Archive for July, 2017

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2017 week four

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Featuring Jiro Taniguchi, Andi Watson, Aleš Kot, André Lima Araύjo, Jason Latour, Chris Brunner, Rico Renzi, Spencer Woodcock & Denny Derbyshire, plus Jason Aaron & R. M. Guéra in a brand-new Scalped review.

Loose Ends (£14-99, Image) by Jason Latour & Chris Brunner with Rico Renzi.

Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi have got a whole lot of Kyle Baker going on in their exceptionally expressive forms and neon-bright, Miami night colours. There’s a huge weight to the heads and hips as Sonny and Cheri cruise the throbbing boulevards, getting shit-faced and grin-faced after an absolutely wasted night in a hotel room and obliterated afternoon in a bar by South Beach.

Sonny is perpetually wasted throughout, in the past and present, even when handling explosives in a can on the can.

It’s the sort of cartooning where thoughts fly round your head in the form of flags, butterflies, bees, burgers and broken hearts and an anthropomorphic pink bunny rabbit might bug you from behind your bleary, red-eyed, booze-bruised head as cops patrol disconcertingly close by. Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker!

Baker’s even there in bomb-blasted Baghdad and the brutal raid by law-ignoring police-thief Robbin’ Hood on a gangland crib many moons ago. The ghetto blaster’s banging so loud that it’s bouncing on the table-top as it’s rocking up the room. They’re not going to hear the murderous prick coming, especially after they’ve silenced Spidey, the look-out perched on the head-high fence reading a Spidey comic in his Spidey tee. Loved that!

There’s one hell of a lot of noise achieved not by lettering but by line and colours just as Paul Peart-Smith did so masterfully at the Notting Hill Carnival in NELSON. As well as the sound there’s the smell under the armpits and the sensation of smarting knees.

It’s straight-up cartooning excellence (Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker!), Latour leaving Brunner and Renzi to deliver so much of what counts in the form of implication rather than explication, though as a reviewer I do love a comic that kicks off with the main protagonist announcing his name as you’d have to after receiving a call on a public phone booth. Makes my life much easier, cheers!

Right from the get-go it’s for you to infer what you will from the map, the midday sun and its setting, or Sonny’s mobile home decor (rifle, bong, gas mask!).

Apparently this was written a decade or so by the artist on SOUTHERN BASTARDS and co-writer of BLACK CLOUD, but it’s exceedingly tight in construction. You watch where that gasoline can goes carefully, along with its cell-phone trigger.

Sonny and Reggie met in the army in Afghanistan and Iraq. There they discovered both the lucrative allure of opium and the unpredictable aspect of car boot bombs.

Now Reggie has persuaded a reluctant Sonny to run another cross-country errand but before then Sonny’s stopping off to see old flame Tina who’s now working as a waitress at The Hideaway. So how does he end up with Cheri? It’s a figurative car crash.

Reggie, meanwhile, is having a more literal collision, first with a telephone pole then with two cops, one of whom was once partnered with Robbin’ Hood. His new partner’s not one for the letter of the law, either – nor indeed its sentence, sub-section or full-blown statute. They want Sonny or, more accurately, they want Sonny to lead them further up the drug-running chain which leads everyone to Miami and vice.

Frantic climax as fortunes flash backwards and forwards in various factions’ favours, and a particularly neat piece of choreography in a leap over a second-storey external hotel walkway.


Buy Loose Ends and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped Book 1 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guéra.

“And yet, here we are, still forgotten, still a third world nation in the heart of America.”

Crime and grime on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation, South Dakota, “where the great Sioux Nation came to die”.

Gone is the majesty, the beauty, the health, the wealth and the freedom to roam.

They’ve been replaced by grinding poverty enforced by unyielding societal shackles, dilapidated housing patched up with corrugated iron, refuse-strewn streets, gutted car wrecks abandoned on pock-marked asphalt and a burned-out people deprived of any opportunity but to drink themselves to death.

“From us Lakota they took the Black Hills, our sacred Paha Sapa, and the billion dollars in gold that was buried there. They took the herds of buffalo and the prairie where they roamed. They took the pride and the dignity of a once great nation, giving nothing but misery in return.”

The Lakota have been left with nothing except 80% unemployment, the highest alcoholic rate in the country and a life-expectancy fifteen years below the national average. The suicide rate’s through the roof. Take White Haven, Nebraska, where the locals pick up their processed cheese with food stamps:

“Population – 28. Average annual beer sales – 4 million cans.”

Young Dino’s family is a perfect example: amongst the eight living together is a brother enduring the after-effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, an uncle who’s a diabetic amputee, while his sister Krystal has upgraded from crystal to crack. And she’s pregnant.

Oh, and Dino has a daughter. Dino dreams of leaving and never coming back, but his dreams are so far beyond reality so it’s time to get a job as a janitor in the casino.

Oh yes, there’s a new casino in town, which is exactly this community needs. Partially paid for by misappropriated federal funds and a hell of a lot of ill-gotten gains, it “belongs” to tribal leader Lincoln Red Crow. As does almost everything and everyone else.

“Most powerful crime figure in three counties. Traffics in methamphetamine, illegal arms and prostitution. Runs his own private army of murderous thugs. And generally rules over this reservation like a medieval warlord.”

Or, as Lincoln Red Crow would put it:

“You’re looking at the President of the Oglala Tribal Council… as well as the Sheriff of the Tribal Police Force, Chairman of the Prairie Rose Planning Committee, Treasurer of the Highway Safety Program… and managing director of this here brand spankin’ new casino.”

Essentially, he doesn’t have much trouble with the law anymore. He is the law, locally at least.


Agent Nitz of the FBI has other ideas, and it’s personal. For over thirty years he’s held a grudge following the murder of two fellow agents by radical Native American Rights activists amongst whose members were Red Crow and Gina Bad Horse, once close but now obviously very much at odds. For years Nitz has been unable to pin down who pulled the trigger and make them pay, but recently he’s found a way in: Gina’s son Dashiell.

Unlike Dino, Dashiell did escape the Reservation when his mother sent him away in his early teens. He’s been gone fifteen years during which he toughened up quite considerably. Resenting all the time she took protesting, he too swore that he would never come back but now – much to Gina’s astonishment – he’s back and – much to her horror – he’s working for Red Crow, ostensibly as a cop but more of a hired thug. One of his very first actions is to bust his mother over the boot of his police car.

Oh yes, Dash has fitted right back in, with much of the muscle he’ll need to survive.

And that’s exactly what he was sent back to do: fit in.

He’s working undercover for the FBI. He is FBI. It’s Dash’s job to find blood on Crow’s hands, even if the blood in question is Dash’s. For what no one has thought to tell Dashiell is that he isn’t the only Agent in town. It’s going to get brutal.

Now, the reason I’ve placed so much emphasis on the abject misery and decay is that it is essential to what transpires. It’s not just the setting, it’s the cage which forms the confines of whatever actions or reactions are open to its many protagonists. There is a poverty of opportunity for almost everyone here and Jason Aaron is not about to belittle the reality – for it is a cold, stark reality for Native Americans and First Nations Canadians who aren’t feeling too bright right now about their colonisers’ anniversary celebrations and wouldn’t necessarily be best pleased with my even referring to them as Canadians.

Dino Poor Bear’s story is particularly poignant and – after being given a break by Dashiell in not busting him when Dino was so blatantly running supplies for the meth manufacturers – I felt a twinge when he later reaches out to Dashiell as a possible guiding father figure or big brother substitute only to be ignored… until I remembered that Dash is as damaged and so as dangerous as everyone else. Here’s Agent Nitz:

“This punk is not just arrogant…
“He’s reckless, stubborn and completely out of control.
“A borderline sociopath driven by deep-seated anger, and maybe an unconscious death wish to boot.
“He’s a violent meltdown just waiting to happen. A definite danger to everyone around him.
“In other words…
“He’s fucking perfect.”

No one here is on the side of the gods except perhaps Catcher of the deep green sunglasses who has squandered his native visionary gift and international Oxford education (which could have made him the upstanding leader the community so desperately needed) in favour of the white man’s gift of alcohol-induced oblivion (of which he is all too aware)… Granny Poor Bear who feels her prowess waning in spite of the enormous, potent animal spirit which Catcher sees rearing up behind her… and Gina Bad Horse. But even Gina is guilty of maternal negligence as well as… well, you’ll see.

On her way to make amends for the latter Gina spends an entire day trying to make amends for the former by persistently attempting to contact her son, but he’s one dismissive step ahead of her and the only interaction they’ll have in this first instalment is over the boot of that car.

By the same grey token, however, what Aaron goes to great pains here and throughout is to emphasise that although there are some major malfunctions of humanity in the form of Diesel and Red Crow, neither are monsters without some considerable making.

Lincoln, for example, was raised in a residential school run by white Christian priests, reduced to a number rather than a name and then regularly flagellated in order to induce him to pray:

“We must kill the Indian inside you in order to save the man!”

The sins of the fathers…

It’s Red Crow rather than Dashiell who will reach out to Dino in a most unexpected manner at a most unexpected moment, but with the most predictable and entirely understandable results. It may make you weep. One of the volumes that follows actually did make me weep, physically.

Structurally the second half of this book is exceptional. Those six chapters revolve around the intense, bloody launch-night of the casino. Each is devoted to an individual protagonist and some of the key events in their past which inform their present, as well as their future trajectories. Along the way their own, differing perspectives on those key hours is limited by their experience of them: what they see, who they overhear talking to whom, and who they get hit by. As events go out of eye-shot or move out of ear-shot, then we are left waiting for the next witness who might have seen more. This places you firmly in each individual’s shoes while you walk in them which is vital for your emotional investment both now and during the horrors to come. But, of course, as a reader you are privy to them all and as the dots join up in the order which Aaron has controlled to precision, you are left not only with so many secrets which no one else knows, but a burning desire to learn precisely which single, blisteringly time-sensitive question Catcher wants answered by Red Crow.

I’m ashamed that it’s taken me this long to talk about R. M. Guéra.

For if this is a cage of confinement, you couldn’t feel the bars without them being smelted behind you, cooled down while you wait then set in their stone or concrete.

To comprehend their physical constrictions and choice-based restrictions you have to be able to see them with your own eyes or else those taut tensions are lost.

As I wrote previously, the environment here is all.

The Prairie Rose Reservation is far from pretty. It’s wretched, worn out and its walls as well as its doors are all too boot-brittle thin. As a township it is insular. It is surrounded by countryside – so much countryside! – yet therein too lies its awful isolation from any judicial force which might give a  good goddamn.

Guéra draws this all this alluring nature in the form of owls, stags and bears and it is beautiful to behold. It’s just appallingly rare, so often dead and decaying, and crawling with maggots in Catcher’s drunken day-dreams or visions.

The art is both bold and fluid, well lit at night and dramatically exposed during the day.

Dino’s smooth face and open eyes are seen in stark contrast to Granny Poor Bear’s wisely narrowed slits between puffed and hooded bags, while her flabby jowls and wizened mouth speak volumes, if only anyone would listen.

The glint of light on Catcher’s green aviators under his wide-brimmed hat unexpectedly suggests mid-John Byrne as inked in different places by Klaus Jansen or Tom Palmer.

This new package contains the first two slimmer volumes with enhanced production values yielding much sharper lines and brighter colour while losing none of the original atmosphere.

If the opening few paragraphs of this review got your teeth grinding in anger at the injustice of it all, I highly recommend Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth’s INDEH: A STORY OF THE APACHE WARS to see the white man making his first inroads before making off with the lot.


Buy Scalped Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Get your greens! Root vegetables! Bamboo shoots from Meguro!”
“Very soon now.”
“Huh? Oh. The cherry blossom. Indeed. They say they’ve already started budding on Ueno mountain. They’ll be here before you know it. From where you’re standing the cherry blossoms look like a white cloud. It’s a real sight.”
“Wow. It must be. That’s something I’d like to see at least once.”

Me too. One day, perhaps.  Inō Tadataka (1745 – 1818) produced the first extensive accurate mapping of Japan using what we today would recognise as the modern techniques of surveying. Having retired early at 49 after very successfully expanding the family business of rice trading and sake-brewing, he then set about learning geography, astronomy and mathematics from a renowned Japanese astronomer.

