Archive for January, 2017

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2017 week four

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Featuring Philippa Rice; Ollie Masters & Tyler Jenkins; Jim Woodring; Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Bettie B; Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera and more!

News underneath! There’s someone fresh in the field of comics journalism and they are Exceptional!

Kill Or Be Killed vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“See? Kill Or Be Killed coverThat’s what was going around in my head.
“An endless argument spin cycle.
“Point, counterpoint… all day long.”

In which the snow blows thicker and thicker.

To begin with it’s almost soft. It’s softer than a sidewalk from six storeys up, anyway.

It tumbles across the sprawling city as far as the eye can see, which is further than you might think; especially when you’re on one of its rooftops, so precariously close to the edge and determined to jump.

From below the thick flakes recede, smaller and smaller, into the heavens which glow a rich, luminous turquoise, while below all is neon-lit for danger.

By the final four pages of the first chapter it’s a veritable blizzard in blinding, icing-sugar white, with wild flashes of thought and explosions of violence like landmines detonated in your head. Then, when it’s settled, there’s a moment of clarity – for Dylan at least.

He’s not going to kill himself. He’s going to kill other people instead.

Kill Or Be Killed 1


Kill Or Be Killed 2


Kill Or Be Killed 3


Kill Or Be Killed 4


Kill Or Be Killed 5

Kill Or Be Killed 6

From the Eisner-Award winning creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT, the first six pages are a bludgeoning barrage of quite cathartic violence, all the more brutal to behold because Phillips has dispensed with the frames and the gutters to go full-bleed to the edge of each page. It’s more immediate. It’s more in-your-face, just like that shotgun, which is meticulously rendered and weighted.

Crucially, however, even if it’s more difficult to draw, then it’s as easy to read as ever, for the three-tier structure remains intact, the panels inset instead against an extended background. It’s something he carries right through the subsequent flashbacks and it pays off especially outside because the wider sense of space is phenomenal.

Kill Or Be Killed 7

Anyway, in case you’re reading this on the product page rather than the blog, here’s some of Dylan’s socio-political self-justification. It’s not why he’s blowing holes in these very bad people, but isn’t it kind of comforting to know that you’re making the world a better place than it currently is?

“Just look at the news for five fucking minutes and it’s obvious…
“Big business controls your government…
“Assholes go on shooting rampages almost daily…
“Terrorists blow up airports and train stations…
“Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…
“Psychopaths run for President…
“Oh, and the Middle East is one nuke away from turning us all to dust…
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

What follows does not lead directly into the opening sequence – this is a long-form work, and Brubaker has a lot to explore in terms of psychology and practicalities before Dylan develops into a proficient and equanimous mass murderer – but it does go some way to explaining how Dylan, studying later in life than most at NYU, might eventually find himself a) with a shotgun b) using it.

Kill Or Be Killed 8

It begins with that attempt at suicide – not his first, either – and that began with a girl. It began with his best friend called Kira, one of the few people Dylan felt ever understood him. She got his sense of humour, his taste in music and his sense of isolation which had already set in before his flatmate Mason got between the two of them by dating.

“Their relationship ruined the one good thing I had.
“Kira still came to our place all the time, but almost never to hang out with me.
“And that made me feel even lonelier than I usually did.”

That sense of being cut off from Kira is emphasised by Phillips in a similar way to what Ware did at the window in JIMMY CORRIGAN: by distancing Dylan, isolated inside his own panel, from the rest of the couch where Kira and Mason sit closer together. Breitweiser bathes the lovers in light from the television set they’re watching, whereas Dylan remains shrouded in darkness. I can’t imagine anything much more uncomfortable.

Kill Or Be Killed 9

Oh wait, I can, because that’s what happens next. And eventually it leads to the rooftop.

Where that leads is even more startling, but I’m not about to spoil that for you now. All I will say is that Dylan’s head is far from healthy. He’s fallen far enough already, but he’s got a long way to go before picking up a gun and going if not postal then at least house-hunting.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Brubaker’s many fortes is making you want to spend as much time as possible in his protagonists’ minds, no matter how disturbed. Here he does so in part through Dylan’s vulnerability and confessional, apologetic and self-searching tone. However confident in his newly acquired worldview Dylan seems on the first six pages – and I’d place money on that being a ‘good’ day – none of that is reflected in any red-bloodedly aggressive tendencies either earlier in life or even now.

Kill Or Be Killed 10

This is not a revenge story and Dylan’s acts are not an expression of angry contra mundum. They are instead acts of survival which require – and result in – all sorts of practicalities which Brubaker explores in depth.

One of those practicalities is avoiding any meaningful conversation with Kira even though their relationship grows increasingly complicated and Kira’s being honest with him. The guilt that he’s not reciprocating gnaws at Dylan, but he is fully aware that if he begins to offload in one way he’s likely to do so in others. Kira’s love and genuine, deep-rooted concern for him is the one thing he has left, and it’s almost certain to evaporate instantly if she learns he’s beginning to stalk and murder very bad men, whatever the crimes they’ve committed.

As well as his prowess as a weather and landscape artist – there are so many daylight cityscape shots of extraordinary detail which Breitweisser colours with a finger-numbing freeze – Phillips gets to show off his photo-realistic skills as Dylan sifts through the erotic fantasy stories his father illustrated, recalling his dad’s craft by conjuring one of those nudes in his mind’s eye. Wouldn’t you just know that she’d look one hell of a lot like Kira? And as he remembers perving over the magazines with his young friends, aged 6 or so, he realises who has behaved so horrifically as to merit being his first target.

Kill Or Be Killed 11

This begs further practicalities for a novice like Dylan, like finding a gun which won’t be traced. As to hunting down someone he only knew only tangentially many moons ago, well, that’s what Facebook’s for, right?

But then there’s the self-searching and doubt which I alluded to earlier.

“See, I kept having this sick feeling that I might have killed someone for no reason.
“Like, think about it for a second. There had to be some possibility that I hallucinated [REDACTED]. “Didn’t there? And if I did, if it wasn’t actually real, that meant my head was fucked, right?
“Which meant the way I remembered that day with Teddy could be wrong too… Right?”

Now, that’s all very specific to this particular story, but one of Brubaker’s interests lies in our universal, shared experiences and another of his skills is in making those connections and exploring their implications.

“I’ve read how memory works…
“I know we edit our memories so we look better in them.
“So what if I made up the whole thing?
“What if I was just like those assholes back in high school, pretending to have some secret link to the tragic dead kid?”

That would be Teddy.

“Except… Why would I make up a childhood story, especially one as sick as that, and never tell anyone about it?
“Who makes up a story and keeps it a secret?
“What is the point of that?”

Sorry to keep the quotations so cryptic, but you’ve got to be wondering what his memory was now… Right?

Kill Or Be Killed 14

We’ve got a long way to go before we get to page one.

For a masterclass in Brubaker getting readers to root for the least likely candidate, try CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sister BFFs (£4-00, self-published) by Philippa Rice.

Sister BFFs cover

“You’re tacky and boring and I roll my eyes at you so much my eyeball wires have gone curly.”

The disdain in those hooded eyes!

BFFs stands for Best Friends Forever – in polite circles, anyway. I like the way the plural is transposed in the acronym. I always assumed it hadn’t been, and that the first F was an expletive denoting either the extreme strength of the bond, withering sarcasm or our present-day, perpetually potty mouths.

Sister BFFs 1

From the creator of SOPPY, WE’RE OUT, ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON, MY CARDBOARD LIFE and RECYCLOST, these snort-inducing comedy shorts star Philippa and her sister – who may or may not be fictional – in conversation snap-shots either in person or by text. Her sister does most of the talking, more often than not at Philippa’s expense. It’s partly the cartooning, which we’ll come to in a second, but also the hyperbole that’s so hilarious: the extreme and elaborate nature of the put-downs, especially in the cramped train carriage sketch conducted via cell phone. It’s beautifully orchestrated as a dip in the middle so that the tirade erupts almost out of nowhere before being deflected by a virtual non-sequitur from Philippa, after which the target of the ire / petulance is redirected once more towards her sister’s fellow travellers.

Anyway, the sister has just been squashed against a man whose coat “stinks of old smoke and rotting vegetables” and is clearly overdue for a weekend break at a dry cleaner’s. Philippa:

“I’d just spritz it with some deodorant.”
“That’s why you stink.”
“You stink of boiled eggs.”
“You stink of the egg smell that comes out when you open a packet of cooked chicken slices.”
“You do.”
“You bathe in egg-water and use mayo as a face mask and have boiled egg slices on your eyes.”
“Eggs are good for you.”

It put me in mind of Newman and Baddiel’s “That’s you, that is…” confrontations, except that they never made up as these two do, swiftly, in an alliance of outrage and revenge strategies.

Sister BFFs 2

Rice is immediately recognisably from her autobiographical SOPPY self-portraits. Never one to shy away from self-mockery, there is a delicious panel in which she is shown enthusiastically diving, head-first and with zero dignity, into a bag of her sister’s clothing cast-offs, her rounded bum up in the air, short legs and tiny, white-socked toes waving wildly.

The two BFFs’ mouths – rubbery, flapping, yapping things, like hands in glove puppets – were either the inspiration for or inspired by Rice’s hand-crafted woollen animals who star in her ‘Soft Spot’ animations (, composed with  SOPPY co-star and the creator of HILDA, Luke Pearson. That’s where I first learned that Philippa could be surprisingly and delightfully rude, and so it is here.

Sister BFFs 3


Sister BFFs 4

It’s less Men Behaving Badly, more Children Behaving Competitively, and all the funnier for them being adults. Drawn and lettered in a childlike manner, obviously.

As with all our Philippa Rice books other than SOPPY, each copy is both signed and sketched in for free.


Buy Sister BFFs and read the Page 45 review here

Snow Blind s/c (£13-99, Boom!) by Ollie Masters & Tyler Jenkins.

Well, that’s a coolSnow Blind cover cover, isn’t it? Full of narrative, and once you’ve read what’s inside you’ll understand how well composed it is too. You’ll be seeing a little more of that Arctic Fox right at the beginning and right at the end of the first chapter.

The lovely, loose line art and wet-wash colours are both provided by Tyler Jenkins who leaves plenty of space for the white Arctic light to shine through. The style and palette’s identical on the inside, and there’s a tremendous sense of movement whether someone’s rising from a chair with their weight on the table, striding through a door without careful consideration as to who’s on the other side, smacking a tree trunk with bare fists in frustration / anger or, umm… look out — !

Thanks to those washes there’s a sodden, weighted-down feel to the coniferous pines even when they’re not laden with snow. Plus there’s a particularly fine shot, from behind knees, of a guard dog challenging an intruder with well developed calf muscles.

She or he isn’t the only intruder. Teenage Teddy Ruffins seems to make a habit of breaking and entering throughout.

Snow Blind 1

“After last time, my Dad asked me why I broke into a library of all places.
“I didn’t answer.
“I didn’t tell him that sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own home. That I felt more comfortable around the pages of dead authors than I do my own parents.”

That’s because those books are telling you things, Teddy. Your parents are – and have been all your life – a lot less communicative.

Snow Blind 2

They moved up from Louisiana to Alaska when Teddy was a baby. Teddy never thought to ask why, and they certainly never told him. This trait appears to have been absorbed because Teddy’s no communicator, either. He doesn’t get on with the local lads because he believes they don’t like him unless he bribes their company with a case of beer stolen from his Dad. He’s just done that at a BBQ his Dad’s throwing for friends.

“But as the alcohol took hold, I felt like I had something to prove. To them… and to my Dad. So when he got passed-out drunk, like he always did, I figured… If I have to be here, I might as well have some fun at his expense. I was finally being “one of the guys”.”

That’s what he overheard his Dad tell his Mom: that he wished Teddy would be “just one of the guys”.

So he paints his passed-out Dad with lipstick and paps a snap, sharing it on social media adding: “Dad’s definitely the prettiest girl at the party. Maybe he should run for Miss Louisiana next year?”

Far from surprisingly, Teddy’s Dad is furious. But it’s not because Teddy had mocked his masculinity specifically; it’s because he’s done it all over the internet, the worldwide web where anyone anywhere can see it. It’s not a pride thing, it’s a privacy thing. And I wouldn’t say it went viral but it went viral enough and now maybe it will become clearer to Teddy why they’re in Alaska and can never go home. Maybe it will become clearer to Teddy’s parents that you should always communicate, especially under circumstances like theirs, in the age of the internet.

Snow Blind 3

Bravo to writer Ollie Masters: there’s more breaking and entering yet zero increase in communication: leopards/spots, habits of a lifetime etc. Over and over again assumptions will be formed in absence of the truth being told, and this will have you screaming at everyone not just to have a word with themselves, but with each other.

By this I mean: Teddy has been lied to by his parents all his life. They don’t know that he knows that because since he found out he’s been lying to them. Finally he gives them the opportunity to tell him the truth and maybe they do and maybe they don’t. But Teddy’s going to presume that they’re still lying and continue to lie to them while he gets to the truth of the matter himself. The truth of a matter which he exposes by mistake and which he will now make a great deal worse.

Snow Blind 4

Partly because he’s jumped to one wrong conclusion after another, and is now about to jump to many more, tripping himself over, down the storytelling stairs.

Here he’s decided to track down the original intruder by asking around in a bad part of town.

“If he’d any sense he wouldn’t be laying low in the nice part of town… He’d be in the parts of town where being nosy gets it broken.”

Self-knowledge and self-guidance do not communicate with each other in young Teddy’s head.

This really is a complete and utter car crash. Every pun intended.

Snow Blind 5



Buy Snow Blind s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Goddamned vol 1: The Flood (£8-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera.

“I had a family once.Goddamned cover
“It didn’t work out.”

Well, this is all jolly European: the lines, the light, and the full-frontal nudity.

It’s male, by the way, and he’s blonde if that makes any difference to you.

It’s all very male here – hardly a woman in sight – perhaps reflecting the patriarchal nature of the Old Testament. Or maybe the women have all seen the brutal, bloody violence ahead and quite wisely eschewed an appearance in favour of something more sedate like a dog fight or a rugby match.

