Archive for February, 2017

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2017 week four

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

We celebrate 2000 AD’s 40th Birthday with a love letter after admiring Alexis Frederick-Frost, John Martz, Philippa Pearce & Edith, then Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt, Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Bill The Bard and more!

Do you want to meet Jillian and Mariko Tamaki? News underneath!

Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c (£12-99, Oxford Press) by Philippa Pearce & Edith.

“The clock belongs to old Mrs. Bartholomew upstairs. She’s rather particular about it…
“It keeps good time but seldom chooses to strike the right hour.”

I need to find a word other than ‘magical’, don’t I? Lord, but I’ve taken that one out to play often enough when it comes to comics, particularly all-ages comics like this. I know, let’s try ‘transporting’.

It’s the beginning of the summer holidays. Tom’s younger brother Peter has measles so, lest he catch it too, frown-faced Tom is hastily dispatched to Uncle Alan and Auntie Gwen who live in a town near Ely where he’ll be kept under quarantine. Uncle Alan collects him by car.

“I hope we’ll get on reasonably well.”

A once grand house, it has since been divided into flats, at the top of which lives the landlady, old Mrs. Bartholomew. Her grandfather clock stands screwed to the wall in the shared hallway, which is dingy even during the day.

His Uncle isn’t unkind but he’s rather remote and slightly austere, and while his Aunt is jolly and a generous cook, you suspect that they’ve never had children. It doesn’t help Tom’s sense of being trapped that there are bars on his windows and he’s not allowed out or to answer the door for the fortnight it takes to ensure he’s not contagious.

Both writer and artist capture the crippling awkwardness and monotonous boredom of staying alone anywhere but home when you’re young, outside your comfort zone, without friends or familiar books and toys: the sense of being very much a visitor. Time passes excruciatingly slowly as Tom writhes on a chair or lies flat on his back on his bed. So, in order to at least feel some sort of contact, Tom begins writing to Peter.

Then, during a typically sleepless night, Tom hears the grandfather clock’s sonorous chiming not ten o’clock, not eleven o’clock, not twelve o’clock but…

“Peter, I had to know what time the clock fingers would be showing when it struck thirteen…”

Tom descends the staircase gingerly in darkness, but the scant moonbeams shining from the narrow window above the back door aren’t bright enough to read the clock face, so he opens the door to let more light in.

Instead of the cluttered back yard he was promised lay outside, Tom is confronted by a vast, sprawling green garden of some country mansion, in full summer flower and in daylight!

I did promise you ‘transporting’.

The contrast is startling.

The drabness of Tom’s confines had been accentuated with but three muted and similar, slightly sickly shades shared by the walls, the bed linen and Auntie Gwen’s frock. Then there was the perpetually dark and gloomy hallway. Now Edith opens everything up – like an orchestra letting rip after mournful, wistful solos – with a full-page blast of fresh, vivid green, bright, sunshine yellows, livid purple and scarlet blooms. In addition, behind the initial, informal garden, there is the promise of more to explore with a meadow and second tree line in the distance behind the hedge.

As Tom begins to beam in his smart, white, best-visiting jim-jams, you can feel the cool, soft grass beneath his tiny feet.

There’s an exquisitely written scene over breakfast the next morning in which Tom tries to rationalise his experience as his Aunt and Uncle having lied about what lies outside. He angles his arguments in such a way as to coax a confession out of one or the other, but they are oblivious. Undeterred, he tries again his Aunt on his own. It’s delightful. Then suddenly it occurs to him to see for himself, to open the back door in broad daylight.

As promised, it’s just a back yard, and a small one at that.

We’ve barely begun but I’m not sure how much further to take you. Tom will continue to make further forays into this enticing realm and you will notice that those he later spies living there – three brothers and their young cousin Harriet – are dressed as late Victorians while Tom, of course, comes from the late 1950s.

On his second visit Tom discovers that time passes differently in his midnight garden than it does at his Auntie and Uncle’s, but a little later he becomes puzzled that a tree struck by lightning in a storm should be in perfectly fine fettle on a subsequent sortie.

I will say that a brief episode involving Tom perched in a wheelbarrow, which you’ll pass over as nothing the first time round, becomes exceedingly funny on your second read through. It’s one of those books which rewards multiple readings to see if it works once you’ve realised what’s happening.

There’s so much to admire in Edith’s line and colour art. The contrasts we’ve covered, although her backlit scenes throughout are some of the most effective I’ve seen, with shadows falling over those approaching to telling effect on subsequent inspection. I also adore Tom’s wide white eyes, big head and body language which are perfect for an age when we haven’t yet achieved full strength or agility. Auntie Gwen, meanwhile, is so plump and homely that she could almost have been pencilled – though not coloured – by Raymond Briggs, and Uncle Alan’s glasses through which no colour passes are perfect for the period.

Where Edith excels above all is on the other side of the midnight door, capturing the not just the scale but the variety of any such rambling estate. There’s the walled vegetable garden with its green door, an ornamental pond, formal walkways round mowed lawns and under organic tunnels of foliage, informal thoroughfares through more remote woodland under vast canopies of trees, shrubbery, flower beds, fences and gates, and a large greenhouse.

The dappled light under the apple orchard’s trees in painted to perfection, their squat, twisting, knotted trunks a sure sign of their maturity.

Now, there is obviously a substantial element of time travelling involved, but it’s far from linear or predictable. Plus there’s something far more complex, personal and intimate at work as you shall see.

For, at its heart, this is the story of two lonely souls craving company, reaching out and finding it.

SLH

Buy Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Cat Named Tim h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz.

Family entertainment, riddled with mischief, wonder and wit, in a hardbound variety of inventive, unpredictable entertainments for maximum interpretation and so interaction.

Filled with loops – both visual and narrative – this will have wide eyes hungrily scouring the pages, following the paths and bring big, broad grins to both you and your sproglets, as young as you like.

Everything here (bar one double-page spread showing Tim to be a master of many metiers) is emphatically comics, even the double-page spread in which Connie and Mouse activate an enormous, impressive and complex machine full of funnels, pipes and gauges, levers and light bulbs, dials and digital displays.

“What does it do?”
“I thought you knew!”

I saw so many faces in all its intricacies, but then humans will anthropomorphise anything, won’t we? Cars, clocks, trains, house fronts…

 

The loops begin on the very first page introducing our first act, Doug the duck and Mouse. Theirs is one long adventure as they traverse the globe by any and every means imaginable. At one point they navigate a tropical, serpentine river into which the longest snake you’ve ever seen dips in and out, its coiled body disappearing beneath the water’s surface as our heroes progress downstream towards danger. Then, on the very next page, there’s a Looney Tunes-like water-jet gag.

You never know what to expect, including the return of that snake under very different yet hilariously similar circumstances for its body is segmented once more, but by something else entirely. Will you be able to spot it?

Each of our other three acts you’ll find introduced before they take centre stage, and our second is the titular cat named Tim, who will try his hand at any activity, be it professional, recreational, educational, experimental, artistic or domestic. At one point he paints himself into quite the corner, only to extricate himself with comical cartoon logic. It’s so obvious once you’ve seen it, but I defy you to try that at home!

So we come to my favourite loop, that of Connie’s mechanically assisted, twelve-panel day which begins top-left and ends bottom-right, but whose path is far from straight-lined linear. Here her course is subtly suggested by colour and Connie’s line of sight.

Finally it’s time for Mr. and Mrs. Hamhock to keep us entertained while doing as little as they can, for if Doug and Mouse are continually on the move, then Mr. and Mrs. Hamhock are far more sedentary. Whatever could possibly unseat them? Ah, yes, that perennial anxiety / doubt! They may have left it a little too late.

From the creator of possibly the most poignant comic I’ve ever read, BURT’S WAY HOME (even more so that Jordan Crane’s profoundly moving LAST LONELY SATURDAY) comes page after colourful page of adventure, misadventure and japes, as fresh as fresh can be.

I have never, for example, seen a bird dutifully raking its tree branch in Autumn, while the leaves flutter down to collect unattended on the grass below.

SLH

Buy A Cat Named Tim h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hugh (£4-99, One Percent Press) by Alexis Frederick-Frost.

A miniature gem of delighted discovery and life-changing, creativity-catalysing serendipity whose initial black and white cardstock is cut round Hugh’s semi-profile so as to reveal a glimpse of the riotous, fuchsia-and-gold-coloured secondary cover behind.

The very first page of softly smudged pencils is rich in period detail from the buildings’ ornate facades to the fashion of the few men and women seen parading down its relatively tranquil street with their walking sticks, hats and voluminous dresses and the single horse-drawn cart.

On the second we spy Hugh with his prominent nose and pointy, Poirot-like moustache prising open an envelope to reveal an evening’s invitation to an Annual Accounts Report. Although excited, he diligently he maintains his ledger of what is due and what has been paid, but then he sets off at the bong of the clock, his thoughts full of formulae but – oh no! – it is raining, and the actual address is obliterated.

Hugh hastens on, recalling the street’s number, for such is head for figures and attention to detail!

He is wrong.

But he’s never been more right in his life.

What follows is a spiritual and visual blooming, which I’ve foreshadowed in my very first paragraph just as Frederick-Frost has when proving that you can judge this book by its cover.

This is what I love about comics: this!

The unexpected and the joyful, so succinctly expressed and so cleverly crafted by someone with something to say, and the skill with which to say it. If I thought for one second that we could import another hundred copies in time, I would declare this to be Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month for March.

Please note: we secured copies of this and so much more besides from Spit And A Half, the American distributor created, curated and manned by KING-KAT’s John Porcellino.

You can find a full list of our recent acquisitions underneath Page 45’s Reviews for February 2017 Week 2, each title linked to Porcellino’s own summaries where we have yet to provide thoughts of our own.

SLH

Buy Hugh and read the Page 45 review here

John Porcellino’s Thumb (£3-99, Spit And A Half) by John Porcellino’s Mum and Dad.

This thumb is a good thumb.

It boasts all the basic requirements: opposable, four fingers to oppose, and hand still attached for maximum opposition.

In addition it is clean and healthy with no evident signs of necrosis.

The real treasure and star attraction, however, is the thumb nail which is perfectly formed and diligently clipped. Its keratin is shiny and its cuticle kept at bay, revealing a perfect, pale lunula.

This nail is also naturally translucent whereas many come covered in an opaque, albeit glossy colouring which is sometimes a bonus but rarely on men – the male finger and thumb are ill-designed for such a varnish, being relatively stumpy. This is a subjective aesthetic assessment, of course, but it comes irrespective of societal, gender judgementalism which is as much of an anathema to me as variant covers. Please note: there are no variant editions of JOHN PORCELLINO’S THUMB.

In summary, Mrs. and Mr. Porcellino are to be commended for their remarkably good-looking genes and impeccable design sense which harks back to the early work of God. Although do bear in mind that some suspect God was but a pseudonym for Science.

SLH

Buy John Porcellino’s Thumb and read the Page 45 review here

2000 AD’s Greatest: Celebrating Forty Years (£12-99, Rebellion) by Alan Grant, Steve McManus, Pat Mills, Kevin O’Neill, Malcom Shaw, John Smith, John Wagner, Rob Williams, & Brian Bolland, John Burns, Steve Dillon, Carlos Ezquerra, Duncan Fegredo, Kevin O’Neill, Dylan Teague, Chris Weston, Colin Wilson.

Hello!

I’m 2000 AD’s self-appointed ambassador for the week, welcoming newcomers and suggesting that loyal devotees might also consider this the perfect present with which to initiate your friends.

Unlike Judge Dredd – the one-man Emergency Response Unit for whom evidence is an irrelevance and juries an unnecessary impediment – I present exhibit A:

“You creeps are under arrest. Attempted murder, fifteen apiece.
“Plus seven for arming an infant.”

We’ll be returning to Williams and Weston’s whimsical short story about the dearly deluded and far from beloved, green crocodilian Klegg soon enough. It is this collection’s prime example of how much intricate detail and unexpected lateral thinking can be crammed into such short stories whilst leaving plenty of space for the eye to roam and the mind to muse on a) mankind’s atrocious lack of empathy b) the bliss of innocence and ignorance and c) what Emily Bronte might do if she were transformed into a bi-pedal alligator on the run from a big-game hunter while stuck in a utilitarian tower block whose elevator door obstinately refuses to open.

But if you’re new to the satirical world of 2000 AD then “Plus seven for arming an infant” should give you quite the clue of what to expect. As should this:

“By the time the traffic was halted, the assassin was spread over 500 metres of Mega-Way.”

Such cadence!

If you are new to Britain’s weekly comic which just last year published its 2000th consecutive issue in addition to new material in monthly magazines and specials, what an achievement is that! Also, what a great place to start: thirteen short stories from throughout this irreverent institution’s forty years, selected and introduced by acclaimed creators commending their peers.

There’s a particularly delicious and ever so English full-colour entry called ‘The Strange Case Of The Wyndham Demon’ by Johns Smith & Burns in which a quaint country village finds itself assaulted by semi-sentient bread dough whose need to feed coincides fatally with a dutiful wife’s need to knead. It’s not so much a hands-on experience as a hands-off experience.

“Ellen screams and steps back, suddenly faint, suddenly worried because her hands have gone.
“Ted’ll be home in an hour and she can’t find her hands.
“Ellen Harris’ last thought, as she faints from loss of blood, is: ‘Who’s going to do the washing up?’”

If that weren’t enough for this blood-letting kitchen sink drama, an angry old man called Doctor Sin – already on a vocal rampage of intolerance towards the satanic influence of rock and roll luring millions of innocent youngsters towards “alcoholism, hooliganism, socialism and self-abuse” – vows to get to the bottom of this devilry by weeding out local perversion and filth like the local St. Judith’s Bell Ringers association.

Speaking of intolerance, Judge Dredd himself is very well represented from as early as Prog 5 and as recently as Prog 1889.

Issues or editions were called ‘Progs’ in the future. That’s a sentence which beautifully sums up the smile-twitching situation we now find ourselves in: that 2000AD seen as a once far-flung future date back in 1977 has now long since come and gone. Not everything predicted has come to pass, although if we haven’t criminalised sugar yet (as they satirically suggested we might back in 1981) then we’ve certainly demonised it. 2000 AD’s semi-accuracy was part of its charm, as was such mischief: you’re not going to get fat on cocaine. I’m pretty sure obesity was a crime. And when I type “semi-accuracy” it was often spot-on, for I seem to recall one Neil Gaiman predicting our current obsession with mobile phones there. It isn’t included.

We’re certainly catching up fast in jettisoning our freedoms, but Judge Dredd’s stomping ground, Mega-City One, had long since dispensed with privacy laws. Everyone was on camera and every client who even bought a stick of lipstick was logged, their names and addresses surrendered to even the most casual police enquiries without question. I don’t think that world even had a word for ‘warrant’ any longer. And I think that’s brilliant: that the kids (and its readers were kids back then) were warned, through comedy, of the dangers of unchecked authority.

The epitome of this totalitarianism was Judge Dredd himself, he of the impassive, iron, jutting jaw as originally impressed upon us by Carlos Ezquerra. It was masterfully perpetuated by the likes of Bolland, Wilson, Weston, Dillon, Fegredo, Teague etc who are all in evidence here, and if you aren’t familiar with Dylan Teague, well, I present you with another Dave Gibbons. He really is that good, his whiplash choreography bolstered by foot-on-the-ground physics.

Crucially, Dredd never once removed his helmet for that would betray / instil in him some humanity. Although you might be amused to learn that he once had an Italian cleaning lady. He wasn’t the most sympathetic of employers: when she ushered in a cold-caller called Kevin O’Neill, Dredd threatened to drown Maria in her Minestrone. Quite right too!

No, Judge Dredd was and remains both hero and villain. He postures in his pursuit of justice, but all Dredd seeks truly is punishment. I doubt he could even spell “rehabilitation”. He is hilariously yet egregiously free from the concept of joy. He is thrillingly efficient to the point that one cannot help but applaud a one-panel button-punch which sends a criminal careening through page after page of aerial pain, and so determined that no perpetrator will go unpunished that you wish so fervently that he’d headed the original Stephen Lawrence investigation. Yet he is implacable, dogmatic, relentless and remorseless. In Wagner and Fegredo’s ‘The Runner’ he shoots a man down in cold blood for achieving his best jogging record:

“B-but he’s not a criminal! He loved running… He was always running. That’s all. Is it a crime to run now?”
“It’s reasonable grounds for suspicion.”

That’s a fabulous short story, by the way, seen from the point of view of that jogger / runner. Artist Fegredo is a maestro of movement as seen to spectacular effect in Mark Millar’s MPH, and remains comics’ king of gesticulation – on a par with Will Eisner or sculpture’s Auguste Rodin – and here his figure’s fingers are seen poised as if daintily drinking a cup of tea.

So we return to where we began with Rob Williams and Chris Weston’s ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Klegg Hunter’. It’s a relatively recent entry with exceptional, glowing colour art by Michael Dowling over Chris Weston’s phenomenally intricate lines. You’re in a rich and deliciously satirical delight as Williams takes on speed dating, errant apostrophes, employer disloyalty, the humble aspirations and meek expectations of a literature-loving, anthropomorphic crocodile wearing a yin-yang belt buckle, feared and loathed so unreasonably by all, plus the duplicity of vapid, day-time television hosts who should all be taken outside right now and shot.

Sorry… I think the Judge is rubbing off on me.

“Boy, I thought Kleggs were supposed to be fearsome, not tiresome!”
“After sitting through that, Andrea, I for one feel we should invade the Klegg homeworld and wipe out their entire race.”
“Hmm. genocide. Good thing or bad thing? Viewers, press your screen now.”

