Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2017 week three

Featuring Melanie Gillman, Jesse Jacobs, Chris Gooch, Pierre Paquet & Jesύs Alonso, John Allison, Jiro Taniguchi, Sara Varon and more!

As The Crow Flies (£26-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Melanie Gillman.

Do you want something to make your hearts soar and your souls sing?

Melanie Gillman presents you with two hundred and seventy pages of warm, rich, full-colour beauty successfully celebrating the awe-inspiring majesty of nature and the equally impressive ability of young individuals to reach out to one another while keeping you worried that they won’t.

And they don’t, some of them – not to begin with. No one is perfect: we can’t ask for that. People are complex, behaviour can be mean and words very careless indeed.

History and religion are complicated too, and it behoves us all to dig a little deeper. But if you think I’ve already given too much away, oh no: there are many mysteries for you to discover for yourselves, some of which I won’t even allude to here.



“I always thought that was cute – girls with boys’ names.”

Charlie Lamonte has only just arrived, and is already worried that this was all a massive mistake: electing to spend an entire week at a remote Christian youth backpacking camp where, it transpires, all the other twelve-to-fourteen-year-old girls are white.

Charlie, you see, is black. She’s also self-aware, as painfully self-conscious as any teenager, queer and beginning to question her formerly firm belief in God.



Not only that, but the other girls have already arrived and seem far more confident than Charlie. A couple of them are quiet and dubious, but others have made friends and are playing cheerfully, energetically, even raucously. What greets Charlie is daunting, to say the least. She’s hoping not to get noticed. She’s hoping not to stand out. She’s hoping to find the reason that she believes she was led here today.

“Please talk to me again.
“Don’t go silent.
“Don’t leave me here all alone.”

There are admittedly worse things in life, but being alone in a crowd is excruciating, particularly when you are young.



The early signs are not good. Sydney, 13, is combative, swiftly attracting the contempt of the older, slightly sanctimonious Adelaide and Therese for her age, flat shoes and skirt.

“Who wears a skirt on a backpacking trip??”

Therese and Adelaide pair up fast over supper, establishing a pecking order and bonding over the romance of weddings – so that’s another awkward subject for Charlie (“I’ve never really been the, uhh… marrying type)  – and Adelaide even manages to drop in the word “gay” as a lazy, disdainful pejorative.



The good news is that this week-long camp is thoroughly feminist and so empowering in nature, which is a refreshing change for such a patriarchal organised religion. Counsellors of Charlie’s six-strong Cherokee group – Bee and her 18-year-old daughter, Penny – are at pains to point out that the backpacking hike that they are all about to undertake together follows in the footsteps of the women of the former gold-mining colony who did all the farming on top of domestic duties and raising as many as seven kids, so found themselves with less time and fewer opportunities than the men to form bonding ties on hunting trips or down the local saloon. Led by a woman called Beatrice, they broke ranks with their husbands to proceed undaunted on an expedition of their own up, up and into the chartered wild, creating their own space right at the range’s apex where they celebrated in a ceremony which the girls at Camp Three Peaks will be re-enacting when they too reach the summit. But both Bee and Penny are determined to keep the nature of that ceremony secret from their young charges, and that gives Charlie some concern, to say nothing of the loaded language used to describe it.

Here’s another mystery: if the wives all defiantly struck out in secret and at night leaving their husbands back at base, who looked after their newly-born babies still needing to suckle?



The trek is arduous.

Over and again Gillman give us silent panels of huge endeavour emphasising both the scale of what these young women are undertaking, but also the difficulties that they casually encounter along the way. One panel gave me extreme vicarious vertigo.

But the views are epic, they are heavenly, and hues are sublime. Gillman’s softly textured coloured pencils really come into their own as the white-hot disc of the sun sweeps across the sky, casting the farthest, hazy ranges into an otherworldly Martian red while the nearer verdant peaks, denser in rugged detail show off both coniferous green and purple concave shadow.



