Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2017 week four

Don’t miss the new editions of Luke Pearson’s Hilda and Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre’s Pugs Of The Frozen North underneath!

Clockwork Watch Omnibus Edition (£16-99) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jennie Gyllblad.

The future holds no guarantees; the past does not have all the answers.

Unless you dig deep enough.

Slain at the altar of intolerance.
This is England.

Indeed it is. That’s quite the arresting first page: cog-enhanced speech balloons over black and white tiles, increasingly splattered with blood. The question is: whose?

I’ve known Yomi Aveni for over three years now – we greet each other annually at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival – and he is many things: gregarious, engaging, always grinning, always laughing; witty, generous, persistent, ever so dapper and devilishly handsome. One of the things Yomi isn’t is obvious. Ayeni and Brotherson have honed that first page’s script so spectacularly well, for its precision plays with our preconceptions of victimhood and Victorian England at the height of its empire. Its words will continue to resonate throughout these three chapters.

Anyway, Steampunk ahoy!

I promise you plenty of socio-politics, costumes to cosplay, and delicate, even dainty watercolours whose initial, decorous beauty will give way to bludgeoning violence. I’ve seen plenty of split lips and livid purple bruises in my time, but few artists I’ve encountered can recreate the wateriness of a punch-induced eye-haemorrhage like Jennie Gyllblad.

Outside of the automaton Clockworks themselves, there are relatively few fanciful, fantastical genre diversions in her art – the hairpins, perhaps, hats, and the spectacles – which instead replicates in elaborate detail Victorian upper-class finery with its global maps proudly proclaiming empire, framed portraits, stuffed animals, entomological glass cases, luxurious drapes and Indian robes, along with those hideous zoological elephant cages etc with their thick iron bars, and Crystal Palace itself.

Ah yes, Indian robes…

Scientific and global discovery were symbiotic beasts during the British Empire’s expansion, so steampunk is a perfectly natural indeed logical genre. Here, circa 1900, an extortionately expensive foreign war has both decimated the population and driven the lower classes further into poverty. With additional power shortages in an already inefficient industry, Her Majesty’s government in its wisdom has charged scientists with developing clockwork labour. I say “in its wisdom” but we all know the effect of automation on employment. See working classes / poverty.

Amongst the leading lights of the Empire’s scientific community is wealthy kinetic scientist Chan Rabir who arrives from India with his wife Tinku and eight-year-old son Janav in tow to an enthusiastic reception. Driven through London, they are housed in luxury.

Along with an old acquaintance Lord Frobisher Pilbeam, Chan Rabir is on the cusp of unveiling a self-sustaining, mechanical humanoid prototype powered by its own movement – which won’t be a problem since it’s created to be a servant working without break and so perpetually in motion.

It is young Janav who is to launch this invention with a tool given to him as a gift from Lord and Lady Frobisher Pilbeam as part of an ornate toolbox, and then christen the Clockwork himself.

Janav christens it Ashwin after his best friend in India, and he does so delightedly. I cannot tell you how many levels of irony will unfold in the two decades that follow, all of them entirely unexpectedly.

Vitally, Brotherson and Ayeni have presented the family’s arrival in England from Janav’s point of view. To an eight-year-old such a transition is thrilling in its novelty and daunting in its unfamiliarity, and then, of course, there are those left behind. Gyllblad, meanwhile, is at pains to portray how small, tentative and frightened he is (that fear is infectious) initially both by the idea of a mechanical man and of his father who is stern, impatient, aloof and abrupt. His mother is gentler but firm, proud of her son but worried. And she should be.

Because there is something they haven’t told Janav. Not only has he lost his best friend and home country, but now he is going to lose the sanctuary and comfort of his mother as well: they’re sending him away to boarding school.

Twenty years later, and that may have been a mistake.

Now, for fear of spoilers, I can tell you little more about the family dynamics, but everything I’ve touched on comes into play because everything our creators have laid down early on proves pivotal. Nothing here is extraneous. The very first page of chapter two, for example, echoes that of the first specifically, deliciously, horrifically, with the implied violence ramped up even further.