My only qualm is that even more 2000 AD non-Judge-mental gems like Smith & Burns’ – unavailable in other collections – could have been better served with this spotlight. But I’d reiterate that it’s a crackingly good primer and I’ll tell you this for nothing:

2000 AD is a family, and once you’ve offered yourself up for adoption you will be cherished. I cannot think of a single other publisher whose Twitter @2000AD treats its readers with such all-encompassing, interactive affection. That account is evidently run with a great deal of fun for its readers.

There was (and continues to be) such an outpouring of adoration for the comic’s extensive 40th birthday celebrations (I hear this every day from those who attended on our shop floor) and its 2000th Prog which meant that Page 45 sold 10 times its normal number of copies, shipping it worldwide and – on several notable occasions – off-world.

250+ copies went to a planet called Quaxxan orbiting the very real star which you might well know as Betelgeuse, which was almost as strange and satisfying as when we sent a SCOTT PILGRIM t-shirt to Toronto.

I’ll concede that in this instance the postage was crippling, but you show me any other comic shop on this planet that can and will ship to anywhere in this worldwide wibbliverse. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And where there’s money involved, our Jonathan will find a way. He’s from Yorkshire.

Heart-felt congratulations to 2000 AD, then, not just on its prescience, its eloquence, its endurance and its anniversary achievements but also on giving so many individualistic artists and writers – whom we now know so well – their very first jack-booted foot in the door.

All the art shown is from this very collection; it’s just a shame I could find none of Fegredo’s nor John Burns’ online. Soz!

SLH

Buy 2000 AD’s Greatest: Celebrating Forty Years and read the Page 45 review here

The Wild Storm #1 (£3-25, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt.

“Take it from me: there’s no such thing as being alive too long.
“There’s always something new.”

There speaks the futurist in Warren Ellis, constantly scanning the technological, literary and political horizons for what’s coming next.

This time, however, the creator of INJECTION, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, TREES et al is concerned with new iterations, specifically of old Wildstorm characters like those he himself introduced in THE AUTHORITY. It was a broader science fiction than its subgenre of superheroes, whilst keeping some of its more prominent trappings – the costumes, HQ and action – right out in front in order to please its readers. It did. I recommend it unequivocally.

This, I suspect, is veering even further away into purer science fiction with a far more European sensibility aided by Jon Davis-Hunt’s clean detail and spirit of place, and Ivan Plascencia’s cool blue and brown, sky and earth palette slashed with mere traces, tiny trickles of blood which make them all the more painful and worrying.

The cover and its colour are a statement of intent.

You need have read nothing before: Ellis is starting from scratch as if nothing had gone before, although there’s no point in throwing the babies with some potential out along with the cold, dirty bathwater. Deliberately, then, I’ll mention no more of the imprint’s prior incarnation and simply suggest some of what is presented here.

Covert civic operations seeking to keep gene-spliced blood out of the city’s water supply. Overt economic operations seeking to make big bucks from cleaner energy sources while keeping the alien nature of their corporation’s head under wraps. Covert International Operations seeking to keep quietly running the world. Miles Craven, director of I.O., seeking to share a street-side citron pressé with his husband Julian without being harassed by a clumsy, scatty and intense scientist / employee called Angela Spica determined to raise the bar on their ambitions exponentially in order to enhance lives worldwide in a whole new way.

Each one of those goals is compromised, in one way or another, by the chain reaction within.

For a start, Angela’s already experimented on herself.

I’m going to leave it there for fear of spoilers, but I’ll just return, if I may, to Jon Davis-Hunt and that “tiny trickle of blood”. There’s a slash in Angie’s t-shirt suggesting the experiment hurt plenty, but that’s nothing compared to a small sequence of panels after Angie sees a man bursting out of a plate glass window high above the HALO billboards advertising “Solar For Homes”, “A Battery Cell For Life” and “We’re Making The Next New World”. It is excruciating, as jagged shards of cellular meta-metal rearranges itself and multiplies, tearing through tissue then skin. The skin is just under one of Angie’s eyes. Every element there has been designed to emphasise the personal price and pain.

So:

HALO wants to make the world cleaner.

Angie wants to make the world safer.

International Operations wants to keep the world broken.

It’s easier to control that way.

SLH

Buy The Wild Storm #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Seven To Eternity vol 1: The God Of Whispers s/c (£8-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena…

“I remember Pa’s hand in mine.
“Grasping and shaking for what felt like a thousand years…
“…before he finally let go.
“His spirit released, allowing me brief communion before returning to the Well.
“I told him that I loved him. That I didn’t blame him.
“Didn’t blame him that his honour had sentenced us to this hard life.
“That I was proud of his sacrifice, that he never compromised his integrity.
“And I promised it wouldn’t be for nothing.
“I lied.
“And he knew.
“His final words to me were brief, the same old mantra.
“That no matter what happens…
Never hear the Mad King’s offer.”

Well, I guess this would fall very neatly into the Dark Fantasy Western genre. Each title that immediately springs to mind as sitting in the centre of that curious Venn diagram – Stephen King’s Peter David and Jae Lee-adapted DARK TOWER series, Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta’s EAST OF WEST and Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten’s WASTELAND – is a completely different animal, and this is no exception.

Adam Osidis is his own man. Though truly he didn’t have any choice in the matter. No, that was decided for him by his father, the moment he refused to give himself over to The God Of Whispers. Those that do are promised seemingly their heart’s desires, but would you really give someone total psychic dominion over you to fulfil that entreaty?

Possibly, if the only other choice was death for you and all those you love. So, sadly the vast majority of people have ceded, allowing the Mad King to amass a vast army under his control, including various powerful magical abilities to wield. The more his power and influence grew, the less people were able to convince themselves to even contemplate resisting, Adam’s father being one of the few brave exceptions. The Mad King very much wanted to add Adam’s father’s ability to his collection, however, and did not forget this slight.

So it is that only a relatively small group of free people remain, including Adam and his family, who were taken into the wilderness by his father to try and remain hidden from the Mad King’s clutches. They all knew it would ultimately be futile, of course; it was only ever going to be a matter of time before they were hunted down and discovered.

Now Adam is presented with his own choice. Is he as strong as his father? Seemingly not… But then he’s living on borrowed time as it is for another reason, so perhaps throwing his lot in with a rag tag bunch of magical freedom fighters who represent the last hope of overthrowing the despot isn’t actually that daring a defiance as it could be. Not that they seem particularly keen on trusting Adam…

This is a truly packed opener featuring the usual sophisticated, complex writing from Remender, and gorgeous, intricate art from Opena, very beautifully coloured by Hollingsworth.  I genuinely don’t know how Remender manages to shoehorn so much plot, subplot and character development into a mere four issues-worth of material, both comprehensively setting the scene and providing spectacular action aplenty as our dysfunctional group’s harebrained, suicidal full frontal assault seems to succeed rather too easily for my liking…

Just what is the Mad King up to…?

JR

Buy Seven To Eternity vol 1: The God Of Whispers s/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions:

Nameless s/c (£13-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham.

“From Earth to the Moon.
“Malkuth to Yesod.
“Shit rains down.
“Nothing is real.”

I don’t think I’ve every typed the words “Morrison”, “predictable” and “pedestrian” in the same sentence before.

I remember “passionate”, “compassionate”, “fiercely intelligent”, “parapersonality” and “transtemporal, pansexual, mulltidimensional fight for the future’s freedom”.

You wouldn’t really forget that one, would you?

Also, drugs: I remember a great many drugs and extreme vacillations between “Comics are ephemera, bound only for bins” and “Comics are the last medium unsullied by compromise with corporations – like the one that publishes most of my comics” depending on which horse du jour he felt like backing that day.

But before we begin, may I take a personal moment to say how fondly I recognised and remembered Glasgow’s Botanical Garden Gates, having lingered there long-time, but not with all those plump, floppy fish seen skewered on its weathervane here?

“Hebrew letter “mun” means “fish”. “Fish” and “Death”. And death is daath.”

Fair enough. I suppose all that has something to do with The Veiled Lady’s henchmen wearing deep-sea anglerfish head masks when they kidnap our protagonist who apparently will remain nameless and dump him in a supermarket shopping trolley. He tumbles out tellingly because our man and his proverbial trolley parted ways way back in 2001 since when, we learn later, he’s been on the run from the police.

Maybe he tried to steal the fuzz’s Dream-Key to their Empty Box in a Tombraider-like dream-space? That’s what our nameless one’s done to The Veiled Lady, which is why she is ever so slightly brittle. Or maybe they want him for pretension, since he’s quite evidently got a Christmas-cracker crash-course on the Kabbalah lodged in his throat.

 

Once rescued, our man of arcane knowledge is told there’s an asteroid 14 miles in length and 6 miles wide on a collision course with Earth. It’s called Xibalba, otherwise known as the Mayan underworld, the “Place of Fear” because whichever astronomer was on duty that night was feeling portentous as fuck.

In 33 days there will be an Extinction Level Impact somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but long before that there will be planetary-wide panic. Of course there will! Have you read Dan Berry’s THE END? So psychologically astute!

If that wasn’t bad enough the asteroid bears a symbol carved into its surface. This sigil is three miles tall and half a mile wide. It’s the glyph denoting the door to the Anti-verse, and if you think that already sounds a far from promising picnic spot, there are the transmissions emanating from Xibalba in the Enochian angel language of John Dee – Astrologer Royal to Queen Elizabeth I – which, when translated, don’t bode well for hospitality at all!

“Man – every one of you – prepare for wrath.”

And that’s just the opening gambit. The rest of the curse speaks of “one thousand thousand-strong thunders”, “torment”, “flaming firmament”, “poison stars”, “Wormwood” (seldom propitious) and “woe”. All things considered, therefore, I’d probably stick to the original operational agenda which is fly out to the asteroid, drag it off course using tractor physics from off-planet, then bugger off back to moonbase, lickerty spit.

I definitely would in no way descend into the crevasse / scar / open wound and investigate gigantic sealed entrances because I have watched Alien many times over and things went slightly awry. I wouldn’t even dispatch drones down there.

Artist Chris Burnham you may remember from Grant’s BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL 1 where he did a mighty fine impression of Frank Quitely. While retaining no small element of that, here he comes over all Richard Corben which is perfect for this kind of psychotropic horror. It’s the creepiest sort of horror going wherein things grow into or out of you, and Burnham will certainly make you wince more than once on that front. He does diseased and invasion of personal space all too well.

He’s also spectacular when it comes to the crevasse’s epic contents, its off-the-scale monumentalism, and indeed the textured surface of the asteroid itself as seen from above in the form of a gigantic, circuit-board skull. That’s worth the price of admission alone.

In this sort of horror there’s nothing you can fight, only things to scare you shitless like the degradation of the body and degradation of the mind  – madness itself – and the terror of being lost and alone.

“There’s only me left.”

There are a great many doors here. Doors can be very disturbing. Opening one is quite the commitment.

As well as psychological horror, Morrison’s also very good at that sort of awful, gaping nihilism, here evoking the very opposite of Lovecraft’s “most merciful thing in the world” which, in case you’re wondering is “the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents”:

“Humankind is a disease, a malignant mistake. The natural world seeks to purge its blissful, ignorant Eden of our contagion.
“Self-awareness: there is the black worm in the apple. Our curse is to know there’s something terribly wrong with us.”

But that’s when he uses language one can comprehend and ideas one can take seriously. The rest is occult psychobabble for which I have a notoriously low threshold, and if you think his ‘Keys to the Abyss in THE NAMELESS’ will clarify shit, I’m afraid it’s mostly more mystic mumbo jumbo involving Thantifaxath, Baratchial, the qlippothic Tzuflifu (are you laughing yet, because I have tears streaming down my face) and tarot cards.

For an infinitely more imaginative, coherent and constructive take on the Kabbalah, please see Alan Moore & JH Williams III’s PROMETHEA.

SLH

Buy Nameless s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Merchant Of Venice h/c (£18-99, Candlewick Press) by William Shakespeare & Gareth Hinds.

Promises, promises, and exchanges of vows…

Had Shakespeare decided to apply rhetorical skills to law instead of theatre then English literature would be much impoverished, yet I fancy many lost causes would have been won. The legal debate in the Merchant Of Venice is perfect evidence of that for its oratory – guilefully staged and executed by a disguised, fair Portia – serves both.

There are two main plot threads which are wittily entwined: the courtships and the court case. Antonio secures an interest-free loan from Shylock to be repaid within three months so that his friend Bassanio can woo Portia,  although he will have to solve a riddle which all others have failed at in order to prove his suitability as a suitor: priorities are important! The collateral he stakes – the forfeit Antonio will pay – is that proverbial pound of flesh: if he fails to come up with the goods, Shylock will be entitled to quite literally carve out a pound of Antonio’s flesh from wherever he chooses.

Guess what happens next?

What’s interesting is that it’s the Venetians’ very goading of Shylock and his (hmm…) “Jew heart” that prompts this unorthodox approach to money lending. The ensuing court case – to determine whether Shylock is indeed entitled to start slicing and dicing – is an equally loaded affair, but it’s so incredibly clever than one can’t help but grin throughout. Portia hasn’t finished, though. Just as she tested her suitors so rigorously before even considering their hand in marriage, so now she tests Bassanio’s verbal fidelity versus gratitude for legal services rendered. Will he part with his engagement ring which he swore never to remove and give it to his very own missus (the ironies of disguise – Shakespeare really loved that one), to thank her for saving his friend?

Not really fair, Portia!

Hinds has, once more, chosen a completely different style to draw in here, with black line and blue more reminiscent of Dave McKean’s CAGES than his own colourful take on THE ODYSSEY. It really opens the play out as the cast roam the meandering streets of Venice, crossing its old brick bridges and meeting off St. Mark’s. It’s a contemporary version, but I don’t mean that in the same way that Antony Johnston’s JULIUS radically reinterprets the play with real wit and relish; I mean the setting is contemporary and the language to begin with has been made more accessible before easing us gradually into something more closely resembling the original text when it’s at its most important (the court scene). It’s also, I should add, substantially abridged, which would have delighted me during my school trips to Stratford, aged thirteen.

All this is discussed by Hinds in the back along with the key question one cannot avoid given the treatment of Shylock, and the constant, disparaging use of the word ‘Jew’: is this an anti-Semitic play or anti-racist tract exposing the raging anti-Semitism in Shakespearean England? Well, it’s more acknowledged than discussed, and I can only add that I winced every time Shylock was hailed as “Jew” rather than Shylock but at least Hinds left it there for, one would hope, much more discussion in schools.

SLH

Buy The Merchant Of Venice h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage s/c (£12-99, Penguin) by Sydney Padua.

I honestly can’t decide whether I like this or not. It does have much to recommend it, but it’s not without flaws, I must say. I think I would have much preferred a straight biography à la LOGICOMIX, which manages to explore both the life and mathematical works of Bertrand Russell in a witty, pithy manner that is as entertaining as it is educative. In contrast, this purports itself to be the ‘mostly’ true story of the first computer, whilst regaling us with the thrilling adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. Not that thrilling, frankly.

The true story is that Charles Babbage almost managed to build the first computer, his ‘difference engine’, way back in the 1830s, and that Ada Lovelace suggested computational programs that would have run on it, thus earning her the perhaps deserved moniker of the first computer programmer. The only things that prevented the building of the difference engine really, were ultimately a lack of funding, and perhaps Babbage’s own fondness for argument with all and sundry over just about everything. He was a rather cantankerous chap.

So, when someone decided to build a working difference engine in 1991 from Babbage’s original plans, and worked to the engineering tolerances possible for machining parts in the early 19th century, they did produce a working machine. Babbage also designed a more complex machine, and indeed even a printer, which were both also never built. He was also responsible for code and cipher breakthroughs during the Crimean War, for which he was never credited with during his lifetime. It is perhaps not entirely surprising therefore, that he died an unhappy and somewhat unfulfilled man. Arguing with everyone continuously can’t have helped either, I’m sure…

To me, you could do a brilliant graphic novel biography from such material. Instead this is farcical, spasmodic comedy shorts, weighed down with vast footnotes and interspersed with informative sections that are basically illustrated prose. It just doesn’t quite work for me, unfortunately. Either you have to wholly adopt one approach, like LOGICOMIX, or the other, such as EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH.

This veers around too wildly stylistically, page layout-wise also, for my liking, though others may well not find that a problem whatsoever. I’m not entirely sure the creator knows what audience she has put this together for, though she has certainly done a fantastic job researching and presenting such a body of – relatively complex in places – information. Overall, I certainly learnt a lot, mainly from the footnotes and illustrated prose sections, which of course must be one of the primary, if not the main, aims of any work like this.

JR

Buy The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored s/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & John Wagner, various.

“Ah have a dream, ma friends – a dream where ah see every square inch of this fair land covered by one big MacDonalds burger bar!
“A dream where every American child – be normal or mutie – kin grow up without knowin’ the horrors o’ natural food!
“Where every burger is served with pickle, an’ every ‘shake is so thick yu gotta drink it with a spoon!
“Yes, ma friends, ah dream o’ the day when all that’s decent and American – Mom’s apple pie, Hershey bars and the New York Yankees – yeah, everything that’s decent and American… HAS BEEN WIPED OUT!
“…And in its place will stand MacDonald’s – one huge, onion-spangled MacDonald’s – from sea to shinin’ sea!
“Enough speechifyin’. Let’s eat! The burgers an’ shakes is on me!”