It’s easier for some than for others, but Charlie is finding it particularly problematic: she’s just come into her period a week earlier than expected so hasn’t brought any sanity-towel protection. Already de-hydrating, this loss of blood is both embarrassing to Charlie but also dangerously debilitating, on top of which she’s plagued by the most excruciating cramps. And she is trying to make friends! And not stand out! The last thing she needs is to feel a burden.

She discovers she’s bleeding while assigned to collect and purify mountain water for the group with 13-year-old Sydney who provides her with tissue paper from her backpack as a stop-gap.

“You okay in there?”
“Fine! Just met some too-friendly foliage.”
“Tell it to keep its grubby tree-mitts to itself!”
“If I’da known, I could’ve gotten you the mace from my bag, too!”

They don’t collect much water, but at least they’re beginning to bond and Sydney is kind and inclusive.

“I think we’re destined to be terrible water-bearers, you and I.”



But Charlie’s curiosity won’t go away.

“Okay, I gotta ask – did you actually pack mace?”
“Would it weird you out if I did?”
“I guess I’d just want to know why.”
“… Not everybody’s equally safe in places like this.”

Sydney looks away, cautiously.
Charlie starts to smart.

“What the hell does this girl know about feeling unsafe?” Charlie thinks.

And Sydney looks back.




Yay for Young Adult diversity and friendships! This will sit beautifully on our shelves next to Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS, Maggie Thrash’s HONOR GIRL and the recent, more urban BREAKS by Malin Ryden and Emma Vieceli, for example.

The art could not be more welcoming, the borderless panels radiating with natural beauty of green, gold and brown between clean white gutters. I make no pretence of knowing Gillman’s visual inspiration, I only observe that some of Charlie’s expressions while she and Sydney are (not!) collecting water put me surprisingly in mind of Richard Sala’s. Eyes / nose, everyone?



What I loved above all about this on top of Sydney and Charlie’s burgeoning trust and innocent collusion is the absence of unquestioned, theological perfection (why does organised religion insist that such an omnipotent being as God even has a limiting gender? – rhetorical) as well as the complete absence of two-dimensional stereotypes set up purely for the purposes of antagonism. People have the ability to disappoint (and I include myself there), but also to surprise and delight you.

Here’s Adelaide, freely admitting that she really needs to work on being mean (which she can be, even to friends):

“Sometimes I think we’re trained to do just that – make friends like we’re jockeying for position.
“By the time you realize it, it’s already become engrained.
“It doesn’t feel very Christian.”



Buy As The Crow Flies and read the Page 45 review here

Crawl Space h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs…

“It’s hard to explain. It’s full of all these messed up shapes and colours.”
“Jeanne-Claude, you talk like a liar.”
“It’s true! There’s like this weird undiscovered ecosystem under the house.”
“And it can only be accessed through the laundry machines.”

“Oh, hey Daisy! This is Daisy, she just moved here from the States.”
“They don’t believe me about your basement. We have to prove it!”
“New kids are always so full of shit.”
“Come on! Everyone wants to go!”
“Ok, but it won’t work unless you’re pure of mind and purpose.”



And on the very previous page, Daisy had quite clearly asked Jeanne-Claude not to tell anyone… After all, if you’d discovered a psychedelic portal to an immaterial realm in your basement and you were the new kid in town, you’d probably want to keep it quiet too! Consequently it’s not long before everyone at school is desperate to take a mind-bending trip through Daisy’s mysterious washing machine. Well, and her dryer too because both, with a bit of concentration, allow access to the said world of messed-up shapes and colours. In fact, whilst there, even your own body turns into a strange swirly rainbow affair.



Jesse Jacobs returns to mess with our noggins in his follow up to the equally bizarre SAFARI HONEYMOON, which told the farcical tale of the traditional post-nuptial holiday gone very badly awry. He clearly likes his transmogrification, does our Jesse… The difference here is that he’s splashed out on some ink and really given it the full-spectrum spread. So much so, I have a sneaking suspicion that were I able to see up into the ultra-violet and down into the infra-red, there would be probably be a whole lot of additional madness happening on the page at those wavelengths too. If not, that’s an idea for his next work!



