that’s intriguing!” so it is entirely up to you. What I won’t do is ruin its beginning or end which together constitute the heart of the potential dramatic irony and a great deal of self-recrimination when the Avengers begin to be dragged into this.

Pleasant Hill is a leafy little town where everyone is idyllically happy and civic-minded. There are restrictions, to be sure: curfews etc, but everyone is exceedingly kind and almost excessively courteous, especially to strangers. Stray upon it by accident and you may not want to leave.

Which would be fortunate, since you can’t.

Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 1

You can’t because it’s a construct, a sham. It’s a prison for supervillains created by S.H.I.E.L.D. which has grown bored shitless of incarcerating super-powered sociopaths only for them to break out and cause billions of dollars of collateral damage (and, incidentally, the loss of lives) to satisfy their psychopathy. If psychopathy is ever satisfied: I don’t think those two words mix, really, do they?

The whole enterprise is understandably way off the books because it involves a complete abandonment of human rights. S.H.I.E.L.D. is using fragments of the reality-altering Cosmic Cube to rewrite the felons’ entire identities. They’re not just brainwashing them, they are refashioning them into new individuals physically and mentally.

Now, let us be clear: I’m all for it. I don’t believe in the real-life death penalty because I don’t have faith in the British or American or almost every other justice system because they have been proved over and over again to be racist and target-driven rather than justice-driven: innocent individuals are locked up every day by those who know they’re not guilty. In the la-la land of superheroes wherein the villains run riot, however, I’m with Maria ‘Pleasant’ Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. – fuck ‘em.

Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 2

The problem lies in my previous paragraph, because S.H.I.E.L.D. has just done precisely that: they have incarcerated a hero who got too close to their truth. What I will not spoil for you who has become trapped there and who they’re been turned into on the very last page. Clever.

I don’t know if it’s Scott Hanna’s inks or a departure for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s Mark Bagley, but the art here is slightly more grounded in reality, ironically enough.

According to Marvel HQ you should be able to pick and choose which titles you read without losing the plot: which you read will give you different perspectives on what goes down. I don’t actually care. I’m not an apologist for these sorts of shenanigans, I’d rather read the latest comic by Sarah Burgess or Dan Berry. I’m just saying, “Hey, I thought this was going to be utter bobbins and it turns out it’s pretty much okay”.

SLH

Buy Avengers Standoff 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

You Belong Here h/c (£13-99, Compendium) by M.H. Clark & Isabelle Arsenault

Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka (£19-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras

Kabuki Library vol 3 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c (£7-50, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives (£4-99, Becoming Press) by Una

Southern Bastards vol 3: Homecoming s/c (£10-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour

The Sheriff Of Babylon vol 1: Bang. Bang. Bang. s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads

Usagi Yojimbo vol 30: Thieves And Spies (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 5: Pieces On The Ground (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Megan Levens

Batman: Road To No Man’s Land vol 2 s/c (£25-99, DC) by various

DC Comics: Bombshells vol 2: Allies s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & various

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Greg Rucka & various

Avengers: The Korvac Saga s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter, Len Wein, Roger Stern, David Micheline, Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema, Dave Wenzel, George Perez

Scarlet vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Spider-Women s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by varaious

The Totally Awesome Hulk vol 1: Cho Time s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Frank Cho, Mike Choi

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Fairy Tail Ice Trail vol 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Yuusuke Shirato & Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 54 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P3 Volume 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by So Tobita

News!

10 of my fav things to do in Nottingham

ITEM! Gloriously beautiful and tremendously witty one-page comic by Christian Palmer Smith featuring Page 45 and all your other favourite Nottingham hang-outs!

Page 45 still needs your votes to make the Top Ten in this this year’s Nottingham Best Independent Business Award, so please visit itsinnottingham.com/independents, email info@nottinghambid.com, tag @itsinnottingham on Twitter or Facebook, or use the hashtag #independentnottm on Instagram.

Here’s Page 45 winning the first-ever Best Independent Business 2012 Award, cheers! But we do need your votes to qualify, please.

Trophies

Sample tweet:

“@itsinnottingham I have been bludgeoned against my better judgement into voting for Page 45”

That should do the trick.

Luke Pearson self portrait

ITEM! Oh look, I found a beautifully illustrated interview with HILDA’s Luke Pearson from 2013!

You’ll find the latest HILDA softcover reviewed above.

ITEM! Attention Bryan Talbot and steampunk fans!

Someone tweeted Constant Moyaux’s ‘View of Rome from the Artist¹s Room at the Villa Medici’, 1863, the other night, which struck me as startlingly similar to the opening page of Talbot’s HEART OF EMPIRE, currently out of print but contained within the glorious ARKWRIGHT INTEGRAL hardcover (extensively reviewed!) which is very much alive and kicking and sitting on our shelves.

I thought it worth checking with Bryan himself, because if it was the inspiration I couldn’t conceive how he shifted of the POV perspective so substantially. He wrote:

“Yes, I saw it through the link James has to the tweets on my site. I was amazed. The similarity is incredible. I’ve never seen it before.”

Heart Of Empire comparison

“One of the similarities (barring the open window and the Vatican!) is probably because both pictures use the Golden Section. In fact most of the HEART OF EMPIRE illos and panel layouts were based on “the divine proportion”.