One of the things about science is that its developments tend to accelerate dramatically. Compare the last century to the nineteen that preceded it; the last two millennia to the eighteen that preceded them. So what do you think might have happened to the Clockworks during the last two decades? To the society they serve…? To those who created them? To those who bought them? To the boy who was intended to follow in his father’s footsteps as per patrilineal tradition?

You’ll have to read this to find out.

I’ve two pages of notes joined by multiple, criss-crossing arrows which ably demonstrate how intricately every element of this has been ably assembled and interlinked, but I simply cannot use them responsibly.

However, the cog-enhanced speech balloons which Gyllblad designed for the Clockworks – already denoting a certain whirring, clicking accompaniment to whatever’s exclaimed – comes into its own twenty years later when otherwise you’d be hard-pressed to discern who was human. It’s something which Ayeni and Brotherson employ so deviously that you’re going to be re-reading conversations with big grins on your faces after you’ve subconsciously attributed non-existent cogs or missed them completely.

Right, what else have we got? Between chapters we are treated to pages and pages of process from Jennie, project updates from Yomi, astute considerations on adaptation from Corey, and a wealth of faux advertisements and newspaper headlines / letters to the editor etc. The advertising slogans are punchy and playful; the posters are lettered to perfection; while the London Gazette boasts the tag line “Splendid Isolation – Since 1802”.

Now that is attention to detail!


Buy Clockwork Watch Omnibus Edition and read the Page 45 review here

The Practical Implications Of Immortality (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley.

Fourteen full-colour, smile-inducing short stories including ‘Colin Turnbull – A Tall Story’ which won Dooley the Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2016.

It’s predicated on the notion that height might be of innate value in bringing your best to each daily doorstop delivery, and that winning the award for Lancashire’s Tallest Milkman could be the greatest honour imaginable. ”Imaginable” is the key word there. Also, that one could actually prep for such a contest!

Otherwise, there’s much of the Tom Gauld in evidence here, both in tone (deadpan) and format (outside of the six- and nine-panel grids).

‘Eight Potential Existing Threats For You To Consider’ will certainly put your next deadline into context while, opposite, ‘Eight Methods For Distracting Yourself From Possible Existential Catastrophes’ doesn’t include meeting or beating any such deadline, mentally dealing with any such existential threats nor taking counter-action.

The possibility of civil breakdown is reprised later on. This is evidently the threat which Dooley deems darkest but he’s in silver-lining mode, for there are upsides to everything if you inspect enough angles: “affordable London property”, “new management opportunities” and “the easing of health and safety regulation”. The genius of that strip is its double-flip: first the absurd optimism of the posited silver linings, then the illustrations which accompany each, none darker than “the forging of close community spirit’.

‘Uniforms 1988-2015’ begins at school and if you‘re lucky that will be both your “first great inconvenience” and your last. However, should you find “gainful” employment at some more corporate institutions, you’re going to have to endure some howlingly horrible and humiliating ensembles and here some big brands take a bashing for their questionable customer service. This is all beautifully set up for a brilliantly oblique punchline coming right out of leftfield and knocking the ball out of Parliament Square.

Dooley’s punchlines are all far from obvious. In one instance – the final one – it comes two panels earlier than you’d expect, demonstrating remarkable judgement in perfect keeping with what indeed are ‘The Practical Implications Of Immortality’. On another occasion the whole tradition of the message in a bottle is reversed – in that they’re normally sent out by those craving company rather than received by those seeking solace – before being totally trounced in the final tier / tear.


Other strips explore the gravity of a good night’s sleep, the tyranny of the bathroom scales (and the lengths some go to minimise their measurement), and a jeering birds-eye view of St Helena’s most famous former resident, standing on the shore and looking out to sea as if he were getting away from it all – “it all” being what was some not inconsiderable hustle and bustle.

As well as Tom Gauld, there’s more than a little Chris Ware going on in the crispness of lines, some of the colour palettes, the sombre restraint and supposed reflection, plus the wider cartooning particularly when Matthew himself appears. It’s an especially successful self-caricature, immediately identifiable as Dooley while accentuating the ginger beard for all its worth, beneath which his mouth completely disappears.