After five years of intensive study, he then petitioned the Shogunate to be allowed to perform a survey of the entire country, using only his own money. His request was perhaps unsurprisingly promptly granted! So, for the next seventeen years until his death, that was practically all he did, producing maps that remained the definitive word on Japanese cartology for nigh on a century. Which sounds like a rather onerous, intensive, all-consuming task entirely devoid of fun. However, for Tadataka the daily rigours of surveying and precision map-making brought him immense joy and satisfaction.

Taniguchi doesn’t overtly state that Furari, which can be translated as ‘go with the flow’, is the story of Inō Tadataka, but it clearly is, set in the latter days of his period of study. However, much like THE WALKING MAN, this work isn’t really about the central character at all, but rather his world, being the diverse districts of Edo, seen through his eyes, and even the eyes of the animals such as birds with their very different perspectives, as he wanders the streets, counting paces, trying to achieve a consistent result and thus be certain of the distance travelled. We do learn a little of his home life, and his doting wife, who is rapidly beginning to realise that she is going to have to share their much longed for retirement with the third wheel of surveying. Or perhaps she’s the third wheel to Inō and his surveying. Still, she doesn’t seem to mind too much as long as he involves her and she’s quite the student herself.

Taniguchi brings the world of Edo so vividly to life, showing us every aspect of the bustling streets of ancient Tokyo, from the topography of the terrain itself and the various buildings sat on it, from hovel to grandiose, also neatly illustrating the ongoing transition from mediaeval to modern. We also get to meet its people, from hawking food vendors and hustling street corner tradesmen to even a beatific, wandering Haiku composer. The overall effect is to transport you to an entirely different, simpler, if no less busy, time. Allow yourself to meander those streets with Tadataka, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Let him worry about counting the steps, frequently forgetting to do so as some delightful everyday distraction captures his attention. It would happen to you too, I promise! Reading this might not be anywhere near as good for your physical health as actually getting out for a stroll yourself, but it’s not far off for the soul. A wonderful, virtual, walking meditation.

The art is exquisite, of course. I did wonder beforehand whether, this being a relatively early Taniguchi, I might be slightly disappointed, as I was in places with the art in THE TIMES OF BOTCHAN, his treatise on the revered Japanese author, Natsume Soseki. But whilst Taniguchi connoisseurs might be able to detect the odd difference between this and perfectly polished works such as QUEST FOR THE MISSING GIRL and A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, plus his final work for the Louvre collection before his death, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, such as slight over-rounding of the odd face, and not quite as much extensive background detail as his later works, no one will be remotely disappointed. It is just utterly captivating artwork from a true mangaka genius who is a true personal favourite of mine.

Plaudits to Fanfare and Ponent Mon for continuing to publish his work in English, hopefully there’s more to come.


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

Alice Isn’t Happy (£10-00) by Spencer Woodcock & Denny Derbyshire.

Nor would you be.

Approaching ninety-five, Alice lives a largely sedentary life in sheltered accommodation run by Eileen. Apparently they’re called managers now, not wardens. And it’s ever so sheltered. They don’t get out much.

Every so often Spencer pops by. My guess is that Spencer is in his mid-thirties at this point. He’s since moved to the Outer Hebrides by mistake. All it takes is one wrong turn at the traffic lights.

“Do you want your windows washed?”
“Oh, I suppose.”

Spencer is working for a support scheme for older people in NW5. I’m not sure if it’s exclusively for socialists, but Alice is very much a member – once of the Communist Party until the Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956. She wasn’t happy then, either.

“What she really wanted was someone to hold forth to about Blair and Brown… and how they were betraying the Labour movement and the working classes.
“I knew that, of course, and it was fine by me. Half our members didn’t give a monkeys if their windows got washed or their grass got cut. What they wanted was a little prison visit.
“A break in the routine.”

It’s May 2002, and if Alice isn’t very mobile now, she’ll be flat on her back and ever so frail by February 2003. The decline is swift and steep.

Did I mention that this is autobiographical?

Back in December 2001 she was nimble enough to make a dash for it from the sprawling Bluewater shopping centre during a group outing. It was the peak Christmas shopping period so the centre was swarming and locating a little old lady in a blue bobble hat wasn’t going to be easy.

“Another check. Security had not seen her. Alice was just gone. That vast pit of capitalist consumption has swallowed her old socialist soul whole.”

Or she’d done a total runner. There are so many lovely lines like that.

“By the time we arrived the other bunch had been engulfed. A few flecks of people plankton in a Bluewater sea.”

Each era comes with its own colour. I was going to type “season” because this covers little more than a year, but they do seem like eras: varying stages of health and mobility.

By the time of the trip to the Chilterns in September 2002 Alice is confined to a wheelchair – for the outing, at least – so is a great deal more manageable, if as difficult as ever. But I don’t think “stoical” is the right word to describe Spencer: I think it’s “committed”. It takes a great deal of effort to wring the right information out of the hospital on his several visits, just to locate her in what seems like Bedlam. Or, as Woodcock calls it, the “Hieronymus Ward”.

I’ll leave it to Denny Derbyshire to provide the giggles there – it’s a fantastic, fantastical tableaux – but they won’t last long, for her tour de force is a full page devoted to Alice’s ancient hand, each knuckle gnarled like a knotted tree branch, its bony back veined like a mountain range seen from the sky. The shading is subtle, the tips of her fingers just-so.

It’s an arresting moment, standing out from the rest of the art which is deeply unglamorous and appropriately bleak, except in its recollections of Soviet Russia and Alice’s gypsy lineage, and the view of the Chiltern Hills which prompt them.

There aren’t enough graphic novels about old age: A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES, CEREBUS: THE LAST DAY… The title CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT INSTEAD? sums the subject up, really.

“How are you doing, Alice?”
“Oh. Not too bad.”

Bedridden, drained, with a drip sticking into her skin: “Not too bad.”

“Her voice is weak and slightly tremulous.
“The venom is drained out of it.
“As if all the piss and vinegar has been sucked out through those tubes.
“She has to take a little rest before managing another sentence.”

It’s the most surprising sentence in the book.

“Thanks for coming to see me.”


Buy Alice Isn’t Happy and read the Page 45 review here

Generation Gone #1 (£4-25, Image) by Aleš Kot & André Lima Araύjo.

“Everything in the world is code…
“The human genome. The computers. Your phones. The traffic. The movements of the oceans, the movements between our neurones.
“Everything is code. Including our flesh.
“So how do we rewrite it?”

Well, my own computer codes are rewritten every so often by an update that’s unsolicited and unilaterally installed, shutting it down in the middle of a project while I’m making coffee, after some external force has grown bored of me pressing “postpone”. After which I have to re-learn how to use it again, which is a pisser.

It even happened to my cell phone last week, so when I needed to take an urgent, time-sensitive photo I was left flailing by a 3-minute camera tutorial instead. Familiar to you, much…?

I make a joke, but it’s far from inappropriate to the final few pages which are one hell of a wake-up call.

Ales Kot is a man of ideas. The writer / philosopher of  WOLF, ZERO and MATERIAL has given us much to ponder on in the past and I have every faith that he’s about to do so again.

Take the cover. At first glance the logo looks like a corporate brochure, doesn’t it? That’s not an accident.

At second glance the ensemble looks like something from CEREBUS in the late 1980s crossed with its later iterations after issue 200 (you can check them all out in the CEREBUS COVER TREASURY) when the story would kick off on the cover, complete with opening dialogue.

Most adept comics’ covers are an enticing advertisement for what lies within: a summary, a distillation or an attention-grabbing image. They’re stage-setters. They’re drooling posts. But in effect they are a distancing veneer: you only become engaged once you’ve settled yourself down with a chilled glass of white wine and flicked open the comic excitedly. What this does is throw you right into immediate immersion, in this case to a couple’s late-night, flat-on-their-backs, star-gazing wishes.

Elena wishes that her boyfriend Nick would reciprocate her declared love for him, vocally. Nick wishes that his “babe” would just shut the fuck up. Actually Elena’s aspirations aren’t even that high: she’s all apologies for her open expression. He insists that she should feel gratitude for his tolerance towards her emotions. Sadly, she does.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Born ready. Born to make a mark.”

They’re really not ready for anything that will follow but, yes, Nick wants to make a mark. I don’t think you’ll like him at all.

Nick, Elena and Baldwin are three young friends who are precociously consummate, code-breaking hackers. They’ve already broken into the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s exceptionally well protected website twice and, in a trial run for their real end-goal elsewhere, they are about to do it a third time.

Baldwin is alone, organised, and driven but disciplined. You may discern what drives him within. He exercises at the crack of dawn then blends nutritious juice to sustain his peak physical and mental acuity. Then he wipes the surfaces clean. He is meticulous.

Elena is loving and doting, not only on dismissive prick Nick to whom she is loyal, but on her mother who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Constantly they cuddle up on the coach. They tease each other too.

Nick eats with his family in silence before skulking upstairs – to his childishly door-declared exclusive domain – to draw his own bath. Perched on the toilet and staring into his smart phone while the water runs, his finger is idly pressed between his big toe and second, and you just know that he’ll sniff himself before getting in. The devil is in these details.

What happens during their final trial run at code-hacking is telling.

They think they’ve gone undetected. They haven’t.

So let’s flick back to our other chief protagonist who welcomed us in with his theory of code. This is young, bespectacled Mr. Akio, working for S.T.A.R., a subsection of D.A.R.P.A., tasked with helping to re-establish America’s global dominance which, as he perceives it, has been eroded “at an increasingly rapid rate since 1970s”. He has contributed to this military endeavour by building ideas, codes and thence machines. We are shown some very big mechs indeed.

Now he unveils to the military board his own private ideal, Project Utopia. It is code-based and clever, pertaining both to machines and to humans. But how do we rewrite that code in humans which generally takes multiple generations of genetic evolution?

“Have you ever read a book that changed your life? I bet you have. The content of the book changed the way you processed information. Then it changed the way your brain processed the information. Then it changed the way you interacted with the world.”

They want to revolutionise the military.

He wants to revolutionise the world.

They throw the book at him.

Then, behind his superiors’ backs, Mr. Akio throws the book at our three.

Change the code, change the human.

It’s a pretty grim ordeal, the transmogrifications throwing them up in the air, but the single Araύjo image that haunted me most – and does still – is Mr. Akio’s eyes when threatened and dismissed.


Buy Generation Gone #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Back In Stock, Tweaked & Titivated!

Princess Decomposia And Count Spatula (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Andi Watson.

Young B’Adult Literature at its best!

What can I even mean?!?

Poor Princess Dee is so very industrious.

Well, she has to be: there’s mail to be minded, state papers to be signed, laws to be licensed and delegations she’s been delegated to attend. The Underworld doesn’t run itself, you know!

This should all fall to her father, the king. Alas, he is utterly exhausted from so many hours devoted to bed, attending assiduously to each of his own ailments and really putting his back into putting everybody else’s up – especially his daughter’s and chef’s. He’s so addicted to Wellbeing Weekly and each of its dull-as-dishwater fads that he’s demoralised his last royal chef into seeking alternative employment where the food is more nourishing and tasty: Dismal Vista Prison!

And that’s what I mean by B’Adult:

The king is a bad adult – an emotionally manipulative and selfish shirker, evading every exertion and exigency. He relies instead on the limitless patience of his doting daughter who takes his responsibilities very seriously indeed.

“Just when I think I’ve cleared my desk, CLUNK, down comes another pile of papers.”
“You need a holiday.”
“Then I’d never be able to catch up.”

I hear you, hon! I hear you!


Into this limp and unleavened bread mix comes Count Spatula, master pâtissier with a shaved head, slightly pointy ears and twin gaps in his teeth where some would sport fangs! Oooh!

