Archive for October, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week four

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Yes, that is new Craig Thompson, directly below! News under reviews.

Coelifer Atlas (£5-00) by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters & Charlie Adlard, Dan Berry, Nick Brokenshire, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia, Bruce Mutard, Ken Niimura, Jake Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Craig Thompson, Petteri Tikkanen, Emma Vieceli.

“You sure these seats are ours? Check the tickets.”
“Jess…it’s me.”
“Point.”

Rarely have I experienced a comic whose final two pages changed everything I’d thought I’d read: everything.

Suddenly each element of the story – what I had seen, what had been said, and the sheer enormity of it all – reconfigured in my head from chaotic, spinning molecules to form the stillest and clearest of crystals.

And it really was an “experience” – a transformative one – which impressed upon me the agonising reality of living with OCD in a most surreal way. It’s very clever stuff, and not without comedy value, either. My educated guess is that your own second read-through will prove as much of a revelation as my own.

“Look, we gave ourselves some wiggle room so you could do your… so you could do you. But time’s up. Train’s due in five minutes, mate.”

Neil doing Neil can be painful to watch. Steps must be taken; steps must be counted, and if things don’t add up, they must be taken and counted again. He’s certainly not going to take the wrong seat on a train. But his sister has known him all his life, and knows that listening to Neil talk himself through it works wonders.

It’s just that today of all days it is vital that Neil and Jess get where they’re going, and that’s only going to heap on added pressure.

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“Atlas never carried the world on his shoulders.”
“No?”
“Popular misconception. He holds the Celestial Sphere – the heavens.”

Regardless, it was still very heavy.

Neil knows stuff, especially about order and especially about time. You’ll learn why it was that railways exposed the disorder in sundials. Well, think about it: “The sun sets eleven minutes after London in Carnforth”.

There’s a lot of disorder today.

I’ve carefully chosen two pages of interior art – by Bryan Talbot then Emma Vieceli – which don’t give too much away. But you’ll notice the serpentine coils in place of passengers and seats filling the carriage as Neil desperately dives for the washroom, implying danger, disorientation and even perhaps the avoidance of those standing, while the clear path between indicates an emergency exit and only one goal. The serpent will be reprised by Medaglia.

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Also on Vieceli’s pages, rarely have I seen blood diluted by water so well coloured, and the loving concern on Jess’ furrowed face in the third panel is pitch-perfect.

As for Talbot’s final, slightly startling panel on comic’s first two pages, you will understand later how exceptionally well judged that is too. I can assure you that is but a hint of the chaos to come, Nick Brokenshire upping the ante – deadpan and in exquisite detail – to great comedic effect.

On your first time round, I suspect that the abrupt and extreme switch in styles between the likes of Jake Phillips’ fine lines, deep shadows, sand-paper-brown, grained photo-collage and Dan Berry’s cartoon fluidity and flood will make you wonder, but this choice and turbulence is far from uncalculated. The contrast if not conflict in the baton-changes between artists (who drew two pages each in under two hours) is deliberately dramatic and disorientating because those shoes, they do need to be walked in. The handover between Berry and Adlard, on the other hand, could not be better timed in its wake-up call.

I cannot say much more for fear of spoiling your own surprises, except that Craig Thompson’s final two pages are arresting and worthy of Will Eisner, the last one carrying such enormous emotional weight on its shoulders.

“We award points for effort under THIS roof, my ducks.”

What an incredible effort.

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All five pounds of every single sale goes to OCD Action via LICAF.

For another exceptional work involving OCD, please see my favourite piece of comicbook fiction, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN. For another exceptional comicbook relay race between artists, I recommend the brilliant piece of British social history which is the fictional NELSON.

SLH

Buy Coelifer Atlas and read the Page 45 review here

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman.

“The childrenlottery-cover assembled first, of course.”

A virtually silent adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s prose short story, its few words are chosen carefully for maximum, ominous impact.

It was a very short story if its only words are reproduced here.

From the very first page I was unsettled, but then came the faces as furrowed as the fields in this small and remote country hamlet, the knowing looks, the date so evidently important, and the portrait of the woman in its austere cameo frame which looks stern, strict and perhaps disapproving of anything so fancy as a newfangled camera.

It’s as if the locals are isolated in time as well as geographically. Every one of them frowns. They seem to share a knowledge you are not privy to.

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Lottery GN - final.pdf

Lottery GN - final.pdf

On the night of June 26, the evening before the annual lottery, Mr Joe Summers lets Mr. Harry Graves into the Summers Coal store front. They greet each other solemnly, then retire to a backroom, lit by a single overhead bulb, wherein waits an old wooden box high on top of the shelves. They lift it down together, as if observing some sacred ritual, and proceed to check the empty rectangles of white paper, folded in two to form simple squares, to ensure that they are all blank.

One by one these folded slips are posted through the dark hole waiting in the top of the box.

Without a word, Mr Harry Graves takes a pencil and on the inside of a single one of those slips of paper he proceeds to draw a circle, then fills it with graphite from the outside in until it is indelibly black. He hands it Mr Joe Summers who drops it through the hole in the lottery box where it waits with the others until tomorrow morning.

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“The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth a full-summer day.
“The flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.”

Yes, it is a bright day indeed, and the village is verdant. The soil is quite evidently fertile, for the fields are rich in ripening corn.

The white chapel shines in the sun, as does the crisp, fresh laundry flapping on lines in a welcome breeze. Everything seems right, everything seems ordinary. But today is June 27, the day of The Lottery.

“In some towns there were so many people that The Lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26.
“But in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours.
“It could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.”

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The art is neat. It is neat and tidy like the village folk themselves. It is also laden. Otherwise ordinary images – I’ll say it again – unsettle you. Heavy, agricultural machines and implements loom large and take on a threatening nature.

Ancestors are invoked. Tradition is respected around these parts. And The Lottery is part of that tradition.

On time, the villagers dutifully drop what they are doing and gather round. They congregate.

But by noon – after all is said and all is done – they will be back in their family houses, in time for luncheon.

I should emphasise that this is not a supernatural story. It would be far more reassuring if it were.

SLH

Buy The Lottery and read the Page 45 review here

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem, James Boyle & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell…

“Have you got any steampunk?”

… Is a fairly oft-heard refrain within the four mind-bending and wallet-emptying walls of Page 45, but frankly, there is somewhat of a dearth of material on said topic which we can heartily recommend. Bryan Talbot’s LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and Matt Fraction’s FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE are usually mentioned, along with Warren Ellis’ AETHERIC MECHANICS and CAPTAIN SWING AND THE ELECTRIC PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND. Also Bryan Talbot’s GRANDVILLE, plus Alan Moore’s early LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN if you’re pushing the definition (trust me: true steampunk pedants, sorry, aficionados, will disagree). Oh, and most definitely DOCTOR GRORDBORT PRESENTS ONSLAUGHT for comedy value, but there’s not a great deal else, surprisingly.

This, happily, will now become my de facto recommendation for it is premier amongst hoodlums of the condensation-producing variety! With its plethora of pipework and variety of valves on the cover background, as quilled by Warwick DANGERITIS / 21st CENTURY TANK GIRL / NELSON Johnson-Cadwell, no one could be in any doubt as to its temperature-titillating temptations.

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Actually, it’s an extremely clever cover beyond that because the sinister foreground profile of the top-hatted toff, with his tailcoat of twisted tentacles reaching down to plug into our heroine’s back, perfectly encapsulates what disturbing dystopian ductwork, of both the figurative and literal type, you will find within. For Beatrice, searching for her lost sister, is forced to enter the disturbing Saint Mary Abbot’s workhouse, owned by the evil Dubré, whose peculiar idea of social mobility is, shall we say, rather different to the accepted definition… I think I shall allow him to explain his dastardly scheme to exploit the hoi polloi of the social strata.

“My name is Dubré and I am the foreman and engineer of all that you will see here.
“Years I have been perfecting the tools that you will use… and that will be plugged into you.
“You are in safe hands… hands that will serve a working class of and for the future.
“I expect total cooperation. You will see that none complain here, and for good reason.”

Yes… because if they do, they get clubbed and thrown in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, never to be seen again. Sorry, couldn’t help interrupting his maniacal monologuing there…

“There are two things I believe in here… a strong work ethic… and a resilient nature.
“You will work many hours, but you will not tire. I assure you, this is like no other workhouse.
“I bid you a warm welcome, dear workers of the future!”

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Which all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Except of course, the workers are no more than another, ultimately disposable, cog in Dubré’s empire of capitalist output. Indeed, very precisely so, as the plugged-in workers suddenly find their bodies are no longer their own to control, merely obeying Dubré’s industrial instruction…

Work them ‘til they drop, then, and when they are of no more use, get rid of them… In this era of zero-hours contracts, it’s a cutting reminder that whilst we might like to believe that workers’ rights and protections have evolved beyond Victorian values, for many, they simply haven’t, as Mike Ashley is only too happy to attest. Well, once he was finally forced in front of the MPs Select Committee, that is…

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So it’s a scything piece of social satire from writer Azhur Saleem, then, as well as a steampunk-powered adventure romp, conceived with co-creator James Boyle. Excellent! Whilst this is their first foray into the world of comics they’ve a long background in film-making and the media and design industries and clearly understand how to craft an engaging story. I think fans of PORCELAIN would very much enjoy this, actually. An impressive debut! I look forward to the next instalment. Yes, for this work is merely the opening chapter in Beatrice’s quest to track down her sister.

JR

Buy The Marionette Unit and read the Page 45 review here

Demon Vol 1 (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga.

Wickedly crafty, demon-coverthe extent of Shiga’s ingenuity will only begin to become clear during chapter four, and then it will blow your brains out. Which is apposite enough.

Up until then, you’re going to have trust him.

Fortunately I do, for the inventive mathematician of comicbook creators responsible for EMPIRE STATE and MEANWHILE is meticulous with detail, known neither for imprecision nor for being random. He is a logic-driven puzzle-maker and a puzzle-solver, and here he invites you to solve the following puzzle before his protagonist does.

I too will be methodical in removing one word and adding another from the situation so as to retain the sequence of events as I originally perceived it.

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Jimmy Yee is in a modest motel room. With much consideration, he writes a suicide note and hangs himself.

He wakes up in bed, perplexed. Some time has passed but not much. The suicide note on the motel stationery is gone, as is the rope he hung himself from. He’s been given a second chance, but is determined to kill himself. So he writes another suicide note, draws a bath and slits his wrists with a razor blade.

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Jimmy Yee wakes up in bed. Yup, that painting above it is still there but the room’s a little messier. Some time has passed but not much. He’s been given a third chance, but he is still determined to kill himself. Fortunately a gun has now materialised beside the obligatory Bible in his bedside drawer. He writes another note, repairs to the bathroom, wraps the gun in a towel, sits on the bath which is free from blood and water, and shoots himself in the mouth. His skull explodes.

This time Jimmy Yee wakes up in the bath and there have been repercussions. The tiles have been shattered by the gunshot and the bullet is lodged there at the fracture’s epicentre. He necks a bottle of pills and passes out on the bathroom floor.

“Enough already!” he screams when he wakes up in bed. He hastily scribbles another note and goes to the bathroom whose tiles remain fractured but this time there’s his corpse in the middle of the floor. There’s only one thing for it: he throws himself directly into the path of an oncoming juggernaut.

Lucky to wake up at all, he does so next – understandably – in hospital. He has a concussion but little else. He receives a visit from his daughter, but it totally confounds for him three precise reasons I will not explain. He acts with a degree of suspicious hostility which we, the reader, do not comprehend.

We have only just begun.

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Once Jimmy Yee finally works out what’s been happening to him, he begins to calculate the potential his predicament provides, how to make the most use of it and how to successfully access its means of execution.

Unfortunately he’s not the only one who knows what he’s doing. The Office of Strategic Services is on his case.

The subtle body language best exemplified in EMPIRE STATE is back in full evidence. Love the defensive hunched shoulders. But what Shiga has done with the visuals here – once the proverbial penny has dropped – will have you in even more awe.

This is my best poker face, yes.

Please note: although the majority of FirstSecond books these days seems aimed squarely at the Young Reader or Young Adult market, this, emphatically, is not, and there will be some very awkward conversations around the kitchen table should you mistakenly buy DEMON for young ones you dote on.

SLH

Buy Demon Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown…

“Haha! Why?! What’s with these puzzles and games, Alexey? Aren’t we here to study psychology, behaviour, that stuff?”
“Hear me out here: games aren’t just an escape, not there just to keep us busy during idle hours.
“Puzzles and games reveal a lot about psychological behaviour! They imitate the mind! They inform life!!”

Indeed they do. And Alexey Pajitnov, computer scientist at Moscow Academy of Science in 1984, was just about to have to his own mind blown as to how much impact his musings about the development of human consciousness and subsequent meddling with computer coding were going to have.

Tetris, it’s a funny old game, as renowned addict Jimmy Greaves might have been heard to articulate… I actually didn’t pay it a great deal of attention as a callow teenager, fixated as I was on what I perceived to be far more sophisticated games: the likes of Elite, Jet Set Willy and err… Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

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As a more mature gamer, with infinitely less time these days, and probably somewhat more sluggish reflexes (I doubt I would get anywhere near my personal best of 41.12 seconds for the 400metres on Daley’s, a feat that required two of my friends to physically hold my computer desk down with their full weights to prevent it tipping over whilst my digits dashed across the sexy rubber keys of my ZX Spectrum 48K…) I have recently come to appreciate the merits of puzzle games, in my all-too-brief twenty-minute tram commute gaming slots. And their addictiveness…

I think, actually, that will be one of the true lasting legacies of Tetris, that it was a game which transcended the then traditionally rather narrow demographic of computer gamers, almost entirely young male teenagers at that time, appealing to absolutely everyone, right up to pensioners, on a level that ignited the avarice of games manufacturers on a hitherto unimaginable degree. In that sense, looking at the demographics of gamers today, Tetris truly was years ahead of its time.

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Box Brown provides us with a fascinating insight into both the genial genius of Alexey Pajitnov, who truly could have had no way of knowing what RSI-inducing monster of a time-thief he was about to unleash on an unsuspecting world, and the greedy, grubby shenanigans of big business, including one Robert Maxwell, who engaged in a frantic scramble for the various rights for different territories and platforms, with varying degrees of success.

