Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2017 week one

Featuring Becky Cloonan, Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction, Albert Monteys, Shannon Hale, LeUyen Pham, Brian Wood, Garry Brown, Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, Ian Edginton, I.N.J. Culbard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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

“Let’s make the ‘I hate Shannon’ club.”
“Sorry, we’re the ‘I hate Shannon’ club and you can’t be a member.”
“Well, I don’t want to be anyway! Because I hate you!”

Fortunately the ‘I hate Shannon’ club only lasted one day. Though the ups and down, or rather ins and outs of being one of the friends that formed ‘The Group’ went on considerably longer for young Shannon, engendering an  ongoing state of nervous tension in her that developed into mild OCD and other issues.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I do wonder whether young girls aren’t far worse for this sort of behaviour than boys, which fortuitously for us here, makes for some fascinating reading! As a kid at primary school I only ever remember bickering disputes between boys being settled with a brief exchange of windmilling bunches of fives, then everyone was friends and playing again normally as though nothing had happened!

Meanwhile, I’m already seeing a little bit of the sort of behaviour Shannon details in this intriguing autobiographical work – well, it’s basically an anthropological study of playground behaviour – amongst some of my daughter Whacker’s friends, particularly one otherwise delightful girl who seems utterly incapable of playing with more than one friend at once, and can become very unpleasant and extremely possessive of individual friends in a group situation. I have suggested the bunch of fives solution but fortunately Whackers is more restrained than her father was in that respect, at least as far as girls are concerned. Boys who annoy her on the other hand are fair game as her best friend Edward occasionally finds out when he pushes it too far…

Still, I digress. As gripping as this is, well because of it, it actually makes for a little bit of uncomfortable reading knowing that my child will undoubtedly go through (though hopefully not be the instigator of too much of) the sort of behaviour that not infrequently made young Shannon’s life miserable. Not that this is all doom and gloom, not at all, it focuses just as much on her true ‘real friends’ as the false ones, and it is just as interesting to see how those friendships first took root and then developed over time, standing the test of it, and others calculating attempts to hijack them, as all happened with Shannon’s first real best friend Adrienne.

Then, there is her older sister Wendy, who to the younger Shannon seems to have a mysterious switch that flips her from loving sibling to total bitch for no discernible reason whatsoever, making home life just as testing at times as her school day. It’s not until an impactful conversation with her mum that Shannon starts to realise Wendy might be far more like her than she’d realised…

LeUyen Pham’s artwork, meanwhile, is utterly delightful. She’s absolutely brilliant at drawing kids, with all their myriad facial expressions that can go from ecstatic to devastated and back again in the space of three panels. Plus she also neatly adapts her style for Shannon’s daydream / fantasy sequences, or where she’s illustrating the girls’ elaborate role-playing games, usually involving them being spies or superheroes. Ah, the joys of unbridled childhood imagination and seemingly all the time in the world to just play and have fun with your friends. Assuming they’re not busy making an ‘I hate you’ club that particular day, that is! 

The term all-ages is frequently bandied about, not least by myself, but this is a genuine example of a title that works brilliantly well in very different ways, depending on the age of reader, to equally resounding effect. I will certainly be encouraging Whackers to read it before too long, as an educative, informative but also entertaining piece, whereas older readers will certainly read it with wistful / grimacing reminiscence as they cast their minds back to making their first real friends, and indeed arch-nemeses!

Recommended for voracious readers of Raina Telgemeier (SISTERS, SMILE, DRAMA, GHOSTS), for some young ones far prefer real-life material that they can relate to, rather than the more fantastical thrills which we carry so much of.


Buy Real Friends and read the Page 45 review here

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

Was there ever an artist so in love with an era? I think not.

These three stories are mesmerising in and of themselves but this new edition with colours by Lee Loughbridge also boasts the best selection of back-matter sketches and associated finished art I can recall: page after page of lush, sensual, sexually charged portraits of men and women at one with their natural environment.