However, this is a story of spiritual growth, of taking a profound journey towards realising an enlightened state of being. Or just getting completely off your proverbial trolley, depending on how you look at it… And that perspective, that difference in approach, well, that will make a very significant alteration to what you experience within this peculiar state of existence, plus what psychic imprint you leave behind on it, and its inhabitants… For yes, curious metaphysical beings do dwell there… I shall say no more on the plot front, because some things are best experienced without any foreknowledge or pre-conceptions… Suffice to say, I doubt one leaves this work exactly the same as before one first opened the cover…



Art-wise, Jesse is like the perfect hybrid of Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown, Marc DRAWN & QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING Bell and Jim FRAN Woodring and yet has a damn good go at transcending them all with a style that is a sensuous, endless flow of precise parallel lines, perfectly smooth curves, interspersed with intense contorted shapes and bejewelled with mandala-like creations that combine to beguile and delight. And occasionally terrify!



I think it is perhaps, therefore, quite apparent, even from this review, what the not-so-hidden allegorical element(s) to this work might be! I’ve deliberately put that s in parenthesis because depending on how (deeply) you look at it, I think there’s more than one. I loved how the dual potential aspects of the journeys through the realm were presented. Attitude, it seems, really is everything. As a comics creator, Jesse Jacobs certainly has it by the pocket-psychic-universe-full.


Buy Crawl Space h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bottled (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Gooch…

“Jane? I want to tell you something…”
“Just focus on not throwing up, okay? We’re nearly there.”
“No, no… I have to tell you, I feel so guilty…
“Do you remember my going-away party? Like before I went to Tokyo?”

Perhaps you have one of those friends, who have done fantastically well for themselves, but seemingly have become rather insufferable with it? Jane does. Her old schoolfriend Natalie, whom she used to be inseparable from at school, is now gracing the Japanese catwalks as a fashion model. Natalie’s coming back home to Australia to do some publicity for her latest campaign and has deigned to suggest Jane and her have a catch-up night out… at a glamorous fashion-world party filled with beautiful people from the in-crowd.



It’s Jane’s worst nightmare, being very much a girl with her feet firmly on the ground, even though she’s stuck living at home with her mother and her mother’s odious and obviously unfaithful boyfriend Steve. Jane’s desperate to move out with her own devoted long-term boyfriend Ben, but all they can possibly afford is a tiny room in a dreary house-share with some rather odd characters, and even then they’re woeful short of the required deposit. Which is why, when Natalie drunkenly blurts out a previous betrayal in a pissed-up, post-party state, leaving Jane in a state of extreme dudgeon, she starts to concoct an elaborate scheme to get her revenge… and the deposit.



Chris Gooch perfectly captures Jane’s draining existence and the covert thrills she begins to experience whilst stealthily executing her plot. His chosen colour palette of black, white and dull red, the shading entirely provided by a letratone effect, captures the grim reality of both her suffocating, stilted life and her dark intentions towards her former friend.



It’s a gritty story with a rather bleak climax, which upon reflection is less simplistic than it first appeared to me. I initially struggled with the openness that Jane acts in the final scenes, but in fact, sometimes, someone just needs to realise that other wronged person really is hammering the nails firmly down on the coffin lid of their dead friendship.


Buy Bottled and read the Page 45 review here

POS – Piece Of Sh*t h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Pierre Paquet & Jesύs Alonso.

Well, wouldn’t you know it: a week after I review MANN’S BEST FRIEND I’m handed another dog-centric story, and this time it’s an autobiography.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful: an expressive, visual treat from Jesύs Alonso thrown together with constant, vivacious, bounding movement, coloured in the countryside with such refreshing, bright-skied joy, but blue as you like at night.

That’s Pierre at the top of the cover looking a bit blank, harrowed, lost, lonely and ashamed, surrounded by the ghosts / empty shells of the lovers he never loved even when he was adored. You’ll meet a fair few of them inside. One was perfect; Pierre was not.

