Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week three

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.

Hooray for parades!parade-cover

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?




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!


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.”
“Really! Helping to inspire and lift people out of poverty.”

Alas, not all poverty is pecuniary.


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


“Noted dawdler finally emerged here 24th May


“Wimpy know it all annoyed many here

Sixth Form:

“Obdurate muso made little impact here


“Argumentative pseudo coasted here


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”




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!”


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.




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.



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.


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



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.


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!


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?


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

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