Heart Of Empire ripe fruit

“FYI  the notes on that page from the HEART OF EMPIRE CD Rom are copied below. Feel free to quote or paraphrase from them. When I say I made the view up, I did, but based the houses on the type of old buildings still in Rome.”

Page 1

I spent days trying to find this view of St. Peter’s, each day going to another bit of high ground in or around Rome. I didn’t find it. It didn’t exist so I had to make it up. Returning to Rome a year later and showing this page to some Italian friends, I was overjoyed by their response: in the world of the story, Mussolini never rose to power and so never had all these foreground houses bulldozed to make way for the huge boulevard that, on our parallel, leads up to the Vatican!

 I drew the pomegranates and figs from life; both represent fertility, (a reference to the twins) the pomegranate with its many seeds also immortality (the Homo Novus) and I personally have a soft spot for it through Rossetti’s inclusion of it as a vulvic symbol in his painting ‘Proserpina’. They are in season at this time of the year.

 Via Bottini is a tip of the hat to the Villa Bottini in the Via Bottini in Lucca, Tuscany, the headquarters of the organisers of the twice-annual Comics Festival. I’ve been several times and one year had an exhibition of the artwork from THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT there and the cracked and dusty frescoes on thewalls and ceilings directly inspired the look of Barberini’s chamber.

The composition is based on the Golden Section.

1 LICAF tickets

 ITEM! Tickets are now on sale for creator events at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14th to 16th.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal is FREE EVERY YEAR!

Yup, you can wander into the Comics Clock Tower FOR FREE and meet your favourite creators and buy some glorious graphic novels in Page 45’s very own Georgian Room upstairs (lift access – oh yes!) then get them signed and sketched in FOR FREE! We’ll be hosting SCOTT PILGRIM, LOST AT SEA, SECONDS and SNOT GIRL‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley this year, for example, with other guests and resident creators to be announced imminently. FOR FREE!

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However, some creator events are ticketed so you need to book ASAP, please, including….

YOU ASK, WE TELL! HELPING CREATORS PITCH TO PUBLISHERS, THE PRESS AND COMIC SHOPS

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We’ll be extolling the virtues and advantages of independent and self-publishing, the relationships that can be built with retailers and reviews sites. Anyway, it’s all there so please click on the link.

I’m ridiculously honoured to be joined on that hand-picked panel by:

Avery Hill

Ricky Miller (Director, Avery Hill Publishing)
Katriona Chapman (self-publisher of KATZINE, freelance for larger publishers and part of Avery Hill)
Andy Oliver (Editor-in-Chief, Broken Frontier, pioneer review site and brand-new self-publisher)
Stephen L. Holland (Festival patron, Page 45, award-winning comicbook retailer and prize buffoon.)

Katzines

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?” and “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?”

We’re about to answer your questions.

ITEM! Enter The Guardian Young Critics Award 2016!

Come on, you’ve got to be more eloquent to me. Top Tip: avoid my addiction to alliteration and assonance!

Another top tip to reviewers of all ages: avoid reading others’ reviews. Write what you believe, regardless of what others tell you to say. There is a certain sheep mentality in journalism of all areas, waiting for someone to say something first … then everyone falls in line. Don’t be those sheep! Be a shepherd instead, picking out prize lovelies which you like the most, then sticking rosettes all over their eyes!

Below is a comic with enormous potential which knows its own direction. To its right are a gaggle of geese.

Sheep shock

– Stephen

It is entirely possible that I failed my Biology ‘A’ Level, but I know a good book when I read one.

[Editor’s Note: Actuuuuuuuually, Stephen got an A. In Biology! I know! You will notice that Stephen never refers to his French ‘A’ Level efforts or his Chemistry ‘O’ Level. An entire county had to be decontaminated after that.]

Page 45 Resists Price Rises All Over The Shop!

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Panic not, my loyal lovelies, for we offer lots of sugar coating to offset today’s bitter pill.

You may have read that – following the pound’s plummet against the dollar thanks to our politicians’ self-serving shenanigans – the UK arm of Diamond Comic Distributors has, quite understandably, increased their converted sterling prices to retailers for American comics.

But, as I’m sure you can already see from that single sentence, that is far from the full picture!

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From John Cei Douglas’ STATIC

Page 45 Has Over £100,000 Of Comics & Graphic Novels Whose Prices Won’t Rise!

Those prices won’t rise because:

  1. They’re already in stock.
  2. So many of Page 45’s comics & graphic novels are British! Hooray! Those prices won’t rise even when restocked!
  3. So many of Page 45’s graphic novels come from other sources. Hurrah! Those prices won’t rise when restocked, either!

Page 45 Is Now Even Cheaper To Buy From Abroad!

I’m a silver lining kind of a guy. And, as we’re ever so fond our reminding you….

We Ship Worldwide! ™

Why yes, should you be from one of our cherished fellow European countries, from America, or almost anywhere in the world, Page 45 is now even more affordable to buy from Worldwide!

Simone and Hannah Signing

Pop Simone Lia and Hannah Berry into our search engine! Then let them out from time to time to breathe.

Page 45 Heartily Encourages Other Retailers To Buy British!

The British Comic Publishing Industry has undergone a complete metamorphosis since Page 45 opened 21 years ago.

Thanks to so many phenomenal self-publishers and the likes of SelfMadeHero, Avery Hill Publishing, Improper Books, Myriad Books, Walker Books, Jonathan Cape, Soaring Penguin Press, Knockabout, Phoenix Comics etcetera a huge proportion of Page 45’s best-selling comics and graphic novels are, as I said, British.

