Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2017 week four

Last week’s Page 45 Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 Comicbook Creator Signing Schedule and more! Lots vital news, lots of pretty photos!

Water Memory (£13-99, Roar) by Mathieu Reynès & Valérie Vernay.

“Hi! I’m Marion!
“I’m your new neighbour.”

Whenever you move into a new home, it’s good to greet the neighbours – especially if they’re few and far between. They can be a bit of a worry, can’t they? An unknown quantity, until you get to know them.

And on this crystal clear morning, her second full day on the Brittany coast, that is precisely what young Marion is doing as she strolls along the grass-green cliff tops, the breeze blowing in her hair. The neighbours are all a lot older than she is and understandable more than a little weather-worn. They’re standing stones, after all.

Some of the menhirs are more impressive than others and of course the less ancient locals have left their own marks with arrow-pierced hearts and initials: evidence of innocent childhood crushes or trysts. There also appear to have been more elaborate carvings on some: amphibian, fish-like faces or masks, only with both eyes facing front.

“It looks like this one’s still growing!
“What are you all looking at?”

They are staring out to sea…

Reynès & Vernay had me hooked from the start: pages and pages of perfectly pitched, companionable dialogue as we make the acquaintance of Marion and her mother Annick while they explore then settle into their new surroundings. These hold but the vaguest of memories for Marion’s Mum who hasn’t been back here since she was four. They’re shown around by kindly Suzanne, an old friend of Marion’s grandparents, married to Antoine who spent his life on the waves, skippering a fishing boat like Marion’s long deceased grandfather.

Evidently at that point Annick’s mother moved away, for the house hasn’t been lived in for thirty years.

It is ever so idyllically situated on a tall, sheltered outcrop overlooking the bay, and Vernay makes the most of the view, filling it with movement and light.

Seagulls surf the sea breeze, directing our gaze to the lighthouse rising above a small, adjacent cottaqe on an island not far from the shore. Beyond lies the fishing village itself, a yawning stretch of bright blue sky between billowing, sunlit clouds funnelling our attention there too.

Later there’s the wind in the washing, and a wave-break of white flowers flowing through the standing stones. The town itself is flooded with local individuality: old whitewashed houses with exterior, half-timbered upper storeys, a restaurant on the quayside where Annick finds work, and a mightily thick stone wall evidently erected to buffer the residents from the worst of any storms.

Against it has been erected a small drinking fountain with that same, curious mask sculpted in semi-relief. One G. Norman has placed an inconspicuous brass plaque to its left:

“En Mémoire des disparus du 02 février 1904”

It’s the date of the last great storm.

If you’re beginning to feel a certain chill in the air, at the heart of this gripping Young Adult graphic novel lies a mystery which may or may not contain a dark, fantastical element. Regardless, it certainly involves local legends of appeasing and emphatically not displeasing sea spirits, and those in the past (and perhaps present) who have believed these myths, become obsessed then undone by them. It stretches back generations and across families as it would in any closely knit community, and unfortunately once Marion has its scent, she simply cannot let go.

Its other heart lies in the relationship between Marion and her mother, its driving force any young person’s natural instinct and compulsion to explore. Their first evening, before their furniture, linen and crockery have arrived, sees them enjoying a sunset picnic together outside and the light there too is just-so. Marion’s Dad, we infer, will not be joining them but their bond is all the stronger for that, and the scene is brought to a close with their thoughts firmly thrust to the future.

Sure enough, on her very first morning, Marion cannot resist the thrilling novelty of it all! Brought up in a city, and you suddenly have private, sandy beaches directly below your doorstep…? A dip in the sea is most definitely required! Have I mentioned the light? At every moment Vernay is in complete control of the temperature through body language and colour.

As Marion ventures tentatively further out from the shore, she spies a boat on the horizon with an outboard motor heading towards the lighthouse. She calls out and waves but although water carries sound, that engine is evidently making more.

The lighthouse has its own lure, obviously, especially after Marion discovers it might be accessible at low tide. The small gate barring access to the steps which lead down to the beach has a No Entry sign but if it’s left unlocked, that sign can’t really be that important, can it? You wouldn’t leave a gate open if access was dangerous.