Yes, as Chris Lowder and John Wagner write in their forewords, between their ‘speechifyin” Ronald MacDonald, a scheming Colonel Saunders, a rampaging Jolly Green Giant and even old Bibendum the Michelin man himself, it is astonishing that the <ahem> guest appearances were neither spotted and frantically scratched by the publishing higher-ups or attracted the subsequent attendant legal ire of the corporations squarely in the satirical crosshairs of Mills et al. But then as they also point out, 2000AD was a very different beast back then in 1978 (this collection covers Progs 61-85!), barely gestated and certainly not that well known.

Hence though, having got away with it once, the potentially copyright-offending parts of this epic were expunged from subsequent collections of the Cursed Earth Saga, including JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASEFILES 2, which sees Judge Dredd trying to cross the radioactive wastes from coast to coast to rescue Mega-City Two from the raging Tooty Fruity virus turning citizens into cannibals. Presumably at this point, they have had permission to reprint them! Though I actually recalled the retraction strip they printed at the time which features Dredd and Spikes Harvey Rotten and the ‘real’ Jolly Green Giant, which is included in the back matter here!

Extremely entertaining, iconoclastic brand-bashing aside, this is a classic bit of extremely early Dredd regardless as he battles through the Radlands encountering weirder and weirder resistance week after week, reluctantly assisted by returning villainous biker Spikes Harvey Rotten, even encountering ‘Smooth’ Bob Booth, the last President of the United States, along the way, whom the Judges sentenced to 100 years suspended animation for starting the Atomic Wars which resulted in their subsequent coup d’état.

Current Dredd readers might find such early material a touch two-dimensional and the stories seemingly dashed off and practically joined together with sticky tape, but to me it’s fascinating to look back and see how Mills even managed to get five pages of such exquisite madcap nonsense out on a weekly basis given the very, very limited resources he was working with. It’s also amusing to observe the at times almost polite nature of the early more lithesome Dredd, drawn so beautifully by Bolland in particular here. There’s certainly no such pleasantries from the hulking version of today as he heads gradually out of middle age towards drawing his pension!

JR

Buy Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored 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.

Forbidden Brides… h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Shane Oakley

Snotgirl vol 1: Green Hair Don’t Care s/c (£8-99, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung

Demon vol 2 (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

The Autumnlands vol 2: Woodland Creatures s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kurt Busiek & Benjamin Dewey

Crossed + 100 vol 3 (£17-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Rafa Ortiz, Martin Tunica

The Foldings (£5-00, Two-Toed Press) by Joann Dominik & Faye Simms

Lake Of Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Nathan Fairbairn & Matt Smith

Outcast vol 4: Under Devil’s Wing s/c (£13-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Spaniel Rage (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Vanessa Davies

Vikings vol 1: Godhead s/c (£12-99, Titan) by Cavan Scott & Staz Johnson

Adventure Time vol 11 (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Christopher Hastings & Ian McGinty

Adventure Time: Brain Robbers s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Josh Trujillo & Zachary Sterling

Adventure Time: Ice King s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Emily Partridge, Pranas T. Naujokaitis & Natalie Andrewson

Batman: Night Of The Monster Men h/c (£22-99, DC) by Steve Orlando, Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald

Injustice Year Five vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Mike S. Miller, various

Injustice Year Five vol 2 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Mike S. Miller, various

Wonder Woman vol 1: The Lies s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark

All New X-Men: Inevitable vol 3: Hell Hath So Much Fury s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 3: Dark Art s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Ron Garney

Deadpool: Back In Black s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salva Espin

Invincible Iron Man vol 3: Civil War II (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, Mark Bagley

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur vol 2: Cosmic Cooties s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder & Marco Failla, Natacha Bustos

Berserk vol 5 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Berserk vol 6 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

The Girl From The Other Side vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Inuyashiki vol 6 (£10-99, Viz) by Hiroya Oku

My Hero Academia vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 81 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

News

ITEM! The Lakes International Comics Art Festival announces guests for 2017 and a brand-new website!

Oh, the #LICAF website is beautiful to behold, streamlined and so much easier to navigate!

Behold the full line-up of international creator guests for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017! You can click on any of their names for full bio!

Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki of THIS ONE SUMMER!
John Allison of GIANT DAYS and all things BAD MACHINERY!
Chip Zdarsky of SEX CRIMINALS!
Charlie Adlard of THE WALKING DEAD!
Norway’s Jason!
Sergio Aragonés!
Stan Sakai!
Brendan McCarthy!
Ryan North!
Aimée de Jongh! 
Hannah Berry!
Dan Berry!
Joe Decie!
Emma Vieceli!
Emmeline Pidgen!
John Martz!
Christian Ward!
Peter Milligan!
Sean Phillips!
Duncan Fegredo!
Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot and more, more, more, more!

There will be celebrations of TO THE HEART OF THE STORM and A CONTRACT WITH GOD’s Will Eisner!

There will be celebrations of MOOMIN’s Tove Jannson! (I’ve just finished Tove’s ‘Fair Play’ novella and cannot recommend it highly enough.)

What the guests will be up to – their special events – will revealed in due course, but all-you-can-eat day and weekend passes for LICAF 2017’s special events are on sale now whilst remembering that…

ENTRANCE TO THE COMICS-HUB CLOCK TOWER REMAINS ABSOLUTELY FREE!

That’s where you’ll find Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival every year along with our own special creator guests signing for free! Also in the Clock Tower: tables and tables of publishers and creators for you discover and lavish your lucre on.

October 13th to 15th, folks!

ITEM! Comics journalism Ink Magazine #3 is out, and you can read it for free!

Fab interview with Marc Ellerby about his autobiographical ELLERBISMS reviewed, our copies sketched in for free!

There’s also a feature on Bowie bio HADDON HALL awaiting your attention on our own shelves.

I love Steff Humm’s introductions: personal, witty and pithy, welcoming you on board. I suggest you subscribe to Ink Magazine so you can have each issue winged straight to your in-box for free because I can’t keep bleating about its brilliance every fortnight.

ITEM! The Big Issue has launched a new literacy campaign.

“Low levels of literacy costs the UK £81bn a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending.”

Or, as their founder wrote:

“If you are going to cut libraries you must be prepared to build more prisons, and more homeless hostels.”

There are some startling statistics in there. #WhyBooksMatter

Nottingham City Council is selling this building which houses our library. Lovely!

ITEM! Last Wednesday was so bloody gloomy that I couldn’t wait for darkness to fall because everything becomes glossy and glowing with warm colours instead. I took a photograph while waiting for the bus in Nottingham City Centre. With a struck of luck this striking young gentleman turned round at exactly the right time, his rainbow umbrella providing a perfect focal point. Serendipitously, he was standing right next to a sign saying ‘Proud’!

I’m calling it ‘A Time For Reflection’ because I’m pretentious and love a good pun. Please click to enlarge.

 – Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2017 week three

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Featuring Gael Bertrand, Jess Fink, Gabrielle Bell, Box Brown, Brecht Evens, Sean Ford, Antony Johnston, Justin Greenwood, Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen, Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell, more!

Vastly extended News underneath!

The Fuse vol 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions s/c (£13-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.

And, lo, you shall have answers.

They won’t be the ones you’re expecting.

There will be no spoilers here for even the first three books of THE FUSE, for I am determined you should all leap on board for this, comics’ most compelling crime-precinct procedure, homicide division. The big difference is that this particular precinct lies within an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma.

There are no aliens here, only human anarchists, separatists, the disillusioned, the disowned, the overworked, the mentally fragile and those desperately seeking answers. It’s packed with political power players and family fall-outs and each episode to date has contained several self-contained crimes for Russian Captain Klem Ristovych and new partner Detective Ralph Dietrich to solve through behavioural observation, forensic detail, systematic deduction, and re-evaluation when conflicting evidence comes unexpectedly to light.

All the while, however, another conflict – a potential conflict of interests – has lurked in the side-lines for do you remember where we came in on THE FUSE VOL 1?

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Detective Ralph Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?

On paper Klem’s new partner was a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% case clearance rate over three years in Munich, Detective Ralph Dietrich would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why was he the first cop ever to volunteer for this deeply undesirable gig?

Clue: he wasn’t fucked back on Earth. But now he’s probably fucked on The Fuse.

From the writer of THE COLDEST WINTER, WASTELAND and UMBRAL and the artist of Greg Rucka’s STUMPTOWN, I guarantee you total immersion within a mere page or two in spite of its unusual location. As I’ve detailed in depth in all my reviews of THE FUSE, one of Johnston’s great strengths here is a refusal to invent for its own sake. The neologisms are scant as are the technological upgrades wherever unnecessary. Why would the interior of an interplanetary passenger ship be significantly different to the current aisles of its aircraft equivalent when we’ve already mastered vacuum-sealed flight and a balance between comfort and space? Greenwood too keeps it familiar or – as the kids used to say – “real” for the shopping streets lined with pavement and the cafe-strewn, leafy parks which look like any other until you look up at the next deck above.

This leaves the writer, line artist and colour artist Shari Chankhamma (see CODENAME: BABOUSHKA) free to concentrate on where the real splashes should occur, like Level 44’s Earthlight experience where citizens can float together in zero-gravity while lying back and bathing in the shared beauty that is planet Earth when seen from space.

Oh dear God, that celestial lighting! I don’t know about you, but I would spend every waking, non-working moment there!

This is where Ralph finds Klem at the beginning of this book, contemplating her well earned retirement on Mars. It won’t come without family complications, but it will finally relieve Klem of the day-in, day-out, non-stop pressures of policing a place which can be an all-too trapped-in tinderbox of exasperation, desperation and detonation. No wonder her hair has gone white.

Now, I promised you no spoilers, but I’m resolved all the same to highlight Johnston’s forethought when it comes to this instalment’s tensions. Because detonation is once more determined to be a real, present and urgent danger, but then it has been before when it turned out to be a hoax. Johnston set that up way back then in order to wrong-foot some of his protagonists now. Specifically – without naming names – individuals’ reactions to prior crises might either inform their current actions or shine a culpable-looking light on their motivations, proclamations or practices.

There is so much more which I want to impress upon you (please see prior reviews), but I’m hoping you can infer from that paragraph alone that your creators have made this all far from obvious. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to make the newcomer Ralph fallible and so the butt of his more mature, resident, all-knowing, no-nonsense Captain? But what if she’s made a mistake? If she read him wrong about being fucked back on Earth, then who knows what other presumptuous miscalculations she’s made, both perilously closer to her familial home and abroad?

I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well for anyone.

SLH

Buy The Fuse vol 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions s/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Land Called Tarot h/c (£17-99, Image) by Gael Bertrand…

Yet another beautiful offspring gestated from the wondrous womb of the ISLAND anthology series, following in the footsteps of paper siblings Emma Rioss I.D., Simon Roy’s HABITAT and Matt Shean & Malachi Ward’s ANCESTOR. This wordless flight of fantasy was collected in 3 parts, beginning in ISLAND #4, concluding in #10, and I think part 2 was in #6. Not that it particularly matters, I suppose, now it has been put together with a handful of extra pages at the beginning and end for good measure.

The extra pages, all full-page spreads, don’t particularly add anything to the story, just bookend it. Also, as Gael Bertrand has commented, it isn’t really about the story as such, more of a meandering journey of a quest that passes by several spectacular locations with a theme of physical and spiritual transformation running through it. (It’s very INCAL in that sense, actually.)

No, this is just more of a relaxing visual engine to pull your train of consciousness along on a ride through exquisite scenery. In that sense it feels a little bit like some of the slower sequences in Miyazaki films. The lack of narration only adds to the magical charm as the Knight of Swords traverses Tarot either confronting or consorting with the inhabitants as he purposefully pursues his goal.

Visually it has the Euro-feel of a Humanoids publication, and the closest work that springs to mind as a whole, artistically and in tone, is THE RING OF THE SEVEN WORLDS, just re-released in softcover. Fans of PORCELAIN will enjoy this too as well I reckon. I think these sensibilities explain why this, relatively unusually for an Image work, has had an initial hardcover release.

 

On that point, I find the cover design itself a rather interesting, if mildly perverse choice. It’s grey and white, with a fairly plain display of four icon-like animal heads, which does practically nothing to indicate the riot of colour and artistic complexity you’ll find inside. I think perhaps it is designed to look like a pack of cards with four suits. Though I can’t deny it is an extremely visual striking image, which, combined with the title, will undoubtedly get people to pick it up and have a peek betwixt its covers, revealing the luminous, dazzling brilliance within.

JR

Buy A Land Called Tarot h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Empress vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen.

Ive Svrocina produces some lovely lambent colours for Immonen’s art which in the first of these fast-paced chapters alone delivers dinosaurs, space ships, dogfights with ‘dactyls, a vast arena of death and many an exploding flight deck.

It is sleek, it is slick, it is sexy.

An artist whose cap carries many feathers, Immonen here is in shiny ALL-NEW X-MEN mode rather than the cartoon bomb of NEXTWAVE, SECRET IDENTITY’s neo-classicism or RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING’s quiet if colourful restraint. He’s basically delivering your epic STAR WARS space opera. He is quite the visual chameleon.

It’s a very quick comic which accelerates from nought to warp in under a dozen pages then continues on much the same flight path and at spectacular speed, as our Empress and her entourage attempt to escape then stay out of the iron-fisted clutches of merciless King Morax.

 

At-a-glance menu, then we’ll get to the meaty bits:

Implacable tyrant: big, burly and thriving on fear; a right old grumpy-chops with a sadistic smile.

Disillusioned Missus: miffed that life with said implacable tyrant hasn’t turned out to be as exotic or erotic as it looked like from the other side of the bar she once served him in, although she has endured her love life long enough to sire…

Children, sundry: allegiances varied until fired upon by Daddy’s Doberman Punchers. Even then, although younger Adam knows he’d have been butchered by his father sooner or later for being soft, his older sister Aine resents her mother’s potential love-interest, one…

Captain Dane Havelok: loyal to miffed Missus, who effects swift departure from Terminal 5 (inter-planetary, non-domestic) before there’s a domestic.

Result: much spluttering in soup etc.

Do you trust Mark Millar? You should by now.

This is the man responsible for KINGSMAN, JUPITER’S LEGACY, JUPITER’S CIRCLE, ULTIMATES, NEMEMIS, MPH, SUPERIOR, CIVIL WAR, AMERICAN JESUS, CHRONONAUTS, MARVEL 1985, SUPERCROOKS and so much more but, hey, that’s what our search engine is for.

In our escapees’ way he throws multiple obstacles including if not kith, then kin, and carnivorous monsters; stop-over planets whose weather conditions prove ill-conducive to their journey’s resumption, an alien race called the Quez who are so money-minded they are prepared to lease out their own bodies to those gluttonous enough to want to go on an all-you-can-scoff, calorie-uncontrolled riot while the Quez keep their original bodies loose and limber; and King Morax’s pitiless pursuit, executing anyone who’s caught a glimpse of his family regardless of whether they attempted to impede their progress or reduce their life expectancy to milliseconds.

What Millar so cleverly does is introduce some of these elements (and more) early on so that by the time their true, fatal impact is felt, you’ve forgotten in what way they might pose a threat.

He does the same for elements which might prove the family’s salvation, including one key skill, a clue to whose hiding he lets drop in such a manner that you will never see it coming but, once that reason for its sequestration is revealed, will give you the most enormous personal satisfaction. And it is – very personal.

Immonen is no slouch with spectacle, yet he excels particularly in his characterisation of younger brother Adam and older sister Aine. Aine shows early signs of a bullish obstinacy, her jaw jutting out in a profiled one-on-one confrontation with her mother, her eyes narrowed in an I’m-not-listening or letting-you-in defiance.

Technologically gifted Adam, meanwhile, shows unexpected resilience in the wake of adversity and spies opportunity where others would see junk, but when – in spite of their combined best efforts – things spiral combustibly out of anyone’s control, his bitten lower lip is so taut that you can almost feel it stretched to tearing.

As to the blue-bearded Captain Havelok, every valiant gallant should be immaculately equipped, and his hair never once lets anyone down.

Have a peak under the dust jacket for an extra gold-foiled thrill.

SLH

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

Powerman (£5-99, Kilgore) by Box Brown…

“I had a vision up there.
“There’s more money in this city than anywhere.
“Infinite money.
“For me. My money.
“The city needs Gary Beesh.
“The world needs Gary Beesh.”

Gary Beesh, with bequiffed orange hair and ginormous ego, parachuted entirely undeservingly into the top job of real estate mogul in a company owned by his wealthy father… Does he remind you of anyone, I wonder…?

The comparison is entirely intended by Box Brown as he launches a ludicrously funny critique of a certain crass, bumptious businessman with the worst haircut a public figure has had since… errmm… forever? Though arguably you could make a case for Arthur Scargill on that whispy, whooshing front, perhaps…

I’m sure when Box was creating this mini-masterpiece not even he knew just how far The Donald was destined to ascend, with real life becoming even more preposterous than surely any writer of fiction would have been prepared to pen for fear of ridicule. Though we are, of course, all waiting for the presumably inevitable, spectacular fall from grace. How can it not end in tears? Just hopefully not radioactive ones…

Here though, taking his cue from the man himself, Box doesn’t worry about the facts and provides a frantically funny alt-biography of the tinsel-haired tyrant. As ever, it’s Box doing exactly what he does best, picking one crackpot conceit and seeing how far he can go with it. Or just one crackpot in this case, I suppose! As the writers of Saturday Night Live are finding out with glee week after week, The Donald provides more than a budget surplus worth of material to work with. Which is just as well, because his chances of providing an actual budget surplus are absolutely zero…

For more from the great man – Box obviously, not The Donald – check out TETRIS – THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY and also AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS. Which, I will grant you sounds the like The Donald’s approach to monitoring twitter for any dissenting voices before chucking his toys out of the pram, or at least in the vague direction of the keyboard, but no, it’s a collection of Box’s finest shorts. The Donald of course, only wears Y-fronts…

JR

Buy Powerman and read the Page 45 review here

Night Animals (£6-99, Top Shelf) by Brecht Evens.

