Archive for November, 2016

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2016 week five

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Posy Simmonds expanded re-release plus new Joe Decie, John Allison, Taiyo Matsumoto, Andy Poyiadgi, Joe Latham, Luke Hyde, more!

Dogs Disco (£5-00) by Joe Decie.

Each copy comes signed and sketched-in, with unique song lyrics.

Come, rifle through, pick those that amuse you greatly!

It’s the return of that cheeky Joe Decie, the pint-sized prankster for whom truth is of paramount importance.

Part of the art of Joe Decie is perfectly exemplified on the cover itself: a portrait of the promenade seen from sea, either of Brighton or his home town of Hove. If you open it up, you’ll discover it’s a wraparound landscape cover. “Observations from home and around town,” it promises, and it does not disappoint. Within you’ll find single-page four-panel comics in black, white and delicate grey washes, about Joe, his family and his surroundings, all astutely observed, endearingly individualistic and effortlessly funny.

But the clue lies in what flies to the left of that promise, which I am not about to show you.


Joe is ever so adept at finding common ground: for example, the escalation of special school days demanding a ready supply of costumes and kits, and the knack of being an experienced seamstress with the ability to work to a tight deadline at the drop of an historical hat.

“Mummy, Victorian Week starts tomorrow.”
“I’m on it.”
“Dada! We’re late for school! Today’s Nocturnal Animal Day. Knit me a fox onesie?”

How do you spend your nights?

“At about 4am I like to wake up and have a worry.”

What follows is true, each and every word, ticking so many of my recognition boxes, but I love the deft twist: the wry / rueful lie that we “like” to wake up as if it were a matter of choice and indeed personal preference.

“I’ll worry about a leak in the roof or the price of print cartridges.
“And maybe about something embarrassing I said at a party seven years ago.
“Then I’ll worry that I worry too much. Or that I’ll be awake all night.
“Then, minutes before my alarm is due to go off, I’ll drift into a lovely deep sleep…”

Yes, minutes before, I achieve peaceful bliss.

“Daddy! We’re late for school!”

I don’t think the Decies are the best time-keepers in Morningshire.

Here’s another incontrovertible truth, that “There’s nothing more British than fish and chips on the beach”. Except that there’s one, as Decie concedes, and it’s one of my own family’s favourite shared memories. It’d be ever so surprised if it’s not one of yours.


There’s a heart-warming sense of pride in Joe’s family observations, most of it misplaced, and a delightful whimsy to what he records as emerging local trends, like the increasing lengths people now go to when smuggling alcohol into festivals, and the specialist shop Just Dice, “my ‘go to’ dice shop, really amazing selection. Not to be confused with ‘Just Ice’, the ice shop next door (which isn’t that great).” Then there’s the ultimate irony for a new tattoo trend which he confidently predicts will be in the style of children’s temporary transfers.

What should not be overlooked while soaking in Joe’s unassailable wisdom and admiring his strict adherence to verisimilitude, is his draftsmanship and some of the most attractive lettering in the business. I’ve met the man many times, and every self-portrait is spot-on: he nails the manner in which his glasses perpetually hang halfway down his nose. The way in which he draws arms is particularly satisfying, every subtle curve just-so in single, fluid lines leaving the washes to do all the depth-work. Same goes for his cracked, broken plant-pots, to be honest.


From the creator of the similarly autobiographical POCKET FULL OF COFFEE, THE LISTENING AGENCY, THERE’S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM and I BLAME GRANDMA, then, I give you the prospect of the perfect stocking filler in this small book of big wonders and maximum mirth. 

The biggest wonder of all, however, is that Joe can keep a straight face.



Buy Dogs Disco and read the Page 45 review here

Veripathy (£4-00) by Andy Poyiadgi.

Current copies come signed, with a spiffy free badge!

Every copy comes with the sub-title / back-cover caution: “Your feelings are no longer yours.”

The desire to understand others on a deeper level – and projections as to how that may be achieved with future technology – have been themes bubbling away for a while now, most recently in Winston Rowntree’s WATCHING and Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward’s ANCESTOR, both of which have proved very strong lures. This shares elements of both.

In ‘Veripathy Today’ we learn of the process called veripathic imaging, in which a person’s unique veripathic signature is captured and may be preserved in an archive so that visitors to the data bank can “be with loved ones no longer present”. Essentially it captures what could be considered your “self”: your thoughts and your feelings, raw, complete and undiluted by the various editorial processes we use to restrict access to them – the simplest one being by staying shtum.

Judicious discretion is a positive quality which saves hurting others’ feelings, but restricted emotional or expressive mobility can also lead to a sense of isolation. Imagine no longer having to find the right words to adequately express the complexities and nuances of what you’re feeling on any given matter or connected issues.


The veripathic helmet allows a free exchange of these potentially conflicting thoughts in their entirety. Take a couple who have been trying to synchronise using these devices for months. Suddenly there is success and they learn new things about each other.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I couldn’t. I didn’t know how.”

Can you imagine the liberation? Similarly, when linking to one or multiple individuals sharing the same veripathic space, the comfort of knowing you’re not alone in your self-doubts or even deeper neuroses must be phenomenal. It’s enormously encouraging to exchange candid verbal confessions with friends or to hear David Sylvian’s ‘Orpheus’ and read graphic novels like Pedrosa’s EQUINOXES which suggest that we do, so many of us, harbour the same deep-felt anxieties… but to actually know that this is true through such direct, technologically telepathic access would be something else entirely.

Of course we might all then implode in one gigantic mental malaise, but even on a small scale Poyiadgi has given the less beneficial implications much thought. I’m not a big one for parties (he says, understatedly), but after an ebullient meal with six or seven friends, although most often I’m high as a kite for days, I’m sometimes left with a come-down once it’s over and my friends have dispersed. Now imagine spending too much time in this prospective, unfiltered emotional mind-space, and then being left alone with your own thoughts and feelings.


So yes, there’s the recreational use of veripathy, but then there’s the medical applications in which a new breed of mental health doctors – those with the skills to enter your mind-space and manipulate or massage it – could soothe your worries or cure more pronounced problems. What a boon that would be! And how dangerous that could be! Not just for the patient, either.

“How are you able to take so much? I mean, doesn’t it affect you?”
“Good-bye, Mr Cooke.”

VERIPATHY is a neat little comic which thoughtfully poses ever so many questions in a level-headed fashion matched in its visual delivery. The colours are, on the whole, warm and soft, and there are two pages of one-on-one comfort and compassion whose forms are warm and soft too. There’s a domestic living room sequence which is ever so cosy, but there are also two pages where the potential emptiness is explored that are positively wintery. I particularly liked the balance in the doctor’s surgery sequence whereby the patients are colourful but orderly in a very long line and backgrounds clinical, the practitioner unknowable.


Interspersed between these are the two ‘Veripathy Today’ infomercials I mentioned earlier, scripted with according factual newspeak free from pro-or-con commentary and illustrated with treated photographs, for there would be other professional applications too, when you think about it.

I rather reckon that this comic will be leaving you thinking about it for a long time.

Poyiadgi’s LOST PROPERTY is still on sale and awaiting your discovery.


Buy Veripathy and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (£17-99, Oni) by John Allison.


In which our six sleuths from school have almost got their next mystery licked by the time the book opens.

“I can’t believe we have to stay here and hold the ladder.”
“Safety is important, Linton. The instructions are printed on the side of it, look.”

Sure enough there is a safety message sticker from the British Ladder Council printed in black on bright yellow with an incautious ascendant plummeting to his doom:



From the creator of BOBBINS, GIANT DAYS etc comes more of the best of British which we’ve reviewed extensively – and in the case of BOBBINS in great depth as to its mechanics – so I’ll restrict myself to a brief introduction, then a look at two specific elements of its art and craft I’ve not yet covered.

It’s summertime, and Jack, Linton and Charlotte have been left behind in Tackleford while Mildred, Sonny and Shauna swan off abroad.

“Maybe this will be your summer of love,” suggests Shauna.
“I am sorry to report that my skull has just filled up with sick.”

Lottie is having none of it. Her eyes blaze into the distance with a ferocious passion and earnestness:

Mystery is my boyfriend.”


Lottie’s greatest mystery at the moment is what her Mum sees in her new “special companion” Colin who is as dull as three-day-old dishwater but who has been invited to live with them, leading to incredibly violent toilet visits and incredibly dull conversation.

Linton’s greatest mystery is how his newly promoted police Dad is going to cope with the Gravel Pit estate crime rate whose graph is soaring so stratospherically high that, as Linton says, “I wouldn’t want to ride my bike up that.”

Meanwhile at the Tackleford Cormorant offices, Paula’s unyielding reign of inertia at the local gazette continues to confine its fields of interest – and so interest in it – to the unbridled anarchy that is dog mess. Sales have sunk so low that staff reporters have to buy their own tea bags. Except now Paula has taken an unprecedented leave of absence due to “nervous exhaustion, stress and St Vitus’ Dance”, leaving Mike in charge… to do Erin’s bidding. Erin is… ambitious.


So when “retired” children’s TV puppeteer Don ‘Gravy’ Wilkins is discovered in a ditch at night, catatonic with a rictus grin on his face, then two yoofs are found similarly afflicted and flung up in a tree, Erin smells headline news, Linton’s Dad sees the writing on the wall, and Jack, Lottie and Linton set about solving the mystery of the Night Stalker / Night Hero with some sense of urgency before Linton’s dear Dad is fired.

Unfortunately they are only thirteen with pre-determined bed times.


It is the age of cast in BAD MACHINERY which Allison nails over and over again, wringing a seemingly ceaseless stream of liquid comedy gold from their restricted circumstances, behaviour, body language and speech patterns. It will be recognised by adults, young adults, even younger adults alike (for, unlike GIANT DAYS with its recreational drug references, BAD MACHINERY is highly recommended to families and essential to school libraries), and I love that that Jack and co are still just young enough to do some of their most serious thinking on slides.

There is the passion – often inversely proportioned to whatever merits it – the petulance, the pouts and the way everything is taken so personally. Not just serious disagreements but mere differences of opinion on, for example, whether their unwelcome nocturnal visitor is indeed a hero or a villain. Conversely, there’s the love. Jack looks not just worried but potentially heart-broken at his friend Linton’s concern for his Dad:

“Come on, Linton! Punch me in the arm! A free punch! Don’t cry!”


“I’m not crying! ALL RIGHT? I’ve just got HOT EYES!”
“Do you know who else has hot eyes? Erin Winters.”
“You sicken me.”


Again, the passion – the disproportionate outrage – in Linton’s eyes when he states that is too funny for words (it’s a reprise, and grows funnier each time), while Jack is clasping his hands in adulation. Erin Winters, it should be pointed out, has a chequered past with our sleuths and Linton in particular. It might involve the selling of his soul or something. But Jack’s reached that age when he has begun to have certain “thoughts” and certain “feelings”.

This brings us neatly to an episode in which Jack and Linton meet Lottie in a lingerie department because she’s been grounded.

“I only got out of the house by saying I was rude because I was worried about bras. So, me and mum are having a bonding trip. BRAS FOR ALL. We’d better be quick, they’re measurin’ her up and strappin’ her in right now.”

There’s a perfect beat which isn’t even a pause but a reversal of camera angles from Lottie’s physical gesticulation across her chest in both directions to Jack, embarrassedly bursting with barely self-contained steam, whom Linton and Lottie both pat-pat on the shoulders with beautifully expressed, unstated understanding:

“Jack, maybe you should go and sit down in kitchenware for a bit.”


What you should understand is that – although these printed editions are embellished with extra pages and substantial tweaks – Allison publishes most of his stories initially online, page by page on a daily basis, which means each must tell a little story of its own complete with a comedic punchline which is sometimes verbal, sometimes visual and so often both. I cannot conjure in my admittedly addled mind a single other creator with such a high hit rate in that department except Charles Schultz. And although Schultz often mined a vein of an extended storyline, he wasn’t creating such long-form works as these with beginnings, middles and ends.

The upshot of this is that every solo John Allison work is almost incomparably rich and dense in entertainment while this hard-learned discipline has informed his offline collaborative projects too, regardless of whether each page must obey the same “rules”.

So here’s the other element I was just going to “touch on” before leaving you to read or re-read other John Allison Page 45 reviews (best to read BOBBINS as originally published in our blog so that the meticulously chosen illustrations are in synch:, and that’s Lottie’s language.


Her pronouncements are so intense, elaborate and embroidered with emphasis as to be hyperbolic. I’m struggling to analyse Allison’s skill and its effect precisely, but it’s as if they are definitive statements. Example the first:

“Whoa, is Erin Winters prayin’?
“Maybe her heart is not pure evil, Jack.
“Maybe she does not have a TAIL as I have LONG SUSPECTED.”

The additional dropping ‘g’s, the phonetic and the slang compounds the comedy with its contrast to the precociously eloquent. Here’s adult Erin followed by Charlotte, carefully chosen so as not to give the game away.

“His face was flickering on and off with the Creeper’s, like a pirate radio station cutting in and out.”
“Worr you can tell she’s a writer. Well evockertive.”


I will leave you to discover Jack’s pride in being “BEST AT COMPUTERS” and his more hubristic declaration, with attendant celebratory dance, to be “Best at Google. Best at Google. Best at Google” as well as subtle details like him bearing multiple cups of coffee while pushing door open with his foot (recognition button pushed!) and instead finish on his department-store horror at Linton’s suggestion.

“Let’s try CAMI-KNICKERS.”
“Erk, let’s NOT!”


Buy Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor and read the Page 45 review here

The Fox, The Wolf, The Woodsman (£7-00 each) by Joe Latham…


A fox, a wolf and a woodsman walk into a comic… You know what, I’m really not going to even try and go with the naff joke metaphor because something as wonderful as these three silent mini-masterpieces deserve so much better. Let me tone it down and start again…

A triple treasure trove of gorgeous artwork and interwoven narrative starring, funnily enough, a fox, a wolf and a woodsman, whose lives overlap in these simultaneously told tales including one extremely significant and particularly dramatic event.

the-fox-1I think if we were to construct a Venn diagram explaining the intersection it would be where cute, deadly and demented collide. Each work takes the viewpoint of its titular character, and is most definitely a complete story in its own right, and could most certainly be enjoy by enjoyed as such. It’s just that each of the three provides a unique insight into the other two, particularly with an understanding at precisely how we arrived at the crushing conclusion…


So, aside from being extremely cleverly constructed, what else have these comics got going for them? Did I mention they were gorgeous? Absolutely, breath-takingly swooningly so! Joe’s art style and choice of colour palette minds me of Jeff SWEET TOOTH Lemire’s, except Joe’s penmanship and brushwork is a touch deliberately tidier and smoother stylistically. Simply beautiful. There were so many times I unconsciously stopped reading and just naturally paused to admire his handiwork, which is a real rarity for me.


If Joe continues with this level of skill and craft I suspect he will go on to big things, not that these aren’t a trio of tasty treats in their own right. Also, were that not enough to satisfy even the most ardent comics appetite, he’s thrown in a cow pie, a proper dagnabbit cow pie with horns and everything, that just had me chuckling away merrily! I haven’t seen one of those since back in my diddy Desperate Dan Dandy days!  Try saying that with a mouthful of cow pie!


Buy The Fox and read the Page 45 review here
Buy The Wolf and read the Page 45 review here
Buy The Woodsman and read the Page 45 review here

Losing Sleep (£9-99) by Joe Latham & Luke Hyde…

“You know I can hear them right…?”
“What are you talking about cretin?”
“The ants scream every single time you kill one of them, I can hear it.”
“Shut your face Ashton! Or I’ll shut it for you.”

Definitely one for fans of recent retro telly hit Stranger Things, ohhhh yes. Sensitive younger sibling Ashton regularly gets a beat-down from his obnoxious older brother Cregg, who in Ashton’s own words… “is a real jerk sometimes”. Pretty much all the time, to my mind.

Except… during Cregg’s latest physical assault on their way to school, waterboarding Ashton by holding his head in a massive pile of snow (so perhaps snowboarding rather than waterboarding then!), Ashton appears to partially enter an entirely different reality. Well, at least his head does, anyway.

He’s so excited about what he’s seen, and withheld from Cregg, obviously, that he can’t wait for school to finish, tea to be consumed, so he can get back to ‘the place’ to see whether what he experienced was real, or just some oxygen-deprived, sinus-snow-filled hallucination.




It was real, very real. A strange, oddly coloured mirror-world, distorted and disturbed by maltreatment from the human realm. Oh, and where a huge, very scary looking creature lurks… Ashton, being Ashton, assumes the creature will be friendly, and promptly offers his assistance to help return the mirror-realm back to normal… I think you can probably surmise where this is going now, right…? Yep, it’s going to be time for Ashton to level up, find his inner hero and save everyone, even Cregg.

Excellent, small but perfectly formed fantasy yarn penned by Joe Latham and then brought to vividly diverse blue and white versus black and red drenched life by Luke Hyde. The contrasting colour schemes for the two worlds are particularly impactful at the moments of transition providing a real juddering schism between Ashton’s reality and the other-world.


Buy Losing Sleep and read the Page 45 review here

Literary Life: Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.

Dear, literary-life-coverdear Posy Simmonds! Such a classy lady and such a class act: literate, erudite, eloquent, posh and not above putting the word ‘penis’ on the cover.


From the creator of the long-form graphic novels TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY plus the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS of exceptionally well observed 1980s, socially satirical one-page comic-strip wonders, comes a new edition of the 2003 publication with 40 new cartoons and comic strips.

Clipped from the Guardian Review section, these are also one-page comics or cartoons both celebrating and satirising the world of book publishing: writers, readers, book shops and publishers all come under her all-seeing eye as she arches her eyebrow ever so playfully at authors’ egos and their dustjacket photographs, launch parties, creative challenges, publishing peccadilloes, inane and sometimes insane questions during festival panels, and the good-old, in-store author appearances to sign or read extracts.


There arise matters of expectations, promotional activities and attendances. I’ve a cracking collection of recollections called ‘Mortification’, dripping with tears wept by those invited to make such public appearances only to find themselves humiliated by the lack of turn-out, often on account of zero publicity on the part of the store managers or festival organisers. I personally know of a couple owning a comic shop twenty-five years ago who invited a comicbook creator whose regular readership there numbered precisely three. Nor were they expecting to increase that audience: the couple simply wanted to meet him.

The interior art I’ve found for you isn’t of the highest quality, I’m afraid, and lacks the soft, pale indigo tones of this edition, nor does it adequately reflect Simmonds’ fine, flowing lines. She does ‘chic’ oh so well. I’ve always marvelled at her ability to present so much on the page whilst maintaining a harmonious composition full of space.