There are trees, there are leaves, and aquatic fronds reflected in the reptilian skin of those hiding behind them. There are tresses! Now, “tresses” is a word that evokes not necessarily a singular style of hair but a particular period in which it was worn, bound for courtly consumption. As to the guys, you can almost smell the male musk and taste the built-up grease by the way the thick strands fall heavy and thick over their eyes which glare up through their parted curtains in anger or seduction.

This reprints the three self-published A5 comics WOLVES and THE MIRE originally reviewed by myself and DEMETER reviewed by our Dominique, now out of print.


A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

It’s all in the eyes.

The Mire

“Please remember, this letter means the difference between life and death.”

On the eve of battle, Sir Owain dispatches his young squire on an urgent errand. He is to deliver to Castle Ironwood a letter which is sealed with wax and stamped with the knight’s signet ring. The squire protests, for he swore an oath to fight at his master’s side, but when Sir Owain insists that this is a most noble and vital task, the squire promises to be back before the fighting is done.

However, the swiftest route is via the Withering Swamp, a stagnant mire rumoured to be haunted. What will our squire encounter during this treacherous endeavour?

“We all have ghosts that haunt us.”

This is Cloonan at her finest, crafting a tale so clever that you will want to re-read the second you are done, for hindsight is a funny old thing. It’s also beautifully written: I love how Cloonan maintains the metaphor between these two sentences:

“The trees stood guard like a row of immovable sentinels. Any light that managed to break their lines felt old and mouldy.”

She’s also employed a neat little trick which David Mazzucchelli utilised in CITY OF GLASS whereby speech bubbles drifting directly out of the mouth imply that the words aren’t spoken – no lips are moving – so emanate from somewhere much deeper and darker and colder within.

“So I kept moving. You should keep moving too.”


Like the previous two comics, DEMETER is a short story which seems at first to be simple but which you know from the outset will have a twist. It’s not so much the surprise of the twist which grabs you, it’s the inevitability. As with a fable, you know the lesson is coming and dues must be paid; the hook lies in watching the protagonist as the moment approaches.

Will they go peacefully or will they refuse to accept what has come calling for them? Are they the victim or did they bring this on themselves? And if so, can their weakness be forgiven; is their eventual sacrifice enough to settle the bill?

In proper Gothic Fiction tradition Cloonan’s setting here is Olde Worlde; a beautiful, pregnant young woman tends house by the sea while she waits for her husband’s boat to return. What should be simple and charming is overlaid from the outset with a tinge of dread; even in her husband’s arms our lady seems tense, watchful, on the edge of panic. She is asking him to recall the time they first met but he can’t seem to remember. He’s lost some of his memories, it’s like there’s a boundary in his mind beyond which he can’t move, some trauma that has disconnected him from his past. Is something about to come home to roost?

I love these comics from Becky Cloonan, I hope she always finds time amongst all her other work to turn them out because they are just so gorgeous and satisfying! Her art is clean and line-perfect, her stories punchy and paced just right. Really handsome slices of comicbook goodness.


Buy By Chance Or Providence s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Protestors’ placards:


I don’t think CTRL+Z is going to do it for you, fellas.

A 10” single of a comedic graphic novel initially conceived by musician Coulton, further fashioned by Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS, ODY-C, HAWKEYE) then orchestrated by Mr. Monteys with ever such subtle tones, I believe this may hit you where it hurts.

Shall we begin with Side B?

Outside the solid steel gates of the sprawling, industrial yet verdant Booji complex, a throng of semi-enraged activists have gathered to protest the usurpation of their user data. They’re clambering all over its ever-so-jolly, brightly coloured logo. They’re quite the gaggle to goggle at.

“Read your Terms And Conditions, losers. You’re already too late.”

So mutters Booji programmer Robert Nowlan, travelling into work on its exclusive overhead monorail. But he’s not unsympathetic to their cause. He’s heading for a meeting with elderly Booji Boss Ray for whom grimace is a default setting, and involuntary, foamy-mouthed spitting an optional extra. Ray’s computer calmly announces:

“Your Buddy Robert Nowlan has confirmed your invitation to chillax.”

But Robert is hardly chillaxed. Bounced up from bed by a bad dream, vision or communication from the future, he’s been typing furiously and loudly into the early hours of the morning much to the irritation of his sleepy missus.