But young Count Spatula has a rare sense of perspective, a heart of gold and a recipe for the most unconventional lemon-drizzle cake you can imagine. Umbrella required! He picks our Dee up when she’s at her most down and even attempts to bring a zing of zest to the dining table of the old king himself. Unfortunately that may get him noticed…

From the creator of Young Reader soaraway successes GLISTER and GUM GIRL, plus British adult classics which we cannot sell you for shame that they are out of print (BREAKFAST AFTER NOON and LITTLE STAR, our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), comes the sort of kids’ comic I crave: one which, as ever with Andi Watson, neither underestimates nor talks down to its audience with linguistically or visually infantile clichés.

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA, for example, owes everything in its inking to silent cinema creep-fests ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari’, hence the misty mid-day focus when Dee and Cee are out and about in the Overworld summer-sunshine, and all the speckled, flecked and flickering, scratched-black-celluloid effects at night!

So much of this art is to die for. I love Princess Decomposia’s minimal, pointy nose, often appearing so far to the right that it’s merely representative. I love the shiny adoration in her eyes at the climax of her six-page plea for reason and reaction – for responsibility – from her father. I love the black, bat-winged buns of her hair! I love her father’s face, a wizened black-hole of wrinkled skin being sucked into itself through sheer lassitude. And I laughed out loud at the Lycanthrope delegation’s dismay when offered a biscuit in the form of a Winalot Shape.

Give those dogs a bone!


Buy Princess Decomposia And Count Spatula 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’

By Chance Or Providence s/c (£14-99, Image) by Becky Cloonan

Black Road vol 2: A Pagan Death (£14-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Tales h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Cory Godbey

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

Real Friends (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Shannon Hale & Leuyen Pham

Serenity vol 5: No Power In The Verse h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Chris Roberson & Georges Jeanty, Stephen Byrne

Solid State (£17-99, Image) by Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction & Albert Monteys

A Study In Scarlet (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Sign Of The Four (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Valley Of Fear (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

Valerian: The Complete Collection vol 2 h/c (£24-99, Cinebook) by Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres

Valerian: The Complete Collection vol 3 h/c (£24-99, Cinebook) by Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres

Wasteland Compendium vol 1 (£35-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Deathstroke vol 2: The Gospel Of Slade s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Christopher Priest & Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan, Gary Nord, Denys Cowan

Flash vol 3: Rogues Reloaded (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico, David Gianfelice, others

Mighty Thor vol 2: Lords Of Midgard s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Uncanny Avengers: Unity vol 4 – Red Skull s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Kevin Libranda, Pepe Larraz, Rodrigo Zaras

Bleach vol 70 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #1 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Green Lantern: Rebirth s/c (£13-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver

Green Lantern: No Fear s/c (£11-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Darwyn Cooke, Ethan Van Sciver, Simone Bianchi

Blackest Night s/c (£17-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Green Lantern: Blackest Night s/c (£17-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke


 – Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2017 week three

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Featuring Sarah Burgess, Laura Kenins, Mike Medaglia, Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen, Warren Ellis, John Cassady, Laura Martin.

Planetary Book 1 s/c (£26-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday with Laura Martin.

“They killed an entire world…
“So that they had somewhere to store their weapons.”

For me this is the work of Warren Ellis’s career to date.

Cassaday’s and Martin’s too.

Science fiction at its most wondrous, inclusive, mysterious and thrilling, it is meticulously composed, vast in scope, broad in appeal and spectacular to look at.

It also boasts a mordant wit, with superb cadence in conversation as the three members of Planetary’s field team play verbal sabres at each other’s expense. It’s one way of staying sane.

The 20th Century is coming to a close, but it has left scars behind in its wake.

Planetary is a covert, private organisation seeking its extraordinary secrets. Funded by an unseen Fourth Man, they are archaeologists of the unknown, travelling the globe to unearth all the weird science which has been foisted upon the Earth from other dimensions, or which we have visited upon ourselves. Though some of their discoveries prove breathtaking treasures, few are less than horrific, yet Planetary is determined to repurpose as much as they can disinter for the betterment of mankind.

Unfortunately they find themselves up against The Four, astronauts secretly launched into space in 1961 using physics developed by Nazi physicists exported to America and led by a scientific genius in “disciplines as long as your arm”. They returned… changed… and they do not have our best interests at heart.

As Planetary kicks off, its surviving field team members Jakita Wagner and The Drummer invite Elijah Snow to fill their recently ‘vacated’ third place. Elijah Snow is terse, grouchy, suspicious but exceptionally experienced in the arcane and trained by the best in deductive reasoning. Why, then, is he unaware that he has been a member of Planetary for years?

Warren Ellis proves himself to be something of an archaeologist himself, for as PLANETARY proceeds you’ll begin to discover that he is digging up science fiction history too. Like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, half the fun is in spotting the sly references, though you will lose nothing whatsoever if they elude you. Pulp fiction prose, British gothic fiction prose, American horror prose, Godzilla and other giant monster movies, the more iconic superhero comics (see a previous, precisely-worded paragraph for but one example) and even DC’s Vertigo imprint are all referenced and warped to Ellis’s own goals. There will be many a smile upon recognition. That last one comes under a mock McKean SANDMAN cover, and includes a certain grumpy and garrulous, uniquely tattooed bald bloke, with a red cigarette lighter held on top a green pack of twenty.

The specifics I leave for you to identify yourselves (I have an extensive list to expound upon if you ever want to swap notes) apart perhaps from Doc Brass (Doc Savage, Man of Bronze) for he appears very early and will prove pivotal to the plot. Like Elijah Snow he is dressed all in white and was born on 1st January 1900. Readers of Ellis & Hitch’s THE AUTHORITY might recall another individual with a penchant for white and the same birth date, and you’ll be delighted to hear that not only does this massive first half of PLANETARY contain issues #1 to 14, but also PLANETARY / AUTHORITY one-shot and many an appearance by the inter-dimensional Bleed. Here’s The Drummer on those auspicious birth dates:

“I got theory about that. I think you’re humanity’s immune system.”
“You want to run that by me again?”
“I think the world grew you all as its defence system for the 20th Century… Without Doc Brass, Edison might still have built their Super Computer. But also without Doc Brass, there never would’ve been a team in place to stop what came through the Multiversal Gate it created. Therefore, without Doc Brass, humanity would be extinct. Without Jenny Sparks, no Authority. Without you… ah. I see the flaw in my master plan. You don’t do much other than use up good oxygen.”

Elijah Snow and The Drummer do not get on.

The recurring Snowflake effect of the Multiversal Gate is just one of a myriad of visual triumphs by Cassady and Martin contributing to the series’ eye-popping opulence.

Cassady loves to embellish with exquisitely intricate gold, whether it be Flash Gordon’s rocket, a certain mythological mallet, a futuristic, altruistic knight’s shining armour or the beyond-Baroque bridges, arches, cupolas and columns which rise out of sight to the heavens inside a crystalline, sentient shift-ship buried beneath a city ever since it crash-landed right at the very end of the Cretaceous period.

Through Laura Martin’s lambent colours it glows like the ornate stained-glass windows which enhance the sense of awe that any such cathedral induces.

There’s a lot of light, a lot of white and a lot of pale blue and gold throughout, but a Hong Kong night might glow purple with neon where you’ll find Geof Darrow in the detail of a charging car exploding under the impact of a boot.

The Planetary members have not escaped such sharp design, either. Elijah Snow is dapper in his pristine, loose-fitting, all-white three-piece suit and tie, no-nonsense Jakita strikes a contrasting figure in a red-rimmed, black leather impact-resistance ensemble, while The Drummer provides all the colour.

Even the lettering is used to indicate different languages, and Snow’s own speech patterns and vernacular differ dramatically in his less couth youth. There’s a lot of ground to cover in 100 years and the series flashes back and forth as Snow searches his past and thinks through his present to uncover what’s buried deep within his mind.

It’s tightly structured stuff, beginning with self-contained episodes, each ending in a pithy 3- or 4-line reaction before the multiple threads gradually appear and begin to make their weave known. Similarly each team members’ preternatural capabilities are only made manifest as each mission dictates their deployment before proving life-savers later on. One chapter flickers on opposing pages between immediate past and reactive present. A conversation may take place between two individuals while action is undertaken by a third. Visual cues and clues are subtle in the form of a previously broken window or a background street sign to denote a telling location.

You’ll encounter the most horrific experimental human concentration camp, a German castle in a 1919 lightning storm, a 1969 inter-spy fire-fight with attendant Steranko-riffed cover, a very familiar British study, and the most unusual cross-dimensional weapons-storage facility accessed through the release of kinetic energy, like the bang of stick on stone.

But of all the experiments, this takes the proverbial biscuit.

“We’ve a strange relationship with our fiction, you see. Sometimes we fears it’s taking us over, sometimes we beg to be taken over by it… sometimes we want to see what’s inside it.
“That was the initial project profile. To create a fictional world, and then to land on it. A sample return mission.
“To bring back someone from a fictional reality.”

Will marvels ever cease? I do hope not.

“It’s a strange world.”
“Let’s keep it that way.”


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

Boys Club (£5-00) by Sarah Burgess.

“I’m not as shallow as I had hoped.”

Oh, that would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? To let knock-backs roll off your slippery, polished surface; to not care about others’ feelings as much as your own; to be happy-go-lucky, remaining unfazed under all circumstances.

It would certainly soothe Sarah’s stress in social situations, and relieve her bewilderment when it comes to all the awkward intricacies of friendship levels within love, sex and romance.

What Burgess wants above all is to learn about herself, so she started to think aloud on paper by drawing diary comics, observing her thoughts and reactions in some considerable depth and with astonishing clarity, even when it comes to confusion.

But the best thing about this entire enterprise is that in bravely publishing them first online and now in this joyously colourful, printed pamphlet – at the risk of exacerbating her already considerable vulnerability – Burgess achieves her other heart’s desire of helping others who might recognise themselves, to some degree or other, in what they read here and so find sympathy, solace and, better still, succour. That’s why you’ll find this in Page 45’s online Mental Health section.

What Burgess learns eventually, snuggling under a floral duvet with a sleepy friend is:

“I want to be quiet, with someone.”

It’s a tranquil page in purple and early-morning sunshine gold, with the potential for well earned contentment and hope.

It is, however, but a brief respite, for the series titled ‘The Truth Is…” returns with ‘The Truth Is… I Worry. (A lot.)’ And she does.

Particularly anxious in social situations, so often the conflicting, debilitating and often escalating voices raging in her head allow Burgess little peace and virtually no quiet except in those rare moments when she manages to quash her insecurities, self-doubts and second-guessing of others’ opinions with a little level-headed observation and logic… before another stray thought once more blows her precarious house of cards down.

Burgess is especially adept at these circular mental maps. I’ve seen so many more, each of which deserves publication for they have all made perfect, powerful sense to me.

Quite often her layouts have this same organic, wavy, serpentine or circular flow with a lot of free-floating. Most of the short stories come in two contrasting or complementary colours, ‘The Jungle’ being beautiful in purple and green. The fronds are thick as Sarah seeks to navigate this jungle of dating, pushing through the dense undergrowth, attempting to identify what she and others want by slapping on labels, before being ambushed by an unexpectedly blunt and alarmingly hungry offer which changes her own hand-held signs from “Casual” and “Open-Minded” to “Meat”.

“For whatever reason, I decided the best way to get through this jungle was just being honest.”

More signs spring up, as during the opening to ‘The Herb Garden’: “Open”, “Awkward”, “Scared”, “Selfish”, “Love”.

“Mostly I felt like that just give me more trouble” in the form of question marks all round, “Then I meet a friend.”

Delightfully at this point, the jungle of delicately delineated, veined leaves moves inside the couple as they dance round each other leaving their surroundings full of space, sparkling with light. Inevitably Sarah soon starts to over-think things, desperate for clarification, and the jungle creeps outside again, threatening to smother them, but oh what a punchline of promise!

What I’m attempting to convey here is the fierce thought that Burgess – creator of THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR and BROTHER’S STORY – throws into how she can most imaginatively and accurately represent her complex predicaments and evoke the thoughts, feelings and sensations they induce in her; and that progress so often isn’t straight forward and free from struggle with a linear trajectory ever-upwards. It ebbs and flows with waves of uncertainty and self-reassurance.