Two early silent stories, finally back on our shelves thanks to John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half in America, from the creator of THE MAKING OF, THE WRONG PLACE and PANTHER.

First a middle-aged man in a business suit zips over it a bunny suit and waits for his date in the park. Evidently stood up, he doesn’t give up but rather gathers his bouquet, takes it to a bar and jumps down its toilet. Thereafter it’s a phantasmagorical, subaquatic journey through hell and high water down to the depths where only the angler fish see. Ride A White Shark is a song which Marc Bolan never quite sang, but he might have been tempted to if he’d read this first; he did love comics, after all. Will our ardent lover’s determination pay off? I wasn’t sure if it would, but I adored the resolution.

There are hearts hidden all over the place in both stories: a nesting pair of vultures, their necks entwined; the snaking shape of a rabbit burrow, on clothes, at the bottom of a bed… Also an awful lot of anatomical holes, not so well hidden.

In the second story there are four birds perched on a branch towards the top-left of a double-page spread, who seem to be signaling in semaphore. I can save you some time and tell you they’re not – there’s a ‘U’ there but nothing else, just the Beatles’ single cover never spelled ‘Help’ (it was intended to, but the photographer didn’t like the shape they made!).

Coming to that second story, then: a young girl changing after a P.E. lesson experiences her first period and flees school to curl up in bed, pulling the covers up, tight to her neck. Small spots of red trace her path up the stairs, past her puzzled parents. The dog has a lick. At night, however, the menstrual stain spreads over the page as a horned, hairy creature of the woods (Pan, to me, not the devil – though it would depend on your thoughts on female sexuality) sits at the bottom of the bed, playing its pipes, its legs in striped leggings, its feet in red, heeled shoes. She is dragged out the window and carried away to a Bacchanal where she’s gradually transfigured (or again, some would say corrupted), growing older, more comfortable, more exuberant by the second.

There are some wonderful creatures flirting and rutting there as the red grows darker still, but the story has a far more ambiguous, sobering conclusion than the first which I enjoyed even more.

Something to make you think, then, and something to admire for all its individualistic craft.

SLH

Buy Night Animals and read the Page 45 review here

Truth Is Fragmentary (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Gabrielle Bell…

“For some reason I felt like a big, inert defenceless slug while everyone bantered around me. I felt spongy and porous, like any effort to contribute to the conversation would collapse in on itself, with no shell to brace myself on.”

Of Gabrielle’s THE VOYEURS I commented “Collection of mostly new material from one of comics’ self-professed mildly neurotic and slightly depressed creators. Not quite up there in the excruciating ‘I’d probably rather not have known that but I’m glad you told me’ honesty stakes of say, Joe SPENT Matt, this is still a very amusing and simultaneously enervating look into the mind of a comics creator. Gabrielle perfectly captures the gently tortured soul of the OCD-afflicted procrastinator, we’re just fortunate that keeping a journal is one of her obsessions!”

Well, nothing much has changed, which is great for us readers who enjoy dissecting said tortured souls of autobiographical comics creators. This time around, however, instead of the North American comics convention circuit (and for more of that anguished existence you really must check out Dustin Harbin’s DIARY COMICS) we get treated to Gabrielle’s overseas visits to various international conventions and festivals whilst anxiously taking in France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and indeed even Columbia. Well, anxious at least for her, I found it hilarious to read.

‘Miss Bell’s travel companion, Mr. Restrapo, did not see the erratic flight as cause for alarm.’

“I was thinking that if the plane crashed I wouldn’t have to finish my graphic novel.”
“Why are you so tragic?”

The tragi-comedy of Gabrielle Bell. Read it and weep… tears of mirth.

JR

Buy Truth Is Fragmentary and read the Page 45 review here

Chester 5000 XYV Book 2: Isabelle & George h/c (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Fink.

More erotic steampunk to get your pistols pumping and your expansion valves venting as Isabelle escapes a mean old boiler at an orphanage by marrying a man she meets down a drycleaner’s on the verge of an automated upgrade.

Almost instantly all their clothes fall off, but – as Kenny Everett’s Cupid Stunt use to wail while flinging her legs crossed in flagrantly faux modesty – “I’m telling you the plot!

Although, in this instance, no. For there are far more Machiavellian forces at work in this dawn of the machine age, most of them involving money and one of them the military, as George falls foul of an industrial accident, thence a ruthless old opportunist prepared to pay off George and Isabelle’s crippling medical costs in exchange for… But that would be telling you the plot.

Fortunately Pricilla and fellow inventor Robert from CHESTER 5000 XYV BOOK 1 are on hand, along with their loving automaton Chester, and some early drunken fumblings suggest that equal-opportunities action may not be far behind.

At 180 pages this second silent saga is far more substantial than CHESTER 5000 XYV BOOK 1 whose review is one long, lewd punathon. I’ll only end up repeating myself if I go any further, but bravo for feminist, non-discriminatory sex without shame, for more of which – and a big heart of gold – I recommend Jade Sarson’s FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE!

Soft, tender but ever so certainly not safe for work.

SLH

Buy Chester 5000 XYV Book 2: Isabelle & George h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Only Skin (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Sean Ford.

“What are ghosts even made of anyway?”
“That’s immaterial, Clay.”

… says the ghost.

Both Stephen R. Bissette and Farel Dalrymple commend this book to you on the back, and I do so here but not for the same reasons. I seem to have had a slightly different experience: that of an enjoyably staged, spacious affair set in and around small-town America with the tone and timing of THIEVES AND KINGS. It’s pretty hefty; few very early works are this long these days. 

Cassie and younger brother Clay arrive back at the petrol station run by their Dad after eight years absence. Chris has been running it 24/7 ever since their Dad disappeared a fortnight ago. He’s so bushed he’s virtually narcoleptic and seems to have slept through the latest incident: severed fingers found in a pool of blood beside the petrol pump. He’s reporting it to Tracy the Sheriff just as they arrive.

Paul is dreaming of his father’s acute illness. The hospital room opens up to the woods – his father has disappeared into them. Still, at least he’s not ill himself, yet. He meets his friend Albert in the diner close to where the locals are protesting against all the people missing after venturing into the woods. The Sheriff wants to close them off while they investigate. Albert suspects ulterior motives: that she’s financially in bed with forest ranger Jonah, wanting to raise the woods to the ground for profit.

Jonah went missing a week ago. Whether or not he is financially in bed with Tracy, he’s biblically in bed with Rachel, and his wife Angie is far from best pleased. She brings their son Jordan over to play with Clay. Chris is drawing deer, Clay is drawing ghosts – specifically the sort of bed-linen ghost that floats through the air, just like the one that lured him out to the woods last night and showed a deer, slashed deep by claws. There was something else in the woods last night.

Jordan says he’s seen the ghost too, but he hasn’t. The floating bed sheet informs Clay of that in no uncertain terms, and has a little fun with Jordan to prove it. A woman falls through the diner door, exhausted.

It’s all very dreamlike and utterly charming. There is something dark in the heart of this as the mystery plays itself out, but no one seems to have picked up on the comedy. The ghost is hilarious. Although immaterial, it casts a shadow wherever it goes and when it rises from the paddling pool it drips water! It is at once demanding yet oblivious, and the piece at the party was in retrospect brilliant.

I won’t deny for one second that the blank-eyed art is slightly derivative, but hey, almost all art by this point has to be derivative and we should all choose our sources so well!

Look, I found you a little something extra, although honesty dictates that I concede that it’s not actually in this new edition.

Still, pretty neat, huh?

Click to enlarge, as with almost all our interior art!

SLH

Buy Only Skin and read the Page 45 review here

The Ring Of The Seven Worlds s/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by Gionvanni Gualdoni, Gabriele Clima & Matteo Piana.

Back at Humanoids after a sojourn at Sloth Comics, this Euro sci-fi fantasy caper was original published in four album-sized French editions.

Seven planets are linked together by a multidimensional ring teleportation system, built by long-forgotten, mysterious creators in a previous eon. One planet has been severed from the others for three centuries after they started a war against the rest of the Empire, but now, somehow, they have launched a devastating surprise attack through a different ring.

The reveal as to how this is possible, when it comes, is very clever, albeit a touch deus ex machina. Clues were dropped, in retrospect, but I didn’t guess. A highly enjoyable romp with not inconsiderable steampunk elements, and exquisitely illustrated to boot.

 

 

JR

Buy The Ring Of The Seven Worlds s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invisibles Book 1 s/c (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Chris Weston, Duncan Fegredo, Steve Parkhouse, Dennis Cramer, John Ridgway.

Hahaha! Well, now.

Like Morrison’s DOOM PATROL – and so many more Vertigo series besides – THE INVISIBLES is being repackaged in chunkier books (as opposed to “volumes”) and this contains #1-12.

I’ve always described Morrison and Case’s DOOM PATROL as one of those high-altitude, serpentine water slides: once you’ve started you cannot get off, so you might as well lie back, prepared to get wet and enjoy the white-knuckle ride. It was deliriously fine, mind-frazzling fun and, however crazy, it never once slipped over the albeit worryingly low edges to plummet into the suicidal insanity and the crowds down below.

THE INVISIBLES managed a mere four issues of rebellious, revolutionary insight and incite – illustrated with vigour and a singularly British flair by ZENITH’s Steve Yeowell – before not just slipping but jettisoning itself over those imaginary railings.

All art by Steve Yeowell from the first four fabulous issues

Normally I would lambast myself for inadequate comprehension, for being far too stupid to understand the great Grant Morrison because on the whole, though not always, I am a fan. See WE3, KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND, ARKHAM ASYLUM, BATMAN INCORPORATED, ZENITH, DOOM PATROL (obviously) and ST. SWITHIN’S DAY (you can’t).

But our Mark independently came to the same conclusion halfway through the fifth issue and (I learned last week) so did our Jonathan.

We would, of course, all stand a much better chance of synching ourselves up to this self-indulgence if DC were prepared to level the playing fields by issuing these collections with the same recreationals which Morrison notoriously consumed in elephantine quantities while writing the scripts.

If you doubt me at all, please read Grant’s autobiographical SUPERGODS.

Your best hope is to buy two copies of each collected edition, snip out all the panels, rearrange them into something vaguely resembling chronological order, then perform a brief, drug-enhanced ritual involving a Tibetan mountain and no less than 39 missing letters of the Urdu alphabet. Even then, like the average pension scheme, we offer only the flimsiest of guarantees.

Wizard magazine for comicbook speculators whose demise was pithily greeted by MILK & CHEESE’s Evan Dorkin as “the end of an error” once published a devastatingly succinct and howl-inducingly accurate piss-take of THE INVISIBLES in the form of an April Fool’s advertisement aping cover artist (the brilliant Brian Bolland) to perfection:

“The End Of The World… Or a Cat On A Bowling Ball?”

But you are due, at the very least, an objective if rudimentary summary, so for those of you new to this provocative meander-thon (pilfered, Morrison maintains, for The Matrix), The Invisibles is a secret cell of anarchists talented in various aspects of what could loosely be described as the occult, determined to see our lives freed from the threat of a trans-temporal, inter-dimensional, pan-sexual straightjacket.

Reality, sexuality, order, chaos, language and control, it’s all here for the decryption. Join Lord Fanny, King Mob, Ragged Robin, Jack Frost, Edith Manning, Jolly Roger and the rest of these mentalists in their fight for your future’s freedom!

I leave you with a guide as to what to expect using the original volumes’ seven-volume titles:

Say You Want A Revolution: Did it really all begin here, with a young boy named Dane and a secret world which he suddenly saw lurking behind what passed for reality?

Apocalipstick: Things go from bad to worse – you can always count on that. You can also count on things not being what they seem.

Entropy In The UK: They say that everyone has their breaking point. But it’s what’s being broken that really matters – and who’s breaking it.

Bloody Hell In America: Secrets are hard to keep, unless they’re too big to be believed. The bigger the government, the bigger the secrets become.

Counting To None: Time is of the essence, it transpires. But the essence of what might surprise you.

Kissing Mr. Quimper: Learning from history is one thing, but writing the history yourself is another, particularly when it hasn’t happened yet.

The Invisible Kingdom: Who even knows?

For a far more in-depth and enlightened appraisal please see News below.

SLH

Buy Invisibles Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Previously in NEW AVENGERS BB CC VOL 1:

The New Avengers learned that they have a problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. – the high-tech espionage unit that’s supposed to safe-guard America and the rest of the world it approves of against the parts of the globe that it doesn’t – in that it had been infiltrated and so corrupted. What they didn’t learn is that they also have a problem with H.Y.D.R.A., the high-tech cult which is particularly partial to just that sort of infiltration and corruption.

They’ve even managed to infiltrate the New Avengers.

Meanwhile back in SECRET WAR (about illegally invading sovereign nations in retaliation to terrorism) everyone concerned learned that they have a problem with Nick Fury – former head of said S.H.I.E.L.D. – who’s since gone underground.

Whose side is who on? Okay, but whose side is who really on? Oh, you’ll think you’ve got it figured out, but there’s reversal upon reversal ahead, and CIVIL WAR approaches.

But first: a trip to Japan to gawp blissfully the cherry blossom.

Finch delivers the first chunk of the art and does so to spectacular, muscular effect, including a chaotic fight with a hoard of ninja way up in one of Stark’s rooftop penthouses. Whoops, there goes another Ming vase.*

You may have begun to suspect that a certain degree of additional reading / homework is required. You’re not wrong, for the rest of this whopping tome heavily references both Grant Morrison’s three-volume NEW X-MEN, Bendis’s own HOUSE OF M (in which you’ll learn what became of Wanda) and relies entirely on you reading the original CIVIL WAR before this book’s final act.

There you’ll find four short stories including one with pencils by Leinil Yu in which Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and their baby are threatened, in their own home, by Iron Man. It is a blisteringly impassioned piece.

Lastly we move on to ‘The Confession’, a poignant two-part reprise in the wake of CIVIL WAR and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA in which Iron Man addresses Captain America, and Captain America addresses Iron Man under very specific circumstances which I cannot impart for fear of spoiling the first half’s punchline or the end to CIVIL WAR itself.

All I will say is it was typical of Bendis’ instinct for unorthodox storytelling that they are presented in the order they are, and quite rightly so for hindsight is a very cruel mistress courting dramatic irony like she or he was the very last lady or gent in town.

DAREDEVIL ‘s Alex Maleev delivers it directly and you’ll note that although in the first half – the actual, honest, titular Confession –  Stark takes off his helmet, in the second sequence Iron Man keeps his mask on throughout even though the two former friends are alone. The effect is a stony silence, Captain America’s words effectively bouncing back off the intransigent, impassive metal as if unheard or at least unfelt.

King Pyrrhus is referenced with good reason.

* Yes, yes, I know my Chinese ceramics. Call it another invasion / occupation / appropriation reference. It’s far from inapposite as you’ll see further down the line when SECRET INVASION kicks in.

Lord, but you have to read a lot of other books to keep up with this series!

SLH

Buy New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 2 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.

Seven To Eternity vol 1: The God Of Whispers s/c (£8-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena

Eclipse vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Zack Kaplan & Giovanni Timpano

The Killer vol 5 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

2000 AD’s Greatest: Celebrating Forty Years (£12-99, Rebellion) by various

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored s/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & John Wagner, various

The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage s/c (£12-99, Penguin) by Sydney Padua

Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c (£12-99, Oxford Press) by Philippa Pearce & Edith

Angel Catbird vol 2: To Castle Catula h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Evil Emperor Penguin Strikes Back (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Laura Ellen Anderson

How Train Your Dragon vol 1: The Serpent’s Heir s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Dean DeBlois, Richard Hamilton & Doug Wheatley

Locke & Key: Small World h/c (£13-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

The Merchant Of Venice h/c (£18-99, Candlewick Press) by William Shakespeare & Gareth Hinds

Superman Action Comics vol 1: Path Of Doom s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Patrick Zircher, Tyler Kirkham, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert

Extraordinary X-Men vol 3: Kingdoms Fall s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Victor Ibanez

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 6: Sins Of The Father (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Giorgia Sposito, Eleonora Carlini

Berserk vol 4 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 9 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

News

ITEM! Jiro Taniguchi RIP. Gutted.

After an hour’s contemplation I finally managed to sum up what Taniguchi meant to me in 140 characters for Twitter:

“His works are full of quiet, considered reflection; his art mirrors & matches the beauty of the world he saw around him.”

Of course, we’ve written a great deal more about Taniguchi. A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD was an early Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and more recently THE GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE wowed us with its lines, light and colours. It’s rare for Japanese comics to come in colour.

For far more, please pop ‘Jiro Taniguchi’ into our search engine.

ITEM! Every month our Jonathan AKA J45 slings together a Page 45 Mailshot dispatched over the mintyweb via email. You can sign up to the Page 45 Mailshot here.

Within he takes a gander at Page 45’s free online edition of Diamond’s PREVIEWS detailing the majority – but not all – of the comics and graphic which will be published in two to four months time.

Here’s what Jonathan wrote about February 2017 Previews on the Page 45 website for comics and graphic novels arriving April 2017 onwards:

“If you are a Jeff Lemire fan, (if not, why not?) you ought to be rather happy with a power trio of treasures. Let’s begin!