“Bob. Why are you awake? It’s too early.”
“Because. There are dumbies on the internet that are wrong about things.”

I love Montey’s depiction of his intense, in-your-face screen concentration / confrontation as he tap-taps furiously away, then braces backwards while typing ever-onwards, as indignant and pursed-lipped as ever until, victory within his grinning reach, he realises that the sun’s come up.  He takes the protestors’ privacy concerns to Ray, but do you recognise this?

“They all clicked ‘agree’ after pretending to read the rules like the 1.9 billion other users all over the world did.”

That’s even after they began objecting to the securing and sequestration of personal data, and on a recurrent, monthly basis too. We just do, don’t we?

“It’s not too late. We could open the data. Be – maybe not transparent, but at least… I don’t know. Is “translucent” a thing?”
“No and – no. That data is ours, legally and in perpetuity. Having it – access to it – that’s how we do what we do. It’s gonna be worth more than Booji itself one day.”

But code-writer Robert is now on a mission and does something determined or desperate – you take your pick – and I think you may well end up wincing. There are two full pages of public reaction in private, as individuals stare at their screens and cup their mouths in wide-eyed horror. One man in particular quietly sobs. There are diplomas framed proudly on his wall.

I cannot commend Fraction and Montey’s collaboration on this project highly enough for its lack of hand-holding: for Fraction’s judicious decision to let Montey do so much of the storytelling that it’s overwhelmingly implication over explication. The cover itself is one such perfect teaser with the moon shining bright above a citadel of surveillance cameras as Robert’s fingers hover tentatively above a keyboard within a rounded, triangular, toxic-yellow Hazard Sign.

There’s so much more to follow, but shall we regroup on supplementary Side A?

I don’t wish to imply that they are separate entities – they’re interlinked by multiple, trodden tracks which inform the whole – nor that the first half is any way extraneous. It’s just that anti-agapic food supplements play a prominent part.

Ray, for example, is still here, suspended in a colloidal solution at the heart of the futuristic Boojitropoplex surrounded by multiple concentric, impenetrable walls built by its Boojibuddy citizen-drones who constantly rate their own experiences or others’ behaviour using green thumbs-up or red thumbs-down emojis. They’re up-voting or down-voting, and no one likes to be down-voted, do they? Imagine if that were an option on Twitter!

The graphic novel opens with a lyrical invitation to wake up, which reads a bit like ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’.


Immediately our Buddy Bob does wake up on rough, grey, rubble-strewn terrain, surrounded by his construction co-workers, each wearing an orange survival suit complete with air-tight dodecahedron-shaped helmet. Bob’s has been breached, his pink visor cracked and perforated, a trickle of blood flowing from his forehead. He’s still breathing remarkably well.

What knocked him on the noggin then rendered him unconscious is another dodecahelmet, only more primitive with tiny eye holes rather than a visor. Inside, they discover a skull.

Back in his apartment, Bob stares in the mirror, evidently designed for maximum flattery, with a tree-lined waterfall cascading soothingly away in the background.

He looks fresh and young, the hole in his helmet pixilated out with any other skin blemishes. Unfortunately his visor won’t open – it’s broken – which will make eating impossible. Necessity being the mother of invention, instead he lobs a food supplement capsule through the breach in his helmet, catching it in his mouth.

He’s not always so successful (much laughter to follow) but, in any case, that’s no long-term solution for healthy well-being. Can the simple malfunction be fixed in this most technologically advanced age? After due consideration our aged, all-knowing leader Ray is optimistic.

“Ah-ha! Science. That’s the ticket. Engineering!”


“We need to get you a really great straw, Buddy.
“Buddy, get our Buddy Bob here a really great straw. Real long, okay? And really great.”

The empty, inarticulate feel-good factor and facile, faux solution put me in mind of successive Republican Presidents like Reagan, W.B. Bush and Trump.

The first half is full of such low-tech farce. Earlier Bob had attempted to requisition a replacement helmet from an Argos-like emporium whose assistant attempts to emulate an automaton by reading scripted questions and responses from a printed paper manual.