Reading others and reading their signs – the signals they’re putting out – is never easy, especially when it comes to the often blurred boundaries between friendship, romance and sex. Are they flirting with you or merely being polite? Do they want to frolic once more or will you ruin that friendship by hugging too intimately and suggesting that you do? Essentially, does somebody want what you want too?

In this instance, perhaps, telepathy might for once be a boon. Or it could lead to even more self-consciousness.

There are much lighter notes, like the disappointment in discovering that a new crush is already taken – and it was going so well!

Self-perception is a big problem here, trust and intimacy, plus the masochism of over-thinking things very much like Sarah Andersen does in BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP. Oh yes, and then there’s rejection and validation, even more of an issue in this age of social media.

“People keep saying, keep saying, Validate yourself, Validate yourself.”

Burgess pushes her head deep inside her chest.

“Oh my god!! There’s just a big hole in here, what if I just need constant validation???”

We’re only human! Jeez, if you only knew the deflation and worry whenever I hit ‘publish’ on these weekly reviews and Twitter is nothing but tumbleweed!

Speaking of human (and indeed self-perception), everyone here is depicted as human except Sarah. Her self-portrait is as a Morph-like, alien creature with twin horns or animal ears: the outsider.

As to dependency and independence, BOYS CLUB begins with ‘The Road That We Could Take’, created shortly after “coming out of a big relationship”.

The first six pages in deep red and pine green are entirely silent. Miserable, sat lost and alone, wounded by the side a rural track, a young woman is helped to her feet by a handsome lad with a smile on his face. Together they begin to explore a mountain range of stunning vistas. He heaves her up steeper slopes or carries her on piggy-back. Gradually the wound heals, then in a moment of shared self-awareness they both realise, joyfully then bashfully, the love that they hold in their hearts for each other. They travel on, hand in hand, following unmarked signs to enjoy stunning views down below.

Then comes a direction which the woman wants to take and she eagerly rushes forward, but he holds her back, quite forcibly, before hugging her close. She looks sadly back over her shoulder and the route untraveled, denied her. She tries once again to suggest they take that road, but he is adamant.

I wonder if you know where that is going.

“I don’t know what’s right for me anymore.”

And so Sarah’s journey begins.


Buy Boys Club and read the Page 45 review here

Poverty Of The Heart (£3-00) by Mike Medaglia.

I defy you not to beam broadly every time this cover meets and greets you in your home.

My reaction, time and again, has been both immediate and instinctive and joyful.

Its composition and colours are elevating!

It is organic, embracing and radiating affection from its strong centre whilst cleverly clasping you at its outer edges with a more soothing balm. The cover is a tonic for tired eyes just as its contents will prove healing for your heart and sustenance for your soul.

The cover is, of course, a mandala, so it is time for some quiet contemplation.

“It’s funny how we have two meanings for the word – HEART.
“The one that beats inside us.
“And the heart that is less tangible. Less noisy. But just as important.
“We certainly cannot live without the function of the one.
“But without the other we cannot fully experience life.”

There is no preaching here, no holier than thou, but instead a huge kindness, gently reminding us all of which priorities actually make us happiest when sometimes we forget.

We’re not on this planet to receive: we are here to give and in giving we all receive so much more back in return.

We are not here to crave, for in craving lies dissatisfaction and discontent. And I should know: I still smoke 40 a day. So that’s at least one of my hearts in jeopardy.

True happiness lies instead in appreciating what you already have, if you have it. Not everyone has it, as I’m keenly aware, so it is all the more important that we open our hearts to others: important not just for them, but for us as well.

“Any time we close off our hearts to any being we close off our hearts to ourselves.
“It is impossible to cage our hearts off to the world and still have access to it ourselves.”

There is a balance here. There is a balance between opposing pages, both verbally and visually. Surrounded by so much white space which leaves our thoughts free to roam, the outlines are simple and distinct, the colours cool and natural in pinks, blues, greens and cream.

Hands reach out lovingly and tenderly in all shapes, colours and sizes, the wrists adorned to all individual tastes. Some are a bit grabby on the coinage front, but true wealth so often eludes them.

This quiet comic is all about patience: patience with yourself, forgiveness of yourself and so love of yourself. If you’re anything like me, you may focus too hard and too long on what you think you’ve said or done wrong. Mike humbly suggests that you give yourself a break, and begin anew.

“Allow yourself to be warmed.”

Free from the distracting clutter of self-regarding cleverness or long-winded, pompous verbosity, POVERY OF THE HEART is instead slim and succinct. It gets to the point; yet what it has to say is plenty.

If you want more words of wisdom from Mike Medaglia then we all recommend his ONE YEAR WISER which I imagine is at least 365 pages long. I can’t check from home.


Buy Poverty Of The Heart and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Sara just wants everyone to be victims of the patriarchy.
“Or some nonsense like that.”

Actually, Maija has some interesting and very valid points to make, particularly about sexist discrimination in the workplace, but not everyone at this women-only sauna evening on a dark autumnal night somewhere in very northern Europe has come for a socio-political discussion. Sara in particular. No, they’ve mostly just come to kick back, have a few beers, escape the world for a while, maybe even flirt a bit, and perhaps meet somebody. Kaisa, recently single and now perpetually perusing dating apps certainly has an eye on some steamy goings-on.

Others were anxious about coming at all for rather different reasons. Miika, for example, feels extremely uncomfortable, almost fraudulent, going to a women-only event as a non-binary gender person, despite her friend’s protestations that they would be welcome. And then there’s Laima, who is the physical embodiment of the goddess of women but is finding herself conflicted about her sexual orientation. Apparently even goddesses have to deal with emotional angst.


So, as the temperature rises inside the sauna, our characters shed their clothes and begin to tell their stories, aided by a beer or two. Old friendships are tested, new friendships are formed and a certain goddess gradually comes to the realisation that it’s perfectly alright to just be who she actually is.

It’s truly wonderful how this comic manages to deal with some extremely serious issues and yet also be such wryly amusing good fun at the same time. Laura Kenins makes all the characters with their various woes and anxieties entirely believable and powerfully demonstrates the positive benefits of just having a good chat about how you’re feeling, no matter the circumstances, whether that’s to a close friend, or a complete stranger.

She has previous form actually, in this respect; as her MINI-KUS!: ALIEN BEINGS packs a very powerful emotional punch with a story about divorcing parents whilst simultaneously managing to be hilariously ridiculous at the same time, as it’s seen through the eyes of the daughter who is convinced the strange lights they saw driving home one night has everything to do with her parents sudden inability to love each other.

Both are told in a very colourful art style that I am reasonably sure is entirely coloured pencils, along with grey pencil hand-lettering that looks like it’s been done with a very fine hard-wearing propelling-pencil-style lead. The sort that has the leads mounted in the pop-out bits of plastic, that when you wear one down, you just pop in the back of the pencil and a new pointy one pops out of the front. At least that’s what I’m imagining…

There’s a sophisticated blend of fine lines filled out with shading that looks like it’s been done with the side of the pencil on top of a wooden desk which gives additional texture. It’s similar to what the stylish polyglot (in art terms) herself Eleanor HOW TO BE HAPPY Davis employed to great effect on the joyful sleepover joint LIBBY’S DAD, which I just adored and didn’t half make me chuckle too.

I do a lot of drawing with precisely this type of coloured instrument with Whackers and it’s fantastic to see the levels to which professionals can elevate the humble coloured pencil. And six year olds too, for that matter, as young Whackers is actually already far better at drawing than I ever managed… Her current speciality is rabbits, having devoured FLUFFY recently – let’s be honest, anything where the main character is continuously doing daddy’s head in was bound to be a winner with my daughter – so Simone Lia had better watch out as I think she might have some competition soon!


Buy Steam Clean and read the Page 45 review here

It’s A Bird… s/c (£15-99, Vertigo/DC) by Steven T. Seagle & Teddy H. Kristiansen.


Yes, that is Superman’s back on the front cover, rendered with all the stockiness of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN’s Frank Quitely, but this isn’t a superhero comic.

It’s semi-autobiography and cultural analysis, exceptionally astute and poignant as anything.

Originally published in 2004, it was a firm favourite of all three of us who have co-owned Page 45 over the years and comes with the mighty Teddy Kristiansen on phenomenal form, proving that he is as versatile an artist as Jillian Tamaki, Bryan Talbot, Eleanor Davis, Stuart Immonen or Mark Buckingham… all within the confines of this single sustained narrative.

The plot: Steven’s writing career has been firmly Vertiginous in nature. Not for him, the aspiration to write brightly-coloured spandex. Now he’s just landed the SUPERMAN title – many a comicbook creator’s wet-dream job, I’m sure – but he has absolutely nothing to say. He simply cannot relate.

He’s moved away from his mother, grown apart from his father and brother, and has a beautiful, mature and understanding girlfriend called Lisa. But every time he experiences an inadvertent twitch, an innocent, involuntary spasm, he’s haunted by a family secret which emerged during a childhood hospital visit and is about to erupt once more. Now Steven’s father’s gone missing, his mother’s beside herself, his editor demands to know if he’ll take the gig and he cannot bring himself to let his girlfriend in on what’s troubling him. What exactly is troubling him?

My first thoughts on breaking into this original graphic novel thirteen years ago were “Eddie Campbell”. This reads so much like Eddie Campbell (see ALEC) and, believe it or not, it’s just as good.

It’s full of wit, charm, meandering excursions and calm considerations of ideas that might never occur to you. It’s also absolutely devastating. Moreover, if you’ve ever held an interest in Superman as an American icon or just as a character, this will give you much pause for thought. And if you’re interested in writing, you’ll both empathise with and perhaps even learn from this, especially if your objective is comics.

Whereas some works sadly fall straight through the cracks between conflicting, incompatible areas of appeal, this bridges so many interests and as Grant Morrison wrote:

“It defies genre categories and poses questions about the relationship between man and superman which are hard to answer but important to consider here at the dawn of the 21st century. It’s also about as mordantly accurate a description of what it feels like to write superhero comics for a living as anything I’ve ever read.”

As Seagle searches for his father he delves through his memories, and begins to ponder Superman. He thinks about secrets and vulnerability, about solitude, symbolism through colour, our history of power, about being an outsider (Superman is the ultimate immigrant) and who the real outsiders are. He considers his school days, his own personal demons, and – most uncomfortably of all – how some genes don’t provide potential or powers as manifested by Marvel’s mutants, they take them away. They can wreck a healthy body, often irreversibly.

Apart from a superb supporting cast in the form of Lisa…

“It’s your boyfriend.”
“Which one?”
“Funny. Buzz me in before I drop your lunch.”
“Then it would be your lunch.”

… kind editor Jeremy and his Puerto Rican fan-boy taxi mechanic (who aids, abets and interrogates during his search), Seagle also lucked into the perfect art partner here: Teddy Kristiansen.

You might know Teddy from THE RE[A]D DIARY precisely one half of which was also written by Seagle (you’ll see!) which was a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month or from SANDMAN MIDNIGHT THEATRE now included in Neil Gaiman’s MIDNIGHT DAYS, but you have never seen him in quite such fine, chameleon-like form.

I count twenty-one distinct art styles are on show here: one from the central narrative, another for the flashbacks, and the rest to complement the individual diversions, each of which is entirely apposite for illuminating its respective proceedings.

One of them which Teddy emailed us ahead so long ago is all Kent Williams in its sombre silhouette while Seagle contemplates The Death Of Superman.

The school episode sees Kristiansen erasing individual identities by withdrawing facial features, leaving the cape to make its statement of standing out from the crowd as one kid, habitually ignored, receives a single day of undivided attention whilst dressing up as Superman during a Halloween celebration. Then, after reverting to invisibility when wearing regular clothing, the lad makes the mistake of repeating the performance the next week…

And one of the most powerful pieces, ‘The Outsider’ sees a complete change of pace both in the script and visuals which I can only describe to you as utterly Seth.



Buy It’s A Bird… 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’.