The thing is, tides can come in a great deal faster than they go out, and there’s an episode Reynès wisely wrote in earlier which won’t leave you head once you’ve read it, ramping up the tension to shoulder-knotting heights.


It begins on Day 3, when Marion spies seagulls squalling noisily round a fissure in the stone, close to the bay where she’s begun bathing. Gingerly she makes her way in, wading through knee-deep water, the warmth of the sunlight quickly giving way to an echoing chill, the only blue glow coming from the sea round her feet.

What has excited the seagulls is dead and repulsive, with milky eyes and an army of tiny, sharp teeth. But what’s discovered above it would prove all too distracting for anyone.


There’s a wealth of preparatory work and unused art in the back including some spectacular, tsunami-wave storm scenes of biblical proportions but before you get there you can also look forward to: fish beaching themselves en masse; more strange carvings with dates and initials; family revelations; a thick chain clanking ominously against a well’s iron grate; blinding sea fog, one man’s forever haunted eyes, and elderly Suzanne looking as though she were drawn by Nick Park.

Note: this has been translated, yes – quite often it’s easier to find interior art in a book’s original language.


Buy Water Memory and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Or Be Killed vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

The psychological self-examination of one affable if awkward young man’s descent into mass murder.

If you think it improbable that you will root for the guy, I’d remind you that such is the strength of Brubaker’s internal monologues that the self-contained CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF INNOCENT had us all desperately praying that a man could get away with uxoricide.

This is the periodical I pick up first no matter what else is on offer on any given week.

There’s nothing sensationalist about it. Our narrator is an astute individual with a keen moral compass, and that’s as much of a trigger as anything. Much of the priming in terms of mental isolation has already been explored, but the other trigger – the core motivation, if you like – is an element of the first KILL OR BE KILLED which I deliberately kept from you for fear of spoilers.

I’m not going to elaborate here, either, except to say that there is a moment of discovery on the part of his best friend Kira which leaves her in fear for Dylan’s safety, while holed up in his closet as he makes love to an ex-girlfriend. Kira, it should be noted, is undoubtedly the love of his life, but lest he blurts out something incriminating he’s been keeping her at a distance, even as she confides in him.

It’s not this discovery that he’s worried about, but he should be.

And it explains everything which you may have puzzled over in book one.

Where Dylan has become compromised is with both the NYPD and the Russian mob now, after one public blunder (or a spot of bad luck) and a miscalculation about just how wide the Russians’ net is spread and how tenacious they can be. Fortunately institutional sexism and male police pride may give him some breathing space for now, but the Russians are more open-minded and resourceful.

There’s little more that I didn’t explore in my substantial review of KILL OR BE KILLED VOL 1 (so I’d refer you there instead) including Sean Phillips’s decision to retain his three-tier structure while throwing the art full-bleed, right to edges of each page, so that you’re no longer kept at an observational distance but thrust right into the heart of the action and Dylan’s head.

Here’s more of his self-justification:

“Lobbyists aren’t all bad, of course. Some lobby for human rights or the environment. But most of the time, they work for big business and what they do is, they pay a lot of money to politicians to pass laws or repeal regulations… so the corporations they work for can do whatever the fuck they want.
“Gideon Prince was the kind of lobbyist who helped put poison in your drinking water and then laughed about it to his buddies.
“And what I mean is, he’d done that exact thing…
“And yes, look – I know this one is sort of a stretch. He didn’t personally poison that ground water. But people who can look at dumping chemicals as a good thing because it saves them money… who can make fun of the people who are suffering because of it?
“It’s hard to argue the world wouldn’t be better off without them.”

He’s exceptionally self-aware and quite the philosophical conversationalist when it comes to his audience if not his few “friends” whom he keeps at a remove. He’s not deluding himself, except when it comes to that one key element which, when you discover it, is sadly so common.

Most of his longer reflections and reminiscences are aligned down blank vertical columns outside of the art, giving them chance to breathe, but don’t get too complacent about what’s being shown there, that’s all I’ll say.