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Our biggest-selling comic and graphic novel last year were both British! Please see Page 45 Announces Independent And Self-Publishing Century in the News under Reviews here!

Their prices won’t rise.

Porcelain Bone China bookplates many

So Many Prices Won’t Rise. Yippee!

Please don’t fear the worst; always assess the whole story.

Please don’t blame Diamond UK whom we all adore.

But you know what to do at the ballot box instead, right?

– Stephen x

Sally Heathcote page79

Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week one

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Featuring Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock, Emma Rios, Dan Berry, John Cei Douglas, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Jodorowski & Moebius, Ian Larsen, Rob Williams & Henry Flint, Mark Millar & Frank Quitely, more

Static (£4-00) by John Cei Douglas.

Another spot-varnished beauty, whose sheen makes the evening outside glow.

Unfortunately the protagonist is ordering in, and has been doing for quite some time.

Whenever we’re lucky enough to receive a rare new work by John Cei Douglas, my heart leaps with joy. You could call my heart contrary, given the predominantly quiet, contemplative and often bereft nature of John’s short stories, but his empathy is exceptional and he expresses it so well with a gentle, careful consideration and a precision of panels which is the hallmark of a true craftsman.

His work is some of the most poignant in comics without ever playing to an emotional gallery. Instead what he has to say is true. It is honest and open and born of reflection. Days, weeks and months of reflection, I’d wager.

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Both HOLDING PATTERNS and SHOW ME THE MAP TO YOUR HEART which we made a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month are currently standing proud on our Mental Health Awareness counter corner, for they contain eloquent evocations and expressions of anxiety and depression – in far from obvious ways – which have proved familiar and so sympathetic to so many.

What we have here is equally halting. What we have in ‘tick tock’ is mortality.

It’s a two-page comic constructed to be read left-to-right across its breadth but – here’s the clever thing – it’s the central two tiers which form the momentum. Those above and below them present a contiguous context. This is the trajectory; those are cookies crumbling.

And that is what I love about comics: invention.

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Also on offer this time: sedentary sedation, more passage of time, and long, lonely nights while the rain keeps on pouring, indifferent to those both within and without. Call me contrary once again but I love the rain. I love watching it through my window at any hour of the day, but especially at night. I’ll open a window even in winter just to hear the patter and scatter on glass.

Here, appearing briefly between two other women in the same story, one older lady ventures out at Ridiculous O’Clock in the morning in search of company. She’s even brought a means to her end. She is thwarted.

They are thwarted.

What makes you think they’re not the same woman?

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Tick Tock.

There’s more.

SLH

Buy Static and read the Page 45 review here

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

A Compass South covercover makes a promise, but only the contents can deliver.

With its energy, its urgency and its two young twins, this fine-line cover promises a period piece of adventure and opposition akin to Tony Cliff’s teen treasures DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT and DELILAH DIRK AND THE KING’S SHILLING, both of which have been knock-out successes at Page 45 with teenagers and adults alike.

I had every confidence, but not even the first clue as to how much would be packed into its 225 pages, how complicated the lives of these two individuals would become from so many different factions intent on tracking them down, hampering their progress and taking what little they have left, while consequent repercussions conspire to keep them apart.

Sorry…? No, they’re not both lads; one of them is a lass, disguised for a reason beyond gender impediment or safety’s sake.

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Compass South 2

What I want to impress upon you above all is that this is no mere A to C while B seems insurmountable, though B does seem a pretty tall order for anyone so short. For a start, this is but Book One of FOUR POINTS so C is far from the final objective, but even so I was poleaxed by how many individual threads were so intricately woven within this single volume.

It begins in Manhattan, 1860, with Cleo waiting with Luther, leader of a street-gang of youths, outside an opulent mansion for her brother, Alex, to rob it at night. He fails. Well no, he succeeds in lobbing the silver stash out of the window for Luther to abscond with it, but Alex is caught and sent with his sister to a police station. They’re to be split, Alex remanded to Randall’s Island prison, Cleo dispatched to the nun-run House of Mercy unless they betray Luther’s trust in exchange for a train out of town.

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Alex finds an added incentive in the Daily Tribune advertising for information regarding another set of twins, male but both missing after their father’s long absence, which fit their description. There’s a reward of $200 and that’s a sum they both desperately need. The snag is that they’d need to find their way to San Francisco on America’s west coast and New Orleans on its east is as far as their train ride will carry them.

So far, so insurmountable, and Luther won’t be happy. But I lied.

It begins in Manhattan, 1848, with the twins being bequeathed to a man, Mr. Dodge, by their mother whom he loved. Alas, he’d been parted from Hester for a span of five years. They are not his, but he has no hesitation in adopting the babes even though his own prospects are small and he must travel in order to provide. The stranger also bears two objects from which they must never be parted: a pen-knife and a compass.

But in 1860 Mr. Dodge has failed to return from his most recent travels and wind of what he’s inherited has reached far further than a mere gang of youths…

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I haven’t. Even. Started.

Okay I’ve finished, but Larson and Mock haven’t.

Cleo and Alex are going to face many dangers and many challenges: practical, geographical, judgemental, legal, nautical and hierarchical. But not least among them is their own outlook on life. There are two key players they will share so much time with whose sense of perspective – of values, of priorities – differs from Alex’s own at least. It’s not all about the money.