The fact that they were all dealing with the inscrutable, hard-nosed Soviet party apparatchiks rather than a naïve game designer, thus being played off against each other beautifully, makes it all the more chaotically delicious a read. It would be fair to say there were more than a few shady stunts pulled and noses put out of joint on the capitalist side of the equation. Box details them all for our delectation.

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Plus we get to see Robert Maxwell sink into the drink, quite literally, one more time, as his vast empire began to unravel and crumble around his ears. I remember very well all the kerfuffle at the time, the suspicions that he’d faked his own death (still wouldn’t surprise me to find he was living in the lap of luxury somewhere), the rumours of suicide which would have invalidated his vast life policy, quite delighting his insurance company I’m sure. Anyway, that alone brought a fair few memories back, I must say.

We also get a brief history of the rise and rise of the likes of Nintendo, then just a card trading company, as they made the bold decision to diversify their gaming offering. I think we can say it was a wise decision! Even Alexey eventually gets paid, even if he only manages to get a mere slice of the vast pie of riches his creation plundered from the pockets of gamers, old and young alike. But money was never the point for Alexey. He just wanted to see if he could make a game that people – everyone – wanted to play. I think it’s safe to say he succeeded in his aim. Another brilliantly constructed chunk of late twentieth-century cultural history from the man who also brought us ANDRE THE GIANT.

For a comic which uses Tetris as a metaphor for coping with life, please see John Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and #2!

JR

Buy Tetris – The Games People Play and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin.

“’Dangles and makes noise’ or just ‘dangles’? I can’t choose.”

Does that chime with you? Trying to find the perfect present for friends? Daisy’s trying to find one for Susan’ birthday.

“A delicately embroidered pashmina?”
“She’d just wipe up a spill with it.”

I love John Allison’s vocabulary. It’s full of pinafores and broaches and Singer Sewing Machines: feminine things of the past which he picked up from his Mum. Being in John’s company is like being sprinkled by pixie dust. He’s not quite of this world, and I love it.

But whereas BAD MACHINERY is magic realism, GIANT DAYS is essentially grounded in astonishingly well remembered real life at university. Clearly he drank a lot less than I did. It stars Susan, Esther, Daisy, young Ed who’s infatuated with Esther and older McGraw who once dated Susan and may now be doing so again. McGraw’s seniority is denoted by his surname. John’s very precise with his words. The cadence of each sentence is judged just-so.

“Why are you being nice to me, Susan? I know it takes a lot out of you.”

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Specifically recalled here is the exhausted delirium of staying up two nights on the trot feverishly writing an entire dissertation at the very last minute which you had a whole month to hand in on time. By which point you become a nocturnal, a creature of the night, and Magic surrealism sure creeps in then, full-blown in Max Sarin’s giddy art. Her timing is every bit as funny and thrilling as Allison’s.

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It’s a dangerous existence if you linger too long, its more committed, permanent residents lurking like vampiric vultures.

“They’re sun-deniers. They think ‘daytime’ is government propaganda.”

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In order to rescue Susan, Esther – already attuned to the night and armed with gothic knowledge –  embarks on three essays back-to-back including 3,000 words on Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ overseen by a framed photo of a certain cinema critic looking ever so erudite.

“That’s right, Dr. Kermode, stare the learning into me.”

She flies through those 3,000 words at a furious pace (on a notepad, in pencil!) and some of them might be in the right order until —

“...The End! Wait, do you write ‘The End’ at the end of an essay?
“I wish I’d actually read ‘Hedda Gabler’.”

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Max Sarin’s also on top, manic form in a flashback after McGraw’s given Ed Gemmell’s sexual secret away to Susan.

“I had to tell Susan. You don’t understand, Ed, she’s cruel.”

The next three panels show Susan extracting that secret with a barrage of “Tell me tell me tell me tell me. Tellllllll meeeeee…” as she attacks McGraw with a skeleton’s claw, right in the face.

There’s an equally expressive sequence during a sonic obliteration at a Black Metal gig, the audience’s hair blasted back as if in a deafening wind tunnel. Her eyes watering, visiting hell-raiser Big Lindsay concedes defeat by scrawling in eyeliner on the palm of her hand, “CAN WE GO BOWLING?”

For far, far more, please see GIANT DAYS VOL 1, GIANT DAYS VOL 2 and the GIANT DAYS PACK of self-published comics which precedes them both.

SLH

Buy Giant Days vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano.

“People are so stupid.”goodnight-punpun-cover-3

Few are more stupid than Punpun Onodera, Mama Onodera and Uncle Yuichi Onodera. Each of the family is a complete fuck-up in their own increasingly alarming, dark, dark way.

Ironically it was Punpun’s father who was ex-communicated for domestic malfeasance in volume one, but you’re in for such a jaw-dropping revelation about that episode here that I had to reread it three times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. I hadn’t.

Punpun is now a teenager, sporting the sort of long, lank hair that put me in mind of Harry Enfield’s Kevin until he discovers hair gel to hilarious effect. It wouldn’t be so funny if the Onoderas weren’t all presented as minimal, cartoon birds with stick arms and legs in a world in which is photo-realistic.

After obsessing with another girl in his younger years, he now finally embarks on his first-ever date.

He is embarrassingly awful at it.

Also: during it, most especially towards the end.

It is cringe-worthily comical. Until it isn’t.

It’s all so masterfully done, Asano presenting you with a cripplingly internalised lead character who over-thinks everything, yet who is at heart utterly shallow.

Although you may feel for Punpun when he experiences the art gallery exhibition. Briefly.

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We have a whole section on our website dedicated to Inio Asano, so please click on any of the covers for far more extensive reviews, including two considerable and – I hope – considered assessments of this specific series, each volume racking in at nearly 450 haunting pages car-crash people and densely detailed art. I’m not normally so brief especially on any of my three favourite Japanese creators, Inio Asano, Jiro Taniguchi and Taiyo Matsumoto (SUNNY etc).

Strictly adults only, just like A GIRL ON THE SHORE.

SLH

Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown…

“Fuck off. I’m eating.”
“Take it easy. This is business. You are Magnus, yes?”
“I only arrived in town this morning. No one should know me.”
“Perhaps your reputation precedes you?”
“Reputations kill. I prefer to be alone and unknown.”
“How much privacy, Magnus, would this buy you?”
“What’s that for? You want someone killed?”
“Not at all! Good heavens. I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about an escort job. Taking a church official up the Northern Road to Hammaruskk Coast.”
“The Northern Road. We call it the Black Road, and had you spent more than two fucking minutes in this land, you’d have known that. And a voyage up the Black Road most likely is a murder trip.”

Finally! For those of us who have been waiting patiently since the flaming longboat burial afforded to Brian Wood’s NORTHLANDERS saga on the Vertigo imprint, our patience has been rewarded, and how! Magnus the Black is a man with much on his mind. He’s had the emotional bedrock of his life shattered with the loss of his wife and seen the presumed sovereignty of Odin and the old gods smashed by the one true God of Christianity.

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It’s the latter which probably causes him to take the escort job, at four times the original price, of course, because it gives Magnus the chance to ask the Cardinal some burning questions. About how a man born a heathen can get into Heaven, for example… He’s hoping the answers will give some structure to the rest of his life, one way or the other. Not that he believes a life of piety and forgiveness will be required in either eventuality…

“… I wanted to be closer to the Christians. They talk in riddles. They preach peace and love in the midst of performing incredible violence.
“There’s a structure, a purpose to what they do that is beyond my ken. They’re changing Norskk, changing it with words and with iron and with blood. I need to understand them better.
“I have yet to determine if I will go to war for the Christians, or against them.”

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It won’t surprise you to learn that the trip up North isn’t without its challenges. Of the head meets hammer variety, that is… The Cardinal’s not worried, though, he says he’s got a guardian angel. Which is where the mystery really begins…

What a wonderfully dark opener! It’s like NORTHLANDERS never went away (please note, the rest of the re-collected bigger editions of NORTHLANDERS will be out shortly). And whilst Garry Brown never worked with Brian Wood on that title, fans of THE MASSIVE will be more than familiar with his work. It’s a gritty, flinty style that’s perfect for this title and as with NORTHLANDERS, the colours, provided here by Dave McCaig are suitably understated and restrained.

JR

Buy Black Road vol 1: The Holy North and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions!

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

Album-sized re-issue of Tillie Walden’s first work following the two Ignatz Awards and the spectacular success of I LOVE THIS PART (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and A CITY INSIDE.

This is my original review, untouched, before I knew what further treasures lay ahead.

Well, would you just look at this architecture!

Vast arches, vaulted ceilings and windows several storeys high; classical statues set inside concave bays; halls which conclude with the opulence of a Roman cathedral’s chapel. Could you get more Baroque than this?

Then there’s the ethereal air, nightgowns and all that time spent in bed; an indoor lake on which the children go sailing; and a giant cat called Nemo.

Winsor McCay, anyone?

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This is a family home! Also a haven from a three-year winter during which the doors must remain firmly closed, but for a sanctuary it doesn’t seem very safe. It’s cold and it’s hard and there will be conflicts and confinements. I don’t think this family is very healthy at all.

Quite apart from the fact that young Lars is dying. I’m not sure of what but he seems rather sickly, consumptive. He appears to be fading away. His closest relationship is with his sister, Maja, but that’s also going to run into trouble. As I say, not the healthiest of families.

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He’s comforted by that giant cat which – when it’s not carrying Lars on its back – is constantly curled up like a gigantic, fluffy, white pillow which is what Lars uses it as.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what was happening towards the end. It’s all very rarefied and the family far from distinctive. But it’s very beautiful with the crispest of architecture which boasts the most enormous sense of space and attendant frigidity. You can almost hear the echoes.

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SLH

Buy The End Of Summer and read the Page 45 review here

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kyle Baker.

“…So what’llfifth-beatle-cover it be for you? What is it that you want..?”
“Well, I suppose I want what everyone else wants… Peace, love, and belonging… that perhaps it’s belonging that’s most elusive.”

On the surface this is pure effervescent swinging sixties fun with a dapper yet cheeky biopic feel, portraying the charismatic guiding hand behind the Beatles’ rise to stardom. But when the cheers die down, the after party is over, the champagne bubbles have gone flat, what can you do if what you really feel is completely and utterly alone? Brian Epstein made making the Beatles his life’s work and tragically it probably greatly curtailed his, with his untimely death at the age of 32. As the Beatles themselves began to indulge in less legal pharmacological pursuits, Epstein became first addicted to amphetamines, and then sleeping tablets to try and help with his acute insomnia. Ultimately, it was an overdose of barbiturates which caused his premature passing.

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It’s inevitable that any work like this will be only a potted history of events, even in a career as short as Epstein’s, but it features all the notable highs and lows, and of course bizarre anecdotes you would expect. Epstein had his personal demons, primarily due to having to hide his sexuality at a time when despite the Sixties sexual revolution, male homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales, ironically enough only being decriminalised about a month after his passing. And whilst this work doesn’t shy away from looking at the deep sadness Epstein clearly felt about being unable to openly look for romantic love, which he clearly felt could be the one thing that might save him from his workaholic and destructive tendencies, there is also much fun and frivolity about the magical journey he and the Beatles were on. The absolute highlight for me though is his lunch meeting with Colonel Parker, manager of Elvis and a man with a notorious appetite for money…

“You take fifty percent of everything Elvis earns?!”
“No. Elvis takes fifty percent of everything I earn.”

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As Parker launches into tirade after tirade about Jews in the entertainment industry then just for dessert indulging some casual homophobia, Epstein begins to see the Colonel almost metamorphosising into some devilish version of Mammon in front of his very eyes. It’s a timely reminder that whilst Epstein himself was on a staggering 25% gross (not including expenses) of The Beatles’ income, he never had anything but their own best interests at heart. Indeed, just three years after Epstein’s death in August 1967 and with the breakup of Beatles then complete, John Lennon noted in a Rolling Stone interview that upon hearing of Epstein’s death: “I knew that we were in trouble then… I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it now'”.

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The beautiful artwork, from Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, elegantly captures the wild rollercoaster ride that was Epstein’s life from the moment he laid eyes on the proto Fab Four in the Cavern to the moment he was finally laid to rest, complementing Vivek J. Tiwary’s excellent script.

JR

Buy The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story 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.

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Cormorance (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Nick Hayes

A Walk In Eden (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

The World Of Edena h/c (£44-99, Dark Horse) by Moebius

Burt’s Way Home (£14-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz

Bait: Off-Colour Stories h/c (£19-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan, Duncan Fegredo, Tony Puryear, Alise Gluskova, Marc Scheff, Steve Morris, Joelle Jones

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 14 – The Exorcist (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart & Chris Roberson, Mike Norton

East Of West vol 6 (£13-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Habitat (£8-99, Image) by Simon Roy

The Intercorstal 683 (£4-00, ) by Gareth A Hopkins

Johnny The Homicidal Maniac h/c (£35-99, SLG) by Jhonen Vasquez

Midnight Days s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner & various inc. Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Sergio Aragones

Prince Of Cats h/c (£22-99, Image) by Ronald Wimberly

The Flash By Geoff Johns vol 3 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, various

Black Widow vol 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Captain America White s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 4: Temporary Insanitation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, David Walker & various

Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various including P. Craig Russell

Inuyashiki vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Hiroya Oku

News

 

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ITEM! “Page 45 Shatters Sales Record At Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!” And I mean, obliterates!

Blog with lots and lots of photos of fabulous creators having fun, like Tom Gauld and Emma Vieceli!

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Beautiful comics, beautiful comics!

In that blog you’ll find Tillie Walden, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips, Hannah Berry, Craig Thompson, Isabel Greenberg, Ben Haggarty, Adam Brockbank, Darryl Cunningham… Eugene… and so many more!

 

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Original art and sketches to swoon over, too. It’s all there!

Ooh, look, here’s Dave McKean in our room!

 

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ITEM! Speaking of Mr McKean, if you enjoyed his BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH, you’ve still some time to see this BBC programme on Paul Nash: The Ghosts of War.

 

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ITEM! And speaking of the Beeb, The BBC’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Blog.

Really captures the spirit of it all! Take a great gawp at what happens outside our room!