There are several tales I’ve not even touched on, but we’ll finish with ‘A Series Of Things That I Spent My Childhood Thinking About That Have Barely Featured In My Adult Life’ purely because it is surprisingly spot-on – it’s a big Yes from me to all of them – and so that, between reading this review and picking up your own copy of the comic, you can anticipate the experience by making your own list of nine and then see if they match Matthew’s or – if they don’t – whether Matthew’s list reflects your childhood experience more accurately than your own recollection of it!


Buy The Practical Implications Of Immortality and read the Page 45 review here

The Dying & The Dead vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim…

“I’m sorry, Colonel. There is nothing we can do.
“We can try to make her comfortable…
“Manage her pain…
“But she’s beyond our abilities now.
“Clair was a wonderful woman… but it’s time to start thinking about letting go.”

One of those five lines will turn out to be the whole crux of a conundrum presented to Colonel James Canning by a mysterious individual known as The Courier. For whilst it may be beyond the abilities of mortal doctors to cure his wife of her terminal cancer, there are… others… who have that power: the power over life and death itself. Furthermore, Colonel Canning is one of a very few mortals who are even aware of these others, having previously encountered them in circumstances which I suspect may well in time become clearer.

Time… yes, that is also something which seems in flux for some of the participants in this first volume. For there is a mysterious, hidden underground paradise of extraordinary architectural beauty called The City whose Second (that is her title or rank) is tasked with guiding Colonel Canning from the surface to his meeting with The Bishop, the leader of these others. The Second seems completely unaware of Colonel Canning. Having been The Second since 1948, this puzzles her greatly, as do the Colonel’s comments regarding a great fire in The City because it’s an event of which she has no memory at all…

The Bishop on the other hand, well, he seemingly knows much, possibly all there is to know, and during his conversation with the Colonel many deep, philosophical matters are touched upon, such as the fact that there is a tree of life in The City. Not the Tree of Life, note, but “a”, which in turn suggests much. And that his kind bestowed religion of all shades upon humanity. Now, you might wonder why such beings, and I have my own personal theory about precisely what they are at this point, would wish to even deign to converse with a human. It turns out they need a proxy, to whom they are prepared to make a mutually beneficial proposal. If James Canning is prepared to undertake a task in our world for them, they will restore his wife to perfect health.

The task? Well, the impressive opening sequence – involving an amphibious assault on a wedding party on a Greek island by what appears to be a covert terrorist organisation, consisting entirely of an army of clones called The Children, all of just one male and one female, headed by an older dictatorial figure wearing a uniform with a modified infinity symbol, purely for the purposes of stealing an artefact called the Bah al’Sharur – is another huge tease in and of itself. All the Colonel has to do is recover the artefact. Now why I do suspect it isn’t going to be that easy…?

What an opener! This is Hickman at his fluid, mesmerising best here, constructing an intricate puzzle to intrigue us, scattering some enticing pieces on the table to pique our curiosity, and then the game begins in earnest. It is considerably less dense, though no less mysterious, than his utterly intriguing BLACK MONDAY MURDERS. Fans of his speculative fiction joint EAST OF WEST will certainly lap it up, and also those who enjoyed SECRET, the previous espionage-flavoured project which he also undertook with artist Ryan Bodenheim. He does like his detail, Mr. Bodenheim, and I can see elements of Geof Darrow and Simone Bianchi in there. The sequences as the Colonel descends deeper into The City are particularly spectacular.

Also, as with SECRET, there is a colour palette of merely one additional colour per panel used by colourist Michael Garland, in a maximum of two tones, which is very striking and really adds emphasis to the art itself. The only exception I can see to this ‘rule’ is the cover, which actually was my least favourite bit of art in the whole volume by some distance. Seems somewhat churlish though, to have such a minor quibble over something so close to perfection!


Buy The Dying & The Dead vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Descender vol 4: Orbital Mechanics (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen.