It’s all very western too, with a lone stranger wandering the wide-open landscapes – albeit muddy, faecal-flooded landscapes littered with carcasses being torn into by rabid wolves. He wandered into town last night, got set upon and sliced open by the Bone Boys. After lying face-down in excrement for hours, he seems much better this morning. Not a scar on his body. He’s going to mosey back into now, and there will be much “tohewen” and “toshrede”.

Goddamned 0

Goddamned 1

It’s 1600 years after Eden and, my, how Man has fallen! Or been pushed.

Even according to the Bible, Man’s tenure on this planet didn’t get off to a particularly good start, but I reckon God’s punishment of Eve was a slight overreaction to the relatively mild malfeasance of scrumping. Just one generation later and our chief protagonist and narrator got a little angry and raised the delinquency bar considerably by inventing both murder and fratricide in the very same skull-splitting moment. Can you guess who it is yet?

“My brother was an asshole. The first two children born into the world and we couldn’t fucking stand each other. That alone ought to tell you how fucked we all are.”

Goddamned 2

Since then our man / Methuselah with a mission to die has been cursing God for making him live in a Jim Foetus song:

“I’m watching my life swirl down the drain
And I feel about as Abel as Cain
But I guess that that’s the price of fame
When you’re destined to live in this Street Of Shame.”

Destined to live there forever, by the looks of things. Still, at least they’ve invented alcohol.

I love Cain’s moody, scowling drawl, like an embittered cowboy who’s seen too much to let anything impress or excite him anymore. It’s ever so far from Biblical and therefore instantly iconoclastic. I almost expected him to refer to Adam and Eve as “Mom and Pop”.

Goddamned 4

Both appear briefly in a bright and radiantly colourful, foliage-festooned flashback which emphasises all the more how bleak, beleaguered and utterly hopeless life on planet Earth is since God’s great experiment decidedly “gan aglay”. There are no flowers, butterflies, clean, flowing, fresh-water rivers or indeed trees since Noah’s been charged with chopping them down for the very first invitation-only, global Cunard cruise.

Noah and his wandering disciples are no more Godly than the Reavers or Night Raiders, by the way. With fire and iron, they’re simply a lot more efficient in carrying out the ultimate executive order. But then if life had truly degenerated to the point where a woman had to announce even to her protector that “You can’t fuck me without a fight, if that’s what you’re thinking” before adding of her son, “The boy, either” then I’d certainly have flooded it too.

The art which you will never be able to unsee – it is highly accomplished and very beautiful but what it depicts is squalid in the extreme – is reminiscent of Brent Anderson’s on KA-ZAR with a Barry Windsor-Smith modelling. No jungles, except in that flashback, but many more cleaved skulls and gigantic dinosaurs guaranteed.

Goddamned 3

When a lone splendid peacock shows up, its beak is dripping in freshly pecked blood.

From the creative team behind SCALPED. There wasn’t much hope there, either.

Cruelly, there is a brief glimmer here, for both Cain and two of those whom he encounters. Against all odds, which are firmly stacked against them.

I have no idea of where this series could conceivably go.


Buy The Goddamned vol 1: The Flood and read the Page 45 review here

Weathercraft h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

New editionWeathercraft new cover of the 2010 classic, this comes with crisp white paper, deckled edges (I adore deckled edges!) and a brand-new cover depicting the greedy, fearful, angry, bitter and normally naked, pronograde Manhog standing poised, upright, in a genteel dressing gown.

What has brought about this transformation and where will it lead?

Metamorphosis lies at the heart of most FRANK fables, usually through assimilation or straightforward ingestion and often catalysed by destruction. He’s a genuine visionary, Jim Woodring, and a master craftsman to boot.

Instead of crosshatching, his textures are formed from wavy lines, closer in effect to those created by a carved lino print. Almost everything in his landscapes is or could be alive, and rituals abound. I always call Woodring’s hypnotic fantasies  “mind-altering yet legal”. What you get out often depends on what you put in: what you bring to the table or even the mood you’re in at the time.

weathercraft new 0

For once the carelessly curious Frank takes a back seat, although of course he’s there to provide the inevitable helping hand at a key moment. Helping and meddling are two sides of the same coin to Frank; I often find it useful to glance at the expressions on the face of the furiously loyal Pupshaw – she’s usually quite dubious!

weathercraft new 1

Journeys too are important and here it’s the long-suffering but brutal, begrudging and really quite stupid Manhog who goes all bipedal on us and – a bit of a shocker, this – noble. Perhaps it’s a Frankenstein thing, for here Manhog allows himself to experience and even acknowledge moments of joy. How long will that last, do you think?

weathercraft new 2

Anyway, I’d better shut up now, for Woodring’s silent sagas are always best experience first-hand, untainted by other people’s input, like your favourite songs free from their promotional videos’ specificity.

This is why I find it vaguely odd that Woodring has actually written an introduction. Still: you’ll find insight.


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

Scarlet Witch vol 2: World Of Witchcraft s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by James Robinson & Marguerite Sauvage, Annie Wu, Tula Lotay, Joelle Jones, Kei Zama.

Whither will she Wanda?

An unexpected pleasure, refreshingly far from the convoluted cacophony of the central Marvel Universe, I described SCARLET WITCH VOL 1 as geo-specific occult detective fiction.

Its closest comparison point was HELLBLAZER, albeit without its socio-political bite. I don’t know, though, it had something to say about old Spanish nunneries as victims of their patriarchal peers.

Wanda Maximoff journeyed from New York to Ireland and Greece etc partly to atone for her pasts misdemeanours* by helping those in magic-mired distress and partly in search of answers as to why Witchcraft is broken. Its artists were carefully chosen for those exotic locations and each brought something brilliant to the proceedings. Marco Rudy, for example, whose Greece-bound episode featured the Minotaur, deployed panel constructions like those of a maze. Neat!

Scarlet Witch vol 2 1

Many are on top form again. Tula Lotay’s Central Park of a Thursday, with its spectral, skeletal trees, is a beautiful thing to behold, emphasising the wide-open wonder of its wintery blue sky by being seen from waist-level. One panel prior to that she concludes Wanda’s latest, intense therapy session with the avuncular Doctor Grand with a subtle deployment of slightly sickly and sweaty tangerine as his stare burrows deep into yours / Wanda’s. This uncomfortable claustrophobia signalled a certain something which made me smile and makes the relief of that chilly outdoors all the more palpable.

Marguerite Sauvage also colours her own pages and, if you remember, I said that one of the key strengths of this series – one which set it apart – was that it was geo-specific. Her very first page (and those that follow) leaps out at you with its complete comprehension of that essential quality.

“Paris is a city of many ghosts… and all I need is one of them.”

Paris – as the cliché goes – is also a city of romance. And I subscribe to that cliché. I’ve spent even more time lolling about its tree-lined avenues with a smile on my face and striding down its inviting vistas than I have meandering around Venice’s serpentine canals with their sequestered secrets waiting to be discovered around the next corner. I find both exceptionally romantic.

It is a romance which James Robinson gives us, and Sauvage delivers on every front too. Her forms are feminine, sensual and vulnerable – including the beau’s – as are her frames with their rounded corners and final-page flourish. But on the first page she sets the scene to perfection with its soft, white-lined, pink and purple clouds billowing up above the rooftops of a Paris shrouded in a thin, horizontal cocoon of mist broken chiefly by the Eiffel Tower on the horizon.

Scarlet Witch vol 2 2

So whither will she wander?

I’m ever so sorry, but I’m afraid this has strayed off course.

Perhaps to appease long-term Marvel Comics readers, Robinson has seen fit (or been editorially instructed) to attempt to marry this new, strident direction which could appeal to any new readers to Wanda’s constipated, contradictory past history which Brian Michael Bendis – against all odds – managed to make perfect sense of briefly, brilliantly, but only once.*

Scarlet Witch vol 2 4

On top of which Marvel Central intrudes with a whole chapter’s reference to its second Civil War which <yawn>”.

The ever so elegant covers by Aja are included.

* See NEW AVENGERS BY BENDIS COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 1. For the first volume you really didn’t have to and that was part of its joy. For this second book, I’m afraid you do.


Buy Scarlet Witch vol 2: World Of Witchcraft 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.

Black Monday Murders vol 1: All Hail God Mammon s/c (£17-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker

Goodnight Punpun vol 4 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Harrow County vol 4: Family Tree s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook

House Of Penance s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Peter Tomasi & Ian Bertram

Love vol 4: The Dinosaur h/c (£15-99, Magnetic Press) by Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci

Stumptown vol 4 h/c (£26-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood

Thief Of Thieves vol 6: Gold Rush (£13-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinbrough

Complete Scarlet Traces vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli

Aliens: Defiance vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Tristan Jones, Massimo Carnevale

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 14: North And South Part 2 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang, various & Gurihiru

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 5: The Twist (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann & various

Green Lanterns vol 1: Rage Planet s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Sam Humphries & Rocha Robson

Nightwing vol 1: Better Than Batman s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley & Javier Fernandez

Starfire vol 2: A Matter Of Time s/c (£13-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Emanuela Lupacchino, various, Amanda Conner

Black Panther: Doom War s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Maberry, Reginald Hudlin & Will Conrad, Ken Lashley, Scott Eaton, Gianluca Gugliotta

New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & various

Berserk vol 2 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Berserk vol 3 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura


Ink logo

ITEM! A phenomenal read!

The first issue of Steff Humm’s Nottingham-based INK magazine of comics journalism is out, online for free!

Humm’s analysis is far more informed, in-depth and relevantly, socially contextualised than anything I write. I couldn’t believe the erudite ways it managed to link the President Campaign-orientated CITIZEN JACK with the Iran-based autobiographical PERSEPOLIS, but they made perfect sense. In fact, I’m ordering CITIZEN JACK for the shelves on the basis of that review, and I’m not even going to attempt one of my own for fear of any shame-making comparisons.


Humm also reviews new aspects of Rob Davis’ THE CAN OPENER’S DAUGHTER while Josh Franks interviews Simone Lia and Stephen Collins about their weekly cartoons in the Guardian and Observer, respectively, and the different ways they approach their craft in graphic novels FLUFFY and THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL (also respectively and both reviewed by us). Please pop ‘em into our search engine for more.

You can follow INK on Twitter @Ink_Mag_UK and hit the top-left button after clicking on the link above in order to subscribe to future editions FOR FREE!

Simone and Hannah Signing

Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing at Page 45

ITEM! Wonderful Independent article celebrating THE PHOENIX COMIC’s 5th Anniversary, a thrilling weekly comic which flies in the face of the lamentable kids’ magazines which sell themselves on the cheap plastic tat attached.

Just remember as you read this that although weekly kids’ comics publication has declined over the last 20 years, since then there have been hundreds and hundreds of graphic novels published in their place and now on sale at Page 45 including THE PHOENIX COMICS COLLECTED EDITIONS which have their own section on the Page 45 Comics & Graphic Novel Website and about which we are so passionate that they are almost ALL reviewed by us!


– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2017 week three

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Featuring Kaare Andrews, Paloma Dawkins, Santiago García, David Rubín, Pat McHale, Jim Campbell, Rob Williams, Ryan Kelly and more!

Includes much-expanded News Section below!

Beowulf h/c (£26-99, Image) by Santiago García & David Rubín.

“To idlyBeowulf cover live is to wait for death.”

It won’t be long coming.

I give it three pages.

Even the first eerie offering foreshadows the doom. Lit like Charles Burns, an underground river cascades through a bleak, black cavern below jagged stalactites and knotted, invasive roots. Lurking in the darkness, a pair of glowing, inhuman eyes incarnadine the gristly, reptilian, obsidian flesh surrounding them.

Something has already had its fill.

Up above on the snow-swept, pink-dawn plains something hasn’t so much raised a dog’s hackles as left them buffeted weakly by the wind. A deafening murder of blood-stained carrion crows has formed and is feasting, fighting each other for the most prized pickings: the eyes. There appears to be a lot of carrion.

Beowulf 0


Beowulf 1


beowulf 2

Behind them still stand the fractured remains of the Danes’ banqueting hall of Heorot, if only barely. Its broad timbers have been shattered like wooden toothpicks and smeared with blood.

“Fortune favours the Danes!
“I, Hrothgar, son of Beow, son of Scyld, arrived on these shores in but a humble driftboat…
“Now I lead the Danes’ most glorious era!”

It’s very well done: Hrothgar’s boastful pride is presented through flashback panels embedded above the very same pages on which he discovers its painfully brutal rebuttal in the form of the corpse-ridden obliteration of the very hall which he hailed at the Danes’ greatest glory. It is a perfect piece of juxtaposition, his face falling between past and present as he comprehends his own hubris.

“Who dared massacre our own?” he demands, post-pyre, while we’re shown a sequence of panels inlaid once more above, showing that self-same, limb-rending massacre with mere glimpses of the intruder: a gigantic arm, eyes and teeth which will prove many and set fast in a crocodilian jaw.

Beowulf 3

Welcome to a big book of blood, guts and the shredding of sinews. Sinews will feature prominently, as will cleverly inset panels.

The first known manuscript of Beowulf – following many centuries of being passed down through the oral tradition – is dated roughly around 1000 AD. Even once written it preserved the importance of the oral tradition for sung stories featured prominently. These were how names were remembered, how histories were celebrated and how eternal glory became a goal far more treasured than mere trinkets.

“You’ve no debt to my kingdom. Why would you come to die so far from all you know?”
“Eternal glory, M’lord. After all… gold’s spent, life ends. Only glory remains eternal.”

So speaks Beowulf, more than a decade after Hrothgar commanded his finest warriors to seek out the murderous demon Grendel and exact retribution for the massacre.

“May the fury of Danes rain upon the earth.”

It didn’t. They failed. They have since retreated to a fortified town high up an isle like Mont St Michel, only land-bound. Now Beowulf has learned of this Grendel, has come to slay the beast with his bare hands, and as the stranger leads his men up the steep, icy path through its outskirts more inset panels show their own furtive glances and the reception by bird, beast and man alike.

Beowulf 5

The very finest deployment of these “windows”, however, lies within a double-page spread of the Danes’ new banqueting hall, glowing red late at night after the warriors have eaten and drunk their fill and lie sleeping on its thick-planked, bear wooden floor. It is so tight with tension that I stared at its details for a good half an hour. And there’s a lot of subtle detail.