Black Eyed Peas Presents Masters Of The Sun – The Zombie Chronicles (£22-99, Marvel) by, Benjamin Jackendoff & Damion Scott

Black Science vol 6: Forbidden Realms And Hidden Truths s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Scalped Book 1 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera

Southern Cross vol 2 (£14-99, Image) by Becky Cloonan & Andy Belanger

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles s/c (£17-99, DC / IDW) by James Tynion IV & Freddie E. Williams II

Amazing Spider-Man vol 6: Worldwide s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Stuart Immonen

Inhumans Vs. X-Men (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule & Leinil Francis Yu, Javier Garron, Kenneth Rocafort

Ms. Marvel vol 7: Damage Per Second s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Mirka Andolfo, Takeshi Miyaza, Francesco Gaston

The Punisher vol 2: End Of The Line s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Becky Cloonan & Steve Dillon, various

Blame! Vol 4 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing vol 1 (£11-99, Vertical) by Katsuyuki Sumizawa & Tomofumi Ogasawara

Princess Decomposia And Count Spatula (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Andi Watson

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2017 week two

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Another fab batch of Avery Hill / Retrofit books below, but first…

Glister (£12-50, Dark Horse) by Andi Watson.

Families, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Andi Watson is a true British Treasure.

We’re talking Alan Bennett, David Attenborough, Posy Simmonds and Raymond Briggs.

Highly regarded by his comicbook peers, ask diverse British creators from THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Jamie McKelvie or Kieron Gillen to THEY’RE NOT LIKE US artist Simon Gane whose Mediterranean landscapes are as assuaging on the eyes as dear old Optrex, and you will find Andi Watson sharing much-cherished space at the top of their lists.

What we have here is a mammoth collection of all four GLISTER comics reproduced at twice the size of the Walker originals which allows the art to breathe properly and your children’s eyes will, I promise, shine like marbles at the wonder within.

I’m going to cheat now, for this is what I wrote when each first appeared, edited to remove repetition and inject a little later-learned insight or afterthought.


The Haunted Teapot and The House Hunt:

Printed in puce then aquatic blue inks, these two are an all-ages joy!

It’s like splashing about in a puddle or a fountain: gleeful, playful and ever so refreshing.

“Strange things happen around Glister Butterworth.
“Perhaps it’s because she gets out of the wrong side of the bed.
“Or perhaps it’s because the clocks struck thirteen when she was born.
“Occasionally the strange things begin with a knock at the door…”

Such a simple set-up announced with economy and eloquence like Oliver Postgate’s ‘Bagpuss’ or ‘The Clangers’, with an execution similarly liberated from the strict laws of reality but in a perfectly credible and individualistically realised, charming world of its own.

Magically, however, unlike the opening sequences of ‘Bagpuss’ etc, each introduction is a variation on the original theme and can go off on quite spectacular tangents, depending on the mood of Glister herself or the wobbly-towered, cobbled-together cottage-come-mansion she lives in.



Possibly it’s rural England in the 1950s, but it’s one where there may be trolls extracting tolls under bridges or your house might take umbrage at being described as a little rickety and go off in a huff, leaving you homeless on the village green.

That’s exactly what happens in ‘The House Hunt’ after snobbish Mr. Swarkstone pays an official and officious visit to Chillblain Hall in order to see if it’s up to inspection-scratch after their village is entered into rustic beauty pageant. Glister gives him a guided tour, but experiencing Chillblain Hall is akin to visiting the Addams Family: disconcerting to say the least.

“The best thing that could happen is for this ramshackle lean-to be shipped brick by brick across the Atlantic and pieced back together in some Texas rancher’s theme park. Good morning to you.”

Unfortunately their home overheard him.

Oh, Glister tries to cheer it up, really she does, because she loves its creaky, dilapidated, warped-wall ways!

“Doesn’t the tower look handsome in this light, Dad?”
“The what?” says her Dad, camera pointing in the opposite direction. “Yes, the tower, splendid feature.”

You know what it’s like, though, when you’ve been told that you’re an embarrassment. It’s not very nice, is it?

“But the doubt had already seeped into the hall’s timbers like a cold in an old man’s bones on a winter’s night. Roof tiles fell more frequently than ever. The wood panelling groaned excessively in the small hours.”

Then, later that day, it was gone.

Before that, in ‘the Haunted Teapot’ our Glister receives an anonymous package containing an old china teapot, and I know you should seldom look a gift horse in the mouth but the Trojans would tell you otherwise.

Here too the seemingly innocent gift harbours a presence of its own: the ghost of an author who claims that his works have fallen from grace, and needs the young lady to transcribe the novel which he left unfinished. Glister gamely agrees at first (“Will it take long? We’re having boiled eggs for tea.”), but finds that the work is not only interminable, but positively Dickensian in its suffering. She offers more compassionate alternatives:

“Can’t there be a kindly landlord at the local tavern whose wife takes pity on Albert and saves him a piece of game pie?”
“Splendid idea! Albert suffers from food poisoning.”
“An indulgent grandfather returns to care for him?”
“Capital! Grandfather sunk in a typhoon on the way home from India.”

Poor lamb!

The writer’s really quite obdurate in his calamity-coloured ways.

Glister lives with her dressing-gowned Dad, by the way, whose pipe blows bubbles and whose silver hair is in permanent disarray – a bit like their adorable home. Like most of the early interiors, it’s viewed through the curves of a fish-eye lens, for the art too has been liberated here. Andi rarely plumps for more than four or five panels a page, often merely one or two, giving him space to relax and gently sweep his hand across the paper.

FYI: as he showed us at the first pub meeting of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month Club (Watson’s woefully out of print and so off-our-system LITTLE STAR was our inaugural selection), to enhance the organic nature and sense of space on the page, Andi first writes the script out on separate pieces of paper, and moves them around the page before even beginning to pencil the final image. The script is then dropped back onto the page once it’s completed. Ta-da!


The Faerie Host:

“What’s the most important rule of Fairieland?”
“Don’t go there.”
“What are the three other rules of Faerieland?”
“Don’t eat anything. Don’t drink anything. Don’t touch anyone.”
“They can be good neighbours and they can be bad neighbours, but they’re the best neighbours when they’re left alone.”

The best and bravest GLISTER book so far, this delves into the history of our young heroine’s missing mother, broaching the pain of separation and loss.

For years now Glister has lived virtually alone with her father in Chilblain Hall but when its boundaries change so that its new neighbours are Faerie Folk, Glister starts receiving messages from her mother in the mirror. Is this really her mother or the cruellest, most wicked practical joke in the world?

When they unearth a crude stick figure with a lock of her mother’s hair attached, buried in a newly manifested grave, against her better judgement Glister cannot help but follow its instructions (just in case) to cross the carefully demarcated boundary to the land of the Fey in pursuit of the truth. But will she be able to resist all the other temptations therein?

It turns into quite the adventure.

Please don’t expect Andi to insult those who’ve lost parents by presenting a glib, happily ever after ending. Instead he comes up with a scenario far more subtle and magical to bring a certain comfort, with a lovely little epilogue to boot.

As ever there’s the added value of an activity – in this case bake your own wizened Faerie head which you can then eat if your stomach’s up to it – and the language is far from simplistic, evoking a truly repugnant stench in the heart of the Faerie King’s court:

“The floor was a slippy carpet of rotten fruit, the air as thick as curdled milk with the stink of withering and dust.”

New word: “widdershins”.

The Family Tree:

Anarchy erupts round the grounds of Chilblain Hall, the semi-sentient, shape-shifting mansion that has been the ancestral home of the Butterworths for many generations.

It’s seen better days. In fact when it’s in a particularly despondent mood, it just lets itself go like a sulky teenager, making its maintenance a full-time occupation for Glister’s Dad. It does, however, have a lot of history and it’s that which causes the kerfuffle when Glister gets it into her head that they really should have more family around in spite of her Dad’s informed and prescient warning:

“Those idyllic family dinners you’re imagining never happened. At least, when they did, they never reached pudding without a row or some disaster.”


Unfortunately Glister has been sticking her baby teeth into the Family Tree – an actual ancient oak! – swapping the bounty of the Tooth Fairy for a single potent wish: that one day the Family Tree would bloom again. And so it does, bearing fruit in the form of her ancestors who fall to earth with a <thunk> and then proceed to cause chaos.

There’s Eliza and her flock of ravenous bunnies, American Scotty and his guitar of discord, an aloof butler, a pair of brothers still congenitally at odds ever since the English Civil War, an etymologist and… Charles. Charles whom Glister cannot account for in the family’s ancient records at all.

In every GLISTER book there are things to make or bake, in this case the Butterworth Brothers’ cannon. Yes, that’s how riotous the tall tale grows! All of them have been reprinted in this 300-page collection along with puzzles, games and – best of the best! – an Andi Watson art lesson which comes with the reassurance for young ones that even Mr. Watson’s drawings go wonky sometimes!

But what I really appreciate, apart from the immaculate cartooning with its gnarled trees, organic architecture, tufted hair and anything-can-happen exuberance, is that the language is far from patronising with a vocabulary which will stretch young readers and so lead them to learn: words like ‘dyspeptic’, ‘dissonant’, ‘atonal’ and ‘philately’.

Also there are many moments of parenthetical, throwaway wit as when the new crowd stumbles upon one of Chilblain Hall’s many unusual features:

“It’s the Abyss, whatever you do, don’t look into it.”


Buy Glister and read the Page 45 review here

StarDrop vol 1: When On Earth… (£8-99, I Box) by Mark Oakley.

Long-lost comedy treasure from twenty-five years ago, which has dated not one jot.

The cartooning is exquisite, with pointy-to-non-existent noses and huge attention to background detail whether it’s in the coffee-shop clutter or the wild flowers and trees of a leafy suburb somewhere in America which is quiet enough to be quaint, with countryside on the gabled-porch doorstep, but not too far from a shopping mall, within driving distance of a beach.

Into this environment strides ingénue Ashelle, both a stranger to the town and a stranger to Earth: she’s run away from her home in space to avoid military conflict with her father. What are the chances that trouble will follow?

It’s bright and breezy, but far from light on the comedy quotient or quality.

This is derived partly from the earnestness of youth, over-analysis of one’s own predicament and the disproportionate pride and joy which Princess Ashelle takes in what we’d consider irksome or mundane, like washing dishes while working in a bed and breakfast.

“I’ll do any kind of menial labour to help out. A good community member helps out. The experience will enrich me, and I’ll go home with lasting memories.”

Oh yes, and in the absence of any internal editor whatsoever, Ashelle does tend to over-share:

“I hope I don’t seem too strange. I’m finding your culture challenging. But even though half my references want me dead, I’d still be a good worker. Ugh! I shouldn’t have mentioned that! I’m saying stupid things. I really want to have this job!
“Please don’t allow my personality to colour your opinion of me!”

She’s trying her hardest to fit in and harbours a genuine, almost Japanese desire to never inconvenience anyone. Indeed her open-heartedness is infectious and is met in kind. By the local residents like new-found friend, Jen, at least: her off-world ex-boyfriend, sent to kidnap her on pain of death, will stoop to anything (including his knees) to convince his valuable commodity to accompany him home.

“Please Ashelle!
“I know you have a good heart!
“Let me exploit it just one more time!”

He’s not very good at kidnapping. He’s not even her ex-boyfriend. He just told everyone he was going out with her.

Anyway, job interviews are tricky, especially when you’re not sure what will make the weekend residents at a B&B feel comfortable. I wonder what pertinent qualifications our princess possesses?

“I am fully trained in four-dimensional sub-light warfare strategy and ground-based tactics.
“Though I disapprove of violence. That’s why I ran away from the academy.”

Again, with the internal editor!

I wish I could find you more interior art from this volume, but it’s all twenty-five years old and tiny. In desperation, then – and this is a first – I’m using a page from a subsequent volume, not this one. Because, yes, after all this time off our shelves, STARDROP has spawned not just this new edition but brand-new instalments, STARDROP VOL 2 and STARDROP VOL 3. At the very least they give you plenty of indication that things move rapidly on!

I leave you at the shopping mall (try to take me to one and I will leave you there), and this is the sort of lateral thinking that makes me smile.