I’ve just figured it all out: the connection between tiny Tim-21 and the planetary-sized Harvesters.

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about Tim-21’s codex, his electronic DNA found in the human-hating Harvesters. To be more precise: the organic-hating Harvesters.

Which is impossible, obviously: for a start the Harvesters devastation of the Nine Worlds occurred when Tim-21 was but a stripling in human terms: but a few years off the assembly line. How could it reside in these vast Celestials of carnage? Also, Tim-21 adores humans. He was created to be a family companion, an android brother, child or grandchild.

What am I talking about now?

Please see all three substantial, spoiler-free reviews of DESCENDER. I know I repeat this too often to endure, but even a third book is reviewed at Page 45 without spoilers for the first because we want new people on board. A fourth is more difficult.

DESCENDER is phenomenal, space-born science-fiction which plays about with story structure so satisfyingly and successfully (see DESCENDER VOL 3) and does so again in the first chapter here, with three contemporaneously occurring fight and / or flight scenes each allocated a single-panelled tier per page so that you can read two at a time across a double page if you fancy, or just the one. There’s a slight glitch when they switch, but it’s still pretty thrilling stuff, with a huge, horizontally enhanced sense of trajectory, even for the couple who aren’t even running but lying flat on their post-coital backs.

As to the pencil, ink, and watercolour-wash art, it’s been lambent from the start but have you noticed that, as time moves on, everyone on active duty is growing increasingly ragged? Frayed at the edges, or buggered up completely inside.

You’re going to love the assembled space fleet here. It’s “An armada to vada!” as they say in Polari.

Is it a big nod to Babylon 5…? I believe so!

So here’s a not-unrelated question for you: whatever happened to Tim-22?

Others may wish they’d asked the same question.


Buy Descender vol 4: Orbital Mechanics and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars Doctor Aphra vol 1: Aphra s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Kev Walker…

“Oh, yes. She’s alive. I do indeed owe you money. No need to gloat, Beetee.
“Master Aphra! I take it by your continued breathing you managed to avoid being backstabbed by the ruffian, Ulbik Tan?”
“Oh, no. He backstabbed me and left me for dead. But I wasn’t!
“Then I backstabbed him and left him for dead. But he is!
“And I picked up a souvenir!”
“Oh, excellent, Master, that is a beautiful piece…”
“It feels strange to be actually dealing in artefacts again, this is an object of genuine cultural importance. Stealing… I mean, recovering something that can’t be used to kill people is kinda novel.”
“Quite, Beetee, we have to disagree, Master Aphra. It’d suffice as a fairly sturdy bludgeon.”

My favourite non-film Star Wars characters return for their own run, once again under the peril-filled pen of Grand Moff Gillen, following their calamitously chaotic appearances in his run on DARTH VADER! The not-so-good Doctor may take the title billing – and she is indeed top extermination entertainment value, best observed from a safe distance, of course – but it’s the hilariously homicidal and decidedly deadly duo of BeeTee-One and Triple-Zero, constantly chipping in with their snide asides, which make this title such a delirious daft delight. Throw in the utterly lunatic bounty hunter Wookie Black Krrsantan, riding shotgun until Aphra repays her enormous debts to him (debts which aren’t going to ever get paid if he just rips her limbs off however satisfying that would be)… and, well, it’s not going to be a boring read, is it?

We start with a bit of back story in this first volume, of precisely how a gifted archaeology student could turn into such an unhinged freebooter, and it seems her dad has rather a lot to answer for. Still, given she’s then forced to team up with him to investigate the long lost palace of the Ordu Aspectu, a fabled Jedi splinter sect that was pursuing immortality, they’re probably going to have chance to work through those pesky family issues! This is a great fun intro / catch-up to all the cast, and neatly sets up the forthcoming Screaming Citadel crossover (that didn’t take long, did it?) with the main STAR WARS title.

