Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week one

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

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