Being only twelve, they have a lot of growing up to do and it’s not just the unchartered physical terrain which will prove problematic, but emotional awakenings too.

Mock’s inner art is actually much denser than displayed on the cover, and much thicker of line. It’s closer to Hope Larson’s own. I see she supplies colours also and, combined, there is a rich sense of time and space, and how little there may be of either. The rain outside will be ferocious, the lamp-lit intimacy within will have you willing those trapped together into acts of honesty and confessional confidence which Larson won’t let you off easily with. Always there is this tension. Words unsaid are pretty powerful.

So superb is Mock’s New Orleans seen from a seagull’s point of view that you’ll crave more panoramas. Sorry, you won’t get those, but there’s always Book 2.

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Instead you will marvel at how convincing Cleo and Alex are as male twins, without either of them ever losing their individuality. Not once does Mock give the game away, otherwise Cleo’s game would be given away too, both to those around her and to the readers. That’s no mean feat.

This is precisely why I want to tell you about the missing element I’ve so studiously avoided and redacted time after time from this review. It forms at least one whole half of the considerable complications which Cleo and Alex will be forced to deal with directly, each in their own way.

But hey, I had only this cover to go on before I launched in and now so do you.

SLH

Buy Compass South h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Anyone Saga vol 6 coverwho thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.”

This is an indisputable truth.

But it’s also Brian K. Vaughan spreading more than a little authorial love since SAGA is the biggest-selling series of graphic novels on the shelves right now, and he’s suggesting that his readers might like to sample something new too.

Spreading love is what Vaughan and Staples do best. Like THE WICKED + THE DIVINE – equally venerated for its wit, irreverence and beauty – it is one of the most inclusive comics imaginable. Diversity is all, and SAGA’s space setting enables Vaughan and Staples to represent individuals of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, sexual orientations, thorax articulations and genital configurations.

And I’m not just saying; I am being a responsible vendor.

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It’s neither prurient nor lurid, but every volume boasts what I now call a ‘Brian & Fiona Moment’ when two of the sweetest creators on the planet remind you that they’re both adults, that you leave these books lying around your grandparents’ bungalow at your own risk and that dragons have solitary sex lives too.

It is, however, deliciously mischievous and iconoclastic, taking every opportunity to turn preconceptions upon their heads. Here’s the always-infuriated Prince Robot – from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets – whom we dislike intensely but still adore:

“Why would I degrade myself by putting on a lesser’s uniform? I appear absolutely nothing like the man wearing it.”
“Looks close enough to me.”
“Because you people are filthy racists who think every Robot looks the same.”

Fortunately for this subterfuge, his Coalition partners are equally unenlightened but that’s wilful war / mindless hatred for you.

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Regardless of its superficial setting SAGA is essentially about love instead: love between individuals and for their children. It’s a generational epic which leaps years between volumes, always ending with a WTF moment. Quite often those cliff-hangers are suspended upon separation or reunion. For a book about family, Alana, Marko and their daughter spend a great deal of anxious time apart. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and your heart – as well as theirs – will be left bursting.

Cleverly then, this book begins with three chapters of separated perspectives, each oblivious to what the others parties are up to or how they will eventually converge. Then some begin to converge, always leaving you with a lot of the unknown to forward to.

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This review’s Fiona Staples Life Class for you is eyes. Will you just look at those eyes! Each pair is different, even between lovers. Alana and Marko are not the only two lovers here, though I did love Alana in glasses. No, I’m talking about two others who have very different priorities and outlooks on life, reflected in the bright ambitious glee or softer, soulful solemnity with which takes right from wrong seriously.

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In others’ there is a wide-eyed innocence born, I concede, from a certain lucky ignorance, but just wait until you meet Petrichor! Petrichor’s eyes are constantly trying to discern then evaluate what they’re seeing: attempting to make sense of what they believe they’ve discovered. You can see intellect working in conjunction with instinct behind those two eyes which is a neat visual trick to pull off. But which of the two will win out?

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If I were to sum up SAGA, and the experience of reading it, I would pick this:

Endless, unexpected revelations followed by kindness and truth.

“We’re all aliens to someone.
“Even among our own people, most of us will still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. Usually associated with invasions, abductions, or other hostile acts, the term “alien” gets a bad rap. But over the years, the word has come to mean something very different to me…”

Page-turn for one perfect beat.

“… Future friend material.”

Yes!

SLH

Buy Saga vol 6 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I.D. (£7-50, Image) by Emma Rios…

“The ID coverstreets should be burning these days.”
“Sigh. I’m afraid I’m not in the mood for talking politics today. It’s been a pleasure…”
“You too?”
“Yup, it’s a bit late. The meeting was rather intense… and we all have a tough decision to make.”
“But… No! No please, don’t… don’t g…”

My very brief review, well précis really, of the first instalment of I.D. when it appeared in ISLAND #1 described it as a sci-fi ménage à trois bodyswapping yarn set against the backdrop of an unstable society beset by anarchistic riots and domestic terror outrages. Yes, three very different individuals are all so uncomfortable with their own bodies that they’ve decided to take the radical step of having their brains transplanted into a donor’s body.

As our three protagonists weigh up the pros and cons of the physical and mental merry-go-round they are about to embark on with this understandably controversial experimental procedure, they’ve decided to meet their new bodies in the flesh and get to know each other better, to discuss their very distinct reasons for wanting the ultimate of fresh starts.