I never intended this second review to be anything but brief, but you could write an essay on the body language alone: little details which either Brubaker or Phillips drops in, like Detective Lily Sharpe – the one on the ball whom her fellow officers studiously dismiss and ignore – who was raised in foster care between several group homes, reading on the bottom bunk of a bed, the toes of her bare feet digging self-protectively into the duvet as someone else’s dangle over the top.

There’s something squat, rough and ready about Dylan’s physique and physiognomy. It’s not simian, but it’s burly and certainly atypical of most protagonists’, both within comics and without; I keep thinking of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis.

Anyway, with police attention now drawn, so is the media’s and I suspect Sean will become quite sick of drawing news stands before Dylan’s done.

Dylan is forced to become more reactive while increasingly restricted, and even though you know that he lives to tell this tale (if not under what circumstances), you will be kept on the edge of that proverbial seat, toes possibly digging into the carpet.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Only Living Boy vol 1: Prisoner Of The Patchwork Planet (£7-99, Papercut) by David Gallaher & Steve Ellis.

“My life was over the day I ran away.”

One bloody-nosed, flat-on-his-back and barely conscious close-up later, you’re swept straight into action on the previous day.

With the elements against him, twelve-year-old Erik Farrell is racing through the rain under a storm-shrouded sky, looking fearfully over his shoulder. Dodging traffic, he dashes for the relative safety of Central Park, past protesting pedestrians, their umbrellas caught in the squall, and dives for cover under a rock.

“People say that running away doesn’t solve anything at all. “Find somebody to talk to,” they tell you. But when you talk to them they just don’t understand. If you’ve never thought about running away, you’re just lying to yourself. Sometimes, we all just need space to figure things out.”

Clutching another kid’s bear-shaped backpack, he falls asleep, exhausted and oblivious to the obsidian, red-eyed goblin creatures taking his measure. When he wakes up in the morning, it’s a jungle out there. It’s the very moment of peace which Erik will enjoy to figure anything out.

From now on he will be climbing, swimming and sprinting for his life in an exotic but alien land called Chimerika, a composite country full of strange creatures at war, and said to have been patched together from the most dangerous worlds by a dragon-like chimera called Baalikar. It can be anything and see everything. And it now has Erik very much in its sights.

Throwing your protagonist straight in at the unknowing deep end is an excellent way to get your readers on board both with the adventure, the environment and the poor lad desperately trying to navigate it by thinking fast on his feet and puzzle his way out of trouble. You’re learning as he’s learning, and there is plenty to discover, for example why the moon appears to be broken, its shattered shards suspended in space around the rupture. Constantly captured by one faction or another, Erik gleans what he can from each, but their own knowledge is limited to what little they’ve learned themselves, what they have time to impart in a rare, spare moment or whether they have any inclination to do so.

Vitally, however, Gallaher maintains young minds’ investment in Erik with all the real-world baggage he’s carrying with him, so familiar to so many: issues of self-confidence, impotence in an existence which is dictated by the authority of adults or, here, those he encounters, all of whom are bigger and more brutal than he.

A little pluck goes a long way and Erik is determined to do what he can. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he fails, but he does have a go and that, Gallaher reminds us, is what’s important. Also, I feel that this will speak to so many:

“I hate making choices.
“I really hate making the wrong choices.
“At my age, everything feels like the wrong choice.”

Artist Steve Ellis, meanwhile, makes all the right choices, accentuating Erik’s strengths which lie during combat in his relatively small size, keeping him running flat-our and low. As early as the opening few pages he’s charging with his arms and torso thrust forward, close to the ground, nipping between others far more nimbly than an adult would.

Sometimes he’s assertive and cheeky, but more often aghast.

And, oh, there is so much that is monstrous to make wide eyes shine like marbles: huge variety in the various species and individuals with – I see from the next book’s preview – far more to come. His demonic scouts early on reminded me of the lithe, pitch-black subterranean creatures from the episode of John Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR where we finally met Ben’s Aunt Petunia, and Ellis does a mean, ominous glint in the eye.

