Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week one

Featuring Eric Orchard and Isabel Greenberg – then Luke Pearson, Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre and Simon Gane in the News!

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

“He gave her new tokens, and this time promises came with them.
“But his eyes still slid hither and thither.”

What rich language! You can picture it, can’t you? He’s embracing his “true love” close to his chest, so his eyes can roam far and wide. Perhaps the couple are bathed in a romantic sunset glow. Or maybe the red there spells danger.

Whatever you think of Eve’s curiosity, the serpent was certainly male.

“I don’t know how we’re getting away with this, but we surely are!”
“I don’t know how they’re getting away with it, either. But I for one want to know what happens next.”

Such was the triumph of Scheherazade in ‘One Thousand And One Nights’, successfully staving off execution at the hands of her husband through storytelling.

It is also the triumph of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH’s Isabel Greenberg yet again in such an addictively compelling set-up and seamlessly stitched-together sequence of tales that I swept through this in one afternoon, pausing only to refill and reflect.

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 0

Will handmaiden Hero similarly succeed in saving the virtue of her beloved mistress Cherry from the predatory advances of her husband’s lascivious and quite ridiculous best mate? Whom her husband’s encouraged for the sake of a bet and proving a point! Hero’s certainly won over the guards with her carefully chosen and craftily spun yarns, but where has the one hundred and first night gone?

The answers will prove elevating. I even anticipate an air punch or two.

This is a book about stories and storytelling; of sisterhood and story spreading; of love, loyalty, disloyalty and loss; and – though laced with playful, bubble-bursting, laugh-out-loud comedy – it is also a blisteringly effective, pin-point accurate and damning indictment of women’s treatment throughout the ages at the hands of men under a possession-based patriarchy which organised religion has played no small part in underpinning and enforcing.

Although I should emphasise that there isn’t a single sentence within it as miserably po-faced as that one. Greenberg’s much more mischievous.

“Lesson: men are false. And they can get away with it.
“Also, don’t murder your sister, even by accident. Sisters are important.”

What Greenberg has done here with the Scheherazade scenario – which elements she has incorporated and how she’s repositioned them – is ever so clever and makes for much mockery of man-pride.

“Once there were two men. (They were called Manfred and Jerome, if you want to know.) Anyway, they sat together and they talked, as men are wont to do, of Women.”

I really can’t wait. Manfred makes the first move.

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 1

 

“Fact: there are no good women.”

Pawn to king’s bishop two.

“They are all scheming bitches, whores and also fiendishly boring.”

I could be wrong, but I’d wager there’s a fiendish scheme ahead for this crashing bore which might involve soliciting a woman for monetary gain. Also, I think you just moved your knight out of turn.

“They’re only good for one thing, Jerome. And I think we both know what that is.”

He leers, of course. Within the first two panels Manfred has condemned himself with his own double standards but it gets better. Or worse. For Manfred once had a wife whose fidelity he tested by sending a servant to seduce her. This is important.

“He came out with her knickers. And a precise description of a scar she had on her inside leg.”
“What did your wife say?”
“She denied it. Said he had forcibly removed her knickers.”
“And you didn’t believe her?”
“Certainly not.”
“So what happened?”
“I killed her, of course. Anyway. Back to my criteria.”

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 2

 

We’ll get to why that’s important in a second, I swear. So what are Manfred’s criteria for the perfect woman? This’ll be rich, I reckon.

“Beautiful. Clever enough to have a conversation, not clever enough to disagree with me.
“Obedient. Chaste. Good at mending socks. Not ambitious.
“Marriage to me must be the height of her ambition.
“Interested in my passions. Falconry, battlements, maps, etcetera.
“But not as good as me at these things.”

At which point Jerome declares his own wife, Cherry, to fit that description precisely including the chastity, for he has yet to take her virtue himself. Goaded by Manfred’s disbelief, Jerome challenges Manfred to take his Cherry – and her’s – within 100 nights while he is away.

“But I guarantee she will be faithful.
“And then you must admit that I’m right.
“And give me your castle.”

All kinds of crazy, then.

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 3

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 4

 

 

In ‘One Thousand And One Nights’ the king takes a new wife for one night only and then beheads the poor love to prevent infidelity because he’d got stiffed the first time round. But here it’s Manfred’s already ingrained misogyny which prejudiced him against his wife’s word, and that didn’t end well so every card imaginable is already stacked against poor Cherry. Plus it’s all for the sake of a bet – a bet based on man-pride!