At the far right, furthest from the entrance lies Beowulf, naked on fur. The others are clothed but oblivious to the creature who, having ambushed the sentry with its prehensile tail then bitten him in two, has gained entrance. Now, seen from above, Grendel slithers stealthily and unimpeded across the hall in four movements, its freedom to roam emphasised by the absence of vertical panel borders. Instead, multiple square panels hung in mid-air like free-floating portraits depict close-ups of the demon’s potential victims as its gaze darts left and right, assessing them, sniffing them, its steaming jaws mere inches from their faces. But Garcia and Rubin aren’t done, for there is an additional clutch of panels tangential to each of those already inset, all in bright red and revealing the ribbed, skin-peeled muscles underlying their arms, chests and heads. The beast can see through to their actual prowess: let’s call it Grendel-vision.

Beowulf 6

That’s about as far through the story as I’m prepared to take you, except to say that the next few pages come with a slight surprise which has sent this book straight to one of our top shelves. Consider that a Parental Warning for I have known Gareth Hinds’ interpretation of BEOWULF (back in stock and on our site in a fortnight – I’ve found an American edition now that Walker Books have sold out) be bought for the whole family. This gladdens my heart but, if you want to avoid some awkward dinner-table chit-chat, I would probably not be sharing this with your young sons and daughters.

I will also add that the title of this book is BEOWULF, not Grendel, and it is much wider in scope that you might initially imagine.

Comparison points for the art come in form of Becky Cloonan, Paul Pope and Rafael Grampa. It’s not as faithful in its literary nuances as Gareth Hinds’ version but it is absolutely riveting in its own right. There’s no real point in replicating others’ interpretations, and what I can promise you in lieu of the strictest tradition is visual innovation and jaw-dropping, jaw-splitting spectacle.

Beowulf 4

This is an over-sized book bursting with page after page of visceral, slice-and-dice conflict and gore as the stakes increase exponentially in line with each successive, monstrous adversary so that the pages, however large, can no longer contain the leviathans that lie within. At this point we reference Jack Kirby, Geof Darrow, Michael Oeming et al. None of those are random.

But it’s not just about the battles. The primal, raw sensuality is maintained by feasts depicting mouths dripping with rare-cooked meat and red-berry juices. And, oh lord, the colouring! I don’t think you could make this much more luminous or lambent if you’d lit it on fire: subterranean, glowing greens poisoned by reds and a dragon’s breath which appears to fill the air not just with cinders but it’s as if every single molecule were a curled piece of combusted paper, blinding and burning your eyes.

Beowulf 7

If that weren’t enough, the coup de grace comes in the form of an epilogue so unexpected but also so exceptionally apposite for a tale that’s been passed down through so many generations and translated into so many different languages.

Not quite sure what the end papers mean.


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

Renato Jones: The One Percent Season 1 s/c (£8-50, Image) by Kaare Kyle Andrews.

TheRenato Jones vol 1 cover ‘Super Rich Are Super F***ed’ declares the front cover in sneaky spot-varnish, if you tilt it a little in light.

The contents are equally mischievous and uncompromising in the many ways they stick it to the man, to the establishment, to those so imperviously entrenched at the top by their obscene wealth and the ethic-free implementation of that wealth in order to amass even more. You know what I mean: tax evasion condoned and preserved by politicians in their pockets; slave-condition sweatshops; purchased immunity from prosecution; deliberately finite functioning of the latest technology to encourage upgrading as often as possible.

Warren Ellis calls this:

“A sort of hallucinatory rage pop ‘PUNISHER from Occupy’. It’s gorgeous and also demented.”

With which he scores a deliciously succinct bullseye.

Renato Jones vol 1 2

However, Kaare’s so cleverly crafted set-up comes with its own wider implications for Renato Jones. His targets are the titular One Percent who own half the world’s wealth, and he’s now ONE of them. So unlike the Punisher who sets his sights on distant targets, these are all connected, up close and personal, and there will be ramifications. Did I say “now one of them”? He hasn’t earned the money nor has he inherited it. Well, he has, but perhaps it wasn’t his to inherit.

Like VELVET, LAZARUS and THE WICKED + THE DIVINE it’s one of those many titles perfect for readers who may want to wean themselves off the more inbred corporate comics, relentlessly eating themselves then regurgitating their same old storylines, increasingly nutrient-free simply to keep filling the shelves for their own One Percent’s benefit. Here you’ll encounter all the action you crave, but with much more besides, creator-owned, creator-controlled and creator-enraged, so it’s all the more blistering. Andrews is utterly enraged and this comic comes infused with a fury both verbal and visual, so you really won’t see what’s coming next.

“Action! Adventure! Affluenza!” screams one cover.

Renato Jones vol 1 1

Then there’s the bludgeoning refrain initially after each opening page against stark black and white:

“They’ve run our economy into the ground, destroying jobs and opportunity.
“They’ve taken homes from families. Turned the middle class into poor and the poor into felons.
“They’ve stolen, thieved, bribed and killed. But the ONEs have brought their way out of judgement and persecution…”

What a bunch of bankers.

Renato Jones vol 1 0

Kaare Andrews has long been one of comics’ greatest chameleons with a new style to suit each project. Here he throws a great many of them into the same series and splashed in photographic advertisements for perfume and cologne for good measure. Calvin Klein’s “Obsession Pour Homme” has become “Oppression – For Everyone (Renato Jones, justicier de luxe)”.

Renato Jones vol 1 4

Full-colour flashbacks nonetheless indicate their age by being seemingly sun-bleached, printed in the old Ben-Day dots you may remember from comics of yore, and slightly scarified as if once folded and put in a pocket or the back of the mind, the memories only now unfolding again, triggered by something that is seen, smelled or overheard. Isn’t that clever?

Renato Jones vol 1 3

You’ll find colour, black and white, and black and white with just a hint of cheek-bruised colour suggesting physical abuse. There’s plenty of that, and as the cover makes clear this isn’t for kids. Ooooh no.

But as well as being filled with invention it is brave to boot. Who would expect three consecutive double-page spreads, none of them used for action? The first two feature full-bleed confrontational close-ups / standoffs of eyes and nose only.

For the main action I perceived elements of Frank Miller circa DK1, especially the teeth, and indeed there’s a brief rooftop reference to its most iconic image in silhouette against lightning immediately following what I recognised – rightly or wrongly – as a Kingpin work-out as seen in Miller’s first DAREDEVIL run. Mostly, however, Andrews is emphatically his own man and master and his overhead depiction of a cul-de-sac in a suburb is exactly as he describes it thus:

“Neighbourhoods were once designed as grids, a simple landscape of left and right turns to get anywhere you wanted. The equality of choice. But modern suburbs are a maze of dead ends and looping roads. When you’re above them, they look like footprints.
“Just another little joke amongst the ONEs.”

I promised you anger, didn’t I? How about this, over a factory tannoy system in China:

“Welcome to Tech-Chi. We manufacture tomorrow today…
“Workers, be happy to have this job. Remember others are waiting to take your place…
“Bathroom breaks are earned, not taken…”

It’s not even hyperbole. When our Dominique sojourned at a certain international delivery firm’s call centre, she had to put her hand up if she wanted to go to the loo.

Renato Jones vol 1 5

One of my favourite sequences occurs at a political rally with a Presidential candidate – one of the ONE – disingenuously stirring up sympathy for the beleaguered with crocodile tears and a rhetoric you may find familiar. The punchline is a such a sweet play on words:

“Hate, REAL HATE has always made us great…
“I HATE not having jobs for this country.
“I HATE watching the ‘everyman’ struggle.
“I HATE the terror that threatens our peace.
“I HATE criminals and rapists who threaten our women and children.
“I’m SCARED at what this world is becoming.
“And I HATE not being able to do anything about it.
“I am asking you to join me. To unite in HATE and FEAR. Because if we hate a thing enough, if we truly fear it, we DESTROY IS BEFORE IT DESTROYS US!”

Wait for it…



Buy Renato Jones: The One Percent Season 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“The world around us is changing colour.
“I am always changing colour.”

Delicious, delirious and drop-dead gorgeous, this is a neon-bright, rainbow, Day-Glo affair.

I don’t use “delirious” idly, either.

Wide-eyed and innocent and fundamentally optimistic, it is light on script and bright on shared experiences: the wonder of nature.

This is one to meditate on.

At one point Dawkins quietly, solemnly and self-promisingly declares:

“I have to remember…
“Every single detail…
“I won’t forget.”

This rings ever so true to me.

Whenever I stroll through the Derbyshire Dales or even cross the River Trent on my way into work on some mist-shrouded morning, I honestly do consciously promise myself that I will remember every single detail. I soak up eye-candy for future reflection and remembrance. It will sustain me, nourish me and reinvigorate me when the city closes in.

Summerland 3

Dawkins captures that aspect – that specific imperative – to perfection.

Santana and Chucho sneak off from a communal Summerland beach party where the seas sparkle with bioluminescent plankton and so do the shores they’re washed up on as well. They kick its wet sand up into the air, and the all-but-invisible plankton gives off radiant evidence of its existence.

Summerland 1


Summerland 4

The stuff of stardust in the sand beneath our feet!

They visit the Graveyard of Exoskeletons: limpets and winkles and the dead carapace of a crab whose life lingers on through its extraordinary shape and its compartmentalised intricacies.

Summerland 2

“The sunrise makes the rock cliff glow a brilliant red.
“And it illuminates the yellow leaves of the crab apple orchard.”

Sunlight is brilliant, isn’t it? And stars are heavenly.

Stardom and cities…? Perhaps not so much.

Summerland 5

Many years later and things may have taken a turn for the kohl-crying worse.


Buy Summerland and read the Page 45 review here

Over The Garden Wall vol 1 (£14-99, Titan) by Pat McHale & Jim Campbell…

“Would anyoneOver The Garden Wall cover like a slice of chocolate cake?”
“Can’t digest it.”
“Hey, that’s not chocolate cake. That’s just air. Air isn’t real.”
“Oh, we’re making believe!”
“Yes, it’s fun playing tea party instead of doing chores all day.”
“Shh… I noticed too, detective! First the salt went missing, and now the chocolate cake is gone! Something is very wrong… There must be a food magician among us, making everything invisible!”

Ahhh… how sweet. Not invisible chocolate cake, obviously. For whilst the calorie count might hit the spot, I can’t imagine it would be a tasty treat at all. Unless it really had just been made invisible by a food magician, I suppose. However, if I could do that, I’d be busy putting invisible cream cakes on peoples’ chairs rather than their plates heh heh…


No, what is sweet, is that this is new material! I had mistakenly thought it was merely an adaptation of the exquisitely dark and dreamy cartoon, of which practically everyone who has ever seen it is forlornly pining for a second season. I suspect, like everyone else, that is not going to happen, which I reluctantly respect, so it is therefore wonderful that we have some excellent additional material.

Regular review readers will know my thoughts on media tie-ins: it only ever goes one of two ways, that being brilliant or dreadful. This is exactly like a lovely big yummy slice of chocolate cake as half-brothers Greg and Wirt stumble into mildly hazardous surreal situation after situation in the vast wood known only as errr… the Unknown. With only sarcastic bluebird Beatrice and the old woodsman to help them, will they ever make it home? Or indeed find any cake?!


The main reason this is such great material is undoubtedly because it’s penned by the show creator Pat McHale and illustrated by the show storyboard artist Jim Campbell. The fact that they are continuing to collaborate on this property still gives me the faintest shred of hope for a second season. Meanwhile, we have this, plus also a forthcoming ongoing series starring Anna the woodsman’s daughter and of course, Greg. I wonder if he’d like some Baileys in a shoe to wash that chocolate cake down with? Ooops, wrong Greg!


Buy Over The Garden Wall vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Unfollow vol 2: God Is Watching (£13-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling, Marguerite Sauvage, Ryan Kelly…

“Someone tell Batman I just stole his boat.”
“This boat is not Batman’s, Dave. Batman is not real.”
“You don’t say.”

Now despite the fact that Dave occasionally has problems with what’s real and what’s not – like the talking leopard only he can see – he’s probably picked the worst possible person to crack such a joke to, given Deacon, the insane mercenary, sees ‘the Dragon’ everywhere and in everyone. Mind you, that leopard is just about to appear on the wing of said plane to inform Dave he’s going to have to kill a whole bunch of foreign people to survive his current situation, that someone he likes very much is going to betray him, and that Deacon the insane mercenary’s imaginary dragon, which is always apparently coming to destroy everything, is… well, already here… Ah.

At this point I should also probably add the 140 apparently random (and apparently lucky) recipients of dead social media entrepreneur Larry Ferrel’s 17 billion dollars are already down to 134… So the original120 million dollars each from UNFOLLOW VOL 1 has gone up somewhat, and will climb considerably more so by the end of this volume as the bodies of ‘the 140’ – as the news cycle has oh so imaginatively christened them – begin to drop / bleed out / combust rather more rapidly. But who is responsible for the increasing concentration of wealth?


Well, we know Ferrel’s mad aide-de-camp Rubenstein, with his golden Aztec mask that whispers sweet nothings to him, is on the hunt, having managed to inveigle his way onto the magic list at the last minute, but are there other more clandestine players in the game? Oh yes. Plus a few other not-so-subtle ones trying to muscle in on the action by offering their protection at the point of a gun. All for a reasonable price, of course! Which is the situation Dave currently finds himself in, being ‘helped’ by the Russian mafia.

Social butterfly and spoilt sociopath Courtenay, meanwhile, has followed blade-legged, heavily tattooed author Akira to his private island, where he has been gathering as many of the 140 as possible in his high-walled peace commune for their mutual security. Because collecting all those targets in one place is a great idea obviously… Also, how does Akira’s dystopian doomsday novella, seemingly the inspiration for Ferrel’s crazy idea to dispose of his cash, factor into matters?


Mike Dowling, Marguerite Dowling and Ryan Kelly share the art duties on this second volume. I’m not usually a massive fan of chopping and changing the artist on a title like this, but actually given the large cast of characters we rotate around, it doesn’t particularly bother me, despite their differing styles. They are all great artists anyway.

Rob Williams keeps the mystery factor high, and even manages to throw in one very huge whopping surprise, whilst weaving this tale of social media-inspired madness. Practically every main character seems at least one hinge short of a cupboard and I am happy to report I genuinely have no idea where this is going or what the endgame could possibly be yet. Given the rate at which the 140 are expiring / being pruned, though, I may not have to wait that long to find out!