One of my favourite pieces is called ‘Rustic Block’ in which an author sits at her laptop in a warm, cosy, countryside kitchen complete with AGA stove, hanging straw baskets and bunches of dried flowers. Through her rain-lashed window we can see sheep.

“9.05am  Chapter one: It was raining. The sheep were
“9.20am  It was raining. The sheep were in the field.
“10.15am  It was pouring. The sheep languished in the field. The gutters dripped. The clock ticked.”

Already weary when she started, our author is approaching exhausted. Her ashtray is beginning to overflow.

“10.50am  Hannah yawned, “Wish I’d never moved to the country. You feel positively catatonic. You can’t think of any
“11.45am  “Christ,” snarled Hannah. “Wish I’d never moved to effing, sodding Suffolk. Had a brain once. In Kentish Town I used to
“12.30am  Suddenly one of the Jacob ewes ran amok, stabbing, slashing and gouging a bloody path as it”

The trace of a smile appears on her lips.

‘Ask Doctor Derek’ is a fabulous conceit of great lateral thinking: a series starring a man and his stethoscope imparting words of reassuring wisdom to troubled writers who visit his surgery as they might a priest in a confessional.


Visually there are elements of ‘60s romance comics, especially the dark, feathery, female eyelashes, long blonde hair and utter innocence. Naturally matters of maternity and paternity arise:

“Doctor, is it too soon to try for another?”
“Well, let’s see… You had your first last April… and it sold all right.”

Then there are those “pre-delivery jitters”:

“See, I’m three months overdue! I got my dates wrong! … My editor’s going spare!!”

As to authorial maladies like writers’ block, Doctor Derek diagnoses them with intestinal logic:

“You see, I was so regular, doctor! Eight thousand words a day… every day! But now I sit in that little room for hours and hours… and nothing comes out!”
“You’re on the second of a two-book contract… and you’ve taken a very, very bulky advance, yes? Well, this can weigh heavily on the system…. cause it to seize up!”

Suspecting complications, Doctor Derek digs deeper, suggesting that a second opinion on her synopsis might reveal additional causes behind the blockage. Her plots prove so twisted that the script has become knotted, compacted.

“And it took just another ten minutes to work it out with a pencil!”

Look, I did warn you. Posy is a dame, but the word ‘penis’ is on the cover.


Buy Literary Life: Revisited h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 6 h/c (£19-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

This is the finalsunny-vol-6-cover volume of Taiyo Matsumoto’s unsensationalist SUNNY, set in and around a Japanese orphanage, which has at times had me typing through tears.

The first key is this: few of these kids are without parents, but they’ve been orphaned anyway. They’ve been left in the custodial care of incredibly kind, dedicated individuals by mothers and / or fathers who can’t cope for medical reasons, won’t cope for selfish reasons or don’t cope because they are irresponsible fuckwits without the first clue as to how lucky they are or the first thought as to the seismic impact on their offspring.

To know that you have been rejected, yet still yearn to be taken back and dream of it. To be surrounded in town by other parents and children still together yet at loggerheads over nothing. To have nothing yourself but hand-me-downs like a pencil case inscribed with the name of its previous and owner, and to want so little except love. To feel embarrassed, ashamed and judged for being an orphan.

To see no spark of maternal instinct in your mother when you meet her again, except a token effort and lame excuses.

It’s all here in this as in other volumes.


Art from a previous volume.

The second key is Matsumoto’s refusal to cute-ify the kids. They can be loud and brash while quietly broken inside, or they can be red-cheeked and dripping with snot. Or, in Kenji’s case, they can display and deep-seated sense of responsibility well beyond the reach and comprehension of their drunken dads.

Kenji is given the opportunity to go on a career path field trip to a refinery but he has a paper round and an inferiority complex to maintain:

“A low-class foster kid like me? No way… Gotta deliver the Evening Editions anyways.”
“You’re not “low class!”” counters Mr Adachi with a genuine passion. “Can’t you jus’ get someone to cover your route for a day?”
Workin’ for a livin’ don’t count as a career path?!”

He’s actually still smarting from his skin mags being confiscated.

Kenji’s dad is actually local, perpetually drunk every time Kenji sees him in public. But for once Mr Ito seems to recognise the importance of doing something for his son, offers to fill in on Kenji’s delivery and together they practise the day before. They have a great time rekindling old memories and there’s a brief glimmer of hope – of recognition in Mr Ito of his failings.

“Maybe s’time for me to turn over a new leaf!
“Runnin’ off and abandonin’ you and Asako…
“Sad excuse for a human being.”

While on the field trip, Kenji even buys his dad a nudie pen as a thank-you. But when he returns, well.,. You’ll see when Kenji impresses me no end: dignity and responsibility in one so young and mistreated. It makes your heart swell even as it is broken.

As the book progresses there is the very real sense of a coming conclusion, and possible tragedy, with ever so many poignant song lyrics coming through the radios.


Art definitely from this volume, the rest being in black and white.

The loudest and brashest and possibly most broken of all is ash-haired Haruo – whom I’ve dealt with extensively throughout this series but most prominently in SUNNY VOLUME 5 – who’s much younger than he looks. It’s subtly conveyed by his reflective aviator shades being far too wide for his face, and a nose which could not belong to anyone far into their teens.


Art from a previous volume, and in another language.

Normally all front, he’s now chewing quietly on his fingernails in unsure deliberation because he’s considering something momentous.

From the creator of GOGO MONSTER, TEKKON KINKREET and contributor to Humanoids’ anthology THE TIPPING POINT.

[Please note: all black and white art here is from previous volumes.]


Buy Sunny vol 6 and read the Page 45 review here

Little Tails In The Forest (£13-99, Magnetic Press) by Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci.

A companion to LITTLE TAILS IN THE JUNGLE, this is a thoroughly accessible Young Readers’ educational adventure from the creators of the silent, more adult-orientated, thrillingly choreographed and quite stunningly illustrated LOVE: THE TIGER, LOVE: THE FOX, LOVE: THE LION and (in February 2017) LOVE: THE DINOSAUR.

You are, however, on perfectly safe and cuddly ground here as Squizzo the squirrel wakes Chipper the puppy dog up and leads him through the forest to his cousin’s for lunch.

Now when I say forest, I mean American or Canadian forest because although we may have foxes, butterflies, bats, owls, woodpeckers, snakes and deer – and quite possibly stag beetles (I really don’t know: I’ve never seen one) – we’re not so hot any longer on wolves, wild boars or hungry bears in Britain. So I wouldn’t get your kiddywinks’ hopes up on that score.


As in the other volume, in bright, white and sage-coloured comic strips most often above (but sometimes below) full-colour paintings, the knowledgeable Squizzo leads the initially more tentative Chipper through the forest with unfailing confidence in his sense of direction.

So of course they get lost.

I liked the somewhat circuitous map.

I also liked that Bertolucci has adapted his style from, say, LOVE: THE LION so that the animals’ eyes are of an ilk that you’d expect to see in children’s animation – much more stylised with an added element of the anthropomorphic.


The emphasis is on adventure and excitement to entertain your young ones and introduce them to the majesty and colourful diversity of the forest, moving ever swiftly on to keep wide eyes shining bright and their own fur free from predators.

In the back of the book, however, time is taken to revisit some of the animals encountered earlier and learn a lot more. I had never thought, for example, about the dual dissuasion of a skunk’s defensive weapon: not only is a squirt of its nauseating perfume going to make any brave or stupid enough to attack feel sick to the stomach, but it will then stain them for days with its malodorous scent, so making their approach conspicuous to other critters they might fancy a bite of.


Buy Little Tails In The Forest and read the Page 45 review here

Captain Marvel By Jim Starlin – The Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, others.

Thanos fans, this is a classic companion to Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK (extensively reviewed) wherein your favourite, purple, craggy-chinned Death-doter casts his first considerable shadows. These two books are where the story of Thanos starts and I commend this to you almost as unequivocally as I do Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK which is tragic in its truest, time-twisting sense.

But let us begin at what is most emphatically an end, with The Death Of Captain Marvel.

“You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately of all the people I’ve met in my lifetime. I’ve made quite a few friends along the way. I also keep remembering Adam Warlock. I was with him when he died. His was a hard and sad life, filled with pain and confusion.
“When death came for him he welcomed it as a friend. I’ll not do so.
“I’ve enjoyed this life. It’s had its bad moments, but it’s had far more good moments. I’m going to miss it.”

Surprisingly haunting, even to this day, this was a landmark publication from Marvel in 1982 for so many reasons: it was its first original graphic novel; it was Jim Starlin’s return to a character we all thought he’d long had his final say on; and it featured the death of one of Marvel’s flagship superhumans not in self-sacrificial battle but quietly, in bed, from the all-too human disease of cancer.


Like Mark Millar and Leinil Yu’s more recent, magnificent SUPERIOR, it remains the antithesis of everything that all too often irks me when real-life issues like incapacity or bullying enter the arena of superhero comics. All of Marvel’s preternaturally bright scientists turn up when they finally learn of the good Captain’s fight, and they try and they try, but they still can’t save him. Nor should they have. Back in 1982 it would have been a magic-wand insult to all those with incurable strains of the disease which was far less treatable than it is now.

Fighting the disease or lying down and accepting your fate…? Now that is explored here in great depth from all sides of the argument and poor Rick Jones – whose teenage transgression originally compelled Bruce Banner to leap into the detonation zone of his own Gamma Bomb and so become the Incredible Hulk, and who was once bonded to Mar-Vell by those place-switching Negabands – takes it harder than most.


Seven years ago a supervillain called Nitro (oh, it’s always Nitro – see CIVIL WAR) succeeded in stealing a canister of nerve gas from the United States Army. During his explosive battle with Captain Marvel the canister fractured and its lethal nerve agent began to leak out, threatening to kill thousands of local residents. And Mar-Vell – with his alien physiology providing immunity to so much physical harm – stopped up the proverbial damn with his thumb. And promptly passed out. “Is this the End of Captain Marvel?!” screamed the Next Issue caption with customary alarm. Well, no. The thing about superheroes is that they get knocked down, then they get up again: you’re never going keep them down. And so the Kree soldier soldiered on for many further adventures.

In publication terms, it wasn’t even a sub-plot.

Seven years later, and the Captain is recording his memoirs for posterity. His one unique ability is his Cosmic Awareness, giving him an empathic knowledge of shifts in so much around him. But that power turns itself inwards and, long before he is diagnosed, he already knows he is dying. The photonic nature of his Negabands staved off the carcinogenic effect of the nerve gas for seven whole years, but the period of remission is over and now, gradually, one by one, his friends and family find out.


I adored Starlin’s art. In so many ways he took after the photo-realists like Neal Adams with some extraordinarily impressive neo-classical figure work. But then he’d give it a more expressionistic edge, making the jaws more jutting and gesticulations more angular. The Death Of Captain Marvel graphic novel boasted plenty of both, along with some striking colour art from Steve Oliff. He forsook the rich, warm colours of the preceding series for something altogether more pallid and nuanced, especially during the deathbed sequence.

Coming back to Starlin, there’s a particularly brave panel which stood out a mile after Mentor asks Mar-Vell if his lover, Elysius, knows of his terminal condition. After a moment’s silence he looks up from a panel over which Starlin has scrawled – literally scrawled – not photo-realistic shadow but thick lines of creeping darkness right emanating from his face whose eye sockets and teeth are emphasised so as to suggest a skull, and says,

“Not yet”.

Better still is the composition of the page in which he does break the news to Elysius, out in the sunshine of an idyllic cityside park on Titan, each silent panel interspersed by a narrow window as Mentor watches protectively over them, then withdraws respectfully leaving the couple alone and the window empty and black.


“Meanwhile, on the far side of the royal palace, down a long and quiet corridor and behind oak-panelled doors… a woman sits with her man. The long hard vigil that all lovers fear begins.”

It’s a dignified and respectful book, guest-starring so many of your favourite Marvel characters shown to be unusually uncomfortable: awkward in their impotence and unable to express how they feel. Isn’t that so often the way with cards of condolence? I like this. I still like it a lot. And Starlin wrote a very difficult final few pages very, very well.


Before then, however, you’re in for 250 pages not just guest-starring but fully featuring the Avengers, Rick Jones and The Thing as they first learn of Thanos. The hard way.

Seriously, if you’ve loved Marvel’s most excellent modern two-parter INFINITY VOL 1 and INFINITY VOL 2 with their shared Page 45 review, and you are intrigued enough to learn how Thanos’ legacy began, it is with the life and strange death of Adam WARLOCK and then here.

Reprints CAPTAIN MARVEL (1968) #25-34, IRON MAN (1968) #55, MARVEL FEATURE (1971) #12, MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #1 and material from DAREDEVIL (1964) #105 and LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1-5. Those aren’t the dates they were published in, but the dates those series began in order to distinguish them from Marvel’s more recent titles of the same names.


Buy Captain Marvel By Jim Starlin – The Complete Collection 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

Summerland (£7-50, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Paloma Dawkins

The Theory Of The Grain Of Sand s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten

Diary Comics (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Dustin Harbin

Bartkira: The Nuclear Edition h/c (£20-00, Floating World Comics) by Ryan Humphrey, various

The Disciples s/c (£11-99, Black Mask) by Steve Niles & Christopher Mitten

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 5: The One (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Simon Spurrier, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Warren Pleece

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 5: Arena Of Fear (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Elena Casagrande, various

Normal (£11-99, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by Warren Ellis

Rick And Morty (UK Edition) vol 1 (£14-99, Titan) by Zac Gorman & C.J. Cannon with Marc Ellerby

Rick And Morty (UK Edition) vol 2 (£14-99, Titan) by Zac Gorman & C.J. Cannon with Marc Ellerby

Samurai vol 1 (of 2): Isle With No Name s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Jean-Francois Di Giorgio & Frederic Genet

Batman: Detective Comics vol 8: Blood Of Heroes s/c (£15-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Ray Fawkes, others & Fernando Blanco, Marcio Takara, Francis Manapul, Steve Pugh

Captain Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Hero vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various

Moon Knight vol 1: Lunatic s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood

Vision vol 2: Little Better Than A Beast s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Tom King & Kevin Walsh, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

X-23 Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Marjorie M. Liu, Daniel Way & Phil Noto, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sana Takeda, Ryan Stegman, others

Young Avengers: Heinberg & Cheung Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Allan Heinberg & Jim Cheung, Michael Gaydos

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol 1 (£9-99, Viz) by Yasuo Ohtagaki

Black Butler vol 23 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso



ITEM! Adventures in Moominland at the South Bank Centre 16 December to 23 April.

More of a family experience than an exhibition, you can clamber through forests, huddle in caves and set sail on the high seas while learning of Tove Jansson. Yes please!

Page 45’s MOOMIN graphic novel collection. Click on any cover for reviews!

Art below is from MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD illustrated prose novel. Spooky!


ITEM! Alison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For returns in scathing post-Trump form!

Follow the link for more – this is just the top tier.



ITEM! Haunting animation of Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL. Some seriously good scoring too.

We’ve reviewed every Shaun Tan, so please pop in our search engine. THE ARRIVAL, reviewed.


ITEM! MARCH Book 3 wins America’s National Book Award!

All three books in MARCH trilogy in stock, reviewed!

March book 2 little girl

ITEM! You may remember the awful news from Page 45’s Reviews December week four about Nottingham City Library selling Nottingham Central Library’s building with no site confirmed as a replacement. I signed the petition and have received the following:

Read in at Nottingham Central Library
Saturday 10th December, 12-1pm
Angel Row

Hi Stephen,

Our library petition has gathered over 1,500 signatures in a week as news filters through that the City Council have sold the Central Library building. And it’s not just us. Both Derby and Sheffield Councils have announced the sale of their library buildings. Libraries are the heart of our cities and they’re being ripped out as cash-strapped councils look for funds.

On Saturday 10th December we will hold a ‘read-in’ at Nottingham Central Library, and we need a big turn out to show the Council how strongly we feel about this. A read-in is a mostly silent event to show support without disturbing library users. We’ll invite the press and have informed the staff via their union. We’ll be there for one hour, and we’ll also be encouraging people to join the library on the day and borrow a few books!

Share the event on Facebook

Please invite friends, family, workmates and neighbours along to this important event. A big turnout sends a powerful message to the council and the government that libraries shouldn’t close to pay for the bailout of the banks.

Read in at Nottingham Central Library
Saturday 10th December, 12-1pm
Angel Row


 – Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2016 week four

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Shaun Tan! Roller Derby! More Avery Hill excellence! Young Readers’ educational adventure! News underneath!

Equinoxes h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa.

“I’m thirty-one, equinoxes-coverI feel lost, I’ll have but one life, and it’s slipping through my fingers like a torrent.”

Camille is thirty-one. Without an apartment of her own, she’s virtually broke and she feels she’s wasted her ten years since college. Buffeted by wind and rain, she struggles to make progress, and in any case she has lost any sense of direction. She’s rudderless.

“I’ve been here for months and I feel like I haven’t found anything. It’s there, right in front of me, but I can’t see it. I feel myopic…
“What sense does it make to be turning up every stone without knowing what you’re looking for.”

She feels alone, but she‘s not alone.

In this remarkable graphic novel with its complex, intricate structure, we’re introduced to so many seemingly unconnected individuals all of whom – to one extent or another – are missing someone or missing something, awakening to their age and mortality, and watching others go about their business seemingly with purpose while wondering where their own lies.


There is so much fear and anxiety that they are useless or (worse) mediocre: that they haven’t achieved anything, are failing to achieve anything, and never will achieve anything.

“You think it’s too late?” asks middle-aged Vincent of his much-missed brother turned priest.
“Too late for what?”
“To stop playing Ping-Pong.”


Like Alessandro Sanna’s THE RIVER, Pedrosa’s EQUINOXES is presented in four seasons beginning in autumn and culminating in summer, each with their distinct colour palettes, textures, line treatment and weather conditions. There is ever such a lot of wind and rain in autumn and winter, drawn and coloured in an impeccable low light. It is difficult to forge through and obscures the vision.


Each begins with a silent sequence set in the Neolithic Age. Autumn’s depicts a young hunter surviving the curiosity of a predatory tiger by holding her or his breath underwater for lung-burstingly long time. Of course, like the tiger, you don’t know that’s what’s happening; you can only the smallest of ripples on the other side of a partially submerged tree. Eventually the tiger slinks off, and the youngster emergences onto the tree trunk, exhausted but alive.


