Archive for August, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week five

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The comicbook history of beer! Seriously! Also, US police racism/corruption, white-supremacy secessionism, British colonial imperialism, other equal horrors plus Agatha Christie and a fair few laffs!

Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios.

“We are all shaped by what we do.”

Powerful, profound, and exquisitely coloured by Jordie Bellaire, this book bursts which what Emma Rios describes as “lyrical landscapes”.

With such a quietly controlled script, reading this is an intimate, sensual, spiritual, almost out-of-body experience as your eyes are drawn around organic page compositions, between free-floating visual ideas and inset panels.

There’s a process-piece conversation between DeConnick and Rios in the back which ably demonstrates how much thought goes into translating so many clever and complex concepts into elaborate, eloquent visual narratives.

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The Garden wherein the Soul of the World resides is particularly impressive. From there Sissy – who has assumed the mantle of Death and so become both the inner and outer worlds’ Gardener – can see all that occurs, pruning through necessity for the benefit of the bramble. As the branches bend and bifurcate above, so too the roots swell below, while the red-rose tendrils trail in the air, shedding green leaves against a pale pink sky.

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This is very much a book of the living and the dead, and the balance is currently out of kilter for we have reached World War I and the horse-mounted Reaper of War is sending 10,000 souls to The Black every day.

“When they dig their trenches… do you think they know that they’re digging their own graves?”
“I do.”

In PRETTY DEADLY VOL 1 we met Sissy and Foxy, Molly the Raven and Johnny Coyote, Deathface Ginny who had become the Reaper of Vengeance, and Big Alice, the Reaper of Cruelty. Here you will encounter other Reapers, one of whom you may not even suspect to exist, but when its identity is finally revealed it will make so much sense – not just for this story, but for the way in which the world works. For yes, this is also a book about how the world works.

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Previously our narrator Bunny Bones instructed Butterfly on the ways of nature: of adversity, fear, patience, perseverance and survival. Here Bunny has much to impart about the bear and the bees. About how bees are builders or foragers, guards or nurses – even undertakers. How their honey may be sweet but it is their larvae which actually sustains the bear.

“The needs of the bear are not the same as the needs of the bee.”

If the bee stings, it dies. On the other hand:

“Oh, Butterfly. Big things are often humbled by small. That too is the way of things.”

None of this is extraneous.

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PRETTY DEADLY is also a big book of compassion and, as it opens, Susan whom we encountered many moons ago is dying. It’s long been established that her line can see the dead, so when her old flame Fox comes to escort her to the other side, her daughter Verine begs Fox to let her linger just long enough to see her son Cyrus again. She makes this request even though Susan’s in pain and Cyrus is on the other side of the world. His head’s in the moon but he’s hidden himself and his heart well away in a French trench. He’s unlikely to make it out, for the Reaper of War is at work.

Just as the first book begins with a ballad – The Song Of Deathface Ginny and How She Came To Be – so this opens with another generational lament, including wise words for any wake.

“Don’t steal tears from tomorrow, boy
“Don’t grieve for what ain’t lost
“Don’t waste time on yesterday
“You still got paths to cross.”

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Almost everyone you loved from book one will be back, and their paths will surely cross. In doing so, hitherto unseen and unexpected aspects will be revealed, and more than one war will be fought to the death.


Buy Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Comic Book Story Of Beer (£14-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith & Aaron McConnell…

“Some might dismiss beer as nothing more than a throwaway consumer item.
“But make no mistake…
“Beer is not only ubiquitous… it is ancient.
“And it has played a far more vital role in the story of humanity that most people realise.
“Nowadays we tend to think of beer as a recreational drink… something to accompany food.
“But for untold centuries beer was food.
“Think about it. Grain, yeast, water… Beer has the same essential ingredients as bread… the stuff of life.”

Which therefore means I have, in fact, a bread belly!

I absolutely loved this fascinating study of the world’s favourite beverage. For indeed, one of the many facts I learnt from this carefully cultured aliquot of alcohol-based indulgence is that globally people consume more beer than coffee, wine and even coca-cola. I tell you what, have another one on me (fact, that is): beer likely takes its name from bibere, the Latin verb for ‘to drink’. So as extremely knowledgeable scribes Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith attest, beer is linguistically synonymous with the very act of drinking itself!


This, then, is the historical story of what is also my own personal favourite beverage, from time immemorial to its current social and skilful resurgence in this enlightened era of craft brewing. There’s a little bit of supposition involved in just how far back we can trace the beginnings of brewing, at least 9,000 years perhaps, accidental as it must have been, in part purely due to technical limitations of archaeology. But, one glorious day, the coincidental introduction of airborne yeasts into stored grain that was germinating in the sun and then processed to make gruel – proto-bread, essentially – resulted in an unexpectedly intoxicating brew. A magical happening that would have been a wondrous mystery to prehistoric people. An extremely fortuitous discovery that undoubtedly took a lot of experimentation to replicate and ultimately refine.

We then move forward through time via the Mediaeval revolution in brewing techniques right through to our modern era getting the full timeline of the development of beer, or beers, in all their myriad weird and wonderful varieties, that we have come to know and love. It’s truly educational stuff, I have to say: the level of research the creators have put in is testament to their own clear love for a drop or two of the heady brew.


We also get the occasional interlude of ‘Meet The Beer’ that describes the specific genesis of an individual type of beer, such as the Porter, a firm favourite of long-standing customer and frantic BUFFY flicker, Leigh Hobson. It’s a brew that’s a touch dark for my personal tastes, preferring pale ales as I do, but I was entranced like a drunkard in his cups reading the various origin stories of some of our favourite contemporary beers.

The art is provided by Aaron McConnell, who has illustrated a couple of other works in conjunction with Jonathan Hennessy: THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION and THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION that sound rather more dry, prohibitive affairs, but I’m sure are equally exciting to the right audience.


I shall conclude with a little excerpt from the introduction of this work, which made me chuckle greatly and also neatly highlighted another parallel between fine beer and top-notch comics I have noted. That is, you can’t beat a good recommendation. Particularly if you purchase comics from Page 45 and beer from the truly excellent Brew Cavern situated in Flying Horse Walk Arcade. The book begins with someone walking into a beer emporium looking to purchase some decent brews for his friends and being utterly bemused as where to start even looking, simply utterly bedazzled by the sheer array on the shelves. Fortunately for him there’s an omniscient and mildly insouciant retailer, in the best possible way, only too happy to help…

“Holy…! Where do I even start? Lambic? Bitter? Kölsch? Porter?!”
“Hi. Can I help you find something?”
“Yeah. Dumb question, but… what’s good?”
“Beer. Beer is good!”


There’s a cheeky glint in the eyes of the pictured shopkeeper, as he adjusts his glasses before getting to work, that I’ve definitely seen in the eyes of a certain Stephen L. Holland as he sets out to educate, inform and lighten the wallet / purse of any newcomer into Page 45 in exchange for some quality reading material. I’ve also had several similar experiences with the equally informed Matt at Brew Cavern in recent months! If you need some sage advice on how to refine your drinking habits to hitherto untasted heights, whilst also cleaning you out of your supply of ready cash, he certainly is your man! Just… don’t spend all your money on beer instead of comics, please.


Buy The Comic Book Story Of Beer and read the Page 45 review here

Briggs Land #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater…

“BRIGGS! You got a visitor. Fifteen minutes, Jim.”
“So what the fuck happened to yesterday?”
“I got busy.”
“I needed you here yesterday. We have a schedule for a reason, Grace. It’s like this: you come visit me and I give you orders. Now, if that’s suddenly becoming difficult for you to understand, well…  forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to you and your frivolous life. What the fuck do you do all day, anyway?”
“Jim, please…”
“Shut up. I run this family. Me, not you. I know it. You know it. Our boys know it. And everyone else we know knows it. And if you are ever late coming here again…”
“STOP IT! This is the last time I’m coming here. I’m telling you this face to face as a courtesy. We’re over. I’m taking over control of the family.”
“Yeah, right. Over my dead body you are. What the hell’s gotten into you?”
“I know about your negotiations with the Albany County D.A.’s office. How’s that for starters? I put a thousand dollars in your commissary account. Consider it severance pay. I suggest you make it last. Don’t underestimate me on this. I’m no sellout. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our land and our history. I’ve been a Briggs since I was seventeen years old. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”


And that, as they say, is where we come in. It’ll not surprise you to learn that incarcerated antigovernment secessionist and local white power hoodlum Jim Briggs is not best impressed with his wife Grace’s attempt at a de facto coup. Quite how their three sons – all very different characters – plus the rest of the rank and file shock troops running protection rackets and goodness knows what else throughout the county will react remains to be seen.

It’s an absolute certainty Jim isn’t going to just take it, that is for sure. Being stuck inside serving a full life term for an assassination attempt on the President of the United States might make his control on the clan more than a little shaky, though, especially given Grace’s inside knowledge of his attempts to cut a deal with the authorities, potentially for lucrative fracking rights and real estate rights to their hundred square miles of rural wilderness. Sell out indeed, or perhaps buy out might be more appropriate depending on your point of view. If it’s one facing certain death behind bars slowly decaying in a tiny cell, well, it can give even a hardcore anti-establishment man a different perspective on the benefits of working within the political system.


Brian Wood has come up with another belter of a premise for us here, spending the rest of the first issue giving us the lowdown on Mama Briggs and her brood, as seen through the eyes of the pair of romantically involved FBI agents on undercover surveillance duties, who are as intrigued as everyone else by the power grab and how raucously it’ll play out. We don’t have long to wait on that score as Wood fires off the first round of gunfire and high explosives that I’m sure will become an ever-present  punctuation on this title.


I wasn’t aware of artist Mick Chater before, but his figure art is strong and substantial, very similar to Butch ARCHANGEL Guice’s. My thoughts upon reading this first issue were that it is almost certainly going to appeal massively to fans of SOUTHERN BASTARDS and SCALPED, plus the Justified and Sons Of Anarchy television shows. In fact, this is apparently already in development for an AMC show, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.


Buy Briggs Land #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Trial Of Roger Casement (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Fionnuala Doran.

“The sun rises in the east, so I arrived that morning with the night sky behind me… facing an unbearable light. A metaphor for my whole life.
“A tired metaphor, to be sure…
“But I’ll have time to correct it before publication.”

He won’t, you know.

It’s Good Friday, 21st April 1916, three days before the Easter Risings.

Two months later, Sir Roger Casement would be tried for treason; and two months after that he’d be hanged.

It may seem odd that an account such as this begins with the mildly comedic, but that’s part of its charm – along with the illusion that Sir Roger’s narrating – and it endeared me immediately. It’s repeated when, after washing up on Ireland’s west coast then passing out on its shore, he’s discovered by a dog and its owner. He’d barely had time to help bury the cache of German arms, and had been desperate to reach Dublin incognito.


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‘Bollocks’ seems the perfect summary of this thoroughly bungled affair – from Roger Casement’s point of view, anyway. Throughout, this formerly effective, distinguished and decorated negotiator and diplomat for the British government is depicted as weary and worried – and frazzled, in fact. At one point he visually fractures. Again, there’s something funny about his wide-eyed dishevelment as he protests to a police sergeant later that day, claiming to be an academic and author writing a book on St  Brendan… until that cache of German arms is unearthed.

“Oh, shit.”

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It’s World War I, I’d remind you, and Britain is at war with Germany. So what was Casement doing smuggling German arms to Ireland?

Well, he’d been dispatched by the clandestine US-based Irish Republican Brotherhood to Germany in order to secure support there for an Irish revolt. His bargaining chip was that it would distract Britain from its war effort and divert troops to Ireland. In exchange he hoped to receive funding, arms and the release of German-held Irish soldiers to fight the revolution.

What’s made clear in this graphic novel – which flashes backwards and forwards in time between America, Germany, washing up on that shore and Casement’s subsequent trial – is that he received virtually no support from his own HQ (funding evaporated), a lukewarm fobbing off from German high command, and a great big duffing up from the Irish soldiers he was hoping would delight in his nationalist cause and their liberation. Slight miscalculation, there: they were German prisoners of war! They knew who the enemy was: the captors they’d just fought against. Britain was signing their pay cheques.

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Hapless is one word to describe Casement’s fall from grace; hopeless, his left-in-the-lurch and hung-out-to-dry predicament. And it’s not so much his fall from grace, either, it’s his fall from efficacy.

Doran handles the trial sequences very intelligently, presenting Casement’s silent retort to the prosecution’s dissemblance as a conversational, internal monologue outlining his motivations, his switch in allegiance following Prime Minister Asquith’s offer of the prospect of Home Rule to Ireland. Ulster’s Protestant middle classes “fearful of Rome and hating Papism, did not want a government domination by Roman Catholics” so the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force is formed to resist Home Rule, followed by establishment of the Irish Volunteers as an equal and opposite reaction to the UVF.

The rest, as they say, is history. But so is this missed trick: Casement’s two decades in the Congo from 1884 where he met Joseph Conrad. If you’ve read Conrad’s damning ‘Heart Of Darkness’ you’ll know what a transformative experience that must have been. It was Casement’s exceptional work as a consul there – gathering evidence to expose and condemn Belgium’s King Leopold’s strip-mining exploitation of the country’s natural resources, and indeed its people who endured horrific, systematic abuse as slaves – which earned him his decorations including the British knighthood. Ironically it must surely have been those self-same atrocities which helped fuel his disgust for any sort of colonial imperialism – including that of Britain in Ireland. Nevertheless, none of this is mentioned during the graphic novel itself. There’s a nod to the Boer War but the Congo’s only mentioned in an editorial timeline. That doesn’t ruin the book for me one jot – it’s just a blindingly obvious missed opportunity.

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Instead Doran concentrates on another thread: Casement’s affair with a supposedly stranded Norwegian sailor whom he adopts as his valet, and other same-sex dalliances he documented in his diaries which the British government discovered then used to smear Casement in order to forestall any post-trial appeals for clemency. And that’s fair enough – the thread, I mean! – because it’s the trial that’s in the title.

I loved the rough-hewn art and all the haunting or haunted expressions, as well as the expressionistic flourishes like tuberculosis-ridden Joseph Plunkett, Casement’s only Irish Rising face-to-face contact in Berlin, whose face dissolves in front of an increasingly anxious, hopeless, deflated and defeated Casement into a skull. The faint sage green only adds to the austerity: the outlook is bleak throughout.

This is exactly what I want from a biographical graphic novel: an angle, clearly focussed and an immersion which gives me some sense of stake in what’s proceeding.


Buy The Trial Of Roger Casement and read the Page 45 review here

Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau & Alexandre Franc.

This ticks all the boxes for me – the boxes in the ‘No’ column.

Oh, apart from the art whose lines are neat and tidy and ever so full of space, which conjures every country visited to perfection, and whose warm colours positively radiate with heat in the desert. So that’s a considerable achievement I shouldn’t have dismissed in the first line.

There’s no denying that Agatha Christie was a terrific writer with a full and fascinating life, and Poirot as a co-star driving her potty is a fabulous conceit. It grows repetitive and tired pretty swiftly, but it’s a fabulous conceit. And, if cramming for an exam, you want a condensed history of Agatha Christie with some pretty pictures to help the medicine go down, this wouldn’t be out of place in any Primary school library. Secondary, at a push.

But as a comic, it’s one long, insultingly clunky, two-dimensional, expository mess.

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The first page is fair enough: London 7th December 1926 on which the papers report that Aggie’s gone AWOL and we’re presented with six panels summarising public and private reaction, finishing on her husband’s interrogation as prime suspect by the police. Haha! Serves the unfaithful fucker right.

But by page two it had lost me. I seriously doubt any Home Secretary would bark, “This is no ordinary woman. She’s a novelist! We must find her, no matter the cost!”

Trust me: this works better in German,

Trust me: this works better in German.

Everything about that sentence annoys me. However, what really got my goat was being buried under a mountain of stilted explication. Who talks like this except in a job interview? In a ballroom while dancing hand-in-hand with a lady you’ve just met…? What a chronic, boastful bore.

“Are you also a good soldier?”
“I passed my entrance exam at the Woolwich Academy and was named second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in July 1909.”

At what time of day?

“I just took the pilot’s course in Bristol. I flew solo for the first time on 6 July. Almost 30 minutes all by myself!”

What were the weather conditions? I want specific wind speeds, please, followed by the shipping forecast.

“And I got my certificate from the Royal Aero Club in mid-July flying a Bristol Boxkite. Now I’m waiting to get into the Royal Flying Corps. Shall I see you again?”

Not on your bloody Nelly.

On the very next page she marries him.

It also works better in French.

It also works better in French.

There’s page after page after page of this unsubtle shoe-horning during the most unlikely or inappropriate circumstances. Here’s some idle chit-chat while painting in Syria:

“Is there a link between your detective and Pierre-Achille Poirot, a member of the Morea Expedition, the 19th Century French Army Intervention in Greece that was also a scientific mission?”
“You’re very observant, Robin. Indeed, I was inspired by him.”

Also, very specific, Robin.

This is worse than an old-skool DC superhero comic:

“Good morning, Master Bruce. You are secretly Batman and I have worked for your family at the Wayne Mansion for 37 years, 6 months and 2 days in the capacity of butler. Your parents are dead, you know.”

I think it’s time for some lunch. She’s raising a glass…

“Dear Monsieur Pigasse, thank you so much for the work you’ve done for my books in your brilliant imprint Le Masque. French is one of the subtlest and liveliest languages known to man!”
“And may I congratulate you! The Mystery Writers Of America association has just honoured your body of work with its Grand Master Award.”

She probably knows that, Pigasse.

Hold on, she’s about to go fishing. Do you want to keep that contract or not?

“As a writer, I’ve often wondered what my place was…”
“Shakespeare’s right hand?”



Buy Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Icon / Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

I don’t think I can better the introduction I wrote to volume one, so here we go again.

Few things 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 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. Her boyfriend was murdered by a corrupt cop in a city of corrupt cops and so not only did he get away with it, he was commended and promoted while the newspapers which displayed zero interest in investigative journalism printed barefaced police lies.

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So far Scarlet has [REDACTED] and published film footage of her doing so. She’s successfully galvanised Portland’s public into supporting her at a flash-mob rally into whose crowd the police threw a live grenade. But now she’s really got the Mayor’s attention:

“I have a list.”
“I thought you might.”
“At first blush, I don’t think you’re going to like it. Being that you and I have decidedly different world views.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true, actually. We both want the world to be a better place. We both have dedicated our lives to it.”
“What a smarmy politician’s answer.”
“Well, I am a smarmy politician.”
“Can I insult you? Are you insultable?”
“I’m sensitive about my hairline.