And look! That’s Sonny at the bottom, sitting obediently, patiently and trustingly, looking up adoringly into Pierre’s eyes, waiting for a signal, any sign that it’s time to play! Whatever Pierre has endured over all these years as a lover, publisher and private individual – with careless friends and the occasional outrageous duplicity – Sonny has been his one loyal constant, his confidant, all fluffy and energetic and bursting with unconditional, wholehearted love.



But Pierre is charging through the city

“Where are you going?”

Interjected between these 250 album-sized pages of green and golden light there is a staccato series of midnight pages – say, a dozen in total – in the centre of each of which lies a single, landscape, cityscape panel as Pierre tears across town at top speed. His loose, French-striped sweatshirt rides up at his back, bearing his sharply defined, taut spine.

“You look like you’re in a hurry…”

He’s carrying a black bin liner which we first spy resting silently by his bathroom door in Pierre’s otherwise empty flat before Pierre enters, strips, looks in the mirror and bursts into tears.




“Wait for me!”

It swings lightly in one hand as he races desperately down the middle of the main road, the only traffic parked and unattended at the curb…

Pierre Paquet is a publisher.

He specialises in comicbook creators whom he believes in: those who aren’t receiving, for example, the Casterman treatment which almost guarantees sales and recognition. At Page 45 we empathise unreservedly. For Pierre it has often proved a thankless task of long hours, hard work and few rewards, as you will see. Perhaps you’d like to travel with him to the French festival at Angoulême and see how that goes?



“I’m faster than you!”

He’s not immune to being led astray or over-reaching himself, but the one thing he’s never lacked is ambition, zeal, optimism and the sort of bravado that results in eagerly and courageously sticking his neck out. As in publishing, so it has been in dating.

Wow, but this guy knows how to travel! I’m not quite sure how all this was afforded. Evidently we live in very different worlds. Still, it makes for a very rich and surprising tapestry.




“Stop! Talk to me!”

 He wasn’t always so great with dogs when younger.

Earlier on he tries to adopt Lucy against his mother’s better judgement. There’s an exquisitely drawn scene in which Lucy, who is straight out of kennels and bursting with gratitude plus an eagerness to please, cocks her head to one side then another as she listens to their dispute with varying degrees of bafflement, startled alarm, uncertainty yet hope, then an ear-twitching ouch as her elder years are argued as but a short-term and so practical engagement.

But at last there are the cuddles of commitment. Awwww…!



It doesn’t end well.

“I have a new game we can play!”

Sonny is a different proposition altogether. Now older, wiser, far more capable and flexible, Paquet adopts puppy Sonny born of a Great Pyrenees mum who loved him but an Afghan hound that rejected him in the same shared, restricted space which resulted in their original owners shutting Sonny up alone in a closet for months until neighbours thankfully reported the execrable excuses for human beings..

On the pages that follow Alonso once again rises to the challenge of depicting a too-timid Sonny who understandably takes over a year of reassuring love before he finally stops cowering in public at even the most tentative overture of kindness. When you’ve been rejected for so long, trust cannot not come easily.



You’ll notice that I’m concentrating on the dog here. There’s so much more, I promise you, from childhood friends grown larger and more dominating, to lawsuits and lovers and an exceptionally curious visit to the “studio” of a very well known artist within the comicbook community that I still cannot quite believe was the real deal. Oh yeah, Paquet’s life is not uneventful.

“But… what’s going on?”

I once lost my dog Leela for half an hour while she chased after her own tail up Peckforton Hills, a mere fifteen minutes from where I used to live in Cheshire. She was way too stupid to hunt, track or trail anything real, which is one of the many reasons that I loved her so much. In that one half an hour, during which I could not recall her (however loudly) into my sight, my heart took up residence in my mouth, paid sixteen months rent and threatened to sign a legally binding lease. At one point Paquet loses Sonny in the middle of nowhere he knew for a full night and day. I cannot even imagine…

However, did I mention that Alonso consistently conveys every nuance of emotion within to note-perfect perfection throughout? My own tautologies aside, you will be able to imagine exactly what Pierre was going through.