“This place is like an Imperial System Fortress, but with more colour and less weaponry. Do people come here of their own free will?”
“Sure. What do you mean?”
“I don’t know… There’s something weird about this place. What’s that noise? Are the sub-sensories being broadcast?”

Indeed there are, every hour of the day, but especially in the morning when they want you to start shopping and at night when they would very much like you to bog off back home.

File under Young Adults or old ones, like me.


Buy StarDrop vol 1: When On Earth…  and read the Page 45 review here

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

“What, have you been using your phone?
“That is against the retreat rules.
“You’re being so disrespectful.
“Let’s go somewhere else. She has just ruined my zen feel.”

Welcome to the outer suburbs of Something City. Even the endpapers made my eyes burst with joy.

Each individual, colourful community comes with its own distinct identity, but they’re all interconnected through family, friendships and relations – except maybe the Amish one which removes itself from the world to such a strict degree that Pokemon playing cards prove utterly baffling.

Each of these ten short stories also comes with its own colour scheme, our Amish friends in plum purple, custard yellow and green. The panels are relatively free from lines so that they resemble silk-screen prints. Your eyes are invited to explore the chapters’ initial full-page landscapes which are open and actively populated by those going about their daily routines, some dancing, shopping, or stopping to throw up in the street after far too much booze.

The amenities are many and varied, the homes well appointed. There are dogs and cats and fountains and flowerbeds. Any fences or privet hedges are low, with neighbours gaily interacting. It’s all ever so relaxed.

Pffft!  Beneath its gentle veneer, Something City is a hotbed of bitching, disgruntlement and conflict – except, perhaps, in its prison. The book-end chapters come with a bite but otherwise Weaver gleans a great deal of comedy in these surprisingly satirical short stories, full of the unexpected, with deft turns which will delight you.

Take the opening quotation from a tale set in a nudist retreat where everyone roams merrily liberated from the constraint of clothing, taking yoga classes naked and revelling in the shared freedom and tranquillity which engenders a bonding and bonhomie. Or: where almost everyone vies to be holier than thou in their heavily proscriptive, self-righteous judgementalism. You’re going to be enlightened, whether you like it or not.

Speaking of proscriptive, self-righteous judgementalism, the very opposite of nakedness rears its artificial head in the form of the latest, hot-trending Face Action App which upgrades your appearance to an earlier age and it’s all the rage amongst those ploughing into the realm of wrinkles and furrowed brows. It’s like an extreme daily make-up routine, foundation-free, at the click of a switch as long as your dates are on Skype. Face Action Enabled and…

“Hey gorgeous, you caught me before I leave for work.”
“Oh you big shot. I was wondering if you’re still free for our date tonight?”
“Of course I am. Same time as usual. Can’t wait to chat. You look amazing by the way. Have you done something new?”
“I got the ‘fuller mouth’ update from the Face Action site.”
“Knew it! It suits you, babe.”

Of course you have to cover up outside in hats, scarves and sunglasses and those who flagrantly choose to eschew are viewed with the same embarrassment and outrage as if they’d ditched all their clothes. Now, I did sort of suspect how this episode might end, but the rebuttal is so much juicer than I’d anticipated.

Lies are also Matt’s stock in trade down at the fishmongers. Or at least, he does seem to be a compulsive liar, claiming to be friends with Eminem and a former genius at Apple but what he truly lacks is a sense of proportion. His lover, on the other hand…! Again, a terrific punchline.

Some encounters are much more poignant: the girl who won’t go outside, so keen on astronomy but cut off from the village star-gazing party by her fear of disease which she is convinced is made all the more virulent by the moon. Instead, she watches Star Trek re-runs. Fictions and fantasies, eh?

The rest I’ll leave for your unearthing, like that lady throwing up in the street.

There’s a wonderful fleshiness to the forms here – and a whole lot of flesh – and a frailty in old age plus a heavy weight of sadness which some characters come close to being crushed by.

Many an attempt is made to move on, but more often than not it is thwarted by outside circumstances or their own vulnerability.

Overlaps abound, right to the end.


Buy Something City and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Hellooo… you have a question for me?”
“Everything is changing… so quickly…”
“Why not? You left the cube, in which all the others stay. Is it not what you wanted, laddie?”
“…Mmm, I was curious.”
“Long ago, your kind catapulted themselves.
“With wings of fire and gleaming metal, and swung along the beasts past the skies.
“Exploring the circles that hover above.
“A bespeckled darkness flourished and known through their curiosity.
“You too could soar with wings of fire and gleaming metal.”

We’ve all heard of curiosity killed the cat, right? And I don’t mean the crap late ‘80s band with the implausibly named silly-hat-wearing singer…

I think our post-cubist ought to be seriously considering the wisdom of taking advice from a weird, multi-coloured, swirling-bodied, goat-faced entity he’s just met. I mean, our naïve waif only popped himself out of his jelly cube two minutes ago! Next thing you know he’ll be blithely wandering into a red spherical spaceship and blasting off into another realm where… well, let’s just say it gets stranger…

Amusingly whimsical, mildly absurdist exploration of just what might happen if you do actually metaphorically jump off that cliff which parents and teachers alike repeatedly demanded assurances you wouldn’t be daft enough to do if anyone ever asked you to. Oh, and presuming you were living your life stuck in an odd jelly cube on a barren, faraway planet. Hmm, when you put it like that, I’d probably jump in that red spherical spaceship too. Then wish I hadn’t later…

Wonderful, well realised fantasy with neat touches of space opera, elevated further by some fantastic punchlines of preposterous humour, plus glorious pencilling and an expansive, part-dappled colour palette that is sensually subdued but entirely engaging. There’s a lot of highly impressive, very finely detailed background pencilling work going on that’s easy to miss against the open expansive use of space and colour but more than rewards a little patience perusing the panels.


Buy Goatherded and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Hey Kids… you wanna see something?”

Be warned. You won’t be able to unsee it once you have.

It’s like a fortuitously lightning-quick psychedelic DMT flash taking you pell-mell through a very strange version of heaven before promptly then being dragged back to reality through a hell which I think Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown would be pretty proud of, design-wise, all very straight symmetrical lines and perfectly rounded smooth curves. The uber-harsh palette of bright mustard yellow, ketchup red and classic fountain pen ink blue only serves to disrupt the mental balance and heat up ‘n’ melt down the synapses even further past the point of repair. But given it’s the ‘bad kids’ being exhorted to take a peek and paying the brain-crushingly heavy mental price in ‘Worthless’, the third of three equally crazy tales in this collection, rather than me, meant I just found it all rather amusing, if a tad disturbing…

‘Rabbit’, the second tale, is even more surreal, believe it or not. I would be amazed to discover that George Wylesol doesn’t adore Michael LOSE DeForge, because probably the highest compliment I can give this work, is that if you had told me it was Michael DeForge, I would have completely believed it. The distinct contrast in illustration styles between ‘Worthless’ and here, with its intense, deliberately dense pseudo-random patterning lines, well, I guess technically it is shading, though perhaps texturing would probably be a better choice of word, shows our George has got several strings to his artistic bow, nay, harp!

The palette for ‘Rabbit’ is even more subconsciously intrusive on the eyes, particularly for his not infrequent plonking blocks of intense colours deliberately a few millimetres to the right or left of where they are supposed to go. In terms on engendering mild unease, it works extremely well as your brain is telling you something really isn’t quite right here… The story itself is of a lonely human portrayed as a ghost-like white sack with a wooden mask for a face wandering through a watchful forest, encountering a most peculiar rabbit with sticks for legs, and the human’s ill-advised attempts at taking it beyond the confines of the trees.

Since we’re working backwards, I have no idea what the odd photograph of pink roses that looks like it has been printed on an inkjet printer running out of one of the colours in the colour cartridge is all about, nor indeed the odd hand drawn couple in the flowery frame on the opposite pages. Maybe some strange exhortation of love to person(s) unknown by the author? That peculiar double-page spread sits immediately before ‘Rabbit’ and just after ‘Ghost’, the lead story which gets top billing as well as  naming rights on the collection.

‘Ghost’ tells the story of a night porter wandering the ten of miles of tunnels below a hospital, never encountering a soul, but certainly having some strange supernatural encounters which may or may not be due to his equally odd imagination. Then, our night errand boy somehow turns a corner into a previously undiscovered part of the tunnel network and has a mild existential crisis which is only ameliorated by utilizing his own particular mantra of mild murmuring madness to get through the experience.  ‘Ghost’ is actually the least obtuse of the three stories, and visually is far less intimidating than the others, though still with its own wonderful peculiarities, both in terms of the writing and artistically. It reminded me to a degree of Nick Drnaso’s BEVERLY.

A very accomplished trio of stories that showcases someone who is seemingly without any fear whatsoever when it comes to the arduous artistic process of making comics. Bravo George Wylesol.


Buy Ghosts, Etc and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Look, Jonah, I’m just going to come out and say it. You know how bad it was when we all came up here. You might not remember, but you know, from your book, from just… facts.
“Forager went down, and then sent, what, one message back? One call? Then nothing.
“That’s silence for six hundred years. It’s a dead world, deadly to all life. So please, tell me you dropped your plans, will you? You let it go?”
“You’d tell me, though, right? If you heard something?”
“My god. Don’t you get it? This was my gift to you, cycling through here. I did it so you don’t have to. So you can move on. So you can burn that book of yours, or toss it down into the clouds and start a new life.”

Jonah Cooke, former professional thief of highly unusual items, however, is not the sort of man to let it lie. No sir. He is adamant that beneath the ever-changing multi-coloured electrical cloud layer blanketing the Earth since death was eradicated, with only a few teensy-weensy side effects like eliminating most of the population and rendering anywhere under 20,000 feet completely uninhabitable, someone stills lives. He’s heard them, just, over shortwave radio, or at least he thinks he has, and now he has his mind set on going down to see for himself. Actually, he has his mind set on a whole lot more than that, due to the guilt he feels at being partly responsible for the world’s current situation… Did I mention he was a professional thief of highly unusual items? Some people just don’t know when to stop…

I am very tempted to leave my summation of the plot there, actually, for one of the real pleasures of absorbing this vibrant mix of trademark, strong Lemire linework and sumptuous watercolour palette, sometimes as pure pages and panels of comics, sometimes illustrating the not inconsiderable chunks of Scott Snyder prose, is trying to work out, quite literally, what on Earth is going on? Or what is going on on Earth, but you get my drift. I doubt you will realise what is happening, until right at the end. I certainly didn’t. In that sense, Jonah is in a very similar situation, working in the dark, or at least near total radio silence…

This is an exquisite combination of two of comics’ current finest creators at the absolute zenith of their powers. Initially I started the first extended chunk of prose thinking “C’mon, I just want comics”, but by the end of said passage of Snyder’s preconceivedly-on-my-part purple prose I was so utterly engrossed by Jonah’s pre-after death back story that I was reluctant for the focus to shift. Fans of his THE WAKE with Sean Murphy and (the finally very shortly returning) WYTCHES with Jock will already know what a gripping and talented speculative fiction / horror writer he is.

Similarly, and I don’t know if it’s because of the glossy paper, but Lemire’s watercolours have never looked so lustrous and lively, the freakish atmospheric effects in particular are compellingly, hypnotically striking.

I think the closest either has done previously in terms of its rewarding complexity that would be a suitable comparison point are Lemire’s TRILLIUM and Snyder’s WYTCHES. This has even more of a mystery element to it, though, with some great little additional speculative fiction devices and conceits I haven’t mentioned that just broaden the story out beautifully, deployed to great effect by Snyder, but it is precisely that obsessive desire to know the truth once and for all… that is going to test Jonah’s sanity to breaking point…


Buy A.D. After Death h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Empress Book 1 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) 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.


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

DC Universe: Rebirth – The Deluxe Edition h/c (£15-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez…

“There’s going to be a war between hope and despair.
“Love and apathy.
“Faith and disbelief.
“When I was outside of time I felt their presence.
“I tried to see who it was.
“I couldn’t, but I know they’re out there.
“And they’re waiting to attack again for some reason.
“I can feel it.
“Even now, Barry…
“… we’re being watched.”