Also: here, have a tree! That was in Kendal too.

 

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ITEM! Aaaaaand, speaking of The Lakes Fest, here’s the winner of LICAF’s 2016 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined Competition. Exquisite.

 

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ITEM! Terry Moore to bring back STRANGERS IN PARADISE – as a comic!

Hooray! From the creator of RACHEL RISING, there are few series I’m fonder of than the epic that is STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and there are few creators I am fonder of than the adorable Terry Moore!

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ITEM I wish it wasn’t.

I’m afraid that on Sunday Steve Dillon died.

Staggered, all I could manage on Twitter @pagefortyfive was:

“Steve Dillon’s gone. Ridiculous.”

“Steve Dillon’s faces were so nuanced he could make a 200-page conversation in a bar absolutely riveting.”

“I’d only add that Steve Dillon’s art was all the more eloquent for being understated: it drew you in, rather than pounced on you.”

Garth Ennis pays tribute to his friend and PREACHER partner Steve Dillon.

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– Stephen

Page 45 Shatters Sales Record At Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

Friday, October 21st, 2016

But first: Bryan Lee O’Malley (SECONDS etc) kicks of his Page 45 LICAF Sunday signing by sketching on a guitar. Of course he does! See later for the results!

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“What Do You Mean By Shattered, Stephen?”

I mean obliterated.

In 2014 at LICAF Page 45 broke its all-time weekend sales record by taking £5,000.
In 2015 at LICAF Page 45 broke that weekend sales record by taking £5,500.

Now at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Page 45 has smashed its own weekend sales record to smithereens by taking over £10,000!

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That’s double two years ago and with just 1% of the range of our stock: it’s all we can fit into the van.

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Also: that’s just one room in Kendal’s Comics Clock Tower where there are vast halls for others who pack in to exhibit.

Over £2,000 of Page 45’s takings this year go directly to LICAF to fund its following Festivals.

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“Why Is This Happening?”

Well, our graphic novels are very beautiful books, and perhaps there are too few shops stocking them at all or promoting them properly.

Of equal importance: At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 ENTRY IS FREE so the Kendal Clock Tower draws in the crowds!

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It’s especially attractive to those new to comics, who wander in out of curiosity then love what they see. That’s always been Page 45’s primary mission: to bring the widest variety of quality comics and graphic novels into contact with as a many new people as possible in an honest, informed and eloquent manner.

This is the Festival’s fourth year. The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 will run from 13th to 15th October. Potential visitors and prospective exhibitors, please pop those dates in your diary.

We’ve only just begun.

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Page 45 Upstairs In Kendal Clock Tower’s Georgian Room

Every year Page 45 is entrusted this entire room to ourselves, curating it as we see fit, and cluttering it up with creators whom we adore. Click on any photo to enlarge and pop creators or titles in our website search engine!

Look, here’s Emma Vieceli!

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Tillie Walden and Katriona Chapman with AveryHill Publishing, centre-stage, where they belong!

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This year we launched Dave McKean’s Dark Horse edition of BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH.

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Dave even took the trouble to bring enormous, framed original paintings for all and sundry to gawp at. (They did.)

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Tom Gauld defaced MOONCOP and our very own Tote Bags!

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Sean Phillips drew Prince right in front of us!

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Isabel Greenberg sketched on Saturday.

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Hannah Berry rolled up on Sunday after being made full use of right through the festival!

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Jonathan Edwards and Felt Mistress were with us all weekend, with Eugune manically minding their stall overnight.

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John Martz made his first-ever UK appearance! With us! Hooray!

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Where’s Dan Berry and Paul Thomas? I forgot to take photos, so sorry!

Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank!

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Craig Thompson popped in unannounced three times to sign and sketch in his books!

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That head is an original sketch, yes.

Darryl Cunningham sketched in all his graphic novels – and he wasn’t officially with us, either!

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Riff Reb’s even sat down to draw in LICAF’s edition of CARROT TO THE STARS, letting Jonathan and myself get a glimpse at his original artwork.

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Jake Phillips showed off his pages of COELIFER ATLAS, this year’s 24-Hour Comicbook Relay Race Marathon (£5-00 each) written by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters and drawn by Dan Berry (editor), Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Petteri Tikannen, Bruce Mutard, Nick Brokenshire, Bryan Talbot, Ken Niimura, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia and that there Jake Phillips.

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Finally, during his signing Bryan Lee O’Malley created two entire pages of original comics right in front of us!

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Possibly.

Oh, and here’s Bryan with that guitar again.

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Luring In Punters, Crippling Credit Cards And Whipping Wallets

At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 ENTRY IS FREE, so many walk in from the street or travel from afar to discover comics for the very first time! How cool is that? So Page 45 brings a fresh supply of gorgeous graphic novels to LICAF every year… but they don’t half take some getting there!

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40 gigantic boxes brought down from the office. To get from the till to our Vertigo section with its Neil Gaiman throne, I had to take a detour of 3.75 miles! Or climb.

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Two rows in and with twice as many boxes to cram into the van, this is where we find out if Jonathan is better at Tetris than me.

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Here are those boxes, lugged up to our Georgian Room, and that Georgian Room before we begin.

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Now I have to magic the two together. Comics is a visual medium, so it’s vital they’re displayed at their best. It takes me four $£%* hours!

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Please click on PHOENIX COMICS for our dedicated webpage then on each cover for reviews!

Jonathan AKA J45

That is, however, the easy bit. None of this would be remotely possible without our Lord, Master and logistical, technological genius, Jonathan.

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It’s Jonathan who sources all our extra stock, organises its delivery and transport, populates our second till with products, designs our signs and banners, beats the credit card terminal’s wonky reception into reluctant submission and makes sure we have packed everything we need from carrier bags and Sharpies to such extreme amounts of change that it took the two of us to lug it down the hill into Kendal from our snow-capped, mountain-side hotel.

And that’s just LICAF.

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LICAF Comics & Merchandise

CARROT TO THE STARS is reviewed and available worldwide from Page 45!

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COELIFER ATLAS, this year’s 24-Hour Comicbook Relay Race Marathon (£5-00, now reviewed!) is also available worldwide from Page 45 with every single penny going to OCD Action.

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You can order the following merchandise – which is exclusive to LICAF and was on sale in our room, with 20% of the proceeds going to OCD Action, the rest to help fund LICAF itself by emailing julie@kendalartsinternational.com

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Prints at £25 each:

Charlie Adlard Beatrix Potter
Luke McGarry Beatrix Potter
Duncan Fegredo Beatrix Potter
Dave McKean Black Dog signed
Gilbert Shelton festival giclee
Jordi Bernet festival giclee
Ken Niimura festival giclee

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Festival lapel badges £2.50 each

Sets of 4 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined postcards featuring Hannah Berry, Charlie Adlard, Luke McGarry and Duncan Fegredo £2 each

And, wait for it…

Sean Phillips Kill or Be Killed signed screenprint (50×70) festival variant £50 each

For more of those images, please see page 43 of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme.

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Panel To Empower New and Prospective Creators

We thought this important.

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?”, “How do I maximise my exposure?” or “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?” On Sunday we answered their barrier-breaking questions.

Our Team Supreme from multiple disciplines:

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

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I’ve seldom received such phenomenally positive and grateful feedback – nascent creators who said they felt far more confident now that they finally understood how the comics industry works.

There was plenty of laughter, each of us contributing equally, and we talked over each other not once. That’s rarer than you might think. Let’s do it again!

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Multiple Thank Yous and A Big Fat Teaser:

Thank you to all our creator guests for agreeing to sign with us so enthusiastically, for regaling their loyal fans and brand-new readers with mirth-making stories and gossip, and making our room so much more attractive with their wit, wares and camaraderie.

Thank you to everyone who dropped in, swanned round and snapped up graphic novels so we didn’t have to carry them back home.

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We came up a day early to explore! Near Ambleside.

EXTREME thank you to the LICAF #redshirtbrigade volunteers, one and all, for making our lives so much easier by solving last-minute hitches, marshalling our queues and caring to cater for us throughout the day.

Thank you to our Dee and Jodie for their immaculate organisational skills in preparation for the Festival and running Page 45 HQ all extended weekend long while we doubled our presence in Kendal.

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High above Keswick where lurks the Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Thank you to John Freeman of Down The Tubes for his LICAF promotional activities and excpetional generosity.

Thank you to LICAF Patron and comics creator Sean Phillips for all his personal support throughout the year and his truly tireless promotion of the Lakes Festival and all its endeavours, without which it wouldn’t attract so much attention.

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Those Castlerigg Stones. Am I successfully selling you the weekend experience that is LICAF?

Thank you to Sharon Tait for welcoming us into the Clock Tower on our very first day back in 2014.

Thank you to Carole Tait for her logistical genius without which the Lakes International Comic Art Festival would be utter chaos.

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Magically, Castlerigg Stone Circle, lit up for 15 minutes before we left.

Thank you above all to LICAF director Julie Tait for entrusting us with the Georgian Room in the first place back in 2014, welcoming Page 45 firmly into the fold as fully-fledged, pro-active Patrons in 2015, and for providing the sort of leadership which sweeps you up alongside her in its enthusiastic wake. Without Julie Tait there would be no Lakes International Comic Art Festival to attend: no Festival, no guests, and no banners all over town proudly proclaiming our shared love of comics.

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Reminder: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 will run from Friday 13th October to Sunday 15th October with the Kendal Clock Tower open for exhibitors on the Saturday and Sunday.

Page 45 Credentials

Page 45 is a proud Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
Page 45 won the first ever award for Best Independent Retailer in Nottingham 2012.
Page 45 won the Best Independent Business in Nottingham 2013.
Page 45 was shortlisted for the Bookseller’s Independent Bookshop Of The Year 2014.
Page 45 won the only ever Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer in the UK in 2004 before links began.

Stephen was on the judging panel of the British Comics Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Why are we listing our credentials? Hahahaha! There is a reason.

We’ve one more massive Page 45 / LICAF surprise for you shortly!

Oh, and here’s your reward for scrolling this far: Bryan Lee O’Malley interviewed live on camera at LICAF – From Scott (Pilgrim) to Snot (Girl).

– Stephen

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Church in Kendal at night. So you’re all coming next year, right? 🙂

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week three

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Includes new Jon Klassen, the Charles Burns trilogy, and News underneath with teasers of far more to come!

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen.

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Hooray for their trumpet-blowing procession of pageantry!

Hooray for the streets pullulating with crowds swept up in celebration, whooping with joy and waving their colourful flags!

The multitudes mill, a dog dashes by to give chase. Quick, quick, you mustn’t miss it!

How lucky to be local enough to live up above, for the terraced-housing windows supply the best vantage points for the ebullient reception below! Although some of their occupants aren’t quite so sure.

Oh, it may be a little eerie in brass-rubbing black and white with its grainy textures and spectral, almost skeletal throngs, but surely it is impossible not to be caught up in the euphoria, the almost ecstatic energy of shouts and screams and the regimented, hypnotic, rattle-gun roll of military drums?

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Personally those drums terrifies me even during peace-time, civic parades.

But yes, that’s what the likes of Adolf Hitler have always relied on: the euphoria and the ecstasy and the sheep mentality. You’ve seen the old film footage of the Nazi war machine in human, jack-booted, foot-soldier form, goose-stepping through German cities on their way to restore national honour. The multitude of onlookers jostle for position and go wild. They go wild!

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Here the military first appear relatively small on the page both in number at stature on the left-hand side of an otherwise open and empty page, not threatening at all. But swiftly they swell, uniform in uniform, a relentless, implacable black tide of terrifyingly angular forms, jagged bayonets jutting out into the sky from the barrels of their brandished rifles.

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We close in further still, all else obliterated by the intimidating density.

Heels on bitumen, heels on bitumen; unending heels on unyielding bitumen: this is a deafening, crushing and crusading cacophony in “das ist richtig“ visual form.

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It gets worse.

Children used to play at parades. I clearly recall E. H. Shepard illustrating an A. A. Milne procession that included Christopher Robin, though I’m not sure it was in ‘Winnie The Pooh’ itself. Nothing could be more innocent.

So it is here under bright summer sunshine, two birds soaring effortless in the distance, as three small youths imitate their elders, grinning under their paper hats, one toot-tooting a toy trumpet.

But we all know what happens to innocence in war.

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It gets worse.

I’m not going to take you any further, but it gets much worse.

Originally published in 1957 and now edited and introduced by Art Spiegelman, this slipcased hardcover reproduces Si Lewen’s ostensibly silent comic in accordion form, which is perfect for any procession of pedestrians or atrocities. You will be witness to both.

Some images recall Picasso’s Guernica from 1937, but without the comfort of colour. It is spiked throughout by thousands of back-slung bayonets in stark silhouette like razor wire atop an impenetrable, ever-advancing wall. The grainy textures are those of the grave – of hundreds of thousands of shrouds – and there is a certain fearful symmetry as to how this begins and how it will end, and ever and forever, I fear.

Highly recommended to those who admire the likes of Drooker (THE FLOOD) and a perfect companion to Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR, the flip-side presents a full-colour, illustrated guide to Si Lewen’s wider career as a “serial painter”. I don’t use that term randomly, either. He was very keen on seeing his works hung close together so that they would inform one another.

And so am I.

SLH

Buy Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey and read the Page 45 review here

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley.

Seventeen stories of disillusion and disappointment.

If disappointment is something you crave, you’re in for a famine or feast, depending on how you look at it.

Prime Minister Salisbury stands proudly on his pedestal.

“Ah… to be commemorated in stone is truly to live for eternity!”

He may be dead, but he has centuries of veneration ahead of him. Or is that pigeon droppings? The final panel is perfect.

Two more sculptures – more abstract in aspect – anticipate their own grand urban unveilings.

“Where I’m going I’ll be affecting real change in people’s lives.”
“Mmm…”
“Really! Helping to inspire and lift people out of poverty.”

Alas, not all poverty is pecuniary.

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Matthew Dooley is even disappointed in himself. I don’t know why: there are plaques commemorating Matthew’s accomplishments all over the country.

Birth:

“Noted dawdler finally emerged here 24th May
“1984”

School:

“Wimpy know it all annoyed many here
“1988-1995”

Sixth Form:

“Obdurate muso made little impact here
“2000-2002.”