“Let us pause in the story and meet his wife. Now, everything Jerome had said was true. She was beautiful, obedient, good at battleworks and falconry. However, he had got one thing very wrong. She was far brainer than him.
“So how is that this smashing babe got landed with such a grade A pillock?”

She got married off by her Dad, of course. But here’s the final twist which raises the stakes even further: she was already in love. With her handmaid called Hero. And it is a True Love.

Now that Cherry’s husband’s away Manfred visits every night to take her virtue – by force if necessary – and it’s up to her Hero to distract and enthral him with her mad story skills. After Cherry successfully plays the piety card on night one.

“Woman. Had I not vowed to take you, and were my Manly Honour not at stake, I might feel a little ashamed…
“I don’t, however, because there is not only my Manly Honour, but also a castle at stake here.
“I shall return! Until tomorrow! My love.”

My love!

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 5

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 6

 

The tales Hero tells are full of love. Some feature true love, some feature false love and treachery, but each one is as poignant as you can imagine. In one the very words “I Love You” – written by hand on a misty window – are the cause of heart-breaking catastrophe.

In another a noble soul falls in love with one of Early Earth’s three Moons. She visits him whenever her lunar cycle allows, on her nights off from shining in the sky. That too is a True Love, and Greenberg has all the right words to describe it:

“It began to seem to the man that everything that happened in between those nights was a dream; that he was sleepwalking his way through the days until she would come to him again.
“And when she was with him it was as if that twilight, muffled, underwater place he had been inhabiting was suddenly gone, and all the sights and sounds and smells of the world came back to him, in glorious technicolour.”

There is a truly beautiful page with the words “I love you” whispered in the sleeping woman’s ear. It concludes with a midnight panel in centre of which the two lie in bed in a moon-shaped glow which itself is lit up to one side by a warm lantern light.

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 7

 

As with THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH the colours the book’s bathed in, deployed with restraint, add so much to the ambience and I’d watch out whenever you see red. Often they’re used to connect characters emotionally.

What’s striking is the new use of dry-brush textures adding surface to space and filling out figures – which strangely makes them more fragile. Teeth tend to be tiny and spiked, but the eyes are ever so important, especially when they slither hither and thither. When enraged they are positively demonic.

Early Earth is essentially a medieval world, most of which is remote and rural. There are lots and lots of trees. Its few fortified cities are depicted as they were then, as an exotic jumble of towers and tall houses, but the closer one comes to so-called civilisation here, the less likely your chances of happiness.

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 8

 

That’s where the bald Beaked Brothers reside and preside over all in their Great Aviary erected in worship of their god Birdman. They wear their false beaks in tribute, coming across like ferocious vultures preying upon the population, especially women. Women are forbidden to read or to write, for both are seen – in women only – as a sluttish sort of sorcery punishable by defenestration from the top of tallest tower.

And reading and writing are magic, it’s true, with the ability to change hearts and minds.

Unfortunately not everyone’s.

 

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 9

 

On publication we made THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. It went on to win the British Comic Awards for best book of the year, and it was.

There’s no doubt in my mind that THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO will also win multiple awards. Its storytelling is rich and riddled with iconoclastic wit – parenthetical asides and slapped-wrist remonstrations – addressing the reader directly. Refrains pop up when you least expect them, some when you need them the most. Key elements of some stories foreshadow future developments and rarely have I read a climax and conclusion so satisfying on every level.

SLH

Buy The One Hundred Nights Of Hero and read the Page 45 review here

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

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…”
“What is that? It’s coming from the other side of the island.”
“It’s horrible! It sounds like a monster! Let’s go inside until it stops.”
“No.”
“HAW!”
“HA!”
“HA HA!”
“Ugh! It’s those nasty mermaids!
“Give it to me!”
“I saw it first!”
“Give it!”
“It’s mine!”
“They’ve got something.”

Indeed they do, but not for long as Bera, official pumpkin gardener to the Troll King, bops one of the mermaids – and they are quite the most gruesome mermaids you will ever see – on the head with a well placed gourd and retrieves the noisy creature which the loathsome sea beasts were tormenting. She’s somewhat astonished to discover it’s a human baby! Not surprisingly, she’s equally perplexed about how it got there, bobbing away in the sea out in the middle of nowhere near her little carefully tended pumpkin patch of an island.