Alonso does lip-biting, eye-watering, toe-curling (literal, orgasmic toe-curling during sex), dazed, doting, head-over-heels, blistering fury, blessed relief and gastric fever like no one’s business.

“I’m… hey, are you crying…?”

Lastly, if you’re still wondering where my only quotes are coming from, they’re reproductions of those big black, midnight pages I mentioned earlier in which Paquet is careening single-mindedly down whichever central avenue it is, hand clenched over the throat of that plastic bin-liner which his eyes so studiously avoided and for so long back at the flat.

Sonny is chasing after him, lolloping as lovingly as he ever did with boundless, infinite enthusiasm, but completely unable to comprehend why Pierre won’t listen or cannot even hear him any longer.

Figure it out for yourself: I can’t even see this screen for tears.


Buy POS – Piece Of Sh*t h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul s/c Pocket Edition (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.

“Rain rain rain rain flipping RAIN, Mildred.
“What’s for dinner tonight?
“Wait no, don’t tell me, is it RAIN?”

Britain, eh? We have, like, two hundred words for rain. Outside the singularly British town of Tackleford it is torrential, and the page is lit to perfection in that strange, almost eerie off-greeny-grey that often accompanies an impenetrably stormy sky.

“We can get out of it in the barn, Lottie.”
“It smells like a bonfire.”
“Be careful not to sit on a rusty nail. That’s basically deadly.”

It smells like a bonfire because it was one. Someone’s been lighting up local wooden barns – accidentally or otherwise – and there’s so little left of this one that I’d probably keep that hood up, Lottie. This, of course, is exactly the sort of mystery that our two competitive teams of pre-teen detectives would be investigating but both are currently a proverbial man down. Linton and Sonny have lost Jack while Charlotte and Mildred are missing Shauna on account of Shauna and Jack are in lurve.

“Jack, Wouldn’t it be romantic is we were run over by a combine harvester together?”

Hmmm. Unfortunately Jack isn’t very good at romance: he can’t read the signs. I love his dopey lips and wide eyes as Shauna presses his hands to her heart. She is excited! She’s excited because although they have avoided death-by-threshing, they’ve just spotted a huge, hunched man with no shoes or socks, but a big, bare, hairy back. And I think it’s spotted them too. It’s hiding under the bridge like a troll.

Jack forbids Shauna to tell Lottie and Mildred but “Sisters before Misters”, right?



Meanwhile at school Linton and Sonny have acquired a substitute for Jack in the form of Irish lad Colm who’s more than a wee bit wayward when it comes to “shopping”. So that could get them in trouble: there are such things as security cameras, you know. On the other hand, he’s refreshingly direct and seems to know stuff.

“Now then, lads. That’s your missin’ friend isn’t it, over there with blondie? Don’t worry, you’ve got to let ’em go so they’ll come back. That’s what my da’ says. Of course, he’s talkin’ about pigeons.”
“I believe pigeons are in some way… magnetic?”

Oh, Sonny! Sitting on the grass, all dopey, with a daisy-chain draped over his head!

“Sonny, take that off. Someone will thump the dinner out of you.”

Effortlessly Allison has set up all the elements that will come into play later on as the temperature rises on the burning barns, Tackleford’s fire department blazes into rash action and Lottie’s new obsession with romance leads her to try teaching the troll they’ve been tracking The Art Of Romance. He’s about as good at that as Jack.



You don’t see John doing this because every page is such a glorious distraction both in its body-language beauty (see BOBBINS), its cartoon flourishes like Colm’s world cracking when Charlotte snubs his advances, and all the circuitous shenanigans set at school and while kicking around town afterwards.

It also boasts the recognition factor for it’s all so astutely observed: sitting down to supper first the first time with a family and encountering alien table manners; the jumbled mess of less technically minded adults’ computers; Lottie and sister Sarah’s push-and-pull, tactile relationship and the sort of cheeky, kind-hearted teasing that can only come from love and trust; teachers and their elbow patches; teachers down the boozer of a Friday night.