University:

“Argumentative pseudo coasted here
“2002-2005.”

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It’s at this point in typing my free-form, off-the-cuff review (heavily edited and reorganised over the weekend) that I realise that commemoration is another key theme. That, and the passage of time. There are five more English Heritage memorials as Dooley attempts to climb the ladder of heady accomplishment only to find all the rungs missing.

The problem is that, on page after page, Matthew Dooley totally fails to disappoint.

I love his fine line and neat, unargumentative lettering.

The colours are soft and sweet in sage, cold blues and pink with a rusty red reserved for Dooley’s own beard and bonce. The eyes are very Chris Ware, don’t you think? As are the moribund musings.

In summary, if you’re someone who’s looking forward to the end of the world – as the occupants of the first entry within – then this is the comic for you.

The cover could not be more bereft.

SLH

Buy Meanderings and read the Page 45 review here

Last Look s/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

This is the sort of work that terrifies me.

It’s the nightmare scenario of things being beyond your control: wandering around in your pyjamas, no money to pay for a meal you’ve just eaten, not knowing where you are or where to go and being alone in the company of deeply unsettling strangers.

And that’s just the nightmare – the images, thoughts and scenarios which Doug can’t shut out in spite of the number of pills that he’s necked – of embryos in eggs, putrescent meat riddled with giant, outraged maggots plucked then gobbled down by a cowled figure whose nose appears eaten with syphilis; terrified creatures clinging to driftwood as they’re carried helplessly downstream by the rapids.

Yes, that’s just the nightmare. But it seems Doug’s real life took a turn for the worse as well.

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The book begins with Doug, his features simplified to a TINTIN cartoon with two crossed plasters stuck to his temple, waking up in bed not knowing where he is. There’s a hole in the far brick wall which his black cat climbs through, into the darkness beyond.

He’s sure his cat is supposed to be dead. Doug dons a dressing gown and follows…

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When Doug actually wakes up in bed, you’ll notice he’s no longer so simply drawn. That’s your cue to discerning what’s real from what’s not, though those lines are so often blurred, are they not?

His temples have been shaved, and a bandage is taped to one side of his skull, but he still hasn’t a clue where he is.

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Evidence lies on the covers: a basic cassette tape recorder, a graphic novel, a photograph of a girl holding a giant heart to her naked breasts. There’s a flick-knife embedded in the heart. The sound of the door buzzer terrifies him. Why?

Some of the answers to this series of puzzles – why he perceives himself to look like Tintin in his dream, who the girl in the photograph is, where the hole in the wall came from and why that buzzer might terrify him – are slowly revealed by Doug’s returning memory. But not where the bandage came from, not yet, though one can easily infer.

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The production values are beautiful, unusually for Burns it’s in colour, and although he’s breaking new personal ground, readers of BLACK HOLE will still be in familiar territory. There are disaffected teens indulging in drugs, alcohol and extreme art projects involving the body; violence threatens to break in from outside, and raging hormones may well prove the source of much trouble. Oh yes, holes. There are lots and lots of holes.

“What didn’t I tell her?
“What parts of the story did I leave out?
“I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her the truth.
“…And I tried… I really did.”

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If the first chapter freaked me out – preying on fears that feature frequently in my own dreams: food you really shouldn’t eat, holes that shouldn’t be there, getting hopelessly and helplessly lost only to be misled further by strangers (I don’t know what happened to the missing stairs, filthy latrines and my teeth all chewed out on the floor) – then the second proved equally unsettling.

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There’s more of that when he delivers romance comics on a metal trolley to bedridden female patients, pushing the cart down endless, roughly hewn tunnels in a semi-industrial warren prone to unseen accidents that render certain off-limit areas toxic. Apparently there was screaming in the late hours last night. It came from Cindy’s cubicle, and it went on for hours… until it stopped.

Meanwhile, in his waking world, Doug is recalling his courtship with raven-haired Sarah: a stroll in windswept, autumn-leafed park where they picked up sixties’ romance comics from an old man at the flea market. Sarah was delighted at the find. Doug bought her the lot, and it bought him a kiss.

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“You know what? That was really sweet of you. I know you think these are stupid, but… but wait.. here’s where you stop and kiss me… just like they do in the comics.”

“My kiss was awkward and clumsy,” recalls Doug. “But she made up for it… She made it perfect.”

The evening too seemed perfect, a simple dinner together back at Sarah and Nicky’s. Nicky was out, at band practice but Sarah… Sarah is a little more fragile than she looks.

There’s more about the buzzer and the threatening voice behind it, as well as Doug’s stage performances behind a Tintin mask. Oh yes, and those photographs.

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But it’s the romance comics that particularly fascinated me this time: the search for missing issues, and speculation on what must have happened in the gap. For those of us reading comics before the birth of the collected edition that’s got to ring bells, as well as dreams in which you finally fill your gaps at a second-hand stall – gaps that in real life might never have existed. The comics are in Japanese so it’s even more difficult to fathom what happened, and they’re drawn unmistakably by Marvel Comics veteran John Romita Sr. whom Burns nails both in the composition and the man’s brush strokes. The hair is quite perfect.

There’s a telling scene during which Doug attempts to win a tortuously circuitous argument by shrugging off his own role in its potential resolution, knowing he’s doing so and so only looking Sarah’s way – more than a little sheepishly, to see if it’s working – once her back is turned. It’s a precisely judged expression.

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A little later there’s a rare glimpse at Burns’ talent for exquisite photorealism – on the television screen at his father’s which is where Doug retreats to.

“I wanted a safe, dark place to hide.”

Hmmm…. Is that really any way out?

This collects the hardcover Charles Burns trilogy of X’ED OUT, THE HIVE and SUGAR SKULL.

SLH

Buy Last Look and read the Page 45 review here

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

“We found a hat.
“We found it together.
“But there is only one hat.
“And there are two of us.”

So the dilemma begins!

“It looks good on both of us.
“But it would be right if one of us had a hat and the other did not.”

Awww! Kind and considerate, brotherly love!

They’ll just have to leave it where they found it, in the middle of the desert, right? Hmmm…

This is the third and final instalment of Klassen’s hat-trick trilogy which began with I WANT MY HAT BACK followed by THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I can only assume that Klassen suffered some sort of hat-related trauma during his formative years, for in each of first two an item of headgear is stolen. Neither ends well for the thief, and quite right too!

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Deliciously, what looked on the surface like straightforward illustrated prose was, in fact, comics; for without the images all would have been lost. The pictures began in perfect accordance with the written word, but swiftly started shedding controversial or even contradictory light on what was being said. Howls of laughter from me and every youngster I’ve seen being shown the books on our shop floor.

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The simplicity of what’s said is of equal importance – there is an identifiable Klassen cadence – for when the rhythm is first broken in I WANT MY HAT BACK, that’s when you suspect that something is up.

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Here we are presented with a three-act play, and although I promise you that Klassen will not prove predictable, there will of course be an equally mischievous break between overt claim and covert curiosity, with its attendant hiccup in the otherwise rhythmic beat.

SLH

Buy We Found A Hat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

Deliciously drawn sub-aquatic sci-fi, this is about the vital importance of maintaining hope, when there is no hope to speak of.

I, for example – against all evidence to the contrary – am still desperately praying that someone will stop us Brexiting Europe and so breaking this country.

In this instance, the entire world is burnt out and its leaders are broken. Newsflash:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will need more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. That isn’t speculative fiction, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then, the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if we haven’t already escaped this solar system then we’ll have needed to move underground or deep, deep, deep underwater.

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In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet, so it has sunk itself into our oceanic depths in several separated colonies. Probes have indeed been dispatched in search of alternative astronomical accommodation… but that was over 13,000 years ago. None have returned.

13,000 years without success; 13,000 years of failure!

Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and now less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony.

Yes, LOW as a title works both ways.

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In the wake of almost insurmountable adversity – including the dispersal and dire straits of her family – one woman has so far held it together. But how long will that last?

Please see our reviews of LOW volumes one and two for much, much more.

SLH

Buy Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light and read the Page 45 review here

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton.

Shame is a young girl, the result of an immaculate conception brought on by a silent prayer: one moment of weakness in an otherwise exemplary life of selfless benefaction on the part of Mother Virtue. Every day she has hobbled into town from her countryside cottage to ruffle the hair of small children and administer herbal remedies to the sick, the needy and the poor. She loves and is much loved for that, but one evening’s idle contemplation of a flower given in thanks unearths a deep-seated desire in Mother Virtue and, albeit briefly, she wishes for a child of her own.

“Sadly, as is so often the case, Mother Virtue’s selfish wish echoed like a dinner bell in the Heart of Darkness… where, waiting for such an opportunity, lay a dark, dark evil.”

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I think “selfish” is a bit harsh, but all things are relative. It’s as if after twenty-five years of promoting beautiful comics by brilliant people I suddenly succumbed to the woeful desire that a comic of my own see print. I can assure you I have not, for the result would be an equal abomination: a true horror unleashed upon a world that deserves no such thing. Also because I am far from wanting the devil to pop down my chimney and poke me in the bottom.

That’s what happens here, more or less, only without the bottom-poking: Mother Virtue, in spite of her advanced years, finds herself pregnant and in fireside conversation with a demon called Slur:

“Oh yes, dear Mother Virtue! A black seed grows in your barren womb. Planted by your wish and quickened by my magick, for God would never hear such selfish words! Forget all thought of sweeping this off the hearth with your white meddling. The child’s soul is fixed and there is naught you can do about it. She even knows her name. It is Shame!”

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Now, Mother Virtue could have risked exploring the possibilities of nature versus nurture but instead makes her mind up immediately. She lures dryads and nymphs to her rustic cottage and, binding them there to play nursemaid and nanny to her daughter, hoofs it lickety-split, sealing them all behind her in the Cradle she calls home. It is perhaps her very absence that confirms Shame’s fate because – thanks to a casual cruelty so prevalent in play and a chink opened in the spell by errant village children and their shadows – Slur manages to get his minions and message across and it all goes horribly wrong.

John Bolton you may know from HARELQUIN VALENTINE written by Neil Gaiman or, more recently, Peter Straub’s THE GREEN WOMAN. Here his palette is far, far brighter, his dryads and nymphs glowing in the sun, and even when that’s eclipsed there remains a lot more light. Slur’s shadow servants are horrible, spindly creatures vaguely reminiscent of Richard Case’s Mr. Nobody from Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL, nor is his Mother Virtue a sweet old lady, more closely resembling Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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It’s a book that’s sexually charged so I warn you of that right now: there be boobage and satanic shenanigans for Shame grows up and finds a novel and highly elaborate way of having her revenge on Mother Virtue. It’s certainly the strangest mother/daughter relationship I’ve come across. Or is it a daughter/mother/daughter relationship? The begets do beggar belief, but that’s witchcraft for you.

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You can tell Shame is evil because she has black hair. She doesn’t half ramble on – to herself, her minions and the darke daemon Slur.

Oh, she shall sully all and sundry! Once she has conquered, cursed and corrupted the whole wide world, there will be no free school milk, no more bedtime stories and every Kinder Egg will come with quite the salutary surprise. Worse still, every chocolate in every box will henceforth be Turkish Delight. She will whip down One Direction’s kecks on live TV (actually, this gets my vote) and curdle your clotted cream teas. There will, in short, be suffering the likes of which has barely been endured outside of a modern British Post Office.

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But wait! Do we have a vessel of vengeance, perchance? A young, simple man whose father is smitten before his eyes, now determined to follow his mother’s verbal breadcrumb trail to who knows what end?

Meanwhile Slur hovers at Shame’s sybaritic side, addressing her as “my shapely talon”, “my septic blossom”, “dear putrescence”, and “my mephitic marchpane”. (New words: “mephitic” meaning “foul-smelling” and “marchpane” meaning “marzipan”.)

Which witch will prevail?

SLH

Buy Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina.

Highly punisher-max-vol-3-coverrecommended, PUNISHER MAX (each one reviewed) is by far the finest run on Frank Castle to date, finally given a socio-political bite by Ennis’ decision to swerve the Punisher’s targeted sights from superheroes to real-world pricks worth punishing like international sex-slave traffickers.

It’s a very different beast to PREACHER team Ennis and Dillon’s PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK, FRANK which was a burlesque played more for laughs.

There’s certainly not a lot of high camp ‘Widowmaker’, although the mismatch of the titular widows does have its moments, and Garth can’t resist giving one of them a lisp. Instead Ennis takes a look at what it might mean being “married to the mob”: knowing what their men do, how they earn their money, and who pays the price, yet sticking around to enjoy that wealth by keeping their guys sweet, even if it means sacrificing their little sisters by matchmaking them to monsters.

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Over the years Frank Castle has set his sights on one thing only: killing those who hurt innocents. Not out of revenge for the death of his family, nor to seek solace in self-justified violence, but quite simply to prevent them from hurting, maiming, torturing or slaughtering again. His verdict is final, and his sentences always end with a full stop.

High on his hit list has always been the mafia, but what of the widows he’s made in his wake? Some of them are tougher than others, and these five are out for vengeance, gathering round their finest china to take down the man who killed their husbands, and using one of their own as bait. They do it quite cleverly too, but what they haven’t figured into the mix is that there’s another widow close to home for whom The Punisher proved a saviour; a liberator from a life of constant marital torture and violence. She’s also out for revenge, but not on Frank Castle – on them.

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Ennis’ stories are invariably self-contained, wisely ignoring the idea of an extended saga that won’t let new readers in, so you can pick up his best without the rest. There’s an uncommon variety in his tones and approaches as well, keeping it fresh for those who do follow the series as a whole.

Lan Medina delivers in every aspect as well. He’s the sort of artist who, like the venerable John Buscema, never seems to make the headlines, but thoroughly deserves to when you take a closer look and realise just how solid and engaging it all is. It’s not “look at me” art; it’s “look at them” art, which is what great storytelling is all about.

Before all that we have Leandro Fernandez illustrating ‘Man Of Stone’ and Gorlan Parlov on ‘Barracuda’ which will provide some of the comedy you may crave.