The second shows the lone hunter pursuing multiple tracks that have successfully crossed ice, but it proves too thin and cracks, stranding the youngster on one side while the tracks continue on over the horizon. 

Believe it or not, like everything else in this graphic novel, these four sequences will prove connected to each other and to the whole.

Louis lives in a remote rural home where he’s helped out with practicalities like his internet connection by younger lodger Antoine. They share a political past of protest which Louis is now weary of, while former protégée Catherine Vallet is France’s newly appointed Minister of Sustainable Development and the Environment. She hasn’t contacted Louis. Louis visits his son or, more accurately, his son’s graveside (1951-1963), sees fresh flowers and asks him, “Has your mom been by?”

Samir Benjelloun is approaching retirement, but is being dispatched to the east of France to help dig the new Morteuil Airport. Its development is being protested against.


Vincent is that middle-aged orthodontist, divorced from Christine who does her best to stay friends, but his cantankerousness doesn’t make it easy. At weekends he picks his fifteen-year-old daughter up from Christine’s city apartment and brings her back to his modern coastal villa. They visit a jumble sale. Vincent grumbles that Pauline is a pain, shows no interest in anything important and that her friends have minimal IQs. But actually Pauline is paying attention in a way that will surprise Vincent, and is beginning to make her first tentative steps into the discovery of art and, with it, herself.

We know this because our first real encounter in this entire graphic novel is between Pauline and a charcoal portrait in an art gallery. A woman with a camera snaps a portrait of Pauline, her face a picture of uncertain curiosity.


The woman with the camera turns out to be Camille. There are dozens more connections which will become clear as the story progresses (I have three A4 sheets of paper covered in scribbles and arrows criss-crossing like a demented cat’s cradle which long went awry), but that’s the last of one I’m giving you for we only discover Camille’s name, let alone anything about her, much later on. She and her camera, however, prove a vital part of the book’s heart and structure, for not only does each season end with an insight into her world – one of painful loss, and a resistance to making contact or opening herself up at all – but also each snapshot she takes comes with its own attendant revelations about her intuitively chosen subjects.

There are three or four per chapter, some more unexpected than others, and together they build up a broader picture of perspectives which share much common ground.


Pedrosa deploys a dazzling variety of illustrative techniques within each season which affect the level of intimacy we see in front of us. There is, for example, an extended sequence in a log cabin high up in the forested hills at night in similar style to the Jeff Lemire-like cover, in which Vincent continues his deeply troubled exploration with brother Damien about what matters in life. Stripped to this visual minimalism they finally begin to get to the heart of the matter.


By contrast an early sequence between Louis and Antoine shows a masterful knowledge of body forms, body weight and body balance. Hands hang, clothes hang; shoulders are hunched over with age or are so clearly supported by spine.

With spring comes with a richness of colour after bleak winter, and a waxier treatment. It seems to me that’s where the honesty begins between individuals here. People receive visitors and begin to relax outside.


“Memory’s not fair, is it?” asks elderly Cecile of Louis.

No, as we shall see, in its erosion over time, memory robs us of what we would wish to remember forever, yet plagues us with the things we cannot forget yet. Our memories and minds can make us so hard on ourselves.

“I’d like to be forgiven for my mistakes,” confesses Camiile, “but nobody can do that. You have to be satisfied with your own forgiveness.”


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

Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure (with signed bookplate) (£12-99, Avery Hill) by Steven Tillotson.


There are five things you should know about Untitled Ape’s Adventure: it is epic, it is insane, it is deliciously mischievous, completely unpredictable and mind-bogglingly beautiful.

It is also heart-rendingly poignant.

Do excuse my elementary grasp of geography here.

High above the dense canopy of the Congo jungle, below the craggy peaks of the Ruwenzori range, across the Horn of Africa, then back over the Victoria Falls floats the purple ghost of the Untitled Ape. It hovers over the tree tops before plunging down, deep down into a cold, dark cavern. The ghost of the Untitled Ape solidifies in pain and roars in anger.




This appears pre-prologue as if on parchment discoloured with age.

Much, much later – later than you can imagine – the Untitled Ape punches through the top soil of a verdant meadow rich in blooming wildflowers. He crawls up and out, pulling himself across the long grass, struggling to raise himself onto his hind legs and knuckles. He topples and falls.

“Oi mate! Big fella! Over ‘ere!
“Blimey! No offence, mate, but you look awful!
“Anyway, do us a favour and get me fags out of this tree will you?”

The cat’s dropped its cigarettes down the hollow of a fallen tree. The Untitled Ape is exhausted but strong, and tears the tree apart with his bare hands. They bond.


There’s plenty more of this sort of contrast to come, comically juxtaposing the mythical and mysterious with the mundane: names like Garry and Gail, Alan and Kevin belonging to beasts I’ll leave to surprise you.

I adore the form of the Untitled Ape, rising on its knuckles like on any gorilla, its forearms massive, its hind legs spindly, a skull that seems to float where its face should be.


The colours are gorgeous and the light effects striking as the two friends embark on their journey to find Untitled Ape’s family which he suspects is in danger. Hampered by a flood of biblical proportions and a highly suspect sense of direction, they row their way across the countryside then through a city submerged under water (with the most striking perspective seen from above) then out into the ocean, thence on their way.


Unfortunately a) it’s the wrong way b) they’re being followed. Why? And how – surrounded on all sides by water, with nothing on the horizon behind them – does the Untitled Ape know?


It’s going to a be long, arduous and very funny journey as they bump into families and become side-tracked by most unexpected creatures with long-standing friendly feuds. There will be ups (very high ups) and downs. There will be an ice-cream van stranded on top of a column of rock high above the sea.

There will also be sudden bursts of memory.


Buy Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure (with signed bookplate) and read the Page 45 review here

The Singing Bones h/c (£19-99, Walker Studio) by Shaun Tan.


Truly this is a work of wonders, with an eloquent introduction by Neil Gaiman and historical context provided by Jack Zipes,

An exquisite and exceedingly lush hardcover from the creator of THE ARRIVAL etc featuring 75 tales from the Brothers Grimm, I strongly suspect that this a gift which you will keep on giving for years.


For each of these dark, fantastical, folklore fables Shaun Tan has created sculptural stories: miniature tableaux distilling them to their core characteristics. For make no mistake, although Shaun is a prodigious artist in multiple media he is, like many others also at heart, a storyteller and this is no mere art book.

Fashioned from clay – and often adorned with string or surrounded by sand, sugar and salt, and whatever else is deemed appropriate (upended carpet tacks!) – these compositions of animals, faces and figures are painted in contrasting colours then lowly lit, as you might find them in a museum, to create harmonious wholes. And that’s exactly what they are like: finds! Inspired by Inuit art, these are mysteries for you to discover like any ancient artefact and unravel for yourselves.

They are moments of theatre.


They’re also ever so tactile: the sort of thing you want to hold in your hand, cupping each orange-sized object or objects in your palm and perhaps stroking them in the hope that they’ll sing.

Plate 2 depicts ‘The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse’. In the story itself a cat and a mouse decide to hunker down together for the winter, buying a pot of fat which they would share through sparse season and so get them through it. Let’s just say that the terms of their agreement aren’t adhered to by the cat who covets the fat and, when the mouse discovers this betrayal of their friendship and protests at its greed, the cat gobbles the mouse up too. And so it goes.


What Shaun has sculpted is a tiny white mouse sitting “comfortably” inside the yawning maw of a thoroughly contented, well fed, fat, black cat. It’s ever so satisfying (for the cat, at least) but relatively simple.

However, Plate 7 is a deliciously complex interpretation of ‘The Twelve Brothers’.


It is spot-lit from the front against a shadowy background receding in focus. The twelve brothers are represented as the coffins they were intended to be confined to by the king, standing like the gravestones which would have been erected in their memory. This reflects their actual transmutation in the tale into ravens. At the forefront cowers their sister, the princess, inadvertently responsible for their current condition – and future fate should she utter a word – her face a mask of silent guilt, hands over her mouth both in horror and lest she speak, so damning her brothers eternally.

That is one complex narrative in a single composition.


Each visual tale in turn is accompanied by an artfully edited extract to form a specific, evocative vignette like the artworks themselves, while concise and elegant synopses of the stories as a whole are also provided in the back.

This is pretty handy, because if each of these sculptures doesn’t immediately intrigue you into wanting to learn more, then I would be extremely surprised.

In addition, further recommended reading is suggested so that you can track down the stories in full, in various iterations / states of sanitisation.


On the subject of which, I highly recommend Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti’s HANSEL & GRETEL which could not be less sanitised. Gaiman disinters its original, bleak, morally bankrupt bad parenting, while Mattotti goes to hunger town on its illustrations:

“They are eerie, awful things, crawling with shadows, swirling in darkness, with the thickest of tree-trunks blotting out the sky.
“Stark, dark and black with just a glimpse of white light, they are cold and claustrophobic, evoking all the bleakness of a land ravaged by soldiers to the point of being all but barren, bringing those few inhabitants left to the brink of starvation.”

And while we’re talking fairy tales, try Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell’s THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and THE GRAPHIC CANON OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.

Then pop ‘Shaun Tan’ into our search engine, for we have a wealth of storytelling excellence for you there!


Buy The Singing Bones h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Benson’s Cuckoos (£13-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anouk Ricard…

“Morning! bensont-cuckoos-coverIt would seem you’re two minutes late! That’s not good.”
“I’m sorry. Uh… Happy Birthday, Boss?”
“Oh, this? It’s not my birthday. I just happen to like this hat. So what do you think of the team? Tiptop, huh?”
“Uh yeah!”
“We’re meeting at eleven o’ clock. I hope you bring some good ideas.”
“We are? I didn’t know. I’m just getting settled in.”
“Well, now you are. I don’t see the problem.”
“Well I don’t have anything prepared.”
“So go prepare something then! You’ve got two hours. And if it’s crap, you’re fired.”

I have worked for people as unhinged as new guy Richard’s boss, oh yes. He might be a slightly exaggerated caricature but not by much. I’m reminded of a certain boss in Colchester who, when I attended a sales meeting on my very first day in my capacity as Technical Manager, launched into the most insane blitzkrieg tirade against the sales reps, several of whom were also relatively new and looked utterly shell-shocked (it would be fair to say there was a high turnover of staff, particularly on the sales side), culminating in him screaming that they were a bunch of colossal c*nts who were costing him money. Interesting use of an adjective it struck me at the time, delighted as I was not to be the focus of his sudden ire.


The flip side of the coin was he insisted the senior management, a group of six of us, go to the pub every single day with him to play cards or pool where you had to drink beer or spirits, no soft drinks allowed. Lunches would routinely extend to a couple of hours and occasionally he would decide we weren’t going back at all and then things got rather messy indeed. Plus he let me stay in a house in the grounds of the business for free. He did fire me ultimately, when he found out I was looking for another job, but just a very strange chap, frankly.


Anyway, Richard seems utterly bewildered by his new boss’s antics, and the various other shenanigans going on at Benson’s Cuckoos, including the departure of his predecessor George, which he gradually begins to realise was probably more of a disappearance than a voluntary exit.

As we roll through surreal scene after scene of meeting, shaming, team bonding, awkward lift moments, the ribald laughs and head-shaking, wince-worthy, excruciating toe-curlers keep on coming.


Only adding to the mayhem is the anthropomorphic colourful cartoon style employed by Anouk. I struggled slightly with her previous work, ANNA AND FROGA, purely due to the storytelling which whilst heavy on the surrealism, seemed light on the coherence. This, though, flows seamlessly, keeping the chuckle levels high from silly start to farcical finish.


Buy Benson’s Cuckoos and read the Page 45 review here

Slam #1 (£2-99, Boom Studios) by Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish.

What a fresh and far from obvious start!

This made me smile from beginning to end at its genuine joy and heart-felt belief in the empowering, bond-building nature of Roller Derby.

This contact sport, as I understand it, involves two opposing teams racing round a roller rink on roller skates but in the same direction, hell-bent on up-ending each other by any means necessary. Oh, I am told there are rules – there are certainly key and keen strategies – but it’s essentially hockey without the disingenuous excuse of why you really joined up: to knock seven shades of shit out of each other and score top marks in doing so.

“Are you a sportsman, Stephen?”

Clearly not, but I am a convert!

Moreover, its innovative presentation – not so much as an A-to-B narrative, but as an experience and induction to Roller Derby – proved as engrossing and as exhilarating as the real deal itself. Were I of the correct chromosomatic configuration I would run right down to my local arena and sign up on the spot.


“10 Facts about your new Derby life:
“1. You will have fun.
“2. You will get hurt.
“3. You will want to quit this forever. Every time.
“4. You won’t. Because you love it more than you’ve ever loved anything in your life.”

Persuade me.

“5. You will find your voice” and “6. You’ll learn all kinds of new phrases.” Namely:

“Pop a squat! Get in her crotch!”
“Fill those holes!”
“Take up space! Wall it up!”
“Get on her!”
“Hit her, hit her, hit her!”

I rest my hockey-claim case, my lord.


But what I love most of all about my new-found Roller Derby is that this is a sport for women. Wait, wait (and correct me if I’m wrong) but instead of all these boys-only sports like soccer and rugby and especially cricket with its gender-exclusive pavilions, this was originally and initially – and may still be to this day – a sport for women only which, if the lads want a look-in, they will have to apply for in order to join in, thence be looked down on, for decades to come, as second-best. Haha! The shoe’s on the other dismissive and disdaining foot!

If all that wasn’t enough, Ribon delivers a comic which is entirely congruent with this post-patriarchal experience. Men do not feature and are barely mentioned within. For once, none of this is about you, fellas! This is entirely about ladies getting together to rediscover themselves, their confidence and their individuality without comparison points. There’s one. There’s only one.

As to Fish, her art is ebullient yet controlled, imaginative and natural, depicting real women as they really are, relaxed in their own space with tall socks, baggy shorts and muscular, much sought-after thighs that are admired for their fearsome Derby downing-power, not frowned upon for their weight. Love the subtle bruises by colour-artist Brittany Peer.


There is nothing about this that is angry. Everything about this is celebratory.

It’s not ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’, it’s “Hello, here’s all the fun!”

We were all a little worried that this would be a banal, band-wagon embarkation because, mark my words, you can see so many comics currently being green-lit simply for their demographic-ticking boxes. No, this is fabulous, and if the cover screams Becky Cloonan meets Jamie Hewlett (a very fine pedigree), then let me assure you that it’s all Veronica Fish who knows exactly what she is doing.

“7. If your life is too busy, Derby will destroy it.
“8. But if your life was destroyed, Derby will fix it.”

Excellent! This is going to be the exhilarating experience of a lifetime. You will meet new friends for life and you will celebrate during the after-party even if you cowered in the toilet at the prospect of your first-day’s performance. You will find those who will hold your hand and never let you down and never let you go. You may try war paint, you may breathe deeply, and you may scream at the full-on, physical excitement!

“Fun fact about Derby life #42:
“It gets complicated.”

Ah. And now I am hooked.


Buy Slam #1 and read the Page 45 review here

At The Shore (£17-99, Alternative) by Jim Campbell…

A monsterat-the-shore-cover mash of sea monsters, zombies and teenage hormones make this pocket-sized work from Brooklyn based Jim Campbell pack a punch. Which is probably a very dangerous thing for a pocket-sized work to do thinking about it…

Gabi is continually trying to regale her school friends Bernard, Dean and Jorge with her childhood stories of her father’s strange experiences whilst harvesting seaweed. But every time she gets going they either decide it’s all too boring and repeatedly interrupt to tell her so, or all start to collectively swoon over new girl Astrid whenever she enters stage right. To be honest, Bernard, Dean and Jorge seem like a bunch of rude, lecherous idiots. Ah yes, they’re teenage boys aren’t they!


But when the zombie apocalypse begins during a trip to the beach, the boys fawning over Astrid in her bikini whilst Gabi glowers in her t-shirt, and barnacle covered cadavers are suddenly emerging from the waves wanting more than sushi, they’re unsurprisingly desperate to pay attention to what knowledge Gabi has to impart. For what she knows will prove vital to their survival.


I really enjoyed this fun-filled fear feature. The coloured art is excellent, a mixture of slightly toned down Joe SPENT Matt and HICKSVILLE-era Dylan Horrocks. The zombies are genuinely spooky with their pointy fish-like fangs. The plot was sufficiently weird and wonderful to keep me entertained right to the end.


Buy At The Shore and read the Page 45 review here

Little Tails In The Jungle (£13-99, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci.


Thoroughly accessible Young Readers’ educational adventure from the creators of the silent, more adult-orientated, thrillingly choreographed and quite stunningly illustrated LOVE: THE TIGER, LOVE: THE FOX, LOVE: THE LION and (in February 2017) LOVE: THE DINOSAUR. Please, please make no mistake, however, (as so many have before): those four books may look cute, but include scenes of a natural nature, which involves throats being ripped out left, right and centre. As I wrote quite explicitly of LOVE: THE LION:

“Not so much the Circle Of Life as the constantly turning tides of food-chain fortune and the constant threat of being stalked, surrounded, flattened, clawed, mauled, mangled and otherwise shredded by crocodiles, vultures, spotted hyenas and even other lions.
“I’ve never seen so many carcasses.”


You are, however, on perfectly safe and cuddly ground here as Squizzo the squirrel takes Chipper the puppy dog up, up and away in his cardboard aeroplane across the globe to visit the jungles of the world in South America, Africa and Asia.

In bright, white and sage-coloured comic strips most often above 9but sometimes below) full-colour paintings, the confident and knowledgeable Squizzo leads the initially more tentative Chipper in search of the jungles’ increasingly rare denizens.


Investigating at a discreet distance so as not to disturb the shy guys and avoid become part of the food chain, they encounter heat and humidity and insects that bite, but forge on to find jaguars and black panthers, tarantulas, toucans, tapirs and tigers, Asian elephants, gibbons, gorillas, a bright pink Amazon river dolphin, and many more beauties besides.

The emphasis is on adventure and excitement to entertain your young ones and introduce them to the majesty and colourful diversity of the jungle, moving ever swiftly on to keep wide eyes shining bright.


In the back of the book, however, time is taken to revisit some of the animals encountered earlier and learn a lot more. Why is a toucan’s enormous beak not too heavy for its head, toppling it over and knocking it off its perch? Where does a jaguar hunt and where does its name come from? What is the difference between a black panther and a leopard or jaguar? Answer: only the colour of its fur! They still have spots; you just can’t see them because of their dark pigmentation, a genetic trait which may or may not be passed down to the next generation, so that a black panther can still give birth to a regularly spotted leopard. I knew that once!