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It’ll not surprise anyone to learn this existential escapology doesn’t quite go to plan, as anyone who read the concluding second part, which appeared in ISLAND #2, will already know.

Illustrated in a rather unusual palette of red and white, described much more poetically by Stephen as “silky salmon”, the unique feathery penmanship will be immediately familiar to anyone who has seen any of Emma’s previous work such as PRETTY DEADLY, but let me tell you, she’s an incredible writer too.

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Delighted to see she’s included the essay by neurologist Miguel Alberte Woodward which accompanied this work in ISLAND discussing the scientific aspects of her strip and also the current feasibilities of actually performing a brain transplant. I suppose it is probably only a matter of time before this type of procedure is science fact rather than science fiction. With 350 million a week extra post-Brexit being pumped into the NHS I’d imagine we’ll see the first procedure by Christmas… Oh wait, they did say they weren’t in the mood for talking politics today, didn’t they!

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JR

Buy I.D. and read the Page 45 review here

Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) (£6-00) by Dan Berry…

To paraphrase the Beastie Boys from their mid-career classic Sureshot, I do like Dan Berry, he’s very.

And then you can basically insert any suitable superlative you like. I think today I will go with consistently brilliant, but I could equally have employed prodigious, hilarious, enigmatic, and indeed, when the mood takes him, insouciant. But enough of the man, what about his comics, I hear you cry?! Well, they’re bloody good too and this is no exception.

Fashioned from absolute nothingness more empty than the vacuum of interstellar space in the span of a mere 24 hours for the 2015 Lakes International Comics Art Festival 24 Hour Comics Marathon – in addition to running the whole shebang – Dan only went and produced what might actually be my favourite comic of his full stop! (The 2014 LICAF 24 Hour Comics Marathon collected edition 24 BY 7 was nominated for a 2016 Eisner award recently by the way).

This is a visual masterpiece and I’m utterly delighted for this commercial release he’s gone for an enlarged A4 size which only highlights the bravura of his penmanship performance on the day… and the night… and a bit of day again… A mere pamphlet-sized A5 pocket book does not sufficiently display the wonders you will find within. Though being perfectly honest, it did actually look brilliant at that smaller size at the festival, it’s just that this is even more impressive. A grower as well as a shower then, if you will.

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For there are no less than eight glorious full page spreads amongst the 34 pages, featuring gargantuan craggy cliffs, tumultuous cascading waterfalls, desperately flapping fish and one very, very annoyed bear which benefit from this dramatic upscaling in size from the version that made its dramatic entrance at the festival. I can’t remember if there were medals awarded last year to the hardy Nychthemeronauts who scaled the peaks of mild hysteria and ploughed the troughs of caffeine-crutched tiredness to produce such excellence, but they all deserved them regardless, such was the collective quality of the output.

I seem to recall that Dan even had time to endure a heartfibrillating printing disaster upon realising one of the said full-page spreads had been missed from the file that got sent to the printer. Such is the cool, calm collectedness of the man that he merely strode purposefully to the nearest water closet, had but a mere minor emotional breakdown, then marched straight back out and dealt with it like the consummate comics professional he is.

So! Young Ben and his older sister Amy are riding the rippling rapids for a few days whilst at summer camp. Ben’s taken along a little light reading material inspired by events that took place on that very river entitled… The Lost Expedition Of Bear Canyon. Ah… But nothing seems too much amiss, to begin with at least, as our intrepid explorers float along down the frothy foam without a care in the world. Well, other than the fact that whilst boastful junior counsellor Connor has one eye on the rocks ahead the other is very firmly fastened onto Amy…

When Ben, more than a touch spooked from a creepy story round the evening camp fire, disturbs our budding new romantics and receives his marching orders, he storms off in tears. It’s then as much a surprise to him as to us that he finds himself being consoled by a fast-talking beaver, backed up by a glowering bear, who announces that Ben has been selected to be the River Champion! And that’s where the ride starts to get a little more, quite literally, hairy… and wet. As Ben continues to narrate the lost expedition’s descent into madness from his book, the bear suddenly appears to menace our travellers… and the motor-mouthed beaver demands a sacrifice for the river…

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Poor young Ben is about to find his mettle well and truly tested and be given a very difficult decision to make. Will the Lost Expedition of Bear Canyon require a sequel?!! Or can our motley crew possibly escape the capsizing clutches of the greedy gulch unscathed and without the need for a bathyscaphe?!

Note! As he always does, Dan has very kindly sketched and signed in all of our copies, as he has with his Man vs Machine computer catastrophe SENT / NOT SENT, reviewed last week by Stephen.

JR

Buy Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Imagine no possessions
“I wonder if you can…”

– John Lennon, ‘Imagine’

Although its ill-chosen cover resembling a glossy children’s health pamphlet which you might find outside your GP’s surgery doesn’t bode well, what lies within is a side-splittingly subversive series of comics and cartoons which will be spluttered over by devotees of our Lizz Lunney Superstore.

Book-ended by two related cartoons – the first of which will prove infinitely funnier once you’ve read the last – an ‘Inventory of John Lennon’s Possessions’ sits at its centre, requiring just a little more imagination from Ian Larsen than John Lennon evidently mustered when filming the video to ‘Imagine’ in a vast, white, multimillion-dollar mansion.