So how did Scarlet secure that face-to-face, one-on-one meeting when she’s the most wanted woman in the state?

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From the writer of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS – which is cracking crime fiction – and his artist on DAREDEVIL comes something completely non-genre highly recommended to readers of CRIMINAL etc.

It’s brave stuff, not just in its direct attack on police duplicity but in where Bendis is prepared to take it. When I originally read book one, I wondered whether he’d written himself into a hole he couldn’t possibly climb out of, but that was pretty faithless of me given Bendis’ track record. Don’t expect him to back out or ease off now on the extreme actions both sides are going to take and the irreversible plight that then puts them in.

Maleev throws multiple art angles at the multiple flashbacks which depict the horrific events which tipped Scarlet’s growing inner circle. The most affecting of these is Isis’ appallingly brutal awakening from childhood idyll as a dutiful daughter with a doting Daddy. It’s narrated with a children’s picture-book clarity over three double-page spreads, illustrated by Maleev as fully painted portraits of Isis, close-up. The first, seen from above, depicts Isis delightedly holding her Daddy’s hand on the way to school.

“It was her favourite time of the day.”

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The second is so closely framed that it almost crushes her. The third is the most successful rendition of wide-eyed, catatonic shock that I have ever seen in my life.

Maleev doesn’t skimp on the rowdy crowd scenes, either, but at one key moment the sound is effectively muted as the throng disappears to be replaced by an increasingly livid, fiery red when things go spectacularly wrong.

For more, please see SCARLET VOL 1 s/c or indeed SCARLET VOL 1 h/c which still in stock at the time of typing.


Buy Scarlet vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) (£29-99, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Paul Bolger & Barry Devlin…

“As (blood) brothers we can talk plain… right?”
“To be sure.”
“I hear a voice in my head.”
“HA HA! Hey… calm… I’m sorry… all right? Sit. Talk… please. What does it say this… voice?”
“It… she… tells me what to do in a race… in a fight. When I hear her I start to shake. The world twists and turns red before my eyes.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I haven’t heard her since I came to Skye…”

Readers of the first volume of Paul Bolger and Barry Devlin’s homage to the legend of Cú Chulainn, HOUND VOL 1: PROTECTOR will know exactly why that voice is absent and that it will most assuredly reprise once our hero Setanta returns from his exile and sets foot on the Emerald Isle. For as a young boy, Setanta was chosen by the Morrigan, a witch who follows the old ways of the Great Mother Danú, to be her weapon in the times of war to come. When Setanta left Ireland to attempt to gain access to the fighting school of the warrior women of Skye, that earth magic connection was temporarily broken.


This second volume follows his training on Skye where firm friendships are forged and blood bonds made, plus the hoopla regarding his arrival back in his homeland, where surprisingly he’s actually hoping to eschew a life of violence. For despite all his martial prowess, deep down Setanta wishes for nothing more than to wed his childhood sweetheart and enjoy the quiet life as a farmer. However, before too long events and people are being manipulated wholesale by dark forces to force Setanta off his chosen path and back into blood-spattering battle once more. The Morrigan will have her way, and her champion, no matter the cost.


Of volume one I wrote and which still holds completely true for this volume…

This is definitely a very measured, romantic almost, re-telling of the material, which I think is highly appropriate. Yes, there are moments of utter brutality, and there will be many more in the next two volumes, but ultimately this is the saga of one man and his evolution from a mere boy into a potent symbol of a culture. It’s appropriate therefore that the art is as delicately composed as the story-telling, in black and white with the odd dash of red, usually due to the spilling of blood or supernatural, glowing eyes. Sometimes there are heavily full or near-full silhouetted sections with black backgrounds where the characters are rendered in white, which neatly counterpoint the more typical illustrations of black on white.

The illustration style is quite delicate. Paul Bolger’s faces and anatomy do remind me of Jeff Smith at times (humans à la RASL and TUKI, rather than the family BONE obviously!), yet there’s also the odd dash of Paul Pope’s extravagance and flourishes in the capes and backgrounds as well. It’s a lovely clean style and palette which is in complete contrast to, say, Clint Langley’s painted SLAINE, which is great and perfect for gorefest action, but this sympathetic art style really adds to the story-telling element.

These second volumes are from the numbered run of 750 for the Kickstarter and have also been very kindly signed by Paul.


Buy Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) and read the Page 45 review here

Alena (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Kim W. Andersson…

“What do you mean you met a guy?”
“I dunno. I mean a guy, just a guy… y’know. Nice, cute. He plays basketball and…”
“Are you kidding?! A jock? Alena?! I don’t believe it. Since when are we interested in guys? It’s not our thing. You know that.”

Nerve-jangling horror-fest that starts with the tension ramped right up to excruciating and only gets more exquisitely uncomfortable to read from there. Kim W. Andersson’s 2012 graphic novel has just been made into a rather well-received Swedish film and also finally translated into English, courtesy of Dark Horse.

So, our titular protagonist is empathically not in a good place. Trapped at a posh boarding school she’s brutally tormented daily by Philippa and her posse of lacrosse girls. The reason, well, one year previously, the above conversation between Alena and her friend Josephine ended rather badly, with Josephine taking a plunge from a high bridge, having climbed atop the barrier to instigate a dramatic confrontation with her confused girlfriend, Alena.


It’s a scene Alena has replayed over and over many times during the last year, during the endless verbal and physical assaults she’s had to endure over her mysterious relationship with Josephine and her untimely and equally enigmatic death. The fact that Josephine has been appearing to Alena, demanding she fights back against her bullies, probably hasn’t helped Alena move on… But is she merely an unwelcome self-induced hallucinatory reminder of perhaps true love lost forever in the midst of that tragic life-altering incident, or something more…? As the bullies start to experience callous, escalating retaliations from a shadowy figure and we move firmly into classic slasher-flick territory, matters only become more ambiguous…


If you are a fan of the Scream films, this will have huge appeal. Despite the pure gore factor, I found the character of Alena herself rather intriguing and very well written. The big reveal regarding the identity of the murderer I did guess, but I was so swept up in the comeuppance of Alena’s truly odious academic adversaries, that I didn’t mind one jot. Art-wise, it’s a style that dissembles the at times extreme violence, yet also allows for some excellent, subtle exaggeration of facial characteristics, particular on the part of Philippa who at times almost takes on slightly porcine features. As a good one-off chunk of bleeding horror, recommended.


Buy Alena and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Listen! Nobody cares about either of your stupid made-up boyfriends!”
“My boyfriend isn’t – Wait, I don’t even have a boyfriend!”
“Shushes, please!!”

Well, I’m even more delirious now that we made SNOTGIRL #1 August’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, for this is one of the most surprising second issues I can recall. Just as the first instalment went in a direction no one saw coming (and I didn’t spoil for you), this doesn’t go where you’d expect from there, either (and I’m not about to spoil that, either).

The cast will be expanded considerably and – like Lottie herself – you’ll be kept guessing throughout how much trouble she’s in. O’Malley is really messing with your mind – and Lottie’s.

That’s it really. We don’t normally do second issue reviews, and I can’t say much more without blowing it anyway.


Buy Snotgirl #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Demonic #1 (£2-25, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Niko Walter…

“She’s got you on a short leash, partner.”
“I need my leash yanked every now and then. It’s good for me.”
“Wow. Remember when we used to say she was like a tick you couldn’t…”
“Long time ago, Fischer.”
“Lighten up, Graves. I’m allowed to use your past against you, Mr. Sensitive. It’s in the partner’s manual.”
“Uh huh. Let’s roll. Faster we knock this out, tell the roomies to stop fighting over the milk, faster we can catch something worth our time.”
“Famous last words. 5-to-1 we walk into a complete clusterfuck.”
“Your lips to God’s ear, Fischer.”

…as the eviscerated body hits the sidewalk just in front of them.

I guess the title is some clue to what to expect, so it’s no surprise to find our erstwhile partners in crime-fighting walking straight into what appears to be a full-on demonic possession and indeed total clusterfuck of the highest supernatural order.


It’s a situation that sends chills straight up Detective Grave’s spine, given his very strange upbringing as part of a commune, and more besides… It’s a piece of his, as yet to us, mysterious past that Graves and his wife have agreed to never, ever talk about again. Unfortunately for Detective Graves, though, it seems his past isn’t done with him yet as he is offered a very dark deal indeed to preserve the lives of those closest to him. He takes the deal, of course, but did he actually need to…?


I enjoyed this opener from the writer of HIGH CRIMES and I have a fair degree of confidence this initial excellent level of plotting and dialogue will be sustained. It’s basically a blend of KILL OR BE KILLED and OUTCAST with a police procedural backdrop. More sketchy artwork, which really does seem to be de rigueur at the mo, from another new name to me, Niko Walter, very much adds to the creepy feel. I fear Detective Graves is in for a very rough and extremely bloody time.



Buy Demonic #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein.

“It was an ugly thing you did, Egil.”
“Was it? I call it strong.”
“That man earned what he had.”
“But he could not hold it.”
“You’re not a child anymore, Egil. A child takes what he wants. A man makes it. I did not raise you this way. Your father died playing this game you’re playing. They killed your mother just for standing besides him.”
“He died a man, grandfather. They knew my father’s name before he died.”
“They knew it after. We sailed across the world to get away from those who knew your father’s name.”
“And maybe one day I’ll sail back so they can hear it again from me.”

Described as a Viking Crime book by the author Ivan, this is berserker-level intense in its depiction of just how violent society was at the time for those people engaged in, shall we say, a more… entrepreneurial lifestyle.

I don’t really want to give too much away of the plot; suffice to say as you can probably ascertain from the quotation above, revenge – usually served up hot, raw and bloody rather than cold and at leisure – is frequently the special of the day. Well, every day by the look of it. Our central protagonists have that short term ‘get rich quick, what could possibly go wrong’ worldview that the most idiotic of criminals regardless of era typically posses. And of course a botched job leads to complications best avoided in any century, especially if kidnapping royalty is involved, and the justice of the time probably isn’t going to involve a slap on the wrist and comfortable accommodation while you consider the error of your ways.

I love the grandfather fishing for eels using a dead horse’s head as bait! We have that sequence for you here. Gloriously grotesque!

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It’s well written crime from Brandon with the added bonus of swords and axes, so how can you go wrong?! I have to pass comment on the art too. I was initially slightly confused as to who was who, but once the initial bout of blood-letting is done with, Klein really settles down and produces some impressive and powerfully colourful work.

More good news on the Viking front: NORTHLANDERS is being repacked with the first substantial collection out now (highly recommended – its vast and diverse scope portrays multiple perspectives covering all sorts of social history), and BLACK ROAD #1 also written by Brian Wood is still in stock and reviewed.


Buy Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire 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.

The One Hundred Nights Of Hero (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake – Card Wars s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Jen Wang & Britt Wilson

Adventure Time: Four Castles s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Josh Trujillo & Zachary Sterling

Adventure Time vol 9 (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Christopher Hastings & Zachary Sterling, Phil Murphy

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 4: Endless Song (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande, Leonardo Romero

Black Panther vol 1: A Nation Under Our Feet s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Brian Stelfreeze

Jessica Jones: Avenger s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, Joe Quesada, Billy Tan, Mike Mayhew

Spider-Man / Deadpool vol 1: Isn’t It Bromantic s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Joe Kelly & Ed McGuinness

Attack On Titan vol 19 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

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

One Piece vol 79 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Pokemon Adventures vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato


Frederick Peeters blog

ITEM! Frederick Peeters’ tumblr has some gorgeous art!

ITEM! Some thoughts on this year’s Ignatz Awards nominees. Hooray for Tillie Walden!

A City Inside 2 - Copy

ITEM! Kieron Gillen provides an update on all his current comics projects including those not yet announced.

In doing so, he answers an FAQ here on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE.

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ITEM! Update on the restoration of CEREBUS: JAKA’S STORY

CEREBUS: READS back in print any second not, followed by CEREBUS: GOING HOME anon.

ITEM! Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli’s BREAKS book one is now complete and online for free.

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– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week four

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

“If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.”

 – Stephen on Bacchus Volume Two

Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c (£35-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“The Screamin’ Habdabs! How did they get back?”
“It’s beyond me.”
“Everything’s beyond you, Mortal Ken.”

Let the revelry recommence!

ALEC’s Eddie Campbell recounted tales of his 4,000-year-old, weather-worn demigod for nearly one and a half decades, ending in 1999. Sub-titled “Immortality Isn’t Forever”, BACCHUS VOLUME ONE found the Greek god of wine washed up on strangely sympathetic modern shores in far from fine physical fettle but with his spirits still riding high.
It was as much about the stories Bacchus had to tell – of his and other gods’ escapades – as it was about Bacchus himself, who wandered across the globe from bar to bar or beach to beach in a battered old coat and a fisherman’s cap which hides his wizened brow and his twin, stubby horns but not his lived-in laughter lines. Wherever he roamed he found ancient friends, along with new devotees eager to imbibe his wisdom.

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In this concluding volume our weary one seeks successive sanctuary in two English country pubs, the second of which – on the shore – secedes from Britain after being condemned by Health & Safety.

Structurally, things will not improve save for a singular and substantial erection commemorating the King’s birthday. The King in question is Bacchus himself who brews beer from abstract concepts on which – as an independent state – they refuse to pay taxes. Worried lest some Scottish islands distilling whiskey follow suit, thereby depriving the government of millions in revenue, the pub is besieged by the police; but it’s that glorious morning’s monument which will finally put paid to the monarchy and bang Bacchus back up for a much longer stint than the one during which we first met him – at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Meanwhile there’s that revelry I made mention of, which is where Eddie’s cohort in ‘Campbell Industries’ comes to the fore, because Pete Mullins has one hell of an eye for drop-dead gorgeous ladies dancing their deliciously curved hips off.

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These contours are accentuated by ever-so-chic dresses patterned with horizontal black and white stripes which – in the interests of equality – will serve a similarly revealing purpose on Bacchus’ old-skool bathing suit, showing off his own not inconsiderable assets.

Unfortunately this attracts the attention of both Delirium Tremens and dour, disapproving Mr Dry, the latter pursuing the drink-loving demigod through a series of paintings, leaving each one a great deal less lively for his prohibitive presence. Hogarth’s ‘Beer Street’, for example, loses all its lust, lustre and indeed frothy beverages, rendering its remaining denizens so sour-faced that one of them petulantly kicks a cat.

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There are so many background jokes in that sequence alone, but this entire penultimate storyline is packed full of similarly anarchic ideas including a lady called Collage and a whole host of your favourite comicbook creators – Dave Sim (“I’ve fixed it so I can’t be wrong!”), Neil Gaiman (constantly in demand to write blurbs for the back of the bar menu), Alan Moore, Jeff Smith et al – enduring mischievous mockery and considerable indignities, all in the aid of an elaborate storytelling slight-of-hand.

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Eddie Campbell’s portraits are so spot-on that you’ll recognise anyone you know immediately – so much so that when a character copyrighted by a certain corporation crops up without signing-posting, your brain will flip in a single second from an incredulous “He hasn’t…!” to a grin-inducing “Oh yes, he has!” As to Campbell’s ability to mimic, there’s also an extensive parody of superhero trends at the time, right down to Rob Liefeld’s inking style. If you think that’s odd in such a body of work, then it’s perhaps because I’ve yet to remind you that two-thirds of each volume is given over to the insane and highly explosive antics of the Eyeball Kid.

I alluded to Campbell’s love of Jack Kirby in BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, but here there’s an out-and-out 90-page slugfest (‘Hermes Versus the Eyeball Kid’) specifically inspired by Lee & Kirby’s Hulk VersusThing showdowns. It comes complete with similarly structured splash pages, as well as more than one homage (making much use of that cog-based Spirograph toy which was all the rage half a century ago) to the photographic special effects which Kirby occasionally introduced to his line work. As to its laugh-out-loud, OTT “Behind you!” climax, it is ever so worthy of Kirby and Lee.

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Anyway, stories: instead of Bacchus regaling his acolytes, this time he’s on the receiving end both in clink and in his cups. In ‘1001 Nights of Bacchus’ it’s a Sheherezade-like situation, only without the threat of instant execution. As Bacchus settles in at The Travellers Joy and threatens to fall asleep, the storytellers’ incentive is to keep him awake and so each evening’s Last Orders at bay. Eddie explains his colleagues’ collaboration and later the whole ‘Campbell Industries’ semi-satirical scenario in the various introductions, but – initially inspired by the short stories of O. Henry – Campbell and co come up with a dazzling array of entertainments, diverse in form, content and execution. There’s an illustrated, rhyming ditty on bad beer penned by Marcus ‘Minty’ Moore, a ridiculously elaborate twist on the stock scenario of the Englishman, American/Welsh/Scottish and Irishman joke involving a badly behaved superhero (the stuff that Campbell can pack in to a single six-page story!), a wordless wonder ostensibly mimed by a Marcel Marceau – and when I say “ostensibly” and “wonder”, it actually stars an impeccably drawn Stan Laurel surviving a day of very bad omens and incredibly good luck with “another fine mess” of a punchline – and, perhaps my favourite, the complete discombobulation of ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Say Boo’ for whom order is all and firing someone such an anathema that he goes to increasingly ludicrous, message-leaving lengths not to do it in person.

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As to the styles used in rendering, we have crisp and clear for the meticulous one above, photography with attendant ransom-note cut-and-pasted lettering, lots of scalpel-cut Letratone, a dirty sort of affair employing background textures acquired through grained paper or board rubbed with graphite for a grave-based, hallucinatory horror story which may owe something to Aristophanes’ Ancient Greek play ‘The Frogs’ (I’m thinking the “Bobok” refrain – and also the frogs!) … and that’s just for those opening short stories!.

Basically this: it is by now a cliché – which I am as guilty of as anyone in perpetuating – to describe Eddie Campbell as the finest raconteur in comics.

But I don’t just mean his gift of the gab in person or in print. I mean Eddie’s ability to time his tall tales with such pin-point precision for maximum mirth, conjuring whatever visual tricks he deems most efficacious from previously thin air.

If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.

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For more salutations and celebration, please see our review of BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, ALEC and so much more by popping Eddie Campbell into our search engine.

“It’s been centuries since I commanded such devotion.
“And I thought that young people today had no respect for traditional values.
“And in these post-convivial times, too. My cult is born again.
“The doings of this day will re-establish my worship in the world.
“My disciples will carry forth the word and the word is…


Buy Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c and read the Page 45 review here

10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) (£6-00) by Christian Palmer-Smith.

“God, this fills me with such affection for Nottingham.”

– Chris Gardiner

Bigger than a 7-inch single, printed on quality paper, backed, bagged and signed by Christian Palmer-Smith, this glorious artefact to treasure forever is limited to 75 copies worldwide. I tried to persuade Kit to go for a higher price point but he wasn’t having it, so now you can instead for a ridiculously affordable six quid.