Buy Unfollow vol 2: God Is Watching and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 15: Highwater (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Marcelo Frusin, Guy Davis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cameron Stewart.

The second half of Azzarello’s run, finally revealing who landed John in American hot water to begin with, and why.

Lots of grim S&M, and other assorted worries.

Before then we journey back in time to London for a two-chapter instalment illustrated by SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE’S Guy Davis, while Constantine was still lead singer of the punk band Mucous Membranes, in which we learn that even then John was pissing on long-suffering taxi-slave Chas from great heights. At the most inopportune moment imaginable.

I know a few people cancelled their regular order during Brian and Marcelo’s run, but I can’t for the life of me think why. Perhaps because it was a trek across America.

HELLBLAZER hadn’t felt this dangerous since Alan Moore, with some fantastic shadows from Frusin, and ranks right up there for me with Ennis’ main stint, albeit a completely different take.

John’s not your mate here. He’s silent, saturnine and wicked as sin. If you want to hook then reel the trickster in, you’re on a suicide mission. Same if you want to befriend him.

Hellblazer vol 15

Please see HELLBLAZER VOL 14 for a much more expansive analysis. What a horrible cover this has.


Buy Hellblazer vol 15: Highwater and read the Page 45 review here

Prometheus: Life And Death s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & Andrea Mutti…

“…They’re back.Prometheus cover They’ve God damn well come back.”
“Please, God, tell me you’re joking.
“Sorry, kid. That’s the way it is. I’m looking at one through my scope right now. A God damn Engineer.”
“I can’t… I just… not after everything. I can’t face them again too. We’re screwed.”

No, not Ridley Scott gee-ing himself up for the forthcoming Prometheus film sequel (entitled Alien Covenant, which as it happens, looks more than half decent from the trailer), but one of the surviving grunts left behind on Tartarus (LV-797) after the cataclysmic and rather bloody events of PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE.

Well, the whole FIRE AND STONE storyline was spectacularly brutal actually, running through the ALIENS: FIRE AND STONE, PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE, ALIEN VS PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE and PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE trades in that order. Oh, and then the subsequent finale PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE – OMEGA one-shot which didn’t get collected anywhere except in the massive omnibus hardback that came out later… Righhhht, nice one Dark Horse. Actually, more of a inconsequential coda than a true finale, but still…


PREDATOR: LIFE AND DEATH actually forms the first part of this new storyline, rather than the last this time around. Events in that, and this volume, basically take place one year on from their respective FIRE AND STONE parts, and, in case you were wondering, which I’m sure you weren’t, forty-three years after the Aliens film. (I’m resisting as hard as I can to control my inner Bill Paxton, even after all these years, but it’s tricky!!)


What’s also different about this second comics’ merry-go-round is that Dan GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY / WILD’S END Abnett is writing all four parts of it, along with any surprise after-thoughts presumably. This almost certainly explains why this arc feels even tighter and more relentlessly paced. The action does not stop.

If you’re remotely a fan of Aliens, Predators, Aliens fighting Predators and indeed even Engineers wiping the floor with everyone, with lots of soft, squelchy humans getting mashed in the middle, you will love this. The art is from a different artist for each tie-in, and here Andrea REBELS VOL 1 Mutti brings his trademark ultra-fine pencil lines to bear on the inevitable mayhem that ensues from the moment another group of grunts lands on Tartarus. Do these people never learn?!


Buy Prometheus: Life And Death 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.

Kill Or Be Killed vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Sister BFFs (£4-00, ) by Philippa Rice

Snow Blind s/c (£13-99, Boom!) by Ollie Masters & Tyler Jenkins

The Goddamned vol 1: The Flood (£8-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera

Weathercraft h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

Prophet vol 5: Earth War (£15-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy & Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, others

Abe Sapien vol 8: Desolate Shore (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Chew vol 12: Sour Grapes (£14-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Star Wars vol 4: Last Flight Of The Harbinger (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Chris Eliopoulos & Jorge Molina, various

Steven Universe vol 1 (UK Edition) (£10-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

Sunstone vol 5 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Stjepan Sejic

Flash vol 1: Lightning Strikes Twice s/c (Rebirth) (£15-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico, others

Harley Quinn vol 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh s/c (£14-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner, Chad Hardin

Justice League vol 1: The Extinction Machines s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hitch & Tony S. Daniel

Mighty Thor vol 1: Thunder In Her Veins s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Old Man Logan vol 3: The Last Ronin s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Scarlet Witch vol 2: World Of Witchcraft s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by James Robinson & Marguerite Sauvage, Annie Wu, Tula Lotay, Joelle Jones, Kei Zama

Blade Of The Immortal Omnibus vol 1 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 8 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya



ITEM! Here we go again!

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 is open to creators, publishers and retailers to come and join Page 45 in making a ridiculous amount of money! Also, having fun.

What an electrifying poster! Please click to enlarge! And please apply now!

LICAF 2017 runs from Friday 13th October to Saturday 16th October with the exhibitors’ Kendal Clock Tower open on the Friday and Saturday. ENTRY REMAINS FREE!

If you’ve any doubts about why you should be there (comics readers, retailers, publishers and creators like), here’s Page 45’s Report on The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 in which we OBLITERATED our all-time biggest weekend sales record!

I’ve seen the Official Comic Creator Guest List for LICAF 2017 – which is all done and dusted – and it will knock your blinkin’ socks off: some enormous international names including two Page 45 customer female favourites (and indeed female customer favourites).

Here’s the latest American National Cartoonists Society Magazine with a massive report on LICAF 2016 beginning on page 9.

Sound Of The World 2

ITEM! There are some absolute beauties in the current edition of PREVIEWS free online at Page 45 for comics and graphic novels shipping from March onwards. Please consider pre-ordering via our website or emailing / phoning in to add to your Page 45 Standing Order Pull List. We’ll have them whizzing off to you worldwide on arrival or pop them straight into your file.

Sound Of The World 1

  1. SOUND OF THE WORLD BY HEART with its New York cityscapes looks astounding. Lots of interior art for SOUND OF THE WORLD BY HEART on the Magnetic Press website.

Item Gaugin

  1. Fabrizio Dori totally nails Gauguin for the latest in SelfMadeHero’s Art Masters Series. Its English translation will out on 6th March. I don’t have a pre-order page for you on this one, but there’s plenty to whet your appetite at that link and you can always phone / email. (I have no idea what is up with this numerical formatting!)

Item Grass Kings

  1. GRASS KINGS #1 is the latest series from Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins. Tyler Jenkins was the artist on SNOW BLIND whose collected edition is fresh in stock this week and will be reviewed next week. Father / son generation-gap nightmare leading crime-ridden nightmare.

ITEM Bad Mac 7 cover

  1. John Allison’s all-ages BAD MACHINERY VOLUME 7 appears to have undergone a change in format if I’m not much mistaken. You can read Page 45’s reviews of all things John Allison here but why not start with BAD MACHINERY VOL 6 in which I really get into its mechanics.

ITEM Ganges 6 cover   ITEM Crickets 6 cover

  1. Kevin Huizenga’s GANGES #6 and Sammy Harkham’s CRICKETS #6

Well yes, you could wait as usual until the day after they’re published and be disappointed once again as everyone finally descends upon us and we so sell instantly out or – radical idea, this – you could order these things now if you know that you want them, so giving us the confidence to order in greater depth.

Item Terms And Conditions

  1. Finally – and this is frankly insane – Sikoryak is adapting to comics iTunes’ absurdly long and labyrinthine TERMS AND CONDITIONS by illustrating and so mocking it, word for word, in the style of some classic comicbook creators. His Mike Mignola is impeccable and adds just the right level of menace. More full-page examples of Sikoryak’s TERMS AND CONDITIONS here.
Simone and Hannah Signing

Simone Lia & Hannah Berry at Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party signing.

ITEM! Endearing interview with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia.

It’s mostly on the subject of Simone Lia’s all-ages THEY DIDN’T TEACH THIS AT WORM SCHOOL in stock and reviewed by Page 45. Did you come to her Page 45 21st Birthday Party signing? No? And you call me a buffoon!

Worm School 1

ITEM! Families! The PHOENIX COMIC WEEKLY for kids is celebrating its 5th Anniversary. It is a hallmark of quality which is why we stock almost every single collected edition whose reviews you can read right there at that link.

Here’s hat-tastic Sarah McIntryre’s PHOENIX COMIC launch blog from way back then. Sarah’s blogs are always the best with photos of creators you’ll never find elsewhere.

Pop her into our search engine for her very own all-ages comics and illustrated prose co-created with the ridiculous witty Philip Reeve who once Tweeted me “Rampaging foodstuffs are a bit of a recurring theme in our books…”

Cakes In Space bigger battle

Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntryre’s CAKES IN SPACE

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2017 week two

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Featuring Pushwagner’s Soft City, Sarah Glidden’s rolling blackouts, Shaun Tan, Junjo Ito and explosions.

Rolling Blackouts h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Sarah Glidden.

Sarah Glidden and rolling-blackouts-coverher fellow journalists are on a train travelling through Turkey on its way to Tehran. They’re making friends in its dining car which has become the train’s social hub. One young Iranian who is affable and far from brainwashed (having already disavowed much of what Ahmandinejad proclaimed) shows them his mobile phone.

This isn’t fiction.

“This is my wife.”
“Oh, she’s very pretty! Do you have any kids?”
“Oh no.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t want to bring children into a country that could be bombed by America.”

In his mind the possibility that America could bomb Iran is so strong, and so very real, that he’s forgoing the pleasure of children lest that joy turn into bereavement.

There’s a great deal of bereavement in this level-headed, searching, thought-provoking and richly informative first-hand account of Glidden’s two months in Iraq and Syria in 2010, for most of those whom she meets are in one way or another displaced refugees, all eager to tell their individual stories, previously unheard because no one has cared to listen.


They’re interviewed by her companions, Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill of the Seattle Globalist independent collective, for what would turn into fourteen different published features – some of them very high profile – even if they weren’t entirely sure what they were looking for initially. Glidden’s role in the form of this substantial graphic novel is to document that journey – geographical, personal and professional – and the crystallization of their ideas and angles through former contacts and chance encounters as they all wrestle with discoveries, self-doubts, set-backs, successes and the very notion of what constitutes ethical journalism.

Invaluably humanising the de-humanised and abandoned (sometimes left for a decade or more in what are always intended to be temporary, transitory refugee camps), this is measured, well researched, but increasingly sobering stuff. However, I believe above all that you’ll be surprised.


For a start, this is a very beautiful book.

I can quite easily conceive that many may buy it purely for the joy of bathing in Glidden’s delicate but warm, full-colour washes over confident, clean lines. There are so very many striking landscapes with wet-wash horizons, and she captures the spirit of place in extraordinary detail for such compact panels. There’s Damascus both old and new; the epic open road to Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah with its golden plains and distant indigo mountains; the extraordinary and unexpected spectacle of vast verdant parks in Sulaymaniyah itself, dense in trees, built on what used to be training grounds for Saddam Hussein’s troops.

But essentially this is 300 hundred pages of talking heads told in that most accessible of structures which is the three-tiered, nine-panel grid. It’s immaculately composed and it is riveting, partly because its subject matter is so fascinating, partly because those whom she meets are so compelling, partly because its editing from hundreds of hours of tapes is so judicious and – to no small extent – because Glidden has made every single page beautiful to behold and utterly clutter-free without demanding you stop, stare and acknowledge that. Instead you move swiftly on to the very next nugget of eye-opening observation and recollection.


They’re joined on their journey by Dan, one of Sarah Stuteville’s childhood friends and a former Marine who for a year was deployed in Iraq during the aftermath of the invasion whose cataclysmic side-effects – in the rise of the militia – displaced most of the refugees whom they meet later on in Syria. Dan is there to make blogs of his own, but also as part of Stuteville’s project: she interviews him on each stage of their travels to see if – no, in the hope that – his initial equanimity with his role as a soldier might falter.

It’s is an odd thing to want for a friend, but it’s that sort of a warts-and-all account.

Dan was in many ways one of those least likely to sign up. His parents were “classic Seattle hippies”, his mother co-founding an organisation called Families For Peace who campaigned to end the sale of violent toys like plastic guns. Dan even joined the anti-war protests and is still adamant that the invasion should never have occurred. However, Dan joined once he saw the resultant carnage – the militia’s bombings and kidnappings and murders – in order to help put an end to it. He believes he made a concrete, constructive difference, so feels no guilt. He also maintains that he’s suffered no lasting trauma in spite of what he experienced. And that increasingly frustrates Stuteville. I’ll leave you to learn how that pans out.


One of the party’s main focuses in Sulaymaniyah are the prisons and abandoned barracks now repurposed as residences for poverty-stricken Kurds from Kirkuk who lost their livelihoods, houses and cars when they fled their homes for fear of the killings. They refuse to return because of the violence, but won’t be helped by the KRG government until they do so, because the KRG government wants to use their presence in Kirkuk to lay claim to its oil fields.


Their other focus is Sam Malkandi whose full history, once revealed, is extraordinary. They discover the heartbreaking details gradually in a series of interviews for which they’ve only a certain amount of allotted time. One of the chief tensions in ROLLING BLACKOUTS is whether the journalists will ever achieve the breakthrough moments which will turn their investigation into a complete, verifiable or at least credible, sellable story. So I’m going to allow those most of those astonishing details to unfold naturally as you read, but essentially Sam went from carefree drama student in tree-lined Baghdad to fleeing frontline duty in the Iran-Iraq War, to a relatively happy reprieve in his hometown of Sulay with his newly-wedded then pregnant wife… to fleeing Iraq for Iran to escape door-to-door searches for Kurdish deserters… thence Pakistan before finally making it to America. Along the way he experienced destitution, desolation and oh, I can’t even tell you. Awful. But he also made a critical mistake in one of those applications, was visited by ridiculous misfortune while rebuilding his life in America at which point that initial mistake came to light and… unbelievable. Involves terrorism in America.


Sam’s love of America is undiminished and his English is excellent so there’s no need for translators. When they are employed, Glidden cleverly superimposes the interpreter’s speech balloons over the interviewee’s, leaving just a little ‘shadow’ over the original behind it.