“Uh… okay. “Hi Buddy, I’ll be your Helpr today…” Uh… “What is the nature – “ No no, hang on buddy, hang on –“

It takes them ages until they establish that Bob’s original request was sent in 10,699 days ago.

The number of days crossed out on Bob’s several annual calendars provides an intriguing sense of context; and in the background there is an equally telling piece of propagandist encouragement involving the complex’s last major accident…

So where does Earth’s lunar satellite fit into all of this? It is one of Bob’s two jobs to track the trajectory of the moon – to be more precise, its analemma (its pattern of deviancy as seen in the sky over the period of a year from a fixed point in the planet) – by fallible human hand. Yes, but in an age of far more accurate robotics…?

Bob’s best friend is a giant robot called Robo-Grande who seems as out of the loop as he is when it comes to weird workings of the Boojitropoplex, and as perplexed when it comes to the unexplored concepts of dreams and “desire”. Bob’s going to start dreaming more and more, and they are both going to begin to explore the “want” lacking in their lives when something vital up above goes suddenly missing.

That’s it, folks!

Judging by the interior furnishings, the protests outside Booji take place perhaps a decade into our future; how far ahead the first half is I will leave you to discover for yourselves, along with how they’re connected and all the little intricacies in between.

Singer-songwiter Jonathan Coulton provides an invaluable afterword which I would suggest reading first, about the genesis of the project which was originally orientated around an album he was creating around the idea that “the internet sucks now”.   

If you haven’t already figured out what Booji is, I really can’t help you any further, but of course the concerns voiced here spread wider than a single corporation. Fraction has had enormous fun with the satirical elements. Everyone in the Boojitropoplex refers to each other as Buddy. “Bro” is banned; Buddy is the brand.

With Fraction’s welcome insistence that Monteys provide so much of the narrative visually, you are invited to solve its puzzle yourselves, hence my omissions which are many. Albert Monteys does not disappoint.

Unlike Jeff Lemire’s recent SECRET PATH collaboration with musician Gord Downie, there’s no free download code for the Solid State album released in April 2017 so you’re going to have to buy that separately or, you know, Spotify / YouTube it.

I leave you instead with a recurring sentiment or riddle…

“The brain and the mind are two discrete entities.
“Guilt and shame are two discrete entities.
“Yet both are the result of who you are versus what you do.”

… with the promise that all will become clear and give you much pause for thought.


Buy Solid State and read the Page 45 review here

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

“We’re going to lose this war, Kitta. Why not set terms that we can live with rather than fight and lose everything?”

“Because we’re Norssk? Do I really need to tell you that? People don’t change as fast as you think they do, Magnus. You have rough times ahead of you.”

Indeed. But then it’s all grim up North on the Black Road, where the culture clash between invading Christendom with its one, true God and the old ways of the Norssk and their many Gods, is being settled with steel and blood, not peace and love. And the Norssk are most definitely losing, both hearts and minds as well as limbs and heads.

Magnus the Black knows it; he can see the future all too clearly. But despite being a warrior himself who can only enter Valhalla if he dies with his sword in his hand, he has for various reasons, including still being in mourning for the death of his wife, decided that working with the proselytising Catholic clergy and their heavily armed shock troops is in the best longer-term interests of the Norssk.

Until, that is… well, you’ll need to have read BLACK ROAD VOL 1: THE HOLY NORTH to know all the gory details that led him to this particular cul-de-sac in his new career’s progression, but suffice to say, working with is not the same as kowtowing to. Having reached the vast fortress that the rogue Bishop Oakenfort has been constructing, Colonel Kurtz-style at the end of the Road, in an attempt to overthrow the seat of papal power in Rome with the aid of a certain holy relic, Magnus finally finds himself forced into action against his employers.

This second volume brings the first story arc to a suitably claret-soaked, concussive conclusion. Events are very neatly tied up with such seeming finality, I have no idea whether there will be any future BLACK ROAD stories, featuring Magnus or otherwise. I hope so, because I have enjoyed this just as much as NORTHLANDERS.