Also, I’ve been meaning to mention the petticoat. I don’t think I’ve typed the word “petticoat” before and so seldom see one worn anymore. Credit-hogging, local journalist Erin Jane Winters is wearing one and, as drawn by Allison, its pendulous pleats are ever so pretty.

There are thirty new pages here since it was originally published online including a glossary this time written by Lottie herself and that early school-grounds landscape is a spacious and spatial joy. Speaking of Lottie, I loved her book of local beasts.

“Jerry the Cyclops
“Fearsome looking but his lack of depth perception and physical fitness mean he is NON-THRETTENING.
“Giant bee
“Does it make giant honey?
“Local cyborg
“Not billionaire playboy as suspected, just an idiot with a soldering iron and too much spare time.”


Buy Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul s/c Pocket Edition and read the Page 45 review here

A Zoo In Winter h/c (£18-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi…

Ahh, Mr. Taniguchi you’ve done it again with this deeply thoughtful fictional work suffused throughout with gently beating veins of autobiography. Just how much of this work is purely fictional and how much is directly autobiographical I honestly have no idea, but I certainly read it with the strong sense that the portrayal of the main character, Hamaguchi, is perhaps very closely based on Taniguchi himself. Also, certain specific events that take place within the book are direct representations of actual events, I suspect.

Regardless of the emotional connection to Taniguchi’s own past, though, this is a really moving work, and certainly one that alongside A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, THE SUMMIT OF THE GODS and VENICE etc. I will be recommending in perpetuity to people who inquire about more sophisticated manga.

The story opens with a young man at the beginning of a fairly typical salaryman’s career working for a textile manufacturer in Kyoto circa 1966, who then almost by chance falls into a new career as a mangaka’s (manga master’s) assistant in Tokyo. From then on the story focuses heavily on the trials and tribulations that a budding manga artist faces both in terms coping with the hectic working schedule and hitting the relentless weekly deadlines, but also adjusting to the social life of the more bohemian set. Along the way there’s just enough time for some romance too, both firsthand with a particularly frail young lady and also at a remove as a chaperone to the textile boss’s daughter.



As ever, Taniguchi’s art is impressively crisp and precise, with typically lavish attention paid to minute background details, without them ever becoming a distraction. I always feel that reading something illustrated by Taniguchi is a genuinely immersive experience, precisely because of such detailing. It draws you in deeply to the world he’s created as much as any well produced television programme or film does, and thus creates a seamless experience for the reader.

Much of the subtle poignancy of this work does come from wondering precisely which are Taniguchi’s own experiences, particularly when it comes to the romantic element, not least the slightly mysterious ending that’s not really an ending. I would love to know whether the frail young lady was a real person in Taniguchi’s life and, if so, precisely what did become of her. I have my suspicions, but no amount of googling has yet revealed any definitive answers! Maybe that’s for the best, as no answer is necessary really to receive the warm emotional message which Taniguchi would like you to take away from this work.


Buy A Zoo In Winter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Summit Of The Gods vol 1 (14-99, Fanfare/Ponent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi…

”So you really did the Demon Slab huh?”
“Ahaha! I guess so! Looking back on it, it’s like I did the climb all by myself.”

June 8th, 1924 at 12.50pm, was the last time that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were seen alive. Observed very briefly during a break in the clouds from one of the lower camps by Noel Odell they were far, far up above up on the final summit ridge near the peak of Mount Everest. Then the clouds closed in once more and they were never seen again. To this day, despite the discovery of Mallory’s frozen body on Everest’s North Face in recent years, there is still no clear evidence as to whether they failed in their brave attempt to be the first to conquer Everest, or whether they reached the summit and were in fact on a triumphant descent when the weather closed in and disaster struck. The only hope of solving this mystery lies in finding Mallory’s camera, which sadly was not on his body when it was finally discovered in 1999.