If you’re the one remaining person on Earth-33 (New 52 Multiverse designation) who doesn’t know the twist at the end of this DCU reboot opener, which, rather neatly to be honest, explains why the entire New 52 Multiverse was a… fabrication… I’m not sure I can actually review this without spoiling it for you so I’m not even going to try. The implication is that Dr. Manhattan, yes he of WATCHMEN fame, was unbeknownst to anyone, responsible for hijacking events during the resolution of FLASHPOINT, and ensuring that reality took a different turn resulting in the creation of the New 52 Multiverse.

It’s a ballsy move by Geoff Johns, which is sure to antagonise as many people as it delights, but given he’s now moving on to take up the position of co-overlord of the DC Film division it’s up to everyone else to step into his sizeable scribe shoes and follow the blazing path he’s set with this revelatory one-shot. It think that’ll be tricky given this is easily his best bit of writing (possibly his best full stop) since his exemplary extended run on GREEN LANTERN which perhaps co-incidentally, or perhaps not, began with a mini-series entitled GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH…

Interestingly that particular rebirth brought back someone the fans had long been clamouring for the return of but which seemed impossible for reasons I really don’t need to elaborate on, in the form of Hal Jordan. And here, Johns performs the same trick again, as the Scarlet, well ginger, speedster Wally West, last seen during Johns’ BLACKEST NIGHT before apparently ceasing to exist when the New 52 came into being post-FLASHPOINT (also penned by Johns), is trying to break back into the DCU. Where has he been for the last several years? Well, Johns’ makes good use of the Flash fact that unlike all the other myriad speedsters Wally couldn’t be separated from the Speed Force, so has merely been lost there for ten years due to the mysterious meddlings of who we now assume to be Doctor Manhattan.

Wally therefore is the thread quite literally running through this entire story as he tries desperately to find one of his friends, even one of his enemies, who might, despite their minds – indeed entire reality – being altered, somehow remember him and bring him back. His problem is that to all intents and purposes everyone he has ever known has absolutely no idea he even existed. As he zooms from locale to locale, allowing us readers glimpses of what is to come for all the major characters in their own ‘rebirths’, his connection to the real world becomes ever more tenuous as he faces the prospect of physical disincorporation and completely merging with the Speed Force, to become nothing but fuel for other speedsters to tap into.

Even his beloved Linda, ten years younger than he remembers (as everyone is, again due to the mysterious meddling, conveniently explaining how all the heroes had their ages reset when the New 52 started) simply has no recollection of who he is. That only leaves Uncle Barry, the original Flash. Wally knows not even Barry will be able to rescue him, but he feels he needs to say his thanks to his inspiration and mentor then say goodbye before he disappears forever.

Which is the point at which I had to reach for my hankie… or to paraphrase a certain well known DC tagline, you will believe a man can cry… Forget the hyperbole of the Watchmen connection, the real heart-wrenching, gooey emotional centre of this yarn is Wally himself, plus the promise of what’s to come for the characters themselves. I came into this Rebirth one-shot full of cynicism and a heavy heart, my DC reading over the last few years having tailed off to simply Scott Snyder’s BATMAN and nothing else, but you know what, I was actually inspired to give the new slate of Rebirth titles a try.


Buy DC Universe: Rebirth – The Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Boys Club (£5-00) by Sarah Burgess

Poverty Of The Heart (£3-00) by Mike Medaglia

Carthago Adventures h/c (£24-99, Humanoids) by Christophe Bec, Alicante, Giles Daoust & Aleksa Gajic, Jaouen, Fafner, Brice Cossu, Alexis Sentenac, Drazen Kovacevic

Driving Short Distances (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joff Winterhart

What Is A Glacier? (£5-00, Retrofit) by Sophie Yanow

Planetary Book 1 s/c (£26-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday

Justice League vol 3: Timeless s/c (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hitch & Fernando Pasarin

New Avengers By Bendis Complete Collection vol 6 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Mike Deodata Jr., Daniel Acuna

Goodnight Punpun vol 6 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2017 week one

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Includes breathlessly awaited return of Hellbound Lifestyle’s Alabaster Pizzo!

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

“Say it like you’ve got honey in your mouth.”
“Hello, my name is Suzanne…”

Well, this is a sell-itself cover if ever I saw one.

There’s an exceptionally strong, tactile physicality to the bare male back being wrapped round with a brassiere by a woman who looks lovingly but apprehensively up into his eyes as she seeks to close its clasp. Her wrists, hands and fingers are graceful, and her touch is tender, while his knuckles on hips aren’t those of a closed fist but open. It’s as subtle and soft as the molding, the shading. Their skin glows as if under moonlight.

Equally beautiful body forms populate this period graphic novel throughout, along with exquisitely expressive, gesticulatory character acting reminiscent of Will Eisner.

And Suzanne will have to do an awful lot of acting for fear of being found out. But after an initial reticence and reluctance to feminise herself in order to fit in, she finds that she actually relishes it and so much more.

At which point, the couple’s lives grow increasingly complicated…

Perhaps I should have used “historical” rather than “period” for DESERTER’S MASQUERADE is firmly rooted in a real story which begins one evening in pre-WWI Paris.

Louise is being prepped for the night out by her mother, advising her on etiquette and deportment as she deems befits a young lady; Paul is being bigged-up by his mum who admires the way his jacket shows off his broad shoulders. Unfortunately she’s making leek soup as he dresses for the occasion, and it’s ever so possible he’ll pong. His mates, on the other hand, gently tease him on account of his ardour for Louise but he’s determined that his enigmatic act will win the day. Louise, meanwhile, is being tutored by her friends on the affectations which she’ll need to pull off in order to attract.

“You need to fuss and fret a little bit.”
“She’s right. Play with your hair, stroke your knee, straighten your skirt… That way you appeal to his hunter’s instincts. You are his prey… The coup de grace: you throw back your head and laugh to show him your neck…”

It’s like being coached for a role in the crowd scene of a play. It works.

“Come on, let’s dance.”
“Well… okay but I should warn you now… I don’t know the steps like the other girls do.”

That matters not one jot. For many more nights over so many years, they’re going to make up their own dance instead.

Tonight it is beautiful to behold, Cruchaudet choreographing their hand-in-hand, give-and-take movements with a sweeping grace, accentuating their hips as they throw themselves up and Paul swirls Louise about. There is energy and freedom in their free-floating forms. Trickling down their hot necks there are rivulets of sweat which are both moist and pleasantly pungent, a sensory reaction which Cruchaudet has already set up for her readership with the leek soup, just as she has all the acting.

Except for the emphatically cramped and claustrophobic WWI trench scenes on the French frontline, all the panels here are borderless in black, white and grey washes, the cameo effect of the cinematic haze reminiscent of early film-making from around the same period. The bright scarlet dresses, skirts, and scarf (and a later, orange, chiffon chemise) could be a more modern tinting of those original black and white frames, adding extra sensuality to what is an exceptionally sensual experience.

The heady dance is immediately followed by a romantic, more serene scene in a boat on the lake in the Bois de Boulogne, which in turn leads swiftly down the altar, thence to the train station, Louise still adorned in her wedding dress. Alas, Paul is in army uniform for war is about to be declared, the virile young soldiers parading proudly in an orderly fashion down open avenues, full of optimism for the future.

One turn of the page later and you are in Hell.

What happens in the trenches won’t stay in the trenches: it will haunt Paul forever, and Cruchaudet proves as adept at ugly as she is at elegance. You will comprehend completely why Paul chose to desert – or saw little choice but to desert – but will still wince at the lengths he goes to in order to do so.

I’ll flash forward instead to Paul having to hide away in a hotel while Louise goes to work, in order to bring in an inadequate wage for the pair of them. Louise is at equal risk should Paul ever be discovered for she made all the arrangements, but Paul is far from grateful, slouching around in his vest, hairy chest on show, and begins drinking heavily.

It is the need for more drink which finally propels him outside at night in one of Louise’s red dresses, and oh, that look of naughty-boy joy as he strides down the lamp-lit street!

If he wants to saunter out during the day, however, they’re both going to have to be far more thorough and grow more inventive with the latest epilatory gadgets. And that’s how Paul becomes Suzanne.

I mentioned Will Eisner earlier, but the lines, noses and high Parisian fashion, as Paul learns his new role and then even a trade, also put me very much in mind of what I call early-mid Disney circa ‘One Hundred And One Dalmatians’.

We’ve still barely begun, but I can take you no further; instead I pull you back. For the book doesn’t begin with the dance, it begins with three pages of a courtroom trial which will be reprised later but already inform everything as you read it. For you know from the start that something went awry, so you’re kept in a constant state of suspense, worrying what went wrong, when it went wrong and why.

You are given no clue at all as to the nature of the charges, and that is vital.

The very first page depicts a quite elderly man of unremarkable appearance swapping his civilian clothes for long black robes and the white scarf of office, assuming the identity of a judge.

“Clothes make the man,” as they say.

That’s how clever this is.

AGE ALERT for school librarians etc. It’s rare that we issues any age alert in reviews – although we are always responsible on the shop floor – but there’s far more going on between the covers and indeed down the Bois de Boulogne than I had anticipated, although the Bois de Boulogne is sign-posted early on (right there in wrought iron!), and that neck of the woods does have a certain history of exotic, libidinous, nocturnal activity. “Delicately put, Stephen!” Thank you.


Buy Deserter’s Masquerade and read the Page 45 review here

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

Job interviews:

These are serious, potential life-altering affairs which should be conducted with the utmost decorum.

A little levity, when judiciously targeted, may well prove endearing to your prospective employer, for engagement and individuality as well as a quick wit and a sprightly demeanour are treasured by some as qualities conducive to a cooperative and constructive relationship between co-workers. It pays to be positive, you know.

You should arrive well prepped, but also fresh as a daisy.

Jeannie’s sure had a bath, but the bath was in beer which here boyf had left brewing. She thought it was a thoughtful, aromatic offering to calm her nerves.

“I really have the best boyfriend ever. <3”

It was certainly aromatic, and now so is she. Also “relaxed”, by which I mean drunk as a skunk.

“Uh, Eugenia Barboncino?”

That panel features some truly tasty cartooning, our Jeanie thrusting herself effervescently, horizontally through the office doorway, wild-eyed, mouth wide and arms akimbo, addressing her imaginary, adulatory TV audience; emphatically not her startled potential employer.

But making an entrance that impresses is not without merits, so let’s see what transpires.

“Ms. Barboncino, why do you think you’re qualified for this position?”
“Please, call me Jeanie,” she proffers generously, waving her hand to dismiss the formality. “”Ms. Barboncino” is my father.”

There follows the loudest and most profoundly moving Oscar-acceptance speech of all time, before Jeannie THUNKs her head down on his desk.

“Ms. Barboncino, are you drunk?”
“Drunk with desire for this job!!!”

He picks up the phone. “Security?”

From the co-creator of HELLBOUND LIFESTYLE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, comes an ill-advisedly A4 floppy of blindingly bright, exuberant, anthropomorphic ordeals which had me howling with laughter. Is it so very puerile of me to find hilarious a po-faced art-gallery owner answering the phone with “Hello, Pooperdink & Plop?”

It probably is. I might try that at Page 45.

Note that the love-struck couple call each other Ralphie and Jeanie, not Ralph and Jean, affectionate nicknames of adoration which also denote a certain absence of level-headed maturity. They are clueless and completely impractical, not rising but falling to every occasion. Although Ralphie may surprise you – and Jeanie too – when it comes to his empathy and instinct in controlling some lively kids in a crèche.

“Thank you so much for coming on such short notice,” says the day care centre’s supervisor, smiling but so drained by the drought of support in her job that her hair is a crinkled, crumpled, frazzled mess and the bags under her eyes are bruised blue. “The other counsellors keep changing their phone numbers or abruptly leaving the country.”

Also on offer: a free day at the beach requiring massive, burdensome and accumulatively expensive accoutrements hauled over half a dozen subway stops; tax returns (you send them in; you don’t actually get anything in return except a bloody big bill), a wedding invitation, DIY (see: ill-advised), alien abduction (possibly) and unearthing a time capsule buried together during college, containing arcane objects whose function’s forgotten.