Mine’s mounted and framed, hanging opposite original Page 45-related art by Duncan Fegredo and Marc Laming with some Bryan Lee O’Malley thrown in for good measure. For yes, Page 45 features stage-centre here along with 9 other Nottingham Independent outlets including Rough Trade, Ludorati and Ideas On Paper.

It’s an inspired and inspiring print that reflects not just the diversity of Nottingham’s independent pleasures but also their quality and individuality. And since time passes, we can comfortably call it a comic!

10 of my fav things to do in Nottingham

I love the real wit of each panel, evidenced by precisely which aspect/details of his visits Christian has chosen to illustrate, the parenthetical asides and the carefully chosen colour palettes. Page 45’s shelves aren’t the same soft faun, nor are all its graphic novels, yet by restricting himself to a warm and gentle range, Page 45 is presented as a relaxed and comfortable place to browse and one’s eyes are drawn to this central panel around which the more colourful recommendations can then orbit in an orderly fashion without bombarding your brain.

By contrast, Ideas On Paper’s magazines – catering for every interest you could imagine, no matter how recondite – are rendered in all their multicoloured splendour against a spacious white wall and reproduced with a mind-boggling level of detail which put me in mind of Philippa Rice’s diorama window for Page 45 many moons ago. In Rough Trade’s case, the evening’s entertainment is spotlit instead, just like any gig. Clever!

In many other hands this would have been a simple checklist, but by considering each experience from its singular perspective (dwarfed by a modern art exhibition at the Contemporary; intimate, framed, with heads seen from behind at the Broadway Cinema) and by indicating added value (“Get a tutorial in comics from Page 45: they sure do know their stuff” – we do love providing shop-floor recommendations to anyone who asks!) it surpasses any mere A-Z and becomes a journey to cherish and remember.

We begin, of course, as is customary for all Nottingham assignations, by meeting Mr. Palmer-Smith at the Lions.


Buy 10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) and read the Page 45 review here

Hellbound (£8-99, Retrofit) by Kaeleigh Forsyth & Alabaster Pizzo.

“I’m going to start wearing lipstick and if that doesn’t get me anywhere I’ll begin to address my emotional problems.”

All the funnier for being delivered deadpan by writer and artist alike, these are succinct Notes To Self satirise bad behaviour, warped priorities and consumerist claptrap like editorial advertisements.

With primary colours which belie the procession of daily disappointments, they’re clever without screaming about how clever they are.

“Intimate life details I know about dudes who only possibly remember my name”, for example, is not just a list of extraordinary confidences or confessions, which sounds sweet, but – when you consider the title – a searing indictment of the self-obsessed: those who don’t listen nor care to ask questions.

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HELLBOUND is also one big commiseration with those who feel – or are made to feel – lonely, inadequate or unfulfilled.

“New goals for 2016” includes:

“Cry less in public
“Cry less in private
“Continue not having children
“Get to 5pm every day without fastening cinder block to ankle + walking into East River
“Clean grout in shower.”

Boastful round-robin Christmas or New Year messages are given a good roasting, as is Ernest Hemingway, while “Problems I’ve Learned To Live Around’ will speak volumes to the world’s worst procrastinators like me.

You can be sure that self-validation through approbation on social media like Instagram and Twitter crops up and I laughed at myself a lot then.

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One of the finest sequences involves a language learning app taken “to kill time & quell the mind demons on the flight home”. The humour is cumulative as the app offers up sentences to translate from German which are as random as they are ridiculous as they are least likely to lull your thoughts from imminent plane-crash conflagration.

My favourite, however, is a single page in which our long-suffering lady has dressed up smartly for a date (lipstick dutifully applied) and sits with all the composure in the world on a train en route to meet him, while casting her mind back on all their previous liaisons. She’s drinking. Heavily.

“by the time i get to the stop i hate him abd am embarrassed to br seen our w/ him”

Now would probably be a good – if not propitious – time to start addressing those emotional problems instead.

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Buy Hellbound and read the Page 45 review here

Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly, various.

And the award for very best titular pun goes to…

“So why is she on her own?”
“Huh. She ate her sister. Ah, it was ill. Probably would’ve been put down anyway. But Princess Giggles, there? Whoof.”

In which you will learn more about hyenas’ genitalia than you expected to. Certainly more than I’m comfortable talking about here. If you care to read Si’s extensive annotations in the back you will learn even more about lithium, opium, exocannanibalism, theophagy, Blackwater (a right old, well deserved rant), assorted American military hardware and oh so many myths from throughout history and across the globe including a rich vein of vampires which make Bela Lugosi look bland. About werewolves you will learn that we shouldn’t be calling them werewolves. For now, I will be calling them werewolves.

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I like a comic whose arcane aspects have been thoroughly researched but which isn’t insistent on ramming that research down your throat in order to get a First Class degree in Esoterics and require readers do same to decode it. By all means give us a gander in the back, but not in the story itself, please. Hurrah for Si Spurrier, then! I thought this was enormous fun.

Drawn throughout by LOCAL and THE COMPLETE NEW YORK FOUR artist Ryan Kelly, CRY HAVOC flips between three time periods colour-coded by Nick Filardi for the sequences set in London (the past), Matt Wilson in Afghanistan (the present) and Lee Loughbridge in… well, not in a good place. In a cage.

That’s where we know blue-haired violinist Louise Canton ends up, some undisclosed time in the future on the very first page. Back in London she’s looking inside that other cage – the hyena’s – in the zoo where her girlfriend works. And in the middle sequences Louise is in Afghanistan, dressed in military combat gear, and looking outside a CH47-F Chinook Helicopter which is hovering above the exploding guts of a goat it’s just fired upon.

It’s not an obvious career move, I grant you.

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But back in the beginning while busking by the Old Bailey, she was bitten down an alley by what looked like a werewolf and it unleashed in her a sensory overload, a craving – an intoxication – followed by a transmogrification.

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Each of the crew Louise has now found herself with, working for Inhand Org, appear to have had similar transformative experiences with differing results and know more about their condition and its history than she does. One by one you will meet their… inner demons? Too judgemental – let’s say what’s been unlocked in each individual.

For now Louise is being transported to a deserted U.S.-run rendition centre which was mothballed when “a civilian employee lost her shit, killed five C.I.A., released ten insurgents”. By “lost her shit” he means she went feral.


They’re here to track her down.

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It’s not just the colour-coding and panel grids which differ between time periods, but Kelly’s art too. London’s the style you’ll be accustomed to. I’ve never seen him draw anything like the Afghanistan sequences before: much sharper, more detailed lines in both the interior and exterior shots of the rendition centre, while the faces in places are closer to Mark Laming’s and, in one notable instance, almost as if inked by Tom Palmer. That Chinook’s pretty mighty when seen from below with a tremendous sense of weight which is being so improbably held aloft by the whirling blades above it. Below and behind, the dusty mountains fade into an almost infinite distance. It’s quite a big country.

There’s plenty of politics to sink your teeth into, playful dialogue, behavioural and cultural analysis, and blood-baths galore once the timelines join up and each player’s hand / paw / claw is revealed.

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Wherever you think this is going is far from where you’ll wind up. I haven’t the first clue what to expect next.


Buy Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superf*ckers Forever #1 (£2-99, Top Shelf / IDW) by James Kochalka.

Too, too funny!

I can’t quote a single sentence – at least, not the most uproarious proclamations – for fear of offending and sending the more mature amongst you scuttling for the hills, hands over your horrified, gaping mouths, for this is as delinquent as the title suggests.

However, like the preceding SUPERF*CKERS collection, family man James Kochalka milks maximum comedy here from the self-evident juxtaposition of the wholesome – or at least innocent – inherent in 1950s superhero team comics like the Legion Of Superheroes and the profane. It’s emphatically not a seedy Johnny Ryan profanity, more a joyous abandon which injects the already juvenile with the uninhibitedly puerile, focusing on Jack Krak’s obsession with his missing lady parts.

Yes, you read that right.

It culminates in two howlingly funny pages with Jack Krak’s entire arm up a rip in the Space-Time Continuum.

Poor Kyle.


Buy Superf*ckers Forever #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c (£13-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black & Lee Garbett…

“You don’t look guilty at all, coming back here with that wound. Fought someone, did you? Someone powerful, I’d guess. Did you win?”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“They call you the prince of lies for a reason.”
“I tempt, I deceive, I trick. I am cruel and I am ruthless, but I dislike being foresworn.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am going to help you discover his murderer.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because no one gets to kill God but me. And because he was my father too.”

And so Samael, better known as Lucifer Morningstar – or just plain the Devil – has returned from the void into which we saw him disappear at the end of Mike Carey’s expansive run on LUCIFER, now collected in five chunky books. God, meanwhile, is dead, which as you might imagine, is causing some consternation in the Silver City. And, as the rest of the angelic host are very keen to point out to him, Lucifer was the last person to see God alive, during their melodramatic climatic chat over a cup of tea at the end of Carey’s LUCIFER BOOK 5.


That’s why the host have set Gabriel, himself a fallen angel courtesy of John Constantine and Ellie the succubus waaaay back in HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE*, to investigate the murder, hopefully pinning it on Lucifer, in exchange for his wings and heart back. Except Lucifer really didn’t do it. Not that he’s expecting anyone to believe him, which is why he decides to help Gabriel. Or maybe he has his own agenda too…

This, then, is effectively a direct continuation on from the previous Vertigo material, though it is not penned by Mike, but Holly Black. I’m not aware of her writing any comics previously, but she does seem to have written a lot of fantasy fiction, and possibly the best compliment I can give her, at this point, was if you were unaware this material wasn’t written by Carey, you would never realise. She’s even kept Lucifer’s trademark devilish font for the lettering of his speech which I always rather liked. (It’s Meanwhile Uncial if you’re interested.)


Clearly this is going to appeal to fans of the original, who will see a number of other familiar faces returning including the Lady Mazikeen, Lucifer’s former squeeze, now ruling Hell in his stead. She’s not best impressed at the return of the prodigal son, not at all. Hopefully Holly will take a similar long-game approach to this title like Mike did, his run effectively being one huge arc about Lucifer’s grand plan for getting out from under the thumb of God, interspersed with much other sub-plot oddness, as the longer narrative really added something. She’s already set up a nice little sub-plot of her own featuring another relative of Lucifer, though not a fraternal one this time… Readers of the original may have an inkling as to whom I’m referring… Whether that person is truly a king or merely a rook remains to be seen, though.


Lee Garbet picks up the pencils this time, again, not a name I was familiar with, though he has done some bits and pieces for Marvel and DC. It’s a style that fits very neatly with the story, I think he’s pretty decent actually. I’ll certainly be continuing to read this title; it’s certainly nice to have an old school Vertigo character return at the same high standard that was set originally. (On that note, please be aware the softcover of Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III brilliant SANDMAN: OVERTURE is now available for pre-order.)


Which brings me to * Can someone at DC please, please sort John Constantine out? It really shouldn’t be too hard. Re-reading just a tiny bit of HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE to check it was the right volume to reference reminded me of how bloody brilliant it was. I didn’t want to put it down. Every incarnation since leaving the Vertigo imprint, including the current Rebirth reboot (the Rebirth one-shot was just such awful, trite nonsense), has been such a pale imitation in comparison that reading it is as painful as an eternity spent in Hell itself. Just admit you were completely wrong, take John Constantine out of the mainstream DCU and get a proper Vertigo HELLBLAZER title going again.


Buy Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Richard Corben, Marcello Frusin, Steve Dillon, Dave V. Taylor.

“All I’m sayin’, is chose the right words…
“And you can talk a person into just about anything.”

The first three books of Brian Azzarello’s stand-out, self-contained and so perfectly accessible American tenure on HELLBLAZER collected in a single exceedingly grim grimoire even by the series’ own harrowing standards.

For the most part 100 BULLETS’ scribe Azzarello was accompanied by Marcello Frusin whose chain-smoking occultist John Constantine is all saturnine scowls and wicked, knowing grins, primed to bait you. Relentlessly and remorselessly terrifying, visually he’s the most charismatic he’s ever been.

Some prefer the more matey Ennis & Dillon interpretation or Alan Moore’s enigma in SWAMP THING, whence he first came. I love both of those without reservation but under this pair he’s a cold, calculating and dangerous son of a bitch, and as masterful a manipulator as ever, choosing his words very carefully indeed. That’s the core Constantine – the user, the player. He’ll be getting his pawns lined up to perfection here, long before showing up to play…

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The first chapter of the second story, ‘Good Intentions’, is a perfectly formed short in its own right. The tension is held by a very tight, ominous, arched-eyebrow script and a claustrophobic palette of midnight, headlight and silhouette, as John hitch-hikes his way across the US of A, never missing a trick. The subgenre of hitch-hiker as victim/serial killer is given a great new twist with immaculate timing.

After that, Constantine’s travels take him into the forested hills of West Virginia and a town called Doglick whose name you’ll like even less when you learn its relevance. There the cocky bastard has the smirked wiped right off his face when he finds himself an unwilling, sexual participant in what looks very much like a snuff flick.

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The third arc, ‘Freezes Over’, is at heart a cleverly crafted and equally claustrophobic, old-fashioned whodunnit with a singularly Constantine twist. Several parties are stranded by a snowstorm at Keith and Hope’s remote bar. There are the regulars, Rudy and Alma, there’s Pete, a couple with their young girls, a burly trucker and three surly strangers, one of whom is bleeding from the gut. And then there’s the guy in the car…

Enter John Constantine, strolling through the blizzard with that oh so knowing look on his face. He stops to look in the car window, and the two men’s eyes meet. A few minutes later the trucker finds the man in the car dead, impaled on a chunky icicle. Then the phone lines also go dead, the strangers grow hostile, their guns come out and fear of the local legend – the so-called Ice Man – takes hold.

But if, as Constantine maintains, there is no Ice Man, then who killed the guy in the car?

We begin, however, with ‘Hard Time’. Here artist Richard Corben has put away his airbrush in favour of forms and textures which are puffy, rancid and grotesque. They’re physically unpleasant for a script which pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the brutal racial and sexual politics of a maximum security US penitentiary.

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You won’t find out why Constantine’s in there until the final chapter, but you’ll be too busy wincing and wondering just how John’s going to keep his arse and tackle intact long enough to give everyone exactly what they deserve.

Which he does.

Collects issues #146-161 and a story from VERTIGO SECRET FILES: HELLBLAZER #1.


Buy Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c (£22-99, Titan) by Jean-Marc Rochette & Oliver Bocquet…

“Who are these people? How can they be alive?”
“No one can survive outside without an ice suit.”
“Apparently they can! We have to let them in!”

Concluding part of Jean-Marc Rochette’s examination of the perils of post-apocalyptic train travel, I believe, but then I mistakenly thought that after SNOWPIERCER VOL 2! I did think it was a bit of an oblique ending to volume 2, but now having read Oliver Bocquet’s afterword about receiving the invitation from Jean-Marc Rochette to illustrate the next instalment because Bocquet felt there was still more story to be told, I suspect he was probably hedging his bets!


So, after decades of never-ending travel on the titular Snowpiercer, ploughing its way through the endless frozen wastelands of an Earth plunged into a new Ice Age, with nary even a tiny scrap of tundra to break up the monotony, the train has at long last come to rest. The mysterious signal playing music detected at the end of volume two has been shown to be a long-abandoned radio transmitter much to the despair of our ragtag nation of hobos. That is until one bright spark asks the question where the transmitter is still getting its power from… Cue one quick game of ‘follow the cable, excavation and discovery of a buried skyscraper’ later and we have ourselves a story!

What follows, whilst not having quite the intense, claustrophobic, condensed insanity of the first two volumes, simply due to the fact that our passengers have disembarked their confines, is just as disturbing in terms of social commentary when our hardy travellers find a whole underground city seemingly thriving. There are a few customs that seem a little odd, sure, but it’s not like the inhabitants are going to turn out to be complete mentalists, right…?


Rochette does indeed have another worthy tale to tell! Bocquet’s art, the third artist to take a turn after the late Lob and then Benjamin Legrand, once again provides a slightly different feel to proceedings. All three have their merits, but it is probably testament to the strength of the writing that any differences in art style are completely unimportant. The ending this time feels more definitive, though it’s by no means conclusive so I suppose if Rochette does come up with yet another idea, there may well be more SNOWPIERCER. Given the mantra of those aboard is “Forward, forward, forward, the train only knows that word…” I wouldn’t bet against it.


Buy Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Aunt Martha, I have big news, I’m quitting school.”
“What happened?”
“Nothing yet.
“But something’s coming.
“Something bad.
“Tests were my kryptonite even before kryptonite was my kryptonite.”
“Supergirl, you’ve fought supervillains and saved Super Hero High more times that I can count. Surely a little test can’t be that bad?”

Ha ha, oh, it will be, especially given someone is abducting all the girl heroes and anti-heroes of Super Hero High for some all-ages mildly nefarious non-sinister ends. Yes, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Katana, Bumblebee, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are being excluded from school by a mysterious shadow figure intent on making sure our chums fail their finals!! To what possible end?!


Well, I’m not going to give the culprit away, but it’s nice to see DC doing some material squarely aimed at younger kids, and girls in particular, as some of the animations and their spin-offs can be a little heavy handed on the violence for the teeny-tiny ones aimed more as they are for the man-child market.

It’s well written enough with art that’s clearly aimed to appeal to the on-tap cartoon generation. I did try explaining to Whackers that ‘when I were a lad’ we got five minutes of Tom & Jerry a day if you were lucky and if you missed it, there were no catch-up rewinds or on-demand replays. The look of total and utter disbelief on her young face was hilarious. She was quite convinced I was perpetuating another of my many wind-ups. Kids today…

Anyway, decent enough fun filler of a superheroine bent whilst we all actually wait for the next HILDA (not long at all now!!!) / AMULET (far too long!!!) / ZITA THE SPACEGIRL (not sure, but Ben Hatke does have the first volume of a new kids series MIGHTY JACK VOL 1 out very soon!!!).

[Editor’s note: ZITA THE SPACEGIRL was a trilogy. All books in stock, but it is over. Do check out Hatke’s big book of empathy, LITTLE ROBOT, though!]


Buy DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis 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.

March: The Trilogy Slipcase Edition (£44-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

Scarlet vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Icon / Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Alena (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Kim W. Andersson

Bera The One-Headed Troll (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Eric Orchard

Invader Zim vol 2 (£17-99, Oni) by Jhonen Vasquez, various

Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein

Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jorge Molina & Simone Bianchi

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 3: Deadpool Vs Sabretooth s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish, Matteo Lolli

Batgirl vol 3: Mindfields s/c (£14-99, DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher & Babs Tarr, various

Fairy Tail vol 55 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Inuyashiki vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

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


ITEM! Big blog’s heading your way in the next week/fortnight with all our free creator signing details (who/when) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Oct 14-16 2016.