Still, if you have an enormous number of possessions you do need an enormous possession to house them in, even if the palatial piano room was cleared to fit the film crew. Here are a few:

Piano
Stools
Guitars
Bank Book containing millions of pounds
Table to put drugs and money on
Books on Mao (est. up to 90 million dead during peacetime)

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Some of Larsen’s satirical lancing is equally short and sweet, like his ‘Script Doctors’ subtitled ‘Previously unseen early drafts of movie treasures’, which at their best cut to the quick or make up a memorable moment from which to distil their core essence.

Other objects of disaffection include content-averse TV commissioning editors and producers:

“The thing is, our audience doesn’t understand information so can you replace the information with funny ugly people? Yeah.”

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It’s a running gag which grows cumulatively funnier, just like the Berlin music scene 1976 onwards populated by ‘David And His Friends’ like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musing modestly on their place in history:

“Is Lou coming out tonight?”
“No, he’s become increasingly grumpy and difficult lately.”
“Well you have to give him credit, he is a rock legend.”
I’m a rock legend. We all are.”
“You don’t have to be aggressive about it.”
“Sorry, these German beers are quite strong.”
“At least you aren’t out of your mind on cocaine anymore.”

There’s a scathing stab at territorial music devotion coming down on the envious and ill-informed, an alien encounter on Earth, and a cautionary tale about the potential ramifications of changing your worldwide social media profile picture right in the heart of your home.

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Half of the humour is the veneer of childlike glee belying the bloody contents beneath it, but be not deceived: Larsen can do such instantly recognisable portraits of the likes of Bill Murray that the joke doesn’t need signposting.

For me the most successful comic was the six-page ‘Skip Chippington and the Journey Into Disappointment’, specifically London 1665 as visited by a time-traveller. It plays to readers’ preconceptions of what he will find, how he will be received and the language with which he’ll be greeted… before slapping them all upside the head over and over again, along with what a supposedly 17th Century simpleton will make of our own brave new world.

Only such an economy of expression could make the gags work so well, while the silent panels speak volumes.

I may actually leave a copy in my dentist’s waiting room.

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SLH

Buy Larsen Around – Niche and read the Page 45 review here

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

Brand-newMadwoman cover edition from Humanoids! Hurrah!

We can’t wait for Dark Horse’s Moebius Library which kicks off with WORLD OF EDENA!

“Before you pass any further judgement on me, I’ll give you a quote, the author of which you’re not worthy to learn: “There is no good or evil, only the divine presence under this or that trapping.”
“?!!”
“Those are the words of a saint!”
“?”
“Enough, you guys, this is a University not a temple.”
“Yeah, shut up, you ass-kissers.”

Finally Jodorowsky and Moebius’ masterpiece of religious and philosophical satire is available in its complete form in English. When Dark Horse first published this work in the US many years ago, they only collected the first two-thirds (and then only in black and white), which culminated in a rather odd and abrupt ending. Given the nature of the work I personally – like many others at the time having chatted with a few customers about it – just assumed it was a deliberately oblique ending which possibly I hadn’t grasped the full meaning of! However I think the actual reason behind not including the third part at the time was that it simply hadn’t been translated yet!

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Anyway, enough preamble. How best to describe MADWOMAN to those unfamiliar with the work?! Professor Alan Mangel is a charismatic and eminent Professor of Philosophy at Paris’ Sorbonne University. Whilst beloved by his students, some of whom have taken to wearing purple in reverence of him, Mangel’s private life is somewhat less successful, with a rather bitter (very soon to be ex-) wife who berates him for his impotence and inability to impregnate her. He’s somewhat ambivalent about the whole situation preferring to take solace in, and perhaps also hiding behind, his spiritual practice, until she actually leaves him taking every single possession he owns with her. This precipitates a crisis of confidence and his loyal students soon desert him in droves.

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The only student who still believes in Alan in the beautiful Elisabeth, who appears to be completely insane in her belief that she has been chosen for a divine mission, to be impregnated by Alan and thus bring about the reincarnation of John the Baptist. And that’s just the beginning! What follows is a delightfully farcical and satirical romp as Alan, seemingly unable to take control of the situation and sensibly just bring things to a halt, gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

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He soon finds himself on the run for a murder he didn’t commit which occurs in the course of helping a local drug dealer spring a girl from a Parisian asylum. Elisabeth is convinced they are the reincarnations of Joseph and Mary respectively, and that they will produce a child who will be the second coming of Jesus. Just to make things a little more complicated for Alan the girl in question is the daughter of a Columbian cocaine baron, who promptly dispatches a hit squad to track down his beloved child and deal with the people responsible for her disappearance. If that weren’t enough to deal with, Alan is also finding himself troubled by a rather lustful inner demon in the shape of his younger self, who chides him for not grasping the moment and making the most of his current situation, whilst continually making some distinctly suggestive suggestions. Oh, and the slightest bit of stress is now causing Alan bouts of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhoea.

I’m not going to go into any analysis of precisely what J & M are satirising with this work. That’s one of the pleasures of reading it in depth for yourself. Not that it is remotely heavy going, and can be enjoyed entirely for its farcical content which comes across in places like a surreal cross-over between Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and a particularly bawdy Carry On film. And I do genuinely mean that in a good way, I really do!!