Tantalisingly by the end of this first instalment, we remain in the realm of clues rather than answers.

What is Baalikar up to? Well, there’s the Census in operation: what appears to be a series of experiments and appraisals by Doctor Once, particularly interested in the science of sectarian transpecies. He appears to be something of a duality himself.

Both alliances and enemies have been made: never take for granted which one is which.

Lessons have been learned, but there’s been no respite as of yet during which to put them into practice.

It’s suddenly all grown a lot more complicated and definitely dangerous but, no, I wouldn’t say that Erick’s life was over at all. I do believe that it has only just begun.

Families, young readers, we have a new winner. Books two, three and four in stock next week.


Buy The Only Living Boy vol 1: Prisoner Of The Patchwork Planet and read the Page 45 review here

Pug-A-Doodle-Do! A Bumper Book Of Fun! (£10-99, Oxford Press) by Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve.

“Do you have any complaints about this book? Write them in the box provided. Please write clearly.”

The box is 5mm squared.

I have never read a funnier kids’ creativity book in my astonishingly long life.

From the cover to cover, it is one big monkey-barrel of laughs; a mischievous and immersive engagement between the two co-creators and their soon to be enraptured, educated and thoroughly inspired young audience.

McIntyre and Reeve are born performers and creatively generous partners. Both authors, both artists, they bounce off each others’ bonkers ideas, adding an extra flourish here and a cheeky post-script there until every page is jam-packed with all the irreverent exuberance that your sugar-buzzed bambino could possibly cope with.

This is the very opposite of those bland, perfunctory, slap-a-puzzle-down, supermarket, rubber-dummy cash-cows.

This is art. It’s entertainment.

It is carefully controlled anarchy.

Even the opening About The Authors splash-page is bursting with individuality and neat things to do: there’s a mug to embellish with any silly slogan, dust bunnies to draw under Sarah’s desk (I don’t vacuum far enough under there, either), and Philip has unwisely left his trousers un-patterned for you to redefine him in the loudest fashion imaginable.

Their table-top work space is a well of creativity and they encourage you too to contribute. “Colour this page!” they suggest.

You can colour every page if you like, including their comics like ‘The Magnificent Dartmoor Pegasus’ or brand-new new ones which they’ve since made up based – like this entire extravagance – on their best-selling illustrated prose PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, CAKES IN SPACE and JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR all of which Page 45 has reviewed and keeps permanently in stock on our massive spread of blindingly colourful all-ages shelves!

It’s like revisiting your favourite friends – then drawing all over them!

Yes, there are comics! Comics for you to read, comics for you to create: comics for you to enjoy and absorb first in order to get the general gist of how the mechanics might work, then blank panels for you to fill in between a provocative kick-start and a cuddly conclusion.

You’ll be encouraged to write, you’ll be encouraged to draw! You’ll be actively discouraged from flinging poo.

There’s even a new song to sing, and I have spent over an hour honing my already considerable vocal skills (*entire family plus everyone I’ve ever met convulses with laughter*) to the Sea Monkey shanty which I plan to perform a cappella the very next day that Sarah and Philip fail to run away from me in time.

They’ve become quite fleet of foot.

Some activities are free-form “Go for your life!” exhortations, but more often than not Reeve and McIntrye will offer you examples of their own demented imaginings like ‘Pugémon Go!’ playing cards complete with names, illustrations, powers, strengths and weaknesses, then leave increasingly blank entries for you to design and refine your own. Completed example:

“Name: Pugatchoo
“Powers: Turbo-Sneeze
“Strength: 20
“Weakness: Tissues”


“Name: Skellipug
“Strength: 10
“Weakness: Gnaws His Own Legs”

Well, he is made of bone! What would you imagine his powers might be? X-Ray Vision…? Tom-Waits-style ‘Clap Hands’ echoing percussion…? The uncanny ability to scare the living be-jeezus out of your Old Auntie Adderline…?

Invisipug is left entirely blank but probably won’t require much illustration, yet you’ve the rest of its stats to whip up on your own. With Aquapug you have free illustrative as well as stat-orientated rein on, and there are three more completely empty entries including names. Plus: what is to stop you then cutting out cardboard and making a whole new deck of your own Pugémon, Pokémon or any other set of cards to actively play with just like Top Trumps?! Nothing!