In the meantime I’m afraid I spent far too much time last week with my Ma being completely surrounded by cute at Twycross Zoo. You could actually walk amongst lemurs!

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I’d like to have swung with the gibbons too, but they were 60 feet up and my physical grip is almost as bad as my relationship with reality.

– Stephen

P.S. Regarding our headline review, I drank this the other night and it was Heavenly! British too!

Bacchus Wine

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week three

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Jonathan’s back with Wrinkles (insert your own jokes), Fresh Romance, Tales To Diminish, vol 2 of Injection and Starve! I’m kicking off with Black Monday Murders, Dame Darcy and Rachel Rising, still available as s/cs but…!

Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c (£67-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“What has Johnny told you?”
“About what?”
”About Rachel… and me.”
“Well… she told me you girls have had a lot to deal with lately. And you need your family and friends around.”
“Did she tell you we’re dead?”
“We all have our little quirks, dear.”

In a single sturdy hardcover you’ll find all 900 pages of horror-hybrid RACHEL RISING including the glorious full-colour covers not included in the trade paperbacks which constitute one of our top-five highest-selling series of the last six years. Cunningly, Terry has widened the margins at the spine so that nothing goes missing. Every stare, every glare, every threat, every promise, every nuanced implication, moment of kindness and witty one-liner has been preserved for you to read this so effortlessly – unless you’re dancing, out jogging or swimming your seventh length.

Trust me on this: it’s worth every penny. I was mesmerised from the very first page to the last.

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It begins in the early hours of the morning in a sequestered glade above a dried-up riverbed. Black birds take flight as a woman waits, silently and patiently, until a leaf spontaneously combusts…

And another woman claws herself from her all too shallow grave, slowly and painfully and gasping for air… then stumbles falteringly through the trees to make her way back home.

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

She just doesn’t know who killed her yet.

The pacing of the opening sequence – one of the most immediately gripping in comics – is masterful.

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The resurrection, pushing through dried chunks of clay, is so evidently arduous, and Terry’s is the sort of art where you can feel the soil when it grits beneath your finger nails. And then there are those stricken eyes – the irises bright, the whites blood-red from asphyxiation – as Rachel rises in her short black dress and starts to grasp where she is, if not why.

When she finally looks up there is no one to be seen. Instead she heaves herself up the furrow until the trees finally part and she emerges, exhausted, dirty and limp onto the grassy meadow beyond.

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Oh, so many questions! And those are the key to any instant addiction.

The first woman swiftly reappears as a catalyst for death, shadowing Rachel around town while corrupting the innocent, turning love into hatred and the town of Manson into a mass graveyard. Well, it already is – look to the past.

Nothing good can come from a town called Manson.

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Note Terry’s seasonal deployment of the same silhouetted tree as a landmark.

From the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, this third epic, RACHEL RISING, proved to be another tour de force combing comedy and tragedy, mercy and mischief, fury and the foibles which make human beings the flawed individuals we all are. It’s the humanity I love in a Terry Moore comic.

That’s what I mean by ‘horror-hybrid’. I emphatically do not imply that this is comedy-horror whose burlesque obviously has its own place. Instead Moore has ever evidenced the knack of juxtaposing tragedy and comedy so that each acts to underline as well as undercut the other when it’s so desperately required. The comedy’s funnier for its juxtaposition, the horror all the more startling.

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Terry’s books always focus on real women full of quick-witted, arched-eyebrow attitude but also vulnerability and kindness with complicated friendships rather than two-dimensional bravado, and that’s reflected in his art for he draws fulsome curves where they are, rather than where our modern plastic surgeons or prurient photo-shop dingbats dictate they should be.

It’s not enough to show someone in pain: almost every other month for some fifteen years throughout STRANGERS IN PARADISE‘s epic, heart-felt run, Moore managed to summon the best in his characters to care for each other whenever tragedy struck or wrong decisions were made. Not necessarily immediately – who of us gets it right every time at the very first sign? – but in the long run, when the chips are down, when it is needed the most.

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

Sorry, did I abruptly introduce Lilith there? You’ll find her quite the cultivator.

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

Then there’s small Zoe whose tender years and delinquent behaviour belie her true age and enthusiasm for extreme, psychopathic violence. Giving her the sharpest knife in Christendom probably wasn’t the wisest idea. What’s her connection? You’ll see.

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Now, along with her best friend Jet – guitarist and mechanic – and beloved Aunt Johnny the town’s top mortician, Rachel must try to come to grips with her condition, its attendant… properties… and try to find clues to who killed her, all while avoiding the repercussions of a history which has lied buried under that selfsame riverbed for years.

Jet in particular is a goldmine of deadpan, pithy rejoinders. She and Rachel make for the perfect tag team of intimate friendship born of frank understanding, which makes what follows all the more horrifying. Zoe’s no slouch on the comebacks, either, and this series is all about comebacks.

Terry Moore, meanwhile, is all about inclusivity. It shone throughout STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and does so here. I know you’ll adore Aunt Johnny, the mortician who is resolute and unflustered even when out of her depth. Typically, that’s when she’ll start digging deeper.

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And if I care for anyone above all here it is her quiet, self-contained, mortuary assistant Earl whose eyes you never see while hidden behind such thick glasses, but who nonetheless wears his great big heart on his equally gargantuan sleeve and doesn’t have a duplicitous or disloyal bone in his body. Bulky and bald, he’s not as simple as he seems for he knows right from wrong. He’s just reticent and easily embarrassed, so suffers in silence because of it.

There will be history, there will be tragedy in its truest sense, and there will be subplots so very well hidden because Terry trusts his readers enough to know that perfect sense in retrospect is a much bigger payoff than signposting. There will be crime and there will be punishment.

And before the end it’s not impossible that you’ll come to love Lilith, too.

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


Buy Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Black Monday Murders #1 (£3-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker.

“Are you sure I can’t help, sir? You’re bleeding quite a bit… Perhaps I should call a doctor.”
“It’s not me, you damned fool… It’s the money.”

The cabal made a deal. It brought them money, which bought them power.

But when Wall Street crashed on October 24th 1929 and America started haemorrhaging money, the man sat in the Stone Chair at the moment the music stopped started to haemorrhage blood.

There’s no way to circumvent their original transaction: the balance must be paid.

Big, fat-cat package of occult crime satirising investment banking in which conspiracy theory turns out to be decades of carefully constructed practice. Surprising no one.


If you thrilled to KILL OR BE KILLED #1 by Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser, our biggest order for August, then this will make your heads spin.

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I’m thrilled to see Tomm Coker back. Hopefully you remember him from the likes of the equally umbral BLOOD + WATER and UNDYING LOVE VOL 1, and here his masterful eye for tight composition gives us an elaborately staged, cryptic crime scene with a timely message.

The very first panel is set ominously under the shadow of a barrage balloon which – rightly or wrongly – I always associate with war. What’s bombing is the Stock Exchange. On the second page there’s an acute emphasis on the vertical, on the drop. First there’s the aerial shot of Caina Investment Bank tower / spire; then there’s the blood from the one going down.

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One free-fall aside, Coker controls all other expressions – just as Garland does the colours – with enormous discipline, lending the dialogue a weight and a power and a shadow, if you like, under which you are drawn to wonder what lurks: all sorts of nasties dressed up to the nines.

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Hickman shines parenthetical light in extensive, symbol-laden documentation of the history of the cabal – pieces for us to puzzle together stretching from the 1929 crash to the present day which is where the main meat is located – and the wheel around which its quartet rotates, indicating quite the dynasty. It’s only fitting of a crime comic that you’re invited to do your own detective work.

Speaking of which, the page that made me laugh was the one in which a website is suggested whereby…

“People can go to fact-check supposed urban legends. I want it to appear to be completely above board. Open-source documentation, superusers who can edit articles, etc. We’ll literally traffic in openness and truth.
“Except when we don’t.”

The example that follows is ingenious (and pertinent to the proceedings), leaving enough readers in doubt, I’ll wager, that they will Google the incident… and then wonder how just authentic the sources they discover really are.

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Anyway, back to the bankers and their oh so lovely opportunism, making money from money or even money from nothing when their shenanigans have insured that money’s worth nothing.

“First comes the great flood and the loss of faith in the market.
“Then they will panic, Mister Bischoff. And panic always produces a bottom.
“Watch. They will all sell. They always sell. And when the time comes – when they can be had for pennies – we will buy it all.”


Buy The Black Monday Murders #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wrinkles (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca…

“The director is busy finishing up your paperwork. She asked me to show you around.”
“Thank you.”
“Uh, she also said that you need to pay a ten-dollar document processing fee. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“I was a bank manager.”

“Oh yeah? Well, it’s a standard charge for all new arrivals. A silly thing.
“Perfecto! If you need anything, let me know. I can get you whatever you want.
“Come on… I’ll show you around.
“There are two floors… here on the first floor are the healthy ones… those of us who can look after ourselves… more or less.
“Almost everyone here still has their wits about them. Maybe not as sharp as before. But we can think a little.”

Multiple-award-winning heartbreak from Spanish creator Paco Roca on the touching subject of descent into dementia. I knew this was going to be a very bitter-sweet read and so it proved.


I think if there is one way out of this life that I really don’t want to have to endure it is losing my marbles, and thus with it, all semblance of dignity. Extreme physical pain wouldn’t be fun clearly, but at least one would be present. On the other hand, as Paco demonstrates with some beautifully tender daydream sequences, not entirely knowing what’s approaching seems for some a fairly peaceful meander towards expiration…

“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”
“Are you going to Instanbul also?”
“The mountains are so beautiful in the springtime.”

Our main character, the distinguished Emilio, finds himself parked in an assisted living facility by his family, caring as they are, and at the tender mercies of his new roommate, the caddish Miguel, who may well have had a career as a conman, given the way he blatantly perpetuates his various cash-collecting schemes on his unsuspecting vulnerable fellow residents. With no family of his own, he professes love and loyalty to no one. Though, as our story progresses and Emilio finds himself becoming gradually more confused, it’s Miguel who steps up to protect Emilio from himself, and the dreaded, inevitable one-way trip up to the second floor…


I really enjoyed this work and I can well understand why it was made into a critically acclaimed animated film, voiced by Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine, a few years ago. It has a poignancy running throughout that will inevitably get you choked up, particularly a sequence where it’s explained to Emilio precisely why he is in the facility. It’s an absolute revelation to him and shatters the very bedrock of his existence beyond repair. From that point on, as the story focuses more and more on his inevitable decline, and Miguel’s ever more ingenious and crafty means of hiding it from the attentions of the staff, I found myself welling up.

There’s also a subplot which, as the rear cover blurb states, has echoes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit very mild ones, as some of the inmates plot a dramatic escape. The blurb also draws a comparison to the wonderful mid-eighties, Oscar-winning film Cocoon directed by Ron Howard, but I can’t make that connection myself, as we know there aren’t going to be any little green men whisking Emilio off for an implausible happy ending. But despite that, it’s a surprisingly uplifting read as we gradually see that love of every kind can thrive in even the most unusual and trying of circumstances.


Paco’s art matches his gentle storytelling, at times making me feel like he’s a softened version of I.N.J. Culbard. It’s a very soothing style, and I could feel myself being lulled into a rather relaxed frame of mind, much like the sedated and sedentary residents, most of whom simply sit around waiting for the inevitable, lost in their own imaginary worlds which Paco brings to life so convincingly for them, and us.


Buy Wrinkles and read the Page 45 review here

Meat Cake Bible (£44-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy.

“The living are more transparent than the ghosts.”


Behold a brand-new hefty hardcover with a die-cut cameo, and adorned with a golden heart-lattice frame, cake wedges and bats.

Too, too heavenly!

Within you’ll find all seventeen issues of MEAT CAKE and their full-colour covers, along with new material created for this collection and a fashion-shoot photo gallery of Dame Darcy herself decked out as a lace-loving naval officer, bare-chested-sailor-strewn mermaid and genteel country lady, coming across in toto like a sublime marriage of Danielle Dax and Lynsey de Paul. Sorry…? Okay, Stevie Nicks, then.

Magnificently individualistic, Dame Darcy has always been a Renaissance Woman: comicbook creator, musician, actress, fortune teller (I did not know that), and dollmaker.

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From 1993 she summoned louche and sybaritic, macabre and mysterious neo-Victorian fantasies full of dastardly deeds, with decorative chapter titles that glide and slide across the mastheads. Think Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS in spidery black and white, a delinquent Donna Barr in a secret passage full of cobwebs and bats, or early Kate Bush lost alone in the woods! Jonathan’s just suggested Richard Sala, and he’s not wrong.

“Any of your friends can become your enemy but a relative is one from the start.”

In 2003 Mark previewed a less extensive edition thus:

“I love people who draw and write as if no one matters but themselves. Selfish storytelling, done for their own obsessions and somehow leaked out into the world for the occasional sympathetic eye to wander over. If Edward Gorey had a sickly daughter who refused to live in – and was possibly allergic to – the 20th Century, she would look and draw like the singular Dame Darcy.

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“Willowy, kohl-eyed waifs summoning up the energy to pine for a similarly insubstantial beau, identical twins, ghost girls, animal-headed ne’er-do-wells all live here in the woods.

“A keepsake collection of the best of the first decade including the collaboration with Alan Moore. Darcy followed in Melinda Gebbie’s tailored satin footwear by drawing the ever-slinky Cobweb stories for Alan’s TOMORROW STORIES. Here she brings more attic-creaky, two-headed girl freak stories littered with romantic Victorian prose and consumptive females. Characters named Perfida and Hindrance are not to be passed over.”

To which I would add stockings. There are lots and lots of tiaras, stockings and knives.

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Here’s an advertisement from 2007, and if you think persuading Joan Collins of even Elizabeth Taylor to endorse a spellbinding perfume would be a coup…

“Hi! I’m Helen of Troy.
“Thyme derives from my tears and thus shares my essence.
“Bathe in an infusion of thyme and you will radiate the power of a…

Looking back at us over her shoulder as a ship sails towards her between two ominous rocks, she adds:

“Use with caution!
“I was kidnapped twice!”


Buy Meat Cake Bible and read the Page 45 review here

Fresh Romance (£22-99, Oni Press) by Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen & Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson, Trungles, Christine Norrie…

“But Megan… Fresh Romance coverhow does one go about revealing such… intimate information?”
“Hell if I know. Maybe try being honest?”
“I am part of an otherworldly species that prides itself on assisting other beings with a variety of essential tasks, I was sent to your dimension to help humans find love, and I did make Josh kiss you using magic.”
“You are a massive weirdo. And I love that! But… how about a simpler version of honesty?”

I am probably not the target demographic for this title, I suspect, but I like a bit of romance as much as the next comics reader. Particularly where, as the great Bard himself put it, the course of true love never did run smooth. So STRANGERS IN PARADISE, LOVE AND ROCKETS and the NAO OF BROWN, then. I also have no idea why I am now minded of the theme tune for the early ‘80s sitcom A Fine Romance starring Judi Dench and Michael Williams, but then the course of my mind never seems to follow much of a logical path either these days.

So… five very different stories from a host of talented writers and artists, on the thorny topic of finding love. And indeed keeping or even losing it.


There’s high school comedy with a dash of magic from Kate INK FOR BEGINNERS & ADVENTURE TIME: BITTER SWEETS Leth and Arielle Jovellanos in School Spirit that involves much frantic and farcical parental mis-direction to ensure Prom night passes off smoothly for all concerned. The lengths people will go to for a snog behind the bike sheds without mum and dad finding out! Still, if my parents were wizards and witches I might be tempted to take extra precautions!


Next up is probably my favourite, the wonderful extended Jane Austin-esque period piece Ruined from Sarah ALEX + ADA Vaughn & Sarah Winifred Searle about first love lost amidst the strictured confines of an arranged marriage. I was genuinely captivated by this and therefore somewhat gutted to find it was only part one. Noooooo!!!


Sarah BARBIE Kuhn and Sally Jane SCARS Thompson’s The Ruby Equation features Ruby the not-so-accurate cupid from the pull quote above with a massive crush on someone herself, which frustratingly she has absolutely no idea what to do about it. Honesty, where affairs of the heart are concerned, is always the best policy, at least for us viewing salaciously from the safety of outside the pages! There’s some wonderfully excruciating, toe-curling moments of embarrassment in this one.


Then there’s two powerful little shorts rounding out this collection in the form of Beauties, a very enchanting take on the Beauty and the Beast from Marguerite INSEXTS & DC BOMBSHELLS Bennett and the enigmatically named Trungles, and finally First, Last And Always from Kieron PHONOGRAM & THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE Gillen and Christine HOPELESS SAVAGES Norrie which shows that you do indeed need to risk it all to even have a chance of finding true, everlasting love. Forewarned is not always forearmed though.


There are five very different stories in terms of plot and art style, which only adds to the heart-warming depths of this anthology that’s sure to ignite, or indeed perhaps rekindle, a spark in your eye for the object of your own heart’s desires. The first three stories also feature fascinating postscript discussions from the respective creative teams about their process and approach to producing their work. Bravo to Oni for publishing such an excellent collection of material from a relatively neglected genre, in current comics terms at least.


Buy Fresh Romance and read the Page 45 review here

Tales To Diminish (£4-50) by Paul B. Rainey…

“The van has been parked outside of my property for two days now and I have absolutely no idea whose it is!”
“That’s very interesting, professor, but we really called you to take part in our religion versus science discussion.”
“Well, of course, there’s absolutely no evidence that God exists so, if you believe in him, you are an idiot! In the meantime, this damned van is all I can see from the front windows of my house and, I daresay, it is causing an obstruction on the public footpath also!”

Another collection of comedic capers from the man behind THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT and POPE FRANCIS GOES TO THE DENTIST. In a similar vein to the satirical look at the papal woes on finding a decent N.H.S. dentist to attend to ones pearly gates, I mean whites, plus taking a well deserved dig at various political clowns such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, here Paul’s once again taking potshots at a plethora of demented demagogues, various celebrity numpties and other odious public figures.


Michael Gove once again gets a very satisfying bashing, this time in his ‘Comic Collectors Corner’ feature, Chancellor Osbourne makes several appearances trying to be down with da’ kids as ‘Master Of The Mystic Arts’, then there’s Eric Pickle “fighting for your consumer rights” as he harangues various small shopkeepers demanding bargains for himself, plus Ed Miliband’s In Spaaace as he tackles the testing delights of Klingon fast food!