“From Fantagraphics there’s some typically diverse delights. Firstly, for really out there period manga lovers – all three of us – we have DING DONG CIRCUS collecting Sasaki Maki’s avant garde material from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It’s… strange, trust me. Then there’s PURGATORY, which according to the blurb “For the committed outsider, adolescence can be a nightmare of constructing elaborate strategies in order to avoid the narrow paths society has paved for us.” Such as reading comics perhaps? Finally, one I am definitely interested in myself, ZANARDI features the work of Andrea Pazienza who “was part of a group of Italian cartoonists who pioneered an approach to comics comparable to Moebius and Robert Crumb. Zanardi portrays teenagers coping with family problems, school, sex, and drugs”. Sounds great.

“It has been rather a while, but I am very happy to report that the third volume of the gorgeous SIEGFRIED from Archaia is finally coming out. Nope, not a Previews two months in advance April Fool, ho ho, it really is coming out! Hopefully they will get the first two back into print as well. (Okay, that is stretching it, this is Archaia we are talking about!) Yet more Jeff Lemire with an original graphic novel ROUGHNECK about “a brother and sister who must come together after years apart to face the disturbing history that has cursed their family.”  The BOOK OF CHAOS from Humanoids sounds slightly like by the numbers Euro-fare sci-fi / fantasy fare, but you never know, they don’t do many duff ones. LOOK by Jon Nielsen about a lonely robot just sounds like a great bit of fun sci-fi that will appeal to fans of Wall-E. Guilty as charged!

“From Image we have the intriguing and also rather, okay very, puzzling A.D. AFTER DEATH from Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Rizzo return under cover of furry night with the booze addled, gore-fest MOONSHINE VOL 1. Resurrection romp with a twist REBORN from Mark Miller & Greg Capullo is gripping me in monthly issue form. Meanwhile, break the piggy bank, here’s Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ SAGA DELUXE HC VOL 2 collecting volumes 4,5 & 6 with extra goodies. I know you will already have it in one form or another, or both, but don’t let that stop you!

“Finally, a rare mention for some Marvel material… There’s the second volume of Jeff Lemire’s utterly insane and indeed brilliant MOON KNIGHT run. That’ll be cancelled shortly then from total lack of interest from the fanboys… JESSICA JONES is back and up to her neck in it as usual thanks to Messers. Bendis and Gaydos. Also worth a mention is Kelly Thompson’s HAWKEYE VOL 1 now starring Kate Bishop and trying admirably to continue the Fraction themed take on The Archers.

“Can you even imagine Matt Fraction writing The Archers…? Radio 4 listeners would be choking on their rich tea biscuits!”

ITEM! Displeased by my dismissal of INVISIBLES BOOK 1 above?

In 2011 Amy Poodle expended a great deal more thought derived from a much keener intelligence than mine* on Grant Morrison’s magnum opus in two articles for The Comics Journal on ‘The Invisibles And Hauntology’:

http://www.tcj.com/bomb-light-in-faraway-windows-the-invisibles-and-hauntology/

http://www.tcj.com/hauntology-and-the-invisibles-part-ii/

ITEM! Warren Ellis is headlining at the North London Literary Festival, Middlesex University on 16 March 2017.

WILD STORM #1 by Warren Ellis & John Davis-Hunt is on sale today!

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre is announced as the BookTrust’s new Writer In Residence!

Oh, Sarah will be so galvanising there! If you watch the short film, please stick around for the aftermath, then pop ‘Sarah McIntyre’ into our search engine for reviews.

ITEM! Arcadian elegance, eloquence and joy! Look at these trees, buffeted by the breeze (2nd)! Breathtakingly beautiful Nico Delort art prints for sale:

http://www.gallerynucleus.com/detail/22222/

http://www.gallerynucleus.com/detail/22223/

 

 – Stephen

* Please note: that’s neither sarcasm nor false modesty; I am all too aware of my own limitations.

At times I can be more incite than insight.

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2017 week two

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Loads of lovely Spit And A Half 1new comics and graphic novels from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half in America this week, all listed and linked to in between this week’s reviews and News underneath!

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Néjib.

“ThatHaddon Hall cover day, like so many others, the London sky was sad like a cold cup of tea.”

If any first or second line can make you smile, then you’ve already won over your audience. It gets better:

“The nasty rain rattled tediously at my windowpane.
“I was waiting for my new tenants to show up and inhabit me.”

Yes, like parts of Chris Ware’s great big chocolate box of comics, BUILDING STORIES, the narrator of this whimsical and delightfully dotty graphic novel – about the two years leading up to David Jones becoming David Bowie – is the personable building which David and Angie moved into in 1969, and then invited their friends.

Haddon Hall would come to consider its new occupants dearly beloved friends. They were quite the community, and you’ll have heard of many more of them than you might initially suspect.

The second and third pages are equally endearing as the old-fashioned villa, aware of its own shortcomings – being a bit dated and sparse – holds out hope that its “discreet decrepitude” will nonetheless prove its prime attraction, so securing the company it craves.

Haddon Hall 1

It is indeed discrete – surrounded by woods on the outskirts of London – so the perfect place for a party, both indoors and out, into whose Fashionista throngs strolls dear Marc Bolan. His band, T-Rex, had yet to find success in the form of the deep, groovy, grinding guitar and the celebratory wails across which Bolan would declare himself to be the ultimate 20th Century Boy or croon the most laid-back encouragement imaginable for us all to Get It On and so bang a gong while his cheeks glittered beneath kohl and his mouth – nay, his teeth – did that irresistibly sexy thing which David Sylvian became so found of. At this point he’s still strumming on about pixies. The man who would become Bowie, by the way, had already released ‘The Laughing Gnome’. Not many careers could survive such a thing.

The hair and the clothes of those suited and booted are delicious. No jeans in sight, of course, but boy are there bell bottoms! It was as if men were expressing a femininity which was nonetheless typically competitive by wearing two flaring skirts round their ankles.

Haddon Hall 2

Néjib eschews realistic colour throughout, using it expressively instead, here in livid salmon pink, a glowing sky blue and mustard yellow. These are blocks of flat colour without gradients which define the otherwise borderless panels and often the objects within, for sometimes their outlines are only partially drawn. On the second and third pages I mentioned earlier, these free-floating snapshots of the hall, stairs and landing in orange and purple surrounded by so much white-paper-space enhance Haddon Hall’s sense of emptiness as well as its dated decor.

Haddon Hall 5

This choice of compositions also gives the pages a free-flowing energy which matches the narrative, for however informed it is – and it really is – with historical detail, this is no laden, lumpen, po-faced, drudgery enslaved by its subject like AGATHA: THE REAL LIFE OF AGATHA CHRISTIE which I described as “one long, insultingly clunky, two-dimensional, expository mess”. At great length.

This is its very antithesis with no clunky exposition at all. When David and Angie watch ‘A Clockwork Orange’ you’re expected to recognise the film from Malcolm McDowell’s iconic asymmetrical make-up, and I didn’t think the surname ‘Visconti’ is ever attached to Tony nor ‘Ronson’ to Mick.

Parenthetically, did you know that straight Visconti was once propositioned by New York godfather Don Constanzo as the prospective “girlfriend” for his dandified gay son?

“I’d rather it be you. You’re a nice boy. Not some nutcase he picked up in a smutty club.”

Poor Tony’s face melts in horror.

“You don’t say ‘no’ to Don Constanzo.”

No wonder Visconti ended up in England – almost immediately afterwards.

Haddon Hall 4

That’s just the sort of flashback vignette you’ll be treated to here: whatever Néjib believes will amuse, like David and Tony rescuing Mick Ronson from rock’n’roll retirement as a gardener, catching up with him in a winter park raking up leaves. David dives gleefully into Mick’s wheelbarrow stuffed full of autumnal detritus with a large set of shears… to do what, exactly?

That’s what I mean by “dotty” – this is a joy!

There is, however, no small degree of turbulence. No career is a straight line or even inevitable, ever-upward curve to fame, and the same goes for personal fortune. Quite early on David manages to secure the release of his self-sectioned brother from Cane Hill asylum, but only on the condition that he take custody of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett too. Terry, his brother, gradually disappears into this own little world, dispersing into the air as multi-coloured butterflies.

There are so many more neat visual tricks and accomplishments: Hadden Hall’s secluded back garden in canary yellow and orange, with its urns and its foliage coming off like an overgrown Arcadian idyll; contrasting musical tastes, construction and orchestration represented visually, an auditioning guitarist’s as a maze-like mass (but not mess) of unbroken, fiddly, squiggly lines, David’s as more angular, meticulous composed and pictorial, like a free-range farmyard of Aztec chickens, to be honest.

Haddon Hall 3

Lastly, I think you will love the passage showing how Bowie is first taught to think outside the box. I believe I will be trying that one on so many people I know. Ask me, on the shop floor, and I will happily demonstrate with a pen and paper!

Thinking outside the box: you have never seen it done so demonstrably well.

SLH

Buy Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie h/c and read the Page 45 review here

You Might Be An Artist If… h/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Lauren Purje.

“My potentialYou Might Be An Artist If cover is stifling me…”

Autobiographical insight into what makes an artist tick, so beloved by Jeffrey Brown that we suspect he designed its spine.

As much as anything it’s an act of solidarity with other artists: comforting, consoling, encouraging, reassuring and commiserating with them in their doubts, fears, careers, artistic wrestling, financial struggling, ambitions, self-pity, deadlines and desperation for affirmation.

Note: these attributes are hardly restricted to artists, and Lauren makes the vital leap towards just enough universality for everyone to nod knowingly, sadly yet smilingly in communal, hands-held-up acknowledgement and perhaps a little guilt.

You Might Be An Artist If 4

There’s a lot of light self-mockery but commendably Purje stands her ground with confidence when it comes to the stupidity of squabbles, labels and one-upmanship within the “art world” like looking down on illustration (and, of course comics) and the establishment’s longstanding disdain for humour as a subject inappropriate for High Art. See William Hogarth.

Her deployment of Magritte’s ‘The Treachery Of Images’ (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”), repurposed to burst the pomposity of furrow-browed, Oxfordian tomb-dwellers was particularly witty: “This is not a joke”.

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Then there are all the assumptions and presumptions which are understandably resented when they come from those not quite thinking things through, and one of my favourite pieces was the reverie catalysed by the innocent enough question, “How long did it take you to make this?” You can interpret the sequence that follows two ways (both of which defy what was meant) in its presentation of the multiple acts of discovery, research, experience, practice, study, confidence and indeed unlearning… all the time each of those elements took… both for one specific picture and throughout one’s learning life to gain the wider perspective required to create that image.

Writers don’t write a script in a vacuum, either, nor judges in the time taken to reach a verdict; doctors to diagnose, teachers to take a class, or monkeys to mash out a review.

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That one was completely new to me, but some of these confessions you’ll have seen made before – like the obligatory page on procrastination – but that doesn’t make them any less true, “true” or True. (Those inverted commas and that capitalisation was itself borrowed from Dave Sim.) Quite the reverse, when you think about it.

“Fake It Until You Make It’ is another case in point, but it’s done so well. You know what I mean: everyone accepting their first job at a bar has to bluff their way in, because they all advertise “prior experience required”. Additionally a great many well respected writers and artists – and indeed individuals in so many walks of life – have to deal with Impostor’s Syndrome, occasionally (or perpetually) feeling a fraud and the fear of being found out.

“Honestly… Everyone feels like they’re holding a front for others and whispering prayers that their inner demons remain private for fear of what would surely be a cataclysmic fall from grace…
“Except for the true narcissistic assholes out there.”

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You won’t find an ounce of such arrogance in any of these 135 pages. This is about sympathy and empathy and honesty instead.

‘Happy New Year’:

“Every year we set new goals and reflect on our past accomplishments.
“I always seem to come up with the same resolutions, though…
“1. Try again.
“2. Fail again.”

A slight smile flickers across Lauren’s face as she pours herself another glass of wine…

“3. Fail better.”

SLH

Buy You Might Be An Artist If… h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Snails (£1-25) by Jack Brougham.

“In our flat snails come out at night.”

Same! Do they come through the cat-flap?

“It’s pretty rare to see one indoors during the day.”

Same again! I seldom see the ninja-like, nocturnal culprits who presumably exit as stealthily as they come in, knowing exactly when I’m going to pop downstairs to make my morning cuppa. The only evidence of their existence / trespass is a shiny silver map of their uninvited transgression. Truly it is a mystery to me yet, I concede, I do love a mystery.

“Hello, little fella,” says Jack on the one rare sighting of his slow, slime-trailing intruder.

“Argh! Make a break for it!” thinks the startled but inherently sloth-like snail, and if that’s not pure Gary Northfield, then I don’t know what is. Instead of Gary’s bog-eyed brilliance, however, our meandering mollusc retains an exterior insouciance, something he probably picked up from Sun Tsu’s ‘Art Of War’.

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Brougham does leave his artistic invertebrate a little light reading for its night-time “peregrinations” (good word!). Do you think it will be appreciatively absorbed?

This is great: a small, affordable, observational truth in the vein of Joe Decie (I BLAME GRANDMA et al – infer what you will) and just like the snail Jack has kindly squiggled inside all these copies too.

From the creator of THE LIBRARIAN, this is roughly the size of a starfish, depending on what size your starfish is.

SLH

Buy Snails and read the Page 45 review here

The Librarian (£4-99) by Jack Brougham.

“Good morning, garden.”

Far more clever and carefully structured than you might initially suspect, from the creator of SNAILS, comes a larger and longer work, also signed and sketched in at the back.

Brougham presents us with three intimate short stories told in a free-floating, six-panel ‘grid’ of neatly spaced cameos drawn with a fine line rich in detail and redolent of country village life. In his garden the lines are more orderly, neater, whilst out in the fields the textures of the undergrowth, hedges and trees grow wilder.

So, here’s that structure:

In the first story, of a morning when one is still fuzzy-headed, most of the thoughts and sensations are communicated as visual impressions.

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There’s the back ache and the knee joint in need of much lubrication, then as he sets off to walk with his head in the clouds his head becomes increasingly cluttered with associated mental images, one catalysing another then another – things-to-do lists, computer screens and keyboards – all linked together and threatening to crowd out then overwhelm him until he steps over a wooden style onto a footpath… and emerges into wide-open fields, far more serene. Then something magical happens.

By noon, in the second, the Librarian is coherent enough to ruminate verbally on the present, visually cataloguing the component parts of his village – including those squat concrete fire hydrant markers I’d completely forgotten since leaving the countryside – which he imagines sending in a letter to I won’t tell you where.Librarian 2

Then finally at night, he is in the mood to reminisce and casts his mind back to the past.

That seems like the natural order of things to me.

I only have interior art for the first episode, but in that third it’s New Year’s Eve – ever a time of reflection – and he’s out for a stroll, the streetlights firing up, as they do, in no fixed order.

“Frost crackles underfoot.
“They’re getting them in at the Black Bull.”

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I love that he perceives life through walls and via the smoke rising through canal-barge chimneys. What he becomes fixated on – of all things – is a zoo whose exotic animals had lived, breathed then died where now stands a Sainsbury’s roundabout. It’s quite an ornate one, full of foliage.

“He thinks of Rosie’s ghost out there on the periphery, stranded on the roundabout…
“And the rest of the zoo animals with her there, out on a herbaceous ark, floating through darkness.”

They make quite the racket too so, for those two panels at least, I was minded of ALEC’s Eddie Campbell.

Rosie was the zoo’s star attraction, by the way: an elephant with a heartbreaking history. She’s been long since forgotten, but Librarians look after the past, don’t they, making sure it’s accessible to the present. A gesture is required to record Rosie’s existence, so a specific sign is swapped…

Lovely.

SLH

Buy The Librarian and read the Page 45 review here

Junji Ito’s Dissolving Classroom (£9-99, Vertical) by Junji Ito…

“It’s our MamaDissolving Classroom 1 and Papa.
“But their brains leaked out already, so they’re all empty.”

That’ll teach them to read comics… And indeed have children! A veritable double whammy of brain disintegration visited upon the fools!!

The master of absurdist horror returns with this selection of shorts featuring sicko siblings elder brother and arch-apologist Yuuma and “the worst sister in recorded history” Chizumi. She really is as well. No one is safe, not even you, dear reader, as you will find your sanity, and stomach, tested reading this material. But then I suppose that’s the point isn’t it?

Fans of UZUMAKI, GYO and TOMIE will know exactly what to expect, which is… people behaving strangely, then mass confusion arising, before epic levels of surreal carnage ensue. I will have to make a confession at this point; I’m not particularly a fan of Ito. I struggle to suspend my disbelief sufficiently with horror that is so patently, ridiculously unbelievable that it makes CROSSED look plausible. I mean, there really is a dissolving classroom, complete with dissolving kids and most definitely a dissolving teacher.

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Which is harsh, because much like CROSSED, which perversely I love, there is so much dark humour in Ito’s works, that trying to even take it remotely seriously is as bonkers as the material itself. He knows full well just how crackpot it is too and even throws in a suitably bizarre, fourth-wall breaking, one-page afterword gag strip that I truly have no idea what to make of.

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Also, I think Kengo Hanazawa’s I AM HERO, which is essentially THE WALKING DEAD with UZUMAKI-styled zombies, plus an additional sprinkle of mentalism in the form of a schizophrenic, shotgun-wielding manga creator as the lead survivor, is utterly brilliant, if just as equally preposterous.