That’s how exciting, empowering and inspiring this all is, but “increasingly” is ever so clever: McIntyre and Reeve will never throw you in at the deep end unless you’re a Sea Monkey, in which case you probably deserve it.

That brings us to the ‘Which Character Are You?’ Question & Answer survey towards the end. You’re presented with seven hypotheticals whose answers will determine whether you are more like A) Iris the Mermaid from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, B) Astra from CAKES IN SPACE, C) Shen from PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH or D) for dunce: a Sea Monkey once more from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS.

Now, I don’t want you pre-judging me, but my ‘Best Subject At School’ was neither Swimming, Xenobiology nor Art. Also, the only reason I have time to type this review is that I may – inadvertently or on purpose – have defenestrated my television set.

Oh dear. I know I deserve it.


P.S. I’m infinitely better at reading David O’Connell and Sarah McIntyre’s Young Readers’ illustrated JAMPIRES rhyme to youngsters on the shop floor than I am at singing. I really am. Honest to goodness. Try me! Recommended.


Buy Pug-A-Doodle-Do! A Bumper Book Of Fun! and read the Page 45 review here

Close Enough For The Angels h/c (£31-99, Petty Curse Books) by Paul Madonna.

“Dear Reader,

Whoever you are, whenever you are, and whatever events have transpired for you to be reading this, I just want to begin by saying that, like everything I have ever made, this book is a reaction to circumstance – the reflexive yelp after stubbing a toe; the burst of laugher upon hearing a good joke; the irrepressible cry of relief after having, once more, dragged myself back from the well.

 – Emit Hopper 04/03/14”

Emit Hopper is the protagonist, and those are the first words you’ll read.

The date’s in American, though that matters not one jot for the purpose of this review.

For a start, it is compromised by my having read a mere 65 of 450 pages and only begun to absorb half of its 106 predominantly double-page landscape illustrations in Indian ink – line and wash – on watercolour paper.

I can assure you that I will be drinking those in for many months to come, while absorbing the prose as fast as I am able then issuing a more rounded review. But I am a very slow reader and there is some degree of urgency here.

For a start, this is the latest from the great Paul Madonna whose illustration-driven, snap-shot narratives I first discovered in the form of ALL OVER COFFEE while browsing through an exceptionally personable independent bookstore in the Castro District of San Francisco. You won’t find Madonna in 99.9% of comic shops, no, for he is distributed exclusively by Ingram in America.

Secondly on the snooze-you-lose front, I see that – at the time of typing – a mere week after publication  there are just 150 copies of a total print run of 5,000 left for sale on the western seaboard of America which is all we’ll ever have access to. The west coast is understandably better served: Paul Madonna is, deservedly, a very big name in San Francisco.

His second, architecture-orientated album EVERYTHING IS ITS OWN REWARD was also set there, as was his first foray into illustrated prose, a slimmer, wit-ridden socio-political satire very much in the vein of early Evelyn Waugh complete with helpless and hapless naïf buffeted about by insane circumstances and ever so slightly surreal forces beyond his control called ON TO THE NEXT DREAM.

This too is bountifully illustrated prose, but after a mere 65 pages of this 450-page epic it is already clear that this is a far more involved, profound and exotic beast than ON TO THE NEXT DREAM which I had read in full before that review and which I rate very highly indeed.

Half of it appears to take place – or have taken place – in Thailand.

So imagine what that does for the illustrations.

The endpapers alone tantalise with a path leading down a higgledy-piggeldy, hand-railed bank of bamboo steps towards an enclosure defined by a barricade of bamboo stakes and wooden planks, and a lychgate-like aperture: a gate off the latch and ajar, leading through to heaven knows where?

So many other drawings portray steps and bridges which beg the same question; as well as lush fronds, carvings and sculpture.

If I were to define this based on what I have read so far, I’d call it a mystery: a mystery for us and a mystery for its level-headed protagonist, Emit Hopper, who may not be immune to the impulse or foolhardy.