Bera-1

The fact that the wailing urchin is in a tiny cauldron should have been a clue, but when Cloote – former head witch of the Troll King – comes knocking at her door, looking for the misplaced vital ingredient for her mindless monster magic spell which she’s planning on cooking up to worm her way back into the royal court, well, Bera knows she has to keep the baby out of Cloote’s clutches and get it back to the safety of the human village on the mainland. Just one huge problem in her eyes: that’s clearly an epic quest for a hero of legendary proportions, so Bera sets off to find one. Well, three actually by the time she’s finished, none of whom prove remotely up to the job for various rather unheroic reasons.

Bera-2

Yes, little does Bera suspect she’ll turn out to be the champion the baby needed all along! Assisted by her redoubtable owl Winslowe, she’ll find herself battling the odious mermaids, plus gibbering goblins, tree-gnawing shadow wolves and various other spooky beasties at every turn, (not forgetting the villainous Cloote!) though she’ll find some courageous creatures willing to help her too, particularly the hedgehogs, bless ‘em. (I can’t ever see a hedgehog in a comic without thinking of the rather amusing sequence with Timothy Hunter in the Baba Yaga’s Hut in THE BOOKS OF MAGIC!)

As all-age yarns go, this hits the mark perfectly in terms of story-telling with just the right amount of scariness for little ones (just as Eric’s previous work MADDY KETTLE: THE ADVENTURES OF THE THIMBLEWITCH did) balanced with the caring, courageous actions of the compassionate Bera, who’s certainly a role model for all trolls and mini-humans out there.

Bera-3

What makes this really stand out in the rapidly burgeoning all-ages arena, though, is Eric’s art. I see on the dust jacket he cites Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak as inspirations. With all the pointy teeth lining the mouths of goodies and baddies alike, the linework shading, and the ochre and umber palette, I can really see the Sendak influence, fantastic stuff. I think fans of HILDA would very much enjoy this big-hearted adventure and hopefully Bera will get a few more outings in the future as well!

JR

Buy Bera The One-Headed Troll 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.

Angel Catbird vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Criminal vol 7: Wrong Place, Wrong Time s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Hilda And The Stone Forest h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Kill 6 Billion Demons vol 1 (£13-99, Image) by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Mezolith vol 2: Stone Age Dreams And Nightmares h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank

Mighty Jack (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke

Insexts vol 1: Chrysalis s/c (£17-99, Aftershock Comics) by Marguerite Bennett & Ariela Kristantina

Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 2 (£12-99, Doubleday) by Philip Pullman

Princess Princess Ever After h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill

Revival vol 7: Forward (£13-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Batman vol 8: Superheavy s/c (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman vol 9: Bloom h/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman: Arkham – Poison Ivy s/c (£17-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Gerry Conway, Alan Grant, various & various

Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis s/c (£13-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Alisson Borges, Dexter Soy

Doctor Strange: Strange Origin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Emma Rios

Secret Wars s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Assassination Classroom vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral vol 3 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima & Rui Watanabe

Log Horizon vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kazuhiro Hara

My Hero Academia vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Kouhei Horikoshi

News!

Hilda And The Stone Forest actual cover

 

ITEM! It has arrived! Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST, the fifth graphic novel in the award-winning Netflix-bound HILDA series!

Interview: HILDA’s Luke Pearson talks about the books that he adored, absorbed and obsessed over as a child and most inspired him in later life too.

Hilda And The Stone Forest cover

This is NOT the actual cover, but it might have been. What’s different, do you think? It’s ever so telling! 😉

 

ITEM! Also arrived: Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre’s new all-ages illustrated novel, JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR!

You’ll remember them from PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, CAKES IN SPACE and OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, each in stock and reviewed! Why is a comic shop stocking illustrated prose? Well, like Gary Northfield’s snort-a-thons JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and JULIUS ZEBRA – BUNDLE WITH THE BRITTONS (pop him in our search engine for graphic novels too) and Simone Lia’s  THEY DIDN’T TEACH THIS AT WORM SCHOOL (ditto), the fabulous images are so integral to the proceedings – and the proceedings so ingenious – that we simply cannot resist.

In her new illustrated blog (Sarah’s blogs are the best!), Madame McIntyre delves into the origins of JINKS & O’HARE and its history as a comic illustrated by Philip Reeve!

 

Jinks & OHare for blog

 

ITEM! Simon Gane’s landscapes and architecture are simply stunning – and he has a whole blogspot full of them.

 

Simon Gane Architecture 2

 

ITEM! Two whole reviews this week. We spoil you!

Never mind, for far more extensive weeks, you can scroll back to your heart’s content here:

http://www.page45.com/world/

– Stephen

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

spacer
spacer
spacer