“Wow, so many CDs.
“Do you remember what we did with these?”

It’s simply masterful.

I love that their love falters for not one second and cannot emphasise in strong enough terms how infectiously endearing and keenly observed the cartooning is. Ralphie is perpetually stoned and therefore tired-eyed, dazed and lank, while take-charge Jeannie is such an expressive creation, ebullient and exclamatory, with a self-congratulatory pride evidenced in her chin lifted and eyes angelically shut when she buys into urban, small-hold farming by growing veggies on their terraced city rooftop.

“But what’s wrong with letting the grocery store grow the food as always?” ask Ralphie.

Jeanie’s face is a picture of pure, lip-sealed, Dame Edna Everage wobbling-eyed exasperation before bursting into visually star-struck dreams:

“Cause if we become farmers we can quit our jobs and live off the grid!!”

Live off the grid! Jeannie gleaned the idea from Woke Magazine which, much to my surprise, does actually exist. I thought it was satire.


Buy Ralphie & Jeanie and read the Page 45 review here

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

As above, so below.

“Grief is grief,
“No matter where you find it.
“But in this hole
“The grief,
“The filth,
“The scum,
“They amount to… nothing.”

I’ve seen a lot of self-indulgent, determinedly transgressive and meaningless claptrap scrawled in biro by juveniles in their twenties or thirties, merrily mixing sex and violence, and there will almost always be a huge dong. Page 45 is a mature Real Mainstream retailer for a mature Real Mainstream readership of any age, so we don’t stock such drivel.

This is not that.

Tellingly, there are no genitalia on display whatsoever.

The title is blunt – I’ll give you that – but in this scathing, angry and particularly powerful instance, it is entirely merited.

To begin with SHIT AND PISS appears to be a bleak and brutal horror comic, set in a dungeon-like sewer system into which effluence pours from above, hence its weeping walls, where a “meat man”, without the senses to comprehend its environment in anything but the most primitive manner cannot therefore engage with it an any meaningful manner except through violence. All this is overseen by our narrator, a skull whose sockets house a piercing intelligence which appears to be dispassionate, sitting in judgement.

So far, so heavy metal, but again, this is not that. Pay close attention to what is being said and the manner in which it’s being communicated.

“Within these hallowed hall
“Of shit and piss,
“Dwell creatures so entrenched
“As to permeate the bricks themselves.
“Expertly organised –
“And in ways not dissimilar to your own.”

You’ll find them establishing abodes, fortifying boundaries, constantly in conflict and ravenous.

On either side of the central column of this ruled, nine-panel grid lurk more familiar city dwellers or a colony of ants. Later you may spot dead dinosaurs and medieval knights impaled on lances in the wake of a mass battle, their castle burning behind them. I don’t think that’s a comparison point: I believe that’s the main meat.

Landry makes the most of his nine-panel grid which, as I say, is gutter-free and so may merge at  any moment to form a composite image with a striking use of defining tone between each constituent element (just as his silhouettes and inverse silhouettes do throughout) so that the beats are maintained in the monologue.

They are such damning beats, not least the last one, delivered with economy and eloquence.

“Down here in the shit
“And the piss.
“Genocide is a matter of course.”

As above, so below.


Buy Shit And Piss and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Insanity witches.
“Drug maniacs.
“Friend addicts.
“Bathroom intolerants.
“The world is broken and I’m a person in it.”

Three of the most bizarre, surreal and yet delightfully coherent short stories that I may have ever read. These are as utterly out there as PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA by Tsemberlidis and pretty much anything by Michael STICKS ANGELA, FOLK HERO DeForge.

The titles ‘The Lonely Autocannibal The Scientist’, ‘Bodhisattva’ and ‘The Real Jesuses’ give you an inkling Zach Hazard Vaupen is about take you for a walk on the weirder side, but you will quickly find yourself drawn into three fascinating, if twisted, worlds of very well constructed  and thought-through existential crises.

The first features a strange individual abstractedly pondering the pros (and apparently no cons) of eating human flesh whilst taking in the delights of the natural world and philosophising / losing the plot. You can probably guess from the title precisely who the titular Scientist ends up sampling in the culinary sense…

The second is possibly the most disturbing given that it features a pair of identical twins, sort of, for one seems to be imaginary, whilst the other is determined to commit suicide, seemingly from practically the moment she was born. She just doesn’t want to do it by herself though, and since her twin isn’t interested in ending it all, she spends most of her childhood years trying to persuade other people to join her in a suicide pact. The punchline is the kicker. I can see exactly what the writer was intending here, and it is a genuinely affecting read.

The final story was probably my favourite as it took the nigh on apocalyptic state of the world to utterly bizarre and excruciatingly farcical levels of odd. As humankind gradually swirls upwards around the plughole towards the Godhead, the Real Jesuses themselves fervently playing their vital, if transitory, bit-part role along the way, the believers are in for a wee bit of a surprise when they finally meet the big man himself.

As I said then, three of the most bizarre, surreal short stories that I may have ever read!

Artistically I was also extremely impressed. Zach has an incredibly strong style but a very light touch which did remind me of the likes of GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, but also very strongly of Ben Sea’s equally kooky EYELASH OUT. And actually, now I think upon further, also the odd bit of Frederick AAMA Peeters for good measure, particularly in the Lonely Autocannibal’s facial features. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any future works.


Buy Combed Clap Of Thunder and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Get up. Go back to work.”
“Your bedside manner is lousy.”
“Your attitude is worse. Calling in sick. Moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Wasting your time with this trash. You’ve accomplished nothing.”
“I’ve been having a hard time.”
“And doing nothing to rise above it. Make a new choice.”
“Like what?”
“Mitigate the chance of being attacked again. For a start. Be alert. Be smart. Drop some weight. Tone up. The exercise will nourish both your body and your mind. Soon you’ll be walking with pride and authority. It will take a few months of hard work, but if you want to heal and restore your confidence, there really is no other way.”
“I want to buy a gun.”

That’s Batman, there, dispensing the tough love to the battered Paul Dini. Back in the 1990s, whilst on the up and up and writing for Batman: The Animated Series in Hollywood, Dini was very badly beaten during a mugging. In addition to shattering his face, the assailants shattered his confidence, resulting in a long and difficult recovery process that was as tough, if not considerably tougher, in mental terms, than the physical.

During that period, having withdrawn nearly completely within himself emotionally, Dini would frequently find himself talking to the Batman, and a whole host of Bat-villains, all the while oscillating between despair and self-loathing. From blaming himself for walking blindly into the situation, to not being able to fend off his attackers, to repeatedly choosing to avoid putting it behind him and moving on with his life, Dini’s internal dialogues with the cast of characters that it had long been second nature writing, would form his psychological crutch whilst simultaneously also being the barrier preventing him regaining his mental health.

Much like Steven T. Seagle’s thankfully back-in-print IT’S A BIRD with art by Teddy Kristiansen, about his mental travails around working on Superman (also on Vertigo), this is not your normal Batman book. There are some fascinating little Bat nuggets thrown in here, including a Sandman and Death guest appearance (blessed by Neil himself) whilst Batman was hovering between life and death that Dini pitched for the animated series and sadly never happened, but ultimately this is simply a very painful, very tragic, true crime story. It is all the more excruciating to read when you are watching the blows rain down and enduring Dini’s protracted, emotionally suffocating recovery process, because you know it really happened.

He certainly picked the right artist to work with him in Eduardo 100 BULLETS Risso too because as soon as I saw the two hoodlums sauntering towards Dini, him having petulantly refused a lift home from his hot actress date for the evening in a vain attempt to induce jealousy, well, any sort of interest in him from her, and him then thinking I don’t want to be that white asshole who crosses over the road just to avoid two black guys, who are probably simply well-to-do Hollywood creative types, I knew just how viscerally brutally the beat down was going to be illustrated. And it was. It’s one thing revelling in that sort of thing whilst enjoying crime fiction like 100 BULLETS, it’s another thing reading it, knowing it was a man’s life on the line.


I admire his honesty in writing this. There was undoubtedly some degree of catharsis in doing so, indeed there’s a little sequence between Dini and The Joker berating him for exactly that, but he certainly doesn’t spare himself, or attempt to portray himself as some sort of martyr. Quite the opposite really, Dini lays bare the relentless hard time he, directly, and through the proxies of the entire cast of Bat-villains, plus Batman too, gave himself. For events during, after, and indeed before the mugging. Nowhere near as painful to read as what he went through I’m sure, but he does a very good job of giving us a glimpse of what a punishing period of his life it must have been emotionally.


Buy Dark Night: A True Batman Story s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“We’re going too fast, hold on! Between my eye, and the Mighty Mole’s sensors, we might just avoid hitting a gas line or a chasm.”
“I love this. I LOVE IT!”
“Why is this happening?! Who are these guys?!”
“Your mother was a princess of an ancient underground civilisation called Muldroog. These guys need you, her descendant, to open up some kind of vault.”
“You care to run that shit past me just one more time, please?!”

Cave Carson safely retired, if not completely unscathed, from the underground adventuring business, after putting in more subterranean miles than even the Mole Man, was all settled down to enjoy the good life with wife Eileen, and daughter Chloe. And life was very good, for a time. But with Chloe now all grown up and away at college, and Eileen sadly recently deceased, Cave suddenly finds himself at somewhat of an emotional loose end. It’s a good job adventuring is going to come a knock-knock-crashing through his proverbial door like a pickaxe, then!

Cave Carson was actually a very obscure ‘60s DC sidebar sci-fi character who never even had his own title until now, so (mine-)props to Gerard Way for excavating a little bit of long buried DC history to work with. I’m not certain whether he had his cybernetic eye back in the day, but that artificial ocular implant, which Cave is not entirely sure where / when / why / how he acquired – hey, he had a lot of adventures, but probably not at his local Specsavers, I suspect – is going to prove very crucial to the plot. I guess that was kind of obvious, though, otherwise why would it be in the title?!

In fact, before long he’s having strange hallucinations which seem to be coming from said eye, rather than his noggin. Bet he wishes he’d kept the receipt… These episodes of sensory overload are certainly going to prove as much hindrance as help to him, as Cave is called upon once more to get out a jam by going underground, this time with Chloe, plus best mate and top mechanic Jack in tow. Their destination? The fabled lost city of Muldroog… which might just have a pivotal connection with his pesky peeper…

This is just a really fun title, utterly absurd escapist adventure nonsense. It’s far more simple and straightforward a read than Way’s excellent, if intense, DOOM PATROL. It’s very nominally in the main DC universe itself, as we enjoy a brief cameo from Doc Magnus and some of his merry Metal Men, for example, plus a Superman reference, but I think that’s probably about as far into capes and tights territory as this is going to get. Which is another plus. It is basically, then, a mildly psychedelic sci-fi romp, with some surprisingly dark elements of suspense and horror spattered in occasionally, which I’ll say no more about as to not spoil the squirming surprises.

Oeming is a great choice of partner for Way here, and I’m delighted he’s got this gig. Nice to see him on something else high profile other than the still barely chugging along POWERS and the now seemingly, sadly, extinct UNITED STATES OF MURDER INC. He choreographs the decoratively deranged and at times mind-bendingly colourful action-packed artwork to perfection.


Buy Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye vol 1: Going  Underground 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’

Alice Isn’t Happy (£10-00) by Spencer Woodcock & Denny Derbyshire

Badger Vs. Tiger! (£5-00) by John Cei Douglas

Beanworld vol 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder

Empress Book 1 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen

Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge Tardi h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Leo Malet & Jacques Tardi

Glister (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Andi Watson

Loose Ends (£14-99, Image) by Jason Latour & Chris Brunner

Monstress vol 2: The Blood s/c (£14-99, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

Songy Of Paradise (£30-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Gary Panter

Star Wars vol 5: Yoda’s Secret War (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kelly Thompson & Salvador Larroca & Emilio Laiso

DC Universe: Rebirth – The Deluxe Edition h/c (£15-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez

It’s A Bird… s/c (£15-99, DC) by Steven T. Seagle & Teddy H. Kristiansen

Erased vol 2 h/c (£21-99, Yen Press) by Kei Sanbe