Finally a whole page is devoted to The World Wildlife Fund, Planète Tigre etc (with websites to visit) explaining why and how so alarmingly swiftly the animals’ ecosystems are being obliterated.

Key fact: there are fewer than 4,000 tigers in total left in the wild.


Buy Little Tails In The Jungle and read the Page 45 review here

2000AD Script Book (£19-99, Rebellion) by various including Peter Milligan, Alan Grant, Rob Williams, Dan Abnett, Pat Mills, Al Ewing, Gordon Rennie, Ian Edginton, Si Spurrier, John Reppion, John Wagner, Leah Moore, I.N.J. Culbard, D’Israeli, Carlos Ezquerra, Henry Flint, Simon Davis, Rufus Dayglo…

Zarjaz. 2000_ad_script_book-1Or in common Earthling parlance, excellent. The number of legendary writers and artists that have graced the pages of 2000AD since its launch in 1977 is simply staggering. It has proven to be an excellent launch pad for a number of British (and overseas) creators, who were given a relatively free hand on established iconic characters and just as importantly, the opportunity to introduce their own.

It’s remained at the forefront of the British comic scene as a viable publication for nigh on forty years in part due to this blend of old fan favourites like Dredd and crazy new characters, and in part due to the continuing shuffling of the stellar cast of creators combined with nurturing surroundings for relative newcomers to hone their craft.


I will bet more than a fair few of you who’ve picked up the odd Prog or thousand have at some point thought, I could do that, I could write or draw  (or if you’re a particular sort of smartarse both) for 2000AD. It is, however, not as easy as these prodigious talents make it seem. Fortunately for us, though, we have a chance to see how the professionals do it with such apparent ease with these scripts set page by page with the final art. It’s fascinating to observe how each artist has interpreted the writer’s notes and what changes end up getting incorporated into the finished version.


Inside you’ll find scripts for classic characters like a Judge Dredd tale from the Day Of Chaos arc, Psi-Judge Anderson, Bad Company, Slaine, Durham Red and Zombo. Then there are some more modern works like Brass Sun and Aquila, plus a great selection of the just plain weird like Lobster Random. Altogether there are 15 pieces for aspiring creators to analyse. Alternatively, if like me, you’d rather sit back and relax and peruse the finished product without peaking behind the curtain of creative process, you can find much Mega-City madness and everything else 2000AD related in one section HERE.


Buy 2000AD Script Book and read the Page 45 review here

International Iron Man vol 1 (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

Hallelujah! In this companion title to his INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, Bendis is back off autopilot, a word which Maleev – his partner on SCARLET VOL 1 & 2 – doesn’t even know the meaning of.

Like Michael Gaydos, Maleev brings out the best in Bendis, so it’s time once again to throw away the costumes (for the most part) and enjoy some honest-to-goodness human interaction and humour à la JESSICA JONES: ALIAS which was the very best series ever to be published by Marvel.

Almost as brilliant as Bendis & Maleev’s DAREDEVIL with all of its wit-riddled snappy patter, this catches Iron Man at an inopportune moment under Bulgaria’s Monument To The Soviet Army, dead, paralyzed, or “rethinking his disastrous life choices that led up to this humbling moment”.

Amongst those disastrous decisions was Stark’s determination – twenty years ago while studying at Cambridge – to get to know a mysterious young woman with an overprotective family, famous in some circles at least. She knows exactly who Tony is, but Tony…?

“You really don’t know who I am?”
“Should I? Is your father a big deal or something? Is it – is he Bono?”
“My mother.”
“Is she Bono?”

He’s such a scallywag!


“What does your Mom do that warrants bodyguards? I only ask because they’re coming this way and I think one of them is about to punch me in the face so hard I probably won’t remember even meeting you.”
“Ugh! You’re going to get tasered.”
“I’d really rather not.”
“I’m not joking.”
“Neither am I. Can you request that they don’t?”

All the while Maleev plays it as deadpan as usual, except with a new energy during irreverence of youth. Tony cannot help throwing his head back and laughing with joy at Cassandra Gillespie’s fantastic name, nor can he resist smiling at his own bravado and wit. It’s perfect characterisation for Marvel’s charming but smuggest git.


Paul Mounts’ daytime colouring adds a new air of optimism to Maleev’s fresh-faced students meeting for lunch (less of an assignation, more of the-stalked-stalking-stalker scenario) and when you look at those panels, concentrate on the eyebrows and lip-line especially, imagine a moustache, chop the flop of his hair right back… and that really is our Tony Stark.

“You Googled me by now.”
“I did.”
“How’d that go?”
“I found out you’re a world-class trapeze artist.”
“Is there a trapeze artist with my name?”
“Just admit you trapeze. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

New verb: to trapeze.


What could any of this possibly have to do with Iron Man flat on his back, systems down, in Bulgaria?

Well, first it’s time to meet Cassandra’s family for dinner in not the most awkward and hostile reception by prospective in-laws ever (he lies)… and then there’s the unsolicited postprandial intervention by those oh-so-shouty regenerative ones, Hydra.

But essentially it’s Stark’s modern-day quest to discover the identity of his true parents now that he’s learned that he was adopted as a baby.


You’ll find out exactly who they are in this volume.

His father’s not whom I strongly suspected – which I think is a missed trick and a shame – but it could certainly make things interesting. I’d tell you right now (you can always ask at the counter so long as I’m not serving), but it may be that Bendis still has a trick up his sleight-of-hand sleeve.


Buy International Iron Man vol 1 (UK Edition) 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


Dogs Disco (£5-00) by Joe Decie

Losing Sleep (£9-99) by Joe Latham & Luke Hyde

The Fox (£5-00) by Joe Latham

The Wolf (£5-00) by Joe Latham

The Woodsman (£5-00) by Joe Latham


Little Tails In The Forest (£13-99, Magnetic Press) by Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci

A.D. After Death Book 1 (of 3) (£4-50, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire

Soft City – The Lost Graphic Novel h/c (£20-00, New York Review Comics) by Hariton Pushwagner

Black Canary vol 2: New Killer Star s/c (£13-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher, Matthew Rosenberg & Annie Wu, various

Flash vol 9: Full Stop h/c (£22-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 3: Worldwide s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Captain Marvel By Jim Starlin – The Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, others

Darth Vader vol 4: End Of Games (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca, Mike Norton, Max Fiumara

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 4: I Kissed A Squirrel And I Liked It s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson, Jacob Chabot

One Piece vol 80 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda



ITEM! Annual Auction Of Original Art for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is go!

Includes Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SCOTT PILGRIM / MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO shout-athon above, and Duncan Fegredo’s HELLBOY below.

Donations come from Bryan Lee O’Malley, Craig Thompson, Duncan Fegredo, Edmond Baudoin, Emma Vieceli, Hunt Emerson, Ian McQue, Jonathan Edwards, Jordi Bernet, Mick McMahon, Petteri Tikkanen, Sean Phillips, Stuart Immonen – and the guys from VIZ.

More on the LICAF Original Art Auction 2016.


ITEM! Nottingham City Council is selling off the Nottingham Central Library building with no site earmarked for a replacement.


Because who needs books? A fast buck, yes; books, quite evidently not. And this, in our City of Literature.

Should you give a monkey’s, you can sign this petition to Save Nottingham Central Library.



ITEM! At the time of typing – and I haven’t been in for two days – Oxfam Nottingham, just up our round, has a acquired a complete set of SANDMAN (#1-75 plus the special) in lovely nick and is selling it for £300.

You don’t see many of those around!

Since it was gift-aided, if you stump up the £300 then Oxfam will actually receive £375!


Claire at Oxfam Nottingham works incredibly hard in her collation and curation of their extensive selection of back-issue comics (there are some beauuuuuties in right now: Vaughn Bode, Robert Crumb – first print of HUP #1 – early Barry Windsor-Smith NICK FURY, early Mignola sword-and-sorcery, SIN CITY one-shots… with early FANTASTIC FOUR, AVENGERS, IRON MAN and Jack Kirby KAMANDI to come as soon as Claire and I have priced them), so please keep your exceptionally generous donations coming and your spending power spending.

Every donation is treated with due diligence and respect, and Oxfam Nottingham makes a huge amount of much-need money from them.

Thanks very much!

 – Stephen







Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November week three

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

We begin with a brand-new review of Dave McKean’s Cages. News underneath!

Cages (25th Anniversary Edition) (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“It’s just paying attention.”cages-cover

In which stories are told, rhythms and patterns are perceived, connections spring forth and sweet music is made.

It’s in conversations that we so often discover these connections – of ideas and experiences and perhaps greater truths. They make themselves known in the to and fro, the ebbs and flows, one observation or recollection sparking another in the other. Without conversations we are locked in our own insular little world. They’re my favourite thing in life.

Communication catalyses creativity – and this is a book about both – juggling what you see, what you’ve experienced, what lies in your head and what you hold in your hands to create these rhythms and patterns and connections. It requires judgement, perception and balance; the courage to get started or start again.


It is also, unsurprisingly, a book about cages, for not everyone is blessed with freedom or companionship, and there is a singular sort of loneliness experienced between couples who’ve essentially stopped talking to each other about anything that matters, out of fear of hearing or telling the truth.

After a prologue of Beginnings and Ends – of creation and frustration and doubt; of God’s withdrawal and mankind’s rage – we open with the moon high up in the heavens, its full, perfect orb shining in an open, star-lit sky. Across this slinks a lithe silhouette, unmistakably feline.

Under the moon lie many silent spires and ornate cupolas.


The black cat pauses to survey birds in flight before dropping from the rooftop to the tenement’s fire escape to descend, flight by flight and observe what transpires inside.

A lone, anxious man winds his watch to make sure that it’s ticking. This will become funny later on. His window is remarkably high.

Further down a dreadlocked musician whom we’ll come to know as Angel sits outside his own window, playing a wind instrument. He chats to the cat with a charming lilt.

“Yo! Mr. Cat.
“And how are you this fine, fine night.
“You really are de doziest great supine I hever see, y’know?
“Eh? Mister Cat?
“Nothin’ wrong wit’ that now.
“But surely is a perfect raven of a night, Mr. Cat.
“Don’t it feel like de start o’ sometin’.”


The cat is curious but keeps its own council. It passes a pigeon, pausing only briefly to inspect, before peering into another room through cracked glass. There is a shift in style from fluid black ink and blue-grey tone to pencil and soft washes: a man with a ponytail stands frustrated in front of his easel; a couple make love; a couple much older embrace; the room is quite empty.

Back in black and another storey down, we see two sinister, burly men in coats and hats menacing another; a finger points threateningly, a hand is raised in resignation and a painting is removed from its wall.

Descending further still, a white cockatoo caws out from its cage. “What a bugger! What a bugger!” An unseen occupant shoos the cat away.

It leaps down to the ground to be greeted by a man in search of an address. The cat can’t help, but Jeffrey believes he can. Jeffrey is a man with a wire constellation round his head and an insight into God’s grand scheme of things. Later he calls it his “consternation” and he happens to be right. He declares the stranger to be lost, but I rather think that’s Jeffrey’s problem. Fortunately our new lodger is greeted by a homeless man who, as they walk, speaks of spiritual identity and the nourishment of the soul, for which he is given the price of a cup of tea.

“Ahh, you’re a saint an’ a saviour, sir. God grants your wishes, my friend, have a good life.”
“I just want to know where Meru House is!”
“Look around you, son… your wish is granted.”

He’s right on its doorstep. This is Leo Sabarsky, an artist with a ponytail starting again from scratch. Under his arm he carries a blank canvas. It’s time to make contact.

But just before he enters, outside the tenement’s front door and below all its scaffolding, Leo finds a paper page torn from a book called ‘Cages’. It is charred.


The choreography and concept behind this introductory sequence is ever so clever. Although we will wander elsewhere – down narrow side-streets whose lantern-light emanates in white, watery waves, pulsing like music; from the jazz bar where Angel performs; and to one other quite startling, barely possible residence – it firmly establishes the focus on this one particular building and the cages which lie within. To a cat, almost any room must look like a cage. It also poses so many questions which – even if you don’t know quite what they are yet – will all be answered as we encounter each individual again, along with others connected but so far unseen, from different perspectives, in different lights.

It was here that McKean first branched out from the relative photo-realism of BLACK ORCHID, the intense expressionism of ARKHAM  ASYLUM and the dense puppetry, photography and full-colour photo-collage of MR PUNCH to something far sleeker to keep your eyes moving across its pages. This was essential for such a big book (nearly five hundred pages), so much of which concentrates on conversations and monologues, and the discipline of a black which glows, a blue-grey which sheens and the white light which shines casts emphasis on the shapes, the textures, the figure forms and expressions which are deliciously lively and angular and energetic – in short, communicative. They add their own lilt and cadence to the conversations.

However, however, if you think McKean has ditched his customary love of the multi-media approach – carefully selecting what will work best for each constituent element – then there are revelations within.


There are bursts of full-colour passion which stand out all the more strikingly for their restricted use; though I would remind you that not all human passion is positive.

There’s a haunting reverie rendered in fantastical black and white photography and additional painting then a blaze of iridescent red and electric-blue colour which is sandwiched within a strict nine-panel grid for a desperately sad sequence as delusional old Edie, owner of the cockatoo, busies herself in her husband’s much-missed absence. Afraid to go out without him, her flat may be a cage but so is her head, crammed with a past of herself and her husband, both thwarted.

“KAW! Bill’s not home yet, Bill’s not home yet.”

All the art here is in service to the story. When Angel, on stage, discusses the dissonance of one brother’s music, full of fire but no discipline (as opposed to the other twin’s learning but lack of passion – it’s basically Jane Austen’s ‘Sense And Sensibility’ given a musical context), his words which speak of “a racket” are lost in the visual cacophony.


But perhaps my favourite chapter lies at the graphic novel’s centre / heart when Karen is first introduced at the jazz cafe-bar. Karen we have only seen from afar. She lives in a building opposite Leo’s room and, searching for any inspiration to free him from the fright of a big, blank canvas, he has sketched her as she waters her plants on her balcony. Angel has taken an interest in that sketchbook, borrowed it, and now returns it via Karen.

“A friend asked me to return your book.”
“Ah a…”
“He would have given it back himself…
“Only he’s over there, grinning.”

Angel is indeed at the other side of the bar, smiling knowingly.

“Son of a…”
“So, do you spy on your other neighbours too?”

Leo is at first speechless.

“I’m speechless.”

I told you so. He babbles a bit. Okay, he babbles a lot.

“Christ, listen to me. I’ve forgotten all the words I’ve learned since I was six. I’ll get the drinks.”

It’s enormously sweet. It’s all very natural. Then the art does a similar thing to that which Frederik Peeters would pull off later in BLUE PILLS: it pulls back from their table as the music kicks in, then at the same time focuses solely on their shared space as if everyone else in the busy room had disappeared. That’s what happens when you meet minds with somebody new: the outside world evaporates, you lose track of time and you are lost in the music of conversation. We don’t hear what the couple says; we only see them engrossed in each other, their wine glasses floating in the air as their shared table dances across the page in a liberating, free-form flood of images. It is, I kid you not, ecstatic.




But you wait until you witness Karen’s extraordinary residence. It’s magical, as is Leo’s imaginative line of getting-to-know you questioning which, when I first read this 25 years ago, I swore I would try out on a first or second date. I never did; you certainly should. Take notes, and watch out for waterfalls!


CAGES – as I may have mentioned more than once – is essentially a book of conversations, some of them rhetorical for we all talk to cats, none of them extraneous and all of them riveting. McKean has Alan Bennett’s ear for dialogue and his own for its exchange: for when someone’s listening and when they are not, for when someone blithely goes off on one while the other may be fixated elsewhere, and for when two people seek to get to the bottom of something important by refining their ideas and interpretations of each other’s ideas, together. In McKean’s hands it’s like music, but then he is a musician and has much to say on that subject through Angel. The two come together here.

“The ‘D’ scales are conversational scales.
“When I listen to someone I listen to de tonal modulation of de speech.
“I listen to de shades and pauses an’ phrasings.
“I listen an’ learn what that person is t’inkin’ t’rough de structure of what dey say… not de fabricated meanin’ of de words dey use…
“De message is in de music.”


And I don’t know how often this is pointed, but the conversations in CAGES are – so many of them – very, very funny. The breaks and beats between new tenant Leo Sabarsky and deaf-as-a-doorpost Doris, the concierge, are so astutely observed, while the yelling, swearing, doing-the-minimum delivery guy is a scream. Leaving his elderly minion to heave an impossibly heavy crate up steep flights of stairs, he carries the smaller one under his arm (“UP” pointed down), secures his signature and pins a badge to Sabarsky:

“Joe’s Removal’s: Service Is Our Middle Fuckin’ Name.”

The same could be said of the fickle barman, who is not a people person, proffering one his many conflicting opinions of Angel:

“He’s a poet. An immense, creative force. I mean, the man’s a god, really.”
“I know I know. I’m a conservative sort of guy. Okay, the man’s a glowing, transcendent ball of light. A pure and all embracing power. An opalescent…”
“Yeah, I get the picture.
“You know, when I first came to work here, I asked him where the toilets were. You know what he said. Do you know what he said?
“I can’t imagine.”
“”Over there.” “Over there,” that’s what he said! “Over there.” Jesus, I cried, you know?”
“”Over there,” that’s what he said.”

I love the way the thought is still lingering there, the barman stroking his own neck in further contemplation. I like the way McKean minimises “I can’t imagine” so that it’s uttered almost under Leo’s breath.


There’s an exquisite conversation between Karen, Leo and the first man we met conducted using – ah, that would constitute spoilers, I fear, but trust me: it’s different and delightful and once again funny.

I’ve not mentioned Jonathan Rush and his wife Ellen yet. Well, I have: they’re the ones who receive hostile visitors. They’re also less than pleased to see Leo, but Leo is new and persistent, wrangling his way through their door with the old cup of sugar routine. To begin with they communicate through the door.

“And what would you want with sugar, Mr. Sabarsky?”
“Ahmm… well, I’d like to make some tea. I only have the wine that I packed to bring with me, and I don’t know where the shops are yet, so I’d really like to borrow some sugar so I could have some tea.”
“I see.”
“And some milk.”
“And milk?”
“Well, and some teabags too, but don’t worry, I’ve got the water and cup.”
“Uh huh.”
“Oh hang on, no, I haven’t. I’ll take a cup as well if I could?”