SUMMIT OF THE GODS is set in 1993 with Mallory’s body still undiscovered on the mountain, and a Japanese photographer Makoto Fukamachi, seconded to a failed Everest expedition organised by wealthy Japanese executives, stumbles across a 1920s Kodak camera in a Kathmandu junk shop which he quickly realises is very probably Mallory’s. Before he can do anything with the film, however, the camera is stolen from him, and we are introduced to the character whose life story, told in flashback, occupies the rest of this first volume. Enter Jouji Habi, one of the greatest and possibly the most single-minded Japanese mountain climbers ever. Not to mention the most social awkward and indeed certainly most obnoxious one. A true lone wolf who preferred to climb alone, he had simply disappeared from public view after a failed Everest expedition in 1985. So what, wonders Fukamachi, is Habi doing in Kathmandu, and what is his personal interest in Mallory’s camera?

Baku’s writing has me totally engrossed: it’s packed with characterisation and plot detail to rival any prose work. The story of Habi’s early years as an upcoming mountaineer in Japan just grips you like a crampon and never lets go. I really wanted to read on at the end of volume one, but I already have no doubts that the next four volumes will be just as wonderful. To be honest, I’m just desperate to see where the story goes next! Taniguchi’s detailed and realistic art, especially on the climbing sequences, really transports you and puts you right in the perilous position of those engaged in this most dangerous and foolhardy of pursuits. He captures the epic grandeur of the mountain range and really gets right into the devilish detail of precarious hand – well fingertip – holds.



SUMMIT OF THE GODS has won a few prestigious prizes too, which I just mention to underscore the point that this is a series which is going to be regarded as a classic for years to come, so why not take a look? Winner “Best Art” Award at Angouleme Festival 2005, Winner “Excellence Prize Manga Division” at Japanese Ministry of Culture’s Media Arts Festival 2001, and the original novel was the winner of the prestigious 11th Shibata Renzaburo Award in 1998.


Buy Summit Of The Gods vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Northlanders Book vol 3: The European Saga s/c (£31-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchelli, Leandro Fernandez, Simon Gane, Vasilis Lolos, Matthew Woodson…

Third and final substantial repackaging of NORTHLANDERS whose scope far outstretched expectations, being as much about multiple cultural perspectives as much as anything else.

This collects ‘The Plague Widow’, ‘The Siege Of Paris’ and ‘Metal’, about which the latter I wrote…

Young lovers go on the run murdering all and sundry who disagree with their particular worldview under the pretence that they’d just like everyone to leave them alone. That’s ‘Metal’ in a hammer-obliterated priest’s nutshell for you. Consequently I wasn’t exactly getting the happy-ending vibes as I began.

Young Erik who, looks-wise and possibly in the brains department too, seems to be a mix of Thor and err… Obelisk… isn’t feeling too well disposed towards the Christian priests who seem to be doing a remarkably good job of just breezing into village after village deep in the Norse heartlands, taking over with no more than the barely veiled threat of heavy cavalry lurking just over the horizon, should the locals fail to build them a church or two and generally put down the hammers and pick up the crosses. Well, after they’ve built the churches obviously…




Still, getting Erik’s village elders to divert the nearby river so it runs immediately next to the newly built Church – just so the priests can wash themselves without having to be watched by heathens – is probably taking the piss just a touch too much.

So Erik decides to do what any typical rebellious teen would do in the same position: take a shitload of drugs. Except, whilst Erik’s high on mushrooms, the Norse version of Mother Nature appears to tell him to turn up his internal satanic death-metal soundtrack to eleven, and remove the Christians from her sacred lands. That he’s taken a shine to an albino nun who has clearly been forced to convert against her wishes probably tips the balance, and so he decides to tune up his axe and go on a rampage, liberating Ingrid in the process and throwing in a few head-banging solos along the way with his hammer for good measure.