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If you thought British Gas was underhand, try this group of corporate energy fraudsters, prepared to do anything to hike up their profits. One raped man’s squeal leads the Punisher on a trail of blood, most of it in the water and swimming away from the mouths of sharks. Equally primal is the Barracuda himself, reinvented by Ennis as a gold-toothed mutha with an almost contagious zeal for black humour and slaughter, and who – in true Ennis fashion – is relieved of several body parts along the way.

He’s cackling to the end, though.

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SLH

Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 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.

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Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) (£5-00) by John Allison

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

Demon (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Ancestor (£13-99, Image) by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward

Cowboys And Insects One Shot (£3-99, Floating World Comics) by David Hine & Shaky Kane

Grey Area – Our Town (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird

Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary vol 1 (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by M.R. James & Leah Moore & John Reppion

I Thought You Hated Me (£7-50, Retrofit) by Marinaomi

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

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 3: Creation Myths s/c (£13-99, Archaia) by Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Brian Froud

Miss U.S. Of Heya (£10-50, Retrofit) by Menorah Horwitz

Predator: Life And Death s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & Brian Thies

Rick And Morty vol 3 (£17-99, Oni) by Tom Fowler, Pamela Ribon & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kevin Baker

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman

Grayson vol 4: A Ghost In The Tomb s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, various

Green Arrow vol 9: Outbreak s/c (£15-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Patrick Zircher, Szymon Kudranski

Midnighter vol 2: Hard s/c (£13-99, DC) by Steve Orlando, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Peter Milligan & various

Supergirl By Peter David vol 1 (£22-99, DC) by Peter David & Gary Frank

All New Wolverine vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Marcio Takara

Captain Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Hero vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various

Daredevil / Punisher: Seventh Circle s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Szymon Kudranski, Reilly Brown

Doctor Strange vol 2: The Last Days Of Magic (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

Doctor Strange: The Flight Of Bones s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by various

Assassination Classroom vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Platinum End vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

News

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ITEM! Awful.

Apparently it is over for History of Art ‘A’ Levels thanks to Gove’s Thatcherite blinkers when it comes to anything remotely cultural in education.

Seriously, there will be no more History of Art ‘A’ Levels in England.

I use what I learned about Art History in A Level and Degree every single week, professionally, in business.

And think on this: not only does History of Art teach you about human perspectives on beauty throughout the ages, but about literature, historical socio-politics and even urban planning. See Rome / Paris etc.

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ITEM! THE WALKING DEAD‘s Charlie Adlard is declared the new Comics Laureate at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016! Both the Guardian and BBC picked up on this immediately, then we made page 3 on the Independent. Selected by the Patrons of LICAF, including my silly self, Charlie will be phenomenal!

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True Fact: Not only did I go to school with THE WALKING DEAD’s Charlie Adlard, but we shared the same art class. Oh yes, I’ve seen Adlard originals the world will never see!

Now, guess which one of us is the international best-selling comicbook creator, and which one’s the comic shop till monkey?

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ITEM! We will have staggering sales news about Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 in a dedicated blog with loads of photos any day now.

And I do mean staggering!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week two

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is upon us! Perhaps you are there? Exciting! Scroll down to our News section for all You Need To Know!

The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“All he’dfade-out-hc-cover been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

In which I begin to understand what an exceptional character actor Sean Phillips truly is.

Oh, I’ve written thousands of words about specific, expressive elements of Sean Phillips’ craft in reviews for CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT softcovers and THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc, but here we are in Hollywoodland so it strikes me as apposite that I finally speak about the acting involved on the part of our favourite artists.

Give me love! Give me lust! Give me conflicted ambivalence and emotional exhaustion! Now give me terrified out of my bloody mind.  Sean Phillips delivers on every single page.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Cinema screenwriter Charlie wakes up in the bath of a bungalow in Studio City, built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

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It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on. They’re going to make out it was suicide, smearing the poor girl’s name, and it’s going to make Charlie, now complicit, sick to the stomach.

“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”

As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry indeed. It’s going to make him drunk and dangerous – especially to himself.

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Period crime from the creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and KILL OR BE KILLED, this homes in on Hollywoodland, famous for its writing and acting and myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but so often stars extend this dissemblance off-screen as well, aided and abetted by elaborate campaigns to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a manly ranch-hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”

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There’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman: “I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

This complete twelve-chapter graphic novel gives room for Brubaker to examine relationships in detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This should make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”

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Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last-minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in.

 

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Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine, and the sea becomes virtually irresistible. Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning right back to the beginning.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val, but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val, but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.

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As I say, it’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead. Instead it’s both impressionist and expressionist, concerned with the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye and emotional impact.

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As to Brubaker, as ever he excels at making you want to linger as long as possible in each of his characters’ heads. I challenge anyone to foresee what’s coming. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes. There have been bits of Charlie missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”

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This complete collection of THE FADE OUT three softcovers contains an exceptional wealth of extra back-matter as do all this team’s deluxe hardcovers. Sean Phillips introduces his cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – with an exploration of how he came up with their linking logo / motif. Ed Brubaker’s on hand with an explanation of why he teases each of his series with a fully-fledged trailer rather than a random splattering of preview pages, and it makes so much narrative sense. And yes, you get that trailer too.

There are some of the essays and which only appeared in the twelve monthly periodicals, along with all their illustrations; Brubaker presents his research; then Phillips and Breitweiser each introduce then demonstrate so much of their process from thumbnails to finished colour pages.

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Page 45 will be bringing this beauty to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 where Sean Phillips will be signing with us, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, FOR FREE from 2pm to 3pm this Sunday 16th October.

SLH

Buy The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (£22-99 s/v; £71-99 Ltd Ed oversized h/c, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“Art black-dog-coveris an empathy machine. Art allows one to look through a fellow human’s eyes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the U.S. Dark Horse editions which Page 45 will be launching with a signing by Dave McKean at 10.30am Saturday 15th October at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower.

SLH

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Rivière.

Placard held aloft during a Parisian university protest rally:

“We’re losing our faculties!”

Coming as it does towards the end of this sanity-sapping spiral, it made me roar with laughter. I don’t think it’s their departments they’re referring to.

Caveat: do not read this wry and ever so well observed graphic novel if you have just this second committed yourself to a three-year PhD.  The rest of us lucky pups who left academia behind decades ago – or never moored there in the first place – will have a whale of a time, but you will probably cry.

Perhaps you’re thrilled to be embarking on your brand-new endeavour, just like cheerful, fresh-faced Jeanne Dargan who is so relieved to be relieved of her hyperactive Year-Nine students that she’s ecstatically ditched full-time, inner-city teaching in favour of research which she must fund herself. She’s bursting with enthusiasm, especially since Kafka expert Karpov has agreed to supervise her thesis on ‘The Labyrinthine Motif in the Parable of the Law in Kafka’s The Trial’. Exciting!

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Honestly, this is in English.

Brigitte Claude, secretary for the Doctoral School since 1987, does her best to dissuade Jeanne with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of similarly perky pupils now rendered lank, limp and weary after 3-7 years of critical endeavour, but Jeanne will not be bowed. The city basks in sunshine and once she’s met the great Karpov herself, not even a little rain dims the bright autumnal colours as she strides purposefully and proud along the banks of the Seine.

“Don’t worry,” she joyously reassures her boyf, “I’m going to get it done in 3 years. 3 years and not a day more…”

Were this early Gerald Durrell autobiography, the next sentence would have read “4 years later…”

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No, really, this is in English. It’s a translation, mes amis!

But no, Jeanne has a plan. She draws up a detailed, three-year timetable involving research, reading and note-taking; a finished PhD plan; writing part 1; writing part 2; writing part 3; revisions and finishing touches; submission. Unfortunately this immediately follows her even more detailed, weekly time-management-table, by the hour, in which Jeanne will juggle her studies with the full-time job she needs to take in order to make ends meet. It’s in Brigitte Claude’s office! Hooray!

“I’m going to join the Events Team at the university! I’ll be the one organising all the literature conferences at the Sorbonne! I’ll be right in the nerve-centre, at the heart of Parisian literary life.”

Just one glance at that timetable would tell anyone less in denial that it’s completely and utterly untenable.

This is crammed full of satirical detail, from posters promoting events like “Laughter in Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy” (Schopenhauer!) to a conference day’s agenda over-optimistically entitled ‘Hope In Kafka’ and a new PhD student gleefully declaring, “I have a feeling I’m going to make some serious waves in the world of Renaissance punctuation!”

Brigitte Claude herself is a masterful visual invention, jealously guarding her administrative office like a triple-chinned, fiery-eyed bullfrog, hands buried beneath her bosom, slinking down her desk to answer the phone with enormous reluctance, and only in defiance of someone entering her secretarial arena in need of information. Her jowls are a joy.

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Delivering speeches is portrayed as a swimming race, accepting questions from the floor akin to opening yourself up to an oncoming battle charge. The exhaustion and despair of the older post-graduates drips from their word balloons and (in a move similar to Mazzuccheilli’s ASTERIOS POLYP wherein Asterios literally talks over the love of his life, his word balloons obliterating hers) one speaker’s conversation-stealing monomania is conveyed firstly by the sheer number – the barrage – of her balloons, then by her swallowing Jeanne’s single, tiny, plaintive speech whole, before blowing an enormous one of her own back out, like bubblegum.

“I’m my own boss!” comes back to haunt Jeanne, as does Jeanne’s visualisation of her thesis as the most splendid, ornate, meticulously crafted piece of neo-classical architecture. I cannot tell you how funny the eventual reprise is. Can you imagine the nightmare of finally composing a 500-page thesis from notes you’ve taken on books you’ve read – and long forgotten – two years ago?

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Sympathy for all you will find in abundance, but students, lecturers and indeed administrators will be pertinently yet playfully poked in the ribs. Poor Karpov, for example, endures such excruciating presumption and neediness from his overly entitled students that one of them is shown offloading from a psychiatrist’s couch; on the other hand, I do believe students should be entitled to some sort of supervision rather than a six-month wait for an eventually evasive reply from their ever-absent professor while he’s swanning about Rome engaging in fully-paid personal research.

Egos will be exposed, intentions will be questioned and both mental and critical faculties be sorely tested.

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Moreover, by the end of the book you may well re-examine your initial infuriation / exasperation with the Year-Nine children let loose on The Louvre in search of The Mona Lisa. There’s a very, very funny background joke on that sequence’s final panel and at the end of the day you should never mock energy, lest you lose it yourself.

Enthusiasm is all!

SLH

Buy Notes On A Thesis and read the Page 45 review here

Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham…

What light-coverwould you do if you lived in a world without colour, a boring black and white existence with nary a hint of any chromaticity at all to get your spectral-deficient synapses firing and brighten up your day? Well you’d probably grab a friend and go on an epic adventure to find five magical crystals and see what happens when you put them all together. Along the way you’d probably have to battle multiple monsters and deal with other assorted oddballs and weirdoes intent on hindering your quest.

Which is basically what this is! But whereas you or I would probably make a lot of noise doing it, this is a wordless graphic novel. And because every page is a single-panel illustration without borders, drawn mostly to the exact same scale from an identical perspective set on a black background, it very much has the feel of a gorgeous silent animation.

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There is, however, a lot of colour, of all the major hues. Great, whopping, eye-popping explosions of it left, right and centre! In fact, the number of pure black and white pages is but a tiny handful, forming a stark introduction to the boring world our main character inhabits, before the vibrant splashes of primary and secondary colours start.

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He’s a curious fellow, our redoubtable dungeoneer, that’s for sure. He looks like the hybrid offspring of Fone Bone and Morph. Actually, the black and white pages very strongly reminded me of the original BONE comics – still available in one meaty collected BONE tome – before the coloured individual BONE volumes came along. A fun and very pretty all-ages read that takes a different approach to the silent graphic novel and succeeds with aplomb.

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JR

Buy Light and read the Page 45 review here

Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard.

Brave, bold, Brown (Jeffrey); or brief, basic, banal.

That’s your basic reception spectrum right there and, as in all matters, I am 100% to the left.

This is, I think, going to polarise people. Lazy people who think it’s clever to start each word with a ‘b’.

The good news for the likes of Porcellino and Penfold is that it’ll take the heat off them when the less enlightened superhero readers want to cite autobiographical comicbook creators who, according to their ill-informed prejudices, “can’t even draw”. Fuck you, by the way!

From the creator of REUNION (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), PETTY THEFT and the co-creator of FANNY & ROMEO, this new edition is accompanied by 25 new pages of Pascal Girard in the present which explain so much about Girard’s anxiety in REUNION that I’m tempted to tweak my review. I won’t, but I’m tempted.

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This crippling anxiety – with attendant superstitious rituals recalling (as in “calling back”) his little brother – he directly attributes in no small part to his complete inability to process his sibling’s death when Pascal was barely more than seven years old himself.

The first and last three pages of the original confessional show them joyfully, exuberantly play-acting together as Ghostbusters; by the fourth page Pascal is sitting outside on the pavement, on his own.

How do you react to such an abrupt, gaping and irreversible hole both in your home and in your heart – at the very centre of your world?

You react inconsistently. And, as E.M. Forster suggested in ‘Angels Fear To Tread’, we must not be afraid to be inconsistent.

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For a start, a child’s desires are innocently self-centred, so games and Christmas presents bring as much joy as ever, and Pascal is put out by his parents’ grief during these early anniversaries which spoils all his fun. It’s only as he grows older that he begins to understand what happened and by that point self-awareness comes with the additional price-tag of guilt.

I’d wager it will speak volumes to those who’ve been bereaved at any age: there’s a gnawing gut-level guilt that perhaps you weren’t devastated enough at the time and therefore didn’t care, and a suspicion (or even determination) that you shouldn’t be enjoying yourself now.

Girard makes no such clumsy evaluations on the printed page, electing instead to offer up the simplest of fragments of what he recalls: moments when he’s struck by his brother’s death or even benefits from it through sympathy. That’s why I call this a “confessional”. Judge him if you want, but it’s just human nature.

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Brave and bold for me, then, and very Jeffrey Brown.

Oh, and you know the old adage that it’s only when you lose something that you appreciate what you’ve got? Sometimes you don’t. For Pascal Girard has another younger brother who survived…

SLH

Buy Nicolas and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson.

Pop stars on their pedestals. You know how the likes of Bowie and Kylie are referred to as pop gods and goddesses? Turns out some of them really are.