Strangely, though they have been there a while, Jonathan and Ellen don’t know the area very well. Immediately Leo believes he recognises the man – it’s in his eyes, which are intense, haunting or haunted – and McKean shows a memory of them, then the eyes being sketched, and that’s when Leo remembers, on picking up one of Jonathan’s novels and its author’s photograph on the back.

“I knew I recognised you. I actually drew you once. I remember your eyes. Christ, well, that’s proof that when you draw it’s one of the few times you really concentrate.”

The book is called ‘Cages’.

You’ll discover Jonathan and Ellen’s current predicament during another inventive sequence, as the writer takes one of his own books down from the shelf and reads its dedication, “For my wife Ellen for criticism and hugs, two things I couldn’t live without.” Behind the dedication, then further book spine’s we’re shown Jonathan’s recollections of how each book was received upon publication: happy hugs in the woods, discussions over dinner with friends and peers, delightedly spotting his own books in a with shop window, award nominations, an award ceremony… then the ghosts of the past become stranger, and you may be reminded of what Angel told his audience about illumination. For that, you will have to read the book. It is astonishing how coherent this all is – different elements informing each other – and how many ideas are addressed here.


From the creator of BLACK DOG, THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH, Page 45’s current Comicbook Of The Month – and so much more; please do pop Dave in our search engine – this is a big book of beliefs, doubts, traps, fears, and new beginnings. Keep moving, keep juggling, keep talking. Keep creating something new.

“Of course, it’s impossible.”
“What is?”
“Trying to make concrete what I can see in my head. It’s impossible.”
“Well, you have to do one or two impossible thing now and again. Otherwise you get complacent.”
“ …”
“Absolutely right.”


Buy Cages (25th Anniversary Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

The Return Of The Honey Buzzard (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Aimée De Jongh.

A honey buzzard, return-of-the-honey-buzzard-coverperched on a post and alert to its surroundings, stares up over its back and into the sky.

Its attention darts forward, then down. In the silence it considers its distracted prey.


The honey buzzard takes fright and flight.

“Why won’t you listen to me?”

It’s Simon who isn’t listening.

My guess is this’ll grab you on its first three pages. If not, I give it no more than the eighth and ninth as Simon angrily presses his cell phone’s red button, sits there fuming inside his van, then drives over a railway crossing into dense woodland, and darkness. Ancient trees, some spawning fungus, tower over the small van. When Simon stops, it’s outside a sequestered cabin. His face stays in shadow, silhouetted against the sky, as he enters.




Simon flicks on a switch, and there are books. There are so many books – some in boxes, some scattered across the floor, others stacked high upon shelves. Simon takes one specific book down and sits crossed-legged on the bare wooden floor and is transported back twenty years to when he was at secondary school, happily reading the same bird guide. Almost immediately the cell phone intrudes again. A picture of his wife Laura appears, smiling. Feeling harassed, he rejects the call. In contrast to his younger self he now appears scruffy, weary. Piling boxes of books into the back of the van, his eyes are already wide – no longer angry but harrowed, haunted – and he drives as if in a stupor.

But after what happens at that same railway crossing on his way back – after the gate goes down and he’s left there idling, and the woman appears at edge of the trees – Simon’s state of stupefaction will be close to catatonic.


Its atmosphere already established, this won’t let you or Simon go until it’s done. De Jongh’s body language is impeccable, very physical, and her expressions maintain an intensity whether vulnerable or fearful or resentful and angry.

Anger, fear and vulnerability rage through this debut graphic on every front presented to us: past and present, personal and professional, increasingly driven by guilt. Inaction is an action in and of itself, and gnawing regret, which can come creeping in waves, rarely recedes forever.

So much about the construction impresses me: Simon’s past and present dual traumas aren’t perfect parallels for that would be lazy. Instead they twist on each other in such clever ways about which I can only confer with you in private once you have read this. One key element is constant, however, and there are additional pressures at play which reduce Simon’s ability to resist unravelling.

Then there are the visual details, un-signposted, like books gradually disappearing from display as Simon’s life empties of hope.

If I hadn’t already doffed my cap to De Jongh, it would be off again in a second for one particular and ever so satisfying sleight of hand which passed over my head exactly as it should have done.


Buy The Return Of The Honey Buzzard and read the Page 45 review here

Instruction Manual For Lonely Mountains (£14-99, by Nicola Gunn & M.P. Fikaris…

“Focus group for the Protest Against the Extinction of the Human Race.”

“Do you know we are the first generation that could potentially live forever?”

Two very conflicting sentiments, there, I think you’ll agree. Both, of course, annihilation and immortality, are entirely possible for our current generation. I suspect neither may come to pass in our lifetimes, but I also suspect the threat and promise of each are probably only going to increase.

Happily for us, there’s a very incongruous group of people who have gathered in an utterly nondescript room to discuss such weighty matters, including one person togged up in a fully encapsulated chemical protection suit. They seem, however, far more interested in whether they are likely to get a parking ticket or whether they should be having milk and sugar in the hot beverage of choice…


In the end, matters of the heart rise to the surface to become the subject of most import for our collective, as perhaps was suggested by the title. For some people are indeed like solitary monoliths in their romantic behaviours, their own worst straight-jacketed emotional enemies. Though there are also some interesting philosophical points interspersed along the way, I have to say.

Captivatingly moving musings, illustrated in stark black and white punctuated with the most amazingly psychedelic multi-colour letratone episodes, which are possibly only visible to the being in the protective suit, I wasn’t entirely sure! If you’re an Anders BIG QUESTIONS Nilsen this may well appeal.


Buy Instruction Manual For Lonely Mountains and read the Page 45 review here

Where Do I Belong? (£9-99, by various, edited by M.P. Fikaris…

“Hi! I’m Fikaris and I started this project ‘Where Do I Belong’ back in early 2014.
“It began from seeing some refugee art project zines on a table my friend Sam was sitting.
“After asking Sam on the spot if he would be interested in some kind of collaboration on the subject…”
“… I then wrote to Safdar to see what he thought of doing something together.
“So we came up with this idea & what you are holding is the outcome…
“Comic art & cartoons relating to the idea & question of place, identity & belonging.
“From asking a bunch of people this question whilst helping them to develop the art of storytelling.”

That, in a nutshell sums up this eclectic and very worthy anthology work. A combination of distressingly powerful single-page pieces and some longer strips juxtaposing the realities of life for detained refugees in Australia with the lives of comparative luxury enjoyed by Australians themselves.


You’ll learn some disturbing facts, such as Australia is the only country in the world to detain refugee children as its very first option, the average length of detention being roughly a year, something which demonstrably has deleterious effects on their mental health.


There are those who presumably feel Australia’s draconian policy on illegal immigrants – those actually managing to arrive without the correct papers (assuming they weren’t on a boat that was forcibly turned around or towed back to the territorial waters of its country of departure as a matter of course by the Australian navy…) are immediately sent to the likes of Papua New Guinea or The Christmas Islands for processing – is the right way to go about matters, if you want to keep illegal migration to a minimum, regardless of the human cost to those individuals themselves.


However, as I have commented many times, were I in the position many people in the so-called third world find themselves, would I attempt to get into the ‘promised land’ through illegal economic migration? Of course I would. These, then, are their thoughts, reflections and very moving stories on their successful or otherwise attempts to reach Australia and their subsequent treatment at the hands of the authorities. Don’t expect polished, artistic, comic perfection; do expect raw, powerful, emotive, hard-hitting truth.



Buy Where Do I Belong? and read the Page 45 review here

Derek The Sheep (£8-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield.

Signed andderek-the-sheep-cover sketched in for free!

“Oi, sheep. How’d you like to eat the juiciest grass in the whole world?”
“I think I already am!”
“Wait till you’ve tried this stuff! Go on… have a nibble…”
“Well… I don’t know…”
“Go on!!”
“Oh, alright! Just a nibble!”


What is it with sheep, cows and horses that they can have an entire field full of grass to munch on, but offer them some more of the exactly the same stuff and they’ll waltz right up to the fence and nibble it out of your hands?

You know Derek is going to give in – on anything within – and you just know it’s going to go ridiculously wrong. Give him a momentary advantage and he’ll turn it into a calamity. Give him five more seconds and he’ll compound the calamity into a catastrophe.


It seems impossible, doesn’t it? It’s a meadow; they are sheep. All they do is eat grass. Outside of barnacles, they are the most sedentary creatures in the animal kingdom. What can possibly go wrong?

Enter Gary Northfield – Lord Lieutenant Stoopid and King of Bog-Eyed Buffoonery ™  – responsible (and I used that word under duress) for GARY’S GARDEN, TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS, JULIUS ZEBRA: RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and JULIUS ZEBRA: BUNDLE WITH THE BRITONS and suddenly the farm animals are wearing galoshes, kicking around footballs and tobogganing down snow slopes on bits of old Farmer Jack’s barn.


To a substantial extent the comedy is predicated on the abandonment of all shades of sanity in the same way that Simone Lia’s THEY DIDN’T TEACH THIS IN WORM SCHOOL undermines worm logic. We all know what a worm is, what a worm can do. Similarly we all know what a sheep is (stupid) and what a sheep can do (eat grass, run from anything that goes “Ruff!”) and what a sheep patently cannot do (open a can of baked beans). Same goes for cows. I don’t recall the last time I saw a heifer basking on its back outside a barn, sunglass on with the radio at full blast, blaring “Who Let The Dogs Out? Woof! Woof!”

Sheep are already inherently funny. But sheep on a tractor…?

“I’ve been pretending to be old Farmer Jack, trundling around in the mud.”
“WOW! This is so cool!”
“I know! Vrrom! Vroom! Beep-beep!”

Sheep driving a tractor…?

“Pedal faster, Lizzie! Them dogs are gonna catch us!”


And it’s all illustrated with such wild abandon, such glee! These sheep aren’t just stupid, they’re gormless – all mouth and eyeballs! The colours are those of innocence and nature into which Northfield introduces the unnatural, the preternatural and the stupour-natural.

From the pages of THE BEANO, then, thirteen full-colour short stories running at roughly half a dozen pages each in which Derek the sheep is traumatised by bees, bubblegum, bulls and bulrushes (oh, he finds a way!), forever tempted as he is by that grass which is always greener. “This is a really bad idea, Derek,” could come from any of these disasters waiting to happen wherein he digs himself deeper and deeper into stinky doo-doo. Once, quite literally.

We don’t have the fourth and final page of the sledging fiasco for you, but do you really not know what’s going to happen next?


“Ooh, I don’t know, Derek. You know how precious Farmer Jack is about his barns.”

Exactly. It’s a good job sheep are famously dab hands with a hammer, isn’t it? Spatial awareness…? Not so much.

Brought to you directly from Gary himself, I can assure you that all our copies now and in the future will have this demented man’s mark left indelibly inside the front cover. So sorry.


Buy Derek The Sheep and read the Page 45 review here

Now in Softcover!

Sandman Overture s/c (£17-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III.

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.


SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus, after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.


I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave birth to them. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role, both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.


I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!


Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including interviews with the artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.


As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait. No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition. That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”


Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*


Buy Sandman Overture 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.


Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure (with signed bookplate) (£12-99, Avery Hill) by Steven Tillotson

Veripathy (£4-00) by Andy Poyiadgi

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (£17-99, Oni) by John Allison

Benson’s Cuckoos (£13-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anouk Ricard

Equinoxes h/c (£30-00, Fanare / Ponent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa

Literary Life: Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds

Little Tails In The Jungle (£13-99, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci

Seth’s Dominion (£19-99, Drawn & Quarterly / National Film Of Canada) by Seth, Luc Chamberland

The Singing Bones h/c (£19-99, Walker Studio) by Shaun Tan

2000AD Script Book (£19-99, Rebellion) by various including Peter Milligan, Alan Grant, Rob Williams, Dan Abnett, Pat Mills, I.N.J. Culbard, D’Israeli, Carlos Ezquerra

Adventure Time vol 10 (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Christopher Hastings & Zachary Sterling, Phil Murphy

At The Shore (£17-99, Alternative) by Jim Campbell

Crossed vol 17 s/c (£22-99, Avatar) by Christos Gage & Emiliano Urdinola & Emiliano Urdinola

Dawn Of The Unread (£14-99, Spokeman) by various edited by James Walker

Flash vol 8: Zoom s/c (£15-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth, Bong Dazo, Vicente Cifuentes, Ale Garza

Justice League: Darkseid War – Power Of The Gods s/c (£14-99, DC) by various

Multiversity s/c (£26-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, Ivan Reis, Cameron Stewart, Jim Lee, Doug Mahnke, others

New Suicide Squad vol 4: Kill Anything s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Sean Ryan & Juan Ferreyra, Gus Vazquez, Ronan Cliquet

Civil War II: X-Men s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Andrea Broccardo

International Iron Man vol 1 (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

The Unbelievable Gwenpool vol 1: Believe It s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Gurihiru, Danillo Beyruth, Travis Bonvillain

Uncanny X-Men: Superior vol 2 – Apocalypse Wars s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Ken Lashley, Paco Medina

X-Men: Wolverine / Gambit s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

Art Of Castle In The Sky h/c (£25-00, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki

Bleach vol 68 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

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

One-Punch Man vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Sunny vol 6 h/c (£19-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto



ITEM! Swoonaway Tragic Sunshine website full of gorgeous prints to buy!


ITEM! Gary Northfield (see DEREK THE SHEEP reviewed above) takes watercolour commissions for his Bog-Eyed Buffoonery ™ tailored to your specific tastes:

Gary Northfield’s Original Watercolour Commissions

Make sure you click on the numbered pages below to give you some ideas, then send Captain Stoopid your own!


ITEM! RACHEL RISING’s Terry Moore sketching live in Paris: it is a beautiful thing to behold.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 6

ITEM! New and extensive Luke Pearson interview!

Luke Pearson self portrait

ITEM! Finally, to gasps of delight, preview pamphlets of PORCELAIN IVORY TOWER have arrived are waiting for you on our counter. Wait until you get a load of page 2!

Don’t live locally? You can access a preview pdf of PORCELAIN IVORY TOWER from Improper Books here!


On its initial launch we sold 100 copies of PORCELAIN: A GOTHIC FAIRY TALE by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose (reviewed) in its first 10 days.

Last year PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA was our biggest-selling book… and it only came out in October!!!

Currently due in Spring 2017, you can pre-order copies of PORCELAIN IVORY TOWER – with a free and exclusive signed bookplate – from Page 45 right now by emailing us at

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2016 week two

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c (£67-99, IDW & Aardvark-Vanaheim) by Dave Sim, Gerhard.

If the 300-issue, cerebus-cover-art-treasury-cover6,000-page magnum opus that is CEREBUS remains one of the most inventive comics this medium has ever produced, with narrative innovations cascading from its pages at such an astonishing rate as to make Niagara Falls look like a domestic, dripping tap – and it does – then its covers were no less ingenious, iconic and iconoclastic, all at the same time.

What makes this luxurious, full-colour treasury even more of a thirstily devoured “Yes, please!” is that so many of these illustrations don’t just set the tone but actively inform the story within, which most modern readers have had access to only in the form of those whopping, black and white CEREBUS phonebook collections. They never reprinted the colour covers to keep their costs down, but some seen in sequence form comicbook narratives in their own right (#153 & #154) and they are bursting with clues.

The diversity of their approaches and angles – geometric or otherwise – was jaw-dropping, especially when one considers the relative, relentless homogeneity of the corporations’ covers competing for space on retailers’ shelves back then, and even more so to this day.


You never knew what you’d be startled by next: stark silhouettes, spot-lit close-ups, balletic action shots, quiet reveries, dream-sequence deliria, architecture only, lunar photography, William Morris wallpaper either hung with framed portraits or used to frame pithy, telling snap-shots; typography only (ever so brave and oh so effective), images rotated sideways to reflect what lay within, woodland landscapes, a funereal flower arrangement, glistening bottles of booze placed in the foreground of drunken misdemeanours, film-poster parodies, cosmic chess matches….


…, or Dave / David Sim drawing the divine Mick / Michael Jagger in precisely the same pose as Michelangelo once sculpted David.

No, I wasn’t perceptive enough to spot that little joke – and, trust me, I studied these long and hard as I acquired each treasured gem.


The good news is that, thanks to the conversational back-and-forth between Dave Sim and Gerhard’s annotations on almost every page, you’ll be privy to even more process notes and private self-indulgences. Take the cover to #77. Here’s Gerhard:

“Dream covers are always fun. When I was drawing the water pouring from the statue, I thought it might be fun to have the water fill the letters M and T… as in ‘MT is full’. Say it fast, and you’ll get the joke… or not.”


Dave was joined by landscape artist Gerhard in CEREBUS #65, though not on its cover which was the typography-only effort bearing the truism (which has stuck with me ever since), that “Anything done for the first time unleashes a demon”. There were some very, very fine titles: some portentous, some ripping the piss – out of themselves, readers’ expectations or Marvel’s melodrama – some simply playful yet salient, like “Sane As It Ever Was”.

From #65 onwards Dave continued to write and draw all the characters while Gerhard would render the backgrounds in meticulous detail, providing both textures and colour. The cover to #66 is a ripped-open version of #65, exposing Gerhard’s first cover and colour contribution.


“It was interesting watching Gerhard tearing art paper carefully so it LOOKED like torn art paper.”

That’s what I mean by meticulous.

“It took me years to figure out that Gerhard LIKED doing precise measurements / vanishing point stuff: that it was his favourite part,” observes Dave of the phenomenal window on #68.


Of #162’s extraordinary spectacle: “Vanishing point and applied geometry. It was there in front of me the whole time.” And once again of #164’s delicious, crystal-clear, blue-sky winter panorama with its single shattered skylight because we’d been there before.

Neither of the artists is here merely to pat themselves or each on the back, though. They’re both commendably candid about their mistakes, shortcomings and where things didn’t work out the way they had planned. But it was a monthly comic which only once fell behind schedule (towards the end of CHURCH & STATE) so at the end of the day, a) they had to go to print and simply strive to do better next time b) you simply don’t know what it will look like until the printed article appears right in front of you.

Sometimes I found myself shaking my head, bewildered by what one or the other considers a failure. The library cover to #151 with its tumbling book and exceptional sense of space has always struck me as one of the ten best covers ever to grace a comic, but Gerhard was so frustated by its colours that when he hung it on its clip on completion, he did so facing the wall.


“In these situations,” writes Dave, “you take the hint and just hope it’s still on its hook, face to the wall, when you come in tomorrow. It’s HIS cover.”