In some ways this was the most overtly violent NORTHLANDERS story that Bryan wrote, which is saying something in and of itself, but as ever it also delivered on the emotional content. For above all, that’s what this series has always had at its cold and frosty core in aplenty: fiery passion manifesting itself in deep loves and equally deep hatreds.

Also recommended by the same writer – and set in the same era – BLACK ROAD (two volumes so far).


Buy Northlanders Book vol 3: The European Saga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bake Sale (£15-99, First Second) by Sara Varon.

Eggplant is an aubergine, Cupcake is a cupcake, and this is another tale of friendship from the creator of ODD DUCK and ROBOT DREAMS.

But whereas ROBOT DREAMS was built on an early twist so unexpectedly harsh that ninety-five percent of its sales here have gone to adults (I think we’ve each of us at some point in our lives has felt left on the proverbial beach), this one is aimed squarely at younger, wide-eyed readers with a love of soft sponge and sugar frosting.

Cupcake runs a small bakery by day, then practises drumming in his band by night. Life’s pretty good and looks even better when Eggplant invites him to visit Aunt Aubergine, a world-renowned cook in Turkey. But how to afford the air fare? Reluctantly Cupcake gives up his role in the band so he can take his tasty produce on the road and diligently develops new fondant fancies, each themed according to the festival he attends.



He’s slightly dismayed to discover himself so quickly replaced on drums by a potato (“A potato?! Everyone knows potatoes have no rhythm!”) but soldiers on like a trooper until Eggplant breaks the disastrous news that he’s out of work and can’t afford the ticket himself. Having sacrificed so much for the opportunity to benefit from Aunt Aubergine’s inspiration, what is Cupcake to do? Like any good friend, instead of flying to Turkey himself he buys Eggplant’s ticket for him.



Gamely he waves Eggplant off, but his motivation has waned and things start to unravel when he finds himself late for work then settling for second-best with two-day old coffee, stale cakes and brownies. As for the blackboard behind the counter, instead of a long list of freshly baked Specialities Of The Day, it simply reads, “Nothing is special today”. When he goes to watch his old band parade through the streets and clapped on without him, it’s a physical disaster. Whatever will be left of Cupcake and his customers upon Eggplant’s return?




I knew it couldn’t be all sweetness and light with Sara Varon at the helm, but eventually things start to look up again and there’s a life lesson worth learning very early on: there’s no substitute for giving less than 100%. You know it when you do it, and it’ll just make you unhappy.

Don’t fret about being unable to read the full recipes over Cupcake’s shoulders as he embarks on a new mouth-watering experiment: they’re all printed in full at the back!


Buy Bake Sale and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Ab Irato vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Labrosse

Cast No Shadow (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa

Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi Dee

Deconstructing The Incal (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jean Annestay, Christophe Quillien

James Bond vol 1: Vargr s/c (£15-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters

Regression vol 1: Way Down Deep s/c (£8-99, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Danny Luckert

Spectrum 24 s/c (£31-99, Flesk) by various

They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia

World Reader vol 1: Dead Stars s/c (£15-99, Aftershock) by Jeff Loveness & Juan Doe

Batman / Aliens s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse / DC) by Warren Ellis, Ian Edginton, Mark Scultz, Ron Marz & Bernie Wrightson, Chris Sprouse, Ariel Olivetti, others

Batwoman vol 1: The Many Arms Of Death s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV & Steve Epting, others

Flash vol 4: Running Scared s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Howard Porter, various

The Legend Of Wonder Woman – Origins s/c (£17-99, DC) by Renae De Liz & Ray Dillon

Wonder Woman vol 4: Godwatch s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Bilquis Evely, various

X-Men Gold vol 2: Evil Empires s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Ken Lashley

Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Kim Newman & Paul McCaffrey

Bleach vol 71 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing vol 3 (£11-99, Vertical) by Katsuyuki Sumizawa & Tomofumi Ogasawara

My Hero Academia vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 84 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Steven Universe And The Crysal Gems (£11-99, Titan) by Josceline Fenton & Chrystin Garland

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

Steven Universe vol 2 (£10-99, Titan) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.