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I think the problem is that I initially struggled with UZUMAKI for the reasons above, and it has now become a sticking point, in my mind at least. Some might say it’s strange behaviour on my part, which will undoubtedly lead to mass confusion amongst Page 45’s many, many Ito fans before I flip my lid and go on a hysterical killing spree armed only with a gun. Price gun, that is. Well, and maybe a pack of comic bags to put all the body parts in. No, fuck it, let’s push the boat out, magazine-sized bags, and the sellotape dispenser… It’s a nasty little serrated swine…

Where was I…? Ah yes, strange behaviour and even stranger comics…

JR

Buy Junji Ito’s Dissolving Classroom and read the Page 45 review here

Prophet volumes 1 to 5 (£8-99, £13-99, £13-99, £15-99, £15-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis and many, many others including Marian Churchland, Malachi Ward, James Stokoe, Lando and believe it or not, Rob Liefeld…

“Here, I create new universes of my own…”

Well, I didn’t think I would be reviewing anything stranger than DISSOLVING CLASSROOM this week… But, having absorbed the concluding volume of Brandon KING CITY Graham and Simon HABITAT Roy’s epic psychedelic space opera (created with chums like Farel THE WRENCHIES Dalrymple  and Giannis OLD CITY BLUES Milonogiannis), I felt sufficiently perturbed to pen a few lines on a series I have been gripped by from start to finish, and that has at times crushed my noggin like a walnut in a old school nutcracker.

I am genuinely intrigued how they went about scripting and plotting this whole shebang out, I really am. By all rights, it should have been an utterly unholy mess. There are those who would argue that it is. I would too, just in all the right ways…

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Sometimes, when people write far-flung future sci-fi, you can feel yourselves thinking, “Oh lummy, I really hope everything doesn’t end up totally fucked like this.” Yep, this is one of those!

It clearly owes huge props to the likes of Jodorowsky and Moebius’ THE INCAL, plus actually, some of Moebius’ solo works like THE WORLD OF EDENA and the more dissolute AIRTIGHT GARAGE as well. I don’t really know what the term is for something that appears to be the most abstract thing you’ve ever read but is in fact an incredibly clever, intricately constructed labyrinthine action-fest, but this is it. Errm, and I now I think about it, there are elements of CONAN thrown in there too… Seriously.

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It’s also a homage – a love letter more precisely, I suppose – to the early Image superhero-verse. Yep, multi-millennia in the future, John Prophet, who may or may not be the original Image supersoldier – it’s never made entirely clear, but I suspect it could be – is on a one-man mission to take down an evil Empire against overwhelming odds. An Empire composed of heavily mutated superclones of himself, controlled by even weirder entities. How heavily mutated? Well, some of them are gigantic spaceships that can travel at light speed… though most are just heavily weaponised cannon fodder of every conceivable genotype, and a few you won’t ever have conceived of. He has some of his clones on his side too, plus a few other allies, including some that may be familiar to very long-time Image readers.

Yes, we get cameos from the likes of Supreme (well, sort of, it really made me chuckle, but probably quite wise how they used him), Badrock and even Glory. Die Hard meanwhile, one of the original members of Youngblood, now a robotic being, is an integral part of Prophet’s inner circle of trusted lieutenants. There are several more blink-and-you’ll-miss ‘em appearances which only true Image superhero aficionados will probably spot but it really doesn’t matter, they are purely just the luminous icing on the cakey delight.

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For delight it is. Much like BIOMEGA, perhaps don’t even worry about trying to understand or follow exactly what’s going on in this title, because no concessions to helping you do so will be made by the writers. Just sit back and enjoy the ride and the exquisite tag-team art with Brandon, Simon and their myriad mates taking it in turns to astonish.

However… going back to what I was saying about the writing right at the beginning… perhaps the most incredible feat is that they managed to tie it all up so neatly in the concluding chapter. I really did wonder if this was one of those titles that was going to go out in a spectacular supernova burst of nonsensically entropic plotting like THE INVISIBLES, but no, it all made perfect sense! Now, where’s the gaffer tape to patch up the old noggin…

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So, what next? Well, the various creators have currently just successfully Kickstarted for a new sci-fi series called Cayrels Ring. Huzzah! You can find out more about that HERE.

JR

Buy Prophet volumes 1 to 5 and read the Page 45 reviews here

Citizen Jack vol 1 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Tommy Patterson.

This Citizen Jack coverexceptionally eloquent critical analysis by Steff Humm originally appeared – with contextualising links – in the first issue of free online INK magazine which you can subscribe to by scroll down here: http://ink-mag.co.uk/  I loved it so much that I belatedly bought in the book. We are enormously grateful to Steff for her kind permission to publish this piece because anything I could come up with would look embarrassingly inadequate by comparison. It would have appeared much earlier in this blog had the book itself not appeared earlier too.

Umm, this is Steff Humm and I believe that you should subscribe.

SLH

The long and absurd adventure that has been the 2016 US presidential election will end this week, with Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th “leader of the free world” on Friday 20th January.

Among the smog of rhetoric that was blasted into the atmosphere during this campaign, there is one term that stands out for its deep irony and denial of public sensibility. “Generation Snowflake” is a reductionist umbrella for “hypersensitive” millennials (an already reductionist term for a generation spanning about 30 years) who have apparently been taught to believe they are “special”.

A stupid criticism for many reasons, the term has become a meme, broadly used to condemn groups as disparate as hipsters, students of the humanities, the mentally ill, and, shockingly, people who stand up to Trump’s nationalist rhetoric.

Putting aside the fact that those who taught the younger generations to think as individuals – through government mandated syllabi and the creation of pop culture that rewards protagonists for breaking free of the status quo – are the very same that now reprimand them for expressing their political opinion, the label itself is a dangerous one.

Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson explore just how dangerous in CITIZEN JACK, their satirical series about an immature and irredeemable man with little political achievement who sells his soul and runs for president of the United States. Getting ahead through flagrant demagoguery, Jack abuses the patriotism of his country to oppose the “political elite” and bring it back into the hands of “real Americans.”

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Making America great again

Although the first issue was released in November 2015, Humphries has said that it was ready to ship in March of that year, pre-dating Donald Trump’s acceptance of the Republican candidacy by four months.

More a parody of the political system than any one person within it, Jack is not really like Trump in background or character, despite several freak accidents of similarity in their campaigns. A failing businessman in a pink dressing gown, a full head of luscious hair framing his fairly generic features, the character is a symbol of something bigger and scarier than Trump alone could hope to be.

The unplanned achievement of the book’s horrific premise is the eerie prescience that the creators show throughout a first volume that was planned and penned before the rabbit hole unfolded into the events of 2016. From the moment the world is introduced to Jack Northworthy as a presidential candidate via a sardonic analogue of Fox News, the book perfectly encapsulates a political climate that appeals to public emotion rather than rational thought.

Standing naked in the Minnesotan snow after voluntarily diving into a frozen lake, Jack declares to the camera that he is better suited to lead America than a “Washington insider” because he has the “stones” for such reckless and unnecessary behaviour. He ends his triumphant entrance into the public eye with the useless slogan, “It’s time for America to get Jacked!”

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It’s never clear whether this banal rhetoric is intended to insult America or pump it up somehow, which is part of Humphries’ brilliance as a writer. The meaningless phrases he puts into Jack’s mouth show that this reprehensible man will say anything to stir people up. Jack isn’t clever – he has his campaign manager and the powers of a scary-ass demon to do the real graft for the election – but he knows what to say to get a reaction out of people.

And this is the hypocrisy of the special snowflake dig. The full quarter of the US and UK populations that fall into the millennial age group(s) are purported to be a bunch of emotional cry-babies by people who have had their hearts stolen by nonsense phrases coined to win elections. Individualism dismissed as infantile, the “mature” society must surely rely on tribes. Tribalism, also known as “we-thinking”, divides the population, whether local, global or national, into groups of “us” and “them”.

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Us and them

In Marjane Satrapi’s (literally millennial) graphic memoir PERSEPOLIS, published in 2000, the creator bears witness to the nature of tribalism as she recounts her experience of national identity as a child growing up in wartime Iran.

Satrapi begins her story as a rebellious and precocious child trying to understand the new restrictions enforced on her public self at the start of the Islamic Revolution in 1980. As the daughter of radical Marxists and a direct descendant of Iran’s last emperor, she struggles to find a balance between the freedom to learn, question and discover that her parents make for her at home, and the strict regulations that she faces at school.

As revolution leads to war, language, both personal and political, becomes more important to Satrapi. With her French school closed and a veil enforced upon her and her female friends and relatives, she realises early on that there is dissonance between her understanding of religious faith and the interpretations being used for control. Whereas CITIZEN JACK’s titular character takes control of a nation through speech, Satrapi’s childhood is defined by her position on the receiving end of such power plays.

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Rhetoric’s place in religion is well-established and young “Marji’s” emotional arc, complete in a way that is difficult to achieve in memoir, rests on her understanding that for many people, Muslim, Iranian or otherwise, must portray a different face in public than they do when they’re alone. Unlike the abstract danger of divisive language in CITIZEN JACK, the clashing interpretations of God’s word by religious extremists and Marxist socialism is often fatal in Satrapi’s world.

The book details many tragedies, which alone challenge the nationalist narratives of countries that have brought destruction upon innocent people in the attempt to rake in power and money, but this clearly isn’t the purpose of PERSEPOLIS. In detailing her flight from Iran to Austria and back again, our narrator tells the story of a nation that has been buried beneath the rhetoric of higher powers. The place and culture that created her comes to life in her description of its pleasures and pain, and shows what can be lost when we narrow our view to “us vs them”.

Perhaps behaviour as petty as name-calling shouldn’t be enough to trigger national division in countries where at least 14 years of education is mandatory. But when patriotism – pride in one’s country – becomes clouded by persuasive tribalism that promises to “make America great again”, urges Britain to “take back control”, or labels bilingual schools in Iran as “capitalist” and “decadent”, the gulf of cultural variation is widened.

“Generation snowflake” is essentially a meaningless term, but the emotion behind it is clear. The people throwing it about are really saying that whatever liberal views are offending them this week don’t matter because the Left lost the election. Unsportsmanlike indeed, the words that put a wall up along the Mexican border, or those that had an entire country regret that they voted to leave the European Union, create an animosity towards any kind of diversity, setting us all back decades of progress.

Steff Humm

Buy Citizen Jack vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 5 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by various.

Full contentsPunisher Max vol 5 cover below, but here are a few stories which stood out.

Written by Mike Benson, ‘The Hunter’ is one of the most tense and unnerving PUNISHER short stories I’ve ever read thanks in no small part to its artists, Laurence Campbell (line) and Lee Loughbridge (colour).

There’s a sweaty, midnight intensity throughout, but the scenes set in the rain-slashed city were especially terrifying. The glaring yellow squares of high-rise window lights reflected on the streaming car window successfully erode the shadows in front of them so that the Punisher’s face looming out of the darkness comes as a sudden shock to the system.

And Eddie is terrified. He helped torch a tenement full of squatters using a bag of live rats soaked in petrol, and one by one Frank Castle, implacable, unstoppable, has taken the others to task. No one will give Eddie refuge now, it would be suicide.

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By the same artists, ‘Girls In White Dresses’, written by Gregg Hurwitz, had a real Garth Ennis bite to it.

Castle travels south across the border to a town whose women are being bundled into vans in the middle of the night then dumped days later, destroyed. What’s been happening to them during their abduction? Castle finds himself cleverly played before finally putting the pieces together, only to discover he really doesn’t like the full puzzle picture.

Goran Parlov’s Punisher has always been a beefy delight (see PUNISHER MAX COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 3 and VOL 4) and here he returns for Victor Gischler’s ‘Welcome To The Bayou’. He plays burlesque straighter than most and so, to my mind, far better. Here with the help once again of colourist Lee Loughbridge he renders a swamp that’s as dangerous in the dark as the road that rides past it during the day is innocuous.

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Beautiful, bright colours on the verge as Frank Castle, en route to New Orleans to deliver a heavily sedated package, is passed by a crowd of loud students in an open-topped sports car. Both parties end up pulling over at a remote patrol shack – they for beer, Frank for petrol – and it seems like they’re already a little tipsy. Probably why they don’t notice the ogling and the distinctly dodgy decor (“My guess: this place doesn’t get a lot of repeat business”). Yep, there’s something not quite right about that there pit stop which is why, when the students fail to overtake Castle again, he pulls over to wait for them.

“I decide to give it ten minutes.
“Then I give it ten more minutes.
“Shit.”

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What follows is a perfect blend of Garth Ennis’ PREACHER and PUNISHER. In fact the locals during their hoe-down make Jesse’s clan look restrained. Castle’s beautifully succinct and, behind Parlov’s sunshades, as impassive as ever but he’s in for a rude awakening.

That, some dangling, and a great deal of wading.

Collects PUNISHER MAX ANNUAL 2007, PUNISHER: FORCE OF NATURE, PUNISHER: LITTLE BLACK BOOK, PUNISHER (2004) #61-65 and PUNISHER: FRANK CASTLE MAX #66-75.

SLH

Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 5 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War II (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sean Izaakse, Andrea Sorrentino, Olivier Coipel.

Sometimes a collected edition reveals so many more layers, so many more component parts or exciting pieces of narrative language when read as a whole that my original, first issue’s review becomes redundant. Our review for BLACK MONDAY MURDERS had to be re-written from scratch with just a single paragraph retained, such was the wider picture and complexity of its construction.

This, on the other hand, whilst certainly thoughtful and reading infinitely better as a whole, looks relatively straightforward, especially if I’m to avoid spoilers of some substantial developments within, so let’s start with my review of #0 by Bendis & Coipel (rather than main artist Marquez), slightly pimped with a few choice observations, and see what merits adding later…

Elegantly drawn by Olivier Coipel and deliciously coloured by Justin Ponsor, Bendis really needed to surprise on the script if he was going to shed doubts that this wouldn’t follow the law of diminishing returns following the original, exceptional CIVIL WAR and accusations of being a mere cash-in on the substandard film.

Mission accomplished.

Bravely, until the final four pages, this is a refreshingly quiet prologue culminating in the mini-series’ catalyst. In that moment a young man and woman – whom he’s been fond of from afar – are transformed by a cloud of Terrigen Mist into something other than they were. Neither transmogrification works well for them and the boy finds himself seeing something he shouldn’t. Or should he?

I’m now quite delighted with myself that I’ve managed to deliver the crux of the series without giving the game away: half of Marvel’s superheroes will come to believe he shouldn’t have seen it; the other half will be bloody delighted that he’s answered their prayers.

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Thread one: Jennifer Walters, a defence attorney (who is, by the by, as tall as an Amazon and a gamma shade of green), commands attention in her closing statement not by her appearance but by her eloquence. Her client, a former supervillain, has been slightly stitched up by the local constabulary (NYPD) through entrapment. Worse still, it’s not as if they found anything worth charging him with but, seeking to justify their man-hour expenditure, they threw the book at him anyway and took him to court for speculating, idly. That’s all he did. He mused about the “good old days”, wondering what he might have done differently when he once wore a mask. Which he hasn’t – for yonks – and didn’t this time, either. He did nothing wrong, yet he was convicted. Jennifer Walters failed and the individual in question has been banged up to wrongs.

Later, high up in the sky aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, its commander Maria Hill speculates that he would have done it again:

“They always do.”

So that’s the person in charge of the U.N. Peacekeeping Task Force, then: not only presuming guilty until proven innocent, but resolutely blinkered when it comes to rehabilitation. Which is nice. And if you think that’s got Jennifer’s goat, you wait until you discover what happened during the innocent’s intervening hours.

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I mention all this because I cannot see how this pertains to the coming storm in any way whatsoev – oh wait, now I do. Again, this is wonderfully underplayed by Coipel. There’s a look in Walters’ eyes which is almost an ellipsis. But it has nothing to do with the individual’s identity – only his conviction and Hill’s supposition.

Thread two: Colonel James Rhodes is summoned to the White House. Specifically, he is summoned to its Situation Room. There isn’t a situation. As War Machine (a sort of gun-metal-grey Iron Man stand-in / knock off) Colonel James Rhodes has just diffused the most recent situation in Latveria. No, he’s been called to the Situation Room because it’s far more private than the Oval Office, for a one-on-one private consultation with the President who makes Colonel Rhodes a most unexpected offer as well as a future trajectory which Rhodes could never have seen coming.

Ooh, I’m doing rather well in my crypticism, aren’t I? This time I really do not have a clue as to how this might impact on what looks likely to follow. Except… do you know who James’ best friend is? Ah, you won’t need to. Bendis is ever so brilliant and all will be laid clear within.

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Thread three: Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel is back on deck, the deck belonging to The Triskelion, headquarters and home of the Ultimates, an arm of the Avengers which deals with extraterrestrial and planetary-wide threats. She receives a visitor, an old friend who wonders how she’s doing on zero-hours sleep. The thing is, you see, Carol has taken command of three separate superhero institutions, co-ordinating them in order to avoid the disaster which she sees as inevitable: the day that a situation arises which Earth’s metahumans will finally fail to react to in time.

So many of these so-called near-disasters are only narrowly averted every year in the Marvel Universe, lest the company begins publishing one long cholesterol-crazed picnic and Peter Parker porks-out something chronic. Even then, when I type “near-disasters” I mean complete catastrophes. During the recent SECRET WARS, for example, the Marvel Universe ceased to exist. Bit of a lose, really.

“The illusion of control. It’ll eat you alive,” predicts therapist Doc Samson.

I know exactly where that one’s going.

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So in addition to its relative tranquillity and the space it has afforded Coipel to turn in a truly nuanced performance with slow, subtle reactions and the thoughts lingering behind the eyes of those in conversation, what I liked was this: relatively minor characters coming to the fore and providing their own current perspectives on their present circumstances and what they infer from them for the future.

Unfortunately as the legendary, much loved and now much missed Leonard Cohen once growled:

“I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.”

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***

Now that I’ve read the whole book, that last line was pretty damn prescient.

So let’s just pop back to the beginning: the Terrigen mist catalyses nascent powers in any normal-looking individual who happens to have an Inhuman lineage. For more on that, please see the finest, self-contained INHUMANS graphic novel, one of the most literate and lambently beautiful books that Marvel has ever published.