“You are of the Pantheon.
“You will be loved.
“You will be hated.
“You will be brilliant.
“Within two years you will be dead.”

Every 90 years a Pantheon of a dozen gods is born anew, activated by ancient Ananke who finds them in young individuals previously oblivious to their fate. She helps them shine brightly for their brief two years. If they are lucky.

Because some of those lights have been snuffed out already.

It’s a brilliant conceit, executed immaculately. Of course the role assumed by these gods in this modern age would be as those most worshipped today, and Gillen takes the opportunity to examine journalism, fame, fandom, aspiration, envy, competitive back-biting, fear, mortality and manipulation, for some are putting ideas into the others’ heads.

They have been played.

You have been played.

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Kieron Gillen has been ever so naughty: he left key moments out to mess with your mind.

Now you’re going to get an unexpurgated replay in chapter three. You will like what you see, but it will make your heads explode.

I cannot tell you anything more for it would all be spoilers – even a single page of volume four’s interior art. Instead I recommend you read our previous, extensive reviews of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, and leave with you with the book’s sly teaser-trailer.

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SLH

Buy The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

In the run-up to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Page 45 is scrambling for time, but consider this at least a signpost to the knowledge that more TREES have arrived!

They are big trees.

These trees are so big that a mere axe wouldn’t cut it – nor even your average, hand-held chainsaw.

They are so vast that if they had canopies, they would be lost from view in the stratosphere. Their girth would exceed the radius of your average town or village, and not just its Green. These trees don’t have leaves, but do they have an agenda?

They have planted themselves implacably on our planet and have so far shown few signs of their nature, nurture nor broader intention, except to sick-up their occasional toxic vom.

They may be staring at you, or they may not. They simply sit there, rooted to the spot, giving nothing away. One thing’s for certain, however: you cannot miss them; you can see them sitting silently from a shoreline away.

What happens now?

Look, I’m basically asking you to refer to our review of TREES VOL 1.

From the writer of  INJECTION VOLUME 1, INJECTION VOLUME 2 and TRANSMETROPOLITAN etc. Pop Warren Ellis into our search engine and see how long he lasts without access to his beard-trimmer *, cigarettes and whiskey.

* He doesn’t have one.

SLH

Buy Trees vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas.

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Paul Thomas will be signing with us at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 from 1-15pm on Saturday 15th October!

Landscape prose hardcover lavishly illustrated on every page with full-colour cartoons, the ink in question is predominantly blue – as are the jokes!

Those I can’t quote, but Thomas’ art here is to dream up new (and old) contexts for current colloquialisms or conceits, juxtaposing the contemporary with the historical, the irreverent with the revered, and putting frivolous phrases into the mouths of famously po-faced public figures for maximum iconoclastic impact and LOLZ.

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This isn’t merely “unreliable”; it’s full of absolute whoppers, like the most startling set of knuckles to ever be adorned with that ‘LOVE’ / ‘HATE’ legend: the Sphinx’s.

“In 1066, King Harold II famously had his wife Edith’s name tattooed on his chest. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle reported the design to be ‘beautifulle to beholde, beynge of qualyte and reallye cool’, The decoration surrounding it was, however, said to looke ‘a bitte shitte on hyse man boobes.’”

Adding an ‘e’ doesn’t hurt while in those parts of the past that deployed them, but it’s the lateral thinking I admire the most.

“In 1483, Richard III’s first act as king was to convert the Tower of London into a ‘worlde class childcare facilite’.”

I know of two princely playmates who might have claimed otherwise.

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My favourite piece of lateral thinking combined a) the art of tattoo and b) the printed paper bills we have to pay. Or, in this case, the additional surcharge attached to being married to a certain misogynistic monarch. Anne Boleyn is shown paraded in front of the public for beheadification, her executioner behind  her and a line of dashes – – – – – – – – – – –  inked round her neck with the legend “coupez ici” underneath.

I liked the old-fashioned flourish on the ‘z’. I also smiled at Charles Dickens being deemed “celebrated poverty ogler”, which wasn’t quite his humanist mission.

It works best the further back in time you go, perhaps because we’ve almost exhausted the satirical wet sponges that can be thrown at more recent regents and reprobates.

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And while I remind you that I have explicitly alluded to some of the more ribald humour (so don’t run cumming to me), I did chortle childishly at two mutual male admirers in a prison shower being told by the guard to “Get a cell!”” One has a male hen tattooed on his chest, the other twin ’R’s on his buttocks. “I like your Rs”, says one. The other says something else.

SLH

Buy An Unreliable History Of Tattoos and read the Page 45 review here

Shade The Changing Girl #1 (£2-99. DC’s Young Animals) by Cecil Castellucci & Marley Zarcone.

Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours brighten this beautiful beast up no end.

It’s from the same Young Animals stable as Gerard Way & Nick Derington’s DOOM PATROL #1 which we singularly failed to review. Given Way’s profile we doubted it needed any extra publicity from us, but it was utterly mental and required no prior knowledge of Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL. In fact, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way took cheeky delight in confounding previous readers’ expectations at every turn.

This too requires no prior knowledge for we’ve a brand-new cast with bags of potential to alarm all and sundry, especially those who thought young, blonde-haired Megan was gone from their lives for good. This includes not just her friends, but also her parents who were assured that their comatose Megan was so without hope that they’d signed all the papers to pull the plug.

She’s just woken up, and the hospital would be exceedingly grateful if her mother and father would kindly collect her, please.

“She’s upsetting the other patients.”

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She seems very cheerful, though. Almost as if she’s a completely different person.

Now, you’d think that her friends would be thrilled and her parents ecstatic at this modern medical miracle. But if you knew Megan like I’m beginning to know Megan, then you might have more cause for concern.

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It’s the old Megan I’m referring to. But the old Megan is quite, quite gone; her body now inhabited by an alien who’s travelled all the way from Meta by way of Shade’s ever-shifting, technicolour dream coat. Therein lies all the dramatic irony we could wish for.

So, umm, you might by now be wondering what put this girlfriend in a coma to begin with.

Haha! SPOILERS!

From the writer of Young Readers’ ODD DUCK (with Sara Varon art – oh, yeah!) and Young Adults’ THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, THE PLANE JANES (one of our earliest Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and its immediate sequel JANES IN LOVE (all excellent, all reviewed), this is suitable for neither of those demographics, the Young Animals imprint being very much a modern cousin to DC’s Mature-Readers’ Vertigo.

SLH

Buy Shade The Changing Girl #1 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 Fade Out Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 2 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Hellboy In Hell vol 2: The Death Card (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

The Metabaron Book 1: The Techo-Admiral & The Anti-Baron h/c (£20-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen

She Changed Comics (£13-99, Image) by various edited by Betsy Gomez

Tokyo Ghost vol 2: Come Join Us (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy

Batman By Ed Brubaker vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Geoff Johns & Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, Sean Phillips, various

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c (£26-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others

Catwoman vol 8: Run Like Hell s/c (£13-99, DC) by Frank Tieri & various

Convergence s/c (£22-99, DC) by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens & Ethan Van Sciver, Andy Kubert

Superman: American Alien h/c (£22-99, DC) by Max Landis & various

All New X-Men: Inevitable vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows: Warzones! (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Adam Kubert, Scott Hanna

Extraordinary X-Men vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Victor Ibanez, Humberto Ramos

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 2: Bordertown s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

X-Men: Gambit & Rogue s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Howard Mackie & Lee Weeks, Mike Wieringo

The Rise And Fall Of Axiom s/c (£17-99, Legendary) by Mark Waid & Ed Benes

Fairy Tail vol 56 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Groo Vs. Conan (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones, Thomas Yeates

X-Force / Cable: Messiah War s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Duane Swierczynski & Jamie McKelvie, Ariel Olivetti, various

News

ITEM! Here we go! It is upon us!

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At the time of typing, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is mere days away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring comicbook creators signing with us FOR FREE!

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Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

We are also joined in our graphic-novel-stuffed Georgian Room, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, by the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of everyone’s signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, plus so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

Come up and see us, make us smiii-ii-ii-iiiiile!Page 45 sign left

 

ITEM! I promise you we don’t normally keep repeating ourselves in our News Section like this, but The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is Page 45’s biggest event of each year, and we are so proud to be a part of it.

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ITEM! We’ve created a Panel at LICAF to help empower new and aspiring comicbook creators.

Sunday October 16th, 1pm to 2pm in the Clock Tower Council Chamber

You Ask, We Tell! Helping Creators Pitch To Publishers, The Press and to Comic Shops.

Although everything else we do is free, this bit will cost you £8 plus a £1-50 booking fee, I’m afraid (see link), but consider it an excellent investment in your creative and commercial future! Here’s why:

Independent publishing and self-publishing isn’t just a means to critical acclaim but to concrete, commercial success.

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Page 45’s biggest-selling graphic novel of 2015 was PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA, independently published by Improper Books and beating everything from DC, owned by multi-millionaire mega-corps Time Warner.

Page 45’s biggest-selling comic was EXPECTING TO FLY, self-published by John Allison and beating everything from Marvel, owned by multi-billionaire Disney.

With independent publishers you can retain creative control, ownership and be nurtured like nowhere else, fostering long-lasting, personal relationships with retailers and review sites like Broken Frontier which will prove invaluable throughout your career. We’ll show you how.

On that experienced, hand-picked panel:

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

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

We’re about to answer your questions.

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ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.

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ITEM! Under Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale in our room alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo et al.

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ITEM! We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel (reviewed).

Poignant and pertinent, every school library should have one.

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ITEM! Also, also, we will be selling the brand-new 24-Hour Comic Relay Race comic directed by Dan Berry, which will be created in the 24 hours leading up to LICAF by the likes of Dan Berry, Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia and Bryan Talbot. Here’s 2014’s anthology, 24 x 7:

ITEM! We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us.

For us: a till drawer which shuts.

For you: we’ve a second scanner so we can whip whichever dozen graphic novels you’ve selected from our mounds of magnificence through that till before you can scream “Second Mortgage!”

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ITEM! LICAF is brought to you by Julie Tait and Carole Tait without whom none of this would happen. Without Sharon Tait, the loveliest light in the world, I would still a quivering mess in the Kendal Clock Tower foyer, 2014.

Together they are the Holy Tait Trinity.

A round of applause for the Holy Tait Trinity all weekend long, please!

– Stephen xxx

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week one

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Families! Win free original Sarah McIntryre sketches! More BREAKING NEWS about The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 below our reviews!

A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

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If it were at all possible, would you go back in time with your current critical faculties and relive your life from the age of fourteen?

If so, what would you change – if anything at all – and what would you learn that eluded your former fourteen-year-old mind?

This is a graphic novel which may make you reflect upon your past, on your present, and perhaps on your future. With crystal clear lines of breath-taking beauty and grey-tone shadows which denote so much sunlight, it’s my favourite work so far from the creator of GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, collecting the two former softcovers, the first of which we made Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month.

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It is executed with all the dignity, quiet calm and accomplished craftsmanship that made THE WALKING MAN such a transporting experience, and sees a forty-something businessman, tired and hung-over, boarding the wrong train by mistake. It takes him back to the town he grew up in. Rather than fret, he takes advantage of the happenstance to stroll through the streets of his childhood. They’ve changed so considerably that they’re barely recognisable now, but when he reaches the graveyard under the verdant hillside where his mother lies buried, he stops to meditate by her headstone:

“What were my mother’s thoughts when she passed away?
“My father suddenly went missing when I was in eighth grade. I have no clear idea why my father decided to leave. Even now, whereabouts still unknown, I don’t know what’s happened to him… I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead! I don’t know the pain she might have felt inside, but Mom passed away without ever saying a hateful word about my father.
“I asked my mother once again. ‘Were you happy?'”

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There’s a shift in his shadow as the sun shines down from above, and a shift in his weight so that he loses his balance. A butterfly flits by. He’s wearing his old school uniform.

Hiroshi Nakahara is fourteen years old again. His mother’s alive, and his father’s still there with no sign at all of significant strife. So why did his father suddenly disappear, and can Nakahara do anything to prevent it?

Originally published in Japan in 1998, the time taken to translate it gave Alex Robinson’s similarly themed TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN the chance to emerge onto our shelves first. Whatever their similarities, stylistically they’re very different beasts: Taniguchi has an exceptionally fine, precise yet surprisingly soft and sympathetic line whereby even interiors are spacious and full of window light, whilst his landscapes are a loving tribute to the beauty of nature, the grass dappled in sunshine and shadow, the leaves painstaking rendered in gentle folds above.

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One can’t help but fall in love with so many of his cast, either. Whether wide-eyed in wonder or deep in reflection, harbouring a melancholy kept to himself, Nakahara is drawn by Taniguchi in perfect sympathy with his inner monologue. For although he delights in a confidence around girls he never had as a child, although he rejoices in a rejuvenated athleticism and overindulges in an alcohol binge his younger body can’t cope with, there are school friends whose funerals he’s already attended who are chatting to him now without a care in the world, and he can’t help but look at his mother and father with a different eye to a child’s.

For he knows his father will leave his mother soon, just as his own family in the present are wondering what’s happened to their husband and father…

It’s a work that can’t help but catalyse self-reflection. How would you cope in the same situation? Who would believe you if you told them the truth? How soon would one simple act cause a domino effect leading you down a completely different road to that trodden before? And how come you can’t just take a boy or a girl out to dinner any longer?!

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Taniguchi’s best works are more about contemplation and a search for truth or at least peace of mind than anything else, and usually in the middle of the most beautifully lit countryside you will ever encounter. There’s also an emphasis on respect and gratitude – the touching and impressive Japanese courtesy of not wanting to put anyone else out (it is not about manners; it is all about genuine good will) – and it’s evoked well here as Hiroshi’s grandmother continues to explain his father’s particular circumstances following his experience in World War II, and his mother struggles with her understanding of the debt she owes her second husband, her knowledge of what he has sacrificed for her, yet her need for his presence.

Meanwhile Hiroshi takes the girl he’d never have had to courage to talk to the first time round to the seaside where he relishes the freedom and sensations of being fourteen again, but without the same insecurities.

SLH

Buy A Distant Neighbourhood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Carthago h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Christopher Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic.