I think my favourite, though, is Richard Hawking’s ongoing travails of badly parked white vans in Man Versus Van. Every time he finds his rather limited patience stretched to breaking point, up pops an imaginary hippie and a hoodie on his shoulders to provide some salient words of wisdom of the merits of compassion versus confrontation. In short, Paul perfectly captures what a complete self-aggrandising dickhead he is.


Plus there’s several other very amusing shorts such as Janet Street Preacher, Dumpster Beard, Time Travel Teacher, Oooops Professor, I Just Think Charity Should Begin At Home plus Peter The Slow Eater which in particular had me just howling with laughter at Peter’s children’s ever-escalating despair whilst they wait for their father to finally finish his fodder so they can leave the table! Paul is truly a master of the visual punchline as well as the satirical stiletto in the ribs.

But I’ll leave you with the titular, self-explanatory excerpt from the opening panel of They Forgot About Kelvin MacKenzie which neatly sums up the chortle-worthy disdain in which Paul so rightly holds one of the pillocks, sorry pillars, of the Great British tabloid establishment (i.e. Murdoch’s lap dogs) and made me cry with tears of mirth. And that’s before the actual strip where Kelvin’s epic meltdown ranting about Piers Morgan’s success in America has even begun!

“They say that after a nuclear attack only the cockroaches will thrive. But they forgot about one other thing…”

Heh heh heh.


Buy Tales To Diminish and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey…

“I am Headland. I am offended by your ham, sir.”

We’ll return to the porcine proclamation but first let me introduce Vivek Headland properly. He’s, shall we say, a loving homage to the greatest consulting detective of them all, and this arc follows him almost exclusively as he attempts to crack the mysterious and mildly titillating case of a man apparently having sex with the ghost of his late wife.

A former member of the Cross Culture Contamination Unit, whose purpose was to research possible futures on behalf of the British government, Vivek’s therefore one of the five people who thought injecting an artificial life form directly into the internet to spice things up a bit might be a good idea. Unfortunately, given the Injection has started to mess around with the human race and perhaps even reality itself – albeit on a very small experimental scale for now, at least – it’s starting to look like a somewhat rash decision. But, from Headland’s point of view, it’s certainly made the world a less boring place, which was partly his motivation for wanting to administer the Injection.

At this point, you might want to catch up with Stephen’s review of INJECTION VOL 1.


So, the ham… Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the ghostly sex in a minute, I realise that’s more exciting than the bad pork product but the pig is key to the plot, trust me, you blithering buffoon, Watson – I mean, dear reader. For much like a certain detective’s encyclopaedic knowledge of tobacco scents and various other trivial topics apparently utterly tangential but in fact absolutely crucial to curtailing criminal endeavours, Headland is an aficionado of, amongst many other things, meat. The two pages of flashbacks relating to his accumulation of knowledge on the topic of human flesh, including a very cheeky cameo from the Dalai Llama, provoked by a most perturbed question from his personal chef is one of my favourite sequences in this volume.

“Sir? How did you know? Because the only way I can see is that you know what human meat tastes like.”
“A full education is crucial to a complete life, chef.”


I’m enjoying Warren’s writing on this series immensely, just as much as his speculative, slow-building, post-alien-invasion yarn TREES. With both series Warren is clearly taking his time setting up his considerable cast of characters, plus building up the mystery, which hopefully means he’s settling in for a long run on both. I’m still adjusting to Declan Shalvey’s minimal angular art here, I have to reluctantly say, coloured as it is by the ever excellent Jordie Bellaire. Just a personal thing. In fact, it reunites the team that put out, sadly, just one excellent volume of MOON KNIGHT: FROM THE DEAD together.

Shalvey really doesn’t seem to like putting in much background detail which I find a touch distracting myself, but I think it’s certainly a bit churlish of me to get hung up on that. You know what it’s like, though: when you’ve spotted something, you can’t then unobserve it. A friend recently pointed out to me how Rafa Nadal seems to have a nervous habit of pulling his pants out of his behind between every single point and, sure enough, the Mallorcan maestro is indeed seemingly a chronic sufferer from bum-crack-climbing undergarments. Just thought I’d share that with you so you too can be similarly afflicted…


So, back to the ghost sex. Headland instantly knows the Injection is involved, of course, he’s was in no doubt about that from the start. The fascinating question for him, though, is why has the Injection chosen to mess with this particular individual? Along the way he’ll have to deal with various idiotic interferences such as a fanatical cult-like group who have become aware of the Injection and are convinced it is the mythical Philosopher’s Stone, capable of gifting immortality to those who posses it, and thus will stop at nothing to acquire it. Seems like Headland’s going to get that uplift in excitement he’s been craving!

Looking forward to the third arc already.


Buy Injection vol  and read the Page 45 review here

Starve vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj…

“Gorgeous things, the red crab. We’ll catch ‘em, stash ‘em, and cook them for our adoring audience here and at home.
“I’m having a pretty decent day.
“Almost makes me forget about Greer.
“Ah, Christ, the wife.
“Stabbed me, nearly snuffed me out, but who can blame her?
“Mother of my child, and all that.
“But no more clichés.
“She deserves some mercy.
“She’s lost the war, the fight’s completely gone out of her.”

I’m happy to report the second and concluding platter of former Page 45 Comicbook of The Month STARVE VOL 1 is just as tasty a feast for the discerning connoisseur of graphic novels as was the starter! Chef Gavin Cruishank continues his one-man guerrilla mission of culinary vengeance on those who’ve done him wrong, in his (cook)book at least, as he simultaneously carves his way through the contenders on his gladiatorial cooking show with consummate ease.


Though, as he’s starting to realise – and deep down knew all along but has been finally brave enough to admit to himself – perhaps the cause of his wife’s fervent desire to destroy him completely and utterly might just have been entirely his own fault. Ooops! Thus, in this case, the chilled dish of revenge he thought he’d be savouring is proving somewhat less palatable and rather harder to stomach than he’d fantasised about.

So, now, for a man used to deconstructing cookery classics and reinventing them with a modern twist, it’s in fact the reconstruction of Gavin Cruishank the man, the father, and the soon to be ex-husband that’s proving to be his most testing creation to date. Of course, it’s easy to take the moral high ground after you’ve driven your estranged wife to try and stab you to death and she’s cooling her now not-so-designer heels, facing a very long stretch between courses, sorry, behind bars.

Gavin, though, a veritable walking contradiction akin to that craziest of desserts, the baked Alaska, all burnt and caramelised, crispy surface, but an icy cool exterior underneath, well, he’s never been a man to take the obvious approach to human relations as his long-suffering wife well knows. It’s his special lasagne that seals perhaps the most amicable divorce deal ever, though.


So, having put family matters to bed, with his rapprochement with his long neglected daughter complete, and now on civil terms at least with his wife, there’s the small matter of the Network to deal with. But filleting those ruthless sharks is going to take even more finesse than possibly even Gavin possesses. For as he now ruefully recognises, he sold his soul when he gleefully took their offer of fame and fortune all those years ago, so he’s determined to protect his daughter Angie, herself a potentially extremely talented chef, both blessed and cursed with the Cruishank moniker, from their avaricious clutches, but also from repeating his own mistakes. There’ll be a hefty bill waiting for Gavin to pay to get out from under them when all’s said and done, but he’s still got a couple of crafty ideas tucked under his chef’s whites about how to beat the bastards once and for all.

Fantastic finale to a series that has ultimately been all about deep character flaws and their effects on family, tempered with the possibility of emotional resurrection and redemption.


Buy Starve vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Devolution (£17-99, Dynamite) by Rick Remender & Jonathan Wayshak…

“But still, the war went on. Politicians debated for months before reaching a conclusion. It was clear to them all, in secret meetings of course, that the stem of the problem was religion… and science can cure that.
“They created a secret research team to produce a viral agent to neuter the part of the brain that believed in God.
“An international coalition of scientists devised the agent, named DVO-8, which would isolate the part of the brain associated with belief and devolve it, shrinking it away to nothing. Turning off the recipients’ belief in God.
“Of course there were side effects, but nothing severe enough to preclude its use in a few tests.”

And of course they all lived happily ever after…

Ha ha, of course not. The clue as to what those pesky side effects might have been lies in the title… Yes, aside from a chosen few who were inoculated against the virus, and perhaps some with natural immunity, the entire animal and indeed vegetable population of the planet has devolved. Not just humans, who have regressed physically and intellectually to cavemen, but every living species has also devolved into far more toothsome, scary prehistoric versions of themselves, even the insects and the plant life.


For those few humans not affected, the world has thus become considerably more hazardous, which is of course the exact opposite of what the great and good intended. But one such lady, our heroine Raja, is convinced the situation can be reversed. She believes there is a revolution agent antidote in a laboratory in San Francisco. She just has to make it there alive… Between the primitives patrolling the overgrown streets for food, and the survivalist remnants hunkered down in their fortified camps – including one run by a completely insane white supremacist with a penchant for hanging people she comes across – it’s clearly not going to be like nipping down to the local chemist for some paracetamol…


Another fascinating speculative fiction premise from Rick which once again isn’t that far removed from what could conceivably happen in the labs of meddlesome government scientists. Apparently this is an idea he’s had on the back burner for the last ten years, presumably whilst working on DEADLY CLASS, BLACK SCIENCE, LOW, TOKYO GHOST and myriad merry projects for Marvel. Fans of his previous stuff will certainly enjoy this self-contained work. The only real criticism I can level at the writing is it’s a real shame he decided not to spin it into a longer series because it wraps up far too quickly. Perhaps after having it kicking around for so long he just needed to get it over and done with. As I say, a shame as I think he could have done a lot more with the story. Perhaps that’s why this has come out on Dynamite rather than Image.


I wasn’t remotely familiar with the artist Rick’s working with this time, Jonathan Wayshak, though I thought I could recall seeing his stuff before. Sure enough, he did a LOST BOYS: REIGN OF FROGS movie prelude which we (very) briefly stocked. His style reminds me of Mark Texeira, actually, just a tidier version. I rather like it and it certainly suits the visceral nature of the story.



Buy Devolution 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.

Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c (£35-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell

10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) (£6-00, ) by Christian Palmer-Smith

Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau & Alexandre Franc

The Comic Book Story Of Beer (£14-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith & Aaron McConnell

Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly, various

Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Richard Corben, Marcello Frusin, Steve Dillon, Dave V. Taylor

Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) (£29-99, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Paul Bolger & Barry Devlin

Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c (£13-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black & Lee Garbett

The Trial Of Roger Casement (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Fionnuala Doran

Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c (£22-99, Titan) by Oliver Bocquet & Jean-Marc Rochette

Star Wars vol 3: Rebel Jail (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron & Leinil Yu, Angel Unzueta

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles h/c (£22-99, IDW / DC) by James Tynion IV & Freddie E. Williams II

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

DC: The New Frontier s/c (£31-99, DC) by Darwyn Cooke

Injustice Year Four vol 2 h/c (£20-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato, Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Mike S. Miller, various

Deadpool & The Mercs For Money vol 0: Merc Madness s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Salva Espin, Scott Koblish

New Avengers: A.I.M. vol 2: Standoff s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & various

Fairy Tail Zero (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

UQ Holder vol 8 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu


ITEM! Watch Jamie Smart drawing BUNNY VS MONKEY!

Old skool pencil, brush and ink. Mesmerising. Fascinating to see how long he’ll go without dipping brush back in. I’d have slapped on waaaay too much ink.

Read reviews of Jamie Smart’s PHOENIX COMICS: BUNNY VS MONKEY collections and FISH HEAD STEVE here.

Trillium perfect cb moment

ITEM! Jeff Lemire writes about creating comics, process and time management.

He’s currently working on 8 monthly comics and drawing one as well. Also, his house is insanely clutter-free and clean. *gazes round study floors and walls woefully*

Pop ‘Jeff Lemire’ into our search engine then please click on covers for reviews.

Trillium perfect cb moment reprise


– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week two

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

New Simone Lia! Congressman John Lewis’ March Book 3! Riad Sattouf’s The Arab Of The Future, Sophie Franz’s Experts, Claire Scully’s Internal Wildnerness, Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Dragons … and Miami Vice?! More!

They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! (£8-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia.

“It took me ages to learn Mandarin.”

A deliriously illustrated, all-ages read from the creator of FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND, I gobbled up this deceptively clever 180-page adventure in a single, giggle-filled sitting.

It’s magnificently ridiculous but far from nonsensical, for its howl-inducing comedy is derived from a witty worm logic challenged with deadpan abandon throughout.

We all know what a worm is. We all know what a worm can do. We all know what a worm is patently incapable of doing.

Like learning Mandarin.

French, maybe; but Mandarin is ever so tricky.

The first clue comes when Marcus the mud-loving earthworm introduces himself, his hobbies and his habitat in a cross-section of his burrow.

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Of course there’s a table tennis room. Of course there is.

The thing is, once you’ve seen that, you can’t help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia’s genius.

The same goes for when you read each piece of seemingly random ridiculousness, like when Laurence the corpulent, gullible bird is packing light for their holiday together, and Marcus encourages him to take more and more.

“Well, it’s just that… it’s a long way and you might get bored. I thought you might need some other things. You know, for entertainment.”
“I see. Well, I could take my yo-yo.”

And off you go again, your mind’s eye agog.

The preparations grow increasingly elaborate / insane given that Laurence is supposed to be flying them there. So why is Marcus intent on Laurence encumbering himself with everything bar the kitchen sink? (He even un-plumbs his own toilet – just in case there aren’t that many en route.)

Well, Marcus woke up that morning – after a dream about flying a spaceship made from potatoes – to find himself inside a cereal bowl sat between a knife and fork, with a scruffy bird who looks a lot like a chicken fixing him hungrily with big, beady eyes.

And that’s not easy to handle; not before your first cup of coffee.

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No, when you’re a worm staring down the barrel of a peckish-looking beak, it’s quite discombobulating. But Marcus proves very quick-witted and resourceful throughout and immediately introduces himself AND HIS FAVOURITE COLOUR AND HIS FAVOURITE HOBBY AND ASKS WHAT THE BIRD’S NAME IS AND DOES HE HAVE A HOBBY, PLEASE, SIR? in a very loud voice and as fast as he can because it’s much more difficult to scoff someone up when they’re engaging with you personally and ever so politely.

It transpires that the big bird’s hobby is travelling. But he hasn’t been anywhere – anywhere at all – because he has no sense of direction and is utterly rubbish at map-reading.

I’ll just leave that one sitting there.

Ideally he’d like to go to Kenya in Africa to visit his fellow flamingos (!) which is rather ambitious for any first flight but Laurence is convinced that Marcus’ subterranean homing instincts will serve them equally well in the air… over the Channel, across Europe, then the Mediterranean and… it’s quite a long journey. Maybe they’ll stop off in Paris on the way and visit the Eiffel Tower which is pictured on the front of Laurence’s guide book.

Anyway, the reason Marcus is setting Laurence up for such a substantial heavy baggage penalty is that he’s not sure if he wants to go, but he’s inspired by the sincerity of the plump bird’s seriously deluded flamingo-fellowship, so they take off for the south.

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What follows is a truly epic journey and, if you doubt their combined abilities, there is the most masterful page turn following this:

“As I was pretending to admire the view, I noticed that there actually was a view. And it looked oddly familiar, just like the cover of Laurence’s French guidebook…
“Was it?
“It was…”

The next page’s image is integral to its punchline.

Without that it wouldn’t work, so like Reeve & McIntyre’s all-ages PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE, Lia’s illustrated prose often verges on comics. It never quite swerves into that medium as far as Gary Northfield’s profoundly and exuberantly stoopid JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and BUNDLE WITH THE BRITONS but there is a scene wherein Laurence has been kindly leant an ice-cream by a fellow non-flamingo called Bernard:

“Instead of taking one lick – which was what Bernard was offering – he slowly ate the whole thing while staring into space.”

The sentence is sandwiched between two sequential images of Laurence’s absent-minded yet quite thorough scoffing as poor Bernard watches woefully and silently, increasingly regretting his instinctive generosity.

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The main action’s depicted in black, white and grey – including a phenomenal shot of the British countryside from above – with orange dedicated solely to worms, one central surprise much later on, and Marcus’ self-visualisations and daydreams which elicit extra, absurd, worm-logic laughter.

My favourite example of this double-punchline comes after Marcus (in order to avoid becoming an essential ingredient in worm and chicken stew) fools a mole, a squirrel and crow into believing his uncle was a chef in the hope of sending them out for further essential ingredients which they couldn’t possibly collect. One porkie too far and the ruse is rumbled then the mole is furious to have been taken in by the very idea that any worm’s uncle could possibly be a chef.

“I couldn’t look at the mole. He was right.
“My uncle isn’t really a chef;
“he’s a waiter.”

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During any journey there are lessons to be learned, and amongst those on offer are making friends with those you might think are unlikely at first, sticking up for your friends in their hour of need, being proud of who you are and of your friends’ best qualities, and if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.

I’m afraid they don’t teach those at Worm School. Sometimes you just have to figure these things out for yourselves. Or read a good book.

This is a Good Book.

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And this is a spaceship made from potatoes.


Buy They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! and read the Page 45 review here

Internal Wildernesss (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Claire Scully.

One of the mostInternal Wilderness cover beautiful artefacts I’ve beheld this year.

It’s a silent, 4 x 6 inch comic printed on sturdy, finely grained, crisp white paper with an even thicker cardstock cover.

We travel under moonlight which bounces off snow-capped mountains and shimmers on the surface of the lakes or lochs and the fresh, fast-flowing rivers which meander into their midst.

There’s barely another soul in sight, but there’s evidence of human habitation, albeit asleep save for single chimney stack’s plume of white smoke swirling into the sky and a light-house’s giant lantern, a comforting, reassuring beacon in the night.

All else is bathed in the softest of blue-tinged greys under a rich midnight blue. The shapes and the textures of the trees, the leaves, the tall blades of grass and the fern-fronds are exquisite.

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By contrast there’s a sheer sheet of ice below us, breaking up; above or at eye-level depending on how high we’ve climbed, there are equally pristine layers of mist suspended in the sky.

If you are need of serenity or simply crave its experience, you’ll find it waiting within.

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“INTERNAL WILDERNESS is part of an ongoing project looking at ‘landscape and memory’ – our relationship with the environment, effects we have on the world and space around us and in turn its profound effect on our own memory and emotions.”

There is a surprise inside which I will leave you to both discover and interpret for yourselves.


Buy Internal Wilderness and read the Page 45 review here

March Book 3 s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell.

It begins with a bombing.

It begins where the last book ended with the bombing, on September 15th 1963, of a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, full of black school children on its annual Youth Day. It left four young girls – Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair – dead and many more critically injured.