An acclaimed American author who once left his readers believing  that he might well be dead, Emit Hopper’s star is now once more in the ascendance following his revival in Japan. He gave up the musical, literary and celebrity ghost voluntarily two decades ago in favour of running his own quiet, simple, virtually anonymous laundromat service. But his past is far more convoluted than that and his future suggests complications.

Publisher blurb:

“As he’s drawn back into the limelight he meets Julia, a former celebrity chef with a dark past. But when she disappears while hiking with two other women, Emit finds himself chasing down a mystery that promises to leave him forever changed.”

The thing is this: Julia wasn’t the first woman in his life to go travelling, or missing. Many years ago, there was Marie.

Now I know a review from us, whom I do hope you trust, without being in complete command of the facts is something of a risk, especially when you’re contemplating coughing up over thirty quid. I don’t think I’ve ever published one before.

All I can tell you is this: I am currently engaged in my second immediate read-through of Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’, as well as on the cusp of completing Fredrik Backman’s equally exceptional ‘A Man Called Ove’ prose fiction on top of all the glorious sequential art I need to read and review weekly… and I cannot put this down. I’ve read it as fast and as furiously as I can because it will not let me do otherwise, and because I wanted to give you some taster before copies run out on us forever. Paul Madonna is massive at Page 45.

So here’s another thread: Emit has an identical twin. The way Madonna describes their relationship is perfect. It’s like they lived is glass houses: they are transparent to each other at least, However opaque most of us are to others we love – however many deeply absorbing, meandering conversations it takes us to burrow beneath those surfaces and get a good glimmer of the real light within – Emit and his brother did everything instinctively together as one because, really, they were.

And then, two decades ago, with his brother riding high on Chinese-soap-opera-superstardom, everything between them abruptly went dark when his brother’s unexpected mental illness set in, and an extra shroud or curtain was pulled down on top.

Imagine that level of almost unique, intuitive communication blacked out.

Twenty years ago Emit wrote a novel:

“It was called ‘Glass Houses’. An allegorical story about the loneliness and isolation that comes from having to watch a brother shatter into a pile of broken shards, and not be able to do anything about it.”

All I can give you is pieces of a puzzle which I’ve yet to solve.

But, in a way, that is the purest pitch possible.


Buy Close Enough For The Angels h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Demon vol 3 (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga.

Jason Shiga, meticulous with detail, is known neither for imprecision nor for being random.

He is a logic-driven puzzle-maker and a puzzle-solver. In DEMON VOL 1 he invited you to solve a seemingly baffling, complex conundrum involving life, death and resurrection before his protagonist did. The satisfaction after the final reveal – when you then go back and realise how watertight it all is – will have you grinning your heads off then evangelical in spreading the word.

Alas, spreading the word in this case is problematic without spoilers: I’d have to tell you exactly what was happening to prove its ingenuity. Instead in my review, I showed you what was happening without telling you how or why. I sort of drew you a map without providing all its topography or topology.

But if reviewing DEMON VOL 1 was knife-edge tight, reviewing DEMON VOL 2 without spoiling the first instalment was nigh-impossible, though I had a damn good go at some considerable length.

Volume 3…? Forget it.

All I will say is that there is a marked change of pace initially following a substantial change of setting, for things have… moved on. Things have moved so far on that the biggest problem Jimmy Yee now faces after being pursued relentlessly by the Office of Strategic Services… is ennui.

The OSS bar one man are all dead, and Jimmy has become so adept at utilising his almost unique condition for pleasure and gain with no care for the pain that he can do so with impunity. He has lost all sense of ambition, proportion, perspective, enjoyment and empathy, except for one other.

However, it is the precise nature of this condition – both its extensions and limitations (the rules of the game, if you like) – that allows a man as mathematically gifted as lateral-thinking Shiga to pull blinder after blinder right to the end of this penultimate volume.

So much so that there is a completely unexpected 50-page action sequence in the middle of this that is so breathlessly and relentlessly spectacular that there’s no time for any verbal exchange. There is, therefore, the same 50-page gap between the self-assured defiance of one combatant… and its concurring or retaliatory punchline. I won’t tell you which.