I enjoyed Kev Walker’s art too, I must say. I’ve always liked his style since his work on various 2000AD characters like Rogue Trooper, A.B.C. Warriors, even Judge Dredd himself, back in the very early nineties, plus some of the bits and pieces he’s done for Marvel more recently. He was also the artist on Chalie Higson’s rip-snorting young James Bond adventure SILVERFIN. I’m slightly surprised at him getting the nod for this given Marvel seem to have gone for uber-clean pencillers stylistically on everything Star Wars-related so far. Hopefully he gets to stay on this title, as I note he didn’t do the two Aphra issues in the crossover mentioned above.


Buy Star Wars Doctor Aphra vol 1: Aphra s/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Edition / Old Review

Hilda And The Black Hound (vol 4) s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

“How does an armchair fall down the back of a sofa anyway?”

Good point, well made, and in the strangest of circumstances.

Did you ever wonder what happened to those odd socks, hats, scarves, the sixth issue of your favourite comic and that 5lb slab of milk chocolate you can’t find?

Err, I can explain the milk chocolate and I’m ever so sorry.

But the rest didn’t get lost in the wash, you know. You don’t even put comics in the wash, do you? Do you…?! No, there is a far more thrilling explanation which lies in those hidden corners of your house which you won’t find revealed in the average home survey!

Now what, do you think, does all this have to do with the gigantic, black, wolf-like creature, nearly two storeys high, which has been seen lurking at night in the heart of the city of Trolberg? Even Hilda’s mother has spotted it out of the corner of her eye and the papers are calling it “The Black Beast Of Trolberg”!

It could make Hilda’s first weekend camp with the Sparrow Scouts ever so slightly trepidatious.

Welcome back to the fourth British Comics Awards-winning HILDA mystery (fifth now out in hardcover!) in which you will discover that the countryside doesn’t hold the monopoly on fanciful creatures and geographical wonders. There are House Spirits called Nisses hidden in your home. Yes, yours! They have big bulbous noses and they’re so very hairy that you can’t even see their eyes. They’re solitary creatures and highly territorial, which is why you’ve probably not met one before. You will, though, you will…

Hilda and her mother are slowly adjusting to life in the city, but Hilda still yearns for camping under canvas. When her mother is nearly slapped in the face by a wind-tossed leaflet advertising the Sparrow Scouts’ next meeting she recalls how much fun she had erecting tents, building bonfires and earning more badges than anyone else in her flock! Hilda is dutifully enrolled with its Raven Leader in time for a six-week course preparing for their weekend camping expedition, learning to secure shelters, tie herself in knots, read maps and rescue a family of inch-tall elves from the bundle of kindling they had reasonably presumed to be some sort of tepee. They’d moved their entire lounge in.

Hilda is determined to impress her mother and win as many trophies as possible, but her Camping Badge comes under threat when she discovers in the woods a Nisse who’d been summarily evicted from his house for trashing it. He claims that he hadn’t, but once banished he cannot return. Later that night she sneaks out with provisions but instead of finding the House Spirit, she is faced with a giant black shadow with huge white eyes glowing in the dark!

All of these things are connected, as well as the sudden growth in homeless House Spirits. With so much for our insatiably inquisitive Hilda to investigate with her white-furred, antlered pet Twig it will be a wonder if she earns any badges at all!

With Flying Eye Books you can guarantee top-quality production values, lavished here on art which deserves all the pampering it receives. The beast is a black beauty, while dappled pet Twig is one of the cutest creatures ever drawn. More than once he is tossed from his basket by the frantic goings-on in comedic panels worthy of Charles Schultz.

It’s an odd thing to pick out, but I also adore the way that coloured hair falls over one of Hilda’s eyes – and her mother’s – yet you can see the rest of its outline underneath. Even a trip to the grocery store is a visual feast, with such exciting jars, bottles and paper packets lining the shelves that you wonder what on earth’s in them and can’t help but speculate how tasty they’d be.

There’s a great deal of nose-to-nose contact, a sneaky guest-appearance by Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson himself in a typically domestic SOPPY tableau, and an action-packed, runaway, distance-hopping finale that will have you on the edge of your car seat.