Hilariously, however, Dave confesses that during much earlier days – the beginning to HIGH SOCIETY – he tried his hand at watercolours for the covers without comprehending that you were supposed to dilute them. You know, add water. So he used them as you would oil and acrylics, virtually smearing them onto the board. Such is the way of the self-taught artist. I actually liked those covers, but you can’t un-see something once you’ve been shown.


Successful experimentations are equally well documented, like Gerhard’s discovery that using a toothbrush to flick white or red ink onto the boards was far more effective for snow, stars and blood than an airbrush. There are lots and lots of different space and star effects in evidence. Also, in one instance, a book bearing bloody finger prints. They’re Gerhard’s, if that ever proves forensically relevant.

You may have noticed by now that the covers are presented in different ways. The majority are shot from the originals before some or all of the lettering and extra effects have been added which, with attendant notes, gives extra insight into the process behind them. I find it fascinating to peer behind the curtains to see bits pasted on here and there, and what was entrusted to the printers instead.


Others are reproductions of the covers as we encountered them complete with the ever-evolving CEREBUS logo and other typography. I learned a new word: “majuscule”. Sim has long been hailed as one of the medium’s all-time greatest letterers, sliding sentences up and down, giving them an extra lilt or cadence (when Thatcher is speaking, for example), and deploying the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia in places. At least one is the result of Sim and Gerhard revisiting a cover, recreating it for a commission.


They’re reproductions or recreations because some of the originals have been sold, and so many more have been stolen. I’ll leave the introduction to fill you in on that aspect.

So yes, there are practical and commercial considerations as well as artistic ones assessed. From time to time, Dave’s Inner Business Manager retrospectively smacks himself upside the head to much comedic effect when either carelessly or wilfully making design decisions which ran the risk of thwarting his own sales.

When getting it right on #52 he writes: “Cerebus breaking a chair over the head of a barbarian. Yes, Dave, BRANDING. What is it you’re not ‘getting’ about what you’re trying to sell here?” In addition both Cerebus and the logo are found at the top, so easily seen even in shops with semi-tiered shelves which obscure some comics’ bottom halves. Everything is a learning curve including copyright infringement, though Dave did get away with it on satirical grounds.


“The three ‘Wolveroach’ covers which I really just did to show Frank Miller and Joe Rubenstein how the WOLVERINE mini-series covers SHOULD have been done – more like Neal Adams. Thus overshooting the ‘Branding’ runway and smashing through Marvel’s intellectual property fence and leaving this mixed metaphor jackknifed into their swimming pool with its tail in the air.”

Of the second in the series, #55: “Now that you mention it, it DID look sort of familiar”.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, we finish where Dave Sim and Gerhard concluded, with the final ten issues sub-titled CEREBUS: THE LAST DAY. For this Gerhard supplied a detailed 360-degree view of the room divided into nine covers which conjoin seamlessly with each other and at each end.


This in itself constitutes sequential art when considering that time passes ever so slowly inside, but the pan is paused with #298 for a halting juxtaposition.

That’s what I meant when I wrote at the start that the exterior art informs what lies within and – at times – creates a narrative all of its own.

This is a gallery we never thought we’d see because of those aforementioned colour costs which would have jeopardised the self-publisher’s finances, so bravo to IDW for enabling this miracle.

I’d only add that to close this book immediately after the final cover is to feel almost as bereft as Mark and I did after reading the very last panel on the final page of CEREBUS itself twelve years ago.


Although: lo and behold, here comes the brand-new CEREBUS IN HELL? #0, on Page 45’s shelves this very week!


Buy Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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


“This summer I went swimming,
“This summer I might have drowned,
“But I held my breath, and I kicked my feet,
“And I moved my arms around,
“I moved my arms around.”

– ‘Swimming Song’ by Loudon Wainwright III

It’s Nick Hayes himself who chose that epigraph to this otherwise wordless graphic novel, and it could not be more appropriate. It speaks to the heart of the struggle inside the story, both figuratively and otherwise.

I say “wordless” but it’s far from silent. It is bursting with the guttural calls of the cormorants, and on one of its many spectacular double-page spreads the late-night “toowheet” of an owl observing all gives way to the “chip chip” “peep peep” of an early dawn chorus. Framed by foliage, to the left a crescent moon shines over the city and its suburbs, soothing what was a heart-rending, glass-shattering day, while to the right the sun rises over the still of a disused reservoir in the process of being reclaimed by nature, one’s eyes drawn there following the flight path of ever-present cormorants.


It is a book of staggering beauty told in aquatic shades of blue and green adorned here at there with spots of warm orange, all printed on rich, creamy paper. Maximum use is made of form and textures of wood-grain and water, wings and feathers, or the skeletal shapes of tree trunks and branches beneath so many different leaves. The old-fashioned diving arch of the indoor and outdoor municipal swimming pools looms large in the second section, before the third act wherein the first two conjoin lets loose an orgy of free-flowing nature at its most energetic.


That whirlwind and flood of movement is heralded by a thrilling format surprise which opens up an oasis within the industrial and a moment of calm in the turbulence – with nature buzzing, nature calling – immediately followed by a plunge whose depth is delivered in a burst of air bubbles and concentric ripples. Then the cormorant dives too.


Nick Hayes’ THE RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER was an early Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and a ridiculous clever reprise of Coleridge’s ancient original to mourn man’s mismanagement of nature. Here nature’s healing power both over one’s heart and itself is celebrated instead, as long as we take the trouble to connect with it.


I can’t say much more even of its structure for fear of spoiling your own experience, but it begins with a boy then it begins with a girl. Commemorative photographs taken of the family on each of his birthdays are dear to the boy; soon he will be eight. Badges awarded to the girl on achieving new swimming lengths are lovingly sewn onto her swimsuit by her mother; she’s aiming for 100 metres next. The boy’s mum sends him to school with fresh packed lunches with a heart and kisses drawn on slips of paper each day which he keeps inside his school desk. The girl’s mum teaches her swimming which they both adore; but the boy’s not terribly good at it.


Each will have reason to break into the disused reservoir surrounded by wooden fencing and wire mesh fencing, and their journeys are not that dissimilar.


Buy Cormorance and read the Page 45 review here

Saving Grace (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Grace Wilson…

You’re here? You better have come to fix the house or you can leave.”
“My girls! You are all so feisty! I love it! RAAARR!
“Well, my darlings… Grace, exuberant Vicky, elegant Jessica and punky rebel Maxine, you’re right, the house is in disrepair, and something needs to be done.
“And then, I shall sell it.
“But, I’m an organised man, so you have four weeks’ notice.
“But hey, if you come across £1,000,000 then call me.
“I’ll see myself out…”

Well, Mr Zanetti, the landlord of Grace and her chums is just the most delightful chap, isn’t he? He drops his little bombshell just after telling Grace the best cure for her spots, which apparently even Anthea Roddick of Body Shop fame swears by, is male semen… Grace is mid-swig of her cuppa and ends up exhaling tea through her nose halfway across the table. Which is when exuberant Vicky, elegant Jessica and punky rebel Maxine arrive to save the day and here we are…


House hunting seems a rather tedious prospect for our ladies, so when a deluge of rain floods the basement and forces them out of Mr Zanetti’s slimy clutches even sooner than anticipated, a £99 package holiday to sunnier climes seems the most elegant and entertaining solution to their immediate accommodation anxieties.

What it actually does is end up exacerbating tensions between our quartet and pretty soon Grace finds herself hunting for a room in a shared house by herself… It’s even more of a humbling experience than looking for a job… She’s currently working on a zero-hours contract in an art supplies shop, dealing with customers who think asking for a 12” hog hair is a prime opportunity for some unwelcome innuendo…


Ah, good old London town. Not that I personally think there is anything remotely good about it, and this highly entertaining graphic novel only serves to reinforce my prejudices against the Big Smoke. I just can’t understand how young people can possibly manage to survive, never mind thrive, in such a ludicrously expensive environment, whilst earning so relatively little. It’s like student life forever with a fraction of the fun to me. Simultaneously, meanwhile, there are artisan bakeries and other hipster joints springing up everywhere charging ever higher prices for what are, in essence, the basic essentials revamped and all tarted up. No, give me the marginally lower priced pleasures of the provincial life every time. Well, Nottingham anyway!

Grace, like most young Londoners going nowhere rapidly, doesn’t consider leaving the city an option, and so instead we are able to enjoy her mis-adventures at a mildly smug (on my part at least) remove. Well, unless you are someone in exactly her position I suppose! In which case you will no doubt be nodding sagely and wincing in sympathy in equal measure. Presumably this work draws upon the creator’s own experiences, and for a first graphic novel it is excellent. The slightly untidy art style might not be to everyone’s taste, but it neatly captures the down at heel lifestyle Grace and her friends are living!


Buy Saving Grace and read the Page 45 review here

Motor Girl #1 (£2-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

“Are you okay?”

So you think you know what to expect from this comic.

It’s a burlesque starring a hyperactive desert-based, junkyard mechanic who’s tied at the hip to an anthropomorphic wry, dry mountain gorilla who sasses and back-chats, right? You may even have seen Terry Moore’s new avatar on Twitter – of a diminutive, comedy, green alien, so you’re in for those too?

Hmmm. No, that’s okay, you’re not wrong: they’re all here, present and correct, along with Terry’s persistent, consistent campaign against cretins who use cell phones whilst driving. Which is deadly as well as ever so slightly illegal.

But is that all you’d expect from the creator of RACHEL RISING, STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO (and HOW TO DRAW)? Oh ye of little faith!


All it takes is a single, un-signposted panel (if you’re alert enough to spot it) to suggest that you’re in for a lot more than you first bargained for – either as well or instead.

So yes, new shorter-form series before Terry returns to STRANGERS IN PARADISE – hooray! – starring a hyperactive, desert-based, junkyard mechanic, a highly sardonic anthropomorphic mountain gorilla, diminutive, comedy, green aliens, a sympathetic landlord and a lot less sympathetic, land-grabbing mystery man.


Fab, flapping hair once flying about on a quad bike, superb use of grey tones at night, and – oh dear, Libby, I’d really get off that cell phone if you want to outlast this series.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you this time.

Hey, after the RACHEL RISING OMNIBUS s/c (just £49-99, half the price of its component parts!), I think I’m allowed a succinct Mr. Moore review!


Buy Motor Girl #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Muhammad Ali h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sybille Titeux & Amazing Ameziane…

“And then muhammad-ali-coveryou meet Malcom X…
“All of Harlem is ready to follow him, but you are the one he chooses.
“You like him as much as he likes you, and he knows how to put your thoughts into words. You never leave his side, you are like soulmates finding each other in a sentimental movie.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this biography. If you’ve read a few comic biographies you’ll know that much like prose ones, often they can feel rather dry and not really present a fully-formed picture of the individual in question. Perhaps that is even more true with comic biographies actually, given the much more concise amount of time and space the creators have to present their take on an individual.

I’m happy to report to I did really enjoy this work.  It wisely picks some interesting scenes and episodes from Ali’s life that it wants to focus on and then presents those in very detailed fashion, often with quotes from a fixed cast of talking heads. Again, the cast is chosen carefully, a narrow selection of his opponents, (including Henry Cooper who so very nearly beat Ali, then Cassius Clay at Wembley Stadium in June 1968), his inner circle of boxing coaches and people like Malcom X and Elijah Muhammad.


A relatively small portion is given over to his boxing bouts, just the most famous ones like the bout with Cooper, his two match-ups with Sonny Liston, the Rumble In The Jungle with George Forman and the Thriller In Manila with Joe Frazier, which I think is probably the right choice. And even these are seen mainly from the perspective of his opponents or coaches looking back, which provides an informed, relatively objective viewpoint, rather than Ali’s bombast.

The majority of the book actually focuses on his socio-political awakening and subsequent cultural influence. For some of my generation and younger, especially an ocean away, who only ever knew Ali the hero, it’ll perhaps be surprising to learn how reviled and feared he was by the white American populace at large at the time once he converted to Islam, Malcom X by his side as he rejected Cassius Clay as his slave name, and joined the Nation Of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad. He was already regarded as an obnoxious braggadocio by a lot of people, perhaps not unreasonably so given some of the more unpleasant trash-talking antics he submitted his opponents too.


But once he embraced Islam it was open season on him, which ultimately culminated with his imprisonment at his refusal to fight in Vietnam. His impassioned speech on that topic, encompassing the inequalities still faced by blacks at the time, was an immensely powerful oration, and it is portrayed superbly across a double-page spread. It also earned him a prison sentence of 5 years, a fine of $10,000 and a ban from boxing of 3 years. He managed to avoid prison whilst the case was appealed, but his boxing licence wasn’t returned for nearly 4 years.

Given the FBI’s then covert COINTELPRO program to engage in covert surveillance against black leaders and groups, with the justification that they were infiltrated by communists, to “increase factionalism, cause disruption” that definitely contributed (at the very least…) to the assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. it is perhaps surprising that Ali himself wasn’t the subject of an assassination attempt.


The work also shows the one act he truly regretted for the rest of his life, turning his back, figuratively and literally on Malcom X. Malcom had already split from the Nation Of Islam, perceiving Elijah Muhummad as someone who wasn’t a true Muslim in heart or practice, and choosing to whole-heartedly embrace traditional Islam, including a pilgrimage to Mecca. Ali, meanwhile, was touring various African countries at the behest of the Nation Of Islam when a chance meeting outside a hotel occurred in Ghana (not Nigeria, as the creators incorrectly suggest here). Malcom called out to Ali, delighted to see him, and Ali simply turned and walked away for the entire world to see. Within a year, Malcom X was dead, and Ali always deeply regretted both the snub itself, and then not ever making amends with his friend.

Ali’s early life and latter post-boxing days bookend the meat of the story, told in sped-up fashion so as to encapsulate his whole life. I thought overall this was a very well presented work. I did struggle slightly with some of the narration at times, purely because much of it is worded in the second person as though it is spoken to Ali himself. It’s a distracting conceit I personally didn’t particularly care for though after a while you do stop noticing it. The art is excellent, with lots of interesting page and panel composition devices, and some nice period touches. In summary, it might not be the greatest biography but it is a very good biography of The Greatest.


Buy Muhammad Ali h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Aleister & Adolf h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming…

“Your pathetic sex aleister-adolf-coverrituals don’t stand a chance against the power of the swastika.”
“The symbol isn’t yours, Rudolf.”
“The blood of thousands will make the swastika a Nazi sigil forever. The Jews, they will power it with their lives.”
“Their deaths, you mean. God will forsake you! I will bring such horrors down upon you!”
“We are creating horrors you cannot even imagine. Filling our sigil with the deaths of millions. Death is more powerful than sex.”

So that would be Aleister Crowley interrogating Rudolph Hess with the aid of massive amounts of mind-bending chemicals whilst being observed by (Bond creator) Ian Fleming! This is a fantastically nonsensical, sex-filled, drug-addled black and white romp where we are requested to believe that her Majesty’s government have enlisted the Beast (as Crowley liked to be known) to defeat Adolf Hitler through the power of Magick.


This is one of those classic take a pinch of truth (Hitler’s obsession with the occult and astrology) and spin a yarn only fractionally more unbelievable than some of the strange secret missions that did actually take place during WW2. Our story is told through the eyes of a young agent called Roberts, entrusted to keep an eye on proceedings and report in to his superiors. He quickly falls under Crowley’s influence, however, becoming an acolyte of the Beast, though he likes to try and convince himself he is merely operating undercover.

We actually first meet Roberts in 1995, dying of cancer in New York City, when a young web designer, utterly baffled by the fact that he can’t prevent the logos on a new webpage for his corporate client from moving around, is sent to speak with him for some arcane reason. I was actually enjoying the ‘40s period part of the story so much I had forgotten about the modern opening by the conclusion! Rest assured, though, the story does come very neatly full chalk drawn magical circle.

Excellent art as ever from Oeming, perfectly capturing the noir tone of Rushkoff’s writing. Nice to read something that is as disturbing as it is amusing. Though I think what perturbed me most is how Aleister Crowley looks more than a little like Brian Michael Bendis!! It only occurred to me due to Oeming’s long collaboration with Bendis but once I had thought the thought, the similarity could not be unseen!


I do also in fact wonder whether it might not be a little conceit on Oeming’s part, much like Moebius making Jodorowsky the likeness of Professor Alan Mangel in MADWOMEN OF THE SACRED HEART. Not least because there is also a very specific sexy synchronicity between those two works involving three-way action. I would love to believe so, but actually, I think Bendis just does happen to have a remarkable resemblance to the Beast! Still, some would say Bendis is quite the magician in his own right… Marvel certainly would!


Buy Aleister & Adolf h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice, Becky Cloonan, Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, various, Massimo Carnevale.

“Nothing comes free or easy. northlanders-book-2The good life always requires a turn through the shit from time to time.”

Ain’t that the truth? Some turns are shittier than other, and the good life is not guaranteed.

Each one of these self-contained Viking sagas is as exceptional as it is varied: you never know what you’ll find dug up from its history and hammered into narrative next. Here Brian Wood conjures ten generations of Icelandic family feuding beginning in 871 A.D. when its earliest settlers – a family of three – heaved their scant possessions salvaged from Norway onto its far from fecund soil. Life was hard but at least they were free. Within a year, however, they were followed by others driven out by the land-grabs back home, fleeing the rule of hated King Harald. These were larger families bringing strength in numbers backed up by the weight of their swords.


So it is that Ulf Hauksson’s merchant father takes it upon himself to toughen his son up in the most brutal of fashions, thereby creating a monster.

“Neither of them could look at me for weeks.
“This was valuable time for me. It allowed me the chance to detail and catalogue my hatred, to fully articulate, in my mind, who deserved what and why.
“That morning my parents had a son. By that evening, as a result of my father’s efforts to teach me cruelty and violence, they had something very different on their hands.”

What follows is that afternoon’s legacy: two centuries of ever-escalating struggles for power as the population expands and sustainable self-governance crumbles under the weight of numbers, the influence of those still in thrall to Norway and corruption in the form of Christianity and its Holy Men with their insidious schemes to divide, conquer and then reap the spoils in the form of hegemony and wealth.


Marriage plays no small part in this. Indeed it’s all about family and two fathers are going to find out precisely how sharp the serpent’s tooth is before their lives are done.

Structurally, ‘The Icelandic Trilogy’ is stunning. Three chapters each devoted to three separate snapshots spanning two hundred years. The first barely boasts a population to speak of, but by 999 A.D. a port has been established and the Haukssons have built a heavily fortified compound.