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The final third of MADWOMAN changes in tone as the humour is reined in considerably and things take an even more metaphysical turn out in the jungles of Colombia. It’s a path Jodorowsky has us taken down before in his various comic and cinematic works, perhaps once too often for it to have the same impact for me in all honesty, and it probably reveals more about himself and his own beliefs than simply continuing to entertain the reader with the same bonhomie as the first two-thirds of the work. Still, it doesn’t spoil the book and the plot is definitely still drawn to a very satisfactory conclusion. I do wonder whether there is a deliberate parallel to be drawn in terms of Mangel’s physical and psychological state at the very end of MADWOMAN and with the ending of THE INCAL material and its main protagonist John Difool, but maybe that’s me reading too much into it. I think I understand the point that’s being made, if there is a point that’s actually being made – and that the great thing about MADWOMAN: it will certainly get you thinking!

And of course we have the unique art style that we’ve come to know and love from Moebius, plus there is the added bonus of the truly wonderful conceit that he’s used Jodorowsky’s likeness for Professor Alan Mangel (unbeknownst to Jodorowsky at the time) which continually adds to the amusement as Alan’s circumstances get ever more ridiculous and fraught with danger. This is a genuine classic that stands reading and re-reading. It never fails to raise a smile for me, and still a quizzical eyebrow or two.

JR

Buy Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

The prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY is a book about relationships and politics set in a time when the superhero genre looked at them barely at all.

Certainly no hero left his wife and children for a star-struck teenager then attempted to recommend her as a new superheroine to his teammates. Also, back in 1959 cinema’s greatest heroes were all in the closet – because, umm, public opinion and box office…? But also: illegal. Yes, it was illegal to love if you were a bloke and your loved one happened to shave too.

Insane in the brain – what a bunch of myopic muppets we are when we promote hatred and division over diversity and love.

Millar dealt with all that beautifully, intelligently and unflinchingly in JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 while here he wonders what would true altruists – respected by the public and with the capacity to intervene – do when faced with the Los Angeles Watts Riots of 1965? When confronted by images on the television of young black men, understandably angry and disenfranchised after years of economic deprivation, being manhandled by white policemen? For example.

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The very motivation for this extended ‘family’ back in JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1 was economics following the Wall Street crash when Sheldon Sampson set about giving America something to believe in and people to give them hope: superheroes. A generation later what transpired was disastrous, but even this early on there is duplicity within this family of friends and I really am doing my best to avoid spoilers. It is a very different beast to JUPITER’S LEGACY, but equally deserves your attention because reading one informs your understanding and so appreciation of the other, and it asks imaginative questions of its own.

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What might the love life be like of a kind and considerate man with the ability to fly far out to space, when he is absolutely besotted by and dedicated to his loved one? What mountains might he move? There’s plenty of room for old fashioned romance here – examined thoughtfully from both perspectives – but not necessarily for everyone, so I’m afraid there’s room for much sadness too.

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Also touched on: the balance of power between humans and metahumans Lex Luthor-stylee, questions about what it might mean for future generations (oh, the dramatic irony!) and what might a man do in search of a super-powered son or daughter.

For me both series are Millar’s meatiest works since SUPERIOR, this one sharing its vulnerability and poignancy. I talked about the art in a little more detail in JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 with was perfect for a piece set in a period where superheroes were seen more innocently and written an emotional naivety. It’s mostly on target here too with Torres depicting the Utopian as a young Ronald Reagan but, in the interests of honesty, there are half a dozen pages by a fill-in artist which jar horribly, unnecessarily.

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Real-life guest appearances this time by Ayn Rand (see SUPERCRASH) and Spencer Tracy!

SLH

Buy Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jupiter’s Legacy Vol 2 #1 (£2-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely.

In their AUTHORITY Mark Millar and Frank Quitely asked the question, “Why so super-people never go after the real bastards?” at which point their team of liberal totalitarians did precisely that, deposing despots around the world left, right and centre.

Oh how we cheered, because we agreed wholeheartedly even though The Authority had no mandate whatsoever.

As JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1 began it all looked like going a bit Pete Tong in a KINGDOM COME sort of way, with the younger generation of metahumans have jettisoned the altruism of their super-powered parents in favour of fashion contracts, drugs and alcohol.

But it didn’t turn out to be that straightforward by a long way, did it? One amongst the old guard had his sights set firmly on the American economy and – unlike Sheldon Samson’s original dream – not by uplifting it through inspirational deeds of defending the innocent and helping others, but by personal intervention in the White House.

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Then, fearing familial retribution, he made a pre-emptive strike which gave every reader whiplash. Never have I known such an abrupt, truly shocking hand-break turn in superhero comics, executed by Quitely with brutality after lulling us into a juxtaposed sense of security with all things quaint. And everything went to hell in a hand basket.

Then everything went quiet. That next generation of seemingly self-interested loafers and those dismissed as losers – tainted by the supposed sins of their fathers – went to ground, desperate not to be detected and to protect what and whom they had left.

Until, that is [redacted].

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Millar and Quitely display as much skill in the tenderness here as they did in the savagery of that hand-break turn. Watch the dates carefully too. There’s a whole lot of love in the opening flashback. Not tranquillity or delicacy, but stillness and a purity of communications and a sense of what matters at the end or the beginning of the day. It’s quite the torch that’s passed on.

Sunny Gho’s colours leave a lot of white space which is ever so thematically important.

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Every creator is in complete control of their craft and, if you want to involve your readership in a genre which is so often reduced unnecessarily to conveyor-belt bombast – if you want them to invest emotionally in your story – this is crucial. I honestly believe you will care.