There are many things which drive the HILDA series, among them these three: the magic of the art, the curiosity of a cat, and Hilda’s overriding instinct to help, even when she’s advised against it or the odds are all stacked against her. Not everything goes to plan, and there are quietly affecting moments of silent contemplation staring out of windows, but then in the morning resolve is renewed and Hilda will try once again!

As a parent I would be proud of that sort of determined compassion in any of my children, and I beam to see it portrayed in the pluckiest of young people here.


Buy Hilda And The Black Hound (vol 4) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Edition / Radically Re-Written Review!

Pugs Of The Frozen North s/c (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

“The Kraken? You don’t believe in that old story, do you? It’s just a legend of the sea, like the Bermuda Triangle, or the Night of the Seawigs.”

Idiot indeed!

Young Sika knows that the Night Of The Seawigs is real because she’s almost certainly read this same creative team’s award-winning OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, an honest-to-goodness David-Attenborough-style natural history documentary on the migratory lives of the Rambling Isles and the Night Of The Seawigs itself. You couldn’t make it up – although they have.

Effortlessly inventive, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS had a lovely lilt to its language fully integrated into sweeping landscapes of sneaky Sea Monkeys, sarcastic seaweed and semi-sentient islands with a penchant for beautifying their barnets with shipwrecks and submarines then entering annual competitions to see who brings the best bling.

The competition is equally fierce in PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, and the imagination brought to bear on the book is no less thrilling. For if you thought that the Arctic was a vast expanse of featureless flat ice, oh no! This is a True Winter in which waves flash-freeze in a second and La McIntyre has created the most luminous icescapes out of giant, white, jagged and crystalline shards juxtaposed against backdrops of majestic, sweeping curves and aquamarines which manage to be both warm and sub-zero at once.

It’s like the most modern, and really rather chilly outdoor cathedral!

Likewise, I swear you have seen nothing like this particular Icicle Palace which lies at the heart of this adventure and competition, but I’m not about to spoil that surprise. If you’re imagining traditionally pointed spires and castellated walls (or really walls or any sort at all), then you are going to be out-invented. This is the land of the Northern Lights, remember, so light plays a significant part in its aspect. And in any case, truly magical monuments don’t conform to mundane laws of physics.

We’ll encounter the Yetis later on (as will Shen and Sika!) but McIntyre’s monsters are always amazing, and when her Kraken awakes chaos is unleashed. Its eyes glare up from beneath the frigid depths as tentacles thrash across the page, tossing the yip-yapping sixty-six pugs this way and that as they gamely chomp down on its octopoid extremities!

I think I need to pull back. And probably breathe.

Cabin-boy Shen is abandoned in the Arctic by his captain when his ship, Lucky Star, proves unequal to its name by becoming frozen in the North. He’s left stranded on the ice with its cargo of sixty-six pugs and a package of pullovers whose sleeves Shen snips off to slip over the excitable pooches like body muffs.

Without food or shelter their prospects look ever so bleak, but somehow they make it to the ‘Po Of ice’ outpost whose sign is missing an ‘s’ next to a ‘t’ then an ‘f’ later on. It is a very convenient store, just like all our own used to be.

There he finds Sika living with her Mum and her ancient Grandpa who once knew a True Winter just like this. They only come round once in a lifetime but, when they do, they catalyse a now-legendary, frantic race to the North Pole where materialises a magical Icicle Palace with its kindly Snowfather who grants the winning contestant their heart’s desire.

Sika’s grandfather took part in the last one and he came back with a treasure trove of stories (aren’t stories cool?!), but unfortunately he didn’t come first. The only thing he’s fit enough to ride in this day and his age is a bed, so now it’s up to Sika and Shen, her grandfather’s whalebone sledge, and their sixty-six yip-yipping pugs.

If Sika wins, she would wish her Grandpa another lifetime. Shen’s not sure what he wants because he’s never had anything to call his own – not even a family. He was discovered, lost at sea, in an upturned umbrella. It could only have been worse had it been a handbag, buoyancy-factor zero.

So what of their competition?