That is laugh-out-loud timing.

Reminder: adults only, or there will be some v awkward conversations come family dinner-time.


Buy Demon vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Weapon X vol 1: Weapons Of Mutant Destruction Prelude s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Greg Land, Ibraim Roberson.

Yes, okay, this was unexpectedly good fun.

Jay Leisten’s inks over Greg Land’s pencils has calmed down their overly slippery photorealism, breaking them up into something no less sturdy but far more involving. Too much gloss and you become removed from the proceedings: distanced to the point of uninvolved spectator. Land’s Old Man Logan is one of the best interpretations I’ve seen, bearing both a humanity and spirit and – when required – a twinkle of experienced wisdom in his eyes.

Thankfully, there’s also a great deal less objectification of the female cast, even though in one specific instance their predicament could have easily given opportunity for more.

Plus almost every Wolverine tale worth its salt will have at least one moment of bucolic tranquillity and a deer.

Oh wait, we don’t call him Wolverine now that he has grey whiskers, do we? He’s OLD MAN LOGAN and if you have no idea what that mean, then our reviews should sort you out.

My eyebrows knotted occasionally at some of the preposterous plot mechanics (if the Weapon X programme is so desperate for these five mutants’ DNA, how is it that the relatively new Hulk, Amadeus Cho, has them all on file to make indentifying comparison points; also why?), but Greg Pak’s dialogue here comes with a credible cadence for each individual along with equally credible twists for their novel new relationships – especially Logan’s and Sabretooth’s as allies – without once seeming forced or hokey. You can tell when someone is contract-bound, deadline-driven, work-for-hire writing-by-the-the-numbers but, far from predictable, it’s actually delightfully deft.

Also clean: a clean start with clean art.

It’s certainly no HAWKEYE or MS MARVEL nor DOCTOR STRANGE – each of which are relatively genre-free, less esoteric so excellent starting points for Marvel Comics – but if you really relish involved, superhero fisticuffs and are on the look-out for something else, this proved infinitely more fun for me than anything else currently being published by this confused and somewhat detached corporation outside of JESSICA JONES and INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN which has since become the even more enjoyably unpredictable INFAMOUS IRON MAN, both being written by Bendis.

So: in order to eradicate all mutants, a secretly revived off-shoot of WEAPON X has begun to capture previous recipients of its somewhat invasive medical procedures or other mutants with keen skills to add to their weaponised, bi-pedal arsenal. Every time they succeed and so upgrade their reconstituted assassins makes it more difficult for future targets to evade their grasp. Old Man Logan attempts to rally his similarly assaulted, potential new victims, but sometimes his reach and his speech don’t prove long or convincing enough to win anyone over.

Thank goodness for young genius Amadeus Cho, then. Being human, he’s not on the hit-list. As a caring individual who cannot abide the American authorities’ disdain nay disgust for minorities, he is the mutants’ most welcome ally. As the new Hulk, prepared to stick his green head above the parapet upon their behalf, he is also their potential saviour.

But as an involuntary blood donor straying far too close into Weapon X’s predatory, opportunist sites, he may well prove the ultimate Weapon of Mass Mutant Destruction.


Buy Weapon X vol 1: Weapons Of Mutant Destruction Prelude s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal #1 (£4-25, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo…

“Whoa. Big door. Vic, I’m sending you over the image…”
“Got it, Barry. I’ve run it over a thousand times already. But it keeps coming up unknown…”

Said big door being on the entrance to the hidden bunker in the centre of the huge mountain that has just materialised in the middle of Gotham City… destroying most of the city centre, sky scrapers and all…

Long-time DC fans will immediately recognise it as the base of the Challengers Of The Unknown, who these days work for… ah, well that would be telling. I do like how Snyder is managing to work all sorts of DC history into this tale already, be it references to individual bat-books which I suspect may prove key like BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE written by Grant Morrison, or lesser used third-string characters like the C.O.T.U.