Is it okay if I start crying now?carthago-cover

Welcome to a whopping, album-sized, 275-page graphic novel of exceptional light and beauty – and the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

Specifically, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth embedded in a mouth big enough to engulf a bathysphere as if it were a bonbon. That mouth belongs to an eighty-foot long Megalodon, a species of shark which didn’t have the decency to die out 2.6 million years ago as we were all promised. Since it didn’t die out, you can assume with some certainty that it’s not alone. It’ll have to have some honeys to breed with.

How has it survived? That proved quite clever. Not everything here passes the credulity test quite so creditably: like Major Bertrand’s decision to dive back into the water once a diving cage has been crushed / mangled / mauled beyond recognition, just to see what enormous subaquatic creature could have done that. It proves a pivotal plot point – on account of what else he spies lurking below which he vows never to impart to anyone – but you really wouldn’t do that, would you? “All you can eat” must surely be the default menu of any Megalodon on the move.

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I thought it cruel, being made to read and review this, for I am terrified of sharks. Mesmerised, but terrified. I don’t really want any species to die out, but the very idea of diving in a cage surrounded by Great White Sharks – or even a solitary soul out for a leisurely, late-afternoon swim-stroll – is insane.

I used to have shark dreams once a week between the ages of eight and thirty-five. They rarely ended well.  I would see shadows of sharks even within in-door swimming pools, for which I blame James Bond. Strangely, those dreams ceased once I came face to face with a barracuda while snorkelling in Barbados. It swam, fast as lightning, to within two feet of my nose. Thankfully it executed an equally abrupt about-turn, but not before I was gifted with a true appreciation of how phenomenally hideous its ugly mug was.

All things are relative.

It’s about to get uglier.

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Carthago is the name of the international corporation which trades in both gas and oil, drilling out to sea for both. In 1993 one of their drills penetrated a deep-sea cavern and all four divers disappeared. They couldn’t resist investigating this new, exotic environment, and this new, exotic environment couldn’t resist investigating them. Nom-nom, etc.

I cannot begin to convey to you how tense and claustrophobic Henninot renders their initial, tentative, reconnoitre, so much hidden in the impenetrable, inky black which their tiny, inadequate flares and torches barely manage to illuminate. Thanks to the two-page prologue 73 years ago, we are anticipating a certain sort of… reception… but it’s ever so subtly introduced on the final, small panel of a right-hand page by a free-floating hand and attendant rivulet of blood.

Mr. Snyder, Carthago’s chairman of the board who sports a fetching black balaclava, is well aware of what went on way back then. He’s had video footage since day one. Now he shares it with his suit-and-tie board members, but with strict instructions that it must never be leaked lest they be hit with multiple law suits, not least for negligence. Further fears include the plug being pulled on further drilling, and their already precarious profits ($90 billion from one rig alone) will go into free-fall.

Unfortunately for Carthago, its chairman is not the only one in possession of that film. A radical environmentalist sub-cell within Greenpeace has copies too and shows one to Dr Kim Melville, fresh from discovering three-foot-long crayfish below the Sarrans Dam in France. Parenthetically her daughter, Lou, has discovered pike three times her size in the freezing waters, 150 feet down without the aid of any breathing apparatus or indeed any facial protection whatsoever.

“Lou’s not like other little girls…”

No, indeed, as you will see.

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We’re still on the first two-dozen pages, but what follows is an ultra-competitive race between multiple factions to a) capture proof of a Megalodon’s existence b) expose Carthago’s less than ethical cover-up and collusion, then  c) get to the very bottom of the sea’s hidden depths and secrets sustained over the centuries – improbably so since photography was invented.

Drop in the ocean? I should say so! I’ve not even touched on the prime mover, one elderly Mr Feiersinger confined to a futuristic wheelchair / life-support system. An unimaginably wealthy, ruthless and obsessive collector of the rarest artefacts imaginable, he resides in Eagle’s Eyrie atop the Carpathian Mountains of Romania in a vast, Gothic castle whose cathedral-like hallway resembles the central nave of the British Museum. He has in his indebted thrall the graphic novel’s action hero, London Donovan. You will learn of this debt and of the expedition which led to Mr Feiersinger’s current condition anon, but not here.

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All these paths and many more will cross, criss-cross and re-cross again in an increasingly convoluted, full-blown sci-fi experience involving maritime survivors, monomaniacal malfeasance, more monsters than I’m willing to give away here, hereditary hiccups, ancient civilisations and, yes, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

The planet is changing: it’s realigning. Ice floes are shifting. Whales and dolphins are beaching themselves in what appears to be a coordinated mass suicide or desperate flight. Forces – both familiar and familial – are coming into play, and if you believe that “the blood-dimmed tide” is already loosed then I swear that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

This is spectacular. It truly is spectacular.

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Delphine Rieu’s colours in particular complement Eric Henninot’s crisp, clean lines to perfection. Her whites and blues are bright and pure, while Henninot’s faces are a little like P. Craig Russell’s. His sense of scale is as thrilling, particularly when looking up at the dam or Eagle’s Eyrie’s interior, so rich in vertical detail. Moreover, his sharks are ferocious and, as I’ve intimated, they are not the only challenge present.

His successor halfway through, Milan Jovanovic, isn’t quite all that but only because you’ve been spoiled rotten beforehand. The tidal waves are still terrifying, the underwater menaces still petrifying and there’s one page featuring the most misjudged practical joke of all time which will leave one young lad speechless for years.

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However, honestly dictates I concede that two-thirds of the way in it threatens to collapse under the weight of increasingly ridiculous coincidences, along with improbable decisions and observational failures on the part of the cast. It doesn’t, but it threatens to, especially when those cast members haven’t proved so dim in the past. (Apart from Dr Kim Melville, perhaps: “Take your daughter to the seaside!” you will be screaming at her for the hundred odd pages it takes her to do so.)

As to Mr Feiersinger’s younger brother… forty years younger? Okay, if he’s revealed later on to be a covert catamite instead, I will whoop with penitent joy and enormous respect for the lack of hand-holding clues early on. Otherwise pfft!

SLH

Buy Carthago h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Carrot To The Stars (£6-00, Lakes International Comics Art Festival) by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s.

“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

A cautionary, all-ages fable, this has an elegant and eloquent simplicity, and a fearful symmetry whose missing element will haunt me for decades. Except that, as drawn by Riff, it isn’t entirely missing, and therein lies the power of its punch.

I cannot be more specific than that, but you will know what I mean when you see it.

The cautionary aspect is emphatically not about dreaming – how tragic would that be? – nor about invention or industriousness. This isn’t some sort of awful, prohibitive, Daedalus and Icarus yarn which William Blake shot down so succinctly in ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’ thus:

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings”.

Aspiration should be encouraged. Not even the sky is your limit.

Instead, the cautionary note lies in entrusting your dreams to those with less beneficent interests than your own. It is about the perversion of dreams, and it boasts a specific, all too awful pertinence to our wider world today, and indeed throughout the ages with one particular instance in mind.

So.

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“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

How romantic is that? And how beautiful is that opening page with its innocent, Dr Seuss-like revelry shared under the inspiring light of a benign, beaming moon? Our inventive rabbit “dreams of something dazzling” and is inspired to build something beautiful in order to give others pleasure. He labours night and day, and his endeavours are rewarded with success.

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“The carrot shoots straight up in the air, as if sucked up by the sky.”

Great line!

“Everyone wakes and wonders and marvels.
“No one can believe their eyes.
“It’s marvellous!
“Who has created this wondrous thing?”

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Ah yes, his endeavours are rewarded with success: more success – and a different sort of success – than he bargained for.

Once more, let me be clear: it doesn’t go to his head. Nothing the rabbit does (except maybe the initial, slightly toxic process which may leave organic carrot farmers frothing at the mouth!) is an indictment of his invention, his intentions or his honour throughout. Indeed his sense of duty is commendable. Just remember whom your sense of duty and loyalty lies with, or is given to.

Corporations have only their own self-interests at heart.

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The art is smooth, bold and beautiful, making maximum use of spotlights, striking shadows and stark silhouettes, leaving the colours to glow in the darkness.

Copies go on sale at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on Saturday 15th October in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower. Thereafter you can happily purchase from here and elsewhere for worldwide shipping and even pre-order right now. I’d mention LICAF’s partners in this except that it would give the contents’ game away, but those lucky enough to have secured LICAF’s earlier exclusive this year after a certain multimedia performance or via Page 45’s own website may infer what they will.

Translation by LICAF’s own Carole Tait.

SLH

Buy Carrot To The Stars and read the Page 45 review here

Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

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“The wise man knows when to keep silent. Only the fool tells all he knows.”

Reviewers, take note: you’re supposed to intrigue, not give the entire game away.

A wise and wonderful tale reprising known Norse mythology in a new guise, and another of those all-ages books which will overwhelmingly be picked up and relished here by adults. Like many of Gaiman’s stories, it is in part about the power of words and the determination to succeed – but also the secret of smiles.

Originally published in 2008, this new die-cut hardcover edition is generously illustrated on every page by Chris Riddell (see THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and FORTUNATELY, THE MILK… also by Gaiman), each black and white portrait adorned with lavish, silver-ink frames. The bear is gigantic, his eagle is imperious and that fox is as lithe as you like.

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Odd is the son of a Scottish mother who loves to sing – of “fine lords riding out on their horses, their noble falcons on their wrists, a brave hound always padding by their side… freeing the oppressed from tyranny” – and a Viking father who stole her away during a particularly fine day’s pillaging.

However, because his father would not even touch her until he had taught her enough of their language to clearly state his honourable intention of making her his wife, they ended up loving each other very much indeed.

Unfortunately he died at sea.

When told the news, Odd didn’t cry, he didn’t say anything. He merely shrugged.

“Nobody knew what Odd was feeling on the inside. Nobody knew what he thought. And, in a village on the banks of a fjord, where everybody knew everybody’s business, that was infuriating.”

That, and his bright smile, unnerved his settlement.

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Now, his father had been a woodsman, a true master of the axe, invaluable to a community where wood was used to make everything – “wooden nails joined wooded boards to build wooden dwellings or wooden boats” – and, determined to make himself useful, Odd took up his father’s axe, so heavy he could barely lift it, and set about felling a tree. And he did. But it fell on his foot and it fell on his leg and it crushed those bones completely. Still, he used to axe to dig himself free, cut a branch for a crutch and hauled his father’s heavy axe home, for metal was scarce and could not be left out to rust.

Two years later, Odd’s mother remarried. Fat Elfred already had seven children and did not care for a crippled step-son, especially when drunk. In winter the men drank more and, confined to the Great Hall, tempers would fray and fights would break out, and that year spring never came. The ice refused to melt and the snow refused to soften. “The games got nasty. The jokes became mean. Fights were to hurt.” So Odd decided he’d sever his few ties completely and retreat to his father’s log cabin deep in the heart of the forest.

And it’s there that he meets a flame-coloured fox, a voracious bear and an eagle with only one eye.

Strangely, he discovers, they can speak…

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Deliberately, I have taken you no further than what effectively is the prologue, but every element I’ve introduced is vital for the journey that follows: determination, resourcefulness, that knowing smile, and keeping it under your hat.

Readers of Gaiman’s graphic novel series SANDMAN and his American Gods prose will relish Neil’s return to three of his favourite characters. I particularly enjoyed the eagle with its one-word screeches, the bear being a bit stupid and the fox being extremely embarrassed about once being a mare. You’ll see, as their history with the Frost Giants unfolds.

All I will only add is that I’ve long admired Gaiman’s ability to put you in other people’s shoes, and then have you walk a mile in them:

“Odd pushed himself to keep walking, one step at a time, remembering when he had walked with ease and never thought twice about the miracle of putting one foot in front of the other and pushing the world towards you.”

The things we take for granted…

SLH

Buy Odd And The Frost Giants h/c and read the Page 45 review here

From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong.

Brotherfrom-under-mountains-collected-cover Marcellus to his sister Elena about their father, Lord Crowe, from astride his snorting steed:

“Have you asked him about your trip yet?”
“I’m putting it off so I can pretend he might say yes.”
“I’ve been to Menkha a dozen times. I don’t see why you can’t.”
“Don’t you?”
“He might let you come along with me in the spring. I’ll bring it up when I get back.”

Marcellus charges out into the sunlit desert beyond the thick-stoned keep.

“Close the gates.”

Conceived by the creator of BEAST, it’s no surprise that this too deals in part with the dismissal of women in a patriarchal society. Here we have one that’s feudal, and the fact that Elena springs from nobility empowers her not one jot, her father seeing no more in her future than a strategically advantageous marriage. After reading the opening chapter, you might wonder if the House of Karsgate has much of a future.

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Its Volan neighbours are encroaching increasingly on Karsgate territory, the goblin race which holds the balance of power appears to be reneging on their treaty, while the keep itself will be infiltrated tonight by an intrepid thief Tova; and although she thought she’d be alone in that, she won’t be. Something else has been set free by a summoning which takes place well beyond those walls.

Born of fire and a frenzy of hands under a low red moon, it is both ethereal yet as weighty as the words which have bound it, and “the rune that breaks the steel of men”. It is luminous in blue and purple and is given a ceremonial knife…

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Claire Gibson’s script is indeed well weighted and nothing whatsoever is extraneous.

“Every decision you make must have your full attention, no matter how small,” cautions Marcellus’ father, Lord Crowe. The same could be said of every word Gibson’s written, and Lord Crowe would do to heed them himself, for throughout this book he will fail to appreciate that he has a daughter at all. This will lead him to make fatal mistakes, just as he made a fateful one through pride and arrogance a long time ago.

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As Elena attempts to confront her father on her lack of opportunity to learn through travel, birds flap about the sky, not coincidentally, mostly off-panel. There’s quite a lot of Paul Pope in Leong’s faces, while her warm, glowing colours are rich and redolent of the East. A lot of attention has been given from the get-go by Marian herself to the various classes’ costume designs reprinted in the back along with landscape double-page spreads by MULTIPLE WARHEADS’ and KING CITY’ Brandon Graham, while you’ve a map you help navigate by at the front.

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Plenty more politics to come – gender, domestic and state – including pragmatic but empowering words of advice from Elena’s aunt, Lady Ure, and a Council which may not be sending the help Lord Crowe thinks he’s received to negotiate with the goblin Mausgol.