In Syria they need interpreters almost everywhere and the love of America is abruptly lost as we begin to understand exactly what has happened to the two million Iraqis who fled the country following America’s (and Britain’s) illegal invasion of this tyrannically ruled country on deliberately falsified grounds (my statement, not Glidden’s; let’s keep this clean) – on top of the 1 million Iraqi civilians estimated to have been killed because of it.

First, through a former Ba’athist colonel, there are introduced to a sitting room full of teachers, doctors, dentists and lawyers. As Glidden notes:

“Since the invasion 80% of the middles class – precisely those who the US hoped would rebuild a new Iraq – have fled the country.”

They are now stranded in Damascus having escaped the violence between the Sunni and Shia and, in doing so, lost everything:

“I lost my pharmacy, I lost my house, I lost my opinions.
“I lost everything. I lost my life.”

Another woman lost 25 family members in a single day.


They’re living in city apartments rather than tents and their children receive free education up to secondary school but nothing beyond. In addition they aren’t allowed to work legally, so become increasingly impoverished. They are without hope, especially for their children who cannot finish their education and won’t be allowed to work either. Their disgust at America is so strong they refuse to be resettled there and the final interviewee that night is so blunt that even Dan is unsettled. But wait until you meet those who aren’t middle class.

Glidden captures every nuance in their expressions – their anger, desperation and dignity – and in Sarah Stuteville’s pained receptiveness too. It is delicately done.

I’ve run out of time, which is a shame because I have another page of notes on their discussions about journalism itself, which occur throughout their mission. What one forgets while cheering on these committed investigative reporters – whose ethics are so strict that they will never promise help nor even to spread their subjects’ stories unless they know can – is that the wider industry is held in such contempt. Journalism is apparently the second-most hated profession in the US, just after lawyers but, astonishingly, before politicians. I foresee that being reversed shortly. Stuteville:

“There are so many things that are contributing to the decline of journalism as we know it. And much of that has to do with the internet and economic models and so forth.
“But a lot of it has to do with elitism and arrogance and people losing trust in journalists and news outlets. Obviously the lead-up to the Iraq war didn’t help with that.
“And the rise of cable news and their style of gotcha journalism, and journalism being really politicized so here’s Left outlets and Right outlets…
“There are a lot of reasons it fell apart and most of them don’t reflect particularly well on the industry.”

She concludes with a statement which reflects my own view distinctly separate view of the US/UK comics industry and medium:

“But I feel like that’s the industry, not the profession. It’s hard for people to make that distinction, but it’s important.”


Like I say, I have another page of notes on journalism alone and what I’ve covered in other areas is but a small fraction of this 300-page graphic novel: things they discover like women reporting domestic violence being consigned to prisons full of criminals because there are no safe refuges for them; the wonderful work of the Iraqi Student Project run out of a couple’s apartment in Damascus, providing further education for a handful of youngsters to gain internationally recognised certificates and then university places outside of Syria.

Nor is this just about their interviewees, but also about the roaming quartet later joined by fellow journalist Jessica, their relationship as it develops over the two months and the practicalities of recording and the not inconsiderable effort that must go in to securing an outlet for any proposed feature.

Glidden is never judgemental except about herself, and that extends to her art. Her visual portraits could so easily have been judgemental, but they’re restrained, almost neutral without ever being bland. Her palette is exquisite on every page: lots of cool-colour backgrounds so often warmed by Alex’s and Sarah S’s auburn hair. But her night scenes are truly extraordinary in their depth and detail, like the one depicting their travel by taxi from Beirut to Damascus, counting the vainglorious portraits of chinless death-dealer President Bashar al-Assad, all spot-lit even all the way out in the rich brown countryside.

The greatest compliment I can perhaps pay to ROLLING BLACKOUTS is that Glidden – along with the Globalist – furthers the work of Will Eisner in fiction and Joe Sacco in reportage, in giving a voice to those otherwise without one and that, like Marjane Satrapi in PERSEPOLIS, Art Spiegleman in MAUS and Belle Yang in FORGET SORROW, Sarah Glidden’s book is decidedly non-didactic for you’re learning as they’re all learning – and I Iearned loads.

Maps provided, you’ll be pleased to hear.


Buy Rolling Blackouts h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Life as a drone, a soft-city-coverclone and a cog in the inexorable, daily machine is something of a cliché, but seldom have I witnessed it done with such wit, scale and eye-frazzling detail.

The succession of Metropolitan vanishing points is dazzling, relentless, hypnotic.

All is symmetry in this neat, pristine, hollow, factory-farm existence, both on the page and in the narrative as a whole.

After the grandiose, Apollo-like launch of the sun on this brand-new day with its great sense of expectation, of anticipation, the very first perspective is that of a baby’s; the very first vanishing point, appropriately enough, that of its cot, of its cage.

There are an almost infinite number of cages within this boxed-in existence, whether they are the grid-locked cars or the identikit flats with their nigh-identical furnishings identically arranged. Each identical husband in his uniform suit, tie and bowler hat exits his identikit flat at exactly the same time with exactly the same march, although a woman’s slipped in to the elevator and one man day-dreams of a bodybuilder stripped down to his underpants, admiring himself in the mirror.


The monumentalism truly begins once outside, although there is no sky to speak of. Instead it’s more windows, more boxes disappearing into the distance as your eyes are sucked out of their sockets and into the succession of vanishing points behind a seemingly infinite number of impossibly long, impossibly broad and impossibly tall sky-scrapers.

If you think your commute’s bad, this one’s a bummer.

Impressive as all that is, the multi-storey car parks are breath-taking: an infinite number of bays for an infinite number of cars seen through the yawning, cavernous entrance. That bit’s more Matrix than Metropolis, the regression into the distance enhanced by each storey’s ceiling strip lights.

soft city indd book NYRC-11.indd

Wish I could have found the next page: seeing is believing.

And what of the women? Well, this work was begun in 1965 and completed in 1975 which was four years before RAW so obviously well ahead of its time, but I can’t help but wonder if the shopping sequence, being three-quarters of the way through, wasn’t inspired by the French hypermarchés which began to emerge in the late 1960s. My first sight of one those blew my tiny little mind. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that the endless shelves simply sprang from Pushwagner’s singular vision.

At this point I should mention that I can see no evidence whatsoever of a ruler. It don’t think it would work so well if all the lines where actually straight. That they wobble a bit is part of the wonder. Each composed by hand.


Nevertheless it is, as I say, a regimented existence which makes the proliferation of the word “soft” in this otherwise sparsely scripted graphic novel all the funnier.

The father reads the Soft Times, its harsh news juxtaposed against fluffy-puppy adverts. Soft Electric is the brand of the cacophonous alarm clock which wakes him to hard work and immediately his wife insists he takes a Soft Pill to get through the bitter pill of his clock-in, clock-out life.


And wouldn’t you just know what “soft” product Soft Inc manufactures?

You won’t be surprised to discover Chris Ware’s a fan and contributes a substantial introduction. Biographical details – a history of this once-lost work and its origins – are provided by Martin Herbert in the back.


Buy Soft City – The Lost Graphic Novel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c (£17-99, Arthur A Levine Books) by Shaun Tan.

With the UK edition of this inspirational book now out of print, we’ve found a US version – hurrah!

“Some are exercises to simply keep fit as an artist, where the practice of drawing is about learning to see, a study that never ends.”

“Nevertheless, interesting or profound ideas can emerge of their own accord, not so much in the form of a ‘message’, but rather a strangely articulated question.”

From the creator of THE ARRIVAL and THE SINGING BONES etc. comes a highly illuminating insight into one artist’s driving passions and thought processes. You’ll discover unusual artefacts, sketches and page layouts which eventually found themselves included in some of Shaun’s finished graphic novels, experiments with the language of the sea and curious creatures which themselves suggest stories so far untold. Some of the preliminaries have brief notes jotted in their margins, like the series of interconnected, roofless rooms arranged like a stage set, one evidently a water tank containing an octopus tentatively exploring the next; another, hilariously, on fire. Tiny figures look in on others. “Are we just moving from room to room?” he asks to one side.


Better still Shaun introduces each segment with some extended, eloquently expressed and inspirational thoughts. On doodling, he writes:

“This always reminds me of fishing – casting loose lines into a random sea, trying to hook something substantial. It’s surprising what sense can emerge from nonsense, and how the juxtaposition of odd images on a page can have a serendipitous effect, catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden by the waves.”


It’s the perfect cure for ‘artist’s block’: “just start drawing,” he suggests, quoting Paul Klee’s description of “taking a line for a walk”.

“Klee has a second good metaphor: the artist as a tree, drawing from a rich compost of experience – things seen, read, told and dreamt – in order to grow leaves, flowers and fruit… Artists do not create so much as transform.”


Hence all the observational sketches and the section entitled ‘drawings from life’, a lot of them in colour, where Sean explores “the relationship between individuals and their respective environments”, a theme found throughout the artist’s graphic novels. Likewise “the tensions between natural and manmade forms”. I think ‘tensions’ is underplaying it somewhat! THE RABBITS, THE LOST THING and TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA are all littered with visual and narrative commentaries on what man has made of his natural environment, as a quick glance of any of those reviews will make abundantly clear!


Rarely have I had as much fun absorbing an art book, or come away so galvanised. It’s a neat little package, and I’d pay good money to see any one of those ‘untold stories’ come to full, expansive life.


Buy The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tomie Complete h/c (£25-00, Viz) by Junji Ito –

From the creatortomie-cover of UZUMAKI and GYO.

Here’s our Mark:

It’s rare than a comic artist will really turn my stomach as Ito has managed to.

These tales are precursors to UZUMAKI, sharing the same themes of life being poisoned by demonic exaggeration of a human failing. Tomie inspires horrible devotion in all who find her attractive. The attraction turns to fixation, then jealousy ending in her murder. Then she comes back. Some time each hacked piece grows into another Tomie. An organ is transplanted and the host is taken over. Really quite disturbing.

This was our Tom:

Tomie was your usual manipulative two-faced High School girl. Until one day while on a field trip, her class – including the teacher – finally had enough of her seductive scheming, and killed her. Sharing the responsibility of their actions, each class member took a piece of her body to dispose of it. But their actions haunted them in a truly strange way as each piece of Tomie grew into a new Tomie. These new Tomies manipulate their victims into doing anything for her, even kill. Until they finally have enough and kill her again, repeating the vicious cycle, over and over.

Junji constantly finds new and ever more gruesome ways for Tomie to orchestrate her own downfall as this true urban horror spreads like a weed across the country.



Buy Tomie Complete h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Han Solo (£14-99, Marvel) by Marjorie Liu & Mark Brooks…

“I only joined the Rebellion to make a quick buck.

“After I’d paid off my mark I kept thinking Chewie and I would get in the Falcon and keep going.
“But I didn’t.
“Maybe I’m as dumb as she says I look.
“Or maybe something’s changed.”

It would take a Sith-like heart not to feel a certain degree of poignancy reading this following the untimely deaths of Carrie Fisher and a certain other fictional character. Or maybe I’m just getting sentimental, a bit like Han in this <ahem> solo romp set shortly after the destruction of the Death Star. Seems like the penny is finally dropping as to why he’s agreeing to undertake yet another suicide mission on behalf of the feisty Princess Leia…

This time all Han needs to do is escort the three surviving Rebel informants from a previously extensive network of spies in a nearby star system back to base. Simple, right? Well, not exactly, as one of them is probably the Imperial mole that’s been bumping all the others off. Also, Han is going to need a cover story as to why he’s visiting that star system. So it’s a good job the Dragon Void race, the oldest, most dangerous race in the galaxy, just so happens to be taking place there!


Now that sounds like a challenge Solo could get on board with… But as Leia is only too keen to point out, right before punching him in the face, just for good measure you understand, under the auspices of adding to his story about why he’s quitting the Rebellion to go racing, Han had better remember the Dragon Void is his cover, not the objective. Han being Han, though, figures he can probably manage to win the race, blah blah Millennium Falcon… Kessel Run… twelve parsecs… blah blah blah and rescue the spies, plus expose the double agent. All because he’s just a great guy, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with trying to impress a Princess…


Marjorie MONSTRESS Liu pens this hilarious, hokey yarn, throwing in a hidden smuggling compartment’s worth of trademark sarcastic Solo dialogue, ridiculous bum-twitching seat-of-the-pants flying, seasoned with enough sizzling romantic tension between our loggerheaded leads to fry a Hutt. An entire one… Thus she captures the various characters perfectly and provides us with a very entertaining galactic jaunt. Nice clean and straightforward art from Mark Brooks, which seems to be a pre-requisite for pencilling a STAR WARS comic these days. I’d happily read a second arc from this pair.


Buy Star Wars: Han Solo and read the Page 45 review here

 New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Finch, Alex Maleev various.


This is the starting point for everything Avengers-related which JESSICA JONES’ Brian Michael Bendis wrote with exceptional wit and verve, and it lasted something like a decade.

Outside of THE ULTIMATES SEASON ONE and THE ULTIMATES SEASON TWO by Millar and Hitch, it represents the very finest run on The Avengers, and this is coming from the wizened remains of what used to be a 12-year-old boy absolutely in awe of Roy Thomas’ 1960s’ run alongside John Buscema and Neal Adams as represented by the AVENGERS KREE/ SKRULL WAR.

It begins with ‘Avengers Disassembled’ during which Bendis and Finch tore the team apart – one of them quite literally – in order to build something brilliant from scratch. It is joined in this bumper edition with those first two volumes of NEW AVENGERS.

Alas, I was so enamoured that I wrote the worst review I’ve ever written.


For a start I forgot the artist, which is unforgivable, and Finch is unforgettable. His neo-classical figure work is so impressive that I could stare at the sturdy neck muscles for hours; his expressions here are appropriately pained and he executes two successive, 4-tier, 360-degree rotations round a cast of four in conversation which I’ve never seen done before. Lots of neck muscles there.

Additionally, his sense of scale is right up there with Hitch’s – and it needs to be, given the carnage that follows – and his ability to halt you by interrupting a quiet conversation of jaunty, toast-and-marmalade teasing with an explosion which rips through the breakfast room walls is unparalleled thanks in equal amounts to Frank D’Armata’s abrupt switch from blue-sky, verdant to volcanic colouring.