More precisely it begins with four slightly awe-struck young ladies including Denise discussing their nerves about playing music in front a big crowd at the game tomorrow, and the quiet but reassuring clik-tik clik-tik of leather soles on a clinically clean, tiled floor as a kindly woman walks away after gently shoeing them out of the toilets and, she hopes, the church.

Moments later, artist Nate Powell shatters a whispered reassurance – and the tranquillity of a sermon preaching love even to one’s enemies – with an ear-drum-deafening explosion and monstrous, coal-coloured clouds of impenetrable, toxic smoke followed by chaos and carnage, tear-streaming shouts in search of Denise and her tiny white shoe, torn and bloodied and dangled by its broken, thin white lace.

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These deaths were immediately and aggressively celebrated in the streets by white teenagers while, encouraged, a couple of Eagle Scouts picked 13-year-old Virgil Lamar off his bike with a hand-gun. Also murdered: 16-year-old Johnny Robinson, shot in the back by a police officer. He was never indicted.

That’s how this begins as we stride ever onwards towards the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7th 1965, when ABC news interrupted its Sunday Movie to show fifteen minutes’ footage of the extreme, racist brutality meted out by Alabama State Troopers on the protesters’ march to Montgomery. You may remember that well from BOOK 1.

The third and final part in this remarkable first-hand account of the American Civil Rights Movement from Congressman John Lewis could not be more timely given the overt racism of the Republican Party’s current candidate for American President and further mendacious attempts right now to restrict voters’ registration under the guise of fraud prevention when there is no fraud to speak of. Which particular section of society do you suppose is suffering most from these obstacles?

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In MARCH BOOK 1 and MARCH BOOK 2 we witnessed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee et al staging peaceful protests against segregation in schools, cafeterias and public transport. These were met with unbelievable State-endorsed, governor-sanctioned, police brutality, executed with relish.

What became shocking clear – and does so again here – is the split between Country and State: local refusal to obey federal law. When segregation at schools was outlawed nationally, named and shamed State officials not only refused to enact those laws, they ordered the illegal arrest of those protesting the state’s illegal non-compliance.

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So now we move on to voting.

“In Selma – and throughout most of the South at that time – it was almost impossible for African-Americans to register to vote. In Dallas County, only 2.1% of African-American of voting age were registered.”

Oh so many ways were found to thwart anyone of colour attempting to register, even though the Constitution was amended 95 years earlier “to require that no American be denied the right to vote because of race or colour.” Seriously.

“Even if a black citizen were able to register, their name would be printed in the local paper… making them a target. The white Citizens Council could pressure their employer to fire them. Their house could be burned down by the KKK. Or worse.”

Yes, I’d say what happed to Fannie Lou Hamer was worse. She was indeed fired, arrested and severely beaten simply for attempting to register to vote, which was her constitutional right. If that sounds appalling enough – and if it doesn’t, then God help you – the pages in which Mrs. Hamer finally recounts the horrific details, blow by blow, in front of a committee at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City on August 21, 1964, will make you ill. As Mrs. Hamer concludes:

“Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily… because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?
“Thank you.”

The testimony was televised by all the major national networks until President Johnson deliberately interrupted it by staging a sham statement from the White House, but the desperate gambit backfired because those same networks then led their evening news broadcasts with Mrs. Hamer’s speech instead.

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As I wrote previously:

“It’s a testament to Nate Powell that not once do the hundreds of individuals depicted here seem generic: the first black and white Freedom Riders defying transportation segregation by sitting together, each of them identified; the young girl who will not be moved even as a speeding truck screeches to a halt in front of her then revs threateningly, angrily as its driver contemplates running her right over; another schoolgirl on May 2nd 1963 asking for no more than the basic right to freedom as dozens of her fellow protestors are bundled into a police van.”

So it is here as each individual is identified for their specific, heroic endeavours or dissenting points of view, patience with their lack of progress threatening quite understandably to run out. The SNCC’s very growth brought with it tensions and many times here things look very bleak indeed for the wider movement as a whole, the SNCC’s position within that movement and John Lewis’ position within the SNCC.

Nate Powell keeps us riveted through each and every conversation, confrontation and set-back, his lettering so sympathetic to the tone. His art is dark and stark but full of humanity or lack thereof which is, I regret, an enduring feature of humankind.

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I can promise you the most stirring of speeches, especially towards the end – one in particular delivered by President Lyndon Johnson following the march to Montgomery – but we’re reminded soberly than the deaths didn’t stop simply because of any single success. They went on and on as they continue today, and the battle is far from won.

For much, much more, please see our extensive reviews of MARCH BOOK 1 and MARCH BOOK 2.


Buy March Book 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“On TV, they said that Gaddafi had announced new laws forcing people to swap jobs. Teachers would now be farmers, and farmers would be teachers.”

At which point Raid’s dad, teaching at university, decided it was time to leave Libya.

Welcome to a great big book of behaviour, all seen through the eyes of a pre-school Raid Sattouf and lavishly sprinkled with the brashest and rashest of generalisations from his perpetually pontificating, pan-Arabist father.

Set in the early 1980s, it’s autobiographical travel with great comedic timing and an eye for the absurd, so making it highly recommended to fans of Guy Delisle’s equally entertaining PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA CHRONICLES and JERUSALEM. There is much that was absurd in Libya and Syria then, but this is as much about the very odd children and adults whom Riad encounters after his Syrian father meets his French mother while studying in Paris, determined to become a ‘Doctor’ but majoring in history because blood made him squirm. Actually, he always had his sights set on politics and quite fancied staging a coup when young.

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Oxford offers him a job as an assistant professor – “Oxford!!! Wow, classy!” exclaims Riad’s mum excitedly – which he rejects somewhat petulantly because they misspell his name in their letter. Instead he plumps for a post in Libya because, he proclaims, they get his name right on the envelope. They don’t. This elicits from his wife the first of many more looks of wide-eyed bewilderment to come. I don’t think she ever imagined a life in Libya.

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So it is that they arrive in Tripoli to be shown their accommodation fit for a university associate professor and his young family.

“Welcome to our People’s State, Doctor… Free of charge, of course! In our People’s State, all housing is free.”
Inside it was yellow, and water dripped from the ceiling.
“Ah, it’s nothing. It never rains.”

It’s raining.

“Anyway, it will dry soon. This is the “Little Green Book, where the Leader explains his vision of society and democracy.”

Gaddafi was a dictator.

“You must read it. It’s truly a masterpiece.”
“Hang on, my brother, you forgot to give me the keys!”
“Keys? There are no keys. Look, there’s no lock…”

There really isn’t. They take a stroll round their neighbourhood and, upon their return, discover their bags neatly arranged outside their new house. Riad’s dad knocks on their door.

“Hello, brother. How can I help you?”
“Hello to you, brother. What are you doing in my house?”
“But, brother, this is my house. It was empty… The Leader gave all citizens the right to live in unoccupied houses, as you know.”
“What? Listen, I’m a professor at the university! I’m going to the police!”
“There’s no point. I’m a policeman.”

The father who led his family to Libya scratches his nose and sniffs, staring into the distance with a small smile on his face. That’s his resilient reaction to humiliation and it is the first and only time that Satouff signposts this. It isn’t, however, the last time you’ll see it.

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Some of this reality is so ridiculous that it verges on episodes of The Simpsons, and I extend that comparison to the family unit with a long-suffering mother and a father was in no way stupid but utterly oblivious to the contradictory nature his broad, sweeping statements.

“Hee hee! Have you ever seen dollars? The best currency in the world, look! Beautiful dollars!”

He hates America.

“The Jews are our enemies. They’re occupying Palestine. They’re the worst race in the world. Well, them and the Americans of course, who are their biggest pals…”
“Why are you telling him that? It’s total crap…”

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He loves to lecture on God (whom he doesn’t believe in), Satan, soldiers (“Soldiers are morons! I want to give orders, not take them!”) internal politics, international politics, religions and races in a manner that’s (at times but not always) almost sublimely blithe.

“Christians? Pfft. What’s the point in being Christian in a Muslim country? It’s just a provocation… When you live in a Muslim country, you should do as the Muslims do… It’s not complicated. Just convert to Islam and you’ll be fine…”

Ah, there’s that long-suffering look to the heavens again! I can just hear Marge Simpson’s “Hmmm…”

On Libya’s Gaddafi and Syria’s Assad, he declares:

“Of course they’re dictators! I’m not a moron! But it’s different with Arabs…
“You have to be tough with them. You have to force them to get an education, make them go to school…. If they decide for themselves, they do nothing. They’re lazy-ass bigots even though they have the some potential as everyone else…”

Are you sensing that ‘contradictory’ element I mentioned?

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Un-phased by his own inconsistencies, Abdul is at heart a dreamer – whether about education and pan-Arabism or his own goal to build a big villa in Syria – and he’s admirably undaunted aboard, or at least determined to cope, constantly seeing silver linings like laughing at rats and “Look at the lights!” as the family traipses through the extraordinary squalor of Homs. It’s there that they encounter the aftermath of an execution:

“They just leave them hanging like that?”
“That’s life! It’s horrible, but it’s necessary. It sets an example. This way, people stay law-abiding. You have to frighten them…”

He doesn’t fluster easily, is what I’m saying.

Riad as an adult narrator doesn’t comment on any of this. Aged 4 or 5, he doesn’t understand a word of it; he only knows that he adores his dad. He does, however, have a fully developed sense of smell which permeates his recollections and evocations and takes most of these novel experiences in his stride because at his age everything is novel. Nothing is alien because he has no comparison points for familiarity. I’d have run wailing from some the kids he encounters. They’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated into religion-based hatred but – with one notable exception – roam undisciplined and even delinquent (you’ll see), defying their parents and mistreating animals atrociously.

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But this is a book of observation, not judgement, so even as I typed it I realised that last sentence seems inappropriate. It’s a comic containing remarkable customs – like Riad’s grandmother licking the young boy’s eyeball clean of grit – and strange behaviour, like his uncle’s aversion to the sea.

Each country is colour-coded: while in France all is blue, Libya’s ochre and Syria’s in pink. That’s neat in itself, but the effect of this assignation isn’t superficial, it’s immersive. It signifies that you are now in that country and you’re not necessarily getting out. Your life for the foreseeable future is within that country: deal with it, even if it means you are destined to go to school with those who have vowed to beat you to a pulp.

Where they end up in Syria is particularly bleak. Like Libya it’s unfinished, but plastic bags fly on the wind and so much of it looks like a wasteland or a landfill littered with human faeces. There are no shops and no bars until they travel to Homs by bus which, like the taxi which they took from the airport, has a gaping hole in its undercarriage so that you can see tarmac rolling by below you.

Looking out of the window, Riad’s dad observes:

“This was a forest when I was young. Now it’s the modern world.”


Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 1: 1978-1984  and read the Page 45 review here

Experts (£4-50, Retrofit) by Sophie Franz.

This comic’s so quiet you can almost hear the waters lapping against the raft.

I might dip my toes in. Would that be wise?

“I wish it would clear up out there – this fog is really starting to get to me.”

To say nothing of the pale blue beings, bobbing on the surface of the chilly lake or sea, who appear to be observing our small crew, silently… but waiting for what?

This is an eerie little comic about three individuals also treading water, adrift on a platform floating far from any shore which might once have been a research station – they’re can’t really remember.

They’re can’t recall who they are or why they, specifically, are there.

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Has the fog outside been clouding their brains, or is it the very presence of these impassive entities?

“I’ve got this idea that I might have been an artist or something. A field naturalist – a scientific illustrator. Anyway, I’ve been trying my hand at drawing some stuff. It’s going okay.
“I mean, it’s not really creative. I’m just drawing what I see.
“But now I’ve got all these pictures that I don’t know what to do with. Do I send them off with the Colonel? With our list of requests and our weekly report? Who is on the other end, and why do they never respond?”

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The Colonel’s their greyhound whom they dispatch, periodically, with a list of supplies they need replenishing, all alone, on a boat. He looks lost.

What they receive in return doesn’t appear to be what they asked for.

“What is this? Canned okra? Tripe?”
“I dunno, the list is in French. I don’t speak French, do you?”

Experts 3


Buy Experts and read the Page 45 review here

Butter And Blood (£9-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Steven Weissman…

“Look! It’s Eagle-Man and Hatboy!!”
“Where are the bank robbers?”
“They took off in that ‘copter.”
“Why don’t you fly after them??”
“Flying isn’t his power!”
“What is your power?”
“He can eat almost anything!”
“Doesn’t someone else already have that power?”
“Ahem… cough…”
“So, why he is even called Eagle-Man?”
“He has a pet eagle! Ok!?”
Really? Where is it?”
“It’s… it’s at home.”
“And why do you call yourself Hatboy? You don’t wear a hat.”
“You rescue hats? From what?”
“From the garbage, mostly…”

Butter-And-Blood-0From the creator of CHOCOLATE CHEEKS and CHEWING GUM IN CHURCH comes another chaotic selection of surreal and most assuredly stoopid humour strips spiced up with a heavy dash of wrong. There’s a couple of recurring strips, one about the original members of Guns N’ Roses working in a Jewish delicatessen where their vile kitchen antics are just as tasteless as the food, and the adventures of the Honeycomb Rabbits, who are only seemingly ever one bad drug-influenced decision from a painful / potentially fatal experience. But aside from that daft duo every other strip in this collection, and there are many, these are gloriously crackpot one-offs.


Be it Pioneer Chicken, a friendly ten-gallon-behatted, kerchief-wearing, rootin’ tootin’ poultry wandering the trails of the Wild West, or Little Swingey Swingerton – “He loves to swing. It’s what he does.” – achieving orbit on his favourite piece of playground equipment, to Playing Hide And Go Seek With America’s Favourite Sauce, which doesn’t remotely end how you’d expect, but then nothing in this collection does. You will be as entertained as you are aghast, or perhaps simply bemused if this eclectic mix of the ribald and the ridiculous isn’t to your particular comedy palette. It’s the sort of material that you perhaps have to be just slightly unhinged yourself to appreciate.


Art-wise, for those unfamiliar with Mr. Weissman, the closest comparison I can muster some of his material would be James Kolchaka, himself shortly to reprise the glorious insanity that is SUPERF*CKERS with a new series SUPERF*CKERS FOREVER!! The strips in this collection, along with some exquisitely daft sketchbook pages, sticker designs, Andy Warhol-esque poster rip-offs have previously appeared in publications as varied as Giant Robot, Vice, Mome and even Playboy.



Buy Butter And Blood and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Daniel Bayliss, Fabian Rangel Jr, Hannah Christenson & various.

“A terrible thing, hate.Storyteller Dragons cover
“It takes root deep within your heart, expanding like branches from a tree, until it turns you into something you barely recognise.”

Dragons are a draw. Few words sell comics or art books so successfully as we discovered with IN SEARCH ON DRAGONS. You might try FOUR EYES with two books out now as well, and why not pop “dragon” into our search engine?

The quote above comes from Jorge Corona’s adaptation of the Japanese legend of Yofune-Nushi, which explores hatred as an often ill-informed waste of space and spiritual energy, and self-sacrifice as the only viable option when it comes to love, as a woman goes in search of her exiled father.

The first of these four self-contained stories involves a similar separation and boasts more than one gorgeous, fanged, aquatic dragon with iridescent dermal scales and wild-stag antlers, along with other beasts resplendent in equally ornate markings, all drawn by Daniel Bayliss.

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A proud father is taking his young son fishing with spears, determined to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency and provision. He urges his son to pay attention. However:

“Most fathers often struggle with being too hard or too soft on their children. And this father was no exception. But with just a wink he could set his son’s mind at ease.”

The pair become caught in the middle of a maelstrom as a serpent – rising up from the waters to strike them down – is itself seized upon by airborne, electrically charged Thunderbirds which shatter the skies which their “Skreeee!”

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The boat is broken in two and the father and son are separated. The son is washed ashore, stranded on a strange island and forages for what food he can find; the father too is washed ashore, on an island too barren even to provide material for a raft.

Guess what lives there, then?

It’s a heartbreakingly poignant tale, with plenty of surprises I haven’t even hinted at but every word that I’ve written and quoted is relevant to the many subsequent twists. Of course, if you’re going to call a comic STORYTELLER and you can’t tell stories then you’re only setting yourself up as a laughing stock.

It includes the words “dreadful”, “ghastly”, “deafening” and “fury”.

Hannah Christenson was the creator I singled out for praise in MOUSE GUARD: LEGENDS OF THE GUARD VOL 3, and she brings the same flair to bear on something much more fiery here.

My only personal disappointment was Nathan Pride’s version of The Legend Of The Lambton Worm, but perhaps I’d been spoiled by Bryan Talbot’s intense rendition within ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, mimicking the language of the period and alluding to illuminated manuscripts with its page frames and decorated title page. Typically of Talbot, he also took the trouble to pause, mid-Crusade, to give that nasty little piece of Christian history the savaging it deserves, encompassing it within the legend’s central tenet of the Devil being at play, and arrogance being punished by its curse upon successive generations to come.

By contrast, in deference to the dog, Pride changes the ending, diluting what was supposed to be an unremittingly harsh tale right to its treacherous end.

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I was never a fan of the framing device of an overly knowing bloke preaching to his pooch. He was thankfully absent from STORYTELLER: WITCHES which contains some seriously beautiful and unusual compositions, but his presence here didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the stories he’s telling.

Also available: the original JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER collection.


Buy Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Saga Uncensored h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills, John Wagner, Chris Lowder & Mick McMahon, Brian Bolland…

“Ah have a dream, ma friends – a dream where ah see every square inch of this fair land covered by one big MacDonalds burger bar!
“A dream where every American child – be normal or mutie – kin grow up without knowin’ the horrors o’ natural food!
“Where every burger is served with pickle, an’ every ‘shake is so thick yu gotta drink it with a spoon!
“Yes, ma friends, ah dream o’ the day when all that’s decent and American – Mom’s apple pie, Hershey bars and the New York Yankees – yeah, everything that’s decent and American… HAS BEEN WIPED OUT!
“…And in its place will stand MacDonald’s – one huge, onion-spangled MacDonald’s – from sea to shinin’ sea!
“Enough speechifyin’. Let’s eat! The burgers an’ shakes is on me!”


Yes, as Chris Lowder and John Wagner write in their forewords, between their ‘speechifyin’’ Ronald MacDonald, a scheming Colonel Saunders, a rampaging Jolly Green Giant and even the old Bibendum the Michelin man himself, it is astonishing that the <ahem> guest appearances were neither spotted and frantically scratched by the publishing higher-ups or attracted the subsequent attendant legal ire of the corporations squarely in the satirical crosshairs of Mills et al.  But then as they also point out, 2000AD was a very different beast back then in 1978 (this collection covers Progs 61-85!), barely gestated and certainly not that well known.