Helga Hammerfest has two pet polar bears, Snowdrop and Slushpuppy: that’s some serious, indigenous pulling power for you! Helga’s grown a beard just to keep warm and that’s seems admirably practical to me. Fetching too, I think. Our tongue-poking pugs will be ever so grateful now and then. Awwww!

You’ve already met Professor Shackleton Jones in the opening quotation, whose faithful assistant and robot SNOBOT are pulled along in his slick, sleek, scientifically sourced sledge by a crew of equally inorganic Woof-O-Tron 2000s. Then there’s Mitzi Von Primm with her pack of four pink-dyed poodles who reminded me of Penelope Pitstop. Those poor poodles are so embarrassed!

There are many more besides, but the Arctic is a land so freezing that if you twirl your Machiavellian moustache it’s likely to snap off in your fingers. That’s precisely what happens to wicked Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling, so determined to win this Wackiest of Races that he comes off like Dick Dastardly. How low will he go? So low!

Reeve as ever brings his natural, lateral thinking to bear for it’s not just Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling’s moustache that feels the polar pinch:

“The night grew so cold that pieces of the Northern Lights froze and fell out of the sky. They lay strewn about on the ice, glowing gently.”

Of course they did! And you know how it’s said that Inuits have 52 different words for snow and ice? (They don’t.) Here Sika and Shen discover 50 different sorts of snow!

“They crossed patches of blindsnow and patches of echosnow. They plunged through warbling drifts of songsnow and screaming mounds of screechsnow. They crossed a broad, rolling plain of slumbersnow, which snored and mumbled and farted like someone asleep under a huge white eiderdown.”

Brilliant! Why not make your own snow up? I vote for nosnow which is a little more conceptual and certainly warmer or, if a consonant is swapped out, instead of turning up for work on time I lie cosily at home in bed.

There will also be werensnow, stinksnow and THERE WILL BE YETIS!

Yetis play a big, big, big, big part in this book! I don’t want to give too much away but once again McIntyre excels herself by ensuring that each Yeti is an individual with different hair styles, braided beards, headgear and waistcoats. There may be a good reason why!

Reeve’s even written them a song for you to sing along to, and I’ve already composed my own tune and rhythm. This is a book that demands to be read aloud at night to children, for there are so many different voices to do!

Oh, but this has a big heart of gold and a finale that’s far from obvious which draws on much that has been so subtly introduced along the way.

I leave you with this truth, so infer what you will.

“All old things die in the end, but not stories. Stories go on and on, and new ones are always being born.”


Buy Pugs Of The Frozen North 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 information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

A.D. After Death h/c (£22-99, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire

Combed Clap Of Thunder (£5-00, Retrofit) by Zach Hazard Vaupen

Deserter’s Masquerade (£16-99, Knockabout) by Chloe Cruchaudet

Ghosts, Etc. (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by George Wylesol

Goatherded (£7-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Charlo Frade

Nnewts Book 3: Battle For Amphibopolis (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

Ralphie & Jeanie (£10-00, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster Pizzo

Shit And Piss (£8-00, Retrofit) by Tyler Landry

Siegfried III: Twilight Of The Gods h/c (£31-99, Archaia) by Alex Alice

Something City (£10-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Elice Weaver

StarDrop vol 3: Home In Time (£8-99, I Box) by Mark Oakley

Steam Clean (£8-00, Retrofit) by Laura Kenins

Adventure Time: Ooorient Express s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Zachary Sterling

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Four (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye vol 1: Going  Underground s/c (£14-99, Young Animal) by Gerard Way & Michael Avon Oeming

Dark Night: A True Batman Story s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso

Warhammer 40,000 vol 1: Will Of Iron s/c (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann & Tazio Bettin

Flash vol 9: Full Stop s/c (£14-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & various

Superman Action Comics vol 3: Men Of Steel s/c (£14-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Patch Zircher, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur vol 3: The Smartest There Is s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brandon Montclaire, Amy Reeder & Natacha Bustos, Ray-Anthony Height

Ultimates2 vol 1: Troubleshooters s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Travel Foreman

Furari h/c (£18-99, Fanfare / Potent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

Tokyo Ghoul vol 13 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

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