In this instance the individual in question appears to have been imbued with the ability to not only see the future, but to allow others to do the same.

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Now, given the clearly stated predispositions of Carol Danvers and Maria Hill, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that both are determined to make the most of this gift. Their eyes, as they see it, are on the bigger picture, defending humanity at any cost. They are going to take those visions at their ‘word’ and assume that they will come to fruition if not interfered with: if not confronted right now, before they happen by contesting, arresting or fighting to the death anyone who is ‘seen’ committing said potential immolations in the future. Anyone, really, who leaves the bottle off the pop or the fridge door open.

To Tony Stark, that is a scientifically unproven and illogical, emotional leap of faith and a dangerous, unjustifiable, immoral course of action.

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Why should you have the right to arrest someone for something they haven’t done? How can you assume any future will come to pass if not averted when all of them have been averted and so proven them to have been only possible futures? Plus, who is to say that what is envisaged isn’t done without bias – the personal history and current emotional state – of the Inhuman having them?

Worse still, when Stark works out how the seemingly precognitive ability functions, it opens up a whole new can of worms.

How do you feel about profiling?

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I’ve still given away no specifics (nor will I below and I have been very careful with interior art) because that’s how we roll; but you can see the conundrum and that conundrum is compelling.

Both sides seek to convert others to their cause and, to Bendis’ credit, there are at least two sequences in which the opposing factions sit down with each other and debate – at length and in depth – the merits of their own arguments and the flaws in the other’s. Some switch sides because of those arguments halfway through. But Carol Danvers is too obstinate, too convinced in her own righteousness to listen and the emotional reaction, ironically and semi-understandably under the very specific circumstances, is Stark’s.

Communication gives way to confrontation when the threats are deemed imminent and those very threats become personal because they involve those close to home whom they love – not just as victims, either, but as the most unlikely perpetrators – and they constantly force each other’s hands.

It’s not without minor flaws (including Panini’s design – yet again). The big battles involve so many combatants that they’re actually quite boring. The individual plight of the protagonists and so your emotional involvement with them is lost in the mass spectacle and the booyah dialogue suffers in those scenarios too. But, like the original CIVIL WAR, the wider picture presented has something to say and Bendis has chosen both his significant victims of disaster and his equally significant victims of presumption very cleverly for maximum, honest-to-god dilemma.

Plus I perceive how one of these visions will wittily [REDACTED] a future development whose paving has already been laid, lo these recent months elsewhere.

Body count high, if that means much to you. And already we know that it does.

SLH

Buy Civil War II (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Note: all these beauties from Spit And A Half in America already have John Porcellino’s descriptions in their Page 45 product pages, so you won’t have to wait for our reviews. Isn’t our Jonathan a genius?

Spit And A Half 2

 

Spit And A Half 1

Amerika (£17-99, Conundrum Press) by Réal Godbout

Black Rat (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Cole Closser

Blobby Boys 1 (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Alex Schubert

Blobby Boys 2 (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Alex Schubert

Bloggers (£4-50, IAMWAR) by Josh Bayer

Bug Boys (£11-99, Czap Books) by Laura Knetzger

A Cat Named Tim (£17-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz

Conditions on the Ground (£26-99, Floating World Comics) by Kevin Hooyman

Deep Woods (£4-50, 2D Cloud) by Noah Van Sciver, Nic Breutzman

Don’t Come in Here (£14-50, Koyama Press) by Patrick Kyle

Don’t Cry Wolfman (£8-99) by Nate Beaty

Doomin (£2-50, Uncivilised Books) by Derek Van Gieson

Drinking at the Movies (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Julia Wertz

Dumb 1+2 (£6-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Georgia Webber

Goodbye (£5-50, Silver Sprocket) by Ben Passmore

Gorgeous (£8-99, Koyama Press) by Cathy G. Johnson

Hugh (£3-25, One Percent Press) by Alexis Frederick-Frost

Hollow Hollows (£4-99, One Percent Press) by Dakota McFadzean

Home and Away (£14-50, Blank Slate Books) by Mawil

Iranian Metamorphosis (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Mana Neyestani

Iron Bound (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach

Jaywalker (£13-99) by Lisa Carver with Dame Darcy

Jeremiah (£13-99, One Percent Press) by Cathy G. Johnson

Johnny Viable And His Terse Friends (£6-99, Floating World Comics) by Steve Aylett

Lose 4 (£6-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Lose 6 (£6-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Mini-KUŠ 43: Meat Locker (£5-50, KUŠ) by Michael DeForge

Men’s Feelings 1 (£4-99, Revival House Press) by Ted May

Men’s Feelings 2 (£4-99, Revival House Press) by Ted May

Mineshaft 33 (£7-99, Mineshaft) by Robert Crumb, Billy Chidish, Noah Van Sciver, Mary Fleener, Jay Lynch, Nina Bunjevac, Bill Griffith, Robert Armstrong, William Crook Jr and way more

Mini-KUŠ #10: OTSO (£4-99, KUŠ) by Mari Ahokoivu

Mini-KUŠ #19: INVERSO (£4-99, KUŠ) by Berliac

Mini-KUŠ #21: JUNGLE NIGHT (£4-99, KUŠ) by Renata Gasiorowska

Mini-KUŠ #22: LUCKY (£4-99, KUŠ) by Oskars Pavlovskis

Mini-KUŠ #23: DOMINO (£4-99, KUŠ) by Ruta & Anete Daubure

Mini-KUŠ #24: SWIMMING POOL (£4-99, KUŠ) by Anna Vaivare

Mini-KUŠ #27: MATHEMATICAL SOLUTIONS FOR A GLOBAL CRISIS (£4-99, KUŠ) by Jesse Jacobs

Mini-KUŠ #28: COLLECTOR (£4-99, KUŠ) by Zane Zlemeša

Mini-KUŠ #37: SNAKE IN THE NOSE (£4-99, KUŠ) by Tommi Musturi

Mini-KUŠ #42: ALIEN BEINGS (£4-99, KUŠ) by Laura Keninš

Miseryland (£8-99) by Keiler Roberts

Nasty Day (£2-99) by Kelly Froh

New Construction (£15-99, Uncivilised Books) by Sam Alden

Night Animals (£6-99, Top Shelf) by Brecht Evens

Only Skin (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Sean Ford

Powerman (£5-99, Kilgore Books) by Box Brown

Rough Age (£10-99, One Percent Press) by Max de Radiguès

Salad Days (£4-50, One Percent Press) by JP Coovert

Skyscrapers of the Midwest (£17-99, AdHouse Books) by Joshua Cotter

Vile and Miserable (£19-99, Pow Pow Press) by Samuel Cantin

Spit And A Half 3

 

Spit And A Half 4

Also 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.

A Land Called Tarot h/c (£17-99, Image) by Gael Bertrand

Black History In Its Own Words h/c (£14-99, Image) by Ronald Wimberly

Chester 5000 XYV Book 2: Isabelle & George h/c (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Fink

Empress h/c (£22-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen

Fuse vol 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions s/c (£13-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

Hinges Book 3: Mechanical Men s/c (£14-50, Image) by Meredith McClaren

Invisibles Book 1 s/c (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Chris Weston, Duncan Fegredo, others

My Neighbour’s Bikini (£11-99, BDANG) by Jimmy Beaulieu

Nameless s/c (£13-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Norse Mythology h/c (£20-00, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman

The Ring Of The Seven Worlds s/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by Gionvanni Gualdoni, Gabriele Clima & Matteo Piana

The Survivalist (£5-99, Chalk Marks) by Box Brown

Truth Is Fragmentary (£17-99, Uncivilized Books) by Gabrielle Bell

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps vol 1: Sinestro’s Law s/c (£15-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Ethan Van Sciver, Rafa Sandoval

All New, All Different Avengers vol 3: Civil War II s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Adam Kubert

Uncanny X-Men: Superior vol 3 – Waking From The Dream s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Greg Land

Deadman Wonderland vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Deadman Wonderland vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

News

ITEM Luke Philippa Jon McN

ITEM! Interview with (left to right Jon McNaught, Luke Pearson and Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson by P.M. Buchan for Broken Frontier

“It’s Important to Do Stuff that You Want to Do – That’s What Will Become the Best and Truest Work You’ll Create”  – Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice and Jon McNaught on Their Comics Careers to Date

Huge congratulations to longstanding editor-in-chief Andy Oliver on becoming the new owner of Broken Frontier.

ITEM Broken Frontier Andy Oliver

ITEM! You may have noticed we have a guest review this week by Steff Humm who is the creator, owner and head-writer of free, online INK magazine bursting with eloquent and insightful comicbook critical analysis. She certainly delves deeper than we do. TBH, a lot of our reviews are essentially sales pitches, though only when we believe in a book. I do, however, like to think we can at least tell a story and often show you how and why it works.

Sign up to receive free, fortnightly editions of INK magazine here: http://ink-mag.co.uk/

Issue #2 of INK is available to read right now!

Additionally you can follow INK magazine on Twitter @Ink_Mag_UK

Ink logo

ITEM! “People who don’t read are not stupid, but too often they have been made to feel that way.”

So much of this Waterstone’s blog by the likes of Amanda Craig is true!

My take: so many who don’t read have been put off it by ossified books they were made to study too early on.

Random prose books I delighted in studying at the right age: Paul Scott’s ‘Staying On’ and every Evelyn Waugh masterpiece (both aged 15 upwards), every Jane Austen (13 upwards) and every Gerald Durrell (aged 11 upwards).

ITEM! Jane Austen 10 pound note

Our Dominique informed me that Jane Austen is to appear our £10 notes, and I see the equally magnificent J.M.W Turner is to adorn our £20 efforts.

It’s about time we celebrated our extraordinary wealth of British culture on a daily, transactional basis.

ITEM Turner

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2017 week one

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

News And Reviews Underneath!

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

“The world weBlack Monday Murders vol 1 cover see is smoke…
“And it’s all the evidence we need to know the flames are real.”

Most of us have no idea.

All we see is the investment bankers’ greed, their ruthlessness, their obscene material wealth and their seeming immunity when things go wrong at our expense.

But with Russian plutocrat Viktor Eresko in particular, this invulnerability, this impregnability which you can hear in every word he speaks seems derived from something far older and much more substantial than mere wealth. Lesser men would mistake his assured self-confidence for arrogance. It’s not. It is knowledge.

Ignorance is bliss. Things once seen cannot be unseen, so be careful what you go looking for. Clue: on the cover one of the co-creators is listed as Abaddon…

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Big, fat-cat package of occult crime fiction exposing investment banking as a deal with the devil, and in which conspiracy theory turns out to be decades of carefully constructed practice. Surprising no one.

If you were spellbound by Brubaker and Phillips with Breitweiser in KILL OR BE KILLED with its exceptional psychological exploration of a single man on his way to murder, then this will make your head spin.

BLACK MONDAY MURDERS is all kinds of uncommonly clever. It’s interactive, and it is only fitting for a crime comic that you’re invited to do some detective work yourself.

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I’ll return you to the plot in due course, but I spent hours on its design as a package alone. As early as THE NIGHTLY NEWS Jonathan Hickman bowled us all over with his eye for design and his reaching ambition for what you could do with a comic. When freed from the constraints of superhero comics – which he nonetheless infused with his own unique, upmarket and intelligent, quite beautiful branding – Hickman can be, in his own very different way, a craftsman akin to Chris Ware.

I do believe he love puzzles.

The contents page in most prose and graphic novels is perfunctory or a bit of a tease at best. Exceptions include philanthropist Henry Fielding’s riotously witty and iconoclastic tasters introducing episodes from his 18th Century novel ‘Tom Jones’. Here the contents last an entire five pages, breaking the book into a four-act play, each of whose scenes carries an individual title. In addition – for Hickman does nothing by halves – every attendant diagram, pictogram, letter, diary entry, transcript, history map or censored personnel file is also titled [in square brackets], except for those whose very titles are censored.

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These interspersed discoveries are presented as if typed manually, and bear all the grained imperfections of having been photocopied badly or expeditiously.

The effect is to present you with a secret dossier whose component parts you will need to analyse for yourselves in conjunction with each other and the main, comics narrative in order to build up the bigger picture. And it is a much bigger picture of language and numbers, the language of numbers, of wheels and of systems, of deals and dynasties, of power, money and magic.

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Like the contents of the dossier, the main narrative also flickers backwards and forwards in time, so you’ll need to mentally slot those sequences in too. Lastly, if you thought the cover credits were clever, wait until you read those at the back of the book, absolutely in tune with what comes before with its sentences hidden within sentences.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. This is brilliant.

For every transaction there is a price to be paid – a sacrifice to the great god Mammon – and most often it is in blood. The bankers just prefer it were ours.

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“The first million dollars you make is self-financed. You earn it with your own blood. The cost is your health, your family, your friends.
“You pay, understand…
“The most common mistake is believing that you can accrue even more by continuing this behaviour. You cannot. If you’re going to earn more… if you’re going to earn real money – accumulate real power – then that is done on the backs of others. Call them workers, call them proles, even call them slaves. I do not care. Just know, it is they who you will sacrifice for gain.”

Don’t you love a little unexpected honesty?

Sometimes, however, as we shall see, the blood-letting is necessarily much closer to home.

The Caina Investment Bank was founded in 1857. In 1989 it merged with the Russian Kankrin Troika to form the Caina-Kankrin Investment Bank, the biggest in the world. But in between there have been fateful and sometimes fatal struggles for power within its rotating, four-pillar structure and the families – the Rothschilds, the Ackermans, the Dominics and the Bischoffs – who sat in its four chairs.

Then the Wheel would become broken.

It was broken when Wall Street crashed on Black Thursday morning, October 24th 1929. As America started haemorrhaging money, the man sat in the Stone Chair at the moment the music stopped started to haemorrhage blood.

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Now the Wheel has been broken once more, for Daniel Rothschild – the managing partner in the Ascendant Seat – has been murdered. The remaining members of the Caina-Kankrin cabal have recalled Daniel’s twin sister Grigoria from exile in England in order to fill his position, so that the cycle can continue. But Grigoria did not leave voluntarily, as we shall see, and now that she’s back she has certain demands. She’s also brought with her the family familiar, a ghostly-white and unreadable woman whose eyes are hidden behind reflective sunglasses, and who speaks only in arcane symbols.

Into this dangerous, twilight world strays one Detective Theodore Dumas, restored from suspension after he shot dead an unarmed civilian man in the middle of the street because he saw something no one else could. Turns out there were eight and a half heads in the civilian’s freezer, with the next victim tied to his bed. He’s been restored to duty because Daniel Rothschild murder involved an impenetrable ritual. With his preternatural insight, what will Theo see now?

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I’m thrilled to see Tomm Coker back. Hopefully you remember him from the likes of the equally umbral BLOOD + WATER and UNDYING LOVE VOL 1, and here his masterful eye for tight composition gives us an elaborately staged, cryptic crime scene with a timely message.

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The very first panel in 1929 is set ominously under the shadow of a barrage balloon which – rightly or wrongly – I always associate with war. What’s bombing is the Stock Exchange. On the second page there’s an acute emphasis on the vertical, on the drop. First there’s the aerial shot of the Bank tower / spire, then there’s the blood dripping from the man in the Stone Chair going down.

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One other free-fall aside, Coker controls all other expressions – just as Garland does the colours – with enormous discipline, lending the dialogue a weight and a power and a shadow, if you like, under which you are drawn to wonder what lurks: hidden motivations galore, and all sorts of nasties dressed up to the nines. Eresko’s one-on-one, close-up, unblinking eye contacts are terrifying.

Parenthetically, the dialogue is so well worded you can hear Viktor Eresko’s accent as you read this purely from the carefully controlled cadence of his words.

Everything in this comic is ominous – wait until you descend deep under the Berlin Wall! – but there’s a particularly impressive, deliciously shiver-inducing scene as Grigoria and her ever-attendant familiar, the impassive Abby, are driven back to New York, the jet-black clouds clawing across the blood-red sky like a shrouded spectre. Red is the only primary colour which Michael Garland uses, and he does so sparingly so it’s all the more startling.

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Coker’s present-day Grigoria is elegant, commanding but where Coker excels himself is in Abigail, Abbrielle, Abby who assumes each era’s contemporary chic. She is insouciant, but surprisingly tactile at times, and I love the way she cocks her head occasionally like a bird of prey, curious to gauge someone else’s reaction to what has cropped up.

It’s an intelligent book, well researched in the schools of economics and confidently delivered when Hickman’s making it up. A lot of this is about truths and lies, truths within lies and vice-versa, including an entire website created to propagate one by using the other. Here’s the sort of thing that’s up for discussion:

“If you ask any competent linguist what’s the most spoken language on Earth, they will tell you – with some assurance – it is Mandarin, and they would be wrong.
“Since we first learned to grunt, man has possessed a universal language, and it remains a language everyone on the planet speaks.
“Mathematics.
“You see, Detective, numbers are primal. What makes them enduring – what gives this language its true power – is when a number is attached to an object.
“We use that union of number and object to count, and counting is how we measure accumulation. And what is accumulation? It is wealth. Now consider that we do the same thing with people…”

SLH

Buy Black Monday Murders vol 1: All Hail God Mammon s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Fourth Love Dinosaur coverwordless foray into the food chain that is our natural world, you can read our reviews of the previous three (TIGER, LION, FOX) in our enticingly titled LOVE: THE section. And it is very much the food chain being presented here as our constant companion in this ancient obstacle course – the Bambiraptor Feinbergi – attempts to duck and dive under cover, out of trouble, and off the metaphorical dinner plate.