Hence though, having got away with it once, the potentially copyright-offending parts of this epic  were expunged from subsequent collections of the Cursed Earth Saga, including JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASEFILES 2, which sees Judge Dredd trying to cross the radioactive wastes from coast to coast to rescue Mega City Two from the raging Tooty Fruity virus turning citizens into cannibals.


Extremely entertaining, iconoclastic (if you’re a fast food fan, that is) brand-bashing aside, this is a classic bit of extremely early Dredd regardless as he battles through the Radlands encountering weirder and weirder resistance week after week, reluctantly assisted by returning villainous biker Spikes Harvey Rotten, even encountering ‘Smooth’ Bob Booth, the last President of the United States, along the way, whom the Judges sentenced to 100 years suspended animation for starting the Atomic Wars which resulted in their subsequent coup d’état.


Current Dredd readers might find such early material a touch two-dimensional and the stories seemingly dashed off and practically joined together with sticky tape, but to me it’s fascinating to look back and see how Mills even managed to get five pages of such exquisite madcap nonsense out on a weekly basis given the very, very limited resources he was working with. It’s also amusing to observe the at times almost polite nature of the early lithesome Dredd, drawn so beautifully by Bolland in particular here. There’s certainly no such pleasantries from the hulking version of today as he heads gradually out of middle age towards drawing his pension!


Buy Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Saga Uncensored h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Miami Vice Remix (£9-99, Lion Force Comics) by Joe Casey & Jim Mahfood…

“…I think I can take us right to the source of this stuff. Right to him. My brain feels like a divining rod or something.”
“Well, hell… you know this is what it’s all been leading up to… and you sure as hell aren’t going in alone again. You feel me, partner?”
“Right on.”
“Let’s do it.”

Indeed. People of a certain age, i.e. mid-forties and older, will remember the impact that the original Miami Vice TV show had on pop culture, which musically and visually was then experiencing its MTV ‘awakening’. I think it might even be fair to say Don Johnson invented the suit over t-shirt look!

Anyway, Miami Vice was the now hugely famous producer / director Michael Mann’s first monster hit, powered as it was by its retro Art Deco look – certain colours were entirely banned from appearing on screen – combined with Jan Hammer’s amazing synthesiser soundtracks, it just looked and felt so different to all the other American TV imports at the time such as CHiPS, Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Dukes Of Hazard etc.


Yes, it had a few comedic sub-plots and laughs, but it also had such extreme grit – including bad guys actually dying in intense episode-concluding shoot outs, followed by Crockett and Tubbs’ utter sense of futility in that ever more bad guys from various drug cartels would just appear to replace them by the following week – that gave the show a flavour which perfectly captured the zeitgeist of a certain segment of ‘80s cocaine-addled America. The dream was over, dystopia was dawning. It’s hard to credit that cruising around to the sounds of Phil Collins could ever look cool, but have a gander at an iconic scene which possibly sums up Miami Vice up perfectly.

So, this then, is not that. Which sounds like something Dennis Norden might strangulate out, clipboard in hand, smug grin on face. But, with the neat use of the word ‘remix’ in the title, handily, it doesn’t claim to be. Long-time superhero scribe Joe Casey very possibly captures the tone of the original, probably going a little over the top with Voodoo drug lords and drugs that zombifie the citizens of Miami, though looking at this recent real footage from Brooklyn captured by a man of people off their nuts on a bad batch of the synthetic marijuana known as K2 Casey maybe is bang on point.


Any such mild over-egging of the plot and dialogue, though, is completely obscured by Jim Mahfood’s brash art style which is as outrageous as the combined egos of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas squared. He’s probably best known recently for his work on TANK GIRL: EVERYBODY LOVES TANK GIRL. It’s a hyper-intense, kinetic style that I personally find rather too much for my sensibilities. At its best I could try to compare it to the incomparable Kevin O’Neill on MARSHALL LAW, though it also minds me of Todd McFarlene’s worst excesses on SPAWN and SPIDER-MAN.


At the end, I really wasn’t sure whether I had enjoyed this or not! I just can’t really understand who it is aimed at, as I genuinely can’t see it appealing to anything other than a tiny segment of those who retain a fondness for the show. They’ve all moved on to reading the likes of CRIMINAL. I understand the faithful retreads of the likes of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, to a degree. But all this really did was make me feel nostalgic for watching the original back in the day, plus needing to listen to Phil Collins and cruise around the mean streets of Nottingham for a while to calm down…


Buy Miami Vice Remix 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.

Wrinkles (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca

Meat Cake Bible (£44-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy

One Year Wiser – A Gratitude Journal (£11-99, SelfMadeHero) by Mike Medaglia

Injection vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

Hellbound (£8-99, Retrofit) by Kaeleigh Forsyth & Alabaster Pizzo

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1953 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Ben Stenbeck, Paolo Rivera, Michael Walsh

Devolution (£17-99, Dynamite) by Rick Remender & Jonathan Wayshak

Starve vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj

Tales To Diminish (£4-50, ) by Paul B. Rainey

Y – The Last Man Book 5 (£17-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka

Batman: The Golden Age vol 1 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Whitney Ellsworth & Bob Kane, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos

Deathstroke vol 3: Suicide Run s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel, James Bonny & Tyler Kirkham, Paolo Pantalena

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 2 h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andy MacDonald

Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 4 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest, J. Torres & Dan Fraga, Jorge Lucas, Jim Calafiore, Patrick Zircher, Joe Bennett

Darth Vader vol 3: The Shu-Torun War (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca, Leinil Yu

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 5: A Tale Of Two Families (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Guardians Of Infinity s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett & Carlo Barberi

7th Garden vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Mitsu Izumi

Monster Perfect Edition vol 9 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa


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ITEM! Read Koren Shadmi’s intense, hitch-hiking HIGHWAYMAN comic part one and part two free online. Outstanding distinctive colour schemes on each.

I’m hooked.

Shadmi was recently responsible for the satirical LOVE ADDICT – CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL DATER and, before that, ABADDON.

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ITEM! Brief film on – and interview with – Margaret Calvert who co-designed most of Britain’s road signage, as well as British Rail’s and Gatwick’s, including the fonts.

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How did I not know this until now. Truly iconic and an integral part of all our daily lives, I think she deserved more than an OBE!

Here’s an article on Margaret Calvert’s road signs in particular.

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Maybe we should turn that into a Page 45-centric Caption Competition.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week one

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Featuring brand-new Jeff Smith Bone, Adam Murphy’s Lost Tales from Phoenix Comic Weekly, Abnett & Culbard on Wild’s End Vol 2 and this, straight off the press!

Kill Or Be Killed #1 (£2-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

In which the snow blows thicker and thicker.

To begin with it’s almost soft. It’s softer than a sidewalk from six storeys up, anyway.

It tumbles across the sprawling city as far as the eye can see, which is further than you might think, even at night, especially when you’re on one of its rooftops and so precariously close to the edge.

From below the thick flakes recede, smaller and smaller, into the heavens which glow a rich, luminous turquoise, while below all is neon-lit for danger.

By the final four pages it’s a veritable blizzard in blinding, icing-sugar white, with wild flashes of thought and explosions of violence like landmines detonated in your head. Then, when it’s settled there’s a moment of clarity – for Dylan at least.

He’s not going to kill himself. He’s going to kill other people instead.

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From the Eisner-Award winning creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT, the first six pages are a bludgeoning barrage of quite cathartic violence, all the more brutal to behold because Phillips has dispensed with the frames to go full-bleed to the edge of each page. It’s more immediate. It’s more in-your-face, just like that shotgun, which is meticulously rendered and weighted.

Crucially, however, even if it’s more difficult to draw then it’s as easy to read as ever, for the three-tier structure remains intact, the panels inset instead against an extended background. It’s something he carries right through the subsequent flashbacks and it pays off especially outside because the wider sense of space is phenomenal.

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Anyway, in case you’re reading this on the product page rather than the blog, here’s some of Dylan’s socio-political self-justification. It’s not why he’s blowing holes in these very bad people, but isn’t it kind of comforting to know that you’re making the world a better place than it currently is?

“Just look at the news for five fucking minutes and it’s obvious…
“Big business controls your government…
“Assholes go on shooting rampages almost daily…
“Terrorists blow up airports and train stations…
“Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…
“Psychopaths run for President…
“Oh, and the Middle East is one nuke away from turning us all to dust…
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Talk about topical – and that was written months ago.

What follows doesn’t lead directly into the opening sequence, but it does go some way to explaining how Dylan, studying later in life than most at NYU, might eventually find himself a) with a shotgun b) using it. As to how proficient he is, I know we will get there eventually.

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It begins with the attempt at suicide I hinted at earlier – not his first, either – and that began with a girl. It began with his best friend called Kira, one of the few people Dylan felt ever understood him. She got his sense of humour, his taste in music and his sense of isolation which had already set in before his flatmate Mason got between the two of them by dating.

“Their relationship ruined the one good thing I had.
“Kira still came to our place all the time, but almost never to hang out with me.
“And that made me feel even lonelier than I usually did.”

That sense of being cut off from Kira is emphasised by Phillips in a similar way to what Ware did at the window in JIMMY CORRIGAN: by distancing Dylan, isolated inside his own panel, from the rest of the couch where Kira and Mason sit closer together. Breitweiser bathes the lovers in light from the television set they’re watching, whereas Dylan remains shrouded in darkness. I can’t imagine anything much more uncomfortable.

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Oh wait, I can, because that’s what happens next.

And eventually it leads to the rooftop.

Where that leads is even more startling, but I’m not about to spoil that for you now. All I will say is that Dylan’s head is far from healthy. He’s fallen far enough already, but he’s got a long way to go before picking up a gun and going if not postal then at least house-hunting.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Brubaker’s many fortes is making you want to spend as much time as possible in his protagonists’ minds, no matter how disturbed. Here he does so in part through Dylan’s vulnerability and confessional, apologetic tone. However confident in his newly acquired worldview Dylan seems on the first six pages – and I’d place money on that being a ‘good’ day – none of that is reflected in any red-bloodedly aggressive tendencies either earlier in life or even now.

Give or take that shotgun.

No, I mean inside his head. Indeed Dylan breaks off halfway through his recollection of Kira with an apology for tears:

“The person who knew me best felt sorry for me…
“After every – ah, fuck, sorry — ”

And while the illusion cast by Phillips in showing us those tears in the past is that it’s the past that we’re listening to, it isn’t.

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For a masterclass in getting readers to root for the least likely candidate, try CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT.

Thanks as ever to Sean Phillips for the advance pdf so I could screen-grab for the review and have the confidence to make this Page 45’s biggest comicbook order of August. Some layouts and text may have changed since then (so consider it a behind-the-scenes bonus!), but the first six pages come direct this week from Ed Brubaker’s newsletter which you should probably sign up to and are completely up to date.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Tales (£8-99, Phoenix / David Fickling) by Adam Murphy.

“Oh. My. God. Have you heard!? Palace. Ball. Tonight.”
“I know! It’s going to be epic.”
“OK, it is on,” thought Princess Dionysia. “Situation just got real.”

Ha ha! It certainly has, and you wait until you clap eyes on what she’ll be rocking to that ball!

“State-of-the-art, ultra high-tech embroidery science allowed the dressmakers to decorate it with whole galaxies… And within those galaxies, realistically detailed exo-planets, each one complete with its own alien geography, eco-systems and complex societies.”

That’s a tall order for any artist, but believe it or not Adam Murphy has fashioned a gown which looks as dazzling as that description. What a triumph in cosmically star-strewn blue, black and purple!

There’s a similarly spectacular shot of the heavens over America’s north-east coast in the very first fable as a young, picked-upon sister is the only member of her tribe to be able to see the otherwise invisible great warrior, Strong Wind. And he is celestial!

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From the creator of the two CORPSE TALK volumes which you’ll find in our all-ages PHOENIX COMIC section comes another graphic novel originally serialised in that hallmark of quality.

It contains eight exotic tales from across the globe and throughout the ages brought to wit-ridden life with an engagingly conversational, often conspiratorial twang sprinkled ever so merrily with current colloquialisms to wring maximum mischief from their ostensibly traditional form.

“The prince is here as well? You’re really in for it now…”
“Not helping…”

Stuffiness is an anathema to Adam Murphy, and he has so many storytelling tricks up his idiosyncratic sleeve to ensure that kids and adults alike are not just transfixed but grinning from ear to ear.

Overwhelmingly they’re tales of justice, injustice and almost invariably poetic justice during which Adam can break off at any moment to comment on what’s going down:

“Whoa! That escalated quickly….
“What is wrong with these two? I mean seriously, have they no moral compass of any sort?”


“Apparently not.”

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In these instances he leaves his visual storytelling skills to show you the specific misdemeanours that his miscreants are up to, and it gets funnier each time, because if you thought the Scottish landowners’ last crime was ghastly….

“Oh no. You absolutely vile idiots. Don’t do it!
“ – sigh – They did it.”

Murphy knows full well the mirth that lies in a refrain repeated with just the right timing, as when an African king tries to get to the bottom of a dispute between an honest merchant and his duplicitous fellow traveller who’s only gone and claimed the former’s property for his own, the wretch.

“You know, if there’s one thing I can’t stand…” says the King first time round. Then:
“Well, if there’s another thing I can’t stand….” after which
“One thing I really can’t stand….” and finally
“If there’s one thing I really just can’t stand…”

… before the truth is revealed by a lie. Clever!

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LOST TALES’ cover promises some exceptional beauty within and it delivers, every one of these fables finishing with a full-page, landscape flourish which is to die for. I wish I could show you them but since most constitute the punchline or at least resolution to the crafty endeavours or woeful miscalculations, I can’t. Typically the one that brought a tear to my eye was one of the happiest, but there is one so shockingly sad resolution – or, more accurately non-resolution – that I was totally taken aback and relieved it wasn’t the last.

The last, set in Scotland has to be my favourite simply on account of the sheer wealth of extras which Murphy brings to it as a storyteller. They all feature his trademark, seemingly off-the-cut commentary, but that one is particularly packed with little tricks of the trade to embrace the reader in such a way as to offer you the illusion that you’re watching the shameless shenanigans unfold alongside the narrator himself.

Oh, while I think of it, here’s that dress I mentioned:

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This book would be the most enormous joy to read out loud to your youngsters (I’ve practised in my head because it demands to be done), and it comes with the addictive trait of making you desperate to know what will happen next. In the spirit of which, I leave you with this pearl of wisdom:

“We are all just pages in the Great Book of Allah. Sometimes we just have to accept His will…”
“Not very helpful…”
“I said sometimes…. Other times, He’s waiting to see what you’re going to do about it…”


Buy Lost Tales and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Are we having an adventure now?
“I almost wet myself.”

Yep, they’re having another adventure!

For twelve years we’ve been wondering what happened to the three Bone cousins on their way home with sweet, shaggy Bartleby in tow and now, quite unexpectedly, we’re about to find out!

And if it won’t all prove Phoney Bone’s fault, then I’ll eat my map of the Valley.

If you’ve yet to encounter Jeff Smith’s BONE and so, understandably, can’t quite comprehend why we are all so ridiculously excited, it was our biggest-ever all-ages comic appreciated equally by youngsters and adults alike. It ran for 55 issues with attendant spin-offs and was published by Jeff Smith and his wife Vijaya from 1991 to 2004. It’s been translated into 26 languages and won 41 national and international awards.

Its closest, contemporary equivalents for age-wide adoration at Page 45 are Luke Pearson’s HILDA and Kazu Kibuishi’s equally epic AMULET whose sales here are stratospheric.

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Sparkling with comedy gold before shivering into darkness, BONE was an immaculately choreographed and deliciously drawn fantasy drama starring open-hearted Fone Bone, scheming, greedy and grumpy Phoney Bone, and care-free, goofy and always optimistic Smiley Bone who have been chased out of Boneville on account of Phoney Bone’s antics while running for Mayor. They arrive in a Valley of rich, deep forests and vast mountains, to be greeted by the beautiful young Thorn with her rough and tough Gran’ma Ben, tiny Ted the Bug and his leaf-like, waaaay bigger brother, plus an enigmatic, poker-faced big Red Dragon whom Gran’ma Ben steadfastly (and slightly suspiciously) refuses to admit existed. Almost immediately they become hunted as the contents for quiche by the Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures. I don’t know why, but they specifically like quiche. I do know why they’re called stupid, though.

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As the series unfolds an ancient battle is reignited between even stranger, darker forces, and a secret royal lineage is revealed.

It had a beginning, middle then emphatic end which we dared not dream might spawn a coda… until now! The surprise and the joy is the comicbook equivalent of J.K. Rowling returning to Harry Potter.

In comic terms it’s Neil Gaiman reprising his SANDMAN series (as he just has with SANDMAN: OVERTURE!), Dave Sim revisiting CEREBUS (as he is about to, with CEREBUS IN HELL!) or our beloved Terry Moore threatening to cleave hearts in two once again on STRANGERS IN PARADISE. On that last one, we do live in hope!

Here Jeff Smith reminds us a) just how effortless he made look the very best cartooning inspired by Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, Chuck Jones and Don Martin, and b) how few can actually accomplish that with such dexterity, vivacity and seemingly throwaway mischief.

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Oh Lord, the craft! I give you the eyebrows for a start which burrow when furrowed or bounce above each Bone’s bald white bonce. I give you glossy, luminous eyes in the Stupid, Stupid Rat Creature Bartleby, or the hollow, haunting, pitch-black shark eyes of the hideous Kingdok. Ummm, in the main series at least; here you’ll have to contend with a gigantic vulture’s patient and unknowable staring, blinking eyes.

Originally intended for black and white only (as this episode is), the clear lines and spot-blacks nonetheless made the later colour editions a natural.

Anyway, you’ll find far more about the craft within for it comes with an illustrated prose companion written by Stephen Weiner which is a little light in detail and rather obvious for those already familiar with the series but will make an excellent primer for teachers or librarians and will certainly make newcomers desperate to devour the main body of work. I did like what he wrote about the aspect of physical danger derived from the likes of Chuck Jones’ Wile E. Coyote which I hadn’t actually thought of before: for example, when the Red Dragon finally gives in and reluctantly lets rip with his flame-thrower breath. Fone Bone is shown to be thoroughly scorched but actually otherwise unharmed.

“That’s right, kid. Never play an ace when a two will do.”