It isn’t, however, impervious. Here is a daughter:

“I was taught to keep books when I was six years old. I am literate where Mar is not. The Hauksson men fight, the women administrate.
“And together we dominate. The society of Iceland is balanced on our stacks of silver and gold, our sword at its throat.
“Which makes the attempt on my life unthinkable.”


The family’s gained ground through guile and good judgement, but it’s not immune to being goaded – and it’s about to meet its match. As for 1260 A.D., it is to despair but then so it goes, eh?

NORTHLANDERS has played host to a magnificently strong set of artists and Azaceta is on glorious form in his tale of innocence bludgeoned to death, while Zezelj’s jagged plains of ice and snow and treacherous, shadow-strewn ravines are freezing. You wouldn’t cross them without a thick pair of boots.


His hair and beards are as matted as you can imagine and probably crawling with lice. There’s one page which starts out with a lamb so startlingly lovely you wonder what it’s doing there – it’s quite the contrast to what’s gone before. By the time you reach you bottom, though, you’ll be thinking, “Oh, well, that makes sense!”

This volume also includes ‘The Girl In The Ice’ illustrated by Becky Cloonan, Brian Wood’s cohort on DEMO, ‘The Sea Road’ and ‘Sven The Immortal’. There are more of these thicker “books” repackaging the slimmer “volumes” to come, but in the meantime Brian (personal favourite graphic novel being LOCAL with Ryan Kelly) has returned to this era on very fine form with BLACK ROAD illustrated by Garry Brown, whose first collection is out now and reviewed by our Jonathan.


Buy Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

I don’t know, is the answer. I don’t know what’s going on except that it’s quite the experience.

Anything this abstract is open to interpretation, and I have no crib sheet to copy from. I never do and never will and I truly wouldn’t want one.

I love experiencing new art for myself. That’s something I touched upon sarcastically in my review of ANCESTOR wherein technology has evolved to render everyone all-informed. That too will give you much pause for thought.

I found this thrilling. In spite of the chaos of the full-colour cover, this black and white orgy of interlocking forms strikes me as highly disciplined. It doesn’t look random at all.


It’s like a carefully choreographed ballet as performed by crisply delineated yet thoroughly malleable, constantly morphing techno-organic entities whose forms appear to coil round each other, perhaps merge then separate.

None of the images I have for you here are consecutive and, with hindsight, that might have been an error on my part for it’s all about sequence. Nor is each dance brief, so the result is a rightfully indulgent, extended eye-bath and I promise you that seeing is believing: you really do need to pick up a physical copy from our shelves for yourselves and decide what you make of it.


Are those individuals in space-suit armour crouching in a simian fashion, awaiting orders from the taller one to the left?

I simply don’t know.


Just over halfway through there appears to be a blinding light eroding these forms during which Hopkins demonstrates a superb sense of negative space before a robed, monocular individual rises and strides, best foot forward into the foreground (possibly).


After which darkness descends and the formerly stark art is splashed with swathes of sweeping black ink and – to me – a lone survivor emerges to sit on a large cushion tapping into its laptop.

This has no words.

I have no words.

If I was any more egomaniacal than I already am, I would swear blind that this was created purely to make monkeys out of reviewers, Gareth A. Hopkins chortling in private at our flailing public attempts to do justice to what was for me a so-far unique experience. I suspect I have just taken a Rorschach Test.

It’s very beautiful. Let’s leave it at that.


Buy The Intercorstal 683 and read the Page 45 review here

Mulp: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 of 5 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton.

Thrilling foreshortening on this best cover yet, for which I am reliably informed Sara built a model from steel wire and live bees.

It’s possible I may have misheard that last bit.

We’ve so far seen little other than rodents in this all-ages, anthropomorphic, transglobal adventure: lizards for transport and beetles for heavy lifting at the Egyptian archaeological dig, and now bees for the Antarctic sledge race to track down the legendary Sceptre Of The Sun before a less benevolent faction gets its purloining paws on it.

It was the startling discovery of an ancient stone in MULP #1 which catalysed this quest. On it were two remarkably similar accounts of an apocalyptic event in both Egyptian and Greek, albeit seen from their respective mythological perspectives. Most intriguing, however, were the Mesoamerican drawings in between the other two records on that self-same tablet, the most prominent of which is an image reminiscent of Viracocha, creator of the sun, the moon, and the stars, holding two sceptres and surrounded by ferocious, fanged beasts. This Incan myth backs up at least one of the other two in implying that the apocalyptic event may have been, furthermore, an extinction-level event for at least one species of giant. And, hey, for the mice to have evolved now to the level of human Victorians, their natural predators must have surely died out too.


The legend ends with the creation of a second race divided into groups and taught divergent customs, languages and songs. To guide them Viracocha gave his most favoured son, Manco Capac, one of the two golden sceptres, the Tapac-Yauri.

The search for this led our intrepid band of explorers to Peru, all the way up to Manchu Picchu where, sequestered deep beneath the ruins of a solar observatory, they discovered an engraving which seemed to confirm the links between the three civilisations and imply both beneficial and fiercely destructive uses for that sceptre, all centred on the sun. So now things are really heating up, because if our own mouse mates don’t find the fabled sceptre first then the less altruistic expedition – which was already proved itself ruthless – won’t be using it to light candles or nurture crops.


For now we’re on ice, as our furry friends attempt to weather the freezing conditions they find themselves in. But will it all end in fire?

I love how so many visual clues have been embedded in the various mythical accounts, along with extra allusions to the likes of Prometheus. It all ties together so satisfyingly.


Some startling, starry skies and other lovely low-light colouring from Dunkerton, even by day, but otherwise for this third instalment I’m going to leave you to expect the unexpected, especially at night, and to hunt down my own hidden clues.


Buy Mulp: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 of 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton.

“Oh, can we give you a ride back to town, Mr. Wiener? Only it’s awfully draughty in here… now.”

Now that you’ve shot a hole in his roof, McBoo.

“Umm, after we’ve got our car out of the ditch, that is.
“And some of the ditch out of our car.”

That one wasn’t McBoo’s fault, surprisingly. The ditching was down to fellow detective Kirk Bergman’s malfunctioning map-reading skills in the pouring rain, but whatever the weather this dysfunctional duo are a car crash waiting to happen.

If they’re going to solve any case it’s going to be by accident. Fortunately, at those they are specialists.

Here they are summoned to Weiner Bros Studios by a certain Sam Weiner on account of death threats received by Dunstan Bassett, an aging film star whose career has gone to the dogs. Alas, award-winning Sam Weiner seems otherwise engaged; it’s his brusquer brother Jack who greets them just in time for Dunstan’s stunt double to get blown up on set, leaving nothing behind but his boots.

For rapacious Jack this is far from inconvenient: releasing that footage will be a money-making goldmine. But for Bergman and McBoo it’s a sure sign that the danger in Dunstan’s death threats is all too real so they swiftly set about piecing together clues. It’s only when those pieces fall off that the pieces, the clues, and the clue in the glue start sticking together to make sense.

We have only just begun, for what they should be investigating is staring them right in the face. It’s a shame, then, that McBoo’s attention span is shorter than a squirrel’s.

“McBoo, I don’t know what you’re doing… but I really hope you’ll have stopped by the time I turn around.”

From the writer of two of our very few books of illustrated prose, which are commended to you with all my heart – THIRTEEN CHAIRS and A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT – I present you with all-ages pun-tastic, slapstick comicbook crime from The Phoenix for which I can find flip-all usable interior art online. Again.


Please see Pager 45’s Phoenix Comic Book section for more from this stable.


Buy Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity 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

Good grief, there are normally 30-odd here!

Sandman Overture hc 1

Sandman Overture s/c (£17-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III

The Return Of The Honey Buzzard (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Aimee De Jongh

Where Do I Belong? (£9-99, by various, edited by M.P. Fikaris

Instruction Manual For Lonely Mountains (£14-99, by Nicola Gunn & M.P. Fikaris

DC Comics / Dark Horse Comics Crossovers: Justice League vol 1 s/c (£22-99, DC / Dark Horse) by various

Deadpool V Gambit: The “V” Is For “Vs.” s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker & Danillo Beyruth

Rocket Raccoon And Groot vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Kocher & Michael Walsh

The Ghost And The Lady Book 1 (£15-99, Kodansha) by Kazuhiro Fujita

Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami vol 1 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Midori Gotou & Natsuo Sai



ITEM! LOST TALES by Adam Murphy wins Young Readers British Comics Award as voted for by Leeds school children. Such a beautiful, witty collection of short stories from around the world – pop it on your Christmas lists!

Lost Tales 1

ITEM! Matthew Dooley wins this year’s Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2016 with this fabulous piece!

Interview with Matthew Dooley here.

At the time of typing Page 45 still has a limited number of copies of Matthew Dooley’s sold-out MEANDERING in stock and reviewed. Oh, whoops, we sold out overnight. Still, you can read the review!


ITEM! Watch Jamie Smart a spectacular BUNNY VERSUS MONKEY panel right before your eyes!

You’ll find Jamie Smart’s all-ages books in Page 45’s Phoenix Comics Book section.

Bunny vs Monkey book 3 2

ITEM! Dan Berry (SENT / NOT SENT and COELIFER ATLAS etc – pop him in our search engine!) drew me as a bird, from life, right in front of me. He even drew my eyebrow ring. I’m so totally plucked.


ITEM! First page from the most recent HELLBLAZER #3 (this isn’t a wind-up. It’s like the old scathing, anti-authoritian HELLBLAZER). Too, too funny:


ITEM! Primary school in Scotland scraps homework in favour of reading books and comics instead.

  1. Yes, they recommended comics!
  2. Both pupils and parents were balloted and they voted in favour
  3. The whole endeavour was reported by the Daily Mirror factually, with a balanced, level head and not one single sound-effect or careless semi-caustic remark.
  4. Progress!

– Stephen

Delilah Dirk Turkish 1b

Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk & The Turkish Lieutenant. You should be able to click on this image to read our review.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November week one

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Featuring John Allison’s Bobbins, new Grey Area by Tim Bird, John Martz, Chuck Palahniuk & Duncan Fegredo, Simon Roy, Moebius, Matt Sheean, Malachi Ward, Michel Rabagliati, Neil Gaiman, Adam Kubert!

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

Who calls their own comic BOBBINS?

Well, John Allison, obviously.

Of course, it might not be self-deprecation: a man with such intimate knowledge of the Singer Sewing Machine might well be referencing the weaving of threads – the intertwining of lives, as they move in and out of each other’s orbits. It’s something he’s spectacularly good at.

And here’s a hidden art you don’t see too often: between each of these perfectly timed, interconnected, vertical, four-panel gag strips with their own sublime beats and conversational cadence, there lies an extra beat. Some follow swiftly on from each other, to be sure, but not every conversation has to be heard. Instead it’s not just the strips themselves which move the narrative so swiftly on, but the judicious gaps in between.


I like that the left-hand strip on each printed page is raised a little above the right. That too carries its own momentum – a musical ebb and flow rather than the comparatively regimented monotony of next, next, next. These are the details that matter.

From the creator of sundry other BAD MACHINERY bobbins like GIANT DAYS and EXPECTING TO FLY (Page 45’s biggest-selling comic last year) comes a self-contained, signed and limited edition comic both written and drawn by John Allison which focuses on the employees of a British local newspaper called City Limit.

I love that the paper’s called City Limit, singular. It only has one. And it’s not even a city, it’s the town called Tackleford.

The cast includes familiar faces from EXPECTING TO FLY including Shelley Endeavour Winters who’s starry-eyed with enthusiasm at the prospect of her first shared accommodation yet worried about the potential finality of leaving home. Once fully fledged, will she still have a room there to go back to? It’s a familiar inner conflict, but the joy lies in the unexpected, even extreme ways it’s expressed.


Then there is this: John Allison’s characters have an inner life in which their minds are ticking and whirring internally and independently of each other so that when one responds or interjects, the other is often still ruminating on their own train of thought, as if the other hadn’t even spoken.

“Shelley. I don’t think writing a sex column means you have to go out there and rut furiously. You have to be more of an anthropologist.”
“A priapic David Attenborough? So I’d use a night vision camera.”
“I reckon you’re looking for anecdotal evidence, not a prison sentence.”
“Do you think work will pay for one?”

Shelley’s still thinking optimistically of the night-vision camera, not the prison sentence. Same thing happens here:


Similarly there’s a photo-shoot sequence to publicise this local paper’s sex column – which Shelley’s really not sure that she’s up to, but she did go and blurt out the idea in a brainstorming session – from which Amy physically ejects the inept, gangly-limbed Rich with much visual mangling and invites Shelly to devour the camera “As if you don’t bone it soon, a volcano will spontaneously erupt”.


Immediately you see Shelley’s grateful adoration for the intervention, but not The Look. For that you’re made to wait for its delayed effect at the bottom of the subsequent strip, for once Shelley’s mastered this empowering advice, she cannot let go. The satori and success of it is still buzzing in her head.

“Shelley, the photo shoot is over. Stop doing The Face.”

How often in any medium do you see this oh-so-astutely observed human trait of a lingering daydream or train of thought?


“Wow, That’s a good trick, Amy.”
“I know. You look like a five alarm fire at a fuck factory.”

And that’s what I mean about cadence.

It’s all so exquisitely well drawn. The range of expressive emotions each character undergoes within a mere four panels is riveting. Each character is animated – as in not just brought to life, but to vivid movement as when Amy presses her palms together and Shelley sashays away into the foreground at the bottom of the page and into the next instalment, one forearm in front of her slinking, sliding hips.


Let’s talk fashion sense, and the crisp triangles of white shirt jutting out from under Shelley’s jumper. They don’t hang, they jut.

Let’s talk background details like the Tetris poster hanging from Shelley’s home bedroom wall, a nod to Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY earlier in Shelley’s life in which Tetris was used as a metaphor for coping with life. Or the punchline to one particular page of brainstorming which doesn’t come in the dialogue, but on Len’s flipchart assessment of the finance-free idea of inviting a catalysed citizenship to contribute to the paper instead of his already ill-paid minions:

“Unworkable Utopian Options.”


There is so much lurking beneath the surface, so many skills which don’t trumpet themselves and shouldn’t. As Edward Albee (‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf’) once wrote “I don’t like symbolism that hits you over the head. A symbol should not be a cymbal.” You shouldn’t hear it clash. Similarly you shouldn’t read something as if it’s being written in front of you – almost hear the keyboard being punched – or see it being drawn. To enjoy a comic we shouldn’t necessarily perceive all the meticulous work that goes into making it so wickedly witty and enjoyable. I just thought it was about time I did that for John Allison, because this is the very best of British comedy in any medium, with far more depth than that epithet implies.

I’m probably going to witter on about the hair next time. There’s some great hair here.


Every one of our copies is signed!

Also available from John himself this coming weekend at Thoughtbubble, where I’m sure he can be prevailed upon to sketch too!


Buy Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

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

A perfectly formed,burts-way-home-cover poignant little book, this is set amongst snowflakes, staring out at the stars.

It’s very kind and very quiet, told in black, white and eggshell blues.

Two alternating perspectives are presented to us: Lydia’s and young Burt’s.

Lydia is a mouse of a certain age, homely in a long, pleated skirt, cardigan and glasses. She has many family portraits on her walls. Burt is a young, blue bird.

“Burt and I live at the edge of town, in the small apartment building at the bottom of Mount Maple,” we are told.

Burt then shares his private thoughts in two pages of comics:



Well, clearly Lydia isn’t Burt’s biological mother, for she is a mouse, and he is a bird.


Lydia walks in to their living room, bearing comforting milk and cookies, and sees Burt perched on a chair, staring silently out of the window at the infinite evening sky.

“I hope he’s happy here.”

This sets the timing and tone perfectly for what is to come, Lydia watching over her charge – as he sets about repurposing some household appliances then holding the resultant jumble ever higher in the sky – if not with a complete understanding, then at least loving patience, wondering what’s going on in his head and only wishing he’d wear a hat.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s been through,” she thinks.

“I know it will take some time before he settles in.”


Everything here is so meticulously balanced and judiciously chosen – the alternate exchanges, the anthropomorphic tradition, the tenderness of expressions, Burt’s specific behaviour and the absence of any direct communication between the two until the very end – not only for maintaining the ambiguity of Burt’s true origins, but also the truth that, in all the most important ways, it really doesn’t matter.

John Martz has kindly signed and sketched in all our copies.


Buy Burt’s Way Home and read the Page 45 review here

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

“There wasgrey-area-our-town-cover a gap in the fence.
“I still think about it sometimes.
“I wonder if it’s still there.
“Maybe the fence has been repaired.
“Maybe the land was sold to developers.
“There could be a housing estate there now.
“Or a supermarket.
“Maybe it’s not how I remembered it.
“Was there a gate?
“Did we climb the fence?
“It isn’t marked on the map.”

Goodness me, if he hasn’t gone and done it again! Tim Bird is a master of making you stop and think. Which is a tad ironic because his comics are all about the fluidity of never-ending motion through time and space, with the emotions such journeys can invoke. Except in Tim’s universe you don’t need a TARDIS to experience the miraculous or the momentous. No. It’s right there in front of you all along, a world of never ending wonderment, if you simply open your mind as well as your eyes and look…


After his (now out of print) treatise to the mighty motorway in GREY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK and his paean to a passage from capital to coast in GREY AREA: FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA (which won the 2015 award for Best British Comic), this GREY AREA sees Tim integrate the lives of two people in a most remarkable manner, utilising the power of well placed origami, set against the backdrop of their mutually shared locale. I’ll let Tim use his characters to explain in a far more imaginative manner than I ever could…

“Our paths crossed.”
“Our maps overlayed.”
“Time and place aligned.”
“Our boundaries broadened.”

I’ve said it before, but the man is a poet.




Years later, having also moved on geographically, our characters return, just passing through on the train and deciding on a whim, triggered by a very poignant motif, to revisit those old haunts imbued with their shared love. The final dramatic full page spread, I’m not ashamed to say, made my heart swell and occasioned a solitary tear to roll down my cheek…



Buy Grey Area – Our Town and read the Page 45 review here

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

“So, when’re you gonna buy that bike?”
“I need to save up another hundred bucks. But I think I’ll get a moped instead… it’s less expensive, and I won’t need a permit or anything…”
“Smart move! Mopeds are fun. You can go anywhere, and they’re cheap on gas…!”