The substantial cover is provided by a gigantic Isisaurus Colberti, one of those long-necked behemoths like the Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus. Hasn’t one of those recently been discredited? This one has a thicker, powerful, rubbery neck ribbed with muscles and we are reminded throughout that vegetarians aren’t necessarily pacifists. You don’t have to be a carnivore to be formidably enraged. Eggs are eggs, territory is territory, and self-defence can become exceedingly aggressive.

Love Dinosaur 0

Love Dinosaur 1Not quite as aggressive as in Ricardo Delgado’s AGE OF REPTILES, to be sure, but I’m not going toe-to-toe with a Triceratops. AGE OF REPTILES is a silent series too. Dinosaurs didn’t have much to say for themselves, did they?

I only have one later image from the interior art – and that’s subaquatic – but I can promise you that there will be a Tyrannosaurus Rex or two.

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It begins, however, in a hazy, diffused light, with a bee and a locust which also reminds us that insects are true survivors and that we are lucky to have them still with us or else in some circles pollination would be a thing of the past. Speaking of “things of the past” and “survivors”, I also spy a Solenodon on the very first page. You call tell that it’s ancient by its name. It sounds like it should be some imposing leviathan, but it isn’t. It’s one of Earth’s earliest mammals which exists to this day, so meriting its inclusion in dear David Attenborough’s television ark. And he was only allowed to select ten species.

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It’s these little details which endear me to this edition and I’m endeared to them all. The thought behind the genesis of each LOVE: THE graphic novel shouldn’t be overlooked, however distractingly dramatic and spectacular the art. You are assured of spectacle each and every time, and especially on a day like today; because we haven’t woken up on any random morning.

Initially I was quite startled that the creators had decided to “do” dinosaurs because half of my brain appears inexplicably to consider them fantasy. And I’m no crazy-headed Creationist, let me tell you. I was once quite the dinosaur expert, having collected PG Tips’ excursion into the equivalent of cigarette cards, aged 5 or 6. I stuck them all semi-neatly into a much-treasured album and devoured all their details.

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That love is rewarded and rekindled in the back by a more expansive closing gallery than usual: 22 pages of storyboards, painting and sketches, identifying each exotic creature including four different species / iterations of the cow-like lizard whose best-known example is the Triceratops.

Some of these paintings are rendered on coarse-grained canvas, which works wonders in adding a thick, pitted, leathery texture to their armoured hides, just like a rhinoceros’.

Conversely, Bertolucci’s less intense sketches in ink with wild washes allow the movement and musculature to shine through. There’s one other page in which an eye shines with intelligence, with spirit, with soul, just like every horse and cow that I’ve ever met.

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Is it only me who finds the name ‘Bambiraptor’ oxymoronically funny?

Of all the cast here, he is imbued with a certain, slapstick, Disney anthropomorphism, especially when trampled underfoot by his hunger-frenzied friends.

SLH

Buy Love vol 4: The Dinosaur h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

An eloquent and reallyI Thought You Hated Me Cover quite complex autobiographical evocation of a friendship that was unlikely to have outlived its first few childhood years, I believe this will surprise you.

Certainly the cover doesn’t do it any sort of justice at all: it doesn’t welcome you in. It has none of the tenderness, balance and keenly judged space of the interior art. Instead we see a bitter and angrily resentful Mari – when she is neither within – in a sort of nicotine-perpetuated anger trap.

Please persevere long enough to look instead, for instead this is told with a charmingly direct, warts-and-all seeming simplicity, yet there are a variety of unexpected angles subtly deployed and underneath lies a truthful understanding, clearly conveyed, that within friendships much goes unsaid; that too few survive long enough for a conversational reflection on what went unsaid; that so many shared experiences may have meant different things to one friend than to the other; or maybe they did mean the same but you never knew; whereas other events might have had a profound effect upon one to which the other was oblivious so quite possibly the event never registered at all and was subsequently forgotten.

Each one of those scenarios ticks my own recognition boxes, as well as another which I’ll leave for my punchline.

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So why was this friendship unlikely to last and why did Mari think that Mirabai hated her?

Well, the things we say when we are 9!

For a start, Mirabai was introduced to Mari by her already existing friend, Harmony.

“This is my new friend, Mirabai.
“She’s mine!”

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So there’s a territory claimed. Mari was never confident, but what little confidence she had was completely undermined by Mirabai constantly leading her on, then pulling the rug from under her. Cue Charles Schultz homage, ever so appropriately. You’ll see exactly why it’s spot-on when you read this yourself, but brilliantly there’s a break between how Schultz uses this throughout PEANUTS and when Marinaomi repeats it. There is… a progression.

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Mirabai’s increasing artistic confidence is demonstrated by her diminishing competitiveness, feeling no need to accept compliments with triumphalism. Mari’s honest adulation is conveyed in her accepting Mirabai’s instructions without resentment. Mari even levels up when she suddenly finds a teen fashion style of her own and – on being photographed – seeing herself newly arrived as an adult. Okay, it’s a work in progress, but that has to tick recognition boxes too, yes?

So here’s one of those fresh angles I loved. Every single-page entry here is titled time- and site-specific: ‘Slumber party, 1985’ or ‘Sausalito Steps, 1987’. Suddenly it’s ‘Everywhere We Go, 1987’ and a spacious, single-panel page on which everyone is swooning, love hearts in their eyes, over Mirabai who is “oblivious” and Mari who is “jealous”. That’s it: nothing more complex than that, but “Everywhere We Go” says quite enough.

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Mirabai, a year older, was always more precocious than Mari in art, poetry and experimentation, give or take drugs (I loved the reversal of a particular famous slogan with a couple of opposing TM-ed arguments for good measure). So when ‘Mirabai Moves To The Big City, 1989’ leaving Mari behind, their reunion isn’t so much a conversation as one long outburst of genuine enthusiasm on Mirabai’s part…

“…And my new friend Patrick told my new friend Ashu that my new friend…”

… but oblivious as always, this time as to its inevitable reception. I should reiterate that Mari’s reaction isn’t to glower; she simply hangs back, walking in Mirabai’s wake, looking forlornly to one side in isolated reflection. Am I really the only one here determined that Marinaomi has nailed it?

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I’m going to leave you where I first thought to begin, at a ‘Late-night Diner, San Francisco, 1989’. Mirabai and “this one guy” have been talking animatedly all night while Mari sits silently, forgotten.

“Oh god, please don’t fall in love with Mirabai.
“Please, just this one guy,
“Just this one.”

Afterwards, outside, it’s Mari and the new guy.

“She’s really something, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, Mirabai’s the best!”

A love heart of genuine adoration accompanies Mari’s speech balloon.

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You have pages and pages to go, and many in between to discover for yourselves, like the precise nature of which shared, early experience first changes the direction of their relationship from the careless bully and the enduringly bullied to something more mutual and respectful.

But what one doesn’t realise when one begins reading – because Mari didn’t realise this, either, until later – is that the title of this comic is a two-way street.

SLH

Buy I Thought You Hated Me and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Thinking about the round heads of these children…
“… filled with dreams and hopes like weird water balloons…
“… made Punpun…
“No…
“… never mind.”

Just when I thought Punpun might be in danger of getting his shit together…

As with previous volumes in Page 45’s Inio Asano section (reviewed), time has moved on once again since volume 3 and now Punpun is forlornly adrift in post-education ‘adult’ society. But whereas before at school he could mostly keep his head down, go unnoticed, and hide from his woes – primarily induced by the collection of weirdoes that comprise his family, plus girls he was obsessed with, oh and God who kept popping up unsolicited to have a word with him – now he’s starting to realise there’s just nowhere whatsoever left to hide from the big bad world…

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Yes, it’s time for Punpun to meditate deeply in his own inimitable way upon thorny, pressing issues like gainful employment and somewhere to hang his hat. Ah, and the ever-elusive concept of sexual coupling, of course. All the sorts of day-to-day practicalities that Punpun is not particularly well equipped to deal with after his… strained upbringing, and perhaps if we’re being unkind, limited savvy. To start with at least… Yes, Punpun will surprise you – well he certainly did me – as after eventually realising that doing absolutely nothing isn’t a long term solution to his problems, he tentatively begins to apply himself to the rigours of everyday life. Punpun-stylee, of course!

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But then we’ll see the return of certain characters who threaten to rock poor Punpun’s world (and hormones) even further off-kilter than before whereas, for a change, his family, or what’s left of it, doesn’t seem to be particularly impacting upon his shaky mental wellbeing. Even his Uncle, last seen losing the plot spectacularly in volume 3 seems to be holding it together. Well… in the manner of a kettle of water at 97.9 degrees C and rising rapidly, that is… I fear he’s only one misplaced letter away from going fully postal. What is it with that family?

And as for God, he’s seemingly gone on sabbatical. Even in Punpun’s hour of deep existential crisis / neediness (come on, you didn’t think he could get through a full volume without at least one near-total nuclear meltdown-sized wobbly, did you?), when he does his secret-codeword, ridiculous jig of a dance call, the resultant silence is absolutely deafening. Not that God isn’t listening, you understand, he just wants to fuck with Punpun a bit…

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Inio Asano’s epic treatise on the socially dysfunctional struggling to survive amongst us continues. Some might say he has a keen eye for exposing the ever-present undercurrents and riptides that threaten to destabilise the most unsure of mental equilibrium at a moment’s notice for his readers’ pleasure. Others might just say he’s one cruel bastard.

JR

Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Beowulf (Graphic Novel) by unknown & Gareth Hinds.

“AbsolutelyBeowulf Graphic Novel cover splendid. Visceral, chilling, elegiac.”

 – customer Chris Gardiner.

Chris Gardiner is something of a Beowulf buff. He’s read the original, come across countless adaptations and this is one of his absolute favourites. Its impact on him was immediate and arresting.

The dragon he called “incandescent” (and it seriously is in a purplish, painted, black-and-white double-page spread that almost sets the paper on fire), and the brutish confrontation between Beowulf and an obsidian Grendel – all muscle, sinew, claws, teeth and wet, globular hair – is a shocking affair after such formal rhetoric. It’s bone-cracking, beam-breaking, bludgeoning stuff from a decade or so ago which would have superhero fans wetting themselves if they cared to look this way, as would BEOWULF by Garcia & Rubin published last month.

Beowulf Graphic Novel 1

There are three such confrontations as the pages go suddenly silent letting the images roar and bellow for themselves, and my one reservation about this entire adaptation was whether that silence robbed us of some of the best language. “No,” replied Chris, “I can read the original for that.” He’s right, for Hinds has considered his medium – and timing – very carefully.

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The ancient legend of Beowulf’s first known manuscript after centuries of oral tradition is dated around 1000 AD. In it King Hrothgar builds a banquet hall full of good cheer and revelry until it’s invaded by Grendel, a moor-dwelling man-beast capable of cleaving a man’s head from his body with naught but his black, bare hands. No matter how well armed are King Hrothgar’s men, by morning they are no more than bloody, mashed pulps and so for twelve long years the hall goes empty, the heroic King Hrothgar exiled from the heart of his own Danish dominion.

Then arrives Beowulf from a neighbouring territory, announcing his presence with due deference to the mighty Hrothgar but also a determination to rid him of this pestilence. For he has heard word of the accursed Grendel and, if he be so permitted, he would rout the abomination forever. Single-handedly, with neither arms nor armour, he prepares himself for the predatory Grendel to embark on his nocturnal assault. He is committed.

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What may surprise those unaccustomed to the original (if you can call any one such) is that this is but the beginning, for Beowulf has an entire life of such challenges ahead of him. He has a kingdom of his own to rule, and threats there too which he must stave off. Even in old age, far past the peak of his physical prowess, a final battle awaits him.

One of the things I love most about Hinds is that he employs a completely different style for each book he works on. His riff on Homer’s THE ODYSSEY, for example, I described as “A summer sunshine joy, brought to watercolour light and rammed to its bucolic pens with so many of your favourite mythological beasts and best-avoided landmarks”. Similarly within this single book with its muted palette – emphasising firstly the centrality of wood to the Vikings’ everyday existence (see Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell’s ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS) then the platinum hues of iron as the armour returns – there’s a startling demarcation between the sequences set in Beowulf’s youth elsewhere and his old age in his own kingdom.

Beowulf Graphic Novel 4

Unlike Garcia & Rubin’s BEOWULF which we adore in its own right, you can buy this for your entire family so long as they’re happy with the obligatory severed appendages inherent to the tale.

SLH

Buy Beowulf (Graphic Novel) and read the Page 45 review here

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

Expanded edition now collecting BLACK PANTHER (2009) #7-12, DOOMWAR #1-6, KLAWS OF THE PANTHER #1-4 and material from AGE OF HEROES #4 so Marvel can charge you more money. In 2011 of the six-issue mini-series only I wrote:

X-Men / Black Panther / Fantastic Four team-up which I initially dismissed as just another of the twenty new Marvel mini-series that month. I take a little of the blame for that but Marvel Central must take most for the aforementioned, not remotely exaggerated reason.

It’s good, and Eaton’s art has a delicate, European flavour to it. Storm’s hair is particularly lovely. Storm’s predicament is not.

Wakanda, you see – the never-conquered nation at the heart of Africa ruled by T’Challa – has been in receipt of a coup. Recorded delivery: they signed for it and everything.

Black Panther Doomwar 1

A revolution for the people by the people: that’s how they’re promoting it to the outside world. T’Challa’s bride, Wakanda’s deposed queen and astonishing X-Man Storm, is on show-trial for her life. She’s convicted as a western poison. Let’s forget the fact that she’s African, and that the real power behind the coup is Doctor Victor Von Doom Esq., ruler of Latveria (black population nil). I wonder what he wants out of it? Can you spell “Vibranium”?

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Maberry does a ridiculously good job of emphasising the heroes’ helplessness. T’Challa and the new Black Panther are stranded on the outside, desperately seeking the succour of a mutant strike force whose nation Utopia is so new and therefore fragile that they daren’t be seen to act like aggressors by illegally invading a foreign country. That’s best left to older nations like America and Britain. In any case, as I say, Wakanda has never been successfully invaded. That much was made abundantly, wittily and somewhat satisfyingly clear at the beginning of Reginald Hudlin’s first run (BLACK PANTHER: WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?), and is done so again. Storm, who was specifically on trial for attacking Wakandans, is forced by Doom to pick the Vibranium vault locks under Doom’s far from idle threat of slaughtering Wakandans, and Wakandan protestors are given no legitimacy because the new regime will not send in their tanks to suppress them.

Their names are taken, obviously, for when the protests subside.

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The first chapter’s last three pages displayed note-perfect timing from both writer and artist, utilising the one way possible to turn the tide in attempting to invade an unassailable country.

I’m sorry…?

<BAMF>

SLH

Buy Black Panther: Doom War 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 Dog Dustjacket

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash – Original LICAF Signed & Sketched In Ultra-Limited Edition Softcover (£100-00, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Ohhhh, yeah we found 9 more copies AND THEY’RE ALL SKETCHED IN! AVAILABLE NOWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD!

Junji Ito’s Dissolving Classroom (£9-99, Vertical, Terminally Ungrateful Edition) by Junji Ito

Wind In The Willows h/c (£22-99, IDW) by Kenneth Grahame & illustrated by David Petersen

This Is Not My Hat s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Snails (£1-25) by Jack Brougham

The Librarian (£4-99) by Jack Brougham

The Fourth Power h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Juan Gimenez

You Might Be An Artist If… h/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Lauren Purje

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Nejib

Citizen Jack vol 1 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Tommy Patterson

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 4: The School Of Death (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison & Rachael Stott, Simon Fraser

Regular Show vol 2 (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by various

Regular Show: Hydration s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Rachel Connor & Tessa Stone

Steven Universe vol 2 (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by various

One-Punch Man vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Rise Of The Batmen s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Eddy Barrows, various

Harley Quinn And Her Gang Of Harleys s/c (£14-99, DC) by Jimmy Palmiotti, Frank Tieri & Mauricet, various

Bravest Warriors vol 4 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various

Captain Marvel vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ruth Gage, Christos Gage & Kris Anka, Marco Failla, Thorny Silas

Civil War II (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sean Izaakse, Andrea Sorrentino, Olivier Coipel

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 5 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by various

Wolverine: Old Man Logan h/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

News

   American Gods issue 1 coverAmerican Gods issue 2 cover

ITEM! Phew! The comicbook adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS by P. Craig Russell & Scott Hampton is now going to be available in the UK! That’s saved us all 27 months of cultural and financial frustration.

Yes, it’s going to be 27 issues long! Please get your pre-orders ASAP by clicking on the link above and ordering online via our website or by phoning 0115 9508045 or emailing page45@page45.com to add the title to your Standing Orders.

Here’s an interview with P. Craig Russell about adapting AMERICAN GODS to comics.

Page 45 LICAF banner door day 4

ITEM! Page 45 goes to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Every year! And we take so many photos of creators grinning their heads off.

But now The Lakes International Comic Art Festival comes to Page 45!

Page 45 LICAF banner door evening 2

 

Page 45 LICAF banner door from the steet

Oh how proud we are to present these glowing red banners on our shop floor!

Thankfully Jonathan hung them, because I get vertigo on the bathroom scales.

Page 45 LICAF banner behind till close

 

Page 45 LICAF banner behind till distance

ITEM! Page 45 has found the last copies 9 of the original, ultra-rare, original LICAF edition of Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH with its dust-jacket and everything. Not only that, but they have been sketched in by Dave McKean himself.

All proceeds go to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in order to fund future events.

Black Dog cover image photo

Black Dog 2

We take not one single penny, except from you, then pass them all straight onto LICAF. Hooray!

– Stephen