Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week two

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?”

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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


Highwayman 1

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.

Highwayman 2

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.

Road sign

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.

Road sign 2

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

– Stephen

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