Sixteen-year-old Paul, of course, buys the moped, despite one last longing look at the far sexier motorcycle whilst in the shop. It’s barely more than a hairdryer, mind, and attracts the amused piss-taking attentions of the elder biker brother of the lovely young lady he’s trying to woo. He succeeds, eventually, despite his awkward, excruciating attempts at romance, and promptly falls madly, deeply in love with her. Which quite pleases the young lady in question. To start with at least anyway…


Yes, Michel Rabagliati’s thinly veiled autobiographical creation returns with his hormones a-raging and his engine a-racing. Well, puttering along at least, much like his adolescent love life. It’ll end in tears, I suspect you all know that already, for Paul has ever been a boy to wear his heart on his sleeve, but to see the train wreck of first love hitting the buffers so damn hard, well, it’s enough to make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and mope for a week in solidarity with our sensitive soul. His mum and dad are sympathetic, but even they lose patience eventually!


For all of Paul’s tears though, this is a wonderfully sentimental and nostalgic look at the fun and frolics of teenage years, before the strictures of adulthood fully kick in. Life was simpler then, at that age, though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time! Michel Rabagliati plays out the seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations of the waning of adolescence and reaching the cusp of adulthood note perfectly.


This comic is in English, we promise. These pages from French Canadian edition.


Buy Paul Up North and read the Page 45 review here

Habitat (£8-99, Image) by Simon Roy.

Evolution and devolution: habitat-coverthere isn’t one single trajectory.

Please don’t judge this book by its cover: there is nothing half so opaque inside.

Clear-lined and lambent, the interior art will take your breath away with its contours, perspectives, phenomenal sense of scale, the sheer wonder of what has come out of Simon Roy’s mind, then the extraordinary skill with which he has transferred his imagination onto the printed page.

Cho is a young man who’s just been sworn into the Brotherhood of the Habsec, He is now no longer a civilian, but an elite warrior of the Habitat Security who on his very first hunt has impressed his superiors enormously with his initiative, speed and prowess.

But what they’ve been hunting are humans – for their meat.


This doesn’t disgust Cho, for there are no more animals left alive other than the Carrion Gulls in this closed environment, and we do not appear to have become vegetarians. Unfortunately cannibalism comes with a price, as anyone who lived through Britain’s BSE (Mad Cow Disease) crisis will recall after we decided it was a jolly good idea to turn our herbivore cattle into carnivores by feeding them each other in the form of meat and bone meal derived from cows including their nervous-system-rich spinal cords. Aren’t we a bunch of lovelies?

Human spinal cords are exactly what Cho’s younger family are gathering now from the communal midden:

“Mia, no! It’s the one part you’re not supposed to eat!”
“Mom says it’s okay. It’s just for soup.”
“Mom and Grandma have the shakes because they eat spines from the midden!”


No, what our young Cho objects to is the gratuitous cruelty with which the Habsec bring home their prey. For that he is boisterously pushed around, which leads to an accidental, clay-breaking find.

“Boy! Where did that come from?”
“The civvie’s amulet, sir.”
“Speak up, trooper!”
“The civvie I caught today, sir. There was a punch card, inside the clay amulet he wore.”
“You have this punch card?”
“Give it to me.”

Young trooper Cho does not hand it over.

Instead – somehow sensing the importance of what he has discovered – he once more seizes the initiative with speed and prowess, catalysing everything that is to come.

We will return to the plot soon enough – including that key metal punch card – but what Simon Roy has so aptly done for a regressive society is fused the futuristic with both the recent and ancient historical past.

Set on a vast, once thriving cylindrical space station barely maintained by the scant surviving, highly reclusive engineer teams – recycled oxygen and rotational gravity being two of the few still functional technologies – the resultant environment and stone architecture now overgrown with bamboo and trees is resonant both of Babylon 5, Aztec / Mayan culture and the Brutalist movement which spawned in Britain concrete monstrosities most famous perhaps in their high-rise, city-centre, public-parking incarnations, but also – to my mind – some of the most magical urban community housing like the mid-70s’ tiered, balconied Alexandra Road flats in Camden Town designed by Neave Brown. I’ve not lived there, so I don’t even know, but it always looked to me like something progressive, overwhelmingly sci-fi and gobsmackingly beautiful.


They’re presented here with their ultra-clear, broad, bisecting walkways and waterways creating eye-popping vistas which then sweep upwards as their cylindrical world curves upwards around a central light-giving, heat-radiating sphere.

The channels are roamed by similarly styled and equally overgrown monuments on stilts, known to the Habsec at least as Engineering Platforms but which the civvies – presumably never having seen more than one at a time – revere as The Great Builder.


But even the Habsec have limited understanding of what little technology is left to them. Mostly they fight with bows and arrows, staves, and a sword which is presented to each upon initiation. This is fashioned using a 3-D printer into which the only known metal punch card is ceremonially inserted, generating one solitary option: the sword.

That is why the unexpected discovery of a second punch card is of such staggering importance. What will it render when activated?

Well, that would depend on which of the four templates you choose.

In the balance of power between the civvies, the Habsecs and the Engineers, this could be a game-changer.

Like Emma Rios’ I.D. and Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s ANCESTOR, this was originally serialised in the periodical anthology, ISLAND, home and haven to much creative innovation.

The colours – in the outer habitat at least – are gentle and earthy and often washed in a mossy green, so that when blood is spilled it stands out a mile, as does the Engineers’ direct communications with their machines in bright red and yellow code.


It also means that the mostly bare-limbed occupants seem very much at one with their environment, although they are dwarfed by it and their vulnerable, fleshly forms are not half so resilient.

So what happened to the space station so long ago that its marvels of technology have largely been lost and the lives of its inhabitants have been reduced to mere tribal survival?


Buy Habitat and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Father, Iworld-of-edena am afraid to approach the Paternum…”
“Silence, my child! You are weak and unenlightened, but the Paternum cares equally for all his offspring.”
“The communication has begun, Father, but we continue to experience the same interference problem.”
“No matter. Continue transcription. Please form a circle around the matrix, sirs. Then remain totally silent.”
“Father! Look! The screen is filled with the interference again. I… I am losing the signal! It is as if there is a more powerful force which…”
“This is impossible! Nothing can block the communication between our Father-Mother-God and us, his children!”
“I will try broadening the spectrum…”

You do that, son. Because if there is one thing I have learnt reading Moebius over the years, both his own stories (pretty much all currently out of print like THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE which is verrrrry frustrating) and those penned with the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky (THE INCAL / MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART) it is that, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, Moebius can do six impossible things before his morning café et croissant


It has a fascinating genus, this material, beginning life as an exclusive promotional work for Citroën, simply entitled THE STAR about two seemingly genderless interstellar castaways, Stel and Atan, who drive around on their rather barren new home in an old Citroën. Eventually they find a pyramid which transports them to a veritable Garden of Eden elsewhere in the Universe.

It was a bit of a lightweight throwaway story, frankly, but it clearly stuck with Moebius, who decided to embark upon a sequel. Once he started he felt extremely inspired and quickly plotted out an epic storyline, which he realised was going to have be an extended series of books to do it justice. Hence this gargantuan tome which collects all six (well, five and a bit parts) together in English for the very first time.


If you like the quasi-mystical malarkey going on in THE INCAL, you will love this, as it is undoubtedly the most philosophically inquisitive Moebius ever got in his own stories, covering pretty much all aspects of humanity, the structures of society, set against the backdrop of a so-called advanced civilisations and of course, the ever-enduring battle between omnipresent forces of good and evil.

Interestingly for all that, the stories themselves don’t feel remotely heavy-going, quite the opposite actually, as the more complex elements merely sit in the background of the extremely entertaining, and perilous, adventures of Stel and Atan. That is certainly due to the art style as well, which is as stripped down and pure ligne claire as Moebius ever got, with relatively sparse backgrounds devoid of the bonkers embellishments that populate the INCAL material. To my mind this is an exquisite triumph which serves proves Moebius is an equally talented writer as he is artist.


Buy The World Of Edena h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

There plentyancestor-cover to give you much pertinent pause for thought here.

Do you ever grow a little anxious? Do you ever feel a bit down?

Perhaps you have a routine for that or a pick-me-up: some songs that will get you grinning or at least sooth away the stress. Maybe, if it’s more than a mood shift, then you have medication.

Now imagine there’s an app for that. Imagine there’s an app that will remember what buoyed you up in the past and present options for doing so again.

Now imagine that app was biologically hardwired into your brain so went with you everywhere and could even adjust your metabolism.

Welcome to The Service! It’s not just an app but the entire internet, social media and your personal profile combined. Everyone has it and it’s turned on permanently, whirring away inside your head, offering you information on sights and sounds, and even evaluating art objects so you know exactly what you should think about them. Individual insight is so overrated.


Maybe you’d like to impress someone with skills you do not possess. You could run this exchange inside your mind:

“Run BarTndr.p”
“Two Black Widows’”

Suddenly you’re Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’. Might spike your serotonin levels, but that can be monitored and modulated too.

Wait: we’ve only just begun. I’ll try not to load this one way or the other, but do you take pleasure in the slow process of getting to know someone gradually, or would you feel more at ease without the initial small-talk, which in certain circumstances can prove quite awkward?

Our main protagonist Peter Chardin has just made use of the calming programme sent to him by Tom Matheson and it has worked wonders. Now Matheson introduces him in a bar to Anne Northrup, chic but in sunglasses so you can’t see her eyes. What Peter does have access to about Anne is any other number of the sort stats you might find on Bookface if you could trawl through someone’s history in an instant: personal history, friends and relatives, favourite music, favourite films, favourite books, favourite comics, sundry likes and dislikes and travel experience complete with photographs, ratings and perhaps even a list of subjects not up for discussion.

Presumably these are personalised with default settings for ‘public’ and ‘private’ which can then be adjusted for individuals; but what is “allowed” is there for immediate exchange.


The brilliance of Sheean and Ward is that they utilise the comicbook medium to maximum effect here, showing us all this in a single panel – The Service’s manifold interactive options floating round each user’s head at eye-level in little yellow globules – reproducing as closely as possible the experience of that first instantaneous interaction. It’s dazzling to us, but it’s extraordinary what we can all become accustomed to.

And how lost we then feel when what we now take for granted is suddenly denied us. It’s bad enough leaving your mobile at home by mistake – suddenly you feel unconnected when you wouldn’t have thought twice about it two decades ago – and that’s just a phone! Now imagine you lost The Service.

That is precisely what happens when Matheson now drives Peter and Anne and a desultory, sceptical Jim to a last-minute party held at his estate by Patrick Whiteside. Peter, Anne and Jim have just enough time to search The Service to learn of the prospective host’s prior history:


Matheson is already familiar:

“He’s not just a lab-coat, either. He’s transformed philosophy of the mind with his unique approach to intentionality.”

But he does have his critics, and a certain documented history. Oh, and a Suppression Field around his estate. The Service goes down just as Whiteside’s homestead comes into view, high upon rocks above the trees. It is… imposing… and it is guarded.


Inside it is palatial, like a vast, luxuriously appointed personal exhibition hall and art gallery. And Peter does feel liberated by the lack of Service, allowing him to focus on and experience the paintings and sculptures personally, uninformed by the distractions and dictations of ‘expert’ outside information and accreditation. For someone who was on the research and development of The Service, Patrick Whiteside seems vehemently, vociferously keen on the benefits of not being dictated to.

At which point I would proffer Jonathan Hickman’s opening comicbook salvo from way back when, THE NIGHTLY NEWS.

I like that we’ve lost most of the vowels in the likes of BarTndr, like Tumblr, and I like that Peter Chardin’s are the only protagonist’s thoughts we are privy to throughout and – as opposed to the apps’ and exchanges’ capitals – that they’re all in a smaller lower case, giving them a vulnerable fragility, and him an isolation.

The printed page is about the matt-est I’ve ever encountered, and the work which was originally serialised in ISLAND (like Emma Rios’ I.D. and Simon Roy’s HABITAT) appears to be an organic, collaborative construct in both writing and art by Sheean and Ward. There is some gorgeous design work in elements I can’t even hint at for fear of giving the evolutionary game away, and the body language in chapter two was nuanced and telling – as was the walk from Patrick Whiteside’s public gallery into his private one.

Above all, however, it made me think a great deal about interaction: where we were once, where we are now and where we might go.

As to where we might go, this flew a great deal further than I was expecting.


Buy Ancestor and read the Page 45 review here

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

In which we concentrate on the question “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?”

I’ll tell you what happens when you finish a great story by Neil Gaiman: you go Very Quiet and Very Still. Nothing else happens except in your mind, and perhaps not even there for a few seconds. It needs time to process, to percolate. Shhh…

From the literary magician who can transform a motorcycle manual into something that not only sounds but is profound, comes another story about telling stories and indeed about stories told. Or, as Alan Moore might put it with particular application here, “All stories are true”.

After Lord knows how many fingers tapping on Lord knows how many keys, and so many wrists rendering different shades of pencil, there are so very many tales told about Batman in so many different ways that not all of them join up. How could they? Why even should they? Does it actually matter? The only important thing is that The Batman never gives up: “There’s always something you can do.” He’ll live, he’ll die and he’ll live again in animation on the television, in live action on the silver screen and on the page in prose and in comicbook form: revised, re-envisioned, reinvented.


This is Gaiman and Kubert’s answer to the question of discontinuity, embracing it all in word, in form and in deed. And celebrating it by paying tribute. Kubert’s pencils are glorious, and his ability to mimic Mazzucchelli, Lee, Kane, Adams, McKean et al is stupendous. In addition, can I confess that I guffawed at Two Face’s car?


As the story opens, Batman lies dead in a casket. His friends and adversaries from across the last several decades gather round in the back of the Dew Drop Inn (and you should, you really should) tended by the man who killed Bruce’s parents in Crime Alley.


Each stands up to tell a different story of his demise or recall what the driven dark knight said about life. As they do so, the man they are mourning listens to them closely and watches unseen, unsure of what he is witnessing. Is Bruce dead? And if so, who is his female fellow shade?

“This is Crime Alley.”
“Yes. Very good.”
“But it hasn’t looked like this for sixty years or more. This is crazy… Why are we here?”
“Why? Bruce, you never left.”

The finest pages are most certainly the last, but my secular self very much enjoyed this exchange edited to safeguard your own discovery, summing up exactly why I just don’t care whether or not there is an afterlife. It’s one of the best explanations of and exhortations to altruism that occurs to me right now:

“Are you ready to let it go now? To move on?”
“To go to my final reward? I told you, I don’t believe in –”
“You don’t get Heaven, or Hell. Do you know the only reward you get from being Batman? You get to be Batman.”




Buy The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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.

A bit of a coupbait-cover for Dark Horse, this is a brand-new collection of prose short stories written by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and indeed the writer of FIGHT CLUB II which was an original comic, not an adaptation, and not merely plotted by Palahniuk then farmed out to another.

Just like the recently arrived A WALK IN EDEN by Anders Nilsen, it’s illustrated throughout in clear-lined black and white so that you can embellish it with your own chosen palette of colours, either keeping carefully within its contours or going full-on Bettie Breitweiser if you honestly feel you’re that talented. It is however, most emphatically an adult colouring book in its truest sense, for Chuck is rarely, if ever, child-friendly. A decade on, I am still shuddering from ‘Guts’, that short story from ‘Haunted’ involving the pleasures of a swimming pool filtration system.

The one from BAIT that I’ve read so far is ‘Let’s See What Happens’ illustrated by Ducan Fegredo (ENIGMA, KID ETERNITY and HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS etc) is a scream, though thankfully not in the same way as ‘Guts’.

It’s a family affair, at the beginning of which young daughter Heather has the temerity to come home from school, innocently and adoringly hugging a brightly coloured pamphlet whose cover is adorned with lots of equally excited kids surrounded by exotic wild animals (and, umm, a stegosaurus) gathered under a rainbow which invites all and sundry to “JOIN US!”

On the back is stamped the address of a local church.


By the time her Mum and Dad have read the leaflet promising the love of a quite different family, Heather is already infatuated, converted, and convinced she’s going to meet a stegosaurus. She wants to go to church.

“Not that Heather’s parents were idiots. In their experience it was crucial to expose a child to religion, in particular to religious services so boring, in a setting so stifling, in clothing so uncomfortable, in the presence of self-righteous, bullying, bad-smelling old people, that the child in question would be scarred for life. If a kid hated church it made the God issue all the easier. A bad church memory, scarred deep in their psyche, did the trick better than a lifetime of rational arguments explaining why Mommy and Daddy and all the really smart humanists were atheists.”

Do you sense a certain degree of hubris?

Heather’s parents are going to give her that scarring experience.

No, they really are.

Let’s see what so self-righteously happens.


Buy Bait: Off-Colour Stories 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.

23 Skidoo One-Shot (£2-99, Angina Studios) by Al Columbia

Aleister & Adolf h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming

Cages (25th Anniversary Edition) (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Rachel Rising Omnibus s/c (£49-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Saving Grace (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Grace Wilson

Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c (£67-99, IDW & Aardvark-Vanaheim) by Dave Sim, Gerhard

Derek The Sheep (£8-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield

Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton

Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice, Becky Cloonan, Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, various, Massimo Carnevale

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Artist Tribute h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by various

Kabuki Library vol 4 h/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Muhammad Ali h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sybille Titeux & Amazing Ameziane

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sarah Dunkerton

DC Super Hero Girls vol 2: Hits And Myths s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat

Gotham Academy vol 3: Yearbook s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher & Adam Archer, Sandra Hope

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Travel Foreman

Invincible Iron Man vol 2: The War Machine (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato

His Favourite (£8-99, Sublime) by Suzuki Tanaka



Duncan Fegredo Page 45 Bookplate, sold out yonks ago, obv!

ITEM! Video of Sean Phillips interviewing Duncan Fegredo about his craft and past while Duncan draws live at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

These two friends always bring out the wittiest in each other and you will learn so much about their early years together in the British comicbook industry, and that industry itself.

Sean had done bugger-all preparation, wings it to perfection and causes much mischief, while poor Duncan does ten things at once.

Buy swoonaway Duncan Fegredo Hellboy prints like this from his website!


ITEM! Duncan Fegredo’s preparation for the event. See, someone’s a professional!

Watch Duncan Fegredo draw Hellboy from scratch, close-up!

For more Fegredo, please see BAIT reviewed above.


ITEM! Mary Talbot’s exceptional, photo-filled overview of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016.

She caught the relaxed atmosphere to perfection.


ITEM! In case you missed it… Page 45’s own photo-filled, record-breaking blog of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

See your favourite creators like Tillie Walden, Tom Gauld, Isabel Greenberg, Dave McKean, Katriona Chapman and Bryan Lee O’Malley. Learn what they actually look like!


– Stephen

I honestly promise to talk about something else next week.