The review’s eloquent, I hope, but it was an all-too heart-felt, sentimental elegy which gives everything away. Everything.

At Page 45 we pride ourselves on avoiding SPOILERS. If it’s a review of the fourth book of a series we love like LAZARUS we avoid SPOILERS even of volume one. Instead we want to intrigue you to start at the beginning. That said, given that there is a decade of material to follow, perhaps this could be considered a review of its prologue. I leave that to you.

Do you love the SCARLET WITCH? This is where you begin.

Avengers Disassembled

“For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.”
 – Stephen, 200 times on a blackboard after falling asleep during Physics.

That, for me, is the key to why this storyline really worked. For all these years one member of this fluctuating team of superhuman powerhouses has been bending the laws of physics with no obviously equal nor opposite reaction. At no seeming cost. When Iron Man flies, fuel is burned. When Hawkeye spends an arrow, he must make another. And when I write a disproportionately long and po-faced superhero fanboy review, I’m punished with a terrible headache and the nagging suspicion that my LOVE AND ROCKETS credibility has finally been depleted.


Yet all these years, one amongst The Avengers’ ranks has been using her reality-altering powers to break the laws of physics, manipulate probability, and turn a bad situation into good fortune. It wasn’t a magic she had learned, it was a gift she was born with. As she grew older, as she wielded her powers with increasing confidence, so the feats she performed became increasingly spectacular. What, for example, are the chances that a woman could give birth to two baby boys when her husband was an infertile android?

The chances are nil. You’d have to be insane to believe it was possible.

Wanda Maximoff had never had what you might call an easy life. She was brought up by gypsies after being abandoned by her mother. Her father didn’t even know she or her brother existed, which is just as well because he was a mutant terrorist calling himself Magneto – the same mutant terrorist who in her late teens manipulated her into joining his crusade as The Scarlet Witch by preying on her deep fears and past persecution. Throughout her childhood she and her brother Pietro had been hounded by those who hated mutants just because they existed. So any offer of a home was a godsend.


Her brother was a superior son of a bitch, but he doted on her, fulfilling a paternal as much as a fraternal role. You might say he smothered her. Whatever the case, when fortune suddenly changed and salvation appeared – in the form of an offer of membership on an internationally renowned and domestically adulated, government-sanctioned team of American superheroes – she was, perhaps, a little naive. But then these were the early years, and everyone was a little naive.

Her fellow Avengers (Hawkeye, Captain America and her brother Quicksilver) didn’t question how she performed minor miracles using what she called ‘hexes’, they were just glad to have the gentle soul on their side. They became her new family, and over the years they all came to love her, whilst the archer Clint Barton grew particularly close, always there to lift her spirits with a lame joke or a stupid arrowhead exploding into a bouquet of flowers. He too was a criminal made good, and to a certain extent he understood her perspective. It’s not everyone who’s given a second chance.

The Vision was.

An android created by Ultron (an insane, sentient, almost indestructible robot), the Vision was conceived as the means of the team’s destruction, but his programming was based on the brain patterns of a human, and that flaw proved Ultron’s undoing. It also allowed the Vision to fall in love with Wanda. Well, that didn’t go down well with the public. An android and a mutant…? “Blasphemy!” they cried, and they reacted to their love with hatred. Still, the stoical Vision became a rock to her emotional fragility, and they even got married.

Knowing little more than that that her powers were based in magic, Wanda went looking for help and took training from Franklin Richards’ part-time governess and full-time witch, Agatha Harkness. But soon magic came looking for Wanda, possessing her body, infusing it with a level of power she had never encountered and used the woman against her friends. She recovered, of course, or she seemed to. She had those two little boys I mentioned earlier, delivered by surgeon/sorcerer Doctor Strange. But then her husband was abducted and dismembered by the government, only to be rebuilt with none of his previous empathy, and Agatha Harkness discovered that Wanda’s twin children weren’t even real – just an illusion, a maternal comfort blanket conjured out of thin air by Wanda herself, and she had. A. Nervous. Breakdown.

It was then that a fatal mistake was made. They thought they were doing her a kindness. They thought they were putting the genie back into its bottle. They allowed Agatha Harkness to use her own magical gifts on Wanda to erase the children from her memory. In hindsight it would have been wiser to erase them from everyone’s. Here’s Wanda and the Wasp by the poolside, one day before this kicks off.


“Wow, did I need this. I am so crazy in my head today.”
“What’s going on, Janet?”
“I — listen, Wanda, I’ll tell you… But you can’t tell anyone.”
“What happened?”
“I had a… bit of a scare.”
“Are you okay?”
“Sshh, I’m fine. It’s just — my little friend came a little late, and I thought I might be — you know…”
“You thought you were pregnant?”
“Sshh! Hey, sshh! I’m not. I just thought I was. I was really freaked out because that is the last thing I need. With all the crap in my life right now… That’s what the world needs… a little Clint Barton walking around.”
[Jan waves at Hawkeye, Hawkeye waves back]
“Are you two still seeing each other?”
“That would entail the two of us having an adult conversation about our feelings, which, clearly, is not either of our strong suits. Ugh, can you imagine? Me with a kid? Like a kid could grow up normal in this environment. Avengers should not have kids. Superheroes should not have kids. That should be the rule. And you thought you could have two?”
“What does that mean? Two of what?”

* * *

“Wanda Maximoff. You gave me a bit of a turn just now. Come sit. We haven’t spoken in a good time.”
“Agatha, I — Why do people think I once had two children?”

* * *


What are the chances that a dead man could appear out of nowhere and blow up in their faces, immolating Scott Lang? What are the chances that within seconds the Vision would answer their distress call by crashing a plane into the mansion and spawning half a dozen versions of the insane robot that gave birth to him? What are the chances of a rational She-Hulk losing her temper and ripping the Vision clean in two? Smacking Jan into a coma? Slamming a lorry down on Captain America’s head? Of Iron Man being drunk without drinking a drop? Of the alien Kree launching a full-on invasion directly over the spot where everyone’s assembled, and slaughtering another Avenger right in front of them? All in the space of an hour…?!

The chances are nil.

For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.

So for all these years, while Wanda’s been warping reality for the good of others… what has been happening to her?

“Do you know what you’ve done?!
“You killed the Vision, Wanda! Your own husband! Do you know that? Do you?!
“You killed Scott Lang! You killed Hawkeye! Janet’s in a coma!
“You’ve destroyed The Avengers!
“All of it, it’s gone!”

* * *
“Stay away from my children.”

* * *


New Avengers: Breakout

The Avengers no longer exist.

Their centre of operations, their funding, their reputation and their very lives were all torn apart by a broken friend whom they loved very dearly but who didn’t know what she was doing.

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but for the criminal fraternity it’s a singular opportunity.

So I ask you: how many superpowered psychopaths would you deem it safe to house in the same place? And if there was a jailbreak, how many superpowered soldiers or civilians do you think it would take to contain it? You pick your number, go on. It’s not enough.

Welcome to Ryker’s Island, maximum security penitentiary for the supercriminally insane where, on this very nasty night, several dozen of the most homicidal maniacs in the world are about to be let loose on it courtesy of a single C-list electrical villain who’s about to, heh, “discharge” himself.


With so many of these genetic freaks still on the loose, Captain America attempts to recruit those who happened to be on hand to help out during the jailbreak (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and The Sentry) for a fresh team of Avengers that he hesitates from announcing to the world but, with Iron Man’s help, secretly locates them in a vast tower rising above Manhattan. Their first mission is to find out who caused the jailbreak, how they succeeded, and return all the creeps to custody.

And you know, if that’s all they had to contend with, it might have been do-able. Instead, the ubiquitous international espionage agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. appears to be involved in several clandestine operations: enslaving the Savage Land’s indigenous population as slave labour, stockpiling vibranium reserves to make internationally condemned weapons, and detaining supposedly dead supercriminals for their own purposes. Worse still, it looks as if the new team is compromised before they’ve even started.


Bendis’ unusual choice of team-mates makes for some delicious exchanges, particularly between hard-ass Luke Cage and the dartingly irreverent Spider-Man. There’s a particularly fine scene involving the latter webbing up the former’s fists without quite explaining how long that’ll last, and if you’ve read the four ALIAS books starring Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, there’s a horrible pay-off here involving the Purple Man. Wolverine also finds himself dragged in, but for the moment, and as they regain consciousness in The Savage Land, this unlikely new team of relative strangers find themselves revealing more about themselves than they would perhaps have liked, as Peter Parker explains to Jessica Drew…

“Yep. We’re naked.”
“They couldn’t leave our underwear on?”
“I wasn’t wearing any.”
“Why wouldn’t you be wearing underwear?”
“I chafe.”
“… I want off the team.”


The Sentry

The New Avengers have coalesced by chance, but one of their new members – who happened to be there when everything kicked off in the superhuman penitentiary – is Robert Reynolds, The Sentry. Possibly the most powerful man on the planet, he’s an emotional wreck with a memory that comes and goes. Captain America and Iron Man attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery with the help of the X-Men’s telepath Emma Frost and the comicbook writer Paul Jenkins who invented The Sentry in the first place.


Buy New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman vol 1: Son Of Superman s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason & Patrick Gleason, Dough Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez, various.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 – Edmund Burke

Under any circumstances that is a mighty fine sentence and indeed sentiment: stand up and be counted or stay sitting still in the shadows while you wait for the bigots and other assorted bastards to come for you next.

But as an explanation of the altruistic intervention of costumed superheroes at their own peril, it is exceptional. Gold stars to Tomasi and / or Gleason for selecting it to kick off this collection; gravitational black stars for failing to credit the statesman. It’s common courtesy, yes?

Both bigotry and a degree of black-star gravitational pull will be exerting their influence here in the form of a once-familiar irritant from the days of THE RETURN OF SUPERMAN immediately following THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN. Indeed it’s that very era from nearly 25 years ago that is most referenced in the prologue. And it did my head in.

This is the first collection of the brand-new, original DC superhero universe, reborn now that the four-year ‘DC New 52’ sabbatical is no more. Did you understand that sentence? No. That is why superhero comics will never be Mainstream.

Supposedly, this is DC starting once again from scratch so that new readers who may be that way inclined may decide to jump in and jump on. Perhaps this one worked on new readers but I – admittedly only a casual visitor to the DC Universes – was left shaking my head, bewildered. This is a shame because once you’ve skipped the first chapter of mind-frazzling continuity mish-mash there is a brand-new dynamic with plenty of potential.


Superman is dead. I don’t think it was the original Superman. I think the original Superman is the bloke with the beard hoping that the last one will spring back to life. He doesn’t. We move on.

Clark Kent is now living a quietly concealed, bucolic life on a farm similar to the one Ma and Pa Kent raised him on. He is married to Lois Lane who’s still a journalist but working from home under a pseudonym. Quite how much investigation this investigative journalist can accomplish from the cornfields is uncertain but that need not concern us now. They have a son called Jonathan (half-human, half-Kryptonian) whose existence or at least nature he has concealed from Batman and Wonder Woman. Basically, they are deeper undercover than ever.

The boy is in his very early teens and exhibiting all the lethal powers that his Dad possesses without the fine-tuning to target them with finesse. That is something which both Lois and Clark are determined to teach him in time with due care and attention. But in superhero comics there is never the time, care nor due attention – only emergencies.


There is a domestic emergency which back-fires on the boy painfully, then there is one bursting inconveniently from their past to scour them: more precisely, to scour the dirty human heritage from their child’s genetic makeup. I told you there was bigotry to behold.

On the plus side: the art by many was surprisingly consistent with a very neat panel in which young Jon, when embarrassed / ashamed, hides most of his face under his sweatshirt, pulling it up over his mouth and nose. It’s a psychological thing, very well observed, which I do, subconsciously, protectively, on occasion: it feels safer when you sink your soul beneath cotton.

I also loved the harrowing image of Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman when congregating in secret on the equivalent of the rustic farm’s stoop, glimpsed by a young Jon through his window at night. The whites of their eyes are like tiny skulls: terrifying, threatening, alien and other.


And when Superman, Lois and Jonathan weren’t smacking seven shades of shit out of their most rude intruder (oh yes, Lois proves inventive / adaptive) in a surprising environment not of their own making, the family dynamic and its desire to nurture their son’s nature is heart-warming.

It’s just a shame about the repetitive, seven-shades-of-shit-smacking which goes on for eons and interests me not one jot.

More family, please!


Buy Superman vol 1: Son Of Superman s/c (Rebirth) 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.

King-Cat #76 (£3-99, Spit And A Half) by John Porcellino

Beowulf h/c (£26-99, Image) by Santiago Garcia & David Rubin

Renato Jones: The One Percent Season 1 s/c (£8-50, Image) by Kaare Kyle Andrews

Hellblazer vol 15: Highwater (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Marcelo Frusin, Guy Davis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cameron Stewart

Over The Garden Wall vol 1 (£14-99, Titan) by Pat McHale & Jim Campbell

Prometheus: Life And Death s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & Andrea Mutti

Regular Show vol 1 (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by KC Green & Allison Strejlau

Unfollow vol 2: God Is Watching (£13-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling, Marguerite Sauvage, Ryan Kelly

Aquaman vol 1: The Drowning s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Dan Abnett & various

Batman vol 1: I Am Gotham s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King, Scott Snyder & David Finch, various

Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Two Complete Collection s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor, Marguerite Bennett & various

Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide vol 4 s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Javi Garron

Black Panther vol 2: A Nation Under Our Feet s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Chris Sprouse

Captain America: Sam Wilson vol 3: Civil War II s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Daniel Acuna

Another Year Closer To Bingo And A Blue Rinse Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Congrats On Whatever It Was You Did Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Congrats! It’s Gonna Be Relentless Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Let’s Get Drunk And Pretend We Can Dance Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Mini Lined Notepad – Write That Shit Down (£4-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Party Till You’re Passed Out With Marker On Your Face Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Thanks ‘N’ All That Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Thinking Of You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Make Me So Happy Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You May Be Old Now But You’re Still Cute Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson


SOPPY sketched in for sale

ITEM! We were contacted by one Emma Patching, a student at Trent University, asking us for some input on her interview with Philippa Rice who – with typical generosity – had made a point of mentioning us as keen promoters of new comics talent. I thought my response might amuse you.