Once again, Garry Brown’s brutally minimal art perfectly encapsulates the privations and hardships of the lands and life of the Norssk. He does a very good fight scene too, I must say, having quite the talent for making sequences of extreme violence very fluidly pleasing to the eye. The one that’s not just been stabbed with a dagger, that is.

More, please!


Buy Black Road vol 2: A Pagan Death and read the Page 45 review here

Repackaged Edition / Considerably Embellished Review

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

“Mysteries within mysteries and an original mythology to become immersed in.”

 – Warren Ellis

First hefty half of what was originally a ten-volume series and, at the time of typing, we do have some of those slimmer WASTELAND volumes on sale at a mere £5-49.

I know you crave your post-apocalyptic fiction, and this one takes place during the most severe hose-pipe ban in history.
There’s a constant dread of danger in this catastrophically damaged world. The various factions and indeed this whole, barely re-industrialised, mountainous city teeter precariously on the verge of violence, under threat as they are from ruthless political power-play, religious intolerance, and the very terrain which is barren and broken.

Whether it’s the environmental Armageddon we currently face, the exploited lorry loads of refugees smuggled then sold into slavery, the destructive politics of tyrants like chin-less liar and coward Bashar Hafez al-Assad, or the wilfully ignorant racism that doesn’t even have the good grace to lurk beneath the surface of our societies any longer, Johnston has found novel ways of building them into his depraved new world, giving it far more bite than most.

He’s even thought about the language we use, particularly when swearing which traditionally references dogs and religion. Here the dogs are substituted with goats which are the cattle of this future, for there is no grass to graze, and since to those struggling to survive outside citadel limits goats represent their very means of subsistence, it’s no surprise that some of their language revolves around them. As to religion and religious intolerance, an interesting point is made as a crowd gathers round to gawp at the corpse of a murdered sun-worshipper. There may be swears.

“Fuckin’ deserved it. Filthy fuckin’ sun-slaves.”
“How do you know he was a sunner?”
“Look at him. All those freaky fuckin’ tattoos.”
“Weren’t no slave, though.”
“Oughta be. Sun-damned savages.”
“No, why you say that? Why you say “sun-damned” when you don’t believe in no Mother Sun?”

While we’re on the subject of the two religions explored so far here, although there have been tax incentives to encourage marriage, this is the first time I’ve come across the idea of using such incentives to encourage conversion from one religion to another!

This all takes place in the city of Newbegin whose cold, calculating and treacherous leader is referred to in the text of a letter found by the scavenger Michael out in the wilderness, and attached to a machine which speaks in Tongue, a mysterious and (perhaps) lost language.

It’s written by a father to his son, instructing him to follow the machine to A-Ree-Yass-I where, legend says, the Big Wet that destroyed their world began. He brings it to a town thence a woman called Abi, but when their settlement is burned to the ground by marauding Sand-Eaters, the survivors are forced to embark on a punishing journey to Newbegin itself which, if they survive the bandits, slave traffickers and their own tempers, might not be the salvation they hope for.

I so wish I could have found for you images of Christopher Mitten’s soaking storm online. It slashes in front of the ramparts in bright, blinding sheets which erode so much behind or beneath it. There are some spectacular, full-page aerial shots of the astonished multitudes scurrying urgently about below.

In that second of the five chapters within in particular, Mittens remaining women and men are ghostly on the page, radiating light as much as reflecting it, from within or without the partial or total ruins and the opaque, grey, basic accommodation which boasts little-to-no decor which isn’t entirely perfunctory. Implements of torture – that sort of thing. Speaking of which, it’s good to know that we’ve got our priorities as straight as ever with what little electricity we’ve managed to regenerate. There may be the odd, lamp-lit main thoroughfare, but mostly it’s used to shock the living daylights out of prisoners.

If the interior jail cells are fashioned from old iron bars, then the vast, warped exterior cages that resemble those of a zoo seem to be cobbled together from thick bamboo – or perhaps it’s repurposed lead or copper piping.

You’ll enjoy long, jagged blades, protective bandages wrapped around wrists, billowing dustcoats and utilitarian hairstyles ranging from shaven to short-cropped or the I-can’t-be-arsed-to-even-cut-my-hair curtains. Basically this: it’s all been thought through.