Please see the prequels JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 and indeed VOL 2 for all the dramatic irony you could wish for before embarking on what comes next.

SLH

Buy Jupiter’s Legacy Vol 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How old are you, dog? Don’ take me wrong now. I realise you legendary and all, and I respect that. But this is space, feel me? I’m just wonderin’ if you the oldest dude to ever go into space. Must be some kinda record.”
“You’re Justice Department’s space marines, right? Some kind of elite. The best we got.”
“Damn straight.”
“They put the oldest man to ever go into space in charge. To make sure you don’t screw up this mission. Respect that.”

Totally irascible yet utterly unflappable. That’s the practically pension-age Judge Joe Dredd in a nutshell. There’s a great little moment shortly after this pull quote where the space marines, preparing for their drop from space to the surface of Titan, the penal colony where corrupt Judges get sent for life that has suddenly ceased all contact with Mega-City One, do a little preparatory chant right before they launch themselves into near-certain death. Dredd, being Dredd, is just irritated, but is completely self-aware enough to know that’s exactly what he is.

“Unconventional. It annoyed him.
“But everything annoyed him these days.”

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Heh, he really has become the veritable Victor Meldrew with attitude and a sidearm. It’s a constant source of fascination to me that right from the get-go, this most unreconstructed of unapologetic fascists is such a comics hero. I think it only works because the man has no ego whatsoever. He upholds the Law because it is the Law, irrespective. To him there is only the Law and if you break the Law you’re getting shot or hauled off to the Cubes. Even attempting to mildly bend or circumvent the Law is, in Dredd’s eyes, breaking the Law. He is simply the immovable object around which events unfold, always affecting them by his very presence with his granite jawed gravitational field of uncompromising authority. He is, as he occasionally observes for additional fear inducing effect, simply, the Law.

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This is a great bit of modern Dredd, I can see why it has been collected separately from the COMPLETE CASEFILES. Titan is a creation that goes back to the very, very early days of 2000AD, when Dredd’s imprisoned clone brother Rico escapes and comes to Earth looking for vengeance. It’s one of the very few strips where over the years you’ve seen Dredd display any sort of emotional, well weakness is far too strong a word for it, but I can probably count on one hand the number of occasions I’ve seen such a… moment.

So the title of this work alone intrigued me enough to pick it up, coupled with the fact the writer was Rob Williams, whose UNFOLLOW I have been enjoyed immensely recently, and the artist was Henry Flint, whose Dredd is the very epitome of the modern version of granite-jawed lawman. I always feel if you tried to punch Flint’s Dredd on that jaw, the only possible outcome would be a full set of broken knuckles.

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Here he’s going to need every annus horribilis of his years of experience and hard-earned, gun-slinging prowess to find out what’s behind the troubling lack of contact from the penal colony that has enough banged-up Judges to easily conquer the Big Meg after its latest near-apocalyptic brush with annihilation. A not inconsiderable number of them have got a grudge against Dredd himself too, given how many he personally sent there! And how do the sneaky Sovs and the murderous Kleggs fit in? Plus what is that strange energy source on the nearby moon of Enceladus? Will Dredd prevail? Obviously, he is the Law, but even Dredd will find himself pushed to the absolute limit this time. As I said, a fantastic fun chunk of modern Dredd.

JR

Buy Judge Dredd: Titan 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

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Boy’s Club (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Matt Furie

Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Our Super Adventure (£10-00, Shiny Sword Press) by Sarah Graley

A-Force vol 1: Hypertime s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson & Jorge Molina, Victor Ibanez

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Worldwide s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Matteo Buffagni, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & various

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Tim Seeley & various

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 3 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Tim Seeley & various

Green Arrow vol 8: The Night Birds s/c (£12-99, DC) by Benjamin Percy & Patrick Zircher, various

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

Bleach vol 67 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

One-Punch Man vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Ooh, slimmest week ever! Don’t worry, I’ve already got some other belters lined up for next week’s reviews as well!

News!

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ITEM! Please vote for Page 45 in Nottingham’s Independent Business Of The Year Award 2016!

Look, here’s our Jonathan holding up not one but TWO trophies Page 45 won as Nottingham’s Best Independent Business Of The Year 2012 and 2013.

We couldn’t have done it without your votes! Thank you!

Alas, last year Page 45 didn’t even make it into the Top 10 so failed to receive Secret Shopper judges. And I like Secret Shopper judges – we make them BUY stuff – so do please vote!

To make a nomination for Independent Business of the Year, visit itsinnottingham.com/independents, email info@nottinghambid.com, tag @itsinnottingham on Twitter or Facebook, or use the hashtag #independentnottm on Instagram.
Here’s Page 45 winning the first-ever Best Independent Business 2012 Award. Cheers!

I had fun with that one.

Trophies

ITEM! New interview with GIANT DAYS’ John Allison!

You can read all Page 45’s Reviews of John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY, EXPECTING TO FLY, MORDAWA and GIANT DAYS comics (including the self-published GIANT DAYS pack before the Boom! Studios stories!) here.

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ITEM! News just in! GIANT DAYS has been nominated for three Harvey Awards. Yippee!

Full List Of Harvey Awards nominations 2016!

Nominations also include autobiography about the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement by Congressmen John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Both MARCH BOOK ONE and MARCH BOOK TWO were absolutely arresting.

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– Stephen