“Discovering new talent is what keeps Page 45 fresh; nurturing it keeps the medium alive. It’s all very well promoting someone’s work when they’re already thriving; it’s far more important to help them when they need it the most, to introduce their work to a substantial new audience. Page 45 isn’t just local: our reviews’ reach is enormous and We Ship Worldwide.™

Soppy dinner

“Philippa introduced herself to us years ago, we fell in love, promoted her self-published comics like ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON, begged her to fill our window one year, then she discovered that Page 45 appeared – purely by accident – on page 45 of Philippa’s Nottingham-based photo-comic WE’RE OUT! Once SOPPY went global and stratospheric (hailed by the likes of George Takei) Philippa no longer needed us but, being Philippa, instead of linking to Amazon on her website, she thoughtfully and generously linked to Page 45’s website instead, so we made a fortune. You see, it pays to invest in someone’s talent. You get what you give etcetera.

Hilda And The Troll 2

“Before that, though, when SOPPY was first published we invited Philippa and her SOPPY co-star Luke Pearson to sign with Page 45 on Valentine’s Day 2015. Luke was already massive thanks to his stellar all-ages graphic novel series HILDA, and the two of them combined pulled such a big crowd… including her own mother! How many mothers queue to get a book signed by their daughter and son-in-law? It was ridiculously cute. So cute that – in order to level out the karmic balance – we had to start culling kittens.

“I had a bag of them under the counter, and every 15 minutes or so I’d whip one out and wring its neck.

“It was a Good Day.”

Thanks ever so much, Emma!

Stephen @pagefortyfive

Soppy carapace

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2017 week one

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Featuring lots of lovely folk who firmly believe that Love Is Love.

Brigada vol 1 h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Enrique Fernandez.

“Is this how we’re going to die, Father?”
“No. This is how we’re going to live.”

Epic, full-on fantasy of the ilk which prominently features vast, twisted tree trunks, fortified towns, remote, lofty citadels, very big beasties, dark elves, disgruntled, beardy, armour-wearing dwarves wielding mighty stone mallets, magic, lost legends, misunderstood lore and a great deal of back-stabbing.

Enrique Fernandez is an artist’s artist whose vividly coloured art minded me in places of Kyle Baker once he’d discovered computers. Jostling with each other to sing his praises are STRAY TOASTERS and DAREDEVIL END OF DAYS’ Bill Sienkiewicz, PROMETHEA and SANDMAN: OVERTURE’s J.H. Williams III, and FELL’s Ben Templesmith.


The dwarves are squat, stocky fellows and with enormous eyes and even more enormous, plumed eyebrows flowering from under their helmets. They’re disgruntled because they are lost and leaderless until Captain Ivro grudgingly agrees to shoulder their command. He does so grudgingly because they’re a bunch of ill-disciplined convicts. They’re lost – like the taller, Oeming-like elves – because on entering battle one morn, they stepped into The Mist and were transported into a patchwork land divided by that Mist through which travel is completely unpredictable: you could end up anywhere.


At the heart of The Mist is said to lurk The Voiradeer, an entity of enormous destructive power, though no one has ever seen it. All they’ve seen is the terrifying side-effects as The Mist advances, ejecting its flock of vast, panicked beasts ensnared in its chaos which stampede out, crushing everyone in their path.


Both the black elves and the dwarves and even the human population are being used by three sisters said to be witches who won’t stray far from their palace and its arcane repository of power for fear of losing their closely guarded and coveted magic deep down a central well. They have a Repopulation Plan whose numbers, they claim, will keep The Voirandeer at bay and drive back The Mist.

Meanwhile, with their own special ability to discern the veins of the land, the dwarves are dispatched to map the individual territories divided by The Mist, even though the relationship between those maps is fluid, in a constant state of flux. Think of them as individual patches of a quilt without their binding stitches, floating about freely in a viscous liquid.


The same could be said about the tenuous treaties between the elves, dwarves and humans, and within each faction to boot.

Only one man has seen fit to conduct extensive research on The Voirandeer and its Mist: the father of human children Loon and Senda. As he did so he gathered the Children of Daurin, named after a mythical hero of folklore. But their father was lost many moons ago and the Children of Daurin have disappeared.

Now the Dwarves’ skills appear to be dissipating and with them their respect for authority.


The sisters’ artificially extended, pink, moon-faced youth is as ugly as it sounds, while the dark elves’ designs are magnificent in their malevolence. However, the real stars are the landscapes with their stone escarpments and the swollen, serpentine roots, trunks and boughs of trees, some of which seem to be knotted with knuckled hands and wrists, perhaps the occasional facial feature, and there are additional, subtle flourishes like part of a small stone fortress at the top of page 51, ripped from its foundations by the sheer power of an invasive tree’s growth, then borne aloft.

Top left, below:


This reprints the first two European editions in one album-sized hardcover, the second of which finishes with quite the disorientating twist.


Buy Brigada vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Love Is Love (£7-50, IDW) by Many & Varied.

Love is a Good Thing. Love is a positive power which spreads joy.

Hatred is a small, nasty thing which festers inside and destroys all those who harbour it. Hatred is short-sighted, self-destructive and so often counter-productive.

Here’s a specific, delicious irony by way of example: there is a gay gene, and that gay gene would not have been passed this far down the human line had organised religion with its co-conspiratorial political and media weaklings not condemned, vilified and so ostracised those of us who are gay to the extent that many gay women and men felt so fearful of being found out or not fitting in that they paired off with those of the other (not opposite) sex and had children. For millennia.

Those preaching hatred under the lame excuse and umbrella of organised religion thereby perpetuated that very same quality which they still desire so fervently, fearfully and vociferously to wipe out.

What a bunch of numptees!

There is no fear here.

Instead, the dearly beloved of the comicbook industry have gathered here today to celebrate and enjoy this thing which we call life in all its caring, compassionate and constructive rather than destructive diversity.


There is strength in numbers; do not underestimate that.

When we stick up for others unlike ourselves – when you as a straight girl or guy stick up for gay folks; when we as white men or women protest against racism; whenever all of us whether Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Catholic, Atheist or Agnostic confront religious intolerance; when we truly understand the plight and so fight for the rights of those being stigmatised, dismissed and financially cut adrift for being less able-bodied than ourselves – we send out the most massive signals of solidarity which do make a big difference.

There is strength in numbers. There is strength in solidarity, and one of the most resolute, inspirational and galvanising phrases ever invented is this:

Ne touche pas à mon pote!

Don’t touch my friend!

I am deeply, deeply moved by everyone who has so far snapped up a copy of this comic at Page 45 simply because you care. The great news is that this is far from a band-wagon gesture, but instead heart-felt with plenty to say in often witty, well thought-out ways.

We’ll get to that very shortly, but before I dismount from my hobby horse, let me say this: the vast majority of homophobia isn’t even that: it consists of careless slurs which are not even believed by those giving such casual credence to a hatred of those who love… and it is done simply because they seek peer approval. That is why a message like this is important: it says we do not approve, and you will look a complete and utter dick if you continue to be so stupid and small.

Love is love.

Right, I can’t cover everything (this is a surprisingly long read) but let’s crack on with the praise:

One of my favourite pieces – because it made me smile when I needed it the most – was written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir then illustrated by Emma Vieceli. Two proud parents phone their son as he sits alone and aghast at night for the barely comprehensible news is flooding in over the television on June 12th 2016 that 49 individuals have been shot dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando. Tears stream down his face. The phone rings. As they swap the handset between them, sharing their love, concern and pride at their son’s courage in being himself, the mum and dad also swap complementary qualifiers, and that’s what made me smile: and it sounded like a very real conversation to me, you’ll see! There are still tears afterwards, but they are different tears. Parents, eh? Awww.

It’s preceded by a very simple but striking page of “split-screen” contrasts by Daniel Beals and David Lafuente called ‘Hand Me Down’ in which two much younger children are separated from play and taken home, one to a loving him whose father sits with his son as the same news rolls in and explains why some guys are kissing:

“Because they are sad and they love each other, son.”

It’s perfectly simple.

On the opposite side of the street, the son is left alone by this father and grandfather to overhear their reactions.

“Thin the herd. ’Bout time,” says his grandfather.
“Yeah. Faggots.”

“Faggots,” whispers the child, with wide, impressionable eyes, absorbing this learned behaviour.


Paul Jenkins and Robert Hack made me chuckle with their hate-mongering placards at an incite rally (“God Hates Dogs” “God Hates Cats”), as did Matthew Rosenberg and Amancay Nahuelpan with Matthew’s stream of robust and self-deprecating parenthetical asides fearing that he’s ill-qualified to comment, immediately after which he proves he’s supremely well equipped with a single simple sentence.

Far from obvious in its angle is Eddie Gorodetsky and Jesus Inglesias’ contribution which broke my tiny heart. I’ll leave you to absorb its exact implications for yourself, but it’s about a boy whose dad was murdered in just such a hate crime, leaving behind more than one mourner.

Devon T. Morales and Rags Morales’ love letter clutched in a dead, bloodied hand was as beautiful and tragic as its final embrace, while Dave Justus and Travis Moore prove they have a heart of gold when they play with your expectations in a gun shop. No, they really, really do, especially with the final line “Don’t forget your ammo” and what is being held aloft. It’s that kind of lateral thinking I truly applaud (and am in awe of) within an anthology which could so easily have been one long stream of didactic finger-pointing, just like my introduction.

Instead this is an overwhelmingly positive comic celebrating courage and commitment and the refusal to be cowed. In Bendis & Oeming’s case this takes the form of a silent double-page spread set down a gay nightclub full of love, lust, friendship and the delirium of dance, all of which deserve the loudest of celebrations.


Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, this is a benefit book. The publisher’s blurb:

“The comic book industry comes together to honour those killed in Orlando this year. From IDW Publishing, with assistance from DC Entertainment, this oversize comic contains moving and heartfelt material from some of the greatest talents in comics – mourning the victims, supporting the survivors, celebrating the LGBTQ community, and examining love in today’s world. All material has been kindly donated, from the creative to the production, with ALL PROCEEDS going to the victims, survivors and their families via EQUALITY FLORIDA…

“It doesn’t matter who you love. All that matters is that you love.”

The last thing I’d want to do, then, is rain on anyone’s Parade, but I’d just leave you with this sobering historical context from Justin Hall here, who caught up with comicbook creator Howard Cruse and his husband Ed Sedarbaum two days after the Orlando massacre when they recalled that, following an arson attack on a New Orleans gay bar in the 1970s which killed over 30 individual human beings with lives and loved ones, some of the victims were buried in unmarked graves because their families were too ashamed to claim them.


Buy Love Is Love and read the Page 45 review here

Long Gone Don And The Terror-Cotta Army (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by The Etherington Brothers.

“Yes! Brilliantly gross! You scared them off and taught them a new word!”

As I’ve said so often that it’s almost my trademark, all education should be entertainment.

And vice-versa.

Here you will be starved of neither.

“Are you talking about having an adventure?”
“Nope, it’s much more likely to be a series of horrendous, near-death experiences!”

Well, that’s okay because Don is a dude who’s already dropped dead.

He drowned face-down in bowl of oxtail soup following a split-second chain of Junior School accidents involving custard, a playing card, a not-so-caged hamster, a caretaker, his step-ladder, and a great big puddle of puke.

Our far-from-fortunate schoolboy promptly fell off this mortal coil and into the netherworld now known as Broilerdoom, acquiring a free peroxide into the bargain. In LONG GONE DON AND THE MONSTROUS UNDERWORLD, the first eye-boggling adventure of pun-packed, mirth-making mentalism, Don met many a monster and allies too.


On the “plus” side was Viktor Rictus, the sentient squid; Safina the thief; Castanet the crow with his fear of fights, flights and heights; deposed ruler Ripley who’s now mayor of The Slums; and a rude dude called Lewd who owns Demon’s Drink, a tavern which (it claims) “Cures What Ales You”.

On the mad, bad and shouty front we have Corpse City’s recent wrongful leader, a demon called Spode; Valush, his right-hand wraith; and now Bone-Dry Henson, a moustachioed Mexican skeleton.

At least, I think he’s Mexican. He might be Spanish. He’s definitely devilish and hell-bent on robbing The Slums’ citizens of their totems and so stealing their sanity – and it wasn’t all there to begin with.

On top of all that, tomb-toothed Thanatos – the gigantic, green lamprey-like creature which may contain the only portal able to propel our young hero home – has become ensnared by General Spode’s moat. He too has been robbed – but of what?!


Pre-teen excellence like all PHOENIX COMIC COLLECTIONS, this boasts the energy and exuberant cartooning of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s ASTERIX. I’m not even kidding you: I’m ever so slightly pleased with myself at finding such an apposite comparison. The degree of detail is completely unnecessary and frankly insane, but it’s a testament to how much the Etherington Brothers respect their young readers that they are willing to go those many extra miles to make this such visually thrilling fare, nor do they stint on the script. This is so dense in its best, value-for-money sense that parents can rest assured that their sprogs will be fully absorbed for far longer than almost any comparative comic.


There is, for example, a single panel in which Thanatos is persuaded to disgorge the considerable contents of its cavernous stomach including an early, experimental tricycle plane and a farmyard tractor. The lettering positively bellows at you and the colouring must have taken forever. Indeed the colouring comes with its own high energy levels, flashed-through as it is with bursts of yellow, pollen-like light.


For further recommended reading from Los Bros Etherington-os please see the most excellent puzzle adventures VON DOOGAN AND THE CURSE OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY and VON DOOGAN AND THE GREAT AIR RACE from Lorenzo, and Robin’s grin-inducing FREAKY & FEARLESS prose.


Buy Long Gone Don And The Terror-Cotta Army and read the Page 45 review here

Lovers In The Garden (£8-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Anya Davidson…

“Hey handsome.lovers-in-the-garden-cover You drinking alone?”
“I know who you are.”
“Oh yeah? Who am I?”
“You’re Elyse Saint-Michel. You write for Chance Magazine. You spent six months riding with the Savage Nomads for a story about black biker gangs. You once snuck onto Henry Kissinger’s yacht disguised as a cleaning lady.”
“Yeah, well, I’m through stunt reporting. I’ve been following a story about the heroin epidemic for over a year now. I’ve got dirt on high-level officials in the DEA and the NYPD. When this story gets printed, the mayor’s gonna shit out of his dick-hole.”