You may know Mitten already as Johnston’s cohort on UMBRAL whose first volume we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, an act which reportedly caused the most massive spike of internet interest which Antony charted, and deservedly so. We very much recommend UMBRAL, particularly if you’re partial to purple.

I now return you whence we began to Warren Ellis, renowned grumpy-chops and ever-so-astute writer of PLANETARY, INJECTION, TREES, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, GUN MACHINE and so much more. Why not pop him in our search engine, lock the door then throw away the key? If you do, you’ll find some of his swears are the best.

” Yesterday’s “time off” was spent reading the four extant collections of Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten’s WASTELAND, which can be viewed as Antony’s death metal take on DUNE, given that it’s ultimately about the crisis of the cogs of competing systems clashing against each other on the stage of a world that’s not really geared for supporting life. That there are wheels within wheels and systems unseen by many of the protagonists is part of the work’s developing tragedy.”


Buy Wasteland Compendium vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions / Old Reviews

The re-release of all four Edginton & Culbard SHERLOCK HOLMES graphic novels in a more palm-pleasing size and pocket-friendly price is the only excuse we need to reprint slightly titivated versions of our original reviews.

I love the new covers with their distressed corners as if already well thumbed-through, much loved and picked up, perhaps, at a car boot sale.

The first two are by Jonathan. Re-reading my third review in this same sitting, even I might convict myself of plagiarism, but I swear they were written years apart without referring to Jonathan’s lead.

Cue unfortunate segue:

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

“What ineffable twaddle! I never read such rubbish in my life. The writer claims by a twitch of a muscle, or a glance of the eye, to fathom a man’s innermost thoughts! Deceit, according to him, is impossible to one trained in such observation and analysis! It’s evidently the theory of some armchair lounger who evolves these neat little paradoxes in the seclusion of his study! I’d like to see him in a third-class carriage in the underground and give the trades of his fellow travellers. I’d lay a thousand to one against him!”
“You would lose your money. I wrote the article myself. I have a trade of my own… I suppose I am the only one in the world, I am a consulting detective.”

This is the second Sherlock Holmes adaptation from Edginton and Culbard, and it’s another masterfully jumbled jigsaw puzzle of investigative theatre laid out on the table for us to bemusedly grapple with.

A STUDY IN SCARLET features the story of how Holmes and Watson first met and began their firm friendship, set of course against the background of a rather puzzling double-murder. Well, puzzling to everyone except Holmes who with his usual trademark arrogance and love of a good denouement strings everybody along, including the Scotland Yard detectives with their own errant theories, to the point where they are virtually threatening to arrest him if he doesn’t tell them whodunit. He, of course, goes one better, contriving a dramatic arrest of the culprit in a manner worthy of the master detective.

Brilliant adaptation from Edginton and Culbard which perfectly captures the sneering arrogance and in turn bewildered astonishment of the younger Holmes and Watson.


Buy Study In Scarlet and read the Page 45 review here

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

”Hmm… are you armed, LeStrade?”
”As long as I have my trousers I have a hip pocket, and as long as I have a hip pocket I have something in it!”
”Good man.”
A lovely piece of completely unintentional innuendo between Holmes and LeStrade towards the climax of the book that had me sniggering like a schoolboy. What a fantastic adaptation this is from Edginton and Culbard of one of master detective’s best-known adventures. I would actually have to say I prefer this to the original text by some distance.

Edginton’s tight adaptation of the witty verbal interplay between the characters is a joy to read, particular when combined with Culbard’s vivid and luminous artwork, from the assiduously patterned flock wallpaper in Holmes study to the imposing facades of Victorian London.

Here’s a little sequence when Sir Henry, the American inheritor of the Baskervillles’ wealth, is travelling by train to his new estate with Dr. Watson and sees the beauty of the English countryside for the first time. Edginton and Culbard capture the scene perfectly:

”Y’know, I’ve been over a good part of the world, Dr Watson, but I’ve never seen a place that compares to this.”
”Indeed, I never saw a Devonshire man that did not swear by his county.”
”I’m as keen as possible to see the moor.”
”Then your wish is easily granted… for there is your first sight of it.”