SLH

Buy From Under Mountains s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan.

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That’s a perfectly judged cover, the relevance of its silver ink becoming clear within the graphic novel itself. Meanwhile, it’s silver screen time.

“So what do I do, Andy? Read a script?”
“Just do anything. Or nothing… Just try to look fantastic.”

You could consider this lack of structure to be a liberating flexibility, Andy trusting his actor / models to be fabulous: a freeform study. Alternatively you could view it as hollow, lazy, clueless and superficial – a bit like Andy’s attitude to friendships. There’s nothing quite like nailing your colours to the wall early on in a review, is there?

“Hi, John…
“We’re in Nebraska or New Mexico or something.
“We decided to drive to LA.
“I guess I forgot to tell you.”

They’re sleeping together.

Throughout Warhol is depicted as careless and callous – and by “careless” I mean he simply doesn’t care. His attitude to almost everything is one long, shrug. I’d be almost surprised if he hadn’t invented “Whatever”.

“Oh, hi, John.”
“We were supposed to meet for dinner tonight!”
“Oh, right. Well, I got busy with this meeting.”

The meeting he’s currently in with Henry Geldzahler, seen earlier coaching Warhol’s contrary interview technique. It’s an honest explanation, but that’s all it is. There’s no apology, no of hint of contrition. That would require a teaspoon of empathy. Warhol dismissed people once he grew bored with them. Actually that would require some effort. Instead he lets them walk away, humiliated.

And, as we’ll see, Warhol was very easily bored.

“This is Billy. The young man who helped Andy set up the show.”
“Actually, I set up the show.”
“Of course. But along Warhol’s guidelines.”
“Not really. He just said put them up in rows.”

It’s good to delegate.

“Andy, you wanna check over the colours?”
“Gosh, you’re all doing such a great job. Choose whichever one.”

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As the book opens in 1962 Warhol is bored of drawing shoes. He’s bored of the whole illustration process, farming it out to his original assistant Nathan.

“Okay, so, Andy. Just prime the colours for the illo, then?”
“Sure, but maybe just do the whole thing, Nathan. You’re so good at getting my style. Make it ‘Warhol’.”

No one lasts long in Warhol’s bitchy circle during these two years which lead to 1964’s World’s Fair and architect Philip Johnson’s commission of a 20 x 20 foot mural to be hung on the New York State Pavilion. It’s a high profile gig. Warhol initially comprehends its magnitude – its importance to his career – and makes some effort to appear grateful. But, true to character, he lets his end of the bargain slide until the last minute before coming up with two successive ideas which infuriate Johnson, the first without any thought to the context of the commission or even its completion, the second wilfully antagonistic. Then there’s the third and final solution…

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Please don’t take my antipathy towards Warhol the vain, affected, work-shy, fame-craving, disloyal, emotional vacuum of a man for a dismissal of his work as an originator of ideas. I certainly rate his pop-art creativity inexpressibly more than I do Roy Lichtenstein’s parasitic pap. Although ideas plural might be stretching it, there is at least a consistency between repeating identical images or variations on that theme in a single exhibition then repeating that process for subsequent exhibitions. And indeed a consistency in repeatedly throwing away whomever he grew bored of like Kleenex.

Consistency is one of this graphic novel’s greatest virtues. Never once does Bertozzi’s Warhol speak out of carefully studied character. His dialogue – on occasions artfully drawn from filmed interviews – is such an accurate evocation of Andy’s vapid mumbling that I could hear his inertia in my head.

Hargan had me convinced I was watching him, too. Every single individual within each frame is immediately identifiable, especially Taylor Mead and Warhol himself, fey and pallid, with his equally inarticulate, immutably inexpressive mask complete with sunglasses even after dark.

In addition, there’s something appropriately boyish about Hargan’s expressions and figures (especially during the one temper tantrum Warhol can muster) which I strongly suspect must stem from a love of THIEVES & KINGS’ Mark Oakley, who I’ve always felt would make yet another perfect illustrator for Peter Pan.

Together they convey so successfully the art of giving nothing away that you can comprehend its widespread allure. But what Bertozzi intended above all is to give you a glimpse behind those sunglasses, behind the reputation, to the heart and soul of the man. Mission accomplished: he had neither.

For more Andy Warhol in comics – and it really is a pitch-perfection impression – please see Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE.

SLH

Buy Becoming Andy Warhol and read the Page 45 review here

Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis…

Wow. picno-coverTo make any sense of what is easily the most ‘out there’ comic I have read this year, you probably need to have some understanding of the title.  Picnolepsy would be a state where the mind and body could be said to be not functioning as a whole. For example, a simple daydream, or perhaps a medical episode such as an epilepsy seizure, or indeed even absolute, all-consuming  concentration on a task, such as texting on your smartphone whilst meandering down a busy street, oblivious to the rest of the irritated world around you…

In other words, temporary mental absence or disconnection from one’s physical self. Often, particularly with daydreams, the picnoleptic event is clearly extremely transitory. I suspect the inertia part of the title is referring to the fact that this intensely, psychologically perturbing sequence of short stories should be viewed as one extended picnoleptic episode. Given the cyclical nature of the entire work, it makes sense, though it’s about the only thing that does!

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It feels like Tsemberlidis, off his head on salvia divinorum, has climbed inside your mind’s eye armed only with a black biro and a trembling hand, and is perched precariously atop your pineal gland, frantically stabbing out join-the-dots scenes on the spongy canvas of your recoiling brain. This is one of the most surreal metaphysical trips I’ve been taken on for some time. It’s as disturbing as it is enlightening, particularly the ending… I have literally just realised what the dramatic conclusion probably actually means whilst typing this review and whilst it’s offset the extremely strange feeling I was left with, slightly, I feel… well, yes, disturbed.

Can you tell I loved it?

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On the same publishing imprint as GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, which is as equally bizarre as this work, in a not-altogether dissimilar black and white, ultra-minimal style. There is so much going on here visually, astonishing given the minimalism, that it does indeed feel like you are being squeezed through a pinhole camera obscura into some other distorted, compressed, concentrated hyper-reality. It is psychedelic enough without any need whatsoever for colours. I think colouring would detract from the power of it, actually.

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It is, also, I think, chock full of great little nods to popular culture. There’s definitely a knowing wink to THE INCAL, I believe also the beginning of the truly insane HEAVY METAL 1981 film (which, thinking about it, does contain certain picnoleptic elements), plus Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, and I am pretty sure I even spotted a wireframe space station from the classic 1980s video game Elite in one space scene! It’s just too distinct a shape for it not to be that. I am sure there are many more such nods, I certainly felt a few twitching at the corners of my consciousness which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

At this point, you’re either thinking, I have to buy this immediately, or more likely, about to break free from the daydream, or should I say, PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA, you’ve slipped into whilst I’ve been rambling on, and move on to the undoubtedly more coherent next review…

JR

Buy Picnoleptic Inertia and read the Page 45 review here

Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei…

You know blame-vol-1-coverwhat I was saying about a more coherent review…

Before the hyper-kinetic BIOMEGA and the supra-chlorophyllic space odyssey KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA there was BLAME! Actually, it’s apparently pronounced Blam, as in gunfire, which has to make you wonder why they didn’t just call it that. Plus surely it would have been a moderately onomatopoeic title, rather than a bizarrely irrelevant one? Though my phonetic pedantry might be slightly coloured by the fact I have spent many a moment recently explaining to a bemused 5 year old why the phonetic sounds she has been learning for all the alphabet don’t actually translate perfectly to how words sound… But then Tsutomu Nihei’s works don’t tend to make complete sense either, he’s more of an action man, whom I suspect might be prone to screaming “BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!” in the ear of his inking assistant whilst they’re working on a particularly frenetic scene just to help them get into the mood…

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Yes, as part of the current generation of denshoushas of Japanese cyber-punk manga, on a par with Hiroya GANTZ / INUYASHIKI Oku in my mind, following in the blazing trail left by Katsuhiro AKIRA / DOMU Otomo and Masamune Shirow, Tsutomu Nihei takes no prisoners whatsoever when it comes to helping his readers understand what the hell is going on in his works. I can’t help but admire that almost autistic blinkered approach. You wouldn’t want it all the time, but it’s a refreshing change occasionally, particularly in the speculative fiction genre. He did do a similarly austere Wolverine mini-series for Marvel where Logan gets flung forward to 2038 a few years back (that’s now long out of print) which Stan Lee was probably twitching uncontrollably to add some dialogue to.

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Nihei just loves hi-tech weaponry, especially big guns, has a definite penchant for villains that have been infected by weird mutating techno-organic viruses, and utilises vast chaotic super-structures for his story settings. As a student of architecture, he clearly likes to make good use of what precise draughtsmanship he’s learnt in that respect for his backgrounds, which are always in complete juxtaposition to the utterly chaotic full-on mayhem going on in the foreground.

Fans of Nihei will clearly see the huge influence this series has on BIOMEGA and KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA. The foreground art isn’t quite as polished at this point in his career, but it’s still extremely impressive. It has as barebones a plot and dialogue as BIOMEGA, but again, that’s not really why people buy his stuff. Personally, I prefer KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA as it is a more sophisticated story, but this is absolutely cyber-punk manga at its most direct and forceful.

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I suppose I should give you a little plot summary to finish as BLAME! is most definitely a great manga in its own right, where lone wolf Killy wanders “The City”, a huge, randomly expanding super-structure that began on Earth and may well now be bigger than the size of a Dyson Sphere, but certainly extending past Jupiter. Armed with his trusty Gravitational Beam Emitter (a VERY big gun basically), he’s looking for any surviving humans with a particular genetic marker that will allow them to access the “Netsphere”, to take back control of the computer network of The City. Along the way he’ll repeatedly encounter the techno-organic mutated Safeguard, who view any humans without the Net Terminal Gene – which is most of them – as a threat to be extinguished on sight. With that now said, it’s time to lock and load and away we go!

JR

Buy Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition)and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson…

“Diana grew from adorable baby to lovely girl as if overnight.
“The tears of the Gods had enchanted this girl and she possessed beauty, intelligence, strength and wondrous powers.
“Handsome and graceful with thick flowing hair, she mesmerised all who met her.
“Weavers spun ethereal threads and tailors stitched night and day to design her the most delicate of robes.
“Clever thinkers invented machines to amuse her.
“Sweet delights were served to her on golden platters at every meal.
“Musicians composed melodies to serenade her as she played or slept.
“Gardeners grew the flowers that were most pleasing to her nose.
“Theatrical performances were created in her honour…
“… and no one ever told her “no.””

Oh dear.

“So the beautiful princess who was so doted upon not only was striking and elegant, but also conceited and arrogant, as well.”

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Yes, before the Amazonian Wonder Woman who – as Jill so eloquently puts it towards the conclusion of this exquisitely beautiful exploration of Diana’s early years – ‘wanders the world, defending the weak, righting wrongs and fighting evil’, there was a right over-indulged spoilt little madam. Which in a small child is perhaps mildly amusing, at times at least (especially if they’re not your own), but not in a full-grown woman.

No, such character traits, if unchecked or unameliorated by adulthood, are obviously going to lead to the tears of many a person, not just the brat themselves when their every whim isn’t catered for instantly.  And so it proves here with disastrous consequences for the delightful denizens of the hidden isle of Themyscira, as there are some very valuable life lessons which are belatedly going to have to be learnt the hard way…

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But first Jill recounts just how the Queen Hippolyta and her Amazons came to sequester themselves away from mankind, Hippolyta’s poignant longing for a child, and the Gods’ answer to that fervent clarion call of desire. It’s a version that will satisfy the comic purists and the scholars of classics alike, told as it is with an elegance and grace to match Jill’s glorious watercolour painted artwork, particularly the Mediterranean palette of olive, terracota and aquamarine divinely invoking the heady sensations of an endless summer in paradise. Why would anyone leave such a veritable heaven on earth to brave the base outside world with all its sins and suffering…?

Fans of Jill’s SCARY GODMOTHER and BEAST OF BURDEN material, and also her take another comics classic, the Sandman and his family, with the hilarious THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK and DELIRIUM’S PARTY, will know precisely what to expect. But for people, perhaps Wonder Woman fans, new to Jill’s majestic touch with the brushes and indeed lyrical weaving of words, I think it will be quite the revelation. There’s a fantastic few extra pages of process (I would have loved more!) at the end where she takes us through from pencils to finished colours on a few pages, and it’s quite the visual feast.

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JR

Buy Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash Limited Edition Hardcover (£71-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

Troll Bridge (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Garden Of Flesh (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Head Lopper vol 1: Island Or A Plague Of Beasts (£14-99, Image) by Andrew Maclean

Last Look (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Riviere

Paul Up North (£15-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati

The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls (£13-99, Dark Horse) by various including Mariko Tamaki, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu, Margaret Atwood, Jen Vaughn

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown

Thought Bubble Anthology Collection – 10 Years Of Comics (£8-99, Image) by various including Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Duncan Fegredo, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Emma Rios

Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal (£14-99, Trapeze) by DanTDM

Wolf vol 2: Apocalypse Soon (£13-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up Marvel Universe h/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Vote Loki s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Langdon Foss, Paul McCaffrey

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 5 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

News

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ITEM! Tillie Walden, recent recipient of two Ignatz Awards and creator of A CITY INSIDE and I LOVE THIS PART, has just launched her new web comic ON A SUNBEAM for free online!

Needless to say, it is beautiful!

Tillie will be signing in Page 45’s Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on both Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October.

For there follows another great big plug….

ITEM! NOW INCLUDES JOHN MARTZ!                          

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is little more than a week away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring creators signing with Page 45 there FOR FREE:

Adam Brockbank,Fade Out vol 2 3
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

… and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of their signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, and so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

ITEM! Under last week’s Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo.

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We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel, reviewed above and pictured above.

We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us. Like a till drawer which shuts.

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ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.

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ITEM! You’ve just one week left to order whichever graphic novels you fancy for free collection in Kendal at LICAF. We’ll be bringing along our own selections, obviously, but you can order any of our 7,000 different graphic novels right now, so you don’t have hope that we’re mind-readers.

I don’t know if that’s a democratic upgrade or a capitalist expansion.

Either way, details (surprising no one) are on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog.

Pick Up In Kendal

– Stephen