She has a way with words, our Elyse, and she loves her hard liquor. She also happens to have struck up a conversation in this particular divebar with Flashback, a hippie hitman with a huge Afro working for one of the very heroin dealers she’s trying to expose, the dapper art aficionado Mister Dog. Meanwhile, Flashback’s partner Shephard has fallen hard in love with a girl he just met at a strip joint, and wants out. Shame she happens to be an undercover cop.


Yes… I don’t think it takes any great stretch of imagination to see this semi-farcical crime caper set in the seedy side of 1975 New York City is going to end dramatically. The bullets are going to fly every which way. The only question is who is going to be left standing, or at least crawling mortally wounded along the floor…

It’s a curious mix stylistically, like Jim Rugg’s AFRODISIAC mashed up with Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL, for make no mistake this is a highly entertaining, violent crime yarn. It’s just one that can’t be taken remotely seriously, partly also, I suppose, due to Anya Davidson’s art style which I found a bit reminiscent of both Jeffrey A MATTER OF LIFE Brown and Noah FANTE BUKOWSKI Van Sciver! It does definitely capture the crazy vibe of classic ‘70s flicks like DIRTY HARRY, though, and actually, the more I think about it, the crazy patter of the hitmen makes me think of the brilliant BULLET TO THE HEAD penned by Matz that was somehow sadly strangulated into a truly turgid film.


This is exactly the sort of off-the wall-material and creator (apparently Anya Davidson draws comics in the attic of a derelict building full of racoons on Chicago’s South Side if her website is to be believed, and frankly I see no reason why not) that Retrofit and Big Planet Comics specialise in championing, and which, thanks to our friends at Avery Hill, we now have ready access to. Well done all around.


Buy Lovers In The Garden and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 2 (£26-99, DC) by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle & Guy Davis, Vince Locke, various.

Previously in the highly recommended SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE BOOK 1:

Troubling period pieces for a very troubled period leading inexorably to the Second World War, this is crime fiction populated by remote or cruel parents, brutal, often sexual sadists, their helpless victims and broken progeny, all in a dark, post-Prohibition America.

Rarely outside of FROM HELL has a comic been so successfully steeped in and anchored to its era. Guy Davis’ slightly flabby faces, drab clothing, gritty textures and impenetrable night are as accomplished as Campbell’s were for Moore’s Victorian graphic novel, and Wagner and Seagle served up mystery after mystery which the reader could actively engage in solving before the main protagonists.

Wesley Dodds is the apparently dry and studious heir to a now deceased businessman, perfectly at home with judges and lawyers. But all is not as it seems, for Wesley’s sleep is troubled by enigmatic nightmares which compel him to rise and follow their elusive leads.


Far across town Dian Belmont is both a romantic and a deep thinker, something rare in her socialite circle. Fiercely independent, she also has a strong will and a reckless streak which her doting District Attorney father does his kindly but inadequate best to curb. Dian’s life is one of gossip, privilege and parties, but she’s in for a rude awakening – and about to meet the man of her dreams…


The return of artist Guy Davis makes all the difference for ‘Vamp’ as a young man, womaniser and socialite, is attacked in the act of sex, his mouth, nose and urethra all sewn shut, and his body drained of blood. When Wesley climbs the 1930s fire escapes to dig around at the scene of the crime, he finds a matchbox from a club where his new girlfriend, the worryingly adventurous Dian Belmont, hangs out. Why are more bodies turning up with similar, increasingly brutal wounds, and is there a connection between the victims?

More racial segregation, sexual repression and dark, dirty alleyways, the balance between crime and romance, secrets and slow revelations is perfectly judged, and I love the way that Dian’s determined to be open-minded, yet somehow struggles to live up to her own aspirations – in this instance, as it all grows a little sapphic after smoking some weed.


Following ‘ The Scorpion’ Vince Locke is the perfect textural match for Davis’ period artwork in ‘Dr.Death’. Further acts of slaughter compel Wesley Dodds to stalk the streets and sewers, whilst both he and his girlfriend Dian adjust to the fact that she now knows what he does, if not quite why.

It’s a series that’s thick with intelligent, internal monologue because that’s the nature of this secretive, self-contained and perpetually soul-searching man, but now that Wesley has someone to talk to, will it prove his salvation or will what he does tear the two apart? That was as much of a hook as any of the crimes, for we’d quickly come to care for this kindly couple in a very unkind world.


Oh, and if you imagine that Dian is the only who will find herself falling short in her inclusivity, future developments will find Wesley taking a long hard look at himself – and other men – too.


Buy Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Punisher vol 1: On The Road s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Becky Cloonan & Steve Dillon.

Swift, impeccably choreographed, no-nonsense action thriller starring The Implacable And Efficient One looking a lot leaner, lither and younger than he was in Garth Ennis’ PUNISHER MAX.

But he’s still all frowns and scowls. Disapproval is Frank Castle’s default setting.

Gone are that series’ real-world politics, nor is this the comedy burlesque of Ennis & Dillon’s PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK FRANK, but under SOUTHERN CROSS‘ Becky Cloonan you were never likely to see Frank Castle mixing it up with Marvel’s superheroes. What you will find instead are drugs (more enhancing that recreational – unlike steroids you won’t have to waste time lifting weights to ‘enjoy’ their beefed-up berserker benefits), drug development, drug runners, and the DEA in pursuit of all parties after Castle’s last-minute intervention on their long, drawn-out stake-out with a fast-tracked justice of his own which saved American tax payers a considerable sum of money.


As I’ve written before, not for Frank are the moral vagaries of two wrongs and a right. He’s not here to soliloquise, he’s here to blow people’s heads off, and you will find a phenomenal number of headshots here. Exploding skulls was one of Dillon’s many fortes, which was odd for such a lovely man. One of his others was quiet conversation which he could make so nuanced and riveting that I would have happily enjoyed a 120-page graphic novel drawn by Steve set entirely down a pub.


There are very few quiet conversations here, except perhaps that particularly tender scene between a father and his daughter as he lovingly straps her into a vest rigged with dynamite.

Frank Martin’s colours are so rich and warm that he even makes lethal green mists look like something you wouldn’t mind bathing in as a skin tonic / moisturiser.


The psychopaths are as usual all present and correct. Obviously there’s the Punisher himself, but also a dapper and ever so dishy young man whose grooming regime extends to a particular penchant for facial aftercare which PREACHER fans may find familiar. Admittedly the aftercare is for other people’s faces, and I don’t foresee there being any adequate returns policy under these specific circumstances.

For goodness sake do ignore the back-cover blurb which is so inaccurate in its claims of psychological examination that I can only imagine it to be the result of a long, drawn-out game of Chinese Whispers, whipped together at the last minute by an underpaid, corporate hype-monkey. Enjoy the glorious grotesquery instead.


R.E. the cover: I never saw a skull. Instead I saw a man with a Max Wall haircut which I cannot un-see. And now, nor can you.


Buy The Punisher vol 1: On The Road s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rivers Of London: Night Witch (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan…

“We’re the police.
“By definition, we all about systems, procedures, order…
“But the irony is… that what we really like about the job is…
“When you wake up in the morning…
“You literally don’t know what is going to happen next.”

Of volume one, RIVERS OF LONDON: BODY WORK I wrote…

I’ll have to confess I haven’t read the Rivers Of London prose books penned by Ben Aaronovitch, but I have had a fair few customers recommend them, so that probably explains why this series was relatively popular in comics form. So much so in fact, that has been expanded from a mini-series into an ongoing one. In a nutshell it’s basically Inspector Morse meets HELLBLAZER. Dapper, grizzled, humourless, veteran cop Inspector Nightingale and his amusing, hardworking sidekick Peter Grant fight crime in the big smoke. Except the twist is the crimes are all of the supernatural variety. They even have their own division, the Special Assessment Unit, known colloquially within the Met, and viewed with equally measures of suspicion and derision by the rank and file plod, as ‘Falcon’ or ‘The Folly.’ 


But after enjoying BODY WORK and now this volume immensely, I think I may well have to pick up the prose books. This arc once again involves a relatively complicated plot involving not one, not two, but three kidnappings, and one other attempted one. Well, two I suppose, ostensibly by Russian mobsters intent on extorting hard cash from a London-based former Oligarch. They’ve taken his young daughter, though his wife seems utterly convinced the abduction was perpetuated by a Leshy – a type of woodland Russian spirit akin to the British Green Man and thus not often seen in Kent!

She therefore reaches out to an intriguing new magical character with a familial connection, introduced here in her own very strange circumstances, one Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina, a Russian WW2 female soldier from the mystical Night Witches brigade (not to be confused with the real-life Night Witches pilots) who, much like Inspector Nightingale, shows remarkable powers of longevity. She’s not particularly minded to help find the missing girl, at least not directly, hence Nightingale and Peter Grant are pulled in by the powers that be to help the well connected Russians.


It is, of course, not remotely as simple as that, with multiple twists and turns provided by the various magical characters and, of course, some good old fashioned detective work from Peter Grant. I shall say no more for the avoidance of spoilers. Lee Sullivan returns on the art, and once again reminds me of Chris Weston.


Buy Rivers Of London: Night Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Hookjaw #1 (£2-99, Titan) by Si Spurrier & Conor Boyle…

“Ship’s minion Mag,hookjaw-1-cover meet Big Bertha. Quite possibly the dominant £$%&in’ member of the world-famous Virgin Brides. Ain’t she a beaut?”
“Think that’s a good contact, Professor. And… what do you mean, possibly dominant? Don’t you know? Over.”
“I mean there’s only so much £$%&in’ social observation you can do with binoculars and fishblood, love.”

I think, given the comic is called HOOKJAW, that might possibly turn out to be untrue by the end of this first issue…

But long before then you’ll probably be enthralled by the antics of Professor Leyland and her merry crew who are looking for evidence of cooperative behaviour in packs of Great Whites. They’ve been tracking their chosen chums, with the aid of chum, monitoring their movements in the Somali coastal region, famed for being one of the most polluted ocean regions on the planet. Now, what else is Somalia renowned for…? Ah yes… pirates.


Boarded by AK47-wielding buccaneers, you might think Professor Leyland would be a trifle perturbed but no, it’s all old hat to her. There follows a hilarious sequence where the cabin boy, a local lad, is interpreting between the pirates and crew. Well, “interpreting” might be putting a Malcom-Tucker-sized spin on it, given the artistic licence he’s applying to both questions and answers. Very amusing.

But that’s all brought to a rather abrupt halt by the unexpected arrival of a third party. Nope, not Hookjaw yet, though rest assured he is following verrrry closely behind, and it seems this shark already has developed a taste for seal. U.S. Navy Seal, that is…

Penned by Si CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE / THE SPIRE / CRY HAVOC Spurrier, with his usual trademark dark humour accompanying the (fish) guts and gore, I am already as snagged as the titular shark. I’ll admit I was rather sceptical about the need for reviving a forty-year-old classic but then Humanoids’ CARTHAGO with its equally large, jagged teeth has been an instant hit here. I can’t believe it’s truly that long ago I was avidly reading HOOKJAW as a young kid in ACTION, bemused by the fact that humans, rather than the titular, flesh-hungry character, seemed to be the bad guys.


Conor Boyle’s art wouldn’t look out of place in an arc of CROSSED, actually, and so is perfect for this title. One thing I am a bit puzzled about – and I have had the exact same comment from a customer already – is that Hookjaw himself seems to have had some unnecessary cosmetic dental work. Whereas before the hook projected out of his skin just below his bottom row of teeth, in the middle, hence the name, now what he has is a long, straight harpoon that is stuck through the side of his head protruding directly out of his mouth. It looks as though, were the barb to catch on anything, the harpoon would pull straight out. Odd.

Anyway, it’s not going to spoil my enjoyment of this title, which I suspect will only be a mini-series or two. It was a fairly limited premise forty years ago. I think there were only three story arcs if memory serves and I can’t imagine even a writer as talented as Si Spurrier can come up with too much to keep it going for too long. So I shall enjoy the nostalgia dip whilst it lasts. Now, where did I leave my can of shark repellent…


Buy Hook Jaw #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Rolling Blackouts h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Sarah Glidden

The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c (£17-99, Arthur A Levine Books) by Shaun Tan

Invader Zim vol 3 (£17-99, Oni Press) by Jhonen Vasquez & Various

Catwoman vol 6: Final Jeopardy s/c (£26-99, DC) by Will Pfeifer & Alvaro Lopez, various

Grayson vol 5: Spirals End s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King, various & Roge Antonio, Carmine Di Giandomenico, various

Star Wars: Han Solo (£14-99, Marvel) by Marjorie Liu & Mark Brooks

Green Arrow vol 1: Death & Life Of Oliver Queen s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Benjamin Percy & Otto Schmidt, Juan Ferreyra

Superman vol 1: Son Of Superman s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason & Patrick Gleason, Dough Mahnke, various

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

Morning Glories vol 10 (£13-99, Image ) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Finch, Alex Maleev, various

Clean Room vol 2: Exile s/c (£13-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt

Johnny Red vol 1: The Hurricane (£17-99, Titan) by Garth Ennis & Keith Burns

Attack On Titan vol 20 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Berserk vol 1 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

The Totally Awesome Hulk vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Alan Davis, Mike Del Mundo, various

Spider-Gwen vol 2: Weapon Of Choice s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jason Latour & Robbi Rodriguez

The Punisher vol 1: On The Road s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Becky Cloonan & Steve Dillon

Deadpool vol 5: Civil War II s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Mike Hawthorne, Terry Pallot

New Avengers: A.I.M vol 3: Civil War II s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi



ITEM! In its entirely: ‘Statueque’, a short storm written and directed by Neil Gaiman, starring Bill Nighy and Amanda Palmer with music by Sxip Shirey.

Please scroll down six or seven screens.

Although, you know, Sxip Shirey’s entire site is pretty inspirational.


ITEM! On shutting up shop for the year on New Year’s Eve, I took a photo of the shop floor with the lights out. Pretty eerie, eh?

Although if we rented out overnight hammocks with reading lights, I suspect we’d see no shortage of swingers.


– Stephen