It is a bit weird having to remember in this current version of the DC Universe that the Justice League has no idea who the Challengers are yet (Batman aside, obviously, being his usual know-it-all self), given how fundamentally involved I can remember them being around the DEATH OF SUPERMAN era. Plus I am pretty sure at some point it was established Rip Hunter was Booster Gold’s son. I think there was also a very odd, brief-lived, New 52 incarnation involving reality TV ‘stars’ as the Challengers if the memory serves. Plus, given Jack Kirby is at the very least partially credited with their creation waaaaay back in Showcase #6 from 1957 it is also a nice timely little nod to the King in the year of what would have been his 100th birthday.

Anyway, DC never particularly worried about re-writing their history with the various Crises and other events over the years. There are also a couple of much more familiar characters who crop up in this issue too, who will be very well known to even casual DC readers. If not the Justice League, yet…

So… following on from events in the Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting one-shots, we are now aware that something not so fun and cuddy from… elsewhere… is on the way, apparently being drawn to this reality in some strange way by Bruce Wayne, who could actually do with a good cuddle, so that’s a shame. There’s a nifty and amusing explanation involving a certain poster of the New 52 Multiverse that probably graced more than a few comic shop walls a few years back which sheds an absence of light on the situation, and that’s probably all I should really say by way of plot explanation at the moment.

There’s a lot, lot more rammed into this issue, mind, which is relentlessly action-packed, including even a prologue battle that will titillate fans of enormous, transforming Japanese robots… It does hav the potential to all get completely preposterous and ridiculous, mind you, but hopefully Snyder can keep it on track.

Capullo, meanwhile, continues to impress with his linework. He and Snyder, team responsible for the BATMAN DC New 52 run, are excellent foils for each other. If as a writer you are going to try and cram in that much action, you do need someone that can deliver clean, precise mayhem. I’m really enjoying this so far; I just hope it doesn’t end up collapsing under its own weight. After all, metal… I mean preposterousness… is very heavy…


Buy Dark Nights: Metal #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hookjaw (£13-99, Titan) by Si Spurrier & Conor Boyle…

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

I think, given the comic is called HOOKJAW, that might possibly turn out to be untrue by the end.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Hookjaw and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

There’s been a Bank Holiday!

Below you’ll find last week’s new books. If they’re new formats of previous graphic novels, reviews may already be up; others will have retained their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

This week’s new books will be added just as soon as we are able at which point this paragraph will be replaced. Bank Holidays, eh? Hope you enjoyed yours!

Water Memory (£13-99, Roar) by Raynes Mathieu & Valerie Vernay

My Pretty Vampire (£17-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Katie Skelly.

Close Enough For The Angels h/c (£31-99, Petty Curse Books) by Paul Madonna

Demon vol 3 (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Hookjaw (£13-99, Titan) by Simon Spurrier & Conor Boyle

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Giants h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Conor Nolan, Feifei Ruan, Brandon Dayton, Jared Cullen

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (£12-99, Seven Seas) by Nagata Kabi

Pug-A-Doodle-Do! A Bumper Book Of Fun! (£10-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

The Beauty vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun, Thomas Nachlik

Sky Doll: Sudra h/c (£17-99, Titan) by Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa

Wonder Woman vol 3: The Truth s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Liam Sharp

Deadpool World’s Greatest vol 8: Til Death Do Us… s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Joshua Corin, Christopher Hastings & Salva Espin, Scott Koblish

The Mighty Captain Marvel vol 1: Alien Nation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Margaret Stohl & Ramon Rosanas, Elizabeth Torque, various

New Avengers By Bendis Complete Collection vol 7 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Neal Adams, various, Mike Deodato

Weapon X vol 1: Weapons Of Mutant Destruction Prelude s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Greg Land, Ibraim Roberson

X-Men Blue vol 1: Strangest s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Jorge Molina, Matteo Buffagni, Julian Lopez, others

X-Men Gold vol 1: Back To Basics s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Ardian Syaf

Assassination Classroom vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Legend Of Zelda vol 12: Twilight Princess vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

One Piece vol 83 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Platinum End vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul vol 14 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Vampire Knight: Memories vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

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