The highest possible compliment I can give is that I’m quite sure Conan Doyle would be absolutely delighted with how his creations have been brought to life once again in this work, and remain as relevant, engaging and entertaining over one hundred and thirty years from when he first imagined them.


Buy The Hound Of The Baskervilles and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I have been in the Valley of Fear.
“I am not out of it yet.
“Sometimes I think I never shall be.”

THE VALLEY OF FEAR, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS… It’s all about fucked up geology for I.N.J. Culbard, isn’t it? Don’t you think he should mellow out a little? I’m thinking The Glacier of Gloom, The Estuary of Ennui, or The Meadows of Mild Malaise.

I read this on a sunny Sunday afternoon in my Garden Of Ineffable Joy, and the book matched the setting perfectly. I was thirteen the last time I read Sherlock Holmes and this brought back its brilliance indescribably well. The mere mechanics of the mystery alone are compelling enough – truly it’s a devilish plot with plenty of misdirection and false assumptions – but Edginton has distilled the prose to a gripping perfection whilst abandoning none of its original language. A note is scrawled “rudely” rather than crudely and the murder is reported by a “much excited” Cecil Barker rather than one agitated or alarmed, as we might say now.

Moreover, artist Ian Culbard has choreographed Sherlock Holmes’ confident performance with a quiet intensity, focussing on the eyes and the knowledge behind them, so that he is imbued with as much charisma as any actor I’m aware of that has taken the role to date. Holmes immerses himself in the tiniest details and revels in any mystery that successfully challenges his wits. To Holmes it is the perfect opportunity for a piece of theatre that he can direct, which is why he insists that it plays itself out in front of his captive audience of fellow detectives as they lie in wait for one of the cast to walk on stage and make his telling move:

“Watson insists that I am a dramatist in real life. Some touch of the artist wells up within me and calls insistently for a well-staged performance! Surely our profession would be a drab and sordid one if we did not set the scene so as to glorify the results. The blunt accusation, the tap on the shoulder – what can one make of such a dénouement? But the quick inference, the subtle trap, the clever forecast of events, the triumphant vindication of bold theories – are these not the pride and justification of our life’s work?”

Importantly, throughout that speech, far from gesticulating melodramatically like some self-obsessed luvvie, he stares straight ahead from under hooded eyes watching eagle-eyed for his prey, for it is the prize itself – the solving of the riddle and that way that it plays itself out – which absorbs him.

Similarly I will allow the mystery to present itself to your own good selves in the way it was intended by Mssrs Edginton and Culbard, with but a note that the central murder is framed by Holmes’ earliest insistence on the culpability of Professor Moriarty who lies waiting patiently in the wings without one single line, but with a presence all the same which makes itself felt.

Sherlock Holmes is an enduring creation, part of whose allure is his smiling conceit: he knows he will get there first. Privately, I was amused to find our merchant of mischief employing a phrase I’m inordinately fond of myself:

“Exactly so!”

The wallpaper’s aged well too.


Buy The Valley Of Fear and read the Page 45 review here

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

OMG! We never reviewed this!

It was indubitably awesome.

Will that do?


Buy The Sign Of The Four 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’

Venice (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

Back, Sack & Crack (& Brain) (£12-99, Robinson) by Robert Wells

God Country (£14-99, Image) by Donny Cates & Geoff Shaw

Heathen vol 1 (£14-50, Vault) by Natasha Alterici

Paper Girls vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Reborn h/c (£22-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Greg Capullo

SLAM! vol 1 (£13-99, Boom!) by Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish

The Wendy Project (£11-99, Emet Comics) by Melissa Jane Osborne & Veronica Fish

Unfollow vol 3: Turn It Off (£14-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling, Simone Gane, Javier Pulido

Green Arrow vol 3: Emerald Outlaw (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Otto Schmidt

Superman vol 3: Multiplicity (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason & Ivan Reis

Captain America: Steve Rogers vol 3: Empire Building s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Rod Reis

Fairy Tail vol 61 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Above The Dreamless Dead (£17-99) by Eddie Campbell, Luke Pearson, Simone Gane and more

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