In addition there’s an interview in the back during which Smith talks both about BONE and his subsequent science-fiction series RASL. But the very best bit of the back-matter is Jeff himself reminiscing (with personal photos of friends / colleagues) about the history of the series, as both a creator and a self-publisher, which nearly stalled in its first six issues because US and UK comicbook retailers were even more in thrall to the cape corporations than they remain today, so initial sales and exposure were lamentably low. He details the precise turning points and the invaluable resource for gaining new readers which was the then-novel idea of a collected edition and – even though we have the luxury of knowing in hindsight what a stellar success BONE became through Jeff and Vijaya’s hard graft, quick thinking, faith, commitment and determination – I found myself rooting for them both and almost air-punching at their success.

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This love letter to supportive readers and retailers and fellow creators is far from dashed off, but an in-depth appraisal and a catalogue of gratitude. It’s warm, intimate and exceptionally generous, paying tribute to the likes of Larry Marder, Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Scott McCloud, Heidi MacDonald, Marv Wolfman, and most especially Vijaya whose name I so spectacular failed to get to grips when pronouncing that she graciously allowed me to call her “Vee” instead of slapping me one as I quite richly deserved.

It’s particularly infectious for me because Jeff’s trajectory – like Terry Moore’s – mirrored our own at Page 45. We all kind of grew up together at the very same time, and the one thing that isn’t remarked on within is this: before the trade paperbacks Jeff Smith did something which no one has ever done before or since: he kept the first dozen or more individual issues available with numerous, colour-coded printings so that in the days when we had only 100 different graphic novels available to stock (as opposed to the 7,000 we choose to house now), Page 45 was able to devote an entire wall of shelving to BONE alone, every single issue displayed face-on, without overlaps!

Oh man, the luxury!

And it worked wonders both for BONE and for a nascent Page 45 which craved and so desperately needed this sort of accessible, mass-appeal, quality craft to make us so swiftly successful.


Buy Bone Coda 25th Anniversary s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Sorry about that. Punching your ex-husband.”
“You only jumped the queue.”

Welcome back to War Of The Wolds and the centre-piece of its trilogy. It’s perfectly structured.

In WILD’S END VOL 1: FIRST LIGHT the dozy inhabitants of the sleepy hamlet of Lower Crowchurch (not necessarily in the Cotswolds, but equally green and pleasant) find skittering, metallic, spider-like creatures infesting its woodlands and click-clicking their way through its cornfields. The one thing scarier than an enemy you can’t see coming is one which you can hear all around you. Lethal enough in their own right, they were as nothing to the far more formidable, lantern-topped alien which towered above them atop mechanical, octopoid tentacles. They barely survived its incinerating death-rays – some of them didn’t – and that was but a single specimen.

Now Abnett does what any self-respecting science fiction writer would do and ups the ante. Considerably.

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The survivors of the first encounter – ex-seadog Slipaway, local journalist Peter Minks,feline Susan Peardew and Alphie the piglet whose Auntie’s now so much crackling  – sought to raise the alarm, and the Ministry Of Defence is now both suitably alarmed and thoroughly paranoid. Lower Crowchurch has been quarantined by the British army, our valiant if fearful foursome have been arrested, and with no prior experience of aliens, the Ministry has lured in the only experts they can think of: science fiction writers.

The first is a self-satisfied, supercilious fat cat called Herbert Runciman who holds his more successful colleague Lewis Confelt in contempt for peddling “fanciful juvenilia” which “tarnishes the credibility of proper science fiction”.

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But that’s as nothing compared to the contempt Susan Peardew has for Lewis Confelt, for he’s the ex-husband in question who’s been hogging all the credit for the “scientific romance” novels which Susan effectively ghost-wrote herself.

In addition to the friction within the detainees – they’re all detainees now – cracks begin to appear between the military and the Ministry who’ve sent a squirrel of a man called Mr Laidlaw who believes the aliens may have been around much longer than anyone thinks, and suspects they may even walk amongst them, disguised. The problem is that this paranoia extends to the heroic survivors – the only real experts he has at this disposal – whose experience he obstinately refuses to utilise.

Nothing is being done and while the clock is ticking, the fields begin clicking once more.

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In some ways Culbard’s storytelling here is similar to Jeff Smith’s in BONE: uncomplicated character designs made centre-stage through uncluttered backgrounds and crystal-clear page compositions. Same goes for the colouring. But things really heat up which the flames start flying with all the searing intensity of a white-hot furnace.

In addition there are some spectacular full-page flourishes where you’re either crooking your neck almost painfully up at the relentless, implacable invaders or looming over the relatively tin-pot army, with its tin-can tanks, from the aliens’ P.O.V. which dwarfs them.

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Truly they don’t stand a chance, but if you imagine their situation is dire, then there’s a subtle piece of foreshadowing by both Abnett and Culbard which leads later on to a full-blown discovery on the final four pages so neatly reflected in the panel immediately preceding it.

Coming back both to the implacability, and the notion that an enemy you can hear on approach is even scarier than one that you don’t see coming, it’s noted by Herbert Runciman (who is as good as his word when it comes to extrapolation) that our invaders either don’t have, need or at least use a written language. Here they show no evidence of language as we know it at all. They don’t communicate. You can’t reason with someone or something you cannot communicate with. That’s even more frightening, and will prove Lewis Confelt’s most bitter and specific disappointment.

For much, much more including Culbard’s specific approach to anthropomorphism and body language, please see our review of WILD’S END VOL 1: FIRST LIGHT. Cheers!


Buy Wilds End vol 2: Enemy Within and read the Page 45 review here

DMZ Book 2 (£18-99, DC) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchiell with Danijel Zezelj, Nathan Fox, Kristian Donaldson, Viktor Kalzachev.

Some books are clever, some are entertaining and some have something to say. This combined all three.

Second substantial slab containing the previous volumes 3, 4 and 5 plus an extensive interview with Brian Wood and lots of preliminary sketches, there’s one chapter drawn by Zezelj whose art, it occurs to be now, looks just like his name sounds.

Previously in DMZ: America deployed waaaay too many troops abroad to be able to cope with a military insurrection at home. Manhattan is the demilitarised zone between the two sides, and what with all that construction and private security money, all the corruption and ineffectual military leadership of undertrained men, it looked a hell of a lot like Iraq when this was first published almost a decade ago.

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“Everyone knows Trustwell’s crooked. They’ve survived countless investigations, scandals, whistle-blowers, and left-wing documentaries. They’ve been making money from conflict since Kabul and Baghdad. They have all the right friends in all the right places.”

Sound familiar? *

Manhattan is caught in the middle of an American Civil War – and so is rookie journalist Matty. In a new period of relative peace, a private corporation called Trustwell has been given the lucrative contract to start rebuilding, whilst U.N. troops have been deployed there partly to protect the construction company from acts of sabotage, and partly to protect the citizens of the demilitarised zone from Trustwell’s own security teams. It’s doing a pretty shoddy job on both counts.

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As the “insurgent” terrorists infiltrate the workers hired by Trustwell for a pittance, Matty infiltrates the terrorist cell by turning a blind eye, but when the bombs start going off the U.N. retreats leaving Trustwell Inc’s security in charge, and it’s only a matter of time before Matty’s given a mission – and a bomb to detonate – himself.

Burchielli has a knack for refuse and ruins, and Matty’s torture is particularly nasty. His large cast of characters are all instantly recognisable, which is essential in such a complex tangle of deceit.

That’s Wood’s triumph. Not only are there obvious comparisons to what was happening south-east of us at the time (Lord, I hope that’s right – my geography’s worse than my geometry), but the plot is wrought round its own separate and specific dynamics involving both sides of the wider conflict and media at large, and indeed several factions inside the DMZ. He’s also created an engaging, fallible and increasingly battered protagonist, without whom the book would fall flat on its face. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to concentrate on this, but if I instantly understood who was playing whom and for what, there’d be little investigative journalism for Matty to do, and none of the enormous pay off when the deviousness is revealed in its full scale.

* In September 2007 I wrote: c.f. Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq. Blackwater’s the US security firm enjoying its immunity to prosection in Iraq, it seems, by killing its civilians. The incident in Nisour Square, Baghdad, in which up to 28 Iraqi civilians were killed is now under investigation by the FBI… who are using Blackwater to provide their security. Well, that’s going to be thorough.

I’ve not finished.

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This was followed by ‘Friendly Fire’.

Strictly speaking, however, this wasn’t about Friendly Fire, but about the US Army shooting innocent civilians, and the subsequent show trial conducted merely in order to draw a line under the incident. This is, in fact, about how the demilitarized zone in Manhattan between the government troops and the anti-establishment militia came to be:

“On Day 204 a hundred and ninety-eight civilians – peace protesters – were gunned down by twitchy United States soldiers. The U.S. government quit Manhattan and entered into cease-fire talks with the Free States… that’s how much moral high ground was lost that day. The military opened tribunals against the soldiers in question nearly three years after the fact. No one up the chain of command is being tried. Or was ever accused. Just the soldiers.”

With the trial imminent, journalist Matty Roth is given access both to Sgt. Nunez, the patrol’s commanding officer, and PFC Chris Stevens, the only one who didn’t open fire that day, but who’s going down anyway. What Stevens tells Matty establishes why those higher up the chain are culpable, for the war they were fighting up to that point was terrifying, chaotic and completely mismanaged:

“We had nowhere to hide. No idea who was firing, where they were, or what they looked like. Our maps were shit and every street looked the same. What the fuck kind of war is that?”

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Oh yes, and the grunts were deployed after a mere six weeks of boot camp training, many of them highly unsuitable to the task, and dragged from their lives as civilians through coercion. Once more this is all too familiar. Please see Kyle Baker’s SPECIAL FORCES.

Then there are the survivors of that march, and the victims’ friends and relatives, indeed the wider volatile community of the DMZ who demand blood for blood, and they certainly get it, but not through legal channels. As to the “Day 204 Massacre” itself, and the cowled peace protestors shambling past the soldiers in the blinding downpour, the art by Burchielli and Fox on the first, feverish account from PFC Stevens is haunting and hellish.

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In summary I leave you with the very real Sgt. John G. Ford, who’s served in Afghanistan, South America and Iraq, and his introduction reprinted here at the front of the back-matter, whilst apologising for transposing the last two paragraphs for impact:

“Here we have a PFC Nobody from the Midwest whose options are revolution or jail and not much else. But hey, if he joins up maybe he’ll get to make something of himself, maybe even learn a trade and if he’s really lucky – money for college.
“Now put him in a bad situation – scratch that, a nightmare situation, with minimum support, poor leadership, and the ever-present reality of punishment for any and every action. Shit goes down and he’s the one left holding the bag: game over, man. Set up for failure from Day One.
“Now comes damage control. Those in charge have “careers” to think about, promotions to deserve, asses to cover. Coming forward and admitting the system is broken or that the military is hurting is not an option. There’s too much at stake for those in charge.
“You don’t think this goes down? Go to war and then disagree with me.”


Buy DMZ Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It rains in Glasgow like nowhere else in the world. It’s hard and cold, and it hits you in the face like a thousand tiny knives made of bone.”

Rarely do I quote a writer’s opening gambit. She or he will have put days of thought into the first few sentences of a brand-new series, so to steal that hard work for your own initial impact seems to me a little lazy. On the other hand, what a golden gift horse!

We’re in a Glaswegian graveyard, by the way, with a magnificent mausoleum on its summit.

“The perfect place for a temper tantrum – or a valiant gesture. But whichever of those options this actually was, it was never going to stop the events already set in motion.”

The valiant but doomed gesture comes in the form of pages of a sketchbook being torn out by red-head Isla Mackintosh. They flap and flutter like autumnal leaves up into the stormy sky only to be battered by the positively Bratislavan downpour over the headstones towards us. The first and foremost depicts a wretched figure slumped forward, its wrists and ankles manacled in chains.

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The panel beneath that depicts someone or something in a similar predicament, with a long, flame-coloured mane, flopped over his face. It is, however, emphatically not a sketch.

There’ll be plenty more of Glasgow, you mark my words, for Isla Mackintosh’s older sister Lauren studied architecture there. Indeed Lauren was much enamoured with the city’s most famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of the recently burned-down art school. Then one weekend she took off inexplicably for the Borders and was never seen again. Isla was born twelve months later. “Classic replacement kid syndrome,” hence the 25-year gap between them. She’s American, by the way, though her grandparents were from Glasgow and, after trying to trace some fresh clues as to her sister’s disappearance and failing, that’s where Lauren’s landed up: at a gig played by Strathclyde’s premier Nirvana tribute act and talking to a young bloke with a beard sitting alone at the bar and reading Camus.

“I couldn’t have met a boy more perfect if I’d drawn him myself.”

I liked his t-shirt (he teases).

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So what’s the problem? I have no problem with the comic at all or else why spend this time reviewing it? I loved Hetrick’s spirit of place and her invitingly soft figures and forms. I enjoyed Baillie’s mini-tour of Glasgow and his lovely Scottish lilt which was neither overly broad nor unnatural. There’s a moment of superb foreshadowing involving bridges plus I found his voice-over refreshingly direct and almost hilariously matter-of-fact, especially when it came to the real problem here, for that’s Lauren’s:

“In High School I’d spend most of my time doodling the cool, fun friends I really wanted. Then one day one of my drawings came to life and attended my school for a whole semester.”

I do beg your pardon?

That didn’t end well, but it did end abruptly, since when she’s vowed off sketching people for ten whole years. You’ll know exactly why when you get there.

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Then she got drunk with that Camus kid and now something’s knocking on the door.

On the final page artist Meghan Hetrick reprises the first page’s promise but with a marked makeover, for she makes good – oh so very good – on the writer’s own promise when he was recently asked:

“What can we expect from RED THORN tonally?”
“Abs,” he replied. “Lots of abs.”

At which point David Baillie basically won interviews.

I have to confess that after three weeks flying solo on our reviews I’ve run out of time and been unable to read the rest of the book – that was my review of the first issue – but flicking ahead I don’t think we’re in Glasgow any longer. Not unless it’s recently had a substantial Skyrim make-over.

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Buy Red Thorn vol 1: Glasgow Kiss s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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.

I am told byAvengers Korvac cover those that know that this is important to you now.

He appears in your video games, and I understand why given their often acquisitive nature. Precisely whom we speak of I will not say, but this was where he was best utilised and it came as a surprise both to us as readers back then and to our off-guard Avengers…

Ah, Marvel in the mid 1970s! What a thing to behold: billowing capes, ballooning boots, improbable team-ups and epic plots cascading over a dozen issues. Melodrama on a scale rarely experienced since the days of Caligula, all epitomised by this very book, distilled into a concentrate so strong that it’s virtually toxic.

This is the Dynasty of the superhero genre, where even the over-dubs wear shoulder pads:

“The Enemy tumbles backwards, the stunning impact of the blow ripping through the sum of his being. Somewhere in the depths of the cosmos within his mind, a planet shatters — and in unison, the billion billion souls who inhabit the sub-reality of The Enemy’s id scream in utter horror as their entire dimension trembles!”

Not just horror, but utter horror! Whoa!

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Naturally I wasn’t around back then, having barely hit my teens last week [errrr… – ed.], but if I had been around to buy the originals I’d be able to tell you that I lapped it all up and then some. Almost every Avenger at that point bar the Hulk appeared, each blinking out of existence, one by one, through successive chapters in front of the others as they tried to deal with the immediate emergencies on hand. You know, like Ultron. Gradually the abductions accelerate leaving those remaining both helpless and petrified for their own safety.

What a terrific sub-plot: any one of them could fall prey at any moment!

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The original Guardians Of The Galaxy from the future guest starred, everyone bickered, and X-Men nemesis Henry Peter Gyrich made his first appearance, promptly rescinding the Avengers’ National Priority Status so that several dozen high-ranking superheroes had to take the number 11 bus into action. Hawkeye cracked some gags which I swore blind were the funniest things I had ever heard back then, as Earth’s Mightiest attempted to locate their nigh-omnipotent Enemy in leafy suburbia and failed to find more than some antique fittings.

“Terrific. ‘Avengers Attack Suburban Home! Defeated By Stylish Decor!’ The tabloids are going to love this!”

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And then – then – the really big fight happens with all 6,289 Avengers versus a single self-possessed dude in a pair shorts. Had I been old enough, I would have spontaneously ejaculated.

Now, of course – now that I’ve reached double figures – the whole thing sounds ludicrous. No, make that utterly ludicrous.

The plots have holes in them so big that even I could whack a golf ball through them, the exchanges are hokey, and the fact that you can just stroll into the Avengers’ Mansion off a little side-street beggars belief.

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But this was written way before the summer blockbusters which we now take for granted like the original SECRET WARS, the subsequent SECRET WAR, the modern SECRET WARS or the socio-politically searching CIVIL WAR, so we’d never seen so many heroes sharing a sofa before. The only thing that could have topped it was if renowned crowd-scene maestro George Perez had drawn the whole thing rather than just the first few issues and some spectacular covers.

Pause for doom-laden prediction.

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She’s not wrong.


Buy Avengers: The Korvac Saga 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.

Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c (£67-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

March book 3 s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! (£8-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia

Interval Wilderness (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Claire Scully

Harold (£5-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Antoine Cosse

Butter And Blood (£9-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Steven Weissman

Nothing Whatsoever All Out On The Open (£5-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Akino Kondoh

Experts (£4-50, Retrofit) by Sophie Franz

Solomon Royal Ed h/c (£10-50, Kingpin Books) by Carlos Pedro

Fresh Romance (£22-99, Oni Press) by Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Sally Ann Thompson, Various

The Uncanny Inhumans vol 2: The Quiet Room s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Brandon Peterson, Kev Walker, Various

Flash vol 7 Savage World s/c (£14-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth, Andre Coelho, Miguel Seplveda

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend

Jim Hensons The Storyteller: Dragons h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Daniel Bayliss, Fabian Rangel Jr, Hannah Christenson & Various

Deadly Class vol 4: Die For Me s/c (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig, Jordan Boyd

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P4 Volume 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Mizunomoto

Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 (UK Edition) h/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham


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ITEM! Antony Johnston announces THE COLDEST WINTER drawn by Steven Perkins!

And it looks stunning!

We heaped praise on Antony Johnston & Sam Hart’s THE COLDEST CITY and if that extensive preview is anything to go by – with tonnes of interior Steven Perkins art – THE COLDEST WINTER is going to be a belter.

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ITEM! The Guardian writes a big piece on Nottingham culture and includes not just a mention, but a link to, Page 45!

Please tell me who I should be grateful to for that and I will lavish them with thanks!

For The Love Of God Marie cover

ITEM! Jade Sarson is interviewed about FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE! by The Herald in Scotland.

As you might have gathered from last week’s reviews, Page 45 utterly adores FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE!

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Right, Jonathan will be back from his hols next week so I’ll have a lot more time for news.

– Stephen

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